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Showing posts from October 9, 2005

sweet mysteries of life and death

“If you people wouldn’t have drunk it,” Dalitz said thickly, “ I wouldn’t have bootlegged it.” Moe Dalitz before the Kefauver Commission on organized crime, explaining why he sold liquor during the prohibition. From “The Money and the Power” by Sally Denton and Roger Morris. The second mystery – see my Thursday post -- to which I want to point my showman’s cane (see it tremble in my palsied grip) is that of the developmental lag. I think this mystery complicates any simple conclusions we can make from the first mystery, which, if you will remember, is the mystery of how, as we become richer, we become collectively poorer. If there were only one mystery here, then the answer would be pretty simple. We’d just look to the tradition of class conflict for our answers. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t that simple. Instead, our two mysteries are enjambed, intertwined like two dogs in heat. They form a matrix. It would be nice for me to be able to say, well, Reagan was just an upper class sto

the story that ran away with the reporter

PS -- Today (Oct. 15) the Times is finally running their explanation of the Judith Miller affair. It is wretched. It is written in the kind of restrained tone that is usually adopted at the dinner table after a fight with your spouse. It threads among the upsetting topics, and doesn't once mention the topic that has been discussed over and over again on the Net -- whether Miller wasn't using her position as a reporter to fight against Wilson. So: no mention of the report that Miller, in the newsroom, was telling people that Wilson was a liar. Surely if that was being said, the crackerjack NYT team that couldn't seem to pry a straight answer out of Ms. Miller could have asked about it. Instead, the NYT team simply preserved the pretence that this was wholly about a reporter doing her job -- although admitting that in this instance, the reporter was, actually, not doing her job. She wasn't reporting on Wilson, and she had information that she wasn't sharing with anybo

the ductus of the zeitgeist

Every social order depends on a social mystery. The conservative wants to preserve that mystery. The Marxist wants to expose it. The liberal, like me, wants to palpate it a bit. There are two mysteries in the current social order. One mystery is rather obvious bunk. The mystery goes like this: although Western economies are getting wealthier and wealthier, in comparison to, say, the economies of the 1950s, we are told that we are too poor to maintain the social welfare programs that we once took for granted. We are, in other words, getting richer and richer only to be collectively poorer and poorer. Now, one doesn’t have to be an ardent Marxist to question this story. Instead, one might ponder how we expect to maintain a social system in which the multiple of greater wealth taken home by upper management versus the average worker has zoomed from 12 times to about 400 times in the U.S. The increase in collective poverty is, of course, relative. Since this mystery has a readily unders

the revolt of the extras

In last week’s New Statesman – the one that is dedicated to the proposition that Iraq is a blunder that has metastasized into a cancer – there’s a review of a piece by a video artist named Omer Fast. Fast’s newest work, Godville, consists of interviews with re-enactors at Williamburg contrasted with shots of American suburbia. Before this, Fast made a video in which he interviewed Poles who worked as extras on Schindler’s list. Fast seems to have latched onto George Saunder’s territory. The insight, to put it crudely, is that we are not in the age of celebrity. We are in the age of the extra. The ontology of extra-hood has yet to find its philosopher, but in Fast and Saunder’s it is finding its poets. We haven’t seen Godville, but we definitely hope Fast takes it to Austin. “The war” might mean Operation Desert Storm, today’s Iraq war, or the American war of independence. “Independency” and “occupation” turn inside out and back again: Godville’s hybridised personae, in their imma

fundraising and t shirts continued

PS -- after this went to press, Harry informed us that our illustration was a very rough sketch. See his comment for more. As we said a few days ago, LI is going to make another stab at fundraising a la the public radio way. Our friend Harry from Scratchings sent us the above design for the tshirt. (Sorry if it is a bit blurry). He also told us some stuff about pricing and sizing, suggesting the t shirts go for $30 and over, and that the logo be put either on the back or on the shirt pocket. Actually, we 'd like more comments about this. The public radio model of fund raising is, we admit, a little bland and smarmy. KUT in Austin raises bucks with a bit about how you should imagine that there was no public radio – such an apocalyptic vision would presumably put you in such a sweat that you’ll be making out checks like mad. Well, LI has no similar grip on the throat of the world spirit. We live on our non-necessity, like a drug habit. We’d like this fund raising bit to be mo

goodbye schroeder

LI is pleased with the outcome today in Germany. The SPD’s eight cabinet posts include the foreign ministry, finance and labor. The “reforms” that are routinely urged on Germany – as if recently handed down on Mount Sinai – will surely be instituted with one eye on the one thing this election made clear: unlike NYT’s reporters, the Germans are not enthusiastic about Hobbesian homeopathy in the economy: make it easy to fire workers, make it harder for them to get unemployment, and let the rich aggrandize a larger share of the economic spoils. Firmly putting the brake on this Thatcherite nonsense is a good thing. A better thing is to take reflationary steps to strengthen the German economy, from loosening the credit markets to adopting Greenspan’s easy money policies. It is nice to read that the government is pledging to radically increase government supported R and D. The Germans are also obviously going to have to put a much larger percentage of it kids through college. Alas. Because

notes, four pages from chapter five

1. T Shirts. After starting and stopping this a year ago, I am ready to start again on this project. For every 50 dollar contribution to LI, I'll send you a t shirt that reads Dopamine Cowboy Movement on the back, Limited Inc on the front. I'm gonna put some kind of announcement up in the column on the right later this week. 2. The following is four pages from chapter five. Comments are always welcome. Joan Malcolm’s first New Yorker article was published in 1979, when she was 20, and a junior at Vassar. When she was twenty one, she took a leave of absence to travel to Europe; in another year she was writing for far too many publications to write an essay comparing and contrasting Hobbes and Locke on Government, or a paper on the influence of Japanese prints on Whistler (use examples), or to memorize the dates of the Jurassic and Mesozoic periods and what plant or animal life flourished within each (name three). Then her book came out, My Circus Animals; then there was a go