Links are Future Trash, too
Scott McLemee on the changing meaning of “reality” within conservative thinking:
In the 1970s, conservatives liked to say that their ranks were filling up with “liberals who had been mugged by reality.” That phrase suggested that reality is one tough dude — totally indifferent to anybody’s mere opinion. It was quite another matter when a leading Bush administration official (unnamed but often assumed to be Karl Rove) told a reporter for The New York Times Magazine in 2004: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” Nor was this merely the judgment of a solitary solipsist. In his chapter “Creating Their Own Reality,” David Greenberg — an associate professor of history, journalism, and media studies at Rutgers University — maintains “the Right under Bush found itself promoting a view of knowledge in which any political claim, no matter how objectively verifiable or falsifiable, was treated as simply one of two competing descriptions of reality, with power and ideology, not science or disciplined inquiry, as the arbiters.” (Or deciders, if you will.)
There was no reality, only interpretations of reality — and the existence of weapons of mass destruction was a function of who controlled the narrative. Little surprise that there were jokes about the rise of conservative postmodernism during the ‘00s. If Fox denied that climate change was taking place, who had the right to insist otherwise? Not some elitist, anyway. Greenberg traces the right’s “forays into epistemological relativism” back to influence of networks of right-leaning think-tanks and journalists. He quotes a contributor to The Weekly Standard from 2003, on how the right had created “a cottage industry” for spin: “Criticize other people for not being objective. Be as subjective as you want. It’s a great little racket.” And going a step beyond what Greenberg describes, we see another development along the same reality-aversive lines: the growing importance of conservative political figures whose authority within the movement comes primarily, or even exclusively, from their status as mass-media celebrities.
Jim Hines on his son with Asbergers:
Jackson does struggle socially. I remember picking him up from preschool last year, asking how his day went, and fighting tears when he said, “Nobody wants to play with me.” Most days I’d find him playing by himself in a corner. He has meltdowns when routines get broken without warning. He can also be overly physical and affectionate sometimes, and we’ve had to work with him on that, but he’s learning where the boundaries are. He struggles physically as well. He’s 5 and a half, and still can’t ride a bike. He’s in physical and occupational therapy every week. He runs laps in the house most nights. Lately, he’s started whipping his hands around as a form of self-stimulation. He’s Fucking Awesome.
Kotsko does “for awkwardness what Heidegger did for anxiety — but in a much more leisurely and accessible way. I’m also not a Nazi, so you can throw that on the scales as well.”
It is a truism bordering on drinking game material that anyone advising newspapers will at some point say “All you need to do is offer a product so relevant and valuable the consumer is willing to pay for it!” This advice is well-meaning. It’s just not much help. The suggestion that newspapers should, in the future, create a digital product users are willing to pay for is merely a restatement of the problem, by way of admission that the current product does not pass that test.
A New York Times investigation this morning paints a disturbing picture of what’s going on at The Washington Post Company’s cash cow, Kaplan. The paper shows how Kaplan Higher Education has used predatory tactics to keep customers (students) enrolling and to keep the profits flowing….One training manual counseled recruiters to target people who have “low self-esteem, reliance on public assistance, being fired, laid off, incarcerated, or physically or mentally abused.”: According to 2009 data released this summer by the Department of Education, only 28 percent of Kaplan’s students were repaying their student loans. That figure is well below the 45 percent threshold that most programs will need to remain fully eligible for the federal aid on which they rely. By comparison, 44 percent of students at the largest for-profit, the University of Phoenix, were repaying their loans.
It’s not a good thing if you’re doing markedly worse than the University of Phoenix.
Interesting interview with Berkeley Breathed. On Garry Trudeau:
Good ol’ Garry. Ever see the interviews with Elizabeth Edwards where she’s asked about Rielle Hunter and she can’t get herself to actually say Hunter’s name? Calls her “that woman”? He’s sorta like that with me. Come to think of it, I’m sorta like Rielle. I just want all of us to be a big happy family even while I hold his fat homely bastard love child that looks like a penguin.
On Bill Watterson:
The boy has gone to ground. We exchanged a large number of letters many years ago, where he’d penned brilliant, hilarious, deeply cruel cartoons of me or Opus at both our expenses. But now? Only quiet. I’ve got a very solid report that he was seen working at a Six Flags doing caricatures for 5 bucks. I’m serious. They said he looked really happy, albeit completely insane. I put out a bowl of milk for him on the porch on warm summer nights.
On Charles Schultz:
Cartooning coursed through his veins like cholesterol. His wife Jeannie once explained to me that he couldn’t quit — as I had suggested he consider — because he drew to live. It would have killed him to stop. And indeed, he died the day that last strip appeared.
I am writing a book on Zionism in American culture. I want to understand how America’s overriding public support of Israel and popular identification with Zionism developed and changed over time. I have some intuitive assumptions about what John F. Kennedy called the special relationship between America and Israel, but I know very little about Palestine or the relationship between Americans and Palestinians, which needs to be part of my story.
A year ago, I attended an international conference in Jerusalem. The topic was Herman Melville, who traveled to Palestine in the 1850s and wrote a long epic poem about his journey, Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land. From Melville I learned about the 19th-century evangelical zeal for gathering Jews in the Holy Land, decades before the rise of political Zionism. Melville painted Palestine through the prism of America’s westward expansion. He compared Arabs to American Indians; one of Melville’s characters is a pioneer of Puritan ancestry who converts to Judaism and takes literally the messianic words that conclude the Passover Seder, “Next Year in Jerusalem.” To the chagrin of his Jewish-American wife and daughter, he moves them there. As part of the conference, I traced Melville’s footsteps to Bethlehem, the Dead Sea, and Jaffa.
Greenwald utterly pwns Dina-Temple Raston. Ouch.
Thinking in terms of “natural” is very, well, natural to us. Some think we are hard-wired for it. And it is a useful concept in many ways. Our body has a natural body temperature. We get shocked by disease and sickness. This raises our body temperature, but eventually we’ll heal and our temperature will go back to the “natural” rate.
This type of thinking piggybacks onto our thinking about unemployment. It is standard that economists now believe there is a “natural” rate of unemployment. Our economy takes a shock from a financial crisis, a shift in demand, etc., and the unemployment rate rises. But eventually we’ll heal and our unemployment will go back to the “natural” rate.
But what if it doesn’t? What if periods of high unemployment scar the economy in such a way that it raises the permanent unemployment rate? What if periods of high unemployment lead to reduced wages and higher unemployment years down the line? This is what is known as hysteresis.
Certain crimes cut through the sensibilities of even a culture besotted with media images of crime. As Durkheim reminded us, the horror these crimes invoke tell us what our central values are. The 2007 attack upon the suburban Connecticut home of Dr. William Petit, which included rapes, kidnappings, arson, and ultimately murder was spectacular example
…The crime took place inside the sanctity of the home. As others have pointed out, the home, especially the privately owned, suburban home, has become the essence of the American dream (one that explains are tolerance for dangerously overextended real estate markets). The fact that the violence came upon the victims inside the home makes it a greater crime than if it happened on the street or in a public place. A killing is a shocking lapse of security. A lethal attack by strangers invading the sanctity of the home is an attack on the very possibility of security…The vast majority of people (including children) killed in their own home, are killed by someone they knew, often another occupant of the house (typically father or husband), but those killings are almost never the subject of enduring fear. It is the stranger invading the home to commit violence that invokes it…
The father was rendered helpless before the crime began. Victims who are killed by their own father, or who do not have a father (or husband) to protect them seem less violated than ones whose protection has been strategically eliminated by the home invaders. The criminal father is far less frightening than the stranger who overthrows the father and usurps his place with the intent to criminal violate what the father is supposed to be protecting.
Rick Perlstein on why lying pays in our politics:
When one side breaks the social contract, and the other side makes a virtue of never calling them out on it, the liar always wins. When it becomes “uncivil” to call out liars, lying becomes free. And dammit, the essence of Obamaism as an ideology is that it is Uncivil to Call Out Liars. So you find him at a press conference, the day after the midterm elections, saying with all apparent sincerity that he agreed the majority of Americans participated in a “fundamental rejection of his agenda”—who, that is, implicitly believe he raised their taxes.
When he really lowered them.
Republican Lindsay Graham said “containment is off the table.” That is, it is unacceptable to him to deal with Iran as the US dealt with the Soviet Union. (Why? Because Khamenei is worse than Stalin. How?) Not to mention that unlike the Soviet Union, Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapon. But, oh, I see. That is why you don’t need to contain it. You can just take it out. It is brilliant. Iran’s non-existent, imaginary nuke is at the same time what makes war necessary and what makes it possible. An actual Iranian nuke would put war talk off the table.
Hip-hop has rehabilitated the music of the disco era for listeners of my generation and younger. This is no small accomplishment. When I was growing up, I was taught by everyone remotely cool that slick, lavish hedonistic seventies pop was the epitome of cultural evil. My hippest white friends had an aesthetic centered around punk, which was fuelled in large part specifically in reaction against artists like Seals and Crofts. I constantly encounter rock fans who tell me about spending the seventies holed up with the Velvet Underground, waiting for disco to go away.
Hip-hop was a reaction to disco too. Like the song says, “create rap music ’cause I never dug disco.” Maybe hip-hop musicians don’t dig everything about disco, but they do dig some aspects: the beats, the production, the party atmosphere. Punk stripped away a lot of disco-era excess, but it also stripped away danceability, groove, arrangement and texture. The indie kids have restored some variety to the vocal and instrumental palette, but the groove stays impoverished. Rock was dance music first and foremost in its lively youth, but I can’t think of too many rock songs from my lifetime that make me want to dance. Hip-hop, on the other hand, has taken the best disco grooves and given them laser-beam focus through looping, layered drum machines and harder-edged lyrics.
Subashini quotes Mary Ann Doane:
“The woman who wears glasses constitutes one of the most intense visual clichés of the cinema. The image is a heavily marked condensation of motifs concerned with repressed sexuality, knowledge, visability and vision, intellectuality, and desire. The woman with glasses signifies simultaneously intellectuality and undesirability; but the moment she removes her glasses (a moment which, it seems, must almost always be shown and which is itself linked with a certain sensual quality), she is transformed into spectacle, the very picture of desire. Now, it must be remembered that the cliché is a heavily loaded moment of signification, a social knot of meaning. It is characterized by an effect of ease and naturalness. Yet, the cliché has a binding power so strong that it indicates a precise moment of ideological danger or threat — in this case, the woman’s appropriation of the gaze. Glasses worn by a woman in the cinema do not generally signify a deficiency in seeing but an active looking, or even simply the fact of seeing as opposed to being seen. The intellectual woman looks and analyses, and in usurping the gaze she poses a threat to an entire system of representation.”