“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, November 06, 2004

Bollettino

LI will be erratic in this space for the next two weeks, as we are going to a Blue State for some much needed R & D.

We want to pick up on our freerider thesis. Some readers might think that we have gone nihilistic. We haven’t. Really, our point is simple. From the turn of the twentieth century to the 1970s, progressive thought in America was all about instituting progressive legislation at the national level. It so happens that this extended benefits for the working class to a whole region of the country, the South, which generated no autonomous progressive organizations. Between the Revolutionary War and today, I can think of only one Southern generated progressive movement: the Civil Rights movement. The Civil Rights movement, led by middle class blacks and peopled by working class and agrarian blacks, broke the back of the South’s pseudo-feudal system and opened it up to the world market. The South owes its prosperity to this act; and so, in gratitude, throughout the Snopesian South, from South Carolina to Mississippi, the Confederate colors were sewn into the state flag, where they remain today. Reminders that the Snopes leave no act of generosity unpunished.

The program we would like to see tried is retrenching progressive legislation on the national level and re-forming it on the state level, and in bonds between states. We’d like to avoid all the familiar suggestions made by the liberals at Slate, and re-think things from the bottom. Katha Pollitt, to our mind, comes closest to seeing the problem in this article in the Nation. But she sees it from a cultural perspective, rather than seeing how the culture has been organized and institutionalized.

We’d like to see a wholesale re-framing of the discourse of the Democratic party left. Instead of railing about Bush rewarding the rich, one has to ask: where do those rich live? The investor class mostly lives in the Blue states. It is time to encourage the flow of money back to those states. Only with that kind of tax base can those states start to replace the national social welfare system with one that is maintained by the civil society that has been encouraged in the traditionally Blue states on a state by state, or association between state, basis.

Bush, when looked at from a Snopes perspective, is so popular because he exemplifies the Snopes idea of an economic plan (viz, spending the family money on buying lottery tickets). The Blue states have a chance, however, in the midst of the Neronian negligence into which, on the national level, Bush has cast our fortunes. The next recession can and should hit the Red planet. We know that recessions are regional in this country. The recessions under Reagan hit, not coincidentally, hardest in those areas where Reagan was most unpopular, while the Sunbelt was not only spared, but flourished as streams of Defense money flowed in, and credit eased towards zero in the great S & L swindles. The downturn from the coming deficit caused crunch will unavoidably impact the equities market and spread pain in the Northeast – but the majority of that pain can be borne by the South if the Democrats adopt the simple expedient of acceding to the takedown of national progressive structures. The point is to strip the landscape of anything that distances the Snopeses from their debts. And when they cry out, the liberal impulse – to rush to the rescue of the seemingly needest – should be resolutely checked. There is a difference between the needy and the Snopeses. Tough love is called for.

The moral of all this is as simple as the odious children's story of Henny Penny. If Henny Penny's labor unions planted the grain, and Henny Penny's gay liberation baked the bread, and Henny Penny's Hollywood liberals cut the loaf, then Henny Penny's Blue states get to eat the bread, all of it, by themselves.

We have concentrated here on the South instead of the Midwest since, to our mind, the Midwest is not that important. From Kansas to North Dakota, the counties are losing their youth, and those that remain have only speed and hate crimes to amuse them in the long, tedious hours of watching the wheat grow. This is simple a wasteland, and we don't intend to devote much time to Nebraskan Snopeses. The Sunbelt is the thing.

This is why it is essential that progressives not obstruct the pipeline through which Bush insists on shuffling money to the Blue State investing class, but encourage it; similarly, encouraging such radical ideas as destructuring social security and replacing the income tax with a sales tax take on a different valence when considered as means by which the Snopes will, unconsciously, be put into a position where their freeriding is put at risk. At that point, traditionally, the Dems have taken on the role of both Herbert Hoover and Roosevelt, reigning in the deficit through paying for it while trying to preserve national progressive programs, like social security. The Snopes hate the Hoover thing – hate the idea of paying for something when they have figured out how to get it free. And of course they hate the Roosevelt thing of tolerance and enlightenment and blacks moving in next door and marrying their kids. But what they hate most is the idea that the progressives they are conning don't understand what is happening. The progressive harping on the ignorance or bad consciousness or brainwashing of the Snopes class has to stop. Far from being ignorant or unaware of their self advantage, they have had a free ride that has given them the luxury of being able to indulge in reactionary hate while being bankrolled by progressive legislation and opened up to the world through Civil Rights. Everything they hate has supported everything they love: credit cards, big trucks, big motor boats leaking oil over various federally funded dammed lakes, etc., etc. It is no wonder they feel like God's remnant on earth. They have the satisfaction of knowing who is conning who in the great progressive deal, and what they really can't stand is that the liberals that are being suckered don't know who is suckering them. This is the Snopes version of class consciousness. It is that resentment which is at the bottom of the conservative complaint that the liberals are “snobby”. What they mean is: we are screwing you, and you think you are so smart!

Take away the baubles from the Snopes. Rebuild a federal system that encourages progressive legislation. Let the South try, at some point, to generate its own progressive movements. But, basically – forget about em.


Friday, November 05, 2004



The Snopes and the freeriders

If LI were a Democratic Party strategist (brrr!), this weekend we would settle down with our Faulkner. The utter rubbish being tossed around by the talking heads about the Democrats adopting Republican moral values to win presidential elections has been untempered by reality. Moral values, we think, had little to do with this election. Rather, what brought out the hicks was the promise of entertainment. Instead of cockfighting or bearbaiting, gaybashing of a high and rare type was on the ticket. This was as irresistible to your average Snopes as a guest appearance on the Jerry Springer show used to be to your average overweight stripper.

The Snopes sullenly populated the backreaches of Yoknapatawpha County in the days before the New Deal. Faulkner’s preferred novelistic time period was the twenties, which brought a lot of changes to Mississippi – but not like the Great Depression and the New Deal did. In the post WWII period, going through the Great Society, the Snopes, with their rabid angers and short term views and long term grudges, grew used to benefiting from multitudinous government entitlements that they never properly contributed to. They have continued to revel in the whole system. But there is a problem here that the system’s designers never considered. It is the problem of the freerider.

The freerider – the user of a public good who does not contribute to the maintenance of that good – has deep resonance in the Snopes culture. It is one of the reasons Jesus is so popular among them – he elevates the status of the freerider to a divine principle, in which, for no real act, a man can be forgiven for his sins simply by prostrating himself before Jesus and declaring to all and sundry the uninteresting mental tidbit that he believes Jesus is the son of God. This, from a man whose beliefs on any cosmological question have been unleavened by reading material since the age of ten. Given the amount of sinning that Snopes like to engage in (q.v. any c & w station in your vicinity), this is the kind of deal Snopeses can’t refuse.

The government, however, is different from Jesus. The government does come in and try to change your behavior, instead of knocking ineffectually at your heart. For instance, lynching, poll taxes, and other useful means of keeping down blacks were all knocked down by the government. This made the government very unpopular. They were against having fun. A moral libertarian, confronted with the government interfering with his behavior, would perhaps try to free himself from dependence on the government. This is why Snopeses can never be real libertarians. They have no sense of integrity. They don’t even understand the problem. For the Snopeses, Bush’s career looked unblemished – he got away with everything he ever did. That counts as a blessed sign of consanguinity among that crowd.

Your average Snopes, then, has no motive to get away from depending on the government, but every reason to denounce it. And this is how your Snopes votes. He sends his Republican congressman to Washington to do two things. One is to interfere with the lives of people that Snopes have no use for – gays, blacks, feminists, New Yorkers, Hollywood types. The other is to reward the Snopes with ever deeper experiences of freeriding. This is done by cutting his taxes – the Snopes, although they don’t make a lot, rely on those refunds to get them out of the most pressing of the enormous mass of debts they have piled up in lives unrelieved by any intellectual activity that goes beyond shopping at the mall and the aforesaid Jesus idolatry – and by borrowing money. Thus, the whole system, with its trillion dollar stockpiles of arms and its special pill provisions for the elderly Snopeses, runs of itself. When it starts to choke, some Democrat will step in and sacrifice his sense of the social welfare to the necessity of taming the deficit. The Snopeses call this God's country for a reason.

The Snopeses have been fortunate in that their opponents, the Liberals, have generally misunderstood the relationship. For instance, the Liberals were the ones denouncing the Bush tax cuts for privileging the wealthy. The odd thing about that is that the wealthy generally don’t live in Snopes places. There truly are a great many limosine liberals. One actually just ran for president. And the even odder thing about that is that the Liberals think that they have developed a credo that represents the income strata that encompasses the Snopes. So that your average Liberal is making an economic sacrifice of a certain sort on behalf of a people who dislike nothing more than a Liberal. This is a true comedy of errors. It is also American history, circa 1980-2004.

So the question for the next four years is: have the Snopes misjudged the situation. Having decimated the Liberals so that they cannot possibly defend the income strata of the Snopes, the rhetoric of conservatism can now become a reality. The Snopes always relied, partly, on the fact that their enemy/defenders were powerful enough to defend them. That’s done with. So will the reckoning finally come? Will reality bite? are the Snopes finally about to learn about the world outside free riderdom? It wouldn’t really hurt the Liberal, except morally.

LI has been enraged by the election, but we are fascinated by the aftermath. We’ve lived around the Snopes most of our life. And we were, until maybe three days ago, in the Liberal position. We were blind. Now we see. And what we see is the enemy. We want to see them suffer. Badly. And we want to see the self-destroying machinery they have set up work – oh so gloriously. So slowly, painfully, we are regaining our joie de vivre. This might not be so bad after all.


Bollettino

I notice in the English language press there has not been any mention of Chirac’s latest. We are, to say the least, not admirers of Chirac’s domestic policies, or of his corruption, but he has been smarter than anybody else about Iraq. He found a reason not to meet Allawi in Brussels (Saddam’s former hit man, unperturbed, got his photo op, fittingly enough, with Tony Blair) – sudden business in the U.A.R. But he has invited Ghazi al Yawer to Paris.

LI had guessed in the earlier, happy time before Nov. 2 that if Kerry were elected, Yawer would probably receive a much more prominent role. Allawi had been much too much a Bush re-election campaign puppet. Well, we know what happened. But Yawer is still out there, and he is poised to receive the popularity that comes from opposing the crime everyone is foretelling in Fallujah – a strategy which the Americans modestly claim to have had no hand in. Yes, they are only carrying out the rule of Allawi. The dummy, here, supposedly controls the ventriloquist – but outside of that old horror movie, Magic, this type of thing really doesn’t happen. It certainly doesn't fool the Iraqis.

So is Chirac trying to find his own angle in the mess? Sooner or later France is going to have to make some decision about what to do in Iraq. Unlike Vietnam, which had no material bearing on French welfare, what happens in Iraq has a central bearing on it.

Meanwhile, the Club of Paris is as unenthusiastic as ever about relieving Iraq of its debt. The report from Naomi Klein which we cited in a previous post shows why: Kuwait is still collecting war reparations from the country. One would truly have to be blind to think that this is a situation going on against the will of the Confederate occupiers – as Klein pointed out, James Baker, while officially making the rounds to relieve the debt, was, under his other hat at the Carlyle group, relying on a hefty paycheck for guaranteeing the continuing flow of money out of Iraq into the pockets of the wealthy despots in Kuwait.


Bollettino

And in the expected news… Hungary and Holland are pulling out of the CSA coalition in Iraq. Hungary is speeding up its withdrawal. LI doesn’t think this bodes well for Iraqis. The presence of these powers, even in their small numbers, creates At least some fragile limit to American ferocity. However, the shop is being cleared for butchering. Over the protests of such of Iraq’s supposedly “sovereign” government as the interim president, the Americans and Saddam’s former hitman, Allawi, have conjoined in a murderous bond that is casting the same eye on Fallujah that that big eye in Lord of the Rings cast on Gondar.

The fight is entering a new stage, as the restraints have been removed from one side. LI read on one conservative weblog a wonderful euphemistic phrase for killing Iraqis: surgery is bloody. Surgery, much like, oh, the surgeries Stalin had to effect in the Ukraine.

Put that in the same class as: to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs. Yes, bony omelets are coming up. Delectably seasoned with the marrow of three year olds. Eat it.

And in news from the Red planet: more from the state of Ohio.

Wired has an article about the deliberate dumbing down of Ohio schools by the introduction of “intelligent design” to the biology curicullum. ID is a form of mysticism that might be discussed in the Sunday schools of truly subdeb evangelical churches, but certainly not around the odor of dissected frogs. This is probably going to be a big part of the faith based change that the new, ‘value-sensitive’ liberals are going to have to get used to under the Confederate leadership. Surely some Republican senator should, really should, introduce legislation requiring parity of teaching time between ID and evolution. If you want to disable a rouge super-power, let the dumbest do the work for you, is what we say here at LI. Delay or DeMint, over to you!

Speaking of the dumbest – Gilder proves there might be something to faith after all by returning from the dead and releasing his hilarious view of Darwinism in a side bar: Biocosm. For some reason, Gilder’s ties to Discover institute, which has financed ID (alas, New Age institutes should get in on the fad – surely the students of Ohio should also discuss medical astrology, alchemy, and divination with crooked sticks), never weighed down his intellectual cred when he was a telecom guru. Now, of course, he is a bankrupt telecom guru. Unbowed, he has these wise things to say about biology:

“The Darwinist materialist paradigm, however, is about to face the same revolution that Newtonian physics faced 100 years ago. Just as physicists discovered that the atom was not a massy particle, as Newton believed, but a baffling quantum arena accessible only through mathematics, so too are biologists coming to understand that the cell is not a simple lump of protoplasm, as Charles Darwin believed. It's a complex information-processing machine comprising tens of thousands of proteins arranged in fabulously intricate algorithms of communication and synthesis.”

Wow. The man seems, a, never to have heard of Weissman, who basically gave us the protoplasm model that Gilder incorrectly attributes to Darwin, and b., seems to be unaware that talking about the complexity of the number of connections as some kind of disproof of natural selection processes is like saying, well, if you have 10,000 companies in a marketplace, capitalism just can’t work. It is utter nonsense. Undeterred, the man plunges ahead to a truly funny bit of nonsense:

“The human body contains some 60 trillion cells. Each one stores information in DNA codes, processes and replicates it in three forms of RNA and thousands of supporting enzymes, exquisitely supplies the system with energy, and seals it in semipermeable phospholipid membranes. It is a process subject to the mathematical theory of information, which shows that even mutations occurring in cells at the gigahertz pace of a Pentium 4 and selected at the rate of a Google search couldn't beget the intricate interwoven fabric of structure and function of a human being in such a short amount of time.”

You read it and try to figure out what the hell it means, or its meaning in terms of variation, and why a mathematical description has turned into a binding physical law. Out of this wreck of gobbledygook one can extract some smidgen of sense: Gilder thinks Darwin’s theory is that some organism has a mutation, and then you got you a brand spanking new species. Could he really be saying that species are just too complicated to come from one another -- and thus, they all must have been created individually?

And they let this man write on biology for a major magazine?

We were going to point out the fallacies here, but is there any point? The more interesting thing is the way in which bogus profundity can be effortlessly exported into sidebar pieces like Gilder’s. It is a shame that the ancient Greeks didn’t know about cutting and pasting, otherwise they would surely have had a word for cut and paste wisdom. The phrase, “phospholipid membranes,” is the delicious giveaway – an unnecessary technical phrase that only convinces those people who think paper crowns from Burger King are instruments of royalty. So we decided to engage in cut and paste wisdom ourselves, to see how easy it would be.

“What Gilder forgets is the hydrophobicity of amino acids', which has to be used to calculate the genetic code's error value. If you do that, you can control for average changes in the resulting level of amino acid hydrophobicity caused by all possible single-letter changes to all 64 codons of the code, reducing mutation levels over which to select to 2.5 X 1018 possible configurations (approximately equal to the number of seconds that have elapsed since the earth formed).”

Now the above paragraph is complete nonsense, made by cutting and pasting two randomly found papers on genetics via Google. But of course, who is going to fact check it?

Certainly not the kids from Jesusland, after ID has been inflicted on them in the classroom. It is an odd thing about Darwin – his theory seems to evoke a virulent allergic reaction in illiberal ideologies. So we have Islamic science, Aryan science, Lysenkoism, and … coming up … Born Again Science.

Oh, and one other note: the revolution Newtonian physics faced didn’t abolish Newtonian physics. Gilder’s science illiteracy is such that he evidently thinks it did. Of course, sloppy writing is par for the course for the pied piper of a trillion dollar sector loss. But expect the Red planet to pullulate with Christian con men of Gilder’s stripe in the next four to eight years. However long it takes for this gang to self destruct.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Bollettino

For a particularly nauseating mixture of cravenness and pomposity, LI recommends going to this article by Robert Wright. Wright’s idea is that the American hoi polloi, fearing the world their children are growing up in, where it is possible they will even have sex at some point in their lives, would have been wooed by liberals coming out and forthrightly condemning Janet Jackson’s nipples.


We expect the “let’s all try to get along with the Taliban” line to be very popular in those quarters of the Democratic party where they are ‘fightin’ for liberal causes – and willing to betray them all if they are elected.”

Wright is the author of a totally nonsensical book, Non-Zero, that I eviscerated in a review a few years ago. For a while he stalked Stephen Jay Gould, having appointed himself, bizarrely, the defender the true Darwinian orthodoxy, as reflected in the pages of Richard Dawkins and (bizarrely) run through Wright’s own affection for Teilhard de Chardin, a charlatan priest who impressed people in the fifties with pseudoscientific mumbo jumbo. Teilhard, unfortunately for him, died to soon to great the New Age movement, where he would have certainly made a hit.

Wright, as a man who did feel he could serve two masters, wanted to water down science with gestures of reverence towards the Father of us All – his milquetoast religiosity forming an odd contrast to his Dawkinsian eccentricities.

Anyway, he purveys the kind of tripe you would expect. As we have been saying, however, the answer is simple. Progressives have to stop feeding the beast. They have to stop trying to help a constituency that would prefer to see its children wounded in war and their veteran’s benefits cut than to have them have gender inappropriate erections. It is time to reverse the flow of money out of the creative set. As LI pointed out when pondering Ayn Rand, the one good thing about her was the notion of the general strike, which she put into the minds of millions of high school students. Time to start pondering the consistency of some such strike. LI has been arguing about this with a friend, who believes, as we believed ourselves, recently, that it is the fault of the media, and the fault of history that the Godfearing masses are sunk in the acids of their cretinous hatreds. We actually believe the Godfearing masses have cleverly managed things so they could take a free ride on the massive entitlement programs devised and protected by liberals and get their emotional jollies by voting for psychos like the soon to be Senator from Oklahoma.

The intellectual defense of the liberal welfare state goes back to the enlightenment: that a level of prosperity would soften manners and bring about a spirit of generosity. Although conservatives confuse the welfare state with socialism, in reality the two are as different as a bear and a moose. The distinct feature of the welfare state is that the private sector is not simply preserved, but organic to the larger functioning of the social whole. Distributive justice, then, will have many channels to choose from. In debased intellectual form, this is the spirit behind both George Maximus' thousand points of light and Kennedy's ask not what your country can do for you.

Well, if the beneficiaries of that kind of state refuse to support its operations politically, and use it (by massive borrowing) to the malign end of warring across the globe, looting now a Middle Eastern country, now a South American country; if they use it to secure their homelives while they go out lynching gays and lesbians; if they use it to break up unions, and encourage the world wide impoverishment of the working class; then they abuse it. The abuse has to end.

The historic task now, it seems to us, is to make America, the ‘indispensable nation”, into a dispensable one. This means the slow creation of countervailing power outside of the old logic of class where that is appropriate. It is rather simple. But one despairs of the Democrats catching on to the simple logic of the situation – instead of, say, opposing the hairbrained new Senator from South Carolina, De Mint, and his scheme to burden the poorest with the majority of taxes – the sale tax – it should definitely be embraced. The people have chosen the morality of raising straight kids in abstinence happy schools (the same type that produce the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country) over economic self interest. Let them eat this decision until they puke. As Scrooge once said, are there no poorhouses in England?
Bollettino

LI has made a couple of resolutions and had a couple of revelations due to the return of the Confederacy.

We’ve lived in the Confederacy most of our lives. We were educated among middle and lower middle class suburban Atlantans. We’ve been class conscious all of our political lives, on the side of the working class, etc., etc.

Well, it is time to say goodbye to all of that.

There are times when history does strike a bell. In 1933 in Germany, in 1995 in Serbia, etc., etc. When the working class comes out in their numbers to ward off the Other – Jew, Gay, Croatian – one has to make a choice. My choice is: fuck the working class.

Clearly, there are things that need to be done. One is to support wholeheartedly Bush’s economic mission. That mission can only help the investor class that lives in the Blue states. Those states, by a miscarriage of history, are yoked together with such devastations of the intellect as Oklahoma. Clearly, the thing to do is to dry the money up. Any look at the map of who has what will tell you that the poor states – the North Dakotas, the Nebraskas, the Louisianas – vote consistently against the very programs without which they could barely survive. Northern liberals have consistently felt like the sacrifice was worth it – that to help the working class and poor in New York City survive, they would vote for programs that took money out of New York and put it in Louisiana.

That should definitely stop. The New Deal, based on a compromise with Southern whites, is dead. And when something is dead, as Nietzsche (or was it one of the Ramones?) said, kick it as hard as you can. While we doubt that Blue state politicians will have any clout at all in the next four years, we do think that they should loudly and strongly support the destruction of those programs – the end of Social security, the end of the income tax system, and surely the end of Medicare. Those people who get their opiates from God, waddle to the polling booth to elect the latest homophobic psycho-path, and go to the drug store with their government support ‘script” – no mas. Let them drown in their aches and pains.

As for the Republican attempt to tamp down the benefits of the National Guard, and cut Veterans benefits – this should be promoted to the max. The biggest danger in the world today is the Confederate superpower. Luckily, it has its weak points. A population that is belligerent, but unwilling to sacrifice the least little twinkie, cannot easily encompass an empire.

We’ve been reading the curiously mute stories in the British press (one of our resolves is to read sparingly, if at all, in the American press) about the Satanic bond between Blair and Bush. Labour lost its vampire’s soul a long time ago. We think Jackie Ashley in the Guardian has it right:

“Apart from the fact that they speak English and have two legs apiece, it is hard to think of anything American conservatives have in common with European liberals. Tony Blair pooh-poohs the idea that Britain faces a choice between America and Europe. Now, it will be evident to everyone, there is a very clear choice, and the choice has to be Europe.”

Blair will never make that choice. He chose Bush a long time ago. That his natural constituency still can’t believe he made that choice simply shows that the effects of ideological opiates can be long lasting. We definitely hope they get over it.

Europe, however, has taken the sloth’s course for the past sixty years. Understandably, they have allowed one superpower, the U.S., to spend the majority of the money spent in the world on military matters – and they have watched without reaction as that power has pursued third world economic policies, becoming a sort of elephantine Argentina. This is only going to get worse. It is a most unlikely prospect that American households will experience the type of growth in wealth that would match the growth in their endebtedness over the next four years – in fact, the opposite is the better bet. There are a conjunction of interesting circumstances here, and the hinge factor will be the probability that the cost of oil will soon have to figure in terrorist attacks on oil facilities, given the probable expansion of hostilities in the Middle East to Iran (and, too, given the cycle of the overthrow of governments in the Middle East, surely the American allies there are due for a hit. I’d guess Egypt), and the let it bleed war in Iraq. These things have been looming on the margins. Surely they are eventually going to impact the ability of the American government to borrow. At a certain point, that the American consumer eats up all the junk the world produces has to be adjusted to the fact that to do this, the American consumer borrows all the money it can to eat up the junk. Europe is surely going to have to start looking East, to China, for a countervailing ally, and also as a market.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Bollettino

This was more than an election – this was the reversal of the Civil War. Jeff Davis, through one of those ironies of history, won through the party headed by his old enemy, Abraham Lincoln.

So what does it mean that the strongest power in the world, at the moment, is the Confederate States of America?

As LI has said before, states are modes for state interests. From the point of view of morality, a state’s interests can intersect with the interests of justice, but will never wholly intersect with it or subsume it. On the other hand, pathological states can intersect dramatically with injustice. We look like we are on the brink of one of those moments.

At the moment, the CSA intersects with some very bad things. Symbolic of this, we think, is the elevation of a man who is visibly sexually disturbed to the Senate seat from Oklahoma. Oklahoma, proud of its tradition of pograms -- the biggest massacre of blacks in the South occured in the Tulsa riots in the twenties - handed the man his victory on his promise to crush, as he could, homosexuals.

But more than symbolic problems confront the people of the Middle East. They are confronted, at the moment, by two vile powers. One, the U.S., will inflict much more loss of life at the moment than the networks around Osama bin Laden. We expect that the U.S. will proceed with the mass murder in Iraq full speed ahead. As for the elections in Iraq – the only necessity for those elections resided in the elections in the CSA. That has now dissipated. The CSA can now confabulate some gang of thugs – Allawi’s Ba’athists, plus theocrats it can sheer off of some of the other parties – and confront Iraq with the fait accompli of a ‘coalition government', for which they will be invited to vote. It will be rather like the last vote in Iraq, under Saddam Hussein. The principles are about the same: armed power, greed, and oppression. Yawer, who has been threatening to resign if the U.S. attacks Fallujah again – a fact that has been totally ignored in the CSA press –can now resign to his heart’s content. Who needs him?

The choices get harder. Luckily for the Iraqis, the CSA is still run on maximum incompetence, and the war will still be fought with the utmost frivolity. The end that LI had once hoped for – a society evolving towards democracy, autonomous with regard to America but somewhat friendly – can probably be ruled out for the nonce.

Complicating this will be the airstrikes that will soon be run against Iran. The question is: how will the revulsion of the Iraqi population express itself in successful guerilla strategy? Surely the jihadists will be pouring in in the next couple of months, and bad, in warfare extinguishes good -- a sort of malign natural selection. And so far there has been little good about the insurgency – the political programs range from merely the assertion of totalitarian power to the assertion of a bizarre Islamism. One can only hope that some small core of sanity – with the goal of a liberated, secular Iraq – can maintain its integrity in the coming revolution against the CSA invaders. That is, however, a thin hope.

As for the Confederates – the Pentagon Pumphouse gang will have to soon start seriously considering supporting a breakaway Kurdish state. While the fun and games of terrorbombing Fallujah, and gunning down civilians in the streets of Ramadi, does have its attractions, the cost in American personnel, while a minor consideration at the moment, might, above the two thousand point, not be tamped down by the much larger fear that a man and a man might take the vows of holy matrimony in a theater near you. To salvage something out of the ruins will be important, particularly as the most important part of bin Laden’s message was not his video witticisms a la Michael Moore, but was about considering something which so far, the Al Q. has not done – attacking the U.S. economically. Meaning pissing off his extended family and attacking the oil refineries and pipelines, I would imagine. Fortunately for the U.S., its terrorist enemies are symbolically headed by a man who has every stake in preserving the economic status quo in the Middle East. But once to every man and terrorist comes a moment to decide, as Martin Luther once (sorta) said.

Even LI sees one 'ray of hope' in the election -- Tom Daschle, a leader of utmost smallness, a stunted mediocrity whose instincts have lead the Democrats from defeat to defeat, was defeated himself.
Bollettino

Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed: all that honoured her despise her, because they have seen her nakedness: yea, she sigheth, and turneth backward.

Her filthiness is in her skirts; she remembereth not her last end; therefore she came down wonderfully: she had no comforter. O LORD, behold my affliction: for the enemy hath magnified himself.

The adversary hath spread out his hand upon all her pleasant things: for she hath seen that the heathen entered into her sanctuary, whom thou didst command that they should not enter into thy congregation.

All her people sigh, they seek bread; they have given their pleasant things for meat to relieve the soul: see, O LORD, and consider; for I am become vile.

Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.

From above hath he sent fire into my bones, and it prevaileth against them: he hath spread a net for my feet, he hath turned me back: he hath made me desolate and faint all the day.

The yoke of my transgressions is bound by his hand: they are wreathed, and come up upon my neck: he hath made my strength to fall, the LORD hath delivered me into their hands, from whom I am not able to rise up.

The LORD hath trodden under foot all my mighty men in the midst of me: he hath called an assembly against me to crush my young men: the LORD hath trodden the virgin, the daughter of Judah, as in a winepress.

For these things I weep; mine eye, mine eye runneth down with water, because the comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me: my children are desolate, because the enemy prevailed.

Zion spreadeth forth her hands, and there is none to comfort her: the LORD hath commanded concerning Jacob, that his adversaries should be round about him: Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman among them.

The LORD is righteous; for I have rebelled against his commandment: hear, I pray you, all people, and behold my sorrow: my virgins and my young men are gone into captivity.

I called for my lovers, but they deceived me: my priests and mine elders gave up the ghost in the city, while they sought their meat to relieve their souls.

Behold, O LORD; for I am in distress: my bowels are troubled; mine heart is turned within me; for I have grievously rebelled: abroad the sword bereaveth, at home there is as death.

They have heard that I sigh: there is none to comfort me: all mine enemies have heard of my trouble; they are glad that thou hast done it: thou wilt bring the day that thou hast called, and they shall be like unto me.

Let all their wickedness come before thee; and do unto them, as thou hast done unto me for all my transgressions: for my sighs are many, and my heart is faint.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Bollettino

LI is planning on going out later today and getting champagne. We are also making – from a recipe forwarded to us by our invaluable friend, S. – cigarette borek. And then we are going to a friends house to watch the destruction of the Coup – or so we have high hopes.

Not that the Coup isn’t leaving as much poison behind as possible. Naomi Klein’s column in the Guardian, today, is an excellent piece of reporting about the venture vultures who have looked at Iraq as the kind of pickings worthy of… well, the Carlyle Group. LI first became aware of the Carlyle Group after 9/11, when there was a paranoid story linking the WTC mass murder to the group. This is what we said back then:

"Judicial Watch, the public interest law firm that investigates and prosecutes government corruption and abuse, reacted with disbelief to The Wall Street Journal report of yesterday that George H.W. Bush, the father of President Bush, works for the bin Laden family business in Saudi Arabia through the Carlyle Group, an international consulting firm. The senior Bush had met with the bin Laden family at least twice. (Other top Republicans are also associated with the Carlyle group, such as former Secretary of State James A. Baker.) The terrorist leader Osama bin Laden had supposedly been disowned by his family, which runs a multi-billion dollar business in Saudi Arabia and is a major investor in the senior Bush s firm." If you read further in the article, you'll find that Judicial Watch, the public interest firm that spreads intellectual corruption like an infected rat spreads plague, has no evidence whatsoever that bin Laden's ties with his family's business haven't been cut. But witchhunting groups racial profiling happily through the Wall Street Journal don't care, really.

Actually, it wouldn't surprise me at all if O. bin Laden did have money in the Carlyle group, but it wouldn't surprise me, either, if he had money in Judicial Watch -- the way investment has been freed up from those national agencies that wish to track it is pretty well known among real public interest groups.”

Little did we know that even the left (re Michael Moore’s Farenheit 9/11) would be complicit in anti-Arab racebaiting.

However, the CG deal with Iraq is a different story. We were puzzled, when the Big Eight met this summer, that Bush never pushed Chirac on canceling Iraq’s debts. This, we think, would be fairly popular in France, especially among the socialists. And surely picking on France is about the most popular thing Bush could do for his base. And, officially, the U.S. line has been to forgive the debts that Iraq rang up.

However, that official policy hasn’t reached down to the absurd insistence of the rich state of Kuwait that Iraq pay war reparations in perpetuity.

As Klein revealed in the Nation, the Carlyle Group, which boasts of two disgusting vultures, Dem Margaret Albright and Rep James Baker, has been quietly trying to get guarantees that Iraq will make good on the reparations. Since James Baker is also the official Bush delegate to creditor countries on behalf of Iraq, this is quite a conflict of interest. After the story broke, the CG publicly distanced themselves from that role. And so, supposedly, lost their chance for a billion dollar commission.

But it turns out that there is no paper proof that CG actually is backing off. It is the Jackel’s word we are supposed to be taking. Here are three paragraphs displaying the unedifying spectacle of the wealthiest squeezing the poorest for their medical money, while the U.S. government stands by, in its occupying role, playing the hypocritical role of helpless bystander. I believe there is a slang word for it in Dickens that I haven't been able to find – the word for the pickpocket’s assistant who obstructs the victim once the victim becomes aware of the crime, thus helping the perp to escape.

“The central question remains unanswered by the White House: have Baker's business interests compromised his performance as debt envoy? That question does not go away simply because $1bn will stay in the coffers of a wealthy oil emirate rather than in a Carlyle equity fund. The week after losing the deal, Carlyle handed a record-breaking $6.6bn payout to investors.
In Iraq, the last 18 months have been markedly worse, and the stakes for Baker's job performance there are considerably higher. This was underlined on October 13, when Iraq's health ministry issued a harrowing report on its post-invasion health crisis, including outbreaks of typhoid and TB and soaring child and mother mortality rates. A week after the report, Iraq paid out another $195m for war reparation debts, mostly to Kuwait. Meanwhile, the state department announced that $3.5bn for water, sanitation and electricity projects was being shifted to security in Iraq, claiming that, according to deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, debt relief is on the way.

Is it? In fact, Iraq is being plunged deeper into debt, with $836m in new loans and grants now flowing from the IMF and the World Bank. Meanwhile, Baker has not managed to get a single country to commit to eradicating Iraq's debts. Iraq's creditors know that while Baker was asking them to show forgiveness, his company was offering Kuwait a special side deal to push Iraq to pay up. It's not the kind of news that tends to generate generosity and goodwill. And the timing couldn't be worse: the Paris Club is about to meet to hash out a final deal on Iraq's debt.”

Monday, November 01, 2004

Bollettino


LI feels it ought to put out a little reminder of the stakes tomorrow, in terms of human lives. As if our readers -- hey, we now average 100 per day -- didn't know what this site was about. The LA Times runs a story on the upcoming war crime that Bush and Allawi are plotting against Fallujah. Interesting, the U.S. press line is that Allawi, that oh so independent soul, is pressing the assault. The U.S. press can only accommodate one dark skinned leader at a time in Iraq – so you hear very little about the more popular interim president. But… well, al-Yawer disagrees with sheering the meat off the bones of hundreds of Iraqis via terrorbombing and such. Obviously, he’s a terrorist stooge himself, and not a freedomloving Iraqi:

“Allawi's speech Sunday seemed aimed at preparing the Iraqi public for an onslaught in Fallujah, Allawi warned of civilian casualties, saying that if he orders an assault, it would be with a "heavy heart."

"But I owe, owe it to the Iraqi people to defend them from the violence and the terrorists and insurgents," he said. Commanders have estimated that up to 5,000 Islamic militants, Saddam Hussein loyalists and common criminals are holed up in Fallujah.

He did not give a deadline for how long he would give negotiations with Fallujah's city leaders in which he demands the handover of foreign fighters.

In a position that appeared to contrast with Allawi's, the country's interim president said a military assault was the wrong solution, according to an interview published today.

President Ghazi al-Yawer, a Sunni Muslim, told the Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas that dialogue must continue and that insurgents "want nothing but a military solution, and the continuation of bleeding among Iraqis."

The Bush planning in Iraq is catastrophic in a characteristic way: it marries means that are at odds with its goals. Thus, the goal of liberating and democratizing Iraq, and paying outselves for the liberation out of Iraq's oil money. Thus securing the country and disbanding an army that was not in U.S. control. Etc., etc. In this case, the goal of making sure the Sunnis get a vote, and that the vote cements the legitimacy of an American friendly Iraq government, is being pursued by killing Sunnis and destroying the major Sunni city. We've seen the oddest self congratulation on the pro-war blogs about how well the U.S. did against Sadr in Najaf, which ignores the polls (U.S. sponsored polls) that showed how Sadr's popularity went up in all segments of Iraqi society after that triumph. This is what is peculiarly "no' reality based about the Bush approach -- it is the invisibility to the world outside a small, self-selected circle of conservative media and political types. In this monad, everybody watches Fox news all the time, and it is paradise.

Crime is one thing. Take the Bush gang's energy policy -- that is a standard Republican big business rip off with which we are all comfortable. But this is the gang that couldn't terrorbomb straight. Stop the Bushies before they kill again, as they try to instantiate their unique program of winning friends.
Bollettino

Good news from Uruguay this morning.


“Tabaré Vázquez, a Socialist doctor running as the candidate of an opposition coalition that includes former guerrillas, narrowly triumphed Sunday in the presidential election, bringing the left to power for the first time in this South American country.

The victory by the coalition, known as the Progressive-Encounter-Broad-FrontNew-Majority, whose largest faction consists of Tupamaro guerrillas turned politicians, strengthens a trend throughout the continent. As in the last presidential votes in Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador and Argentina, the candidate most opposed to American-supported free-market policies has defeated backers of those policies.”

Given that the model in Iraq is the same model the U.S. has pursued in Central and South America, LI’s hope, floating somewhere in the distant future, is that Iraq will go through the furnace of the American occupation with its major industry and structure intact – a state owned petroleum company at the center of it – and resolutely and democratically break with the logic of neo-liberalism. It is a continuing astonishment to LI that Vietnam (or, on the right, WWII) have been the template comparisons for a black bag op that has all the indices of the usual slimy Latin American intervention, right down to Negroponte, the mollusk pulling the strings from the American embassy. In fact, we are pretty confident that the most successful American reconstruction project in Iraq will be the CIA’s cheerful attempt to get the torturers rolling again with its hands on aid to the Mukhabarat.

As for our election here in the States – LI has been waking up cautiously optimistic for the last couple of days. While the polls don’t look too good for Kerry, the voter turnout numbers look like they could be very good for him. The Republican strategy of suppressing the voter turnout is, we optimistically think, doomed to fail. Our slim hope rests, partly, on the odd difference between the reported results from early voting in Nevada and Florida, where there seems to be a Dem surge, and the polls, which record a Republican edge. Our desire that this coup be over (deliver us, o Lord) has briefly surmounted the usual intellectual distance we try to gaze into around the LI office. Yes, we folded up the intellectual distance and chucked it in the drawer for the nonce. We actually think Max Boot is about right – the options facing both Kerry and Bush, given the right-defined landscape of American politics, financial reality, and the American penchant for ending its foreign policy failures by retreating from the various bloody theaters into which we should never have stuck our beaks in a hail of bombs and bromides, are too narrow to allow for too much diversity – but a too studied disdain for the symbolic plane misses the way options are formed. There is literature in life as well as decision trees.

We’ve been pleased to see that the Sex industry is coming out for Kerry. While wiling away our surfing hours looking for comforting quotes from our Lord Jesus Christ, somehow, oh somehow, we came upon a situationist site run by a Pagan Moss, Sensual lib, full of pics of cheerful and intently bodacious naked gals interspersed with cutting remarks about jefe Bush. This is probably not a link you want to open around the kids, or at work (pay attention, now, to our prophylactic remarks, since there are penises involved here -- for those of you shocked at the existence of such things). Brian Leiter linked to a phone sex site for Republicans, Lie Girls, where all your Cheney-ite fantasies can come, briefly, true.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Bollettino

Our far flung correspondants

We received the nicest response to our Ayn Rand post yesterday from our friend T. Here it is, almost unaltered -- well, names have been changed to protect the liability of this weblog.

"Nice recollection. I was a little more fortunate in my teenage introduction to La Belle Ayn insofaras what I read was a hell of a lot shorter than your intro.

I was fourteen and spending a lot of time in detention during after regular school hours. This was fine with me as there were always lovely girls in detention and, as we couldn't exactly wildly grope each other, as I would have preferred, I had my first real experiences talking to girls, in conversation about hopes and dreams and hates and fears and all that stuff that teenagers believe to be so vital and forevermore and always; also, the detention room had a bunch of books on those stupid, steel, vertical, rotating towers. It was in that detention room that I read, in order, Brave New World, 1984, and Rand's Anthem. I cannot recall why I read them, but I do have a recollection of what I got from them: that the future will be far far worse than ever this terrible present; these were imaginative futures which see
med all so possible and sensible, and awful. Another lesson learned: the vicious, self-righteous brutality of order. Although I read a bunch of Huxley (esp. when I was fifteen and found hallucinogens and The Doors of Perception) and a bunch of Orwell later, but never touched AR again. There was nothing shrewed or clever in this aversion, its only that once I heard the word "Objectivist", without knowing anything of its definitions, I smelled something bad and walked away.

You are absolutely right about the fact that the likes of Brave New World, Animal Farm, 1984 are taught because the are teachable (writ testable). I add a link to an article about this same status for Catcher in the Rye and Old Man and the Sea. Fortunately, I met the books I mentioned above on my own; it was my own very humble introduction to "comparative" literature - that habit of 'compare and contrast' was one that was hard to break.


Now that I am recalling those years I recall another passage. This one was freshman English, coinciding with my detention time, instructed by a little man named L. Now, while I really didn't have any reason to dislike L., save his all to finely manicured beard and his condescending manner and his pointy shiny shoes and his flowing pants with cuffs much too wide and his small manicured hands, I disliked him; the saving grace of that classroom was this classmate named Tom who could occasionally steal a few joints from his older brother and sell them to me. Sexually totally inexperienced me, I had no sentiment pro or con in the rumors of L. being a "fag" - I didn't have a clue what that meant; I did, obviously, know that it was a bad thing, but I didn't know what it meant (didn't really have fags in the suburbs, I guess). I disliked him, in part, because his overly tidy appearance clearly was a front for a rage; he was not well presented because he enjoyed being so, but because he desired to contain the chaotic rage that he carried in his body. I had no sympathy for him, as I do now, for I had only hatred for the seeming hypocrisy.

My dislike for him came to a head when we were assigned another eminently testable book: Jack London's White Fang - what a horror! So, I sez to myself, L. want me to write a little paper on this stupid book; well, I sez to myself, you just read this crazy little book called The Metamorphosis and thinks if kinda cool - why not write a paper about our man Gregor. And, sezing to myself again, why not fuck with L. and write about feeling like a cockroach....so I did.

Well, L. got red-in-the-face mad and flunked me and made sure that I did some time in detention and, with the powersthatbe of the high school, convinced my parents that therapy is necessary in my case, and blah blah blah its tough being fourteen blah blah blah......anyway, I also learned of The Clash in that detention room, and I got to all so inexpertly grope a lovely girl in a bathroom adjacent to that detention room, so its all good. Thank you L., wherever you are.