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On Vampires, Zombies, and Supreme Court Justices

West Wing becomes Veep. Obamessiah turns into the psychopathic janitor-in-chief. A figure like Mitt Romney – open fraud, an ambulatory non sequitur whose nonsensical emptiness is his main redeeming quality – becomes theoretically electable as Head of State and Government. The words “citizens united” come to mean “citizenship annihilated,” we wait for the economy to vote for or against itself to no known purpose, and at every crisis the mask slips away further, revealing nothing at all in the foreground, beyond it a coven of vampires (“them”) amidst a mass of zombies (“us”). To continue functioning at all, the system will have to finish discarding itself, likely to the applause of those few who even notice.

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Chris Hayes and American Heroism

The word “hero” in contemporary usage is an unambiguously affirmative, but anodyne, secular-sounding term for the conversion of the “fallen” from tragic victims into celebrated martyrs within a long tradition, indeed within a trans-generational chain of sacrifices all the way back to the founding of the nation in revolutionary war. To deny access to this form of transcendence, as Hayes and many like him seem to want to do – are in a sense ideologically compelled to do – is to reduce whatever act of war into killing and mayhem merely, the conduct of a state possibly unworthy of allegiance at all, much less of even one individual’s life, liberty, and happiness. It is to convert the martyr symbolically into the pitiful dupe at best, the murderer or war criminal at worst.

Posted in Featured, Internet, Philosophy, Politics, TV, War Tagged with: , , , ,

Monastic Temptation

If the subject of democracy – the demos, the mob – has proven itself, as always expected by those not taken in by the hustle, unworthy of respect or responsibility, then what basis do Berman, Scialabba, or any of the rest of us have for deeming whatever “Fahrenheit 451- or Blade Runner-style” authoritarian oligarchy to be “catastrophic”? Catastrophe becomes just another name for life on Earth as ever, and authoritarian oligarchy, with space set aside for the New Monks, looks like the best anyone ever could have expected. How else are we supposed to keep billions of ignorant, violent, etc., people from destroying themselves?

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The Marriage of Equality and Inequality – 3: Brave New Worlds

The civilization-level question may point toward a technologically enabled defeat of organic kinship or, alternatively, its resurgence amidst the collapse of the Western or liberal-progressive model, but it may take a very long time for such a deep-going process – a matter of “generations” in more ways than one – to work itself out. At our moment, marriage equality remains a peculiar twilight phenomenon, part revision, part eclipse.

Posted in Culture & Entertainment, Featured, Marriage of Equality and Inequality, Philosophy, Politics, Religion Tagged with: , , ,

The Marriage of Equality and Inequality – 2: Unsympathetic

The traditionalists do not believe that the word “marriage” merely should be taken to refer to the union of a man and a woman, and they do not admit of a distinction between a popular or common usage and a legal one: They insist, over and over if rarely with explanation, likely under instruction by pollsters and spin-sters, that marriage simply is between a man and a woman – period. State and the law, they believe, should reflect this primary denotation, not merely because a one-to-one correspondence between common or traditional usage and the law is preferable in the abstract, but because the heterosexual union is biologically and organically the basis of human life, making any attitude towards it other than reverence both inhuman and morbid, all the more ominous as a principle of the state.

Posted in Culture & Entertainment, Featured, History, Marriage of Equality and Inequality, Philosophy, Politics, Religion Tagged with: , , ,

The Marriage of Equality and Inequality – 1: Bigotry

The bigot is the individual whose beliefs are so contrary to the fundamental commitments of an egalitarian culture that they are not and cannot be worthy of serious discussion, but only of scorn and ridicule – or, for those whose political sensibilities are still impaired by remnant sympathies, of mandatory confession, self-criticism, and disassociation.

Posted in Culture & Entertainment, Featured, Marriage of Equality and Inequality, Philosophy, Politics, Religion Tagged with: , , ,

Ghost Machine

self(-)consumption

Posted in Art, Featured, Internet, Movies, Philosophy, Technology, TV Tagged with: , , ,

Extra ordinary fragments never to be read, understood, or thought

you may think you understand but you do not understand you will never understand understanding of this kind is beyond you

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Derbyshire’s Children

Since John Derbyshire brought his family into it, I feel free to imagine a response on the part of his child – in effect to mark the transition via adolescent resistance on the way to autonomous adulthood. “Why should I follow what you advise, father? So I can grow up to live a life as morally impoverished, as safe from the risky vitality of others, as immune to hope, as yours?”

Posted in Featured, Internet, Miscellany, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics, Religion Tagged with: ,

Holy American Major League of Nations (Notes on Baseball and the Re-De-Nationalization of Americanism)

It welcomed the tests of time/
Like an eternal friend,/
Our country is blessed,/
Our country is such!

Posted in Featured, Future History, Sports, US History, Yoga Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

From the Featured Archives

Noted & Quoted

TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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