Of Asses and Alberts: The Other Sayyed …

The dizzying pace of the conspiracy theory machines has me recalling when Jamil al-Sayyed told al-Hayat that the killers of Rafik Hariri had to be “either donkeys or Einsteins.”

Indeed, but in truth, there are among us very few donkeys and even fewer Einsteins (I will leave it to the moral philosophers to tell me whether this is a “good” thing or not, although I tend to agree with St. Augustine that the “City of God” suggests that it does not matter much). The truth of the matter is always somewhere in between, so the question is always: what is by design and what is by accident. As the “light of london,” otherwise known as bech-bouche, has pointed out: “there are no conspiracies only post hoc policies following specific readings of political bursts.” Thus, Jamil’s comment (actually I believe it is best understood as a kind of warning) is telling in untold ways.

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. All we can do is adopt a healthy attitude of doubt toward the givers (and signs) of meaning, (all who remember, doubt. Who calls that strange?), while at the same time refusing to submit to the paralysis of despair. In all things, we are truly called to heed both “the pessimism of the intellect and the optimism of the will” (even good athiests like Gramsci cannot escape the Passion). The eternal discipline of patient circumspection is very much its own reward.

And in that spirit, let me just offer this as you join me in trying to wade through all of this: the only difference between politicians and gangsters is that politicians also read newspapers.

The Last Refuge of a Scoundrel …

I was misread.

Signs of Imperial Decay …

At $923 million for the 2006 fiscal year, the budget was 20 times that of the Beijing embassy’s that year, according to the State Department.

One of my little screwball theories is that the Cold War is, in fact, not over, in that the US has not fully paid the bill of waging that worlwide war for markets and resources. Many of those debts can be witnessed across the globe today and the US, politically, economically and militarily, faces a physics not dissimilar to the management crisis that afflicted the over-extended, and deeply indebted Soviet regime.

Needless to say, the US adventure in Iraq provides something of a microcosm for many of these difficulties. To be sure, some would argue that control over the Middle East remains central to US superiority over its economic rivals and thus is worth the cost. But the failure of the US to secure Iraq raises critical questions about the ability of the empire to maintain its global position.

I will elaborate when I have the time, so pardon me if I sound too hysterical or apocalyptic.

Your FBI …

I remember listening to the director of the FBI’s international office. He was bragging about bureau’s worldwide effort to “fight terror.”

“In the United States, the founding fathers and their sucessors,” he said, “were very concerned about tyranny so they creating mulitple law enforcement agencies to prevent the accumulation of too much executive authority in too few hands. And today, we have over 50 federal law enforcement agencies.”

“I find your comment interesting,” I said, “because dictatorships also create multiple security agencies to prevent coups.”

Silence.