Archive for November, 2007


Saturday, November 24th, 2007

Hegel Revisited

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

The historical conflict of opposites is unfortunately not played out in the contest of two truths but rather in the battle of two lies.

Pave The Bay: A Modest Proposal

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

Sometimes great ideas come from the most casual observations. Like every kid noticing South America and Africa fit together on the map led to the concept of continental drift. In my case it was being stuck at a cross walk facing the Pacific Ocean and thinking “Why does route 66 have to stop at the Santa Monica Pier?”

I think it’s pretty obvious, things are getting a bit crowded. From sea to shining sea doesn’t seem that big any more with ramshackle houses going for stacks of money and lines for everything long enough to make a Russian feel right at home. It’s enough to make Frederick Jackson Turner turn over in his grave. What do you do when the frontier has been obliterated by a rash of minimalls as virulent as any Ebola virus. In the best American tradition you build another frontier

What ever happened to those great engineering feats of yesteryear? Sure going to Mars is a neat trick, but it’s really only fun for a few people in funny suits. I’m talking about something for the nonastronaut. I’m talking about a freeway to Asia. That’s right. So you and I can wake up one morning and say, nothing’s doing, what the hell I think I’ll drive to China today.

Really. And not the easy way across the Aleutians. When the wind’s right you can practically spit from Alaska to Siberia. No big challenge there.

It’ll begin with a pilot program called Pave the Bay and build from there. I already hear the screams of alarm that we’d be ruining our pristine coastline. I don’t know about your beachfront, but pristine around here includes among other things Styrofoam and pop tops.

But say you are lucky to live in a flotsamless and jetsamless environment. Face it, it’s inevitable that sooner or later a supertanker will do an Exxon Valdez and deposit its load of oil in your coastal Eden. Goodbye Eden, hello LaBrea Tar Pits.

So since pristine is on the way out anyway, why not replace it with something grand and definitely 21st century. And skip tunnels please, we’re not gophers. Naturally with a drive of this magnitude, you’ll need a rest stop or two. But that’s the beauty of the concept. In no time gas stations and u-totems will spring up along the highway and soon small towns and then, well you get the picture. Since 2/3 of the earth’s surface is ocean, they’ll be room to have beach front for everyone.

What can I say? Flying is alright if you like spending your life in a baggage claim and the information highway is alright if you prefer warming silicon chips with your fingers to enjoying the sweet smell of sea air, having the wind in your hair, and watching the American continent disappear in your rearview. Talk about getting your kicks on route 66.

Thinking The LeMay Way: A Modest Proposal

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

We face a number of seemingly intractable problems. Four that are certainly at the top of everyone’s list are (1) global warming (2) nuclear proliferation (3) overpopulation (4) conflict in the Middle East. So far efforts at solving these have been sporadic and ineffectual. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that the solutions put forth are completely out of scale to the immense size of the problems.

Audacity is required. And if you want “toujours l’audace” to be your guiding principle, there’s no better personification of that than Curtis LeMay. By thinking the LeMay way, we can offer a solution that is at once simple, powerful and effective.

In 1983 Carl Sagan and others published their classic analysis of the outcome of massive nuclear exchange, namely a “nuclear winter”. The extermination of life on the planet by a nuclear debris filled atmosphere that choked out all light seems to have closed the door on massive nuclear exchange as a tool in strategic thinking.

Much has been made of the advance this made over LeMay’s estimate of the effect of such an exchange. But further advances in computer modeling have equally antiquated Sagan’s research. To “nuclear winter” we can now add a whole range of seasons, “nuclear fall”, “nuclear spring”, etc. depending on the number of nuclear weapons involved and the resultant debris in the atmosphere. The level of nuclear exchange necessary to counteract the effect of global warming is simply calculated. It only remains to create the nuclear exchange.

The current foolhardy approach to stopping nuclear proliferation needs no comment. Rather an appropriate quantity of nuclear weapons would be distributed to 3rd world countries desperate for them. Natural enmity and arranged “border incidents” would do the rest. The nuclear exchanges would fix the effects of global warming, nuclear proliferation, overpopulation and even conflict in the Middle East. It’s natural to assume, that without a Middle East there would be no conflict there.

Adolf at the Whitney: A Modest Proposal

Monday, November 12th, 2007

The gains of postmodern art criticism are legendary. It has deconstructed the crumbling pillars of aesthetic and moral judgment. It has seen to it that no clique is left behind. It has elevated self justification to a fine art and in the process created a richness of syntax that makes Heidegger seem like Mickey Spillane. But ironically after all this ground breaking work, it has balked at taking on what would be its finest achievement…. ironic because after antiquating aesthetic and moral judgment it has allowed political correctness and aesthetic absolutism to stand in the way of elevating Adolf Hitler to his proper place as the greatest artist of the 20th century.

It is amazing that at this late date there are those who still scoff at the idea of Hitler even being an artist, never mind the greatest artist of the 20th century. Picasso is their choice. Absurd. After all, who’s greater, the man who created a memento of Guernica or the man who created Guernica?

The fact that Hitler himself regarded himself as an artist means little. These critics derisively point to his early work they dismiss as pedantic and uninspired, completely missing the point that as a visionary he was preparing to leapfrog over scores of modernism’s pet fads… impressionism, fauvism, surrealism, etc..right into the heart of postmodernism. In their defense this all would take place on an unimagined scale. They were not prepared to see WW2 as a happening, Buchenwald as an installation, and the rubble of Rotterdam and Stalingrad as conceptual art. Perhaps it was the fact that he could use the Luftwaffe rather than a local moving company to place the rubble obscured his artistic achievement. There are not many artists who can count on the Wehrmacht as part of their palette.

Critics continue to believe that just because he had a rather consuming day job, he was politically motivated. Not only critics but historians as well have been pursuing the Hitler as political animal theory to its sorry end, making many of his momentous decisions “mistakes” in the process. They are only mistakes because they are erroneously regarded as political rather than artistic. Hitler was not a politician who dabbled in art, he was an artist who dabbled in politics and used it to further his art. Who but an artist could have been so jealous of other artists? Hitler was an artist from beginning to end. The time is long overdue for the crowning achievement of postmodernism, a retrospective of Adolf Hitler’s work at the Whitney.

It’s decades overdue because everyone so completely misunderstood Goering’s utterance, “When I hear the word culture… I reach for my revolver. (This of course was his paraphrase of “Whenever I hear the word culture… I release the safety catch of my Browning!” from Hanns Johst’s play, Schlageter). They took it for some atavistic attack on culture when it was a brilliant postmodernist expansion of the notion of culture.Goering after all was an avid art collector, perhaps over avid, and Johst was a playwright. The critics couldn’t see past the patina of archaic revival and the distortions associated with the infantile stage of Fascism. The mature Fascism we have now not only has more transparent and better production values, but more importantly sees no need to exterminate people, when it can simply reduce them to shoppers.

The Tool For The Job

Friday, November 9th, 2007

Nothing is more dismaying than seeing a workman trying to do a job without the right tools. It is with dismay therefore that I see the President and his assistants struggling to dismantle that great edifice the Constitution. Rather than laboring mightily away with Patriot Acts, Presidential findings, executive orders and the lot, which are the equivalent of trying to reduce the Great Wall of China to dust using a nail file, I suggest adding the following amendment to the Constitution. Insisting on using an exceedingly fast track, the President can whisk the Amendment through Congress and the State Legislatures in the morning and be back on his mountain bike in the afternoon, satisfied at a job well done.

It’s Mr. Mullah, or What Happened To Gratitude?

Friday, November 9th, 2007

Is it me or does the current regime in Washington seem a little over the top in its handling of Iran? I mean what ever happened to gratitude? Let me take you back a bit. The late 70’s. After Vietnam and Watergate reform struck like a plague. We had endless investigations by Congress and we had Mr. Rogers in the form of Jimmy Carter as President.

Just when the outlook for realpolitik seemed hopeless the Iranians up and overthrew our Shah, I mean their Shah, and seized hostages and the US embassy. Maybe they were still pissed over the CIA removing Mossadegh, the democratically elected president of Iran in 1953 and replacing him with our man in Teheran, the Shah. This seemed only fair as the Soviets had their puppet governments in Eastern Europe, surely we should be allowed to have ours. Or maybe they were tired of the Savak the Shah’s secret police. This also seems reasonable as torture has only lately become respectable.

Thanks to the Mullahs, the hostage crisis sent Carter’s popularity spiraling downward with the election coming up against Ronald Reagan. So far so good. The Mullahs were also helpful in brokering a deal with Reagan’s campaign head and future CIA director, William Casey to delay the release of the hostages until after the election. This was even better as it assured Reagan the election. How the Mullahs the avowed enemies of the Great Satan America and not exactly friends with CIA Casey were contacted back channel one could only speculate on? I wonder if they were filed on Casey’s rolodex (this was before cellphones) under M for Mullah or A for Ayatollah? Maybe there’s more to their relationship than meets the eye?

There are those who question the legality of a private citizen secretly negotiating with a foreign power to influence an election, but the world being what it is, I wouldn’t want a president who wasn’t capable of doing just that.

Sure enough Reagan gets elected and almost instantly the hostages are released. The working relationship with the Mullahs turns out to be so chummy when Congress refuses to give Reagan the money he needs for the Contras in Central America he secretly has arms sent to Iran in exchange for cash. He gets some bad press over IranContra but meanwhile reform is forgotten, unions are busted, the Cold War won and all’s well with the land.

Just for all this you’d think the realpoliticians would have a little soft spot in their steely hearts for the Islamic fundamentalists. But there’s more. GW has just been elected. His presidency is stalled going nowhere. Suddenly fundamentalists attack the trade center and it’s all turned around. (Sound familiar?) Neocons have their new Pearl Harbor, Patriot Acts are passed and wars dying to be waged are waged.

Maybe these guys think they paid off the debt giving Stinger missiles to the Mujahedin in their battle against the Soviets in Afghanistan. So these fundamentalists seem to have taken the fun out of fundamentalism. They helped both Reagan and Bush, helped turned back the ugly tide of reform, and helped win the Cold War. I think they deserve better. The next time some high Washington official rings them up on their cell, take a cue from old Casey, it’s Mr. Mullah.

On To Teheran: Can a Typo Get Us There?

Monday, November 5th, 2007

Say you’re keen on starting a war like the neocons today, the cons is short for constricted arteries as they are old and nothing warms an old man’s heart like seeing young men go off to war. I say war, but no President actually declares one any more, it’s too much trouble I guess, or maybe it’s a numbering thing, unlike the movies they’re reluctant to have World War 3,4,5 etc.

But they want their war. They’ve been working the nuclear angle but it might not have the legs since they got stung on their previous WMDs routine. Publicity is always helpful and they own the media. Unfortunately Rupert Murdoch is no Randolph Hearst and we’re lacking a bona fide Lawrence of Arabia to glorify it all.

So how to start this Iran thing? This is proving as difficult as starting a fire in a damp bog. First off you need an excuse and there have been many. Wars have been fought over salt and water, babes in incubators, dominoes, wife stealing, remember the Maine, remember the Alamo, remember 9-11. I think the remember thing is a second tier idea given the country suffers from historical amnesia.

What about making the world safe for democracy? Democracy is always a good one despite intruding on Wilson’s territory. Still only 10% of the people actually vote here so maybe the phrase doesn’t have that spine tingling effect anymore, and some finger pointer might grumble about rigged elections or Pinochet, Musharraf or other of our dictatorial friends.

An “incident” is always tried and true. Gulf of Tonkin sort of thing. An expert in this field had this to say.”The most favorable move both from the political and military standpoint would be a lightning blow to be delivered under the pretext of some incident which will provoke Germany to abrupt action.” -Hitler 30 May 1938.

1938?! Just shows a good idea is a joy forever. Hire some suspicious looking characters to graffitti the wall of an Iranian McDonalds with “Yankee Stay Home” or “falafels rule” and away we go. On the other hand there’s no telling these days when a stray passerby with a digicam will ruin the whole thing.

I’ve got a better idea. Start this war with a typo. Typo?! you say. Hear me out. A junior analyst at CIA comes forward, I say junior because you’ve already used up the brass foul up excuse, and informs your media that we’ve been fighting the wrong war due to a clerical error. He holds in his hand a crucial memo advising the President to go to war with Iran only Iraq was typed instead. An honest mistake. They are neighbors and n is only three letters away from q.

Lest you think this typographical approach excessively novel, there is the Zimmerman letter and WW1. The President only has to offer his profound apologies, saying he’ll see to it the mistake is rectified and make good on the 600 billion dollars spent by embarking on the war he was supposed to fight all along, the war with Iran.