some translations; or, thanks JD, we’d love to.

JD has a thing for poetry, and his friend Jeremy likes Rilke’s Der Panther, which is all the excuse I need:

Der Panther
(Im Jardin des Plantes, Paris)

Sein Blick ist vom Vorübergehn der Stäbe
so müd geworden, daß er nichts mehr hält.
Ihm ist, als ob es tausend Stäbe gäbe
und hinter tausend Stäben keine Welt.
Der weiche Gang geschmeidig starker Schritte,
der sich im allerkleinsten Kreise dreht,
ist wie ein Tanz von Kraft um eine Mitte,
in der betäubt ein großer Wille steht.
Nur manchmal schiebt der Vorhang der Pupille
sich lautlos auf —. Dann geht ein Bild hinein,
geht durch der Glieder angespannte Stille —
und hört im Herzen auf zu sein.

I know the original by heart, and have even had the temerity to translate it:

The Panther
(In the Paris Botanical Gardens)

(Rainer Maria Rilke, trans.)
The bars it rubs on wear his vision down,
sweep by sweep on every coiled pass,
until he sees a thousand bars surround
him — and no longer any world behind the bars.
The padding heavy steps, the supple gait,
the tightening circles, turn and turn and turn,
are like a dance around a single point
in which a vast Will, hypnotised, stands stunned.
Only sometimes will the pupil


You already know what happened:


Vichaar, Jay, Daily Kos and The Command Post are keeping lists of organisations accepting donations. Here are a few of them:

I know it’s always something, and I’m always after you to put your hand in your pocket. But as Sisyphus Shrugged points out, our so-called leaders are full of hot air and pigshit when it comes time to step up and act like a human being. The rich will shrug, or flinch if their consciences are really acting up today, and politicians will get to preen for the cameras because they sent a few moldy tents and leftover cans of beans, and the poor don’t have anything to give. But you reading this, very nearly all of you, you have disposable income or you wouldn’t be online. You can spare ten bucks — and yes, you can do it every time there’s a crisis like this.
Listen: there are people suffering. People, not numbers, not brown anonymous faces on the TV: people just like you and me, only they just got their lives fucked by an earthquake and a billion tons of water. Be a mensch, give a little.
Update, from Stavros: map didn’t bring it home? Found my words empty or insulting? Here’s another way to look at what happened:
I wouldn’t normally post a picture like that, but it’s tearing at my guts. It’s my hope that no one can look at that dead man’s face, so calm there in that flick of a tourist’s shutter, and not break open and spill a little money for the relief effort.
Update the second: He didn’t die! Hedidn’tdiehedidn’tdiehedidn’tdie!!! WOOOO-HOOOOOO!!!! Someone yanked him out of there moments after the photo was taken. (via Stav again, also in comments) (also, photo: Hellmut Issels)

progressives and regressives

Jessica Wilson at For the Record has a recent series of posts concerning left- and right-wing political agendas, and I think she’s come up with something very useful. She began with the observation that “right-wingers” (aka “conservatives”, “Republicans”) are not very good at argument, which she then developed a little further in response to a letter from a self-identified conservative.

It has been interesting to consider the prospects for the stated purpose of Left2Right; that is, for progressives and independents… to engage in reasoned discourse with right-wingers and conservatives (so-called) about such issues as are presently facing the nation. The comment threads are fairly illuminating on this score. Dividing through by right/left content, it’s all too easy (with sadly few exceptions) to identify the right-wingers by their poor skills at writing and argumentation… The failures of argumentation that are frequently manifest are the sort that characterize the writing of my worst students…

This is, I’m sure, a phenomenon familiar to most regular blog readers. The obvious question, though, is what’s driving it? I recommend reading all of the FTR posts I’m linking, but what I want to talk about here is the idea that what underlies the difference in argumentation (style and quality) is a stark difference in goals. Progressives have no need for enthymematic or otherwise sophistic argument: they are following an agenda which is politically defensible and logically consistent. The right, in contrast, is following a regressive agenda which is fully opposed to the good of most people and must therefore rely on misdirection and appeal to the baser impulses in order to gather electoral support. Thus a lot of right-wing argument is either deliberately deceptive or muddled and confused, depending on whether the individual in question is a dupe or a would-be oligarch. There are, of course, exceptions, but I think that’s broadly correct, and I think it’s fundamental to any consideration of US politics, particularly for progressives wondering what the sweet holy fuck to do about Smirky the killer clown and his handlers, minions and stooges how to recover from recent setbacks.
This view is not especially new, but Wilson goes one very useful step further and boils the progressive agenda down to two key principles:

(P-1) That the interests of the many should not be sacrificed to sustaining and increasing the wealth and the power of the wealthy and powerful few.
(P-2) That unsound ideology, provincial prejudices, and antiquated religious doctrines should not be enshrined, encouraged, or used to guide public policy.

and argues that the majority of progressive policies derive from these central principles. Again, I think she’s right; see the linked post for examples. The right-wing agenda, then, can be summarized as opposition to the progressive one:

(R-1): That the wealth and the power of the wealthy and powerful few should be sustained and increased, even if this means (as it frequently does) sacrificing the interests of the many.
(R-2): That it is acceptable, and even encouraged, that (since the many are generally not on board with policies that explicitly involve sacrificing their interests in service of the goal expressed in R-1) various ideologies of unsound factual and theoretical basis be forwarded, and various provincial prejudices and antiquated religious doctrines be encouraged (by way of distraction) and enshrined (by way of “payback” for votes), as a basis for public policy.

Positing (R1), a moment’s reflection provides a host of examples for (R-2). Just off the top of my head: trickle-down economics, free market worship, antipathy to science, the current invented-out-of-whole-cloth social security “crisis”, appeals to homophobia (this year’s anti-gay marriage ballots, Bush’s proposal to enshrine homophobia directly in the Constitution), racism and xenophobia (“Kerry looks French!”) and anti-intellectualism (Dubya’s whole persona), and pandering to the religious right (on stem cells, abortion, sex education).
I have just one quibble: I’d delete the word “antiquated” because I don’t think it’s doing any useful work there (separation of church and state applies to any doctrine, regardless of pedigree) and because in that context it smacks of knee-jerk anti-religionism (something I’m sensitive to because I’m prone to it myself). Otherwise, I think this is a valid and powerful framework within which to analyse right-wing politics. Wilson even provides a worked example to illustrate the method.
Finally, following also from George Lakoff’s arguments about framing, all of the above got me to thinking: let’s have an accurate term for our opponents. I’m not necessarily opposed to conservative or Republican aims per se, and “right-wing” invites the use of “left-wing” which, thanks to the mighty Wurlitzer, has become a slur. My aims are progressive, so my opponents are Regressives. Anyone whose politics reduce to (R-1)+(R-2) above is following a regressive agenda. Even if “regressive” doesn’t stick (and it probably won’t, being clumsier to my ear than “right-wing”), I think it useful to get away from the sullied “leftist” and promote the much more slur-resistant “progressive”.

and they wonder where the backlash comes from

PZ Myers bemoans the lack of detailed knowledge of the history of biology endemic in the tech field, as revealed by the backstory of the Open Darwin mascot:

Once my platypus was chosen someone suggested that we use “Hexley” as the name of the new mascot since Darwin’s assistant was named Hexley. It turns out we were wrong and the person we were referring to was actually Thomas Henry Huxley. Huxley was not Darwin’s assistant but was a prominent English biologist in his own right. […] By the time we found out our mistake “Hexley” had escaped into the ether and we felt that it was too late to change the name to “Huxley”.

Quoth the good Professor:

Oooh. Ow. How embarrassingly ignorant. It

I’m reluctant to believe that so many Americans are such cowards.

According to a study carried out by Cornell University‘s Media and Society Research Group:

About 27 percent of respondents said that all Muslim Americans should be required to register their location with the federal government, and 26 percent said they think that mosques should be closely monitored by U.S. law enforcement agencies. Twenty-nine percent agreed that undercover law enforcement agents should infiltrate Muslim civic and volunteer organizations, in order to keep tabs on their activities and fund raising. About 22 percent said the federal government should profile citizens as potential threats based on the fact that they are Muslim or have Middle Eastern heritage. In all, about 44 percent said they believe that some curtailment of civil liberties is necessary for Muslim Americans [i.e. agreed with at least one of those statements —Ed].
Conversely, 48 percent of respondents nationally said they do not believe that civil liberties for Muslim Americans should be restricted.

Given that they likely voted for Bush, himself a big talking physical coward, I’m more inclined to believe that more self-identified Republicans than Democrats are chickenshit:

About 40 percent of Republican respondents agreed that Muslim Americans should be required to register their whereabouts, compared with 24 percent of Democratic respondents and 17 percent of independents. Forty-one percent of Republican respondents said that Muslim American civic groups should be infiltrated, compared with 21 percent of Democrats and 27 percent of independents.
On whether mosques should be monitored, about 34 percent of the Republicans polled agreed they should be, compared with 22 percent of Democrats. Thirty-four percent of Republicans said that profiling of Muslim Americans is necessary, compared with 17 percent of Democrats.

It’s not just Muslim Americans whose rights appear to be in danger of being eroded by pusillanimous self-interest:
Happily, this is one of those rare surveys where you can actually get at the methodology and the questions asked (although they don’t provide an actual script) — the full report is available online (pdf), and additional methodological information is available on request. Kudos. Despite my reluctance to believe the numbers, I can’t see any obvious major flaws in the study (which doesn’t mean there aren’t any — I’m hardly an expert). The results are taken from 715 completed telephone interviews and weighted by age, gender and race (presumably to reflect national breakdowns, though the report doesn’t say). Responses to the statements were on a 1-10 scale, so it would have been nice to see a breakdown by strength of dis/agreement, but they simply took 1-5=disagree, 6-10=agree. They also looked at measures of attention to TV news, knowledge of Islam, personal religiosity and fear of terrorism (all of which, I think, were a bit simplistic) and the interaction between those factors and attitudes to curtailment of civil liberties. It’s worth a read, and so is the less publicized companion report on attitudes to the War on Terror, U.S. Foreign Policy and Anti-Americanism (pdf). All of this, by the way, courtesy of Brown Equals Terrorist, where Ian is doing a bang-up job of keeping tabs on the state of American civil liberties.