“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

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.

tilting towards SCIRI

When the obvious becomes obvious, it becomes news. The headlines in the NYT and the scuttlebutt on the political blogs is that the U.S. is trying to create an anti-Sadr coalition, centering around SCIRI, to replace the coalition that currently supports Maliki. Two months ago, on October 08, LI pointed out that the U.S. was leaning heavily towards SCIRI, and explained why:

“The last couple of weeks have seen the reintroduction of a push to ‘federalize’ Iraq – which is a long way to say, SCIRI wants to break off Southern Iraq and use its Badr brigade militia to create a state as autonomous as the Kurdish state, under SCIRI rule. Really, that means under the rule of Mohamad Baqir Al Hakim. This, it might seem at first glance, is counter to the Bush junta’s interests. After all, Hakim is notoriously close to Iran.

But in the dirty war, nothing is what it seems. From the start of the war, the idea of breaking off Southern Iraq and creating a neo-liberal slave state has been floated around as a project. The NYT’s group of reporter/propagandists were particularly dreamy about that prospect in 2003 and 2004, writing thumbsucker pieces about a Chalabi-headed Iraq ‘Singapore.’ To have a notorious thief in charge of territory right above Kuwait, this was an irresistible wet dream to the Bungalow Bill set. James Glanz, one of the worst reporters of the war so far, wrote a story on 2/27/05 with the grotesque title, “Iraq's Serene South Asks, Who Needs Baghdad?” Glanz, in wet dream mode, wrote:

“Several different versions of a southern Iraqi republic have been proposed. One would include only the three or four southernmost provinces -- Basra, Muthanna, Dhi Gar and Maysan; and another would stretch as far north as the holy city of Karbala, 50 miles from Baghdad.

The one that sparks the most interest here, though, is a Singapore-style Republic of Basra alone. Comparable in area to neighboring Kuwait, such a republic could be equally rich. With foreign investment, Ramzi asserted, its economy could overtake that of the tiny but sparkling Gulf emirate of Qatar within three years.”

With the saliva coming out of the corner of his mouth, Glanz conjured up a gentle, business friendly, Brown and Root friendly entity. One of the great things about Glanz as a reporter is that he is so invariably wrong that the article was a sign in itself – surely the war was coming South when a reporter as blind as Glanz couldn’t see it. And so it went, as into the trash went the gentle Singapore south, and out came the new, Taliban version South, envisioned by SCIRI.

Yet, SCIRI’s scheme has annexed the American military, who are presently campaigning to destroy Muqtada al-Sadr’s forces. Sadr is, of course, the enemy of SCIRI. He is also an advocate of Iraqi nationalism. And his party is as popular as or more popular than the proxy party of SCIRI’s.

Why would the Americans have become part of the scheme to break up Iraq and hand a considerable amount of territory to a Islamacist group? Well, the key is still the dreamy dream of Singapore. The South would, to this view, be a smaller, and much more easily dominated entity. And whatever SCIRI’s ties to Iran, they are a group very much interested in the money to be grafted off of privatizing oil resources – under one cover or another. The Dirty intentions of the Bush junta and the dirty intentions of the Badr brigades shake hands over their mutual interest in money money money. And the price is cheap – a few hundred American soldiers, white trash lives the president, and this country, could give a shit about. Being a bold Rebel in Chief, the president is willing to risk American flesh here if the price is right. It will cost him a pang – he’s not an unfeeling brute. Out there, toking up among the Crawford Ranch brush, he might think of the losses suffered by his guys and remind himself how tough he is, to take them. For their wounds are, metaphorically, his wounds. It is the third awakening, and we should count our blessings in getting a sub-messiah like our Bush, but as an even bigger man once said, you gotta take up your cross. And Bush’s cross is made of American and Iraqi bodies.”

LI was happy to see this kind of thinking explained, today, by Josh Marshall, who back in 2003 was a liberal half-a-hawk and thus privy to the important shit going down in the important D.C. circles.

"The folks who brought you the Iraq War have always been weak in the knees for a really whacked-out vision of a Shi'a-US alliance in the Middle East. I used to talk to a lot of these folks before I became persona non grata. So here's basically how the theory went and, I don't doubt, still goes ... We hate the Saudis and the Egyptians and all the rest of the standing Arab governments. But the Iraqi Shi'a were oppressed by Saddam. So they'll like us. So we'll set them up in control of Iraq. You might think that would empower the Iranians. But not really. The mullahs aren't very powerful. And once the Iraqi Shi'a have a good thing going with us. The Iranians are going to want to get in on that too. So you'll see a new government in Tehran. Plus, big parts of northern Saudi Arabia are Shi'a too. And that's where a lot of the oil is. So they'll probably want to break off and set up their own pro-US Shi'a state with tons of oil. So before you know it, we'll have Iraq, Iran, and a big chunk of Saudi Arabia that is friendly to the
US and has a ton of oil. And once that happens we can tell the Saudis to f$#% themselves once and for all.”

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

random notes - completely weimar free!

IT is now a Doctor. (I think.)Congratulations from all of us here at Limited Inc!

Someone asked LI if we were going to say something about the death of Pinochet. No, we have nothing much to add. Pinochet was not only a dirty murderer, but he has also become a ritual object for abuse by lefties who long ago took the don’t-look-back rightist turn – the Jorge Castenedas and Christopher Hitchens. Kicking that corpse gives this group the illusion that they are still fighting the good fight of their youth – when of course they long ago joined the side of the Chicago Boyz and the ‘third way.’ Kicking Kissinger is another thing this group likes to do. It is rather like the boss airguitaring to “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World.’ You really, really don’t want to see it, be in the room with it, or have to talk to the boss about the rock n roll giants of his youth later.

Give me the fascists of yore, who didn’t wrap the iron fist in the Winnie the Pooh language of the winds, the winds of freedom – and wasn’t that 68 something?

I’m reading a book by Geoffrey Hosking, Rulers and Victims: the Russians in the Soviet Union. Hosking’s thesis about communism is, from the beginning, a non-starter – it is a reprise of the tiresome communism-is-a-religion. And there is an astonishing underestimate of the effect of World War I on Russia – Hosking doesn’t even consider it as a major shaping factor in the end of the Czarist system. This is the usual – historians do seem to have problems with the sociological effects of war, and would much prefer to talk about communism-is-a-religion. However, I found this an astonishing fact:

‘During the course of the war, 17.6 million men passed through the barracks, trenches, naval bases, and hospitals of the armed services. Of those, 11.4 million (60.4 percent) never returned…”

But, of course, you will never read a historian include Czar Nicholas II as one of the 20th centuries great mass murderers. It was war, you see. Whereas Lenin, in spite of the fact that Lenin’s prison system was no different than, say, France’s, is a mass murderer. The architect of the Gulag. And all the rest of that total shit.

Monday, December 11, 2006

an instinct has always told me: it is senseless to be a martyr without effect

Mir hat das mein Instinkt immer gesagt: Märtyrer ohne Wirkung, das ist etwas Sinnloses. – Tucholsky

Eric Kastner said that Tucholsky was a “fat little berliner who wanted to stave off a catastrophe with a typewriter.” Although Karl Kraus’ name has penetrated beyond the Germano-sphere, so that even people who have never read him have read about him, Tucholsky hasn’t been as fortunate.

So here are a few things I like about Kurt Tucholsky.
- He was eminently modern. There was not a shred of false nostalgia in his makeup. In an essay in which he talked about a French essayists phrase that, in Europe, they waste people and spare things, and in America they waste things and spare people, Tucholsky writes about the peasant that spends hours trying to bang out some crookedness in a metal flange and says that it isn’t exactly the height of civilization that we can brag about this banging peasant against the American response – to throw the flange away and get a new one. The elevation of the banging peasant, he thought, smelled a bit too much of reaction.
- He told the truth about war – that it was murder, and that the people who wage war are murderers, as well as the people who order it. He was not a support our soldiers kind of anti-war person: he was for a militaristic pacifism.
- He was wholly for: contraception; abortion rights; gay rights; sexual enlightenment. He was wholly against: catholic obscurantism; the stupid idea of women as breeders; the bourgeois hypocrisies of the family.
- He was against the death penalty.
- He found the upper class laughable.

Since LI has been pondering the Met’s exhibit of what was weirdly enough call the school of lucidity (or was it lucidists?) on the little notes that were attached to the walls where the pictures were hung (and that the truly snobbish viewer – i.e. me – tries not to read, since the snobbish viewer trusts that no curator or curator’s assistant is going to help his eyes along, and that you can pick up the references in medias res), we’ve been thinking of how Tucholsky threw himself at the reactionary forces he could see and feel gathering in Weimar Germany.

Tucholsky died on Dec. 21, 1935. He died from an overdose of painkillers, a death that many called suicide. This site has an interview with Peter Böthig of the Tucholsky-Museum in Rheinsberg, published last year. Here’s a translation:

Herr Böthig, seventy years ago today, Kurt Tucholsky died at the age of 45. Was it suicide?
Peter Böthig: Even today, that is not 100 percent clear. The one thing we can agree on is that it was a desired death. He had briefly before changed his will, written farewell letters, and sent his political testament to Arnold Zweig. Whether on this particular evening he had it in mind to kill himself or whether there was in it a component of accident, that is something we cannot explicate at this point .
Q:Michael Hepp, his biographer, brings up the possibility that it could have been a suicide ‘by mistake’. He speaks of a pill automatism.
Böthig: That is an answer we can agree on. There was also speculation that it could have been a morder.
Q: A political murder?
Böthig: We have proof that the Gestapo knew where Tucholsky was staying. He had intensively sought to conceal that. He received and sent his letters with a counterfeit address in Switzerland. But they certainly knew. He stood high on the list of those that they wanted to liquidate.
Q: What was the most important element in Tucholsky’s choice of death? the existential, the physical or the political motive?
Böthig: You have to give the existential motive the priority. But he was also sick, and very much in pain. And also, his economic situation was becoming ever more impossible. His accounts were sealed, and he had no income. Tucholsky, also, consciously did not join exile circles, didn’t publish. One shouldn’t undervalue political despair. The years between 1933 and 1935 were triumphant years for the Nazis. They had no opponent in Europe. Tucholsky saw very clearly that his epoch was over.
Q: What kind of person was this Tucholsky anyway?
Böthig: He had an artist’s nature. Highly sensible, highly gifted. At the same time he was a man who very much possessed a strong desire for social engagement. Who was really interested in people. He wanted to understand and be read. He wanted to have an effect.
Q: Where did he stand, politically?
Böthig: He belonged to the little group of intellectuals who believed in the possibility of a democracy and a republic – and that were willing to fight for it. With all their power, their minds, their spirit.
Q; Although the criticism is frequently made that Tucholsky ought to have done more to work with the Weimar Republic rather than criticize it.
Böthig: Yes, this argument keeps reappearing. However, it is an infamous inversion of the facts.
Q: The DDR had a hard time knowing what to do with Tucholsky. Why?
Böthig: Because he was a skeptic, who, of course, even critized the holy of holies, Marxism. He didn’t allow himself to become part of any party or group. He trusted his own powers of judgment. .
Q: He hasn’t been published in Israel for over 45 years.
Böthig: That has to do with his bitter and drastic complaints against the jews, to whom he threw the reproach from exile that they put up no resistance in 1933 through cowardice and opportunism, and that they didn’t leave en masse.
Q: What are the questions that drive Tucholsky research today?
Böthig: The question of his extremely complicated relationship to Judaism. Recently there was a conference on Tucholsky and the media. He was also a music critic, reviewing records, and he wrote about film. One tries to displace him from being the journalist of the Weimar time.
Q: What book would you recommend to Tucholsky beginners?
Böthig: A book I really like is the 1927 Pyrennes Book. It is a journey book in Heine’s tradition, a very beautiful essay about France and a very serious polemic against Catholicism, the cult of the saints and the belief in miracles. But also a wonderful read.
Q: What part of Tucholsky do you seriously miss in the present?
Böthig: I miss the concise satirist who was able to condense problems to such a dense point that they hurt. There is too little of this. Maybe Wiglaf Droste. But really, for this kind of literature we lack an informed culture.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

a message from a reader

Peter Beinart, Nude Model, here.

I was relaxing in the hottub the other day with my good friend, Johnny Chait. It had been a hard week, let me tell you. However, the production values on “Is that a gun in your pocket or are you happy to see me, muscular liberal?” have truly been marvelous. Scruggs+Limitedinc+Gulf and Western have really gone all out on this film, which comes in at a cost of 7500 dollars – we even rented a new apartment! I was so getting tired of the couch in producer’s pad that we used in the previous fifty films, let me tell you – I have the polyester burns to prove it. I, of course, play the Pool boy. Well, enough plugging! Chait asked if I had seen the story about the Democrats meeting our President. As my many fans know, I have been trying to avoid D.C., since I made that little booboo in advocating liberating a certain Middle Eastern country. But, as Johnny quickly noticed, every time our President is mentioned, there is something about it that causes Petey to rise to attention. So hard to break old habits!

No, I said. So he gave me the scoop. According to the newspaper:

“… Bush began his talk by comparing himself to President Harry S Truman, who launched the Truman Doctrine to fight communism, got bogged down in the Korean War and left office unpopular.
Bush said that "in years to come they realized he was right and then his doctrine became the standard for America," recalled Senate Majority Whip-elect Richard Durbin, D-Ill.”

Of course, I realized right away what was happening. This was a bi-partisan shout out to me. Besides my new career as a nude model and a much in demand pool boy, I am also, I think I can say immodestly, perhaps the foremost Trumanist in this land of purple mountain’s majesty. In my book, A New Policy to Get America Aggressive Again, I used the example of Truman in a much commented upon way. As we know, in 1947, Soviet aggression was the issue of the hour. In a controversial move, in Christmas of that year, Truman slew and ate a girl scout cookie salesman. There were many in his own party that did not appreciate the message of toughness he was sending. Henry Wallace, already under the sway of the Communists, famously said that, president or not, cannibalism was flat wrong where he came from. We can already see the kind of moral relativism that nearly undid our long twilight struggle against the evil empire. In the first political campaign in which I can vote, Reagan vs. Carter, this of course resurfaced. While JFK had, of course, slain and eaten a girlscout cookie seller to show Khruschev what was what during the Cuban missile crisis (JFK’s greatness was in his willingness to learn), and Johnson had eaten girlscouts ritually every year – barbecuing them, actually, on the ranch in that great old Texas way of his – with Watergate and the failure of our national resolve, the tradition seemed to go into abeyance. In that famous speech to the McGovernite wing in 77, Carter had gone so far as to pledge never to slay and fricassee, fry, poach, or even slowly marinate a girl scout cookie seller. The American people, naturally, had to question a Democratic party that was willing to give up our place in the world as the city on the hill and to slip in decline - and for what? A few buttercreams more? I consider Reagan’s pledge to eat a girl scout cookie seller every Christmas in the second debate to have sent a message of hope with which the Democrats, carping and whining, couldn’t compete.

Of course, when, in 2001, President George Bush and Vice President Cheney roasted a whole troop of girl scouts, I was temporarily bowled over. In retrospect, I should have seen that the crucial element of the will has to be accompanied by an elementary competence. The lack of barbecue sauce, the way they had to order out for skewers at the last moment, and the way Bush ended up with all those buttons in his teeth should have been warning signs for a muscular liberal like me.

However, this isn’t about me, or the frankly hilarious whipped cream scene that my fans will talk about for years, or at least months, or maybe a day or two – no, this is about something even more important: our country, as Johnny and I like to call it. In the long, long, extremely deep, wet oh so wet and did I say long? war gone wild that we are fighting at the present moment, we need to do more than recall Truman: we need, I think, to drop some atom bombs. I don’t know where. I don’t know on who. But I do know that it will should be done, after due deliberation, and in support of democracy. We lose our will at our peril.

Thank you.
I remain,
Peter Beinart
Nude Model