Friday, December 21, 2001


Limited Inc, like a rattled heroine in a Joan Didion novel looking for nembutal, went riding around the highways of LA for three hours yesterday with a jazz musician from Riverside who had only recently, at the age of 30, received his license. Being the fearless passenger type, we did not flinch at the Magoo like structure we traced as we headed the wrong way on the Hollywood Freeway, going vaguely in the direction of Pasedena when we meant to be going to Venice Beach. However, as the countryside became more, rather than less mountainous, we eventually realized that we were, like so many travellers in California (the Donner party comes to mind), wandering in a labyrinth of our own illusions that had little to do with geographic reality.

This morning, we read with interest the story of the fall of De La Rua's government in Argentina. Of course, readers of this humble rag will remember our predictions on this score from months ago, when the IMF restructured the Argentine debt. As you will no doubt recall (ah, the passages from our column that are no doubt burned into your brains, my dears, like grill marks on a sizzling hamburger), at that time we pointed out that the headline money from these deals is not exactly pouring into the pockets of the Argentine people -- rather it is, by routes that show the true Yanqui ingenuity in devising shifts of wealth that reward the Lord's true husbandmen, those frisky emerging money market manager s we so know and love - cycling to the temperate zone. This fact notwithstanding, Yanqui newspapermen are pretty certain they know what's been happening down South American way: it is the laziness in the blood. Here's the LA Times editorial that revamps our old friend, the lazy Latino, in a little more sophisticated form:

"To reactive the economy, mired in a three-year-old recession, the new government must bring down unemployment, now at a staggering 20%. It must also find a way to manage a public debt of $155 billion while reducing a fiscal deficit that this year hovers around $8 billion. A recent article in an Argentine newspaper illustrates how imperative it is for the new government to overcome the political elite's devastating corruption and inefficiency. According to the story, the Argentine Congress boasts thousands of employees who are known not so affectionately as gnocchi. Gnocchi, you see, are the potato dumplings that Argentines eat on the 29th day of each month, a custom that is supposed to bring good luck. The employees got that nickname because they show up to work only once a month--always on payday. Civil service law prohibits their firing. But if forced to show up more often, they'd have nothing to do."

Notice the contrast between our own fiscal policy, which would never pump money unnecessarily into the system, with those gnocchi. The Lord has truly blessed us is the moral Limited Inc draws from this sad debacle.

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Limited Inc. flew out to LA yesterday. We
are spending a week at a friend's house.
Last night we went to Track 16 to hear a
series of male and mostly bald Southern
Cal writers read sketches or stories on
the rather vague theme of holidays. The
one female writer, a statuesque, frizzy
haired blond, read what she called a rant
in a voice that had seeped through Mae
West and Janis Joplin to arrive in her
throat, jazzing up what was otherwise a
rather weak referencing to what all the unwashed and disgruntled, or the leather clad and the smokers, know about Christmas � what an essentially sad time it is to stage a holiday, and how bogus its cause, and how mendacious its sentiments.

Track 16 is an art gallery stuck in a warehouse district, the m.o. for galleries from San Antonio�s Blue Star to the bright and shining tax dodges of Providence, Rhode Island. Still, Limited Inc is moved by the replacement of boxes of screws, or tubs of cement, or shelves of PVC pipe, by track-lit spaces that direct one�s attention to what�s hanging on the wall. Is this the only universal left to art, that track-lit symbol of the work�s isolation? That self-standing which wavers teasingly between art and a box of U-Valves?

Still, this is too melancholy a thought to express our happiness about being at Track 16, and seeing these good hearted people turned out to applaud their friends, or perhaps turned out in curiosity, or a genuine interest in new talent. The MC was one of those youngish (say around 32) balding men who�ve gone through the hair loss process happily, and gleam with such unabashed nudity of forehead that the eyes slip, catch on the heavy eyebrows, and then on down to the nearly fattish cheeks beneath. Broadbeamed in a gray comfortable suit which was not altogether suitish � his blue sneakers defining a limit to any assumption that his gray suitcoat might lead you to make � he read his story in a voice that seemed to issue from some velvet lined cell. The story featured tits � tits, I believe his phrase was, out to Sunday � and this, it seemed, was the real theme of these stories. In all of them, tits stood in for the eternally feminine, negative but observably bouncy space.

The deal about this reading was that, unlike readings I�ve been to in NYC, these guys were stand-up. They were funny, or at least the audience, and not just that part of it composed of friends, laughed. But even so, in the original medium in which these stories and sketches existed � ink on paper � it was all subpar. Whereas NYC writers read as though it were a death march through the vocables that they were making for your sake, reader, yet one feels some basic comfort with the written as written. As if reading were not a bad habit to be denied, not something to be negated in performance. Maybe this is what we feel is so often wrong with LA writing � this urge to please or shock immediately. It is the sign of an unconscious cultural fear of being caught reading.

Tuesday, December 18, 2001


This is the NYT front web page article :
"US. Again Placing Focus on Ousting Hussein
With Muslim backing, the option of taking the war against terrorism to Iraq has gained significant ground in recent weeks, according to administration officials."

Now, the eye-catching with Muslim backing makes one expect, well, some Muslim backing. The article, instead, recites the diplomatic coughing of Turkey, and this:

"In the past two weeks, at least one prominent Arab envoy in Washington has reversed his view that an American-led military operation in Iraq would be a disaster, or that it would fan the flames of Arab dissent and perhaps lead to the overthrow of some weaker rulers. (His reversal, though important, is not shared uniformly in Arab capitals.)

The diplomat, who refused to be identified, noted that most countries in the region harbor a latent desire to be rid of Mr. Hussein. He argued that the current military success in Afghanistan, the demonstration of a new model of warfare there and the undermining of Osama Bin Laden's radical message have created a new opportunity to act in Iraq.

"I now think it is doable," the diplomat said, adding that his own government might oppose such an operation in public until it became clear it was going to succeed. "This would require a lot of governments to accept big political risks, but I believe that in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, the governments are strong enough to hold the people and not have an uprising."

There you have it folks, Muslim backing in a nutshell. If this doesn't seem like a wave rolling from the Jordan to the Straits of Gibraltar to you, you aren't with the program. "At least one prominent Arab envoy" -- wow. I mean, even for newspaperdom, in their infinite bending over before the Bushy Blitzkrieg, this is pretty extraordinary stuff. Here's my suggestion: NYT should pluck some of the Style people to cover foreign affairs. At least they would know how to spot a trend, as opposed to how to desperately spin a conservative political agenda.

Limited Inc is, as our many happy readers know, ahead of the curve. Perhaps our more unhappy readers are doubtful; perhaps our happiest reader also writes this rag. A week or two back, Limited Inc was talking about death toll politics. We shopped our pitch around, actually, trying to awaken various editors to the brilliance of our idea, and the need to pay us for putting it all in a nice cohesive shape, but of course a prophet is without profit in his own country, and our pitch was pitched.

Now here's the WP, Sunday: What Counts
The Death Toll Is Far Less Than Feared. Can We Accept That? by Peter Freundlich.

This is the graf that makes his point - or rather points his question. And remember, kids, the question mark is a necessary, although not sufficient, condition for tragedy. Which is why newspapers really hate it -they prefer their tragedies to be car accidents.

"Is it that we need the higher number, to shore up our fury? Is it that the sight of those sinking skyscrapers, in which, God knows, 10 times as many people might just as well have died, opened a hole in us that simply won't close? Does it somehow seem a betrayal of the dead to reduce their number? Or is this perhaps American grandiosity -- a desire to dwarf other tragedies the way the Trade Center towers for a short time dwarfed all other buildings in the world?

As if 3,000 people weren't enough. Or as if the intent weren't clear."

Revenge feeds on numbers. Elias Canetti was not the first to notice this, but was the most thorough explorer of the dark side of crowd psychology. We wonder how all the people we know were in there got out. The escape story still needs to be told, in some bold and beautiful way.

Monday, December 17, 2001


A heady column this morning from the LA Time's Robert Scheer. Scheer is, perhaps, exaggerating when he writes that Enron's rise and fall is the stuff of major presidential scandal; there is a whiff, a smell, a certain ripeness there. There is the always potent netting of Texas capitalism, there is what we know of how the network works from the S and L scandal and the culture that just moved on, no lessons learned. Never learn. Like remember the Alamo, it is a slogan with a certain force. If there were no war going on, Bushypoo would be on the spot right now about his friendship with Ken Lay. Enron, the beached whale that was a whale balloon, all the time. We can poke gingerly at it, but remember: whales or their simulacra make friends with all types. It wasn't Bushy's era, it was Clinton.

Scheer's column doesn't present any new content. What he does is pose the right questions. The dead and dumb Dems won't pose them, until people like Scheer makes a big enough stink in the press. Now, here's a litmus test for you: what media vehicle would dare to do that right now? Where's Hardball, where's MSNBC, where are all the aghast outlets of yesteryear, the death of outrage pumping in their seedy veins?

The so far clearest indication that Enron held undue influence with the Bushies is in a graf midway through the column:

"This emerging scandal makes Whitewater seem puny in comparison; clearly there ought to be at least as aggressive a congressional inquiry into the connection between the Bush administration and the Enron debacle. Facts must be revealed, beginning with the content of Lay's private meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney to create the administration's energy policy...

"What was Lay's role in the sudden replacement of Curtis Hebert Jr. as Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman? As the New York Times reported, Hebert "had barely settled into his new job this year when he had an unsettling telephone conversation with Kenneth L. Lay, [in which Lay] prodded him to back ... a faster pace in opening up access to the electricity transmission grid to companies like Enron." Lay admits making the call but in an unctuous defense of his influence peddling said, "The final decision on [Hebert's job] was going to be the president's, certainly not ours." Soon after, Hebert was replaced by Texan Pat Wood, who was favored by Lay."

ABC news has a different take on Hebert, but they, too, claim that Lay, in sinister convention with our odious VPotus, damned him with the black spot of non-cooperation. Hebert wasn't a team player, evidently:

"As Bush assumed the presidency, Enron had unusual access to the new administration's deliberations about energy policy and appointments to important posts. Lay served on the Bush transition team and helped interview candidates for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees the gas pipelines and electricity grids that are key to Enron's business. Earlier this year, the commission's chairman, Curtis Hebert, who was being considered for reappointment by the White House, declared himself "offended" by Lay's lobbying efforts. Hebert later quit the panel.

When Vice President Dick Cheney drafted a new energy policy, he met with Lay and other Enron executives. Enron was reportedly the only company to be granted such a meeting.

Lay declined to be interviewed for this story."

John Ashcroft was quoted as saying that it must might be the case that questioning Bush's connection to Enron is helping the terrorists.

Ahh, got ya! Ashcroft hasn't said anything like that.... yet.


  “In brief, cultural history only represents a surface strike against the insight [of historicism], but not that of dialectics. For it lack...