The Rapture Index should be updated any day now. Last update, July 10. Needless to say, I think we shall soon see an uptick of the "prophetic speedometer" towards "the occurrence of pre-tribulation rapture."
I think the converse of a popular saying is in order: All bets are on, baby!
Friday, July 14, 2006
The Rapture Index should be updated any day now. Last update, July 10. Needless to say, I think we shall soon see an uptick of the "prophetic speedometer" towards "the occurrence of pre-tribulation rapture."
In downblog comments, La_Rana asks if I do or don't support the notion that Heart of Darkness is "racist." La_rana already knows the answer and is obligingly giving me a forum to put some people in their proper place. So here is how Marlow would answer:
"Mind," he began again, lifting one arm from the elbow, the palm of the hand outwards, so that, with his legs folded before him, he had the pose of a Buddha preaching in European clothes and without a lotus-flower--"Mind, none of us would feel exactly like this. What saves us is efficiency--the devotion to efficiency. But these chaps were not much account, really. They were no colonists; their administration was merely a squeeze, and nothing more, I suspect. They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force-- nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others. They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind--as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness. The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea--something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to. . . ."The argument for HOD's racism rests on two crumbling pillars, one of which is Conrad's use of the word nigger, the other of which is his depiction of the native as essentially unelightened. Whether or not Conrad himself employed nigger in conversation is another matter entirely, though to the unlettered cultural studies crowd, differentiation between author and narrator, author and character, advocacy and voice are all far too subtle to make when they can instead weild a clumsy cudgel of white guilt and broad (as opposed to close) reading. As to the word nigger, all we know is that a sailor named Marlow telling a tale on a ship in the Thames in the gloaming uses the word.
As for the essential incivility of the native--the savage--that too is a point to subtle for the reductivists. Conrad's principle critique was of European civilization and its pretenses of enlightenment, but the cult studies crowd feels that Conrad trespassed into the territory of racism by setting up the native, the savage, the black as his other: the dark mirror to the illusion of civility. Because Conrad never proposes the native as basically pure and peaceful--his society essentially Edenic--he must therefore be one more European colonialist engaging in accusations of savagery. (Note, however, that the only beautiful character in the novel is a native woman, and her beauty is not insignificant.) Now, the proposition that the native is noble is the old Rousseauian delision, and it's the sort of primitivist's paternalism that cult studies folks are supposed to deride and decry. Nevertheless, they seem to wish that Conrad had transposed the aesthetic of Gaugin into writing: lovely, colorful people capering about their tropical idyls.
Conrad had a darker vision. He was not, as is commonly held, writing that under the civilized man lurked a savage. His vision was darker. He said that all men, civilized or savage, are prey to the same hallucinations and the same dreams of blood. All men are capable of horrors, and if European society deserved greater criticism, it was only beacuse the principle product of that society was an increase in its own capacity to commit violence--as well as to create a grand philosophy and politics to obfuscate that point. There is no purity in Conrad's world. Nobility is bunk. Justice is a veneer. Society--primitive or otherwise--is a fraud. "We live, as we dream, alone."
The criers of racism also misunderstand Conrad's humor, or, more accurately, ignore it. They seem totally oblivious to the simple fact that almost everyone in HOD is a buffoon. It is a terrible, dark farce. The "great man" Kurtz is a raving lunatic. The colonialists are cheats, frauds, thieves, and cowards. The native population is hardly better. Kurtz's intended is a wide-eyed bimbo.
In Conrad's world, the native, the savage, whatever word you give it, is better only insofar as his brutality is necessarily local. He can war with his neighbors, but he can't conquer a continent.
And everyone is a fool.
The United States vetoed a Security Council Resolution condemning Israel's disproportionate use of force against the population and civilian infrastructure of Lebanon, a resolution which passed by a large margin. Israel and its interlocuters in this country, meanwhile, very conveniently accuse Iran and Syria of plotting the kidnappings which led--nay, forced!--Israel to embrace a pogrom--program, excuse me--of collective punishment, destroying bridges and airports and generally blowing up the interior of Lebanon until the Lebanese government somehow, some way, forces the return of the kidnapped soldiers. How? With what? And are not Syria and Iran said to be responsible? If so, pray tell, why bomb the airport in Beirut? Did not the brave Lebanese kick Syria to the curb just months ago, to great cries from our advocates of interventionist democracy?
It doesn't have to make a tissue of sense, of course. Our province d'outre-mer, Israel, is pursuing its own aggressive prerogatives, and in deference to the needs of the faraway capital of the empire, it makes exculpatory noises for America, should we choose to march on Damascus or Tehran. Let's be frank: if Israel believed that Syria was truly responsible and felt the need to respond, they'd bomb Damascus. What would stop them, the Syrian airforce? The very notion is laughable.
The prowar agitators in American cry to the heavens every time some new atrocity by America and its allies is revealed. Our enemies, after all, behead and mutilate bodies and kill civilians and all manner of other nasty stuff. Why isn't it permissible for us to respond in kind? Indeed, isn't it necessary?
Idiots. They toss around a name like asymmetrical warfare without the slightest idea what it means, believing the asymmetry to be a mere matter of the size and disposition of forces--a vast, professional, standing army vs. militias and terrorists. But the real asymmetry is tactical and strategic. The purpose of kidnapping Israeli soldiers or mutilating captured Americans is to provoke disproportionate response. It may satisfy our cultural chauvinism to believe that such acts are endemic to a uniquely barbarous worldview, but that does not make it ture. Each time we bomb a village to get at some phantasm-mastermind of a kidnapping, we lose. When the Israelis bomb an airport, destroy a bridge, kill dozens of civilians, they lose (and we as well, needless to say). The war party cries that it isn't fair! It's not fair that we're damned if we do, damned if we don't.
Well, no shit. Of course it isn't fair. It isn't fair that we've got a half-a-trillion-a-year dollar military either.
Those who support Israel wish to cast the argument in existential (and, increasingly, eschatological) terms such as "Israel's right (sic) to exist." They falsely and foolishly believe that they will gain some measure of victory by showing the Palestinians to be engaged in an attempted revocation of that right. How naive. Israel must make peace, and must do so at the cost of "concessions," not because it's right. What is right? Rather: because it is necessary. That is the fact of it. There is no fair, nor good solution. There is no final reckoning, no justice. There are no irrevokable terms. There's only the possibility of temporary peace. That is the nature of this world.
Damn Israel, damn the United States, damn Hezbollah. Damn us for our utopianisms. Damn us for our hubris.
Addendum: I would be remiss if I didn't point to Billmon's wise, sad post on this matter. His final paragraph, in particular, is relevant to what I wrote:
In the past, no matter how bad things got in territories, Israeli governments always have had the option of backing off and leaving bad enough alone – relying on the Army or, post-Oslo, the PA to keep a lid on the situation. That was fine as long as the objective was to grow the settlements and quietly tighten Israel’s control over the land and all its resources. But now that the goal is essentially a second partition, Israeli politicians are finding out the hard way that they no longer have the luxury of malign neglect. After six years of pretending they don’t need a Palestinian negotiating partner, they’ve suddenly discovered, much to their horror, that they need one desperately – but have managed to eliminate all the possible candidates.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Security was tight. Fighter jets patrolled the skies and police checked the city's 2,200 manhole covers, welded shut to ensure nothing disrupted Bush's visit. Residents were prohibited from opening windows and shops were ordered closed.Good god, the arrival of the assassination-fearing emperor is something, isn't it? Welded shut the manhole covers?
From "Bush and Merkel Call for Restraing" in The New York Times
At least he's safe from the Morlocks.
Gregory Djerejian at has a good post on "The Emerging CW" of "Another (Low-Grade) Regional War." He writes:
I see [...] that a new CW is emerging--a few dozen rockets and three hostages later--Israel is on the cusp of a long war involving, not only Hamas and Hezbollah, but sponsors Syria and Iran. With the US bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Israelis can pick up the slack in Damascus and Teheran, or such. Got that peeps? My humble advice to the Israeli government would be to take a quick look at the shambles the US is facing in Iraq, and beware strategic over-reaching.This must be a part of that hearts-and-minds campaign I keep hearing about, in which the metaphoric centers of the essential selves throughout the Ummah are to be suffused with love of and longing for the promised freedoms glinting like sunlight on a mylar Fourth-of-July balloon. For indeed, nothing shall so cement our place in the fond regards of our Islamic brothers than to link hands with Israel as she bombs Beirut and kidnaps the Palestinian "government," and so forth.
The Times has a predictably stupid article about the "regional" conflict, a curious locution for wars (crises in the newspeak) catalyzed by the presence of an American military bungling about like a fat Midwestern businessman trying to navigate an apartment in Tokyo.
Disengage is the word of the day. If the mad monotheists wish to have their blood orgy, they're going to have it. When powerless to make things better but capable of making things worse, the only course is abstention.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Who says that homosexuality has to be divisive? Irony is not delicious enough a word for this.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
The repudiation game is one pasttime popular among the sectarians of processional politics. By processional politics, I mean politics imagined as a procession and a process: a series of broad euphemisms with no specific referents paraded in an endless loop along which certain sights and pitstops are symbolic of progress, and therefore of a process. Although there's a lot of talk about "issues" and "policies," the idea that so-and-so seeks election in order to do such-and-such, which will of course benefit mon, dad, grandma, and the children, who are our future, is now universally discredited. No one beleives it, least of all those who most profess to believe it. We all know, for instance, that your average congressman, lost in the sports page or the Journal op-eds in the backbench nosebleed section of his committees, has no more real influence over the direction of the empire than your average local letter-to-the-editor crank. We know that even "powerful" congressmen on "key" committees are also passengers on the cruise, reduced to pointing at scenery when the ship approaches land and grumbling about the food or the temperature of the water in the swimming pool. The Senate meanwhile has the air of an Epcot vignette, but the actors are convinced it's DeMille. We all know that the power resides in a few administrative agencies and in the military, which so far at least has consented to remain under civilian control. We all know about "the influence of money," which is a very tepid way of saying that we all know the cost of remaking Election: The Sequel every two and four years has grown so collossally expensive, and the participants so beholden, that it's absurd to suggest a strict difference between corporate interest and government interest. Everyone knows this, especially those who are most dismissive of it.
But I digress. The point is the repudiation game, in which a brother in one of our national fraternities challenges a brother in the rival house to "condemn" or "repudiate" his bro's lamentable, execreble, irresponsible, unbelievable comments. Here is Glenn Greenwald, an indefatigable writer whose work I often admire, despite his hopeless adherence to the religion of electoral politics, entering the tawdry fray: Prominent right-wing blogger today calls for the murder of Supreme Court Justices - the Right fails to condemn it. Glenn has found a rightwing blogger named Misha, "prominent," we're told, with some figures to back it up, who has written rather unimaginatively:
Five ropes, five robes, five trees.Also, he calls the justices "whores," though presumably he doesn't mean it literally. Anyway, Glenn goes a wee bit red in the face and bellows:
Some assembly required.
He's advocating that the five Supreme Court Justices in the Hamdan majority be hanged from the neck until they're dead. His homicidal formulation is a play on the more standard call of the Right for American journalists to be hanged -- "Journalists. Rope. Tree. Some assembly required" -- another death call which, it just so happens, Misha also issued just a few days ago.As you can see, Misha has a sort of minimalist theme and variation thing going on here, a lynch-fantasy Phillip Glass, if you will. He is not, I will suggest, a danger to the justices, not even Justice Stevens, who's not so spry as he used to be. And while it does seem true that Misha's commentators are a bit tightly wound as regards their collective participation in and loyalty to the War on Terror, a subject of titanic significance in some quarters, I don't believe that the capable ones are dangerous, nor that the dangerous ones are capable. On the main point, Misha's own thoughts on the subject are hardly of world-altering import, given he fact that our nation is currently prosecuting (bipartisanly!) two failed colonial rear-guard maneuvers against the waning of our "influence" in parts of the world notable for their geostrategic importance, which is to say, their proximity to oil and gas resource infrastructure.
It's all a big distraction, and there's an unhealthy inquisitional air about the demand that anyone denounce anyone else, however closely they may once have been linked in the minds of their adversaries. What gains any other "prominent rightwing blogger," and what gains Glenn for that matter, if a chorus of denunciations goes up from the right? The fellow who said it has still said it; the fellows who go in for that sort of trash still go in for that sort of trash; the Glenn Greenwalds win the paltry compensation of hearing it verified that yes, lynching supreme court justices is pretty bad, and also not nice to talk about. For the life of me, I can't see how this is any different than demanding that your average John Kerry repudiate your average Michael Moore.
We must stay, because despite the likelihood of more death and destruction, the possiblity of obfuscating our failure exists only in the future.Both the Frog and I read Pat Lang's cri de coeur with the same dread, lamentation, and dyspeptic humor. One does love the smell of Lebanon in the morning. The bombs, that is, not the pines.
-My buddy La_rana, tellin' it-
In any event, I refer everyone to the quotation at the top of this post. Simply put, there is no "goal" for Iraq that hasn't been revised out of existence. The success hoped for by our governing class is precisely "the possibility of obfuscating our failure." And yes, that lies only in the future. Yes, it shall be a bloody road indeed. What a bloody mess we've made. If there were a hell, King Leopold would just now be smiling, distracted from his tortures by the gaudy spectacle of his errors being so classlessly repeated in the world above.
The old jujitsu: project a budgetary shortfall so vast that it's almost magisterial, and then announce a much lower number as if that were a victory for restraint, frugality, continence . . . The difference between the two numbers is, of course, insignificant--not because it's small, of course, but because it's so damnably large. These are sums without attendant meaning; the budget is based on the currency of imagination. What can it possibly mean to run a deficit of $296 billion, as opposed to $423 billion? I suppose it means that if every man, woman, child, and all 11 million "illegal immigrants" cough up a thousand bucks things'll be just peachy.
The world's largest debtor nation housing the world's largest population of debtors: a veritable economic ouroboros, the interest-only head consuming the delayed-equity tail while a distended serpent's stomach tries in vain to digest a gazillion dollars worth of poorly-constructed, under-infrastructured exurban housing stock, triweekly (or more) hundred-dollar SUV fuel stops, plasma screen televisions, jet skis, ATVs, XBoxes, iPods, insurance copays and deductibles, graduation parties and Bar Mitzvahs and all the rest of the overpriced detritus of the most wasteful, profligate, self-absorbed civilization in the whole damnable history of civilization, from the first covetted ass to Mr. Darcy and his five thousand a year to the present day, in which a people for whom pragmatism is supposedly the sole ideological guidepost have abandoned all pretense of moderate, decent life in vain emulation of their televised celebutainers, who are themselves just breaths away from ruin, having simply expanded their capacities for consumption to be commensurate with their greater incomes--hardly even the appropriate word for the millions of dollars flowing through their seive-like accounts and into a sea of bling, couture, fancy electronics, tacky houses, ugly cars.
I am no more or less enamored of luxury than the next fellow; more, if I reckon honestly. But I know when and when not buy. Keeping up with the Joneses now involves a kind of gladitorial materialism in which people fling themselves farther and farther away from communities in order to acquire more land and more square footage to fill with stuff--there is no better word for it. We're drowning in stuff, and communting a zillion miles a year to do it, all the while complaining that the government isn't "doing something about high gas prices."
Karl Marx on his best day couldn't have dreamed up this sort of capitalism. I say that as a fan of capitalism--in theory at least. But I am coming to suspect that capitalism, like democracy, is fatally flawed; it is flawed in that it fails to account for the essential stupidity of men (and yes, by men I mean people, persons, humanity, what have you). Any system premised on the notion that at the end of the day the average fellow will act more or less rationally, which is to say predictably, and that so long as no great tragedy arrives he will earn what he earns, spend what he can, sock a little away on the side, and more or less come out even in the end, has got to be a scam or an idiocy. Or, as they say, a little from the right hand, a little from the left. Capitalism in America isn't free enterprise or free markets anyway; it's the world's most elaborate pyramid scheme. At very least, it's a seedy collusion between a government obsessed with getting its people to buy shit they don't need and an ephemeral set of national business interests so divorced from actual service or production that our preeminent auto manufacturers, for instance, make money on usury and lose it on cars. The President tells us that the best way to thumb our nose at the death-legions of Osama is with a trip to Macy's. He owns a ranch on which no ranching occurs, but great lakes of gasoline are consumed daily by ATVs and SUVs and lawnmowers and chainsaws. There's no way to get anwhere except by car. The President does not mind; he does not pay for gas himself.
Errata: As Jim pointed out in comments, Mr. Darcy was good for ten thousand a year. I'm also obliged to point out that Fitzwilliam Darcy does away with the apostrophe. The apostrophated D'Arcy of literature is Bartell D'Arcy of Dublin, and of Dubliners, a pretentious but likeable fellow with a sappy wife who may have slept with Molly Bloom way back when. Additionally, I have corrected the it's/its error that once embarrassed this otherwise fine, if not measured, post.
Monday, July 10, 2006
The Folly of All Exceptionalism, Personal or National or, Indeed, Otherwise, as Explained Catechismically by James Joyce, or Else by Leopold Bloom
If he had smiled why would he have smiled?
To reflect that each one who enters imagines himself to be the first to enter whereas he is always the last term of a preceding series even if the first term of a succeeding one, each imagining himself to be first, last, only and alone, whereas he is neither first nor last nor only nor alone in a series originating in and repeated to infinity.
From Chapter 17, "Ithica," Ulysses