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Archive for April 2007

“there is no imminent threat”

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I was just looking around for something, and came across the transcript of Ari Fleischer’s White House press briefing from March 5, 2003. Obvious, old stuff, I know, and apropos of nothing in particular right at this minute, but horrifying, edifying reading nonetheless…

Here’s an exchange with Helen Thomas:

Q Ari, since there is an atmosphere of the imminence of war in this White House, and since we have no direct access to the President, will you state for the record, for the historical record, why he wants to bomb Iraqi people?

MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, I dispute the premise of your question, first of all. There’s regular — there’s regular access to the President. The President is asked questions all the time. And when the President —

Q He hasn’t had a press conference for months.

MR. FLEISCHER: And when 14 of your colleagues spend 36 minutes asking scores of questions to the President just two days ago —

Q Well, that’s not a news conference.

MR. FLEISCHER: — they asked the President a similar question, although they phrased it a little differently than you did. They asked the President why does he feel so strongly about the need to use force, if it comes to that, to disarm Saddam Hussein. And the answer from the President was that, given the fact that the world changed on September 11th, the threat to the American people was brought immediately to our home and to our shores and to our families, the President thinks it is in the interest of peace to make certain that Saddam Hussein does not have weapons of mass destruction which he can use against us, either by transferring them to terrorists or using them himself.

Q There is no imminent threat.

MR. FLEISCHER: This is where — Helen, if you were President you might view things differently. But you have your judgment and the President has others.

Q Why doesn’t he prove it? Why don’t you lay it out? When have they threatened in the last 12 years?

MR. FLEISCHER: They have attacked their neighbors. They have gassed their own people.

Q Twelve years ago.

MR. FLEISCHER: They have launched attacks.

Q With our support.

MR. FLEISCHER: And September 11th showed the United States is vulnerable to those who would attack us. And one of the best ways to protect the homeland is to go after the threats abroad.

Q You haven’t linked terrorism to Saddam Hussein, in terms of 9/11.

MR. FLEISCHER: It’s not — the threat is what took place on 9/11. You don’t have to make a direct linkage between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 to know that others who are planning can try to do it again, Saddam Hussein included.

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April 13, 2007 at 12:34 am

Posted in america, war

stylebook schizophrenia

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Swifty has a terrific post up over at Long Sunday. I won’t even preview it here – just go take a look….

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April 11, 2007 at 11:30 pm

Posted in america, empire

exception / rule

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From Benjamin’s Work of Art essay:

The shooting of a film, especially of a sound film, affords a spectacle unimaginable anywhere at any time before this. It presents a process in which it is impossible to assign to a spectator a viewpoint which would exclude from the actual scene such extraneous accessories as camera equipment, lighting machinery, staff assistants, etc.–unless his eye were on a line parallel with the lens. This circumstance, more than any other, renders superficial and insignificant any possible similarity between a scene in the studio and one on the stage. In the theater one is well aware of the place from which the play cannot immediately be detected as illusionary. There is no such place for the movie scene that is being shot. Its illusionary nature is that of the second degree, the result of cutting. That is to say, in the studio the mechanical equipment has penetrated so deeply into reality that its pure aspect freed from the foreign substance of equipment is the result of a special procedure, namely, the shooting by the specially adjusted camera and the mounting of the shot together with other similar ones. The equipment-free aspect of rea1ity here has become the height of artifice; the sight of immediate reality has become an orchid in the land of technology.

Even more revealing is the comparison of these circumstances, which differ so much from those of the theater, with the situation in painting. Here the question is: How does the cameraman compare with the painter? To answer this we take recourse to an analogy with a surgical operation. The surgeon represents the polar opposite of the magician. The magician heals a sick person by the laying on of hands; the surgeon cuts into the patients body. The magician maintains the natural distance between the patient and himself; though he reduces it very slightly by the laying on of hands, he greatly increases it by virtue of his authority. The surgeon does exactly the reverse; he greatly diminishes the distance between himself and the patient by penetrating into the patient’s body, and increases it but little by the caution with which his hand moves among the organs. In short, in contrast to the magician–who is still hidden in the medical practitioner–the surgeon at the decisive moment abstains from facing the patient man to man; rather, it is through the operation that he penetrates into him.

Magician and surgeon compare to painter and cameraman. The painter maintains in his work a natural distance from reality, the cameraman penetrates deeply into its web. There is a tremendous difference between the pictures they obtain. That of the painter is a total one, that of the cameraman consists of multiple fragments which are assembled under a new law. Thus, for contemporary man the representation of reality by the film is incomparably more significant than that of the painter, since it offers, precisely because of the thoroughgoing permeation of reality with mechanical equipment, an aspect of reality which is free of all equipment. And that is what one is entitled to ask from a work of art.

Now, take a look at this:

In Children of Men, it is the virtuosic resistence to montage that marks the most “thoroughgoing permeation of reality with mechanical equipment.” Can we be far away from the feature film in one shot? (Perhaps we’re already there – if so, enlighten me…) And, in light of this, what do we make of Benjamin’s aspect of this aspect of film? Is there a formal / revolutionary vectoring of the montage-free, the all in one shot?

More to come on this to be sure… I want to say something related but different about this….

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April 11, 2007 at 12:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

but were they nappy-headed spear carriers?

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Richard Stern, perhaps the most baffling near-octogenarian in the blogosphere, chips in an only-somewhat hesitant defense of Don Imus today at TNR’s Third Way Open University.

Imus, following the low lead of his complexly semi-racist producer, Bernard McGirk, laughingly said that the triumphant Rutgers University women’s basketball team looked like “nappy-headed hos.”

Protests, soon spearheaded by the usual spear carriers, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, called for Imus to be permanently denied the publicly financed airways.

Lots and lots of spears in that last sentence. Wow.

I’ve been following Stern relatively closely since this post a few weeks ago, which just might be the most inscrutable piece of webloggery I have ever seen. Anyone who can explain the last paragraph to me (and to all of us really) wins some sort of prize to be determined, likely a prize without products, but still. Stern even wrote a follow-up, meant to explain, but which only makes things worse.

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April 10, 2007 at 2:35 pm

Posted in blogs

black swan

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This guy is a trip. Nassim Nicholas Taleb… He’s got a book out that I’ll likely buy, and I most definitely remember the alluring New Yorker article about him by Malcolm Gladwell. He fancies himself something of a renaissance man, and I guess to a certain extent he is one, if one of a very peculiar sort.

But check this out from something on his site that he reminds us at length is definitely not a blog.

This brings me to my comparative discussion Benoit Mandelbrot/ Susan Sontag that I truncated on the day Sontag died. I met both on the very same day, in New York, in October 2001. At the BBC studio where we were interviewed (separately) about our books, Sontag was told that I dealt in “randomness” and developed in interest in talking to me. When she learned by looking at my bio on the dust jacket that I was “in markets”, she gave me the look as if I had killed her mother. She turned her back to me as I was in mid-sentence, leaving me to the discomfort of having to speak without audience. It feels extremely humiliating to be speaking to someone’s back; it felt like the worst, most demeaning insult I ever had in my life. I swallowed my pride and, as I had an afternoon to kill, I forced myself to go to B&N get a copy of her book. I forced myself to enjoy her style, in spite of the frustration, and, after 4 pages, I was able to find it charming –but I kept wondering & introspecting: had I not had witnessed closed-mindedness and abject manners, how would my appreciation of the text turn out to be? (Levantine patricians used to be taught that manners > acts; it is worse to be rude to someone than try to murder him.)

Probably yet another mark in Sontag’s favor. I’ve been on something of a Sontag kick lately, and this one warms the heart a bit…

A bit further in the same post (not a blog so it can’t be a post), we get this lovely nugget:

My Stand Againt Atheism. This, and many other things explain why I just cannot understand atheism. I just cannot. If I were to take “rationality” to its limit, I would then have to treat the dead no differently from the unborn, those who came and left us in the same manner as those who do not exist yet. Otherwise I would be making the mistake of sunk costs [endowment effect]. I cannot & I just do not want to. Homo sum! I want to stay rational in the profane, not the sacred.]

Not really sure what this has to do with atheism/theism, but the “sunk costs” bit is rather fantastic bit, no?

Here’s the kicker: both excerpts are from a post entitled: Baudrillard-Give the Dead Some Respect-Against Atheism.

And finally, a paper that executes the closest thing to perfect-10 Inverse Sokal that I’ve ever seen.

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April 10, 2007 at 12:09 pm

god hates fags… and sweden

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I’m not going to bother saying anything clever about this. Not sure there is anything to say.

The Sweden bit happens at the end of part 3 and beginning of 4.

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April 10, 2007 at 1:25 am

Posted in america

as grave a threat as the neutron bomb

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From a report on future threats generated by the UK’s Ministry of Defence and as reported in the Guardian:


“The middle classes could become a revolutionary class, taking the role envisaged for the proletariat by Marx,” says the report. The thesis is based on a growing gap between the middle classes and the super-rich on one hand and an urban under-class threatening social order: “The world’s middle classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest”. Marxism could also be revived, it says, because of global inequality. An increased trend towards moral relativism and pragmatic values will encourage people to seek the “sanctuary provided by more rigid belief systems, including religious orthodoxy and doctrinaire political ideologies, such as popularism and Marxism”.

Interesting isn’t it that a reaction against moral relativism (usually named as the principle export product of humanities departments in the US) will, according to the authors of this report, lead to the popular re-embrace of Marxism.

Given my few recent experiences with, yes that’s what it was, retrograde post-structuralist “relativism” taken to a very shady place (quick version: Abu-Ghraib Did Not Take Place) all I can say is: let’s hope the MoD is right, at least on this count.

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April 10, 2007 at 12:08 am

Posted in academia, socialism


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The New York Observer is to the realm of print journalism what Cops is to television programing. Both are born of utter rot. Both primarily feed and water the worst impulses in their audiences. But interestingly, both, because of their malignant rottenness, are venues for the near-exclusive exposure of the truth of American cultural life and its decay today.

I’ll leave you to troll through youtube looking for Cops examples, but here’s one from the Observer.

Dana Vachon, the 28-year-old banker turned blogger turned novelist about town, was not wearing socks. Just loafers. A buttery brown leather pair that may or may not have been Gucci and cocooned his feet to reveal just the manliest hint of hair-sprinkled skin. Set against an outfit of cobalt blue jeans, gold-coin cufflinks, and a gold-buttoned blazer, they perfected the look of a fresh Welton Academy grad who had just arrived for cocktails at the club.

As it happened, Mr. Vachon wasn’t sipping cocktails but herbal tea, and he was reclining at a table at the 1990’s trend-spot Balthazar—a restaurant that is, in theory at least, not a private club. It was an intriguing choice for a young scribbler whose first novel, Mergers and Acquisitions, is being promoted as the spiritual and stylistic heir to Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney’s coke-powered chronicle of early New York yuppiedom.


He began by freelancing for magazines like The American Conservative, which led, at the suggestion of his B.B.F. (best blogger friend) Elizabeth Spiers, to a blog about the “life and adventures of a 26-year-old investment banker,” which led to his discovery by power-agent David Kuhn, which led, in the spring of 2005, to a deal with Riverhead Books. A big deal. Mr. Vachon would get $650,000 to produce two novels for the imprint. That he was a first-time author who sealed the deal on spec, with just a 70-page taste of his novel-to-be, made him irresistible to lit gossips.


“I wanted to set down a portrait of this generation. Period,” he continued. “What’s the great Flaubertian quote? ‘All it takes for a member of the bourgeoisie to be happy is good health, selfishness, and stupidity, but the first two will get you nowhere if you don’t have the third’?” he said, slightly misquoting the author. “I love that.”

Seriously. Please. Stay. Away. From. The. Flaubert. You. Are. Going. To. Hurt. Yourself.

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April 6, 2007 at 2:42 am


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From a nifty piece on the Czechoslovak Month of Books:

The Month of Books event was designed to demonstrate the harnessing of the written word in the service of Communist doctrine. The Month of Books was targeted above all at select population groups where “ideological growth” could be expected. The youth, peasants, and workmen were to be remoulded and remade into politically mature comrades devoted to the Socialist regime. By establishing the post of literary adviser, the state apparatus secured access to workplaces. Factories, foundries, schools, and other institutions became venues for exhibitions, literary discussions, and other cultural events. Milos Vantuch, former head of the central library at the Klement Gottwald New Foundry, gives a detailed account of one such discussion:

The book, The Basics of the Coking Industry, authored by Kozina and Pisa, two excellent experts, has become available on the market. It is written in a very readable form so that almost all employees of the coke plant will be able to study it thoroughly. These are the reasons we chose this book for the discussion. How did we organise the discussion? The operational library of the coke plant provided us with the names of all those who had borrowed the book and we visited them personally in their workplaces. We discussed the book with them and asked their opinion. They also agreed to present their views as contributions to the discussion. We explained to them the significance and importance of the fact that they themselves would present their contributions. […] The discussion was very interesting. Its course was as follows: […] comrade Cejka opened the discussion and asked engineer Splichal to host it. The first person to enter the discussion was comrade Kormanec, blast-furnace foreman. In his opinion, the book lacks information on the water consumption per tonne of coke when quenching in the coke-quenching tower. He also mentioned the difficulties of switching from coke gas to blast-furnace gas. […] At the end of the talk, professor Kozina took the floor and, speaking on behalf of his co-author, said that they were very content with the results of the discussion and warmly thanked the organizers. The talk began at 14:40 and ended at 17:10. 65 comrades, both men and women, took part; there were 22 contributions to the discussion.”

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April 6, 2007 at 1:55 am

Posted in literature, socialism

what should the left propose?

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An interesting (and devastating) review of Roberto Unger’s What Should the Left Do? by Michael Bérubé. (I haven’t read Unger’s book, so I can’t really attest to the accuracy of the review, but I’m willing to take MB at his word.) Here’s one bit where Bérubé highlights a Unger’s reaction to the “Dictatorship of No Alternatives” in which the reaction itself takes the shape, to my mind, of a repetition of exactly the sort of third-way progressivism without pain that is half or more of the problem.

To understand the nature of those proposals, one needs to realize that when Unger speaks of the Dictatorship of No Alternatives and humanity’s desperate need to overthrow it, he is not just talking about the narrow spectrum of politics in the United States, where the center has shifted so far to the right that tepid Clintonian triangulation has become the left wing of the possible; he’s dissenting from the idea that the projects of egalitarian social justice should be funded by the redistribution of wealth. Instead, Unger’s project seeks “to root a bias to greater equality and inclusion in the organized logic of economic growth and technological innovation rather than making it rest on retrospective redistribution through tax and transfer.” (This does not, however, prevent Unger from proposing a confiscatory tax on inheritances—or, as he puts it, “the simple abolition of the right of inheritance”—so that “social inheritance for all would gradually replace family inheritance for the few.”)

How do we root a bias to greater equality and inclusion in the organized logic of economic growth and technological innovation? Basically, by making market dynamics more dynamic than even the most exuberant cybercapitalist has yet imagined, in order “to produce a series of repeated breakthroughs in the constraints on economic growth.” At the same time, we will set about creating a form of “high-energy democratic politics” that “requires a sustained and organized heightening of the level of civil engagement,” including plebiscites and other instruments of direct democracy that will override fusty old constitutional strictures and the friction-generating effects of that pesky Madisonian separation of powers. We will thereby “arouse a fever of productive activity, not by suppressing the market but by broadening opportunities to participate in it,” even as we “impose on the creations of such feverish productive activity a rigorous mechanism of competitive selection.” If this sounds like a paradox, surely it is no less a paradox than the idea of creating a new branch of government devoted to the creation of ceaseless flux, a kind of Megadepartment for the Fomenting of Constant Change, “equipped with both the practical resources and the political legitimacy to undertake a task for which the traditional Legislature, Executive, and Judiciary are ill suited.” That task, Unger explains, “is to intervene in particular social organizations and practices that have become little citadels of despotism, and to reconstruct them.”

If the book opens with a critique of actually existing “flexibility,” the answer proposed seems to be a utopian version of the same, a leftist thread of irrational exuberance that, yep, hitches its wagon to the very creative destruction that is the watchword of the thread of No Alternatives to the No Alternatives. (And, god, while things might be straightening out a bit now, way later than it should have happened, given the polls on Iraq, the Patriot Act, and just about every other issue of public import during the first 3/4ths of the Bush era, do plebiscites really seem like a sure fire fix?)

But beyond the question of value of this particular book, what is at once rather revealing and disheartening about that fact that it fails, the fact that every book and article and thought of this sort seems either to fail utterly to fulfill its contract and propose any proposition at all or to collapse into a heap of insane contradictory repetitions or repetitive contradictions, is the sense of how difficult it is today to develop even a modest suggestion of what it is that we might collectively want or do or even just think about wanting or doing. The Dictatorship of No Alternatives rules inside our restive, if confused minds and works just as profoundly as it does out there in the world of blurring partly lines and incessantly announced impossibilities. We see in Unger’s book – and just about everywhere else – just how difficult it is for the left – whatever left, whether we’re talking about the US democratic party or Brazilian legal theorists or marxist English professors or anyone between or beyond these poles – to say coherently just what it is that the left should or even might propose beyond reactive incrementalism, parrying against the worst possible cases.

(In a sense, what I am writing here is not only about Bérubé’s review, but also a tough day at the office. Heard two papers, both informed by some degree if different types of political engagement via cultural analysis, by two esteemed scholars, one of which shrugged off without real rejoinder the fact that the aesthetic principle he seemed to be advocating streamed historically, quite directly, into an allegiance with Nazism, while the second derided the work of human rights organizations and practical critics like Sontag (sure, sure, of course we see what you mean, of course) without suggesting any possible course of action beyond thinking good thoughts, radical thoughts, knowing better than the engaged and entangled. I was not a happy camper by the end of the day…)

And, to preview where I am headed with all of this in future posts: I am beginning to wonder whether a realignment (not total, but definitely significant) of the aesthetic humanities (did you see that! a little realignment in and of itself right there) might not be able to incrementally work towards a modest utopianism, or utopianly vector a kind of political incrementalism, in such a way that we (both the aesthetic humanists in the academy and, well, hopefully, the wider world) might start to know again what kind of story we’d like to tell ourselves and our children about the world and its direction. I wonder if, given certain adjustments in the way we work and in particular what we work towards might begin to shed light on at least what it is that we want, what we like, what is, in the fullest and newest sense, beautiful, a shift that might with work and luck be a first step on the road toward what we might do.

Stay tuned… More to come…

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April 6, 2007 at 12:29 am

Good Magazine: Philanthropic Condescension, Teacher Salaries, and Truthiness

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I subscribe to a lot of magazines, sometimes just for the hell of it. I have a long standing interest in the genre… And many of them don’t cost very much. So I signed up for Good Magazine after I took a look at the first issue. This was especially easy since, remarkably, 100 percent of the cost would be donated to a charity of my choice… No lose situation… What the hell, right…

Good is a strange bird, but one fully in sync with the times. Here’s the editorial statement:

We see a growing number of people tied together not by age, career, background, or circumstance, but by a shared interest. This revolves around a passion for potential mixed with fierce pragmatism and creative engagement. We sum all this up as the sensibility of giving a damn. But to shorten it, let’s call it GOOD. We’re here to push this movement and cover its realization.

While so much of today’s media is taking up our space, dumbing us down, and impeding our productivity, GOOD exists to add value. Through a print magazine, feature and documentary films, original multimedia content and local events, GOOD is providing a platform for the ideas, people, and businesses that are driving change in the world.

The word “business” sticks in the craw a bit, but who cares, right? Sounds like a good idea, even if the statement doesn’t inspire much confidence as far as a predictor of hard-hitting content. One imagines post-partisan up-beatness, neo-liberalism restrung as greenish good will plus tech innovation etc…

But looking back, I probably should have seen what was coming up the pike. I was shocked today when I opened up the newest issue arrived and I flipped through to the following infographic feature at the center of the magazine. (Please excuse the poor scans – hopefully you’ll be able to make them out… Click to enlarge….)

Scan 74223225 1

Scan 742232115 1

I nearly choked on my dinner when I saw this page, which is a state by state chart of how much higher the average school teacher salary (well, not quite… wait for a second) is than the average “white-collar, nonsales employee” in the US. So we’re not even talking teachers vs. proles and farmers here. This is teachers vs. executives, managers, administrators, (nonsales) service and clerical workers.

The numbers are shocking. The average teacher in Connecticut makes 43.1% more than the average white collar worker? In New York, it’s 37.7%. Vermont, 53.9% And in Florida, we’re talking a whopping 65.2%. Teachers must stock the upper-echelons of the upper-middle class, giving doctors and lawyers and corporate vice presidents a run for their money! Wow! We’re not even talking college teachers here – just plain old high school, middle, and elementary school instructors.

Of course, this is just so much bullshit. The first clue is the lead name in the list of sources for the infographic. That’s right, the good old Manhattan Institute, an organization renowned for its slippery use of statistical analysis – a Scaife and Olin funded right-wing think tank in the classical mold pledged to “develop and disseminate new ideas that foster greater economic choice and individual responsibility.”

So what is the trick of the MI study upon which the Good pages are based? The oldest and silliest trick in the book when it comes to knocking teacher pay: the comparisons are based on hourly earnings rather than yearly salaries. So, because of the summer and other breaks, as well as the short formalized work day (8-2 or 9-3 clock in and out), yeah, obviously teachers’ rate of pay looks ridiculously impressive. Basically, when presented this way, the average teacher in the US, who actually makes $47,674, is factored as making the equivalent of something like $57,000 per annum.

Which of course they don’t make. They make $47,000 per year. The Manhattan Institute explains their deceptive method in the following way:

One of the significant benefits available to public school teachers is that they work fewer weeks per year. Teachers can use that time to be with family, to engage in activities that they enjoy, or to earn additional money from other employment. Whether teachers use those free weeks to make additional money or simply to enjoy their time off, that time is worth money and cannot simply be ignored when comparing earnings. The appropriate way to compare earnings in this circumstance is to focus on hourly rates.

Um, sure. This is true. But let’s be clear. School teachers are not going to, as a rule, find work during the summer months (and mid-semester breaks, for god’s sake) that compensates them at the same (ridiculously high – that’s the point, right?) level. Anyone who has been a Ph.D. candidate in need of summer cash can tell you that the summer temporary work options generally include, what, landscaping, summer camp counselor, barista, lifeguard, supermarket bagging – all minimum or in some cases subminimum wage type positions. Over the summer, one might expect to pull in, oh, $1500 or so before taxes. Of course, teachers can “be with family” or “engage in activities they enjoy,” sure. More likely, teachers do some of that type of thing and a lot of class preparatory groundwork, etc. But the one thing they can’t do is go into cost-reductive hibernation for the summer months, abandoning rent, mortgage, car payments, eating, and the like. The cost of living runs on a, yes, twelve month cycle. The salaries, yes, are for a twelve month cycle. In casual parlance, it’s usually called a year, and there is no option to stay alive and hungry only during a fractional part of it.

OK. Well and good. The MI study is dishonest, cherry-picking a set of data to work with that paints an inaccurate picture of the situation. But we expect that of the good folk at the Manhattan Institute. Still, why didn’t I just write a post arguing with the MI? Why bother with Good?

I bother with Good because they dishonestly made things even worse. Take a look back at the scans above. While the Manhattan Institute paper is careful to ground its claims in the proper nomenclature – they are careful to at every point describe the comparison as one of mean hourly earnings, which is the right word for the numbers compared – in the Good graphs the comparison is erroneously stated as one of salaries. “CT 43.1% above avg worker’s salary.” No one, speaking proper English, uses the word “salary” to denote an hourly wage or hourly earnings, or really anything other than the total amount of money one is paid for a job over the course of an entire year. (Just in case anyone is unclear on this point, take a look at what comes up when you search for the phrase hourly salary on Google – a whole bunch of calculators for converting your yearly salary into an hourly wage.) This error on Good’s part smacks of hyperbolic, inflationary dishonesty. Far fewer of its readers would be all that stunned to learn that teachers have a relatively high rate of pay per hour – the graph is only provocative because it suggests that the yearly salaries of teachers is that much higher than other white collar workers.

(xposted to Long Sunday)

I imagine the reaction of the average reader would be something like Holy crap! Teachers make that much money and they don’t even have to work summers!!!! Overpaid bastards!!!! Which is exactly not the case. The word salary, in other words, allows Good to score twice against teachers for a single strike…

I’m sure the reaction of Good would be that this was a fact-checking error, a non-intentional slip. But of course it isn’t – the proper language is right there for them to take from the MI piece, and the fact is salary sensationalizes the piece, makes it seem provocative and convincing in a way that mean hourly earnings does not. You can hear the number crunching, the figure forcing in the latter – the former seems to be clear as day, a simple calculation.

So why would the good folks at Good play the truthiness game? Why would they take up this issue, which seems a bit distant from the overall focus of the magazine, in the first place? Go take a look at some of the press on the founder, and I think the picture starts to clear up a little bit, especially in regard to his family foundation’s investment in teaching entrepreneurship in the schools. (Hint: public sector teaching jobs are not very entrepreneurial… But privatized, deunionized schools, well, that would be a different story… Hell, while we’re at it, why not scrap the whatever shreds of public sector infrastructure are left in the world, as tech savvy scions of media capitalists with their checkbooks + 25-40s with their green and good intentions (organic eats etc) would do a far better job at this whole taking care of poor folks than the… You get the point.)

It’s a shame, really. The magazine, in general, seems like a partly noble gesture. But it is hard to see how this infographic jives at all with these philanthropic intentions. (Even if schoolteachers were overpaid, which they of course aren’t, not by a longshot, this is an issue that Good thinks is worthy of attention, among all the other very grave problems there are in the world?) And above all else, we suffer from far too much bullshit in the realm of politics and popular sociology, far too much fact bending and bad faith argumentation, which makes this sort of thing, in the end, truly unforgivable.

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April 3, 2007 at 1:26 am

solid objects and redemption

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Bill Brown, toward the end of this essay on this short story by Virginia Woolf:

The fragment appears in “Solid Objects” as the figure of the material metonym whose metonymic function has been arrested–the unconsummated metonym, as it were. The unconsummated metonym is the figure, or the conceptual image, that Woolf offers us to think the object/thing dialectic, to think the world anew. John collects broken parts that are not really parts of anything determinable: “it was impossible to say whether it had been bottle, tumbler, or window-pane; it was nothing but glass.” His materialism, where parts are related not to wholes but to other parts, enacts a kind of redemption that refuses the (Heideggerian) temporality of recuperation.

Sounds a bit like an ad without products, this fragment, this “unconsummated metonym.” It certainly, according to Brown, points toward the same temporality of redemption.

You should read both the story and the essay if you have a chance…

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April 2, 2007 at 12:44 am

Posted in simplicity, woolf