Listen to this flummoxed National Pentagon Radio reporter try to make headsrtails of an anarchic non-hierarchical self-organizing consensus-based generative process. BUT WHO TELLS THEM WHAT TO DO? HOW DO THEY KNOW ABOUT THE COPY MACHINE POLICY? WHO SIGNS THEIR TIMESHEETS AND APPROVES THEIR VACATION REQUESTS? She is so frustrated. Who collects the dues? Who keeps the membership roles? Who administers the honor code? Who gives the entrance exam? It is literally incomprehensible to her that cooperative endeavor is possible in the absence of a command structure. Through a facade of gee-whiz, how-do-they-do-it, condescending sympathy, she is still searching for the secret masters, the core group directing the endeavor, the 5-year, board-approved strategic plan. I mean, you can see how such a person would find a vast and unbridgeable ideological chasm between the two American political parties; confronted with an actually different type of society, she gulps like a goldfish on the floor. It turns out that it is possible for ad hoc, loosely affiliated, impermanent groups of humans to, without direction or governance, collaborate on extremely complex and sophisticated tasks and achieve exceedingly specific ends. Leviathan is just another fucking fish, y'all. There are a zillion other schools in the ocean.
Friday, August 26, 2011
This is the best season in the garden. The thyme and sweet marjoram are overrunning their beds. The lavender is darker and more pungent. The sage is as big as a rhododendron; tomatoes and Italian eggplant (any fruiting plant, really) ripen better when the night air begins to bite a little--probably some ancestral genetic recollection that now is nearly the time to drop seed for next year. The beds where we grew peas and summer greens get cleared and turned to plant the fall chicories and the red winter kale. But it's the leafy, late-summer chicories that I like best, especially the strange, bitter, wild cultivars from the Mediterranean countryside: Selvatica da Campo. I've been growing the stuff for years and I never get tired of it. Earlier in the season, it can be cut back and used as a bitter component in a mesclun, but when it reaches full maturity in the later summer it really becomes something special. Unlike the dandelion greens with which it's often confused, its bitterness is tempered by a bright and juicy quality and even a hint of the peppery flavor of wild rocket. And by the way, one packet of seeds (click through the link) produces no less than 20 lbs of the stuff in a single quarter of a raised bed with good soil, so you know, you get your money's worth. Anyway, I end up preserving a lot of it in a biting, salty pesto that grinds together the raw chicory with garlic, roasted sunflower seeds, smoked salt, olive oil, and lime, but they cook down just as well--in the Italian style, you'd sauté them in oil and serve them with a purée of fava beans; I like to use them in a Sleek-like dish with grain, fennel, and lemon, per the following:
about 2 lbs. leafy chicory, rinsed well and roughly chopped
2 cups Bulgar wheat
1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
4-5 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1/2 cup fennel frond, chopped
fresh juice of three lemons
cream of tartar (optional)
extra virgin olive oil
Prepare the Bulgar wheat. Toast it very lightly in a dry sauté dish, pour into a deep ceramic bowl, and then cover with hot (but not boiling) water, ration not quite 2 parts water to 1 part wheat. Cover and let soak for 20 minutes.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rapid boil. Blanch the greens for 60 seconds, drain, and then shock in a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. If you wish to preserve their bright green color, dissolve a half teaspoon of cream of tartar in the blanching water before adding the greens.
Drain any excess liquid out of the Bulgar using a fine sieve. Toss it several times to get rid of residual dampness. In a deep, wide sauté pan (or do what I do and just use a wok), heat oil over high heat. Sauté the onion and garlic until the onion begins to brown around the edges. Add the greens in a few separate batches, salting lightly with each. Toss together for a minute or so. Add the grain. Toss together well. Add the lemon juice and fennel. Cook together for another minute or so. Pour off any leftover liquid. Serve warm or at room temperature, perhaps garnished with a little cracked pepper.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Conor Friedersdorf discovers Howard Dean, the Democratic Doctor Bartolow, praising The Obama for waging war more secretively than the Kennebunkport Kowboy who preceded him:
He's praising drone strikes and special ops because they're less likely to attract the scrutiny and criticism from American citizens. It's a position one doesn't expect a prominent Iraq war dissenter to take -- you'd think he of all people would understand that it's vital for the American public to scrutinize the foreign policy decisions of its leaders regardless of the political party in power.Other than the ritual genuflection in the direction of bogus concepts like "legitimacy" and "the rule of law," this is pretty solid for someone who writes for The Atlantic, but as usual it only flirts with the true truth before leaving the bar without getting a phone number. There are no partisan politicians. There are no parties. The Democratic Party no more housed an anti-war movement à propos Iraq than the Republican Party toward Libya. These little tactical passion plays of ostensibly partisan opposition are the holy fucking communion of the Undivided Church of the American Deathmachine; crunch crunch crunch go the congregants, but that shit is still just a cracker; the blood is cheap wine; YOUR GOD LAUGHS AT YOU HAHAHAHA! Crunch crunch crunch goes your god. Yummy Arabians.
Nor does one expect a man who says legitimacy comes from the rule of law, and that credibility comes from truth-telling, to advocate on behalf of a war waged in violation of the War Powers Act and the United States Constitution; one that featured a president insisting that, despite the bombing sorties and drone strikes, we weren't actually at war or even engaged in hostilities.
What happened to the importance of leveling with Americans?
And what became of the American anti-war movement? I'll tell you. It was housed in the Democratic Party, and then a Democrat got elected to the presidency. Obama violates core principles articulated by former anti-war voices, and he isn't just permitted to do so without resistance, he is actively praised for his savvy! Meanwhile, Obama is actively trying to strike a deal that keeps U.S. troops in Iraq beyond 2011, and no one seems to care about that reversal either.
What is it good for?
Partisan politicians, who exploit it regardless.
America has an institutional commitment to warmaking; the idea that some sort of fundamental value of our civilization is traduced each time an aspirin factory suffers our righteous fury is part of the same fallacy that keeps libertarian originalists up all night scrolling through the Constitution at the computer in the basement while the wife sleeps upstairs, unaware of the depredations conducted in the dim blue light below. War is the moral order of America; not the fucking New Deal; certainly not some bullshit constitution. It does not belong to one party or other; nor yet is it passed, like a relay baton or an underaged hooker, from party to party in turn; there are no parties; there is only the one party of death.
And interestingly it is often the crackpots who occupy the faux fringes of the phony party system-scam who come closer to recognizing this--you get a human paraquat like Oliver Willis, a reliable hack if ever there was one, waving his hands and screaming that no one is actually anti-war:
The only military action of the last 20 years I have seriously opposed was the invasion and occupation of Iraq, because it never made any sense.But the rest of the aerial bombardment, that's cool, man. Willis says Iraq was stupid and that's the real problem, stupidity. Killing is fine if accomplished cleverly. This circles back to the very Howard Deanism that got the whole thing started; war becomes morally dubious to these people only when it is insufficiently circumspect. That is like the most fundamental Democratic value, apparently; all is permissible if practiced politely.
Does the war in Afghanistan make more sense than the war in Kosovo than Operation Infinite Reach than Iraq than Libya than Yemen than whatever? Upon what grim calculus would such determination apply? Would you feed your child the better-labeled poison? I do not even admit to the occasional necessity of war, but even if I did, war would nevertheless and perhaps even more so always, always be wrong, always a failure, always a crime. If Hitler himself arises from the grave tomorrow and directs an immense army against all the other peoples of the world, we are nevertheless obliged not simply to lament the necessity of fighting him, but to atone for it. If necessity may sometimes suspend temporarily that which is actually right and just, it never abrogates it. And in any case, this is not the case. Hitler has not risen from his grave; our victims are no less human than we are; "those loyal to Qaddafi" are also people; it is not our place to determine that the average "Taliban fighter" deserves to die, less yet to go out and kill him. And for some fat, ignorant, lazy, volunteer PR rep to wipe the crumbs from his fingers and boldly parse out the "stupidity" of the "only military action of the last 20 years" that he has "seriously opposed" is wholly despicable. Whose titanic self-regard permits him to pronounce the exigent need for a bunch of people to die? What cankerous manatee occupies the piss-flooded moral trough wherein snuffing out life is just a minor accoutrement to the important business of eating the diarrhea of politicians who do not even know that you're alive? What man-shaped pustule arises from such coprophilic recumbency to offer disquisitions on the demerits of those people who speak even modestly in opposition to the machinery of death? Is there a lower order of creature on this once-lovely earth than that person who believes that qualified support of the insupportable is a righteous cause?
So the CIA and the NYPD teamed up to spy on New York muslims. I am sure this will generally and swiftly devolve into a spat about profiling; the superficial characteristic of a vast program of domestic surveillance, i.e. that it was in this case targeted at a particular "ethnic minority," whatever that is, will become the main subject while the real point of interest will recede into the fuzzy background, present, and yet, not. And the real point of interest is that this is plainly but one instance of a vast program of domestic surveillance. If one were, the gods forfend, inclined toward conspiratorial thinking, one might even conclude that all the dog-whistle elements of race and religion are part of an intentional design; they deliberately confuse the issue; they set folks to arguing about whether or not the government should be spying specifically on Muslims. Meanwhile, the government is spying on everyone. Racial profiling is a distraction for all you chuckleheads, libgirlz and conservamice alike; you all go bounding after it like kitty cats after a laser pointer; it's just a distraction; they're in yer litterbox!
(Title credit goes the top-secret correspondent who forward me this story.)
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
So according to Franky Fuckyomama, the forward march of time stopped when the Wall came down; somehow little East Germany piloted the Federation Starship Planet Earth (LOL-1701-Z) into a temporal feedback loom; I guess it lurched forward a bit when Yeltsin faced down those tanks, uh, maybe? Anyway, then Osama bin Laden blasted some reverse-polaron technoplasma into the forward driverside warp nacelle and spun us free on Nineleven; Fuckyomama recanted; history jumped forward like a gun-shy beagle; the fourth dimension woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across its head. But now, according to my generation's own Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Bagel, it's stopped again, because Libya. Jeezus, history's gonna need some transmission work with all this rapid gearshifting. And by the way, what about Libya? Here is what Dr. Leo Strauss has to say:
How risible to see “the World’s Most Powerful Military Alliance” [sic] trumpet the accidental routing of a fourth rate tribal regime after months of literally pounding sand. Libya exposed NATO for what it is: a fig leaf on American Chinese-injected military steroids. Opening American bombardment aside, American logistics and C4ISR knitted together NATO’s random bombing of various tents, hovels and the odd tank or two while the Roadrunner Khaddaffi scampered away to release more Sheen-esque videos.Keep those boots in mind. So Yglesias sez history is done, curtains I tell ya, because whether you look at Libya, Iran, or Egypt, the main actors are all acting either through or toward the mechanisms of electoral democracy. No alternatives exist! Even Hamas claims legitimacy through victory in elections. Okay, then he says:
As we predicted, it took boots on the ground to change things. SAS from the UK et les autres rescued the disintegrating Western uprising, beginning with Misrata. Make no mistake. “NATO” airpower eventually proved capable (having exhausted its target set). But this overlong campaign is in Tripoli because of [unacknowledged] boots on the ground. Moreover, this direct insertion of troops to effect ‘regime change’ was and remains contrary to the humanitarian authorizing resolution. So today’s “triumph” is premised on a fiction.
The fact that China is a very large and important country still obscures the extent of the triumph to a degree, but it’s clear enough that there is no “Chinese model” to export, no Dengist movement in Libya or anywhere else proposing an alternative vision to liberalism.That's an interesting way to phrase it. It would be more accurate to say: the Chinese are not exporting their model. A distinction with a difference. Recall those unacknowledged boots on the ground. When you read that China is not "in Libya or anywhere else proposing an alternative vision to liberalism," what you should hear is that unlike Western liberalism China is not an aggressively expansionary military power. In other words, the "triumph" consists principally of a willingness to SUBVERT, INVADE, AND DEPOSE, to draw within the sphere of "democratic" influence all the forcibly-fledgling republics of the world, not at all unlike the other creaky old hegemon whose rattling demise supposedly brought history to end in that ancient era of 1989.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Charles Davis (here's some more traffic, buddy) notes that Radley Balko, who, I agree, is a highly commendable and admirable writer on civil liberties, is also basically nuts when it comes to understanding how taxes work, who pays them, and what they pay for. But this is only symptomatic of the bigger problem with libertarianism, which ever seeks to return to the foundational principles that led inexorably to the militarized system of state capital in which we now find ourselves. Libertarianism looks at the mess we're in and says we need to seek its better beginnings in a constitutionally limited government and constrained social compact and so on, which is sort of like hopping in the time machine in order to relight the fuse on the stick of dynamite that keeps blowing you up. The problem with the American experiment, as we self-flatteringly call it, is not that it failed to fulfill its promise but rather that it promised us this gaudy empire all along. The founders, not for nothing, had their eyes on Rome.
Why aren't you guys happier about the Libyan rebels? Cruise missile liberaldom wants to know how we can prattle on in support of the UK riots while sniffing down our noses at the authentic flowering of whatever in the Maghreb. Well, frankly, I am all for the Libyans having a revolution . . . and the Syrians . . . and the Iranians . . . and whoever else wants to have a revolution. I just don't want NATO bombing Tripoli . . . anymore than I want to see the US bombing Whitehall in support of Tottenham or the RAF bombing Capitol Hill in support of Anacostia. Actually, nevermind. I would love to see the US bombing Whitehall and the RAF bombing the national mall. Where's NATO when you need 'em?
Monday, August 22, 2011
Somehow I am always confusing Slavoj Žižek with Andrei Codrescu, but at least the latter is more or less confined to the bergerie of public radio, from which he can opine like some kind of eurotrash-cottonseed Garisson Keillor on the poetical necessity of his dogs eating squirrel turds, or whatever. Žižek, on the other hand, well shit, as Mister Smiff put it: "There's no getting away from the guy." Regular as a prune maker's bowel movements, he . . . appears . . . to crystallize in a nutshell the zeitgeist of the moment's worldview. He is like the party guest who scooped up more than his fair share of the coke and did a little scoot-to-toot off to the bathroom. He returns, eyes glassy, jaws twitching, ever-eager to involve you in a conversation that you neither want to have nor are able to escape. Each thunderous banality is announced with a flash of genealogical lightning. It's all, as Einstein said, relative. No really:
We are talking about the UK riots. Žižek displays that the main consolation of education is that it permits disapproval in the guise of didacticism; he, after all, hasn't got any skin in the game, or shop in the riots so to speak. Mister Smith says, "I've always felt -- ever since the Watts riots of the early 60s -- that the response to such events is a pons asinorum, an infallible indicator of one's fundamental outlook," and while that is finely turned, I think it overcredits our bourgeois interlocutors with having an outlook. Slavoj calls the rioters "worldless"--actually, he paraphrases his compeer Alain Badiou calling our "social space" "worldless"--these people slap neologisms like heavy smokers with a nic patch--and implies that the absence of a published agenda makes the rioters avatars of a "meaningless violence," but you can be fairly certain that even if the boys of Tottenham had airdropped a million copies of a bullet-pointed manifesto on the streets of London, Žižek would be in the pages of the LRB lamenting their dialectical inadequacies. I am sure that Slavoj believes himself to be very ideologically well endowed, but he is in fact exactly what he accuses the rioters of being: a mere aggregation of attitudes; he believes himself to be conducting an autopsy, but he is really just stealing watches.
"We live in cynical times," writes our philosopher--be grateful he doesn't offer a citation here as well. But is there anything more cynical than the insistence that outrage be tempered by pedantry? The world of capitalism which Žižek and Badiou and the rest of the frauds purport to oppose out of some abiding rump marxism has swallowed and digested them; read, in their tut-tutting, the regret, the jealousy of a failed novelist picking up a twenty-something's prizewinner. The universities and literary presses did not lead the proles into the street, ergo the proles had no purpose. He writes like a child who didn't get invited to the birthday party.
As a liberal supporter of invading Iraq who apparently believed the Bush administration's rhetoric about freedom and democracy, and felt that bombs and military occupations would be the best means of promoting it, Juan Cole sure has a lot of nerve attacking anarchism as philosophy that depends "on a naive reading of social interest." And while I have my own criticisms of right-wing libertarianism, I can't help but note the incongruity of attacking folks like Ron Paul on the basis that their beliefs will lead to privatized, corporate warfare when the wars Cole has supported and continues to support depend on legions of private guns-for-hire and defense contractors like Halliburton and KBR.Charles knows and agrees with what I am going to say, so please don't take it as a critique of his choice of idiom: it is not the presence, but the absence of nerve that causes our soggy herrenperfesser to mount his rocking horse and tilt at anarchism. He could just as easily be attacking Michele Bachman's great googly-moogly eyes. DO YOU WANT THESE EYEZ TO RULE AMERICA???@@!eleventy!!/?! Nothing is more at odds with the mainstream of American political culture, more distant from the general pledgedrive audience tuned into the Juan Cole wavelength, than anarchism; as Mike Flugennock puts it in the comments, "Sounds like he's developed his idea of what anarchism is from media images of Seattle and old Sex Pistols records." Although, admittedly, I have a little trouble imagining Juan Cole relaxing to Never Mind the Bollocks. The libertarianarchism of Cole's nightmare Marvel 2099 universe is supposed to frighten the generally timorous and superficially antiwar left away from any potentially dangerous flirtation with Ron Paul, who, I mean, let's face it, ain't exactly Voltairine de Cleyre--for one thing, she was better looking.
-Charles Davis, False Dichotomy
Charles deals with the particulars, including Cole's amazing pronouncement that the British and Dutch East India companies (founded under those notoriously lackadaisical governments, Her Majesty Elizabeth I and the States-General of the Dutch Republic) represent some kind of crackpot Hegelian corporatized anarchy that, I don't know, the $trillion$$$$$ Pentagon somehow mitigates against. I will deal in the generals. Cole is a fine example of a liberal, and when I say a liberal, I mean a conservative. Insofar as there is a liberalism in America today, it represents conservatism far more than the brunch-buffet nativism of the ostensible right in this country. It is fidelity to the fixed institutions and authority of the past; its philosophy of progress is a strict diet of revanchism; its lodestar is traditional authority. That Ron Paul serves as a minor vanguard of popular discontent with that authority is what makes him a threat; his actual thoughts and words and actions are immaterial; he is not responsible; he represents some awfully uncomplex lumpenhumanity who threaten the four pillars of our entire civilization, which are, in ascending order of importance, a centralized militarized bureaucracy, an inadequate system for the provision of post-retirement income, a couple of centuries of increasingly absurd constitutional jurisprudence, and the tenure system at state universities. Though I am not by nature susceptible to a great deal of faith in humanity, it occurs to me that the mere fact of so many people actively reviling our current rulers and our current president especially is nothing if not a good sign. Conservatives like Cole recognize the hatred and say, yeah, well, but, uh, would you rather live like savages. Fuck, man, I don't know. Where does that "rather" part come in?
A liberalish acquaintance took immediately to the Facespace to denounce the sentencing of a pair of Americans apprehended on the Iranian border and accused, along with one lady friend who was later released, of spying. If we were gonna spy on Iran, she wanted to know, why would we send a buncha knuckleheads like these? I don't know, man; sending a trio of ersatz peacenik daytrippers sounds like exactly the sort of plan our agency men under the tutelage of The Neon Pancetta would've come up with. They'd never suspect, etc. etc. etc. One notes that for the deplorable lawless barbarism of the Persians, these yutes have been afforded attorneys and appeals and such, which is more than you can say for this taxicab convention:
Well, Hillary Clinton is disappointed, proving once more that while the poor Persians must make do with the Ghazal, our greatest, infinitely variable native poetic form is sanctimony. It is most likely that these poor nincompoops are exactly the Lonely Planet backpacker assjockeys that they claim to be, and yet for a country that runs several very public infinite interment camps, a country in possession of some of the world's more insane border controls, a country in which a number of internal states have passed hysterical papieren-bitte laws to counter the grave threat of Mexican hedge trimming to go deploring other nations for arresting illegal border-crossers is a bit rich.