We could call it “Representation” and sell it for $4.99 on iTunes

Slavoj Žižek, in his recently released In Defense of Lost Causes:

“What is at stake here is not primarily the way politicians are packaged and sold as merchandise at elections; a much deeper problem is that elections themselves are conceived along the lines of buying a commodity (power, in this case): they involve a competition between different merchandise-parties, and our votes are like money which buys the government we want. What gets lost in such a view of politics as just another service we buy is politics as a shared public debate of issues and decisions that concern us all.”

It’s precisely this commodification of representation that belittles the potential role of government in society. Neoconservatives argue that there is too much government if there is any government at all, yet government has been essential to creating, among other things, the stable markets that allow business to grow and thrive. We need a lot more debate about what is at stake in elections and far less about who is qualified to lead—the qualified are those who best represent the collective debate. They may not always decide the way we have, but we have listened to their minds at work in debate and decided they will think well and thoroughly about our problems when making decisions in government.

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Really a notebook

As I have been getting my life back—it’s been remarkable discovering how out of it I have been for the past year and more—I’ve been pondering the value of blogging. I’m going back to what the tagline for my blog has always been: Mitch’s Open Notebook. I’ll be taking notes publicly.

Albert Camus wrote in his recently published (in English, for the first time) later notebooks, Notebooks 1951-1959:

“From the moment private life is thrown on display, explained to so many people, it become public life, and it is vain to hope to maintain it.”

Too many bloggers write about themselves and only themselves and their thoughts. The artificiality of “celebrity” permeates public dialogue like the plague eating through a Medieval city, pulling the private and considered from life. I’m tired of the artificial spontaneity of blogging, the “this rocks” and “that sucks” absence of reflection that follows fads, fashions and style. We’re never inspired to think about why things happen, only to judge.

Blogging isn’t a sub-set of life or the practice of writing that excuses bloggers from the responsibilities of other writers.

It’s an insupportable culture. Vapid and dull. Writing should demand more of the keyboardist and the reader than most blogs do.

Some blogs, like my friend Susannah Breslin’s Reverse Cowgirl Blog, come from the very marrow and are worth reading in stark contrast to most blogs about sex and culture. Susannah writes about sex, not about her sex life, and, so, one gets to see her think, wrestle with experience and put it into words. That’s what blogging should aspire to, because we don’t need more fanboy press—the mainstream media has that brainless niche nailed.

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So comforting to think McCain likes the income gap this way….

The Congressional Budget Office reports that since 1979, the average income for the bottom half of American households has grown by 6 percent. In contrast, the top 1 percent of earners have seen their incomes shoot up by a 229 percent during that same period. Under the Bush administration, the average income of most Americans has fallen, but the average income of top wage earners (those above the 95 percentile range) has increased from $324,427 in 2001 to $385,805 in 2006. Only one other year has seen a comparable income gap: 1928.

Source: Center for American Progress Action Fund.

My surgery wasn’t miraculous

The overwhelming response to my ZD Net posting about the disc replacement surgery I had in March has included the word “miraculous” and, more specifically, suggestions of divine intervention. We need a different language to describe the extraordinary results of modern technology, since any invocation of miracles suggests something that isn’t the product of human effort.I don’t wish to invite, nor will I respond to, a reaction from my religious readers. This isn’t a matter of religion. Nor anti-religious feeling. It’s simply a matter of needing to be clear about who is responsible for the things we will do, and in order to keep the responsibility for those actions squarely focused on people. If we don’t, we offer all sorts of outs to people who decide to do things with technology that are unethical or dangerous. My posting attracted the attention of an interested reader, probably due to Google blog monitoring or some other topical scanning service. It isn’t even a coincidence that my posting was found, just the product of communications technology making a connection.My doctor was extraordinarily gifted and the devices placed in my neck well designed. God didn’t fix me, people did. They deserve the credit for the innovation, the technique, and the results. If we don’t grant that divine action wasn’t involved, how can we ever hold someone who makes, for example, a virus that inadvertently kills millions, responsible when the can say it was the “will of God” that the virus mutated or interacted in an unanticipated way with human health.Let’s keep the focus on people, because we have to rely on them regardless of religious convictions.