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 23, 2006

"Pull out his eyes! Apologise!"

Q: David, what are your personal and professional goals for the "The Wire"? To change minds, to make money, to employ people, to be successful? [Jim King]"

A: Change minds? Nobody changes anyone's mind anymore. People strain facts through their own ideology and ignore that which is happening before their eyes. Alive in this millennium, Orwell would be embarrassed for having so grossly understated his case. -- David Simon, at the opening of extended interview on The Wire

I had the opportunity this afternoon to be part of a relatively small group who heard President Bush talk, extemporaneously, for around forty minutes. It was an absolutely riveting experience. It was the best I've ever seen him. Not only that; it may have been the best I've ever seen any politician. . . . The conventional wisdom is that Bush is not a very good speaker. But up close, he is a great communicator, in a way that, in my opinion, Ronald Reagan was not. He was by turns instructive, persuasive, and funny. His persona is very much that of the big brother.
-- "Hail to the Chief," Powerline

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Zoo Story

The desire for the presence of the most anicent is a hope that animal creation might survive the wrong that man has done it, if not man himself, and give rise to a better species, one that finally makes a success of life. Zoological gardens stem from the same hope. They are laid out on the pattern of Noah's Ark, for since their inception the bourgeois class has been waiting for the flood. The use of zoos for entertainment and instruction seems a thin pretext. They are allegories of the specimen or the pair who defy the disaster that befalls the species qua species. This is why the over-richly stocked zoos of large European cities seem like forms of decadence: more than two elephants, two giraffes, one hippopotamus, are a bad sign. Nor can any good come of Hagenbeck's layout, with trenches instead of cages, betraying the Ark by simulating the rescue that only Ararat can promise. They deny the animals' freedom only the more completely by keeping the boundaries invisible, the sight of which would inflame the longing for open spaces. . . The more purely nature is preserved and transplanted by civilization, the more implacably it is dominated. We can now afford to encompass ever larger natural units, and leave them apparently intact within our grasp, whereas previously the selecting and taming of particular items bore witness to the difficulty we still had coping with nature. The tiger endlessly pacing back and forth in his cage reflects back negatively, through his bewilderment, something of humanity, but not the one frolicking behind the pit too wide to leap. -- Adorno, Minima Moralia, 75

Clearest Article on Iraq

is this one from the NY times. Essentially: violence, against U.S. troops, is getting much worse. Specifically, in July 2625 roadside bombs were laid (and 1666 exploded); in January of this year, only 1450. This is up to almost 100 a day. 518 U.S. troops wounded in July, compared to 287 in January.

These facts rebound back, for me, to any number of military and political statements over the last two years that justified increased U.S. aggression on the grounds that it would decrease insurgent capacities. Such statements -- like the raft of comments about WMD -- are now proven not just ideologically but empirically wrong.

How will the right-wing or the media get its head around these facts? What *possible* strategy is left in the face of ied attacks nearly doubling in six monthes? Particularly in the context of increasing "sectarian clashes" which, as the NY times puts it, "have killed an average of more than 100 Iraqi civilians per day over the past two monthes."

Even before these latest reports were released (the Times artice is based on a nine page classified Aug 3 report entitled "Iraq Update"), the rhetoric of a right-wing hawk like Richard Lowry was already getting pretty damn wobbly. "Bush would be much better served by forthrightly acknowledging Iraq’s distressing circumstances and backing an all-out push to secure Baghdad even if it takes thousands more American troops in the country. . . . It is not too late to tamp down that militia-directed violence, which hasn’t yet taken on an uncontrollable life of its own." If Lowry is reduced, in the second sentence, to this rather extreme standard -- not just that violence has taken on a "life of its own" but "an uncontrollable lifeof its own," the first sentence is, conversely, strikingly restrained: with between 120-130 thousand troops in Iraq for 3 years, will adding thousands more really constitute "an all-out push to secure Baghdad?" And what would happen after this "all-out push" Rick? -- since (to mention the obvious) we wouldn't have anything left if it were all-out.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Bad Quote

The creation of COP Falcon, as well as a handful of other combat outposts throughout Ramadi, marks a radical departure from past U.S. military practices here that focused on defending a main thoroughfare through town and its embattled government center. Under the command of Col. Sean MacFarland of the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, Bajema’s company and a handful of others have taken up permanent residence in what one commander called Ramadi’s “heart of darkness” in a bid to regain control of the city. -- Stars and Stripes, August 13, "Marines, GIs take up residence in insurgent haven: Goal is to drive enemy from Ramadi one block at a time"

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Even someone believing himself convinced of the non-comparability of works of art will find himself repeatedly involved in debates where works of art, and precisely those of highest and therefore incommensurable rank, are compared and evaluated one against the other. The objection that such considerations, which come about in a peculiarly compulsive way, have their source in mercenary instincts that would measure everything by the ell, usually signifies no more than that solid citizens, for whom art can never be irrational enough, want to keep serious reflection and the claims of truth far from the works. This compulsion to evaluate is located, however, in the works of art themselves. So much is true: they refuse to be compared. They want to annihilate one another. Not without cause did the ancients reserve the pantheon of the compatible to Gods or Ideas, but obliged works of art to enter the agon, each the mortal enemy of each. The notion of a "pantheon of classicity", as still entertained by Kierkegaard, is a fiction of neutralized culture. For if the Idea of Beauty appears only in dispersed form among many works, each one nevertheless aims uncompromisingly to express the whole of beauty, claims it in its singularity and can never admit its dispersal without annulling itself. -- Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life (1.47)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


"Lieberman was widely ridiculed for calling his fifth-place showing in the 2004 New Hampshire presidential primary a three-way tie for third." -- Washington Post

Man (1938)

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