Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Seeing the pictures of the tornado damage in Tidewater reminds me of the time I saw a waterspout come ashore in Kill Devil Hills and take the roof off the old Wilbur Wright Motor Hotel. I was close by and walked up afterwards to survey the damage. On the top floor there were no exterior walls, but on interior walls pictures and mirrors still hung; in some rooms there were beds still neatly made up, ready to accomodate those who might sleep under the stars. The only fatality -- a refrigerator dropped out of the sky onto a woman who'd turned 80 that day.

JMB and TBM who were with me that day -- may the Gods keep you safe. Surely we saw over the edge and into the Other Side that afternoon.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Flu for Passover

I confess I've been hating life lately because I've had a really nasty strain of bronchial flu that refuses to fight fair, won't come right out and make a frontal assault, flatten you and retreat; no it persists as a low-grade insurgency that darkens your days, then retreats for a bit then returns with a vengeance whenever you tire yourself by doing the things (like getting out of bed, exercise, eating etc) which you used to do when your were healthy. It can cause one to despair -- along with the Democrats, the media, the nitwitted, complacent, smug citizenry of America, the recurrence of the kind of bloodthirsty Bronze Age superstition which had seemed blessedly going into remission until about the Age of Reagan and a few other things besides.

Which is why we need things like this video of a dancing dog to give us the will to go on.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hillary's Soul-Mate

Rebecca Traister, writing in Salon, decries the ugliness of Hillary Hatred among the Obamaphiles, and find especially reprehensible, and perhaps self-defeating the sexist terms that get tossed at the candidate. But I can't exactly understand why Hillary is a feminist icon, save for the fact that she is a woman. She has prescisely the sort of Bushian prominence that is, let's face it, mostly name recognition -- that is recogition of her husband's name. It's not like she did any great service to the country that made her famous. No, she was First Lady -- and as such set back the cause of national health care by several decades, at least. Then her distaff fame got her a Senate seat -- which she has distinguished by supporting the Iraq War and also apparently a the war the Neo-Con's want to wage against Iran (as even Traister points out). I can't say she's been out here in the lead on anything. So, doormat wife, stink-bomb First Lady, second-rate Senator -- it's not exactly a great profile on the face of it.

But at the risk of being mean, here's something nobody on the Left seems to point out. Hillary's whole manner is obnoxious, her whole Energizer Bunny Grin, her platitudinous blather, her phony folksiness -- it's not charming. Quite the opposite. She has the charisma of a Gilbert Gottfried, a Paulie Shore, a Joe Lieberman. Why haven't the geniuses at the DNC figured this out?

To find Hillary personally obnoxious doesn't make one a sexist, no more than finding Condi toxic makes one racist, or disparaging Israeli policies makes on a Nazi. She's a narcissist asshole, period.

Dr. Popelove, et cetera

The Pope sounds just like Dr. Strangelove! He cracks me up! I can just hear him prattling on about how "It would be quite easy to preserve a nucleus of human specimens in some of our deeper mineshafts."

How odd though that Bush would meet him at the airport and totally put on the dog. I imagine W secretly envies the Pope, who has the job for life, is considered infallible, and gets to lord over the most private moral decisions of his constituents with an absolute presumptuion of authority. Who cares if anyones really listens to the old bastard about things like contraception -- the important thing is everyone kisses his ass and always will.
Religion, when broadcast, always degenerates to idolatry, dogma, taboo and monarchy. A people who venerate a King in heaven, will inevitably crave on on Earth. This is perhaps why the Royalists so flatter the Pope. Now, if he took any controversial stands, against the War etc.....

Monday, April 14, 2008

Is Niall Ferguson As Nazi As He Sounds?

Just as Leni Riefenstahl would have found Dick Cheney a poor excuse for a Fascist, Niall Ferguson doesn’t find Philip Bobbitt to be a Neo-Con, despite that writer’s advocacy for the Iraq war. No, in today’s New York Times Book Review, Bobbitt is just Ferguson’s kind of guy, what with his several professorships and trans-oceanic lecturing – they have that in common. They also seem to have in common a knack for disregarding brute facts in favor of academic arcana and facile contrarianism, or at least it sounds that way from the front-page review of Bobbitt's Terror and Consent.

Both Ferguson and Bobbitt were able to convince themselves that it would be good to follow the obvious criminal nincompoops of BushCo into an unprovoked war on dubious pretexts – pretexts since shown to be almost wholly counterfeit. Now that, with absolute predictability, the Iraq war has turned a multi-trillion-dollar debacle, Ferguson shrugs and falls back on such middlebrow revisionism as we might find on Powerline; it was good idea bungled in the execution. We somehow failed “to convert Iraq into an ally in the war on terror” with shock and awe. Who would have thought it? Perhaps one who studied the history of the American Revolution, Napoleon, the Boer War, Vietnam, Afghanistan, et cetera might have.

Well, never mind about all that, say Ferguson and Bobbitt. Think about how the people at “Royal Dutch Shell” have discovered that the future has become “futures” (a point perhaps more amusingly made in Terminator 2). We’re to think too about how “the traditional post-Westphalian ideal of the sovereign nation-state” has died off like the dinosaur, giving rise to a “market-state” wherein “This state’s relationship to its citizens resembles that between a corporation and consumers.” (Nothing Neo-Con about that.) Besides, we have other wars to fight now. And how shall we go about them? Bobbitt, Ferguson and the Neo-Cons all think it will be useful to think of all Islamic terrorists, as “Al Qaeda for short” – the better perhaps to facilitate the “kill ‘em all; let God sort them out” strategy.

Alas, it seems, we may have to institute some kind of Final Solution to prevail in this war against hook-nosed ‘parasites’ from the East. One might have thought a “historian” would be a bit more circumspect about using a vintage Nazi talking point in his New York Times defense of “homo atlanticus” – by which he means the white “men of a certain age, class and education from Manhattan’s Upper East Side to London’s West End.” But Ferguson says:

The terrorists are at once parasitical on, and at the same time hostile toward, the globalized economy, the Internet and the technological revolution in military affairs. Just as the plagues in the 14th century were unintended consequences of increased trade and urbanization, so terrorism is a negative externality of our borderless world.

The difference, of course, is one of intent. The rats that transported the lethal fleas that transported the lethal enterobacteria Yersinia pestis did not mean to devastate the populations of Eurasia and Africa. The Black Death was a natural disaster. Al Qaeda is different. Its members seek to undermine the market-state by turning its own technological achievements against it in a protracted worldwide war, the ultimate goal of which is to create a Sharia-based “terror-state” in the form of a new caliphate.

Compare then, this favorite trope of the Third Reich, in the narration from their quintessential propaganda film, The Eternal Jew:

In the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, they spread from Eastern Europe like an irresistable tide, flooding the towns and nations of Europe - in fact, the entire world. Wherever rats appear they bring ruin, by destroying mankind's goods and foodstuffs. In this way, they (the rats) spread disease, plague, leprosy, typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery, and so on. They are cunning, cowardly, and cruel, and are found mostly in large packs. Among the animals, they represent the rudiment of an insidious and underground destruction -- just like the Jews among human beings. This parasitical Jewish race is responsible for most international crime.

Is it just coincidental that this sort of talk came before massive “extermination” of the Jews, a process ultimately perfected with I.G. Farben’s Zyklon roach powder, under the pretext of “delousing?” (Talk about relationships between “corporation and consumers”!) Perhaps we’d have to consult actual historians about this.

But, turning again to the “futures,” and how the fight the war on an “abstract noun,” Ferguson says:

Bush’s instinct was not wrong. In this war, we do need pre-emptive detention of suspected terrorists; we do need a significant increase of surveillance, particularly of electronic communications; we do need, in some circumstances, to use coercive techniques (short of torture) to elicit information from terrorists. The administration’s fatal mistake was its failure to understand that these things could be achieved by appropriate modifications of the law.

Ferguson finds it bad form that the divorce of national policy and criminal code from any notion of civil rights, human dignity, truth-telling, et cetera, wasn’t undertaken properly (John Yoo would disagree here). The proper procedures weren’t observed apparently, as perhaps they once were in certain old nation states intent on dehumanizing some of their citizens.

But Ferguson, and perhaps Bobbitt, miss several key points in their undying, yet abstract zeal for the “long war” against “Al Qaeda.” Wars are inherently extra- or supra-legal; ‘all’s fair’ in them. After all, what is a war without a great many non-judicial executions? When we apply the war metaphor (just as with the vermin metaphor) certain unfortunate things tend to happen; thus, for instance, the “war” on drugs necessitates, surveillance, infiltration, entrapment of the citizen by a secret police. In any war the citizen’s right to privacy becomes spurious the government’s right to secrecy becomes sancrosact. This is precisely how “war on terror” has allowed George Bush to claim absolute power, to do whatever he wants with impunity by classifying the evidence of his many crimes as war secrets.

Ferguson says, “By doing what indeed was needed, but doing it outside the law, the administration undermined the legitimacy of American policy at home as well as abroad. Bobbitt is emphatic: all branches of government must act in conformity with the Constitution and the law.” But what he doesn’t tell us is how we are to ensure that the government will ‘act in conformity with law’ when war secrecy effectively puts many agencies beyond the law’s reach.

Ferguson has said elsewhere (of the abuses at Abu Grahib), "But you have to recognize that power will corrupt inevitably. It comes with the territory of empire." He considered this a knock-down argument – ‘Boys will be boys’. What he doesn’t seem to consider here, or anywhere else, is how the absolute power of the war commander, the Decider, may lead to the sort of absolute corruption from which no nation can recover without bloody upheaval. No does he seem to consider what we will be saving from the Eastern Parasites if we surrender the Constitution in defeating them. Might not decent and freedom-loving people themselves rightly take up armed resistance against a system so noxiously transformed, and thus make the “war” itself self-defeating, and of course exponentially atrocious.

But no matter, all that. What’s really important here is the contrarian Niall Ferguson’s perfervid fantasy about the “dapper” Mr. Bobbitt, his vision of him in Washington as part of a power couple, “Perhaps — who knows? — this brilliant book may also be an application for the post of national security adviser. In times of war, stranger bedfellows have been known than a Democratic Texas lawyer and a Republican Arizona soldier.”

A sticker for facts might point out that McCain’s alma mater turns out sailors. But we should overlook this in view of Ferguson’s service to us. Not withstanding his effusions, he has managed to make Bobbitt’s book sound both utterly clueless and really dull. Soon may it be remaindered.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

100 years of war @ $5000 per second =

John DcBrain
Why not a bumper sticker?

Monday, April 07, 2008

What He Said

After a long immersion in another writing project I'm cribbing from various sources, including this picture from my sister, and this text from Barry Crimmins, but I could hardly have said this better:

McCain's emergency appeal to boys who are more afraid of losing than anything else in the world speaks to every clown who ever got in a fist fight at a slow-pitch softball game. The United States has already lost a lot more than a war it never should have started in the first place. Thanks to America's growing police state, we have lost our civil liberties. Thanks to America's practices of torture, illegal detention and extraordinary rendition, America has lost whatever good name it had in the world. Thanks to America's two-term fascist moron president, America has become an international punch-line. Thanks to the low, low prices of politicians, the American government has become a subsidiary of heartless, bloodless corporate scum. And thanks to that, the American military has become Hessians in service of that scum. Under the phony cover of "globalization" America's economic backbone has been filleted and shipped in sharp shards for use in impaling peasant populi around the world. This country is broke, it's infrastructure is busted and its health in the exact same condition as the ethics of the insurance and pharmaceutical racketeers who value profiteering more than life. Why exactly should I give a shit WHEN we officially lose a war that was a lost cause the second it became a viable option?