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June 30, 2006

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Ive been trying not to waste too much time following every twist of the blog war The New Republic (TNR) launched against Jerome Armstrong (founder of MyDD), Markos Kos Moulitsas (founder of the Daily Kos), and eventually everyone ... [Read More]

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I'm really depressed today. I guess it's because we are only one member of SCOTUS away from no longer being a democracy. That plus there are apparently large numbers of Democrats who won't turn out for the 06 election because the party leadership is failing to push the goal of taking back Congress. And the shameful, cowardly efforts of the conservative media to marginalize concerns about global warming.
I don't know why I always thought our history would have a happy next episode. I know enough history to know that other societies have gone into irrevocable declines. The oligarchy is winning and the game is nearly over.

I've been reading The Fall of the Dynasties ( for the seventh or eighth time--it's one of my favorite history books) but this time as I read I imagine a book about the decline of our country, step by step. This Supreme Court ruling looks to me more like one of the last gasps than a step in the right direction.

Well done, thanks!
I've always assumed people wearing baseball caps were either shading their eyes, expressing identity with the organization whose name is on the cap, or hiding a bald spot. That they were asserting that life is a game with transparent rules never occurred to me, maybe because the rules of baseball are opaque. But now I know!

I hired a chef once. After I let him know that mozarella was not the cheese of choice for an Alfredo sauce, he threatened to smash my face in. His name wasn't Lee Siegel, but maybe you could slip me that cult's contact information.

(Open Scene)

(Lee Siegel walking down the street, on his way to work, whistling while deep in thought)

(voice over/ inner monologue): What to write about… What to write about… Gotta get my column on culture in today… hmmmm…..

(Passes guy with baseball cap)

Lee Sigel (voice over/ inner monologue): A HA! I’ve got it! Let’s see… life’s a game…hierarchy…ohh! That guy with a baseball cap in the movie was a dick… and yes- I can tie in the death penalty!

(End Scene)

There are some cults that should not be named, and some forces more dangerous than gov'ts.

I have also heard tell that most people don't go thru life in a barely suppressed fury. I also work on empathy to understand such folk.

Been thinking about Robespierre and Marat a lot lately. But then I have watched the Peter Brook movie four times in the last month. I really miss the 60s.

the party leadership

there is no party leadership.

dozens of crumbling boxes marked "Opportunity" litter the landscape. they were once full of promise, but were stupidly discarded unopened. now they're just trash we have to carefully walk around - to avoid stepping in their spoiled and rancid contents.

Oh. I do not leave the house without a gimme cap, sometimes returning 5 miles if I forget. I have been known to rush into a dollar store because I felt so naked and vulnerable without one.

You could, adding this evidence and what you know about me, reread Siegel. Just sayin.

Re: Blogofacists - at MY's "posts of mass destruction (PMD)" I lost it completely. Thanks for the link, hil.

Siegel's tone is awfully sniffy for somebody who wants to bring back the guillotine. Doesn't he remember whom it was used on?

But more seriously, this little kerfuffle nicely illustrates a couple of the very successful tactics of the Right.

First, they push every button -- and even invent a few -- to stoke and channel and profit from the anger of their readers. And one of the ways they channel it is to mimic it, to get righteously angry about some issue -- or more likely, strawman -- which they identify with their opponents, and which serves to focus their readers' anger on those opponents.

This is, of course, tremendously damaging to political discourse, and to society in general, but that rarely, if ever, seems to matter to them.

What interests me more is whether this anger is in any way genuine, i.e., to what extent they're faking it in order to profit from it. I don't, for example, believe that Ann Coulter is actually the "Ann Coulter" persona she plays on TV; she's too successful to be that crazy. But cynicism and lack of self-control are very different things, and one must know one's enemy in order to know how to defeat him.

(One also is led to wonder: just WHY are these guys so angry? Economic stress? Sexual frustration? What, in the best liberal tradition, can be done to help these rabid critters -- short of putting them down, of course -- the better to improve social welfare and avoid further disastrous military adventurism?)

The other tactic seems to be, they accuse their opponents (righteously and angrily, of course) of the very tactics they are practicing. They angrily accuse bloggers of being angry. They characterize protests against Fascist tactics as Fascist. Kerry and Murtha (and now Stevens, according to Thomas) are cowards and don't understand military conflict the way people with no military experience do.

I gotta admit, it leaves you speechless, which itself is a victory for them. (And heaven forfend you actually reply, for then you are an angry Fascist!)

Quite the object lesson, it seems. Although I gotta say, it makes me so mad, I could just go climb a water-tower (in Texas, I think) and start exercising my Second Amendment rights!

Hilzoy opened the door in several ways. The discourgement and despair of lily and cleek likewise. And I have my gimme cap on.

I watch the Peter Brook movie with a kind of fascination. It has only been forty years since Marat was still considered relevant to politics (even if only in an ironic way), and it isn't as if the working class has made great gains in the last generations.

Not that everyone could or should take Jean-Paul as a model for political action or rhetoric, but it would be nice to have just a few liberals who have not yet been fully domesticated. We could help Mr. Siegel find reality...by changing reality.

"on the grounds that calling people 'moron' or 'wanker' constitutes 'attempts to autocratically or dictatorially control criticism.'"

This is one of my least favorite concepts. Whenever I heard people say things like this, I used to think they were just engaging in hyberbole. Nowadays I wonder if they really don't understand the difference between jailing artists (Cuba) and saying that their art isn't good (US). Calling someone an idiot isn't at all the same as locking them up and letting them die in jail.

With respect to the programming thing, I do find it disturbing how much my internal state can be changed by what I can only think of as hormonal flux or some sort of weird brain chemistry change. Have you ever been driving along in a perfectly good mood and all of the sudden everything turns bleak and grey (emotionally) for no reason at all? I hate it because my rational brain thinks "what the hell is that?" while the emotional part goes off on its apparently wacky tangent.

Hmm maybe I just shared too much. :)

"The baseball cap's insinuation that life is a game with transparent rules gets to me."

So how about that infield fly rule, hunh?

I go out in a baseball cap when it is sunny or I haven't brushed my hair. I didn't realize I was expressing disdain for the non-transparent rules of life.

I've heard that Lee Siegel once shot a man just for snoring too loud.

"The baseball cap's insinuation that life is a game with transparent rules gets to me."

So how about that infield fly rule, hunh?

Sebastian: I do find it disturbing how much my internal state can be changed by what I can only think of as hormonal flux or some sort of weird brain chemistry change. Have you ever been driving along in a perfectly good mood and all of the sudden everything turns bleak and grey (emotionally) for no reason at all? I hate it because my rational brain thinks "what the hell is that?" while the emotional part goes off on its apparently wacky tangent.

Oh yes, been there, done that.

The major advantage of being female, as far as I can tell, is that after, um, 25 years of hormonal fluctuations like that, I can usually recognize "Okay, this means I'm at that point in my menstrual cycle, and this means that I will not feel like this tomorrow. Right now, however, I need distraction."

Males are subject to exactly the same hormonal fluctuations as females are, but without the convenient tie to ovulation/menstruation, which makes it much more difficult for guys to figure out why their emotions have just greyed-out on them and the world looks like a fearful and terrible place.

PS: Dublin Mudslide works for me.

I wear a baseball cap all the time because my dermatologist told me to (after removing some sun-caused lesions from my face). I don't take it off at the movies because then I'd probably forget and leave it there. On the other hand, if I had my head cut off I could stop worrying about skin cancer

Seb: heh. Jes got there first. It's one of those things you just accept and learn to deal with, if you're female. -- I've always thought that PMS has an upside, though: it makes things that I had been finding some way to deal with, but shouldn't have, suddenly seem intolerable. And it's not that hard to train myself to figure out when PMS is affecting my judgment and when it's making me recognize that something is, honest to God, bad.

Almost every breakup that I have initiated has been during PMS. (When I realized this, I was sort of horrified.) But in no case do I look back and say: well, that breakup was a mistake. Much more often they were good relationships that had reached their natural end a while before, and needed someone to deal with that fact.

Life is full of coincidences -- I'm learning to play "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" so yesterday I pulled out my ancient vinyl copy of Judy Collins' "In My Life" album to listen to her version and what is the track just before it? Marat/Sade.

Jes, so you're saying that this product is superfluous?

"Almost every breakup that I have initiated has been during PMS."

The worst thing is when there really is some sort of trigger to be angry or sad, but you suspect that the intensity of it is colored by the wackiness. When driving in the car and assaulted by a random brain chemistry change you can identify it. When it comes a short time after a legitimate or semi-legitimate trigger it can be much harder to figure out what is legitimate anger/sadness and what is just your body going nuts.

difficult for guys to figure out why their emotions have just greyed-out on them and the world looks like a fearful and terrible place

there's always a trigger of some kind (bad drivers, thoughtless comment from someone at work, whatever. the worst part is seeing just how it easy it is to flip/slip from emotionally neutral to bummed-out. is despair really always lurking that close at hand ? maybe joy is similarly close, but i've never paid attention - why ruin happiness with analysis ?

frame by frame
death by drowning
in your own
analysis

sheesh. sounds like i'm having a bad day. yet i'm not.

Sebastian: The worst thing is when there really is some sort of trigger to be angry or sad, but you suspect that the intensity of it is colored by the wackiness.

Yes. I was going through a bad time where I was working once - it lasted for months - and I remember the point when (I'd just got another job) that I knew I was through feeling bad about it, because *g* my period had started, and I hadn't known it was going to because I hadn't just spent the previous 12 hours in barely-controlled tears. That was an extreme example, but there are always reasons to feel happy or sad: it's my experience that the hormone fluctuations intensify the sadness and make it seem all-encompassing. Other people experience similar intensifications with rage: I'm kind of glad it doesn't take me that way...

"The baseball cap's insinuation that life is a game with transparent rules gets to me."

I know this game, my husband plays it most days he's out and about: cap, sunscreen, both or sunburn: choose.

And the rules are transparent even his doctor has told him, protect your scalp or we'll be cutting off the skin cancer.

Lee Siegel must be bald.

cleek: "maybe joy is similarly close, but i've never paid attention - why ruin happiness with analysis ?"

Try figuring it out by experimenting when you're not already happy (but not miserable either), and seeing whether you can get there. Not by annoying emotional manipulations or pretense, but by looking around for things that really ought to make you happy, but that you might have overlooked. -- One of the many great benefits of my time as a Christian was that it occurred to me that I was probably overlooking any number of occasions to notice and be grateful for God's beneficence, and so got into the habit of looking for them. (Beauty. The kindness or heroism of others. The sort of thing you should never just not notice, but I, at least, often do.)

And Seb: at least that sort of thing teaches us the value of waiting a bit before doing anything really drastic.

By "I, at least, often do", in my last post, I meant: I often do fail to notice.

Sheesh, y'all need a little meditation in your lives. :)

It's that buddhist thing about conditions arising. Everything is ephemeral. Rage, sorrow, love - all will pass, given a little time.

Not that, as with hilzoy, we can't use the ephemeral passions to accomplish concrete goals.

Jake

Lee Siegel stole my shoe!

alternatively, better living thru pharmaceuticals. i'm a BIG fan of serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

looking around for things that really ought to make you happy

good advice. i really should take it. :)

"hard fascism with a Microsoft face"

Why do I get the feeling that Lee Siegel is a Steve Miller Band fan with absolutely no sense of rhythm?

Personally, I can't recall the last time I wanted to smash someone's face in for any reason, let alone one as trivial as that.

I, too, do not recall ever having the urge to smash someone's face. However, when confronted with someone babbling utter nonsense, I often have the urge to reach over, squeeze their nose, and say, "Honk, honk!"

It seems like a good way to restore sanity to the moment.

LJ, my impression of the phrase is that Siegel was making some strange allusion to the Prague Spring and perhaps has unreasonably positive feelings toward Microsoft.

"hard fascism with a Microsoft face"

isn't he just trying to say that this blogofascism thing is a technology-driven movement ?

Probably, cleek. As a geek I guess I'm not in tune with the connotations "Microsoft" has to the average person -- or whatever kind of person Siegel is. Maybe everything computer-related is Microsoft for them?

KC,
Possibly, but I think that gives Siegel altogether too much credit. Rather than wanting to smash anyone in the face, however, I prefer to imagine that they have no sense of rhythm, which seems a lot harsher and it seems to get at the depth of his analysis that he would be copping phrases from 80's rock. Next, Flock of Seagulls or Duran Duran?

As a geek I guess I'm not in tune with the connotations "Microsoft" has to the average person

who you callin average??? i wore this t-shirt to work yesterday!

:)

Yes, "average" is the wrong word, cleek. And I didn't think I was suggesting you fit into the category, whatever it is -- just that you possibly had a better handle on their viewpoint than I did. I assume a significant fraction of the commenters on any blog are geeks. Of course, some geeks are (shudder) Microsoft geeks, so they'd have yet other connotations to deal with.

And I didn't think I was suggesting you fit into the category

no prob. i didn't think you were, either - just having fun with what you wrote. HTML isn't as subtle as it should be.


out out. damned italics!

Actually, the idea of your thoughts not being real isn't uncommon. Buddhism calls it 'destruction of self' in where these impulses are mistakenly believed to be your consciousness.
Basically, the goal is trying to become a being of reason & logic over impulsiveness and emotive 'decisions'.

=my2c

BC

BC: well, yes, but reason and logic operate via one's thoughts. This person believed that literally all our thoughts, reasonable or otherwise, are not ours at all, unless we have joined the cult and accepted its leader as the messiah and thereby achieved 'clarity'.

I don't get this kind of rage just dealing with people in my everyday life.

What does happen to me, though, is that I go online and read the ravings of somebody else who is on a tear about how everyone is stupid and ugly and lazy and selfish and it'll be a good thing when the system breaks for good and all these idiots die horribly, and if I've been reading a lot of sickening news and am in a down mood already, this is the trigger for me to start worrying: "What if this person is literally right?"

There's also the less angry, more depressed and afraid version, more common on LiveJournal, in which the person says that the people they saw today all looked like zombies with hard, soulless eyes and that this is some sort of true information about the worthlessness of American society. (For some reason, in an extraordinary number of cases, the author has just come back from Wal-Mart.)

Increasingly, I don't have the detachment that allows me to just chuckle and say "ha, ha, good one, you tell 'em, champ."

Intellectually, I can make the shift to realizing that these people are at least partly listening to the bad chemicals in their heads, as Vonnegut would put it; but for some reason, especially when I'm thinking about it later at three in the morning, I become hesitant to pass this sort of judgment and terribly worried that they might just have special insight denied to me into the true horror of existence. I think part of the problem is that I personally don't get "I want to kill everybody" feelings from my everyday dealings with people, so some childlike part of me assumes that somebody who feels that way must have had a good reason, and frets that I might personally have done some of the things that make them feel that way, and that thought is distressing.

These days I at least try to recognize when it's happening, and cut back on reading the comment boards of political blogs.

By the way, I don't wear baseball caps because they don't provide any sun protection for the ears or neck. You really need a hat with a brim all the way around.

I must say that I DO get that kind of rage in my life. I know it isn't the best thing, but it is a fact of my existence. A particular trigger is when I read about Bush's administration and their love for war. Seriously.

It doesn't make me want to join a religious cult, however, at least not yet.

I think that for me, reading disturbing stuff about politics is far more enraging than actually physically dealing with irritating people. But the rage always turns inward; there's always this element of guilt about how I'm personally responsible because I haven't fixed America yet, or because I had some wrong opinions once, or because I dare to enjoy myself sometimes when other people are suffering.

I've decided that this last kind of guilt, taken to an extreme, is probably toxic. I find that my own moral outlook doesn't really work unless it's based on empathy and the Golden Rule, but empathy doesn't work unless you have at least a little self-interest to prime the pump. It doesn't do much good for me to do unto others as I would have them do unto me unless I actually want to have nice things done unto me; otherwise asceticism becomes a license to be a jerk.

Yeah, you can't worry about guilt for not having saved the world yet. First, it is not so easy to do that you can hold yourself personally responsible. And, it is simply a non-helpful feeling, which does nobody any good.

Finally, wingers will try to exploit it as a weakness.

Also, Matt, I don't know if people who look at society and see soulless drones are really the people to base your worldview on. I don't know if that kind of despair is terribly helpful.

There is plenty of corruption and stupidity in society, always has been. To me the point is to either ignore it, find a way of fighting it, or join it.

Since when does baseball have "transparent rules"? Uh, three strikes and you're out, except if it's fouled off (and if it's a bunt and fouled off, yeah, you're out), or if it's a wild pitch and the catcher drops it, or...

And don't get me started on the infield fly rule.

Just goes to show he knows as little about baseball as he does about blogs.

re Sebastian's comment and followups, I thought I had read somewhere that as it turns out, hormone levels vary in men as much as they do in women, except that for men it occurs over a daily rather than monthly cycle. (This was written in response to the argument that women would not make good presidents because they'd be too likely to declare war when they had PMS -- which, of course, is idiotic in many more ways.) Anyways, I too was unpleasantly familiar with those weird, uncaused mood shifts, although as I've aged they have become happily fewer. (I actually have not checked on the hormone levels claim, although I do recall reading about experiments in which soccer fans show shocking drops in testosterone levels when their teams lose an important game.)

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