Saturday, April 28, 2007


If denouncing the neocons is the New Black, then warning of a coming fall line of Buchananite brownshirts never goes out of style, regardless of the fact that the jackboots perennially fail to appear on the runways of our political system.
This perpetual rite, handed down through the generations, works even now to distract many from the fact that the current (and arguably most threatening in history) challenge to what remains of the American republican project comes from the neoconservative movement, with its roots in Trotskyism, liberal intervention, globalist dogma, and anti-"isolationist" militarism.

It's further notable that the supposedly isolationist paleoconservative impulse, if heeded, would have spared us the current Iraq morass as well as the intervention in Kosovo, and would have allowed us to proceed in Afghanistan with a more realistic strategy focused on destroying al Qaeda and eschewing impossible nation-building of the sort that is rapidly deteriorating there as it needlessly drains us of blood, resources, prestige, and influence at this very crucial moment.

Also, the restrictionist immigration policies of these imaginary fascists would have lessened murderous violence here at home, such as the ethnic cleansing of Los Angeles neighborhoods by Chicano gangs targeting African Americans and the festering war within the swelling California prison population between black and brown.

So remember, when someone starts dragging out the nineteen-thirties analogies (funny how some so-called liberals share this fixation with the neocons), and warning you to "keep your eyes open" for apostates who "hide" among us like the pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, remember that all ideologies have blood on their hands. Ideology has blood on its hands. Paleoconservatism, whatever its limitations as a result, is the absence of ideology.

There are no settled questions. There are no dangerous ideas. There is only perilous human nature.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Market Disparities and Resentment Brokers

“Because I’m the conservative, whether you know it or not. You don’t know who’s out there on those wild and hungry streets. I am your prudent broker on Judgment Day. Harlem, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, they’re gonna blow my friend, and on that day, how grateful you will be for your prudent broker…your prudent broker…who can control the steam.”
—Reverend Bacon, The Bonfire of the Vanities (Tom Wolfe)

Nature secretly avenges herself for the constraint imposed upon her by the laws of man.
—Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

The Don Imus "scandal" appeared as if on cue to distract the public from the lack of any meaningful mea culpa from the major media regarding their de facto collective attempt to convict without meaningful trial a group of, all together now, privileged white male student athletes, on the basis of an accusation almost immediately recognizable as false, of sexually assaulting, once more as a group, an impoverished single black mother working as an exotic dancer to make ends meet.
The embarrassing and anticlimactic denouement of the sad affair is no doubt one rare moment that the editors of the New York Times felt some gratitude for the short attention span and general apathy of the greater portion of the American public. But it must be said plainly at least once:

The media coverage of the Duke rape hoax was an intentional attempt to prejudice against the accused the public and any jury that might be convened from it.

This was not merely shoddy reporting. Worse even, in measure of moral cowardice if not consequence, than the coverage of the Bush Administration’s case for invading Iraq. When the contraption collapsed the rickety supports of its foundational lies, what was revealed in the wreckage was not an isolated incident but a long established pattern of intentional and institutionalized bias, so revealed only because those who maintain it had grown lax, so confident in their intrigue that they had ceased treating accusations from the favored against the disfavored with even cursory skepticism. Poor quality inspection of the raw material used for narrative manufacture leading to a defective run.

Aftershocks of unintentional comedy followed the conclusion of the humorless farce, revealing that some will surrender the fictive narrative of never-ending collective noble black suffering at the hands of a boundlessly evil white majority only when it is pried from their cold, dead hands.
Witness the post-mortem offered by the now completely dissolute NAACP, showing that organization has less shame even than relevance remaining, as its spokesmen affected concern that in the future young black women sexually assaulted by gangs of young white men inebriated on alcohol and entitlement might not have the courage to come forward (perhaps because they would be at risk of being swept up in a similar nationwide campaign orchestrated by the organization and its activist and media comrades, fielding visits from the likes of Jesse Jackson bearing cash grants and agents seeking story rights, only to suffer modest, anonymous embarrassment free of any meaningful consequences if and when their charges are belatedly revealed as false—God forbid!).

That these hordes of leering white rapists obsessed with black womanhood are so hard to find that they appear to be imaginary still goes mostly unremarked upon by the media, where this occasion for self-examination has been met with the equivalent of incomprehensible mumbling and looking off to the side. And what do you know; blundering into view comes another hapless, diversionary patsy. Look, over there! He can't get away with that, can he? That was a close one.

Indeed, decrepit Don, no great loss to the world of comedy, would have been well served by a more favorable news cycle, in which his crude and offensive but relatively tame remark (which never would have made it to the ears of the young offended if not for all the whipped-up outrage) would have submerged with the rest of the insubstantial swill.

But Imus’ explanation deserves better than the out of hand rejection it has received: that he was merely engaging in "humorous" vernacular made popular by rap. This is obviously true. Something else has happened here. The appalling misogyny, violence, and outright stupidity of rap culture can only be recognized as such when an oblivious white fool attempts to mimic it.

Those offered up for sacrifice to a prevailing tyranny need not be rebellious; they are often among its most observant adherents, blundering into the ruling caste's view as timely targets of opportunity. When the punishment is meant for public consumption to maintain an unofficial limit on speech, precisely who is offered up is irrelevant, provided he is of the proper class. In this case, white male.

But Imus has always been only nominally "controversial." He's always known who fills his bowl. For all of his clumsy and glib bigotry, Imus, like most mainstream figures, would never dream of saying anything truly controversial (that is to say, controversial because it raises an unsettling question that impinges on the collective delirium). No, this is one who will cling so desperately to his remote seat at the table of privilege that there is no genuflection too humiliating, including kowtowing to Al Sharpton. Imus is the court jester, not Robin Hood.

As we endure, yet again, the gruesome spectacle of the Reverends Jackson and Sharpton jockeying for the rights to this production, the perennially recurring questions arise: What possible good can come from Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton? How is it that a nation inflicts itself with such as these?

I ask not merely rhetorically but in earnest, accepting that we would all be better off without them, but recognizing that they are fixtures in the body politic and will be for the foreseeable future. They are as aspects of the natural order, so, like fungus or decay, they play some role in the ecosystem. Their stated concerns and oft-bellowed outrage are transparently disingenuous; indeed, that which they purport to despise is their stock-in-trade. So what then, is the real "purpose", for lack of a better term, behind the twin corrosives that are Al and Jesse?

There is no longer any use in pointing out the obvious, that these men and their ilk profit from the perpetuation and illusion of a great lie. To state it clearly one more time, the lie is simply this:
Disproportionate levels of poverty, crime, and anti-intellectualism affecting chronically under-performing minorities, and blacks in particular, are primarily the result of white racism at the institutional, collective, and personal level.

An officially sanctioned lie so at odds with reality and producing so much resentment and thwarted expectation in so many, in a democratic nation of such great wealth and with so many lawyers about--well, the profit potential is limitless. When you're talking about this much money to be confiscated, transferred, awarded, and doled out, a professional class has to emerge to manage the vulgar transaction from government mandate to money in pocket. The question becomes, why aren't there more Sharptons and Jacksons? I hesitate to even say it aloud, lest I jinx our uncommon good luck.

But we all know this. In the absence of honesty and rationality race relations in the United States constitute a tightly controlled market of sorts where the humiliation of racial inequality is negotiated using proxies such as these manufactured controversies and their attendant "dialogues." Because the official mandate is an unachievable equality of results, naturally occurring inequality constitutes a continuing, compounding debt that is serviced by such as these conspicuous sacrifices; they are interest payments of a sort.

But it isn't only the delicate pride of black America that is served; white America purchases something, albeit at an increasing premium. There exists on the part of the majority an ever present fear, sustained by the knowledge that the expectation of equality can never be met but is increasingly expected. The majority lives in a state of continual unease, as violence in the form of riots (called "uprisings" or "rebellions") and street crime is characterized by the culture (through the romance of rap and cinema) as a legitimate means of achieving equity when all else fails (and all else is certain to fail in the end). The process of automatically granting concessions in response to black rioting has created a system of quid pro quo that essentially rewards orchestrated mayhem. This fear, and the continually reinforced sense of guilt achieved by the same cultural/political mechanism, must also be calmed; maintained at a desirable level by the managerial class but kept from growing too great and provoking a reaction. It resembles the maintenance of inflation through monetary policy. So while this market is "artificial", it has its own logic and unspoken purpose, and reaches its own shaky equilibrium.

Thus, as the influential classes implicitly understand and acknowledge, it isn't a question of truth, or, ironically, justice, but a question of assuaging the resentment of one group and the fear of another, thus the ceremonial and conspicuous displays of pilfered wealth, the ritual debasement of "privileged" Great White Defendants, and the reward of status for those who manage this market.

Therefore those behind these manufactured scandals will not be reasoned with; they are calculating people too clever to believe their own rhetoric and too dishonest to abstain from enriching themselves by it; they understand with greater clarity than you the nature of the game. It is not a contest of reason and truth but of fear and resentment.

Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center, et al; these are the traders and brokerages specializing in profiting from the disparity in this market. Some firms flourish as others fade. The behind the scenes jockeying is an entertainment we are unfortunately not allowed to spectate, as the media, normally obsessed with political handicapping, pretends that these are not financial/political hybrids but priesthoods of a sort. Alas.

Jackson was well positioned to be the first firm to take on the duties and profit from the new market in racial angst, having spent the seventies and early eighties in the unglamorous and far less profitable business of preaching the values of hard work and independence. Like many a broker in the eighties, he was lured out of his staid world by the easy credit and loosening regulations of another; fitting for the late eighties, he went to work in the political equivalent of the junk bond industry.
Work and family were already becoming the U.S. savings bonds of investment, a sucker's play, as the maturation of the welfare state and the sexual revolution, combined with waves of new innovations in the illicit drug industry, PCP, free-basing, and, finally, Freeway Rick's gift to black America, crack cocaine, corroded the industry from without.

Meanwhile Sharpton, a criminal figure from the start and early innovator of animus conversion products, having managed to escape any consequences for the attempted framing of four men in the Tawana Brawley hoax and various fatal incitements to riot, was perfectly positioned when deregulation came around. Michael Corleone never realized his dream of taking the family legitimate (at least I think that's true; I never made it to the end of Part III, and I've never met anyone who has), but for Al, legitimacy would come around to him, delivered by the Democratic Party in its infinite capacity to visit absurdity upon itself.

A bargain was struck; Al would no longer threaten riots, but more importantly he would no longer expose the violent threat that exists at the core of the Democratic Party's race policies. In return he would be able to take his product national, and would now be competing with, and eventually overtaking, his rival, the Reverend Jackson.
Al now plays the affable if slightly difficult buffoon at public Democratic functions, and the nervous white folks all pretend he's funny, laughing a little too enthusiastically at his leaden one-liners. Race in America in microcosm, that.
One other reason we will not soon be rid of Al Sharpton, even as the Reverend Jackson ebbs into decrepitude and what promises to be a gruesome but entertaining public dementia, is that he serves the needs of the Democratic Party so well. Tokens nowadays are perpetually dissing their hosts and more expensive than ever, but they are tokens nonetheless.

But a market based on an increasingly obvious falsity cannot last. The fiction is becoming an industry joke. The divide between reality and the market grows, and is harder and harder to conceal. The posted prices bear no relation to real-world valuations. The market strains. How will its collapse unfold? What will take its place?

Monday, April 16, 2007


A foul smell arouses you from slumber, twisted into a painful position amidst piled bags of garbage in the dense black of a deep alley at night. Your head feels leaden, sagging toward your chest. You labor to pull yourself into a one kneed crouch, cradling your throbbing head in your hand for a moment like a bedraggled version of The Thinker.

Shouts from the other end of the alley startle you and you look over to see three cholos surrounding another of their kind, fallen and prostrate; they are assaulting him with kicks and insults. You slink back into the garbage pile, hiding. Suddenly a blast of light flares from amidst the three; three times accompanied by the crack crack crack of a small handgun.

They run off, leaving their victim on the ground. Silence falls instantly; the man is motionless under the rising smoke of the pistol shots. Your heart is beating so hard and fast it seems it is trying to pound its way out of your chest.

After what seems like hours you overcome your fear and get up and start slowly toward the fallen man. As you near you think you see him move slightly and you break into a run. You reach him and look down to see a boy of about sixteen, Latino with black hair slicked back in classic vato style. He's pleading at your through uncomprehending eys. Not knowing what to do you kneel down next to him, examining his torso for the wounds you expect to find. He is wearing a thin white undershirt, but you cannot find a mark on him. With great effort he moves his right hand over his chest and points to his left shoulder. You lean over, expecting to see a bullet wound. With a horrifying shudder he lets out a final breath, his forefinger pointing to a tattoo. You can just make it out in the light; in low rider style calligraphy it reads:


Saturday, April 14, 2007


The Girl With Flies on Her Face

"Do you have a request?"
The Okinawan bartender's accented words took a while to make their way through the fog shrouding my senses, created as a byproduct of the pleasant psychoactive interaction of sake, Kirin, and what may have been absinthe. After the import of his words welled up and revealed itself like the die in a Magic-8 Ball, after I stared at him for a moment with every outward appearance symptomatic of a catatonic, I realized he was asking if I had a preference for what movie he should play next.

It was the eighties, and my friend Ron and I were drinking in a small locals' bar outlying the part of Okinawa dominated by a large U.S. Military presence and the carnival blight of sordid amusements that always accompanies it. Okinawa is part of the Ryukyu island chain, hemming in the East China Sea from the vast western Pacific, trailing out toward Taiwan and the Tropic of Cancer in a crescent pattern, like debris falling away from the mainland of Japan.

I don't remember how we happened into this particular bar, surrounded by Okinawans remarkably gracious at the intrusion of two drunken jarheads where they should have been left in peace, away from the effectively occupied part of the island (an occupation then in its fourth decade). That part, tied together by narrow alleys and streets connecting the multitude of military bases and their attendant bars, massage parlors, and police substations, was overrun nightly by American post-adolescents, bored and restless, homesick and slightly deranged, resented and resentful.
I don't know why, but the few blurry sequences of that relatively uneventful all-nighter haunt me like a benign ghost even now, almost twenty years later.

What is, after all, this process that elevates occasional random and unexceptional experiences along with the monumental events of one's life, placing them alongside more momentous experiences like awkward strangers at an intimate gathering, while cruelly and randomly submerging so many of those things that we would greedily hoard if it was only up to us after all: the contours of her face, your mother's voice in your infant ears, the sensations of your first time? Perhaps in the end it is all revealed as equally precious, momentous, absurd.

A couple of Okinawans had invited us to their table, pressing us into service with questions about America and English practice; we were paid in sake and goodwill. The bartender was proud of his state of the art videodisc system and collection, and in the spirit of Okinawan hospitality that decades enduring the uninterrupted and restless current of transient American servicemen has somehow failed to destroy, made the gesture of asking me, as a guest, if I had a preference.
I don't know why, but I thought to amuse myself by asking for the Sex Pistols. I was thinking of but couldn't name the mock-documentary from a few years before, The Great Rock & Roll Swindle.

This wasn't altogether obscure. The Japanese and Okinawans had a fascination with punk, indeed in the nineties Japan produced a garage act called Thee Michelle Gun Elephant (after one member's mispronunciation of The Damned's Machine Gun Etiquette), that can be described both sardonically as the Greatest Japanese Punk Band of All Time and, to my mind at least, justly as one of the best rock bands of all time.
Okinawan youth culture was a mash-up incorporating various American trends, current and past, at the time including punk and new wave. Transposed punk approximations were here and there, with their own peculiar decoding of the then fading away movements in New York, L.A., and Britain. On rare occasions one saw mods riding about on scooters, or leather jacketed Okinawan kids who seemed to have resurrected the cafe racing culture of sixties Britain (racing motorcycles from cafe to cafe, hence the name "cafe racers" for the Triumphs and BSAs of the time), dissecting the chaotic traffic as they dragged from one point in the city to another, daredevil blurs howling out their high-rpm madness.

Our hosts were irreverent and funny. We understood very little of what was said. After a while one tires of combining pidgen English, scraps of Japanese, and resourceful hand gestures, and just starts nodding approvingly at everything. At one point I looked over at the television and saw a punk rock girl with fake flies on her face. The bartender was playing the movie I had requested. To this day I haven't watched that film.
We found a sushi bar and ate everything they put in front of us. More sake. Later we would spill out of a bar, passing out of the blur of artificial light and noise, of strange voices speaking a foreign tongue, surprised to find ourselves in pale early morning light; as if we tripped over an invisible and dimensionless breach and stumbled upon a perfect, still dawn. Like a pair of children noisily intruding upon a sacrament. We fell silent.

And just like that, this moment embedded itself in my psyche, and it holds in its orbit these other fragmentary, blurred freeze frames. Something about the cobbled alleyway descending a graceful hill, the one of a kind hue of that morning, like every other unexceptional morning a precise composition that never before did, and never again will, occur; exceptional after all. Briefly no sound interrupted the hum of eternity that we call silence. And just like that again, it was gone.
The night had passed without taking its leave. It was time to go home. Achingly sweet and confoundingly fleet is life, as are its moments.
Do you have a request?

Monday, April 09, 2007

War of the Poses

Opening a recent Foreign Affairs article, Tony Blair demonstrated an ability to imbue rank dishonesty with self-righteous arrogance that would make Douglas Feith envious:
Our response to the September 11 attacks has proved even more momentous than it seemed at the time. That is because we could have chosen security as the battleground. But we did not. We chose values.
Mr. Blair's fellow citizens may be alarmed by this public confirmation that their Prime Minister has chosen to focus less on their defense at home than on the American neoconservative project abroad. That scheme, despite its original ambitions for knocking off two or three obstructionist regimes in a neat row on our way to permanent preeminence in the Middle East, and the increasingly shrill and alarmist rhetoric that, still, accompanies it, has been reduced to struggling to achieve the minimal level of security (seems you've had to concern yourself with someone's security after all, Mr. Prime Minister) in Iraq necessary to preserve the effective de-nationalization of its oil industry while simultaneously minimizing the political fallout that comes with responsibility for leading one's nation into humiliating defeat.

That and making threatening noises toward Iran (having had to discard, at least for the moment, plans to engage that previously non-hostile nation in Blair's clash of "values"--by toppling its democratically elected government) and pretending that Iran somehow has the power to threaten us the way Iraq once did in the fevered, shared imagination of President Bush and the Prime Minister.

With his short but still somehow interminable essay Mr. Blair is counting on the short reach of your memory; security, after all, was invoked as necessitating the invasion of Iraq without delay. The hysterics he and President Bush engaged in prior to invading Iraq were designed to manipulate and extend rational fear following 9/11, when al Qaeda expanded its war on the U.S. by engaging us on the "battleground" of domestic security.

Blair's government engaged in the manipulation of intelligence in a fashion similiar to the well documented orchestration that occurred in the U.S., to lead a recently terrorized public into believing that Iraq was at that very moment itself advancing as a "gathering" threat. In what was perhaps Prime Minister Blair’s most conspicuous and deliberate misconstruing of intelligence he asserted that Iraq had the capability (and—even more remarkably—was suicidally willing) to launch weapons of mass destruction against Western outposts in minutes. Security was all the rage back then. Mr. Blair would like you to forget about his fling with the now embarrassing fashion of that moment. But like an old photo revealing a middle-aged man's youthful penchant for Angel's Flight slacks and gold chains, documentation exists.

The lofty rhetoric about democracy and freedom was merely adjunct to the hysteria, recall; the Prime Minister, still following Bush's lead right off the edge of the dance floor, behaves as if the reverse had been the case, even as he offers the pathetic argument that, yes, Iraq was indeed a threat because they were after all in violation of those "fourteen U.N. resolutions." At least Blair doesn't share the habit of some of his American counterparts of citing as a casus belli United Nations resolutions one moment and in the next cursing or ridiculing the institution as obstructionist and corrupt and international law as a moral hindrance.

But to take this argument at face value (that is, as if its source retains a modicum of credibility), Blair is still pushing the same false dichotomy that got him, and us, into this mess: that we have no choice but to engage al Qaeda and its sympathizers in a global contest of cultures, or face extinction and the withering away of human progress. No sensible person can believe that the Jihadis are going to conquer U.S. or British soil, and Blair's own domestic and immigration policies suggest he doesn't take seriously the threat of importing Islamic radicalism (the only conceivable way the Islamists could establish a presence in and threaten the existence of the West), so the question needs to be put to him: what would this defeat look like?

And there is the likelihood of a defeat, albeit different from that invoked by Blair, as a result of the overreaching of the Bush/Blair coalition. But what is at stake is not our very existence but our influence and dominance in the Middle East. The consequences of surrendering the Middle East might ultimately precipitate our decline; but our new imperialists cannot engage the public on such frank terms. They would then have to acknowledge that we are in effect fighting to maintain an empire of sorts, and that we are not curing the world but straddling it. It would furthermore provoke the question: what sort of world order is this that depends on our subjugation of the oil-rich Middle East, and is it worth keeping?

At points Blair's essay reads like a variation on Sokal's Hoax using Friedman-esque terminology, but belies an almost sinister grandiosity beneath the unintentional humor:
Globalization begets interdependence, and interdependence begets the necessity of a common value system to make it work. Idealism thus becomes realpolitik.
More questions arise. What is this "common value system"? What is its extent? How is it achieved? Who determines it? Who enforces it? Idealism thus becomes imperialism.

What is really at work here is that our governments will not, and cannot, retreat from globalization on their terms, even in the face of the repercussive blowback against Western influence and dominance of the Middle East that is the global Jihad. Anything less than the aggressive redoubling of Western penetration and influence of the Middle East is seen as retreat by Blair and Bush. Iraq reveals how arrogant expressions of might thwarted are revealed as craven acts of desperation.

But no matter how righteous our anger toward those responsible for 9/11, who had after all been identified and located even before they struck, any actions beyond their destruction still had to meet the same standard as before 9/11, as a reasonable response to a real threat.
Bush and Blair were impatient with this because they believed they were justified nonetheless and granted a historic dispensation; delusions of grandeur. What they will never admit, even to themselves, is that they couldn't bear to see their chance at greatness pass, when it seemed that it would all be relatively easy and the reward, permanent domination of the Middle East, would carry their names into eternity. Hence the lying. This is how the vanity of small men wrecks great nations.

Blair uses the bulk of his essay to argue for global anti-poverty and pro-democracy programs as part and parcel of this imperial strategy, and, as his opening paragraph unblushingly asserts, making as if this has been the case all along. The Great Society goes global and militant, no doubt with unintended consequences that will make the domestic version's look trivial.
As if this will make the discredited folly of attempting to forcibly reform Islam on behalf of its presumptively captive population (as if the people, society, and governance of Islam are three distinct and unrelated things and—contrary to every other example in human history—the latter two somehow descended on an unwitting populace and its culture rather than arising from it) look like just another aspect of our generosity.

The proposition is absurd on its face, and anyway rendered tragically moot by our failure in Iraq; but it is also exposed as disingenuous by the fact that the chosen primary targets are secular and Shi'ite nations that, while tyrannical and backward, oppose the global Jihad. Where the effort was truly against radical Islamists with global designs (and where we bore the responsibility of avenging the murder of 9/11), Afghanistan, resources were drawn away to engage in a war of choice against Iraq.
Iran, a natural enemy of those responsible for 9/11 and a logical ally against them, presents a challenge that is clearly not "existential" or "global", but regional; and it is furthermore their region, which they've sought to dominate for centuries, long before the current manifestation of Persian governance came into being. Viewing Iran solely through the prism of the Khomeni revolution is like trying to understand the United States as a product of the Bush Administration. These movements and theories attach themselves to the larger historical forces from which they spring and into which they are eventually subsumed.

Iraq and Iran were not selected for their unique brutality and bear no relevance to the struggle against the global Jihad, and our targeting of them doesn't represent a "global" or "universal" fight against terrorism and tyranny; indeed, we continue to align with and support petty tyrants and others who do our bidding, some of whom can even be characterized as terrorists, against nations that hold the same geostrategic importance they held before 9/11: Iraq for its oil, Iran for the challenge it presents to Israel, to the Sunni Arab states, and to American hegemony in the Middle East. It is a war about "values" after all: the value of resources and the value of a presence in the Middle East.

The Prime Minister goes on, forwarding garbled ideas with artless prose, to seek to tie in the aggressive military adventurism of the Iraq war with a sort of renewed international liberal activism, offering this bizarre tautology:
The is a danger of a division of global politics into “hard” and “soft”, with the “hard” efforts going after the terrorists, whereas the “soft” campaign focuses on poverty and injustice. That divide is dangerous because interdependence makes all these issues just that: interdependent.
I defy you to find the meaning in that. These things are interdependent because they are interdependent. My fellow Americans, we can take cold comfort in knowing that we are not alone in having elected a man incapable of sound reasoning to our highest office. No explanation is offered as to how and why this assertion is true, much less to what extent and where precisely it applies.

"Universal" and "global" are profligately employed in the article as to the scale of Blair's "battleground of ideas"; any military action taken by the U.S./British coalition is to be seen as part and parcel of the grand liberal anti-poverty and democratization project. It is the world's worst nightmare, liberal activism married to military power and applied on a global scale. But it gets better, continuing the same paragraph:
The answer to terrorism is the universal application of global values; the answer to poverty and injustice is the same. That is why the struggle for global values has to be applied not selectively but to the whole global agenda.
I'm reminded of being very young, and thinking that all that really stood in the way of world peace and prosperity was the requisite will and proper marshalling of resources. It's frightening that world leaders still think in these childlike terms; rather, it's frightening that the democratic world has come to operate on the institutionalized dishonesty that makes this sort of nonsensical talk effective.
But as for its relevance to a struggle with radical Islamists, it's the "they hate us for our freedom" argument extrapolated to "they will love us for our beneficence", proving that these conservative and liberal pieties exist on the same absurd continuum. The Prime Minister even engages in a bit of comedy, mentioning Live 8 and the Make Poverty History campaigns as models for remaking the world over post-9/11.

Walid Phares has a book out, with a title that seems designed to make it indistinguishable from the still swelling mass of spent wood fiber sacrificed more for the purpose of advancing the careers of various experts than uncovering the truth, The War of Ideas: Jihadism against Democracy, that I haven't read. But the prevalence and unchallenged nature of the idea expressed by Mr. Blair's delirium and Mr. Phares' book title has me thinking that the one idea upon which we need to make war is the idea that we are engaged in a "war of ideas"; driving a stake through it once and for all, before dismembering the corpse and burying its parts in equidistant remote locations.

Just how little scrutiny this radical and, to me at least, nonsensical notion receives, just how much it is a point of ecumenical agreement across the spectrum of opinion, even among those who recognize the folly and mendacity of the Iraq war, that we have to refute the jihadis' "ideas" and replace them with our own, is a marvel. Those who argue that we are engaged in a global battle of ideas have unwisely accepted the war on the jihadis' terms. For them it is just that: a battle to the death between two opposite worldviews. It was, and is, desperation. Those who argue that we “must” defeat the Jihadis in a battle of ideas argue that we should be every bit as desperate as they are. The Jihadis have been claiming, and counting on, the existence of a "war on Islam" for decades; Bush and Blair have given it to them.

Among the reasons initially offered for this global engagement of values was the notion that 9/11 had suddenly exposed the illusory nature of our security; we had to engage the Ummah because modern transportation and communications had brought it to our shores. That we already knew. The real revelation we have not yet come to accept, the more intractable and distasteful and therefore little spoken of reality, is that the terrorists showed up here because we have for so long been engaged over there.

This is commonly discarded as the self-loathing of leftist Amerika-with-a-k types; but in reality the typical out-of-hand rejection of this obvious fact is the foreign policy equivalent of reflexively rejecting as “blaming the victim” any acknowledgement that hardships often befall people as consequences of their own actions. Perhaps this explains how an oddity like Blair, the liberal imperialist, can find himself explaining away a disastrous war of aggression four years later by chiding those who offered him better advice, all the while posturing as a moralist.

Behind every circus elephant is a man armed with a large shovel. Behind every imperial misadventure is a politician armed with high-minded rhetoric.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


You don’t remember how you came to be in the park, sitting Indian style under a tree, drawing long drags from a cigarette yielding a strangely metallic taste. Looking up through the canopy of the large tree above your vision flattens out, all effective depth perception gone as the world appears as if projected onto a screen of water twenty feet in front of you. You blow impossibly voluminous clouds of smoke upward; they are captured and made to radiate outward by the flat ceiling that is the world overhead. Your vision is atomizing everything you see into pixels, like looking closely at an old black and white newspaper photo. You are unnerved. Time is gone.
A small voice calling out to you from somewhere deep in the cavernous recesses of your mind warns you to turn back; but from where? Your chest heaves slightly as you soundlessly laugh at the voice within.
The trees across the field from you expand and contract like giant lungs; you notice they are moving in unison with your breathing, and the weight of this sudden realization flattens the frenetic jangling in your mind. You feel an emergent panic in your chest, finding the knowledge that the trees are breathing with you, for you and you for them, unbearable; so you close your stubbornly resistant eyelids.
A madly swirling paisley print dances before you now, then becomes a squirming mural of cartoon animation psychedelia, turning over and over; now an Indian tapestry of gilded elephants and dancing girls, spinning in little circles across the screen of your mind’s eye; finally it morphs into an alphabet soup, churning and twirling letters of various sizes and styles until you notice they are falling into line, forming a word which becomes clear against a fading backdrop. You read as each letter takes its place:


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