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On the anniversary of 9/11
For me, 9/11 will always be a time of tremendous fear, stifling conformism, forced patriotism, and vicious nationalism. Which is why I’ve always found the claim that Trump represents a new authoritarianism, even fascism, to be so fanciful and false. There was a moment in the recent memory of this country when dissent really was stifled, when opposition really was suppressed, when the military and police were sanctified and sacralized, when the Constitution was called into question (not a suicide pact, you know), when the two-party system was turned into a one-party state, when the entire nation was aroused and compelled and coerced to rally behind the dear leader, when questioning the nation-state’s commitment to violence and war provoked the most shameless heresy hunts. When intellectuals and journalists and academics dutifully—and shamefully—performed their parts in the Gleichschaltung of the moment, instructing the unreconstructed among us to understand that we were living in a new age when all the old truths no longer held. Thankfully, the intensity of that moment didn’t last too long—the fiasco in Iraq did it in—though we’re still living with its consequences today. But, yeah, when I hear about the unprecedented authoritarianism of Trump, I think to myself: either you weren’t around after 9/11 or you were part of the problem.
The lessons of the Russian revolution, 100 years later
You could, I suppose, try to pin some blame for later Stalinist atrocities on the Marxist labor theory of value, which asserts that all capitalist profit is in a sense stolen from workers. If that is true we should be on the lookout for a revolutionary vanguard of libertarians who think taxation is theft.
But it is simply not the case that Marxism — an arid and over-elaborate doctrine, very interesting in some ways and clearly mistaken in others — is some turn-crank formula for purges and dictatorship.
Capitalism has created enough productive capacity to enable the complete wiping out of poverty and poor living standards.
However, not only will the capitalist classes not do that, they are presiding over the opposite trend – ever-increasing inequality, the enrichment of the richest at the expense of the majority. Eight individuals now own as much wealth as half of all humanity.
It’s also the case that they are unable to use anywhere near all of the productive capacity they have brought into being.
A socialist system based on public ownership of the main industries and services and socialist planning could not only use the presently unused capacity but could hugely increase the production of socially useful goods, and in an environmentally friendly way. Automation could be used to phase out the most tedious and ‘dirty’ jobs and reduce working hours, rather than being the threat to workers’ livelihoods it is under capitalism.
If I’ve had any precedents in my mind for the worst that may lie ahead, it’s not been Hitler, Mussolini, Berlusconi, and all the rest. It’s been World War I. It’s been senseless murder on a grand scale, of the sort the United States is more than capable of. And then I start thinking about the seeming irrationality of it all, the way men and women allowed themselves to be led to their own destruction, which led Freud to start thinking about a death drive in European civilization if not in humanity as a whole.
And I start thinking about the way we’ve allowed ourselves to be lulled into our own slow-motion destruction in the form of climate change, where we watch our futures and our children’s futures being held hostage, being mortgaged, not only to our corporations but also to our complacency, our corruption born of comfort.
And I look around for any sign of leadership from the political class, and see nothing at all. They all seem so reactive, so frightened, so cowed, so clueless. They can’t stand up; they’re too used to sitting down.
In DeVos nomination, Sen. Richard Burr to cast confirmation vote on one of his key contributors - The Progressive Pulse
But here’s one overlooked component of this developing story: Richard Burr, North Carolina’s senior senator and a member of the Senate confirmation committee that could advance or turn back DeVos on Tuesday, has benefited from the political largesse of DeVos and her wealthy Michigan family in recent years.
According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog in D.C., DeVos’ family made individual contributions to Burr’s campaign in 2015 totaling $43,200. Family members each gave $2,700, the maximum amount per individual allowed for a candidate during one election cycle.
Of course, given the murkiness of federal election laws concerning Super PACs, it’s hard to gauge exactly how much DeVos cash went Burr’s way.
Obama often seems a bit perplexed by the very existence of his political opponents. "How can elected officials rage about deficits," he asked in a telling passage of the speech, "when we propose to spend money on preschool for kids, but not when we’re cutting taxes for corporations?" The answer to this rhetorical question seems obvious: Elected officials think that cutting taxes on corporations is more important than the deficit, and federally funding preschools is not. Instead of taking the obvious divergence in values seriously, Obama speaks as if these politicians hold the same values he does and ascribes disagreement to bad faith or hypocrisy.
Times figureheads like Keller and Spayd are apt to roll over at the first right-wing charge of rampant liberal bias because they themselves are ill-equipped to face down right-leaning challenges to their journalistic legitimacy. This is not so much because they are ensconced in their elite bubbles of liberal opinion and are terrified at the prospect of sustained contact with anyone professing to be an emissary from the Real America of NASCAR, megachurches, and Trump Worship. No, the real problem here is that these people are journalists second, and corporate managers first. And the thing that truly terrifies corporate managers in the brave new digital era of our news environment is anything resembling the defiance of consumer prerogative. Put another way: as shops like the Times continue to hemorrhage readers and ad revenues at an historic clip, their managers will rally by instinct to the ritual protection of the injured sensibilities of any and every reader demographic.
Media Ignore What It Means to Have a Real Conversation About Race - BillMoyers.com
This is the journalism of resignation. It shrugs its shoulders. It says, in effect, polarization is everywhere and absolute. It says that the truth here is signed, sealed, and delivered. If there is any contrary evidence to be gathered, the reader won’t know.
A “conversation about race” is not accomplished by acts of stenography, tit versus tat, black hats versus white hats. A conversation jostles assumptions. A conversation seeks to grasp and explore more than two points of view. It investigates why people say what they say, and whether any of them change their minds because they might have heard — if they were listening — something other than what they expected to hear.
Journalists can expedite that conversation, or they can spin their wheels and contribute to the vast blindness afflicting an agonized nation that, at least sometimes, strives to learn something it doesn’t already know.
Obama can appoint Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court if the Senate does nothing - The Washington Post
Here’s how that would work. The president has nominated Garland and submitted his nomination to the Senate. The president should advise the Senate that he will deem its failure to act by a specified reasonable date in the future to constitute a deliberate waiver of its right to give advice and consent. What date? The historical average between nomination and confirmation is 25 days; the longest wait has been 125 days. That suggests that 90 days is a perfectly reasonable amount of time for the Senate to consider Garland’s nomination. If the Senate fails to act by the assigned date, Obama could conclude that it has waived its right to participate in the process, and he could exercise his appointment power by naming Garland to the Supreme Court.
Presumably the Senate would then bring suit challenging the appointment. This should not be viewed as a constitutional crisis but rather as a healthy dispute between the president and the Senate about the meaning of the Constitution. This kind of thing has happened before. In 1932, the Supreme Court ruled that the Senate did not have the power to rescind a confirmation vote after the nominee had already taken office. More recently, the court determined that recess appointments by the president were no longer proper because the Senate no longer took recesses.
A coalition of English and Welsh voters, advanced in years, low in education, and xenophobic in attitude, have enabled the worst and most reactionary people in British society, made it extremely likely that Scotland will secede, undermined the peace settlement on the island of Ireland, and destroyed the UK’s access to the single market. They have made it likely that their children and grandchildren will be deprived of the right of free movement within the EU. The pound is tanking and the stock market too. Imports will be more expensive, inflation will rise, house prices will fall but interest rate rises will keep the cost of being housed high. Immigration will probably fall, but not because “we” regained “control of our borders” but because immigrants come for jobs and there will be way fewer of those. Already we have the farce of areas of the country, like Cornwall, that voted for Brexit demanding that central government guarantee that the EU subsidies they get will be replaced. And then the horrible lying politics of the whole campaign, with Leave claiming that money saved on the EU would be diverted to the NHS (a commitment Farage repudiated within hours of the result). Little England with Wales is a poorer, narrower, stingier place. Cameron, the most incompetent Prime Minister in British history and the architect of this disaster is walking away, to be replaced by a hard right Tory administration under the leadership of Gove, May or the Trumpesque clown Johnson. People, we are well and truly fucked.
The past has not been erased, its erasure has not been forgotten, the lie has not become truth. But the past of proof is strange and, on its uncertain future, much in public life turns. In the end, it comes down to this: the history of truth is cockamamie, and lately it’s been getting cockamamier.
It’s become fairly clear, and I hope not just to me, that white people in this country have gone crazy. Granted, an apocalyptic belief in the final, definitive loss of 400 or so years of economic and cultural supremacy will do that to you—the fall has been long in coming; masters of the universe should’ve been better prepared. Instead, they act stunned. And to cope with that loss, as well as to cope with the fearmongering of Fox News and right-wing talk radio, which promises them Muslim terrorists in every closet and under every bed, they—or an insanely significant cohort—seem to have given themselves over to the worst sort of race-baiting and anti-immigrant nativism, under the guise of making or keeping America “great,” which is to say, making or keeping America “white.”
Conjunctions Archive: "Theses on Monsters," by China Mieville, Conjunctions:59, Colloquy (Fall 2012)
Epochs throw up the monsters they need. History can be written of monsters, and in them. We experience the conjunctions of certain werewolves and crisis-gnawed feudalism, of Cthulhu and rupturing modernity, of Frankenstein’s and Moreau’s made things and a variably troubled Enlightenment, of vampires and tediously everything, of zombies and mummies and aliens and golems/robots/clockwork constructs and their own anxieties. We pass also through the endless shifts of such monstrous germs and antigens into new wounds. All our moments are monstrous moments.
Monsters demand decoding, but to be worthy of their own monstrosity, they avoid final capitulation to that demand. Monsters mean something, and/but they mean everything, and/but they are themselves and irreducible. They are too concretely fanged, toothed, scaled, fire-breathing, on the one hand, and too doorlike, polysemic, fecund, rebuking of closure, on the other, merely to signify, let alone to signify one thing.
Any bugbear that can be completely parsed was never a monster, but some rubber-mask-wearing Scooby-Doo villain, a semiotic banality in fatuous disguise. It is a solution without a problem.
But the thing is… I don’t think competence, good sense, politeness, etc, are inherently conservative virtues. In fact, if you know anything about the Right, the idea that they have more than their fair share of such things - let alone a monopoly - is patently ludicrous. The Right like to harp on about such things and, in their patronising and hypocritical way, to thus appropriate the presumed values of ‘ordinary people’. This kind of populism is a standard conservative tactic, as is the accompanying tendency to sneer at ‘liberal elites’ who look down on the presumed values of red-state America, or ‘middle England’ for that matter, or whatever. It’s one of the fundamental paradoxes of modern conservative thought: they push the idea of people as essentially selfish and competitive, all pursuing rational self-interest at the expense of everyone else, all striving to maximise marginal utility all over the place… and yet they also want to mythologise the great mass of the population (upon whom, of course, the maintenance and continuance and reproduction of society depends) as folksy heroes possessed of lashings of downhome wisdom, etc
There is a fundamental incoherence in modern conservative discourse… (fuck, what am I saying? - there’s barely any coherence to be found anywhere in any of it!) …to do with the performative and rhetorical lip-service paid to admiration for the values of ‘ordinary people’, which clashes with the basic and foundational assumption of modern conservatism that the natural state of humanity is competition and predation, for man to feed upon man like monsters of the deep. This incoherence is not a problem for them (if they worried about consistency they wouldn’t be who they are), and is an unavoidable product of the tactical syncresis of populism and neoliberalism which is constitutive of modern conservatism… which is itself only the latest form of a paradigm for conservative thought going back centuries, possibly even millenia: the combination of appeals to the fears and self-interests of a moderately privileged layer of society in order to create a sufficient mandate for the protection of the system of privilege itself, and thus protect the people at the very apex of the hierarchy.
Order is simply a thin, perilous condition we try to impose on the basic reality of chaos (William Gaddis) – Biblioklept
Before we go any further here, has it ever occurred to any of you that all this is simply one grand misunderstanding? Since you’re not here to learn anything, but to be taught so you can pass these tests, knowledge has to be organized so it can be taught, and it has to be reduced to information so it can be organized do you follow that? In other words this leads you to assume that organization is an inherent property of the knowledge itself, and that disorder and chaos are simply irrelevant forces that threaten it from the outside. In fact it’s the opposite. Order is simply a thin, perilous condition we try to impose on the basic reality of chaos . . .
Capitalist Pig 4: Black Mirror, Grey Miasma of Bland Cultural Commentary | Eruditorum Press
I mean, look, a world in which our late capitalist drive for growth at all costs is blatantly running against the fundamental resource limitations of the planet, where our insistence on the Protestant ethic remains a fundamental and inarguable part of political discourse despite the blatant reality that we in no way have enough work that needs doing, and where the efforts to produce enough work to maintain some semblance of the Protestant ethic is literally killing us all, a black mirror is not a fucking observation that we should look up from our phone screens or that it’s tough to be an abusive stalker.
And for one brief and squealing moment it seemed like we might get this; that Black Mirror might actually stare long and hard into the darkness and summon forth something that revealed the awful reality of the world. Indeed, for one moment, as the camera panned across the people watching the Prime Minister fuck a pig, their faces turning from amusement to horror at the awful carnality of it, it does just that.
And then it flinches, and we get a series about sad little manfeels. A bunch of Guardian columns brought to life, shambling around like the liberal consensus is going to save us from itself. It won’t, and Charlie Brooker’s clearly intelligent enough to realize that, but apparently his “satirical pessimism” (to quote Wikipedia) doesn’t actually extend comfortably past how these damn kids will never be as witty and insightful as he is. But then, perhaps that’s the real appeal of a black mirror: you can’t actually see anything in it, least of all the way the future is creeping up behind you, its teeth bared.
It's not surprising that in its obituary of Sheldon Wolin, who died last week, the New York Times studiously avoided any mention of the term for which this political philospher is most famous: inverted totalitarianism. Instead, the obit's headline misleadingly and somewhat crankily blared that Wolin was an expert on "the limits of popular democracy."
So it was all the more eerily prescient that in an interview with Chris Hedges last year, Wolin observed that it is essentially verboten for the media-political complex to openly declare that American democracy has been kicked upside the head, resulting in the creation of the Total Capitalistic State. Speaking such a truth might give the plutocratic ruling class a bad case of agita, even if it's mentioned in the obituary of the man who made educating the public about this inconvenient truth his life's work.
Masculinity Is an Anxiety Disorder: Breaking Down the Nerd Box - Uncanny Magazine
Men often minimize their gender policing by calling it “teasing,” “ribbing,” or “ball–busting,” but it usually manifests as ridicule meant to point out behaviors which are not coded as masculine in an effort to correct them. This may be done with or without malice; parents, for example, may feel that by discouraging feminine–coded behaviors, they are protecting their sons from future ridicule by firmly correcting them early. Yet the cumulative effect of this is to circumscribe a section of acceptable behavior, such that by the time the average man reaches adulthood, he has internalized an extensive checklist of behaviors that must be avoided lest ridicule result. In essence, male children are subject to trauma in an effort to spare them from trauma.
Affirmative Action Is a Good Idea | Al Jazeera America
Like any other judgment criteria, race- and gender-based affirmative action isn’t error-proof, nor is it impervious to the occasional knave like Hudson who tries to work it. But data from all sorts of different fields suggest that it makes our perception of reality more accurate. Affirmative action is an improvement on American judgment.
In our Big Data–driven society, in which competition is supposed to filter for merit, why aren’t smart managers and owners practicing aggressive affirmative action above and beyond proportional representation? There is, in effect, a cartel of white men agreeing not to compete to employ the talents and abilities of people who don’t look like them — the very existence of which calls into question the whole labor system’s supposedly competitive structure. The fact remains that if you don’t want to engage in affirmative action, then you’re just adopting white male mediocrity as your standard of excellence.
When MSNBC finally determined to get back to its programming, what was the audience offered? Commentary on the Trump rally. Yep. For 20 full minutes. We saw it. Thanks. The whole goddamned thing. We don't need it rehashed for us. He didn't actually say anything. The last 5 minutes of the show Hayes gave us a glimpse into a rally for Bernie Sanders this evening. That was newsworthy. The audience from the left would have really found it interesting to hear the speech Bernie Sanders gave to Liberty University. This is, after all, the most Liberal of our candidates in the most fuckered up setting on the planet for him. Liberty University is the place that teaches their students the absolute opposite of the actual New Testament Bible (am I the only one who wonders if they missed the whole bit about why they are called 'Christians'?) while finding new groups of people to condemn and hold judgement over with every election cycle. That would have been a very interesting rally to hear about. But MSNBC thought we needed to devote the hour to Donald Trump and the speech he has given repeatedly where he has said nothing.
The Rude Pundit: Ben Carson: Proof That Good Doctors Can Be Fucking Idiots
You know, just because someone knows how to crack open a skull and mess around with the creamy middle doesn't mean he should be making policy on immigration. But don't tell that to people who are supporting Dr. Ben Carson for the Republican nomination for president. Oh, no. To them, his surgical prowess and his ability to tell Kellogg's what cereals to sell as a board member there are enough experience to put him in a room with world leaders and go at it. Mostly, though, what comes through in Carson's interviews and appearances is that he's a fucking idiot. He doesn't know shit about the world, and he's a dangerous fool who sounds calm and rational, even when he's saying the most batshit insane things.
Star Wars novelist strikes back at gay character slurs | Books | The Guardian
“You’re not the Rebel Alliance. You’re not the good guys. You’re the fucking Empire, man. You’re the shitty, oppressive, totalitarian Empire. If you can imagine a world where Luke Skywalker would be irritated that there were gay people around him, you completely missed the point of Star Wars. It’s like trying to picture Jesus kicking lepers in the throat instead of curing them. Stop being the Empire. Join the Rebel Alliance. We have love and inclusion and great music and cute droids.”
He later told a reader who attacked his confrontational approach to his critics that he would not engage in a conversation on the issue. “Because on this, I am not interested in conversation,” he wrote on his blog. “If your problem with the book is only the inclusion of gay characters, then no conversation is possible. Because that’s homophobia, that’s bigotry, and there’s nothing to be done or said. Someone wants to talk to me about the writing style or whatever, sure, I can have that discussion. On this, no.”
Three actors, one Hannibal Lecter scene - Boing Boing
The revelation for me, though, is Mikkelsen. Put against the others, his performance is so understated and distant that it seems almost not to exist at all. But when you think about what Lecter's ostensible shortcomings and capabilities as a human being are, that's the right way to play him.
They're all good, though. Robert DeNiro, Gene Hackman and Jack Nicholson all apparently turned the part down, and all would have been bad.
Christian politicians won’t say it, but the Bible is clear: let the refugees in, every last one | Giles Fraser: Loose canon | Comment is free | The Guardian
Kudos, then, to Justin Welby, quoting from Leviticus. We must “break down barriers, to welcome the stranger and love them as ourselves”, he said. No, that’s not lefty hand-wringing. It’s biblical faith. And while one cannot read off the specifics of immigration policy from an ancient text, there is little argument what the underlying principles must be. And – listen up Donald Trump, who has been cluelessly invoking his love of the Bible over the last few weeks – if our politicians don’t like the basic principles, then they shouldn’t claim the Christian mantle in the first place.
Why Mr. Robot Is Not a Great Show (Yet) -- Vulture
Not “big reveals” of who somebody’s sister or dad is, or exactly why a character is so sad and depressed. (Orson Welles kept insisting that the end of Citizen Kane did not actually “explain” Kane, but no one listened to him.) I am not particularly interested in finding out what’s real and what’s not, and what happened to Tyrell, and whether Elliot/Mr. Robot had anything to do with it; and I am not particularly interested in seeing another lovely, charming, trusting, troubled young woman fall in love with the hero, as Shayla (Frankie Shaw) did, only to be fridged (look it up) to amplify the hero’s distress and cause problems for his revolutionary cellmates. It’s an awesome show, but I don’t want it to be just awesome. I want it to be great. That means less Cinema de Dudebro and more of other kinds of cinema, and maybe more literature and history, while we’re at it. Less cool, more school. Less mystery-box puzzle-making, more poetry. This show is capable of it, without a doubt. The proof is right there onscreen. But it keeps losing its way, week after week. And the bug was there from the start.