I'm an asshole, no doubt, but a fair one, so I hereby commend to you a very praiseworthy post by Glenn Greenwald, a frequent target of derision here, which uses the baby-faced and baby-brained personage of Ezra Klein to point out the lax ethics of the progglesphere.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
When the dude says that we're going to draw a line down the middle of America and set people on fire, I don't think he means it literally. Then again.
Via the inimitable Scruggs, we find progressivism's latest craze (apparently), which your health insurer and mine has preemtively euphemized as "wellness." The background: at the last Donkle debate, Obama said that if we could "go back to the obesity rates of 1980 we could save the Medicare system a trillion dollars." Other than the failure to construct a proper if/then statement, I personally find nothing to object to. In fact, I propose that we go a step further and reduce the population to its 1980 level. We can start with the fat people. Talk about savings.
The thing about monotheistic religion is that it isn't real. It is a false system. It makes claims that are palpably untrue, even in its most milquetoast, dessicated, anodyne, neoliberal, "progressive" format. The claim that the universe was created by an ineffible anthropic intelligence whose diktat makes morality is false. The idea that this deity impregnated a human woman, and that the son of this union was some sort of transubstantiation of that immaterial being into actual flesh, which was then subject to human sacrifice in order to cleanse, but not rid, the world of violations of this imaginary moral order, is just as ridiculous and phony as any other near-eastern cult, circa the early Roman Empire. The notion of the imperishable human soul is pure bosh. You were nothing before you were born, and you will be nothing after you die. The Old and New Testaments are fiction. At their best, they make lovely poetry. At their average, they make lousy science fiction. The Biblical patriarchs were not actual historical figures. Jesus was not an actual figure. It is all totally, patently, indisuputably false. Fellows, there is no God any more than there is a river spirit inhabiting the Monongahela or a demon misbalancing my current humours and causing this damnable winter cold. People are perfectly free to believe whatever old crap they like, but the persistent insistence that it is somehow unforgiveably impolitic to tell people that there are no ghosts, goblins, or invisible Angry Dads in the Sky is absurd. "Pluralism" in the service of falsehood is vice.
Let me put it to you like this. It begins with
What makes you an expert on wisdom?and then gets even better.
As an aside, a little-known fact about IOZ is that I am an expert on expertise.
1. What should we do?
Buy a gun. Practice.
2. Is a violent revolution the answer?
3. Why are you such a jerk?
4. Will you please just give us a straight answer?
5. Seriously, what should we do?
Make sure that you've disconnected the external grounding wire and power source before attempting repairs.
6. Wait, what?
Buy a gun. Practice.
You have to wonder what kind of pathological liar would say "I saw my father march with Martin Luther King" in the highest profile speech of his career when it never happened.Dear Matt,
Dude. Reagan told an Israeli that he had filmed that liberation of the death camps for the Signal Corps.
"What’s wrong with our country, what is wrong with our culture, is that you can’t say the name Jesus Christ without people going completely berserk."That is, like, totally true. Why, just the other day I was shopping for some gifts for a couple of fellow culinarians at Sur la Table, and I picked up a nice mortar and pestle to look at the price tag. "Jesus Christ," I said to myself, quite under my breath, and suddenly the cleavers were off the walls and the store awash in spilling human blood.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
ST. LOUIS — Rudolph W. Giuliani was admitted to the hospital in St. Louis late Wednesday with flu-like symptoms but was expected to leave the hospital and fly to New York later Thursday after doctors said they found nothing of concern, his campaign said.Now there are many things that a man could say after examining Benito Giuliani, but "nothing of concern"? If I were the Candidate-for-Life, I'd sue.
As always, Pat Lang writes with admirable clarity and brevity on the folly of using the various "successes" in Iraq as bases for permanent occupation. Where he errs, though, is in his assumption that this decision has yet to be made.
My all-time favorite question is, "But IOZ, what should we do?!" It smells of distant gunsmoke, of dewy ladies fainting, of tobacco and thin gentlemen officers in gaudy epaulettes. My all-time favorite reply to this serve and my subsequent volley game came from the keyboard of your friend and mine, La_Rana, in the dialogic style of the Greek:
"Its a failure"That about sums it up, doesn't it? But.
"We agree. Now how do we fix it?"
"We can't fix it"
"But thats not a solution!"
"The solution is dissolution"
"Oh, well that sounds pretty. How does it work?"
"It involves subtly dismantling everything you take for granted"
It occurs to me that much of the political evil in the world is enabled by the persistent belief that doing something is necessarily better than doing nothing, and, paradoxically, that doing nothing is not doing something. That's a first principle. Abstention is sometimes honorable. Sometimes, on the forced march, the most radical act possible is to sit down in the snow until the rifle cracks the side of your skull, until they drag you to your feet and force you onward. Have you changed anything? Good god, man, who cares? You don't have to be Spartacus to remind yourself that you're not a slave.
All the dramatic metaphorizing aside, the constant demands for Action, for a Plan, for a collective Purpose--these are invariably made by people whose heads are still cobwebbed with cant. Useless though they are, the self-satisfied perseverations of the soi-disant progressive community appeal to this type simply because they carry the illusion of change: new names, new polls, new H.R. Such-and-Such to pray for passage, new FISA bills to filibuster, la, dee, da. When I wanted to learn yoga, my guru told me that I had to learn how to breath first, and goddamn if he wouldn't let me climb into a downward-facing dog or even stretch to touch my toes until I did.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
As Dennis notes with mordant laughter, probably stroking a silken-haired cat and drinking an espresso with pinkie finger extended at full Eurovillian attention, the ease with which the progglesphere will hitch its skirt and spread its legs is the envy of every prom-night virgin left on this abstinent earth. Dear sweet Jesus, how they cried to the heavens, hosannas and hallelujahs and thanks and burnt offerings. Greenwald's boyfriend is going to be hours scrubbing the stains out of his boxers, and Atrios is ready to immanatize his Eschaton against we defeatists. All this after a 76-10 loss on the initial cloture vote. All this when it's perfectly clear, to quote Dennis, that for
Harry Reid and his cronies, it takes a hot issue off the front burner for the holidays, allowing them to focus on other ways to skull fuck the public.Thank you sir, may I have another.
Atrios ingeminates wildly:
One of my pet peeves has long been a certain strain of defeatism. Understandably we all feel defeated at times, but there's a certain kind of defeatist out there on the internets, people who spend most of their time chastising others for thinking it's possible to have any influence and attacking the "stupidity" of those who even bother to try. Maybe those people are right. Maybe there never is anything to be done. But if that's the case, get a new goddamn hobby. It's rather odd to spend all your time following political news and blogs if the only reason to do it is to provide justification for your view that All Is Lost. Just go out and have some fun instead.It's a long, wild leap from "it's useless to pray to Democrats for deliverance" to "there's nothing to be done," yet Mr. Black and company make it routinely, for in their, you'll pardon the expression, eschatology, the End Times and Kingdom Come are delivered on the wings of a "populist" and looks like The New Deal . . . Now with Blogs! To be clear, then, it isn't that we attack those who try. It's that we attack you, ya big meshugah, and not because you do try, lord knows, but because, motherfucker, you don't.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
The harder the faithful argue against the not-so-new atheism, the plainer it becomes that their apologetics are mere question-begging. Consider John Haught. In an interview of modest length, he manages to pack in all the immodest errors of the hedged-bet, Pascalian, mainline-Protestant, middle-of-the-road theology that he (and many others) hold with such vanity to be the solution to the cavorting bands of radical materialists on one side and apocalyptic messianists on the other: the misreading of major continental philosophers; the habit of using the word nihilism with the same precision as an East German techno-grunge band; the habit of either over- or understating the epistemological claims of the scientific method as is convenient to his argument; the inexorable tendency to claim that while on the one hand, "scientific" knowledge not only can be but must be evaluated on terms external to itself, namely religious terms, religious experience and the unsubstantiable knowledge claimed by theistic systems about the physical and moral nature of the universe are whole to themselves and cannot be subject to such radical scientismical challenges as, "Prove it."
Most of the interview is pablum. It rehashes the old claim that science is insufficient to give us "meaning" and "hope," or else that it can give us meaning and hope, but it cannot "justify" our holding meaning and hope. You can see that Haught is a moving target--fortunately, a slow-moving one. The question of "meaning" is a hoary old diversion. Without defining what meaning is, religion claims that since science can't provide it, ergo God. Haught goes further, bundles meaning and hope into "purpose," and says rather grandly that since science can't offer an answer to this frankly ineffable question, faith takes the day. By faith he means only Western monotheism, by the way. Ask a Hindu, a Buddhist, or a man on the path of the Tao about his purpose and you will get something equally ineffable in reply. Atheists, scientific or otherwise, likewise find the emphasis on purpose odd. To quote the unfortunately effable drummer Neal Peart: "Why are we here? Because we're here." This sort of answer makes Western religionists uncomfortable because it doesn't accord them a privileged position in creation. All of the questions about purposefulness and consciousness that they raise; all of their insistence on the immaterial nature of the mind and the conscience; all of their objections about mechanistic explanations; these ultimately boil down to the last trench in their long battle to maintain a cosmology centered on man. Privileging human consciousness as uniquely unfit for natural inquiry is finally a bulwark against the idea that we are incidental to the universe: geographically, cosmologically, biologically, purposefully.
Haught would call this nihilism, which is really his way of saying that his own mind is too impoverished to imagine a moral order without external justification. In a word, authoritarian. In the absence of third-party validation, he can't accept any action or thought as virtuous. But, as I said before, this position itself, in his construction, requires no validation in turn. It just is. All objections to it, by origin of their externality, are necessarily small, mean, false. Meanwhile, he writes:
They [atheists] miss the moral core of Judaism and Christianity -- the theme of social justice, which takes those who are marginalized and brings them to the center of society.It is deeply debatable whether the central moral precepts of Judaism fulfill this formulation, firstly. But even if they did, let's throw down a gauntlet: Show me one example of a society in the history of Christendom in which the "marginalized" have been routinely brought "to the center of society." During the Barbarian migrations? The Carolingian renaissance? The Dark ages? High feudalism? The Age of Discovery? The Renaissance? The Enlightenment? Post-Enlightenment Europe? The 20th Century? When? Never is when. The moral imperatives that Christianity claims as its central concerns have never actually been effectuated within Christian society. How is that for purpose? Meaning? Hope?
Watching the Katie Jean over at the NRO wring out lines like "Now [Huckabee] is running a commercial using Christ and Christmas to change the subject away from policy and record issues" warms the cockles of my heart and the heart of my cockles. You reap what you sow, muthafuckas.
In related news, the Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh have ordered one--count 'em, one--copy of Liberal Fascism. Now obviously I'm not going to spend money on the fucker, so the question is how do I get my hands on a free copy.
I listened to some of the Donkle debate on NPR last night, and found it roundly hilarious, although I was, I admit, pleasantly surprised that crazyman Joe Biden talked openly of cutting military spending. Anyway, for some ineluctable reason, "opening statements" were not made at the opening, but rather scattered throughout the program, with the order of delivery decided by drawing lots. Obama got the first chance, and off he went, quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. in his first sentence. And of course, had anyone locked eyes with HRC, you be sure as shit that what they saw flashing in her carnivorous brain was, "That fucking nigger . . ." Today, Donk Netrootsia is all tizzified that Bob Kerrey, who keeps the shrunken heads of a thousand Vietnamese children in his armoir, said Barack Hussein Obama was totally a Muslim who totally went to a madrassa and totally, like, converted to Christianity. Or something. And through their shock, it does seem to be dawning on them that no matter how mainstream his views--and Obamas are painfully mainstream--and no matter how polished his credentials, and no matter how Carlton his voice, he is, at the end of the day, a black guy with a sand jockey name and Allah in his past, and They do not want him as president of these here United States
Monday, December 17, 2007
Republican candidates, I’d argue, owe Republican officeholders a degree of respect, an underlying allegiance, even when they disagree with them. (I’d apply the same argument to Democrats.) Why? Because the cohesion and durability of the two great political parties bears on the health of the nation itself.This is a sentiment often expressed in America. "I believe in the two-party system" is the answer in the catechism. It's utterly incoherent, especially coming from a partisan. On the one hand, if you take the view that the parties are only loosely ideological, more properly coalitional, and the end results of a series of social and economic back-and-forths that didn't fully settle into their recognizeable present formats until the 1980s, then the durability of the parties themselves should strike you as almost wholly irrelevant, a present alignment of interests that will eventually and inevitably discorporate and reform into different alignments as socioeconomic conditions inexorably change. On the other hand, if you take the less defensible but increasingly common view that American political parties are, in fact, fundamentally ideological, and that our "hyperpartisan" age is not a matter of electoral marketing and public perceptions but of an actual battle between two distinct, mutually exclusive ideological entities, then it makes no sense to hold that the inferior or deleterious ideology must not only survive, but thrive and endure.
Some dude at the Corner
And so the paeans to the so-called two-party system are windows into the true nature of governance in the United States. Two large parties that are neither strictly coalitions nor especially ideological, locked in rough numerical parity, differentiating themselves on minor points of domestic policy, teeter-totter cycle after cycle on the fulcrum of a militarist, bipartisan, governing consensus that views the United States as a unique political entity whose position of global predominance must be maintained at any cost. These matters are loosely euphemized as "national security," although the parties retain at minimum stylistic differences where "security" is concerned. It isn't a particular program or policy that the parties share; it's an unshakeable, unquestionable, unquestioned premise about the necessity of American predominance, not only as a means of maintaing the present, precarious standard of living in America, but also because of an actual and absolute belief that this state of affairs represents the best possible outcome for the world. This almost boundless hubris--that perpetual American dominance of global affairs is the ideal state for all of humanity--underlies the governance of the nation, and through party disputes, interagency rivalries, court intrigues, and election cycles, it remains unaltered.
Thoreau says we must share recipes for the War on Christmas, and to you, my bloody soldiers, I commend this War on Christmas Duck, which with minor modifications to the cooking times could equally be a War on Christmas Goose.
Things you'll need.
A duck of about 5 lbs, which will serve 4
several small-ish, round red and yellow potato[e]s
a large celery root
two thin-skinned meyer lemons
one small lime
a bunch of fresh thyme
a bunch of fresh rosemary
a whole stick of cinnamon
coarse sea salt
rough-ground black pepper
a very large stock-pot
a steaming rack or baking rack that will fit in the pot
a moderately deep baking dish
a poultry needle
Unwrap your duck, remove and conserve the innartds. Remove any excess fat deposits from the interior of the cavity. Cut off the fatty piece of meat at the tail. Trip the final joint of the wings. Trip the skin of the neck flap by about an inch. I usually throw all of these bits and organs (except the liver) into a pot with a quartered yellow onion, carrot, and celery along with some salt, fennel seed, and black pepper, simmer it for three hours or so to make a rich duck stock, then strain it, cook it again with egg whites and shells added, then strain it again through multiple layers of cheese cloth to make a beautiful (and very, very fatty--yum) consommé. The liver I pan-fry on two sage leaves in clarified butter until browned outside and medium-rare inside, then slice thinly and serve in a small pile in a shallow bowl of consommé garnished with tiny thyme leaves.
Anyway, the duck. Once trimmed and thoroughly rinsed inside and out, salt and pepper the cavity, then stuff it with the lemons, clementines, and the lime, each quartered, as well as the bunches of herbs and the stick of cinammon. Truss the bird very tightly, first sewing shut the cavity, then tying the drumsticks tightly together, and finally threading the thick part of the body to keep the wings tight against it. I often use toothpicks or a skewer to hold the neck flap down as well, but it isn't necessary.
Fill the bottom of a very large pot with water, place a rack in it, and bring it to a rapid boil. Steaming the duck before you roast it renders much of the fat from the breast, which is necessary to properly cook the meat. You will need to cut several slits in the skin of the breast before steaming. I use a very small, very sharp paring knife. You do not want to cut into the flesh itself. Make the cuts by drawing the knife very lightly and rapidly across the skin on a diagonol from the center line of the sternum. After making several quick passes on the same cut, the skin and fat will miraculously part to reveal the dark (but uncut) meat beneath. I usually make six to eight cuts total, three or four per side.
When the water is boiling and the duck has been trussed and pepared, place the duck on the steaming rack breast down. Cover tightly, reduce the heat to moderate (high enough to keep the water boiling, though), and let steam for 45 mins. to an hour.
Meanwhile, wash the potato[e]s and cut off the rough skin of the celery root. Cube them into 1/2-inch cubes, toss very lightly with olive oil and salt, and spread evenly in the bottom of the baking dish. Preheat the oven to 425.
When the duck has steamed for the appropriate time, remove it from the steamer. Careful--it is covered with fat and very slippery. Also, be careful, for the skin is now easy to tear. Pour of the liquid from the pot, cover, and put in the refrigerator. In the morning, you can skim the solid layer of fat from the top. Duck fat is wonderful for frying potato[e]s and other vegetables, and the remaining liquid is a great, fatty broth for risotto or sauce bases. The duck should be gently wiped of some of the residual fat on its surface, then generously salted with coarse salt, and then placed, breast up, on the bed of root vegetables. Place in the oven with the breast toward the rear. It will need to roast for approximately 45 minutes. I typically reduce the temperature after about half an hour to 375, and then, right when the duck is golden brown all over and seems done, I blast the heat to 500 for five minutes to bubble and crisp the skin. Makes all the difference.
Remove it from the oven. Let stand for 10-20 minutes. Using a sharp cleaver, halve it along its sternum, remove and discard the stuffing, then cut it again into quarters. Serve each quarter with the root vegetables, which should be removed from the fatty liquid at the bottom of the pan with a slotted spoon and garnished with parseley or some other fresh herb. A tablespoon of the pan juices with good red wine vinegar makes a great dressing for a bitter green salad made with leafy escarole.
Over the weekend it occured to me that this will shape up as the best election in years. On both sides, a vague sense of panic is already sweeping in, for they have all begun to realize that you can't always get what you want. On the Republican side, some country bumpster named Huckabee has suddenly siezed the small imaginations of the Just Folks, whom the GOP long kept in line with god-talk even as they pursued an essentially corporatist governing agenda. Your basic mid-American neo-Protestant is an economic populist, however, opposed to free trade and prone to isolationism--real isolationism, not just noninterventionism--when the Fear of Brown People goes unstoked for a while. This wobbly pillar of the Goopster coalition probably won't doom the bitter strivings of Benito Giuliani and Snit Romney, but Lord Jesus knows, a general election featuring a fag-loving abortionist from the Northeastern Cosmopolis is probably the crack of doom for a Republican candidacy. The Democrats, meanwhile . . . hell, just pop into any of the thousand spinoffs of our Machievelino Markos, where bitterness over the Donk candidates' nigh-total venality on every motivational issue of the last eight years has turned them all to catastrophic displacement. Boiling rage that ought to be directed at the losers and psychopaths who seek their approbation in the primaries turns instead on those few lonely voices who counsel another choice, or who note the ethics of abstention. Here, the Netrootsian Donkle reveals his complete intellectual incoherency, for his claim is inevitably that a vote for Hillary Clinton is not a vote for Hillary Clinton per se, but, inter alia, a vote against Benito Giuliani, which is thusways and therewise a vote against the dearly departing George W. Bush. A vote for a sure primary loser like Kucenich, or worse, a vote for a "third-party" candidate, or worst, simply abstaining from casting a ballot for any of these madmen and madwomen, is upwise and downways and ergo and surelike a vote for whomever is the Republican nominee. This is all patent nonsense, of course, casuistry in the service of factional solipsism. A vote is a vote is a vote, and no matter that America does not select its Presidents directly, the plain fact remains that you pull the lever for whom you pull the lever. There are no ayes and nays in an election. Every vote is a positive endorsement, no matter what the sophists say.
Inevitably when I write in this vein some self-satisfied little munckin will pop up with an "Aha! But you say there's no difference between the parties!" One can imagine the wide grin as this dull cleaver is raised and weakly lowered. Of course it's pure, prattling nonsense. On any number of things, our two parties are quite distinct: stylistically and even to some degree ideologicallly. I don't discount these differences, which is why I write about them. But--and this is why I so often use the metaphor of factionalism and intrique within old royal and imperial courts--these differences are minor and are more a matter of political aesthetics than of committments to a different way of being. "'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality" is not in tone or content different from "I still believe that America is the last, best hope of Earth." There is a sort of Nicene Creed of American politics, and on all sides of our schisms and reformations, the congregants still chant it. But what if you reject its fundamental premises? Then, let me tell you, Lutheran and Catholic start to look like bloody farces worshipping an imaginary god. The messianic and apocalpytic message of a history-creating, reality-defining, final, total, apotheotic civilization is shared across party lines and intraparty factional divisions and "progressives" and "conservatives" all alike. Not merely America, primus inter pares, but America, the nec plus ultra of human civilizational development, naturally arrogating to itself the right to act in any manner in order to set right wrongs as it defines right and wrong on a global scale. If you reject this idea, then you cannot vote for a candidate of either party, even as your recognize that yes, it is true, in a limited sense, Hillary is better for the gays than Huckabee.
In any case, the internecine bloodletting has only just begun, and I expect rivers to flow before the end of the day in South Carolina.