Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Weekend into a computerless Monday

A bit of a weekend roundup, with some bits and pieces of today’s occurrences, skimmed and poorly characterized.


Beginning with what I consider to be politics proper, (election-related news, really), NYT’s Week in Review had this interesting piece on the recent assent of populism as a central strategy of contemporary liberalism. It focuses on the disparity between the relative health of the economy and this ideology borne out of fiscal anxiety, but is particularly prescient in its closing paragraphs where it undercuts the supposed momentousness of recent congressional bills (minimum wage, college loan rates, etc…) and points to the necessity of more progressive, truly comprehensive reforms in order to preserve populism as a legitimate and powerful tool for Democrats.

This article from The Nation profiles a more neglected facet of populism: its notable resurgence in the South. The midterm elections revealed the traditional Democratic comprehension of the South as a place of homogenous, religiously zealous, conservative politics to be terribly inaccurate, with Democrats winning critical seats in those places where, instead of ignoring the South all together or placating some imagined body politic, they managed to effectively re-contextualize the economic and political concerns of even moderately evangelical Southern voters. I think this is a powerful lesson as 2008 looms: Democrats can win when they move beyond standard Beltway and Mainstream Media generalizations and draft strong, inventive and nuanced policy. It’s all about re-containment. The epistemological gap has been opened by the violent decline of Bush. All we need is the advantage-taking narrative. Insert and go.

Speaking of 2008, the Washington Post argued today that Hillary’s recent campaigning in Iowa did more to question her candidacy than affirm it. Though not entirely surprising, (there’s never been anything wholly electric about Hillary), it was interesting to see the brief references to Edwards and a host of other candidates as fairly uninspiring. Don’t know whether that’s a worrisome indicator or nothing at all. The sample size of those interviewed was, after all, 14.

While Sen. Clinton may not be unimpressive, the Slate is prepared to argue that Obama is Jesus. This oughta make the xenophobic evangelicals happy.

For some good discussion of 2008, I read the Fix, which every Friday ranks various races.

Now for the more serious political articles:
1) From the New York Review of Books, analysis of how and why the ending of tyranny worldwide became America’s mission and why it will ultimately fail.
2) From Harpers, a lengthy (really lengthy) essay about how fundamentalism is co-opting American history, as well as terribly misappropriating Orwell quotes (and attributing them to the wrong person). Most interesting in this piece is the introduction of the term “maximalism” to describe today’s religious culture as one that attempts to link as many social institutions to Biblical word as possible.
3) Who rules Iran? the NYT asks. It seems that popular support for Ahmadinejad is eroding over questions of his ability to lead Iran into the future (or the past, as it may be).
4) This is very exciting to hear: a columnist for the Guardian suggests it may be time, based on California and host of other states’ recent legislation, for universal health care. (Mind you conservatives, universal does not equal federalized).
5) Lastly, from the LA Times, a columnist argues that 9/11 as a watershed moment in history may be little more than a myth and one worth reexamining critically in our culture of terrorist-related hysteria.
6) Nearly forgot about these: a collection of China related cartoons from Slate. Easily plays to my pet foreign policy interest.


Quickly now, because I’m getting tired:
1) Prince Charles comes to Harlem, and makes a basket, in a blue suit, with black shoes. Also, amusing comments from children.
2) The 100$ laptop is back in the news, this time as billionaires at Davos squabble over how to best wire the third world. I’m partial to the $100 laptop as you all know, particularly because it caters to children, whereas Intel and Microsoft seem so technically oriented.
3) And in Britain, porn is replacing sex-ed proper. It seems the yobs are winning.


1) Nielsen ratings will now account for college audiences, which will hopefully mean that good shows (i.e. NBC’s lineup, in general) will finally get their due.
2) Feminist art actually is getting its due, with several enormous exhibits in the coming months. I particularly like the assessment of feminist art as critical precisely because of its outright rejection of modernism and its pretensions of avant-gardism.
3) I haven’t read 100 Years of Solitude. To feel less like a philistine, I post this retrospective by Hitchens on the occasion of its 40th anniversary. I’ll pretend to know.
4) Slate finally gives Tina Fey her due with a profile of her character Liz Lemon on 30 Rock. Though I agree that Alec Baldwin steals the show, so to speak, its nice to see Tina Fey get at least some of the credit she deserves for the shows critical success.
5) Nymag.com does an interview with paterfamilias of indie-everything, David Byrne.
6) Lastly, something that should be art, as it belongs in cinema and nowhere else: the military has developed a heat ray that makes people feel like they are on fire in order to disperse unruly crowds. Let history cycle on.

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