Ahahaha. Pretty please!
This story makes my weekend. A Pentagon flak impotently asserting that a stateless organization ideologically and morally opposed to American foreign policy has an affirmative moral and ethical duty to support and obey the American military is exactly the sort of thing that gives me hope for a better world.
Friday, August 06, 2010
Ahahaha. Pretty please!
The downfall of Bill Clegg’s Portrait of An Addict As a Young Man is contained in the following sentence from the book: “There is only $9,000 and change in my back account, and the end is in sight.” Only nine grand? We should all have such a commanding height from which to survey our own approaching doom.
Clegg’s memoir—it is resolutely a memoir; it eschews reportage, forgets dates, and deliberately suffuses everything with a haze of uncertainty—is by no means the worst thing ever written about addiction. Simply by grace of its modest ambitions and abject tone it towers, morally and artistically, above the macho posturing of James Frey or the overwrought quirk-porn of Augusten Burroughs. It portrays a sordid episode without prurience, although it is sometimes discreet to a fault, and its occasional shyness about the author’s sexual debauches feels calculated and off-putting. Its prose is sharp and well-handled, if fairly quotidian, and the present-tense narration, which bothered me at first, works, establishing an intimacy and immediacy to events that occurred nearly a decade ago.
And yet as a “Portrait of an Addict” it is a failure, and it should probably have been titled Portrait of a Rich Dude on a Bender. The author begins with $70,000 in his checking account. Seventy thousand bucks! He ends with about a tenth of that, which is still more than most of us can claim. The timeframe is deliberately obscure, but seems to take place over just a few months, with several forays back to an appropriately traumatic childhood and to some undergraduate party days. During his swift decline-and-fall, Clegg does spend a brief moment in a crack-house with a woman whose possibly Caribbean accent he never manages to place, but otherwise his tale of depredation and woe seems to take place principally at chi-chi downtown hotels and airport Marriotts.
If it were a celebrity biography or a gossip-rag bit on Lindsay Lohan, we would feel less pity than gleeful contempt. How bad can you have it when your come-to-Jesus moment involves getting kicked out of the Soho Grand? Clegg is a sufficiently skillful author to make himself into a more sympathetic main character, but his story still never transcends its own most basic premise: a rich, privileged guy on a path of self-destruction.
Of course, addiction is an affliction without regard for race or class or sex. If we were better people, we would feel pity rather than contempt for poor Miss Lohan, and we should feel it likewise for Bill Clegg. Still, though he admirably captures the dullness and monotony of an addict’s substance-seeking, how many times can you hear about the problem posed by $200 ATM withdrawal limits in the course of trying to get a thousand bucks in cash before you throw the book across the room. Oh, boo-hoo! How seriously can you take a crackhead who, when he exhausts the holes on his belt, thinks only that he will have to find a leatherworker when he gets to Rome to punch new ones. A leatherworker in Rome? I suppose it beats shoplifting a grommet-punch from the Home Depot.
Clegg keeps his book self-focused, which is true to the fact and spirit of addiction, and most of the other characters are peripheral, including his own dying mother. Only one emerges in his own right: the boyfriend, Noah, who is invariably described in reviews of the book as “long-suffering.” That is one way to describe him. A more accurate would be to call him a terrible enabler. Whether or not Clegg intended it as such, his depiction of Noah is a teary-eyed dope whose infinite forgiveness only fuels the author’s decline. There is a particularly awful scene where Noah literally lays on a hotel bed holding Clegg’s hand while a cracked-out Clegg gets screwed by a male prostitute. He tells Clegg that it’s okay. He loves him. That’s a lot of things, but it isn’t exactly love.
Eventually Clegg gets shipped out West, gets into rehab, and seems to find sobriety. It occupies only a few pages, and is very oblique. There is an obscure suggestion that he is in a twelve-step program (“days are just days”), but it is tossed off. He reconciles with his father. He moves back to New York, where he immediately moves into a light-filled terrace apartment with views of the Empire State building. He does not work for a year. This is more or less the end of the book, and once again its crippling flaw. The bottom of Clegg’s barrel looks an awful lot like a kind of success. He may have fallen from his social class, but there is always someone with a wallet to make certain he doesn’t have to live like it.
Thursday, August 05, 2010
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
From the first days after the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003, America and Iraq seemed divided by more than language; they never shared the same vocabulary. Perhaps they never could, defined as occupier and occupied, where promises of aid and assistance often had the inflection of condescension. These days, though, they do not even seem to try to listen to each other — too tired to hear the other, too chastised by experience to offer the benefit of doubt.[INT. Corner Office.
-Anthony Shadid, New York Times
Bill Keller, executive editor, sits behind a large desk stacked neatly with papers and magazines. Perhaps there is a closed laptop. He is in shirtsleeves, perhaps rolled to the elbows, but his tie is properly cinched to the collar. Sitting across from him in a pencil skirt and short, conservative heels is foreign editor Susan Chira. Enter reporter, Anthony Shadid.]
SHADID: You wanted to see me?
KELLER: Yes, Tony, come on in. Sit down, sit down. [Shahid takes a seat.] Tony, first of all, nothing to be nervous about.
SHADID: I'm not nervous.
KELLER: Exactly. Now Susan and I were just talking, weren't we, Susan?
CHIRA: We were, Bill.
KELLER: We were, well, I don't want to be too delicate about it. We were talking about your piece, Tony.
KELLER: Nothing bad, mind you. Nothing negative.
CHIRA: Not at all. We love the piece.
KELLER: Yes. We love it. Wouldn't change a thing. Can I get you some coffee, water?
SHADID: I'm fine.
KELLER: Of course you are. So, Susan, why don't you tell Tony what we were talking about.
CHIRA: Well, we'd just like to see a few changes.
SHADID: You said you didn't want to change anything.
KELLER: And we don't!
CHIRA: Absolutely not. Nothing substantive. Just stylistically.
KELLER: Exactly. Susan, you have such a way with words. Stylistic changes. We want the substance to remain the same.
SHADID: How do you mean, stylistic?
KELLER: Susan, can you explain what we mean?
CHIRA: Well, perhaps not stylistic. More tonal.
KELLER: Yes. Tonal. A change in tone.
KELLER: Yes. For instance, the part where you say, "From the first days after the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003, America and Iraq were divided by more than language," well, it strikes us as a little . . . strident.
CHIRA: I think what bill means to say is a little demonstrative.
KELLER: Exactly. Demonstrative. What we are looking for is a little more nuance. A little more suggestion that there are shades of gray.
CHIRA: What would you think about seemed in place of were?
SHADID: I'd think that it made a statement of fact sound like a matter of perception and perspective.
KELLER: That's exactly what we thought! Good, so we're in agreement.
SHADID: I'm not sure that I--
KELLER: And then, what we'd like to suggest . . . Suan, can you explain what we'd like to suggest.
CHIRA: Instead of ending the sentence at language, we'd like to add a semicolon and then, "they never shared the same vocabulary."
KELLER: Right. They never shared the same vocabulary. What do you think, Tony?
SHADID: I think it's stylisticly odd and definitely redundant.
CHIRA: What Anthony is saying, Bill, is that it adds emphasis.
SHADID: No, that's not--
KELLER: Great! We're in agreement. And then the rest of it. Well, look. Tony, let me ask you, have you ever had a girlfriend?
SHADID: I'm married.
KELLER: I'll take that as a yes. And can you remember that moment when you were still in love, but at the same time, you could see the relationship coming to an end.
SHADID: We're happily married.
KELLER: Exactly. So what I am saying is, America and Iraq. Why not a bit of wistfulness. You know, a sense of loss mingled with regret.
SHADID: That seems grossly inappropriate, don't you think? The US is still an occupying power. This was supposed to be a quick story on Iraqi reaction to the latest announcements of withdrawal.
KELLER: Exactly! We fought, we got together, we broke up, we got back together, we had good times, bad times, we broke up again, we reconciled, but now, at long last, it's really coming to an end.
CHIRA: We just want to soften the edges a little.
KELLER: A little softer focus.
CHIRA: Sort of a Lost-in-Translation vibe, I think, is what we're going for.
KELLER: Right, right! Exactly. America is sort of like Bill Murray, and Iraq is sort of like Scarlet Johannson. And the war is sort of like Japan.
SHADID: I'm not comfortable . . . look, even in pro-war circles, there is general agreement that we've failed to achieve--
CHIRA: Right, yes.
KELLER: Exactly. And that's what I mean about tone. Enough with the finger pointing. It wasn't anyone's fault. These things just happen. People drift apart. Expectations are different. You grow and change. No hard feelings, right?
CHIRA: Tony, why don't you just leave this with us.
KELLER: Great work, Tony, by the way, and my regards to the wife.
Tuesday, August 03, 2010
If you, like me, were completely dumbfounded by the way Democrats jumped on board the Iraq War train prior to the invasion, seeming to have lost their minds in their blind acceptance of the blatantly fabricated evidence and deeply unconvincing threats that were being put out by the administration, this little snippet might be interesting.You and I are nothing alike, Jacob, nothing! [Throws china. Slams door.]
-Jacob Davies @ Obsidian Wings
Do these people get some sort of masochistic thrill from wallowing in their own scandalous foolishness, their childish cliquishness? Am I just missing the fetishistic appeal? A Democratic administration had just spent eight full years ceaselessly bombing and starving Iraq, and you were "completely dumbfounded" to find that Democrats "jumped on board the Iraq War." War with Iraq was the policy of the Democratic party. "Regime change" was a Democratic euphemism.
Beyond getting people killed, WikiLeaks' actions make it less likely that Afghans and foreign intelligence services (whose reports WikiLeaks also exposed) will cooperate with the United States in the future. And, as former CIA director Mike Hayden has pointed out, the disclosures are a gift to adversary intelligence services, and they will place a chill on intelligence sharing within the United States government. The harm to our national security is immeasurable and irreparable.Aftergood, who is affiliated with the Federation of Americna Scientists, is basically a liberal good-government type, a technocratic apologist who believes that civic officers and public servants with generally good intentions sometimes go astray; that secrecy is a sort of pathogen attacking the body politic; that "sunlight is the best medicine." Were the principle focus of his work the operations of the local school board or county council, it would be less laughable, certainly less naive.
-Odious little Troll, Marc Thiessen
I think a lot of their talk about fighting injustice is pretty woolly and a little hard to take seriously. Whether the good outweighs the bad, there are lots of potential consequences of just this latest release that may turn out to be really positive and constructive, including a change of course in the war, perhaps, and there are potential consequences that are disastrous, including the potential loss of life and future difficulties in assembling new intelligence networks, because sources will lack confidence that the U.S. can keep the secrets it commits to keeping.
-"Open government" advocate, Steven Aftergood
Marc Thiessen is a 500-lb. child-raping, blood-addicted reptilian shapeshifter come to this earth to sup upon the tender marrow of little girls.
Interestingly, what they share is the very strange presumption that a stateless association with no national loyalties or affiliations has some affirmative duty to consider "future difficulties in assembling new intelligence networks" prior to publishing formerly secret information. Arthur Silber's archives abound with proof that there is no such thing as "intelligence" in this sense (here is one good example from a few years back), and there's no sense in my retreading that territory. Let's assume instead, solely for the sake of argument, that the United States does have intelligence networks and that these networks do provide information, secret information, necessary for the opperation of the American "security" apparati. All right. What would that mean? It would mean that they exist in order to further the ability of the United States to invade, conquer, and occupy foreign countries. We already know that that serial murderer and major swine flu vector Marc Thiessen believes this to be an essential and praiseworthy purpose, but you, Steven Aftergood, what do you think?
Aftergood actually tells us what he thinks. He slips in a grudging line about the "good" that might come from the leaked docoments.
[T]here are lots of potential consequences of just this latest release that may turn out to be really positive and constructive, including a change of course in the war, perhaps[.]This is strikingly similar to Katie Hossenfeffer's view that if only Obama knew what was going on in Afghanistan, he'd put a stop to it right quick now. And yet it presumes even more, because it supposes that if only good people, nice people, competent, technocratic, meritocratic, well-educated, liberal-minded, neutrally-positioned, rational, reality-based people (people, perhaps, much like Steven Aftergood) were in a position to "produce" intelligence and to develop those networks, then we would embark upon a less disastrous course; we'd have a kinder, gentler operation; we'd catch that bad ol' bin Laden. Etc.
But obviously, obviously, intelligence is in the service of policy and not the other way around. Information does not precede invasion. When Steven Aftergood talks about "reform," he is ultimately taking a position in favor of the smoother operations of empire. I'd bet the week's pay that he voted for Obama. Change! When Assange calls his organization activist, he means actively working in opposition to the American empire. Aftergood actually understands this, and tskingly disapproves:
So I look with a little bit of concern at the broadsides that WikiLeaks is launching at the classification system. They seem oriented not towards fixing it but towards defeating it.The meanies! They just want to tear things down. They don't want to build. They don't want to fix. What we need is an effective and efficient classification system! How else will we achieve our goals and benchmarks? How, I ask ya? How?!
As for boy-butt defiling grandmother cannibal Marc Thiessen's take on Wikileaks, all I know is that when the Washington Post editorial page starts calling you a terrorists, you can be sure you're onto something.
Stanley Fish, a professor, has discovered that middlebrow popular entertainments flatter the demographic core of their middlebrow audience by presenting the fictional counterparts of that core audience as the moral center of the community. Like the Europeans of the age of exploration, he has landed upon a well-peopled continent, and like them, he does not care.
Monday, August 02, 2010
Hey, speaking of the Norse Dynamite Commission, wasn't it hilarious how they gave that bowling trophy to Barry O.?
What lies down this path? Here’s what I consider all too likely: Two years from now unemployment will still be extremely high, quite possibly higher than it is now. But instead of taking responsibility for fixing the situation, politicians and Fed officials alike will declare that high unemployment is structural, beyond their control. And as I said, over time these excuses may turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the long-term unemployed lose their skills and their connections with the work force, and become unemployable.I am a little embarrassed to admit it, but I don't entirely despise Nobel Paul. Having spent the better part of the roaring nineties pimping Clintonian neoliberal vassal economics before being "radicalized"--oh, ha!--by the depredations of Bush le jeune, I think he genuinely cares about working Joes and Janes, albeit in a rather abstracted way, since one doubts he actually knows many of them. He seems genuinely troubled by the prospect of a nation in which a full quarter of the adult population are consigned to living on suffrance and charity or else to eeking a more violent but less hungry existence in prison.
But even so, his radicalism is rooted like a sidewalk weed, that is to say: shallowly. Even as he laments the Lethean passage of the great liberal-capitalist social compact, in which you can feel palpably that he wants to believe, he can't quite release his tenacious hold on the managerial vocabulary of a late-20th-century technocrat, thus the incessant talk of "skills." Friends--those of you currently engaged in regular wage-peonage, anyway--I axe you: what new skills have you acquired over the last few years on the job? Oh, I suppose the control units for the HVAC system have been updated, but their operations are fundamentally the same as they've been for fifteen years. Screws still tighten clockwise. Plaster is still cleaned from interior brick with a diluted wash of muriatic acid. Macros on Excel 2010 are hardly different from macros on Excel 2.0.
"Skills" applied to workers, whatever color the collar, are a gatekeeping scam, a device of the technocratic, managerial elite to maintain their workforce in a state of utter dependence, to tether workers to the will of the bosses just as surely as non-portable health insurance and the expiration of unemployment benefits. They are part of a strategy whereby employers can anytime deprive workers of their jobs, but workers can never bargain with their own labor. Quit your job, take six months off, and try to find another. Just try. "Well, your resmume is very good, but there does appear to be a substantial period of unaccounted-for unemployment here. We're just a little concerned that your skill sets may not be fully current with what we're looking for . . ." The idea of rapidly sunsetting skills, of a worker's obsolescence in the face of six months or a year or two of less-than-fulltime employment, is a fraud. It has nothing to do with ability and everything to do with compliance.
Sunday, August 01, 2010
Well, although I still find his views on most subjects abhorrent, I am obliged to admit that Matt Y. displays shocking good sportsmanship by linking this little weblurgh today.
What was it that Diderot said? That Abe Foxman should be strangled with the guts of Bill Donohue? I think that was it. Mister Smiff wised me to this odious little Nyawk Tiymz numbah, wherein Dishonest Abe rises like a rainbow trout to a bead-headed nymph, jaws agape, having heard the word that some Musselmans--egad!--are gonna build a mosque, a mosque I tell ya, within a secant-tangent's range of Ground Zero. In a "wrenching" decision--wrenching, one imagines, like passing a huge turd; I bet they felt great after it plopped--the ADL issued its bull: thou shalt not! True, they admit, it's irrational, but people are entitled to their emotions, Hashemdamnit, like Mel Gibson at a traffic stop.
By the way, can we stop calling it Ground Zero? It sounds like some kind of fad-diet coffee drink. Can't you just see some Cheshire-grinning thyroidal female celebrity hawking it on the daytime teevee? I have a Ground Zero for breakfast, a Ground Zero for lunch, and then a sensible dinner!
Alors. The moral odiousness of the anti-Islam crowd is only compounded by the insipid symbolism of the site. No one liked the World Trade Center towers until they got knocked down, and their proposed replacement, the Freedom Tower, which sounds like it was intended as a parody, is going to look like a cross between a knitting needle and a home enema kit, if it ever gets built, which seems to me to be doubtful. I can't frankly understand why anyone would want to pray in that neighborhood, but if they do, let 'em. Why does the ADL even care? Where's its skin in this game? You almost expect Foxman to start showing up at random coop board meetings, shouting down little old ladies. "Six million Jews!" "But . . . but what does that have to do with changing our policy on subletting units?" "Dachau! Bergen-Belsen! The St. Louis!" "Do you even live in this building, sir?"
The Pirkei Avot is a favorite Mishnaic text, a sort of Poor Richard's for the Chosen Peeps, and there is an admonition, often-repeated in the Shabbat liturgy: You are not obligated to complete the work; neither are you permitted to desist from it. It is meant as a moral admonition in this pre-Messianic age. Knowing not that you may achieve justice, seek after it nonetheless, and all that. Foxman, like all literalists, loses the message in the words. He appears to take it as a command to obsessive-compulsion. Whereof one cannot speak, say nothing? Bah. Wasn't Wittgenstein a Nazi or something? Whereof one has lips, keep 'em flappin.
To this day, my grandfather insists on eating every bit of food on his plate, no matter how terrible it may be, no matter how full he already is, "because there are children starving in China," and while I doubt any practical effect, as a minor matter of personal morality, I've always found it admirable, this rather frail old man tucking into the last two bites of chicken, though his stomach protests, because it is a sin for those blessed with plenty to waste it in a world where some have so much less. Anyway, here is a photograph from the New York Times of the Australian government destroying perfectly good shoes because they are "counterfeit".
If ever there were a demonstration of the inhuman fraud perpetrated by the defenders of so-called intellectual property, this is it. And while I do not harbor any illusion that the world's poor can be dressed entirely in fake Vuitton, the fact that truckloads of perfectly good shoes would be destroyed--destroyed!--because they violate some absurd copyright should sicken any decent human being. If ever there were an image defining a decadent, wasteful society on a self-imposed slide toward an orgy of gratuitous doom, this is it.