Far be it from me to offer writerly advice to the woman who originated the phrase "the surly bonds of earth" (also, we are told, "the garrulous rim of atmosphere" and "the pugnacious tether of life"--both later cut). The mother tongue is putty in Noonan's hands, almost endlessly malleable. Still, it will be a cold day in hell or an honest one in Washington before it is ever, ever a good idea to write, speak, or think the following sentence:
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Friday, October 20, 2006
In the old times men carried out their rights for themselves as they lived, but nowadays every baby seems born with a social manifesto in its mouth much bigger than itself.There's a manifesto out, and I regret to report that it's sadly lacking in exclamation points. A man should be able to wave the last tattered copy of his manifesto as he dashes aux barricades, or at least as he waits impatiently in line at MoMA. A man should be able to declaim a manifesto. A manifesto should rally the troops, rouse the comrades, raise the dead, wreck the wretched. Alas. "We should begin by restating these principles" lacks the necessary disregard for sense, decency, and an orderly progression from one thought to the next. Bruce Ackerman and Todd Gitlin haven't written a manifesto, they've written an abstract, at best a précis.
-Prince Paul in Vera by Oscar Wilde-
"We Answer to the Name of Liberals" proclaims the title, and that's a mushy mouthful already. There's something off in the pluralizing. There's something passive about the construction, as if the rest of us must roam the streats calling our political sueys! until Liberalus americanus responds with his whinny and twitter from his nest in the bushes.
From there, it's all list and no good lines. George W. Bush is a sonofabitch. Israel is awesome. Terror is real, but perhaps not quite so real as Le Roi Doublevay would have us all believe. Housing. Health Care. Kyoto. Defense. Strike that. Vigorous defense.
I suppose that if you're the sort of Albee-written University Sinecure who signs off on such things, your khakis can barely contain your boner by the time you get to this rousing call to something ostensibly resembling action: "Having failed to plan for obvious contingencies, it has scapegoated low-level military personnel when it should be identifying and punishing broader command failures." My own low-level personnel suggest that you can't actually punish "broader command failures" any more than you can actually prosecute a war on "terror." But a manifesto must surely slash with a wide machete.
The inevitable letdown: "We love this country. But true patriotism does not consist of bravado or calumny." Perhaps not, but a good manifesto certainly does. A million monkeys chained to a million typewriters might never produce such a manifesto as this, but by god, at least the effort would amuse.
Recently, as you know, Pennsylvania's native son Rick Santorum compared the War in Iraq to The Lord of the Rings, a classic fantasy novel of which I remain quite fond, if only because its author, unlike every other fantasy and scifi author evah, mightily refrained from writing some geeboy one-handed reader material into it:
He slid into her warmth. She arched against him and bit his ear, whispering, "Let me show you how we do it on Sigma Draconis, Captain Mandelbrot." His eyes widened as she began the subtle ministrations allowed by her sisterhood's deep muscular control. My God, these women! Such power they have, he thought. The shipboard AI chirped. His orgasm exploded into her as the FarDrive initiated and spread the stars into streaks beyond the PlastoGlass windows.Here at Who Is IOZ?, we are made of sterner literary stuff, and so we polled some of our favorite authors, asking for some brief passages illuminating the troubles of the War on Terror.
William Makepeace Thackeray
In which George W. Bush and Richard Milhous Cheney depart, return, depart, and return againJames Joyce
After the perhaps objectionable affair at the barbeque, in which Master George, in small defiance, had with the assistance of Miss Rice, Young Mr Yoo, and several footmen whom he'd bribed, if one may use so crude a term for a common act of mutual exchange, upset the decanters upon the white tablecloth and proceeded thence to hurl as missiles various bits and ends of delicate fried poultry hither and fro across the table, Mr Cheney suggested it was time to retire for the evening, and after much kissing of cheeks and pressing of hands, they did so, the ladies returning to their apartments in the great house, Mr Yoo returning home in his own carriage, and Mr Cheney and Master George climbing into the Brougham for their drive through the twilight back to the inn in the town below. With a crack of the whip, the driver started the horses, and along the path they went as fell the twilight.
Mr Cheney expressed displeasure in that ride, though I must tell you dear readers that he is a man of some discretion, and though the author makes intimations of omniscience regarding those characters he sets upon the stage and makes act in the matter of his story, it is also true that a man, even an author, knows only so much as other men will tell him, and you will pardon me for the admission that this conversation may be speculation, for who knows what passes between any two men, be it smile or frown, compliment or calumny, advice or merely silence. Master George, of course, took poorly to it, for we have seen him a sensitive youth and prone to rages--a boy, in short, given everything by his station in life but moderation, which is a gift no wealth or privilege can at last confer. "Oh, Dick," he cried laughing, "Let me have my fun! For Miss Rice and I only thought to have a joke and make play at a bit of war. Can you claim any man was harmed by the hurling of foodstuffs? Egad, sir, you cannot!"
To which Mr Cheney replied in his terse, though eloquent manner, "Go fuck yourself."
Master George laughed again, and can it not be said that the whole aspirations of a man and, indeed, of his society (perhaps yet of his civilization) can be expressed in a laugh? "Oh, Dick!" he answered, "I am but a boy yet, and it is the duty of a boy to play at war as surely as it is the duty of a soldier to go off and fight. For if we boys did not play at war, pray tell, who would continue fighting, when the boys became men and the wars begged to be fought."
"Go fuck yourself," offered Cheney a second time, though with more feeling, for he loved the boy as his own son, even as Master George exasperated and defied him.
Ineffable stategem. Casus belli. White House I see and the dog on the lawn and the roses. Red roses green grass white house. The dog barks. Why bark? The off-putting onomotopoeai. George turned, returning. If I went. No, when I go. Mode: declarative. Manner: assured. Yes, I shall decide and tell Dick I have decided. Steep sweep of birds wheeling calling overhead. Where is the dog? I call for him and he comes, good dog, good friend, best friend, mon chien. French no longer, one cannot speak in French these days or be accused. Am I not myself the accuser? Decider.Joan Didion
George tapped his hand against his pantleg and whistled for the dog. It is a terrier, thus tarries. Excellent at argument, that is how they'll put you down. Secret service serves in secret. Peter piper picked a peck. Damned dog! I shall go up to the house and ring Dick on the phone, say: I have decided, Dick. I, Dick, am the decider. Bend of grass underfoot. Smell of rosesweetair. Whence comes the dog at last. Alas, that's back to the house. What is for lunch? Dinner? Jangle change in my pocket. A small dog. Fiece as a lion. Dominus Domine. Decider.
Dick called. He said come over, so George called the car and went over. He did some blow in the car on the way. When he got there, he was a little jumpy.
"Calm down," Dick told him, "You make me nervous."
He couldn't calm down. They went for a walk on the lawn. Dick had a lot to tell him but couldn't say anything. George wasn't listening. He'd been suffering from headaches. They were distractions that led to more distraction. A bird would fly by and he'd crane his neck to watch it.
"Are you listening?" asked Dick, even though he hadn't been saying much.
"Yeah," said George, even though he hadn't been listeing.
"I'm trying to tell you something."
"So tell me."
"I need you to listen if I'm going to tell me."
"I need you to tell me if I'm going to listen."
It had been going on like this for weeks. These conversations. This positioning. George wondered how they'd made it work. He thought he could remember it working, but the headaches and the cocaine made it hard to remember clearly.
"What are you trying to tell me?" he asked Dick.
"I'm trying to talk to you about a project."
"Don't talk about the project. Who wants to talk about projects?"
"It's your project."
"It's no one's project."
"So now you're a philosopher?"
"And you're a shrink?"
"I'm trying to help you. I'm trying to make things clear."
"Nothing's clear. You can't make it clear. You just have to . . . keep going. Stay the course."
"That's your answer for everything."
"It is the answer for everything."
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Over at The Corner they're debating some proposal or other to let foreigners who want to become Americans join the army, fight for a few years, and if they neither turn coat nor flee, they'll emerge as shiny, happy people under the banner of heaven, or the stars and stripes, or however you'd put it. John Derbyshire thinks this is a bad idea, since according to Gibbon it doomed Rome and according to Professor Briton Eton Empire himself it doomed the caliphs. It worked out well for the French, someone says, but that gets drowned in the soupy bruiting. Professor Oxbridge Elswhere Dandelion is himself a foreigner who, by his own confession, lived in America for years as an illegal, the sort of thing that's easier for a Don than a ditchdigger. His writings are full of fog-and-umbrella reminiscences of a charming boyhood spent at Sussexfershire-by-the-Sea, up on the fen or down in the bog, racing Phaetons and slaughtering foxes by the thousands. Quoth Mr Teacup Wilson Pottedmeat:
The Northampton of my childhood seems like a dream now. As a world-curious young chap, of course I couldn't wait to get out of the place. Now I look back on it with sad nostalgia. It's all gone now, of course, wrecked by modernity—developers, cars, the welfare state, pop culture, and mass immigration.I can only imagine the surprise of the Tom Stoppard character Derbyshire beat within an inch of his fictional life in order to wrest this self-satirizing eruction. Gone are the days of yore and brandy, claret and pomp, queen and mother. Brittania, Brittania, we weep for you. I ask you why, if modernity wrecked the sorry fucker in the first place, is it such a bad thing for the Islamofascist hordes to overrun and knock it back a century or two? I digress.
Barrister Pantywaist Huffnpuff Throughbred, sad nostalgia for lost worlds and all, harumphs out a hairball:
To serve in the military should be a privilege of citizenship, not a chore or a penance on the way to citizenship. Let foreigners staff their own armies, and let America staff hers from among our citizens. If we can't do that, let's put out the lights and hand over the keys.Yet we don't see any of his compatriots rushing to death or glory, least of all the hale and hearty Jonah Goldberg, who famously lamented having a family which forbade him from exsanguinating on any sand dune anywhere, anytime, no how, no way. Baron Churchill Nottingham Brightonson obviously knows not a damn thing about his adopted country or countrymen. Any foreigner really interested in absorbing the spirit of America would wait until the moment after his citizenship ceremony, and then when Professor Muffin Tuffet Woldergast came screeching about fighting and dying, duty and honor, for thee and not for me, the newest American could turn, flip him a fast bird, and in his best Brooklyn-Pacino: "No, faawk yoooo!"
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
The National Review has a symposium called "The 20-Day Stretch: Can the GOP Win? The answer appears to be a resounding "No, but . . ." Republicans will lose, sure, but man will Americans hate "Speaker Pelosi," thus unward and upward to 2008! There are a few outlier optimists. Ed Gillespie believes that with the help of "Bush's megaphone," which he keeps next to his Tonka trucks, Republicans can win by "talk[ing] about the issues." Like Bush, his frustration seeths. If you people would just shut up and listen. Ralph Reed, the fellow who most recently put his political acumen to use by getting stomped all over the Peach State in a Republican Primary for Lt. Governor, which is like the second assistant production assistant to the third best boy grip on the film set of the statehouse (like losing your first film job, in other words, to a wedding videographer with an Associates Degree in communications from the community college), also opines in favor of Republican victory, although he does conclude said victory will be "surprising." Favorite line: "On values, the GOP has confirmed new Supreme Court justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito and stood up for the institution of marriage." Yeah, you stood up for it all right--right into a minority. Does that make marital benefits a form of Affirmative Action? Or merely "special rights"? Peter Schweizer, meanwhile, argues that "Conservatives are disillusioned because of the inability of Republicans on Capitol Hill to control spending," as if Spending is a Grendel tearing through their once-proud meadhall. "The best option"? "Let the American public know what a Nancy Pelosi-led Congress will look like and what it will mean for them, i.e. that she represents the San Francisco wing of the Democratic party." If there were really such a powerful San Francisco wing, you'd think they'd crack down on their liberal media automatons panning their city.
Meanwhile, I offer you this thought via Katherine Jean Lopez, who manages to put down the pie and ice cream long enough to type:
This E-mail Could Be From My Evangelical Sister: [Kathryn Jean Lopez]The fork-in-the-eye refers to an earlier comment "from a Christian" on the issue of Mitt Roment's Mormonism, which is ice cream, and the Democratic Party, which is, imagine, the fork. The eye, I think, is Rick Santorum's foreign policy, although these complex conservative metaphors always confuse me, nested with meaning as they are, like a passage from Finnegan's Wake. (Anna Livia Plurabelle. Kathryn Jean Lopez. Three names apiece. Coinkeydink? Methinks que non.) Anyway, if Santorum wants a victory, he's gonna have to shove his hand further up his ass than the San Francisco wing of the Democratic Party on Armistead Maupin's birthday in order to pull it out. Which I suppose leaves that panty-creaming Romney-Santorum combo, and only the question of which will play Batman and which his nubile young ward. Is it awful that I imagine this "strong Evangelical," who is so enraptured by the milky blandness of these two homos, spending all of 2008 diddling herself to C-SPAN while she drinks melted cookie-dough ice cream through a straw the size of a garden hose? It is wicked, wicked, wicked.Amen, Amen and again I say Amen! As a strong Evangelical I completely agree with the "fork in the eye" analogy!
As a former PA girl, I am pounding (and have been) every friend in PA to do what they can for Rick Santorum. From someone who has lived in EVERY part of the state - except for dreary Erie - I definitely DO NOT trust any of the recent polling on this. I admire Rick for standing firm despite TREMENDOUS adversity - (Is it any wonder with the Clinton's pointmen all over this race for the past 18 months?!)
The only consolation in a loss would be a Romney/Santorum ticket in '08 would look awesome (both figuratively AND literally!)
President Bush has signed a new National Space Policy that rejects future arms-control agreements that might limit U.S. flexibility in space and asserts a right to deny access to space to anyone "hostile to U.S. interests."Where's James Trafficant when you need him? Beam me up, Scottie!
The administration said the policy revisions are not a prelude to introducing weapons systems into Earth orbit. "This policy is not about developing or deploying weapons in space. Period," said a senior administration official who was not authorized to speak on the record.
Americans, you are now "subjects" and not citizens. Accept your new role.There’s the question: What do we do now? (Pat Lang says mordantly that we can all start a chess club when we’re shipped off to Gitmo. Good. I’ve been trying to improve my game.) There’s the related question: Can we do anything now?
I suppose I owe everyone an explanation for why, believing that the country I was born into has become today something other and insupportable, I will vote for Democrats and keep living where I am, working every day, coming home at night and blogging about my favorite TV shows. The main reason is a profound and possibly inappropriate sense of inertia. But an important subsidiary reason is that these things are absurd, ridiculous. And in unfree polities absurd things are valuable in themselves.
First let me say: It’s good to be angry. It’s good to be worried. It’s good to be afraid. But it gains nothing to despair. We’re neither the first nor the last people on earth to be ruled rather than governed. We’re neither the first nor the last to consign our fate to the whims of madmen and murderers. American exceptionalism afflicts those of us who propose to defend an ideal—and idealized—Republic as much as it afflicts those who’ve recently driven the nails into its wrists and the spear into its side. We’re neither the first nor the last people on earth to be ruled by an egomaniacal moron. If our chapter is a sad one, it’s still just a chapter. (“A comma,” the dauphin might put it in other circumstances.)
The subtitle of this blog is mostly a joke, but if there’s a contemporary dogmatism that I find most egregiously in error, it’s the pietous belief that America, warts and all, was basically bumping along the same free and easy path of liberty it had, with few exceptions, always traveled, until this boy-king ascended, took out his rotten cock, and fucked it. A lot has been wrong with America for a long time. Sometime—with Wilson? with Truman?—America became a faith rather than a nation, and preaching is always prelude to injustice because it damns reason and says: This is good, and that which is good must be obeyed. America has done terrible things: used nuclear weapons against civilians; killed millions of Vietnamese; turned South America into a killing field. George W. Bush, his invasion of Iraq, his clumsy-but-effectual war on liberty, is the inarticulate apotheosis of a century of interrupted wrongdoing. He stood, as they say, on the shoulders of giants.
That isn’t to say that he’s not more condemnable than others. He’s condemnable for his strutting incoherency, and he’s condemnable because he’s slashed and burned the forest not out of spite, but out of ignorance, arrogance, and pique. He believes, as much as do his remaining fervid supporters, though not in these terms, since he knows no history, that he should be a dictator as the Romans intended it: a man empowered briefly to guide the state through crisis. We all know how well that turned out.
Pat Lang, in the same post I liked above, notes that “Bonaparte styled himself ‘Emperor of the French Republic’ but he was still king.” Remember that Bonaparte, when confronted with a vague proposal that he step aside and return the government of France to her people, said incredulously, They want me to be a Washington. Washington’s repudiation of the power offered to him, his decision to stand aside, is what made him great. It was a greater act than any other during or after the revolution. It may have been the greatest political act in the last thousand years.
I don’t propose that Bush will remain as dictator after his term expires. I do propose that whoever follows, Democrat or Republican, will retain the powers Bush acquired for himself. There is no person in public life today with the honor or character to repudiate it. They’ll all nibble at the edges of the supreme executive for reasons of crass factional rivalry, denouncing this or that particular application of power as an excess when performed by a political enemy. But who will stand up and say: “This is not mine?”
What do we do and what can we do? Let’s be frank. There’s no rebellion in the offing. Listen to Jonathan Turley:
The Congress just gave the President despotic powers and you could hear the yawn across the country as people turned to Dancing With the Stars.There are only cracks in the edifice and words like roots and vines. “In unfree politics absurd things are valuable in themselves.” The cynical question is: Do you really believe that you improve your lot or anyone else’s by laughing at these bastards? To that: yes. James Thurber said, “Laughter need not be cut out of anything, since it improves everything.” Or Mark Twain:
”[Humanity] has unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution—these can lift at a colossal humbug—push it a little—weaken it a little, century by century; but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”Or H.L. Mencken:
”The pedant and the priest have always been the most expert of logicians—and the most diligent disseminators of nonsense and worse. The liberation of the human mind has never been furthered by dunderheads; it has been furthered by gay fellows who heaved dead cats into sanctuaries and then went roistering down the highways of the world, proving to all men that doubt, after all, was safe -- that the god in the sanctuary was finite in his power and hence a fraud. One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms. It is not only more effective; it is also vastly more intelligent.”And with that in mind . . .
Yesterday the Congress made George W. Bush a monarch, and what a ridiculous Monarch. He deserves a Bourbon chin. He deserves a fat belly. He deserves an unconsummated marriage. He deserves to be fitted for breeches and stockings, set upon high-heeled shoes, and sent out with his terriers to putter around the Rose Garden. What a miserable Louis XVI. What a miserable Richard II, petulance overweening even pride:
Of comfort no man speak:What a sad Senate to grant him the powers it granted.
Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth;
Let's choose executors and talk of wills:
And yet not so — for what can we bequeath
Save our deposed bodies to the ground?
I said that America is not the first nation to consign its fate to a moron, but it must surely be the first to freely select that moron as its executive from all the ranks of its population, then set him in an office wherein he spends six years failing at every task before him. Only then, after witnessing a fuller breadth of catastrophic failure than even the Shiavoic state of the better part of his mind could fully account, only after the best statistical science determined that no one actually likes this man, only then did Congress decide that rather than curtail his activities, they would enhance his power, conferring whole new worlds for his touch to turn to the wateriest of shit. This is perhaps a fitting end for the Republic that invented studio wrestling.
The most lamentable thing is that there seems to be no stopping him. He is a force of nature, an intertial phenomenon, a juggernaut: mindless, boundless, unstoppable. I watched the embarrassed generals shoehorned behind him as he malapropped his way through making his mark on the travesty that was the so-called detainee bill, and I thought to myself, if only one of those guys were carrying a side-arm. Pop. Powee. It would be worth the prison term. But I don’t think an assassin will save us, because I don’t think an assassination is possible. A bullet to the brain, and he would keep on going, the brush-clearing, nickname-conferring, reptilian stem of his brain would keep the heart beating and the crayon-filled hand signing. Then, with blood and brains running down his fancy suit onto his red tie, he’d get up, nod to the pasty senators, retire to the Residence, eat a steak, watch some baseball, and be in bed by nine. Only the housekeeping staff would be bothered, having to clean the blood from his satin pillows.
He’s the giant red cartoon button that says “Do Not Push!” Elmer Fudd, by which I mean the U.S. Congress, stares at it, strokes his chin, shrugs, pushes. The damn bursts. The waters rush forth.
In a Marvel comic I read as a teenager, I recall the aptly-named villain Apocalypse cackling over this or that do-gooder calling him evil. “I am not malevolent!” he cried, “I simply am!” Is there a truer expression of the essence of Bush, with, perhaps, a greater emphasis on the “simply.” Whereas all the rest of the rogues gallery offers we speculators at least some inkling of an idea of a motivation, Bush remains a cipher, a man paradoxically enraptured by the acquisition of dictatorial power and totally unaware that dictatorial power is what he’s acquiring. “My job,” he said in a moment recently lampooned by Jon Stewart, “is to do my job.”
There, friends, is an American credo. We are being punished by our own reflection.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Jonathan Schwartz at Tiny Revolution notes that a Ralph Peters redraw of the Middle East has now reached the Middle East, where it sits on the shelf next to the first edition Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Follow the link and peer closely at the map. I didn't notice, but one of Schwartz's early commenters did, and drew my attention to a tiny "West Bank (Status Undetermined)." Which I guess is sort of like how J.R.R. Tolkein never got around to mapping out the East of Middle Earth.
Personally my favorite is "Free Baluchistan," which sounds like something the Polish ladies serve up on Steelers Sundays at the Moose clubhouse alongside the pierogies and onions. According to Wikipedia, though, there are a number of revolutionary organizations currently fighting for independence, including the Baloch Liberation Army, the Baloch Liberation Front and the Baloch People's Liberation Front, which is, I'm pretty sure, a skit from The Life of Brian remixed by Sasha Cohen.
The big losers: Pakistan, the Saudis, and the heirs of Attaturk. The big winners: The Yemenis. The Yemenis?! What've they got on you, Ralph Peters? What dark secrets do the hold? What undeveloped negatives?
Tune in next week . . .
"Where's Aunt Nora?" I says to Scottie.Via Harry Hutton: Your government at work.
"Hitching up the reindeers," says Scottie.
"That's one fast white lady," I say.
"A regular gift of the sun gods," says Scottie.
"As mighty white as Henry VIII," says I, "Tasty as oyster stew."
"Whizbang when it comes to ghostbusting," says Scottie.
"Clear as an Inca message carried round the neck of a squirrel," says me.
I have nothing to say about the Connecticut senate race except that a series of suitably slapstick traffic accidents would leave the governor free to appoint my own choice for that position, my boyfriend's retired father, who could spend a month a year in Washington and the rest of his time in Southbury, in either case tinkering with his cameras, gardening, and otherwise doing as little as possible, which is precisely the sort of government I would pray for if I prayed, or hope for if I bothered to hope anymore. What Mencken said at the Death of Coolidge, whom he'd never much liked, is true of all government:
We suffer most when the White House bursts with ideas. With a World Saver preceding him and a Wonder Boy following him he begins to seem, in retrospect, as an extremely comfortable and even praiseworthy citizen. His failings are forgotten; the country remembers only the grateful fact that he let it alone. Well, there are worse epitaphs for a statesman.That puts me in mind of the recent turn in the rehtoric of the Pennsyvania senate race: Bob and Rick have been accusing each other of not showing up for work. I think I'll vote for whichever is proven to have the poorest attendance.
In any case, it's a foregone conclusion that Casey will win in Pennsylvania and Lieberman in Connecticut (I nearly typed Iraq! Yoy and double-yoy, as the immortal Myron Cope used to say), despite what my BFF Marty Peretz calls "the frothings directed at Lieberman in the blogosphere." What is a frothings? It sounds like some unspeakable prison sex act to me, but what do I know? I've met Casey and Santorum. Both are bursting with ideas and convictions and plans, like undergraduates. Santorum has a well-deserved reputation as one of the dumbest men in the Senate, but that hasn't stopped him from making away with dozens of Things-I-Believe, like an ant making away with breadcrumbs, or a crow with shiny bits of metal. It is not true, as his opponent has begun to claim, that he merely rubber-stamps the president. He has arrived at precisely the same conclusions, all of them, all on his own. Casey, meanwhile, believes that he believes, and believes that it's important for you to know that he believes. He believes in making things better. He believes in success in Iraq. He believes in fixing the economy. He believes in a better tomorrow, a new way forward, a path to success, a bowl of ice cream, a dollop of Miracle Whip. His only particular belief is that a blastocyst is a person, and when we at last extend the fanchise to the prenatal citizens of this free nation, they'll surely take up the banner of the Casey dynasty in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
THE DUDE: Look, man, I've got certain information, all right? Certain things have come to light. And, you know, has it ever occurred to you, that, instead of, uh, you know, running around, uh, uh, blaming me, you know, given the nature of all this new shit, you know, I-I-I-I... this could be a-a-a-a lot more, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, complex, I mean, it's not just, it might not be just such a simple... uh, you know?
THE BIG LEBOWSKI: What in God's holy name are you blathering about?
THE DUDE: I'll tell you what I'm blathering about... I've got information man! New shit has come to light!
IOZ, friends, has arrived. In comments downblog, anonymous (and not the anonymous, whose comments we always enjoy) calls IOZ a "mealy-mouthed appeaser," a "masturbatory" satirist. Actually, the phrase "masturbatory satirical exercise" occurs twice without any real refraction period in between. Does that make the reply a model of rhetorical tumescence? Turgidity? We report, you decide:
Due plaudits to your mastubatory satirical exercise here notwithstanding, D'Souza's new book explores the backdrop to 9/11/01, so your overheated references to Abu Ghraib are inapposite even within the context of mastubatory satirical exercise. Mealy-mouthed appeasers like you and Wolcott, drunk on romantic, materialist nostrums about human nature, may prate about American excesses all you like---and excesses they are indeed, by our standards, that is---but unlike D'Souza you haven't the foggiest notion about what drives Muslim fanatics like Osama. If anything, Osama laughs off Abu Ghraib as a minor, isolated divergence from America's cowardly mollycoddling of her enemies, even if he's content to see it exploited on Al Jazeera with the connivance of the weaselly, hate-America mainstream press.Cliché, but true: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so to be mocked in a pastiche of my own blog-voice is awfully pleasing.
In any event, it's probably true that D'Souza's book "explores the backdrop to 9/11/01," although as a drone in the entertainment industry, I'd point out that here we have an unintentionally telling metaphor. The backdrop, after all, is an illusion. A pretty one. A trompe l'oeil. Designed to please the imagination and fool the eye into seeing what the audience wants to see.
Abu Ghraib is specifically mentioned in the passage Wolcottt and I have yanked from the teat of its mother-book, hence the reference. If it is "inapposite", then the digression is D'Souza's, not our own.
The commenter believes that D'Souza has some unique insight into the grievances of "Muslim fanatics." D'Souza is a prig who spent his formative years spying on the gay students of Dartmouth and mocking them in a school paper. Insight by way of Animal House. D'Souza is an al Qaeda sympathizer, contrary to the fine, atheistic libertines of this blog who actually decry medievalism in all its forms. As for foggy notions of what drives bin Laden, et al., well, they keep telling us, so it's hardly a mystery. He doesn't like the American military galavanting around the Middle East or building bases there. He doesn't like our propping up "apostate" monarchies. He doesn't much care about our decadence, so long as we keep it at home.
My prescription is a libertarian prescription summed up in a neat phrase by Jim Henley: Hayek does not stop at the Atlantic. Speaking for no one but myself, I do not advocate that we appease anyone; I advocate that we learn to leave everyone alone.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Tom Watson, to whom I wasn't kind recently, quotes my vituperation and suggests it points to a condition not of indifference to Democratic victory, but of fear. "Now I'm fairly convinced we quake."
He writes and means as criticism:
Victory isn't good enough. A national mea culpa won't do it. Investigations and self-examination don't get it done. An over-the-horizon pullback from the Iraq morass is a half-measure. Incrementally more competent, in-touch, less doctrinaire leadership is merely an infield single. It's all not enough.To which I say: Not enough, and worse. This is the incompetence dodge, or the competence fallacy remixed. Watson has misread my writing. I don't believe that "incrementally more competent . . . less doctrinaire leadership" by Democrats is any more viable, desirable, or likely than an incrementally more competent, less doctrinaire war in Iraq. It is not the execution that I rail against, but the enterprise.
I'm not, of course, under any illusion that a vote for a third party, or an abstention from the vote altogether, will reverse a century of American imperialism. Not the the pieties of Wilson, the brutal war-happiness of Teddy Roosevelt, the nuclear insanity of Truman, the multi-administration genocide of millions of Vietnamese, the Latin American murderousness of Reagan, or the bombastic, dimwitted destruction of Iraq by our regnant dauphin. But the weak utilitarian argument that asks my affirmation for a Democratic legislature inimical to the current person of the president is just that: weak. In a recent post I made a point that I think bears repeating: the institutional Democratic Party was able to maintain unity to save, as the saying goes, social security, but they were unable to mount even a significant verbal opposition to the curtailing of habeas corpus. In the immortal words of Walter Sobchack: "These are our basic freedoms, dude." It is not that I'm immune to the tragedy of penury in old age, nor even the oft-repeated apocrypha about grandmas forced to dine on catfood, though I find the bathos of such anecodalism un peu tawdry. It's that compared to a mad charge on the very bedrock of our society, the legal foundation on which every other freedom we should hold was built, the so-called social security debate is a trifle. Defenders of the Democrats say: Well, the congressional Democratic leadership knew that there weren't sufficient votes to sustain a filibuster, so what was the point? I say: That's precisely the point. There weren't enough votes to sustain a filibuster. Consider that. Consider what that means: a payroll deduction more important than feedom from arbitrary imprisonment.
The Poor Man, whom I've also criticized on this point, replied that we should confine our rage to those thirteen Democrats who turned coat. That too is an evasion. If, as Democrats often argue, the two-party system is truly so implacable as to demand that we don't act as "spoilers," wasting our votes on so-called vanity candidates; if, in other words, we must choose one of two institutional parties because only the instutions of those parties have the collective power to actually affect change, then it's hypocrisy and more to say that we should praise the collectivity for its successes but only damn it in pieces when it fails. The Democratic Party either does or does not work in our interests, and if it can't or won't, then cut it off. Cut it out. Cut it down.
From the Democratic Party, I hear only the same tired proposals to make a kinder, gentler American imperialism, no less ludicrous than the "compassionate conservativism" promised by our little prince six years ago. It isn't a pledge to fundamentally alter our errant ways; it's a pledge to make them more palatable to the broad, boring people who don't pay very much attention. It's a promise to hide from view the cruel necessities of our debased policies to the rest of the world.
Tom Watson seems to be a good, intelligent man. So do many current advocates for the Democrats, who recognize their inherent weaknesses but have convinced themselves better a little than none, better now than never.
A kind smile on the way to the gallows is no antidote for the hangman.
UPDATE: First link fixed.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Wait a minute. We fought a war in Korea? How come no one told me?
It's become fashionable for War Partiers to lament the passing of that simple age when Wally and the Beav learned a valuable lesson about standing up to Boris and Natasha, those bullies. By which I mean, it's become fashionable for the luminaries of current Conservatopia, who flicker with all the candlepower of a LED, to recall fondly the days when two vast continetal empires twitched their fingers over the buttons that could in moments bring about the end of all human life on earth, a feat that not even the god of Noah could finally contemplate, and to say of these days that their clarity and simplicity made them great. Today, though the dangers are less, they appear more nebulous, and therefore they are more. Or some such. I, personally, am at a loss to figure out what the hell it means when Chuck Krauthammer or Marty Peretz raise their bottomless mugs of Cold-War reminiscence, all the while chuckling boozily to themselves and slurring the bon mot equivalent of the barroom drunk's "I sherr tole him a thing er two." I suspect that these gentlemen actually believe that there may come a day within their lifetimes on which they will be forced to their knees at the point of a scimitar, made to curse their god and utter reverencies about the prophet.
For these fellows, whom I'm told actually lived through the Cold War, although they speak of it with all the historical veracity of Le Chanson de Roland, the East-West conflicts of that era consisted entirely of a series of escalating aggression by the Commies, each and every one of which ran into the Harvard jaw of JFK, the last good Democrat, insatiable priapism to the side. But the Cold War was no one way street. If it was a series, it was a series of mutual (and mutually reinforcing) provocations on either side. So, for instance, it is true that the Soviets sent missiles to Cuba, but then we'd already sent them to Eastern Europe and, indeed, as Pincus reminds us in the above-linked WaPo article, we had by 1957 positively stuffed the northern end of South Korea with nuclear weapons. Then, for more than three decades after, we kept them there, pointed North, doing every damn thing in our power to ostracize the North Korean communist client state from the so-called community of nations, even after the Soviet Union went belly-up and Red China traded in Mao's little book for a more lucrative arrangement with the Walton family.
Now we go google-eyed with rage and disbelief that the North Koreans should seek a bomb of their own, and we call it a danger to the world.