Week Resadieu

by zunguzungu

Ronald Reagan trying to stop Medicare in 1961:

Now back in 1927 an American socialist, Norman Thomas, six times candidate for president on the Socialist Party ticket, said the American people would never vote for socialism. But he said under the name of liberalism the American people will adopt every fragment of the socialist program….Now, the American people, if you put it to them about socialized medicine and gave them a chance to choose, would unhesitatingly vote against it. We had an example of this. Under the Truman administration it was proposed that we have a compulsory health insurance program for all people in the United States, and, of course, the American people unhesitatingly rejected this. So, with the American people on record as not wanting socialized medicine, Congressman Ferrand  introduced the Ferrand Bill. This was the idea that all  people of social security age should be brought under a program of compulsory health insurance. Now this would not only be our senior citizens, this would be the dependents and those who are disabled, this would be young people if they are dependents of someone eligible for Social Security. Now, Congressman Ferrand brought the program out on that idea of just for that group of people. But Congressman Ferrand was subscribing to this foot in the door philosophy, because he said “if we can only break through and get our foot inside  the door, then we can expand the program after that.”

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A nice argument for an ecology of cities:

When you separate yourself out from the rest of humanity in the interest of being “more natural” you only show yourself as one who has a hatred of nature. If humanity is to survive and, more than that, if humanity is to live ecologically, you should pull up stakes and buy a flat or become a farmer that works for the commons, that is to produce food for the rest of humanity. Otherwise you just repeat a kind of pathetic American dream of self-reliance, a desire to live unecologically. In short, there is an unacknowledged alliance between those petulant middle class thinkers of darkness, who reveal in the illness and sores of humanity, and the middle class greenies who create an environmental ideology separate from ecology. An environmentalism without regard for the poor, without a place for those living the slums, a place where animals are respected in so far as they, and not some asshole in a kebab shop, knew who they were. If you’d like to read more on the technical nature of how an urban response to resilient ecological dwelling can happen I’d suggest Lipow’s free on-line book. If you really care about the environment, of which human beings are a part as a place of exchange of energy, please put down your Wendell Berry and get on the subway. Cities, as a site of the commons, are kind of a big fucking deal.

I briefly got involved in this thread, basically to point out that you can and should read Wendell Berry on the subway; as a commenter points out (and as Anthony acknowledged) “Wendell Berry” became a bit of a straw man in a slightly overheated polemic. But most thinking environmentalists are much more subtle and aware of what they are talking about than he originally seemed to imply; it’s the fair-weather bumper-sticker people who tend to respond to the affective appeal rather than the underlying argument.

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In a slate article which asks “Why are professors from Duke, Harvard, and Middlebury teaching courses on David Simon’s The Wire” (in which incidentally, where’s the Berkeley love?), Drake Bennett points out, via Jason Mittell, that

“One of the strands that runs through the book [Philippe Bourgois’ book In Search of Respect, an anthropological study of East Harlem crack gangs in the late 1980s and early ’90s.] is what Bourgois describes as “the prevalence and normalcy of rape.” Rape is not only common among the gang members Bourgois befriended and studied, it is celebrated.

This is a fact that someone who learned everything about drug gangs from The Wire would be aware of only dimly, if at all. Mittell argues that, conscious or not, this was a decision on the part of the show’s creators. Faced with a choice between verisimilitude and drama’s demand that the audience identify with the characters, the show’s creators, Mittell believes, went with the latter. “It could be that with the specific types of dealers and users that Simon and Burns spent time with, rape was not really part of their culture. The other explanation, which I think is more probable, is that if you portrayed these people as rapists you would lose the ability to make them at all sympathetic and human,” says Mittell.

This seems right to me, but it also expresses the myopia of the show’s hyper-masculine frame, a frame from which rape is often, as this article from The Sexist nicely illustrates (via), an organically precluded possibility:

“The young men who participated in the study displayed “sophisticated and nuanced understandings” of different ways people could indicate sexual refusal. But when it came time to talk about non-consensual sex, these same men were startlingly eager to explain away acquaintance rapes as communication failures instead of deliberate assaults…The researchers note that prior to the rape discussion, the young men never indicated that “the explicit use of the word ‘no’ is necessary for a woman’s refusal of a sexual invitation to be understood as such.” Once the idea of rape is raised, suddenly, even “no” is not enough; these men claim ignorance of understanding when a woman is refusing sex, and go on to say that even when a woman explicitly says “no,” she can be making a victim of the perpetrator.

“Then again, well as you said, well, when’s no, no when’s yes yes. The perpetrator could actually really be the victim where they’re going ‘no’ and they’re basically throwing themself on you and go, ‘well, I said ‘‘no.’’’

If a girl doesn’t say ‘no’ look you in the eye and say ‘no.’ Anything else can be sort of miscommunicated so if she looks you in the eye and goes ‘no’. . . Fine. But if she goes . . .  if she sort of says ‘no,’ and does the whole look away flirty it sort of like leaves you in the lurch.

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Henri Christophe fought for your freedoms! On how Haiti “saved America”:

France was highly protective of Saint Domingue, which the English had tried on several occasions to seize…so it sprang into action when the American colonists began to agitate for their freedom. The king’s advisers worried that the British would use the conflict to shore up their Caribbean possessions, and seize Saint Domingue once and for all. To support the Americans would not only weaken the British and help avert that disaster, it would support a people with a known interest in trading with the French colonists. The loans were small and secretive at first, often funneled through clandestine agents. But eventually, French support grew open and robust. As recounted by Stacy Schiff in “A Great Improvisation,” France ultimately provided 1.3 billion livres, or the equivalent of $9 billion today. Without this help, the Revolution probably would have fizzled…France’s aid made all the difference. The battle that ended the war — Yorktown — was essentially a French production. But not entirely French. To do their part, the people of Saint Domingue responded enthusiastically to the call to defend the infant United States. Haitians of all complexions fought alongside the continentals at the Battle of Savannah in 1779 (one of them was a 12-year-old drummer named Henri Christophe, who went on to pronounce himself king of Haiti in the 19th century, after getting a taste of independence in America)…

How many Americans live in the great heartland that stretches from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains? They owe a debt not only to Thomas Jefferson, Louisiana’s purchaser, but to Toussaint Louverture and the Haitians who fought so tenaciously for their freedom that Napoleon was forced to cash out of America. (He exclaimed, on hearing of the death of his best general, “damn sugar, damn coffee, damn colonies!”) How many Americans have been moved by the prints of John James Audubon, or the writings of W.E.B. Du Bois, or the many other descendants of Haitian families, white and black, who came here in the aftermath of the Haitian Revolution? How many of us have admired the iron balustrades of New Orleans and Charleston, wondering where the artisans came from who designed them?

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A la the un-redacted Moby Dick (Damion Searle‘s ; or, the Whale), I want to see a Godzilla movie made up of only the added American parts, the  Raymond Burr stuff.

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As Sean Wilentz relates (via Leo Damrosch’s Tocqueville’s Discovery of America), Alexis de Tocqueville was totally into hot young American chicks, though the reverse apparently was not the case:

“When the energetic, young French liberal aristocrats Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont toured the United States in 1831 and 1832 ostensibly to study America’s prisons, their minds, not surprisingly, often turned to more alluring subjects. “In addition to a very fine library, our host has two charming daughters with whom we get along very well,” Tocqueville wrote to his sister-in-law from a well-appointed home in Canandaigua, New York. “Suffice it to say that we gazed at them even more willingly than at their father’s books.” The visitors found the young women of the New World more boldly coquettish than their French counterparts but also fiercely unwilling (again, unlike the French) to follow through…With arch irony, he then dismissed the sexual banter as “a mere bagatelle” of small interest “to two men of politics who are devoted entirely to speculations of the highest order.” Several weeks into the trip, Tocqueville — described by Leo Damrosch as an appetitive ladies man who, in later years, became a serially unfaithful husband — noted that his and Beaumont’s virtue remained intact but had to confess that they were giving women the once-over “with an impudence that’s not appropriate for people studying the penitentiary system.”

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Also? David Blight’s Race and Reunion should be required reading for anyone that is really into Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club; I learned a lot from Menand’s book, but there’s a huge gaping hole in his history of pragmatism, and it’s called “Americans in the post-bellum era  wanted to pretend that the civil war was not about race or principles because if it was then they’d have to actually treat black people like citizens — and they didn’t want to do that — and thus was born pragmatism.”

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For different reasons, this and this should be read together.

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“Much to my surprise, the Islamic scriptures in the Quran were actually far less bloody and less violent than those in the Bible,” Jenkins says. Violence in the Quran, he and others say, is largely a defense against attack. “By the standards of the time, which is the 7th century A.D., the laws of war that are laid down by the Quran are actually reasonably humane,” he says.

“Then we turn to the Bible, and we actually find something that is for many people a real surprise. There is a specific kind of warfare laid down in the Bible which we can only call genocide.” It is called herem, and it means total annihilation. Consider the Book of 1 Samuel, when God instructs King Saul to attack the Amalekites: “And utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them,” God says through the prophet Samuel. “But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” When Saul failed to do that, God took away his kingdom. “In other words,” Jenkins says, “Saul has committed a dreadful sin by failing to complete genocide. And that passage echoes through Christian history. It is often used, for example, in American stories of the confrontation with Indians — not just is it legitimate to kill Indians, but you are violating God’s law if you do not.”  Jenkins notes that the history of Christianity is strewn with herem. During the Crusades in the Middle Ages, the Catholic popes declared the Muslims Amalekites. In the great religious wars in the 16th, 17th and 19th centuries, Protestants and Catholics each believed the other side were the Amalekites and should be utterly destroyed.

And as Juan Cole glosses:

The passages in the Qur’an that command fighting pertain to the early Muslims’ struggle with the militant pagans (kafirun, kuffar) of ancient Mecca. The mercantile Meccan elite dominate lower Red Sea trade and worshipped star goddesses; they determined to wipe out the new religion of Islam as it gathered converts through the 610s and set up as a city-state in Yathrib/ Medina in the 620s CE. As I have pointed out before, a careful study of the word kafir or infidel in the Qur’an will show that it never is used in an unadorned way to refer to non-Muslims in general. It implies paganism, or alliance with paganism, and often has overtones of militant hostility to Muslims and Islam. In contrast, the Christians are called ‘closest in love’ to the Muslims, and the Children of Israel are repeatedly praised. There is a passage referring to those who commit kufr or infidelity from among the people of the book (i.e. Jews and Christians) [2:105]. But this diction demonstrates that the word for infidel does not ordinarily extend to those groups. The ones condemned probably had allied with the pagans who were trying to destroy Islam and kill all Muslims, against whom the Qur’an advises believers to wage defensive war (“kill them wherever you find them” [2:191]– i.e. defend yourself against the fanatic pagans trying to kill you).

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This isn‘t wrong as a meager defense of Avatar:

“There’s an argument there, albeit a bit simplistic: that what we might call “vertical jacking” (as Jake into his vat-grown avatar and, by extension, a terminal operator into a Predator drone in Afghanistan, or you into Second Life) is bad, as it takes the fundamental form of domination: one extending its will into another. Conversely, “horizontal jacking” (with its at least purported sharing of wills) is just fine; indeed, it’s “natural,” even if conducted via technological means. And it is in fact a necessity in the face of unnatural domination, providing an alter-globalization. Okay, we didn’t say it was genius—but it is an idea, at least.”

But the fact that Josh Clover’s (quite short) article is itself without a coherent argument nicely reflects, I think, the problem of the movie: there’s a lot there, but as an accretion and accumulation, not anything thought through. Though I’m still thinking through the “logic of the prosthesis” reading of Cameron; it seems right, but so much more could be said to show why.

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Yes. Chris Bray notes that:

“The commission of administrators formed to identify more efficient ways for the University of California to function in a harsh budget climate has recommended the appointment of a small group of administrators to identify more efficient ways for the University of California to function in a harsh budget climate. The commission wants to appoint a committee.”

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One of the nice touches in Generation: Kill is the amount of singing we see the soldiers doing; in an other-wise music-less landscape, singing becomes an important way to kill the pain of their boredom. Work songs are good things. Also a good thing is this recording of Ghanaian postal workers canceling stamps at the University of Ghana post office in 1975:

This is what you are hearing; the two men seated at the table slap a letter rhythmically several times to bring it from the file to the position on the table where it is to be canceled (this act makes a light-sounding thud). The marker is inked one or more times (the lowest, most resonant sound you hear) and then stamped on the letter (the high-pitched mechanized sound you hear). As you can hear, the rhythm produced is not a simple one-two-three (bring forward the letter – ink the marker – stamp the letter). Rather, musical sensitivities take over. Several slaps on the letter to bring it down, repeated thuds of the marker in the ink pad and multiple cancelations of single letters are done for rhythmic interest. Such repetition slows down the work, but also makes it much more interesting for the workers.

The other sounds you hear have nothing to do with the work itself. A third man has a pair of scissors that he clicks – not cutting anything, but adding to the rhythm. The scissors go “click, click, click, rest” […] a basic rhythm used in popular dance music. The fourth worker simply whistles along. He and any of the other three workers who care to join him whistle popular tunes or church music that first the rhythm.

Seriously, click this link. Those guys rock.