Valerie Plame: The Value of Treachery
Here's an interesting take from AMERICAblog:
If a senior White House staffer had intentionally outed an American spy during World War II, he'd have been shot.
We're at war, George Bush keeps reminding us. We cannot continue with business as usual. A pre-9/11 mentality is deadly. Putting the lives of our troops at risk is treason.
Then why is the White House and the Republican party engaged in a concerted campaign to make treason acceptable during a time of war? That's exactly what they're doing. On numerous news shows today, Republican surrogates, their talking points ready, issued variations of the following concerning White House chief of staff Karl Rove's outing of a covert CIA agent as part of a political vendetta:
- It's the criminalization of politics
- Is this 'minor' leak really worth all this?
- Political payback is common and should not be criminalized
- Mis-speaking or mis-remembering is not a crime
Yes, the Republicans are now making light of an intentional effort to expose an undercover CIA agent, working on weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, no less, while we are at war in the Middle East on that very issue.
The GOP has become the party of treason.
As a non-partisan (or, rather, an anti-partisan observer), I'm happy to believe that the Democrats would be playing the same games. He goes on:
America is ignoring the Geneva Conventions because our president feels that winning this war is so paramount. Our Congress has watered down our civil rights laws. We have jailed American citizens with no access to legal counsel. And our President even believes it is worth lying to the American people in order to wage this so-important battle. All this because we are a nation at war and nothing will be permitted to stand in the way of this life-and-death struggle.
But when a senior aide to the President of the United States endangers the life of an undercover CIA agent, her colleagues and contacts around the world - when he chooses to put at risk our entire effort to undercover weapons of mass destruction before they are used to kill millions in an American city - what response do we get from the Bush White House and the Republican Party? A defensive (offensive) shrug ... They are trying to convince Americans that betraying our country during wartime for personal gain is no more serious than running a stop sign or going 60 in a 55 zone.
Good points. My question is, are the troops fanning out to protect Rove and Libby, or do they already know the net is much wider, with Cheney, Abrams, Bolton and others all at risk?
Today would have been Dylan Marlais Thomas's birthday. Instead he has been dead these many long years.
In my youth he was without equal as my favourite poet, and his thickly descriptive prose and plays influenced my writing for decades. For a season or two in my late teens, I played in theatrical readings of "Under Milk Wood" and "A Child's Christmas In Wales" to some local success.
He seems less than well-known or well-regarded these days. That is a shame and a waste of some glorious work.
"Long Live Socialist Realism!"
In Context, I found an intriguing short piece by Dubravka Ugresic, a paean to socialist realism which, she notes, was a "happy art", but which has received from the critics "such a hammering that they have killed it stone dead. They were so bloodthirsty that they erased all trace of it."
Ugresic brings a direct viewpoint to the form:
"The art of socialist realism was not only happy, but also sexy. Nowhere have so many muscular and healthy bodies been put on display, so many entwined haymakers and tractor drivers, workers and peasants, strong men and women. Nowhere, to put it in contemporary terms, were so many Arnold Schwarzeneggers, Roseanne Barrs, and Sylvester Stallones joined into one powerful body. Socialist realism was an optimistic and joyful art. Nowhere else was there so much faith in a bright future and the definitive victory of good over evil."Perhaps she gives the style a little more credit than it deserves when she suggests that:
"[m]ost of today's literary production bases its success on the simple socialist realist idea of progress. Bookstore counters are heaped with books which contain one single idea: how to overcome personal disability, how to improve one's own situation. Books about blind people regaining their sight, fat people becoming thin, sick people recovering, poor people becoming rich, mutes speaking, alcoholics sobering up, unbelievers discovering faith, the unfortunate becoming lucky. All these books infect the reading public with the virus of belief in a bright personal future. And a bright personal future is at the same time a bright collective future, as Oprah Winfrey unambiguously suggests to her impressive world audience."She makes an excellent point. When we look at those old "tractor movies" (as I called them), we see a naive simplicty of plot and emotion. But is it really any less simplistic than the nostrums concocted by our contemporary icons? I don't think so.
Vladimir Nabokov is a writer who always makes it into my top 3 favourite authors regardless of my mood, the time of year or who's asking. (The others vying for the top three spots are, in case you were asking, Joseph Conrad, John Irving, Mervyn Peake and John Dos Passos). Nabokov is best known, of course, for "Lolita". I have thoroughly enjoyed the novel several times (and I was a little surprised to read recently of an earlier very similar story by an unknown German author), but for me, "Pale Fire" and "Ada" are his sublime masterpieces.
It took me a while to get hold of a copy of "Pnin", a novella of linked short stories written near the very end of "Lolita"'s difficult composition. Had I found it earlier than I did, I might have been too young, too unformed, to have appreciated the extraordinarily fine prose written in -- stunningly -- the author's third or fourth language.
Earlier this week, the Guardian Online printed an edited abstract of David Lodge's introduction to the Everyman's Library edition of "Pnin". Lodge rightly marvels at Nabokov's felicity with a new language, noting in particular Nabokov's ability to construct a perfect extended metaphor. He quotes the account of Pnin's reaction to having his teeth extracted:
"It surprised him to realize how fond he had been of his teeth. His tongue, a fat sleek seal, used to flop and slide so happily among the familiar rocks, checking the contours of a battered but still secure kingdom, plunging from cave to cove, climbing this jag, nuzzling that notch, finding a shred of sweet seaweed in the same old cleft but now not a landmark remained, and all there existed was a great dark wound, a terra incognita of gums which dread and disgust forbade one to investigate."Reading this review has ensured that "Pnin" will be on my summer's re-read list.