Archive for September, 2008

Whither the Middle?

Yesterday’s vote is further evidence that the Democrats and Republicans have so thoroughly divided the country with gerrymandering and wedge issues that there is no longer any common political ground.  

In a blog post today, Bill Bishop points out that no one in Congress spends any time in DC anymore.  They fly in on Monday and fly out on Thursday. 

The social glue created over coffee while sharing a Sunday newspaper is missing…If a person is simply an ideological opponent, it’s easy to turn him into the enemy. But if your kids are in the same school play, that opponent is also a friend. Legislatures work most smoothly if they are slathered with some social grease.


We Call Upon the Author to Explain

What we once thought we had we didn’t, and what we have now will never be that way again
So we call upon the author to explain

Our myxomatoid kids spraddle the streets, we’ve shunned them from the greasy-grind
The poor little things, they look so sad and old as they mount us from behind
I ask them to desist and to refrain
And then we call upon the author to explain

Rosary clutched in his hand, he died with tubes up his nose
And a cabal of angels with finger cymbals chanted his name in code
We shook our fists at the punishing rain
And we call upon the author to explain

He said everything is messed up around here, everything is banal and jejune
There is a planetary conspiracy against the likes of you and me in this idiot constituency of the moon
Well, he knew exactly who to blame
And we call upon the author to explain

Prolix! Prolix! Nothing a pair of scissors can’t fix!
Prolix! Prolix! Nothing a pair of scissors can’t fix!

Well, I go guruing down the street, young people gather round my feet
Ask me things, but I don’r know where to start
They ignite the power-trail ssstraight to my father’s heart
And once again I call upon the author to explain

We call upon the author to explain

Who is this great burdensome slavering dog-thing that mediocres my every thought?
I feel like a vacuum cleaner, a complete sucker, it’s fucked up and he is a fucker
But what an enormous and encyclopaedic brain
I call upon the author to explain

Oh rampant discrimination, mass poverty, third world debt, infectious diseease
Global inequality and deepening socio-economic divisions
Well, it does in your brain
And we call upon the author to explain

Now hang on, my friend Doug is tapping on the window (Hey Doug, how you been?)
Brings me back a book on holocaust poetry complete with pictures
Then tells me to get ready for the rain
And we call upon the author to explain

I say prolix! Prolix! Something a pair of scissors can fix

Bukowski was a jerk! Berryman was best!
He wrote like wet papier mache, went the Heming-way weirdly on wings and with maximum pain
We call upon the author to explain

Down in my bolthole I see they’ve published another volume of unreconstructed rubbish
“The waves, the waves were soldiers moving”. Well, thank you, thank you, thank you
And again I call upon the author to explain
Yeah, we call upon the author to explain

Prolix! Prolix! There’s nothing a pair of scissors can’t fix!

Nick Cave from his Dig, Lazarus, Dig album

Do voters really vote in their self interest?

In conversations about the recent election I wondered how much people really vote in their self interest.  I came across an interesting article from earlier this year that I thought I would share.  The story from Bryan Caplan of the Washington Post suggests that there are 5 myths of voting.

  1. People vote in their self interests
  2. Unselfish voting will solve our problems
  3. Voters’ errors balance out
  4. Political disagreement is all about values
  5. Voters want serious change

My question is that if these are all myths then when someone invokes one as their reason for voting for a certain candidate what are they really voting for?  For example, when someone invokes that they are voting for McCain out of self interest… why are they really voting for them?  Fear, hatred, prejudice?  What are the underlying issues?

High-Functioning Moron

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/9/26/05254/7279

On Tourism (or Being Boiled Hurts)

Someone told me to read this article in Gourmet magazine by David Foster Wallace about the Maine Lobster Festival.  It is a great piece of writing (and you have to read the notes – part of one copied below for your pleasure).  Wallace recently committed suicide after a 20 year fight with depression.

As I see it, it probably really is good for the soul to be a tourist, even if it’s only once in a while. Not good for the soul in a refreshing or enlivening way, though, but rather in a grim, steely-eyed, let’s-look-honestly-at-the-facts-and-find-some-way-to-deal-with-them way. My personal experience has not been that traveling around the country is broadening or relaxing, or that radical changes in place and context have a salutary effect, but rather that intranational tourism is radically constricting, and humbling in the hardest way—hostile to my fantasy of being a real individual, of living somehow outside and above it all. (Coming up is the part that my companions find especially unhappy and repellent, a sure way to spoil the fun of vacation travel:) To be a mass tourist, for me, is to become a pure late-date American: alien, ignorant, greedy for something you cannot ever have, disappointed in a way you can never admit. It is to spoil, by way of sheer ontology, the very unspoiledness you are there to experience. It is to impose yourself on places that in all noneconomic ways would be better, realer, without you. It is, in lines and gridlock and transaction after transaction, to confront a dimension of yourself that is as inescapable as it is painful: As a tourist, you become economically significant but existentially loathsome, an insect on a dead thing.

And on sports:

Beauty is not the goal of competitive sports, but high-level sports are a prime venue for the expression of human beauty. The relation is roughly that of courage to war.

The human beauty we’re talking about here is beauty of a particular type; it might be called kinetic beauty. Its power and appeal are universal. It has nothing to do with sex or cultural norms. What it seems to have to do with, really, is human beings’ reconciliation with the fact of having a body.Of course, in men’s sports no one ever talks about beauty or grace or the body. Men may profess their “love” of sports, but that love must always be cast and enacted in the symbology of war: elimination vs. advance, hierarchy of rank and standing, obsessive statistics, technical analysis, tribal and/or nationalist fervor, uniforms, mass noise, banners, chest-thumping, face-painting, etc. For reasons that are not well understood, war’s codes are safer for most of us than love’s.

Palin and Hillary Together Against Sexism

Doublespeak In the Post-Fact Society

One of our fair readers posted an interesting comment on the McCain campaign and Republicans in general with the following observations:

  • They invent death from the sky and call it a Patriot Missile.
  • They rape the environment and call it the “Healthy Forests Initiative”
  • They spy on Americans and call it the “Patriot Act.”
  • Now they put up Bush in bra and call it “change!”

This got me to thinking that Republicans are just better at Doublespeak (coined by Orwell, defined by Wikipedia as “language constructed to disguise or distort its actual meaning often resulting in a communication bypass”).  But, maybe the American electorate aren’t looking for “actual meaning” – rather close approximations of truth and reality.

Farhad Manjoo writes in his book “True Enough”:

Facts are a stock of faltering value.  The phenomenon that scholars call “media fragmentation” – the disintegration of the mass media  into the many niches of the Web, cable news, and talk radio – lets us consume news that we like and avoid news that we don’t, leading people to receive reality in a way the conforms  to the long-held beliefs…it’s clear that the McCain camp is benefiting from some of these forces.  [also, see Swift Boat Veterans for Truth]

The question is whether or not Obama should sink to this level and if he can do so effectively.  So far, it appears that scrutiny and fact checking on Palin’s background is only making her stronger (and keeping her and the McCain campaign on the front pages – where is Biden?) by calling attention to the “larger truths” that she’s new, she’s popular in Alaska, and she’s an insurgent. 


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