Monday, May 31, 2004

Jack Balkin on Formalism and High Politics.
I've posted on this a few times but not for awhile. I'm not sure if I was bred on theories similar to Balkin's or constructed one out of the mess of political, literary, and legal debate overheard as a child in my parent's house. Either way, he's right.
When absolute mediocrity gets into the game, the rules have changed. New York Magazine does a celebrity trashing of Judy Miller The Bitch, bordered on the right side fo the page, at least when I read it, by a column length ad for Victoria's Secret. The backlash has begun.

The underlying problem with this country is not it has produced an absurd culture, but that it continues to produce an intellectual class and a nomenclatura that is almost pathologically unwilling to admit that absurdity. The world is full of con men and fools, but no one who considers him/her self intellectually serious is allowed to admit in public, with tears or laughter or even a bemused shrug, what they they know to be a simple fact of life, confirmed for them by every guilty private pleasure, by every ad and movie. It's not that the piece on Miller turns politics into gossip and public interest, it's that it's done without a nudge or wink. It's done in the same tone of earnest moralism used by Miller and the rest.

The self indulgence of mainstream America, fed by Hollywood and MTV is no more or less shallow, no more or less delusional and self absorbed than Nader, Chomsky, and the rest of the reformist kitsch that populates the history of this country.

Oddly enough I've been developing a fondness for the logic of business, not for the ideological defense of markets but the realist observation of human behavior. The simplest most honest response to I've heard to Bush and his war from anyone who's not a political junkie came from a stock broker, who's disgusted for reasons that are both moral and practical. I can wonder which came first, but there's no conflict this time at least and neither of us are interested in perfection. We get along because neither of us are idealists and we're both willing to admit it.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

In the past -but not very often- when enduring periods of boredom I developed the habit of memorizing a poem or two, just to force myself to get up and out of the cellar. I started out with Under Ben Bulben. Soon after, I found myself in a drunken barroom duet of Sally Gardens. Though I'd only read it a few times and was a little sloppy, my partner filled in the gaps, and it just reinforced the habit.
This morning, thanks to a piece in the Times, I remembered, laughing, that when I'm in a lousy mood I still have the habit of mumbling this one as I walk down the street:

Myxomatosis*
Caught in the center of a soundless field
While hot inexplicable hours go by
What trap is this? Where were its teeth concealed?
You seem to ask.
I make a sharp reply,
Then clean my stick. I'm glad I can't explain
Just in what jaws you were to suppurate:
You may have thought things would come right again
If you could only keep quite still and wait.


Philip Larkin.

*My dilapidated copy of the Norton Anthology adds this:
Myxomatosis: An infectious and fatal disease of rabbits, artificially introduced into Great Britain and Australia in recent years to keep down the rabbit population.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Quickly before I go out into the sunshine.
Two from The Nation. How the Other Half Votes: George Scialabba on the strange [sic] phenomenon of working class Republicanism. And Philosophical Convictions: Richard Rorty on foundationalism, anti-foundationalism and politics.
Quickly, because I have errands to run and I don't want to be indoors. Read the articles if you don't understand my response.

Idiots. On Scialabba: Rich conservatives don't move into working class neighborhoods; rich liberals do. What the working class sees in powerful liberals is condescension and hypocrisy. What it sees in rich republicans is what they respect in themselves (if there's anything left to respect). Who would you rather invite into your home, a friendly con man who tells you what you want to hear or a someone who lectures you on how you've got it all wrong? The problem with Kerry is that he can't escape his snobbery. He doesn't know how to deal with the peasantry and he doesn't know how to lie. Liberals are hypocrites, but they lie to themselves first. Beyond that the problem is that with our addiction to individualism, the working class cannot develop its own independent political structures and has to negotiate from the start with liberals who don't share their interests. Working class individualism is counterproductive. So liberals still speak for the working class as men used to speak for women and whites used to speak of their concern for "negroes".

On Rorty. The problem isn't anti-foundationalism it's anti-foundationalist philosophy. Philosophy is foundationalist by nature. Anti-foundationalist philosophy as an independent study as opposed to a philosophy of other subjects, of law, history, literature etc. is predicated on a return to control of an illusory enlightened awareness, as if the recognition somehow resolves the loss. The commingling of rationalism and anti-foundationalism is at the root -is the foundation, relatively speaking- of all the violent metaphysics of the European avant garde, both left and right. And Habermas is a nice guy, but so what?

Charlie Chaplin stands on a stage made of ice. He slips and falls. He gets up. He slips and falls again. He loses control. He negotiates with the inevitable. We laugh at him and at ourselves. Theater is anti-foundationalist, a winking lie. Common law like democracy itself is anti-foundationalist. It's not based on 'Truth' but on getting along.
So why the ridgidity of the British class system? That's for history and literature not philosophy.

How about a study of British Punk as a bourgeois revolution.

This is a modern world - This is the modern world
What kind of a fool do you think I am?
You think I know nothing of the modern world
All my life has been the same
I've learned to live by hate and pain
It's my inspiration drive -
I've learned more than you'll ever know
Even at school I felt quite sure
That one day I would be on top
And I'd look down upon the map
The teachers who said I'd be nothing -
This is the modern world that I've learnt about
This is the modern world, we don't need no one
To tell us what's right or wrong -
Say what you like 'cause I don't care
I know where I am and going too
It's somewhere I won't preview
Don't have to explain myself to you
I don't give two fucks about your review


He changed his mind later but Paul Weller voted for Thatcher, the daughter of a shopkeeper.
Punk wasn't a rebellion against capitalism. It was capitalism, rebelling against both liberalism and the hereditary aristocracy.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Removed post.
I tried to say what I wanted with few words, but without being glib. It didn't work.
This country is in many ways 'the most free,' the place where people have the fewest obligations to their peers. Some people celebrate that. I merely acknowledge it.

I went to the dentist yesterday to complete the finishing touches on a root canal; I am now the owner of a perfect copy of a tooth. Before he began my dentist crossed himself. I hadn't noticed him do it before but I guess I hadn't been paying attention. "I do it all the time" he said, '"just to remind myself that there is something out there greater than I am. It keeps me humble"
I laughed. "My parents were atheist academics. History was their god; memory kept them humble" My dentist nodded and smiled.

I lied. History wasn't my parents' god, it's mine. My parents were children of modernism, too close to their past and too ashamed of it to understand or admit its continuing influence on their lives. Symptoms were for others to present and for them to analyze. They were too afraid and too stupid to be anything but arrogant.
I am an atheist. I worship history because I have no memory of one.
---

I think as a point of moral philosophy that one should never be able to say that someone else, a person or state, gave one permission to kill. But that is the logic behind the military, the logic that allows soldiers to do their duty, and the rest of us to ignore the normal crimes of war. And that's the logic behind the horror of those who are offended by the acts of torture at Abu Ghraib, and we assume by now other places as well. I have no patience with it.
If you are sane, you are responsible for your actions. If you kill it is your own choice. You have the blood on your hands.

Most people don't want that sort of responsibility. It seems a hallmark of our democracy that our leaders don't either.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

I have to laugh, though it's not a laugh I'm proud of.
Causing an uproar, an Israeli Cabinet minister and Holocaust survivor said Sunday that Israel's offensive in a Gaza refugee camp - including TV images of displaced Palestinians searching the rubble for their meager belongings - brought back memories of his family's suffering. The Guardian
Training wheels etc.
Taking a break from trying to reconstruct my so called electronic life, just enough to comment on Ben Stein et al.: the various attempts to play down the crimes of our soldiers and our leaders.
Release all the pictures.
I'm sick of references to the 'menacing' of prisoners by guard dogs. A dog bite is not a threat. And rape is not a thought crime.
No. Of course not- it couldn't have been a wedding party. It was a resistance cell of women and children (one deviously dressed in a wedding gown!). It wasn't a wedding party just as mosques aren't mosques and hospitals are never hospitals when they are bombed. Celebrating women and children are not civilians. 'Contractors' traveling with the American army to torture and kill Iraqis ARE civilians. CIA personnel are 'civilians' and the people who planned and executed the war are all civilians. We're not civilians- we are insurgents, criminals and potential collateral damage. Riverbend

Friday, May 21, 2004

My computer crashed for the last time and I'm working now on my new ibook. It'll take some getting used to. My last computer was a 5 year old G3 powerbook.
The screen is tiny, but I can watch movies.
I'll get back to business soon.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

A link from Cacoa
Most of the article recaps the Amnesty International report, and the context. But here are the final paragraphs

For four years, Khalil Bashir, a school principal, his wife Souad, their six children and his mother have been under pressure from the Israeli army to leave their home near the Israeli settlement of Kfar Darom in the Gaza strip.

In October 2000, Israeli soldiers took over the upper floors of their house. Since then, the Bashir family have been confined to the ground floor, while the top floor has been turned into an army base accessed by a ladder.

Even though the Israeli army has full control of the house, soldiers have opened fire on the house from a watchtower. The sides of the house are riddled with bullets and the ground floor rooms facing the army position have sustained extensive damage.

Three members of the Bashir family have been injured by Israeli army fire. On 13 October 2000, Mr Bashir's son Yazen, 17, was shot and injured in the leg while he was getting water. On 28 April, 2001 soldiers shot from the watchtower into Mr Bashir's bedroom while he was reading, injuring him in the back of the head and neck.

On 18 February 2004 Israeli soldiers shot and seriously injured Mr Bashir's son Yusuf, 15. At the time Yusuf was outside the house with his father seeing off visitors, including two United Nations staff members. The three visitors had just got into their vehicle, clearly marked with the UN emblem, and were about to leave when a single shot was fired from the Israeli watchtower. Yusuf was hit in the back by a bullet. He is still in hospital and it is not known if he will walk again.

Shortly afterwards, his sister Amira, 18, told Amnesty International: "I am worried for my brother. I don't know if he will walk again; and I am worried about my three little siblings, my parents and my grandmother. I pray that they will be safe. The home should be the safest place but for our family it is not."

The Independent
Practice Practice Practice…
As I've said a few times recently, this country is becoming more sophisticated in its tastes and manners. Interestingly, I'm not referring to the tastes and manners of Manhattanites. As it stands, what has happened is more of a leveling, and the city I live in has if anything become more provincial. New York is still, perhaps more than ever, a place for foreigners who need or want to escape their homelands: Manhattan for the rich, the outer boroughs for everyone else. But things have changed. I've been to quite a few parties, with people from five or six countries, and been the only American. The thriving neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens are made up almost entirely of immigrants. There are places in New York where you could imagine yourself not only in a foreign country, but in a small western European city. And none of those places, with small cafes and shops, is in Manhattan. New York is now a place for immigrants to come to mingle with each other, if they're poor, or even if they're not.

Self-consciously serious American culture has always been thin. As often as it's based on the transubstantiation of the popular and vulgar, too often it's based on their denial. This is due partly to the nature of our mediocrities. Criticism of the banalities of the bourgeoisie in this country and others is often shaded -with subtlety or not- as a critique of democracy. You can say this about Greenberg, Foucault or Antonin Scalia. It's fascinating to understand just how much the art world, for example, flooded as it is with works that ape popular culture, still needs to posit itself superior to movies and tv. But broad slatherings of irony can not hide the fact that the central theme of the works is envy.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Israeli war crimes against civilians in Rafah and Gaza

- In the first 10 days of May 2004, Israel's demolition of 131 residential buildings in Gaza left 1,100 Palestinians homeless.

- Five days later, continued Israeli demolition operations doubled the number of homeless since the beginning of May 2004 to 2,197 Palestinians.

- The total number of people to lose their homes in the Gaza Strip is 18,382 since the start of the Second Intifada in September 2000.

- The majority of the demolitions this month have taken place in Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip, where 12,600 people had already been made homeless by demolitions since the Intifada began.

- On 11 May 2004, Israel killed 15 Palestinians in the al-Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City, including 4 children, and injured at least 200 others, including 35 children.

- On 13 May 2004, Israel killed 12 Palestinians in Rafah, including a child, and injured at least 20 others.

- By 15 May 2004, two days after the 13 May invasion began, a total of 14 Palestinian civilians had been killed and 30 injured in Rafah, with 80 homes destroyed, leaving 880 Palestinians homeless.


The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: "The extensive destruction of civilian property, carried out wantonly and unlawfully, and without military necessity constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention as defined in article 147, and a war crime as clarified in article 85.5 of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions."

Amnesty International: "More than 3,000 homes, vast areas of agricultural land and hundreds of other properties have been destroyed by the Israeli army and security forces in Israel and the Occupied Territories in the past three and a half years," and said that "some of these acts of destruction amount to grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention and are war crimes."
For nearly 12 years, Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey was a hard-core, some say gung-ho, Marine. For three years he trained fellow Marines in one of the most grueling indoctrination rituals in military life - Marine boot camp.
The Iraq war changed Massey. The brutality, the sheer carnage of the U.S. invasion, touched his conscience and transformed him forever. He was honorably discharged with full severance last Dec. 31 and is now back in his hometown, Waynsville, N.C.
...
Q: What does the public need to know about your experiences as a Marine?

A: The cause of the Iraqi revolt against the American occupation. What they need to know is we killed a lot of innocent people. I think at first the Iraqis had the understanding that casualties are a part of war. But over the course of time, the occupation hurt the Iraqis. And I didn't see any humanitarian support.


Read the whole thing, It's pretty nasty stuff. The Sacramento Bee

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Freeway Blogger

AP
Josh Marshall ...irregular methods originally approved for use against al Qaida terrorists who had just recently landed a devastating blow against the US, were later expanded (by which mix of urgency, desperation, reason, bad values or hubris remains to be determined) to the prosecution of the insurgency in Iraq.

In the words recently attributed to Gen. Miller, they Gitmo-ized the counterinsurgency operation in Iraq.

In other words, methods approved for use against the worst and most dangerous terrorists spread -- like ink through tissue paper -- to other military theaters that were, at best, only tangentially related to the war on terror. And this, I think we can say, is tied to the boundless, undefined and ever-expanding definition which the administration has given to the war on terror.


The Observer Dozens of videotapes of American guards allegedly engaged in brutal attacks on Guantanamo Bay detainees have been stored and catalogued at the camp, an investigation by The Observer has revealed.

The disclosures, made in an interview with Tarek Dergoul, the fifth British prisoner freed last March, who has been too traumatised to speak until now, prompted demands last night by senior politicians on both sides of the Atlantic to make the videos available immediately.

They say that if the contents are as shocking as Dergoul claims, they will provide final proof that brutality against detainees has become an institutionalised feature of America's war on terror.



I'm honest. I've made my response as to the questions raised by the ticking bomb problem. But Marshall's 'thoughtfulness' is silly and corrupt.
Summer is here and the college kids are out in force in what was once my working class neighborhood. Pudgy faced 12 year olds in striped t-shirts walk hand in hand with pretty but not beautiful slightly overweight and undersexed girlfriends in knee length skirts and sandals; frat boys' hands grace the ass cheeks of prettier and more sexed bimbos who likely prefer each other's company.

I've never had much of an interest in definitions and High and Low, though I was bred to follow them. My parents were pictures of intellectual alienation, defined by the inability to comprehend let alone accept the degree to which they were quintessentially American in their manners and tastes. A few years ago, after my father died and my mother began attending the rare family functions outside the nucleus, she would report back to me in a state of stammering incomprehension, assuming that because she had raised me I must be as ignorant as she had been of the realities of suburban life. "But Mother, where do you think most of the people I know come from?" This from a woman who had done legal work for the Panthers and the Nation of Islam, and who described the neighborhood where she worked as "around the corner from the 'chicken run." "The what?" I said when I was about 8. "You know. Where men pick up underage boys"
Hip Hop, Standard destroyer.
Leave a muthafucka open like a foyer.

(I've moved on to "Speakerboxxx")
---
As I, struggle to keep my balance and composure
I'm 'posed ta, propose a toast to players on every coast-a
The lyrical roller coaster, mind-bender
'Stead of watchin these sucker MC's
I'm seein just how they lyin to the general population
Don't be patient, get up and stand up for your life
Don't you agree or understand we lost some rights at 1-1-9?
Come dumb, come young, come blind unwind confined
to the situation, we facin, cause in time, tick tick boom

[singers]
Tick, boom.. tick, tick-boom
Tick, boom.. tick, tick-boom
Tick, boom.. tick, tick-boom
Tick, boom.. tick, tick-boom

[explosion forward and reversed]
[scratched: "You're gonna die here" - 2X]

[Big Boi]
When will we all, awake up out this dream
Come here and smell the Folgers, the soldiers are human beings
Man actin as if he was the supreme bein
Clockin the souls of men out like he was G-O-D and
W-A-Rrah, there'll be no tomorrow but sorrow
and horror will follow the hollow hearts battle for dollars
Politicians, modern day magicians
Physicians of death, more health care for poor health
Who makin us ill, they makin us kill
That's makin me spill my guts (chill Big, lay in the cut)
For what? I refuse to sit in the backseat and get handled
Like I do nuttin all day but sit around watch the Cartoon Channel
I rap about, the Presidential election and the scandal
that followed, and we all watched the nation, as it swallowed

and chalked it up, basically America you got FUCKED
The media shucked and jived now we stuck - damn!

[singing - "can't be heard clearly"]
[scratched: "You're gonna die here" - 2X]

[Big Boi]
Operation Anaconda - ask yourself
was it full of bleeps and blunders, did they ever find Osama?
And why in the fuck did Daniel Pearl have to pay the price
for his life and his wife plead twice?
See Al-Amin got life and Fred got dead, Hampton
To dampen the dream of all the Panthers
They got they answer for ransom
As we read together, as we dream together
Count your blessings whenever you feel that things won't be no better
But it got to, you gave me this microphone so I must rock you
Your brainwaves, airwaves, energized and SHOCKED you
Y'all got me, well I got y'all, long as I know y'all listenin
I'ma always bring food for thought to the table in the kitchen
Now eat nigga!
War



From The New Zealand Herald:
"Almost 10,000 prisoners from President George W. Bush's so-called war on terror are being held around the world in secretive American-run jails and interrogation centres similar to the notorious Abu Ghraib Prison.
Some of these detention centres are so sensitive that even the most senior members of the United States Congress have no idea where they are.
From Iraq to Afghanistan to Cuba, this American gulag is driven by the pressure to obtain 'actionable' intelligence from prisoners captured by US forces.
The systematic practice of holding prisoners without access to lawyers or their families, together with a willingness to use 'coercive interrogation' techniques, suggests the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib now shocking the world could be widespread."
Link courtesy of Buzzflash.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Here was a desert of distance of ways. They were plants and birds there is no.
Here was some mad things in then. It was the one. Who was the rider.
A desert was beautiful, it was a for the dishes, it was a balloon.
In poems into a slides of books.
I've been to the desert with a horse with no name.
Here was a desert of distance of ways. They were plants and birds there is no.
Here was some mad songs of these have notes.
I've been to the desert with a horse with no name.
I've been to the desert with a horse with no name.
I've been to the desert with a h


I got a note yesterday from an old friend. Her brother is having his first show in NY in 15 years. From May 21 to July 1 at Gavin Brown's Enterprise 620 Greenwich Street.

"Everything Christopher Knowles does makes sense but not in the way we are accustomed to." - Robert Wilson.
I feel the earth move. I feel the tumbling down tumbling down...

I've uploaded the press release, here.
You should go.
For Huda Shaker, the humiliation began at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Baghdad. The American soldiers demanded to search her handbag. When she refused one of the soldiers pointed his gun towards her chest.

"He pointed the laser sight directly in the middle of my chest," said Professor Shaker, a political scientist at Baghdad University. "Then he pointed to his penis. He told me, 'Come here, bitch, I'm going to fuck you.'"

Thursday, May 13, 2004

So Max is responding to the vitriol of the frightened and uneducated by sinking to their level. And the Teenager says Has it come to this?. Is there that much of a difference between fear and condescension? Doesn't Kristof divide the world into Us and Them? Doesn't Josh Marshall? Tell me the fucking Israelis aren't white (more so than Jews in America certainly.) But what are the Palestinians, the Syrians or Lebanese?
I don't try to demonstrate intellectual superiority by mockery; it doesn't work. Razzing Freepers is a waste of time, and does nothing but make them angry. Treat the servants with respect and their masters with contempt, and the servants might come to respect you. But Liberals don't do that, choosing to enjoy their easy superiority over those from whom they imagine they have nothing to learn. Most Freepers have reasons to be angry, but they're looking in the wrong direction. And as for Yglesias, the arrogant but earnest sense of superiority he shares with Marshall and other liberals shades quickly -under duress- into the sort of paranoid delirium that suits the readers of Lee Harris. Paul Berman comes to mind.

"The forces of secularism have triumphed and those of communalism have been defeated.". Any civilized human being should cringe reading those words. The vulgarity of that sentence and of the sensibility it outlines, is sickening.
And if you think I'm defending Hindu nativism you miss the point. [I misunderstood the common definition of "communalism" in S. Asia]

Another interesting post, after a fashion, also at Crooked Timber, on the ticking bomb problem.
First of all, you don't torture the person with the information, you give the man a phone and say: "Call your mother." When he calls, a strange man picks up the phone. An old friend told me that's what the Russians do.

Secondly, the reason the military separates officers and enlisted men is that it is the officers' job to send the enlisted to their death. You don't want friendship across such boundaries; it's impractical. Liberal notions of justice don't apply.
That the torturer himself should be condemned, rendered 'taboo', as a consequence of the act makes perfect sense, as much sense as the separation of officers and the enlisted. But again such a notion exists outside of any idea of liberalism.
The idea of 'dirty hands' is besides the point. There is no ideal; and the only truth is necessity. So much for modern philosophy. [necessity in the interests of the preservation of a republic.]

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Jesus fuck how I hate Kristof. He's such a condescending scumbag. Can he write anything about anyone outside of his own group- define it as you wish: American, male, white, heterosexual, pig fucker etc.- that is not merely an excuse to magnify his/their sense of political social or moral superiority?
I have a cold contempt for those who make a career of their contempt for others. I don't care if it's Kristof, Safire, or Limbaugh; I don't care if it's George Bush or Brian Leiter or Eric Alterman. There's no contradiction in that statement. A good percentage of the punditocracy speaks to and for the rich. The rest speak to and for themselves. Why should I be impressed by the hypocrisy of the educated middle class?
As my old accountant used to say: "They treat the peasants like shit in this country."
"The Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where a unit of U.S. soldiers abused prisoners, is just the largest and suddenly most notorious in a worldwide constellation of detention centers -- many of them secret and all off-limits to public scrutiny -- that the U.S. military and CIA have operated in the name of counterterrorism or counterinsurgency operations since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks." The Washington Post: The Secret World of US Interrogation

Also, on Nightline, McCain referred to the difference between Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, saying that unlike the prisoners in Cuba those in Iraq had rights under the Geneva Convention. In that regard he's chosen to follow the administration's absurd moral logic.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Luc Sante in the Times
Leaving aside the question of how anyone could have perpetrated the horrors depicted in those pictures, you can't help but wonder why American soldiers would incriminate themselves by posing next to their handiwork. Americans don't seem to have a long tradition of that sort of thing. I can't offhand recall having seen comparable images from any recent wars, although before the digital era amateur photographs were harder to spread. There have been many atrocity photographs over the years, of course — the worst I've ever seen were taken in Algeria in 1961, and once when I was a child another kid found and showed off his father's cache of pictures from the Pacific Theater in World War II, which shook me so badly that I can't remember with any certainty what they depicted. I'm pretty sure, though, that they did not show anyone grinning and making self-congratulatory gestures.

The pictures from Abu Ghraib are trophy shots. The American soldiers included in them look exactly as if they were standing next to a gutted buck or a 10-foot marlin. That incongruity is not the least striking aspect of the pictures. The first shot I saw, of Specialist Charles A. Graner and Pfc. Lynndie R. England flashing thumbs up behind a pile of their naked victims, was so jarring that for a few seconds I took it for a montage. When I registered what I was seeing, I was reminded of something. There was something familiar about that jaunty insouciance, that unabashed triumph at having inflicted misery upon other humans. And then I remembered: the last time I had seen that conjunction of elements was in photographs of lynchings.
The citizenry of this country is more sophisticated and more worldly than at any time in our history. That's less true of our elite. But that worldliness has not come naturally; it's being force-fed by the expansion of markets and faces a backlash from a grouping of conservatives and some of those -mostly white- who have been left behind by the cruelties of economic 'modernization.' It's easier after all for white liberals to worry about race, gender, and sexual orientation, than it is for them to worry about class.

In light of the above it's interesting to read articles like this one also from the Times about the transformation of WLIB, until recently the station of NY Caribbean community, and now host to Air America.
"I'm very cordial with them, they're a great bunch of people," Mr. Anderson said of Air America, which is said to have more than $20 million and is now operating in 9 markets (as well as satellite radio and the Web) throughout the country and says it will be in 26 by the end of this month. "I'm a member of the A.C.L.U., so you know where my political leanings are, but I'm conflicted. It's important for Air America to confront the reactionary right, they're doing an incredible job, but it's at the expense of the Caribbean community."
Mark Riley used to host Politics Live, which was probably the best political talk show in NY. I've written about him once before. Riley was the voice of politics on LIB, and as I said last time would debate various topics with callers on the show. It was fascinating to listen, precisely because he was more to the left than a good percentage of the his community. He would defend gay rights to those who thought homosexuality was immoral, or evil, and he was respected by those he argued with because he respected them. He's now on Air America - I double checked to make sure. To do otherwise would have been stupid, but the context is gone, and with it any real sense of a politics for which I can have more than marginal respect. Air America is not designed to entertain and educate an audience, to teach sophistication, but to give the sophisticated a place to talk amongst themselves. It misses the point. And the hosts and audience are less sophisticated than they pretend.

The false populism of liberals will do nothing to counter the false populism of the right.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Remember Falluja.

I linked to this a couple of weeks ago, but Max linked to it today, so I'll do it again:
During the first two weeks of this month, the American army committed war crimes in Falluja on a scale unprecedented for this war. According to the relatively few media reports of what took place there, some 600 Iraqis were killed during these two weeks, among them some 450 elderly people, women and children.

The sight of decapitated children, the rows of dead women and the shocking pictures of the soccer stadium that was turned into a temporary grave for hundreds of the slain - all were broadcast to the world only by the Al Jazeera network. During the operation in Falluja, according to the organization Doctors Without Borders, U.S. Marines even occupied the hospitals and prevented hundreds of the wounded from receiving medical treatment. Snipers fired from the rooftops at anyone who tried to approach.

This was a retaliatory operation, carried out by the Marines, accompanied by F-16 fighter planes and assault helicopters, under the code name "Vigilant Resolve." It was revenge for the killing of four American security guards on March 31. But while the killing of the guards, whose bodies were dragged through the streets of the city and then hung from a bridge, received wide media coverage, and thus prepared hearts and minds for the military revenge, the hundreds of victims of the American retaliation were practically a military secret

Saturday, May 08, 2004

War Crimes:
David Kay, the man who led the U.S. search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, says he repeatedly told people about problems with the interrogation of prisoners, but the military ignored him.
---
Early Iraq Abuse Accounts Met With Silence
"In contrast to suggestions that the photos indicate isolated abuse by a few, these Iraqis told of widespread practices in several camps that would violate the Geneva Conventions and other human rights standards. On Friday, in an unusual public statement, the international Red Cross agreed, disclosing that its inspectors last year found a "broad pattern" of abuse."
---
They knew
---
Moral relativism etc. : The CIA, Valerie Plame's employer, is linked to torture. Was there ever a time when it was not? Is there anything new about this scandal other than the pictures? Marshall's comment, the more I think of it, is grotesque. Does moral responsibility begin and end with the King or his factotum, with the US or its vassals, with the one who does the deed or the one who pays the bill?
How much respect is a civilized human being obliged to have for Wilson, Plame, or Clarke? Clarke is a good servant to a corrupt master. Wilson, and Plame, his glamour girl wife; he with a portrait of George H.W. Bush on his desk and her glamour in the service of... what?

Again, it's not the facts that annoy me, though even that word is a little off -the facts are uncertain- it's the need to oversimplify, to find saints and saviors. Atrios is as annoying to me in some ways as Leiter. Everyone in that little list above is self serving and corrupt. I'm grateful for their honesty as regards recent events, but that doesn't mean I'd enjoy sitting next to any of them at dinner.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Out of the shower and out the door, but first:
Our moral superiority to mass murderers and people who desecrate people's bodies in town squares is, while thankfully true... Bullshit.

Mass murderers like Hussien are bought and paid for, in our "national interest." Marshall is lying to himself.
And: "...a love/hate relationship with Lieberman." ?

Rumsfeld should stay [too many links to count on that subject] and so should Negroponte. The people don't care, so let them learn why they should. American values -read: Capitalism- will always win, but not America itself. The faster the people of this country learn the costs of their own ignorance, the better.

I've said this before as well: I have no respect for the members of our armed forces. I have pity for the desperate and the foolish, and contempt for the rest. The willingness to be led; the need to be in servitude, disgusts me. I suppose it's just result of the education foisted upon me by my otherwise Stalinist father. I am the product, after all, of a sort of Skinnerian hell that instilled in me a sense of moral responsibility, though whether that was even the intent is still uncertain. Considering the means, I'm still surprised it didn't have the opposite effect, but there's still time.
Until that day, I'm as disgusted as much by those who follow as by those who lead.
---

This country is being led by drunken frat boys and their servants.
Is this George Will? David Brooks?
Or is it one of the young disciples of Socrates and Allan Bloom who now populate the Federalist society; one of those condescending creeps who then as now masturbates to posters of Antonin Scalia. "Fuck me Master!"
These are the bastards who send illiterate white trash, born again bumpkins and niggers to die in Iraq and Afghanistan, all in service to an ideal: that the many should serve the few.
---
Brian Leiter on poetry
Short and sharp: I'm no fan of Helen Vendler. Those who know how best to define great art are most often those least able to define why one would ever try to make the stuff. Art is artifice, is skill, is the ability to communicate ideas with subtlety and grace. What those ideas are is something else. Leiter has no respect for poetry as he has no respect for law, seeing both as merely means to ends. To Vendler ends as such are vulgar. Again to the stupidity of a culture that divides itself, its knowledge and awareness into categories of "Form" and "Content."
No sophistication. None. You can all go to Hell.
It's Friday. Time to drink.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Brian Leiter's arrogance, and his defense of technical expertise in all matters -at the expense, I have to think, of wisdom- often gets the better of him, but if he doesn't see how offensive this there's not much I can add.
What next, eugenics jokes?

Maybe it's just academics I'm sick of.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

I only end up in these places by accident, or in this case thanks to Brad Delong. But Jesus fucking Christ is Drezner an idiot. And Volokh's not much brighter.

But then Delong continues to go back and forth between realism and idealism. Why else would an economist have any interest in "the just" as anything other than the natural outcome of debate.

Is a good speechwriter somebody who approaches the job as if it were a zero-sum game, in which for the president to win the public must lose--must be misinformed and deluded? Or is a good speechwriter somebody who approaches the job as a task of communication and enlightenment?

To me, it is clear that the second of these is the proper definition of "good speechwriter": for no one seeks to do evil--and to misinform and delude is to do evil--knowingly, and anybody who is ignorant about the nature of the good cannot successfully master their craft.

Say what?