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Sunday, October 31, 2004
6:14 PM
"There is always a point at which the terrorist ceases to manipulate the media gestalt. A point at which the violence may well escalate, but beyond which the terrorist has become symptomatic of the media gestalt itself. Terrorism as we ordinarily understand it is innately media-related."

"It seems to me that now that Osama and Al Qaeda have demonstrated their ability to manipulate the media gestalt, they've succeeded in exposing the corroded scaffolding which forms the foundation of superpower mythos. The September 11th attack wasn't just a direct hit on the twin towers and the Pentagon, the footage burned into the collective psyche of everyone alive to see it. It was the antithesis of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the surface of the moon.

"Superpowers have a tendency to decline, and when their decline becomes self-evident, attempts to defeat their adversaries are predictable, obsolete and allows new weaknesses to be exposed. When The Boston Herald was criticized for printing the photo of a slain Red Sox fan I inferred that Americans are still largely detached from the horrors of war and the reality of the situation in places like Iraq. Even as more young men and women return to these shores disfigured or in coffins. Rumsfeld told us that Iraq was nothing like Vietnam, because there's no jungle for the enemy to use for cover.

"I think back to the 2000 campaign when a reporter asked Bush to name the President of Pakistan. He didn't know. But to some, the question was a cheap shot, because how important was that guy anyway? Bush didn't need to know that as governor of Texas while on the campaign trail. Yet, I think President Musharraf's comment about an "iron curtain" falling between the west and Islam should be heeded by both candidates. Because, by now, Al Qaeda is undoubtedly planning its next attack on the U.S. and making sure it skirts the Department of Homeland Security, but is no less effective in demonstrating how a patient, determined, well-organized group of outlaws can outwit Goliath, seemingly at will. Osama Bin Laden and Egyptian exile Ayman Al-Zawahiri, solidified their relationship in Sudan, where Arab militias have expelled hundreds of thousands in what Secretary Powell finally referred to as a genocide. But winning the war on terror, a struggling economy and fears of election fraud or incompetence burns in the media. I'd say Al-Qaeda has us right where it wants us."

I don't have permission to use the following, so I'll X a few things out:

Subject: Summary of survey

Dear Colleagues,
Upon requests from several colleagues, I am posting the results from the internet survey conducted earlier this week. I have a few simple notes/disclaimers: (1) I obtained
permission from XXXX XXXXXX, the listserv's maintainer, (2) I obtained XXX XXXXX's exemption, (3) readers should use their own judgment in interpreting the results, given
the advantages and disadvantages associated with internet survey (Bordens & Abbot, 2004), and (4) I will make no further comments or clarifications on this -- we have to wait
until Nov. 2 to see if this has anything to do with the outcome of the election:

369 people from two listservs responded to an internet survey (http://XXXXXXXXX.html) within a 24-hour period (Oct. 25-26, 2004). 336 of the respondents
(91%) indicated that they are likely voters, among which 308 hold a doctoral or master's degree. The combined statistics from the two listservs for the likely voters are:

Bush Kerry
22 (7%) 314 (93%)

The first listserv (216 likely voters) contained 62% of faculty members at institutions of higher education or scientists in research institutions throughout the country, 22% of
graduate students, and 16% of others (including college undergraduate students). The second listserv (120 likely voters) contained faculty (87%) and staff (13%) members
from a private university in the south, the greater environment of which is strongly Republican-based. Separate statistics from the two listservs are:

Listserv One

Bush Kerry
10 (5%) 206 (95%)

Listserv Two

Bush Kerry
12 (10%) 108 (90%)

[Why is it, one has to wonder, that such an overwhelming majority of highly educated people choose Kerry? Have their degrees gone to their heads? Are they "closet French", perhaps?]

Saturday, October 30, 2004
9:58 AM
After sleeping on it, I find I'm not quite as inclined to imagine that OBL's tape was a conscious effort to swing the election for Bush. It doesn't seem to me that he understands us quite that well, and it doesn't seem to me that I understand him well enough to be that certain of what he's up to. I think the message might actually have been: "Hi. 9-11 was all my idea. And you haven't been able to catch me, so I'll do it all over again if I decide to. I know you're having an election now, but that won't make any difference either way. In order to make a difference, you'll have to get your government to stop doing the things they're doing that keep me wanting to attack you again. 'Bye."

It gets harder, the more I think about it, to see that causing many of the remaining pool of undecided US voters to go Bush. I think OBL needed a logo moment, though, in terms of the ongoing validity of his global brand, and look what he's been able to pull off, with virtually no outlay: The world's full attention, as both candidates drop everything to respond.

You know who would've completely gotten OBL? Andy Warhol.

(After comparing it to the original Arabic, a friend recommends the Al-Jazeera translation of OBL's message as more accurate than the Reuters/NYT version.)

Friday, October 29, 2004
1:34 PM
Meanwhile, OBL himself checks in (evidently having watched Fahrenheit 9.11, as he makes a joke about My Pet Goat) with fresh footage, and what are we to make of that?

A central part of my sense of history, since the attacks, has been that OBL and Bush are symbiotic, feeding one another power and (at least as crucially) meaning.

I don't, however, see their relationship as symmetrical, since OBL ultimately seems to get more out of it than Bush does. OBL gets edged closer to his hypothetical win-position, and Bush doesn't. (This imbalance is probably due to OBL having come to the union with no lack of meaning, while Bush, prior to 9-11, meant almost nothing at all.)

At a deeper level of power-exchange, though, win-positions are only hypothetical, for these two. What matters most to them is that they continue to have each other.

In that light, I can only assume that OBL's new tape is a very clever player's best shot at getting his partner a second term.

I wouldn't go so far as to suggest that OBL fears Kerry any more than Bush. But Kerry can only comprise an unknown, and why allow the other team to introduce an unknown when your familiar power-symbiote has always proven so wonderously adept at doing everything you'd most want him to do?

OBL today is probably a very satisfied, very optimistic man, and if he can skew the last-minute dynamic of the election in Bush's favor, he'll have cause to be all the more satisfied.

And that's the danger, that some crucial percentage of our dimmer, more reactive voters will flash back to 9-11 and the Bush of the bullhorn, the Bush buffeted with the heartbroken grit of Ground Zero, and vote for that -- childishly imagining that such a vote runs counter to the wishes and the needs of OBL, the bearded stickman, the cave-dwelling spider, our new Old Man of the Mountains. Player of the long game.

Thursday, October 28, 2004
1:34 PM
Yesterday I found myself listening, on my car radio, to someone from Nader's campaign. This person was attempting to refute the various criticisms we've all heard so many times. It made me feel as though someone was trying to work their well-chewed gum ever deeper into my ears, and reminded me all too thoroughly of why I think of myself as centrist.

The idea that Kerry and Bush are merely two sides of the same bad coin is both ludicrous and all too potentially tragic.

At the risk of making him permanently self-conscious, I'm going to quote Bravus again, because he put this, yesterday, so much more tidily than I've yet been able to put it:

"I think I've said before that usually I have a fair bit of sympathy for the 'they're all as bad as each other, there's no real difference' argument. I really, honestly think that's crap, this time around. Bush is heading for an undemocratic combination theocracy/oligarchy in unprecedented ways. The Republican party has been hijacked by extremists. Mainstream Republicans and mainstream Democrats might not have a lot of characteristics that are different, but these guys (Bush/Cheney/Rove) differ from both groups in their radicalism. A vote for them - or even a vote that's not against them - is qualitatively different, I would argue, than any vote cast in the US in recent memory."

This isn't the election in which to make the quixotic but satisfying point that you'd really rather vote Green, or the quixotic but satisfying point that you'd really rather not have to vote for any more white men in tight blue suits at all.

This is an election in which to vote for *the greater likelihood of there being more elections in the future*.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004
7:29 AM
It must be a singular sort of hell today, to be at once an American, a conservative in the non-mutant sense, and a seminal theorist of Fourth Generation warfare:

'Who am I? At present, I am a center director at the Free Congress
Foundation. But in 1976 I began the debate over maneuver warfare that
became a central part of the military reform movement of the 1970s and 1980s. The U.S. Marine Corps finally adopted maneuver warfare as
doctrine in the late `80s (I wrote most of their new tactics manual).

'In 1989, I began the debate over Fourth Generation warfare — war waged by non-state entities — which is what paid us a visit on September 11, 2001. The article I co-authored then for the Marine Corps Gazette was formally cited last year by al Quaeda, who said, "This is our doctrine." My Maneuver Warfare Handbook, published in 1985, is now used by military academies all over the world, and I lecture internationally on military strategy, doctrine and tactics.'

'But how does the coming war with Iraq look at the moral level? Here,
the U.S. seems to be leading with its chin. Why? Because the
Administration in Washington has yet to come up with a convincing
rationale for why the United States should attack Iraq.

'The argument that Iraq, a small, poor (it didn't used to be, but it is now), Third World country halfway around the world is a direct threat to the U.S.A. is not credible. Yes, Saddam probably has some chemical and biological weapons. But few tyrants are bent on suicide, and the notion that he would use them to attack the United States, except in self-defense, makes no sense. Nor does it seem likely he would give them to non-state actors like al Quaeda — again, except in self-defense — because non-state forces and Fourth Generation warfare are as much a threat to him as to us.

'It is of course true that Saddam is a tyrant (his model, by the way, is obviously Stalin, not Hitler). So what? Mesopotamia has been ruled by tyrants since before history began, and it will be ruled by tyrants long after North America is once again tribal territories. The last President who tried to export democracy on American bayonets was Woodrow Wilson. That's one of the reasons he counts as America's worst President, ever. Very few people, in America or the rest of the world, wish to see us revive the practice.

'Most importantly, the real threat we face is the Fourth Generation,
non-state players such as al Quaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc. They can
only benefit from an American war against Iraq—regardless of how it
turns out. If we win, the state is further discredited in the Islamic
world, and more young men give their allegiance to non-state forces. If Saddam wins, their own governments look even less legitimate, because they failed to stand with him against the hated Crusaders. A recent cartoon showed Osama bin Laden, dressed as Uncle Sam, saying, "I want you to invade Iraq!" Undoubtedly, he does.

'So what is the real reason for this war? Oil? Revenge for Saddam
surviving the first Gulf War? Israel? The ordinary Americans I know are wondering, because the reasons stated by the Administration don't add up.

'Military theory says that, in a democracy, a government cannot
successfully wage war unless the war has popular support. In turn, a war cannot obtain popular support if the people do no understand why it is being fought. Today, the people, at home and overseas, do not understand why America wants to go to war with Iraq. That means the Administration is losing this war before the first bomb is dropped.'

William S. Lind, Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism, posting the first of his "On War" commentaries, January 28, 2003

The link will take you to his most recent commentary on Iraq.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004
8:37 AM

"I keep thinking," writes Jack Womack, "about that PIPA survey: Clinical evidence that Bush supporters -- and
most members of the Administration itself, I think -- have managed to
thoroughly blinker themselves into a distinct and verifiable alternate

"All the aspects of a rankly pathological cult of personality appear to
be present, but this must be one of the very rare times when such a cult
has developed in a country where only half the population are believers,
the other half infidels.

"It won't be pretty when this particular bubble blows, as it inevitably
must. The question is, what will happen in the meantime? At the moment, I think
we're getting a pretty good idea of what Trotsky felt, looking at Stalin."

"So far the rest of the world has pretty much
made the distinction: love Americans, hate the
administration. But if Bush is elected (not re-elected)
this time, will that change? I think the rest of the
world still has to remember that half of the US population
voted for Bush and half against him, either way - and,
as a sweeping generalisation, I suspect more of those
Americans with whom the rest of us come into contact,
either because they're online or because they travel,
are likely to have voted against Bush, because they are
the ones who know what is going on in the world."
-- Bravus

Monday, October 25, 2004
9:50 PM
The amount of high explosive now revealed to have gone missing from a single site in Iraq could produce the equivalent of 4000 blasts on the scale of the explosion that destroyed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Anyone with a few Mercedes trunks full of that stuff is definitely ready for Halloween.

But you really weren't supposed to know that until after the election, because the invasion of Iraq has only made Americans safer.

This is exactly the right time to re-read Naomi Klein reporting from Baghdad.

Sunday, October 24, 2004
2:06 PM
Today James Wolcott offers us a fascinating excercise in short-term recursive ("what if?") history:

"Suppose there had been no Iraqi insurgency, no al-Sadr popping out from behind the curtain or Saddam loyalists prepped for guerrilla war, no car bombings or beheadings or roadside explosives.

"Or an insurgency so feeble and scattered it was swiftly squashed and swept up.

"Just imagine how different things would have been over the last year, how different they would be now.

"Bush would have been completely vindicated for invading Iraq, despite the non-discovery of WMDs. His pre-war critics would have been completely discredited, the neocon warhawks howling with victorious glee at seeing all those liberals and pundits shown up for the lily-livered worrywarts they were.

"France, Germany, the other nations that opposed the war--they would have been rhetorically shunted forever into the dustbin of Old Europe.

"Tony Blair would have been elevated to co-leader of the Free World and enjoyed a second youthful bloom (instead of looking as haggard and embattled as he does now--a badly abused dollhead).

"Over a 1000 Americans would still be alive, as would countless thousands of Iraqis. Thousands more would have escaped grievous wounds.

"Saddam Hussein probably would have been convicted in a televised trial sometime before the US election, and executed.

"The US economy wouldn't be bleeding billions of dollars now and into the indefinite future. The economy would have lifted itself aerodynamically out of recession by now and restored much of the job loss of the previous years.

Oil would be in the $30-35 range as Iraqi oil flowed through the pipelines and infrastructure was repaired.

"The United States would have been able to be poised to launch strikes against Syria or Iran from secure bases of action in Iraq, as the stage was set for act two of the war against the Axis of Evil.

"President Bush would probably boast an approval rating in the 60s or 70s, and coasting to a landslide reelection against a Democratic candidate served up for sacrifice until Hillary could run in '08.

"The savage Iraq insurgency, a tragedy for the Iraqi people and the Americans and other foreigners who have been victims there, has unwound the future in ways we still can't understand. But this much is evident: The Enemy isn't afraid of us anymore, if it ever was. It sees the world's greatest superpower led by a president swaggering with braggadocio bogged down in a guerrilla war for which its technological superiority advantages it naught. It knows that the overstretched American military is tearing at the seams, that it doesn't have enough manpower for a proper, successful occupation. It sees us repeating the Soviet debacle in Afghanistan, and is increasing the tempo of violence. As I understand 4th Generation warfare, the side that controls the tempo, wins."

The supposed nodal points of history, the true fulcra, may be as invisible as some suppose them to be, but Wolcott demonstrates that under certain conditions they can be made to cast shadows. Extremely fine work.

Saturday, October 23, 2004
7:07 PM
How strangely fragile, these days, is our communal grasp of even the most recent history. Josh Marshall links to this Christian Science Monitor account of bin Ladin's escape here.

9:18 AM
It never ceases to amaze me, how Josh Marshall can keep this administration's lies sorted, handily enough to cite and refute them, crisply and authoritatively, day after day. This must amount by now to knowing two entirely different versions of history off by heart, the one genuine, the other an endlessly (and indeed artlessly) exfoliating "tissue of sheerest horseshit*"

Here, today, he does it again, skewering the sort of shameless (not to say surreal, grotesque) revisionism that no long even causes our jaws to drop. Myself, were I to daily and directly subject myself to the full blast of ill-crafted lies issuing from the White House, I would quickly grow punchdrunk and confused. I simply wouldn't have the stomach for it. Not so Josh Marshall. Long may he wave.

*Wm. S. Burroughs, 1914-1997

Friday, October 22, 2004
1:08 PM
The most striking thing about this moment in history, and indeed the thing about it that creeps me most deeply and thoroughly out, is the truly eerie reality-divide between the Bush camp and anyone else.

I've just read a piece about a remarkable
survey that actually quantifies the extent to which Bush supporters are out of touch with concensus-reality:

"The roots of the Bush supporters' resistance to information very likely lie in the traumatic experience of 9/11 and equally into the near pitch-perfect leadership that President Bush showed in its immediate wake. This appears to have created a powerful bond between Bush and his supporters -- and an idealised image of the president that makes it difficult for his supporters to imagine that he could have made incorrect judgements before the war, that world public opinion would be critical of his policies or that the president could hold foreign-policy positions that are at odds with his supporters."

--Steven Kull, director of the University of Maryland's Programme on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) discussing the results of a survey conducted in mid-October by PIPA and Knowledge Networks, a California-based polling firm.

Thursday, October 21, 2004
7:45 AM
E. M. Forster maintained that didactic novels were, invariably, inherently less good -- as novels. If an author's politico-religio-social agenda is what directly drives the work, I take that to mean, no genuinely valuable interrogation of reality can take place, and the result will be a literary virtuality built as exclusively from the author's expressed political philosophy as that author can manage. This is best understood, an excellent teacher of mine said, by asking ourselves whether or not a fascist can write a good novel.

I took this idea of Forster's immediately to heart, upon first discovering it. I likewise took to heart his idea that authors fully or even predominately in control of their characters just aren't doing their job. Indeed, the two are really the same: A fascist can't write a good novel because writing a good novel, in the end, is about relinquishing control of the text.

In Forster's sense of things, I have always tried very hard to not be a "political" novelist. I do not come to the page as a propagandist for my own beliefs. This has been made rather more easy for me, I suspect, by the fact that I am, as far as I can tell, more or less a centrist, equally repelled by either extreme of the political spectrum. Indeed, I believe that the spectrum forms a full circle, with right and left merging, as they meet at their respective extremes, into luminous batshit evil.

In some more cheerful historical continuum, I could be quite happy with a decent centrist Republican as president. Indeed, from what I take to be the perspective of the extreme left, the problem with Kerry would be that he's merely that: a decent centrist Republican. There are, in fact, decent centrist Republicans who quite rightly regard themselves as true conservatives, and it was not my intention yesterday to tell people like that to buzz off. If you're a decent centrist Republican, or a true conservative, today, I feel for you; your party has been carjacked by some sort of radical movement, and driven right around the spectrum -- people who've bathed their brains all too thoroughly in the White Light of the far, bad side.

In very much the sense that Bush is not actually a Christian, likewise is he nothing remotely conservative. Believing Bush is conservative in any traditional sense is like believing that a Formula One racer with the Perrier logo on its side is full of mineral water.

The RNC today is a party in the hands of dangerous political radicals.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004
1:16 PM
"Anything that might be of interest to Slitscan. Which is to say, Laney, anything that might be of interest to Slitscan’s audience. Which is best visualized as a vicious, lazy, profoundly ignorant, perpetually hungry organism craving the warm god-flesh of the anointed. Personally I like to imagine something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a week-old boiled potato, that lives by itself, in the dark, in a double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka. It’s covered with eyes and it sweats constantly. The sweat runs into those eyes and makes them sting. It has no mouth, Laney, no genitals, and can only express its mute extremes of murderous rage and infantile desire by changing the channels on a universal remote. Or by voting in presidential elections."
--Idoru, 1996

"William Gibson's an MMFA fan. The sound you hear is the sound of 100,000 techno-conservatarian brains exploding..." writes atrios. The puzzling thing about this for me being: Do I have a hundred thousand politically conservative fans, and if so, *can't they read*? Most likely Atrios is referring to that sub-species of tragic mouthbreather so mesmerized by my effortless proliferation of imaginary Starck-slick gizmos that he never even notices the characterization, let alone the socio-political implications. I have always found those guys, like the ones who ask if I've read Ayn Rand, to be a distinct minority.

If I were to put together a truly essential thank-you list for the people who most made it possible for me to write my first six novels, I'd certainly owe as much to Ronald Reagan as to Bill Gates or Lou Reed. Reagan's presidency put the grit in my dystopia. His presidency was the fresh kitty litter I spread for utterly crucial traction on the icey driveway of uncharted futurity. His smile was the nightmare in my back pocket.

11:29 AM
As I took the zeitgeist's temperature this morning (the hard way, as we professional prescients always insist on doing) I noticed that it was decidedly more difficult to imagine life after a Kerry win than life after a Bush win.

Aside from the fact that, as we professionals know, it's inherently more difficult to imagine things getting relatively unfucked than it is to imagine things getting more fucked but in a familiar direction, I found myself wondering whether that Bush-as-idiot-shaman essay I quoted here recently might not be literally true, in some ghastly Castanedan way? Could it be that the obscenely comforting narrowing of imaginative bandwith (the real payoff in becoming a Bushite believer) was actually changing the world, or threatening to, via its chilling effect on concensus-reality?

Could that, in fact, account for phenomena on the order of The Tampa Tribune finding itself incapable of endorsing either candidate?

Or as Jack Womack translated for me last month, when I'd encountered and been baffled by a similar argument:

"We can see that the person now in office has led us into a terrible situation, and clearly has no idea what to do, and if reelected will continue to do more of the same. But his opponent has not given us a sufficiently exact plan of action indicating what he intends to do during the next four years -- regardless of what events might take place in the meantime. Therefore, obviously, the right thing to do is to stick to the idiot we know, who will continue to do the same, but who at least has never been accused of suggesting that Americans committed atrocities in Vietnam."

Tuesday, October 19, 2004
10:22 AM
You know it's not quite 1936 yet, when...

I gave Media Matters some money, a few minutes ago. They've made my day.

In fact, I'm so cheered up generally that I'll actually talk about something other than politics for a minute: the proposed film of Pattern Recognition.

Where this stands at the moment, and literally all I know about it: Peter Weir (of whom I have been a huge fan since age twenty or so, so that's very nice indeed) wants to direct it, there's an option deal in place, and Weir has a contract with Warner to...well, not to go ahead and shoot it, but to go forward toward that end. Toward which he's hired a screenwriter -- whose name I've forgotten (which is actually a good sign with regard to Weir's choice) -- and has gone to London, Tokyo and Moscow to look at locations.

Absolutely nothing else known by me as to casting or anything else.

Though I should warn you, should you happen to bump into me in the meantime, that I don't regard films of novels as being the ultimate form in which a novel may be lucky enough to manifest. I regard *the novel* as the ultimate form in which the novel manifests. And if I should suspect that you think otherwise, I'm liable to snap at you.

Monday, October 18, 2004
11:30 AM
"This election is increasingly about not letting Medievalism conquer the Enlightenment," writes Steve Clemons, after reading Ron Suskind's "reality-based community" piece "It's a head-to-head contest between rationality and dogma."

"Medievalism", I think, flatters what we are up against today, lending it far too long a pedigree. Jeff Sharlet, in The Revealer , offers a more precise analysis. Bush's religion, Sharlet argues, is not Christian but New Age.

"In grappling with Bush’s presidency," he writes, "[the press] has expanded its range, developed a more nuanced understanding of traditional Christian fundamentalism, recognized liberal evangelicalism, and acknowledged the limitations of Enlightenment thinking. But it still can’t account for the kind of magic that says, If you believe you can do something -- become president despite losing the popular vote, launch a war without evidence, and maybe, if you REALLY believe, get re-elected anyway -- you can."

Sharlet's article does account for that sort of thinking, and I urge you to read it.

(Jack Womack, having read it, reminds me of Robert Mitchum as Reverend Harry Powell in "Night of the Hunter: "I practice the religion the Almighty and me worked out betwixt us.")


Sunday, October 17, 2004
8:19 PM
How many Bush administration officials does it take to change a light bulb?

None. There’s nothing wrong with that light bulb. There is no need to change anything. We made the right decision and nothing has happened to change our minds. People who criticize this light bulb now, just because it doesn’t work anymore, supported us when we first screwed it in, and when these flip-floppers insist on saying that it is burned out, they are merely giving aid and encouragement to the Forces of Darkness.

-- John Cleese

3:11 PM
WASHINGTON -- About half of the roughly $5 billion in Iraq reconstruction funds disbursed by the US government in the first half of this year cannot be accounted for, according to an audit commissioned by the United Nations, which could not find records for numerous rebuilding projects and other payments.

One chunk of the money -- $1.4 billion -- was deposited into a local bank by Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq but could be tracked no further: The auditors reported that they were shown a deposit slip but could find no additional records to explain how the money was used or to prove that it remains in the bank.

Auditors also said they could not track more than $1 billion in funds doled out by US authorities for hundreds of large and small reconstruction projects.

--Bryan Bender, The Boston Globe, October 16, 2004

A friend of mine who runs hedge funds recently tried to explain to me how really astronomical amounts of money can go missing more easily than smaller, more comprehensible amounts. "Nobody really understands what 1.4 billion dollars means, what it looks like, or where it might go."

9:54 AM
"In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'"

--Ron Suskind, "Without a Doubt", New York Times Magazine

Saturday, October 16, 2004
2:22 PM
Last week to Massive Change, the Future of Global Design, an exbition by Bruce Mau and The Institute Without Boundaries, at the Vancouver Art Gallery. I'm definitely going back, and next time I'm renting the audio guide, something I've never done before for anything, ever. It's that interesting.

I was enthusing about Massive Change to a local artist, later, and he rather testily informed me that it has three very major strikes against it: It's not art, it's hugely expensive, and it's 100% irony-free.

I imagine that one day his grandchildren, suffocating on greenhouse gases, will ask their mother what grand-dad thought about the onset of the Great Extinction, and if he'd ever tried to do anything to stop it. "No," she'll explain, "he was more concerned with maintaining an attitude of the most exquisite irony."

(And Jon Stewart, most definitely, is the man.)

Friday, October 15, 2004
7:40 AM
"Bush talks and thinks like Milosevic. He will lose, but the most disheartening thing is the prospect of his religio-nationalist reality-deniers clinging fiercely to the sacred glory of their Lost Cause for the next hundred years. We live under the Confederacy. We're a podunk bunch of swaggering pious hicks."

--Bruce Sterling, via email

The real punchline of last night's joke, of course, being that it's not only an old joke but a Soviet one.

Thursday, October 14, 2004
9:37 PM
President Bush goes to an elementary school to talk about the war.

After his talk, he offers to answer questions. One little boy puts up his hand and the president asks him his name.

"I'm Billy, sir."

"And what's your question, Billy?"

"I have three questions, sir. Why did the US invade Iraq without the support of the UN? Why are you President when Al Gore got more votes? And whatever happened to Osama Bin Laden?"

Just then the bell rings for recess. Bush announces that they'll continue after recess.

When they return, Bush asks, "OK, where were we? Question time! Who has a question?"

Another little boy raises his hand. The president asks his name.

"I'm Steve, sir."

"And what's your question, Steve?"

"I have five questions, sir. Why did the US invade Iraq without the support of the UN? Why are you President when Al Gore got more votes? Whatever happened to Osama Bin Laden? Why did the recess bell go off twenty minutes early? And what the heck happened to Billy?"

9:00 AM
Just about seven years ago I happened to find myself in San Francisco with a very pleasant man who was then an Office Assistant to the Secretary of Defense. We got along well, and he introduced me to several new ideas (mainly the "netwar" paradigm of warfare, which is genuinely a new paradigm in the Kuhnian sense, and which I'll return to in a later post). I came away feeling highly optimistic about, of all things, the US military. He'd assured me that "NO MORE VIETNAMS" might as well be carved above the West Point gates as Prime Directive, because "asymmetric conflict with amorphous networks of terrorists, who repurpose civilian technologies to terrible ends" was going to be where it was at from now on in -- and that Vietnam was always going to be what you got if you stuck with the old paradigm.

In the days after 9-11 I often took comfort in thinking of this man and the ideas he represented. When asked what I thought the United States would or could do in response to the attacks, I surprised friends by saying that I believed the US military's intelligentsia already understood the true nature of the conflict better than the enemy did.

And I still imagine that I was right in that. But the creative intelligence of my friend from the DoD, and so many others like him, prevailed not at all -- in the face of ideology, cupidity, stupidity, and a certain tragically crass cunning with regard to the mass pyschology of the American people.

One actually has to be something of a specialist, today, to even begin to grasp quite how fantastically, how baroquely and at once brutally fucked the situation of the United States has since been made to be.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004
8:59 PM

Because the United States currently has, as Jack Womack so succintly puts it, a president who makes Richard Nixon look like Abraham Lincoln.

And because, as the Spanish philospher Unamuno said, "At times, to be silent is to lie."