Tuesday, August 31, 2004

I must have missed The Young Professa' yesterday, since he's the only one I'd recognize, but maybe I just didn't notice. And I'm pretty sure I saw Atrios, but which one was he?

As someone else at Tapped has mentioned, a lot of people have stayed out of the city this week, not out of boredom or annoyance but fear. And others are being kept on call. I spent an hour or so with my ex in her cubicle at Time Warner, on Columbus Circle. The place was mostly empty. A friend came by from another floor, and told us the company had rented him a room for the week at the Trump International across the street. They wanted him around if anything happened. There's a bowl of fruit in the hallway outside his door. "They change it every 6 hours."
Say what?
Rudy Giuliani is popular for good reason. He was a good mayor, gives a great speech, and seems like a friendly enough guy.
Rudy was 'good' in that he behaved well as a popular representative of NYC for the last three months of 2001. Before and after are a different matter entirely. "Friendly enough guy"!? Someone can drop me a line and tell me if The Teenager says anything close to that. I've read the blurb and that was enough.
Scott Martens on Daniel Pipes
Readers of my previous comment on Tariq Ramadan will no doubt have come away with the impression that I don’t much like Daniel Pipes. This is not an entirely accurate assessment of my opinon of him. I think Pipes is an unreconstructed bigot and xenophobic fanatic whose academic work fails to meet even the lowest standards of scholarship, whose career has been...
Department of Absolute Lunacy:
Then, the last week of December, we'll have another treat (and I'll enjoy another break): Richard Posner--distinguished jurist, founding father of the economic analysis of law, most-cited living legal scholar, scourge of Dworkin and formalist jurisprudents (not to mention admirer of Nietzsche!)--has kindly agreed to blog here, to share some of his views about matters jurisprudential--from Holmes to pragmatism to (one of my favorite Marxian themes in the Posnerian corpus!) the irrelevance of normative ethics--and perhaps other topics as well.
Brian L. Amazes me sometimes. He takes left-wing intellectual snobbery to a level beyond criticism. His conficts are truly Nietzschean.

Monday, August 30, 2004

If only for practical reasons, Sam Rosenfeld at Tapped seems to have changed his mind about the who and how of intervention in Sudan.

Go here for a reminder.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Here's the article by Marshall and Rozen, and two posts by Juan Cole, on Feith, Franklin, Ghorbanifar, et al. in order of appearance, yesterday and today. The first post is quite long, and goes into bitter detail. "The Founding Fathers of the United States deeply feared that a foreign government might gain this level of control over a branch United States government, and their fears have been vindicated."
Here are the last three paragraphs:
AIPAC currently has a project to shut up academics such as myself, the same way it has shut up Congress, through congressional legislation mandating "balance" (i.e. pro-Likud stances) in Middle East programs at American Universities. How long the US public will allow itself to be spied on and pushed around like this is a big question. And, with the rise of international terrorism targeting the US in part over these issues, the fate of the country hangs in the balance.

If al-Qaeda succeeds in another big attack, it could well tip the country over into military rule, as Gen. Tommy Franks has suggested. That is, the fate of the Republic is in danger. And the danger comes from two directions, not just one. It comes from radical extremists in the Muslim world, who must be fought. But it also comes from radical extremists in Israel, who have key allies in the US and whom the US government actively supports and against whom influential Americans are afraid to speak out.

If I had been in power on September 11, I'd have called up Sharon and told him he was just going to have to withdraw to 1967 borders, or face the full fury of the United States. Israel would be much better off inside those borders, anyway. It can't absorb 3 million Palestinians and retain its character, and it can't continue to hold 3 million Palestinians as stateless hostages without making itself inhumane and therefore un-Jewish. And then I'd have thrown everything the US had at al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and frog-marched Bin Laden off to justice, and rebuilt Afghanistan to ensure that al-Qaeda was permanently denied a base there. Iraq, well, Iraq was contained.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

More fun with idiots:

The African American community has ample reasons for legitimate criticism. Anti-Semitism, sexism, lack of democracy, lack of opportunity, nurturing of terrorism… these are sad realities, not the hallucinations of right-wingers. Anger and criticism are appropriate, but our approach has to start with the assumption that Blacks are not going away. Short of deliberate genocide, there’s no way forward in the long run except for “hearts and minds.”

I'm fucking speechless.
One thing before I go out for the day. Considering the breaking news from the FBI about the Israeli mole in the Pentagon, and what he stole and why, I'd like you to look again at the babe in the photograph below.
I don't worry about Iran, I worry for it, and so do most Iranians.
Israel, however, brings out in me more mixed emotions.

Friday, August 27, 2004

"I got a young man named George W. Bush in the National Guard."
Atrios. TPM.
Video here or here.
I've dropped my links to Harry's Place and Johann Hari. I have no patience with the kind of moralizing leftism that that says everyone else should be as logical and objective as a moralizing leftist. It'll never happen, so what's the point other than to feel superior?
I want to write more on the CT post I linked to yesterday, under the title: "Fun with intellectuals":

All joking aside I find it odd that the choices offered here are between those who like Foucault and who therefore try to find ways to make him sound logically consistent, and those who do not like him, and feel the need to do the same.
I find that odd, and worse, I find it silly. The modern world brings with it a number of conflicts. Foucault responds to these and tries to face them.
By the logic put forth here, Shakespeare would be deemed a failure because he did not offer a logically consistent vision.
But oh yes, Foucault was an ‘intellectual’ and Shakespeare merely a playwright.

I've never read C.P. Snow's "The Two Cultures" nor F.R. Leavis' response, though I'm familiar with the territory, enough so to cringe in embarrassment when the subject comes up. I've read enough Steven Weinberg and Allan Sokal and I've had fun reading the debates between R.C. Lewontin and M.F. Perutz in the N.Y. Review.

Science is constructed out of mathematics and logical form; our legal system is constructed out of rigorously formal structures and and role-playing games. I have as much patience for fuzzy defenses of literary truth as I do for the programmatic banalities of science, but has anyone recently bothered to mount a defense of humanism not by way of the questionable logic of literature and dreams but by the almost universally accepted -but theatrical and ridiculous- logic of law?

I have no interest in and make no defense of literary truth. There is no such thing. But our idea of justice is predicated on a regulated and monitored -refereed- struggle between two formally, artificially, opposed and therefore rhetorical and literary proclamations of truth. In a very real sense it doesn't matter if one side represents the truth or not. That's why we describe it as the right to "due process." There's no way to escape the the category of literary presentation as it applies to law. The literary sensibility trumps the scientific, not because the literary truth is a higher truth, but because the only truth -as we can know it- is the result of the struggle between opposing semi-fictions. The system defines truth, trumping the individual consciousness- individual truth- in the process. I no of no scientist who has ever argued against our legal system on the grounds of its illogical methodology.

Science is alinguistic, it can be performed by individuals.  Law -and the communication of scientific principles by way of language- is a collective activity.
enough for now. But I'm still annoyed by the modernist tendency to think of objects and things, concepts and ideas, as opposed to the struggle between/among them. Even consciousness is a defined as a 'thing,' but it's not: it's the state -the moment- of struggle beween logic (empirically justified) and conditioned response. It's not a thing it's a space between things, a process in time.
For me it all begins here.

I've also added a link to Fafblog.
"Milan or Tehran?"
Found here. [dead]
Originating here. With commentary by a visitor who seems to be describing his desperation more than theirs.
Leaders call for a peaceful intifada.
Palestinians' triple strategy: polls, demonstrations and court cases. The Guardian
(more later)
Fun with intellectuals.
"Foucault, theocracy, fascism", by Bertram

Checking back years later, I'm reposting the comments here for my own records. I'd forgotten how quickly I lost patience, how stupid they were.
“I’m closer to the Golden Dawn
Immersed in Crowley’s uniform
Of imagery
I’m living in a silent film
Himmler’s sacred realm
Of dream reality
I’m frightened by the total goal
Drawing to the ragged hole
And I ain’t got the power anymore
No I ain’t got the power anymore

I’m the twisted name
on Garbo’s eyes
Living proof of
Churchill’s lies
I’m destiny
I’m torn between the light and dark
Where others see their targets
Divine symmetry
Should I kiss the viper’s fang
Or herald loud
the death of Man
I’m sinking in the quicksand
of my thought
And I ain’t got the power anymore”
David Bowie: Quicksand
(From his national front days)

Foucault, like many European intellectuals, self-created homosexual dreamers, and "life as art” types from any country, was an anti-bourgeois bourgeois.

Marcel Duchamp (Pere Ubu with a sense of humor) called himself a monarchist. It’s Americans in their moralism who pretend you have to make a choice between left and right, when really it’s the middle classes that destroy everything. The Cambridge spies voted for Stalin because only a king could protect the innocent peasantry and all they represented, simple nobility etc. etc. etc. from all this modern crap.

When you play with these people, you’ve got to be aware of where they stand, which is “in between”. You can’t clean up Nietzsche, but you can learn from him. There are nihilists who grow up around power and who search for ways to destroy it and build nothing; and there are those who grow up around little, with no power, who learn from nihilists that things can be destroyed, and things made to replace them. And again, there are those who can’t make up their mind.
People learn in strange ways, and it’s easy to be right about things of no consequence.
All joking aside I find it odd that the choices offered here are between those who like Foucault and who therefore try to find ways to make him sound logically consistent, and those who do not like him, and feel the need to do the same.
I find that odd, and worse, I find it silly. The modern world brings with it a number of conflicts. Foucault responds to these and tries to face them.
By the logic put forth here, Shakespeare would be deemed a failure because he did not offer a logically consistent vision.
But oh yes, Foucault was an ‘intellectual’ and Shakespeare merely a playwright.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Juan Cole on Sistani's return:
Sistani will leave Basra for Najaf at 7 am Thursday morning Iraq time.

Sistani's offices in London, Karbala and Beirut also announced that he was calling on Shiite civilians to mount a peace march to Najaf to save the shrine of Imam Ali. He also called on both Mahdi Army militiamen and American military forces to vacate the city. The Karbala communique, acquired by a German wire service, spoke of the need to "expel the Americans from Najaf."

Al-Jazeerah is reporting that Sadr spokesman Aws Khafaji has announced a ceasefire by the Mahdi Army in honor of Sistani's return, and to ensure his safe passage through the south to Najaf. The Mahdi Army has been fighting British troops fiercely in Basra, Kut, Amarah and elsewhere in the south.

Sadr spokesman Ahmad Shaibani announced that the Sadrists were entirely willing to obey any command of Sistani's and would cooperate with him completely.

If Sistani does lead a popular march of the sort the press is describing, it might be the most significant act of civil disobedience by an Asian religious leader since Gandhi's salt march in British India. And it might kick off the beginning of the end of American Iraq, just as the salt march knelled the end of the British Indian empire..

Monday, August 23, 2004

Juan Cole:
Some of my readers have suggested to me that it doesn't matter what Americans do, since Muslims hate them anyway.

This statement is silly. Most Muslims never hated the United States per se. In 2000, 75 percent of Indonesians rated the US highly favorably. The U.S. was not as popular in the Arab world, because of its backing for Israel against the Palestinians, but it still often had decent favorability ratings in polls. But all those poll numbers for the US are down dramatically since the invasion of Iraq and the mishandling of its administration afterwards. Only 2 percent of Egyptians now has a favorable view of the United States.

It doesn't have to be this way. The US is behaving in profoundly offensive ways in Najaf. U.S. military leaders appear to have no idea what Najaf represents. I saw one retired general on CNN saying that they used to have to be careful of Buddhist temples in Vietnam, too. I almost wept. Islam is not like Buddhism. It is a far tighter civilization. And the shrine of Ali is not like some Buddhist temple in Vietnam that even most Buddhists have never heard of.

I got some predictably angry mail at my earlier statement that the Marines who provoked the current round of fighting in Najaf, apparently all on their own and without orders from Washington, were behaving like ignoramuses. Someone attempted to argue to me that the Marines were protecting me. Protecting me? The ones in Najaf are behaving in ways that are very likely to get us all blown up. The US officials who encouraged the Mujahidin against the Soviets were also trying to protect us, and they ended up inadvertently creating the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Such protection, I don't need.

Radical Islamist terrorism is a form of vigilanteism. Angry young Muslim men see their own governments doing nothing about Israeli dispossession of the Palestinians, and bowing to US adventures like Iraq, and they grow disgusted. They have no hope of getting their governments to do anything about what they see as profound injustices. So they form small groups of engineers or other professionals and take matters into their own hands.

And someone with some popular authority should respond to this op-ed in the Times.
Every member of our military has to be able to perform two functions, two duties: one as a soldier and the other as a citizen in a democracy. Butler is speaking as a man bred to do what he is told, to follow orders. But whether he admits to it or not, he is also speaking as something else, as a free citizen, and as such he has here abrogated his responsibilities not towards his superiors and brothers in arms but towards the public debate by which we make decisions as a people.

There are a hundred questions that can be asked of Butler that it is more than clear he will be unable to answer except with the pat responses provided him by his commanders and their press officers. Butler is willing to risk his life for beliefs he claims to share with us; but what are those beliefs, and what is the basis of his assumption that we share them? And if we disagree, are we willing to respond with all the force of our knowledge, to someone who has done his duty as a soldier, but not perhaps as a civilian?

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Again, if you read me, read Juan Cole.
From Brad DeLong and Hullabaloo:

What Bush says about his stint in the National Guard:
"I'm saying to myself, 'What do I want to do?' I think I don't want to be an infantry guy as a private in Vietnam. What I do decide to want to do is learn to fly."
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, 1989

"I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes."
Dallas Morning News, Feb. 25, 1990

"I don't want to play like I was somebody out there marching when I wasn't. It was either Canada or the service. ... Somebody said the Guard was looking for pilots. All I know is, there weren't that many people trying to be pilots."
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Nov. 29, 1998

The Photographer Tina Barney made a career for herself in the 1980's with her touchingly partisan documentation of the failed lives of the nonetheless well off grandchildren of the WASP Ascendency. At an exhibition in 1988 in NY I made an off-hand comment to this effect to the director of her gallery. The director's response was hushed, but wide-eyed in a mischievous sort of way, as if the photographer's being a registered Republican were an art world secret: "Oh, she thinks it's just tragic!" "Of course" she was voting for Bush.
Barney's work since has sometimes replaced sadness with emptiness—or a description of the thing with the thing itself—and she has devolved more than once into the maker of Gap ads for the hereditary ruling class. Given her loyalties, it's helped that unlike Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, and more importantly their hireling, Bruce Weber, she's not Jewish. [I was wrong. She can pass] She has a mother wasp's sense of honesty both about herself and her children. 

Yesterday the Times ran a truly awful commentary accompanying some of Barney's recent photographs, all taken in England or on the continent, one of which, of a group of young Etonians and titled The master, roused David Adesnik of Oxblog to respond: [deleted]
Moreover, those who wear such uniforms in Britain tend to feel both embarrassed and besieged -- embarrassed by antiquated notions of social hierarchy and besieged by widespread antipathy toward their customs. As a result, the Oxbridge elite have torn a page out of the American playbook and sought to recast their aristocratic habits as indicators of merit. These days, there is an increasing number of students at Oxford and Cambridge, both male and female, whose darker skin indicates that admission to Britain’s top universities has increasingly become a reflection of an applicant’s hard work and God-given talent.

David Adesnik
Rhodes Scholar, Class of 2000
New York and Magdalen
I couldn't find a photo of Adesnik but I found one of his blogmate Patrick Belton. Does it really matter if the figure on the left, bearing the facial expression of a minor character, has a somewhat darker skin tone? Not really. The insufferable arrogance is the same. There will always be ascent and descent. Describing either in terms of morality is nothing but self-interest and defensive posturing masquerading as a sense of fairness. The choice is always the same: curiosity or power. And if you don't want to choose, as most people don't, then the question is how to balance the two in interesting ways. I have yet to find an example of anyone at Oxblog being able even to understand that fact, let alone make anything of it.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

"...retrograde lefty complaints about imperialism."
That's how Sam Rosenfeld, at Tapped refers to this article by Peter Hallward in The Guardian.
Read the article. Rosenfeld is an idiot.
It is true that Khomeinism seemed to have run its course in Iran, where it is now only a governmental ideology but lacks much popular support. But US actions like repeatedly bombing Najaf's sacred cemetery (where a lot of Iranians' loved ones are buried) and generally reducing much of this pilgrimage site to rubble, is strengthening Iran's hardliners and the Bush administration is succeeding in breathing new live into Khomeinism in Iran, as well. Khomeinism was ultimately about trying to construct a nativist cultural and political barricade against American-led globalization. As the chaos in Iraq gives the latter a black eye, it encourages the former.
Juan Cole
Josh Marshall puts it well:
"Back in the primaries John Kerry would say that if the Bushies thought they could pull a Max Cleland on him, he'd say, 'Bring it on.' Well, it's on."
Manohla Dargis returns to New York and the Times once again has a film critic I take seriously.
"Rosenstrasse" is far from the most offensive movie made about the Holocaust, but that isn't saying much. The Holocaust need not be immune to fiction, which must have the absolute freedom to be faithless, even to history. But there's something unsettling when fiction exploits this history to such puny, self-interested ends.
From a post earlier this year
Once we were at a lecture by his old teacher, Jay Leyda, at the opening of a series of early silent films at the Whitney. I think this was about 1987. My girlfriend worked for the Whitney's film curator, and at the same time I had gone back to Purchase to finish my degree. Leyda was old and frail, and spoke with a knowledge and affection for the history of film that seemed odd for a man his age. He spoke like someone who had discovered his life's work in childhood, and who not only loved movies but understood their importance, and had done so from the first. In the car going back up to Westchester I mentioned this to Tom. 
"But what's Leyda's degree in?" 
"Film Studies" 
"At his age, where did he get a degree in Film Studies?"
"Who'd he study with?"

Manohla would get a kick out of that story, 

More Shit Boat news, and still people miss the point.
Fuck the details. They're lying. WHY?
This is theater, ask the one god damn question that matters: "What is your definition of patriotism!?"
update: Atrios has done this in a way by printing the opening statement of Kerry's testimony in 1971.
That's a smart move, but it would be even smarter if someone-say George Soros- paid to print the whole thing in newspapers around the country. For the third time: it's not about truth or falsehood, it's about belief. I don't give a shit about any of this, but others do. And that's what politics is all about.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Charlie Rose (scroll down to Friday 8/20): An interview with Robert Greenwald followed by a debate between Ray McGovern vs Jim Woolsey.
Woolsey... amazes me: that such corruption can be based in such stupidity.
Paul Waldman of The Gadflyer tells the story of his encounter, on camera and off, with Brent Bozell. It's a good story, but predictable. it illustrates the mindsets both of liberals and reactionaries, but Waldman manages to describe the resulting disconnect without understanding it.

The right does not argue from facts, it argues from principles. They are perfectly willing to lie in the cause of what they imagine to be a higher truth, so correcting the facts means nothing, it just gets them angry. I made the same comment earlier about Malkin. It's useless to argue with reactionaries, you have to argue with those things they take on faith but do not state. Don't respond to their logic, there is none; respond to their fear:
"Yes, there were atrocities. Yes, they were documented. Yes, the soldiers were lied to. What is your definition of patriotism? Is it patriotic to lie?.

Waldman's ironic distance is as annoying as Bozell's boorish stupidity. At least Bozell is playing to an audience. Waldman is playing the straight man to a clown, but the clown is always the star of the show. Waldman calls himself "the sacrificial liberal," It's his own damn fault.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

NPR is saying the attack will be today.
But Allawi is only in power and only retains it through the US; so we have given Allawi permission to give us permission to attack. And what idiot, Iraqi or American, would not call this the logic of empire by proxy?
So much for military realism.

For updates, read Juan Cole.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Jeffrey Dubner, at Tapped, in a discussion of the meekness of the American media, links to a page on what psychologists call Learned Helplessness. My preference over the years has been for the older German term "Ratlosigkeit," with its more direct political implications, and I use it not only in reference to the press but to the educated urban elite of which they are a part.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

An interesting post on language, at Pedantry. [archive.org] "The most profound orders, language and culture, are made, and the rules for them are constructed only after the fact." That's been my argument for years, at least about things as they exist on the larger scale, but Scott Martens is using it to describe the rules of grammar, arguing that strictly speaking, they don't exist. I may be willing to say that, on principle, but I don't know enough even to begin to make the argument itself. Scott does.
God Guts and Guns

Karbala News
Link from Juan Cole
And read Cole's op-ed, on Sistani and Sadr, in today's Washington Post.

Friday, August 13, 2004


"Fred Kaplan has a bleak but, I fear, quite possibly accurate piece on Iraq today in Slate. The key sentence is this one: 'the U.S. military—the only force in Iraq remotely capable of keeping the country from falling apart—finds itself in a maddening situation where tactical victories yield strategic setbacks.'"

Marshall follows this with nine more paragraphs of earnest concern and sincere worry, illustrating the problem with a link to this.
"This is the essence of the present situation. For us Iraq has become the geopolitical equivalent of a Chinese finger puzzle, the more we exert ourselves the more the situation constricts around us and the higher the price becomes to get ourselves out, at least in any way that mainstream foreign policy types, among whom I would class myself, find acceptable."

He's in Kenneth Pollack mode again. Or is it Arthur Schlesinger?
I'm sorry, but the whole line is fucking obscene.
I've wasted too much time in the comments on this at Crooked Timber.
If I had made my points on my own page I would have been able to edit and rewrite, so I'm tempted not even to link to it. I have to wade through my own crap just to find the stuff I'm happy with. And even I have to admit, calling myself a "Field Nigger" doesn't have quite the punch it used to. Most of my income comes from very dirty work, and though I maintain the social mobility of my personal history -and of my race- I have no money, and I work with people who have not had my advantages. Of course at this point quite a few of them have more money than I do: they work harder and have responsibilities. I have none, and the luxury of coasting. But as I've said before I'm getting older, with less to coast on as time goes by.

Nonetheless, something interesting happened over the run of the argument at CT. It's true: I am more interested in sensibility than policy. It's easy to construct a logical and consistent strategy. It's something one can rely upon even for comfort after it's outlived its other functions. Developing a sensibility, a consistence in attitude about small things, and building upon that, is something else entirely.
I came upon this by accident: The Leiter Report

Did anyone else notice that nice, moderate Democrat Matthew Yglesias (who majored in philosophy at Harvard, before becoming a "pundit") has removed all the academic blogs from his blogroll ever since he got beat up by Larry Solum (San Diego, Law) and Chris Bertram (Bristol, Philosophy) for a rather weak posting on Rawls? It is true I've never seen Solum be so harsh as he was in this case, but, hey, Matt, don't take it out on me and Weatherson!

This just made me laugh. He stopped ass-kissing for once, got hammered, then ran away. I thought he was destined to be the next Eric Alterman, but now he's in Tom Friedman territory.
I've spent some time with Rawls and become annoyed quickly, but my criticism comes from the standpoint of the argument outlined above. In order to discuss human activity in Rawlsian terms it has to be simplified beyond the point where simplicity is helpful.   I'm more interested in the history of justice than the theory of it. But Rawls built a complex and subtle academic logic and Yglesias was stupid to bite the hands that have fed him so well.

Here's the link to Solum's post

Looking back at this years later and judging only by the quotes posted by Bertram -Yglesias' old page is gone but it's safe to say Bertram picked what he thought was the most egregious passage- Yglesias' only mistake was copping out. He gave his schoolmasters too much credit and so did I.

Solum: "Bad form. Poor job. Shame." Just stupid.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

John Quiggin at CT.
The Allawi government’s decision to ban Al-Jazeera has received a lot of attention. Rather less has been paid to a subsequent announcement of a wide range of rules to be applied by the new Higher Media Commission. Prominent among them is a prohibition of “unwarranted criticism” of Allawi himself.
The post includes a link to a protest letter from the Committe to Protect Journalists.
Juan Cole.
The standard line about the Pakistanis in Washington is that the Pakistani government is riddled with sympathizers of the Taliban and maybe al-Qaeda and is unreliable. But from Islamabad's point of view, during the past two weeks the Bush administration has behaved like wild men, spreading around the idea of killing the Pakistani ambassador and blowing the cover of a major intelligence asset inside al-Qaeda.

And from this morning (read down):

Al-Zurufi and PM Iyad Allawi appear to have given the US Marines permission to fight in the shrine of Imam Ali if it became necessary in order to flush out the Mahdi Army militiamen holed up there. The outrage among Iraqi Shiites and Shiites throughout the world should the Marines pursue such a plan would likely cost the US the war, even if it won the battle.


An informed reader writes:
' [Last Friday] there were the first violent clashes, practically a battle, between Sunnis and Shiites in Yusufiyah, with several casualties. The Hakim-people had opened an office in Yusufiyah and Sunni mudjahedin - who are terrorizing Shia in the area - attacked it and burnt it. Badr militias came to Yusufiyah to fight them. But the most disturbing fact is that TRIBAL people on both sides are involved: The jihadis are supportet by tribal fighters from the Falluja area, and the Badr are trying (in some cases with success) to involve Shia tribes on their side. '

Monday, August 09, 2004

More from Eric Muller on Malkin. You can keep reading down the page. Again I feel like reminding him to ignore the specifics of her argument and get to its cause.

You can't reason with extremists, you can only understand them and act on that understanding. We've created a situation in which there are quite a few people at home and abroad who distrust everything we say, and our illusions hurt us more as time goes on. In a sense I'm agreeing with the author of Imperial Hubris, but he offers us a choice, and I've already made it. I'd rather get blown up than live in a fortress, and I accept the risk that freedom necessitates. Muller and others should be making that defense of our liberties but he won't; he's too committed to the assumption that we already represent such notions of justice to the rest of the world. I'd argue, along with many others- none of whom will ever appear on Eugene Volokh's webpage- that we don't represent justice, and never have except at times to that changeling we call ourselves. We are a democracy of sorts at home and an empire abroad. Many people argue now that we need to be an empire at home as well. The logical response is to say that we need to be less of an empire in all places, but neither Eric Muller nor John Kerry will make that argument.
Not all liberals are the same, however, there's a difference between blindness and occluded vision. Brad DeLong, who doesn't see too well himself, nonetheless offers the teenage philosopher a pair of glasses. I hope they do some good.
Matthew Yglesias is puzzled, and says something odd:
TAPPED: August 2004 Archives: At the appropriate level of abstraction, the neocons couldn't be more right about this stuff, but when it comes to actually getting it done their policies have been a miserable failure.
Yglesias believes that the words the neoconservatives spout are right "at the appropriate level of abstraction" because he is not yet old enough to have recognized that when neoconservatives use words, they do not mean what Yglesias thinks they mean.
Juan Cole:
Bush Administration outing of Khan Enabled 5 al-Qaeda Cell Members to Escape Capture:
Neville Dean of PA News reports that a magistrate has given British police only until Tuesday to finish questioning 9 of 13 men arrested August 3 on suspicion of being part of an al-Qaeda cell. The men had been in email correspondence with Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, who since mid-July has been functioning as a double agent for the Pakistani government. He was arrested in Lahore on July 13 and "flipped."

The Bush administration revealed Khan's name to US journalists on Sunday August 1 on background, and it appeared in the US press on Monday. The Bush administration thus effectively outed Khan as a double agent (he sent emails to his London contacts as late as Monday).

The British MI5 was forced to have the London cell of 13 arrested immediately on Tuesday, fearing that they would flee now that they knew Khan had been arrested two weeks earlier. The British do not, however, appear to have finished gathering enough evidence to prosecute the 13 in the courts successfully.

It now turns out, according to Neville, that "Reports last week also claimed that five al Qaida militants were on the run in the UK after escaping capture in last Tuesday’s raids." If this is true, it is likely that the 5 went underground on hearing that Khan was in custody. That is, the loose lips of the Bush administration enabled them to flee arrest.
Aljazeera responds
While reading Eric Muller's posts on Michelle Malkin, most of which are double posted at Volokh I ran into this post on a religious discrimination case.
A woman has apparently been fired by a Muslim-owned company because she ate pork on the premises. Is this illegal religious discrimination?
No, just as a Christian-owned company's firing an employee because he is a homosexual is not illegal religious discrimination. Antidiscrimination laws bar people from discriminating based on the employee's religion. An employer may still discriminate based on their employee's conduct — food preferences, sexual preferences, and the like — because of the employer's beliefs, whether those beliefs are religious or secular.

I agree with the decision but not Volokh's logic. Preference is not conduct. And eating bacon -or sucking cock- at home is not the same thing as bringing a lunch of pork fried rice into a synagogue, or getting butt-fucked in a cathedral.

I'm amused by those who defend freedom at home, but refuse to accept the degree to which our powers as a state are derived from the powerlessness of others. I remember an old friend who used to defend Israel as a socialist country. Muller's criticism of Malkin's book is a rebuttal to her arguments about the history of internment. Malkin seems to have cobbled together an argument about the past out of whatever she could find to make the case for something she believes about the present. It's bad scholarship, but is scholarship even the point? In his most recent post after going through her list of parallels between WWII and the 'War on Terror" [my scare quotes] Muller writes:

On page xxx of the book's Introduction ("A Time To Discriminate"), Michelle tells us to "[m]ake no mistake": she is "not advocating rounding up all Arabs or Muslims and tossing them into camps."
She's not?

Is Muller being ironic here? I don't know. Some things can be hinted at but not stated. Malkin is denying the obvious. So what? It serves her purpose. Perhaps -probably- she's confused, but pointing out the illogic won't help. What Muller should be doing is responding less to her arguments, which are shallow, than to her fears, which aren't. Her research is a facade. Ignore it. Respond to her reasons for building it.

But back, briefly, to the religious freedom case. What is the reason, the justification, for the limiting of free association? Why the constraints on illiberal opinion, or more concretely on the ability to act on them? Why limit the rights of people to indulge their religious beliefs, or their racial or sexual paranoia?
Freedom of speech as an idea is predicated on an ideal of curiosity. Let a thousand flowers bloom. The Market is predicated on a single dominant social relation, a relation which some would call the lowest common denominator of human existence. If life is predicated on this relation, then nothing should get in its way. One should not be allowed to be racist or religious or illogical in public because they all limit the market. The lowest common denominator, discounting family, neighborhood, community, language, literature and pleasure itself, rules the scene. This is called freedom.

I'll link to this just because it makes me laugh, and because liberalism has no response.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Sebald's On the Natural History of Destruction, and now Grass' Crabwalk. I'm surprised the latter didn't cause more of a stir, in Germany at least. But perhaps they've given up. The ending prediction of the future of fascism surprised me; I was expecting something more subtle. "It doesn't end. Never will it end" seems to apply not to the world but to Germany. The last section has one of the best attacks on the passivity of liberalism and technocracy I've ever read.

Many people don't understand the very practical logic behind the principle of freedom of speech (I'm referring here to those who generally defend it.) I don't think Ophelia Benson understands it, and the same holds for Brian Leiter and the folks at Crooked Timber. One of the most important side effects of free speech is that it limits, or dilutes, the power and authority of experts. Freedom of speech ensures among other things the vulgarity of speech. The annoyance of some of the members of CT at Michael Moore for his simplistic arguments is similar to Al Gore's reaction during the fiasco in Florida: a sense of reasoned and reasonable superiority to the muck. But as I've said before there's a reason we have juries decide most cases and not judges, judges who are supposed to be expert and impartial. And there's a reason for our system to say lawyers must be unreasonable and biased.

Against the primacy of ideas, but unwilling to accept the primacy of process
More later.

"It doesn't end. Never will it end". From 15 years before and almost 20 years later. I don't know.
FBI translator turned whistleblower Sibel Edmund's letter the the 9/11 Commission, in The Asia Times. Link from Seeing the Forest.
Two posts from Juan Cole on what he rightly calls the Khan scandal, including a few links. This should hit home. It needs to. The only thing that's keeping this administration afloat is the willful blindness of a large part of the population.
And Kevin Drum is an idiot. By all means lets lower the bar even more. It's not the administration's fault they're unable to separate politics from policy. What's next Kevin, and argument for the stability of monarchism?

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Juan Cole: "Did the Bush Administration Burn a Key al-Qaeda Double Agent?"
Simon Cameron-Moore and Peter Graff of Reuters reveal the explosive information that the Bush administration blew the cover Monday of double agent Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan. On Sunday August 1, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced a new alert against an al-Qaeda plot concerning fincial institutions in New York and Washington, DC.

The Reuters article is here. Lets see if the US press does anything with this. If true the level of incompetence is stunning. And all in the service of corruption. The government has no defense.

Also read Cole on what's happening in Najaf, Basra and elsewhere. Sistani's illness may just be a cover. Other than that, it's not good.
Fires burned out of control in Najaf, where streets were deserted in the wake of the worst fighting the city has seen since Saddam put down the revolt of spring, 1991. Marines launched a massive assault on Sadr forces in the vast, sacred cemetery behind the shrine of Ali, where they had been hiding out in crypts. The emotional impact on Shiites is similar to what Americans would feel if a foreign power bombed Arlington cemetery. The US also reportedly fired tank shells into hotels being used as safe houses by Mahdi Army militiamen (the hotels usually house pilgrims to the shrines).

The only way the US could kill 300 Iraqis in two days, if that is the right number, would be by massive and indiscriminate use of firepower that disregarded civilian life. (And, no, the Mahdi Army militiamen don't care about innocent life at all). Some 13 civilians were killed and 58 wounded on Friday in Najaf.
Great headlines you'll never read at home. From The Guardian:
Republicans Pick Racist
An unabashed racist who runs a website claiming the genetic superiority of the white race will contest a congressional seat in Tennessee for the Republican party.
The party had urged voters to support a late contender for the nomination to keep James Hart off the ballot.
But Mr Hart, an estate agent, won more than 82% of the vote against Dennis Bertrand, a financial analyst and a member of the national guard who served in Iraq.
Mr Bertrand was too late to get his name on the nomination ballot and had to stand as a write-in candidate.
Mr Hart, who has been repeatedly thwarted in his attempts to enter public life, said he was surprised by his victory.
"I didn't expect to win," he told reporters. "I thought their network would beat my ideas."

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

A sound bite from President Bush on Monday strikes me as emblematic of the country's current crisis. He said,

"It is a ridiculous notion to assert that, because the United States is on the offensive, more people want to hurt us," he said. "We’re on the offensive because people do want to hurt us."

Let me try to help Mr. Bush with this problem...

Juan Cole.

Monday, August 02, 2004

I've written about this before -here's one example- but given the timing, and who wrote it, the link below just now made me laugh.
Fascism is about power, perfection and the artificial. It's a faggot's dream.

The strange, unexplored overlap between homosexuality and fascism.
One more comment on the last post.
These are probably the last great religious arguments the world will ever know. That's a subtle point, but I shouldn't need to explain it.
Nazila Fathi in The NY Times
TEHRAN, Aug. 1 - Everything about Amir appears masculine: his broad chest, muscled arms, the dark full beard and deep voice. But, in fact, Amir was a woman until four years ago, when, at the age of 25, he underwent the first of a series of operations that would change his life.
Since then he has had 20 surgical procedures and expects another 4. And Amir, who as a woman was married twice to men - his second husband helped with the transition and remains a good friend - is now engaged to marry a woman.
"I love my life and I'm happy, as long as no one knows about my past identity," said Amir, who asked that his full name not be published. "No one has been more helpful than the judge, who was a cleric and issued the permit for my operation."
But these days, Iran's Muslim clerics, who dominate the judiciary, are considerably better informed about transsexuality. Some clerics now even recommend sex-change operations to those who are troubled about their gender. The issue was discussed at a conference in Tehran in June that drew officials from other Persian Gulf countries.
One cleric, Muhammad Mehdi Kariminia, is writing his thesis on transsexuality at the religious seminary of Qum.
"All the clerics and researchers at the seminary encouraged me to work on the subject," he said in an interview. "They said that my research can help change the social stigma attached to these people and clarify religious decrees on the matter."

One early campaigner for transsexual rights is Maryam Hatoon Molkara, who was formerly a man known as Fereydoon. Before the revolution, under the shah, he had longed to become a woman but could not afford surgery. Furthermore, he wanted religious guidance. In 1978, he wrote to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who was to become the leader of the revolution but was still in exile, explaining his situation.

The ayatollah replied that his case was different from that of a homosexual and therefore he had his blessing.

Update: I removed a paragraph. The Islamic literature is very specific, so it makes little sense to say, as I did, that the cases described above will open a door to the theological acceptance of homosexuality. The best -most liberal- theological response I found so far vague as it is, is here, and it's not a discussion of homosexuality itself but about the appropriate, heterosexual, response. On the other hand I did find two interesting sites, Muslim Wakeup and Huriyah a gay muslim webzine.
My comments about the the nature of legal debate and interpretation, about how language and meanings change, still applies. The debate over originalism is older than law.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Riverbend hadn't posted in over a month, but now she's back.