You know, on the other hand, for all the shit, there's still Bach.
Friday, December 17, 2010
You know, on the other hand, for all the shit, there's still Bach.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
As you can see in comments to the previous post, the liberal supporters of state authority are eager to impute naïveté to our views. "Did you really expect Manning to walk?" They are astonished! He could be a flight risk, someone rather hilariously suggests. I want you to ponder the use of the word "risk" in that statement and explain to me how it isn't hilarious on its face.
Obviously I did not expect Manning to walk. I do not expect him to go free. He will be punished and tortured, with or without a trial, whether guilty or innocent of a particular crime, whether he did what he is claimed to have done or not, whether what he is alleged to have done is right and just or wrong and unjust. I just want to be clear here. The procedural questions are totally immaterial. They have no bearing on my position. That he will be punished, and brutally, has already been determined. He has already been punished, and brutally. The injustice perpetrated upon him precedes the ritualized pursuit of justice so fetishized and lionized by liberal authoritarians. No future trial or tribunal, no future process-verbal or court martial, no matter how "fair", no matter how "impartial", can ever do anything but compound the injustice already committed. Everything subsequent is tainted by the torture he has already undergone, is currently undergoing. Even should the heavens part and the angels deliver him to freedom tomorrow, with the Holy Word of Jesus, Allah, and the Brahmanic pantheon engraving his innocence and righteousness upon his forehead, it will only make what has already been done to him all the more reprehensible.
The question "what is to be done with Private Manning," posed to me as if it presents an imponderable moral and practical conundrum that I have never considered, is irrelevant. It is, to use a phrase one of my regular commenter-critics recently reminded me of while criticizing me in comments, not even wrong. I do not care about the state's dilemma in dealing with Private Manning. I don't care about the state's dilemmas at all. The state will dispose of Private Manning as it sees fit. My interest is in the attitudes people take toward that state. Those who begin with the question of what the government should do with its enemies, even if their conclusion is some banal exhortation somehow to treat them humanely and fairly as it helps itself to their lives, are on the wrong side.
And, you know, as a follow-up, MattY thinks solitary confinement is going too far! He just wants Bradley Manning to be punished, not punished so much. I'm just going to keep civilly disobeying Godwin's law here, mkay? He just, you know, supports transport, not extermination. He supports the "necessary evil," but not the "straightforward evil." No, really!
So as best I can tell Manning is, in fact, guilty of serious crimes. And unlike the nutty and dangerous effort to legally sanction Julian Assange for publishing leaks, I have no problem with the government punishing people who violate the terms of their classification status. But Manning hasn’t had a trial and hasn’t been convicted. Somewhat punitive post-arrest pre-trial measures are kind of a necessary evil, but the prolonged confinement of Manning under cruel conditions go well beyond the necessary into the straightforward evil.Listen up, Ima just throw some shit out at all y'all. Put this in your pipes and smoke it. It is never necessary to do evil. It is always a choice.
I think that in light of Glenn Greenwald's post, it is worth once more revisiting muscular squirrel, Matty Woodchuck, in his slavering to punish Bradley Manning.
I propose to you that the desire to see another human being punished, even a person who has done wrong, a category to which Bradley Manning emphatically doesn't belong anyway, is the most despicable of all human desires. Even if one admits to the necessity of punishment, a necessity that I find categorically problematic to begin with, then the only decent attitude is regret. To see punishment as an affirmative good is to be on the side of the barbarians. To turn your attention to a man who is not only decent and good, but who is innocent of wrongdoing, and to conclude that because he may have violated some bureaucratic doctrine in place for the sole purpose of obscuring and obfuscating the state's criminality, venality, and violence, he must therefore be tortured until he is insane, is psychopathic.
Matthew Yglesias is of course not insane, not psycopathic. He is merely inane. But I say unto yinz: if you wish to understand how authoritarianism triumphs, how ordinary people become the enablers of the monstrous, you could do no better than reread Yglesias' post again and again, until your eyes bleed.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Beginning to end, there might not be another opera with more exciting music than Don Carlo. Now it is by no means Verdi's best opera. It isn't even one opera; so many changes and revisions have been made, so many different versions exist, that there is no definitive interpretation. In its completely unexpurgated form, it's something like four hours long. Dramatically it is a bit of a mess, and it doesn't really flow. Everything stops; someone sings an aria--over and over again. It lacks the violent intensity of a Trovatore, the tragic inevitability of La Traviata, and the musical invention of his last, possibly greatest, if not his most popular, Falstaff. What it lacks in unity, though, it makes up for in sheer verve, one knock-your-socks-off piece after another, like this super-manly, totally homoerotic duet ("Dio che nell' alma infondere") in which Don Carlo and Rodrigo swear their friendship:
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
I was going to say something about the Glenn Greenwald/CREW contretemps, but Hugh at Corrente has a fine view of it. He even called it a contretemps. That's what I was gonna say! I like his take so much that I will not even make fun of him for using the "progressive" label in something other than knee-slapping, eyebrow-busting derogation.
The story doesn't end there. Glenn Greenwald sits on CREW's board and on December 12, 2010, he resigned from it over CREW's and Weinstein's stand against Wikileaks. To which, Melanie Sloan, CREW's director, responded that she welcomed his resignation and lambasted him for not keeping his disagreement in-house, that is secret, thus demonstrating how much she and CREW have internalized the Washington mindset they pretend to criticize.This is certainly the punchline of the joke, and as Hugh shortly goes on to note:
CREW's moniker with its reference to responsibility and ethics is sad and hollow.As I have elsewhere and otherwise observed, responsibility (and in this context, ethics as well) is in fact a euphemism for acquiescence to institutional prerogatives over individual values: of a government, of an employer, of a school, etc. To act responsibly, to be a responsible critic, is to agree to suspend moral action at the point at which public judgment and public action might harm the institution.
What does this mean in the context of a group like CREW? It means that when they speak of "responsibility" in Washington, they are in fact speaking of a capital that acts in accordance with what they, CREW, perceive to be Washington's own best interest. Far from critics, they are in fact boosters of the American government. Indeed, they are boosters of the American government exactly as it is currently constituted. They see their role not as journalists, nor as agents of openness, but as ethical officers keeping a sprawling and occasionally messy governing apparatus from harming itself through careless, "unethical" conduct. This is why their own legal counsel's principal objection to wikileaks and Julian Assange is that she believes them to be "motivated by a desire to harm U.S. interests."
CREW, with a rather silly and very inflated sense of self-regard, sees itself as a party to the interests of the American goverment. It just wants to make sure that all the proper bylaws and rules of procedure are followed along the way.
My boyfriend is thirty and self-employed, as the saying goes, and he's not had health insurance since he was in college, but when the shitty health care bill passed, we figured it was better to put him on my very good and very reasonable employer-backed plan than find ourselves in a few years time saddled with some piece-of-shit, overpriced, high-deductible mandate. This led to an hilarious flurry of activity. We had to keep ourselves from giggling at the bank as we forced ourselves to call each other "domestic partners," and I nearly died when, after I called the auto insurance to have his name added beside the "additional driver in household" line, I got a form back listing his "relationship to primary policy-holder" simply as "friend," which is what my grandmother calls him. This was all to prove to an insurance broker that we are, in fact, "domestic partners," even though we are not, in fact, domestic partners. We are boyfriends, infantile though that term may be. For tax reasons and personal reasons and also simply because we are both hopeless procrastinaters, we never merged bank accounts or got joint, well, anything. It's actually a little disconcerting to find that our mutual-consensual householding is now something slightly less than instantly disolvable at-will by either party. It offends our sensibilities, but oh well, it's a relatively slim price for good dental.
Did we jump the gun? Of course, I said back when it passed that a government mandate that its subjects purchase the product of a private company or else the government will punish and penalize you was absurd, a forcible wealth-transfer scheme whereby we are all dragooned into a plot to subsidize the operating margins of private firms. Henry E. Hudson, I salute you. I doubt it will last; I can't imagine the Roberts court overturning such a delicious corporate subsidy. But a boy can dream, cain't he?
"You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan."
Richard Holbrooke, on his deathbed
« Sedaine, immobile et froid, me regarde et me dit : « Ah ! Monsieur Diderot, que vous êtes beau ! » Voilà l’observateur et l’homme de génie. Ce fait, je le racontais un jour à table, chez un homme que ses talents supérieurs destinaient à occuper la place la plus importante de l’État, chez M. Necker ; il y avait un assez grand nombre de gens de lettres, entre lesquels Marmontel, que j’aime et à qui je suis cher. Celui-ci me dit ironiquement : « Vous verrez que lorsque Voltaire se désole au simple récit d’un trait pathétique et que Sedaine garde son sang-froid à la vue d’un ami qui fond en larmes, c’est Voltaire qui est l’homme ordinaire et Sedaine l’homme de génie ! » Cette apostrophe me déconcerte et me réduit au silence, parce que l’homme sensible, comme moi, tout entier à ce qu’on lui objecte, perd la tête et ne se retrouve qu’au bas de l’escalier. »
-Diderot, Paradoxe sur le comédien
Monday, December 13, 2010
But if you don't get the President of the Unites States on that phone, you know what's going to happen to you?
So Matty Woodchuck has discoverd the No Labels gang, an hilarious triumvirate of Beltway hacks hopping--for fun and profit!--on the post-partisanship train. Choo-choo, tweeeeeeeeeee, all-aboard! Yeah, you know, because nothing says Novel Ideas for Our Democracy like
...has worked in as a strategic advisor, fundraiser and relationship/network cultivator for Gary Hart, Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and Evan Bayh. She ran the finance operation for President Clinton’s Inaugural Committee and was appointed the Finance Director of the Democratic National Committee in 1993. For the past 15 years, she was a senior advisor to the Democratic Leadership Council, Finance Chair for Senator Evan Bayh...By the way, "relationship cultivator for Gary Hart" has got to be the funniest phrase in American politics, bar none.
Now Matty doesn't like No Labels. Not one bit! Parties are important! They help people sort things out! Without labels, you can't tell the difference between Diet Coke and Pepsi! No, seriously:
Normally, how much you’re willing to pay for a good or service depends on the quality of the good or service in question. But there’s no way to sample the quality of a can of soda without buying it first. So how am I to know whether or not I want to buy that can of Diet Coke? Well it’s simple. I may not have had that can of Diet Coke before, but I have had many other cans of Diet Coke. And I can infer that the Coca-Cola corporation, having invested a great deal of time and money in building the Diet Coke band is going to make a good-faith effort to turn out a consistent product. That doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will like the taste of Diet Coke. But it does mean everyone knows more-or-less what Diet Coke tastes like, and then they can make their soda-consumption choices in a coherent way.As usual, a penetrating insight from Yggie. If not for the civic-minded virtue of the Coca-Cola company, it would be impossible, totally impossible, for us reguhlur-Joes to tell which sort of brown, carbonated, aspartame-jacked fake sugarwater we are sucking down our greedy fucking gullets. Thank god for Brand Management, which shows us where the difference lies. I am sure I do not have to explain how this illuminates the genius of Our Political System.
Under state capitalism, you hear a lot of talk about "wealth creation." So you're supposed to interpret wealth as something like an industrial product, a thing made and assembled, something which, provided the proper material inputs, we can consistently fabricate more of.
But wealth isn't created. It's extracted. You aren't an assembly line. You're a mineshaft.