Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Return Of The Curse Of The Creature's Ghost

It's about f'ing time I started doing something round these parts again.

Here are the issues before the house:

1) The Intoonfada

My feelings about the whole thing are pretty well expressed by the cartoon Tim Cavanaugh dug up here. Hitchens, as ever, is at his best talking about religion.

Big chunks of the Western media are buying into a narrative of spontaneous outcry against the denigration of Muslim values. This is bullshit. The cartoons that kicked off the phony intifada were originally published in September 05. They were reprinted in an Egyptian paper, El Fagr, in October. It took the faithful until February to start burning embassies.

See Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy, Timeline of the...controversy, International reaction to the...controversy. As Mark Kleiman says, everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

There is no authentic mass movement here. Anti-modern (not postmodern) thugs posing as holy men are orchestrating an assault on free expression, which they couch in the nauseating PC lingo of "offensiveness." To they extent that their incitement has been successful, it's because there is a virtually limitless supply of frustration and anger with which to fuel the Intoonfada. Some of it is naturally directed at the West, for the history of colonialism and, if you like Orientalism. Such resentment is partly justified, but the extent of that justification is not nearly as great as Western apologists make it out to be.

Colonialism is neither the material nor the efficient cause of that part of the resentment and anger naturally directed at the governments and successor states which are responsible, having adopted in a pique of idiocy various doomed Soviet development models decades ago, for their people's economic misery, and through authoritarian violence and coercion, for their people's political misery---the strangulation of Muslim civil society by Muslims. The domestic, social, economic, and foreign policy of the Muslim autocracies from Cairo to Tehran are one and the same: self-perpetuation. Thus the goals of such policies are one and the same: elimination where possible, neutralization where necessary, of threats to the regime's stability. Thus willful economic misadministration, while objectively nuts, is subjectively brilliant: it destroys potential surpluses, reducing the bulk of the population to subsistence labor; small wonder that such chattel-populations can be manipulated away from exacting revenge upon the tyrants who oppress them.

Al Qaeda and similar organizations do not disrupt this framework, but augment it. Their avowed opposition to established regimes secures them popular credibility. They proceed to catalyze the regimes' project of transforming internal dissent into external fury, and in the event of a regime's failure, they are poised to reimpose autocracy, albeit it through an alternative mode of presentation.

ADDENDUM: The off-the-cuff thoughts of Ayaan Hirsi Ali (background here and here) are worth more than those of a million Tharoors factorial. And if I could be allowed a byzantine and Byzantine point of parliamentary order, it was the Iconoclasts who disdained religious images and the Iconodules who venerated them. Iconoclasm literally means the breaking or, ahem, smashing of idols. Big-time kudos to this Div student for confusing a careless research error with an argumentative proposition. I'll be damned if that's not how Heidegger got his start.

2) Return Of The Curse Of Nixon's Ghost

If the pattern of the last point sounds familiar, that's because it is structurally equivalent to the Bush administration's campaign to replace constitutionalism with its antithesis, unitary executive, legislative, and judicial power placed in one office, checked by nothing except the occasional election, which is stacked towards preservation, out of fear, of the status quo.

In the 1950s, the sociologist Philip Converse did a groundbreaking survey of public choice and public ignorance, and found that the huge majority of voters---we're talking upwards of 90%---are so utterly uninformed that their electoral decisions are essentially coinflips, perhaps slightly weighted. He further found that the greater a voter's information (he separated clustered information bands stratigraphically), the greater non-rational-choice determining constraints are placed on electoral decision. So a voter with no information flips a coin; a voter with moderate information decides based upon caste, ethnic, partisan loyalty (which come out to elements of the same thing). Note that class consciousness doesn't really enter into it; farmers, e.g., vote based upon who is "for farmers," but that description reduces to ideological, not material sources. The upper band that is highly informed doesn't fare better; their decisions are utterly determined by non-rational constraints. It's only a tiny sliver at the very peak of the information pyramid that make anything like rational decisions in voting.

Nietzsche was right to point out that people are sheep; East and West, it's sheep top to bottom. Under the right circumstances, Americans would enthusiastically vote away their own right to vote. That's the outcome the judiciary exists to prevent, and that's why the administration is trying to destroy judicial review. See further here.

3) Wascally Whittington

So it turns out that the VPOTUS is the love child of Aaron Burr and Elmer Fudd. I could have told you that a long time ago (I've seen the DNA tests). The Occam's Razor explanation of the whole thing is that Cheney, being a gaping asshole who believes the president's monarchical powers rightfully belong to him and not Bush, and will not hesitate to use them, was hoping the whole thing would stay under wraps. Too bad that good ol' rancherette had to spoil everything by calling up the sports editor at the Corpus Christi Bumblefuck-Picayune (I'm not making up the sports editor part).

But since we bloggers get to claim anything we want without repercussion, let's try a different theory out for size. The press blackout is well explained by Cheney's hatred for democratic accountability (democracy in general, really). However, the 14 or so hour delay between the shooting and the Corpus Christi Sherriff's Dept. interviewing Cheney remains unexplained. If Cheney had merely wanted to keep the fiasco a secret, he might have been able to work out a deal with the sherriff. But as far as we know, he didn't try, even when he still had a chance to do so (i.e., before Artemis Jeffersonia Davis, Hunteress of the Texas wilds, spilled the beans). In other words, he delayed talking to the authorities and delayed the news, but prevented neither. Why? Could he have been drunk? There's no evidence either way, and the rational position is not to assume that he wasn't, but to suspend judgement.

In any case, hunting accidents are always the shooter's fault. Cheney trying to pass blame off onto the poor sap who got "peppered" by 200 shards of fowl-slaying shrapnel is another flawless addition to the Museum of Gutless National Embarrassments' already-extensive Cheney collection.


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