Slacker Friday

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We've got a new Think Again column here called "Mr. Pot, Meet Mr. Kettle." It's about the newfound and hypocritical conservative sensitivity to "harsh" remarks from liberals.

George Zornick again. Before we start slacking: yesterday I wrote about Dana Milbank's silly comparison of Obama's relationship with the press to that of George W. Bush's. Here is CNN's Campbell Brown, citing the same exchange with a Chicago Tribune reporter as Milbank, and writing: "Mr. President-elect, this sort of approach reminds a lot of us of the current administration now packing up to go, and it frankly doesn't fly in a democracy."

Did I miss Brown's special comments on George W. Bush's abuse of the press, like dramatically reduced access to government information or paying off journalists to promote administration initiatives? And, again, while she may take issue with Obama's decorum in cutting off a reporter, is she asking him to defy a U.S. Attorney and potentially handicap a corruption investigation?

Slacker Friday:

Name: Wade Lassiter
Hometown: Columbia, SC

There was a presidential election just after I joined the military and there was a lot of talk about politics. I hadn't formed political views so I began asking a lot of questions. Most careerists were pretty Conservative; most recent joiners were somewhere in the Liberal sphere.

Libertarianism appealed to me when a believer first told me about it, though on giving it some thought it appeared to be Utopian at best and dumb when I got into Rand. I had the longest and most discussions with someone who had served 22 years and was about to retire. He, too, was Southern, though he was from a couple hundred miles north of me and I frequently kidded him about being a Northerner.

He was very Conservative, of the Limbaugh, fooled-by-Fox strain. What struck me was that he, and many others, said they were Conservatives yet voluntarily lived (and loved) an environment that was as close to Communism as could be. The government told us what job we would have, what days and hours we would work, where we would live, what we would earn, we could not quit and do something else, how we would dress (and the dress was uniform), how to (in many instances) talk, how to have our hair cut, and so on. It was, for practical reasons, anti-democracy (while existing to support democracy.)

On top of that the caste system was stronger in the military than anywhere in America you might name. (I was astounded when a Navy friend showed me an invitation to an official celebration. I don't remember the exact wording but the beautiful card invited "senior officers and their ladies", "junior officers and their women", and so forth, descending on the evolutionary scale through about six categories ending in "junior enlisted men and their mates". It came very close to calling the wives of the lowest caste animals or sluts.)

Having seen that Conservative military people were delightfully at home under what amounted to Communism was one of the many things that removed the shine from that particular political philosophy for me. The fellow I spoke to so often said he'd finally realized that which was why he was retiring.

Conservatives turned out not to really care about half of Communism. When they were on the rampage against it in the second half of the last century they were actually only against the economic side; they really rather liked the totalitarian social side. As is virtually always the case with Conservatives their real interest was money, not people.

The totalitarian social aspect, the loss of personal freedom, free speech and independent thinking was a positive to them, not a negative. I joke that the only thing a Conservative likes more than giving orders is following orders, and that seems to fit as well.

That, however, only partially explained to me why Conservatives were so comfortable with the military. I haven't been able to reconcile the financial side. Conservatives seem to be all about money. Greed is good, Ayn Rand, no taxes stuff. But the military isn't exactly lucrative.

And people aren't quite as black and white as concise notes like this paint them to be.

Name: Leila Abu-Saba
Hometown: Oakland, CA

I live in East Oakland, in a racially and economically mixed neighborhood with a small and well-run independent bookstore. I was just in there an hour ago, spending almost $200 on holiday presents, and the clerk said business is brisk. (The place was crammed with shoppers.) Their fall was "scary" and they're worried about January but the holiday business is good.

The neighborhood email list, with 500 subscribers, features several notes from residents reminding us to shop the neighborhood, along with personal testimonials about the bookstore and its owner.

In a neighboring city, Berkeley, Ayelet Waldman (a novelist in her own right, she's married to Michael Chabon) is running a bookstore pledge in which she and her friends are trying to buy 500 books.

We all feel that independent bookstores are about much more than mere commerce. They add safety to our streets as well as sales tax to our coffers. They sell books by local writers and books for local readers. Our city government is perpetually in crisis, and even more so in these times; we feel that if our neighborhoods are to remain livable we must support our businesses and public institutions. If spending our Christmas money in the bookstore will keep civilization from collapse, then we'll pull out our wallets.

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