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Written by adswithoutproducts

July 18, 2006 at 10:25 pm

Posted in blogs, war


Brilliant, electrically humane and, well, poundingly right over at sweet-nothing, one of the best blogs going.

In part, he’s captioning this photo, and I want to clip some prose, but, no, you just have to go read the thing as a whole yourself.

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July 18, 2006 at 10:13 pm

Posted in america, blogs, war


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Again, Benjamin:

“I can no longer think what I want to think. My thoughts have been replaced by moving images.” (Georges Duhamel, *Scenes de la vie future*, Paris, 1930, p. 52.) The spectator’s process of association in view of these images is indeed interrupted by their constant, sudden change. This constitutes the shock effect of the film, which, like all shocks, should be cushioned by heightened presence of mind.

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July 18, 2006 at 10:34 am

Posted in war


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I’m too tired (softball, in this heat, can you imagine?) tonight to do the following justice – an excerpt from the end of T.J. Clark’s response to Perry Anderson’s The Origins of Postmodernity and Jameson’s The Cultural Turn and in particular the distinction that they forge between modernism and postmodernism. Originally appeared in the New Left Review in 2000:

Once or twice in his recent essays Fredric Jameson has turned specifically to defining modernism, and not surprisingly he has gone back to Adorno for help—to Adorno and Hegel. ‘For us,’ he quotes Hegel’s great dictum, ‘art no longer counts as the highest mode in which truth fashions an existence for itself.’ The task of the critic, Jameson says, is to understand why the prediction about art practice that seemed to follow from the dictum—that art, as a significant form of life, would end, or decline into mere decorative accompaniment—did not prove to be true. Something called modernism happened instead. ‘What did not conform to Hegel’s prognosis was the supersession of art by philosophy itself: rather, a new and different kind of art appeared to take philosophy’s place after the end of the old one, and to usurp all of philosophy’s claims to the Absolute, to being “the highest mode in which truth manages to come into being”. This was the art we call modernism.’ [7] Or again, in ‘Transformations of the Image’,

what distinguishes modernism in general is not the experimentation with inherited forms or the invention of new ones . . . Modernism constitutes, above all, the feeling that the aesthetic can only fully be realized and embodied where it is something more than the aesthetic . . . [It is] an art that in its very inner movement seeks to transcend itself as art (as Adorno thought, and without it being particularly important to determine the direction of that self-transcendence, whether religious or political). [8]

These are key episodes in Jameson’s text. Very often the moments at which he returns specifically to Adorno are those where the stakes of his whole analysis come clear. And these recent ones are clarifying. They allow me to state my basic disagreement with Jameson’s picture of modernism and whatever happened to it in the last thirty years—with Jameson’s picture, and, I think, Anderson’s. For the stress here on modernism as turning on a repeated claim, or effort, to transcend itself as art—its belief, to quote Jameson again, ‘that in order to be art at all, art must be something beyond art’ [9]—seems to me exactly half the story. It is, if you like, a stress out of Adorno’s dialectic, which leaves unspoken—and therefore in the end demotes—the other, equally essential moment to Adorno’s account. For surely transcendence in modernism can only be achieved—is not this central to our whole sense of the movement’s wager?—by way of absolute immanence and contingency, through a deep and ruthless materialism, by a secularization (a ‘realization’) of transcendence—an absorption in the logic of form. Jameson’s modernism, that is to say, seems to me posited as a movement of transcendence always awaiting another, a distinct, movement (indeed, moment) at which there will take place, punctually, ‘the dissolution of art’s vocation to reach the Absolute’. [10] And this great, ultra-Enlightenment imagining of disabusal, of the stars coming down to earth, is of course what gives Jameson’s vision its force. But supposing (as I think Adorno supposed) that modernism was already that dissolution and disabusal—but exactly a dissolution held in dialectical tension with the idea or urge to totality, which idea or impulsion alone gave the notion of dissolution (or emptying, or ascesis, or fragment, or mere manufacture, or reduction, or deadpan, or non-identity) sense.

From this picture of modernism there would follow, I feel, a different appraisal of the last thirty years. I guess it would turn on the question of whether, or to what extent, the figures of dissolution and disabusal in art practice—the familiar figures I have just listed—became themselves a form of transcendence; and, as always within modernism, a transcendence doomed to collapse. Or rather, not so much ‘doomed to collapse’ as simply to be confronted again with the pathos lying at the heart of disabusal—disabusal (true secularization) as one more aesthetic mirage among others, always looming ahead of modernism in the commodity desert, as a form of lucidity it never quite reaches. Warhol, inevitably, is for me increasingly the figure of this. How handmade and petty-bourgeois his bright world of consumer durables now looks! How haunted still by a dream of freedom! So that his Campbell’s Soup Can appears, thirty years on, transparently an amalgam—an unresolved, but naively serious dialectical mapping—of De Stijl-type abstraction onto a founding, consoling, redemptive country-store solidity. How like a Stuart Davis or a Ralston Crawford it looks, or an entry from the Dictionnaire des Idées Reçues! ‘History has many cunning passages,’ to quote Gerontion, ‘contrived corridors / And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions.’ Does Warhol come to seem more and more a modernist because it turns out that what he inaugurated was another of modernism’s cycles? Or because what happened next was truly an ending, an exit, from which we inevitably look back on the pioneers and see them as touching primitives, still half in love with the art they are putting to death? I suspect the former. It could be the latter. Neither conclusion is comforting. Thirty years is not enough time to tell.

Do yourself a favor and read the entire essay – it’s short, but full. What Clark ultimately means to say, particularly in the last paragraph, is a bit hard to parse out. And this is probably a good thing. What to make of this “disabusal (true secularization)”? Perhaps he’s there already, but I think it would be valuable to scroll back up my page and take a look at the epigraph that lies underneath my title. That’s where I am headed – or where I’m coming from – on this topic.

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July 17, 2006 at 11:32 pm


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An article that gets written all the time, a sentiment that never stops circulating, sifted out of always-on archives of cliché and delivered over for your perusal here.

Digest version: becoming a professional Englisher alienates you from the things that brought you to the business in the first place.

We’ve heard.

Benton polls his undergrads, most grad school bound, on why they love the lit:

They were all considering graduate school, but their answers had little to do with what I knew they would need to write in their application essays. Sitting in a circle in the grass, backed by purple hydrangeas, they offered the following motives:

Formative experiences with reading as a child: being read to by beloved parents and siblings, discovering the world of books and solitude at a young age.

Feelings of alienation from one’s peers in adolescence, turning to books as a form of escapism and as a search for a sympathetic connection to other people in other places and times.

A love for books themselves, and libraries, as sites of memory and comfort.

A “geeky” attraction to intricate alternate worlds such as those created by Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and George Lucas.

Contact with inspirational teachers who recognized and affirmed one’s special gifts in reading and writing, often combined with negative experiences in other subjects like math and chemistry.

A transference of spiritual longings — perhaps cultivated in a strict religious upbringing — toward more secular literary forms that inspired “transcendence.”

A fascination with history or science that is not grounded in a desire for rigorous data collection or strict interpretive methodologies.

A desire for freedom and independence from authority figures; a love for the free play of ideas. English includes everything, and all approaches are welcome, they believe.

A recognition of mortality combined with a desire to live fully, to have multiple lives through the mediation of literary works.

A desire to express oneself through language and, in so doing, to make a bid for immortality.

A love for the beauty of words and ideas, often expressed in a desire to read out loud and perform the text.

An attraction to the cultural aura of being a creative artist, sometimes linked to aristocratic and bohemian notions of the good life.

A desire for wisdom, an understanding of the big picture rather than the details that obsess specialists.

But of course, this won’t do. We live, apparently, under the Reign of Theory, which prohibits enjoyment, engagement, anything other than earnest critique in service of the revolution. Benton’s students will learn, the hard way, that life just ain’t all momma reading to you at bedtime, Kerouacian coffeehouse, a precocious Middlemarch devouring under the covers, flashlight.

It makes me sad to think how little those motives will be acknowledged if they go on to graduate school. They will probably go for the wrong reasons: to continue their experience as undergraduates. They are romantics who must suddenly become realpolitikers. Maybe that’s why most drop out before they complete their doctorates. Those who stay have political commitments (and probably come from undergraduate programs where those commitments are encouraged early), or they develop them as graduate students, or they feign or exaggerate them to get through.

Here’s the thing. I’m not sure I understand the equation between theory and dour-faced analysis, politburo-distributed graph-paper writing. Seems to me, theory gets blamed on both ends – it produces irrational exuberant poesy-as-criticism and staid, bureaucratic boilerplate at the same time. As everyone already knows, but for some reason can’t bring themselves to say, is that if Benton’s students reach grad school and find themselves bored and frustrated and manufacturing work that fails to live up to their initial literary aspirations, it won’t be because of theory but rather the new archival / historicist turn in literary studies, that silent but mass counter-revolution that has settled on the accumulation of fact and the castration of purpose to produce inelegant works that sift through the dusty corners of the library, producing nothing new but lots and lots of old.

Whatever. My advice for Benton is the following. When your students bring up these feelings, why not help them to develop them into workable projects that move from idle announcement of interest toward self-aware analysis of it. No, no one wants to hear about your momma’s lap, but examinations of relation between the aesthetic and the commodified alienation of literary works would be valuable. Point them towards the question of the aesthetic, a question that partakes of all of the positions that they have here espoused, and suggest that work through the what and why and to what end of it.

Mooning on about how lovely was the novel they read when they were a kid, no, isn’t going to work. But working toward an understanding of how this strange magic trick – so out of step with an irrationally rational world, so out of touch with the normative economism that fills our lungs with every breath – of a bunch of words that creates a feeling (happiness, warmth, togetherness, isolation, discomfort, desire, disinterested interest, egotistic fire, full wallet of cult capital, whatever) works is something that not only needs to be undertaken, but will find acceptance if artfully done.

(A quick example: “A “geeky” attraction to intricate alternate worlds such as those created by Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and George Lucas’ might yield something like this, and probably even better, were the student encouraged properly, rather than told at every turn that the question is an either/or, literary interest / abstract politicizing.)

For the field of literature, after theory and during the rise of this new empiricist reaction – a field which currently buys the solid ground but forever fails to build – could use some new blood, self-aware, and ready to take poems and novels as something other than an archive of social data, an archive they were forced to use, when so many other, better archives exist, because they made the mistake of getting into English.

As always, and like never before, we today face the question of the value of literature – and of the aesthetic more generally. We need to know why it is that we return to these textual objects, and what sort of energies might be borrowed from them, what sort of doors they have closed and which they might open. And, in particular, why we are so unwilling to do without them.

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July 17, 2006 at 1:24 pm


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Written by adswithoutproducts

July 17, 2006 at 12:10 am

welfare reform ii

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From the NY Times:

MILLVILLE, N.J., July 14 (AP) — A 28-year-old woman and her two young boys were killed early Friday after candles being used to light their house after its electricity was turned off apparently sparked a fire that destroyed the home, the authorities said.

“It’s a tragedy,” said Dean Inferrera, a firefighter with the Millville Fire Department.

The woman, Melissa Langley, and her sons, Parrish, 2, and Edwin, 9, died when the fire swept through the ranch home they shared with Ms. Langley’s mother, Sandra Langley, 52.

Power to the wood-frame ranch house was cut off Thursday because of nonpayment, according to Firefighter Inferrera.

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July 16, 2006 at 11:19 pm

Posted in america


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Excuse the bêtise, as I work things out on paper here. A terribly unsophisticated post:

Dribblets around the web today. First Wolcott:

Yesterday, on one of the network news broadcasts (I was channel surfing so fast I’m not sure which of the big three it was), there was a report on the civilian reaction in Beirut to the attacks which showed a young Lebanese mother in headscarve, who with her children had fled from their home to safe haven, arguing that they–Hezbollah–should return the two soldiers, it wasn’t worth all the misery that was being inflicted on everyone. Whereupon a burly older man, hearing her criticism, bulled forward and angrily reprimanded, asking (demanding) to know why she was talking this way to the press, and displaced her in the camera frame to hold forth and spout defiance-militance-whatever.

It was an instructive moment, the male prerogative chestily asserting and inserting itself, and a dramatic reminder that although wars and organized violence have their social-national-ethnic-religious-tribal vectors, they are also brute expressions of patriarchal force…male arrogance and insanity sheathed in metal. The mother was sensibly, rationally decrying the cost of conflict on the lives of her children and other civilians, while the older man (a stranger? a relative?–it wasn’t clear) was trying to squelch such talk as ignorant and disloyal. He was the stand-in for every other male blowhard (on every side of the debate) who thinks he knows best and loves to hear himself talk tough. Meanwhile, the children are weeping, or being pulled in bloody pieces out of smoking debris.

And then a bit from a Doris Lessing intro to Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover:

“We are among the ruins,” says Lawrence, opening the tale which is supposed to be all about sex, and announcing what I think is the major theme of the novel, usually overlooked. It is permeated with the first world war, the horror of it. And against the horrors, the rotting bodies, the senseless slaughter of the trenches, the postwar poverty and bleakness – against the cataclysm, “the fallen skies”, Lawrence proposes to put in the scales love, tender sex, the tender bodies of people in love; England would be saved by warm-hearted fucking.

Now, looking back from our perspective of over 60 years after that second terrible war, we see Mellors, who was a soldier in India in the first world war, and Constance Chatterley with her war-crippled husband, clinging on to each other, and just ahead the next war that would involve the whole world.

It is not that, once having seen how war overshadows this tale, threatens these lovers, the love story loses its poignancy, but for me it is no longer the central theme, despite what Lawrence intended. Now I think this is one of the most powerful anti-war novels ever written. How was it I had not seen that, when I first read it?

I find myself increasingly oriented toward a strongly pacifist position. Not how I used to think of things. I was, of course, against (the) war, but not quite on the grounds of opposing war in general. Just didn’t think through things that way. Or perhaps it was there, but not quite on the surface yet. There are, of course, troubling ramifications for those who both unequivocally reject violence and who feel that the monopolization of violence is one of the working principles of an order that they work (in their microscopic, nearly useless way) to reject or overcome. Holidays for MLK, but not X. Kudos and perhaps a statue for those who advocate non-violence response to the violence of the system… prison, death, and the memory hole for those who resort to extreme measures.

And while Wolcott’s reading of the scene is gratingly “essentialist,” or so we’ve learned to call such a thing, I’m not sure that the point doesn’t hold.

I am not sure that spending more time raising my child than, say, might have been expected of me given my upbringing – not sure that dad ever once changed my diaper – very strict division of labor in that household – doesn’t have a huge amount to do with this. While our deal isn’t quite 50/50, its way closer to that than 0/100. And when you get tied up in the daily affairs of managing a small life, ensuring its fed and sleeps and is warm and happy and doesn’t injure itself by tossing itself off the sofa – it is a bit tougher to think in the abstract way that is perhaps required to come up with a plan, toward whatever end, that involves the letting of blood, the destruction of habitats, the creation of refugees (can you even imagine this? being a refugee? I cannot… I am angry when the internet goes down, when we can’t decide what to have for dinner…)

Or maybe it is the child has finally allowed me some perspective on my own makeup and behavior. I’ve a thread of hot and violent anger that runs right through the middle of me. Has something – maybe everything – to do with the way that I was brought up. Not an abusive household, at least not physically, but one that wore its awkward, ambivalent relationship to its own class transition – basically an escape from deeply provincial proletarian status and an attitude toward violence that really or in retrospect seems to have been attached to that status – on its sleeve. Granddad was the pilot and captain of a Lancaster bomber in WWII at the age of 18 or so – lied about his age to get into the RAF (the RCAF wasn’t formed at the opening of hostilities, apparently). Came home a hero to sweep up at the corn oil plant, drink himself into a diabetic stupor (lost his leg – all I remember of him, really, was his false leg…), marry a wife and bear children all of whom he would rather less than intermittently, and coach (and, I imagine, beat) my father into become a “tough” hockey defenseman, eventually offered a contract by an NHL team, which he turned down to attend university – first, of course, in the family.

I am not as tough or violent as my father, but live in reaction to / repetition of his toughness, his violence, just as he did with his father.

Or maybe its the war(s) that have lent me this perspective on myself. Or perhaps I’m finally figuring out what my work has been trying to say, indirectly, in slant. The book that I am trying to finish this summer increasingly feels like an oblique renunciation of certain embedded “violent” gestures in theoretical work that is very important to me, so important to me that one might even say that I have something like a filial relationship toward it.

After my grandfather’s death, some guy put out a book on “heroic” Canadian Lancaster crews, and used my grandfather’s story as an afterward centered on the “everypilot,” unsung heros of the war. I don’t have a copy of the book here, but I do remember that there was a story in it in which he discussed (or my grandmother narrated his discussing) visiting a children’s hospital somewhere in Germany after the war, and seeing all of these kids is pieces, crippled, disfigured, and thinking to himself “thank god I never bombed this city.” But of course, he had bombed other cities, many other cities, and in fact probably did little else, especially as the war came to its climax, than bomb German cities, civilian targets.

And I wonder where that (assuredly half-hearted) relief left him? And where it entered me?

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July 16, 2006 at 10:58 pm

Posted in distraction, war


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X-posted to Long Sunday

Michael Wood, in Children of Silence:

Auden thought a critic had an obligation to declare his or her idea of Eden, because the pleasure of a work of art, at the moment of enjoyment, is our pleasure and not someone else’s:

So long as a man writes poetry or fiction, his dream of Eden is his own business, but the moment he starts writing literary criticism, honesty demands that he describe it to his readers, so that they may be in the position to judge his judgments,

Or even just to look at the critic’s assumptions, I’m inclined to believe that writers of any kind do in fact declare their dream of Eden, whether they set out to or not – at least in implication, and for those readers who care to find it. And I’m not sure that their dream of Eden is the first thing I want to know about a critic, or anyone else. I might want to know about their idea of affection, or their notion of cruelty. But then perhaps these things are already contained in the dream of Eden.

Auden pursued his game quite literally, that is, follow out the metaphor with entire owlish seriousness. He wanted to know what Eden would look like and how it would be ruled, and grouped his questions under these headings: landscape, climate, ethnic origin of inhabitants, language, weights and measures, religion, size of capital, form of government, sources of natural power, economic activities, means of transport, architecture, domestic furniture and equipment, formal dress, sources of public information, public statues , public entertainments.

Wood wisely steps away from the game soon after trying a few questions on for size. Are you wise enough to do the same?

I’m not…

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July 15, 2006 at 2:33 am

Posted in Uncategorized

not normal

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I’ve been thinking quite a bit about images like this one, iconic expressions of our era. The pillar of smoke rising at a distance (we’re often on top of a building? telephoto…) Never humans in the frame, or rarely. Or then there are those of this sort:


Very familiar, right? The neighbors pitching in, the pile of rubble that somehow, minutes ago, was a free-standing structure. The perspectival disorder – is the camera level or the house in the background, on the right?

There’s a temporality implicit in the “standard” set of images we are given after a bomb attack. Something that I’m thinking about – not ready yet.

But for now, a blog that’s worth a thousand photos (via Le Colonel Chabert):

Newest update, it’s 4:26am, Israelis are attacking the city, Saida, from sea. They are targeting the bridge that connects to Saida.

Another really loud bomb. My heart is racing. I can only pretend to be brave.

Everything that is happening now is because Israel is trying to wipe out any trace of Hizballah in Lebanon. In the process of doing all this, they have wiped out our infrastructure. Our roads, bridges, etc., civilian homes, innocent lives.

It’s 4:32am and I have a knot in my stomach. I am praying they don’t hit the electricity. I want my Internet. I think it’s the only thing that will help me stay normal.

Latest update: 9 missile raids into Dahiyeh in the last hour. There are now several parts of Beirut without electricity.

I am praying for the people in Dahiyeh… Another really really loud bomb. I guess that makes it 10 now.

I am angry now. The things that cross your mind… I just set up a new installation last week, now, noone will get to see it.

I was just about ready to launch an international residency program here… Not going to happen now.

Was just planning to start a family… who wants to get pregnant now?

Ladies and gentlemen, I did not want to burden you with the troubles of war but I think it is really important that the world knows what is going on. We are under attack by Israel. It is unjust and unfair. I wonder what the media coverage is like out there.

All this must end. Israel must be stopped. This is so unjust and unfair. Everything we’ve worked on for the past 10 years is gone now. So, so, so unjust and unfair. We had so many cultural events planned for the summer… exhibits… concerts… plays, etc. — all gone.

Dear friends, pray for us. For this madness to end. Pray for the Lebanese people to stick through this together and not lose their cool.

Believe it or not, the sun is beginning to rise and I actually hear birds chirping.

With love,
Zena el-Khalil

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July 14, 2006 at 10:20 pm

Posted in blogs, teevee, war

how to talk to your kids about war

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McCain was just on CNN, doing his tough, sensible guy schtick, and pointing all the arrows toward Syria and Iran. TV right now is a stream of talking heads, anchors, and politicians doing roughly the same.

Just a few of Wolf Blitzer’s references last night during the first two hours of his show.

BLITZER: This hour, breaking news from the Middle East. The crisis there growing more volatile and dangerous by the minute. Israel’s ambassador to the United States is calling a rocket attack on the northern Israeli port city of Haifa a major, major escalation. That’s his words. And he’s warning Iran and Syria that they are playing with fire for supporting Hezbollah militants and that those nations will face consequences.

BLITZER: I want to move onto Iraq, but what I hear you saying is that as the Iranians feel the heat on their nuclear program, they’re reacting by maybe encouraging their allies in Hezbollah or Hamas to take these kinds of actions, sort of to show that they have some muscle as well.

BLITZER: I don’t know if you heard my interview with the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, just now in THE SITUATION ROOM, but he made the point — he was pointing a direct finger at Iran, saying that the Iranians who are under enormous pressure because of their own nuclear program may be using their influence with Hezbollah and Hamas to up the ante elsewhere, to show that they have some influence in that part of the world as well. Do you see Iran and/or Syria involved in this escalating tension?

BLITZER: Rockets fired from Lebanon reach deep into Israel. Israel is blasting right back, pounding hundreds of targets in Lebanon. And still, two Israelis soldiers are missing in Lebanon.

Now Israel fears Hezbollah guerillas could take them to Iran.

BLITZER: We heard in the last hour the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, make a very similar point, that the Iranians are trying to deflect attention from their own nuclear program, the criticism it’s facing by, perhaps, using its influence with Hezbollah and Hamas to change the subject, to show that they have a card as well.

But let me rephrase the question. What can you do, Israel, against Syria and Iran, if, in fact, as you suggest, they are responsible for this situation? Because so far, what we’ve seen are attacks against various Hezbollah targets or other targets in Lebanon.

BLITZER: One of your Israeli colleagues today in Jerusalem suggested that they had indications that the Hezbollah was going to try to transfer those two kidnapped Israeli soldiers to Iran.

Is that true?

BLITZER: This just coming in to CNN from the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying this, according to Iranian State Television. “If the Zionist regime commits another stupid move and attacks Syria, this will be considered like attacking the whole Islamic world and this regime will receive a very fierce response.” The Iranian president quoted as saying that in a telephone conversation earlier with the Syrian Bashar al-Assad. The situation clearly heating up.

BLITZER: Now the latest on the escalating situation in the Middle East. Two Israeli soldiers are still missing in Lebanon and Israel fears Hezbollah guerrillas could take them to Iran. Now Iran’s foreign ministry is denying that the Israeli soldiers will be brought there. Also, Israel has now hit the main highway linking Beirut to Damascus.

See what I’m saying? War starts between Israel and Lebanon, and our nightly news is entirely dominated by talk of Iran and to a lesser extent Syria.

Just as, immediately after 9/11 (relatively speaking), the airwaves were engulfed with speculation about whether we should head to Iraq, Israel’s incursion into Lebanon has provoked a torrent of speculation here (in the US, on our cable news channels) about what is to be done about Syria and Iran.

It’s not good. We’ve been here before. The mass media’s self-chosen role seems to be to warm the American populace up, to prepare them for what is to come, to chatter along about things that are not happening now, but will soon, until they become inevitable, preordained, necessary. The media always somehow knows what’s next. We are push polled on a nightly basis by our media, “What do you think about invading Iraq / Iran / Syria?” until we’ve got so much idle talk floating around in our heads that the initial question – how we got to Iran from Israel – Lebanon – has slipped down the memory hole.

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July 14, 2006 at 10:11 am

Posted in distraction, teevee, war

wwiii +$78.35 = mission accomplished

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Handy Sploid summary of the state of play. (Have I said before I like these guys at Sploid? Cause I really do…)

One link in particular there to click thru:

Oil prices surged to a record above $78 a barrel Thursday in a market agitated by escalating violence in the Middle East and the threat of supply disruptions there and beyond.

I think I’ve run this before, not too long ago. But I’ll run it again tonight. Do yourself a favor and read it. It is the single most sense making chunk of prose I’ve read since… well… during the twenty-first century.

AMY GOODMAN: Is the war in Iraq a war for oil?

GREG PALAST: Is the war in Iraq for oil? Yes, it’s about the oil, but not for the oil. In my investigations for Armed Madhouse, I ended up with a story far more fascinating and difficult than I imagined. We didn’t go in to grab the oil. Just the opposite. We went in to control the oil and make sure we didn’t get it. It goes back to 1920, when the oil companies sat in a room in Brussels in a hotel room, drew a red line around Iraq and said, “There’ll be no oil coming out of that nation.” They have to suppress oil coming out of Iraq. Otherwise, the price of oil will collapse, and OPEC and Saudi Arabia will collapse.

And so, what I found, what I discovered that they’re very unhappy about is a 323-page plan, which was written by big oil, which is the secret but official plan of the United States for Iraq’s oil, written by the big oil companies out of the James Baker Institute in coordination with a secret committee of the Council on Foreign Relations. I know it sounds very conspiratorial, but this is exactly how they do it. It’s quite wild. And it’s all about a plan to control Iraq’s oil and make sure that Iraq has a system, which, quote, “enhances its relationship with OPEC.” In other words, the whole idea is to maintain the power of OPEC, which means maintain the power of Saudi Arabia.

And this is one of the reasons they absolutely hate Hugo Chavez. As you’ll see in next week’s Harper’s coming out, which is basically an excerpt from the book, Hugo Chavez on June 1st is going to ask OPEC to officially recognize that he has more oil than Saudi Arabia. This is a geopolitical earthquake. And the inside documents from the U.S. Department of Energy, which we have in the book and in Harper’s, say, yeah, he’s got more oil than Saudi Arabia.

AMY GOODMAN: And is it accessible?

GREG PALAST: That’s the trick. It’s accessible, but the price of oil — it’s heavy oil, which means it costs about — you need oil to be about $30 a barrel, less than half of what it is now. Chavez says, “Cut a deal with me. Oil will never drop below a minimum price, but we’ll get off this insane world-destroying $75 a barrel. I’ll give you cheap oil, but you just put a floor under it.” He shook hands with Bill Clinton on the deal. And Bush came in and spit on his hand, to say the least. He had the guy kidnapped back in 2002. Bush does not — you have to remember, he doesn’t like cheap oil. When we talk about paying $3-a-gallon gasoline, Bush’s benefactors, donors and his own family collects the $3 a gallon.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

GREG PALAST: Well, we’re paying three bucks a gallon. ExxonMobil is collecting $3 a gallon. There’s a chapter called “Trillion-Dollar Babies.” When Bush came in, we had oil as low as $18 a barrel. It was like water. Bush has successfully built up the price of oil from 18 bucks a barrel to over $70 a barrel. That’s the “mission accomplished.” He didn’t make a mistake here. That’s the “mission accomplished.”

ExxonMobil, which after Enron is the biggest lifetime donor to the Bush campaigns, its value of its reserves, of its oil reserves, because of the Bush wars and Bush actions, has gone up by almost exactly $1 trillion in value. Just one company. A trillion-dollar windfall to a single company. That’s the Bush benefactors. And you have to look at where’s Bush make his money.

So, the problem that they have now is that Chavez is trying to supplant the Saudis running OPEC, and we’ve got a president who basically is caught up in, you know, these guys in bathrobes and crowns, these dictators of Saudi Arabia in the Gulf. And that’s what the Bush family is linked up to, and they are not going to let them be supplanted by Chavez.

Full interview here.

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Written by adswithoutproducts

July 13, 2006 at 9:20 pm

Posted in distraction, war


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Marx claimed that with the accomplishment of socialism, a typical day might consists of fishing in the morning, tending sheep in the afternoon, and writing literary criticism at night. But we are left to wonder: what sort of literature would such a world produce for criticism to attend to? On what terms would such a criticism proceed? Surely, the years of refining bourgeois recidivism out of the novel would have long ended by this time… Surely it is easier to purge bourgeois recidivism from the novel than to overthrow the division of labor in real life?

Speaking of Marx, Francis Wheen (unfortunately a Eustonite) had a rather nice piece in the Guardian this weekend on Marx and literature, Marx as modernist.

Like Frenhofer, Marx was a modernist avant la lettre. His famous account of dislocation in the Communist Manifesto – “all that is solid melts into air” – prefigures the hollow men and the unreal city depicted by TS Eliot, or Yeats’s “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold”. By the time he wrote Das Kapital, he was pushing out beyond conventional prose into radical literary collage – juxtaposing voices and quotations from mythology and literature, from factory inspectors’ reports and fairy tales, in the manner of Ezra Pound’s Cantos or Eliot’s The Waste Land. Das Kapital is as discordant as Schoenberg, as nightmarish as Kafka.

Marx saw himself as a creative artist, a poet of dialectic. “Now, regarding my work, I will tell you the plain truth about it,” he wrote to Engels in July 1865. “Whatever shortcomings they may have, the advantage of my writings is that they are an artistic whole.” It was to poets and novelists, far more than to philosophers or political essayists, that he looked for insights into people’s material motives and interests: in a letter of December 1868 he copied out a passage from another work by Balzac, The Village Priest, and asked if Engels could confirm the picture from his own knowledge of practical economics. Had he wished to write a conventional economic treatise he would have done so, but his ambition was far more audacious. Berman describes the author of Das Kapital as “one of the great tormented giants of the 19th century – alongside Beethoven, Goya, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Ibsen, Nietzsche, Van Gogh – who drive us crazy, as they drove themselves, but whose agony generated so much of the spiritual capital on which we still live”.

Yet how many people would think of including Marx in a list of great writers and artists? Even in our postmodern era, the fractured narrative and radical discontinuity of Das Kapital are mistaken by many readers for formlessness and incomprehensibility. Anyone willing to grapple with Beethoven, Goya or Tolstoy should be able to “learn something new” from a reading of Das Kapital – not least because its subject still governs our lives. As Berman asks: how can Das Kapital end while capital lives on? It is fitting that Marx never finished his masterpiece. The first volume was the only one to appear in his lifetime, and the subsequent volumes were assembled by others after his death, based on notes and drafts found in his study. Marx’s work is as open-ended – and thus as resilient – as the capitalist system itself.

Although Das Kapital is usually categorised as a work of economics, Marx turned to the study of political economy only after many years of spadework in philosophy and literature. It is these intellectual foundations that underpin the project, and it is his personal experience of alienation that gives such intensity to the analysis of an economic system which estranges people from one another and from the world they inhabit – a world in which humans are enslaved by the monstrous power of capital and commodities.

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Written by adswithoutproducts

July 11, 2006 at 10:30 am

la boue

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Eight years ago tonight (not literally, I have no idea the real date, but in soccer time) I was on the metro from Rue Oberkampf to the Champs Elysées. A guy exposed his pecker to my wife and I – obviously this would be a problem on any other night, but it was OK, in the spirit of things that night. We got there, touched pavement, and went home. Too f’n crazy. (We heard on the news the next day that someone had driven over like 20 people there…) We did learn a little song that still rings out, always rings out, in our household during moments of particular exhilaration: On a gagné, on a gagné, on a, on a, on a gagné…

But not tonight.

And predictably, the chumpikins americanos are all over it. Over on some crap site or other:

World Cup Observation [John Podhoretz]
Instead of playing the match and losing, why didn’t France simply surrender the way it always does?

(Via Wolcott)

Well, John, perhaps you’ve got a point. After all the US did live up to its recent military precedent: 0 wins, 1 draw (Korea), 2 loses (Vietnam, Iraq).

Perhaps I’m calling the match at the 75th minute, but, shit, things don’t look good for our team, no?

Anyway, the question of the hour, of course, is what exactly happened here:

UPDATE: ah ha…

Materazzi denies calling Zidane ‘terrorist

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Written by adswithoutproducts

July 10, 2006 at 2:21 am

Posted in sport

welfare reform!

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Just guessing…


A four-year-old Albany boy was left alone at home and tumbled out of a screened 11th-floor apartment window early Friday morning. He bounced off a metal awning at the front of the apartment building and landed in its courtyard.

After that, he tried to stand up and started talking with cops who rushed to the scene after reports of a child crying.

In a sadly ironic twist, the boy ended up in the same pediatric intensive care unit where his 21-year-old mom works as a receptionist.

She initially told authorities she’d left her son at home with a babysitter, but later admitted he was home alone.

The kid cracked his skull and broke his leg, but appears to be alert and basically intact.

“He’s talking and stabilizing,” Albany Police Chief James Tuffey said at a news conference.

From Sploid.

Glad to see that the young lad has learned the same lesson that (presumably) mom has – i.e. how to pick himself up, dust himself off, and get back to business. Ah, the invigorating effects of mandatory self-suffiiciency.Thanks, Bill!

(For future consideration: If there weren’t any public housing complexes, no four-year-olds would fall out of public housing complex windows, right? New Orleans, if not Albany, received the memo….)

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Written by adswithoutproducts

July 8, 2006 at 10:03 pm

Posted in america