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Showing posts from July 24, 2005

rub raw the sores of social discontent

"The despair is there; now it's up to us to go in and rub raw the sores of discontent, galvanize them for radical social change. We'll give them a way to participate in the democratic process, a way to exercise their rights as citizens and strike back at the establishment that oppresses them, instead of giving in to apathy. We'll start with specific issues -- taxes, jobs, consumer problems, pollution -- and from there move on to the larger issues: pollution in the Pentagon and the Congress and the board rooms of the megacorporations. Once you organize people, they'll keep advancing from issue to issue toward the ultimate objective: people power. We'll not only give them a cause, we'll make life goddamn exciting for them again -- life instead of existence. We'll turn them on. -- Saul Alinsky LI recommends this story as the most heartening news of the week. Labor has spent decades as the Democrat’s dog. In return, the Democrats have supported every na

the human rights of the last man

In the South Atlantic Review of last summer there is an interesting essay by Susan Maslan (The Anti-Human: Man and Citizen before the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen) that wrestles with the identity of “man” and “citizen” as it was forged in the Declaration of the Rights of Man. Maslan’s idea is this: “man” was never a political entity in the same sense as “citizen” before the French revolution. Man could be many things – a creature with ties of blood to other creatures, a soul, a thinker – but as man, he was merely the substratum upon which the political selectively operated. This is a rather natural stance to take for a European society busy enslaving and conquering. Or perhaps I have the causal sequence wrong – it isn’t that the slaving and conquering produced the notion of man – substructure to superstructure – but that both the concept and the activity were held within one large framework, a political episteme. Maslan finds it surprising that the French Revol

eating our words in the great culture of Bush

LI is again having to eat its words this morning. We so often complain that the Bush culture has exclusively favored the wealthy. In a story in the WP this morning, there is a great refutation of that thesis in the lifestory of Sunny L. Sims: “Three years ago, Sunnye L. Sims lived in a two-bedroom apartment north of San Diego, paying $1,025 in monthly rent. Then she landed a dream job, with $5.4 million in pay for nine months of work. Now she owns a $1.9 million stucco mansion with lofty ceilings on a hilltop, featuring sun-splashed palm trees and a circular driveway.” The cool thing is, she owes this upward trajectory entirely to the Bush administration’s decision not to do pesky supervising over private contractors working for Homeland Security. Ms. Sims, in the weeks after 9/11, incorporated a company, Eclipse Events Inc, which subcontracted events planning for another company, NCS Pearson Inc, and went big time on a non-competitive contract “… to help hire a government force of

genes

Jerry Fodor strings together some nice crochets against evolutionary psychology in the TLS this week. His argument, which in itself is pretty hard to beat, is that if psychology relies on motivations, it can’t, uncontroversially, reduce those to the “motivations” of the gene. Fodor uses one of those analytic uninteresting examples – Davidson liked buttering toast and lighting the furnace, and Fodor likes Mr. Jones carrying an umbrella. Fodor says that the fact that Mr. Jones is carrying an umbrella doesn’t tell us Mr. Jones’ motives for carrying an umbrella. He could think it is going to rain; he could want to give the umbrella back to its owner; he could be making a style statement. And then he writes: “It’s more of a problem – and Buller is quite clear on this – that an Adaptationist account of Jones’s behaviour may need to appeal to a motive that explains his action but that Jones didn’t actually have; not consciously, not unconsciously, not at all. It’s a main tenet of psychologi
LI is a little bummed. We wanted to stick out our tongue and dance around and pull down our pants and moon a petition that has been cobbled together to “condemn terrorism” that has attracted the signature of loony luminaries, like C. Hitchens and Nick Cohen and, etc., etc. You can tap dance out the rest. The whole gang. But Crooked Timber got there before us. So in the interests of economy, we’ll stick into this post our comment to CT, with some revision. Ah, but to preface this: what wasn’t argued about on the CT post was the very nature of these kinds of petitions. What in the world are they for? Are they supposed to go forth and make the conspiring militants in Samarra tremble as they hold the blasting cap? Are they supposed to rally a victim population that is crushed and trembling because they haven’t heard from the brigade of stalwart intellectuals just over the horizon? Are they supposed to influence policy in any country whatsoever? There is less sense and more vanity in thi

keeping tabs on the latest vileness -- get it while its hot

Keeping tabs on the vile things the Bush administration is doing is an exhausting task. LI sometimes feels that it is all too much, and we should get some sleep. But duty calls. So, this little article in the Sunday NYT about the newest initiative to destroy effective HIV programs in Brazil in the name of that morality that has made the Red States famous (for meth use) caught our attention. Brazil has a very good anti-AIDs policy. It involves making sure that prostitutes, who have a union in Brazil, have condoms. It involves distributing clean needles. It involves rationality. “One gauge of Brazil's success in confronting AIDS is to compare the situation here with that of other developing countries, many of which have sent delegations to study the Brazilian program. In 1990, for example, Brazil and South Africa had roughly the same rate of prevalence of H.I.V. among their adult populations, just over 1 percent. Today, some studies indicate that 20 percent or more of South Afri

one more time

LI’s post, yesterday, on the Nagelian voter,was supposed to be clear as daylight, or the reflection of same from your beloved’s eye at the moment of spiritual union. It was also supposed to fit into our larger project of thinking about politics beyond parties. We take on the big projects at LI. We pull out the autocad. We hire the temps. Rereading it, I see I wasn’t as clear as daylight. There was a lot of scrambled egg in the spiritual union. Two points, then. Harry wrote a reply from the more skeptical side at Scratchings . I think I agree with Harry in one respect, and in one respect I don’t. The agreement is that the specific act of voting itself is a negligible political act. The unimportance of the act is emphasized by the convergence of the parties. The fact that there is no difference between the parties means that there is no difference made by the vote -- or at least that is the instrument used by the governing class to to degrade voting, and thereby assure themselves conti