Friday, March 30, 2007

Brooks: Is it Safe? ("Security Leads to Freedom")







There are legitimate conservative arguments to be made, but David Brooks' latest column does not make them.

In fact, the basic point of the column is that if Republicans need to jettison every value they've ever stood for in order to get in line behind Bush's authoritarianism, then so be it:

Goldwater and Reagan were important leaders, but they’re not models for the future.


Just when you thought the right-wing in this country had really lost its mind .... Here's Glenn Greenwald's parsing:

Brooks' central point: the dominant right-wing political movement in this country that has spawned and driven the Bush presidency has nothing to do with -- it is in fact overtly hostile to -- the ostensible principles of Goldwater/Reagan small-government conservatism.


As Greenwald notes, Brooks is now just explicitly admitting what we have suspected about the right for some time: that they have given up conservatism in favor of authoritarianism. Here is Brooks' new slogan:

security leads to freedom


This is really, really disturbing and, as Greenwald points out, comically Orwellian. But by the way, Brooks tells us, this is a principle of "child psychology". Hmmm ... why do I see Nazi doctors in white coats observing children in cages and asking, "are you safe?"

Let's see this slogan for what it is: a plea for authoritarianism. It's a plea for the elevation of the threat of "Islamic extremism" to a level that justifies grotesque executive abuses of power (including torture and indefinite detention without evidence), abuses Americans once thought of as inconceivable and fascist betrayals of our constitution. And what do we get for that? Not even security, because we have seen, incompetently waged and murderous wars do not lead to security. How about a few luggage bomb detectors for our airports? No, the right wing tells us; we don't need to worry about preventing attacks on the United States; we'd rather concentrate on revenge, even if that means a few thousand more American lives and many thousands more innocent Iraqi lives.

Speaking of "psychological" principles, the psychological version of authoritarianism afflicts people who are cruel and controlling towards themselves and others. Many great, poems, plays, and novels have been written about the disastrous effects of this principle, political and psychological. Many chapters in history support the observations contained in these works. Brooks should go read some of these. They hardly support the notion that authoritarianism leads to freedom, unless you are reading authoritarian propaganda, in which a kind of perverse pleasure is taken in trumpeting and forcing others to acquiesce to patent contradictions of fact -- e.g., the description of a law that allow for more pollution as the "Clean Air Act."

Today's right wing (should I call them "Republicans" or "Conservatives"? -- I doubt it) is a dangerous, dangerous crew. What makes Brooks particularly dangerous his his level of mercenary intellectual dishonesty, and his noisome claim to represent "normal, nonideological people" while throwing around pitifully partisan and stupid slogans like "security leads to freedom", the kind of sentiment that has been used to do public relations for some of history's dirtiest authoritarian work, including mass murder by dictators. Security does not lead to freedom if you're Jose Padilla, against whom no evidence has been presented; or if you're an Iraqi, in which case security doesn't even lead to security.

And in fact the ambiguity of the meaning of "security" is the point. Why doesn't Brooks tell us specifically what he means by "security"? To borrow from Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man: "I can't tell you whether it's safe or not unless I know specifically what you're talking about."

Andrew Sullivan has a blow-by-blow response here.

The Seinfeld Strategy

Michael Fullilove on America’s ‘Seinfeld’ strategy in Iraq, which means doing the opposite of everything your instincts tell you to do, a tactic once tried by Seinfeld's Costanza:

First, military and diplomatic resources are finite and should be directed towards your greatest priority. An example of the opposite approach would be for a country that has been attacked by a non-state terrorist group to retaliate by removing a state regime that had nothing to do with the attack.

Second, take care not to weaken your intimidatory powers through poor military performance. Aim for short, sharp victories (such as that in the 1991 Gulf war) that get your adversaries worrying about the extent of US power. The opposite would be to launch a war of choice involving the drawn-out occupation of an Arab country – the kind of thing that gets your allies worrying about the limits of US power.

Third, you get by with help from friends. Although the powerful are sometimes tempted to go it alone, international support helps determine the perceived legitimacy of an action, which affects its risk and costs. Building this support requires discussion and compromise. The opposite would be to spurn real negotiations, slough off your allies, bin multilateral agreements you do not like and declare that you are not bound by the rules that govern everyone else.

Fourth, state-building is hard. Few of the international efforts at state-building since the cold war’s end have succeeded. Luckily there are numberless reports identifying lessons learnt. The alternative would be to do the opposite of what those reports recommend, for example by deploying insufficient troops and dismantling any extant national institutions such as the army.

Fifth, democracy is a blessing that requires patient nurturing. The opposite approach would be to seek to impose democracy by force of arms on a population traumatised by decades of vicious and totalitarian rule.

Sixth, politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. If two dangerous states are struggling for dominance of a strategic region, maintaining a balance between them may be the least worst option. The opposite would be to emasculate one of them, thereby greatly increasing the relative power of the other.

Finally, historians often cite the need for prudence in international relations, quoting the physician’s dictum: “First, do no harm.” The opposite would be: “Don’t think too much, just chance your arm and see what happens!”

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Skepticism, Conservatism, and War

Andrew Sullivan is right that passion and skepticism are by no means at odds. The point of skepticism is not that we should vacate (we can't anway) our passions and the irrationality that grounds, at least in part, our most examined beliefs. It's that when it comes to setting priorities, we ought to be reflectively aware of this irrationality and elevate the concept of our fallibility above the others. That way we don't reach the point where it is imperative that others either share our beliefs and values, or be killed, because their "evil" ideas threaten to out-propagate the ideas that keep our culture psychically alive.

The supporters of war are quick to turn the ideas of others into existential threats, quickly shifting back and forth between the ways in which supposed enemies are a threat to us, or their own people, or to abstractions such as "freedom" and "democracy".

We know today that "terrorists" are not much of a threat to the United States, because they cannot strike with the force and frequency of a standing army. Even terrorists armed with a nuke are not a threat to the existence of the United States in the way, for instance, that Russia still is.

9/11 was more damaging to American pride than infrastructure, and the supporters of war do everything to conflate humiliation and threat. In the meantime, they do not take seriously the gravity of killing tens or hundreds of thousands of civilians for the sake of ideas and abstractions -- it is enough that we call these deaths an "accident" or the "collateral" of our good intentions. They do not get the irony that spreading "freedom" on a practical level means a massive imposition of misery on an entire populace. Because Saddam was a bad man and bad for Iraq, removing him must inevitably be better Iraq, a patent non sequitur.

Andrew Sullivan is one of those who did not take the concept of war seriously, and did not apply his skepticism when it counted. And despite his change of heart, there are still hints hints that he equates the failure of the Utopian adventure in Iraq with a case of mismanagement. That is not a conservative stance. History has not been kind to such schemes. We ought to learn from it.

The "Iraq experiment" of which Sullivan's reader speaks is a phrase of ignorant, Mengelian callousness: did we ask Iraqis if they thought liberation and "democracy" weres worth dying in large numbers? Did we hold a democratic referendum? And do we really think that war can be an act of grace? Did we think to evaluate or own cultural maladies, including the murderous recent history of the United States, against those of the Muslims above whom we assumed we were so culturally elevated that we thought we could help them cure their "extremism" and "social development" and "political attitudes" -- with bombs? This is like Ghenghis Khan describing his rampages as a kind of finishing school for those who could benefit from his brand of refinement.

To some this response will seem reactionary, America-hating, and naively pacifist. Some might detect the tinge of smug radicalism -- of disheveled simple-minded hippies who frequent war protests and can't make the tough decisions required for the safety of their nation. We're meant to believe that these critics are the tough guys who love America enough to accept the inevitability of killing: they can handle the idea of war. And where this willingness to kill would normally be a sign of psychopathology, in international affairs one finds an acceptable outlet, and in these circles it is a badge of honor, and realism, a grave consciousness of what is necessary in the world. (Notwithstanding the fact that the TV appearances of such toughs often consist of of everything from puerile, insecure belligerence to coldly delivered enticements to contractual mischief (Bill Kristol)).

They are not swayed by their emotions, by the pictures of dead children with newly disorganized bodies (plentiful from Iraq). That's just war, the realists say, and there are higher ideals, not to mention the safety of the country at stake.

Safer after the initiation of the blood feud? Safer when waging wars rather than establishing security at home? Higher, more realistic ideals than the lives of innocents?

("Er, when I said "spreading freedom", did I forget to mention that you'll find your arms and legs have been freed from your torso?")

Andrew Sullivan's Conservative Soul

An accurate and in some places devastating critique of Andrew Sullivan's career of fickle naiveté:

What is baffling is why such an ardent disciple of Oakeshott came to sign himself up for the Bush program in the first place—a decision that Sullivan now says he finds "more than a little worrying." For, from the moment of its declaration, the "war on terror" ("this crusade," as Bush then defined it), by committing the United States to an indefinite future of hostilities against a shadowy and shape-shifting enemy, had all the hallmarks of one of Oakeshott's most deluded Rationalist projects. Yet even as Osama bin Laden morphed into Saddam Hussein, and Paul Wolfowitz unrolled his great plan for the democratization of the Middle East by force of arms, Sullivan was a raucous cheerleader for the administration.


I have to admit Sullivan's blog is now my favorite -- perhaps because I like the prolonged mea culpa of someone who (in Raban's words) "shilled" so long for the right. Perhaps because he's just such a personable fellow, willing to tell you what's on his mind and change it, a quintessential blogger. I can't, on the other hand, get through Sullivan's book, in which "conservatism" is defined arbitrarily as skepticism and fallibilism. According to Raban, this skepticism is really just a rationalization of fickle passions:

This may explain Sullivan's painful about-face on the liberal-imperialist conquest of Iraq, but hardly excuses it. It is a self-serving conceit to claim, as he does, that in the days leading up to the invasion, all decent people (excluding the aforementioned nihilists and traitors) were in the same boat, equally misled by what later proved to be defective intelligence on Saddam's weapons of mass destruction


Montaigne's remarks on the infinite depth of human fallibility were not meant as a license to embrace the one-day inspiration only to reject it as "the dumbest thing on earth" when it turns out badly.



Petty consistency is not a hobgoblin that troubles Andrew Sullivan's mind, and he likes to chalk up his inconsistency to his conservatism, because it is a hallmark of the pragmatic conservative to know himself to be frequently mistaken.


Ouch on all counts. And Sullivan's inconsistencies are the Republican party's, according to Raban:


Yet in its exposure of the contra-dictions entailed in being Andrew Sullivan, The Conservative Soul rather brilliantly exposes the contradictions of the Republican Party as it is today. If two randomly selected voters who supported Bush in 2000 and 2004 were to be sat in a room and asked to unpack the contents of their heads, each would likely be appalled by the entrenched beliefs of the other. The worldviews of the Christian fundamentalist, the project-driven neoconservative theorist, and the small-government free-marketeer are, as Sullivan shows, dramatically incompatible on both religious and philosophical grounds.


These things may have more in common than they seem to at first blush.

The Spanish Civil War

Edward Rothstein writes on the ambiguities of the Spanish Civil War.

The civil war, in fact, had more to do with Spain than with fascism. Hugh Thomas’s encyclopedic “Spanish Civil War” reveals stupefying patterns of legislative failure and manic enterprise in the years before the war. Spain had no strong democratic traditions or middle class. It was an anomaly: a European nation that even World War I had passed by, its agrarian, preindustrial stagnation accompanied by rigid social hierarchies and strong regional allegiances. When a republic was established in 1931, it proved as vulnerable to revolutionary extremism as conservative reaction: land reform could mean land seizure; church reform could mean violence. Anarchism, riots and rebellion were familiar companions of the Republic’s bumbling modernity.



By 1937, after the show trials in Moscow, it was apparent to many devoted idealists that the party’s high moral proclamations were not what they seemed. This is what George Orwell fitfully recognizes in his “Homage to Catalonia.” First he fights in an independent Marxist division that was apparently kept deliberately undersupplied. Later he fears for his life in Barcelona — Republican-held territory — as the party begins a planned purge, including killings and torture. Some recent research has suggested that even members of the Lincoln Brigade — some of whom “disappeared” — were not immune.


Something about the nature of war that both the right and left should keep in mind.

Write a Dubya Speech

For fun.

Iraq War Coalition Fatalaties Chart

An amazing flash timeline of Iraq coalition fatalities (it would be nice to see something similar for Iraqi casualties).

Creepy Iran Kidnapping Roundup

Apparently the Iranians have been reading Semour Hersh articles and aren't yet satisfied that they've given Britain and the U.S. enough excuses for a round of bombing.

The whole "we'll show you by making you our captive photo-op guests and have you write letters home to your parents about how bad you've been" is simply creepy -- much more disturbing than the rhetoric of Ahmednejad, which is obviously calculated to piss people off.

No, this was not written with guidance from an Iranian communications mullah I'm sure:


Dear Mum & Dad,

I am writing to you from Iran where I am being held. I will try to explain to you the best what has happened. We were out in the boats when we were arrested by Iranian forces as we had apparently gone into Iranian waters. I wish we hadn't because then I'd be home with you all right now. I am so sorry we did, because I know we wouldn't be here now if we hadn't. I want you all to know that I am well and safe. I am being well looked after. I am fed three meals a day and have a constant supply of fluids.

The people are friendly and hospitable, very compassionate and warm. I have written a letter to the Iranian people to apologize for us entering into their waters. Please don't worry about me, I am staying strong. Hopefully it won't be long until I am home to get ready for Molly's birthday party with a present from the Iranian people.

Look after everyone for me, especially Adam and Molly.

I love you all more than you will ever know.

All my love,

Faye


"Dear pairs, I wish I hadn't gone to Iran, because if I hadn't I wouldn't be in Iran. One thing I'll say about going into other people's waters, there are always plenty of fluids. and they're such nice people, not creepy at all, much unlike this letter or my being put on TV. I'm sure they'll let me come home, as long as England and America don't do something naughty like I did."

Very creepy. Not cruel, like Guantanamo and indefinite detention without trial and no evidence in cages and (in the case of Padilla) solitary confinement. Rather, creepy and psychologically cruel. As a friend pointed out, "it's got that unmarried scoutmaster feel" to it.

Part of that feel comes from the "you've been bad, you must been punished" theme, where the transgression is minor, technical, unintentional, contrived, and possibly non-existent. The soldiers were "trespassing" because they got the border wrong by a few yards, assuming that's true. When the infraction depends on such precise measurement, how can you tell? Should Iran's fragile pride be wounded or not? Should the spies be hanged or not? Break out the ruler.

And then we have the gradual release, ladies first, as if Iran were held up in a bank. We know why bank-robbers get themselves into banks in the first place and why the generosity of hostage release is such a thrill: they're used to having nothing to give.

"Obviously we trespassed", says Faye Turney -- no, not obvious, though obviously you're under duress. Someone in Iran thinks they're involved in successful public relations campaign, when in fact they're revealing the creepiness and dysfunction of their government: no, your coercion of mea culpas for public consumption and the humiliation of your enemies is not sophisticated , it's stupid and naive. Your reputation sucks, your morons, and you just made it worse. You don't know how to interact with the world, and you think people are impressed by behavior that is truly pathetic.

I wish I could say the United States weren't guilty of similar stupidity. An appeal to the rednecks who would run our country like the Mullahs: going forward, let's try not look this pathetic, OK? But I fear Iran will give the Bush administration the excuse it needs.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bukowski reads "The Secret of My Endurance"





Bush to Raise our Taxes?

Here.

the Joint Committee projects that the President's proposed standard deduction for health insurance, coupled with repeal of the exclusion for employer-paid health insurance, self-employed health insurance deduction, and itemized medical deductions, would result in a $333 billion tax increase over 10 years.

Let's Revisit ...

Recent Essays:

The Travel-Raging of A. A. Gill

Two offensive classics from A. A. Gill, who writes like someone with tourette's syndrome and a gift (and is apparently severely dyslexic and has to dictate his articles):




There are other little things which tell you that, although they may look like us, they syncopate to a different beat. They can’t walk in crowds, for instance, which is surprising because they’re so good at marching. Germans are constantly bumping into each other with barely restrained looks of fury; perhaps they’re just habituated to invading other people’s personal space. But then again they’ll stand for lengthy minutes with a bovine serenity at completely empty crossroads waiting for the little green man to tell them to cross.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Berube vs Cockburn

Alexander Cockburn shows us just how nasty the internecine squabbles of the left can get:

Have any of them, from Makiya through Hitchens to Berman and Berube had dark nights, asking themselves just how much responsibility they have for the heaps of dead in Iraq....


Sometimes I dream of them, -- Friedman, Hitchens, Berman -- like characters in a Beckett play, buried up to their necks in a rubbish dump on the edge of Baghdad, reciting their columns to each other as the local women turn over the corpses to see if one of them is her husband or her son.


Berube defends himself:

Neither Gitlin nor I lavished abuse on Chomsky for his opposition to war in Iraq. But we did criticize him for things like for proclaiming on the afternoon of September 11 that the attacks paled in comparison to Clinton’s 1998 bombing of the al-Shifa plant in Khartoum....


The real problem was that we’d criticized Noam Chomsky, which, for some people, is even worse than supporting war in Iraq.


Yes, and the followers of the high priest, like him, fight dirty. Berube takes a play out of their book and weds them to their enemies:

In the US, the Z/Counterpunch crew have a symbiotic relation to Berman, Hitchens, et al., just as in the UK the Galloway/Respect crowd have a symbiotic relation to the Eustonites. To this day, each needs the other. And it is in both camps’ interest to pretend that Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq were all part of the same enterprise: all three wars were wars of liberation for the Hawks, and all three were exercises in imperialism for the Sovereignty Left.

Be a Mind-Sticker

For fun: a horrifying Tab ad in which the voice-over/jingle consists of what sounds like a mellow pedophile cajoling the ethereal, high-pitched superego of a 14-year-old, eating-disorder afflicted girl: "he wants you with a good shape" and "be a mind-sticker".







Hat Tip Beyond Madison Avenue.

Andrew Sullivan -- Either/Or

My love-hate relationship with Andrew Sullivan.

His intemperate relationship with Islam:

The current state of Islam is the problem; and only Muslims can find the solution.


His humility:

I take a few, and largely deserved, whacks at my solar plexus for various hyperbolic blog posts over the years.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Brits in New York

A very funny piece by A.A. Gill:

Indeed, Brits are rarely seen in New York without their magic cloaks of invisible irony—they think that, on a fundamental level, their calling here is as irony missionaries. They bless everything and everyone with the little flick quotation marks, that rabbit-ear genuflection of cool, ironic sterility. How often their mocking conversations about the natives return to the amusing truth that New Yorkers have an unbelievable, ridiculous irony deficiency, which ignores the fact that a city that produced Dorothy Parker, Robert Mapplethorpe, Abstract Expressionism, Woody Allen, and Woody Allen's love life has quite enough irony to build the Brooklyn Bridge.


These ex-Brits who have settled in the rent-stabilized margins of Manhattan aren't our brightest and our best—they are our remittance men, paid to leave. Not like the other immigrants, who made it here as the cleverest, most adventurous in the village. What you get are our failures and fantasists. The freshly redundant. The exposed and embittered. No matter how long they stay here, they don't mellow, their consonants don't soften. They don't relax into being another local. They become ever more English. Über-Brits. Spiteful, prickly things in worn tweed, clutching crossword puzzles, gritting their Elizabethan teeth, soup-spotted, tomb-breathed, loud and deaf. The most reprehensible and disgusting of all human things; the self-made, knowing English eccentric. Eccentricity is the last resort of the expat.

Self-Inflicted Terror

Zbigniew Brzezinski on the "War on Terror":

The damage these three words have done -- a classic self-inflicted wound -- is infinitely greater than any wild dreams entertained by the fanatical perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks when they were plotting against us in distant Afghan caves.

Roll, TIDE

But one said keeping tabs on your citizens is easy:

But in addressing one problem, TIDE has spawned others. Ballooning from fewer than 100,000 files in 2003 to about 435,000, the growing database threatens to overwhelm the people who manage it.


Just in case you need to put your annoying neighbor on the no-fly list:

The 80 TIDE analysts get "thousands of messages a day," Travers said, much of the data "fragmentary," "inconsistent" and "sometimes just flat-out wrong."


TIDE is a vacuum cleaner for both proven and unproven information, and its managers disclaim responsibility for how other agencies use the data.

The Sophisticated Language of Fascism

Just another bit of experimental dilettantism, to see if the police state suits us after all:

But potential troublemakers were hardly the only ones to end up in the files. In hundreds of reports stamped “N.Y.P.D. Secret,” the Intelligence Division chronicled the views and plans of people who had no apparent intention of breaking the law, the records show.


“Activists are showing a well-organized network made up of anti-Bush sentiment; the mixing of music and political rhetoric indicates sophisticated organizing skills with a specific agenda,” said the report, dated Oct. 9, 2003. “Police departments in above listed areas have been contacted regarding this event.”


Yes, it sure does take a lot of sophistication to get together and make music and speeches (perhaps there was a sophisticated use of E-vite using something called the in-ter-net). "Sophisticated" is a nonsense word that the government and social science academics use when talking about organizations, especially about terrorist organizations, to make it sound as if they're talking about something both a) complex and b) threatening. You give your discussion the aura of being simultaneously scientific, current, and urgent. It's not surprising to see such jargon put to use for lame justifications of police state actions: "gee, these people are sophisticated, just like the terrorists!" (the word can do its work in the service of typical right-wing anti-intellectualism as well).

Notice also the imprecision of the language, something we see more and more in everything from police reports to journalism: the network is "made up of anti-Bush sentiment", not of people with anti-Bush sentiment. That imprecision may seem trivial, but it is the kind of generalization that fuels poor judgment: "they bombed us, so we bombed them, it's only fair." The ability to make distinctions is critical to the ability to be humane. When mere sentiment forms a "network", as in terrorist cell, the idea is that mere sentiment is a crime -- a thought crime.

“Billionaires for Bush is an activist group forged as a mockery of the current president and political policies,” the report said.


Sadly "sentiment" and "mockery" have become data for mindless, half-literate, bureaucratic reports. And the police have been used aggressively on behalf of a particular political party by pro-actively arresting the "sophisticated" networks of sentiment and mockery -- er, I should say (in my sophisticated way) the bearers of those mocking sentiments ....

Of course, if only we could arrest mockery itself, and bad sentiment itself, all our problems would be solved. (The intruding afterthought: But can't we? There are certain techniques, ways of making someone talk, ways of changing the way they feel ... ways of reducing their sophistication).

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Scamming the Scammers

A brilliant and hilarious way to lead on Nigerian scammers (The Adventures of Wendy Willcox and her dog Willis

Friday, March 23, 2007

Bolton vs. Lincoln

Why do humorless Republicans make fools of themselves on comedy shows? Bolton is a sitting duck for John Stewart and Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Christ 2.0 (A Parable of Innocence)

The death penalty and Iraq have proven that it is not killing per se that vexes right-wing fundamentalist Christians. Rather, they make a fetish of helplessness and innocence: the thought of unadulterated fetuses sucked unceremoniously back into the void is a torment. Then there is Terry Schiavo, whose being brain-dead made her especially helpless, therefore especially pure. (A corpse won't do however, the point is to have something warm and pulsing on which to hang the tatters of your heart, so when reasons start to invade your thoughts you can reply to them, "don't be so heartless!"). Under this rubric we can place some forms of worship of Jesus Christ: not as a long-haired, socialist gadfly and pacifist hippie. There are only two acceptable forms of Jesus: little baby Jesus, and Jesus with large nails connecting him to beams of wood. These Jesuses are sufficiently catatonic, whether in manger or on cross, to arouse right-wing pathos.

One might imagine that Jesus would rightly object to the millenia of abuse to which he's been subjected via such images. And perhaps he will return (grown up, mobile, brain fully intact) to put everything straight. It might involve a little heavy handedness -- showing up to sweep the baked goods of the Church bake-sale tables, for instance ("this is a house of prayer!").

By the time he gets heavy handed he's proven himself, of course -- the videos of miracles have made their appearance on YouTube. No one doubts he's Jesus; the question is, who is Jesus? And there is inevitable conflict with his own followers, right-wing or not. Why is Jesus stealing crucifixes from Churches and publicly destroying them? Why is he showing up to heckle sermonizers, carrying "Twilight of the Idols" and "The Anti-Christ" and quoting Nietzsche about the "stench" of the church? Why is showing up at anti-war protests but not at pro-life rallies? Why does he seem a little unhinged, subjecting parties of church women to his angry ranting and even lurid stares ("Oh my, I just thought we were going to spend some nice time with Jesus"), a regular Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon.

It's not that Jesus has lost his ability to be calm and peaceful and nice (a "rock"), it's just that in this brave new world, and in a world with so many worshipers, he finds himself lost and unforgiving. There are TV appearances that are just plain odd, in which he makes Paula Abdul look coherent. There are others in which he is more brooding and full of scotch and strangely articulate than Christopher Hitchens. There are bitter debates with Anne Coulter on Fox news: (her with precious, self-satisfied irony) "I think we should arrest Jesus and convert him to Christianity". We begin to wonder about Jesus -- "Jesus, are you ok?" becomes the signature opening line of TV interviewers.

And we do all wonder about his mental stability. But some now openly wonder about his divinity -- once a non-issue, but Jesus has not trotted out the magic tricks in a long time, and these days our attention span is short. "Come on Jesus," says Bill Maher, "I'm your biggest fan. I'll have you on every show if you want. But if you really are Jesus, teleport us to the Playboy Mansion right now. Prove to me that you are who you say you are. It's not that I don't believe in you, I just want to see it with my own eyes."

Meanwhile, the Whitehouse vigils have shaken the Bush administration:

Bush
Good Cheney man, they're right out side our yard
Good Cheney man, go call the National Guard

Cheney
No wait ....
We need a more permanent solution
To our problem
(Besides, the National Guard are all in Iraq)

What then to do about Jesus of America, miracle wonderman, hero of fools?

Look, it's not that the world has no imagination, it's just that history tends to repeat itself. That Jesus will end up back where he belongs, on the cross, is a foregone conclusion. And the perpetrators will regret it soon enough ("Oh Jesus, how could we have done that to you again?") and fall to their knees and beg forgiveness. And Christ will have to pick himself up, dust himself off, and make another go of it. And the Christians, to their slight irritation, will have to get off their knees and watch it happen all over again. And in fact, the cycle will repeat itself endlessly, and the loop will tighten up considerably, but like dieters we simply will not be able to resist the temptation no matter how many times we experience the regret. In this Groundhog Day situation, Jesus and his crucifixion will become a regular part of our lives, and we will wonder at our own fickleness, after the foot of a cross has become a major tourist attraction, a must-see: "God, why hast thou forsaken me (for the 578th time)". And the pilgrims can't help thinking: "Jesus, he's keeping count?"

And this cycle will not end until someone realizes that we can have Jesus to ourselves -- baby Jesuslike, immobile, and totally innocent forever -- if we induce just enough brain damage and fire up the life support. It's a sad ending to the saga. Think of all those crazy times, all the things Jesus did while ambulatory upon the earth: the time he became a Muslim and changed his name to "Jesus Mohammed" and got on the no-fly list; the rumors of an affair with Lindsey Lohan (and many, many others); that crazy appearance at the Academy Awards -- best supporting actor as Judas in a re-make of "Last Temptation" where Mark Wahlberg plays Jesus himself; the trial for pedophilia ("Jesus Christ Innocent", reads the headline); the death from cocaine overdose (the only cycle in which he avoided crucifixion); and all the other times he pushed the envelope and tried to break out of that Jesus "image", that "baggage" as he liked to call it (via the kind of high-risk behavior that kept getting him crucified).

But that all comes to end, and Jesus lives out a long last life as an innocent vegetable. That really takes the joy out of eternal return, so he just stops. And then the world laments this ("how could we be so sinful as to make life intolerable to Jesus!"), and Christianity continues with quite a bit more to chew on, and there are holy wars and revivals and ever bigger screen TVs in ever larger mega-churches, and the divine never again makes an appearance upon the earth.

(Disclaimer: this gospel is based strictly on revelation and not, for instance, on a viewing of Jesus Christ Superstar).


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Liberal Education and America

A kind of education that's just no longer in fashion.

which Levine succinctly calls "the cultivation of human powers." To reach this end requires first of all the recognition that it is unending, in the sense that "the purpose of school education," as John Dewey put it, "is to insure the continuance of education by organizing the powers that insure growth." It requires the student to become informed about past and present—to learn, that is, something substantial about history, science, and contemporary societies in order to bring that knowledge to bear on unforeseeable challenges of the future.

I Heart Huckabees (Attack)

The I Heart Huckabees blowouts, unlike the movie a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Petty Cruelties

Really just a metaphor for the Bush administration's entire tenure:

The dismissal process itself, the documents show, was chaotic and spiked with petty cruelties. Two senior officials joked caustically about U.S. Attorney Carol Lam in San Diego -- who prosecuted the corruption case of former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) -- calling her "sad" and saying her record was "hideous."



"This makes me so sad. Why have I been asked to resign?" U.S. Attorney Margaret M. Chiara writes to McNulty on Feb. 1.


Sad indeed, but also inconsistent:

the firing lists drawn up by D. Kyle Sampson, a former Gonzales aide who resigned last week, frequently changed, rarely including the same group of allegedly inferior U.S. attorneys.


Heckuva job, Sammy, let me know when we're done eating our own.

Some just laid down -- they were "distinguished" after all:

"he wanted us to know that he's still a 'company man' "

Exactly What Christopher Hitchens Means to Say

What courageous humility is exemplified by Christopher Hitchens, who ... strike that, reverse it, I misread his recent article in Slate.

To revive a different motif: what a sack of shit is Hitchens, who now trots out his anemic debate team arguments for a last stand. The bad boy of letters must not admit defeat!

We get legalistic arguments about UN resolutions, as if we didn't know those resolutions are based on U.S. arm-twisting and bribery and can be always be had for the right price. We get lines like the following:

The Bush administration never claimed that Iraq had any hand in the events of Sept. 11, 2001. But it did point out, at different times, that Saddam had acted as a host and patron to every other terrorist gang in the region.

Here's what Cheney said in 2003: "We learn more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the '90s that it involved training, for example, on [biological and chemical weapons], that Al Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems." Whether Cheney avoided the technical error of saying "Hussein helped Al Qaeda accomplish 9/11," that's what these statements meant to most Americans; and that's what most Americans believe. I'm sure we could find and celebrate the technical nuances of many other examples of successful propaganda -- that is, after all, what makes them successful.

Of course, strained legal technicalities are of particular interest to Hitchens -- this is after all his self-defense. His article ends with sophistry that can be paraphrased thus: "I admit that civil war was predictable, but that's because the roots of this civil war lie in Saddam's exploitation of sectarian differences, which means there already was an "unease" that certainly would have led to civil war anyway if ... (someone invaded?).

But the icing:

So, you seriously mean to say that we would not be living in a better or safer world if the coalition forces had turned around and sailed or flown home in the spring of 2003?

That's exactly what I mean to say.


I suppose we are not to ask Iraqis this question, because manifestly they do not live in a "better or safer world". And we know historically that Saddam was a threat only to a) his own people and (when armed and encouraged, intentionally in the case of Iran and unintentionally in the case of Kuwait, by the United States and Europe) b) his neighbors, to whom he is no longer a threat; hence the primary task of the war was to improve the quality of Iraqi lives. It was not: the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the displacement of millions, and the devastation of their infrastructure, economy, and way of life. Life was bad under Hussein; it is much worse under coalition forces.

For men like Hitchens, these concerns are just rank consequentialism: there are ideals to uphold -- what are human lives next to these grand ideals? Under this view, when countries go to war, the send only their blue-blooded patriots, and upright pure defenders of freedom; all the compassionate carriers of machine guns who would never hurt a fly if the good of their invadees were not at stake.

In fact: when countries go to war, they send a motley crew of good and bad men: they send men with fine and heroic sensibilities, and they send sadists and criminals. They send the men who are saints, and they send men who, for instance, will rape a 15-year-old Iraqi girl and set her on fire and kill her entire family. And then of course they send average men; they pour their entire, mixed bag of these men into another society -- and with them, their courage and nobility; but also, their problems, their frailties, and their crimes. And then this entire spectrum is subjected to tremendous stress and impersonal, bureaucratic militarism: so that, for instance, when they ordered to massacre Iraqi soldiers running for their lives, they will do it, as they did on the "Highway of Death" in the first Gulf War; and when they are told that rules of engagement allow blindly "clearing" houses anywhere near areas where they have encountered fire -- i.e., killing every Iraqi man, woman, and child, as in Haditha, they may well take the opportunity to do it and defend their actions afterwards; or if a car pulls up to quickly on their skittish and impromptu checkpoint, they are more likely than not to turn its occupants into dead meat. Some soldiers will enjoy these atrocities, some will be haunted by them, some destroyed: but the point is that war is so catastrophic, so spiritually and physically catastrophic for both sides, that it ought not to be entertained as Hitchens entertains his scotch or his next glib bit of copy. We ought to take seriously the tragedy of war, and its consequences; because its execution transcends and destroys the values for which it is supposedly a means, and the only value that may survive it and justify it is brute survival. The words and the grand ideals of writers and neocons are not the actuality of war; war is not the smart bombs and good guys and bad guys; the actuality is a devastating moral perversion that no amount pickled sentimentality or troop-supporting will reverse.

But beyond this: if we do believe there are ideals which justify the mass-murder of innocents as well as those unfortunate wearers-of-uniforms, we ought to ask whether we want to be the executioners, and whether our government has the kind of record of moral purity and competence that might encourage us to believe that war will in fact improve our lives and ultimately the lives of those we vanquish. As Andrew Sullivan puts it:

The real question is: if we knew then what we know now about the caliber, ethics, competence and integrity of the president and his aides, would we have entrusted them to wage this war?

But then what administration would we trust, in a country whose recent history includes killing millions of Vietnamese? In a country that has supported death squads in South America, and armed and encouraged both sides in the Iran-Iraq war, which killed more than a million people? In a country that went out of its way to defend Hussein while he was gassing his own people, right up to the eve of the first Gulf War, for the principal reason that he was needed to satisfy the war profiteers and economic interests that so strongly influence its government? You don't have to be a liberal or an America-hater to believe these things; you merely have to read history and love your country enough to be upset by it. War profiteering and corruption and atrocities and mismanagement and bungled occupations are not novel apparitions, suddenly coming on the scene to confound the theorists of the good, the true, the right-pure war. And we ought not to be confused on these points by the fact that Bush has added more brazen forms of criminality and acts that really threaten to destroy the United States by dissolving the institutions that comprise it -- torture and indefinite detention and suspension of habeas corpus, for instance.

So while we worry about the destruction our country via its values and institutions (and the traditions we thought until recently that conservatives cherished), let Hitchens tell Iraqis that the destruction of theirs was worth it because of our abstract sense of safety and their abstract sense of liberation
from a bad, bad man. Let him tell them how, consequences be damned, he was right, because by his math a world minus a bad man is a better world, notwithstanding the subtraction of a few hundred thousand lives. Let him tell them that this is exactly what he means, as if one writer sticking to his imaginary guns were itself such an act of fortitude that it redeems any amount of actual destruction.

Not Distinguished

We're surprised to learn that Prosecutor Fitzgerald is not distinguished. Notice that the Bush administration does not make competence an issue, because competence is precisely the standard you want to avoid when you're building an organization of mindless cronies. And "not distinguished" means just these things: not blindly loyal, not a "Bushie", not independent, not willing to make corrupt prosecutions of political enemies ... not incompetent enough.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Self-Hating Zionists

Soros in The New York Review of Books on playing the anti-Semite card and the recent vilification of him by The New Republic (a great magazine if you're only interested in the regurgitation of squeamishly moderate, tail-tucked conventional wisdom):

Rosenfeld resorts, without any personal knowledge of the people he attacks, to primitive accusations of self-hatred, lumping all these critics together as people who are "proud to be ashamed to be Jews."


Anybody who dares to dissent may be subjected to a campaign of personal vilification. I speak from personal experience. Ever since I participated in a meeting discussing the need for voicing alternative views, a torrent of slanders has been released including the false accusation in The New Republic that I was a "young cog in the Hitlerite wheel" at the age of thirteen when my father arranged a false identity to save my life and I accompanied an official of the Ministry of Agriculture, posing as his godson, when he was taking the inventory of a Jewish estate.[5]


Let's see how long it takes AIPAC to get send in the bulldozers. After all, if being saved from the Holocaust makes you a Nazi "cog" then I suppose there are many richer insults to come.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Building the new (and massive) Airbus A380 in 7 minutes

Another amazing machine.

[youtube=http://youtube.com/w/?v=LbEiHGZtCFA]

Pathologies of Hope

Pathologies of Hope

by Barbara Rhrenreich

Harper's Magazine Notebook (February 2007)


I hate hope. It was hammered into me constantly a few years ago when I was being treated for breast cancer: Think positively! Don't lose hope! Wear your pink ribbon with pride! A couple of years later, I was alarmed to discover that the facility where I received my follow-up care was called the Hope Center. Hope? What about a cure? At antiwar and labor rallies over the years, I have dutifully joined Jesse Jackson in chanting "Keep hope alive!" - all the while crossing my fingers and thinking, "Fuck hope. Keep us alive."

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sontag -- Words Worth Recalling

The disconnect between last Tuesday's monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public. Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a "cowardly" attack on "civilization" or "liberty" or "humanity" or "the free world" but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq? And if the word "cowardly" is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday's slaughter, they were not cowards.

Our leaders are bent on convincing us that everything is O.K. America is not afraid. Our spirit is unbroken, although this was a day that will live in infamy and America is now at war. But everything is not O.K. And this was not Pearl Harbor. We have a robotic President who assures us that America still stands tall. A wide spectrum of public figures, in and out of office, who are strongly opposed to the policies being pursued abroad by this Administration apparently feel free to say nothing more than that they stand united behind President Bush. A lot of thinking needs to be done, and perhaps is being done in Washington and elsewhere, about the ineptitude of American intelligence and counter-intelligence, about options available to American foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, and about what constitutes a smart program of military defense. But the public is not being asked to bear much of the burden of reality. The unanimously applauded, self-congratulatory bromides of a Soviet Party Congress seemed contemptible. The unanimity of the sanctimonious, reality-concealing rhetoric spouted by American officials and media commentators in recent days seems, well, unworthy of a mature democracy.

Those in public office have let us know that they consider their task to be a manipulative one: confidence-building and grief management. Politics, the politics of a democracy—which entails disagreement, which promotes candor—has been replaced by psychotherapy. Let's by all means grieve together. But let's not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen. "Our country is strong," we are told again and again. I for one don't find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that America is strong? But that's not all America has to be.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Honey, I Created a Jihad

If you're interested in how a century of British and American (and generally Western) involvement in the Middle East led to the mess there we now face see Barry Lando's excellent book Web of Deceit (and ses also his blog: http://barrylando.com). No Hitch and Sullivan, it's not "islamofascism"; rather, it's about oil and colonial history and the CIA. The West could not have more meticulously created today's predicament if that were its primary goal. (Lots of interesting and surprising facts, including employment of a young and murderous Saddam Hussein by the CIA, Kissinger's well-documented indifference to mass casualties, France's promiscuous arms industry, and the list goes on).

Trump to Bush: You're Fired

The Rosie treatment, hilarious, here.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The language of war is victims

This will seem like a victory only to those who are not disturbed the fact that these confessions originate from a military tribunal, under conditions we can only assume include torture, in the legal netherworld of Guantanamo. Or for those who are not disturbed that the President believes he has the right to imprison in solitary confinement and torture any of his subjects (for that is what we are today) at his will and without evidence, as in the case of Jose Padilla.

A much greater victory than the "confession" of one man would be the observance of due process. This is about the difference between principles and individuals, and the fact that the destruction of our particular enemies is not worth the abdication of those principles. E.g., very simply:

His attempt to call two witnesses was denied.


And the bizarreness of the planner of 9/11 feeling the need to make these kinds of admonishments, as if to say "I thought I was heartless ...."

While not contesting his own guilt, Mr. Mohammed asked the United States government to “be fair with people.” He said that many people who had been arrested as terrorists in the wake of 9/11 were innocent.


Or the strangest tof all:

He added, “The language of war is victims.”

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Protecting Republicans from Themselves

"Mistakes were made," Gonzales says without irony -- by whom, we are left to guess. Have they forgotten that the phrase should be used only as parody? When those tough, aggressive Bush henchmen are put to the test, we see the miserable passivity.

And then there's the loyalty factor. For all their talk of liberal "treason", the far right does not understand that their loyalty to the current administration, come what may, is not the same as loyalty to country, and runs counter to it.

How ironic that some must now try to protect Republicans from themselves, even as they try to minimize the damage they are doing to the United States.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

This is a Wahr! (A Tale, Told by an Idiot, Full of Shock and Awe ....)

Another Washington Journal moment: "This is a Wahr," the old woman reminded us. "This" -- not two wars, the war on terror and the war in Iraq, the first a made-up fantasy and the second elective folly. The first not really a "this", but rather an unending excuse for abuses of executive power and the folly of trying to use the blunt instrument of force against hidden cells; the second not legally a war (which in our forgotten Constitution, only congress can declare) but rather an executive military "action". And neither really a war in planning or practice: no tightening of security on the first front, no establishment of security on the second.

The Republicans like to make a sentimental mockery of this notion of war and support of troops: they apply it liberally. What a boon 9/11 was to this fantasy of militarism, what an ultimate excuse for the occasional leisure aggression, to be waged with a fierce minimalism, watched from the living room, and lamented as if it were the great national sacrifice that it is not.

The great sacrifice that was asked of us, that we might have made: to find bin Laden, to target our enemies selectively, to improve our national security and intelligence apparatus, and to make rational our foreign policies. The great indulgence that we are engaged in: a prideful fantasy, a folly that is now approaching its logical conclusion -- not a wahr at all, not a war, not even a battle, but the kind of tale that idiots craft for themselves, full of shock and awe, accomplishing nothing.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A Brilliant Anti-Clinton Ad

Here

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

hiatus

On vacation with minimal internet access; this blog will pick up again on mar 11!

Friday, March 2, 2007

You're a Democrat and it Shows

I wake up to Washington Journal in the morning because the irritation I immediately feel prevents me from going back to sleep. There's nothing like the application of senility to politics.

More and more frequently the elderly callers on the Republican Line complain about the bias of the moderator. This on a show that in a way is an ongoing lobotomy -- so inexpressive in its attempt at neutrality that you can practically hear the crawling line of drool. (This I wake up to? My own senility beckons).

The "Lines" (the phone lines I mean) are themselves a disappointing tactic, as if the maddened partisans must be herded into their respective stalls -- "elderly people, we respect your opinions, but not enough to discuss them with you, not enough even to disagree -- there are issues of sanitation; please just turn down your radio, say your last political words, and then click through this turnstile on your way to Republican or Democratic heaven". At is as if the show is the political version of a nursing home: "this is the logical consequence of the partisan mind," it seems to say, "we'll take care of you while your spleen deteriorates".

None of this boring sanitation satisfies the paranoia of old age -- and perhaps in the sense the show has been designed to infuriate and revitalize (a paradoxical defibrillator). One man calls to give a long complaint (with Joe Conason as guest) about how the moderator always cuts of Republicans before they're done, and one gets the impression that they mean the moderator eventually feels compelled to get away from the long, rambling complaints about "liberals" who should be "run out of the country". But the moderator patiently waits until the end and then says, as usual, "thank you caller." This only incenses a bout of octogenarian gang-banging: another old woman calls to give her point and then the final blow, oh yes, "you're a democrat and it shows" she says with great satisfaction: the show is completely biased.

You're a Democrat, you listen to us, you say nothing, secretly you despise us, and we know it; you're a Democrat and it shows. Where is the fair and balanced ranting, the huffery rush limbaugh puffery? You're a Democrat and it shows -- this infuriating pretense of neutrality notwithstanding -- show your cards, Democrat!

You're a journalist and you're not on Fox, and oh how it shows!

What Went Wrong (9/11 and Schizophrenia)

Here:

This mirror of "What Went Wrong" wouldn't be a story on the same scale, but it has the main theme in common. It would be about Westerners who had their reality bubble pricked by people from an alien culture, and spent the next couple of years stumbling about like idiots, unable to deal rationally with this new reality that had forced itself on them. Egging each other on, they predicted, interpreted, and labeled – and legislated and invaded. They saw clearly, through beautiful ideas. And they were wrong.


And then there are alien pricks (sorry) that are (in psychoanalytic parlance) "restitutional" symptoms: Schizophrenia, according to one theory, revives the world as an intrusion (hallucinations or paranoia that, however painful, balance the more troubled state of complete withdrawal from the world). This is not to say anything about desert: the point is that isolationism and paranoid meddling in the affairs of other countries are not inconsistent. "Stay away from me, I know nothing about you, but I am a realist and there will be cash and arms for the regimes that keep things tidy".

It's really fundamentally anti-imperialist and the more dangerous because of it. For a while there is isolation, and then the visuals come: 9\11 is half real, half American invention -- Hollywood has been writing these scripts for years. When conspiracy theorists obsess over made-up (and really uninteresting) theories about Bush administration involvement, they are in touch with the deeper sense in which the United States forced itself into contact with the world in the worst possible way. That is, helped bring the most maniacal elements of the "other" to its shores -- let them slip through its security apparatus, paid no attention to the hornet's nest it had been stirring, took no real precautions to protect itself, all despite the veneer of realism.

This is a brute fact, not a lesson about desert.

These comments may be mistaken for an argument about what people deserve and what America deserves: it goes without saying that such things are never deserved, and why should I have to do homage to the people who tell us we're not allowed to think about 9/11? (And on a personal note, I was near enough to the South Tower to be covered in its remains, and I nursed my anger and feelings of vengeance for long enough). No, we don't have to keep chanting "evil, evil, evil" in order to reassure ourselves that 9/11 was undeserved, or to avoid reconciling ourselves to the worst human possibilities, or to reassure fellow citizens that we're on their side.

Sometimes mere solidarity can be deadly.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Dick Cheney's Assasination - Sick, but I Understand

Andrew Sullivan on the fact that some commenters on Huffington Post took delight int he Cheney Assassination attempt:

I think some Huffposters' desire to see the vice-president assassinated is repulsive on every level, and indicative of real sickness on the far left.


I was reminded immediately of a certain classic by Chris Rock:

[youtube=http://youtube.com/w/?v=EjXSOws8o2o]

While Sulllivan realizes that Kristol's post is a "classic gambit" (merely expand the notion of culpability -- you are responsible for the views of your readers, or the characteristic views of your "group"; the kind of expansion of culpability behind racist and jingoist impulses); it is one of his many tautological expressions of distance from a "far left" bogeyman. Why not say that it is "indicative of real sickness of the very sick" or "indicative of real far leftism on the far left." The real meaning: we spare a range of reasonable debate in the middle, cut out and identify both ends (the far left and right), and we don't bother to ask ourselves how we know whether our views fall within that reasonable middle except to find little bits and pieces we know we can safely condemn before the herd -- they will concur. But it is critical to make these bits and pieces representative of some group out there, some substantive entity, rather than an errant few: "the far left." So we can bravely take these mainstream positions ("2+2=4!") because we have invented the 2+2=5ists. Have I given an overly complicated description of a straw man? Whew.

But then again, we might surprise ourselves when taking Herr Kristol's test:

Enlighten us, Arianna. Poll your readers. Ask them: Are they pleased that the attempt against Vice President Cheney failed? Are they grateful that he is alive and well? Do you hope the U.S. prevails in Afghanistan? In Iraq?


Yes, we are so pleased that the attempt on Cheney failed. Each day I light a candle before my picture of Cheney, and each day that his heart faithfully and gently beats him to sleep like a Guantanamo detainee, I tenderly hush the candle, thanking God, not just for Cheney but for the many blessings he has brought to America and Iraq, hoping that we prevail -- meaning, prevail in furthering our good work of establishing security and preserving the lives of the Iraqis who aren't dead or forcefully emigrated, and the good work Padilla, and all those good works, Amen.

Der Standard

I don't think we ought to underestimate the damage done by such men like Bill Kristol; and here I am going to have to do it, I feel compelled to mention the Nazis. It will seem like an extremist rhetorical trick, but really I am always reminded by Kristol of Julius Streicher (there's a physical resemblance as well), whose newspaper Der Sturmer was a vehicle for Nazi propaganda.

"Freedom of speech" did not save Streicher:

According to one of the eyewitnesses, Howard Kingsbury Smith, the execution was botched. Streicher went down kicking and fully conscious, and struggled violently at the end of the rope until the hangman, master sergeant John C. Woods, went into the concealed interior of the scaffold and "did something" that put a stop to the groans and brought the rope to a standstill." Presumably Woods grabbed Streicher by the legs and pulled down hard in order to break his neck.


These sorts of executions are doubly a mistake. I suppose that once war brings ruin to enough nations and lives, freedom of speech comes to be seen as a luxury. It ought never to be seen that way, but for men like Kristol, an apologist for an almost-war he helped manufacture, not to mention "wartime" curtailments of liberties, I can't help imagining his facile standard for identifying enemies of the people gradually tightening around his own neck. (Isn't it a measure of your success as a revolutionary -- whether your generous criteria for "terrorists" and traitors become large enough to include yourself?)

The Real Iran

The Real Iran:


The women’s dress varies from the all enveloping black chador that covers them from head to toe, to a mélange of styles that involve trousers, an over garment or manteaux and a hijab that covers the hair. Just how tight the manteaux are and how much of the hair is actually covered is a matter of discretion. Unlike her Arab counterpart, the Tehran woman is not housebound. Chador, hijab and all, she is visible at the workplace whether as a cleaning lady or a research officer in a think-tank; member of Parliament or Basij (paramilitary) officer.


Be sure to check out these pictures. In the imaginations of most Americans, Iran is just a backward place full of crazy religious conservatives and militants and belligerent president (and yes, their imaginations tend to leave out the appropriate sense of irony).

I think most Americans would be very surprised to see women in jeans and sunglasses and (very attractive) head scarves. They would be surprised by the deeply pro-western sentiments of many Iranians and their disdain for the mullahs. Of course, Americans shouldn't have to see western influences to conclude that the citizens of other countries are actual human beings; but knowing so little about Iran (what it is really like, where it is), we are at the mercy of sickeningly abbreviated portrayals even in national newspapers; not to mention men like Bill Kristol, who approaches with infinite patience his job of whipping up support for the next bit of mass destruction to be directed indiscriminately against Muslims.