Harry Shearer is a hugely funny guy, though nothing he's written on politics has resonated much with me. He's a very, very talented voice actor and improvisor. Think Derek Smalls of Spinal Tap.
James Howard Kunstler is a hugely funny guy as well, though his sense of humour is wrapped in pitch-black irony and pessimism. He maintains the 'Clusterfuck Nation' blog, linked at left, and while he talks about the phenomenon of Peak Oil, his hobbyhorses are suburban sprawl, massive car-centered infrastructure, and the way our automotive lifestyle makes Peak Oil a problem. I like his style: he treats the global oil production peak as a mere fact, and goes after social/cultural choices rather than Big Man decisions by the likes of Bush, Cheney, et al.
Kunstler's post, 'Harry Shearer's War,' is a bracing bit of observation and finger-pointing prompted by a listen to Shearer's anti-war talk on his radio show:
Because as Shearer was twanging on about WMDs and Iraq and how deplorable the whole thing is, I started wondering about Shearer's real life in Los Angeles, and imagining him driving from his house in one of the better sections of the city to the studio where he does the show, or Shearer motoring across town to Melrose Avenue for sushi, or Shearer tooling up into the canyons above Hollywood to have drinks with friends [...] And as I imagined Harry Shearer driving around Los Angeles in an expensive car deploring this terrible war in Iraq, I couldn't shake the feeling that Shearer was getting, so to speak, a free ride.
Which gets back to the war per se. Because if anyone asked me to define what the war is about -- and people have asked -- I would say the war is a desperate attempt by the US to stabilize the region of the world where two-thirds of the remaining global oil supply exists in order for Americans like Harry Shearer to continue enjoying a lifestyle of extreme car dependency.
Harry Shearer with his attitude of moral superiority reminds me of my neighbor here in Saratoga Springs, the lady with the "War Is NOT the Answer" bumper sticker on her Ford Expedition. For people who want to keep on enjoying an easy motoring utopia, war is the answer.
A little whiff of Nixonian realism in there, looks like, but without the messianic self-congratulation. I like Kunstler's focus on economic issues, because it means he can separate (justifiable?) Bush-hatred - hatred of the corporate/oil barons in power in this country - from criticism of the war and American oil-dependence. In other words: let's just admit that to the extent that America's medieval sojourn in the Middle East is about oil, the people of the mechanized world bear some responsibility for putting troops in harm's way.
On the other hand, this outlook doesn't shift blame for the sheer up-fuckedness of the Middle East away from America's maladroit/crazy/warmongering leaders. Rather, it emphasizes that just as these robber barons have been empowered by a combination of gov't pro-capitalist intervention and naked consumerism, they can be disempowered. It seems like many Americans assume that their ability to affect gov't policy ends at the ballot box. Of course it ain't so. We get, as conservatives occasionally (often lazily) say, the government we deserve. Americans with a hankering for sustainable, peaceful, meaningful lives deserve better - and when there are enough of them, they'll have it.
The whole line of argument that begins with 'if the war hadn't happened who'd control the oil?' is troubling and not 100% convincing to me, but it throws into sharp relief the impotence and shortsightedness of some antiwar posturing. War is just one way of dying and of killing, and there are worse ways. It troubles me that I'd even type those words, but the distastefulness of such moral calculus doesn't make it avoidable.
Reading Kunstler puts me in these moods. There are worse ways to live as well.