All night long

30 08 2012

Labor Day weekend is here. Unfortunately.

Every year I think, Oh good! A three-day weekend! Every year I forget, Oh shit, Caribbean Carnival.

The first year I lived in lovely Prospect-Lefferts Garden, I was surprised by the Sunday-midnight parade down the avenue next to my building. The music and whistling would rise, then fade, then rise again as another contingent made their way down the street.

All fucking night long.

The next year, the parade began before midnight, but on the avenue over someone shot a police officer, which meant the neighborhood went into lockdown (complete with hovering helicopters and spotlights) and the parade dissipated.

Call me a bad neighbor, but I was not unhappy with this turn of events.

Last year the party again began before midnight, went on all night, but unlike in previous years, the goddamned noise went on throughout the day. This was most unexpected and unpleasant.

You see, the Caribbean parade is an annual Labor Day—and may I emphasize DAY—festivity. It starts on Eastern Parkway and makes it way eventually down Flatbush. Since I live, oh, maybe a half-mile from Flatbush, I generally don’t hear the celebration—which, given that I am crabby from the lack of sleep—is just fine with me.

Anyway, I had forgotten, once again, that the Labor Day weekend sucks. Until tonight.

Tonight is Thursday. Thursday. Five days before Labor Day, and there is a steel-band and chorus in the lot across the street from me, playing what sounds like the same goddamned song over and over and over again. Even if I wanted to listen to Romney’s speech, I would be unable to do so because of those fucking steel drums.

Have I mentioned that I am not a fan of steel drums under the best of circumstances?

I know, this is a Caribbean neighborhood, and given that in New York people like to throw parades and parties, it is not uncalled for that this community wants to celebrate.

Which is fine. During the day. Away from my apartment.

Now, honestly, I like this neighborhood. I wish there were a few more bourgie elements—a coffee shop hangout, a bistro, a few laid-back pubs—but overall this is a decent place to live. It’s also generally pretty quiet (except for that one asshole who’ll park his SUV on the avenue and boom out his mediocre hip-hop for all to hear—I swear to the entire pantheon of gods and goddesses that if I had a gun I would be sorely tempted to shoot out the radio), and I can usually both leave my windows open and get a decent night’s sleep. But not this weekend.

I’m hoping for rain Sunday night. Heavy, heavy rain.

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All things weird and wonderful, 24

29 08 2012

Courtesy of the redoubtable dmf, a few of the Google street-shot photos caught by Canadian artist Jon Rafman:

The. . . absurdity of this scene strikes me.

The building makes the rock seem alive.

See the rest of the sad, surreal, and puzzling photos—including one of a tiger ambling across a parking lot—here.





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: You can’t make this shit up

28 08 2012

This is among the many, many, many reasons why you cannot be too cynical when it comes to America presidential elections, courtesy of Greg Sargent:

Get this: The Romney campaign’s position is now that the Obama camp should pull its ads when fact checkers call them out as false — but that Romney and his advisers should feel no such constraint. This is not an exaggeration. This is really the Romney campaign’s position.

As Buzzfeed reports this morning, top Romney advisers say their most effective ads are the ones attacking Obama over welfare, and that they will not allow their widespread denunciation by fact checkers as false slow down their campaign one little bit:

“Our most effective ad is our welfare ad,” a top television advertising strategist for Romney, Ashley O’Connor, said at a forum Tuesday hosted by ABCNews and Yahoo! News. “It’s new information.”… The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” awarded Romney’s ad “four Pinocchios,” a measure Romney pollster Neil Newhouse dismissed. “Fact checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers,” he said.

That’s a very interesting admission. But it gets better. Reading this brought to mind Romney’s own remarks about fact-checking and political advertising not long ago. Needless to say, he has a different standard for the Obama campaign:

“You know, in the past, when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why, campaigns pulled the ad,” Romney said on the radio. “They were embarrassed. Today, they just blast ahead. You know, the various fact checkers look at some of these charges in the Obama ads and they say that they’re wrong, and inaccurate, and yet he just keeps on running them.”

The upshot is that Romney doesn’t have an intellectual objection to fact checking’s limitations in a general sense, at least when it’s applied to the Obama campaign. In that case, fact checking is a legitmate exercise Obama should heed. But at the same time, the Romney campaign explicitly says it doesn’t see it as legitimate or constraining when it’s applied to him.

The only rule in electoral campaigns is What Works.

Yes, there are laws, but breaking these laws almost always lead merely to fines, rarely to jail sentences, and almost never to overturning the election results. Campaigns will break laws if it works, and will decline to break the law if they think it won’t work.

To repeat, the prime directive of elections—which can be restated as Do Anything to Win—matters more than the law.

Given that, and given that lying in campaign ads is both not illegal and often works, this isn’t even a tough call: If a candidate thinks lies will work better than the truth, then lies it is.

h/t: Brad DeLong





Keep it loose, keep it tight

28 08 2012

Sorry for the light blogging, but I had to get my shit together.

This is how I am: I let things go, then reel ’em back in.

Not my hang-ups—Hera forbid I would let go of my hang-ups—but various tasks and maintenance and organization. Papers proliferate, folders flop about, and the miscellany of work and life moulders on benches and shelves and. . . anywhere, really.

This is a minor problem during the school year, but it worsens in the summer (when I’m not teaching) because, well, I hate everything in the summer and am utterly unwilling to do anything which might improve my surroundings and thus, my mood.

I wallow, in other words.

Well, the school year is about to begin, and although I am still in the midst of the August mugging, the necessity of pulling my teaching shit together prompted me to begin pulling my apartment together. I bought—even though I really don’t want to buy any more stuff—a couple of shelves, moved a pile of books off of the floor and on to one set of shelves, and cleaned up my sweater pile with another.

Then I attacked a mess of papers lurking about my desk, recycling a bunch of stuff and filing the rest. There’s more to be done, but at least the remaining piles are sorted.

And then—oh, yeah!—I had to update my syllabi, print out notes and class rosters and check on just where my classes would be meeting. Terribly embarrassing to show up in the wrong classroom.

Do I sound excited for the school year to begin? It’s because I am!

Yes, your bitter, sarcastic, foul-tempered and foul-mouthed blogger actually enjoys teaching!

Don’t hate me because, while I do hate everything in August, I don’t hate everything all of the time.

And I have a tidy apartment to prove it.





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Links!

25 08 2012

Just a quick note: I put links to  the various sites that anyone who cares about intelligent commenting on this election should read all in my blogroll.

Under the heading Mayan Campaign Mashup 2012, natch.





Voices carry

23 08 2012

It’s a joke, but it’s not really a joke.

The whole Abortion Rights Militantthing, I mean. Yes, the capitalization and the ™  are completely unsubtle winks at my sardonic (re)appropriation of what is meant as a slur, but I ain’t jokin’ in my damn-near-absolutism on matters of law.

This absolutism, however, extends only as far as the law; the morality, the sentiment regarding abortion is another matter. I might recognize the decision to terminate a pregnancy as morally licit, but that doesn’t make it easy.

(In fact, the complications of the decision are precisely why legally it is best left to the woman—but I don’t want to sidetrack myself like I did last night, so I’ll just leave it there. Nor will I stray into a discourse on the evolving status of the blastocyst-embryo-fetus. . . .)

Nope, let me give this one over to sympathy for the beliefs of those who think abortion is always or almost always morally wrong, that the termination of a pregnancy means the killing of a child.

I don’t share that view, but it’s not wholly alien to me, either. No, I can’t get too worked up about embryos, but a fetus, the fetus is something else, and the further along the fetus, the more baby-like the fetus appears.

By the second trimester it’s not yet a human being, but it’s so clearly on the way to becoming one that I understand—I feel—a certain sympathy toward this small creature. It’s not one of us, not yet, but it could be, it could be.

If given a chance, she could become a human being; how could I not be moved by that possibility?

In teaching my bioethics course on assisted reproductive technologies, I cover selective reduction of multi-fetal pregnancies. These aren’t technically abortions—the idea is to kill some of the fetuses in order to save the rest, as opposed to ending the pregnancy entirely—but this procedure, generally performed at the end of the first trimester, seems to me essentially tragic. The woman (and her partner) want children, but their best chance of preserving the possibility of having some of those children is to destroy the possibility of some of those children. Again, how could I not be moved by the intertwined possibilities of beginning and end?

And I guess that’s where I both sympathize and part ways with those who are pro-life. I look at a fetus and see possibility; they look at a fetus and see a child, already here. I wonder at what could be; they wonder at what is.

Sometimes I can glimpse what they see right in front of them, sometimes I can imagine that the fetus is a child reacting in terror and pain to the ending of her life, and I can understand why those who are pro-life see abortion as murder, and its legality as a kind of sanctioned genocide. How horrible to think that we in the US allow over a million babies to be murdered every year.

But then I blink and what I see is not a child but the possibility of a child—and the actuality of the woman. And I think how horrible for the state to take away the control of her life, how horrible for the state to treat women as if they don’t exist.

Thus the final sympathy with those on the other side of the issue: we are each genuinely horrified by the state-sanctioned disappearance of human beings. We just don’t agree on which human beings.





People who need people

23 08 2012

No no no no no no no.

Just in case it wasn’t clear from my last post, I am against any and all laws seeking to limit access to abortion: Waiting periods, mandatory ultrasounds, parental notification, time limits—all of them, every damn one of them.

I come by the label Abortion Rights Militanthonestly.

I have also argued for the morality of abortion, that is, that the decision to terminate a pregnancy is, by default, a moral one, albeit of the ontological sort. In other words, because the woman is a moral actor in making decisions about her life, then the decision of whether or not to gestate a fetus into human being is inherently a moral decision.

On a practical level, however, it’s not necessarily a moral decision. If, for example, the woman feels that continuing with the pregnancy is so unfathomable that there seems no choice but to terminate, that there is no deliberation because there is nothing to deliberate, then it might be said the decision to terminate is amoral or beyond morality. It might even be immoral if, say, a woman chose to terminate in order to punish someone else, but, again, the mere fact of ending a pregnancy, of killing an embryo or fetus, is not, to me, inherently immoral.

Which brings me to Shauna Prewitt.

Huh? you say.

Shauna Prewitt got pregnant as a result of rape and decided to continue the pregnancy and raise the child (now a seven-year-old girl). She wrote An Open Letter to Rep. Akin describing that, yes, pregnancy after rape is possible, and that the belief that it is not may underlie some state laws which allow—unfuckingbelievably—the rapist custody and visitation rights to the child.

Prewitt deserves all kinds of praise for her willingness to rely on her own fraught experience in calling out morons like Akin (and a certain blue-eyed cheddarhead. . .) and for her efforts to change those unfuckingbelievable laws.

But does she deserve praise for carrying the pregnancy to term? I don’t know.

Clearly, if the choice to end a terminate can be a moral one, then the choice to continue a pregnancy can be moral.

That sounds a bit odd, doesn’t it? As if it should be so obvious that continuing a pregnancy is moral that to ‘concede’ the point seems a kind of backwards-day game? But hang with me: Prewitt continued her pregnancy because she felt attached to the fetus:

You see, to my surprise, I did not altogether hate the life growing inside of me. Instead, I felt a sort of kinship, a partnership — perhaps the kind that only develops between those who have suffered together — but, nevertheless, I felt a bond.

She goes on to note that the decision to continue the pregnancy and raise her daughter wasn’t easy, but it was the right one for her. Ontologically, she made a moral decision.

Is it a moral decision in a more day-to-day sense? Sure. Yeah, things are fucked up on this earth, but when have they not been? And while we humans may have played no small part in that fucking up, we’re not all bad; bringing in new people beats the alternative.

Anyway, note as well the role that desire played in her decision: Prewitt decided to gestate the fetus which became her daughter because she felt a bond, because she felt “enlivened” by the life inside of her. She had the baby because she wanted to.

Does action in accordance with the fulfillment of desire nullify the morality of that action? Well, the argument that passion drives reason has a long history in philosophy, but that we act on our desires, because we do what we want does not mean those doings are morally tainted. If that were the case, then morality would have no place for humans, and we would have no place for morality.

So how do we adjudge the morality of decisions shot through with desire and need and fear and hope and confusion? How do we say that this decision to do what we want is moral and that decision to do what we want is not?

I’m not  sure. This blog post has gotten way away from me—I was going to write about my sympathy for the position of those who think abortion is murder and admit of my own ambivalences—so at this point I just want (!) to bring this to a close and go to bed.

I don’t have answers. I don’t even have a way to the answers, beyond that of saying that, perhaps, the place to begin is by paying attention to what people have to say about their own lives, and how they come to live with themselves.

~~~

ETA: It’s now Thursday morning and even though I haven’t had nearly enough coffee, I’m awake enough to observe that I do, in fact, have a way to the answers (or, at least, a way to the way): that’s kinda what the whole “we might as well try” series is about.