Monday, March 31, 2003

Returning the favor: Martin Rocks!.
From the BBC:

"But viewers across the Arab world are not watching the news with their usual sad resignation - with events proceeding beyond their control or the control of their political leaders.

"Look, the Iraqis are fighting back," says Khalid proudly, as a news item reports on how four US marines have been killed by a suicide car bombing in southern Iraq.

Khalid, a Palestinian living comfortably in a well-to-do district of the Jordanian capital, sums up the feeling of many Arabs that - in Iraq - the US might finally be paying for years of "double standards" in its Middle East policy.

"The Americans thought they were going to be greeted by celebrations and ululating women as they walked into Basra," Khalid says."

---What else could anyone have expcted? From Pollack on down, the hawks spoke of Iraq as if it were an island in the middle of nowhere; as if the situation in the west bank had nothing to do with any of this. It was always an absurd conceit. Mark Kleiman still misses the point. His response to news of the return of the old schisms in the administration is to treat it if it were a fight over who gets the credit [blame] when the damn thing's over. But it's not just a fight about decisions in the past, it's about decisions in the future. I do not want this country invading Iran.---

"But what they don't realise is that people hate and fear them even more than they may hate or fear Saddam Hussein."
"I'm sorry, but the chick got in the way"
Do these kids know or even care what they're fighting for? According to Anthony Swofford, they don't.

What I liked, if that's the word for it, about Swofford's piece on Sunday is that the language described his tiredness. The sadness mixed in with the bullshit and bravado was enough to give the discription of amorality some other value than as data. He was a paid killer, and he knows what that meant, and that a lack of hypocrisy in itself is not enough for a killer who wants to be a writer. That sadness is what I described in my first post on Swofford, when I assumed he didn't have it, as the difference between the killer who knows both sides of the coin, and the killer that doesn't - as the difference between urban thugs and suburban fascists.
I still don't know on which side Swofford falls or, perhaps, fell, but it seems pretty clear which side Eric Schrumpf is on. So am I really supposed to care whether he gets killed or not?

"We dropped a few civilians," Sergeant Schrumpf said, "but what do you do?"
I don't know son. I don't know.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Baghdad is in flames.
Rummy is in trouble.
And so far they've found NOTHING.
Wounded British soldiers condemn US pilot:
"He had absolutely no regard for human life. I believe he was a cowboy. There were four or five that I noticed earlier and this one had broken off and was on his own when he attacked us. He'd just gone out on a jolly."

"I've had enough of being fired at from all directions, I just want to go home".

Pray for your King.
The Times has an interesting article on the demographic of armed forces. A conservative officer corps, and a working class majority for the rest. The last time we had a force that represented a broad spectrum of America's youth was the last time we fought a war the idea of which was worth defending. Nobody now on active duty has ever fought in such a war.
We need a draft with no college deferment. NYTimes

"I once addressed a group of recruiters and asked them, would you prefer to have your advertising budget tripled or see Chelsea Clinton joining the Army — and they all said Chelsea Clinton joining the Army," he said. "That would be the signal that America was serious about joining the military. Imagine Jenna Bush joining the military — that would be the signal thing saying, this is a cause worth dying for."

There is no such cause right now, but we have a corps of professional soldiers many of whom seem not to know what the fuck they are talking about.

I was not raised to follow orders and do not know what to say to those who were. But I have no respect for those who claim we should always question authority. That too assumes that it rests somewhere else. I don't submit blindly to authority or question it cheaply, because I was raised to be authority, and therefore to understand the responsibility.

The tragedy of this country, and of the greed that drives it, is that in the class of those who follow orders there are many democratic and egalitarian communities, fragile, based in a life that is hard, by American standards, but which is nonetheless living and real. But one step above and that community evaporates and is replaced with an ideology of individual freedom. This non-community includes white house hawks as well as liberals. It's the Libertarian's dream, and my nightmare. I'm as sick of bourgeois self indulgence as my father- a minor hero of the east coast antiwar movement [that's Vietnam war, children]- was sick of hippies. And whether they send the lower class off to war or merely lecture them about why they should oppose it, the condescension is the same. The lower classes don't think its their responsibility to think about these things. [This is the same thing Marx complained about in the British] They just want to be left alone. But they can't have that either.

This is two blocks from my house. The two groups live side by side. Which one has what little respect I can muster? The one that's going to lose.
I've been thinking again over the last few days about why I've always been more comfortable with and had more respect for working class blacks than for poor whites. The simplest answer is that I grew up with one and not the other. But lower middle class whites lived with the assumption that they should be better off than they were because of their race. They had pretensions to authority. Their insecurity meant the kids couldn't back down. To back down meant humiliation. It was an inflexible code; to a large degree it still is. White kids, the boys at least, couldn't laugh at themselves, could find no easy humor in their lives, because they were being laughed at already, by other whites. But for a black kid on the street, as an old girlfriend pointed out to me years ago, life was and is always about backing down, and knowing when and how to do it. What expectations did they have? In the streets the stakes are real.

I'd known this all my life but the first time I thought about it, rather than merely taking it for granted was a few years after I moved to New York. I was walking through a subway station at night, though a large open section, between one staircase and another. The only other person around was a black kid, late teenager, walking in the opposite direction, coming out of the staircase I was heading towards and towards the one I'd just left. We saw each other immediately. The moment I saw him I switched without thinking into the sway -not swagger- that I'd learned as a child but hadn't felt myself do in a while. I was nervous but it felt good. I hunched my shoulders and head slightly forward and down, and looked as I walked alternately ahead and at the ground. He was doing roughly the same thing; we were still about 30 feet apart. As we got closer nothing changed, the same sway, eyes down and up, walking to pass or meet in the middle of the room. We were both tense, and still nobody else was anywhere nearby. At about 6 feet away I looked up at him and nodded, without smiling or even realizing that I had done it.

He returned the nod. I had just backed down, as I realized I was always going to do, but I had shown him respect without fear, and he had shown me respect in return. Neither of us had known the intent of the other, and we still didn't. But I had told him two things: one, that whatever my earlier thoughts I did not want trouble now; and two, that I could defend myself. I felt no anger from him or towards him before and none after.

I haven't read Jarhead and I probably won't, but I want to take back some my comments about Anthony Swofford. Maybe Swofford started out being the kind of asshole I remember, but that's not what he describes in his piece in the Times Magazine today. He treats the press with the contempt it deserves, and violence (and the contempt) with all the homoerotic overtones it requires. But his violence is the violence of survival and nothing else. Everything else is a shrug. Maybe it's only war -Swofford is writing about 1991- but it's also true that times have changed. The races are mixing and so is their anger. Eminem makes the case obvious enough. In a very real sense it's sad, but perhaps now when angry white kids call each other nigger, it's because they know that's all they are. Integration is going well at the bottom of the ladder.

[But does that mean the white kids are becoming more like the black ones or the other way around? What does in mean that they listen to Ja Rule and hear and understand the same things? As kids have told me, the streets are a lot harder than they used to be. The life is colder and a lot more dangerous.]

I've never thought of myself in any way as black, only a white man of some sort who grew up in a black neighborhood. It's a part of my past, and given the stupidity of most comments around the issue of race these days, an important one.

Saturday, March 29, 2003
"Moreover, diversity fails to deliver even when all else is equal. When we controlled for other demographic and institutional factors like the respondent's race, gender, economic background and religion, or an institution's public or private status, selectivity and whether it offers an ethnic or racial studies program, the results were surprising. A higher level of diversity is associated with somewhat less educational satisfaction and worse race relations among students.",1282,-2519545,00.html
"The 21st century reality is that you want your students to be exposed to the best thinking from around the world,'' Bristow said. ``You also want your students to have faculty members from different backgrounds.''

I made a similar comment about Mark Klieman's post. (March 25th.) Results derived from purely logical mechanisms do no more than reflect the data put into them. In statistics, as they say, if shit goes in shit comes out. So now we know there's less racial tension on a segregated campus. I am impressed.

I grew up in a largely segregated city in a predominately black and lower middle class section of an integrated neighborhood. I was one of only 2 white kids of my age on the surrounding blocks. Most of the families had less money than my parents did, and there was a good deal of poverty. What this means is that I did not grow up nervous around blacks, I grew up nervous about what my neighbors were nervous about: working class whites. Its always amused me how Alterman is constantly trying to make his bones with the working class machismo that terrified me, and my brother, when we were young. I don't want to think about what my childhood would have been like if I had grown up closer to it then I did.
I know what many black men see when they look at a white cop. I grew up knowing it.

"Donald Rumsfeld, the US defense secretary, delivered a stark warning to Syria yesterday, accusing it of failing to stop cross-border sales of military equipment, including night-vision goggles, to the Iraqi army.

Mr. Rumsfeld called the shipments "hostile acts" and threatened to "hold the Syrian government accountable", but refused to say whether he meant military action.

He also struck out at Iran for letting state-sponsored anti-Saddam militants flood into Iraq, interfering in the coalition's war plans."

Times Editorial
"None of that, however, justifies providing Iraqis with means of killing Americans. This goes beyond political calculation, and beyond pique. Mr. Putin must understand that if Russian arms are reaching Iraq by any route, and are putting American men and women in harm's way, it is simply not enough to declare that he is not responsible, or to pretend it is not happening. Many Americans may share the Russian objections to this war, but no Americans will tolerate or forgive having an American tank blown up by a Russian missile."

If we are engaged in an illegal war, then the UN sanctions no longer apply, and moralizing by anyone is silly.

Everything gets coopted by our need for consensus, and our politics and our democracy is dumbed down to the point of irrelevance. As the ground shifts beneath our feet, is there no principle that doesn't shift it's subject?

Does it make sense to ask anyone about this war who has not heard the name Mohammad Mossadegh? It should be the first question on any poll. Are the soldiers who have invaded Iraq and who may end up in Iran or Syria all dupes? Have none of them had the opportunity, in the richest nation on earth, to learn anything about history, our own or that of Europe or the Middle East? Who is responsible for the education of the officer corps? How long until I can say, and say in public, that I no longer support their actions?

Fixed Ideas.
Again and finally I want to say that the problem of Scalia et al. is not one of legal but moral philosophy. Someone who wants to do a study should do one of historicism in a wider context. This is an important issue in all intellectual history. The question of how we interpret or even if we can understand works of art produced hundreds of years ago, of how we should perform Mozart or Bach all center around these same questions. Should Bach be played on the piano, an instrument that is wonderfully appropriate for his works even though it didn't exist in his lifetime? These debates have been central to art history and musicology as long as they have been argued in law. They begin with the Bible, which means they have no beginning.
It's is useless to debate Scalia. What needs to be done is to train the next generation of his adversaries and to do it in a way that they understand the history and implications of their arguments.

The questions are the same for Scalia as for everyone else. What is the principle at stake? If due process is the end to be achieved, and is considered just in itself, is it permissible to execute a prisoner who had a fair trial but may in fact, for reasons unknown at the time, be innocent? If a war is just then that makes the killing of a number of civilians just as well. Perfection is impossible.
Is Bach still Bach, played on the piano? Are you still a Jew if you eat bacon?
If we need language to communicate, and language needs consistency, what is the impact of the incessant transformation of nouns into verbs? Is it rendering our language unsubtle?

Interpretation is an inevitable fact of life. Questions about it's limits are raised in every field, because freedom is not the same as anarchy. At some point the thing being interpreted can be 'interpreted' away entirely. You can not use slavery to protect freedom. Or can you? An Army is based on a servitude similar to monarchy and even closer to fascism. We have used them in the past to protect our freedom. Are we doing so now? No.
I wrote this in December: "What does it mean when Antonin Scalia says 'The Constitution as I interpret it, is dead'? He's given away the game." And he has.

Legal and philosophical arguments are rhetorical, and they follow a natural progression. An argument against the death penalty for example, may be no less logical a thousand years ago than it is now, but it did not fit in well with the nature of society as a whole. Democracy may have been equally as superior, but it did not fit in well either. Years ago I wrote a paper, still unpublished, on politics and art and -among other things- the banality of the Salon paintings of mid 19th century France. I argued that they were on the whole 'objectively' bad, and that was a new phenomenon in art. In as sense, they were bad because they were examples of a sort of argument the artists themselves didn't believe in. The works were hypocritical, images laughably claiming to be chaste were prurient, as Rumsfeld's claims to morality are absurd.
There is a time and a place where barbarism and violence is a form of justice. And such cultures can produce great beauty. But as I said:
"What is it when one tries to remove from history language that in a sense has already been written? If monarchism was once considered just, and was superseded by democracy, can one replace monarchism on its pedestal without doing damage to language itself. What does it mean to be so reactionary in a democratic state?"
Here is my post on Fascism and Kitsch.
Here's the end of it:
" Why did the history of monarchy produce so much art of lasting value and fascism produce none? Why is fascist art considered kitsch? Is it only that we can not judge; the crimes are so great and so recent? I don't think so.
What I think we could say is that fascism, unlike monarchism, [and therefore barbarism] is a violent order where the perpetuators have the same understanding as the victims; the only difference being in the psychological state of the perpetrators themselves."

In other words the killers are hypocrites, trying to justify their barbarity with modern morality. They are criminals because they are trying to hide the fact that's what they themselves think. Fascists are moralizing liars. Barbarians would not need to do either.

Legal argument comes from a mix of art and logic. The process is one of describing the present. of describing in language what is the state of things. If the process is valued as a thing in itself -as Scalia says he does, but which by ignoring precedent he in fact denies- then the result is a description in current language of our current sense of justice. When the argument sounds good, when it flows easily off the tongue and into the mind without cheapening either, it is good.
But just when that is the case is up to some interpretation.
That last one (below) is a bit of a draft. I'll come back to it.

Friday, March 28, 2003

I took out a post. My anger should not get in the way.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Every day I've been getting more and more hits from Google with this search topic: "Harlan Ullman Jew"
It's sad.

2: has a lot right now, none of it good for our government.


Wednesday, March 26, 2003

From NWB
"My final comment on this subject: none of this matters. There are many ways to make soup; quibbling about recipes during a famine seems pointless. I'll continue here regardless. The audience is more important than the design."
Same link as before. I'm not at home and I try not to memorize code.

I stand amazed at this country and its people. Should I be happy that they are now worried about a war the meaning and implications of which they previously ignored?


"Banned on Wall Street and wiped off the Internet, Arab news channel al-Jazeera defended its controversial coverage of the Iraq war on Wednesday and demanded the United States come to its aid in the name of a free press."
Things are changing at NoWarBlog:
My comments are there but I think Max misses the point. I'm surprised. I thought this should be clear to anyone in an academic field, or from an academic background. But economists are planners, seeing empiricism as an adjunct to rationalism when it should be the other way 'round.
Pakistan, India, North Korea.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

American intellectuals tend to speak and write as if they do not have conflicted priorities; as though admitting this would be accepting the presence of a sin. But since we all have such conflicts, the end result is that their writing and speech sound not clear and strong but thin.

When we all start to think like this it will be a tragedy.

For the vast majority of the people on the planet 'happiness' is irrelevant. You will ask someone if they are happy and he or she won't even know what you mean. Happiness is individual and therefore the product of a specific sort of social organization.

A group of poor people living together, but removed from outsiders, are much happier than a group of poor people with a rich man in their midst.

Is a rich man happier because he pays someone to wipe the shit stains off the toilet?
It's logical to assume he thinks he is. But am I therefore supposed to approve of his happiness?

The 'bureaucratization of concern' in the social sciences drains the subtlety from everything. It's shocking to anyone who enjoys the world we live in -a world of lived desire that in any event we cannot escape - to see others try to reason their way out of it.
Significance is relative. It took Wittgenstein his entire life to figure that out. And in the end he only came up with a logical argument for Proust, replacing a cookie with an ice cream cone.
(I'll explain later. And besides I could be wrong)

Monday, March 24, 2003

An example of simple and sincere nationalism that most Americans can understand. From: The Independent.
"Dr Slack" says it well, in a comment on someone else's post at Stand Down/ NoWarBlog.
"I find it endlessly puzzling that American troops are so often surprised to find resistance to their presence. What American would welcome foreign troops in their cities, no matter how bad their own government was or how many promises the alien power made to "liberate" them? And why do so many Americans deny people in other countries the right or even the possibility of feeling the same way? Of all the idiosyncrasies driving the war, this one strikes me as one of the weirdest and most destructive"
I mention the word "video" a month ago, "pow!" and "zap!" yesterday and "Al Jazeera" today and I end up number 4 on the google list for footage of the American prisoners(!?)
I'm tired I'll keep it simple, but no links.
From the Times today: Firemen on 9-11: I know someone who was there. Rolex's half way up the arm of a corpse. [I don't know where I got that line. What the person saw was firemen putting on Brooks Brothers suits and hiding them under their coats. The witness was a cop]
Susan Sontag on "images." She sleeps with Annie Leibovitz forfuckssake. And I'll never forget the description I friend of mine gave of her in Sarajevo clasping a bag of food that she'd brought in, and surrounded by people who hadn't eaten in a week. "But it's all we have." She whined.

Mark Kleiman has a link to some idiot who wanted to be a human shield until he wised up. The kid comes off as an absolute idiot. But what the fuck does that have to do with the logic behind the war? Does Kleiman think we're all illiterate teenagers? Idiot.
The Agonist is useful but he's getting off on all the attention, seemingly without an ounce of irony about his obvious pleasure: "I beat CNN by ten minutes on the two British soldiers [reported missing!] and the two missiles. Maybe they are reading me!."

The fact remains that of all the shitheads following the war in this country, I know not one I would have anything to say to outside of politics. The war becomes something to fill a void in the American life. The purpose is to keep busy. 'Reflection' becomes a job or it has no purpose. It becomes impossible to cast that now quasi-reflective gaze upon oneself.
Every Pakistani cabdriver I've ever met can tell me more about what it feels to be alive than any of these idiots.
My apologies to Sam Heldman- whom I like and respect as a blogger and a person- but the question is not whether or not Scalia has a logic vis-a-vis the text of the constitution. His logic is entirely a priori. The choice to him is for order over chaos. As an anti-democratic Catholic. He defines order narrowly and chaos broadly. His is not a legal philosophy but a moral one, and that is why he feels free to bend the law -or break it- to his own ends. Textual interpretation as such is useless but textual analysis extending outside the law itself it absolutely necessary.

SWM 40. Tall, dark, etc. Any country but this one. Looking. Preferably female and tall. Ass+mind. Shia a plus. Will follow. Get me the fuck out of here.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

It's one of those work days where I'm near to a computer.
Reading the reports and commentary reminds me of something I thought of a few months ago that now seems obvious. If there are any parallels between what's been happening and past events the nearest, with the frightening exception of 1918, is undoubtedly Vietnam. But as far as this country is concerned that means at the very least, 1972. The contempt that is pouring out of normally mainstream commentators is shocking. How quickly we've moved to this point makes clear how radical, and I still think how absurdly miscalculated, was the Bush administation's tear to the right.
"At a news conference, Cindy and her husband, Craig, displayed photos they described as 286 children who have died in Israel and the disputed occupied territory in the past two years. They deserve as much notice as Corrie on the morning news, she said."
We have become acculturated to Empire. Stephen Brill thinks he's being fair and generous by acknowledging that the ground has shifted beneath our feet, but he is not. He is describing a shift from covert and de facto to overt empire. The former can coexist after a fashion with a democracy. The latter can not. He is lying first to himself and then to us.
It's not Failed Diplomacy if your ultimatum is rejected. It's not diplomacy at all.
That should be clear by now, shouldn't it?

I'm tired of pundits referring to the opinions of the leaders of countries as representative when it suits their purposes and to the opinions of citizens when it does not.
And of course this goes on regardless of whether those governments are democracies or dictatorial monarchies.

And What the fuck is Richard Bernstein talking about?
It would be interesting to do a study of precisely when and under what circumstances American interests have actually tried to 'replicate our system of government' and when we have expended all effort to create and retain vassal states and eunuch economies.
I would have more respect for Bernstein if he had said that we have respect for great powers even in defeat and that we leave alone or try to help small powers that offer no obstruction to our goals.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

pow! zapp! ummmph! etc.
I'm beginning to think that all the anti war activity in this country serves only one purpose: to show the world, specifically the Arab world, that the country is not unified. The rest is up to them as it should be.

American peaceniks are a pain in the ass. They're as self-indulgent as they're accused of being. They remain unaware of their power as Americans and that becomes fodder for their cynical opposition. It's why the working class in this country has contempt for liberals and reformers, who only condescend to care.

How many times can I say this: We have no real left in this country because the workers are the subject of discussion and not the participants. We're bonded together only by desire. Alterman's hard-on for Springsteen only proves the point. His contempt for the unwieldy and profane is obvious, but you need to appreciate vulgarity if you want to understand politics, or even enjoy the complexities of culture.

But the Arab street is speaking for itself. It can do that because its revolution will be a bourgeois revolution, which history teaches us is the only inevitable one. I envy them.
The real fight now is not between Old and New Europe, or America and Islam, it's between old and new capital. Al Jazeera is new. It represents the aspirations of an insurgent middle class. And old Europe is embracing new capital, including Russia, China and Islam. Trying to maintain control by force, we'll lose. Our bourgeoisie is crap. Maybe our flaw is that we don't even have one.
As I said, it's not what Bush has in mind. Even if civilian casualties are kept to a minimum, the damage will be done. We're being left behind. They're tired of waiting.
It feels good.

The question that needs to be asked, that will be asked, since our victory was assured from the moment we decided to go, is whether the extreme nature of the assault was necessary. Since Harlan Ullman's design was meant to be comparable to Hiroshima, the same questions need to be asked as have been asked since then. And given the nature of our impoverished enemy, and the expense, the justifications ring hollow. How many American lives will be saved as a result of this plan? If we have the option to run a war by remote control, can it ever be called just?

Shock and Awe is the wholesale destruction of a country as an act of propaganda and as such is directed not at Iraq alone but at the citizens of every country other than the US, and to a lesser extent—though not by much—at our own. My disgust at our leadership, and at the majority of our population who neither know nor understand, nor even want to understand the implications of all this, is tempered by my awareness that in the long run this campaign will be seen if not as a turning point—since it isn't one—then as the most memorable and tragic event of our devolution as a world power.

As it has been argued that The Revolution cemented the power of the bourgeoisie in France, and spread out from there, this war will mark a similar break with the past in the Arab world. Bin Laden and all the other reactionaries will fail but will have done their job merely by giving the giant a little rock to stumble over. A bee sting has driven him mad. Capitalism and modernity will spread more quickly than ever as a result of this war, not because we say so and not under our terms, but on its own. The combination of our exhaustion after decades of effort, and our desire by means of any cheap trick and sleight-of-hand to maintain control, is destroying us. But you cannot control desire and greed, you can only manage it and try not to be controlled by it. It takes a lot work to ride a bull or to be a professional gambler, and we are not up to it anymore. It's that simple: We're a country of salesmen, of drug dealers, and we use too much product. The sentimental glamour, the confusion of illusion and reality, our insistent equation of John Wayne with a cowboy, has brought about the confusion in many of us of our politics with those of a small independent republic, and of George Bush with a statesman. What can be said about those people who imagine themselves the virtuous citizens of such a state? Only this: that illusions are important. And that is why this adventure, if it is pushed to its logical extreme will fail. Americans are following their president because, and only because, in their ignorance they think his actions are just. Cheney and Rumsfeld may be commissioning studies of Julius Caesar and Attila, but that is as delusional, as divorced from reality, as any pro-war argument made by a housewife in Iowa. This is not ancient Rome. It is the illusion of fairness that has kept America going. If Bush goes much farther he will shatter his support. He's right to think he has a lot of it. But it's so shallow, and he seems so unaware.
"There is something anarchic about all human beings, about their reaction to violence. The Iraqis around me stood and watched, as I did, at huge tongues of flame bursting from the upper stories of Saddam's palace, reaching high into the sky. Strangely, the electricity grid continued to operate and around us the traffic lights continued to move between red and green. Billboards moved in the breeze of the shock waves and floodlights continued to blaze on public buildings. Above us we could see the massive curtains of smoke beginning to move over Baghdad, white from the explosions, black from the burning targets.

How could one resist it? How could the Iraqis ever believe with their broken technology, their debilitating 12 years of sanctions, that they could defeat the computers of these missiles and of these aircraft? It was the same old story: irresistible, unquestionable power.

Well yes, one could say, could one attack a more appropriate regime? But that is not quite the point. For the message of last night's raid was the same as that of Thursday's raid, that of all the raids in the hours to come: that the United States must be obeyed. That the EU, UN, Nato ­ nothing ­ must stand in its way. Indeed can stand in its way."
Robert Fisk in The Independent

Friday, March 21, 2003

and more.

When the assholes are reduced to listing the per capita income and GDP of each state in the coalition of the 'billing', they must understand by now they've given us permission to laugh.
Fleischer looked embarrassed for once.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Rising anger grips the Middle East.
of course.

Support the troops, redux

"It is fashionable to present our forces as composed of peace-loving people who have been reluctantly coerced into risking their lives for us – "They'd give anything to be doing such mundane things as walking to work in the spring sunshine or meeting their friends for a pint," said one commentator yesterday – but when ex-soldiers speak out about their experiences, they do not usually see themselves in quite such a gentle fashion.

A telling account of the first Gulf War, Jarhead, by Anthony Swofford, has just been published. It gives us the experiences of a young marine 13 years ago, and he is horribly honest about what drew him into the army. "I wanted to be a killer, to kill my country's enemies," he says. He gives you a sense of his fellow soldiers' desire for the actual physical experience of killing, and he vividly describes how, when he and his colleagues were cheated – as they saw it – of that experience, some of them carried out acts of desecration on corpses as if in a spirit of revenge."
"The 'direct action' visions circulating out there now are not about building the largest possible coalition of opposition to the Bush Administration, not about building a political consensus, not about laying the groundwork for 2004. If you really care about opposing the war, you need to put your own selfish needs to proclaim your virtuousness aside and keep your eyes on the prize. Large public gatherings that are respectful, quiet and rhetorically modest would be a good thing, sure, but for the moment, little more than that."
Timothy Burke, quoted at

If some people are willing to risk their asses, then let them. Is it practical? I can't say; it depends on how many people are involved. But for someone to moralize about the self indulgence of such actions is absurd. It's so wonderfully American to argue that everyone should run to the middle no matter what. For some people, principles are all they have. For others it comes down to green hair and safety pins. Can you always tell one from the other? Not always. But I'm not going to make sweeping and stupid generalizations.

I'm not like Rachel Corrie. All I'm going to do is wait.
Our government has invaded a small and corrupt dictatorship just as they did in Afghanistan and Panama. And they'll win pretty easily. But they won't win so easily in Iran or Korea, and they don't seem to understand why.

Anyone who opposed the war before is now in an awkward position, and I wish someone rather than repeating the idiotic mantra that's now popping up would come out and face the reality of the situation. If the war goes easily it will become more popular, and this will make things difficult. it will not change the situation on the ground, will not eliminate new Al Qaeda recruitment or stabilize Pakistan. It will do nothing but delay the problems that will haunt us down the road. And, as I mentioned above, with a quick success, our arrogant leadership will look at other 'trouble' states to engage. The American populace is uninformed and intellectually lazy.
It's an uncomfortable thought, and we are all aware of it, so I'm sick of all the antiwar pundits proclaiming their SUPPORT FOR THE TROOPS in caps as if to prove to themselves the cleanness of their souls.

I do not support the troops. I support those poor dupes who needed money for college, or who wanted to get out of the small town they were going to be stuck in for the rest of their lives. I support the poor kids with no other choice. But nationalism is stupid. And this is not a fucking football game. I support the living and those who are guilty of no crime.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Inspectors say US intelligence was wrong

UN tries to halt staff protest against attack
Before I go to work:
"Electronic bugging devices have been found at offices used by French and German delegations at a European Union building in Brussels, officials have confirmed"

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

"If the US attacks Iraq without support of the UN Security Council, will the
world be powerless to stop it? The answer is no. Under a procedure called
"Uniting for Peace," the UN General Assembly can demand an immediate
ceasefire and withdrawal. The global peace movement should consider
demanding such an action.

When Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956, Britain, France, and Israel
invaded Egypt and began advancing on the Suez Canal. U.S. President Dwight
D. Eisenhower demanded that the invasion stop. Resolutions in the UN
Security Council called for a cease-fire - but Britain and France vetoed
them. Then the United States appealed to the General Assembly and proposed a
resolution calling for a cease-fire and a withdrawal of forces. The General
Assembly held an emergency session and passed the resolution. Britain and
France withdrew from Egypt within a week.

The appeal to the General Assembly was made under a procedure called
"Uniting for Peace." This procedure was adopted by the Security Council so
that the UN can act even if the Security Council is stalemated by vetoes.
Resolution 377 provides that, if there is a "threat to peace, breach of the
peace, or act of aggression" and the permanent members of the Security
Council do not agree on action, the General Assembly can meet immediately
and recommend collective measures to U.N. members to "maintain or restore
international peace and security." The "Uniting for Peace" mechanism has
been used ten times, most frequently on the initiative of the United States.

The Bush Administration is currently promoting a Security Council resolution
that it claims will authorize it to attack Iraq. However, huge opposition
from global public opinion and most of the world's governments make such a
resolution's passage unlikely.

What will happen if the US withdraws its resolution or the resolution is
defeated? The US is currently indicating that it will attack Iraq even
without Security Council approval. The US would undoubtedly use its veto
should the Security Council attempt to condemn and halt its aggression. But
the US has no veto in the General Assembly.
Lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights
( have drafted a proposed "Uniting for Peace"
resolution that governments can submit to the
General Assembly. It declares that military action without a Security
Council resolution authorizing such action is contrary to the UN Charter and
international law.

...Countries opposed to such a war can be asked to state now that, if there is
a Security Council deadlock and a US attack on Iraq is imminent or under
way, they will convene the General Assembly on an emergency basis to condemn
the attack and order the US to cease fire and withdraw."


Prepared by Jeremy Brecher (
Information on Uniting for Peace based on "A U.N. Alternative to War:
'Uniting for Peace'" by Michael Ratner, Center for Constitutional Rights and
Jules Lobel, University of Pittsburgh Law School


A Sample Letter:

Dear Ambassadors,
Please consider invoking UN resolution 377! Many Iraqi lives and American
soldiers depend on it. The world needs your care and guidance through this
catastrophe. Please consider sending peacekeepers to the demilitarized zone
between Kuwait and Iraq. Please protect peace and stop this attack of

"When Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956, Britain, France, and Israel
invaded Egypt and began advancing on the Suez Canal. U.S. President Dwight
D. Eisenhower demanded that the invasion stop. Resolutions in the UN
Security Council called for a cease-fire - but Britain and France vetoed
them. Then the United States appealed to the General Assembly and proposed a
resolution calling for a cease-fire and a withdrawal of forces. The General
Assembly held an emergency session and passed the resolution. Britain and
France withdrew from Egypt within a week."
The world protests have reflected an outcry that must not be ignored."

And some addresses from the Security Council:


Sunday, March 16, 2003

The Guardian
"Zalmay Khlalilzad, Mr Bush's envoy to the 'free Iraqis', said: 'We oppose unilateral force. Such an action would have a negative effect on US-Turkish relations and Turkey's relations with other countries.' "
no comment

I'm not going to go into the obvious today. It's pointless. Of course I'll end up there by the end of it, but lets see if I can keep my mind clear enough to venture something more complex than expressing a wish to kick someone in the teeth.

A short treatise on certainty.
The physicist Alan Lightman had a piece in The Times yesterday, concerning the relationship, such as it is, between art and science. Lightman earnestly tried to give 'art' what he considered it's due. He did not mean to be condescending, but in defending the 'illogic' of artistic creativity, he neutered it, and destroyed any 'logical' and therefore ethical reason for valuing it. I'm tired of saying this but I'll say it again: It is not only unnecessary but counterproductive to attempt to defend art solely by means of metaphysics.

"Science and art have different ways of thinking, and those differences, when explored and portrayed, can enlarge both activities.
For example, scientists struggle mightily to name things. To name a thing, you've distilled it and purified it, you've quantified it; you've put a box around the thing and said, "What's in the box is the thing, and what's not is not." Consider the word 'electron'...

"By contrast, artists tend to avoid naming things. A novelist can use a word like "love," but that word doesn't convey much in itself because each reader will experience love in a different way. To name a thing too precisely can destroy that delicate, participatory creative experience that happens when a good reader reads a good book. Every electron is the same, but every love is different. "

Replace the word 'novelist' with 'lawyer' and the word 'love' with justice, and you will, I hope understand the problem. Science is capable of certainty but as a moral barometer it is a worthless failure. I appreciate the value of science and of certainty as I appreciate the military, only if they are kept in their place. The debate is not between the logical sciences and the metaphysical arts, but between the desire to name and the desire to ask; both have metaphysical implications.
The article Antonin Scalia published in First Things should be considered loathsome to anyone who believes in democracy as a system, precisely because he argues not that justice, as it is defined in our constitution and our history, is order, but that order in any absolute sense- meaning certainty- is justice. His is the Hobbesian argument for the state. And though it is an argument made through his arch and reactionary Catholicism it is abetted by the common assumption among the intellectual elite that the metaphysical certainty ensconced so irrefutably in science is a value higher than the doubt that is basic not only to the arts and humanities but to the rule of law itself.

On a related note Mark Kleiman has written a post of such blitheringly stupid condescension and bitter cruelty, about a subject of such painful importance, that his friends, let alone Salam Pax deserve an immediate apology.
His logic is nonexistent and his arrogance grotesque.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

I got an email from a woman in Britain, British most of her life but Arab by birth, asking me among other things about my opinions on the Israeli conflict. I've written on it often enough, but my response surprised her. She says she's never heard anyone say something similar outside of the region:

"Zionism is Racism. Considering the current situation, and including the fact that I'm a left-wing secularist, Hamas and Hezbollah are impressive. As far as I can tell the bombings are not acts of nihilism, are not fascist like Al Qaeda, but are seen as part of a concrete military strategy. [similar to Giap's in Vietnam?] The leadership seems to be in control and to be able—and willing (which is important)—to stop the bombings when they think it's appropriate. It's a terrible, painful, strategy, but it is a strategy nonetheless, and it is working. Israel is slowly falling apart.
I really don't think at this point there is such a thing as an Israeli 'civilian.'
I oppose the bombings, but at the same time, I don't know what else could replace them."

There are plenty of people who would agree with this, including many Jews.

It's important to understand the dynamic here: Jews—and Arabs—are the only people for whom I have an implicit trust on the issue of the Middle East. Anti-Semitism, in the bastard sense of anti-Jewish sentiment, is real in this country and Europe, and all minorities are defensive—and need to be—in the face of a history of bias.

Black anger toward Jews in this country I understand and 'as-a-rule' put aside without disrespect. A black man, or woman, and I can talk about the need for self-protection and understand one another. I've never attacked Farrakhan. I've argued against him but not as it were, behind his back, and not until my interlocutors have looked into my eyes and given their permission. That is the courtesy a member of one minority pays to another. But to a black man I'm white, just as I'm still black to many other—white—Americans. So when a white man says the that Jews have too much power in this country I watch his eyes as well.

It's empiricism and not rationalism that's needed in these cases, and it's something else that programmatic liberals, and conservatives, who have never been on the street, don't understand.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Major Barbara

Paul Krugman
I don't like Krugman that much but at least his arrogance is not the spineless arrogance of most of the press. A person who calls himself a moderate should be willing to criticize immoderation, but Krugman was for a long time the only one around who asked any questions at all.

I can't think of a precedent. Our government has built itself a house of cards and I no one I think now believes otherwise, even in the White House. This adventure will be remembered as an amalgam of The Vietnam War and Watergate, in effect the Vietnam War AS Watergate- as a criminal conspiracy- having the worst of both and doing more damage than either. The romance behind it all is something that I still can't fathom.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

War only can be used as entertainment in two ways by two groups of people: those who treat it as a game played by choice—a deadly game but one that can be left and rejoined—and those who know only war. The most important difference is that the former have never been the victims of a war, only the warriors. They didn't learn to kill by feeling pain. As I said, that's why I found Swofford so offensive.

There is, of course, a third kind of group: an audience who don't understand the stakes and are watching the whole thing as a sort of grand parade. The show on ABC tonight is a performance by a mixture of all three groups for an audience made up entirely of the third. By it's nature it's both barbaric and purposefully uncomprehending; fascism is the true esthetic of the proudly mediocre.

Profiles []
"The Pentagon and Department of Defense lent their full support and cooperation to this unique production by Jerry Bruckheimer and Bertram van Munster, which will feature compelling personal stories of America's military men and women and the elite U.S. Special Operations Forces."

"As America prepares for a possible war with Iraq, the country continues to wage a perilous war on terrorism. ABC will transport viewers to actual battlefields in central Asia with a six-episode series that will feature actual footage of the elite U.S. Special Operations forces apprehending possible terrorists, as well as compelling, personal stories of the U.S. military men and women who bear the burden and risks of this fighting. This new, one-hour primetime reality series will bring home the danger faced every day by America's bravest in the war on terrorism."
To paraphrase D.H Lawrence, writing on another illusion of this country: you can't idealize brute violence, without being undone as an idealist.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Tim Judah in The New York Review.

"Taher Masri is a former prime minister of Jordan, a former foreign minister, and former parliamentary speaker. Like 60 percent of Jordan's 5.32 million people, he is of Palestinian origin. I told him that I had seen the anti-war demonstration in London two days earlier in which, depending on whom you believed, anywhere between 750,000 and two million people took part. He said he had been delighted to observe this, and the other demonstrations, because it meant that there were now "two Wests. Europe is now a different West from America and luckily Europe is taking this position because it is preventing, or delaying, the clash of civilizations, so anti-Western feeling is directed toward the US and its policies." He added that he had been surprised by the tone of the demonstrations in Europe because "we thought it was just us, but we saw in Europe that they were not pro-Iraq but anti-American, so it seems this is spreading all over." (He did not mention the large demonstrations in the US.)"
As I've been saying, it is the US that is being weakened by the activity of our government, not the UN and not the 'West'.
Since everybody else is ganging up on our president and his various sidekicks/handlers, that leaves me to attack self important liberals on my own: Pardon me Josh, but what the fuck are "The United States' fundamental needs in Iraq" and why should they be any different than those of the rest of the world?

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Halliburton is up for contracts in post war Iraq, and Cheney is still on the payroll. The indifference to even the appearance of a conflict, is staggering. This, and Perle (see yesterday): It's fascinating how moral absolutism and corruption are always so intertwined. Does it begin with hypocrisy or just end that way?
Ecce Homo
A good piece in The Times on the American tendency towards 'providencial' thinking. For an example of its influence I'll link again to Tom Friedman's absurd piece from last week:
The intellectual defense of the Sure Thing. Irrational exuberance indeed.

Other then that there's not much to add from me tonight. There's a lot of news. Linking to it all would only be a waste of time. We are almost undoubtedly going in, but the hawks are scared. There are too many intelligent, well educated, and conservative people telling them how stupid they are. I feel sorry for Bill Kristol. He's about to get his wish and he's beginning to realize that he will regret it for the rest of his life.
I mentioned this last night and then took it down for being too glib. A friend has connections at Prudential Securities, and yes, the jokes are about velocity and impact of a body falling from their floor. Everybody is thinking of getting out and Bush is being blamed for everything. It's absurd to think- since I'm recapping last night's post- that Dean would not see clear to link unemployment with the war. But then again it's absurd that some people are being praised, as Jackson Lears, and even Tom Friedman are, for saying that they, and we, are stuck on somebody else's ride. When helpless passivity is considered a brave critique, we're fucked.

Monday, March 10, 2003

In Iowa, according to The Times, Democratic hopefuls found a 'minefield' of anti war sentiment. Apparently Dean felt frustrated(?) and was forced into asking if anyone wanted to talk about something else. The audience was throwing an issue at him and he was trying to ignore it.

At some level this has to do with money. The Republican base and financial backers share ideologies, as much as the two sides of a coin share the coin. Working class Republicans vote against their own interests for reasons of romance. Rich Republicans vote for what they want. Wealthy Democrats on the other hand vote against their interests for reasons of what they consider decency or, at least, noblesse oblige. It's the Democratic middle class and below that vote their interests outright; and as a result while rich Republicans are hard Republicans, rich Democrats are soft Democrats. Their ideals are a luxury, not a necessity. They don't need health insurance or a fair minimum wage, they merely believe in them on principle, which is not the same thing. But Luxury Democrats have to be placated, while the base loses out.
Very few people live their principles by choice.

Dean and the others are not merely cowards, though they are, they are also almost always trapped. [And then again, they are wealthy themselves, aren't they?] And when they're not trapped, they're so used to being hemmed in that they remain frozen even when there is room to move.
Here's Hersh's article on Perle.
Here's Tapped on Perle's history and questions of divided loyalty. And they end with an interesting question.

Ed Vulliamy, talking to Eric Alterman about the leaked NSA email, and the arrest of the suspected leaker:

"If charges are made, they will be serious — Britain is far more severe in these matters than the US (so far!). They could result in a major trial and a long prison sentence for the alleged mole. It is also a criminal offence to receive such information in Britain (some of you may recall the ‘ABC’ trial of the 1970s), and this may also become an issue of press freedom. The authors of the piece will defy any attempt by the government to discuss our sources.
It is important that maximum international — as well as domestic British — pressure be brought to bear on the Blair government over this impending case, the prosecution of which will inevitably have a political agenda, and to protect this prospective defendant all we can. Pleading motive will be impossible because there is no defence of justification in Britain. It would be a great help if you would very kindly put your minds to the issue during a spare moment, and think of appropriate people — individuals, concerned organisations, politicians, academics and student or grass roots groups — who might consider making representations to the British government in a letter to the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street, London, SW1.”

Sunday, March 09, 2003

I can barely listen to Politicians in this country. Dean is talking to Russert as I write and his arguments are so middling; its an embarrassment to anyone who has an opinion, about anything at all.

I'm going to the Velazquez-Manet show today, but I'll tie up some loose ends before I go:
First I want to clarify my post on T.S. Eliot. Eliot's politics are repugnant, but I don't defend his poems because they're politically neutral—they aren't. They're as reactionary as he is. But they are an honest description of the mind of a reactionary. They are the poetry of reaction. There is no better antidote to the ideological defense of monarchy than the rambling monologues of an impotent and asexual nihilist desperate to maintain a sense of even the shadow of absolute moral order. It is heartbreaking to watch him cobble his arguments together. But brilliant obfuscation is still brilliant, and he is forced by circumstance and by his respect for order that his form has be so modern to be true. After all, modernity is all he knows. He can't allow himself to fall for cheap nostalgia. I read Eliot and still get a chill up my spine.

Arthur Schlesinger, that ass-kissing creep, has a piece on Henry Adams' 'Democracy' in the New York Review this week. Schlesinger talks about Adams' conflicted sympathies concerning the various characters as if somehow Adams should have made up his mind. The request is laughable. In the same issue Aileen Kelly has a piece on Dostoevsky documenting the long attempt of a few to make clear, to us in the west, the importance of the relationship between Dostoevsky's intellectual and artistic lives. But why should there even be a question? The intellectual life of this country is still so immature that intellectuals still have no idea what art is.

The words in a piece of writing may describe a blue sky and happiness, and the author may even imagine that that is what the piece is about, but the sentence structure, the phrasing, the music of the sounds of the letters strung together as you speak them may spell out despair. Do you think Milton wanted the Devil to get all the good lines?
That's why it's called "art". The artist creates a structure that he/she decides is right. If he's lucky he nails it, according to some principle or other. And that principle has as much to do with rhyme or paint as a drawing room comedy has to do with furniture -they are all props- and everything to do with family, god, rationalism, nihilism, democracy athiesm, sex, or any other subject you can name. Those subjects in whatever form they appear to the maker, are then not illustrated -if the thing is good enough- but made manifest in the product itself. Of course the result is contradictory. If it weren't contradictory it wouldn't be very interesting. Even Fra Angelico is contradictory, he's just so gracious it seems too violent a word to use.

It seems to me that since we now look at religious art with athiest eyes we forget that subject matter exists for all art. Add this to our moralizing protestant streak, and it makes sense that we in this country make our art in secret and then deny it. The Blues. Jazz. Hollywood.

It may seem odd to use this as an illustration but it fits. I ran into John Waters on the street last night, and we chatted for a bit. I've know him as a friendly stranger for a few years, through CDL. And he has a show up now at the gallery. John is in the Eliot mold in a sense: innately conservative, but aware of the emptiness of it; he wants to take himself seriously but can't (but does in secret), caught between high, low, and now middle. There's a lot of sadness to him, but it's manic.

What a country.

Friday, March 07, 2003

Some people got no choice, and they can never find a voice, To talk with that they could even call their own So the first thing that they see, that allows them the right to be Well, they follow it, You know what it's called? Bad luck.
The obituary is truthful but condescending. Roberta Smith in The Times.

Of the many refugees from the moralizing hypocrisy of the middle classes, more than a few have found employment and comfort over the centuries as the playthings of the rich. From its beginnings there have been two critiques of capitalist democracy, from the left and right, but recently we've tended to fade one into the other. Earnest naiveté is still prized over self-awareness, and it's certainly less bruising to the ego, at least until you're pulled up short. Americans remain a people of faith, if only in themselves.

Colin De Land was almost pathologically honest, which is not to say he always paid his debts. No man I've ever met was more convinced of the emptiness of desire, or greed of any sort, while being so capable of indulging (or wanting to). If Europe recently could still give us the self-destructive artist as painter instead of pop star, only the United States, which has no end of pop stars, could give him to us as a gallery owner.

I wrote this a few weeks ago. It will have to do for now:
The guy running the job didn't show up this morning and nobody else had keys, so after waiting in the cold for almost an hour we went to a coffee shop to wait some more and read the papers. Between phone calls to the turned off cell phone of our employer we had a lot of time to waste. The East German is so disgusted by what's going on with Iraq that he's thinking of becoming a Communist. Larry from Barbados told us that if you're deep sea fishing in the Islands and catch a marlin you have to cut off the spike before you get ashore or you risk 9 months on a weapons charge. Mike said that his parents had been hippies and that they had taken him to Woodstock as an infant and had lost him in the crowd. They were reunited after someone asked Country Joe McDonald to make an announcement from the stage: "Hey, Anybody lose a baby!?" It's in the movie.

We split up. Mike went to Bed Bath and Beyond to buy a toaster. Larry, The German and I went to the Apple store. After an hour or so we walked back to the job and met up with Mike again. No one was at the site so we went back to the coffee shop and had lunch. Then we went back to the job again, with no luck, and called it. Mike and I walked north to the subway where we said goodbye and I continued up to Chelsea to see a few galleries and get up the nerve to visit a friend of mine who is dying of cancer. They sent him home from the hospital last week. He'll be dead in a few days.

I went to Colin's gallery and phoned his house to see if it was a good time and if I should bring anything for anybody who was there. Jack picked up the phone and said they didn't need anything, and that I should just come by. I walked the two blocks to the apartment building, took the elevator to the 10th floor, walked down the hallway and knocked lightly on the door. There was a sticker on the door jamb, it said: "Stop the War Machine." Jack was there with a caregiver, Taka, and Spencer. I spent a few minutes with Colin by his bedside. It was hard. It was the first time I've ever been on a death watch. I stroked his hair and held his hand, then went to talk to Jack in the living room. The caregiver was watching TV. I said it wasn't easy for me, but I knew Jack had been through this before. He laughed. The phone rang and he went to pick it up.

I went back into the bedroom and saw a blond girl in a beret sitting on the bed next to Colin. I didn't recognize her but I figured she was a friend of Kembra. She looked a bit like a stripper. Her name was Amanda but (she said) Colin called her Peaches. Amanda and I talked for a while, each holding one of Colin's hands, trying to give him something to be aware of other than pain. He spends most of his time doubled up. He's lost a lot of weight and his skin is yellow green; his liver is finally giving out. Amanda got some ice cream and I spooned small amounts into his mouth. Amanda said, with mock disdain: "I guess... vanilla is your favorite flavor."

Taka was sitting on the floor with a laptop and a digital camera collecting images for the gallery archive. Jack came back in the room and asked Spencer about pain medication; he was curious about some suppositories he'd found. Taka looked up from the computer: "Oh.. those are great" We looked at Taka. " No... really" Jack smiled and offered to administer them to whomever might be interested.
Before I left there were a few more visitors. Amanda thought Colin might like to watch a movie. I thought he could at least listen to one. "What do we have?" she asked. Spencer picked up a video box with a photograph on the cover of a woman being taken from behind. It was Jane Birkin, and Serge Gainsbourg, based on his most famous song. "We have the sex film." Amanda was curled up, smiling and looking somewhat kittenish, next to Colin on the bed.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Israeli minister to relax laws for non-Jews. Well it is supposed to be a democracy isn't it? Force is next resort, Bush tells Pyongyang. A long day building a booth at The Armory Show for my dead friend, Colin De Land. He died Saturday.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

...but something in Mr. Bush's audacious shake of the dice appeals to me.
This man considers himself an intellectual. All he's interested in is poetry and dreams; and liberals are accused of being irresponsible. It's disgusting.

Meanwhile at the CIA. I'll quote Atrios: "Words fail me."

And from Max Sawicky and NWB. It's about oil after all.
I don't know what my response is supposed to be; in-between the sneaker ads, half naked girls and glib ponitification on politics, I read this.

What to make of Anthony Swofford? Is there a difference between him and the negro thugs television pundits howl about on talk shows? Is it possible for a fascist to write well? Of course it is. It's hypocrites who make bad artists and not all fascists are hypocrites, though their leaders generally are.

Deep down I can only say I don't care one way or another. There have been honest soldiers before, born to explain to the well-meaning and naive what life is really about. But there's a limit to a soldier's sophistication. In the end you have to leave the armor behind if you want to get something interesting done. I can shrug off the writing not because he doesn't write well or honestly but because given the circumstances he doesn't write well enough or with enough complexity for me to overcome distaste. And the only way he could do that would be by having a more subtle understanding of his subject. What would his response be if the war were not temporary and in a foreign place, but permanent and in his homeland?

This marks the difference for example between Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, the difference between a violent and abstract ideology and a struggle for survival. The rhetoric of Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah doesn't have the fascist overtones of Al Qaeda because for them the war has never been an abstraction but a presence in their lives. They understand the sadness of war, the sadness of a violence they did not choose. Osama Bin Laden and Anthony Swofford chose violence. That's why I can have contempt for both.
More comments on the New American Century, and on our governmant's Dirty Tricks campaign against members of the Security Council. Both links courtesy of the foreign press (The Observer).

"Go to your computer now, Mr. Blair. Look at the reality behind all this sanctimonious wringing of hands over the plight of the Iraqi people. Read what your American Republican friends are really intending. Please."

The war seems inevitable, and the backlash even more so. I've said it before: this isn't the beginning of the American empire, it's the end of it. The plans are utopian and fascist, but they have no popular appeal. It's an anomaly of this country that an institution with such an agenda would choose to publicise itself, but that's why the plan won't work. For every cynical and corrupt Donny Rumsfeld there are ten earnest Bill Kristols. In any other time or place it would be the other way around, but here even fascists want to be loved.
None of this mean I'm not terrified.
I have to be more careful with my speling.

Saturday, March 01, 2003

Some of My Best Friends are Anti-Semites. There's another skirmish over T.S. Eliot. Only in this country could we still get in an argument over an intelligent man's lack of purity; the Germans have an easier time with the Stasi. The literary critic Dwight Macdonald was an anti-semite. How do I know? Because one of my best friends grew up around him. Macdonald was a friend of his father. Joshua laughs. They used to sit around and watch "Taxi" together. Dwight loved "Taxi." Macdonald was an anti-Semite who used to sit around the house with a fat Jewish sculptor from Milwaukee and his teenage son and watch Judd Hirsch and Andy Kaufman. When Eliot had lunch with Groucho Marx all he wanted to talk about was "Duck Soup."
Liberal Oasis on the blueprints for Empire. As they say, it's all out in the open if anyone cares to look. This is the stuff Josh Marshall should be hitting Pollack with. If it is so obviously the case that we are not even trying to stand as a fair arbiter, why should anyone else choose to flock to our defense. Is it not in their own 'logical self interest' to oppose us? The logic seems to be that imperialism equals stability, but would the citizens of this country acccept stability under this rule if it were to be imposed by others?

What liberal pundits and their audience fail to realize is what a good percentage of the right and a few on the left have always known and even been proud of, it's what links Buchanan and Cockburn in the appreciation they both have for this country, that if it were invaded we would produce more suicide bombers per square mile than anywhere else in the western hemisphere.

And I agree with Nathan Newman on Kucinich.