Friday, January 30, 2009
I am not a liberal. This is not a liberal blog. Please don't harbor illusions that underneath my writerly contempt for Democratic politicians there is some softness for so-called progressive ideas.
I am not interested in fixing American. The idea that it can be fixed proceeds from false premises. It rests on mythic assumptions about the noble experiment in self-government. Even at its most harshly critical, it assumes as true that America is, was, or can be "a force for good in the world." I am not interested in providing would-be activists with an intellectual framework through which they can . . . activate more successfully, efficiently, effectually, intelligently. I'm interested in America as a biologist is interested in the living things he studies. That's not a flawless metaphor--it suggests Jonah taking cell samples from within the giant fish, but there it is, nonetheless.
You may believe that through participation in the political process, you can ameliorate some condition of life in this country or world that you consider regrettable or unjust. Or, you may believe that through some action outside of the official political arena--protest or revolution or what have you--that you can do the same. That's fine, but it's presumptuous. What makes you think you'll do any better? I am interested in the brutal absurdity of our condition, but unlike the existentialists, I've got a sense of humor about it. Life is short, but inevitable. Look, I'm here. Can't help it. Might as well have a laugh at the expense of the powerful. They can afford it.
It occurs to me that I've not yet explained to you mooks how properly to roast a chicken. Here is a recipe that also has delicious potatoes.
Chicken roasted with blood oranges on potatoes
1 roasting chicken, rinsed, patted dry, liver reserved and rough chopped
2 blood oranges, halved, quartered, and then halved again crosswise
1 lemon, prepared as the oranges
2-3 medium shallots, roughly chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed with the flat side of a knife
several sprigs fresh thyme
coarse sea salt
fine sea salt
3-4 medium potatoes, cut into 3/4" cubes
Preheat the oven to 450.
Heat the clarified butter in a heavy sauté pan. Add the shallots and garlic. Salt lightly. Cook until the shallots just begin to soften. Add 1 orange, the lemon, the liver, and the thyme. Cook until heated through. Stuff into the cavity of the chicken. Using the needle and twine, sew the cavity shut. Tuck the wing tips under to secure them close to the body. With twine, truss the legs together so they cross tightly just above the sewn cavity opening and just behind the breast bone. Place the potatoes and the reserved orange in a ceramic roasting pan. Salt the chicken generously with coarse salt, rubbing it into the flesh with your hands. (The salt not only flavors the bird, but helps draw moisture from the skin, crisping it.) Place the salted bird on the potatoes, and then into the middle of the oven.
Cook for about 10 minutes at the high heat. The skin will appear to pale and dry. Reduce the heat to 300 and slow roast. Depending on the weight of the bird, this could be from 45 minutes to over an hour. As the bird approaches done-ness, again raise the heat to 450, to brown and crisp the skin. When the skin has turned golden brown, remove from the oven. Place the bird on a board and allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes, preferably covered to preserve heat, so that the juices can be reabsorbed. Toss the potatoes with the pan juices, remove to a serving dish with a slotted spoon.
With a good cleaver, quarter the chicken. First make an incision along the breast bone, then crack the bone down the center. Remove the stuffing. Cut along either side of the spine and discard. Cut the two halves into quarters. Serve with the potatoes and a green salad.
If you're using the term "totalitarianism" to describe Sweden, then the term has lost all meaning.Here is a common and understandable error worth addressing. SteveB thinks totalitarianism is bad, whereas Sweden is good, therefore Sweden is qualitatively exempt from the label. To again crib Prof. Crispy, I'll advise everyone to reacquaint themselves with What Is Authority?, wherein Arendnt makes plain the practical distinctions between authoritarianism, totalitarianism, and tyranny.
-SteveB in comments below
Steve says that "squishy totalitarianism" is "liberal fascism" by another name, which is a good dig, but a bad argument. FDR, to take a prime Goldbergian example, was explicitly not a fascist, but he did show a heavy streak of totalitarianism. These are not synonyms. Arendt's description:
In contradistinction to both tyrannical and authoritarian regimes, the proper image of totalitarian rule and organization seems to me to be the structure of the onion, in whose center, in a kind of empty space, the leader is located; whatever he does whether he integrates the body politic as in an authoritarian hierarchy, or oppresses his subjects like a tyrant he does it from within, and not from without or above. All the extraordinarily manifold parts of the movement: the front organizations, the various professional societies, the party membership, the party bureaucracy, the elite formations and police groups, are related in such a way that each forms the facade in one direction and the center in the other, that is, plays the role of normal outside world for one layer and the role of radical extremism for another. The great advantage of this system is that the movement provides for each of its layers, even under conditions of totalitarian rule, the fiction of a normal world along with a consciousness of being different from and more radical than it. Thus, the sympathizers in the front organizations, whose convictions differ only in intensity from those of the party membership, surround the whole movement and provide a deceptive facade of normality to the outside world because of their lack of fanaticism and extremism, while, at the same time, they represent the normal world to the totalitarian movement, whose members come to believe that their convictions differ only in degree from those of other people, so that they need never be aware of the abyss which separates their own world from that which actually surrounds it. The onion structure makes the system organizationally shock-proof against the factualiiy of the real world.Just saying.
In other words, "totalitarian" is descriptive but not explicitly pejorative. As it stands, in any case, our President is in the process of openly integrating the private economy and the government in response to crisis. I point to the word that comprises the first two syllables of totalitarian, and ask you: how is it inappropriate?
Let me just say this about that: Myron Cope was good people.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
the political/economic/military systems are gargantuan: the largest human organizations ever known. revolution, like the straight crackdown, is obsolete, ridiculous. squishy totalitarianism absorbs dissent because it is a huge mound of goo: there's no real center: it's everywhere all the time: the only conceivable revolution would be to destroy...everything.This is why the Positivist-Progressive technocratic revolution dreamed-of by messianic Obamites is so utterly foolish and futile. It assumes that our "problems," our "issues," although narrowly related, are in a broader sense discrete, independently solvable. Military overreach can be fixed by withdrawing from Iraq. The economy requires "stimulus." Presidential power can be reigned in through the issuance of executive orders countermanding the executive orders that purported to expand it (this last is particularly, deliciously incoherent). Corporate malfeasance will be addressed with more oversight. All of this to reverse the decline of American preeminence and again claim the mantle of global leadership, which is, as previously noted, a euphemism for hegemony.
the era of revolution is over, just as is the era of the police state. in many ways, indeed, the concept of liberty is anachronistic, and means little except that we can still blog. concepts like "citizenship" are anachronistic: you still produce the signs of participation, but the systems are so gigantic and the consciousness so formed within them that your participation is meaningless.
But our problems, our issues, are features of a totalitarian global system whose earthly incarnation is the celebrity talkfest at Davos, where privileged journalists strive ever more ridiculously to discern some difference in the governing philosophies of China, the United States, and the European Union as they all approach that squishy equilibrium. (Interestingly, genius supervillain Bad Vlad shows himself once more as the world's last preserve of Arendtian Authority.)
Now Larison and others discuss the ongoing use of The War on Terror as a catch-all euphemism for whatever it's a euphemism for. Larison:
Yglesias is making sense when he lays out the reasons why the phrase and the concept behind it are deeply flawed, but seems to miss an obvious reason why the “war on terror” framing is going to survive and probably thrive. Like its open-ended, ill-defined and misguided cousins, the drug war and the war on poverty, the “war on terror” is a rhetorical frame and set of policies that may not be very good at achieving the objectives for which it was created, but it is very valuable as an ongoing, never-ending pretext for concentrating additional power in the federal government and as a justification for preserving and expanding bureaucratic territory and budgets. If these “wars” were judged on whether they met their stated objectives in a reasonable amount of time in an affordable way, not only the phrases but most of the policies related to them would have been eliminated long ago. Whatever their initial ideal purpose and whatever the intentions of their creators, these “wars” become self-perpetuating rackets whose preservation becomes the priority of all those institutions and interest groups with a stake in the policies in question. More to the point, even if the “war on terror” language was dropped most of the policies of what is called the Long War would remain intact, because the Long War, as Prof. Bacevich has argued in several places, is not confined to combating Al Qaeda and likeminded groups but has a much more expansive scope. The Long War is not simply a response to blowback, but is an expression of domestic impulses[.]Larison plays around the edges without stating outright the still-more-damning reality that these wars do not become anything, that the "objectives for which [they were] created" are explicitly not their "stated objectives," that they were always intended as a "never-ending pretext for concentrating additional power in the federal government," and the rest is just marketing.
Returning to the un-squishy original point: "the only conceivable revolution would be to destroy . . . everything." Substantively, this makes the proliferation of stateless terrorist groups the only coherent reaction to the dominant global (dis)order. Osama bin Laden is the most important political theorist of our times, the only major international figure who has conceived an effective means of combating the Squish. How effective, and for how long, remains to be seen. Even someone like Hassan Nasrallah has been coopted and subverted by the Squish, and Hezbollah apes past violent revolutionary groups by becoming a part of the apparatus of their state. Of course, terrorism can't destroy the Squish. It's too big. But they can perhaps keep it hungry and unstable, all-consumptive until it pops.
“I may have been 17,” Breedlove told The Oregonian, by way of asking people to forgive Adams. “But I was an adult and I knew what I was doing.”Oh, good lord. Yes, I recall my eighteenth birthday well, when the veil of ignorance lifted and the scales fell from my eyes and the new day shone like . . . You know, I had sex with a couple of middle-age men in my yute. In the name of taste, I shall refrain from commenting on any of their "powerful positions." The proposition put forward in the above post, that as a late adolescent, Mr. Hotstuff Buttlove was necessarily "sorting through emotions about his sexuality" (contradicted, one notes, by the "boy") is pure bigotry. If he had been a 17-year-old young woman, then the hackles would still be raised, but no one would accuse her of being confused by her heterosexuality. I knew I wanted to suck cock for sure when I was a lot younger than 17, and as soon as I found one available, I did.
Nobody at age 17 knows what they are doing, which is why they should never be having sex with middle-aged men, especially those in powerful positions.
I simply cannot imagine why Sam Adams would have sought to keep this relationship from the equanimitous press.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Here is an hilarious essay at Slate saying something about Ted Haggard and spiritual . . . well, I was distracted by something shiny. In any case, Ted Haggard has got some apologizing to do to his family, but otherwise I fail to see the case for necessary redemption. I feel perfectly at ease, spiritually and otherwise, and I too have done meth and had butt sex with a former male prostitute. Probably several. I've also had sex with eighteen year olds, including a former intern. Which may make me a good candidate for the mayor of Portland, if I ever move yonder. Point: there is nothing morally incorrect about fucking men. What Haggard needs isn't a congregation to "embrace him." He needs some original cast recordings and a gym membership. Jesus Christ! You'll pardon the expression.
John Updike, relentless chronicler of something or other, has glissando'd off this mortal side yard to those distant, silvery shores where pre-post-Protestant New Yorkerites go to over-punctuate their unmemorable sentences forever. The first pages of Rabbit, Run are some of the most embarrassing prose ever set to paper, and although he reviewed books for years, decades, centuries at The New Yorker, I can't recall a single thing he ever said.
Via Sir James of Ocicat, I discovered some amusing pensées à propos The L-Word, a Showtime dyke-sexpot soap-operatic dramedy which so embodies Chekov's maxim that if you show a gun in the first act, it must disappear without explanation, like Lear's fool, before the hour is up. For quite a while, I simply didn't believe that the show was real, preferring to imagine it as some sort of sapphic Mary Hartman Mary Hartman, but after a few seasons I was forced to admit that yes, it really was that bad.
As with many ensemble shows, it consists of a group of people who seem to intensely dislike each other, and who have every reason to dislike each other, and are yet inseparable. The writing, if I may use the term loosely, has no logical forward motion, but rather relies on the timeless method of placing characters in easily resolved circumstances and then causing them to behave in the most rigorously preposterous, obviously incorrect manner, thereby hopelessly exacerbating a previously non-existent problem.
You can say this much about the GOP: although an inferior brand name, at least as of this writing, as parliamentary operators they far outclass their opponents. Proggles love to whine that Republicans are . . . well, a bunch of whiners. The difference is that while Progs whine about the media, GOPsters whine to the media. Even their whining about the media occurs within the media's embrace. Meanwhile in the legislature, the GOP avails itself of the tools at hand, whereas the Donk has Harry Reid. Of course, Official Donkdom isn't really Progressive by the lights of the leading behinds of the internet, and therein lies the disconnection. Those who interpret Donk acquiescence at every turn assume that the Congressional Donk and Superjesus Black Reagan want all ah dem "progressive provisions."
Next up: Card Check.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Richard Cohen has discovered a fascinating new idea for American jurisprudence in which acts undertaken in the past are immune from sanction in the present. The next time I go to fight a moving violation at traffic court, I fully intend to declare that the police and magistrate have "dragged [me] across the time border." Or: "Why yes, Officer, I did buy the kilo and kill the hooker, but that was at least thirty minutes ago . . ." Well beyond the statute of limitations.
"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there." So goes an aphorism that needs to be applied to the current debate over whether those who authorized and used torture should be prosecuted. In the very different country called Sept. 11, 2001, the answer would be a resounding no.Evidently The Google was not The Googling at the Cohen residence this week, for if The Interweb had been working, Mr. C. would have discovered that his serve isn't some folk aphorism, but the opening line of The Go-Between, by L.P. Hartley, a novel about the tragic personal consequences of the inescapable past, how acts long since undertaken echo forever through our lives: inescapable, indelible, ineradicable.
Haha. We won't punish anyone. We'll just live shattered and unfulfilled lives forever! Cool.
Back when everyone was a yuppie, David Brooks was there to remind us that the information-age counterculture bohemian bourgeois superconsumer living in his newly-minted exurban paradise was The Future, Now.
Now that Everyone Is Poor, David Brooks is here to remind us of the enduring virtues of Tradition
Monday, January 26, 2009
Bill,Via Wonkette, I see that Big Hollywood wants to pay Matt Damon a hundred grand to debate Bill Kristol. There are like a million billion comments!
It’s about time someone of your stature called out one of these spoiled sophermoric dime store intellectuals!
I’ll see you all at the coup de estat!
Somewhere, Michael Vick ponders the cruelty of an injust world.
Cristopher Hitchens arises, takes his hair o' the dog, and declares that since he was not mugged by savage Negroes and no one murdered clean, articulate Negro Barack Obama, it is Morning in Washington. Exeunt, pursued by pink elephant. Fin.
Someone clearly shit in Charlie Pierce's Wheaties this morning. He really hates the Cards! Yes, it is true that there is an embarrassing, Ashcroftian, Let-the-Eagle-Soar tendency to glorify the game of football as a cultural exemplar of AMERICA. Yes, it brought us that subliterate protohuman John Madden. But:
[The Cardinals] are in the position that they're in because the NFL rigs its season worse than any carny rigs his wheel. For all the macho posturing of its principal propagandists, between the jiggering of the schedule and the conniving of the draft and the socialistic revenue schemes, and the desperate grab for any mechanism that will flatten out the differences between really good teams and really bad ones, the NFL is the league that comes closest to the biddy soccer league philosophy of making sure that everyone gets a trophy.Would he rather the NFL look like MLB? What differentiates the NFL from other American professional sports leagues is that it is a league, and its efforts at parity are, I suspect, appreciated by fans. The truth is that there are still teams (My Beloved Steelers, for instance) who regularly perform with excellence, season after season, who may have the odd 8-8 or 9-7 year, but whose organizations operate with consistency, professionalism, and aplomb, just as there are teams (say, the embarrassing Cincy Bungles), who do just the opposite because of poor coaching and poor management, although from time to time they manage a decent season. Sure, Arizona is a fluky team to be ravaged and destroyed by My Beloved Steelers, but were it not for seasons like this, every damn year would look the same. Despite their miserable performances at Foxborough and elsewhere, the Cards got to the big game just like any other team: by winning their playoff games. Whaddareyagonnado?
Meanwhile, if Charlie Pierce wants better coverage, he should turn off the damn TV. My Beloved Steelers, for instance, are covered on the radio by the great team of Bill Hillgrove and Tunch Ilkin, with the delightfully wacky Craig The Wolfman Wolfley as the sideline reporter. Any time I happen to be in another city on a Sunday in the season, I turn on the local game, and am almost uniformly impressed with the quality of local radio NFL broadcasts.
This video is worth it just to watch the look of tender befuddlement on Paul Krugman's face as Sam Donaldson imitates Don Lafontaine imitating Sam Donaldson and Carly Fiorina . . . well, I was distracted by her hair cut and forgot. Didn't she preside over the destruction of HP or something? Anyway, and leaving aside any specific disagreements with El Krugster, he keeps trying to lead these people gently to the idea that returning the economy to its condition just prior to the current inchoate depression is a bad idea. You think? He's all like, a healthy economy has people with "jobs" earning "wages" who save a little bit and spend in proportion to what they actually make, and Fiorina is all like, Free Black AmEx for EVERYONE!