One of my spies suggests that I ought to start picking at Bayrubeay again because he called me a spoiled little rich girl. Haha, jealous! I only wish to correct the record. I stand accused of having a passing crush on Ron Paul. Not true! I defended Ron Paul, but I had a crush on Mike Gravel, and the only candidate I endorsed was dead communist, Gus Hall.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
Brian Leiter "is a professor of law and director of the Center for Law, Philosophy, and Human Values at the University of Chicago." That's a relief. Why, he could be anybody. The New York Times asked him what he thinks about rosy-cheeked homunculus John Yoo's tenure at Berkley. I am not really very concerned with John Yoo's tenure at Berkley, but I am interested in the way the professional etiquette of "academic freedom" is enshrined as quasi-constitutional doctrine and a universal right of
man some men, who happen to be professors. Leiter:
Many of those commenting on the Yoo case have, I suspect, an unrealistic picture of constitutional law, as though there were clearly correct and incorrect positions on these issues. Alas, there is not a lot of “law” in American constitutional law, so that we quickly go from “that’s a bad legal argument” to “that’s a morally odious position.” But having what many would deem morally odious views is well within the protection afforded by academic freedom.Yes, it's true. The Constitution: totally complicated!
For instance, if you were to ask, what is the Constitutional "law" regarding treaties, I could only point you in the direction of the wholly ambiguous Article VI:
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.Very ambiguous.
And surely there is no law or treaty to which the United States is party that defines torture both broadly and specifically defines torture as
...any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.That would be insane!
Anyway. Leiter. A professor of law. Well, opinions differ, and such. He is not certain whether it is legally and constitutionally permissible to torture prisoners, but he is certain that universities cannot fire professors because of the Constitutional guarantee of Academic Freedom. Well, there are no correct or incorrect answers, only stupid questions!
As is often the case, the full absurdity is best appreciated through the time-tested method of accurate paraphrasis. While there are no firm legal precepts regarding the torture of human beings, university tenure is inviolable. What a dick!
Watching La Digs try her hand at shepherding is glorious indeed. She continues to harangue certain lefty voters, whom she persists in believing were responsible for Al Gore's double-aught pseudo-loss to Kennebunkport's most prodigal sometimes son (they weren't), even as she concedes that the "mushy centrism of the Clinton years" drove them away, even as she modestly rages that the mushy centrism of the Obama year is doing the same. Why anyone would expend so much energy assuring a voting group that it is mandatory for them to endorse candidates who are sure to sell them out is rather beyond me, but it makes for an enjoyable entertainment.
Via Al and Alan.
PITTSBURGH - Standing before the Federal Building on Grant Street and flanked by its attorneys, America's Threat Level denied charges leveled by former Secretary of Homeland Security and former PA governor, Tom Ridge, to gathered reporters and hinted that it might consider a private lawsuit.
Dressed in sober orange, America's Threat Level was nonetheless unsparing in his response. "These allegations are false. They are specious. I categorically deny any involvement in raising myself for the benefit of any political party or any individual."
Its lawyers from the firm of Chester Alan & Arthur were equally unsparing. "Mr. Ridge claims to have been party to these manipulations," said attorney Wyatt Knight. "Yet it has taken him over five years to come forward?" He suggested that it was not his client whose actions required explanation.
"Our client has displayed himself, quite publicly I might add, to the world," Mr. Knight added. "You always knew where he stood. Whatever backroom dealings Mr. Ridge may have been involved in have to do with Mr. Ridge and Mr. Ridge alone.
Spokesmen for the former Secretary declined to be interviewed, but they released a statement questioning the accuracy of America's Threat Level's account as well as its character.
"America's Threat Level has spent the past half decade preening on television and billboards. We regard its responses as simply one more maneuver in a long Public Relations campaign with no connection to the truth."
Although there were few public clashes during Mr. Ridge's tenure at the Department of Homeland Security, a number of officials who worked there at the time recalled tension.
"I think that Tom felt that he should have been the public face of the Department," said one former high-ranking official who asked to remain anonymous due to continued professional ties with Homeland Security. "And when he saw the Threat Level out there, on the television, getting all this media attention, when in reality it wasn't making any substantive contribution to internal policy debates."
Asked if he felt Mr. Ridge's recent accusations were retaliatory, the same official declined to offer an opinion, stating only that "you'll have to ask Tom. I wouldn't want to speculate."
A friendly correspondent asks what the fuck happened to Foodie Friday. Summer vacation? We have no excuse.
One of my favorite tomato cultivars, of which I always include at least one plant in my garden, is the Mr. Stripey. Yes, it's an embarrassing and unforgivably dumb name, but, eh, it is what it is, brah. A beautiful vine with small, dark-green leaves produces fat, squat, beefsteak-type fruits that fade from rosy pink on the underside to green-yellow near the stalk. The fruits are very mild and sweet; they lack the acidity of more familiar red varieties. Drizzled with oil, sprinkled with vinegar, and seasoned with good sea salt, they make good raw eating. They don't hold up especially well to stovetop cooking, as the intense heat of the sauté pan tends to turn their firm flesh mushy, and their mild flavor makes for uninteresting traditional tomato sauces. They take very well to roasting, however, as the milder, dry heat of the oven brings out their delicate sugars. In this simple recipe the tomato is the main ingredient of a fragrant vegetable base for roast tenderloin of pork that then becomes a summery vegetable salsa to accompany the meat.
Roast pork on a bed of tomatoes with sage
1 pork tenderloin, about 1 1/4 lbs.
1-2 large Mr. Stripey or other light-colored, heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/2" chunks
1 medium turnip, cut into 1/2" chunks
1 cup chiffonade of fresh sage
2 tbspns Dijon mustard
fine sea salt
coarse sea salt
extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350.
Lightly toss the tomatoes, turnip, sage, a very small pinch of salt, and a couple of tablespoons of oil, then spread in a single even layer on the bottom of a ceramic roasting pan.
Season the tenderloin generously with coarse sea salt, pressing the salt firmly into the meat on all sides. I prefer a coarse salt for roasting meats not only because you are less likely to over-season, but also because they provide a nice, crunchy textural counterpoint when the meat is cooked and served. Lay the tenderloin on top of the vegetables. (You may need to cut the tenderloin in half, perpendicular to its length, to fit it into the dish.) Brush the top and sides of the tenderloin with a thin and even layer of mustard.
Place the dish in the oven and roast uncovered for 35-40 minutes, until the mustard has turned to a dark brown crust and the juices run clear. Remove the dish from the oven and remove the pork to a cutting board where it can rest for 5-10 minutes. (Tenderloins are thin and do not require much time to rest.) Slice them into medallions on a bias to the grain of the meat, and serve dressed with the roasted vegetables on top.
“What they’re trying to do — Obama is — is take from the senior citizens and give to the poor and the illegal immigrants,” Mr. Goldman said “It’s hurting the senior citizens who worked all their lives. Because of their age, like in Canada, you’ll have to wait six months for an M.R.I.”People don't mind rationing so long as they get the rations.
Meanwhile, Kruggo says the progs are in revolt. The progs are currently engaged in boycotting a grocery store because of a 600-word opinion column. It's probably exhausted them. What would this revolt look like? What are you saying, Kruggo? They're gonna vote Nader in 2012? No? No, I didn't think so.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
There are some days when it almost seems like the national press is making a conscious effort to prove Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent gospel. If the national commercial media really did exist solely to perpetuate the attitudes of the political elite, and to create phony debates around unthreatening policy poles, endlessly pitting a conservative/reactionary status quo against an “acceptable” position of dissent — if that thesis were the absolute truth, then you’d see just what we’re seeing now in the coverage of the health care debate.I have a heartbeat's hesitation about criticizing Matt Taibbi, because I often find him a fine and entertaining writer with an eye for the absurd that is quite plainly lacking in today's media . . . landscape, but I find it impossible to let the above pass without comment. What proved "Noam Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent gospel" was Noam Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent, and the fact that the reality he observed, documented, and marshaled as proof in that book comports with the reality he observed, documented, and marshaled as proof in that book isn't exactly surprising. Is it? From Taibbi's own books and other writing, it seems clear that he would be otherwise inclined to pooh-pooh MC as another conspiracy theory, even though it is anything but. The national exists solely to perpetuate the attitudes of the political elite. This was in question?
Taibbi goes on:
So this is where the “debate” is being framed. One side argues that the public option isn’t anything to write home about. The other “side” argues that a bill without the public option won’t be a disaster after all. Of course if you’re paying attention these are both actually the same argument, arguing the same side.Taibbi could revisit the manipulation of attitudes and expectations for Iraq and observe the same. How did something other than full and complete withdrawal become the default liberal position? How did "the surge" become a self-evident success? Etc.
I get that the public option isn’t a cure-all and I also get that it would be nice if they passed a law preventing insurers from denying patients with pre-existing conditions. But what strikes me the most is how the instant the public decides it’s fed up and really wants something, all these arguments suddenly appear in the press showing why they are unreasonable and uneducated and should take a more “nuanced” (God, I hate that word) view of things. It seems to me that if you pay careful enough attention to the underlying theme of a lot of these articles, the pundits’ biggest concern about the public option is that their readers are demanding it in spite of what they are being told. Me personally, I think the time to consider what good stuff might be in a public-option-less bill is after you’ve lost that battle, not before.
Maybe I'm being uncharitable in my reading; maybe Taibbi didn't mean to imply as he does that there is something questionable about Chomsky's thesis. But I don't think so, and so I commend to Matt, and to The Internet, and to You, the World, this general rule of thumb: your conviction that it just can't be so is not evidence that it isn't so.
A few weeks back, ladypoverty pondered the oddity of America holding elections in other countries. True 'nuff. I have been thinking of it ever since, and while I was pulling one out in the shower this morning, I was struck at my moment of weakest-kneed vulnerability that the plain solution has been before us all along: hold other countries' elections in America. True, whomever we elect to rule them will have no actual power, legitimacy, or authority in their respective nations, but as that is the case even after invasions and complicated local democratic processes, I see no substantive difference. We could do it on The Internet, or via text. The winner would get a hundred grand, and the losers would get second-rate record deals and group Christmas specials in 1300-seat small-metro-area performing arts centers.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
If you define "failure" as "not doing things that I unreasonably expected him to do," then Ron Beasley is almost certainly correct: Obama's presidency is going to be a failure. If, on the other hand, you define success as doing that which he always intended to do, and getting subsequently reelected, then Obama will likely be a success. I hew to the latter, and indeed, there is a real-world precedent, in the mercurial, Dionysian, silverback figure of William Jefferson Clinton. Indeed, should The Economy™ return to the American status quo, then Obama's reelection is virtually guaranteed. So-called progressives, the wimpiest gang of social changers ever in the history of ever, aren't going to abandon him; Democratic partisans aren't going to abandon him; blacks and Hispanics aren't going to abandon him; and the rest of the winning Donk coalition will go along provided we bounce modestly upward from the floor of the recession. I firmly expect, in a decade or so, to hear liberals defending Obama's bullshit tenure as a golden age against the depredations of whatever Republican is then in charge, just as His Holiness The Clinton saw himself recast as Lyndon Johnson Now With 33% More Success during the downtime of the Bush administration. The remaining question is not health care, but Afghanistan: will it be Kosovo, or will it be Vietnam? Liberals have already imagined away the former as a shining example of humanitarian death and destruction; the latter, as yet, has proven too horrible to be amenable to their not inconsiderable powers of rehabilitation.
Well, I suppose I must say something in defense of Whole Foods. The usual liberal subjects are outraged--OUTRAGED!--that CEO John Mackey wrote a boilerplate defense of so-called market reforms for the WSJ, and are threatening a boycott. Shall we simply note that John Mackey has, thus far at least, delivered health insurance and a living wage to more people than Barack Obama and a 60-seat Democratic Senate majority? In fact, as a national solution, HSAs and high-deductible plans make no sense at all, since they fuck the distribution of resources by removing everyone young and healthy from the risk pool. But it is every private American's right to hold crackpot opinions and to write about them in the Journal.
I will say this, though. Pittsburgh's thriving young artist scene and its thriving young cycling community gain living wages and health care by working for Whole Foods. Whole Foods, like any major grocery chain, depends on a far-flung network of global suppliers, but it also does more than any other grocery store, including locally owned stores and chains, to support regional agriculture. Pittsburgh has a large community of Somali refugees and a large contingent of Sudanese "Lost Boys," whom Whole Foods likewise employs. Pittsburgh's East Liberty neighborhood has seen something of a renaissance since Whole Foods came to that formerly blighted community, and although some of that has been unwanted gentrification, much of it has benefited the extant businesses and residents of that community. Indeed, second only to the pierced-and-tattooed set, our Whole Foods most prominently employs young blacks from nearby neighborhoods. At a living wage. With health insurance.
Whole Foods likewise employs many older people--an aunt of mine, for instance, long-since laid off by US Airways--who would otherwise subsist only on a fixed income. Dignity, respect, a living wage, and health insurance. These are not niceties, nor mere slogans of a half-assed political non-movement that prefers to believe a lousy piece of Shepherd Fairey graphic propaganda than the evidence of its own eyes.
Of course, you cannot save a nation by having everyone work at an expensive grocery chain, but here you have what is quite simply one of the most admirable large companies in America, and liberals are pissed because the bossman wrote a glorified letter to the editor with which they disagree? Dear Progressivism, kindly fuck yourselves to death! Your one saving grace is your total, utter, and absolute fecklessness, which doomed your bullshit boycott before it began.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Robert Novak, an authentic American monster, is dead. May all good people spit three times. Most of what he believed was wrong. He was unkind and uncharitable. He was also a real reporter once, when we had reporters, before the colleges got hold of them. He was a grouch. He was mean. He was a white man with a sports-car complex, poor bastard. Like so many monsters, he was a Catholic. Unlike them, he came by it honestly, which is to say, through conversion. I always kind of liked the guy. He was a genuine crab. I would've drunk scotch with him, and I wouldn't have felt badly if I woke in the morning with a bandaged hand and no memory of punching him in the face. They don't make them like Bob anymore. Properly considered, he was the conservative answer to Hunter S. Thompson, who was himself a mad sort of conservative, or, at least, gun-happy. They would've liked each other, I suspect. Good night, sweet prince.
District 9 is in part a parable about discrimination, prejudice, humanity's inhumanity, etc.; True Blood is, well, for the sake of comparison, I am obliged to concede that somewhere in the dark, jangling junkyard of Alan Ball's post-syphilitic reptile brain is the shadow of the echo of the fog of the haze of the the notion that his pan-seared abortion of a television program is sorta-kinda-like about discrimination against The Gays, maybe. So they are similar, except that District 9 is a legitimately good movie, a fine entertainment, at turns funny and gross, occasionally almost moving, whereas True Blood is The Worst, having this past Sunday jumped into the water with a motorcycle, hunted down a shark, tied the motorcycle to the shark, ridden the shark, goaded the shark nearly to madness, and forced the shark to jump over another shark that was, in turn, jumping over a third shark.
The one prominent critique of District 9 is that it begins in a documentary style but becomes a standard chase flick. This is partly, but only partly true. It's a very canny movie, full of documentary bits, but also full of security cams, corporate video, staged newscasts, and, yes, standard 3rd-person semi-omnipotent movie cameras, but at no point is it ever wholly one or the other, not even when it sheds most of the trappings of the faux documentary in order to stage scenes of elaborate urban combat that, while still inferior to those in Cuaron's Children of Men, are nevertheless a thousand times superior to the canned, quick-cut battles of every other mainstream movie. That they manage to be so with the addition of alien creatures and scifi rayguns is nigh unto miraculous. District 9 is by no means a perfect movie; it has several cringe-inducing moments of High Movie Science, particularly one where A Scientist explains that our protagonist's (I won't say hero, 'cause what's a here?) "DNA is in perfect balance," half-human, half-alien. Yuh-huh. Step slowly away from the genome, son, and no one is gonna get hurt here.
The movie effectively mines our fear of the other, and though its metaphor is obvious, it is not heavy-handed. Its villains are handled clumsily in places, but its fictional downtrodden, ghettoized aliens are shown with a much more complex and sophisticated treatment than I expected. Perhaps it is because Neill Blomkamp, the director, grew up in apartheid South Africa. He shows his "prawns" with a good mixture of pathos and degradation--there is nobility, but there is also venality. The real literatures of apartheid, Jim Crow, interment, and the ghetto reveal much the same.
It bears repeating. This is a movie about bug-shaped aliens, a summer scifi flick, and yet unequivocally the finest, smartest, best wide-release film of the year.
Meanwhile, in the swamps of Looooooooweeeezeeeaaaaaanaaaaaw, Anna Paquin et alia have no idea. I find myself unable to articulate the preening awfulness of this show, which treats its own premises with all the filial love and respect of the Menendez brothers. Try to imagine, if you will, that The Sopranos featured James Gandolfini one day as a mob boss, the next as an astronaut, the third as a beagle, and then in the season finale it was revealed that Edie Falco was really a mermaid and Jamie-Lynn Sigler has been working for al-Qaeda all along. It's worth recalling that, however clumsy, True Blood did commence with a recognizable setup. Vampires are real, and now that they no longer have to kill people to survive, they are coming out into the open. How will society react? And from time to time, the show still recalls this fundamental fact of its fictional universe. Then a fly buzzes, a car honks in the distance . . . ooo, pretty, shiny.
Monday, August 17, 2009
At Unqualified Offerings, blogger Thoreau has a note that says, as I read it, that were we able to build a free market for health care from the dust of the earth and first principles, Awesome!, but as we cannot, and as the current soi-disant-mais-pas-tellement system of "private insurance" with government plans for the very poor and the elderly exists, it is conceivable that some reform could burble up that would create a modestly more robust public sector, lower some barriers that currently prevent many millions of people from receiving adequate coverage or care, and marginally improve the status quo even if it falls short of the ideal. This is very reasonable, with the exception of the very long caveat that I will write in all the subsequent paragraphs of this post. Kevin Carson, our favorite mutualist, shows up early in the comments and says something sensible. Shortly thereafter, something called "The Angry Optimist" appears and total hilarity ensues as he cavils, wails, moans, falls writhing on the floor, berates heaven, speaks in tongues, swallows swords, levitates, rends his garments, weeps, rails, anathematizes, coruscates, has visions, and then accuses everyone else of "emotionalism." QED. Exit. As fine an example of the taxonomy of Blog as you will find.
Well, Even the Libertarian Friedrich Hayek™ believed that there was such a thing as a reasonable provision for public health, although to be fair, I was recently taking a shit and flipping through The Road to Serfdom, which I keep on the tank along with Freemasonry for Dummies, a Stephen Baxter paperback, a book of daily AA affirmations, and Left Behind: Assassins: Assignment—Jerusalem, Target—Antichrist, and it occurred to me that, properly understood, Serfdom should be read in the same vein as one reads Nineteen-eighty-four. Or 2001. Or Revelations. Not a criticism--I am a fan of "speculative fiction"--but a critique, perhaps. In any case, Even the Libertarian Friedrich Hayek™ believed that there was such a thing as a reasonable provision for public health, and given such illustrious ancestry, we're obliged to take arguments that public health options traduce the fundamental spirit of liberty with the same seriousness that we would take arguments that Arlen Specter, the Democratic Senator from Dorian Gray's closet, plans personally to garrote Grandma in her sleep, shake infants to death, poison the wells, etc.
But no, the usually useful idiots are engaged in their usually useful idiocy, as Washington stages another shell-game debate in the name of transferring more private wealth to the state-partnered corporate class. Headlines warning that the so-called public plan may be "dropped" entertain the same fallacy as The Obama's liberal supporters engage--those on the left-hand side of the idiot corpus as it were. They assume that there exists a "public plan" to be dropped. Meanwhile, the rightards engage in some supremely amusing agitprop, creating a fictional groundswell of chimerical grassroots opposition to a proposed system of socialized medicine that was never really proposed. The whole thing is a sham, and in the end the circular genius of state capital will again reward itself by reforming a system in favor of the system already in place. The rules of this game are simple, and I refer everyone once more to The Ratchet Effect.
This is the sort of literary-cosmic irony that I love. The human boot stepping on the human face forever became a series of Roman-ish border wars by a great, pseudocapitalist hegemon seeking to spread its ideology of democracy, whiskey, sexy to the world's benighted peoples. The Road to Serfdom did not run through cozy, consensus-socialist post-war Europe, but through an increasingly Tsarist America, which has succeeded in turning its lower 95% into a legit peasant class through false-credit-ownership residential tenancy and a variety of other financial and political scams, from the Ballot Initiative to the low introductory APR. It is the most genius system of concentrated ownership in the history of human political organization--formerly, a serf at least knew he was a serf. When "health care reform" means a mandate for purchase of at-minimum high-deductible insurance, or some similar transparent mechanism for moving dollars in the usual direction, everyone will claim victory, mirabile dictu, the righteous victorious, the villains defeated, and the Dr. Ken Melanis of the world still pulling three million a year.