Saturday, October 08, 2005

perverse sibyl

“One is left with unappeased curiosity about the Sibyl. Wood says the Sibyl in Virgil's Aeneid is "perfectly clear," but that is hardly the case. The Sibyl tells Aeneas that the way down into the underworld is easy and that the hard thing is to get back. In the ensuing narrative Aeneas has great difficulty finding his way down and flits out with the greatest of ease—through the gate
of false dreams (!). The reader is left thinking, "What can she have meant?”

The quote above is from A.D. Nuttall’s review of Michael Wood’s book on oracles, The Road to Delphi.

Over at The Valve they had a discussion, earlier this week, about novels. The discussion attached to Ben Marcus’ attack on Jonathan Franzen’s line about novels – that the types of novels can be divided between contract and status, with contract being those novels that imply a contract with the reader – this is something you will like to read and feel entertained by -- and status being those that are written to make a place in the world of the novel. Franzen’s has pushed his case by making an argument that is, oddly enough, from status – that the novel will retain its status in it fight against other forms of entertainment by fulfilling its contract.

Myself, I think that Franzen is wrong to think that novels are competing with tv or paintball or movies. Cars don’t compete with airplanes, although cars and airplanes are in the same business of transporting people around. I much prefer the novelist as Virgil’s Sibyl, to whom we go for predictions of a sort.

To change the image: I’ve been reading a terrifically depressing memoir of a life among the death camps by Bela Zsolt, Nine Suitcases. Zsolt was caught up in the increasingly mortal sweeps of Hungarian Jews, but escaped death himself. The memoir is collected from notes he wrote. One of those notes recalls a scene in a synagogue, grotesquely crowded with dead and dying Jews awaiting transport to the camps. Zsolt is approached by a girl who has been told she has a chance of stopping the guard from beating her father to death if she will fuck him. She wants Zsolt’s advice. Ultimately, he doesn’t give her any, but it opens up a memory from 1942. He’s been sent out on a detail to the Russian front. The Hungarian government condemned certain Hungarian Jews to do crushing, menial tasks on the front. So Zsolt is in a battalion in the town of Skarzysko in Poland, and he passes by a lot of shacks in which Jewish women intended to service German soldiers were kept. One of the woman rushes to the fence:

“Another girl, in the last stages of pregnancy who was carrying some moldy bread in a music case, asked us: “Have you got any German books? I’ve just finished what I had today. I have a few days left to read a new one if it isn’t too long.” “Why have you only got a few days?” “Because then I’m going to die. Wait a moment…” and she counted on her fingers. “Seventeen or eighteen days. Then I’ll be in labor. Then they are going to take me behind the bushes and… bang. Dort is der Hurenfriedhof.”

That was where they killed and buried the girls, behind the bushes, because they didn’t want them to give birth to mongrels, and also simply because they were Jews. The girls didn’t mind becoming pregnant; they didn’t have the strength to commit suicide and this was the certain death they longed for. Meanwhile, they still enjoyed life, even their helpless bodies were forced to enjoy it – and they hated themselves for it. And sometimes they would even sing, if the soldiers made them drunk. They got the novels from the soldiers. These novels were about blonde German women and U-Boot sailors. They read them avidly, with the unlucky ones being taken away mid-novel and never knowing what happened next to the blonde and the captain. They would snatch a glance at the very end, however, before being loaded into the NSKK truck that disappeared with them behind the bushes.”

Those novels certainly fulfilled the contract to the very end. And War and Peace would certainly have been too long for the death wait. The novelist has a chance to be literally a sibyl, here, since the underworld is tangibly close – it is just in back, in fact, in the bushes. But I can’t help thinking that these sibyls were responsible for fulfilling their contract, and that the antics of the blonde girls and the U-Boat sailors might have been written into the history, the whole jigsaw puzzle of events, that placed the Jewish girls in the camp in Skarzysko. This is why I don’t think you can sign any contract whatsoever with the reader, that Franzen is promoting a false hope and a false dichotomy. Novelists are perverse sibyls, whose predictions, although immediately falsified, eventually take their revenge on life by gradually altering the conditions by which we judge the lifelike and the artificial.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Terrorist plots and me

This is a week the angels unseal the seals, rolls are put into the mouths of prophets, and Bush reveals the terrorist plots that his administration has cleverly foiled. In that spirit, we thought we might list a few terrorist plots LI has foiled:

1. The Little Rock airliner plot: In mid-2003 LI and a partner disrupted a plot to spread airplane glue all over the tarmac of the Little Rock airport, which would not only have stuck aircraft to the ground but given Little Rockians those terrific glue sniffing headaches.
2. The 2003 Karachi plot: In the spring of 2003 LI. and a partner disrupted a plot to draw horns on posters depicting Pakistans biggest patron of democracy and president for life, your friend and mine, runner up for the Nobel Prize in Literature, Medicine, and Peace, General Musharraf in Karachi, Pakistan.
3. The 2004 Oz plot. In the fall of 2004, LI and a scarecrow and a cowardly lion disrupted a plot by a witch to overthrow the president for life of Oz and our very good friend, the Wizard. Mission also saved dog, Toto, from said terrorist witch.

Now, I know many readers wonder whether LI, like our President, gets regular messages from God telling us where the terrorists are hiding and what they are going to do next. But this is a big misunderstanding. According to Scott McClellan, it is absurd to say that God talks to the President. Or, rather, this happened:

“In [a] BBC film, a former Palestinian foreign minister, Nabil Shaath, says that Mr Bush told a Palestinian delegation in 2003 that God spoke to him and said: "George, go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan" and also "George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq".

During a White House press briefing, Mr McClellan said: "No, that's absurd. He's never made such comments."

Mr McClellan admitted he was not at the Israeli-Palestinian summit at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in June 2003 when Mr Bush supposedly revealed the extent of his religious fervour.

However, he said he had checked into the claims and "I stand by what I just said".

McClellan didn’t elaborate, but our sources say that he ran into God at a Heritage Foundation meeting on Averting Terrorist Plots for Fun and Profit. God said that, as far as he remembered, he only told the President that joke about the woman with the pegleg who got married to the one eyed man. God then asked if Mr. McClellan had heard the one about the terrorist who came home and found his wife in bed with the milkman. This is why McClellan hates running into God – he not only looks like LBJ, but he has a pottymouth like LBJ.

In any case … LI urges our readers to reveal to loved ones and strangers, using our comments section if necessary, terrorist plots that you have averted. The president is right: this is no time for modesty or shyness.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


ps -- we wrote the last post before we went to the Dailywarnews and found the Iraqi PM's response to Blair's tinny warmongering:

"BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari has denied British claims Iran has been assisting insurgents in Iraq and meddling in its politics.

"Such accusations are baseless and we do not agree with them at all," Jaafari said on Iranian state television Thursday. "Relations between Iran and Iraq are currently very friendly and strong and expanding. We are proud of the situation."

My guess is that this item from the Kerala news will appear in the Washington Post, if at all, on page A16. The truth about our "allies" in Iraq is systematically censored in the press, who are, after all, loyal members of the oligarchy.

PPS -- well, I'm a hundred percent today. The WP story on the incident doesn't mention Jaafari's denial once. The good thing about having a press run as a propaganda machine for the imperialist ambitions of low rent D.C. jingoists is that it is so predictable.

an evening redness in Iraq

Following up on LI’s last post, about miracles, there is a story in the Guardian today that begins with a sentence that could have been ripped from the Victorian book of prejudices:

“Italy remains a profoundly superstitious country and there was uproar recently when a group of scientists queried a religious rite in Naples in which the dried blood of a saint beheaded in AD305 "miraculously" liquefies.”

Ah, those superstitious Italians, always being fooled by the priestly caste. The superstition in question is the famous transformation of a liquid in two vials in Naples into blood on the Feast of San Gennaro:

“This time, members of the Italian Committee for the Investigation of the Paranormal (Cicap) have said the red-coloured contents are a thixotropic substance, based on iron chloride. This means that it liquefies when stirred or vibrated and returns to solid form when left to stand. According to Cicap, the substance was probably stumbled upon by an alchemist or a painter in medieval times.
Attempts to explode the myth about Naples' much-loved patron saint has however, reignited the debate about science versus faith in Italy.

Members of Cicap, who include Umberto Eco and two winners of the Nobel Prize, have been accused of trying to undermine the religious beliefs of the dwindling numbers of the faithful. They have also been called spoilsports and compared to magicians who reveal their tricks.”

Compare this story (funny foreigners will believe anything!) with the headline story, in which the funny, credulous PM proclaims that Iran is importing weapons into Iraq. Of course, this isn’t superstition – this is merely lying to buttress a shabby imperial venture that is falling apart. The PM’s proclamation comes after a meeting with the favorite Iraqi government official, Jalal Talabani, the for show liberal secularist for foreign consumption. Far more interesting would have been a meeting with Iraq’s PM, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, whose first act was to go to Teheran and apologize profusely for the Iraq-Iranian war.

The deep level of the press’s complicity and ignorance regarding the Iraqi debacle is shown by the way in which stories like this are simply shoved down the chute, instead of provoking the question: why would Iran try to destabilize a state headed by a group Iran nurtured for twenty years? Hasn’t the very government that British soldiers are fighting to protect, the “democratically elected” Iraqi government, said over and over again that it wants a military alliance with Iran? What part of that doesn’t the PM get?

As we have repeated ad nauseam, the policy of Double Containment was one of the chief causes that Saddam Hussein retained power in Iraq during the nineties. The policy is being retained by the ever superstitious British, who obviously believe in miracles much more harmful than a little redness showing up in two vials on San Gennaro’s feast day. There’s a whole lotta redness showing up on the streets and fields of Iraq, and no magic wand will transform it into the blood of liberation.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

suspensio legis naturae


a. We haven’t thanked the people who have been sending us money for this site. Recently, two readers shuffled LI two hundred and fifteen bucks, which is the equivalent of four NYT special services fees. We are touched. Sorry we took so long to acknowledge your generosity.

b. On the editing front, we’d also like to thank readers who emailed us with suggestions about improving our site. A couple have told us that they will use send our letter to people they know who require editing/writing/translating, etc. We are going to insert that letter, in its various forms, every week on LI, to keep it visual.

c. Finally, a correction. Our last post incorrectly implied that I was the only member of the dopamine cowboy movement. Our correspondent, T., in NYC reminded us he is a dopamine cowboy. Actually, we meant to say that the whole LI collective, with branches in Washoogle,Washington and New York City and Barcelona, are members of the dopamine cowboy movement.

The Welt article we wrote about yesterday cited some figure for the revenues of the gambling industry in the U.S.A that was supposed to show that gambling is bigger than the entertainment industry and – I forget, three other sectors. There was no source for the figures, although since they are the same as those in a Time Magazine article this summer (which is similarly unsourced), we presume that they were quietly lifted from the latter.

LI finds it a very ponderable fact that, in the same nation where an arguable majority rejects the idea of Darwinian evolution, so much is spent on games of chance. The argument against Darwinian evolution almost invariably proceeds from the idea that chance can’t explain life. But since this antipathy to chance coexists with the compulsion to stake sums upon it, one wonders how the two impulses are intellectually reconciled.

Which, of course, brings us to Aviezer Tucker’s article, MIRACLES, HISTORICAL TESTIMONIES, AND PROBABILITIES in this season’s History and Memory. Tucker’s thesis is that Hume’s famous essay on miracles, which is usually read in terms of Hume’s philosophy, should be read in terms of Hume’s historiography. Tucker contends that Hume’s essay makes two blunders:

a. Hume gives an anachronistic definition of “miracle.” According to Hume, a miracle is an event that violates physical law. According to Tucker, however, the ancient Greek and Hebrew idea of miracle is something on the order of divine weightlifting.

“Given the absence of a concept of universal law of nature prior to the seventeenth century, Hume’s definition of miracles is clearly anachronistic, ahistorical. A cursory search in the library of rabbinical literature does not divulge any conceptual connection between miracles and scientific laws prior to the twentieth century. A similarly cursory examination of Catholic theology reveals the consideration of miracles as suspensio legis naturae, but only in the twentieth century.

It is extremely unlikely that anybody could have associated miracles with scientific laws prior to the seventeenth century. Perhaps Hume and his eighteenthcentury contemporaries on either side of the debate wanted to say that the world is governed either by God or by natural laws, but not by both, as a metaphysical reflection of the Enlightenment political conflict between religion and science. So if miracles are not divinely produced violations of the laws of nature, what are they? A definition of miracles that fits all the paradigmatic cases mentioned above and the Bible would be something along the line of “divine feats of strength.””

b. Given this idea of the miracle, those miracles in the Bible that Hume examines should not be considered in the light of violations of the laws discovered by the physicists, but rather, in light of the sources of historical fact. What are we to make of testimonies to divine feats of strength (making the sun stand still, for instance, over a battlefield)? Tucker’s example is a little less cosmologically complex:

“Philosophers have been trying to assess the posterior probability of concrete miracle hypotheses, for example, that Moses parted the Red Sea (actually this should be the “Reed Sea,” as the original King James translation had it correctly before a fateful typographical mistake “miraculously” transmuted the shallow Bamboo Sea into a deep Red Sea). Hume and his Bayesian explicators 10 examine the posterior probability of a miracle hypothesis, given the evidence (most notably testimonies), background knowledge, and theories in isolation from alternative competing hypotheses that explain the same scope of evidence.”

Tucker’s program, in this article, is to claim that miracles have a place in historiography insofar as they are attested to by witnesses. But it is here that something goes a little wrong with his argument:

"Likewise, it is not reasonable for people to relinquish their faith in particular miracle hypotheses until better explanations of the evidence are proposed. As Salmon and Sober have argued, it is neither realistic nor interesting to examine one isolated hypothesis, in our case the literal truth of the evidence for a miracle, without comparing it with its alternatives.14

It has been recognized at least since Roman law that multiple independent witnesses increase the posterior probability of what they agree on: testis unis, testis nullus. The reason is the low likelihood of agreement between false independent testimonies. To borrow Laplace’s example, if one number is randomly drawn in
a lottery from the first one hundred numbers, the likelihood of any given number being reported falsely by a deceptive witness is 1:99. If two independent witnesses report the same number, the likelihood of this coincidence given deception is (1:99)2; if three witnesses agree, the probability of deception is (1:99)3;
and so on.”

The problem with this argument, to LI’s mind, is that it turns, below the surface, his argument that miracles are intensional – dependent on a belief of the testifiers – rather than extensional, as Hume mistakenly believed, back to Hume’s own interpretation of miracles. If one clears the space by claiming that miracles are only feats of divine strength, then the historical interest in the claim that a miracle has occurred is what would make the witnesses move to the intensional stance of calling event X a miracle. The probabilities, here, shift to the beliefs of the testifiers (given a random set of Egytians and Hebrews, for instance, how many would be inclined to call the parting of the Reed sea a miracle) rather than the factuality of the thing testified to. In fact, by pursuing the question as though it were a question about the event X rather than belief about the event X, Tucker undermines his notion that Hume’s anachronism consisted in seeing event X as a violation of natural law. Granted, physical law in the Newtonian sense didn’t exist for the ancient Greeks and Romans. However, the idea that a miracle requires many witnesses seems to indicate that the belief about the test of divine strength is itself dependent on beliefs about how events occur.

“The case for multiple independent witnesses of miracles was articulated philosophically by the Spanish-Jewish philosopher Judah Halevi in his twelfth-century, Arabic-language, Platonic-style dialogue The Kuzari. In this dialogue Halevi listed the criteria for independence of evidence for belief in miracles: Miracles, intercourse between God and humans, must take place “in the presence of great multitudes, who saw it distinctly, and did not learn it from reports and traditions. Even then they must examine the matter carefully and repeatedly, so that no suspicion of imagination or magic can enter their minds.”17 Halevi presented the revelation on Mount Sinai as fitting these criteria.”

Now, in one way Tucker’s idea fits in quite nicely with the idea that the revelation at Mount Sinai is evidence of divine strength in competition with other gods. That would explain the first commandment, and Moses’ problem with the dancing about the golden calf. But Tucker can’t help but continue to pick at the idea that a miracle is about the probability of the event. Tucker seems a little blind to the contradiction in his own account, with his ultimate point (that historians operate rationally by including miraculous events in a true historical account, contra Hume) begs the question of his dependent point (showing that miracles are possible, thus acceding to the general lines of the argument as Hume has shaped it). Our point is not to harp on the antinomies in Tucker’s article, but to get back to the beliefs of the set of people who describe certain events as miracles. I imagine that this set of people, in America, would include both those people who subscribe to the divine design theory of the earth and life upon it, and those people who think that certain lottery numbers are lucky, or that they have developed a system for betting at roulette. Luck, in this belief system, can be good or bad. It can also be earned.

From this perspective, Darwinian evolution is extremely anxiety making. The luck of the survivor isn’t ultimately earned – but is a new piece of the old luck, the mutation that simply happens to be advantageous given the circumstances of a certain ecological niche. The luck of the human and the luck of the dodo are the same kinds of luck. One is merely not presently extinct. Living beyond Good and Evil is relatively easy, compared to living beyond good and bad luck.

Monday, October 03, 2005

the dopamine cowboy movement

The “Literary World”, Die Welt’s book supplement, is not a place I’d generally go to find explanations for the particular warp of the American grain at the present moment. So I was surprised to find an explanation for everything, everything that has happened since Reagan was elected president, in the first two paragraphs of review article by Uwe Schmitt:

“Usually the American journal, the Archives of Neurology, only offers the layman news of the obscure impulse inherent in his bankruptcy or obituary. But this summer, when the journal reported that the drug Mirapex, which is used by Parkinson’s patience, can drive those patients to gamble, the readership increased. The study by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota showed abrupt personality changes in a test group: eleven of thirty patients became compulsive gamblers and lost, in half a year, up to 200,000 dollars. The families and heirs of the selected patients were not amused.
Six of eleven patients could not curb their eating, drinking, sex and purchasing. After being taken off the drug, it was “like a light was switched off”, and they became as they had been. All assurances by the professors that these were at most one percent of the hundreds of thousands that have been treated successfully did not stop fantasies from spreading, in a land where, on TV, on the Internet, and in Indian casinos a dizzying intoxication of gambling reigns. You could bet that some novels and screemplays would certainly come out of this tragicomic gambling therapy.”
It is always nice and scientific to narrow the range of suspects to one. The John Birchers always suspected that fluoridating our drinking water was weakening our vital fluids. Saps! They should have been looking for the dark presences that are obviously lurking around our water supply organizations, tossing in the Mirapex. And we thought Rove was just tied up with Diebold.
So we checked on this factoid, to see if anybody else had tripped over it and discovered the key to the kingdom. The fall of the roman empire, as any middlebrow knows, was caused by lead pipes. Since the link between chemically induced dementia and the collapse of imperial borders has already become one of the things you would expect Pecuchet to bring up in conversation, we were a little surprised that nobody has brought up the obvious: the Mayo Clinic chemically concocted an exact replica of American culture.
Perhaps this was behind that plot line in this summer’s Batman. The evidence accumulates!

Actually, a long time ago I decided that, instead of postmodernism, or post structuralism, or any ism, I wanted to belong to the aesthetic and philosophical movement known as the dopamine cowboys. I was, at the time, the only member. I still am. But apparently I had unconsciously struck on something. As Walt Whitman used to say, I am large, I contain multitudes.

seeing what this looks like

For a long time I’ve meant to put little pieces of my novel on this post, and today is a good day. I’m hoping for comments. The title of this novel has gone through long and elaborate metamorphoses, from Holly’s Folly to The facts in the Sterling Case to The Favorite. I know the first title won’t fly. My latest title is Party of the Jealous God, partly because it sounds echt thriller-ish.

Those of you who have seen versions of this have not seen this version. I’m not sure how much my tinkering has changed the thing. The “thing” – my baby monster, my daydream, my spoiled child, my Holly, my fourteen chapters

The first four pages.

Chapter 1 – Party of the Jealous God

Patrol Officer Candidate Foxton liked rigging up. He liked the squeak of getting off the hot leather seat. He liked the whole ritual of the helmet - not taking it off, lifting the visor just at that spooky little angle, revealing the unprotected shaven chin and lips, a bit of dark moustache, shades on, the unmistakable bluish black of the shirt and the black belt and the pistol making the approach to the standard safety distance, peering in on another householder rolling down the window to ask how fast was I going, as if this was something you had to call out the goon squad to track down. As if the damned car wasn't equipped with a damned speedometer right in the driver's eye-space. You had to get used to the sweat - it was a hotbox job, no two ways about it. But Foxton considered himself a man inured to mere temperature. He'd drilled out there in 110 heat index weather in the Guard, to which he still had a commitment, still had time allotted. So the burn of the day is just going down. Austin summer days, when you could scan the sky for hours and not find one fault in the blue of it. The western sky is still glowing with purple closing to blackish blue and a thin flare of orange on the horizon. That window before the move to turn the car lights on becomes mandatory. Foxton jacked down the kickstand, thrust the bike back, the blue light is making the nice Dragnet background, dancing against the gravel and asphalt and the ditch and the trees, he's approaching the Lexus. There's a wire fence above the ditch, and beyond a little underbrush there's the rough dip of twig and dirt and patchy grass up to the lip of the turf surface which the wise chipper knows will carry to the seventh hole four yards in. Foxton knows this himself, although his swing is, typically, a little too forceful on these kinds of shots. He is always overstroking.

Nothing is emanating from planet Lexus.

Ten miles away, Maury Lockwood is using his police scanner. He's got it hooked up to a tape recorder. Maury is a postal employee. He's not married. He's thirty five. He weighs two hundred fifty pounds, and stands 5 foot 9. He stands, however, as little as he can, sitting on a bar stool at his window. Maury's boss has the forms his doctor filled out in his file ("Mr. Lockwood's gout makes it painful for him to stand for abnormal stretches of time. I strongly recommend an environment in which Mr. Lockwood can support himself without standing. It is recommended that Mr. Lockwood use a chair, if at all possible.") Maury’s boss has shifted his quota of unsuitables for the year, so for the moment, Maury’s position is stable. Maury has some hilarious tapes. Mostly, though, it is bureaucratic chatter, a lot of acronyming, bullshitting, old jokes, positioning. The channel between APD's Sense and Respond Unit (SRU) and sundry jarheads. Heading in, heading off.

Foxton taps on the driver's window, notices a human form lying in the back seat. The window is slightly tinted. Must be sleeping it off. He goes around.

Maury is bored with the fire at the Wildwood Apartments on Braker Lane. Another porch barbecue affair. Early twenties, they get bombed and begin gassing up the charcoal and it happens.

Foxton moves around the Lexus. Notices the license plate. F-I-S-H.

Maury tunes in to this:

AF: SRU, I have a, uh, situation here . I have apparently an unconscious sleeper here, 98 Lexus, let's see ... lying in the back, no reaction to me, I'm tapping on the window, unconscious, back seat. Possible drunk. Possible illegal substance. I'm thinking I might need a car.., over.
SRU: I'm reading you, PC 40, coordinates please, over ...
AF: Oh my god. God. A fucking wagon!
SRU: Where are you, PC40, over
AF: Get an ambulance! A fucking wagon! Lake Austin Boulevard, SRU. Fuck the SRU, this is Donna, right? You remember, Arn? Arn Foxton. You know me. Listen, you gotta help me, Donna. Do something for me. Now now now.

After Donna oriented herself (were you that guy at the rookie party?) and Foxton made some spitting noises (the damn smell, the smell), Foxton revealed a fact that soon made Lake Austin Road a media site:

AF: . Please, just get the murder [division] down here. I'm patrolling the area. Keeping the scene pristine. The plate is F-I-S-H, fish.
SRU: Where are you exactly, PC40? Over.
AF: Breathe in, breathe out. Square it off. So where in the living crap am I, Donna? You know the corner of Exposition and Lake Austin? You know, up towards the student housing? The Colorado River authority?
SRU: Down towards that Tex Mex place?
AF: You mean the Hula Hut. Yeah. Down on that stretch next to the golf course, that's where I am. Over.

Lockwood called up the manager of KXOX. He had dealt with them before, but never had anything of this quality. The manager had given him a home number. The deal was quickly made. F-I-S-H. By June 3, 1998, KXOX owned the tape. Lockwood made a couple of thousand. KXOX made a multiple of that, selling it to its national network.

AF: Jesus, I shouldn't have had that tuna salad sandwich. I can feel the mayonnaise coming up on me. Here it comes!

As soon as the murder team found Foxton and the car, the license plate became an issue. Detective Chuck Reilly left his partner with Foxton and personally made the drive back to HQ, calling Hudson at home on his cell. 'See me at the office," Reilly testified later, "something like that. That's what I told him."
When Lew Hudson got to the scene at 10:00, he'd had his talk with Reilly.

"I just told him that it was the Governor's wife's car. No sir, I didn't tell him we got a bomb on our hands. No, I never used the words bomb, explosion, any of that, to my recollection. No, I don't know why they printed that, sir. I figure they got the wrong end of the stick."
Hudson had put in a call to Greenbriar, the Police Chief, but Greenbriar was in transit to another job in Pennsylvania. It was never clear anymore if he was in town or in Pittsburgh. Greenbriar said, “shit, this is almost not on my watch.”
Hudson said, “I’ll handle it.”
“Keep in touch,” Greenbriar said. Greenbriar seemed to be bitter about something. Hudson got along with him all right. As far as police chiefs go, Hudson’s favorite was Odem, who had been the police chief when Hudson was signed on. Odem’s reign was mythologically long, forty years or something. A monument. Had a problem with the post civil rights era, though. Greenbriar had been brought in with great fanfare as Austin’s first African American police chief. He was a photo op, much liked by the politicos, disliked intensely by the Union. Well, he seemed to wear out. He began to make out of state trips. He photo opped in San Francisco. He photo opped in Seattle. Conferences, a spokesman about a new national drug policy, the name in the rolodex for the news show about the Broken window theory of policing. Just not there. Until photo opping in Pennsylvania, he got a better offer. People later agreed that the APD was in a state of unusual disorganization for this to be dropped into their lap.

Everybody at the scene by 10 p.m. was aware that this was on a Need To Know basis.

Everybody at the scene did not include Foxton, who was being debriefed at HQ. In the three months remaining of Foxton's time on the force, he expressed a few theories of his own. These theories were disregarded by the D.A. His superior called him in, once, to tell him loose lips sink ships. 'What does that mean?" Foxton asked. 'Shut up," his superior explained. His testimony at the trial was tight and short. By that time, Foxton had heard his voice on that damned transmission one hundred times. At his regular spot, The Cedar Door, the bartender never seemed to tire of asking him if he'd had a tuna salad sandwich today. Foxton ceased and desisted going there. “I’m tired of the place,” he told his girlfriend, whose office regularly TGIFed at the Cedar Door. “Give me three good reasons I have to show up to see your manager get shitfaced.” Then Foxton's troubles dominoed: he got into a fight in a bar, he got into an altercation with a neighbor, his girlfriend moved out, and his buds on the force became distinctly glacial to him. So he resigned, picked up stakes, moved elsewhere, leaving his parents' address to forward mail to.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

hell and worse ahead

The NYT Mag has an admiring portrait of the ultimate horror that is Hillary. Oddly, the more hopeful article is about Buckley’s campaign for mayor in 1965. While Buckley exhibited the thinly sheathed bigot in that campaign – in one of those odd, convulsive spasms of coercive moralism to which conservatives are liable he even proposed that drug addicts be quarantined, one of those bizarre notions like tattooing people with AIDS that seem to emerge in the Buckley brain, and of course in the face of real civil morality, ie Martin Luther King, Jr, he was clueless -- he also campaigned to legalize drugs for adults. A simple measure that would have removed infinite misery in the last forty years, and probably even more in the next forty. In a strong sense, that move, if it had caught on, would have retrieved millions of black men from the clutches of the legal system, and would have put states like Alabama (where 30 percent of African American men can’t vote, due to felony convictions) and Florida (ditto) and all over the South into play for much more liberal politicians. Not only in the U.S. would the past forty years have been gentler, but all over the world – for instance, Mexico, where realistically, narco-trafficking is as it should be, an economically sound venture, the repression of which is insane, leading, naturally, to massive corruption, since the only way to produce and market drugs is outside of the law. And of course this diverts the flow of income that could be really be used by average Mexicans into the pockets of the most violent. One can’t say the same about the income flow generated by, say, viagra, which is legal due not for any moral or health reason – hell, viagra is no more safe and no more moral than a joint -- but simply because it was developed by big pharma and marketed by them. I do know that if joints gave you an automatic woody, that would be down on the black list of reasons why it must be banned. Since only in hell is rationality a product manufactured by corporations, and since rationality about drugs seems wholly manufactured by corporations, I think it is evident we live in Hell. I hope that is clear.

The other hopeful thing was Lindsay. An awful mayor, but still -- a genuine powerful liberal Republican. They once existed. They can exist again...

As for Hillary – she represents the worst instincts of the right and the worst instincts of punitive liberalism in a sort of corporate identity of all that is evil -- Newt Gingrich's feminine side. She is so bad that she seems almost destined to lead this Republic as it continues to fall apart. God’s curse is obviously on the land. Luckily, the NYT Magazine is almost always wrong about American politics. I trust my older sister, a feminist since the seventies who tells me, Hillary doesn’t feel right.

Elia meets Karl Marx at the South Sea House

    When Charles Lamb, a scholarship boy at Christ’s Hospital, was fifteen, one of his patrons, Thomas Coventry, had a discussion with a...