Saturday, August 30, 2014

Of a trial down in Richmond

-- medio de fonte leporum
Surgit amari aliquid, quod
in ipsis floribus angat.

From middle spring of sweets some
bitter springs
Which in the very flower smartly

In the matter of the Federal District Court corruption trial of Virginia's most recent ex-Governor and his wife, the element of conspiracy has been frontally rebutted by assertions, now quite famous, of no love lost between the conspirators. Infamous as a gladiatorial net of indiscriminate suspicion, a conspiracy indictment deserves all the opprobrium it can get, for incrimina-tion without acts; and the affections, as we've tried to suggest, are the last business of the law. On the other hand, Jon Stewart, long suspected of lurking about the perimeter of this most Gordian of all of repression's knots, clove it paradoxically, with something of an idiot savant's epitaph, "You don't have to be in love to be corrupt." 

That said, you need to have acquiesced in each other's darling little stocking stuffers, to be deemed to have known they come to you from a common source. And this seems very much to define the source in question here, a quite splendidly gothic construction out of the wildest dreams of Huckleberry Finn. We are not, dear Readers, threatening the domain of taste in the transcripts before us. A white leather coat, a 5-lb Rolex, do not the Pleiades excite. But there is innocence born in all of us. I gave my mother once a sap-phire bracelet at La Côte Basque, and she kissed the captain for it. Not that he didn't deserve it.

The evidence, presented in these proceedings, supports the Southern fratboy gotcha to a T. Observing serial indelicacy of judgment as we may, we find that the laws of the Commonwealth extend a reverence toward the Office of Governor with which no petty crackpot can compete: he [sic] is insulated from avarice by law, if not by nature. He may suck all the Sazeracs he likes, and Louis Treize in the bargain, on the premise, very frankly, that he is likely to be richer'n death as it is. Jefferson, the first Governor, could turn only to Washington with envy,  but that man inherited several counties, and his wife brought him the whole Potomac watershed in dower, and still they couldn't hire a decent architect. 

In short, foundation law portrays a fine opinion of who may vote and whom he'll [sic] select. Mind you, no one anticipated this exact Governor's educator, Jerry Falwell, or had any inkling of Fox News, where nothing ever needs to be true. All the more reason to marvel, then, at least for a moment, in the spectacle of a definition of the Office, which anticipates hypocrisy in such elevated flight that the world might see only the soaring radiance of shattered principles.

 Yet this is the only story,  actually, to claim position  here, not the squalid, emetic  distractions the defendants'  attorneys conspired to thrust  before the People of the Com-  monwealth. And all of this as  free entertainment, too, given  their confidence that there is  no case. There is a greater  humiliation, as Jefferson  certainly knew, than subjecting  the People to the shameful  affront of begging them to be  excused for years and years of  indignity, at best, for lack of  conjugal felicity. Who hasn't  given that one a whirl, on an  off weekend; and 48 solid  months of neglectfulness, it  has been said, deserve a  consolation.

Now the People's little, ancient, natural principles are desecrated as pretenses of antiquity, expectations pitched too high for Falwellian contrition, Foxed fabrication. The People are blamed by these attorneys for believing, silly fools, in values uncongenial to alligator tears. And it's true. There isn't a crime inscribed in their statutes, for such loathing of the public trust; and there shouldn't be. It would be a tyranny over the mind of man, which Jefferson so presciently detested, and it would moot the prospect, as well as the living reality of trust. These attorneys, these officers of the Court, are openly soliciting a jury of Virginians to betray themselves.

Even if this tactic should succeed today - as it might, given our storied resistance to Federal embarrassment, our denying flair for splitting phantom hairs - there is, always, History. Who could want to say, this had happened? Clio only knows the virtues, she can not summon them. Can those who govern as if trust were dead, really take it with them, against the likelihood of a Virginian's being born, any moment?

Michel de Montaigne
  Citing Lucretius
We Taste Nothing Purely
Shakespeare's Montaigne:
  The Florio Translation of
  the Essays, A Selection
John Florio, translation
Stephen Greenblatt and
  Peter Platt, editors
New York Review Books, 2014©

The estimable and complete
Donald Frame translation,
1957, is restored to brilliant
company in NYRB's recent,
self-recommending issue.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Straw man

      Well. Nobody ever
      said, this were a
      perfect language.

WaPo warps the wrap

Is it possible that our mentors at The Washington Post now deem it safe, in Olivier's famous use of the term to Dustin Hoffman, to cast the unmistakably stern language of diplomacy in the President's news conference on Russia's intervention in the Ukraine, as simply too wussy for their outright bias for war? That this newspaper announces its demands, not on behalf of the aggrieved state, but in the Trumanesque invocation of every state, everywhere, is less not-able than its reluctance to state its unexamined motive: American hegemony. The editors occupy a defunct thrillset of degenerate recklessness; and they insinuate, humanity is to blame. 

   Who survived the passage of 
   conception, only to be de-
   livered to a planet torment-
   ed by that delusion?

Alex Shou
Nostalgia 10
Oil on canvas, 2011

The Editorial Board
The West Must ...
28 August 2014
The Washington Post©

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Origins of Wednesday vii: Opposite my desk, in the morning

  One tear not yet large enough to spill,
  upwelling at the corner of an eye, may
  delve with a root of salt inside the tongue,
  and shimmer of it thrown among the stars go
  lightyears. Deeper art thou far beyond all
  shimmer in thy fathom, Father, O thou
  mindless, in the furthering of thy judgment.

       I learned the concept of
       moment with this device,
       which struck my father's
       putts in all the years I
       knew him: to be still,
       really still, and defer
       to the neutral disposi-
       tion of the stroke. To
       this day I am struck by
       the shimmering fairness
       and persistent intimacy       
       of that gorgeous game.
       I do not wonder how
       ingenious, countless 
       tests it draws one to
       engage, inspire the
       trust to be accepted.
       I wonder how one might
       meet all of them that 
       way, and I know the 
       presence of my father.

Brooks Haxton
  Antiphonies to Psalms
  Poems: One Tear
op. cit.

Telephone view, Laurent


Monday, August 25, 2014

Fratsuds at The New York Times

You sometimes can't tell, what
gets into TNYT - comes over, I
guess one would say - while an
editorial board known for sedu-
cing the Left vies with warmon-
gers at WaPo to set the agenda.
Never mind, naturally, the low-
er orders at Fox. But there we
are, splitting syntactic foib-
les to save our self-respect,
as our clerks debauch themsel-
ves in fomenting another war.

It's only just going to be slightly more hideous, when the nausea of this next adventure is scooped up by fastidious histor-ians, to recall that it was a scary homicide of an honest journalist which actually turned the tide of this Pavlovian aban-donment of reason. And just when we were wondering why it should be, how any generation born since the mid-20th Century should gain exemption from their trek upon the slop-soaked slope of the Truman Doctrine. With TNYT behind her, how can anyone now demur from Senator Paul's prediction, that our second Clinton since Sister Souljah is poised to post them anywhere her resolve might be in question? Whose welts demand renewal next?

I believe it must be the policy
of the United States to support
free peoples who are resisting
attempted subjugation by armed
minorities or outside pressures.

Oh, come on, Harry. You don't believe anything of the kind. You're dressing up an absorption of the spoils of the Second World War (in this case, supplanting Britain in the Hellespont) in a demagogic toga of moralising gibberish, pre-figuring John Kennedy's tragic bear any burden mantra in his inaugural address. But this is no longer 1947. It's not even 1961. It isn't that we're tired of war. It's that we've been educated by the best. Every child is taught to argue the soundness of the extremest case on the slenderest legitimate predicate, where flamboyance is vulgar, foul, fatal; his mission doesn't creep, it drains in stagnant putrefaction. Done that.

The problem is, US foreign
policy is not fact-driven.
You have this notion, that
all you need to do is get
the facts before the policy
makers, and things'd change.
But gradually, you realize, 
that [they] don't care.

So confided a CIA veteran of service in the Near East to Kai Bird, in his biography of Robert Ames, The Good Spy. This is hardly the indictable disclosure that it might have been, if credibility were the flimsiest calling card of the nation's pretexts. Senator Vandenberg warned Harry Truman, he'd have to scare our people deeply to condone his plans. We've come to accept that we have "interests" no one can substantiate, to pursue objectives which are not available (office holding aside), and that we are "tested" repeatedly on the depth of our righteousness. I can not forget what we use as the gauge for that measurement, because for this he does not volunteer. For this he is seduced. 

The Editorial Board
24 August 2014
The New York Times©

D.D. Guttenplan
A review appearing in
The Times [UK] Literary Supplement
20 August 2014
The Good Spy
  The Life and Death of
  Robert Ames
Kai Bird
Crown, 2014©

Fredrik Logevall
Citing Harry S. Truman
March 1947
Embers of War
  The Fall of an Empire and the 
  Making of America's Vietnam
Random House, 2012©