“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

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Remora

Washington Post headlines the Italian strike that brought a million people into the street. NYT story about the Italian paralysis...

No, just joking.

Not that there wasn't a general strike -- a magical phrase to the IWW lefties among us -- in Italy. Not that it didn't paralyse Italy. Not that it didn't bring a million people into the street. But a fact like that is much too inconvenient for American papers.

Liberation, yesterday, had the story (which has spilled into the French election, today -- Jospin accusing Chirac of being a French Berlusconi):

Here's what it looks like in French:


Contre le projet de r�forme gouvernemental de l'article 18 du statut des travailleurs, qui r�glemente les licenciements abusifs, plusieurs millions d'Italiens ont r�pondu hier � l'appel � la gr�ve g�n�rale lanc� par les syndicats. Selon les chiffres des trois grandes conf�d�rations italiennes (CGIL, CISL et UIL), plus de 13 millions de personnes ont cess� le travail, le taux de participation atteignant pr�s de 100 % dans certains secteurs.
Paralysie. A Florence, pr�s de 400 000 travailleurs sont descendus dans la rue derri�re le leader de la CGIL, Sergio Cofferati (lire ci-contre), tandis que de nombreux cort�ges ont envahi les rues de Milan (300 000 personnes), Bologne (350 000), Rome (200 000) ou Palerme (100 000).

Translation:
Against the proposed governmental "reform"[ LI Note -- we have grown tired of the abuse of "reform" to mean corrupting the old Keynsian system of protecting the countervailing power of labor by acceeding to the most outrageous demands of capital. So we are putting the scare quotes into play. And if you don't like it, find your own translator] of article 18 of the labor code concerning abusive layoffs, more than a million Italians responded to the appeal for a general strike broadcast by the unions. According to the numbers of the three big unions (CGIL, CISL, and UIL), more than 13 million people stopped working, the level of participation attaining nearly 100% in certain sectors.

Paralysis

In Florence, nearly 400,000 workers descended in the streets behind the leader of the CGIL, Sergio Cofferati, while numerous groups invaded the streets of Milan (300,000 people), Bologna (350,00), Rome (200,000) and Palermo (100,000)

The NYT did have an article on the strike yesterday, and with typical Times hauteur , (the hauteur of the true globalist), surveyed the scene and asked what the fuss was about:


"Though the actual changes he has proposed are considered minor, labor leaders see this as the first step in a government plan to undermine job security. Then, too, Mr. Cofferati, who leads the largest Italian union, is considered a rising star on the left.The unions did succeed well enough that there was no television coverage of today's demonstrations � since journalists, too, were on strike.

Much of the center of Rome became a street carnival as protesters waved huge puppets of Mr. Berlusconi dressed as Napoleon and as the pope. Roberto Benigni, the actor and film maker, told a crowd in the Piazza del Popolo that he would not speak because he, too, was on strike."

Of course, to the Times, Berlusconi's labor law is only common sense. LI searched Gibbons Decline and Fall of the R.E. for a phrase evocative of the neo-liberal attitude in these fair States. Gibbon, he never fails us! Here is his description of the foreign policy, as we'd call it now, of the Roman Empire: "Those princes [of their outer dependencies], whom the ostentation of gratitude or generosity permitted for a while to hold a precarious sceptre, were dismissed from their thrones, as soon as they had per formed their appointed task of fashioning to the yoke the vanquished nations. The free states and cities which had embraced the cause of Rome were rewarded with a nominal alliance, and insensibly sunk into real servitude."

Quite.

Finally, since LI is in a hormonally lefty mood this morning -- there is good news from France, where the Trotskyist candidate, Arlette Languiller, a typist, is getting 10 percent in the polls -- ahead of the Greens and the Commies. Hooray!


This year, she has turned out to be a surprisingly sharp thorn in the side of the left-wing political establishment. Polls show that this retired, Trotskyist typist may get as much as 10 percent of the votes in the first round of the presidential elections set for Sunday.

That could mean third or fourth place in a field of 16 candidates � ahead of both the candidates for the Communist Party and the Greens, the two left-wing parties that have been junior partners in the ruling government coalition for the last five years. The likely winners of the Sunday vote, President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, are expected to garner just 18 to 22 percent each."

Apparently Arlette -- as she is known -- has come under the gun, since her numbers rose. The trotskyists have been accused of being cultists. Well, duh. Of course they are cultists. Trotsky's critique of bureaucracy preceeded the irresistable plunge into roccoco parlimentarian excess, factionalism, and distemper that has been the mark of every Trotskyist part every since. Who cares? Arlette isn't going to win -- she is simply going to make the powers that be nervous. That's her job.







Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Remora

Hail Freedonia.

The Washington Post piece on the failure to kill or capture Osama would make a nice script for a latter day Marx brothers film. You have the man directing the battle of Tora Bora from Tampa, Florida, no doubt operating on intelligence that Tampa was in imminent danger. You have Jethro Bodine as president. You have the escape of the Great Satan, Osama himself, from a redoubt of caves built in the 80s, no doubt with the aid of the always generous Freedonian Intelligence Agency. And you have an absence of suggestions as to where Satan flew to -- although perhaps we should check with our hundred percent ally in the war on terror, Pakistan, for that one:

"Another change since Tora Bora, with no immediate prospect of finding bin Laden, is that President Bush has stopped proclaiming the goal of taking him "dead or alive" and now avoids previous references to the al Qaeda founder as public enemy number one.

In an interview with The Washington Post in late December, Bush displayed a scorecard of al Qaeda leaders on which he had drawn the letter X through the faces of those thought dead. By last month, Bush began saying that continued public focus on individual terrorists, including bin Laden, meant that "people don't understand the scope of the mission."

"Terror is bigger than one person," Bush said March 14. "He's a person that's now been marginalized." The president said bin Laden had "met his match" and "may even be dead," and added: "I truly am not that concerned about him."

Top advisers now assert that the al Qaeda leader's fate should be no measure of U.S. success in the war."

Limited Inc has been quoting all the greats recently -- Burke, Spencer. The appropriate quote, here, is obviously from Duck Soup. This is Trentino, the wily ambassador from Sylvania, asking his henchmen about their progress in overthrowing the new president of Freedonia, Rufus T. Firefly:

Chicolini: Well, you remember you gave us a picture of this man and said, 'Follow him?'...Well, we get on-a the job right away and in-a one hour - even-a less than one hour...
Trentino (excitedly and expectantly): Yes?
Chicolini: We losa-a the picture. That's-a pretty quick work, eh?


Do they watch Duck Soup in the Pentagon? LI can't help but wonder about the scorecard in the delicious scene painted by the Post. Did some flunky get it as a historic souvenir? In any case, it is nice that the war against terrorism, our rulers have decided, isn't about anything so mundane as terrorists. This is a confidence builder. This is a lifter upper. This is a shot in the arm. Man, for a while Limited Inc was entertaining paranoid fantasies. LI is obviously unable to comprehend the sublime plan. LI is obviously not rolling. He should roll. Let's all roll is the slogan. Our war against the Shadow, LI misunderstood as a war against the guy who organized the group that attacked the World Trade Center. Damn, that is such short sighted thinking! Obviously, the Shadow is Saddam Hussein, who might not have had anything to do with the WTC, but was soooo disrespectful to Bush's father! Now of course, after the true enemy of all mankind -- Mullah Omar, I believe his name was -- has fallen, we can get serious.

Let's point out the obvious. This is an administration that performed dismally before 9/11, and they seem to be reverting to a mindset that would allow another 9/11. An inability, for one thing, to understand that an illorganized group of 19 dissatisfied Saudis can do more damage to the Heimat than S Hussein has ever done.

But LI imagines the scene in the DoD.

I mean, look what-a we got, boss! We got a missile defense, we got a great ally in this Sharon, we got a war with Saddam coming up, as soon as we can find a reason for it, and a place to launch it from! Plus Tom Ridge personally working on our security problem. Boss! Boss!



Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Remora

King Gall

According to the 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica, gall is a "secretion of the liver known as � bile,� the term being also used of the pear-shaped diverliculum of the bile-duct, which forms a reservoir for the bile, more generally known as the� gall-bladder �. From the extreme bitterness of the secretion, � gall,� like the Lat. fel, is used for anything extremely bitter, whether actually or metaphorically. From the idea that the gall-bladder was the dominating organ of a bitter, sharp temperament, �gall� was formerly used in English for such a spirit, and also for one very ready to resent injuries. It thus survives in American slang, with the meaning �impudence � or � assurance.��


The older use of gall -- to mean bitterness, not presumption -- is illustrated in this quote from Thoreau's letter on John Brown:


"On the whole, my respect for my fellow-men, except as one may outweigh a million, is not being increased these days. I have noticed the cold- blooded way in which newspaper writers and men generally speak of this event, as if an ordinary malefactor, though one of unusual "pluck"- as the Governor of Virginia is reported to have said, using the language of the cockpit, "the gamest man be ever saw"- had been caught, and were about to be hung. He was not dreaming of his foes when the governor thought he looked so brave. It turns what sweetness I have to gall, to hear, or hear of, the remarks of some of my neighbors. When we heard at first that he was dead, one of my townsmen observed that "he died as the fool dieth"; which, pardon me, for an instant suggested a likeness in him dying to my neighbor living. Others, craven-hearted, said disparagingly, that "he threw his life away," because he resisted the government. Which way have they thrown their lives, pray?- such as would praise a man for attacking singly an ordinary band of thieves or murderers."

Limited Inc's sweetness readily turns to gall -- every morning, about 9:30, when we finish reading the papers. The meaning bodied forth in American slang is well illustrated today, reader, in this quote from today's NYT's article about the rise and fall and rise of President Chavez of Venezuala:

"Asked whether the administration now recognizes Mr. Ch�vez as Venezuela's legitimate president, one administration official replied, "He was democratically elected," then added, "Legitimacy is something that is conferred not just by a majority of the voters, however."

One feels, reading this, like Keat's Cortez, or one of his men: "when with eagle eyes/He star'd at the Pacific- and all his men/Look'd at each other with a wild surmise -/Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
Silence, though, is perhaps not LI's best exercized talent. Wild surmise soon dissolved into wild laughter. Talk about a smoking gun! Isn't this the very attitude one always suspected? Isn't this too much? If only we had heard more of this in December, 2000, as the corrupt current POTUS and his crew were overthrowing the democratic election of Al Gore. As the current administration massaged the leaders of the coup against Chavez, did they assured them that time and custom will take care of any problems the seizure of power might cause in the consciousness of the people?

Ah! It all brings back the judicially "corrected" election of 2000. LI, nostalgically, looked up a pre 9/11 issue of Newsweek -- remember the era before 9/11? Before we declared war on Osama bin Laden, and brought down, with our slingshot, the wrong bird? Before the war on terrorism increasingly became a mere machination to disguise the essential corruption of the Bush administration, from its Power company powered Energy plan to its absurd tax giveaway to the top 5 percentile. Here's the beginning of the Michael Isikoff and Evan Thomas article on the stolen election:

" Sandra Day O'Connor and her husband, John, a Washington lawyer, have long been comfortable on the cocktail and charity-ball circuit. So at an election-night party on Nov. 7, surrounded for the most part by friends and familiar acquaintances, she let her guard drop for a moment when she heard the first critical returns shortly before 8 p.m. Sitting in her hostess's den, staring at a small black-and-white television set, she visibly started when CBS anchor Dan Rather called Florida for Al Gore. "This is terrible," she exclaimed. She explained to another partygoer that Gore's reported victory in Florida meant that the election was "over," since Gore had already carried two other swing states, Michigan and Illinois. Moments later, with an air of obvious disgust, she rose to get a plate of food, leaving it to her husband to explain her somewhat uncharacteristic outburst. John O'Connor said his wife was upset because they wanted to retire to Arizona, and a Gore win meant they'd have to wait another four years.

O'Connor, the former Republican majority leader of the Arizona State Senate and a 1981 Ronald Reagan appointee, did not want a Democrat to name her successor. Two witnesses described this extraordinary scene to NEWSWEEK. Responding through a spokesman at the high court, O'Connor had no comment. O'Connor had no way of knowing, as she watched the early returns, that election night would end in deadlock and confusion--or that five weeks later she would play a direct and decisive role in the election of George W. Bush. O'Connor could not possibly have foreseen that she would be one of two swing votes in the court's 5-4 decision ending the manual recount in Florida and forcing Al Gore to finally concede defeat. But her remarks will fuel criticism that the justices not only "follow the election returns," as the old saying goes, but, in the case of George W. Bush v. Albert Gore, Jr., sought to influence them."

Did Bush's advisors tell the anti-Chavez people to get the courts in their pocket before they proceeded? It is important advice.

King Gall's foreign policy favors more legitimate rulers than the neo-Peronist Chavez -- such as Equatorial Guinea's Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. Obiang has suddenly become rich with the discovery of oil in his country. The man is a friend of all that is beautiful and true -- if you don't believe LI, look at the terms of the oil contracts: 75 percent for the oil companies, 25 for Obiang and his cronies. Or, as they will call themselves, the sovereign nation of Equatorial Guinea. The Nation has a very nice report, by Ken Silverstein, on this obscure country. It is not obscure to Triton Energy, however. And Triton Energy is run by an old friend of GWBII:

"Perhaps best connected of all is Triton, whose chairman, Tom Hicks, made Bush a millionaire fifteen times over when he bought the Texas Rangers in 1998. Hicks's leveraged buyout firm, Hicks Muse, is Bush's fourth-largest career financial patron, according to the Center for Public Integrity."

Oil, money, blood, and a leader who, unlike Chavez, is thoroughly democratic -- which is how he gained his 92 percent of the vote in the last election. Life is so good.

However, Silverstein's story interests LI less as another tawdry adventure of the Bush administration than for the tergiversation of Equatorial Guinea's pr man in D.C., Bruce McColm. Bruce's upward and onward career really caught our eye:

"In addition to direct lobbying, the oil industry sought to improve Obiang's image by hiring the services of Bruce McColm, a former head of Freedom House who now runs the Institute for Democratic Strategies (IDS), a Virginia-based nonprofit whose stated mission is "strengthening democratic institutions." The Obiang regime's most tireless champion, McColm works closely with the government, which now pays him directly. (According to its latest nonprofit tax form, the IDS spent $223,000 in 2000, of which all but $10,000 went toward its Equatorial Guinea work.) In 2000 McColm sent a team of observers to monitor Equatorial Guinea's municipal elections, which it reported to be basically free and fair. "Electoral officials should be recognized for discharging their responsibilities in an effective and transparent manner," said an IDS press release at the time. "Observers generally felt that the positives of this election far outweighed the negatives." This was in marked contrast to a UN report that said the electoral campaign "was characterized by the omnipresence of the [ruling] party, voting in public and the intimidating presence of the armed forces."

Go to the Freedom House site and you get this slogan:

"Freedom House, a non-profit, nonpartisan organization, is a clear voice for democracy and freedom around the world. Through a vast array of international programs and publications, Freedom House is working to advance the remarkable worldwide expansion of political and economic freedom."

An admirable stance, n'est-ce pas? Don't think that Equatorial Guinea has become a much better country recently -- at least according to Freedom house, it rates a 7.7 in terms of freedom. According to FH's explanation of its rating system, "those whose ratings average 1-2.5 are generally considered "Free," 3-5.5 "Partly Free," and 5.5-7 "Not Free." This does not give the Bruce McColm's of the world pause, of course. Far from it. When someone like Bruce McColm acquires the moral capital that accrues from taking the honorable position that people should have a say in the government that has the power to incarcerate them, the goal is to leave, and then to gleefully squander your conscience as you defend the dictators whose money helps you dine out in Georgetown. Because in D.C., as we know, the NGO post is only a first step on the ladder. Shedding your entire moral character, and revealing yourself as a devil in human skin, is the process. Not of course that we wish to slander a man of McColm's sterling character, we only wish on him what, well, what King Lear wished on Goneril and Reagen. In the mean time, LI thinks he should take on a few of Rwanda's past rulers as his next clients. Or perhaps he already has.

Monday, April 15, 2002

Remora

"We are a humane army."

"I have no party in this business, my dear Miss Palmer, but among a set of people, who have none of your lilies and roses in their faces; but who are the images of the great Pattern as well as you or I. I know what I am doing; whether the white people like it or not." -- Edmund Burke

I've extracted this quote from a letter Edmund Burke wrote in defense of his prosecution of Warren Hastings to the painter Joshua Reynold's niece. She'd written Burke on behalf of a friend to ask him, politely, if he knew what he was doing. It's a nice example of the way pressure is exerted to destroy dissent -- you don't need a police force when there is a steady supply of Miss Palmers, generation after generation, to imply that, well, the dissenter is embarrassing himself among her sort.

From the Guardian:

The man in charge of the operation is Brigadier-General Eyal Shlein. Shlein, like Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, denies the Palestinian claims that a 'massacre' took place. Their version is that those who died were combatants in very heavy fighting. Shlein believes few civilians were killed, despite the claims of those at the hospital and the evidence of the dead and wounded we see there. Shlein believes too that the Israeli army showed restraint while operating in Jenin. 'There would have been no problem completing the operation immediately,' he told the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz on Friday. 'But we are a humane army.

"Whether the white people like it or not." The pathos of the conditional rings down the ages, at least for LI, sitting here in our isolation, impotent critic of all we survey. For surely one of Miss Palmer's questions -- not the one she put into words, but the one underneath all the ones she put into words -- was how a man like Burke could make himself an advocate of, well, a lower, duskier race. One that was certainly not Christian. One whose deaths couldn't be measured in the same proportion as good White deaths. And certainly Burke lived among the set of "the white people", the whitest, in fact, in the land. The Whig Aristocracy, Lord Rockingham's coterie, the London coffeehouse intellectuals. Yet Burke was too Irish not to know he had a secret sharer as he moved among these groups; it was not Conrad's secret sharer, that Blond Uber-Englishman in which the slav was at last washed away; no, this was the Catholic mother, this was Dublin, this was the sometimes over-excited (some would say affected) speech. This was a line within himself, creating zones. And definitely there was a zone to be crossed into, and out of which, in raids on the inexplicable, came that famous talent for indignation in elevated language. The banned zone within himself.


From the LA Times:
But also Saturday, rescuers discovered two other members of the family still alive. The rescuers plucked the couple--Abdullah Shobi and his wife, Shamsa--from their living room, which was under a mass of stone and dirt.

The recoveries seemed to bolster allegations that the Israeli army--as it invaded towns and cities across the West Bank and met stiff resistance--bulldozed homes with people still in them. Similar tales have emerged from the Jenin refugee camp, site of the most widespread destruction and highest death toll in any of the fighting.

An army spokeswoman said Saturday that efforts are always made to notify the residents of a home that is to be demolished. She said the army destroys only buildings that have been used as explosives factories or sniper positions.

The Shobis' neighbors gave a different account. Although fighting, gunfire and explosions had raged for days, the family was not involved. The neighbors said the bulldozer approached from the plaza in front of the Shobi home and began attacking. The building collapsed, with the family inside.


We appeal to Burke sane -- where to his Tory fans he appeared most mad -- from Burke mad, the Burke who, as the enemy of "theory in politics," was eventually driven to an excess of theory, theory as the perennial policing of theory. Burke's reactionary philosophy centers around the sort of paralogism that, in another context, would be sorted out by Godel: the idea that a meta-theory of politics that found theory in politics to be illegitimate was not, itself, a theory, and not itself subject to the fanaticism Burke felt was consequent upon the application of theory to human affairs. It was a paralogism that called upon the same apocalyptic language, the same world wide militancy, as its opponents.

"As for me, I was always steadily of the opinion that this disorder [the French Revolution] is not intermittent. I conceived that the contest once begun, could not be laid down again, to be resumed at our discretion; but that our first struggle with this evil would also be our last. I never thought we could make peace with the system, because it is not for the sake of an object we pursued in rivalry with each other, but with the system itself we were at war."

From the New York Times:

For Israeli forces, it is also an especially dangerous mission. This is not an American-style military campaign that uses airstrikes for weeks or even months before ground troops are deployed.It is urban warfare, with soldiers moving alley to alley, house to house, searching for militants amid booby-trapped homes. Twenty-four Israeli soldiers have been killed and 124 wounded since the operation began on March 28.

The raids have also led to charges by Palestinians that hundreds of civilians have been killed in the Israeli assault on the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin, which the Israeli Army says is one of the main sanctuaries for the militants. The Israelis have adamantly rejected allegations that their troops have attacked civilians
.

And so this is the tone of the "white people's" newspaper of note -- a paper which holds that bullets can kill an Israeli soldier, but Israeli bullets can only lead to "charges", a social condition in which, for psycho-pathological reasons, the hate America crowd, parlor politicians of Europe, and other assorted malcontents have some kind of problem with the program. They hear the "let's roll," and they don't want to roll, these people. The inherent humanity of Israeli weaponry must be one of the wonders of the world. In today's paper, the IDF, which was quite happy to report one hundred to two hundred Palestinian deaths, for domestic consumption, last week, is now claiming that the dead number in the dozens. A change that will no doubt be echoed in further stories about Jenin, and contrasted with the especially dangerous missions mounted by the government of Sharon. And LI is ready to concede that there is something mystical about the transfiguration of Palestinian flesh, properly shredded, or crushed in a house, into so many words, mere words. First comes the righteous act, then the "charges." We are watching white people's history unfold before us, entranced and horrified by the spectacle, readers.