Friday, December 29, 2006

Thanks for the Memories
update Jan 1: Badger from Arab Links added a comment below. The post he mentions is here. I start of glibly but it gets better. I appreciate the compliment.

A christmas present from my sister:
My Trade: A Short History of British Journalism.
Marr's choice of title says a lot.

feliz año nuevo
End of Another Year..."

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The US and SCIRI vs Sadr.
Juan Cole
WaPo reports that the US military is saying that the raid was led by the 8th Iraqi Division. But the article also implies that the political leaders of Najaf were unaware of the planned raid. The Iraqi army still reports to US officers [An informed reader points out that 3 divisions do not, and that the 8th is one of these; regret the error]. And, the 8th Army is largely Shiite and likely linked to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and its Badr Corps paramilitary, which means that the decision to raid the home of a Sadrist rival might not be purely a matter of law enforcement.
record keeping
Patty Weiss claims that her 35 years as a journalist was training for service in Congress. It really isn't. I have worked in the House, Senate, and executive branch. I was press secretary for Vice President Hubert Humphrey and professor of political communications in the Louisiana State University School of Journalism. I have known some of the brightest journalists in my time, including Walter Lippman, Walter Cronkite and Bill Moyers.
They and others would laugh at the idea that what they did prepared them for public office. I have known many members of Congress. The best of them were teachers, lawyers and businessmen, almost all with prior political service. The only journalist among them was Jesse Helms of North Carolina; a TV anchor of experience, but no sense of decency. Weiss may have good qualities that qualify her for public office, but her career is not one of them.
Norman Sherman

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Non-Arab-Arab again, this time a non-expert, on Somalia, Ethiopia and US proxy wars.

An expert agrees: Salim Lone in the IHT
The new UN resolution states that the world body acted to "restore peace and stability." But as all major international news organizations have reported, this year Somalia finally experienced its first respite from 16 years of utter lawlessness and terror at the hands of the marauding warlords who drove out UN peacekeepers in 1993, when 18 American soldiers were killed.

Since 1993, there had been no Security Council interest in sending peacekeepers to Somalia, but as peace and order took hold, a multilateral force was suddenly deemed necessary — because it was the Islamic Courts Union that had brought about this stability. Astonishingly, the Islamists had succeeded in defeating the warlords primarily through rallying people to their side by creating law and order through the application of Shariah law, which Somalis universally practice.

The transitional government, on the other hand, is dominated by the warlords and terrorists who drove out American forces in 1993. Organized in Kenya by U.S. regional allies, it is so completely devoid of internal support that it has turned to Somalia's arch- enemy, Ethiopia, for assistance.

If this war continues, it will affect the whole region, do serious harm to U.S. interests and threaten Kenya, the only island of stability in this corner of Africa.

Ethiopia is at even greater risk, as a dictatorship with little popular support and beset also by two large internal revolts, by the Ogadenis and Oromos. It is also mired in a conflict with Eritrea, which has denied it secure access to seaports.

The best antidote to terrorism in Somalia is stability, which the Islamic Courts have provided. The Islamists have strong public support, which has grown in the face of U.S. and Ethiopian interventions. As in other Muslim-Western conflicts, the world needs to engage with the Islamists to secure peace.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Non-Arab Arab. October 21st: Iraq: On SCIRI vs Sadrists

Dec 22nd: Connecting the dots
There are three events going on right now which I am quite surprised that few people are connecting the dots on:
-The Bush Administration's backing of an attempt to form a new Iraqi governing political coalition consisting primarily of the Shi'ite Islamist SCIRI, the Sunni Islamist Iraqi Islamic Party, and the Kurdish parties. This is being presented as a supposedly multi-ethnic "moderate" coalition aimed at isolating "extremists" and being the political part of a new path forward.

-The debate over a temporary boost of 15,000-30,000 additional US troops primarily into Baghdad. The public debate currently is between those who say a small number like this can't make any real difference and those who say "we've got to try something".

-Muqtada as-Sadr's supporters rejoining the Iraqi government after a boycott of several weeks. On the surface this looks like Sadr's boys just threw a temper tantrum when Maliki met Bush in Jordan a few weeks back and now they're returning to work as they always planned.
I believe these interpretations are wrong and these aren't isolated events. This is a concerted and yet-again quixotic effort by the Bush Administration to try to destroy Muqtada as-Sadr's power in the political and military arenas in the next few months. Even if they boot Sadr from the political arena (heck, even if they kill him and badly bloody his foot soldiers), it is going to fail as both the 2004 attempts to crush his movement failed, and it is going to result in yet more major blowback. In a nutshell, this is what I believe is really going on: continue
update: Sistani balks at US plan
and from Helena Cobban

Friday, December 22, 2006

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Just to recap
Stupid Fucking Idiots.

This is interesting. Arab Links:
Americans got their first report about the Istanbul conference [see below: Sunday 17th] this morning, via Juan Cole, who (1) called statements of Dulaimi "incendiary", but failed to mention the more enlightened comments that Harith al-Dhari made in rebuttal; (2) quotes a Shiite website that reported allegations about an arrest-warrant against Dulaimi, without telling readers that this was false; (3) failed to pay any attention to the more balanced Al-Jazeera summary of the Istanbul proceedings (mentioned here in a prior post). Cole presents a one-sided account, followed up with something equally incendiary (and false to boot). It is a case study in how to go about taking a contentious event, and instead of explaining the dynamics in an even-handed way, using it instead in a partisan way to fan the flames higher.
Cole's post is here

And the previous post from Arab Links. read the comments.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Orlando Patterson is an idiot.
Aside from the fact that I have no idea what in general terms "Freedom" is or means- try defining the word- it's fucking absurd for Patterson to argue this:
A basic flaw in the approach of the president and his neoliberal (a k a neoconservative) advisers was their failure to distinguish western beliefs about freedom from those critical features of it that non-western peoples were likely to embrace.
First of all does the Decider's American fundamentalist 'base' have any more interest in what Patterson sees himself as defending than the average conservative Sunni or Shia? Is Sam Brownback really that interested in John Locke? The world sees this country in it's strengths and weaknesses as more or less barbarian, while the American technocratic class continues to imagine we're either Imperial Rome or Sweden with nukes.
You're all a bunch of fucking idiots.
He likened the building, the Phare Tower, to a “layered dress” or a woman’s slip. “The skin becomes primary, the body secondary,” Mr. Mayne said. “It becomes metabolic, the skin. It moves.”
Experience and perception as opposed to ideal. Neither idealistic nor cynical (morally passive). The basic definition of the Baroque as opposed to Mannerist sensibility and the underlying principle of contemporary culture.
The neocortex is essentially asking the hippocampus to replay events that contain a certain image, place or sound,” he said. “The neocortex is trying to make sense of what is going on in the hippocampus and to build models of the world, to understand how and why things happen.”
These models are presumably used to direct behavior, Dr. Wilson said. They are able to generate expectations about the world and plausibly fill in blanks in memory.
Out of the raw material of perception we build models of the world and those models are what we experience as consciousness. The US is the one country in the world where the intellectual class is unable to see the possibility of anything other than a one-to-one ratio of model to external world as a moral crisis, while the majority of the people are happy to see the dream as the reality and a few cynics play them all for suckers. This is a country without a history of civilized, skeptical, humane irony. Is it any wonder I drink alone. [That's not true. I don't drink alone all the time, I also drink with immigrants and stockbrokers.]

Monday, December 18, 2006

Imaginary Arab
Check out the picture
The alliance of reformers and "technocratic" conservatives made a big election day splash with a highly publicized joint appearance at a polling station by the former Presidents Rafsanjani (on right), the "pragmatic conservative," and Khatami, the "reformer." In recent elections, reformists have split into several camps, whereas this time it was the conservatives who were divided.

Rafsanjani, whose political obituary has been written several times in the past, has beat all expectations in the most widely watched race -- the Council (or Assembly) of Experts. As I mentioned earlier, the COE is a small body without much day-to-day business but with enormous power, since it appoints Iran's supreme leader. Ahmadinejad was trying to get his mentor, Yazdi, elected. Yazdi will likely win a seat, but he's trailing significantly behind Rafsanjani, who is leading convincingly, as well as several other candidates. Symbolically, the results are striking, and the current supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, must be rather relieved.
And tonight: The Guardian
Yazdi in 6th place.
Two posts from the past on the old WLIB and the politics of Air America
ArabLinks (entire post):
On Tuesday of last week, car-bombers killed 70 laborers who were waiting for the chance for day-work, in Tarayan Square, in a Shiite part of Baghdad. As an expression of their outrage over this, a Sunni group including religious authorities issued a statement, described as a fatwa, in which they proscribed killing of Muslims and killing of Shiites in particular. The authorities included people connected with the Islamic Party, with the Muslim Scholars Association, and with something called the League of Islamic Unity, and apparently they were Basra-based. I don't think there was any widespread notice of this at the time, but this morning Al-Hayat says Moqtada al-Sadr sent a delegation to Basra for the purpose of thanking the officials for their statement.

Apparently referring to the same statement, Al-Hayat explains that group of Basra Sunnis, composed not only of religious authorities but of tribal leaders as well, issued a statement in which they denounced "the terrorism to which the Iraqi people are being subjected", and expressed support for the unity or Iraq geographically and with respect to its people. Signatories of this statement included named people representing the Association of Muslim Scholars, the Sunni Waqf (religious endowments agency), the Islamic Party, and a number of others from the Sunni community of Basra.

A spokesman for the Sunni group warned of the spread of killings in Basra, but said Basra is different from other Iraqi cities, and what has happened in Baghdad won't be transferred here.

A report on this same exchange between the Sadr delegation and the Sunni group was carried by Aswat al-Iraq yesterday, and it said: The (above-mentioned) spokesman for the Sunni group added that there was a meeting between the Sadr representatives and the Sunni group, at which "a spirit of understanding and cooperation prevailed". He said they agreed on the need to support Iraqi unity, and to denounce terrorist operations and "anything that detracts from the unity and the fabric of Iraqi society".

I would like to underline his mention of "the fabric of Iraqi society", because it is the same phrase Al-Dhari used in his rebuttal of the Islamist at the Istanbul conference, when he warned him against turning the meeting into an anti-Shiite event. Shiites, he reminded the Islamist, are "part of the fabric of Iraqi society". (Quoted in this prior post, the last block-quote section at the bottom).

I think it is a good rule of thumb: If there is any reference to "the fabric of Iraqi society", readers of English-language newspapers and readers of the big blogs won't see it reported. I don't know why. We use "fabric" in exactly the same way. What could the reason be?
Read the last two paragraphs twice.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

read the comments, and follow the links.

Friday, December 15, 2006


Armatures and intellect. Figuration and abstraction in art. Religion not as faith but armature. The Bible and the Bhagavad Gita are books, in which gods are characters. Religion is law founded on smoke and mirrors: it's the laws that are the point, not the smoke.
Sociologists and lack of affect: why do these people annoy me so much? Smiley-faced studiers of other things.
The rhetoric of science, or Justice as Contract. The logic -predicated on what?- of culture as exoskeleton, as constraint, rather than constitutive -"Dude, subtext is for other people" "Economics is science" - and everyone must have the same desires, must be pretty much identical. Subjectivity not as constitutive but as a thing to be avoided. Individualism as argument in effect the end of the individual sense: Individualism is the triumph of generalization.

Narcissism, the fragile fantasy of the hypertrophied self matches the illusion of the opposite: the atrophied self. Autism is the narcissism of the deeply shy. Marx was either a failed scientist or a great novelist like Robert Heinlein and a determinist just like Ayn Rand, except Rand was better cause she was right.
What does it mean to see the construction of the adult self as a social act? What's the moral philosophy of the good craftsman? Libertarians: again, nothing left but gurgling infants and sociopaths.

How do you gauge the movement of a drifting boat? If we're defined by culture how do we remember what language was in the past? If you refuse to look behind you how can you judge what you've become, even for the purpose of description? Modernity becomes a narcissist, referring to itself for justification. History is the history of ideas through the history of craft. it's the history of what people were not what they wanted to be. Terrifying thought? The only way not to fall victim entirely to determinism is to be observant. Invention without observation is the invention of children. Scientists left to their own devices revert to infantile asociality. gurgling infants and sociopaths (again)
Dalibor Vesely.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Justice Deported
In Grand Island, Nebraska, site of another Swift plant, police chief Steve Lamken refused to help agents drag workers from the slaughterhouse. "When this is all over, we're still here," he told the local paper, "and if I have a significant part of my population that's fearful and won't call us, then that's not good for our community." In Greeley, hundreds of people, accompanied by the local priest, lined the street as their family members were brought out, shouting that they'd been guilty of nothing more than hard work.

ICE rhetoric would have you believe these deportees had been planning to apply for credit cards and charge expensive stereos or trips to the spa. The reality is that these meatpacking laborers had done what millions of people in this country do every year. They gave a Social Security number to their employer that either didn't belong to them, or that didn't exist. And they did it for a simple reason: to get a job in one of the dirtiest, hardest, most dangerous workplaces in America. Mostly, these borrowed numbers probably belong to other immigrants who've managed to get green cards. But regardless of who they are, the real owners of the Social Security numbers will benefit, not suffer.

Swift paid thousands of extra dollars into their Social Security accounts. The undocumented immigrants using the numbers will never be able to collect a dime in retirement pay for all their years of work on the killing floor. If anyone was cheated here, they were. But when ICE agents are calling the victims criminals in order to make their immigration raid sound like an action on behalf of upright citizens.

ICE has not, of course, accused the immigrant workers of the real crime for which they were arrested. That's the crime of working.

Since passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, hiring an undocumented worker has been a violation of federal law. Don't expect Swift executives to go to jail, however, or even to pay a fine. The real targets of this law are workers themselves, who become violators the minute they take a job.
"But regardless of who they are, the real owners of the Social Security numbers will benefit, not suffer."

Article @ E&P

Helena Cobban
So basically, this company is mixing up the job of making available a free news-reporting service with that of hiring themselves out as private intel consultants/providers, offering themselves to the highest bidders. Very disquieting. In my experience, there is quite enough suspicion out there in the world about the role of journalists and the media without a company coming along that explicitly seeks to mix the role of journalists with that of intelligence collectors and analysts.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

From 2004: a reminder

Could be my neighborhood.
On almost every issue the commenters at Starbuck's are well to the left of the posters. Immigration is a tough one, but even then the comments are engaged, and on foreign policy it's a bloodbath. What strikes me most is the tone: surprisingly free of eccentricity, high-purpose or the anger of political junkies (two of which I'm full of) and sounding more and more like the impatience and frustration educated citizens in every other country feel regarding US policy. This makes the arrogance of the next generation of responsible beltway and intellectuals like Ackerman even more annoying. The pros at Tapped still have an attachment to America as the necessary country, as they have an attachment to themselves as the necessary intellectuals.

But it's so over.
At Least in America They Understand the Notion of Cultural Difference:
The Guardian
...But while many Muslims here looked to Europe in the hope that it might provide a counterbalance to America's disastrous foreign policy, they also look across the Atlantic in horror at the experiences of their co-religionists. There lies the paradox: the country that has done more than any other to foment Islamic fundamentalism abroad has so far witnessed relatively little of it at home. "Europe is not coping well with the emergence of Islam," says the executive director of Cair, Nihad Awad. "It has taken a long time for them to accept that Islam is part of its future and also part of its past."

The different experiences have emerged partly, it seems, because the Muslim communities on either side of the Atlantic are so different. The patterns of migration have differed. A large proportion of Muslims who came to America arrived with qualifications and were looking for professional work. As a result, they are generally well educated and well off. According to a recent study by the Journal of Human Resources, the wages of Arab and Muslim workers in the US fell by 10% in the years following the terror attacks; but they are still better paid and better educated than non-Muslims.
Tuesday night weight-room demographics:
Approximately 50 people. 46 male.
Total Hispanic-30
--Puerto Rican-10
Eastern European-3
Asian (Japanese)-1
South Asian (Pakistan/Bangladesh)-7
US born Black-1
US born White-2
Union: DHS Raids Grabbed Legal Workers

Josh Marshall and Laura Rozen (December 12).

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Monday, December 11, 2006

Inane post by Lee Feinstein, a hack from the Council on Foreign Relations at TPMCafe. As usual the comments make it worthwhile. I'm in there too but on a side issue.
And Spencer Ackerman is another teenage putz. I've had a little fun with him on his page. He writes to express his opinions even while admitting he doesn't have the right to have them. A true Pundit. An American liberal in every sense of the word that makes me cringe. I do my usual bit; other people do it better at the first link above (or click here)
And again from Bruce Jentleson (ex Clnton State Dept./CFR/Gore etc.)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Josh Buermann in comments here
An immediate withdrawal like you advocate would probably be deadlier for US troops than the actual way out. Over 70% of Iraqis want a timetable, same for Americans. A unilateral, "precipitous" withdrawal isn't the best way to manage the outcome. The ISG's disengenuous ploy was to bait-and-switch the policy actually preferred by most Americans, Iraqis, the insurgency, the government, Iraq's neighbors, and Democrats with the precipitous withdrawal supported by a few frustrated American nationalists.
I should have added this a while ago.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

R.I.P. Jeane J. Kirkpatrick
She was a good friend to my grandfather Earl. She was an American and a world patriot: her counsel--even at its most boneheaded--was always devoted to advancing the security of the United States and the cause of liberty and prosperity around the world."
American exceptionalism is an anomaly. America is not. The continuing power of that anomaly owes something to the collapse of the Soviet Union, but it owes more to the seemingly rational and morally neutral mechanisms of capital, and to the logic and mythology of individualism which feeds it. In the past this faith was seen as common sense but recently it has taken on the colors of an esoteric knowledge.

Esoteric schools of thought exist usually at the periphery of their traditions; their idealism places them apart from public life. When they become central it signals a new defensiveness, a closing-down, often reducing language to a core of messianism and rigorous formality: the rules tighten as the desire for release grows stronger. The purely material meets the purely psychic.
In religion the result is fundamentalism. In economics the asociality of mathematics is the model and the asociality of autism the result. And if observant Judaism and Islam meet in passing, they're going in opposite directions, and I'd rather have a child take up the faith of the Prophet than become a Hasid.

Delong attaches this to someone's comment: "Oh no. She did a great deal that I think was wrong. But she was well intentioned." An American in 2006 praising the moral power of intention. 40 years ago, it could have been anyone. But times have changed.
...Kill the Moor first.

Vit. You shall not kill her first; behold my breast: I will be waited on in death; my servant Shall never go before me.

Gas. Are you so brave?

Vit. Yes, I shall welcome death, As princes do some great ambassadors; I'll meet thy weapon half-way.

Lodo. Thou dost tremble: Methinks, fear should dissolve thee into air.

Vit. Oh, thou art deceiv'd, I am too true a woman! Conceit can never kill me. I 'll tell thee what, I will not in my death shed one base tear; Or if look pale, for want of blood, not fear.

Gas. Thou art my task, black fury.

Zan. I have blood As red as either of theirs: wilt drink some? 'Tis good for the falling-sickness. I am proud: Death cannot alter my complexion, For I shall ne'er look pale.

Lodo. Strike, strike, With a joint motion. [They strike.]

Vit. 'Twas a manly blow; The next thou giv'st, murder some sucking infant; And then thou wilt be famous.

Flam. Oh, what blade is 't? A Toledo, or an English fox? I ever thought a culter should distinguish The cause of my death, rather than a doctor. Search my wound deeper; tent it with the steel That made it.

Vit. Oh, my greatest sin lay in my blood! Now my blood pays for 't.

Flam. Th' art a noble sister! I love thee now; if woman do breed man, She ought to teach him manhood. Fare thee well. Know, many glorious women that are fam'd For masculine virtue, have been vicious, Only a happier silence did betide them: She hath no faults, who hath the art to hide them.

Vit. My soul, like to a ship in a black storm, Is driven, I know not whither.

Flam. Then cast anchor. Prosperity doth bewitch men, seeming clear; But seas do laugh, show white, when rocks are near. We cease to grieve, cease to be fortune's slaves, Nay, cease to die by dying. Art thou gone? And thou so near the bottom? false report, Which says that women vie with the nine Muses, For nine tough durable lives! I do not look Who went before, nor who shall follow me; No, at my self I will begin the end. While we look up to heaven, we confound Knowledge with knowledge. Oh, I am in a mist!

Vit. Oh, happy they that never saw the court, Nor ever knew great men but by report! [Vittoria dies.]

Flam. I recover like a spent taper, for a flash, And instantly go out. Let all that belong to great men remember th' old wives' tradition, to be like the lions i' th' Tower on Candlemas-day; to mourn if the sun shine, for fear of the pitiful remainder of winter to come. 'Tis well yet there 's some goodness in my death; My life was a black charnel. I have caught An everlasting cold; I have lost my voice Most irrecoverably. Farewell, glorious villains. This busy trade of life appears most vain, Since rest breeds rest, where all seek pain by pain. Let no harsh flattering bells resound my knell; Strike, thunder, and strike loud, to my farewell! [Dies.]

Friday, December 08, 2006

From Max:
IPS' Antonia Juhasz - It's Still About Oil in Iraq
WHILE THE Bush administration, the media and nearly all the Democrats still refuse to explain the war in Iraq in terms of oil, the ever-pragmatic members of the Iraq Study Group share no such reticence.

Page 1, Chapter 1 of the Iraq Study Group report lays out Iraq's importance to its region, the U.S. and the world with this reminder: "It has the world's second-largest known oil reserves." The group then proceeds to give very specific and radical recommendations as to what the United States should do to secure those reserves. If the proposals are followed, Iraq's national oil industry will be commercialized and opened to foreign firms.

The report makes visible to everyone the elephant in the room: that we are fighting, killing and dying in a war for oil. It states in plain language that the U.S. government should use every tool at its disposal to ensure that American oil interests and those of its corporations are met.

It's spelled out in Recommendation No. 63, which calls on the U.S. to "assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise" and to "encourage investment in Iraq's oil sector by the international community and by international energy companies." This recommendation would turn Iraq's nationalized oil industry into a commercial entity that could be partly or fully privatized by foreign firms.

This is an echo of calls made before and immediately after the invasion of Iraq.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

From Helena Cobban:

Reidar Visser: "The Iraq Study Group: Regionalisation Not Balkanisation".
In a remarkable rejection of partitionist winds that have blown through America over the past year, the Iraq Study Group (ISG) in its report of 6 December 2006 recommended a final big push for the Iraqi national reconciliation process, with the collective effort of regional powers as a potential catalyst.
Also Marc Lynch.

The consensus seems to be that the report gets better, or at least more serious, the further it gets from American politics.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

YMG. 1980

The class will come to order. Today's question is, what is the function of the Iraq Study Group?

Max speaks you listen
David Ignatius
DUBAI -- On the eve of the Baker-Hamilton commission's report, a top Iranian official set a tough condition for his country's help in stabilizing Iraq, saying that Tehran isn't interested in such cooperation unless the Bush administration sets a timetable for withdrawing its troops.

Ali Larijani, Iran's national security adviser, said in an interview that a U.S. plan for removing "occupation forces" from Iraq would be considered "a sign of a change in strategy." In that case, he said, "Iran would definitely extend the hand of assistance and would use its influence to help solve the problem."

The Iranian official made his comments after a speech yesterday to a conference here called the Arab Strategy Forum. His remarks were the clearest statement I've heard of how Iran views its role in the region following what he described as the failure of U.S. intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon. His tone was triumphalist: In his view, America is bogged down in Iraq and "in dire need of change," while a newly confident Iran is positioning itself as a dominant power for the region.

...Harvard professor Graham Allison, who had a private talk with Larijani following mine, said: "In discussing Iraq after U.S. withdrawal he didn't seem to have a credible idea of what comes next."

As for the idea of a regional peace conference involving Iraq's neighbors, Larijani told me he favored a smaller group of countries that are committed to the "new paradigm" in Iraq flowing from its democratic elections and constitution -- both of which enfranchised Iraq's Shiite majority. "We are against a tribal democracy," he said.

Larijani said President Bush's statement in an interview with me in September, in which Bush recognized Iran's status as an important nation in the region, was "the first sign of having any respect for the long history and cultural background of Iran." But Larijani said the administration needed to accompany such rhetoric with a halt to its "adventurous moves" against Tehran. "The Iranian people might be great and gracious, but not naive," he said.

Larijani isn't proposing a grand bargain but a ruthlessly pragmatic one shaped by Tehran's view of current realities: Iran is up, America is down, and any post-Iraq settlement should reflect those facts. That's the steep price of Tehran's help.
A "steep price" only for the arrogant and foolish.

The Arab Strategy Forum is more important than Baker-Hamilton.
(and Broder is an idiot)
Miami Schweiz

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Josh Marshall is a Fucking Genius.

"I'd say we, or rather they, may be about set to have their Reformation. Or they may already be in thick of it."

If this is American liberalism, just shoot me and get it over with.

Yes it's the Islamic reformation. It's the fucking Islamic renaissance. We're witnessing the modernization and secularization of Islam. It's been building for decades, going on for years, and our stupidity is helping in an unnecessarily messy and dangerous way to bring things to a head. This has been obvious for a long time. Al Qaeda was always the end of something, not the beginning.

Meanwhile, some fun at Tapped.
The liberal elite has more in common with educated libertarians than with working people and the liberal political elite is made up more of economists and political 'scientists' than historians and professors of literature. "Analysis" and rationalism are hip, history and culture even as viewed in anthropological rather than esthetic terms, are not. "Progress" is a value even when its meaning remains undefined: is it low infant mortality or the number of plasma TV's?

Rather than making bargains with a libertarian minority, better and more egalitarian to work with the large number of moderate social conservatives on the economic concerns they share with the left and endeavor to educate them, without condescension, on why they have nothing to fear from outsiders.

Libertarians are a self-styled elite who like to pretend that they exist as windowed monads. Someone should explain to me what freedom is when before I am able to communicate I need to learn to speak, and preferably to do so well. Libertarians think it takes more intelligence and shows more moral worth to invent a new musical instrument than learn to play one that already exists. Why bother trying to learn to play the violin when it sounds just fine to me already?
And the [slightly more successful] corollary: Why do I have to grow up when I'm a mathematical genius?

The world outside our perceptions is ruled by numbers, the one we live in is ruled by language. Ayn Rand will not show you the way out, and "freedom" is the domain of sociopaths and gurgling infants rolling around in their own shit.

This debate under false pretenses is deluded and self-serving The stupidity is mind-boggling

Monday, December 04, 2006

3 from Michael Froomkin on Padilla and Guantanamo. The last from today.
Documents and photos here
It's all grotesque.
Blogging Beirut
looks like a party

courtesy edb

Animal Fight/The Conversation, 1999, oil on canvas, 78"x93", private collection, NY.

I've had this one up before I think. But now it's on the link to the left (and it's owned by someone else.)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

What is 'formalism' in the arts? Whatever it is, it is ubiquitous as of when...1850? And the definitions its partisans apply don't cut it. I'd rather describe it as a natural, as opposed to chosen, technique spontaneously generated by a culture to keep the insincere from being the merely banal.

Frank Sinatra spoke about how the Dorseys taught him the importance of phrasing, and phrasing- the control of time- is Sinatra's genius. The beauty is cold structure; there is no love in his love songs.
Someone, probably Greil Marcus, talks about the formalism of a Rolling Stones performance. How did white middle-class kids from a England manage to rip-off working class American culture (black, white, urban and rural-Jagger copped fake white accents as well) and succeed, unlike everyone else, in making everything they stole their own? Certainly no other band was simultaneously both as derivative and as original as the Stones. The secret is not that they stole, but that they made thievery their subject. Jagger's redneck accent - listen to Beggars Banquet- is more than a copy or a parody because every song, by anyone, is always just a performance. But Stones songs are explicitly that and nothing else: they contain no real love, no real hate, no real hicks, no real black music, no real American music and no real politics (that's what Godard didn't understand about them.) Of course those things were all there: in their absence. As with Sinatra, the theatricality does not undermine the art, it is the art. The subtlety is the doubleness, the shadow of a sincerity that is not there, in an art that is somehow made out of its lack. This honesty is why Godard was interested in them in the first place.
T.J. Clark talks about Picasso's analytic cubism in a similar way, not as describing anything of the world, anything outside the painting itself -a vase or a woman- in any meaningful way, but as bodying forth meaning of a differet sort, as describing the anxiety of a situation, of the attempt and failure and repeated attempt to describe the world, and of making the absurdity profound by way of a kind of skillful but still frenetic -too frenetic, verging on desperate- presentation of the whole ridiculous mess.

Again, I'm fascinated by art and the definition of society and how various periods and forms come to terms with the imprecise- and unidealistic- nature of democracy and of democratic art: that an art about the maker can be seen by some, Picasso for example, and the Stones, or Sinatra, as the product of crisis, and by others, as the nature of things.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Guardian/Observer
The US media have virtually ignored this story. The Observer is the first newspaper to have spoken to Janet Padilla, and this is the first narrative account to appear in print. The story turns on one extraordinary fact: playing a central role in the House of Death was a US government informant, Guillermo Ramirez Peyro, known as Lalo, who was paid more than $220,000 (£110,000) by US law enforcement bodies to work as a spy inside the Juarez cartel. In August 2003 Lalo bought the quicklime used to dissolve the flesh of the first victim, Mexican lawyer Fernando Reyes, and then helped to kill him; he recorded the murder secretly with a bug supplied by his handlers - agents from the Immigration and Customs Executive (Ice), part of the Department of Homeland Security. That first killing threw the Ice staff in El Paso into a panic. Their informant had helped to commit first-degree murder, and they feared they would have to end his contract and abort the operations for which he was being used. But the Department of Justice told them to proceed.
The vogue for intentionality is little more than symptom: of terror at the possibility of unintended consequences. "I'm always right... But what if I'm wrong!!??" Craftsmen are honest because in following their tastes before their ideas they elide or evade but do not lie. Historians study the products of craftsmen in a relation to them of antagonistic reciprocity: each side must respect the other. This is how we learn about the past, not by focusing only on what was intended but what was said. Science stands opposed to such relationships. There is no subtext to number. By means of desire more than logic, reason now supplants adversarial method, and expertise undercuts the moral foundation of the rule of law. --- Someone found me by googling "T.J. Clark and Vulgarity." In the post they found, I found this: "Art has to have substance and weight to be worth remembering. And in times of crisis, that weight comes from fear." I'm still laughing. not bad. Rereading Farewell to an Idea, Clark's language reminds me of Pynchon. Perversely formal, erudite, sad. But I can't leave it at that, since Clark is more conservative than Pynchon. He has the high-brow Modernist's distaste for vulgarity, and democracy is vulgar. Clark is closer to his friend Jeff Wall.