“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Friday, December 24, 2004

LI will be largely on hiatus until Jan. 6. We are off to Mexico. Our advise is still the same for the celebration of these Holidays that were so unjustly hijacked from the Romans and put in the service of a rather pallid myth by the extraordinary cult that, much to Mr. Gibbon's regret, undermined the Empire: that is, be a true conservative and return to the Saturnalian fundamentals. Have sex, let slaves be masters and masters slaves, turn the world upside down. Your slogan should be: what would Heliogabalus think? Or, to quote Artaud: "I do not like poems or languages of the surface which smell of happy leisures and of intellectual success – as if the intellect relied on the anus, but without any heart or soul in it. The anus is always terror, and I will not admit that one loses an excrement without being torn from, thereby losing one’s soul as well..."

Next year should be a good one for us. We look forward to thefts on the American scene -- especially the trillion some dollar robbery of Social Security -- whhich will rival in savagery Russia in the nineties; we look forward to the New York Times explanation of the election results in Iraq (today the NYT cautiously ventured that perhaps the winning of the hearts and minds of Fallujans was not accomplished by knocking down their houses, spreading shit in their streets, and torching their mosques, while refusing to provide them with any shelter or food as they wend their laissez faire way through the Sunni triangle, comforted by the fires of liberty the Bush gang has lit across the landscape -- there really is nothing funnier than watching the American media delicately handle reality after their various ideological orgies -- and then watching them quickly embed themselves in the imperialist fantasy once more, to grub and snooze); we look forward, on the environmental front, to the Bush gang's less noted but always frothy fantasies -- for instance, the recent support given by the Americans to the Saudi demand that any environmental policy that was directed towards minimizing the use of petroleum in any way be compensated for by payments from the G-8 to the petroleum producing countries -- in other words, fining any conservation effort and sending the fines directly to the House of Saud, a policy which went unremarked, in general, since we know these people are insane anyway. Oh pioneers! we foresee a luridly amusing landscape opening up for us in the land of the free and the home of the brave!
A bientot!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The making of the enemy.

“The question of the qualification of the enemy is at the heart of the modern law of war. Without a doubt, since antiquity one has distinguished the private enemy (inimicus) from the public enemy (hostis), and that last from the brigand and the criminal. The distinctions were taken up by theoreticians of the rights of man in the 18th century. The question, thus posed, is not only who is one’s enemy, but what type of enemy one is dealing with.”

LI is a sucker for the magisterial opening line – and these lines by Michel Senellart are nothing if not magisterial. They introduce an article, “The Qualification of the enemy in Emer de Vattel” in the July Astérion, which devoted an issue to the civilizing of warfare in the eighteenth century.

“I want to examine, in this article, the way in which the division between a combattant force and a non-combattant population was established in the law of modern war, and what consequences ensued. This distinction, as we know, is the foundation of the laws of war formulated for the first time by the Brussels conference in 1874 and then that of the Hague in 1899 and 1907, with the view of “serving the interests of humanity and the progressive demands of civilisation.” It cannot be separated from another distinction, the object of bitter controversies, between legitimate and illegitimate combattants. It is in the work of jurisconsul Emer de Vattel (1714-1767), author of a celebrated treatise on human rights (droit des gens), that their articulation appeared most clearly. However, it gave rise to two opposed readings, the conflict between which manifested the tensions inherent in the modern law of war.”

A timely enterprise, this, given that inimicus and hostis are so inextricably mixed up in Iraq. An unintentionally hilarious article by the Washington Post’s Josh White, yesterday, explained that Americans in Samarra are facing a ‘wall of silence” erected by the inhabitants, who are refusing to finger insurgents. Shades of the Viet Cong terrorizing villagers and bogging down the goodhearted American effort – White begins with the ritualized search of a quarter of the town:

“SAMARRA, Iraq, Dec. 22 -- The soldiers kicked the wooden doors open and swarmed through the houses, rolling up rugs, looking through cabinets, searching boxes, pushing aside couches. Within minutes, they had lined up the Iraqi men they had found inside. The men were taken outside and made to squat in the late-night darkness, their breath streaming out in faint, wispy clouds as their hands pushed flat against a concrete wall.”

He then moves on to the wall of silence problem, which he attributes solely to the vicious enemy:
“The Sunday night raid was what soldiers here call a "dry hole." They received an intelligence tip, and it led to nothing. They broke down doors and interrogated people who appeared to have no connection to the war the United States is waging. The soldiers paid the families in U.S. dollars for the broken door jambs and the splintered cabinet doors that hung askew.
The frustrating dead end was a symptom of what officers here agree is a virtual intelligence meltdown in Samarra, a city 65 miles north of Baghdad in the Sunni Triangle, an area where the insurgency runs deep. Rebels have intimidated the local population, launching attacks from neighborhoods where residents now fear the consequences of helping the American occupiers.”
One of the deep structural factors in racism is the unwillingness to recognize the Other’s imagination even to the degree of recognizing the other’s humiliation by the culture of violence and subordination visited upon him beyond the Pavlovian exterior marks that come with electroshock and reward. Sense, in the Other, doesn’t develop into sensibility. That the Samarran men might resent having to squat uncomfortably while American kids, basically, search their houses (exposing those houses to, among other things, theft) simply never occurs to White. Just as, in Jim Crow days, the segregationist White made up for stealing the civil rights of the adult Black by making a cult of the cuteness of black kids, so, too, White’s story ends, predictably, with the Samarran children who witnessed the humiliation of their parents being given treats by the soldiers:
“Schacht, the battalion commander, said the campaign to win the Iraqi people over -- one that is proving more successful with the children here, who are plied with candy and soccer balls -- is moving slowly. The lack of cooperation among residents is making his job tougher, he said.”
Vattel, according to Senellart, “marks a progress from Grotius” insofar as his forumulation of the rules of war – a formulation that amounts to, in some ways, a distribution of roles, a dramaturgy in which the enemy and the citizen are sorted out – depends not on morality, but “from his conception of war as a inter-state relationship. He thus ties the spirit of humanity to the historic process of the centralisation of power.”

Vattel’s epistemic procedure is obviously contoured by the 18th century context of a modified monarchial power. In fact – and this is LI, not Senellart -- that context hasn’t changed that much – foreign policy in republics is still the province of monarchial governance, since it is rare that the constituency-building necessary to create democratic governance will emerge in the rarified atmosphere of foreign policy discussion.
Senellart pushes his discussion of the readings of Vattel (which are characteristically polarized between a normative version that goes through Bluntschli, and a “decisionist’ version that goes through Schmidt) to another division – between the power of the state and the power of the people, between the state’s organisation of war and the insurrection.

Read the essay.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Go to the History Today for October and read the article by Mark Goldie on John Locke. About John Locke? No, more specifically, it is about the vagaries of Locke’s reputation. This has become quite a little subgenre: the bio of the reputation. Orwell’s reputation has had, we believe, at least two bios. We rather like the idea – it is so reminiscent of the story of Peter Schlemiel’s shadow – the detachment of that purely negative space, and its adventures as it retains a shape to which it is no longer owes the loyalty of absolute physical proximity.

Locke, according to this informative survey, was a secretive soul.

“He was indifferent to biography and reticent, even secretive, about himself. When the philosopher Damaris Masham wrote her memoir of him, she could not report his year of birth, though they had lived together for fourteen years from 1690. Like another of his friends, Sir Christopher Wren, whose epitaph in St Paul's Cathedral invites us to 'look around', Locke's epitaph at High Laver in Essex invites us to 'learn from his writings' rather than engage in 'dubious eulogies'.”
This is the first time we ever encountered the evocative name, Damaris Masham (one isn’t quite sure whether fiction isn’t infecting the past, here – surely Damaris Masham is a wholly fictitious name made up by Neal Stephenson?), and we are noting her for future investigation. Goldie, in accordance with the epitaph’s invitation, shows that the dubious eulogies accorded Locke have come from ideologically diverse quarters. In the eighteenth century, as one might expect, Locke was damned by the tories – rather ironically, since, Goldie notes, “in contemporary America Locke or, rather, an imagined heritage 'Locke', is mascot of right-wing think-tanks.” Contrast with this:
“The first pictorial representation of 'Locke on government' appeared in 1710 in a Tory cartoon attacking the Whig pamphleteer Benjamin Hoadly, where Locke appears on the bookshelf behind Hoadly's desk. In one version, Oliver Cromwell stands over Hoadly's shoulder, with regicide's axe in hand; in another, it is the devil who stands there. Ironically, in the reign of Queen Anne Tory hatred of Locke served to make his name better known as a theorist of politics. One of his critics was the Tory feminist Mary Astell, who attacked Whig philosophy because it deposed monarchical tyrants while leaving husbandly tyranny intact. 'If all men are born free, how is that all women are born slaves?'”
We imagine Locke was the kind of leveler that Swift would have targetted (perhaps there is some anti-Lockian tone in the Modest Proposal), but Goldie concentrates more on Locke’s reputation among political types. Although there are artistic touches.

For instance,
“Lord Cobham transformed his estate at Stowe near Buckingham into a rural allegory of the fate of political liberty under the rule of perverted Whiggery. In his Elysian Fields he built a sturdy Temple of Ancient Virtue and a ruinous Temple of Modern Virtue. The ensemble culminated in the Temple of British Worthies. Here he placed busts of Elizabeth I, William III, John Hampden, Milton, and Locke. To these he added the Black Prince, a model for the current Prince of Wales, Frederick, who, it was hoped, would restore liberty when his father died. [circa 1730] Lastly came King Alfred, whom Cobham called the 'founder of the English constitution'.

The article goes on to explicate, entertainingly, the tangle between Locke and whiggism and anglican latitudinarianism, and the creation of a right and a left schools of Lockeans.

Tomorrow, if we have time, we will discuss this important article that appeared in Asterion. We recommend the whole issue. And after that – we are taking off for two weeks. Going to Mexico. Adios, have a good holiday including lots of sex – we recommend, between consulting adults, violating those precepts of good Christian sex and discovering the Saturnalia of pleasure that lies right on the surface of your skin. Best done under the blinking illumination of the Christmas tree lights. Santa gives Saturnalia a thumbs up!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Shakh Mat

Chess came to Europe through Persia. The pieces were re-configured, the moves changed, from the Indian original. Europeans also inherited the phrase, check mate, from the Persian phrase ‘the shah is dead’ – Shakh mat.

LI has no inside information, but we believe that Sistani, at one time, must have been a hell of a chess player.

After reading our last post, a friend asked us what analogy we were drawing between the Pazzi conspiracy and Iraq.

We cited Machiavelli because, a., the events he records in the History of Florence – the shifting combinations that play across the Florentine political landscape and that involve self organising norms rather than set principles – are broadly similar to the shifting combinations in Iraq; and b., the spirit of Machiavelli – his ability to perceive that history – was an act of imaginative virtue. That is, he considered the combination by considering the perspectives of the players and leaving a large space open for sheer collision – for the accidents of fortune that emerge to shape, obviate, or unexpectedly advance the progress of a project.

It’s only by using that same imaginative virtue that one understands the game Sistani has played, and its brilliance.

After the fall of Baghdad last year, Sistani faced several unknowns. On the one hand, the Ba’athist structure as Saddam had built it was in ruins. On the other hand, the Americans were an unknown force. Were they serious? Would they leave right away? Would they govern?

Sistani’s response to these variables was to wait. What he saw unfold helped him decide about the Americans. They seemed unaware that the Ba’athist structure, while in ruins, was by no means harmless. Allowing the looting to go on – allowing, as Sistani must have known, arms depots throughout the country to be raided, as well as allowing electric power plants to be stripped of their equipment, etc – while guarding the Oil Ministry with comic opera seriousness must have given him a vivid sense of American limits.

As a rule of thumb, if you are dealing with the Americans in a third world country, it is always good to remember that eventually, they will go home. Third world leaders, however, never quite grasp the dimensions of American indifference. While this is a country that jolts enjoyably from moral panic to moral panic, it is also strangely indifferent to the moral panics of the past. At the moment, for instance, hundreds of thousands of Americans debate Iraqi democracy. As soon as the last American soldiers depart from the country, however, the interest will as completely evaporate as, for instance, the interest in a democratic Kuwait that animated Americans in 1991. Since the end of the first Gulf war, approximately .0000000002% of American media attention has been directed to an issue that, at one time, American soldiers were supposedly dying for. LI, for instance, had to look up whether women could vote in Kuwait on Google yesterday, since we had no vague notion from newspapers or radio or Internet. It is a dead issue. Women, by the way, can’t vote. Do you care?

This combination of heated passion and cold indifference is what makes Americans such interesting players.

Sistani’s patience was soon rewarded by the attacks on Americans. The second phase of the war was beginning, and the winning side in the first phase didn’t even know it.

The attacks came from no friends of Sistani’s. However, at that point, friendship was a matter of cancellation – the enemy of my enemy – rather than of affirmation. The Americans were still floating the trial balloon of rule by exile militias, such as Chalabi’s, without seeming to realize that there were much tougher militias out there, trained in Iran. And so the board soon became dotted with different squares.

Sistani’s patience obviously left a gap in the struggle for power. It was here that Sadr made a series of moves that, while seemingly putting Sistani more and more on the spot, actually benefitted him. Sadr attracted the American enmity that Sistani was able to avoid, even as Sistani avoided siding with the Americans. This is why Sistani’s original call for elections, in the summer of 03, increased his stature with its every reiteration.

We think the turning point in Iraq came this spring, when the Americans moved against Sadr in Najaf. If you will remember, the battle against Sadr evoked calls of solidarity from the Sunni groups arrayed against the Americans, while Sistani checked out of the country. But only until Najaf had been trashed by both sides to the extent that he felt he could end his wait. He did this by marching into Najaf – or leading a sort of peace convoy into Najaf. In that one stroke, we think he began the process of making the Americans irrelevant in Iraq.

It isn’t that they don’t have the largest force in the country. And they certainly make up laws and then have their president pass them. What the Americans don’t see, however, is that they have been subsumed, by circumstances, into the tool, rather than the puppet master, of various factions in Iraq. The strongest of which, by virtue of what he did in Najaf (driving the Americans out of a major urban center without firing a shot), has coalesced around Sistani’s plans for Shi’ite rule.

The next play on the board was, truly, a chess play. The taking of Fallujah was motivated by a combination of several fantasies. One fantasy comes out of the deep wellsprings of American military culture, which has considered winning a war, since 1865, to be the equivalent of taking Richmond. They are always, in other words, looking for Dr. Evil’s hideout. This is a good strategy for, say, winning World War II, and a bad one for winning a guerilla war. Another fantasy came out of the American political advisors. This is a pure Bush campaign fantasy. The way to win hearts and minds is to target an enemy and stomp on it. The idea here is that Allawi, who the Americans were dimly aware was leaking popularity (even the American’s own IRI poll showed him neck and neck with Sadr), needed to be washed in some Sunni blood. The third fantasy was the insurgents’. This is much harder to penetrate. One of the great triumphs of the war against the insurgency, actually, has been to wed the Ba’athist remnant to the qaeda-ist violence of Zarqawi types. Nothing, we think, has more alienated a population that might be inclined to revolt, for nationalistic reasons, but that is repulsed by the attempt to reproduce Saudi cultural norms among the alien fields of Mesopotamia. Qaeda-ists have a blow them up strategy, and would be quite willing to sacrifice the citizens of Fallujah en masse to achieve that orgasm a la plastique by which they imagine they will be enfolded in the bosom of providence.

But one fantasy was absent, here. It soon became clear that this attack on Fallujah was different from the assault in the spring, or the assault on Najaf, in that there wasn’t an echo of support in the Shiite community. Even from Sadr. This is a measure of the disaster enacted in the alliance between a qaedist group that is oriented towards anti-Shiite pograms and a cynical Ba'athist group that is oriented towards retaking power -- and restoring an economic order that, after all, benefited a large class of Sunnis.

The Americans were probably pleased by the lack of Shi’ite support – but it did rather doom their program of cleansing Allawi in the blood of the Sunni. Allawi still bears the mark of collaboration and the mark of weakness. Tyranny is a harsh master -- just as God spews the lukewarm out of his mouth, tyranny makes a similar demand on its potential incarnations. Allawi is in the excrutiating process of being spewed out of the mouth. This will last for some time.

Great rulers are rarely great chess players – but they are often good ones. Sadr, we imagine, is a terrible chess player. The limits of Sistani’s play are coming up. Assuming a Dawa led coalition comes into power in January, the question of how to get rid of the Americans and the insurgents will take on a new twist. Simply having the Americans go is unacceptable – it would replay the stupidity of Bremer’s unilateral disbanding of the Iraqi army. It is, at the present, to the advantage of all players that the Americans have no recognition of their objective irrelevance in Iraq – in this, they have become perfect tools. But tools of force in Middle Eastern history have a latent dangerousness.

It is as difficult to see these things, sitting here in America, as it would be to make a map of New York city from watching repeats of Law and Order on A and E. The American press is fixated solely on the American p.o.v. in Iraq. But one thing that the Americans are structurally unable to consider is that they might have become irrelevant in Iraq. Such is the national vanity, such is the manic wavering between passion and indifference.

Monday, December 20, 2004

The government of the Medici having subdued all its avowed enemies in order to obtain for that family undivided authority, and distinguish them from other citizens in their relation to the rest, found it necessary to subdue those who secretly plotted against them.

This is how Machiavelli, in The History of Florence, begins the narrative of the Pazzi conspiracy.

The Pazzis rivaled the Medicis in wealth and power in Florence. The Pope, who was an enemy of the Medicis, favored them. Lorenzo, in 1466, was the head of the Medici clan. He was, as Machiavelli puts it, “young and flush with power”. Jacobo was the head of the Pazzis. He had a natural daughter – whose marriage to a Medici had been arranged by Lorenzo – and a number of nephews.

Lorenzo, who feared the power of the Pazzis, began against them a campaign of petty affronts. It is by such half measures, such trivial breaks in the normality of the everyday, that power crystalizes. Trotsky found this out very well in the Soviet Union after Lenin’s death. The crowd that wasn't there when he was to address them -- the newspaper article that didn't appear -- the supporter who was suddenly arrested by the police -- troubles with the phone. Kafka had a prophetic sense of this, which is why, next to The Prince, the best book on power and politics in the Western canon is The Trial.

Out of small injuries an idea arose among the Pazzi nephews: the idea was that their fortune would be better if Lorenzo was dead. The first instigator of the idea lived mostly in Rome, and communicated with such powers as were, for one reason or another, disposed to dislike the Medici. From that dislike, they projected a latent dislike of the Medici in Florence, an ambiant williness, on the street level, to see the Medici family ruined.

Jacobo wasn’t so sure.

The idea became a plan, nevertheless; the pope was attracted to it, various of the enemies of the Medici were attracted to it, and it took on money and dates, as plans like this have a tendency to. However, when the conspirators got together in Florence, they kept having the problem of bringing together Lorenzo and his brother, Giuliano, in one spot for killing. If the brothers were separated, the Medici had the possibility of countering the Pazzi assassins.

“With this intention they appointed Sunday, the twenty-sixth of April, 1478, to give a great feast; and, resolving to assassinate them at table, the conspirators met on the Saturday evening to arrange all proceedings for the following day. In the morning it was intimated to Francesco that Giuliano would be absent; on which the conspirators again assembled and finding they could no longer defer the execution of their design, since it would be impossible among so many to preserve secrecy, they determined to complete it in the cathedral church of Santa Reparata, where the cardinal attending, the two brothers would be present as usual.”

So, the problem here becomes very specific: how to assassinate two guarded leaders in a church. The Pazzis, at the last moment, were deserted by the man they were counting on to lead the assassination squad, and so had to induce two priests to assail the Medicis. Machiavelli coolly comments: “for if firmness and resolution joined with experience in bloodshed be necessary upon any occasion, it is on such as these; and it often happens that those who are expert in arms, and have faced death in all forms on the field of battle, still fail in an affair like this.”

Indeed. The morning of the 26th, the conspirators get their game going: “The conspirators proceeded to Santa Reparata, where the cardinal and Lorenzo had already arrived. The church was crowded, and divine service commenced before Giuliano’s arrival. Francesco de’ Pazzi and Bernardo Bandini, who were appointed to be his murderers, went to his house, and finding him, they, by earnest entreaties, prevailed upon him to accompany them. It is surprising that such intense hatred, and designs so full of horror as those of Francesco and Bernardo, could be so perfectly concealed; for while conducting him to the church, and after they had reached it, they amused him with jests and playful discourse.”

Machiavelli displays that rhetorical touch that makes him so enigmaticly fascinating. A more superstitious (i.e., religious, or American) writer would find the murderers behavior suprising on moral grounds, since after all, human behavior just comes down to good or evil. Machiavelli, however, is more interested in the concealment. The mask is psychologically difficult, so one does want to know how those who successfully mask their thoughts proceed. How do you create the psychological state that would allow you to do this? That is his concern. Instead of good and evil, we are dealing with the norm and its exceptions.

At a signal from the cardinal – the elevation of the host – the attack was mounted. The Pazzi successfully brought down Giuliano. However, the priests only wounded Lorenzo, who made it out of to another part of the church. Meanwhile, other conspirators (the Archbishop de’ Salviati and Jacopo di Poggio) went to the signory – the counsel that officially ruled Florence – thinking that they would destroy the Medici adherents and cow the others. It didn’t work out that way. The counsel and its guards attacked the archbishop and di Poggio’s men. Soon the body of the archibishop was hanging from a window of the signory.

Lorenzo, it turned out, was popular in Florence – Machiavelli makes several ironic comments about the people’s sense of liberty having been suitably put to sleep by the people’s sense of greed, which was fed well by the Medici prosperity. The Pazzis failed to stage a revolt, and so the conspirators each tried to escape as they could. Here’s what happened to Jacobo:

Jacopo de’ Pazzi was taken while crossing the mountains of Romagna, for the inhabitants of these parts having heard what had occurred, and seeing him in flight, attacked and brought him back to the city; nor could he, though he frequently endeavored, prevail with them to put him to death upon the road. Jacopo and Rinato were condemned within four days after the murder of Giuliano. And though so many deaths had been inflicted that the roads were covered with fragments of human bodies, not one excited a feeling of regret, except that of Rinato; for he was considered a wise and good man, and possessed none of the pride for which the rest of his family were notorious. As if to mark the event by some extraordinary circumstance, Jacopo de’ Pazzi, after having been buried in the tomb of his ancestors, was disinterred like an excommunicated person, and thrown into a hole at the outside of the city walls; from this grave he was taken, and with the halter in which he had been hanged, his body was dragged naked through the city, and, as if unfit for sepulture on earth, thrown by the populace into the Arno, whose waters were then very high. It was an awful instance of the instability of fortune, to see so wealthy a man, possessing the utmost earthly felicity, brought down to such a depth of misery, such utter ruin and extreme degradation. It is said he had vices, among which were gaming and profane swearing, to which he was very much addicted; but these seem more than balanced by his numerous charities, for he relieved many in distress, and bestowed much money for pious uses. It may also be recorded in his favor, that upon the Saturday preceding the death of Giuliano, in order that none might suffer from his misfortunes, he discharged all his debts; and whatever property he possessed belonging to others, either in his own house or his place of business, he was particularly careful to return to its owners.”

Machiavelli always tells the moral of his stories before he tells the stories. Our modern habit is to reverse that order. So I retain for last what Machiavelli told first:

“But after the … government became so entirely centred in the Medici, and they acquired so much authority, that discontented spirits were obliged either to suffer in silence, or, if desirous to destroy them, to attempt it in secrecy, and by clandestine means;; which plots rarely succeed and most commonly involve the ruin of those concerned in them, while they frequently contribute to the aggrandizement of those against whom they are directed. Thus the prince of a city attacked by a conspiracy, if not slain like the duke of Milan (which seldom happens), almost always attains to a greater degree of power, and very often has his good disposition perverted to evil. The proceedings of his enemies give him cause for fear; fear suggests the necessity of providing for his own safety, which involves the injury of others; and hence arise animosities, and not unfrequently his ruin. Thus these conspiracies quickly occasion the destruction of their contrivers, and, in time, inevitably injure their primary object.”

We have our own object in bringing up this old story. We see certain lessons from Machiavelli which apply to Iraq. We will draw them in another post.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Via Harry’s Place, LI became aware of the Labourfriendsofiraq site. This seemed like our cup of tea. So we went via link to an article (by Peter Tatchell) criticizing the left for supporting the resistance in Iraq. It was the usual barrage – full of heated accusations, aimed at a foe that is never named. We know we are in for general bombardment when we begin, not with the current occupation of Iraq, but with – we kid you not – clitorectomies:

“Over 100 million young girls in Africa and the Middle East have had their clitorises excised and / or their vaginas sown up. We would not tolerate this patriarchal abuse in Britain. Why should we tolerate it in other countries? Female genital mutilation is a crime against humanity. Don’t we have a duty of international solidarity with the victims?”

Apparently, Tatchell believes that if we hold democratic elections in Iraq, the clitorectomy issue in Africa will be solved… But that is unfair. He sin’t as braindead as his rhetorical ploy. He does have something to say. Two things:
1. That it is alright to criticize jihadist movements;
2. That “…right now, the STWC supports “the resistance” in Iraq by any means necessary…” He is referring to the Stop the War Coalition.

Now, undoubtedly there are those on the left who support jihadist movements. However, their voices only seem to reach those on the right who want to accuse those on the left of supporting jihadist movements. Thus, Christopher Hitchens seems to be an eager reader of every pamphlet that recommends following the path of Zarqawi. The interesting thing about this, of course, is how wonderfully it provides cover for the right, since the legitimacy of the right would be a bit wobbly if we remembered that the jihadist movements were spawned by anti-communism; that the U.S. and its ally, Saudi Arabia, spent perhaps a billion dollars building up the most extreme Moslem movement of the twentieth century throughout the eighties, ardent drummers for the crusade in every backwater of Algeria or Egypt, in spite of being warned as to what was happening; that Osama bin Laden’s model of attacking the “infidel super-power” was surely influenced by memories of Bill Casey, Reagan’s best buddy, going to Pakistan in 1984 and chortlingly suggesting that jihadist groups penetrate the soviet union and commit acts of terror there; that the U.S. continues to be the leading donor to Pakistan, thus, de facto, sheltering probably the most effective radical Moslemist agency in the world, Pakistan’s ISI, as well as blessing the spread of nuclear weaponry around the world (continuing a policy initiated by Reagan, who made strenous efforts to keep Pakistan from being at all injured when, in the early eighties, it became evident that the Pakistanis were developing atomic weaponry). And on and on.

The dirty secret about the ‘war on terrorism’ is not that poverty causes terrorism, or the war between Israel and Palestine causes terrorism – no, we can be much more specific than that. We have the history, if we want to look at it. The terrorist network was set up, physically, financially, intentionally, by the US, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan in the eighties. It was a specific, long range operation, with a specific goal in mind: defeat the atheist infidel. Because, in the U.S., the triumphalist school of Cold War scholarship has prevailed, a very blind eye has been turned to a very dirty history. Thus the curious silence that has surrounded, for instance, the first attempt to blow up the WTC, which had the spiritual seal of approval of a blind Newark mullah who came to the U.S. on a visa signed by a CIA officer after having had his travel bills paid for by the CIA in their jolly attempt to move the wogs against the nasty Russians. Payback for Vietnam was the theme back then, and damn the consequences.

Now, since the same people who gave us the terrorist network and support for Saddam when he was gassing Kurds are assuring us that this time they only want to see democracy flower in Iraq, perhaps your average lefty could be given a little slack in the doubting the good intentions of the giver.

But no – the danger, as Tatchell sees it, is those peaceniks out there supporting the terrible people who want to behead NGO employees and sew up vaginas. Is this what the SWTC is all about? With trepidation, we went to their site. Oddly enough, there are no recommendations to the kids in Stepney to fill their cars with plastique and blow themselves up outside Parliament. In fact, the organization has a bland and ecumenical, not to say shapeless, program of “stopping the war on terrorism.” There was no jubilation over the resistance on the site that we could see.

Tatchell then heats up the bong and goes for another toke:

“Motivated more by hatred of the US and British governments than by love for the Iraqi people, many so-called leftists support a “resistance” that, if victorious, would bring to power Baathists, Islamic fundamentalists and pro-al-Qaeda militants. Is that what the left now stands for? Neo-fascism, so long as it is anti-western?”

Well, cards out on the table: LI does not have love for the Iraqi people. We don’t have love for the Kazakhs either. We don’t love the Jews. We don’t love the Canadians, the Eskimos or the Ainu. In fact, for us, love is pretty much a one to one operation.

However, we do like the Iraqi people. We like them enough that we don’t want to see their cities smashed, their wedding parties bombed, or family members trundled off in the night to be subject to the tiresome whims of post adolescent American torturers.

We like them enough to think that elections, which are now upon us in Iraq, would not be upon us if the original U.S. plan was still in operation – which would have put off elections until 2007, at the earliest. We like them enough to remember how the U.S. changed its policy – which was not due to the pleadings of such as Mr. Tatchell, still foaming from his rescue mission in Africa (all those vaginas to save, personally). No, it was due to the armed resistance and the prospect of it becoming general if the Americans didn’t negotiate with Sistani. That was it – that was the whole and entire reason that the election process came about. It wasn’t that Social Democrats for a more Swedish Iraq had a head to head with Bremer. He confined his head to heads with members of the Heritage Foundation.

So we would respectfully ask (knowing that, for the prowar left, he who asks for bread will be given a little polemical stone) for a little less nonsense from supposed leftist supporters of democracy and trade unions in Iraq. Especially pleasing would be some real calculation of the forces that are in play in Iraq, which don't include the pro-terrorist British or American left, who've had zero influence as far as I can see on any turn of the events there.

This is, undoubtedly, too much to expect from a culture that was raised on charging the straw man. It must be one of those Oxford things, much like the Monty Python episode where the village idiots tear the knickers off the mannikens. Hitch must have been quite good in the old days at that. Perks you up for resolutely charging against, say, George Galloway, and you've done your doubty deed for progressivism. Meanwhile, the only leftist pro-war person who actually tried to ward off the truly reactionary plans of the original occupying junta was Peter Galbraith – not a man much quoted on sites like Harry’s.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Headline in the WP : Fallujans to Begin Returning Home

First graf: Iraqi authorities said residents would begin returning to Fallujah within the next week, even as U.S. forces shelled a section of the city and insurgents proclaimed they would press the fight there, more than a month after American commanders declared the city "liberated."

Second graf: “Mayor Mahmoud Ibrahim Jirisi said families could start returning to some southern neighborhoods of the shattered city as early as Friday, though the Reuters news agency reported that there was no sign of such movement by late afternoon.”

In other words, headlines should read: Fallujans do not begin returning home – war crime continues – 200,000 people have now been dispersed, without any aid whatsoever, for two months – U.S. under Bush thus accomplishing a feat of inhumanity even the present Sudanese government, has hesitated to perform.

Ah, Liberation.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Holy bookburning

There are two starkly different views of religion that jostle each other in the media, without paying too much attention to each other, as compartmentalized media memes do. One is the usual lament over the straying from the religion of our fathers that characterizes all of modernity – usually this is considered to be a bad thing. And there is the story about evangelical fervor (Protestant or Islamic) that has, apparently, infected the masses – a great global dose of opium poisoning, to use Marx’s phrase.

Religion has poked into politics in Britain by way of the rank proposal, by Blair’s government, to criminalize poking fun at religion -- being nasty about Jesus or Mohammed or Blair’s piety or his wife’s new age gurus. Like a very unmerry King Cole, Blair’s second favorite thing about being prime minister is criminalizing. In reinstituting the pomp and, perhaps, the bonfires of the old blasphemy laws, Blair has even outdone his own combination of unctuousness and unscrupulousness.

We were researching a wholly different project for a client when we stumbled upon Harold Remus’ article about magic in the Bible in Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, which transfixed us with a reminder of how St. Paul’s visit to Ephesus was blessed with a bookburning:

“For example, in describing the books burnt in the city of Ephesus as a result of Paul's activity there, the author of canonical Acts uses a term (perierga) that translators commonly render as "magic" (19:19). The value of the books consigned to the flames is given as 50,000 silver coins (19:19). We're not told what assessor assigned the books that value. But it is clear that someone placed a high value on them.”

Remus does not go in the direction we were expecting – or maybe hoping for. He gives us St. Paul’s successors – those archaelogists and hermeneuts who have continued Paul’s contempt, if not the readiness to ignite, since the flood of magical texts from the excavations of nineteeth century in Egypt. There are, indeed, plums in this account, but what of… what of the magical gesture encoded in burning a magic book? There is, indeed, an enlightenment image of repression within the ranks of the repressors, an image that submits to the rational/pietistic theme that runs through book burning. But surely, of all spells, one of the most interesting, because of its perverted twist, is burning the book of spells?

Remus is more interested in the magic itself – which is fair. He imagines an interview with one of the magicians – he calls him Abraxus. Abraxus comes close to the fire:

Abrasax speaks:
Let me begin with this business of "secrecy". Do I practice and enjoin secrecy?
Of course I do. Magic as divine and a gift from the gods is sacred and must be protected from profanation, as has unfortunately happened in your day thanks to Messieurs Preisendanz, Betz, Gager kai ta loipa. You could take a lesson from some of your indigenous peoples who tell you that observing and discussing their sacred rites profanes them and should not be permitted.”

Ah, the secrecy of destruction. It is what keeps the Blairs going – it isn’t just finding and rooting out ‘blasphemy” in the name of tolerance, it is the act of destroying the written, erasing the tape, interfering with the radio broadcast. This is sorcery against sorcery – especially that sorcery that might overturn the system in which magical wealth flow to the most virtuous.

Remus, however, imagines himself as a skeptical, enlightened scholar – rather sympathetic to St. Paul’s impatience with all that nonsense – asking whether the magic trade isn’t all abracadabra:

“But, please, would you not agree that to address a deity one must speak the deity's language? Did not one of the prominent prophets of your culture respond to a request, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 1 1:1)? Did not his follower say that glossolalia is god-language (1 Cor. 14:2, 28) or spirit language (13:1, glossai ton aggelon)? In our practice we greatly honor the deity who bears mysterious names in one of the chief holy scriptures of your culture. Some have maintained that he--if he is a he--spoke Hebrew, others German ("Adam, wo bist du?"), and others Elizabethan English. We know better. We address Iao, Sabaoth, Adonai(n56) in words he will understand.(n57) I refrain from examples, lest I profane them.(n58) You may call all this nonsense, but surely addressing deities in language they understand is not nonsensical.
Am I alone in thinking this? Indeed not. What do you make of the abba (Mark 14:36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6), or maran atha (1 Cor. 16:22), or ephatha (7:34) in certain sacred texts of your culture? Why these words in an alien tongue in a Greek text? If I pronounce the mystic words Sitz im Leben and Formgeschichte over them, does that shed some light on my question?”

Well, we will get nowhere if we confuse true piety (the mocking of which by magicians must be made against the law – it raises hatred, you know) with the magician’s mystifications. And we must believe, with folded hands, in the archaeologists busy finding the historical Jesus in the Holy Land. But the essay did make us think a few blasphemous and legal (at least, at the moment) thoughts. Look it up yourself.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

LI has nearly completed its plan for a tee shirt. The tee shirt will be given to subscribers to this site (+40 bucks). When we floated this plan, some of our readers wrote in to complain about our unbelievable cheesiness. So we considered, instead of tee shirts, water soluble love oils in provocative scents, but looking over the guys we hired for tee shirt manufacture, we decided it might be a little indelicate, as well as lead to bodily harm of the management, if we raised the subject.

In the Times (London), today, one of the big name Conservative columnists, Anatole Kaletsky, laments the current runner up status of the Tories. He asks why, given Labor’s record current disorganization and the universal loathing that is justly heaped on Tony Blair’s head (he might be exaggerating a bit about that one), is the Conservative Party such a dog’s after-meal?

He gives two reasons. The first is the Tory expectation that the Labor party would create an economic crisis. This hasn’t happened. The second reason is more interesting:

“The tactical error on economics could at least be explained by the Tories' arrogant belief that they have a superior understanding of money. Their second tactical blunder was more surprising. Why on earth did the most oppositional Opposition in living memory support the Government on the one policy which was most obviously going wrong -Iraq? The Tories' initial backing for the invasion may have been justifiable on the standard ground of national security when Britain faced a military threat. But why did they not withdraw their support in the summer, once it became apparent that the Prime Minister had been misleading the nation and that the US was guilty of criminal negligence, or worse, in its occupation of Iraq?

It was only after the Hutton inquiry and Abu Ghraib that British public opinion turned decisively (and justifiably) against Mr Blair. This was the golden opportunity for Michael Howard to start demanding an orderly withdrawal from Iraq on the ground that the Prime Minister had deceived the nation into an unnecessary and mismanaged war. By failing to do this, the Tories ceded to the Liberal Democrats not only the huge anti-Blair protest vote, but also the principal constitutional role of the loyal Opposition in time of war.”

We think that Kaletsky is technically right about Iraq, and the position the Tories should have taken. But to take that position would mean to question the larger effect of the consistent Tory policy, since Churchill, to serve the U.S. as a perpetually faithful Gunga Din – a rather interesting inversion, considering the marmoreal Churchillian racism towards Indians that was evidenced, most brutally, in letting a million Bengalis starve to death in 1944. A party that was willing to break with the U.S. on Iraq would have to be a party that was willing to redo its genetic code, so to speak. D’israeli did just that for the tories in the 1860s; Blair did it to the Labor party in the 1990s. But there isn’t a Tory leader in sight that has the vision to do it now.

LI recommends looking at another op ed piece from another Brit pundit: Ash’s piece on supporting democracy in the Guardian. Ash concedes that the invasion of Iraq shows that this is not how democracy supporting is done, which implies that this the motivation for invading Iraq was to make it a democracy.

"War is not justified simply to promote democracy. So, the Iraq war was wrong. It would have been justified, in my view, if Saddam Hussein had been committing a genocide against his people at the time we went to war, or if he really was on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons, but he wasn't, so it wasn't. Using the promotion of democracy as the main justification for that war risks giving democracy a bad name."

We summarized our view of this in an exchange at the blog, Harry’s Bar, concerning Chavez in Venezuela. Quoting ourselves (hey, okay, stop with the rotten tomatoes! hey, that hurt!), this is what we think of that:

…. [this is] the real break between the anti-war left -- or anti-war period -- and the pro-war party. The pro-war party takes it as a given that U.S. foreign policy is to promote democracy. Hence, everything that happens in the occupation in Iraq is read through the prism that the U.S.'s chief pre-occupation is to crrate an Iraqi democracty.
The anti-war left does not share this presupposition. It isn't the case that the U.S. is always anti-democratic -- sometimes, the U.S. has acted for human rights and democracy. But the pattern of U.S. foreign policy has been determined globally by those factors that would advantage the American governing class.
How do you tell if, in one case or another, American foreign policy is promoting democracy? You don't take the words of the president of secretary of state as proof -- rather, you take the actions of the U.S. in a specific instance and ask what these actions are guided by.

That is why the occupation of Iraq appears to be one of those foreign policy actions that advance the American governing class agenda; or, I should say, started out pressing that agenda. Meeting resistance in Iraq, it modified itself drastically. Opposing elections at first, until a period of time had passed necessary for the occupiers to wipe out any resistance to the American agenda, the occupiers were forced to compromise and are now proclaim themselves the guardians of elections - to the extent that they will kill those who take the position, vis a vis elections, that Bremer took just a year ago. “

This is of course the whole problem with good natured liberals such as Ash. The first sentence of his piece speaks volumes for the lack of class analysis that vitiates it:

“Would you rather have democracies next door, or dictatorships? Democracies, right?”

Ignoring the folksiness of “next door” – remember that this is actually an asymmetric relationship. The U.S. may be next door to Nicarauga or Iran – but they are not next door to the U.S. That is, the U.S.(and the U.S. press, and probably Ash himself, along with the whole block of humanitarian interveners) would contemptuously ignore any opinions Nicarauga or Iran might take of U.S. governance, from the death penalty to the aggressive, and slightly insane, sums being spent by America on its war machine. Concentrate on the “you.” In that you is concentrated and dissolved the division between capital and labor that is the chief defining factor in the ways in which populations internationally exist. That you includes the maquilladora owner and worker, indistinguishably. Well, if the triumph of democracy is coincident with the triumph of capital over labor, the triumph will simply be… the triumph of capital over popular power -- in essence, democracy's triumph will mark another stage in the advance of oppression. This doesn't necessarily have to be so. But as long as the Ashes of the world refuse to recognize the contradictions and injustices in their position -- in the kind of power that has created a situation in which you can choose who your neighbor will be, without reciprocal choice from the other side -- they will not be promoting democracy, but a peculiar form of Victorian charity.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

What is it about Christmas that LI dislikes? It is not the giftgiving. It is not the carols. It is not the trees. We like all of that.

What we don’t like is the sexlessness.

Christmas, after all, took over from Saturnalia. But as the baby Jesus has become more and more innocent, he has sucked the erotic energy out of the ocassion. This isn’t absolutely true – my friend T. sent me, just today, an article about celebrating Christmas in Japan. Evidently, the holiday is notable for being that time of year during which virgins get rid of their virginity in various Japanese hotels. Good for those guys and gals.

But in America, it is all about the kids, and not at all about the conception.

Perhaps what we need is the tantric Christmas.

Hugh Urban is a rising American scholar on tantric practices. He’s written an essay about the man who brought the Tantra to America: Pierre Arnold Bernard . Bernard was not, I think, mentioned in Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon, a book I always recommend to people for its enjoyable account of the first tentative movements in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that coalesced, eventually, into the New Age. From Urban’s description of Bernard, I don’t know how he was missed:

“Known in the popular American press as "Oom the Omnipotent," Bernard became notorious throughout newspapers and journals as a spiritual leader and philosopher as well as a philanderer, seducer of women and purveyor of scandalous indecencies. Not only did he found the first "Tantrik Order" in America (1906), but he was also the first in a long line of Tantric gurus who would come under intense criticism and suspicion for their alleged immoral, indecent and illegal sexual practices. As such, he has been a seminal influence on much later esotericism in the U.S. not only on later traditions of Western sexual magic, but also on contemporary New Religious Movements, such as the cult of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, the Siddha Yoga Society, and more recent developments like American Tantra," the Church of Tantra and the New Tantrik Order in America.”

Damn, LI wanted to be the first to be known as Oom the Omnipotent! There goes our dream moniker.

Urban is at pains to separate Tantra, which is a complex and multiple meditative practice, from its reputation as orgiastic yoga-ing. He takes the point of classical tantra – which has to do with restraining and (somehow) retracting semen – as a sign that tantra is about power. Unsurprisingly, the reference is to Foucault here.

So how did Tantra gets the sex label? It started with the Victorians:

“It was really not until the early nineteenth century, with the arrival of Christian missionaries like the Baptist William Ward and the Scotsman, Alexander Duff, that Tantras became objects of intense interest and morbid fascination. Above all, the missionaries singled out the sexual element particularly transgressive and illicit sexuality as the most horrific aspect of the Tantras and the clearest evidence of their complete depravity. The Tantras, as Ward put it, involve "a most shocking mode of worship" centered around the worship of a naked woman (preferably a prostitute or outcast) and rites "too abominable to enter the ears of man and impossible to be revealed to a Christian public"”

Sounds like Christmas to me! LI might not be too pious, but we think we could possibly be interested in the worship of naked women. Nice to think that, all the time, our hobby could actually be incorporated into a tax free entity.

Bernard was a mysterious man. He came, of course, from California. He had traveled much in the mystic orient, and ended up in San Francisco teaching hypnotism and yoga and founding the Order of the Tantrik Brotherhood, which made marvelous promises to initiates. But things really got going after 1906:

"After the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, Bernard left California and eventually relocated to New York City, where he would open his "Oriental Sanctum" in 1910. Teaching Hatha Yoga in the downstairs room and offering secret Tantric initiation upstairs, the Oriental sanctum quickly became an object of scandal in the New York press: the notorious "Omnipotent Oom" was charged with kidnapping and briefly imprisoned, though the charges were later dropped. "I cannot tell you how Bernard got control over me or how he gets it over other people," said one of the alleged kidnapees, Zella Hopp, "He is the most wonderful man in the world. No women seem able to resist him.”

LI cannot resist the name Zella Hopp. It exerts a strange and effluvial influence over our thinking, it is as if vaseline were rubbed all over the inner lens, things are getting watery even as we type these words. We might have to go to a bar, soon. But wait…

The Omnipotent Oom became quite successful, according to Urban, who culls newspaper and magazine reports that claim that the Tantrik order included many celebrated names. The police raids probably helped, too. Nothing gives you publicity like a sex raid from the cops. O.O.’s credo was as follows: “The trained imagination no longer worships before the shrines of churches, pagodas and mosques or there would be blaspheming the greatest, grandest and most sublime temple in the universe, the miracle of miracles, the human body.”

Why that would be blaspheming, instead of something on the order of a spiritual acquisition and merger, we aren’t quite sure. In any case, O.O’s initiates paid fabulous fees to engage in mysterious physical activity with the great man himself, in a turban and flared Turkish pants, sitting on a throne, presiding.

Unfortunately, all things come to an end. The Omnipotent Oom, while retaining his belief in the worship of the naked body, eventually branched out into other fields, and in 1931 became the president of the State Bank of Pearl River. A rather daring act, actually, given the state of the banks in 1931. Perhaps this was a secret sexual act of a kind O.O. specialized in.

We highly recommend the article. And remember, have as much sexual congress as possible for a merrie, merrie christmas.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Argument from Design, Two

LI’s friend at Fragmenta Philosophica, noting Flew’s apparent conversion to at least a watered down version of theism (but see our post yesterday), writes:

“I've always thought that the argument from design is the strongest "motive of credibility" for theism. Flew seems to agree, finally viewing it as the tipping-point:

'There was no one moment of change but a gradual conclusion over recent months for Flew, a spry man who still does not believe in an afterlife.

'Yet biologists' investigation of DNA "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved," Flew says in the new video, "Has Science Discovered God?"'

LI has a different take on the argument from design. Our argument depends on two things: how one interprets a “motive of credibility,” and what exactly the argument from design is all about.

Fontenelle, in his History of Oracles (1687), which is one of the first early modern attempts to devise an anthropology of religion, also believed that a variation of the argument from design gave rise to the idea of the gods back in ‘ces siècles grossiers’ before writing.

“The men who had a little more genius than the others naturally tended to investigate the causes of what they saw. Where, for example, does that ever flowing river come from, a contemplative from those centuries must have asked themselves? –a weird sort of philosopher, but who can tell – he might have been a Descartes in this century. After long meditation, he happily discovered that there was someone who took care to pour out this water, eternally, from a pail (cruche). But who furnished this person with the water? The contemplative did not go into those depths.

It is necessary to keep in mind that these ideas, which could be called the systems of those centuries, were always copied after the most well known objects. One had often seen water poured out from inside a pail: one easily imagined, thus, a God pouring out that of a river; and by that same ease by which one imagined it, one could as easily completely believe it. Thus, in order to explain thunder and lightning, one represented God as a human figure throwing arrows of fire at us; an idea manifestly taken from familiar objects.”

The argument from design, here, is transformed, by Fontenelle, into a way of explaining the anthropological crisis that faced Christendom from the era of discovery: there was a world of people who, evidently, had lived and died for generations without hearing the good news. What was their cosmological status? It was the revival of a question that confronted the early Christians, once they had decided, after Paul, that Christ had come to redeem the world. This transposition of a specifically Jewish God who recognized himself solely in one people to a cosmopolitan God who established a relation with all people (a relation based on caritas) obviously leads to the question of the gods those people are worshipping. I'll note, in passing, that re-defining the bond between God and man in terms of love also reworked the whole notion of God -- a term that then took on amazing connotations as the centuries rolled by. But to return to our story...

Doubtless, if Flew is convinced, by the amazing complexity of the cell, that there is a God – instead of there being many gods, or instead of there being Persian 'angels' tinkering with organisms down here – this is due less to his own innate monotheism than to the triumph, for two thousand years in Western culture, of monotheism.

However, that triumph, as Hume cleverly saw, has an unconscious effect upon the philosophic discourse about God. Ourselves, we think Fontenelle’s idea is startlingly relevant to the naïve use of the computer metaphor to meet our contemporary cosmological questions. But we also think that there is something thin about the argument from design to explain belief in the gods. Our belief is that the real impress in our animal souls of a feeling of God – what Epicurus called prolepsis (although there is vast scholarly disagreement about what this means -- Cicero described this as “innate power”) is, in the anthropological order, prior to and more “credance giving” than the proof by design. We would call the latter a way of specifying God. Which is a different thing entirely.

Justice is ridiculous

Gary Winnick, a true superhero of free enterprise, was at last freed of those pesky fines against him by the Republican dominated SEC. Not that Winnick was a partisan man -- he had greased the palms of many a Dem in Clinton's palmy times. But with that Bush mandate, it was time to put the likes of Perle on a retainer -- and oh how such connections have paid off for the big guy! We are all psyched here at LI. Sorting through the creative destruction of the telecom bubble, it was obvious at the time, and even more obvious now, that the real master criminal was Martha Stewart.

But of course the LA Times had the gall to interview a coupla plebes about the thing:

"The fact that Winnick escaped a $1-million fine gnaws at Irene DiNolfo, a former Global Crossing director of marketing communications in Rochester, N.Y., whose severance and retirement were wiped out.

"What's $1 million to that guy?" said DiNolfo. "It would be like a $100 fine to me. And still, he gets out of that."

Global Crossing's collapse cost Janet Mahoney, a former call center director, about $35,000 in severance pay and $45,000 in retirement funds that were in company stock. Settlements in the civil cases are bringing in a few thousand dollars in dribs and drabs, she said.

"Meantime, he walks away with $738 million," she said. "Justice is ridiculous."

Well, we do wish the likes of Ms. Mahoney would read up on her Friedman or Sowell or something. Our system is simply so unbeatable it has charmed God and the angels, who are investing heavily in equities for next year. Meanwhile, Ms. Mahoney is going to have a chance to lose even more retirement with the privatization of her Social Security -- but not to worry! If some mutual fund company commits massive fraud, if some corporation cooks its books, the SEC is right there, like a guard dog. Or like the cardboard cutout of a guard dog. To make sure that the criminal who steals hundreds of millions does have to put a million back in the pot now and then! Good luck to you, Ms. Mahoney! We salute all those who are about to strike it rich, as Bush knocks down the last evil legacy of New Deal Socialism and sets you free to be owners.

Monday, December 13, 2004

The argument from design

LI heard of Anthony Flew for the first time in an Emory U. philosophy class on God’s existence. The man who taught the class bore a striking resemblence to Chuck Barris, the mc of the gong show, although he spoke with an impeccable Oxbridgian accent, and threw himself into the appropriate Wittgensteinian gestures then fashionable for teaching a philosophy seminar (i.e., he spent much of the hour or two he talked facing a corner of the room, to which he seemed to be attracted as he muscularly exerted his brain over various ways that we might say things. Perhaps the corner gave him the illusion of privacy that was necessary to bring his conceptual struggles to fruition, but it did tend to muffle his message).

So we read, or were forced to read, a little Flew. The man did not make a large impression on yours truly.

However, he seems to have left an impression on the world at large. ABC tv news itself recently reported his sensational conversion to theism. Just in time for Christmas, too. Flew has now written a “calm down people” paper in which he disclaims any intention of spreading the good word among the heathen in the Hindu Cush.

A pity. We love conversion stories. Although we can’t say that Flew’s conversion had the cosmological zing of earlier conversions. Take St. Barbara. A perfectly ordinary girl, daughter of a rich merchant in Egypt, raised in a high tower to which nobody could gain access – you know, that Rapunzel upbringing so many girls had to endure in the days of yore. Daddy comes home one day and discovers his towerbound princess is going on and on about God the father and God the son. Yikes! She’s even put three windows in her tower to betoken the trinity. And she's defaced Dad's prize idol collection. The bills for glaziers in those days were unbelievably high, so her Dad was righteously p.o.-ed. As the Golden Legend says:

“Then he being replenished with furor, incontinent drew his sword to have slain her, but the holy virgin made her prayer and then marvellously she was taken in a stone and borne into a mountain on which two shepherds kept their sheep, the which saw her fly. And then her father, which pursued after her, went unto the shepherds and demanded after her. And that one, which would have preserved her, said that he had not seen her, but that other, which was an evil man, showed and pointed her with his finger, whom the holy Saint Barbara cursed, and anon his sheep became locusts, and he consumed into a stone.”

Of course, as any paterfamilias would, her dad, whose idolworshipping had been honored by the Alexandria Rotary club, wasn’t going to have any funny stuff from his daughter. Although the sheep becoming locusts must have made him pause a bit. Sheep into locusts, lead into gold -- could be onto something here, what? Still, a tower is a tower and a beautiful daughter who proposes to sit around flaunting her virginity was an expense he wasn’t about to shoulder. Instead, he did what so many Dads did back then, took her straight to be tortured by the town judge’s men. It was a slow torture day, not many customers, so the judge just gave her the quick torture treatment – he bade his guys “unclothe her and beat her with sinews of bulls, and frot her flesh with salt.” Well, that didn’t work. Barbara was firm in the faith, and (having evidently impressed herself with that sheep into locusts thing -- quite a switch from quiet days knitting sacrifices for the idols) (never mind the flight into the mountains via stone) refused. She probably figured on having another little flight. Such things do go to a virgin’s head.

However, this time, as the axeman raised his axe and Barbara raised her eyes piously skyward, nothing happened. And before she could say, let's talk about this fellas, down came the axe and off came her head. God, however, while not exactly being quick on the uptake during the execution, did the next best thing, and had some hitman angel sling a lightning bolt into her Dad.

This kind of thing can’t happen in Flew’s Oxford, however, as it would cause the neighbors to talk. So artists in ages to come will not be painting Oxford dons frotting Flew's skin with salt. Nowadays you have to go to a spa to get that done -- and they charge an arm and a leg!

Paul Craddick has noted the Flew story, and noted, also, that Flew was converted not by being filled with the holy spirit, but by pondering the argument from design. This, Paul thinks, is the most convincing evidence of God’s existence. LI disagrees. In an upcoming post, we are going to claim the authority of Epicurus for saying that the idea of God is an innate idea – which is also, of course, associated with Descartes -- and that 'idea', if it means a sort of overall sensation about experience (which it can be twisted into meaning) is the best evidence of God's existence.

We’ve had a few letters about posts last week. A friend of ours wrote to us about our Franz Rosenzweig post: “the most important inheritor of Rozensweig, to me, is Levinas, who makes much more implicit and explicit use of Rosensweig than does Heidegger. Don't you think? Although since Levinas makes so very much use of Heidegger, and greatly admired much of his work even until the end, the influences are nicely compounded. Anyway, in the hit parade of philosophers, EL should come in with more overall hits than R, despite his "star" which does make him one.”

Another of our far flung correspondents, T., in NYC, wrote in to comment about our meditation on the figure of the fanatic. He quotes this, from our post on the Alabama cretin who wants to banish books by Gay authors from Alabama libraries:

"This is a story of a type that Mencken liked to collect for the Smart Set: cretinous Americana. Both the right and the left, on the web, love to find stories that report some aberrant act or another and pass them around. It is a genre that has, as yet, not found its Barthes" -- and comments:

Indeed, I'm not sure that you realize how insightful that comment is. Not only has it not found its Barthes, it has not found its Deleuze & Guattari. The Barthes of what is known in Howard's translations as "Mythologies" would be fascinating and helpful. The Barthes of the "close reading" of Poe, even more so; the Barthes who contemplated the 'other-ache' , where is that one? But it is the D&G of the genre that I would love to meet, the one that could bring a very heavy dose of phenomenology to the fantasy and desiring 'machines' of the genre. Much aside from Zizek's attempts to bring Deleuze back into conformity with Hegelian types, I'd prefer to find more chat about cretinous blogging that is not always so rife with dialectical turns from those simple, singular "acts" so widely propagated. The blogosphere is riven with these analyses from anecdote, from a single keyboard to generalization. There is all too much miming of that peculiarly Chomskian rhetorical tic: "All the evidence is in the public record, so there really is no reason to restate it.....we can freely move on to the obvious conclusions....." In Noam's hands, such a tic is often enough deft; in the blogosphere, it is often enough daft.

Any comments you don't particularly want to put in our comment section, but you want to send LI, send to rgathman@netzero.net. Oh, and we are contemplating a subscription drive here. We are thinking of making some LI t shirts and giving them to those who contribute 40 bucks to the site. We haven't decided whether that is too cheesey, yet. But it is Christmas time.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

As Bush prepares to disassemble Social Security on the Chilean model (Pinochet’s ex minister of labor, Jose Pinera, bragged recently in the Times that he had talked with Bush when the guy was the governor of Texas about destroying the public pension plan), it is interesting that Chile seems to be moving the other way. The NYT has a large article, spotted with the usual propaganda, about the corruption indulged in by the Pinochet gang: the 15 million the general now possesses, due to the ‘gratitude’ of various businessmen; the 3 million doled out to Tony Jr., his son; the sweet privatization deals that made his son-in-law a millionaire/billionaire; and the cooperation, through the General’s murderous regime, of a consortium of the usual suspects – payments to the General from the grateful Thatcher government – Maggie sometimes ached for the stadium solution for her own left opposition; the money from Reagan’s administration; the money from China.

The article does, however, misrepresent the “shining record of economic achievement” of the General:

“As Chile's strongman from 1973, when he overthrew Salvador Allende, an elected civilian president, to 1990, General Pinochet presided over a purge of political opponents and the creation of a police state. But he also laid the foundations for what has become Latin America's most stable and promising economy - all, as the general's supporters have claimed, without ever stealing a dime.”

Ask Chile’s workers about that. In fact, as we’ve noted before, Pinochet’s radical Chicago style shock therapy resulted, in 1983, with Chile plunging into the a depression comparable to the 30s. In order to get out of it, Pinochet socialized the private debts amassed by the corporations freed by his first round of privatizations. In essence, he socialized Chile’s economy in a manner undreamt of by Allende. On this site, Jörg Sancho Pernas summarizes the ‘reforms’ of the General:

"The cause of the economic growth was the influx of private foreign loans until the dept crisis of the early 1980s. The disadvantage of this kind of miracle was the increase of unemployment: Dieter Nohlen mentions that during the entire dictatorship unemployment was at an average of 17.3 % and sometimes between 20 % and 30 %. He also points out that by comparing the figures of previous years, poverty has increased during the government of Pinochet (Nohlen, Dieter/ Nolte, Detlef (1995): p. 322). Combined with the economic liberalization, the Chilean government introduced a series of social reforms in order to reduce the role of the central government in social security, labor disputes, health care and education. These reforms were created in order to shrink the central government, decentralize administration, and privatize previous state functions. For example, in 1979 the government privatized the health system by establishing private health insurance companies. The transference of the market principles towards the health sector was justified with the following arguments: guarantee of free choice of doctors, more efficiency of the health sector, equity of chances (Friedmann, Reinhard (1990): p. 80/81). At this point it should be marked, that the military regime was deconstructing the welfare state by leaving the citizens at the mercy of the private market. The government focused its social assistance only to provide the basic need of the poorest citizens.

"In 1981, the pension system in Chile was reformed by the military regime. The target was the privatization of the social security. The reason was that by the early 1970s, there had been thirty-five different pension funds (although three of them served 90 percent of contributors) and more than 150 social security regimes for the various occupational groups. This expansion was leading to inequities in the social system. The newly incorporated groups obtained by law special treatments and new benefits. There also had not existed before a standard retirement age for all groups of pension funds. In order to be covered by the pension fund people had needed to have a job, because coverage continued to depend on the employment history of the main beneficiary. So the pension funds had never reached all Chileans. The new social security system was based on private investment companies, the so called AFPs (Administradores de Fondos de Pensiones) which should secure the old age pensions. The AFPs nowadays compete with each other. Since 1983 salaried employees can only contract the obligatory private insurance. But the insurance company can be selected independently by oneself. Changing from the public to private insurance the contributions accumulated have been transferred accordingly. There was a deadline for the insurance change of 5 years. The contributions of the insurance contractors are invested with the new pension system at the private capital market. The contractor gains a share of the profit. The age of retirement amounts to 60 years for women and to 65 to men. The pension is calculated of the accumulated contributions and the profits of the pension fonds. The state still gives a guarantee for a minimum pension by contributing additional payments to the insurance. (Nohlen, Dieter/ Nolte, Detlef (1995): p. 325/326).”

The NYT article continues to play the Pinochet shell game by describing Pinochet’s ‘privatization’ program as if he had inherited a heavily nationalized economy. He hadn’t. Allende’s nationalizations came to an abrupt end, as did Allende, when the General kindly embodied the invisible hand in 1973.

“The Chilean authorities are also focusing special attention on privatizations of former state-owned companies in sectors like steel, electricity, mining and telecommunications, with an eye to uncovering financial gains the general might have secured through those transactions.

The most lucrative privatizations were from 1985 to 1990, when it was clear that the Pinochet government's days were numbered and when even some military officials questioned the wisdom of rapidly selling companies in industries vital to Chile's national security and economic well-being.”

Right. What happened in Chile is what happens periodically in countries in the neo-liberal system that veer to the right. A period of bubble prosperity is succeeded by a period of deep ‘recession.’ During the recession, the people who did not prosper during the bubble, i.e., the majority of the population, has shifted onto its back the debts accumulated by the wealthy to hold their party. This is exactly what happened when, in 1982, the IMF, the huge partisan of privatization, suddenly turned around and demanded that the Chilean government take responsibility for the huge outstanding debts racked up by its new private sector. The government, of course, responded with its bracing rhetoric of individual responsibility. The IMF and World Bank responded by closing Chile’s credit lines. The government then responded by stuffing the individual responsibility crap, nationalizing the debt, which entailed nationalizing most of the economy, and agreeing to pay it off – in other words, the debt was spread over the people of Chile.
This is a pretty standard pattern. After Salinas oversaw the entirely dirty privatization of Mexican banks, the crooks that bought them rode them directly into bankruptcy – at which point their debts were nationalized. Same with Argentina, Russia, etc. Privatization always is a two part shuffle – one part enriches an irresponsible and often corrupt elite, the other part nationalizes that elite’s debts. After the debt situation is taken care of, the elite is then surprised and delighted by a second wave of “privatizations.” It is a beautiful machine, and the Bush gang obviously have studied it. That is the point of the privatization of social security – don’t worry, no administration will allow the private part of the public pension fund, after it bottoms out in some predictable recession, to go to zero – no, the debts there will be quietly nationalized, in the same way S&L debts were nationalized. Under capitalism, this is known as individual responsibility and free enterprise. It is called reform -- a wonderfully civic sounding word. We have wondered why bank robbers don't plead "reform" in court -- "Judge, I was just reforming the deposit structure of the bank!" On this site we are too ignorant to handle those words. We call it moral hazard and stealing.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

What would the Gipper do?

In the devastated city of Falluja, the International Red Cross visited for the first time since the American-led military offensive last month, meeting with Iraqi engineers to discuss the city's sewage and water needs, The Associated Press reported. The Red Cross officials were unable to visit a potato-chip plant where several hundred bodies of insurgents and civilians are apparently being stored.

LI has been reading Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars: The secret history of the Cia, Afghanistan and Bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to September 11, 2001. We came across this interesting passage. Afghanistan, 1979:

A charismatic Afghan army captain named Ismail Khan called for jihad againt the communist usurpers that March and led his heavily armed Heart garrison into violent revolt. His followers hunted down and hacked to death more than a dozen Russian communist political advisors, as well as their wives and children. The rebels displayed Russian corposes on pikes along shaded city streets. Soviet-trained pilots flew bomber jets out of Kabul in vengeful reply, pulverizing the town in remorseless waves of attack. By the time the raids were finished, on the eve of its first anniversary in power, the Afghan communist government had killed as many as twenty thousand of its own citizenry in Herat alone.”

If you wonder how the Soviets justified a massacre like that, go to this article in Slate that glorifies the American war crime of razing Fallujah. It would have been right at home in, say, the columns of Pravda in 1980. Apparently the editors of Slate, who love to nitpick NYT journalists’ mistakes, swallowed this with a big piece of American apple pie and ice cream:

“… Most of the beheadings featured on the Al Jazeera news network were committed in the city, carried out under klieg lights with written instructions how and when the CDs should be delivered to make the evening news. The city's warlords, Janabi and Hadid, paid obeisance to the arch terrorist Zarqawi and competed for his favor by assassinations and bombings. They bragged their "martyr battalions" would cut to pieces any American force entering the city.

:Deciding otherwise, the residents fled the city, leaving a few thousand jihadists to their fate. In a swift offensive, American soldiers and Marines swept in and hunted them down, destroying every house and mosque where Zarqawi's soldiers stood and fought. Seventeen-thousand buildings were searched, uncovering cache after cache of weapons. The numbers were staggering: Over 100,000 explosives found in just one section of the city.”

An account that simply skips the American bombing of the city, the buildup to the assault, the American effort, announced for a month, to empty the city, the American blocking of the routes out of the city, the American culling of the males in the city, the American bombing of civilian sites in the city, the American refusal to put up any kind of refugee center for the fleeing population, the American refusal to let anybody in the now razed city except propagandists of the type that Slate favors, the American targetting of hospitals, etc., etc.

Although LI thought Reagan was a rotten president, he said something rather sweet about the Soviet war crimes in Afghanistan.

“The year 1984 was an especially hard one for the Afghans. The Soviets have become frustrated with their inability to crush the spirit of the Afghan Freedom Fighters and are increasingly turning their military might against the civilian population of the country, forcing hundreds of thousands more innocent people into exile away from their homeland.

Reports of Soviet atrocities and human rights violations are increasingly gaining the attention of the world's public. Respected organizations such as the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International, and Helsinki Watch have recently released studies detailing the terror that the Soviets and the Karmal regime regularly inflict on the people of Afghanistan. Karmal's tenuous, and brutal, hold on power continues only because his rule is supported by more than 100,000 Soviet occupation troops.

All Americans are outraged by this growing Soviet brutality against the proud and freedom-loving people of Afghanistan. Moreover, the entire world community has condemned the outside occupation of Afghanistan. Six times, in fact, the UN General Assembly has passed strong resolutions -- supported by the overwhelming majority of the world's nations -- which have:

-- called for the immediate withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan;
-- reaffirmed the right of the Afghan people to determine their own form of government and choose their economic, political, and social systems;
-- reiterated that the preservation of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence, and nonaligned character of Afghanistan is essential for a peaceful solution of the problem; and
--- called for the creation of conditions that would enable the Afghan refugees to return voluntarily to their homes in safety and honor.”

Transposing a few phrases, this accurately sums up what is wrong with the American occupation of Iraq. We particularly like the strong condemnation of terror tactics used against civilians – so civilized! So, in the name of Ronald Reagan, I think we can safely condemn as an act of American brutality against the freedom-loving people of Fallujah (wow, freedom-loving even back in 1984!), call for the immediate withdrawal of foreign, i.e. American and British and their coalition of the servile, from Iraq, as well as the creation of conditions that would allow refugees in Iraq to return voluntarily in safety and honor, with reparations, to Fallujah. We think reparations can be put at roughly 100 thou per person.

Do it for the Gipper.

Friday, December 10, 2004

LI has pondered the parodoxes of the upcoming election in Iraq. In the past, the U.S. has used fake elections to try to legitimize its foreign policy adventures. South Vietnam, El Salvador, Panama – the m.o. has a dreary consistency.

This case is different insofar as the Iraq occupation is different. While the election is being held in an atmosphere that renders it illegitimate as a democratic process – the massive censorship, the arrest of opposition leaders, the way American military strategy has normalized war crimes, etc., etc. – this matters less than the fact that the elections are the first step in relieving Iraq of its biggest problem: the Americans. On Ghazi Yawer’s latest trip to this country, he made that explicit – as he foresaw it, the elected government would ask for a timetable of withdrawal. Yawer was talking about a year. We’d like to see six months. In American eyes, the elected government’s biggest task is to write a constitution. Americans love constitutions. But the impetus gained from having a power, however weak, that had actually communicated with the Iraqi people opens up the possibility of doing many things: getting American hands off Iraqi oil money; negotiating, themselves, for the end of reparations to Kuwait; the introduction of Iraqi concerns into the internal governance of the country; destroying the last remnants of Bremer’s economic legacy to Iraq (all of that privatizing nonsense). The outcome for the Americans, over the next three or four years, isn’t going to be upbeat. We doubt the U.S. has a new, reliable ally in the region. But the U.S. has too much at stake to exaccerbate the natural hostility any Iraqi government would feel towards its recent oppressors.

While LI has viewed Allawi, throughout, as a thug, his latest suggestion about the election is a surprisingly good one: in Sunni areas, the election time must be extended. In fact, in all areas.

The withdrawal of American troops does have a definite downside. As long as they are tied down in Iraq, the Bush gang doesn’t really have the resources to bedevil the rest of the world. However, with combat ready troops available, we know that America, a perennially belligerant country being lead by a man whose popularity crucially hinges on making the American masses identify with his brand of acts of irrational violence, will be on the lookout for another deployment. This is partly why we are ambiguous about the Bush project of privatizing social security. On the one hand, it is class warfare that will, as always, continue the impoverishment of the average American as money is directed to the investment class – Bush’s version of Pinochet-ism. From the standpoint of the American citizen, it should be resisted at all costs. But the standpoint of the American citizen is no longer the standpoint of the cosmopolitan liberal. The gap between America and the rest of the world has widened to the point that what benefits the American economy feeds into the American imperial psychosis. The borrowing required to rob social security will almost surely sink the U.S. into a pretty deep recession. This is especially true insofar as the Chinese, eyeing the U.S.’s military, will be less than enthusiastic in financing another round of the Bush Saturnalia for the wealthy. The lack of money to maintain an aggressive foreign policy might well blunt the Bush gangs’ natural homicidal instincts. But there’s a large caveat hereL it is important to remember that the society Bush’s America most resembles – Peronist Argentina – was susceptible to war hysteria even in the grey tumult of recession.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Over at Crooked Timber, they are having another silly bout of deciding who was the great philosopher of the twentieth century. We don’t know why this compulsion to name the greatest philosopher has suddenly sunk its memish jaws into the Zeitgeist: Leiter did a similar thing a couple of months ago, and Mark Taylor, in his op ed piece about Derrida, was moved to call Jacques one of the century’s three great philosophers (the others were Moe and Curly).

The candidate from greatest of one of the CT-ers is David Lewis. David Lewis! It is like calling the greatest philosopher of the seventeenth century Antoine Arnauld.

One philosopher never mentioned in this embarrassing sweepstakes is Franz Rosenzweig. Yet LI would venture to say that, of those philosophic tomes composed on little notecards or in little journals by soldiers in world war one, only two have stood the test of time: The Tractatus-Logico and Stern der Erloesung. (pdf file)

We’ve been reading the Star of Redemption since we found it on the web. Shamefully, we read Heidegger and Benjamin in grad school and never picked up Rosenzweig. Yet, as everybody knows who reads the introductions to Benjamin, Rosenzweig was a big deal for both Benjamin and Heidegger. Karl Löwith wrote that Heidegger’s true philosophical contemporary was Rosenzweig. Heidegger claimed never to have read him.

Claim and counter-claims. This is a tissue that LI sees no sense in exploring. One thing is certain: Stern der Erloesung does not begin like a David Lewis essay. It begins: “The knowledge of everything begins with death and the fear of death. To shed the anxiety of the earthly, to take the poison needle from death, the breath of the plague from hades, is precisely what is missing from philosophy.” (Vom tode, voen der Furcht des Todes hebt alles Erkennen des All an. Die Angst des Irdischen abzuwerfen, dem Tod seinen Giftstachel, dem Hades seinen Pesthauch zu nehmen, des vermißt sich die Philosophie.” Rosenzweig ends this passage thusly:Man shouldn’t try to rid himself of the fear of the earthly; he should remain in the fear of death.

(Der Mensch soll die Angst des Irdischen nicht von sich werfen; er soll in der Furcht des Todes – bleiben).

It is pretty easy to imagine how the fear of death, and its image as the fear of an earthly creature, one on earth and made of earth, would occur to a soldier in the Balkans in 1916. There is a gap in our historical consciousness of what World War I meant – we transpose, in America, the realization among intellectuals that mass, mechanized killing is the unexpected fruit of Western culture, to a post Holocaust period. In U.S intellectual history, the erasure of the first World War operates as a necessary moralizing prelude to the anti-communism of the Cold War. Lenin is then reduced, by way of Churchill’s phrase, to a bacillus released in Russia – a pathogen apart from history. This is flattering to Churchill, whose history in World War I consisted of a rumsfeldian fuckup in Gallipoli. This is also flattering to the governing classes, directly responsible for the deaths of millions in that war.

Rosenzweig wrote the Star of Redemption after having been a part of the Neo-Kantian movement – after having written a well received book on Hegel and the State. He could witness how, within a liberal, rational culture that presented itself as the creator of organizations that operate with rules to create an optimum of tolerance, wealth, and liberty, the same organizations could apply the same rationality to create vast killing machines, that whole ensemble of hundreds of thousands of men, trenches, machine guns, barbed wire, tanks, and planes set in motion to kill each other again and again, for pointless gains, with an intensity and duration never before experienced on earth.

“The fear of the earthly must be taken from him only with the earthly itself. But so long as he lives on earth, he must also remain in the anxiety of the earthly. And philosophy betrays him in this “must”, insofar as it weaves the blue haze of the thought of everything (allgedankens) around the earthly. Because of couse: an All doesn’t die, and nothing dies in the All. Only individuals can die, and everything mortal is individual. This, that philosophy must make the individual vanish out of the world, this de-creation of the Something is the reason it must be idealistic. Because Idealism, with its denial of those things which divide the individual from the All, is the instrument with which philosophy works over its recalcitrant material until it no longer counters its general (Ein-und Allbegriff) concept with any resistance. Once this mist has been spun around everything, death is clearly swallowed up: if not in eternal victory, yet, even so, in the general night of nothingness.”

Eventually, we want to comment about the essay of Tom Nairn over at Open Democracy. Nairn is trying to understand the apparent seizure of irrationality in the U.S. philosophically – reclaiming the legitimacy of the nation (as opposed to the nation-state, that thing continually bartering itself to the IMF); tracing the working through of patterns that arise naturally from the hegemony of the American capitalist system, etc., etc. Nairn assumes – and we agree – that the major task in the world today is to curb American power. Americans are reckless, sporadically immoral, ignorant, and create much too little for the amount they suck out of the world system. There are, however, self correcting mechanisms at work that Nairn doesn’t mention. We’ll return to this later. We should say, Nairn’s article is written in an alarm clock style (which is something of an LI specialty): it is as if every sentence had to keep the reader awake. However, the style tends to get in the way of the sense. Metaphors keep being sent out to do battle in sentences that witness their melancholic last stands, over and over again (see – sentences like that). However, he racks up a good ratio of commonsense to drivel.

For later.