Monday, December 12, 2005

Saturday Night at the Movies

K. & I caught a late showing of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe [aka, The Chronicles of Narnia -- not sure which is the official title] on Saturday night. Now, as a few people have already pointed out, I'm not a huge fan of Lewis anyway, so my comments here are not entirely unexpected. Having said that, I like to think I'm open-minded enough to enjoy something even if I expect to hate it; and hate something I expected to enjoy. It's certainly happened before. It did not happen this time around, though.

Well, let me back up. I can't say that hated the movie. That's giving a bit more credit than it deserves. I am, surely, deeply opposed to what I regard as its testicular jingoism. But whatever. For the sake of argument, I'll just accept that as benignly metaphorical. Even then . . . I find myself really disturbed by a war in which the winner suffers no real losses. Aslan (inexplicably) returns -- thankfully, his version of sacrifical atonement ultimately makes about as much sense as Anselm's; all the 'good guys' who get struck down during battle are revived and on hand for the coronation of the kids. I mean. If there is a battle between good and evil, a battle that I guess would seem worth fighting, the high cost of death doesn't seem too much ask. And yet, we get the sense here that even 'the good' isn't something worth (or something you're capable of) dying for. Which makes me think ... in Narnia, what is? Sort of cheapens the 'warfare' metaphor. I mean, hell, even Judas hung himself for the sake of Christ's cause -- the quintessentially tragic victim. Nothing like that here.

'Oh, Brad, you're being petty again.' I know some of you are thinking that. Maybe I am. But you know, is a little loss really that much to expect? Or, for that matter, ambiguity. This, I suppose, is the primary thing that annoys me most with the recent crop of 'Good v. Evil' movies: absolutely no nuance or complexity of character. Consider Lord of the Rings. You think you're getting some nuance with Golem, but no. Tolkien has to make explicit that Golem is as beastly as we'd normally expect. He bites off Frodo's finger for the sake of owning the ring, damn the cost to himself. Well ... what if Tolkien had injected some ambiguity to that scene? What if we were left wondering and arguing about Golem's intentions? Perhaps he saw Frodo's moral failure at the moment of decision, or simply knew that one could not refuse the ring, and did the most heroic act in the entire book? Wouldn't that, dare I say it, be a little more like the real world? As it is, you have an exciting turn of events, but no moral ambiguity. Much the same here. You think you're getting some complexity of character w/ regard to Edmund. But, no. He's just a prat who deserves to die. There is nothing patently evil about this, since this is how most of us live our lives -- categorizing people according to various criteria -- but it certainly is a failure as a piece of art or literature, which is ultimately intended to create new horizons of meaning and not simply parrot or reinforce the one that already exists.

'But, Brad. Have you considered the possibility you're judging the movie by a standard it was not written / presented to achieve?' Yes, I have. My only response is that movies that are this epic in scale -- that is, movies whose message is momentous and so obviously injected with universal themes & scope -- an aborted artistic ambition is damning. And it infects the rest of the project. Notably the degree to which it is sold to the highest bidder, namely Disney, and then pimped out as nothing short of a vapid promo for a video game. In the end, this is what I walked away regarding the movie. As far as it goes, I suspect the game will be very fun indeed.

Then again, maybe I'm just an old-fashioned elitist. Granted, one who likes the bawdy humor of 'Drawn Together', who has fond memories of the movie Bad Boys, still listens to Howard Stern, and knows the chorus to almost every Top 40 love song from the 1980s.

[None of this even touches on of the clear technical problems w/ regard to the film's editing and very flimsy characterisation. But I don't want to ruin the movie for people who haven't yet seen it, or haven't read the book, so I'll save that for the comments if anybody is interested in sounding off.]

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Playing the Fool

I've only recently begun reading anything written by Simone Weil. There's a lot of interest there, but I really like this quote from one of the letters she wrote while in an English sanatorium.

When I saw Lear here, I asked myself how it was possible that the unbearably tragic character of those fools had not been obvious long ago to everyone, including myself. The tragedy is not the sentimental one it is sometimes thought to be; it is this:

There is a class of people in this world who have fallen into the lowest degree of humiliation, far below beggary, and who are deprived not only of all social consideration but also, in everybody's opinion, of the specific human dignity, reason itself -- and these are the people who, in fact, are able to tell the truth. All the others lie.

In Lear it is striking. Even Kent and Cordelia attenuate, mitigate, soften, and veil the truth; and unless they are forced to choose between telling it and telling a downright lie, they manoeuvre to evade it.

What makes the tragedy extreme is the fact that because the fools possess no academic titles or episcopal dignities and because no one is aware that their sayings deserve the slightest attention -- everybody being convinced a priori of the contrary, since they are fools -- their expression of the truth is n ot even listened to. Everybody, including Shakespeare's readers and audiences for four centuries, is unaware that what they say is true. And not satirically or humourously true, but simply the truth. Pure unadulterated truth, luminous, profound, and essential.

From here, Weil goes on to too quickly & conveniently equate herself with the fool, but I'll be damned if the first part isn't well stated.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

That Wasn't So Hard, Was It?

I realize I've already gotten a round of congratulations already, but I would be remiss if I didn't announce here, officially & all, that today I printed out my thesis & shipped three copies of it to Scotland. All that awaits now is my examination in late-January.

You know, I started this blog in the early days of my research, one cold morning while in Brussels. Most of you have seen me through many an intellectual turn, and you've accepted it all with wonderful dignity, class, and patience. Much obliged.

I guess I'm now fresh out of excuses for not blogging regularly enough, huh?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Emo-ification of Kelly Clarkson

Today the Belgian & I were driving to grab some lunch somewhere, and we we heard the newest Kelly Clarkson song, 'Because of You'. I enjoy it when her songs come on the radio. This isn't because I like the music -- I hardly even pay attention to it, let alone like or dislike it -- but because I can tell that K. is trying for all she's worth NOT to like the music. The funny thing is, no matter her resistance and claims to hating Kelly Clarkson, she cannot help but sing along.

Anyway, as to the song, since when did Clarkson, who by the way I think is kind of hot, go emo? It's really starting to hurt her hotness, quite frankly.

Speaking of 'emo', I really love this picture.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Follow the Light

The light, it would seem, is at the end of the tunnel for all this thesis-business. By the end of this week, all major proofs should be complete, bibliography finalized, and a copy emailed to my advisor for one final read-through. Fingers crossed, people.

Torture & Martyrdom

It's a short post, but Matthew Yglesias is right on in his discussion of 'The Pragmatics of Torture -- specifically, torture as a means for a regime to hear what it wants to hear.

And that's precisely the sort of thing torture is really good for. If you already know what the truth is -- perhaps because it can be deduced from regime-type rather than boring intelligence gathering -- but just need some more evidence in order to convince others, then torture is a really, really, really good way of getting that kind of evidence. That's always been the main historical use of torture -- you have your prisoner, you want a confession, so you torture him until he confesses. It's not, after all, as if the administration was genuinely wondering about Iraq/al-Qaeda ties. They knew what they wanted to prove and they needed to make the case. Torture was an excellent way to get the job done.

Yglesias' point, I think, extends beyond torture to my own thinking about religion / theology -- to the point, even, that I may even agree with a friend who has recently stated that torture is the theological problem of modern times. (This is the case, for me, insofar that we are all being tortured, in a way, by our socio-political & religious regimes -- tortured to the point of our capitulation, i.e. quiet resignation to reality, or perhaps even to our deaths. For some, the solution comes only in a certain kind of death that opens up the possibility of something new -- something along the lines of a martyr's death, which rallies the forces of change. Perhaps. But certainly not one death, that of a history redeemed, such as that of a Cross or otherwise. Rather, only inasmuch as that martyrdom is representative of the only death that truly is, that which always comes from within at every moment, whereby life is but a certain kind of death, and thus that which betrays the transcendent / true / perhaps even eternal sovereignty of those regimes as necessarily false, as a projection of our own capitulated confessions.)

Monday, October 31, 2005

It is Halloween, After All

Last night the wife & I visited a haunted boat. Judging by the picture she posts here, one could be forgiven for thinking that I wasn't too enthusiastic about the venture. This is, however, not the case. Our picture was taken after thirty minutes of waiting in line, thirty minutes of hearing behind me a family of what seemed like eighteen trying to convince themselves that they either are or are not, it varied from minute to minute, scared; and of watching a kid in front of me decked out in full L.A. Laker apparel having to sit down at ever bench made available along the way because the sheer energy required to stand up was too much for his basketball loving bones. Oh, not to mention that I'd just shelled out $22 for two tickets to enter a boat that looked completely cheesed out, complete with a glowing skeleton head on top. So, in short, I wasn't expecting much.

To say, then, that the experience exceeded my expectations is not really a compliment. To say that it was worth the $22, though, certainly is, because I normally do not like to spend money unless there is food or drink involved in the expense. There were the obligatory moments of shock and surprise. Where somebody jumps out from around a corner and makes one squeal for one's wife just before concluding cynically, "Aargh, you got me! I have a central nervous system!! Wanker." The scary part, of course, isn't in being surprised like that. It is, rather, in the anticipation of being surprised like that, which plays no small role in the the fright that you create for yourself while walking through pitch-black hallways. Whoever runs this particular haunted house seemed to 'get' that fact. Either that, or I was typically at the front of my group -- me, K., and three high school girls -- and thus not the target of their shock therapy tactics.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Link a Day Makes the Work Day Go Away

Slowly. Ever so slowly. I'm nearing the finish line with this thesis, four years in the making. I've no idea if it'll be acceptable, if I'll return from Glasgow in January drunk with celebratory whisky or that of sorrow, or whether I'll be told to come back in six months with something very different. I've lost any sense of objectivity. That is to say, I think it's crap. But really, who knows?

Anyway. Sorry for the silence. You really haven't missed much. I've not done a lot of good internet-reading, so precious few things to link to. And my thoughts have been pretty bog-standard for this blog. And God knows I don't wnat to be repetitive, right?

Anyway, for old times sake, because I love a good article on Cormac McCarthy, here's one by Joyce Carol Oates from the most recent edition of New York Review of Books. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hey, It Beats Reading People

Wow. I'd totally forgotten how much I enjoyed reading The New York Review of Books. I probably forgot because the free online content is so-so at best. The trick is to find a library or bookstore with a print a print edition, becaues then you're sometimes in for a treat.

In the Oct. 6, 2005 issue, for example, there is not only a very fine article by Tony Judt about the problematic differences between eastern and western European memories concerning the Holocaust (i.e., eastern Europe had to content with Soviet occupation, and thus are more liable to regard the horrors of Communism as on par or worse than that suffered by Jews in the Holocaust), but also Adam Hochschild's withering assessment of the newly installed exhibition at the Royal Museum for Central Africa (just outside Brussels, Belgium), called La mémoire du Congo: Le temps colonial. (Hochschild is best known -- to me, anyway, since my household is now half-Belgian -- for his fabulous, must-read book about King Leopold II's tyrannical ravaging of Congo, King Leopold's Ghost.) Oh, and this isn't to mention at all Garry Wills' article, 'Bush's Fringe Government', which I briefly write about here.

Rarely has an evening spent reading rather than working been so educational.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The War On Weather

Remember a couple of years ago Lt. General William Boykin characterized the war against terror as a spiritual war between the Christian God & the Muslim God-- the latter being, in roughly equal parts idol and Satan? You will recall, of course, that nothing came of this. Boykin was neither fired nor demoted, and to this day works in the highest echelons of our nation's intelligence community. Surely, then, Boykin must be privy to spiritual intel that we who do not read Frank Peretti novels are not. Clearly, this is a spiritual battle -- as in the days of the Old Testament, a contest of the Gods!

The Christian God has surely proven himself to be pretty bad-ass. He has blessed America with a truly unparalleled willingness to amass & spend billions of dollars to create the largest military that the world has ever seen, several times the size of that of its avowed enemies combined, at the expense of silly programs like education and health care. We are a sacrifical bunch, to say the least. Well, if you discount companies like Halliburton & the Carlyle Group, who make a profit from the militaristic sacrifice. But, you know, consider them the high priests, and all things are roses. Not only has the American God blessed us with the willingness to amass this military, but also the moral fortitude to unleash it. That's right. We're modern day Elijah's, bringing the fight to the false gods, one erratic bomb / friendly-fire bullet at a time. We'll topple your false gods & your dictators, all on the same day!

And yet, of late, like George Foreman, the Christian God is looking like He might not be able to go the distance. He is, after all, also the Jewish God, so he's pretty old by now. Sure, He can still lay waste to the infidel, & packs quite a whollup; but, he's looking a little sluggish, isn't it he, with each new roadside bomb, and each new frustrated attempt at propping up a democracy that has nothing to do with the false god, Allah.

The upstart, Allah, played it pretty close to the vest after coming out with a head full of steam on 9/11. A few jabs here and there. But mostly, he looked up against the ropes. I submit, though, that the Christian God got a little cocky. You see, there are always multiple fronts in major wars & fights. There was the obvious one: the one that blew shit up with bombs. And then there was the the more complex one, the one that the Christian God normally doesn't like to take credit for, but, c'mon, who's He kidding? I'm talking about natural disasters like enormous earthquakes in Iran and tsunamis in Indonesia -- infidel countries, both. Oh, He thought he had the false god down for the count there. Oh boy, didn't we all! Oh ... but that Satanic god, he's a tricky one, that damned false god. He seems to have realized that where he can't match the overwhelming sacrificial insanity of the Christian God & His followers -- pfft, his followers can only manage to blow themselves up two or three at a time -- he can surely whip up a mean natural disaster or two.

'What's that', he said to his minions, 'the waters surrounding the Christian God are as warm as they've been in generations? What's that I spy, low-lying cities along coasts? What's that I hear, the sacrifical Christian God left his belly exposed? Oooo ... methinks I have a plan.' That's right, people. These storms, Katrina, Rita, etc., their all the work of Allah, the false god ... Satan. In short, we cannot win our war on terror without realizing the profound importance of this aspect of our war. The war against weather. Gird your loins! We've all been drafted into the army of Christian soldiers. We're all fair game.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

It Felt Good

It Felt Good

It often surprises a lot of people who don't know me really well, and may likely disturb some of my online colleagues, but I love sports. I could, for instance, very easily turn Silentio into an all-sports blog, and probably end up having something to say on an almost-daily basis. (A far cry from my general reluctance to post anything I've actually been thinking about lately.)

The only problem with this, however, is that I don't normally like a lot of 'normal' sports fans. This can likely be explained by the fact that I grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, and was subjected to nearly constant cries of 'Go CATS' whenever the subject of University of Kentucky basketball came up. By the time I was in high school, no longer inclined to 'bleed blue', I relished their heartbreaking losses more than anything else.

This is not to say, though, that I cheered for those teams who played them. To this day, I still dislike Duke -- and cringe when I see Christian Laettner's last-second shot, even while appreciating Grant Hill's pass, which certainly made the play work. No, since leaving Lexington over ten years ago now, I've almost completely left behind any partisanship when it comes to teams. I neither cheer for or against teams. I'm more sympathetic to some, I suppose. But would never buy a team jersey or a hat with their logo. As in academics, my thinking & fandom is too abstract & distant -- maybe even theoretical. By and large, I cheer well-executed plays and exciting games.

I've annoyed many a hardcore fan of any given team by sitting down & watching a game with them, only to suddenly cheer 'for the other side' when they execute a bone-crunching block, or a great pass, or a level of play that is just genius. I remember sitting in a cafe in Brussels watching Manchester United play Real Madrid in the Champions League. I wasn't a huge fan of either, but, given the possibile hostility of the crowd, decided to be partial to ManU. I wanted them to win, I really did. And yet Real Madrid played one of the most flawless forty-five minutes of soccer I've ever witnessed. Granted, that's not a lot -- but it was a sentiment affirmed by most of the hardcore fans who know far more than I. Where they were willing to be in awe after the game, I completely forgot any faux partisanship during the game. They were just too good not to cheer, even if I didn't want them win!

In an attempt to (a) gain a few friends at work, and (b) find something to get excited about besides good execution, I decided to join a Fantasy Football league. Of course, it's been four years since I've really followed American football, I know none of the new guys, and most of the old guys are, well, old ... so, it shouldn't be at all surprising that my team, after Week One, is pure shite. I mean, I was up against a guy who didn't have a good game, and he's still going to beat me by 30+ points (no matter if Donovan McNabb & Brian Westbrook have good games -- both players of mine).

On one level, I was really ticked. But on another level, I found a whole new way of enjoying the games. And I re-discovered something I lost a long time ago: frustration. Before, I'd just get frustrated when a team consistently did boneheaded things on the field, and thus lowered the level of play. Yesterday, though, I felt the frustration, resentment even, deep in my bones. Last night, for instance, Matt Stover (my kicker) missed a fieldgoal. I was pissed. He then missed a second fieldgoal. I was livid. This morning I learn that he actually even missed a third after I'd turned off the game. I was mortified.

And it felt good.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Breaking News

If you don't know already, Chief Justice William Rehnquist died tonight.

I know you're all expecting some woe-is-our-country-now-that-Bush-gets-another-justice-selection post. Ah, but not so. Because, really, Rehnquist was a pretty conservative dude, bent on getting rid of as many governmental regulations on business as judically possible. Replacing him with another conservative, as will surely be the case, would just be business (literally) as usual.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Very Worst Day

Imagine, if you will, you're a foreign national living in London. One morning, you walk to the subway station, en route to, I dunno, a shitty job at Roots n' Fruits. You pick up your free copy of The Metro, you walk through the ticket barriers and make your way down the elevators toward the subterranean platform. Halfway there you hear your train pulling in. This is London, so God knows when the next one will be there. So you run.

Is this where your worst ever choice was made? Or was it when you decided to take the subway the morning after a bomb attack? Or was it the non-choice of your skin color? Hard to say, but for at least one guy this very banal beginning turned into his very worst day.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Absolutely. Swamped.

Man ... all you who knew me prior to the PhD process, those who supported my decision to pursue it, really, why didn't you smack me instead?

Sunday, August 07, 2005


K. & I celebrated our first-year anniversary on Thurs. & Frid. by driving through Eastern Kentucky in a largely unsuccessful bid to find a walkable trail through Daniel Boone National Forest. Instead, we ended up in the mining town of Harlan, where K. very nearly decided to end our marriage because I kept singing 'Harlan Man' by Steve Earle. Needless to say, little hiking was done here. Not soon thereafter, in search of a small lake nearby that looked on the map to have a trail, we found ourselves in Ben Hur, Virginia being trailed very closely by (as they say in these parts) 'the law'.

Upon realizing that neither of us were made for the hills, we made our way, completely on a whim, to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where we sat in the walkway just outside the door of our room getting so drunk that the Cajun-style Pringles we bought earlier in the day tasted good, and listened to a woman in a too-loose tank-top who, when she was not screaming into her cell phone, was glaring & accusing me of trying to check out her rack, when in fact I was merely checking out her black eye. I suppose K. would've have left me then, too, if she hadn't been checking out the woman's rack. (Or, more likely, simply not paying attention to anything but the burning realization that she'd married an idiot.)

Happy Anniversary, K.!!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Oh Dear

I will never live down some things.

UPDATE: Whoo-Hoo. With pictures, now. Man, I was thin back then.

Water. Must. Drink. Water.

(Via Unfogged) I'm curious about what you all have to say about yesterday's OpEd in the New York Times about the merits of tap water over bottled water.

Me, I'm definitely not a bottled-water snob. For years, I was a Brita filter man -- but that was only because it was one of my roommate's. Before that, when I was living with my parents, I got all my water from the electronic doo-dad on the fridge. And when I was in college, I pretty much stuck to the water fountain in the dorm. My reasons for switching to bottled water were (a) one day in Glasgow a van rolled through my street with someone announcing over a P.A. 'Don't drink the water! Don't drink the water'. Turns out, heavy rains mixed with sheep shit and ended up contaminating the water supply. We were told over the news to boil all bathwater, and not to open our mouth during showers. That was enough reason there to prefer the blind ignorance of bottled water. Then, though, (b) there was the convenience of bottled water. By and large, you walk a lot more in Europe in America, and sometimes a brotha gets thirsty while on the go. Which leads to (c), bottled water was freakin' cheap over there. A nice big bottle of Voldic, for example, set me back less than a pound; and when I was in Belgium, Spa would run less than a Euro.

Of course, here in America, things are a bit different. Contaminated tap water is much more rare, unless you live out in the country; I'm in my car more than I am on my feet; and a two-liter bottle of Coke is somehow cheaper than a one-liter bottle of Spa or Voldic (sometimes at a 3:1 ratio).

I used to think my wife was full of crap when she insisted there was a difference in taste between bottled (spring) water & what came out of the tap -- and yes, we've tried blind taste tests, and she can tell bottled water from tap water, though perhaps not the difference in brands -- but, I do kind of agree that a glass of room temperature tap water is just not as immediately refreshing as a bottle of room temperature bottled water (particularly Spa ... Evian is a bit too metalic). Much of this might be aesthetic, maybe even nostalgic. I don't know. Or maybe it's the fact that I can chug a bottle of water quicker than I can from a glass. I doubt its more nutricious, but if anyone's seen the contents of my diet they know that's the least of my concerns.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

No Country for Old Men

I started reading Cormac McCarthy's latest book while at work yesterday. I'm only about fifty pages in, so this assessment is very premature. But, I gotta say, it's pretty good. There is certainly a different vibe here, and the philosophical musings don't smack you over the head as was the case in most of his Westerns. But, I dunno, there's something really appealing so far. Will report again after I get a chance to finish it.

If anybody else is reading it -- Jeff, Pat, JD, etc. -- let me know what you think.

UPDATE: Okay, turns out I was wrong. It's about as lame as I'd feared. In fact, it somehow managed to be even MORE lame than expected.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Commodifying Nostalgia

A pretty interesting article by Bernardine Dohrn, formerly of the Weather Underground, over on the online version of The Monthly Review. Her message is simple enough, and reminiscent of a conversation I had with a friend earlier this week: Beware Sixties Nostalgia.

It is clear that the Sixties, which was never really The Sixties, is being wielded as a bludgeon against today's young risktakers; a barrier, a legendary era which can never be equaled today. In fact, the Sixties was annually declared "dead" by the pundits of Time magazine and Newsweek beginning in 1963 and throughout the mid-seventies. During the subsequent three and a half decades, there has been a relentless campaign to promote four myths about those radical social upheavals. These legends about the so-called Sixties must be on the table to be scrutinized by today's young activists.

First, the '60s is enshrined as a heroic time of huge demonstrations, militancy and organizing. It was never all that.

Sixties activism was almost always small, isolated, surrounded by hostile, angry crowds. The groundbreaking actions of the students who joined the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the women who stood for an end to patriarchy, and the veterans, draft resisters and deserters who defied the military machine are legendary now because they were right about history and morality. Overwhelmingly, their courage was the quiet kind, the inventive sort, often unrecognized, not showy.

[. . .]

Second, and paradoxically in counterpoint to romanticization, there has been a relentless thirty-year campaign to demonize and criminalize the Sixties. Militant resistance is portrayed as criminal, mass rebellion transformed into mob action, courageous choices derided as self-serving, moderately outrageous comments in the heat of the moment seized upon and repeated ad naseum as if they were the whole story or true.

[. . .]

Third, the struggle has been commodified, sold back to us as clothing, music, drugs, and film. It is trivialized, sucked of content, leaving only the husks of oldies, tattoos and faded murals.

[. . .]

Fourth is the lethal, deceptive telling of Sixties' history as if it were predictable and known, smoothing out the turmoil, the turbulence, the anarchy, and the ethical choices. The pat illusions that "we" all opposed the Vietnam War, "we" all were relieved that civil rights were granted to African Americans, and the "media" helped end the Vietnam war.

All four are really good points, but I'm of the mind that the third one really holds them all together -- and is, in a perhaps anachronistic way, the reason for the remaining three. Dorhn complains there that the Sixties have been commodified, and that this is problematic. And I would agree. However, the real problem isn't that the Sixties are now but a t-shirt and a CD. As she points out, that took a while to happen; the problem is that the processes of commodification have become that much more advanced, and far more capable of incorporating dissent. To the point, for example, that Starbucks can sell bottled water and use a portion of the proceeds for famine relief, and Macy's can sell Rwandan baskets -- and thus effectively squash any real debate about how the free market in which these companies clearly participate is very possibly culpable in both famine and the collapse of native markets. In this way, resistance to -- or at least a self-conscious analysis of -- the fundamental structures of western civilization, which clearly go beyond protesting a single presidential administration, or even the rights of one race of people (as recognized by Martin Luther King, Jr., just prior to his assassination) is almost immediately incorporated & copyrighted as a capitalistic endeavor, and thus drained of its life and vitality.

This is why, I suppose, so much 'revolutionary' political philosophy has turned to religious imagery: i.e., because the more prophetic elements of religion are highly resistant to commodification. The prophetic can be watered down or ignored; but it also always returns if it is truly representative of the True & the Just. I don't know that this is necesarily a good way to approach one's political resistance -- and I know that readers of this blog, as well as that of another, are bound to disagree with me and with one another -- but it is certainly worth thinking about & discussing.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Too Good Not to Quote

This article in today's Times about how the manufacturers of those eco-friendly hybrids we all say we wish we could drive, if only they were as big & bad-ass as the Hummer, have begun replacing any nominal environmental consideration for the more hairy-testicle concern of, sigh, acceleration, is just too good to pass up. It is, I am not afraid to admit sanctimoniously, because that is my right as an American with a blog, truly symptomatic of just about everything I loathe about the modern human condition. Read it all ... and then weep at its close:

Consumer Reports, in an article published in May, found that in actual on-the-road conditions the Accord hybrid averaged 25 m.p.g., versus 24 m.p.g. for the 4-cylinder model and 23 m.p.g. for the nonhybrid V-6. The E.P.A. figures show a larger benefit for the hybrid, but the agency's fuel economy figures are considered by many to be inaccurate because they do not reflect the way cars are actually driven.

The two-miles-per-gallon increase over the V-6, about 8 percent, is still significant, and federal tax rules, which are based on cost and not mileage benefit achieved, still give an Accord hybrid buyer a substantial subsidy. But 8 percent is not in the range that would make a substantial dent in American oil consumption. If every car in the country were converted to a hybrid with that improved mileage, the gain would be swallowed up in three to four years by growth in driving demand.

Mr. [Mark] Buford said he got just what he wanted from the Accord, a hybrid with no sacrifices. "I wasn't prepared to give up anything to 'go green' - not performance, amenities, or space," he said.

The HILARIOUS kicker, of course, is that Mr. Buford is still able (a) to listen to NPR, perhaps even contribute, and consider himself a liberal eco-friendly warrior; and (b) cash in on his $600 tax credit. If everything holds to form, I'm sure he'll take his savings, buy into TerraPass , and enjoy the wonder of the emissions trading market.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


Well, what can I say, I had a couple of weeks there as an at least halfway decent blogger. Little did I know that, in all my excitement at being 'halfway decent', I neglected to blog again for another couple of weeks. Two steps forward ... two steps back. What can I say? (I did, however, manage a somewhat thoughtful post over here.)

I can't promise really consistent posting the next couple of weeks. Not that this will surprise you. Sure enough, consistency would be the real shocker. Nevertheless, the fact is I have a late-September deadline to submit my thesis. The writing is basically finished, but because I'm scatterbrained and completely unable to think in anything resembling coherency, I'm having to piece together my mad rambles one sentence at a time. It's like looking hay in a stack of needles, I tell you. A very painful process of (a) seeing the ridiculous stuff I will at times write, and (b) enduring my stubborn tendencies that believe it's good stuff anyway.

Anyway. In the comments of the previous post, I see a request for another book request. A part of me thinks this might be Aggie sarcasm, considering the silence, but I'll play along anyway. Sadly, I've not had the chance to read anything too interesting. I've started a few books, but few have grabbed me and not let go. Few books do this immediately for me, though. Sometimes it takes a day or two of reading here and there, and only then, without realizing it, I'm hooked. I suspect Paul Auster's Moon Palace may very soon turn out to be such a book. (Thanks to Brannon for the recommendation.)

Friday, July 01, 2005


A word to the wise, for those who are not already aware, the short fiction of George Saunders will rock you like a hurricane. I've spent the last couple of weeks, when not doing all the smarty-art shit I'm required to do for the sake of a degree, reading his two collections, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline and Pastoralia. I cannot recommend them enough.

Some of the reviewers on Amazon, because they are idiots, characterize Saunders as 'dark' (I would say that they are more 'demented'). Some even go so far as to say that you should only read one story at a time, and then leave the book aside for a while. He's that disturbing, they claim. While I'm not opposed to one reading a short story collection deliberately, I'm not sure this is a very good reason -- and certainly not in the case of Saunders. What I find very curious about Saunders is the seeming ease he has in fusing 'disturbing' with 'hopeful' ... and more specifically, 'human'.

Most of his satirical stories, and boy they can often be pretty damn funny in parts, center around (mostly) men who have very little going for them, and who are living lies of various degrees and kind. Most are at some point faced with a choice -- a choice to act in defiance to their respective lies. There is, for Saunders, freedom at the heart of the blind necessities that make contemporary culture such a bitch. What some people may object to, of course, is that such freedom is not always of the 'happy' kind. Freedom is, for the most part, bittersweet to its core. There is a truth to this, and it is one that Saunders very consistently realizes in his fiction.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Weather Underground

Apropos the comment thread below, I finally sat down and watched the fantastic documentary about the The Weathermen Underground, the radical revolutionary outfit of the '60s and '70s intent on overthrowing the US government. The movie had me at "Hello, I'm going to read a declaration of a state of war...within the next 14 days we will attack a symbol or institution of American injustice." Some fascinating stuff here that opens room for the sort of debate that we really ought to have more often -- namely about the nature of (and suppression of) dissent and revolutionary change.

Most of the former Weathermen agree that the revolutionary zeitgeist, notably that in America, can be attributed to the madness of Vietnam and the draft. As such, when both came to their end, so did the Leftist unity. There's probably something to this; and it is certainly something that the Left will want to consider, should the situation in Iraq turn into a civil war and thus require an American draft. Are moments such as these the Left's 'one shot' at getting shit done, those moments when madness & coercion are so palpably real; or is it the Left's version of a sale at Wal-Mart -- i.e., shitty goods at half-price?

This, to me, is the most important thing to consider . . . rather than any possible 'Rage Against the Machine' nostalgia I might want to feel for a time in which political change seemed on the doorstep, when radicals didn't need the key because they figured they could just bust down the fucking door.

Friday, June 24, 2005

'Different Philosophies'

In the spirit of Karl Rove's recent slander of liberals, and the subsequent defense by the White House that he was simply highlighting the 'different philosophes' at work in the war against terrorism this week, the DNC has helpfully provided us all with a supplement to this 'different-philosophies' hypothesis:

Believe capturing the person primarily responsible for the attack should be a top priority.

It's been four years, and Osama bin Laden is still free, even though Bush's CIA chief says he knows where he is.

Investigate the intelligence failures that led to 9/11.

Do everything in their power to block the 9/11 Commission from doing its work.

Propose creating the Department of Homeland Security.

Push tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Believe we should have stayed the course in Afghanistan, not allowing the Taliban to resurge, the warlords to take power, and the opium trade to skyrocket.

Ignore Afghanistan as the situation worsens.

Believe that we should be honest with our troops about the reasons we go to war, give them everything they need to be safe, and make sure we go in with an exit plan.

Manipulate intelligence to trump up reasons to go to war, don't give our troops the support they need, constantly mislead the public about the direction the war is going, and fail to make an exit plan. And turn Iraq into the ultimate terrorist training ground.

Silly, Karl. He thought he had to highlight different philosophies by making up shit.

UPDATE: Son of a bitch, this kind of thing pisses me off.

The Department of Veterans Affairs told Congress that its health care costs grew faster than expected and left a $1 billion hole in its budget this year, lawmakers said Thursday.

House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer, the Republican from Indiana, said the department can meet this year's health care costs by drawing on spare funds and money from other operations, including building construction.

But next year's health care budget falls well over $1 billion short, said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho.

"I was on the phone this morning with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson letting him know that I am not pleased that this has happened," said Craig, chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

"This shortfall results from either deliberate misdirection or gross incompetence by this administration and the Department of Veteran Affairs," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington.

The next person who tells me or somebody I know we don't have a moral obligation to call this kind of thing horsheshit can simply go to hell. All you who feed off the blood & guilty consciences of others, who unfalteringly support a government who does not give sufficient material support to troops presently IN COMBAT NOW or THOSE WHO HAVE ALREADY SERVED ... who will likely step over the homeless veterans, scarred for life by the mental and physical debilitation wrought by a war you wanted but wish to hear nothing about, sneering at their inability to 'get a job' and the reason your downtowns are dead. Fuck. You. All.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Little Perspective

For all the attention it evokes, terrorism actually causes rather little damage and the likelihood that any individual will become a victim in most places is microscopic. Those adept at hyperbole like to proclaim that we live in “the age of terror.” However, while obviously deeply tragic for those directly involved, the number of people worldwide who die as a result of international terrorism is generally only a few hundred a year, tiny compared to the numbers who die in most civil wars or from automobile accidents. In fact, in almost all years, the total number of people worldwide who die at the hands of international terrorists anywhere in the world is not much more than the number who drown in bathtubs in the United States.

-- John Mueller, Chair of National Security Studies at Ohio State University

Friday, June 17, 2005

Sympathy Extended

Long-time friend of Silentio Scott Martens has truly heartbreaking news re: his wife's pregnancy. Scott, from K. and I, the deepest of sympathies in this, the worst of times.

Favorite Songs A-Z

Pat had the brainstorm recently that he needed to establish his mark on the internet and start his own damn meme. Apropros Pat, of course, his meme is a pain in the ass. The rules: (1) List songs you like from A to Z; (2) Don't use the same artist twice. Easy enough, right. Pfft. Yeah. I gave up on it a few weeks ago, and finally knocked it out today -- yeah yeah, when I should be working on other things, I know.

My list:

America Is (Violent Femmes)
Best Imitation of Myself (Ben Folds Five)
Cold Hard Facts of Life (Porter Wagoner)
Dark End of the Street (Flying Burrito Brothers)
Ellis Unit One (Steve Earle)
Flower (Liz Phair)
Going to Town (Afghan Whigs)
Hang My Teeth On Your Door (16 Horsepower)
I Am Stretched On Your Grave (Kate Rusby)
Jerusalem (Dan Bern)
The Killer (Twilight Singers)
Lilac Wine (Jeff Buckley)
Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold (Townes van Zandt)
99 Problems (Jay-Z)
The Outdoor Type (Lemonheads)
Promises (Lyle Lovett)
Quality Control (Jurassic Five)
Ruby Don't Take Your Love To Town (Kenny Rogers)
Striptease (Hawksley Workman)
This Drinking Will Kill Me (Dwight Yoakam)
Under Your Breath (Whiskeytown)
Via Chicago (Wilco)
Windfall (Son Volt)
Xplosion (Outcast)
You've Got Me (The Roots)
Zapata's Blood (Rage Against the Machine)

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Looks Like I Picked the Wrong Day to Quit Believing in God

Oh ... doesn't it just figure. I misplace my theism right when I need it the most:

So it's 2005 and this is the academic question that has driven the Daily News and the right-wing New York Sun into apoplectic fits, and caused heartburn all over CUNY: Should Tim Shortell, an atheist, be allowed to assume the chair of the sociology department of Brooklyn College? You know, an atheist--someone who doesn't believe in God. An anticleric. A disrespecter of religion. A mocker of Christianity. Someone like, oh, Diderot ("Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest"). Or Voltaire ("The truths of religion are never so well understood as by those who have lost the power of reasoning"). Or Bertrand Russell ("The Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world"). Actually, Russell is a particularly relevant example here. The appointment of one of the twentieth century's greatest logicians to a professorship at City College in 1940 set off a hysterical campaign against the "Godless advocate of free love" on the part of the Episcopal and Catholic churches, the Hearst papers and Tammany Hall. A flagrantly trumped-up lawsuit was fast-tracked through the system, Russell was denounced in the state legislature and the job offer was withdrawn.

Unfortunately, Shortell is no Bertrand Russell, whose Why I Am Not a Christian did so much to enliven my teenage years. For one thing, Russell was an energetic antireligious propagandist, while Shortell's low opinion of God and his fans is confined to a brief essay, "Religion and Morality: A Contradiction Explained," posted at, an obscure website with a vaguely Situationist flavor. For another, Russell was a terrific writer, while Shortell's essay is self-satisfied adolescent twaddle. Believers are "moral retards," "an ugly, violent lot": "In the heart of every Christian is a tiny voice preaching self-righteousness, paranoia and hatred. Christians claim that theirs is a faith based on love, but they'll just as soon kill you." Moral retards? Well, at least he can't be accused of linguistic PC.

*SIGH* Too little religion = Too much religion = UNEMPLOYMENT.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Cult of Ana

Over two years ago, on this very blog, back when it was, um, something worth reading, a Lonestar guest blogging friend introduced us to the disturbing world of Ana. Over the years, it has proven to be one of the most frequently hit posts, mostly via Google, in Silentio's short history.

I call your attention to it today because, apparently, it's not gone away. Maybe it was naive to think it was only a passing fad. Mark Morford explains:

Just when you thought you'd seen it all, now comes the news that teenage girls are forming new, secret online clubs.

Not just any clubs, mind, but sassy nutball cultlike clubs whose leaders tell their followers what to eat and how to think and how to hide their big ugly secrets, their neurosis, their imminent damage, and they even have a unifying fashion symbol: they all wear little red wristbands to show their weird solidarity, their allegiance to a warped and unhappy goddess who goes by the name of Ana.

This is true. This is happening now. And you may, at this point, think it's all cute and good and Net-friendly and you might say, aww, how great is that, lonely lost teenage girls finding each other online and making new friends and worshipping some celebrity named Ana, sharing secrets and diet tips and advice and isn't that just the coolest thing? Isn't that just the way of young girls, socializing and sharing and emoting? Isn't that the genius of the Internet?

Why, sure it is. It's all special and warm and funky until you learn, of course, that Ana is short for -- wait for it -- anorexia.

Yessirree. This is what the girls call it. Or, rather, her. Ana is their secret best friend. Ana is their salvation. They draw pictures of her, send her their prayers, recite her creed.

These girls, they love Ana and they want to be with Ana all the time and they have bizarre little support groups who rally the sad and the faithful to love and follow Ana no matter how hungry or sick or shriveled they get (Ana mocks them if they succumb to food), and if they choose not to befriend Ana they can also take a liking to Mia (bulimia) or find a new boyfriend in a totally popular guy named Ed (eating disorder).

This is not a joke. This is not a gimmick.

If only it were.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Tag ... You're It

I have been tagged, and am thus morally obligated to spread an internet meme one blog further. So ... here we ago:

(1) Total Number of Books I've Owned: A rough guess... 300-400. I gave a lot away just prior to moving to Scotland. I'm down to around 100 now, I guess. Would probably be a lot more if (a) I didn't move so often, (b) if I was a bit more brawny and moving boxes filled with books was not a problem, or (c) I was not an extraordinary tightwad.

(2) Last Book I Bought: Suttree (Cormac McCarthy)

(3) The Last Book I Read: From cover-to-cover, it was David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. In addition to assorted introductions, conclusions, and indices.

(4) Five Books that Mean A Lot to Me (in no particular order): The Recognitions (William Gaddis); Kleinzeit (Russell Hoban); Minima Moralia (Theodor Adorno); Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy); Rings of Saturn (W. G. Sebald)

(5) People to Tag: Pat Rock, Julia Rock, Mike Riggs, Brad Pickens, Brannon Hancock.

Monday, May 16, 2005


Think you know Star Wars. Oh sure ... we're all aware of the phallic sabers, and the Lacanian field-day one can have with it at all. But rarely has all this been put to such delightful effect than in this little essay, which has single-handedly (heh!) given me a reason to see Episode Three:

By now, everyone's so familiar with the familiar song and dance about Star Wars being the Woodstock of our generation, about how Joseph Campbell and the power of myth powered the most comprehensive comparative religion fable rolled into one tell-all amazing sci-fi epic of epic proportions that you could probably just puke. The truth is, that crap just sells more tickets to pseudo-intellectuals who need to rationalize going for the eleventh time to see a movie about their most deeply rooted fear: impotence and premature ejaculation. Star Wars is one big cock tale about one and only one thing, the ability to get and keep it up all the way to the end.

[. . .]

And just what are the instructions to our young fighter pilots? "The approach will not be easy. You are required to maneuver straight down this trench and skim the surface to this point. The target area is only two meters wide. It's a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port. The shaft leads directly to the reactor system. A precise hit will start a chain reaction which should destroy the station."

This is perhaps Star Wars dirtiest little secret: that shooting your wad to destroy her requires not taking the approach of the main vaginal port (which would impregnate her), but delivering your load anally, to the "small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port." Luke's latent homosexuality is unrecognized by him but clearly recognized by Vader, well-versed in the ways of black leather and masked identity, who senses the boy's dark sexual ambition and comments, "The force is strong in this one."

Sunday, May 15, 2005

A Special Day

I never thought there'd be a day that I would get a chance to post two links relating to the ingenious convergence of cows and politics. My friends, that day has come.

Just a Helpful Reminder

Since the filibuster / 'nuclear option' debate will likely reach a feverish pitch this week, I think it might be helpful to remind ourselves what this particular fight is about. On one level, yes, it is about abortion -- namely, getting anti-abortion judges into the federal benches. And, yes, it is also about religion -- that is, getting prayer-friendly judges their federal gavels and robes. There is bound to be debate about the former; and I sare say an even larger majority of Americans are in favor of the latter. And on one level, I can abide both. But lest we forget, and this is where my willingness to be level-headed exits through the nearest window, it is also about the gays.

Frank Rich, in an otherwise unextraordinary column, explains:

Today's judge-bashing firebrands often say that it isn't homosexuality per se that riles them, only the potential legalization of same-sex marriage by the courts. That's a sham. These people have been attacking gay people since well before Massachusetts judges took up the issue of marriage, Vermont legalized civil unions or Gavin Newsom was in grade school. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, characterizes the religious right's anti-gay campaign as a 30-year war, dating back to the late 1970's, when the Miss America runner-up Anita Bryant championed the overturning of an anti-discrimination law protecting gay men and lesbians in Dade County, Fla., and the Rev. Jerry Falwell's newly formed Moral Majority issued a "Declaration of War" against homosexuality. A quarter-century later these views remained so unreconstructed that Mr. Falwell and the Rev. Pat Robertson would go so far as to pin the 9/11 attacks in part on gay men and lesbians - a charge they later withdrew but that Mr. Robertson repositioned just two weeks ago. In response to a question from George Stephanopoulos, he said he now believes that activist judges are a more serious threat than Al Qaeda.

[. . .]

Which judges do these people admire? Their patron saint is the former Alabama chief justice Roy S. Moore, best known for his activism in displaying the Ten Commandments; in a ruling against a lesbian mother in a custody case, Mr. Moore deemed homosexuality "abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature" and suggested that the state had the power to prohibit homosexual "conduct" with penalties including "confinement and even execution." Another hero is William H. Pryor Jr., the former Alabama attorney general whose nomination to the federal bench was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. A Pryor brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of the Texas anti-sodomy law argued that decriminalized gay sex would lead to legalized necrophilia, bestiality and child pornography. It was Justice Anthony Kennedy's eloquent dismissal of such vitriol in his 2003 majority opinion striking down the Texas statute that has since made him the right's No. 1 judicial piñata.

Keep this in mind every time you hear the use of 'give them the courtesy of an up or down vote', or 'constitutional option', or any of the myriad slurs cast against sitting 'activist' judges.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Navel-Gazing With a Purpose

I take a lot of flack from several regular readers of Silentio, but typically the criticisms come down to a couple of things:

(1) "You don't post enough, Brad."
(2) "You post too much smarty-art-religion shit, Brad."

Interestingly, I often hear the same criticism from the same person, in the same email, during the same conversation. They obviously pine for the days of old when I had untold time and energy to write about my views on the build-up to war in Iraq, post bookcovers of Swedish erotica, and as well as the occasional diatribe about Christian bookstores and asphyxiated Jesi. Yes, such were the good ol' days.

I'll first address (2). I've attempted to remedy this accursed pretension, to some extent, by doing most of my academic-type posts over here. If you're interested in that sort of thing, bookmark it.

As for (1), I have no defense to offer. None at all. I'm one part busy, the other part lazy. And, if I'm allowed a third part, a bit bored of the blogging medium -- i.e., it just isn't the same outlet of frustration it used to be. Hence the false promises of posts to come, and posts that consist mostly of blockquotes. It's really quite sad, I know.

I once described Silentio this way:

As it stands today, if the blogosphere is a road map, Silentio is a gravel road just off the dirt road that inexplicably emerged from a cornfield two miles away from the state route that leads to the highway. You, my friends, most of you literally my friends, from days of old, are for the most part, like it or not, not included in that dialogue I just mentioned. We're alone -- crickets chirping -- traffic humming far in the distance -- rural mendicants, maybe squatters, huddled around a campfire, singing occasionally, arguing often, but never silent. No, never that. Silentio is yours as much as it is mine. This is what I tell myself, what I like to believe.

Obviously, our gravel road path has now become more weeds than gravel, and is trodden by only a few who happen to know the way around these parts. It doesn't even connect to the state route. All that remains of the campfire are the grey, nearly hollowed-out dry bones of some nondescript animal we ate in our bygone bacchanalia.

The party was over quickly, wasn't it? Perhaps it was indigestion. I realize I might be writing to myself by now, since I never check Sitemeter anymore, and I don't mean to overstate the importance of Silentio, because it probably was never as important to you as it was to me. (I offered it to you, sure, but only to the extent that I could control the offer. My gifts always come with strings attached, to yank back at any moment, without notice.) And yet, I can't help but think of it as an experiment akin to my beloved German Romantics: Friedrich Schlegel, Novalis, Friedrich Schleiermacher. They had such grand, noble ideals. All of which, or most of which, lasted about three or four years. A blip on the timeline of philosophical and artistic history, let alone their respective lives. After only a few years of meeting in the parlors of Jena and Berlin, the circle of friends and egos fell apart. Schlegel finally married his lover Dorothea, who he had illicitly wooed away from her husband, and quickly thereafter converted to Catholicism; Novalis finally got his wish and died, joining his young bride in the Germanic ground; and Friedrich Schleiermacher seamlessly reconciled his Christian piety with his pluralist leanings, and wrote one of the influential sytematic dogmatics of the nineteenth century.

The grandeur, perhaps naivete, of Romanticism was over in a flash. Gone was their 'new religion' of irony and wit, art and sentiment, of the world as infinitely progressive poetry. Unsurprisingly, it quickly spread throughout Germany, then Britain, and then America in a bastardized form wherein feeling and sentiment was valorized to an extent it never was for Schlegel and his ilk, who always insisted that its purported pantheistic spirit is pierced to the core by an irony that is as destructive as it is creative. (Melville understood this, clearly.) Without irony, it's little wonder that the trajectory of Romanticism went to two kinds of death: (a) the natural kind, wherein an idea is tired and withers on the vine, or is locked away in the asylum, to live out the remainder of its days; and (b) the malevolent kind, wherein an idea is appropriated for ideological purposes, for uniting the Volk, for the sake of ethnic purity and an avowed necessity of historical rule / exception.

All of this makes me wonder, in a way that will make many of you moan with thinly veiled exasperation, about the idea of eternity. Christians await the eschaton, the time of reconciliation and redemption, when things shall be made right -- whatever that means. This time is a no-time, however, because it is the end of time. The end of history. Such has been the promise of many an idealistic philosophy, and yet they have always lasted less than a generation. What if, contra Marx, this isn't a sign of the priority of materiality, and thus the proof of a certain historical inevitability, but simply a indication of infinity's ephemerality. That is to say, what if infinity is to be understood not as a certain duration of experience, but as a the possibility of a certain (miraculous?) intensity of experience -- whereby 'the end', of history / time / etc. (heaven, nirvana, etc.) is, materially, but a moment; and, thus, always just a flash in the pan. Like a certain blog.

S. Žižek says somewhere that the most difficult part of any revolution is the day after its success. What to do after the intensity of 'the end of time' (i.e., the end of the status quo, the breaching of the horizon of a given politico-economic reality) has exploded with its mighty but short-lived fury? The temptation, and to some extent necessity, is to normalize such intensity -- to make it appear inevitable, destined, and thus that which must be inforced by a new rule of law, status quo, etc. The extent that this is true, I think there may always be a place for prophets and martyrs ... even after the promised 'eschaton' of redemption or revolution.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Right Question

Some books cut to the quick, and get the question on the table in a matter of paragraphs. Philip Goodchild's Capitalism and Religion: The Price of Piety is one such book. I will have more to say about this tomorrow, when I have more internet access than I do today; but, this is just great stuff.

A society which recognizes the claims of property, contract and debt, but does not recognize the claims of need and distress, is fundamentally unjust and immoral. The responsible distribution of [such] attention is particularly difficult in a democracy. For a democracy is founded on the assumption that the commonwealth is composed of a collection of individual rational subjects, unities of thought and existence, whose interests may be served by representation. . . . If [democratic] consensus is formed as the lowest common denominator of collective, conscious interests -- those interests that attract attention because they motivate the buying of self-gratification and self-justification -- then it may fail to represent the true interests of the majority. Moreover, the weakness of democracy is the disenfranchisement of many of the 'stakeholders', especially those of the past and the future, as well as those who participate in circuits of trade without participating in the benefits of the state because they dwell elsewhere. For a polity also includes the claims of 'land' as that which has no say in the property relation, of children, of past and future members, and of those outside in networks opf interdependence through trade and ecology. In an age of the global market and mass media, democracy inevitably degenerates into populism which, intent on short-term interests, has brutally destructive consequences elsewhere, and is incapable of prudent government.

In the second place, democracy cedes its sovereignty to forces from without. Since all democratic relations are mediated through signs, then the self-positing logic of signs may come ot take precedence over the wishes of those represented. Such external forces are evident above all in capital investment. A nation can become enslaved in a form of the debt bondage: while opening a nation to capital investment may be in the short-term interest of the people, the long-term consequences is that economic policy, and any additional policy which may have an impact on the economy, is ultimately controlled by the needs of capital to maximize return on investment. In a global market, the threat of capital flight resulting in economic meltdown is sufficient to direct national policy on the basis of the needs of capital. Such a political reality is not a democracy, neither is it even an oligarchy of transnational corporations, financial speculators and capital investors; it is direct rule by the impersonal forces of the market itself. . . .

In the third place, democracy is subverted by its own logic of representation. For the interests of the representatives, who may be motivated by ambition, financial interest, desire for fame or dogmatic attachment to certain policy objectives, may not correspond with the interests of the people. Moreover, the capacities which lead to political advancement, including appearance, personality, rhetoric, wealth and debating skills, do not correspond to the capacities which contribute to prudent government, including a thorough of international history, politics, economics, law, sociology and philosophy, as well as a powerful ethical sensibility. Ideological commitment to the views of a dominant party does not make for prudent government. Furthermore, the representation of representatives to the people is mediated by the interests of the media, where misinformation, caricature and simplification appeal more directly to the emotions and sell more effectively than faithful representation or intelligent analysis. Representation, being mediated, is overtaken by external interests.

Democracy has no adequate defence against the sacrifice of responsibilities in favour of opportunities, the sacrifice of present demands in favour of future expectations. Alongside the vast amounts of significant need, there are also vast resources of human creativity and human labour which are wasted in a market economy. The problem lies in bringing them together. The mediation of the market is irrational, leading to the creation of artificial needs alongside ignoring many important needs; it leads to many working in pointless occupations which contribute little if any good directly to human society. By contrast, the mediation of reason is unproductive, for planned economies can make gross errors and lead to a fundamental problem in motivation for production.

Goodchild offers some tentative answers to the questions he raises, which are spoken in the most general of terms. But the task of a good philosopher is that of asking the the right question, for it directs our attention to that which matters ... and, to that end, he has knocked it out of the park.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Checking In

Huzzah! My month of unmitigated hell is very nearly complete. Well, okay, I'm being a bit dramatic -- but what would blogs be without hyperbole? I recently had a conference in reference to my wife: 'How is she liking America?' 'She likes it well enough. Working quite a bit.' 'Ah, good. She's keeping busy.' It should not surprise you to learn that I am not especially keen on this notion that busy-ness is, by default, a good thing. If anything, in my mind, it is by default a bad thing. But, whatever.

'Where ya been?' Such has been the question of some commenters and emailers. To those who ask such a question, or inquire about my blogging laziness, I direct their attention here, where I think I explain myself ahead of time.

As it goes, the thesis is, I'm not going to say 'finished', doing rather well. While I likely was not as productive as I would have wished, I'm on the verge of beginning May with renewed excitement that it may very well be done soon. (Which is another way of saying, it won't be finished in May, but I'll feel really good about the prospect of it not being finished in June because surely it won't be long after that!) I realized sometime this past month something I had sort of sensed not too long ago but had not truly understood, that the key to writing an academic monograph is no different than that of many other non-academic writing projects: keep it simple. The meaning, of course, of simple may be a bit different, but functionally, the cliché remains the same: i.e., find a central point or argument, argue / present it, and rinse and repeat with each successive chapter. Few are the books or authors who do anything at all different, save for those study history, not to mention the occasional 'primary source', who by virtue of their primacy can do whatever the fuck they want how they want -- as well as the occasional secondary source writer who regards himself / herself as a primary source, and thus churns out secondary source material in really of shitty primary source form.

All this, as you may well know, is a very obvious thing. Indeed, perhaps a little too simple for my sophisticated readers: 'Bully for you, Brad, you figured that out on your own ... and it took you three years!'

What other explanations? I've also be travelling a bit. After spending a weekend in Syracuse a couple of weeks ago (for an account of my misadventures, see here and here), I frantically readied myself for two weeks back in Scotland, where I am currently writing this post now. Very little to report at the moment, I'm afraid. A couple of days of general surliness, due to an inability to get enough rest, delivered a ninety-minute lecture yesterday on Buddhism, met with the advisor, and drank the ales that I'd forgotten tasted so good when so damn fresh .... that's been about it, in a nutshell. Now that I'm rested, and I have no intention of working on the thesis at all, in spite of the fact I brought half of my research library with me, I should be more fully alert to make the necessary mental notes and syntheses to formulate the laugh-out-loud funny posts that you've never been accustomed to experiencing here at Silentio. Best of luck to us all.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Say It Ain't So!

As mentioned in another post, I've been playing the role of a diligent PhD student lately. During the month of April, When I'm not earning my keep at one of the best libraries in the country, or boozing it up at conferences or Glasgow, I'm pouring through old notes and manuscripts, cobbling together the remaining one-third of a thesis. A couple of interesting discoveries this week, in the course of said cobbling:

(1) One of the first books I read about Early German Romanticism was The Romantic Theory of the Novel: Genre and Reflection in Cervantes, Melville, Flaubert, Joyce and Kafka, by a Polish scholar named Piotr Parlej. Back in 2001, I had no clue what the hell he was talking about. Ignorance of course, did not stop me from writing a conference paper about it all, which incited the following conversation that became emblematic of my short academic career:



After a long day of papers at a postgraduate conference, the Divinity faculty building of the University of Edinburgh is nearly emptied, with its exhausted participants fleeing for the earliest train or bus home, so that they might eagerly add their twenty-minutes of bewilderment to their CVs, which are are of course already bulging with seminars and conferences attended by the two people scheduled to speak. A few linger inside, mostly looking for sundry 'Church of Scotland' apparel to steal, but two wait outside. One, a doe-eyed girl, in a beret smoking a noxious cigarette; the other, a guy with a curious constipatedly confused expression. It is obvious from body expressions and their seeming inability to look in the other's direction, that the two do not know one another, have no desire to know one another, and/or want to rut like animals but think better of it.

(politely, recognizing that the guy is a putz and will not speak first)

So ... your paper ... the one on Romanticism, right? ... where you cursed a lot, lots of fucks in that paper, and the odd bit about Tristram Shandy, not sure where you were going with that ... your paper, it went pretty well, don't you think?

(obviously completely unaware of the social protocol this conversation requires)

Yeah, I guess, so. I don't know. I never know how these things go, you know. There's a pub around here, right?


I thought it was interesting.


Yeah, the silence afterward was probably just people processing it, you know. And that guy who had the inexplicable coughing fit, and, um, wandered out five minutes into the paper and never returned, he probably had to catch the train or something.


Oh, Tim? No, he lives just around the corner. Huh. Yeah ... well, you know, twenty minutes, that's a hard time to work with, especially doing what you were trying to do and all, so, it's a tough call. Do you find that your advisors like your work, that's all that matters, right.



(with all the enthusiasm that her confusion-surprise can muster)


I read a similar paper, maybe even just an edited version, a year later. The ensuing silence was similar, and expected; but, oddly enough, was broken by the chair of the section, who asked: 'So, what was going through your head when you wrote that paper?'

Anyway. I did not begin this post with any of that in mind. The focus is, or should be, on the plight of Piotr! Upon re-reading his book this week, and I'm happy to announce that I think I understand what the hell it's all about now, I'm convinced all the more that it is a really good book, in spite of its flaccid title, and will prove invaluable as I construct some reflections on, as we say in the field, Frühromantik. Ah ... but, it seems that poor Piotr, or at least someone who shares his name and credentials with the U.S. State Dept., has come on some very hard times since working as an adjunct English professor at Russell Sage College in 1997 (so says the book jacket), because he was recently arrested for illegally peddling U.S. visas while working at the Embassy in Armenia. I really hope this is a different Piotr Parlej, because the whole story -- esp. the one about a bright guy who can only apparently land an adjunct post and ends up resorting to federal crimes -- seems a little too (potentially) close to home. Say it ain't so, Piotr!

(2) Also this week, I've been getting back into my old writings and notes about Herman Melville. Every time I do this, i.e. about once a year, I am reminded why I chose the topic that I did. There is just some flat-out good shit in Melville. To wit:

'There is a singular infatuation in most men, which leands them in odd moments, intermitting between their regular occupations, and when they find themselves all alone in some quiet corner or nook, to fasten with unaccountable fondness upon the merest rag of old printed paper -- some shred of a long-exploded advertisement perhaps -- and read it, and study it, and reread it, and pore over it, and fairly agonize themselves over this miserable, sleazy paper-rag.' (206-07)

'That which now absorbs the time and the life of Pierre, is not the book, but the primitve elementalizing of the strange stuff, which in the act of attempting that book, has upheaved and upgushed in his soul. Two books are being writ; of which the world shall only see one, and that the bungled one. The larger book, and the infinitely better, is for Pierre's own private shelf. That it is, whose unfathomable cravings drink his blood; the other only demands his ink. But circumstances have so decreed, that the one can not be composed on the paper, but only as the other is write down in his soul. . . . Thus Pierre is fastned on by two leeches. . . . he is learning how to live, by rehearsing the part of death.' (304-05)

Passages like these speak to me in ways more profound than even I realize most of the time, and have the tendency to make me talk to no one in particular -- i.e., myself -- without realizing it. Such was the case last night when I exclaimed, while reading the cheap copy I'd found earlier of Cormac McCarthy's Suttree: 'Dammit, Man, you just were not meant to teach theology.' Apropos of the anguish of the passages, though, and (cue the violin) my own fear remains, looming, that it is all I appear qualified to teach. Sadder still, with two degrees from an evangelical bible college / seminary under my belt, the only places that might let me teach anything at all are other such evangelical bible colleges / seminaries. Those of you who know me, or who have used to read Silentio when it was a fairly interesting blog, will know why this is a bit problematic.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

On Communication

In my ongoing bid to increase the popularity of the American author William Gaddis, who I quote at length elsewhere, I thought I'd quote something here, too. This time from his second novel, JR.

Whole God damned problem tastes like apricots, whole God damned problem listen whole God damned problem read Wiener on communication, more complicated the message more God damned chance for errors, take a few years of marriage such a God damned complex messages going both ways can't get a God damned thing across, God damned much entropy going on say good morning and she's god a Goddamned headache thinks you don't give a God damn how she feels.

I suspect many of you can relate.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

A New Month, A New Man;

April slipped in unannounced it, didn't it? Wasn't I just yesterday re-learning how to drive on ice? Pining for the Glasweigan greyness that is winter? Being insufferably unproductive, and claiming seasonal fatigue as my excuse for doing nothing but hanging out with the wife and wandering around obscure sculpture parks?

Ah, but no more. I now must learn how to drive, look at pretty girls in all manner of skimpy attire, and make sure K. does not catch me. As for Glasgow, to be realistic, things are only really nice there around June. And productivity ... well, rain or shine, I simply must get cracking on the final 20,000 or so words of my thesis. To that end, I've committed myself, beginning tomorrow (of course), after the Opening Day parade, to writing at least 750 words, but ideally 1,000, per day, five days a week, until the end of the month (or, should I get a head of steam and crack out a prodigous amount of work in one day, as I used to be capable of doing in years past, or not being a lazy son of a bitch, as I'm accustomed to being as of late, averaging 750-1000 words p/day); and, relatedly, to going through the thesis as it exists today, a 50,000+ word monster, and make it a bit (okay, a lot) less unwieldy. Right now, in addition to a 100-page 'chapter' on Melville, which has about as little rhyme as it does it reason, I have an 80-page introduction that doesn't even mention Herman Melville at all until page twenty. This, I'm inclined to think, is a problem, since his fiction is the engine that makes my thesis run. Or, so I thought prior to writing it, and before I found myself increasingly wanting to move in a slightly different direction -- that is to say, different enough that I find myself wanting to conclude something entirely different. Take, for instance, the book I'm currently reviewing for Literature and Theology, Mark C. Tayor's, Confidence Games: Money and Markets in a World Without Redemption. Taylor's topic for a good 80% of the book has very little to do w/ 'Literature & Theology' as such; and yet, as with my project, which kind of pisses me off because now everybody is going to think I got the idea from him, he uses Melville and another American author I really like, William Gaddis, as inspirational jumping-off points for his discussion of the interweaving of religion, culture and economics (or, more precisely, network capitalism). In addition to my desire to highlight my methodological and ideological differences from that of Taylor, considering our uses of Melville (and, in part, Gaddis), the real desire I pitched it to the review editor is that I'm really quite bored with the standard, Glasgow-led dupoly of 'Literature and Theology', and think it is high time we reimagine it -- with a politico-ethical twist.

So, to review my month, because I know you care: a book review, which if custom holds, I'll post here ... 10,000-15,000 words, which I will not post here ... surrepticiously laying eyes on pretty girls in skimpy clothes, who I will likely discuss here since K. doesn't read my blog ... oh yes, and unmentioned thus far, one trip to Syracuse for a conference whose topic does not interest me as much as the speakers and some of the potential attendees, and another longer trip to Glasgow, where I am supposed to meet and greet the philosopher-theologian John Caputo (via Villanova via Syracuse) and drink a ridiculous amount of whisky. It's gonna be a helluva month.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Been Looking For This Poem For Weeks

Stumble between two stars, by César Vallejo

There are people so wretched, they don't even
have a body; their hair quantitative,
their wise grief, low, in inches;
their manner, high;
don't look for me, the oblivion molar
they seem to come out of the air, to add up sighs mentally, to hear
bright smacks on their palates!

They leave their skin, scratching the sarcophagus in which they are born
and climb through their death hour after hour
and fall, the length of their frozen alphabet, to the ground.

Pity for so much! pity for so little! pity for them!
Pity in my room, hearing them with glasses on!
Pity in my thorax, when they are buying suits!
Pity for my white filth, in its combined scum!

Beloved be the sanchez ears,
beloved the people who sit down,
beloved the unknown man and his wife,
my fellow man with sleeves, neck and eyes!

Beloved be the one with bedbugs,
the one who wears a torn shoe in the rain,
the one who keeps vigil over the corpse of bread with two matches,
the one who catches a finger in a door,
the one who has no birthdays,
the one who lost his shadow in the fire,
the animal, the one who looks like a parrot,
the one who likes like a man, the rich poor man,
the extremely miserable man, the poorest poor man!

Beloved be
the one who is hungry or thirsty, but has no
hunger with which to satiate all his thirst,
nor thirst with which to satiate all his hungers!

Beloved be the one who works by the day, by the month, by the hour,
the one who sweats out of pain or out of shame,
the person who goes, at the order of his hands, to the movies,
the one who pays with what he does not have,
the one who sleeps on his back,
the one who no longer remembers his childhood; beloved be
the bald man without hat,
the just man without thorns,
the thief without roses,
the one who wears a watch and has seen God,
the one who has one honor and does not fail!

Beloved be the child, who falls and still cries
and the man who has fallen and no longer cries!

Pity for so much! Pity for so little! Pity for them!


I'm beginning to suspect that, no matter what the polls say about the American public being statistically against the politicization of Terri Schiavo, it is a win-win situation for Bush and his pro-life base.

For those who are against said politicization, Bush's role will likely be forgotten. If there is any long-term distaste toward the situation, it will be directed toward 'Congress' -- albeit, probably not 'the Republican-led Congress'. No matter how much Democrats hope to stay above the fray on this one by being basically quiet, it won't matter. The scales, as is customary, will be balanced, and they will be held as culpable for the madness as the Republicans. More importantly, though, Bush effectively gets new ammunition for his pseudo-struggle to get his judges approved, and perhaps all the warrant he needs to green light that so-called 'nuclear option' re: filibusters and judicial appointments. Classy.

Now, for those who support the politicization, namely the pro-life activists who are hourly attempting to storm the Bastille and feed Mrs. Schiavo, Bush's role will not be forgotten. On the contrary, his taking leave from Crawford to sign legislation will likely go down in their collective folklore. Indeed, they are the rhetorical base for whatever justification he needs for his judicial-appointment fight; although, let's not kid ourselves into thinking they will benefit more than corporate interests. Even if none of this is the case, though, even if Bush and the modern Republican party end up vilified by the pro-life movement for their false promises (again, not likely), the pro-life movement gains. They get to, once again, (a) lash themselves in masturbatory pleasure for their cultural victimization at the hands of the American 'culture of death', and (b) get the raise a lot of money for their cause.

In other words, the wheels of the bus go round and round.... round and round ....

A Little Housecleaning

As you may or may not have noticed, Silentio is now sporting a new commenting system. What with this being something of a hotbed of commenting activity, I thought something a bit more reliable than Enetation was necessary. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A Thought At Work

Is it just me, or is it just flat out odd that a a Floridian governor, not to mention a Republican president, who has consistently shown his willingness to execute criminals, some of whom are but a few IQ points above vegetative states, even in the face of obvious procedural problems that render the sentence's finality a little premature, is now convinced that the most circumspect possibility of the tiniest sliver of consciousness is sufficient warrant to keep someone alive? Alanis Morrisette might even call it a bit ironic .... um, if it was not just so expected, par for the course, etc.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Just Sad

So, as you probably know, the NCAA tournament started today. For all my bluster, and my tendency to refer to collegiate athletes as slave labor -- servant-monkeys to me, for my entertainment -- I've always really got into college sports. I don't know why. One of the reasons, I guess, is that so many of the closest college games come down to split-second decisions, rather than simply split-second displays of their awesome athleticism. More importantly though is probably the fact that I get to watch a lot of typically arrogant jocks cry like little bitches (a repeat link, I know) when their split-second decisions don't work out. My interest in collegiate athletics remains as sadistic as my keen interest in watching people's faces when they miss a bus or a train -- so long as that person is not me, and I'm not provided with a mirror or reflection so that I might see my facial expression in such a sad, though unacceptably common, circumstance.

So, yeah, I've been watching some basketball today. I can admit this because my academic advisors back in Scotland do not read this blog, and hopefully do not even know of its existence, and thus cannot be chastised by them for frivolously whiling away my days when the pursuit of academic excellence awaits.

No such excellence, however, when it comes to my ability to fill out an otherwise blank tournament bracket sheet. On a day in which, of sixteen games played, there were only two mild upsets (one #12 seed, and one #11), I could only manage a record of 12-4; and in a single region alone, I could, by virtue of my wishful thinking (i.e., my singularly unrealistic faith in Pennsylvania and LSU), have only Illinois and St. Mary's remaining as possible participants in the Sweetness of being one of the Sixteen. And, of course, even if St. Mary's does beat S. Illinois tomorrow, they almost assuredly will not beat Oklahoma State -- who I can but assume will beat SE Louisiana, though, with my bracket going the way it has thus far, probably will not.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

An Abstract To a Paper That Will Likely Go Unwritten

If his autobiography is to be believed, George W. Bush, Jr. is a leader "called by God." Even while governor of Texas, he cited the second verse of Charles Wesley's hymn "A Charge to Keep" as his life's mission: "To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill; O may it all my powers engage to do my Master's will." Such is perhaps one the most powerful of evangelical Christian sentiments, that one is imbued with the divine mandate and capacity to enact the will of God on earth. Since becoming president in 2000, but most starkly revealed to the world after 9/11, Bush's sense of calling has encompassed the responsibility of the United States to bestow and/or protect freedom, which he deemed "God's gift to humanity." Indeed, upon declaring victory in Iraq in 2003, the U.S. military was credited as a material Messiah: "Wherever you go, you carry a message of hope, a message that is ancient and ever new. In the words of the prophet Isaiah: to the captives, 'go forth,' to those who are in darkness, 'be free'" (Isaiah 49:9). However, inasmuch as Bush declares, "Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, are in a permanent state of war," or that America's ideal of freedom is sustained by moral "ideals of justice and conduct that are the same yesterday, today and forever," the freedom to which such a call directs attention and investment is an impossible, static ideal of time wherein nothing happens except the forestalling of its end. With regard to the War on Terror, as with the Cold War, the neo-conservative mythmakers who frame the conflict have a speculative interest in maintaining the conflict: there is always another regime, another threat, etc. With regard to Bush's domestic policy, the economic independence of the proposed "ownership society," and its attendant Social Security and tax code reform, effectively render more people debtors without the recourse of bankruptcy – which, significantly, effectively coincides with the spiritual affirmation of his evangelical constituency's being "poor in spirit." As such, following the philosophical inquiry of Philip Goodchild's Capitalism and Religion, and the political critique of Giorgio Agamben's State of Exception, I will examine the nature of Bush's calling, namely the degree to which it co-opts the precedents of the Abrahamic and Davidic callings in a purely speculative, exceptional maneuver, i.e. unconcerned with the subsistence level of reality, to heighten the creation of political capital.
UPDATE: Well ... strike that post title. Guess I'll have to write a paper after all. It got accepted.

No Apologies Accepted

Kos offers a very reasonable, albeit half-hearted, defense of House Democrats who will almost certainly vote for the bankruptcy bill that will soon head their way.

Vote against a bankruptcy bill destined to pass anyway (remember, the GOP has its majorities) and you get very little political benefit while losing one of your main sources of election cash. The less cash-on-hand you have heading into the election season, the more likely you are to face a well-funded opponent. So why would a House Democrat vote against the bill? They won't. And while some of you may blame them anyway, that won't jibe with the reality on the ground.

He is, though, wrong for both political and philosophical reasons.

It is, first, politically myopic. As Atrios points out -- and let me point out, I think he's slowly coming out of his post-election stupor -- any appearance of bipartisanship on such a bill effectively negates the potential to use it as a battering ram against the majority party in the 2006 congressional elections. Any benefit an individual Representative gains is, in the end, nullified by the fact that the minority party loses a key national issue; and, as Atrios says, 'if we don't nationalize the congressional race in 2006 we will lose once again.' Exactly.

Second, its utilitarianism is philosophically languid. Although he is not addressing this issue at all, Adam Kotsko's comments about the 'wimpiness' of Democrats in the face of electoral / rhetorical failure is especially pertinent here:

Democrats simply become conservative in the best sense of the word here, trying to prevent the Republicans from undoing the basic structure of society -- Social Security, but more especially the basic democratic structure that will allow the people to come to their senses if they have in fact taken leave of their senses. I tend to think that Al Gore's acceptance of the fraudulent election results stems from a conservative impulse like I've just described: better to let Bush take office in somewhat shady circumstances than to undermine people's trust in the system altogether.

[. . .]

The problem I see here is that calling the status quo a democracy -- in the face of an inadequately educated electorate, a lazy and corrupt mainstream press corps, massive lack of participation in the political process, as well as concrete instances of voter intimidation and outright fraud -- as though we have already arrived at the ideal of popular sovereignty, is dishonest. I don't doubt that Bush is the legitimate president, that he came to power through legal means (even in the first election -- since the Supreme Court decides what is legal in the final instance). But I just think that the fact that Bush came to power through the legal means of the electoral system speaks poorly of that system. We can do better.

Similarly, in the end, Kos is far too conciliatory to the system that rewards votes with financial remuneration and the increase of political capital, inasmuch as it practically serves only (a) to maintain the status quo (i.e., keeping the House under GOP control), and (b) to belie the (moderate) liberal illusion of not playing the same game as conservatives. Taken together, it is a recipe for political disaster. The fact that this has become all the more evident (to me, anyway) by way of bankruptcy legislation, is only too fitting.