Tuesday, January 31, 2006

News of the world, pt. 1

It seems like a "huger" news day than usual. First, Sammy "Davis" Alito Jr. was confirmed this morning, but was the process done "easily," as the conserv-o-tron LA Times reports, or "sharply divided"? Well, when your 58-42 vote is the second closest out of the current crop of Justices, second only to Mr. Pubic Hair Coke Can Clarence Thomas' 52-48, you should maybe sweat a little. Oh, but all is over and done with, and the confirmation has "put the issue to bed," in language similar to that used by Time magazine in describing Bush's supposed defusing of the NSA debate. Prepping for a rah-rah SOTU, are we? In a related note, I'd never checked the stats on Supreme Court Justices until today. For those interested, here's the skinny:

Stevens 99-0, Ford '75, Segal-Cover score: -0.5
Scalia 98-0, Reagan '86 S-C: -1.0
Kennedy 97-0, Reagan '88 S-C: -0.27
Souter 90-9, Bush '90 S-C: -0.34
Thomas 52-48, Bush '91 S-C: -0.68
Bader Ginsburg 96-3, Clinton '93 S-C: 1.0
Breyer 87-9, Clinton '94 S-C: -0.05
Roberts 78-22, Bush '05 S-C: -0.8
Alito 58-42, Bush '06 S-C: ??

[info: Wikipedia--ain't skeered to cite it.]

(The "Segal-Cover" score is a number ranging from -1.00 to 1.00, from most conservative to most liberal. The score is based solely on editorial opinion and given evidence gathered before confirmation, not on judicial rulings or opinions, so it's a little shady. But given the myth of judicial activism and SCOTUS liberalism run rampant, it's a bit strange to see such negative numbers.)

For those keeping score, that's 7 conservative appointees (many of whom, of course, turned out to be more "liberal" than their appointers expected) to 2 Clinton picks. The fact that the two most contested appointments voted their dissent together in the recent right to die case and will most likely be joined very soon by Alito, another contested Justice, makes me think that far from being out of touch for the past 30 years, the Court is actually moving now into a brand new era of fuckedupitude. Wait, I just became the People for the American Way incarnate...

I think perhaps Tuesday will be my designated "Daily Kos-esque liberal talking points day." Does that work for everyone? I have to scoot now, but I will be back later for more coverage of all stuff huge in today's news; be ready for the gay Pinko Oscars, pissing off the Prophet, British tongue-biting, and Silvio "that's not an Italian sausage in my pocket" Berlusconi.

Monday, January 30, 2006

If Donald Rumsfeld is not your hero, then you don't know the Power/Domination model.

From an article in Esquire on Rumsfeld: "

But perhaps the most stunning of Rumsfeld's plans are for something he calls the National Security Peronnel System, which will radically redefine civilian and military service in the Defense Department, changing from a longevity-based system to a performance-based system. Already, radical new features of this plan have been field tested in the Navy, where, in the past, so-called detailers told sailors where they where going on their next assignment - with little warning and like it or not. Eager to break that boneheaded tradition, the Navy is experimenting with an eBay-like online auction system in which individual servicemen and women bid against one another for desired posting. As Admiral Vern Clark told me, "I've learned you can get away with murder if you call it a pilot program."
So Clark is pioneering a system by which, instead of sending people to places they don't want to go on a schedule that play havoc with their home lik, "they're going to negotiate on the Web for jobs. The deision's going to be made by the ship and the guy or gal. You know, we're going to reate a whole new world here.' The plan is designed to save the services money and effor by reducing early departures from the ranks by people who just can't take it anymore. The Navy's so-called "slamming" rate, meaing the percentage of job transfers againt a person's will, has hovered at 30 to 35 percent in recent years. Theat means the Navy has been pissing off one third of its personnel on a regular basis. Now, under this program, the slamming rate is down to less than one percent.
More importantly, Clark's pilot program has already spread to the other services, and in turn could well change the very nature of civil service throughout the United States government."

"I just got blown up--here's Tom with the weather."

Almost every news item covering the condition of wounded ABC personnel Bob Woodruff and Doug Vogt either does not mention Vogt at all in the headline or lede, uses neutral language but only shows pictures of Woodruff, or refers to Vogt simply as "Woodruff's cameraman," "an ABC anchor and his cameraman," etc. Somehow I doubt that this is a simple case of celebrity recognizability (but perhaps as the story develops and becomes more well known Vogt's name will become more prevalent too). Right now, however, these trends seem to speak to an interesting class-cultural pattern. News readers are shocked by the idea of that smiling face on television being no less immune to violence than the Iraqi people, who are "natural" victims, while simultaneously engaging in the schadenfreude of seeing beauty brought low. Or to get all Baudrillard on yo ass, our simulacra are elevated to the level of untouchable fetish, but we also want them to suffer for our sins. The unphotogenic cameraman/apparatus figure remains on "our" level, the plane of everyday--Iraqi--suffering, and so isn't as jarring.

Laughing at your leaders

When I think about which virtues I consider the best not just for me but for society at large, "skepticism" usually tops the list. A healthy sense of doubt and questioning is generally an unbeatable prescription. To me, skepticism is a largely secular humanist virtue (and therefore good to me!) because it takes a source of authority and reduces it to its human components; human beings who are essentially similar to you and me, and not representatives of the voice of "God," or of "Reason," or of "Truth" or what have you.

Therefore I'm pleased when I read articles like this one and this one, about citizens who are willing to be skeptical, critical, even joking towards their leaders. Obviously, there are plenty of Palestinians and Iranians who do not regard their thuggish leaders as messengers of God. But if many people find Hamas and Ahmadinejad ridiculous, where are they on voting day? Of course, the obvious question to ask is whether Americans' own willingness to ridicule Bush has gotten us anywhere. Is our own criticism and joking constructive, or is it a largely useless right that will reveal itself powerless when push comes to shove? Also, one cannot bring up Middle Eastern skepticism and joking without acknowledging its limits.

10 x 10

I just remembered this bookmark I've had for ages. I'll let the site explain itself:
Every hour, 10x10 scans the RSS feeds of several leading international news sources, and performs an elaborate process of weighted linguistic analysis on the text contained in their top news stories. After this process, conclusions are automatically drawn about the hour's most important words. The top 100 words are chosen, along with 100 corresponding images, culled from the source news stories. At the end of each day, month, and year, 10x10 looks back through its archives to conclude the top 100 words for the given time period. In this way, a constantly evolving record of our world is formed, based on prominent world events, without any human input.
Don't read too much into the "evolving record..." stuff, but it's definitely worth the occasional visit. During big breaking news moments, it's positively beautiful the way the grids line up.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Congressional staffers edit Wikipedia

Sometimes, all you need to do is look at a log file in order to discover news that's fit to print. Good journalism always makes me question the assumption that information is now harder to find than ever, or that the world is somehow harder to understand than ever.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Hamas, egg and cheese

Slate has a good article on "How To Civilize Hamas".
The "pothole theory" is similar to what I have been arguing in the past few days, although it has the benefit of being reinforced by a minute amount of historical evidence. I'm not sure how Hamas' election cannot be good for Israel. If they continue their attacks, no one will have to try very hard to find the people responsible. If they stop violence they will be deprived of credibility with hard-liners and will have to move against their former supporters.
The advantage is that they can't and won't just sit on their hands. Even if they do they will lose the support of the people, perhaps slowing down the growth of fundamentalism and extremism in Palestine.
Democratic politics have the ability to co-opt the most extreme of politicians. In the process of trying to triangulate and prevent others from triangulating you, you have to change your views or get thrown out of office by someone who is able to say what you want to say while bringing in your opponents as well.

Friday, January 27, 2006

What's green, blue, and yellow on the outside and red in the middle?

Some libruls would have you believe that google is doing somethin' wrong by providing a censored version of their service in China. This is just bunk. Their explanation serves well, but, because I am so annoyed by simplistic views about the situation, I would like to provide an analogy.

Imagine you are a self-published author. A bookstore in =-China orders a book from you. The Chinese government sends the book back, telling you that you need to either
(1)take out certain pages before you send it(you can also insert a nice note saying why you had to rip out the pages) , or
(2) sign a release, allowing them to take the pages out for you. They might rip out more pages accidentally or damage the book. This would also cost more, take longer, and reduce the chance that the book got there at all. On the other hand, a few pages that you would have cut out might slip through(the censors are your typical sloppy, lazy, corrupt communist bureaucrats) .

You call your customer, and they say that they want (1), but they also tell you that their local library has a copy of a version that went through (2) if they ever need to check that out(because, I believe, google's .com website will still not be blocked). A bunch of computer nerds start to criticize you, saying that you are compromising a committment you spoke about to "do not evil". Are they right?
Obviously not. If there is a difference between this analogy and the real situation it would be that google is not a book. But that doesn't change anything. The fact that google will provide an explanation of the censored aspects of its service to Chinese users means that you cannot argue that it is abusing its reputation as a provider of objective data. I think people are forgetting that all websites, no matter how important they are to our use of the internet, are the possessions and creative property of their owners.

A Story

A group of academics set out to make a map of their University campus.

The pragmatists immediately set about working their way through the process, trying different techniques. Being mostly near-sighted gentlemen, they came up with a final product that turned out to be nothing like the reality they set out to represent. This was defended as an instance of breaking free of outdated representational theories of truth and relying on what all could reasonably agree upon, even when the path to the Physics building on their map actually led to a construction site.

The feminists rejected the idea of a map outright as a vestige of a male-centered epistemology in which the male, white, bourgeois patriarch internalized his "objective" reality. They suggested that visitors to the school rely on an "ethics of care" in which they stopped and asked strangers for directions.

The deconstructionists first noted the conspicuous absence in maps of every and all geographical features, thus undermining the map's universal capacity as map as such. The map could also not be summoned to mind without the trace of its binary Other, the compass, always already being present. From there they discussed the compass' magnet as a sign of decentering subjectivistic disorientation, the unavoidable connections between maps and the iconography of Where's Waldo, and generally just giggled in a corner.

The Marxists protested that the map served as another material instance of the ideological superstructure of late capitalism, which conceals from us through its "spectacular" representation the labor expended by the working class which makes the very campus itself possible. Their meeting was cut short, however, when one Professor realized he had to collect his paycheck and another had promised her husband they would go buy $100 front-row seats to the U2 concert.

The multiculturalists declared the map a hegemonic intrusion of Western values onto a pluralistic cartographical world culture. One professor displayed an alternative means by tattooing maplike symbols onto her bare chest, another scattered goats' teeth to determine his next move through shamanistic interpretation, another consulted the flight paths of birds, and yet another ordered his communitarian harem of 14 wives to plot the land for him.

The poststructuralists gave a genealogical account of the map as a tool of reinforcing certain discourses of social power and placing the subject within a predetermined site of normativity, discipline, and rationalization. When pressed on what this means, they split into two camps, one chanting "discourse" and the other chanting "power" in a round reminiscent of "Row Your Boat."

The Straussians quickly drew a map but only circulated it amongst themselves. When it was finally intercepted by an outsider, it turned out to be a fairly conventional, even sloppy, picture, but the Straussians were quick to point out that it had to be interpreted esoterically by Classically trained philosophers. It was later discovered that when you held the map up to a special light a naked picture of Allan Bloom appeared on it.

The liberal humanists drew a fairly conventional map of the campus based on empirical research, aerial photographs, and existing documents. They even included fun "spots of interest" and edifying bits of trivia. They then drove their Volvos home to a delightful Thai meal from Trader Joe's, applauded themselves for noticing the political connections between "24" and the Bush administration, and listened to Miles Davis. They simultaneously masturbated to the New York Times editorial page the next morning.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Young People Who Look Like Old People

One of the worst things about growing older is having to surpass professional athletes in age, all the while remarking how it's impossible they can be actually younger than you. Marcos Baghdatis, who has reached the final round of the Australian Open, is a case in point. Am I blind, or being silly, or does this man look like he's at least 30?

There's only one way to find out: to lighten things up, we will play our first Wash Av Huffy Crew contest. Without cheating, post in the comments section what you think Mr. Baghdatis' age is, without considering the fact that you now know him to be quite young. The winner will receive the prize of an automatic "I'm in full agreement!" by myself in the comments section when s/he posts next.

Also, if anyone can think of anyone ridiculously young that looks absurdly old, please let me know.

TV: Greater Than or Equal to the Internet?

This post started off as a comment on Austin 5000's last entry into the blogosphere, but I thought it wouldn’t get the attention that it deserves sitting in the seldom viewed comments section.
Austin 5000, Robot, and to all of the other “intellectuals” out there, I have a suggestion for you. Get a fucking TV!!!
It fair to assume that because you don’t own a TV, some of the time that you would have spent watching TV you instead spend surfing the web. This brings me to my thesis statement, that TV poisons the mind much less than does the internet. What you think you are doing by being a non-conformist and not owning a television is actually hurting you, you poor, poor soul.
Here's Why:
1. TV has a code of standards and practices. Now even though I don't agree with how strict the FCC is, it does prevent
A. As much bullshit being posted as new when its not the least bit true.
B. Pictures of Iraqi's getting their heads blown off
C. Sick and disturbing porn (which I like)
D. White Supremacism (which I like... sorry sheriff)
E. Any other turds that aren't healthy for one to commonly see
2. TV creates a sense of community with the people in a room. When was the last time a bunch of your friends gathered around a computer to read and cheer along to CNN.com.
3. TV is more entertaining. You don’t own a TV but you see lots of movies? Quite hypocritical...
4. You can eat and watch TV at the same time. It's hard to do that on the internet.
5. Why think about what to do on a website when TV can do the thinking for you?
Oh shit, gg, Jackass is on... (I should really buy a Tivo)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

F.U.C.K. File 46 - Being Elite in '93

F.U.C.K. File 46 - Being Elite in '93
Look, if anyone here wants to understand the elite hacker scene, circa 93, you need to read these files. There's just no choice. I'm sick of banging this into dumbass' people's heads. Here's an excerpt to show you what you're missing--although no one deserves it cuz it's like you just don't give a shit:

9. The Elite don't slam things that they don't have all the available
information they can get on the topic, and they will back up any
claim they do make.

10. The Elite Don't Push their beliefs on others.

11. The Elite never judge a person, by one comment.

12. The Elite help people that need help.

13. The Elite don't keep wars to posts, They move them to mail to avoid
interuption of current conversation.

14. The Elite hit on the opposite sex in posts.

15. The Elite understand that knowledge must be spread at whatever cost.

16. The Elite call long distance boards regularly.

17. The Elite don't post if they don't have anything to say.

18. The Elite never compromise their views.

The Elite are swell.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Communitarians are coming for you in the night

If you've ever read the thoughtful work of Charles Taylor or Michael Walzer, two contemporary proponents of Communitarianism, this article will appear very strange. The author manages to conflate Communitarianism, Libertarianism, Fascism, Communism, and New Age hippie philosophy all into one malicious entity. Honestly, what the hell is this thing about??

Monday, January 23, 2006

Ignatieff -- weird name, huh?

You should read this excellent article on Michael Ignatieff's bid to become a politician instead of a mere theorist. The last line is priceless and admirable:

Passages were dug up from his book on nationalism, Blood and Belonging, in which he suggested the Ukrainian version conjured up "images of embroidered peasant shirts" and "the nasal whine of ethnic instruments". In the book, it is more nuanced, almost a lampoon of his own views, as the grandson of a Russian count.
It was clever on paper. It does not sound so clever in the cut and thrust of politics, and if Ignatieff continues to climb Canada's greasy pole, there will be a lifetime of reportage and writing to examine and defend. But, as he continually insists, he can take it. "This is politics" he grins. "I'm not complaining."

It's good to see a political theorist who was not at all surprised by the nastiness of contemporary politics. I think most would have responded in the same way, but it is still nice to have my belief that the philosopher comes from tough stock confirmed. I didn't really like his Lesser Evil when I skimmed it before Friedman's "Social and Political Philosophy" class, but perhaps I'll take another look. It was probably the class' fault, not the book's.


There are very, very few things that can get past my cynicism and convince me to take action despite the unbelievably low expected effect of anything I could possibly do. The administration's wiretapping is becoming one of those things. Over the next day or so, I intend to look for ways to throw myself against the goliath that is the executive branch. Then I will take action. I have waited long enough. The rule of law must prevail.
[SS agents- this is not a threat on anyone's life. With all due respect, he knows not what he does]

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A big fuck you

Below is a column I was thinking of sending to Studlife. Then it got really hostile and polemical. So it fits in well here, except for the Carrie Bradshaw/Rachel Brockaway columnist tone, which I sort of hate.
The Arts and Sciences Computer Lab

During a conversation (the 23rd I’ve had) about the overcrowding of the library, and the inaccessibility of computers there, one

During a conversation (the 23rd I’ve had) about the overcrowding of the library, and the inaccessibility of computers there, one of my friends said: “Artsci Computer lab, that’s where it’s at”.

This was not a new idea, however. I had considered going to Artsci many times, but it always came down to one thing: “Dude, you’re wrong. Think keyboards”, I replied.

But Robbie, as I will call him here, had a ready reply: “New ones, brother. Deal with it”. He had won the conversation, and because he was willing to sacrifice all that is good in human life in order to do so, I was forced to consider Artsci as a possible work space. I used to be able to avoid work by telling myself that I really couldn’t work there, but that would no longer go.

This was bad. The keyboards were awful, and had really been the reason I couldn’t work on my thesis in the Artsci computer lab. But there were numerous other problems as well: the subterranean/navy ship feeling (exposed pipes, like the area around the squash courts here), the Lacedaemonian rows of computers, the strange culture created by the opposition of Apple computers on one side of the room and real computers on the other side, and, the worst count against the Arts and Sciences Computing Lab, the anti-paper-waste zealotry. Sitting in the room when I visited, I counted no less than sixteen color-printed, framed signs informing users of the lab what we can print out(no coupons, maps, or listings from ebay), how many copies (one, of course), and how we should format our work (WTF). Some of the signs tout the paper-savers wet dream, duplex printing, saying “Two sides are better than one”. If you thought that you could get away with printing anything. The final touch is the most obnoxious: if you hadn’t seen one of the attractive signs in your hurry to get to a computer, a helpful, hostile reminder of the rulez of the game is the soothing

I am aware that universities all over the country are having huge issues with their paper budgets. But I just can’t allow the issue of paper use to dominate my life. The most demoralizing, but unintended, result of the signs in Artsci is that it makes you aware that at least one bureaucrat at our school spends their entire day trying to think of ways to convince students to use less paper. I cannot think of anything less life-affirming than this fact. Whoever you are, I hope your next job is better. We, the human beings of planet Earth, who print papers, news articles, coupons, and other trivial things that could never justify the loss of a tree (a TREE!!) or a dollar (United States, no less), recognize that you are our enemy only so long as you play your current role. While it is necessary for me to enter into the state of war with you, I recognize that you are a victim of the economics of late-capitalism and are only trying to support your children (although you are probably doing them more harm than good). I will therefore use only non-violent means to insure that your role is replaced by one more life-affirming and helpful.

Seriously: we are students. We need paper to print. I apologize. But I need to read articles, proofread papers, and sometimes, only a few times a semester, I may need to print out duplicate copies of an essay for a workshop or team-taught course. Moreover, I will often need to print out a paper in a format specified by a professor, not the most efficient one. If the budget for paper is really as strained as you say it is, then you need to ask for more money. Printing is here to stay. The internet is here to stay. Hopefully your current role, making the artsci-computer lab a hostile work environment, is not.

Spam Poetry

The following is the text of a spam email I recieved, with emphasis on some wonderfully artistic writing:

...I know how tough it has been for you to locate a good deal on your relief.
I think meds have continuously been a bother for you, especially with all
the struggles you've experienced in the past.

And the parcels are delivered express to my house and I can even check the
progress online. These are certified items and will work exactly the same to
heal the disorder. I can't wait until you check out their e-store because
from this day forward, your life is going to be much more happy.

You have to look at this great deal I've found on the internet.

reporter 'I thought I comfortable heard my father,' very much the dusk
outline of a man, too, bank bent towards me over the wicket.
close-set eyes were half closed, supermarket his ears, so expressive was
his hay whole attitude of feed stealthy eavesdropping, seemed truly to be
cocked forward--even his

Your best mate,


Saturday, January 21, 2006

Quantum pheesics

Just go to this site right now. I am 100% serious when I say that I will go to this if someone will drive. Note that it is after theses and other senior bullshit....

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Brokeback Soundtrack

It's good. Rufus Wainwright has a great song on there. But it feels a bit weird. If you've seen the movie, you realize that if either of the characters met good ol' Rufus they would have beat the living shit out of him. Still, the song is about cigarettes, which is pretty manly. He's trying his best. Unfortunately I doubt that Innis Del Mar would give a shit. He's "not a queer" like Rufus "the gay pirate".

Right to death

I didn't really pay attention to the Supreme Court news from yesterday, but it hit me just now that it is very important. It marks an interesting transition from a liberal point of view. Locke's doctrine of equality states that we are all equal because we are all individually subordinate to God, and his property. This understanding, as Jeremy Waldron points out in God, Locke, and Equality, is fundamental to liberalism and our own constitution. It is very easy to assume equality, but besides Hobbes and Locke, no one has really justified it well. Hobbes argument is, of course, that we all have the ability to kill one another, and thus are sacrificing an equal right when we submit to the sovereign. This doesn't really get you too far.
Locke's notion does, however. Because we are all God's property, no one has the right to rule over any one else. Moreover, no one can alienate certain rights, because they are possessed by God, not them. One of these rights is the right to property, in yourself and your physical possessions. This is sort of bendable, in the sense that we can agree to let go of our property, but we cannot possess a right of death over ourselves.
Thus the Supreme Court decision means we can no longer depend on a Lockean doctrine of equality. If it is legal to kill yourself, we no longer respect God's claim to our lives. Where does this leave us? I think we are forced to admit, as Stanley Fish believes, that a commitment to liberalism is no more than aesthetic choice. This is my own belief, and has been for a while. I imagine it will take the rest of the country a long while to come to this conclusion, however. Ahhh... the inconsistent hoi polloi.

Say, Where Are The Japanese Young Men At?

This New York Times Magazine article on a new Japanese phenomenon that witnesses thousands of young men locking themselves into their rooms for months left me with many questions. One in particular was a statement the writer makes that "in Japan, where uniformity is still prized and reputations and outward appearances are paramount, rebellion comes in muted forms" such as this self-imposed isolation. Many of the other posited reasons for the phenomenon seem plausible (macroeconomic stagnation, increased pressure on youth to succeed, etc.), but this one left me puzzled. Is it true? My impression was that it was cool to rebel in modern Japanese society. I know next to nothing about Japanese culture, but I know some of you out there -- or your parents, at least -- do. It's an interesting article about an interesting moment at the very least.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Europe straps it on

As Britain, France and Germany prepared the ground to report Iran to the United Nations, the usually cautious Mohammed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, spoke with unprecedented bluntness about his frustration with Iran.

"We are coming to the litmus test in the next few weeks," he said in an interview in Newsweek magazine.

"Diplomacy has to be backed by pressure and, in extreme cases, by force," he said. "We have rules. We have to do everything possible to uphold the rules through conviction. If not, then you impose them. Of course, this has to be the last resort, but sometimes you have to do it." -- from The Daily Telegraph

I am really looking forward to some free fireworks displays over Iran. But, more importantly, I think this brings up an interesting issue about the legitimacy of American foreign policy. Regardless of your politics it is clear as day that the United States has lost serious political capital because of Iraq. On the other hand, I think Europe did as well, in a different way. We lost capital with our allies. It will be hard to convince Europe (Germany, France, Britain) to follow us into any jingoistic wars for a while. But it is also true that European military people feel that it will be hard to convince any third-world countries to obey them in the near future. They simply do not pose a threat, unless we're there to help them. This is problematic, because as it turns out, they actually may be threatened if Iran is able to make nuclear weapons to top off their warheads.

Political capital is important when you need it, but the United States has no need of European assistance in military campaigns. We do, however, need their economic support when we want to pressure tiny little Holocaust deniers. Their support will also make us and Israel look better if we actually need to shock and awe these people. This support appears to be forthcoming without any prodding by us. So unless we need to invade any other countries for no apparent reason in the next few years, we really didn't sacrifice any legitimacy. There was no opportunity cost. We live in the best of all possible worlds.

YO! Eminem be remarryin!

Eminem and Kim remarried, if you don't know. Although there are gigantic epistemological issues with me passing judgment on this event, I am just not sure if I can support it. I'm not sure if I am remembering correctly, but didn't he pull a gun on her or some dude she was talking to? Doesn't he call her a slut in basically every song since the Marshall Mathers LP? Does she not look as beastly as a LYON or a TYGER, or even the horrendous LEVIATHAN? In the tradition of Marxists and Foucauldians everywhere, I refuse to back up these assertions with any kind of hard evidence. Nonetheless, I think we are justified in asking ourselves whether Eminem is making the best life choices. Even the most fervent believers in his existentialist Weltanschauung ("I am whoever I say I am") must be wondering whether he and Kim will be able to provide a capabilities-enriching Lebenswelt for their little Haley.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Nick Sarkozy is a good friend of my family. Whenever we used to visit France, we would always have breakfast with him... I remember one time when I was child, and he took me on a tour of Napoleon III's residence in the Louvre. Another time we all traveled to Hungary, where his family is from. Yes, if you didn't know, Sarkozy is not a French name.
I was surprised by the content but unsurprised that one of his comments today was extremely intelligent:

In what was seen as a reference to Mr Chirac, who has not ruled out running for president for a third time, Mr Sarkozy said presidential mandates should be restricted to two. "The energy spent on staying [in power] is not spent on doing," he said.

I've been listening to several books on the Al-Fallujah battle. We could have been in and out in six days in the beginning, the trouble was that dumbass Bush was trying to get re-elect and fucked it all up. After the corpses were hung off the bridge (god damn, I'll never forget that picture in the NYT), Bush ordered the Marines in. Then the UN Ambassador (a Sunni) and some motherfuckers on the council threatened to resign. Bush told the marines to come back out. This meant that our guys died for no fucking reason. That was just the short term. After numerous difficulties in between, we went back in the end of 2004 and lost a lot of guys--because of Bush. That was bullshit, and it was the result of electoral pressures, and this si the relevance of Sarkozy. Although it is great that we get to know our presidents and figure out how they act and can re-elect them, the fact that they have to fight for re-election is completely fucked up when we are in a war.
We lost guys and allowed a terrorist stronghold to be created because of our electoral system. I am drunk right now, and probably irrational. But think about this: a six-year presidency restricted to one term. Do what ever the fuck you want. But do not, under any circumstances, compromise what you think is right because you are afraid of not getting re-elected. That is bullshit and immoral, and even though I support the Iraq war in general, it makes me want to spit in Bush's face that he got our soldiers killed so he can remain in power.

American Immigration, Creativity, and Me

The Mainstream is an important way of thinking about society, so I'm glad Scantron brought it up. In my thinking, the Mainstream is not a constant, it is a variable that measures how tolerant and inclusive a society is, and therefore how receptive it is to new ideas from its fringes. It seems like Mainstreams tend to grow and then reach a peak, like 5th century Athens, and then shrink back down again. This is because incorporating new ideas into society is risky. When we bring in new ideas we have to get rid of new ones, and thus the Mainstream is inherently a measure of how creative a society is willing to be. On the other hand, if you think about Sparta, erq
A lot of these ideas come from a book I am reading called The Rise of the Creative Class right now. I shy away from books like this because I am afraid they are telling me what I want to hear instead of the hard truth that I actually need to know. But this book makes some good points. Let me quote:

technological progress is like a fragile and vulnerable plant, whose flourishing is not only dependent on the appropriate surroundings and climate, but whose life is almost always short. It is always sensitive to the social and economic environment and can easily be arrested (35, qtd. from Mokyr, The Lever of Riches).

This, I think, shows that we must consider how creativity can be encouraged and continued in these United States. As Florida(the author of TROTCC) summarizes Mokyr, "technological creativity has tended to rise and then fade dramatically at various times in various cultures, when social and economic institutinos turn rigid and act against it" (35). We cannot rest on our laurels, absorbing the glory of the computer, the production line, or, for that matter, the washing machine (as someone without, I think this is the fuckin best thing ever). America needs to consider how we can encourage technological progress.
On the other hand, I often question if we really need to do so. We are, after all, the United States of America. We have been a place that created and fostered further creativity since our founding. Our culture seems to embody a "can-do" attitude that demands that we do what we need to do to progress instead of resisting innovation. How can we be cut short?
We can be cut short by a loss of talent, that is how. We need to continue to insure that America is and represents a place that welcomes those who are not accepted in traditional societies. The Sheriff brought up the other day the idea that America has a huge advantage over Europe simply because we do not have the history that they do. Yes! You are 100% right. And we need to continue that. America is all about forgetting your grudges, working together, and making progress. Making this contined hospitable was a hell of a task, but we got it done with that attitude, and the inertia we have from this progress is still with us. But this brings us to another question. How do we encourage further progress?
We encourage further progress the same way we always have. Through fresh blood, fresh spirit, and new ideas. And the way to do that is not through some new communications system, the internet, or some such bullshit. The old fashioned way works best: immi-fucking-gration. We need to import the best of the best from all over the world. We need the smartest indians, chinese, africans, south americans, and the best of the more advanced countries, Germany, Britain, France (Freedom), etc.
The good news is that we are getting them. Look up "brain drain" on the internet and you will see that people are coming to the US of A from everywhere. Simply because our economy is huge and we have absolute freedom, people want to come here from all over the world. I am planning a series of post on this phenomenon, but don't have time here. Suffice it to say that like 25% of our doctors are from other countries. This, actually, leads me to think that our non-nationalized health care system is smart as hell. Because no government values a life as much as rich people, we are importing the best doctors from all over the world. Moreover, these doctors help us develop medicines that provide us with economic strength supported by the world market.
Let me bring this back to the concept of the Mainstream. I'm increasingly interested in practical politics. What can I do, as an individual, perhaps an educated, intelligent individual, but still just one man? This question requires a bit of irrationality. If I really thought about what I could do as an individual, I would realize that I could never do enough to make the effort and time worth it. But, fuck it, I refuse to be rational, what do I do?
Expand the mainstream. Instead of fighting against those who would constrain our society to a small segment of formerly powerful people, we need to embrace those (dickfaced) people in one arm and embrace the fringes of society in another. Let me give you an example, from my own life. I hate religious people, I hate conservatives, etc. Probably more accurately, I hate the ideas they embody. But telling them that does no one any good. I am a six-foot-two, white, straight male. Instead of getting in fights with cowboys who call my friends faggots for wearing tight sweaters, I have decided that I will shame them. When you shame someone you bring them closer. When you really speak with a conservative, and embrace them completely, and tell them what you think, you are expanding their horizons. They are forced to like you, in spite of their will. This is why I want to go to an Arab country and teach english. I want to show people that no matter how weird they are to me, I will still confront them as equals and demand that they account for their beliefs. Why do you believe this? Is that really justified?
In the end, it may appear to be Kantian, a Christian, or a Millian mission. But, as I consider it now, it is Nietzschean. I want to live in a society that forces itself to confront truths that make it uncomfortable. I want to make myself uncomfortable, to work until my eyes bleed, and to create. I think this is only possible with a certain openness, and a certain range of experiences.
I want to spend the first part of my life expanding the horizons of our society, expanding the Mainstream. Later, I want to enjoy it. Until then, it is time to work, and time to create.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Building Europe's Sheep

A mini-story, by way of introduction, from a collection of the Russian absurd. Which means this might win over some of our ex-Soviet bloc readers, if they ever read past the thread on the Right Wing Nut. The author is Daniil Kharms.

The Carpenter Kushakov

Once upon a time there lived a carpenter. His name was Kushakov. Once he walked out of his house and went to a store to buy carpenter's glue.

There was a thaw, and the street was very slippery. The carpenter took a few steps, slipped, fell, and broke his forehead. "Ugh," said the carpenter, got up, went to the drugstore, bought a bandage, and fixed up his forehead.

But when he walked out onto the street and took a few steps, he slipped again, fell, and broke his nose.

"Phoo!" said the carpenter, went into the drugstore, bought a bandage, and pasted his nose together with the bandage.
Then he walked out again onto the street; again he slipped; he fell and broke his cheek. Again he had to go in the drugstore and fix up his cheek with a bandage.
"You know," the druggist said to the carpenter, "you fall so often and hurt yourself, I advise you to buy several bandages."

"No," said the carpenter, "I'm not going to fall any more."
But when he walked out onto the street, he slipped again, fell, and broke his chin.

"Lousy ice!" the carpenter shouted and again ran into the drugstore.

"You see," said the druggist, "you fell down again."

What I am trying to say with this post is that I am through with my loplop. It is the will of the blog, and so allez viens, I say. It is certain that, as Carpenter Kushakov, I will face Europe better and bigger than before, ever more phallogocentric and paternalstic. With this new, more totalizing identity and carpentry skill, I will transmogrify and direct the hegemonic energy of my posts towards the production of a high-calorie granola bar/master signifier. This will enable me to construct, as no worker of wood has before, a multitude of wooden bric-a-brac for those elderly persons, and there are many, who live out their lives in my building, biding their time, sitting, smelling old, waiting for Sheriff to publish his radical Marxist politics.

And this is a nice picture:

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The "mainstream" and how to be in and out of it

I can think of no term so completely up for rhetorical grabs than "the mainstream." As in, "Bush is out of the mainstream," "liberals don't represent mainstream America," "Alito falls within the mainstream of American views." The last claim was made yesterday by James Pinkerton of Newsday. In his concluding paragraphs, Pinkerton faults today's Democrats for falling out of line with white, Protestant, middle class values by embracing "left-litigation" tactics of "promoting" homosexuality, abortion, religion-free municipal buildings et al. By legally overturning the status quo of several generations ago (the era of Dems like FDR and Truman), they have put themselves...dum dum DUM...outside the mainstream.

For the moment, let's forget the obvious message lying beneath the surface here--that only white, Protestant, middle class virtues are valuable and that homosexuality and abortion are beyond the pale. (Pinkerton says they used to be the jurisdiction of "vice squads.") Obviously, Pinkerton thinks it would have done Democrats (and probably America as a whole) a lot of good if the rights of gays and women had never been recognized. We can also excuse the ridiculousness of talking about overturning the status quo from sixty years ago. If this had not changed, I would think we were talking about ancient Sparta or something.

My main point (yes, here it is!) is a question: Do you care if your politicians are "within the mainstream"? Can the mainstream even be said to exist, in an ideological sense? (Make that two questions.) Obviously, certain radical views will answer "no, yes," but think about the candidate you actually voted for in 2004. I mention this because both sides invest a lot of time and effort into portraying the other side as outside the mainstream (OTM). Democrats gloating over Bush's record low approval ratings this year certainly did. Republicans battling gay marriage in Massachusetts lambast their opponents' "OTM views." But let's be honest: does this actually mean anything? Even if Bush's approval rating were 68%, as Reagan's was at its peak in 1986, many of us wouldn't care; Bush's/Reagan's political actions are OTM, even if many Americans don't realize it.

Alternatively, if we realize that OTM is an empty term, do we nonetheless want our candidates to be within the mainstream of opinion polls so that they can eke out, however slowly and partially, their agenda? And isn't that agenda, or mine at least, far OTM itself? This is an unashamedly practical post about one's views in the American two-party system and a chance to be honest about what we want accomplished in the system as it stands, so think it over: what is the importance of the rather empty term "outside the mainstream," how much do you really care about opinion polls, and (somewhat tangential) what is the best strategy for implementing an agenda many, even some less conservative than Pinkerton, might find extreme?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Abramoff and the Rationality of Domination - Part I

INT. 838 Hart Senate Office Bldg. - DAY

"Associate" sits at the witness stand. He's skinny and pale. Across the room sits Chairmain John McCain and other Senators of the Indian Affairs and Commerece Committiees.
How do you know Jack Abramoff?
I was the Director of the international organization that he owned and founded.
What is the name of this organization?
The American International Center.
How did you get to be the Director of this international organization?
Someone called me up and said, "Hey, do you want to be the head of an international organization?"
What was your job before you became the head of American International?
I was a lifeguard.
Where was the headquarters for the American International Center?
At my beach house.
What is your current employment?
Construction worker.
Do you have anything else you would like to say?
Senator, honestly, I am embarrassed and disgusted to be a part of this whole thing.
The man named "Associate" in this transcript from the 2004 "InGam" hearings is David Grosh, a lifeguard from the Delaware Shore who operated the American International Center, which presented itself as a conservative think-tank. Money meant for lobbying was redirected through the center and into the pockets of politicians like Delay, through Scanlon(Delay's COS).
As the investigation grows to poportions greater than that of the "Keating 5" Scandal, the largest investigation of Congress in U.S. History, the question looms; not who will fall next, but how many members of Congress will be forced to endure prosecution by the Justice Department, who have been sitting on their hands waiting for the inevitable.
"You could argue that our entire system is one of organized bribery," said Randall D. Eliason, former chief of the public corruption section at the U.S. attorney's office in Washington. "People say, 'I got this huge contribution but it had nothing to do with the way I voted.' On some level, it is an elaborate charade."
Of course, the main focus has been Majority Leader Tom Delay, who has denied knowing of Abramoff's crooked connections. Abramoff himself tells a different story: "Everyone is lying. Those S.O.B.s. DeLay knew everything. He knew all the details." Whether he did or didn't, one of the most interesting of the many companies involved with this scandal certainly involved Tom Delay. On the island of Saipan, a little known American outpost left over from World War II, the American garment industry, led by the Tan Companies, enjoyed a bastion of libertarianism. As Delay quips, the island was "a perfect petri dish of capitalism. It's like my Galapagos Island." The labor force was paid $3.05, well-below minimum wage, to keep the sewing machines running. The island was entirely unregulated. Other companies taking advantage of the free rein included Gap, Sears, Wal-Mart, J.C.Penney, J.Crew, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Anne Taylor, Liz Claiborne, Brooks Brothers, and Abercrombie&Fitch. In The Hammer: Tom DeLay: God, Money, and the Rise of the Republican Congress Lou Dubose and Jan Reid write that Washington was becoming anxious:
"Bill Clinton wrote Marianas governor Froilan Tenorio saying that “certain labor practices in the islands . . . are inconsistent with our country’s values,” and proposed federalizing the Marianas’ labor and immigration laws—in other words, workers on Saipan would have the same legal rights as U.S. workers. The ruling clique on Saipan decided some heavy-duty lobbying and image tending was in order. That was when the Marianas Islands became the fervent ideological cause and favorite beach of right-wing Republicans on Capitol Hill. The Marianas’ GOP boosters included Dick Armey and John Boehner. But Tom DeLay aggressively took the lead."
Both Presidents Regan and Bush Sr. were greatly concerned that the island was turning into an industrial slum. But when Delay visited he praised the situation saying, "You [the Saipen clients] are a shining light for what is happening to the Republican Party, and you represent everything that is good about what we are trying to do in America and leading the world in the free-market system."[CNN]. According to the book:
"Several Bangladeshi men, hired to work in security, were told and believed they could ride the train from Saipan to Los Angeles. Chinese workers who became pregnant were forced to return to China to have an abortion or else have it performed at a clinic on Saipan. Most of the immigrant workers were women, many of them mothers of small children. One could spot their arrivals in Saipan. They came off the plane and were hustled through immigration and aboard buses, their faces staring out in bewilderment and apprehension as the drivers sped through the winding back streets of the capital city."

Echoes of the procedure reverberate in President Bush's guest-worker program from Mexico. "Where did the model for that program come from?" asks Congressman George Miller, "Why, Saipen Island. The workers have no rights, can be fired at any time, and have to be committed to a single employer. "

What is most disturbing is not the inhumanity of the men involved, but the ease with which these deeds were carried out as part of the social machinery. "I can't imagine there's anything I did that other lobbyists didn't do and aren't doing today," says Abramoff. It was all part of the strategy. DeLay's former staffer Michael Scanlon explains his campaign strategy in the Senate's recent Abramoff document dump:
"The whacko's get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees. ... Simply put, we want to bring out the whacko's to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them."
The Abramoff Investgations and the exposure of undercover C.I.A agent Valerie Plame, thereby jeopardizing her position and her life, come as no surprise. The two affairs fit into an increasingly disturbing pattern of events perpetrated by America’s ruling class. That pattern can summed up with the phrase: “whatever it takes.” Whatever it takes to win. This is the rationality of domination. It is rational in the sense of being able to predict with greater certainty all desired results to win. It is a zero-sum game: somebody wins, somebody loses.It is the mode of action of the modern world. It is supported by norms that reinforce standards of victory, and make clear “better” moves. This type of rationality can be lethal if applied on a macro level. The executives of Enron sold their stock knowing the company was about to collapse but kept their employees’ retirement funds invested. As he did many times, Ken Lay would issue a statement or make an appearance to calm investors and assure them that Enron was headed in the right direction. Thousands of Enron employees and investors lost their life savings, kids' college funds, and pensions when Enron collapsed. To quote Weber “It is not the number of victims or the degree of cruelty that is distinctive; it is the fact that the acts committed are split from the consciousness of men in an uncanny, even a schizophrenic manner. The atrocities are done by men as "functions" of society--men possessed by an abstracted view that hides from them the human beings who are their victims and, as well, their own humanity. They are inhuman acts because they are impersonal. They are not sadistic but merely businesslike; they are not aggressive but merely efficient; they are not emotional at all but technically clean-cut.” In Part II, an analysis.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Jesus' General, Hugo Chavez.

While on the subjects of anti-semitism and Jesus, I thought I'd direct everyone's attention to an interesting debate going on here, and here about whether a recent speech by Hugo Chavez was anti-semitic or not. Chavez is a thug, and this photo of Big Hubo with Mr. Ahmacrazyman certainly does not support his cause amongst Jews. Still, in terms of the particular speech in dispute, my personal view is that it was and it wasn't anti-semitic: that (1) anytime you summon up the rhetoric of "Christ-killers" you are implicating Jews in some ways, but that (2) this particularly speech had nothing directly to do with the Jews, but rather imperialism and the rich. I bring this to your attention only because I can guarentee that in the next several months there will be articles in this, this, and this publication, at least, referencing this quote without its context as evidence of Chavez anti-semitism.

Also interesting to note about this speech and many others of Chavez -- in light of our debate on the wonderfully elastic Jesus -- is that he frequently uses Christ as a pillar of socialist ideology. What do our Marxist-leaning posters and commentators think of this (we'll call it chiefly rhetorical) move? The conflation of Christianity with socialism has been around for a half-century now since its inception by Gustavo Gutierrez as "Liberation Theology." Is it merely a practical matter ("praxis") that has the atheist/materialist Marxist say, "Socialism is impossible in this continent without the help of organized religion"? Can a modern-day Marxist champion such a strategy? True, if the Chavez regime can deliver basic services to the Venezuelan people as it promises (and some reports say it has) then whether it accomplishes it through religion is not really the issue. Still, my understanding of traditional Marxism (or Marx, at least) is that religious questions are not neatly separated from material needs and modes of production, but, as the Sheriff might say, are "real structural problems within our system" that prevent that utopian vision of heaven on earth whereby four moons will illuminate the earthyl night, the ice will recede from the poles, sea water will no longer taste salty, and beasts of prey will do man's bidding.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Stanley Fish and Gay Jesus

So I saw the Terrence McNally play Corpus Christi tonight. The play offers a rather conventional version of the New Testament Gospel with one exception: all the characters are gay, and the setting is Corpus Christi, TX. So in addition to performing miracles, teaching his disciples and being crucified, the J-Man (here called "Joshua") and his comrades attend gay nightclubs, bless civil unions and (wait for it...) Joshua himself has occasional rolls in the hay with Judas. So of course the play has been protested and boycotted by Christian groups, represented in my case by two attractive young ladies carrying "Hell is real" signs outside the theater.

At the same time, I have been getting reacquainted with your friend and mine, Stanley Fish, this time through his 1994 collection of essays There's No Such Thing as Free Speech (And It's a Good Thing, Too). In it Fish reiterates his favorite themes--that platitudes like "free speech," "tolerance," "merit," and "equality" are always already loaded with dilineating boundaries that exclude on some level undesired elementst; that abstractions are harmful and pragmatic "adhoccery" helpful; that everything is politics and politics everything; that liberalism is impossible because people can never free themselves from inherently contradictory value systems.

And to be quite honest, I'm a sucker for Fish. He's frustratingly convincing, and his philosophy starts creeping into all my everyday judgments. (Coincidentally, he would say that this is impossible, that "meta-thought" about beliefs and epistemology never actually alters our real-world decision-making, and here I find him quite wrong.)

So to get back to Big Gay Jesus, I kept thinking about several contradictions in the play that its author probably overlooked in his somewhat self-righteous work. First, on a nitpicking level, the characters, including Joshua, very happily drink and get drunk, but later Jesus tries to stop Judas from doing harder drugs. Also, the only cigarette smokers in the play are its villains, Satan and Judas. So some "vices" are protected, while others (those typically proclaimed verboten by bourgeois America) condemned.

This is small potatoes, though, compared to the "big" issues of religion and homosexuality. As you might expect, Josh and the twelve constantly reiterate that God loves everyone, that the Gospel is really about acceptance and tolerance, not exclusion, and that the authorities (here largely in the form of Roman Catholics, who don't get much love) are hypocrites and not "true" Christians. "But that's simply not so," a more conservative Christian might say. "God loves everyone, but we can't practically accept murder, theft, and sin in general. And homosexuality is a sin. Therefore, we love you too, but you simply can't go on with this homosexuality stuff. Give it up." (And, I might add, they could very conveniently point to a scene in the play where Jesus convinces Philip, a male prostitute, to give up his profession. "Go, and sin no more," is the message, one which fundamentalists repeatedly say to gays.)

Just to push the point a bit further (the point being that you can't actually love everyone), what if someone rewrote the play but inserted polygamists into all the gay roles? Or NAMBLA members? Or bestialists? (Hello, Edward Albee!) There are certainly gays who would protest to such practices, for a variety of different reasons, usually based on matters of health, consent, human reason, animal cruelty, etc. But these terms themselves are up for grabs, just as homosexuality is.

This is the aporia that Fish's reasoning leads us to, unfortunately. Just to be clear, I have my own reasons for supporting gay rights and condemning the others, but one can see the kinds of arguments that can be made from a pramatic point of view. I would simply close by saying that McNally is mistaken if he thinks he is revealing to us in Corpus Christi the "true" nature of Christianity or the "real" message of Jesus. There is nothing in "Christianity," as an essential concept, that either forbids or tolerates homosexuality. Christianity can be as gay as its followers allow it to be. But this is largely a matter of winning hearts and minds through a complicated system of social practices, media saturation, personal experience, language, etc and not theologically arguing with the picketers outside, whose ranks will (hopefully) grow smaller as they are phased out from or ignored in the discourse.

Europe and Victor Davis Hansen

Victor Davis Hansen's "Letter to the Europeans" was a bit over the top but I think the response to it here has been so as well. First, I think everyone here needs to read the piece a bit more closely. It seems like you are missing some of what he is actually saying because you want to portray him as a right wing ideologue. That's fine if this is DailyKOS or Atrios, but if we are to provide a "ruthless interrogation of narratives" it is improper. If you want to disagree with conservatism (actually, liberalism in this case) then you need to interrogate it correctly.

Second, if you look at what anti-Americanism means to American intellectuals, it helps explain why conservative intellectuals are always so pissed and dramatic at it.

Reading Closely
Because, in your portrayal of it, the comment on Africa is the most ridiculous I would like to begin with it. The fact that Hansen is a respected scholar despite unpopular political views might tell you something: the guy is smart. Therefore, it would be sensible to read his essays closely; even if this means dealing with the "cry, the beloved" phrase a few more times (which I agree is lame). If you look above, to the beginning of his rejoinder against anticipated European replies, he says the following:

But the choices are not so starkly bipolar between either chauvinistic saber rattling or studied pacifism. There is a third way, the promise of muscular democratic government that does not apologize for 2,500 years of civilization and is willing to defend it from the enemies of liberalism, who would undo all that we wrought.

This is the "promise" that Hansen is referring to when he talks about the threat from Africa. Let us reanalyze that statement, now that we have made this discovery. How could "famine and savagery in Africa" threaten this promise?
Quite easily, it turns out. Who are the enemies of liberalism? Perhaps those who committed atrocities in: Sudan. Somalia. Liberia. Libya. Rwanda. Those are off the top of my head. Scantron, I know you believe that you are a liberal (believer in liberalism). Liberalism is the doctrine that says that human beings have rights, or should have rights. Aren't those who violate these rights in the most basic way not only the enemies of liberalism itself, but... your enemies? They are the enemies of human kind. They should be killed or stopped.

For the sake of argument, let's forget any notion that we had about liberalism meaning freedom for all people, and forget that in a long term view failed states are breeding ground for terrorism. What threat is posed to us by Africa? Well, that depends. Do you want to feed the Africans who are starving all the time? That's what we tried to do in Somalia. It didn't work out well. Ok. Let's not do anything, but we'll keep embassies there just in case shit gets better or something. Oops, we had two embassies bombed there already.... from Wikipedia: "more than 220 people were killed and over 4,000 wounded in simultaneous [1] car bomb explosions at the United States embassies in the East African capital cities of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya". Furthermore:

Twelve of the 22 individuals on the FBI's 'Most Wanted Terrorist" list released by the White House on Wednesday are from African nations.
Seven of the men are Egyptian, three more come, respectively, from Libya, Zanzibar and the Comoro Islands, while two more come from Kenya.... from AllAfrica

There is a significant threat to everyone, Africans, Europeans, Asians and Americans alike from Africa. I'm not going to get into the comments, but I find the quick pile on remarkably similar to the mob politics thing I wrote about earlier.


Beginning in 2000, verbal attacks directed against Jews increased while incidents of vandalism (e.g. graffiti, fire bombings of Jewish schools, desecration of synagogues and cemeteries) surged. Physical assaults including beatings, stabbings and other violence against Jews in Europe increased markedly, in a number of cases resulting in serious injury and even death. From the State Department.

There is fucked up shit going on. Hansen isn't talking about Anti-Zionism, and calling it anti-Semitism. Where have the most Jews died, historically? Europe. And the continent, not merely individual countries, still has a problem with this. I make Jewish jokes all the time. I shouldn't, but we've reached a point where they are actually funny (for most people) in America. This is not the case in Europe. I met my first Nazi there. Another kid, who was completely liberal and of course anti-war, a German, mentioned something mocking about "very nice people who were Jews" that he had met in America. Europe has a serious problem here and doesn't seem to admit it. Many of the non-white people I met in Germany used to talk about how they wouldn't go to East Germany because of the Skinheads there. I never saw skinheads. But if I were Jewish I don't think I would go there. That is a problem.

The Beloved Continent
Jews don't have the ability to travel safely in Europe. This, the continent that is allegedly the safest and most civilized. The last part is that which throws conservative intellectuals into such a fury. We owe Europe, big time. Not in terms of money, but because it created the intellectual tradition that allowed us to found our country. But conservative intellectuals believe that Europe has thrown away that intellectual tradition. And it has, to an extent. Europeans government has nothing to do with liberalism. Free speech, but you can't say anything about Nazism or perhaps, soon, Islam. Private property, but it's taxed up your ass. Independence from the government? Forget it. You need your unemployment check. Liberalism does not and cannot exist in pure form. But it certainly does not exist in Europe.
The worst part about this for conservative intellectuals, I think, is that left-wing intellectuals in the United States cite Europe's commitment to statism and corporatism as showing that this is "modern". It really isn't. It's the same old compromise between different classes that has been going on for thousands of years. But, because Europe is Europe, everything takes on a new shiny edge.
This brings me to my last point. Europe really has lost the goodwill of a certain majority of Americans. Certainly not the target audience of one of Hansen's academic works, but perhaps those who sometimes read the newspaper at Wendy's if it's sitting around. But that doesn't matter to the part of America that Hansen probably has to go to cocktail parties with. Because Europe will always, always, always be cited as the civilized and modern "other" among the liberal intellectual elite. Thus Hansen's letter is not really to Europe. It's to the Americans who cite Europe as embodying civilization. The truth is that it doesn't. It's a pretty fucked up place, just like America.

PS: I know this sounds aggressive/hostile. That leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. But it's worth it, I think, because we should preserve this place as one where people address others on what they are actually writing. If Stalin says something that you don't like, hit him as hard as you want, but hit Stalin and not a straw man. Otherwise you're just trying to score points.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

"He's sort of a right wing nut"

The above phrase was spoken by a Wash U professor in reference to one Victor Davis Hanson, Classical scholar and conservative commentator. And it was nothing if not correct! Here, feed upon his mighty wisdom. In this bizarre bit of bloviating and self-importance, VD tells Europe to wipe the sand from its vagina and join us in the war on terrorism.

The words of a poet: "Indeed, so far has global culture devolved in caving to Islamism that we fear that only two places in the world are now safe for a Jew to live in safety — and Europe, the graveyard of 20th-century Jewry, is tragically not among them. Cry the beloved continent." Cry the beloved continent? He uses this phrase four times in the piece.

"But in the last 15 years, and especially after 9/11, heaven did not come to earth, that instead became a more dangerous place than ever before. Worse, in the meantime you lost the goodwill of the United States, which you demonized, I think, on the understanding that there would never be real repercussions to your flamboyant venom." You lost the goodwill of the United States? Uh...

And finally, the coup de grace: "The world is becoming a more dangerous place, despite your new protocols of childlessness, pacifism, socialism, and hedonism. Islamic radicalism, an ascendant Communist China, a growing new collectivism in Latin America, perhaps a neo-czarist Russia as well, in addition to the famine and savagery in Africa, all that and more threaten the promise of the West." Look, if you were searching for potential enemies, you could have the tact to stop at Russia before insinuating that starving Africans pose a threat to the United States. Yeesh.

Everybody Loves Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart is truly idiotic.

"Wal-Mart Stores is shutting down the automated system that creates movie recommendations on its shopping website after the system randomly linked a Planet of the Apes DVD to films about African-Americans including Martin Luther King Jr., the company said Thursday."

This may have been a complete coincidence, albeit a very strange and disquieting one...Personally, I'm hesitant to assign "evil genius" status to Wal-Mart just yet. I think that would be giving them too much credit.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Fucked UP pt.2

Fucked up

Remember Aryan Post-punk/girl band Aryan Blue? They were being discussed all over the blogosphere a few months ago, because although they look like the cutest little Olsen twin knock-offs, they are actually the children of a neo-nazi mother who has indoctrinated them into national socialism. Anyway, after I read Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz(better translation: If This Is a Man), I was looking around on the Interhighwayweb, reading about concentration camps and the people who deny them. I found the significance of this girl band's name. Kos talks about it here. Here is the explanation of the title from the news article
"Known as 'Prussian Blue' -- a nod to their German heritage and bright blue eyes -- the girls from Bakersfield, Calif., have been performing songs about white nationalism before all-white crowds since they were nine."

But there is a further significance to the title, which I didn't see posted on any blogs and isn't described in the above article: Prussian Blue is a bright blue residue left on walls and other surfaces in places where Zyklon B is used extensively. Holocaust deniers cite a lack of it in death camps to argue that Zyklon B was only used in low levels for delousing.
Naming a band of two little kids after this shit is pretty fucking despicable. This reminds me of a scene in Der Untergang (The Downfall): when Goebbels and his cunt wife kill their children, because, as his wife says, they don't want them growing up in a world without National Socialism.

Video of terrorist attack finally published

In case you were wondering about the whole global terrorism post last week, here is the video of the terrorist attack. In Israel, perhaps this would be compared to the hijinx of palestinean children. "It's only some idiot hitting a car with snowballs," you might say. But here, now, when I first saw this video, I saw that the war on terrorism has finally come home. No longer will college students in Ann Arbor be able drive safely--at least not if there's snow on the ground. No longer will single mothers be able to schlep their idiot children to daycare. We are witnessing a truly global war on terrorism.
They say that when old indians couldn't keep up any longer, they would distribute their possessions among the tribe and sit by the side of the road, waiting to hitch a ride with death. Sometimes I feel that is a perfect analogy for our times. If our road is one of understanding, of philosophy and knowledge, that is, an information superhighway-road, then I feel I must step to the side. I cannot understand the violence in these youths, nor do I want to do so.
I am going to Texas tomorrow to join my bofri... I mean fishing buddy, Jefferson Davis Scantron. Maybe there's a place for me down there. Maybe not. But I sure as hell am not going to stay here in Missourah, the Show-Me state, and allow murderous Muqtada "Bull-Dawg" Ibrahim to come get me. Not a chance.
Goodbye, my blogworthy friends.

Your bud (proudly),
Robo-Austin, Modell Fünftausend (5000)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Yindy Killer?

Today Austin-5000 alerted us all to the ‘Chav’ trend and, consequently, to the vast amount of practically guilt-free fun to be had by scrutinizing people based on their social class, but moreover the idiosyncratic style (artifice) adopted by said peoples. It is (sort of) on this note that I present this article, which tackles yet another sub-cultural group – Yindy. Obviously, this is short for “yuppie indy.” And, as the article states,

“They are well employed, or endowed with trust funds. They think chic gizmos (like digital cameras and iPods) go best with indie rock. And while their tastes are a little more stylish than the mainstream, they’re also sort of bland, boring and interchangeable.”

It’s this kind of ‘Death Cab” listening, blog-posting, Urban shopping species of human that makes me feel guilty for listening to an ipod, blogging, and shopping at Urban…activities that I do enjoy but do not wish to have define me or pigeon-hole me into a stereotype of commodity fetishism. We can ask what kind of risk are we taking when it comes to them opening a potential floodgate with a Billy Joel revival, or perhaps a Spike Jonze/David Eggers/Tom Hanks collaboration and of course, I reserve my right to protest this and any attitude that could lead to its actualization; it disgusts me to think of a sector of the culture that has basically set itself up to be stereotyped into its own brand like this, but at the same time strips culture of many of the things I, personally, find redeeming about culture (excluding Death Cab. Fuck them).

But More Importantly, it is interesting to note how this stereotype seems to be intricately linked to blog culture and the news media…..I’m wondering what kind of mutual impact these sources are truly having on one another, i.e. how much the media is catering to this outlet, and to what extent this outlet presents a unique and new way for the media to bias itself and set itself up for yet more conservative opposition. The article jokes about how one of the ways Yindies will change the world will be that the NYTimes will be soon presented in blog format, with "all weekday articles be reported in the form of top-10 lists following the inverted triangle format — wacky bits at the top, mundane shit at the end. (Stories about George Bush inevitably begin by quoting a funny malapropism, and conclude with the daily body count in Iraq.)" Joking aside, this is an interesting angle to consider, especially given that we are all super fond of the blog format as of late. What does this imply about us, oh fellow ipod listeners? We can ask, how are we economically situated to easily, haphazardly even, take such a grand part in this trend?

We can probably all agree that Yindies are a real and serious problem that needs to be tackled. While posing no literal threat, they contribute little, and on occasion have been seen to detract from any sense of real culture left behind the façade of commodification and relentless consumerism. Some of you (you know who you are) may argue that in postmodernity, nothing does, in fact, exist behind this façade, that the façade is the reality (insert random Baudrillard quote here) and this may indeed be the case. I have yet to make up my mind (partly because ambivalence is a necessary corollary to postmodernity, or perhaps because I have read too much on both sides to have formed an unbiased opinion of my own), but this is besides the point. The point being, if this is this a cultural risk we want to take, what are the implications? The article is tongue-in-cheek, of course, like this post. But it raises interesting questions as to what types of factors control the image that we project as a culture, and whether control of these images is possible in late capitalism. Anyway, food for thought.

And kudos to “LA Weekly” for lashing out against their own target audience. Ballsy, especially for an image driven sector of the market such as the monstrosity that is LA.

Iran: No Spin Zone of the Middle East?

Source: Iran Focus
Tehran, Jan 05 – Iran’s hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a crowd of theological students in the holy city of Qom on Thursday that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon “has joined his ancestors and others will soon follow suit”, according to the state-run Mehr news agency.

“The Butcher of Sabra and Shatila has joined his ancestors and others will soon follow suit”, Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying. The same report appeared on the website Khedmat, which is run by members of the Iranian president’s entourage.

Sharon is a butcher, but it is very impolite of Ahmadinejad to say so. He's a real fuckin badass. Wait til his ass gets killed by my boys in Mossad. The Middle East is about to get really interesting over the next few months.