(These ideas are explicated in this sloppy manifesto)
Saturday, January 04, 2003
War with Iraq: Why the Bush Doctrine will prevail--and fail...
We watched 'Moscow on the Hudson' last night. Not a fantastic film, although the children spawned as a consequence of the bathtub scene--who are by now old enough to vote--have cause to give it five stars. Writer/director Paul Mazursky is deeply in love with New York, and that makes the film a treat. And the Independence Day scene, immigrants from all over the world helping each other to recite the Declaration of Independence, always gets me in the throat.
It put me in mind of 'The War for Independence at the Hotel Port-au-Prince,' a very New Yorky story I wrote a long time ago. Then a piece of email from Ken Hooper regarding my remarks yesterday about the war with Iraq reminded me why. He said:
If it were possible to beat Arabs peacefully, Israel would surely have figured out the technique by now. They have every chance to and every reason to, and lots, lots, lots of experience. It does not seem to work very well.I replied:
Israel has nothing like the might, aside from the nukes the U.S. won't let them use, to convince Islam to restrain itself. Yet since they were turned back at Vienna in 1683, Islam has done nothing but talk about taking Europe. The Department of Defense analyst is correct: They deny. But they are a Warrior culture, which means their denial works both ways: Either they are invincible or you are. Gang-bangers are harmless when they're staring at their shoes.There's a lot packed in there, a lot I've been meaning to talk about, but this extract from the story illustrates the principle:
Reinforcements. Through a process of communication I don't fully understand, that pocket of Herald Square was suddenly flooded with Asians. Electronics dealers, still clutching the cassette tapes they were stocking. Street peddlers carrying those baseball bats that are always on display but are never for sale. Shoppers with bags from Macy's and Toys 'R' Us. Men, women, children, all come to the rescue.A few weeks ago I wrote about Cain and Abel, and there is much, much more to be written. (If there are book acquisition editors reading this, I can do it as fact or fiction, fascinating either way.) This is what I wrote:
Abel was a nomad, a shepherd following his flocks. Cain was a farmer, fixed to a plot of land. Abel was a traditionalist, doing what all his (ahem) predecessors had done before him. Cain was an innovator, doing things never done before. Abel roamed the deserts. Cain was bound to the markets of the city. Abel's wealth consisted of tangible chattels. Cain's wealth was speculative, a thing of hopes and promises. Abel was a warrior, defending his own moveable estate by combat and vengeance. Cain was a merchant, depending for his defense on specialists, with his defense often being effected by means of compensation and reconciliation.This story is a rich anthropological mine, but the important point here is that Abel's culture, which is Arabia's culture, is a Warrior culture. Knowledge is received, not discovered. Rectitude is traditional and formalized, not reasoned. Justice is vertical, effected by tribute and vengeance, not by a horizontal weighing and measuring. Wealth is seized or surrendered, not earned. The Warrior culture is older than Abel, but also newer than the Stringy Princes at the Hotel Port-au-Prince.
The warriors of a Warrior culture will fight to the death so long as they believe--however irrationally--that they have a chance to prevail. But as soon as they lose that belief--again rationally or irrationally--they fade. They inspect their shoes. They pretend to themselves and portray in their behavior that they had never intended to fight at all. Israel faces daily attacks because she seems so small, so easily defeated. Vienna has nothing to worry about.
And this is why the Bush Doctrine--what I am contending is the real Bush Doctrine--will work. I said:
The Bush Doctrine, which will never be enunciated except by explosion, is this: "We will hurt you a lot worse than you can ever hurt us. We don't need to use our police to catch your terrorists, because you are going to catch them yourselves, to avoid being the sequel to this made-for-TV war."This will prevail precisely because Warrior cultures are irrational. President George Bush has been planning the 'War on Terror' since September 11, 2002. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been planning for war with Iraq since the day of his confirmation, if not ten years before. But Islam has been actively planning this war on the West for more than fifty years. How long will it take for them to fade? How long is the round-trip satellite propagation delay for a televised rout of Iraq? If this war is effected according to the plan I foresee for it, our victory in Iraq will amend Islamic behavior far more effectively than did the defeat at Vienna.
As I discussed, the effect on China and North Korea will be similar, but for different reasons. Islamic states may not actively round up their resident terrorists--in which case the Bush Doctrine will replace them with more temperate regimes. What they will do, regime-changed or not, is redirect their attention away from the West. They may invent elaborate rationales to explain their forbearance to fight. But they will cease to fight.
And yet again, to acknowledge that this is what is planned and what is likely to happen is not to endorse or applaud it. The Bush Doctrine--perhaps we should call it 'The Cain Doctrine,' to distinguish it from the nineteen lines of disinformation emitted daily by the Bush Administration--will prevail in the short term. But our battle with Islam--and with the East as such--is not to be fought in the short term.
If, as I argued at the start of all this, the regime-changed countries are changed to Rotarian Kleptocracies, the United States will have done nothing long-term to root out the 'root causes' of terrorism. Our enemy is not Islam or China or the entrenchedly enstenched French. Our enemy is Abel's anti-Hellenism--irrationalism, anegoism, anti-individualism, anti-capitalism. Whether they know it or not, these are the things immigrants are escaping when they come to America, and their contraries--reason, egoism, individualism and capitalism--are the ideas United States must export. Whatever the West spreads in the wake of this war, if it is not unashamedly The West, we will have left the Warrior cultures with the means--in fifty years or five hundred--to renew their attack.
Now teens will like Mondays...
O, Brave new world:
The US Food and Drug Administration sites) said on Friday that it has approved Eli Lilly & Co.'s Prozac (fluoxetine) to treat depression and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in children and adolescents aged seven to 17 years.That's from Reuters via Yahoo! News. Can Prozac-a-lac be far behind, serotonin reuptake inhibitor-laced formula for the depressed baby? And though you were surely told in your youth, by parents who would never think of drugging children, that coffee would "stunt your growth," it couldn't have been as bad as this:
The FDA noted that in one of the clinical studies, after 19 weeks of treatment with Prozac, children gained, on average, about 1.1 cm less in height (about a half an inch) and about one kilogram less in weight (about two pounds) compared with children treated with a placebo.No word on whether their aim, when shooting up their schools, is better or worse than children forced to take other psychotropic drugs...
Friday, January 03, 2003
The war with Iraq: Taking a better grip...
I had a good deal of mail about 'Getting a grip on the war with Iraq.' I liked the ideas in the original weblog entry so much that I turned the thing into a stand-alone essay that was published to my mailing list and usenet. It's stored on my website for permanence, but it's not outrageously different from the weblog version; if you've read either version, there is no need to read the other. If you haven't read either, read the essay version; it's more thoroughgoing and has cooler Latin. And a naked monkey.
One note came from Michael--and I should note that, because of the volatility of the subjects we cover here, I protect the anonymity of my correspondents unless I know for sure they want the publicity. Michael is replying to the weblog entry:
I came across your blog and web site after reading a comment you made about one of Arthur Silber's essays. I've only read a bit so far, and was interested to see your remarks about why the United States will shortly be at war. Having dismissed the "reasons" of the con brigade as "rationales" and the reasons of the pro brigade as "equally false", you write that the real reason is "In order to scare the shit out of the world, generally, and Islam in particular". Now for me that is a sufficient reason to go ahead with the war, perfectly moral based on sound Objectivist principles (outlaw state, etc). But that is MY reason; is it the same reason that will animate say, George W. Bush and his advisors when they issues the orders? In other words, is their reason identical to my reason? No, because their ethics are different, radically so. I suspect that, as altruists, they'd be appalled at the idea of war on Iraq being little more than an exercise in exemplary punishment, pour encourager les autres. Or do you mean that, subconsciously, shit-scaring is really their reason, even though they either don't know it or won't admit it?Alas, I think it's a wrong thing, but I think they're fully conscious of their motives. I differ from all of statism, from all of minarchism and from all of anarchism in that I do not agree that it can ever be just to visit more than like-for-like upon an offender. I understand the utilitarian argument that, since it is impossible to catch 100% of all offenders, to achieve a desired outcome similar to a 100% effective like-for-like policy, one must punish the offender unlucky enough to be caught for more than would be his just, proportionate due. The problem I have is that, whatever is the desired outcome, it is not owed by the offender. He owes the undoing of what he has done, nothing more. I actually have much greater objections to retributive dispute resolution, but I was beating up on the anti-war protesters when I wrote this:
Principled protesters can surely find cause to object to this injustice--provided they are willing to reject the exact same premises as they are applied to domestic criminal prosecution.Of course those who uphold disproportionate punishment of criminals would also support disproportionate punishment of criminal states. In this, minarchists and Objectivists are not far removed from most conservatives.
Nevertheless, I think the planners of this war are working from a different argument. Rather than seeking the emotional satisfaction of smiting the wicked, or the utilitarian balm of healing all wounds rather than just those for which an offender is captured, I think the planners of this war are coldly pragmatic. They seek to secure the maximum obtainable quantity of safety from terrorism for Americans--and for capitalist-like countries generally as a side benefit--at the absolute minimum cost in military pyrotechnics. I believe this is a studied, strategic calculation, and I believe that is why Iraq is the target--because she is easy pickings compared to the other countries I named--Iran, North Korea, Pakistan and China.
And whoever is right about this, you may be assured of one thing: No one involved will ever tell us the truth!
Another thoughtful note came from someone who prefers to be known only as a Department of Defense Mid-East Analyst. You'll have to judge his pedigree by the quality of his thinking. This is a reply to the essay version, wherein the scatological reference quoted above has gone straight to 'hell':
Definitely an interesting article, and as stated, some brilliant - but definitely debatable - insights. The one I liked best was Mr. Swann's real reason for the impending war with Iraq:Leaving to the side the question of the morality of making war on Iraq to 'teach a lesson' to others, I think this analysis is sound. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how the incuriosity of Islamic epistemology leads Muslims to comical errors, such as the belief in the immanent recovery of Andalusia from Spain. It is reasonable to argue that countries like Saudi Arabia and Yemen are unlikely to learn the lesson of Iraq, no matter how effectively it is taught. On the other hand, I think it is also reasonable to suppose that the most Wahabi-infested of Islamic states will be 'regime-changed' soon after Iraq. And whatever the new regimes know or do about liberty, they will have caught on to what will happen if they don't catch terrorists.In order to scare the hell out of the world, generally, and Islam in particular.andThe Bush Doctrine, which will never be enunciated except by explosion, is this: "We will hurt you a _lot_ worse than you can ever hurt us. We don't need to use _our_ police to catch your terrorists, because you are going to catch them yourselves, to avoid being the sequel to this made-for-TV war."I must admit this is intriguing, and is a reason I had not considered. I like it alot, and I'd like to see this theory work, but sadly I don't think it will in many locales, for the following reasons:
And the lesson will not be lost on Europe and other capitalist-like countries, America's pretend-equals in world affairs. The United States is going to use Iraq to demonstrate a simple fact that other nations have sought to obscure since the collapse of the Soviet Union: America is not just the pre-eminent world power, we are, for now at least, an invincible world power. Without doubt, President George Bush will continue to 'walk softly' with the United Nations and other multi-national entities. But that's simply because he is carrying a very, very 'big stick.'
Again, one need not endorse this to acknowledge it. We are watching U.S. foreign policy graduate into the reality of a post-Soviet world: We can whip any of 'em, and all of 'em all at once, if necessary. I expect this to be made very plain by the war in Iraq, not just by incredible destruction, but by incredible destruction from hi-tech weapons our enemies and allies have never even seen before. Missile-shield technology won't work? Watch it pop artillery shells mid-air. You might just do us some damage, if you could only manage to hit us. Neither the President nor Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will gloat--out loud. But every television set in the world will be flooded with America's unanswerable martial gloat.
And while I am certain my analyst correspondent is better equipped to judge these matters than I am, there are two thoughts nagging at me that may have bearing on the debate:
First, nukes. And second, China. More than once, the Bush administration has warned that it is willing to use nuclear weapons against Iraq. The ever-pragmatic war planners would require a suitable pretext for nuking Iraq, but the progress of the weapons inspection regimen suggests that they will prove themselves adept at discovering pretexts as needed. And, to be effective, a nuclear detonation in Iraq need not damage anything except the retinas of stunned television viewers; Iraq is a vast country, almost entirely empty. But the message, never enunciated in words, will be unmistakable: "Like hell we won't!"
And the ultimate beneficiary of all this theater will be China. China the nuclear power. China the ICBM power. China the space power. The United States surely hopes to reap war on terrorism benefits from the War on Terror: By putting out Baghdad's lights, literally and figuratively, she will put Islam on notice either to clean up its act or to have it cleaned up. But the one country on earth that still has the means and the will to actually hurt America is Red China, and I think we have to presume that everything the armed forces of the United States do is intended to communicate with the Chinese.
I think the purpose of the forthcoming war with Iraq is to scare the countries sane enough to be scared, to replace the rulers of insane regimes, and--first, last and always--to persuade the Chinese to make money, not missiles.
Integrity against the wind...
I was all set to rave about the Naples, FL, Salvation Army having refused a big donation from a lottery winner, when this appeared in the Sarasota Herald Tribune:
If Florida Lotto millionaire David L. Rush wants to again donate to the Salvation Army, the group's office in Las Vegas will gladly listen.Trust Las Vegas to make a mockery of sublime integrity...
Still, what the Naples Salvation Army did was remarkable. At Christmas, the TV newsmonkies told us over and over that charitable donations are down by 50%. What they didn't tell us is that reports of chicanery and corruption by charitable organizations are way up--most notably the chicanery of comparing 2002's year-end results with those posted for 2001, the year of 9/11. By the same deceitful math, in Las Vegas, October's gaming win was up hugely compared to last October's numbers--when everyone stayed home. For any charity to refuse any money from any donor is a big deal, if only because we have learned not to expect integrity from that corner.
But integrity has a price. The Salvation Army is under attack in Washington, D.C., for pursuing its own religious agenda in preference to the homosexual rights doctrine being imposed by local, state and federal governments. And President Bush's so-called 'public-private' partnerships promise more of the same. As we will discover with tax-subsidies to private schools, nothing is 'private' when there is 'public' money involved.
Integrity doesn't mean necessarily being right, in someone else's estimation. It means standing by what you believe, by your own standards. It will never be outlawed. That would be too obvious. Instead, it will be eroded--weathered away an atom at a time by the windy suspirations of moral idiots--until there is nothing of it left.
Ugly to the bone...
Read this from Octavio Romano in the San Francisco Chronicle:
Cosmetics is but another word for a burqa.You might think, "Man, what an idiot," which is probably more thought than the man deserves. You might want to argue with him about the distinction between the voluntary and the compulsory, a distinction he surely ought to have made on his own. New Delhi prostitutes used lip rouge to remind British colonials that there are other targets on the map, so to speak, but whether you regard this as exploitation or savvy marketing depends on your opinion of exploitation by savvy marketing. So that women might know--as if they already don't--men do not care about cosmetics. Like the raspberry swirl dribbled over the chocolate cake, if you take it away only the women will notice. It might make sense to argue that cosmetics and augmentation and depilitation and hair torture and all the other 'beauty' regimins Romano decries are in fact expressions of self-loathing by women. But it is absurd to claim that women are being forced to undergo this torment by men. Men could care less. And to equate this voluntary, self-selected practice, whether it improves or diminishes the beauty of the volunteers, with a doctrine that forces women to conceal themselves on pain of death... It argues that Mr. Romano is ugly to the bone.
Thursday, January 02, 2003
SplendorQuest: Someone to thrive with...
So... She says it's time she goesThe song is 'No Myth' by Michael Penn, a very folky kind of Rock 'n' Roll. There's this one and 'Thunder Road' by Bruce Springsteen: "You can hide 'neath your covers and study your pain, make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain." We never had an 'our song' because we always had two.
I found her on the internet, like every good thing. It was just after Christmas in 1997. She was a widow awash in sadness, and her sister pestered her into posting this completely impersonal personal ad:
Women Seeking Men, Phoenix, Arizona
Intellect, Hubris Appreciated
Religion: Gnostic, Hermetic
Other: Doesn't Smoke, Drinks, Doesn't Have/Want Children
Description: I haven't started dating since my husband
died... and I'm not ready to start yet. I do, however,
enjoy stimulating discussions, and am interested in
expanding my network of gentlemen friends without
having to go out and meet anyone. You may fantasize...
I am lovely... but do not be crude or too graphic. It
seems that the chatrooms I've scanned are populated
with people looking for anonymous opportunity to be ill
mannered. Please do be eclectic, though. There is so
much fascinating knowledge to be shared and adventures
to be enjoyed, that the mind should not be limited by
crassness or trite vocabularies. If you don't
understand, please go to the next on the list.
I was in the same sort of spot. I had been through a completely vicious divorce, very costly financially and emotionally, and I had no need or use or plans for a woman in my life. My friend Ken Hooper had been bugging me to do something despite all that, and I was reading those personal ads to get him off my back. But this ad was catnip to me. I mean, she had me at 'hubris.' I wrote back as follows:
> Such a breathtaking snob! Most impressive. Especially
> do I like the recognition that hubris can be a virtue.
> I have what you need, assuming you can stand it. See me
> at my web page beforehand. It'll save us both time.
> Talk to me as and when.
Just the right kind of indifference, if you ask me.
See..., it was just too soon to tellShe wrote back, saying,
> I thoroughly enjoy your writing. Your prose is poetry.
> But like Ayn Rand, you are to be savored, not skimmed.
> I was once fortunate enough to have found kinship
> within romance and romance within kinship. I don't
> believe I have the right to ask for such a miracle
> twice in a lifetime.
> You, however, still have an unfulfilled experience,
> somewhere in your future; so please, in the name of
> romance, don't let go of hope.
Not me. Not ever.
> If you would like to correspond, I believe you would be
> very interesting and very good for my soul. I fear,
> however, that I could not reciprocate. I'm very dark
> and very morbid just now. Especially in the midst of
> all the holiday joy. So, write back at your own risk.
But what if I was...?We batted things back and forth by email over the next few days, and then she surprised me by calling me on this very day, January 2nd, five years ago today. She asked me to meet her for dinner in downtown Tempe, a mildly-bohemian quarter of Phoenix quarantined safely outside city limits. Almost I declined, I was so disgusted by the thought of dating. I met her by the giant statues of Alice's rabbits, by the little burbling fake lake, and she was tall and willowy and unbearably beautiful. And she was wearing black jeans...
What if I was Romeo in black jeans?And she was, too, dinner or not. Someone to dance with, someone to dine with, someone to not-be-involved with. She told me as much.
We ate and then we walked all the way up to the little amphitheater in front of the America West building. We sat on a little circular concrete stage and I told her everything I never knew. I talked to her as I have never talked to anyone, and she let me, let us both drench ourselves in a geyser of words.
That was a Friday night, a long, sweet, slow drenching. She sent me home without a kiss. Someone to dance with. On Sunday she made me go with her to the Phoenix Art Museum. To demonstrate, I am sure, what was and what was not going on between us. But she forgot that I am a novelist, a hoarder of small details. Her behavior was above reproach, but the skin at her collarbone was flushed and mottled.
I know how to prosecute my advantages, so I took her back to my house and made her lunch. Later we went to the mall and I made a point of taking her right past Victoria's Secret: Say the truth or say nothing, but don't tell me a lie when your chest is flushed like that. Even so, she sent me home without a kiss.
The next day we met for lunch and then did she kiss me, alone in her office and then again in the light of the winter sun on a bench by the pond in Encanto Park. The photo is of my Cathleen on that day, in that sun. Her chest was flushed from the first, but her hair wasn't messed up before we started kissing.
A few nights later we were out in my car, just out driving in the dark on the empty desert roads in Papago Park. I had a tape of Melissa Etheridge's MTV 'Unplugged' performance, and we listened over and over again as Melissa sang 'Thunder Road' with Bruce Springsteen himself.
Well I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talkHer name is Cathleen Collins, my wife. I saw her for the first time five years ago tonight. I love her better than I ever knew I could love any woman. And she's mine--to dance with, to talk with, to dream with, to thrive with--to be with--forever...
Wednesday, January 01, 2003
SplendorQuest: kiss me...
kiss me your glory i kiss you my joy
kiss me your giggling girlishness
i kiss you my mannish boy
kiss me your tickling i kiss you my laughter
kiss me your before your before your before
i kiss you my ever after
kiss me your promise i kiss you my prayer
kiss me your fire i kiss you my air
kiss me your hunger i kiss you my need
kiss me your giving i kiss you my greed
kiss me your worship i kiss you my vow
kiss me your present your presence your presents
i kiss you my endless now
kiss me your seeking i kiss you my knowing
kiss me your staying your staying your staying
i kiss you my never going
kiss me your wisdom i kiss you my clever
kiss me your always your always your always
i kiss you my always forever
Getting a grip on the war with Iraq: The 'wrested' of the story...
To set the record straight, neither the Marquis de Lafayette nor Thaddeus Kosciuszko are known to have been nudists. Nevertheless, to have attended a large Kosciuszko Day celebration is to have been cured forever of the compulsion to gaze upon unsightly women, naked or clothed. Perhaps that counts for something.
For those who can resist the urge to seize upon irrelevancy, no matter how ready to hand, how one feels about the forthcoming war--or what one does to protest it, stitchlessly keeping the world in stitches--is not significant. There will be a war, perhaps as soon as tomorrow, certainly within the next few weeks. To acknowledge this, to have thoughts, opinions and concerns about it is not to endorse it. And to refuse to think about it, or to jerk one's knee or something nearby, is not meaningfully to oppose it.
Why will there be a war? Perpetually put-out protesters have contrived a raft of rationales, all false. We are not going to war for oil or to enrich evil corporate arms-makers. We are not going to war to avenge the President's father, nor to do a make-over on the blemishes left over from the last Iraqi war. We are not going to war because George Bush is a stooge or a dupe or an idiot.
And the 'official' arguments for this war are equally false. We are not going to war to rid Iraq of 'weapons of mass destruction.' Nor to effect 'regime change.' Nor even to rid the world of an evil dictator and liberate, after a fashion, a decent people too long oppressed. All those things will happen as a result of this war, but they are not the reason for it.
Why are we having this war?
In order to scare the shit out of the world, generally, and Islam in particular.
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, this war will be fast, clean and decisive. Very telegenic and very, very televised. A 'war on terror,' if we were having one, would be a job for policemen--sifting through clues, tracking down criminals, frog-marching them to justice. But we're not having a war on terror. We're having a war on anti-Americanism. Not anti-Americanism in the thoughts or feelings or opinions of people overseas, but in their actions. The Bush Doctrine, which will never be enunciated except by explosion, is this: "We will hurt you a lot worse than you can ever hurt us. We don't need to use our police to catch your terrorists, because you are going to catch them yourselves, to avoid being the sequel to this made-for-TV war."
Iraq is just the whipping-boy in all this. Whatever peril it poses to the U.S., that peril is nothing compared to that posed by Iran, by North Korea, by an newly-Islamified Pakistan, recouped and regrouped, and, most especially by China. Iraq is to be punished far in excess of her transgressions so that she might serve as an example to others. Principled protesters can surely find cause to object to this injustice--provided they are willing to reject the exact same premises as they are applied to criminal prosecution.
But wait: The Bush Doctrine is simply a modern instance of Imperial Roman foreign policy, and what could be more protest-worthy than imperialism? Americans who denounce Caesar and Augustus in favor of Cicero and Cato betray a profound ignorance of Roman history, but what is better suited to the least effective kinds of protest than profound ignorance? Who needs a thoughtful brownshirt--or no-shirt--anyway?
A more studied kind of wail might decry a Pax Americana defended by an Imperium Optimorum, the complaint being that an imperial peace is not peace but slavery by tyrants. The trouble with that argument is that Bush, at least, is a pretty decent guy. I don't think he has any great understanding of The Good that might be heralded by choirs and trumpets, but he does seem assiduously to seek the unassuming little good that he knows.
The tragedy of this war is not the war itself. It will probably be all but bloodless on our side, and could well be bloodless on theirs--"A rational army would run away." The tragedy is that the 'regime changes' of the years to come, and there are likely to be more than a few, will result in governments that are called democracies, but will have precious little real freedom. 'Democracy' has come to mean the sacred right to vote for your ruthless oppressors.
After World War II, know-it-all American regime-changers gifted Europe and Asia with the parliament, a machine with two oscillating extremes of tyranny and no center of liberty. The current crop of know-it-alls like to set up Rotarian Kleptocracies just like we have back home. If you're wired with the right clique, some part of the state treasury is yours by right. If not, too bad.
This is a real mistake, one that is actually worthy of protest--thoughtful, reasoned, and, one would hope, clothed. The best state is no-state, but the next-best state is next-to-no-state, and it doesn't really matter how a next-to-no-state is constructed. It can be a democracy, a monarchy or a monkey-archy, provided it cannot change or grow in power. This is what the United States should be instilling and installing around the globe, if it presumes to change other people's regimes.
Why? To rid the world of terrorism, of course. The more shriveled the state, the larger the tree of commerce, and the deeper its roots. In a Rotarian Kleptocracy the tax and regulatory burdens upon entrepreneurs are virtually insuperable for the poor and unconnected. In a next-to-no-state, ideally ruled by a benevolent monkey, anyone can go into business, and virtually everyone will. Group identity--the true 'root cause' of terrorism--prospers where self-interest is restricted. And while psychological self-interest is paramount, not bodily- or pecuniary-self-interest, it remains that no one can discover the treasures of psychological self-interest without having first reveled in bodily- and pecuniary-self-interest. Don't believe me? Ask a seven-year-old. What we should want, if we had brains enough to want wisely, is a world peopled by rationalists, egoists, individualists. A slow but certain way to achieve that is to give the world capitalism, which can be effected simply by dismantling the barriers to it. The world--left unmolested--runs by itself.
Tragically, this will not happen. And tragically, there will be a war. And tragically, young people from all over the world will die or be injured in that war. And tragically, America will be accused of building an empire, even though she isn't. And tragically, the countries she liberates will be afflicted with Rotarian Kleptocracy, which everyone will pretend is 'democracy.' And tragically, the incremental enslavement of the American people will proceed apace, in order to spread the doctrine of Rotarian Kleptocracy, code-named 'democracy.'
And tragically, no amount of protest, reasoned or not, will change any of this in the short term.
Not even unreasoned scarecrow protests by naked people.
Not even if they're really ugly naked people.
Not even on Kosciuszko Day...
Tuesday, December 31, 2002
SplendorQuest: The Fabulous Baker Boys
More than you knowThat's Michelle Pfeiffer's opening song from The Fabulous Baker Boys, and it rapturously encapsulates the very best of four distinct art forms. It's gripping film-making, with great performances by all three principal players, Beau Bridges, Jeff Bridges and Pfeiffer. The piano, portrayed by Jeff Bridges, and and the song, actually sung by Pfeiffer, are very effective together. But the song itself exhibits in a very simple fashion the essence of lyrical song-writing: From the first verse to the second we change from 'I need you' to 'you need me.' And that in turn, like a page torn from Sophocles himself, provides the argument for the entire drama. This is what integrity means in art: Every different thing is the same one thing.
And the whole film is done brilliantly. It's easy to get lost in Pfeiffer's sultry performance, but I think Jeff Bridges' laconic, sardonic, taciturn embodiment of Jack Baker is an excellent exploration of the practical consequences of self-loathing. The story is dark, almost seedy, but the plot is redemption, which is my favorite yarn. And despite a few short lapses into cheesiness, writer/director Steve Kloves delivers a gritty and credible resolution. There are no villains, nor any genuine heroes, but everyone is a better person by the time the credits roll. I score that a victory for the forces of the light.
The Fabulous Baker Boys is particularly appropriate today, New Year's Eve, because the timeline of the film runs from Christmas through New Year's. Kloves uses this to the story's huge advantage, which matters a lot to me. In particular, the big romantic blow-off of the movie occurs on New Year's Eve. It starts when Michelle Pfeiffer's Susie Diamond character sings a very provocative version of 'Makin' Whoopee' to Jack Baker, free for once to play the piano as he wishes. The night ends with what is possibly the sexiest seduction ever committed to film.
With this on the DVD player and a couple of flutes of champagne, you just might get lucky tonight. How do I know? "Intuition."
The jackass brays back: Rangel wrangles with National Youth Slavery
Yesterday I held a colloquy with a braying jackass over New York Democratic Representative Charles Rangel's plan to institute universal military conscription. Today Rangel is back, in an op-ed in the New York Times, insisting that he really means it, that he wasn't just braying at random on CNN. Fine with me. I'm clipping and snipping, so see the original to wrangle this jackass unedited.
I believe that if we are going to send our children to war, the governing principle must be that of shared sacrifice.Remember that 'sacrifice' always means blood sacrifice. Politicians tell you the bald truth and you never listen.
Throughout much of our history, Americans have been asked to shoulder the burden of war equally.Except for women, children, the elderly, the blind, the halt and the lame. And the children of the elites. And throughout the rest of our history, America has been defended by an all-volunteer military, which is what is in keeping with American principles.
Carrying out the administration's policy toward Iraq will require long-term sacrifices by the American people, particularly those who have sons and daughters in the military.They are volunteers. I wish every one of them peace and safety, but they made a choice to risk harm in pursuit of benefits for themselves and for their families. They are not conscripts.
Yet the Congress that voted overwhelmingly to allow the use of force in Iraq includes only one member who has a child in the enlisted ranks of the military--just a few more have children who are officers.But a heck of a lot of kids in medical school, I'll bet. Different people make different choices. This is liberty. The choices they make are influenced by their initial circumstances. This is an accretive consequence of liberty.
I believe that if those calling for war knew that their children were likely to be required to serve--and to be placed in harm's way--there would be more caution and a greater willingness to work with the international community in dealing with Iraq.Could be true, but it won't happen. Children of CongressVermin 'serve' as photographers, like Vietnam 'veteran' Al Gore. What will happen, what always happens, is that politicians will massively waste their 'free' conscripts. There is a monolith in Washington to testify to this fact.
A renewed draft will help bring a greater appreciation of the consequences of decisions to go to war.I love that word 'appreciation.' It's a favorite of educationists. It means sensory awareness without knowledge or understanding. Unfortunately for Rangel, history's plain lesson, perhaps not 'appreciated' but well known, is that conscript armies make the decision to go to war that much easier to make. Cannon-fodder is the food of the warfare state.
Service in our nation's armed forces is no longer a common experience.Never was, thankfully.
A disproportionate number of the poor and members of minority groups make up the enlisted ranks of the military...Now we get to the real issue. I was sure this was what he was saying yesterday, but he didn't come right out and say it. The implication is that the all-volunteer military, by being comprised of a "disproportionate number of the poor and members of minority groups," is simultaneously racist and bad for defense. Both are false. The military is no more racist than is the National Football League, another place where poor young black males seek to reap the best available benefit from their initial circumstances. If 'disproportion' in the one is racist and not rational, then the same must be true for the other. And an army of volunteers, actively seeking benefits for themselves and for their families, is surely a better defense of American interests than a cadre of seething, resentful slaves.
...while the most privileged Americans are underrepresented or absent.And the implication here is that the anequalitarian distribution of self-selected volunteers for the military, for medical school and for the NFL is an injustice in se. Many poor young black males don't have the money or the academic preparation to go to medical school. Most pre-med students don't have the athletic ability to play pro football. So what? We are each of us free to choose our own careers, and in so doing, we provide secondary benefits to the society at large. Our only responsibility is to ourselves and to our families. Where the choice to act in our own behalf is usurped by force, we are slaves. The irony, from Rangel's jackass point of view, is that enslaving a pre-med student in a conscript army will hurt poor young black males in two ways: By depriving them of military roles for which they would have volunteered but for which the medical student has better academic preparation. And by depriving them of two years or four years of the life-saving abilities of the physician that pre-med student will ultimately become. This is the broken-window fallacy, only Rangel is proposing to enrich us by breaking our skulls instead.
We need to return to the tradition of the citizen soldier--...The citizen soldier was a volunteer. The story of Cincinnatus is fascinating and inspiring, but the point of the story is that the citizen soldier is a volunteer who fights when he must and then returns to his plow.
...--with alternative national service required for those who cannot serve because of physical limitations or reasons of conscience.And there is the call for National Youth Slavery.
Those who would lead us into war...Not you, thankfully, you jackass.
...have the obligation to support an all-out mobilization of Americans for the war effort,...Not only are our children to be enslaved, our politicians are themselves obliged. Slavery is pernicious, ain't it?
...including mandatory national service that asks something of us all.It is important to understand that military conscription is a Trojan Horse. The real issue, for which Rangel is probably an unwitting stooge, is National Youth Slavery. The idea has been 'trial-ballooned' for years, by William F. Buckley, among others. And, of course, the people to be enslaved are not the ones who get to vote for their enslavement. Ironically, as with the other truly serious domestic policy issue, the incremental nationalization of medicine, the underlying concern is health care: Buckley and other dotards want to compel your children to change their bedpans. Acquiring 'free' conscript soldiers to be shredded overseas is pure gravy. "O brave new world That has such people in't!"
But fear not, for the libertarians, civil and otherwise, understand that the true battle is to prevent John Poindexter from discovering that they wear mis-matched socks. What possible peril is posed by the enslavement of America's young and her doctors, compared to Big Brother? Charles Rangel may be a jackass, but at least he's a straightforward enemy of liberty. May god spare America's freedom from her alleged friends...
Monday, December 30, 2002
SplendorQuest: Allison Krauss & Union Station: Live
I first took note of Allison Krauss and Union Station when they released their incomparable cover of the Foundations' pop classic, 'Baby, now that I've found you.' It's either the jazziest blue-grass or the blue-grassiest pop jazz ever conceived, and it stands completely apart from the original. Most covers--and most especially Nashville covers--add absolutely nothing to the original arrangement, which usually amounts to a net subtraction. This is never the case with Union Station. Krauss' voice alone--a lilting high-lonesome wail, at once brash and plaintive, seductive and scared--would lend moment to a railroad timetable. The instrumental virtuosity and the supporting voices--and the eclectic tastes of the musicians--make for an unequaled experience in what we might call American post-roots music: The instruments of bluegrass and the melancholy of the hills combined with the pace and complexity of modernity.
If you don't know it, the members of Union Station, with Allison Krauss' fiddle but minus her voice, made up 'The Soggy-Bottom Boys' on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, itself a bluegrass tour de force. They cover themselves on this album, Allison Krauss & Union Station: Live, doing the Boys' 'I am a man of constant sorrow,' itself a cover of the very old Clinch Mountain Boys standard. They also do 'Down to the river to pray,' which Allison sang so beautifully on the 'O Brother' soundtrack.
There are 25 songs in this collection, and many of them are uniquely-perfect Union Station covers of other artists' work: 'Baby, now that I've found you,' 'Ghost in this house' by Hugh Prestwood, perhaps the best-ever Nashville songwriter, 'Maybe' from Garth Brooks' underappreciated In... The Life of Chris Gaines album. Union Station had covered the Keith Whitley tune, 'When you say nothing at all,' for a Whitley tribute album, producing a version as haunting as the original without borrowing a thing from Whitley's rough honesty. If anything, the 'Live' version is even better.
And Union Station is a band that simply is better live. They are all virtuoso bluegrass players, but playing live they feed off the energy of the audience, taking that virtuosity to a higher level. This is a very complicated, Apollonian music, and at times the tension is almost unbearable.
Seize the splendor! This is a two-CD set for fifteen bucks, a smokin' deal and an excellent introduction to a very rich kind of bluegrass.
Colloquy with a braying jackass--and with those who should know better...
New York Representative Charles Rangel, a Democrat if not a democrat, plans to introduce legislation in the upcoming session of Congress that would make military service universal and mandatory. So says CNN.com after Rangel's appearance on CNN's 'Late Edition.' So says newsday.com. And so says the ever-vigilant Carl from Oyster Bay, Carl Limbacher on newsmax.com. Rangel of course is a braying jackass, with a voice befitting his origins, and each of these sources let him bray in his own behalf:
I'm going to introduce legislation to have universal military service to let everyone have an opportunity to defend the free world against the threats coming to us.The important word there is let. The implication is that, somehow, people choosing not to volunteer for our all-volunteer military are being unfairly denied that opportunity. Now you might think that this is yet another call for mandatory youth slavery, about which I wrote a few years ago. Not quite. Rangel advocates universal military conscription as a peace-keeping measure. I'm not joking.
I think, if we went home and found out that there were families concerned about their kids going off to war, there would be more cautiousness and a more willingness to work with the international community than to say, 'Our way or the highway.'Yes, this is the way politicians and generals have always behaved with conscript armies. Because recruitment costs are (ahem) free, they wouldn't even think of wasting troops in pointless infantry actions. Would they?
When you talk about a war, you're talking about ground troops...Not in an all-volunteer army. Even without the blood-on-TV penalty, volunteer troops are too dear to waste.
...you're talking about enlisted people...Very well-trained, highly-skilled enlisted people, who will re-enlist only in exchange for even more training.
...they don't come from the kids and members of Congress...And they won't after 'universal' conscription, either. Welcome to Earth, Charlie. It's the big blue one, third one in from the middle...
Some libertarians might do well to follow Rangel's path back to terra cognita. Whatever evil designs an arch-fiend like John Poindexter might be concocting, he is a small threat compared to National Youth Slavery, of which Rangel's universal military conscription is an implicit if not explicit variant. My friend Billy Beck is afflicted by a master-debater who cannot distinguish between 'freedom' as the word might be applied to Karl Marx's not-hungry man and 'freedom' as the word is applied to a manumitted slave. The only context for which 'freedom' has meaning as a political concept--as distinct from an existential 'freedom to act'; "my nose is unstopped so now I am 'free' to blow it"--is freedom from other people. While you are proscribed by taxation and circumscribed by regulation--while your children are threatened with conscription, possibly to have their very lives stolen from them--while you are menaced by a vicious theocracy that seeks to rob all of us of our minds, women and children first--while you are truly enslaved and stand at risk of total slavery, a veritable poindexter snooping through your underwear drawer is not a priority. May god make you so safe from slavery that it is. Meanwhile, libertarians, civil libertarians and sane Republicans: Welcome to Earth. It's the big blue one, third one in from the middle...
Pollyanna was a Grinch!
A little while ago I was in a supermarket and the perky little clerk apologized to me for a device (a debit terminal!) that seemed to be malfunctioning. I said, "Don't worry about it. I know it will work." I confided to her that I could recall a time when things routinely did not work, when the electrical power, for example, failed regularly. By this she was amazed. I am 43 years old. To the elderly I seem young. To the very young I seem unimaginably old. But I am many, many technological generations older than that perky little clerk, old enough to remember when things just didn't work. When the power went out not because a drunken driver rammed a substation but because physical components failed--wore out, to use an antique phrase. Power companies work now with devices for which the mean-time-between-failures is greater than the span of time between ice ages, but I can remember a time when we kept kerosene lamps and matches in every room, fully confident that the power would fail.
The fact that things are getting better and better--often overlooked, sometimes deliberately obscured--is brought to light in a column by William F. Buckley at townhall.com. Buckley in turn is citing a new book from The Cato Institute called It's Getting Better All the Time: The 100 Greatest Trends of the Past 100 Years. Some of Buckley's examples from the book:
In 1960, a 3-minute telephone call to San Francisco from New York cost $12.66. Today, $0.36. The life of a light bulb is four times what it was 10 years ago. Over the past 50 years, the rate of death from catastrophic accidents (accidents killing at least five people) has fallen about fourfold. The percentage of streams usable for fishing and swimming: in 1972, 36 percent; in 1994, 86 percent.I pay $.04 a minute for long-distance, not $.12. The very-bright 'warm' fluorescent tubes in my son's bathroom use less energy than a single dim lightbulb and they last for years and years. My wife, my son and I each have two very powerful computers, and the ones these replaced are gathering dust in the garage. The car I drive is twelve years old and has 132,000 miles on it. Drives like a dream, excellent gas mileage, no major component failures, and we're debating whether to hang on to it to use as a 'trainer' for my son four years from now. Our cell phones are amazingly more capable than Gene Rodenberry's fantasized 'Star Trek' communicators, and they look cooler, too. My wife is so much in love with her Handspring Visor PDA that soon our phones will be Handspring Treos--cell phone, Palm-OS PDA, pager with keyboard, and wireless internet browser and mail client--much more powerful than the 'pocket computers' in Niven and Pournelle's 'The Mote in God's Eye.' My son can make better-than-movie-theater-quality popcorn in three minutes and twenty seconds, having hit the pause button on his better-than-movie-quality electronic game system.
What makes all this remarkable is that we are not even close to being rich. We are simply fortunate enough to be alive at a time and in a country where everyone is awash in riches. And where every thing--if not absolutely everything--works just as designed.
Sunday, December 29, 2002
Is cash gauche? Indebitably!
As a sound and measured item of calmly-reasoned-if-not-entirely-somnolent financial advice, Billy Beck offers this:
I'd like to see Walk Barefoot Across Hot-Coals And Broken-Glass checkout lines for debit-card users at high-volume retail establishments.Me too, frankly. It would get me away from all those dirty-fingered, change-grubbing, never-quite-solvent-enough people who insist on paying with cash...
No, I don't actually care. I haven't touched cash by preference since 1995. I won't go to movie theaters that don't take debit cards, and I'll only go to a fast-food joint on your clinking nickel. I can't do Vegas without cash, and it is a measure of just how much I love Las Vegas that I am willing to go there even though it is a giant financial dinosaur. I know, without any room for doubt, that I am a lot faster with my debit card than people who are willing to touch currency--and I know I get a lot fewer respiratory ailments, as a bonus.
But: Each man to his own Saints. My wife insists on carrying cash. I don't comprehend her reasons, but I am always happy to help her make her cash evaporate. Which is what cash does. Which is why I stopped carrying it. Whether I am fast at the debit terminal or slow, I know I am going to face my past when I review my account via (yes) on-line banking. Cash does for fiscal restraint what sneaking a Snickers bar does for a diet.
(As a side note, retailers by far prefer debit cards to any other method of payment. In order of preference, they like debit cards (instant redemption at no cost with no risk of fraud), checks (deferred redemption at no cost with a small risk of fraud), cash (instant redemption at no cost with a high risk of theft) and credit cards (deferred redemption at a 3% cost with a small risk of fraud).)
The interesting thing about all this, to me, is the extent to which the radical alarmism about The Cashless Society has proved wrong. It is surely true that John Poindexter (what a great name for The National Rectum-Sniffer!) of the (god help me!) Information Awareness Office can discover, should he choose, that I buy gas every ten days or so and rent cheesy comedies and challenging dramas from Blockbuster Video. But why would he want to? First, he could pretty much guess the damnably-dull damning truth about my financial life without having to check, whether I pay by debit card or cash. And second, the stuff I do that could get me locked up--perhaps even by such an ungainly thing as an Information Awareness Office--I do right here, right out in the open. Under a different president, say a certain bitchy non-blonde, I am one Google away from bread and water.
So be it. In the mean time, I will pay by debit card, paying by cash only when there is no alternative. Walking across Billy's hot coals and broken glass can't be fun, but at least I'll know where my money went--even if John Poindexter knows it, too. And it's got to be more sanitary than touching that filthy currency...
Thus spake Marlette...
In defense of this almost-unbearably apposite political cartoon, cartoonist Doug Marlette avers:
Just as Christianity and Judaism and probably Zoroastrianism are distorted by murderous fanatics and zealots, so too is the religion of Islam.This is interesting because all three faiths have been under continuous attack for centuries by the always 'peaceful,' always 'tolerant' Islam. So accepting is Islam of alternative points of view that Zoroastrianism was actually driven out of Persia. Marlette's editor at the Tallahassee Democrat, Mary Ann Lindley, rises gamely to his defense:
At least 90 percent of the nearly 5,000 Muslims worldwide who have e-mailed me in the past few days were personally insulted yet not willing to personally condemn the Taliban, Osama bin Laden or militant Islam and their reign of terrorism.How much more ringing this endorsement might have been, had the newspaper actually had the guts to run the cartoon. A reader's letter, quoted in WorldNet Daily, makes the point better anyway:
"I have noticed outrage about the cartoon, but I have not noticed outrage from Muslims concerning the devastation and carnage that radical Islamists have caused," wrote Rebecca Davis. "Their silence concerning radical groups from their own faith speaks louder than words."After all, how would Marlette expect anyone to 'get it' if the world had not had its fill and then some of 'peaceful' Islam? No one can satirize the unfamiliar.
All this controversy is made possible by the carrion-eaters of CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations. The cartoon, decried in thousands of emails from angry Muslims, did not appear at all in the Tallahassee Democrat, and it appeared only briefly, and only then by accident, on the Democrat's web site. CAIR advises care not because American editors are insufficiently gutless, but because they are insufficiently cautious about their cornucopian surfeit of gutlessness. That we owe our awarenss of Marlette's impudence to their imprudence is a travesty.
There were death threats, of course, and not just a few. But so far American Muslims have refrained from burning down the Democrat's place of business, which puts them one-up on their Nigerian brethren. And--also of course--from the other target of the cartoon, the purportedly-Christian envioromaniacs who wonder "What would Jesus drive?" we have heard not a peep. That's because, despite their mental infirmities, they know they live in the United States, a country that owes some part of its greatness to the impudent editorial cartoon. For the New Year, CAIR might resolve to discover America. Not the country, but rather the state-of-mind, a state-of-mind that is everything Islam is not.
Feeding the mouth that bites you...
Habib-ur-Rahman, writing at khilafah.com, is gracious enough to reveal why America is hated:
America's loathing in the world is self inflicted. A product of its values and foreign policy that emanate from its conviction in the ideology of capitalism. Thus whilst it follows capitalism it will continue on its present path regardless of the increasing world resentment. Only a change in its belief system or a clash with an opposing civilisation can alter this course.The idea of one-world-communism is a useful one for Muslims, since American and European communists cannot but agree with the prescription. As I argue elsewhere, "America's liberals don't want Islam to win this cultural war. They just want the West to lose it."
Obviously, capitalism will never give its enemies what they deserve--absolutely nothing--so we're left with the counter-prescription of this photo, also from khilafah.com:
Plenty more where that came from...
I'm no Plato's Cavedweller. It would suit me fine if they had shoved the damn mystic into the cave and bricked him up inside. But at the same time, I get annoyed at the hubris that insists that we 'know' substantially more than the evidence supports. This used to be the exclusive turf of theologians and anti-Hellenic counter-revolutionaries like Plato. Lately they have had to share ground with the propounders of Phoenix-like theories of physics, macro and micro. In celebration of the New Year, space.com offers up the Top 10 Space Mysteries for 2003. This is a detailing of ten new 'truths,' most of which are replacing the coulda/woulda/shoulda 'truths' of last season's astrophysical fashions:
6. Are We Alone? If only we could click our heels and be swept off to another Earth, we'd know. Meanwhile, we're all stuck here on this planet with arguably lousy cosmic eyesight, forced to indirectly detect the presence of worlds around other stars, left to wonder if they might harbor life.That much is true. We are peering through a keyhole to describe a mansion. This is not a Platonic wail of anepistemological despair. It is a recogntion that, while the mind is an excellent tool, it does have limits. To insist with brave arrogance that we 'know' what we cannot have gathered sufficient evidence to have discovered, and then instantly to trash that 'knowledge' in favor of newer and even-more-poorly defended 'truths,' is simply vanity. Thus does the work of the mind come to resemble celebrity tabloid journalism: "Are Ben and J-Lo being pulled apart by mysterious 'dark energy'?!?"
Mind what goes into your mind...