ok so maybe i'll do some liveblogging of the petraeus/crocker hearing. i dug the statement of hunter and others that it's obvious that no military person - who serve, of course - with dedication and honor - could ever be swayed by any political considerations. sometimes maybe your best argument wouldn't be a general statement that everyone has to nod along with and which everyone knows to be baldly false.
first i should say that i know , the guy who wrote the hot bushbook dead certain. (actually he's more a friend of my wife marion.) still i'm a bit mystified by the supposed news value of various moments that have screamed out of the front pages from the book. there's this:
About that new life: "First, Mr. Bush said, 'I'll give some speeches,
just to replenish the ol' coffers.' With assets that have been
estimated as high as nearly $21 million, Mr. Bush added, 'I don't know
what my dad gets -- it's more than 50-75' thousand dollars a speech,
and 'Clinton's making a lot of money.'
"Then he said, 'We'll have a nice place in Dallas,' where he will be
running what he called 'a fantastic Freedom Institute' promoting
democracy around the world. But he added, 'I can just envision getting
in the car, getting bored, going down to the ranch.'"
chris matthews did basically an hour on this passage, just kept saying how outrageous it was that he's "sending american kids to die," then talking about $ for speaking gigs. but who the hell cares? of course he's thinking this way; he's thinking about what former presidents actually do. and as for the loose and funny and human tone: that's surely the absolute best thing about bush.
i'm working on a book on what i'm calling "political aesthetics": the idea, as i would put it, that the visual and aural arts are as central to political ideologies, systems, and constitutions as are texts. so i've been reading anything that i think will help me show that etc.
first off, much of the work that has been done in this mode concerns fascism and national socialism, which used aesthetics at least as self-consciously as any political ideology: consider to begin with italian futurism (marinetti); leni riefenstahl, speer's architecture etc.
hellmut lehmann-haupt's art under a dictatorship (1954) did much of the fundamental work of gathering particularly emblematic moments and images and figures.
frederic spotts's hitler and the power of aesthetics is an encyclopedic treatment of its subject, taking hitler's biography as the fundamental structure for investigating the aesthetic aspects of nazism.
siminetta falasca-zamponi's fascist spectacle works over the mussolini regime's use of aesthetics, with much fascinating material.
the best treatement of the subject i've seen is eric michaud's the cult of art in nazi germany, which deploys a more sophisticated theoretical framework and a bolder speculative approach than the others.
all of these books are, i think, mired in a mistaken generalization from a single case: that the aestheticization of politics in fascism is itself an explanation or at least a central element of its evil. i will on the contrary be arguing that fascism is no more aesthetic than, say, republicanism, and that if you want to understand the latter, you need to deal, for example, with neo-classical architecture (monticello, for example). what is needed is a aesthetic critique of the aesthetics of nazism.
a wider approach is taken by diego von vacano in the art of power: machiavelli, nietzsche and the making of aesthetic political theory. the thing is disappointing, however, for one thing in its remarkably unsophisticated notion of aesthetics; it appears to mean here merely that m and n were excellent writers in a kind of literary vein. the long summaries definitely are symptomatic of the slightly-adapted dissertation.
finally, an absolutely stunning book that i am grateful for having run across: aesthetic politics: political philosophy beyond fact and value by f.r. ankersmit, which i regard as the most important work in political theory of this decade, at least. wildly original and creative, it represents a fundamentally new direction. in its treatment of issues such as representation, bureaucracy, and the use of metaphor in political theory, it moves us well beyond, say, foucault and rawls and habermas. heroes would be tocqueville, hayden white (with reservations) and arthur danto (!). i'm not even going to try to state the theoretical orientation, but the work is deeply deeply learned in all sorts of discourses and revolutionary in its implications. for some reason amazon won't let me link the paperback, so go to the hardback below and click "other editions."
"he did nothing wrong." ok. well. first off, it obviously must be a deeply tortured and pitiful life. but that's not to say it ain't wrong. were i gay, i believe i'd have the guts to say i was gay, and were i gay, i believe i'd have the guts not to say i'm not gay. it's difficult and complicated, but why would you simply absolve someone from all responsibility for an extremely false deceptive life? i've had months or years where i was drinking secretly. but you know it was actually me doing that, and the damage i did to relationships etc. was my responsibility. being gay in a homophobic society is not a blanket excuse for every fucked-up thing you do. also, just for the hell of it, i'm not wild about the ethics of anonymous sex in public places. i say that shit is fucked up, cause i sorta think of sex as an expression of love or something. that is, i think it's actually wrong to blow dozens of dudes you don't know. but maybe that's just my prejudice or something.