COMMONPLACE BOOK: Readings for the End of December 2006

“I speak from the cusp of Boomer/GenX. I wobble on either side. I look at my daughter; and her beauty and vitality are so vivid I could faint. I want to lock her up— no, I mean, I want to empower her. Actually, no!— I want to scare her shitless. Oh, let’s be honest: I’m scared shitless. My generation has melted the polar ice caps, looted the bank, and my inheritance to her is: what exactly?”
(Susie Bright)

Press release from Gap Inc.:
“Gap’s holiday print campaign showcases heartfelt images shot by acclaimed photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. The ads capture the mood of the season while emphasizing the importance of being with the ones you love. For the campaign shoot, a diverse group of talented personalities was photographed with someone near and dear to them....
“The ads are tagged ‘peace love gap’ and each campaign image has a corresponding message such as believe in your hood, together in your hood and reflect in your hood. With a gold peace symbol prominently featured throughout the print campaign, the images remind us of the powerful message peace brings during the holidays. The print ad campaign, which was developed by Gap’s creative agency Laird + Partners, will run in December issues of publications such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Elle, Allure, Glamour, Lucky and Rolling Stone. The campaign also includes outdoor elements such as billboards and bus shelters in select markets.
"There isn’t a more meaningful time to emphasize the importance of peace and love than during the holidays. We wanted to capture these unspoken emotion in our holiday campaign and what better way to do that than by featuring some of our favorite style makers with their loved ones,” said Trey Laird, creative director for Gap. “We chose to focus on hoodies – everything from hooded sweatshirts to the softest cashmere sweaters – because they are so iconic to Gap and so perfect for the winter season.” (Publicity Release from Gap, Inc.)

"I am what Harry Potter grew up into, and it's not a pretty sight."
(Alan Moore)

"The best way to protect the Culture is by making it worthy -- not by passing laws.”
(Sophie Marceau)

“Conrad Black is not the only tycoon to have dreamed of global domination while buying and selling newspapers, and he is not the only tycoon to have had people fawning over him on the way up and shunning him on the way down; he is not the only tycoon to have lived large, issued writs and faced criminal charges; but he is the only tycoon with a wholly distinctive prose style. It is on show in a furious email Black wrote to Tom Bower, protesting that Bower’s forthcoming book about Lord and Lady Black was going to be ‘a heartwarming story of two sleazy, spivvy, contemptible people, who enjoyed a fraudulent and unjust elevation; were exposed, and ground to powder in a just system, have been ostracised; and largely impoverished, and that I am on my way to the prison cell where I belong.’” (John Lancester, London Review of Books)

“What surprised me, though, was how completely parents of even younger girls seem to have gotten in step with society’s march toward eroticized adolescence — either willingly or through abject surrender.... Our girls are bratz, not slutz, they would argue, comfortable in the existence of a distinction.”
(Lawrence Downs, “Middle School Girls Gone Wild”, in The New York Times

“Mr. Hussein staged perhaps his most macabre purge in 1979, when at age 42 he consolidated his hold on Iraq. Having pushed aside President Bakr, he called a gathering of several hundred top Baathists.... Mr. Hussein took to the podium, weeping at first as he began reading a list of dozens implicated. Guards dragged away each of the accused. Mr. Hussein paused from reading occasionally to light his cigar, while the room erupted in almost hysterical chanting demanding death to traitors. ...
Firing squads consisting of cabinet members and other top officials initially gunned down 21 men, including five ministers...
Mr. Hussein invariably ensured that those around him were complicit in his bloody acts, which he masqueraded as patriotism, making certain that there would be no guiltless figure to rally opposition.”
(The New York Times)

“The county of Yorkshire, which contains near a million souls, sends two county members; and so does the county of Rutland which contains not a hundredth part of that number. The town of Old Sarum, which contains not three houses, sends two members; and the town of Manchester, which contains upwards of sixty thousand souls, is not admitted to send any. Is there any principle in these things?” (Thomas Paine on “rotten” boroughs in 18th century England)

from “Blackadder III: Dish and Dishonesty”:

Edmund: Sir Talbot represented the constituency of Dunny-on-the-Wold, and, by an extraordinary stroke of luck, it is a rotten borough.

Prince Regent: Really! Is it! Well, lucky-lucky us. Lucky-lucky-luck. Luck-luck-LAKK-LAKK-LAKK-LAKK-cluck-cluck-cluck-cluck- cluck-LAKK-LAKK-LAKK.

Edmund: You don't know what a rotten borough is, do you, sir.

Prince Regent: No.

Edmund: So what was the chicken impression in aid of?

Prince Regent: Well, I just didn't want to hurt your feelings. Erm, so, what is a robber button?

Edmund: *Rotten borough*.

Prince Regent: Oh, yes, you're right.

Edmund: A rotten borough, sir, is a constituency where the owner of the land corruptly controls the both the voters and the MP.

Prince Regent: Good, yes...and a robber button is...?

Edmund: Could we leave that for a moment? Dunny-on-the-Wold is a tuppenny-ha'penny place. Half an acre of sodden marshland in the Suffolk Fens with an empty town hall on it. Population: three rather mangy cows, a dachshund named `Colin', and a small hen in its late forties.

Prince Regent: So, no people at all, then? Apart from Colin...

Edmund: Colin is a dog, sir.

Prince Regent: Well, yes, yes, yes...

Edmund: Only one actual person lives there, and he is the voter.

“I never gave a goddam about my reputation. My father once said something very shrewd about me to a woman journalist who had told him how courageous she thought I was for always speaking my mind. My father said, ‘if you couldn't care less what anyone says about you, then it's not courage.'”
(Gore Vidal)

“Here are 23 ministers, of different denominations, and all of them are against me but three; and here are a great many prominent members of the Churches, a very large majority of whom are against me. Mr. Bateman, I am not a Christian -- God knows I would be one but I have carefully read the Bible, and I do not understand this book.” [Lincoln here drew out a pocket New Testament] “These men well know that I am for freedom in the territories, freedom everywhere as far as the Constitution and the laws will permit, and that my opponents are for slavery. They know this, and yet, with this book in their hands, in the light of which human bondage cannot live a moment, they are going to vote against me. I do not understand it at all.”
(Abraham Lincoln, in conversation with Newton Bateman, then Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Illinois)

"There was the strangest combination of church influence against me. Baker is a Campbellite; and therefore, as I suppose with few exceptions, got all of that Church. My wife had some relations in the Presbyterian churches, and some in the Episcopal churches; and therefore, wherever it would tell, I was set down as either one or the other, while it was everywhere contended that no Christian ought to vote for me because I belonged to no Church, was suspected of being a Deist and had talked about fighting a duel."
(Lincoln in a letter to Martin M. Morris,1843)

“Perhaps it was inevitable, then, that the centenary of [Hannah] Arendt’s birth should have devolved into a recitation of the familiar. Once a week, it seems, some pundit will trot out her theory of totalitarianism, dutifully extending it, as her followers did during the Cold War, to America’s enemies: al-Qaida, Saddam, Iran. Arendt’s academic chorus continues to swell, sounding the most elusive notes of her least political texts while ignoring her prescient remarks about Zionism and imperialism. Academic careers are built on interpretations of her work, and careerism, as Arendt noted in her book on Eichmann, is seldom conducive to thinking.
“....The main reason for the contemporary evasion of Arendt’s critique of careerism, however, is that addressing it would force a confrontation with the dominant ethos of our time. In an era when capitalism is assumed to be not only efficient but also a source of freedom, the careerist seems like the agent of an easy-going tolerance and pluralism. Unlike the ideologue, whose great sin is to think too much and want too much from politics, the careerist is a genial caretaker of himself. He prefers the marketplace to the corridors of state power. He is realistic and pragmatic, not utopian or fanatic. That careerism may be as lethal as idealism, that ambition is an adjunct of barbarism, that some of the worst crimes are the result of ordinary vices rather than extraordinary ideas: these are the implications of Eichmann in Jerusalem that neo-cons and neoliberals alike find too troubling to acknowledge.”
(Corey Robin in the London Review of Books

“We have become such "good Americans" that we no longer have the moral imagination to picture what it might be like to be in a bureaucratic category that voids our human rights, be it "enemy combatant" or "illegal immigrant." Thus, in the week before the election, hardly a ripple answered the latest decree from the Bush administration: Detainees held in CIA prisons were forbidden from telling their lawyers what methods of interrogation were used on them, presumably so they wouldn't give away any of the top-secret torture methods that we don't use. Cautiously, I look back on that as the crystallizing moment of Bushworld: tautological as a Gilbert and Sullivan libretto, absurd as a Marx Brothers movie, and scary as a Kafka novel.
“In an interview on MSNBC the day the [Military Commissions Act of 2006] bill was signed, Jonathan Turley, constitutional law professor at George Washington University, declared the date one of the most infamous in the history of the republic, and amazed at the "national yawn" greeting this "huge sea change for our democracy." Where was the public consternation about this reversal of our founding principles? That interested me more than the brazen coup of the administration—which Carl Schmitt might argue was a categorical imperative. Why had the decent people of the country mounted no serious protest even against something as on-its-face objectionable as the bill's sanction of torture?”
(Diane McWhorter at Slate)

“James Brown, Jerry Ford and now Saddam-- why do the great entertainers always dies in 3’s?”
(commenter dimestorefool at Wonkette)

“His impending execution now has its own music and graphics package on CNN.”
(Posted at 3:12 PM by Bob Harris at This Modern World)

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