Monday, May 16, 2005


Earn money in your spare time!
Adopt an Embryo!
Stop murdering stem-cell researchers!

This just in: The US Government is providing just shy of one million dollars for organizations -- including religious bodies -- to promote the adoption of fertilized ova that were not used for insemination. So our tax dollars underwrite a religiously-inspired advertising campaign rather than research.

The Office of Public Health and Science (OPHS) of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announces the availability of funds for FY 2005 and requests applications for grants for public awareness campaigns on embryo adoption. The increasing success of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) has resulted in a situation in which an infertile couple typically creates several embryos through in-vitro fertilization (IVF). During IVF treatments, couples may produce many embryos in an attempt to conceive with several being cryopreserved (frozen) for future use. If a couple conceives without using all of the stored embryos, they may choose to have the remaining unused embryos donated for adoption allowing other infertile couples the experience of pregnancy and birth. Embryo adoption is a relatively new process in which individuals who have extra frozen embryos agree to release the embryos for transfer to the uterus of another woman, either known or anonymous to the donors for the purpose of the recipients attempting to bear a child and be that child's parent.

Any public or private nonprofit organization or agency is eligible to apply for a grant. However, only those organizations or agencies that demonstrate the capability of providing the proposed services and meet the requirements of this announcement are considered for grant awards. Faith-based and community-based organizations are encouraged to apply for embryo adoption public awareness grants. Please note, however, that grant funds may not be used for inherently religious activities, such as worship, religious instruction, and proselytization. If an organization engages in such activities, they must be offered separately in time or location from the grant-funded program and participation must be voluntary for program beneficiaries. An embryo adoption public awareness campaign program, in providing services and outreach related to program services, cannot discriminate against current or prospective program beneficiaries on the basis of religion, a religious belief, a refusal to hold a religious belief, or a refusal to actively participate in a religious practice. [emphasis added]

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


The renditions of King Tut from a CT scan of his mummified body present a hip, white (or ethnic white) metrosexual face, complete with eyeliner. His 19-year-old lithe self would be a big hit at the raves (except that he seems to have broken his thigh a few days before death). Except for that overbite and weak chin. But how do they know his skin color from a CT scan? He was identified as caucasoid North African: does that mean white?

(It is too difficult for me to add a photo with my current blogging skill set. Search King Tut CT scan. Or King Tut overbite.)


It seems that Hannah Arendt is making many an appearance these days, adding depth to commentary about the current US regime. This quotation is irresistably apt, from The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951):

Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it.

The quotation appeared in the 5/26/05 issue of TLS which also featured an article on codes - on US military use of codes in operations and intelligence (a review of William M. Arkin's Code Names). The essay notes the significance of amateur plane spotters (who knew?) in identifying the movements of the ominous Gulfstream V jet that was involved in "rendition," the term of art for moving detainees to states unsqueamish about torture.

Rendition: That's what the senior advisor to President Bush means, when he tells The New York Times (Sunday Magazine), "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." Render reality, render subjects, render the facts.

Back to codes: There was a secret level of secrecy in the planning for war in Iraq. This upper level of clearance was called "Polo Step." When the mere existence of this coded level of secrecy was revealed in the Los Angeles Times, the Air Force spent $1.5 million to uncover the leak. (And they can't find who leaked the identity of a CIA agent?) The government invests in codes of codes.

But someone names a code. Amateur plane spotters spot a secret plane. An officer slides a cd of torture and sex photos under a door. We don't even know - concretely, specifically, for sure - these violations until we get these facts. How is this not revelation of truth? If this is a different kind of naming, of language as code from the coded renditions of the Bush regime, how can we speak about that difference? Do we? (the we being the "you" of the university who "study what we do" as history's actors). What are the linguistics and semantics of this difference? I am invested in the distinction. I am drawn to the propositional, the referent, the signified.

On Lacan and language as password, see Jodi Dean's 4/26/05 entry from her thread on Zizek, at

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Harper's May 2005 has several superb articles on conservative Christianity and capitalism.

La plus ce que ca change: Ireland, 1845-1850. An evangelical-ridden British government stopped food relief (of imported U.S. corn) to Ireland during the great hunger because it was an intervention into the free market and into the wages of sin: "This crisis seemed to offer the opportunity for the Irish to atone." The assistant secretary of the treasury suggested that "the fear of starvation would ultimately be useful in modernizing Irish agriculture." Their free-market modernization thesis was linked to an evangelical doctrine of original sin. "The trials of economic life...were earthly tests of sinfulness and virtue...they saw the pain of earthly life as means of atonement for original sin." Compassionate conservatives without the benefit of public relations professionals,1 press officer, or campaign strategist. The good news is that this evangelical political economy fell out of favor at least until recently. From Gordon Bigelow, "Let There Be Markets."

Perhaps Ridley Scott should make a movie about the potato famine -- would a film titled The Great Hunger have a slamming first night? It could have a score with that damn tin whistle that seared Titanic into one's cortex. And star American actors playing Irish folk with fine sets of teeth. But surin' enough, couldn't we use some popular cultural imaging of the cruelty of capitalist christianity now?

1 The Bush administration spent more than $88 million on contracts with public relations agencies in 2004. Over the past four years a single agency, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, spent more than $94 million on contracts with public relations agencies. Had the British administration contracted public relations services, the great hunger of the potato famine could have been recast as the "migration freedom act." Source:


Emily's List has sent me their newsletter even though I need to renew my donation to them.

According to their pollster's review of 2004 election polling, reproductive choice was not a decisive feature in the election of George W. Bush. Instead, it apears to be incumbency, Iraq/terrorism, the economy, and "personal feelings" (as opposed to impersonal sentiments) about Bush.

The pollster Mark Mellman also said "how a candidate approaches an issue is almost as important as her position on the issue" and so candidates should "explain to voters why they have come to a particular position." (Notes from Emily, March 2005, p. 4). I'm not sure what this conclusion means - it may simply circle back to the notion of "values" governing votes.

I'm not sure what meta-level analyses of polls say, either. (For manic meta-level reflections on interpretions of the election, see my archived posts from November-December 2004.)

I recall reading about a right-wing funding organization that said they got their idea for strategic targeted appeals to a network from Emily's List. Sigh. If progressives had copyrighted strategy and terminology, at least we'd make money off of the right wing.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


A transnational feminist reading group I'm part of just met to talk about Negri & Hardt's Multitude. All but the one post-colonial critic were impressed with the optimism and risks of the work. It risks essentialism, teleology, theology.

I was struck by their liberty. If the authors were in Women's Studies, they would have had to spend half of this book presenting lengthy discussions of process and caveats: who we are (apologies therein), why we wrote it, how we worked together, what we mean by "we" or "us" or "politics" or this or that: not merely the key terms of the works, but word we come to flinch at using, afraid of critique. They just rush forward, headlong into the Multitude.

I had a question about "flesh," which struck me (perhaps as it came from an Italian writer) as theologically weighted, particularly when speaking about transformations and immateriality and bodies. I haven't seen Lee Quinby's or Bill Maurer's discussion of the millenial & theological logic of Empire/Multitude which might illuminate my questions. Perhaps it would help if I knew anything at all about Spinoza.

There are obvious feminist critiques to be made, and I haven't read those out there on Empire (e.g., by Lisa Rofel), nor I have I read my favorite feminist anthropological/soc/geographical writers (e.g., Saskia Sassen, Aihwa Ong, Anna Tsing).

I identified three main dimensions of feminist critique.

1) Sins of Omission: There are omissions. Judith Butler aside (and I'm not sure how true they are to "performativity"), they do not cite many feminists. And they neglect clear opportunities for noting gender or women in many of their supporting arguments and examples - when discussing peasants and land; or worldwide movements (feminism is subordinated in a list, it doesn't meet the criteria for "revolt"); or affective labor; or habits.

2) The Unhappy Marriage: What might revisiting 1970s+ socialist feminism suggest about Empire and Multitude? It seems that they consider women/gender/feminism in an additive way. But if the Multitude as it exists (the first kind of multitude) is patriarchal, sexist, male dominant. Gender is shot through empire and its other. It might dampent the optimism a bit, for one. Certainly they do not map how the current conditions they describe are generating, internally, immanently (not externally or transcendent), gender and sexual transformations in common. These remain part of singularity rather than part of the common.

3) Feminists of Color and the Critique of Feminism: It would be fruitful to consider Negri + Hardt's model of singularity and common in relation to the critiques made by feminist, womanist, post-colonials of color. At its most basic, the critique is that white women have generlized their condition into a model of gender inequality and feminist politics, and this more or less invalidates prevailing modes of feminism emanating from metropolitan/white/Western worlds. These feminisms (Euro feminism, white feminism, whatever) have responded by attempting to recognize and address diversity. (Far more than any other movement has addressed gender or sexuality, it seems often to be forgotten.) But there is still a sense of falling back on unity, on the feminist equivalents of the party, masses, people, or workers that Negri and Hardt depart from.