clap clap blog: we have moved
Friday, May 09, 2003
Paul Krugman points out that the only reason the administration's tax cut is now $550bil instead of $726bil is because some of the cuts have a sunset clause--so they'll only last for ten years. Unless, of course, some future administration just happens to extend them. The cuts are otherwise just the same, or worse, as in the old proposal.
posted by Mike B. at 5:59 PM 0 comments
go to the zoo and watch the monkeys doin' it
What happens when you put a bunch of monkeys in a room with a word processor? Well...
At first, said Phillips, "the lead male got a stone and started bashing the hell out of it.
"Another thing they were interested in was in defecating and urinating all over the keyboard," added Phillips.
Read their output and compare it to the typing of other monkeys.
posted by Mike B. at 3:23 PM 0 comments
The senate has rejected a proposal to eliminate the subset clauses in PATRIOT & friends, meaning that the additional methods granted law enforcement will now expire in a few years. However, it did pass a "lone wolf" measure "expanding the government's ability to use secret surveillance tools against terrorist suspects who are not thought to be members of known terrorist groups." No one's explained to me yet why this is necessary seeing as how a "lone wolf" terrorist would just be a guy plotting a crime, which we already have adequate measures to deal with, right? Any thoughts?
"The Democrats weren't going to give us a vote on the thing unless there were no Hatch amendments, period," said a Republican Senate aide who demanded anonymity. "A lot of the Democrats hated the Patriot Act even though they voted for it, and they certainly didn't want to see it made permanent. It's an ongoing, simmering debate."
Well, good. Thanks, guys, for like representing me and stuff.
posted by Mike B. at 11:36 AM 0 comments
Allow me to indulge in a bit of nerdish linking: the Howling Fantods publishes a long comparison of the first and final drafts of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, one of my current (and, I suspect, long-term) obsessions. Go read, if you're interested--it's quite good. It's also clearly going to take up far too much of my time today.
posted by Mike B. at 11:33 AM 0 comments
Thursday, May 08, 2003
The Fox channel said that Bush was a flyer in the National Guard and the only uniform Byrd wore was a sheet.
Mom reports that someone has nominated Bush and Blair for the Nobel Peace Prize. They really like to fucking push it, don't they? "Ronald Reagan National Airport"...
posted by Mike B. at 4:52 PM 0 comments
Sen. Robert Byrd criticizes the President's speech for reasons of both "the content and the context":
As I watched the President's fighter jet swoop down onto the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, I could not help but contrast the reported simple dignity of President Lincoln at Gettysburg with the flamboyant showmanship of President Bush aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.
President Bush's address to the American people announcing combat victory in Iraq deserved to be marked with solemnity, not extravagance; with gratitude to God, not self-congratulatory gestures. American blood has been shed on foreign soil in defense of the President's policies. This is not some made-for-TV backdrop for a campaign commercial. This is real life, and real lives have been lost. To me, it is an affront to the Americans killed or injured in Iraq for the President to exploit the trappings of war for the momentary spectacle of a speech. I do not begrudge his salute to America's warriors aboard the carrier Lincoln, for they have performed bravely and skillfully, as have their countrymen still in Iraq, but I do question the motives of a deskbound President who assumes the garb of a warrior for the purposes of a speech.
Right on. Go read this. I get madder and madder about Bush's carrier speech every time I think about it.
posted by Mike B. at 1:57 PM 0 comments
William Kristol says 3000 people were murdered on 9/11 because America supported the Israeli peace process instead of spending its time more productively killing Arabs.
You know, I hate it when these liberals desecrate the memory of the dead for political gain by blaming America for an unprovoked terrorist attack visited on it by religious fanatics.
What's that? William Kristol is the most influential neo-conservative writer in America? Oh. Well, at least he waited a while before bringing it up. Not like those stupid liberals, trying to make sense of the tragedy immediately afterwards...traitors...
Richard Cohen replies (thanks Atrios) that both left and right unfairly blame America for 9/11, which I think is reaching, but he does extend the point to say that rightists can have America (the government and the economic system) just as much as leftists can, which is why they're so in favor of deregulation, cutting taxes, eliminating government agencies, ending welfare, etc.
(Note to William: "the barely-responded-to bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983" was actually responded to by attacking Grenada, which, yes, doesn't make any sense, but talk to Reagan about that one. I'm sure any explanation he will give now will be just as coherant as the ones he gave back then.)
posted by Mike B. at 1:46 PM 0 comments
Wednesday, May 07, 2003
So apparently Bush's budget director, Mitch Daniels, who resigned to run for governor may alternately have left because he's being subpoenaed for fraud.
Yeah, I know--a Republican accused of business fraud, what else is new...
posted by Mike B. at 5:11 PM 0 comments
Oh, this is rich: an article about conservative student newspaper on college campuses being, er, "helped along" by conservative organizations.
Enjoy some choice tidbits.
In an eight-hour session that bore little resemblance to a traditional journalism class, the students were taught how to start their own conservative newspapers and opinion journals. And how to pick fights with lefty bogeymen on the faculty and in student government.
By the end of the day, the student journalists were fired up for battle -- determined not only to change the tenor of notoriously liberal campus dialogues, but also, in the long run, to alter the basic makeup of the nation's professional news outlets.
"What do you want professors to feel when you call them up?" asked Owen Rounds, a former speechwriter for Rudolph Giuliani.
"Threatened," replied Duncan Wilson, a tousle-haired 19-year-old from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.
I'd go for "amused," myself. Most of my professors seemed fairly concerned with tolerating different viewpoints, so presumably they wouldn't feel "threatened" unless they felt you were going to misrepresent them in some way, yes? And is that how you really want to change the press? (And how would that be a change again?)
The Free Press, whose front page features the slogan "We Do Not Apologize," is among the newest members of the fraternity, having begun this year. But its bite-the-ankles approach is typical of the breed. The Free Press prints embarrassing e-mails from faculty members and taunts the administration with surveys showing that most professors are Democrats.
"A lot of my professors don't try to hide the fact they are outright Marxists," said Nicholas Romero, 20, the feisty editor of the Free Press.
Yes--funny, that. Some of my professors didn't try to hide the fact that they're outright pants-wearers, either.
Romero, whose father is a doctor, became a convert to the conservative cause when the school asked him if he wanted to live in one of the "minority-interest" floors that concentrate minority students in parts of some residence halls. He said he was appalled at what he viewed as an implication that, as a Latino, he didn't "have the social skills" to interact with other ethnic or racial groups.
Jeez, that sounds like the kind of thing a liberal would take offense at. Weird.
Computers and publishing software are so sophisticated that, in days, a lone student can become a subversive Citizen Kane, spreading a message to hundreds and, often, thousands of readers.
See below for what I think about being "subversive."
Another difference: The conservative political organizations that train the right-wing editors are better organized than ever. The Leadership Institute, which sponsored the North Carolina seminar, is one of three organizations that train and fund conservative journalists. Founded by Morton Blackwell, a former Reagan White House operative, the institute offers to pay the costs of printing first issues.
Help me out here--I assume the counter to the charge that maybe you're not so marginalized when a national group pays for your first issue (and trains you to bait liberals, which shouldn't take too long) would be that liberal "official" campus newspapers (the Oberlin campus newspaper being about as liberal as the New York Times--which is to say sort of, but not really) get all sorts of school money and so they're just evening out the scales. Of course, as far as I can tell, most colleges are happy to fund an organization that wants to put out its own publication, and most student newspapers are open to whoever wants to write there (you should see some of the shit I got away with in the Oberlin Review over the years) so it's unclear why they would feel marginalized. I guess the thing is that if you're on an official student publication or organization you can't be too offensive or your funding will be yanked. And, er, I assume there's a presumed political bias there, right? Riiight.
The organizations boast that their graduates have gone on to some of the most prestigious media outlets in the nation, including Esquire magazine, CNN, Time and Newsweek, as well as major metropolitan papers. Some see such "seeding" of the news media with conservatives as a welcome check on the liberalism of mainstream papers.
Yes--funny that, how conservatives have gone on to work for the mainstream media. I'm sure this is just a recent phenomenon.
"I think it's great if more young conservatives are going into journalism," said Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post's media critic. Noting that journalism has traditionally attracted liberal students "who want to change the world," he said, "we can definitely use people who have different political and cultural points of view."
Hahahahahahahaha. Oh man. Yeah, definitely don't want people who want to change the world in there. Those people suck. Wow.
David Brock, the onetime conservative author who has become a born-again Democrat, said campus conflicts are "phony wars instigated by conservatives. They introduce division and polarity where none exist."
Duncan Wilson, the UNC Charlotte student, complained that college Republicans got less than $500 in student fees this year. The campus gay club got $2,241, which was used partly to put on a show featuring drag queens, he said.
*cough* Well, that might have something to do with the fact that the gay organization wasn't formed for the specific purpose of pissing off other students, right?
Wilson, who started college at 16, was particularly incensed at his "Marxist" sociology professor. Would it be all right, he asked, to label the man "Public Enemy No. 1?"
That was probably going too far, seminar teachers warned.
Good call there, guys.
UPDATE: an astute poster on Atrios' blog points out the following:
"Today's publications share some characteristics with the conservative tracts that sprang up in the 1980s. The staffs remain all-volunteer and money is always short. The Free Press survives on private donations to pay the $1,400 it costs each month to print its run of 6,000 copies."
Translation: They can't survive in a free market. The irony is just too rich.
posted by Mike B. at 5:01 PM 0 comments
Two quick links:
White House Clarifies Bush's Carrier Landing
The White House said today that President Bush traveled to the carrier Abraham Lincoln last week on a small plane because he wanted to experience a landing the way carrier pilots do, not because the ship would be too far out to sea for Mr. Bush to arrive by helicopter, as his spokesman had originally maintained.
Allowing Those Who Fight for Their Country to Be a Part of It
Diego Rincon decided to fight for this country after the World Trade Center was struck by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001. He was a poor 18-year-old immigrant from Colombia, the son of a carpet cleaner.
He was not a citizen; he only had a green card. But he joined the Army in his hometown, Conyers, Ga., five months after the attack.
"He knew he had to do something," Jorge Rincon, his father, said in an interview. "His heart told him what to do."
On March 29, Mr. Rincon was killed in a suicide bombing attack while on duty in Iraq. He was among 10 immigrant soldiers killed during the war in Iraq, and their deaths have touched off a flurry of efforts in Congress to create laws to speed up the naturalization process for noncitizens serving in the United States military.
posted by Mike B. at 4:05 PM 0 comments
Josh Marshall points us to a quite good column he wrote about Republican efforts to hurt Dachle in his home state of South Dakota, which are so bad they'd be hilarious if you didn't get the nagging suspicion that they might work. An excerpt about their efforts to defeat the junior Senator from South Dakota last year:
Last year, most Daschle-bashers focused on ousting his protégé, Sen. Tim Johnson. Then-Rep. John Thune’s campaign tried to do it with cooked-up charges of “massive voter fraud” on the state’s Indian reservations, a “scandal” that eventually collapsed under the weight of its own insubstantiality.
The real shenanigans came after Election Day, when a group of Thune lawyers mounted its own voter-fraud “investigation” by assembling some 50 affidavits detailing all manner of alleged irregularities and illegalities. The state’s Republican attorney general decided that only three of the 50 affidavits alleged anything illegal. And the Argus Leader’s David Kranz, the dean of South Dakota political reporters, found that even those three had some rather fishy origins.
Republican lawyers had “pre-worded” a stack of affidavits alleging a very specific vote-buying incident. They gave them to Kim Vanneman, a GOP county party chairwoman, who then traveled through the Rosebud Indian reservation, more or less seeing if anyone might be willing to sign one. Of those three affidavits, the attorney general found that one was made up, another was forged and the signer of a third couldn’t be located.
Which reminds me: it has been pointed out that the widely-reported ads attacking Maine Republican Senator Olympia J. Snowe for opposing the tax cut by comparing her to the hated French (both blocked justice!) might not be so effective in a state where many of the voters are French-Canadian. Whoops.
posted by Mike B. at 3:51 PM 0 comments
[The Clintons] remain reviled figures in some quarters. But they are admired, especially by Democrats, as architects of what, increasingly, look like the "good old days" of the American economy. Indeed, if the Democrats are going to beat Bush, they'll have to brag about Clinton's economic record. That, in turn, means bringing the man himself--in all his controversial dimensions--back onto the stage in 2004.
The Clinton Nostalgia Tour begins next month, with the mega-hyped [!] arrival of Hillary's "Living History"...Her husband, meanwhile, is far along on his own book, now scheduled to be published in the fall of 2004--smack in the middle of the general election campaign.
Oooh. OOOOOH. That's gonna be good.
Also notable is the front cover, whose headline reads: "She Works, He Doesn't: The Latest Twist in Jobs & Family; Why 30% of Working Women Earn More Than Their Husbands." Well, shit, guys, I would think that the problem would be that that number's not closer to 50%, wouldn't you say? The article on this subject (which I've mercifully avoided reading) also features one of the most meaningless statistics of all time in a pull-quote: "54% of Americans know a couple where the woman is clearly the major wage earner and the man's career is secondary, according to the Newsweek Poll." Wow--a majority know someone like that? Couldn't you have told us for how many couples that actually is the case? Or would that have been too "scientific"?
posted by Mike B. at 3:13 PM 0 comments
before they put you on the torture table
Just had a bit of a Greil Marcus flash: in a great and kind of moving article in Salon about the first theatrical production in post-war Baghdad, one of the actors, asked to interpret a part of the play, is quoted as follows:
"The moon is the symbol of death and the Dictator was trying his best to seize the symbol for himself. But he could not succeed. He could only succeed in leaving his fingerprints on our memory."
Now, the question has to be asked: is this a deliberate Elvis Costello reference or just a coincidence? From "Green Shirt" (Armed Forces, 1979):
Never said I was a stool pigeon, I never said I was a diplomat
Everybody is under suspicion but you don't want to hear about that.
[...]Better send the begging letter to the big investigation
Who put these fingerprints on my imagination?
It's not as far-fetched as it might otherwise be, since the actor had previously said he was a Nirvana fan. But it's almost too perfect to come up in regular conversation: the song, which starts off as a critique of TV news, turns into a portrayal of a 1984-ish police state (albeit one far less nuanced than Leonard Cohen's "the rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor," etc.) not too far removed from the conditions as described in Iraq under Sadaam. Well, I guess there's no way to peg the intention, although it was a little weird to read after listening to "Green Shirt" on the train this morning. But it does bring up two interesting points.
First is the fact that in recent months Costello has been doing impassioned versions of "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding" at every opportunity, presumably as an anti-war statement. But as the actor's comment points out, if you're going to write anti-fascist songs, you'd think those would be just as appropriate when talking about Iraq. I can't dictate what Elvis' position should have been (and, truthfully, he never made it explicit) but I do know that both of these songs come from the same album and they both seem like valid points to make at this moment. I mean, OK, you could say (were you inclined to this kind of overstatement) that American's recent foreign policy has been leaning toward the fascist, so a criticism of that foreign policy could be taken as anti-fascist in and of itself, but clearly the Iraqi regime is far worse and far more deserving of the critique. (The beginning of "Green Shirt" might be better targeted at the US, though: "There's a smart young woman on a light blue screen who comes into my house every night / she takes all the red, yellow, orange and green and she turns them into black and white.") So this confusion, and this conscious choice to focus on the anti-war song, indicates the occasional emptiness of progressives' "anti" statements: OK, you're anti-racism, or anti-fascism, but what are you for? More importantly, what would you do to get rid of racism or fascism (or war or homophobia or poverty or...)? Clearly, in the case of Iraq, many people who would probably have identified themselves as anti-fascist (had that term not gone out of vogue) were against one particular method of eliminating it, and while I'm not saying that's an inaccurate position, it is a somewhat untenable one. This issue is, as they say, thorny.
The other thing is the way it reflects upon art under censorship. This quote highlights the way that art is eager to make connections (the play itself references the Beatles and an Iraqi filmmaker, among others) and the way that censored art seems to be primarily characterized by its lack of connectivity. An oppressive regime both restricts what outside art can come into a society and what kind of art that society can produce, resulting in art that often seems weirdly self-contained. Soviet socialist realist art, for instance, all seems similar due in no small part to its reliance upon iconography, and Japanese imperial dramas (for instance) are beautiful but not really moving or intellectually resonant, at least to me, presumably due to its need to be apolitical and not offend the rulers. (Ditto for a lot of offically-sanctioned Christian art.) Those pieces of art-under-repression that seem resonant to us in the outside world (and, presumably, to those poised to receive the signals under the eye of the regime) are meaningful only in reference to a single subject: the oppressive regime itself (c.f. Shostakovitch) and this seems the only connection capable of being made. All else seems cut off from the dialogue of cultural production, oddly stilted, beautiful sometimes but lacking that particular spark of individuality or resonance that we look for in art.
What that means to me is that the connectivity of art is actually a way for it to express its freedom--to break free (regularly) from the self-imposed limitations of singularity and reach out to other singularities to produce a web, to move beyond expression to communication. The joy of intertextuality, these days sometimes dismissed as being overly "postmodern" (tell that to Shakespeare), is a primary pleasure and purpose of art. So it seems weird to me when people praise their art or others' art for being "subversive," at least when such art is being produced in a reasonably free society, like America: no matter how repressed you might feel, the fact remains that you're not living under a totalitarian regime (see the Salon article for a description of what that's like), so anything you think of as "subversion"--usually defined as sneaking "naughty" messages past a commercial entity--is really just plain ol' intertextuality in the context of an artist willingly changing his message to adapt to an audience. There's very specific offenders I'm thinking of here, and I'll rant about it soon, but suffice to say that the ethic of "subversion" seems primarily to result in assigning more power to a given entity than it really posesses.
posted by Mike B. at 3:04 PM 0 comments
The Salon article, by the way, blames the tendency to focus on the backstage machinations of a campaign on Maureen Dowd's coverage of the 1992 race, although it seems like she's seen the error of her ways a bit, although she still has an irrational hatred of Gore. The rise of Paul "I basically just read the news and write about it" Krugman at the Times indicates that they've seen this error, too.
Oops, gotta do some work...
posted by Mike B. at 12:28 PM 0 comments
..but then whoops, NAFTA
Salon's lead story today is on the "Gore-ing" of John Kerry. It's nice to see the assumption that Gore was screwed by the media in 2000 move closer to the mainstream, I guess, but Salon does seem to be missing the point that Kerry is more or less unelectable, and fair or not, the evidence of this early treatment by the press should be an indicator that he's not the best pick for a Democrat who actually wants to see their party retake the White House.
Reading this bit, however, brought up a thought:
Media accounts describe him as phony and calculating, incapable of making a heartfelt statement. His history is analyzed cynically, sometimes falsely: Misrepresentations of his statements and actions metastasize into myth. As a result, he is seen as the archetypal slippery, soulless politician. That much of the supporting evidence is false seems utterly beside the point.
[...]Like Gore, the Massachusetts Democrat has been characterized, with some justice, as being aloof and cold. On Saturday, when asked about his haughty image during the first debate among the Democratic candidates, he tried to laugh it off (in much the same way Gore unsuccessfully joked about being stiff in 2000) by suggesting he "ought to just disappear and contemplate that by myself."
Now, it's conventional wisdom that the most electable Presidential candidates come from the South, and that they are "populist," which is a weird code word for "stupid." This all holds up under the evidence, and is explicable by assumptions that voters want someone they can relate to and someone who is "outside the Washington system," but when you tie electability to a candidate's likely treatment by the press, the question become a bit more murky. Why, for instance, wouldn't a largely eastern-elite press corps feel close to someone like Kerry? Why, in other words, would a bunch of eastern elites seem to find dumb Southerners a lot more likable?
The distressing answer would seem to be that the press corps doesn't want to cover anyone smarter than them--or, at least, anyone who acts smarter than them. (Clinton: smarter than almost everyone else, but smart enough to eat at McDonald's.) People like Gore they find annoying, phony, and stiff. Good ol' Southern boys, on the other hand, are charming, fun, and a barrel o'laughs. Clinton, for instance, kind of tricked the press with the sex-scandal stuff--oh, I'm just a dumb cheatin' redneck like you'd find on Springer, but then whoops, NAFTA. This is, needless to say, almost incredibly dumb of the press and destructive of the electoral process, but it does seem to be the way things are.
So maybe the major fallout of this is that it's rare to find someone smart enough to govern in an actual elected position, particularly at the national level, since the press is rabidly resistant to those kind of images. Instead, smart people end up on staff, and the result is that the people actually running things aren't elected and are therefore far less transparent in their policies, motivations, and actions. If your staff really runs everything, it's a lot harder for your constituents to actually find out what's going on. That also means that is that the people running things couldn't be elected. Now, does that mean they shouldn't be running things? Certainly not--a lot of good ideas have come out of Democratic cabinet members and congressional staffers. (And the think tanks that end up writing policy a lot of the time, staffed, again, by unelectable nerds.) But it does suggest that we've made only a lateral move since the days of party machines that ended up spawning primaries, the Freedom of Information Act, etc., and in many ways we might be worse, since party loyalty has been greatly weakened and, with it, the power of Congress--and we know the trouble that's gotten us into lately.
So can the press help with this? Of course they can. They should be less intimidated by smart candidates and (old chestnut here) focus on the actual substance of the race rather than recycling the endless indie-speak of whether move X was a good PR move or a bad PR move. Say, occasionally, whether it would a bad or a good thing for the country, not just the candidate, and be willing to say that something (an AWOL President landing a jet, say) is transparently a PR move--but also be willing to give politicians the benefit of the doubt from time to time and analyze their policy proposals instead of assuming they're just a political ploy. (Well, of course it's a political ploy--they're trying to get elected. That's obvious. Now what else can you say?) I don't expect them to do this anytime soon, mind, but it would be nice.
posted by Mike B. at 12:19 PM 0 comments
A booth will be set up at Grand Central where New Yorkers will record brief oral histories. You'll come with a friend and you'll interview each other. At the end you get a CD of the interview and a copy goes into an archive.
Oh, the opportunities for pranks...and samples...mmm...
posted by Mike B. at 11:57 AM 0 comments
Because you may have seen the headline but not actually read the story about Cheney saying "hell yes!" to running as VP in 2004, allow me to highlight one particular tidbit of information:
Cheney's position on the 2004 ticket has been the subject of heightened speculation because of his heart condition. He has had four heart attacks, though none as vice president.
``I've got a doc with me 24 hours a day who watches me very carefully,'' said Cheney. ``If I ran into problems where I felt I couldn't serve, I'd be the first to say so and step down.''
Oh dear god, all the hack comics and lazy cartoonists were right! He really is a withered old supervillain! He's got a "doc" ready to jump-start the Cheneybot at any moment with, I assume, an injection of the blood of young boys into a nearly-collapsed vein in his left temple. The doctor is a shadowy German presence in white lab coat and reflective glasses, carrying a battered old leather satchel and never speaking...
Well, maybe I'm extrapolating a bit from the article, but does anyone else get a similar picture?
posted by Mike B. at 11:51 AM 0 comments
A delicious test of elite opinion. French wines are seeing a 30% drop in sales from a boycott by "core [American] wine drinkers" provoked by Chirac's opposition to the Iraq invasion. Along with a rising Euro, French wines are becoming increasingly pricey and downright gauche.
Meanwhile, Charles Shaw's $1.99 red wine (sold by the case at Trader Joe's) is a surprisingly popular Yankee alternative. Also known as "Two Buck Chuck," even my close friend of Provencal French extraction prefers it over everything save Carlo Rossi (don't ask me). It's a strong, deep red with huckleberry undertones, so I recommend rare lamb or a heavily spiced chicken or fish stew (such as a curry).
posted by Gilead at 10:20 AM 0 comments
Tuesday, May 06, 2003
we don't even want your stupid life-saving medical supplies
From a Reuters article charmingly titled First E.U. Aid Airlift to Iraq Finally Takes Off comes the following tidbit:
The aircraft, loaded with 19 tonnes of supplies such as surgical equipment, vaccines and anesthetics, left Melsbroek military airport outside Brussels but was due to stop in Athens and only reach Baghdad on Wednesday, an EU spokesman said.
The Belgian airforce C-130 had been due to take off last Tuesday, but departure was repeatedly delayed pending a green light from the U.S. military in Baghdad, ostensibly for security reasons. The flight path was changed several times.
Here are some other links to the story, most from last week.
So clearly someone is fucking with this for a political advantage, but to be fair, it's hard to tell who it is. It could be the EU trying to make the US look bad, although presumably in that case the Army would have issued a denial of the "flight path" thing. Or it could be the US is deliberately delaying the shipment in order to minimize the credit Europeans could get for helping Iraqis. Or I guess it could just be honest stupidity on the part of the European planners or the US military, or a real problem on the ground, but these seem unlikely.
But whoever's fault it is--seriously, guys, fucking stop it.
posted by Mike B. at 11:25 AM 0 comments
Monday, May 05, 2003
Pretty interesting article on auditory halucinations in schizophrenics and new treatments for it. There are some pretty horrifying stories about voices advocating suicide, telling you you're Jesus and then making fun of you for thinking you're Jesus, etc., but then there's this bit:
A small minority of the patients said the voices they heard were always or almost always supportive and positive in tone.
What's that like? Having voices in your head just going, "Great job, guy!" "Keep up the good work!" "Lookin' gooooood!" Must be nice.
posted by Mike B. at 6:06 PM 0 comments
William Safire gets it wrong--"accidentally," I'm sure:
The segment that required candidates to question one another allowed Representative Dick Gephardt to shine. His plan to raise taxes to subsidize corporations' providing health care to workers separates him from the pack. As a hawk on the war, Gephardt needed an issue to appeal to the Democratic antiwar left, and was clearly delighted when his opponents had to wriggle away from his unabashed tax-and-spend proposal.
Saying Gephardt's proposal raises taxes to subsidize corporations is like saying Bush's proposal raises taxes to subsidize dividends. Gephardt's proposal would actually result in a tax break for corporations, and that this would be paid for by a tax raise for some other people doesn't seem any different than the Bush "tax cut" which will presumably have to be paid for with higher taxes at some point. Besides which, the Gephardt proposal only "raises taxes" in the sense that it eliminates a tax cut that hasn't even been passed yet. This constitutes a tax hike like repairing a house damaged in a tornado constitutes adding on a few rooms.
posted by Mike B. at 5:38 PM 0 comments
my fried seduction, the petulant of your assholes
Better than that damn blog poetry generator is the Bukowski poetry generator.
that moved vaginal
his teeth past those schlocky egos
i strolled joyous elevators
he slaved ruthless pants
she dove under the tears
it caught throughout joints
lubricated those constructions
hiredladies you exploded around
she axed when a aloof ink
he touched before a any crumb
to small cocksuckers
sometimes you were the stench
i mounted behind the flat space
my fried seduction
the petulant of your assholes
you were lost
and oedipal carried matted streetwalkers
we shot behind the slippery bach
axed a addict
you were a tongue
her fan from
it mastered these viny payments
a lie slid
(thanks to Gawker)
posted by Mike B. at 5:12 PM 0 comments
This quote's all over the blogosphere, but for my readers who don't get as obsessive about that stuff as I do, here it is:
"We ought to be beating our chests every day. We ought to look in a mirror and get proud and stick out our chests and suck in our bellies and say: 'Damn, we're Americans!'"
- Gen. Jay Garner (ret.), head of Iraq
posted by Mike B. at 5:09 PM 0 comments
Atrios points to an entry in The Sideshow in which an article by Todd Gitlin (not necessarily my favorite journalist in the world, but he's down with the crew, I think) in which Todd explains why the left maybe isn't doing so well ("The left is left with its 'no.' A no has its occasions. But for a force that aims for power, it won't do.") is criticized for speaking ill of the left. Viz:
Huh? The Democratic left, at least, has perfectly good policies - they just aren't as dramatic-sounding as Invading a Country! and Winning a War! and Enormous Tax Cuts! and what-have-you. They are, in fact, policies that have worked all along, whether we're talking about diplomacy or school programs or Social Security. From where comes the mentality that says that the right has some sort of "answer" just because they want to re-introduce policies that were such dismal failures for centuries all over the world? Who says diplomacy, maintaining alliances, and working to keep the peace isn't a positive policy?
I just can't help the feeling that Todd Gitlin, who I used to like, has been taken over by the Borg.
This seems to be missing a number of points. One is that the left may have great policies, but it obviously isn't doing a very good job of getting them out there right now. Their main response to tax cuts, say, is, "Smaller tax cuts!" instead of "Well, here's how we think we should balance the budget and stimulate the economy," and while simply oppositional responses like "Smaller tax cuts!" may be a perfectly fine response intellectually, politically it means you're always playing catch-up instead of leapfrogging the other side and leading the agenda. Which leads to another important point: if you don't lead with the issues, you have to respond to them rather than simply refusing to acknowledge that it's an issue. With Iraq, for instance, the left faced a major hurdle because it wasn't even on its agenda; it didn't have an "Iraq policy" (aside from that of some activists that demanded an end to sanctions, which looked especially weak in this context) and so it was constantly playing catch-up. The problem became that a lot of leftists had sour grapes about this and kept complaining that we shouldn't have been even thinking about war in the first place instead of acknowledging that we are and responding to that. "No war!" may be a fine sentiment, but it doesn't really get you what you want.
The main point--and I think this is one that the left is critically missing--is that old policies can be good, but you need to repackage them to look like new ones. Yes, yes, that's hypocritical and dishonest, but it's probably better to be hypocritical than to have the UN gutted, right? It's good to respond to a negative conservative policy with an old positive one repackaged as something new; it's even better to respond by doing the same thing but not look like you're responding, but are instead proposing a whole new issue. Gephardt's idea for health care, while flawed, fits nicely in this catagory. So would a positive proposal to reform international institutions, which from our perspective have the problem of not being able to restrain the US. You gettit?
Even more important, maybe, is the ability to differntiate between a bad policy and bad politics. You can have a bad policy with it still being good politics--i.e. being a net gain in the long run.
posted by Mike B. at 4:54 PM 0 comments
The Freaky Trigger blog notifies us that Ian Penman has a blog and directs us to an example of his work, which concerns dub and Tricky and Greil Marcus. I can't entirely speak for the worth of the piece, since I've never been able to care that much about dub or reggae (as Jesse knows) but I do care about Tricky, and on that count the piece was very interesting seeing as how it was from the height of Tricky-mania in 1995, just after the release of Maxinquaye. This is nothing against Mr. Penman, who presumably has revised his opinion since then, but after calling it "the most feted, discussed and misunderstood record of the moment," he does a bit of slobbering on the ol' Trickster himself. Obviously Tricky's status in the pantheon has suffered a bit since that initial grope-fest, the reasons for which I'll discuss in a second. But first, check out this:
It is fairly obvious after a few spins through the infected micro-cosmos of Maxinquaye that Tricky knows more than he is letting on. Knows, as in: a secret knowledge he quite rightly fears to name. This silent discourse echoes around Maxinquaye as a kind of rhythmic ebb or evaporation, voices trailing in and out, never settling on one definite past or present: "Confused by different memories/Details of Asian remedies..."
We may read that Tricky shies away from `theorising' about his work, but this may just be the sane response of a man suddenly confronted by the representatives of a music press desperate to slot everything into its lazily reductive `Bristol as the new Seattle' strap-line. Besides which, the opposition won't stand: Maxinquaye is a work of theory. There is nothing theory can say that is not already embedded in this wily, uncanny text. (Tricky even helpfully sings so: "I think ahead of you/I think instead of you..." Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Tricky is unwilling to S-P-E-L-L out to interviewers stuff which he has already toiled long and hard to find the correct way of saying on Maxinquaye. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of certain Gnostic, magickal and African traditions will know that it is considered foolhardy, dangerous even, to spell out to one's inferiors things for which the maker has already found an effective formula.
(hey, have you guessed that this was published in the Wire yet? *cough*)
Aside from the painfully overwrought tone of the selection, what stands out is that Penman seems to expect Tricky to be an absolutely inscrutable presence, some weird black voodoo-god with a Secret Knowledge that White Journalists aren't privy to, instead of a regular guy who sometimes doesn't know quite what he's doing at the time and sometimes does stuff just 'cos he thinks it's cool. (And whose boasts of knowledge are maybe less transcendent and more a nerdy version of b-boy braggadocio.) The only way for someone to live up to the image Penman projects would seem to be for them to be, in fact, mentally ill, which we wouldn't wish on anyone, right, guys? Of course, as it turned out, Tricky went on to make some straight hip-hop albums and do guest bits in a few movies (5th Element, etc.) and so just wasn't mysterious anymore. His critical reception has, I think, suffered accordingly, and the question this begs is: do critics really just value mysteriousness above all? You can explain, for instance, all that "sellout" bullshit as a simple objection to the revelation that an artist is, in fact, somewhat interested in making money (not mysterious! Too banal and material!); "cred" stuff as a reductionary way of saying that an artist no longer has that certain something; "overly slick" as disappointment at the revelation that an artist doesn't record all their material in a shack in the woods; and "insincere" as annoyance that the artist is not, in fact, dumber than the critic and is aware of the implications of their own work, or, worse, that the previous pose that convinced a critic of this mysteriousness was in fact a trick and the critic has been fooled. And why would critics value inscrutability so highly? Why, so they could be more free in their interpretations, of course--critics being weirdly hesitant to ignore an artist's assessment of their own work in the mistaken belief that this is the definitive interpretation, the musician-as-cipher model allows them to more easily assume their own take on a work is at least possible.
Of course, there's the argument that the later albums (Pre-Millennial Tension excepted) were simply not as good, but this simply begs the question of why someone like Penman would have to go to such lengths to justify a great album like Maxinquaye in the first place. If it's just a fanciful interpretation that's fine, but Penman does seem at pains to refer to Tricky as "the Other" repeatedly throughout the piece, and instead of focusing on the impression Tricky creates through the lyrics (a suggestion of Character reinforced by the pseudonym) he chooses to peg the actual person as a Gnostic shaman or some such nonsense. Highbrow critics seem weirdly susceptible to "falling" for musicians who are outwardly weirdoes and freaks, and leaving aside issues of sympathy, there does seem to be a very real danger in assigning critical weight to what essentially amounts to mental instability.
The other weird bit of this piece is about its view of the political song. This is a subject I obviously (given the coupling of subjects on this blog if nothing else) have a primary interest in, and I agree with Penman to a certain extent, particularly in his questioning of Greil Marcus' model of the political musician as someone who outwardly spouts political slogans, i.e. the Clash, Sex Pistols, Bruce Springsteen, etc. It's true that politics is, in fact, a far more complicated and ambiguous field than the classification of musical demagoguery-as-theory would indicate, but Penman then goes on to assert (which he does, were I giving him the benefit of the doubt, simply because he has been assigned to write about Tricky, although there are some self-serving notes there too) that Maxinquaye turns out to be the first example of this more nuanced model of the political song. I disagree on both levels: I don't think it's particularly political in the way he's getting at (and, indeed, is political in the Marcus way with its cover of Public Enemy's "Black Steel") and I think there have been a number of examples of the other model throughout pop's history. (Briefly: Leonard Cohen's "First We Take Manhattan" and PJ Harvey's "Sheela-Na-Gig" spring to mind.) My idea of a political song is something I've actually given a great deal of thought to, but regrettably its delineation would require more effort than I'm willing to put forth at 4:30 on a Monday, quite frankly. It would have a large component of comedy, though, suffice to say.
(If you're really interested, let me know and I can maybe send you an old essay that approached the subject from the angle of literature.)
posted by Mike B. at 4:20 PM 0 comments