Sunday, January 25, 2004

From a Well-Wisher : Please Be Careful, Sir

Georgia's new president, Mikheil Saakashvili, is now being wined and dined by some nasty people . Be careful, Mr. President, though it's inevitable that these people seek you out, dont feel so crunched by the need to hit the ground running that you feel you have to sell out.

Remember that as a rule these people give less than a fuck about democracy. After all, they're in the oil business.

You have good intentions. You've won a velvety revolution (and as I followed your struggle, not nearly as closely as you and your people deserve, I confess, I did think of how that, if what you did was even attempted here -- massive peaceful demonstrations and striking with a demand so imperative and so, well, democratic, that it shut down the system and demanded a response -- the Feds would insure that it ended as a bloodbath, Chicago in '68 and the Bonus Army in DC in the 30s being, relative to what would happen, a sanguine drop in a gruesomest bucket), and through Demos and mandate you've deposed the Corrupt, so please take care to not flirt with ..well, more corrupters.

Listen to Mr. Soros and lean on the U.N. Maybe some of the Mittel Europans will help. But for God's sake please be suspicious of cheery offers from Russia's (and ours too for that matter, but then they are all a cartel) oil companies -- these "entities" are poison.

Best Wishes from America.

Overdone, but ... yeah

Chris Floyd really hates the Bushies. My sympathy, comrade.

Here is The Moscow Times's take on the latest about the crooks at Halliburton.

A Point For Gephardt and a Point For Matthew Yglesias

This is a great post detailing a very powerful moral/political weapon.

The only group of people who won't be swayed by this are the by nature morally bereft far-rightists who are too nationalistic and too U.N.-hating to care what the rest of the world thinks of US, much less what it'd take to reestablish diplomatic good faith with the international community.

In other words, a group that it would be flattery to call the Typhoid Mary of our sickly and wheezing Republic.

Psychologically, these people actually feel better if the world hates and fears and distrusts US -- for one just thing such a "policy" of sneering at world opinion actually plays to their not-so-secret general love of bullies, usually rationalised as a love of righteous mavericks.

That Shit Doesn't Fly Over There

They may be able to bully people here, but in Europe, where they know what true ethnic bigtry looks like (they've seen quite enough of the genuine stuff), the Podhoretz tactic doesn't fly.

I refer to the tactic, which I talk about too much on this blog because I have recently been the butt of it myself, of calling critics of the Israeli Government and its Washington Lobby, "anti-semites".

It's a conflagrant tactic used to silence any critic of Sharon or Likud or the ethnic cleansing policy of the Israeli Government.

"During the question-and-answer session he was asked: "Will the US ever be willing to impose an equitable peace settlement in the Middle East, or is it perhaps that the Jewish lobby in America is too strong to make that feasible?"

Well, one apparatchik tried it. This question was posed, apparently in good faith, to an official of the Bush Administration. The following reply is worthy of Norman Podhoretz :

"Mr Johnson responded indignantly, saying: "I am highly resentful of the last part of your remarks, just because of its ethnic slur." And he went on: "During my time here I have become increasingly troubled by the willingness of European audiences to skirt up to the side of anti-Semitic language as a political criticism.""

That must have been a prime time popcorn moment for Sharon.

But the Brits knew this was horseshit (and it's worth noting that the article gives no indication that this was a de facto hostile crowd). The irony was that it took an American to voice it.

"A retired US diplomat, now living in Britain, rose to defend the earlier questioner, objecting that Mr Johnson's remark reflected the American tendency to associate criticism of Israeli policy with criticism of Jews. "There is nothing racial about drawing attention to the existence of a particular ethnic group," he said, noting that the US had not only "a strong Israeli lobby" but Irish, Polish and other ethnic lobbies.

There was a shout of "hear, hear" from the audience and applause rang around the crowded hall.

Of course Poddy and my personal favourite supertribalist wacko would just say that each and every "hear hear" resounded from the larnyxes of virulent anti-semites, merely "proving" their point. You see, the next step, the "logical" extention of this lunacy is to damn the objector's defenders as "anti-semites" by extention.

Watch. This tactic is so powerful, and therefore so addictive, that what I described in the last sentence will be the next in a progression. It's already implied and even employed in very special circumstances (at Hitchens and Chomsky to name two) but soon will be par for the course.

Here's the link.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Acknowledge This Point

To those who scoff and sneer at "conspiracy theories" which assert that a small band of neocons/Straussians are the stringpullers behind the war on Iraq, as if such things are absolutely impossible, I'll point to a fact that almost anyone with a semblance of good faith and a sliver of historical knowledge must deign to consider :

That the Spanish American War was, in fact, created and prosecuted by a very elite few, a cabal by any definition:

Theodore Roosevelt
Admiral Mahan
Brooks Adams
Henry Cabot Lodge
Elihu Root
Josiah Strong

Were it not for these men (and the complicity of the press), the Spanish-American War, incredibly injust and even in some theatres genocidal, would never have happened.

So, sneering warbloggers, a cabal IS NOT WITHOUT PRECEDENT.

I'll also remind that the true ideals that drove these men to create that war were when stripped bare, morally reprehensible, for its driving ideologies were hegemony, colonialism, christian bigotry and racism. And aside from ideology, strategic materialism.

JUST LIKE THE ACTUAL AIMS OF THIS WAR, cynical and hollow claims of "democracy-building" not withstanding.

Give Peace A Chance


Very Yummy


Bid to find Persian Armada

If there's a lesson in history, it's to NOT send an armada to invade a country. Spain found out the hard way, as did the Chinese. So too did the Persians.

It's too bad. Darius let his ego get in the way, for the Greeks weren't worth the effort. After all, Greece at that time, at least compared to the splendours of Ctesiphon, was a cultural rectum. Darius should have gone East and concentrated his efforts there, using his first best weapon -- the Persian Army. The Achamaenids were genius but should have known better than to attempt the invasion of a sea power using the sea (don't play to the enemy's strengths), much less doing it to gain at best an unprofitable colony of cultural inferiors.


The UNITED STATES considering attacking Lebanon?

Jane's Defence thinks so. Link here.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Hip gnosis?

Close Enough. Though the gnostic pun only works if I mean something like Lawrence's "blood consciousness".

I'm just being silly. It's a funny link is all.

Bullshit Detector? seems pretty fair at first glance but ..well, I can't quite bring myself to trust anything that has Walter Annenberg's name on it.

What a POS he was.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Reuters Does Softcore


Who knew?



This must get TNR's panties in a wad. Dear Ariel, corrupt? Noo.

But it makes me wonder about Israel's laws on graft; implied in the article is that theirs are more honourable than ours (but then whose isnt?). If we ever get our legalised bribery system (a.k.a campaign funding) fixed, this is a nice way to do it: by punishing the briber AND the bribee.

Of course, we shouldnt worry about chickenfeed like gifts of rolexes or a free trip to Vegas, it's not worth the trouble; instead, punitive action should be focused on the real bribes : sorry, Mr CEO of Generic Tobacco Giant, but when you gave $1,000,000 to X Senator's campaign, and then that Senator made policy that cheated the Many to aid your company's bottom line, that means you both go to jail. THAT would be justice; and of course it'll never happen.

Si Si

The war against lies

"The United States, on top of the world - or so it appears to think - is dividing consciously between imperialists eager for us to seize all of the world's oil resources, and the anti-imperialists who favour peace and renewable sources of energy. The media are furious at this departure from the norm, which is lies and insults about the personalities of the contenders. "

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Nice sentiment But It'll Never Happen

Iraqis want Saddam's old friends tried along with him.

I wish that were possible, but the trial won't be conducted in an environment that will be conducive to that kind of real justice. Even though the Iraqis may be allowed to try Saddam, you can bet your ass that Viceroy Bremer will stop any attempt to bring in witnesses or allow testimony that would incriminate Saddam's former American friends. After all, did the lawyers of that other old client gone rogue, General Noriega, subpoena the CIA thugs (like Bush Sr) who had aided his autocracy? Not that I remember. So too will it be with Saddam.

It'd be different if the ICC was in charge of this, but then that's why the US hates the ICC -- because war crimes tribunals should only be used to try OTHER criminals, not ours or our allies'.

Retardo, Meet Voxter

Voxster is a guy I met on Baseball Primer. He's a smart guy and morally/politically astute, so there's some things of interest to read on his journal.

It's nice to know that not all other baseball fans are fascist creeps like George Will and David Nieporent.

Oh, and Voxter, don't be so sure that you curse more than I do.

Monday, January 19, 2004

More Etc.

How in god's name does Christopher Hitchens chainsmoke Rothman's? I tried the Rothman's blues, the "King Size" last fall and they were tasty but very powerful. But J-5 bought me a pack of the reds, the "Special"s, which I believe are Hitchens's favoured, when he and Poly went to Eureka Springs. Jesus Christ, yes, they are still tasty but these things make a Winston heavy load feel just as airy as what I imagine an Eve or "Vagina Slime" would be. I feel like I need to be hooked to a respirator after burning one of them. It took me nearly a month to smoke the whole pack. All I can say is Hitchens must be quite robust; if I smoked them like I smoke Marlboro Lights I'd have all the lung power of a geriatric coal miner.


I havent been paying attention to Iowa or much of any of the political happenings lately. I still catch some things at yahoo news sometimes, and I still read Atrios even while I've been busy the last month or so. I will be back into the swing of things, though. My time for fun and leisure is almost over again. Maybe one more trip, though.


One of Ala's prezzies to me was a copy of The Da Vinci Code, which I blew through during the intense part of my illness, Friday and Saturday. It was pretty good. The Leonardo stuff was wholly new to me, as far as the secret messages and tricks in his paintings go, but the grail stuff is old hat. I like that sort of pulp, though, that is infused with so many esoteric facts; it's useful pulp, where you dont feel that you've wasted time just because a plot was addictive (characters, of course, cardboard as they are, wont ever have the chance of wasting my time). I liked it. It's been too damn long since I read for pure pleasure or as an at least partial diversion, anyway.

I figured out the villain, "The Teacher" well in time before the author unmasked him; the problem with this sort of pulp, and it's probably mostly unavoidable, is that its producers are thinking as scriptwriters rather than novelists. Therefore it's easy to cheat to figure out "whodunnit" using Roger Ebert's old "Law of the Economy Of Characters", which is pretty much self-explanatory when you think of it. Still, I was either too slow in figuring it out or too fast -- it donned on me before the manservant got the call to watch the monk but to not show his face. Anyway, I might as well note that I'm the crappiest in the world to figure out movies or books in this way -- I dont like to try; I'm almost always completely passive as a viewer and reader (which is why, I suppose, I struggle to read the "active reader" French shit of midcentury).

Now I know why my Ala likes it so much -- of course there's the art subject of it, her first best love interest. It's full of history but, and this is the main thing, it's popular but potentially subversive: the facts it presents and the theories and mythologies it offers are a blow, and a righteous and factual and welcome one, to organised religion. Inevitably, anything that dredges the history of the middle ages will make the church look as awful as it was and is, and this novel is no exception, for it shows what abominable misogynists the early Christian thugs were. Also, what opportunists they were in coopting older established symbols and ritual. And, of course, how prone they were to burning alive "witches" and "heretics". The real heros of the story are the artists, belle letterists, and polymaths who kept the "sacred feminine" alive, the Da Vincis, Newtons, Hugos; and NOT the protagonist of the novel himself, the "Harvard Symbologist".

But the protagonist is who pisses me off, actually, and turns what could have been a very entertaining and subversive book into merely a very entertaining book : Brown fashions him as a moral/political coward. Always he draws the distinction between the old chruch and the modern, with maximum deference given to the "good" of the latter (except for Opus Dei, the superreactionary subcatholic sect that is genuinely creepy and unfortunately all too real). In the novel's climax the protagonist is prefectly content to let the status quo reign, while the baddy of the book of course wants the truth of the secret documents (which would tell of how the Church censored Jesus Christ's life with Mary Magdalene) to come out, humiliating the Church and exposing millions to the sobriety of the fact that their myth is not even merely a story but a LIE. The lesson then is, plainly, that only baddies want truth while Good Guys are content to let the Linuses have their blankets; while the author clearly believes this to be sympathetic, I view it as abject cynicism. Though the Christian myth is exactly like Santa Claus in factual basis, its believers ARENT children (and even if they were, does anyone think that if children killed each other over clashes in their ideas of Santa Claus, that parents would still bother to push the lie of the fat man's existence?)

A nice companion to The Da Vinci Code, but one too darkly comic and therefore too true to be as popular, is Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, which is massively more larded with history, but in the same vein : full of Grail Lore, Templars, Rosicrucians and modern True Believers with more than too much time on their hands and up to no good. But it's also a black comedy of sorts, or at least it's intelligent enough to use irony, in the sense that, when people who know that myths arent true begin to toy with myths to have some fun or make a buck, they shouldnt be surprised that credulous people take their myth and run with it, and even kill its creators in an attempt to learn the myth's secrets which, of course, never really existed anyway.

I once wrote a very long essay here on Eco and two of his novels, an essay which blogger felt happy enough to eat, leaving me with nothing. I wont do that again, and would rather not spoil the book for Ala or anyone else anyway, so I'll just conclude by saying that, if you like The Da Vinci Code , please read Eco's novel and tell me which one you liked more.

By the way:
Czesc Ala w polska. Muuah kochanie! :D


If you are a bookish person and have an ebay account look up a seller named "richardstarling". He's hilarious.

I spend way too much time on ebay this time of the year, and buying books is my general vice anyway (indeed, books are the only things I've ever stolen; though street sign theft and other similar juvenile delinquency was pretty much an every weekend vocation for a period there in high school, the only things I can ever remember stealing in a shoplifting sort of way were books from my old high school's library; I probably only stole a half dozen at most in grand total and none were very popular I can assure you). So, well, anyway, I read a lot of ads.

mr. starling is a hawker par excellence.

His blurb for Susan Sontag's On Photography : ...'This hardback book is in fine condition, and the dust jacket is very good [...] and while not dingy, could best be described as "dispirited" or "unenthusiastic." Perhaps it’s the gray color which is at fault. In any case, this is a book cover for which the Brodart clear book condom provides the perfect solution, and, once equiped, it boasts a spiffy and reckless, edgy insouciance which many a more graceful, better-designed jacket might well envy. These highly acclaimed essays originally appeared in somewhat different form in the New York Review of Books and evoked a great dal of correspondence and reader response. Would that this descrption evokes a similar response from ebay grazers.'


Or A Day In Old Athens by W. S. Davis; notice the totally unfair but totally true slap at poor Socrates :

'This little book tries to descibe what an intelligent person would see if transported to Athens in the year 360 and given a tour by a competent guide. This period was selected because Athens was almost architecturally perfect, and civil and social life were at their best. By this time Socrates had been edited out of the body politic and so citizens were free to go about their business without fear of being buttonholed and subjected to interminable questions about their beliefs.'

mr starling cleverly put half of the subject tag for Latin Literature in Translation in PIG Latin. Silly, but remember this is ebay where the inspired merely steal amazon's blurbs while others usually write something along the lines of "LoT of 3 ecxellnet BOOOKS!! literature and tonns of great riting including Harold Robbins!!!" or some similar shit. At least starling knows what he's selling for the most part, and what he doesn't know isn't, according to my taste, usually worth knowing anyway.

At any rate, it's always nice to encounter wit and humour in the most unexpected places.