Genealogy and Plurality

Power-of-Religion-200x300Over at the SSRC's Immanent Frame, there's been an interesting and ongoing debate stemming from Akeel Bilgrami's SSRC Working paper “Secularism: Its Content and Context.” In the paper, “Bilgrami addresses two questions: first, the meaning of secularism and second, its justification and implementation. Engaging Charles Taylor’s recent calls for a “radical” redefinition of secularism, he offers an alternative conceptualization of the category, while also addressing Taylor’s deep concerns about the politics of secularism for our time. According to Bilgrami, secularism has its point and meaning not in a decontextualized philosophical argument but in the historical and contextual specificities in which it is applied. In the end, secularism “needs, not replacement, but merely proper implementation, in order to get us ‘beyond toleration.’” Among the responses are ones by Justin Neuman and Simon During. During:

I am in general agreement with Bilgrami’s argument. But I am puzzled by the turn it takes at the point when he squarely confronts the most obvious problem it poses. What about states and polities that don’t accept rights-based, liberal-democratic ideals and the rights and goods that they promise? In such states, there may be no legislative or administrative tension between Church and State, and the demand for neutrality need not get a look-in. The polity may be religious through and through. How might a state-neutralist of Bilgrami’s stripe persuade such a non-secular, non-liberal state to join his position?

The problem is all the sharper because, as has become standard in post-secular liberal arguments, Bilgrami wants to make his case without reference to intellectual secularism. He does so by distinguishing what he calls “atheism” from “secularism.” Atheism (a rather loaded term) denies religion’s propositional truth, while secularism is a “stance towards religion” taken in pursuit of non-religious ends, and which, as such, cannot be true or false. (Here Bilgrami is drawing a distinction similar to the one that Habermas posits between religion’s “validity claims” and its “truth content” [its morality and ethical sociability].) For Bilgrami, there are only “internal reasons” for pursuing secularism (i.e. reasons grounded in one’s own values) not external evidentiary ones. So revealed and natural religion’s falling out of propositional truth is discounted.

Bilgrami responds to both Neuman and During:

On more substantial issues, his instinct is exactly right (and mine) when he says that Taylor wants a neutralism that is not necessarily secular. I wrote a fair number of words in my essay to try and make that instinct into a sound bit of criticism in political theory. I am sure that I have not persuaded Taylor, but it is gratifying to see that During and I share an understanding of Taylor. If he and I are right, Taylor’s honorable and interesting effort to redefine secularism as his form of “neutralism” fails. Or at any rate—if one takes the view that definitions, being stipulative and conventional, cannot exactly fail—it is not theoretically well motivated. During doesn’t mention his grounds for thinking Taylor to be wrong, but does gesture at broad agreement with the grounds I had presented.

Where he seems to find my dialectic is missing something is at the point when I mention that theimplementation of secularism (in those contexts where its implementation is called for) in the face of resistance to it, should appeal to a historicized conception of the subjects who resist it. He suggests that I should have given a thicker sense of the actual historical development that might be needed to bring such subjects around to secular polities and proceeds to guide me to a path by which this might be done by providing a genealogy of how it was in fact achieved in Europe. These genealogical and historical remarks are valuable, but I want to shepherd their relevance to a different part of my dialectic from where he places them.

Fear of a Black President

As a candidate, Barack Obama said we needed to reckon with race and with America’s original sin, slavery. But as our first black president, he has avoided mention of race almost entirely. In having to be “twice as good” and “half as black,” Obama reveals the false promise and double standard of integration.

Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic:

ScreenHunter_55 Aug. 28 15.31The irony of President Barack Obama is best captured in his comments on the death of Trayvon Martin, and the ensuing fray. Obama has pitched his presidency as a monument to moderation. He peppers his speeches with nods to ideas originally held by conservatives. He routinely cites Ronald Reagan. He effusively praises the enduring wisdom of the American people, and believes that the height of insight lies in the town square. Despite his sloganeering for change and progress, Obama is a conservative revolutionary, and nowhere is his conservative character revealed more than in the very sphere where he holds singular gravity—race.

Part of that conservatism about race has been reflected in his reticence: for most of his term in office, Obama has declined to talk about the ways in which race complicates the American present and, in particular, his own presidency. But then, last February, George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old insurance underwriter, shot and killed a black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman, armed with a 9 mm handgun, believed himself to be tracking the movements of a possible intruder. The possible intruder turned out to be a boy in a hoodie, bearing nothing but candy and iced tea. The local authorities at first declined to make an arrest, citing Zim­mer­man’s claim of self-defense. Protests exploded nationally. Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea assumed totemic power. Celebrities—the actor Jamie Foxx, the former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, members of the Miami Heat—were photographed wearing hoodies. When Rep­resentative Bobby Rush of Chicago took to the House floor to denounce racial profiling, he was removed from the chamber after donning a hoodie mid-speech.

More here.

Tariq Ali: Why Latin America backs WikiLeaks

British-Pakistani author, journalist and activist Tariq Ali chaired a rally outside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London on August 19. The rally came before WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange's widely publicised speech. Ali also gave two speeches. In the second, he spoke about why it was that Assange and WikiLeaks had found support in Ecuador and Latin America more generally — and highlighted the revolutionary movements that have swept the continent to challenge US corporate domination. You can watch a video of this speech here. It is transcribed below.

Tariq Ali in Green Left:

ScreenHunter_54 Aug. 28 15.09I think one aspect of this [situation] that has not yet been dealt with. And it needs to be understood — especially in the Western world. Why is it that an Australian citizen, facing prosecution from a European country, decides to appeal for asylum to a South American republic?

And the reason for that is that for the last 10-15 years, huge changes have been taken place in South America. And these changes are very interesting.

For a whole while, as many of you will know, South America was governed by military dictatorships, of one sort or another — backed by the United States and its European partners — and allowed to do whatever they wanted.

They were taught how to torture [by the US], they were taught how to kill, and they carried on doing it until the changes began. And the changes began for social and economic reasons, it should be pointed out.

The changes began when the people in Venezuela — who were the first — said enough! Enough of International Monetary Fund regulations, enough of World Bank rules. We don't like neoliberalism, we don't like the way our oligarchs are running our country, we don't want to live in a world where everything is privatised, where there is no public sector — that is what started it off.

More here.

“Sweet Home Alabama” — Musical Tesla Coils

From the description at YouTube:

These are two gigantic solid state musical Tesla Coils. A Tesla Coil is a special type of transformer invented by Nikola Tesla that is able to generating extremely large voltages using a phenomenon known as electrical resonance. Each coil in this video is capable of generating a 13 foot spark. This equates to about 500,000 volts of electricity.

The primary drive system for the coils consists of high power semiconductors arranged into an H-Bridge switching configuration. During a spark event, the coil is pulsed on for a few hundred millionths of a second. During this short time, thousands of amps circulate within the primary tank circuit and the energy is coupled into the secondary resonator through magnetism.

So what appears to be a continuous burst of sparks is actually a specific number of sparks generated per second. By modulating the number of sparks that emit from the coil each second, different tones can be produced by the coils.

These coils were constructed by Eric Goodchild and Steven Caton.

Antibiotics Linked to Weight Gain in Mice

From Scientific American:

Antibiotics-linked-weight-gain-mice_1Bacteria living naturally within the gut provide a gateway to flab, according to a few reports this week. These bacteria may explain how antibiotics fatten farm animals and perhaps people too, and how certain genes predispose organisms to obesity.

In a study published 22 August in Nature, researchers mimicked what farmers have been doing for decades to fatten up their livestock: they fed young mice a steady low dose of antibiotics. The antibiotics altered the composition of bacteria in the guts of the mice and also changed how the bacteria broke down nutrients. The bacteria in treated mice activated more genes that turn carbohydrates into short-chain fatty acids, and they turned on genes related to lipid conversion in the liver. Presumably, these shifts in molecular pathway enable fat build-up. Just as farm animals get fat, the antibiotic-fed mice put on weight. Martin Blaser, a microbiologist at New York University in New York, says that parents might unknowingly be promoting a similar phenomenon when they treat common ailments and ear infections in their children. To back that idea up, he points to another study he authored. The study, published on 21 August, found that a disproportionate number of 11,000 kids in the United Kingdom who were overweight by the time they were 3 years old had taken antibiotics within their first 6 months of life.

More here.

When the Mango Bites Back

From The New York Times:

MangoNEW DELHI — Accepting a just-picked mango from a stranger in Lodi Gardens and then putting it directly into my mouth — skin and all — was stupid. I admit that. But why did my first horrible case of traveler’s diarrhea in India have to result from a mango? I love mangoes, and India’s vast array of deliciously different mango varieties has been one of the great delights of moving here. “You didn’t even wash it?” Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, asked me later. No. “Even by your standards, that was really stupid,” Dr. Offit said. But what about the local yogurt I had eaten and the probiotic pills I had taken — weren’t my gastrointestinal flora protecting me? Since we all carry 10 times as many bacterial cells as human ones, wasn’t I for all intents and purposes already more Indian than American? “Yogurt probably won’t hurt you, unless it’s contaminated as well,” Dr. Phyllis Kozarsky, an expert on traveler’s health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview. But there is no food on the planet that will protect against an onslaught of toxic bacteria, she added.

Despite decades of immunological research and a recent surge of interest in the bacterial garden of the human gut, diarrhea remains the most unpredictable travel-related illness. There is a grim acceptance among Western expatriates and visitors here that they will be felled by it — often on multiple occasions. And there is a host of myths surrounding traveler’s diarrhea, many of which I have cheerfully perpetuated to family and friends. (Well, mostly to my wife.) There are also intriguing mysteries about how natives gain immunity to the food- and waterborne bacteria that prove so toxic to non-natives. I have lived in India for four months, and I have been in gastrointestinal distress five times — roughly once a month. Part of the problem is that Indians are a very hospitable people. Almost everywhere I go, someone offers me food and drink, forcing me to quickly weigh the chance of contamination against the likelihood that a refusal would cause offense.

More here.

Wimbledon Diary

A terrific bit of sports writing by Asad Raza in n + 1:

ImageThe giant stadium screens you see at sports venues are another of the omnipresent, light-emitting diode displays that now accompany us on our walks and escalator rides; that keep us company as we loiter around bus stops, hotel lobbies, subway cars, and at home; that warm our ears as we speak on phones. Although LED-based video, with its hyperreal colors, is pretty new, it uses the same trichromatic system as a tube TV, a Kodachrome snapshot, and Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky’s 1908 color photo of Leo Tolstoy: a red, a green and a blue image are superimposed to create the full spectrum. Unlike all previous color systems, stadium screens designed for sports have a curious genetic modification: their pixels are made up of one red, one blue, and two green LEDs. Why two green ones? Because grass is green.

Three weeks ago, the first Wednesday of Wimbledon, the specialty pixels combined to display the familiar, near-fluorescent hue of ryegrass, expertly clipped and rolled. Until 2001, the tournament’s tennis lawns contained only 70 percent rye; the remaining 30 percent was the gothically named, but less resilient, creeping red fescue. But throughout the ’80s and ’90s, a phalanx of serve-and-volley players left the grass courts worn down to a T-shaped pattern of bald, baseball diamond-like dirt. This created a vicious cycle in which the more worn down the grass became, the faster players had to get to the net and keep the ball from bouncing erratically off the footprint-scalloped dirt. The exile of creeping red fescue was also part of a sport-wide attempt to slow down play on all surfaces in the wake of huge servers—Boris Becker, Goran Ivanisevic, and above all, the metronomical Pete Sampras—along with heavier balls and more sand mixed into hardcourts’ green paint. One way you know someone hasn’t been watching much tennis is if they trot out the old saw about the sport having become a serving contest. Since the switch to 100 percent ryegrass, no player who serves and volleys has won Wimbledon.

More here.

Tuesday Poem

The Illumination of the Kentucky Mountain Craftsman

Alone, he has come to the end
of the handing down of his art,
the time having little use
for such skill as his, his land
seeded with lies and scars.
So much has he suffered
in his flesh that the end of time,
the signs behind fulfilled,
the unsealing of the seals,
seems only to be borne
as he has borne the rest.
On the mountain top, stunning
him like the glance of God,
the lightning struck him. Entering
at the big tendons of his wrists,
it has stayed in his body
so that the insects no longer
bite him, and in the night
he is not afraid anymore.
.

by Wendell Berry
from Framing, a Handbook
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, NY

Justin E. H. Smith to Judge 4th Annual 3QD Philosophy Prize

UPDATE 9/24/12: The winners have been announced here.

UPDATE 9/17/12: The finalists have been announced here.

UPDATE 9/15/12: The semifinalists have been announced here.

UPDATE 9/6/12: Voting round is now open. Click here to see full list of nominees and vote.

Dear Readers, Writers, Bloggers,

JustinWe are very honored and pleased to announce that Justin E. H. Smith has agreed to be the final judge for our 4th annual prize for the best blog and online writing in the category of philosophy. (Details of the previous three philosophy prizes can be seen by clicking on the names of their respective judges here: Daniel Dennett, Akeel Bilgrami, and Patricia Churchland).

Justin E. H. Smith is professor of philosophy at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. Beginning in 2013 he will be Professeur des Universités at the Université de Paris 7-Denis Diderot. Completing a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2000, his primary research focus over the past 15 years has been the history of metaphysics, philosophy of science, and natural philosophy in early modern Europe, with a particular interest in the philosophy of Leibniz. This interest culminated in 2011 with a lengthy study of Leibniz's theory of the generation, structure, and motion of living beings, entitled Divine Machines: Leibniz and the Sciences of Life. He has recently completed a book on the origins of so-called 'racial science' in the 18th century out of early modern philosophical debates about species taxonomy and the problem of natural kinds. This book, Nature, Human Nature, and Human Difference: Early Modern Philosophy and the Invention of Race, will appear from Princeton University Press, in 2013. He has also recently completed a translation and critical edition, with François Duchesneau, of Georg Ernst Stahl's Negotium otiosum, seu Skiamachia (1720), to appear from Yale University Press next year. He also has longstanding metaphilosophical and methodological interests in the relationship of philosophy to its history. This interest has recently culminated in an edited volume, with Eric Schliesser and Mogens Laerke, on this topic, to appear next year from Oxford University Press. Another major research project, under contract with Princeton University Press, is a book entitled A Global History of Philosophy, to 1700, which, thankfully, he has another five years to complete. In this connection, he has a developing research interest in classical Indian philosophy, particularly the philosophy of language in the Pāṇinian tradition, as well as the theory of the composition of bodies in Vaiśeṣika atomism. Running through this recent turn to comparative and so-called 'non-Western' philosophy is a serious interest in the nature of the philosophical project, including its anthropology and sociology, and its historical relationship to other, partially overlapping domains of human activity, particularly religious ritual and applied science. He also writes for the New York Times Stone series. More about his work can be found here: www.jehsmith.com/philosophy.

As usual, this is the way it will work: the nominating period is now open, and will end at 11:59 pm EST on September 3, 2012. There will then be a round of voting by our readers which will narrow down the entries to the top twenty semi-finalists. After this, we will take these top twenty voted-for nominees, and the four main editors of 3 Quarks Daily (Abbas Raza, Robin Varghese, Morgan Meis, and Azra Raza) will select six finalists from these, plus they may also add up to three wildcard entries of their own choosing. The three winners will be chosen from these by Justin Smith.

The first place award, called the “Top Quark,” will include a cash prize of one thousand dollars; the second place prize, the “Strange Quark,” will include a cash prize of three hundred dollars; and the third place winner will get the honor of winning the “Charm Quark,” along with a two hundred dollar prize.

(Welcome to those coming here for the first time. Learn more about who we are and what we do here, and do check out the full site here. Bookmark us and come back regularly, or sign up for the RSS feed.)


Details:

PrizePhilosophyAnnounce2012The winners of this prize will be announced on September 24, 2012. Here's the schedule:

August 27, 2012:

  • The nominations are opened. Please nominate your favorite blog entry by placing the URL for the blog post (the permalink) in the comments section of this post. You may also add a brief comment describing the entry and saying why you think it should win. (Do NOT nominate a whole blog, just one individual blog post.)
  • Blog posts longer than 4,000 words are strongly discouraged, but we might make an exception if there is something truly extraordinary.
  • Each person can only nominate one blog post.
  • Entries must be in English.
  • The editors of 3QD reserve the right to reject entries that we feel are not appropriate.
  • The blog entry may not be more than a year old. In other words, it must have been written after August 26, 2011.
  • You may also nominate your own entry from your own or a group blog (and we encourage you to).
  • Guest columnists at 3 Quarks Daily are also eligible to be nominated, and may also nominate themselves if they wish.
  • Nominations are limited to the first 200 entries.
  • Prize money must be claimed within a month of the announcement of winners.

September 3, 2012

  • The nominating process will end at 11:59 PM (NYC time) of this date.
  • The public voting will be opened soon afterwards.

September 14, 2012

  • Public voting ends at 11:59 PM (NYC time).

September 24, 2012

  • The winners are announced.

One Final and Important Request

If you have a blog or website, please help us spread the word about our prizes by linking to this post. Otherwise, post a link on your Facebook profile, Tweet it, or just email your friends and tell them about it! I really look forward to reading some very good material, and think this should be a lot of fun for all of us.

Best of luck and thanks for your attention!

Yours,

Abbas

Conventional Wisdom

by Akim Reinhardt

As the Republican Party begins its national convention today in Florida, I offer this brief history of political conventions and examine their relevance to modern American politics.

George Washington's cherry treeThe generation of political leaders who initiated and executed the American Revolution and founded a new nation, believed in the concept of republican virtue. That is, they felt it the obligation of every citizen to give of themselves to the welfare of their new, shared political endeavor. That their definition of citizenship was quite narrow is very imoprtant, but another matter altogether.

The founders believed that in order for the republic to survive and be healthy, citizens must sublimate their selfish interests for the sake of the general welfare. In line with this, they imagined that the nation’s politicians would be citizen servants: men, who for a temporary period of time, sacrificed the profits and joys of their personal pursuits so that they might shoulder the responsibility of governing the nation, the states, and localities, offering their wisdom and insight for everyone’s benefit.

There was nothing of political parties in this vision. Neither the Articles of Confederation nor the U.S. Constitution made any mention of them. They are, in the strict sense of the term, extra-constitutional political organizations, and they are most decidedly not what the new nation’s architects had in mind when they fashioned this republic. Indeed, they did not even use the term “party” for the most part, instead referring to the political alliances that soon formed as “factions.” George Washington especially despised the new factionalism, even in its nascent form, and he refused to ally with any group. To this day, he is the only president listed on the roll of chief executives as Independent.

Perhaps it was näive of Washington and other purists to scoff at the emerging political gangs. Perhaps the constitution’s framers should have better anticipated this development and done something to temper it, to keep it from warping their beloved system of checks and balances. Regardless, the move towards modern parties was underway as the nation’s politicians began to lineup behind the philosophies and reputations of top leaders such as Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams.

Read more »

Monday Poem

The Architecture of Memory

Every room has its story—

the back of the house is darkest
but light floods the porch
where we sit after a long day
rising now and then from its steps,
momentarily leaving our drinks
to wander back through old doors
and rummage among the stuff we’ve stacked
against walls and under beds
reaching for the odd object
we’d just nudged with a recollection
as we sauntered through conversation,
as if a salvaged thought was a lamp
which, being disturbed,
clicks on automatically,
becomes a sun in a dimming universe
or lightning strike in a new storm,
either way a big brilliant thing
massive as the posts & beams
of a venerable house
—the bellied bones of time
upholding the spirit
of the place
.

by Jim Culleny
8/8/12

The Remit of Fear

by Maniza Naqvi

SaudiKingandOICI fear the perverse purchase of Saudi petrodollars: the twin ideologies of Salafism and Islamophobia. This is what the State of Saudi Arabia exports to the rest of the world its Salafist ideology along with oil and petrodollars (here). Saudi Arabia represents the single largest source of remittances to a majority of majority Muslim countries. Remittances to the tune of more than US$30.0 to US$50.0 billion per year from workers employed in Saudi Arabia go to 29 mainly majority Muslim countries. These remittances are a significant portion of total remittances in these countries and have an impact on the GDPs of these countries. India alone earns US$24.0 billion in remittances from Saudi Arabia while Pakistan and Bangladesh each earn US$4.0 billion. Then there are the other Saudi financial outflows to these countries in terms of trade, oil, subsidized and free oil, and direct investments in all sorts of industries including banking, media and tourism. And, included in these financial flows are the philanthropic grants earmarked for furthering Salafist thought. All together these add up to billions of dollars (here). Understandably, then, it pays Governments all over the world, royally not to criticize the State of Saudi Arabia or its actions and to instead remain silent. The specter for countries of being knocked off the gravy train and stripped of Saudi largess if the Saudi State should be displeased, can mean the loss of all the purchasing power and wealth being dispatched to millions upon millions of homes by migrant laborers in Saudi Arabia. It would mean the loss of thriving consumerism and prosperity. But that wealth is destroying whole homelands including Saudi Arabia.

Bush-and-saudi-princeI fear to imagine a country which produces no art, no films, no theater, no songs nor dance. I fear the perverseness and madness that would build a seperate city for women instead of recognizing women as equal human beings. I fear such a State of gender apartheid, where women are buried alive in the form of seclusion. I fear a country that cannot function as a civilized member of the human community of nations and treats women, the entire gender, as pariahs (here). Yet, such is the country created by the State of Saudi Arabia. I fear the reasons which cause 16 million citizens most of whom are not Saud in Saudi Arabia to remain silently compliant with such injustice. The bulk of this population is under the age of 25 and disempowered and is ruled absolutely by old men who do not tolerate dissent or diversity of opinion. I fear the mindset that treats women as blots and clots to be erased or managed. The total population living in Saudi Arabia is an estimated between 27 million to 28 million of which 9 million are registered as foreign workers and an estimated 2 million are illegal workers. 30% of the Saudi citizens are below the age of 14 and over 60% are below the age of 25. Of the youth population 28.2% between 15-24 are unemployed. They are unemployed, under skilled and under achievers of their potential. They live off of the state provided stipends. The heavy lifting in manual labor as well as professional skilled work and managerial work is all handled by foreigners.

Read more »

Reading a Riot

by Gautam Pemmaraju

Over two weeks ago, on August 11, a sizeable gathering of over 15,000 gathered at Azad Maidan, a public ground in Mumbai, to protest violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar/Burma and those of the northeastern Indian state of Assam. It was in early to mid July that violence broke out between sections of the multifaith indigenous Bodo people and migrant Bengali Muslims in Kokrajhar, Chirang & Dubhri districts of Assam displacing over 400,000 people, and earlier, 87 people were reportedly killed in ethnic clashes between Rohingya and Buddhists in Rakhine. The crowds were responding to a call by Raza Academy, a 25 year old Mumbai based organization, that has been actively mobilizing Muslims in the city protesting slights against their religious sentiments – from anti-George Bush public protests, announcing a cash prize of 100000 rupees for hurling a slipper at Salman Rushdie at the Jaipur Literary Festival early this year, seeking the revoking of a visa to the Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, to protesting the presence in Mumbai of the Canada based Pakistani cleric Tahirul Qadri, accused of apostasy and of thanking Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, for providing state security for his public gathering in Ahmedabad. (See Faisal Devji’s interesting piece on the Rushdie/Jaipur Lit Fest episode here).

Mob-violence-mumbai11A group of no more than 2000 people were expected to gather, but unanticipated crowds filled up Azad Maidan, and reportedly, a group of rioters, armed with sticks, rods and swords, which had infiltrated the congregation, went amuck at around 3.15 PM, setting fire to TV OB Vans, police vans, public transport buses, besides attacking policeman and media persons. The violent mob, gathered at the gate of Azad Maidan, had begun to raise angry slogans against the media for not adequately reporting the ‘atrocities’, displaying images of ‘atrocities’ against Muslims. These images, which had been circulating across social media, were in no small measure, immensely provocative. In the violence that ensued, two Muslim youth were killed in firing, and 54 people were injured, mostly police. There have been allegations that some policewomen were sexually assaulted.

Read more »

Tina Brown, Christopher Hitchens, Niall Ferguson, Rupert Murdoch — What’s With Our American Blindness To These Imported British Assholes?

by Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash

Tina brownThe musical British invasion of the 60s and 70s brought us the Beatles, the Stones, Herman's Hermits, the Dave Clark Five, the Searchers and other great bands, who made us realize anew that American music was the greatest popular music ever, as these imports sold back to us and reminded us of our best blues and Tin Pan Alley traditions.

The journalistic British invasion of the 80s and 90s brought us Tina Brown, Christopher Hitchens, Niall Ferguson and Rupert Murdoch — assholes all, who have lowered the intellectual tone of American journalism and brought us cheap sensationalism and provocation for the sake of provocation and nothing else.

One reason we Americans are so easily blinded by these assholes is simply their accents: Americans have always thought that the British accent denotes great intelligence. I mean, Shakespeare in a British accent sounds more elegant than played in American accents, doesn't it — despite the fact that the accent of Shakespeare's own time was probably closer to American than Brit.

The other reason is that, because of a British liberal arts education, which is superior to its US counterpart, these folks can display remarkable erudition. Unlike most American journalists, they've actually read a lot — enough to impress us Americans anyway.

The third reason is their intellectual smugness. We take this as a sign of their intellectual superiority, but it's nothing but an infuriatingly annoying British smug shallow high-table confidence that the Oxbridge snobs have used to condescend to us and intimidate us for ages.

The British have undoubtedly gained by the good riddance of these assholes to the US, but their gain is our loss. Let's see how deep this loss goes, by taking these assholes in turn.

Read more »

Mitt’s “proud to be an American” tax rate

by Sarah Firisen

Uncle_sam_taxesThere once was a company Bain
That Mitt Romney runs from in vain
To prove no active role
Is clearly his goal
But to believe that is really a strain

While bailing the Olympic games out
The evidence shows he had clout
Bain's full owner it seems
But no part of their schemes
A technicality he says with a pout

We should just take good ole Mitt's word
That the lines really never got blurred
And those offshore accounts
That scored huge tax discounts?
Un-American. That's just absurd!

Nothing's more patriotic you know
Than to legally watch your wealth grow
To avoid as much tax
As you can to the max
And in Swiss banks more cash to stow

No one's prouder of country than he
It's just not where his money should be
That's the American way
There's no need to pay
When he can get away living tax-free

He says there's nothing more we can learn
By looking at past tax returns
It must be apparent
He's been quite transparent
Trust him, there's no need for concern

So does everyone have this all straight?
It's really not up for debate
The record on Bain
Is just not germane
To a perfectly legal tax rate!