Friday links! Fantasy of decline edition

Why would they keep trying to cross that aqueduct?

We’ve talked about it before, but it is critically important that you not fall into declinism. The fantasy that American empire has reached its sunset is both conceited and self-fulfilling. We won a war against Nazis during the Great Depression; probably we can get past having too many fat kids and needing to invent a kind of transportation other than the car. The only way we wouldn’t is if we all decided we were at the end of civilization and nothing we did like, matters. That’s how things stop working, and we can choose not to quit. Still, when you imagine the collapse of society into a Hobbesian war of all against all, it is kind of satisfying. The disintegration of Delta airlines, Lil’ Kim having to make the transition to actual whore—these are bitterly comforting ideas. It’s Friday, and our link roundup is split between images of decline and comforting reminders of who will suffer most of it happens. Don’t give in to declinism, though. Maybe just indulge it a little as you imagine Lena Dunham struggling to grow turnips.

First, a little grim portent: back in 2005, the United Nations began offering credits in its carbon trading system for destroying a greenhouse-gas waste that was a by-product of manufacturing a certain type of coolant. Then plants started making millions of dollars by producing the coolant so they could destroy the waste. The market is relentless, and producers realized “they could earn one carbon credit by eliminating one ton of carbon dioxide, but could earn more than 11,000 credits by simply destroying a ton of an obscure waste.” Plants in India and China make millions gaming the UN system, and for that reason they have an incentive to keep making a coolant the international community set out to eliminate. Also, plants in China say that if payments for their coolant scam stop, “they would vent gas skyward. Such releases are illegal in most developed countries, but still permissible in China and India.” Because those countries place a lower premium on human life.

It’s a good thing that global warming isn’t real, and that we shouldn’t do anything about it anyway because that would hurt the economy. The totally coincidental worst Midwestern drought in 56 years has raised corn prices to a record high and yields to a record low. Don’t worry—we’re still subsidizing corn, since Congress could not be troubled to pass a farm bill going on recess. While we pay farmers not to grow things, poor crops in the midwest are expected to raise food prices and, presumably, drive inflation. That’s bad. We should make sure we have enough food. It basically goes food, insulin for sick kids and adults who ate too much food, personalized travel mugs. Priorities, people.

First things first, though: we have to make sure we obey the contradictory instructions of a 6,000 year-old book we found in the desert. Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, which continues to focus its activism on preventing people from having families, has called for an “underground railroad” to kidnap adopted children from gay parents. You think that’s hideous, right? An asinine perversion of morality that no one could take seriously? Boom!—it’s the ethicist question about the cat no one could agree on earlier. Seriously, it’s the exact same question, provided you give equal moral weight to kidnapping a child and stealing a cat. Tom Sawyer would have been totally different if we thought like that.

I like Tom Sawyer. I like Mark Twain, because he is fun in a way that reminds us “fun” and “frivolous” are not synonyms. Mark Twain makes you laugh and he makes you think, whereas Lena Dunham makes me neither laugh nor think about anything but the collapse of meritocracy. My friend Dave Schilling loves her, maybe ironically but definitely out of all proportion to her value. As a result, I have started to hate her, sort of ironically and definitely OOAP to what harm she does. But look at this damn commercial:


The five-minute commercial for a New Yorker iPhone app is exactly equivalent to the 8,000-word story about a Taiwanese girl who secretly keeps a photo in a box. Seeing Jon Hamm act with Lena Dunham is like watching Glenn Gould play Heart and Soul with Ke$ha. But I want to know who let Dunham write two framing devices—two!—into a damn commercial. She goes on a fake talk show to show her clip, and in the clip she has a fake argument with her assistant in which she shows him a Power Point presentation. The presentation shows what the app does. I could cut 4:30 from this commercial.

Better to leave comedy to people who have shown aptitude for it rather than simply having famous parents. Comedy is one thing you can’t fake. You can do it by accident, though, as Steve King and Stephen Colbert remind us.

Now that’s merit.

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