Friday, April 21, 2006

homework tonight: v is to blank...

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should see V., and write about it.

So, last night LI did our duty. We’ve read many finely drawn theorizations of the movie. Here’s one, and here’s one. These people know their shit.

The way I saw the movie was influenced, a bit, by the recent re-translation of We. I just did the review for that and interviewed Natasha Randall (a lovely, talented woman who I aim to publicize to the extent I can -- read WE!) for Publishers Weekly. In We, D-503 becomes a free man, politically, as he becomes a slave, erotically, to the sexy I-330. I’m not sure if anybody associated with V ever read We, but the S/M subtext under the political message certainly influenced Orwell and Huxley, and presumably has crept into the dystopian genre. It is a sort of contingent conjunction, really – the original We is influenced less by the experience of Stalinism (it was written in the early 1920s), than by art nouveau decadence – that style that you find in Sologub’s Petty Demon and in Bely’s Petersburg. Those seem to be the major influences in We. Seeing Evie disciplined by V, then, didn’t surprise me. By this time, that motif is almost bound to pop up, rooted in the deep structure of dystopias. And to the marriage of Venus in Furs and The Rights of Man, I bring no impediment. The bride may now suck the blood out of the groom, or vice versa.

About the film itself: we definitely got a rush from it. Especially we liked the blowing up of the Parliament. As blowings up go, that was the shit.

Since this is a Wachowski brothers film, I was looking forward to some exemplary slo mo in the service of bloodshed, and I wasn’t disappointed. Usually, slow mo pisses me off. It is a detour around a big narrative problem, which is that people, even big people, can get easily hurt and die. Now if the big person is fighting, say, three little people, and the three little people are vicious and armed, the chances of death or injury dramatically increase. In the Iliad, when a hero is about to succumb to sheer material force, sometimes he is wrapped in a cloud or a mist by a god and rescued. However, if you had too much deus ex machina action in the Iliad, the battles would truly go nowhere. It would sap all the danger, and hence the dignity, from the poem. There’s a fate, a bare spot – much like the bare spot that makes Achilles vulnerable – that the Gods can’t hide. This is why we hate deus ex machina being thrown into a movie on an industrial scale – as happens in your standard action film. Slo mo is of course the easiest of all technical solutions. What was cool about the Matrix was that the W. brothers decided to make a film all about slo mo. They elevated avoiding an all too human truth by way of a gimmick into a meta-gimmick. Pretty brassy. This time around, the slo mo is connected with an old and pretty disused fighting style – sword play, of which we see bits on tv in the background in the film. And by the time we get to where we want the movie to let go –the climactic bloodletting – the movie has gained some cred by not endangering its superhero in some silly way, so we are in the mood to make allowances. Thus, we get some beautiful bloody wackings, in lovely slow mo. And this is a major lure for us, what we came for.

However, there was one surprisingly bogus moment at the very end. The movie closes on, of all things, Rolling Stones’ Street fighting Man. No way! The Matrix ended on the perfect Marilyn Manson song, God is in the TV. It was calling out there at the end to all the kids. But the Stones? That old clunker? Really, if we had to have something from the age of rock dinosaurs, why not Patti Smith’s Power to the People. Myself, I would have thought about Pavement, or, perhaps, the Tricky version of Public Enemy’s Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos. Or, moving up into the living world, how about Black Angel’s Manipulation. The latter would have been so bold I would definitely have creamed in my pants, but – alas, the Brothers W.'s music sense failed them. Too bad.

forbidden zones among the statistics

Last year, the UN’s IAEA along with the WHO published a revisionist account of the Chernobyl disaster. It put the long term death toll estimate at 9,000, gave a much lower estimate of the radiation released from the plant than any previous one, gave a much lower estimate of the number of people involved in the cleanup of the disaster than any previous estimate, and dismissed 20 years of death and health impairment as so much psychosomatic folderol. It should be said that the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency loves atomic energy. It is composed of believers. And the report was written as part of a campaign to de-demonize nuclear power. As Michael Flynn pointed out in a review of the report for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

“But according to other observers, while the report seems to demonstrate that Chernobyl’s devastation is less dramatic than once thought, it can hardly be called “reassuring.” They argue that the report provides little solace to those still suffering from the effects of the accident and fails to accurately portray
its total impact. And they draw a sharp distinction between the actual report— which is composed of two draft studies, one on health consequences and another on the environment—and the report’s summary and press release, which they argue minimize and contradict the report’s findings. Richard Garwin, an internationally renowned physicist and IBM fellow emeritus at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center, calls the report “deliberately misleading,” arguing that it overlooks evidence that contradicts some of its conclusions.”

Greenpeace attacked the report as a whitewash, and has recently published its own report, which estimates 11 times the death load. And the related TORCH report this month does a pretty nice job of sacking the IAEA’s report – which nevertheless will, of course, be quoted as the Bible on Fox news, and other sources of propaganda.

The IAEA report was greeted with hallelujahs by the conservative media and their spokesman in this country last year. As LI has pointed out before, the GOP and the Soviet hardliners converge in their feelings about the environment – whether nature was given to man by God or seized by the revolutionary worker, the main thing is that nature exists as a free resource and dump, a gold mine and a sewer. One of the great things about nuclear power, from this point of view, is that disaster is long term: the land around Chernobyl is contaminated for millennia, and the injuries done to the victims of Chernobyl space out over 20 to 40 years –well, except for the stillbirths and the deformities that die off quickly. In that time, a lot happens, and one can plausibly say, oh, that person died of smoking – never mind the history of fainting, the long stays in the hospital, the anemia, the impotence, the bowel trouble. And then you pick those things off. For instance, by chance, Belarus actually had a record of child birth deformities going back before the accident, so much research was done in the Soviet Union and by Belarussian researchers on the rise in birth defects. Similar studies have shown a brief peak in Downs syndrome in Germany, in the path of the wind driven fallout, and similar studies have shown jumps in spina bifida, for instance, in Turkey. Of course, the IAEA didn't even take into account - in its whole report -- the entire area affected by the fallout -- which by its own epidemiological method makes its figures simply wrong. Further, the IAEA demands a linear causal link which, of course, is very hard to show for accidents like this, that take place over long periods of time. If you set the parameters right, you can wish the disaster away. Time favors the liar -- especially the motivated, wealthy liar. Those who actually believe the IAEA should look at Belarus' fascinating and ongoing demographic disaster and ask what happened between 1987 and the present day. But such a question would be considered very, very vulgar by the physicists who composed the membership of committees like the IAEA, with their mandate to "calm public fears."

There was an interview with a Russian physicist, Yevgeny Velikhov, published by RIA Novosti that typifies this Frozen Belief set – the techno-millenarian belief that fits so well with economic systems based on profit or on a party’s command and control:

“Since the tragic day 20 years ago the physicists have been trying hard to defeat radio phobia, and prove to the people that atomic power engineering brings light and heat to their homes. Have they done all they could? The drawbacks which this industry had, and some of which were revealed by Chernobyl have been largely overcome. Nuclear power engineering has evolved incredible safety measures. I'd call some of them even somewhat excessive. In general, the experience amassed today by the physicists and designers, and the high safety standards of nuclear power engineering guarantee that accidents similar to Chernobyl will never repeat.”
A piece of boilerplate that could easily fit into a speech by Cheney.

Peter Neils of the Los Alamos Study Group cuts to the heart of the recent movement to revive nuclear power in this country:

“Nuclear power has never been economically viable without massive government subsidies. In the case of nuclear power, we have socialized the development, liability and waste disposal expenses while privatizing the profit, an absurd deal for the taxpayer. In fact, the market has already left nuclear power behind.”

However, it isn’t simply a question of the market – Chernobyl posed a question about what the economy is for in the first place. It poses the basic question of the social and planetary cost of our whole system. Just as the arms race in the Cold War presupposed, absurdly, that two systems – the West and the East – at one point in time had suddenly seized the right to defend themselves with the threat to end humanity itself (implying that we had reached a truly utopian moment, for only a utopia could be defended in such an absolute manner), nuclear power is the emblem of a systematic insanity of need which we will either confront or succumb to.

Given LI’s recent lurch to black humor, we’ll end with this bit about James Lovelock, the Gaia person. Lovelock, according to George Dvorsky’s blog, actually advocates more Chernobyls, showing that there is no political ecological niche that isn’t filled by somebody.

“Back in 2001, Lovelock told the Telegraph that we need nuclear power. He also asked the British government to revive atomic energy as an alternative to burning fossil fuels. He went on to downplay the Chernobyl disaster, claiming that it was not the industrial catastrophe that so many people made it out to be
Further, Lovelock noted his delight in the fact that diverse wildlife had once again returned to the 30km area immediately surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear facility. This is the area, of course, that remains off-limits due to radiation. “The wildlife of Chernobyl know nothing about radiation and do not fear it,” he says, “That they might live a little less long is of no great consequence to them.”

Inspired by this shining and radioactive example of passive environmental remediation, Lovelock argues that we should actually recreate similar situations elsewhere: “I have wondered if the small volumes of nuclear waste from power production should be stored in tropical forests and other habitats in need of a reliable guardian against their destruction by greedy developers.”

As Dvorsky says: “that’s a hardcore solution to the global warming problem.”

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Recently, LI has noticed another blog trend that is passing us by. Apparently, if you are anybody nowadays in the blogosphere, somebody is threatening you with death. Ezra Klein published an account of how Malkin published the phone numbers of anti-recruitments students, and how these students got death threats. Then Malkin got death threats. On CT, some friend of one of the group is getting death threats.

And how about moi? Is LI chopped liver or something? Not only do we heartily approve of the anti-recruiting students, we heartily approve of the little tire slashing action engaged in by some of them. The spirit of the Boston tea party is not dead! Those who want to phone in death threats (no creditors please) should call us at 513-478-3699.

That said, it won’t do to just say, I want to kill you, or fuck you up the ass, or that kind of thing. So yesterday! Let’s have a little creativity among the death threat group. First, set the atmosphere. I’d recommend music for this. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has an excellent death threat song with a spaced out male voice going “Little Girls. I like little girls!” But if you are going to play yesteryear’s NIN, you really aren’t even trying. Suggestion: the gorier the death, the better. Why not a little power tool action in the background to give it that Leatherface atmosphere? Nothing says fear like a drillbit. On the other hand, don’t go overboard, or the neighbors will definitely complain. You do not want to be standing there, power drill in hand, pants to your knees, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on stereo overdrive, explaining to a cop what you are doing. On the other hand, those death threaters who live far from human kind, in rural areas, don’t need me to advise them. You all are the pros. After all, I’m doing death threats for dummies, here.

Second, personalize the death threat. Calling LI and giving us a ho hum death threat is not going to cut the mustard. We recommend doing a computer search beforehand. Remember, stalkers, research makes all the difference between the yawning and the shitting in his pants response. For this, you have to put on your thinking cap. For instance, knowing LI lives in Austin, we recommend some local color. Like, someday, fuckwad, you will be walking out of Mean Eyed Cat and I’ll be there with my favorite knife, Betsy.

Third, of course, is don’t hog the line. Other death threateners might be trying to call too, you know. Plus, the cops can trace it if you stay on for, like ten minutes. Or so I believe from various crime dramas I’ve seen.

This has been a public service message from your friends at LI!

a subplot from shame

Sad times at LI – even our faithful and long time reader, Mr. T., said about the post a couple of days ago: “the terms "common sense" and "manifesto" appeared in the headline - I could not proceed to read the post; those terms have a garlic-like effect on this vampire.”

LI’s frantic attempt to intervene in the discussion of the Euston Manifesto – our comments on threads, our two posts – seem to have been spoken in Hittite. We get so frustrated that nobody is ever outraged by LI! Nobody listens to us! The tears glisten. Is it because we have gone over the edge? Surely this is what goldbugs feel like -- those culty rightwingers who blame all of the world's ills on the retirement of the gold standard, in spite of the fact that the world is immensely more prosperous without the gold standard. So is our fight for re-democratizing foreign policy a sort of anachronistic re-enactment? Didn't the strong executive branch lead the Free World to victory in the Cold War?

No, and no. The key, I feel, to the spiral of global crises - the criminal neglect of the looming environmental crisis, in conjunction with the mafia like attempt to control the oil states in the Middle East -- goes back to a ‘legitimacy’ crisis. We cannot remain half monarchical and half democratic. A house divided against itself, etc. etc. The root of the evil done to us by the supposed missionaries of democracy began in their employment as flaks of fraud, and continues to this day as they defend with tooth and nail every sleazy move made by this regime. See the comic frothings, this week, of Hitchens in Slate. Yet the left-right battle about the Euston Manifesto goes on as if the Iraq invasion did not lay bare every seedy and disgusting pattern that has been going on for the last sixty years or so – with the Cold War creating a rotten pattern that keeps generating disaster.

Which is amply confirmed by the article we mentioned yesterday, by Langewiesche, who shows that: a, the U.S. was pretty thoroughly informed about what A. Q. Khan was doing, and b., that they connived to cover it up, once again converging the official American interest with a military tyrant, and once again distorting the American interest to the eventual hurt of who knows how many populations.

Langewiesche is sanguine about nuclear proliferation. He sees the obvious: the inability of the great powers to do without their missiles eventually makes the limitation of nuclear weapons nearly impossible. I should also add, as a caveat to the quotes I am going to give, that LI has always stood foursquare against the very term, WMD. That is a bogus category, a commercial category. Yes, the weapons companies and governments of the most developed countries will sell you the aircraft to deliver your atom bomb, but no, they are not going to sell you centrifuges, at least officially. As we have pointed out many times, oh so many times even we are bored, WMD are small arms. The biggest killers in the world are automatic rifles. That is it. WMD simply means – Western people can get killed. There is no moral high ground here, just a lot of low dealing.

Okay. On to the grafs. Langewiesche’s article in the Atlantic is actually the second in a series. The villain in the article, although never quite villainous so much as vain, is the father of Pakistan’s H-bomb, A.Q. Khan. LI loved this graf:

“The fame had unbalanced him. He was subjected to a degree of public acclaim rarely seen in the West — an extreme close to idol worship, which made him hungry for more. Money seems never to have been his obsession, but it did play a role. The nuclear laboratory was nourished by a large and secret budget for which no accounting was required and from which Khan freely drew funds as if they were his own. One might expect that Khan's largesse would have triggered an investigation, but in Pakistan it did not. I have repeatedly asked people there if they ever wondered about the origins of Khan's wealth. One man close to the ruling military regime led by the current dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, tried recently to convince me that Khan's wife, Hendrina, came from a rich Dutch family, and that it was her money he was spending. But most people were straighter with me. They made it clear that my question was naive, and typical of an American abroad; they had not wondered about the origins of Khan's wealth because they had taken it as a given that he was skimming, like everyone else. A Pakistani parliamentarian made the point that some of the highest positions in the government today are held by people who are not merely corrupt and opportunistic but are the very icons of Pakistani criminality — people from families with a known history of murder, extortion, vote-rigging, smuggling, and fraud. He had once complained about this to Musharraf, who had advised him to be more realistic: Pakistan, Musharraf had said, is an imperfect society. The parliamentarian shrugged. Even the army is run like a real-estate racket, expropriating land from ordinary citizens and passing it on to officers for their personal gain. It is not by chance that Islamabad is a city of mansions, and that many of them are inhabited by retired generals. What was Khan's skimming compared with all that? And unlike the generals, who tended to lose every fight they provoked, Khan had delivered on his words.”

We’ve been here before, haven’t we? Aren’t we always here? Isn’t the man in charge Duarte? Or Rios Montt? Or Marcos? Or Suharto? Or Carlos Andrés Pérez? Aren’t these the streets of the City of Eternal Night, or Pandemonium, or the L.A. conjured up by Philip Dick? Really, this is a story that seems to have been some erased subplot of Shame. And Langewiesche is actually interested in the personality of Khan, all that cushioned vanity. In fact, it is a worldwide set. These people are perched on our shoulders, like very heavy buzzards.

Langewiesche cleverly decided that he needed a counterpart to Khan. He follows an obscure but persistent reporter for the energy mags, a guy I can sympathize with: Mark Hibbs. Hibbs is the man who put together the pieces of all the nuclear puzzles, finding that every connection led him to Pakistan. And he published his findings in Nucleonics Week and Nuclear Fuel, not exactly mags of record for most people. But apparently his findings kept driving this government apeshit. Especially since the U.S. was playing a game of pretending not to know what was going on. The same game the Americans played in the nineties, pretending not to know who was using who in the setting up of the Taliban and the quid pro quo between Al Qaeda and the ISI.
Which brings us to the post 9/11 era, when everything changed and then changed back, a war was declared against an impalpable object and the palpable object was encouraged to find a hiding place in a mountain somewhere. The era of diversion and bogus threats. This is the graf I really wanted to cull from the piece. By 2001, Khan’s sales to North Korea were finally getting America’s goat. They knew Khan dealt with Saddam H. before the Kuwait invasion. They knew he was selling to Iran. They knew that he couldn’t do what he was doing without the military being in on it body and soul. And the U.S. has been married to that military since the Reagan days – a marriage formed in the heat of anti-communist ardor, when the CIA was all for small, Islamicist groups hitting targets in the Soviet Union with bombs. So this is what happened:

“Khan was therefore dumbfounded, upon returning from a short trip to Dubai in 2000, when Musharraf, having called him in for a conversation, told him that he had been under surveillance by Pakistani agents and that there were concerns about financial improprieties. Financial improprieties? In the world of Khan the word had lost all meaning. There was no question of going to prison, but in 2001, just days short of his sixty-fifth birthday, A. Q. Khan was gently relieved of his command, forced to retire with honors from his cherished laboratory, and "promoted" to the position of scientific adviser to Musharraf. This last was a particularly nice touch. There is evidence that the exchanges with North Korea continued for at least another year. When the Bush administration finally decided to go public with its concerns about the North Koreans' nuclear-weapons program, it delayed leaking the intelligence information until late October of 2002, after Congress had given its approval for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The blundering that fall defies belief: while dragging the United States into a disastrous war in the pursuit of phantom weapons programs in Iraq, the U.S. government condoned the tangible actions of Pakistan — which, as any reader of Hibbs would have known, was delivering nuclear-weapons capabilities into the hands of America's most significant enemies, including regimes with overt connections to Islamist terrorists. Before the attacks on New York and Washington, Musharraf himself had accommodated Osama bin Laden, had supported the Taliban, and had used international jihadis against the Indians in Kashmir and beyond. But times had changed, and by October of 2002 Musharraf was Washington's friend, engaged in trying to suppress the Islamist idea by gunning it down. It was useful that with his move against Khan he had partially protected himself from revelations of Pakistan's trade in nuclear technology. Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke with Musharraf, and afterward, when asked on ABC television about Pakistan's assistance to North Korea, said, "President Musharraf gave me his assurance in that conversation, as he has previously, that Pakistan is not doing anything of that nature … The past is the past. I am more concerned about what is going on now. We have a new relationship with Pakistan."

Which is the same as the old relationship, pusher to addict roleplaying. As LI has pointed out again and again, the Bush regime's mantra that everything changed after 9/11 is not only not true -- all events having a before and an after, a then and a then - but it is a special plea that we ignore the negligence before the attack and the truly puzzling inability to deal with the attackers afterwards.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

i'm with stupid

Sometimes, it does seem like the American unconscious speaks not through our novels or songs, but in our cutesy tshirt phrases. Historians, looking at the Bush epoch, might want to apply the phrase I'm with Stupid. It will explain a lot about the national decline...

Often, LI is blinded by our rationality. For instance, because we believe that it is entirely irrational for the White House, even given that it is presently inhabited by the petulant, death spiraling child , to actually bomb Iran. As for other forms of military intervention, besides the odious and everpresent American use of small secret forces, forget it.

However, we have abundant evidence that Bush will engage in hugely irrational acts, and will be enabled in doing so by the American population. A population that still has not computed the enormity of the fuckup that was Tora Bora, or the meaning of Osama Bin Laden’s continuing happy existence. Requiring a terrorist to maintain a bogus war on terror, the Bushies have kept Osama bin Laden on tap – partly intentionally, partly accidentally. The accidental part is derived from the original conditions of our vanity project in Iraq: here, the war on terror reveals that underneath the feint, it is a war to recolonize the Middle East on the part of an American petro elite that believes it can reverse history and bring back the fifties. This is ironic, since the petro industry actually needs OPEC to keep prices up. But obviously, today’s oil execs are driven by the panic fear of the nineties, when the bottom dropped out of the energy market. The fear that oil prices will once again go down below the 20 dollar a barrel level drives all the petro-carnivores, the cancerous brood that nests around Cheney and has tied a tire around Uncle Sam’s neck and set it on fire. However, their overreach, using American tax dollars and American blood, has backfired big time – the pieces are not going to be picked up in the Gulf Region by some magical combination that leads us to victory. The question is, how is America going to deal with defeat? The war on terrorism is over – to put it in AEI terms: We Lost. All of which means this: dealing with the consequences of that systematic failure has overshadowed apparently peripheral problems, like bin Laden. In those shadows, those problems are building.

All of which leads us to the nuclear crisis we face – in Pakistan. Pakistan possesses both the bomb and a large and powerful constituency for Al Qaeda like politics. And what happened with the bomb and its technology in Pakistan is, shall we say, rather underreported. So we enjoyed the large article by William Langewiesche in the January Atlantic. Oddly enough, it hasn’t gotten a lot of publicity from our cursory survey around the Net – but then, it wouldn’t. The great and real problems facing the world – the environmental crises that are upon us (he says, in Austin, where the temperature today might just climb to 100), the economic crises that are upon us, and the strategic crises that are upon us are all silently exorcized by newspapers that are happy to be Good Leakers, God bless them every one.

Langewiesche’s article is about celebrity as much as it is about the bomb. Abdul Quadeer Khan, the Father of the Pakistan hydrogen bomb, was and is a celebrity of Bollywood proportions. It is his fame and what he did with it that makes the story fascinating on the human level as a sort of Rushdie tale – before Rushdie began repeating himself like some demon possessed clock that had learned it was funny to tell the wrong time.

Tomorrow, we are going to examine the article.

Monday, April 17, 2006

common sense in foreign policy: a manifesto

Inspired by the ravings of the Euston pub crowd, LI has made up a manifesto our own selves. It isn’t a manifesto for the left, whatever the fuck that is. This manifesto is, modestly, a Common sense in Foreign Policy manifesto – named after old Tom Paine’s pamphlet, and taking as our motto his phrase: “a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it the superficial appearance of being right…”

So, here it is, ladies and gents. Pass it around, print it out, and please, don’t handle it with greasy fingers: that is sooo gross.

1. Democracy. A democracy cannot be divided into a monarchy with regard to foreign policy and a democracy with regard to domestic policy. It must be one thing all the way through. Thus, foreign policy that is contrived in a tricky, low, or fraudulent matter by the executive, and pulled off like a trick on the body politic, is immoral to begin with, and will not result in any good thing. Instead, foreign policy options, especially when they involves extreme violations of the sovereignty of another nation, must be presented straightforwardly. There must be no skewing of or hiding of intelligence. There must be no unjustified threatmongering. A democratic foreign policy cannot be run like a crooked casino. There is no excuse in running it in this way to a good end, any more than there would be in cheating at cards to donate the winnings to an orphanage.
2. Transparency of options. If an “intervention” is contemplated by any democratic power, we must have good faith projections as to the cost of it, the human resources required, the need for it, and the timeline by which we can judge whether it is a success or not.
3. Transparency of human means. No intervention can be considered moral that seeks to foist fraudulent proxies for the intervening power on the conquered state. Any alliance of multinational democracies that seek to enforce norms of human rights or governance upon another state by violence cannot, rightfully, double that violence by elevating pawns whose loyalty is to the intervening state(s) to positions of power.
4. Transparency of interests. All states have interests. Not all interests are the same. States may have widely varying economic, political, and ideological interests. A coalition of states that intervenes in the affairs of another state must take care not to merely bend the subjugated state to the interests of the occupiers.
5. Occupational forces – checks and balances. Multinational coalitions call for multinational governance. Unchecked executive power cannot reside in the most powerful state in the alliance.
6. Occupational means. No occupying force is justified in making sweeping changes to the occupied state’s infrastructure that are not a direct result of the state’s previous inhumane behavior. A state, for instance, that has an interest in free trade cannot use the opportunity of occupying another state to enforce economic codes to its liking. Nor can it denude a state of its entire defense structure, or destroy its social welfare system.
7. Transparency of occupational means. Occupying powers cannot seize the funds of the occupied state to do with what they will. Elementary rules of transparency must apply.
8. Timeliness. Occupation should occur with a clear timeline and conditions for exit from the very beginning. Sincere efforts to enroll the occupied in self-government should be enacted from the very beginning. No occupied state should become the scene of mere opportunism by the occupied powers military forces in terms of siting military headquarters, using the territory of the occupied state to attack other, neighboring states, and so on. All of this is, again, to bend the occupied state exclusively to the partial interests of the occupier, which violates the spirit and letter of humanistic intervention.

There you go. Much shorter, for one thing, than the gasbagging of the Euston pubcrawlers.

To top it off, a little grandiose language. If these conditions are not met, we, the undersigned,. will try with might and main to sabotage those efforts that are undemocratic or fraudulent by peaceful means, such as working to deny the military the manpower it needs to continue, working to cut off funding for the occupation, and propagandizing against it to the best of our abilities.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

the yevtushenko gambit

LI was moved to comment on the current mini-affair revolving around the Euston Manifesto. It was published in the New Statesman (apparently, Nick Cohen has a Svengali like power at that magazine, making it publish any trash he dreams up) and was assassinated in the Guardian. This is the comment I put over there. And it being a day of work for yours truly, this is also today’s post.

Although the Euston manifesto will remain in the memory of mankind for about a nano-second, still, its existence poses an interesting question: why would any anti-war “leftist” in his or her right mind sign the thing?

If the supposed anti-war person is at all sincere, it is hard to see what they gain from this document, which is written as though the disaster of the Iraq war never happened, save for some boilerplate references to Abu Ghraib. Nowhere is there a consciousness of the rules and forms of “intervention.” Nowhere, for instance, do the signatories caution the rulers of the great powers who will, presumably, “protect” the peoples of inhumane states from campaigns designed to mislead their populace. Nowhere do they support punishment for those who lead such campaigns. Nowhere do they even touch upon the rules for the ‘protective occupations’ enacted by these powers. For instance, should the economic rules in occupied territories be changed to advantage the occupying states? Should there be transparency in the seizure of the funds of such states, and their use? Shouldn’t occupying powers be condemned for using excessive force, and in particular, from making examples of cities and towns? Shouldn’t there be a blanket condemnation for occupying powers encouraging militias, and cherrypicking the leadership of the occupied state? Shouldn’t such occupied states be unoccupied as quickly as possible? Shouldn’t all coalitions, to be legitimate, clearly devolve political power to all members of the coalition, making them multinational in reality, instead of concentrating power in the hands of the Americans, and using other nations simply as advisors, to be ignored at the pleasure of the Americans?

To sum this up: shouldn’t the anti-war signatories have demanded a more rigorous laying out of the rules that legitimate intervention as a whole process, rather than vaguely referring to the initial conditions that might justify making this or that country a target of such occupations?

Of course they should. But, as such anti-war intellectuals know, the manifesto only real function is in the game of one upsmanship, in which one can keep one’s credentials writing in the mainstream press as a mock dissident, a purveyor of ineffectual and timid protest against the scandalous use of power by the powerful all the better to serve as an attack dog against real dissidence that threatens the powerful. If intellectual gamesmanship were a board game, I’d call this the Yevtushenko gambit, named for the Soviet poet whose dissent from the Brezhnev regime gained him credit outside the country, all the better to undermine real dissidence inside the country.

the old man's scat

Isn’t this headline a thing of beauty?

For Leading Exxon to Its Riches, $144,573 a Day

The accompanying story tells us about Lee R. Raymond, paid “$686 million from 1993 to 2005, according to an analysis done for The New York Times by Brian Foley, an independent compensation consultant. That is $144,573 for each day he spent leading Exxon's "God pod," as the executive suite at the company's headquarters in Irving, Tex., is known.”

For the better understanding of this great man’s tres riches heures, remember that each day includes lunch and, surely, a pee and a dump. Now, given that Raymond is in his sixties, I imagine that a dump takes about ten minutes. Of course, he could have had some young Brazilian man’s rectum transplanted into his (no doubt, you can check Exxon’s quarterly reports to see – such an operation would surely be a courtesy given by the company, for services rendered, rather than being paid for straight out of his own compensation package – but until better information, I will put it at ten minutes). I’m including wiping and washing the hands – something his fourth wife has surely taught him by now.

So, a full Raymond dump is worth more money than I made last year. Or is it about the same? In any case, your average Cameroonian or Egyptian or Sri Lankan doesn’t make near a Raymond dump. I would put them at half a Raymond pee.

This is LI’s modest proposal. Imagine if Franklin, Washington and Lincoln came back to life. Imagine them wandering in to some fundraising dinner for the G.O.P or the Squirrel party and plopping themselves down in the seating reserved for "Raymond and party". Do you think that the guards would not be upon them in a second? Do you think those old malcontents would be allowed to stay for a minute, after such a vile act of lese majeste? No, I’m sure you will agree, the offense would be too egregious. They would be fortunate indeed if the secret service, or people claiming to be the secret service, didn't descend upon them and extradite them to a special American prison.

So why, pray tell, do we let that band of gypsies camp on the currency? Why, especially, when we could order the finest engravers of the greatest Republic the world has ever seen to render, in full, rich detail one of the great Raymond dumps, substituting for a history we don't remember a sign and symbol we all revere, a veritable american eucharist? I hasten to add, not a scape of the whole mass and accumulation of excretia. Currency is meant to be exchanged, and we don’t need bills that high. I was thinking, however, that to honor the magic of the marketplace, of which the U.S. is a veritable monument and museum, that one finely etched turd, one rich, ravishing portion of the great man’s scat, could, perhaps, take the place of paltry Grant. For smaller denominations, I would suggest we send some of the great chefs with their finest cutlery to slice into appropriate portions that product of great man's dyspepsia. A portion of the turd on the one, the five, the twenty-five and the fifty would remind us by its majestic look in whose country we have temporary residence.

The real thing, however – that standard Raymond turd – should, of course, be whisked to the Smithsonian. Preserved at 20 degrees Fahrenheit, the turd should then be encrusted with 14 carat gold so that it can be displayed to the adoring populace. I imagine it would dwarf the King Tut exhibits, as proud parents could point it out to their children and urge them to remember the historic moment.

I am hoping that this post is not in vain, and that all of us beg and plead with our congressmen to get rid of that archaic pantheon that botches up our currency. I also call upon the fair Republic’s finest artists to turn their eyes upon the sublime object, doing justice to its length, its multitudinous segmentation but also – a symbol of the power of these States – its unity.

The ownership society. Coming to a planet near you.


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