Thursday, August 31, 2006

Islamic fascistssss (make sure you get Bush's sibilance right)

The war over the word "Islamofascism" is underway!'s...underwhelming. Slate magazine's blog-crawler reports here on "Islamofascism" and "appeasement." The socialist left has its own take here. No one's going to be putting down this term for some time now, especially not Michael Savage, Andrew Sullivan, the National Review, and others who have popularized it. Indeed, it's a twistedly useful piece of propaganda, albeit an utterly inacurate one from a historical point of view. The recent brouhah over it, however, has opened up avenues for critiquing it, because it's becoming apparent very quickly that proponents of the term have no idea what they're talking about when questioned seriously about it. Here, for example, is conservative blogger "Sister Toldjah": "They're not just interested in hurting and killing the 'infidels' -- they're interested in forcing people to convert to Islam, and on an even bigger scale, turning democratic Western nations into Islamic states. That is what fascism is."

You'll notice that that last bit links to this definition of "fascism." Unfortunately for the Sister's analysis, the dictionary defines it thus:

1.a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.
2.the philosophy, principles, or methods of fascism.
3.a fascist movement, esp. the one established by Mussolini in Italy 1922–43.

I have highlighted the above terms to show the complete incongruence between terrorism, "Islamic" and otherwise, and fascism. First, note the key term "governmental." What terrorist organization is an actual, formal government, in any country, that possesses complete power? Next, who is "Islamic fascism"'s supreme dictator? Osama bin Laden? Ahmadinejad (who does not possess supreme power in Iran)? Hassan Nasrallah (who does not run the state of Lebanon)? Moving right along, there's "regimenting all industry." This was one of fascism's main accomplishments in Germany: the merger of an authoritarian state with capitalism to produce a sort of corporatist stronghold. Where is any such government-industry marriage present in any of the "Islamic fascist" regimes? (Note also that President Bush has made impossible to speak of "multiple" threats or entities anyway, since we are fighting a unified enemy.) Finally, "aggressive nationalism." What nation? Which people? Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy, I must say.

Fascism, of course, is not limited to Hitler. In addition to Mussolini and Franco, we can also look to the Greek junta of the late 60s and 70s and innumerable South American military dictatorships, such as those of Stroessner (Paraguay, and dead just two weeks ago!), Videla (Argentina), and Pinochet. There remain today several active neo-fascist political parties (whether explicitly so or just obviously), including the British National Party and the French Front National. Do any of these groups look like al-Qaeda to you? (A priori they just can't, because as I noted earlier terrorism really has no governmental, state form. At least, the kind of terrorism we're after.)

It doesn't really matter, because when our elected officials use the term "fascist" we're not supposed to think, "Oh, like those Latin American dictators we tacitly supported in the 70s and 80s in order to suppress Communism," but rather something like, "Fascism real bad. War only solution." Then we get fed a lot of "Neville Chamberlain appeasement" talk because the only thing worse than being Neville Chamberlain is being a biographer of Neville Chamberlain who wants to make him memorable for something other than being Hitler's poodle. I say Damn! the propaganda machine is set to 11! Clothe yourselves in righteousness and truth, my brothers and sisters.

P.S.- I just noticed that Sister Toldjah's definition above--"They're not just interested in hurting and killing the 'infidels' -- they're interested in forcing people to convert to Islam, and on an even bigger scale, turning democratic Western nations into Islamic states. That's what fascism is"--in addition to being the vaguest pronouncement ever, would be a pretty useful and not-altogether-inaccurate description of the United States in the mouth of any anti-American critic. Hell, it is the description of America used by our critics, if you just invert both the clause order and the direct objects: "America is not just interested in converting you Middle Eastern nations into pro-Western puppet regimes with fabulously open markets, but they're willing to hurt and kill you to do it, too!"

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Culture Shock and Awe

The eagle has landed...More later
Miss you all

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Swedes and bloggers and libertarians (oh my)

There's been an interesting little argument in the blogosphere about Sweden's social democracy. It all started with this piece by Tim Worstall in TCS Daily, in which he attempts to show that since America and Sweden both have an income distribution of about 38% for low-end wage earners, America is therefore not so different from the "supposedly" progressive Swedes. At which point both Max Sawicky and Matt Yglesias swooped in to correct Worstall, noting that Sweden provides a whole heap of non-income benefits, including health care, education, and child care. The blog Obsidian Wings also takes a stab at the issue.

Blogger Hilzoy at the latter site points out this statement by Worstall, which also struck me:

"[The Economic Policy Institute] are, as you may know, the people who urge that the USA become more like the European countries, most especially the Scandinavian ones. Less income inequality, more leisure time, stronger unions and so on. All good stuff from a particular type of liberal and progressive mindset -- i.e. that society must be managed to produce the outcome that technocrats believe society really desires, rather than an outcome the actual members of society prove they desire by building it."

It's that last bit that gets me. Who's to say that a population couldn't autonomously arrive at the conclusion that they want greater social democracy? That's certainly the case with Sweden, where politicians (and presumably their policies) have been conscientiously chosen by Swedes. In other words, a greater welfare state is not the result of some sort of "big-government conspiracy," but reflects the desires of the electorate. Coming now to the example of America, who's to say that Americans might not someday choose single-payer healthcare or stronger welfare benefits? In fact, they did for an extended period of time (welfare, that is). Even conservative Presidents such as Eisenhower and Nixon did little to dismantle the big-government programs of Roosevelt and Johnson, respectively. Only the "small-government" ideology of Reagan broke through the welfare state, which was firmly entrenched in Europe and on somewhat less firm footing in America, and initiated the more or less 20 year period of growing wage inequality and increase in poverty we have witnessed in our lifetime. Reaganism, or Voodoo Economics or what have you, is so firmly entrenched in the American political psyche that a social democracy seems nigh impossible, but there is at least a fighting chance. (Thus the existence of groups like the Economic Policy Institute.) In a more cynical vein, I am tempted here to say that were the United States not such a political oligarchy, and were lower income voters more empowered and listened to, the chances of greater social democracy might go up emphatically, making Worstall's comments seem even more foolish.

The whole scenario further complicates many problems I already have with libertarianism and to a lesser extent free market conservatism. The latter I find to be more or less an ideological joke, since the last 20 years have proved not that enormous upper-echelon tax cuts and corporate welfare will "benefit everyone," but that in fact (surprise!) such policies lead to greater inequality and perks for politicians' corporate lobbyist buddies. Libertarianism, on the other hand, I have more sympathies for, since its adherents appear to be at the very least sincere, and since they start from similar philosophical premises as I do (i.e. that individuals should have greater control over their immediate economic interests).

My problems with libertarianism are manifold. First, there is the underlying idea that although direct responsibility for economic interests is an ideal, there is far too much inequality in America for there to be anything even close to an "equal playing field" for individuals. Ergo, it's fine to talk about greater "ownership" and self-determination, but in today's world such a system will only benefit those who already possess social, economic, and political power. Plus, libertarian ideas of ownership exclude notions of communal ownership and collective action tout court. That leads me to my second critique. Libertarians are so obsessed with the notion of "rational self-interest" (i.e. the Homo economicus model) that they cannot allow for a freely and collectively chosen socialist system. Even if individuals freely choose to enter into communal and need-based relations with each other, such a system is so foreign to libertarian notions of free trade and capitalism that it is ruled out from the beginning. Because once you've seen the free market light, so to speak, how could you possibly choose anything else? I watched an interesting C-SPAN show today featuring David Boaz of the CATO Institute, for whom the "free market" is the obvious solution to everything. But what if the members of a community decided to vote in socialist policies? It would be the result of a free decision-making process, but it wouldn't square with capitalist methods. A libertarian might argue that such a decision missed the "truth" of the "empirical" evidence that capitalism leads to the best results, but libertarianism in its most radical form has never been about the "truth" anyway. It is about what individuals freely choose to do, even if those choices are disastrous (i.e. smoking cigarettes, drug use, one might even say private schooling, since the curriculum can include even the most odious teachings, as in the case of religious anti-evolutionary "science," bigotry, millenarianism, etc).

I disagree with libertarianism on this point, because although ideally people should be free to choose everything about their lives, an education based on notions of citizenship, cosmopolitanism, and reason is infinitely more beneficial than one developed along the guidelines of religion, race, or other interest group. Indeed, one begins to wonder how libertarians can imagine a nation functioning with so many competing groups at play, or how they would constitute a "nation" at all. (One could accuse me at this point, in a Stanley Fish-esque way, of privileging one form of "discourse" over another [i.e. the "liberal" one over the "interest group" one], but I'm sticking to my Enlightenment liberal guns on this one, not only because it seems emanantly right to me but because pragmatically it is the most stabilizing option.) At the same time, I tend to agree these days with libertarians that large bureaucracies, or to be more specific centralized political oligarchies, tend to alienate us from meaningful, democratic decision-making. I may be way off base here but I think this is an area where libertarians and socialists (somewhat) agree, but with differing solutions, of course. Okay, rant over. Talk amongst yourselves.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

"We're # 1! We're # 1!"

I don’t know if you guys are aware of this, but outside your comfy little world of academic pursuits, there exists this other activity that much of the world focuses on; in fact, some might argue that this activity has a greater effect on the world’s people than any religion or government. I’m talkin’ ‘bout sports.
So yesterday I was a basketball game between the US of A and Australia in the 2006 FIBA World Championship. In case you don’t know, the FIBA World Championship is a yearly Olympics-style basketball tournament between basketball's best 24 countries. In past years the US has always been favored, but as of late we have not always won.
Yet the reason why I write this post has to do with the new way Team USA celebrates after a good play: they stand up straight and perform a military-style salute.
At a time when much of the world is already pissed off at our military actions, I don’t know if this is the best thing to do after a killer slam dunk. I doubt that this is any particular basketball player’s way of showing his support for our military pursuits; in fact I doubt many of them really even care about whats going on over there. But it seems to me like this celebration is Team USA’s way of giving a big “fuck you” rest of the world, and for no good reason. Their actions reinforce the stereotypes of arrogance and ignorance that other countries already perceive about America. And that’s not good.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Calls for Dresden redux

I hope I'm not wearing on everyone's patience, but I thought I'd point out yet another in the string of sabre-rattling pro-nuclear war columns we've seen recently. This one by Walter Williams doesn't really add anything to the mix that we haven't seen before--i.e. the dangers of appeasement, we couldn't have won WWII without atrocities, the pro-terror media is a Fifth Column, we in the West are too civilized and squeamish to eradicate thousands of Middle Eastern children with a nuclear furnace blast, etc. If anything it's almost a parody of the examples we've seen before from Podhoretz and Krauthammer. Glenn Greenwald has more here. However, I got to thinking, in a sort of John Stuart Mill-esque autobiographical way: "If these conservative commentators got what they wanted, and we successfully prodded Israel into destroying Syria, and if we wiped out Hezbollah and Lebanon with it, and if we nuked Iran--in other words, if they got exactly what they wanted to achieve--would we then be happy?"

Anyone who could be "happy" at such a series of events obviously checked his soul at the door years ago, but would we nonetheless be secure? What would our military strikes even look like? Do these commentators want them carried out tomorrow? After six months of planning? What groups would rush in to fill the power vacuums in these nations? Do we seriously think we could support three or four puppet and/or favorable regimes at once? Would we be content to leave these places nuclear wastelands? Provide aid afterwards (no doubt with lucrative no-bid contracts for American corporations)? I suppose the main purpose of this concerted effort by pundits is not to provide strategic planning but to create an environment favorable to immediate action, or to prod the Bush administration sufficiently towards attack. Can they do this? Does Dick Cheney give two shits about what Walter Williams thinks? What Bill Kristol thinks? (Now we're getting warmer.) I just don't understand. I understand if these people want to get on private blogs and chitter all day about torturing swarthy foreigners and bringing their military erections to climax. It's so terribly unexciting though. Anyone can do it. We at the Huffy Crew could churn out a column a day about turning much of the rest of the world into a smoldering crater, given the proper combination of Hitler comparisons, Spenglerian decline-of-the-West rhetoric, and nuclear holocaust jouissance. It's like the Postmodern Essay Generator. (Similarly, I could can my own feces and call it art, but I digress.) But they're not private blog writers, they're paid employees of the Weekly Standard, National Review, et al. In other words, they're on salary for sublimating their fantasies and are under no obligation whatsoever to think through their arguments. It is quite possible they do less work than a lowly museum gift shop employee.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Job benefits include: decreased wages, insecurity, dumpster diving

The other day I spoke to my manager at work about employee lunch breaks. Some recent complications in scheduling have caused people to cut short their breaks rather drastically so that everyone can get a chance at lunch. I was saying there were some easy steps we could take to ensure that everyone got their full allotted break. At one point I got this old chestnut: "Well, for some people it's a chance to work longer hours." Ah, yes--it's not a decrease in your benefits, it's an opportunity! This miffed me a little but I think it was meant in seriousness, not patronizing. How little I have to complain about: This is patronizing.
Vader Sessions

Because we all need a good laugh now and then.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Schaztberg on a Plane

By far the best part of Snakes on a Plane: this video, featuring Ian Schatzberg as the lead singer.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Great American Newspaper

From The Great American Newspaper by Professor Kevin McAULIFFE:

Norman Mailer, founder of the Village Voice:

"There was no cross-fertilization of ideas because there were no new ideas; the people who might have been expected to think them up were on the defensive. Indeed, one of the stock cliches of the time was that "the end of ideology" was here, that the great seminal thinking had been done and the great problems solved, that from here on out all the American system would require were the sort of minor adjustments one might make with any machine that was functioning smoothly. There was no dialogue because dialogue meant differences of opinion, and above all else people wanted to go along, to play it safe, to be like everybody else. The be different was to be in danger. To be eccentric was to be alone. An entire generation went through life believing that the important thing was to be accepted, to be processed by some institution you could identify yourself with, to go into business, make it up the corporate stepladder, and get a nice house in the suburbs......
It was a surface happiness, cloaking fear and misturst. You were afraid for yourself, suspicious of others. In pursuing that kind of happiness, people were running away from themselves, mindless, seeking sleep, trying to lose themselves in sameness. This was the silent Generation. It conformed. It policed itself."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A couple of milk-faucets

Washington has been good to me, but I still can't get past the goddamn seriousness of the place. There are bars for democrats, and bars for republicans. The friends I have here are either married or working in healthcare or politics, the two most santimonious industries around. Aside from them and others like them, there's an old lady dying in my living room, a too-serious repressed homosexual liberal chauvinist living across the hall (the old lady's son, who thinks he's multicultural for making Mexican food), an old friend who's become a marine and walks around with a stick up his ass and a bunch of obese tourists asking you how to get to the Air and Space Museum.
So it was refreshing for me to see the following piece of portraiture, entitled Mom and Dad:

Steve DeFrank
New York City, New York
Hand-dyed Lite-Brite pegs in light box,
60 in. (152.4 cm) height
Collection of the artist, courtesy Clementine Gallery

Nice little bananas on Mom's chest, huh? This is the kind of art DC needs--visual prunes to relieve its constipation. I'm not sure if it's particularly good, although it's certainly more radiant in person than it is above. But that's not the point: however skilled or "meaningful" the modern art at the Hirschorn may be, much of it seems to lack humor or surprise. In some sense, that was really supposed to be the point of modern art--to shock you out of your serious aesthetics. But when such art is bought by a committee and turned into an attraction any thoughtful, liberal tourist must go to in order to say they've been, it gets sort of boring.

I'm sure all of this offends someone and I'm saying something that I'll regret later, but to tell you the truth, I don't really care enough about art to argue with you about it. Or perhaps you weren't offended until you read the last sentence but now you are. But it doesn't really matter to me, just so long as I get a little bit of mommy's ass over there.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Into the Cave

An excerpted passage from an excerpted essay by Simon Blackburn on the Republic:

"Anyone who stays very long in the vast silent mausoleums lined with works about Plato and his influence runs the risk of suffocating. Anyone writing on this topic must be conscious of an enormous and disapproving audience, dizzying ranks of ghosts overseeing and criticising omissions and simplifications. Many of these ghosts belong to the most brilliant linguists, scholars, philosophers, theologians and historians of their day. They do not take kindly to the garden to which they devoted their lives being trampled over by outsiders and infidels. And Republic is the shrine at the very centre of the sanctuary, since for centuries it has been the one compulsory subject in the philosophy syllabus, so these same scholars will have been educated with it as the centrepiece and inspiration."

A daunting task, but one that our own Scantron will handle ably and nobly. An early good luck to you.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Hey, it's just like being back at ole' 6675 Wash Ave...

For those of you who don't know, when I got back from DC this weekend, a 16-year-old exchange student from Qatar had moved into our house. As far as I know, the decision to host this guy was made in under 24 hours while I was out of town. He's very shy, but also very nice, and he seems to speak and understand English very well. However, both of my parents still insist on speaking very LOUDLY and s-l-o-w-l-y, exaggerating their enunciation and hand gestures to a truly embarrassing degree. Just a few minutes ago, I was sitting in the kitchen having lunch when all of a sudden I thought I heard some strange voices. I asked my mom if she heard anything, and she said it was probably just a lawn service outside. I kept hearing strange noises though, so I got up and tried to follow the sound. I eventually got to the top of the stairs that lead down to the basement and when I opened the door I Islamic call to prayer! Just like the good old days when Robbie's computer would start wailing at 3am. Here's my main concern though: as disconcerting as it is to be sharing a shower with an unrelated 16-year-old Jesus still going to love us with a Musselman in the house?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Hello, and welcome to another edition of...

...The dumbest column ever written! It just don't stop! Rabbi Marc Gellman is just so perplexed: "[Joe Lieberman] lost...because of the number of Jews who hated Bush and the war more than they loved Joe. That's why he lost, and I don't get it." But wait--there's more! "I am a professional Jew, and yet if you asked me to explain why Jews did not vote for Joe the way blacks voted for Barack Obama or Catholics voted for John F. Kennedy I would not know what to tell you." "He is principled and intelligent ... and he is one of us! What more do you want of the guy?" "So among reasonable non-rabid people, the differences over Iraq are just not that big. And for this we dumped Joe? It just makes no sense to me and it ought to be a huge embarrassment to all card-carrying Jews whether they agreed with Joe or not."


If a black person made this argument about a politician (and they sometimes do, especially in my home town--more on that later), they would be called a "reverse racist" or "guilty of playing the race card." (See, for instance, when New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin made his "keep New Orleans a chocolate city" speech.) If a Muslim person wrote a column to the effect that Muslims should remain loyal to their fellow Muslims over other political considerations, he'd probably be targeted by the authorities. Of course, Muslims don't have to do anything to suffer a ridiculously high level of prejudice. According to Gallup: 22% of Americans don't want a Muslim as a neighbor. 34% believe all Muslims support al-Qaeda. 39% believe Muslims should carry "special ID cards." That's right, take your special ID card right here to your new "re-education camp"...

My beloved M-Town is no stranger to the race game. In the recent primaries, Tennessee State Senator Steve Cohen sought the nomination to replace Harold Ford Jr. as Tennessee's Ninth District U.S. Representative. (Ford, of course, is seeking Bill Frist's empty Senate seat and is the subject of many a journalistic "black Democrat in the South" underdog story.) In a controversial op-ed, black opponent Julian Bolton claimed that Cohen, if elected, would join the Congressional Black Caucus in order to "get money for Israel." A followup letter to the editor by local attorney Walter Bailey endorsed Bolton's view, saying that the 9th District's issues "demand a congressional voice that would be more inclined, by virtue of the personal experience of being black, to have the necessary commitment, passion, knowledge base and undivided loyalty." He says further that "blacks are unlike other ethnic groups that have at their command unlimited resources, such as wealth, industrial ownership and sheer numbers, to advance their interests." Normally this type of statement would be more or less true, but when your opponent is Jewish, and the problem becomes one not of class and race but of interracial antagonism, you done stepped over the line, buddy. Reader responses here and here.

All these examples obviously appear gross and simple-minded to most thoughtful people. But they push questions to the forefront about "real" interests, and how we evaluate them. While most of us would decry the notion that more politicians should be elected solely based on their race, I for one don't hesitate to say that it would be better if there were more blacks and other ethnic minorities in Congress--not just because we want it to be a more "colorful, diverse" tent, but because I minority politicians have something important to offer the American political system precisely qua their minority status and identity. The two ideas that 1) all the interests in America could "conceivably"/"theoretically" be represented by white Judeo-Christian men and 2) that President Bush is some sort of civil rights hero because he hired Rice and Powell strike me as lacking.

There is also the problem that while we tend to downplay racial issues, some people freely embrace class-based ones. Thus you get the Frankian "What's the Matter with Kansas" argument as well as the traditional leftist progressive view: if the working classes were given full political voice and were educated as to their "real" interests, we would see a definite leftward swing in America, perhaps even some sort of socialist revolution. But much of this argument is simply replacing one's race with one's class and obscuring other considerations--morals and defense, to name some obvious examples. But at this point the argument breaks down into a complex communitarian vs. liberal battle over what constitutes a person's "identity." In any case, food for thought...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Guide to Understanding Contemporary Geopolitics

I've thought for quite a while now that the entire notion of the war on terror, much less its rhetoric, was a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I might have made this clear with my previous post on the vapid and meaningless phrases that have quite unfortunately destroyed the possibility of talking about politics for all of us (this is why we can't have nice things).
However, if you can't find a suitable madman to write the contemporary history of the War on Terr', then why not get the next best thing--engrish. All your Base are Belong to Us is the semantic equivalent to War on Terrorism. That's right, as one set of meaningless drivel enjoys its popularity, let us not forget another which prefigured it more than 10 years. If I may be allowed the indulgence, a recap and then some textual analsysis:

Now let's say 2101 is just 2001, easy enough right?
"What Happen? / "Someone Set Up Us the Bomb!*"
We are shocked by the destruction of the Twin Towers.

The communique with C.A.T.S. (we can presume the acronym to stand for Cowardly and Terroristic Saboteurs) is a simple paralell with Osama Bin Laden- of indeterminate origin, CATS' message is cryptic and eschatological ("you have no chance to survive make your time" [make peace with God, perhaps?]) Also, noting the Commander (In Chief)'s seeming familiarity with CATS, the astute analyst may recall the US government's initial support of the Afghani Mujahaddin wherein Bin Laden recieved his training and roots. The Captian's shock is clearly that of a lord whose vassal has sought to overthrow him. CATS furthermore appears to our beleaguered war president...err space captain... as a mix of tradition and technology, a man-machine who is nonetheless garbed in a flowing cloak or gown. How can we not but think of the postmodern, cybernetic conglomeration of guerilla net-warfare and a modernist Wahabbism which seeks to regain the legitimacy of an unreachable past (the cloak).
*It is worth additional mention that the Mechanic state that "Someone set up [them] the bomb". There can be no doubt that we are dealing here with the conspiracy theorist, believing that the acts of destruction were somehow perpetrated from within the ship's crew. C.f. Charlie Sheen, Jim Hoffman, et. al

"All your base are belong to us"
Interpretations of this line may vary widely, but it seems we can posit some possible (non-contradictory) meanings:
1) CATS is being ironic, stating that the Republican Base, significantly vested in petrochemicals and similar fossil fuel related enterprises, has been destablized and put under the thumb of a radical, robo-fascist ideology. This base will do anything to maintain its supply of oil, even if that requires prostituting itself to radical cyberneticist fanatics.
2) CATS is referencing the bombings of several embassy-planets in 2098, stating that these foreign 'bases' were recaptured
3) CATS held in his hand a list of two hundred and five [people] that were known to the Secretary of Planet as being members of the Robonist Party and who nevertheless were still working and shaping the policy of the Planetary Department. CATS was exposing his own complicity in the 'Purple Scare' of the 2050's, and thus showing how the government's ruthlessness in persecuting Space Communists, even by means of recruiting, arming, and training cyborgs.

Further translations of the game text (not found in this video yet freely available on the internets) have the captain stating "Take off every Zig!!...For Great Justice" Here we see the beginnings of attacks using prototype Zig technology to fight CATS and his allies wherevery they may hide. Indeed, the very end of the game hints at the perpetuity of the war on Galactic Terror and the frustrated ambitions of the Afghanistar war:
Congratulation !! A.D.2111 / All bases of CATS were/ destroyed./ It seems to be peaceful./but it is incorrect./CATS is still alive./ZIG-01 must fight against CATS again./and down with them completely ! Good luck.

This all seems evident enough.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Those MAD Iranians

Bernard Lewis, the kind, grandfatherly face of Orientalism, weighs in with a particularly reality-free WSJ op-ed. What you need to know about it: Lewis sez that when Iran gets the bomb (if they don't have it already), it won't be like Mutually Assured Destruction with the Soviets, because Iranians are CRAZY~! enough to nuke themselves and everyone else into oblivian because they have what is apparently a nationwide "martyrdom complex" in which they think Allah will sort out the pious from the infidel. Also, Aug. 22 might just be THE DATE because it corresponds to some important Muslim holiday or another. The underlying theme is ALMOST CERTAINLY that we should bomb Iran (what else can Lewis mean when he says "some immediate precautions are obviously possible and necessary"?)

Let's think about this view for a minute. There are some obvious logical problems. First, Iran is on its way to developing nuclear energy, true, but most experts say they could not feasibly have a bomb for another ten years. So, in order for them to have a nuclear device ready by the 22nd, they'd have to have bought it somewhere else. IF they were going to do this (if they did it, even), why the hell would they have gone through all the trouble of unsealing their uranium, IAEA inspections, diplomatic bullshit, etc? Are we supposed to believe that they wasted all that time and effort just to set up an elaborate ruse? That they risked their own destruction before their diabolical scheme could be completed? (This calls to mind the recent argument that Iran is fighting a "proxy war" in Lebanon in order to "distract world attention from their nuclear program." Again, why the hell would they do such a thing, or have that motive in mind, when it's the first fucking thing everyone says about the situation? Some distraction. In fact, someone will probably end up striking them because of this supposed proxy war itself.)

Next, we come to the very bizarre argument that AN ENTIRE STATE--its president, its elite leadership, its business class--is willing to destroy itself for the goal of eradicating Israel. Not even remotely the United States, just Israel, and every Palestinian inside it. Is there any sort of historical precedent to suggest that a flourishing, oil-rich, growing military power would literally commit suicide? Not that a small military group would, or some religious Heaven's Gate cult, or an individual terrorist, but a whole nation-state would wish itself out of existence. Doesn't this view conflict greatly with the opinions of the esteemed Efraim Karsh, whose book Islamic Imperialism, as we have seen, says that jihadic rhetoric has historically been the ideological front for a very material pursuit of self-interest? Would the real Orientalist please...okay, I'll retire that cliche. But in all seriousness now, does anyone here really think that a regime would will its own demise? Don't just say "anything's possible"--let's talk probabilities here.

I'm actually all for abandoning the strategy of realpolitik when dealing with small, extremist militant groups. Yet for traditional foreign policy between nations, it's (regrettably) our best and only option. For more on alternatives to realpolitik with respect to terrorist groups, I recommend very strongly this Policy Review piece by "Professor of Security Strategies" Michael J. Mazarr. You might find his notion of "psychopolitik" a bit paternalizing, but I'll be damned if it isn't the smartest, most realistic approach to the war on terror I've read in a long time--by a conservative, mind you! Normally I'd be shitting all over this kind of thing if it were on National Review or something. And I imagine National Review would shit all over Mazarr, because he doesn't advocate bombing anyone and he refuses to tan himself with the glorious rays emanating from George Bush's holy asshole. No, Lewis is much more their type: factless, precedentless, utterly ahistorical, completely reductionistic of Arab culture (all Arabs secretly harbor the germ of wanting to blow themselves up), possibly falling prey to his own paranoid delusional propaganda while eagerly searching for someone in our immediate horizon we can drop the Big One on. Oh, look, NRO is on the scene already!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Postcard from Kushakov's past

Me in my early thirties, working as a mud miner in my homeland.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Israeli Military Reads Deleuze and Guattari

This article is certainly one of the most bizarre I have ever read. I could almost quote the entire piece, but for the moment, I'll restrain myself to just, "We combine theory and practice. We can read, but we know as well how to build and destroy, and sometimes kill." I could read this article 200 times and not tell whether it is a joke or not. For those of you more versed in post-structuralism, what do you think?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I just can't help myself

Seriously, I will post on something other than the vapidity of some conservative pundits and their holier-than-the-frayed-crotch-of-my-oldest-pair-of-boxer-shorts arguments very soon, but for now...

Does the editorial staff of National Review honestly think it helps their cause to host an article entitled "Book Your Plane to Israel"? "Come on over! The weather's great this time of year, beaches are beautiful! Oh, sure, there's some sort of squabble going on up north, but ... wait, wait, I've just received a message from the NRO's staff: 'Terrorism threatens Israel's very existence; it's a very dangerous place to be; talk of proportionality is Orwellian doublespeak; why did Hezbollah have to cause the destruction of Qana (if it even happened)?' Ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry, apparently I contradicted official agitprop! I will now cut off my left hand as a sign of atonement to my NRO masters."

Reminds me of all the people standing in line to visit Lebanon. Oh wait...

But wait--the author realizes the danger of visiting Israel, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. After all, "The next train, plane, or bus you step into anywhere in the world may in a split second become territory claimed by the Middle East." The Middle East. Uh-huh. "Ladies and gentlemen of American Airlines flight 3814, hello, my name is Khalid, I'll be hijacking your plane today on behalf of the entire Middle East. I have a letter here signed by the governments of Yemen, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates...Wait a minute, where the fuck is Bahrain on this list? I mean I know they're just a tiny island, but this is supposed to be a team effort, Allahdammit! Yeah, yeah, they raised the most money at dance marathon, but seriously, bros, not cool! You totally owe me for that Turkish coffee-chugging contest during rush. If I weren't detonating the C4 in the heels of my shoes in about three minutes I'd have your charter revoked in a second!"

Not to mention that if I were some hapless Syrian schmoe my ass would be afraid my house would "in a split second become territory claimed" by the United States.