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Atomized junior- The Radio Weblog

Tuesday, 30 December, 2003
Information Please: Tool of the Terrorists.

If you see someone carrying an Almanac call the police. I first heard this story Yahoo! News - FBI Issues Alert Against Almanac Carriers from an anchor on the local news last night. She tossed it off casually and didn't go beyond "FBI says" in source citation. I held off referring it in hopes that it would turn out to be a hoax. I suppose I knew all along it wouldn't be. Mind you, almanacs are useful things, for years now my sister has given me one for Christmas every year, New York Times 2004, also I have a Houghton Mifflin World Almanac from 1997 and some others. They are full of critical information, for instance: the percentage contribution of the agricultural sector of Burundi was 71%. in 1970, but only 50% in 2001, Jim Plunkett was NFL rookie of the year in 1971, Norman Angell won the 1933 Nobel peace prize for the book the Great Illusion and Alan Alda's real name is Alan d'Abruzzo. When I think such information could fall into the hands of Al Kayida. Or consider they may come armed with these: the family of fools is ancient. Craft must be at charge for clothes, but truth can go naked - (Franklin, collected for Poor Richard). The free world stands no chance against the almanacists. Remember if you outlaw fear mongering- when only Terrorists are able to terrify people, the terrorists will have won.
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Sunday, 28 December, 2003
Type Logic

The other thing that caught my eye was Mir's pass through the typelogic web site via another site. Typelogic is based on the Myers-Briggs test. It presents an abbreviated web version of that test. I took a "returning students" class a few years ago - kicking off my current slow motion effort to finish my degree, as part of that class we took the full official version, the MBTI. When I first came across the Typelogic version I did it and largely came out the same way I did with the full test. Looking over the packet I got with the MBTI, I note the test creators claim their work is based on the work of Carl Jung.. The test I took has me favoring the INTP profile. The last indicator dichotomy (judging into perceiving) scored shallow directionaly. Looking at this now set me to thinking. What that last indicator is trying to establish is a mode of living - a preference for a planned and organized life or one spontaneous and flexible.

I don't have any preference here. When It comes to accomplishing particular things I find that I must become very structured in approach - take notes make outlines often for writing, consider ergonomics, hand positioning, muscle memory for mutable tasks. For all things I need to stop and develop a systematic approach, or I cannot complete anything. It is easy from this to flip over the other way. To become convinced that you have found the way through method and list, and through habits, to a productive life in a large and general sense. The needs of work, and home absorb a great deal of organized living. As much as one can give. You will not find you way back to ideas until you begin breaking patterns, small patterns big patterns and not with strategic goal directed deliberateness, but randomly, continually, and with no expectation.
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I make notes - in various medium - for myself of things I want to write about. Its an imperfect system insofar as it relies on my finding and unfolding small wadded scraps of paper and further bringing the glyphs encountered back across the wider gulf to meaning and relation. This one says : "exq corpse & typelogic". Fortunately I remember what this means. This are two things off of Dim Sum Diaries that I wanted to think of something to say about.

One entry led to a Andrei Codrescu piece for All Things Considered, in which he compared web loggers to spiders. I listened to the piece at work (broadband) a couple of weeks ago. I don't recall he explicitly stated that web loggers are trapping and eating their fellow netizens. On the other hand he didn't say he didn't think so. He did say that in his country the spiders (which he described as being rather large) die off in the winter. Here it was possible to spot the metaphoric mind in action: Webloggers are constant hunters, trappers who will experience a winter when no food will come and will freeze in the cold. I feel he's trying to say something here, but I'm not sure what.

I know Codrescui mostly from his movie Road Scholar where armed with a drivers license he sets out across the United States. Idiosynchronicity (not a real word, just similar to one) seems to have been that projects hallmark. He also went back to Romania for PBS Frontline special Romania - My Old Haunts, which I haven't seen. Codrescu is an original editor of the he E 'zine Exquisite Corpse. This is a web site I used to look at often, and one of those sites that I visit less frequently since my web viewing got skewed towards RSS. Now on its thirteenth, issue stuffed full of the poetry of his friends, fiercely literary, and calling itself a journal; this corpse looks hearty enough to live through even a Carpathian winter. No starving spiders there.

Should web loggers strive to be resolutely A-literary in their writing. Carefully compartment themselves as techbloggers, warbloggers, or photobloggers, in order to avoid their motives and aspirations being questioned for their commitment to and converscence in the history of literary ideas. Or like the Brown Recluses I keep finding in my apartment, should we just look for a warm-air draft and try to stand our ground, eight feet on the floor, through the winter of dis(claimed)content.
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Thursday, 25 December, 2003
Merry Christmas.

This space was supposed to contained a pixeled sleigh gif which I ... haven't finished drawing yet . Soon. Until then Merry Christmas. Ah here it is: A picture named santa.jpeg

My favorite present was being reunited with one of my favoite childhood games, a marble game called solitare. A picture named solitare.jpg 32 marbles 33 holes. It was the original wooden plate too, a victorian piece that had been by Mother's Grandmother's. Here's the thing of it. My Niece, Nicole, looks it over and I explained to her how you play the game. She sets to work jumping marbles and in a few moments sighs and admits defeat. She got down to one but its not in the center.
It took me two years to get to that point when I was her age.
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Wednesday, 24 December, 2003
A Baker's dozen

The Bush Administration announced recently that veteran foreign policy hand James Baker was being named special envoy Enter James Baker 3rd, and being tasked with a whip around with a tin cup to get various countries to agree to put up funds towards the reconstruction of Iraqi or at least some level of debt relief. I was a little dubious at first thinking this would be an itinerary of closed doors, but then the Germans came across, and later the Russians Putin Considers Iraqi debt relief. Now he's due to set off on a second round, Baker to Seek Iraqi debt relief in Asia. Either things are going well, or they're being spun considerably. I recall a segment on the Newshour last Friday, DEBT MISSION, The correspondent was pressing a German diplomat because their meeting with Baker had been so brief if there hadn't been some quid pro quo involved. "of course not." No pre-work at all?. Well, he wouldn't go that far.

What made me doubt that things would go well was the Determination and Findings memorandum from a couple of weeks ago that came out under Paul Wolfowitz's signature, and came out on the eve of Baker's trip (see also: Asil Insights). That no country that was not part of the coalition of the willing was to get any contracts with The U S or Provisional Authority in Iraq. Despite reports that those in the White House were not happy with this. Bush strongly defended this through several news cycles. Glimpsed one way his comments that our boys are doing the fighting so American Companies will get the jobs seems fair, viewed another way it is a chilling statement that it is a matter of course that those that war, get to profit from war remember, Roman, these will be your art(Aeneid,vi). I'll let Ted Rall provide a satiric summary of the argument.

Claudia Rosett's column Rebuilding Iraq With Clean Hands provides one with a taste of what apologists for this position might say. Krugman's take on this Deliberate Debacle is that Wolfowitz did this on purpose. A monkey wrench into the work of reconciled reconstruction.

I think the administration's hard-liners are deliberately sabotaging reconciliation. These are tough times for the architects of the "Bush doctrine" of unilateralism and preventive war. Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their fellow Project for a New American Century alumni viewed Iraq as a pilot project, one that would validate their views and clear the way for further regime changes. (Hence Mr. Wolfowitz's line about "future efforts.")
Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan's Contracts for Iraq: Reverse the Pentagon's Decision is the fly in this ointment. These two are the heart of the Project for the New American Century. They are the last one would think to give up an inch of ideological ground for the sake of politics, as Paul Krugman assumed. They arrange their arguments on a slope between devious and wise. At the end of all this as James Baker prepares to head off on his next round. I still find my mind coming back to Wolfowitz's turn of phrase (I'm not sure where Krugman got this from - the phrase does not appear in the original memo - and he doesn't say, but he has it in quotes) of future efforts. What Krugman is saying and what Kristol and Kagan and Ted Rall are saying is the same thing.
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Sunday, 21 December, 2003
A Mark II sea story

Now for the second of three short vignettes about Mark Edmunds (as I remember him). I had the idea to have the stories span a year. This story occurred roughly midway between the first and the one I will tell last. All events related are from a previous century.

Crusader Castle

One difficult thing about telling these stories now, is that while I remember certain events well and in approximate detail - these are the stories I relate, often after coming to understand them as stories establishing a memory hook for their narrative line like a photo dipped in fixing solution - I find; though, that I often recall nothing really of what lies on either end of the event I remember. Such is the case here. I remember it was a Sunday, I know we were in port. I came into the CVIC of the USS Ranger at some point in the mid morning. I don't recall if I had eaten breakfast or not. No one was in the CVIC (a warren of about eight compartments about as big a two bedroom apartment where approximately thirty-five people worked) No one was there save for Mark who was in the mission planning compartment, which was a small tv studio/briefing room. I hadn't run into anyone else I knew since I got up. I imagined they were either standing a watch, still in their racks or most likely had hit the gangplank and were out someplace in town (which would have been Olongapo). Mark was hard at work. He had the daily message traffic in hand which told him where on the big metal sliding wall panels to which we had rubber cemented ONC charts of the Pacific, he should place the strip magnets which had the name of Russian ships affixed to them written out using those Denison embossers which punch white letters onto brightly colored plastic tape.

I came in sat down and watched, as one would sit down and watch a tv that was turned on. After a while I said to him: "Y'know Mark, we're tied up at the quay in Subic, we don't have to plot the board when we're in port. We're off call."
"I know" Mark said , and continued to trace out the intersecting lines of longitude and latitude that marked the individual position of some magnet.
What he was doing was a fairly involved piece of work. It took about forty minutes to do well and right. I tried again to make him see the futility of the effort particularly on a Sunday morning in the middle of an extended in-port period, where it was unlikely anyone would ever lay eyes on the results of his labor. Additionally, Mark and I were not ships company but part of the air-wing (the suite of squadrons assigned to the aircraft carrier for that deployment.) We were only attached administratively to a ships unit through the speciality of our rating. Chief Tennyson didn't really give a rats ass about us, or any other of the TAD sailors he was in charge of. If that meant you came in for less scrutiny by turns, it also meant you couldn't buy a brownie point for trying . I pointed all this out to Mark ending with "no ones going to know or care. "
"I'll know" he answered.

"There are other people whose responsibility this is right know", I told him, " units at sea, fleet intelligence centers, the ready rooms of the fighter squadrons at Clark AFB or Cubi point just around the point in Subic Bay."
"Maybe so", Mark said slowly as he finished the plotting, "but this ship is what the Seventh fleet is really built on for the period of this deployment. Our ability to defend everything you just mentioned depends on this ship and its planes and bombers. So the only thing that really matters is what we know. If something goes down and we have to put out to sea this afternoon, pull everybody back from liberty - scrambling back to the ship with their dicks hanging out. We'll be ready, because I'll have plotted the board. "

Mark was very proud of himself now and he was finished so he stepped back to take a look at the board. "Its done and we know where all the Russians are. Probably the only two people within fifty miles of here who know all the Russians are, certainly on this Ship and this is the front line of America's defense's".
Scanning the array of blue magnets and red magnets on the board, I ascertained that this was true enough and on its way toward being a description of the situation. The admiral's copy of that same message traffic probably contained pictures with all the O's and X's and in the appropriate colors, but I didn't know were the admiral was so he didn't count. I didn't like losing arguments to Mark even low key arguments though I often did.
"Hey Mark" I called out, "How old are you". "nineteen", he answers. And how old am I? "Nineteen also" "Did ever read Kurt Vonnegut's book SlaughterHouse Five My memory here is a little hazy I recollect that he said 'yes' but with enough hesitation to make me think he hadn't, but wanted to hear what I had to say.
"Do you remember the subtitle of that book?" Slaughterhouse Five, a fictional novel that spins out of an autobiographical instant in Vonnegut's life, has a subtitle: the Children's Crusade. "If you take any war, any army, any navy, from anywhere in history or right now on your board or whoever else keeps a big board plotted, and you crack it open - inside you will find nothing but children."
Mark nodded, "I know."
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Thursday, 18 December, 2003
The Cosmonaut is fine, next question.

Dana Milbank has article in todays paper White House Web Scrubbing ( which is worth reading carfully and thinking about. It follows on to the Safire op-ed /US news article post I put up yesterday. I would take only one exception from Milbanks implicit framing for this piece - that this sort of behavior is still one step up from soviet style air-brushing. That is precisely it, it isn't. The first I remember encountering Soviet data minding was reading a magazine in high school. Article was on space programs, they had wanted a group picture of cosmonauts, their pull from the morgue file or Bettmann turned up one set of pictures which clearly was the same picture except one guy in the back row wasn't there any more and the wall behind him had been painted in. The magazine made a sidebar and printed both versions. The impulse behind the air-brushing hadn't been state security, but simply to avoid embarressment - the missing cosmonaut had died in an accident - accidents happen. It was done to maintain the illusion that everything is going according to plan, no one has guessed wrong (or 'guessed" at all) no one has done wrong, or made a mistake. That everything is exactly as it should be, and how it was predicted. All Is Under Control.

The Bush Administration has fussed with the web before, they're known to have put a robots.txt line in folders on their servers. I'm not sure i have this right - I am not a techie (IANATi) - this is a line of script that tells web crawlers not to look into, or index a folder. I seem to recall threads in Metafilter and Slashdot chewing on this and implied that content was changing behind this screen. I will use a break at work today where I have broadband, to try to dig those threads up.

Last thing I want to say about this is that I used to know this Andrew Natsios, He lived in the same town I grew up in, and used to teach in the schools (social studies). I always respected him. He's had a intense and varied career. Being in ths administration isn't making him a better man. At the end of the main war, he put out a statement saying that contract from the USIA would be assigned by merit and not just be handed over to Halliburton, though that is not what happended. Shortly after I read some articles which said that he put out a message to NGO's Bush wants Complicity of Aid Workers (Klein, Guardian, 23 June 03) Reuters- NGO's Feel Squeeze saying if you take a dime of the us Governments money or want to, you better fall in with the Party line.

Addendum Fri 19 Dec 03. 2050 EST: The Slashdot thread I alluded to is White House Website Limits Iraq-Related Crawling. The Metafilter thread is based on the original Slashdot post.
I also ought to point out NGO stands for Non Governmental Organization to the extent that national governments give money to NGO's as part of foreign aid programs they indicate by doing so that the NGOs add value (often the essential and sufficient part) by being non governmental that they can not replicate, otherwise they could and would do it directly. Mr. Natsios is insisting the question be asked: What Part of Non Governmental is it that you don't understand?
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Wednesday, 17 December, 2003
Soros and the American State.

If you haven't read it yet you might want to read the article that George Soros wrote for the Atlantic this month The Bubble of American Supremacy ( Soros | The Atlantic | December 2003). Soros has created a stir by pledging a large amount of money to the presidential election for the democratic cause or anti Bush cause, depending on how you read his motivations. It's a long and somewhat thoughtful piece. If I were to try to put a short handle on it though, his controlling metaphor is the United States's current primacy, as a financial bubble. The psychology of a bubble - irrational exuberance - is at work in the minds of those influencing American Foreign policy who think they see the moment of empire at hand and see also a clear duty/opportunity step up and take the Kipling's burden of running the world.

An article from about the same time AlterNet: American Apocalypse can be read in tandem with this. The Alternet article by Robert Lifton looks and some of these same impulses and phenomenon from the perspective of the Clash of Civilizations crowd, particularly the ones that put a very Ragnorok undercurrent to it. Its hard to say how many people inside the Government suscribe to these views. It is clear they encourage and pander to it. If you ever had the thought this was a bad idea this article will help you see why. Equating terrorism with blind evil and declaring that it must be eradicted essentially turns the American Nation and enterprise into a mystery cult.

I try to think what reaction I would have gotten in my Navy days if I had prepared a Fleet Intelligence Graphic (aerial photo w/annotations) and handed it to my Chief Petty Officer and told him: "well, here is a Kresta II at anchor in the harbor, here are some anti aircraft missile sites, this is an airfield, and this over here is the dark shadow of satan's army of fallen angels flying over the landscape in support of the evil loving souls of communists and infidels." I think that would have earned me a trip the padded part of sickbay. But it's a new old world out there now.
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Assorted links

A number of people have noticed that David Brooks has settled down consistently to banging on Howard Dean in his weekly NYT op-ed's. That ought to count as much as a Dean victory in any one of the first wave primaries.

Safire has written a somewhat surprising op-ed. in the New York Times Behind Closed Doors Looking at this administrations obsessive untoward secrecy, and rememebering how they felt about Hillary Clinton's Health care task force. Considering that not only the Sierra club, but also Judicial Watch are filing and FOIA and being Stonewalled, And that so are prominent Republican Senators. Safire decides to opt for the side of consistency and caution the Administration. US News had a nice article Keeping Secrets on this same subject this week which frames Safire's piece well.

Verlyn Flieger a English professor here at Maryland appears to have put out a statement slamming the Lord of the Rings movies for being 'Poorly written and poorly acted". Seems rather uncharitable and unnecessary, But I guess she's entitled: she has written a book on LOTR. Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien's World. I mention this because my sisters went to see her speak on Tolkien at the Smithsonian two years ago and they liked her.
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the Zen of Diebold

An article in a local paper, the Montgomery County Gazette, that quotes from on of those e-mails that were liberated off of Diebold's server E-mail stolen from Diebold is a call to gouge Maryland (I have background links to this in an earlier post on Diebold). A diebold employee is discussing a University of Maryland Study on electronic networked voting system, and potential reactions by Maryland State legislators of the State Board of Elections. There is a possibility that some groups may move to request Diebold provide for voting receipts before their systems is turned loose on a state wide election. The employee feels that if Maryland does that [we should charge them]"out the yin-yang".
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Monday, 15 December, 2003
a turning point

By now every one has had a chance to comment on the capture of Saddam Hussein. But where would I be if I didn't add my own thoughts. I had two ideas about where he was holding out, one was pretty much the way things turned out. Living in a shack in the heart of his tribal area, with only minimal efforts at disguise, looking like a bum with a suitcase full of hundreds and twenties (is that right was he carrying Benjamins around?). My other idea is that he was hanging out in the desert with some Beduins.

First: no mistake, this is a positive development. While what is transpiring in Iraq is an insurgency (as opposed to some abstract percolate of evil), it's not a popular insurgency. It is comprised of those people mostly from his own area who got up on their rat boards and rode Saddam's wave in longest. People who have no good future in any of the likely Iraqs to come, The insurgency was being fought using leftover funds chasing a shadow, by means of the mercenary, desperate, and criminally minded. There will be a period of denial now, while Saddam, the Lion of Mesopotamia, is prepared for his inevitable Ceausescu'ing. Soon, though, these people will begin to exchange a lost possiblity for whatever reality they can deal for. The situation in Iraq will move from intractable to increasingly tractable. I saw a news report from the San Franscisco Chronicle that shares in the company that makes ceramic body armor plate for infantry fell 18 points yesterday. That says more about the markets penchant for over reaction than anything else, but as they say You don't need a weatherman to see which way the wing is blowing

You can contrast this with what some observers where con sidering last month - that this situation was on the verge of spiraling out of control. Some people thought this might lead to widespread regional instability and war. That was possible, but not likely. It would have required other players entering the game. It would have required the neighboring states to indirectly though not transparently enter into opposition. As it stands the consenus is that there are only about 5000 people fighting this insurgency. That figure bounced around between 500 and 50,000, for a while it seem this war was being fought by powers of ten. Now it seems it has come down to who can spread money around fastest. All this is very far from the administration vision of The Mideast as arc of freedom as the CS Monitor put it. The first sentence of the led (emphasis added ) is key:

The Bush administration's professed vision for the Middle East is undeniably appealing. In recent weeks US officials from the president on down have talked more and more about their hope that the region will now slowly develop into an arc of freedom and democracy

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Saturday, 13 December, 2003
Purely exoteric

I said I was going to take a moment to try to recollect how we were asked to read Plato, Al Farabi or Hume, Locke or the Bishop Berkeley for that matter back when I was in school. This is in response to my post last friday when I noticed even theStraightDope was making fun of Leo Strauss.

Leo Strauss is accused of attempting an end run around Historicism . Historicism is (as nearly as I can tell) the fallacy of interpreting the past by the contextual imperatives of the present. That reading it in our own time and culture is an exercise in re-creation - that tells us nothing about the past. Essentially complex ideas do not travel through time. The idea's and values we think we see in the past are our own from the present. Another way of stating this is to say it is the fallacy of claiming direct knowledge of the past or of its wisdom, through human artifacts. That intellection in a past epoch and culture can only be genuinely understood by that culture in its time.

All this points to an certain unknowability about the past, and following from that a certain inconsequentiality to the past. All human problems and solutions are products of their particular moment in time. Philosophers, Political Philosophers at least, tend to believe in the existence of persistent fundamental problems of human society and organization. These originate in human nature, or stem from man's place within nature. Stated carefully, presented meticulously, organized with rigorous craft and art, these are universally recognizable. The topics of political philosphy bring attention from that most prickly member of the bete humane: rulers - and the men with either guns or swords they collect around them. There is often little reward for obviousness. Strauss looked at this problem of exegesis and created a distinction between exoteric writing which were those things a writer said that directly answered or were provoked by particular phenomenon of the writers times and world (which a researcher should be versed in) and esoteric writing. The notion of esoteric writing as Strauss defined it occurred when a writer abstracted, generalized versions of the isolated aspects of the human condition and engaged these issues on an idealized plane. Esoteric writing was thought accessible to those diligently and sincerely engaged in investigative interpretation of a writers work.

One thought that crossed my mind is to think of it in terms of arguments that recurrently in up in aesthetics: that the effect of the work may not be due to its theme, implicit narrative, or explicit draftsmanship. Rather it may be due to formal considerations; A certain arrangement of line and color producing a universal effect on the human soul.

In the arguments I remember, it was habitual for a writer to state his thesis first in its weak or initial form, then move on to stronger forms. The best writers did this without explicitly telling you why. Sometimes without even telegraphing that a new argument was being moved on. It would simply seem that a writer had made his point and inexplicably kept rattling on becoming increasingly vague and hard to follow until you put the book down. If you really wanted to know you had to figure it out on you own, you had to figure what form of the original question the stronger argument was answering and how that differed from the first. If you got that far you had an inkling of how to test a proposition. Similarly, such as with Al Farabi one might observe him making statements about politics, political science, about religion, Philosophy (in its practical and theoretical divisions). Or about the Virtuous First Ruler, and the master of Virtuous Kingly Craft. You will see him wind his way through strikingly parallel descriptions of these. Except they won't be. The comparison which is directly laid out (sometimes occurring in different works) is not complete. All this is a model kit. The finished piece is the insight the reader has gained through their own labor.
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I want to get back to some "sea stories". I put that in quotes because I have three small stories lined up and only one of them takes place on water. These three are Mark stories. Mark Edmunds was my best friend in my Navy days, the first two years at least. The second two years I was transferred to the Pentagon, Mark stayed in Key West. We lost track of one another. Mark was from North Canton Ohio. Mark had a t-shirt; on the shirt was a crazed looking cartoon buzzard. The buzzard was smoking a joint. Mark always claimed that if anyone wanted to understand him they had to understand the Buzzard and the buzzard's ways. The buzzard only desired that you listen to WMMS. It was probably as reasonably good a key to Mark as any.


Mark liked bars, he liked package stores, he liked enlisted man's clubs. He liked the beer and whiskey he could find in such places. I wasn't a big drinker. I always figured I was just under the drinking mans weight class. Testing this served only to confirm it. Mark would head off to one or more of these places nearly every night. The squadron had just returned from a deployment on the Kitty Hawk, and was soaking up a little down time. Mark and I had only recently joined the unit and were looking for things to happen. On this particular night Mark and a few others set off for downtown Key West about eight miles down the road, the Air Station being on Boca Chica key. He left his room key with me, because unlike my room across the hall, his room had a stuffed chair and a reading lamp - this was not Navy issue furniture. Mark was aggravated at me for not going along, once he decided on a course of action he liked unanminity among those around him. I didn't care. I had a card to the base library and a book to read.

Sometime around 1230 that night, Mark and his small group came noisily back. Some people are happy mellow drunks, some effusive. Mark was in the category argumentative and belligerent. "You", he shouted as soon as he laid eyes on me. "You should have been there tonight, but no, you didn't want to go, so you missed it."
"That's right it. We were where it was tonight, it was all happening right were we were. It was going down and we were right there."
"And what was this?", I asked doubtfully, but Mark shook off the question.
"No, I'm not saying. You missed it, you'll always miss it. You'll always be sitting here in some chair when it happens out there, because out there is where it is, not here!" Mark was in more than one of his ordinary bellicose moods. He was in possession of something, something that was escaping him and his ability to explain things. He didn't like this, and tried again.
"You don't even understand it, so you don't even know your missing it, but I've seen it. I know its out there, I know about it, and it knows I know about it." Suddenly he was seized by a new idea. "I can show you where it was, then you'll see a little. You'll see how close it was, how near you were to it."

At the time we lived on the third and top story of the BEQ (Basic Enlisted Quarters) nearest the main gate. We lived on the north side whose end faced up the Keys. So Mark dragged me down the hall to the other end. This was Florida so there were open air staircases on the ends of the building. We went out onto the landing and Mark climbed up on the railing and motioned for me to climb up as well. Kent Dotson one of Mark's roommates and a parachute rigger followed us out and unobtrusively hung onto Mark.
"There, you see that blinking red light on that tower, the one with a blue light below it. Next to that another red light that isn't blinking, and just over from that there is a white light you can barely see." I could see them. I saw the blinking red one, at least, and could tell that he was indicating a neighborhood before Duval Street more around the the north end of White street. "Right there", he rushed on in a state of drunken excitement, "in the space between those lights: that's where it was." Through all this he would periodically pause and wait for me or any of the people who had been with him to attempt to doubt any part of it. No one did.

I peered into the darkness of the gulf of Mexico and considered the presence of an eternal universal omphalos resting tentatively among the incidental lights of a small out-of-the-way city. Something glimpsed, for a moment, a sizeless page of possibilities folded down into a knot like an origami crane. Mark had no doubts and pointed out the spot triumphantly: "that's where it was. Tonight it was all happening. Right there, that's were you had to be. If you had been there, you'd know, you'd know everything."

I was still thinking about this the next morning and tried to ask him about it at the dining hall during breakfast, but Mark had no recollection of any of it at all.
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Friday, 12 December, 2003
On Tyranny

I picked up the Washington City Paper yesterday. These City Papers, and I presume every city has one, are a Boston Pheonix like thing. When I got to the last page, the syndicated colum theStraightDope (aka Cecil Adams) which is usually a good read I see that the topic for mockery of the day is "Leo Strauss, lunatic". Well, I think to myself, I didn't see that one coming. Cranky Political Philosophy is not generally a topic for the tabloids. By strange coincidence it has been my topic tangentally for the past three or so days. The professor I mentioned, did study under Strauss at Chicago, we read Plato in his classes using Bloom's translation of the Republic, Al Farabi using Mahdi. Heck, as I look across the room I see Strauss-Cropsey's History of Political Philosophy sitting over on a chair. One of those books I read on weekends. Tomorrow I will take a brief stab at how I interpreted calls for close, but non historicist readings of political philosophy. Hint, no differently than I was asked to read anything else closely. I suppose that undergraduate education in America is a brutal, thickly grained and lumpen type of thing, and that I should not make claims that I believe (or ever believed) otherwise. Later on, perhaps, I will take this on at greater detail. I recall I went a round on this back in May as well. I feel a need to defend what little education I've. had. First I think I'll pick up a copy of Saul Bellow's novel Ravelstein.
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Wednesday, 10 December, 2003
Lights out (take 2)

I want to take a moment and revisit the post I wrote last evening. One problem with trying to finish posts late at night is that you don't always nail things down the way you thought. I had in mind three types of conservatives. The type I saw growing up: TV bigots reflected in the media from Hollywood, or from around the corner in South Boston. Even down at the end of my own street. This sort of dull reactive conservative always struck as being a day late and a dollar short. Later in college I met some of the second type. The type Berube writes about in the Chronicle article. Brighter, far more outspoken and possessed of an enormous staggering sense of entitlement they seemed only able to identify in others.

Happy tutor is talking about a third type. On Political Visuals and the Decay of Lying He is talking about those who stayed in higher education for the longer haul. The layers of post-graduate education. Who absorbed the manner and methods of post modern criticism, the critisism of the new left. Those who do not find a place in the walls of acadame, find themselves left beyond with a very particular way of viewing the world.

Government and Politics at Maryland, having decided not to hire Bertell Ollman to chair the department, didn't traffic much along postmodern lines. It was at the point of asking my professor what ought to be looked into along the line of modern thinkers, that he indicated I would be better off not going down that road, that I would find no answers to any genuine questions there and suggested reading Allan Bloom and sticking with Plato and Rousseau. Its true I never finished school. On the other hand, I never switched majors.

Those who (unlike me) stepped off (or is it 'off along') the road to serfdom find themselves in a position, situated to fill an critical niche role, marshalling or managing and neutralizing this market place of idea's, no one is better situated to read the signs and aspirations of the people in massed multitudes, to show them what can be regarded as meaningfull, even as meaning as a catagory lies hollowed, When social justice lies flat on the table as empty as it is spoken of, because the values that fill it, community and obligation. Obligations external, internal, and obligation to the good. All these things that never seem to have the solidity, clear shape or utility as does privilege.
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There is a good gloss on the current wave of aggressive redistricting at the Tom Paine site - The Gerrymander Moment. The Supreme Court has a chance to take a pass at this today with a case out of Pennsylvania Vieth v. Jubelirir. NPR also did a piece on this on Morning Edition today.
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Lights Out.

I read through Happy Tutors post Postmodern Neocon Supermen with interest. I read it last Saturday and have been trying to focus on it since. We draw such a nice straight line, clear and dark from the Greek democracies and the Greek demos, through to our day that we believe that it is all part of one obvious continuous narrative. The story of democracy and the hardy band of democratic stalwarts who have nurtured it through history, on the banks of the Tiber in Cato's day (and presumably in Domitian's as well), on the common green of a thousand english villages. The reality is that while the idea of democracy - the open society - may have existed as an idea, along with a range of opinions about it, all along. The modern democratic structures and institutions of our democratic republics (us and whoever we admit to the club) owe more to the compromises and adjustments attendant to the emergence of mass societies in the 18th and 19th centurys. Polities having 10s and 100s of millions of subjects required adjustments. A body of individuals possessing special skills and knowledge were needed to steer these ships of state through the technological revolutions. A marketplace of ideas was opened to the quicker bourgeois to effect this and by the force of amorphous opinion and gradually increasing sufferage, a normative reflection, from this group onto themselves, they forced a competitive vision of the state, to that of the operators of the state itself. The battleground of this struggle (and lets go ahead and call it a struggle) are those means the people use to share and exchange information and attitude. The marketplace of ideas in both its material (the media) and intrapersonal planes. I use intrapersonal to try to capture both the sense of the ideas and theories we group our reason and experience under; and the manner, symbols and representations we use to communicate them.

Before this current administration pushed its neoconservative vision and cast of exemplars on me my thoughts on neoconservatives were limited to the Young Republicans I encountered on campus through the mid 80's and 90's1, and tales of similar sorts holding court at Dartmouth. I didn't know much about these people, but I could see their intense envy of the passion and (apparent) effectiveness of the new left and its historical echoes. I had a teacher at Maryland, Charles Butterworth, who was the only teacher there I ever paid any attention to, or took more than one class from. He urged me at one point to read a book written by his mentor at Chicago called Closing of the American Mind. I read about three quarters of it before stopping. I was at turns sympathetic, but often instinctively dubious of what I thought he was saying. In truth I just didn't know enough to make anything of it, and didn't care for the exercise unless I could.

Tutor, (H) looks at the full cohort of Neoconservatives both in the administration and in the supporting institutions and believes he sees a generation of elites who made a careful study of everything they didn't like and thought wrong, who probably read all of Bloom's book and made notes in the margin, and read many other things as well. And who now use a reflection of the postmodern to build a wall around an increasingly proprietary use of state power. And for the end of ameliorating the effects of a generations old necessity of shared governance with the middle class.

So whoever is the Last Man standing remember to turn out the lights.

1. Here is an article from a recent Chronic which shares that experience.
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Sunday, 7 December, 2003
Post every day: a post homous toast.

Last week I think I decided I would try to post something every day. I wish to plead temporary insanity. More, possibly it wasn't me who said this. I believe it was the Brownies. They run about this place at night getting books down from my shelves and leaving them about. Opening newspapers on the dining table, always to the comics page! I thought they were supposed to be helpful, frankly they leave the place a mess. They've learnt to imitate my handwriting too and leave notes on my desk on little yellow (but different) sticky pads. Sometimes they will add to half written posts, though they do not seem to have mastered the Radio Userland multi-button "Post", "Publish", and "Post/Publish" configuration on their own. They trip themselves up here, by spelling things better than I can. This gives the game away nearly every time. They seem to be able to fire up the modem, judging from all the spam I get from 'pixie' sites.

I had started the weekend wanting to write something about the all volunteer Geneva plan, and the Israeli government's - how to put this - grandiose injunction that Secretary Powell not meet with them. Powell indicated he would meet with them anyway, additionally Paul Wolfowitz indicated he would meet in Washington with representatives of this plan also. I decided to hold off commenting on this until a steel cage wrastlin' match on a barge in the middle of the Potomac can be organized. Here's an idea; though, since the Likud government in Israel seems determined never to allow a true Palestinian state west of the Jordon river. And since the U S Government seems loathe to gainsay them, why doesn't the President or some designate get up and say this (no Palestinian sovereignty ever) in public so we can gauge the reaction and all get on the same page. The Israeli's are under no obligation of unilateral action, so this coyness serves little purpose.

My main goal for this week end was to read three chapters I photocopied out of a book called War and Democracy by Peter Manicas (Basil Blackwell, 1989) and a couple out of a new book by Gil Merom. Here I declare a measured victory or at least 'light at the end of the tunnel'.
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Thursday, 4 December, 2003

I saw the movie Fargo again over the weekend. It was on tv. Sometimes I try to use the movie Fargo to make a point. I often underestimate what it takes to make a point. Fargo has always stuck me as being a deliberate microcosm. One that illustrates a few things about rules, different kinds of people, and the way we live. One way to look at a society, is to conceive it as a flock of sheep. Sheep to be sure, but happy sheep. Among us are dogs. I would call them sheepdogs, except that might imply a shepherd that put them there, which may be true, but they don't know that. They may not even be dogs only other sheep, and only believe themselves dogs. We will humor them for know and call them Bigdog (as in Ken-bigdog-Lay). The sheep live, play and work the grass under the eye of the dogs who have rules, a normative warp and woof (if you will) of statues, regulations , and contracts.

Jerry Lundegaard, the William Macy character, is a sheep. He may harbor some notions about joining the ranks of the dogs, but would satisfied to be thought of as a sheep with his feet planted in an enviable patch of sweet green grass. He has his scheme, a scheme and a half really. The legitimate scheme his parking lot 'deal', which is tantalizingly outside his grasp because he cannot finance it. And there is his other scheme, where he takes two steps out side the rules - the laws - to finance the first. A pathetic swindle to create an off-the-books car, which he uses as a down payment to get two hoodlums to kidnap his wife. In both aspirations he runs up against the town's Big dogs, His father-in-law, Wade Gustafson, and his business partner. These are men who do very well for themselves, because they control the money in their town and make the rules. The father in law is full of judgment and opinion They convert everything to their control and ownership using the rules and others belief in them. They slice his first deal from him as he presents it to them and dismiss him with the vague promise of a "finders fee' . They similarly appropriate the second from him as well when Wade insists on taking the money to the kidnappers himself. Big dogs; though, do not really believe in stray dogs - in wolves. Who, if they exist must certainly be small or skinny things. Their attention is, will always be, absorbed by their perception of their own superiority, being in a world where everyone follows the rules. Rules that they think themselves uniquely smart enough to see as only tools.

When Wade attempts to bluster Carl Showalter (Buscemi) he is dealing with a type he doesn't understand at all. Carl shoots him fatally almost immediately. In Wades world everyone is governed by a certain predictable will toward normalcy, or by a rational acquisitiveness, like his own self satisfied greed. He is blind to everything outside this, he never grasps Jerry's duplicity, though he sees he is a fool.. He is completely unprepared to deal with untempered transgression that operates Carl.

Carl and his partner Gaear Grimsrud (the quiet one) are not governed by rationality. The story shows them at a number of turns doing things and ending up in places driven by their appetites and aversions alone. This links them and separates them from the other people in the story. A detail I missed in earlier viewings is that the partner that Shep Proudfoot (the indian mechanic) vouches for earlier in the movie is not the Steve Buscemi character, but is Grimsrud. Of the two Grimsrud is more in control of his appetites and more apt to move directly to appease them. The majority of deaths in the movie are set in motion by Showalter's lack of control. As the events in general are set off by Jerry Lundegaard's incompetent attempts fraud and extortion

From one angle Fargo is about the dogs; this particular kind of person and the world they would create. Those who believe in a certain narrow calculating rationality as the the human genuis, and live exploiting others embedded in a system of rules. Believing themselves to be the hardest thing in their world and seeing disorder in the flock as the only danger. Who are catastrophically unable to comprehend or effectively deal with the true chaos outside this.
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Wednesday, 3 December, 2003
Bought a ticket for this, didn't go?

I had been reading and adding the occasional line to a post I've been working on for a week (and will probably be working on for another week) all evening. When I suddenly remembered that I had decided I would try to put something up every day. Problem was, I had nothing. But I had an image A picture named gayquy4d.jpg stuck in my mind since mid day. My friend at work Tran showed me some pictures on her computer of a fundraiser her church put on last week. What I remembered was "Our lady of Vietnam" which didn't get me very far until I worked out what I was looking for was Tran is the tall woman in the middle with the pastel yellow dress that has the charlie brown zig zag thing going on and bright orange collars. This was the reception committee for the event. I know, its a light weight post - and its based on a picture I stole off a church's website. Terrible.
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Tuesday, 2 December, 2003
Banner day

Gerry in a comment made to my post on the President's drop in to Bagdad on Thanksgiving, anted to know what I thought of Bush's earlier PR sortie to the Aircraft Carrier in May. I thought it ridiculous. My first thought was: why has he got all that gear on? He flew out there on a COD, the mail plane! I know this wasn't lost on anyone on the ship. His arrival was changed from a helicopter flight out to up the testosterone factor as it would technically be a 'trap' (a tailhook landing). As for the banner, my guess is that the President's advance people got out there, sized up a handful of people who stuck them as being useful. They went to ship's Execuctive Officer and said "Just give us petty officers Abel, Baker, and Charlie, and Lt. Denmark, and we'll take care of this". The XO and his staff were probably relieved to not have to worry about it. To the crew in general it was just something come down from on high, a gesture, like a broom tied to a submarine's mast.

The Navy is a feudal society. There are peasantry: the enlisted ranks, ordinary seamen and petty officers (noncom's). And there is the nobility: the Officer corps. Who are from the outset generally a full step on a political log curve more conservative than the enlisted people. The Military is also a socializing mechanism that leads individuals to become more conservative the longer they remain within. When I was in, the lower enlisted ranks were profoundly cynical, and entirely powerless within the institution. Various anti service epitaths and the ubiquitous Dusty ses: peace, pot, and microdot! could be found on every flat surface across the military demi-monde. My impression is that this has changed.

If you look at some of the things the military writes among themselves you will see that they note and are concerned that from Vietnam on military causalities are becoming something that largely only happens to enlisted people. A rich mans war, but the poor mans fight is the saying. With the exception of Secretary Rumsfeld who was a Navy pilot and Secretary Powell, none of the civilian leadership for this war has any direct experience of military service. Before the war started I asked my brother-in-law Al what the prevailing view on Capital Hill was. He said these people (All the AEI neocons in the executive branch) were generally regarded as clueless academics and ideologues and it was predicted that this was going to end in disaster and cost a fortune (a point it has not really hit yet, and may not). But they let them do it anyway. That's failure of leadership.

The problem isn't solely with the National Security strategy document which for all its 'I've got a chip on my shoulder bravado' acknowledges multiple sources of instability. The problem is the particular plan of action that has been extruded from it. One might ask instead of Cheney and Wolfowitz: where is your doctrine of pre-emption for famine, and the AIDs epidemic, for climate change and potable water shortage? What do we do when even the Cryps and Bloods have Nuc's?
._._. pb _._
note: I had other comments (Woo hoo)from my posts over the week end. I tried to reply to these in line in the comments thread. If that doesn't seem effective I will problably reply to people with new posts.
9:28:39 AM    comment [];trackback [];

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