*

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.

beep

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.

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. If you are an alien being from another planet and would like to replace a current U.S. citizen, press three.

beep

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.

beep

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

beep

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

beep

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.”
beep
“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.

Blahhg Post

In the late stages of starvation the body turns to its own muscle tissue as a source of protein, literally devouring itself in a last ditch effort at survival. The functioning of the brain becomes impaired as cellular processes fail. The subject becomes listless, apathetic, and withdrawn as he consumes himself.
The solitary man, having by chance or choice found himself removed from society, must also turn inward, as his psychological needs for love, companionship, and human contact must be sated. He too consumes himself.

Take it from me, I know. All this other stuff I talk about; well, I’m a fraud. What do I know about the affairs of the world, of human nature, of man’s relationship to society? My knowledge is all second hand, acquired by reading or worse, watching television, run through my shoddy filter of a mind, fouled by my vanity and prejudices, worthless in the end because only the lived experience achieves anything near certainty. And while my education is merely paltry, my lack of experience is a scandal. Snatch anyone out of a crowd at random, you’ll almost certainly have found someone who’s done more than me. I can’t help it. My natural state is dull torpor. Want to know about sloth? Listlessness? Apathy? These are the materiel with which I wage my campaign of inertia.

I was sullen from the moment I was forced, literally kicking and screaming, into the harsh light of day. I believe my mother once told me that I was a relatively well behaved baby. This was no pleasant disposition; I’m sure I’d already made up my mind about the futility of effort. Why waste your breath?

As long as I can remember I’ve been looking back; even as a child I remember thinking that if only I could go back to some earlier point and start again, then I’d shake this thing, this curse, this personality that I’m sure belongs to someone else, that I carry about with increasing fatigue and resentment. Sometimes when I catch sight of myself in a mirror I think I see the stranger who’s hijacked my body, there behind the eyes, faintly mocking, the bastard.

My whole life I’ve gazed longingly into the past with bitter nostalgia. But it was never so very good until it was gone, this life. That part of it spent and squandered is mourned; that which lies ahead is feared; its end is resented.
But life does grow sweeter, in spite of me. In spite of this undeserving ingrate, this incomplete creature bestowed with an awareness he misunderstands and manhandles, like an ape tearing the pages from a book. Life has never been better, truly, than now–yet still!
Mankind is glorious; man is wretched.

Don’t mistake this for modesty or low “self-esteem”, whatever the hell that means. Talk to me about self-esteem and I’ll punch you on the chin. You will likely then beat me senseless, because I can’t fight either and I’m an awful coward, but that’s beside the point.
No, quite the opposite. I think only too highly of myself. As do you. We cannot help but turn inward, even when we look at the heavens. This is the source of our dispossession.

Sexual Perversity

Youth, beauty, strength: the criteria for physical love are exactly the same as those of Nazism. In short, I was in the shit.
—Michel Houellebecq, The Possibility of an Island

Sexual innocence has gone to market.
In our liberated era, sexuality is increasingly valued, and modesty increasingly devalued (once was a person was a deviant if overly sexual; now if insufficiently so).
Sexual competition is now a laissez faire system, and sexuality is a commodity in a newly deregulated market. Sexual vigor and success combine to make the universal product, inherent in all products.
Sex is the value added, to be attained by purchasing the right car, clothes, beer, etc. Sex sells the products that promise to produce more sex. Sex is the Alpha and Omega of our new consumerist order.

Despite the tendency of the sixties generation to congratulate itself (or any generation, for that matter), sexual liberation owes far more to technology than to political action. Women first had to be liberated from toil. Only then could sexual equality become an issue. Political agitation always follows opportunity, just as patriotic rhetoric follows power. Activists need their heroic mythology as surely as militarists.

It is to the modern free market, and its ruthless efficiency in wringing productivity out of labor, that women owe their newfound liberty. Material progress and the advent of free time made women’s liberation possible. I’m sure I’m not the first to suggest women owe their equality to masculine technological ingenuity, but not so long ago this would have been considered the raving of a crackpot, and perhaps still is in some quarters.
(I recall an essay by legendary L.A. Times columnist Jack Anderson, years ago, where he perused newspaper advertisements from the early half of the twentieth century, expressing disdain at the prevalence of ads for various innovative, time saving products for homemakers: washing machines, sewing machines, vacuum cleaners, etc.–my how far we’ve come, seemed to be the gist of his import; here it was right before him, but it was too soon to recognize and acknowledge the true vanguards of women’s liberation–household appliances)

Our new freedom is at once more liberal and less egalitarian, freer and more fascistic; unhindered sexual competition will make gilded age capitalism look like a support group. Sexual competition is nature’s dismissive, mocking retort to humanity’s endless prayers to equality and fraternity. We conquer man-made morality only to submit to nature’s tyranny. The wheel of history turns: repression begets revolution begets repression.

Sexual competition now follows the amoral logic of the market, because sex is the market, always has been; we now see that all human economic activity is a complex superstructure built upon this substrate of sex. From here on the unfettered market of sex will proceed with the same inexorable and indifferent logic of any open market, to points unknown.

Unmodified sexual competition is a return to nature, transplanting the primitive world into the midst of modernity; a return which will likely disabuse us of yet another cherished myth, that of the primitive idyll. It is every man (and woman) for himself. The regulation of sexual behavior through monogamy and chastity were civilizational advances we haven’t bothered to replace, but are merely leaving behind.
Sexual shame has been routed, electronic entertainment reaches ever higher degrees of technological sophistication, and the ensuing profusion of sexual imagery and titillation is already desensitizing us. Ever more stimulation is required; already we show signs of exhaustion. It may all end in a sexually spent society; ironically, sexual liberation may eventually destroy sex.

Procreation has already been cut adrift; is passion next? How will love be possible in the coming world? Will love itself become an artifact, a short lived thing in the span of history? Is it now revealed as no more than a dream? Romantic love, we hardly knew ye.

Now the very notion of a common sexual morality is illiberal. By unspoken assent it has become sufficient to ridicule one who speaks of such things as a prude; which under the new order is synonymous with enemy of freedom.
But this is all the bigotry of the present for the past, for morality as a personal matter is a modern invention. Subjective, individual morality is as meaningless as the conceit of a close personal relationship with God. It is no morality at all.

I don’t know if it spells disaster; I don’t pretend to know where it leads. I only know it represents something altogether new, a profound–and unprecedented–devolution of moral authority from communities and institutions to individuals, manipulated by a ubiquitous and sophisticated electronic marketplace. This we’ve come to accept without consideration, by default really, as the unavoidable result of a morally unassailable expansion of personal liberty (an increasing personal liberty accompanied by a decreasing political representation, as matters of war, immigration, and the terms of our governance are increasingly surrendered to corporations and political parties inured against the popular will–but that’s for another time).

It does seem that something has to give, eventually. Perhaps when the professional classes and the wealthy have reached levels of illegitimacy and serial relationships previously confined to the poor. They have already acquired a taste for low culture that seems to presage a taste for low living. People are now expected to demonstrate their egalitarian piety by disdaining discernment, particularly in matters of a sexual nature. To be modest is to not be in on the joke, outdated, alien, not one of us. So, we are all vulgarians now. Or outcasts.

We have decreed the ideal of modesty nothing more than bourgeois prejudice; worse, it’s a sucker’s investment in the failing concern that is sexual morality, akin to putting one’s money in savings while everyone else is getting rich on junk bonds. Morality, and community, always depended on the vast majority buying into it, at least in principle, but now the compact has been broken. We already have a hard time remembering its terms.

It’s one more fight I haven’t taken up, despite being sympathetic to defenders of tradition, who seem entirely more honest, brave even, in their willingness to stand their ground before the groundswell that lifts their opposite number. I too suffer from the cowardice of that craven sellout, the “liberal on social issues conservative”, which is not a conservative at all, and a very dismal liberal at that. It is a cop-out, like calling yourself an agnostic.
I must confess, this is nothing more than a surrender to the way things are. Of the few things I’m certain, one is that sexual mores are not the means of patriarchal tyranny that some feminists would have, or mere accident, as the general apathy that is overtaking us implies. The prevalence of sexual morality in advanced societies is enough for me to prove its necessity to civilization.

Two modern historical anomalies uncomfortably exist side by side: the sexualization of children, and the idealization of childhood.
Many have pointed out that our time’s extended, idealized childhood is a fairly recent invention. This too may prove short-lived. One consequence of the commodification of sexuality is that children are disabused of sexual innocence sooner and, like the rest of us, more thoroughly.
For a time we behaved as if there could be two separate societal spheres, one of adults and one of children. This was always a contrivance to get us past the transition from a communal morality to one determined by the individual and manipulated by the marketplace; now few even feel the need to offer the cliched and callous retort to those complaining about sexual content on television: just change the channel.
Now we know that children, and childhood, will not be insulated from the consequences of sexual revolution; the very notion that they should be is diminishing, surrendered to a “progress” we are incapable, and mostly unwilling, to arrest. The most profound result of sexual liberation may be the destruction of sexual innocence.

Is childhood to be surrendered to this new ideal of productivity, progress, and personal liberation? Are we now giving childhood back, not to the privations of a harder time, but to the libertine, dissolute excess of ours? Who will be left to mourn childhood when none have lived it?

An unspoken anxiety grips the populace. We are alarmed at the sight of tarted up thirteen year-olds (particularly if they are our relatives), yet we lack the will, acting alone now without the structure of community morality to support us, to offer a resistance. No one wants to be a prude; it has gone beyond a source of embarrassment to become a source of suspicion. The imputation is that one who complains about sexual morality would surrender other freedoms, or is secretly attempting to chase women out of public life, even as the debate, like that surrounding abortion, is inordinately waged by women on each side. Women remain more vested in chastity and sexual modesty than men ever will be, contrary to some feminist dogma.

Sublimation is still necessary, now more than ever, so we turn our fearful angst on the few remaining among us who are unquestionably out of bounds, the rapist and the child molester.

The New York Times reported earlier this week on a series of highly rated shows produced by Dateline NBC, filming police stings of alleged sexual predators seeking out minors online.
The stings are the creation of a website named Perverted Justice, that had been acting on its own for years before being picked up by Dateline. The sting operators pose as children in online chat rooms, waiting to be propositioned by adults.
For nearly three years, and even a couple of episodes into Dateline’s involvement with them, the group did all of this without notifying the authorities (now they work in conjunction with the police). Originally they merely sought to identify online predators and then cause them as much harm as possible by publishing their names and informing on them to employers, family, friends, and neighbors.
Among the many problems inherent in this, the website had no means of confirming the identities of their targets.

A contra-site, corrupted-justice.com, was created to counter Perverted Justice, and claims among the concessions it’s managed to extract (from their website):

1) We demanded that they cease performing their “busts” without the prearranged involvement of legitimate law enforcement, and;
2) We demanded that they dismantle the “Follow Up Forum” – The primary tool used by their members to harass and terrorize those who had been accused only by anonymous vigilantes and had never been dealt with by legitimate law enforcement.

The “Follow Up Forum” seems to be a large part of the appeal of the site, publishing the lurid details of online chats; previously used to destroy alleged pedophiles who stood accused of no crime, now the site limits these to persons already convicted. Among the charges leveled by Corrupted Justice are that PJ has used minors in its sting operations, that it has in the past lured predators into residential neighborhoods and to public places without notifying police (and I can’t help thinking that these close calls only made more careful predators), and of course that their methods constitute entrapment.

In the past I’ve seen a few of the Dateline programs, and I must confess that I was nearly as appalled by the actions of Dateline as I was by the alleged child predators. I have to ask myself, am I letting my natural revulsion toward sanctimony color my judgment of a worthy and necessary mission? I think not.

What appalls me isn’t the sense that the innocent are being persecuted, though I’ll never feel comfortable with the curious folk at Perverted Justice or the producers of Dateline NBC running about determining who is a criminal and who isn’t (one PJ participant dismisses charges of entrapment by pointing out that civilians cannot be guilty of entrapment–accurate, but hardly reassuring to know that there are situations where civilians are more empowered than police); it is more the sense that they are in fact engaged in punishment, and that their motivations, imbued with an immature zeal, lead them to extremes. Extra-legal punishment, existing outside of the law, is an erosion of the law, and the law, not the posturing antics of the self appointed, is what truly protects us.

The aggressive pursuit of sexual deviants is designed to make us feel less powerless before the gut-wrenching pace of society’s progress toward an uncertain moral abyss. Family and community once protected children from these people, who have always existed; but what is different now is the independence, and sexual precociousness, of our children, and the way we live. We are understandably on edge.

In the past activists have tried to create special category crimes with diminished rights for the accused. Feminists have done this with rape, lobbying to restrict the rights of the accused and expand its definition; law and order conservatives have long expressed impatience with constitutional restraints in general. The willingness of so many to surrender so much to the “war on terror” comes to mind. We get into trouble when we refuse to live with the limitations the law places on us
Often accompanying demands that the constitution be suspended is the insistence that we are in the throes of an epidemic; sometimes, as in the case of nationwide pedophilia panic of the early nineties, outright hysteria is allowed to take hold (in no small part because so few are willing to be seen as defending heinous criminals–leaving little resistance to an already powerful, emotion driven movement) resulting in fantastical claims and the persecution of innocents. Often there is a hostility toward patriarchy, and an underlying misandry. Perveted Justice’s founder, a 27 year-old man who–shockingly–lives with his mother, has this to say, “I have a low opinion of men in general. The most heinous crimes in our society are committed by males.”
Always suspect those so ready to denounce their kind.

What is striking about the Perverted Justice website is its strutting, self-congratulatory nature. Enthusiastic amateurs engaged in what should be police activity should always give us pause. And to think I began here bemoaning the collapse of sexual morality.
Something else I couldn’t help but notice: the vigilantes of PJ resemble the child molesters they hunt (they post photos of both). There is an awful lot of venom, braggadocio, and chest-beating going on; but above all, as always, vanity.

The same issue of the Times reported on a public shaming of Chinese prostitutes and pimps (what does a Chinese pimp look like?) that drew a significant backlash from citizens who were concerned about the abuse of state power, and its troubling reminder of the Cultural Revolution.
One land’s low ebb is another’s high tide.

Horrorshow: delete

Flush out your headgear, new guy. You think we waste gooks for freedom? This is a slaughter. If I’m going to get my balls blown off for a word, my word is poon-tang.
–Animal Mother, Full Metal Jacket

News from Iraq the mainstream press isn’t reporting, via Dahr Jamail in Tomdispatch:

Then there are the emails I get from American soldiers or their family members. In late October, I received one from a mother whose son is a Marine stationed in Ramadi where the fighting between U.S. forces and Sunni insurgents has been fierce and ongoing these last months.

“Many, many atrocities on both sides,” she writes,”because of course the town has deteriorated into nothing more than a horror flick. His emails are few because his outpost was mortared and he lost computer connection with me. He has to go to the Army side of the city and try to send email from there. I’ve gotten one email. The marines are not supplying the boys with working satellite phones. Instead they give those, along with money for bribes, to the Iraqis in hopes of obtaining information. So our marines sit there (only 400 patrolling half of Ramadi, a town of 400,000… talk about war crimes). This is such a nightmare. If my son survives, he’ll be embittered forever…This is a portion of his angry email….I found it very disturbing….please excuse the spelling, he’s in a hurry and exhausted when he writes….his point is to kill the Iraqis before they kill him. Now it’s just a race for life. Insane.”

Her son’s email reads in part:

“I was gonna call you but the phone is broken. I hate this place more than anywhere else i’ve been. I guess is a compilation of all the time I’ve done overseas fighting. Bullshit fights, its really bringing me down. I can’t wait till all this is over…I’ll be the biggest anti-war person this country will have… at least against this war in Iraq….Let’s go fight a different one somewhere else cause this one is lost. I swear i wish you could spend a week over here…you would know it’s lost. You can’t stop ‘holy warriors,’ especially in their territory. Tonight we are about to go drop off generators to the enemy (Iraqi civilians) hoping they will give us info about the enemy (bullshit storys). The shit your tax dollars go to would make you puke. You really would puke. I almost do when i think about it….. thomas jefferson would have a heart attack if he saw all the shit goin on today. Oh well. I really hope it changes soon when Bush is out…but i doubt it. I thinks its all Gods plan…he runs the show no matter what. Fate and all that…its good to trust him. “…I’ll keep the machine gun lubed in hopes of killin em all at the first opportunity for you. I love you ma and i know that no matter what you support me. I hope you don’t find this email burdensome. Just hit delete if that’s the case.”

Definitions

I propose:

“Civil war” is not an accurate description of the current situation in Iraq. It is in fact a euphemism for what is happening in Iraq. A traditional civil war would be an improvement, presenting the U.S. with a more predictable environment, and organized factions with which to negotiate, or support, or oppose.
As it is we’re now talking to the once dismissed leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri), Abdul Aziz al-Hakeem, whose militia, the Badr Brigades, is more closely linked with Iran (having fought on its behalf in the Iran/Iraq war) than any other faction; all while insisting that Iran’s meddling is destabilizing Iraq.
We are left hedging an uncertain bet (on precisely what exactly is becoming less clear all the time) on a shaky regime by dealing with, or assenting via inaction to the activities of (in the case of al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army), those who are killing, kidnapping, and terrorizing each other, or the civilian population as a whole. This while the last of the neocon diehards are still pressing for war against Iran for supporting these same groups (a likely [and why wouldn’t Iran want to influence the outcome?] but unproven assertion, by the way).
Just don’t call it a civil war. Well, okay.

As for the issue of accuracy in reporting: “chaos”, “civil collapse”, “societal breakdown”, or maybe “rampant warlordism”, each would be more apt. Does anyone recall the terminolgy used to describe the situation in Mogadishu before our ill fated intervention in 1992? It seems Iraq is closer to that than to any sort of civil war we would recognize.

Closer to home:

“Unarmed” is a technically accurate description of a man who struck a police officer with his car before ramming an undercover police vehicle twice, all while not posessing a firearm. But the term is misleading if used outside of this context. There is a reason we have codified into law something called vehicular homicide.

Lawyers, Guns, & Money

I was gambling in Havana,
I took a little risk
Send lawyers, guns and money
Dad, get me out of this

—Warren Zevon, Lawyers, Guns, and Money

We’ve all seen films and television programs utilizing the standard Twilight Zone-like climactic device wherein the protagonist must convince people of some imminent but fantastical-sounding peril (“the aliens are coming”; “we’re being replaced by pod-people”; “the president is as foolish as he appears”; etc.). You know the hero, his desperate urgency making him look like a lunatic, is in trouble when the authorities start in with the soothing, condescending voices; you’ve probably thought to yourself, as I have: just keep your mouth shut, fool, can’t you see they’re going to lock you up?
Therefore, by benefit of the unique education in wildly improbable eventualities that TV and cinema have afforded us, we all know that if, say, you see a gremlin on the wing of your passenger jet, it’s better to try to calm yourself, close the shade and order a double scotch. Sometimes all you can do is hold on tight or discreetly get out of the way.
So it is with this in mind that I quietly pack some essential belongings into the truck, put in a Spanish language-immersion tape (hola, senior Martinez; hoy es lunes, manana es martes; si muy bien; two days of this and I expect to have an accent like Ricardo Montalban), and merge onto the five freeway southbound one last time. I should have done this sooner.

Never again will I try to convince you that the war in Iraq not only had nothing to do with terrorism or WMD, but that our “leadership,” such as they are, knew this from the start. I will no longer make the assertion that the forcible “liberation” of the Middle East is a means to an end; not of defending America, but of keeping America uniquely dominant in the world. There is a difference, even if the neoconservative “intellectuals” insist no.

It is a very odd world indeed when, among a range of possibilities, that which makes the most sense is treated as conspiracy fantasy.
In an inversion of this Twilight Zone cliché ours is a helter-skelter reality where the absurd is obvious and the obvious absurd:
“what’s that you say? We invaded the nation with the third largest oil reserves in the world, secured its Oil Ministry while all about it was looted and burned, began construction of massive, permanent military bases, locked in long-term, highly favorable oil contracts, attempted to install a criminal expatriate of our own with no domestic support as president before allowing one man-one vote elections only after being pressured by massive street demonstrations not to satisfy the natural yearning for freedom that exists in every Muslim breast and upon which our own existence depends? Now, now—of course we believe you—the doctor is just going to give you a little something to calm you down
Offered for your consideration, in my best Rod Serling voice.

I think the confusion really began when we did away with the Department of War; creating a “Department of Defense” can only lead to Orwellian double-think, if that wasn’t the intention from the start.
But this isn’t what I came to say.

Many years from now, when the lasting consequences of the Iraq war reveal themselves and the fanciful, obscuring rhetoric has calmed like the dust of a volcanic explosion settling to reveal the new contours of the landscape; when we ask, yet again, how could this have happened, we may be appalled to conclude that it was largely the climax of an epic family drama.
We’ll have to gradually introduce this idea; we can’t all at once disillusion ourselves about just how corrupt our political process is and how the vanity of men, some of them remarkably small and petty, can influence the course of our great nation.

At the moment it is necessary that we assume the might of the United States can’t be leveraged by the egomania of a resentful son; this isn’t Shakespeare, and Freud lost relevance long ago. But never has a family drama of vanity, pride, and filial resentment played itself out on so grand and tragic a scale, as is happening right now before our eyes. It’s a fascinating spectacle, if we cannot yet allow ourselves to look at it full on.

The American republic’s is a powerful chief executive, growing alarmingly more powerful still, even as the current officeholder flounders and smashes all about him with his current measure of privilege. One has to wonder how much value Dick Cheney expects to draw from his hard-won imperial presidency (that he could only enjoy by proxy through the second-rate son of a old rival—how it must grate) before handing it off to who knows (perhaps to the transparently egomaniacal John McCain—things could get more interesting still).

Before his surreal elevation to the highest office in the world, George W. Bush had played two very different, one dimensional roles for various interests both political and commercial, that of the affable front man and that of the back-room bully.
In the past George W. Bush lent the name his father cultivated to commercial concerns eager to access influence. He enjoyed his role as front man and disdained details and operation; this is a fair description of his presidency. We all know he once headed a failed oil company; we all know it wasn’t his fault it failed because he wasn’t much involved in its operation. When the end came he dutifully invoked his privileged background, drew what favorable terms that entitled, and was bailed out by his father. The music stopped, and most of the investors were without chairs, but the name, the brand, Bush was mostly shielded from dishonor.
I have to wonder how it felt when it was made clear to him that he wouldn’t surpass his father in business.

Donald Rumsfeld’s long overdue ouster and (pending) replacement by perennial insider, possible Iran-Contra conspirator, avowed realist, and alleged intelligence fixer Robert Gates, and the staged intervention of Bush Sr’s friend and associate James Baker, is billed as the end of neocon misrule, the surrendering of an incompetently led command.
It is largely theatre (unless you really think that those who we should now turn to for guidance include Vernon Jordan and Leon Panetta); the Iraq Study Group is a Greek chorus to segue our hapless leadership through the costume change from military fatigues to statesmen’s robes. Calling it a “study group” is mildly amusing; once again W. pays someone else to do his homework, and tardily.

The I.S.G. is in reality tasked with fashioning a pretext and political cover for the hasty retreat now made necessary by our absolute failure in Iraq, a failure that was long ago determined; they are crafting the narrative for an exit that was shamelessly put off until now for political considerations. Baker, close friend of the father, is here to bail out the son.

(Baker, you may recall, served as discreet mouthpiece for the former President Bush, voicing concern over W’s impending crusade errant in Iraq. Bush the Younger once infamously made a point of publicly dismissing the rare advantage afforded him by being the son of the only other president to make war with Iraq by brandishing his sanctimonious and imaginary close relationship with a “higher father.” We embarrass our children from adolescence to adulthood in return for the embarrassment they caused us as children; but some children never stop embarrassing their parents. Some come to do it out of spite.)

The question remains if the son, abetted by the now isolated Cheney, resentful and desperate as his own megalomaniacal hour nears midnight, will attempt one last act of petulant defiance by publicly spurning the discrete offer of a lessened humiliation.

Some are already attempting to redefine success. “We got Saddam” is destined to become an ironic chestnut along the lines of “it only hurts when I laugh.” There isn’t a serious minded person left who doesn’t secretly wish we could put him right back, not in his spider hole but in the presidential palace. If only we could take a mulligan.
But there is no success to be rescued. There are no shining paths of glory before us; just darkened, uncertain escape routes.

Now that there are no more political advantages to seek or defeats to guard against, and G.W. Bush, the draft horse of grander designs he only dimly understands, has ferried his last load, this administration begins the belated process of determining the least costly means of extrication. It is a salvage operation described as a “change of course.”
In Korea, when outnumbered Marines had to fight their way out of the Chosin Reservoir, Major General O.P. Smith, commander of the 1st Marine Division, refused to describe it as a retreat, insisting that we were merely “attacking in a different direction.” But the ground was yielded. Bush will have to yield Iraq, finally, and that means the large sprawling military bases and favorable oil contracts that, predictably, were the first goals secured and are now the last to be relinquished.
Democracy in Iraq, on the other hand, was initially to be the installation of the exiled Ahmad Chalabi. Failing that it became provisional rule, stalling and trying to channel the elections before bowing to pressure from the (somehow) unaccounted for ambitions of the Shia clergy. Now it has collapsed into talk of partition, coup, and withdrawal. Still, some insist that any suggestion that the goal of installing democracy in Iraq was a ruse is wild-eyed conspiracy theory.

Rhetoric follows power; it provides a veneer of morality and necessity for the more base needs of the state.The neocon theory of worldwide democratic revolution was always cover for naked ambition taking advantage of public fear. A means to an end and a pretext for garrisoning the Middle East against the real threat to American power, Chinese and Russian designs for the world’s energy market.
The most fervent media supporters of the Iraq War believed the lyrics they improvised from the sheet music provided by their cappelmeisters in power; they fell in love with the sound of their own voices and the fantasia they presented. But they were made into propagandists and fabricators, unwitting or not.The last to know defeat is at hand will be the hapless volunteers of the blogging brigades, now left behind to fight a rear-guard action for an army in full retreat. As the forces of reality and accountability descend and cut them to pieces, they will turn to find the king’s elite guards have left the field.

Cheney remains at V.P. in all likelihood because he knows where the bodies are buried; he buried them. For all of Rumsfeld’s crimes and connivance, his image in the public eye is more of an arrogant incompetent than a conspirator. His sacrificing attempts to strengthen the myth of “right war, wrong strategy.” History will dispose of that nonsense, but for the moment, for the political establishment that includes the newly victorious and emboldened (but inconveniently complicit) Democrats, a fiction will do. A sort of historical placeholder; a non-defeat defeat.

As for Rumsfeld’s departure and Cheney’s unimaginable survival, in America we’ve not only come to expect dishonesty, we admire it; losers we cannot abide. Another defect acquired by a history of triumphalist, moralist posturing; posturing in service of power that has accompanied every war, justified or not, we’ve engaged in.
The age-old rousing to battle of which neoconservatism is only a recent manifestation. Our experience with this rhetoric is older than the nation itself, emboldening wars of conquest over the Indian tribes while we were still colonies. Then it was land; now it is oil. Then it was our duty to bring Christian enlightenment to the benighted savages; now our duty is to free the “natural desire of every human being” for liberty. Those in need of our help are almost always in possession, or in the way, of something we need. That most of the neocons misunderstand their role in history only makes them more detestable.

The war is lost; it was lost from the start.Those who say we “won the war but lost the peace” have a very curious notion of peace. Has Iraq had a moment’s peace since we invaded?

Yesterday’s questioning of General Abazaid by the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, a vehicle for McCain and Clinton to strut and preen as defenders of the same public will they took for granted until now, was just more theatre; providing second act character transformations for these competing leads designed to make us forget their duplicity. A plot point for the still unwritten third act that will attempt to make our hasty retreat from Iraq resemble victory.
The one question that needed to be asked I didn’t hear (but I may have missed; I can only endure these things piecemeal): General, is there a plan in place for withdrawal?

Still concealed from the public is that the withdrawal of over a hundred thousand troops and untold tonnage of equipment from a chaotically hostile environment is a problem of its own epic proportions. We are about to initiate a very uncertain and dangerous exit.

So two prominent senators bearing no small measure of responsibility are now allowed to pose as our skeptical saviors demanding competence from the administration; it is them we need to be saved from. That’s quite enough senators, thank you for your service.

In David Lean’s epic Lawrence of Arabia there’s a scene where Lawrence, the idealistic Englishman who organizes an Arab revolt against the Turks in World War I, has led a band of Bedouin fighters on a daring raid that requires first crossing the treacherous Nefud Desert. In the night one of Lawrence’s servants goes missing, but his camel remains; the boy apparently succumbed to sleep and fell from his mount. Separated from the group on foot, he is written off as dead. Lawrence insists on taking it upon himself to go back for the boy; Sherif Ali, the Bedouin leader already leery of Lawrence’s ambitious plan, is furious. Lawrence will certainly die and jeapordize the entire force, he says, in a hopeless effort to save someone his own reckless ambition has already doomed.
The boy, the Sherif tells Lawrence:
“You have killed already.”
President Bush, Senators McCain and Clinton:
Iraq you have killed already.

If only we could send them into the desert.

Elitist Benevolence Threatened by Representative Democracy

Left behind in the muck by the receding waters of Tuesday’s Democratic tsunami are countless predictable articles characterizing it as a refutation of Republican immigration “hardliners.” At least one comprehensive reform supporter is a little more honest, noticing that the newcomers are well to the “right” of the Democratic leadership; most outflanked their Rebublican opponents to the restrictionist side. Jacob Weisberg’s Slate column, Lou Dobbs Democrats,” is commendable for not relying on the boilerplate, but still he seeks to dissuade the freshman class of representatives from harboring too much regard for the popular will, fashioning an argument out of a precarious distinction between what he terms “economic populism” vs. “economic nationalism”:

Many of the Democrats who recaptured seats held by Republicans have been described as moderates or social conservatives, who will be out of synch with Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi. The better term, with props to Fareed Zakaria, is probably illiberal Democrats. Most of those who reclaimed Republican seats ran hard against free trade, globalization, and any sort of moderate immigration policy. That these Democrats won makes it likely that others will take up their reactionary call. Some of the newcomers may even be foolish enough to try to govern on the basis of their misguided theory.

“Illiberal” has a very nasty ring in and of itself. Il- is a loaded prefix, suggesting dysfunction or mental illness. But that’s the least of it. Weisberg’s use of the phrase combined with his “props to” (Jacob [J-Wee?] is pretty fly for a white guy) Fareed Zakaria constitutes an underhanded allusion to fascism. Zakaria’s “illiberal” democrats were the concern of his essay-turned-book The Rise of Illiberal Democracy, warning of democracy’s potential for empowering extremists (ya don’t say?). From Zakaria’s book:

THE AMERICAN diplomat Richard Holbrooke pondered a problem on the eve of the September 1996 elections in Bosnia, which were meant to restore civic life to that ravaged country. “Suppose the election was declared free and fair,” he said, and those elected are “racists, fascists, separatists, who are publicly opposed to [peace and reintegration]. That is the dilemma.”

Weisberg seems to be lamenting that America is electing the wrong people. We’re, apparently, no more trustworthy with the keys to democracy than the Third World primitives that Weisberg wants to throw the border gates open for. (This phrase, electing the wrong people, was used by a member of the Coalition Provisional Authority when explaining the delay of Iraq’s promised elections.)
Weisberg’s not sure we can be trusted with democracy. We might use it to interfere with market forces. He continues:

Nationalism begins from the populist premise that working people aren’t doing so well. But instead of blaming the rich at home, it focuses its energy on the poor abroad.

I suppose this is technically accurate, in that an illegal alien is very much “abroad.”
Weisberg’s “economic populism” is good because, unlike its evil twin above, it knows its place, limiting itself to minimum wage laws, confiscatory taxes and stumping for social programs, while accepting whatever may come of unbridled immigration and outsourcing. And it “blames the rich at home.” Because you can never have enough class envy.
This illustrates the fundamental problem with our open borders faction. It is currently an alliance of two opposing political movements: on one wing, we have the Clinton Democrats (Hillary, not Bill) and their designs to institute national health care, maintain race and sex quotas, and broaden social programs; on the other we have the economic libertarians, who oppose most government interference in the market and are otherwise diametrically opposed to the other wing’s plans.

It’s as if they are engaged in a game of chicken, to see who will abandon their principles first.
Both sides gloss over the glaring contradiction; one bets on a return to the policies of the Johnson Administration; the other on a miraculous deliverance from the persistence of economic inequality that provoked the welfare state in the first place, somehow to be achieved by the mass importation of poor people. My money’s on the first group.

“Moderate” in Weisberg’s approximation is of course Hagel/Martinez, tripling current immigration levels and invoking twenty year-old deja vu regarding enforcement. Come on Charlie Brown, kick that football. And why wouldn’t we trust proponents of “comprehensive reform”, who alternate between deriding enforcement as futile and insisting they will eventually deliver it?

“Moderate” of course means not having the coarse manners to take enforcement seriously. Is this fair, when “enforcement first” is nothing more than an attempt to enforce existing law? At what point did we make the deliberate decision that our immigration laws were no longer needed and our border a mere inconvenience?
The federal government has silently and without the assent of a distracted public gotten away with abnegating its responsibilites over the last twenty years (since ’86’s amnesty law and its ignored enforcement provisions). This is a curious interpretation of the consent of the governed in a republic. It suggests a decay and corruption that anyone should be opposed to, regardless of how they feel about its consequences.
One might chalk it up to a lazy and apathetic electorate getting the government it deserves, but now the public is forcefully expressing its will that the law be applied. A congressman or senator who seeks the same is now considered opposed to “any moderate policy”? I must be missing something. But the slightest resistance is enough to set off Weisberg’s sanctimony:

One heard similar themes in the other pivotal Senate races. In Virginia, apparent winner James Webb denounced outsourcing and blasted George Allen for voting to allow more “foreign guest workers” into the state. In Missouri, victor Claire McCaskill refused to let incumbent James Talent out-hawk her on immigration. “Unfair trade agreements have sent good American jobs packing, hurting Missouri workers and communities,” she said in one of her ads.We should be encouraging businesses to stay at home, not rewarding them for moving overseas [emph. added]

Oh the heresy!

Clinton espoused a strong free-trade position and embraced globalization through his presidency. This set the direction for his party, despite significant resistance in Congress. Clinton’s argument was always that government should address the negative consequences of open trade through worker retraining programs and by providing benefits not tied to employers, like health care and portable pensions. But that human-capital part of Clinton’s globalization agenda never went anywhere, which partially explains the current backlash.

This plan, to couple a more libertarian immigration policy with liberal social programs, constitutes continually transferring wealth from an ever-expanding unskilled population to a much smaller skilled population, taxing it back from them to fund government programs, then delivering some of the wealth back to the unskilled to alleviate the very poverty magnified by the process in the first place. It is inherently dehumanizing and dysfunctional.
This rube goldberg-like construct might work, but the question is why would you want it? Because after all, whether you’re a liberal or conservative on the question of social programs, unrestricted unskilled labor makes your agenda more difficult to realize by importing poverty along with the uneducated.

A growing uneducated population and a shrinking manufacturing base are on a collision course; a collision bound to result in the further division of the nation into an extremely wealthy elite, a diminishing middle class, and a growing underclass that uses the political process to shake down the resented, and increasingly removed, wealthy elite.
That these economic divisions will also be largely racial spells disaster. The vehemence with which immigration libertarians denounce any mention of this while doing nothing to refute it points out the fatal flaw in their philosophy. Market forces have not yielded racial economic equality; they in fact produce a troublesome inequality. This inequality can only be alleviated by forms of confiscation: through affirmative action; by corrupt political machinery, a la New Orleans; by taxation. But the worst consequence of open borders will be a polity increasingly divided into hostile factions, led by demagogues.
The real danger is that a liberal immigration policy yields a much harsher version of Weisberg’s “illiberal democrats.”
But we can’t consider the political and cultural ramifications of immigration because it smacks of “nationalism”, or worse, to some.