Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Monday, May 16, 2011
We are walking around the neighborhood and, once again, a nasty little dog runs up to me and starts barking its head off.
"And that's a nasty, horrible part of the American dream," my supportive spouse says.
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"Can you guess how much money Obama has?" I asked him.
"Well, that depends on whether he has a huge mortgage on his house," he responded completely seriously.
P.S. The number I saw in the tweet in question was $3.8 million.
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In On Populist Reason, Laclau seems to have forgotten how important it is to know your audience. He uses extremely complex, jargon-ridden writing style to transmit ideas that are beyond basic. If I am to struggle through the author's convoluted sentences and displays of erudition, I expect his argument to lead me to something better than the kind of trivialities that Laclau offers in this book.
Laclau begins his study of populism with an overview of the existing definitions of this concept. He points out that the perception of populism as something that is a priori negative is the only reason why such definitions only succeed in demonizing populism in terms that are as negative as they are vague. Instead of analyzing populism, political theorists attempt to demonstrate how much they condemn it and then allow this condemnation to taint every conclusion they make. Laclau attempts to move away from such facile definitions and offer a more profound analysis of populism. However, he fails at that task quite spectacularly.
More often than not, it felt to me that Laclau was talking to people he considers to be deeply unintelligent and unaware of the most basic tenets of political theory. He does it in the kind of language, though, that would prevent these ignoramuses from following his line of reasoning. Here is one of the many examples:
The complexes which we call 'discursive or hegemonic formations', which articulate differential and equivalential logics, would be unintelligible without the affective component. . . We can conclude that any social whole results froman indissociable articulation between signifying and affective dimensions.This statement concludes over 100 pages of a very convoluted discussion and does nothing more than announce in this extremely technical language that communities are bound together not just by reason but also by emotions. Well, duh. This idea has been studied, discussed and argued ad nauseam for over 100 years now. There is hardly any need to convince those of us who are capable of reading Laclau's texts of something so banal.
In a similar way, Laclau offers a very plodding discussion that is supposed to lead his readers to the earth-shattering conclusion that - believe it or not - populist movements can exist both on the Left and on the Right of the political spectrum. I am sure that there are people who are unaware of this fact but these are not the same people who can get through 40 pages on floating signifiers.
I have also discovered from On Populist Reason that in the US populism has been hijacked by the Right that, against all reason, managed to convince farmers and blue-collar workers that the Republicans represent the interests of the regular folks as opposed to the Democrats who supposedly only defend the rights of the long-haired East Coast elites. I know that you must have already yawned twice as you have been reading this paragraph. We all know this, we have all heard this said a gazillion times. Why Laclau believes that it needs to be pointed out yet again is beyond me.
The book is filled to the brim with inanities of the most disturbing kind. On page 177 (close to the end of the book), we find out that in order for the populist appeal to be effective, there have to exist some problems in society. A society where institutional stability is complete, will not respond to populism. But, of course, perfect societies do not exist, so this situation is completely hypothetic. "Surprise, surprise!" I wrote on the margins when I read this. For the most part, this was my reaction to the entire book.
|As you can see, the restaurant was pretty empty.|
It was a Sunday, of course, but I
find it impossible to believe that there are
people in this city any day of the week
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Mercadillo and his colleagues describe an experiment featuring 12 women and 12 men. As the participants viewed a series of 100 photographs, their brains were scanned using fMRI technology. Every second image was one that evoked compassion (according to previous research). Examples included sad human faces, war scenes and depictions of famine. “No gender differences were observed in the frequency of reported compassionate experiences,” the researchers report. However, what was happening in the participants’ brain told a different story. As the compassion-evoking photos were viewed, activity was observed in two areas of the brain — the thalamus and the putamen, part of the basal ganglia — in women but not in men.
So ladies: When the men in your life seem insensitive to suffering, try not to respond with scorn. The problem, it seems, is one of brain circuitry. It shouldn’t be hard to take pity on them; after all, you have an enormous capacity for compassion.
P.S. In the very top post of this freaky blog, I found the following sentence that tells us all we'll ever need to know about such folks' scary brand of religiosity:
I had a lot of sinful years without Christ but God is in the business of forgiving sins.What I wonder is whether God is successful in business and whether he pays any taxes. I know that Jesus wants us to pay taxes, but does he pay any himself? This is what theologians need to be working on.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
'It's a very small shop. We don't have many customers. Almost none until the Christmas sales, to be honest.''How. . .?''NORAD. They support shops and our suppliers as part of the government's trade programme with Third World countries. The message it sends is more important than money and short-sighted gain, isn't it.'
Our generation has turned itself into servants and secretaries of our children. . . There are so many appointments and birthdays and favorite foods and football sessions that it drives me insane.
Friday, May 13, 2011
The pornography recovered in bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, consists of modern, electronically recorded video and is fairly extensive, according to the officials, who discussed the discovery with Reuters on condition of anonymity.
So, Obama is dead. Which is to say, he’s a martyr. Of the many gifts the US gave him in his life, and they were many, this may be the last one. Some say he didn’t want to be martyred, at least not right this moment, and no doubt that’s true. But the difference between seeking martyrdom and not minding that much exists. He didn’t really go that far out of his way to avoid death. He could have shaved the beard, had some plastic surgery and disappeared into Indonesia. He would never have been found. His compound was not heavily guarded. Bin Laden need never have been in the line of fire.It's only when I got to the part about the beard that I realized whom the author of the post was actually referring to.
A Spanish university has denied that disciplinary proceedings against one of its professors are a response to a book he wrote alleging corruption at the institution. José Penalva, professor of education at the University of Murcia, has been accused of absenteeism and could face dismissal. He told Times Higher Education that he believed the real reason for the action was a book, published last month, in which he claimed that political influence and nepotism were rife in Spanish universities. Corrupción en la Universidad (Corruption in the University) describes what Professor Penalva sees as the incestuous relationship between Spanish universities and local politics, which he believes is a major factor in the "mediocrity" of the country's higher education institutions. "The rector always is a person who has a lot of power in the local community, and is always supported by a bunch of deans and politicians who scratch each other's backs," Professor Penalva told THE. "This explains why Spanish universities are at the bottom of the international rankings: there is no accountability, so the quality of research is very low," he said. . . Professor Penalva said Spanish universities were legally obliged to advertise academic positions, but that the majority of the members of the selection panels were appointed by the university's rector and the dean of the department in question. "This explains why 98 per cent of lecturers and professors in Spanish universities are 'local candidates' who have already worked in the department and have a 'godfather' there," he said.