Well, anyway, now the question remains, will there be revolution in Egypt? People seem to be under the impression that it's already happened. And it's hard to see a downside in seeing an old bastard like Mubarack shown the door. Fortunately, I am very good at seeing the downside. Now Egypt is under the nominal and actual control of an America-funded military junta. To those who are eager to pronounce this a victory of spontaneous, self-organizing people-power over the forces of state tyranny, I feel ya. But I caution caution.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Friday, February 11, 2011
I don't want to critize Glenn Greenwald for his response to l'affaire HB Gary, because I agree with him: the amateurish quality of this particular incidenct doesn't diminish the insidious systems of surveillance and retribution of which it is only one admittedly ridiculous part. But I do want to keep needling the idea that the institutions of state have been "annexed by the most powerful private-sector elites" and corrupt officials. I understand what's being said here, and it is not wrong exactly, but I think it is like saying that your cells have been annexed by their own mitochondria. Instead of viewing the "private sector" as a pernicious and corrupting outside influence, you have to see it as an integral part of a complex but ultimately integrated, evolved system. Instead of assuming that supposedly private actors have somehow captured the institutions of law and government and convinced them through bribery and corruption that their interests align, you have to see their interests as actually and literally the same.
You know, dudes and dudettes, I should really read Krauthammer 40,000 more often. He is absolutely amazingly bonkers, and the sad thing is that he ended up as a dull American conservative, because he should really be writing manifestos for some kind of post-Balkan cryptototalitarian art collective:
A freedom doctrine is a freedom agenda given direction by guiding principles.Oh, god. Now I can cum.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Oh, god, I really want to stop talking about him, but I just can't resist:
People often don’t realize it . . . but Marx was in many ways working in the tradition of classical economists like David Ricardo and Adam Smith.What people, Matt? You and Glenn Beck?
I hope Harvard got the check up front.
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
I suppose it is no longer necessary to point out that Matthew Yglesias does not know what he is talking about, regardless the subject. He has a preternatural ability to opine knowingly on any subject, his confidence in his own correctness existing in inverse proportion to the accuracy of whatever he is saying at a given time. His ability to miss the point even as he swashbuckles into a conversation to argue that everyone else is missing the point is completely awesome, and I mean that in the most strictly religious sense. He is like a minor god of misunderstanding, a numinous spirit of getting it wrong.
There are plenty of problems with the Michael Pollans and Mark Bittmans of the world, with their bourgeois assumptions about taste and diet and their relatively blithe indifference to the calorie poverty into which much of the world would plunge if their recommendations were taken up too preciptously, unlikely though that scenario is. But obviously when they speak of "processed foods", they are speaking idiomatically, in, um, the parlance of our times. Is Yggie just trying to be clever when he loudly points out that tofu is a processed food. Well, yes, and it has been since the Han dynasty. Bread is a processed food. Salt-cured meat is a processed food. Pickling is processing. Fermentation is processing. "Processing" was an essential development in pre-refrigeration days as in its many forms it provided the means to preserve foodstuffs. Right. Okay. Can we all, nevertheless, agree that processed food is also modern shorthand for Doritos and fucking Twinkies? I think we can.
But you can barely cook anything if you start to rule vegetable oils out bounds. It’s true that the traditional peasant diets of mediterranean countries are very healthful, but there’s nothing healthful about the traditional peasant diet of Ireland or Russia. Obviously, nothing in the Bittman or Pollan ouevres suggests they’re unaware that an all-potato diet could be improved by introducing the occasional tofu stir fry. But I think this slogan captures less of what they mean than they think.I am not certain who is ruling vegetable oils out of bounds. Olive oil, a processed food, dates at least to the Minoans. That's a long time ago, Matt, in case you're not up to The Googling it. The "traditional peasant diets" of Russia and Ireland that you think of as terribly unhealthy, especially the potato diet, were externally imposed by a landed and, in the Irish case, largely foreign gentry, and quite recently in Ireland. Prior to the 18th century, the Irish diet, like the diet of most of Europe, was composed principally of grains, cereals, and vegetables, supplemented by dairy and the occasional meat or fish. It was only with the imposition of the cottier system of rent-exploitative, subsistence-agricultural serfdom that the potato became a staple food of the peasantry. The Russian diet, likewise, though of course there were periods of great deprivation during the bitter history of the Russian empire, was principally composed of grains, cereals, and vegetables, supplemented by dairy and the occasional meat and fish.
In any case, Pollan and his ilk are not suggesting that people eat like European peasants, but rather that people cook more food from basic ingredients, and that many "traditional" culinary cultures provide a model to this end. This is not without its own problems, but the idea that these guys have somehow totally overlooked the fact that several steps are required to make tofu and must be appraised of their oversight by some pedantic rodent lest they continue to beat the drum for a single-crop future of humanity is eminently crazy.
Oh, I don't know, Prof. I think you perversely have to admire Friedman for his titanic certitude that all events, I mean, literally, every single thing that transpires on this earth, in this universe, confirms the thesis of his most recent book. Spontaneous mass uprising? Poorly received Superbowl commercial? Cosmic background radiation? They all verify that the world is flat. The flat world is like his Higgs boson: never actually observed, probably more metaphoric than actual, a sort of clever abstraction that, we swears, is actually responsible for everything being the way that it is. One of the glories of the Friedmanian worldview is that unlike that hoary old Conservativismism, you know, about standing astride history and yelling STOP, it stands astride reality in order that reality may pass ceaselessly and without obstruction between its chubby legs.
Lemme lay some quotulation down upon yinz.
Kuttner's critique of Obama is on the money --- in my view, if there was ever a president who had the economic circumstances and political mandate to challenge the prevailing wisdom, it was him. But for reasons about which we can only speculate, he didn't do it.For reasons about which we can only speculate . . . how do we explain . . . I have often felt that so-called progressives approach politics with the dull, explicatory minds of an eleventh-grade English class charged 1,000 words on "A Rose for Miss Emily" or "Barn Burning," which begins with some crackpot Freudian speculation and goes on to summarize the plot for the final 700 words. Obviously, to the question of why Barack Obama did not attempt to transform American into a peaceable kingdom, the answer is that he did not intend to attempt it. Well, you can speculate on all the ways that this traduces his various heartfelt expressions of brotherhood and fellowfeeling through the bleating of what Digby calls his "reputation for rhetorical brilliance," or you can take the more pedestrian path of concluding that his character and his intentions are not contained within the wordfog of a Presidential campaign but are in full evidence in his behavior and his actions. Why has the President governed like a neoliberal coporatist? Because he is a neoliberal corporatist. Why do his pedantic, proceduralist utterances and didactic vocal cadences fall so short of his reputation for rhetorical brilliance? Because he is a pedant. Why has he failed to combat the systemic imperatives of war and business and the business of war? Because he is the system.
How do we explain President Barack Obama's failure to rise to the challenge that history dealt him, and the inversion of a Franklin D. Roosevelt moment into a new period dominated by the corporate elite and the far right?
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
Having read Stanley Fish's definition of "academic work," I am still not sure what its definition is. It appears to consist of some kind of monastic obscurantism, or obfuscatory monasticism, although, lord knows, you could hardly call a guy with this mug
an unblemished lamb of god.
I am on the record as being in favor of giving the Cylons the defense codes to all of our universities and letting them have at it, so Fish's razoring of academia out of existence is no skin off my ass. Still, there's something weird about this notion that intellectualism equals objectivity and objectivity equals a kind of totalitarian relativism that cannot even claim all viewpoints to be equally valid because universal validity implies a real-world truth claim that cannot be reconciled with the imperative not to advance any viewpoint, even if that viewpoint is every viewpoint.
So last night on Neo-Platonic Radio, Robert Seigel said:
Do you think it's inevitable that we'll have allies or client states or regional surrogates that fall embarrassingly short of our standards of democracy or human rights?I'll spare you the response of one "Joshua Keating, associate editor of Foreign Policy magazine." You can imagine.
In another recent story, an interviewer chose a similar descriptive language in discussing the American policy of "rendition": do we send people off to some kind of Midnight Express in order that these terrible foreigners do things to them that we would never do. Well, you know, I would never kill my old man to get at the inheritance or burn down my house to collect the insurance, but I might hire a guy to do what I myself am morally incapable of doing.
Monday, February 07, 2011
While everyone else is busy talking about how the American Letterpress Picayune Company Incorporated recently purchased Arachne Huffinpuffington XLV's community newsletter, I would just like to note, because I know at least one of Nick Denton's manlove boyslaves reads this blog, that the Gawker media empire site redesign sucks my balls, and I do not mean that it opens its pretty young mouth and takes my balls gently, one at a time, into the warm embrace of its moist affection, its vulnerable eyes, now brown, now almost green in the soft winter light peering up from time to time across the low, flat plane of my stomach and the subtle rise of my chest to meet my own dark eyes and, glancing in them a tender submission that is the truest, if most brief, if most carnal and therefore most fleeting, form of affection, to take my thighs and guide them higher, to move from there toward a deeper and harder co-mingling of desire and disgust, an act of defiant preparation, a defiling . . . ahem, uh. Yeah. What was I saying? Oh, yeah, um, the Gawker redesign sucks my balls like navigating the WaPo site sucks my balls. It is that horrible. If David Cronenberg got ahold of Katherine Graham's corpse and reanimated it in some satanic scifi ritual, the new Gawker sites would be her brood.
I was in rush hour the other observing some self-centered dude blocking four lanes and snarling traffic for blocks to spare himself a minor inconvenience and it occurred to me that the logical result of our recent embrace of vulgar libertarianism is a total breakdown of social order. Even in rush hour traffic where it's vital to everyone's survival that we observe certain norms, there always seems to be some entitled, selfish ass in an expensive car making it worse for everyone else these days.Were I a dick (I am a dick), I would point out that because the typical lane on a US road is between 9' and 12', it is impossible for a single car to block 4 lanes. But maybe the dude was driving a tractor trailer? The "selfish ass in an expensive car" suggests otherwise.
In any case, I invite you to journey with me to the past, in FDR's America, when no one ever got into the wrong lane or merged ill-advisedly. Oh, um, what? The idea that rude drivers represent "a total breakdown of social order," or even intimate such a thing, is so laughably hyperbolic that I was tempted to let it pass without comment, but then I was like, oh, shit, this is laughably hyperbolic.
Allow me to suggest that while it is not especially nice to cause a bit of gridlock, it is, in fact, the titanically self-entitled bourgeois outrage at the minor inconvenience of a little rush-hour traffic that makes a person a "selfish ass".
Well, that was a disappointing loss, but you don't win Superbowls with three turnovers that all lead to touchdowns, including a truly boneheaded pick six. I know Rogers won MVP, but, and maybe this is because his receivers kept dropping passes, I thought that despite his impressive stats at game end he looked like an ordinary, workmanlike quarterback. The guy whose single play did more than anything to prevent a Steelers comeback was Clay Matthews. Also, he's got dreamy eyes and looks like Thor, whereas Aaron Rogers looks like a guy who sells smokes at the Circle K around the corner.
Eh. If Pittsburgh had to lose, I'm glad it was to Green Bay. It was a great game, wasn't it? Unlike so many Superbowls, it didn't turn into an insipid, quiet affair. It was as good and rough-house as a divisional game, and yet it seemed to me--did anyone else notice?--that the guys really liked each other, that after the faux bonhomie of the pre-AFC championship week, Pittsburgh's Mike McCarthy's Pack and Tomlin's Steelers were laughing and smiling an awful lot on the field.
Additional silver lining: we will not have to hear any more about how Roethlisberger's three rings outweigh his two sexual assaults. The loss is in this sense a regrettable outcome that I will have trouble regretting.
On a related note, a good friend points out to me that Geno Malkin tore up his knees and is out for the season. If he goes on IR, our Pens have a few million bucks under the cap to toss around before the trade deadline. Who's the dirty birds now?