You don’t know how long you’ve been laying here in the park. You only know you can’t move. Outwardly, you are as inanimate as a piece of lead. Within, however, is all churning motion. You can’t believe she rejected you. You started the day in love’s vise grip; you lay here now, crushed.
Endlessly, compulsively, you turn over in your mind memories of her, progress you thought you had made, moments at once soaring passion and earthbound embrace, now endless freefall into an abyss within and the hard ground without.
You attempt to escape your thoughts, but every contemplative path circles back slyly and lands you before her cruel, indifferent image. Unable to distract yourself and not really wanting to, you torture yourself with images of her with him; as if you can make the reality of the two of them together vanish by turning and twisting the image about in your mind until it wears away. Instead it only fades and recurs over and over in endless variation.

Something draws your attention out of the corner of your eye: a small bird has landed within arm’s reach. You have been motionless for so long it must not realize you’re there, you think with grim humor, picturing yourself in a time-lapse film, molding over and decomposing into the earth. The bird turns its head about with short, abbreviated movements that make it appear as if it is projected by an old, flickering film.

You’ve never before found yourself engaged by the beauty of something commonplace, of anything really, but in your weakened state this creature you would never have noticed before, with its fine, intricate markings and exquisite fragility, with the novel grace of its movement, appears to you as something divinely transcendant.
It is just then you realize you will survive, even as you know the ache is not nearly over. You will pass out of oblivion, leaving the pain behind. You are still in the darkened wood, but a peak above the treetops marks your way out: the journey before you is still long, cold, and tiring, but now it has a destination. You have been released.
The bird flies off. Free as a bird, you think, watching it flit away.
You rise and lean forward, slapping the grass from your pant legs. You hear a small airplane not far overhead. You look up. Squinting up at the plane obscured by a brilliant sun, you see it is trailing a banner. Putting your hand up to shade your eyes you read:
Untethered.

Big Brass Balls

No doubt there will be better analysis offered elsewhere of the curious example of double-speak and logical dysfunction displayed in Douglas Feith’s op-ed in today’s Washington Post, but this stands out for sheer nerve:

In evaluating our policy toward Iraq after Sept. 11, 2001, my office realized that CIA analysts were suppressing some of their information. They excluded reports conflicting with their favored theory: that the secular Iraqi Baathist regime would not cooperate with al-Qaeda jihadists. (We now face a strategic alliance of jihadists and former Baathists in Iraq.)

Feith wants you to believe that the present Ba’athist/jihadist alliance in Iraq, created entirely by the invasion, confirms his previous, wholly inaccurate (some would say deliberately misleading) assertion of such an alliance, a proposition directly counter to the CIA’s “favored theory” (“favored theory” being an attempt at dissembling what someone with a clear conscience would call duly vetted intelligence).

Feith tries to disparage an accurate appraisal by calling it “theory” and mischaracterizing it as an assertion that Arab nationalists would never ally themselves with their jihadist enemies (this no doubt a clumsy attempt to grease his exit, using would not when in fact the intelligence conclusion was, more relevantly, that they were not).
But the invasion has only proven what we already knew: that when faced with a common enemy Arab nationalists and jihadists, among other regional players, will cooperate. We also know, by the same example of the Soveit occupation of Afghanistan, that in the absence of such a threat they will quickly resume internecine hostilities.

Feith is not merely trying to save his skin with this distortion; his arguments belie a perverse satisfaction and sense of opportunity realized by the persistent movement Feith represents. Now that they have clumsily created a reality of the illusion they fabricated, they use it to argue for a continuing presence in Iraq and even a wider war. It is in this context that we should also view the current narrative drive to generate outrage at the Iranian provocation of the U.S. in Iraq; something that might be more accurately characterized as Iranian reaction to U.S. provocation.

He further seeks to cover the tracks of his office’s incompetence and lack of integrity by describing the proper rejection of compromised intelligence as “suppressing” information. By an illusory standard implied here, every shred of information offered warrants equal consideration, and being right counts for nothing, as the “suppressed” information Feith pines for has since been proven, to put it gently, hogwash.
There’s no small hint of irony in this language; by promoting unsupported allegation and outright fraud over the objections of intelligence analysts and citing it as reliable intelligence Feith, not the intelligence community, effectively suppressed analysis.

And what of those “excluded reports”? Intelligence delivered to policymakers in Feith’s office by the charlatan Ahmad Chalabi, which they in turn fed into the intelligence system to extract, by considerable effort, the same distorted picture of Iraq they now claim was the result of “failed intelligence.” If not for the bloodshed it would be almost charmingly picaresque.
Why we would even humor such people, let alone spare them the widespread disgrace they deserve as they find comfortable sinecures in academia and elsewhere, while continuing to elect those who take them seriously, is beyond me.

ephemera

Shingle Fights.

You never knew when you might come under attack. The wind-searing sound of the tightly and rapidly spinning projectile slicing through the air gave no warning until it was too close to evade: a square piece of asphalt shingle, torn from the roof of one of the vacant houses and hurled like a boomerang.

The flight of the properly sized and dimensioned shingle, about four inches square, was remarkable. Thrown at a high trajectory the projectile would do a single, slow roll of 180 degrees as it made its way to its target. Once one became familiar with the particulars of the shingle’s flight he could be deadly accurate within about fifty yards and could vary widely the trajectory to either rain down from above on its target or approach it at high speed in a harrowing, corkscrew spiraling line-drive. The natural bend in the shingle’s flight, manipulated by a skilled and experienced thrower, could negotiate corners.

We were sitting in the shade of a tree in the middle of a wide field, located propitiously alongside a grade variance, that is the property line that once cut through this spot had separated a row of houses that were situated a few feet higher that those they backed up against. The block wall that separated the backyards had been leveled to the higher grade; this left a perfectly sized curb on which to sit, as if on a bench. The tree’s shade protected the grass beneath if from the brutal summer sun that burned the unprotected grass into a brown, dirty scrub most of the year. A kid, I don’t remember his name, was seated on this natural bench, resting his elbows on his knees with his hands clasped out before him. The shingle cut through our circle in an angry flash, the slicing sound of its flight terminating in a sickening sound of struck shallow bone, as it hacked a bloody gash across the back of his hand.

In the face of such an assault we would repair to a vacant house of our own and mount the roof, tearing off shingles and returning fire. Battles were quickly engaged, as two rooftop gangs exchanged fire across a street, the shingles turning like small black birds in graceful, varied arcs. Marksmen positioned themselves behind the peak of the roof, ducking out of the way of the shingles that careened and skidded past. Soon the ground was littered with these, the street and sidewalks scuffed with their impact marks, the houses pockmarked with their black commas. Motorists would happen through warily. Sometimes an outraged adult would chase us off. We melted back into the environment like urban guerillas.

Somehow no one was ever seriously injured.

Well Then, How Would You Undo This Voodoo That We Do?

Fool me once, shame on, shame on you, eh, fool me, uh–can’t get fooled again.
–George W. Bush

The newest trend in conventional wisdom regarding Iraq, going as unexamined by the major media as every previous stage of denial masquerading as incontrovertible fact regarding this war, reads something like this: Iraq is certain to descend into greater chaos and potential genocide, become a terrorist haven, spark a regional war, and elevate Iran to a position of dominance in the Middle East if we leave now. This cannot be allowed to happen.

Forget that the case has by no means been made that this worst-case scenario will come to pass. That is irrelevant. The question is now, as it was before the war, of whether or not we have the right; the right to escalate the war in Iraq against the wishes of its people and government, or the right to expand the war by attacking Iran.

When the fabrications that were the flimsy justification for the invasion of Iraq were made plain to all by the stunning lack of WMD ( vindicating the assertions of the IAEA), and by the copious documentation of Dick Cheney’s manipulation of the intelligence reporting process until the CIA coughed up the disgrace that is the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, the nation faced a crisis. The war was revealed as unwarranted and unjustified.

Had we been paying attention to all the lofty talk about how the consent of the governed validate its leadership in a democracy being offered as the basis for supplanting Middle East dictatorships with democracies, indeed, if the neocon’s who offer these arguments actually took them seriously, we, and they, would be forced to acknowledge that a democratic people therefore have a responsibility for the leaders they elect and the actions those leaders take. This one’s on us, always was.

But when the veil fell from the Administration’s connivance, we chose to avert our eyes. The other, ancillary justifications offered for deposing Saddam were all furtively moved up a spot. Like the disgraced subject of a Soviet show trial, the WMD/terrorist threat was erased from the offical history. It was never primarily about WMD became the line (and besides, everyone thought he had them, straight-faced). Such a blatant lie requires the complicity of its intended audience.
Why did we play along?
Holding our leaders accountable would have entailed acknowledging the thing for what it was: a national disgrace and a crime. Because there’s no entity more powerful than the United States, there is no one to hold its leadership accountable other than the sovereign American people.
When we took a pass we disgraced ourselves and damaged our republic in ways we won’t know for years to come.

By refusing to accept the consequences inherent in holding the White House accountable for the crime it committed against Iraq, not to mention against the American people, we leapt from a moral precipice. We were the world’s last line of defense against a criminal gang that had gained control of the most awesome military power the world has ever seen, and we deserted our post. The crisis passed with nary a whimper of protest from the vast majority of the public and the major media because at the moment the war had not yet revealed itself as the military and strategic failure that it is. Murderous aggression we can abide; losing, on the other hand, not so much. We should hang our heads in shame.

Now the vice president and his minions at Fox News, those in his ever loyal right-wing radio regiment, and of course the risibly oblivious-to-the-death (of others) war bloggers, have declared it is incumbent upon those who advocate a withdrawal to lay out what they would do to prevent the complete catastrophe that the vice president’s actions now make inevitable. They can’t see the absurdity of their argument for the audacity of their words.

I suppose it’s too much asking that this at least be accompanied by the acknowledgment that this greater cataclysm would be a direct result of the war, and therefore those who lied repeatedly to provoke the war before executing it with fatal negligence should be held responsible. That this isn’t the starting point of any debate on the now exigent question, what to do now, demonstrates how perverted public debate has become by party politics and our curious and durable pathology of triumphalism.
Our inability to acknowledge that we can do wrong as a nation now protects those who do wrong to the nation.
That this perversion of debate is allowed reveals a deeper, more fundamental crisis that goes beyond politics to the very condition of modern American society. We have to ask why we are letting them get away with it.

Dick Cheney makes an argument that is a direct condemnation of his actions, yet he makes it confident of its effectiveness. He’s right, too; the ruse is working. Worse, this rhetorical assault is deployed not merely to, remarkably, put off the responsibility it implies, but to further his designs for the next strategic blunder, war with Iran.
It’s as if the sheer surrealism of its amorality and audacity render us incapable of recognizing the logical madness of it. Some say Dick Cheney should be in jail; no, like a deranged serial killer, he should be confined for the purposes of psychological study for the rest of his distinctly unnatural existence. This man is not evil, he is a marvel.

Apparently yes, accountability is too much to ask for, because too few near power are asking. Aside from their own complicity in the fiasco, the Democratic leadership remains more committed to attaining power than justice on behalf of a nation disgraced and betrayed, and are therefore content to pass non-binding resolutions against the “surge” and watch the Administration twist in the wind while what’s left of its supporters fall one by one, like the soldiers and Marines who continue to be fed into the mill.
Make no mistake: for the next two years, and perhaps well beyond, many more American boys will be sacrificed not just for the purpose of Dick Cheney’s delusional designs on the Middle East, but also for the Democrats’ designs on the White House. But it goes beyond Iraq. Content to milk the catastrophe for maximum benefit, not unlike the Bush Administration’s previous wringing of advantage from 9/11, the Democrats are now allowing the nation to drift sideways into an even greater mistake, an attack upon Iran.

Perhaps we can at least put the question back to the vice president, just once: the responsibility is on those who support the surge and an open ended commitment to the war to make the argument as to why ending this mistake is itself a greater mistake. Because if one was to rely on the evening news he wouldn’t know that, like the case for Iranian arming of militias, the case that withdrawal will be catastrophic has not been made.

This bears repeating: there is no consensus that Iran is actively involved in arming the Shi’ite militias. Britain, having had responsibility for much of the southern, Shi’ite region of Iraq and its border with Iran, is not convinced. Furthermore, the idea that Iran is arming their enemies among those who directly target American forces, the Ba’athist/nationalist insurgency and al Qaeda,remains highly unlikely.

We can be certain that Iran is positioning itself for our departure and greater influence in Iraq precisely because this is in its national security interests. It is in fact such a predictable outcome of deposing Saddam that it’s very difficult to believe that it was unexpected, even by this chronically inept Administration. Of course, they had sugar-plum visions of rose petals and parades, a quick end to combat and on to the next victim-er, liberation. Who do you suppose that would have been?

President Bush’s hypocrisy in toying with an alliance with Iran’s closest ally in Iraq, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, whose own militia, the Badr Brigade, has been every bit as brutal as al-Sadr’s gang, while at the same time declaring Iran’s interest in Iraq sinister should be all the evidence you need that he is, once again, leading the nation to war on false pretenses.
Al-Hakim’s favor in our eyes, by the way, may stem from his willingness to allow permanent military bases and more generous terms regarding the development of Iraq’s great untapped oil fields. One more thing you’ll never learn from the evening news is that one of the primary concerns of Iraqis and their neighbors is the likelihood of a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq. Many have called on president Bush to allay these fears by promising not to seek such a presence. He has not been forthcoming.

Lost still is the principle involved; we still make no effort to discern, much less respect, the wishes of the Iraqi people or their government. Those much bally-hooed elections that Cheney et al seem to think warranted the deaths of thousands and the irrevocable loss of American prestige, not to mention the possible extension of the terrorist threat into the next generation, have in fact given Iraq a democratically elected government that we continue to restrain from actually governing and whose sovereignty we refuse to recognize. Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki begged the U.S. today to refrain from making Iraq the battleground for its war with Iran.
His plea also points out the arrogance of one of the tertiary rationalizations for the war offered after the WMD ruse was exposed: that a major goal was to make Iraq “an ally in the war on terror.” Imagine, we crushed this nation to compel it to act as our proxy in war. Check out the balls on us.

We must finally accept the principle of war only as a last resort. This includes Iran which, despite the absurd comparisons to Nazi Germany, hasn’t invaded any of its neighboring nations, and hasn’t shown a particular ability or willingness to do so, President Ahmadinejad’s demagoguery notwithstanding.
For us to paint Iran’s involvement in Iraq as aggression, after having declared “regime change” our official policy toward Iran, after having declared it a member of the “axis of evil”, after engaging in covert actions on its territory–in short, after having declared a state of war with that nation and quite possibly having engaged in acts of war against it–goes beyond arrogance into madness.

Of course Iran is positioning itself to influence Iraq; of course it is inserting itself into Iraqi politics and society. The fact is Iran would be derelict if they did not. Our arrogance, again, blinds us. Of the many brutal actions of Saddam Hussein, perhaps the most brutal was his war on Iran, encouraged and assisted by us. Iran, not the U.S., is threatened by a belligerent or chaotic Iraq and always has been, and there’s no need to fix intelligence to make that argument.

The fact is Iranian activity in Iraq is just the sort of result of toppling Hussein that should have been accounted for–and probably was. Iranian involvement in Iraq was provoked by our, yes, illegal invasion of Iraq. Everything set in motion by that crime must be laid at the feet of those who committed it, not used as justification for the continuation or expansion of what, as the man said, is worse than a crime, a mistake. Nor should it be cause for more and greater mistakes. Enough.
Citing Iranian involvement in Iraq now as a casus belli is little different than declaring the resistance in Iraq as the reason for the continuing occupation; it is a twisted circular reasoning, citing the effects of an action as its cause.

Let’s not let them get away with it again.

EXT. TYPICAL SMALL TOWN MAIN STREET, CIRCA 1962, DAY

A malt shop with a young soda jerk wearing white apron and hat out front, sweeping the sidewalk; next door a pair of old men lounge out in front of a barber shop, chewing the fat; kids race down the street on bicycles, a pet dog joyfully in pursuit; a young couple moving down the sidewalk filly back and forth flirtatiously. It is a beautiful day. The camera pulls back and pans over to a sparrow which has alighted on a nearby branch. The sudden, rude intrusion of the distinctive sound of several Harley Davidsons sends the bird to flight. Refocusing into the distance we see scores of bikers streaming into the town.

A SERIES OF QUICK CUTS THROUGH SEVERAL CLOSE SHOTS

The soda jerk looking over his shoulder at the sound;
The old timers, one lowers his pipe, the other reaches for his glasses as they turn toward the commotion;
The dog that was chasing the children, stops and looks, gives a yelp and scurries off;
The young couple turns to look, the girl drawing in close to her boyfriend.

ORIGINAL SHOT

Now a biker gang fills the street, countless modern day Visigoths pouring into the town center on their choppers raising a cloud of dust. The racket grows, drowning out everything in a bone rattling commotion. The bikers start to park their bikes with disciplined precision, two and three at a time pulling up to and gently backing up against the curb, each giving a defiant, noisy twist or two of the throttle before shutting down.

CLOSE SHOT, THE LEADER OF THE GANG

He is forty-something, wearing an old leather bomber’s helmet. Removing his goggles he reveals heavy, weather beaten slits for eyes. A misshapen nose bears an old scar across its bridge. He scans back and forth, with the air of someone who’s about to devour a meal. He gets up from his bike and turns away from the camera, revealing his “colors”, stitched across the back of his weatherbeaten cut-off denim vest, reading:
UNTETHERED

Read: "Anti-Racism"*

To counter Rousset and his like—and keep “progressive” intellectuals in line—Communist parties exercised the moral lever of “anti-Fascism.” This had the appeal of familiarity. For many Europeans their first experience of political mobilization was in the anti-Fascist, Popular-Front leagues of the 1930s. For most people the Second World War was remembered as a victory over Fascism, and celebrated as such in France and Belgium especially in the post-war years. “Anti-Fascism” was a reassuring, ecumenical link to a simpler time.
—Tony Judt, Postwar, A History of Europe Since 1945

*Per MQ in the comments, I see this might be better titled: “Read: ‘Islamo-fascism’ ”

*

An obnoxious, industrial version of what sounds like Wagner, reverberating at ear stinging volume and smothered by an overwhelming, testicle vibrating bass, has me cringing and cupping my hands over my ears. Ballerinas with shaved heads wearing brown shirts and fetishistic black leather tutus are flitting toward me (somehow they manage to glide gracefully in their high boots), their jeté movements resembling a goose-step; they are chasing me around a massive stage shrouded in an oppressive, garish black-light. I’m dodging in and out of other dancers that are scattered about the stage standing stock-still in arabesque postures modified to angle their arms in a Nazi salute.

A bald man with ashen gray skin and wearing an oversized monocle startles me by appearing via a trapdoor at my feet; he’s shouting at me, silent under the din of the music which is now distorting like an old, straining movie soundtrack. He’s trying to feed me a line of dialogue, repeating it over and over with increasing impatience, but I can’t hear him. Reading his disembodied black lips I can make no sense of them, I suspect he’s not even forming words. Still, I’m certain what he’s saying is something terrible, intolerable, vital; shaking his head in disgust he disappears with a resounding clap of the trapdoor that echoes until it morphs into a metallic drum machine sound that becomes part of the music, driving it to a manic, unbearable tempo.

I break into a full run, trying to maintain a straight path, figuring I’ll eventually find my way offstage, but soon become aware that I’m passing the same dancers over and over again. I realize the stage is a globe that I’m repeatedly circumnavigating; now I can see its curvature. I’m getting sick, I’m looking for the trapdoor, for a crack in the floorboards, for any means of escape. I look down and see I’m wearing leotards and jackboots. The music reaches an abbreviated crescendo and stops; a split second of silence is abruptly terminated by a thunderclap of deafening applause…

Too Right Feet

But life is short, and truth works far and lives long: let us speak the truth.
–Arthur Schopenhauer

You may have already read about the “BNP ballerina”, Simone Clarke, whose employer, the English National Ballet, is under pressure to fire her for her membership in the British National Party. Clarke was outed as a member of the far right BNP by a Guardian reporter who went undercover and discovered, to just whose surprise is a mystery, that party members hide their identity, are discouraged from making racist remarks in public, and that the BNP has been trying to clean up its image to attract more middle and working class white voters disillusioned by the lack of distinction between Labour and Conservatives regarding immigration and crime. Billed as “Inside the Sinister and Secret World of the BNP” the brief story is resoundingly anti-climactic. More sensational than the story’s other revelations, the reporter obtained membership registration lists and “unmasked” Clarke.

Once exposed the dancer gave an interview to The Mail on Sunday, defending her membership in the party. This of course only served to further antagonize her detractors. An aide to the mayor of London and prominent race activist described her relatively mild (see the Mail story above) defense of her party membership as “vociferous.” From the Guardian:

The interview has caused fresh difficulties for the ENB, which was able to deflect criticism about Clarke’s BNP membership by insisting that her stance was an entirely private one. The company, which is publicly funded and is therefore obliged by the Race Relations Act of 2000 to promote good race relations, will be asked to explain how one of its highest profile employees was able to use her position as a platform for the far right party.

Her views and policies espoused by the BNP appear to conflict with equality policies that operate in the company itself and those laid down by Arts Council England, which subsidies the ENB to the tune of £6m a year.

The policies of the ENB and the Arts Council of England are their business (as for Clarke’s views not already implied by her membership in the BNP, the most damning evidence of their severity offered in the Guardian’s somewhat oversold expose consists of Clarke saying that immigration “has really got out of hand”) but their standard, which one assumes they would have as the standard, begs the question: at what point does the promotion of good race relations no longer impinge on freedom of speech? What of individual opinions that also can be construed as adversely impacting “race relations”? What if certain opinions now deemed morally indefensible pass into scientific consensus?

This elevation of racial “tolerance”, as defined by The Guardian and others, works, as if by design, to ensure that certain opinions cannot find consensus. The common logical fallacy of appealing to consequences, barring from possibility that which suggests undesirable consequences, has been codified into social convention, as that which might be considered racist or sexist is necessarily thereby false.
Thus the current elevation of racial equality as the ne plus ultra of justice can only lead to–has led to–the suppression of speech and debate.

Under this order the belief that there is a genetic component to differences in IQ has to be seen as threatening race relations. But it appears increasingly likely to be true. Some long ago began, as if in anticipation of the coming untenability of current dogma, made the argument that such subjects are better left unexplored, what Bernard Davis described as “moralistic fallacy.”
However well-intended, they argue for the suppression of knowledge, something as futile as it is intellectually corrupt. This is how the liberal pursuit of racial equality has yielded the illiberal reality of compulsory opinion. A decision has been made by default, unspoken; it has been decided that truth would give way to accommodation.
Contrary to what many conservatives contend, I don’t believe this is an inherent hostility to Western civilization, or Caucasians. Those who impose this order are merely, at bottom, afraid. They fear the consequences of certain ideas. Their fear may be well placed, after all. But something has to give.

The question cannot much longer be dodged: which trumps which, free speech or racial equality? They are not necessarily compatible. This is why it may be that, counter to the prevailing doctrine of racial politics, increasing racial diversity threatens racial harmony.
As for Clarke, some heartening defenses have come to the fore, but they seem to be in the minority, at least among pundits and politicians (I was unable to find a defense of Clarke by a public figure).

The Race Relations Act of 2000 mentioned by the Guardian above is the same EU directive that serves as the legal basis for punishing speech that is deemed racist or xenophobic. Last year a British bank was found “guilty of racism” and ordered to pay compensation when one employee, a British native, was overheard by another, a Maltese national, saying “I am against immigration”, and “I hate foreigners.”

Something called the Black Londoner’s Forum lamented in a letter to the ENB that even following what would no doubt be successful attempts to silence the dancer, her continued employment might usher in a resurgence of fascism, with the ballet company as its bastion:

We should not forget the central role that culture and the arts played in the ideology and propaganda of National Socialism during the early years of Nazi Germany, right up until the fall of the Third Reich in 1945.

Their knowledge of culture’s political uses is perhaps informed less by historical study than by the widespread current practice in the arts of methodically purveying an anti-white and misandrist bigotry that preens as a brave assault on repressive bourgeois values. Aside from the current state of leftist domination of the arts, the historical suppression and control of the arts is invoked to, more or less, suppress and control the arts. How the fascist takeover of Britain will be effected by allowing ballerinas the full range of political affiliations is not explained. Of course it’s not about what possible influence Clarke might manage to convey within her extremely limited (in this context, at least) discipline, perhaps with an insidiously counterrevolutionary balancoire, it’s more about punishing her for holding the wrong opinions. And serving notice to any more like her. Echoes of the Third Reich indeed.

The Mail’s more evenhanded coverage, less intent on pillorying Clarke, allowed it to grasp what the Guardian and others are incapable of discerning, or unwilling to allow:

But her story has wider implications. When one of the country’s principal ballerinas, a 36-year-old woman who spent much of her recent working life as the Sugar Plum Fairy, decides to join the British neo-fascists, there is an argument that something has gone badly wrong with democratic British politics.

This is the story, buried under the predictable and in some cases, such as that of outraged Muslim leaders, hypocritical outrage.

Complicating things is Ms. Clarke’s common-law marriage to a Cuban immigrant whose father is Chinese; the two have a child. It may be that Ms. Clarke doesn’t understand the goals of the BNP (and I won’t pretend to know much about them either; from what I gather they are white nationalists). The predictable response has been to declare her a hypocrite. Some will aver that the self-professed political neophyte doesn’t understand the BNP’s goals.

But Ms. Clarke’s behavior is not necessarily ill-informed or bigoted. Her behavior, apparently racially tolerant in her personal life but willing to consider the consequences of race, ethnicity and immigration on the macrocosmic level, is common and rational. Maybe our aging lefties are a little rusty with their slogans: the personal is political.

Self-professed liberals have taken on the worst habits of conservatism, holding certain beliefs and sentiments unassailable, regardless of proof or the popular will. A truly liberal democracy holds freedom of speech above articles of faith, trusting in the character and wisdom of the populace. Nowhere more than in the current immigration debate does the political class express such contempt for the citizenry.

As for Clarke’s hypocrisy, if anyone’s being hypocritical it’s the cloistered elites who insist on forced integration, mass immigration, lenience toward violent crime, and the slow demolition of public education, all disproportionately impacting the working classes, while they send their children off to private schools every morning from the confines of gated communities and security buildings (staffed and maintained by immigrants and natives alike enduring the perpetually distressed wages that are another result of open immigration).

In personal interaction one can disregard race and ethnicity. Whatever prejudices or stereotypes one carries can be confidently put aside as individuals reveal, or prove, themselves. The social networks we travel in select for variables such as intelligence, tastes, culutral leanings, etc; if this group is selective enough race and ethnicity lose importance and a new group identity can be formed. This is precisely how our liberal elites envision the world as a whole, as pre-selected by nature, peopled by a human population with a blandly even distribution of behavioral traits–other than superficial, irrelevant physical differences noticed only by desperate bigots.

But when the cultural and political elites purge real debate out of the mainstream, the BNP and others will only too gladly collect the disenfranchised. Whatever one thinks about immigration policy, he should be concerned that so many like Ms. Clarke have to choose between stigmatization and acquiescence. The net effect is to drive more citizens into the arms of the BNP while simultaneously marginalizing them into irrelevance.
This is aggravated by the growing numbers of Third World immigrants and minorities encouraged to view this stigmatized population as mortal enemies. Yes, I’m making the argument that racial tolerance is threatened by racial diversity. Is that really such an outlandish proposition?

But the seemingly inexorable push for open borders (at least in the West) is only abetted by the current perversion of liberal thought; what drives it is the invisible hand of economic forces, hence the curious alliance of right and left behind it. Rhetoric follows power. This is how democracy is subverted by money.

A prominent, diehard Republican conservative blog, where the only thing that threatens to inspire more enthusiasm than President Bush’s sprawling and disastrous foreign policy is his proposal to open the borders to its embittered survivors, and anyone else who manages to set foot on American soil (if not to render the concept of “American soil” obsolete), once noted a newspaper account of BNP gains in local elections under the headline: “Scratch a nativist, find a racist.”

Here then is the de facto strategy, achieved by default and blundered upon by its less sophisticated, beer-hall putschists too inebriated on their own sanctimony to see it: opposition to open borders is forced out of the political parties and nearly out of the mainstream debate entirely and equated with bigotry by the cultural commissariat; those who are less than enthusiastic about the consequences of too-high immigration are either corralled into widely discredited organizations like the BNP, intimidated into silence, or they acquiesce and adopt the sanctified opinion. More often perhaps they merely lapse deeper into the apathy that is gradually enveloping the population as a whole. It is a bullying process of enforced conformity to radical social change impelled by economic factors. There’s nothing very liberal, or conservative for that matter, about it.

Truth, Stranger Than Dale

Further proof that every absurdity uttered in jest eventually comes to pass in reality:
Mexican state issuing llegals GPS devices.
I was wondering why the above news item from The Telegraph sounded familiar, and then I recalled this Untethered post from last May (relevant passage in boldface):

Gracias por llamar La Casa Blanca. Para Ingles marque el cinco.

beep

Thank you for calling the White House. Your government is currently unavailable. If you are a U.S citizen, press one. If you are thinking about migrating to the United States, press two.

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If you are calling for today’s Border Patrol schedule, press one. If you are calling for the daily Minuteman forecast, press two. If you are calling for copies of current immigration proposals before Congress, press three. If you are calling for locations of potential employers, press four. If you are calling for instructions on how to use your beacon homing device, press five. If you are calling for instructions on how to register to vote Republican, press six. If you wish to return to the main menu, press seven.

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Thank you for calling the White House. Your government is currently unavailable. If you are a U.S citizen, press one. If you are thinking about migrating to the United States, press two. If you are an alien being from another planet and would like to replace a current U.S. citizen, press three.

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Welcome to the citizen replacement process. We currently have an unlimited number of slots open for carbon based life forms that wish to migrate to the United States. If you’d like to learn more about how pod metamorphosis works, press one. If you are a family member seeking to join a recent alien immigrant, press two. If you would like to recieve a brochure of available body types, press three. To inquire about regional availability, press four.

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Regional assignments are currently allocated based on the needs of industry and the Republican party. For a complete list of–

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Thank you for calling the White House. Your government is currently unavailable. If you are a U.S citizen, press one.

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click, hmmmmm….

***

Yes, I know, wrong government. No doubt our guys are working on the more high-tech pod metamorphosis process. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

add: in the comments to the original posting Rick Darby of Reflecting Light offered this:

“If you are not a U.S. citizen, press two.”
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“Congratulations! You are now a U.S. citizen.”

Sunday Sermon

Sympathy for the Devil

For how can we condemn something that is ephemeral, in transit? In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine.
Not long ago, I caught myself experiencing a most incredible sensation. Leafing through a book on Hitler, I was touched by some of his portraits: they reminded me of my childhood. I grew up during the war; several members of my family perished in Hitler’s concentration camps; but what were their deaths compared with the memories of a lost period in my life, a period that would never return?
—Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.
—Joseph Stalin

But what’s puzzling you is the nature of my game.
—The Rolling Stones, Sympathy for the Devil

I confess: I think he went out like a man.
He refused the hood while his executioners concealed their faces. He betrayed no fear or resentment (at least while the cameras were on). I don’t know if this was design or merely resignation, but it serves as a brilliant final act of defiance. A more striking portrait of our failure in Iraq, and the tragic assumptions creating it, you couldn’t devise: the dictator Hussein can bare his face, but his executioners cannot.
If he could not transfer the shame that he did not (and would not know how to) possess, he could still compel fear, and it was a well grounded fear that required his hangmen to hide their identities. Now this defiant and, yes, dignified death, will help to sustain the remnants of his supporters a little while longer, as they spend themselves in bloodthirsty revenge. His evil outlives him. How many despots can claim to strike from the very grave?

I’ll further confess: I felt pity for him.
No small part of that pity is due to the fact that his death marks the terminus of yet another passage in my own too-fleeting life. In our lives. He became part of our culture, an exemplar of brutality that we made into a caricature of evil. This is my sacrilege: I will mourn the phenomenon that was Saddam in the American imagination. As accomplished as he was at despotism, he was helpless once he became a representation in the panoply of cultural archetypes. In the end he never had a chance.

But why sympathy for this monster? Sympathy for the unsympathetic can help to clarify things. The pressure to give no quarter to those identified as beyond redemption, inherently religious (if not very Christian), blinds us; this is how we allowed this war to happen. It became a widely held article of faith that “bringing Saddam to justice” was a morally unassailable act. This was the distraction, the magician’s puff of smoke.
So it helps if we can take our eyes away from it. If you put out of your mind for a moment Saddam’s visage, it becomes clear just what the Administration was up to when the were plastering it all over the news and hypocritically wailing, “he gassed his own people!”

If we can strip away the false outrage of our conniving leaders, if we can resist the pull of the mass, if we can brave the condemnation that would all but declare us complicit in mass murder, we can see things as they are, not as they are packaged and presented for consumption.
I, for one, am willing to consider that Saddam, the sociopath, may have been the best Iraq could have hoped for, for the time being. The moral thing to do regarding Saddam Hussein may have been to leave him right where he was, contained and constrained, with the clock nearing midnight. This is considered unthinkable by many out of little more than habit; unutterable by people who clamor for more chaos, more warfare, more troops fed into the grinder of Iraq. But never trust someone who advocates war on moral grounds. He is either a liar or a fool; or both.

Iraq deserved a chance at a peaceful denouement to the Saddam years. Iraq deserved its chance to develop by increments a more civilized means of governance. Saddam wasn’t going to live, or last, forever; weakened and contained he was destined to live out his life limited even in his capacity to control all of Iraq.
Of course, Vice President Cheney didn’t want to allow Iraq to determine its own fate; he didn’t have the time or patience for that. What he wanted was certainty; certainty regarding the circumstances of the lifting of sanctions and the development of Iraq’s vast oil wealth. The war was a gambit unrecognized as such, disguised as necessity and glorified as a crusade. These are the crimes we should concern ourselves with.

As Saddam and his executioners prayed together before he was taken away, two of his guards chanted the name of what is perhaps his likeliest successor: “Moktada, Moktada, Moktada.” Removing Saddam was always the easy part; treating him as an aberration was naïve. Now Iraq must pay for our naivete.
This is the justice the vanity and ignorance of our president, manipulated by his more cunning but barely more capable handlers, bestows upon the world. The greatest nation on earth, relegated to the role of spoiler in the dismal realm of Iraqi politics.

Justice was never ours to render; Saddam, and Iraq, committed no crimes against us. Some of these crimes were in fact abetted or willfully ignored by us, hence the truncated nature of his trial and the haste of his execution, before the defendant was given the chance to embarrass the United States. Saddam would pass out of the custody of the U.S. military just hours before he would hang, and no doubt not until every assurance had been made that there would be no delay in sending him to the gallows. This was not justice, this was an expression of power. Worse, it was an uncertain, ignoble, and unconfident expression of power.

Justice is for the aggrieved, for the people; for nations there is only the law, accomodation, or war. That’s why the triumphalism, now so pathetically muted in passive acknowledgement of its absurdity, surrounding the capture and conviction of Saddam Hussein stinks of dishonesty. Originally we, and the Iraqis, were supposed to be sated by this offering; now it takes place with the same furtive, anxious air that accompanied the transfer of sovereignty.

The inter-war years were spent distilling in the public mind the image of Saddam Hussein as our era’s Joseph Stalin. Our culture, comprised largely of television and cinema dominated by satirical irreverence, unwittingly served the wilderness-dwelling neocons’ ends by maintaining this mythology of Saddam Hussein as a singular evil. Saddam was presented not as a product of Mesopotamia’s tribal culture, but as if he had welled up out of the Iraqi desert like the bitumen that was recorded near what is now Baghdad as early as 3000 B.C. (the earliest such)—a byproduct of the true source of our interest, and as great a cause of Iraq’s woes as anything else.
We have forsaken the law to take advantage of our power, to wage war at will and to eschew any responsibility for defending our actions. Might makes right. It is a foreign policy so corrupt that it threatens to destroy us. Our incompetent leadership, by no means limited to the Administration, have taken this priceless advantage in power and turned it against us by employing it profligately. They will destroy us by it, if we allow them.

Now, with the farce of Saddam’s trial, the Bush Administration weakens, not just for us but for the world, international law and the concept of crimes against humanity.
Our neocon elders scoff at the notion of international law. It is toothless; it allows such as Saddam to endure. What is concealed in all the lofty, and not-so-lofty, rhetoric about flabby diplomacy and compromised internationalism, is the fact that their arguments amount to no more than this: international law and diplomacy are imperfect. Even as we get an abject, tragic lesson in just how much more imperfect and destructive is their new order imposed by an American colossus, they remain unrepentant, and more insistent by the day. They are impervious to reason because they have come to the conclusion that reason is a detriment. They believe in will and power creating reality; reason has nothing to do with it.

For them there is only this illusory redemptive power of might and will. We invaded a nation, eradicated its government and imprisoned its leadership; we created a rump legal system with which to try and execute its dictator for crimes we either ignored or encouraged before he became inconvenient to us.

We justify this by citing the list of Saddam’s crimes, yet we hastened his execution before the worst of these crimes can be tried in court. Even as we are drawn into the maelstrom of Arab tribal violence our own actions have precipitated, and our warmongers demand ever more severe measures be taken to subdue the nation they claim we have liberated. It is worse than a farce; it is a crime. But one must ask: what has been accomplished?
We have delivered Iraq from Saddam to Moktada, or whatever new villain or cast of villains might prevail after an extended period of chaos and bloodshed.

Neocons like to aver that the previous status quo goal of stability in the Middle East is a decadent and immoral order that we have the obligation to shatter and replace with transformative democracy. Don’t you believe it, because they certainly don’t.
At least not the first-string players, many of whom are pointing fingers at the coaches, management, the fans even, everyone but themselves, and the game’s not even over yet.
The neocon agitprop bench-warmers, now gleefully exulting in the playing minutes they’re getting in our political equivalent of junk-time, don’t seem to even know what game they’re playing. Frightening; more frightening, to me at least, than a weak despot halfway around the world.

What they want is a new world order entirely on our terms; impossible to attain and beyond any rational justification. They continue to promote their madness because they have committed themselves to the process, and turning back now means surrender, while driving onward means that they may still manage to saddle the nation, and the world, with the fait accompli of a broadened war in the Middle East. They are forcing the issue; “immanentizing the eschaton.” They are not a “new” sort of conservative; they are not any sort of conservative. They are radicals of the worst order, provocateurs of global strife. They are of a kind with anarchists, communists, fascists–and they have gained influence within a nation of unprecedented global power.
This is what the execution of Saddam Hussein means.

If our leaders were truly outraged by Saddam’s crimes against humanity they would have confidently turned him over to an international court, not to the Shi’ite thugs so eager to take up his mantle.
Turning a murderer over to those he has sinned against may carry some justice, it may very well be deserved, but it isn’t necessarily lawful. Justice is ephemeral and subjective, rendered by those with might or the moment’s advantage; the law binds and limits us all, weak and strong alike. It is an imperfect buttress against tyranny and chaos; it is also the essence of civilization. But it imposes limitations, even upon the strong. Even upon us. This is the target of our necon radicals; the reason for their unblushing embrace of war and power, and their shameful slandering of diplomacy and international law. Seeing that we are strongest they declare, for the world, the rule of the strongest. They justify it by citing our moral superiority; a moral superiority that is forfeit by the same expression of global might that they identify as its natural and proper mandate.

Note how many who justify the war because of the brutality of Hussein clamor for ever sterner measures in suppressing the insurgency. It’s not merely that they propose killing to put an end to killing; we all know that in some circumstances this can be justified, if it’s the destruction of criminal renegades waging war upon a peaceful majority, or of one hostile nation assaulting another. But if the war has taught us anything, it’s that Saddam Hussein was less an aberration than a refinement of Arabic brutality. Shortly after Ayad Allawi was selected as interim prime minister of Iraq, a story circulated about him summarily executing, by his own hand, a prisoner to establish his authority. Some applauded this, comically, gruesomely, unaware of the irony.

Saddam once held utility for us; he did so when we encouraged and assisted his brutal and mindlessly bloody assault on Iran (and this is why he wasn’t allowed to live to speak to the charges of war crimes concerning it); he did so when Donald Rumsfeld, that virtuoso of moral equivalence and obfuscation, declined to impolitely mention the gassing of the Kurds when he shook hands with Hussein in 1983.*
Our complicity vis a vis Iraqi brutality was one reason why so many leftists became neocon fellow travelers; Christopher Hitchens has made the argument that Gulf War I and the sanctions regime of the nineties caused undue harm upon the people of Iraq; subsequently they had become our wards, to be rescued from Saddam and turned over to the beneficent embrace of Hitchens’ friend, Ahmad Chalabi.

But Saddam fit too well the role in which he was cast. In the end perhaps it was the moustache that did him in. It was too perfect, too Stalinesque. Had he a lesser moustache, maybe a thin, Latin-playboy thing, he wouldn’t have looked so imposing, and would have veered too much toward comic and away from sinister; had he been clean shaven, he might not have so easily been seared in the American public’s imagination.

It was his ability to capture the public’s fascination that made it so very easy for Dick Cheney and his criminal gang of fools to conflate him with jihadi terrorists in the public’s mind. These same terrorists would have liked to take him out themselves; they were kept at bay by the same brutality that Hussein used to suppress his moderates. We have done them a favor. Don’t expect them to reciprocate. Of course now this tragic, monumental blunder, making a potential terrorist haven where one had virtually no chance of arising, out of the nation with the second richest oil reserves in the world, is offered as the very reason to press on, without even the slightest acknowledgement of the irony. And I began by saying Saddam had balls!

Perhaps it marks me out as finally and utterly dissolute, but I can’t muster any sense that justice has been served by the hanging of Saddam Hussein (this is not the same as saying he didn’t deserve it; they are not the same thing). I can’t, I won’t, pretend to draw satisfaction from it. Maybe it’s my inherent racism, my lack of sophistication, my isolationism (isolationism and xenophobia of course consisting of standing against killing foreigners in our perverse times), to care far more for the fate of my country than for that of another. But I don’t think so.
Maybe I’ve grown too old to humor myself, or my fellows.

But tonight, at least once, I will raise my glass and silently toast a true hall-of-fame despot; he nearly made it all the way to 2007, after spending the last thirteen years in a state of war with the United States. No mean feat, that.

*Correction: Udolpho points out in the comments thread that the use of poison gas against the Kurds happened in 1988. Dohh! That’s going to leave a mark.