one thing that occurs watching the kagan hearings: i am very glad i have not lived her life. so when they ask her about memos she wrote in the clinton admin, strategizing on avoiding a ban on partial-birth abortion, she's all like 'i was working for a president who had very definite views. my job was to push forward his agenda.' when she was dean at harvard law school and sought to exclude military recruiters on the grounds of 'don't ask/don't tell,' she was only trying to enforce the 25-year-old non-discrimination policy, not embodying any particular position. as solicitor general she argued that prisoners of the u.s. in afghanistan and iraq do not have habeus corpus rights. we should make no assumptions about her own opinion on this matter: she was representing her client. as a supreme court justice all she will do is read and apply the constitution/laws as they stand, without regard to her own opinions.
it must be hard to live a life in which you are never permitted to think independently. one might be tempted to call it a slavish life, and to boot, an unintelligent or at least incurious life, though these would be odd things to say about so eminent and famously smart etc person. really i think that an institution that demands at least the simulation of automatism of this kind is profoundly dehumanizing; it ought to begin to make one sceptical of bureaucratic and in particular legal institutions; they rest on a lie, or a demand of total inauthenitcity. if i was sitting there with the purpose of completely disguising even the sheer fact that i have opinions, i would feel compromised, sullied.
cornyn is giving a speech, in which kagan's responses seem like impertinent interruptions. not only that, he's giving word-for-word the same speech sessions did; an ultra-primitive "do you believe the courts can change the constitution?". what is the matter with these people? how could you just make it impossible not to conclude you are a grandstanding idiot? these are the best republican legal minds; wasn't cornyn a state supreme court judge? and yet they're just reciting someone's memo rigidly, precisely like dummies.
listening to the kagan hearings on my way to teach. well you know she seems ok, but she's not sweating brilliance as one sometimes thought in the buildup. but she seems comparable to sotomayor, for example: similar really. kohl actually sounded exasperated with her: "what is your passion? what do you really care about?" "deciding cases one at a time on their merits." really? sessions can be an unbelievably incoherent partisan twit, just endlessly repeating the same one idea about whether judges should legislate. but his questioning on the harvard military recruitment thing was quite pointed and probably pretty effective in focusing criticism; he seemed to know a lot about it.
one thing i notice about statists, whether liberals or conservatives: i.e. everybody. they give an argument. i blow it up, twice for good measure. then they give another, perhaps totally incompatible with the first. i vaporize it. then another. then, remarkably, back to the first as though nothing ever happened. now some of these people regard themselves as "reality-based" and rational (that's the left's current persona). but it's incredibly obvious that reasons don't matter at all to them in this: any reason to believe in the legitimacy of the state is a good-enough reason; no reason not to is any good at all. it's exactly like arguing with a believer about god: they might give arguments, but arguments have nothing to do with it.
what it is about, in my view, is the desire to be subordinated. it hardly matters how or why or by whom or for what. oh we'll play with the policy preferences, but the overwhelming reality of domination is ignored, precisely because it is the affective heart, the libidinous bit. we've got too many bottoms chasing not enough tops.
we desperately need this in the u.s.: bjork's brother-in-law or whatever for pres: a world run by anarchist comedians and punk musicians. a drug-free congress by 2020! but so far are we from these good ideas that i can't even get student senate candidates at dickinson college not to take the tiny bit of power seriously: why not a monarchist party? i ask, or a military junta? or one-party dictatorship? a surrealist party? a taliban to wrap our students in burqas and prohibit kite-flying? a theocracy dedicated to entirely new god? or an insane cult of personality? but no, they just keep earnestly promising increased support for student organizations. is that any way to pad a resume?
couple of thoughts on afghanistan: when people talk, they immediately come up on the karzai government as exactly what makes all this impossible. ok at that point it's worse with him than without him: i'd suggest just straightforwardly replacing him, acknowledging that we occupy the country, appealing a little too late to the "flaws" in the election. i'd even be tempted not to appoint an afghan, though that might of course alienate afghans. but every afghan is going to have some tribal/crony-type issues. make a timetable for an election, with squirelly commitment. they must be talking about these possibilities, which karzai might just be picking up. if the petraeus coin thing is right, it's security and stability for the population that wins marts and hinds. corruption is the opposite. well just straightforwardly give that with a military governor. or pull out, you see? i go here like goldwater went on vietnam: double or nothing; win or go home. the worst situation is the chronic malaise.
the greatest thing about all the stuff that emerged from warhol's factory is that it made us see that skill or thinking or liking some stuff rather than others was over. we don't have any use for them anymore! ok ok, "andy warhol's frankenstein" sucks. or really, by sucking as hard as it sucks it overcomes the passe dualism between sucking and not-sucking: it sucks more than it is possible for anything to suck, itself a sophisticated commentary on and transcendence of the suckiness of things. and yet it still sucks. it's so bad that its badness is more than an accident, though it is, also, a terrible accident; it's an apotheosis, as if you met god and he looked and acted just like buddy hackett or al gore. so clearly was warhol a manipulative charlatan that he overcame the dualism between manipulative charlatans and sincere craftspersons, by a bold negation of the very idea of the latter. a bold inversion of values: the worse, the better.
we should always retain warhol's teachings that popping pills, injecting heroin, having sex with everyone all the time, being extremely stupid, and listening to dirges constitute the royal road to human happiness. no one was quite so into the idea that bad is good and that the noblest life is the most completely repulsive and shortest life. for these lessons - applied assiduously by generations - we should be most grateful. especially the short part. who can regret that we don't have more films featuring edie sedgwick?
in the sixties, warhol was the seventies, with sparkles and an entirely meaningless center; he overcame that irritating moral earnestness of the movements for peace and justice; we might term his style "pre-disco" rather than "pop." he was an important influence on glam rock, which is exactly how he ought to be understood in art history. it would be nice - accurate, so to speak - to ignore warhol for a few centuries, then ignore him some more after that. the idea that neil prinz or whomever is bringing out the whole belligerent machinery of connoisseurship on authenticating warhols is comical in its complete misunderstanding of the whole thing (no warhol is better than any copy, reproduction or photograph of a warhol), but it is also necessary in the task of inflicting warhol on all of us continuously, though entirely arbitrarily, forever.
seems rather a good moment for us, the monsters!, climate-change-holocaust deniers. if al gore is a crazed sex poodle, then the earth is not really growing warmer. wait! what? well maybe that doesn't bear on climate change at all; but it does show you something about american saints. then there's kevin rudd, who famously just kept saying that climate change is the greatest moral crisis mankind has ever faced, like an al gore message therapist. then he decided to back off on limiting carbon emissions when things went politically wonky. by his own account he should have set himself alight in protest outside the australian parliament, or whatever they might call it down there. stop the killing! or whatever it may be. actually, that five minutes where he decided he would chill out rather than suicide-bomb the parliament was the very five minutes that consituted the tipping point, the moment after which the total destruction of everything became inevitable, no matter what we do. kind of a relief, really. now we are free! that's good enough for me and bobby mcghee.
well anyway, remember when human beings were killing one another by the millions in wars and genocides? that time was right now. remember when we developed technology sufficient to destroy life on earth in its entirety? right now, millions of people are dying of poverty and preventable disease. and you're telling me that climate change is the greatest moral challenge we've ever faced? definitely, in the computer models we constructed. well at least it's the greatest occasion for grandiloquent moral grandstanding by hypocrites and pseudo-scientists. why were martin luther king or mahatma gandhi leading liberation movements for millions of human beings when they could have been grousing about the weather?
when it comes to the question of what is the greatest moral crisis mankind has ever faced, i say turn it over to the scientists. only some great hack in a labcoat can help you define "greatest" or "moral." often when i am considering some terribly immoral act, i turn to "the journal nature" to discover the exact degree of its moral wrongnitude. frankly, i'd just let the objective facts make policy. oddly, the objective facts agree with me, on this as on so many other points.
on the one-year anniversary, i too am both mourning michael jackson's death and celebrating his life. oops! i mean vice versa. it may appear to be an absurd failure of taste even to notice the one-year anniversary of michael jackson's death. but it is worth celebrating the fact that michael jackson's life is receding into the past. time is merciful, but sooooo slow.
one reason the world should disintegrate politically
rather than consolidate is because we need a much greater variety and
many more experiments in sovereignty. the range of actual political
systems in the world is mind-numbingly unimaginative. this is itself a
problem with sovereignty, which often represents our supposed
intelligence at its most banal; if there were a "general will," it would be, of course, an average will, a will with the funk averaged out.
obviously mcchrystal has to go. if nothing else otherwise there's be hell to pay from all the people he dissed, including some let us say hefty egoes, such as holbrooke. also this is not the first infraction. but it would be interesting if obama was so incredibly secure that he decided to proceed.
the way i read this mcchrystal thing is that stan succeeded up to the level he's at partly by being brutally frank, like he had a pass. you actually need someone to give a direct assessment, or else you don't even know what's happening, exactly. it can be amazingly charming to hear someone actually say what he thinks. i'm actually vaguely glad to know his views of holbrooke or jones; kind of confirmed my basic impressions.
check out this amazing blog dedicated to "new sovereignties": let a thousand nations bloom (mike gibson and patri friedman). they're calling their position "secessionism": well you might notice that i've often been on about balkanizing the world: many more countries would be a good start. more or less, from texas and alaska to kurdistan to the basque region to montenegro to tibet, i support every separatist movement everywhere.
there's a vague sort of picture out there according to which it is self-evident that ever-growing sovereignties are self-evidently desirable, until we end up with a world-state, run by al gore or jurgen habermas. but of course there are opposite forces pulling too: face the flanders, baby.
as you probably know, on the grounds among others that concentrated power is extremely dangerous (more or less history's clearest lesson), with regard to practical politics i push toward a smaller state. my argument has been that republicans beef up the security state, democrats the welfare state, and hence that they dovetail in an ever-growing government. now i begin to think that obama gives us the worst of both worlds. he's as militaristic and as secretive as bush/cheney, and as much a social engineer as lbj, say. partly this is strategic: it's the idea that was first clearly applied in the kerry campaign: we gotta outwar the republicans, steal their thunder. at any rate, american history ain't going so well by my standards. i'd suggest an 8-year ron or rand paul administration to temper the enthusiasm.
i just want to express my support for what julian assange is doing with wikileaks. listening to the msm, you'd think it was obvious that videos of america's heroes slaughtering civilians should be kept secret. um, why exactly? i guess i could see how some information should be kept secret, though i would define such cases extremely narrowly. this sort of thing is nowhere close; of course they ought to be made public. the question facing the pentagon obviously isn't one of national security; it's mere pr.
or let's say that your view is that, like the abu ghraib photos, such things might turn people against the us. well that would be wrong if the videos were cgi fakes or something. if people turn against you because of what you are actually doing, you need to fix what you are actually doing, not try to pretend you aren't. if people turn against you in virtue of believing the truth, then you deserve your image problem.
winning marts and hinds is all very well, but if that just means hiding or lying about your disgusting actions, then i say you're just redoubling the problem. now they not only oppose what you're doing; they don't believe a word you're saying, for very good reasons. that was the donald rumsfeld approach to getting everyone behind our efforts.