“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
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, February 10, 2007
As you probably know, the most exciting story of the upcoming 2008 presidential campaign is the extraordinary synergy between science and muscular liberalism that has actually cloned a candidate from one of Joseph Lieberman’s cells crossed with one of Harry Truman’s. The candidate, Harry Truberman, will, I think, be challenging voters with his exciting new policies any day now, as soon as our assistants teach him English.
But with the upside comes the downside. Yes, the Truberman campaign did hire me to create an exciting blog for a truly spectacular candidate (also, they are programming some math and geography into his, at present, prone and unconscious bio-structure). This was great news, until the minions of reaction got ahold of it, as in this ABC story, ‘Truberman stumbles on the Net’. The money shot graf, as it were, is this one:
“The drama began when it became known that the Truberman campaign had hired Peter Beinart, former editor of the New Republic and now the employee of a group calling itself Scruggs+LimitedInc+Gulf and Western. Reaction from the right side of the blogosphere was swift and critical, as Beinart’s work in such films as Bend Over Muscular Liberals and My Missile, Your Place were reviewed for lack of, shall we say, child friendly viewing (although this commentator did like the exciting Command and Control scene in the latter film). Beinart, they claimed, made caustic, profanity-laced remarks in these films, besides showing his privates. Beinart supporters, on the other hand, claim that the remarks were only made by the co-stars, with Beinart’s own dialogue amounting to “feel that, baby” and “oh yeah, oh God, oh yeah”. Beinart’s spokeswoman claims that the later is a quote from one of the Psalms, although as of the date of this report, she has still refused to specify which Psalm.”
Once again, a muscular liberal like myself is being martyred by McCarthyism. So let us get this story straight, shall we?
My nude modeling career is out there for all to see. I have nothing to hide on that front. My discussions about this with the Truberman campaign people was nothing if not candid. Most of them, I was pleased to discover, are big fans of my film oeuvre. These attacks, however, do present a test of will for us (and, by the way, our bio-form candidate has passed several tests with flying colors this morning, including identifying all of the primary colors by name), since we can bow to the demagoguery of the dishonorable right – in which I do not include such names as Rich Lowrey or, say, Charles Krauthammer, brilliant writers who have come out and said that the Bend Over films were like a fifth division, aimed at the treacherous heart of Islamofascism - or we can fight for what we believe in. These red herrings do us no good in a time when we need to be radically increasing our defense budget to meet the challenges of World War IV, and defending a reformed Social Security system that integrates Wall Street and Main Street – the best of American productivity meeting the best of America’s financial wizardry. Tearing down middle class entitlements is part of the third way that is revolutionizing the government, and making us ever more relevant in an ever more competitive world.
So, ignore the stories you are reading about the Truberman campaign disavowing this one lone, and – even if I say it myself – heroic nude model, standing up against those in the Democratic party who, inadvertently, help the cause of terrorism. Standing up for aching minutes in other areas too, standing, throbbing, heated, passionate, oh yeah, oh God, oh yeah – such are the talents I am proud of.
- Do you know how to twist?
Well it goes like this…
The buffoon and the ass keep turning up together, as though the deck of achetypes that lies, face down, under my electric prestidigitator’s fingers were a crooked pack.According to Frances Yates’ Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradion, Apuleius, the author of the Golden Ass (that book of transmutations through which the transcendentally ludicrous is finally given shape and form by Psyche’s quest for Cupid) was, by the fourth century A.D., credited with the translation of the corpus of Hermes Trismegistus. These were the books that were supposedly written before Moses was a pup, and they were wildly popular in the Renaissance. Cosimo de Medici hired Ficino to translate the Greek Corpus Hermeticum in 1462, as the manuscript containing it had turned up by way of a traveling monk, Leonardo da Pistoia - instructing him to interrupt the Plato translation project, as the Corpus Hermeticum was urgent. Cosimo wanted to read the thing before he died. Such was its prestige, such is the greed for ‘secret’ knowledge. By the time of Bruno, a century later, the C.H. had lost something of its allure, vis a vis the regular scholarly world, but had continued to be central to the system of Renaissance magic, which operated in the hidey holes, intersecting, as secret knowledge always seems to, with intelligence agencies and diplomacy.
Bruno, of course, was interested in magic, as were members of Raleigh’s School of Night that he made the acquaintance of in his London sojourn. In the group picture of the founding fathers of the modern era, all lined up like Dutch masters, we usually have Bacon, Galileo and Descartes – Bruno is left out. And the reason that he is left out is that he was just too damned interested in that f-fuckin magic. Yet in reality – that promiscuous bitch, my darling - Bruno can’t be left out. He interests us in this post because, unlike that grave company, Bruno was a buffoon – a necessary joker, the philosopher-buffoon who keeps returning, in some dark orbit according to some dark cycle of its own, to put into disarray the white magic of Bacon, Galileo and Descartes. To throw a few boomerangs around, liven the joint up, and raise, if possible, everybody’s level of anxiety and hope, the two intricately counter-weighted against each other.
Dorothy Waley Singer’s life of Bruno has been put up in its entirety by the good folks at positive atheism – and let’s end this post with an anecdote about Bruno’s childhood from Singer:
Bruno gives in his greatest Latin work, the De immenso,  a description of an episode in childhood, which made a deep impression on him. His home was in a hamlet just outside Nola, on the lower slopes of Cicada, a foot-hill of the Appenines some twenty miles east of Naples.  He tells with affectionate detail of the beauty and fertility of the land around, overlooked from afar by the seemingly stern bare steeps of Vesuvius. One day a suspicion of the deceptiveness of appearances dawned on the boy. Mount Cicada, he tells us, assured him that "brother Vesuvius" was no less beautiful and fertile. So, girding his loins, he climbed the opposite mountain. "Look now," said Brother Vesuvius, "look at Brother Cicada, dark and drear against the sky." The boy assured Vesuvius that such also was his appearance viewed from Cicada. "Thus did his parents [the two mountains] first teach the lad to doubt, and revealed to him how distance changes the face of things." So in after-life he interprets the experience and continues: "In whatever region of the globe I may be, I shall realize that both time and place are similarly distant from me."
Friday, February 09, 2007
Now, of course, fascism has become an open source kind of thing. Sure, there is a party that calls itself fascist in Italy, but that is the little toe of fascism nowadays. Fascism has become an honorific bestowed by others. You have Islamofascism (or the new variety, Sunni fascism, coined by that facisto-brander extraordinaire, Chris Hitchens), you have Christian fascism, you have Bush as a fascist and Osama as a fascist and my Uncle Dick as a fascist and Donald Duck as one too.
Oddly, as the brand has exploded, it has also become a secret vice, like eating clay is in certain counties in the Southern U.S.A. Nobody wants to be a loud and proud fascist, and usually the response to being called a fascist is to call the person calling one a fascist a fascist. As Machiavelli once put it (talking to Leo Strauss), “I’m rubber and your glue/whatever you say bounces off me/ and sticks to you” – a principle exhaustively analyzed in Schmitt’s Grundlegung des Gummi-Prinzip, an indispensable guide to political philosophy, as all us fascist anti-fascists well know.
Not that I’m a fascist, mind you. Say that again to me and I’ll hit you with my police baton.
This pullulation of fascism is a little unexpected, especially as its principle architects – those many, many fascists of today – can be said, like Christ's executioners, to know not what they do. Osama, looking at what Mussolini wrought in Libya, for instance, might not recognize that as just what he is aiming at – but don’t we know better? And Bush, a man who operates, it has become pretty clear, in the traditional mode of the Southern politician – a species that has been known to seize a capital or two (vide Herman Talmadge) to cap a corrupt victory “gained’ at the polls, turns out to be a fascist too. Well, shit, seems there is a perfect fit between today’s brand fascism and today’s mock heroic ethos – we are in the post Third Way age, the age of the long long long long war on terrorism itself, or World War IV as its fans like to call it. Genocide, it turns out, doesn’t consist of people butchering people in heaps (when that happens, we immediately look for errors in random samples, happily dispute about them, and are able, presto-chango, not to think about stinky dead bodies and such) -- but of the President of Iran holding a holocaust denier conference. Who knew that, in order to save the honor of the holocaust victims, we would have to systematically lower the standards of genocide to a verbal act? Soon bumping your funny bone in the shower will just be a pinprick away from being sent to the oven in Auschwitz. Such are the speeded up delights of insta-history.
Bruno tells the story of two blind beggars at the door of the archbishopric of Naples who started beating each other with sticks, the one claiming to be a Guelph, the other a Ghibelline, although when they were separated neither could say what they meant by those terms.
That is what it was like back in those primitive times. Now, of course, those blind beggars toss aside their sticks to become political pundits, and we all join in the melee, in which every bruise turns out to be a word.
PS - LI is no Schmitt, admittedly, but we do think the sweet clarity and distinctness of political discoursing would be immeasurably elevated if, instead of using the term, fascist, one simply used the more comprehensive and all purpose term, motherfucker.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Congratulations to Mistah Scruggs, who is to the squirrels of this era what Davy Crockett was to the bears of his, on the announcement of his upcoming marriage.
I am a little worried about the impact of this marriage on the Scruggs+Limitedinc+Gulf and Western high end adult entertainment business. I hope the bride to be understands that we are only in the business of creating quality cinema for muscular liberals (with your favorite stars, like Peter Beinart, Nude Model) because, well, because WE CARE.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Anyway, this is just to note that the pluminess, pomposity and egotism with which the man’s mind is furnished is busy producing a form of prose that sounds exactly like the parody of the English celeb journalist in this video by IT’s friend, Jeremy Mcclintock
This comes from his latest article in Slate, entitled, Don’t Blame me, blame the evil Islamofascists against which I struggle like a veritable Hercules:
“The only way of preventing this triumph of the democratic heresy, wrote Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was to make life so unbearable for the heretical Shiites that they would respond in kind. The ensuing conflict would ruin all the plans of the Crusader-Zionist alliance. I can still remember the chill that went through me when I read this document and realized that it combined extreme radical evil with a high degree of intelligence.”
“I can still remember the chill…” This is the kind of writing you do when you never quite got over those G.A. Henty adventure stories you read as a boy.
Hitchens, however, is too much of a joke to be a lot of fun bitching about anymore.
On the other hand, John Burns, the Iraqi correspondent for the NYT who was one of the little warriors in 2003, is now all about explaining the woe and American innocence in an interview highlighted on The Corner and pointed to (which is how we came by it) by Matt Yglesias. Yglesias has an inexplicable affection for Burns. We don’t.
This exchange is all about the blind praising the blind for their mutually satisfying depth perception:
“Russert: John, was it possible for our policy makers to truly understand the way Iraqis would have reacted? The judgments made here were that when we went in we would be greeted as quote, "liberators," to quote Dick, Vice President's Cheney's phrase, that they were prepared, in effect, to take governing into their own hands, that they were so upset and had been so downtrodden by Saddam Hussein that they would embrace democracy and rise up, almost immediately.
Burns: Well first of all, I think, again, to be fair, the American troops were greeted as liberators. We saw it. It lasted very briefly, it was exhausted quickly by the looting and the astonishment and puzzlement and finally anger of Iraqis that nothing, or very little was done to stop that. I think that to be fair to the United States, when I speak as a citizen of the United Kingdom, I think that the instincts that led to much that went wrong were good American instincts: the desire not to have too heavy of a footprint, the desire to empower Iraqis.”
On Matt’s site, I commented at some length of the absurdity of the ‘desire not to have too heavy a footprint”, otherwise known as trying to run a war and cut taxes for the wealthy at the same time. The light footprint effect was seen in New Orleans during and after Katerina too – those idealistic Americans, just empowering the weak like nobody’s business! And – of course – down memory hole is the fact that there has never been an occupation anywhere without looting, and the American response – darling idealists, those Americans – was to guard the Oil Ministry. There are other synonyms for America’s good instincts: blind smugness, criminal greed, incompetence, featherbedding, neo-imperial warmongering – oh, give me a thesaurus and I’ll be here for a week.
But - I suppose I should just say – I still remember the chill that went through me when I read Burns’s malefic words.
Ah, and you thought you were simply reading the heebee jeebees of a logomaniac, eh?
Well, lets set out another little tub. This thread is gonna be about the philosophic buffoon – or the buffoon philosopher.
It all goes back to a moment of absentmindedness – it all goes back, for me, to the eighties, when I used to talk to my friend and prof, Kathleen Higgins, who was writing her first book, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra. K.H. had become fascinated by ass fests, one of which is featured in the big Z, and was seeing large echoes in the text from Apuleius’ Golden Ass.
At the time, I didn’t grasp the import of this. Only lately have I begun to connect what she was telling me with my sense of the-muse like power of the ludicrous – which has always operated like the Air Loom gang on the broken winged crow who speaks to you here.
However, I have forgotten (and can’t find the book this morning) whether K.H. mentions Bruno. Nuccio Ordine’s book, Giordano Bruno and the Philosophy of the Ass, was published after K.H.’s book – I do know that.
At the time that I was talking to her about Nietzsche, I was especially drawn – like Krazy Kat to Ignatz’s brick – to one particular moment in Nietzsche’s corpse-us – the beginning number of the Gay Science, in which he says this:
“To laugh at oneself, as one must laugh, in order to laugh out and out of the whole truth – up until now, even the best did not have enough probity, and the most talented had much too little genius! there is, perhaps, a future even for laughter! at that moment when the principle, “the type is everything, one is always none – gets assimilated into mankind and everybody then will always have access to this last liberation and irresponsibility. Perhaps then, laughter will have bonded with wisdom, perhaps then there will only be a “gay science.”
From what we know about Nietzsche, in his private life, he did have a peculiar sense of humor. The first time Franz Overbeck saw Nietzsche after the breakdown, he wrote that “I have seen Nietzsche in certain conditions where it seemed to me – a terrible thought! – that he was faking madness, as if he were glad that it had ended thus.” This, to me, implies that Nietzsche had, in his sane years, a very large appreciation of the practical joke and the dead pan – and would probably have liked Buster Keaton, if he had lived long enough to see the twenties films. In my private list of all stars, many similar jokers crop up – Kurt Tucholsky, Franz Kafka, Georg Grosz, etc. They all appreciated the cruel laughter at the cripple, sliced and diced into the cripple’s laughter at the ludicrous unconsciousness of the sound.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
This is from the Denver Post:
Haggard, 50, resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals and was fired from the church he built from nothing into a 14,000-member congregation after a former male prostitute in Denver alleged a three-year cash-for-sex relationship.
Haggard admitted to "sexual immorality" and a long battle against feelings contrary to his beliefs. He admitted buying methamphetamine but said he never used it. Haggard did not respond to interview requests.
Among other things, the overseers urged Haggard to enter a 12-step program for sexual addiction, Ware [Rev. Mike Ware of Westminster, spokesman for the four minister board overseeing Haggard’s rebirth] said.
Ralph [another preacher overseer] said three weeks of counseling at an undisclosed Arizona treatment center helped Haggard immensely and left Haggard sure of one thing.
"He is completely heterosexual," Ralph said. "That is something he discovered. It was the acting- out situations where things took place. It wasn't a constant thing."
And so it came to pass that the good reverend Haggard emerged from his desert sojourn. Unlike the Lord, who was merely tempted by Satan, Haggard was beset by the urge to buy drugs that he was never going to use and hire male prostitutes for the purpose of having no sex with them. Haggard, in short, had fallen prey to a temptation not listed in the Lord's prayer - the love of paradox. He is a peeping tom who keeps his eyes closed, an exhibitionist who exposes himself to himself in a dark closet in which he can't see himself. But LI is happy to see that all is not lost. For lo and behold, like the Gadarene swine doing the 12 step program, Haggard is coming out of Kristian Kamp with straight As in the straight department, leavin his devils behind him, and getting into online psychology! Let’s give him a big round of applause, and hope that he can find a cure for those woodies that may inflict themselves upon him and lure him, by their malefic throbbings, into non-sex, non-drug situations – they are so obviously symptoms of some rare tropical disease, as spots are to measles.
“The last time L. Paul Bremer testified before Congress, he was lauded as an American hero. Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) congratulated Bremer, who was leading the U.S. occupation authority in Iraq, for a "tremendous success." Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) commended his "energy and focus." Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) praised his "brilliant analysis."”
Interesting what you can find going through the old quotes. This is from a Washington Post editorial (probably a Fred Hiatt editorial) from August 17, 2003, about Iraq:
The reality is more mixed. Certainly the U.S. effort is greater than some critics suggest, and the results are less gloomy than you might imagine from the inevitable daily attention to the latest problem. Some of the worst scenarios, widely foretold before the war, have not played out; there have been few revenge killings between Iraqis and little of the kind of communitarian violence that would threaten Iraq's unity. The majority Shiite community, though resentful of America's abandonment in 1991 and suspicious of the occupiers' motives, seems willing at least for the moment to tolerate a U.S. presence. Nor is the absence of negatives the only good news. As the fear of one of the 20th century's most vengeful rulers lifts, many Iraqis are reveling in new freedoms. There has been an explosion of political activity, of debate on campuses, of political parties and newspapers. In many cities, U.S. authorities have helped create local governing bodies that are ethnically mixed and broadly representative; an interim national council is also in place. U.S. service men and women are working heroically, tolerating stifling heat and difficult living conditions and often accomplishing with great patience and sensitivity tasks of municipal administration for which in many cases they had little training.
But that can-do spirit raises questions: Why are combat troops receiving so little help in these jobs? Why are there not more military police and civilian police trainers, more civil administrators, more democracy trainers? Why do the opportunities for communication between Iraqis and American authorities remain so limited? Why are troops stretched so thin in areas where they remain under threat? After an inexcusably hapless beginning, the occupation has gained some traction under the firmer guidance of L. Paul Bremer III. But is he really being given all the resources he could use? Could the United States really not be doing more to get Iraqis back to work, to turn the electricity and the air conditioners back on, to convince ordinary Iraqis that ordinary life will improve?”
Here’s WAPO’s opedist and conduit to Chalabi, Hoagland, September 21,2003 – months after the decision to disband the Iraqi army – giving Bremer the manly pat on the back:
“A man with $20 billion to spend is certain to accumulate a lot of things, including new troubles and determined rivals for control of that fortune. The hot seat that L. Paul Bremer occupies as America's proconsul in Iraq is about to get even hotter.
Bremer of Baghdad has exercised uncontested authority with a toughness and dogmatism needed to surmount the chaotic conditions he found when he arrived in Baghdad in May.
Those qualities won him support even from Iraqis and Americans he had to rebuff; in today's rapidly changing diplomatic and political environment, similar stubbornness could easily undermine Bremer's early successes.”
Those early successes – who can forget them? or, actually – who can remember them? What were they again? Ah, yes, they were all about dispelling the absurd idea that we were in for “revenge killings”, “communitarian violence” and all the other claptrap mouthed by the blame America first crowd.
Here is Krauthammer – a Churchill among columnists, a man whose eloquence has prodded us on in this long long long long war against the forces of evil and Mordred and all the grimy little hobbit killers out there who are out to get President Backbone before he puts Barney in the volcano… uh, I think. Isn’t that how this epic goes? Anyway, here he is, October 3, 2003:
“Garner was the right guy in the wrong place. There were other jobs to do, and Garner could not do them well. This error cost us a month, a crucial month.
His successor, L. Paul Bremer, has done remarkably well. Consider the task he faces. He has had to rule on privatization, the nature of the currency, the establishment of a central bank, the structure of the oil industry. And these are just the economic questions. Daily, he has had to make political, infrastructure, security, religious and ethnic decisions that will profoundly affect Iraq's future. In the United States, any one of these decisions would take months of deliberation, hearings and arguments. Bremer has to make them within hours or days. The re-emergence of life and structure in a country that six months ago had no civil society at all is testimony to his success.
His major mistake was disbanding the army. And even this judgment should be rendered with a bit of humility. At the time, it seemed the right thing to do. In the Middle East, a major obstacle to democracy has always been the military: military power, military autonomy, military coups. Keeping Hussein's army risked the worst possible outcome: a future return to power of a Baathist army. For the long-run health of the new Iraq, it made eminent sense to abolish the army and start over.”
Life was good back then. The privatizations were particularly dear to the Iraqi heart – for decades, the toiling, moiling masses had cried out in their hearts, if only we had deregulation in the agricultural sector! and as for the flat tax, make it at 15 percent, so that liberty and justice will be like dust in the desert wind!
What happened since we all know. The MSM made up a bunch of stories to disguise the outstanding successes that have made Iraq the envy of nations. We look forward to the Hiatt editorial explaining this at some later date.
Monday, February 05, 2007
Here’s a translation of the whole text. (I should say, I translated the quotes in the above paragraph myself). It is a remarkable piece – and short, too. It is pretty cool that it is up on the web for those who don’t read French.
Although Bachelard is a long way from Bruno, I don’t think my insertion of him in the chain of figures I'm going to use to talk about misfortunes of the infinite world does him any damage. On the contrary, although Bachelard doesn’t use the anima mundi terminology here, he never hesitated to reach for what some might consider scientifically ‘soft’ terms. His text does reference both older cosmologies and the relativistic image of the universe in physics.
So why do we hear the faint echoes here of Bruno’s anima mundi earth, which is not simply a compound, as Bruno said, of our trash? We’d identify the anima mundi world with that - and here we are making an unjustified leap – world the philosopher has lost. When Bachelard compares the universe of general relativity with the five year plan – a pretty witty comparison – we hear the faint overtones of the infinite world concept. The world whose loss is commoditized, whose atmosphere, oceans and soils have been made totally human over the last two hundred years. The totally human world, a goal shared by capitalist and communist alike, has turned out to be an incredibly successful project. The only non-human factor left in that world – the one factor not subject to the calculation of human use and value – is God. Animal, plant, element – they have all gone into the factory. As for God of the Gods, well, the non-humanity of God doesn’t really provide much of a stumbling block. Every effort is made to process God into the human, to create your nice adorable personal God. Otherwise, fuck him/her/them. The human God is tastier, with 90% less fat.
This weekend, LI liked two posts, one by Smokewriting and one by the friend and foil of this site, Paul Craddick, at Fragmenta Philosophica, that both had to do with the planetary question posed by the IPCC report – although Smokewriting’s post came before the official release of the report. Smokewriting's post welds together two different themes: one, the “risk society” thesis of Ulrich Becker (taken over by Anthony Giddens) that grounded the "third way" rhetoric of the nineties; and two, Hans Jonas’ thesis about the temporal dimension of the capitalist exploitation of nature, where natural resources stand for the future - human future. LI particularly liked this passage:
“Implicit in Beck’s thesis is the idea that the emptying and wholesale exploitation of the future is a structural feature of capital. It is this that generates the sense of having participated in an apocalypse which one failed to notice. Capital does not just extract surplus value from the ongoing present by subjecting it to the repetitive cycles of production, but also extracts it from the living futures of potential embodied in nature. Capitalist production pulls futures into the present and uses them up, but in order to do this it vampirises the past becomings from out of which the world has congealed.”
"The apocalype which one failed to notice" - we tend to see this as the universe that is the infinity of our inattention. It is the 'too big' of all the changes wrought on the biosphere during the twentieth century, the fertilizer dumped, the exhaust from each car, the oddity that transportation became both a major killer in the twentieth century and that the killings were absorbed into the background (while everybody is searching for a cure for malaria and aids, who is searching for a cure for the car accident?), etc.
Paul’s post is less about Capital than about Cost – and the framework in which to measure costs:
[C]onfronted with the reality of climate change and a human role therein, the central question for deliberation - What is to be done? - is an ethical-political one, not primarily a scientific one (not "primarily" because, while sober scientific judgment undoubtedly must inform deliberation, the answer eludes science's competence). In other words, to suppose that science simply "tells" us how to address [climate change] is a blatant category mistake."
Put another way ... even assuming that we could believe, to a reasonable level of certainty, that a certain course of action would ameliorate climate change significantly, it still doesn't follow that it ought to be undertaken. The costs of so doing may be unjustifiable.
I’ll have more to say about this – until you, gentle reader, are sick to death of it – in later posts.