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Showing posts from December 5, 2004
What would the Gipper do? In the devastated city of Falluja , the International Red Cross visited for the first time since the American-led military offensive last month, meeting with Iraqi engineers to discuss the city's sewage and water needs, The Associated Press reported. The Red Cross officials were unable to visit a potato-chip plant where several hundred bodies of insurgents and civilians are apparently being stored. LI has been reading Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars: The secret history of the Cia, Afghanistan and Bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to September 11, 2001. We came across this interesting passage. Afghanistan, 1979: A charismatic Afghan army captain named Ismail Khan called for jihad againt the communist usurpers that March and led his heavily armed Heart garrison into violent revolt. His followers hunted down and hacked to death more than a dozen Russian communist political advisors, as well as their wives and children. The rebels displayed Russian corpo
LI has pondered the parodoxes of the upcoming election in Iraq. In the past, the U.S. has used fake elections to try to legitimize its foreign policy adventures. South Vietnam, El Salvador, Panama – the m.o. has a dreary consistency. This case is different insofar as the Iraq occupation is different. While the election is being held in an atmosphere that renders it illegitimate as a democratic process – the massive censorship, the arrest of opposition leaders, the way American military strategy has normalized war crimes, etc., etc. – this matters less than the fact that the elections are the first step in relieving Iraq of its biggest problem: the Americans. On Ghazi Yawer’s latest trip to this country, he made that explicit – as he foresaw it, the elected government would ask for a timetable of withdrawal. Yawer was talking about a year. We’d like to see six months. In American eyes, the elected government’s biggest task is to write a constitution. Americans love constitutio
Over at Crooked Timber , they are having another silly bout of deciding who was the great philosopher of the twentieth century. We don’t know why this compulsion to name the greatest philosopher has suddenly sunk its memish jaws into the Zeitgeist: Leiter did a similar thing a couple of months ago, and Mark Taylor, in his op ed piece about Derrida, was moved to call Jacques one of the century’s three great philosophers (the others were Moe and Curly). The candidate from greatest of one of the CT-ers is David Lewis. David Lewis! It is like calling the greatest philosopher of the seventeenth century Antoine Arnauld. One philosopher never mentioned in this embarrassing sweepstakes is Franz Rosenzweig. Yet LI would venture to say that, of those philosophic tomes composed on little notecards or in little journals by soldiers in world war one, only two have stood the test of time: The Tractatus-Logico and Stern der Erloesung . (pdf file) We’ve been reading the Star of Redemption s
Chesterton and the "ownership society" Why does a fly have to fight the whole universe? - The Man who was Thursday He defended the common man and his freedom; therefore he defended the institution of property and particularly defended and preached the doctrine that property to survive must be founded on so considerable a division of land and the instruments of production that widespread ownership should be the foundational institution of the state. He appreciated, of course, as all must, the immense difficulty in re-establishing property in a society which has become, as ours has, proletarian and controlled in every activity by an ever-narrowing plutocracy. He saw that the weapon to be used against this mortal state of affairs was perpetual influence by illustration and example upon the individual. It was his to change as far as might be the very lethargic mind of his fellow-citizens in these affairs. This political preoccupation of Gilbert Chesterton's was of spec
During his visit, Mr. Bush wore a specially tailored Marine tanker jacket, the all-purpose, all-weather jacket for officers and enlisted men, said Maj. Jason Johnston, a Marine spokesman. Mr. Bush's jacket had custom touches like his name and designation as commander in chief embroidered across the front. -- New York Times story, Bush visits Camp Pendleton. LI just half listened to another NPR broadcast about intelligence reform. While we would like to investigate this thing in depth and come up with a meaty beaty analysis for our readers, basically we find the whole thing boring, stupid and vapid. We know, from the hearings last year, what happened in 2001: 1. neither the government nor the airlines wanted to come up with the money to finance a security system at airports; 2. various people in the FBI and other law enforcement agencies sniffed out that something was wrong, and were stifled by their higher ups; 3. in spite of not being in the domestic pipeline, D.C. was bathe
To return to the subject of the fanatic… What LI finds fascinating is that the role played by the figure of the bigot or the fanatic in the Enlightenment is played, now, by the fascist. The fascist, in one sense, is useful to the degree that he doesn’t exist. In Italy, where there is a real fascist party, or in France, where La Pen plays with the fascist label, the cry of fascist has a different sense than it has in the U.S. The lack of existence, here, opens up a linguistic opportunity – such figures can become pure figures of discourse, filled in by the play of the language. Not that there are no criteria or determinants for creating a “fascist” – myth, in Barthes sense, is never that liberated from the social whole. But the strictures are those that adhere in the composition of a fiction – that is, the fascist can be reconstituted, his elements can be rearranged, new properties can be attributed to him, others can be erased, and so on. It is even possible to create fictions that
LI does not own a tv. We haven’t for years. But we keep up as we can – watching the Simpsons in bars, spending Christmas vacation with relatives, soaking up Seinfeld re-runs, and the like. From this amateur’s glance at tv, we have to rate Fox highly. Surely, the Simpsons is the best thing ever put on FCC regulated airwaves. That Fox news, and the man who owns Fox, strike us as comically ignorant (the former) and like Goldfinger, only with a less elevated sense of morals (the latter), just shows that capitalist enterprises are full of surprising interstices. So we were cheered that Fox is challenging the FCC about the fine given to the network for showing some digitally obscured strippers being covered with whip cream on some show – Millionaire Bachelor Parties or something. This is one battle we hope Fox wins. We are solidly behind whip cream on strippers – except of course if the strippers have allergic reactions to whip cream, in which case we are sure there are soy milk sub
According to Charles Beard , George Bancroft was the historian who was to blame for the theory that the U.S. was founded as a particularly religious nation.. Bancroft, who studied under Schleiermacher in Germany in the 1820s, wrote a history of the formation of the U.S. Constitution in his dotage, the 1880s, in which he attributed the outline of it to the busybodyiness of the divine mind. Apparently, the divine mind couldn’t resist sticking its nose into the affairs of a bunch of provincial planters and middlemen in the rum tradde. By the 1880s, such an interpretation was congenial to the respectable classes, and they swallowed it down with the alacrity that their ancestors imbibed the aforesaid rum.. Beard, writing in the 1930s, attributed the Constitution to more mundane forces, i.e. economics. Although Beard is not popular at the moment, his hypothesis seems much more sensible, even if not sufficient. At about the time Bancroft was injecting a mendacious and nauseating piety in