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, November 23, 2005

Situation Normal

"This is very good indeed … Encouraging … Not like the crap we are all so used to getting out of CIA."

-- Dick Cheney's "barely legible" handwritten comment on a report "detailing purported evidence of links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein" issued by Douglas Feith's covert "Iraqi intelligence cell" (quoted at the end of Murray Waas's blockbuster National Journal article)

"Iran's supreme leader urged the Iraqi president on Tuesday to seek a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, saying the American presence harms the country. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who is paying a three-day visit to Iran, a country the United States accuses of meddling in Iraq but that is closely allied to Iraq's new Shiite and Kurd-dominated leadership."

--Associated Press, "Khameni to Talabani: Seek date for US withdrawal," Nov 23

"In speeches over the last week, [Murtha] has repeatedly referred to a constituent, Pfc. Salvatore Ross Jr., a combat engineer from Dunbar, Pa., who was badly wounded while landmines he was clearing near Baghdad went off. The explosion blinded him in both eyes and tore off his leg below the knee, Private Ross said in an interview. He spent more than a month in a coma at Walter Reed and later underwent more than a dozen surgeries."

--New York Times, "Lawmaker Returns Home, a Hawk Turned War Foe," Nov 23

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Mark

People who read of con touches in the newspaper are often wont to remark: "That bird must be stupid to fall for a game like that. Why, anybody should know better than to do what he did...." In other words, there is a widespread feeling among legitimate folk that anyone who is the victim of a confidence game is a numbskull.

But it should not be assumed that the victims of confidence games are all blockheads. Very much to the contrary, the higher a mark's intelligence, the quicker he sees through the deal directly to his own advantage. To expect a mark to enter into a con game, take the bait, and then, by sheer reason, analyze the situation and see it as a swindle, is simply asking too much. The mark is thrown into an unreal world which very closely resembles real life; like the spectator regarding life groups in a museum of natural history, he cannot tell where the real scene merges into the background. Hence, it should be no reflection upon a man's intelligence to be swindled. In fact, highly intelligent marks, even though they may tax the ingenuity of the con men, respond best to the proper type of play. They see through the deal which is presented, analyze it, and strike the lure like a flash; most con men feel that it is sport of a high order to play them successfully to the gaff. It is not intelligence but integrity which determines whether or not a man is a good mark.
--David W. Maurer, The Big Con, Ch. 4

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Middle-Aged Man [in doorway]: I know who you are and I'm not afraid but that don't mean I'll talk to you either--you're just a couple Democrats out to stop Nixon getting re-elected.

Woodward: Democrats?

Middle-Aged Man: That's right.

Bernstein: I hate both parties.

Woodward: And I'm a Republican.

[The middle-aged man looks at him.]

Bernstein [surprised, turns to Woodward]: Republican?

Woodward: Sure.

Bernstein: Who'd you vote for?

Woodward: When?

Bernstein: '68.

Woodward: Nixon.

[Bernstein stares at him in silence]

--All The President's Men, original script by William Goldman, 1975

Monday, November 07, 2005

Nous Sommes Tous Communards

A person of bourgeois origin goes through life with some expectation of getting what he wants, within reasonable limits. Hence the fact that in times of stress 'educated' people tend to come to the front; they are no more gifted than the others and their 'education' is generally quite useless in itself, but they are accustomed to a certain amount of deference and consequently have the cheek necessary to a commander. That they will come to the front seems to be taken for granted, always and everywhere. In Lissagaray's History of the Commune there is an interesting passage describing the shootings that took place after the Commune had been suppressed. The authorities were shooting the ringleaders, and as they did not know who the ringleaders were, they were picking them out on the principle that those of better class would be the ringleaders. An officer walked down a line of prisoners, picking out likely-looking types. One man was shot because he was wearing a watch, another because he 'had an intelligent face'. I should not like to be shot for having an intelligent face, but I do agree that in almost any revolt the leaders would tend to be people who could pronounce their aitches.

-- Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier

It can happen that I am observed without knowing it, and again I cannot speak of this experience, since I have determined to be guided by the consciousness of my feelings. But very often (too often, to my taste) I have been photographed and knew it. Now, once I feel myself observed by the lens, everything changes: I constitute myself in the process of 'posing,' I instantaneously make another body for myself, I transform myself in advance into an image. This transformation is an active one: I feel that the Photograph creates my body or mortifies it, according to its caprice (apology of this mortiferous power: certain Communards paid with their lives for their willingness or even their eagerness to pose on the barricades: defeated, they were recognized by Thiers's police and shot, almost every one). Posing in front of the lens (I mean: knowing I am posing, even fleetingly), I do not risk so much as that (at least, not for the moment).

-- Barthes, Camera Lucida

A History of Violence

But Mr. Alito, after eight years as a civil servant, brought something else, friends say: a respect for stability and continuity in the law, as well as deep admiration for President Ronald Reagan's emphasis on family, neighborhood and work.

-- New York Times, "Court Choice Is Conservative by Nature, Not Ideology", Nov 7

Man (1938)

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