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You know, from a plane

Posted by Ben
on 09.27.08

What do you think the odds are that Cheney shoots Palin in the face before the VP debate?


 

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No More Masturbating With Newman's Own Salad Dressing

Posted by Becks
on 09.27.08

I bet over the next few days we hear a lot of people lament that "the kids today" only think of Paul Newman as that guy who created the salad dressings and not for his acting and his philanthropic work. But you know what? If that was my legacy, I'd take it. It's still a heck of a lot more than most of us will be remembered for and he built the company in a respectable way.

Being remembered as "that salad dressing guy"? At least he did something in his life worth remembering, even if it's the wrong things that get remembered.


 

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International Law

Posted by Becks
on 09.27.08

I'd bookmarked this article on how fewer courts in other countries are looking to the U.S. for guidance in their legal systems, thinking it might be an interesting topic of conversation, but I think it might be an even more interesting one to consider in light of this weekend's NYT Magazine article about how the Supreme Court is shaping our foreign policy.

Mind you, I haven't actually read the second article so it might not actually be the case but they could be related.


 

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Human being and motherfucking citizen, bitch

Posted by Ben
on 09.26.08

Scott McLemee writes that Elvin Lim writes that "Americans need to be politically educated so that they develop the intellectual and moral capacities that are necessary for competent citizenship, among them, a capacity to look beyond individual interests toward collective interests, and an ability to think through and adjudicate the various policy options that their leaders propose." Too right! I've got just the thing:

Socrates asks, "Who is a knower of such excellence, of a human being and of a citizen?" We are all concerned to discover what it means to be an excellent human being and an excellent citizen, and to learn what a just community is. This course explores these and related matters, and helps us to examine critically our opinions about them. To this end, we read closely and discuss seminal works of the Western tradition, selected both because they illumine the central questions and because, read together, they form a compelling record of human inquiry. Insofar as they force us to consider different and competing ways of asking and answering questions about human and civic excellence, it is impossible for us to approach these great writings as detached or indifferent spectators. Instead, we come to realize our own indebtedness to these our predecessors and our obligation to continue their task of inquiry. In addition to providing a deeper appreciation of who we are as human beings and citizens, this course also aims to cultivate the liberating skills of careful reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Now there's a tendentious course description. (I actually took a different sequence, but that did not prevent my heart from swelling as my thoughts turned to my alma mater.)

One of the things that I really liked about Obama's primary run was the occasional speeches that were obviously not meant to be crowd-pleasers first and foremost but rather to communicate some sort of thought-through position or way of thinking about some current controversy (in fact it was probably what I liked most). This seems to be happening, well, less frequently. When I started this post, it was still unclear whether McCain would be participating in the debates (speaking of, aren't they on ... now? fuck!), and I entertained to myself an enjoyable fantasy in which Obama just went on and, you know, talked at us for a while. Wouldn't that be nice?

Regarding übercritic McLemee's piece, while I don't doubt that we're experiencing, or have experienced, "the routinizing of what can only be called demagogic norms in presidential discourse", it would have been nice to get a bit of information on what Lim, or for that matter McLemee, thinks the origins were of this routinizing, what rôle other organs and institutions played, whether it was led by the Presidency and imitated elsewhere, or what. There is the one paragraph about TR and Wilson, of course, but that seems inadequate; there were still opponents, after all, and a press, to whom the President might have to explain himself—not to mention that a person presumed to speak for the nation need not on that account market himself as just folks. And as we know, this routinization is positively encouraged, and practiced (see paragraphs four and five for some hot expressio unius action), as McLemee acknowledges with the lipstick-on-a-pig anecdote, which, you know, actually got picked up, by others. It must be asked, for instance, for whom is the amount of applause generated by a speech a litmus test of accomplishment? Maybe it makes the speech-giver feel warm and fuzzy, but he often isn't the chief commentator on his own speeches' success. It doesn't really seem like it would be a particularly wise move, in the current context, for at least an embattled politician, to invite claims of elitism.

If the quotation with which McLemee closes his piece is really an apt reflection of where Lim places the blame for the current state of play ("We need to interrogate the assumption that American democracy can continue apace with the hollowing out of its public sphere by its principal spokesperson."—this is odd, because I'm not sure anyone has really assumed precisely that)—that is, on the President—that seems not to sit particularly well with the claim of Lim's with which I started this post, that Americans need to shape up. Obviously more is involved than either option exclusively; it wasn't just that Obama gave these actual substantive intelligent speeches that was pleasing, it was that they were actually well-received: that is, that both sides showed they could rise to the occasion, at least occasionally. Cf. the link in "practiced" above, same paragraphs: the media could put reasonable analysis before the plebs, and by god, the plebs liked it—which checks out with the popularity of that one TAL episode as well.


 

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Post Number Three For Debate Number One

Posted by Becks
on 09.26.08

I post them, you fill them right up. A new debate thread for the actual event.

Predictions?

Reactions?


 

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Ask The Mineshaft: Sacred Dance Retreat at a Commune in the Mountains Edition

Posted by Stanley
on 09.26.08

An anonymous reader writes in:

I recently started to date a woman (we've been seeing each other for a couple of weeks). The physical chemistry is fantastic, actually sort of earthshaking. She's attractive, warm, cheerful and affectionate, plus she's both artsy and emotionally well balanced, a combination I appreciate. Bottom line, I like her, and it definitely seems worth further exploration.

The issue is this: I'm a bit of a rationalist type, and she's heavily into new age spiritualism. I mean, heavily. I have no problem with meditation or even "energy healing" and the like -- I can make rationalist sense of people having energy and that energy being transferable, in fact I feel like I experience that regularly. If you want to refer to that using "auras" or "chakras" that's fine, it's just a different language. I also respect a lot of Buddhist beliefs. But she considers herself an active practitioner of a variety of mystical and magical beliefs that go well beyond that -- clairvoyance, shamanism, remote healing, what have you. She has a number of friends and mentors in that world, does a lot of activities related to it, and it's a pretty regular part of her life.

I've had some good experiences in the past with people who were intensely spiritual and whose beliefs differed from mine. I find "spiritual seeker" types are often driven to seek intensity and meaning in life in a way I appreciate, and can teach me a great deal even when I might disagree with their path. But I'm worried this might be a bit much. I'm pretty analytic and intellectual and I really do believe in scientific empiricism -- in a way, it's almost a spiritual committment for me, in the sense of trying to observe the world as accurately as I can.

I've expressed some gentle skepticism to her, and she just smiles and says so long as I care for her and don't actually think she's crazy, everything is good.

What do people think? Has anyone had any analogous experiences? Is this the kind of thing that one can work around in a long term relationship? Or am I drunk on great early-relationship sex and kidding myself a little?

Also, if we do go on, any tips on how to proceed? Should we try to steer clear of areas of potential lack of understanding / disagreement, or try to talk about things in a way that better illuminates how the other person's beliefs work for them and leads to better mutual understanding?

This is a good time for me to think about this, since she's off at a weeklong sacred dance retreat at a commune in the mountains.

Hm. My drive-by reaction is of the "everyone-is-a-unique-snowflake-but-snowflakes-have-a-lot-in-common" variety. Basically, I think that two people can sometimes learn to live with each other's quirks. Other times, it doesn' work out. And that's not helpful advice at all.

But that's okay! Because the inquiring reader didn't ask me for advice; he asked you for advice. So, advise away, o sagacious Mineshaftians.


 

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Schrödinger's Debate

Posted by Stanley
on 09.26.08

[posted for Becks]

Something will surely be broadcast tonight, whether the original debate or town hall. I think the lesson for McCain will be that you can mess with your opponent but you'd better not mess with the networks' revenue. They cleared their schedules for this debate and aren't going to want to lose the money for another night of lost programming if it's rescheduled.

It made me think of a friend of the family who grew up in India. Her parents had committed her to an arranged marriage but she was in love with a young boy from the neighborhood. The night before the wedding was to take place, they ran off and eloped. The invitations had been sent, the food purchased, and the hall decorated so, upon hearing the news, her parents announced that a wedding had been planned so they were having a wedding one way or another and made her younger sister take her place.

Tonight is costing the networks millions of dollars. They're having their debate one way or another.


 

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Philosophical progress, or perhaps just a philosophical object lesson

Posted by Ben
on 09.26.08

I quote from §18 of Elizabeth Anscombe's justly famous monograph Intention. The first bits I'm quoting are really just scene-setting; I'm interested not so much, for present purposes, in the explanation of action as in the discussion of intelligibility (nevertheless I will not include most of that discussion). The scene provides the context for a sort of unintelligibility which will concern us:

Answers like "no particular reason"; "I just thought I would", and so on are often quite intelligible; sometimes strange; and sometimes unintelligible. That is to say, if someone hunted out all the green books in his house and spread them out carefully on the roof, and gave one of these answers to the question "Why?" his words would be unintelligible unless as joking and mystification. They would be unintelligible, not because one did not known [sic] what they meant, but because one could not make out what the man meant by saying them here. …

If we say "it does not make sense for this man to say he did this for no particular reason" we are not "Excluding a form of words from the language"; we are saying "we cannot understand such a man." …

It would take considerable skill to use language with frequent unintelligibility of this sort; it would be as difficult as to train oneself in the smooth production of long unrehearsed word-salads.

Unrehearsed word-salads, or perhaps badly rehearsed talking points. Cf. the transcript of the earlier-broadcast segment, containing the anacolouthon to which oudemia drew our attention. Among other remarkabilities.


 

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This is also even a radio interview, if Writer says so

Posted by Ben
on 09.25.08

Official Author of Unfogged David Markson has been interviewed on KCRW's Bookworm radio program show.

He sure does sound old. Man.


 

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The Long And Winding Road

Posted by Becks
on 09.25.08

While not a surprise to some of you who have had to jump through the hoops or help a loved one through them, I thought this cartoon did a good job of summarizing the steps required to immigrate to the United States.


 

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Good news!

Posted by Ben
on 09.24.08

The next WPA won't even have to rely on make-work:

These are rare times of ferment in one of the most neglected fields of public policy--the nation's infrastructure, or what used to be known as public works, including roads, mass transit, bridges, ports and airports, flood control systems, and much else. We have been confronted with spectacular and tragic evidence of the inadequacy of these facilities in the failure of the levees in New Orleans and in the collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis. More generally, a recent report by the American Society of Civil Engineers concludes that America's infrastructure overall is close to "failing" and deserves a grade of "D." It estimates that an investment of $1.6 trillion will be needed to bring it up to working order.

Old news, I suppose. I'm sure there are clever proposals to be made by those who note that 1.6e12 is more than twice as much as 7e11.


 

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"Let Bartlet Be Bartlet"

Posted by Stanley
on 09.24.08

Say what you will about Aaron Sorkin's imagined meeting between Barack Obama and fictional former President Jed Bartlet. This line rings of classic Bartlet:

[T]he idea of American exceptionalism doesn't extend to Americans being exceptional.

Can't you just hear him saying that? The rest of that paragraph, I think, is a bit overdone, though:

If you excelled academically and are able to casually use 690 SAT words then you might as well have the press shoot video of you giving the finger to the Statue of Liberty while the Dixie Chicks sing the University of the Taliban fight song. The people who want English to be the official language of the United States are uncomfortable with their leaders being fluent in it.

Maybe he would say that. I think he'd have to be smoking a cigarette. And even then, it's a stretch.

_________
Oops: I failed to note that this is via the inimitable eekbeat.


 

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L8r

Posted by Becks
on 09.24.08

So now McCain wants to postpone the debate? Let loose your theories.


 

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This does not seem like good planning

Posted by Ben
on 09.24.08

The Traditional Values Coälition emailed me to bitch about Oprah's announcement that she wouldn't interview Governor Palin on her show:

Television superstar Oprah Winfrey has announced she will not interview Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin despite her unprecedented nomination as the first woman ever selected for the position on a GOP presidential ticket. What is particularly galling is that Oprah already has endorsed Barack Obama and twice entertained him on her television show, but now claims she does not wish to use her program for political purposes.Oprah has built her media empire on the notion that she is a fair and impartial talk show hostess [sic] who honors the accomplishments and deeds of all women. Yet now, when the stakes have never been higher, she is balking at inviting Gov. Palin on her show.

[...]

As such we are urging all of our supporters to sound off and send a letter to Oprah urging her to reconsider this position. Click here to write to Oprah and we'll see that she gets it.

Doesn't that seem kind of, well, stupid? Supposing it succeeds, I mean. Oprah seems to have acquired an image (by which I mean, I seem to have acquired the idea that what follows is accurate) of being tough and not inclined to let herself get snowed if there's nothing in it for her—in other words, someone whose interviewing style, when confronted with someone running on the ticket opposing the one she's already endorsed, is not likely to resemble Sean Hannity's exercise in linguistic GI exploration. Especially given that Oprah probably has some sense of the magnitude of Palin's accomplishments, and significance of her deeds, and the paltriness of the former compared to, well, Oprah's own, and the perniciousness of the latter.

I mean, I'm inclined to complain about Oprah's decision not to have Palin on, because Oprah could really stick it to her. But that is presumably not why the TVC folks are put out, if in fact it's not a sham trumped up as evidence of liberality in media.

But that would be ridiculous!


 

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This is a post for SomeCallMeTim

Posted by Ben
on 09.24.08

The comments to the video are kind of funny, too.

Just look at this licentiousness.


 

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What?

Posted by Ben
on 09.23.08

Where the hell was this office, the 1920s? Were the men not allowed to wear pants either?

Or maybe there were no men? Maybe the question is really, what kind of job was this?


 

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Off to a good start this year

Posted by Ben
on 09.23.08

If I hadn't already, I have as of today certainly become someone who will say, first, that he hasn't done the reading for the seminar (I didn't even know there was reading) and then talk more than anyone else.


 

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WDYDTGOETW?

Posted by Becks
on 09.23.08

Fact: if you're a young woman who is phone banking and call a house where a woman answers and you ask "Is [John] there?", 90% of those women will get an edge in their voice and demand to know who you are, jumping to the conclusion that John's having an affair.

In addition to phone banking this week, I did a shift at the high-tech mail warehouse, which was the most rewarding volunteering I've ever done. During my four hour shift, I helped mail 29,000 (yes, 29,000) absentee ballot applications to likely Obama voters. I figure when I canvass, I might knock on 50 doors to get to talk to 10 people to win maybe 2 votes but this mailing had to help dozens of people cast an absentee ballot. Especially after seeing that Virginia might not be able to handle all of the people who want to vote on Election Day, I was proud to be part of something this critical. And, again: this is an example of where your money is going. It's getting thousands of absentee ballot applications into voters' hands.

While I was really glad to be able to help in this way, I was a little peeved that I needed to. Whenever we call for volunteers, lots of people say they don't want to canvass or phone bank but will gladly do data entry or stuff envelopes. Where were they when we needed them? One important thing to know about volunteering -- the campaign isn't just relying on you for free labor. They need you to show up so they can use your money effectively. The cost of the mailers we sent out would have had to come out of Obama's money if they didn't meet a certain threshold of volunteer labor. With us doing the work, it could be paid for with another, bigger pot of money. So you helping out lets Obama save his money for the battles that matter.


 

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Cue John Mellencamp

Posted by Becks
on 09.23.08

More "even the Wall Street Journal":

Leave the fantasy land of convention rhetoric, and you will find that small-town America, this legendary place of honesty and sincerity and dignity, is not doing very well. If you drive west from Kansas City, Mo., you will find towns where Main Street is largely boarded up. You will see closed schools and hospitals. You will hear about depleted groundwater and massive depopulation.
And eventually you will ask yourself, how did this happen? Did Hollywood do this? Was it those "reporters and commentators" with their fancy college degrees who wrecked Main Street, U.S.A.?
No. For decades now we have been electing people like Sarah Palin who claimed to love and respect the folksy conservatism of small towns, and yet who have unfailingly enacted laws to aid the small town's mortal enemies.

 

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Sick, Part 2

Posted by Becks
on 09.23.08

Even The Wall Street Journal seems to think this might be a problem:

As the credit crunch threatens to throw the economy into a deep slump, Americans are already cutting back on health care, a sector once thought to be invulnerable to recession.
The number of prescriptions filled in the U.S. fell 0.5% in the first quarter and a steeper 1.97% in the second, compared with the same periods in 2007 -- the first negative quarters in at least a decade...
Since sales at the Sebring, Fla.-area car dealership where Christopher Pye works have dwindled, so have the commissions that were 40% of his income in good times. Barely able to afford his $850 monthly mortgage and pay for groceries, he says something had to give: his two young sons' annual medical checkups.
"It's just a little too expensive right now," says Mr. Pye, 32 years old, who says he can't afford to have his family on the company health plan or to pay up front for the visits. This month, Mr. Pye is canceling his own insurance, hoping the $56 he'll save in weekly premiums will pay for the exams of his boys, ages 3 and 4, later.

 

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I'm dancing, Mom.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.22.08

I love pop music. Here is the song I'm currently most likely to squeal over when it comes on the radio:

What long eyelashes. Let's all give a big Unfogged squeal of appreciation for Estelle.


 

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A rhyme for our times

Posted by Ben
on 09.22.08

PGD asks, where is the Big Giant Bailout thread?

Right here, friends. Right here.

B showed me the second-to-last paragraph quoted here last night, and I swear, I thought it was Emerson. But of course nothing even approaching the justice of that proposal will ever pass, because, as we all know, it is part of the common law tradition inherited from England that we should let great villains loose, provided only that their villainy consisted in depriving of their home a goose or two.


 

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The breath mown stalks exhale

Posted by Ben
on 09.21.08

The smell of fresh-cut grass: yea or nay?


 

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Yet I choose not to bite you.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.21.08

Two posts in a row! Pacing is for dildoes.

I just ordered a new litter box for the cats. On the "Thank you for placing your order" page, I got this sanctimonious bullshit as an opener:

Ten Commandments for a Responsible Pet Owner as dictated by the pet.

1. My life is likely to last 10-15 years. Any separation from you is likely to be painful.
2. Give me time to understand what you want of me.
3. Place your trust in me. It is crucial for my well-being.
4. Don't be angry with me for long and don't lock me up as punishment. You have your work, your friends, your entertainments. But I have only you.
5. Talk to me. Even if I don't understand your words, I do understand your voice when speaking to me.
6. Be aware that however you treat me, I will never forget it.
7. Before you hit me, before you strike me, remember that I have teeth that could easily crush the bones in your hand, and yet I choose not to bite you.
8. Before you scold me for being lazy or uncooperative, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I'm not getting the right food, I have been in the sun too long or my heart might be getting old or weak.
9. Please take care of me when I grow old. You too will grow old.
10. On the difficult journey, on the ultimate difficult journey, go with me please. Never say you can't bear to watch. Don't make me face this alone. Everything is easier for me if you are there. Because I love you so.

Take a moment today to thank God for your pets. Enjoy and take good care of them. Life would be a much duller, less joyful thing without God's critters. Please pass this on to other pet owners.

Oh just give me my goddamn order number, you twit. I would not have patronized your business if this had been front and center on your website.


 

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TALK FASTER, SON.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.21.08

I don't mind teaching this "Welcome To College" class, but I don't love it either. The kids are friendly and participate. But it turns out that I really don't enjoy leading class discussions. IT'S SO SLOW. It's the same thing that used to drive me crazy when I was a student during class discussions.

There's a lot of participation in my math classrooms, but that's because I call on students constantly. It's all on a very directed track, under my control. When it comes to discussions, I feel like I can't mandate a pace that keeps me engaged. Maybe I'm doing it wrong. (Also, so far the two books we've worked with have been very shallow, one-dimensional texts. Maybe it'll get better when we get to the classics excerpts during the last third of the course.)


 

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