Saturday, August 11, 2007

feeding a meme

LI is amazed that this freakonomics blog post hasn’t set the blogspore on fire:
“The Science of Insulting Women”

Melissa Lafsky has actually had to the stomach to watch a VH1 show called the Pick Up Artist, which apparently was taken from a book the secrets of picking up women. It is quite the mystery, but there are guys out there willing to unlock it, and aren’t we all blessed by their pointy headed presence. Anyway, one pick up artist on the show advocates something called “negging” – please, strangle this word in its cradle – which is “a move that involves interjecting an insult during an initial conversation with a woman.”

Lafsky relates this to a recent study of men insulting women by psychologists Steve Stewart-Williams and William F. McKibbin, published in the July Journal of Personality and Individual Differences.

“Their first set of data consisted of a survey of 245 men with a mean age of 25.8, all of whom had been in heterosexual relationships for a mean length of 43.1 months. Each man was asked to record how often he insulted his female partner in the course of a month, choosing from a list of 47 insults divided into four categories: “derogating physical attractiveness” (e.g. “You’re ugly”); “derogating value as partner/mental capacity” (e.g. “You make my life miserable” or “You’re stupid”); “derogating value as a person” (e.g. “You’re useless”); and “accusations of sexual infidelity.”

These men were also asked to record how often they performed any of 104 acts labeled “mate retention behaviors” during that same month, including “direct guarding” (e.g., secretly following a partner when she goes out alone) and “public signals of possession.”

A second set of data came from 372 women who were asked to detail the number and type of insults they received from their partners, as well as the males’ mate-retention behavior rates.

The results showed that men who piled on the insults (particularly those in the “derogating value as partner/mental capacity” group) were far more likely to engage in mate retention behaviors, suggesting that “men’s partner-directed insults may be deployed as part of a broader strategy of mate retention.”

Myself, I think this points to the curious psychopathological eruptions that seem to take place so often in the comments sections of those blogs that are written by women. Insult/retention – going on since Adam blamed Eve for making that fucking fruit salad, and then said, "never leave me baby. If you leave me, I’ll kill myself. You fucking bitch."

A verset contained, of course, only in the secret Gnostic version of that story.

the feeling tone of the interzone

LI has seen, from the comments so far about our emotions project, that a certain part of that project is obscure. It isn’t the purpose of our project to promote negative feelings. It is, rather, to promote the idea that the positive/negative classification of feelings is wrongheaded. This part of the story we are telling is pretty simple, actually. Classification in science is not simply a random ordering. Given a well formed classification system, finding the location for a species or a thing in the classification system should tell you something about it. What the principle is can be disputed, of course. And folk classifications do make some sense. It is, for instance, true that the majority of complex organisms swimming in the ocean are fish – or may have been at one time, before nurdles, overfishing and fertilizers. But it is a misnomer to think that whales and dolphins are therefore fish. To decide that happiness and mildness are positive and sadness and anger are negative is a similar scientific misnomer, or so we claim. When classifying animals as fish or mammals, the body type’s adaptation to a typical environment has to be definitely and necessarily considered, but you are going to still find flightless birds, lungfish and whales to account for. You’ll need another classifying principle besides locomotion (flying, swimming and walking) to get you there.

Now, LI has been scouting around to find allies in the psych business. We were happy to come across this article by Ralf and Maureen Erber – “The Self-Regulation of Moods: Second Thoughts on the Importance of Happiness in Everyday Life” (Psychological Inquiry, 2000) which reports on some psych experiments the Erbers designed to test ‘mood repair’. The upshot of the experiments was not that people reverted to a happiness norm, after having been ‘induced’ to be sad from watching, say, a sad movie clip, but that they sometimes remained sad, and often times reverted to indifference. The Erbers start out by saying, pretty firmly, that the hedonistic presupposition in psychology is all too unquestioned:

“Back in the 18th century, Newton thought of light as consisting of material corpuscles. This idea became the accepted assumption about the nature of light in the science of physical optics. Consequently, scores of scholars directed their research efforts toward finding evidence of pressure exerted by light particles on solid bodies. Of course, once light was conceived of as a transverse wave motion, as became common in the 19th century, the search for physical deformations as a result of exposure to light began to appear somewhat comical.

Psychology is no different from physical optics in that it makes some basic assumptions about its subject matter (human nature) that have influenced and continue to influence our theorizing and research agendas. The assumption we have in mind is the widely accepted idea that humans, by and large, seek pleasure and avoid pain. It has its origins in the writings of Jeremy Bentham (1789), who, by conceiving of pleasure and pain as our "sovereign masters" essentially proposed a hedonistic theory of human motivation.

Bentham's principle of utility has in one form or another permeated much of the theorizing in psychology. Freud, at least in his early work, subscribed to positive hedonism of the future (Troland, 1928) by conceiving of all human instincts at being directed toward seeking pleasure. Similarly, drive reduction theories (e.g., Dollard & Miller, 1950) proposed that ridding oneself of aversive arousal was crucial for understanding human behavior and thus embrace negative hedonism of the future. Thorndike's (1898) "law of effect" that became the bedrock of reinforcement theory contains the dictum that "pleasure stamps in; pain stamps out," and thus includes elements of negative and positive hedonism of the past.

In all fairness to psychology it needs to be said that the assumption of humans as hedonistically driven creatures has not been without its critics. Titchener (1908) proposed that pleasure seeking and pain avoidance may be but two of many forces that drive human behavior. McDougall (1923) went so far as to suggest that pleasure and pain may serve no motivational purpose at all, but instead serve as mere signposts indicating that instincts have successfully or unsuccessfully run their course. Finally, Allport (1954) held that whereas hedonism may explain the behavior typical of childhood and adolescence (and perhaps among those who fail to grow up), it fails to explain the many instances of adult behavior that originate from a sense of duty, loyalty, and commitment in a satisfactory way.

Given the time that has elapsed since these arguments were advanced, one might expect hedonistically tinged theorizing to be a thing of the distant past, especially in a discipline as enlightened as social psychology. However, an inspection of theories looking at such diverse issues as attitude change, attribution, altruism, impression formation, and the mental control of affect reveals that this is far from being the case.”

We have remarked only parenthetically about Bentham. However, since we our view of the shift in emotional customs tallies with Polanyi’s notion of the Great Transformation, we should probably give the utilitarians a lot more attention. Note to self.

The article discusses a couple of ‘mood repair’ experiment. The idea of ‘repairing’ a mood, of course, is rooted in the whole positive negative logic. But beyond that, it is rooted in the idea, about which I have been arguing with my friend Alan on his site, that behavior can be explained by a template of happiness-seeking. Thus, say, if you are induced to be sad, your natural response is to find that course of action or that stream of thought that will make you happy, even if the happy object is the tenuous one of the memory of a happy time. In relation to sadness, LI made the case that sadness seeking is characteristically isolation seeking – one seeks to avoid human contact. The Erber experiment went like this:

“To test the general idea of mood attenuation prior to social interaction with a stranger, we (Erber, Wegner, & Therriault, 1996) conducted a set of studies in which we made participants either happy or sad through exposure to cheerful or depressing music. Subsequently, half the participants were led to believe that, following the main experiment, they would work on an unrelated task either by themselves or with a stranger in a room across the hall. All participants were then asked to indicate their preference for reading a set of newspaper stories, identified by their headlines as humorous and uplifting, sad and depressing, or affectively neutral. Consistent with our expectations, participants who expected to complete the second part of the experiment by themselves preferred stories with headlines suggesting mood-congruent content: Sad participants indicated a preference for depressing stories whereas happy participants preferred cheerful stories. Also as expected, participants who expected to complete the second part of the experiment with a stranger preferred mood-incongruent stories. Specifically, sad participants preferred cheerful stories and (contrary to predictions made from hedonistic approaches) happy participants preferred depressing stories. According to our social constraints model, participants made these choices presumably as a means to attenuate their previously induced mood prior to meeting the stranger.

These result suggest that mood, by itself, does not serve as a primary motivational force in terms of the maintenance and attenuation of moods. Rather than using everything in their power to (a) maintain their happy mood and (b) repair their sad mood at all costs, our participants adopted strategies designed to maintain happy and sad moods in the absence of social constraints (i.e., when there was no anticipated interaction with a stranger). However, in the presence of a social constraint, happy and sad participants relied on strategies that enabled them to extricate themselves from the mood we had previously induced.”

LI has a post coming up regarding these kinds of experiments, and Kurt Danzinger’s history of them.

The Erbers have not seceded entirely from the world of Wundt’s graph. If you will recall, the negative emotions are so called from being beneath a certain baseline of indifference. For a long time, that baseline was considered an abstract and impossible feeling tone. But the Erbers are contending that it exists as the mean to which all moods tend. They call it the cooling effect. Since the question they are posing has to do not just with moods but with emotional cuing for social situations, their hypothesis is that the ‘neutral’ mood is the best strategy to meet unpredictable social interactions. “Unburdened, free from preoccupation with our feelings and its resulting distractions, a neutral mood allows us to be sensitive to multiple mood affordances suggested by the complexities of the social settings.”

Finally, the Erbers consider an objection that is bound to pop up in these kinds of issues. If, as the ideology of triumphant happiness maintains, we are all striving to be happy, then what the Erbers are describing are simply short term detours to the long term end.

“We would like to think that the social constraints model along with its supporting research indicates that hedonistic theories of mood regulation provide insufficient accounts for how people manage their moods. Quite contrary to hedonistic predictions, we found, among other things, that sad people appear to make no attempt at attenuating their mood in the absence of social constraints. Furthermore, happy people are willing to forego their good mood when appropriate social constraints are present. At the very least, this seems to suggest that pleasure seeking and pain avoidance may not be the primary forces at work in the self-regulation of moods.
However, one could argue that our observations are not so much an indication of strategic mood regulation but instead reflect a kind of hedonism of the future. Happy people anticipating to interact with a stranger may engage in some sort of hedonic calculus in which they weigh the benefits of maintaining their good mood against the possible costs, such as the possibility of embarrassment or the fear of an unfavorable evaluation. Thus, any attempt at bringing a present good mood under control may ultimately be in the service of avoiding feeling bad in the future. It is difficult to dismiss this argument outright. Nonetheless, we believe that there are several things that are wrong with it. First, it is based on a logic that suggests that all forms of human behavior, including those that appear to be self-defeating or self-destructive, are ultimately motivated by some form of hedonism. But as we all know, a theory that explains both the occurrence of A and non-A in the end explains nothing at all.

Second, hedonism of the future seems ill suited as an explanation for why sad people would maintain their sadness in the absence of social constraints. Assuming that they do that because they expect some benefit like improved insight or increased self-awareness (e.g. Wood, Saltzberg, & Goldsamt, 1990) would create logical issues similar to the ones inherent in trying to explain why happy people would relinquish their good mood.”

I am not entirely satisfied with the first objection. It commits the positivistic fault of confusing logic and structure - it might be that a true theory may so explain a given sphere that the occurence of both x and non-x validate the theory in that sphere. However, there has to be an argument why this is so. I don't think the hedonic view has a good argument about that.

Sorry for the huge quotes in this post. Because I am accumulating these things against some future essay, I’m being a little callous about the blogging genre. One of the things I discovered long ago was that long quotes in posts are tedious. I am, mostly, aware of my duty: which is to paraphrase. But in this case, I need the quotes.

Friday, August 10, 2007

the jitters

In his book, Capitalism, Social Privilege and Managerial Ideologies, Ernesto Gantman cites a story told by the pioneering organizational psychologist, Elton Mayo, who is associated with the famous Hawthorne experiments in which workers were encouraged to form self organizing units in a Western Electric factory – the seed of the teamwork idea that has crept like kudzu over the work environment. Mayo was very concerned with anomie, and puzzled over the very existence of such repulsive things as Leftists and unions. In one of his books, he tells about an experience he had with some union members who opposed the adult educational initiative of the Workers Educational Association in Australia:

“The greater opposition always came from a particular group of individuals, affiliated to a Leftist party, and Mayo affirmed that he came to know them well enough to be able to outline their psychological profile. According to him, they lacked friends, except at the party level; they seemed unable to easily relate to other people; they lacked coversation skills; ‘all action, like social relationship, was for them emergency action’; and finally, ‘they regarded the world as a hostile place’ … - in sum, a profile that matched Janet’s neurotic individuals. When one of these of [sic] union members received a psychological clinical teatment, ‘he made a good recovery and discovered, to his astonishment, that his former political views had vanished.’ … For Mayo, this example offered a clear lesson that social adjustment was obtained at the expense of the abandonment of antisystem political ideas.” (53)

Gantman’s prose is painful. Sorry about that. But the story is wonderful. One of the great diffusers of psychological science in the twentieth century was the corporation. One of the great diffusers of psychological jargon in the twentieth century was the business consultant class. But, oddly, this fact seems never to have been given the play it should have been given. While much attention has been devoted to the morganatic marriage between Marxism and psychoanalysis – a problematic marriage, since neither partner was willing to play the role of the bride – the much smoother course of love between capital and the bending of the mind, as categorized and organized by the experts, is demonstrated in one horrible management school tract after another.

But there is one thing we are all aiming at – that is, to see our former political views, that nest of vipers, vanish. Actually, it is true that there is a small group of people for whom all action is emergency action. They are celebrated in films like Terminator II, but only in their rightwing militia phase. Yet LI has, perhaps, more in common with those rightwing militia types than the sunny buyer of products guaranteed, on the package, not to have been used in experiments on animals. The world puts us on edge.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Memo from the minister

Hey, I haven't begged for contributions to LI in a while. I sorta forgot. Here's a begging post - if you have some spare bread and you feel particularly charitable, check the paypal thing you'll find on this page. August is the cruelest month for yours truly - apathy spreads among the academics, nobody wants editing, and the reviewing work dwindles down. So now, if ever, is a good time to fork over the ready.

emotional custom

In Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation, one of the key early chapter is entitled Habitation and Improvement. The chapter title is taken from a letter about the enclosures of common land in England. Polanyi takes this as an archetype of economic transformation: the enclosing of the commons by the Lords and, later, by the bourgeoisie in the Tudor period meant destroying old forms and destroying, literally, old houses, the huts of the tenantry. Polanyi grants that, in the end, the wool industry did develop England. Looked at purely in terms of economic growth, this was a triumph. But, as Polanyi points out, looked at from the viewpoint of the uprooted peasants, it was a disaster. However, the state, or the Crown, mitigated that disaster by slowing the process.

But the state could not play a similar role in the Industrial revolution. It could only play an opposite role, tearing down old laws to allow laissez faire free reign. Why? Polanyi claims that the machinery needed to produce commodities in the Industrial Revolution brought with it necessities that were socially transforming:

“But how shall this Revolution itself be defined? What was its basic characteristic? Was it the rise of the factory towns, the emergence of slums, the long working hours of children, the low wages of certain categories of workers, the rise in the rate of population increase, or the concentration of industries? We submit that all these were merely incidental to one basic change, the establishment of market economy, and that the nature of this institution cannot be fully grasped unless the impact of the machine on a commercial society is realized. We do not intend to assert that the machine caused that which happened, but we insist that once elaborate machines and plant were used for production in a commercial society, the idea of a self-regulating market was bound to take shape.

The use of specialized machines in an agrarian and commercial society must produce typical effects. Such a society consists of agriculturalists and of merchants who buy and sell the produce of the land. Production with the help of specialized, elaborate, expensive tools and plants can be fitted into such a society only by making it incidental to buying and selling. The merchant is the only person available for the undertaking of this, and he is fitted to do so as long as this activity will not involve him in a loss. He will sell the goods in the same manner in which he would otherwise sell goods to those who demand them; but he will procure them in a different way, namely, not by buying them ready-made, but by purchasing the necessary labor and raw material. The two put together according to the merchant's instructions, plus some waiting which he might have to undertake, amount to the new product. This is not a description of domestic industry or "putting out" only, but of any kind of industrial capitalism, including that of our own time. Important consequences for the social system follow.

Since elaborate machines are expensive, they do not pay unless large amounts of goods are produced. 6 They can be worked without a loss only if the vent of the goods is reasonably assured and if production need not be interrupted for want of the primary goods necessary to feed the machines. For the merchant this means that all factors involved mast be on sale, that is, they must be available in the needed quantities to anybody who is prepared to pay for them. Unless this condition is fulfilled, production with the help of specialized machines is too risky to be undertaken both from the point of view of the merchant who stakes his money and of the community as a whole which comes to depend upon continuous production for incomes, employment, and provisions.

Now, in an agricultural society such conditions would not naturally be given; they would have to be created.”

The creation of those conditions was the creation of a new way of looking at life – through the money economy:

“But the most startling peculiarity of the system lies in the fact that, once it is established, it must be allowed to function without outside interference. Profits are not any more guaranteed, and the merchant must make his profits on the market. Prices must be allowed to regulate themselves. Such a self-regulating system of markets is what we mean by a market economy. The transformation to this system from the earlier economy is so complete that it resembles more the metamorphosis of the caterpillar than any alteration that can be expressed in terms of continuous growth and development. Contrast, for example, the merchant-producer's selling activities with his buying activities; his sales concern only artifacts; whether he succeeds or not in finding purchasers, the fabric of society need not be affected. But what he buys is raw materials and labor - nature and man. Machine production in a commercial society involves, in effect, no less a transformation than that of the natural and human substance of society into commodities. The conclusion, though weird, is inevitable; nothing less will serve the purpose: obviously, the dislocation caused by such devices must disjoint man's relationships and threaten his natural habitat with annihilation.”

What is obvious to Polanyi may not be obvious to us all. But the book is devoted to making us see the process of that dislocation and its consequences. Among other things, Polanyi has a much less romantic view of the relation between state and private enterprise than Hayek. For Polanyi, laissez faire is the result of state planning.

But that gets us off on another topic.

LI has been thinking of Polanyi as we’ve been contemplating our emotions essay. It is essential to this essay to get across the fact that the shift in the way the emotions were ordered had to do with Polanyi’s Great Transformation. What we are seeing is a dislocation in emotional habitation, or – as I’m going to call it – emotional custom. Following the rise of a certain way of talking about emotions – the rise of valence, in psychology, and the diffusion of a classificatory system related to it, and yet not synonymous with it, in everyday life, is simply following a thread in the shift of emotional custom.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Notes on the worldfuck

And now for ... some of the larger features of my ongoing essay.

LI took the paragraphs below from a post we did in March. It is one of my good posts – we mean it, man. (and there’s no future … in England’s… dreaming). There is a pleasing and systematic dovetailing of notions , here, as those who read LI with the religious fervor of the early martyrs of the Church will surely notice: to describe the development of that total social phenomenon, the triumph of happiness as a norm, is to trace one songline in a map that shows how the total system – the industrial system, the epiphenomenal ideologies, and the war culture – came together in one gigantic worldfuck. Let others worry about world lines and world view – us sentries on the borderline between the present and the Last Things are permanently worried about the worldfuck.

So here is what I wrote in March:

Left and right did not define the twentieth century. The century was defined, in our view, by two things: first, the treadmill of production – that system which is falsely defined as capitalist because one of its surface characteristics is the market system – which emerged in Europe in the 17th and 18th century, followed out its logic in all systems (communist, fascist, liberal capitalist) on a world wide basis, having laid the foundations in the 19th century (the development, for instance, of the terror famine in Ireland and India by the British was surely the model for Stalin's agricultural policy) and collapsed the agriculture-based culture that humans had lived under for the past 12,000 years. That was surely the most significant thing that happened in the 20th century, and no ideology led it, no ideology opposed it, and no ideology even envisioned it. The anxiety naturally attendant on the end of civilization created a macro feature, which I’d call the dialectic of vulnerability – basically, that process by which populations, feeling ever more vulnerable even as they became ever more affluent developed systems meant to render them invulnerable – that is, an ever more threatening war culture, with an ever greater destructive reach – which, of course, rendered them ever more vulnerable, an irony that was not rhetorical, but systematic. 9/11 was, in part, a moment in which the nakedness of the system was revealed – a system that could, theoretically, respond to ICBMs traveling over the poles, couldn’t respond to 19 half educated men with box cutters and homemade bombs. And… of course it couldn’t. Defense is a collective fiction, which is its function – being a fiction, there is never a limit on the amount of money one can spend on it. It is, theoretically, inifinitely expensive, while its payoff, as a defense system against all threats, is nearly zero – it will never defend against all threats. That’s ever, with a big fucking E.”

Maybe in my next post I will get to the proto-industrialization of the European countryside. Wouldn’t that be a treat!

LCC is back

Le Colonel Chabert is back from the dead - a in-joke for Balzacians that she will, I think, enjoy. I'm glad to see her back, although she was immediately summoned to battle on her first post, with the usual vaudevillian thread. I'm hoping she will continue to do some of her slooowly sloowly posts, as well as the usual flash of the dagger things. I am really hoping one day she does a post about Victoria de los Angeles, because I just interviewed a man who was de los Angeles' great friend, who wrote a portrait of her for the New Yorker - and I, a true putz when it comes to opera, god damn it, had never heard of her before. My knowledge goes about as far as Kiri ti Kanawa and then stops. Disgraceful, I know. Not that I let on! The man I interviewed - James McCourt - has written a cult opera novel that was re-issued by the NYRB press, Mawrdew Czgowchwz, with a preface by Wayne Koestelbaum. Now Voyagers, coming out in October, is the Ulysses of camp Manhattan.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

eine kleine pedantry

A little note to myself about the emotions. Remember, o readers of mine, that I would like comments, if you have any, about the 'negative' and 'positive' emotions.

In the early modern period, there were three points of view that determined the discourse of the passions. Firstly, there was the medical view, based on a system of four internal humors. Second, there was the characterological view, which projected a gallery of different human types: the miser, the jealous man, the hypocrite, the clown, etc. A disposition and a role, from this point of view, were tightly bound. And thirdly, there was the religious view, which impressed upon the emotions a certain moral order. As the social foundations for this three fold view changed - as a new system of production and a state assisted free market arose - the discursive modes changed: for instance, the Galenic physicist gave way to the physiologist, just as – as a creator of character types – astrology gave way to physiognomy and various proto-anthropologies, and the church gave way – to an extent - to a whole, competing set of institutions – businesses, the state, political movements, etc. – but the threefold structure remained.

Monday, August 06, 2007

the fall of the zipless war - a heartfelt lament

In Revelations, the Lord says to the Laodecian church: "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth.” After reading Michael Ignatieff’s apologia for his pro-war beliefs in the NYT Magazine this Sunday, LI'd recommend that the demiurge try projectile vomiting with the liberal hawks.

The essay is full of the kind of witless, quoteladen prose by which Ignatieff rose under the wing of his mentor, Isaiah Berlin, from one edition of Bartlett’s quotations to the other. Now, Berlin’s moderation in all things often led to essays that said all things, or quoted all the people who said all things, before drifting to a crashingly inane point – but there was a glint and edge in his best essays, for instance about the Romantic tradition in Russia. Ignatieff is a different story. His learning is mostly balderdash, and his reputation has been garnered in that easiest of places to gain a reputation, the international human rights whinefest.

He was just the type to pump the war before the invasion. I have a vague memory of another NYT Mag piece. He, George Packer, Peter Beinart – the pro-war liberals do sort of melt into each other like the tigers little Black Sambo let race around the palm tree, gradually turning themselves into butter.

After making a cliched and pointless contrast between theoretical academics and practical politicians, Ignatieff gets down to the business of the day: blaming somebody else. Ah, but in his fingerpointing, he does want us to realize what a tenderhearted little peebrain he is. Turns out he was moved to the depth of his dancing shoes by the cries and whispers of the Iraqi exile group. Another one! We’ve already heard this record from Beinart, but Ignatieff adds his own evil drop, from his dessicated, self-centered murdering motherfuckin’ heart:

The people who truly showed good judgment on Iraq predicted the consequences that actually ensued but also rightly evaluated the motives that led to the action. They did not necessarily possess more knowledge than the rest of us. They labored, as everyone did, with the same faulty intelligence and lack of knowledge of Iraq’s fissured sectarian history. What they didn’t do was take wishes for reality. They didn’t suppose, as President Bush did, that because they believed in the integrity of their own motives everyone else in the region would believe in it, too. They didn’t suppose that a free state could arise on the foundations of 35 years of police terror. They didn’t suppose that America had the power to shape political outcomes in a faraway country of which most Americans knew little. They didn’t believe that because America defended human rights and freedom in Bosnia and Kosovo it had to be doing so in Iraq. They avoided all these mistakes.

I made some of these mistakes and then a few of my own. The lesson I draw for the future is to be less influenced by the passions of people I admire — Iraqi exiles, for example — and to be less swayed by my emotions. I went to northern Iraq in 1992. I saw what Saddam Hussein did to the Kurds. From that moment forward, I believed he had to go. My convictions had all the authority of personal experience, but for that very reason, I let emotion carry me past the hard questions, like: Can Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites hold together in peace what Saddam Hussein held together by terror? I should have known that emotions in politics, as in life, tend to be self-justifying and in matters of ultimate political judgment, nothing, not even your own feelings, should be held immune from the burden of justification through cross-examination and argument.”

Of course, a little present day context might be called for here before I comment on this fucked up, shitty, self-serving piece of garbage. Here’s a story (it is also on the AP) in the Guardian, getting of course no play whatsoever in the American press, about the electricity and water situation in Iraq at the moment:

Aziz al-Shimari, an electricity ministry spokesman, said at the weekend that power generation nationally was only meeting half the demand, and there had been four nationwide blackouts over the past two days. The shortages across the country were the worst since the summer of 2003, shortly after the US-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, he added.

Power supplies in Baghdad have been sporadic all summer and now are down to just a few hours a day at most. The water supply in the capital has also been severely curtailed by power blackouts and cuts that have affected pumping and filtration stations.

Kerbala province, south of Baghdad, has been without power for three days, causing water mains to go dry in the Shia holy city of Kerbala, the provincial capital.
Hazim Obeid, who sells clothing at a Kerbala market stall, said: "We no longer need television documentaries about the stone age. We are actually living in it. We are in constant danger because of the filthy water and rotten food we are having."

And here’s a story about about Iraq’s refugees, from – of all sources – the Houston Chronicle:

It is the silent face of war. The crest of refugees that was predicted before the Iraq invasion began in 2003 did not really develop until last year, after a sharp surge in sectarian fighting that followed the February 2006 bombing of the Askariya shrine, a revered Shia mosque in Samarra, Iraq.

That attack dimmed hopes for Sunni-Shia reconciliation and spawned a wave of vengeful attacks. A second attack on the remains of the mosque in June destroyed its two minarets, setting off fresh reprisals.

Fleeing to Syria

This type of killing is new in Iraq. Saddam was a Sunni Muslim who made sure that Sunnis held power despite their minority status. When challenged, he used brutal methods, including mass murder, to suppress Shias, Christians and Kurds, but there was little of the vicious, street-by-street fighting seen between the groups today.
The result has been a mass departure of those with the means to flee. So many Iraqis have crossed into Syria that the U.N. processing center at times seems like a small city, with its own taxi stand and vendors selling sweet mint tea and freshly baked bread.

" We are getting people from all levels of society, including people who were wealthy and those who had nothing but the clothes on their backs,"said Korvis, whose staff interviews Iraqis when they arrive.
Syria has been denounced by President Bush and other world leaders for sponsoring terrorism, meddling in Lebanon and crushing dissent, but U.N. officials generally praise President Bashar Assad's government for helping the refugees.

"The Iraqi children have access to the Syrian public schools, and that's an amazingly positive step," said UNHCR spokesman Sybella Wilkes. U.N. officials also are grateful that the Syrian government has kept the border with Iraq open to refugees despite the huge number of people coming in.”

This is just so we keep in mind what the suggestions of motherfuckers like Ignatieff have led to.

Now, let’s go back to the ‘practical’ question. I’ve done this so often it is like playing scales, but since LI’s viewpoint still seems to be a minority, we will bore our readers once again with the obvious.

In the months leading to the invasion of Iraq, two things became obvious. One was that the U.S. really wanted to exercise unilateral power over Iraq in the occupation. The other was that the Bush administration was seriously, by a magnitude of 10, underestimating the cost and human resources needed to occupy Iraq. Shinseki pulled the rug out under any pro-war position by simply calculating the standard figures for the occupation of a country the size of California, with the population of 27 million. These aren’t really mysteries. He came up with 400,000 troops to make the occupation even possible. This wasn’t a prediction that the troops would successfully squelch any insurgency – rather, it was the minimum needed to secure the country. To secure a country means not only diminishing or annihilating violence, it means securing the infrastructure – that is, making sure that the country doesn’t starve, that the power flows, that the sewage system works, etc. Now, given that base figure, one can come up with costs. In the run up, Glenn Hubbard came up with a 200 billion dollar figure. However, that was a figure gotten from using a Rumsfeldian troop base, about one fourth Shinseki’s figure. So multiply Hubbard’s figure by four and you get a pretty good cost estimate – 800 billion dollars.

Okay. Now, why is it that those people who were pro-war never approached these figures with a ten foot pole?

Well, children, there is an easy answer. These motherfuckers wanted a zipless war. And they want further zipless wars, as per the advisors of Hilary and Obama, busy writing up tough scenarios in which more U.S. soldiers would be involved in more witless conflicts.

In a zipless war, the population of the most heavily armed and likely liberal aggressor – the U.S. – is called upon to invade numerous countries and occupy numerous territories – all of course in the name of human rights. The problem is this: this kind of thing could actually be noticed by the population of the U.S. The population might question the rightness of continuing such an over the top, immoral policy leading to mass murder, starvation, and endless misery for generations. In particular, they don’t like casualties and they don’t like paying a lot of money. The latter is the main drag on liberal hawk aggressiveness, in fact.

So, what to do? Why, what you do is you devise a war that doesn’t cost too much, is techno pretty – plenty big bombers! – and that impacts mainly on the segregated and isolated volunteer army section of the country. You treat that army as basically the president’s mercenary force. Then you go on tv and lie, lie, lie. You write articles and lie, lie, lie. Being part of the motherfucker corps of honchos, there is no down side – you’ll never have to live with dysentery, or watch your daughter limp around without a leg, as per this video. Nah, if things go wrong, you can say it is all because you have such a big motherfucking heart. Cause you are just the nicest motherfucker who ever advocated mass murder.

Well, the delusion was that Rumsfeld was right, and that zipless war was possible. It seemed so sweet in Kosovo! It hovered there like some dream invite to debate serious people on the war in 2003, sponsored by the AEI and Heritage foundation, at which you’d make useful connections! A dream that did come true for many, let us not forget. Beinart is not the only one who has profited handsomely both from supporting the war and repenting the support of the war - a twofer! So excellent. But since the war turned out to be zip-full and you couldn’t put a nitwitted crook like Chalabi on the Iraqi throne and make it look all democratic as you erased fifty years of anti-imperialist struggle and hooked Iraq back into the petro-chemical cartels, why, you cast your moist gaze over the country and realize – so softly and sadly – with that feeling that you’ve been too good, just too good - that the Iraqis (sob)… the Iraqis have … failed you. You you you. You motherfucker. You’re the one whose faith has been broken. Like a child discovering there is no toothfairy. Those Iraqis, god fucking damn it, just weren’t, well, good enough for you to have extended your benevolence to. Like that bitch 5 year old girl in the video, limping around and shit. Anti-american as all get out. How can you trust people like that?

And of course you get to write an article for the other motherfuckers out there to nod their heads to. Zipless war – oh when, great World Soul, will we get the zipless war that the revolutionary contingent, from motherfucker Ignatieff to motherfucker Hitchens, can watch on tv with motherfucking pride? Life is a motherfucker.


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