Friday, September 4, 2015

"They won't let us talk about God"

   The tragic open secret of
   a political party's fabri-
   cation of religious perse-
   cution, on the basis of a
   failure of its bigotries,
   is not remotely only an A-
   merican dilemma. But it's
   also not a proud American
   tradition, unless we mean
   the term as Homer did, as
   the harbinger of contempt.

      If others in the same glass better see,
      'Tis for themselves they look, but not for me:
      For my salvation must its doom receive
      Not from what others, but what I believe.

   I'd go into the dock with
   Dryden, before all the Ju-
   lius Streichers ever call-
   ed to lead their movement.

John Dryden
Steven N. Zwicker and
  David Bywaters, editors
Selected Poems
  Religio Laici
Penguin Books, 2001©
op. cit.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

The peacewreckers gather

Word has spread that radical
Right Wing opposition to the
worldwide consensus embodied
in the arms accord with Iran,
just assured yesterday of su-
perfluous passage through a
gauntlet in the American Con-
gress, is regrouping predic-
tably in many murky corners,
to say nothing of the usual
by Republicans. 

What could be more uplifting
proof of this long-sought vin-
dication of worldwide hope,
than the company which renoun-
ces it? By all means, vigil-
ance against these ostenta-
tious patriots, of one place
or another, simply remains a
part of any gentler regime.
Something about the gift to
be simple.

and Washington flog the Ameri-
can people to betray this ac-
cord as fully and as fast as
endlessly behind their gaudy
arras, humanity's honest watch
requires its own escalations,
in earnest outreach to peace-
ful institutions everywhere.
If this means diverting phil-
anthropies and investments
from their decadent ruts, the
road itself rewards the trek.

Jennifer Steinhauer
Republicans Weigh New Ways
  to Upend Iran Nuclear Deal
September 2, 2015

Photograph Jack Alexander
Photograph Maurice Chalfin
Photograph Gustave Roud

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

I did not get through Proust this Summer

This is even actually partly
a sort of honest confession,
so it would be best to stop,
while embarrassment might be
minimal. Again I didn't even
pursue Proust. Now it's time
to close up the cottage, and
be grateful for having spent
the season without having to
assess it, ever after. Maybe
I avoid Proust, to avoid the
sacrifice of associating any
span of time with more poig-
nancy than it already bears.

In Peru he had said, Johnny,
you have just graduated from
one of the finest universit-
ies in America, and you are

That, I did happen to read,
this Summer: one classmate,
chiding another, precisely
for not knowing Proust. Dur-
ing endless tramps through 
the slums of Lima, no less. 
Warned me off redundantly, 
that did. Better, I think,
a sting than a splinter as
the prize of Summer's end.

John Hopkins 
The White Nile Diaries
I.B. Tauris, 2014©

ii  Hervé Guibert

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Chopin

    Texture and structure,
    élan of the polonaise.

    Donegal tweed for the
    pocket T, for wit and
    bonhommie. A profile,
    for remembrance, just
    a thoughtful courtesy.

Patrik Podkonicky
Manfred Langer, photography

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Bistrôt de justice

One needs to guard against
rigging the game of think-
ing against oneself in the
crafting of public policy.
By no means is the obliga-
tion less in unmentionable

There is a natural tenden-
cy, we all discover in law
study or other sports, for
resemblances between dis-
tinguishable circumstances
to lead to poor inferences.

Yesterday a schoolboy was
acquitted of felonious as-
sault and convicted of us-
ing a computer to achieve
it. This is not a sane re-
sult of prosecution. It is
necessary to question this.

I don't know about you, but
this reminds me of that in-
opportune association of 
ideas which persuaded the
most powerful nation the
world has ever known to de-
stroy a fragile nation be-
cause the idiot president
of one didn't like the vile
president of the other. All
that was left was the fal-
sity of the pretext: the
equivalent of a computer,
which in that case wasn't
found, of mass destruction.

The boy used devices. Surely
he must have been guilty of
something. Someone is crying
and his semen's on her pants.
Well, somebody has to pay. A
crime would be convenient.

Interesting deductions, yes?
But telling circumstances?
Grounds for the power of the
state to be unleashed for an
outpouring of justice? My, my.
Preserve us from that kitchen.

Arthur Miller didn't write
The Crucible to complain a-
about adultery. He wrote it
to kvetch about McCarthyism.
Louis Malle didn't re-live
his Murmur of the Heart to
denounce incest. He did so
to celebrate Charlie Parker.
A common strand inseminates
the works, and it is moral
illumination of great warmth.
Inadmissible in the courts
of New Hampshire this week,
but irrepressible as ever.

Is it impossible to tire of
scapegoatings? Probably so.
Every generation achieves a
glimpse of illumination but
never stops crying out for
someone to pay for the dark.
The criminalisation of the
laptop was designed to ter-
orise a people, by assuring
guilt for something; it's
the mechanical equivalent
of conspiracy theory. Mul-
tiply the strands of a whip,
you bag even the innocent.
One could indict a mouse.

That an American district at-
torney could take a case to
trial, of felonious use of a
computer to procure sex with
a minor, where the ethernet
of a community of teenagers
churns, 24/7, for precious
little else, and that catas-
trophe did not even occur,
scales the peaks of Miller's
witchcraft trials, without
Malle's reminding oxygen
of the prevalence of jazz.

Is it possible to be made ill
by what they serve for virtue
in this restaurant? Is it pos-
sible to be ashamed of it for
any constructive purpose? Or
does one just get up and walk.

I don't know, but one could
suspect this: that there are
very few trauma more vicious,
few remedies less discrimin-
ating, than bestowals of jus-
tice prompted by the fear of
broad daylight. New Hampshire
tried to crush someone this
week, and who'll ask, Why,
if not to restore the dark?

André Kertész

Friday, August 28, 2015

Two loyal diplomats devise a promised war

Dennis Ross, sometime Ambassador
and leading media source in Am-
erican policy circles since the
first Bush, has been joined by
the even less secretive whiz kid
of the second Bush's surge, David
Petraeus, in a column in the Post
this week, echoing the genius of
Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove. In ex-
change for a blessing they sound
willing to contemplate, for the
pending arms accord with Iran,
they join Thomas Friedman at The
Times in demanding that we fur-
nish the most warlike state in 
the region with a Doomsday Ma-
chine, so powerful, no mountain
can withstand it, along with as-
sorted other flashy trinkets.

But in their column, they see
and raise Friedman's shopping
spree down death's Rodeo Drive
by demanding real treasure -
an explicit unilateral contract,
in the form of an executory cod-
icil to the arms accord's ratif-
ication - a démarche, that the
United States will wage aggres-
sive war on Iran, at the other's
option ever to pursue a nuclear
weapon. The ultimate laughing-
stock of the Common Law, the ex-
ecutory contract - if you'll do
this, I'll automatically do that - 
has wrought more mayhem by its
guarantees, than all the cheats
in all the courts of equity in
history. In its emasculation of
the Constitution's distribution
of powers, this one's revolting-
ly messy. But theirs is no mild
grant of an option to embroil 
America in war; it's a whip to 
be driven there, by her friend.
Nice of them, to make it easy.

A more glistening tribute to
another nation's foreign policy
has seldom been launched from
such a lofty perch. Benedict Ar-
nold, yes; Robert E. Lee, yes.
But not intoned with such pro-
fundity of reverberation since
Peter Sellers entranced himself,
as guru and commander-in-chief,
in Kubrick's comic masterpiece.

What could explain, then, this
bizarre nose-dive into strate-
gic silliness and intellectual
dishonour? What is this certain-
ty, of an intolerable risk in
15 years? Does it emerge from
Tehran? Or is it music for Je-
rusalem? Israel's Far Right can
not hold power for another 15
years, can not deny for another
virtual generation the dilemma
it has pretended to finesse:
Israel will become either a mi-
nority Jewish State, or it will
accept a two-state partition of
its volume. And neither Jewish
State would back aggressive war.
It's now or never, they surmise.

Our heroes' desperation isn't
theirs, it is a friend's. Now, 
they are impetuous because they
are impatient, they are impa-
tient because their ground is
receding. They cannot be eased
with a President's reservation
(all that history has ever re-
quired, or statecraft ever al-
lowed), of the power to appeal
to use force. They wish no hu-
man intervention in the promise
of the exaltation they envision.
Ross and Petraeus truly do ex-
pose the fault line between the
Existential and the infantile.
I do not think one can blink. 

As the President has remarked,
to the consternation of many who
haven't followed the bouncing
ball, the true alternative to the
accord is aggressive war, rather
soon. These new interlocutors on-
ly pretend to postpone that, in
wondrously modest silence on the
aggression in their stance, an ul-
timatum they would inscribe so in-
eradicably. Iran, for her part,
is only likely to validate their
helpful calculation, that they
are enormously better advised to
arm themselves while they can.
And are not amiable little en-
tentes, with other nuclear pow-
ers, of historically vital in-
terests, too, "down there,"
bound to bloom in empathy?

Who are such wits, to bark us
to the door of this burlesque?

I have enjoyed not being led by
a cosmic idiot in the White House,
and I'd like to reserve the pros-
pect, in 15 years, that such an
exception will reside there again.
I'd give that incumbent something
to do; I'd want the circumstances
to be relevant to the calculation. 
I'd like to imagine, a Constitu-
tion still, to require a Congres-
sional resolution for the act. I
should like the United States to
behave ourselves, cut even from
excuses that our hands were tied.

I wish our savants would permit a
freer people, than the one they'd
like to obligate to aggressive war.
They understand enough its vileness
but not enough what they fear more.
True, we are simple, we are unex-
citing, unrewarding; scarcely even 
audible in the mythology of force, 
but surely not beneath our claim 
to our own government. Who can en- 
tertain advice, to place us there?

Simone Weil
The Iliad, or
  The Poem of Force
Mary McCarthy
New York Review Books, 2005©

Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern
  and Peter George, screenplay
Dr Strangelove ..
Stanley Kubrick
Columbia Pictures, 1964©

i    Minor White
     Point Lobos (Carmel)

iii  Soviet propaganda

iv  Michael Stokes
      United States Navy


Update, September 1st

Nicholas Burns, Harvard's Goodman Professor, opined in The Times in the same vein as Petraeus and Ross, on the day when he conceded that his advice was unnecessary. But he offered it anyway, along with the same erector-set play with alliances that served America so well in Viet Nam, as part of a steady drip we can anticipate while the failure to defeat this accord becomes a fact (not that it will stop, even then). All eyes are therefore on former Secretary Clinton, famous for admiring this accord as a positive "first step," to see if she elects in her campaign speech on September 9th, to vow warfare as these gentry of the past demand. The President's wise "all options remain on the table" is indisputable; what aggravates these dissidents is his Presidential forbearance. Of course, there isn't a threat on earth that can project its power.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


 What is the thing you mustn't 
 lose in this world before you're 
 ready to leave it? The one thing 
 you mustn't lose ever?
 The word I had in mind is 
 surprise ..

Tennessee Williams
Small Craft Warnings
  Act I
New Directions, 1970©