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Showing posts from April 6, 2003
Bollettino Some crimes insist on remaining unsolved. Jack the Ripper's crimes are the paragon of such. The Black Dahlia case is another. In the WP, see the article about Steve Hodel , an LA PI who claims to have solved the case. His solution is that... well, his Dad cut Elizabeth Short in two in 1947. Oddly enough, this is the same claim (although different father) made by another, earlier solver of the Black Dahlia case by Janice Knowlton. The article exudes a jaded fascination not so much with the case as with the California obsession about murderous parents. Southern California has always advertised itself as a state of mind -- it came into being as a human entity only after it had been projected as a state of mind, notoriously enough. Perhaps for this reason, psychological aberrance so easily leaks into sociological norm. So this is the hotbed of repressed memory, the place where all the young and the restless -- if they are affluent enough - eventually remember that
Bollettino Of the essays I wish I�d written, one of them is by the Carlos Ginzburg, the Italian historian, and it has the wonderful title, Killing a Chinese mandarin. It was puvblished in Critical Inquiry in 1994, but I just came across it. There�s a moral Gendankenexperiment that appears in several French texts. Ginzburg traces the figura in it to some texts of Diderot; he traces the idea of it back to Aristotle�s remarks on pity and distance, in time or space, in the Rhetoric. The situation in Diderot is that a man murders another man in Paris. He then flies to China. At that difference, safe from the consequences of what he has done, does the murderer feel remorse? Would it be more natural to feel that the episode was simply closed, and unpleasant? Ginzburg shows that Diderot recurs to this topic several times, most notably in Lettres sur les aveugles� There, Diderot makes the startling suggestion that if one is, structurally, incapable of distinguishing between a man
Bollettino We�ve just finished a review of Niall Ferguson�s Empire for the National Post. Ferguson is a fascinating historian. We took a few potshots at him in the review, since we don�t view being merely laudatory as an interesting response to a book this good. One of the things the book did remind us of was that the first wave of globalisation, which gained force in the latter half of the 19th century, was broken by the Conservatives, not be anti-globalizing leftists. Joseph Chamberlain devised a tariff happy Conservative-Unionist platform that lost to the Liberals in the Post Boer period, but that ultimately pointed British policy in the direction of setting up cozy Empire trade barriers. Ferguson is no ideologue about this issue. He points out that the trade barriers probably cushioned Great Britain from the magnitude of slump that afflicted both Germany and the U.S. We aren�t ideologues on this issue, either. We�d like to see labor and environmental groups internationaliz
Bollettino The British Medical Journal has published a scathing denunciation of the American torture of various prisoners of war. Naipaul has written of the irony of third world revolutionaries depending on the liberality of the system against which they operate. That irony, at least, is being systematically broken in the case of the American torture of Al qaeda operatives in Cuba. While Bush can threaten Iraq forces for harming American POWs, who is going to ensure the humane treatment of Afghanistan POWs? Surely not the Al qaeda leaders, who have shed the forms of legitimacy that would have provided some protection for their followers. Protection should be provided by our second thoughts -- by those reactions to our first, immediate anger by which civilization continues. That isn't happening, though . "The New York Times and International Herald Tribune last month published apparently well founded accounts of the techniques applied to Abu Zubaydah and other Al Qaeda
From our far flung correspondents Our friend H. writes, from Germany: "I am glad it is coming to an end. After all, as the old saying goes, tis better to be rulled by a just infidel then an unjust muslim. But a few points have been interesting for me. Folks oscillated between elation at the fact that Saddam was gone and doing the traditional hitting of their chest shi'ia rutine almost defiently. THen there was the matter of Iraqi flag being toyed with by a few people at the base of the statue, and of course the sand from Karbala or Najaf, can't quite remember (the exhibition of which would have been a crime under Saddam) and yes, you are right in observing that they know exactly what is expected of them. THis is standard issue streetsmarts under authoritarian rule--something I was reminded again while living in Tunis something still familiar to all working in any American factory. And then, let us not forget the staged managed nature of at
Bollettino So what is up with the stock market? There we have a honey of a victory, hanging right above them, CNN and Fox news anchors dancing in the streets, and all they can come up with is 20 some measly points? Perhaps they aren�t into the whacked optimism purveyed in today�s Floyd Norris column. Floyd, who likes the middle, has jabbed to the left (his exposes about Tyco) and jabbed to the right (his cheerleading about the ever enduring consumer), and here he is definitely in full apologia mode. However, the optimism is always tempered by the conditional modal -- might, may, could -- because nobody believes in Dow 36,000 any more. His guess is that the economy is now set to roar back. The consumer is ready� the businesses are ready� and the international situation is ready� But we have our doubts. Maybe the traders were leafing through their Fortunes this week. The traditional Fortune 500 issue is the big seller . This year�s included the kind of downer article on America
Our far flung correspondents My friend Tom makes a Lacanian analysis of the Baghdad statue destroying party yesterday. We were corresponding about coining a new word for throwing down statues (he suggested de-erection -- we suggested tumescoclasm) - and we referred him to Fred Kaplan's article in Slate. This is his reply. " The crowds seemed to know what was expected of them . A man went up to one of the marines, whose tanks now controlled the circle and both sides of Sadoon Road, a main artery in east Baghdad, and asked for permission to destroy the statue." Thanks for the hint toward Kaplan's piece - not bad for an on-the-spot report; esp. his comparative recollections from 1991. Of course, of course, I am looking forward to a somewhat more Lacanian reading of this type of event from Zizek. Like I always say (rather: I promise to say it like this from this point forward, for this is the inaugural use): while you can have too much psychotherapy, you ca
Bollettino " For many years, the lodging-house where Hazlitt died - his landlady, eager to let his room, hid his body under the bed while she showed it to would-be tenants - has been known as Hazlitt's Hotel." Run, do not walk, to Tom Paulin's piece on Hazlitt (which was given as a speech for the ceremony marking the erection of a monument to Hazlitt) in the Observer. It came out last week. We missed it. But we read it this morning, and we are still throbbing in the thrall of the thing. Appreciation -- and not the royal osculation of the ass practiced by blurb writers and friends of friends in the book reviews -- is a pretty rare and lonely art. It requires catching the writer both in the gloss of one's own fine perception of him, and standing enough outside that gloss to see him, or at least glimpse him, as alien. You have to tread a fine zigzag. Well, Paulin does. He's magnificent. And Hazlitt deserves every encomium, poor man. Hazlitt is the write
Bollettino There's a mass illusion in the Lefty world that the Middle East bleeds for the Palestinians. We really don't think there's any evidence for this. Sure, there is some encouragement of those Palestinians who volunteer to make firecrackers of themselves, and there is much high flying rhetoric, but for the fifty some years of the diaspora there hasn't been any evidence that the Palestinian cause takes precedent over self interest. There is, in other words, a divergence between the symbolism of the cause and the realities of national interest. We are moved to make these observations by the coverage of Arab disappointment with the end (or at least an image of that final horror) of the Saddam the Meatgrinder regime. If we were Pentagon imperialists, we would certainly encourage the juxtaposition of the reactions of Iraqis and the "Arab street." There is no better foothold for a divide and rule strategy. We can understand the pride in the resistance
Bollettino There's an excellent little book by Italian researcher Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini , "Inevitable Illusions." P.P contends that our usual cognitive mechanism suffers from certain mental "tunnels," especially when it comes to probability, causal inference, and what I would call the narrative urge -- the drive to create, out of events, stories that are consonant with the pattern of stories we like. P.P's section on Predictability in Hindsight seems particularly apposite given the state of the War. The War evolved in two stages: resistance in the South, and less resistance in the center, followed by a wholly unpredicted collapse in Baghdad. The fedayeen, who nobody mentioned in the press pre-war, fought as well as they could; in contrast, the Republican guard, who accrued tons of print, were terrible fighters. The Republican guard fought the American war -- conventional confrontation between two armed forces -- and were wiped. P.P reports an i
Bollettino "...war is at us, my black skin, war is at hand from today to tomorrow"-- Paul Bogle In response to the perennial question War, what is it good for? we have an answer, from WSJ's Alan Murray. Murray writes a weekly column, Political Capital. In this week's column, he gives us a glimpse of the exciting work being done in D.C. Yes, it looks like Iraq is going to benefit not only from democracy, but from a speeded up version of the Reagan revolution! Throwing off the trammels of the government. Letting the magic of the marketplace do its, uh, magic. Murray gives us historic scenes; Grover Norquist "working on intellectual property laws for a free Iraq.' Undersecretary Treasury secretary John Taylor drafting Iraq's new tax laws. Peter Fisher, yet another undersecretary, writing new securities laws. In fact, the Iraqi democracy has almost everything going for it, except Iraqis. This is a minor lacuna; no doubt, Chelabi is working on rubb
Bollettino The traditional Greek tragic tetralogy would be ended with a fourth play, a mock tragedy, or satyr play. In the age of the speeded up News cycle, we've put them all on together. Thus, while all eyes are turned to the meatmaster's demise in Baghdad, at home the HealthSouth satyr play is strutting its stuff. And what stuff! Cornpone fraud, served hot and piping, just like Enron used to make it! Except that Richard Scuchy was no Ken Lay. And just as in Enron Rex, there's the accounting and investment banking auxilliaries forming a little chorus. The NYPost publishes a blaring, tabloid style glimpse of UBS Warburg's healthcare and biotech unit, led by Ben Lorello, which basically floated HealthSouth. It is interesting to compare the genteel tone of the NYT's Ben Lorello story and the Post's. The NYT titles its story, Conflict Issue Over Analyst's Deal . This is muffling your scoop in gray flannel indeed. The Post, on the other hands, screams UBS
Bollettino Chalabi has made his maiden speech. Supposedly he views himself as another Charles DeGaulle, leading the Free French into Paris. That is, if DeGaulle were willing to sell Paris to Walt Disney, and settle for a constitution written by George Patton. The Independent carries a story about Chalabi's "I have returned " moment: "The US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has reportedly proposed to President George Bush that an interim Iraqi authority composed of exiled leaders should be installed quickly in the southern part of the country, partly to deflect international criticism that the US wishes to remain in control of Iraq indefinitely. But in an interview, Mr Chalabi said he believed that US forces would need to remain in Iraq for at least two years before the situation was sufficiently stable for an Iraqi security force to police the country. He said it was essential that fair elections were held and that a democratic government was elected b
Bollettino The open moment " Skepticism about American postwar plans is rising even among some of the Iraqis whom the U.S. favors. Adnan Pachachi, 79, Iraq's Foreign Minister from 1966-67 and a possible top leader in a new government, launched an effort on Mar. 30 to head off a colonial-style administration. "Very soon there will be a void in the power structure of Iraq, and Iraqis should fill that void," Pachachi told BusinessWeek. "It is not in the interest of the U.S. to prolong its military presence. Their soldiers will be exposed to greater danger as time goes on." A chilling prediction, perhaps, which few in Washington would have heeded just a short time ago. But it's time for the U.S. to come to grips with what it doesn't know about Iraq. That attitude adjustment won't turn postwar Iraq into a model republic. But it may keep those surprises from multiplying. " We are definitely in an open moment. But alas -- to look
Bollettino Speaking of my omniscience, he modestly said... We were talking to a friend a couple of days ago about the debt that Iraq owes. And we said that given the amount, and the inability of Iraq to get out of that amount without significant imput from the American taxpayer, surely there will be a move to declare Saddam's debts null and void. Which will be a little hard to explain, since up until now, every nation that has emerged from a dictatorship has had to pay the debts accrued by the dictator. A policy supported vehemently, up until now, by the US government. Well, congratulations to the New Yorker's Suriowieki to figure out that it was time to, uh, change the rules -- a tune which we are confident will soon turn into a chorus in the press. Since Surowiecki is, to put it mildly, a lackey for the most unbridled laissez faire policies this side of the Irish famine, the twist he undergoes is pretty humorous. First, Suriowiecki quotes the polyvalent precedent o