"Change we can believe in is back." It went away? Apparently. But I ask you, friends, who will rise up for change we can't believe in? Who speaks for the Alchemist?
"When will it end, oh lord, when will it end?" A few days ago, I heard Benny Morris on NPR, further expounding his view that Israel would soon bomb Iran, unless the US got their first. To his credit, Robert Siegel stepped right up with the "Stalin and Mao were deterrable; why not the Ayatollah Khamenei?" line of questioning, to which we got the fantastic(al) reply, with which we're all now quite familiar: the Soviets and Chinese were murderous, but rational. Meanwhile the Iranians are driven by religious zealotry, and care not for their own self-preservation, whereas Mao, for instance, he mighta killed forty million people, but that guy, he was rational. I eagerly await Doc Morris' take on the Khemer Rouge. It's an interesting spectrum: rational and very murderous vs. irrational and not so very murderous. I do not accede to the notion that the Iranian government is somehow less rational than any other, but I do wonder why irrational, illogical, unpredictable, waxing-and-waning bellicosity is to be considered so much more . . . existentially threatening than our various and sundry vast, monomaniacally ideological evil empires?
On a final, unrelated note, will someone please explain to these sociologists that the phrase "survival of the fittest" doesn't accurately describe the contemporary understanding of evolution, that it represents an hypothesis by a genius who nevertheless lacked the tools, accumulated knowledge, observational data, etc. to describe the mechanisms of the process he discovered; that for a man in a time before genetics or modern biochemistry, it wasn't all that unlike Newton's ether, say. In any case, the idea that we should seek to countermand students' impressions that the "survival of the fittest" is a valid social model, well, that's not an argument for changing the evolution curriculum, but an argument for abolishing school.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
"Change we can believe in is back." It went away? Apparently. But I ask you, friends, who will rise up for change we can't believe in? Who speaks for the Alchemist?
Friday, July 25, 2008
People of Berlin – and people of the world – the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again.What the hell is Neo talking about? Dude, you aren't a hacker. That's just Excel. This isn't the Matrix. That's not Laurence Fishburne, it's just some homeless guy who got past security. Go back to your desk. These reports are due in the morning.
-Barack Obama, addressing Berlin
What in God's holy name are you blathering about?
-Mr. Jeffrey "The Big" Lebowski, addressing the Dude
"This is our moment! This is our time!" For what?
I was unaware that anyone had remade the world previously, not since the Flood at least. Well, you know the saying. Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes, well, he eats you.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Pace Naomi Klein et al., but the commitment of our loudest Official cheerleaders for so-called free markets have long been essentially Soviet in their outlook, while those of us who actually oppose force, coercion, and state intervention in matters of production and exchange are generally dismissed as communalists and utopians. As one such myself, I take inordinate pleasure from our markets' habits of fucking-without-kissing (thanks to the commenter who reminded me of that turn of phrase!) the very people who seek power and inordinate wealth by manipulating the many levers of corporate state capital. It's pleasure tinged with tragedy, for even when the meteorological forces of bare economics are cruelest to the powerful, it remains the weak who suffer most and die. But ours is a cruel world, and one takes what one can get.
Currently, I'm delighted to find that while our imperial efforts in Iraq have monumentally failed to deliver increased control over the Great Black Commodity, whose easy availability is the only thing that keeps of McHousing, McMotoring economy chuffling along, they have concurrently bolstered the global narcotics trade beyond even my wildest hopes and most fervent dreams. These vicious bastards have simultaneously screwed Iraq's petrol industry and suborned the Afghan narco-economy. The price at the pump is going up, but the dollars-per-dose is still looking at a long downward slope.
By the way, speaking of dope and dopes, I hear that Barry O. plans to send more troops to Afghanistan. I seem to recall some very interesting shit happening the last time we sent a lot of our boys into a heroin den.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
We've been here before, during the Cold War, which was a real existential threat, at least in the beginning. It's unbelievably foolhardy to do it again.At least in the beginning. Oh bad Lord.
The Donk's historical illiteracy is occasionally cute and often harmless, but here you have the central falsehood of 20th-century American mythology reified, bedazzled, giftwrapped, alechemically trasmuted, sawed in half, prestodigitated, and thusly delivered as a central theme of the New Donkle Catechism, Imperial Lite, Version Two point No.
Fortunately, we here at Who Is IOZ? like nothing (exceptions: sodomy; Alsatian riesling; duck roasing on a bed of fennel; a lonely walk down Hatteras) better than drawing curtains, backlighting scrims, lifting fogs, and cetera. Peer with me through the curling tendrils of the heavy fog of perfectly accessible, widely available, easily obtained history.
The year is 1945. The United States has lost a bit under 420,000 people, or about a third of a percent of its population. Its domestic infrastructure is unharmed. Its productive capacity has actually increased during mobilization. Its manufacturing base is strong. Its military, especially its Air Force and blue-water fleets, dominates the globe. Oh, and we got us some nukes.
The year is 1945. The Soviet Union has lost over 23 million people, or just under 14% of its population. The infrastructure of its densely populated eastern region is functionally nonexistent. Its military is a shambles. It has no blue-water fleet to speak of, no Air Force. No nukes.
This is the beginning of the Cold War. It requires no love of Soviet Communism, which was indeed one of the cruelest, grayest systems of government ever conceived on this bloody Earth, to understand that American goading, American nuclear adventurism, and the decision by a sub-Truman cabal to convert the remnants of the old aristocratic republic, those which had managed to survive Roosevelt and Wilson and the rest, into a garrisoned military surveillance state bent, as the good old cartoon expression goes, on world domination. The Soviets fought a brave holding action, and America's incompetence (see this, for example) in certain matters central to the growth of hegemony drew the thing out longer than need be, but the idea that the United States faced an "existential threat" at the outset of the Cold War is rubbish, nonsense, bullshit.
From 1945 to 1965, the United States never had any worse than, in Buck Turgidson's inimitable phrasing, five-to-one missile superiority. The Soviets didn't surpass the American arsenal until 1978, and by the time they reached their mid-eighties peak of over 40,000 warheads, well, anyone paying attention could read the Cyrillic writing on the wall and see that a rusty empire and its rusty arsenal were on the way out. The Soviet Union never had the economy, population, manufacturing capacity, or expeditionary capacity to threaten the United States, excepting the possibility of a global nuclear holocaust, which, one notes, is a threat that persists to this day and doesn't represent what people mean by "existential threat," which is a euphemism for conquest, not speciescide. It certainly didn't have that ability in the forties, fifties, and sixties.
But yeah, that JFK, he had some nice hair for a jelly donut.
Lieberman again drew a parallel between Hagee and biblical figures, this time saying biblical heroes, unlike the demigods of Greek mythology, “are humans — great humans, but with human failings.” Lieberman said that Moses had his shortcomings, too.“Dear friends, I can only imagine what the bloggers of today would have had to say about Moses and Miriam.”Ya know, I ain't red me much ah dat Greeshun mitholahgee, but um purdy sher that them heroes had watcha might call real hyooman motions an flaws, ever last one ah dem.
-via Raw Story
On a related note, the Bible's got plenty of weird shit like giants and angels knocking up human chicks in Genesis 6, etc.
Meanwhile Hercules, a demigod without human flaws, kept killing his family and lovers. Also, a drag queen!
Moses and Mirian, btw: originators of the terrorist fist jab.
Via noted legal scholar, truant, and anti-Fabian socialist la_rana, I came across this cracked interview, in which Amy Goodman of Democracy! . . . any . . . second . . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . okay . . . okay . . . here it comes . . . wait for it . . . it's coming . . . it's coming . . . hang on . . . wait for it . . . NOW! talks to Il Greenwald and Cass Sunstein about the FISA changes, the rule of law, Barry's broken promises, etc. Greenwald acquits himself well by knowing, you know, what the fuck he's talking about, and I say this despite my oft-expressed and deeply held conviction that the question of public statutes regulating government surveillance is totally moot, that the State'll do what the State'll do regardless. I say this despite my conviction that talking about the "rule of law" as regards the governance of a global economic and military empire is as meaningful as talking about the four humours as regards a person's health. And I say this despite the fact the Greenwald bizarrely continues to say things like, "Well, you know, it’s one thing to defend Senator Obama and to support his candidacy, as I do"--which seems to me to be the individual equivalent of congressional gasbags saying that impeachment's off the table; gotta make do until something better comes along. Despite all these caveats, Greenwald knocks Sunstein, who's supposed to be some kind of scholar, around like Tyspon-Spinks. Now, to be fair, Sunstein isn't exactly a moving target, and here, for my shits and your giggles, I reproduce an actual, real-life quotation:
Right. We’re talking about some pretty serious issues here, and I think it’s good to distinguish among various ones. So, are we in favor of immunizing people who worked in the White House in the last eight years from accountability for criminal acts? I don’t think anyone should be in favor of that. We’re in agreement on the need to hold people accountable for criminal wrongdoing.Or does it explode?
Then there’s a second question, which is the impeachment question, which is analytically very different.
Then there’s a third issue, which involves pardons. For the President to issue a preemptive pardon of all illegality on the part of those involved in his administration would be intolerable, and the political retribution for that should be extreme. I expect the President won’t do that.
With respect to holding people accountable, the first things that’s needed is sunlight. Justice Brandeis, the Supreme Court justice, said sunlight is the best of disinfectants. So I agree very much that we want clarity with respect to what’s been done. It’s important to think, not in a fussy way, but in a way that ensures the kind of fairness our system calls for. It’s important to distinguish various processes by which we can produce accountability. I don’t believe the courtroom is the exclusive route. Congress is our national lawmaker, and there are processes there that could have a bipartisan quality. There are also commissions that can be created, commissions that can try to figure out what’s happened, what’s gone wrong and how can we make this better.
When I talk about a fear of criminalizing political disagreement, I don’t mean to suggest that we shouldn’t criminalize crimes. Crimes are against the law, and if there’s been egregious wrongdoing in violation of the law, then it’s not right to put a blind eye to that. So I guess I’m saying that emotions play an important role in thinking about what the legal system should be doing. But under our constitutional order, we go back and forth between the emotions and the legal requirements, and that’s a way of guaranteeing fairness. And as I say, very important to have a degree of bipartisanship with respect to subsequent investigations.
Wrapping casuistry in transparent tautology is hardly going to conceal the bad faith, and keep in mind, just for good measure, that the above is his response to Greenwald saying:
And you have people saying, “Well, we can’t criminalize policy disputes.”Well, whatever, since emotions are thinking about criminalizing crimes, which are against the wall.
And what this has really done is it’s created a two-tiered system of government, where government leaders know that they are free to break our laws, and they’ll have members of the pundit class and the political class and law professors standing up and saying, “Well, these are important intellectual issues that we need to grapple with, and it’s really not fair to put them inside of a courtroom or talk about prison.” And so, we’ve incentivized lawlessness in this country. I mean, the laws are clear that it’s criminal to do these things. The President has done them, and he—there’s no reason to treat him differently than any other citizen who breaks our laws.
The thing about the French is that they have no word for entrepreneur.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
“For me it doesn’t matter that he’s black or his name is Hussein,” said Ahmed Amin, 34, as he drank a beer in a downtown Cairo bar. “He’s an American, and so I disagree with most of what he says about the Arab world. I mean, Condoleezza Rice was black and poor, and she still invaded Iraq.”This is funny shit, and true, but also gets one to thinkin' 'bout just how involved and invested these foreigners are in our succession intrigues, how even as they know that our external policies will remain largely unchanged, nevertheless they find themselves drawn inexorably into the political drama taking place in the fortified capital of the empire. Can you imagine, as an American, investing so much interest and feeling you have so much at stake in the elevation current Paramount Leader of China?
Yet doesn't it seem like a grimly ironic foreshadowing of our own fate, we world-class debtors?
Monday, July 21, 2008
"This was supposed to be the premier system for bringing to justice the masterminds of the worst crime ever committed on U.S. soil," said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "The only result in seven years was the conviction of an Australian kangaroo trapper, who is now free."This is the kind of shit that almost makes up for the general misery of living in the Kali Yuga. Cruelty and horror are absurd mistresses. Discord is a goddess with a wicked sense of humor.
The article contains all the usual hand-wringing from folks representing organizations with names like the "National Institute of Military Justice" (uh, sic?), who all loudly and plaintively reiterate that This Shit Is Fucked. It isn't fair. There is no justice.
But isn't that sort of a universalism: there is no justice. My good fortune to crawl out into a well-lit maternity ward, be raised ensconed in luxury and indulgence, free to read a lot of books and loaf into a comfortable urban bohemianism stands in contrast to Ruth Bamago and her starving children. Ours is an arbitrary universe. I happened to be born into the currently predominant cultural-economic hegemony, although we are thankfully tottering at the high point of the parabola. In five hundred years, assuming the species survives, who-knows-whom will be clucking just the same about the shameful injustice of poor North Americans scratching out a meager subsistence on the sun-baked edges of the Great Midwestern Desert. I am not actually a Hindu, needless to say, but this eternal return shit is, like, pretty convincing.
I had a point, though, about Military Commissions. Ah. To look at a Military Commission and conclude that it is poorly constructed and hopelessly flawed because it creates a byzantine process that undercuts the rights of the accused and affords no hope of release or recompense in the case of wrongful imprisonment is to look at the sky and conclude that it is poorly constructed and hopelessly flawed because it isn't a brown liquid. The central purpose of the Military Commission is to confound justice and fairness, not to affirm them.
When it came to light that America developped its current torture practices by aping old Soviet techniques for breaking prisoners and obtaining false confessions, a cry went up that this was proof of bad-faith argument by those proponents of "enhanced interrogation," for it showed that the extraction of accurate information was never the point. Of course it wasn't the point, and of course the arguments-for were made in bad faith.
Until the internet achieves sentience and takes over our society in a benevolent, hyperintelligent dictatorship, the chances of substantially mitigating or ameliorating the horrors of our Kafka-guignol world are fairly slim. Practice small acts of hospitality and kindness, such as you can, in order to drip-drop into the general Karmic accounts, and hassle officialdom wherever you can. You can never achieve paradise making the very comfortable and the very assured a little less comfortable and a little less assured, but goddamn if it isn't satisfying to poke the bear and run like hell from time to time. Or the kangaroo.
UPDATE: No. Fucking. WAY!