“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, February 25, 2006

Our bodies, God's hand, or the doctor's

Some people think of oil when they think of Houston. Some think of millionaires, some think Bush, some think Enron. But those plugged into the deeper level of American psychopathology think: breast augmentation.

Yes, more symbolic than the Menil, than Enron Tower, than Houston rap or dayglo lowrider graffiti, down in the dreamzone where symbol converts into matter and matter into symbol, is the discovery, in 1963, of a silicon gel breast “protheses” to replace the old sponges, the old transfer of fats. It was invented by Houston surgeons Thomas Cronin and Frank Gerow. By this time silicon had already emerged as the techno-edge element, but while those Bell lab boys were playing with the response of silicon to light and electricity, Houstonites knew there was a better world a-comin’. A world of hi tech infantilization that would eventually sweep the country. Or as the account of the correspondence between Dow chemical and our Houston surgeons observes, soberly: “Although implants were first targeted at mastectomy patients, even Cronin and Gerow would have been able to surmise the general population's desire to use the mammary prostheses for enhancement as well.” The general population. The general population.

LI’s been reading Sander Gilman’s history of aesthetic surgery, Making the Body Beautiful, which has turned out to be full of interesting factoids, little lights on the grid where history intersects appetite. Race, sex, manifest destiny, all of those categories which are processed into abstractions in academia, find local habitation here: the Jewish nose, the Oriental eye, the African skin color. Irish pug noses and bat ears (for the English). Breasts – breasts reduced among the Brazillian upper class, breasts enhanced, to use Dow speak, among Argentinians (the people who have the greatest proportion of silicon implants in the world – 1 in 30 Argentinians. LI wonders if there is some correlation with Argentina’s claim to have the greatest proportion of psychoanalysts, too.)

Initially, LI picked up Gilman’s book because we were interested in the noses in the Danish cartoons. Noses are one of LI’s favorite subjects. Gogol’s short story is gospel around here – we believe it, we’ve seen it, the nose that tricks itself out in a uniform, that rises through the ranks, that takes on its own life. Gilman traces modern nose talk back to a Dutch anatomist, Petrus Camper, an enlightenment savant who introduced the nose to the Newtonian world of measurement. Quantifying over the nose angle finding its golden relation to the spine – a golden relations confirmed, of course, by Greek sculpture. (“The face is beautiful when the nose is parallel to the spine,’ explained one of his readers). And he who says angle soon says identifying index. As we all know, Modernity is all about indexes – you are your index. Fingerprints, skin color, nose angle, eye color, birth date, DNA profile. Try to escape that grid. Lichtenberg, at this time, could already feel the forces gathering in the very air – hence, the rather apocalyptic comedy of his anti-physiognomic satires. We’ve been lead by the nose to this point. And by the tits and ass too (oh, let us not forget buttock lifts, that Brazillian contribution to permanent youth!)

This is the world of the anti-tattoo – the surgery that leaves no scar, the liposuction that absorbs its trace, that unexpected dialectical resolution to the crisis of deconstruction.

Anyway, LI is now on the lookout for Hermann Heinrich Ploss’ ethnographic study of woman, Der Weib in der Natur- und Völkerkunde. I’ve apparently missed a veritable atlas of 19th century attitudes that would help guide me through Zola’s crowds, and even Henry James’ country house parties. Ploss, of course, knew that God traced his theogony through the body, blessing the conquering white race, of course. It was there in the superiority of the white woman’s “compact breast” with the “goat udder” of the black. About Ploss' work, this German bio of the man says: "Es wurde zum Standardwerk und - man muß wohl befürchten auch wegen seiner zahlreichen Abbildungen nackter Frauen - zum Publikumserfolg." (It became a standard work and a success with the public -- which one may well fear was also due to its numerous pictures of naked women." That fear of the public's appetite for naked women -- hmm, what to make of it? It all comes down to: Houston.

So what would Ploss make of better tits through chemistry? Would he be shocked that the compact breast was not enough, never enough? Or perhaps it is a compromise formation, the threat of George Clinton’s Black Planet attached to Barbie’s body?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

weasels fighting in a hole

None of these exit strategies will work for the simple reason that they are based on an unrealisable ambition: to have the Iraqi cake and eat it. All the Bush and Blair strategies are based on maintaining a pro-US regime in Baghdad. -- Sami Ramadani, Guardian.

All of the U.S. papers have been touting the civil war between the Sunnis and the Shiites in Iraq, and some of them have even stopped and listened, with headshaking American grins, to certain indications that the natives blame the Americans. Well, that takes the cake. Really. We are only there to help the little people. This is so evidently outside the realm of reality that reality itself must be censored. So, as Ramadi points out, while the Americans view themselves as standing between Iraq and civil war, there is the little business of what the Iraqis are doing themselves.

From the Guardian:

“It has not been Sunni religious symbols that hundreds of thousands of angry marchers protesting at the bombing of the shrine have targeted, but US flags. The slogan that united them on Wednesday was: " Kalla, kalla Amrica, kalla kalla lill-irhab " - no to America, no to terrorism. The Shia clerics most listened to by young militants swiftly blamed the occupation for the bombing. They included Moqtada al-Sadr; Nasrallah, leader of Hizbullah in Lebanon; Ayatollah Khalisi, leader of the Iraqi National Foundation Congress; and Grand Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's spiritual leader. Along with Grand Ayatollah Sistani, they also declared it a grave "sin" to attack Sunnis - as did all the Sunni clerics about attacks on Shias. Sadr was reported by the BBC as calling for revenge on Sunnis - in fact, he said "no Sunni would do this" and called for revenge on the occupation.”

Why Americans think they can spend three years in a foreign country killing the country’s people at times and places of their choosing and still be voted king and queen of the prom is a question for psychoanalysis. Look under “narcissism, terminal.” There was a very amusing bit in Crooked Timber the other day, where they listed the Instapundit’s pronunciations about Sadr. From 2003 until the end of 2004, it was all downhill for Sadr as the good news just poured in from Iraq. A sad spectacle, actually. To make a zombie, all you have to do is cut away the ability to make any scenarios except those that reproduce the glorious occupation of Germany, circa 1945. And that, of course, is where the zombies have come to rest – the computer game generation playing the greatest generation.

The disasters of the Bush foreign policy do seem to be piling up at a more rapid rate, lately. There has always been an air of the juggling act about that policy – the throwing up of as many knives and plates in the air as possible. Since these are grossly uneducated jugglers, jugglers who have only read the first chapter of the juggling textbook – the one that says first you throw things up in the air – watching them stand around while the plates and knives head downward is painful. Adding to the suspense, of course, are those audience members who keep saying that since the plates and knives haven’t yet hit the heads of the juggler, it just may be that the laws of gravity are suspended – in fact, we haven’t heard the good news about that law yet. After a while, one’s astonishment turns into a sort of cognitive fury, a neural heart attack.

ps -forget the neural heart attack and cue exhausted laughter. From the NYT today:

"Rather than see a collapse or a setback, I think in some ways, you can see an affirmation that the approach we've been taking has worked," said Adam Ereli, a State Department spokesman. "You've got political leadership acting together on behalf of the common good, and you've got security forces demonstrating that capability and a responsibility as a national entity that we've been working to develop and that has now been put to the test and, I think, is proving successful."

Ereli was, I believe, the same person who praised the american airline attack plan (aaap), devised by the Rebel in Chief himself in the summer of 2001, for being tremendously successful on 9/11/01, as the WTC towers successfully intercepted those hijacked planes. "The adminstrations plan to effectively use our skyscraper as the first line of defense proved its worth today, as we march immer forward from success to success under our Leader."

money makin' ideas for the AEI to consider

Being broke at the moment, LI has been in search of a surefire source of revenue. And then it occurred to us: what kind of pro-active, pro-business response to global warming would warm the hearts of rightwing moneybags and bring in the checks?

Surely the thing to do is controlled volcanic management! We keep our cars, SUVs and coal generated plants going along at full carbon tilt, toss in a few atom bombs into the crater of some isolated volcano every year or so, and get the wonderfully cooling effect of pumping “sufficient amounts of ash into the air.” This package has everything: major manipulation of nature, atom bomb use, and a pro-carbon agenda. We are writing to the Scaife foundation for a grant right away! Happy days are here again!

From the Washington Post Q and A with Eugene Linden, author of Winds of Change:

Q: “As I've followed the global warming/climate change discussion, three historically based questions have always interested me. First, the drop in temperatures from the 1940s to the 1970s seems to contradict the correlation between human generated greenhouse gases and warming. Has this been adequately explained? Second, there was a significant warming period during the middle ages during which an agricultural colony was established in Greenland, but there was little or no human generated greenhouse gases at the time. Does this indicate that other factors besides human activity are the predominant causes of warming? Finally, proxies for temperature measures (i.e. ice cores, tree rings) have indicated that current temperatures are below long-term millennial temperature averages, and these long term trends track very closely to trends in solar activity. Does this indicate that current levels of solar activity are a more likely cause of current warming than greenhouse gases? Thank you for your consideration of my questions.

Eugene Linden: Since human greenhouse gas emissions only truly ramped up in the last century or so, it should be obvious that past warmings were the result of natural cycles (although one scholar argues that humans have had an impact through deforestation and agricultural going back thousands of years). Moreover, periodic coolings don't contradict the connection between GHG emissions and warming. For instance, the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the early 90s put sufficient amounts of ash into the air to cool the planet the following year. Climate is one of the most complex systems on the planet, responding at any given time to countless pushes and pulls, but, on relatively short time frames, CO2 has tracked temperature as far back as we can reliably measure. It's one big variable that we can affect, and since we've upped it by 50%, temperatures have responded much the way climate scientists have expected. There will never be 100% certainty that the recent warming represents a response to human inputs, but the consensus is strikingly strong that it does. Moreover, it's the one thing we can do something about.

Finally, even if the current warming was entirely natural, it would still represent something that we should take very seriously. Natural climate change did in past civilizations, and we've seen the destructive potential of extreme weather just recently on the Gulf Coast.”

ps

Ah, fuck the think tank peanuts. LI is now thinking of the plot for the latest Michael Crichton novel – you know, our Rebel in Chief’s favorite expert on so called climate change. In this plot, St. Exxon (the first corporation ever to be beatified by the Vatican), trying, as usual, to save humanity, comes up with the volcano management idea. Evil environmentalists – the Osama bin Laden league for Deep Ecology – try, of course, to stop them. In the exciting last scene, Jesus Christ, played by Mel Gibson, machine guns the Laden-ites just as they are about to mess up St. Exxon’s scheme. Beautiful fadeout as Jesus turns to the CEO of Exxon – played by St. Peter – and says, in a choked up voice, “I just want my country… to love me… like I love it,” copping the finale to Rambo II – but also a wink and a nod to the idea, gaining increasing currency in the Red States, that Sly’s movie now has official gospel status.

A subplot involving St. Exxon falling deeply in M & A love with Chevron (who is pursued by a lustful, deceptive Chinee company, backed by some evil liability chasin’ lawyers) is, of course, de rigeur, since we need some nude accounting scenes – or at least nude flowsheet scenes. Hey, and to be all comme il faut and shit, how about a stand-in for you know who, toting a pellet gun loaded for bear, who tattoes cartoon images of the prophet on the buttocks of the aforementioned liability lawyers? We gotta think outside the box here, boys. Outside of the Hollywood mindset. Family values and like that.I’m going to pitch this plot to Seth.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

heimat

There’s a peculiar moral deadness in the use of Nazi Germany as a standard of evil. It is as if, before the Nazis murdered six million Jews, a million gypsies, twenty million Russians, etc., etc., we didn’t know that mass murder was bad. As if the destruction of the American Indians and deaths of millions of Africans in the slave trade and the rubber business had happened in pre-lapsarian times, where every murder was blessed by the tooth fairy. This is why I generally try not to compare what is happening here or there with the Nazis.

Which is an intro to doing exactly that…

Lately, I’ve been watching Heimat, the German movie series made in the late seventies, I believe. Heimat covers a German village, and particularly the large Simon family (who sometimes threaten to enlarge to the point of incomprehensibility, particularly after the WWII episodes). It is a reminder of how a morally disgusting regime, one looking for excuses to wage pre-emptive war, one spending a monstrous amount on the military and so pumping up the economy, one that came down harshly on dissent, sending people to isolated prisons – can be accepted and even embraced. Sated by the boom in consumer goods, having the “best Christmas ever” – the Nazis were very big on celebrating the “true German holiday” of Christmas, and none of this pc happy holidays crap for them – the villagers in Heimat have little problem with the regime.

Heimat was supposedly made in response to the American tv series, Holocaust. It bears the mark of the era, the late seventies, early eighties, in which the smell of revisionism was in the air. Joachim Fest, the editor of the Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung, published his bio of Hitler at this time, in which he made the statement that if Hitler had died in 1938, he would have gone down as one of the greatest German leaders. I always think of this in tandem with the distinction being made at the same time between totalitarian and authoritarian governments by Jean Kirkpatrick, and eagerly adopted by the Reaganites, eager to find a justification for shoveling money to death squads in Central and Latin America.

Hitler’s pre-Kristallnacht policy (and by the way, isn’t it odd how Heimat simply skips Kristallnacht?) was to imprison en masse socialists, pacifists, communists, union leaders and trouble makers, while making laws that made being a Jew in Germany extremely hard, but not life threatening. At the same time, Hitler’s economic advisors had designed a reflationary policy that took Germany out of the depression. Japan did the same thing. There is a conservative critique of Roosevelt that his policies prolonged the Great Depression, and in some ways this is correct – but only because the U.S. had by far the most conservative response to the Depression. Roosevelt was hemmed in by a conservative bloc in the States. Even the UK, at that time still an independent entity and not an American surrogate, got out of the depression earlier – and they did it by trashing free trade and forming a trading block with the Commonwealth.

You can see how the prosperity lulled the critical sense – lulled it to zero. And so a massive military buildup justified massive Government spending by systematically exaggerating threats (and the machinery of exaggeration then searched out threats to exaggerate), all of which came tumbling down in 1941, with Operation Barbarossa.

It is funny to see how the consumer society, which we associate with the 50s in the States, is creeping into German society in the 30s in Heimat. It is funny and creepy. It is still hard to see that history – the way militarism, nationalism, the social welfare state and the consumer society form a sort of interdependent matrix. My hope is that you can extract the social welfare state and the consumer society from this matrix, and form something better – some hedonistic, unbigoted society. Something like the form of Europe that haunts the rightwing mind – not the real Europe, but the lazy, cowardly fantasy one, trading its sense of Western supremacy for more vacations. A continent without a mission. Hurray for that! I’m all for privatizing mission.

From one angle, I think that is eminently reasonable. From another angle – watching Heimat, for example – I think it is impossible. It demands that civilization sacrifice its most prized obsessions, including the obsession with sacrifice. Perhaps that is to tug, in vain, at the way the culture is made.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

perestroika in the Cold Warrior set

The National Interest is as central to neoconservatism as the Starship Enterprise is to Star Trek – so the readers of the winter issue might well have wondered if the Borg had invaded the captain’s quarters. In an article entitled, Jihad, Unintended, Dmitri Simes, the president of the Nixon Center, gave a brief, unvarnished account of our “heroic” intervention in Afghanistan in the 80s that could have appeared in Counterpunch. In fact, his notion that the U.S. lured the Soviet’s into Afghanistan has appeared in Counterpunch. It is on short list of fun facts to know and tell that no Chomskyite can leave home without:

“ACCORDING TO former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, now one of
the most acerbic critics of President Bush's handling of both Iraq and radical Islam, the Carter Administration authorized a covert CIA operation, notwithstanding an expectation that it would provoke a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In an interview in Le Nouvel Observateur in 1998, Brzezinski said that clandestine U.S. involvement in Afghanistan began months before the Soviet
invasion; in fact, he added, he wrote a note to President Carter predicting that "this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention." As Brzezinski put it, "we didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would." And even in hindsight, Brzezinski thought "that secret operation was an excellent idea", because "it had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap" and exploited "the opportunity of giving the USSR its Vietnam War."

Of course, this is not what the Carter Administration told Congress or the American people at the time.””

Or, for that matter, the Afghanis – the million or so that died so that Americans and the Soviets could play out their power games.

But Simes has more:

“More recently, Brzezinski has acknowledged that one of his motives in entangling the Soviet Union in Afghanistan was promoting the liberation of Central Europe by diverting Soviet attention from responding more forcefully to Solidarity's challenge. Yet, desirable as this end might have been, one may question whether it justified using means that would provoke an almost decade-long war in Afghanistan that both devastated the country and jump-started a global Islamic jihad against America.

Nevertheless, the Carter Administration was not alone in making mistakes in Afghanistan. The Reagan Administration's decision to "outsource" responsibility for arming and organizing the resistance to Pakistan's intelligence service and Saudi-funded foreign mujaheddin was
insufficiently thought out. Though no one could reasonably have been expected to predict that the same groups would attack New York twenty-some years later, stronger reservations were appropriate in the wake of the Iranian revolution, which showed very clearly how easily Muslim
extremists could turn against the United States. It was also no secret that some of the mujaheddin commanders in Afghanistan were, even during the 1980s, already talking about establishing an Islamic caliphate and about the United States being next on the receiving end of their righteous
zeal.

This lack of sober evaluation explains why, when the United States had an opportunity to try to put the Islamist genie back into the bottle, we failed to take it.””

Simes even engages in the blame America first game (a favorite here at LI, since, in fact, ot turns out in mulititudinous situations that America is culpable. But, as any parole officer knows, your hard core recidivist has an iron clad excuse: everybody always blames me). He shows, briefly and accurately, how U.S. blindness as the Soviet’s withdrew, combined with the sclerotic idiocy of the Cold Warrior mindset, resulted in Afghanistan being ripe for a Taliban takeover managed by the Pakistanis – the good friends who, even now, are swarming with Al Qaeda friendly political parties and groups, as well as the living dead themselves – those cute and cuddly terrorists who, in the world view of the Bushites, have already been killed so many times that they hardly exist. Save for the fact that they are as large as ever, that Osama bin Laden, their leader, now makes more videos than Michael Jackson, and that Pakistan is a pretty good bet to go Islamicist in the next five years and provide even more aid to the only terrorists who really do threaten the U.S. You know, the blind spot in the war on terrorism – the terrorists.

Simes gets all Richard Clarke-ish about American foreign policy of the 90s:

“One would have thought that the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the simultaneous attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 and the strike on the USS Cole in 2000, among other incidents, would have alerted policymakers that a new major challenge to American interests and American lives was in the making. However, instead of combating this threat, the United States focused on "wars of choice" and haphazard attempts to "nation-build" in the Balkans.”

If I am reading this correctly, Simes is putting in the boot in these lines, comparing our Rebel in Chief with the antichrist himself, Clinton.

However, Simes ends his piece, depressingly, with standard Rumsfelding brummagem. Once again, an old instinct for finding enemies that are proportional to the U.S. – big enemies – blinds this Cold Warrior to the real but pretty minor threat posed by terrorists. So he pulls out the Churchillian stops, the comparison to WWII, and like some blind oracle, seems to have uttered his prophecy in a bout of enthusiasm which even he does not understand.

Simes article is, nevertheless, a small sign. As in the Soviet Union in the 80s, in which some obscure article in one of the official journals seems to obliquely hint that all is not well with the glorious Marxist Leninist machine, so, too, one looks for small hints in the American establishment that the era of delusion is over. Of course, it isn’t. One doesn’t expect the National Interest to come out for complete withdrawal of American troops from Iraq in the next six months, the firing of Rumsfeld and the complete purging of the Pentagon of anyone tainted with his views, the firing of Bolton, a review of the failure of the Bush administration, from August 2001 up until now, to either successfully fight terrorists or even to understand who they are, the immediate cut of about 200 billion dollars from the Pentagon’s budget, to be followed by other cuts next year, etc., etc. Common sense stuff. The dismantling of the Patriot act, the dismantling of the department of Homeland Security (a boondoggle waiting for a disaster). That’s partly because – who wants to risk an uprising of the technostructure welfare recipients? that vast constituency of engineers, economists, think tankers and others who inhabit the structures that have been nourished by trillions of dollars in state funds since 1945. Here, addiction to the largest Keynesian multiplier in history has created character. In one sense, truly comedic character. Probe anywhere among the American engineering set and you will find a firm belief that they are raging individualists, Randians run amuck, opponents of big government of the don’t tread on me variety. Perhaps every kingdom generates needs to generate some group delirium to survive – but the delirium of this group is killing us.

Monday, February 20, 2006

a pygmy speaks

Foreign policy is one of those areas in which pygmies are treated as giants. This, LI thinks, is the reason “Frank” Fukuyama has such an outsized reputation. I might be unfair – I am judging him on the basis of the only one of his books I have read: The Great Disruption. Fukuyama's theme is a cockamamie attempt to cast the postwar period, the West’s Magic time (les trentes glorieuses, as the French say) as a time of Hobbesian insecurity. To distort history like this, you have to go to ridiculous extremes – and I remarked on one of them on my review of the book in the Austin Chronicle. It should be remarked that the distortion of history by the right, here, is consistent with their effort to distort the EU economy as it works now -- both are ways of embedding a corporationist conservatism as a sort of utopian template. That in fact the European health systems work so much better than the American that the comparison is laughable (same with workers rights, pensions, etc.), and that the real problem with the EU is that Europeans save too much (the one thing the American right is actually right about is that there is that fear inflation is not a macro-economic policy) has to be obscured by an ideological filter that gives us a no alternative past and future. Ronald Reagan's grinning features are the end of history for this group -- imagine them set in plastic, twenty feet high, the mouth open, and all of world history going for a ride in a boat between those teeth.

(By the way, looking at this article again, my figures for the number of killed in war and by mass murder, 1919-1945 (in Europe only) are way too conservative):

“The argument, briefly, is that, starting in 1950, about, and going all the way until the mid-Nineties (say 1994), the West experienced a prolonged moral disruption. Violent crime rose, marriages eroded, civil life became more precarious, and drugs became widespread. Fukuyama pegs this argument to several graphs, showing rises in bad behavior all over the place, from Sweden to California.

What to say about this argument? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that it must be wrong.

Consider, for instance, violent crime. Fukuyama considers whether his statistics account for all crimes, or just reported crimes. What he never considers is the status of crime itself. You would never understand the moral climate of Germany, 1933-1945, by looking at the police reports. Why? The police were committing the crimes. To consider violence and violent crimes to be one entity is to strain at a mugging and swallow a massacre. Really, between World War I and the end of World War II, there was a grand disruption, which resulted in the massacre of perhaps 25 million people, the forced emigration of perhaps another 20 million, and the death toll, from wars, of at least 10 million. If we project backward with those figures in mind, we find that the Grand Disruption is characterized by one thing: The West was much, much more peaceful than at any time since the end of the Napoleonic wars. Fukuyama is a suburban Toynbee. His world view has the restricted scope of the confirmed philistine.”


All of which is by way of intro to the article in the NYT Magazine, which is Fukuyama’s farewell to neoconservatism. Or, rather, it is the most visible moment in the extended party of Fukuyama’s farewell to conservatism, which has been rumbling along in Commentary and the National Interest for some time.

The neocon response to Fukuyama, in short form, is given by Roger Simon in a post entitle Fukuyama opts out. Simon has pared the zombie ideology to an economy of words that is impressive, sort of like a hypnotists mantra:

“Fukuyama seems to be a man in a hurry. The Iraq War here he declares to be a failure after only three years. Nostradamus? [Don't say "Well, maybe" again-ed. Okay, I won't.] In my own way, I sympathize with Fukuyama. The opinion game is ruthless. You have no time to wait for history and must make pronouncements based on thin and fleeting evidence. Still, it seems very early to close the book on Iraq. I suspect there are many twists and turns yet to come. Even Germany and Japan took a while to settle down after WWII - and that wasn't the Middle East. Sometimes I think people like Fukuyama (I'm being mean here) write these things to get their New York Times cards back, to be welcomed home into the fold and not to have to spend the rest of their lives writing for the Weekly Standard.”

Analogy, which once played a weak intellectual role in helping to interpret events in Iraq in the summer of 2003, now plays precisely the same role in interpreting those events as dreams do in helping you decide your lucky number in a lottery. Which is, perhaps, why the zombie followers of our Rebel in Chief, arms outstretched, are still solidly behind the vanity project in Iraq. After all, how many millions, week after week, buy lottery tickets on the off chance that their number will come up? On tv they can see people whose numbers came up – why not me? The only difference is that the U.S. has bought 500 billion dollars + in lottery tickets, disguised in supplementals, and there is no prize at the end of it. The lottery office was blown up long ago, and the only prize left is the prize for closest country to the Khomenei revolution in a supporting role. Eventually, of course, the zombies will notice that a lot of money has drifted out of the savings account, and they will have to blame someone. Who knows who the lucky victim will be? And frankly, who gives a fuck?

In any case, instead of going directly to Fukuyama’s article, I’d rather look at the article by Dmitri Simes, the guy who is the head of the Nixon Center, entitle Jihad, Unintended, published in the National Interest this December. Which I’ll do tomorrow.
Well, here’s a sad confession for you: LI didn’t attend the historians against the war conference. It isn’t because times are tight – an LI reader thoughtfully offered us the ready. It is because the weather is cold, and LI has this thing about biking through 40 degree weather on the off chance that we will be able to see a panel discussion to which we may be barred, for lack of registration. Besides which, the other top ten thing on the list of what we don’t do is we don’t get up early – or at least, we don’t do that well. We did get up and think, okay, time to hit the 8:55 a.m. session, but then our will slumped, and generally we proved that we would never have built the British empire or laid the tracks of the transcontinental railroad by drifting off.

Sorry! I’m more of a big rock candy mountain guy in my heart, a descendent of one of those Brueghel peasants, dreaming of the fruit falling into my mouth. My scythe is rusting in the grass, and I feel the trickle of sand through the hourglass merely as a slight and pleasant tickling sensation as I pursue peasant girls in colorful undress in my dreams…

And so onto other topics…

For instance, Osama bin Laden, our billion dollar man, has decided to really strive for the best MTV video prize this year. He’s out with a new tape, or a director's cut of the old tape, and in this one he promises to live free and die free and compares Bush to … Saddam Hussein.

“Osama bin Laden promised never to be captured and declared that the United States had resorted to the same "repressive" tactics used by Saddam Hussein, according to an audiotape purportedly by Mr. bin Laden posted Monday on a militant Web site.

While there was no immediate way to authenticate the tape, it appeared to be a more complete version of one first broadcast Jan. 19 on Al Jazeera, the pan-Arab satellite channel. In that broadcast, the first from Mr. bin Laden in more than a year, he offered the United States a long-term truce but also said his Al Qaeda network was planning more attacks on the United States.”

All of which makes me want to laugh hollowly and say, in my best Poe-like voice:
"As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; / They kill us for their sport."