Wednesday, 28 January 2009
Sorry about the absence, dear (and few) readers. Been having some quite remarkable family issues/developments/wtf surprises since Mithras day. Bear with me.
It would be amiss and probably illegal for any blog that touches on politics not to give a brief summary and some conclusions of the 43rd president. Few men can have had as much ink spilt and keys tapped over them that ol' George jr whilst in public office. While Clinton gave birth to Drudge and Rush, GW has been the source of an explosion in both professional and citizen journalism, of current affairs analo-historical writing and mass (and remarkably lazy) polemic. The most important aspect being the international reach of these developments. He has been prejudged (indeed I remember one journalist saying during the Enron collapse that this was the defining moment of his presidency) by all and sundry.
His remaining partisans, a bare husk of the alliance he mustered during the 2000 and 2004 elections, have shilled desperately at times, and argued forcefully at others, that the man will be vindicated. History will judge him (as Castro also said, interestingly). There is some truth in this. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and their reconstructions as modern nation states are events not confined in their consequences by 4 year terms or even decades. Yet there is enough evidence around to suggest that 'the decider' was not quite the brave shinning knight that some have portrayed.
In opposition to this is the vast monolith of anti-GW feeling and invective, tinged with a great dollop of 'Bushitler' nonsense. The litany of mistakes/errors/crimes/intentional programs of mass inhumanity (choose your own wording or CYOW) is well known. Enron, the climax of Christian fundamentalist influence, political dirty tricks and smears on opponents, violating constitutional norms, the vast tax cuts, Katrina, support of/slavish devotion to/cynical use of (CYOW) Israel, idiotic rhetoric, fear mongering and 'varied interpretations, suspending Habeas Corpus, wire tapping, those two invasions that I keep forgetting, the coup against Chavez, those other possible interventions he did not support i.e. Darfur, Zimbabwe, Burma, Global economic meltdown and destroying the planet. For a man who had a nap most afternoons and was supposed to be a 'relaxed' worker, it is quite a list.
Lest we forget, amongst all this he was meant to have constructed and controlled a vast conspirary of thousands to cover up the 9/11 attacks according to some fellows with beLIEve t-shirts on.
Within this leviathan of 'decider-phobes', are paleo-con little America-ists, Foreign policy RINO realists, Libertatarians, social Liberals, economic Liberals, Soft, Hard and scrambled Jihadists/Islamists, Socialists, Anarchists, every shade of Trot and Bolshevik under much of the Sun (exceptions to DSTPFW) and pretty much any news outlet not owned by Ruprecht von Murdox. It is the most amazing and widest alliance of views and ideologies since the popular fronts of the Second World War. And that is both deeply depressing - this is not Hitler (oddly) nor is this in found against the theocrats of Tehran or the central commitee of the CCP - and revealing.
Bush is not real, he has become totemic. He is a divining rod for opinion for those who have lost any meaningful compass of ideas and values. By conjoining the papable public idiocy of the man, US policy, various ideological groups in the US and Fanonesque anti-imperialism, Bush became magical (in its weberian sense). He has become, despite his blatantly obvious limitations, a cosmo-plastic monster. He became Bushitler
For history to be worth something, it must both dispense with such hyperbola as a starting assumption and analysis why such a totem came into being. W came into power under a cloud but firmly buttressed by elite insititutions and by most of the media. His program of tax cuts, mild isoloationism, government reform and privatisation of welfare was a fairly modest right wing proposal compared to the rebulican hubris of the mid 90s. He proceeded to strip away at state bodies, placing people in charge who doubted the same bodies right to exist. John Bolton being a fine example. The rhetoric of a pure hearted essentially American 'Mr Smith' draining the potomac swamp took hold of state functions. With it came the slow enfeebling of these mechanism. His tax cuts, initially, were money side economic 101, return or more accurately a reaffirmation of tirckle down.
Programs of 'compassionate conservatism' sought to redefine the relationship between government, non-state agencies (including church groups) and the welfare claimant. This was a continence of the Clinton reforms, reinventing welfare's role as a sociatal tool. He pulled back from the interventionist and global arbiter role that the Dems pursued and seemed to be become the most isolationist Republican since Coolidge. That is to sayThe long held plan to republicanise the judical system continued. A battle royale over Wade and Roe was awaiting. Culture war seemed primary.
Then that beautiful and terrible autumnal day.
9/11 did change everything. Not in the way that Cheney or Rummy thought however. It faced a small government (small government of the pocket book, not of the bedroom) administration, dedicated to the economics of supply side and a conflict of values such as abortion and gay rights and school pray with something entirely out of its conception. Suddenly, a state that was meant to very little and increasingly less had to do everything. Things that had seemed to be malignant now seemed vital i.e. the UN, foreign intervention. The culture war was subsumed, eaten if you will, by this new and quite startling threat. Thus a void in traditional and paleo-conservatism was apparent. What did English as a first language or ends of history mean after those towers fell?
This was filled by a strand of conservative doctrine that was completely concerned with manichean conceptions of the world and America's international mission. A small group of elite thinkers and politicians gained the whip hand. Wolfowitz and Perle in government, Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz in the media. Neo-Conservatism seemed to have the perfect answers to the why and the what-to-do. It had preached a similar argument for decades, against the Soviets, against Islamism, against China. It gained both popular traction amongst the right and some parts of the left after 9/11 as it already had in its top pocket an end of days narrative of good and evil. Its discourse flowed into the public arena and gain converts in Cheney, Rice and Rummy.
I shall look at neo-conservatism in more detail in another post. But the demands of a neo-con policy were clearly at odds with that of the original administration's goals and ideas. This split was to mark the remaining seven years of W's presidency. On the one hand, Bush tried to keep small government on the table by skimping on un-WOT departments (particularly the FBI's organised crime fighting abilities and of course FEMA) but had to spend untold billions on the NSA or military contracts or 'nation building'. Attempts to revive culture war politics with gay marriage no longer mobilized like before. The systemic uneasiness and distrust of state function pushed onto the neo-con agendas too. 'Nation-building' was criminally done on the cheap and quick, troops lacked material and the proper arms and the costs were to be funded by vast borrowing.
This tension was to amplify and deepen mishap into disaster and disaster into catastro-fuck. Unable to consider state options valid or legitimate, the W administration had to move from each cock up, rapidly spending every last dime of political capital it had. By the end, and facing another problem that required a massive increase in state power, W made one last flounder before handing over power.
Considering the centrality of 9/11 to W's term is not new or original. But one must take into any account the total inability of conservatism to surmount its lack of ideas and ideological hang ups in a post 9/11 world. Panic, being lost at sea, sheer fear; these are the motifs of 43
Wednesday, 7 January 2009
Much has been said about CIF, the Guardian's blog ring cum speak your brains site. Hosting various Islamist fellow travellers and putting up articles displaying 'questionable' evidence and logic has darken what might be a fine experiment in commentary and reader feed back. However, there are even lower, more putrid depths to which CIF has shrunk. I give you the daily poll. Now polls like this are Alan Rugestasreburger metaphorically spitting in the faces of readers' children but they then have to aggravate the crime.
- Watt on Earth
(first of all, that makes me want to burn down the Bodleian, just to sanitise the earth from every having such a pun besmirch its surface ever again)
- Shops have stopped stocking the old 100W light bulb to make way for greener alternatives. Will you miss the traditional filament bulb?
(No, that is the only answer, No.....this is the most clearly rhetoric question since the Pope was asked if he was into all that religion and stuff)
- Yes, the new ones are a turn off
(HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA....cough.....splutter.....vomit a little, cos you turn off lights and turn off also denotes dislike, do you get it, DO YOU.....ANSWER ME)
- No, We need to lighten up
(Surely this is gives me carte blanche to seek bloody revenge)
Thirty years ago today, the Khmer Rouge lost control of Phnom Penh to the Vietnamese army. After 4 years of the most extreme form of social 'creative destruction' i.e. mass butchery in the name of 'progress', 2million or more people were dead. Combining the extremities of extreme Marxist tradition with savage notions of blood and racial purity, the killers and 'builders' of Angka brought about the triumph of death. Theirs was a program to rid Cambodia of some mythical parasite, made up of innocents and their bodies, to become a modern industrail state via mass effort and mass suffering. The calculation of such thinking is horrendous, but it remains to this day as part of our condition. Catharsis and solution comes not from cutting out utopias, but accepting and rejoicing the limitations of mortality.
Under Vietnamese control, the mass killings ended to be replaced by mass repression and imprisonment. As I have mentioned on HP, this was to moved from the seventh to the first circle. There are no heroic state actors in the story of the Khmer Rouge, just heartlessness and endless suffering
I had only heard of these two seminal series before. Given a great deal of free time that comes with a modern BA, I decided to spoil myself and watch them back to back.
The series, more extended plays, are adaptions of John Le-Carre's books of the same name, being the beginning and end works of the 'Karla' trilogy. Tinker... looks at a Soviet penetration of MI6 or the Circus whilst Smiley's... depicts an opportunity to attack the mysterious Karla. As one might expect from a spy serial, the plot is complex and framed in a forest of abstract terms. It is not a moral story about the rights and wrongs of the Cold War but merely the emotional costs of fighting it.
To my mind, it is one of the finest dramas produced by British television. The pace is slow but packed to the brim with tension. The tone is a glorious mixture of mundane and gothic and the period, the late seventies early eighties is evoked as a long goodbye. Most striking of all is the dialogue. No fat, no extraneous explanation, no pointing to clues. Used to such subtleties in the new wave of American dramas, seeing it in a very British production was a joy to behold.
Guinness is, of course, brilliant. A mixture of humanity, suburban tweeness, calculating intelligence and a growing ruthlessness. Yet the whole cast shines. Ian Richardson and Ian Brannan are rarely better, Bernard Hepton gives a hugely impressive performance of the dual personas of Toby Esterhase. The whole work is littered with great character pieces too. Michael Lonsdale, Joss Ackland - 'Diplomatic immunity', Barry Foster and Bill Paterson, all minor parts but carried out pitch perfect.
It is a real gem, and to those who have not seen it, get yourself a copy forthwith. It is a reminder what great British drama look like
Monday, 5 January 2009
A moral question:-
Consider a man is being beaten. Brutally. His assailant is the brother of the first man girlfriend who has been beaten in turn by him (man 1). Man 2 rains down fists and blows, the air is full of the crack of bone and blood marbles the pavement. The violence and the hatred is shocking, man 1 is near death. You see the girlfriend/sister. Her face is a mass of black and purple flesh, her lips swollen, bruises cover her arms, her posture betraying animal-like injury. Man 1 merely repeats under the blows, 'I'll kill her, i'll kill her, once you stop i'll kill her'.
Violence and the ruthless will to use it create such scenes, such 'choices'. It may be a fanciful and distasteful metaphor (and I apologise whole-heatedly if that is true) but it is how I feel. The last two weeks have seen such a hopeless and bloody choice unravel. Hamas broke a brief ceasefire and began bombarding randomly the south of Israel. Israel in turn began attacking Hamas targets in Gaza. Hundreds of thousands of people were now subsumed by panic. Israeli Children rushed into bomb shelters. Palestinian families were killed together as their houses were bombed. Israel jets and helicopters fired, Hamas rockets were lauched in hopes of killing Jews. Death and misery begat 2009.
I have written before on the I/P conflict. Once on the tripartite nature of the problems, the other on the intensity of anti-Semitism of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Palestinian franchise, Hamas. My thoughts on the I/P conflict have changed over the years. Originally I saw the simple, clear cut narrative of a great Israel Goliath versus a feeble Palestinian David. It was 'pleasing', it required little thought and less analysis. The hopes of Camp David and Oslo seemed at least to place it on a civil path, one where justice for the Palestinians might be found without dead bodies and mourning families.
Initially I saw the Al-Aqsa Intifada though the old lens. Sharon had started it, it was natural reactions to repression etc. Then Jenin or 'Jenin-grad' in Arafat's worlds, then the suicide bombing, every few days, 10 dead, 5 dead, 30 dead, then the aerial bombings, 100 dead, 120 dead. The hopes had gone, but so had the simplicity. So much of the pleasing dichotomy fell apart. The PLO, instead of making a success out of the little statelet, using the legitimacy of the small and peaceful, mired itself in corruption and cosying up to the Islamists. Hamas launched a war not against corrupt officials and the undeveloped economy, but the Jews, knowing full well they could not win, that their 'people' would suffer. The elites who so wretched the heart over the suffering of the Palestinian piled more and more on top. They seemed to be sacred of governing, of actually making a Palestinian state. Israel might trespass, might be brutal, but did that mean sending young men to kill innocents waiting for a Pizza or kids coming out of their seminary.
The more I learned, the more I realised that Hamas, the 'zeal' of the Palestinian resistance, cared less than anyone about their 'people'. The more I learn, the more I saw similarities betwixt them and other extremist groups, other gangs who claimed that they sought the best for their particular narod, volk or ummah and send them in their multitude to die.
So when I look at the photo above, my heart breaks, I cannot see where it ends, when these endless and infinite tragedies stop. Then through gritted teeth, I will say 'this is your work, Yassin, this is your doing, Haniyah, this is the sum of your thoughts and actions, your people killed, at your bequest, by the 'Jew''. They have created this situation, with their calls to kill and be killed, by twenty years of worshipping blood. Much as there is to be disgusted at by Israel's history, this is the work of Hamas.