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Showing posts from September 3, 2006

the final exciting episode in the ongoing series, I married a tomato!

In perhaps my favorite Wodehouse novel, Heavy Weather, there is a scene in which the unscrupulous and ultimately unlucky detective, Pilbeam, is manipulating Lord Emsworth, (who is, as always, ridden by the nightmare vision of his pig, the Empress, being poisoned). Pilbeam is maneuvering to get Monty Bodkin, Lord Emsworth’s secretary, fired – for reasons too complex to go into here. Of course, in lieu of conversing, Lord Em is pottering about verbally, tossing out of of those stream of association sequences, as is his wont. This provokes one of those wonderful, casual paragraphs from the master that crushes the heart of any true writer – for how can you top this? “Pilbeam had not had the pleasure of the nineth Earl’s acquaintance long, but he had had it long enough to know that, unless firmly braked, he was capable of trickling along like this indefinitely.” And so it is, too, with LI. We’ve been trickling along about the tomatoes, now, for a couple of posts, what? And perhaps it

bjorn lomborg

LI is going to interrupt our tomato laden series of posts to point our readers to the latest effusion from Bjorn Lomborg. It is rather like his last effusion, and the one before that – Lomborg is an endlessly content to produce the same thing: an article that will, one, deny some scientific truth about environmental degradation by happily cherrypicking among instances, and two, offer up some vague, charitable counter-program – the idea being to either wean the liberal from his environmentalist idols by shaking a little guilt making reference to the poor in front of him, or at least to point to the hypocrisy of the liberal, convicted of shamefully ignoring the poor by worrying about them broiling to death. To pay this guy a lot of attention is, perhaps, a mistake. But we are still attracted to Lomborg’s bait. His latest trick has been to wave around a sum – 75 billion dollars – which Lomborg has extracted from some UN report: “According to UN estimates, for $75 billion a year - hal

you say tomato/ and I say/ oppression

Langdon Winner’s essay, Do Artifacts have Politics, in 1986, makes the following thematic point about the relationship between technology and politics: “[There are] … two ways in which artifacts can contain political properties. First are instances in which the invention, design, or arrangement of a specific technical device or system becomes a way of settling an issue in the affairs of a particular community. Seen in the proper light, examples of this kind are fairly straightforward and easily under stood. Second are cases of what can be called "inherently political technologies," man-made systems that appear to require or to be strongly compatible with particular kinds of political relationships. Arguments about cases of this kind are much more troublesome and closer to the heart of the matter. By the term "politics" I mean arrangements of power and authority in human associations as well as the activities that take place within those arrangements.” Winner gives

whose taste is it?

Last week, LI ran a series of posts about menus. Our point was that menus, which seem like innocent things, actually encode and enact important social attitudes and arrangements. Our more specific point was that menus came out of the great houses -- where they were used as a means of communication between the cooks and the owners (aristocrats or the great bourgeois families) into the public sphere as one of the components in the making of restaurants. My point in sketching that history was to question the division between the private and the public -- and to point to the way the division is made absolute in liberal myth. When I use the word myth, I don't mean a thing that has no social effect -- a mere illusion. There's a charming story, in Sydney Smith's Lectures on Moral Philosophy, that is the perfect illustration of myth: "Bishop Berkeley destroyed this world in one volume octavo; and nothing remained after his time but mind; which experienced a similar fate

the ballad of haditha

By way of the Sweet Nothing site , LI was alerted to a budding neo-con Wallace Stevens, one Lynn Chu, whose poem entitled “Why I Continue to Believe in the War in Iraq” would make even a man sitting in an electric chair laugh. The opening lines possess the sublime beauty of, say, a drunk’s missed piss: “Because to depose a murderous despot is a good thing . Because the UN resolved to do something a dozen times and didn't. Because we are the only nation in the world with the decency and strength to do it. Because we did so with a minimum of human loss. Because other nations, rueing their past glory, are envious. Because I believe in nationbuilding. “ It goes on. And then it goes on. According to the Sweet Nothing site, Lynn Chu is a literary agent. On a pro-war site called the Democracy Project, there is an indication that Chu’s verse, like the Battle Hymn of the Republic, is putting starch into the souls of the drooping . “Lynn Chu holds a J.D from the University of Chicag

LI provides the baloney early - remembering 9/11

In the 1960s, you could always get a laugh by referring to the John Birch crusade against fluoridation. It was so obviously bogus. And yet, the bogus does live cheek by jowl, in America, with the deepest and darkest anxieties and realities. Fluoridation might not lead to a weak kneed surrender to communism, but the channelization and pollution of America’s streams and rivers, cheerfully commanding bipartisan assent from the social engineers who know what is good for us, was a sign of something seriously out of whack with the system. The Birchers were advocates for an even more extreme out of whackness, but sometimes you have to crystallize your anxieties by going to the far end of the masochistic spectrum. The best horse laugh to come out of 9/11, an event that hasn’t exactly given rise to a lot of comedy, is in the idea circulating among some parts of the left – parts that have spent years, decades upping the rhetorical ante in denouncing the sundry crimes of Amerika and competing