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Showing posts from September 16, 2012

The GOP wants to raise your taxes

I find the GOP strategy of alienating the 47 percent who pay no federal income tax rather puzzling. A family of four, husband/wife/two kids, now pays about a 5.6 percent efficient rate in income tax. This means that well over 47 percent pay from 0 to 5 percent. The number is surely well over 50 percent of the American electorate. In essence, the conservative paranoia that we now face a world of “takers” has already happened. It is not in the interest of those who pay 5.6 percent to have their taxes raised and their benefits cut. This is precisely the GOP policy. In fact, it is the end of a long GOP strategy on taxes that has worked well. The GOP has campaigned against taxes, and the medium household has been happy to vote for them on that principle. The GOP, that household has noticed, never really cuts ‘entitlements’ – not to the medium household. They are prevented by the Dems, to an extent, and by their own hypocrisy. But finally ideology is overcoming strategy, and the GOP is a

Individual and character

Is individualism a philosophy? Is it a code about the way people think in modernity, or are thought for, thought for that is by institutions and organizations and the people who put up signs and the people who say, fill out this form? Does it describe a society centered around markets? Or is it a theory that helps us understand societies that center around markets, if there are any? This is a question that confronts us as we try to assemble the lines of descent that went into the making of character in the late seventeenth century. There is a theory, put forward by Jacques Bos, that the character writing of the seventeenth century can be seen as a stage in the making of individualism – the character that the character writers are concerned with is all external show and symptom, “a representation of a certain category of human beings…” Our task is to discover how, from this literary stylization of the person, we get to the twentieth century, where “there is an almost self-eviden

The 47 percent

Romney’s 47 percent remark reminds me of something I wrote before the great crash of 2008, in September, 2007, to be precise, about the lifestyles of the high and low as a great cultural fact. I wrote this in Austin, never dreaming that my future was so close to the radical changes I have undergone. But it does witness to something larger than my own little scrambly destiny. “I read the papers. Everybody reads the papers. So the papers say retail sales are sluggish. They say that retailers have predicted lower sales for fall. And they say, the stock market went up again. They say the stock market went up because of the news about retail sales. Out of the bad news, the market honed in on a report from Walmart predicting better sales this fall. And that was enough to send the market up 65 points. American capitalism is infinitely interesting – not as interesting as the way of a man with a maid, but as interesting as the mating dance of the great horned grebe. In the l

writing: 3 a.m.

It is after we get a little bit bigger and stop playing with LEGOS and building blocks that we accept as a fact that you can’t build a house out of doors and windows. Such a house is an absurdity! Even the least little hovel, even a tent with a mere flap for a door, should have an enclosed space beyond that flap; the whole point of the flap or door is to lead into the enclosed space. The whole point of a window is to break the monotonous grip of a room, its fist around you. But the room doesn’t exist for the window! That would be carrying the revolution too far. And yet, even though this is the wisdom we absorb as surely as the hair starts to sprout on various parts of our bodies after we are children, still, when we start building an article, a story, a poem, a thesis, a dissertation, a novel, etc., how often do we find that the rule of doors and houses is damn difficult to follow. Indeed, there is a certain type of critic since Aristotle which likes to judge the house exclusi

the symbolic and the utilitarian

There is a dimension of the alienation from the happiness culture which seeks, in the mythic, to re-discover the human limit. At first, this might seem an entirely reactionary program. Yet it turns out not to be so simple. The symbolic definitely does battle with the utilitarian. The two arise in a shared cultural space. And the fatal tendency of the utilitarian to take its claim to the concrete, its grasp of pleasure and pain, and turn them into abstractions – the decisive step of which is turning them into units, as if, like a stream of light in Newton’s sense, we were talking about corpuscles – means that utilitarianism has a secret need of symbols. On the side of myth, however, the tendency is to look for the secret histories of the great tradition – surely there is a minotaur of some kind at the center of the encyclopedia. This brings us, by sure steps that have been repeated over and over again, to conspiracy and chance.To which the gnostic historian must dedicate, finall

Best murder of the summer

The best murder of the summer waited until the vacation was almost over. On September 5, an RAF cyclist, Brett Martin, was biking in the Haute-Savoie, near Lake Annecy, when he came upon a car and a cyclist who, he thought at first, had collided with each other. The cyclist was named Sylvain Mollier. He’d been shot with a 7.65mm pistol, as police later established. He was dead. The cyclist then looked in the car, and saw vaguely what the police later discovered in more depth – the three adults in the car had also been shot with the pistol, at point blank range. A girl lay sprawled outside the car, severely beaten. She survived. When the police finally opened the car completely, they discovered another survivor, a four year old girl who hid in the footwell at the foot of her mother’s corpse. The family, it turned out, were emigrés from Iraq to Britain, where they had citizenship. Saad al-Hilli, the driver, “computer-assisted design for the firm Su rrey Satellites, which is owned by the