Monday, February 27, 2006

Republican Primary Mutterings, as most probably know, is a partisan Republican blog. Unlike the National Review Online (in its better moments), Redstate enforces a conservative ideology that doesn't wander far from Bush's expressed beliefs: pro-life, anti-affirmative action, pro-trade, for the expansion of American (and the Executive Branch's) power--and Evangelical Christian.

I've long been curious how this branch of the Republican party will react to the Mormon Mitt Romney, Governor of Massachusetts. A number of the Redstate insiders, some of whom work on campaigns or lobby in DC, debated Romney's Mormonism yesterday, and it's pretty illuminating. Start here, and scroll up for the latest.

This post by Erick Erickson, who I believe is a professional activist, confirms my own predictions:
... I don't think Romney will be able to effectively make it through South Carolina or the rest of the South unless he takes significant steps to distance himself from being a Mormon. Why? Because most Southerners I know -- whether they be Democrat, Republican, Independent, Catholic, Prostestant, or Agnostic -- see Mormonism as a cult and not a religion. It is part of Southern culture.

Romney may very well be able to position himself in such a way that he can overcome that, but I doubt it.

Augustine and I had lunch with Jonathan Chait a while back and were talking about this. I told him about my grandmother. One day I went into her house, opened the closet to get out a blanket, and a pile of Books of Mormon fell out.

Shocked that my grandmother might be converting I asked her what all those books were in there for. She looked at me and said, "As long as they're giving them to me, they aren't giving them to anyone else."

While my grandmother died a few years ago, that attitude is still very, very prevalent among what political types would call "the base" in the South.
There's also a funny exchange about whether Romney actually practices his faith, or whether he's a "secular Mormon" or a "jack Mormon." (Let me answer the last one: if he's running around proclaiming his faith and campaigning as a Mormon, then he's not a jack Mormon. It's very possible that he's a cynical Mormon, however.)

Here's a refreshingly reasonable comment from Allison Hayward, whom I don't know, despite my general familiarity with the site:
If we're voting: I like Mormons (some of my closest relatives are LDS). As Mormonism matures, I think there will be a broader swath of philosophy within that faith, and it will be harder to generalize about what "Mormons" think or what they're "like." (It seems to me that a substantial portion of that road has been travelled, actually.) So being LDS will be politically meaningless. If you learn someone is Episcopalian or Lutheran, what does that tell you?
I suspect that this sort of reasonableness might not survive a divisive primary. As the pro-life diehard Leon H Wolf writes, people who have some contact with Mormons will be more likely to tolerate or even admire individual adherents. Still, the South matters more than the Sunbelt in primary campaigns, and the South remains deeply suspicious of LDS history and beliefs.

I can't wait to see how this plays out.

[Update. Redstate readers respond to the editors' above discussion with two diaries, both of which argue, roughly, that by running on "values" more generally, Romney could diffuse sectarian concerns.]


Sunday, February 26, 2006


A Washington Post story on a book called Sundown Towns, by James Loewen, describes the practice of certain towns, usually suburbs, of prohibiting black people from being visible after nightfall--often giving them warning with tersely worded, racist roadsigns.

What interests me here is the way the few quoted period documents frame the exclusionary racism:
In 1922, when college students in Norman, Okla., hired a black jazz band to play at a dance one night, a white mob carrying guns and nooses attacked the dance hall.

"Negroes are occasionally seen on the streets of Norman in the daytime, but the 'rule' that they leave at night is strictly enforced," the Oklahoma City Black Dispatch, a black newspaper, reported, and noted, "Several other Oklahoma towns have similar customs."
Rule is put in quotes by the black newspaper, but not custom.

[via Gary Farber, who posts more excerpts.]


Friday, February 24, 2006

Items I Have Found...

...On The Sidewalk On My Block And Taken Home For At Least A While In The Past Five Years.

--Five upright chairs, of which at least two would be worth moving to a new apartment. I'm sitting on a very sturdy, wooden upright chair right now that I think was built for either a church or a school: it has a shelf under the (low-ish) seat.

--Three armchairs. I've thrown them all out, over the years, but I really regretted throwing out the only semi-broken 196os futurish slingback lounge chair. If I'd had a power-drill to do the necessary dowel-based surgery, I would have saved it against the apartmental downsizing, despite the room it took up; it was that cool.

--Two Side Tables. Wood.

--One Metal Bed-End, useful for plant-entwining. (I can't say how many bed-ends I've looked at and passed by: at least 15.)

--Two desks. This was my roommate's doing; she scooped up some institutional furniture for her professional studio-to-come.

--Two small chests of drawers. See above.

--Eight bookshelves. One or two fit under the above, but the others are mine (some painted blue, others metal, others plastic, others proved unworthy, but still).

--One Tv-VCR commode. I got rid of this pretty quickly; it wasn't a convenient shape (four feet long, two high) after all.

--Two electioneering hustings. I had an idea that I would recover them to make screens.

--At least six detachable cabinets. I've retained two, which I spray-painted a nice green and am using to store Books I Don't Need Right Now in a space that not easily accessible.

--One 8x5 wool carpet, machine woven, but very clean and soft. (That's only the one I've picked up; there've been so many more.)

--Four giant, overstuffed cushions. Treating them with the suspicion they deserved got old, and I was glad to chuck them, finally.

--One wooden radiator-cover, with shelves, that fit my pipe-configuration exactly. Score!

--The gilt-ceramic lamp base that with a home-made pornographic lamp shade made a perfect present for a good friend.

--One full chest-of-drawers suitable for containing all my foldables: five drawers, four feet high. Wait, I found another nice one and gave it to a friend. I've seen others on my block that weren't as nice and ignored them.

AND TONIGHT---I brought home an awesome coffee table. It's a little battered, but it's solid wood and should stand up to another decade of abuse, at least. I would rather invest in an electric sander than chance commercial furniture prices any day of the week.


Monday, February 20, 2006


I've decided to enable pop-up comments here.

Comments are a subsection of a blog, so it's a pain in the ass to have to select an option to see the original post to which one is responding, particularly if the site doesn't get many comments to begin with.

Also, what madman designed the Blogger non-pop-up comment thread template? That shit is *just*ugly.*

No part of this statement should be intended to convey a belief that I will, do, or have had commenters.


"The Banality of Evil"

Last night I watched Rony Brauman and Eyal Sivan's The Specialist: Portrait of a Modern Criminal. (IMDB link) (Wikipedia link on Eichmann) It disturbed me a great deal, and I'm not sure how to think through my reaction to it.

The documentary presents footage from the trial of Lieutenant colonel SS Adolf Eichmann's trial for crimes against humanity, and crimes against the Jewish people, among others. Eichmann was the official in charge of forced Jewish emigration and later of the logistics of moving Jewish people towards concentration camps, where they were brutalized as a matter of course and often then killed, particularly late in the war, as a matter of policy. Some of the questions at stake in the trial included: how much did Eichmann know about the Final Solution? how much power did he have to offer alternative policies? how personally anti-Semitic was he? did he understand the murderous consequences of his actions?

Eichmann answered all of these questions (during the selected footage, mind you) with legalisms, bureaucratic flowcharts, and realpolitik arguments. While arguments and testimonies were made, he smiled bitterly within his bullet-proof glass enclosure, turning the pages of his documents.

Eichmann, effectively kidnapped to stand trial in Israel for crimes against the Jewish people, actually tried to defend his actions. The trials of Slobodan Milosevich and Saddam Hussein offer very different lessons. I used to hope that Osama bin Laden could be brought to justice, so that a trial would reveal his crimes. These days, I'm beginning to believe that a chaotic firefight might provide a better end for those guilty of warcrimes. The Nuremberg trials were just barely not "victors' justice," and Eichmann's trial just barely not long-delayed revenge. Milosevich and Hussein, by refusing to participate in their own trials, expose some of the frailities in the idealism of the ICC (to take one international framework).

To answer the obvious: Yes, there was part of me that wondered how John Yoo would behave in a similar trial. No, I haven't read Arendt's book (although now I'm much more interested in doing so), nor have I read her critics. Yes, I agree that the Holocaust was an atrocity on such a scale to make Milosevich and Hussain mere haterz by comparison.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Fantasy Meets Feminism, Version N+103

I've been reading back through George R.R. Martin's "Song of Fire and Ice" (in part to see whether the latest was truly a letdown, as I'd earlier experienced), and what this reading is really enforcing is the extent to which Martin's world has taken very seriously the feminist historians' analysis of the place- and claim-holding power of marriage.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Irresponsible Translations and Meta-Blogging in One!

This time from Maurice Blanchot, L'espace litteraire.
The writer never knows whether the work is done. What he finishes in one book, he starts again or destroys in another. When Valery celebrated this gift of infinity in work, he was really looking at only the most facile aspect of it: if the work is infinite, that means (for him) that the artist, incapable of concluding, is able to put a closing point to a work without end; not completing it develops intellectual mastery, expresses this mastery, expresses it while developing it in the form of power. At some point, circumstance, which is to say history in the form of the financial needs or social duties, pronounces the missing ending, and the artist, freed by a wholly external denouement, chases elsewhere the unachieved.
L'espace litteraire, Editions Gallimard (1955), 14. Original French (without accents) below the fold.
L'ecrivain ne sait jamais si l'oeuvre est faite. Ce qu'il a termine en un livre, il le recommence ou le detruit en un autre. Valery, celebrant dans l'oeuvre le privilege de l'infini, n'en voit encore que le cote le plus facile: que l'ouevre soit infinie, cela veut dire (pour lui) que l'artiste, n'etant pas capable d'y mettre fin, est cependant capable d'en faire le lieu ferme d'un travail sans fin dont l'inachevement developpe la maitrise de l'esprit, exprime cette maitrise, l'exprime en la developpant sous forme de pouvoir. A un certain moment, les circonstances, c'est-a-dire l'histoire, sous la figure de l'editeur, des exigences financieres, des taches sociales, prononcent cette fin qui manque, et l'artiste, rendu libre par un denouement de pure contrainte, poursuit ailleurs l'inacheve."


Monday, February 13, 2006

More on Ratatouille

Some time ago, I opined that one would have to be mad or in thrall to French grandmothers to cook the vegetables for ratatouille separately.

I'm going to have to retract that.

For reasons I can't exactly articulate, I followed the directions in The Gourmet Magazine Cookbook in my most recent ratatouille endeavor. I cooked the tomatoes, garlic, and spices first. Then I peeled, rinsed, chopped, and strained the eggplant (I still don't quite understand this step). I cooked in a skillet in separate stages onions, peppers, zucchini, and eggplants--adding, as per the Gourmet recipe, olive oil each time. Finally, all of these individually cooked ingredients were added to to the tomato sauce and then stewed for an hour.

What was gained with all this bother: the flavors of pepper! and eggplant! were much more perceptible. And the bits were more recognizable and socially acceptable.

Upshot: if you're cooking ratatouille for company, or if you're cooking great quantities of ratatouille, it might really be worth cooking the ingredients separately. Still--don't let the bother dissuade you from making and enjoying this wonderful, healthy, and versitile dish: the easier version in the above link is also delicious.


Record-Setting Snow-Dump

It appears to my father that all of my friends living in the North-East would be comforted to know that in the Yukon, temperatures seem to be holding rather steady at 8 degrees Centigrade.


Sunday, February 12, 2006

Requistionary Models of Financial Aid

A good friend of mine has applied to several top-ranked law schools. She is pretty confident that with her scores, records, and recommendations, she'll be accepted to one of them. Her first choice is Yale, but she might be enticed to accept Harvard or NYU: you get the picture.

Okay, here's the wild part. On April 15th, she has to file her FASA. When she files her FASA, the government in conjunction with her law school will decide how much money she should pay towards her law degree.

My friend--an ardent liberal, mind you, and one with a savvy sense of economics--has realized that whatever assets she holds at the time of her FASA filing will be considered available for paying her law school tuition.

Her 401K into which she scraped a few dollars during her college years and many more since she's been working like a demon as a legal assistant: that "retirement savings" will become an asset that will be swooped up and swallowed by her universities.

She's built up some savings, having worked overtime and a half (I've had a hard time scheduling outings with her, and half the time she's had to 11 pm), for over a year, and now facing the FASA filing, she realizes that she'd be better off not having any savings because her universities will take whatever she has anyways and she won't be financially better off for having saved all this money.

She's a savvier economist than I am, and so I believe her when she says that she has reason to deplete her savings before the filing date of April 15th. We spent a fun couple of hours imagining what portable, expensive, worthwhile goods she could buy, but I remain ever so slightly furious that my friend (who came from no money, mind you) should be in this position.


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

"Fuck-Valentine's-Day All-Girls-Drinkathon"

February 14th, my freshman year in college, was the first time I ever got drunk. I'd sipped a surreptious glass here or there after deciding that Mormonism was not for me, but the occasions had always felt contrived; so, I had never relaxed, never allowed myself to feel in the slightest way compromised, never let my hauteur slip, never slipped, and never slumped. By February of my freshman year, though, I had already smoked the dreaded marijuana, so I figured that smuggling a very fine bottle of Chiani over from Tijuana was only the minimal next step in my criminal career.

A very fine bottle of Chianti, she says. I don't really think I'll ever see the like again. It was magical stuff.
Click through for more Valentine's Day-based meanderings.

As I recall, there were five of us: M----, St---, L-, E----, and myself. We schlepped our things that Valentine's day out to the bluffs overlooking the ocean (passing over the delightfully bizarre grafitto: "Pack It In, Pack It Out: Only Kooks Litter!"). We had brought our own bottles, but nobody had brought a corkscrew. M---- and I, the ones with the wine, managed to open our bottles most ignomiously by pushing the corks in with one of my pens. Yes, I brought my school backpack to the beach; I was and probably still am that kind of girl.

That night was wonderful. While I had genuinely liked these girls, I hadn't ever forgotten that they weren't related to me, weren't Mormon, weren't permanent; so, before that evening of drunken silliness, I had never allowed myself to really relax and enjoy their company. The First Inaugural Fuck-Valentine's-Day-All-Girls-Drinkathon was the first time that I felt unembarrassing giggling or peeing in bushes in front of female friends.

We held onto our tradition in college, and I have since proudly passed the ritual on to my female friends. My friends and I have often had long-distance, cross-cultural boyfriends, or whatever, so, for most of my friends in the past few years, paying one whit of attention to the drum-beat of Valentine's Day advertising in the US would actually undermine the relationship.

Let me be perfectly candid: sometimes, men, even boyfriends were allowed to attend our "Fuck-Valentine's-Day-All-Girls-Drinkathons." They were made aware of the parameters beforehand (no sentiment! always defer to the grrrls!), and they seemed to be fine with it. As long as everyone is happy and nobody is allowed to snog, then Valentine's Day can occur behind closed doors as it was meant to.

Full disclosure: my mother sends me chocolate truffles for Valentine's Day and has done for ten years. This practice probably enables my alternative traditions.

Fuller disclosure: now that I have a boyfriend who lives in my area code, I should really figure out a way of talking to him about all this.

Fuck Valentine's Day.