Friday, November 29, 2002

On November 15th I posted a few paragraphs on the weakness of American political writing, which led me to the post I put up a few hours ago.

"What we share tend to be things that are thought of as absolute, as carrying an almost religious sense of being right or true. And on top of that we toss something called 'style', that is superfluous to the important matters at hand, but still necessary in some way we don't quite get. We don't take it seriously, even as we market to it, but we know it exists."

This is the shallow sense of style or 'art' that I find so ridiculous and so offensive. And the relation now so often posited of rationality -of science- to the market -which supposedly is not shallow- is little more than a metaphor.

Somewhere on my shelf is a book or an article that begins with the description of a conversation between a scientist, a climatologist or mathematician, and a poet or scholar of some sort -a true story- in which they're described as standing on a hill or mountain watching the wind blow clouds across the sky. The scientist begins to describe these natural occurrences scientifically as the interaction of various atoms and molecules, of various properties and rates of motion. The scholar asks if all this analysis doesn't lessen his friend's sense of wonder. One the contrary, his friend says, it increases it.
The story may have come from Steven Weinberg, who loves to take on the artistic temperament and document its failure in the age of science and objectivity to do anything but charm and entertain its guests. And I'll admit, If there's anything that annoys me as much as a scientist who claims to understand while condescending to it the value of art, it's the modern aficionado impressed or intimidated with the sciences, who tries to make art their competition.

The tools of science are capable of making objective measurements, but we are not tools: tools do not dream. Some people think our dreams are what make us interesting, but dreaming doesn't mean our dreams are true. A scientist will be interested in studying what we do when dreaming, using techniques developed while awake. But techniques are tools and we dream while at work. An artist will be interested in dreaming, though he has to be able to walk down the street without bumping into things. But he has to communicate that dream, and communication is not dreaming, or not only. In the past it was philosophically reputable for dreams to rival science as a description of the world, and now it's become reputable to argue that we do not dream, or should not, or that we -at least some of us[!]- can separate one from the other. I'm as angry with the generalizations made by physicists, mathematicians and economists as I've always have been with the romances of rabbis, priests and hippies.

What do I mean when I talk about dreaming?
In making an argument I use every means I know to draw you to my side: I use an authoritative tone; I try to make my sentences flow together, implying that my ideas do the same; I worry about punctuation and run spell check (or I'm lazy and I don't). I try to be witty. I do all these things in an attempt to seduce you into agreeing with my point of view. If I tell you Christ died for your sins, or that I love you, neither means anything without my skill with a story and an audience. To the dismay of young men and theologians it is the telling, not the tale, that convinces. If I were writing out mathematical equations it might not matter, but the logic of argument as much as we would like it to be otherwise is not pure, and the fact that we now have both scientific method and rules of evidence does not mean that such skills are no longer needed.

Every moment of the day we use rhetoric. Every gesture, every vocal inflection, every choice of clothing is a representation of our thoughts and ideas, our delusions and misconceptions about ourselves and others. These gestures are the manifestations of our dreams. And without meaning to be too hyperbolic -since people tend to discount the logic of points made with the help of pat phrases- we ignore their meaning at our peril. Witness of the dreamlife of Paul Wolfowitz.

We learn from the church what we learn from the theater. Even as secularists, we learn from its discourse on dreams. Its tracts contain wisdom on subjects about which science can say nothing. The history of the debate over what constitutes the just use of violence is something that religion can tell us more about than science, if only because science has not debated the issue for 5000 years of recorded history. And notwithstanding the possibility that genetic testing might have made Solomon's threat to slice a baby in half unnecessary, if I had to choose I would trust a judge who knows his Shakespeare over one who reads Scientific American every night before he goes to bed.
There were some obvious typos and grammatical errors below, and I'm sure there are more, but the first sentence has been fixed, and that's a start.
Of all the reasons I use to justify my hatred and contempt for the philosophy of Libertarianism -aside from it's economic and moral stinginess- the most basic is its relentless defense of the shallow. The purblind celebration of individualism is the most extreme example of the horse/cart inversion that I know; the moral and logical equivalent of arguing that the works of William Shakespeare are more important to history than the English language. It makes sense that this country should produce such a school of thought, since the its origin seems to be a denial of history to the point of the ability to dream, in libertarianism and objectivism, of an economic and political immaculate conception. With the collapse of war-communism this absurdity has been given a new life in a new century. This is not simply immoral, though I think it is; it is giving credit where it is not due.
It bothers me how little economists and technocrats understand the history and even the meaning of the values they defend when they design their paper logic and try to impose it upon flesh. And considering that law is produced by debate among individuals- across centuries!- and not by individuals themselves - imagine as literary predecessors, therefore, The Iliad or The Bible, not John Updike - I am even more amazed by lawyers who sing the praises of the Man Alone. This is unless of course they are members of the cult of 'original intent' who have explicitly chosen to argue against thought itself. But Scalia's politics and his morality leave us the role of moral idiots, which Libertarians can't abide. For him it is rather the State Alone, which is just as absurd, and just as much a danger to the Republic, but as least has the the precedent of Roman Catholic doctrine to give it some heft. Scalia is after all a Monarchist not a fascist.

Libertarianism, as have various other 20th century social philosphies, posits a relationship of human behavior to science. Science, however, can not be used to explain anything it can not describe. This is no the same as saying that it refers only to itself. All the talk of 'paradigm shifts' refers to our use of scientific information, not to the information itself. The number of people who say more then that, like those who argue that the Uncertainty Principle applies to video cameras hidden in tree stumps in the forest, drives me to distraction. [or worse] The subtlety and problems arise when we imagine a science without our use of it. We might say that there is a Socratic ideal 'science' but since we are not ideal ourselves, for our purposes, 'It' does not exist. [This is why Katha Pollitt asked Alan Sokal if he'd ever read Kant.] Furthermore -and regardless of the problematic necessities of translation and interpretation- someone who chooses to become a scientist does so because he is facinated by problems which he assumes can be solved, if not soon then at some point in the future, if not by him then by someone else. No one becomes a cancer researcher after deciding there is no cure; science presumes the possibility of perfection. Democracy does not -can not- make the same presumption. One does not have to be a painter of romantic landscapes understand the inanity of pure technocracy. The inanity comes from the decision to design human relations so that they exist for one purpose. Therefore it defines everything else including, sooner or later, justice, as a corallary to that presumption of -economic- perfection.
I am making these arguments here because I seem to be one of the few people in this country - and yes I mean that- who both understands the implications of technocracy, and understands, and is willing to explicate to outsiders - what else can I call them- what relationship the esthetics of a culture have to the philosophy or ethics that it's more intellectual citizens apply to it. And I can do so without having to collapse my rhetoric into the terms of mysticism or, god help us all, 'spirituality.' [When I hear that word I reach for my pistol.]

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

More on the hypocrisy of the educated middle class.
The author of a letter to the Times today points out the irony of the government giving a payout to Eli Lilly -by sneaking a clause into the homeland security bill protecting it from lawsuits over mercury based preservatives in vaccines- while one member of the Lilly family can stuff $100 million into the pockets of the editors of a small poetry magazine. Leaving aside the fact that the best poet this country produced in recent memory was James Merrill who was born with a few hundred million of his own to play with, and whose politics, judging by his works alone, were about as repulsive as those of any other high-born Tory faggot, all I can say to the boys and girls who struck it rich, most of whom are undoubtedly liberal democrats, is enjoy yourselves.

Salman Rushdie manages to sound like a self-indulgent ass again today, also in The Times.
If I say I'm sick of Rushdie it doesn't mean I'm defending the slaughter of women in bikinis (some of my best friends wear bikinis) but let's be clear: in conservative societies women's roles are limited and tightly regulated,but they have a measure of power, sometimes small sometimes not, within their own areas of control. After all, in such societies every individual faces coercive pressure.

When powerful outside forces come into the community, forces outside the control of the collective, this produces new tensions. Rich countries offer freedom to individuals but the end of any sense of local control. The community, led by the male population, and used to power, has no choice in the matter. And of course the new powers that be are about as interested in humanitarianism as a casino is interested in seeing you win at the slots. If you need convincing of that just read the letter from the PR flack from the National Association of Manufacturers in defense of Lilly.

I don't dismiss criticism of fundamentalist belief. I'm a New Yorker and I'm not an idiot. But I am angered if the criticism is based on the vague moralizing of the habitues of the land of the leasured. Painful transitions are now being forced upon people who have no idea what is happening to them, and who feel that they have no control of the outcome. And there are intelligent cynics who will use that anger to create and maintain power for themselves, based solely on their ability to steer anger in one direction or another. Do I have to list the ones who have done it recently? Add to this that the first power girls are able to feel when they have no other -and which is tightly regulated but not always to extremes- is the power of sex. The power over male desire is limited, and if it's used to the extent of its being defined as the only power the result is often but not always tragic. For the lucky few, life can be a breeze. But telling every poor girl she can be a model is the same of telling every street kid he can make it in the NBA, and sports take brains and skill. Not that I mind anyone who does, but how much skill does it take to look good sucking cock? Who has more control of her life, a woman in chador, or a prostitute? Who has more means of mediating the means of male control. The woman with many skills to barter with, or only one?

For Rushdie to grouse about Germaine Greer's annoyance at the importation of the Miss World Pagent to London is just stupid. Rushdie after all was once married to a well known novelist with a mind of her own, but now happily describes the pleasures of true love with a much younger woman who may have her own thoughts as well, but who's known primarily as a choice piece of ass.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Max Sawicky posted a soon to be published piece by Michael Berube on NWB. I posted my response this morning before I went to work and I'll repost it here:

Berube exhibits the same symptoms as the rest of the American populace. He is waiting for someone to lead, someone he can 'trust.' Everybody needs to be loved, and nobody wants to be left out in the cold, as a leader always is. So they wait for someone else to take the responsibility.
The majority of the population on this planet thinks this war is driven by ridiculous ideology and greed. There have been protests from London to Tokyo, while liberals in this country think about thinking about being opposed to it, and the eccentric left leads the marches. I will sign every petition sent to me about this stupid self destructive war. I'll even make common cause with Maoists and Libertarians.
What exactly does Berube say that hasn't been said before? What direction does he suggest? Discoursing on the need to be reasonable does nothing to advance an argument. Yes, he should be leading teach-ins -as my father did in Philadelphia (in 1965). And no he wasn't a Maoist. Berube should be thinking more clearly.
If, for example, we argue against first strike use of nuclear weapons, then where are we going to aim them? The only answer is at civilian populations, to be murdered as punishment for the actions of their leaders. Is this any more or less moral than the "first strike" policy? His opponents in this argument, though not popular -in this country- were logically and morally on the ball. And as for his critique of the right of self determination for independent states, he is arguing against the rule of law. He understands, I think, that the sheriff and the law are not one and the same. If the US does what it pleases, it acts as both, which is not allowed, nor would Berube defend it, in domestic cases. Why should we not strengthen the UN rather than weaken it, as we always try to? And every unilateral action weakens it more. His argument reminds me of those against an America national health service. "Look how bad it is in England." But it wouldn't be so bad if they hadn't slashed the budget.
If you want to argue the value of practical Machievellianism, do so. If you want to argue against it, then do that. But the reason people do not take liberals seriously is that liberals use situational ethics while denying they do so, even to themselves. The only way to convince the people that this war is an mistake is to speak simply and directly and in these terms: On pure principle the war is wrong. It follows immoral precedents and strengthens them. Lecture the people, who will listen, on international law, and on the idea of law. For the rest, tell them that as amoral geopolitical gamesmanship, for which no one has to give a damn about the Kurds, or anyone else, as long as the markets and our own safety are not affected, the war is stupid and dangerous, and the president's policymakers either ideologues, amateurs or both.
We should not be in the business of bullying bullies. And if all the other kids in the playground are more worried about us than they are about him, we have a problem. It really doesn't matter which reason you choose. You can choose both, as I have. That is why I'm here [at NWB]. But this article is about dithering, however articulately it may present it, and that is something most Americans have no patience with.

Monday, November 25, 2002

Some quick comments on the day's comments.
On the problems of being a christian evangelist from the US in an Islamic country:
"N.S. ... baby",  which in my father's version meant not 'no shit' but 'no sympathy.' Has there ever been an evangelical movement not linked if only at the level of psychology, to an economically expansionist policy?  If one is not produced by the other, they're twins. Religion expanding by trade between equal partners is one thing, but the 'free market' philosophy of religion is as specious as the one for economics proper.

From Richard Bernstein's review of of Amos Elon's new book on the history of the Jews in Germany:
"But [German acceptance] was not to be, because the conformist tyranny that Germany was unable to put into the past (until the Allied conquest of World War II)[sic] is exactly what prevented the emancipation of the Jews."
How does war end 'conformist tyranny'? Did the Civil War end it for the American south? The diplomatic courtesy is silly. The German's never understood democracy and don't understand it now. Again and again over the past 50 years democracy is described as being needed, as being necessary for Germany as castration is seen by some as necessary for a sex offender. But the underlying assumption, the banality of democracy, is never opposed. Germany is an autistic country, emotionally numbed by the past and actively engaged in the production of production, of order, engineering and design, but unable to create a new emotional order out of the physical world. Gerhard Richter, the country's most famous living artist put it well when he described why he believes in nothing: believing in something is too dangerous. It leads to extremism (for Germans).
But one can still wonder, why not 'believe' in democracy?
Examples of this struggle abound in German culture since the war. Since when did Fassbinder ever believe in democracy? Watch Wim Wenders 'Wings of Desire' and listen carefully to the conversation between the two angels sitting in the car in an automobile showroom. Even Heinrich Boll is more a celebrant of martyrdom than of democracy.

Finally, it's conformity, not democracy, that's allows Germans, and Europeans generally, to express their dislike for this war. Do readers here understand the irony?

Sunday, November 24, 2002

Double post on Stand Down/NWB:
The US Government has pulled the Special Forces and is now using mercs from DynCorp to protect Karzai. With their record of incompetence and criminal behavior, there should be an investigation.
Can the hawks really defend this decision? It does not seem even to be rational. Colombia policy often flies under the radar, but Afghanistan seems the wrong place, and now the wrong time -for purely political reasons- to test run such a policy. Perhaps the White House thinks Americans won't notice (which is quite possible) or that foreign opinion does not matter. Bush et al. have been acting as if they can safely assume both things are true. Perle and Wolfowitz have been doing nothing but stirring up trouble. As Matthew Hogan said below [on NWB here] these guys are the true isolationists, and in the long run we all agree their policies are going to hurt the country. But I think they are going to hurt Bush as well. There is something absurd about all of this crap. It's too ideological, and too public.
"[He] came out of the UN compound waving a blue UN flag, and the Israeli soldiers' only response was to broadcast with their microphone in English, 'We don't care if you are the United Nations or who you are. Fuck off and go home!' They were trying to go home. Iain said that things were not going well."
The killing of Ian Hook.

Saturday, November 23, 2002

It's been an interesting week I guess. Things are moving along nicely, in about 10 different directions. Nathan Newman has the best take on Bush and Iraq. Al Gore remains an idiot, but only the British press is willing to admit the game's a game. Americans have a habit of taking people at their word, and then laughing at them behind their back, [Link] though Frank Rich is an exception.

There is a segment of the right wing in this country that takes it's freedoms seriously. The barbarism that Europeans are always decrying, except when they lecture us about Hemingway or Charlie Parker, has it's corollary in a stubborn desire to be left alone, even if that isolation leads to chaos and a shorter life. The controlling technocracy which is working its way into our lives, on the other hand, is more radical than conservative in the sense that it seeks to reform social relations in a subsidiary relation to the market. In the past, and in the conservative tradition, social relations were subsidiary to family, church, and community. The market, the philosophy of the economic liberty of the individual, destroys that community. This is something that Libertarians do not understand, and that neocons, who are basically hypocrites, ignore.
The great and glorious contradiction in American life is between the individual and the collective. When people discover that the collective is not a collective but a cabal, they begin to fidget. The advantage Bush has is the advantage of the man with the carrot the possibility of riches as well as the stick, to which Gore can only respond with the condescending decency of the the factory boss's son. What Dick Armey and Bob Barr offer on the other hand is an anger that is fundamentally as anti-intellectual and irresponsible as the majority of the American people. Given a choice between freedom and loyalty, greed and humility, they write in "all of the above."
What a country.
According The NYTimes, Bob Barr has followed Dick Armey into employment as a consultant for the ACLU. The director, Anthony Romero is a smart man.
Thom Merrick in Frankfurt.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

"We remain caged, a final tribute to Zionist Vladimir Jabotinsky, who in his Revisionist Zionist writings of 1923 suggested chasing us away, killing us or caging us. Journalists decry the dangers young Israelis face when they want to go out for ice cream or to celebrate a birthday. No one points out that most of these young people are here because of an earlier generation's violent Zionist ambitions. If they are harmed, I agree, it's not their fault and it's a genuine horror for us all. But there are no stories about our young people, whose ancestors have lived here for century after century. Israeli curfews force them home and inside a locked metal door by 3 pm -- forget about ice cream or parties of any kind." Arabnews.com

The author of a letter to the Times this morning has noticed that nowhere in the discussion of the Total Information Awareness program has she seen reference to tracking gun sales. But, of course, gun sales are going to be tracked, along with everything else. As Alex Cockburn always points out, this is just the sort of government activity gun nuts are afraid of. And it's why the ACLU has always stayed out of the gun debate.
This is where the populist left and right will find common cause. Our country is more than a little barbaric, but Bush and Cheney are cynics, who make use our barbarism it to serve their own interests.
Barbarism is a violent system that applies to all. Fascism is a system one applies to others. It is the barbarism of cowards.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Israel Blog Aron Trauring is one of the good things about Stand Down/No War Blog.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

"Leon Daniel, like others who reported from Vietnam during the 1960s, knew about war and death. So he was puzzled by the lack of corpses at the tip of the Neutral Zone between Saudi Arabia and Iraq on Feb. 25, 1991." A link picked up from No War Blog: War without death.

And another link from NWB. This one a demographer's report on civilian caualties, which has been covered up by the Pentagon.

Monday, November 18, 2002

I have not heard it described this way anywhere else: "The arrival of the UN team coincided with air attacks on Iraqi defensive positions. The Iraqis fired back, a move the US insists contravenes the UN resolution passed this month."
That was the last sentence in this piece in today's Guardian, which is otherwise about Hans Blix's response to the abuse being thrown his way by our hawks in the White House. I suppose the US is saying that the Iraqis scoped the planes first, and that we fired in self defense- it has been claimed before- but I haven't heard that yet. Even if true, could it be proven? The Security Council won't buy it.

The Times says today that the US will not submit the new violations to the Security Council for the obvious reasons, but the article does not describe the violations in detail, which makes me wonder whether they were provoked.
Martin, you're just making us more competitive. I'm going to have to start checking in every day just to see if my last post was good enough to make the list! On the other hand, I admit, I'll have to work harder. Life's nothing but contradiction I guess.
Eric Alterman makes clear what's at stake with with the Homeland Security legislation. Here are the email addresses of your representatives in congress.
For the last century this country has relied on the supression of democracy in other countries to maintain its power structure, but has not had to rely upon it here. Bribery, on the whole, was found to be sufficient. Now liberals have as much to worry about as the rest of us.
Two things, briefly.
In The Times yesterday Robin Toner had a piece explaining how the parties in Congress are now led by commited advocates of the left and right. "Nancy Pelosi is as liberal as Tom Delay is conservative." This is a perfect example of the misuse of synchronic analysis. Two people can stand on opposite ends of a train. What direction the train is moving does not matter.
Not unless you're a historian.

A week or so ago I made a comment about the future of Europe as a partner with Russia. Now Ian Black in The Guardian has described some of the bumps in the road. Being lazy I had not realized the the gamesmanship of Giscard d'Estaing's otherwise insipid comments about Turkey and the E.U. By playing the proud christian, he is weakening the European hand. Perhaps he agrees with Ian Paisley that it's better to pretend to be what one imagines than to be right. Paisley didn't put it quite that way but it's close enough.

Goodnight.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Friday, November 15, 2002

A First Draft.

I'm tired of simple politics for the moment. I've been thinking about other things, though they spiral back to politics, as most things do for me.
Why is it that America has such an impoverished notion of politics and argument, that our pundits are so culturally illiterate? Why is a sense of style so anathema to politics for us?

I think it comes from the strangeness of our sense of the collective and the individual. According to Libertarians and mainstream economists, both of whom define our lives and value as economic, differing only in what that implies, what we share is a Market, and the market gives us what, as individuals, we want. Science of course, does the same thing- defining our value in terms of a sort of progress for its own sake rather than ours, and similarly downplaying the moral weight of individuals- as the market in fact does by defining the individual as either a buyer or a seller and nothing else. What we share tend to be things that are thought of absulute, as having an almost religious sense of being right or true. And on top of that we toss something called 'style', that is superfluous to the important matters at hand, but still necessary is some way we don't quite get. We don't take it seriously, even as we market to it, but we know it exists.
This amounts to a description of the weakness of most of the political writing I read that is written in the US, including almost every blog I know, even or especially the one's I follow closely.
I think that the emptiness of American political writing comes from the fact that culture and style are products of a collective in ways that the others are not; they are sloppier and less easy to control. This makes people nervous. Science may require collective effort, it is still technocratic. The rules cannot be changed- outside I suppose theoretical physics, where they are still arguing what they are. Economics is the same since it magnifies one facet of our activities and generalizes about everything else from that single plane.
But this all seems absurd when we are talking about politics, which is closer to theater than to anything else. And the same is true for economics as any literate man or woman who is not an economist will tell you. The best political writers have a sense of style because they understand theater, because they understand, or are at least aware of, something we are now afraid to call human nature- the nature of what it is to be human- whether they can define it or not.
What is interesting about the religious revival that seems to be occuring arround the world, is that while things are still changing- 'progress' is continuing- the romance with it is fading. The sterility of political writing as it fails to refer meaningfully to other things, and the revival of rhetoric coincides with a religious revival becuase both are predicated on an activity of collective creation. A good writer follows her ideas about an external ideal of 'good' writing. A witty talker follows, or at least plays with, the acceptible notion of wit. A scientist or a marketing consultant has much less freedom to work with.
It facinates me how many techncratic liberals worship the cultural productions of fundamentally religious folk traditions. And how many brag about their record collections, without being able to articulate the sadness they are describing in themselves.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

More student protests in Iran. The situation is very fragile. Things should be allowed to proceed at their own pace, which means not that the students shouldn't march, but that we shouldn't make things more difficult fot them. Our idiot in the White House, who appears more and more the figurehead for a group of hot headed idealists, understands nothing. He may have some political instincts, but how in god's name can anyone call him smart? Is there anyone around him who is?
Chickenhawk calls Europe a coward. Does he think this is going to help his cause?
I can't help laughing.
A post and some responses at NWB. The piece in The New Left Review is worth reading.

Monday, November 11, 2002

I've been dancing around this for a while, and I have to got to work, which for me, unlike most of you has nothing to do with either a desk or a computer.
We have come to a point where the accumulation of wealth by a few is celebrated as moral, whereas at most points in the history of civilization it was assumed by most, rightly, to be merely unavoidable. Individualism is a fact of our lives, and some amount of economic freedom is an important part of any society, if only as an irritant. But the self righteous rage of rich liberals at this point leaves me disgusted. Greed comes first, then the church comes in to protect the wealthy, who then offer us their charity. It were ever thus. But now the church is Our Lady of the Perpetual Market. And the liberals, a designation which can only refer to a percentage of those who can afford to be so called, are saddened that their 'bitter medicine', which they offer hypocritically to their servants, has been rejected, if only by a margin of 22,000 votes nationwide. But what does this have to do with the war? It has to do with everything about the politics of this country.

A conservative is a man who fucks a whore, pays up, and walks out the door. A liberal fucks the whore, pays for it with a sad expression on his face, and asks her if she's happy. You may vote for someone whom you fear, but would you vote for someone for whom you have contempt?



Sunday, November 10, 2002

Meanwhile the NY Times today says that the swing voters were the 'exurbanites'.
The Republicans argue the morality of shortsighted greed and the shortsighted and greedy pay them back. These voters love their sprawl and their tasteless, badly made McMansions, their 4x4's and their sweet little maid named Consuela, whose husband comes by once a week to mow the lawn.

Saturday, November 09, 2002

A liberal is a person unwilling to alter his behavior to suit his convictions. A conservative happily suits his convictions to his behavior. It's a shallow philosophy, but it's honest.

The difference between a liberal and a leftist is the difference between a believer and a priest.

Priests are more likely to be hypocrites.

What's the difference between being a leftist by choice and by necessity?

Friday, November 08, 2002

Zizka of Vanitysite hits me (in a letter not on his site) for my comments about Liberals, but I stand by my statements. One of the reasons a good deal of the working class dislikes the liberal middle class is for the condescension that is heaped on them by, among others, their new neighbors: the liberals who move into areas no rich Republican would ever set foot in. I've lived in university towns and seen the destruction the educated class brings to the communities it overwhelms. As far as my own experience goes, I've ridden a lot of freight elevators in my time, including many in the famously liberal enclave of the upper west side of Manhattan. And I know what kind of greeting to expect from a doorman when I'm dressed for work in a building- on a jobsite- and how different it is from the greeting I recieve when I walk in wearing even a shabby overcoat and loafers, dressed as if I live there, or know someone who does. It's all about class.
My comments on wednesday were a bit glib. I've changed them enough to get rid of that.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Say goodnight, Gracie.
The killing of Aimal Khan Kasi.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

The Republicans lead, and the Democrats follow. That is the way it has been for years. I am not surprised by the election.
A friend of mine knows a couple who are extremely wealthy. They spent years living a casual life, with none of the accoutrements of their position. But at some point they decided to indulge themselves a little and live the lives they could afford. They bought a large and beautiful apartment in uptown Manhattan, and hired a staff of servants. But after 6 months they had to fire them. They had both made the mistake of treating their servants as their friends, and that made the situation untenable. You can't order your friends around, can you? So they hired a new staff whom they treated as they were supposed to, and everything went fine.
This is why I have contempt for liberals. They want people to work for them clean their toilets and take care of their children, and still be their friends. Bill Clinton succeed personally because he was a charmer, but he failed politically because he was little else.

I'm not a big Bergman fan, but there is a nice moment in 'Best Intentions' (which he wrote but didn't direct) that occurs during an afternoon tea at the house of the main character, a Minister serving in a dismal backwater, and based on Bergman's father. The parishioners are fond of him because they have assumed that he is stuck there as much as they are, so when he tells them that he has turned down a promotion to high office to stay with them, what he thinks of as a noble gesture they immediately see, and see rightly, as condescension. Soon after he tells them what he thinks is the good news they politely but coldly get up and leave, and he has no idea why.
In response to Radley Balko.
India and China? India didn't allow Pepsi into its market until a couple of years ago. It was India's protectionist policies that bought the economy the time to get up to steam rather than simply be swamped by foreign interests. There was a good piece in the NY Review on China a few weeks ago discussing the same issues. Maybe you should get a subscription. [or perhaps K Friedman amd I should each get ours renewed for free since we're plugging it so much]

Trade between unequal partners is not fair trade. If a country does not have an internal balance, could not function without trade, then controls are necessary. In any crisis, they may be necessary. The Mideast economies run on oil and not much else. Their governments each play the game with only one card in hand. But they own that card. To think that trade in itself will bring the third world out of poverty is absurd, as absurd as arguing that oil wealth leads to democracy. The powerful want materials, not trading partners, and if they can get servants to do the work they'll do that way. More than one American bigshot has commented on how much easier it is to deal with tidy autocracies rather than sloppy republics. Free trade as an ideology is either utopian ideology or criminal hypocrisy. It can not be free trade if you have no choice. You are arguing for economic imperialism and don't have the guts to admit it.
If you want to argue against welfare dependency don't argue that taking away people's independence and putting them in little neighborhoods where they are herded around and told what to do will give them freedom. Social life is concerned with forming and preserving social bonds and community. Your arguments are for the amassing of individual wealth. If you don't understand the conflict between those two ideals, you have no business talking about any of this.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

I've been spending more time on the other site than here, but mostly I've been driving around in a truck. Tonight I'm following the election, and tomorrow I'm back in the truck (It's a boring way to make a living.)
Here's a bit of mine from No War Blog. It has to do with someone's silly comments about 'The Left' not liking America very much, and the respondent's sense that a good part of 'The Left', in fact, likes this country a lot.

"We live in an artificial entity known as a State. This one has a system of government that was at one time considered revolutionary in its ideas of freedom and ordered, rather than chaotic, liberty, and, as such, has been considered by many to be a model of good design. As a result of the joining of this political philosophy with other elements of our culture and history an economic dynamism has been created, here, the scale of which the world has never before seen. And having power, we want more. This desire now conflicts with our democratic ideals.

I am not a nationalist. The life of a newborn baby in Nebraska means no more to me than the life of one born in Guatemala, so why would I be a patriot? Is politics some sort of football rivalry? My parents spent a good deal of their lives defending the Constitution. But if another country created a better one I would support it. The brilliance and originality of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is that they would allow me to do so freely.
The reason the right always wins the love it or leave it debate is that they don't understand the significance of those documents. They are too busy defending their money, if they have it, or their right to make it, if the don't, to have an objective understanding."

Saturday, November 02, 2002

What is the definition of a combatant?

Let's say Germany invaded Poland in 1939, annexing the western half of the country and stopped at that. Poles were driven from their homes and fled eastward. As German immigrants flooded into this new part of the expanded German state, those Poles who remained were forced to live under a system which, while not murderous in itself, strictly limited their social political and economic activity, in the interests of protecting "the integrity of German culture." Now let's make things more complex.
20 years later, after the world has become acclimated to the new borders, foreign protests have slowed, and the world has gone back to business, the Polish government, which has retained control in the eastern half of what was their country, joins with their eastern neighbors to oust the invaders in a sudden and bloddy war. The assault fails miserably. Germany by this point has secured the military and financial backing of western Europe, and despite their immense material resourses, the political culture of the eastern states is fragmented and disorganized after centuries of the economic and cultural strip-mining that define all relations between the provinces and any financial and political hub. Germany expands into the new territory, causing a new round of protests and international condemnation which continues to this day, placing limits on its ability to maintain control over the territories, even as small groups of determined and well armed Germans, including families, with tacit and occasionally overt government approval, continue to move in.

Friday, November 01, 2002

The Turkish election front runner faces ban.

The US government should make clear that it opposes any attempts to close off the political process to Islamic parties. A ban will, over time, and obviously, backfire.
From Nathan Newman: Paul O'Neill was on the board of Lucent Technologies from 96 to 2000. Now the board members, including O'Neill are being investigated for possible accounting Fraud
Saddam Hussein is playing "chicken" with the lives of his people and ours. Is he doing this because he thinks he can win? I doubt it; he's not stupid. Does he think the US will back down and face humiliation as an impotent 'Paper Tiger', having twice 'failed' to overthrow him? He has a megalomaniac's penchant for underestimating his opponents. There is a third possibility, as symtomatic of mental imbalance as the second, but which gives him credit for being aware of what an invasion might mean for us as well as for him (an awareness which does us no good since our leaders don't seem to share it.)
Our intelligence agencies have already reported their analysts think, even if he would not do so otherwise, that Hussein would use whatever WMD's he has if he were trapped. So doesn't it make him only slightly more crazy to imagine he might dare us to invade, knowing the result would be an absolute disaster for us, and that our later collapse- as he imagines it- would be enough to satisfy his need for glory? Remember that the mythology of the Serbian nationalists sprang from the memory not of victory but of defeat. Fascism and glorious failure go hand in hand. The Thousand Year Reich was based the prophesy that it would become decadent and be violently overthrown, eventually. It's all very 'B' movie: Saddam Hussein sees himself as a man standing at the edge of a cliff, daring his opponent to jump him, knowing that the force of the attack will drive them both off the cliff and into the sea. The fact that's it's cheap melodrama doesn't make it less scary.
And I guess it's just another excuse for me to decry the absence of the sort of political culture that might recognize this sort of game more easily. As I read what I've written it seems obvious. But I've been writing this for two hours and I didn't think about it two months ago, when perhaps I could have if I had had a little more imagination.
Just a rundown of a few things that interest me:
Russian lawmakers are pushing to limit press coverage of anti-terror operations;
The new hawk in Israel, and the elections in Bahrain and Turkey.
It's not a good time for snap judgements. I am more comfortable with a close loss by secularists that is seen by all as fair, than I am by a success that leaves the loser bitter. Democracy is more important than metaphysical arguments. Bush, Putin, Musharraf, Vajpayee, and Sharon would not agree. Neither would Arafat, if he had a government or a country to control. But he has neither.

Oil and Gas International News.


It's been a long day.