Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Castration Anxiety

Allen West: Liberal Women Are ‘Neutering American Men’

West: We need strong women to raise American men!

WEST: We need you to come in and lock shields, and strengthen up the men who are going to the fight for you. To let these other women know on the other side—these planned Parenthood women, the Code Pink women, and all of these women that have been neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness—to let them know that we are not going to have our men become subservient. That’s what we need you to do. Because if you don’t, then the debt will continue to grow . . . deficits will continue to grow.

And . . .
As a close reading of Lacan's text instantly attests however, the opposition we are dealing with is not that of being versus having, but rather the opposition of to have/to appear: woman is not the phallus, she merely appears to be to be phallus, and this appearing (which of course is identical with femininity qua masquerade) points towards a logic of lure and deception. Phallus can perform its function only as veiled-the moment it is unveiled, it is no longer phallus; what the mask of femininity conceals is therefore not directly the phallus but rather the fact that there is nothing behind the mask. In a word, phallus is a pure semblance, a mystery which resides in the mask as such. On that account, Lacan can claim that a woman wants to be loved for what she is not, not for what she truly is: she offers herself to man not as herself, but in the guise of a mask. Or, to put it in Hegelian terms: phallus does not stand for an immediate Being but for a Being which is only insofar as it is "for the other", i.e., for a pure appearing. On that account, the Freudian primitive is not immediately the unconscious, he is merely unconscious for us, for our external gaze: the spectacle of his unconscious (primitive passions, exotic rituals) is his masquerade by means of which like the woman with her masquerade, he fascinates the other's (our) desire.
West doesn't have the phallus. Something is missing that he can't quite put his finger on. But that mysterious other person, the woman who supports Planned Parenthood, menstruates, and does all sorts of confounding "womanly" things appears to have it. She must have stolen West's wholeness, his mastery of the world around him. He must quickly snatch it back to retain the illusory fullness that was never there to begin with.

And don't even get me started on the before-the-fall myths that he's constructing out of movies like 300. If only we had never ceded so much to these . . . these females, things would be going perfectly. In Eden man was man and in control of reality. That damn Eve ate the apple, women got the vote and the morning after pill, and now everything's fucked. We can blame the women (or some different hated Other du jour) to rationalize our symbolic impotence and get to sleep at night.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Principled limits

Inside the Mind of Justice Kennedy

"Third—and most importantly—to address Kennedy’s commitment to restraining federal powers, mandate defenders will have to formulate a plausible theory of congressional commerce authority that remains subject to meaningful, judicially enforceable limits. This is a line of argument that, to date, mandate defenders have been less successful in articulating. They cannot simply ridicule mandate opponents’ contention that the law would open the door to legislation requiring people to eat their broccoli: They must provide realistic examples to demonstrate that principled limits on federal power to regulate commerce among the several states remain meaningful and are not merely words on parchment. Were Kennedy to vote to strike the mandate, it will most likely be because its defenders could not present a principled, enforceable stopping point to federal power under the Commerce Clause."

This demand for a principled limit on the congress's commerce clause powers--one that would render the hypothetical statute mandating broccoli consumption unconstitutional--is ridiculed because the demand is ridiculous. It is also disingenuous.

Not every limit on congressional power comes from the constitution. Congress is well within its commerce clause powers to do any number of stupid things. Even if those things are not limited by the constitution, they should be limited by the inherent constraints of the legislative and democratic processes. I'm obviously taking some form of legal process theory for granted (one that many ACA opponents also take for granted when they're railing against judicial activism). If Congress tries to pass the Eat Your Veggies Act of 2011, you have a remedy: urge them to vote against it or vote against them next election cycle. This may be imperfect, but no remedy can be in any system of government that maintains any semblance of a commitment to democratic principles. Asking for a 10th amendment limit on mandatory broccoli consumption is just begging the question. Right wing legal theorists have such respect for rational legislative judgments until congress does something marginally progressive.

Then the demand for judicial second guessing begins.

Of course, my lack of sympathy for inherent limits on commerce clause power stems from my belief that individual liberty receives little inherent protection from a sharp federal/state divide than they get from other amendments. It usually seems like cover for regressive state and local policies (the major exception being medical marijuana, but federalist dualism didn't stop Scalia from joining a majority in upholding federal enforcement of such laws in Raich). The other amendments do a lot of heavy civil liberties lifting and do so in a way that isn't as bidirectional regarding civil liberties and civil rights as the 10th amendment.
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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Seriousness

The most serious of serious, not unserious plans to seriously crush the bottom non-serious 99%. Seriously.

"Seriousness" has gone past being the most over-used, meaningless abstraction to gloss over debates about the role of the welfare state and is now just a parody of itself. I can't tell if the David Brookses of the world are fucking with me or if they honestly think their favorite buzzword hasn't been drained of all substantive value.

Just look at this inanity:
His proposal will set the standard of seriousness for anybody who wants to play in this discussion. . . . The Ryan budget will put all future arguments in the proper context: The current welfare state is simply unsustainable and anybody who is serious, on left or right, has to have a new vision of the social contract.
And this isn't the first time that he's reached such orgasmic heights with his favorite adjective:
Wrong. This nation is still closely divided. The Republicans should not read a radical ideological mandate into the results tonight. But there is a trend here. The American people are fundamentally serious. They know that the most important problem facing the country right now is terrorism and security. They know that George W. Bush is basically right on how to approach this problem.
Apparently, he's gone from being enamored with how serious Bush's foreign policy was (that worked out well), to having a crush on the seriousness of the GOP's efforts to dismantle any fragile remnant of America's social safety net. One wonders when he'll ever ask his Tiger Beat idols when we'll get serious about how much we spend on an increasingly unsustainable overseas presence, self-perpetuating defense-industrial complex, and shaky extended deterrence umbrella.

But this isn't just about the way that the trite word grates on my ears. It also suggests some things we talked about when I was a comm undergrad.

David Brooks and Paul Ryan are just employing new versions of Lakoff's strict father morality, wherein the government is a metaphorical parent. In contrast to the loving welfare queen mother who spoils her kids rotten with medicare, food stamps, All Things Considered, and public infrastructure, the serious father has a budget to balance. The federal budget is nothing more than a larger version of a household budget. We have to tighten our belts and slash programs that just coddle and reward the downtrodden. David Brooks's serious father doesn't have time to worry about whether children will be able to get chemo or not. The strict father helps those who helps themselves, cutting taxes on the supposed producers of social wealth.

If you accept that metaphor, then it makes sense. Who am I to question the big man of the house for not spending dwindling paychecks on trips to the movies and school breakfasts for starving children?

It is odd, though, that no one ever wonders why Dad doesn't go back to that higher paying job that he had in the 90s. That's not very manly. Maybe metaphors only go so far.