Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Something Wonderful...

I hate to commodity fetishize, but even the burgeoning Marxist needs to make a cup of coffee for him/herself now and then (less surplus value added this way), especially after the capitalist pig-dog coffee shops have closed up for the night to maximise their profits. The best way to do so short of a several-thousand "real dollar" espresso machine is surely the AeroPress. Mine came in today, and I welcome all* to come over for a cuppa.

Allow me to elucidate the dialectical function of the Aeropress:



The result is a smooth, rich concentrate suitable for the nomenklatura and the noble prole alike, whether diluted or taken similar to an espresso. This is coffee that fuels the soul, and the engine of historical materialism. For all that is soluble melts into solution, all that is caffinated is reclaimed, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses the egregious prices he normally paid for inferior coffee. With each cup, we brew autonomy! With each sip we drive home the message of the rejection of the capitalist barrista-slavery! Let the slogans be painted on the walls of the coffeehouses: "INTERVENTION BEGINS WITH PERCOLATION!"..."REJECT THE FASCIST-FRAPPUCCINO"..."MOCHA IS CAPITALIST FOR SUBJUGATION!"..&c


*Coffee contains pork. All not actually welcome.

(haters will be kneecapped)

"We're all gonna die!"

Lenny Bruce would shock his audiences during the Cuban Missile Crisis with the above, interjected into his normal comedy routine. The irony is that I find it hilarious, while the effect at the time must have been anger and sweaty fear. But they really thought they were going to die.
Nowadays, we're all afraid of terrorism. No, not nuclear annihilation, but terrorism, which has killed a relatively small amount of people to date, and will probably not kill that many people in the end (well, there probably won't be an end, but that's another story). This is not a "We're so much weaker than the noble, 'greatest generation' crowd" post. We're not: terrorism is fucked up, and is quite well designed to have the effect that it does on our society. So what am I saying?
I believe that there is a strong chance that our society, culture, "The West", Christianity, Islam, China, Israel, Taiwan, etc. will all survive. I'm most sure our society will survive, the others, big deal. We've got plenty of time. If you're worried about Europe, go there; you can write a best-selling book on "How Europe Once Was" when you get older. If China tries to take Taiwan, it'll create another Cuban Missile Crisis (in reverse?) but I'm pretty sure no one is psycho enough to pull the trigger. Move to the East Coast if you'd like. Israel/Palestine is going to be a slog, but people have to get tired of this shit eventually. If it doesn't get better, let's be honest: these people represent less than 1% of the global population.
So: yes, we have problems, and yes, we should strive to deal with them in the best way possible, and yes, people are dying as I write this, but: we are dealing with the problems, we are dealing with them generally fairly well, and less people are dying than at any other time in human history. Jeremiads are useful for motivating people but let's remember that life is pretty damn good right now.
We got in the habit of thinking the world was going to end during the Cold War, or at least people frequently say that kind of thing. I'm not really sure how that could be possible, but fine. I wonder if it would be more shocking to say "We're all not gonna die". You have to plan for a long life now, which is responsibility, but hey: it's better than the alternative. One can always kill oneself if one would prefer.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Straussian Translation Request

Since dchan has already blown her cover in terms of her French abilities, I hereby demand a translation of this. Whatever could it mean? I pronounce myself disturbed.

This Blog

This blog is not an un-blog. It is blog-blog on the blog-o-sphere (a term the author of this blog will soon become familiar with seeing as he is not a full-time entrant into blog cultutre... or blogture, if you will)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Tagesspiegel Online : Kultur

There's reason for optimism in Europe, says Peter Schneider in the Tagesspiegel Online. I have 'translated' some chunks below--I decided to take a Straussian approach, which allows me to forget about translating metaphors(who would have thought a whole theory of esotericism was created in order to make translation easier!).

"In truth, the crucial conflict will play out not in the sacred but in the worldly sphere. The idea of a pure, modern, unblemished Muslim culture belongs in the realm of nostalgia. At least in Europe mixing and blending is the reality, not purity. The secular and moderate Western Muslims - and particularly the women among them - count on the Western community to defend the achievements of the enlightenment with determination. In France the majority of the five to six million Muslims are secularly oriented. The percentage attending mosques corresponds to that attending Christian Churches: 15-20 percent."

Hmm, and perhaps the perhapsed "condescension or indifference" Baudrillard discussed is atheistic? What could sustain that sort of indifference? Where are they learning their contempt if not from the mosque?

"It's astonishing, that, as of yet, the too-deeply worried majority of society has hardly cared about their natural allies: the moderate and dissident Muslims. Many of them feel left alone and stuck in the corner as 'Muslims'. And they feel betrayed by an inconsistent policy that, indeed, announces an unyielding position vis-a-vis the Muslim extremists in Iran, but rules out sanctions with an eye towards german interests. Or through the Swiss Nestle-Concern, that advertises itself in Saudi Arabia with the slogan 'not from Denmark'....

"No, Islam doesn't need a protection clause against cartoons and criticism; rather many more opening clauses: a willingness to open itself to the modern world, where at last Muslims could live too--and a spirited reminder of the heroes of Islam's own betrayed Renaissance."

It's interesting to read an optimistic, factual account of the whole While Europe Slept situation. This is an example of what I’ve asked for in the past: saying what you actually think about Islam qua idea directly. This, of course, can lead to the error of treating Islam as a monolith. But that’s precisely what Schneider avoids: he is arguing that the West has to pull itself together so as to bring in moderate Muslims. By doing so the West can best prevent Islam from becoming more monolithic through a greater adoption of Anti-Westernism.

Apologies all around for the attempt at translation.

If you could bring 5 texts to a desert island

Stipulation: collected works and anthologies don't count (i.e. "The Cambridge History of Philosophy" or "The Complete Shakespeare")

1. Brothers Karamazov - Dostoevsky
2. Don Quixote - Cervantes
3. Ulysses - Joyce
4. The Bible
5. A La Recherche du Temps Perdus - Proust

1. The Bible
2. Maha Barata
3. The Republic - Plato
4. Leaves of Grass - Whitman
5. The Civil War : A Narrative - Shelby Foote

1. Quixote - Cervantes
2. History of the Peloponnesian War - Thucydides
3. Tractatus Logico Philosophicus - Wittegenstein
4. Pale Fire - Nabokov
5. Being and Event - Alain Badiou

3 Overrated Movies

Bloggers, I see that you have nothing worthwhile to do right now (neither do I) so you might as well read this post, even though this posting’s theme strays from your typical washav.blogspot post.
These are three very overrated movies: Anchorman, Napoleon Dynamite, and Garden State. The only way that anyone could have possibly liked one or any these shit-shows is because they think that they should have liked them. (There is no other way, if you disagree you are wrong.) Please let me tell you why each one is so shitty.

Anchorman- It really wasn’t funny. I did chuckle once or twice, but the “I love lamp thing,” Ron Burgundy’s flute solo, and the acapella version of Afternoon Delight (although sung well) were pretty fucking lame, among other things (aka the whole rest of the movie). Oh, and I get the point that the Wilson brothers, Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, and Vince Vaugn are all great friends, even off-screen. “Wow, that’s so cool of them!”- moron

Napoleon Dynamite- This is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. Really, it was so shitty. It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t entertaining, it was painful to sit through, and it tried way too hard to be hip. Just because something was made by MTV Films and your parents don’t ‘get it’ doesn’t mean you have to like it. And the worst part about this film is that I am constantly reminded of how much I hated it because every frat boy I speak with (you guys know what frat guys are, right?) talks in their stellar impersonation of Napoleon.
"Liger" - asshole

Garden State- This movie didn’t speak to you. Zach Braff isn’t some genius who understands our generation unlike any other filmmaker just because he’s famous and isn’t so good-looking that he otherwise would be unapproachable.
“Wow, Zach Braff’s character doesn’t have a perfect relationship with his parents, just like me! Its so refreshing to see a movie that can show things like they really are”- idiot
Oh, and I’m sure I’m gonna disagree with most of you guys when I say that the soundtrack is also QUITE overrated (I mean, there wasn’t even an Eminem song on it!).

I’m very curious to see how others think about these movies. Feel free to leave you opinions in the comments sections.

More pictures of Kushakov (Кушаков) means more fun

Saturday, February 25, 2006


A friend of mine has decided to enter the market of ideas on that most efficient of platforms, the blog. Take That Hippy is dedicated to "Exposing Hippyocrisy", which I find to be an entertaining and engaging goal. Take a moment out of your late capitalistic, media-consuming day to read something homegrown in Kentucky.

Tokes from underground

Nothing political or theoretical here, just a fucking sweet underground pot farm maintained beneath a normal-looking Tennessee home. Check out the "secret exit" rock controlled by hydraulic lever. This is cooler than the Bat Cave. I say keep drugs illegal so that criminal masterminds (in this case most likely fleece-wearing, SUV-driving, trustafarian Phish fans) will be forced to build these secret lairs. (By the way, anyone know what the comments section means? "IB4L"? "In b4 lock"? Also, Hudson74's location says "just like a chicken wired to your brain pain," which, as everyone knows, is a lyric from the song "Recreational Chemistry" by moe. God, I'm a loser.)

Friday, February 24, 2006

'You've got to find what you love'

Here is Steve Jobs' commencement address and I think now that all of us(err, I mean YOU) are graduating it would serve you well: http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html

Anti-West and Anti-Islam Extremists, and Free Speech

A constant comment I've heard during the whole cartoon thing, is "Yeah, I support free speech, but the cartoon is horrible". Well, you better get used to it. Free speech is now a battle-ground in the "War of Civilizations". And, whatever you believe about the necessity or existence of the "war", this battle will happen. It will happen because conservative xenophobes in the West and conservative xenophobes in the Muslim world want it to happen. And free speech is going to be used because the cost of hurting your enemy is so low.
This all has an interesting parallel with Iraq. In Iraq, extremist elements are attempting to foment civil war by blowing up the most sacred temples of the other side. This is an easy way to use a limited amount of explosives to do the most amount of damage to civil society and government: the key is that people do not remember that a violent response is exactly what the terrorists want. Similarly, the right in the West now knows that it can cause a violent response on the other side of the world merely by mocking them. Islamic fundamentalists know that they can damage the west by using this mockery as a tool of incitement. The key here, like in Iraq, is to remind citizens on both sides of the real goal of this mockery and the incited response: to cause a greater "Clash of Civilizations".
But how do you do this? The west is insecure about terrorism and its alleged decline in terms of power and prosperity in both cultural and political realms. The Islamic world is worried about its absolute power: Islam does not cover the globe as its followers want it to, and most Islamic countries are poor and corrupt.
None of us want to or will sacrifice freedom of speech. This means that the bombs are going to keep dropping. Now that politicians have tried to smooth things over, they are all going to look like a bunch of dickheads when the next bomb comes along, meaning that they will be unable to similarly smooth over any further incidents. The internet, moreover, serves as a tool for dropping bombs like no other. There is nothing more entertaining than enraging someone who takes something very seriously, and doing so without fear of reprisal. Thus whether it is wise or not to continue the dropping of lyrical bombs on the Muslim world, it is going to continue.
The key, then, is to look at the Islamic response. We need to promote less fundamentalist Islams if we are to undermine its radical version. At this point a lot of money supports radical Islam: Saudi Arabia's supports proselytizing throughout the world while their textbooks argue against interaction with Christians and Jews. Mere publicization of this fact can help, but more is needed: we need to start supporting moderate Islam.
This is tricky, however. We answer two questions:

  1. How do you support moderate Islam without the use of government funds, or use government funds in a politically feasible way?
  2. How do you do this without undermining moderate Islam by associating it with the west?

In economics terms: We depend on the "Marketplace of Ideas" for our own society, and want to propagate it to others as well. Our own market is creating a dangerous influence on those others because they face market intervention through suppression of free speech and official support of ideas that are harmful to the market itself. Therefore the "market of ideas" is experiencing a market failure that is threatening its overall stability. We need to intervene, but not in a way that reinforces the instability that market. How to do so?

In response to complaints that this is anti-democratic, an instance of reification of culture etc, and that what is actually happening is some failure in the subconscious of the west, I say: We face a real, practical problem, in that many millions of people want to kill us or force their religion down our throats. Most will never do this, and simply have not thought about the problem enough or cannot have access to the correct information. Here is my practical solution. What is yours? You cannot reject a proposed solution without another proposal. If we shouldn't do this, you must give an account of what we should do, in terms of actual actions.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

You know you're a fundamentalist....

Fishstix posted an interview of Baudrillard. I thought it might be better to link to it than have the whole thing on our site. Here it is.

Monday, February 20, 2006

It's a shame, but at the same time...no

From the Letters to the Editor page of the St. Louis Post Dispatch:
I am furious thathe truck driver Thomas Miskel was indicted on five counts of felony involuntary manslaughter because apparently was "not paying attention" when he read-ented [sic] a minivan and five people were killed.
As a techer of children with special needs, I work with many children who have difficulty "paying attention" in school and their daily lives. I hope these children will not be penalized to the extent Mr. Miskel was. Apparently, Mr. Miskel showed remorese for his action, as shown by his behavior at the scene and at his home when police officers arrested him. Isn't anything an accident anymore?
PS. Emphasis added.

Hmmm... I'm sure that some things are still written off as accidents, and maybe this fellow had the book thrown at him a bit too vigorously. I don't know these things. Nonetheless, there's something to be said for a certain expectation on your attentions once you're behind the wheel of a 4+ ton vehicle. I'm sorry if this woman's students might in the future be barred from the fast-paced world of trucking, but at the same time I find myself relieved.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Someone set up us the bomb!

Absolutely amazing photos taken by Harold Edgerton microseconds after the atomic bomb testing in Nevada [via]:
(this is seven miles away)

In the Words of Robert Oppenheimer:
"We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, 'I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.' I suppose we all thought that one way or another."
On a lighter note, this is a link for those who missed the post title reference (read: not nerds)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The revolution will be blogged

These days it is somewhat difficult to pin down what exactly we mean when we say "right-wing" or "conservative." In America, at least, this difficulty has arisen because the contemporary right-wing has largely abandoned the small-government conservatism of Goldwater in favor of what blogger Glenn Greenwald calls "authoritarian cultism"--a blind allegiance to the executive and an expansion of the federal government over citizens' civil liberties.

However, there is one transhistorical component (not in a spooky, Hegelian sense but as a statement of historical fact) that remains a plank of right-wing thought: that ordinary people should not have the same right to express themselves as the cultural elite. This critique goes as far back as Socrates and Plato, who faulted the Athenian democracy for giving voice to the banausoi: less-educated members of the demos who worked in manual labor or craftsmanship. These people, the "refuse" of society, did not have the time or rational capacity to contribute to politics, or so went the elitist trope of Socrates, Plato, Xenophon, Aristotle, Thucydides--indeed, most of the extant and widely-read Greek literature. Not only should they not be involved in the political process, but their cultural practices--the theater, popular song, etc--corrupted the polity as a whole and undermined the stability of elite rule. Thus Plato in the Republic bans all but the most militaristic and harmonious mousike and prescribes a "one man, one job" rule in order to prevent polupragmosune, or "meddling," to the benefit of the aristocracy.

This line of thought is in full view for all to see in today's Weekly Standard. In an article titled "Web 2.0" by Andrew Keen, a "veteran Silicon Valley entrepreneur and digital media critic," the author takes up the right-wing cause against the rising tide of democratic internet use. Keen begins by equating the "internet revolution" with the "grand utopian movements" of Revolutionary France, Communist Russia, and the counter-cultural 60s. He discusses a meeting he had with an internet entrepeneur:

The entrepreneur, like me a Silicon Valley veteran, was pitching me his latest start-up: a technology platform that creates easy-to-use software tools for online communities to publish weblogs, digital movies, and music. It is technology that enables anyone with a computer to become an author, a film director, or a musician. This Web 2.0 dream is Socrates's nightmare: technology that arms every citizen with the means to be an opinionated artist or writer.
Looks like the masses are getting all uppity again! They want their avenues of self expression and creative thought! Didn't we teach them that only the cultural vanguard has the time and education for such things?

Keen cites some of the buzzwords of the new digital era, which he finds "more militant and absurd" than the first dot.com boom:
Empowering citizen media, radically democratize, smash elitism, content redistribution, authentic community . . . . This sociological jargon, once the preserve of the hippie counterculture, has now become the lexicon of new media capitalism.

And here I thought that under capitalism, standards of living would rise and the lower and middle classes would be afforded the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their leisure: personal expression, hobbies, pasttimes, the ability to associate with one another and propagate their ideas. I think that this is largely true, and has occurred to a wonderful degree, but Keen wants to cling to reactionary normative claims about whom should be allowed to participate in what forms of culture.

After stating that the "ideological outcome may be trouble for all of us," Keen seeks to refine what exactly that ideological says:

SO WHAT, exactly, is the Web 2.0 movement? As an ideology, it is based upon a series of ethical assumptions about media, culture, and technology. It worships the creative amateur: the self-taught filmmaker, the dorm-room musician, the unpublished writer. It suggests that everyone--even the most poorly educated and inarticulate amongst us--can and should use digital media to express and realize themselves. Web 2.0 "empowers" our creativity, it "democratizes" media, it "levels the playing field" between experts and amateurs. The enemy of Web 2.0 is "elitist" traditional media.
I have highlighted the selected text to show the extent to which Keen is fighting an elitist ideological battle. Keen's own response to the Web 2.0 movement must be the obverse of that statement: namely, that the poorly educated and inarticulate should not be encouraged to express and realize themselves, for this "meddling" might pollute or contaminate our standards and traditional values.

If it seems unclear as to why Keen feels this way, here is a sampling of his reasoning:

The consequences of Web 2.0 are inherently dangerous for the vitality of culture and the arts. Its empowering promises play upon that legacy of the '60s--the creeping narcissism that Christopher Lasch described so presciently, with its obsessive focus on the realization of the self.

Another word for narcissism is "personalization." Web 2.0 technology personalizes culture so that it reflects ourselves rather than the world around us. Blogs personalize media content so that all we read are our own thoughts. Online stores personalize our preferences, thus feeding back to us our own taste. Google personalizes searches so that all we see are advertisements for products and services we already use.

Instead of Mozart, Van Gogh, or Hitchcock, all we get with the Web 2.0 revolution is more of ourselves.

I can understand the fear of the "culture of narcissism" and the unreflective contentment with one's own thoughts and values. In this way Keen is similar to the Jeremiahs of the Frankfurt School, who decried the vulgar mass media "Culture Industry" of advertisements, B movies, and popular songs which reified the commodity fetish and kept ordinary people enraptured with petty baubles . Yet the difference is that Horkheimer and Adorno saw the Culture Industry as an extension of capital, whereas Keen thinks capitalism--or, more accurately, elitist monopoly--is the last vanguard of "true art" like Mozart, Van Gogh, and Hitchcock. His points about narcissism and vulgarization are effectively negated by his critique of the "realization of the self." His message is clear: "You are unable to realize yourself on your own, so let us (the wise, the educated, the artistic) realize you for you." Now, which are we more afraid of? The possibility, one alternative out of many, that democratization will lead to insularity and vulgarity, or the necessity of an ideology that states that identity formation is best left to the elite?

Keen's critique is not only cultural, but economic: the internet is decreasing revenues and punishing stockholders of mainstream media production.
Traditional "elitist" media is being destroyed by digital technologies. Newspapers are in freefall. Network television, the modern equivalent of the dinosaur, is being shaken by TiVo's overnight annihilation of the 30-second commercial. The iPod is undermining the multibillion dollar music industry. Meanwhile, digital piracy, enabled by Silicon Valley hardware and justified by Silicon Valley intellectual property communists such as Larry Lessig, is draining revenue from established artists, movie studios, newspapers, record labels, and song writers.

The classical capitalist answer to this phenomenon should be: So what? Popular culture is decreasing demands for certain industries--let those industries acclimatize or perish. The biggest objection to Keen's critique is that the problem he describes is not a matter of greater socialization, for their is no state apparatus at work behind these changes, but popularization. He is not a capitalist but a corporate and cultural monopolist. His hypocrisy is apparent in these lines: "The purpose of our media and culture industries--beyond the obvious need to make money and entertain people--is to discover, nurture, and reward elite talent."

Yes, reward those that have connections, money, and a foot in the door of the existing monopolies. Keen neglects to mention that many musical acts have gained an audience through the mass culture of the internet before landing themselves an exclusive record contract with one of the major labels. Record label talent scouts used to have to search the market themselves, and their eventual choices reflected not necessarily the talent or popularity of a group but the ability of the label to mold the band into a marketable and easily digestible product. Now they are often forced to accept bands as they are, due to their already existing following on the internet. This leads to a more diversified market, and I fail to see how that is a bad thing.

Keen ends on a particularly prophetic note, with a call for an elite "authoritative voice":
Without an elite mainstream media, we will lose our memory for things learnt, read, experienced, or heard. The cultural consequences of this are dire, requiring the authoritative voice of at least an Allan Bloom, if not an Oswald Spengler. But here in Silicon Valley, on the brink of the Web 2.0 epoch, there no longer are any Blooms or Spenglers. All we have is the great seduction of citizen media, democratized content and authentic online communities. And weblogs, of course. Millions and millions of blogs.
To which I can only respond, riding high on my belief in egalitarian communication, democratization of culture, and the right of every individual to express him- or herself, "Hell yes."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


"The superiority of Western culture is sustained only by the desire of the rest of the world to join it. When there is the least sign of refusal, the slightest ebbing of that desire, the West loses its seductive appeal in its own eyes. Today it is precisely the ‘best’ it has to offer—cars, schools, shopping centres—that are torched and ransacked. Even nursery schools: the very tools through which the car-burners were to be integrated and mothered. ‘Screw your mother’ might be their organizing slogan. And the more there are attempts to ‘mother’ them, the more they will. Of course, nothing will prevent our enlightened politicians and intellectuals from considering the autumn riots as minor incidents on the road to a democratic reconciliation of all cultures. Everything indicates that on the contrary, they are successive phases of a revolt whose end is not in sight"

Great. Another learned essay from M. Baudrillard. Or perhaps, it isn't and he is not really learned. After all, "learnedness" is only sustained by the desire of rest of the world to possess it. I certainly don't, if Baudrillard's intellectual power consists of his power to assert things without supplying reasons why others should believe him.
The west is not a seductive woman whose power lies in her ability to reject others. I happen to enjoy life here without the need to feel superior; then again, maybe me saying that proves somehow that I'm lying. Or perhaps the very structure of this blog contains the seeds of its own implosion... It's hard to argue against someone who says stuff like this.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Theoretical notes

I've been doing some thinking about theory and music. We typically see artists, in the fields of written, visual, and cinematic art, espousing certain theoretical viewpoints to justify their projects, and we have no problem with this. The scholarly volumes dedicated to literary theory, art criticism, film studies etc are innumerable.

But what about music? I see two interrelated, reciprocal problems: 1) theorists and academics are much more content with listening to popular or mainstream forms of music, and therefore 2) they are much less likely to write about avant-garde music (or any music at all, for that matter) and so perpetuate (1). I see it in our own budding academic lifestyles: we gobble up literary and art theory but still get our kicks from three minute pop songs.

(Digression: the three minute song is a seriously unchallenged form. Despite the fact that this is a format created by record executives to sell easily digestible material to attention-deprived listeners, free-thinking musicians have done little to change it--on the contrary, they often glorify it: "the perfect three minute pop song," "catchy and hook-laden," etc. I'm not saying one shouldn't write some songs in this vein, but this is practically the only acceptable discourse when talking about the merits of a band or song. Also, listening to more "indie" bands does little to help the matter: they're all pretty much speaking the same language. "Your Bloc Party album won't get you into heaven anymore," to paraphrase a John Prine song.)

I am simply trying to point out the odd double standard of admiring Basquiat or David Foster Wallace but finding most experimental music "abrasive" or "boring." And don't think I'm pardoning myself in this matter: I too gravitate towards traditional pop forms and I think noise rock and much of avant-electronica is unlistenable crap. But I still think the willingness to talk about music in theoretical terms is slow going. There are a few "mainstream" musicians who dabble in theory: Frank Zappa, Brian Eno, and Sonic Youth come to mind, not to mention "classical" avant-gardists like Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Zorn, and Iannis Xenakis. So what gives? This is not intended as a "j'accuse," but a discussion, so I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts.

Singularity/Apocalypse Near

From "The Wireless Report"--

In what has been classified as the first known instance of this practice in the U.S., CityWatcher.com has embedded RFID chips in two employees in order to control access to a room where security video footage is held. The company provides security cameras and digital video storage services for government agencies and the police. The chips were implanted in the upper right arms of the employees and then flashed in front of a reader to gain access to the aforementioned room.

Let me be the first to say that this is fucking awesome. I saw a post on Metafilter a few weeks ago about how a guy had implanted one in his own arm, but the fact that companies are asking their employees to do it takes us just that much closer to lamb of god time.

I am like Jesus, too.

In light of Silvio Berlusconi's recent comments, wherein he compared himself to Jesus, I present a short list of some other notables who've recently done the same.

Mike Tyson: "Sometimes I think I'm Justin Clark and other times I think I'm white like Jesus."

Michael Jackson: ""'I'm not being a braggadocio or anything like that - but you know you're on top when they start throwing arrows at you. Even Jesus was crucified. People who bring light into the world, from Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King to Jesus Christ, even myself.""

Tom Delay: ""When faced with the truth, the truth hurts. It is human nature not to face that . . . People hate the messenger. That's why they killed Christ.""

Kanye West, Nas, Tupac, Mase, et. al.
(a picture says 1000 words. In this case, it need but say four: "I am like Jesus")

Richard Ashcroft: "I love the man, I feel like him....There's only Richard Ashcroft and Liam Gallagher who know what it feels like. We're the only ones who know how many people we've touched and how powerful that is...I feel like I'm on a one-man mission. I'm here to use my tools and my gift to take them to a higher level."

TO: "I don't have to worry about what people think of me, whether they hate me or not. People hated on Jesus. They threw stones at him and tried to kill him, so how can I complain or worry about what people think?"

Saddam Hussein
: "He compared himself to Jesus, how Judas told on Jesus. He was like: 'That's how it was for me.' If his Judas never said anything, nobody ever would have found him, he said."

This guy who killed someone over a cigarette: "Jesus Christ, he was just like me, he went to trial and was prosecuted just for being who he was." (In East St. Louis no less)

"I nearly imagined myself to be Jesus Christ when he came to his Father’s temple and found it full of money-changers. I can well imagine how he felt when he seized a whip and scourged them out." (re: Jews...duh)

Charles Manson
has compared himself to Jesus Christ. He believed that he was Christ, and the world had made him suffer, just as Christ did two thousand years ago. He also had his family believing that he was christ. He said in an interview, when, asked how he got his followers to believe that he was Jesus, "I was just being myslf ... all men is Jesus Christ."

Charles Taylor:
he was "the sacrificial lamb" and called on God to help him to come back soon.

Michael Skakel (Kennedy Cuz)

Benito Mussolini: (No good source, but its plausible and the comparisons to Berlusconi seem apt)

..And the List goes on

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Wanker of the Day

Atrios used to write one of the best blogs around. His was the first I read, and even if he was a liberal partisan, he had the analytical skills to back it up. Now, however, he is just a populist asshole. It's an unfortunate fact of the internet age, as Cass Sunstein has noted, that people can isolate themselves from any news that doesn't fit with their views and yet continue to reinforce their views with a steady feed of up to the minute party line bullshit.
Anyway, I checked up on old Atrios today and found that I hadn't missed anything in the month or two since I had last been to his site. His site now consists wholly of one line links, such as the "Wanker of the Day", which he uses to send his rabid followers against his "enemies". Today's is a perfect example. The link is to a column by Jim Brady, the executive editor of the Washington Post website. Brady took down the comments section of one of the many blogs on his site after Atrios and others sent their followers to it so that they could complain about the error the author had made in an article. Even though the article was corrected, many continued to insult the author:

To my dismay, matters only got worse on Jan. 19 after Howell posted a clarification on washingtonpost.com. Instead of mollifying angry readers, the clarification prompted more than 400 additional comments over the next five hours, many of them so crude as to be unprintable in a family newspaper. Soon the number of comments that violated our standards of Web civility overwhelmed our ability to get rid of them; only then did we decide to shut down comments on the blog.

So was I suppressing free speech? Protecting the Bush administration? That's what you'd think, judging by the swift and acid reaction to my move. They couldn't get to post.blog, but they sure let me have it elsewhere in the blogosphere. I was honored as "Wanker of the Day" on one left-wing blog. Another site dissected my biography in order to prove that I was part of The Post's vast right-wing conspiracy.

The catch is this: the very article I am quoting above is the one that Atrios links to for his "Wanker of the Day" post today. Instead of confronting this man's argument, instead of looking at the issue objectively, considering it to ask why this person feels he has been treated unjustly, Atrios assumes that his readers will reach the same conclusions he does: that this man is a wanker, a fool, an idiot, someone so dumb that he doesn't deserve to be listened to.
The worst part is that Atrios propagates this kind of crap while pretending at the same time that liberals are the saviors of the world, have everyone's interests at heart, and care more about the troops dying in Iraq than anyone else. Bullshit. This guy has no interests but his own, his readers have no minds of their own, and his site is no more than a messageboard for people who are so intellectually lazy that they cannot look at the news without someone telling them what to think. The Wanker of the Day for me, then, is Atrios: a blogger who once had something to say but is now represents the fact that liberalism can be as dogmatic as any other ideology.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Inside Higher Ed

I have just discovered (a phallocentric term, I know) an interesting aspect of Inside Higher Ed: Real academics read it and comment on it. This is a new means dethroning the academics who write the papers we read, and a humorous one at that. For example-

I once read an article by Joan W. Scott, "Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis". She begins the article with what I believe is a Derridean point:

"Those who would codify the meanings of words fight a losing battle, for words, like the ideas and things they are meant to signify, have a history. Neither Oxford dons nor the Academie Francaise have been entirely able to stem the tide, to capture and fix meanings free of the play of human invention and imagination".

This would seem to imply that the statements of the academic union, the AAUP, are also vulnerable to the free play and whatever else she was talking about. Apparently, that is not so. Commenting on the coverage of the recently cancelled conference about the academic boycott of Israel, she argues:

"The point of the conference was to hear out our critics, NEVER to change the document we have published as a final statement of our viewpoint. Jaschik says “the AAUP started drafting a statement” on academic boycotts last year when in fact we wrote a statement that was approved at every level of the association, posted on our website and stands as a statement of principle of the association. In response to that statement we got many interesting questions and comments and we hoped to discuss those at Bellagio—discuss them as academics discuss difficult issues—civilly, with respect for one another’s positions even if they are not ours. AAUP stands for open discussion and that was what we hoped to have until the lobbyists began their campaign of defamation and intimidation. That Cary Nelson, an AAUP vice president and candidate for presidency has jumped on their bandwagon is, to say the least, distressing. He speaks without knowledge of the situation, has failed to talk to those of us directly involved in the conference, and he repeats innuendoes circulated by the lobbyists and the NY Sun that have no basis in fact. His comments—based not on careful inquiry, but on polemic, violate AAUP procedure and harm the reputation of AAUP. It is quite astonishing to watch a conference designed to air different viewpoints be turned into a an anti-Israeli plot. Those of us dedicated to the protection of academic freedom can only mourn its loss on this occasion."

I've always wondered how applicable Derridean ideas are to real-world situations. It appears that they simply aren't. If I understand the above words correctly, and Scott is not merely "playing", it seems that she is quite pissed off that things aren't going her way politically. This proves a certain point that Hippie Killer (2006) lead up to, but never quite made. Academic nihilism just isn't as succesful as that of stoner potheads.
The comments after hers just get even more inflammatory and fun. This, for instance, from Seth Armus, Associate Professor at St. Joseph’s College:
"Once upon a time, Joan W Scott wrote a nice piece of social history, so it is depressing to see her descend into paranoia over this issue. Her desire to 'out' anyone who dissents from her position as a 'lobbyist for Israeli government (or a fellow traveler)' is slanderous nonsense. Having thus adopted such Stalinist techniques, her defense of academic freedom seems nothing short of creepy."

Or this, by Hilary Rose, referring to someone who criticized Scott's post:

"Readers should be aware that Dr Pike is often exceedingly careless over his facts. An example of this is his claim that there was no one from the AUT. He seems to have overlooked that I was an invitee to the AUUP meeting and am also a member of the AUT. I think I originally joined in 1964.

Secondly readers should also be alerted to Dr Pike’s not infrequent adoption of double standards. It is high time he explored the beam in his own eye and stopped worrying about the mote in the eye of the AAUP.

Thus recently under the misleading title of 'Professor', Dr Pike took part in a conference on academic boycotts at Bar Ilan University"

Dr. Pike responds:

"Prof Rose is fond of this mote and beam couple. The last mote, as I recall, was Mona Baker’s sacking of two members of the editorial board of an academic journal, simply, openly, because they had an institutional affilliation to an Israeli university. Some mote.

Professor Rose is a member of the AUT (my mistake), and a full professor, much senior to me, much more eminent than me, so she can, of course, pull rank and put me in my place. She can also indulge in ad hominem attacks that do not touch at all, in fact, obviously evade the substantive points and factual errors that I raise.

Whether she can get away with them is readers of insidehighered to decide."

I wonder whether my professors engage in this sort of trolling. Who knew that an academic site provided better flame wars than teen-age chat rooms or video game forums...

Friday, February 10, 2006

Fiction contest: No need to know what the fuck a limerick is

I've been inspired to become a novelist because of my thesis. It is going so poorly that I 1) know that I need a new aspiration and 2) have been procrastinating enought to write the following beginning to my first novel:

“Being this low on the academic ladder has got to be one of the worst jobs on earth,” Robert Doyle thought to himself. He took another sip of the bitter coffee he had bought from the department secretary for a quarter, and opened his manuscript. Manuscript—perhaps a word too noble to describe that limply structured collection of words that had persisted as his worst nightmare since graduate school. This weakly structured menace had somehow survived the earthquake of his marriage, and was now weathering the aftershocks with an apathy only surpassed by that of Doyle himself.

Some might say that Doyle wasn’t as low on the academic ladder as he thought. He was an associate professor at Nixon State University, and thus possessed power over all three of the assistant professors in his department, as well as one lecturer. And, though the assistant professors had learned better, the lecturer still occasionally came to ask Doyle to look over his manuscript. An alcoholic, Welch McGinnis would stumble in drunk, telling Doyle that he was thinking about sending it to a few publishers that very day. Doyle always responded in one of two ways: on the rare occasions when he was able to muster any self-respect at all he would read with pleasure, knowing with certainty that he was more intelligent than at least one person in the academic world. On days like this (the overwhelming majority), however, Doyle could only respect the man for his courage. If they weren’t equals in intellect, McGinnis at least had the self-respect to try.

The contest: write the next few parargraphs, or sentences, or sentence, of this virtuouso. Bonus points for somehow turning it into an optimistic story.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Bush Actually Not (As) Stupid

I apologize for, perhaps prematurely, knocking off a great post from the top of the Wash Av Huffy Crew Blog (or as The Sheriff and I refer to this blog, Austin 5-000's Personal Diary) but I just happened upon this gem.
So everyone thinks that W is a moron, and maybe he is, but his SAT score was higher than that of his counterpart, John F. Kerry.
But I thought Kerry was an intellectual. I thought he was going to lead America to the promise land..
Not with these standardized scores:
Bush: 1206
Kerry: 1190

Obviously the SAT doesn't measure intelligence per se, but in this battle of wits, my man GWB reigns supreme.
(Now that the test has been "recentered", both scores are around a very respectable 1300 by today's standards. And yea, apparently you could get six points back then.)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Huffy Crew Contest #2

Announcing the second official Huffy Crew contest, whereby any contributor or commenter is Invited:


That's right, compose your best limericks relating to philosophers, theorists, or their respective theories. Traditional limerick form preferred, but nursery rhymes may be acceptable if funny enough.

For example:

There once was a man named lucretius
whose arguments sometimes were specious
have sex with a whore,
but turn her over before,
it'd be funny if it were fecetious


There was an old man name Descartes
His philosophy sounded quite smart,
I think so I am,
An acceptable plan.
But if you don't think then you aren't

Denmark vs. Iran

Check out this interview with the editor of Jylland-Posten. He turns out to be a pretty good guy, I think. The interviewer asks the guy what he thinks about Iran's decision to publish holocaust cartoons, as if he is responsible for what Iran has done. While I think freedom of speech should extend to protect the Holocaust cartoons, I think it is clear that Iran is doing something fucked up here.
The parallel is not as strong as supporters of the Iranian action might have it. This should be obvious to readers here, but I would like to refute any argument that the situations are similar, just so we can all be at peace with the subject.
First of all, the Danish government did not sponsor this cartoon. The boycotts and protests against the Danish government all pretend that is the case, but it is not. The Danish government and country is merely continuing to allow people to speak their minds. That is different from sponsoring a cartoon contest--I hope everyone can see that.
Second, it is a testament to the totalitarianism of Iranian society that a public institution, supported by taxes, is doing this. Ideas should rise from the ground up--that is, government should embody the thoughts of its citizens, instead of imposing thoughts downward. We want a marketplace of ideas. Now you can spit all of the bullshit you want about ideological state apparatus, but it is obvious that ideas are more free in the west, where we support free speech, than in a country that does not. If you want to propagate your ideas, the best way to do so is to let them compete with others and play fair. The source of art is important, and I'm not sure that any of the cartoons inspired by this contest will really
Third, and probably most controversial, subject matter. I should remind the reader that I believe that both cartoons should be publishable--that point is not at issue. To evaluate the subject matter, we first have to identify what each of these things is saying. Quickly, one is a comment on the current use of a religion (by a minority) as a justification for the murder of innocent people, through visual means that are offensive to most believers in that religion. The other is a mockery of a historical atrocity, one that killed people who would still be alive today, and one from which people alive today suffered immensly. This should be offensive to any person not devoted to hatred.
Whatever the comparative value of these cartoons, it is clear that Iran is headed for a serious shitstorm. I think the idea that Ahmadinejad has is that all Muslims will support him in a jihad for nuclear weapons. Hopefully, we'll be able to prevent him from obtaining nukes without getting in a ground battle. It is necessary to prevent holocaust deniers from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Jesus Dissed!

Someone complained that the Mohammed Cartoons were like showing Jesus with an erect penis. Well, duh, someone has already done that. The German artist Joseph Beuys did it, in fact, with an extra twist. He depicted a Black Jesus, on the cross, with a throbbing hard-on:Offensive indeed. I find myself compelled to riot and burn the German embassy--perhaps even piss on the Reichstag.
Note to readers: I believe that Jesus was black. Thus it is not his blackness that offends me, but the inaccurate coloring of his boney bone.

PS. This New Yorker article discusses big Jeezy's sex life. So Beuys is really not on his own here. Notably, neither he nor Dan Brown have faced any death threats for their work.

Trivializing the profound

Just wanted to post this picture of Theo Van Gogh. Not because we should all remember his death or something (perhaps, I don't feel like confronting that question right now), but because I am curious as to why those motherfuckers are dressed up in space suits. Is this ET or something? They must have some stringent risk regulation in the Netherregions. Just one more part of the deployment of sexuality. Poor bastards--bet they wish they had our freedom.

PS. Notice the bikes. If George Bush saw these guys on those newfangled homosekshel doohickies he'd tell them to go back to the ranch.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Smoking Dutch Cleanser?

From Der Washington Post
When Gonzales argues that the Constitution gives the president undisputable powers to conduct warrantless surveillance despite a statute aimed at requiring him to seek court approval, such an interpretation "is not sound," Specter said in the interview. ". . . He's smoking Dutch Cleanser."
I looked around the internet to see what Dutch Cleanser is, and it appears to be similar to Bon Ami, or Barkeeper's Friend: a powedered abrasive cleaner. Where the hell do people come up with this shit? That is the weirdest thing I have ever heard. He could be talking about pot, but I just don't believe that that is the case. Arlen Specter is a strange fellow.

PS. I agree with his argument, of course. Gonzales could indeed be smoking any number of cleaning products if he really believes what he is saying. This is just weeeyyeerd.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Slackers - The Last Oppressed Peoples in the US of A

Why is it that the good old-fashioned America slacker gets no respect for his detachment, but the Buddhist monk does? Is that fair...?
Oh, what's that you say... you think my detachment isn't the same self-willed, self-disciplined detachment of the Buddhist monk?
What do you think? You think all Buddhist monks are like the Dalai Lama? You don't think there are guys in Nepal who are, like, "What should I do? Should I carry packs of heavy shit for Westerners to the top of the base camp of Everest? Or should I stay down here in Kathmandu and chant all day and check out chicks and pretend to be holy?" Why is everything cooler when it happens in a foreign country?
(I may have stolen this idea from a certain movie, but the question it poses remains valid.)

The Islamic Reaction

From Al-Ahram:
That was not likely to happen, as was clear from the reaction of disgruntled Egyptian MP Hamdi Hassan, who is also a member of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. "The Danish government needs to make a more formal apology," he told Al-Ahram Weekly, "in acknowledgment that freedom of expression does not mean people are free to insult prophets."

Wrong. It does. Talk to Scorsese (off the top of my head) or about 2 million other people.

Abdel-Moeti Bayoumi, a member of Al-Azhar's Islamic Research Academy (IRA), called the boycott a religious duty. "The boycott is the least Muslims could do to defend their prophet after the majority of Danish people supported their government for not apologising for the offensive drawings," Bayoumi told the Weekly. "Now other nations will think twice before defaming Islam."
Why should a government apologize for free speech? This is my problem with the Islamic response to these cartoons. I think it is actually more a product of a globalized media than anything else. The people reacting in this way need to understand what free speech means. The initial offense may be followed by a slow reconciliation with it. This is good news:

"Muslims might have miscalculated the manner in which they handled the crisis," noted prominent Islamic scholar Abdel-Sabour Shahine, who suggested that instead of pursuing a boycott of Danish products, the Islamic world should have shown more tolerance, by focusing on promoting dialogue with the west, and educating them more about Islam. "The Qur'an ordains Muslims to engage in peaceful dialogue and use a more logical approach with those of different creeds." The prophet himself, Shahine argued, was constantly subject to offence during the first years of his prophecy in Mecca, and his reactions were so tolerant that those who initially opposed him ended up becoming Muslim.

"After all," said Shahine, "we'd rather have the Danes apologising out of conviction, rather than because they feel threatened."

We have lots of liberal allies in the Muslim world. Islam is not a monolith, it's stupid to pretend so.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Silly gooses threaten EU offices in Gaza

Later, two armed, masked men from one of the groups held a press conference on a sidewalk in Gaza warning of consequences if the nations did not apologize.

"It will be a suitable reaction, and it won't be predictable," said one of the men, Abu Hafss, identified as a commander of the Al Quds Brigade, an armed offshoot of the radical group, Islamic Jihad. The other group is the Al Yasir Brigades, connected to the Fatah party, badly beaten in last week's elections.

Another armed group connected to Fatah, the Abu el-Reesh Brigades, said that Norway, Denmark, France and Germany must apologize within 10 hours or their citizens here would be "in danger."

This is sickening. Hamas is not good for Palestine.
I'm not sure that either should expect any support or help from the rest of the world for some time. The former, at least, does not deserve any.
"We are angry — very, very, very angry," said Jamila Al Shanty, one of six women elected to represent Hamas in the Palestinian Parliament. "No one can say a bad word about our prophet."

Let's just stop and try to think what people are advocating here. Because some people believe in a religion, everyone loses the right to speak negatively about it, anywhere in the world. The followers of this religion are angry, not only at the people who printed these cartoons, but at the governments that refuse to punish them.

We have freedom of speech in the West. That means you may be angered--infuriated--but that just means you have to grow a thicker skin. I don't give a shit if you're angry. Violence, whining, and boycotts are just lame, compared to the strength of character it takes to support freedom of speech. Y'all are moral pussies and big silly gooses.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Islam, the cartoon

The Koran prohibits any depiction of Mohammed. That's fine. But no document can replace debate, and radical islamists are going to have to learn that debate and interrogation of narratives is the mode of operation here in RationalitylandTM. That's why I completely support blowing up people's conceptions of the sanctity of religion with that social explosive,


Scantron linked to this Danish cartoon thing, saying that this was the "limit" of "Middle Eastern skepticism and joking". The problem with thinking about this as a Middle-Eastern issue is that Islam purports to be the absolute truth--everywhere. Therefore, if we are to respect it as an idea, we must confront it as we do any other idea. Thus: Go ahead, convert me if you wish. But I won't submit (to Allah) easily. Indeed, I will fight you with the part of me, my reason, which is most opposed to any religion.
How does this cartoon do that? The truth is that this cartoon has nothing to do with the way Islam is practiced by most. Nor does the "War on Terrorism", nor does the "Clash of Civilizations". But those who will be most angered by this are those who are our greatest opponents. They are those who would have us accept words in a book over a system of reason that seeks to free itself from all mere words. And that is what it comes down to. Those who are angry at this depiction of Mohammed are the real idolators. It is not idolatry to depict someone; it is idolatry to worship that depiction. And when the words of the Koran, or any other holy book, are interpreted as literally as many interpret them, then they are idolizing this text instead of practicing true religion. How can religion be that which is above critique? Religion is critique--it espouses to be the truth, therefore critique is religion because critique, dialectic, and analysis are the practices that embody any true religious study.
My own religion is that of reason, freedom and knowledge. Thus the jihad I wage can only be the spiritual one that many claim Mohammed intended to recommend. I support vigorous, violent debate and the clash of the most sacred ideas so that we can find the kernels of truth that lay inside. This has an inner and outer component. Allow me to tell a story.
When I was in between 6th and 7th grade, I went to Blue Lake Band Camp in Michigan. It was pretty cool in general, except for one aspect of the experience: at some point during the two weeks someone found out that I was an atheist, and the eight other boys with whom I was rooming relentlessly ridiculed me as "fish-boy," the idiot kid who believed that human beings evolved from fish. It sucked, big time. The conflict even came to blows at one point, between me and some smaller kid who pretty much whooped me.
I used to hate Christians because of this experience. But I have since come to realize that Christians, besides being people, are also an excellent means of sharpening my intellectual knives. After coming back from band camp I remember trying to learn as much about evolution as possible. The information was not passed down to me from a preacher's podium, but I was able to learn from books. I'm glad I had to put this effort into learning, into verifying and developing the ideas in which I believed.
Perhaps you believe that this analogy doesn't apply to the current situation. That's fine. Then just look at the history Christianity, or Catholocism even. But the message remains the same:

To those who believe in some form of mass-produced, ideological Islam with blind faith, the increasing publication of the controversial Danish cartoons will be an incitement to anger and perhaps violence. On the other hand, for those who see Islam not merely as an ideology but a process of thought and intellectual exploration, the cartoons will be an incitement to study. If you are a partisan of the latter kind of Islam, you might feel threatened by these cartoons and the anti-Islam stance they appear to represent. Don't. Instead, fight back: show why Islam is not a reactionary, violent, fundamentalist religion. Show that it can be consistent with liberalism, consistent with the ability to ridicule and debate any and everything. Criticize the irrational aspects of Western society--the hypocrisy of Wealth-based Christianity, of self-indulgent and narcissistic academes, of limousine liberals, of gambling and carousing moralists, or of the economic system. Or descend into nihilism. But, whatever you do, don't get angry. Because you'll only get angrier and angrier......
In support of the Danish position, newspapers in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland reprinted some of the cartoons on Wednesday. A small Norwegian evangelical magazine, Magazinet, also published the cartoons last month.

Islam, like every other part of every single culture with which the West has come into contact, will be ridiculed, analyzed, cut into pieces, smeared, blasphemed, shat upon and otherwise abused. But, if it's worth practicing at all, it will come out with its dead weight lost, leaner and meaner.

Just sick...

...is the only way to describe this article from TCS Daily concerning Google's capitulation to China's anti-democratic internet regulation. First the author, James V. DeLong, cites favorably this assessment by George Mason University economist Thomas Hazlett:

"The terms of the agreement struck will push modern communications yet further in a basically authoritarian society. That triggers an underlying dynamic that ultimately, will undermine restrictions, allowing civil liberties -- not Chinese government censors -- to triumph."

So, undermining human rights will only strengthen the cause of human rights activists in the future? I guess slaveowners and racists did the right thing after all, since they gave blacks a visible enemy to fight against in the end.

Next, DeLong argues against China "aping" Western-style freedom of speech because, as you may not have heard, "democracy in the West is in serious jeopardy." What sort of jeopardy, you might ask? It turns out that the government and the citizens are no longer listening to the market: "The rule of law may have to start at the top and then extend downward, and be followed by a broad voting franchise only after the basics of industrial development are firmly in place." Now, I agree that pure democracy needs to be buttressed by civil society, non-governmental organizations, etc, but DeLong would constantly have us believe in his argument that industrial capitalism is the true cornerstone of freedom, or at least the true cornerstone of the sort of society he wants, call it free or not.

(Side note--we also get this gem: "[The U.S.] is now turning on even such innocuous industries as Wal-Mart, for heaven's sake!" Heh...)

In sum, DeLong paints a picture of America as a plebiscite in which all decisions are decided by the mob, when in fact he might rejoice at Supreme Court rulings, executive power, entrenched interests, secret lobbyist dealings, et al. But he also wants to disparage these facts, since they lead to stagntion and not enough competition. He bemoans the rise of the internet and independent news sources as a sign of "demagoguery" when in fact they represent just the sort of choice and competition he espouses. Oh, but they don't make any money, I forgot. In other words, the only form of authority good enough for DeLong in his confusing and confused assessment is unfettered corporate capitalism.

Let me quote at length the final paragraphs of this piece, which I believe speak for themselves. This is not merely a cautionary tale of gradual, piecemeal social engineering, but an actual robust defense of corporations aiding and abetting authoritarianism:

"And given this Chinese view, what should Google do? Google should do what Google does, which is search engines. Google is not a Chinese leader, and it is not the role or duty of Google to tell China how to rule itself, or to tell the Chinese leader dedicated to the betterment of the people how to act, even when what the Chinese government does goes against the grain of American views of free speech.

In the end, search engines, even truncated ones, will contribute to the economic and political development of China, as Hazlett noted. The working out of this story will be one of the great tales of human history, for tragedy or triumph, depending on how it goes.

So Google should happily contribute to this effort, doing what it does, and avoiding the hubris of thinking it is responsible for China, or that it knows the answers. In this situation, good and evil are not self-evident categories."