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Kanye West may Save Obama’s Presidency

(With apologies to Taylor Swift)

Kanye West may save Obama’s presidency. When President Obama said “He’s a jackass.”, the President confirmed a simple truth about civic virtue that transcended most political boundaries.

Importantly, he did so authentically. His statement was not the product of intense focus group distillation.

The comment leaked (hmm) and it met with significant approval. Unsurprisingly, given President Obama’s historic fall from favorability grace, the video was “released” by CNN.

In the video, the President is charming just being himself. His charm is but a bonus, however, because the People’s approval was based on his bare words.

Mr. West’s act could save Obama’s presidency, if “President Obama” recognizes the simple truth of why his comment worked. The people who voted for him did so because he promised to speak the truth and he promised to act on the truth. His statement both spoke and performatively acted on the truth of Mr. West’s behavior.  The People approved.

It’s remarkable that Obama has not realized the power of being honest, given that the promise of honesty carried him to power. Heck, he even disarmed the faux race angle of the incident, which delivers on the post-racial promise (that others made for him).

So, if President Obama realizes that being honest and keeping his promises (general as they were) will give him the best chance of having a second term, then perhaps he’ll adopt doing so as an election strategy. If he does, then his presidency will be historically important because he will be an example of how people benefit by doing the right thing.

UPDATE: Many of you think my modest proposal is not too swift. That is not a bad outcome.

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Is it absurd to try to weather the storm?

stormIs it beyond our ken to maintain a noble purpose as we guide our battered ships of state through the dark shadows of this mild squall of an economic crisis? Whom of us will risk life and limb to keep the ships afloat? Who will cast away possessions for the same purpose? Who will act to subvert these sacrifices? How will the storm weather us, as we weather the storm?

I ask these question because these darkling foreshadows are pallid compared to those that will attend the forthcoming Category Six typhoon of environmental collapse. How will that storm weather us, if we weather the storm? Given the tendency of people to adopt default positions in crisis situations, how we perform now, should give us some indication of how we’ll perform in much more dire circumstances.

Curiously, given the introduction, the point of this post is not to delve into the ugliness which portends. The point of this post is to ask the question, “How should we behave when faced with the absurdity that the cultural virtues that we cherish undermine the existential preconditions of our culture?” In other words, what does a wine-inspired poet do, when he finds that greater amounts of drink are fueling his muse, but not curing his cirrhosis and, in fact, killing him?

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Ted Kennedy Dies at Age 77

TED

Ted Kennedy has just died after a long battle with brain cancer at the age of 77.

From CNN:

“We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever,” a family statement said. “We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice.”

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. May he rest in Peace.

TEDDYK

K WITH LBJ

KENNEDY BROTHERS

This is an open thread.

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Celebrating geezerdom

I saw what follows on the BBC, written by a young teenager and good sport named Scott Campbell. I laughed practically non-stop through the whole thing, coming at it from the geezer side myself. I have to share snippets with you.

BBC | Giving up my iPod for a Walkman

My dad had told me it was the iPod of its day.

He had told me it was big, but I hadn’t realised he meant THAT big. It was the size of a small book. …

From a practical point of view, the Walkman is rather cumbersome, and it is certainly not pocket-sized, unless you have large pockets. It comes with a handy belt clip screwed on to the back, yet the weight of the unit is enough to haul down a low-slung pair of combats.

And you probably thought we didn’t wear those diaper pants because we weren’t cool, huh?

… It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape. That was not the only naive mistake that I made; I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equaliser ….

I love it.

You can almost imagine the excitement about the Walkman coming out 30 years ago, as it was the newest piece of technology at the time.

Perhaps that kind of anticipation and excitement has been somewhat lost in the flood of new products which now hit our shelves on a regular basis.

Personally, I’m relieved I live in the digital age, with bigger choice, more functions and smaller devices. I’m relieved that the majority of technological advancement happened before I was born . . .

Bwahahaha.  Sort of reminds me of whoever it was before Niels Bohr and Einstein burst upon the scene, saying there was nothing new to be discovered in physics.  The boy’s in good company.

. . . as I can’t imagine having to use such basic equipment every day. …

Did my dad, Alan, really ever think this was a credible piece of technology?

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Power in the USA: political string theory in US politics

Puppet_Master
How are power relations shaping the U.S. political sphere? From the primary campaign to the tea parties and the raucous healthcare forums, Americans are out in force. Regardless of their political stripe, are their actions in their own best interest or are they being played? What influences are determining how people perceive the issues, what aspects of the issues are open to debate, and what aspects are not open for consideration? Whom is mobilizing whom and for what?

Steven Lukes, in his classic “Power: A Radical View” offers a framework for analyzing the types of power relations that shape policy and society within democratically-oriented nations. The overly simplified summary that follows is intended as a tool to direct our discussion.

Power, oversimplified, is the capacity of individual or collective agents to achieve their intended outcomes by getting others to act for these outcomes, even when these outcomes are against their own best interests. In achieving these outcomes the three dimensions of power tend to function in a complimentary fashion.

The first dimension of power is the capacity to realize one’s aims in decision-making situations. This is the capacity to acquire a representative majority, whatever form that may take, be it a simple plurality or a Presidential veto. For example, the Democrats now control the House, the Senate, and the Presidency because they acquired a representative majority in all of these areas in the last election.

The second dimension of power is the capacity to determine the agenda, that is, the scope of decision-making situations. This is the capacity to contain and direct deliberation within parameters wherein first dimension power can be exercised to achieve one’s aims while concurrently foreclosing considerations that could undermine one’s first dimension power. An example of the second dimension of power at work is that President Obama and many ranking Democrats, even with their filibuster-proof majority, have effectively excluded single-payer from the healthcare reform options.

The third dimension of power is the capacity to secure prior consent to these decisions by manipulating how people perceive their parameters of choice. In harnessing their choices, one either harnesses their actions, the choices and/or actions of others they have power over, or both. In this way, according to Amartya Sen, the ‘most blatant forms of inequalities and exploitations survive in the world through making allies out of the deprived and the exploited.’

Propaganda, i.e. political spin and sloganeering, for example, exists to seep, and/or be ground into, people’s consciousness to influence their decision making, as Goebbels noted. “Government should not interfere with business“, “Socialism (or capitalism) is evil”, “Free trade brings freedom”, and “Healthcare forum disrupters are all astroturfed Republicans” are examples of such sloganeering propagandizing and Rove and Axelrod practise propaganda architectonics.

Social signs of third dimension power relations include overtly inequitable distributions of natural and cultural social goods within a community; a relative acceptance of these social relations among those disadvantaged by these relationships; and evidence of mechanisms in play that have prevented the disadvantaged from perceiving their circumstances as potentially otherwise. From the perspective of a single payer advocate, for example, I perceive the clusters of people who are making statements about keeping the government out of Medicare as being in the same boat as those who are pushing for Obama’s bait-and-switch private insurance debacle while thinking they are getting a publicly-funded cost effective model. Both groups are actively working against their own interests.

Assuming that the three dimensions of power are alive, well, and very much involved in the continuing mass transference of wealth from the middle class to the elite, what can be done to reverse this trend? As bloggers, and blog participants, what can and should we do?

crb278024

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Timmy’s Tantrum vs. the Mosuo Matriarchy

0,1020,1534447,00mWhile reading Dakinikat’s post on Geithner’s profanity-laced rant against Sheila Bair and Mary Shapiro I could not help but wonder how the dynamic would have been changed had either Bair or Shapiro been in Geithner‘s position and vice versa. This lead me to wonder if their gender might have influenced his performance tactic or if his control issues manifested themselves in a gender-neutral fashion. Then, having recently read a piece in Der Speigel on the Mosuo matriarchy, I wondered how differently the whole episode would be playing out, if the Mosuo matriarchy’s institutional structure was guiding their behavior.

At the outset, it is worth noting that the Mosuo matriarchy is only one of potentially myriad forms of matriarchy. This brief mainstream media-derived post should not be seen as claiming that all matriarchies would carry similar features based upon a specific essentialized version of human femaleness in its socially-dominant context.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is Mosuo society a paradise for feminists?

Coler: I had expected to find an inverse patriarchy. But the life of the Mosuo has absolutely nothing to do with that. Women have a different way of dominating. When women rule, it’s part of their work. They like it when everything functions and the family is doing well. Amassing wealth or earning lots of money doesn’t cross their minds. Capital accumulation seems to be a male thing. It’s not for nothing that popular wisdom says that the difference between a man and a boy is the price of his toys.

Hmm. I think it fair to suggest the Mosuo’s take on the role of the Federal Reserve Bank, and Wall Street in general, would proceed along a vastly different tack then it did in the aforementioned meeting. Given the downplay of capital accumulation, how does this cash out in terms of social organization?

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What is life like for a man in a matriarchy?

Coler: Men live better where women are in charge: you are responsible for almost nothing, you work much less and you spend the whole day with your friends. You’re with a different woman every night. And on top of that, you can always live at your mother’s house. The woman serves the man and it happens in a society where she leads the way and has control of the money. In a patriarchy, we men work more — and every now and then we do the dishes. In the Mosuo’s pure form of matriarchy, you aren’t allowed to do that. Where a woman’s dominant position is secure, those kinds of archaic gender roles don’t have any meaning.

Continue reading

Can Honour Killing In Muslim Communities Be Ended Through Islam?

Recent events in the United States and Canada, in which fathers and families treat their daughters in an inexcusable manner, compel me to release this draft of an incompletely distilled paper. I apologize for its length, but the topic is not amenable to a series of posts, and it may offer some understanding as to why these practise exist and what might be done to change them.

Aqsa Parvez was strangled to death in her Mississauga home, Peel police said today.
An autopsy revealed the cause of death as “neck compression.” The 16-year-old was taken to hospital Monday morning after a man called police and said he killed his daughter. She died later that night. Friends told reporters that Aqsa fought with her Muslim family over whether or not to wear the hijab. She often stayed overnight with friends, afraid to go home, they said. Her father, Muhammad Parvez, 57, appeared in court today and will face either a first- or second-degree murder charge. He was denied bail and remanded into custody until a hearing via video link on Jan. 29.

Why did Aqsa Parvez’s father strangle her to death? Why is the honour killing of women, over perceived or actual improprietous conduct, a feature of practice among some Muslim communities? Why do these communities enforce such rigourous and strict regulation of women’s conduct? Given that many of these killings violate both the word and the spirit of the Koran and the prophet, why does the practice persist? In this brief essay, I sketch the physical and social conditions that lead to the emergence of the structures that control women’s conduct within the Muslim communities that practice honour killing. I show that the more stringent control structures are artifacts from pre-Islamic Bedouin communities. Furthermore, I demonstrate that the gender-based honour killings that are features of these structures violate Islamic principles and law. In fact, much of the structure of social control goes against the principle that the practice of Islam is a matter of internal conviction. Continue reading