Thursday, October 11, 2007

There will be millions and millions of words written about Radiohead's In Rainbows. But a day after listening to the album for the first time (and many more times after that), I feel like this is an album of joyful paranoia (para-joy-a?) -- the culmination of a paranoid (android) journey from apocalypse (OK Computer), to the words that come after from a digital grave (Kid A & Amnesiac), to a tremulous re-engagement with a broken world (Hail to the Thief), to this: A transcendent acceptance of brokenness and a desire to find love and happiness in the ruins. I can imagine this album being the soundtrack to the lives of those lonely few that we meet at the end of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, loving and living in the midst of post-apocalyptic horrors. This is the album you listen to while contemplating bringing a child into this world (or conceiving that child) in the face of everything that's so undeniably fucked. For these reasons, this album might be the most necessary Radiohead album; there is no way forward without the thesis that there is a good life to be lived in the face of (or shortly after) catastrophe.

Monday, April 16, 2007


This blog is, sadly, defunct. The sprit behind the blog has been re-funked at

Thursday, March 16, 2006


So I haven't posted in a while. Senior essay + running Elmseed + senior year = no blogging. But recent events demand a response. It seems most everyone is asking questions about why the democratic leadership is so effing incompetent. There was the Daily Show piece about it, which you can find at The best line from that comes when Ed Helms responds to a Dem strategist's snide chortle about how it doesn't hurt to run against Republicans who keep making mistakes. Here's something close to Helms' response: "Yeah, I got mugged once. This bum was beating me with a bottle. And I sat there and decided, I'll do nothing and wait for him to accidentally hit himself with the bottle. And he did! I was unconscious, but I'm pretty sure I won that one." That is the perfect analogy for Democratic strategy.

I just do not understand how decrying a President with low 30s approval ratings can possibly be a political misstep! I'm no political genius, but if you criticize the president, you have 60+% of the American people behind you! Triangulation? Are you kidding me? You have two thirds of the triangle just by honestly criticizing the President.

Then there's the NYTimes article about how the prospect of censure and impeachment are going to rally the Republican base. As others, especially Digby at, have pointed out, this is the one thing that might actually rally the Democratic base. More so than Hillary's desperate pandering to the right. More than the hype around Barak Obama. And the issue does not have to be impeachment. It should be oversight. It should be a restoration of checks and balances. It should be a return to democracy. That does not necessarily involve impeachment—it simply involves the Congress doing its job.

Fair enough. I've said very little original here. But this is really a demand for someone to explain to me how the current Democratic strategy makes sense.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Straight shooters

One would think that Dick Cheney's obvious incompetence in an area that so many members of his political base understand would demonstrate the point that progressives have been making about this administration for five years: They don't know what they're doing. Sadly, that doesn't seem to be the take away message.

I wouldn't be surprised, in fact, to see a slow 180º turn by the media on this one. Cheney shoots a guy in the face (manly), then "mans" up and admits it (manly), then does a western cowboy silent grimace (uber-manly ). Cheney comes out seeming tough, emotionally approachable, human. Fox News is already going in that direction with their "How must Dick Cheney feel?" line of inquiry (I'm sure it's like he was shot through the heart, as opposed to his friend, who was shot through the heart).

And this brings me to "straight shooting." Apparently, if you're a conservative, it doesn't matter if you make a mistake, as long as you admit it. Look at Chertoff, or Brown (who was roughed up in front of the Senate). They expect us to appreciate their manly admission of error. As Sandy Cohen said last week on The OC, kids are expected to lie, but men are expected to own up to their failures. So Cheney shot a guy straight in the face, but he has admitted it, and can be absolved. He didn't hit a quail, but he hit what he thought was a quail head on (nicely done).

Boys will be boys, and men will be men—which is identical to being boys, except you admit to idiotic tom-foolery. I'm glad that's all cleared up now. Mrs. Cheney, Chertoff and Brown can play their supporting, wifely roles, sticking by their husbands even in trying times (acceptable if husband A. short someone, or B. let thousands die stranded in a hurricane, but unacceptable if he was unfaithful). We have faithfullly adhered to gender roles, reemphasized the conservatives' unique calim on masculinity, and made those hand-wringing liberals sorry for ever doubting how straight we can shoot.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Enemies: the rise of the other, the antagonist, and the decline of postmodernity

Who are our enemies? Why do we have enemies, and what purpose is there to have enemies? Why can't we just be good pious people that walk around all the time saying good-day, or asalamalakim.

So what the hell am I talking about? I refer to a rising tide in America to use words such as enemy and evil to encourage a sense of otherness (orientalist) and thus envelop society in a good/bad binary.

The conservative revolution has done much more than push forth an has seeped into the national dialogue. The 'I' is replaced by impersonal normative statement: no longer must I decide for myself, so much as theory and theology should decide for me. As Bush said a few months ago.
In the years ahead you will find that indifferent or cynical people accomplish little that makes them proud. You'll find that confronting injustice and evil requires a vision of goodness and truth. You'll find that many in your community, especially those younger than you, look to you as an example of conduct and leadership. For your sake, and for the sake of our country, I hope you'll always strive to be men of conviction and character.
Being a good person requires a fusion with a good force: an objective goodness. Of course conservatives can make good with their financial ties by announcing that maximizing oneself is in God's good design. That, in very Calvinist terms, being good and showing God how good you are is the best way of earning your place in heaven: it is why Calvinists were also the most prosperous groups in society; despite the great discrimination it faced from other dominant sects.

Bush's words highlight a new moral character. No long are moral sentiments sufficient for our understanding: a good person now defines himself against the image of a large and imposing other: that in divine language we have gone away from the individual and returned to the macroscopic: the creation of a national mythology around conquest and destiny, supremacy and power.

These thoughts have always been around...they were equally the products of WWII. But society, recovering from the 70s and 80s, and even into the postmodern existence of the 90s and consumer culture...we have revived our destiny in mythic terms.

There is good and bad. And we need enemies, regardless of whether they are deserving to be enemies; regardless of any history that should deflect our actions, or any fact that should make us question. We need enemies to make us believe we are children of the divine.

Friday, February 03, 2006

For a Woman President

Every time I talk to someone about Hillary Clinton running for president, or how long it will be before a woman wins, the conversation takes a decidedly defeatist lean, and ends with, "That will never happen." But let me drop what "would" happen so I can make an argument for what "should" happen.

Let's face it, our government will continue to do a lot of things that should not be done. And perhaps, as my friends say, a woman will not get elected. But should a woman be president? I would argue that, even in times of conflict—perhaps especially in times of conflict—a woman should be president. I don't mean a woman who talks tough like a man, but a feminist who understands how to build consensus, bring voices to the table, and can understand the complexity of the issues our country faces.

It's ridiculous to me that people talk about George W. Bush being a strong leader when he has done so much to divide the country. A strong leader unites, not divides. Unfortunately, he's shown himself far more able to divide and conquer the American electorate than he has to defeat the Iraqi insurgency. In the process, we find ourselves in an incredibly rancorous political era, with our country and war effort suffering for it.

Feminist theory, the feminist lens for evaluating problems, is to seek resolution by bringing disparate perspectives to the table. Just imagine how much more coherent our approach in Iraq could be if the president had listened to more perspectives than simply Cheney and Rumsfeld. A woman, feminist president would never find herself relying on two trusted advisors.

So our country might be too scared, too terrorized by our own government, to see beyond tough-talk cowboy language. But, if we want to win the war on terror and strengthen our civic spirit, then we should elect a woman president

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Who Wins?

Today the House passed House Resolution 653, which is related to S.1932 that was passed using VP Cheney's tiebreaking vote.

It is, of course, the measure that calls for the end or revision of over 150 social programs. The first problem is that this cut is not enough. We will still be in deficit each year; which means the debt has no place to go than up.

There is no firm plan to pay down the debt.

And in the meanwhile, defense spending remains not only an impressive chunk of discretionary spending -- but there is no cap on its continuance.

Our polemic, it seems, is no longer liberty v. security. It is not so banal, so simple and understandable as this. We have through revisions to Medicare, the death of programs such as Adult Literacy etc. come to hurt most of the programs that go to those with the most need. The response by the government is to offer firm tax breaks that put money back into the hands of working adults. The irony of it all: those that don't pay taxes because they are too poor not only do not get a rebate, they get programs cut.

I would like to single out the great Congressman from NY Randy Kuhl. Why? Because he is my congressman and his top issue is this kind of financial literacy. Of course huge deficits are not suggested (although their economic effects are believed to be minimal). And I must say that many efforts, at least how they are advertised, try to better manage programs. But while the gist of the resolution is not wrong, the thought process seems a bit off.

In a modern welfare state, the task of government has been to provide for those least fortunate complete with the understanding that some people will not take advantage of their services. It catches people from falling through the cracks, but in itself is not yeast -- it doesn't make people rise up like a phoenix. Providing these necessary tools that free-market society does not offer, or would not without enticements, is considered by our culture and society the right thing to do.

Redefining this through minimizing these programs has drastic consequences. As a meritocratic nation, or so we shall become, the emphasis on growth of lets say 85% of the nation shall proceed at the competitive stream. And with minimizing valuable programs and taking away loan opportunities we cut a large percentage of our population out of the loop.

The population size and effect...I need numbers, and will look them up and run calculations (however shifty they may be). And as I stay up at the early hours this morning reading the actual text of some small passages it is rather shocking what is happening. A disabled veteran, for instance, can only claim upto 10,000 when returning from war to have his house adjusted for standards, or the same to buy one that is already outfitted. Of course people have read how it effects us college students: nothing seems to be too far out of the ordinary except they are changing the Pell Grant rates, and there will be, asthe NY Times reported, higher loan rates. Overall, it is going to yield an interesting few years as this lasts until 2010.

What does this mean for the country? I feel a pretty strong shift. Of course this wont call an end to pork-barrel projects that build bridges to no-where and fund efforts that never happen; and worse yet supply funds in kickback schemes such as the one we have seen in Iraq, and the bribery scandals that have recently embroiled Congress. I would call these egregious issues that should take pre-eminancy, but I suppose I should take my back seat -- I don't control the agenda, but I sure as hell wish I did.

It all makes me quite livid, particularly with Congressman Kuhl for his complicity. Why him? because he is MY Congressman. I think I will ask him: If we are without liberty nor opportunity, is security even worth the argument? It is quite the interesting predicament. I do not need to melodramatize it so much; but it is a real issue - something I believe deserves more attention than I think it has reserved. A story of such historic proportions shouldn't be an afterthought. I would hope people renew the fight to question the legitimacy; it was good to read many moderate republicans voted almost shamefully and wish they could change their vote.