Saturday, January 28, 2006

Warriors, Wusses, and Worse: Why The Los Angeles Times Should Be Placed Under Martial Law

I DON’T LIKE The Los Angeles Times. This is a particularly difficult opinion to have if you are the kind of person who is apt to write NO WAR on your face with lipstick. I am not that kind of person, so I am quite pleased with my opinion.

And I've got no problem with other people — the ones who believe in free speech and stuff like that — supporting the right of The Los Angeles Times to publish their goofy paper. If you think they have a right to do that, by all means object when we kick in their doors, defenestrate their office equipment, and water-board Joel Stein until he passes cerebrospinal fluid through his nose. Cerebrospinal fluid which — I am convinced — will prove to be composed of Orange Jell-O with banana slices and miniature marshmallows.

But I don’t like the God-forsaken worthless-ass Los Angeles Times. And being against The Los Angeles Times while claiming to believe in the nonviolent tolerance of free speech is — I now realize and freely admit — a position which is unbecoming to a serious-minded adult manperson. To put it into the Junior High School Locker Room prose to which readers of The LA Times are accustomed: It’s wussy. Since I do not want the low-carb version of Peking Man to snap me with his jockstrap, I forswear all such hypocrisy from this day forth.

To blindly allow The Los Angeles Times to exist unmolested, I fear, may give them an opportunity to annoy me further in the future. Plus, I would be giving soft acquiescence to the use of “impact” as a verb.

And skimpy little say-nothing paragraphs.

Having realized my mistake, I don’t want to blame the exploited homeless people who deliver the paper in exchange for methadone. Nor even the LA Times editorial staff, gravel-sucking plecostomi though they be. And I’m certainly not going to blame myself, an innocent victim misled by the “free speech” lies of Voltaire and John Stuart Mill.

And blaming LA Times publisher Jeffrey M. Johnson for disgracing all carbon-based life with his very existence is just too easy. Not easy enough for Arnold Schwarzenegger to do it, but almost that easy. The truth is, if it weren’t for so-called journalists there would be no so-called journalism, and therefore no Los Angeles Times. Journalists are the pathogens and journalism is the disease — The Los Angeles Times is merely the pus-bloated symptom.

I do sympathize with any person who passed out while playing with a Fisher-Price Spell Toy and woke up at the Columbia School of Journalism, if any such person exists. But when you decide to become a journalist, you pretty much know that you’re not going to be saving the country from Richard Nixon. 67% of Journalism majors know that Richard Nixon is dead. So you are willingly signing up to serve the pathetic cultural ambitions of white middle-class liberals. After 20 years of this you write a 250-page book (with no footnotes!) to entomb your ego. Future journalists inherit your skimpy little book like genetic damage.

I know all of this is easy for me to say. I’m a blogger, not a journalist. I wouldn’t walk across the street to talk to a United States Senator. (What for? Seriously, what the hell for?) I don’t chase Clinton’s girlfriends through high-speed traffic. Such truth as I may possess is not for sale, nor is it used to extort leaks from Beltway scum. I don’t get Pulitzer Prizes for running circles around fact-checkers and brain-damaged assistant editors. I don’t pretend to be objective while plagiarizing DNC press releases. In fact, I don’t pretend to be objective ever.

Journalists tell us that they perform a necessary informative role — even when dead wrong — that is vital to the functioning of a free society. Even if this is so, I see no reason why I should be grateful for it. Those at The Los Angeles Times who are requesting this consideration display no gratitude for all the stuff other people have done for them. Like their imperialist ancestors who helpfully colonized Oakland Hills and the beaches of Malibu, or the Armed Forces who prevented the same from becoming possessions of the Emperor of Japan, or the LAPD which keeps the crack-heads and gang-bangers out of their unisex restrooms.

Besides, if there is one thing my elders have taught me — those solons whose wisdom was distilled in the intemperate Sixties, then mellowed for decades in the oaken casks of capitalist affluence — it’s this: Screw Everything. Especially everything that doesn’t affect me. But also a lot of stuff that would affect me, if somebody wasn’t taking care of it for me while I stand around and bitch. Above, screw all the stuff that I can get paid to make fun of in print by people who are even more witless and depraved than I am.

Another thing I've learned from these hoary cultural icons (and The Los Angeles Times is only a small part of their intellectual legacy) is that if I find some person or thing to be politically disagreeable, it's probably because that person or thing is PURE EVIL. Not in some figurative sense, but evil like something right out of Paradise Lost or Cotton Mather's Wonders of the Invisible World. So Christian charity must step aside for righteous zeal.

Now, I'm not advocating that we herd the staff of The Los Angeles Times into a cage, to be raped by amphetamine-crazed circus animals while we film the grisly spectacle for Pay Per View. On the other hand, what do I care? I don't write for their stupid paper.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Pseudo-Religion 101: Introduction to Divine Retribution

Since Ray Nagin and Pat Robertson (and many others who live in daily fear of the just wrath of God) are anxious to discover just how they are being punished and for what sins, here are some important historical examples from humanity's rap sheet:

.WHAT WE DID ..............WHAT GOD DID

Invented war ......................Invented hippies


Mindless Pagan..................Political Parties

Sold Indulgences...............Sells Car Insurance
and Bogus Relics...............and Online Prescription

Beheaded Saint.................Beheaded
Thomas More....................Jayne Mansfield

Killed the last...................Killed the last honest
Passenger Pidgeon............building contractor

Forced courthouses...........Forced NASCAR to
to remove the Ten.............mandate restrictor
Commandments................plates on race cars

The so-called World...........The so-called
Council of Churches...........United Nations

Communism......................Low-flush toilets

Moved the Dodgers............Moved Detroit
to Los Japan

Jailed Martin Luther.............Released G.
King, Jr..............................Gordon Liddy

Cancelled Star Trek............Vietnam

Aleister Crowley.................Pat Boone

Garth Brooks......................Eminem

Bill Clinton........................George Bush

Replaced "Merry...............Replaced "woman"
Christmas" with ...............with "bitch" and "man"
"Happy Holidays".............with "motherf--ker"

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Reflections on Sharon: The Battle of the Chinese Farm, and Other Mad Adventures

Ariel Sharon’s identity as a politician has always been tied to his reputation as a soldier. Definitely by Israel’s enemies, for whom any Israeli soldier is a monster and a war criminal and will therefore be a monster as a statesman, too. Some liberals – including some in Israel – barely stop short of that assessment themselves, at least in Sharon’s case. Their idea of a “good” Israeli soldier is one who promotes a Palestinian homeland, like Rabin did. (At least that used to be the ideal; in order to pass muster today you’d probably have to be in favor of abolishing Israel, too.) So Sharon represents the dark heart of Israel: the soldier who does not apologize for fighting; arrogant and contemptuous of law; and who is at bottom a butcher with no regard for human life, especially the life of an Arab. For them he personifies the caricature of Israel that her enemies have devised, and this is greatly troubling to them because in their own hearts they more than half believe in that caricature themselves.

Sharon’s problematic reputation goes back to the 1948 war, when he first made his bones in the Palmach strike battalions of the Haganah. By the age of 22 he was a major in command of Unit 101, Israel’s first special forces unit. His critics point back to this time when they call him a maverick who ignored or exceeded orders at will, and who acted with disregard for civilians and human life in general.

In irregular warfare, the problem of telling soldiers from civilians is not a trivial one. Especially when the enemy routinely operates from civilian-occupied areas, and makes no attempt to protect or evacuate civilians even when given plenty of opportunity to do so. It doesn’t help when your enemies get the benefit of every doubt, even from your so-called friends. Technically, the Jordanian police at Kalkiliah were civilians, and the Palestinian fedayeen they were protecting could be called “civilians” too. But those fedayeen were crossing the border to kill Israelis, after which they would fall back behind a shield of other civilians. Unit 101 took them out (violating Jordanian sovereignty in the process, horror of horrors) to stop their operations, not because Sharon wanted to maliciously kill some noncombatants.

Sharon’s supposed insubordination (and general beastliness) during those early years of struggle have never been specifically established, and never could be. The operations of the Haganah and of Unit 101, during those most precarious days of Israel’s existence, were generally secret. They were often carried out without written orders, in situations where command authority was either unclear or was deliberately obscured for purposes of deniability. Compared to our own covert ops in Vietnam, Sharon’s shadow war was relatively mild. Compared to French measures in Vietnam and Algeria, it was laughable. Compared to standard PLO practice, it was a model of humane restraint. Finally, it took place during a time in which – as David Ben Gurion well recognized – it was absolutely vital that Israel show that she would defend herself in deadly earnest, or she would never have a moment’s peace.

Far from being an undesirable loose cannon, Ariel Sharon was the ideal man to conduct such operations. The more “maverick” he was, the better suited he was. Ideal for his critics, too – those who can’t stomach what it takes to survive in the face of an utterly ruthless foe can pretend that the efforts which keep them safe in their homes are the work of an irresponsible madman. So they can have their safety without taking moral responsibility for it. In short, Ariel Sharon was exactly the kind of man that his nation needed him to be, right across the political spectrum.

During the Sinai Campaign of 1956, Sharon was criticized for provoking an unnecessary (but fairly minor) battle at the Mitla Pass. Classic Sharon, his critics would say. After having been denied permission to attack the pass, Sharon was allowed to scout it, and his overly aggressive reconnaissance led to a fight. Therefore, he “disobeyed” orders. The successful efforts that allowed his brigade to reach the pass in the first place were overshadowed, and his military career was nearly ended. If this is insubordination or incompetence, there are many famous generals in history who could cite better examples from their own experience. Fortunately for Israel, Sharon was not finished. In 1967 he led Israeli forces to a brilliant victory at Abu Ageila that literally ended the war on the Sinai front: when the Egyptian chief of staff learned about this defeat he panicked and ordered a general retreat, taking Egypt right out of the fight.

Which brings us to the 1973 war, and Sharon’s most infamous feats of mad dog behavior. Driving towards the Suez Canal in typical Patton style, Sharon’s tanks and paratroopers collided with heavily fortified Egyptian infantry at the so-called Chinese Farm. Rather than another neat Abu Ageila, the Israelis endured three days of fighting and heavy casualties before Sharon crossed the canal and ripped through the Egyptian rear, completing a fatal encirclement of the Egyptian Third Army. Again, in defiance of orders!

Taking the Chinese Farm battle first: Sharon’s enemies called it a huge blunder, and accused him of leading an entire brigade into an Egyptian trap. (Sharon’s enemies can’t make up their minds whether Sharon is too good at killing people, or not good enough.) A three-day pitched battle is nobody’s idea of a good time, and grinding it out in the face of a superior enemy position is not the classic IDF style. No doubt (like Gettysburg, Waterloo, Stalingrad, and Marathon) it could have been done better. During the Six Day War, Israeli armored forces had moved virtually at will, destroying anything in their path. One of the lessons of 1973 was that those days were over. For the first time in history, a country faced an army that had been literally custom-built to destroy them. The Soviets built Egypt a new army from scratch after 1967, and then trained it for two years behind a screen of UN peacekeepers – which then rolled out of their way as neatly as a sliding door. They hurled this army at Israel on the tenth day of Ramadan, that notorious Islamic peace-fest, and when Israel reeled back and then moved to counterattack, they found that all the rules had changed. The Egyptian forces were protected by an umbrella of first-class SAMs that took a heavy toll of Israeli aircraft. It was no longer possible for a fighter-bomber squadron to route an entire Arab armored division. And Egyptian troops were now equipped with superb wire-guided Soviet anti-tank missiles that were ideally suited to desert warfare. Under these circumstances, it was ridiculous to expect that IDF forces could encircle the enemy without a brutally hard fight, and it was almost a miracle that they were able to succeed at all.

But the enemy’s deadliest weapon against Israel, as always, was diplomacy. The sort of diplomacy, that is, where the enemy gets to call a time-out whenever things start to go against him. Israel is expected to obey every whim of the allegedly peace-loving world community, while her enemies get to raise hell until they get themselves into so much trouble that they need another ceasefire to save their bacon. It was during one such plea for “peace” that Sharon continued to pound nails into the Third Army’s coffin, ensuring that the Egyptians and their Soviet sponsors would have to call the show off for good. Kissinger scolded the ambassadors, and the Soviets went into a purple fit, while Golda Meir just shrugged her shoulders: What could she do, with that lunatic Sharon running loose and disobeying orders? I doubt if any prime minister was ever happier to be disobeyed.

Once again, as in 1948, Sharon was exactly the sort of loose cannon that his nation needed him to be, and thank God for that. Lincoln famously observed that he wished other generals would drink some of Grant’s whiskey, and so long as Israel must operate under the lopsided restraints that no other nation on earth is expected to observe, she ought to hope that she will always have a few mavericks like Ariel Sharon. And the liberals can sit safe in their homes and curse him. Everybody wins.

[Cross-posted at lgc, just because I felt like it for some reason. After writing about Sharon, I feel the need to break some sort of rule, however unwritten it may be.]

Monday, January 02, 2006

Zarathustra Speaks Again

Early one spring, when the water was rushing cold down the mountains, a man from the town came to the hermitage and asked to speak to Zarathustra.

“Esteemed elder, I beg you to hear me and give me your advice.

“I am a civil servant – of the fourth rank – and I have a son. My wife and I have labored long and hard so that he could be educated at the colonial university. It was our dream that he would become a doctor, or a magistrate. Why not? My beautiful son was a flower that bloomed brighter every day. No child could have been happier or more promising. So greatly did we rejoice in him that none of the world’s sorrows could touch us.

”At the university, my son joined a nationalist party, and befriended many young political men. I did not object. When I was a youth, I belonged to the very same party, and I had many such friends. But when my son began to give all of his thoughts to these political affairs, rather than to his studies, I became concerned. Yet I did not reproach him, because I could not believe that anything he did could lead to an ill result. My son was so filled with life and intelligence, it seemed only natural that some of this bounty should spill over its banks; and yet his river would find the right way to the sea.

“But, wise one … a terrible progression now occurred. My son became estranged from all of his friends, except for a small number of radical men. His language became dogmatic and cruel, and he would no longer show any respect to me or to his mother. Some of the men in his circle were military officers who could procure weapons, and he talked quite openly of the violence they would do with these weapons one day soon. And now I did plead with him. On my knees, I pleaded. But we can no longer understand each other. He is little more than a child, but he seems to have despaired of everything but death and bloodshed. Certainly he sees no good in the world, and he speaks of it with nothing but hatred.

“My wife has implored me to turn him in to the Civil Guard, before he gets into dreadful trouble. But how can I inform on my own son? The Civil Guard may jail him – or worse – even though he has done nothing wrong. And yet I live in terror that he will kill someone, or be killed himself. Tell me, please, what is the right thing to do?”

Zarathustra answered: “You must not turn in your son. You must not attempt to dissuade him, either. You must shut your door to him and give him no further support, until the day that he returns to you as a loving son once more.”

The man was saddened by this advice, but he resolved to do as Zarathustra said, for it seemed better than anything else he could do. So he thanked Zarathustra and left without another word.


Late in the winter, when the mountains gleamed white and the hermitage was draped in ice, an old man came and asked to speak to Zarathustra.

“Old one, I wished to see you again and speak this to your face before I died.

“Many years ago I came to you and asked for your advice. You told me to shut my door on my wayward son, and I took your advice. Wait until he reforms himself, you said, and I took your advice. But I never saw my son again. He murdered a state official – a man with five children of his own – and was himself killed immediately afterwards. All of my happiness died with him. The grief of his mother doubled my own. Though she did not speak a word of reproach to me, I never felt her love again. Within a year she followed our child to the grave. I hoped to die too, but it has been my fate to live year after year in sorrow; alone and despised.

“This is what I reaped from the seeds of your famous wisdom, Zarathustra. And if I have lived bitter years to reach this day, it can only be so that I may tell you to your face that all your philosophy is poison.”

Zarathustra answered: “I remember your visit very well, and I remember the question you put to me. You did not ask me how to recover your lost happiness. You asked me to tell you the right thing to do. You did not explain what you meant by right, so I inferred it from your other words, and gave you the best answer I could.

“I told you to sever yourself from your son. Your son was sick, and either you were the cause of this sickness by your failure as a father, or you were not. If you did not cause his sickness, it seemed to me that you could not cure it, either. And if you were the cause, then cutting yourself off from him was the only possible way to do him any good.

“You feared that your son would die, or be responsible for the death of another. Both of these fears were realized. How should I have advised you to prevent this? The very same thing might have occurred if you had denounced him to the authorities. Not only that, but you would have violated your own moral precept by informing on your son. Such a course could not be the right thing that you wanted me to tell you. On the other hand you might have continued to shelter him in your home, concealing your knowledge of his violent intentions. In that case, however, you might have abetted even more deaths. That could not be the right thing either, by the standards that you yourself follow. With death on either hand, the only right course is to withdraw yourself and make no choice at all. So did I advise you, and my advice could not have been anything other than it was.

“If you had asked me the best way for you to be happy in your situation, I could have given you some better advice. Happiness is entirely an accident, so there is no right way to do it. You might have asked me: ‘How can I live so that I enjoy the greatest amount of happiness and the least amount of sorrow?’ And I would have told you that this is a logical contradiction. You cannot increase the possibility of happiness without increasing the possibility of sorrow, for they go together like rain and lightning. If you would minimize both, then be like Zarathustra. Have no wife, no children, no expectations of the world and no hopes for the future. Spend your days contemplating human wisdom, which is a little bit happy and a little bit sad, but not an unmanageable amount of either. For a man can’t fall off a mountain that he never climbs.”

Thus spoke Zarathustra. But the man was not consoled, and for the rest of his life he muttered against Zarathustra and warned everyone not to seek his advice. But he was just a bitter old man, fading out of the world like an old stain, and nobody listened to him.