“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, July 01, 2006

shout out to kimberly -- LI loves you!

Sometimes, I pity myself.

Here I am, a poor, miserable scribbler given the chance of a lifetime by the coup of 2000 that thrust upon my life a corrupt, authoritarian government; one as specious in all its cotton pickin’ policies and lubberly justifications as a shell game managed by retards. So I pull out the references, I edit my sentences until they bite hard enough, at least, to break the skin, I make with the withering put downs. I dream of Mandlestam, Solzhenitsyn, or, at least, Karl Kraus.

But yesteryear’s dissidents lived in times that, cruel and genocidal as they were, still retained enough respect for writing to get rid of the inconvenient writer. I, in contrast, live in the sticks and stones age: words will never hurt yahoos who have squandered the little literacy they ever acquired on The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

So here I am, about to unsheathe the razor and do myself in – or at least break the plastic on those damn disposable bics and try to get a purchase on the narrow, child safe strip of sharpened alloy – when I get a news flash from Mr. T, our far flung correspondent in NYC. And suddenly, in the darkness, there is a tiniest amount of light, like that shed by an ascending saint in a mannerist painting. Here it is, in its entirety:

Lil' Kim to Be Released From Prison Monday
New York Lawyer
June 30, 2006
By The Associated Press
NEW YORK -- Lil' Kim says she'll be celebrating Independence Day early this year.
The rapper, who was sentenced in September to a year and a day in prison for lying about a shootout outside a hip-hop radio station, is being released Monday, the day before July Fourth.

"I am thrilled to be coming home," Lil' Kim said Thursday in a statement issued by her publicist, Tracy Nguyen. "I thank all my fans for all their letters, as well as my family and friends for all their support throughout the past 10 months."

The entertainer, whose real name is Kimberly Jones, began serving her time at a federal detention center in Philadelphia on Sept. 19. Her lawyer, L. Londell McMillan, noted then that she could be released early for good behavior.

"She has accepted responsibility and handled herself in an exemplary manner," McMillan said Thursday.

The rapper, who will remain under house arrest for 30 days after her release, was convicted of lying to a federal grand jury and in the subsequent trial.

The case stemmed from a gun battle that erupted outside WQHT-FM, known as Hot 97, when Lil' Kim's entourage crossed paths with a rival rap group, Capone-N-Noreaga, whose song "Bang, Bang" contains an insult to her from rival Foxy Brown. One man was hurt in the shootout that followed.

Lil' Kim, who won a Grammy in 2001 for her part in the hit remake of "Lady Marmalade," maintained she hadn't noticed two of her close friends _ who later pleaded guilty to gun charges _ at the scene of the shootout. But jurors at her trial saw radio station security photos that depicted one of them opening a door for her, and witnesses said they saw her at the station with both of them."

Friday, June 30, 2006

montage of american history

The problem is you have a terrorist insurgent population that is wreaking havoc on a hapless Iraqi civilian population that is trying to fight back.

--Condoleeza Rice to Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Affairs Minister.

Five U.S. Army soldiers are being investigated for allegedly raping a young woman, then killing her and three members of her family in Iraq, a U.S. military official told The Associated Press on Friday.
The soldiers also allegedly burned the body of the woman they are accused of raping.
-- AP Story.

On September 11, 1965, The Saigon Daily News, a newspaper published entirely for the English speaking Western community of Vietnam, showed on its front page a large photograph of American servicemen standing with drawn weapons over a heap of what the caption describes as ‘dead VC’ – all lying face down on the ground , and with their hands tied behind their backs. – Bernard Fall, New Republic Magazine, October 9, 1965.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Here's to Fonda Day

Fly for the hills, pick up your feet and let’s go
- Black Angels

Continuing on LI’s Vietnam craze, we saw Winter Soldier last night on DVD. It made us think, among other things, about Jane Fonda. Of the actors who have come out of Hollywood and gotten involved in politics – Ronald Reagan, Charlton Heston, etc. – none had a more beneficial effect than Jane Fonda. For Fonda’s anti-war work in the 70s, LI forgives her for every celebrity sin since.

Fonda helped finance the Winter Soldier trials that exposed, from a grunts eye point of view, what Vietnam was about – a racist and criminal enterprise that massacred Vietnamese, on the one side, and introduced psychosis into the American population, on the other. We have never shed the last black drop of that psychosis – the Freikorps is still alive and well in this country, as the last six years have shown. But things could be much worse. It was the sheer patriotism of such as Fonda that kept it from being worse.

She saw – as the antiwar movement in general saw – that the problem with the United States was similar to the problem faced by an alcoholic. Just as an alcoholic needs, for his own sake, to be de-toxed, so the U.S., for its own sake, needed to be severely demoralized. Stabbing the war in the back was the patriotic duty of every concerned American, and the anti-war movement, back then, was willing to grasp that nettle. We need to take a lesson – we need tribunals like the Winter Soldier tribunals about Iraq. And most of all, we need to spread the news that no patriot will enroll in a mercenary army, bent to the will of an unelected despot.

Unfortunately, the liberal side of the spectrum, now, seeing that the U.S. is embarked on another criminal adventure, in which, once again, thinly disguised massacres are the strategy of choice, still has not grasped the nettle. This is understandable. Fonda, compared to whose high standards of moral action a politburo automaton like Ronald Reagan looks like a monster, has been subject to coordinated vilification ever since she helped, in her own small way, extract the country from the effects of its governing class’ misrule. Of course, in one hundred years, when things clear up, we will, of course, see the Reagans, the Cheneys, the Bushes as the villains they are, peckerwood Richard IIIs, while it is always possible there will be a national Fonda day. Surely we owe it to her and the antiwar movement that every war since Vietnam has been fought by volunteers – and that the system is now spiraling into the purest form of mercenary violence, with duty almost wholly replaced by various compensation packages. I don’t think the era of executive mercenary wars is going to last too long – eventually, there will come a backlash. Eventually, Congress might even assert its authority, instead of acting like a bribed cop, looking the other way as the local Mafia loot a store.

Anyway, here’s to some future Fonda Day.

news from the war front -- D.C.

Interesting article in the WAPO today

Stolen VA Laptop Recovered

By Christopher Lee and Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 29, 2006; 12:56 PM

Authorities announced the recovery today of computer equipment stolen from an employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs, saying that the laptop was recovered in Vice President Cheney’s undisclosed location. Apparently, the sensitive personal information of 26.5 million veterans and military personnel has merely been subjected to a standard security search and appropriation by Cheney’s office.

The laptop and external hard drive apparently stolen from the Aspen Hill, Md., home of a VA data analyst on May 3 contained the names, birthdates and Social Security numbers of millions of current and former service members, amounting to what appeared to be the largest information security breach in government history. VA Secretary Jim Nicholson did not make public the apparent burglary until three weeks later, triggering both widespread anxiety over possible identity theft and anger at federal officials for the delay in announcing the theft. Today’s announcement by the FBI clarifies the VA’s confusion. Due to the merger of the U.S. Government and Halliburton, according to a provision in the PATRIOT act, Social Security accounts of all government employees can be accessed if a national security threat to the price of Halliburton equities is declare to exist. Such appropriations and access are only admissible after ruling by a special secret court, the WCDAWFWT (‘We can do anything we fucking want to’), located in the Vice President’s bathroom.
...

“The news that the stolen data had, in fact, merely been accessed as part of a USA/Halliburton recuperation of revenue operation is wonderful for veterans and active duty personnel," said Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. "We were all holding our breath due to unsupported stories in the Press. Apparently, the Veterans are sacrificing now, so that later, we don’t have to face a terroristic shortfall in USA/Halliburton 2006 financing. It is, however, shocking that the media has revealed this operation, which can only help Al Qaeda’s quest to destroy our free enterprise system."

Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.), the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, applauded the administration for ‘coming clean’ on the supposed burglary. “Questions, however, still exist: was the WCDAWFWT called into session? Or was this a unilateral decision on the part of the Vice President’s office? I have introduced legislation to make sure that the WCDAWFWT is applied to when these kinds of shortfalls occur. The war on terror is no excuse for the White House ignoring the will of the Congress.”

A spokesman for the Vice President’s office refused to comment on any on-going national security operations, merely remarking that Lane Evans has a small penis.”

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

From parody to policy -- Li pats itself on the back.

There are those who think that reading, as well as writing, Limited Inc is a less valuable use of time than, say, cutting holes in the pockets of your pants so you can play pocket pool.

But LI says, au contraire!

Proof exists right around the corner of your NYT -- go to the science section today. The global warming story. The geo-engineering story:

"Worried about a potential planetary crisis, these leaders are calling on governments and scientific groups to study exotic ways to reduce global warming, seeing them as possible fallback positions if the planet eventually needs a dose of emergency cooling.

...

Dr. Cicerone [President of the National Academy of Sciences] recently joined a bitter dispute over whether a Nobel laureate's geoengineering ideas should be aired, and he helped get them accepted for publication. The laureate, Paul J. Crutzen of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany, is a star of atmospheric science who won his Nobel in 1995 for showing how industrial gases damage the earth's ozone shield. His paper newly examines the risks and benefits of trying to cool the planet by injecting sulfur into the stratosphere.

The paper "should not be taken as a license to go out and pollute," Dr. Cicerone said in an interview, emphasizing that most scientists thought curbing greenhouse gases should be the top priority. But he added, "In my opinion, he's written a brilliant paper."

Geoengineering is no magic bullet, Dr. Cicerone said. But done correctly, he added, it will act like an insurance policy if the world one day faces a crisis of overheating, with repercussions like melting icecaps, droughts, famines, rising sea levels and coastal flooding."

For faithful readers, this should ring a bell. It doesn't? Mein Gott, Vhat am I doing dis fuer? I've instructed Igor to go back in the files. This is LI for February 19 2006. Hey, I wonder if I should hit this Cicerone cat up for consulting duties?

"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."

Well, looking at our proposal, now, with an eagle eye, I can see a major flaw in it. It does have explosions. It would please the ever apoplectic male population, all pumped up on their Limbaugh brand Viagra and shit. But... it really needs to pump federal money into the South. This is, after all, pretty much the reason the U.S. exists any more -- find some reason to send another couple billion to a Peckerhead War Industry firm. I concede that, feeding the Dixie monkey wise, my simple proposal might not go over. But wait! What if we chose to explode volcanos in countries that aren't free? Couldn't we liberate them first? Which is invasion, which is moola-moola for those greasy kentucky fried fingers. And a lot of brown bodies, all torn to bits, ocassionally flashed on the tv screen. Wow. A lyncherooni of an idea.

I'm seeing if Tom Delay is available for board membership of this thing.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

LI helps out the poor Dems...

LI is reviewing a bio of LBJ. So, doing some research, we rented the film Hearts and Minds, a documentary about Vietnam that made a big splash in the in the seventies. Well. We heard a few things in that documentary that made us think about the Democrats.

The Democrats apparently have a problem with their message. Now, that’s a shame. That’s a doggone shame. It makes LI weep, sometimes. So, out of our infinite compassion for our Democratic brothers and sisters, we copied down those things so that the Dems could use them.

One was said by a past Democratic presidential candidate about the Vietnam war – Eugene McCarthy – and we think it is still such a sturdy, succinct, and generally correct phrase that we’d recommend it for Iraq: “It is unwise, immoral and not in the national interest of this country, and that therefore it must be brought to an end.” Except, of course, that it has to be brought to an end now. Withdrawal in the next, oh, three months.

And here’s a remark from Senator Fullbright. He was speaking to a question about Johnson’s speech on the Gulf of Tonkin that began the official U.S. military intervention in Vietnam:

“We always hesitate in public to use the dirty word lie but a lie’s a lite, it’s a misrepresentation of fact and it is supposed to be a criminal act if it’s done under oath. Mr. Johnson didn’t say it under oath. We don’t usually have the president under oath.”

Short and sweet and from a Senator, no less.

And then there was a comment from a former Oklahoma bomber pilot – the most impressive American in the documentary, including the Kennedys, Johnson, Daniel Ellsburg, Nixon and Bob Hope. The guy’s name was Randy Floyd.

Q: Do you think we’ve learned anything from this.
A: “I think we are trying not to… I think Americans have worked extremely hard not to see the criminality that their officials and policy makers have exhibited.”

One of the things about Vietnam that the film doesn’t show, but that I am beginning to see, reading around, is that Vietnam was not lost after the Tet offensive. Vietnam was lost in late 1963-1964. That was when Diem was assassinated, and the next government tried, and failed, due to American obstruction, to create a neutralist state. That this would eventually lead to the re-unification of Vietnam was obvious. That Vietnam would be Communist dominated was obvious. That American could do nothing about that was also obvious. The French floated the neutralist balloon. The Americans shot it down. 750,000 casualties later, Vietnam was a communist state. And twenty some years after Hearts and Minds was made – with certain sections devoted to the big fat Vietnamese capitalist pigs that the filmmakers saw as American puppets – the united communist nation was speaking exactly that big fat capitalist tongue. In fact, the businessman they interviewed made chamber of commerce statements about South Vietnam (which, in the commentary, the filmmaker points out with some disdain) that are now state doctrine – the pablum official line. The war was not only pointless strategically, it was even pointless ideologically. Just as the Americans were bound to lose the war, American ideology was bound to win it.

The Americans “lost” in Iraq in 2004 – whatever they were trying to do. The post Iraq syndrome is already in – Richard Perle, who is so odious that he is a bit unbelievable, like a comic book villain, is still smart enough to know that the reactionary line is, Bush is losing Iran. Because Bush is. Because nobody is going to keep paying for America’s stinkin’ wars. Bush is both a parody of LBJ and a parody of detentish Richard Nixon. Who knew that one frat boy had it in him?

that diorama style

Taine’s introduction to his history of English literature became famous as soon as the first volume was published, in 1864. Its fame has dwindled, as fame does, into an exercise in memorization for grad students in comparative literature: Q: what was Taine’s thesis? A: History is about race, milieu and the moment. Which you can know without ever reading Taine – it is the kind of knowledge you get in an overview written by someone who may, perhaps, have acquired his or her knowledge of Taine from another overview.

This is not to bitch – Taine’s intro begins with set pieces in a Believe it or Not diorama style that has aged as badly as the American Natural History museum’s Culture Halls, with their celebration of how the Peoples of the World live in their natural setting. The diorama style is not just Taine’s, of course – he is writing in the wake of fifty years of ethnographic shows and exhibits, including the great Crystal Palace one in 1851 (in which the U.S. was represented by our amazing gunsmiths – the Colt rifles and revolvers, and the way they were made of standard parts in factories in which, it was rumored, machines made machines, so shook the British that they sent a special mission to the U.S. to observe and report on U.S. manufacturers). But Taine intellectualized this hybrid of scholarship and entertainment. So, he urges the historian to act much like the visitor to one of these shows – to view the country and culture, instead of merely drawing philosophical conclusions from the logic of texts its might produce:

“In order to understand an Indian Purana, begin by imaging the father of a family who, having seen a son on the knees of his son, retires, according to the law, into a solitary state, with a vase and an axe, under a banana tree on the edge of a stream, ceasing to speak, multiplying his fasts, standing nude between four fires, and under the fifth fire, the terrible sun that devours and incessantly renews all living things; who, by stages, during entire weeks, keeps his imagination fixed on the foot of Brahma, then on his knee, and then on his thigh, and then on his belly button, and so on, until, under the pressure of that intense meditation, hallucinations appear, presenting all the forms of being, transformed confusedly one into the other, oscillating inside that head carried away by its vertigo, up to the point that the man, perfectly still, breathing once again, his eyes still fixed, sees the univers vanish smoke above the universal and empty Being, in which he aspires, himself, to plunge.”

This kind of speech cries out for a showman’s cane – and in fact was quickly absorbed into popular literature and then into films.

While Taine’s prose is a little, well, funny, his point is interesting – he wants the historian to begin his own meditation by way of starting with the novel, or the drama. To make a history is to visualize the settings and persons in the history. Thus, Taine counts, among those who have put history on the right track in the 19th century (the track of science), Walter Scott.

‘This is the first step in history: we have made it in Europe thanks to the renaissance of the imagination produced, at the end of the last century, with Lessing, Walter Scott; a little later in France, with Chateaubriand, Augustin Thierry, M. Michelet and so many others.”

All of which is by way of pointing back to Marx’s use of a literary method in the 18th Brumaire. LI has had a bit of a discussion about these matters with Le Colonel Chabert. Marx, who wrote the 18th Brumaire in the very year of the Crystal Palace Exhibit, sounds so modern, compared to Taine. Or modernist – for Taine’s diorama style is, as I am coming to see more and more, the style of the comic book, which is not so marginal any more – and which probably never was. There are bizarre enjambments between Marx’s text and Taine’s, and my next post on this matter is going to explore one of them – Marx’s remark about the pretence of the actors in the events he is looking at to actually be enacting a classical, analogous drama.

This political charade is, for Taine, stage two of the historic method:

If you wish to observe this operation [the historian’s attempt to plumb the psychology of historical personages] look at the promoter and model of all great contemporary culture, Goethe, who, before writing his Iphigenie, used his days to design the most perfect statues, and who, at last, his eyes filled by the noble forms and landscapes of antiquity, and his mind penetrated by the harmonious beauty of the classical era’s lives, came to reproduce so exactly inside himself the habits and tendencies of the Greek imagination that he gives us almost a twin sister to Sophocles’ Antigone, and the goddesses of Phidias.”

The tendency to for political actors to play this game of masquerade is something we see, at present, in the proliferation of analogies for the Iraq war. What is this about?