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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

what novels are for (according to conservative columnists)

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Slightly unfair to throw one columnist’s words from 2011 up against another’s from 1988. But this is, it seems to me, interesting to think about. Ross Douthat today in the NYT:

But chances are that Loughner’s motives will prove as irreducibly complex as those of most of his predecessors in assassination. Violence in American politics tends to bubble up from a world that’s far stranger than any Glenn Beck monologue — a murky landscape where worldviews get cobbled together from a host of baroque conspiracy theories, and where the line between ideological extremism and mental illness gets blurry fast.

This is the world that gave us Oswald and Bremer. More recently, it’s given us figures like James W. von Brunn, the neo-Nazi who opened fire at the Holocaust Museum in 2009, and James Lee, who took hostages at the Discovery Channel last summer to express his displeasure over population growth. These are figures better analyzed by novelists than pundits: as Walter Kirn put it Saturday, they’re “self-anointed knights templar of the collective shadow realm, not secular political actors in extremis.”

George Will in 1988 on Don DeLillo’s Libra, via here, and its presentation of Lee Harvey Oswald:

DeLillo says he is just filling in “some of the blank spaces in the known record.” But there is no blank space large enough to accommodate, and not a particle of evidence for, DeLillo’s lunatic conspiracy theory. In the book’s weaselly afterword, he says he has made “no attempt to furnish factual answers.” But in a New York Times interview he says, “I purposely chose the most obvious theory because I wanted to do justice to historical likelihood.”

History, says a DeLillo character, is “the sum total of all the things they aren’t telling us.” Of course. “They.” That antecedentless pronoun hants the fevered imaginations of paranoiacs. For conspiracy addicts like DeLillo, the utter absence of evidence, after 25 years of search, proves not that there was no conspiracy but that the conspiracy was diabolically clever.

It is well to be reminded by books like this of the virulence of the loathing some intellectuals feel for American society, and of the frivolous thinking that fuels it.

Of course, neither of them are wrong about what novels generally and reflexively do when it comes to ethical questions. Contextualization and the relativism that comes of it, speculation to fill in the holes in the story where the assignment of goodness or evilness might otherwise fill the blank – all very much a part of the game, and you basically have to derange the form a bit in order to do otherwise with them.

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January 10, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Posted in america, novel, Politics

recession chic: own-brand politics

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Interestingly zeitgeisty subsumption of recession chic Walmartistic marketing * into politics, this “No Labels” campaign. Even more interesting that it seems to be either a product or an opportunistic ally of MSNBC, the no-name name of television news. While the members of this movement, as I understand it, are involved for a variety of reasons, if it’s primarily a vehicle established to support a presidential run by Michael Bloomberg in 2012, then here “store brand” = “post-ideological plutocracy.” Obviously ‘post-ideological’ needs to be in scare quotes, but that’s the idea, and really just a consolidation of a long-held (and eighty-percent perverse) American instinct about the relationship between politics and money.

* Part of Walmart’s very very tacit come-on is that such is its buying power that it could force name-brand companies to make or bake items for its store brand simply in order also to have access to its shelves for stuff under their own labels. Somehow this seems similar to what these “No Name” people are up to.

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December 21, 2010 at 6:44 am

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Is a good thing. Have been re-radicalized, as opposed to mope and more mope, by getting involved with the students’ occupation of my university. Gave a talk yesterday, the only faculty member to do so so far. Proud of myself in a rare sort of way…. Even more proud of the kids. Headed back down there now….



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November 27, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Posted in academia, Politics


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Nicely done, Professor Krugman.

The money-shot: "It’s perverse but true that this system, which insures only 85 percent
of the population, costs much more than we would pay for a system that
covered everyone."

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April 22, 2005 at 2:17 am

Posted in Politics

“So calm and gracious about it…”

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StorysmithapStoryfondanewlineap_1Wow, a spontaneous enactment of the entire story of US politics! The whole story in a nutshelll, played out on the aisles on Rainy Day Books in Fairway, Kansas – a suburb of Kansas City. From CNN:

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (AP) — A man spit
tobacco juice into the face of Jane Fonda after waiting in line to have
her sign her new memoir.

Capt. Rich Lockhart of the Kansas
City Police Department said Michael A. Smith, 54, was arrested Tuesday
night on a municipal charge of disorderly conduct. He was released on
bond and is due to appear in court on May 27.

Fonda covers a wide
range of topics in "My Life So Far," including her 1972 visit to Hanoi
to protest the Vietnam War, during which she was photographed on a
North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun. She has apologized for the photo,
but not for opposing the war.

Smith, a Vietnam veteran, told The
Kansas City Star Wednesday that Fonda was a "traitor" and that her
protests against the Vietnam War were unforgivable. He said he doesn’t
chew tobacco but did so Tuesday solely to spit juice on the actress.

consider it a debt of honor," he told The Star for a story on its Web
site. "She spit in our faces for 37 years. It was absolutely worth it.
There are a lot of veterans who would love to do what I did."

who flew to Minneapolis Wednesday for another appearance on her book
tour, issued a statement through Jynne Martin of Random House.

spite of the incident, my experience in Kansas City was wonderful and I
thank all the warm and supportive people, including so many veterans,
who came to welcome me last night," she said.

Fonda drew a crowd
of about 900 at Unity Temple, said Vivian Jennings, whose Rainy Day
Books of suburban Fairway, Kansas, sponsored the event.

said the 67-year-old actress never got up from her seat and continued
autographing books after the tobacco juice was wiped off.

"The important thing is that she was so calm and so gracious about it," Jennings said. "She was wonderful."

So let’s see. A bumblefuck, set on a romantically inflected mission (a la Civil War, a la Walter Scott, the whole shebang) by anti-Fonda rantings of the usual wingnut blogs, takes his stand by splurrting on a Hollywood leftist.

This is the best part of the whole show: "He said he doesn’t chew tobacco but did so Tuesday solely to spit juice on the actress." He self-consciously performs the part of the rednecked neanderthal – that he perhaps isn’t in real life… Sound familiar? Will and Grace watching moral values voters? Tech working drones of hypercapitalism in Atlanta settling into the pews of their suburban megamadrassa, all-medieval laserlight show of anti-modern veiled and not so veiled disgust with the new… And come election day, do they vote neo-liberal or for God’s other son?

But it’s not just the spitter but also the spittee that’s playing out the script.

Let’s see: a former "radical" that’s devolved into Oprahistic memoirism. Once Hayden’s wife, but broke with Ted Turner because she found religion and he couldn’t… And best of all, there’s her reaction to the whole thing: a gob of Red Man running down her face, she "never got up from her seat… she was so calm and gracious about it."

Sounds about right, oh so familiar, to me…

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April 21, 2005 at 1:09 pm

Posted in Politics

Badiou: from Worker to Immigrant

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WebaA paragraph from a brilliantly lucid piece by Peter Hallward on Badiou’s Politics.

The void left by
its disappearance [the term "workers], of course, has been filled by the obscure category of
‘immigrants’. Badiou has little trouble showing that ‘the hatred of immigrants
was established massively, consensually, at the level of the state, from
the moment when we began, in our representations of the world, to omit
the workers, the figure of the workers’ (LDP, 1.12.91: 3). It is obvious
that ‘the immense majority of immigrants are workers or people looking
for work’ (LDP, 1.12.91: 3) – hence the absurdity of current distinctions
between ‘asylum seekers’ and ‘economic migrants’. It is no less obvious
that the invention, as pseudo-political labels, of the terms ‘immigrant’,
‘foreigner’ ‘étranger’, ‘clandestin’, and so on, coincides
with the swing in global political economy over the 1980’s against organised
labour and popular movements generally.16
In France, Badiou points out, this movement can be dated quite precisely.
One of Mittérand’s first prime ministers, Pierre Mauroy, justified
the repression of a strike at Renault-Flins in 1983 on the basis that the
striking workers were ‘foreign to the social reality of France’ (LDP, 3.05.92:
12). The violent repression of another strike at Talbot later in the same
year confirmed the trend (LDP, 26-27.02.98: 18). Two years later, the socialist
Laurent Fabius confessed that it is ‘Le Pen [who] is posing the real questions’
(LDP, 19-20.04.96: 2), an admission effectively confirmed by Michel Rocard
(‘France cannot open its doors to the misery of the world’) and Mittérand
himself (‘we must struggle firmly against illegal immigration’) (LDP, 7.07.93:
6). The resulting consensus is indeed consistent, as the OP is at pains
to stress, with the general approach of the Front National. On the issues
of economic liberalism, immigration, crime, drugs, the banlieues,
the FN is ‘internal to the consensus’ established over two decades
of Mittérandisme (LDP, 22.06.97: 3).17
Hence the conclusion: ‘strengthen the workers, and thus limit Lepenism’
(LDP, 1.12.91: 3). Without a strong figure of the worker there can be no
effective response to the so-called ‘immigrant question’.

The common cause forged between the Front National and Mitterandisme found a precise mirror during the previous US election – in particular, during the process of determining the Democratic nominee. John Edwards’s economic populism, while not heading straight at immigrants, spoke the same code-words (tariffs, China, "free trade, but fair trade") that are aired nightly on Lou Dobbs’s show on CNN. (If you’re not familiar: a popular business tv-talking head from the (first) bubble period who tacked xenopopulist post-9/11 with recurring, actually almost complusive attention to "America’s Broken Borders."

Anyway, the issue of immigration is one of the many issues where US politics is distinctly in flux, with every side on the wrong side for the wrong reasons. The Democratic Party, pressured by the appeal of the North Carolinian Edwards (North Carolina has both been particularly hard hit by Chinese furniture imports and is facing up to their first wave of latin american lawn cutters and busboys) is lilting towards an anti-immigration, xenophobic stand. While Bush, against the grain of his patriotic rhetoric and against the wishes of his bubblefuck constituency, seems to have come to grips with the fact that the American economy instantly crumbles without the downward wage pressure of our hard-working uninvited guests… (The socially conservative lean of second generation latino voters doesn’t hurt either…)

At any rate, things have only gotten more complicated since the initial collation Badiou, via Halliward, describes above… In a certain sense, it’s not just the name "workers" – but their reality – that’s been taken over by the "immigrant," especially in New York, but actually nearly everywhere in the USA today… But Badiou’s point nonetheless holds: there’s something (everything) lost in the translation…

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April 20, 2005 at 1:34 am

Posted in Politics


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Democracy seems either to be ending or beginning in Mexico today, tonight, tomorrow…

MEXICO CITY, April 7 (Reuters) – About 150,000 Mexicans poured into the
streets on Thursday to support Mexico City’s leftist mayor, who
furiously decried a drive to knock him out of the 2006 presidential
race as an assault on democracy.

Take a look here or here or here.

(Of course, CNN’s doing an excellent job tonight preparing us to be prepared for tomorrow morning’s papal funeral and rehashing a random street-crime murder on the lower east side two years ago…)

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April 8, 2005 at 12:36 am

Posted in Politics