Saturday, May 02, 2009


Jon Stewart finds his limits:

And I may have mentioned during the discussion we were having that Harry Truman was a war criminal. And right after saying it, I thought to myself that was dumb. And it was dumb. Stupid in fact. So I shouldn't have said that, and I did.


So I am, right now, and, man, ew. Sorry.

Sad. Not that Stewart is a personal hero or anything. It was just nice to see a prominent person bluntly calling the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki what it was, an unjustifiable crime. Walking back that little bit of our national mythos would be an improvement.

Alas, Stewart isn't brave enough to do it. Either that or he actually believes it's not a crime. Either way, not so good for him.


Dennis Perrin adds his $0.02:

At best, Jon Stewart serves as a corporate release valve, letting off permissible steam when the American machine overheats. This is pretty much what "satire" has been reduced to. The Realist, Terry Southern, and the original Lampoon have never been deader.

Also, most American comics are deeply apolitical; and those who riff on "current events" usually operate well within shared assumptions about politics, history, and US power. Which is why Stewart's recent comment about Harry Truman stood out.

Responding to Cliff "Torture can be good" May's point that if Bush is a war criminal, then Truman's nuking of Hiroshima must have been an even worse crime, given the comparable damage, and Stewart's outrage at Bush (which Stewart bases on the fantasy notion that the Bush gang undermined basic American "values," a popular liberal talking point that'll never die). Amazingly, Stewart agreed that yes, Truman was a war criminal, though Stewart would've preferred a demonstration explosion near Japan before moving to the human ash/melted flesh phase.


Stewart did what well-regarded mainstream entertainers do when expressing an unpopular opinion. He groveled for forgiveness.


When an American "satirist" apologizes for stating the truth, you can really appreciate "free expression" in a corporate-owned culture. Still, I enjoy Stewart, despite his pathetic ass-covering. Besides, he has to keep TDS anchor chair clean and warm for when Seth Meyers replaces him. It's all about continuity, baby.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Avoid crowded public places, transportation, restaurants, dates, family, love of any kind. 

Thoughts on the cultural coding of swine flu.

Perhaps it is implicit in all structured societies that an equal desire exists to break down those structures and upend all rules and norms in periodic apocalyptic "crises." It would seem that the swine flu is the latest in many stand-ins for such an occasion.

This first occurred to me when I read one of the first warnings by Calderón for Mexicans to stop all traditional greetings such as kissing on the cheek. The viral carnivalesque dimension of the virus spread from there, resulting in today's Biden gaffe about not letting his kids ride trains or planes. It is not that the seriousness of swine flu necessitates such measures. It is the measures that indicate the seriousness of swine flu.

Swine flu thus fits a recent pattern of events that satisfy or symbolize an open desire for a "Big One" that will finally end time, relieve us of the burden of normal life and normal rhythms, allow us to just say "fuck it" and succumb to fear or impulse. No more gathering in public places or with others, even if one lives in a city. Those who you love will be those who infect you, and thus physical precautions must be taken that interrupt or refuse your ordinary physical contact with them. Our desires for others, for strangers, must be sublimated into repulsion as we -avoid- the contact, kissing, fucking that we previously fantasized about.

Again: the pull toward topsy-turvydom, toward a final and liberating break with the normal cycle of unfulfilling attempts at being with others that characterizes "normal" life under capitalism. People want the swine flu, and they want it now, just as they wanted AIDS, ebola, SARS, bird flu, etc. etc. etc. They want the Other and they want the Other inside them, and they want to be punished for it, to suffer unimaginable torment. The media's demented tracking of the bug's spread, which of course neglects the fact that it has hardly killed anyone outside of Mexico City, in fact is mapping the very trajectories or network of this desire. It gives image to the collective hope that we will all be wiped out, together, soon.

There is a utopian impulse in there as well, one in which a shared genetic material infects and hollows us out in ecstatic unity. Thus the concomitant xenophobia and anti-immigrant links created by the FOX set. But in a way this is the most logical reportage on the "swine/Mexican" flu, plainly stating what is otherwise implied: "they" brought it to us, by getting this bug "we" will be turned into "them," transformed into an apocalyptic, undifferentiated, miscegenated whole that could not but possibly spell disease and death.

How is swine flu coded? As the anti-Obama, the underside to hope, material evidence that the fears unleashed by trusting in an uncoded, biracial leader who impossibly concatenates us all are actually justified.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

the doors of perception 

According to an article published in The International Journal of Press/Politics, both liberals and conservatives find The Colbert Report funny, but the two groups differ in their perception of Stephen Colbert's actual ideological allegiances.

Additionally, there was no significant difference between the groups in thinking Colbert was funny, but conservatives were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements. Conservatism also significantly predicted perceptions that Colbert disliked liberalism.

I was actually surprised to find out that conservatives watch Colbert. Shows what I know.

Reposted from Kottke. h/t joshr

Sen. Arlen Specter to become Democrat 

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Veteran Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, intends to switch from the Republican to the Democratic Party on Tuesday, multiple sources said.

Monday, April 27, 2009

turns out WE are the swine 


i'm still up for that tamiflu if any of y'all got some.


A political party worth belonging to. If only Sweden wasn't so goddamn cold, I'd move there in a heartbeat:

The Pirate Bay verdict is being criticized by the Swedish public and protests are being planned. Opposition to the decision is widespread, indicated partly by the surge in new memberships to Sweden’s Pirate Party. It has seen its ranks grow by 20% in the handful of hours since the verdict and the number of members is increasing by the minute.


Its membership has surpassed that of the well established Green Party, and more than half of all Swedish men under 30 are considering pledging their vote to the Pirate Party in the upcoming 2009 European Parliament elections.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

another one 

Some days I'm really glad I didn't go into academia:

Toward the end of February 2009, Sociology and Global Studies Professor William Robinson received notice from the Academic Senate’s Charges Committee that two of his students had filed charges against him. The students alleged that an email forward he’d circulated to his class, criticizing Israel’s then-ongoing siege on Gaza, comprised anti-Semitism. Professor Robinson also received a letter from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to this effect. The student complaints (Complaint 1 & Complaint 2) included claims and rationales that exactly mirrored those included in the ADL letter.


After receipt of the two student complaints, the Academic Senate Charges Officer requested a formal written response to the allegations from Professor Robinson. According to the formal complaint procedures as set out by the Campus Procedures for Enforcement of the Faculty Code of Conduct, upon receipt of a complaint, the Charges Officer is simply to notify the accused faculty and then to form an ad hoc Charges Committee to initially assess whether the complaint is frivolous or unfounded. If the ad hoc Committee determines the complaints are frivolous or unfounded, the charges are to be dismissed immediately without further involvement of the accused faculty member. Only in the event that the ad hoc Charges Committee’s investigation cannot conclude the charges are frivolous should the professor be asked for a written response. In this case, Professor Robinson was asked for a written response before such ad hoc Committee was even formed.


Professor Robinson discusses his case briefly with Doug Henwood here.


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