News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: November 2006

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Issue 1: Kierkegaard Carnival

Welcome to the November 30, 2006 edition of Kierkegaard Carnival.

The Kierkegaard Carnival is happy to make this issue available to the public. Hopefully, this will be the first of many more issues to come.

Kierkegaard's writings are difficult to write about. This is not only because he writes in Danish but also because his work is filled with paradoxes and riddles, all of which are scattered among the purported writing of characters that often seem to come from the world of a vast novel than they do from real life.

Kierkegaard's use of pseudonyms--also known as pen names--is strange to Americans because one of the defining characteristics of American culture is openness and honesty. Using pseudonyms seems duplicitous and suspicious, if not downright dishonest. ...

This way of looking at Kierkegaard's use of pseudonyms is understandable yet regrettable. For Kierkegaard's purpose in using pseudonyms is to portray characters who are caught in real-life crises where life-changing decisions must be made. Kierkegaard does not want to come across as an academic writer or philosopher; he hopes to draw us into a world where the emotional, spiritual and intellectual problems we face in everyday life confront us in all their immediacy.

He does so by creating a distance between writer and reader where the reader is not given a canned solution to the problems depicted but where s/he inhabits a space wherein s/he can reflect on their own problems and come up with their own solutions.

This latter aspect of Kierkegaard's modus operandi illuminates many of the blog postings collected in the first Kierkegaard Carnival. That is, written in most part by non-academics, the following pieces often have the flavor of that struggle with life's crises and decisions that characterize the power of Kierkegaard's relevance for modern life.

The first issue of the Kierkegaard Carnival is diverse in subject matter. From musings on the Internet to meditations on particular writings, the following pieces exhibit both the personalities of their writers as well as the depth and variety of topics that Kierkegaard's writing covers.

I want to thank all the writers for their permission to reprint their blog posts in the Kierkegaard Carnival.

Fear and Trembling

Thomas presents What was Abraham Thinking When He Raised the Knife? This is a short review of Kierkegaard's most well-known and world-famous riddle-box, Fear and Trembling. While you will find this work in many introductory classes on philosophy, the work is such that it could take a life-time to decipher.

Matt presents Kierkegaard and the work of faith This short piece provides some important remarks on that riddle-box again. Interesting to note that the author understands faith as work--an important theme that Kierkegaard takes up later in another writing, Works of Love.

Stages of Life

Quinn presents Korrektiv: KSRK: Reading Roundup 2 This is an extensive and detailed commentary between several bloggers who call themselves "a [few] bad Catholic[s] at a time near the end of the world." The writing is often vivid and exciting as the writers wrestle with Kierkegaard's most convoluted religious novel/spiritual meditation, Stages on Life's Way.

Sickness Unto Death

Timothy presents The Sickness. This posting provides excellent discussion of and introduction to one of Kierkegaard's fundamental formulations of sinfulness: despair. For Kierkegaard, sin is despair and despair is sin. The uncanny thing about despair, however, is that many people do not even know they are in it.

Kierkegaard and the Bible

Jordan presents Faithfulness in Biblical Interpretation This piece analyzes some of Kierkegaard's comments on biblical scholarship. While not exhaustive, it is a relevant remark on the role that Kierkegaard understood the important historical study of the Bible should have in lived Christianity.

Kierkegaard and the Internet

Brad presents Education and The Internet The Internet has become a valuable medium for disseminating ideas and opinions. While many glory in the potential of the Internet, few take time to consider some of the drawbacks that reliance on the Internet might involve. This piece deals with Heidegger-commentator Hubert Dreyfus’ arguments that critique of many of the misconceptions surrounding the Internet, as well as the potential of this medium for education.

Reading Kierkegaard for Life

Sam presents "Who do you say that I am?" Intended as a guide to a group reading of Kierkegaard, this piece provides useful notes and comments on Kierkegaard and selected biblical passages.

Kierkegaard in Dialog with Islam

Dino presents Kierkegaard and Sufism This review of a lecture he attended provides information on correlations between Kierkegaard's writing and Islam's Sufi mystics.

Kierkegaard in Popular Culture

Edward presents Kierkegaard the Novelist and Three Kierkegaardian Novels: The Moviegoer, The Sportswriter and Rabbit, Run The influence of Kierkegaard in modern literature has been extensive. From Scandinavian writers such as Ibsen and Isak Dinesen, his spiritual investigations have also influence American novelists. This piece reviews three such American novels.

Book Review

Alok presents Kierkegaard: Some Random Notes on his Biography Reviews the recent Kierkegaard biography by Joakim Garff.

Death and Love

Charles presents All Hallow's Eve Reflections and Hauntological Remarks A meditation for All Hallow's Eve, with a concluding remark by Kierkegaard on love and remembering the dead.


Kierkegaard presents Kierkegaard's MySpace Entry

Online Resource

For numerous online articles, don't forget to visit Online Kierkegaard Links

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of
Kierkegaard Carnival using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Also, be sure to check out the description for the next issue of Kierkegaard Carnival.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , . Read more!

Fragments and Disruptive Reflections on Machiavelli, Kierkegaard, and Apocalyptic Confessions

There’s a darker side to my personality that I attempt to mostly keep at bay. This aspect of my personality looks at the world and news of events with a longing for chaos and anarchy. I want to see things apart. I don’t know whether others share this dark side to their personalities or not—I guess I shouldn’t really care.

In Doctor Zhivago, Pasternak describes a short discussion between Yuri Zhivago and an anarchist. For the anarchist, the new society that must be brought to birth can only be done so after complete and utter leveling of the old. Nothing of the old must stand for the new world to rise like a phoenix from its ashes.

I might interpret see these thoughts and emotions that I have as a sign of great boredom with the world. I once wrote that it is this deep-seated ennui that gives way to playing with variations on a theme. The nihilistic attempt to clear away the rubbish of the past and start anew is believe in what context, however? ...

I find a bit of solace when I remember that others whom I consider geniuses as sharing such views. Some of Wittgenstein’s remarks exhibit just such a desire to see western civilization leveled to the ground. He shared Oswald Spengler’s view that modern scientistic culture is a corrupt and ultimately debased civilization. This from a man who once served as a private in the Austrian army in WWI and a nurse during WWII.

Camus once noted that the Russian nihilists and Camus’ archetypal rebel respond to the overwhelming injustice that they see in the world by tracing its roots to basic human instincts and institutions that are corrupt at the core. To extirpate this corruption a complete renewal of human nature must take place. Since you could argue that human nature itself is an artificial construct and merely reflects the society that forms it, then that nature is ultimately as malleable as any animal’s.

The Marxists I read these days are a sad lot in this regard. They are waiting for a theory of community that will allow them to once again proselytize the world. There is something prudent about this waiting: it enables an assessment of where the political and related goals of the last attempt at revolutionary renewal. Beyond prudence, however, this waiting does seem somewhat comical and gives one license to view their standing on the street corner of history from the perspective of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.

The strand within this school of thought that I can most easily identify with is the one put forward by Hardt and Negri. That thesis looks to a sort of riding the back of neoliberal empire as it lays waste the globe. In the wake of this desolation, possibilities will open up for revolutionary action that are opposed to reigning neoliberal regime and might finally give birth to a blueprint for future revolutionary communities. I am attracted to this game plan since it accords with some things I have found in my other readings, especially of Kierkegaard and Wittgenstein.

Then there’s Kierkegaard. I have written about his remarks on the plague. Pessimistically perhaps, Kierkegaard’s views are unstinting in their awareness that any rationalized regimen—while socially and ethically prudent—will not provide the type of radical undermining of lifeways that have given rise to a, for him, a Christendom that was eminently antithetical to everything Christian that Christ revealed. Any such renewal, again for him at least, required something so monumentally shattering to those lifeways that anything short of it would leave vestiges of the old in place that would ultimately engender the same types of corruption as the original that it had replaced.

The little that I have read of Slavoj Zizek’s work seems strangely Kierkegaardian in this regard. An avowed atheist, Zizek nonetheless demythologizes early Christian though to gain insight into its essentially revolutionary character. For Zizek, even an apparent accomodationist as Paul can be seen to be preaching a message that was radical in its undermining of naturalistic and imperial ideologies.

There are several ways to read Kierkegaard’s political thought. Many take the only outright political document he wrote, The Present Age, and go with its somewhat conservative message. They read this understanding of his thought forward into such documents as his later attacks on Christendom. Others, however, are beginning to see that The Present Age was just a way station on the road to a much more radical ethico-religious critique of modern society.

Be that as it may—since it’s the province of numerous egg-heads and specialists whose work I adore but whose application must be earned rather than assumed—there’s a somewhat strange affinity between Kierkegaard’s thought and that of the republican Machiavellians. Now this will seem strange to say—though it perhaps clarifies some posting that I’ve made on Machiavelli at this blog—since it goes against both received interpretations of Kierkegaard and Machiavelli.

Since I believe the scholarship has clearly shown that Kierkegaard was a thinker neither irrationalist nor apolitical, I’ll dispense with that misperception without further remark. The received understanding of Machiavelli’s thought is harder to dispense with, but I concur with Pocock and Quentin Skinner in seeing Machiavelli’s political philosophy as one that is eminently amenable to revolutionary agendas.

What makes me think that could be any relationship at all between Kierkegaard and Machiavelli? Consider the following description of Machiavelli’s thought as formulated by JGA Pocock at then of his Machiavellian Moment:

Forms of property were seen to arise which conveyed the notion of inherent dependence: salaried office, reliance on private or political patronage, on public credit. For these the appropriate term in the republican lexicon was corruption—the substitution of private dependencies for public authority—and the threat to individual interests and self-knowledge which corruption has always implied was reinforced by the rise of forms of property seeming to rest in fantasy and false consciousness. Once property was seen to have a symbolic value, expressed in coin or in credit, the foundations of personality themselves appeared imaginary or at best consensual: the individual could exist, even in his own sight, only at the fluctuating value imposed upon him by his fellows, and these evaluations, though constant and public, were too irrationally performed to be seen as acts of political decision or virtue. The threat posed by corruption cut deep … [Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment, p. 464]
For anyone familiar with Kierkegaard’s Present Age, as well as numerous journal entries and Practice in Christianity, will discern, these themes of public, individual, false consciousness, money, and so on become paramount themes for the later Kierkegaard.

There’s an easy way to find roads between the thought of Kierkegaard and Machiavelli. Kierkegaard’s humanistic educational training in the classical authors is perhaps the best road. As Pocock maintains, Machiavelli was adapting an Aristotelian political model to his day in Italian politics. Kierkegaard’s reliance on several key Aristotelian notions is well-known. (Indeed, the Aristotelian framework that Kierkegaard sometimes borrows led the German philosopher Heidegger to call Kierkegaard’s philosophy medieval in spirit.)

There is another correlation between Kierkegaard and Machiavelli that I’d like to suggest. It applies as well to why I think that Hardt and Negri’s idea are amenable to Kierkegaard. This has to do with the view that history is cyclical and exhibits an evolutionary quality that runs from birth to growth to decline. The last phase of decline is simply prologue to rebirth.

It is this aspect that correlates with Kierkegaard’s notion that secularization and decline in western society should not be opposed. Instead the leveling processes should be allowed to proceed since they are preparatory to something new and revolutionary. In some ways—perhaps superficially—this idea of allowing a corrupt process to runs its course parallels what I understand of Hardt Negri’s analysis of neoliberal imperial designs.

If I am right, Kierkegaard modified this view of evolutionary change which he no doubt hoped to mimic Hegel in using. Instead, he becomes more radical in his awareness of how deeply the root of corruption runs. This is where he might ways with Machiavelli, wrestling with the problem of corruption never did seem to get resolved. Unable to accept theological concepts, he was perhaps blind to how closely his meditations on corruption mirror the Christian notion of original sin. (This no doubt is due to the misconceived formulation of that concept anyway, a reformulation of which we are in dent to Kierkegaard for BTW.)

If I am right, then, Kierkegaard still saw the process of corruption as inevitable, yet its healing would come in a far deeper crisis than anything socio-political could marshal to the table. Instead, the complete undermining of the ways and means of corruption would require something on the scale of plague and the consequent existential and socio-cultural disruptions that such an event creates.

Some politically conservative theologians and pundits seem to have glommed on to Kierkegaard’s critique of Christendom as a justification for their own contributions to the so-called culture war in America. This is understandable since a prevailing understanding of Kierkegaard’s life has come from fideistic-minded Lutheran translators and interpreters. Recent translations of his work, however, paint a much less fideist, not to mention quietist, portrait of Kierkegaard’s writings. Indeed, these recent translators and commentators put a decidedly leftist slant on these works.

That is, in plumbing the depths of western culture’s spiritual decline, Kierkegaard creates not only a critique of all ideology—as Merold Westphal calls it—but a more radical and comprehensive destruction of the very foundations upon which western society bases itself. The more astonishing aspect of his critique is that, contrary to the prevalent views, this spiritual plumbing work is just as much done in recognition of the economic aspects of that decline as it is in the psychological or simply religious aspects. In other words, Kierkegaard, in a work like The Sickness Unto Death for example, creates a spiritual typology of personality disorders that capitalist economies and their politico-theologico ideologies generate.

With these apocalyptic confessions off my chest, I can now go back to my job, living room, favorite TV shows, Chihuahua in my lap, uneasy concerns over children’s futures, and the unending desire to feel more worthwhile than the world seems willing to grant. Read more!

the cold winds of the interregnum

The northern winds churn their charmed ice palaces in the womb of winter. As the terrible news of civil war freezes the face into a hollow ghost like howl, I sit listening to industrial odes to my own wrestling with the angels of annihilation. ...

The politicians pick the bones of the language games whose wreck they have engineered. Whether the terror and ethnic and religious strife whose images they abhor and keep from reaching us, they bicker about civil war just to save their imperial asses.

If there's any truth to contextual historical accounts, it's that those who control the language games do so not in the search for confessional truthfulness but out of a despairing clammer up the dung hill where they play king of the hill.

I hear many on all sides of this clash of civilizations triangulate the amount of suffering that is or is not meaningful in this war. Not only this, they also say that one death equals so many more of the other side's dead. They thereby implicitly condone an algebra of human suffering that crazily skews and cravenly sears the mind with despair.

For those who hope to inoculate themselves against the sickness unto death with reason, all is caught in the intransigent antinomies that honest Kant once descried. Though he later betrayed his own thought with paeans to Reason, he eventually came to his sense when he saw the heart of darkness called radical evil.

No politician would dare touch such a notion though some on the right try to marshal its theological cousin original sin to their propaganda. The Left of course is simply caught in visions various forms of u/dys-topic meanderings that any true revolutionary has too much salt int their bowels to believe.

[+/-] read/hide the rest of this post Read more!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

magus eye in temple bright shine on empire

reality is in the eyne of the beholder:the magus eyne is least able to gaze into lest you find oneself mesmerized like a snake before the charmer. the king it seems heard the snake charmer:mesmerized by the evil magicians whose lies and deceit have set his smallish mind adizzy with visions of empire gifts and apocalypse on the potomac.

oh the sad fate of the idiot king who walked naked to his political funeral;
danced before the fires of armageddon with jesus his purpled lord;
walked on streets of topaz and opals with the families of the dead he'd sent to their deaths;
sat before the philosopher savior whose words gassed his lungs with joy:

then he awoke to a world set ablaze with terror and horror and cries that called his name as though demons themselves spoke into his ear and talked of a sin that he must crawl on his knees to holy mother church for ten thousand years to repent.

the following is realism--maybe magical if you seek the truth--but surely more real and less deceit than you will find in the kristol wyrd stone dark:spoken by the guru's guru of those who prognosticate the fall and decline of imperial designs:

Given the result of the recent US elections, we need to think hard about the consequences of possible defeat in Iraq. To elaborate on what I said earlier, that conflict can be won only by a much more effective coalition effort, requiring a major increase in US and allied troop numbers in Iraq, substantial improvements in training and operational methods, and a much stronger civil reconstruction effort. This is not likely to happen. The probable outcomes are either a sudden descent into chaos as Coalition forces are withdrawn, or a protracted civil war, overlain with an insurgency against remaining coalition forces.

In the event of chaos, effective government in Iraq will cease for at least some years during which terrorist groups will be able to concentrate, re-build, flourish and reach out to other targets utside Iraq. Enemy forces will be heartened; recruiting will rise; funds and weapons will pour in; pressure will be exerted on regional governments friendly to the West; more young men and women who are willing to commit suicide to harm Western and Israeli interests will become available; and the oil price will rise to new heights. Defeat in Iraq will be a serious blow to the public standing of the United States and will invite other challenges to its authority...

Iran will read a message of encouragement for its intransigence in dealing with the West. It will almost certainly go ahead to produce nuclear weapons. It will exercise an overshadowing influence in Iraq, Syria, the Arab Gulf states and Israel. The lesson of US failure in Iraq will be read (perhaps wrongly) as US unwillingness to attempt regime-change in Iran. The North Koreans will probably draw similar conclusions, although with less justification than in the case of Iran because North Korea is nowhere near as strong a state. Nuclear weapons proliferation will become more difficult to control with the threat of intervention against the proliferators dismissed...
Read more!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Faces Whose Script No One Can Read Except the Wretched

There’s an old tale—whether a wife said it or not I do not kn0w—that if something scares you enough your hair turns white. Fear has many forms. It need not shake its skeletal hand at you in supernatural rags to put the psalms of god in your heart. Life itself—full and ruddy life, bellowing like a bull at the bovine moon in rutting desire—can scare you and turn into an ash heap the table of plenty.

Faces often tell tales too. Think of Abraham Lincoln’s face as it aged from the first years of his presidency and to the end, before the assassin’s bullet shattered his skull. That face, the one I used to ponder for hours as a child, that face that seemed to mirror the deaths and agonies of the million who went to their death fighting for justice and against it. …

Watching CNN reporter Michael Ware these past weeks reminds me of Lincoln’s face and the imagined faces of all those whose visages sculpted by terror I have never read. Ware’s reportage from Iraq has grown more and more terror-laden, his face dragged with death’s tine as he increasingly seems threatened with the extinction of wordlessness in his effort to describe the horror he’s witness to.

Ware’s face—no doubt wracked by sleeplessness, inability to shave or wash, concern for his safety and that of his fellow journalists—grows gaunter and thinner. His Australian accent--thicker with an exhaustion born of sleeplessness, but perhaps more the sight of bodies torn to shreds by bombs and body parts strewing trees and desert street--almost cracks with the wails and ululation that he has no doubt heard on the desert wind.

In his philosophical remarks on the infinity of the Other, Emmanuel Levinas talks about the trace of God. For Levinas the other is the person whose face I must espy in all its primeval tender responsibility. Levinas evokes the care and tenderness of a mother for her newborn in his concern for treating others with justice and love.

But even before that, even before the solicitude of the maternal there’s a trace, as he calls, of something more infinite and transcendent and for which the maternal is at most a symbol, pregnant as it is. For it is that trace of the infinite and insolubly mysterious responsibility for justice and love that is the trace of God, for Levinas. And no human image can ever be that image though it can and will hearken back to that infinity which humans have called upon in their cries for justice and compassion.

For the cheery news people ensconced in their studio far away from the dangers and death-dealing war machine, Ware’s scruffiness is no doubt becoming something of a joke. “How unprofessional,” no doubt lurks around wry smiles. At best, they think of the gritty images of a man unkempt and almost shrill in throat as good TV.

That Michael Ware face reflects such agony is a subtle hieroglyphic in a divine script whose interpretation cannot be read without a lexicon. That lexicon itself cannot be read unless you understand a language and its unwritten signals that no culture, no education can teach except the life lived in fear and trembling for not only material welfare but that of what may arrive more preciously.

Related Links

Read more!

The Right and Marilyn Manson Hold Counsel

Certain phrases have switches that can be flipped one way or the other, contrary to the avowed intention of the writer. from the simple exercise of turning a bully's taunts into an emblem of pride to appropriating curses as inspiration for further rage, the switch in words meant to deride and turn you from self-idolized image to focus of ridicule exposes the raw nerve of much of our psychology.

It's said that the pull of the profane can be bent to one's own purpose since derision and social alienation appeal on levels that lie deep within the apparatus of social margins. Those on the outside suffer insult and terror and have little choice but to fight back or accept ignominy and shame. What better way to fling back into the face of such social stigma the nettles that sting than to imbibe the poison and draw strength from weakness? ...

The appeal of what some ethnographers have called the liminal is well-attested in history and ethnographic studies. It is perhaps best exemplified by the ancient European ritual of all fool’s day. In this ceremony the person most dispossessed and the object of public ridicule was placed in the seat of power for a day; the leader was demoted to the lowest status. In the reversal of values, what used to be profane and disallowed became suddenly allowable. It's said that these rituals are the basis of well-known modern festivities like carnival as it is played out in Brazil and what used to be New Orleans.

While these secularized festivals have perhaps lost their religious nuances, the religious impulse behind them has gone underground and been subsumed beneath more rationalized practices. Yet, the impulse and psychological mechanisms that make these practices meaningful may still be part of what's called human nature. They do appear in numerous cultures around the world and they appear to be able to maintain their meaningfulness even within the meaning-draining maelstrom that is modern secularization.

Indeed, you could say that such mechanisms have become the wellspring for people within the desert of the real. That is, to maintain distinctness from the conformity required by the modern rationalized state, people seem driven to find a way to mark themselves off from the confines erected by that conformity. From Marilyn Manson to glam rock to other niches in popular culture, the pull of the outsider and the forbidden and profane draw on these psychological mechanisms.

It'd be a mistake, however, to limit the play of this psychological phenomenon to the cultural. For they seem also to marshal their emotional cargo in politics, thereby lending various political movements with a powerful reservoir of anger and rage. The modern image-makers known as political consultants can massage these emotions into whatever direction they wish. Indeed, it seems to me that the secret of much of the Rove-laden propaganda emanating from the bowels of the White House has discovered a way to exploit these emotions. Karl Rove has discovered how to take what is intended as a negative characterization and to turn it on its head to become badges of honor.

Given the proliferation of political correctness, those who find themselves the butt of jokes and called uncool are drawn to messages that exploit that very outsiderness and help them to glory in it. In this way, you can explain the popularity of such culture mavens as Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Anne Coulter, and Rush Limbaugh.

No doubt, there are social, political and economic sources for the anger of the so-called trailer riff-raff that liberals and Leftists love to despise. With the uncertainties promulgated by neoliberal economic models, the dissolution of traditional family structures and values, the attack by enlightenment values on religious institutions--all these promote a crisis environment in which those seeking stability grasp at any straw to maintain equilibrium.

In a world comprised of opposites, it's not so much that they attract each other (as the old cliché goes) as that one turns the image of the opposite into a positive source for motivation and meaning.

Related Link

Read more!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

war my king with mammon entrails round waist bedight

war is the hammer to break into little pieces
the nations that bow not to mammon the sacrifice
the ritual piety are the byways highways and skyways
that enjoin obedience to the will of the juggernaut

take iraq:chaos precedes the creative peace the war
machines need to enforce martial law the regimes
of conduct and life-form that the juggernaut breeds
in cryptoclastic symbiosis with electro-mechanical
appendages:for the machine rises like a steel burnished
phoenix from the chaos the level ground where all
is built anew amid fraud corruption and tyrant fist

wrapped in oily garb:shaken from slumber in blood:
war dredges from crypts the dead whose
dying breath cursed stars spangles and stripe:
our king walks in oedipal haste thru halls
hung with intestinal testaments to his mute
and hazy vision of halcyon days though he dance
before the ark of a covenant of death

justify naught save the blood-lust dressed
in twilit rags:thy despair
remains unseen because thou seekest
ghosts in the skies:lame hunchback
psychic assassin who cannot live
with your deformed pain: see empire
impotent rage:the kingdom whose light
has died many deaths in your zeal
for destroying the human you say god
formed from dirt but you bury
because your heart craves the image
that god hath cast into gehenna
Read more!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Daily HotShots! 22*11*06

Just a day before the turkeys thaw and the table's set for our yearly family sit-down. I'll be working all night tonight so it's gonna be late tomorrow when we sit down. Football will take a back seat to sleep.

Bush: I would understand if Israel chose to attack Iran - Haaretz - Israel News Don't go to sleep with this guy at the wheel. To mix metaphors, does this guy's psych nurse get any sleep? Who knows how dangerous he is to himself and others around him.

Sacrifice Israel to Win Iraq Despite the (intentionally?) provocative title, this posting suggests a quite modest proposal. It will earn the ire of many rabid Zionists but it suggests like a sacrifice of Israel, only the return of illegally occupied Palestinian territories.

civil war in lebanon If you've read my postings here for some time, you will remember that civil war in Lebanon is one of the potential causes that Israel will use to justify attacking Iran. I know, I'm paranoid--and anti-semitic to boot. .....

Israel ups the stakes in the propaganda war And you thought that war was about killing people. Wake up and smell the coffee, look at your newspaper and see the naked breakfast served up by the propaganda machines. Ho Chi Minh said this years ago--the Israelis and the Americans understand this quite well. Heard about the Pentagon's own internet propaganda effort? Look it up.

Grim prognostications from the dismal science Okay, I am what you'd call socially critical humanist/existentialist cynic. Economic arguments for change take a back seat to ethical and self-actualization issues in the bizarre book I read. Still, if you think you're sitting on a nest egg worth maybe $200K plus--ie, your house--this article is going to be a real bummer to read. Since I am semi-nomadic, this means little to me, although those dear to me will think I am being paranoid when I bring up facts like these.

US Special Forces Manual Ever wonder what those black ops guys do for a living? Want to see the reality behind fictional accounts like The Unit (CBS)? Well, even with most of the manual unavailable for public perusal (otherwise I'd have to shoot you), this description gives some insight. What I find a bot unsettling is that I think this guy is saying that special ops teams operate in the continental US. I thought that was illegal.

CBS on the "Group of Weirdos" Who Ran the GOP House So what's wrong with the press coverage of the carnage and disastrous undertaking in Iraq? How come the press doesn't cover the neocon putsch? This article suggests it's a matter of the press' sense of civility. They just don't want to talk brass tacks. I like this article because it calls the liberal mumbling points to task while taking the gloves off ... Have I used enough cliches yet?

Has a fresh look at 118-year-old evidence revealed the true face of Jack the Ripper? The century old fascination with this serial murderer deserves more comment. But seriously, if the main suspect is supposed to be a Polish immigrant, how come this guy looks... Arab! Talk about historical irony. I'm having flashbacks here evoking Orwell's 1984 and his description of the uber-enemy Goldmann.

The myth of the selfish gene Gritty gut check about our most basic nature or a way to salve guilty consciences and pin responsibility onto deterministic processes? That was a mouthful but you know what I mean, right?

The Weaponized Phallus (and five easy-to-remember steps) Okay, language is just one of those things that reflects the faults and unseen designs of deception--not to mention unheralded anger, violence, and baser instincts.

Thousands Of Evangelicals Rally To Reclaim Wal-Mart's "Biblical" Heritage Thank God for Walton beer, soda, and smiley faced-welfare. Do I hear an amen? Give me a shout-out!

Roskies on Neuroscientific Challenges to Free Will Those pesky academics have nothing better to do than doubt their own existence? Maybe they're right. Seriously, I am less free than I think; I am more free than I think--put that through your biological computer once called the mind.

Book Review: Overblown! Saying that the so-called war on terror is hyperbole might get some stony stares. Saying that the threat from terrorists is all hype and empty propagandizing could get you an ass-whipping. This guy's thesis that that is indeed the case is not exactly new, but it does have facts and facts and many more facts to back it up. The American Prospect blog beat me to it.

More Book Talk: Zen and the Art of Mo-Cycle Maint. The cult classic that tore up the book charts in the early 80s is still drawing readers. My son just read it and I had some time eliciting any meaning for him from my hazy memories. My memories of the work included more of a story of why I read the book in the first place: a fellow student dying from cancer recommended it; he eventually left school but his motorcycle sat unused near the back door to the kitchen all year. At night I'd hear a motorcyclist pass the Santa Fe foothills where the college sat like some ghostly reminder of the spirit that had passed. (The interview with Pirsig is here.)

Movie Review: Pan's Labyrinth I love the use of fantasy to present serious subjects. What better way to explore fascism than through the unwinding nightmares that plague the individual and communal unconscious? How long do I have to wait for it to get on Sundance or IFC? Not long I hope.

On-line Vote Against Torture There are so many reasons not to sign this petition aren't there? It won't do anything; it's not real political action; it's by a religious group. But then there's so much wrong about torture. Besides what you done about it that could really stop it?

In Memoriam: Robert Altman The man was a genius--and had a wicked wit, something I find amenable. MASH is still the funniest movie that quickly comes to mind when I think of such things. Needless to say, I hated the TV show based on what's a masterpiece movie. McCabe and Mrs. Miller set the next stage in how people did westerns, right Clint? As it is, for those who think that art has no impact on the "real world," I can tell you that MASH added much to the growing anti-war movement against VietNam. This goes to show that irony and satire can still play a part in how people develop their moral and political views. Did you ever doubt it?
Read more!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

moronic murti bing smile at the hollywood bazaar

the Iraqi dead are not happy. they seek justice that cries from the stones and sand and desert itself. happiness--as the philosopher once said--is best served cold. tho i do not seek vengeance justice demands to be cried from the roof tops.

divine love demands justice be done in the love that emanates from doing good to others and for others. when the assassin comes to your door give him a bed a meal but do not invite the dagger to strike your daughter. ...

it is only when the assassins have their hearts changed into neighbor-enemy love:that not done by human power--never ever will the gonads seek more than revelation in the tribal justice and blood land and eretz that population and culture propagate.

the moronic smile of murti bing sold at the hollywood bazaar is a cheap high and the plastic jesus hanging from the rearview mirror brings nothing but more dead more hate and vengeance-filled plates whose naked lunch few if any amurricans care to see.

methinks that divine imagination and creative poet who once walked jerusalem's alleys spoke a revolution that the moms and pops and their american pie true blue empire have muzaked into murti bing bliss pills.

happiness--what is that? is it some moronic smile that murti bing sells at the hollywood bazaar?

that holiness--that is not mine thine or any human. only the divine is holy:dare we try to share it in any way that would not offend?

am i deus ex machina? not a deus assuredly not:a machina yes but one that's more tin man and less borg.
Read more!

Bring Back the Draft?

Representative Charlie Rangel of New York has recently proposed that America institute the draft.One point that I think many miss about Rangel's proposal is the social aspects. I believe that his proposal is a liberal response to something that the neo-cons have partly right: the threats to social cohesion and its inherent corruption. The neocons have made their case quite explicitly that the US faces the danger of fragmentation and moral corruption.

This type of civic fragmentation ultimately makes the US--they argue--incapable of defending itself from its enemies. Granted they emphasize and highlight the wrong points and their proposals verge on fascism, the issue they raise is a very real one. ...

Look at the world from Rangel's world: black America is torn by immense social problems. From vast swaths of of poverty to tremendous alienation among the young, all attachment to the American ethos or ideal is on the verge of death or already dead among many young people in the young Black community.

Take a look at perhaps the best show on TV, The Wire. You want to see the decline of America, the reality of many young Blacks is incredibly vicious, bleak, and ultimately threatening the social fabric--within the black community itself as well as to America as a whole.

Rangel's proposal certainly has many vectors to it. The type of corruption he sees seething among the young Black community also can be looked at from the perspective of white America and the millions of disaffected, alienated, and apathetic young.

Many have interpreted Rangel's proposal as a way of getting at the hypocrisy of the idle rich in their bloodthirsty demands for more war. Yet, I believe the more socially significant of his proposal is that it confronts the social anarchy that will finally bring about a decline in the American dream.

The media has glommed onto the military conscription aspects of his proposal. Yet, in interviews he continually makes clear that he is not just talking about military service. He is saying that there should be a term of service to the country in diverse ways, including those familiar to Americorps.

I personally do not believe that this type of mandatory social service will save America. Yet, to ignore the noble intentions and the wider extent of the social impact does a disservice to the reality that Rangel hopes to address. It also shows that those running this country and their Charley McCarthy puppets in the press wish to keep the country ignorant of the very real dangers that threaten the republic.

I agree that these economic inequalities are important factors. I'm very encouraged that Senators-elect like Jim Webb and John Tester are highlighting this very point, at least in their interview on Meet the Press Sunday.

I think that even were some form of economic equality to occur, though, the notion of service and sacrifice that Rangel seems to be advocating might still remain inert. Indeed, isn't that the point about the super-rich? They have plenty of money but they feel no need to pay back the society that has given them such bountiful plenty.

Some have mentioned Teddy Roosevelt. From what I have heard about him, as rich and privileged as he was, he felt that he must help others and repay the society that made it possible for him to have so much.

I think that Rangel sees the diversity of black Americans--perhaps better than you or I (who am not black). I imagine that he sees the social circumstances of many blacks in terms of his own personal experience of having served in the military and how that positively affected his life. You can point to many blacks in the military who have succeeded and continue to succeed after life there.

I think of the young soldier in John Sayles' "Lone Star." I paraphrase: she says that this (the military) is the best deal they (meaning whites) offer a young black person without any other way out of dire circumstances. I imagine it might be in that spirit that Rangel is proposing this "social service" draft.
Read more!

Confessing America: The TV as Confessional

I used to think that the fascination that Americans have with popular detective shows is about a sense of justice--something related to the insecurity people feel in their lives. In my more radically social moments, I could even engage in a conversation that cop and detective shows exhibit a form of control underlying the class structure of American culture.

My attention has recently been caught in watching the various Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) spin-offs, CSI: Miami and CSI: New York. Amid the dazzling lighting, the sophisticated camera shots, the glamorization of technology, the music video touch to test tubes and microscopes, the underlying paean to the scientific method... amid all this, there's a strange sense of unease that permeates the certainty of the evidence, an unease that appears as a form of confession. …

After spending one Thanksgiving week at a monastery called Christ in the Desert, I penned the following words:

What is the guilt?
Is it that ancient
blood curse that wants
to kill the father,
marry the sister,
or have the mother?
Or is it a plastic doll
in whose cavity
I'd deposit my jism
of loneliness?

Or is it this face,
pitiful in want
and regret?
Horrible with tears,
reduced to act
and be
what others want.
Without time,
condemned to time.

The priest's witness
fills my question
with presence.
My confession
to a face
beyond the screen
of anonymity
or the social mask
stripped bare.
What is confession? Who do I confess to? If I confess must there be someone there to hear to make it legitimate? Or can I speak into the blank face of the dark night and confess my fears and despair and failings and expect some form of validity.

The German philosopher Wittgenstein once said that if someone confesses an intimate secret to you, the notion of truth or falsehood--what's known as verisimilitude--comes little into play. Instead, we talk of the truthfulness of a confession--not whether it accords in a way that you could videotape and show back to people to get a consensus on what's real, ostensibly the results of scientific study. Instead we talk about how much the person believes what they did, how they hid it from others and themselves and why—how truthful they’re being in their confession.

Wittgenstein would be the last person to endorse introducing biographical information into a grammatical discussion of the meaning of words. Hoping to transgress that peeve, I’d note that during bouts of suicidal despair he’d often seek out listeners to hear confessions of things he’d done. For Wittgenstein, confession meant telling someone—a perfect stranger perhaps—what I did and to hear my stuttered reasoning for why I did it.

In the Hebrew Testament, a seminal passage concerning confession includes the public recitation of the people’s sins by the high priest in the Temple. Part of this ritual included the transmission of those sins into the body of a scapegoat—a goat--which was then sent out into the wilderness, no doubt to be killed by predators.
And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send [him] away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness. (Leviticus 16:21-22)
Much sociological, theological, and ethnological literature has been written about the scapegoat. This appears to be a universal practice and is found among many cultures around the world. An excellent dramatic rendition of the ritual is seen in Wole Soyinka’s play, Death and the King's Horseman.

In Christianity, the notion of confession incorporates the Jewish social aspects of sinfulness but adds the further qualification of faith in God and Jesus as savior capable of taking away those sins, as well as the one whom one must acknowledge as the bearer of the meaning of God’s revelation.
Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God…
It is the social aspect of the scapegoat that perhaps provides the most promising way to understand the secularization of confession found in the cop shows I have mentioned.

The cop shows are geared to proving guilt and wrong-doing of an individual who will suffer society’s banishment (prison) for the wrongs committed by that individual. It’s perhaps important to bear in mind that the secularized version here of sin bears little resemblance to the way that some Christians would understand sin. For modern Americans, there’s not much difference between sin and moral failings.

Fixing people or getting away from sin is perhaps the most attractive part of crime shows like CSI. A clearly defined method at identifying evil and putting it under a microscope or distilling it in a test tube gives many the hope that why people do evil can also be identified and codified in some form of scientific operating procedure.

Whether these sins are simply those of the individual under investigation—showing the American notion of individuality—is questionable. For it’s during this investigation of one individual’s crimes that the confessions of the investigators themselves often make their appearance. These little confessions come in the form of bringing to light the failings or small slip-ups—the character quirks and morally ambiguous behavior that add greys to life.

No doubt, these little confessions play a dramaturgical role. They’re meant to display something of the character’s personality. Yet, within the context of the search for how and why someone committed a crime, the character defects take on the quality of confession. That is, the investigation into the crimes of a single individual serves as the context in which others face and proclaim to others their own faults (sins).

American culture thrives on confessions—whether it’s the confessions of music or film stars, wayward and corrupt politicians—an entire industry called entertainment news specializes in revealing the little secrets of people who apparently enjoy more of the American dream than we do. Carried in one direction, this fact can be understood along distinctly class lines; that is, the lower classes envying the power and status of those more fortunate. While this may form part of the phenomenon as form of of resentment, I do not think that it captures the full depth of it.

In the context in which I have been arguing, though, I think there’s a fruitful way of looking at this phenomenon as what I’ll call the de-subjectivization of America. One of the main assumptions of many is that it is a subjective process by which what’s inside us comes out for others to see. This assumption has come under increasingly critical questioning by philosophers who use scientific studies of the brain and various schools influenced by postmodern notions. For these thinkers, there is no subjectivity to be found—no inside there—and so the public confessional of the television makes as much sense in terms of the essentially social nature of human beings as anything else.

So what do Americans find worth confessing about? Even a cursory glance at the plots and themes of shows such as CSI, Law and Order, Monk, and The Closer—to mention a few—exhibit the diversity and level at which the various shows deal with America’s anxieties and despair. The fact that several of these shows draw many of their plot lines and subjects from news headlines points up the fact that they deal with America’s most pressing anxieties. The themes of these shows deal with the more sensational and spectacular cases. But, as Dostoievski knew, it is the exception that often points to the rule. If true, the source of many Americans’ anxieties revolve around sexuality, multiple murders, social ineptitude, and various forms of envy.

I am not usually a stickler for proscribed definitions of words, believing as I do that words often have meanings that verge on the meanings of other words and concepts. While it is true that many in the diminishing Judeo-Christian culture of modern America might mean by the crimes they witness in the news or see in TV as a kind of sin. Is American society’s televised confessional an occasion for displaying cultural artefacts that echo dying traditions passing into new expressions or do they perhaps reflect deeper, more durable traits that are part of what once used to be called human nature? I don’t hope to answer that question here but it is important to bear in mind while reading the following comments.

I am not usually a stickler for sticking strictly to proscribed definitions of words, believing as I do that words often have meanings that verge on the meanings of other words and concepts. While it is true that many in the diminishing Judeo-Christian culture of modern America might mean by the crimes they witness in the news or see in TV as a kind of sin, it is important to differentiate that understanding from what a Christian thinker like Kierkegaard might understand to be sin. It is important to differentiate that understanding from what a Christian thinker like Kierkegaard might understand to be sin.

As Christians like Kierkegaard understand sin, however, the notion of sinfulness is a willed desire to do evil—sometimes unconscious, often not—that characterizes the very basis of human decision-making. The ethical understanding assumed by many in post-Judeo-Christian America, though, assumes that if the reasoning can be gotten right then the sin can or proclivity to sin can be fixed.

Kierkegaard used to say that one characteristic of modern secular culture is what he called envy. By this he meant that people in modern societies continually compare themselves to what others are doing and gauge their own sense of who they are by how well they measure up to that comparison.

For Kierkegaard this is a basic feature of human nature. That is, the formation of our self is based on a continual imitation or mimicking of the actions of others. From the very earliest stages of development as children we are continually looking at those like our parents, our siblings, our friends, cultural icons and adapting ourselves to what we find that we wish we had and incorporating into our psychology.

In the ever continuing saga of televised confessional, perhaps it is this deep-seated envy and resentment that spurs the public on and on to witness its own destruction of its loss of moral and ethical clarity. Read more!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Notes on Cultural Pain, Liberty, and Military Paradigms

In an interview on Meet the Press, Jim Webb said something that I think is crucial for future use of the military in relationship to terrorism. He said that military might must only be used after diplomacy fails. That's probably part of what's become known as the Powell doctrine, a policy that the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld stratagem in Iraq has exuberantly derided with disastrous results.
Rumsfeld in particular seems to have spearheaded this effort at decapitating the Powell doctrine. In his effort to modernize the military, he's emphasized the integration of technology into the fighting units, expecting thereby to make units smaller but increasingly lethal by way of their ability to pinpoint the enemy and concentrate not only infantry firepower but augmented by air support. (See this LA Times article, which I saw after I wrote this posting.) ...

Of course, much of this is known to many who are on the ground. The efficacy of the approach has proven itself in the fact that few insurgents are willing to take US troops on in head-to-head fighting. They simply don't have the will or firepower to engage US troops at this level. Another result of this focus is that the attrition rate on US forces is low. Maximizing troop protection is a laudable objective in any form of warfare.

Another facet of US military strategy is that of massive lethality which I suggest informs the way that the US military strategizes. The very use of the phrase shock and awe used to describe the initial attacks on Iraq bear this out. The idea here seemed to be that the attack would stun the enemy into such shock that their will to fight would dissipate. Indeed, much of American strategy in Iraq has followed this model, with Falluja coming most quickly to mind.

I think the psychology of this strategy must be questioned. I do not know what studies, if any, this strategy is based on but it has so far been disproved dramatically in Iraq. Anyone familiar with history, however, could have seen how mistaken the policy is.

It appears that those who formulated this strategy are working under the paradigm of nuclear devastation. That is, the US holds within its power gargantuan military might in its nuclear arsenal and that fact of immense destructive power has infused the very strategy and thinking that goes into how the US faces its foes. After all, this thinking might go, no one is going to defeat us--if worse comes to worse, we can simply wipe them and their future generations from the face of existence.

The question is, how does this underlying assurance of destruction guide the unconscious thinking and planning that goes into military leaders' actions? I suggest that it has infused the entire Cheney/Rumsfeld war paradigm--from battle strategy to torture regimes.

I would like to know where this strategy has ever worked, however. It seems that humans have shown over and over that they are willing to die (and kill) to the last person if they believe that the stakes are high enough. Perhaps this has to do with cultural variables such as tribal versus individualist ethoses, but I imagine that these variables might prove less different than at first sight they seem.

One example that most Americans should know includes the use of massive force against Native American. In its expansion across the American continent, the US government relied on massive military superiority to quell and subdue Native American tribes. Contrary to the expected results, many groups and individual within the native population were willing to experience extermination rather than accept defeat and witness the death of their societies. Those who did not were forced into concentration camp style reservations. That experience shows that some humans are willing to die en masse--even to cultural death--to survive.

The psychological aspects of using massive lethality are probably incalculable. While one culture might buckle under the pressure of such lethal destruction, others would find such force more incentive to fight. The variables that come into play are perhaps more cultural than baldly biological.

With regard to the Iraq war, it appears that the US architects sorely underestimated the response of Iraqis to the use of such force. These architects were perhaps taking into account the fact that Iraq had withstood an 8-year war of attrition with Iran, a decade of economic sanctions imposed by western nations where over half a million people died, and decades of cruel tyranny by Saddam Hussein.

I do not have the exact quote available, but during his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Iraq supreme commander Gen. Abizaid spoke briefly on Iraqi society’s ability to sustain pain. Until I find a transcript of that testimony I must rely on my impression of what he meant. It appears that US military commanders factor into their formulations of war an idea of how much pain and suffering a group of people or society can absorb. In Abizaid's estimation, it seems that US military architects underestimated that "absorption level" of Iraqis.

In his analysis of what elements are required for a republican form of government, Machiavelli considered cultural and behavioral factors such as those exhibited by the Native Americans and the Iraqi insurgents. For Machiavelli, it is factors such as these that show how much a particular grouping of humans will be able to "get" the notion of republican freedom. That is, who is willing to go to their deaths rather than accept others telling you what to do and imposing laws and prohibitions by fiat or force from outside.

Ultimately, these cultural factors will also determine how much a group can grasp and understand the interplay of forces that go into maintaining that "mixed polity" where the differentiated groupings that fall out from the workings of "fate" work together to protect the society as well as make it go forward.

These formulations may sound as though they buy into the argument put forward by those who say that the Muslims are not ready for democracy or that Islam is somehow immune to it. In fact, the resistance to US hegemonistic actions in the region, their resistance to an imposed peace by US forces, and the continuing fight suggest otherwise.

On a larger level, it seems that these cultural variables are not biologically determined. Instead, they result from various historical forces. As much as those forces are part of what go into the formation of social groupings in the first place, these forces also seem to play a large role in helping various groups develop the practices and behavioral responses required to encourage various styles of democratic institutions, traditions, and practices.

In the past, these features of human existence have been left to the vagaries of chance and happenstance. With the availability of historical awareness, however, the ability for humans to take control of those processes and inculcate them becomes a feature of human existence.

Related Links (all found after I wrote the above)

Read more!

Daily HotShots! 19*11*06

Football day brings hot shots in oodles. In that spirit and without the mind to keep pace with the game on TV, computerized updates on my team, as well as news on RawStory and Bloglines, I put these together for your viewing pleasure.

Radical hospitality The notion of hospitality is crucial to ideas of how humans care for each other. This exegesis of Jewish scripture suggests how radical that experience can be.

From suicide bombings to bus routes: one mosque's journey out of extremism So when you hear people talking about the disease of jihadism, think about this and how humans are not vermin or germs.

Thoughts from Salman Rushdie He's on something of a personal crusade but it's important to remember that personal experience says much when it comes to showing other people what dangers

Olmert's drums of war Imagine that.

Opening up Fortress Europe The German philosopher proposes that a more ethnically diverse Europe is the basis for freedom, not its threat as most Islamaphobes will have you believe.

Time Out with Nick Cohen: This week: Ted Honderich Honderich is one of the more logically rigorous and well-informed Leftists you will find, without being an ideologue.

Islam Recognizes Truth and Wisdom in Other Faiths Presents the views of a Muslim professor on how Islam understands other faiths. Contrary to anti-Islamic propaganda, this man's informed understanding of his faith shames the hate-mongers.

Report Links Homelessness To Federal Spending Priorities You mean they do want to work? and they really don't want to be homeless? Can't they just go somewhere out of sight, they make me nervous like MJ Fox does Rush Limbaugh.

The Uncovered War: Permanent Bases in Iraq When you hear the Democrats tackle this issue--one that should be front and center in the news--then you will know that they mean to carry through on serious questioning of the Bush admin. Mideast strategy. Anything else and it's just changing the picture on the TV.

The Hopeless Stupidity of 9/11 Conspiracies I am hopelessly skeptical about conspiracy theories, green men from alpha centauri, etc etc. A huge percentage of the US public believes that the government has covered something up about the bombings of 911. jodi dean studies these theories as part of a larger intellectual project. I think she gets it right.

Book Review: You Hide, They Seek Like much of my aesthetic tastes, it tends to the grotesque, the spoof and lampoon that spurs to serious thoughts. Pynchon has written some of the best literature in America in the last half century. Of course, I think he's a genius much as I do Sam Shepherd, someone the more learned despise. I once wrote NPR when they had someone on who was touting a 100 greatest characters of western literature. I said mine was Tyrone Slothrop, eponymous (anti)hero of Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, one of the great American novels... okay, I'll stop now. But read the interview. This novel promises to be better than the last one Pynchon wrote, which I could not finish.

More Book Talk: The unbearable wait is over as Kundera's lost novel goes home I mean this in the best possible way: I loved the movie.
Read more!

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Bane of Bush's Evil?

Brad Leiter just posted a joke that's germane to your comments Pat: Q: What's the difference between Iraq and Vietnam? A: Bush had a plan for getting out of Vietnam.

Be that as it may, my guess is that the deciderer has fuzzy notions about what he means. It's been obvious for some time that he's chickenhawked his way through life so why stop now? The patina of religiosity that he wears does little to hide the fact that he's an idealist who lets testosterone and guts (bred on the fields of battle at Yale as a cheerleader) determine what's right vs. what's wrong. ...

We can dump on the poor man forever; the jokes are too cruel and often demonize a fellow whose main fault is mediocrity and a hopeless mishmash of despair and megalomania. Hannah Arendt's study of evil of banality has become somewhat a cliche (sadly), but it applies to a nation and a leader whose most telling character trait is mumbling vacuous platitudes. (Yes, I know, that's a tautology, but it's true nonetheless; it's like saying empty to the nth degree.)

But seriously, to comment on Ken Larson's very sincere remarks (@ Sic Semper Tyrannis): I am reminded of the historical debate between the various Italian republicans during the time that machiavelli was formulating his ideas. The question revolved around whether a virtuous republic should resemble Sparta or Athens. The dichotomy here is that between a military-style ethos that prized simplicity and material asceticism over exhuberant and what could be called extravagant materialism.

Plato favored the former, Aristotle the latter. It seems that Machiavelli opted for Aristotle's view but used Roman imperial republicanism as the model for a "mixed polity." To make a long story short, the US founding fathers followed machiavelli in this view, realizing at the start that a state must adopt imperial ambitions to allow the greatest amount of liberty.

My guess is that the brick wall that Mr. Larson posits will by necessity face the US with something of a revision of the founding fathers' preises. In a country that consumes vast quantities of total world resources, where more is wasted than large swaths of the world's population need to survive, where obesity is a chronic health problem--that this country will ultimately fail due to its bloated self-conceit and inability to constrain its own appetites.

With that failure--probably temporary--the country will have to some form of self-analysis that might lead to an ethos much like Sparta's. The hope here then will become that it does not also adopt the military ethos whose ultimate expression seems to be some form of undemocratic control regime.

[xposted at Sic Semper Tyrannis's comments section]
Read more!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

scenes for the massacre of innocents:the jihadi-crusaders storm heaven

1.jesuits read benny's mail as memory dies in bazaar of lies

the jesuits have used their memory machines to remember that war is no longer the answer. they've been reading bin-laden's mail:sorry benny but the boys with romantic notions of dying for the jihad are dwindling or finding other lovers. the jihad sputters out and the moderates mumble their way to the top of the ash heap.

my relatives all died in the search for a truth that's been leveled beneath the public good. but then we're all human and that truth is as good and maybe moreso than any other in the interregnum between holocaust and the gehenna of rebirth.

2.hambone in the mouth doth drain the brain of gristle

si senor yo sabe il sacra biblia. me wonderest how much of the quote:dogma:unquote ye have read great hambone of the intellect. whose dogma anyway and for what reason hath thou thrown this steely bone in the face of a poor simpler hearted tinker? speaketh thou gristly purveyor of dogmatic lunacies.

3.gothic mansion in the proletariat's glorious death at the gate

u haven't been listening i guess for you mistake not only who u think you are talking to but also the object of your ridicule. frankenstein socialist and creator friend of republicans true revolutionaries:not the ilk spewing ideology and purity in its gotterdammerung of us foreign and domestic policy. eat that you slimy shade of the real:a man whose historical sense knows better than to impose ideology or crude and trite caricatures onto something he knew better of.

4.anal investigations god hating atheistic script in the word of design

commie fags expect u to learn sodomy anal investigations circle jerks while desecrating the bible:and no i speaketh not of the haggard tim or foley folly. repent thou babel-fish and learn the screed that that the secular hordes and barbaric godhaters expect thou to imbibe with mommas milk fed through a test tube of a cloned-cow-human using stem cells of babies born in a laboratory.

5.enter herr pseudo-spengler in cassandra drag eyes dripping on her sleeve

still waiting are we in the gloom of herr pseudo-spengler's false cassandra prediction that the us will slay the persians of the ruddy blood fields of the mideast? once a prophet's predictions die on the wing the prophet doth shrivel amongst the ruins.

doubt thine sense sayeth the brain in a vat. the cynical have said they'll not strike the persians:as the pseudo-spengler hath writ:his cassandra voice is a wee junko on the wing of pseudo-twilit eve.

6.universe on fire:heraclitus bites a clitoris

dare i dip a toe in that wading pool as the man of dark gnomic sayings who slept in dung to light the universe on fire once asked of a wider meandering stream that some will falsely call life?

7.Coda:machiavell got the blues

machiavelli got the blues
when the romans got their dues
when the republic fell
was what he'd tell
to those who asked
what caused the empire to stall
for polybius said it's round and round
that states do turn to ground
out their fate of rise and fall
only to begin once more in Gaul
Read more!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Daily HotShots! 14*11*06

Setting up the Kierkegaard Carnival today, resorting to googling for contributors now. Have found several quite good pieces, not to mention Kierkegaard's MySpace entry (I kid you not).

The news is filled with more jockeying among the technocrats for power. One sign of idealistic--probably utopian--light is the suit brought against Donald Rumsfeld for war crimes.

Per usual, Glenn Greenwald is carrying on a great debate about torture and eternal damnation of prisoners in the US.

Why the Baker commission on Iraq doesn't matter Look at that statement by Panetta--about people "in the know" knowing how bad it is in Iraq for years.

First Things: Social Corruption It's not very often that you find the terms of the so-called "culture war" presented in such sociable terms. The nice thing about this is that it cuts to the nub of the emotional issues that really drive the more high-falutin rhetoric.

For Evangelicals, Supporting Israel Is ‘God’s Foreign Policy’ I find it somewhat ironic--of course, I see everything in terms of irony these days--that the universal message of the early Christian church has apparently come full-circle and includes only the US and Israel.

Netanyahu: It's 1938 and Iran is Germany; Ahmadinejad is preparing another Holocaust This not news. Netanyahu has been finding Nazis under every bush for years. Besides, he hopes to unseat Olmert when the latter's government implodes from charges of corruption. OTOH Israel has been sending mixed signals about its plan to bomb Iran, hoping perhaps to draw the US into the fire. How perfect would that be? Whether Repubs or Dems are in power, there're few politicians that are going to stand up to the Israel Lobby when Israel's "existential" viability is at stake.

Islami Samizdat - Shaykh Daoud Online: An Essay on Redhouse's Pamphlet on the Ottoman Caliphate Interesting essay by a Muslim Tory on what the caliphate could possibly mean in the modern world.

The Top 10 Books on the Crusades
Promising historical reading on a subject that Islamaphobes and jihadists have attempted to twist to their own interests.

The Bush Regime from Elections to Detentions: A Bootstrapped Moral Economy of Carl Schmitt and Human Rights by David Abraham A somewhat forbidding title that hides a pretty clearly argued analysis of the corrupt Bush/neocon morality.

The Gospel According to Bush A very good discussion of some of the theologico-political premises upon which much of Bush's rhetoric rests.

Who Will Pay for Iraq and When? So why hasn't this been exploited by the Dems? While I'm usually averse to making moral arguments based on economics, from my growing appreciation for republican Machialvellism I think someone should start discussing this issue. Or is this a cluster-bomb waiting to blow up in the Dems face? That is, when the notices go out, who's going to have to pay the bill and who'll get tagged with being responsible for raising taxes to pay for it? Perhaps the Dems deserve everything they get, since they seemed to go along with the Iraq charade for so long.

Why Intellectuals Love Defeat (h/t Blackfive) I lve the "you can't handle the truth" nature of much of this branch of the Right's apologists. Not exactly anti-intellectualism this. Obviously, the author here means Leftist intellectuals, not the Right intellectual he quotes.

The dark side of the 'Good War' Explores the truly terroristic methods used by all sides in WWII. Makes you wonder how many years it'll take to learn about the atrocities committed in US name during this Iraq war. Can you say Falluja?

The Name of the Genre: Philosophy Meets Mystery One of my favorite books is Eco's Name of the Rose. I cut some teeth on Dorothy L Sayers' detective novels. Doesn't Chesterton's Father Brown rate some mention? And what about that rather opportunistically titled detective novel, A Philosophical Investigation? Wittgenstein forms the basis for the so-called rationale of the criminal there. We're even supposed to feel sympathy for him since he's killing other serial killers. Oh... spoiler alert.
Read more!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Daily HotShots! 13*11*06

Watching the dedication of the Martin Luther King memorial in Washington. CNN is airing all of the President's speech, having shown some of Bill Clinton's (who signed the legislation for the memorial) and some of Oprah Winfrey's.

Architecturally, the monument looks quite inspired. Hopefully, once it takes shape it will equal the power of the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials between which it will stand.

Just a random thought: Martin inspired much of my childhood. I cannot tell you how much I tried to organize and train my soul to accord with the meaning of his words. Perhaps it's trite, but the notion that it's that spirit that is the true memorial says something.

Anyway, I'm finding that few bloggers are covering this event--right or left. RawStory doesn't even have a blurb up on it.

[h/t to Mike for the picture at the right]

US ELECTIONS AND IRAQ Summarizing John Boyd's comments, this piece provides a useful framework within which to orient thoughts about moving into the future. Of note is the conclusion that confrontation with Iran seems a live issue. Without going into the political aspects of this issue, the author appears to assume that a Democratic Congress will be playing catch-up for some time and ultimately might buy into the prevailing mind-set about how to solve the Mideast chaos, ie, attack Iran. I oversimplify though. This author's view would seem to align itself with Pat Lang's assessment vis a via GW's next two years; that is, that GW intends in no way to change his policy towards the mideast and we can expect continuing escalation in violence and perhaps greater regional instability.

God's Terrorists A very short intro to the Wahhabis. The author says there's a known and unknown history of this group--known for its most famous adherents, the Saudi royal family and Osama bin-Laden.

Labouchere of Arabia As the somewhat predictable title indicates, this is a story about a French military officer who has adopted some unconventional military tactics in fighting the insurgents. Provides some compelling descriptions of problems and possible solutions for how to fight a counter-insurgency. Of course, this assumes that being there in the first place is what should be.

Trading the First Amendment? Another installment in a discussion at this blog on a much larger subject that I wish would gain some public debate: the need to revisit the constitution through some form of national convention.

Revolution of World-View in the 21st Century Some academic statements by a noted Japanese scholar on how Marx's later world-view sees nature as the source of true value and not labor. Includes some interesting side-remarks on Heidegger.

spontaneity as our innermost 'nature' Insightful remarks on bio-genetic engineering and its effects on our true identity by sociologist/philosopher Habermas. Very interesting comments from a thinker whose work has influenced the left.

Movie Review: Babel A mixed review of the film I haven't seen yet from the neo-conservative, theocon magazine, First Things. It drubs the director for inadequately capturing the presence of God in the world. ...but that's the point isn't it?

Book Review: Finkelstein on Jimmy Carter's Peace Not Apartheid (New York: 2006) The controversial critic of the so-called Holocaust industry reviews former President Jimmy Carter's chapter on the Israeli policy of persecuting Palestinians.

Evangelicals in a Post-Haggard, Post-Rumsfeld World Wouldn't you know it? As soon as I make the wise-crack about NT Wright bringing biblical scholarship into the public sphere in his comments on terrorism, I find biblical scholar Ben Witherington discussing Ted Haggard, no less! Now that's relevance. Seriously, Witherington gets to the heart of the issue: those Xtians who seem to confuse true blue apple pie and the belief in the true Jerusalem.
Read more!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Daily HotShots! 11*11*06

The days bring news of the technocrats vying for power. Each side accuses the other of having no plan for Iraq. But what's a plan and who gets to define its objectives and methodology? The worst plans are compromise documents worked out without all interested parties--the people killing each other--getting involved. There can be no imposed peace just as democracy cannot be imposed.

I heard an Iraqi sociologist on the radio talk about American long-term interests in the region being hurt if the right plan is not drawn up. Jim Webb--perhaps the smartest guy on the subject right now--says the US should pull out soon, build no permanent bases, and let the Iraqis duke it out. Let the chips fall where they may.

When people talk about American interests, they usually mean oil. At least that's what those insiders who know mean. How far can the Democratic technocrats go away from this bottom-line issue without seeming to be wandering in la-la land? Yet, confronting the American public with the stark choices of energy policy is something few politicians will have the stomach for. But it's this type of honesty that's required to forestall future debacles in the Mideast not to mention the prospect of dark days for future generations.

NB The US continues its record of supporting Israeli war crimes in the Palestinian occupied territories.

The Post-Election Price of Oil: Up, Up, and Away? Those crafty--or is it greedy?--oil companies. Who says politics and business don't mix?

Victory Without Vision
That was a short honeymoon--now let's get to work. But what's going to drive this insurrection of the middle in US politics, as the pundits might put it? (h/t Leiter)

Western Iowa Republican Meltdown - This is BIG! People have predicted for a while that the evangelicals would break from the Republican party and create their own. Is this the start of that?

Politics & Evangelicals I'm not sure that Ali has his facts right on this, but the point still stands I think.
Muslim women find their voice If there's one voice for moderation in the Muslim world that stands out, it is the voice of Muslim women.

Movie Review: Confederate States of America With people saying that the Republican party is turning into a regional--read southern--party, perhaps it is time to rent this DVD.

N. T. Wright and the War on Terror It's not every day that a specialist scholar tries to adapt their views to real issues in the real world. How much so with NT biblical scholars. The bishop of Durham--and world-recognized scholar--Wright rightly does so, for better or worse. A little better than worse, I think.

Related Links

Read more!

This Is Supposed to be Funny...

Islamophobic humor is in vogue across Europe it seems. Read more!

Friday, November 10, 2006

HotShots! 10*11*06

Somewhat lighter in spirit these days, with the weight of the republic's health in somewhat better hands, I can begin to take on subjects that I'd rather spend time doing: poetry, drama, philosophy. Maybe I shouldn't, though; maybe that's the task set for me, this frenetic angst--up to my ears and beyond in the details of disentangling the terrible webs of deceit perpetrated on my fellow citizens by those thrones and principalities the necromancer power-mongers bow down to.

How many votes? So how does the vote--as a gross number--look in comparison to other elections?

A Mass Delusion? This is what I love about Pat Lang. Put it on the line, no-holds barred. You think Bush is going to give up his Oedipal traipse through history? Get it in writing before you take it to the bank, Lang reminds us.

BLACKFIVE: Bush is an idiot This is from a pro-Bush soldier, obviously expressing his frustration with the great decider after the devastating defeat in the midterm elections and the sacrifice of Rumsfeld. Take a look at the comments section too.

Larval Subjects: Post-Election Grogginess Yes, this guy's an egg-head, but he's very clear in this piece and presents some unique angles on the election results.

U.S. Election Post-Mortem Thoughts (Leiter) Decent observations about what's ahead on the political scene.

Where is Ike? I'm not one for tears in the eye, heart-jerk patriotism, and I think that Robert Lowell was unfair when he decried the moribund nature of Einsenhower's presidency, but remembering people who stand up for principle--as Eisenhower did in opposing the Israeli invasion of Egypt--is worth remembering.

What happened when Democrats in Congress cut off funding for the Vietnam War? They say it won't get to this point in Congress in the confrontation over Iraq; if it does, here's how they did it last time.

EM Woods: "Democracy as the Ideology of Empire" Yes, you knew I'd sneak something in here by the commies at Lenin's Tomb. It's not necessarily that I agree with everything he says--nor that I disagree--it's just that his selection of topics is so great and his ability to write heady stuff for a general public is so well done.

Number of Jewish parliamentarians worldwide reaches record high Yes, there are people keeping track of these things--and they're jewish. I was thinking about this the other day. Of course, many of the jews in Congress run the gamut in their religious identity--most perhaps are so-called secular jews.

Another Apostasy Hadith Revealed First part of an exegesis of a Hadith that many see as the heart of the extremism of Islam. Eteraz argues against that interpretation.

More On The Apostasy Hadith Continues the exegesis of the apostasy Hadith.

Austrolabe: Are We Victims of Our Own Abstinence? Interesting stories about what it means to be an observant Muslim in secular society.

Can it be that it was all so simple then? Exploring the nostalgia for better days, the land that childhood once knew, the times and spaces never to be again.

A Review of John's Yoo's WAR BY OTHER MEANS: AN INSIDER'S ACCOUNT OF THE WAR ON TERRORIt's hard not to spit at the same time as I say Yoo's name, but Geoffrey Stone is right: these men are only human though they preach inhumanity. Learn to unravel the evil they do.
Read more!