Robespierre’s speech on Terror
Later, we’ll discuss the Obama administration in its infancy.
Each move, a further lurch — no not so much to the right, as towards a sort of New Incoherency.
Consider: Afghanistan and TARP.
…he smiles, because you are guilty…..
We’ll also discuss Obama as place holder for the dull wet dreams of liberals.
But for now, I direct your attention to this site which will appall and shock.
Unattainable objectives, increased danger….again
[a topic first covered by this space here]
According to this NY Times article, which exhibits that subtle combination of ‘here are the facts’ reporting with unquestioned (and unquestionable, in polite society) assertions so typical of contemporary media, Hamas has “sworn to the destruction of Israel.”
Well that being the case, surely we can all agree with Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni who told her “Fox News Sunday” hosts that Israel’s aggression is necessary “…to change the realities on the ground, and to give peace and quiet to the citizens in southern Israel.”
Case closed. Let the bombs fall! And since they’re being dropped by the world’s ‘most humane military’ it’s a sure bet that all casualties are ‘bad guys’. Except for those which aren’t. Those deaths make our heavily armed humanitarians and their enablers in Washington and other capitals weep for what the monsters made us do.
But is Hamas what it’s made out to be?
Here’s Lenin’s Tomb on the “Myth of Hamas Rejectionism” –
Israel’s opponents are always rejectionist, refusing to acknowledge the Jewish state’s repeated olive branches and fanatically insisting on a maximalist programme. Thus, the late Yasser Arafat could never be Israel’s much sought after ‘partner in peace’. This image was never accurate. The PLO spent the 1990s engaged in a drastic reduction of its aims and aspirations, eventually coming close to negotiating a two-state settlement at Taba, before Ehud Barak called off the discussions. Former Clinton aide Robert Malley pointed out that far from Arafat rejecting a ‘generous offer’ from Israel (as has been alleged), “it could be said that Israel rejected the unprecedented two-state solution put to them by the Palestinians, including the following provisions: a state of Israel incorporating some land captured in 1967 and including a very large majority of its settlers; the largest Jewish Jerusalem in the city’s history [and] security guaranteed by a US-led international presence”.
Still, the myths persisted throughout the assaults on Jenin and Rafah, throughout the bulldozings and massacres, until Arafat died under seige. Mahmoud Abbas is so craven that it is difficult to depict him as a sinister rejectionist. Instead, Sharon insisted that Abbas use the scant resources of the Palestinian Authority to pursue a war against Hamas, even as the settlement building continued and the wall was erected, with Palestinian farmland being destroyed and the economy crushed. This was itself one of the causes of the surge in support for Hamas which, contrary to prevalent misconceptions, was far more pragmatic in its ability to work with other forces, such as the PFLP (despite the latter’s occasional sectarianism).
Grim. But at least we can look forward to President Obama changing US-Palestinian relations and putting the brakes on Israeli violence.
Oh wait, cancel that:
…David Axelrod, appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation, did reaffirm Obama’s commitment to the “special relationship between the United States and Israel” in a way that suggested general sympathy for the Jewish state’s actions.
Speaking a day after Israeli airstrikes, targeting and destroying Hamas facilities in Gaza, killed more than 275, Axelrod said the president-elect, from on-the-ground experience, understood the urge for retaliatory action.
Last July, Obama visited Sderot, a southern Israel town on the border of the Gaza Strip that has taken the brunt of Hamas attacks, Axelrod reminded host Chip Reid. “He said then that when bombs are raining down on your citizens, there is an urge to respond and act to try to put an end to that. That’s what he said then. I think that’s what he believes.”
Oh liberals, is there no humanitarian murder you won’t eagerly condone?
Klaatu Barada Fail-O
Not being a masochist I had no intention of seeing “The Day the Earth Stood Still” remake until it hit the torrents or the DVD bargain bin.
But a group of friends insisted I go. They even offered to pay. I couldn’t say no (though I did end up paying…bastards).
Going in, I expected to be dismayed by the new movie’s thematic drift from the original. So I was surprised to find I disliked it for a totally unexpected reason.
The aliens are dull, unimaginative douchebags. I’m not talking about the SFX, which is fine. I mean that the aliens are very poor problem solvers.
After a lot of hemming and hawing and looking deeply into Jen Connelly’s impressively green eyes, Klaatu reveals his purpose: there aren’t many habitable planets in the galaxy. They’re a precious resource. We’re wrecking this one with our uncontrolled atmospheric carbon experiment.
To preserve the Earth’s biosphere, we must die.
At first, that grim-liciousness plays right into our current mood, which I call eco-moralizing (self flagellation, as opposed to a positive program of de-carbonization). But if you’re alert, you blink a few times and then notice a narrative problem: Klaatu’s civilization commands god-like nanotech. They can remake worlds. In fact, they’re planning to use this terraforming skill on Earth to get rid of us in an epic sweep of grey, nanobot dust.
Since they can change planet surfaces, atmospheres, and pretty much everything else about a world what the hell prevents them from turning, say, Mars into a chillier version of Ohio? Or scrubbing our atmosphere clean of excessive C02e and saying, ‘go thou, and sin no more‘?
And then there’s the question of how these aliens got to their current state. Surely they didn’t climb down from the luminescent Zoopflarp trees of their home world and immediately get to work building interstellar craft. They must have passed through their own Chrysler Sebring and Britney Spears period before ascending to a state of sublime knowledge.
Who are these assholes to interrupt our development? Do they tour the galaxy like super powered child services agents, looking for bad parents?
Pretty much the whole film zips by and the only person to sort of raise these questions is John Cleese during his four or five line walk-on.
Oh, and here’s another view, from Gawker’s Alex Carnevele.
In Which, At Long Last, I Ride With Mephistopheles and Faust To The East
This is the story of the jpeg found below which shows a silent film playing on my PSP. It’s also a petite tale of our age of terror and wonder.
Why was a silent film playing on my PSP? Read on.
Years ago — never mind how many — I sat in my apartment drinking Merlot while lounging like Louis XVI.
Of course, I was trying to forget a woman. She had dirty blond hair, amazing legs and the curiously arousing habit of biting my neck in public. She practiced her neck biting fetish on me for a while and then decided to move to Utah, taking all the gifts Aphrodite gave her to that snowy outpost.
“Will you come with me?”
“To Utah, silly!”
Alas, the answer was no.
If only she’d planned to move somewhere distracting like Reykjavik, Iceland, we’d probably have 8 kids by now and be celebrating the fifth anniversary of our hot mess divorce by listening to Bjork.
Back to the apartment, and the Merlot…
On the television, a documentary was playing featuring the narration talents of Old Blighty actor Kenneth Branagh. The doc was about the history of Universum Film AG, or UFA, the national film company of Germany from 1917 to the Gotterdamerung year of 1945 (Did I tell you the story of my Grandfather? He served in a segregated tank battalion and rained fire on Nazis. “Grandpop, is it wrong to kill?” “Yes. Unless it’s Nazis in which case squeeze the trigger and reload as needed.”)
At one point, the work of noted director/screenwriter F.W. Murnau (the man who gave the world “Nosferatu”) was discussed. An extended scene from Murnau’s 1926 film, “Faust” moved on my tv screen. Mephistopheles and Faust are riding on a cloud to the east as the world rolls beneath them.
It was a remarkable sequence filmed in a beautiful, silvery black and white. I longed to see the rest of this movie.
Years passed, wars were fought, beloved dogs died, loves’ labors were lost. I always remembered “Faust” and the scene which flowed like cinematic butter.
But would I ever see it?
The answer is yes, because it’s now in the public domain and available from Archive.org.
I downloaded it, merged in a subtitle file and converted the media type to a PSP compatible form of mpeg.
All of which gave me a chance to watch this remarkable film while riding on a commuter train. The woman sitting next to me leaned over slightly, glanced at the screen and smiled.
I wonder what Murnau would think of a West Philly boy who spent his youth playing pick up hoops with rats and turning to roaches for sage financial advice watching his movie on a science fictional device in a world in which the Americans are occupying Mesopotamia, a black fellow is President Elect, a space station orbits the globe, the Chinese are a major power and his movie is freely available at the press of a button.
Our world, and our mundane lives, are far stranger than anything dreamt of by Murnau’s UFA colleague, Fritz Lang, for “Metropolis”.
Because Charles Asked…
Thursday November 20th 2008, 7:52 pm
Filed under: psyops
And then there was…
Oh, and then there was…
But we’re not done yet because…
Your lack of faith, disturbs me
Over at Jezebel, Jessica theorizes about what it is about Gov. Palin which inspires so many to spin like murder tops:
For many of us looking back at high school, we can now feel a smug superiority towards the homecoming queen. Sure, she was pretty and popular in high school, catering to the whims of boys and cheering on their hockey games, but what happened to her after high school? Often, she popped out some kids and ended up toiling in some not particularly impressive job. We can look back and say, we might have been ambitious nerds in high school, but it ultimately paid off. What’s infuriating, and perhaps rage-inducing, about Palin, is that she has always embodied that perfectly pleasing female archetype, playing by the boys’ game with her big guns and moose-murdering, and that she keeps being rewarded for it. Our schadenfreude for the homecoming queen’s mediocrity has turned into white hot anger at her continued dominance.
The Jezebel post suggests Palin has no beliefs of her own, absorbing ideas with all the mindfulness of a paper towel soaking up spilled juice, and that she glided to the top by being a cheerleader/priestess for masculinist gods. Some of that is surely going on (after all, there is a patriarchy and it does like to be petted) but it’s also very likely that she actually likes to hunt moose and wolves from the comfort of low flying aircraft, likes to fish till her pores are salmonized and truly believes that the US should ‘drill now, drill forever and drill on Mars too’…or whatever that silly slogan is.
Really, I think some people – including a lot of mainstream feminists of the Jezebel variety — are having a hard time accepting that a ‘normal seeming’, attractive woman is a Mayberry Machiavellian. It’s easy to vilify McCain. For one thing, he’s a genuinely vilify-able war lord and for another, he’s an old white guy who always seems about five seconds away from waving a shotgun while yelling at everyone to get off his damn lawn.
But Palin? The crafty Governor presents an interesting perceptual challenge. She looks like the woman you had a pleasant conversation with the other day while waiting at the dentist’s office, or, the woman you shyly asked out to dinner at the Olive Garden, or the woman who smilingly rides her Vespa to work (probably while wearing a cute scarf!) because she’s worried about her ‘carbon footprint’.
How dare she actually be a dark lord of the Sith?
Well, that’s one angle.
The other angle is that a lot of her liberal detractors (see, for example, the heroes over at DailyKos) — the ones going on and on and on about the beauty queen thing and the daughter and the baby and I don’t know what else — are simply misogynist assholes (I’m including women and men here). Their camouflaged assholoisty is de-cloaked from time to time to be directed against selected targets.
BSG: A Tale of Cabin Fever, Religious Psychosis and Mutual Assured Idol Smashing
Hopefully, those of you who’re interested have found time to watch the new season of BSG.
I’ve heard the ratings are down a bit. If so, that’s a shame because the show is reaching its “Apocalypse Now” apotheosis: the trends of previous seasons are maturing. For the characters, the results aren’t pleasant.
Although categorized as science fiction — because of the starships, thinking machines and synthetic, “human form” cybernetics — I think it’s more accurate to call BSG a new and extended speculative political fiction riff on, among other things, the themes covered in “Doctor Strangelove“.
As you probably remember, Dr. Strangelove is a dark comedy about the paranoia which defined the high Cold War years. It’s also about the mad pursuit of nuclear ‘defense systems’ created to banish the fear born of that paranoia. (A pursuit which paradoxically increased the very thing it was meant to cast out: an almost Hegelian ‘negation of the negation’).
In BSG’s case, there’s a defining trauma — the Cylon’s near total destruction of humanity — followed by a desperate and reduced life within the rusting bulkheads of the “fugitive fleet”. Because of the painfully undeniable reality of both the near-genocide and the despondent, claustrophobic conditions within the fleet, a multitude of sins and psychoses can be explained and indeed, provisionally forgiven.
But during this final season, brittle social arrangments are starting to break down; intriguingly, this is happening amongst both the fleeing remnant of humanity and the once seemingly all powerful (and, in the case of ‘human form’ Six, always well dressed) Cylons.
Religious conflict and, interestingly, a strange sort of paradoxically hyperactive ennui seem to be at the heart of the growing disorder in both camps.
BSG and the Conquest of Mexico
Recently, I’ve started reading William H. Prescott’s History of the Conquest of Mexico (1843). This book recounts the remarkable story of Hernan Cortes‘ fatal intervention into Aztec history. Contrary to the tale I was told in school — which was that the Aztecs, overawed by the sight of white men on horseback armed with guns and cannons, quickly surrendered and converted to the Christian creed — Prescott describes a complex, lengthy and violent conflict between European invaders and their ferocious Aztec opponents.
And while the saga has many critical elements — internecine struggle between Spanish factions, discontent amongst the Indian peoples under the yoke of Tenochtitlan, Cortes’ craftiness and dual desire for gold and converts, etc — to me, the key element (and the one most resonant with BSG) is the war of religious ideas.
During last Friday’s BSG episode the Baltar character single handedly raided the makeshift temple (really, only a cramped room onboard Galactica) of a group of polytheists. Declaring their multi-god faith to be false he smashed their icons, disrupting the quiet ceremony and, more ominously, the assumption of peaceful religious coexistence.
This fictional incident reminded me of the following moment from Prescott’s history, in which the conquistadors, eager to prove to one of the subject peoples of the Aztec empire that their gods are false, desecrate a temple.
These two missionaries vainly laboured to persuade the people of Cozumel to renounce their abominations, and to allow the Indian idols, in which the Christians recognised the true lineaments of Satan, to be thrown down and demolished. The simple natives, filled with horror at the proposed profanation, exclaimed that these were the gods who sent them the sunshine and the storm, and, should any violence be offered, they would be sure to avenge it by sending their lightnings on the heads of its perpetrators.
Cortes was probably not much of a polemic. At all events, he preferred on the present occasion action to argument; and thought that the best way to convince the Indians of their error was to prove the falsehood of the prediction. He accordingly, without further ceremony, caused the venerated images to be rolled down the stairs of the great temple, amidst the groans and lamentations of the natives. An altar was hastily constructed, an image of the Virgin and Child placed over it, and mass was performed by Father Olmedo and his reverend companion for the first time within the walls of a temple in New Spain. The patient ministers tried once more to pour the light of the gospel into the benighted understandings of the islanders, and to expound the mysteries of the Catholic faith. The Indian interpreter must have afforded rather a dubious channel for the transmission of such abstruse doctrines. But they at length found favour with their auditors, who, whether overawed by the bold bearing of the invaders, or convinced of the impotence of deities that could not shield their own shrines from violation, now consented to embrace Christianity.
The Department of Homeland Security Reconsidered as Gladiatorial Game
Since 11 Sept 2001 and the creation of the DHS which followed, some people (How many? I don’t know) entering the US have been subjected to a variety of humiliations. Every Internet news savvy leftist and civil libertarian is familiar with stories of unwarranted detentions, deportations, odd “security” interrogations and so on.
There is, for example, the recent experience of Erla Osk Arnardottir Lillendahl, a woman from Iceland who reports being shackled and denied food, water and rest for 14 hours and held for a total of two days after arriving at New York’s JFK. Her apparent crime was overstaying her visa by a week or so…in 1995. Here’s an excerpt from her blog entry describing the detention:
I was completely exhausted, tired and cold. Fourteen hours after I had landed I had something to eat and drink for the first time. I was given porridge and bread. But it did not help much. I was afraid and the attitude of all who handled me was abysmal to say the least. They did not speak to me as much as snap at me. Once again I asked to make a telephone call and this time the answer was positive. I was relieved but the relief was short-lived. For the telephone was set up for collect calls only and it was not possible to make overseas calls. The jailguard held my cell phone in his hand. I explained to him that I could not make a call from the jail telephone and asked to be allowed to make one call from my own phone. That was out of the question. I spent the next 9 hours in a small, dirty cell. The only thing in there was a narrow steel board which extended out from the wall, a sink and toilet. I wish I never experience again in my life the feeling of confinement and helplessness which I experienced there.
Full (and I recommend you read it).
Let’s look beneath the story’s immediate details and consider the mechanics.
A woman is detained and treated as if she were a dangerous criminal (or, more to the point, terrorist) because of a twelve year old technicality. She’s subjected to what sound like civilian-adapted versions of the “harsh interrogation” techniques used at Camp X-Ray. She’s asked questions about her beliefs. Her jailers maintain an abrupt and harsh demeanor as if they’re tough operatives working against the clock to uncover the location of a ‘dirty bomb’.
What is this if not a form of pornography?
Someone – I believe it was a friend of Susana Breslin – recently said that pr0n performers are modern gladiators. The ancient Romans used gladiatorial games as, among other things, a method of vicariously experiencing the danger of combat: a danger they held in high esteem. Of course, the gladiators were actually fighting and dying but the circumstance (for example, the war against Carthage, re-staged in the Coliseum generations after the fact) was often a simulacrum.
Porn is very much like this. The performers may or may not be experiencing pleasure but the circumstance – for example, the pizza delivery boy gifted with much more of a tip than he hoped for – is pure fantasy, a world in which vigorous sex can happen anywhere and anytime. Porn performers stand in for us, doing things many of us can’t, or won’t do.
The sexual act is real: the setting, unreal.
The DHS’ creation was inspired by the fantasy that the US faced an imminent threat to its existence (and this is the key thing to keep in mind: not merely a new law enforcement problem, but an existential threat) which required the founding of a vast state apparatus. In truth, outside of contested hot zones and ‘failed states’, terrorist acts are rare and the total number of active participants small.
What is there for a vast state apparatus to do?
Incidents such as the story of Erla Osk Arnardottir Lillendahl reveal its true job: DHS, TSA and the entire “Global war on Terror” complex are elements of a new sub genre of government sponsored, live action security pr0n. The cruelty is very real, but the circumstance (the security allegedly being created via cruelty) is false, through and through.
Lillendahl had no information to reveal; she concealed no perfidious plans. And yet, she was interrogated as if she held dreadful secrets which desperately had to be uncovered. She became a victim of a gladiatorial event which requires live participants to complete the fashioning of its simulacrum. The guards, the supervisors the rent-a-cops: all stand ready with nothing to do hour after hour except try to portray themselves as grim faced defenders of freedom.
Empowered by their superiors to be arbitrarily vigilant (and with vigilance unofficially defined as cruelty and excess of zeal), it’s inevitable they would select an unsuspecting person, guilty of a minor transgression or victim of a bureaucratic error, upon whom they could act out their false scenarios and dark fantasies.
A Stripper’s Lament in Springtime
“You tiny bastard,” she began, and not, it must be pointed out, in the careful whisper Overpastry surely hoped for.
“You tiny, tiny bastard, how dare you – with your mono-mind and pathetic inability to accurately recollect the events of a single day let alone years’ worth of living – how dare you talk to me like a child at a summertime birthday party reaching for one burger too many against its concerned parents’ wishes!”
In spite of their fear (for the bear still menaced nearby, the barrel of his anti-proton gun crackling like a thunderstorm in a bottle) people leaned forward to hear more of Tri-Thought’s unrelenting beratings. What did she mean, they all wondered, by “tiny bastard”? Was she referring to his cock, or perhaps his bank account. The source of their wonder was Overpastry’s quite obvious height advantage over the enraged woman: he towered at least a 0.4 meters above her – and a bit more when she wasn’t wearing her mood enhancing platform shoes.
This difference created a disconnect between the specific form of her insult and the visually available facts.
What no one except a trained and alert cognitive augmentation specialist (or alternatively, someone who, momentarily forgetting the weapon held by an angry, genetically enhanced bear pointed in his or her general direction, carefully listened to what the woman said and put two and two together) could not have known was the fact that what was “tiny” about Overpastry – at least from Tri-Thought’s point of view, wasn’t his penis or his net worth or his life experience or his collection of Kombucha themed love stories (such as the beloved “De-toxed and In Love”) but his aggregate thought capability relative to that of the retired exotic performer.
Tri-Thought, during her years as a wildly sought after dancer – had made a tidy sum of money much of which she devoted to cognitive augmentation surgery. In short, she had three brains: the quite fine one she was born with, and two from South Korean elecronics giant LG; part of their “Indestructable You” coopertative, implantable processor series.
She remembered everything…perfectly. Every event, every feeling was stored, indexed, catalogued and completely accessible in 3 dimensional color images, displayed in the mind’s eye of the implantee.
Needless to say, this made Tri-Thought a formidable opponent in any argument (and most any situation).
She pointed a finger, with its perfect nail, painted a flawless mauve, at Overpastry’s chest and started in again.
“I will handle this situation you weeping, soiled pants half wit! No freakish, escaped mercenary bear – no doubt a Blackwater gene puppet who recently shook free of the juice – is going to ruin my morning ritual of refreshing citrus fruit, oat muffin and heart rate lowering tea!”
Beginnings of stories that have no end
No one was more surprised than Mr. Abernathy Overpastry of 1370 Composite Street, Cleveland, Ohio, when an immense Brown bear – outfitted with a brightly colored safety vest and armed with an old timey ray gun (the sort of first gen anti proton device your grandfather might have used to hunt skull faced dogs and those annoying, robotized Norwegian rats that host late night talk shows) – rudely made its way into the Starbucks near his posh office, demanding, in a deep, bear voice, to be served “only the hottest of coffees, kissed by the sweetest of sugars and served in the most expensive of coffee mugs or protons will be loosed from their atomic prisons and howling, your howling, will ensue!”
Mr. Overpastry turned to his companion, a former stripper, once quite famous, whose performance name was Ubiquitous Glitter but who now, instead of returning to the name bestowed upon her by her parents – Denial Highchair – insisted upon being called Tri-Thought, and whispered: “you have a tendency – a weakness, I would call it – to say the wrong thing at the wrong time which, in a delicate situation such as this, will almost surely mean our swift, subatomic doom. How I would miss your smile, your cruel jokes, your long legs, your perfume brewed from the husks of collapsed stars. I could not replace you so I ask that you stay as silent as the grave lest you disappear in a burst of anti smoke. This bear means business, as is the way of his people.”
Tri-Thought, insulted by this little speech, ground the high heel of her libido enhancement shoes into Overpastry’s right foot. A violent gesture which had the curious effect, owing to the shoe’s unique properties, of arousing him even as he cringed quietly in stabby pain.
“You tiny bastard,” she began…