Week Resadieu

by zunguzungu

A great article on the “African” World Cup:

…Fifa’s showpiece still conjures up a vanished world in which Europe is at the heart of everything. This is not just because half of all the teams taking part are European. It’s also because many of the leading South American players, and almost all the leading African ones, play in Europe. The fact is that the decaying powers of Europe remain the driving force behind the global game. Countries that are watching their real economies totter – Spain, Italy, England – are still sustaining vast, bloated football economies that fuel the planet’s appetite for the sport. Africa is now a part of this money machine, but it has little or no control over it.

As a result, this is a tournament shaped by, and for, the interests of the European elite. Having it in Africa means it’s in the right time zone for European TV audiences. Having it in South Africa means that it’s also got the right climate for European teams to thrive. Africa’s first World Cup will also be the coldest on record – a genuine winter tournament for the winter game. The Europeans will be playing in conditions they feel comfortable in, staying in hotels they feel comfortable in, travelling to stadiums they feel comfortable in. Normally, home advantage, or at least continental advantage, is decisive in World Cup finals: Brazil is the only country ever to have won the tournament outside of its home continent (in Sweden in 1958 and South Korea in 2002). Therefore this should be Africa’s moment, not just to host it but to win it…Were the tournament being held in, say, Nigeria, it’s easy to imagine the home side romping to victory on a wave of local support and with the help of local conditions, as all the better-fancied sides wilted in their alienating surroundings. But those surroundings are one of the reasons why Fifa would never dream of holding a World Cup in Nigeria.

Via sepoy, this lovely, long interview/performance with Ben Sollee And Daniel Martin Moore, folk musicians who just did an album to spotlight the practice of mountain top removal in Appalachia (pronounced “appa – latch – uh,” by the way, not “appa -laysh – uh,” the way those French surrender monkeys on NPR say it).

In an article declaring Kagen not to be anti-military — which I don’t doubt — a marine veteran who knew her at Harvard demonstrates that the most effective form of lobbying is the kind where the lobbied doesn’t realize they’re being lobbied. He writes:

Around the time that Kagan sent the first of several e-mails criticizing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” she hosted a Veterans Day dinner for the few student-veterans attending Harvard Law. That was the first time I met Kagan. There was no agenda for the dinner, as best as I could tell, other than to thank us for our service. I don’t believe “don’t ask, don’t tell” ever came up… During my final year at Harvard, she treated the veterans to dinner at a restaurant in Cambridge. (Military service has its perks.) Again, there was no agenda other than to thank us for our service and to ask about our military experiences. Over wine and dinner, Kagan listened attentively to our war stories. I later told her that her blunt style of leadership would have served her well in the Marines. I took to calling her “Colonel Kagan” whenever we crossed paths on campus.

It’s really a model for effective career politics; at the exact time she was doing things that — as a careerist like her surely knew — might lead to the suspicion that she was anti-military, she was also taking steps to line up people who, as is happening right now, could stand to her defense. The fact that it might also have been genuine, that she had no agenda at the time, has nothing to do with the fact that a smart long term thinker is going to play the long game on stuff like this; it speaks for itself that his article exists, right now when it’s needed.

And also, a comment by Tenured Radical to an article on Kagen:

As a public, we don’t *know* that Kagan is in resistance to “the matrimonial industrial complex and its largest subsidiary, repronormativity” any more than we *know* anything about her sexual orientation…But we do know that everyone is running hard from even the possibility Kagan might be confused with a lesbian, or the idea that being a childless lesbian could be good for one’s work and career.

Your weekly Greenwald:

…One other point that should always be emphasized about civil liberties and public opinion:   a primary reason for these Constitutional protections is to safeguard the rights of minorities, particularly the most scorned segments of society, from oppression supported by majoritarian sentiment.  For that reason, civil liberties is the last cause whose sacrifice can be justified by appeal to public opinion.  As countless historical examples demonstrate, the whole point of those liberties is that they are as vital — indeed, more vital — when majorities are eager to trample upon and abolish them in the name of a hated, fear-inducing Enemy.

In a nice article and comment thread on the Ghoshwood fandango, this, from commenter “Bhochka” nicely highlighted the most gaping hole in Ghosh’s rhetorical justification (followed by my own comment on that thread):

Bhochka: “Ghosh’s arguments against boycotts lead inevitably to infinite regress – if Israel then why not the US, why not India, why not China, etc, etc, etc. This completely ignores the desperate political deadlock out of which the idea of a boycott was born – a situation of rapidly expanding settler colonialism on the one hand, and a matrix of ‘international community’ rhetoric and practice that legitimates this, and systematically squeezes dry alternative political strategies of solidarity with the Palestinians, on the other. [The boycott is] based not on moral absolutism but upon an absolute political deadlock. Ghosh and Atwood’s decision, as writers, to abstain from solidarity with such a campaign is a decision they have a right to make – and there’s no reason to stop admiring their fiction on the basis of this. It is the elevation of this decision to a political principle – an Olympian perspective of ‘reason, balance and nuance’ that magically transcends the misguided bigotry and ‘extremism’ of people actually caught up in this conflict – that is disturbing.”

Me: Yes. Because the status quo is of rapidly expanding settlements and the slow but inexorable effort to choke the life out of the occupied territories, the luxury of hoping for change in the future while doing nothing now is little more than an abdication of the ethical charge they so proudly claim for themselves. Which is the most damning thing: they prefer to concern themselves with something that *might* happen in the future (whatever wildly exaggerated consequences to Israeli society a boycott might have) instead of the thing that is happening right now (and shows every indication of continuing to its ethno-cidal conclusion). It shows, among other things, their disinclination to put their money where their mouth is.

And, finally, “money” really is the flip-side to this coin, and the fact that they say nothing at all about is telling in its own way. After all, they are being paid very, very well to say the things they’re saying; choosing to stand against the boycott, after all, has a dividend of a half-million dollars for each of them. In such a context, they can no longer be considered to be acting and speaking for themselves. They are now paid lobbyists for the Israeli state: the argument for accepting that prize money is exactly the same argument used to justify any kind of international condemnation of Israel’s actions.

American Orientalism as dada:

“It’s too idiotic to be schizophrenic.” –Carl Jung, on Dada

Some time ago, I decided that the best way to navigate the bad faith geopolitical conversation between the US and the so-called “Arab-Muslim world” was to treat the whole thing as an act of Dada-ist performance, a meaningless game that has no goal but to underscore its own absurdity. For an illustration of this principle, I point you toward an exchange between Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and ABC News personality George Stephanopolous. In an interview given earlier this May, Stephanopolous pressed Ahmadinejad about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, and asked whether or not bin Laden would be welcomed, should he show up in Tehran. “If you did know that Osama bin Laden with in Tehran, would you show him hospitality? Would you expel him? Would you arrest him?” Stephanopolous prompted. Ahmadinejad’s response: “I heard that Osama bin Laden is in Washington DC.” Stephanopolous: “No, you didn’t.” Ahmadinejad: “Yes, I did. He’s there. Because he was a previous partner of Mr Bush. They were colleagues in fact in the old days. They were in the oil business together. They worked together. Mr bin Laden never cooperated with Iran but he cooperated with Mr Bush.”

The American media line on Mr. Ahmadinejad is, of course, that he’s crazy—crazy being the quality that separates a bad dictator, like Mr. Ahmadinejad, from a good dictator, like Hosni Mubarak. The media likes to set these sorts of traps for Mr. Ahmadinejad, and, in most cases, Mr. Ahmadinejad will try to spring them; not because he’s crazy or stupid, or unpolished or unprofessional, I am convinced, but because he’s an artistic genius. In the defiled pantheon of international relations, Mr. Ahmadinejad is Eshu; the rest of us are just arguing about his hat.

On Obama as nouveau elite:

The truth is that he did not come into office a fully equipped politician. He was new to the national elite and enjoyed his membership palpably. This came out in debates and town meetings where he often mentioned that the profits from his books had lodged him in the highest tax bracket. It would emerge later in his comment on Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon, the CEOs of Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan: ‘I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen.’ One can’t imagine Franklin Roosevelt or John Kennedy saying such a thing, or wanting to say it. They had known ‘those guys’ all their lives and felt no tingle of reflected glory.

On the proposed boycott of Newsweek for an silly article that criticizes gay actors in musicals for being too gay in straight roles, or something, Jim Emerson is full of win, as always:

1) I didn’t know anyone needed additional incentive to not read Newsweek, since circulation figures indicate that lots and lots of people have been not reading it without making any concerted effort not to do so.

2) “Glee” and “Promises, Promises” are both Musicals, for god’s sake. Where would the Musical be without the participation of gay actors? The movie version of “Paint Your Wagon” — that’s where. You Musical fans want to spend the rest of your lives watching and listening to Clint Eastwood singing “I Talk to the Trees“? Then go ahead and complain that gay performers are too gay to star in Musicals.

You know what? Amanda Hess is just really, really good:

When young women engage in overt feminine performance, we think of the children, but deep down, we’re thinking about women, too. As these girls enter into adulthood, how do we deal with our discomfort at the version of womanhood they’re taking on? We tell them to keep performing femininity, but by God, to just keep it to themselves. Makeup is to be worn “naturally,” never garishly; sex is something to perform for men behind closed doors, never to be spoken aloud; plastic surgery is tacky, unless it’s good plastic surgery, which is still better than looking old; extreme diets are to be kept private, in favor of of “I just keep in shape by running after my kids”; and feminine performance is in all cases an entirely personal choice, never a culturally-informed one. When we Think of the Children, we’re not disturbed that girls are beginning to adopt feminine performance—we want them to do that. We’re disturbed because they’ve forced us to to notice how ridiculous it is.

The argument that Islam strongly discourages polygamy. I’m reflexively dubious of any argument that tries to claim originalist support for an argument we’d like to be true about a religion’s “true” meaning, but — at the same time — arguments like these demonstrate the falsity of the much more pernicious about all the other “true” Islams out there.

The suggestion that tenure has no necessary connection to academia, as such, but rather that the historical moment in which the American academy had its biggest boom also just happened to be the moment in which the social contract between labor and capital was most tilted in favor of labor, thus producing unprecedented (before then and now) protections for academic labor.

This suggests that Yudof really is feeding vampirically on the blood of his students. Seriously freaks me out; the “education-as-commodity” and “student-as-consumer” models of education are bad enough, but tnow students are becoming the commodity. Instead of learning to think, students, learn to subject yourself to the gaze of scientists!

Hospital administrator and nun who approved an abortion to save patient’s life is “reassigned” and excommunicated.