do me a favor?: cut and paste this everywhere. it's a...marketing ploy. but it's sincere.
A Philosophical Challenge
My irritating yet astounding new book Against the State (SUNY Press) argues that all the arguments of the great philosophers (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Hegel, Rawls, Nozick, and Habermas, among others), are, putting it kindly, unsound.
The state rests on violence: not the consent of the governed, not utility, not rational decision-making, not justice.
Not only are the existing arguments for the legitimacy of state power unsound; they are shockingly fallacious, a scandal, an embarrassment to the Western intellectual tradition.
So I issue a challenge: Give a decent argument for the moral legitimacy of state power, or reconstruct one of the traditional arguments in the face of the refutations in Against the State.
If you can't, you are rationally obliged to accept anarchism.
I'd offer a huge cash prize, but I'm broke.
Henceforward, if you continue to support or observe the authority of government, you are an evil, irrational cultist.
You're an anarchist now, baby, until further notice.
e-mail responses to email@example.com
Yours in anarchy, Crispin Sartwell
you can pre-order from amazon, or actually get holt of it from suny press.
from against the state:
The attempt to justify state power ethically has made no substantial progress for centuries. Indeed, for two hundred years, philosophers have rested content with recapitulating Hegel, Locke, or Hume, or constructing collages, such as those of Rawls and Habermas. Of course, probably the best policy is to approach the monuments of the intellectual tradition in a posture of respect, with a presumption that they were produced by smart people thinking hard and so cannot be merely ridiculous. With regard to the arguments that have been offered for the legitimacy of the state, I cannot manage to assume this posture. The arguments themselves are pitiful: riddled with holes, rationalizations, dreams of submission dressed in the leering semblance of rationality.
The arguments of a Hobbes, of a Hume, of a Rawls are, I want to say, unworthy of human beings. They are arguments that we should all submit, but they are expressions above all of the slavishness of the writer. They are justifications of slavery by slaves, and with regard to any such argument, you must question its sincerity and sample its stench of self-delusion as well as evaluate its logical quality. And whatever you may think of the motivations, the arguments are shockingly fallacious: one strives by any means to justify the central moral fact of one's life: one's destruction as an autonomous human being; one's pervasive use for the purposes of others, one's tininess, impotence, and one's collusion in this tininess and impotence: one's need for it, love of it. One is an insect, by choice, by commitment, by history, by necessity, though hardly by philosophy. And when it comes time to argue, one argues as an insect would argue. One philosophizes like a gnat.
"Locke," "Rousseau," "Hegel," "Habermas" are sounds that reverberate through human history like the tolling of great big bells. They have their moments: Locke's epistemology, Rousseau's philosophy of education, the very idea of the philosophy of history, the lovely dancing delight that is the prose style of Jurgen Habermas. But their books are also all contained within the still-emerging world-historical destiny of the state, not to speak of its patronage systems and threats of repression. There may be better justifications of the existence of the state than they came up with, but any candidate had better start more skeptically, by feeling actually threatened, undermined, by anarchism. And so we anarchists must do all we can to destroy their arguments and any others that may eventually be put forward. Only thus can we serve the cause to which we are all, ultimately, committed: the destruction of human moral autonomy.
my pro-conservative-studies piece is in the latimes this morning. ungratefully, i'm going to express my dissatisfaction with the edit. to start with, i am aware that you don't endow a professor, but a professorship or a chair. incomprehensibly, they lost the strongest paragraph:
Professors yap more than most people; they are more opinionated than most people; but they are less intellectually independent than most people.
anyway, if anyone cares, they can compare it with the submitted text.
For Conservative Studies By Crispin Sartwell
That the University of Colorado would establish a Chair of Conservative Studies is rather delicious in its ironies. It certainly smacks of affirmative action, and casts conservativism in the syntax of whole departments decried by conservatives for decades: women's studies, African-American studies, and so on. Furthermore, the idea of affirmative action for conservatives seems gratuitous. Women may be oppressed, sort of, but conservatives run whole wars, black site prisons, sprawling multi-national corporations. In fact, if women are oppressed, they're oppressed by conservatives, which may render faculty meetings a bit tense. But as an academic who is neither a liberal nor a conservative (anarchism has its privileges), let me tell you why I think it's not such a bad idea. Within the academy, conservatives really are an oppressed minority. On a faculty of 825, the University of Colorado apparently has 23 registered Republicans. This strikes me as high, and I assume they all teach business or phys ed. The professoriate is unanimous for Obama. I say that's a problem. It's a problem in a variety of ways, but it's certainly a problem pedagogically: ideological uniformity does a disservice to students, and makes a mockery of the pious commitment of these professors simply to convey knowledge. I teach political philosophy. And like most professors I know, I bend over backwards to teach texts I hate sympathetically; I try to show my students why people have found Plato and Marx - both of whom I regard as totalitarians - compelling. But I don't deceive myself into thinking that I teach these texts as well as or in the same way as would a professor who found them plausible. On the other hand, with Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience," I've immersed myself in the text for years. I've struggled to parse every sentence. I've put it into the context of all Thoreau's work, and that of his friends and contemporaries. When I get to the end of the "Communist Manifesto" I'm usually asking things like this: "Marx says that all means of communication should be centralized in the hands of the state. Anyone see any problems with that?" I don't - I can't - teach Marx the same way a Marxist would. I think that's fine, but what I'm saying is that even as I try to be neutral (well, even if did try to be neutral) my real opinions affect every aspect of what I do, and I think that is generally true. It's horrendously true in a situation in which academia produces a consensus. Here everything is affected by the real opinions of real professors, from the configuration of departments to the courses on offer within those departments to the texts taught within those courses to the ways those texts are taught. And because there's a consensus, there is precious little self-examination; a slant that we all share becomes invisible. Indeed, the academic consensus is of a particularly irritating variety. First of all, the fact that everyone agrees and everyone has a Ph.D. leads to the occasionally explicit idea that all intelligent people think the same thing: that no one could disagree with Obamanism without being an idiot. This has been expressed by the continual attack not on the positions of Reagan and Bush, for example, but on their grades and IQs. That is, the self-image of the professoriate results in a non-stop ad hominem attack. Furthermore, the claims of the professoriate to independence of mind, actual academic freedom, supposedly nurtured by tenure, are thrown into question by the unanimity. Professors are as herd-like in their opinions as other groups that demographers like to identify - "working-class white men," for example - or indeed far more so. That's partially just a result of the charming human tendency to nod along with whoever's sitting next to you. But it's also partially a result of the fact that a professor has been processed, often for a decade or more, by the institutions that harbor this unanimity. The predictable result of "educating" professors for many years in unanimous institutions is that each cohort is a bit more unanimous than the one before. Every new generation of professors has been steeped in an atmosphere in which the authorities all agree, and in which they associate agreement with intelligence and with . . . degrees, jobs, tenure, and so on. If you think conservatives are evil idiots, then conservatism itself richly justifies a decision not to hire or tenure a Ph.D. Every new leftist minted by graduate programs is an act of self-praise, a confirmation of the intelligence of the professors. Professors yap more than most people; they are more opinionated than most people; but they are less intellectually independent than most people. That this smog of consensus is incompatible with the supposedly high-minded educational mission of these institutions is obvious. Higher education is at least as dedicated to the reproduction of Obamanism as it is to conveying information. But it is massively self-deceived about this, which makes it all the more disgusting and effective. So as my liberal old professor Richard Rorty said, referring to Allan Bloom, conservative Platonist: "Let a thousand Blooms flower." And if they flower in endowed chairs of conservative studies, that's at least pretty funny.
Crispin Sartwell teaches philosophy at Dickinson College In Carlisle, PA. His book Against the State: An Introduction to Anarchist Political Theory has just been published.
here's stanley fish's argument against the u of colorado's notion of establishing a "chair of conservative studies." 23 of the 825 faculty members describe themselves as republicans. that's actually pretty high. but anyway, fish argues, as he has many times before, that one's ideology is irrelevant to one's teaching, that even a liberal philosophy prof, for example, is obliged to give a fair assessment of conservative texts (plato or burke or adam smith, let's say) to his students. all i can say is that this argument is bizarrely naive. i do myself bend over backwards to give a clear and even sympathetic reading of "the communist manifesto," which i think is interesting but terrifying. but i do not deceive myself into thinking that i've expended as much effort in understanding it as i have on a comparable text i actually sympathize with (maybe "civil disobedience"). i tell my students: 'well, you know, when marx says that the state must control all the media of communications, that sure seems totalitarian to me; but i don't think if you had a marxist in here, he'd think it was so clear.' but i also can't adequately represent the argument, regarding it as i do as ludicrous. at any rate: if you despise a text or a thinker, you read him differently, emphasize different things, etc, despite all your attempts to be fair. this is a typical and unavoidable human derangement, most clearly seen in the fact that nearly everybody sympathizes with themselves, that their account of their own lives and arguments is partly designed to beef up their self-image. the idea that people can simply drop off their deepest beliefs at the door is silly, even if we want to. and when you've got let's say 802 liberals on the faculty, you've got a pall of interpretation slanted in every possible respect: which texts we teach, and how. and it's even more dangerous if we maintain a fishy claim of impartiality; that doesn't get rid of the prejudices, merely conceals them, which buries the whole process further in self-delusion.
ask yourself: how is it that all these professors are liberals, are more or less perfectly unanimous for obama? i'm not going to accept the professors' own account: that smart people are liberals and only ignorant idiots are conservatives (say "george bush" and roll your eyes here). even just the sheer self-praise involved in that assertion should give you pause. it has to do with the fact that they're trained in institutions by people for whom liberalism is an unquestionable orthodoxy. it has to do with the texts and classes and curricula and how they're taught. it has to do with the charming enthusiasm of people for believing whatever the person next to them believes, especially if the latter has the appearance of authority or expertise. the longer people inhabit the academic institution, the more unanimous they become, a strange coincidence if fish's characterization of education is true. if you ask me, these things have nothing to do with what education is, and i do think that some effort to achieve ideological diversity is warranted.
i don't know if inventing the discipline of conservative studies is much of an answer, but it's at least delicious in its ironies: conservatives always hated the idea of "women's studies," "african-american studies," lgbt (or whatever it is) studies. etc. and the implicit portrayal of conservatives as an oppressed minority for whom affirmative action is appropriate is pretty odd considering how powerful conservatism is. on the other hand, in academia, conservatism really does constitute an oppressed minority.
i'm disappointed that the libertarian party nominated bob barr, but on the up side there's liable to be a lot of attention and a fair number of votes. and barr more than any of the other candidates is liable to siphon directly from mccain. kinda wish they'd put me in charge of their rhetoric: i'd replace rand with thoreau, to begin with.
well, the libertarian pres debate, currently on c-span, is a bit embarrassing. the moderator, steve pinkerton, seems to be "defective" in some way; he's not making a lot of sense, and he forgot to let the candidates give their opening statements. the mighty bob barr called ayn rand "the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century," i guess after drenching himself thoroughly in russell, wittgenstein, quine, kripke, heidegger, sartre, bataille, foucault, rawls, nozick, baudrillard, habermas, etc. someone did say 'cicero,' but then said "probably none of you have ever heard of him." i think that was jingozian, who then admitted frankly that he had no idea what "the tragedy of the commons" means. whenever steve kubby speaks, a weird alien pinging starts up; perhaps a medical device near his clip-on. wayne root is one of these motivational speaker types whose self-declared youthful energy is enough to make more mellow human beings sob in despair. gravel seems to have what are closest to actual answers, though randian mary ruart keeps talking about "love" and stuff in a sort of inspiring way, and in a way that would make rand herself cringe, which is a good thing.
Religion is too rarely appreciated for its entertainment value. We atheists have to be pretty happy with the presidential campaign, or indeed with the whole contemporary world. We're the only folks with the distance to be truly amused by everyone's hilarious beliefs and wild gesticulations. Catholics are angry that John Hagee, erstwhile McCain endorser, in a time-honored tradition, calls the Catholic Church "the Whore of Babylon." Meanwhile the Catholics are busy with the ascension of Mary or the infallibility of the pope or the market for little pieces of the saints' bones. They condemn each other for their bizarre, dangerous beliefs. Well they're both right on that. Keep right on, I say. You guys are killing me. Everything that happens is a punishment from God, from 9.11 to Katrina to Supreme Court decisions to this very sermon. Haile Selassie is God incarnate. No it's Freddy! Die, blasphemer! God, whoever he is, demands that you marry seven of your teenage nieces. He has twenty-six arms. God told me to hijack your plane. No he didn't! This book is the revealed truth. Nuh-uh! L. Ron Hubbard told me to make a bad sci-fi movie. God demands that we wear funny hats, or this funky hair style. Good stuff. I'd like to see an American Idol for preachers: Pastor Wright vs. Pastor Hagee vs the Pope vs the Grand Ayatollah vs the Lubovitcher rebbe vs Tom Cruise in a contest to see who can string words together in a more surreal set of arbitrary juxtapositions. Dude. It's psychedelic. Human epistemic perversity is an amazing circus of fun! I'm not saying that I have any reasons to believe the stuff I, personally, believe; I'm just saying the stuff you believe is hilarious. Indeed, I think what makes religion compelling is its perversity: you believe it precisely because it's entirely arbitrary, paradoxical, or so deeply profoundly mysterious that it strictly makes no sense at all. I'm not in favor of murder, for the most part, but as belief-sets, I adore anti-semitism, anti-Catholicism, the Inquisition, the fact that Muslims hate Hindus, Hindus Sikhs, etc. Hagee vs the Catholic church is good television. All day every day for a couple of weeks; then we'll have to come up with the next cage match of death. Hit each other with chairs or something. Or at least keep calling down God's thunderbolts and pronouncing anathemas. Maybe God wrote your book. But one thing's for sure: whoever wrote it was a gifted comedian. I want the Nation of Islam squaring off against Scientology, the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints against the Rastas, the Buddha kicking Jesus' butt, if Jesus has a butt. Play-by-play by Christopher Hitchens. Sneering, perhaps, but grinning. One thing about American politics: you've got to believe in one God or another. Better find Jesus right now. This means by definition that every American presidential candidate and a fortiori every American president is saddled with the hilarious preachings of some amazingly cool institutionalized psychosis. Without the clash of the gods, American politics would just be boring. I want to say, I respect faith. I respect all faiths, equally. I practice universal tolerance. Each religion is an astonishing perverse achievement. And in its sheer comedy, each makes life more fun. Today's atheists - Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, for example - are way too grim and serious. They're way too apparently reasonable. If they had their way, we wouldn't have near as many grins. So keep right on, y'all. I respect your right to practice any religion you like in whatever way you prefer. Hell, do it in the public schools. Do it in Congress. Just make sure I get to watch.
we atheists have to be pretty happy watching the three-ring epistemic circus of religion. john hagee believes all kinds of wacky shit. shocking. but he's right about the catholic church. indeed, every religion is right about their rivals: that they're crazy and dangerous. but, we need to add, funny! hey you're irrational because you think we're at the end times, not like us who believe in the virgin birth or the infallibility of the pope or something. there's nothing more sensible about believing that jesus is god or muhammed can fly than that haile selassie is jah incarnate, or that god demands that we marry seventeen of our teenage cousins etc. without religion, the human sitcom woould be infinitely less amusing. and let me just say: i fully support anti-semitism, anti-catholicism, the inquisition. i just want the bloodbaths on tv. and i hope that every one who ever runs for president from now on gets ridiculed for the beliefs of their pastors. good, funny stuff. we are amazing creatures! we can believe anything. it's fun!
it's good that the texas courts have thrown a wrench into the state kidnappings, apparently on the grounds that alternatives to straight-up snatching were not sufficiently explored. duh. i'd like you to think about what these kids are going through. i hope that the courts and the "welfare" people are not going to use these kids as balls in a tennis match. that really *is* abuse.
She opens her leather agenda. To the date, that date, November Fifth. 730 Fifth Avenue. Ten p.m. circled in felt-tip pen. Under that, underlined, "espresso bar." Different pen, different handwriting. Now she has all the information. Candace Bushnell for Bulgari (Advertisement in the New York Times)
Our love was forbidden, but that made it all the more fashionable. The insatiable lust that pulled us together kicking and screaming until we couldn't tell whose limbs were whose was based on three things. Caffeine. Vulgari accessories. And the fact that neither of us could write. A complete sentence.
He was the most beautiful man I had ever seen, but in my girlish heart I knew it was wrong, so wrong. He was married. A Franciscan monk. HIV positive. And only twelve years old. I was working as a professor of pure mathematics at Columbia and moonlighting as a love slave at a mid-town bar.
We were so different. Yet we were the same too. Maybe it was the information in our Vulgari agendas. Maybe the leather. Maybe the diamond-encrusted felt-tip pen that he wielded like a rapier. I had one too. Maybe the fact that we both swilled espresso until we lived twenty feet outside our own bodies and could not utter a single coherent. Phrase.
Maybe our lives were incredibly empty.
But for whatever reason, we pencilled each other in. Or perhaps our secretaries made the assignation. It's hard. To remember. We came together that evening in the espresso bar like Antony and Cleopatra. Like a religious leader communing with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Like a tractor-trailer colliding with a Yugo. Like a felt-tip pen caressing an agenda. Like a sex columnist encountering a book. On grammar.
I remember most of all what he was wearing. Leather jeans. A ruby brooch that perfectly matched his corneas. An i.v. by Tommy Hilfiger. Jewel-encrusted latex. It was enough to make any professor of pure mathematics melt into a puddle of womanly desire.
Our Orphan-Annie eyes met over the demitasse. Uninhabited eyes. Eyes like pools of impure possibility. Pools that could only be filled by continuous conspicuous consumption. Eyes that wanted. That silently begged "please, please." That saw only designer boutiques, platinum cards, and each other.
We had no desire to talk or even to touch. We wanted only to shop, and we shopped with orgiastic fury. That night we bought things that it had never before occurred to anyone to want: fur toaster ovens; nose implants; cosmetics distilled from icebergs; smallpox; flawless appliances that did nothing at all; Elton John's tribute to Mobutu Sese Seko; full-body tattoos of the self-portraits of Frida Kahlo; computerized wigs; huge Eskimo girls; self-improvement books made of human skin; former Soviet republics. And still it was not enough.
We were living in a dream or perhaps nightmare of lust for accessories. We took cabs. We looted. We smoked rock caffeine. We dodged the paparazzi. We wept together for the homeless. Our passion was torrential, deranged, credit-worthy, postmodern as the next Calvin Klein campaign
But it was over as quickly as it began. Over the next few moments, I noticed that we were drifting insensibly apart. Soon he was wearing Gucci and I, I was working on a proof of Fermat's last theorem. His wife found out about our forbidden agenda. His home room teacher found out. God found out. The public health authorities found out. Then came the fateful moment when one of my sentences featured a verb, and I knew that it was never to be. I quit my jobs, traded my condo for a simple yet daringly bare Donna Karan burqa, and joined the Taliban.
But every time I open my agenda to the date, that date, I am reminded of the importance of effective accessorizing.
sometimes, one wonders about women. probably the most disturbing thing about women is women's popular culture, ranging all the way from cosmo to oprah. let's take this incredibly superficial and trivial, yet profoundly reprehensible "reading" of sex and the city, from yesterday's washpost. one would think that you can't really have a cultural critic named "ashley," and one of the remarkable things about the piece is that ashley congratulates herself throughout for being a "cultural critic" and having a sophisticated background in "19th-century literature," which enabled her to figure out the amazing squealing (she uses the more dignified "screaming") fandom that sex and the city engenders. and the sophisticated reading that she draws from her hermeneutics is this: carrie is "independent." so she's a "role model" who enhances our self-esteem! (unlike the pathetic heroines, i guess, of jane austin or george eliot). self-esteem, in certain reaches of female culture, is the only measure of truth and art.
As someone who has studied Carrie Bradshaw's
place in the pantheon of popular culture's depiction of single girls, I
thought I knew my own answer. Her outsized life is a fantasy, but an
well, i'm glad she's "studying." ashley's actual writing is precisely as obsessed with designer outfits and stiletto heels as the show was: these are the signs of empowerment, at least the only ones that ashley actually identifies, besides, i guess, singleness itself.
We couldn't afford Carrie's shoes, let alone ever really hope to
walk in them, but in her outlandishly expensive Manolos, she teetered
squarely in the footsteps of TV's independent heroines, projecting an
infectious kind of confidence.
My new friends in the crowd at the premiere had their own answers,
of course, mostly focused less on how Carrie fits in with the depiction
of feminine dependence in, say, 19th-century fiction than on good
congratulating herself on having read an actual book written in the 19th century, unlike her unsophisticated fellow screamers, is itself i would suppose, self-esteem enhancing and empowering, which would provide the criteria of quality for ashley's cultural criticism as well as television.
"It's inspirational. It's a dream world," said Sam Ramage, 19, echoing
what many said. "You want to live in New York. You want to have all the
designer clothes, but it's not just the clothes -- it's the way they
dress. Their confidence."
"it's not just the clothes--it's the way they dress."
"I was impressed," writes ashley. "My relationship with the series has always been more cerebral than
emotional. I first came across it seven years ago while researching my
master's thesis on single women." and i suppose that "it's not the clothes -- it's the way they dress" was the last sentence of that thesis. one thing about writing master's theses: it's empowering. it enhances your self-esteem.
"Sex and the City" continued this courageous -- if madcap -- tradition.
With conservatives pushing abstinence and pro-marriage programs, it was
an adroit form of protest to have a show where women questioned
marriage, made more money than their boyfriends did, and declared (more
eloquently than I can here) that they only give oral sex if they get
it. So what if it was over the top -- if we're going to fantasize, why
not fantasize about women staying out late and making tons of money?
well, i don't know. because "staying out late and making tons of money" are not exactly the deepest, truest human values? anyway, i could go on. but i shouldn't. maybe the show was well-written? well-acted? funny? all of that is irrelevant, i suppose. it was "empowering."
one thing to think about: your conception of power revolves around really great shoes; the very center or your empowerment as a gender is really fun television programs. what would your ultimate liberation really consist in? what would it mean? you know, there are real oppressions out there, real pain, real resistance. the only thing we could say about ashley-liberation: it must be a demonstration that there is no actual oppression. at any rate, if manolos and being really sexy are your idea of revolution, women will never be free.
well, now! i believe that i just saw a coyote near my house. i live near the towns of new freedom and shrewsbury, pa, but right around here it's very rural; since the trees leafed out i can't see another house, and there are miles of alternating farm fields and pretty old-growth woods behind me. i had heard rumors of coyotes around here, but didn't take them real seriously. sucker was bigger than i would have thought, as well. grey/red/brown, with more tail than any domestic dog, and definitely moving in a way you'd never see a dog move: mad hops over a briar barrier.
for what we might call a mainstream leftist, eugene robinson is an awfully good columnist. but here he makes (again) a truly wrong argument. he puts down the failures of the bush administration to what he thinks of as the traditional republican mistrust of government, which we'd associate with goldwater and reagan. so bush supposedly set out to dismantle the government, leaving us all to starve etc. well. this is laughably anachronistic; it accepts at face value the occasional forays of bush and co into reagan rhetoric. but on the contrary, the bush administration has dramatically increased the size and power of the federal government, established whole new bureaucracies. etc. robinson probably is not a big fan of the conversion of the us into a security state, both at home and abroad, and the concomitant growth of budgets and bureaucracies and powers. but surely he can't argue that it expresses a mistrust of government. even programs such as no child left behind display the tremendous republican enthusiasm for centralized federal control of various aspects of people's lives. blaming the pathetic katrina response on the supposed mistrust of government is silly; it wasn't lack of resources, but of competence; indeed the whole response has been characterized by spendthrift waste of resources; consider the tens of thousands of useless trailers, etc. it's a perfectly reasonable criticism not to like the spending priorities of the bush administration. but obviously, what we have these days is two parties who love government, want it to grow substantially, and think of it as the provider of all solutions, whether "keeping us safe" or addressing various social inequalities
as y'all know, i'm at work on the american radical abolitionist nathaniel peabody rogers. here's a passage from his 1842 review of cobbett's american gardener.
This work on gardening is a modest, unpretending book, like all sterling productions. It is written in a style as beautiful as the subject, and as natural as a garden ought to be. It is worth buying for the style of it, aside from the information it contains. Every body can understand it at a glance, without a dictionary. And the book that can't be, ought never to be read. These books that abound in dictionary words, are learned nonsense and imposition. Cobbett's Gardener is full of short, every day words, which the people can understand, as readily as they can tell an onion stalk, or a cabbage plant. It is like Pierpont's poetry in that - abounding in monosyllabled words. You will find whole lines of them uninterrupted, every one as full of meaning, as it can hold - the beautiful, strong, old Saxon - the talk-words - words for use, and not for show. Every young man and woman, who has been injured in their talk and writing by going to school, ought to buy Cobbett's Gardener, or some other of his works. A young collegian should read it twice a day, till he gets well of his pedantry. Cobbett will cure him if any body can. "Do you teach your sons Latin, Mr. Cobbett?" asked a gentleman. "No," said the common-sense sage - "but I learn them to shave with cold water!" A bit of learning worth more to a man with a beard, than all the Latin the Monkery ever preserved from the ruins of Rome. You can understand the "Gardener" with once reading, just as readily as you could talk of a sensible gardener himself - and those who have followed it, say it turns out to be true - contrary to the fact of most agricultural books, which are mere speculations and theorizing, which no body can afford to practise. The subject of this book is a beautiful one to read of and talk of, if you have not any ground to work it out on. Gardening - nothing is more interesting or profiting. We associate Paradise always with the idea of it. The great Lord Bacon (by the way not half the man that Cobbett was) said "Gardening was the purest of human pleasures." One of his famous "Essays" was "Of Gardening," if I remember the title. But he wrote of a garden for kings and princes, - Cobbett's gardens are for men - for families - and that speaks of the difference between the two authors . Bacon was a worshipper and slave of kings, - Cobbett a friend of man. The learned world call the one "The great Sir Francis Bacon," and the other Cobbett or Bill Cobbett. A glorious garden, whether small or large, is a sort of Eden, and it is a fine idea, whether it was a literal fact, or an allegory merely, to show God's kindness to the man and woman He had made, that He put them, at their beginning, into a garden, "to dress it and to keep it." We fancy Eden was every thing a garden could be; but I dare say it would not have hurt Adam and Eve to have put into their hands a copy of Cobbett, written in the primeval language of humanity, which, whatever it was, they spoke, no doubt, in the same style Cobbett writes.
the people contesting the libertarian party nomination are former senator mike gravel, wayne allyn root, and former representative bob barr. they're scheduled to debate friday (may 16) on fox business channel. barr is best remembered for grimly trying to nail bill clinton during the impeachment. for a libertarian he's awfully trad conservative; i don't see him talking about drug laws, and he's all about closing the borders. root is very trad libertarian: anti-tax, pro-gun. i just sent gravel $20; one thing i dig about what he's doing is a very elaborate set of proposals to bring about a direct democracy. but it would refreshing to have a leftish libertarian: the movement is, or should be, multi-ideological.
how you know you're in love, by jane sartwell (7) first you look at their eyes without them knowing, and figure out whether they're cute. then you talk to them a little to see if they're nice. then you ask them a really hard math question, and you take the problem to your teacher, and if the answers match, you know they're smart. this is if you like them cute, nice, and smart. then you hang out and you start getting a funny feeling in your heart!
jane's working on her new book frenemies, about her amazing love/hate relationship with eric, who is "kind of" cute, nice, and smart, until he turns ugly, nasty, and stupid!
demographics is a lot less interesting in politics than, say, cable news makes it. i just saw someone assert that the election will turn on the vote of blue collar white men. but let's try to get this straight. let's say you're trying to explain an election in which candidate a beats candidate b at 54 to 46% (just for simplicity). any demographic segment that constitutes , say, 10% of the elecorate that votes largely for one of the candidates can, with exactly equal propriety, be represented as having been decisive. this could be black folks, but it could be people between 35 and 45 years old, or people with graduate degrees, soccer moms, left-handers, blondes, what you like for your little account. now probably left-handers are split. but that of course just makes them even more decisive: a potential battleground. the fact that they, or white blue collor men, are split, is no less decisive and significant than that they go one way or another. had they not been split, they would have decided the election. therefore the split decided the election. none of these can be "the" explanation because they are all to a precisely equal degree an explanation. if barack could have split off the left-handers, or people with violet eyes, he would have won. in other words, this variety of analysis flows to any taxonomy you like, and then the idea that we're detecting the categories of race, religion, age, income, education shows much more about how we split people up - about our prejudices, say - than about anything substantive about an election. here's a paradigm case: blame nader's 1.5% of the vote in florida for gore's loss of the state in 2000. well, any 1.5 percent segment of the population that didn't go to gore is exactly equally responsible: those who voted for buchanan, for instance, or practitioners of voodoo. the idea is that had these people not voted for nader, they would have voted for gore. then again, had the voodoo practitioners not voted for buchanan, they would have voted for bush. in other words, we also make a series of presumptions on which only a vote for one of the major candidates is sensible, in which counterfactuals are cast in terms of a two-party system etc. all of these ideas are not things we detect: they are a priori categorizations that shape narratives. the methodology, in other words, is fundamentally non-empirical, though it all comes in the quasi-scientific numbers of the polling industry.
watcha listenin to, mistercrispy? i'm soaked in, permeated by, classic soul. putting together a definitive 2-cd set (playlist below). my main rediscovery in this sojourn is o.v. wright, an amazing and amazingly underappreciated deep soul singer. "blind, crippled and crazy" is my latest theme song. later in his career, he recorded for hi records, which made the classic soul of al green and ann peebles (who is one my favorite artists ever; you can't seem to get the right stuff on itunes; you want early: "I can't stand the rain," "tear your playhouse down," "feel like breakin up somebody's home.") i finally went back and got early solomon burke. beautiful. my kids vince and sam are skeptical; i think they think it sounds like country music. it's amazing what happens to popular music retroactively! but they're musicians and i at least can say: try to understand the horn arrangements! or just fucking soak up those vocals: the best singers in pop music history, approximately. there's little aretha below, not because i don't love aretha, but because i've heard "respect" and "think" perhaps too many times.
(1) ann peebles, "i can't stand the rain" (2) bobby bland, "ain't no love in the heart of the city" (3) purify bros, "i'm your puppet" (4) solomon burke, "everybody needs somebody to love" (5) james brown, "it's a man's man's man's world" (6) otis redding and carla thomas, "knock on wood" (7) o.v. wright, "i'd rather be blind, crippled, and crazy" (8) jackie wilson, "am i the man" (9) clarence carter, "back door santa" (10) wilson pickett, "634-5789" (11) betty wright, "clean up woman" (12) o.v wright, "drowning on dry land" (13) sam and dave, "i thank you" (14) otis redding, "fa-fa-fa-fa-fa (sad song)" (15) solomon burke, "cry to me" ("don't you feel like crying?") (16) sly and the family stone, "underdog" (17) al green, "look what you done for me" (18) patti labelle, "1-2-3-4-5-6-7 (count the days)" (19) booker t and the mg's, "green onions" (20) don covay, "mercy, mercy" (21) ann peebles, "tear your playhouse down" (22) rufus thomas, "push pull" (23) o.v. wright, "a nickel and a nail" (24) sam cooke, "cupid" (25) solomon burke, "can't nobody love you (like i can)" (26) bettye swann, "chained and bound" (27) ben e. king, "supernatural thing" (28) james brown, "please, please, please (please, please)" (29) al green, "call me" (30) aretha franklin, "chain of fools" (31) tyrone davis, "turn back the hands of time" (32) ike and tina turner, "river deep and mountain high" (33) johnnie taylor, "testify (i wanna)" (34) o.v. wright, "i've been searching" (35) b.b. king, "thrill is gone" (36) sam and dave, "soothe me" (37) solomon burke, "none of us are free" (38) gladys knight and the pips, "i've got to use my imagination" (39) otis redding, "i've been loving you too long" (40) the isley brothers, "shout" (41) bobby bland "i wouldn't treat a dog (the way you treated me)" (42) ann peebles, "feel like breakin up somebody's home" (43) o.v. wright, "eight men, four women (jury of love)" (44) betty wright "clean up woman" (45) wilson pickett, "land of 1000 dances" (46) joe tex, "skinny legs and all" (47) o.v. wright, "everybody knows (the river song)" (48) al green, "let's stay together" (49) the bar-kays, "soul finger" (50) sam and dave, "hold on, i'm comin'" (51) otis redding, "(sittin' on) the dock of the bay" (52) o.v. wright, "born all over" (53) james brown, "cold sweat"