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October 09, 2005


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Patrick J. Mullins

That's really good, this idea of the combination. The past week was really a scene of unravelling, even if there is some way they can try to patch it up temporarily. Even if they fall, it remains to be seen if the damage is irreparable.


I don't know the name of the Bush aide who said:

"That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality."

That sounds like an opportunist that truly believes.

Patrick J. Mullins

pebird--I don't think Suskind identified the aide. The worst thing is that if that quote alone could have been disseminated to every single American, or even most, there could have been a different outcome, because the aide literally says in the piece, paraphrasing, 'we know some of these policies are causing real pain to real people...but that's passe...'


Patrick--nice point. I too often forget the rest of the words from the unidentified aide.


Yes, it does indeed look more and more like the real believers, the fascists, will shoot the lame duck. And finally conservatives are becoming aware that what has traditionally been their chief concern, keeping spending low, has been totally violated.


I like the fascist interpretation better. Peter Singer took President Bush’s ethics seriously in his book The President of Good and Evil. Singer makes a strong case for the inconsistency, destructiveness, and opportunism of President Bush’s ethics, but he doesn’t accuse him of being insincere. The conservative movement gave a two edged sword to an inept knight and got nicked themselves.


Maybe I am just a conspiracy theorist, but does anybody think that all this right wing chest beating of betrayal could be a ruse? If the conservatives of the movement are openly critical of Miers, doesn't that in a sense defang any criticism from the left? And as much as they complain, does anybody think that she will not be confirmed? Can the democrats even conceive of a filibuster given the uncertainty around her positions on anything? I think Rove and company know exactly what they are doing. The administration is taking a play from the old democratic coalition: if labor, feminists and minorities don't like a certain policy, what are they going to do? Run to the other side? I think this is the same logic of the administration. So while the whinning of The Weekly Standard, National Review, Fetus Fighters for Life, etc.. might be "sincere," this nominee is the only game in town. And once the supreme court takes that sharp turn to the right that it inevitably will, Miers lack of "street cred" will be long forgotten.

Just my two cents.Thanks.

Patrick J. Mullins

The Democrats are actually not that upset about the nomination--because they think a replacement may be worse, according to today's leading NYT editorial. That sounds factual and safe enough for the NYT to be trusted on here--but they won't be trustworthy till they have the decency to talk about Judith Miller, their own, and how she may have just committed perjury due to notes 'newly discovered' from even earlier conversations. I'd refer you to both Schanberg's column on her and today's Harkavy Bush Beat, which is the quickest way to catch up on this.

I doubt that that the Rove people have orchestrated this one as you've put, not because they wouldn't, but because they couldn't.


Thanks Patrick. You are probably right Rove and company are too busy watching their own asses. And I will check out the references.


Did anyone read David Brooks' Oct 9th Op/Ed: "As Parties Grow Weary, Time for an Insurgency"?

...I think you guys are barking up the wrong tree.

Patrick J. Mullins

Rodkong--thank you so much for that David Brooks bird-dropping. It is like a combination from our high school civics class award-winning prose poem 'I Speak for Democracy' and Joyce Kilmer's 'Trees.'

...maybe we can all play, just say 'I love this Judith Miller interview, because it shows off Barbara Walters swept away by television waves..'

and for you 'I love mediocrity, because it's something everyone can share equally.'

and 'I love bores, because they are somehow always the ones who really prove that pretty is as pretty doesn't.'

And 'I love office bathroom soap, because it kills skin cells instead of just washing my hands, might as well just use lye.'

And so on.


Rodkong--what's your point. I read it, but I don't know how you read it.

Alain--I don't think they want their base against them. I also think that tactically the Democrats should vehemently oppose her--as they should have opposed Roberts. It doesn't matter if they lose. It matters if they fight, if they stand for something.



Are you by any chance a hypochondriac, or a dandy germaphobe?

That's sort of how I imagine you.


…my point, “barking up the wrong tree”, refers to the misperception that US is a combination of two extremities: fascism & Stalinism. Of course there are hints of these extremities, given that we live in a pluralistic society, but that does not mean that they are the driving force which is preventing radical change. Resistance is hindered when we view the world in extremities: haves vs. have nots. I referred to David Brooks’ Op/Ed piece because he someone who understands that change is only actualized when there is moderation: cooperation & acceptance of divergent principles. Bush’s decision to choose Miers speaks to his forgotten promise: “I will be a uniter, not a divider”.

Patrick J. Mullins

Matt--was it one remark up there or did you get you get that impression from my book (thanks for remark at a gauche, which I saw much later; otherwise, this constellation of blogs buried it without a whimper), my comments at various sites, and if so, why? I'll answer you if you reply with no constipation in your remarks.


"because he someone who understands that change is only actualized when there is moderation: cooperation & acceptance of divergent principles."

Lets take a quick walk through historical changes - The US Civil War, little depression, the labor movement, WWI, the Depression, WWII, The Cold War, Vietnam, Iraq.

Good to know that change is only actualized through moderation.

Jodi, what do you teach these guys?


Fair enough, PE Bird. My recollection is that Rodkong was in only one course with me when he was a first year (maybe second?). I have no idea where he gets this stuff--probably saying the opposite of what he heard at HWS on the grounds that the faculty were left or liberal and therefore didn't know what they were talking about. A kind of right wing reversal of terms. Part of the oddness is that unity, cooperation, and acceptance suggest the exact opposite of change; how does one get change from acceptance and unity?


Yes I am a contrarian, but that doesn’t mean I reject the principles of my professors just because they’re lefties. My values are based on a collection of principles that are derived from multiple sources: the media, family, education, peers, and religion. From each of these arenas, I try to embrace the positives and reject the negatives. It is important to me to have a balanced set of values. While I was at HWS I attempted to challenge the faculty because I was aggravated by their ideological monopoly in and out of the classroom…It’s not that I rejected their beliefs, I just wanted to hear what the other side had to say…In my opinion, a healthy educational environment requires a positive balance of ideas, even if those ideas are controversial. The idea of moderation (which I probably get from my Quaker education) is one that can be applied to education, government, religion, and daily life…it is not exclusive to the right or the left…


Of course, in a context where the mainstream media and dominant political frame is highly conservative, religious fundamentalist, and committed to neoliberal capitalist economy, simply to reiterate these ideas is far from balanced. And, I still can't get over the odd belief that some students have that to teach a view is to endorse a view. As you know, I teach Locke and Nietzsch, Plato and Hobbes, none of whom I 'endorse' in some naive way or 'reject' in some similarily naive way.


Patrick, heh. Surely some surely some constipation is acceptable, now and then. It was an off-the-cuff coment, no meaning really.

I did (and do) enjoy your book.


(I mean, given the alternative.) Sometimes a sentence spills a bit: "Bodybuilding actually even makes a man unattractive when it is overdone..." wherein the "actually even" is itself a bit overdone.

That's my only complaint (only minor, not pressing).

Patrick J. Mullins

Thanks, Matt. There are a lot of sentence spillages, as I decided run-on sentences were simply a part of me after I'd proved to myself I could divide them up into 4 or 5 other short ones as I'd been ordered to do for scholarly work. When it comes to more poetic writing, I therefore don't try to be careful (although there are a number of small mistakes that are in the text due to the fact that French Swiss with good, but not perfect English, sometimes did the final editing, which they shouldn't have--but that's not what we're talking about here.) I guess 'actually even' could have been dropped, but the current culture seems to support bodybuilding and gymming to such a degree that I probably thought there was more need to emphasize that it is not such an ultimate esthetic; but that's probably just a personal reaction to bodybuilding, since I like muscles but not the extreme versions (usually, as I specified).

But for 'overdone' in general, the book is about that very excess because I have lived it in many ways, a somewhat different tendency to what Rodkong is talking about, one would certainly say. I probably think excess is truly the key to the palace of wisdom no matter how hard I may think I seek for balance--which lasts only a brief time without yet having brought a full nervous breakdown. However, I find this weird personality I'm stuck with something I can live with better than the horror of having to imagine that David Brooks is even human, much less balanced.

I just wondered what might have made you think I was a hypochondriac or 'dandy germophobe,' because I was somewhat surprised to hear it.

Obviously there's something of the old-fashioned dandy about me, one could most likely read that into my various styles; but I don't happen to be a germophobe at all, and, although I had a hypochondriac period at a peculiarly early age (throughout my twenties, I constantly read medical texts used by every sort of doctor, and became convinced I had various terminal diseases), somehow that passed, I'm not at all sure why. I'm orderly, but not compulsively fastidious. Anyway, something gave off to you that I was some of these things, because you imagined me like this. The Royal Papeete, by the way, is a clean, but somewhat run-down hotel that I was fortunate enough to get to stay in and was, for the most part, able to avoid the extreme capitalists that have become the mainstay of the Polynesian economy. The real excess is not that I had the money to make these trips (which I wouldn't be able to do now), but that the writing about them is so narrow a trace across four years of very thick experience,i.e., the excess is that I would want it to be that slim, cut down about 75% from what I started with. I'd be interested in any further thoughts if you have them, you could email me if you ever feel like it. I'm a little too rough sometimes, but not that terrible.


I'm not advocating that you endorse a view (i don't want a conservative professor or a liberal professor), but that you are critical of opposing view points. "Equal Criticism". I have a deep respect for the HWS faculty. It must be frustrating teaching a student body that comprised of white rich kids who, on the whole, could care less about the state of society...as a student I was frustrated by the apathetic student body. For me, challenging the faculty made college interesting...I just contradicted myself


Well, I know this little discussion is more about you (and I'm intrigued, I hope you and Matt continue it someplace open!), but I wanted to chime in on excess against moderation. I, too, am not a moderate person. There is something mightily boring about moderation. On one hand, this could be the times we are in: the current version of capitalism abhors moderation and urges excess at every turn. On another hand, it could be that even Aristotle's virtues relied on elements of excess and immoderation, the true friend, say, or the exclusion from the polity of the enemy or barbarian as a beast and the exceptionally excellent as a god. After all, moderation in all things has a paradoxical quality (why not moderation in some things? because that would allow for excess; but excluding excess means that the drive to moderation has itself become excessive).

I've often wondered if there is something about southern life that breeds a kind of excess, of energy or indolence, an appreciation for the story and telling much more than the boring old facts, a living in the past, a past that never was, in such a way that present demands for moderation and productivity seem positively inappropriate. Maybe it has something to do with religion. Maybe with race and racism. Maybe with the humidity.

I do know that I am very much looking forward to the new Truman Capote movie.

Patrick J. Mullins

Jodi--that's marvelous, just marvelous, especially: 'After all, moderation in all things has a paradoxical quality (why not moderation in some things? because that would allow for excess; but excluding excess means that the drive to moderation has itself become excessive).'

I would add only that the 'past that never was' that is often spoken of as something more to do with the South is also, you may or may not be happy to hear, not any more true than the Glories and Gloires that were Greece, Rome, France, Egypt, India any of the great cultures. That's what New Orleans was proof of about the South--and there is not really any other place in the South that had held onto that proof. What I mean is that all the civilizations that strike the fancy and inspire us had exploitation and base cruelty in them, even though that glory does not excuse them--it's just that that is true of all of them, and that it is innaccurate to single out some of them so forcefully, when it is usually a matter of degree at most. But what I dislike is people forgetting that slavery in Greece was operative at the time of Plato, that Alexander murdered whoever he wanted to but was taught by Aristotle, that the dazzling 1000 years of brilliant Frenchness was bought at enormous cost to workers and peasants--and that all these were just as exploitative as white Southern planters were. So that it took me over 30 years to get over the guilt of being a white Southerner, and my being allowed to be a part of New York cost me probably 15 years of tolerating people immediately assuming that if I was from Alabama I was a racist. Finally, I simply refused to countenance it any further, because I certainly found that my own attitudes were far less racist than the majority of native New Yorkers I knew; although theirs were rarely as racist as what you see in the South, I am not going to go that far.

Somehow, cultures just develop from the myriad confluences that make each unique one. The tendency of 'energy and indolence' toward an irresistible excess that is part of the Deep South character was inscribed in New Orleans, which was barely touched by the Civil War. So that W.J. Cash in 'The Mind of the South' was so right and so wrong--his 'Southern myth' was usually found in a completely delusional form; but since this was not always the case, as in New Orleans which embodied it, he was actually being excessive in a wrong way by condemning all of it instead of just some of it--and that strange intransigence he had probably led to his suicide, more than the mere criticism he got for the book. He even accused Faulkner of a false Southern romanticism at the expense of what everyone literary knows to be true of Faulkner. Faulkner, like New Orleans, was proof that the South had a unique existence quite as much as did the victors in the war themselves. And he well knew just how arid and nowhere a poor small Southern town could be too.

And I share your love of Capote, there are some things about what we were born with that we cannot cast out when we go toward the bigger-minded ideas that can't be held in some places yet; and Capote was capable of capturing those quintessentially Southern moments so that they help us remember these in exactly the same way that Proust's Marcel manages to bring a total emotional recall of things past in his childhood in France, in Combray and Paris, the hotel dining room on the sea where you could still find 'creamed eggs'--those images clothed in the deepest, most authentically rich mythology and always with the extreme specificity in terms of the personal (I mean in this kind of case). Every one of every culture has the right to these things that are his own in particular. Perhaps it's just a matter of running into those who help us learn the technique of retrieving those precious things--so that this is not 'more about me' (although it's 'also about me'); what I always like is when narratives cross-pollinate each other in a natural way like this, because telling stories (which I do too much of perhaps) is one of the ways we keep a kind of romanticism that possibly even skirts the issue of excess vs. moderation. Nothing is more pleasurable and life-giving than certain memories and telling certain stories; and those are things that don't have anything to do with purely economic matters--even though it's always only temporarily (although the economy can't really excede the temporary either).

I'll just conclude that the 'excess' that you speak of as being encouraged by the current culture of bloated capitalism does give excess a bad name, because it seems to be based on something other than the excess which is really 'just finally enough to allow completion' so that the wisdom can emerge. The current 'excess' is mostly just a competitive gluttony, and there isn't a single example of it that has the merest shadow of the personal, the intimate, the romantic, to it; there is not even a nod to these things. I now see, after what you've written, that excess as the key to the palace of wisdom really does not always mean 'too much' (though wisdom can come from the pain of that too), but just as often it means a highly concentrated drive until you've arrived at the recognizable point.


Jodi - you're right - moderation is today's excess.

It takes personal discipline to avoid excess today (in the past you had to actively search for excess, now society amply provides it for you at a reasonable cost).

But politics is the opposite - politics is boring and moderate in spades, but is what we need political excess?

I need to think about this more.


Katrina a Cat 1 in New Orleans?


"Many of us heard that Category 5 winds were measured by the National Weather Service in Katrina. These rumors were aired as fact by television stations and other media outlets during the storm. However, as the post-storm report above outlines, these were just rumors, and no such winds were measured. If you listened to NPR last night, you also might have heard the story of how television stations in Baton Rouge were reporting a huge crime wave in Baton Rouge after the hurricane, and that an armed gang had even taken over the Mayor's office. These reports, later found out to be completely untrue, led to four-hour waits to buy guns at local gun stores in Baton Rouge. According to NPR, there was no increase in crime in Baton Rouge after the hurricane. The media, at times, did a poor job in separting fact from fiction during the storm, and there were in reality no sustatined winds above Category 1 measured on the ground during Katrina."


Thanks, Rodkong. And, more from the same:

"Obviously, a demotion of Katrina to Category 3 status--and Category 1 at New Orleans--would have political consequences. The levees of New Orleans were supposed to be able to withstand a Category 4 hurricane, and it appears as if they were done in by a Category 1 hurricane. Still, Katrina at landfall in Mississippi was no ordinary Category 1 hurricane. It brought the largest storm surge ever recorded in an Atlantic Hurricane to shore in Mississippi--28 feet, measured at the Hancock County, Mississippi EOC in Bay St. Louis. This is over four feet higher than the previous record set in Category 5 Hurricane Camille of 1969. So while the winds may have been Category 1, the storm surge was a Category 5 plus! The storm surge levels that breached the New Orleans levees were probably characteristic of at least a Category 3 hurricane, and perhaps a Category 4. As both myself and Steve Gregory have emphasized in our blogs, the Saffir-Simpson scale of ranking hurricanes is inadequate; an additional scale ranking storms by damage potential from winds, storm surge and rainfall is needed."


Patrick, I love the way your comment ends on 'point.' Really aesthetically appealing. My father spent about an hour with Faulkner, with just one other person there, when he was a senior in college. He said that Faulker was like someone who had seen evil.

Patrick J. Mullins

Aha! As I was arriving at the several choices that could allow me to finish that final sentence, I was very conscious of your own writing style. What I came up with there has something to do with some aspects of what I've read here for the 4 or 5 months I've been reading and writing here. As I approached, I thought, why not, it sounds just right, a bit different from how I usually arrive--and we have to keep growing!

I am now fascinated that you chose that particular review to feature from my book, because there is a part of it I regretted after publishing that I can now see belongs especially, and is not at all the gratuitous thing I have long thought I wrote. I thought the detail about Suzanne Farrell and getting roast veal instructions from 'Mr. B' was going just a little too far--the literal fat was also 'prose fat.' But that is exactly the kind of excess that does cause the tipping point, is the kind I was talking about that does lead to the palace of wisdom. I'd gone on and on about Martha Graham, and thought that should have been enough of this 'banal made magical' idea. But your review of this made me then know that the single one passage out of the whole book I had till now thought I would excise could I send it back to the printer is the one that pounds in a sense of the ordinary way up in the realms of the celestial, it takes it one obnoxious step further still from Graham's own slightly absurd talk about her 'New York garden' till one is a little pissed off--so that there is this dichotomy between the ordinary of the actually comatose and overcomatose and the 'new species' which could include the organic or even literally dead (there's also a major scene of talking to a tombstone in the film) and the ordinary that exists when even the famous are left with only the ordinary, no matter how much embellishment of specialness may hover about it. And in this way, the new relationships we have as a result of the conflicting definitions of 'life' and even of 'bare life' are seen to have an enormous range of possibilities (not that this is all that heartening, some of it has to do with loving our ghosts.)

So that I post it here rather than in the other post because I am fascinated at how we came upon ways that excess has privileges that can never be given to moderation, because moderation serves other functions (and its privileges equally can not be given to excess). And until you wrote your review of that particular review I did not see that it was the one place in the entire book that I consciously felt that I had momentarily lost control--but didn't correct it. In a way, therefore, it ends up not being my own possession alone, so that we are able to find what the real meaning of excess is: To repeat, excess may mean 'too much' and 'exactly enough' at the same time; and this makes me wonder if we now need some new nomenclature with 'Excess' (as in Paris Hilton and Halliburton and all the gluttonous horror we live with) and 'excess' as we've worked on here. I don't know whether that would call out the Valve cops the way 'Theory' and 'theory' did or not! I rather hope not...

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