Cartel of Defiance

cartel of defiance (noun): 1. In medieval combat, a formal declaration, delivered by herald, of a combatant's intention to fight and refusal to submit. 2. An electronic assemblage of engaged and enraged citizens. 3. An intertextual mode of reading, writing, and thinking that puts the current political, cultural, and personal moment in dialogue with text/art from the past in counterargument to the ahistorical Memory Hole into which America seems to have slipped.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

homeland security

"Evelyn Turner, right, with friends and family, waits with the body of her common-law husband, Xavier Bowie, after he died in New Orleans, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005. Xavier and Turner had decided to ride out Hurricane Katrina when they could not find away to leave the city. Xavier, who had lung cancer, died when he ran out of oxygen Tuesday afternoon." (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

"The U.S. poverty rate rose to 12.7 percent of the population last year, its fourth consecutive annual increase, the Census Bureau said Tuesday."--AP, 8/31/2005

"It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."--Walter Maestri, Emergency Management Chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; New Orleans Times-Picayune 6/8/2004 (via E&P)

Monday, August 29, 2005

American History X

That said, though, as a student of American history it's hard not to be contemptuous of anyone who would dare compare what the framers tried to do in Philadelphia to the deal that just went down in the Baghdad bazaar.

-- scorching Billmon post, "The Philadelphia Experiment"

Well, I say that all the time, as well, because the person who writes it in the short-term is somebody who is not going to have the advantage of time to look at history, look at the true history of the presidency. You know, it's amazing that - there's kind of an interesting George Washington now - Ellis has written a book which I'm reading now, and David McCullough is writing a book on George Washington. I read one earlier on Washington - I can't remember the name of it - Washington Crosses The Delaware - something - it was a very interesting book about some of the many - how he organized the army. The Alexander Hamilton book by Chernow, which is obviously about Hamilton, but it was about the time of George Washington and Washington plays a prominent role. It's very interesting, there's a resurgence in analyzing Washington, the first President, during the time of the 43rd President, which makes my point - that there's - history is always evolving, and people's appreciation of a President changes over time, as well - one way or the other.

-- GWB, Cal Thomas Interview, 2 Feb 2005

Look, history -- shall I give you my talk on history and presidencies? OK, thank you. What's interesting is George Washington is now getting a second or third or fifth or tenth look in history. I read the Ellis book, which is a really interesting book, and “His Excellency, “ it's called. McCollough's writing a book on George Washington as well.

-- GWB, , Press Conference, 16 March 2005

"I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," Bush said. "You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes."

-- GWB, "Bush: Intelligent Design Should be Taught", Associated Press, 2 August 2005

Like our own nation's founders over two centuries ago, the Iraqis are grappling with difficult issues, such as the role of the federal government. What is important is that Iraqis are now addressing these issues through debate and discussion -- not at the barrel of a gun.

-- GWB, Radio Address, 27 August 2005

I want our folks to remember our own Constitution was not unanimously received. Some delegates at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787 refused to sign it. And the draft was vigorously debated in every state and the outcome was not assured until all the votes were counted.

-- GWB, Presidential Address, 28 August 2005

Thursday, August 25, 2005

that colossal wreck

arlington gravestones
If the tombstone says "Freedom," it must be true.

from the Associated Press 8/24/05:

Unlike in earlier wars, nearly all Arlington National Cemetery gravestones for troops killed in Iraq or Afghanistan are inscribed with the slogan-like operation names the Pentagon selected to promote public support for the conflicts.

Families of fallen soldiers and Marines are being told they have the option to have the government-furnished headstones engraved with "Operation Enduring Freedom" or "Operation Iraqi Freedom" at no extra charge, whether they are buried in Arlington or elsewhere. A mock-up shown to many families includes the operation names.

The vast majority of military gravestones from other eras are inscribed with just the basic, required information: name, rank, military branch, date of death and, if applicable, the war and foreign country in which the person served.

( . . . )

It was not until the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 that the department [Veterans Affairs] instructed national cemetery directors and funeral homes across the country to advise families . . . that they could have operation names . . . included on the headstones.

VA officials say neither the Pentagon nor the White House exerted any pressure to get families to include the operation names.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

the smell, that gasoline smell

Apocalypse Now -- Kurtz
Kurtz [reading aloud from a sheaf of old news reports]: Time magazine. The weekly news magazine. September 22, 1967, volume ninety, number twelve. ‘The War on the Horizon.’ ‘The American people may find it hard to believe that the U.S. is winning the war in Vietnam. Nevertheless, one of the most exhaustive inquiries into the status of the conflict yet compiled, offers considerable evidence that the weight of U.S. power, two and a half years after the big buildup began, is beginning to make itself felt. White House officials maintain the impact of that strength may bring the enemy to the point where he could simply be unable to continue fighting.’

[to Willard] Is this familiar?

Kurtz [continues reading]: ‘Because Lyndon Johnson fears that the U.S. public is in no mood to accept its optimistic conclusions, he may never permit the report to be released in full. Even so, he is sufficiently impressed with the findings, and sufficiently anxious to make their conclusions known, to permit experts who have been working on it to talk about it in general terms.’ No date, Time magazine. ‘Sir Robert Thompson, who led the victory over Communist guerrillas in Malay, and is now a RAND Corporation consultant, recently returned to Vietnam to sound out the situation for President Nixon. He told the president last week that things felt much better, and smelled much better over there.’

[He looks over at Willard]

Kurtz [to Willard]: How do they smell to you, soldier?

--Apocalypse Now Redux (1979/2000) [audio 1 & 2]

Saturday, August 20, 2005

four horsemen

4 horsemen

--Mark Tansey, "Forward Retreat" (1986)

Four horsemen coming right through
Four horsemen and they're pissing by you
They make you look like you're wearing a truss
Four horsemen and it's gonna be us
--The Clash, "Four Horsemen" (1979)

. . .

Friday, August 19, 2005

Orwell #8

It is not easy to find a direct economic explanation of the behaviour of the people who now rule the world. The desire for pure power seems to be much more dominant than the desire for wealth. This has often been pointed out, but curiously enough the desire for power seems to be taken for granted as a natural instinct, equally prevalent in all ages likes the desire for food. Actually it is no more natural, in the sense of being biologically necessary, than drunkenness or gambling. And if it has reached new levels of lunacy in our own age, as I think it has, then the question becomes: what is the special quality in modern life that makes a major human motive out of the impulse to bully others?

"As I Please," Tribune, 29 November 1946

Thursday, August 18, 2005

class warfare

I was a miner
I was a docker
I was a railway man
Between the wars
I raised a family
In times of austerity
With sweat at the foundry
Between the wars

I paid the union and as times got harder
I looked to the government to help the working man
And they brought prosperity down at the armoury
We're arming for peace, me boys
Between the wars

I kept the faith and I kept voting
Not for the iron fist but for the helping hand
For theirs is a land with a wall around it
And mine is a faith in my fellow man
Theirs is a land of hope and glory
Mine is the green field and the factory floor
Theirs are the skies all dark with bombers
And mine is the peace we know
Between the wars

Call up the craftsmen
Bring me the draftsmen
Build me a path from cradle to grave
And I'll give my consent
To any government
That does not deny a man a living wage

Go find the young men never to fight again
Bring up the banners from the days gone by
Sweet moderation
Heart of this nation
Desert us not, we are
Between the wars

--Billy Bragg, "Between the Wars" (1985)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


President Bush played down the delay and applauded the Iraqis, saying, "Their efforts are a tribute to democracy and an example that difficult problems can be solved peacefully through debate."

New York Times, 16 August 04, "Leaders in Iraq Extend Deadline on Constitution"

By the end of the day, the divergence was so great that there was not even a consensus on the main points of disagreement.


Sunday, August 14, 2005


"We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."

-- The Washington Post, U.S. Lowers Sights On What Can Be Achieved in Iraq, quoting a "senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion"

Friday, August 12, 2005

Horse and Rider

In sum, it is irrelevant whether the Court is correct in its assumption that "opposition to abortion" does not necessarily evidence an intent to disfavor women. Many opponents of [506 U.S. 263, 344] abortion respect both the law and the rights of others to make their own decisions on this important matter. Petitioners, however, are not mere opponents of abortion; they are defiant lawbreakers who have engaged in massive concerted conduct that is designed to prevent all women from making up their own minds about not only the issue of abortion in general, but also whether they should (or will) exercise a right that all women - and only women - possess.
-- Justice Stevens, dissenting, Bray v Alexandria Clinic, 1993

Mr. Roberts argued that the demonstrators were not singling out women for discriminatory treatment but rather were trying to "prohibit the practice of abortion altogether." He told the court that even though only women could become pregnant or seek abortions, it was "wrong as a matter of law and logic" to regard opposition to abortion as the equivalent of discrimination against women.
-- The New York Times, 11 August 2005, "TV Ad Attacking Court Nominee Provokes Furor"


Whatever one thinks of Bray, Terry, or Operation Rescue, it is misleading to say that Roberts supported them. He was not their attorney; the protestors had their own attorney, Jay Alan Sekulow, for that. Roberts argued the government's position.
--, "NARAL Falsely Accuses Supreme Court Nominee Roberts"

With the blessings of the Bush White House, a team of conservative leaders self-dubbed "the four horsemen" formed in 2002 and has taken over much of the planning for the nomination fight. These men are C. Boyden Gray . . . Jay Alan Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice; Leonard A. Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society; and Edwin A. Meese III, attorney general during part of the Reagan administration.
-- The Washington Post, 3 July 2005, "The Right's Moment, Years in the Making"

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Core Curriculum

I would like to say a few words about one of the lecture classes from which my nomination for this award emerged. . . . In order to make sense of the deep pessimism -- a pessimism sometimes bordering on despair in Benjamin's last essays or Adorno and Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment -- I insisted on the need to read these works as closely tied up with their times: the times of the rise of national socialism and Stalinism. Only then would we discuss how aspects of this theoretical work might pertain to our postmodern present 50 and more years later. I have taught this class since I came to Columbia in 1986, and it has always attracted a diverse group of students from different disciplines and from several schools. I never imagined that a time would come in which this work would begin to resonate deeply with the political and cultural present in the United States. But this was my experience of teaching this material last fall semester, and the queries and concerns of the students reinforced a sense of worry and foreboding.

-- Andreas Huyssen, remarks in accepting the Mark Van Doren Award for Great Teaching, Columbia University (reprinted in Columbia College Today, July 2005)

Bush on Sheehan

"I sympathize with Mrs. Sheehan," Bush said. "She feels strongly about her position, and she has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America. She has a right to her position, and I thought long and hard about her position. I've heard her position from others, which is: Get out of Iraq now. And it would be a mistake for the security of this country and the ability to lay the foundations for peace in the long run if we were to do so."

I think we should pay attention to the phrase in bold, which we can only take in one of two ways. Either it is empty boiler-plate, an entirely meaningless statement, or Bush acknowledges that he has actually "thought long and hard" about withdrawing from Iraq.

The chief proponent of this war, its architect and demagogue, has, in fact "thought long and hard" about withdrawing. Some follow-up questions that I'm sure Sheehan would like to ask: has Bush also "thought long and hard" about why we are in Iraq? Or thought "long and hard" about his own proven misstatements and lies?

These questions are of some interest to Sheehan. As she writes: "We want our loved ones sacrifices to be honored by bringing our nation's sons and daughters home from the travesty that is Iraq IMMEDIATELY, since this war is based on horrendous lies and deceptions."

To confess thinking (let along thinking "long and hard") is a very dangerous thing at this time, with this war. Any thought might lead in troubling directions . . .

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

geek history

Nonetheless for long it seemed to the Númenóreans that they prospered, and if they were not increased in happiness, yet they grew more strong, and their rich men ever richer. For with the aid and counsel of Sauron they multiplied their possessions, and they devised engines, and they built ever greater ships. And they sailed now with power and armoury to Middle-earth, and they came no longer as bringers of gifts, nor even as rulers, but as fierce men of war. And they hunted the men of Middle-earth and took their goods and enslaved them, and many they slew cruelly upon their altars. For they built in their fortresses temples and great tombs in those days; and men feared them, and the memory of the kindly kings of ancient days faded from the world and was darkened by many a tale of dread.

--J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion

Man (1938)

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