Saturday, November 10, 2001


Idiocy, open idiocy, in public, like nudity in public, has a certain low erotic charm.

So Limited Inc should have been pleased to read an article that, from beginning to end, is a tissue of error, misreading, illogic, and special pleading. Not since Clinton defended oral sex as a form of non-sex have we seen something like this. It is Jonathan Rauch, who seems to have the brains of a damaged green pea, writing in the Atlantic about why Bush one was right to stop his big bad war before we had taken out (if you'll remember) a man who was "another Hitler". Somehow, though, Limited Inc.'s joy in the piece was mitigated by its racism, its vile sense of American privilege, and our sense that it is depressingly representative of conservative foreign policy thinking.

Rauch gives various implausible and weasily reasons for Bush's great foreign policy failure. His big Ace, which he draws like everybody in the house is going to gasp, is that the fall of Saddam would have split Bushy's coalition. This is bogus. As Patrick Cockburn has reported, the Bush administration's decision that the possible split-up of Iraq would make the Sauds and Turks bolt was taken without consulting the Sauds and Turks; officials from both states have said, in the wake of Iraq's preservation, that they were prepared to pay the price for ridding themselves of Saddam. What the Bush people didn't seem to realize is that Saddam had a reputation all over that was bad enough, scary enough, that the allies could be brought to the sticking point.

But Rauch isn't simply an ace man. He wants to play other cards as well. For instance, here he is as a stone bitch realpolitiker: "The goal of the Gulf War, for Bush and the Arab allies alike, was not to impose a new order on the region but to restabilize the old one. Strategically speaking, that meant caging the overweening Saddam, not toppling him."

Why gee, boys and girls, that does that sound a bit different from what Mr. Bush said to the good old American people, don't it? But given Rauch's contempt for the idea of democracy in the Middle East, it isn't surprising that he has a pretty high level of contempt for it in America, too. Why announce your real war aims to the country, after all -- I mean, they merely elected you, the scumbags.

And of course there is the little matter of what started the intifada in Iraq in the first place -- Bush's famous announcement that he welcomed revolt against Saddam Hussein. SImply skipped over by the inestimable Rauch, who has a true brownnoser's instinct for what parts to leave out of a story. But if pressed he'd no doubt chuckle -- it was a sort of in-joke, I guess. See how many Iraqis believe it and watch em die! Those cut up clowns in the white house, man, they'll joy buzzer you every time!

Having gone blissfully forward in error and deception like a sinner in Pilgrim's Progress, Rauch picks up speed, now: "Tactically, too, destroying Saddam looked costly. The Republican Guard was melting as fast as it could into Basra. Rooting it out could have meant street combat, with significant American and civilian casualties. No one�not the allies, not Bush, and not the Pentagon�relished fighting that type of war, particularly when doing so was not clearly necessary."

Let's see if this is true. The Republican units were paniced. There were revolts breaking out in the Shiite South and the Kurdish north, and they were successful at taking cities. We had the military force on line, on site, to make those revolts successful. We had the power to overthrow a dictator who had initiated a terrible eight year war, which he'd won by using chemicals, and one moreover who had built his power upon the murder of tens of thousands of his own people. We had that power, but oh, we didn't "relish" this. Why? Because Bushypoo and his advisors are "realists." The don't believe Arabs deserve anything so uppity as democracy, or a say so in their own governance. That would have a "bad effect" on, say, the Saudi peninsula, that is ruled by a family of autocratic looters. Never do to upset them. Our intent, at this point, was to imprison a people. Our motives were consonant with our history -- or at least that part of it that exterminated the Indians.

Limited Inc read the article so far as merely another tedious apologetic for our former loser president's mistakes, and not a very bright one at that. But then we got to Rauch's crowning moment and we rather lost our joy in the piece --because it is the moment in which mere cretinism yields to a depth of morally malignity rather repulsive to contemplate:

"Moreover, until 1990 Saddam had been a savage bully, but one America had done business with. It was reasonable to expect that after the fighting he might settle down, play by the rules, and pocket billions in diverted development aid like any self-respecting kleptocrat."

A bully, at my school, was someone who hit other people. With his fist. One guy I remember once put a needle in the toe of his boot, and kicked with it. But at Mr. Rauch's school, apparently, a bully was a little more aggressive - he was the guy who put the Sarin in the air ducts in the bathroom, apparently. The guy who set up torture chambers in the janitor closets. The guy who supplied his buddies with automatic rifles the better to systematically shoot down unarmed civilians in order to put fear into his enemies. Other people call such things a 'crime against humanity', but the knowing Rauch would smile at such naivete. Of course, for the Rauchs, only one crime against humanity has ever happened in history -- on September 11, 2001.

Friday, November 09, 2001


Going to New Mexico to kill a man -- that was Limited Inc's brainstorm a few days ago, when it occured to us that there was a feature story in Texas sending a crack team of hangmen, out of our well known heart, to our needy neighbor, New Mexico, to help inject a killer and child rapist with a lethal fluid. Texas and New Mexico refused to give the names of the bourreaux, our Lone Star Rosenkranz and Guildenstern, but it suddenly occured to Limited Inc that some magazine somewhere would be interested in this story. Too late: on the same day, Clark, the childkiller, was murdered by the state.

The Albuquerque Tribune ran a big story about Terry Clark, the killer and killed.

Joline Gutierrez Krueger had the byline. Here are the crucial grafs:

"Terry Clark does not seem like a monster in letters and phone calls from death row, rare glimpses of a man few have come to know - or have wanted to - since that day 15 years ago when he put three bullets in a 9-year-old girl's head.

The state Supreme Court affirmed Clark's death sentence on July 8, 1999. Dena Lynn Gore had already been almost 13 years gone, longer dead in a White Oaks cemetery than she was alive. Clark had spent those years as inmate No. 34930 in the state penitentiary, segregated from the general population more for his own safety than anything and allowed out of his cell one hour a day.

"Yeah, this place is a trip," he wrote Sept. 28, 1999. "I have met a lot of people in here, and it has not been all bad. But I still do not wish to die of old age in here, either. Nothing could be offered me to want to spend my life in this place. Nothing!!"

Clark had grown weary of Mitchell's attempts to save him from execution, and he began filing briefs on his own seeking the right to waive counsel and the right to die as the courts had ordered."

In short, the classic American psychodrama. Clark wants to commit suicide, the state wants to kill him, and the opponents of the state committing the capital crime of murdering murderers (or other criminals) trying to prevent the machine from operating one more time.

Our p.o.v. has been outlined in some scattered post a week or so back: we oppose the death penalty. But our more novelistic interest is in the executioners. Our readers by now are way ahead of us: of course, you are thinking, what would be perfect for this post, Mssrs. Limited Inc, is a nice long quote from Joseph de Maistre's amazing and sinister defense of the ancien regime, Soirees de St-Petersburgh. Wow, such readers we have! We are totally in synch with your wishes! And besides, it is one of the great moments in political rhetoric, de Maistre's astonishing elogium to the hangman. Here's our translation:

"I believe that you are all too clever not to have more than once meditated on the fact of the hangman. What is this inexplicable being who prefers, before all the other agreeable, lucrative, honest and even honorable jobs in the world crowding upon the mind which muses on human force or dexterity, that of tormenting and even putting to death his fellows? That head, that heart, are they made like our own? Don't they contain something peculiar and strange to our nature? For me, I can't doubt it. He is made like us on the outside; he is born like us; but he is an extraordinary being, and in order that he exist in the human family there had to have been issued a decree, a fiat of the Creative Power. He is created like a world. See what he is in the opinion of men, and understand, if you can, how he can ignore that opinion or confront it! hardly has authority chosen his residence, hardly has he taken possession of it when his neighbors recoil, giving him the blind eye. In the middle of this solitude, this sort of vacuum formed around him that he lives alone with his female and his little ones, who make known to him the pleasing sounds of the human voice. Otherwise, he would known nothing but shrieks... a lugubrious signal is given, an abject minister of justice comes to knock on his door and tell him he is needed. He gets up, he goes, he arrives at a public place entirely filled with a palpitating, dense crowd. They throw him a poisoner, a parricide, a blasphemer. He grasps the wretch, stretches him out, ties him to a horizontal cross. He lifts his arm, while a horrible silence surrounds him, and one hears only the cry of bones breaking under the iron rod and the screams of the victim. He unties him, carries him to the wheel. The broken limbs dangle in the spokes. The head hands miserably, the hairs stand up, and the mouth, like a urnace, only gargles, at intervals, some bloody words to call upon death. He finishes, our hangman. His heart is beating, but it is with joy. He applauds his own work, he says in his heart: no one runs the wheel better than me. He climes down, he extends his bloody hand, and justice tosses him some gold coins which he carries off, making a passage through the ranks of the horrified audience that yield to him as he passes. He goes back and sits at his take and eats. Then, he goes to bed and sleeps. The next day, in waking up, he reflects on anything else than what he did yesterday. Is this a man? Yes. God receives him in his temples, and permits him to pray. He is not a criminal, yet no language would consent to say that he is virtuous, honest, estimable, etc. No moral praise is due him, for all such praise supposes a human relationship, and he has none. Yet all grandeur, all power, all obedience rests on the executioner. It is the horror and the tie of all human association. If you take this incomprehensible agent from the world, in that instant order is turned into chaos, thrones are thrown into the abyss, and society disappears."

Thursday, November 08, 2001


Story of the day is the further melt-down of Enron. Remember Enron? Company voted most likely to be evil during the Bushy era? The company that once traded at 80 dollars per, and now is trading at a tenth of that? The company that might be sold to Dynegy (not, alas, Dynasty, which would have been soooo appropriate -- all Texas companies bear an uncanny resemblence to tv shows about Texas, and though Enron is based in Houston, the Dallas comparison, down to the match between J.R. and Ken Lay, Enron's CEO, is downright separated at birth). A year ago, the idea that a no-name would acquire one of Wall Street's hot shot companies - a company that treated California much like one of Marquis de Sade's heros treated the unfortunate Juliette -- would have been an ultra-giggle. Now, of course, those who are still invested in the energy trading or whatever it does company are praying this is the good news. The story in Fortune by Bethany McLean is a pretty good intro to the depths to which Enron's sunk:

Story by Bethany Maclean in Fortune:

Ending grafs go for the jugular, or in this case the balance sheet.

"Perhaps the biggest concern is the true profitability of Enron's core business, its energy trading operation. The heart of the Enron story, the stuff that captivated Wall Street, was the company's transformation from a stodgy gas pipeline into a technology phenomenon that could make a market in anything, from electricity to broadband. It's impossible to know if Enron has used the partnerships and off-balance-sheet vehicles to influence its reported earnings. Enron also mingles profits from asset sales with its trading income--and despite its pledges, in the most recent quarter the company provided less, not more, disclosure on that front. In addition there are questions about how aggressively Enron books trading-related revenue. In fact, a knowledgeable source at a competitor says that Enron recognizes its revenues at two to five times the rate of that company's. If energy trading is really such a fabulous business for Enron, why does it need to play so many games?

As for Ken Lay, who was once thought to be in Jack Welch's league, he has accomplished the truly remarkable feat of destroying much of what was left of Enron's credibility in just a few short months--along with some of his own. Some observers suspect that the problem is not that Lay is avoiding questions, but that he doesn't know the answers. In either case, Lay is a long way from keeping his promises. "

Irony (which is now, of course, officially unpatriotic) is that Fortune was a big pumper of Enron's cyber with-it-ness in the day. I'll find the links for that later today.
Limited Inc is starting from the fourth chapter of Ezekial tonight. So get a stiff drink.

"And, behold, I will lay bands upon thee, and thou shalt not turn thee from one side to another, till thou hast ended the days of thy siege.

Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentiles, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof, according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon thy side, three hundred and ninety days shalt thou eat thereof.

And thy meat which thou shalt eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day: from time to time shalt thou eat it.

Thou shalt drink also water by measure, the sixth part of an hin: from time to time shalt thou drink.

And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight."

Yes, from time to time thou shalt drink; from time to time even eat meat, twenty shekels worth. This, my readers, is the emblem and essence of the writing life. This week, Limited Inc searched high and low for funds, having to meet certain emergencies, like rent. And of course we are begging in the full, arrogant knowledge that we command the language, the Queen's tongue. If this were the eighteenth century, man, we'd be cleaning up. But in our heart we know we are screwed -- command of the tongue is worth zip in the market place. We could have made more, this year, bagging hotdogs and white bread at the local store. This has gone on for three freelancing years, and each month Limited Inc decides, okay, I'll quit. This month we are making more of an effort, having put out resumes to spas and architects lauding our ability to answer the phone, file (you are a writer? Do you like know the alphabet? -- kewl!) and generally bake our barleycakes with the dung that cometh out of man, in their sight. So far, no responses. So we are doing as much as we can, on a freelance basis, with the Austin American Statesman. And crossing our fingers that something will take us out of this hell. Hell, you think, is a metaphor, but no, no, we are talking pretty realistically. What else do you call a world in which the man who designed the awful popup page which displays that awful, unnecessary and surely never bought X-2 digital camera or whatever it is (go to Yahoo for anything and you'll see what we mean) is living in the lap of luxury, raising his idiot children as he sees fit, while we are living the life of one of those dying 19th century bohemians. That has to be hell -- it is the overthrow of all rationality, all value, of Western Civilization itself ( lately given such high marks by the commentariat) in favor of mere piggery. Piggery forever.

On that note, take a look at Cynthia Cott's cutely named: are we dead yet:

Nice graf:

"In the media sector, an estimated 100,000 media jobs were eliminated in the past year or more, according to�and many editorial types fear a new wave of layoffs any day now."

Tuesday, November 06, 2001


Two posts tonight! Limited Inc.'s limited readership should appreciate this, although maybe they will groan over the verbiage. Sorry.

Ahem, vee vill begin our lecture mit ein simple fifisection of a wabbit...
Oops, sorry about that, ladies and germs -- wrong set of notes!
In the November 5th New Yorker there is a column by the astute but limited James Surowiecki, who makes the standard case against breaking the Bayer patent on Cipro. The case goes like this: to come up with an antibiotic takes years of R & D, and R & D costs beaucoup millions; so if in the end, the anti-biotic isn't a moneymaker, then R & D into other anti-biotics will be inhibited. Thus it is socially advantageous not to bust Bayer's balls, so to speak.

Unfortunately, as Surowiecki sleepwalks through his econ 101 lecture, he adds a number of facts that contradict his larger point, and support the idea that monopoly actually has an inhibiting effect on medically important R & D. He averts to the slowdown in antibiotic research after 1967, a generally agreed upon high point in the war against infectious diseases. That slowdown, he contends, was market driven:
"Besides, given the choice between making an anti-biotic that a person might take for two weeks once in a lifetime or developing an anti-depressant that a person would take every day for the rest of his life, drug companies naturally opted for the latter." If S. could be shaken out of his dogmatic slumbers for a bit and made to read back his own sentence, he might notice that monopoly, here, does the opposite of what he claims it does. It levels the field so that it makes it more profitable to de-emphasize exploring anti-biotic pharmaceuticals as compared to the more lucrative anti-depressives. In other words, bad research drives out good. And the penalty for that is minimal, given that anti-biotics are being held in a sixteen year bondage according to federal law, and the patent time frame is easily extendable. S. even is hip to the result of this: "that's why in the past twenty-five years they {big Pharma] have developed just one new class of anti-biotic." Well, let's look at correlations. We have an increasingly sophisticated sphere of intellectual property laws, and we have an increasingly debauched drug research system, more interested in those nifty sex-drive-n'-hair enhancers than in coming up with cures for multiple drug resistant tb. Now if the state were sensitive to this, it would not hand out monopoly power like candy. If there was a smaller time frame, the sex-drive-n-hair enhancers would have to be marketed more efficiently, as generic drug companies can come up with amazing copies quickly. In this atmosphere, the profitability of anti-biotic drugs as compared to others would go up, since there is less likely to be a major profit in copying them, and there is more reason to emphasize them for their developers. They would be mid-list drugs, steady sellers. Moreover, breaking up the monopoly power of big Pharma would recognize the R & D real world - which is networked through a university system largely subsidized by the good old Gov. Perhaps smaller companies can't compete with giant companies that dragoon, or tempt, researchers into more frivolous but lucrative research. But if there were more starters, there might just be more incentive to do that major research. In other words, more competition, lower entry costs, is what we should be aiming at.

Of course, Surowiecki's idea that tech comes when you lay out money as automatically as an old pooch trots to the dogfood bowl when you put out the Gainesburgers is pretty naive. It shows zero feeling for the history of the golden age of medicine, which was driven, pre-1967, much more by an ethos of public healthcare than by the numbers pharmaceutical giants are used to now. And another hint: the fons et origo of that era is clearly the biggest of all state endeavors of the 20th century -- as with most of our technology, the modern medical era can be tracked back to WWII. War is the mother of invention.
Hey, my hypocritical readers, what is up with you all? What is up, what is up/ in the house? I install this great little commenting widget, and I'm expecting, oh, I don't know, some damn disagreement. I mean, I'm trying to take controversial stands here! I'm trying to be a contrarian! What am I doing wrong? I mean, here I am alone in my apartment, nobody to argue with, and I think I'll just continue the enrag� tradition of the situationalists, breed the polemic fury of Trotsky with the goofiness of Wodehouse, I think this is gonna stir em up in the streets when I cut and paste my postings, and Alan tells me I made a grammatical error on one of the posts, and that is the breadth and the depth! Surely I can't be representing the bien pensant opinion -- surely I'm not mister average Joe! Oh say it ain't so! Okay, enough with the exclamation marks (I just think they are funny). How bout those economic heresies I casually spout, though? Or my AC/DC feelings about the war? Or the way I make fun of Bushypoo, like calling him Bushypoo - which goes back to his pop, who I also called Bushypoo. I look over who is coming to this site, and I am amazed how many people apparently think I'm posting naked Lolita picks, or that there is something ineffably sexy about misspelling girls "girles" (not really a misspelling, simply a quote from an Elizabethan translation of Plutarch. Those horn dogs must be maddened to land on such sterile shores. Not that I am going to get too moral about it -- when I search for porno, I put things like 'teenage girles' up myself.) Well, I feel like some marooned Rumpelstilskin here, jumping up and down without an audience. Sadness, man, sadness.

Monday, November 05, 2001


The New Statesman, "rather provocatively" focuses, this week, on American Imperialism. Ah, that phrase! We at Limited Inc used to let it roll off our tongue with a certain jouissance (and we use to let jouissance roll off our tongue with a certain frisson, don't you know? and so we pleasantly descended, on angel wings, the sub-Barthesian ladder, full of grad school certainty and hot air). And it is still a useful phrase, but we can't but take issue with the New Statesman's take on the Cold War:

"In this issue (pages 18-19), we publish a map, showing US interventions overseas since 1945 and entitled, rather provocatively, "The original rogue state". It is not an exhaustive catalogue. It does not show some of the more recent examples such as Somalia, the Balkans and Iraq; it subsumes Cambodia and Laos into Vietnam; it has no room for El Salvador or Cyprus. A similar map, published to show Soviet interventions up to 1989, would have highlighted many of the same areas (Angola and Afghanistan, for example) but, where Latin America features heavily on our map, the Soviet version would focus more on eastern Europe and the Caucasus.

"Almost any New Statesman reader would prefer to live in a world where America, rather than the Soviet Union, won the cold war. We may think that, if the latter had won, Moscow, Leningrad (as it is no longer called) and Minsk would have been the victims of terrorist attacks, not New York and Washington. The truth is that a Soviet-dominated world would have been so tightly controlled as to make terrorism extremely difficult and, as the control would have extended to the media, much less rewarding in its psychological and propaganda effects."

The "truth" about the Soviet dominated world has been out for some time; far from being Orwell's vision of an anthive, it was a world of factory workers drinking the cleaning fluid and criminal clans making the economy work, when it worked. There is an odd prejudice afloat in the world, shared by left and right alike, that totalitarian regimes are somehow better at violence, better at "domination." And so it is thought that democracies, going to war, have to towel off the democratic mascara and really get top down and Patton-ish, censor the press, throw the thousand or so "foreigners" in jail (as is being done right now -- see earlier post), etc. Well, though dictatorships are more violent, it is a different thing to say they are better at violence. Sure, Eichman made the trains run on time, but the US won the war and held an election in the midst of it, as well as completing it with another president than the one who started it. In other words, success in politics has to be looked at in terms of social reproduction, and democracy has been pretty ace at that, even if, as in the election our present POTUS stole, it is imperfect. That Churchill could be defeated in the election right after the war is a possibility folded into the expectations of those who fought the war. The vicious, immoral Vietnam war affected the overthrow of those who designed it, in this country; the stupid Afghanistan war pretty much broke the whole design of the Soviet empire. The Cold War was a peculiar war in many ways, but none more than this -- it put the systems themselves in competition. It was the way the militaries were built up, rather than a military clash, which decided the "war." There is a random element in real war, military genius, which makes it problematic to identify victory with some sort of systematic superiority of the winning party. Napoleon could have prevailed at Waterloo, but it is much harder to envision Brezhnev prevailing with his gasping system over one that was opening up such a clear and increasing lead in all the technologies that counted.

Right after 9/11, Eric Boehlert published a nice compendious look at the WTC buildings.

His sources were agreed that the buildings were an exercise in elephantiasis, the bigger is better aesthetic of despots, pharaohs, and Rockefellers. Nelson and David were the men behind the WTC. The financing, the shady way the Port Authority suddenly had extra port authority to build the things, the running off of small merchants, the choice of an architect/drone, Yamasaki, were all about what NYC was in the seventies -- a sort of Trojan graveyard in which the buzzardly rich picked the bones, while the angry poor cried among them, scrapped up livings from the broken streets, and were instilled with the ethic of hopelessness. Yamasaki was type-cast: he'd processed modernism into a plutocratic pleasing tic, discarding its utopian beginnings, and distilling its totalitarianism into pure Brasilia; his own eccentricities simply made things worse:

"And then there were the unusually narrow office windows that robbed tower inhabitants of what should have been an indisputable perk: the view. Yamasaki was afraid of heights and decided in order to make everyone feel secure while they worked in the offices, the windows, set between columns, would be just 18 inches across, narrower than Yamasaki's own shoulder span."

Well, in this week's New York Obs, Nicholas von Hoffman goes on a rampage about the Towers. von Hoffman is one of those muckraking journalists who rode in on the sixties, re-discovering capitalism's black secret: profit has little to do with the economist's juiceless picture of it as a sort of epiphenomena of efficiency. No, profit is made, and the making of it, like charcuterie, requires a certain high imperviousness to the squeals of dying animals. Although way back in 1830, Balzac already understood this, the generation of sixties journalists seemed especially transfixed by the insight, which was not covered on any of the tv quiz shows they saw as kids. Hoffman went from writing for the Washington Post, I believe, to writing the biography of the ultimate American confidence man, Roy Cohn. Unlike Murray Kempton, who Hoffman has obviously thought about a lot, Hoffman doesn't really have that last bit of sympathy for the sinner. This is why he has lately sounded like H.L. Mencken -- not from the good period, but from the forties. Hoffman has spent the nineties in a state of perpetual irritation. Limited Inc had its own trouble with the nineties, the era of the mendacious Clinton, the end of welfare as we know it, and the heavy skewing of the wealth index to the top of the pile, (not to mention that sound (what's that sound?) in the background (everybody look what's going down) -- which turned out to be the bombing of Iraq) but Hoffman was irritable to a degree that even got on our nerves. We like the way he stubbornly remains unaffected by an afterglow of sentiment for the ruined towers, but we really mean unaffected. Here's the second graf:

"Never the same again goes the cry of regret. But why? And why should we want it to be the same? I am not, of course, speaking of the lives lost, yet the crime of Sept. 11 does not obviate the truth of the World Trade Center towers: They were a couple of ugly and ill-proportioned buildings of egotistical dimension and heartlessness. They had nothing noteworthy about them but gross altitude. It was by height alone that they drew attention away from the graceful Empire State Building, that old, fine-lined, Art Deco candlestick in the sky. The Empire State is a building worthy to be a symbol of a city, but the W.T.C. towers were two blunt, aluminum-clad hippo teeth stuck up in the air, symbolic of little more than the crassness and philargyry for which New York is known. They were Governor Nelson Rockefeller�s "Fuck you, everybody, I�m more powerful than you are�my balls are bigger and my dick swings a larger arc than yours."

More in that vein pours out of his pen. I don't know about the dick swinging a larger arc, although it is a very rat pack image -- the early seventies, you will remember, were immortalized by such White House sayings as Spiro Agnew's threatening to put Katie Graham's "tits in a wringer.' This is what you get when you unleash gin and Hugh Hefner on the 50s college male population, then follow up with a decade of luscious stories of flower girls giving it up for free, I guess.

Sunday, November 04, 2001


Limited Inc plans, God willing, to take a trip on a plane again some day (correcting an earlier version of this post that pinged on Alan's grammatical radar -- see comments). Nobody, to put it mildly, has been calling for our services lately. Is media dead, or like Elvis is it out there in hiding, its death a huge fake-out? Well, that's a story to cry about at some later point. More relevant point is that we would like, really, not to have to confront villains on our flight. It is part of the wish list that includes not running out of gas, getting the dinner from the first phase of when the hosts are handing them out (I hate it when I have the seat that is just above the dividing line, so I get the dinner and drinks last), and not setting next to a whacko. Yes, I prefer flying undisturbed by gun or knife or even tweaser toting loonies stalking down the aisle, none of that. But securing airline customers from such unpleasantness seems to be a very low priority in D.C. right now. A high priority is making sure that companies like Argenbright Security keep raking in the dough. Here's the WP story
Shaping a Compromise on Airport Security by Ellen Nakashima and Greg Schneider

The grafs about Argenbright, apparently the nation's largest provider of airport security, strike a comic note:

"Last month federal investigators found that Argenbright was employing security workers who did not speak English at Dulles International Airport. When investigators gave a skills test to 20 Argenbright workers at Dulles, seven failed. The company was already on probation for serious security violations last year at the Philadelphia airport, for which it paid $2.3 million in fines and restitution and several managers went to jail.

"Argenbright Security was founded in Atlanta in 1979 by Frank Argenbright, who sold the company in December to Securicor PLC of Britain for about $175 million. Workers from Argenbright were on duty at Dulles and at Newark International Airport when terrorists hijacked flights from those locations on Sept. 11."

The house repubs and our C-i-C Bushypoo seem to believe that the old system should be fluffed up like you fluff up the pillows for the guests, after which the attention will be off it, money will flow, and we can all go to sleep again. I sometimes forget that capitalism's unremitting focus on profit produces, in times of stress, a blindness to prudence ever surprising to the outside observer, or victim. Let's see if short term memory loss is the norm in Congress, or a mere aberration.

It is a barbarous place. Men are tortured by being confined for years to silent underground chambers. Some are cast into prison for violating taboos against using unclean plants, and left to rot the best portion of their lives away. Others, for petty thefts, can receive what amounts to a life sentence.

No, we aren't speaking of some Moslem republic in Central Asia -- we are of course describing the legal system of California, in many respects more regressive than the penal system of England, circa 1815. In such darkness, untouched by the recently much vaunted fruits of Western Civilization (Limited Inc is exaggerating -- there are some very sweet sex videos coming out of the Valley), a small but astonishing victory for reason was reported by the AP's David Kravets in this story:

Federal court throws out 50-year 'three-strike' sentence for shoplifter in California

lede graf:

"A federal appeals court threw out a shoplifter's 50-year sentence under California's "three strikes" law as overly harsh � a ruling that could lead to hundreds of challenges from defendants who received near-life terms for petty crimes."

further down, the casus and crux, a scandal to the Greeks and a stumbling blocks to our homegrown redneck element, who are no doubt even now petitioning for an end to the reign of the pernicious judiciary:

"[Leonardo] Andrade got 50 years in prison for stealing nine videotapes, valued at $153, from a Kmart. The court noted that kidnappers and murderers could receive less time than Andrade, who had a record of several nonviolent, petty crimes."

Of course, given the barbarity of a considerable portion of the electorate, which has sublimated its grandfathers' thirst for lynching into a penal code of a dense, complex ignorance, and a penal archipelago that has safely euphemized its systematic cruelties under such euphemisms as 'solitary' , no doubt this will be an issue on the hustings. How can our children be safe when bloodthirsty video thieves are allowed to prowl the aisles at KMart with impunity? We can just see the torches burning in the suburbs of Los Angeles, all the Day of the Locusts faces, the masks under the masks of reaction, like some Georg Grosz nightmare.

Biden's foreign policy: let's bet everything on authoritarianism!

  And watch it all slip away (Por fin se va acabar) Or leave a garden for your kids to play (Jamás van a alcanzar)  --- The Black Angels, El...