Monthly Archives: June 2014

Administrative units

To see how administrative units could, over time, come to be conceived as fatherlands, not merely in the Americas but in other parts of the world, one has to look at the ways in which administrative organizations create meaning. The anthropologist Victor Turner has written illuminatingly about the journey, between times, statuses and places, as a meaning-creating experience. All such journeys require interpretation (for example, the journey from birth to death has given rise to various religious conceptions.) For our purposes here, the modal journey is the pilgrimage. It is not simply that in the minds of Christians, Muslims or Hindus the cities of Rome, Mecca, or Benares were the centres of sacred geographies, but that their centrality was experienced and ‘realized’ (in the stagecraft sense) by the constant flow of pilgrims moving towards them from remote and otherwise unrelated localities. Indeed, in some sense the outer limits of the old religious communities of the imagination were determined by which pilgrimages people made. As noted earlier, the strange physical juxtaposition of Malays, Persians, Indians, Berbers and Turks in Mecca is something incomprehensible without an idea of their community in some form. The Berber encountering the Malay before the Kaaba must, as it were, ask himself: ‘Why is this man doing what I am doing, uttering the same words that I am uttering, even though we can not talk to one another?’ There is only one answer, once one has learnt it: ‘Because we … are Muslims.’ There was, to be sure, always a double aspect to the choreography of the great religious pilgrimages: a vast horde of illiterate vernacular-speakers provided the dense, physical reality of the ceremonial passage; while a small segment of literate bilingual adepts drawn from each vernacular community performed the unifying rites, interpreting to their respective followings the meaning of their collective motion. [It’s too bad he doesn’t elaborate on this.] In a pre-print age, the reality of the imagined religious community depended profoundly on countless, ceaseless travels. Nothing more impresses one about Western Christendom in its heyday than the uncoerced flow of faithful seekers from all over Europe, through the celebrated ‘regional centres’ of monastic learning, to Rome. These great Latin-speaking institutions drew together what today we would perhaps regard as Irishmen, Danes, Portuguese, Germans, and so forth, in communities whose sacred meaning was every day deciphered from their members’ otherwise inexplicable juxtaposition in the refectory.

Though the religious pilgrimages are probably the most touching and grandiose journeys of the imagination, they had, and have, more modest and limited secular counterparts. For our present purposes, the most important were the differing passages created by the rise of absolutizing monarchies, and, eventually, Europe-centred world-imperial states. The inner thrust of absolutism was to create a unified apparatus of power, controlled directly by, and loyal to, the ruler over against a decentralized, particularistic feudal nobility. Unification meant internal interchangeability of men and documents. Human interchangeability was fostered by the recruitment — naturally to varying extents — of homines novi, who, just for that reason, had no independent power of their own, and so could serve as emanations of their masters’ wills.

Absolutist functionaries thus undertook journeys which were basically different from those of feudal nobles. The difference can be represented schematically as follows: In the modal feudal journey, the heir of Noble A, on his father’s death, moves up one step to take that father’s place. This ascension requires a round-trip, to the centre for investiture, and then back home to the ancestral demesne. For the new functionary, however, things are more complex. Talent, not death, charts his course. He sees before him a summit rather than a centre. He travels up its corniches in a series of looping arcs which, he hopes, will become smaller and tighter as he nears the top. Sent out to township A at rank V, he may return to the capital at rank W; proceed to province B at rank X; continue to vice-royalty C at rank Y; and end his pilgrimage in the capital at rank Z. On this journey there is no assured resting-place; every pause is provisional. The last thing the functionary wants is to return home; for he has no home with any intrinsic value. And this: on his upward-spiralling road he encounters as eager fellow-pilgrims his functionary colleagues, from places and families he has scarcely heard of and surely hopes never to have to see. But in experiencing them as travelling-companions, a consciousness of connectedness (‘Why are we … here … together?’) emerges, above all when all share a single language-of-state. Then, if official A from province B administers province C, while official D from province C administers province B — a situation that absolutism begins to make likely — that experience of interchangeability requires its own explanation: the ideology of absolutism, which the new men themselves, as much as the sovereign, elaborate.

Documentary interchangeability, which reinforced human interchangeability, was fostered by the development of a standardized language-of-state. As the stately succession of Anglo-Saxon, Latin, Norman, and Early English in London from the eleventh through the fourteenth centuries demonstrates, any written language could, in principle, serve this function — provided it was given monopoly rights. (One could, however, argue that where vernaculars, rather than Latin, happened to hold the monopoly, a further centralizing function was achieved, by restricting the drift of one sovereign’s officials to his rivals’ machines: so to speak ensuring that Madrid’s pilgrim-functionaries were not interchangeable with those of Paris.)

In principle, the extra-European expansion of the great kingdoms of early modern Europe should have simply extended the above model in the development of grand, transcontinental bureaucracies. But, in fact, this did not happen. The instrumental rationality of the absolutist apparatus — above all its tendency to recruit and promote on the basis of talent rather than of birth — operated only fitfully beyond the eastern shores of the Atlantic.

The pattern is plain in the Americas. For example, of the 170
viceroys in Spanish America prior to 1813, only 4 were Creoles. These figures are all the more startling if we note that in 1800 less than 5% of the 3,200,000 Creole ‘whites’ in the Western Empire (imposed on about 13,700,000 indigenes) were Spain-born Spaniards. On the eve of the revolution in Mexico, there was only one creole bishop, although Creoles in the viceroyalty outnumbered peninsulares by 70 to 1. And, needless to say, it was nearly unheard-of for a creole to rise to a position of official importance in Spain. Moreover, the pilgrimages of creole functionaries were not merely vertically barred. If peninsular officials could travel the road from Zaragoza to Cartagena, Madrid, Lima, and again Madrid, the ‘Mexican’ or ‘Chilean’ creole typically served only in the territories of colonial Mexico or Chile: his lateral movement was as cramped as his vertical ascent. In this way, the apex of his looping climb, the highest administrative centre to which he could be assigned, was the capital of the imperial administrative unit in which he found himself.

Yet on this cramped pilgrimage he found travelling-companions, who came to sense that their fellowship was based not only on that pilgrimage’s particular stretch, but on the shared fatality of trans-Atlantic birth. Even if he was born within one week of his father’s migration, the accident of birth in the Americas consigned him to subordination — even though in terms of language, religion, ancestry, or manners he was largely indistinguishable from the Spain-born Spaniard. There was nothing to be done about it: he was irremediably a Creole. Yet how irrational his exclusion must have seemed! Nonetheless, hidden inside the irrationality was this logic: born in the Americas, he could not be a true Spaniard; ergo, born in Spain, the peninsular could not be a true American.

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities.


Key to the case against Hiss were papers that Chambers had squirreled away in early 1938 as a “life preserver” in preparation for his defection from the Soviet underground. The next day, Nixon revealed on the floor of the House that he had in his possession “copies of eight pages of documents in the handwriting of Mr. White which Mr. Chambers turned over to the Justice Department.” The original documents composed a four-page, double-sided memorandum, written in White’s hand on yellow-lined paper, with material dated from January 10 to February 15, 1938, that had been part of Chambers’ life preserver. Handwriting analysis by the FBI and what was then the Veterans Administration confirmed White’s authorship.

The memo is a mixture of concise information and commentary on Treasury and State Department positions related to foreign policy and military matters. It covers European economic and political developments, including details of private discussions between the U.S. ambassador to France and French political leaders over their intentions toward the Soviet Union and Germany. The memo also outlines possible U.S. actions against Japan, such as a trade embargo or an asset freeze, and describes Japan’s military protection of its oil storage facilities. White also revealed personal directives from the president to the treasury secretary, making clear that he was recording confidential information: at one point, the memo states explicitly that the Treasury Department’s economic warfare plan for Japan, called for by the president, “remains unknown outside of Treasury.”



That proved to be nonsense, of course. But White was right about the IMF. Truman’s State Department effectively mothballed the fund, dismissing the assumptions that had underwritten White’s earlier belief in it: that Soviet cooperation would continue into the postwar period; that Germany’s economic collapse could be safely, and indeed profitably, managed; that the British Empire could be peaceably dismantled; and that short-term IMF credits would be sufficient to reestablish global trade.

Dismantling doesn’t sound like a very nice thing to do to one’s allies.

America’s second language

Enemy's_languageWhen the U.S. joined in World War I, an anti-German attitude formed quickly in American society. German-Americans, especially immigrants, came to be blamed for the aggression of the German Empire. Speaking German was seen as unpatriotic. Frankfurters were renamed hot dogs. Many families anglicized their last names (e.g. from Schmidt to Smith, Schneider to Taylor, Müller to Miller etc.), and German disappeared nearly everywhere from the public arena. Many states forbade the use of German in the public sphere as well as the teaching of German.

The extensive campaign extended against all things German, such as the performance of German music at symphony concerts and the meetings of German-American civic associations. Language was a principal focus of legislation at the state and local level. It took many forms, from requiring associations to have charters written in English to a ban on the use of German within the town limits. Some states banned foreign language instruction, while a few banned only German. Some extended their bans into private instruction and even to religious education. A bill to create a Department of Education at the federal level was introduced in October 1918, designed to restrict federal funds to states that enforced English-only education. An internal battle over conducting services and religious instruction in German divided the Lutheran churches.[11]

On April 9, 1919, Nebraska enacted a statute called “An act relating to the teaching of foreign languages in the state of Nebraska,” commonly known as the Siman Act. It imposed restrictions on both the use of a foreign language as a medium of instruction and on foreign languages as a subject of study. With respect to the use of a foreign language while teaching, it provided that “No person, individually or as a teacher, shall, in any private, denominational, parochial or public school, teach any subject to any person in any language other than the English language.” With respect to foreign-language education, it prohibited instruction of children who had yet to successfully complete the eighth grade. Teaching German, even in private schools, was forbidden in Ohio, Iowa and Nebraska. There was a Supreme Court case (Meyer v. Nebraska) which ruled those laws unconstitutional, but German never recovered as the second language of public life in the U.S.

My grandmother spoke fluent German. It did not get passed down.

On hypocrisy


In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control.


Vladimir: Like take racial profiling. Don’t writers at New York Times or big magazine notice that black guy more likely to commit crime than white guy or Chinese guy? Don’t they see this with own two eyes?

Me: Oh, I get it. No, they have two eyes in their head, same as you do. They see what you see. When you talk to a nice white liberal about his personal life, he’s far more realistic in what he tells you than in what he writes for public consumption. When you ask him why he lives in his beautiful crime-free suburb, or why he sends his kid to a private school, or why he fought so long to get his kid into a magnet school, or why he wants his kid to specialize in soccer rather than basketball, he’ll tell you exactly why. He’ll generally use code words so he won’t have to mention race specifically, but that’s precisely what he’s talking about.

Vladimir (audibly relieved): You mean, he’s hypocrite?

Me: Yeah, exactly. It would hurt his career to write for the public what he thinks in his private life.

Vladimir: Thank God!

Me: Huh?

Vladimir: Hypocrite I understand. I grow up in Soviet Union. Lying to save your job, that’s life. No, I was very worried smart people in America weren’t hypocrites. You know, this country is supposed to be land of free, home of brave. I was scared that smart Americans weren’t hypocrites, but instead were hallucinating. I am very happy to hear they’re just hypocrites. Hypocrisy much less scary than mass hallucination.


“Sure, I have racist thoughts. I’ve crossed the street to avoid a black man sometimes, but only at night. I mean, at least I’m honest about it, though, right?”

“I have had a lot of bad experiences with women, and yes, I’m resentful about it. It colors how I treat the women I meet. Even though I know in my head that it doesn’t make sense, in my gut I feel like every woman I date owes me sex on behalf of all those other bitches who teased me and left me high and dry. But hey, at least I’m honest!” …

I don’t think that any of us would say that statements like this represent important ethical achievements. Even in their own wording, they openly admit that they’re doing the very minimum — more honesty! Yet the “at least” may already be an overestimate: who would claim that unethical behavior suddenly becomes ethical when it is openly engaged in? …

In response to this radically self-serving post-ethical stance, all we can do is require people to stop being so damn honest and start being as hypocritical as possible — because say what you will of hypocrisy, at least it maintains the possibility of an ethos.


While butter that cows produced had a slightly yellow color, margarine had a white color, making the margarine look more like lard. Many people found it to look unappetizing. Around the late 1880s the manufacturers decided to dye the margarine yellow, so it would sell more. Dairy firms, especially in Wisconsin, became alarmed and succeeded in getting legislation passed to prohibit the coloring of the stark white product. In response, the margarine companies distributed the margarine together with a packet of yellow dye. The product was placed in a bowl and the dye mixed in with a spoon. This took some time and effort and it was not unusual for the final product to be served as a light and dark yellow, or even white, striped product. During World War II, there was a shortage of butter in the United States and “oleomargarine” became popular. In 1951 the W. E. Dennison Company received patent number 2,553,513 for a method to place a capsule of yellow dye inside a plastic package of margarine. After purchase, the capsule was broken inside the package and then the package was kneaded to distribute the dye. Around 1955, the artificial coloring laws were repealed and margarine could for the first time be sold colored like butter.

The fall of Latin

One of the earlier forms of capitalist enterprise, book-publishing felt all of capitalism’s restless search for markets. The early printers established branches all over Europe: ‘in this way a veritable “international” of publishing houses, which ignored national [sic] frontiers, was created.’ And since the years 1500-1550 were a period of exceptional European prosperity, publishing shared in the general boom. ‘More than at any other time’ it was ‘a great industry under the control of wealthy capitalists.’ Naturally, ‘booksellers were primarily concerned to make a profit and to sell their products, and consequently they sought out first and foremost those works which were of interest to the largest possible number of their contemporaries.’

The initial market was literate Europe, a wide but thin stratum of Latin-readers. Saturation of this market took about a hundred and fifty years. The determinative fact about Latin — aside from its sacrality — was that it was a language of bilinguals. Relatively few were born to speak it and even fewer, one imagines, dreamed in it. …

The logic of capitalism thus meant that once the elite Latin market was saturated, the potentially huge markets represented by the monoglot masses would beckon. …

The revolutionary vernacularizing thrust of capitalism was given further impetus by three extraneous factors, two of which contributed directly to the rise of national consciousness. The first, and ultimately the least important, was a change in the character of Latin itself. Thanks to the labours of the Humanists in reviving the broad literature of pre-Christian antiquity and spreading it through the print-market, a new appreciation of the sophisticated stylistic achievements of the ancients was apparent among the trans-European intelligentsia. The Latin they now aspired to write became more and more Ciceronian, and, by the same token, increasingly removed from ecclesiastical and everyday life. In this way it acquired an esoteric quality quite different from that of Church Latin in mediaeval times. For the older Latin was not arcane because of its subject matter or style, but simply because it was written at all, i.e. because of its status as text. Now it became arcane because of what was written, because of the language-in-itself.

Second was the impact of the Reformation, which, at the same time, owed much of its success to print-capitalism. Before the age of print, Rome easily won every war against heresy in Western Europe because it always had better internal lines of communication than its challengers. But when in 1517 Martin Luther nailed his theses to the chapel-door in Wittenberg, they were printed up in German translation, and ‘within 15 days [had been] seen in every part of the country.’ In the two decades 1520—1540 three times as many books were published in German as in the period 1500—1520, an astonishing transformation to which Luther was absolutely central. His works represented no less than one third of all German-language books sold between 1518 and 1525. Between 1522 and 1546, a total of 430 editions (whole or partial) of his Biblical translations appeared. ‘We have here for the first time a truly mass readership and a popular literature within everybody’s reach.’ In effect, Luther became the first best-selling author so known. Or, to put it another way, the first writer who could ‘sell’ his new books on the basis of his name.

Where Luther led, others quickly followed, opening the colossal religious propaganda war that raged across Europe for the next century. In this titanic ‘battle for men’s minds’, Protestantism was always fundamentally on the offensive, precisely because it knew how to make use of the expanding vernacular print-market being created by capitalism, while the Counter-Reformation defended the citadel of Latin. The emblem for this is the Vatican’s Index Librorum Prohibitorum — to which there was no Protestant counterpart — a novel catalogue made necessary by the sheer volume of printed subversion. Nothing gives a better sense of this siege mentality than Francois I’s panicked 1535 ban on the printing of any books in his realm — on pain of death by hanging! The reason for both the ban and its unenforceability was that by then his realm’s eastern borders were ringed with Protestant states and cities producing a massive stream of smugglable print. To take Calvin’s Geneva alone: between 1533 and 1540 only 42 editions were published there, but the numbers swelled to 527 between 1550 and 1564, by which latter date no less than 40 separate printing-presses were working overtime.

The coalition between Protestantism and print-capitalism, exploiting cheap popular editions, quickly created large new reading publics — not least among merchants and women, who typically knew little or no Latin — and simultaneously mobilized them for politico-religious purposes. Inevitably, it was not merely the Church that was shaken to its core. The same earthquake produced Europe’s first important non-dynastic, non-city states in the Dutch Republic and the Commonwealth of the Puritans. (Francois I’s panic was as much political as religious.)

Third was the slow, geographically uneven, spread of particular vernaculars as instruments of administrative centralization by certain well-positioned would-be absolutist monarchs. Here it is useful to remember that the universality of Latin in mediaeval Western Europe never corresponded to a universal political system. The contrast with Imperial China, where the reach of the mandarinal bureaucracy and of painted characters largely coincided, is instructive. In effect, the political fragmentation of Western Europe after the collapse of the Western Empire meant that no sovereign could monopolize Latin and make it his-and-only-his language-of-state, and thus Latin’s religious authority never had a true political analogue.

The birth of administrative vernaculars predated both print and the religious upheaval of the sixteenth century, and must therefore be regarded (at least initially) as an independent factor in the erosion of the sacred imagined community. At the same time, nothing suggests that any deep-seated ideological, let alone proto-national, impulses underlay this vernacularization where it occurred.

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities.

Every successful revolution

Since World War II every successful revolution has defined itself in national terms — the People’s Republic of China, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and so forth — and, in so doing, has grounded itself firmly in a territorial and social space inherited from the prerevolutionary past. Conversely, the fact that the Soviet Union shares with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland the rare distinction of refusing nationality in its naming suggests that it is as much the legatee of the prenational dynastic states of the nineteenth century as the precursor of a twenty-first century internationalist order.

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities.

(As we all know, the USSR was a steppe empire.)

Eric Hobsbawm is perfectly correct in stating that ‘Marxist movements and states have tended to become national not only in form but in substance, i.e., nationalist. There is nothing to suggest that this trend will not continue.’

Now, if we look at the relation between the Marxist revolutionaries in the first world and nationalism… well, the revolution won’t be coming anytime soon. One might even begin to suspect that they don’t want it to.


Tom Nairn, author of the path-breaking The Break-up of Britain, and heir to the scarcely less vast tradition of Marxist historiography and social science, candidly remarks: ‘The theory of nationalism represents Marxism’s great historical failure.’ But even this confession is somewhat misleading, insofar as it can be taken to imply the regrettable outcome of a long, self-conscious search for theoretical clarity. It would be more exact to say that nationalism has proved an uncomfortable anomaly for Marxist theory and, precisely for that reason, has been largely elided, rather than confronted. How else to explain Marx’s failure to explicate the crucial adjective in his memorable formulation of 1848: ‘The proletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with its own bourgeoisie’? How else to account for the use, for over a century, of the concept ‘national bourgeoisie’ without any serious attempt to justify theoretically the relevance of the adjective? Why is this segmentation of the bourgeoisie — a world-class insofar as it is defined in terms of the relations of production — theoretically significant?

A full and free life?

So let’s say you have a town that is taken over by a fundamentalist sect that excludes all peoples not of the faith, forces women into burka-like clothing, imposes a theocratic legal code, and ostracizes gays and lesbians. You might say that everyone is there voluntarily, but, even so, there is no liberalism present in this social arrangement at all. The brutalists will be on the front lines to defend such a microtyranny on grounds of decentralization, rights of property, and the right to discriminate and exclude—completely dismissing the larger picture here that, after all, people’s core aspirations to live a full and free life are being denied on a daily basis.


The key word here is free. To the liberal, an individual ought to be free to live as he likes so long as he remains an individual—so long as he does not become a part of something more than himself.

There are people who believe that the full life demands a theocratic legal code and so on, and who take up arms toward this goal. How can anyone believe that the full life prohibits it, without retreating into psychoanalysis? (This psychoanalytic mode, of course, has two options: it can either presuppose that actual disagreement, actual difference, is impossibleall are like us, but some just haven’t realized it yetor establish a hierarchy under which those who are like us are normal/superior and those who are not are defective.)

‘Libertarian humanitarianism’ is liberalismand liberalism reveals itself here as a set of object-level principles contrasting with the meta-principles of ‘brutalism’. Some believe that liberalism is value-neutral, and liberalism sometimes markets itself as such, but the phrase “a full and free life”as if the two could never be contradictory!demonstrates that it’s not.

It probably doesn’t even realize it.

Added: Relevant.

Gawker is communist

Putting this here so I don’t have to give Gawker clicks on the source post.

Tom S. Why not just appropriate money from the rich people and keep the art?
John C. give the art to the poor
Tom S. It feels like your Peter Singer stuff is getting in the way of your communist principles, Hamilton.
Max R. burn the art and kill the rich
Cord J. build homes for the poor with the unused paintings
Hamilton N. basic city services are more important than opulent art
Sam B. lean-tos made out of paintings
Tom S. Isn’t that basically the New York Post’s argument today, though, Hamilton?
Hamilton N. no
Max R. the art is a relic and ideological tool of class oppression and must be destroyed. the rich must be made to answer for their crimes and hung in the city square.
Tom S. The poor don’t NEED art.
John C. wow check yr priv tom
Hamilton N. if you were building a city, would you build it with a billion dollars of art in a museum and no street lights?
John C. “poor people are beyond enlightment, why bother”—tom scocca
Tom S. I was trying to translate Hamilton’s argument, John.
Sam B. what’s the most affordable form of art
Hamilton N. that’s insane
Sam B. dance I guess
Tom S. I am arguing the opposite.
Hamilton N. my only argument is an art museum is not as important as, for example, a fire department.
when it comes to city services.
Max R. yeah but hamilton you’re limiting yourself
Tom S. That this utilitarian ethos is in harmony with the rich people’s ideology that there should be nothing provided to the poor beyond the most grudging minimum.
9:55 AM
Tom S. Singer-style utilitarianism is not particularly uplifting when you apply it to OTHER people.
Hamilton N. lol
Max R. why “sell the art to the rich” when “take money from the rich to fund the city services AND the art museum” works even better
Tom S. Exactly.
Max has it.
Hamilton N. Singer advocates essentially taxing the rich to near poverty
I think you are misrepresenting his ethic
John C. are there any other things the city of detroit has access to by way of raising funds?
Hamilton N. where are all these mythical rich people in detroit you’re gonna tax to pay for that?
Sam B. they should sell the fucking sports teams
John C. the city doesn’t own the sports teams
Sam B. seize them
seize the pistons
now there’s a post
Hamilton N. good brainstorming happening here
Adam W. rename the sports teams in the name of the people
The Seattle Sans-Culottes
Tom S. Who says the rich people who get taxed have to be in Detroit?
John C. seize all land in the city and sell it to peter theil
Max R. no one “owns” anything, property is a fiction
Caity W. has entered the room
Adam W. The Detroit Mensheviki
Max R. the city “owns” the sports teams just as much as any one person does
Sam B. let every detroit resident play on the sports teams, helps unemployment
John C. Detroit Levies Unprecedented Tax on Los Angelinos
Hamilton N. I’m afraid detroit needs all the help it can get
and it’s sitting on a billion dollars of art
so get that money
you can always make more art
Adam W. i would totally argue the other side of that, hamilton
Hamilton N. art is free.
Sam B. they’ll just spend it, what’s the point
John C. #banksy
Tom S. But this “choice” you posit, between having art and having fire departments, is a choice forced on the city by the overall economic system of oppression.
Max R. fyi oakland county, the detroit suburbs, is among the wealthiest in the US
Tom S. You are literally arguing the Koch position, Hamilton.
Max R. macomb isn’t too shabby either
there’s plenty of money around detroit
Hamilton N. yeah that’s nice but right this minute detroit is broke and I don’t see full communism coming down in the next few months
Sam B. there’s no problem that can’t be fixed via seizures
Max R. you lack vision
Adam W. tom’s right
Max R. you will be hung with the rest of them when the time comes
John C. well actually impoverished enraged detroiters will be a suitable revolutionary vanguard
Hamilton N. We let detroit go to hell because we disagree with the theoretical tenets of capitalism.
John C. so it would be best for them to remain without services
Tom S. So you sell the art and buy a tiny bit of time and then there’s no art and the city goes bankrupt again and still the rich suburbs, which got rich sucking the money and life out of the city, will be rich.
Hamilton N. I’m sure the dead detroit residents who couldn’t get an ambulance would support that
Max R. “sell the art because communism isnt coming soon” is morally indistinguishable from “sell the art because captialism demands we make a choice between it and city services”
10:00 AM
John C. right but the more dead detroiters the more likely the underclasses will be to rise up
Tom S. Max is correct.
Adam W. selling the art doesn’t get them an ambulance any faster
Tom S. Why don’t we sell off Detroiters’ kidneys?
Hamilton N. I’m gonna write my post in the voice of a detroit person who just got shot and can’t get an ambulance
Max R. for what its worth hamilton i don’t think your gawker post will change much
so you might as well shoot for the stars
Tom S. It will however give ammunition to the readers who’ve decided you’re a libertarian apologist.
Hamilton N. well fed and safe new yorkers believe detroit should have an art museum, and no street lights.
John C. the money raised from the sale of art won’t go to services
Hamilton N. it will go to paying off the city’s bankruptcy
John C. it will go to pensions for people no longer providing services
right it will go to creditors
bond holders
Hamilton N. yes
the bankruptcy has to be settled before the city can move on
it doesn’t magically disappear with no money
Adam W. all i’m saying, hamilton, is you know who else would write a “sell detroit’s art” post? Matt Yglesias.
Tom S. So you are arguing for the extraction of money from Detroit, plain and simple.
That is exactly correct.
You are making a Matt Yglesias argument, Hamilton.
Max R. hahahahaha owned
Hamilton N. is “ambulances are more important than art” a matt yglesias argument?
Max R. hamilton nolan, gawker’s matt yglesias
Hamilton N. if so I agree.
John C. but maybe if you make it yglesias will disagree with you
that could be fun
Hamilton N. I haven’t heard a good “art is more important than ambulances” counter argument here
Tom S. The point is, Hamilton, that you are legitimating the false and cruel choice between ambulances and art by endorsing it.
John C. but the sale of art has nothing to do with ambulances
you’re saying “creditors are more important than art”
Tom S. Yes.
John C. “the satisfaction of debt is more important than art”
Hamilton N. WHERE do you people think the money is going to come from for this bankruptcy?
the federal govt?
Tom S. You are applauding economic injustice.
Hamilton N. and who takes the haircut?
Tom S. And calling it reason.
John C. that would be one possible solution
where did the money come from to bail out GM?
where did the money come from to bail out AIG?
John C. JP Morgan is cutting a $13 billion check right now to the feds
Hamilton N. oh lord
John C. how much does detroit owe again?
10:05 AM
Tom S. “Banks cannot go out of business, but art museums should go out of business” – Hamilton Nolan
Hamilton N. kindergarten up in here
John C. hamilton what’s the difference between yr argument and “poor people should sell their TV before they get food stamps”
Tom S. This is why it’s a Yglesias argument.
Hamilton N. you do realize that if a city borrows money.. and then is run in a corrupt manner.. and then says it won’t pay the money back.. there are consequences for that
Adam W. hamilton, you’re one heartbeat away from arguing that public services are bromides for an irrational society of self-sacrificers. ayn rand wants her shtick back
Tom S. Again, yes, exactly.
Adam W. and also, ayn rand would like to buy some of that art, please
Hamilton N. magical thinking
do you realize that detroit might, at some point in the future, like to issue bonds?
like every other city
John C. alright write it hamilton and we’ll take it to kimja
or whatever it’s called
Hamilton N. hey why not just print money on lollipops
problem solved
Tom S. No, Hamilton, magical thinking is the belief that looting the art museum will do anything at all to alleviate any of the causes of Detroit’s misery.
John C. who wants to take bets on how long it takes nick denton to write an approving comment?
Tom S. It’s just more bullshit austerity.
Hamilton N. well it’ll get em $500 million
that’s something
Tom S. Well now you’re also deep into another fallacy.
John C. a better post would be “give the jpmorgan money to detroit”
Tom S. Also incredibly popular with the right-wingers who want to loot the public possessions.
Which is that the responsible thing to do is to sell assets.
Hamilton N. yes… that is the responsible thing to do, if the choice is between luxury assets and basic services
Tom S. Like Bloomberg trying to sell off city-owned real estate and rent back the property.
Once you sell the assets, they’re gone.
Hamilton N. so? it’s a painting
get some more when you can afford street lights
Tom S. See, this is exactly what’s blockheaded about Singerism.
10:10 AM
Tom S. Let’s sell everything in Detroit, every tree and building and piece of land, and buy a bunch of shipping containers and stack them up and make the people live in them.
Hamilton N.
Tom S. Feed them lentils.
They don’t NEED that stuff.
Much more ethical to strip their lives down to the true necessities.
Hamilton N. your position is: let’s maintain this crumbling city as it is as its residents starve and die, for nostalgia’s sake
why feed them lentils when we could let them STARVE instead, while looking at art?
Max R. are ppl in detroit starving?
Taylor B. looks like i missed some fun stuff in campfire
Tom S. My position is that you are trying to propitiate the forces that have destroyed the city by doing more damage to the city.
John C. there are starving people everywhere
Max R. not seeing a lot of stories about people in detroit starving
Hamilton N. the forces that destroyed the city besides capitalism in general are: corrupt city govt.
Taylor B. ban detroit, problem solved
Max R. “besides capitalism in general” is a hell of a clause
Tom S. Banning Detroit is not bad.
Hamilton N. they’re a loser in post industrial america
I’m fine with banning detroit and not rebuilding new orleans either
Max R. “setting aside the massive and all-consuming system of injustice,” some guys took kickbacks
Taylor B. who needs to live that far north anyway
Hamilton N. look to the future not the past
Tom S. Sell the art and everything else and relocate the citizens in refugee camps in the surrounding suburbs.
That would at least be honest.
Hamilton N. the most satisfying part of this argument is the total lack of a rational counter-proposal
“do something about capitalism”
Max R. lol yes
your opponents are too irrational to argue with
10:15 AM
Tom S. Yes, “reason,” standard libertarian argument.
Hamilton N. is asking for a rational counter proposal a dirty tactic?
Tom S. “Dumb unreasonable people keep yelling about ‘justice’ instead of focusing on real things.”
Hamilton N. how dare you ask for a solution!
Tom S. I offered plenty of solutions.
Make them all sell kidneys.
Raze the city and put them in refugee camps.
Eminently rational.
What’s your objection?
Hamilton N. In the absence of an actual counter proposal I have to conclude that I won the argument.
Tom S. That is exactly why contemporary decadent capitalism is destroying everything, Hamilton.
John C. the counterproposal is to continue to permit detroit to slide into penury and despair
Hamilton N. can I just copy/ paste this whole discussion and use it for the post
Tom S. “You are incapable of arguing rationally with me, on the terms I have dictated, therefore my policy carries the day.”
Hamilton N. we’ve invested a lot of time here.
Max R. hahaha you should, hamilton
John C. thereby increasing pressure on global capitalism and throwing its internal contradictions into sharp relief
Sam B. nick would love a copy/paste
Hamilton N. great.

As for the names:

Tom S. = Tom Scocca, Gawker editor
John C. = John Cook, former Gawker editor-in-chief (he left in 2014, and that post was made in 2013)
Max R. = Max Read, current Gawker editor-in-chief
Cord J. = Cord “the damaging lawlessness and savagery of white culture” Jefferson
Hamilton N. = Hamilton Nolan, Gawker editor
Sam B. = Sam Biddle, Valleywag writer
Adam W. = Adam “Arrest Climate Change Deniers” Weinstein, Gawker staff writer
Taylor B. = Taylor Berman, Gawker staff writer

Increasing partisan division over presidential performance

This impassioned Republican discontent has persisted from the early days of Obama’s presidency, yet it is only the latest instance of a longer pattern in how the public assesses its presidents. There has been a steadily growing level of partisan division over presidential performance over the past 60 years, and it is driven almost entirely by broader disapproval from the opposition party, not by greater loyalty among the president’s party. And in that regard, the phenomenon is not limited to Republicans. At a comparable point in George W. Bush’s presidency eight years ago, Democratic disapproval of Bush’s job performance was on par with Republicans’ ratings of Obama today; in April 2006, 87% of Democrats and Democratic leaners disapproved of Bush’s job performance, and 75% very strongly disapproved.


Since 1954 — the middle of Eisenhower’s first term. (Before Eisenhower was Truman; before Truman was FDR.)

How much of this is related to the partisan realignment of the South? I’ve heard it hypothesized that the reason for increasing polarization is that the Democratic/Republican divide is increasingly lining up with the progressive/conservative divide — before that, the South was conservative and voted Democratic alongside the continuation of the FDR machine, and there were Rockefeller Republicans in the Northeast.

But Eisenhower was before Kennedy and LBJ, so it can’t explain all of it.

Possibly relevant: the Vietnam War started in 1955.