joseph duemer: reading & writing
. . . he's sure got a lot of gall / to be so useless & all / muttering small talk at the wall . . . [dylan]
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getting hyper
stand down
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american samizdat

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find a poet
american dialect society
american poetry review
bartleby historical encyclopedia
buddhist study guide
archive of economic thought
etymology dictionary
jacket magazine
killing the buddha
literary weblogs overview
morse code translator
john dewey (1)
john dewey (2)
john dewey (3)
museum of american poetics
poetry daily
poetry & vietnam (1)
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travesty generator
william james(1)
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liberal arts mafia
charles saunders peirce (1)
peirce mss
the philosophers' magazine
ronald johnson
silva rhetoricae
spike magazine / splinters
today in literature
tu dien vietnam
visual thesaurus
ludwig wittgenstein (1)
wittgenstein (2)

poetry blogs & etc.
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auntie sarah
cahiers de corey
chris lott
deep language
eeksy peeksy
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hatstuck & house (arrest)
henry gould
in a dark time
jonathan mayhew
language hat
lime tree
my angie dickinson
mike snider's formal blog
process documents
riley dog
silliman's blog
the skeptic
third factory
tram spark
well nourished moon
a woman who loves insects
wood s lot

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american politics journal
the american prospect
bear left
busy busy busy
cal pundit
counterspin central
daily kos
the daily howler
get donkey!
the hamster
interesting times
jb holston
lean left
the left coaster
lefty directory
no more mister nice blog
rittenhouse review
runinate this
three river tech review
shadow of the hegemon
take back the media
talk left
talking points
thinking it through
unknown news
warblogger watch

abuddhas memes
alas a blog
bellona times
the better rhetor
beyond corporate
bitter shack
body and soul
breaching the web
burning bird
everlasting blort
caveat lector
dive into mark
double reflection
drat fink
easily distracted
ethel the blog
everything burns
follow me here
food blog
gordon coale
hairy eyeball
invisible adjunct
jerry kindall
joho the blog
josh blog
la di da
making contact
magnificent melting object
nobody knows anything
noosphere blues
nordic graceland
odd things in pitt's libraries
open tank
pet rock star
philosophy dot com
reading dog
richard [winters]
suburban guerilla
the road to surfdom
sandhill trek
sisyphus shrugged
empty bottle
the historical present
the heart of things
the obvious?
this public address
thousand yard glare
ufo breakfast
visible darkness
wealth bondage
william gibson's blog


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Saturday, November 30, 2002
Thinking about writing in this space & maintaining it. Something like fourteen months now. So I've been writing here for over a year now & as Arlo Guthrie said in the middle of a performance of "Alice's Restaurant," I'm not proud . . . or tired. In fact, I feel like I'm just warming up. Maybe it's because we have such long winters--been snowing all day--but I find that the weblog runs like a thread through my days. It is a form of memory as well as a form of publication. Anybody who has been reading me for a while will realize that I mix personal & philosophical & political subjects together, something that's certainly not unique to reading & writing, of course; but it is intentional. In fact, one of the things I like most about the evolving form of the weblog is the way it crosses & mixes genres & modes of expression.

I've also been updating the blogroll over the last few days & though I haven't developed a theory of blogrolling or even much of a system, my principle of inclusion is simple: If I look in on a particular blog two or three times a week, it goes on the list. I've tried to keep subdivisions of the blogroll to a minimum, though I'm considering a new heading for tech blogs.

So, no grand unified theories of the blogosphere are to be found at this address, just a day-in & day-out threading together of my reading, thinking, writing, eating & talking with friends. When I was a young man, I wanted my life to be a work of art; these days, I want my art to be a form of life.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 2:12 PM.

Friday, November 29, 2002
My political awakening came in 1970 during the Nixon-Kissinger dictatorship, so I agree with Sam Heldman of Ignatz: ". . . on the other topic of discussion before dinner -- Henry Kissinger's appointment to the 9/11 commission is the equivalent of an 'in your face, you impotent little nothings, we can do whatever we want and get away with it!' to those who pay attention to the news and to history. It's a grotesque triumphant dance of the currently-powerful, designed largely to make the opposition feel marginalized and disheartened. It's almost working on me."

Yeah, me too. But you should also read Eric Alterman in order to fuel your outrage with information. This is such a stunning declaration of war on American values it's hard to know where to begin. The one bright note in all this is that it was at least partly Kissinger's advice that led to the downfall of Richard Nixon. And doesn't GWB seem more & more like RMN as time goes on? [via Natasha at The Watch & The Daily Kos] Oh, & thanks for the memories, Dr. Kissinger.

Update: Administration Begins to Rewrite Decades-Old Spying Restrictions WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 — "The Bush administration, in its fight against terrorism, is slowly chipping away at the wall that has existed for nearly three decades between domestic law enforcement and international intelligence gathering in an effort that senior officials said was vital to waging war against Al Qaeda and other terror networks." [NY Times registration required]

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 4:20 PM.

The best food book I have bought since I got the Joy of Cooking thirty years ago: Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for the Food. If you could only have two books to teach you how to prepare good food, this pair would be my choice. Brown begins with discussions of such basics as salt, water & heat & concludes with apendices that cover cuts of meat (with maps of the animals) & how to buy & maintain knives. In between, he discusses cooking methods & even offers some recipies. The large format of the book (9.5 x 9.5 inches) leaves plenty of room for sidebars that take the reader from the making of cast iron to the application of teflon to non-stick pots. Some of this may seem to appeal only to the food geek--a designation I'd happily share with Mr. Brown--but they turn out to be useful in building the knowledge of food & cooking that the book is intent on imparting to its reader. By offering detailed descriptions of the major methods of cooking--form searing to boiling & everything in between, Alton Brown seeks to enable the home cook to make his or her own food in his/her own way. I'm the type of cook who consults recipies to get the gist of the process, but then I go my own way. I'm not an anarchist & neither is Alton Brown, but both of us see cooking as something one does in the physical world. Which is why all the descriptions of food science & technique & method are so fascinating--to me, anyway. If you love the process of cooking as much as the end product, then this is a book you will, er, savor. Alton Brown's title has an insouciant ring to it, but consider the reference of the word here in the title; has a kind of metaphysical ring, doesn't it?

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 10:30 AM.

Mike Finley quotes Dennis Prager on gratitude being the foundational virtue. I've never heard of Prager of the Master's Forum & it looks like I'd have plenty of disagreements with him, but this summary of one of his talks contains a lot of good sense. I was particularly stuck by his idea that in order to be happy one must adopt a tragic view of life. Gratitude:

God made mud,
God got lonesome,
So God said to some of the mud, "Sit up !"
"See all I've made," said God,
"the hills, the sea, the sky, the stars."
And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around.
Lucky me, lucky mud.
I, mud, sat up and saw what a nice job God had done.
Nice going, God ! [Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle]

(I also commend Mike Finley for posting this & in doing so practicing what he preaches about reaching out to conservatives & others with different views of reality.)
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 7:19 AM.

Angie & Andy stayed here last night rather than driving home in the snow. The goose was good, as were the sweet potatoes & regular mashed potatoes & the port & cheese afterward & everything else we ate for dinner last night; but I think I liked this morning's breakfast even better: goose hash & a mushroom & asparagus omelet. Strong coffee. Snow still falling. And since I'm the cook, I get to sit up here blogging about it while my friends wash the dishes.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 7:07 AM.

Thursday, November 28, 2002
Roasting a goose for Thanksgiving dinner. Got the bird from a friend who raises them organically & free-range, then has them dressed out by a local Amish farmer.

It's up to 21F now but when we got up this morning it was 9 degrees. Hard, clear blue, brilliant sky, but snow is on the way. River is frozen bank to bank for the first time this year.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 7:50 AM.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002
Getting ready for tomorrow's Thanksgiving meal, I've been ruminating about Mike Finley's response to my response to his . . . well, you get the idea. Mike says--& I agree with him--that we're done for if we can't imagine other people's realities. I agree. As a pragmatist, I think we project our minds onto the world, with some effect; as a pluralist, I'm convinced that no single description of reality is adequate to explain the world. That's a fairly radical notion when you carry it out to consequences. My difference with Mike is one of emphasis: he's an optimist & I'm (mostly) a pessimist. I agree with his program, I just think it's very unlikely to emerge from our current cultural situation. The problem for a pluralist, when confronting orthodoxies on either the right or the left, is that the positions he sets himself to critique deny his (pluralist) view of the world, rendering whatever orthodoxy it is impenetrable to critique. Now, I'll admit that a close reading of Mike's proposal suggests that pluralists engage these orthodoxies on their own terms. I find this an intriguing idea. But when I say to a guy down at the VFW that I think it dishonors the US flag to fly one of those black POW/MIA flags beneath it on the flagpole--however willing I am to explain the fact that there are no POWs left in Vietnam & to adduce the evidence & no matter how careful I am to explain that the POW myth has been fostered by a bunch of self-serving hucksters--I am going to be called an unpatriotic asshole. When all I wanted to do was explain my respect for the flag of my country. This business of getting outside the tropes we use to shape our lives turns out to be a difficult business. I'm not saying impossible, just difficult. Especially since American politics seems to have moved so far beyond the notion of taking another's position as having been offered in good faith as to make such an idea seem quaint. [Aside: I have always loved long, stringy sentences.]

So anyway, last night before I went to sleep I was reading the new issue of Scientific American (which has become mostly a mouthpiece for corporate science, abdicating its former glory as an advocate of the idea that anybody could be a scientist) & I discovered that philosophical pluralism has entered the realm of the rarified sciences of cosmology & fundamental physics. In looking for a way to integrate quantum physics with relativity, Dr. Markopoulou Kalamara took some of Roger Penrose's mathematics having to do with spin networks & conjured the universe from them, except: "a spin network represents the entire universe, and that creates a big problem. According to the standard interpretations of quantum mechanics, things remain in a limbo of probability until an observer perceives them. But no lonely observer can find himself beyond the bounds of the universe staring back. How, then, can the universe exist? "That's a whole sticky thing," Markopoulou Kalamara says. "Who looks at the universe?" For her, the answer is, we do: The universe contains its own observers on the inside, represented as nodes in the network. Her idea is that to paint the big picture, you don't need one painter; many will do."

The universe, it may turn out, is dependent on multiple perspectives. So we ought to pray that we do not destroy the universe in our attempts to collapse different perspectives into one ruling point of view. That would be the apocalypse. Wait--many people look forward to the end of the world. So. Or.

God made mud,
God got lonesome,
So God said to some of the mud, "Sit up !",
"See all I've made," said God,
"the hills, the sea, the sky, the stars."
And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around.
Lucky me, lucky mud.
I, mud, sat up and saw what a nice job God had done.
Nice going, God !
Nobody but You could have done it, God !
I certainly couldn't have.
I feel very unimportant compared to You.
The only way that I can feel the least bit important is to think
of all the mud that didn't even get to sit up and look around.
I got so much, and most mud got so little.
Thank you for the honour !
Now mud lies down again and goes to sleep.
What memories for mud to have !
What interesting other kinds of sitting-up mud I met !
I loved everything I saw !
Good night.
I will go to heaven now.
I can hardly wait ...
To find out for certain what my wampeter was ...
And who was in my karass ...
And all the good things our karass did for you.

[Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle. 1963]
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:12 PM.

Just when you thought they couldn't go any lower, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal trumps your expectations.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 4:17 PM.

The great liar to seek the truth about 9/11: "Nov. 27, 2002 | Washington -- President Bush signed legislation creating a new independent commission to investigate the Sept. 11 attacks Wednesday and named former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to lead the panel. // 'Dr. Kissinger will bring broad experience, clear thinking and careful judgment to this important task,' Bush said at a signing ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. 'Mr. secretary, thank you for returning to the service of your nation'." [AP story by Jennifer Loven]

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 9:25 AM.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002
Mike Finley agrees with e.e. cummings--"feeling is first." Well, Finley is talking about politics & cummings was talking about love--

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you

--but love & politics are both certainly driven by passions pure & impure. Certainly my own politics were born from an instinctive reaction, when I was fifteen or sixteen, against my stepfather's view of the world & the religion he used to prop it up. And a little later, protesting against the Vietnam-era draft & the war, I was driven by my visceral sense of the injustice of the war & not much detailed knowledge of Vietnam or the history of American involvement there. So our political commitments may not be entirely rational, I agree. But we can build coherent systems of belief only by checking our feelings against the evidence the world presents us with. When we fail to preform this check we put ourselves in danger of spiraling off into numerology & fundamentalism; we begin to believe that our feelings about the world are the world. Once we do that, we can start sending our sons strapped with explosives to detonate on busses filled with school children; once we do that, we find it easy to use military force to enslave a population; once we do that, we find it easy to construct a narrative that will explain our need to wage an irrational war for domestic political purposes. So feeling needs a check. What we need is intelligent feeling, feeling that recognizes multiple perspectives.

Mike Finley asks why we on the left cannot engage our adversaries on the right on their own terms, in the tropes & figures of speech they understand. It's a good question & I don't have a complete answer, except to suggest that some tropes--right or left--include in their epistemology a denial of other tropes. In my view, those figures are philosophically vacuous, however politically powerful they may be.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 4:53 PM.

For what it's worth, I think Jim Capozzola has every right to de-list blogs that link to LGF from Rittenhouse Review. Den Beste's politics are nearly as noxious as LGF's & who says a publisher has to sponsor views he considers vile? Den Beste's argument that such a de-listing is "censorship" would be laughed out of court--indeed, absurd on its face, it would never get to court. I read Jim every day because I trust his judgement; I don't read Den Beste because I don't trust his. It'a a free world. Sorry if my freedom bothers you. David Horowitz (sorry, I won't link to him--Google it yourself) attempted to make the same argument when he bought advertising in college newspapers around the country saying that the US should not pay reparations to African-Americans & then went on a self-important propaganda jag when some editors declined to run his ads. This, from the guy who promotes Campus Watch, an outfit designed to intimidate college professors. Horowitz was being provocative, which is his right, but to then claim that editors who failed to take his bait were censoring him is tendentious nonsense. Den Beste's parsimonious theory of link value is the definition of "tight-ass" (adj. Worrying constantly about the fairness of the behavior of others while doing everything one can to maximize the advantage of one's own position.) On this site, I don't link to sites with nasty politics. You wanna make something of it? You going to come in my house & tell me what I have to eat for dinner? Go away, you're crazy.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 3:47 PM.

Dervala Hanley makes me homesick for my other life. My life in Vietnam. I too have bought clothes in Hoi An & marvelled at the color of the light & taste of food in Hue. And I've been charmed & bothered by the commercial push & pull of Saigon & even Hanoi. Lucky for me, I'll be going back this summer. [via Steve Himmer at OnePotMeal]
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 7:15 AM.

Monday, November 25, 2002
I've been thinking about myth & religious belief in politics, particularly the double nature of myth, which can open a resonant space of mystery & numinosity around our everyday lives but which can also be literalized & acted upon as if it were history. In many parts of the world, myth has entirely replaced history as a mode of thought, at least among large segments of the population: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, The United States . . . From my perspective, this transformation is the result of a sometimes willful failure of discernment--a failure to make distinctions. Reading Gershom Gorenberg's The End of Days, about the millennialism of the three great monotheisms, almost turns me into a believer--not in any of the millennialists' visions of the end times, but of the inevitable cataclysm as different & intractable readings of the history of the Middle East come together in the city of Jerusalem.

A lot of the religious energy at the heart of Middle Eastern politics gets expressed in a kind of bizarre "mathematics" or, more properly, numerology. Chris Mooney, writing in The American Prospect, touches on this magical arithmatic in relation to 9/11, but only touches the least looney examples of this sort of looniness. I remember similar stuff going around about the asassinations of American presidents after JFK was killed. And while we can dismiss this pop numerology as looney, it is more difficult to grasp the deep craziness at the heart of certain readings of The Book of Revelation. David Koresh's sect, the Branch Davidians, considered themselves 7th Day Adventists & trace their origins to The Great Disappointment of 1844. I offer these examples only as illustrations of a particular turn of mind that I am trying to understand, not because I have some thesis to unite them.

Actually, this is the mileu in which I grew up, going to a little Grace Brethren church in Southern California. We'd have guest preachers in from time to time who would pull out homemade charts to explain what would happen after the Rapture. Premillennialists (I think), the only thing they steered away from was offering an exact date for Christ's return. Two reasons, for this, I think: First, historically, a lot of preachers had gone out of business when their predictions went bust; but more important, a great deal more anxiety can be generated from uncertainty than from certainty. Anxiety is fundamentalist coin of the realm.

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 3:50 PM.

Deep connections: Checkers & Steve Himmer find each other in the fog. Steve & Chex reminded me of Angel's two-day disappearance a couple of months ago.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 3:13 PM.

Sunday, November 24, 2002
A couple of good dog links via La Di Da.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:21 PM.

I've added a commenting system to my blog, but not for every post. It's over there on the right & is intended as a general feedback channel. Since this weblog began as a reading journal, the feel here is that I write notes to myself that I let other folks read. I realize that I make statements here that can be argued with, but argument is not the primary purpose of this particular outpost. I am interested in people's reactions, corrections, amplifications & etc. You can post anything you like, but I'm the editor of this site & will remove personal attacks on myself or others, obscenity not leavened with wit, vile political views & etc.

There's also been a little jiggling of the template & there will be a bit more of that over the next few days, but only minor temblors.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 2:54 PM.

Bellona Times
From Bellona Times, clear thinking about the depressing truth of our current historical / cultural situation: "No, the goal of Total Information Awareness is to help the administration follow its real vocation: maintaining political power through hypocrisy; that is, through a combination of personal secrecy and public libel. The Bush family relies on confidential deals, insider trading, erased records, and so on, while the far-right Republican Party has proven to its own satisfaction that any criticism of their policies can be deflected by launching non-sequitur counterattacks on their critics. Intelligence agencies -- "I know everything about you; you know nothing about me" -- are the coziest nests for such rodents."
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:25 AM.

Saturday, November 23, 2002
First big snowfall last night--about seven inches. Carole's former student Denise came over & I made raviolis in a cream-mushroom sauce. Tonight Angie is here. I roasted a pork tenderloin with balsamic vinegar, garlic, rosemary, basil & olive oil. It was great with Carole's salad & the bread I baked this morning. The older I get, the more I love eating with friends. Pleasure as a defense against the violence of the times.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 7:06 PM.

Media Notes: Anthony York interviews Al Gore in Salon, but you won't be able to read it unless you're a Premium Subscriber. The interview is not all that remarkable, given Gore's recent public statements, but York's intro to the piece is notable for following the standard script: Gore is "new & improved" & so on. It's such transparent whoring that it hardly seems worth mentioning.

And Josh Marshall is hanging out at Yale with Mickey Kaus & Glenn Reynolds. Josh, all I can say, man, is that one is known by the company one keeps.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 4:31 PM.

From Norm Jenson at onegoodmove: "There is much to be said in favour of modern journalism. By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community." [Oscar Wilde, "The Critic as Artist," 1891]
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 6:10 AM.

Friday, November 22, 2002
I was in the 7th grade when JFK was killed. My class was on a field trip to the big downtown library in San Jose, California. Today I've been thinking about the Peace Corps. JFK was a Cold Warrior, but he understood something that the current gang of Hot Warriors have completely missed: you help people drill a well or build a school, you create good will at the same time that you create security. Yes, the model was terribly perverted in South Vietnam in the 1960s, but that does not negate the fact that using American technology & wealth to help people in the developing world live better lives is the best security policy we have. JFK understood this & he sent young, idealistic Americans out to implement his vision. The idealism was often tainted, I admit, with a kind of technocratic imperialism, but at its best it worked to American advantage. (There is, of course, a critique that could be offered about that, but . . . ) The current oligarchy is so besotted with the Ayn Rand ideology of "individualism" & the "free market" they are burning our security like a gambler lighting his cigars with $100 bills. (Of course, "individuality" is something you're born with & the notion of rising on one's merit is a dirty lie.) We will be more secure in our "homeland"--how I hate that term!--if we concentrate on drilling wells & building schools & keep from meddling in local politics. We're big, we're rich: we ought to be generous. But a spirit of generosity is entirely absent from our--my--current government. Perhaps it is absent from the American character, though I would hate to think so.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:52 PM.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

This really gives me the creeps. What is the eagle grasping in its claws? Look anything like this? [More info.] [via Counterspin & Florida Blog]

Update: Some of the comments over at Counterspin led me to post this: Albert Speer had great taste. The Nazis just loved art. The fasces do in fact appear on the US quarter & behind the dais in the House of Representatives. The Nazis, though, made them their own & it doesn't take a tinfoil hat to find the US government's sponsorship of this kind of symbolism pretty creepy. It's the timing & the context that has some of us more than a little bothered about this.

Anyway, I like what Ben Franklin had to say about the eagle: "He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead tree near the river, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to his nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him. // With all this injustice, he is never in good case but like those among men who live by sharping & robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our country. // I am on this account not displeased that the figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the truth the Turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America . . . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his farm yard with a red coat on." [quote thanks to tbogg]

The fact that Andrew Sullivan seems to be staking out a kind of fascio-licentious territory for himself under the rubric of the eagle only makes Franklin's opinion of the bird more delicious. Sullivan seems to identify with the elite & privileged who have benefited from the social & political revolutions of the sixties, but who feel entitled to the prerogatives of the right-wing oligarchy. (We're having goose for Thanksgiving, by the way.)

Never linked to Sully before. Probably won't again.

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 8:28 AM.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002
If you're interested in what's happening in the world of progressive poetry--that is, if the idea of Dana Gioia heading the National Endowment for the Arts does not fill you with a warm syrup of satisfaction, here is an interview with Ron Siliman. I'm a very different kind of writer from Silliman, but I recommend him because he's smart & he has made things that count.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:39 PM.

Honor Roll

H.R. 5005, as amended; Homeland Security Act of 2002

Akaka (D-HI), Nay
Byrd (D-WV), Nay
Feingold (D-WI), Nay
Hollings (D-SC), Nay
Inouye (D-HI), Nay
Jeffords (I-VT), Nay
Kennedy (D-MA), Nay
Levin (D-MI), Nay
Sarbanes (D-MD), Nay

My two senators the supposedly principled liberals Clinton & Schumer voted for the bill. Shameful.

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 4:54 PM.

The current war against the terrorists is not a war of civilizations, as Glenn Reynolds says, but a war of fundamentalisms. At this point we have the Judeo-Christian fundamentalists fighting the Muslim fundamentalists. But neither group amounts to a "civilization," though both groups represent themselves as speaking for their societies. The current cozy relationship between American Evangelicals & Jewish fundamentalists is an alliance of convenience based on competing teleologies & is bound to fracture.

And the deployment of the term barbarians is a way of defining away one's enemy's humanity. Problem is, in the process, one loses an important part of one's own. Humanity.

Later: There is another interesting thing about use of the term barbarian--it assumes that the user of the word is a citizen of an empire, in other words, an imperialist: "A. sb.1. etymologically, A foreigner, one whose language and customs differ from the speaker's. 2. Hist.a. One not a Greek. b. One living outside the pale of the Roman empire and its civilization, applied especially to the northern nations that overthrew them. c. One outside the pale of Christian civilization d. With the Italians of the Renascence: One of a nation outside of Italy 3. A rude, wild, uncivilized person. 4. Applied by the Chinese contemptuously to foreigners. 5. A native of Barbary. Obs" [Oxford English Dictionary]

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 7:22 AM.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002
Matthew Yglesias is not concerned about the Homeland Security Bill's provisions for gathering information on American citizens without their knowledge & storing it in a massive database. Is there nothing Mr. Yglesias would not want known? Perhaps he lives a life of complete transparency & has no secrets from anyone. Good for him. Speaking only for myself, the idea of John Ashcroft or his minions reading my mail & snooping around my bank accounts to see where I spend my money, what causes I donate to, & etc. gives me the serious creeps.

Mike Finley offers a reasonable response.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 9:47 AM.

Use the Phone. Do it now. Oppose the Homland Security bill. Call your Senator to oppose this noxious piece of special-interest legislation & attack on American civil liberties.

If there were justice in America, John Poindexter would still be serving time instead of serving in government.

Update: Too late. The bill has passed the Senate. But never fear, AG John Ashcroft has assured us that he has no intention of snooping into the private lives of Americans. And if you believe that . . .
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 8:30 AM.

Monday, November 18, 2002
In happier, domestic news I used the new machine to make pasta tonight & served it with a nice tomato, onion & mushroom sauce. While I was running the pasta dough through the machine, pots bubbling on the stove, Carole was out clearing snow from the deck & front porch & bringing in firewood. We pretty much turn traditional gender roles inside-out in our domestic arrangements, though in other ways we slide right into expected forms. Carole is a very good looking blonde & I'm a grizzled old graybeard who pretty often wonders at his sweet good fortune. When I was younger & prettier we were occasionally mistaken for brother & sister & there is an element of fraternity in our marriage. I find my wife, quite simply, admirable: athletic, gorgeous, smart, tolerant . . . The pasta was really good. And so it goes: Americans are more lucky than we know, or are able to admit. We have these sweet, rich, selfish lives while the world outside our borders screams in terror. I honor the idea of America, the country I used to love when I was a boy; but we have been sold comfort & frantic entertainments (including televised wars) at the cost of our souls, or our consciences, if you prefer the secular term. The problem is how to live honestly in our households while the country turns itself into a swamp of duplicity, mendacity & privileges for those who are ruthless enough to have taken power. Is there any domestic strength, any strength of imagination, that can oppose the mastery of wealth, privilege, power & self-congratulation? Did I say happier? Well, the times are foul, we take happiness where we find it. And I do beileve there is strength in intelligent joy.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 6:22 PM.

And in case American domestic fascism wasn't enough to depress you, there's always Afghanistan. Remember Afghanistan?
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:47 PM.

Eric Alterman: Altercation
Eric Alterman: Senate voting on the Homeland Security bill is scheduled for Tuesday. Hardly anyone knows what is contained in its 500 pages, but here’s William Safire’s warning: “Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend — all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as ‘a virtual, centralized grand database.’”

To this computerized dossier on your private life from commercial sources, add every piece of information that government has about you — passport application, driver’s license and bridge toll records, judicial and divorce records, complaints from nosy neighbors to the F.B.I., your lifetime paper trail plus the latest hidden camera surveillance — and you have the supersnoop’s dream: a ‘Total Information Awareness’ about every U.S. citizen.”

Oh, and guess who’s in charge? John Poindexter, the man who, during the Reagan/Bush administration, claimed under oath that he approved the payoff to the Contras of the profits garnered from selling missiles to terrorists without even so much as mentioning it to President Reagan. He did this, he said at the time, “on my own authority” in order to “preserve deniability.”

But Poindexter could not produce a single piece of paper to support this alarming contention. He also admitted to discussing the implementation of a “fall guy” plan should the program ever become public, and repeatedly misled Congress about his own involvement in order to hide the illegal program. While being questioned during the Iran-Contra hearings, Poindexter helpfully explained: “I didn’t want Congress to know the details of how we were implementing the president’s policy.” To prevent this, he was willing, as he put it, to substitute an “untruth,” which he did repeatedly.

Heard enough? Call your senator while there’s still time.

Where in the hell is the black helicopter crowd when you really need them? The answer, apparently, is that the militias & their ilk much prefer fighting fantasies of oppression to the real thing. Not that I'm any more courageous.

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:43 PM.

What I didn't communicate in yesterday's post about the exchange with my student is my utter dumbfoundedness that intelligent, literate students at a technical university could accept explanations for their lives that run so contrary to evidence. Look, at heart I remain a relativist, but I'd always assumed that you can't really participate in your culture without recognizing the truth-claims that make your life possible. My mistake, I think now, was that I thought technique required broad literacy. I was wrong. Technique is narrow & can be employed in an ungrounded manner that is ultimately . . . vague, unrooted in ordinary reality. Metaphysical. I am the deeper relativist.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:35 PM.

Sunday, November 17, 2002
Putting clean sheets on the bed just now, I found myself remembering an exchange with a student some thirteen years ago in which I argued that people who rejected Darwinian evolution on religious grounds were simply obtuse; my student's response, passionately delivered, was that people could believe any damn thing they wanted to. To which I assented, without really being able to complete my thought. It surprises me somewhat, as someone with a non-teleological view of history, to discover that I believe in progress, that nasty, contested term. At least in the progress of human knowledge. As an ideal, at least, we ought to be able to climb out of the swamp of myths that have grown up with our species--or replace them with more functional myths. It's not irrationality, which I honor in its right contexts, but . . .

A lot of my posts lately seem to be ending in ellipses.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 6:19 PM.

The recent history of Iraq [Adobe Acrobat Reader required]. Great powers will always sell out their clients if the circumstances warrant. Shiites in Southern Iraq, Vietnamese is South Vietnam. The lesson here would seem to be, don't become anyone's client, no matter the blandishments.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:23 PM.

Not the same old dismal science. Max Sawicky makes sense of the current politico-economic situation. The money quote: "How will members of Congress respond to this sorry state of affairs? They will try to make it worse. "
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 4:18 PM. Politics | And they're off!
And they're off! "There's Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who's become the long-shot pick of former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. And in a sign of just how profound the party's identity crisis has become, former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart even stoked the fires of speculation about his political comeback last week, though it's likely that has more to do with a future Senate run than a third White House bid. On the far left, Rev. Al Sharpton and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, are both said to be considering bids. And after being cast aside by Georgia voters, and her party, Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., is said to be considering a run for president, perhaps on the Green Party ticket." [Anthony York in Salon]

McKinney on the Green Party presidential line. As a Democrat who would like to defeat GWB in 04, all I can say is, You go girl! [If you haven't ponied up for Salon Premium, don't worry--York's artical is mostly a snotty rehash of the standard media narrative documented by Bob Somerby & MWO. Speaking of the Greens, this is a sensible analysis, as well as a mea culpa from Ronnie Dugger.

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 3:49 PM.

Search referal of the day: "evil faustus paradise lost repulsive"
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 3:27 PM.

Here is a personal statement of conscience. Often the clearest thinking is the most passionate.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 8:35 AM.

Good fiction links from onegoodmove: Identity Theory. What's the difference between myth & fiction? Self-reference? Problem with myth is, people do take them literally, thus the current War of Fundamentalisms, sometimes referred to by the combatants by the misnomer, the War of Civilizations.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 7:17 AM.

Saturday, November 16, 2002
Thinking more about Vietnam, I came across this recent post by Ray Davis, which I think cuts right to the heart of the matter. Except, not everybody hates the Vietnam War. There is in fact a substantial American mythology that is slowly transforming the war into something quite respectable. H. Bruce Franklin's Vietnam and Other American Fantasies details the genesis & development of the myth [see also Franklin's MIA, or Mythmaking in America ]. And if you read Franklin's book alongside Gershom Gorenberg's The End of Days, you begin to get a sense of the way secular & religious mythologies have been blended by the American right into a potent cocktail of messianism, militarism, class resentment, racism & a curiously New Age sense of personal entitlement. A while back Rep. Dick Armey got himself in trouble by suggesting that Jews are conservative because they are drawn to the hard sciences & implying into the bargain that the right in general is scientific, rigorous, dispassionate & so on. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Political fundamentalists & religious fundamentalists begin with belief & then reason back toward evidence; liberal humanists & thier ilk, on the other hand, tend to look at the evidence & then try to reach conclusions about it--always with the possibility that the evidence will not leade to definitive conclusions in every case. The current war is a war between fundamentalism, which is the main reason liberal humanist secularists are more than a little skeptical of the entire enterprise.

I'm suspicious, as I've already noted, of arguments by historical analogy. At this point, I'd just suggest that the similarity between the period of the American War in Vietnam & the current war on terrorism / Iraq is the static of government & media mendacity providing a sort of buzzing backgound onto which the Myth of America can be projected. [To be continued . . . thinking out loud here.]
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 12:00 PM.

Friday, November 15, 2002
Canon fodder: One of the perks of being a college professor is that publishers send you free books. (Another perk is that a guy comes around every semester & pays for the ones you don't want to keep.) Anyway, I recently received from St. Martin's Press 250 Poems: A Portable Anthology, edited by Peter Schakel & Jack Ridl, neither of whom I have ever heard of. The book is a comfortably-sized paperback with a simple black & white cover--it is the sort of thing you could stick in your suitcase before leaving on a short trip. It's nicely printed in a readable font on pretty good paper. The apparatus of poets' biographies & glossary of literary terms would make this an appropriate & unintimidating text for an introduction to literature course, but is not so obtrusive as to get in the way of those reading the poems for pleasure.

The selections in the first half of 250 Poems is about what one would expect: a collection of great anthology pieces of 500 years of poetry in English. Dylan Thomas's "Fern Hill" & "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night," William Stafford's "Traveling through the Dark," Elizabeth Bishop's "The Fish," Langston Hughes' "Harlem" & "The Negro Dreams of Rivers" & on back through T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Yeats, Hopkins, Hardy, Whitman . . . all the way to Donne & Campion. It is the second part of the book where things get dicey. Which Anne Sexton poem does one choose? Which Adrienne Rich? But even those are established names--how do you choose a Sharon Olds poem from all she's published, or one by James Tate? One basis of choice, apparently, is length--at least in some cases. Why else print Larry Levis's very early "The Poem You Asked For" rather than a poem from the much more representative middle or later period? It also appears to this reader--quite open to new poets--that some poems were included--selected above others when it came time to make the final cut to 250 poems--because of the ethnicity of their authors. There must be a hundred poems written by poets born in 1948 better than Sekou Sundiata's "Blink Your Eyes." There is also the obligatory Rita Dove poem, this time round it's "The Satisfaction Coal Company." And I'd have gladly given up Ray Gonzalez's "Praise the Tortilla, Praise the Menudo, Praise the Chorizo" for another poem by Mark Doty. Three poets, Nancy Willard, Louise Erdrich & Judith Ortiz Cofer are really much better know as writers of fiction & the poems here are slight. The great majority of the poems coming after the lightweight champion of American poetry Billy Collins, are by poets of color or women. This would be fine if it were made explicit by the editors, but it is not; and I think Evan Boland is the only poet from Ireland or England in the contemporary section of the book. Apparently the editors think poetry has come to a stop over there. Even the expatriate Thom Gunn is missing. In any case, choosing single poems by contemporary poets strikes me as a largely futile process: with older bodies of work time has had a chance to pare away the ephemeral, the local, the lightweight; but that process has hardly begun with at least a quarter of the poets represented here. Nor is there any Language poetry here & only a couple examples of the experimental. Anne Waldman is included & an unrepresentative short piece by Lyn Hejinian.Where is Forest Gander?

There is something vaguely dishonest about this volume, I think, though I hardly believe the editors bad people or even consciously ideological. We're all ideological. It is the structure of large publishing to produce "marketable" books. Both publisher & editors, though, have failed to make the really hard choices--leaving out Rita Dove, for instance, in favor of, say, a poem by Tony Hoagland. What would the alternative be to this sort of book? Two strategies come to mind: A fiercely partisan anthology, as opposed to this academic one; or, one that made the hard choices I just spoke of. There is a third possibility: a subject-based anthology. You know, poems about dogs, or bicycles or hiking. (There are some nice recent examples of this genre, the limited subject of the poems keeping the editors honest.)

Finally, it occurs to me to ask, given the permeability of American poetry to poetries in other languages during the 20th century, why limit the book to only poetry in English. Does such a thing as "poetry in English" even exist? Even if it does, there are many colonial Englishs in which poetry is being written, yet there is only one poem in 250 Poems from the Subcontinent. American & British poetry have now reached out to influences from Eastern Europe & Asia in particular. Why not include some key translations?

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 10:55 AM.

A dog's life: Sweet.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:08 AM.

Liberal media bias? HaHaHaHaHaHa!
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 4:55 AM.

Thursday, November 14, 2002
Dear President Bush: You have big plans for democracy in Iraq, or so I'm told. Perhaps you have forgotten Afghanistan. Sir, in the name of the God you have proclaimed your belief in, how can you sleep at night? There is grief in Afghanistan that, while we did not cause it, we have by our actions become responsible for. In the councils of the powerful, is there no shame? Sir, even if you are as cynical as I suspect you are, wouldn't it be good international politics to spend a couple of billion feeding & clothing kids in Afghanistan & building houses for their parents? Or are you simply bent on bringing down the apocalypse?

Nov. 14, 2002 | KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) --

Reeka doesn't talk much. She has no shoes or socks and her tiny toes are like ice. At 5, she has spent much of her life in the Kabul orphanage. "My father told me 'don't use your shoes,"' Reeka said in a squeaky whisper, her voice muffled by a hand that hid her mouth as she spoke. She has long since outgrown the shoes she arrived with three years ago. Like many of the more than 800 children at this shabby orphanage on the western edge of Kabul, Reeka was left by her only surviving parent -- her father, who has since remarried. He occasionally comes to see her. Other children are here because their families were too poor to care for them.

When the Taliban collapsed last year, reports of the grim conditions at the orphanage brought help from international and local aid agencies. But a year later, most of the aid workers are gone and the children remain -- their numbers rising. "For a while everyone was coming and wanting to give, bringing clothes and blankets," said Mohammed Yunus, a gray-bearded man in charge of the dormitories. "But not anymore."

There are new swing sets on the brown, treeless grounds and a few children kick around a soccer ball donated last year along with clothes and other toys. In February, U.S. Marines handed out teddy bears, candy, wool hats and gloves. But little else has changed. Inside the cement-block building, dirt still cakes the grimy, unpainted walls. There is no heat in the dormitories, and in some rooms conditions are even worse than a year ago. Thin mattresses lie on the floor to accommodate the increasing number of children, who share dirty blankets and wrap themselves in ragged layers against the chill.

Meals -- provided by the World Food Program -- are regular but not plentiful. Breakfast is sweetened green tea and bread. For lunch, the children get a bowl of rice and some beans or potatoes, and they have hot soup for dinner. Each day, desperate parents or other relatives try to leave more children outside the black gates.
"We don't say no, we just say 'please go away and check with us later.' But we know there is no room here. We know there won't be room later, but we want to give them hope," Yunus said. As many as 20 children sleep in each room, under dirty blue blankets. Small metal cots line the walls like sentries, ancient and creaky. Reeka shares her bed with four others. "Together with my friends we sleep under one sheet. Sometimes it's cold but just a little," she said quietly.

As winter approaches, temperatures in Kabul hover near freezing at night. Fourteen-year-old Farhad lost both parents in one of Afghanistan's conflicts. He sits on the floor, fiddling with his pen, and thinks about what life holds for him. "Not much, I guess," he said. "I am happy enough here. Maybe I am worried that when it gets really cold outside we will freeze in here." The staff has tried to make the orphanage more cheerful; colorful streamers hang in the kindergarten room and pictures cut from magazines are taped to the walls. One shows a small golden-haired girl in prayer. During the Taliban era, such images were forbidden. "We don't know where that came from. It's not us, but someone gave it to us and we are polite," said Ahmed Zia, a teacher.

There is no electricity, though the cash-strapped government sent some workmen last week to see about putting in wiring. A generator provides about 2 1/2 hours of power a day. There are three water pumps, but only one works; it provides enough water for the children to wash once a week. The water tank is heated by a wood fire. Iran built 10 showers since last year, but they are broken. Old clothes are shoved into a cardboard box; broken sandals and running shoes are in another box for the children to pick through.

Six-year-old Humeira chews on her light green scarf and twirls to show off her bright red floral dress, a gift from her father. Her mother is dead. Her father remarried and she and two younger sisters were brought here. Her older brother stayed at home. Humeira's sisters, 3 and 4 years old, crowd close to her. They push and shove, then begin to kick each other. Humeira says she would like to go home, but her family doesn't have enough money for them all. Adoption is uncommon in Afghanistan, even for Afghans, and there are few resources for foreigners who might like to adopt Afghan children. A kindergarten teacher who only gave her name as Maria expressed frustration at the fleeting interest in the orphanage. "We were very popular for a while. People came and looked around and asked us questions and then asked us more questions," said Maria, her head covered in a black scarf. "But they haven't done anything really."
[Kathy Gannon]

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:25 PM.

As someone with an interest in the history & culture of Vietnam, including the American war there, I have been grasping for decent analogies between that complex historical moment & the current one, which will apparently see the US commit troops to a war in Iraq. But I am deeply distrustful on epistemological grounds of analogies between one historical complex & another: history is simply too messy, too filled with the strangest contingencies, for exact analogy ever to hold. That said, the old saw about repeating history if you don't pay attention has the juice of truth in it. There is of course a right / left discourse in American politics that divides interpretations of the war into two hostile camps: 1) We could have won had we been allowed to & 2) the war was fundamentally unwinable from the start. Perhaps there is another interpretation: the war was a series of "mistakes" committed by people who had good intentions despite the consequences of their actions. I'll return to this.

Aside: When I was a kid protesting the war in Seattle in the late sixties & early seventies, I didn't know much about Vietnam. I didn't know the history or the culture. What I did have a very strong sense of was the values of my own country. I had been a very patriotic child. I read American history. I was slightly put off by the demonstrators who shouted Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, The NLF is gonna win! When I was a boy, I loved my country. Now thaqt I am a cynical old man, I love my country less, though I still hold to our historic ideals of democracy & freedom. I've read the history of Vietnam now, as well as my own. I've lived among the Vietnamese. I have learned some of the Vietnamese language. I have translated Vietnamese poetry. As a grown-up, I have come to believe in the Vietnamese revolution the way I believed as a child in the American revolution. Ho Chi Minh led a legitimate popular movement that the United States should have supported, not opposed. Truman didn't answer Ho's letters--if there was a "mistake," that was it.

Given the assumptions that the American government brought to Vietnam, it was an inevitable mistake. Which is to say, it was not a mistake, but a consequence of policy. (Policy consists of assumptions formalized.)

[Thinking out loud here: to be continued . . . What I want to think about is the failure of language to help us out of our dilemmas--I always thought it would . . . ]
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:11 PM.

The Art of Lying: This piece from Audubon Magazine is a case study in the way the right-wing corporate media distorts our politics. Joseph Conrad, in Heart of Darkness [Marlow is speaking]: "You know I hate, detest, and can't bear a lie, not because I am straighter than the rest of us, but simply because it appalls me. There is a taint of death, a flavor of mortality in lies,—which is exactly what I hate and detest in the world—what I want to forget. It makes me miserable and sick, like biting something rotten would do."
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 9:14 AM.

Monday, November 11, 2002
Since the election, everyone has been giving advice to the Democrats, but I'd like to offer my two bits to the Republicans: You want a winning electoral strategy? You want to capitalize on the gains you made in the last election? I know you're really busy planning the American Empire's next move, but you might want to show as much concern for the American people as you now seem to have for the Iraqi people. Anyway, Karl, here's the deal: Reconfigure your tax cut & give it to the working & middle classes--folks making from $20,000 to $200,000 a year. You want economic stimulus? Focus on halving the payroll tax. Use the occasion of appointing Harvey Pitt's replacement (with someone with a hard-assed attitude toward corporate crime) to announce the new tax plan. Now that's a winner.

Good thing Republicans don't read this weblog!
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 2:34 PM.

Saturday, November 09, 2002
Lisa English at Ruminate This offers a very good set of talking points to go with my Lexicon for Democrats. And I received this email this morning, which offers a plan for grassroots action. Sort of like all those wingnuts organizing in church, but we have the Internet & the local press:

Dear Dr. Duemer,
Now that your lexicon has had some free wordsmithing ("tax & spend" was an obvious mistake), it's time for you and your students (and perhaps readers of your blog) to make use of it. How about a letter to the editor (with the serious intent of getting it published in everyone's local paper), in 250 words or less, creatively using as many of the unique items in the lexicon as possible? My attempt so far is well under 160 words, leaving room for more--and if you think about it, there are gaps in the lexicon:

* Right-wing Supreme Court, Right-Wing Federal judges, appointed for life...
* Rape of the environment, ANWR, national forests, ...
* Full NRA control over US gun policy
* Gas-guzzling SUVs
* Union busting
* Joined at the hip with Ariel Sharon [watch out, this one will get
everyone in DEEP trouble]
* "compassionate conservatism"
* Only thing we have to fear is -- fearmongers
* privatization of water, electricity, schools,...

The lexicon is good, but so far your grade is only a B minus--an OK grade for a student, but not for the professor.

Peter W. Murphy
Livermore, CA

So here's the challenge, then: Use the lexicon to write short letters to your local paper. Pick an issue every few weeks & write another using another variation. Editors of small town papers especially are always looking for reader feedback to show their advertisers. So let's give it to them. It's important to be reasonable, cogent & polite--but that doesn't mean being mealy-mouthed or soft on the criminals now controlling our government. Personally, I think the message that the Republicans want to privatize not only Social Security, but other basic government services has real political legs. That's one I'm going to be harping on in the coming months because I don't think most Americans what, say, Enron-style healthcare. [PS: I'm not entitled to the honorific Doctor--my terminal degree is an MFA in Poetry from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop (1980).]

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 4:19 PM.

Internal contradictions: "Vice President Hu Jintao made the statement Saturday to 2,000 delegates attending a special Chinese Communist party congress held only once every five years. Party members are discussing generational changes in their leadership, and recruitment of capitalist entrepreneurs. Mr. Hu told the delegates in Beijing's Great Hall of the People that the nation would not waver from its socialist path while it works to bring wealth to its citizens. // On the meeting's opening day Friday, President Jiang Zemin said the party must try to attract more capitalists in order to move forward. But he stressed that Communists must remain in firm control of China, and that the country should never copy Western political models. During the Congress, the 76-year-old president is expected to hand over his post as head of the party to Vice President Hu. He is then expected to resign as president early next year." [Voice of America News]

I was in Hanoi during the Party Congress a couple of years ago & the rhetoric was just about the same. What struck me then & strikes me now is the apparent ability of these second & third generation revolutionaries to hold mutually contradictory beliefs. Marx makes the point that capitalism is doomed to fail because of its inherent contradictions; but contradiction raised to the level of paradox, to the level of conundrum, seems not to bother the Chinese leadership at all. It is interesting to speculate about the durability of this "capunist" theory of government & economy. My own view is that maintaining such a system will require greater & greater resources dedicated to repression & social control. The Chinese may get one more generation to go along with this program, but things get dicey after that. (I have real sympathy for the aspirations of the Vietnamese people & having lived among them understand that they understand very clearly what is in play. I think China is different, though I have nothing more than my intuition & ten days in Shanghai to go on here.) None of this should be read as an endorsement of unbridled capitalist globalization, about which I have serious reservations. In fact, the crony capitalism of the Bush administration should be quite comfortable with the totalitarian capunism of the Chinese. Neither group has much use for the freedom of individual citizens--& it is that freedom that, ultimately, makes economies--& states--viable.

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 2:43 PM.

Cool weblog, new to me, but combining two of my passions, reading & dogs.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 12:36 PM.

And now for something completely different: Carole asked for & received a Kitchenaid mixer for her birthday & I piggy-backed a pasta rolling attachment, which I used for the first time last night to make ricotta raviolis. I didn't get the pasta quite thin enough, but the flavor was great. This is a kitchen gadget I'll be using pretty often, I think. The filling was ricotta, parm, an egg & some chopped parsley, to which I added some lightly sauteed green onions & finely chopped mushrooms. I'd use more mushrooms next time & some basil.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:20 AM.

Friday, November 08, 2002
We've gone from yesterday's zero-degree windchills to what passes for balmy this time of year. A nice day--I didn't go to the office except to pick up mail & I stopped to shop at the Co-op so I could make pasta tonight with our new Kitchenaid & its pasta attachment. Carole asked for the machine for her birthday, knowing I'd be the one using it most often. (I do expect some spectacular breads from her hand around the holidays, though: she's the baker around here.) We are a household at peace, even if our country insists we are at war. Angel the birddog sleeps at my feet as I type, Penny & Weezer are snoozing downstairs near the woodstove. And I insist on my compound nouns against the advice of my spellchecker. Something pleasingly Anglo-Saxon about them.

At the risk of sounding like a member of the religious right, I think Americans could benefit from a re-examination of the whole idea of a household. What I have in mind here is the notion that people gather themselves together in associations of responsibility. Traditionally, these associations have been formed around sexual unions, but the degree of variability of such unions across time & cultures is extremely broad. The only requirement is that, at the lowest level of social organization, people commit themselves to live & work together. All of the rest--village, town, city, country--is built up from this base. This is the meerest conjecture, but doesn't it seem that contemporary Western societies are for the most part organized, not for the benefit of these fundamental social groupings, but for governments & corporations & religious institutions? These, properly understood, are manifestations of the idea of the household & a system of social organization that takes these epiphenomena as fundamental is profoundly misguided. Epiphenomena are not unimportant, but tempt us toward the mistake of reification as we seek to understand what's going on around us.

The household is the ground of our pleasure, our sense of meaningful existence.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:36 PM.

Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader: "We must draw clear distinctions between our vision of the future and the extreme policies put forward by the Republicans. We cannot allow Republicans to pretend they share our values and then legislate against those values without consequence."

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 1:07 PM.

National Endowment for the Arts: Well, for me, this comes as an insult added to the injury of the recent elections. In a way, Gioia is the perfect choice: "Differential, glad to be of use, / Politic, cautious, and meticulous; / Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse . . ."; on the other hand, he is a mediocre poet & as the leader of the self-proclaimed New Formalism a profoundly conservative political influence. The NEA has already given me all the money they're allowed to under the regulations, so I don't have a horse in this race; but, under Gioia the NEA will continue to become less & less willing to fund individual artists (too unpredictable!) & will continue its drift toward support for safe, institutional arts funding. Gioia's appointment marks the final irrelevance of the national arts agency. [more, more]
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 7:22 AM.

Harold Ford would also make a good Minority Leader. Anybody but Frost.

[Later] I've changed my mind about this. I thought the guy was a progressive, but he's the sort that let us Democrats to the recent disaster. The fact that he's young & black & ambitious cannot mitigate against his vote for war in Iraq.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 7:20 AM.

I mentioned this before, but the prosecutorial zeal currently on display in the DC snipers case is, well, revolting. Look, there are a very few situations where I'd agree that the death penalty is appropriate, at least in theory. Let me explain. Some crimes are so despicable that they deserve the death penalty & we as a society ought to have the option of making that clear; but we as a society also owe it to ourselves to prefer mercy & prudence over vengeance & retribution. (The fact that it seems impossible for the death penalty to be administered fairly & equitably also ought to lead us to refrain from executing a criminal even when he or she deserves death.) In any case, to pursue a legal strategy based on a politics of vengeance is simply barbarous. The execution of minors is barbarous in every case. This is the background against which I read the following announcement: "'We believe that the first prosecutions should occur in those jurisdictions that provide the best law, the best facts and the best range of available penalties,' said Attorney General John Ashcroft, in explaining why Virginia will get the first chance to prosecution [sic] the two." What this really means is that we want to be able to execute the minor Malvo along with his mentor. The enthusiasm that my own country shows for capital punishment represents our larger psychosis, which is now manifesting itself in a general commitment to force & violence as political modes. I suppose when one's language is so utterly impoverished, striking out violently can appear to be a form of eloquence. On to Iraq to execute Saddam.

[Later] "Muhammad's public defender in Maryland, James Wyda, denounced the federal government's decision to move him to Virginia, calling it 'clumsy, macabre forum-hopping for the cheapest and easiest way to obtain the death penalty'." In a nutshell, that's what I was trying to put across.

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 6:55 AM.

A Lexicon for Democrats, revised:

Corporate media, right-wing media, corporate right-wing media, or corrupt corporate right-wing media.
Deficit-loving Republicans, borrow & spend Republicans, spend & spend Republicans.
Fundamentalist social agenda, right-wing social agenda, radical social agenda, intolerant social agenda.
The Republican privatization plan for Social Security.
Big-government conservatives, Big Brother conservatives.
Income gap [Note: when Republicans respond by calling this "class war," respond with, "the class war started in the boardroom."]
Massive corporate fraud, the economic assault on ordinary families, off-shore corporate tax havens, exporting jobs.
Abdication of responsibility in the Middle East, regional destabilization, endless war.
Policy of endless war, Where is Bin Ladin? How come the good guys in Afghanistan don't control much more than Kabul? Warlords.
A woman's right to choose.
The discredited War on Drugs.

[Thanks to Tom Roth, Sean Klinge, Andrew Higgins, F. Mayas & others who wrote with suggestions.]
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:50 AM.

Thursday, November 07, 2002
Hmm . . . the stock market is down 200 points two days after the friends of big biz are given complete control of the government. What gives?
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 8:10 PM.

Congressman Martin Frost (D-Neptune) thinks that Democrats should move further to the right & accommodate the Republicans. If this guy is elected Minority Leader, there will be no "Democratic base" to "energize" next time around & for what it's worth (not much) I will change my registration to Independent. Nancy Pelosi is the only conceivable choice.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 8:37 AM.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002
Well, I've been reading the left webloggers today trying to get my bearings & I agree with the consensus: Liberals were sold out by a soulless Democratic leadership in the House, Senate & DNC. And the right-wing media consistently spun its coverage to the right. But it remains a fact that actual American citizens went out & cast their votes this way. Either those citizens are media-driven drones, are stupid & filled with false consciousness, or we are in the grip of some sort of fascist spasm in American history--an era in which Americans cede their celebrated independence, individualism & common sense to an oligarchy that offers them endless entertainment & endless war. I feel like the prophet Amos:

Hear this, you who trample upon the needy, and bring the poor of the land to an end, saying, "When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great, and deal deceitfully with false balances, that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and sell the refuse of the wheat?" The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: "Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. Shall not the land tremble on this account, and every one mourn who dwells in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?"

Amos was a migrant agricultural worker who was finally driven crazy by the political & religious corruption of ancient Israel & his prophetic book is a poem of anger against the ruling class from beginning to end.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 6:44 PM.

Robert Scheer on the coming armies of the night.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 12:25 PM.

Dear Senator Daschle: Now that our political party has suffered an ass-kicking of historic proportions, I would honestly like to know how you & other party leaders plan to respond. Me, I'm a Democrat from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, as Paul Wellstone used to say & I'd like to suggest a few themes to be hammered home in pithy phrases by every Democrat every time they utter a word in public.

A lexicon for Democrats:
Corporate media, right-wing media, corporate right-wing media, or corrupt corporate right-wing media.
Deficit-loving Republicans, tax & spend Republicans.
Fundamentalist social agenda, right-wing social agenda, radical social agenda, intolerant social agenda.
The Republican privatization plan for Social Security.
Income gap [Note: when Republicans respond by calling this "class war," respond with, "the class war started in the boardroom."]
Massive corporate fraud, the economic assault on ordinary families, off-shore corporate tax havens, exporting jobs.
Abdication of responsibility in the Middle East, regional destabilization, endless war.
Policy of endless war, Where is Bin Ladin? How come the good guys in Afghanistan don't control much more than Kabul? Warlords.
A woman's right to choose.
The discredited War on Drugs.

And when they call you a liberal, repeat-after-me: "That's right! I'm proud to be a liberal. Liberals stand for accounting reform, a woman's right to choose, the sanctity of Social Security, responsible and effective national security, working families . . ."

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 9:44 AM.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002
Unscientific polling: This morning I was talking about the opening of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex with my freshmen. I was suggesting that this is a play about a state that has suffered a grevious attack & is in disarray & that it is as concerned with politics as with psychology & the nature of the gods. About halfway through the class the discussion veered into contemporary topics. We were talking about political divisions & how different societies attempt to resolve them. On a whim, I asked for a show of hands: How many of you think the US ought to invade Iraq in the next few months? Five hands went up. How many think we shouldn't? Twelve hands went up. How many aren't sure? Seven. Clarkson is a generally conservative school: draw your own conclusions.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 12:07 PM.

Monday, November 04, 2002
Rock & roll & pass it on.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 4:37 PM.

Everybody's a critic, or: Another Christian heard from:

Liberalism is plain and simple the tool the Devil is using to hammer the nail of wickedness, cruelty & evilness among us. It's very unfortunate how easily it is for the Devil to succeed in his never ending goal to inflict such attitudes towards people like you. But the Devils will be defeated, and their lunatic beliefs will haunt them for the rest of their pathetic lives. The Republicans will always be there to fight for the good of mankind. God Bless

Gerardo Y. Balingit
Finance Dept.
Lawler, Matusky & Skelly Engineers LLP
One Blue Hill Plaza
Pearl River, NY 10965
phone: 845-735-8300 ext.327
fax: 845-735-7466

I was particularly touched by the "God Bless" at the end of this little missive, which seeks to point out that my attitudes have been inflicted by the devil. But if I ever start up a porn site I think I'll call it The Nail of Wickedness.

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 4:19 PM.

"You can tell a true war story if it embarrasses you. If you don't care for obscenity, you don't care for the truth; if you don't care for the truth, watch how you vote. Send guys to war, they come home talking dirty." [Tim O'Brien, "How to Tell a True War Story," from The Things They Carried.]
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 8:19 AM.

Sunday, November 03, 2002
I've also been thinking about the analogies--true & false--between the American War in Vietnam & the coming American War in Iraq. There is a lot of loose talk going around that I am trying to sort out. Once I put this essay to bed, I mean to take a closer look at the ways in which Vietnam is being used to explain the current political situation. I have the sense that comparing the countries of Vietnam & Iraq--their geography, economies, governments & etc.--leads nowhere. History does not repeat itself in that way. But comparing the American government's attitude toward Vietnam & it's attitude toward Iraq makes eminent sense: both are characterized by over-confidence, a simplistic version of history, & complete ignorance of the situation on the ground. The United States is a Polyphemus, blinded giant striking out at those who have attacked him.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 6:27 PM.

This weekend I have been putting the finishing touches on an essay I've been working on way too long for the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature. The subject is the American literature of the Vietnam War. I've gotten used to my own procrastination, but I have been putting off finishing this piece for months & I can't quite figure out why. This is stuff I know well enough to teach, after all. Part of the problem is audience: this piece is intended for students & non-specialists, so I have had to both simplify & attempt to cover a wide range of material. But that's clearly not the fundamental problem. My very relationship to Vietnam is in play here: A simultaneous desire to run away to an exotic Asian country & a puritanical moral obligation to stay put where I am. Is this it? I even find it difficult to answer emails from my friends in Vietnam. The place is so emotionally resonant for me that I have to keep my distance. I know that seems crazy. I think, though, that every person who (forgive the Jungian jargon) integrates the self must come to some sense of something larger than themselves. For many, that's God. For others it may be a political cause, or art. (Art worked for me when I was younger.) For my wife it is the relationship between person & horse. God failed me when I was a boy, but when I became a man the country of Vietnam--long after the war I protested against--allowed me to find myself inside a larger reality. I'm sure their are reductive psychological & historical explanations for my commitment to Vietnam, but like any true believer I'm not much interested in them. I just want to walk the streets of Hanoi in a light drizzle & then stop for a bowl of noodles. It's not transcendence, exactly, but it comes mighty close. At the same time I am sitting here tonight, a nice fire in the woodstove & two sweet dogs at my feet in northern New York. This is my earthly life, Vietnam the heaven I aspire to. Phuc tap, "it's complicated," one would say in Vietnamese, the pronunciation remarkably close to fucked up.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:53 PM.

Saturday, November 02, 2002
"There's this great joke about a man who dies and goes to heaven and is being shown around by the angels who are saying, "Over there are the rolling hills where it's balmy and sweet, and over there are the mountains with clouds and rain for people who like to be indoors by the fire, and there's meadows and a huge pond over there," and it goes on and on. And then there's this walled-off compound and the guy says, "What's that?" And the angel says, "Oh, that's where we put the fundamentalists. It's not heaven for them if they think anyone else got in." I'm a Christian who knows that everyone gets in. In fact, I want to be with the smokers and the Jews because I think they're inherently more interesting." [Anne Lamott, interviewed in Salon]

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:03 AM.

Friday, November 01, 2002
I really identified with Steve Himmer's take on trying to write ironic fiction, except that for me it's poetry. Same problem though, exactly. I'm just not funny like the boys who get reviewed. I have been cursed with sincerity. I write about the river & the dogs. And about those bastards trying to start the next world war.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 7:36 PM.

Snow alternating with sunshine all day. It's going to be cold tonight: it was already 18 F at 7:00 this evening.

Lucy is a sweetheart, but she's a thief. A food thief. Early this afternoon I left a plastic bag of rolls on the counter after fixing myself some lunch & went upstairs with my sandwich to work. When I came down a little while later the bag was in the middle of the livingroom floor, missing one roll. Well, Angie told me she had taken things off counters & I'd simply been careless. One roll, no big deal. I put the food away--it didn't appear to have been chomped on--& went back to work. In the late afternoon I had to drive to campus for a meeting & after giving all five dogs a snack, I left in good conscience. I returned a couple of hours later & when I opened the door from the front porch & stepped inside the house I kicked a Tupperware bowl on the floor. I'd left it on the counter beside the stove with some left over pasta in it that I planned to add to the dogs' kibbles for their dinner. Turned out that they'd already eaten every scrap. I have no idea who got what proportion, but I know who got it off the counter. Lucy, the thief. Going into the livingroom, I noticed Penny (the terrier) was standing over something protectively: the remains of a wooden spoon that I had also left on the counter, last night's spaghetti sauce coating the bowl. Everything but the handle was simply gone. Later, fixing dinner, I was looking around for the butter . . .

Lucy is a year old Beagle / Border Collie mix who came from the local shelter. As I have the story, her owners turned her in because they could no longer afford to feed her. In the blunt language of the north country, the family, according to the gal at the shelter, was "too poor to buy soap." Still, they did the right thing by their dog & took her to people who could offer her a better life. And this is not a dog who has been abused: she's trusting & full of spunk. It's just that, like the family that gave her up, she spent the last year--her first--hungry. She's still hungry. What this all says about this scurvy world I leave to the philosophers. She's a sweet girl & I sure don't begrudge her the roll & pasta & butter.

Angel & Lucy are playing their chase each other up & down the stairs game right now. Whoopee!
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 6:52 PM.

Well, yeah. [via Talking Points]
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:20 PM.

Just wanted to mention again that Stand Down has stood up & has some of the most cogent, penetrating & civil discussion of the coming Iraq War that you're likely to find. Lots of smart & articulate people from all over the political map.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 6:53 AM.

Right on schedule: An inch of snow last night, a few flakes still falling this morning, though without much conviction. Five dogs this weekend--Max, an old friend, & his new housemate Lucy are visiting while Angie is out of town. Lucy & Angel like to chase each other up & down the hardwood stairs between the first & second floor. It's a noisy game, even more so than you might think since neither of them is all that coordinated & they keep slipping & falling. Good thing they're both young & tough & don't bruise easily. Sweet.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:48 AM.