Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Bastard Did It.

Claude Levi Strauss just celebrated his hundredth birthday. Our weapons are useless against him, he cannot be stopped.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Is there really any such thing as an event in America "unrelated to capitalism"?

I'm sure you have all heard about yesterday's Wal-Mart trampling by now, the one which will keep New York Times-reading libruls conversing in hushed tones for weeks. But have you heard about the shootings at a Toys 'R Us in California? No?

Well that's good, actually, because these particular deaths have NOTHING TO DO with capitalism, consumerism, or capitaloconsumerfascism, as Toys 'R Us reps assure us:
Toys "R" Us released a statement late Friday, noting that "our understanding is that this act seems to have been the result of a personal dispute between the individuals involved. Therefore, it would be inaccurate to associate the events of today with Black Friday."

Thank fuckin god. 

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cory Booker: Closet Dewey Fan

Mayor of Newark Cory Booker, about 4:00 through the segment on the Colbert Report posted below, makes a rather striking metaphor. "I think we make a mistake if we ignore the wonderful differences that's America," he said. "We're like a concert. It shouldn't be just one instrument. It should be a number of different instruments playing to one powerful song. That's America."

I wonder if Booker, a former Stanford grad and Rhodes scholar, was aware that he was using a metaphor that became quite poignant in a debate between Horace Kallen and John Dewey over the direction for cultural pluralism in America. It was Kallen who, in 1915, wrote that America needed a model beyond the melting pot. It needed an orchestra, he argued: "As in an orchestra, every type of instrument has its specific timbre and tonality, founded in its substance and form ... so in society each ethnic group is the natural instrument, its spirit and culture are its theme and melody."

Dewey liked the orchestra metaphor but, as Robert Westbrook has noted, added an important addendum. "I quite agree with your orchestra idea," he wrote to Kallen. "But upon [the] condition we really get a symphony and not a lot of different instruments playing simultaneously."

Compare this last sentence with Booker's--"It shouldn't be just one instrument. It should be a number of different instruments playing to one powerful song"--and we might have an reason to believe John Dewey is directly influencing policy in Newark. Dewey! Influence! Jonah Goldberg is peeing his pants right now in terror.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Random Thoughts

1. The news that Afghanistan is now attempting to market pomegranates instead of poppy is simply terrific news. My own personal relationship with pomegranates is deeply intertwined with other Huffy Crew bloggers: I was introduced to the juicy snack by the Sheriff, and was convinced of their incredible antioxidant potential by austin5000.

2. The English language completely lacks a good antonym for privatize. Nationalize just doesn't cut it, as there are plenty of instances when things are un-privatized but not nationalized: municipal ownership of utilities, transportation, etc. being one clear example.

3. The breaking news of Mukasey collapsing while giving a speech is unfortunate. That said, have you ever heard of such a thing happening outside of the movies?

Here is one of my favorites. (Phillip Baker Hall's collapse in Magnolia also is up there...)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nose Dive

"Washington University is blessed with financial strength. However, the value of the invested assets of the University has declined considerably during the months since the start of this fiscal year (FY09) that began on July 1, 2008. Since July 1, the value of the endowment has declined approximately 25%."
-Mark S. Wrighton

Just got this email today, but the (abjected) shit is hitting the academic fan all over. For the graduate students out there, consider a union:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

They Carried Signs

Andrew Sullivan has been posting photos from today's anti-prop 8 marches. Some of the signs are just so unbelievably awesome that I have to relay their content.

- "Some of my best friends are Mormons"

-"Against gay marriage? Then don't have one."

- [Man's sign that reads] "Do you really want me to marry your daughter?"

-"A gay marriage is just as important as my first, second, and third straight marriage!"

Not quite the understated beauty and simplicity of "I am a man" from the civil rights era, but they get the point across effectively in my view. What seems clear, however, is that these protests are in many ways linked to Obama's win. The hope is that these very real and important (largely) cultural rights become part of a wave of a broader discussion of economic rights.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Things to do Tuesday: prepare Plato lesson, study German, research Aeschylus paper...

...oh yeah, vote.

And you bet your ass I will bet at St. Paul's Lutheran bright and early tomorrow, voting no on Prop 8, yes on 2, no on 10 (the one basically written by T. Boone Pickens), etc.

But what about that Presidential race...? (which has the likelihood of an Obama win at 98.1% -- no October surprise there) shows California heavily swinging Obama roughly 60-40, so what me worry, right? That basically guaranteed bloc of electoral votes should make the "rational voter" reconsider his vote. My vote never had much weight to begin with, and now a "symbolic vote" for a third party candidate looms large -- symbolic in the sense that that vote will actually show up on a piece of paper somewhere as a statistic ("Oh, another strange person voting for a third party candidate!"), not just "symbolically" in my mind.

But what if every Dem-disaffected left-leaning democrat did that, the argument goes. Yes, it would be quite interesting, but likely? Nah. I can't turn my vote into a categorical imperative -- not only is that sort of generalizing scenario just not going to happen, but a slight expansion of the hypothetical would, of course, usher in a third party candidate in the general election itself, which is precisely what I would desire (well, I really desire proportional representation but we'll leave that out of the equation).

So, you're darn tootin' I'll be in the voting booth because of the propositions -- what should I do then? I could just not vote for either candidate, since I really don't like either party, and no one would ever be the wiser. But oughtn't I go ahead and do something? Why not just vote for Obama? It won't mark my 'soul' one way or the other, and it'll be one more (highly insignificant) vote for the man. And not voting for him, what sort of letter would that brand on my flesh? Is he not the "best" that "we" could ask for? Isn't it all so historic and milestone-like and a fucking long time coming? Why not just channel all that anger from the past eight years into an anti-Republican vote? That indeed might entail a certain level of utility.

But what about the idea that after all of one's bloviating and fulminating on the grievous faults of the two-party system, on the basic agreement among the nation's elite on an imperialistic policy, on the need for a truly democratic force in American political life, after all that, to be dutifully counted within the "yes" column bringing to power another leader who is destined not to take the country in the direction one honestly believes it needs to go? The political scientists will have their moment of knowing recognition: "Yes, yes, people talk about change, they talk about the ability, however small and disadvantaged, within this system to try to introduce bottom-up legitimation for a fundamentally new politics, but at the end of the day they will bite the bullet and cast their vote for what they claim needs overhauling. And that vote, in the final analysis, is what counts. There is your revealed preference."

That's a disturbing thought, and one that I hope will continue to trouble me as much as it does now. I don't know what it will be like tomorrow morning, and surely it will -- on preemptive reflection here -- all seem much less momentous than this, but mostly it feels bad.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Obama Finally Secures White Aryan Leftist Vote

One of my favorite subjects is the anti-capitalist right or, as the estimable Jonah Goldberg might call it, the "liberal fascists." In the 1930s we look to the syndicalist Spanish Falange party and their contemporaries, the German socialists of the nationalist variety. From the 1960s to today, aspects of George Wallace Southern populism and Jean-Marie Le Pen's French version contained various redistributionist (or anti-redistributionist dimensions depending on whether the tax money could plausibly go to non-whites) measures.

I was reminded of this tradition while reading this interesting article from Esquire on the 2008 voting preferences of America's most extremist racists. (Spolier alert: they love Obama.) From Tom Metzger, leader of the White Aryan Resistance and former Klan head (and one of the characters in this must-see 1988 Geraldo Rivera brawl), we learn that
The corporations are running things now, so it’s not going to make much difference who's in there, but McCain would be much worse. He’s a warmonger. He’s a scary, scary person--more dangerous than Bush. Obama, according to his book, Dreams Of My Father, is a racist and I have no problem with black racists. I’ve got the quote right here: 'I found a solace in nursing a pervasive sense of grievance and animosity against my mother’s white race.' The problem with Obama is he’s being dishonest about his racial views. I’d respect him if he’d just come out and say, 'Yeah, I’m a black racist.' I don’t hate black people. I just think it’s in the best interest of the races to be separated as much as possible. See, I’m a leftist. I’m not a rightist. I hate the transnational corporations far more than any black person.
Those of you with access to odd Texas radio stations, or who grew up in the foothills of anti-government Michigan, may not be so shocked by these kind of statements. I would be willing to bet, however, that most histories of the KKK (and like-minded groups), written mostly by leftists, avoid mentioning this anti-capitalist rhetoric. Thoughts?