Friday, November 30, 2012

Global thinker Paul Ryan

By Frank Moraes

Alec MacGillis at The New Republic has now written about "Paul Ryan, Global Thinker?" In the article, he alerts us to a new list from Foreign Policy, "100 Top Global Thinkers." Such exercises are always stupid. Earlier this year, I wrote about Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, "Pathetic Rock Journalism at Rolling Stone." In that article, I was particularly upset that George Harrison was listed at number 11. But I have to give The Rolling Stone credit: George Harrison was, in fact, a guitarist. I don't think that Paul Ryan qualifies as a global thinker.

The article starts by listing Ryan's bona fides as a budget guy: cut Medicaid by a third -- check; privatize Medicare -- check; savage all remaining programs other than the military -- check! According to Foreign Policy these are "bold" ideas that Ryan gradually got the Republican Party to embrace.

Wait, wait, wait! Just hold the fuck on there! Stop!

We haven't even gotten to the foreign policy part of the argument and the magazine has already piled the bullshit so high I can't see. What they fail to mention is that the first step in Ryan's budget balancing plan is to cut income tax rates. So let's look at this plan. It lowers taxes (especially on the rich) and cuts spending on programs for the poor and middle class. This is what Republicans always want. This is not a budget; this is a Republican wish list. So Foreign Policy magazine gets a very slow start by not understanding anything about Paul Ryan's domestic agenda.

Halfway through their argument, the editors finally get to Paul Ryan's global thinking. They do this by lying, "In the 2012 presidential election, contender Mitt Romney didn't just champion Ryan's ideas -- he tapped the 42-year-old libertarian-leaning lawmaker as his running mate, catapulting the debate over the size and scope of the U.S. government to the top of the political agenda." This one isn't even close. MacGillis responds, "Well, not exactly -- Romney tapped Ryan and didn't champion his ideas."

But Foreign Policy isn't done yet:

"The choice is whether to put hard limits on economic growth or hard limits on the size of government, and we choose to limit government," Ryan declared during his speech at the Republican National Convention, where organizers prominently displayed a humming national debt clock.

You see it, don't you? Ryan gave a speech -- at the RNC. And it was in front of a big debt clock! Q-E-Fucking-D!

There is even more though. And this is great because you can tell this was written before the election by someone who thought that Romney would win.

"Letting budgetary concerns drive national-security strategy means choosing decline," Ryan declared in his budget, proposing cuts that would effectively slash funding to entities such as the U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department -- but not the military -- by nearly $5 billion. We may not see Ryan's dramatic ideas enacted now that his ticket has lost the election. But they might very well prove prescient.

There are a couple of things here. First, the quote from Ryan's "budget": I'm sure this is what the Soviet leaders were saying as they watched their infrastructure crumble -- "Mustn't cut the military!" You would think that the editors of Foreign Policy would have noticed the parallels. Second, those last two sentences! I'm sure they originally read, "And now that Romney will be president, those ideas will lead the country going forward." Instead, they "might" "very well" prove "prescient." Three weasels in one short sentence! At least Foreign Policy has something it can be proud of.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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  • I'm no fan of "Top" lists, or "Rolling Stone" for that matter. And I've long thought it is silly to try to compile an all-time "best of" list of anything, from movies to albums.

    But I will say one thing in defense of this particular "Rolling Stone" list: they at least allow various guitarists to cast votes on their favorites.

    One big problem with this whole exercise, though, is defining what, exactly, makes for a "great" guitarist (particularly in a rock-n-roll context). Are we talking about "great" in terms of technical ability? Or "great" in terms of art?

    If the latter is the case, then I do believe George Harrison should be ranked highly. A couple of points in his defense: one is that he was hugely influential. Another is that although he didn't play dazzling, complex solos, every single note he played did count.

    And despite his economy of style, Harrison was capable of technically accomplished work. I read an interview once where Eric Clapton said he was often dazzled by Harrison's command of the guitar back in the 1960s (Harrison could hear a complex guitar run by Hendrix once and then be able to replay it from memory). Clapton said if Harrison had any flaws, it was that he was "lazy." And his best playing rarely appeared on record, in any case. (John Lennon insisted to his dying day that The Beatles' best music was never recorded).

    I would argue that rock-n-roll is one of those creative fields where technical ability doesn't necessary make for the best music. For example, the musicians who made up the band Toto were extremely accomplished session players. But I always thought their music was a snooze-fest. On the other hand, there are amateurish garage bands from the 1960s who had limited technical skills who created some of the best rock-n-roll ever made. They had heart and soul---which, in rock-n-roll is more important than technical skill, in my opinion.

    By Blogger Marc McDonald, at 1:44 AM  

  • If I'm not mistaken, David Gilmour isn't even on the list... or is he?

    Whatever the case, he's not ranked highly enough. Which reflects the typical RS bias against Pink Floyd.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 6:46 PM  

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