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Atomized junior

Tuesday, February 24, 2009
PH Balance

  I was paying partial attention to the recent Israeli election.  I had the feeling some of this material may be on the quiz later. As I followed it, it appeared as though Tzipi Livni won that election. I read a biographical piece on her the New York Times magazine ran about a year and half ago  Her Jewish State. Per the intention of the piece I finished that article mostly convinced she was the leadership Israel ought to have. The person I'd pick, If I had my druthers. The story appeared to take a turn then when the newspapers indicated, within days that Netanyahu was picked to form the government  Netanyahu to Form New Israel Government - Parliamentary politics; where it's all about the voting block you can bring to the table Netanyahu, Once Hawkish, Now Touts Pragmatism - It surprised me anyway. Despite appeals over the weekend and into the week that followed neither Livni (nor Olmert) were inclined to join a Likud coalition government Netanyahu Rebuffed Again in Efforts to Form Coalition - From their perspective this was wise because to do so would put her on the same footing as Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party (about whom I know little except that he seems prone to a certain parochialism). Her presence in such a coalition would only serve to to lend weight to anything he choose to say or do. Formed recently as it was out of the centrist elements of other political parties to be a nucleus to a governing coalition, it is an open question whether Kadima can adjust to being an opposition party. At the moment  it must appear best to them to stand aside and let the nation see how far to the right Likud wants to take them The Globe and Mail: With Israel's Livni holding out, Netanyahu forced to look right

 The recent war in Gaza undertaken by Olmert and Livni's government offers a taste of such a move to the right. A sense of: War, now what hangs in the air  How badly did Gaza poison the well? | Marc Lynch. It was an ambivalent war Who won the Gaza war? - By Linda Gradstein - Slate Magazine. Hamas's idea of victory is avoiding annihilation. Presently they are still in civil control of Gaza and the war probably left them the stronger partner against Fatah in palestinian governance issues News Analysis - War on Hamas Saps Palestinian Leaders - Israel for their part reinstated military dominance over Gaza, and demonstrated Hamas is well short of defeating the Israeli Army. On the other hand Israel failed to demonstrate they can act in urban areas without causing excessive civilian casualties, though they showed they can keep their own casualties low. For all that 1200 people died.

 War is ambivalent. Ambivalent in conception, in practice, in result. Always. War presents itself as the direct approach, the best solution, the only real way. It gives little at end and takes more. War is a drug, it is absinthe, it intoxifies gives sharp amphetamine highs, muffled tranquilized lows. It is a stew of lies. Even if Hamas believes fighting Israel furthers their cause, Israel ought not believe fighting Palestinians is the answer to their situation.

 The myth of war's necessity is a large part the of theme of Christopher Hedges book War is a force that gives us meaning []. Recently a "first year book" and the University of Maryland.

  The prospect of war is exiting Many young men schooled in the notion that war is the ultimate definition of manhood, that only in war will they be tested and proven, that they can discover their worth as human beings in battle, willingly join the great enterprise. The admiration of the crowd, the high blown rhetoric, the chance to achieve the glory of the previous generation, the idea of nobility beckon us forward. And people, ironically, enjoy righteous indignation and an object upon which to unleash their anger. War usually starts as collective euphoria [p. 84] 

Additionally Hedge kicks off the entire book with a preface quote from David Hume (I should work Hume into all my posts from now on).

 When our own nation is at war with any other, we detest them under the character of cruel, perfidious, unjust and violent: But always esteem ourselves and allies equitable, moderate, and merciful. If the general of our enemies be successful, it is with difficulty we allow him the figure and character of a man. He is a sorcerer: He has a communication with daemons...But if the success be on our side, our commander has all the opposite good qualities, and is a pattern of virtue, as well as of courage and conduct. His treachery we call policy: His cruelty is an evil inseparable from war. [ Treatise  on Human Nature: Vol. II Book II Part II Sect. III  ]

 Hume for the purpose of further argument casts his notion as human nature. Unlike simpler animals (a cat is cat and reliably so), men have perhaps variable natures into which we are cast by environment, argument and unrepentant propaganda. In the end war - war fever - isn't a drink or a pill, it is a process. Hedge's point is that it takes considerable effort by low leadership to shift people to war.  It is not perfectly natural but a creation of unreason.

 Future of Israel amongst its neighbors is caught up in many threads and assessments it is impossible to have a useful opinion about it  across an ocean and further sea. There is a struggle for land, and there is only so much land between the Jordan river and the sea. Diplomats talk of arbitrary state solutions while acknowledging that demographics; varying birth rates: Israel - 19.7/k , Palestinian terr. - 35.9/k crude birth rate. And fertility rates: Israel - 2.91 (2000)  2.75 (2008) , Palestinian terr - 5.63(2000)  5.09(2008) FtR [2nd table UN data] command. Population pressures will weigh heavily on who will physical possess the land a few generations into the future with citizenship. rights of return and settlements only affecting things on the margin.

This is the reason that while accordance is given it only in the breach the two state solution keeps centering itself in the debate. For each a place of sovereignty growth  and prosperity. Not the open air Attica that is the Gaza Strip. There are those in Israel that hold to the notion that the palestinian people, as such and uncapitalized, mostly represent opportunists who drifted to the land a handfull of generations ago, in the years of Ottoman vacuum. For whom half a state at best would suffice. There are Palestinians who have convinced themselves they can keep peace at bay until a day when the tides of history change and the arab world at parity with the west will be at their back. They are encouraged and abused in this by states who simply wish to place a thorn in Israel's side.

 Things are changing though, time resists a steady state. There is the bomb, the arab bomb. Syria is willing to spend money on North Korean wares, this at the least indicates their attitude. Iran's bomb is more central. I believe they desire one strongly and will not be talked out of it. The downside has not been effectively communicated to them. Their intention is to finesse it to semi-completion. Leaving the program short of a nuclear weapon constructed, and with the militarization end ready for its part. From this point only some months of industrial effort, initially clandestine, would be necessary to produce a bomb. 

 The lesson of earlier bombs, nuclear bombs ours theirs, these are all Tom Leher's  bombs 1 , is that what they meant once the other side had them was far different from what they meant when you alone had them, and it's too late to change your address. You would not want to build a foreign policy on the bombs possession. Other bombs reduce yours to water. This is what Israel minds warily in an Iranian bomb.

11:41:08 PM    comment [];trackback [];

Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Mixing Metaphors or Comedy is Hard

  In a recent post apparently,  I disparaged anarchy and stand-up comedy as well, failing to give due consideration to the nobility and art of the anarchic intent,  anarchy that is inherent in the best comedy. I went low and inside and got called for it. What I need I see is a better mousetrap, a better metaphor rather (I should also stop spelling metaphor as methaphor in drafts), so that the world may beat the PATH train to my door. I have rolled this reply into an entry of its own because it took more effort than I expected to cobble together a suitably thoughtful response to maintain my cheap laugh at the expense of finer things. I can't afford to let that work go to waste. Thinking isn't easy for me.

 There is a good anarchy, I suppose. So there is good comedy.  As there is bad comedy, so there must be bad anarchy.  Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was the coiner of the term Anarchy as the comment to that post pointed out. His anarchy can be captured by three quotes from the wiki page cited by the commenter. They trace the following sentiments by measure:


What capital does to labour, and the State to liberty, the Church does to the spirit. This trinity of absolutism is as baneful in practice as it is in philosophy!


the government of each by himself", which meant "that political functions have been reduced to industrial functions, and that social order arises from nothing but transactions and exchanges.


 To be GOVERNED is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so.

As long as no one believed they owned the value of another's labor this web of contract relation was held to be self regulating and sustaining, and government could be withdrawn. The absence of authority was order. Against this is an intrusive chaotic anarchy. Even in rendered circumstance the boundaries of liberty are like the membrane of soap bubbles. A membrane that exists where your absolute infinite and inviolate [inviable] rights meet up against my absolute infinite and inviolate rights (and hisen and hersen's absolute infinite...etc. rights). This is not, of course, where people set their rights.  They, we, set our rights at the point we feel our liberty viscerally, and where find ourselves able to profit by them. A point where they already trespass well into those of others.

 There is bad comedy. Candidates for this include the muddle of situational stagings that have forgotten physical bodily elements; Muggings deadpans double-takes pratfalls, yet calls itself comedy.  Stand up comedy which mistakes its calling: to pull away the comforting falsehoods we cling to, and simply gives us more, following only a low need to be the center of any rooms attention. Worst is the banal comedy of dichotomy. You know the kind:  'there are two kinds of people... Presumably smart people (like us) and stupid people (like them)' It does partially carry its own cure: if you find it funny, you are one of them.

 In a sketch for any future completion of this metaphor, making use of what is at hand i.e. what I'm reading at the moment." Which currently is a short essay by Lewis Mumford named "Hume: Nihilistic Atomism [ Interpretations and forecasts: 1922-1972; studies in literature, history, biography, technics, and contemporary society]. Mumford is perplexed (intrigued really) by Hume's Enquiry on Human Understanding, Where Hume appears to have the the building block for all human motivation a certain irritability and reaction, writing that "A theory that eliminates value...smuggles it back in by making sensation...the seat of value." By the former notion of value Mumford means any manner of conventional ethics or virtue, even the activity and mediating influence of reason. But then he goes on to consider: "value comes into existence through mans primordial need to distinguish between life maintaining and life destroying processes." If a way of being establishes itself through sensation and experience on that basis perhaps a solid framework of value reestablished itself.

  I would have then a comedy of raw sensations, opposed to only a steady comedy of observation and mannerisms. And violence of first principles felt in barbs the over the thinness of gesellshaft culture where the greatest good is no more than the lack of authority.

11:24:05 PM    comment [];trackback [];

Thursday, February 12, 2009
Berwyn Heights, Pr. Georges County Lows

 The Washington Post Magazine ran a feature on an incident from a few months ago that I intended to write about at the time and never got around to doing so. It is about something that happened in the town of Berwyn Heights MD Deadly Force. Berwyn Heights is a small almost imaginary sliver of a town nestled between Route 1, Greenbelt road and Kenilworth blvd. in Prince Georges county. I lived there myself once briefly a long time ago and remember it fondly.  For those from other parts of the country who probably never heard this story, I'll give a brief recapitulation of the facts. The incident involves Cheye Calvo, who grew up locally. Among other things he is the current holder of the part-time position of mayor of Berwyn Heights. Also his wife Trinity Tomsic, and her mother Georgia. It then includes the County Sheriffs department and SWAT team. The incident itself was the tragically unnecessary, ill-handled, and possibly illegal police raid, that traumatized a family and left the family pets, two black Labrador retrievers, shot dead. This happened last summer on the 29th of July 2008. Over the next few days the Washington Post eked the story out with a series of small articles  Police Raid Berwyn Heights Mayor's Home, Kill His 2 Dogs like a child pushing peas around their dinner plate with a fork  Some Doubt Mayor's Tie to Drugs. Apparently there is a drug smuggling gambit that involves mailing drugs through the mail to random address with the intention of intercepting them at or prior to arrival at their final destination. Narcotics determined that just such a package was addressed to Trinity Tomsic. They delivered it themselves and when it was brought into the house they waited until dark flooded the yard with men carrying automatic weapons broke down their door and when the dogs barked they shot each of them multiple times. They did not have, nor did protocol demand the type of search warrant - a 'no-knock' warrant  Pr. George's Officers Lacked 'No-Knock'... they would have allowed them to conduct themselves in such manner. All this is in the article (first link) and it really is worth taking the time to read it.      

 How could this happen is the question here. The point (made in article's deck), the sharp edge of the question is that this type of thing, a militarized assault on a ordinary citizens home is not  uncommon at all - just unheralded. The feature's author, April Witt, offers a telling quote at one point an officer at the raid overheard saying "My first raid, and we got the mayor's house." A good time ruined, by a detail.

 There was another story in the news around the same time which likewise gave off a trail of troubling sparks like a half detached gas tank rattling against the pavement beneath a car speeding along the highway. This one concerned a Maryland State Police undercover surveillance program Police Spied on Activists In Md.. The police had targeted a Takoma Park MD food Co-op. Takoma Park is only a brief mile or so from where I live currently. Here they were infiltrating community meetings, compiling dossiers (which apparently continues and is classified), and writing reports. Why? Because they were concerned that the vegan activists that hung around that place were trying to organize protests against capital punishment in Maryland Logs Show Activist Surveillance Continued Despite Lack of Criminal.... Former republican Governor Erlich's state police could not bring themselves to allow that. In the reporting on this it seems the police justify this by regarding the co-opists as potential domestics terrorists also that they may have repurposed Department of Homeland security funds to accomplish it Many Groups Spied Upon In Md. Were Nonviolent. The dark shades of Cointelpro that hang around this, are no less disturbing than the fact that governmental effort so misdirected demonstrates no ability to protect people against any actual threat.

 The feature on the Chavo's brings out another aspect of this I had heard of: Asset Forfeiture laws. These seem to be an interlocking web of federal, state, and local laws that allow the property - the cars, houses, boats, computers, bicycles and so on seized in drug raids to be kept and or sold for cash by the organization that makes the raid  Asset forfeiture laws - Google News Archive Search. It wasn't long after 1984 when this type of legislation appeared that some began to see the drug wars as a self perpetuating funding mechanism for law enforcement. All based on the dollar of the American drug consumer.

  Returning to the earlier quote from the article "My first raid...". The participants find it comfortable to view it like a game. It is a game, it's not in any special sense real. There is no justice here, no moral dimension at all. The bad guys are simply bad. Adversaries uniformly and statically as the game serves them up. No proof no evidence is required to establish their side. There is only punishment, the thrill ride of enforcement. The buzz-kill of clerical error.

 The article also mentions a prominent report on the phenomenon of paramilitary law enforcement from the Cato institute which was the subject of a solid MetaFilter thread The Militarization of Mayberry when it came out in 2006 . Even given academic position response and object lesson and change of administration, which we will limm here as change of heart. From the drug wars to the walls of the American borderlands border to the quest for al qaeda there is no sign that the Era of the Security state is abating  The lesson continues to be that surveillance and military response obtains, and give the only answers we feel like listening to.

9:54:00 AM    comment [];trackback [];

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