Well now here is an article explaining how the medieval fixation on confessions in the Iraqi justice system suborns torture and other such not-niceties. Fortunately we are children of the Enlightenment. Anyway . . .
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Can someone explain to me how the Donk decision to kick Florida and Michigan to the curb for purely procedural and symbolic reasons, and how the Clinton contention that voting from these states ought to, you know, count reflects poorly on her? Because that seems to be the general feeling out in netrootsia. "Opportunist!" Someone--Digby I suspect--said that they should count Florida and Michigan, but first those states should hold new elections. Why? I mean, I fail to see how an administrative decision by a lot of Donk insiders reflects on the legitimacy, such as it is, of those states' primary results.
I find democracy in all its forms increasingly preposterous, obviously. The issue in Florida and Michigan is that they attempted to make their votes matter, and for that they are punished. As I have previously suggested, an opportunity presents itself to move elections ever "sooner" until they cross some kind of psychic dateline, producing only more elections but never results.
Friday, February 15, 2008
"I think Steelers fans have a lot to be concerned about this and I'm one of them." I don't know, Arlen. One minute you're investigating the Pats, the next minute some enterprising Washingtonian legislator is cancelling the results of Superbowl XL.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Greenwald watches CNN and writes:
When our news media interview high government officials, especially ones like [Michael] McConnell with shiny military medals, they are now so Pravda-like they not only invite government claims to be voiced with no critical scrutiny whatsoever ("why the urgent need for retroactive immunity for these telecommunications companies?," with no challenge whatsoever to the "cooperation" claim), but the reporters now actually try to top the government officials in adding on new reasons why their demanded policies are so crucial ("But is it also important from your perspective to keep the prying eyes of attorneys who are launching these lawsuits away from uncovering information about the program").The guy doing the interviewing was CNN's John Roberts. I do not think it was the shiny medals that distracted him. I think that what distracted him was that he is an employee of CNN, which is a division of the Turner Broadcasting System, which is a brand subsidiary of Time Warner, Inc., which is the world's largest (or second largest) media, entertainment, and telecommunications firm (as well as Jay Rockefeller's 5th largest political patron!), currently immanatizing its immunitological eschaton. So, you know, not to get all Network on y'all, but I'm pretty sure that Mr. Jensen got Mr. Roberts up to the board room and there gave him the gospel to read. "Why me?" Because you're on television, dummy.
I don't think I ever even heard a Bush official or any Bush follower make the argument that telecom amnesty was necessary to keep the "prying eyes of attorneys" away from Super-Secret Information about "The Program." The first person I ever heard advocate that line was CNN's Roberts in this interview, and McConnell, of course, quickly accepted the help.
To see the Progblog Commune go bonkers over the sudden realization that, like, holy shit, dude, Hillary Clinton is in it to win it is as enjoyably brain-slowing as beer and a well-rolled fatty. Cries Ezra Klein:
This demonstrates not only a gross ruthlessness on the part of Clinton's campaign, but an astonishingly cavalier attitude towards the preservation of the progressive coalition. To be willing to blithely rip it to shreds in order to wrest a nomination that's not been fairly earned is not only low, but a demonstration of deeply pernicious priorities -- namely, it's an explicit statement that the campaign puts its own political success above the health of the party and the pursuit of progressive goals, and one can't but help assume that's exactly the attitude they would take towards governance, too.Oh the humanity! Care for the "preservation of the progressive coalition" is like care for the preservation of the Jackalope: well-meaning, perhaps, but futile in that the little fucker doesn't actually exist. The "progressive coalition" is a synonym for online, cosmopolitan, highly-educated liberal arrivistes with aspirations toward l'élite. That's all fine and well, but it's certainly not a "coalition." Ripping it to shreds would be like rending the two-page, newsprint coupon stuffer in your mailbox, neither difficult nor significant. Hillary wants to be President. All the outrage of Ezra Klein and DailyKos are snowflakes on the wind. When has either Clinton ever embraced "the pursuit of progressive goals," whatever those are. I mean, the straight line from failing to jury-rig universal health care out of the extant insurance system to cruise-missiling an aspirin factory to sending the boys into Iraq and Afghanistan isn't especially straight, nor particularly progressive as I understand the term. Not that it matters. I mean, let's say that Hillary C. uses a lot of parliamentary hoo-dee-doo to squirrel out a victory in a close nomination fight. Ezra and Chris Bowers and Matt Stoller and the rest of 'em can twist their panties as tight as they like, but in the immortal words of Senator J. Billington Bullworth: What are you gonna do, vote Republican?
Those who complain most loudly about the modern nation-state nevertheless leap to its defense at the mention of other possible arrangements. They have many elaborate scenarios in which the state, properly constituted, properly restrained, and run by the right sorts of people with the right sorts of education and the best of intentions, serves only those functions that they believe it properly possesses. The qualities we mock in American liberalism, the FDR syndrome, the idea that a skilled managerial class will resist the temptations of power that come with centralizing a government for tens and hundreds of millions of people, aren't actually limited to managerial liberals. Even self-described libertarians ultimately subscribe to the idea that the problem with government is that it's not run by our kind of people. Mention the devolution of the nation-state and everyone is suddenly a Hobbesian.
Take the argument, advanced by some in the comments of this post that in the absence of a countervailing liberal state order, the muzlums will kill all the womenfolk. That's an exaggeration, but not much of one. It's a tendentious contention to say the least, but for the sake of argument, let's grant the point. We get rid of the Capitol, pull down the White House, break up the states, and so forth. Big Ben gets shoved into the Thames. The Elysées palace gets firebombed. We're all living in our own little enclaves. The per capita prevalence in certain communities of "honor killing," of female genital mutilation, of the stoning to death of queers and adulterers, etc., modestly increases.
I for one am untroubled by such an outcome. It seems to me infinitely preferable to a world in which one singular state entity has the capacity to wipe out all human life. It seems to me vastly better than a world in which aircraft bomb civilian neighborhoods from beyond the reach of retaliation as part of international economic and social engineering schema. Any argument that proceeds from the base assumption that the modern nation-state is necessary so that each precious mustard seed of a person can grow into a mighty oak is utopian and self-refutingly ridiculous. Anarchist sentiments--mine, anyway--do not begin with the assumption that smashing the parliaments and armies of the world will bring an end to human ills and atrocities. It begins, instead, with the idea that it would substantially decrease their terrible scope and scale.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
I wonder what they serve the Waxman Committee for lunch, but I bet that whatever it is has got Bovine Growth Hormone in it. Frankly a stellar career in sports seems to me more of a public good than early-onset puberty, but that's just me. If you're going to ban HGH from sports, you should also ban arthroscopic surgery--it unnaturally speeds recovery times and diminishes the effects of injury! The piety of these congresscritters is really astonishing. Think of the children! Soon they too will increase their muscle mass and cardiopulmonary efficiency with none of the negative side effects of traditional steroidals. Better! Faster! Safer! Healthier! BANNED!
Since a number of you, gentle readers, seem to be confused about what I am advocating here, I thought I might dilate a bit. It isn't Islam that I really care about one way or another. I'll return to that below. Commenter Brian notes:
It's easy to laugh, Ioz. But...arranged marriages and honor killings are an issue, no? Or, are you saying such are merely part of the propaganda war for our never ending conflict against the duky hordes? Or-can BOTH be true-Islam has some messed up gender dynamics AND said dynamics are emphasized as part of a propaganda campaign by certain "unpleasant" elements of OUR society.Regarding arranged marriages and honor killings, there's actually an instructive antecedent in the history of British India. The practice of suttee, a widow's ritual self-immolation, was widely expounded as the sort of backwardness that the British civilizing mission supposedly came to correct. And indeed, for decades after Independence, this narrative repeated itself, until the explosion of post-colonial scholarship in the nineties pointed out that though suttee was real, it was far from prevalent: in fact, it was vanishingly rare. The conquest of the subcontinent and all that entailed could hardly be justified by the fact that it may or may not have prevented a handful of ritual suicides.
Sadly, although there may be victims of Islamic prudery and control, I doubt the numbers match the death and destruction caused by our Freedom Express.
I hold no brief for Islam. It is as preposterous, cruel, and vacuous as its brother-faiths in the Abrahamic tradition. Yet "honor killings" are the sort of thing that happen in America all the time, with nothing to do with Islam. They're plotted on prime time. They play daily on Law and Order. The absence of overt religious motivations doesn't negate the fact that guys kill girls for cheating; husbands kill wives; fathers kill daughters. Intrafamilial and intracommunal violence is horrific and sad, but let us not pretend that it somehow affects the adherents of this or that sect more acutely than some other. Violence and possessiveness are universal frailties of our unfortunate species.
But, to return to the more salient point, I don't advocate a social arrangement that consists of Islam and Therestofus. I advocate the Balkanization of human society, the dismantling of empires and nation-states, the gradual devolution of our immense social entities, the concurrent reduction in human populations, the end of the ability of massive, mechanized warfare. I think a good way to begin is to begin allowing people to create communities of affinity to govern their social affairs as much or as little as they deem necessary, through participatory agreements of limited duration to protect against mistaken affiliation, abuse, regrets, etc.
Well that was predictable. The practical effects should be relatively minimal. The government was already eavesdropping and data-mining and turning its COMINT and SIGINT technologies on domestic targets. They were essentially unfettered in doing so. The prior regime of secret courts was a rubber stamp. Who was it that showed the FISA court had rejected less than half a dozen requests over the several decades and thousands of warrants of its existence? It was fanciful to believe that a secret, administrative court served as a bulwark of our privacy. We're neither better nor worse off, although we may benefit insofar as a few more Donks hop off the circus train and head over to the radical borderlands. What an embarrassing capitulation, meaningless though it ultimately, practically was.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Look, folks, the housing bubble AKA mortgage crisis AKA credit crunch wasn't some spontaneous phenomenon, without precedent or atecedent or cause. As the American economy sloughed its traditional indistry and financialized, some folks figured out that you still needed an asset base somewhere. The government built the feeder roads; the tax-abated developers built the far-flung, cul-de-sac'd crapmunities; the credit industry temporarily subsidized new home ownership; the Real Estate industry colluded in rapidly elevating home prices; the swift increase in property valuation allowed quick trade-up; quick trade-up gave ordinary folks hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt which the credit industry treated simultaneously as an asset, convincing people to buy up and refinance with their phony-baloney $700,000 collateral; all that debt got treated like a great big bag of accounts recievables, got valued, got sold; the purchasing financial institutions used the value of these grossly overinflated (and unresolved!) debts to finance the purchase of stocks and commodities and the moon and the foreskin of Jesus. Jenga!
If Christopher Hitchens and Anne Applebaum are both sternly against something, you can be pretty sure it has merit. In this instance, the Archbishop of Canterbury has clumsily advanced the notion that perhaps civil and family law ought to belong to cultural communities. Hitchenbaum rises like a river trout to a well-cast fly: "He wants us in chains! Dhimmitude!" it cries. True, the hows and whens of Rowan Williams not-quite-a-plan-but-a-suggestion remain a little nebulous, but I frankly endorse his ends. Why, after all, shouldn't we join some kind of actually consensual community, say on a contractual basis for periods of limited duration? Hitchens in the highest dander that his five-decade hangover will allow without rupturing an eyeball, screams that a lot of North-London Hasidim arbitrate their own breaches of contract and trust, presumably based on Talmudic principle. Well, why not, if the parties mutually agree to independent arbitrage, why not? Remove the Jew element, which is what Hitchens is really hollering about, and what you have is a perfectly ordinary business practice, the sort of thing that happens every day between parties that wish to arbitrate, mediate, and adjudicate disputes outside of the courts.
To the extent possible, all human relationships ought to be volunatry. Most of us agree on this point in the abstract; it isn't only a libertarian totem. Yet in practice almost no one can abide it, and will argue that it is far more sensical to gather 10, 15, 50, 500 million human beings under a system of uniform "justice," which will be applicable to and desirable for all.
UPDATE: A complementary take on the same.
It seems to me that the various Sarkozy affairs give a pretty fair indication of what a Giuliani presidency would've looked like. I've got to say that I'm a little disappointed it won't come to pass.
Monday, February 11, 2008
You know, I'll freely admit that NPR beats its legacy competitors, that compared to any radio or television broadcast it shines like Venus on a good morning, and that with the exception of the Times and the Post--and even those two more rarely than often--it provides better "news and analysis" than any major daily. That's the sort of comparison that a buddy of mine once took to calling a Hitlinmao, a mashup of the 20th Century's great dictators, as in: does it really matter which one was better or worse? Nevertheless, there it is. The NPR view is strictly normative, totally conventional, which is to say almost uniformly wrong, but within the narrow boundaries of recieved opinion, it's as good as it gets. Its cultural coverage is strictly middlebrow, the sort of thing that anyone with a little esprit de soixante-huit would call hopelessly bourgeois. Terry Gross and Lynne Rossetto Kasper manage mostly to effuse over mediocrity. Still, have you read the Times Book Review lately? It makes Terry Gross look like George Eliot.
All that caveating aside, though, the Pittsburgh affiliate is in the middle of one of those interminable pledge drives, and having listened to a bit of it, I've got to say that I'm struck by the newfound (is it newfound?) tone of hectoring superiotiy:
You pick this station because you are the best and your neighbor Sharon is a moron. You like arugula and she eats iceberg wedges. Your mind is a cosmos unto itself. You are the Ubermensch. God is dead . . . or is he? Let's ask this roundtable, the kind of news and cultural programming you only get on NPR. Avaialble as a transcript inscribed on the inside of a commemorative coffee mug, where it will reveal the majesty of human thought as you chat with your friends at the office, for a donation of only eighty dollars a month.They had some guy on today who said that listening to Public Radion without paying for it is stealing. I'm pretty sure he was serious. Reminded me of this poor bastard, somehow.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
We had a friend who lived in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, an elfin homo with the conjoined qualities of gossiping and taking grave personal offense when people spoke ill of him. Oh, the many overindulgent nights that ended in, "Fuck you faggots! I'm going back to Greensburg, and I'm taking the coke!"
Anyway, to paraphrase Chris Bowers, one of the higher soprani in the rather . . . elfin boys' choir that is the Donk Unterestablishment: Fuck you faggots! I'm going back to Greensburg, and I'm taking the coke!"
Let's not get ahead of ourselves. It begins with a Panegyric to Myself, a tour of tortured anaphora, to be set with counterpoint and sung in the key of pregnant frogs:
I am a Democrat. I am my own local precinct captain, and I hold a seat on the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee. Over the past four years, I have helped raise millions of dollars for Democrats. I believe in the primary process and intra-party democracy as a means of resolving disputes within the American center-left coalition. I believe in endorsing whoever wins the majority support of the rank and file, no matter who that person may be, as long as it is the result of democratic deliberation within the coalition. The reason I do all of this is because I believe the Democratic Party is an essential institution that the American center-left must utilize in order to have all of its diverse voices heard and, after those disputes are resolved internally, to provide a united front against conservatives on the electoral stage.It's a rare thing for such a chump to expose the basic flaw that dooms participatory democracy to inevitable, if rather milquetoast, tyranny, but I'll be damned. "I believe in endorsing whoever wins the majority support of the rank and file, no matter who that person may be, as long as it is the result of democratic deliberation within the coalition." Here you have a parliamentary process, a set of arbitrary procedural rules regularized by repetition and tradition, proposed as an antidote to belief, principle, responsibility, morality, personal ethics, intellectual committments . . . whatever you want to call them. So long as the session is properly called to order and the votes properly tallied, the guy will go along. But lest you think he's floating on the path of Defeatist Tao, he affirms his tireless dedication to getting whatever jackass burps out of the process, "no matter who that person may be," in order "to provide a united front against conservatives," who, to be fair, are engaged in their own worship of utter exigency as the nondetermining nondeterminent in this Godelian universe of Void and Nothingness. Fuck you, Lebowski. Vee believe in nothings.
Well, it gets better:
If the institution that exists to resolve disputes within the American center-left does not operate according to democratic principles, then I see no reason to continue participating within that institution. If that institution fails to respect democratic principles in its most important internal contest of all--nominating an individual for President of the United States--then I will quit the Democratic Party. And yes, I am perfectly serious about this. If someone is nominated for POTUS from the Democratic Party despite another candidate receiving more poplar support from Democratic primary voters and caucus goers, I will resign as local precinct captain, resign my seat on the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee, immediately cease all fundraising for all Democrats, refuse to endorse the Democratic "nominee" for any office, and otherwise disengage from the Democratic Party through all available means of doing so.You may note a bit of backdoor in all this oathmaking and avowing. The commission of lies begins with the omission of facts. I can't quite find any mention of not voting for the Democratic nominee in the general in this impressively repetetive, listificated snit. Come on, buddy. Give us another bump before you go. One for the road.
So dig this: Legality determines morality. Past illegality is overruled by present necessity. Present necessity allows--demands--retroactive legality. Retroactive legality confers past morality. Past morality determines past legality.
It's sort of like a chorus line, but with a higher salute and a stiffer arm, if you know whaddumsayin.
It's true that I occasionally style myself as the Typical Gay Misogynist™, but I'm still reliably shocked by the depth of heterosexual male insecurity as concerns Women and Power. Maybe the howlers on Fox News and the like are really right to lament the decline of the White Man, beset on all sides by recipients of special privilege, criticized for his essential being in a manner that would be totally unacceptable if aimed at any other demographic cohort, friendless, loveless, etc. I guess the prevalence of erection potions on the TV is evidence enough; the popular rhetoric is just confirmation: the 30+ Straight White Dude is a almost bottomless well of psychosexual inadequacies. On the Right these days, we find the Ripperian fear that the West suffers a collective loss of essence. The only marginally--but only marginally--steadier Kristof of the first linked article above, is more modestly invested in constructing a chop-logical edifice that tries to build some Theses on How Women in Democracies Are Undermined by sui generis Popular Sentiments that Make Women Bad, positing an inevitability to these innate, inherent, inherited terrors of Women-in-Charge, even as his on-the-other-hand is prestodigitating a litany of lousy chick politicians because that, like, um, QED, man. Notable about this list: you would be pressed to name any good prime ministers of any gender in the countries in question. India came closest. But Pakistan? The Phillipines? Indonesia? It seems awfully tendentious to note that these countries had bad women leaders without nodding to the fact that they've had uniformly bad leaders of both penile and vaginal persuasions. How embarrassing: To write--for public consumption!--a column so self-evidently seeking a rationale for one's own prejudice.
This is so obviously a plant. The only question is whether it's been planted by Americans as some kind of psyops scam for the home front or by the core groups of the Sunni insurgency as some kind of psyops scam against Americans who, let's face it, will believe anything. As soon as an independent translator reads it, we'll know the answer to that question. My money's on the latter.