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Showing posts from March 5, 2006

false friends

Every student of French or German is familiar with the phrase “false friends.” False friends are those words one comes across that look enough like some English word that the unwise student will assume that they mean the same thing. For instance, ‘aire’ – which, of course, means area in French. LI sometimes thinks that this is the era of false friends in the political and moral sphere. If there is one thing that the neo-conservative movement has implanted like a bad seed in the sphere of political discourse, it is this parasitic creeping into figures and ideas that are good, liberal and humane, and the distorting of them for ends that are violent, oppressive, and exploitative. Case in point: there is a heartening portrait, in the NYT today, of a woman who is subjecting Islam to a withering Enlightenment critique . “Three weeks ago, Dr. Wafa Sultan was a largely unknown Syrian-American psychiatrist living outside Los Angeles, nursing a deep anger and despair about her fellow Mus

the mission party, 03 -- a kegger!

We’ve spent three years watching a comatose anti-war movement spend its time begging Democrats to “lead an opposition.” This shows a fundamental misconception about the war. [divertimento time] Many think that the war is a foreign policy issue. Those people are always worried about the purpose of the war. Well, we long ago figured out that this was not a foreign policy issue, and we know the purpose of the war. To explain this, some background. When Bush was coming up through the sons-of-millionaire ranks, he landed, lucratively, on a sports franchise. But he wouldn’t be a Texas trust funder if he wasn’t aware that as he was making baby bucks with his franchise, his peers were bringing home double and triple that, leaving him, status wise, in the dust. Well, Bush took the higher road, of public sacrifice and shit, but it still burned a little bit, these CEOs and their money and perks. So when Bush was elevated to the CC’s chair, he did what a CEO president does, and he amply rew

party poopers on the Titanic

It is entertaining to see D.C.’s international thinkin’ set run like the three blind mice this morning, groaning about the Dubai port deal. It isn’t that the Friedmanites are wrong per se – it is just that this part of the deal – the deal in which the U.S. liquidates its manufacturing status, borrows money indefinitely to maintain the world’s largest consumer market, and adopts for domestic purposes your standard third world distribution of wealth – was supposed to go down a little smoother. Stephen Pearlstein at WAPO, in four paragraphs, lays it out like an exasperated boiler room jack who has plugged your money into a black hole and is trying to tell you that th-th-th-that’s all, folks: “Maybe it was possible to get away with this noxious blend of arrogance and ignorance when the United States was the world's only economic superpower. But now that we've become the biggest debtor nation in the history of civilization, we might want to give a bit more thought to whom we tell

My kingdom for BET

“… I left that working world for the altogether different working world of shaping the future, raising, rearing my girls to be citizens of the world and to make a difference, tough when our culture deifies Lil Kim.” – interview with the blogger for Atlas Shrugged. As readers of LI know, we are happy to promote L’il Kim as a bad role model for Atlas Shrugged’s daughter, and anybody else’s. The woman makes me go smoky at the knees, and soon I’m pulling out my copy of the sonnets: “When my love swears that she is made of truth I do believe her, though I know she lies, that she might think me some untutored youth unlearned in the world’s false subtilties…” Our correspondent in NYC, Tom, sent us a notice from the Washington Post Our queen has condescended to star in a real life tv series on BET, risking the freakishness of the sheer voyeurism attaching to watching the pratfalls of the rich and famous – because she can. There’s a nobility that even the greedy, beady camera can’t degr

the war will not be pre-owned

First, a shout out to reader M.E., who sent a grad student our way for editing work. Remember friends (he said in dulcet tones), rwg communications does heavy editing, proofing, research, and other writing tasks. As the deadlines get closer for turning in dissertations, those wanting quick, thorough editing should definitely contact us. Write us at rgathman@netzero.net Second… well, this is difficult. In 2003 and 2004, there was one belligeranti we loved to kick around above all others: Christopher Hitchens. Gradually, we lost interest, however – Hitchens as a propagandist ate into Hitchens as an essayist until the writing was all hollowed out. Mental corruption is as bad for a certain sort of writer as termites are for a wood framed house. But we do have to recommend the article in Slate, since it represents the position on Iran (détente) that we have advocated at this little blog since we started. It even shows an admirable awareness that there actually is such a thing as a futur

hegelian approaches to tinkering

The most dangerous man the world has ever known was not Attila the Hun or Mao Zedong. He was not Adolf Hitler. In fact, the most dangerous man the world has ever known died without having an inkling that he was the most dangerous man the world has ever known. He wasn’t a politician, or a general, or a bandit, and the most publicity he ever received was when he was elected president of the American Chemical Association in 1944. His name was Tom Midgley. He was a tinkerer. I know about tinkerers. LI’s old man was a tinkerer until he retired to the mountains of North Georgia (and, incidentally, cut off all relations with LI. But that is another story altogether). Who knows, he might have known Willis Carrier, since he worked for Carrier Air Conditioning, and Willis certainly knew Tom Midgley. In which case, yours truly has three degrees of separation from the most dangerous man the world has ever known. Gives me goosebumps. Although elected president of the American Chemical Associati

the Rosemary’s Baby of American conservatism.

Every day, LI says bad things about the Bush administration. Today, we are going to say something good about the administration. Good, that is, from the point of view of philosophical clarification. For it has struck us more and more strongly that the Bush administration is the Rosemary’s Baby of American conservatism. This is what it was all always about, all the ritual, all the preparation. For sixty years, American politics, on the ideological level, has been a rigged fight between frauds. The right wing fraud went under the mask of wanting “smaller government.” The left wing fraud went under the mask of supporting “working families.” In actuality, there was no side that wasn’t for big government. The argument was really about the bonds between big government and its partners. For the most part, the right’s preferred partners were in the petro-chemical industry. Both sides fought for the defense industry, and the left wing laid dibs on the unions and information technologies. Ther

the archaeology of zombie talk

LI is fascinated by zombie talk. It is an idiolect of the hypnotized, a rare and precious thing. Now, there are many patterns in zombie talk to choose from. We've written about the bogus analogies. We've written about the false claims. But --if we were to choose just one word to prospect out of the madness and moil of the last three years, the word would be “desperate.” This word pops up every time the weld between Iraq’s reality and the American description of it is jarred. Here's a little travelogue for ya: Back in June, 2003, when the first roadside bombs were killing American soldiers, Bremer said: "Those who refuse to embrace the new Iraq are clearly panicking, they are turning their sights on Iraqis themselves," L. Paul Bremer said. "Today they have killed innocent Iraqis with the same disdain toward their own people they showed for 35 years." Then, in August, as bombs hit Najaf, Rumsfeld, who back then was happy, as chief clown, to hog t

LI's taste in murder

Denis Donoghue, has penned a nice review of Denise Gigante’s book, “Taste: A Literary History,” in February’s Harpers. Donoghue considers the concrete sense, first – a sense that lies the tongue which is, as he felicitously puts it, “like a kingdom divided into principalities according to sensory talent” – for our bitter and sweet, our sour and salty are found in different areas of the tongue, the chemistry of the alien bodies we put in the mouth turned into its synaptic commentary by means of differently grouped sensors. Gigante begins, too, with a primal scene of appetite and taste, this one taken from Paradise Lost: “Gigante's point of departure is Milton's Paradise Lost. In Book 5, God sends the archangel Raphael to warn Adam that Satan is on the loose and determined to harm God's new creation, the human race. Adam doesn't seem especially perturbed; he is more interested in learning from Raphael what it's like to be an angel. He invites him to sit and share t