Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Susan Sontag: Notes On "Camp"

Susan Sontag: Notes On "Camp": "46. The dandy was overbred. His posture was disdain, or else ennui. He sought rare sensations, undefiled by mass appreciation. (Models: Des Esseintes in Huysmans' À Rebours, Marius the Epicurean, Valéry's Monsieur Teste.) He was dedicated to 'good taste.'

The connoisseur of Camp has found more ingenious pleasures. Not in Latin poetry and rare wines and velvet jackets, but in the coarsest, commonest pleasures, in the arts of the masses. Mere use does not defile the objects of his pleasure, since he learns to possess them in a rare way. Camp -- Dandyism in the age of mass culture -- makes no distinction between the unique object and the mass-produced object. Camp taste transcends the nausea of the replica.

47. Wilde himself is a transitional figure. The man who, when he first came to London, sported a velvet beret, lace shirts, velveteen knee-breeches and black silk stockings, could never depart too far in his life from the pleasures of the old-style dandy; this conservatism is reflected in The Picture of Dorian Gray. But many of his attitudes suggest something more modern. It was Wilde who formulated an important element of the Camp sensibility -- the equivalence of all objects -- when he announced his intention of 'living up' to his blue-and-white china, or declared that a doorknob could be as admirable as a painting. When he proclaimed the importance of the necktie, the boutonniere, the chair, Wilde was anticipating the democratic esprit of Camp.


52. The reason for the flourishing of the aristocratic posture among homosexuals also seems to parallel the Jewish case. For every sensibility is self-serving to the group that promotes it. Jewish liberalism is a gesture of self-legitimization. So is Camp taste, which definitely has something propagandistic about it. Needless to say, the propaganda operates in exactly the opposite direction. The Jews pinned their hopes for integrating into modern society on promoting the moral sense. Homosexuals have pinned their integration into society on promoting the aesthetic sense. Camp is a solvent of morality. It neutralizes moral indignation, sponsors playfulness.

Monday, June 29, 2009

AMERICAblog News| A great nation deserves the truth: Obama and the big gay party

AMERICAblog News| A great nation deserves the truth: Obama and the big gay party: "Also, your president wants you to know that unjust laws must be overturned. Some day. The crowd loved that one too. One might forget that the Obama administration defended the Defense of Marriage Act law recently. They not only defended it, they defended it in a way that demeaned and mocked same-sex marriages by invoking incest and pedophilia. But never mind.

Obama also told us that some would deny us full equality. Um, that would include him. He doesn't support marriage equality -- and his words are being used against our efforts to achieve those rights. But again, never mind."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In Iran, One Woman's Death May Have Many Consequences - TIME

In Iran, One Woman's Death May Have Many Consequences - TIME: "The first clashes in January 1978 produced two deaths that were then commemorated on the 40th day in mass gatherings, which in turn produced new confrontations with security forces — and new deaths. Those deaths then generated another 40-day period of mourning, new clashes, and further deaths. The cycle continued throughout most of the year until the shah's ouster in January 1979.

The same cycle has already become an undercurrent in Iran's current crisis. The largest demonstration, on Thursday of last week, was called by opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi to commemorate the deaths of protesters three days after they were killed."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Obama on the Defense of Marriage Act

DOMA ensures that evolving understandings of the institution of marriage at the State level do not place greater financial and administrative obligations on federal and state benefits programs. Preserving scarce government resources — and deciding to extend benefits incrementally — are well-recognized legitimate interests under rational-basis review.


Gay and lesbian individuals who unite in matrimony are denied no federal benefits to which they were entitled prior to their marriage; they remain eligible for every benefit they enjoyed beforehand. DOMA simply provides, in effect, that as a result of their same-sex marriage they will not become eligible for the set of benefits that Congress has reserved exclusively to those who are related by the bonds of heterosexual marriage.


In short, therefore, DOMA, understood for what it actually does, infringes on no one's rights.


DOMA does not discriminate against homosexuals in the provision of federal benefits. To the contrary, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is prohibited in federal employment and in a wide array of federal benefits programs by law, regulation, and Executive order.... Section 3 of DOMA does not distinguish among persons of different sexual orientations, but rather it limits federal benefits to those who have entered into the traditional form of marriage.


The Court had little difficulty concluding that the statute, which applied only to "interracial marriages involving white persons," was "designed to maintain White Supremacy" and therefore unconstitutional. Id. at 11. No comparable purpose is present here, however, for DOMA does not seek in any way to advance the "supremacy" of men over women, or of women over men.

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan: "'Republican leadership calls for Obama to condemn Iran's election results and speak out for the demonstrators shows no knowledge of Iran whatsoever. If he did so, America would become the issue in Iran, not Ahmadinejad, and we would become the excuse and justification for spilling Iranian blood. These sniping remarks by Republican leaders also shows they put pandering to their right wing above American national security. Why can't they listen to their own real foreign policy expert -- Senator Richard Lugar -- and see and say that the U.S. must exercise restraint in our public statements for Iran's sake and our own,' - Les Gelb."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

As Furor Over Palin Joke Rages, Letterman Rises in the Ratings - Media Decoder Blog - NYTimes.com

As Furor Over Palin Joke Rages, Letterman Rises in the Ratings - Media Decoder Blog - NYTimes.com: "Monday night, when Mr. Letterman offered his extended apology to Governor Palin and her family, he had his best night yet in the continuing late-night competition against NBC’s new “Tonight” show star, Conan O’Brien. In preliminary national ratings, Mr. Letterman pulled in 700,000 more viewers than Mr. O’Brien Monday night, 3.9 million to 3.2 million, his biggest margin yet over his new competitor. Mr. Letterman routinely trailed the former “Tonight” host Jay Leno by a million viewers or more."

Re-Engineering the Earth - The Atlantic (July/August 2009)

Re-Engineering the Earth - The Atlantic (July/August 2009): "he scariest thing about geo-engineering, as it happens, is also the thing that makes it such a game-changer in the global-warming debate: it’s incredibly cheap. Many scientists, in fact, prefer not to mention just how cheap it is. Nearly everyone I spoke to agreed that the worst-case scenario would be the rise of what David Victor, a Stanford law professor, calls a “Greenfinger”—a rich madman, as obsessed with the environment as James Bond’s nemesis Auric Goldfinger was with gold. There are now 38 people in the world with $10 billion or more in private assets, according to the latest Forbes list; theoretically, one of these people could reverse climate change all alone."

book notes

The Evolution of God by Robert Wright

Hunter-gatherer societies did not require morality in their religion because behavior was regulated by the lack of village anonymity or personal autonomy. As civilizations grew, religion had to adapt.

Yahweh appears to have started as a god in Canaanite polytheism, transferred to early Israeli polytheism and graduated to Israeli monotheism.

The reason the Bible lacks a God narrative is that the polytheistic narrative was deleted or obscured around 500 BC

Biblical passages say much more about the time they were written than about the time they describe.

Same with Koran -- the passages from when Mohammad was in Mecca preach religious tolerance because he was in the minority, from when he was in Medina preach religious aggression because he was in ascension.

monotheism = nationalist, isolationist; polytheism = internationalist

rule about the Bible claims about history: the less a claim makes sense, the more likely it is to be true (because the gospels had to concede inconvenient facts if the contemporaneous audience had experienced them themselves) The earliest gospel (Mark) has the most inconvenient facts, the latest (John) the least

At the time it occurred, the Crucifix was an extremely inconvenient fact. But it ultimately turned religion on its head -- making sacrifice from God to human, rather than human to God.

The basic thesis is that religious theology has always changed to meet the evolving social needs of humans. The most flagrant example is the Christian Bible, where God is a genocidal maniac in the Old Testament and the embodiment of Love in the New Testament. (Maybe He invented Prozac)

So now that the humans have reached a level of social organization that is global, theology has to evolve to encompass the whole globe. The problem that Wright does not address is that human nature has always required an in-group morality and an out-group morality. You must have The Other to make you feel part of the in-group. As Gary has often pointed out, there would be an amazing transformation if we were under attack from outerspace. Then every difference between humans would disappear overnight.

Wright gets around this by saying that the history of theological evolution shows that our moral imagination expands when we understand that it is in our self interest to do so. And the prospect of nuclear annihilation makes a one-world theology in our self interest. Then the question he poses is whether nuclear annihilation is too abstract a threat for us to make such hard changes. And my answer is Yes.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

book notes

Angler by Barton Gellman

Cheney was involved on behalf of Ford on Ford's negotiations with Reagan in 1980 to be a deputy president to Reagan.

During the Bush-Gore recount, Cheney ran the transition from the kitchen table at his McLean, VA, kitchen table.

Dan Quayle provides an interesting perspective on vp power, since Cheney was def sec when quayle was vp and refused to attend an emergency security council meeting while Daddy Bush was in flight and refused to accept any orders from quayle, waiting to to hear directly from Bush -- in contrast to the military orders Cheney surely issued to Rumsfeld during 9/11.

One of the things that made Cheney so distrustful of intel is the downfall of USSR. As Sec Def he was reading reports about its stability up to the day it fell.

Cheney told his staff that "An Autumn of War" by Victor Davis Hanson "captured his owns views exactly"

Bush was shocked to discover at the last minute that the director of the FBI, in addition to 5 other top Justice officials, were about to resign over the warrantless wiretapping program.

One big change in the 2nd admin was Andy Card replaced by Josh Bolton as chief of staff.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Op-Ed Columnist - Justices Gone Wild - NYTimes.com

Op-Ed Columnist - Justices Gone Wild - NYTimes.com: "In the current term, conservatives are asking the Court to revise away outdated provisions of Voting Rights Act — a reasonable proposal, but something a Republican-controlled Congress could have done in 2006, instead of voting 98-to-0 in the Senate and 390-to-33 in the House to reauthorize the act for another quarter-century."