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The missing mass problem

By Owen Paine on Sunday April 3, 2011 04:06 PM

Tower of proletarian vigilance Alex Cockburn has, by means satiric, drawn a clear question out of the ramshackle hugger-mugger we call the Libyan civil war: where in hell's bells has the bulk of the Libyan armed forces got themselves off to?

They're certainly not slugging it out along the coast with the fearless freedom fighters from the east. Footage from the various fronts makes it all look like random outtakes from one of those poorly staged tv movies like "Hellhole in Somalia".

Brother Alex, using a heretofore unsuspected keen tv eye, claims "...the mighty armies contending along the highway west of Benghazi would melt into the bleachers at a college baseball game."

I've gotta agree. Speaking of college -- Christ, in my day I've seen beer riots that looked better organized and a darn sight more dangerous than what the networks have been showing us us from Libya. And yet, as AC puts it, "News stories" that run under these pictures "suggest mobile warfare on the scale of the epic dramas of the Kursk salient."

Speaking as one who often carps at the guy, it's gotta be said that this time we have Alex in peak form. If the god of mirth has any pull in Rhadamanthus' courthouse, Alex will be forgiven a lot. This is the best:

".. most of the action revolves around one tank. I’ve seen it in hundreds of video feeds. Like the tooth passed from witch to witch in Greek myth, this tank performs many functions and to judge from the graffiti on its turret, it’s always the same vehicle."
So where's the 50,000-strong modern fighting force col Q has assembled over 40 years with his oil riches? Where are his armor columns? Where's his artillary lined to the horizon?

Granted, a chunk has defected (though the defectors appear to be AWOL too) -- but where's the rest of it?

Obviously, by mutual agreement, they're all sitting this out, watching col Q's relative handful of picked personal security thugs take on the Toyota tigers of Benghazi.

Updates suggest these loyalists are skulking about the neighborhoods of a few midcoast oil towns, perhaps cutting innocent gay throats out of sheer frustration. Imagine it -- hunkered down, sweating like a pitcher of spring water hiding from NATO's flying apes overhead. Not very glorious, but prudent nonetheless, especially after a few of their palace motor pool tanks (not seen on CNN by AC) got summarily knocked out by supersonic angels in the early hours of emperor Barry 's horrific UN-sanctioned Walpurgistnacht.

Note from the Paine family AU (analytic unit): a cross calculation by my nephew Ballameer Paine: Taking the total reported daily NATO sorties, and dividing that number by the number of in-theater officially sanctioned targets of opportunity, suggests there might be a flyover every couple-three hours in any one hotspot, by a flight of three fighters. So keep your heads down, you brave sons and daughters of the Green Book. And you rebel gals and guys -- you look out, too. Seems smart weapons don't insure perfect targeting. And now that the col Q loyalists are using Toyotas too there's bound to be more friendly-fire kills like today's deadly blooper that killed 10 rebel fighters.

Comments (13)


An excerpt:

Why once Jakes went out to cover a revolution in one of the Balkan capitals. He overslept in his carriage, woke up at the wrong station, didn’t know any different, got out, went straight to an hotel and cabled off a thousand word story about barricades, flaming churches, machine guns answering the rattle of his type writer as he wrote, a dead child, like a broken doll, spread-eagled in the deserted roadway below his window…Government stocks dropped, financial panic, state of emergency declared, army mobilized and in less than a week there was an honest to God revolution underway. There’s the power of the press for you.

They gave Jakes the Nobel Peace Prize for his harrowing descriptions of the carnage…


…perhaps cutting innocent gay throats out of sheer frustration.

I wouldn't worry too much about gay throats being slit in North Africa despite frantic attempts at pinkwashing by the Only democracy in the Middle East™. There's a reason why generations of vacationers from Oscar Wilde, André Gide, William Burroughs, Paul Bowles, and Jean Genet on have preferred to head for those shores and it need not be related to their interest in Roman archaeology.

I don't know about pain units, but liberals clasp their hands together and bemoan "the wrong deaths" because they believe in the right ones.

And if there aren't enough bodies to fill up that missing mass, they're just as inclined as their conservative counterparts to pony up for a re-labeling machine.


Thanks for the citation, SK. My second favorite writer, after Kingsley Amis.

Could the Paine family AU tell me what this means: "Like the tooth passed from witch to witch in Greek myth"?

According to Professor of Western Antiquity Eddie Izzard, this should be the myth of Medusa, one of three sisters, who had only one eye between them and passed it back and forth.


The Graeae, sisters of the Gorgons: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graeae


Gaddafi's army? combo of regular and mercenary


3/3/11 - "Chad led the mercenary group, which includes residents of Niger, Mali, Zimbabwe, and Liberia who are paid between 300 to 2,000 U.S. dollars a day."

I expect many of the tanks and a portion of artillery are 'stored' south of Tripoli - would be more interested in the tgypes of SAMs; most of the air force was/is old Soviet, not bad but weak avionics and poor, if any, 'over the horizon' weaponry.

MJS - Thanks, did not know of the Graeae.


A Tooth for an eye
I didn't want to spoil his reference
Though the three sisters are favorites of mine
From age ten

I was hoping he had another reference in mind


1. Don't the early stages of a lot of civil wars have a tentative character? It takes time for the bile to rise. Who would sack Atlanta in 1861?

2. Speculating about Qaddafi's overall dispositions. Probably didn't bother to mobilize any units whose loyalty was uncertain. I don't know whether Libyan army units are recruited from particular regions of the country--if so, that might have been a factor.

3. Of the units mobilized, I would guess that a large proportion are kept in the environs of the capital, (a) partly to intimidate the populace, (b) partly to use some units as a check upon others, in the event of a coup d'etat, and (c) to discourage foreign intervenors from contemplating a coup de main.

4. That would leave only certain contingents to clash with the rebels along the coast highway. The threat of foreign air attack on supply lines would prevent a major offensive against Benghazi.

5. As the rebels, (a) some of them are posers with no lust for battle, (b) some are waiting to see how much of the war can be left to the foreigners, (c) most of the rest are still insufficiently organized to carry out coordinated operations. Nobody dare stand firm for fear of being left unsupported. Result: disconnected, indecisive skirmishing.

6. Last thing: just because few of the reporters are getting into the thick of fighting, doesn't mean that nobody's fighting. Exaggeration, too, is often due to inexperience on the part of the reporters. e.g. at Zawiyah, reporters told of "devastation" when there was little more than broken glass, bullet marks, and scorch marks.


"Tower of Proletarian Vigilance" - AC?
Really? How do you prove that "prole" angle?
Does he live in a trailer, have too many kids, no job, and a Rent-A-Center 52-inch? He and his "good friend" mega-millionaire Ron Unz?

I can't get this Am-Left social criticism straight. It seems the self-titled "fiercest critics" of the imperium are splendored with its ill-gotten financial, housing, libational, and private schooling gains. Their days are "corporate, corporate, corporate" and then say a few anti-corporate broadsides, then go back to their lives of, you know...

The anti-royal "We" seems to come up a lot, as in the latest Mike Whitney, where he states that "we" going to be asking for handouts at the freeway ramp - is that where Mike Whitney types out his well-researched fight-the-rich, but-just-not-too-hard essays? Is each one of us SMBIVAs supposed to prove our class solidarity bona-fides every time we inveigh?
No war can ever be fought where the partisans conduct all their business and recline in leisure with their supposed "enemy." That's not even a re-enactment - that's more like a farce.



alex is a house radical
house obviously
not as in house cat
but as in house negro

he's no mandingo

and he's a particularly well
self conceived house radical at that

a high styled ill mannered
nipping pampered nasty
parlor and garden
"high ball "
of a house radical

at "home in any
of prolly half a million
"daringly realistic" liberal/progressive
anglo-philic amurikan
bi - coastal anti establishment
success story neutral living rooms

as to
"Tower of Proletarian Vigilance"

given my usual take
on this ersatz rebel
lord of the dirty dance
consider my epithet possibly
sarcastic ... a mockery

these are familiar enough techniques
from me ..no ??


but then 'bout this:

"It seems the self-titled "fiercest critics" of the imperium are splendored with its ill-gotten financial, housing, libational, and private schooling gains"

big Al's politics ...such as they are
hardly require
he lead the life of st francis

one's mind rushes to engels
for a vindicator

in fact engels has just the thing
a very straight forward
take on asceticism
in his rendering of
the early 16th century german peasant wars

among those stout have not rebels
he concludes asceticism is about total rejection of everything the existing society "stands for "
and under the covers
in practical ways
that means its all about preparedness

rejects of
creature comforts and such
steel the sincere soul unit
against the hardships ahead
for any fool
geared up sufficiently against the imperial feudal establishment ..to actually take
tangible steps against it

in fact given the no way back
aspect of standing up agin it
for these utterly resourceless social beings
they best really be prepared
to lose everything
when they take actions to the limit

no this decidedly isn't alex's way

i doubt he's about to join the
last detail of the shining path
up there in the andes

its rather clear after 40 years
riding if not silver saddles
then for certain some very nice leather ones
at various
lefticulated press ops here

the voice
the nation
and now his very own electronic beacon
our man here has found a very effective series
of niche roles for himself
that is since he crossed the atlantic
to its easy pickins side

in the end
i think
because he is
--unlike his pop
in that far greater man's hay day--
under no subversive organizations discipline
alex c can gad about as he will

pink knighting away as inconsistently as
evasively as opportunistically
as any clever contrary spirit might want

that is ...so long as he refuses to become tiresome
so long as he provokes
but only provokes
and only so far
and in bright fresh ways
strikes fast and moves on

he can wack the nation's "powerful others"
so long as he does it all
in a 'right to the edge'
but dancing
finger snapping manner
he can go about
courting lady libel
be as serpentine
and scandal mongering
as hissing as possible
just plain gossip way in print
so long as he doesn't leave wounds
washable stains

esentially alex is nothing more
then "our" info-tainer

info tainer in chief in fact
to the
progressive pointy headed drabniki
and we need one
think of a steady diet of zinn's and chomsky's

most importantly
alex survives
to snarl musically in our ears
only so long as he remains amusing
to his media peers

and so far
he has remained quite amusing indeed eh ??
after all i'll repeat
he's completely threatless
threatless to what counts
threatless to the day to day workings
any and all real out there
corporate systems

if he's both so personal and so vague
why not let him chatter on ???

now to the real moment :

to call mr C's
genteel contrived eccentricity
his eclectic edwardian thread bare pastiche

"corporate corporate corporate "

why that's just plain wrong ..boy !!!!

he doesn't even spring from corporate roots

he's no self de-frocked parson striver
no apostate
raging against the bottom line worshippers

nor does he have
the slightest degree
of tartuffe in him
he's not publically against the bad manners
of these limited liability philistines
while secretly feasting on their stock options
he openly partakes of their spill off bounty
and why not ??

he's no one man business ethics army

you'll never see alex the red
marching up to the revolving front door
of some office tower
and castigating
the precise executive pent house crowd up top
as i suggested above
he's too clever to make any real
powerful personal enemies
at least not ones that produce their own set of new friends ie the enemies of his enemies

if such a fellow exists
on the dainty dot left
such a moral round head

he'd come off more like dougwood hen

humorless indignant
shuffling figures
his shirt
slightly yellow under the arms
his glasses flecked with paste
and his narrow heart
dark and dry
in an ugly poutish adolesecnt way

them pinky ivy league cackler types
like the woodhen
they stink of merit sweat
and stale sanctimony

that's hardly our Alex

he's no
caller to secular breakfast prayers
no mouth to muster
manhattan's death head's legion
of instinctively
" anti corporate "
sunday new york times readers

you know

second or third tier college professors
soured mid career journalists
young sociology majors
and of course almost any
flea bitten humanist lawyer or foundation drone...etc etc etc

i see this type
the dougwood-dull type
tie removed
coffee cup in hand
clucking from a nice middle class apartment window next to his PC
at the dirty doings
of those darn greedy fiberless
decency scoffing sky line crawling
hi fi ...." suits " out there down town

surely plowing thru jounal articles
balance sheets and year end reports

isn't alex's metier

like father S
i'm sure he's bored by
green eye shade investigations

"my god that's ...accounting "

no the eldest brother cockburn
is strictly a hollowed out old
skirt chasing phrase turning
drinks drinks drinks

now self rusticated
out of a keen and inborn
sense of the advantages
of coming off
now in his duskish years
like a non striving
under achiever

" alex? ...interesting you mention him
why we just had the old boy
over the other nite ..and he claimed ...
tucked into the hors pretty good too .."

and more to the essence of the man
alex won't go out like my dear hero hunter s
alex relishes it all

is that so wrong ????


Big time stuff, OP.
To amplify, I understood "tower of prole vig" to be semi-sarcastic, but used it as as a semi-useful prod for my own concern of the moment.
I understand fully that the imperium can be appreciated from any viewpoint, from old-moneyed to luftsmensch to side-of-the-road can-grabber, but then comes the action part, the credibility part, the what do you you with the particulars of your life part. And "corporate, corporate, corporate" doesn't have to mean that AC or P. Street or Amy Good or ChomskyZinn or Dave "Zinn" Zirin wears some AIG suit persona by day, but that - what shoes are on yo' feet? What coffee you drinkin'? From your head to to your toe, from your 401 (K) to the corporate endowments that fund your paycheck, anti-corporate Am-Left man is decidedly stamped minute-by-minute as Corporate Purchaser YZ-001. How does that make any sense?
AC can chatter his fool head off about "abiotic" this and pro-militia that and deny AGW, and do a reasonably good "pink knight" (OP) version of Lewis Lapham covering the ridiculed sport of American politics, and I'll read - though if you paid me about $10 I'd leave his wingnuttery alone in a state worker second.
Last observation - some Commons Dreams commenter cried for a march on Wall Street led by "Jon Stewart, Ed Schultz, Thom Hartmann." I think these neo-libs would be happy to lead that march front and center, but watch out for the lunch break - they'd zip around the corner in in a flash to talk to their broker about a hot tip Bill Kristol gave them about some cherche Israeli stock.
Props to all your observations -


My common law son in law had a nice run in with mr Ed
Speaking of comrade schmaltz....
In the event
he proved
Just the sort of tiresomely awful creature of broadcasting
u'd expect him to be
Clownishly self important imperious lard brained ......

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