Friday, August 26, 2005

oh that liberal political strategy

LI is still on vacation. We tried, unsuccessfully, to get one of our far flung correspondents, C., to write a post about her first pregnancy – a report from the frontlines. This might still happen, if we turn on the Svengali.

Small topic today: if our readers want to know why the Democratic party is brain dead, go to the Wesley Clark op ed in the Washington Post today. The tone and feel of it – the inanity surmounted by arrogance – the blindness – it is all there, like an indigestible stew served to a dying invalid in a poorhouse. We particularly liked this graf, both for its meaninglessness and as a true gauge of how D.C. thinks about their war, three years after:

“On the political side, the timeline for the agreements on the Constitution is less important than the substance of the document. It is up to American leadership to help engineer, implement and sustain a compromise that will avoid the "red lines" of the respective factions and leave in place a state that both we and Iraq's neighbors can support. So no Kurdish vote on independence, a restricted role for Islam and limited autonomy in the south. And no private militias.”

This is a man pissing in the wind and complaining about rain.

The LI theory is not, pace Harry, to disestablish the Dems – it is that the liberal of today must explore multiple tracks. This means supporting independent movements to strangle the U.S. military’s capacity for continuing in Iraq as well as re-engaging with the… G.O.P. The liberal influence on the G.O.P. is non-existent. That is because liberals, after Vietnam, gave up on the G.O.P. and allowed themselves to be bought by the Dems. Well, that was a silly strategy, and we’ve been paying for it for years. Liberals should start picking Republicans to support, and they should start doing it now. Let’s revive the Bull moose faction of the Repug party.

Let’s… well, we aren’t going to get carried away. Doubtless the power of LI to affect the liberal mindset is less than that of a goose fart in a whirlwind. But the blogger manner is to pretend that one is some crowned Humpty Dumpty reigning over the scene, and who am I to violate the blogger stylebook?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


In an essay on Peron’s dictatorship, Borges claimed that recent argentinian history happened on two levels: one, a sordid theatrical farce, and the other, a literature for washerwomen – the paperback romance.
The Bush culture, more straightforwardly, takes its cues from Ubu Roi. Thus the latest sequence from Iraq. In one way, it is heartening. As readers of this blog know, the Iraq that emerged from the election was a theocracy in formation, with the Sunnis operating as the appalled but powerless spectators and the Kurds maneuvering to save their autonomy even at the risk of planting the seeds of a monster to the South. The Kurdish leadership, remember, found it convenient, at one point in the now forgotten civil war between warlords that occurred in 1996, to call in Saddam Hussein. This is the same leadership routinely praised, nowadays, for its commitment to democracy.
The defenders of the war, and even its opponents, have the disturbing habit of ignoring Iraqi reality when it doesn’t fit American rhetoric. For the belligerents, the Iraqi government we are defending is committed to democracy and human rights. Only the jihadists want to create an Islamic state. Of course, this turn away from reality has been occasionally pierced by the media, which, in fits of absent mindedness, sometimes reports on the inconvenient reality settling down in, say, Southern Iraq. This is a part of the country where the insurgents are replaced by the Sadr and Sciri paramilitaries, the lion lies down with the lamb, and coed college gatherings can result in attack, assault and murder at the hands of the guardians of the New Iraq. The neo-cons, who would have delighted Jarry, think that they have lit the fire of freedom in the middle east; they have, of course, acted unconsciously to spread the doctrine of Khomeini.
That being said, there is a certain schizophrenia on the pro-war side that has its counterpart on the anti-war side. On the one hand, the insurgency is in the last throes, or it is confined to merely three provinces, or it is simply something like the unruliness of the Nazis in occupied Germany. On the other hands, the insurgency is so powerful that American withdrawal would lead to Iraq falling into the hands of Zarquawi. Alan Philps, writing a surprisingly pessimistic column in the pro-war Telegraph, plays this tune:
“ feeling is growing in the West that it is time to remove troops from Iraq. Foreign troops, it is argued, are the problem, not the solution. The generals, anxiously watching the opinion polls, want nothing more than an excuse to start reducing troop numbers. So why not now? It is undeniable that the casualties are appalling and that every week Iraq produces more and more insurgents trained and bloodied in battle. The anti-war camp argues rightly that these jihadists did not exist in Iraq before the invasion. But they exist now. If they win, they will spread out to fight Arab regimes and no doubt try to bloody America as well.
So many mistakes have been made that success - the installation of a functioning secular democracy - is out of the question. But we owe it to the Iraqis not to hand them over to the new crop of warlords. What we started we must try to finish. “
The new crop of warlords, contra Philps, is precisely who we are fighting for. On the other hand, there is no reason to think that the Iraqi government would have less of a chance to suppress the insurgency than any other Middle Eastern government at this point.
The question that fascinates us Jarry-philes is how the neo-cons will turn on this dime. The defense of the rightful place of Islam in deciding petty things, like whether women receive an education or not, is going to be interesting. I’d suggest these useful lines of dialogue as a guide. Mere Ubu is trying to persuade Pere Ubu to kill the king of Poland and take his place:
Pere Ubu:
Eh vraiment! et puis après? N'ai-je pas un cul comme les autres?

A ta place, ce cul, je voudrais l'installer sur un trône. Tu pourrais augmenter indéfiniment tes richesses, manger fort souvent de l'andouille et rouler carrosse par les rues.

Si j'étais roi, je me ferais construire une grande capeline comme celle que j'avais en Aragon et que ces gredins d'Espagnols m'ont impudemment volée.

Tu pourrais aussi te procurer un parapluie et un grand caban qui te tomberait sur les talons.

Ah! je cède à la tentation. Bougre de merdre Ah! je cède à la tentation. Bougre de merdre, merdre de bougre, si jamais je le rencontre au coin d'un bois, il passera un mauvais quart d'heure.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

liberation in chelsea

I am in a museum dedicated to Himalayan art in Chelsea. The site was formerly occupied by a Barneys. There are two musicians, arrayed in white, seated at the foot of the staircase, playing trancelike music representative of a certain Pakistani genre. The staircase is a holiday for architects -- a crooked, cubist thing that ascends up six flights. I like the staircase. My friends and I decide to listen to the guide, who appears at 2:30. The guide is a loud, gray haired Brooklyn-ite with the Yogi Bear figure towards which middle aged American avoirdupois seems inevitably to tend. In a barker's voice he points out salient aspects of Buddhist iconography, and gives a compressed version of Gautama Buddha's message to the world: the letting go of craving, fear, anger and attachment.

Later, my friend K. tells me that she is plagued by craving. She wishes she could purify herself, annihilate it.

Now, I am not a stranger to the purifying impulse. I, too, would like to toss into some ultimate refiner's fire all the dross encumbering my life: the pennyante terrors of my economic life, the irresistable impulse to manufacture opinion that crowds out more valuable contemplative matter in my mindspace, the gnawing, daily sexual lust. But as I told K, I am not so certain that the purifying impulse is the equivalent of life more abundant -- it could well be the hollowing out of life itself. There is a moment in letting go in which liberation crosses over into surrender. In better moods, I believe that the moral point of the secular life is not to get rid of craving, but to get to its very center -- to sink into it until one has unlocked its puzzles. I am disinclined to think that the achievement of some state of gilded hibernation should be called enlightenment. My friend A., at Milinda's Questions, claims that I am a prisoner of my chains. To which my response is: where does that metaphor come from? It seems to me that, if these are chains, human life itself is a chain -- and the symbol of the chain, thus ramified into a world of chains, chains endlessly, loses its edge. I doubt that the Buddha touched earth as a chain touches another chain. In fact, I want to liberate myself from this particular metaphor as my part in freeing myself from the chains...

By the way, the exhibit of the handprints and footprints of the various incarnations of Buddha is extraordinary.


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