In as much as especially concerning

the future, a significant amount of energy and attention continues to be paid to pointless distractions – and this is certainly not referring to Barbie, good grief, which is entirely legitimate cultural production compared to

Influencers Built This Wellness Startup

Anything related to hyper loops or one-way tunnels, ‘crazy golf’, or fiat money. Hardly an exhaustive list, play along at home.

If the whole artifice rests on ‘there is only so much attention’ (bandwidth in the common parl) then lettuce take that idea to heart. Frivolous at this point is tantamount to dangerous and irresponsible. Concern about not bumming people out in proximity to the imminent collapse of the Gulf Stream leads to, let’s say, an incoherent narrative.

Priority has never been our muse, with one or two exceptions, but let’s get organized. At least theoretically imagining the painful stuff first – what would you be willing to give up? Just go ahead and get it out of the way, at least mentally, because that seems to be what frightens people the most. So, pop the bubble: imagine a world without cruises – no, go deeper – cars! Ouch. But see – that’s where to start.

Even the intention could begin to help (us) re-organize how we think about what we think about. Envision liberation, rather than ignore the possibility of collapse.

Image: Peace. Solemnity. Liberation by Aristarkh Lentulov (1917)

“Fanaticism Anxiety,” a vestige of the Colonial Era

The-Morocco-crisis_1911At Juan Cole’s Informed Comment, Edmund Burke III (!) on déjà vu all over again in the Middle East:

In 1900 media fulmination about the threat posed by alleged Muslim fanaticism dominated the headlines. Then as now, nineteenth century European tabloid railings against the Sudanese Mahdi and pan-Islamic conspiracies were a proven way to sell newspapers. Then as now, the lords of empire sought to spook metropolitan populations into supporting military interventions by manufacturing Muslim rebels. Then as now, this helped win continued public support for endless war and colonial expansion. Thus our current preoccupations with al-Qaida, Somali hijackers and ISIS fanatics, fit rather well in the museum of imperialist culture.

The French colonial experience provides a salient example. French Algeria was a veritable bestiary of what not to do, ranging from such Islamophobic policies of closing mosques, libraries and Islamic schools to demonizing sufi brotherhoods as the sources of alleged pan-Islamic insurgency. By 1900, French colonial experts and metropolitan officials had become convinced that a change was needed. They looked to the model of British India for an example of what worked, and to Morocco as the potential site where they could “get it right” by introducing the model of British India. But before they could do that, they first had to get acquiescence of the other European powers and contend with Moroccan resistance.

Still an independent state in 1900, Morocco was coveted by no less than four major European powers. Indeed, Europe would several times come to the brink of war in the period 1900-1912 over what was then called “the Moroccan Question.” In order to deploy the “scientific imperialism” tool kit, a systematic French effort to study Moroccan society and its culture and institutions was required. Yet as late as 1900, European ignorance about Morocco was profound.. Few studies existed, and those that did traded heavily in orientalist clichés. Morocco was viewed as a “Tibet on the doorstep of Europe.” And France was only slightly better informed about Morocco than its main rivals–Britain, Spain and Germany

What makes the Moroccan case so interesting is that the Moroccan colonial archive was created in the span of a single generation in the heyday of “scientific imperialism.” Thus from the start “Moroccan Islam” was intended to provide support for the French colonial project. In Morocco we get to see the elaboration of a colonial archive—a task that took a century for the British to accomplish in India. We also get to see the uses to which ethnographic knowledge was put in the elaboration of the colonial project. This story is the very opposite of the U.S. experience in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Station Break

For this completely outrageous abuse of power.

WASHINGTON — A former senior C.I.A. official says that officials in the Bush White House sought damaging personal information on a prominent American critic of the Iraq war in order to discredit him.

Glenn L. Carle, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was a top counterterrorism official during the administration of President George W. Bush, said the White House at least twice asked intelligence officials to gather sensitive information on Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor who writes an influential blog that criticized the war.

Here’s Cole’s post on the development from Thursday. It doesn’t matter if you think you can read this and say, “Sure the government was/is doing that – big deal.” No, sorry. Yawning is not enough. This is plainly wrong. What if you heard tomorrow that the US government had been purposely dumping anti-depressants in our water supply since the 1990’s. Would you feign some kind of detachment so as to take it all in stride? Why? What gets you upset? What’s that reserved for? What would it take?

This is an egregious breech of basic honest government to allow itself and the public to be informed. Even if conducted by our last worst president, it was still in our name, still representative of us and what we say we will allow. This is a perfect example of an occasion where Holder could choose to look into a specific example of an abuse of power by the Bush Administration. Spying on an American citizen is a no-go. Sorry. It’s already been rendered as such almost forty years ago (and spelled out as such 200 years ago). And unless you firmly believe (i.e., support) this is just no big deal, Bush’s action make you a dissident. Congratulations.

If you’ve been reading here for any length of time, you’re familiar with Cole. He reads Arabic, and so reads the ex-pat papers out of London. He is an expert on the region and has been indispensable for analysis of the goings-on the Middle East since at least 2003. If the CIA and White House aren’t reading his blog daily, then and now, and in any way succumbed to his marginalization as a source of news and analysis, they’re idiots. Plain and simple.