I just found out this morning, but tomorrow is apparently the Rapture. So sayeth Harold Camping, a former engineer who has painstakingly calculated the exact date of the faithful’s ascension to heaven and the subsequent period of natural disasters, war and plague that will precede God’s reign on Earth. Or maybe it’s his reign in heaven—it’s kind of unclear, but the point is that the world will end on May 21, 2011. That’s tomorrow. Presumably the internet will survive at least a few weeks into the horsemen’s pounding, throbbing ride across the virginal face of this land, so if you are reading this on Sunday, let me be the first to welcome you to an America with better science curricula and shorter lines to see that Atlas Shrugged movie. To paraphrase Robert Johnson, I’m not crazy about hell, but all my friends are going there. While we wait for the after-party, why not take a look at the last hours of the reception?
First, the good news: in Detroit, where a sort of economic Rapture has already occurred, nearly half the adult population is illiterate. Twenty-five percent of the city’s population left town in the last decade and, according to the National Institute for Literacy, 47% of those who remain “have trouble with reading, speaking, writing and computational skills.” But hey, at least there are still 90,000 abandoned homes and commercial properties, just waiting for someone who cannot read to synthesize the carpentry, plumbing and electrical skills needed to get Detroit moving again. Or Rick Snyder can just declare financial martial law and, you know, privatize stuff for, um, efficiency.
I’m not saying one private industry is insufficient to undergird the health of an entire city, but I am saying that the market makes money, not happiness. The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits, as Milton Friedman argues in a 1970 essay of the same name. If you read just one historically significant essay defending absolute market economies before the Rapture, read this. The amazing part is not that Friedman claims executives who let social welfare or other not-profit concerns influence their business decisions immorally usurp the function of government, since they are taking stockholder money* and undemocratically reapportioning it to non-business purposes, thereby engaging in taxation and also socialism. The amazing part is that Friedman is a respected economist, regularly cited by conservative pundits. Selfishness is the new ethics, dog.
Also, being a complete dick is the new cool. That this differs not at all from the old cool is one of the many fortuities that enabled Rick Santorum to argue Tuesday that John McCain “doesn’t understand how enhanced interrogation works.” He then asked Senator McCain to get a jar of jelly down from a high shelf and demanded to know why he couldn’t reach up there. The former senator from Pennsylvania was taking issue with McCain’s observation that the information enabling the successful attack on Osama Bin Laden was not obtained via waterboarding, thus suggesting that enhanced interrogation—previously known as torture—wasn’t as great as we all briefly thought. According to Santorum, McCain is forgetting that torture is a great way to change somebody’s mind. “I mean, you break somebody, and after they’re broken, they become cooperative,” he said. These are clearly the words of a man who knows exactly how torture works, correcting a man who was a guest of the North Vietnamese Army for five years.
Words: they’re everywhere, but who knows what they mean? Potential Detroit resident Sarah Palin sort of does, and she’ll be happy to combine several of them in half of a sentence for you before getting bored with that an using a cliché to talk about herself. On Thursday night, she told Greta Van Susteren that she feels that “fire in my belly” to run for President. Last time she felt that it turned out to be a baby, but this time it’s probably the desire to
have everyone look at her serve her country. Not that there are no complicating considerations:
It’s a matter for me of some kind of practical, pragmatic decisions that have to be made. One is, with a large family understanding the huge amount of scrutiny and the sacrifices that have to be made on my children’s part in order to see their mama run for president. [Ed.: Yes, and? What? With that large family, one consideration is what? God dammit.] But yeah, the fire in the belly — it’s there.
So Sarah Palin still has a large family and still regards herself as a uniquely driven individual with lots of reserves of strength. Too bad she’s going to get sucked up to heaven tomorrow, and we’ll have to stay here with nothing but palate-cleansing rock.
Youth knows no pain, indeed.