“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

Sunday, December 31, 2006

tomorrow - protest the 3,000th american soldier murdered by this administration

STANDING CALL when 3,000th US Troops Have Died

The Austin Center for Peace and Justice is calling for a vigil on the day following the death of the 3,000 U.S. soldier in Iraq,* on the Lamar Pedestrian Bridge at 6:30pm. Bring candles and paper plates or cups to catch wax (bring extra to share!).

LI is not a demo groupie, but this time, we are going to get some candles and be there. ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

asini mysteria

Nuccio Ordino, in Giordano Bruno and the Philosophy of the Ass, riffs as follows about asses:

“Indeed, Silenus, Marsyas and Midas

– three asinine spirits whose adventures are associated with water-purification rites – join the ass in the cycle of Dionysian myths. The ass of Hindu myth, apart from being a great seducer, is the guardian of the waters and of riches. The ass’s relation to fecundity is legitimated also by fables and myths that associate it with feminine deities; it is sacred to Vesta, mother and nurse; to the Phrygian goddess Cybele; and to the powerful Isis. In this regard, apart from asses having sexual relations with women, there is no shortage of references to cosmetic and pharmacological uses for certain of the ass’s organs as aids to many of the functions involved in childbirth and breastfeeding.

The reverse of the coin also reveals man examples in which the ass appears linked to death and the demonic. In his tale of Psyche’s descent into Hades, Apuleius only mentions the presence of an ass and its driver. Aelianus recounts tht the ass is the only animal able to resist the dissolving action of the waters of the Styx. Indeed, tradition has it that the devil is powerless against those who take an ass with them to Hell.”


In a comment on my Tom Paine posts below, faithful reader Amie has pointed to the relative philosophical neglect of birth, as opposed to the industry around death. Now, it is our opinion that LI is – however deficient in actual, concrete offspring – a big birth man. We are all for birth. And, being all for birth, we have been thinking that for this new year – the year that will spring, full grown, out of the travail of the wristwatch tonight – we wanted to dedicate the year, our year, to the ass: that fecundator, and the defier of the devil. In fact, 2006 has been building, sweet and sour post after post, to a grander vision of, well, something or other. And this is the year we propose to contemplate it – the divine earthly comedy. The anima mundi. The soul of the world. Yes, in this decade of war and planetary wear – it seems like a good time to go back to a notion that excited Giordano Bruno, and that – shrunk to Sedona, Arizona measures and become a New Age plaything – still manages, under the guise of Gaia, to crawl into the mumbles of the spiritual consumer set.

Here’s a quote from Bruno’s Ash Wednesday Supper about the soul of the world. This is more prescient than Bruno ever knew. The “Nolan”, here, is Bruno – Nundinio is John Underhill, an Oxford professor – and the dinner party is set at the house of Fulke Grenville, where it might really have happened. Finally, Pru is Prudenzio, a pedant, and Theo is Theophil, a philosopher :

“Everything is caused by the sufficient interior principle by which it is naturally stirred, and not by an external principle, as we observe occurring to those things which are moved contrary to or outside their own nature. Thus the earth and the other stars move according to the peculiar local differences of their intrinsic principle, which is their own sould. “Do you think,” asked Nundinio, “that this soul is sensitive?” “Not only sensitive,” answered the Nolan, “but also intellective, and not only intellective as our souls, but even more so.” At this point Nundinio kept quiet and did not laugh.

Pru: It seems to me that the earth, being animated, must be displeased when we dig caves and grottoes in its back, just as we feel pain and displeasure when our teeth are extracted or our flesh is pierced.

Teo: Nundinio did not have enough Prudence to think this argument worthy of being advanced, although it had occurred to him. In fact, he was not so ignorant a philosopher that he couldn’t understand that, even if the earth has sensibility, it is not a sensibility similar to ours; if it has limbs, they are not similar to ours; if it has flesh, blood, bones nad veins, they are not like ours; it it has a heart, it is not similar to ours; and so on for all the other parts which are equivalent to the parts of all others which we call animals and usually consider to the be the only animals.”

Who knew that digging enough of those caves into the earth could hurt the gigantic son of a bitch? Only the jackasses.

I’ll burn incense to the flayed spirits of Silenus, Marsyas and Midas tonight. Happy New Years!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

the meaningless death of Saddam Hussein

“Man, seized suddenly with a divine fury, alien both to hatred and to anger, advances on the field of battle without knowing what he wants nor even what he is doing. What is this terrible enigma? Nothing is more contrary to his nature, and nothing repulses him less: he performs with enthusiasm that which horrifies him. Have you ever remarked that, in the heat of battle, man never disobeys? He might well massacre Nerva or Henri IV, but the most abominable tyrant, the most insolent butcher of human flesh, will never hear, there: we no longer wish to serve you. A revolt on the field of battle, an accord for mutually embracing each other and denying the will of a tyrant, this is a phenomenon that does not present itself to my memory. Nothing resists, nothing can resist the force that pulls man into combat; innocent murderer, passive instrument of a fearful hand, he plunges with bowed head into the abyss he has dug all by himself; he receives death without even thinking that it is he who has made death.
--
Thus we see ceaselessly accomplished, from the gnat to the human, the great law of the violent destruction of living beings. The entire earth, continually imbibed with blood, is nothing but an immense altar where all that lives must be immolated without end, without measure, without let-up, right up to the consummation of all things, right up to the extinction of evil, right up to the death of death.”. – Joseph De Maistre, les Soirées de Saint-Pétersbourg

And so the sideshow is hung, instead of being strung up a la Mussolini when he was captured. Undoubtedly, immediate execution would have been both more appropriate and would have saved us the propaganda joke that has taken place since 2004. The New York Times, demonstrating de Maistre’s opinion of the fundamentally murderous nature of man, publishes a lot of the usual drivel, emitted from an unearned but assumed elevated moral plateau. John Burns’ piece uses the word evil a lot – except about state sanctioned murder, which, as De Maistre says, is irresistible, a force that pulls us all, head bowed, into the abyss we have dug ourselves. The Iraq war is this moment’s abyss. The kangaroo court that sentenced Saddam was careful not to tread on American toes. Thus, the Iraqis will never get a nice courtroom account of how, exactly, that war with Iran was financed. The Warmonger crowd in the States is forever harping on who supplied the weapons – the U.S. supplying very few of them, although of course only the U.S. would use its Navy to protect Iraqi shipping – as though nations were gifting the Meatman with weapons systems. As we know from the recent dustup about BAE, in which Tony Blair kowtowed from the very bottom of his Christian convictions to the anti-semitic tyranny of Saudi Arabia in order to sell them 30 billion dollars worth of WMD, all the trails of blood, here, are prefigured by trails of $$$. One trail, even now, goes trickling out from the Iraq government every month as it still, incredibly, pays Kuwait for the loans Kuwait made, with definite consultation with the U.S., in the 80s to keep Iraq battling Iran. All, of course, justified by the U.S. sense of entitlement. That sense which is leading the U.S. to the farther reaches of disaster in the Middle East – 2007 being the Year of the Moron, in which our Surgers will lament our lack of will in op ed pieces in the Washington Post, while kids they could give a fuck about get their nuts blown off in Iraq, and Iraqis that Americans would just as soon eat, whole – this being a cannibal nation – get blown in thousand to bits in the streets of cities we have ‘reconstructed’. Ah yes, let us remember that Kuwait had the good sense to retain, as its lobbyists for bleeding Iraq, Madeleine Albright and James Baker – who had their little spoons out for an extra serving of blood pudding.

Nobody thinks, at this point, that another execution or killing in Iraq is going to stop the mass killings. Well, perhaps President Bush, a man who has been wrong about almost everything for the last six years. Or is it everything? LI can’t remember when he was right about anything, but surely he doesn’t have enough talent to have that much anti-talent. His mediocrity does not disguise any hidden genius – he is what he is, a half educated scion of a rich house, elevated by the scruff of his neck from one post to another, each more inappropriate, who was destined to restore a Texas ranch, smoke pot, and cut cypress while boring his wife with his homemade Christian philosophy, but has been inflicted on this nation for our sins. There is a sense of futility, in the States, that haloes any of the "good news" from Iraq. Good. The demoralization of the U.S. war effort proceeds apace. This blog, at least, is trying to stab that effort in the back, and promote the Vietnam-Iraq syndrome to such an extent that the U.S. start seriously demilitarizing.

We will surely hear Saddam’s name a lot in the next couple weeks. And it will all be utterly meaningless jabber.

We must bring down the system of perpetual war.

Friday, December 29, 2006

part 2: paine and political ethics

As we pointed out in our last post, there is a certain psychopathic subtext in Paine’s The Rights of Man – or, rather, there is a psychopathic subtext that Paine digs out of Burke’s attack on the French Revolution. The psychopathology takes the shape of a mind machine – a machine for controlling the minds and actions of others. It isn’t a fully articulated mind machine, but – we think – it prefigures the much more elaborate Air Loom visualized by James Tilley Matthews, psychology’s first fully fledged paranoid schizophrenic.

However, there is much more to Paine’s reproof of Burke than this. LI believes that one can find, in Paine’s argument, the lineaments of a political ethics that is pertinent to the question of how to change the treadmill of production, which is leading us to the seediest kind of apocalypse – an apocalypse of cocooned silkworms. An apocalypse in Pampers. For the threat to the planet doesn’t come as the result of a lifestyle which, upon ceasing or radical modification, would seriously harm the human race – it comes, instead, as a result of the affluence effect. It comes about as a result of the social logic of invulnerability, which entails building ever more McMansions ever further from workplaces requiring ever more heavy machines to transport ever more heavy human beings. It comes from an almost absent minded scouring of the ocean, devastating fish populations. It comes from a stubborn refusal to modify engines that were designed, basically, one hundred years ago for a world awash in potential carbon based fuels. It comes from having nursed a war culture to the point where life without the war culture is unimaginable.

So, here is what Paine wrote that has recently excited me:

“There never did, there never will, and there never can, exist a Parliament, or any description of men, or any generation of men, in any country, possessed of the right or the power of binding and controuling posterity to the "end of time," or of commanding for ever how the world shall be governed, or who shall govern it; and therefore all such clauses, acts or declarations by which the makers of them attempt to do what they have neither the right nor the power to do, nor the power to execute, are in themselves null and void. Every age and generation must be as free to act for itself in all cases as the age and generations which preceded it. The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies. Man has no property in man; neither has any generation a property in the generations which are to follow.”

When Paine wrote that he was thinking, according to all the evidence, that the living generation should cast off the religious, economic and political trammels put upon it by the generations of the dead. However, there is another dimension to Paine’s thought – and here, it helps to have read too much Heidegger. LI has read too much Heidegger, so we are just the man for the job. Heidegger, of course, in Being and Time writes extensively about the orientation towards Death in everydayness – and the orientation towards death that does not evade Death. The latter is the leading edge that turns us towards authenticity. Now, LI used to take the Mekon song (never want to work/always want to play/pleasure, pleasure every day) as a better guide to ethics than Heidegger’s turn to authenticity, since we felt that a certain evident fascism, a certain unanalyzed seriousness, is encoded in this turn. However, reading Heidegger in the context of Paine’s point makes for an interesting variation here. This is Heidegger:

“The explication of everyday being-toward-death stayed with the idle talk of the they [Man]; one also dies sometime, but for the time being not yet. Up to now we solely interpreted the “one dies” as such. In the “also some, but for the time being not yet,” everydayness acknowledges something like a certainty of death. Nobody doubts that one dies. But this “not doubting” need not already imply that kind of being-certain that corresponds to the way death – in the sense of the eminent possibility characterized above – enters into Da-sein. Everydayness gets stuck in this ambiguous acknowledgment of the “certainty” of death – in order to weaken the certainty by covering dying over still more and alleviating its own thrownness into death.” [Stambaugh translation]

The double gesture – the acknowledgment of the certainty of death and the weakening of that certainty – was materialized, in the post-World War II system, in the dialectic of vulnerability – the building of the weapons of mass, planetary death – the amplification of vulnerability to an historically new level - as a way of avoiding vulnerability. That double gesture has now grown old – it has become an ingrown habit, and is in the food we eat and the highways we travel down. It worked, too. Yet the system that was built up, as we know now, makes unsustainable demands on the future. And this is where Paine’s insight comes in – for the living generation, now, is presuming on governing from the grave in a whole new way – the presumption being materialized in the real exploitation and exhaustion of those elements that make this a living planet – air, earth and water.

Hmm. This post is sketchy. The idea I have in mind needs a lot of refinement and clarification. But sketchy as it is, I want to get it down now. I will be returning to this later.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Revolting against the coffin double

In a post last week, LI mentioned Mike Jay’s The Air Loom Gang, the book about the case of James Tilley Matthews, the Blakean lunatick. Matthews went mad, it seems, in the Paris of the Terror, where he was confined to his apartment and suspected of being an English spy. What he was really doing in Paris, and whether he was, indeed, a secret envoy from the British government, is one of those questions that were solved in one of those Sherlock Holmes cases that Watson was always going to publish, but never got around to.

Among Matthews’ lunatick ideas was that of an airloom machine, by which a 'magnetic gang', working in the bowels of London, was able to exert control over the thoughts of the powerful. Fortunately, his doctor, John Haslam, published a full account of it in Illustrations of Madness, so that we know how intricate and – well, beautiful and frightening this first of the mind control machines was. Mind control machines – ‘Beeinflussungsapparates’, as Victor Tausk called them – appear over and over again in the delusions of the paranoid schizophrenic.

Tausk found this out in WWI, when he worked in clinics in Slovakia. In his most famous paper, “On the origin of the influencing machine in Schizophrenia”, in 1919, he discusses the pattern and its meaning. He introduces a very famous case to the literature in this passage:

“In machine dreams, the sleeper awakens, more often than not, with his hand on his genitalia, after having dreamed of manipulating the machine. It may, therefore, be assumed that the influencing apparatus is a representation of the patient’s genitalia projected to the outer world, analogous in origin to dreams….

… The patient is Miss Natalija A., thirty-one years old, formerly a student of philosophy. She has been completely deaf for a number of years, due to an ulcer of the ear, and can make herself understood only by means of writing. She declares that for six and a half years she has been under the influence of a machine made in Berlin, though this machine’s use is prohibited by the police. It has the form of a human body, indeed, the patient’s own form, though not in all details… The trunk (torso) has the shape of a lid, resembling the lid of a coffin, and is lined with silk or velvet.”

LI has been thinking of the coffin double and of Matthews in the unexpected context of Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man. The Rights of Man begins with a full court assault on Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France. The first issue that Paine takes up is Burke’s insistence that, in England, the right to revolution had been signed away in 1688:

“…That men should take up arms and spend their lives and fortunes, not to maintain their rights, but to maintain they have not rights, is an entirely new species of discovery, and suited to the paradoxical genius of Mr. Burke.

The method which Mr. Burke takes to prove that the people of England have no such rights, and that such rights do not now exist in the nation, either in whole or in part, or anywhere at all, is of the same marvellous and monstrous kind with what he has already said; for his arguments are that the persons, or the generation of persons, in whom they did exist, are dead, and with them the right is dead also. To prove this, he quotes a declaration made by Parliament about a hundred years ago, to William and Mary, in these words: "The Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, do, in the name of the people aforesaid" (meaning the people of England then living) "most humbly and faithfully submit themselves, their heirs and posterities, for EVER." He quotes a clause of another Act of Parliament made in the same reign, the terms of which he says, "bind us" (meaning the people of their day), "our heirs and our posterity, to them, their heirs and posterity, to the end of time."

Mr. Burke conceives his point sufficiently established by producing those clauses, which he enforces by saying that they exclude the right of the nation for ever. And not yet content with making such declarations, repeated over and over again, he farther says, "that if the people of England possessed such a right before the Revolution" (which he acknowledges to have been the case, not only in England, but throughout Europe, at an early period), "yet that the English Nation did, at the time of the Revolution, most solemnly renounce and abdicate it, for themselves, and for all their posterity, for ever."”

If we had not been thinking of influencing machines, we would, perhaps, not have seen the shape of one here. But there is one, indeed. In a peculiar way, like Natalia A.’s coffin double, this is a coffin double of England, constructed by the dead to control the living. We want to develop Paine’s thought here a bit, in our next post. To us, this notion of the claims of the living and the need to ward off the dead casts an ethical shadow insofar as, from the aspect of the imagination, the living, now, are potentially the dead of the next generation. Thus, out of Paine’s idea, we can see an ethics that addresses the question of our limits, as the living – notably, our limits on using up the resources of this planet, or damaging it in some way. That this ethical issue should, on the shadow side, be a struggle against paranoid schizophrenia is … well, something we will have to get back to.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

the Grapes of Wrath and some neo-con bitchery

Dark humor, laced with arsenic and old shit, presides over the politics of our time. Obviously. And so it is that the recent Holocaust denier festival, held by Iran’s president, Ahmadinejad , existed very briefly as a moral low point shaming Iran, and was then quickly pimped out by the propagandists of the long war to shame the rest of us. It is an illustrative story, demonstrating that morality melts in the self aggrandizing rhetoric of the belligeranti as quickly as icecubes in hell.

The proper response to the idiot president’s gathering of bedbug scholars and cross eyed KKK men was given by the Iranian population, who voted – within the oppressive limits set by the state – against the accident who governs them. However, it is important to remember this about Ahmadinejad – his idiocy consists, in part, of making for official export what many of America’s Middle Eastern allies prefer to purvey for purely home consumption.

However, that is an unpleasant thing for our current crop of liberationists. Krauthammer recently spelled out the implicit underpinnings of the politics of anti-Semitism by distinguishing the good anti-semites from the bad ones. The good ones are like Nixon – or the current house of Saud. Nixon might have raved against the Jews, and the House of Saud officially condones systematic anti-semitism in the Peninsula – from solemn newspaper series about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to textbooks that helpfully define Jews as Apes. This might seem, oh, distasteful, but it isn’t so distasteful that our Churchill counterpart in the U.K., brave, brave Tony Blair, can’t occasionally kowtow to the Saudis and pull the plug on bribery investigations and the like, while strewing the Middle East with as much WMD as Britain can sell. And Nixon, of course, saved Israel in 1973.

To find out where a selective moral mindset can lead you, LI suggests reading some of the hothouse maunderings of the late, great Ron Rosenbaum. Like Christopher Hitchens, Rosenbaum has become a convert to neo-conservatism in his declining years, and he now has a forum at a Pajamas Media site that combines the two salient styles of neo-conism: the apocalyptic and the dyspeptic. It is all St. John of Patmos, with a severe ulcer. The second holocaust is around the corner, according to Rosenbaum. Is he talking about the 600,000 Iraqis that have dies so far in the past three years of this unjust and cursed war? No, he’s talking about the Iranian missile system that dances like a poisoned sugarplum in the neocon collective head. Time is running out – the promise of the Bush administration was to promote at least one more war. The real man’s war, the march to Teheran. And, sadly, the clock is ticking and the planes aren’t flying. Rosenbaum is already ahead of the troops, however, proposing that Ahmadinejad be tried for genocide. It is a pre-genocide thing he’s done, a virtual genocide. This is among Rosenbaum’s helpful suggestions about the Middle East. He also seems to suggest that, to prevent a Holocaust, the Palestinians must disappear. Or so it seems – he is against a Tony Judt type state, merging Palestinians and Israelis, and he is against a double state. Perhaps to avoid the Holocaust we have to reinstitute slavery – certainly the disenfranchisement of the Palestinian population that would please Rosenbaum is all about denying those radical Palestinians any political voice at all. To save the village of our Western moral values, we had to burn it down, seems to be the motto.

But when LI wants to drink a refreshing draught of moonlit struck water – to frolic among the truly politically confused – we go to Harry’s Place. The site has continued the most fascinating experiment, dressing up a Thatcherite politics in the ragged language of the most bogus New Left doctrines. At Harry’s Place, Iraq was never occupied, it was liberated. By comrades! comrades one and all.

For them, too, of course, the little matter of the Saudi corruption of British politics, not to speak of the much more violent nature of anti-semitism (and much more totalitarian nature of the political culture) is absolutely on the margins, as they have riveted Iran with their comradely critiques. You get the feeling that these guys have been a bit beat up over the past three years – they aren’t as gung ho on nuking Iran as Rosenbaum (or maybe just a small, lovepat bombing – Rosenbaum is rather vague about how he wants Iran rubbled). But they do love to take the moral high ground, which consists of tying the anti-war movement to the pro-Ahmadinejad, pro Saddam Hussein cadre among us – all twenty of them. This is what happens when morality is an excuse for war, and the war/non-war binary are the only parameters allowed in talking about international relations. Having staked out the big issue – Holocaust denial – and keeping an eagle eye on all the millions of radical pseudolefty Islamofascistophiles who are just itching to do that, they don’t have time to plaster the other eagle eye on, say, our comrades in Basra, who have expressed their own ideas about the Jews by even changing the weekend – they did want to make sure that the Jewish Sabbath was ritually made into a work day, as a sort of symbolic treading over the Jews.

Such are the fruits of the new anti anti-the-wrong-Semites. Let's hope they don't form one of those terrible vintages. Certainly seems like the Grapes of Wrath to me.

Monday, December 25, 2006

pleased with my own self

Casting our eye over the last year, LI feels … good. This has been, of course, a terrible year in the set of terrible years that have made up this decade of complete and utter failure. Our failure to achieve the economic viability of even the lowliest bottomfeeder, which we used to justify, in a half assed way, as the price of art, is no longer justifiable by any criteria. We will long remember and long regret the various outrageous stupidities that have threaded themselves in our moment-to-moment, especially as it looks like we are headed towards streetcorner destitution as surely as the stunned ox slipping down the greased chute is headed for the butcher’s blade. But I would like to think that every life has its little Camelot moment, yes? And so I look back at LI’s past year and a half and like God looking at the green and blue globe he dreamed up on one of eternity’s slower nights, I can say: it is good.

I’ve been five and a half years at the blogging biz, and looking over my back pages, I obviously took some time to figure out what I was doing. For a writer of more traditional narratives, as well as one of more traditional discursive texts, blogging is difficult. It is a text type in the literature of spontaneity that gives us Jules Renand’s journals and Horace Walpole’s letters – not to speak of Malcolm Lowry’s – , which is a literature I have a fondness for. In any work that aspires to literature, one is looking for the real right thing, the moment in which urgency and the mediation of artifice form a more perfect union. And every romantic soul, from Shelley to the Beats, has longed for a way of casting off the mediation, of making good on the adage, first thought, best thought. Unfortunately for the romantics, mediation is indispensable. The path to the urgent moment is necessary, even if, from the subjective viewpoint, it is secondary and always irritating.

But so speaks the classicist mickey within. Of course, LI is living in a society in which boredom is considered the worst quality – to say that a book is boring is to say it has committed a capital offense. Myself, I think the liquidation of boredom in the aesthetic realm is intimately connected to the Gated Community ethos in the social realm, in which the unbought graces of life now come out of a high end catalogue, and are called “pre-owned”. If you don’t know how to be boring – its time, its place, its subtle effects on the unconscious, what it is for, what it tells you about time and solitude – you’ll make a fucking twist of everything. It will just be Man and his faithful tv-set tracking across the void. LI is not for man and his tv set tracking across the void. We are against that shit.

I’m not excursing here – boredom is of course just the thing about spontaneous literature. To have a boring bit of exposition in a novel is tolerable, given other qualities of the novel, and its ultimate interestingness. To have a boring bit of exposition in a letter, however, is much less tolerable. Still, the premise of a letter or a journal is intimacy, which forgives many things. The great letter writers – say, Byron – visibly have a lot of fun writing their three sheets. I’ve been reading the letters of Henry Adams, lately, and it is obvious that the young Adams was modeling himself on letter writers of the past – more than anybody else, Walpole. Obviously, there are parallels between Horace and Henry – both coming from great political families, both being acute observers, and both feeling, acutely, their lack of power as a sign of some failure of character. Adams, in any case, pushes the entertainment too much to the fore. When that happens – when a certain hard to define threshold is crossed – the letter ceases to be intimate, and thus violates its own contract.

Blogging begins by pissing on that contract. I’ve noticed that those who blog for friends start out strong, but quickly peter out. That’s because, well, here it is and don’t say I said it: Hegel is right about some things. The Spirit does obey a pattern – or at least, produces one – and it goes badly with people who try to cross da Spirit. Blogging derives from intimate literature, but is as cold as a motherfucker, in the end. And here’s the paradox: just because LI is so out of sorts with the Spirit of the Age, a pterodactyl among canaries, blogging has been good to us. The reason for that is that complaining – especially complaining from one’s whole existence, complaining that is rooted in a total failure to fit in, in a total complaint levied at the basic social system – is one of those transitional speech forms. It provides a passage from intimacy to anonymity. I have poured more anger and moaning into the ears of debt collectors on the other end of the phone – or, say, the bureaucrats who periodically threaten to turn off my power – than I would dare to do even with a lover. Of course, this is partly cause I’m half mad, but I’m not the half mad guy who talks to himself on the bus. Yet.

But complaining itself is only transitional. And it moves to two extremes – either monomania, or extreme dispersion. Complaining about one thing over and over, or complaining about everything.

Which gets me to why LI is pleased with the past year. It is no secret that, of course, I am a monomaniac. I have the same hardon against the Bush administration that Jeremiah had against the worshippers of Baal. But Jeremiah – or lets say one of the Isaiahs, who are my fave prophets – the Isaiahs were clever prophets. They saw the wickedness of one kingdom or king in terms of a whole vision of what the world is like. They saw early and plainly that the world is balanced between paradise or hell, and one gesture can send it either way. That gesture is the prophetic fiction – the only time anybody listens to the prophet in the Bible, in Jonah, the prophet is naturally pissed off. It is much more fun to predict fire and brimstone than to have people listen to you, change their ways, and avert the fire and brimstone. Dire is sexy – everybody mocks a reformer. But backing up to the point: in the last year and a half I think I’ve successfully found the bigger poetic themes, the motifs I want – madness, the supremacy of war, magic, the synthesis of Michelet’s witchcraft and Marxism – to organize my random bitchery.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

a star! a star!


When Simon Fitzmary, the Mayor of London, was fighting in the holy land during the Crusades, he beheld, one lost night, the star of Bethlehem – the very star! Returning to England, in 1236 he founded an asylum – the Church of St. Mary of Bethlehem. It was unique, in that it gave unique shelter to the mad, the first time a public institution in Europe had so specialized. In time, the name was whittled down to Bethlem, and by Shakespeare’s time it had become Bedlam.

And so it was that the rider on the highway is overthrown by the raven, the beast slouches east in the ditch, and poor Jesus o’ Bedlam was born…

Merrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyyyyyyy Christmasssssssssssss

nostrodamus/LI

A bad policy is one that is so structured that it cannot even exploit advantageous opportunities. By that definition, America’s policy in the Middle East is a magnitude more than bad. This week showcased the cul de sac into which Americans have been lead by the Bush White House.

Given a more rational order of things, this should have been a good week for American foreign policy. Iranian elections struck a heavy blow at the rightwing populism of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In the Iranian setting, he is proving to be even worse than he seemed at first. His attempt to straddle the contradictions of social and cultural repression and economic expansion – not that these are always in contradiction with each other, but, in Iran’s present case, they certainly are – has failed; his primitive notion of economics to begin with has fatally limited him; and his appeal to a core base has alienated the rest of the country. So Ahmadinejad, like Bush, is becoming a leader/minority.

However, this good news for the Americans can’t get past the American media filter. Since it has been decided that Iran is a dictatorship, run by mad mullahs (as distinguished from the sweet, kindly mullahs that the U.S. has been appealing to, in the Islamic Republic of Iraq, to overthrow the democratically elected leadership), the press can’t even recognize the election. To do so would, after all, put in question the democratic swindle – which was underlined by a mad Blair appealing to dictatorial Gulf emirates to march, oh so democratically, against Iran, even as he was bowing to the Saudi princes and suppressing investigation into the astonishing briberies that have accompanied the British attempt to litter the Middle East with the weapons of mass destruction. This is a familiar pattern – having long ago decided on an absolutist program of hegemony in the Middle East, the U.S. (and, as always, Blair should be viewed as an American subaltern, his rank somewhat below an under undersecretary in the Department of Agriculture) has frozen itself into a posture in which it is impossible to accept anything but total victory – the emplacement, everywhere, of U.S. dominated allies in the Middle East - or defeat. The odds are heavily on defeat.

A sane U.S. foreign policy would recognize a few things. One of them is that the U.S. does not have the moral upper hand on the nuclear issue in the Middle East. Israel practically announced what everybody knows this week – it has a reserve of atomic weapons. How did it get those weapons? Nuclear proliferation happened, here, illegally. The criminal culprit was – the U.S.A. In fact, the powers that managed to get nuclear materials to Israel in the sixties were breaking U.S. domestic law as well. There is a plaque to James Jesus Angleton in Israel, as well there should be. That crazy as a bedbug CIA man handled the Israeli “account’ at the agency, and decided unilaterally to supply the country with atomic weapons. One of the loopier decisions of the D.C. right. Iran may not go for building nuclear weapons – for all the Sturm and Drang, there’s no evidence that they are. If they want to, of course, they have access to Pakistan – with whom they had a very cordial meeting, this week, in the course of which Pakistan announced its aid to Iran’s energy program. This is the same Pakistan that U.S. administrations have tied themselves to now since the seventies, and received, in return – a base to organize jihadism as an international force, a secret service that set up the Taliban and aided Al Qaeda, and a government that has set aside a reservation for Al Qaeda and the Taliban for the last three or four months, reproducing the conditions in Afghanistan in 2000, as Al Qaeda prepared for its big adventure.

But of course, this happens invisibly right before our eyes. The agent of invisibility is language – Pakistan becomes democratic because the U.S. papers call it democratic, Iran becomes a tyranny because the U.S. papers say it is a tyranny, and so on. Currently, the Bush administration’s notion that the Badr brigade represents ‘moderates’ is going down like chocolate milk in the media. By moderate, we are not exactly sure what is meant: do they mean that when Badr brigade members take out the drill, plug it in, and insert the whirling drill bit in the eye socket of some kidnapped Iraqi, that the militia man only pressed down very gently as the liquid eye matter is scattered over the victim’s cheeks and chin? Or is it that the Badr brigade lets the man freely scream as the drill bit plunges into the brain, instead of using tape over his mouth as those bad, bad Sadr people do? LI, moral relativists that we are, doesn’t see the vital, freedom loving part of the Badr program. But of course, we are so morally confused that we think the Vice President was inciting genocide for floating a memo suggesting that the U.S. ‘eliminate’ the Sunnis in Iraq, thus competing with Ahmadinejad for the ‘morally depraved’ part of the competition in the Mr. Rebel in Chief contest. Of course, it may be that this is soft genocide, a moderate position in which certain Sunni children will be allowed to live, as long of course as they agree to the flat tax, but LI is such a blame America firster that we find this unacceptable. Imagine!

This week is no doubt a foretaste of things to come. 2007 should be an even more disastrous year for the U.S. in the Middle East. As we’ve consistently said over the past two years, the chance of the U.S. attacking Iran is low. The Bush administration is surprising – it has explored whole new dimensions of fucking up – and it could surprise us about this issue. After all, the Nixon administration decided, in spite of the evident unpopularity of the Vietnam war, and knowing that they had lost it, to encroach into Cambodia and Laos. But Cambodia and Laos didn’t produce oil, or buy the latest air defense missiles from Russia. Besides which, there is the financial question. In the next couple years, there are about 400 billion dollars in privatization projects on the table in the Middle East, according to the WSJ. And nobody wants these babies fucked up. The Carlyle group is already very heavily into trying to become financier and buyer. What would fuck up the privatizations is an inflamed populace, which might not, to begin with, like the idea of foreign countries buying their water, power, telephone, and other firms. Baby Bush might not want to listen to Daddy, but other people in his administration are looking forward to whoring themselves out in the private sphere for big bucks after their ripoff service with the government is done. These people are going to restrain Baby Bush’s tantrums, we think.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

IT's pig metaphysics

LI’s readers are, presumably, the same people who read Infinite thought. For those who haven’t read IT’s prolegomena to all future pig metaphysics, go here.

“What we have to understand, as a matter of some urgency, is that the transcendental pig is our friend, just as the empirical pig is our lunch.”

the passion for ascendancy

“The good Samaritan he’s dressing
He’s getting ready for the show…”

Mark Danner begins his NRYB essay (see last post) with an exemplary historiette concerning a young State Department employee in Falluja who reminds him of a:

“… young Kennan's reincarnation in the person of a junior State Department official: a bright, aggressive young man who spent his twenty-hour days rumbling down the ruined streets in body armor and helmet with his reluctant Marine escorts, meeting with local Iraqi officials, and writing tart cables back to Baghdad or Washington telling his bosses the truth of what was happening on the ground, however reluctant they might be to hear it. This young diplomat was resourceful and brilliant and indefatigable, and as I watched him joking and arguing with the local sheikhs and politicos and technocrats —who were meeting, as they were forced to do, in the American bunker —I thought of the indomitable young Kennan of the interwar years, and of how, if the American effort in Iraq could ever be made to "work," only undaunted and farseeing young men like this one, his spiritual successor, could make it happen.”

This was in the days leading up to the vote on the Constitution. You will remember that Falluja is a mainly Sunni city. It was also razed by American troops in November, 2004. The inhabitants, returning to the ruins of their home, are treated like parolees in a work camp by the Americans. A little background for what the young Kenner told Danner: “And so as I sat after midnight on the eve of the vote, scribbling in my notebook in the dimly lit C-Moc bunker as the young diplomat explained to me the intricacies of the politics of the battered city, I was pleased to see him suddenly lean forward and, with quick glances to either side, offer me a confidence. "You know, tomorrow you are going to be surprised," he told me, speaking softly. "Everybody is going to be surprised. People here are not only going to vote. People here—a great many people here—are going to vote yes.”

Now, only a true mook could think something so unutterably stupid. And yet, the bright young thing almost dazzled Danner into disbelieving his own peepers. Until, of course, the elections showed that the Sunni population voted against the constitution which would basically immiserate them forever) by around 97 percent.

I think that mook was not stupid, but, rather,representative. In LI’s last post, we tried to show that the twilight of the Cold War witnessed a huge economic shift away from the Social Democratic policies of the early Cold War period within the structure created by the Cold War. The end of the Cold War, in a sense, stripped bare these shifts. George Santayana, speaking of patriotism, claimed that, without an ideal, patriotism reduces to a mere “passion for ascendancy.” This was the code of the post-war order. And it is with this code that the U.S. invaded Iraq.

Yet historic forms just don’t pop like the pricked balloons at the end of a children’s birthday party. The intensity of the anti-communist crusade created a whole discourse of righteousness that was extremely potent in America. That discourse no longer had a set object. The idea that our defining anti-thetical is now Islamo-fascism has proven to be a massive flop. Except among a small zombie contingent, Islamofascism hasn’t even entered into the public domain. If you ask around, you will find that the average person hasn’t even heard of it. This shows the common sense of the average person, since, of course, there is no such thing as Islamofascism. The closest actual thing in the world to that hybrid nothing was the government the U.S. conjured up in Iran after overthrowing Mossedeq, since it relied on a heavy contingent of those people around the Pahlavis, in the 1950s, who had ardently supported the Nazis in the 1940s. That ardor was obviously premature anticommunism, and so given a big round of applause by America’s handlers at the time. But there is nothing else on the face of the earth that resembles, in any way, this neo-con anxiety dream.

So… we are left with the passion for ascendancy. The State Department official in Danner’s article walks about in a kind of dream of this passion, as does most of the Bush White House. Mere ascendancy, however, is never sufficient to prompt social action. It generates legitimating stories. These stories are essentially heroic in nature. This, for those who have the eyes to see it, is why the Bush people are so… well, funny. They think of themselves in heroic terms, which is in stark contrast to their incredibly pampered existences and their lifelong avoidance of any real existential risk outside of quailhunting with the gross V.P. These are Chihuahuas dreaming they are lions. They are uniquely disqualified from understanding Iraq -- not because they are unfamiliar with the facts about Iraq, but because their very lifestyles have stifled the faculty of imagination within them. Imagination, for them, is merely projection. Thus, the state department boy projects onto the Iraqis he meets a passion for… well, for the ascension of the state department boy. In their hearts, they all want him to climb the ladder. And to climb the ladder, he needs them to get on board. It is a photo op world, but the reward is that we happy plebes, we rude mechanicals can say, “we knew him when.”

Perhaps the worst thing Chalabi, the prototype D.C. salon Iraqi, ever did was to convince policy-makers that Iraq has the best interests of the U.S. at heart, and in particular the best interests of the 0.00001 percent of the U.S. that owns an AEI card. The ingratitude of the Iraqis must painfully remind these people of other betrayals that strew the path of the meritocratic - like that trusted maid one caught rummaging in the medicine cabinet, pilfering those very expensive mood changing pills. How could she? And just as we gave that made the best hand me down toys and clothes for her squalling brats, in truth, we had given the Iraqis the best of hand me down constitutions -- we trained their savage young men in the best policing techniques, though we did have to laugh behind our hands about how new it all was to them - and we are all about training up an army for them. But of course they know nothing, and in the end you can’t turn your backs on these people.

And so the disappointments of that cadre of people like the eager State department boy have mounted, until we have polite articles in the Sunday NYT debating the pros and cons of Sunni genocide – should we kill one million, or maybe three? The memos, as we know, have been emanating from the V.P.’s office. These articles that are conveniently right next to blasts at the President of Iran for threatening to wipe out Israel, so that we can get the full flavor of the moral arrogance on hand here, a moral arrogance inseparable from the passion for ascendancy.

That passion, we think, is going to get a good and stout fucking in the next year.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

bush at the end of the daisy chain

LI finally got around to reading Mark Danner’s article on Iraq. It is very good. However, one notices that Danner makes the blunders in Iraq stand out against a rather blurry background of America’s foreign policy history, one which exudes a lot of feel good aura but little content. That’s a shame. As we have pointed out before, one of the truly underreported aspects of the American debacle in Iraq goes back to class. Namely, America’s natural tendency to work with the upper class in third world countries was, in Iraq, uniquely negated by the fact that much of that upper class was Sunni, or was perceived to be supportive of Saddam Hussein. Meanwhile, the working class justly saw America as its enemy, since in fact America is always the enemy of the working class in any third world country you want to name. That class aspect only comes into view once one starts viewing America’s foreign policy critically – i.e., once one departs from the consensus about the Cold War that has been dribbled over the establishment like Ronald Reagan’s hair mousse.

You cannot see Iraq, you cannot see the long war, you cannot see 9/11, until you have a clear view of foreign policy past. A timely reminder of what that was all about is given to us by the recent fascistic salute to Jean Kirkpatrick in Hiatt’s Washington Post editorial. To quote it again: “The contrast between Cuba and Chile more than 30 years after Mr. Pinochet's coup is a reminder of a famous essay written by Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, the provocative and energetic scholar and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who died Thursday. In "Dictatorships and Double Standards," a work that caught the eye of President Ronald Reagan, Ms. Kirkpatrick argued that right-wing dictators such as Mr. Pinochet were ultimately less malign than communist rulers, in part because their regimes were more likely to pave the way for liberal democracies. She, too, was vilified by the left. Yet by now it should be obvious: She was right.”

Kirkpatrick’s terms were, actually, not a change in the weather, but a call to order – a way of reminding the Carter administration of what American policy makers since Truman had always stood for: the implantation, in third world nations, of governments that implemented the Hitler model circa 1938. And, of course, that train of action lead directly to 9/11. There’s a nice reminder of this in Tariq Ali’s concise essay about Pakistan’s history in the LRB. And it calls for some overview.

While Kirkpatrick’s terms simply made visible an old pattern, it is true that the legitimacy of that pattern had been undermined by the obvious U.S. viciousness in Vietnam. Vietnam brought to the surface a critical view of U.S. aims sadly lacking now. It made visible, behind the window dressing of democracy, the real policy of instituting and supporting “authoritarian” regimes. But the critique projected that foreign policy back into the domestic realm in a way that overlooked the contradictions of the system. The foreign policy-maker’s fondness for authoritarian states was in constant tension with America’s political culture. The same liberal newspapers that could support the extension of the liberal program – for instance, disestablishing Dixie apartheid, sustaining the structures of the Keynesian welfare state in health, education, and retirement – could also maintain, without blinking, a network of assumptions shared among foreign correspondents and editors that adopted a wholly other attitude towards third world countries. Eventually, this would have a domestic political effect – cultivating reactionary political economies in Asia and South America was like creating a laboratory for the design of macro-economic policies that would hit the U.S. in the eighties, creating the conditions for a reactionary culture: heavy on military spending, using an unleashed credit sector to weaken the labor movement, with its narrow focus on pay and its inability to understand the new factors brought into the economy by easy credit, the piecemeal de-industrialization, etc., etc. Thomas Friedman, the idiot savant ideologist of neo-liberalism, was right: the whole aim was to take the economy out of politics – to put it wholly in institutional hands unaffected by popular mandate or need.

Thus, the work of the foreign policy establishment in seventies and eighties was to create a new international order of capital, founded on easy credit and pre-30s economic inequality. To buffer the economy completely – to surrender it to investors and business leaders – meant, before anything else, breaking labor’s power decisively. Thus, in the zones outside the ‘democracies’, the ‘fumigation’ began, provided at first by the Hitlerite model – National Security States - and could then become transit points in which loans (for fraudulent, state sponsored projects) and capital flight could come together to bring money into the House – the U.S. and Western Europe.

This structure required the Soviet Union as the enemy that would keep it all together. But that necessity led to a second contradiction in the system – and like one would expect, contradictions lead to innovations. The innovation that the U.S. cultivated, funded, directed and then abandoned happened to be the arming of Islamicists within the structure of fungible National Security States. This is where Tariq Ali’s history comes in as a nice reminder, since the fake history that gives us a fake debate is all about grievances – ah, the framework of victimization, so convenient as a decoy. The real history, which is deeply embedded in the pathological anti-communism and industrial policy of the American foreign policymakers can then be comfortably ignored. The problem, of course, is that it is unignorable – Iraq is a debacle, as Danner says, of the American imagination, or lack of it, but it is also a debacle exposing the way the system has been run, and the antitheses that are now coming, with IEDs and mortar fire, to ruin our ‘freedom loving’ President’s party Middle Eastern bash for himself. There is a sense in which Bush is the victim of a very old and respected Texas fraud – he’s the last link in the daisy chain. A daisy chain is not a mass fuck, in this case – a daisy chain consists of buying a property and selling it to a confederate for an inflated value, who sells it to another confederate for an inflated value, until it is laid off on a mark who, believing these values, shells out some fantastic sum for what turns out to be a world class lemon.

In the case of the Central Asian lemon, as Tariq Ali points out in this overview of Pakistan, the story has roots in the dawn of the independence period. That is when the Free World had need of a subordinate system of non-free gunga din states:

“Pakistan’s first uniformed ruler, General Ayub Khan, a Sandhurst-trained colonial officer, seized power in October 1958 with strong encouragement from both Washington and London. They were fearful that the projected first general election might produce a coalition that would take Pakistan out of security pacts like Seato and towards a non-aligned foreign policy. Ayub banned all political parties, took over opposition newspapers and told the first meeting of his cabinet: ‘As far as you are concerned there is only one embassy that matters in this country: the American Embassy.’”

In Ali’s version, the familiar scenario enfolds – the fakery of pressuring a NSS client into an election that is rigged – by suitable murders, kidnapping and torturing of radicals, students, civilians, etc., etc. – the electing of our man in Karachi, and then the praise showered on him by an adoring American press.
Let’s quote a few grafs that cluster around the Reaganite adventure in creating a jihadi network, arming them, and encouraging them to attack a superpower – a fabulous success that was somehow left out of the funeral orations over the Great Communicator’s corpse:

“Always a bad judge of character, he [Bhutto] had made a junior general and small-minded zealot, Zia-ul-Haq, army chief of staff. As head of the Pakistani training mission to Jordan, Brigadier Zia had led the Black September assault on the Palestinians in 1970. In July 1977, to pre-empt an agreement between Bhutto and the opposition parties that would have entailed new elections, Zia struck. Bhutto was arrested, and held for a few weeks, and Zia promised that new elections would be held within six months, after which the military would return to barracks. A year later Bhutto, still popular and greeted by large crowds wherever he went, was again arrested, and this time charged with murder, tried and hanged in April 1979.

Over the next ten years the political culture of Pakistan was brutalised. As public floggings (of dissident journalists among others) and hangings became the norm, Zia himself was turned into a Cold War hero – thanks largely to events in Afghanistan. Religious affinity did nothing to mitigate the hostility of Afghan leaders to their neighbour. The main reason was the Durand Line, which was imposed on the Afghans in 1893 to mark the frontier between British India and Afghanistan and which divided the Pashtun population of the region. After a hundred years (the Hong Kong model) all of what became the North-Western Frontier Province of British India was supposed to revert to Afghanistan but no government in Kabul ever accepted the Durand Line any more than they accepted British, or, later, Pakistani control, over the territory.”

Then we get into it – although these facts are known, it is always good to have a concise account of how the U.S. fought the Cold War, outside of the purview of the population:

“In 1977, when Zia came to power, 90 per cent of men and 98 per cent of women in Afghanistan were illiterate; 5 per cent of landowners held 45 per cent of the cultivable land and the country had the lowest per capita income of any in Asia. The same year, the Parcham Communists, who had backed the 1973 military coup by Prince Daud after which a republic was proclaimed, withdrew their support from Daud, were reunited with other Communist groups to form the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), and began to agitate for a new government. The regimes in neighbouring countries became involved. The shah of Iran, acting as a conduit for Washington, recommended firm action – large-scale arrests, executions, torture – and put units from his torture agency at Daud’s disposal. The shah also told Daud that if he recognised the Durand Line as a permanent frontier the shah would give Afghanistan $3 billion and Pakistan would cease hostile actions. Meanwhile, Pakistani intelligence agencies were arming Afghan exiles while encouraging old-style tribal uprisings aimed at restoring the monarchy. Daud was inclined to accept the shah’s offer, but the Communists organised a pre-emptive coup and took power in April 1978. There was panic in Washington, which increased tenfold as it became clear that the shah too was about to be deposed. General Zia’s dictatorship thus became the lynchpin of US strategy in the region, which is why Washington green-lighted Bhutto’s execution and turned a blind eye to the country’s nuclear programme. The US wanted a stable Pakistan whatever the cost.

As we now know, plans (a ‘bear-trap’, in the words of the US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski) were laid to destabilise the PDPA, in the hope that its Soviet protectors would be drawn in. Plans of this sort often go awry, but they succeeded in Afghanistan, primarily because of the weaknesses of the Afghan Communists themselves: they had come to power through a military coup which hadn’t involved any mobilisation outside Kabul, yet they pretended this was a national revolution; their Stalinist political formation made them allergic to any form of accountability and ideas such as drafting a charter of democratic rights or holding free elections to a constituent assembly never entered their heads. Ferocious factional struggles led, in September 1979, to a Mafia-style shoot-out at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, during which the prime minister, Hafizullah Amin, shot President Taraki dead. Amin, a nutty Stalinist, claimed that 98 per cent of the population supported his reforms but the 2 per cent who opposed them had to be liquidated. There were mutinies in the army and risings in a number of towns as a result, and this time they had nothing to do with the Americans or General Zia.

Finally, after two unanimous Politburo decisions against intervention, the Soviet Union changed its mind, saying that it had ‘new documentation’. This is still classified, but it would not surprise me in the least if the evidence consisted of forgeries suggesting that Amin was a CIA agent. Whatever it was, the Politburo, with Yuri Andropov voting against, now decided to send troops into Afghanistan. Its aim was to get rid of a discredited regime and replace it with a marginally less repulsive one. Sound familiar?

From 1979 until 1988, Afghanistan was the focal point of the Cold War. Millions of refugees crossed the Durand Line and settled in camps and cities in the NWFP. Weapons and money, as well as jihadis from Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Egypt, flooded into Pakistan. All the main Western intelligence agencies (including the Israelis’) had offices in Peshawar, near the frontier. The black-market and market rates for the dollar were exactly the same. Weapons, including Stinger missiles, were sold to the mujahedin by Pakistani officers who wanted to get rich quickly. The heroin trade flourished and the number of registered addicts in Pakistan grew from a few hundred in 1977 to a few million in 1987.”

Well, enough for today. I am going to add to this post tomorrow, I hope.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

the new Mount Rushmore

Fred Barnes is glowing with pleasure today. He knew that the Rebel in Chief had super powers. He knew that that face, those abs, the incredibly long member, that loveable grin, could only have come from the Planet Zygon. And today, the President shyly let the cat – or as they say on Zygon, the endless stream of copulating cockroaches – out of the bag, in this interview with the Washington Post:

“Bush, who has always said that the United States is headed for victory in Iraq, conceded yesterday what Gates, Powell and most Americans in polls have already concluded. "An interesting construct that General Pace uses is, 'We're not winning, we're not losing,' " Bush said, referring to Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the Joint Chiefs chairman, who was spotted near the Oval Office before the interview. "There's been some very positive developments. . . . [But] obviously the real problem we face is the sectarian violence that needs to be dealt with."

Asked yesterday about his "absolutely, we're winning" comment at an Oct. 25 news conference, the president recast it as a prediction rather than an assessment. "Yes, that was an indication of my belief we're going to win," he said.”

There it is. The stabbers in the back who, inexplicably, aren’t being tortured to death so that we can preserve our democracy, have accused our Greatest President of lying. But those who wore the special glasses (mail the Weekly Standard for your own pair, kids!) already knew that English verbal structure is much too primitive for a Zygonite. Our President travels through the past, present and future with the greatest of ease, and thus sometimes makes statements that seem like they are set in the present when they are actually set at some other time. For instance, the statement that Iraq has WMD meant that in 1989, Iraq had WMD. But had, has, and all temporal modes of having are Earthling delusions – all time is now time, or as the Zygon proverb goes: it is always time to take a shit! According to Zygonites, we must temporally orient ourselves by unloading our bowels on unworthy specimens of unfreedom. Zygonites also recommend, for maximum skin care, a lotion that is compounded of the blood of six hundred thousand human beings who have met violent ends. Since skin care is the number one priority on Zygon, you can of course see with what joy the properly constituted Zygonite would regard the war in Iraq.

In truth, all time, to the Zygonite, dissolves into what they call the great Narcissistic time. The great Narcissistic time flows out of the brain of the greatest and wisest of the Zygonites – the Rebels in Chief – and creates reality itself. It would seem that all Earthlings, being relatively primitive beings, would not even be able to comprehend the complexity of the Zygonite mind. But some Earthlings do! Magically transcending their own brainstem, Fred Barnes and a few selected journalists (all of whom, by a happy chance, have been hired to analyse the news endlessly on our freedom loving tv channels!) could see that the Rebel-in-Chief was no ordinary man, but a fierce extraterrestrial on a mission. His mission will only be accomplished when he has made a just distribution of the goods of the earth (which, by right, belong to members of the Carlyle Group), changed the atmosphere of the earth for the better (eliminating inefficient life forms), and Christianized forever the backwards Middle East.

Isn’t it time for the press, having had its week or two of celebrating the stab-in-the-backers of the Baker-Hamilton group, to get back to marveling at our Zygonite leader? I always like to think of the high point of the last six years, in which our long, long long war gone wild! has gone from climax to climax, was that heartwarming moment when our President brought a smile to the lips of the hardened Press with his hilarious skits – you remember! Back in 2004, as described by the Post:

“President Bush opened his 10-minute remarks to the gathering with a reference to what he referred to as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's "favorite show" on television. Those anticipating an "Apprentice" punch line -- the Donald, after all, was only a few yards away -- guessed wrong.

"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," Bush said, generating a roomful of laughter. "My Cabinet could take some pointers from watching that show. In fact, I'm going to have the Fab Five do a makeover on [Attorney General John] Ashcroft."

“From there, Bush went on to poke at his own malapropisms before unveiling a slide show titled "White House Election Year Album" that had the crowd chuckling. Yes, there were a few jabs at the Democrats, including a couple of shots taken at Democratic challenger John Kerry. Bush described a picture of himself doing what looked like the shuffle in the Oval Office in front of Condoleezza Rice as "here I'm trying to explain John Kerry's foreign policy to Condi." He also faked a phone conversation between Kerry and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. "Hey, John," he said. "Kim Jong Il here. Just wanted to let you know, you're my guy."

Mostly, though, he put up dorky-looking pictures of himself. A recurring joke involved photos of the president in awkward positions -- bent over as if he's looking under a table, leaning to look out a window -- accompanied by remarks such as "Those weapons of mass destruction must be somewhere!" and "Nope, no weapons over there!" and "Maybe under here?"

That was as funny now as it was then, since, of course, now and then are one now, one big Zygonite now without end. And from this perspective, our Greatest President is President forever!

I should mention that our former president, a pseudo-Zygonite if there ever was one, once hinted at his own power over time by saying, “that depends on what your definition of is is.” How we were shocked at the way he lied about getting a blowjob! He wasn’t a true Zygonite at all. Saying that in front of the whole nation too. However, a true Zygonite president transcends the question of ‘lying’ – nobody is going to question him about ‘lying’ when he said we were winning in Iraq. That would be too laughable. It is not an issue that is as important as a blowjob. As Barnes has pointed out, our Zygonite president has a member that is so extremely and awesomely huge that one thinks not of blowjobs, but of a special, maybe new like Mount Rushmore thing which would be exclusively dedicated to his dick. I am totally behind this project.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

why I love the Washington Post

Moments in the dreamlife of the governing class

This exchange in the Washington Post deserves an award of some kind – it so exactly represents the way in which, in D.C. circles, conventional wisdom deals with those truths that upset it:

“Waterville, Maine: Good Morning Dan,

President Bush's proposal to increase troops in Iraq by 20-30,000 has received a lot of attention this weekend and has sparked considerable debate and controversy. On the one hand, incoming Majority Leader Reid stated he would support a short-term increase. On the other hand, I thought it was very interesting that former Secretary Powell and Hillary Clinton spoke out against the idea. Powell even suggested that the army was "nearly broken" and could not sustain another build-up. How is the White House responding to all this? Are we seeing evidence of a growing rift between Democratic leaders? How many other Republicans will speak out now that Powell has come out publicly?

Dan Balz: These are all good questions and the focus of a considerable amount of reporting these days here and elsewhere. You've got two conflicting forces at work. The November elections clearly sent a message that the American people want a change in Iraq and that what they most want is a plan that begins to draw down U.S. forces. Because there are worries that an abrupt pullout would leave Iraq and the Middle East in even more chaos, there is a desire to find a way to reduce the warfare in Baghdad. Can the addition of more U.S. troops, for a short period of time, accomplish that? People who are far more expert than I in military matters are debating that right now.”

So, an election in which people seemed to vote for withdrawing from Iraq really requires “the addition of more U.S. troops, for a short period of time.” Just as an election in which people didn’t voted against withdrawing from Iraq would seem to require “the addition of more U.S. troops, for a short period of time.” A surge, if you will. The tiptoeing language of "for a short period" is so beautiful - I mean, you get a serious turd from the White House and you have to dress it up like a Christmas turkey, so you say things like that. And of course Balz is inexpert in military affairs. Goodness gracious, we have to leave those military affairs to the generals, who have been doing such a truly outstanding job so far.

It is a joke. I laughed at this exchange so heartily I could almost taste fresh Iraqi blood in my mouth. While I have emphasized, and will continue to emphasize, that the only interest served by the occupation of Iraq is that of Bush’s vanity, one must always remember the context: vanity is the stock in trade of these people. They are attracted to vanity, parasites of it, investors in it. Little pieces of the imperial vanity are broken off and carried by the little drones like pieces of the cross. Really, it is hard to imagine a viler elite. They get in their little Hummers after a good days work, they get home and play with their meritocratic 2.1 kids, and they have not a single thought in their heads that wasn’t put there by some boss figure from the time they are 18 to the time they die. Complete servility, complete nullity. Withdrawal from Iraq – which will happen only when the army is so squeezed that the U.S. will have to withdraw in self defense – is only the first condition for a more peaceful, just world. A deeper condition is disempowering these terrible buffoons.

Monday, December 18, 2006

the age of the airloom

LI was pleased to receive some compliments on our Pinochet post from our friend in Mexico City, M., the more so as we seem, lately, to have either stunned or bored our readers to the extent that we sadly, visibly lack comments. On other blogs, there are lively debates about censoring or not censoring comment sections, but we don’t have that sort of problem here. Christ, you write an anti-Christmas piece that ties together father Christmas and Hitler and nobody even peeps.

We’ve been thinking, perhaps we haven’t been mad enough. Or is it that we are too mad? And this thought naturally led us to consider the autobiographies of mad political cosmologists before us. The most famous, of course, is Paul Schreber, the son of Germany’s greatest anti-onanist, Moritz Schreber. Paul Schreber’s spacewalk into a new heaven and new earth, which occured in the nuthouse where he was committed, was published in book form and, famously, analyzed by Freud, and then by Canetti, and then by all the epigones.

But Schreber is not modernity’s only mad cosmologist. There is, for instance, Friedrich Krauss, the clerk who fell into confusion in Antwerp in 1816 as he was folded, spindled, mutilated, mocked, and had his thoughts replaced by senseless or obscene images. He realized he was being poisoned by animal magnetism, directed against him by a black magnitiseur, and wrote a warning to the fathers of families and such, Nothschrei eines Magnetisch-Vergifteten (Scream of a man poisoned by magnetism).

Then there is James Tilly Matthews . Matthews, as his biographer, Mike Jay, explains in the summation of his book at nthposition, was a Welsh tea merchant of Republican sympathies who acted as an agent for Pitt with the moderates in Paris in the Revolution. Unfortunately for Matthews, the Jacobin triumph caught him still in Paris, and he was imprisoned for three years. When he was released, he got back to London and started making harsh accusations of treason, like some Edgar Allan Poe figure. And this got him quickly committed by the political establishment to Bedlam, where he met up with the apothecary, John Haslam.

Matthews apparently shared his ideas and papers with Haslam. When it appeared that Matthews family was going to succeed in getting him released, Haslam, to prove that Matthews was truly insane, published his Illustrations of Madness, which is a mixture of Blakean and Schreberian. Haslam begins his account like this:

“Mr. M Insists that in some apartment near London Wall, there is a gang of villains profoundly skilled in Pneumatic Chemistry, who assail him by means of an Air Loom. A description of this formidable instrument will be given hereafter; but he is persuaded that an account of it is to be found in Chambers’s Dictionary, edited by Dr. Rees in 1783, under the article Loom…

It is unnecessary to tell the reader that he will fruitlessly search that work for such information.”

I must quote from Mike Jay’s wonderful summary:

"Matthews was convinced that outside the grounds of Bedlam, in a basement cellar by London Wall, a gang of villains were controlling and tormenting his mind with diabolical rays. They were using a machine called an 'Air Loom', of which Matthews was able to draw immaculate technical diagrams, and which combined recent developments in gas chemistry with the strange force of animal magnetism, or mesmerism. It incorporated keys, levers, barrels, batteries, sails, brass retorts and magnetic fluid, and worked by directing and modulating magnetically charged air currents, rather as the stops of an organ modulate its tones. It ran on a mixture of foul substances, including 'spermatic-animal-seminal rays', 'effluvia of dogs' and 'putrid human breath', and its discharges of magnetic fluid were focused to deliver thoughts, feelings and sensations directly into Matthews' brain. There were many of these mind-control settings, all classified by vivid names: 'fluid locking', 'stone making', 'thigh talking', 'lobster-cracking', 'bomb-bursting', and the dreaded 'brain-saying', whereby thoughts were forced into his brain against his will. To facilitate this process, the gang had implanted a magnet into his head. As a result of the Air Loom, Matthews was tormented constantly by delusions, physical agonies, fits of laughter and being forced to parrot whatever nonsense they chose to feed into his head. No wonder some people thought he was mad.

"The Air Loom was being run by a gang of undercover Jacobin revolutionaries, bent on forcing Britain into a disastrous war with Revolutionary France. These characters, too, Matthews could describe with haunting precision. They were led by a puppet-master named 'Bill the King'; all details were recorded by his second-in-command, 'Jack the Schoolmaster'. The French liaison was accomplished by a woman called Charlotte, who seemed to Matthews to be as much a prisoner as himself, and was often chained up near-naked. 'Sir Archy' was a woman who dressed as a man and spoke in obscenities; the machine itself was operated by the sinister, pockmarked and nameless 'Glove Woman'. If Matthews were to see any of these characters in the street, they would grasp batons of magnetic metal which would cause them to disappear."

This is magnificent – although it is a bit heartless to say so, since these ravings are so obviously rooted in vast amounts of pain. There is surely some vast underground counterpoint in operation here to Blake – the same mythological sense of the forces at work in the French revolution, some of the same images – notably the near naked, chained up woman. Is there a common Swedenborgian root? Or - as I madly suspect - is there some contact below the surface, some underground, poetic continent whose inhabitants look at the treadmill of production, the uprooting of all things by white magic, with eyes in which are reflected the burning wheels of Revelations?

For the most striking thing, to me, is that Matthew’s Air Loom seems so familiar – isn’t this some horrendous pre-cognition of television? Haven’t we seen, in the last six years, “delusions, physical agonies, fits of laughter and being forced to parrot whatever nonsense they chose to feed into his head” on a national scale?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Blair, that eggbeater




There are people to whom a sense for quality is denied in the same way others are blind or deaf and dumb. Only the first type is incomparably more numerous - which is why nobody sees their condition as pathological - Kurt Heller

Far, far from the Commons of Great Britain be all manner of real vice; but ten thousand times further from them, as far as from pole to pole, be the whole tribe of false, spurious, affected, counterfeit, hypocritical virtues! These are the things which are ten times more at war with real virtue, these are the things which are ten times more at war with real duty, than any vice known by its name and distinguished by its proper character. My Lords, far from us, I will add, be that false and affected candor that is eternally in treaty with crime,—that half virtue, which, like the ambiguous animal that flies about in the twilight of a compromise between day and night, is to a just man's eye an odious and disgusting thing! There is no middle point in which the Commons of Great Britain can meet tyranny and oppression. No, we never shall (nor can we conceive that we ever should) pass from this bar, without indignation, without rage and despair, if the House of Commons should, upon such a defence as has here been made against such a charge as they have produced, be foiled, baffled, and defeated. – Edmund Burke, Speech on the Impeachment of Warren Hastings

A political crime is a most peculiar species in the animal kingdom of crimes, for its eggs are perpetually hatching its own negation. Investigation, here, tends towards the cover up, and cover ups tend to be defended as a necessary bulwark for society, which is defended as a necessary bulwark against crime. Eggs give way to eggs, and all of them are rotten.

The BAE case, which has blipped on the radar of the papers for an instant, and is already making its sucking way down the memory hole, is a case in point.

If there were ever a creature that, to the just man’s eye in Burke’s speech, had an odious and disgusting look, that creature is Tony Blair. He is at once today’s man, the kind of vacuity destined to be a second circuit celebrity, and a throwback – a throwback to the worst side of Gladstone combined with one of those Dickens villain, a Pecksniff or a Uriah Heep, in which the essential Victorian indecency that ran the empire and built oligarchy emerged undisguised. Or, no – never undisguised. It was the peculiarity of the Victorian hypocrite, as opposed to the hypocrite of the ancien regime, that the hypocrisy went all the way down. Even his worst vices were haunted by virtues. Even Jack the Ripper had interiorized the progressive urbanist view of prostitution as a riddable vice of the working classes. In Blair, there is no ripping off of the mask even in the most solitary moment. He is thoroughly spoiled, like a pound of hamburger left for a week on a counter in room temperature. He is wormy with his own virtue.

If we are ever to understand the mock world war in which we are invested, the BAE case is a wonderful place to start. But where to start? For the present BAE case is only the successor of past BAE cases. It seems that, since the eighties, the British establishment, Tory or Labour, spends a lot of time and energy trying to pry money out of the Saudis in return for a vast armament of the weapons of mass destruction. Oh, but don’t worry. As we know, the Saudi regime has merely financed Osama bin Laden, spread a militant form of Islamic belief intolerant of other Islamic beliefs throughout the world, and is at the moment bankrolling the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. Thus, they are perfectly sound.

LI rather admires the symbolic demands of the Saudis. Whenever they are in the mood to buy another 20 billion dollars worth of bugridden, obsolete weaponry from the U.K., an elaborate ritual ensues. First, the Brits take time off from the lectures about democracy and freedom with which they bore the rest of the world (following, as usual, the boss of bosses, Uncle Sam) to do a little third world repressing. In 96, as contracts were making the Brits salivate, they simply deported a Saudi dissident, a man named Mas'ari, to the Caribbean without really even finding an excuse for it. Blair has done the same, but he has covered these acts of sycophancy with the language, so dear to him, of security.

(As a side note: the language of security is all over the sale of the weapons of mass destruction – the newspapers commonly report on these as sales from ‘defense’ industries, which is a lovely devolution from the more robust Edwardian description of them as war industries. However, war is now unheard of in this world. It is never declared. It is always defense against defense.)

The first of the big BAE sales followed in the wake of the “Death of the Princess” fiasco, in which the Saudis held the British responsible for that embarrassing docu-drama and the Thatcherite cabinet ministers – led by Douglas Hurd – ritually abased themselves. In the U.S., I should say, things didn’t go much better. Mobile Oil and the State Department tried to keep the film from being shown on Public TV, and half of the locally owned Public stations refused to show it. In any case, the Thatcherites had made their peace with the Saudis to the extent that they were able to sell them 20 billion dollars worth of the weapons of mass destruction in 1984. And wasn’t Maggie’s son, Mark, fortunate! As an indispensable middle man, he seems to have made out pretty well on the deal. Alas, how well has never quite been exposed, as the investigation into that, by the House of Commons, was buried in the early nineties, with Labour pledging to dig it up as soon as they got into power. Well, Labour got into power with Maggie’s biggest fan, Tony Blair, as the grinning face of the catastrophe, and somehow Labour never did get back to the case.

Blair, of course, presided over another BAE deal, and there is one pending. As always, these deals exhibit how farcical is the conservative idea that the state and private enterprise are somehow ontologically separated. The whole point of being in the upper class is to have the ability to use the government as a sort of private club, and the governing cadre of any moment is more than happy to oblige. Thus, Blair’s numerous trips in which, after making with the sickening sermons that are solemnly reported in the Murdoch papers, he gets down to crawling on the ground for Saudi money. Or does he do his famous Bo Jangles routine? I’m not sure which it is.

So, here we are again, going through the ritual. An investigation. A Saudi threat - apparently Blair had fifteen days to shut down the investigation. And, being the kind of man he is, he has put the keebosh on it while droning on as though he were performing some act in accordance with the famous “universal laws of the enlightenment” that the Euston belligeranti so like to hear about. BAE stock is up. The money is flowing to the gangsters who support him – and all the little people can keep their jobs, hurray hurray! busy producing lethality for the Saudis. However – and this is Blair’s Dickensian side – he can’t resist moralizing over his own outrageous acts of immorality. You can’t beat the man for pure bushwa:

"Leave aside the effects on thousands of British jobs and billions worth of pounds for British industry," he said.

"Leave that to one side - our relationship with Saudi Arabia is vitally important for our country in terms of counter terrorism, in terms of the broader Middle East, in terms of helping in respect of Israel/Palestine.

"That strategic interest comes first, particularly in circumstances where if prosecutions have gone forward, all that would have happened is that we would have had months, potentially years, of ill feeling between us and a key partner and ally, and probably for no purpose."

Mr Blair said he was in no doubt the right decision had been taken in terms of the UK's interest and took "full responsibility" for the advice he gave. "I have no doubt at all that had we allowed things to go forward, we would have done immense damage to the true interests of this country, leaving aside the fact that we would have lost thousands of highly-skilled jobs and very, very important business for British industry," he added.

For more on the business side of the BAE deal, see Monbiot here.

On Mark “Thickie” Thatcher’s mosquito-like ride atop the first BAE-Saudi arms deal under Maggie Pinochet, his mom, see David Osler’s blog here. Thickie not only has in common with our current Rebel in Chief that he was the underachieving son of a country's leader, but the two knew each other when Thickie came to Texas and plunged into the world of unethical business practices with Texas companies.

And here’s some fun facts from Global Security Org. Read it for the fine, full blast of hypocrisy in the morning – like the smell, in a small airless room, of the results of a four day drunk!

"Saudi Arabia does not have weapons of mass destruction. [Editor's note: Global security defines WMD in the foreshortened terms used by the U.S. In Limited Inc terms, he who has a peashooter can be presumed to have access, sooner or later, to a pea. And he who has a delivery system for a nuclear weapon and pays for nuclear weapons to be developed in another state can be presumed to have simply outsourced WMD.] It did, however, buy long-range CSS-2 ballistic missiles from China in 1988. More recently, Saudi officials have discussed the procurement of new Pakistani intermediate-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Some concern remains that Saudi Arabia, like its neighbors, may be seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, apparently by purchase rather than indigenous development. While there is no direct evidence that Saudi Arabia has chosen a nuclear option, the Saudis have in place a foundation for building a nuclear deterrent.
Saudi Arabia first opened a nuclear research center in the desert military complex at Al-Suleiyel, near Al-Kharj, in 1975. Saudi Arabia reportedly offered to pay for reconstruction of the Osirak-reactor, destructed by Israel on 06 June 1981. By at least 1985 Iraqi and Saudi military and nuclear experts were co-operating closely. Saudi nuclear scientists were sent to Baghdad for months of training.
In late June 1994 Muhammad Khilewi, the second-in-command of the Saudi mission to the United Nations, abandoned his UN post to join the opposition. After defecting, Mr. Khilewi, who was denied federal protection, went into hiding, fearing for his life. He has tried to distribute more than 10,000 documents he obtained from the Saudi Arabian Embassy.

Khilewi produced documents for the London Sunday Times that supported his charge that the Saudi government had paid up to five billion dollars from the Saudi treasury for Saddam Hussein to build a nuclear weapon. Between 1985 and 1990, up to the time Saddam invaded Kuwait, the payments were made on condition that some of the bombs, should the project succeed, be transferred to the Saudi arsenal. Khilewi cache included transcripts of a secret desert meeting between Saudi and Iraqi military teams a year before the invasion of Kuwait. The transcrips depicts the Saudis funding the nuclear program and handing over specialised equipment that Iraq could not have obtained elsewhere.

What Khilewi did not know was that the Fahd-Saddam nuclear project was also a closely held secret in Washington. According to a former high-ranking American diplomat, the CIA was fully apprised. The funding stopped only at the outbreak of the Gulf War in 1991.

Friday, December 15, 2006

gott mit uns

In the First International Dada Fair in 1920, one of the exhibits, a collaboration between John Heartfield and Rudulf Schlichter, was entitled Prussische Erzengel. It was a dummy, dressed in a military uniform, surmounted by a pig’s head. A note on the dummy read: “in order to understand this work of art, go on a daily twelve hour exercise on the Tempelhof Field with full backpack and equipped for maneuvers.”

Alas, the simple and direct attack on the military that characterized the Vietnam war protests and help shrink the American military in the seventies has not materialized, so far, in the Iraq war. The American archangel has yet to be attacked for its brainlessness, its threat to our liberties, and its criminal waste of resources. The good side is that recruitment – which, by relentlessly manipulating numbers, the Bush administration has tried to portray as being excellent – is, in reality, in trouble. While re-enlistment is high (for the same reason that, in the 1890s, the coal companies could find coal miners – temporary bonuses and steady wages in low wage and impoverished areas), in truth, the army is breaking. Slowly but surely:

“Warning that the active-duty Army "will break" under the strain of today's war-zone rotations, the nation's top Army general yesterday called for expanding the force by 7,000 or more soldiers a year and lifting Pentagon restrictions on involuntary call-ups of Army National Guard and Army Reserve troops.

Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, issued his most dire assessment yet of the toll of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the nation's main ground force. At one point, he banged his hand on a House committee-room table, saying the continuation of today's Pentagon policies is "not right."

In particularly blunt testimony, Schoomaker said the Army began the Iraq war "flat-footed" with a $56 billion equipment shortage and 500,000 fewer soldiers than during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Echoing the warnings from the post-Vietnam War era, when Gen. Edward C. Meyer, then the Army chief of staff, decried the "hollow Army," Schoomaker said it is critical to make changes now to shore up the force for what he called a long and dangerous war.

"The Army is incapable of generating and sustaining the required forces to wage the global war on terror . . . without its components -- active, Guard and reserve -- surging together," Schoomaker said in testimony before the congressionally created Commission on the National Guard and Reserves.”

Since the global war on terror is a farce and a fraud, one can only consider this great news. The army spokesman is saying this after a year in which the U.S. spent approximately a trillion dollars on the Pentagon (mostly, of course, these were vast engineering welfare payments, hundreds of billions spent on useless equipment, technology, and ‘consulting’ that soaks into areas like D.C. and gives them hot hot hot real estate markets and fascist-leaning editorial pages in their local paper, blood in their mouth-ers looking longingly to the Pinochet model of governance). The mock-Cold war that is the phylogenic expression of the mock President’s vanity is starting to bite the American ass. And, gasp, the will of the American public is starting to falter and fumble! Will wonders never cease. The rubes are no longer amused.

So, remember, in the next year, lets all surge together, discourage recruitment, make every effort to break the pseudo-war on terror, encourage defeatism, pacifism, and the dada attitude. Long, long ago, John Kerry was right (although, being a completely cowardly putz, he quickly hid from his own conclusions): terrorism is a police, not a military matter. Making it a military matter has been a complete fiasco, from Bush-Rumsfeld-Cheney idea of letting Osama bin Laden go (the terrorist on tap strategy) to the armies of ignorance unleashed by our peck of peckerwoods on poor Iraq. There is no war on terrorism. There can’t be any war on terrorism. And, of course, the human violence expressed in the stock of nuclear missiles the U.S., Russia, China, the U.K., France and (in bomb form) Israel, India and Pakistan possess is still the greatest terroristic threat to the world.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

the borderline between white and black magic

‘In a sense, it is the market that free-rides on extra-market values that make our market society a bearable place, by tempering the relentless opportunism that the market model commends. Norms of civility are a public good. Without them, the world would degenerate into a society of relentless mutual suspicion.” – Robert Kuttner

LI’s last post breezily went on about the social imposition of money as the supremely cathected object. To understand that, I thought it would be nice to turn to a product that is on the twilight borderline between white and black magic – blood. You know, the substance the wine turns into during mass. That fascinating liquid with the color that serves no evolutionary purpose – pure accident, that red.

As a matter of fact, blood and its sale was the object of one of the most cited books in defense of the welfare state by Richard Titmuss, who correctly saw that white magic depends on inverting a fundamental human fact – that the gift relationship logically and historically precedes the money relationship. But Titmuss is not nostalgic for the highly hierarchized society overthrown by the white magic. This is why the donation of blood is such an exemplary act for him:

“Unlike gift-exchange in traditional societies, there is in the free gift of blood to unnamed strangers no contract of custom, no legal bond, no functional determinism, no situations of discriminatory power, domination, constraint or compulsion, no sensed of shame or guilt, no gratitude imperative and no need for the penitence of a Chrysostom.”

Blood, like air, love, a fuck, a wank, everyday speech, etc., is one of those seemingly unmonetized things, the things outside the white magic mesh. The task of making money a super-cathectic object entails the double task of either monetizing these things or devaluing them. Those functions are, of course, related. So, for instance, that air is free means that there is no cost to polluting air, no individual hurt. There is no stealing, here. In the white magic world, stealing is a fundamental negative principle, defining what is valuable. Prometheus stealing fire, or Jahweh commanding his people not to steal, are just as founding, in their way, as any incest tabu.

To which subject I will return in another post.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

strength through joylessness




“When it happens that a person has to give up a sexual object, there quite often ensues an alteration of his ego which can only be described as a setting up of the object inside the ego, as it occurs in melancholia; the exact nature of this substitution is as yet unknown to us. It may be that [by] this introjection, which is a kind of regression to the mechanism of the oral phase, the ego makes it easier for the object to be given up or renders that process possible. It may be that this identification is the sole condition under which the id can give up its objects. At any rate the process, especially in the early phases of development, is a very frequent one, and it makes it possible to suppose that the character of the ego is a precipitate of abandoned object-cathexes and that it contains the history of those object-choices.” – Freud, the Id and the Ego.


LI did not plan to write anything about Pinochet. But the astonishingly fascist Washington Post editorial, which bears all the hallmarks of a Fred Hiatt special (you can use the same rule of thumb on it as you use to spot rabies in a dog – check for foam around the muzzle) has made LI think again.

The celebration of Pinochet and his apologist, Jean Kirkpatrick, starts out with the patented cigars and whiskey tone that they used to like down at Signatures, the neo-con’s favorite Georgetown restaurant:

“AUGUSTO PINOCHET, who died Sunday at the age of 91, has been vilified for three decades in and outside of Chile, the South American country he ruled for 17 years. For some he was the epitome of an evil dictator. That was partly because he helped to overthrow, with U.S. support, an elected president considered saintly by the international left: socialist Salvador Allende, whose responsibility for creating the conditions for the 1973 coup is usually overlooked. Mr. Pinochet was brutal: More than 3,000 people were killed by his government and tens of thousands tortured, mostly in his first three years. Thousands of others spent years in exile.”

Creating conditions for the coup, that Allende. Hiatt does feel he has to tiptoe around the bodies a bit, but he comes back for the strong finish:

“Like it or not, Mr. Pinochet had something to do with this success. To the dismay of every economic minister in Latin America, he introduced the free-market policies that produced the Chilean economic miracle -- and that not even Allende's socialist successors have dared reverse. He also accepted a transition to democracy, stepping down peacefully in 1990 after losing a referendum.

By way of contrast, Fidel Castro -- Mr. Pinochet's nemesis and a hero to many in Latin America and beyond -- will leave behind an economically ruined and freedomless country with his approaching death. Mr. Castro also killed and exiled thousands. But even when it became obvious that his communist economic system had impoverished his country, he refused to abandon that system: He spent the last years of his rule reversing a partial liberalization. To the end he also imprisoned or persecuted anyone who suggested Cubans could benefit from freedom of speech or the right to vote.

The contrast between Cuba and Chile more than 30 years after Mr. Pinochet's coup is a reminder of a famous essay written by Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, the provocative and energetic scholar and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who died Thursday. In "Dictatorships and Double Standards," a work that caught the eye of President Ronald Reagan, Ms. Kirkpatrick argued that right-wing dictators such as Mr. Pinochet were ultimately less malign than communist rulers, in part because their regimes were more likely to pave the way for liberal democracies. She, too, was vilified by the left. Yet by now it should be obvious: She was right.”

Praising Pinochet’s economic policy is sheer fantasy, but this editorial does point us backwards and forwards – backwards to the primal beginnings of the neo-liberal world order, emerging as the Bretton Woods structure fell apart, and forwards to our recent, noble attempt to grant the ungrateful Iraqis the same wonderful shock treatments that Pinochet was good enough to visit upon his own people.

All of which makes me think of another event that happened in 1973: the publication of Joachim Fest’s biography of Hitler. In that biography, Fest wrote, at one point, that if Hitler had died in 1938, he would have been regarded as one of Germany’s greatest statesmen.

By coincidence, in 1973, that statement could jump out of the book and be incarnated in a real venue: Chile. In 1933, Hitler had set up seventy some concentration camps, had processed 45,000 people through them, and had effectually terrorized the opposition, unions, the socialists, the communists, and the cultural Bolsheviks, so that by 1938 many of the concentration camps could be closed down. Some of the guards in the more notorious concentration camp were even tried for their excesses – torture and murder. The racial laws in place were moving towards Kristalnacht, but hadn’t got there yet. Hitler had reinflated the economy, was pouring money into the military, was very soundly against the Bolsheviks. He was, of course, laying the foundation for the kind of guns and consumerism economy that West Germany adopted, with some major Social Democratic modifications later on.

I’m less concerned with all of the parallels here (although it would be interesting to see the response if Hiatt wrote an editorial praising the first part of Hitler’s rule, granting that there were certain human rights excesses of it, although one can’t really sympathize with the “saintly” Social Democrats, and surely they deserved blame for the social chaos that necessitated the Nazi seizure of power) than with one of them, which looms larger for me: the persecution of the “cultural Bolsheviks”. Why do these regimes spend so much time imprisoning singers, gays, poets, cabaret female impersonators, beggers, and the lot? Why do they rail against degenerate art, drugs, and the collapse of morality? I think there is an explanation beyond the personal peculiarities of Hitler or Pinochet. The reason, I think, is that authoritarian rightwing regimes aim, ultimately, at instituting a regime of seriousness. Seriousness is a political category. It has to be defended from the attempts of the Cultural Bolsheviks to undermine it because, in so doing, the C.B.s undermine something more important – the psychological underpinnings of the political economy as a whole. For seriousness is, in the end, about the id and its unstable objects of affection. It is about disciplining a nation to adopt one and only one overriding cathectic object.

Now, this psychological structure is somewhat disguised by the use of the slogans of the 19th century about hard work and thrift. That is not what is really happening. A Germany that was drifting towards slave labor was not a Germany that really wanted its population to be particularly industrious. Granted, the break up of the unions is about the greater exploitation of labor to the profit of capital. But in the dawning era of neo-liberalism, the psychological path that is being blazed is to impose a new cathectic object – money – upon the population as a whole. To paraphrase Freud’s famous phrase about the id and the ego, the psychological structure of the authoritarian states created by D.C. involve setting up the leader as an Id proxy, in order to replace him, as the chief sanctioned cathectic object, with money itself. There is, as Freud might put it, a mystery here: why does the fuhrer precede the dollar? I have some ideas about that, but... I will devote another of my lectures in the series, Confessions of an ectoplasm, to that fascinating subject.

But to return to matters at hand: this mass introjection of money is the whole point of the fascist regime. In Hitler’s case, the leader who bore this role was blind to it, but the pattern was set: first a leader who creates a disaster, then the leap into a money centered value system – first the Third Reich, then the West German miracle. Similarly, first Pinochet, then the Washington Consensus. First the Brazilian generals, then the Washington consensus. First the Argentinian generals, then the Washington consensus. First Suharto, phase I - the 800000 dead Indonesian communists - then the Washington consensus.

This is why, actually, LI believes that the U.S. is relatively immune to fascism – the leadership principle, here, would be archaic, a perversion. There is no need for it. Money as the great national cathectic object already rules. Thus, the short lived surge of Bush as the Rebel in Chief was doomed to parody from the beginning.