Whenever the wind blows, I feel the universe is persecuting me. I know this feeling is irrational. Even if some malevolent force were deliberately causing gusts of wind whenever I set down my book or tried to lay out a blanket, the wind would still be blowing on everyone else, too. And even though the wind seems like a useless irritant—an unnecessary feature of Earth that serves only to piss me off—it’s probably important to change whether patterns and blow seeds around and stuff. Still, I cannot escape the sensation that this natural feature is an unfair irritant to me personally. Today is Friday, and the world’s basic mechanics feel like a conspiracy to thwart our plans. Won’t you shake your fist at a cloud with me?
In all the rush of moving, celebrating our nation’s independence from Britain, and getting on a plane at six in the morning to go to Iowa—plus keeping up with our drinking—Combat! blog missed this gem about the New York Times and the word “torture” in Salon. Overdue props to Pete Jones for the link. The Times, like most newspapers, had used “torture” to refer to waterboarding until shortly after the September 11th attacks, when the Bush administration quietly explained to editors that A) it was waterboarding the shit out of everybody and therefore B) waterboarding was obviously not torture. After that, the Times started referring to waterboarding as “intense interrogation techniques” or “the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks.”
In the course of last Friday’s Link Roundup, we mentioned that members of the Department of the Interior tasked with regulating the oil industry were revealed to have “[taken] bribes and engaged in drug use and sex with oil industry officials” in 2008. That was awesome. In his New York Times column today, Paul Krugman promises more cops-‘n-robbers-get-together-to-do-coke-and-shout-out-the-window-of-the-squad-car frivolity with the headline, “Sex & Drugs & the Spill.” It turns out that’s just a come on, though, for a column about how anti-government sentiment can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is the kind of thing you need to do when you’re competing for eyes with Freakonomics. It’s like when Maureen Dowd wrote about the hot, throbbing need for derivatives regulation.*
The polite, well-dressed fellows at everyone’s favourite magazine, The Economist, have published a fairly terrifying article about the growth of government spending relative to GDPs. The beauty of reading a magazine written in another country—aside from how classy it looks in your browser history next to icanhascheezburger.com—is that when they say “government spending” they don’t just mean our government. It turns out that France, Germany, and especially the UK have indulged in massive spending sprees over the last few years, just like us. The governments of France and Britain are both spending over 50% of GDP, and the United States recently broke forty, prompting The Economist to declare, after clearing its throat and grimacing at the sound of its own voice, a new era of big government. That’s interesting and all, but the general movement toward Keynesian soft socialism is a trend of which we were already aware. What’s surprising is exactly when the United States started catching up to its European brethren.* Under George W. Bush, federal spending leapt from around 20% of GDP to 38%. Since 1992, the difference in spending-as-percentage-of-GDP between the US and Canada has decreased from fifteen points to a mere two, and we were damn near neck and neck the day Bush left office. Which is funny, because I don’t remember semiliterate mobs protesting the growth of government until roughly January 20, 2009. Perhaps that’s because of the steep jump in spending that occurred in 2008. Or maybe it’s because, like “family values,” “fiscally responsible” has become a trademarked slogan of the Republican Party, a truism that obtains only as much as we believe in it.
ABC News reported yesterday that Michigan gunsight manufacturer Trijicon is inscribing references to Bible verses on sights it’s supplying to US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The company, which has a $660 million contract to provide illuminated targeting reticule systems to the Marine Corps, has been printing chapter and verse numbers at the end of their serial numbers—for example, “2COR4:6,” which refers to the verse in Second Corinthians, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Contemporary theologians have historically interpreted that verse as being about using hydrogen isotope phosphorescence to shoot an Afghan goatherder in the face.