Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Josh Marshall: "Complimenting Anthony Shadid's work is almost redundant. But he's got a wonderful piece about a not very wonderful subject in tomorrow's Post: the growing Iranian ascendence in the Middle East."

That Wonderful piece includes gems like these:
" 'The United States is the first to be blamed for the rise of Iranian influence in the Middle East,' said Khaled al-Dakhil, a Saudi writer and academic."

"Added Eyal Zisser, head of the Middle Eastern and African Studies Department at Tel Aviv University in Israel: 'After the whole investment in democracy in the region, the West is losing, and Iran is winning.' "

"In an attempt to contest Iran's influence, the United States has sought to form an axis among Sunni Arab states it considers moderate: Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and smaller countries in the Gulf. "
So the US has invested in democracy in the region by supporting Israel, the Egyptian dictatorship and Saudi monarchy.

New York Times
WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 — European governments are resisting Bush administration demands that they curtail support for exports to Iran and that they block transactions and freeze assets of some Iranian companies, officials on both sides say. The resistance threatens to open a new rift between Europe and the United States over Iran.
Regarding Iran -as regarding the Chinese "threat"- I'm with Europe and the rest of the world. Josh Marshall the American 'internationalist" is with America, Israel and a few of the most reactionary anti-democratic governments on the face of the planet.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Max Sawicky, amici e famiglia, on Milton Friedman.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Friday, January 26, 2007

Ideas are never subtle.
Arab Links
last paragraph:
In other words, what the opposition paper Al-Akhbar is saying is that the proponents of violence and fitna are the gangs that constitute the governing coalition, and they have motives both local (recovery by Jumblatt and Geagea of complete control over the Druze and Christian areas respectively) and non-local (since they can't put down Hizbullan on their own, they need to get the region and the US involved by turning this into a Sunni-Shiia conflict).
read the whole thing

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The height of hypocrisy.
follow the links

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

There's a bit of an annoying focus on process here: if Webb is right about Iraq, who the hell cares if he gave his address in scuba flippers, a fruit hat, and a Dennis Kucinich mask? Right is right, especially in matters of life and death, right?"

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Non-Arab Arab on US support for reactionary governments in the middle east and the logic of the impending US attack on Iran: On Anti-Shi'a Prejudices

And more on our friends in Pakistan

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Dennis of Arabia
Note taking: a comment (mine) at Maxspeak (rough)
Social democracy is generated by community not by individuals and certainly not by a teleology of "progress." Delong defends forward motion as its own reward and then pretends to be a man of the world.
In the history of the planet there's been a division always between self-interest, the search for filthy lucre, and the life of the mind. This country has redefined the latter as the philosophy of the former. That's a perversion of the intellect.
Delong believes in scientific progress as moral progress. He thinks there's no difference between a bakery run by one family for 3 generations in a small town in italy and the yuppie "artisanal" bread shop in the mall. In social democracy the family bakery is in the mall. Social democracy isn't about progress it's about stasis and complacency. And it sure as hell isn't about the intellectual avant-garde bringing knowledge to the masses (or atheism mixed with contempt). After all the popular aspect of the 60's political movement was led by ministers. And they weren't white, and with apologies to Amanda at pandagon they didn't drink Martinis. The peasant rebellion was the best most important part of the thing. It went downhill from there.

The strength of what's been happening recently is that the people who claim to be it's leaders are nothing but empty suits. They may pretend to be otherwise but they're not. Kos is a loudmouth and putz. MyDD is liberal pamphleteering by slackers gentrifying a poor neighborhood with a lecture and a smile. The poobahs at TPM Starbucks have their asses handed to them by the readership on a daily basis.

The real change, the change that I take seriously and that I respect is not the "movement" but all the people who follow along and now ask questions: the middle-american housewife with the gay neighbor a taste for ethiopian food, a rudimentary knowledge of spanish, and whose husband just bought her a vibrator as an anniversary present. This average and unintellectual woman, neither brilliant nor dim, is pissed off and with good reason. I like her.

It's not about leaders and progress and forward motion but about hobbies and community and curiosity. But it's also not about communes and kumbaya: the over-determined denial of the individual in service to the ideal. It's not cult-like or monastic. It's not opposed to capitalism but it's in defense of everything else that makes life worthwhile. It's not against economic activity, it's against the definition of all activity as economic in principle. It's about the defense of leisure not made by intellectuals as revolutionary program and pedantic tract, but by average people who've decided that it's nice to take a walk sometimes, in no particular direction, and for no particular reason. That is the "movement" that interests me. And its real.

If you want to take the L train into Williamsburg to yell at slackers go ahead. I did that for 20 years. As long as I've been on the web I've done it. No one listened, here or elsewhere. I was in a bar there recently; the place was done up in a production designer's idea of a dive circa 1940. I overheard opinions on various topics, all based on recollections of experience and little else. Art began with Warhol but politics began in 1975. Movies began with MTV except Star Wars and the Godfather and maybe The Wizard of Oz. It was clear that most of the people there thought of themselves as idiosyncratic in one way or another, and liberal.
Leaving later the friend I was drinking with commented on what he liked about the lounge cafe we go to in our neighborhood. You need to dress up a bit to go there, look nice at least. The girls are pretty or they can make themselves look pretty. The boys are the same. They sit and smoke and drink. various languages come and go. "The people in the neighborhood know what they are" my friend said. In Williamsburg they have no idea. I'm told Zadie Smith riffs on that in a Williamsburg section of a recent novel. The oblivious self-absorption seems to have horrified her. Just look at the Pic of Mat Stoller at Starbucks, it's all in that smile.
In my neighborhood, at whatever age, and from whatever country, the people have seen more politcs and more war than anyone born here. They still come and go. Two languages is universal. many know three or four. People know what money is and they work for it, but money isn't the point. The point is to have time to sit and drink with friends. They're worldly and unpretentious. They can talk about Athens, or Bucharest or Saint Petersburg or Rio or Miami. Two blocks away they can talk about Marrakesh or Alexandria or Beirut. I like all these people, for for the same reason I like that middle American housewife.
Yell at the slackers if you want, but make sure you know why you're yelling. There may be better ways to get things done, and there are certainly better ways to waste your time.
Change is slow, but change is real.
The avant-garde is dead.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

On this thread:
From Atrios. Move On defending itself against McCain:

"Move On never opposed military action after 9/11"
Here's the new new left. politically practical intellectually shallow.

by seth edenbaum on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 11:23:43 AM EST
[ Reply to This ]
Re: When Blogospheres Collide (none / 0)

It's intellectually shallow to point out that Move On did not, in fact, oppose military action after 9/11?
So it would be intellectually deep to maintain a fiction in which they did?

by Atrios on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 12:44:41 PM EST
[ Parent | Reply to This | ]

[new] Re: When Blogospheres Collide (none / 0)

No, it was and is intellectually shallow to defend the invasion of Afghanistan. Popularity aside, the invasion was a mistake.
I'm not trying to pick a fight with Duncan Black. I understand why the US invaded Afghanistan. I don't think it's intellectually defensible, but it was a human response. Still the fact is Atrios was not able to read what I wrote.
The moment those planes hit the towers Al Qaeda was at it's lowest point. How many friends did bin Laden have on Sept 12th? And how many friends did we have, or could we have had if we'd played the hand as grown-ups?
But there are no grown-ups.

update: Lets be clear that the "friendship" discussed above is political. A wise leader could have argued that the people should not be allowed their revenge. Letters of condolence are equity. Politics is PR. Imagine how 9-11 could have been manipulated to our advantage on the world stage if we had simply stood still and done nothing but collect the offers of help and support and money and good will. Al Qaeda wouldn't have lasted a month. bin Laden alive or dead would have nothing. Imagine how many lives could have been saved by such cold calculating logic?
I'm not a pacifist I'm a left wing cynic.
People are stupid.
Comments here and other places. I have no patience for this shit. The avant-garde is dead and it's not a bad thing. The inability for people to recognize the fact and the how and why is something I don't know how to respond to. Read some fiction. Watch a movie.
As the level of sophistication in NY has gone down it's risen elsewhere, meeting somewhere in the middle. There are a lot of reasons. Manhattan is less interesting and the country is better off. They held the "Yearly Kos" in a hotel in Vegas.

In other news: The Syrian dictator is trying to sell out the Palestinians to deal with Israel and the US. Josh Marshall is impressed.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Old writing. 1987-95 or thereabouts
We generally assume that the intellectual and esthetic preoccupations of high modernism were antithetical to narrative or allegory. We think less often however of the ways in which this stance is responsible more than anything else for the failure of the many attempts of a self-consciously enlightened modernism to engage in politics and indeed in the world at large. Society is the product of dialectical processes very unlike the personal dialectics we find within one person's deliberately isolated imagination, yet this isolation remains the central image of modernist culture, indeed of all intellectual and high-cultural life up to and including our supposedly post-modern present.

My interest in the first part of this essay is to lay out and define the parameters of modernism and its relationship to the world; not the relationship desired necessarily by any of the participants, but the ones that existed. It is important to note at the outset that all aspects of culture were affected by the changes of the modern world. The template was the same, regardless of how the participants saw themselves; though some chose advocate for ‘progress’ and others for conservatism or reaction. The story of modernism is the story of how those groups or desires (often overlapping in the actors themselves) grew together and apart and together again, in ways few or any were able to foretell, least of all those who tried to.

High modernism’s preoccupations were twofold and contradictory: on the one hand in absolute identity, in self as opposed to society, and on the other in abstract principles as opposed to the individual elements, actions, or people, to which they were applied. Formalism, or structuralism (in its most general sense) describes an interest in the infrastructure of ideas and processes and was meant to oppose, or escape, any implicit and therefore metaphysical predisposition toward one or another technique or methodology. The goal was not so much to choose but to study the process of decision-making, since preference for A or B could be merely that, and not an objectively agreed-upon truth. It was this master allegory of objectivity and not objectivity itself that gave modernist political rhetoric its power. The paradigmatic form of this objectivity in intellectual life became an idea of analysis, in all of the ways in which we are now familiar with it, and its implication of scientific method.

Artists. thinkers and others at the beginning of the last century who were not comfortable with what was becoming an activist modernism were in a bind. Many were more comfortable with a known past than an unstable present and turned to what they considered the higher ground of the 19th century bourgeois. This chimera –it was not more an that- could not do well against the concrete reality of scientific and mechanical progress and the power that electric lights, and motors, and soon automobiles and airplanes could carry as popular and later universal metaphors. But if the recent past was seeming more remote it was still within living memory; how else do we describe Thomas Mann, Henry James, Eliot, Joyce or Proust, but as moderns -not modernists- remembering the time before modernism, documenting the change through the mediation (form) of often very up-to-date language.

If some succeeded, however unhappily, in living with their grief -this new anxiety-, others chose the lesser but equally Victorian sibling of 19th century high culture, the demimonde that followed in the literary footsteps of the Marquis de Sade. There tastes were for the sensual and an ideal of metaphysical immediacy. The Marquis, an anti-materialist from another generation, fought against an enlightenment that he could not take part in and a past that that he could not escape. If he desired release, if he desired an easy out from the social obligations of discourse, from the banality of conversation as chitchat, he could he no more accept the pretensions of those who argued for a Christian god than Alfred Jarry, over 130 years later, would accept the pontifications of those whom he would personify as Ubu. The willful self-destructive acknowledgement of impotence that marked de Sade would also mark his descendants, from Sacher-Masoch to Jarry, to Dada, Surrealism, and on. These esthetic radicals in turn share the fringes of modernism with conservative fantasists: Jung, Gurdjieff and painters such as Nicholas Roerich, all best defined as the defenders -or the shadows- of the 19th century metaphysical narrative tradition. With them they share an inability either to shut out, or control, the memories of the 19th century which artists such as the politically conservative but thoroughly modern Eliot or the vaguely left wing Picasso were able to do.


The issue is one of successful mediation. ...
Arab Links

read the last few posts and comments.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Anyway, they ended up joining us at Zatar & Zeit, and the Lebanese yank invited us to eat our manakeesh in his garden just down the road. My friend R. was quite enamored with Jack B. So we walked to their house. Soon R. was asleep, her head face down in Jack B.'s lap.

The Lebanese Yank and I discussed politics, while Jack B. was preoccupied with the mop of hair in his lap. It was evident that we disagreed on almost all counts, on the success of the "Cedar Revolution". He was enamored with March 14th, the economy's performance, the country's stability, US designs and intervention in the region at large. The conversation ensued politely at first, until he raised his voice and cut me off mid-sentence. "Women shouldn't talk politics! You don't know any Lebanese people. You don't know anything!" Suddenly I became very angry. I shouted that if the US invades Iran it will be stupid people like him, who attended community colleges in middle America and now work for the CIA or front agencies like USAID, with little to no knowledge of the language and country, who pretend to be natives, who will be to blame. His jaw dropped, which amused me greatly.

Since I had no desire to further indulge my rage, I got up to leave, grabbed my jacket and told R. that we were leaving. "Why?" she asked raising her head from Jack B's lap. "Because they work for the CIA." "Are they going to kill us?" "No," I said helping to disengage her from Jack B's crotch. I turned back to the Lebanese Yank and held a final fiery oration, denouncing his proxy nationalism for a country he barely knows, the embezzlers and killers he admires, the near-extinct cedars, and disgusting conditional terms of USAID aid packages.
I turned to leave. "Hey. Don't leave! We can drink a few more beers," he insisted. "I do not drink beer with people like you. We have nothing further to say to you," I snapped, and bundled my friend R. out the front door. Jack and Lebanese Yank followed us out onto the street, yelling at us to come back. My friend R. was confused. "You have to explain all this to me in the morning," she mumbled.

Fast forward to friday night. The cousin of Lebanese Yank claims I was "kicked out" of their house, which is patently untrue. The fury I reserve for rabid American zionists and Michael Totten overwhelmed me. I found myself reiterating the same accusations, about USAID being a front organization for the CIA. "Your cousin is political scum," I informed him, waving my hands in the air. The cousin looked a little startled, and evidently regretted having raised the issue. "Let's agree. You were not kicked out of our house, and you are always welcome there. We are hospitable people! But my cousin does not work for the CIA." I think I told him I would burn his house down before I set foot in there again, and that he was lucky I didn't report his cousin. "You really are crazy," he exlaimed and suggested we have a drink to forget about the whole thing. I accepted, but only because my friend-- who had initially introduced me to Lebanese Yank's cousin-- shot me that, "Please don't do this to me now" look. The rest of the evening transpired amicably.

I am becoming soft in my old age. I'm twenty-five this year. By the time I'm fifty, I'll be downing cocktails with the retired Jeff Feltman.
read the comments too.
From: talk@talkingpointsmemo.com
Subject: Re: does anyone in this country even remember why the Iranian students took over the US embassy?
Date: January 11, 2007 1:53:24 PM EST
To: seth@...

Put me down in the category of people who thinks embassies are sacrosanct. Always.

JM's response is just stupid.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

secret wars
Did the President Declare "Secret War" Against Syria and Iran?
Washington intelligence, military and foreign policy circles are abuzz today with speculation that the President, yesterday or in recent days, sent a secret Executive Order to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director of the CIA to launch military operations against Syria and Iran.
The President may have started a new secret, informal war against Syria and Iran without the consent of Congress or any broad discussion with the country.
YNet News:The Abu- Aisha family in Hebron has been suffering at the hands of their neighbors from the nearby Jewish settler community of Tel-Rumeda for a long time now. A video filmed by 16-year-old Raja Abu Aisha and obtained by B’Tselem depicts a confrontation with a woman resident of the “Ramat Yishai” neighborhood in Tel-Rumeda.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Marc Lynch:
It's very, very interesting that a big chunk of the Arab media and political discourse is currently venting its anger over the nature of the Saddam execution against Iran. What began as calculated sectarian anger with the Iraqi government, the Sadrists, or Iraqi Shia has quickly - and largely without explanation - morphed into anger with Iran. The big rally in Amman, which seemed to go off without any of the usual obstacles presented by state security forces, focused on denouncing Iran - including reported calls on Hamas and Hezbollah to sever ties with Iran and on the Jordanian government to do the same. Lots of articles in the Arab (especially Saudi) press have shifted the focus towards Iran.

This perfectly serves the interests of the Saudi/Egyptian/Jordanian axis of pro-American dictators moderates which has been pushing the "Shia threat" at every opportunity this past year. Their main interest in this has been to prepare the ground for a possible confrontation with Iran, and to check growing popular interest in Iran; their secondary (but very important) interest has been to undermine popular support for Hezbollah after last summer's war. Both comfortably align with American interests as understood by the Bush administration, of course, which is convenient. Much of the pushback against this growing sectarian "fitna" is coming from those casting it as an American agenda to be resisted - in essence recreating the partisan lines which divided the Arab world for the first week and a half (at least) of the Hezbollah-Israel war.

I think it's really important to reiterate that the "Sunni-Shia conflict" that gets so much press these days is not really coming from the ground up - it's much more of a top down thing. In places like Iraq itself, Lebanon, and Bahrain the growing Sunni-Shia tension is rooted in very real local power struggles, but in most of the rest of the Arab world it is a project of those regimes. What's very worrisome though is that more and more tinder is being laid, and what began as an artificially constructed "threat" could begin to take on a life of its own (as Salah al-Nasrawi warned in al-Hayat yesterday). Fahmy Howeydi's reflections the other day on how Iraq had forced him to become more aware of his own Sunni identity should be taken seriously - he was one of the very first prominent Arab intellectuals to warn against the Iraqi insurgency's targeting of Shia and other Iraqi civilians.
The origninal post includes 12 links; go to Abu Aardvark for the details. Also from someone in comments:
Now that you mention Iran, I thought I'd share the views of Mohammad Ali Abtahi on Saddam's execution with fellow devotees of Abu Aardvark. [link] Abtahi is a former vice-president of Iran, in Khatami's day, and is a cleric of the reformist tendency and fairly close to Khatami. He has had a weblog for a while, and a couple of days after Saddam's execution he posted the comments I append below, which I have translated very inelegantly. For the sake of giving a little more in the way of color and background, other recent posts have focused on his role in an organization for the "Dialogue of Faiths", his great admiration for the Palestinian ambassador in Iran, and an account of a meeting where a learned Iranian rabbi explained Hanoukkah customs to their Muslim co-citizens.
The commenter's translation follows. The english page for Ali Abtahi's blog, which the commenter missed (or maybe it's new), is here

See also Badger @ Arab Links, and commnets.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The art world, the market for discreet objects of pleasure and value, represents the most conservative aspects of society. Before democratic revolutions it was part and parcel of the culture of the old regime, and under republican governments it must play to or off the tastes of the economic elite. The reasons are obvious, but largely ignored, especially by critics who want to think of themselves as independent. Journalists who write about fashion or interior design are much less conflicted, though there’s considerable overlap in the marketplace.

The fine arts are aristocratic. That’s their strength and weakness. But the arts as a whole, high, low and in between, are descriptive. Two things to be aware of when following the various partisans of modernism past and present.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Someone who's worked with Hillary Clinton once described her as like an Episcopal priest from a wealthy congregation, one who thinks it's her due to share their status and their privileges. The press are professional cynics. They can be bought and sold but like most people they don't like being lectured on morality by hypocrites who don't have the self-awareness of honest liars.  Put even more simply: all politics is schoolyard politics. It doesn't matter that Gore never said he invented the internet. Nobody respects a whiner, even if he's right. Karl Rove knows this; everyone knows this. Rove was the fat kid who was smart enough to go for revenge, even if he wasn't smart enough to think beyond it.
The press is a thing to be befriended and co-opted. This is old news. So old that reading Andrew Marr, I was embarrassed that I'd ever forgotten it.

It's a bubble but it's a goldmine for a while. I'm in, all the way, but not in the bubble.

Monday, January 01, 2007

I've rewritten this a few times. Still not good. I'm true to my credo. politics is just something else to write about.

Read this [archive.org]in re: Andrew Marr (below).

I agree with Josh Marshall often enough, but he's still a "responsible" American journalist; he doesn't want to admit his kinship to the worst of the tribe, and I can't think of one liberal American political blogger who's much different. The notion that a "reality based" community has or does or will ever exist is absurd. It's a nice piece of rhetoric to throw back at the dittoheads, but the foreign policy desk at TPM Cafe is populated by 'internationalists' from the Council of Foreign Relations, and Marshall recently named his newborn son after the man who redrew the maps after the '67 war. Bias is unavoidable, but Marshall claims neutrality or objectivity no more or less than anyone else in the American press or political scene. It's the same lie that's been central to the political culture of this country for generations and it's what makes Americans, even supposedly liberal ones, so oblivious to the opinions of outsiders. It makes them rude. It makes them stick out like sore thumbs in foreign countries. It makes them stick out like sore thumbs in Queens. Marr refers to himself as a tradesman and his job as a craft. Crafts don't answer questions of truth. Lawyers are both professionals and tradesmen. I repeat myself a lot these days but there's nothing else to do.

Scientists can operate under ideas of consensus, but numbers are not words. The job of the press is not to be responsible but to cause trouble. I really don't want anyone deciding of what kind -most people don't- but I also don't waste my time complaining about other people being unreasonable and/or "working the refs". The allegory of the rule of science, and it is only an allegory when applied to language, leads to professionalization, the rule of consensus, and the rule of reasonable men. A strong democracy requires reasonable and unreasonable advocates, responsible and irresponsible journalists, and the rule of law.

This has a lot to do with my comments and with the discussion at Arab Links. How do you argue with someone who say's he's only being rational, that he has no bias? De gustibus non disputandum, but consciousness and politics are made of it. The pretense of a political science is no more or less than religious fundamentalism: the death of politics.