Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Diseased Minds

It appears (via Hit & Run) that Human Events has compiled a list of the "Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries" (and why not the 18th and 17th as well? I'd say it's because of this phenomenon). The full list as well as the honorable mentions (The Origin of Species and On Liberty get honorable mentions) are in limbo between horrifying and hilarious. They are also a treasure trove of insight into the minds of theocons who have received a certain amount of education in philosophy.

The HE staff helpfully included the cumulative scores that produced their top-ten ranking; I find this detail particularly shocking: The Communist Manifesto, which is, unsurprisingly, #1, scores 74 points. The remaining nine books range from 41 (Mein Kampf) to 23 (Keynes' General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money). The gap in negative utility (of whatever sort HE has in mind) between the Communist Manifesto and every other book of the last 200 years (at minimum 33) is almost (at minimum) twice as great as the entire range (18) of negative utility values of the remaining nine contenders, which do happen to include the founding document of Nazism. The situation doesn't improve when you move on to the honorable mentions. Origin of Species, at 17, is only 24 points less "harmful" than Mein Kampf, or a bit more than 25% less harmful relative to MK than MK is to the Manifesto.

I doubt very much that intellects capable of producing such a result are also capable of shame or embarrasment, but that result is evidence of a moral psychopathy on their parts.

MORE: Numerical evaluations aside [what a weird model for anti-sociology Luddites--ed.], the captions summarizing and disparaging each "harmful" work contain some real gems. E.g., "The Nazis loved Nietzsche," an insight that blinds me either with its brilliance or its logical fallaciousness. David Horowitz, former Stalinist and current right-wing Bolshevik, is quoted attacking Betty Friedan on the grounds that "[she] was from her college days, and until her mid-30s, a Stalinist Marxist, the political intimate of the leaders of America’s Cold War fifth column." HE's favorite philosopher after Aquinas, by which I mean Jesus Christ, had some words to say about who is in a position to cast the first stone.

What's Wrong With France?

Maria Farrell counts the ways. My favorites:
For falling asleep at the wheel in 2002 and letting back in to the Elysee a fraud who has no vision for France, no values apart from expediency, and whose number one professional objective was using the office to stay out of jail...

For endless rhetoric about the European ideal (especially in the pre-amble of said constitution) and the coming together of nations in harmony, etc. etc., based on the assumption that France is the true driving force.

For insisting in the first place that the constitution be written by a self-important old windbag / ex-President of France...

For assuming that if the French don’t like this painstakingly negotiated agreement, everyone else will quickly iron out the wrinkles and present one that’s more to France’s taste.

For the assumption that if France votes no, then the constitution is automatically dead. Just how democratic is that, protest voters? (Don’t Austria, Germany, Belgium, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain count? They’ve all voted yes – in parliament or referendum – and by overwhelming majorities.)

For its refusal to have any debate about admitting Turkey to the EU that doesn’t start with straw men (‘then why not Syria too?) and finish with inchoate mutterings that are nonetheless held to be self-explanatory (But …they’re Muslims.).

Regurgitation Of The Sith

I was not in a rush to watch Star Wars III starring Stephen Glass as Darth Vader. I saw the damned thing last night, and it was one of the most disappointing filmic (sorry) experiences I've ever had. Disappointing not because it was an atrocious film---it wasn't, and my expectations were far from high enough to cause massive disillusion in case of a clunker---but because it was a mostly great story conveyed in a mostly mediocre film.

First, the really awful bits: I've read reviews that describe the dialogue as "wooden"; that's like calling actually wooden dialogue lyrical and mellifluous. (Note to any current and future paramours of mine: If I ever start sounding like Anakin and Padmé (sorry) in their "I love you" "Because I love you more" shtick, at least dump me and maybe kill me.) I shudder to think what the screenplay looked like before Tom Stoppard rewrote it. Beyond the embarrasing language, the acting itself was excruciatingly awful. And that's not because the actors aren't any good; most of them, in fact, do have talent, including Hayden Christensen. The abysmal performances, therefore, are Lucas's fault as a director.

On the other hand, as I said, the story is, or maybe could have been, a great one. To give a rough outline---there's nothing to spoil, I guess, unless anyone doesn't know that Anakin becomes Darth Vader---Anakin turns to the dark side because he has premonitions that Padmé will die in childbirth and is convinced by Palpatine that use of the dark side could save her. So it might be a bit of a formulaic set-up, but it is a formula for high drama.

If Palpatine had been lying, then we have a traditional morality fable, and a story about seduction (I can't be the only one who noticed the homoerotic undertone of the Jedi master/student and Sith master/student relationships). If Palpatine had been telling the truth, then we really have the elements of tragedy---Anakin fated all along to choose his love over his duty as a Jedi. In the end, there's no resolution of that question, just a kind of suspended animation that acts as a propellant for the next trilogy.

Even more frustrating than the narrative (non)-resolution was the film's execution. The entire arc of the plot is telegraphed in the very first scene. Look at the black robes Anakin is wearing. Those are dark Jedi master robes, as anyone who's played Knights of the Old Republic could tell you. As in the Lord of the Rings, everyone in ROTS who looks evil is evil, everyone who looks good is good. But in LOTR, that's the whole point: moral alignments are completely transparent, and the epic lies in the narration of the conflict. In the Star Wars prequel trilogy, not one character is able to see what's plainly obvious to anyone watching the movies. It's almost a special occasion to watch Samuel L. Jackson sitting ponderously and brooding over whether or not agents of the dark side might be nearer than anyone suspects. Jesus Fucking Christ, Jules Winnfield, your man-child is wearing dark jedi robes. He has an evil glare. Open your fucking eyes.

One final point about the third movie: It casts into pretty stark relief what atrocious failures the first two were. There simply was no reason for the first one, the second could have quite easily been reduced to its final 30 minutes. Then there might have been room to tell the story that was very well told in the animated feature Star Wars: Clone Wars, and Lucas could have avoided asking us to be afraid of weirdos like General Grievous who just appear out of nowhere (seeing him kill all the Jedi whose lightsabers he stole might have been something to include in the movie, no?).

So, as Anthony Lane ventriloquizes Yoda (great article, no weblink), break me a fucking give.

Postscript: I thought I should add that the idea of the film as an allegory of the Bush administration is bollocks---even if Lucas doesn't get that. It's some bastard offspring of Weimar and Octavian Rome transposed into science-fiction. It's also philosophically incoherent. E.g. Obi-Wan claims that "only a Sith deals in absolute" while Palpatine instructs Anakin that good only exists from a certain point of view. So both sides espouse moral relativism and moral realism simultaneously. Fantastic, George.

Deep Throat Is...

this guy. (Okay, I found it through Insty.)

My Tax Dollars Pay His Salary

And yours do as well, if you live in NJ (via Sploid).

Bummer

Umm:
"In August, the Independent Panel to Review Department of Defense Detention Operations, appointed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld following the publication of photographs of torture and ill-treatment committed by US personnel in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq (see below), reported that since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, about 50,000 people had been detained during US military and security operations.

US forces operated some 25 detention facilities in Afghanistan and 17 in Iraq (see below). Detainees were routinely denied access to lawyers and families. In Afghanistan, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had access only to some detainees in Bagram and Kandahar air bases."
[Amnesty International Report 2005: United States of America]
50,000 people detained? Happy Memorial Day.

(Also via Majikthise, this sounds like one of those innovative policy proposals that progressive conservatives should be getting behind.)

Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Blog

Not gonna bother today. David Ignatius has a nice analysis of France's non vote. In other news, "1 dead in fight outside Teaneck bar" Home sweet home.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Semiotics Of Redneckhood

Evan has an interesting post up on this distinctly Western, post-industrial phenomenon.

Modest Proposal 2005

Dry, yes, but very funny. Hasn't there already been a movie made about this? (via Hit & Run)

Flipside Of The Coin

Once in a while, National Review's premier anti-gay bigot churns out a real showstopper...no,no, my lips are sealed.

Question For Henley

He writes:
I think the distinction between “principled” and “pragmatic” libertarianism tends to dissolve. Pragmatism can only exist toward some end, and I think the ends in question will always be grounded in some principle, even if tacitly. You say “Freedom works?” You mean it achieves something. Why is it good that it achieves that?

I don’t believe one can answer THAT question without recourse to principle.
I agree, but what does that have to do with libertarianism? Doesn't the same point apply to every political philosophy?

Torturepalooza

You can't do much better than Phillip Carter. It's futile to try.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Literacy Front

Nick Gillespie notes that among Tom Delay's many faults, apparently, is not knowing what "to dismember" means. Nick also makes a profound point about the dubious nature of supposedly metaphysically-enshrined pro-life axioms:
When it comes to these sorts of breakthroughs (IVF, stem cells), we're first and foremost pragmatists. If these technologies pan out and offer great advances to the living, even hard-core pro-lifers will cook up after-the-fact rationalizations for why they are just no matter what.
Quite right. Very few pro-lifers really think that abortion=murder---if they did, it would unconscionable for them not to be in open rebellion against the government---and even fewer think that contraception=abortion.

Tort Reform That Works

I'm pretty sure I'm for this (via Wonkette). Speaking of Wonkette, wow, plus, guess who's a gaping asshole.

Dude, This Affects All Of Us

This is an affront to non-smokers, too.

Gossip Corner

This is really that girl's territory, but since she hasn't yet written anything about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' "relationship," I'll take the opportunity to link to Tina Brown's column on same. The elephant in the room that Tina was intent to ignore---or, how's this Jeremy, the present absence---is obviously, as Bill Maher pointed out, Cruise is not doing much to dispel gay rumors by "dating" a self-avowed 26-yr-old virgin.

Beating A Dead Horse That They Killed

I'm tired of yelling till I'm blue in the face about the ways in which the administration, all the way up to its highest-ranking members, enabled torture and abuse of prisoners. I'm tired of talking about how no one is ever going to face justice for the administration's crimes.

But of course, there's yet more news about torture, because the practice of torture continues, the administration continues to deny that it continues, the administration continues to take an official position against "torture," and the administration's apologists---the torture apologists---continue to eat great big smoldering mouthfuls of one another's shit under the impression that it's rare steak.

The fine details this time are (surprise!) that even though Newsweek ran a poorly-sourced story, various forms of Koran-desecration, including, yes, flushing, were used on a widepread basis in an asinine attempt to break Muslim prisoners down. Via Andrew Sullivan, here's a reptilian response from John Podhoretz (who should be shunned by decent society---all I'll say re: his comments is that most of the detainees are not, pace Jawn, al Qaeda, and many are in fact guilty of misdemeanors if guilty of anything). John Cole, a conservative who is not in hock to the administration, has a slightly different take:

I guess that means we need a talking points update:

1.) Newsweek Lied, People Died!
2.) The media hates the military.
3.) Why are they using anonymous sources?
4.) 1.) Why is the media recycling old stories?
5.) 2.) You can't trust those terrorists.
6.) 3.) Even if it is true, you shouldn't publish it- we are at war.
7.) 4.) You can't trust Newsweek and the Washington Post Reuters.
5.) What about the children?

Andrew noted that a further option was silence, which had been the one Glenn Reynolds preferred at the time of Andrew's posting. But Glenn's got something to say, and it doesn't disappoint. For starters, he gives a deadpan excerpt from a Howard "Conflict O'interest" Kurtz column:
Newsweek made a specific error, saying this would be in a forthcoming military investigative report, and had to apologize and retract. But that never meant there was no Koran desecration--in fact, The Post reported such a charge in 2003 (as did other outlets later), but the charges were always attributed to detainees.
Now, Reynolds initially claimed that Kurtz seemed to be suggesting that Newsweek was vindicated, and Kurtz, in an Insta-update, indicated otherwise. Which is technically right---Newsweek did botch the sourcing of their story.

The risible thing about this Insta-post (there's one somewhere in every Insta-post of sufficient length) is Reynolds preserving for the record that:
A reader notes a bit of goalpost-moving
The goalpost-moving in question was from an allegation that a Koran was flushed down a toilet to an allegation that a Koran was merely placed in a toilet. You've got to admire Reynolds for suggesting---or was it just a reader's thought, not Reynolds' (one never knows, does one?)---that the difference between actually flushing a Koran and simply soiling it in a toilet is some kind of substantive retreat on the part of those alleging misconduct by US personnel.

But refer back to the excerpt from Kurtz. With the caveat in mind that the allegations come from widespread complaints on the part of detainees in FBI reports, and are not conclusions of the Defense Department---will the Pentagon say that the FBI is publishing useless hearsay?---you've got to doubly admire Reynolds for suddenly being in the position of criticizing the manner in which Newsweek ran the flushing story and some of its finer details as if all along the basic substance of the story seemed probable to him. I guess he was merely passing along the "Newsweek Lied People Died" horseshit with no malice aforethought, in fact so as to protect the press from themselves. Talk about goal-post shifting.

Free Speech Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry

Oriana Fallaci is going to be tried in Italy for "libeling" Islam. Simply unreal. Incidentally, a nice reminder to my friends on the left that Europe is not a civil libertarian paradise (link via Volokh Conspiracy). Is this as bad as the fatwa on Salman Rushdie? No. It's a trial, not incitement to extra-judicial killing. But it's pretty fucking bad. The notion that you can be tried for being "offensive" is totalitarian.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Illustration Of The Hack Gap

A telling slip of the toungue from David Asman of the Fox News Channel:
So, Senator, if we should have done it and if we had the votes to do it in the Senate -- if you guys in the Republican Party did -- then why did you need a compromise?

For The Record

I thought I'd repost the comment I left responding to Evan's comment about Niall Ferguson:
I've read the Pity of War, which I agree with you is a masterpiece, also the history of the Rothschilds and the Cash Nexus---I've only seen the c-span booknotes on Empire or Colossus (can't remember which).

I think Ferguson's views are extremely idiosyncratic and tend to get ventriloquized by certain kinds of conservatives who aren't very sophisticated as interpreters. With the books on empire, this op-ed, etc., I think he's saying, in a kind of Scottish deadpan, look, here are the conditions for empire-building, and here are the consequences. On the latter score, he's saying that we need to revise our perceptions of what the British empire did, and I think he's partly right. On the former, he's essentially warning Americans not to assume that empire can be had on the cheap, that you can have a cafeteria-imperialism where you only pick the things you like (excluding, obviously, the word "empire,"), because the consequences for the world would be disastrous.

Essentially, I think he's trying to outline a historical problem that doesn't get enough attention, and such solutions as people think he offers are either just forced [changed from "forces," a typo--ed.] or (more commonly) assumed by interpreters who read their own biases into his work. The problem is: the British empire did a number of things, some right, some wrong, that only America is in a position to do today. But America isn't very good at them; on the other hand if America just chooses not to engage, then the consequences might be even worse than a botched imperialism. I don't entirely agree, but it's a much more nuanced position than "Take up the white man's burden."
To that I would add, read the Pity of War if you haven't yet, it is the best history of World War I written in English. (And as a further bonus, it's a way of antagonizing Paul Kennedy. FWIW, Ferguson was considered for a position at Yale after he decided to leave Oxford; there was some asinine official reason given for turning him down, I'd be shocked if the real reason wasn't Kennedy's enmity. Now he's (surprise!) at Harvard, and Yale misses out on having one the best lecturers in history as well as best historians of his generation.)

Rest Easy...

...as long as weapons can't hurt you, otherwise be afraid.

What you already knew:
Billions of U.S. arms sales to Afghanistan in the 1980s ended up empowering Islamic fundamentalist fighters across the globe.
What's news but not very surprising:
In 2003, the last year for which full information is available, the United States transferred weaponry to 18 of the 25 countries involved in active conflicts. From Angola, Chad and Ethiopia, to Colombia, Pakistan, Israel and the Philippines, transfers through the two largest U.S. arms sales programs (Foreign Military Sales and Commercial Sales) to these conflict nations totaled nearly $1 billion in 2003.

In 2003, more than half of the top 25 recipients of U.S. arms transfers in the developing world (13 of 25) were defined as undemocratic by the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report: in the sense that "citizens do not have the right to change their own government." These 13 nations received over $2.7 billion in U.S. arms transfers in 2003, with the top recipients including Saudi Arabia ($1.1 billion), Egypt ($1.0 billion), Kuwait ($153 million), the United Arab Emirates ($110 million) and Uzbekistan ($33 million).

When countries designated by the State Department’s Human Rights Report to have poor human rights records or serious patterns of abuse are factored in, 20 of the top 25 U.S. arms clients in the developing world in 2003 -- a full 80% -- were either undemocratic regimes or governments with records of major human rights abuses.
What's next: National Review to defend the policy, Instapundit to link (without commenting affirmatively or negatively) to someone who thinks that the World Policy Institute is "on the other side in this war."

(via Sploid.)

Breaking News

But I didn't know Kingspawn was back in New York.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Pyrrhic Victory For Science

The House just voted to overturn GWB's ban on federal funding of stem cell research. Problem:
The 238-to-194 vote in favor [is] far short of the 290 needed to override a presidential veto....
Double Problem: The president's position is, well,
more careful of [embryos] than is Nature and (for believers) Nature's God. Meanwhile actually existing human beings who perhaps might be spared disease, disability and early death by means of embryonic stem treatments can just go hang.

174 to 1

Those are the odds, according to Niall Ferguson, of the US campaign in Iraq succeeding. This might be the grimmest (and coincidentally the most plausible) assessment of the war I've read. Other highlights:
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has said that American forces should aim to work to a "10-30-30" timetable: 10 days should suffice to topple a rogue regime, 30 days to establish order in its wake, and 30 more days to prepare for the next military undertaking. I am all in favor of a 10-30-30 timetable - provided the measurement is years, not days. For it may well take around 10 years to establish order in Iraq, 30 more to establish the rule of law, and quite possibly another 30 to create a stable democracy.
...
The United States also faces two other problems that the United Kingdom did not 85 years ago. The British were able to be ruthless: they used air raids and punitive expeditions to inflict harsh collective punishments on villages that supported the insurgents. The United States has not been above brutal methods on occasion in Iraq, yet humiliation and torture of prisoners have not yielded any significant benefits compared with what it has cost the country's reputation. [N.B. I don't think Ferguson is calling for collective reprisals--ed.]

Monday, May 23, 2005

Getting In Touch With Deadwood

At the risk of inundating the site with yet another mantra for the same idea---and acknowledging that this is partly a ploy to get that girl blogging again, or at least having something other than "Are Blogs Dead?" as a month-old header---check out Matt Welch's Salon piece on Deadwood Democrats (you'll need a daypass), or at least skim what he takes to be the money quote:
Eleven years after the Gingrich revolution there is evidence galore that the two armies in the culture wars have simply switched sides after swapping the reins of power. The Republicans are now the party of big government and optimistic Wilsonian adventures abroad, while the Democrats flirt anew with federalism, fiscal sobriety and sour isolationism. Within this realignment, and the religious right's continued overreach in the Terri Schiavo case and others to follow, lies a golden Democratic opportunity for cultural re-branding. Yes, cocksuckers, it's time for liberals to get in touch with their inner "Deadwood." It's good politics, better philosophy and (most important of all?) damned fun.


UPDATE: It worked.

Guesstimate!

Read Slate's corrections page for this week (or just read the snippet I posted) and give me an over/under on how many itinerant e-mails they got over this:
In a May 18 "Culturebox," in discussing the new Star Wars movie, Adam Rogers incorrectly identified Padmé Amidala as planet Naboo's elected representative in the galactic Senate. Actually, she was appointed.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Rest Easy (Sort Of)...

...unless you're a man and your maternal grandfather was bald. Let me put this in context: From the moment I started voicing concerns about male pattern baldness---at what was probably a fairly precocious age, but in my defense, my father, his father, his brother, and my mother's brother (i.e. almost all the adult males of my immediate family) were bald---my mother reassured me that I'd be fine since her father had an impressive coiffure until the day he died. This was, you see, on the grounds that whether or not a man is bald is determined by the baldness/not-baldness of his maternal grandfather. I never found the explanation very satisfying---I assumed it was just an old wives' tale, and quite possibly of a Mitteleuropäische variety---and a couple decades of looking at my father's shiny head have only compounded my anxiety (btw, May 23 is his birthday, happy birthday dad!).

Turns out I needn't have worried quite so much: "science," that thing that's about explaining how things work so long as the Bible doesn't already do it for us, has long known that the androgen receptivity of a man's hair follicles is inherited from the x-chromosome, and therefore
Men always inherit the x chromosome from their mother. In many cases men therefore take after their grandfather on their mother's side rather than their father.
which I suppose means that the Annatevkan Wives' Council was wiser than anyone in the universe, except maybe the AWC, knew.

However, the news thingie here is this:
[T]his defect is not simply caused by one gene: "We have indications that other genes are involved which are independent of the parents' sex," Prof. Nöthen stresses. The hereditary defect can therefore sometimes also be passed on directly from father to son.
So, fuck. That's not reassuring at all.

(link via Sploid)

Not (not) about Delino Deshields

"Albums to Listen to While Reading Overwrought Pitchfork Reviews," by David Cross.

This Week In Hitchens, Or, Oy Vey

Let's be fair: this is impressive.

This is not.

Authorship

I don't see what's confusing Patrick Belton. This obviously is a real transcript from a recent episode of Jerry Springer:
Crowd: Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!

Jerry: Today's guests are here because they can't agree on fundamental principles of epistemology and ontology. I'd like to welcome Todd to the show.

Todd enters from backstage.

Jerry: Hello, Todd.

Todd: Hi, Jerry.

Jerry: (reading from card) So, Todd, you're here to tell your girlfriend something. What is it?

Todd: Well, Jerry, my girlfriend Ursula and I have been going out for three years now. We did everything together. We were really inseparable. But then she discovered post-Marxist political and literary theory, and it's been nothing but fighting ever since.

Jerry: Why is that?

Todd: You see, Jerry, I'm a traditional Cartesian rationalist. I believe that the individual self, the "I" or ego is the foundation of all metaphysics. She, on the other hand, believes that the contemporary self is a socially constructed, multi-faceted subjectivity reflecting the political and economic realities of late capitalist consumerist discourse.

Crowd: Ooooohhhh!

Todd: I know! I know! Is that infantile, or what?

Jerry: So what do you want to tell her today?

Todd: I want to tell her that unless she ditches the post-modernism, we're through. I just can't go on having a relationship with a woman who doesn't believe I exist.

Jerry: Well, you're going to get your chance. Here's Ursula!

Ursula storms onstage and charges up to Todd.

Ursula: Patriarchal colonizer!

She slaps him viciously. Todd leaps up, but the security guys pull them apart before things can go any further.

Ursula: Don't listen to him! Logic is a male hysteria! Rationality equals oppression and the silencing of marginalized voices!

Todd: The classical methodology of rational dialectic is our only road to truth! Don't try to deny it!

Ursula: You and your dialectic! That's how it's been through our whole relationship, Jerry. Mindless repetition of the post-Enlightenment meta-narrative. "You have to start with radical doubt, Ursula." "Post-structuralism is just classical sceptical thought re-cast in the language of semiotics, Ursula."

Crowd: Booo! Booo!

Jerry: Well, Ursula, come on. Don't you agree that the roots of contemporary neo-Leftism simply have to be sought in Enlightenment political philosophy?

Ursula: History is the discourse of powerful centrally located voices marginalizing and de-scribing the sub-altern!

Todd: See what I have to put up with? Do you know what it's like living with someone who sees sex as a metaphoric demonstration of the anti-feminist violence implicit in the discourse of the dominant power structure? It's terrible. She just lies there and thinks of Andrea Dworkin. That's why we never do it any more.

Crowd: Wooooo!

Ursula: You liar! Why don't you tell them how you haven't been able to get it up for the past three months because you couldn't decide if your penis truly had essential Being, or was simply a manifestation of Mind?

Todd: Wait a minute! Wait a minute!

Ursula: It's true!

Jerry: Well, I don't think we're going to solve this one right away. Our next guests are Louis and Tina. And Tina has a little confession to make!

Louis and Tina come onstage. Todd and Ursula continue bickering in the background.

Jerry: Tina, you are... (reads cards) ... an existentialist, is that right?

Tina: That's right, Jerry. And Louis is, too.

Jerry: And what did you want to tell Louis today?

Tina: Jerry, today I want to tell him...

Jerry: Talk to Louis. Talk to him.

Crowd hushes.

Tina: Louis... I've loved you for a long time...

Louis: I love you, too, Tina.

Tina: Louis, you know I agree with you that existence precedes essence, but... well, I just want to tell you I've been reading Nietzsche lately, and I don't think I can agree with your egalitarian politics any more.

Crowd: Wooooo! Woooooo!

Louis: (shocked and disbelieving) Tina, this is crazy. You know that Sartre clarified all this way back in the 40's.

Tina: But he didn't take into account Nietzsche's radical critique of democratic morality, Louis. I'm sorry. I can't ignore the contradiction any longer!

Louis: You got these ideas from Victor, didn't you? Didn't you?

Tina: Don't you bring up Victor! I only turned to him when I saw you were seeing that dominatrix! I needed a real man! An Uber-man!

Louis: (sobbing) I couldn't help it. It was my burden of freedom. It was too much!

Jerry: We've got someone here who might have something to add. Bring out... Victor!

Victor enters. He walks up to Louis and sticks a finger in his face.

Victor: Louis, you're a classic post-Christian intellectual. Weak to the core!

Louis: (through tears) You can kiss my Marxist ass, Reactionary Boy!

Victor: Herd animal!

Louis: Lackey!

Louis throws a chair at Victor; they lock horns and wrestle. The crowd goes wild. After a long struggle, the security guys pry them apart.

Jerry: Okay, okay. It's time for questions from the audience. Go ahead, sir.

Audience member: Okay, this is for Tina. Tina, I just wanna know how you can call yourself an existentialist, and still agree with Nietzsche's doctrine of the Ubermensch. Doesn't that imply a belief in intrinsic essences that is in direct contradiction with with the fundamental principles of existentialism?

Tina: No! No! It doesn't. We can be equal in potential, without being equal in eventual personal quality. It's a question of Becoming, not Being.

Audience member: That's just disguised essentialism! You're no existentialist!

Tina: I am so!

Audience member: You're no existentialist!

Tina: I am so an existentialist, bitch!

Ursula stands and interjects.

Ursula: What does it [bleep] matter? Existentialism is just a cover for late capitalist anti-feminism! Look at how Sartre treated Simone de Beauvoir!

Women in the crowd cheer and stomp.

Tina: [Bleep] you! Fat-ass Foucaultian ho!

Ursula: You only wish you were smart enough to understand Foucault, bitch!

Tina: You the bitch!

Ursula: No, you the bitch!

Tina: Whatever! Whatever!

Jerry: We'll be right back with a final thought! Stay with us!

Commercial break for debt-consolidation loans, ITT Technical Institute, and Psychic Alliance Hotline.

Jerry: Hi! Welcome back. I just want to thank all our guests for being here, and say that I hope you're able to work through your differences and find happiness, if indeed happiness can be extracted from the dismal miasma of warring primal hormonal impulses we call human relationship.

(turns to the camera)

Well, we all think philosophy is just fun and games. Semiotics, deconstruction, Lacanian post-Freudian psychoanalysis, it all seems like good, clean fun. But when the heart gets involved, all our painfully acquired metaphysical insights go right out the window, and we're reduced to battling it out like rutting chimpanzees. It's not pretty. If you're in a relationship, and differences over the fundamental principles of your respective subjectivities are making things difficult, maybe it's time to move on. Find someone new, someone who will accept you and the way your laughably limited human intelligence chooses to codify and rationalize the chaos of existence. After all, in the absence of a clear, unquestionable revelation from God, that's all we're all doing anyway. So remember: take care of yourselves - and each other.

Announcer: Be sure to tune in next time, when KKK strippers battle it out with transvestite omnisexual porn stars! Tomorrow on Springer!

SIPs

Others have commented on this before me, but Amazon's blossoming "Statistically Improbable Phrases" function is pretty damned cool. My favorite SIP from Ulysses, aside from "ute ute ute," has got to be "pensive bosom."

The Limits of Condescension

Matt Yglesias has about a half of a point to make about the latest awful John Tierney column (William Safire, baby, won't you please come home). I have a quarter of a point to make, which is: WTF is with the suggested further reading at the end of the column:
For further reading:

“The People’s Romance: Why People Love Government (As Much As They Do)” by Daniel Klein, Santa Clara University (working paper).

The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation by Matt Ridley (Penguin Books, 295 pp., 1998).

The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith.

The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith.
Isn't that sweet of Tierney? Recommending a couple g's of reading (the latest paperback of WoN, e.g., is a cool 1264 pp.), just in order to appreciate fully his asinine quasi-Randian anti-lesson about the virtues of selfishness drawn from the keen political document that is Episode III of Star Wars.

Read Wealth of Nations? For you, big Jawn, anything. I'll get right on it.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Torture

This NYT piece just has to be read.

And there's a follow-up. Jim Henley has a thought Glenn Reynolds might find edifying:
It’s as if the military too were subject to well-known laws that apply to bureaucracies like - the military! and needed external vigilance in the form of a free press to keep it accountable.

UPDATE: An Insta-reader e-mails, and Instapundit prints without criticism, this jaw-dropping suggestion:
Does [sic] the latest NYT articles on deaths-in-custody in Afghanistan smack of diversion to take the heat off Newsweek?
To be more accurate, Reynolds prints this without criticism of the e-mailer. He has plenty for the press, as he's "seen other examples of this phenomenon [presumably reporting on prisoners being tortured to death in order to divert attention from the Newsweek scandal] in quite a few outlets."

Friday, May 20, 2005

Just Plain Sad

Yecchhh.

The Nuclear Option For Godwin's Law

Rick Santorum, May 19, 2005:
What the Democrats are doing is "the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying, 'I'm in Paris. How dare you invade me. How dare you bomb my city? It's mine.' This is no more the rule of the senate than it was the rule of the senate before not to filibuster."

Blogrolled

If you'll take a look to your right, you'll notice that the place looks a bit different.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Just Insta-thinking

I wonder whom Matt Yglesias is imitating....

Summer In Cali

Well, I've been cleared to make this officially blog-known. The folks at Reason were---do I want to sound a note of outrageous arrogance or false modesty, how about both?---charitable enough to recognize real talent, and have given me a job as the Burton C. Gray Memorial Intern for 2005. Whew. Beginning around the second week of June, aside from the behind the scenes magazine work that nobody outside ever sees, I'll be writing for Reason online, doing small pieces in the print magazine (and bigger ones, time permitting), and contributing to the magazine's blog, Hit & Run.

Depending on how things shake out, this could lead to a big uptick in traffic for good ol' FW. And, if the Yale bloggers still exist---aside from the ever-expanding notDelino Deshields crew, who seem to think they'll do just fine without their own boardwalk, Dan Munz, who's already made it, and Josh Eidelson, whom I love from afar but might not have much to say to the Reasonoids---(Hello? Actual God? Actual Rod? Kingspawn, I knew Spielberg's Jewish too, what else? That girl? Are blogs dead?!!!?), then it could be the big blog-time for them too. Now, nothing's certain, but it can't be a bad thing that the potential audience for FW will expand by at least 5000x, maybe more---reason.com is pretty much the gold standard for the online edition of a political magazine. (Hey, same goes for honorary members of the Yaleosphere like Evan and Nostradamus.)

The other upshot of this is, if you're going to be in LA over the summer, let me know and we'll go smoke sometime or something.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Instapundit Watch

An Andrew Sullivan e-mailer ran the numbers on Glenn Reynolds' coverage of "the press's Abu Ghraib" versus the actual Abu Ghraib and here's what he found:
The Newsweek story was the subject of 22 of the 40 posts/updates, all of which expressed admonishment. In contrast, the sample of 40 posts from the Abu Ghraib weeks contained only 2 expressing admonishment of the abuse (and even there, it is qualified), while the 12 other posts/updates on the abuse scandal either: A) Attempted to minimize its moral and practical significance, or B) Tried to discredit the evidence as fake or exaggerated by anti-troop, liberal media bias.
A huge surprise, of course. Now, let us suppose that the torture of detainees could be directly linked to attacks on Americans and innocent Iraqis. Whom would Reynolds blame for provoking the attacks: A) the torturers and their enablers/immunizers in the administration; or B) the press for reporting the torture? Sort of answers itself, doesn't it, and belies Reynolds' risible claim to be a defender of freedom of the press. If I were unscrupulous enough to borrow a certain someone's rhetorical trope, I'd say that anybody who considers the botching of a story about what is in all likelihood a Gettier-truth anyway (and if not, has been exceeded in cruelty by documentable atrocities) a ranker offense than torture is on the other side in this war for liberal civilization.

Arithmetic On The Frontier

So Newsweek's misreporting (maybe) = Abu Ghraib? Not so fast. The Koran-flushing story is already old and has been reported by other news agencies.

Related: Matt Welch delivers a much-deserved smackdown to the Glenn Reynolds crowd here. I won't try to summarize (Indeed. Heh. Read the whole thing.) but this is the money quote:
Reynolds has written on this theme many many times before, usually asking leading questions like, "What happens if the public comes to regard the press as untrustworthy and un-American?" Well, the legal climate for speech may continue to contract (even as the practical climate expands), and each and every person who actively participates in the de-liberalization should be called very nasty names from a distance of 10 paces. And yes, I can see where journalists would have some soul-searching to do about their own unwitting contribution to the process (though my beef is more with their fair-weathered support of the First Amendment, their enthusiasm for McCain-Feingold, and their eagerness to expand police power). But if we're to ladle out blame for the pending First Amendment collapse on journalists who have a dispute with one source, let's save a drop or two for commentators who have encouraged their readers to believe the falsehood that professional reporters have been showing up to work all these years to carry out a specific agenda to undermine America.
To continue these thoughts somewhat: Glenn Reynolds simply has to be called out on his bullshit. If he thinks that there are traitors within the journalistic class, if he thinks the press on the other side, he needs to grow the balls to say so. His insipid "what if perception of the press comes to be...won't that be the press's own fault" rhetoric is a pristine alchemy of cowardice and mendacity.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Flogging A Terminally Ill Horse/Don't Be A Narc

The biggest impediment to the Matt Welch "Goldwater Democrats" project (which, let's be fair, some of us thought about independently) is that an entrenched segment of the Democratic base is simply opposed to anything like a libertarian politics. Cf. Dan Munz's attack on libertarianism at Ezra Klein's place. I think I understand the point he's trying to make---liberalism is about using government to help people, therefore anti-statism is bad for liberalism---but beyond disagreeing (which I obviously do), this argument seems to me to go to the heart of the Democrats' malaise. Even if liberal intellectuals find something of value in a slogan like "get government on my back," it's not the sort of thing that will ever be able to win over electoral majorities---and never has been. Americans didn't begin disliking government intrusion into their lives when Ronald Reagan declared government to be "the problem"; they began to do so when the British impressed them into service in the French and Indian Wars. Anti-statism is at the heart of our founding documents. It is a cultural current that runs deeper than the transient alignments and affiliations of our contermporary political scene; that fact is what's going to save us from the designs of the theo-totalitarian right, if anything does.

Libertarianism itself is a kind of centrist politics---i.e., in the center of a political axis spanning two ideal-type anarchisms, anarcho-syndicalism and anarcho-capitalism (if it's helpful to think of those as left and right, then by all means, but the analogy is inexact). As such, sensible libertarians recognize that the axioms of their ideology leave room for moderation and compromise; affirming the legitimacy of the state itself is a compromise position. Even so, libertarianism exhausts a set of principles that are analytic components of any politics deigning to call itself "liberal." The anti-libertarian arguments of Dan Munz and others are premised on re-legitimizing the potential good uses of government power; as I've said before, I think a suitably conceived left-libertarianism could accomodate certain specifically defined uses of such power. Yet the anti-libertarian position runs up against a damning flaw: Strip liberalism of all libertarian principles---and that would be entailed by arguing, preposterously, that liberalism is non-ideological---and liberalism simply has no answer for the abuse of state power. Or put it another way: if it could be shown that an intrusion on personal freedom could be justified by utility-calculation, anti-libertarian liberalism could not voice a principled objection. Many liberals would do so, but that only goes to show that liberals really do maintain some libertarian principles.

The point of the foregoing is to allow me to make this point: Civil and economic libertariansm, far from being distinct and independent, are close conceptual relatives and at least partly entailed by one another. For the sake of argument, let's assume that a government program could be shown to improve the lives of a great many people without harming anyone at all; there is still a trade-off here. Empowering the government to act in the private lives of citizens, no matter what the end, establishes a precedent for future interventions. There cannot be an expansion of government power without a price at the very least in potential loss of personal freedom. Hopefully liberals can understand that, and further appreciate that by acknowledging such a trade-off, they are not committed to free-market anarchism.

Pace Dan (and Howard Dean), "we" are not the government. There are far too many of "us." In an ideal world, our government would be perfectly representative of us; since this world is not ideal, our government varies in its proximity to perfect representation, never achieving it. As a consequence, government authority as a thing in itself has to be treated with skepticism. It should be resisted whenever it acts against our best interests, and treated with terrific wariness when it acts in what it perceives to be our best interests. Hence the indispensibility of libertarianism. It is not, as Dan puts it, "basically an ideological aversion to using government to help people." It is an ideological opposition to any infringements on individual liberty; in practice it is an opposition to such infringements on the part of the state, because the state is quite well-positioned to commit such infringements. I wish that libertarians were more willing to acknowledge the ways in which concentrated blocks of capital can act as restrictions of individual freedom; nevertheless, any principled opposition to the use of government to hurt people will be an essentially libertarian critique. Any liberals who don't think that government can hurt people are, despite their distaste for this administration, simply unconscious to the realities of Bush Republicanism.

MSM 0, Blogosphere -1

I'd like to second this Andrew Sullivan post on the revelation that a Newsweek snippet alleging that a Koran had been flushed down a toilet was bogus. To state the obvious: Newsweek (presumably) fucked up pretty big time, and this is particularly distressing considering that it was Mike Isikoff, whom I've regarded as an exceptionally good reporter for some time, who did the fucking up. On the other hand:
[A]fter U.S. interrogators have tortured over two dozen detainees to death, after they have wrapped one in an Israeli flag, after they have smeared naked detainees with fake menstrual blood, after they have told one detainee to "Fuck Allah," after they have ordered detainees to pray to Allah in order to kick them from behind in the head, is it completely beyond credibility that they would also have desecrated the Koran?
And more importantly, given the scale of atrocity committed under U.S. auspices, desecrating a copy of the Koran seems like a relatively small deal. The fact that Newsweek completely and maybe unforgivably botched a story about it (though if you live in Glennreynoldsland, perhaps they did so intentionally in order to provoke violence---but more on that in a moment) just does not compare to the actual crucifixion of detainees (who may or may not have been guilty of terrorism) on the part of American military personnel.

It's probably not worth the time to compile a survey of bloggers who were more outraged about the outrage over torture but are just plain outraged about Newsweek's assault on freedom---and there are better sites for that sort of thing anyway---but I would like to point out that, as usual, Glenn Reynolds is the pioneer, nay, the new paradigm, nay, the apotheosis of public bed-shitting. It's not just that his proffered commentary on the matter is (mostly) a pastiche of other people's sneers. The real problem is that, as seems to be the case with the very choicest selections of Insta-critical thought, Reynolds indulges in an absolutely vicious variety of slander---functional allegations of treason---while maintaining the distance necessary to preserve his preposterous reputation as a calm moderate, by constantly attributing the smears of his own feverish flatteries of power to unnamed others. How else to interpret Braveheart's words of caution:
As I've warned before, if Americans conclude that the press is, basically, on the side of the enemy, the consequences are likely to be dire.
Let the press ignore the warnings of this fearless Cassandra at its own peril. The dire consequences it will suffer for doing so are certainly not Reynolds' fault; he has been, after all, little more than a mere observer, though his bias in favor of the media is given away by his unrestrainable impulse to look out for their safety, best interests, and well-being.

One concluding thought: There are many contenders, but this might just be the single most atrocious comment ever printed on instapundit.com:
AUSTIN BAY writes that the Newsweek Koran-flushing debacle may turn out to be the press's Abu Ghraib. It's a must-read post with lots of links and background.
Well obviously AUSTIN BAY can't be talking out of his ass if he's got lots of links and background, can he? Don't be concerned that Bay, as Andrew Sullivan points out, "still insists that Abu Ghraib did not constitute 'deadly torture.'" C'mon, he's got links. Links!

Stripping the above citation from Reynolds of its cowardly use of somebody else as a human shield, we find Reynolds toying with the equation of Abu Ghraib and the "Newsweek Koran-flushing debacle." Now I do understand that the analogy isn't meant to be perfectly precise---after all, Newsweek staffers were the ones who gave the orders for people to be murdered as a result of their erroneous reporting, whereas Islamist terrorists were directly responsible for stretching the US's operative definition of torture beyond comprehensibility, loosening restrictions on permissible conduct by interrogators, immunizing all but the most pathetic grunts against prosection for torture, and then carrying out the tortures themselves. But to the extent that the analogy does hold, we can surely expect this much: Reynolds should spend much of his blog-time and blog-energy until the next election apologizing for and explaining away Newsweek's behavior.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Programming Choices

My local version of the History Channel, 5/14/05:

4:00 pm to 8:00 pm EST
---Wyatt Earp, starring Kevin Costner

8:00 pm to 12:00 am EST:
---Dances with Wolves, starring Kevin Costner

12:00 am to 4:00 am EST:
---Dances with Wolves, starring Kevin Costner

We were innocent and carefree, weren't we, in the 90s that seemed like they'd never end, when Kevin Costner had enough pull to get studios to sign off on 4 hour long ego-trips.

But seriously, what gives? Considering the nightlife options in Bergen County, NJ, what am I supposed to do without the History Channel's unending feed of biographical minutiae about Hitler?

Speaking of whom, was he really all that bad? (Patrick Buchanan sets the record straight?)

Friday, May 13, 2005

Thought For The Day

I went to a restaurant and I ordered a chicken sandwich, but I don't think the waitress heard me 'cause she asked how I'd like my eggs. So I tried answering her anyways. "INCUBATED! Then hatched, then raised, then beheaded, then plucked, then cut up, then put onto a grill, then put onto a bun. Damn, it's gonna take a while. I don't have the time. Scrambled!"
---Mitch Hedburg, who continues to be missed

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Back To Adderall

Joshua Foer took some of God's favorite drug for the purest reasons---so that he could write about the experience in Slate, and here's what he found:
The results were miraculous. On a recent Tuesday, after whipping my brother in two out of three games of pingpong—a triumph that has occurred exactly once before in the history of our rivalry—I proceeded to best my previous high score by almost 10 percent in the online anagrams game that has been my recent procrastination tool of choice. Then I sat down and read 175 pages of Stephen Jay Gould's impenetrably dense book The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. It was like I'd been bitten by a radioactive spider.
As for the feeling you get while on the divine juice, Foer discovered that you first get euphoric, then focused, then depressed, then exhausted (except you can't sleep)---all these reactions are, I know, huge surprises to the denizens of this patch of blog space.

It occurs to me as I write this post that I can't remember the last major academic assignment I did without taking any adderall. That seminar paper I blog-kvetched about last week: 70 mg in 2 days = 31 gorgeous pages.

Back To Guernica

I have an alternative reading: Maybe Guernica resembles Abu Ghraib in that both were locations at which the pretenses of the West to a uniquely civilized society were shown to be, if not entirely false, then partly so. That, I would suggest, might be more useful than an exercise in casuistic analysis of historical metaphors that were never meant to hold literally (otherwise they would not be metaphors).

On the other hand, it does take some balls for someone who insists on a precise equation of Islamic fundamentalism and fascism to criticize others for seeking edification through historical analogy. Come see what I mean.

Greatest Hit

The best piece ever printed in National Review---for reals.

Bolton Family Photo

John Bolton might just be into the kink; you had to know that the mustache was concealing something, right?

Now then, pace Amanda, these sorts of assaults on the private lives of individuals, even of mustachioed assholes like Bolton, are indefensible. And furthermore, pace Amanda, this effort doesn't even get a plausible fig-leaf of "hypocrite exposure." Whatever shitty things Bolton has done in his public career, preaching moralism---or anything else that could lead to the construal of visiting a sex club as an act of hypocrisy---was not one of them. Not to be overly pedantic, the family of dispositions to which being into group or public sex belongs and the family of dispositions to which being a professional toady/foreign policy unilateralist belongs exist quite independently of one another.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Once More From The Top

Okay I lied. One last item of business. I need to give a multilingual fuck you to the Defenderess of Virtue in Connecticut Hall who pronounced to the actual Rod and me, "If you guys are going to talk so loud [sic], at least try not to be offensive." As the actual Mahbod would say, Che kos-e bozorg.

To the vaguely Semitic valkyrie sitting diagonally across from me at the moment of posting: Fick dich und dein ganz verschissenes Leben.

UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that someone wandering here from elsewhere in this crazy blogosphere might get the wrong impression about that last comment. So to clarify: I myself am one of the children of Israel, and "vaguely Semitic" is one of the highest forms of praise I know, second only, in fact, to "unambiguously Semitic." "Valkyrie" was the key word. There is no lower form of human life than the sort that can't wait to get courageously offended.

Goodbye Then

I'm still technically here for a bit: cleaning up and handing in a couple of papers, sleeping off the adderall from the last two nights, and mostly arranging the junk-heap in my room into something potentially packable. But this will be my last post from New Haven during junior year. And what a year it was. It had its ups: the election victory of George W. Bush and the troops, the ascension of His Holiness Pope Panzergruppenfuehrer; and its downs: Terri Schiavo dying before I could declare my love for her (Terri, do you hear me? Terri, Terri, Terri! Sleep well, darling angel martyr of Christ), the Deeeehhhhmocrat party waging a war against people of faith. But as always for me, the personal supercedes the global. So the world can go to hell for all I care (and seems to be headed that way anyhow), just as long as a handful of people, who can probably figure out that it is to them I refer, can stay with me a little while longer. Because in the end, you know, after the terrorists bomb Yale, quite literally the only thing left for us will be our memories.

Thought for the day:
All that separates us now from the horrifying wilderness of Not-school is twelve measly months.

Thought for the week:
I will never, NEVER procrastinate like this again.

Thought for the month:
"A-respects globally supervene on B-respects = df all worlds that are B-twins are A-twins...The intuitive idea of global property-supervenience [of A on B] is that there could be no difference in the worldwide pattern of distribution of A-properties without a difference in the worldwide pattern of distribution of B-properties." ---Brian McLaughlin, "Varieties of Supervenience" (1995).

Thought for the year:
"There was once a boy named Milo who didn't know what to do with himself---not just sometimes, but always. When he was in school he longed to be out, and when he was out he longed to be in. On the way he thought about coming home, and coming home he thought about going. Wherever he was he wished he were somewhere else, and when he got there he wondered why he'd bothered. Nothing really interested him---least of all the things that should have."
---If you need to ask what that's excerpted from, don't bother.

Past The Horizon In A Low Gear

I'm nearing the end of the last paper I'll have to write in New Haven during my junior year. (I've got one more to hand in on the 20th, but that'll be from the comforts of the Xanadu-on-the-Hackensack-River that is Teaneck, NJ). Which means that, before too long, and probably this week, blogging will recommence in a manner befitting the Boardwalk of the Yale blogosphere (along with news that's great for me and indirectly very good for the community of Yale bloggers).

Many thanks to Jeremy for providing the only thing approaching original substance lo these trying days of making up for a semester's worth of academic sloth. (Of pertinence to his last post, Brad Delong had a fairly violent reaction to that Grass column; violent as in he called Grass "crypto-Nazi scum." Henry Farrell defends Grass in this post.)

Sidenote: Like Evan I sympathize with Kinky's efforts to keep Austin, Texas a free city. This anti-smoking ban really exploded the myth of Austin I'd been preserving (and which my brother Jonas, a resident, has related to me) of an oasis of anti-P.C. libertarian liberalism like maybe nothing else in America except the Manhattan that Rudy Guliani and Mike Bloomberg destroyed. (Why I could never be mayor of New York, reason #425: a pledge not just to legalize prostitution, but to erect a monument to it in Times Square would be a necessary condition of my agreeing to run.)

Speaking of Evan, we've had blog-to-blog intercourse long enough that I think I know him and know I like him more than most people I meet in the flesh, and he'll be a forthcoming addition to the blogroll in sore need of updating.

Um, one further note as this blog transitions towards its first birthday. This has to be cleared up: This is not an anonymously written website. My name is Daniel Koffler, I'm a junior at Yale, I live in McClellan Hall (for another day anyway). When FW first kicked off, I decided to use a pseudonym in order to better enable myself to developing a blog-persona. There was never a point during which my identity was a secret and it didn't take very long at all for me to post explicit ID. I do, however intend to continue writing under the name Finnegan, because it's proven serviceable, and accept any confusion that results. For the record, (I don't think this gives anything away), the real name of our very own "Jeremy" is Jeremy.

There---back to seminar-paper writing.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

I Hate Liberals

Check out the comments on Amanda Marcotte's post on the passage of a referendum against smoking in bars in Austin. Look at the "liberals" squealing with glee. Fuck all of you.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Last Remaining Ideology

As John Tierney, the latest NYT hack, tries his hand at being as arrogant, selfish, and ignorant as possible, Gunter Grass, Noble-Prize winning German novelist, writes an Op-Ed, in preparation for May 8, the day of German-Nazi surrender. It's a labyrinthine article, about current German political economic situation, displaying a prose-style unintelligible when compared with your usual mind-deadening op-ed fare. Grass's final, heart-felt point: hyper-capitalism = the new totalitarianism. Paragraphs of interest:
All this [rising inequality] is now accepted as if divinely ordained, accompanied at most by the customary national grumbles. Worse, those who point to this state of affairs and to the people forced into social oblivion are at best ridiculed by slick young journalists as "social romantics," but usually vilified as "do-gooders." Questions about the reasons for the growing gap between rich and poor are dismissed as "the politics of envy." The desire for justice is ridiculed as utopian. The concept of "solidarity" is relegated to the dictionary's list of foreign words.

And:
We can only hope we will be able to cope with today's risk of a new totalitarianism, backed as it is by the world's last remaining ideology. As conscious democrats, we should freely resist the power of capital, which sees mankind as nothing more than something which consumes and produces. Those who treat their donated freedom as a stock market profit have failed to understand what May 8 teaches us every year.


Grass is correct. In America, with the presence of religious mysticism as the new politics, and a total repudiation of what the fascist right calls, ironically, "social engineering," the only remaining belief system that is propped up, by all media, right and "left," as "empirically" motivated, and eschatologically optimal, is the system of capital. I think the long-heard claims that capitalism and communism differed because capitalism was only an economic system whereas communism made demands on the social and cultural fabric have been shown to be made out of sly cunning or hopeless naivete. As capital continues its brutal murder of culture here in America, and severely limits our political options to quasi-secular globalists or evangelical robber barons, we should rethink our economic mythology.

Instapundit Watch

With this sort of crack(pot) coverage, who needs the MSM?
Meryl Yourish emails to note that George Galloway lost to war-supporter Oona King. I wouldn't make too much of this, but you can bet that had these elections gone the other way, people would be making a lot of that.
E-mails from Meryl Yourish or actual reporting: it's hard to tell what's more credible in this age of partisanship masquerading as journalism.

[For the record, Galloway won--ed.]

Friday, May 06, 2005

Thought For The Night

They wondered why the fruit had been forbidden;
It taught them nothing new. They hid their pride,
But did not listen much when they were chidden;
They knew exactly what to do outside.

They left: immediately the memory faded
Of all they'd learnt; they could not understand
The dogs now who, before, had always aided;
The stream was dumb with whom they'd always planned.

They wept and quarrelled: freedom was so wild.
In front, maturity, as he ascended,
Retired like a horizon from the child;

The dangers and the punishments grew greater;
And the way back by angels was defended
Against the poet and the legislator.

---from "In Time of War," W.H. Auden

The 'Lection

Labour wins, but with a much smaller majority (~65). As for Blair himself---well it's unclear whether or not he can maintain the support of his own party. It appears that many of Labour's losses were Blairite/New Labour MPs; George Galloway beating the official Labour candidate doesn't bode well for Blair at all. The Guardian's day-after leader explains more.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Cross-Pond Exit Polls

If these are to be believed (and remember what happened last time), Labour wins but with a ~100-seat smaller majority.

Long Live Wordperfect

Randy Barnett expresses my thoughts almost exactly---except that I find it unnecessary even to own Word because Wordperfect can handle cross-format issues with grace and aplomb.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Culture Of Life News

All sorts of news. Mostly, expect rates of incidence and death from cervical cancer to increase if the religious right gets its way.

4:34 AM

Back in February, Wales won the Six Nations championship, which is one of the two most prestigious annual rugby tournaments in the world (the other is the Tri-Nations, played in the southern hemisphere).

As the title of this post might indicate, I don't really care that this story is a few months old. Here goes: A Wales supporter, on the eve of the decisive Wales vs. England match, told his friends: "If Wales win I'll cut my own balls off."

Then, Wales prevailed:
After the 11-9 victory in the Six Nations clash, the man is reported to have gone outside and severed his testicles before bringing them back into the club to show fellow drinkers.
My point in bringing this up? Not sure, really, except that there are a lot of folks around here who call themselves Red Sox fans.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Thought For The Day

"There is no heresy or no philosophy which is so abhorrent to the church as a human being."---James Joyce, quoted in a very nice (if two-week old)Salman Rushdie column for the Telegraph of Calcutta, here.

Laff Riot

I didn't manage to see the White House Correspondents' Dinner live, but I did catch some of the excerpts on the Daily Show. Who knew Laura Bush was into blue material? I promise this really happened, the punchline of one of her jokes was that W. once jerked off a horse.

Still, stay resolute or gays will recruit your children.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Nooz U Can Yooz

Did anyone else notice that the three cable news stations spent the morning covering some stupid story about a runaway bride? Is it really un-American to ask why that sort of attention doesn't get devoted to issues like this?

Doldrumming

Despite the lack of new FW material, I've managed to accomplish very little during reading week. I think I finally figured out what the subject of the first of my two seminar papers will be, but I haven't researched it yet much less started writing. (Okay here goes: I want to investigate the relationship between the two most widespread applications of supervenience theory in the literature, i.e. supervenience of the ethical on the non-ethical and supervenience of the psychological on the physical.)

On the bright side, I found out today that one of my papers is supposed to be five pages shorter than I thought was required; so it feels almost like I already knocked out five pages.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

May Day

And what government did you overthrow?

Vitals
  • E-mail me: Dan Koffler
  • My YDN Column: Smashing Idols
  • The Reasonsphere
  • Hit & Run
  • Matt Welch
  • Julian Sanchez
  • Jesse Walker
  • Virginia Postrel
  • Tim Cavanaugh
  • Ringers
  • Andrew Sullivan
  • Josh Marshall
  • Crooked Timber
  • Matthew Yglesias
  • Kevin Drum
  • John Cole
  • Leiter Reports
  • Pharyngula
  • Gregory Djerjian
  • Atrios
  • Mickey Kaus
  • Jim Henley
  • Radley Balko
  • TNR's Plank
  • Balkinization
  • Glenn Greenwald
  • Thomas Knapp
  • Justin Logan
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