The supercomittee, a sort of homeopathic version of a legislative body, a thing, reduced to its essence and then placed near a vial of water whose molecules were supposed to realign and magically cure what ails us, or, ahem, whatever, failed. Oh god oh god. So out come an army of correspondents and commentators lamenting the fact that Congress can't seem to do anything, even though, realistically considered, Congress does far too much; we are awash in an Amazon of legislation; the statutes, like fish, now swim among the roots of the rain forest while we cling to the high branches and hope precariously that the dry season will come again. It remains a matter of faith that the purpose of government is the endless promulgation of new rules; literally, it can never end. It's the equivalent of "growth" in economics--not a temporary condition, merely descriptive, sometimes desirable and sometimes not, but rather a universal state of being whose absence equals non-existence. There is no possibility of equilibrium, no rest, and no balance. The universe is a series of endless crises to be combated with endless proclamations. If Congress is not at every moment making something new illegal and something presently illegal legal again, then it is a failure. Why can't they just cooperate and get things done--it's an image of an assembly line; Boner and Lugosi and all the rest recast as bright robotic arms, tirelessly assembling our ever-unfinished civilization. If you can think of yourself as a human being instead of a citizen or a subject, then it is a horror.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Friday, November 25, 2011
Matthew Yglesias, your favorite sociopathic bear cub and mine, has apparently moved to Slate, whose house style is a sort of deracinated, late-night-at-the-Improv, black-guys-do-it-this-way-but-white-guys-do-it-this-way routine that perfectly fits Yglesias' habit of proceeding counterintuitively from a mistaken premise and discovering whole new territories of incorrectness in the process, a human GPS programmed with a wrong starting address and a wrong destination and set to calculate the scenic route between. Here he is calmly arguing that the dispossession of millions of human beings and the further concentration of vast wealth into the hands of the very few can only have salutary effects on the median Indian--note the advocate's little trick of statistical abstraction there. No actual Indians were used in the filming of this episode. His pithiest observation is actually another writer's observation that these "'tens of millions of middlemen' . . . constitute a powerful lobby that's backed these protectionist rules." Left oddly unsaid--that the billionaire caste in Mumbai which seeks to destroy local economies and extract their wealth, ahem, constitutes a powerful lobby. Well this is the standard moral philosophy of neoliberalism: it is to replace economic autonomy with a surplus of extremely cheap material goods that will, at least temporarily, pacify the newly enlarged class of company-store wage slaves. Beware a philosophy bearing efficiency; all such end with gallows and gas.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Okay, one last thing for Thanksgiving. One of my favorite animations ever: Ryan Larkin's "Walking", which is set coincidentally to the relatively obscure but wholly appropriate and divinely beautiful Coro from Bach's cantanta, "Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot": break your bread for the hungry.
Monday, November 21, 2011
What's cooking this Thursday, IOZ? Well, we're going to start with gougères (little cheese choux pastries) spread with a rustic paté made from duck giblets. Then we'll have a soup course, a consommé made from the cooking liquid of the main duck dish. After the soup, we'll have salmon with sorrel sauce, the salmon simply grilled medium rare, its skin crisped. The main course will be a canard en pot au feu--a duck, stuffed with pork forcemeat, and simmered in water with root vegetables, then chopped into serving pieces and served along with the vegetables and pork on a purée of roasted cauliflower with a sauce of boiled egg, oil, vinegar, and cornichons. It will be accompanied by a salad of black lentils with moutarde forte and potatoes roasted simply over thyme. We'll have a salad course of raw winter kale dressed with a mandarin-cardamom vinaigrette. Desert will be tarte Tatin--upside-down apple tarte--and a few cheeses. We'll have two different breads, a regular boule and a fougasse with black pepper and lavender. See yinz next week.
While I agree with the Prof that the so-called two-party system must be destroyed, I think we must beware the idea that multiparty democracy offers some kind of improvement; I mean, that is really the social democracy fallacy, isn't it? Oh, if only they had to assemble coalitions to rule, etc. etc. But the problem with a bipartisan oligarchy is contained within the second word of the term, not the first; a gaggle of nobles can fuck things up just as easily as a single king, and if you don't believe me, just ask this Sforza/Medici/Borgia/Rovere/Orsini over here. All you need to know about democracy: Congress' public approval rating hovers around negative infinity, and it doesn't matter a bit. The oligarchic interests in the US have for a hundred years organized themselves into two superficially opposed, effectively cooperative factions; well you could find periods in English history or Roman history or whatever where the same more or less obtained. The house is not its window treatments. It is true that people like the few relative outsiders who penetrate the system (although it's hard to make the straight case that Harvard Yard Warren is in any meaningful sense an outsider) can't really do anything in it, except, you know, benefit from its endless supply of personal power and sweet swag and money money money money.