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June 2008 Archives

June 1, 2008

Hand in hand, with wand'ring steps and slow

Nicholas Hart (who has left a few comments here from time to time) sent this to one of my lefty e-mail lists recently:

Obama Leaves His Church

First Obama tried distancing himself from his pastor, the man who married him to his wife. Then he tried denouncing him. Now he's officially calling it quits. Amazing how quickly he has discarded this long acquaintance and succumbed to the racist politics of "post-racial" America. I wonder how it feels to be an Obamaniac these days. For a guy who talks about "change we can believe in" he sure does keep lowering the bar. Perhaps his next book title will be "Paucity of Hope."

I suspect that most of the merit-class smarties who support Obama will like him better for this -- they're mostly not churchgoers, I should think, and so these Calibans will now see in the mirror something even more like their own face.

Then there are supposed to be those for whom nothing will ever be enough -- mostly, it appears, people who work for the news media. The New York Times ominously observes:

Now that Mr. Obama has addressed his ties to the church and pastor in a long speech and fully broken with both, it is not clear what else he can say or do to ameliorate the continued concerns of some voters about those associations.
Hmm. Take a swing at his ex-pastor? Burn the church down? Dance on a crucifix? Beg? Roll over? Play dead?

June 2, 2008

Thunder from the pulpit

Just as he tries to begin uniting a fractured Democratic Party, Senator Barack Obama is suffering from another damaging outburst from the pulpit of his longtime church, where outspoken Chicago priest Michael L. Pfleger said in a guest sermon last Sunday that Senator Hillary Clinton was a "white" and "entitled" politician staggered to see "a black man stealing my show."


The Lord shall not be denied, apparently. His servants are kicking over the traces right and left.

From his bio, Father Pfleger appears to be a very good man. He has defied his church superior sin order to adopt children and has a long career in social activism, often leading to the discomfort and embarrassment of the aforementioned superiors. There's little as inconvenient to a crabbed hierarchy as a Christian who interprets the Good Word compassionately and generously.

In response to the media klaxons and hooting that greeted his relatively innocuous comments, he has published an apology. The media meat grinder has moved on to other efforts in misrepresentation and misinforming. So I doubt it will be much noticed.

June 3, 2008

All SEIU'd up

Andy's Stern Gang is having a convention. And yes, the Disco Duck of organized labor has seen fit to let his drones fix the proceedings. This barren farce is as rigged, as stage-managed and scripted, as any affair produced by any tinpot Issimo from here to Boys' Town.

But is that bad per se? I mean a rigged convention.

Okay, I must admit, all the hullaballoo about bottom-up participation and rank-and-file this or membership that often does smack of stale process over novel product. But don't ya think a big time union movement that has no product worth a toot to begin with at least oughta strive for some first-class process?

Here's Steve Early making a rather tepid bid to rally some indignation against these "union leaders" using their "heavy handed" methods on brave progressive insurgent groups:

As history has repeatedly shown, the rulers of “one-party states” rarely concede power gracefully or quietly. When organized opposition emerges, such regimes often resort to a strategy of disinformation and intimidation to maintain their grip on power, whether the battleground is a nation or—closer to home—a national union.

Only because he's the latest pinup in a line of rebels from within that have launched on dear Andy, here's Sal Rosselli, president of the biggest chunk of Andy's SEIU, to cry nyet, no mas, forget about it, at the purple duce's top-down "corporate" unionism.

As mentioned here before, he's still getting hustled toward the exits by the piecards, without a fists-flying convention floor showdown, worthy of any halfway decent two-fisted Popeye of a union man.

Fons et origo

Stephen A. Douglas

Here's the jackass template from which the likes of the two Clintons are cut -- the very model of the Jim Crow gimcrack cracker-barrel demogogue that is the soul of the everyday, calm-weather Democracy, and has been the soul of that party since the railroads bested the slaveholders. While the former carved up the goodies of a continent, they turned the front-stage governance of this country over to a bunch of painted merry-go-round animals and sideshow barkers, primed to play off every useless rage and baseless fear known to man and woman of votin' age, able to reach down into their deepest, most stubbornly ignorant lower parts, and produce a blindly faithful supporter

This plug of a man with the thundering voice of a pipe organ, like Hubert Humphrey a hundred years later, pretty much sums up all you can be, and still be a total piece of worthless soul-destroying shit.

An agent of Beelzebub himself couldn't play a nastier hand than these folks -- and all in the name of popular sovereignty -- majority rule -- the wise and faultless will of the plain, honest, white people of America.

Think of what we'll miss

Amazingly enough, I can't actually find, anywhere on the web, a video clip of Nixon's "last press conference" -- the one in '62, after his unsuccessful run for the office now occupied by Arnold Schwarzenegger (and oh to hear what Dick would have had to say about that). Closest I can get is this very well-studied and almost perfect-pitch reading by Anthony Hopkins, who also memorably played Hannibal Lecter:


Of course this all comes to mind in connection with Hill & Bill's imminent bow-out. Alas, they're not nearly as much fun as Nixon, or a tenth as complex -- or human. But to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you blog about the politicians you have, not the ones you'd like to have.

As with Nixon, of course, we probably haven't really heard the last of the Clintons -- though Lord knows many of us wish it were otherwise. Here's what one exceptionally maudlin Brit had to say:

Hillary has been beaten. Bill has dishonoured himself. And Chelsea? Chelsea need have no regrets. She may be the candidate that brings the family back to the campaign trail again. But that drama is for another decade.
Well, one can at least hope that one may not live so long.

* * *

As we've observed here before, the photo editors are the best thing about the New York Times. This amazing icon of Bill -- finger-wagging, raspberry-cheeked, dressed in high Arkansas style, jowl-frothingly furious that he can't come back from the dead and continue to haunt our nightmares by proxy -- this image really ought, if there were any justice in the world, to be the last we see of him.

But alas, it probably won't be so. That numskull Scott Fitzgerald once observed with characteristic obtuseness that "there are no second acts in American lives."

He couldn't have been more wrong, of course. There's nothing but second acts, and third and fourth acts, instant replays, sequels and prequels, victory laps and defeat laps, return tours and reruns and residuals and finally the desperate ignis-fatuus flickering of late-night cable TV. America: the only thing we recycle is our shame.

* * *
Various sewer outlets -- erm, excuse me, media outlets -- are trying to keep alive the idea that Obama might ask Hillary to be his VP candidate. Seems unlikely, but if any of the Clintons are ever to reappear in public life, I can hardly think of a better way for it to happen. If there's anybody on earth who could sink the Obama ticket deeper than the Titanic, Hillary is... erm... The One.

This hurts me more than it does you -- well, actually not

Post-traumatic stress soars in U.S. troops

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Newly diagnosed cases of post-traumatic stress disorder among U.S. troops sent to Iraq and Afghanistan surged 46.4 percent in 2007, bringing the five-year total to nearly 40,000, according to U.S. military data released on Tuesday.

Poor souls. But let's look on the bright side: they certainly inflicted a lot more stress and trauma than they suffered.

America: We're Number One.

They're shocked, shocked... no, really, they ARE

One of my lefty correspondents passed along this wonderful series of closely-spaced ejaculations from my favorite Democratic Party putto, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga:

Clinton's Speech #5
by kos
Tue Jun 03, 2008 at 06:53:33 PM PDT

So much for unity.

Update: Republicans had Mike Huckabee make a very gracious concession  
speech when he lost.


Clinton Speech #4
by kos
Tue Jun 03, 2008 at 06:49:27 PM PDT

"No decisions tonight."

She hasn't said one nice thing about Obama.

It's all about her. Period. There is nothing else that matters.


Clinton Speech #3
by kos
Tue Jun 03, 2008 at 06:43:41 PM PDT

Ummm, didn't someone let Hillary know that she lost?

This isn't a concession speech.


Clinton's speech #2
by kos
Tue Jun 03, 2008 at 06:38:37 PM PDT

Hmmm, she's still undermining Obama's victory with b.s. claims of  
winning the popular vote. Sigh...

Oddly enough, I think he's perfectly sincere. He really thinks he won -- and now he's preparing a nice Dolchstosslegende against all contingencies in November.

June 6, 2008

Offshoring "was the whole idea of enlargement"

Workers, trade unions and politicians in old Europe mourned each factory moving east. But, as a European Commission official explains off the record, such shifts were fully expected: offshoring "was the whole idea of enlargement". The process, though wrenching to some, made the European Union as a whole more competitive and spread the benefits of global trade to every corner of Europe.

So far, so familiar. But things have moved on in Samorin. Even though new investment and jobs are still arriving in Slovakia, and proximity still counts, this river town has already lost a factory to offshoring. Samsonite closed its plant in 2006, shedding all 350 staff and shifting production to China.

The Economist

Whoops! It looks like the race to the bottom predicted by critics of cult globalism turned out to really be a race to bottom. The dreamy shopping spree used to sell it was not such a good idea after all and... that was the whole point. The confessional impulse is no less strong in white collar criminals, enjoying the luxury of a honest moment of chat, than in run-of-the-mill gangsters, enjoying a boast or two about their cleverness. It adds a certain frisson to get away with it under the guise of democratically enforced public policy. But not enough of a thrill to formally go on record. The merit class is well-trained in reticence.

That article brought to mind the cruise missile liberals' post facto realization that Clinton's decent, humanitarian intervention policy in Eastern Europe was a fight over that natural resource known as "people". Truly the tree of neoliberalism must occasionally be watered with the blood of any laborers whose leaders display an unfortunate recalcitrance to hand over the goods. And now that Bad King Bush is heading out the door, in his graceless and stumble-tongued way, the coronation of Good King Obama, of the silver tongue and telegenic style, is eagerly awaited by people who find that he “embodies the America of today and tomorrow.” I'll go out on a limb and bet that President-to-be Obama makes a visit to Camp Bondsteel in his first year in office.

June 7, 2008

Swan song

Despite Scorpia's marvelous dread of losing the spotlight, her willingness to take the VP spot, her amazing ability to continue the knife-twisting claims of higher electability -- her preening will apparently end tonight, at least for the time being. Maybe not in a swift brutal and gratifying kick to the curb, but it will end. So it seems the culmination of this identity-politics clusterfuck to end all clusterfucks finally draws near its curtain.

Can we sum up? Not really, of course; not 'till the fruitful mellowness of early November can we gather the full impact of this brother-against-sister scrap. But here's at least an interim tally.

The electoral prison house of oppressed identities known as the Democratic party has managed, over the last 5 months or so, to contrive a vicious hand-to-hand intramural scrumble between the young and the restless, the arrogantly high edified, the black, the bright and merited -- all these types find themselves arrayed on one side, while on the other range the old, the skill-ess, the rule-following, the job-hobbled, the hopelessly kitchen-fried and female, the Hispanic, and last but not least, the folks that figure they got nothin' worth shit but their white skins.

And this internal riving has proved nastier, hotter, deeper, and more social plate-shifting than the mid-Pacific trench.

But over what have they battled? What of substance, I mean. Not much, eh? One is reminded of the Lilliputians and their ancient enmity over which end of a boiled egg to open

Prospects for a winning unity after all this?

I'll make it into a question of action/reaction, and profoundly NOT a contingency pivoting on the tussle between our two sides -- between our better and our lesser natures. Nope it'll hinge on the threat of attack by the air pirate McCain on all our tribal villages. Can flight deck Johnny scare up a fools' unity? His imagined reign of rockets and pink slips -- is it scary enough in prospect to make it happen, make the now viciously divided into one, like us Earthlings united in the 50's to fight space reptiles -- at least at the drive-in.

* * *

Of course we noticed recently the 40th anniversary of another bruising contest without a serious difference -- the battle for the peace vote between clean Gene and Bobby the K.

That one at least ended with more of a bang than a whimper -- not with a pair of desperate narcissists trapped in a hall of mirrors, but in one of those bloody moments that give birth to endless sappy regret-soaked might've-been's.

Second acts, and third, and fourth....

Father Smiff in a recent and (as usual) magisterial take on the Clan Antichrist's endless curtain calls, threw in this epigrammatic sizzler: "the only thing we recycle is our shame."

I'm not sure I get this. I almost figured Der Alte -- but for a slip of the finger tips -- was intending to write "the only thing we don't recycle is our shame."

We ought to recycle it, of course. It's in short supply inside most American heads and might retard our ceaseless craving for the lime light: "Just 15 minutes more -- please, Mistah Big -- pleeeeease!"

The ultimate pinup boy for shamelessness, American style, is of course Sir Jerry Lewis.

At least Vegas Elvis lives on only through his impostors.

June 9, 2008

Calming influences

Convention protest hit by groups' split
Breakaway activists worried by Re-create 68 tactics

Activists who plan to protest at the Democratic National Convention this summer are splitting with the umbrella organization, Re-create 68, because of concerns over its rhetoric and tactics.

The new coalition, called Alliance for Real Democracy, is a network of local and national groups, including Code Pink, United for Peace and Justice, the American Friends Service Committee, the Green Party of Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Colorado Street Medics, and Students for Peace and Justice....

Glenn Spagnuolo, an organizer with Re-create 68, said he doesn't mind the new structure.

"More power to them," he said.

Spagnuolo characterizes the groups that are splitting with his as liberal Democrats who are largely white and middle-to-upper class and want their party to guide the country out of the war in Iraq.

Michael Heaney, a political science professor at the University of Florida who has studied the antiwar movement, looks at the local split against the larger backdrop of the new political scene now that Sen. Barack Obama is the presumptive Democratic nominee.

"This forces them to strategically rethink the whole idea of protest (tactics).

"Do they really want to create chaos in the Democratic Party at a time when the Democrats are poised to nominate the first African-American candidate in history who many are satisfied with?"

If you want conventional wisdom, ask a professor. Especially a "political-science" professor. "New political scene?" The only thing new I've seen is a fresh handsome face -- repeating the same old mantras.

And of course it's always nice to see UFPJ and Code PInk running true to Democratic lapdog form. At left, Medea Benjamin; below, Leslie Cagan.

Gender nationalism

Every so often even the New Republic contains some good news:
3 A.M. For Feminism
Clinton dead-enders and the crisis in the women's movement.

Amy Siskind, a 42-year-old mother of two from Westchester, stood in a Washington, D.C., park on the last day in May, telling a few hundred cheering people that she would not, under any circumstances, vote for Barack Obama. She was a lifelong Democrat, she said, a donor and a volunteer for the party. But... she was appalled at the leadership's failure to defend Hillary Clinton from the sexism that she believes bolstered Barack Obama's campaign....

Siskind was one of the speakers at a rally that brought busloads of people, overwhelmingly women, to demonstrate near the Democratic National Committee (DNC) meeting that would decide the status of the Florida and Michigan delegations. The states had been stripped of their delegates--a decision Clinton endorsed--because they had broken party rules in holding their primaries early. But, as Clinton lost steam, seating them in full became crucial to her argument for the nomination, and thus, to her supporters, a matter of high democratic principle....

A strange narrative has developed, abetted by Clinton and some of the mainstream feminist organizations. In it, the will of the voters was thwarted by chauvinistic party leaders in concert with a servile media, and Obama's victory represents a repeat of George W. Bush's in 2000. It's a story in which Obama becomes every arrogant young man who has ever edged out a more deserving middle-aged woman, and Clinton.... is not a spoiler but a feminist martyr.

Westchester is a nice touch. I like the idea that the demonstrators were overwhelmingly women, too. I know a lot of women like that. (And men too of course.) But since I like spoilers so much I guess it may be time to revise my view of Hillary.

Some months back I passed along a concept invented (as far as I know) by an old feminist friend of mine: "free-alterations feminism." -- the bourgeois, careerist, white-collar feminism of equal access to the executive washroom. Hillary of course is the poster girl for this particular style of feminism, much adhered to by many women of my generation. (Suskind, at 42, is a little dewy for this Gloria "Sweetheart of the CIA" Steinem stuff. But maybe Westchester ages one prematurely. Or it's some kind of time-stands-still, baby-boomer Shangri-La up there.)

Unfortunately, it's hard to believe that the Suskinds of the nation will actually be numerous enough, or committed enough, to deprive Obama of victory. Most of them, I dare say, will turn out to be such deep-dyed lesser-evillists that their tropism to the donkey lever will overcome their female nationalism.

* * *

It's nice that it's such a generational thing, this 70s feminism. Since I always think the kids are all right, on principle, it's a little melancholy to see so many of 'em falling for the Obama snake oil. But most of em haven't after all, been burned before, and that's how you learn. And at least they don't have that nasty blend of middle-class self-congratulatory complacency with preachy, sanctimonious holier-than-thou false radicalism that characterized the Yenta Generation feminists.

Here's a view from the other side, by Amy Tiemann, only two or three years younger than Siskind of Westchester:

Obama v. Clinton Puts Stretch Marks on Sisterhood

"Sisterhood" bound women together during the second wave of feminism in the 1970s.

Fast-forward three decades, and it is time to start asking ourselves what happens when you try to stretch sisterhood across a generational divide and then push and pull it between the campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Answer: serious stretch marks.

Yes, Clinton is attracting her share of Gen X and Y supporters as she wages an impressive political battle.

And plenty of older, self-described feminists support Obama. Take Sheila Goldmacher.

"I am a 74-year-old Jewish feminist lesbian and do not support Hillary and have disliked her for a long time as well as her husband Bill," she recently e-mailed Women's eNews. "They have helped to bring us the disaster we now have on our hands by the imposition of NAFTA, which she seems to been backtracking on; the so-called Welfare Reform Act, which has continued to make life miserable for countless numbers of women and children in this country. Stop trying to see this race as only men vs. women."
Goldmacher notwithstanding, plenty of second-wavers have turned the campaigns into a test of feminist credentials....

In "The Feminine Mistake" Leslie Bennetts interviewed a woman who complained she hasn't seen the "young Gloria Steinems."

And a good thing too.

Of course Tiemann is an Obama-ite. But Steinem and Morgan et al. are Clintonites, so they can't claim any moral high ground. In fact Clinton feminism represents, I guess, the logical conclusion of bouregois-corporate feminism. Women ought to have an equal opportunity to be corporate plunderers... and imperial mass-murderers.

Naivete may be some excuse for Obama fans. But nobody can claim ignorance of what Hillary Clinton stands for.

June 10, 2008

Chip off the old block

Jason Furman

To reassure The Street, Obama has taken on this willing but dronish-looking orbital of the great Rubinius Maximus:

He is to be "economic policy director". According to brumigin.com,

"Furman, 37, most recently worked as an economist and budget expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, where he headed the Hamilton Project, an economic policy research group aligned with the Democratic Party that was founded by Rubin, now chairman of Citigroup Inc.'s executive committee."

The Hamilton Project! Mein Gott! Prepare for the absolute worst, folks. Three winters in a row will not be enough. We'll be crying for Andrew Mellon.

For those new to my personal bestiary, this droopy chap's mentor, Bondage Bobby Rubin, did more to destroy industrial America during his 8 years running the world economy, than any man alive, and I'm very much including that unctuous taxi dancer and refugee from the Rand institute, Meister Alan of Greenstain himself.

To the likes of Bobby the Terrible, Alan was but a chittery, thieving temple monkey.

Don't order the herbal tea

Among Hillary's auxiliary troops might we number the Lesbian-American nation?

Yet who dares speak their name?

Not Mother Clinton, at least while in this final bruising stretch. If, say, this February last, St Hill was found to have once attended one of these folks' legendary Famous-Amos roasts -- I ask you, kind and gentle readers, would that not out-Jeremiah Jeremiah?

June 11, 2008

Start working on your stoicism

Are we ready for a good emperor, maybe a great one, a philosopher emperor -- Baracus Aurelius?

My quondam companion, the dearly departed J Alva Scruggs, once wrote me on the subject of philosopher emperors. It thundered and it flashed, it filled the page with deep insight, and I was in awe and dazzled for days after.

I've misplaced it, and its perfected phrasing may be lost for all time, but I remember he was... agin' 'em.

There are no good emperors. They all turn into Nosferatu once the door's shut -- it goes with the office.

* * *

Here's another man from Illinois who struck a decidedly Aurelian pose while running for emperor of the open-market world. Similarly, he was up against a man of military distinction.

The purple prose egghead against the knuckle-mouthed general. Of course the egghead lost in a landslide. And Ike wasn't even a war hero like Johnny. Ike wasn't shot down on a daring raid into enemy territory. Ike wasn't tortured and twisted by his enemies. Nope, Ike stayed back and made his enemies surrender.

* * *

Old Marcus is supposed to have written his rather smug and self-congratulatory Meditations during short intervals of leisure from his day job, which was mostly spent on the battlefield, trying to shore up the Empire against "barbarians" in the East. The Romans seem to have used the word "barbarian" much the same way we use "terrorist", as a portmanteau term for anybody who doesn't enjoy our benign and civilized rule.

June 12, 2008

Saints preserve us

75 years ago just about now, the lady pictured here published her first issue of a prole-oriented tabloid, whose internet incarnation notes

"On May 1, 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression, The Catholic Worker newspaper made its debut with a first issue of twenty-five hundred copies. Dorothy Day and a few others hawked the paper in Union Square for a penny a copy...."

"Dorothy traded in the 'solidarity of the international working class' for the Mystical Body of Christ. But from her close association in her formative years with the old radicals, Dorothy picked up a sophisticated political sense. She was not a political analyst, but her instinct seldom led her astray. There were few to match her! And she kept the social passion of her early years and asked, 'Where is the Catholic leadership in the struggle for peace and justice?' She would become their mother.

Of all the radicals, Dorothy liked the anarchists best because they were self-disciplined and orderly and they didn't spend all their time arguing the minutiae of Marxism but went out and did things, 'direct action,' it's called. She joined the Socialist Party but found the meetings boring and drifted away. She described herself as a Communist, not in the sense of being a card-carrying party member, but in the common parlance of the Thirties, in the sense that she worked for a Communist Party front organization, even after her conversion as she looked for other employment in order to support her daughter Tamar [with the permission of her new spiritual director]...."

She's presently soaring toward sainthood somewhere above Staten Island, despite a bad Holy Office rap sheet:

In the post World War II years, during the Red Scare and the McCarthy period, my spiritual advisors told me to stay away from Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker. Dorothy was on the "lunatic fringe" of the Church and the Catholic Worker was tinged with Jansenism. Dorothy was a material heretic, if not a formal one. She'll get you into trouble, they said.
Jansenism! Yikes! Calvinist cancer within the fold! The hazard ahead for all Mary- and Jesus-struck lace curtain Irish maidens -- apparently even former free-lovin' Red bohemians.

The Ministry Of Silly Hats

I. Iconography of the enhanced cranium

The bike helmet ought to be the emblematic headgear of liberalism, as the mitre is of episcopacy and the Borsalino fedora of orthodox Judaism.

All clothing is a system of signs, of course, and all clothing choices say something. But headgear speaks a lot louder than, say, socks. Maybe even louder than shoes. What does the bike helmet say?

Most importantly, it says that the wearer cares a lot about safety. In fact, he cares more about safety than dignity. He's so concerned about safety that he doesn't mind looking like an idiot.

Even liberals, of course, don't wear bike helmets on the crapper, or in the shower, where so many deadly falls occur. So there are -- at least for the present -- some limits to the liberal's concern for safety. What, precisely, defines those limits?

The answer is easy. The liberal needs prophylaxis when he (or she) is doing something deviant. Cycling, say, or non-marital sex.

Now the safety-conscious liberal could just strap a pillow on his/her head and secure it with a hand-knotted, hempen macrame band. But that would be a bit trailer-park and un-technological. The liberal always wants a solution expertly engineered by a person with sound academic qualifications, working on some large organization's R&D budget.

Say what you will about the modern bike helmet, it certainly is that -- or appears to be that, anyway. The complex curves! The intricate system of vents! The lift spoiler and the aerodynamic little beak, which dissipates the shock-wave front (guaranteed effective up to Mach 2.56) and also prevents melanoma on the bridge of the nose!

Seldom in daily life do we see the rhetoric of high technology exhibited with this kind of studied, elaborate virtuosity. Obama's bike helmet is such an obviously consummate triumph of engineering, it makes the B-2 bomber look a little clunky and pedestrian.

So the liberal, in his bike helmet, still looks like an idiot -- but an idiot who possesses the very latest and highest technology.

How very American.

* * *

II. You'll be safe. Whether you like it or not

Since I ride a bike myself -- probably more often than Obama does -- I'm very familiar with the missionary zeal of helmet Pharisees: the folks who are not only happy to look ridiculous themselves for the sake of some more or less illusory increment of safety, but who are also determined to make everybody else look ridiculous too.

This too is part of the liberal canon: to make people do things for their own good. People ought to have health insurance -- well, make 'em buy it. Or else.

* * *

III. Helmet to helmet

The last Democratic presidential candidate I remember seeing in a helmet was Michael Dukakis:

Now on the surface you might think these images are opposites. Obama, even when he's being dorky, looks cool, and poor Dukakis always looked dorkier the cooler he tried to be. Dukakis was riding in a tank -- surely the ne plus ultra of bad transportation choices -- and Obama on a bicycle, surely the second most benign (human feet, of course, take the number-one spot).

But it's more interesting to ponder what these images might have in common. One word: safety.

The world is such a dangerous place. There are all those furious towel-heads out there -- towel-heads whom we have made furious, of course, by messing with them for the last sixty years or so, but still. And there are all those cars out there on the road -- cars that we have encouraged people to buy, and subsidized them to drive. But still.

Strap on the helmet. And, if you want to be really safe, line it with tinfoil.

June 13, 2008

Calling Father Karas

Something is amiss with the blog database -- comments are not posting. I've put in a call to The Exorcist.

Demons cast out

Tried a little Latin on 'em. Comments seem to be back now. Sorry, but any posted since late last night seem to have been eaten.

Tim Who?

Couple of hours ago, a person near and dear to me asked, "Did you hear? Tim Russert died!"

My response: Tim who?

I may be the only person in North America who doesn't know who Tim Russert is, or was. Judging by the unanimous outpouring of grief at his passing, I feel entitled to consider this fact a mark of some distinction. Conventional wisdom is always wrong -- in fact, conventional wisdom is always diametrically wrong.

Or no, that's a little too sweeping. A stopped clock is right twice a day. Better to say that betting against conventional wisdom is always a good idea. You may not win quite so often, but you feel very elated when you do. One time pays for all.

The reason for my ignorance about the newly-sainted Russert is not far to seek: I don't watch TV much anymore. Particularly TV news. Last time I watched "Meet The Press" was maybe 1972. Okay, 1973. Early 1973.

Here's some elegiac dribble on the late Tim:

Tim Russert, a political lifer who made a TV career of his passion with unrelenting questioning of the powerful and influential, died suddenly Friday.... Praise poured in from the biggest names in politics....

NBC interrupted its regular programming with news of Russert's death and continued for several hours of coverage without commercial break....

Familiar NBC faces... took turns mourning his loss....

"I can say from experience that joining Tim on "Meet the Press" was one of the greatest tests any public official could face," said Rep. John Boehner....

Russert was also a senior vice president at NBC, and this year Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

He had ... a Democratic pedigree that came from his turn as an aide to the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York.

Lawmakers from both parties lined up to sing his praises after his sudden death.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said [dribble]...

[Dribble], Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential contender, told reporters...

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Obama's rival for the White House, hailed Russert as [dribble]...

[Russert] won an Emmy for his role in the coverage of President Ronald Reagan's funeral in 2004.

Anybody this deeply loved by the well-known and powerful just must have been a creep.

Oh, I'm sure his wife and kids didn't think so -- well, no, on reflection, let's leave the wife out of it; any wife who doesn't think her husband is a creep has got a screw loose. But the kids loved him. Probably. So let's give him and the kids the benefit of the doubt and shed a tear on their behalf.

Now back to our regularly-scheduled programming.

Everybody seems to have loved this supposedly tough guy. So... one wonders how tough he really was.

For me, the Moynihan connection would be enough to cast the guy into outer darkness -- even without the emmy-winning reportage on The Mummy's funeral. Retch.

June 14, 2008

The bird of Zeus

I've always admired Obama's ambiguous, strangely soothing signature cartouche -- are those furrows on a Kansas farm, or flag stripes so tranquillized they've ceased to wave? Its quietude and noncommittal subliminal suggestiveness make it the perfect emblem for a miraculous marketing campaign that simultaneously excited and reassured the target demographic without ever actually saying anything.

Here, however, the bland circlet appears oddly superimposed on a bad-tempered, reptilian eagle, clearly spoiling for a fight. As iconology goes, there's nothing anodyne about the Jovian bird, the Roman legionary bird, the bird so abundant in the visual rhetoric of American pugnacity that every street in this broad land ought to be knee-deep in mephitic raptor guano(*).

When birds appear, the augurs get to work. In this case, of course, neither the appearance of the bird nor its implications should come as any surprise.

* * *

The eagle's connection with the thunderbolt-hurling sky-father Zeus/Jupiter goes back a long way, but takes narrative form in our tradition with the story of Zeus and Ganymede. Zeus, being a Greek god, had a weakness for pretty boys -- in a totally manly, or godly, way, of course -- and Ganymede was the prettiest shepherd in Phrygia. So Zeus either sent an eagle, or turned himself into an eagle -- the sages are divided on this question -- and carried young Ganymede away for immoral purposes.

The Ganymede story has, I think, a certain melancholy relevance to the Obama story. Once again we see our blooming youths abducted by the thunderbolt-hurlers. In this case of course the eagle himself had to be kept hidden until after the trap was sprung, but now he can appear. All the young Ganymedes and Ganymedesses got carried away -- with nothing to hope for but hard usage and servitude.

* * *

On a completely irrelevant note: the eagle image appears on a part of the Obama website devoted to rebutting "smears" against the great man and his wife. The "smears" listed are not numerous, but one of them reads as follows:
SMEAR: Barack Obama is a Muslim

TRUTH: Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian.

So let me get this straight: The enlightened Obama campaign thinks it's a "smear" to say somebody is a Muslim? This position will be hard to digest in certain areas of Chicago's South Side.


(*) Though the eagle is in fact more often a scavenger than a bird of prey, as Ben Franklin, I believe, pointed out, when he suggested that the young United States would do better to adopt, as its winged mascot, the turkey.

June 18, 2008

The freedom to comply

A friend of mine, who still works in the belly of the Credentialling Sector beast, sent me the following clip, from a publication with the narcotic name of Inside Higher Education:

Michigan Severs Ties to Controversial Publisher

In September, the University of Michigan Press faced intense criticism from pro-Israel groups... over its distribution of a book called Overcoming Zionism, which argues that the creation of Israel was a mistake and urges adoption of the "one state" solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.... Michigan wasn't the publisher, but it distributed the book under a deal with Pluto Press, a leftist British publisher with extensive lists on the Middle East and international affairs.

Some critics of the book demanded that Michigan stop distributing the book, which it briefly did, and cut ties to Pluto immediately. The university declined to do [cut ties], and resumed distributing the book, citing both contractual obligations to Pluto and concerns that halting distribution because of content would raise issues of academic freedom. By the end of this year, however, Michigan will no longer be distributing the book or have any ties to Pluto Press.....

Among those who publish with Pluto are Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, bell hooks, and Ariel Dorfman....

.... Peggy McCracken, an associate dean at Michigan who is chair of the executive board of the press, said that politics wasn't the issue. She said that... Pluto doesn't have peer review on the Michigan model.... Pluto uses peer review on proposals and chapters, but not the finished manuscript.

....McCracken added that "certainly the free and open exchange of ideas is the foundation of everything we do at the university."

A little touch of deadpan Irish humor there, I suspect, in that last graf from Ms McCracken.

Stories like this -- the next most recent discussed here was the purge of Norman Finkelstein -- always delight me with the contrast between Academia's self-image, as a place for Ms McCracken's "free and open exchange of ideas", and the utter poltroonery with which it nearly always responds to ideological witch-hunts.

Back in the Red Scare days, the Unis obligingly got rid of all their Reds, and nowadays, they can almost always be relied on to cave in promptly to indignant e-mails from Israel fans.

It all leads one to wonder a bit about the concept of "academic freedom". It's a little strange -- isn't it? -- that academics should claim entitlement to some kind of freedom which isn't apparently available to the rest of us.

Presumably the justification is the broader social benefit that accrues to us all from these fearless thinkers and scholars, boldly

Voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone

... regardless of conventional wisdom, heedless of prejudice and superstition, willing and eager to challenge all unquestioned assumptions, and so on.

Well, there might me something to say for this idea if the Unis were really anything like that. But of course they aren't; Michigan's servile kowtowing to the Israel lobby is the way Academia actually works, ninety-nine times out of a hundred.

So I say the hell with academic freedom. Let the professoriate get used to the same kind of labor discipline as the proletariat. Away with the fig leaf. Let's candidly say (what is in fact the fact) that Unis exist to indoctrinate the young; to justify inequality with a factitious gilding of "merit"; to defend received ideas, and to call groupthink "peer review".

Let's get Laputa back on the ground again.

Same old same old

Sometimes there's something good on one of my lefty mailing lists, like the following:

> OBAMA CAMPAIGN announces 'Senior Working Group on National Security'
> --Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
> --Senator David Boren, former Chairman of the Senate Select Committee  
> on Intelligence
> --Secretary of State Warren Christopher
> --Greg Craig, former director of the State Department Office of  
> Policy Planning
> --Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig
> --Representative Lee Hamilton, former Chairman of the House Foreign  
> Affairs Committee
> --Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder
> --Dr. Tony Lake, former National Security Advisor
> --Senator Sam Nunn, former Chairman of the Senate Armed Services  
> Committee.
> --Secretary of Defense William Perry
> --Dr. Susan Rice, former Assistant Secretary of State
> --Representative Tim Roemer, 9/11 Commissioner
> --Jim Steinberg, former Deputy National Security Advisor
> AP's Nedra Pickler reports: 'Obama also was meeting Wednesday with  
> nearly 40 retired admirals and generals to discuss the state of the  
> military and the challenges in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.'   
My correspondent writes:
Madeleine Albright?

Warren Christopher?

William Perry?

Lee Hamilton?

Oh man, change is coming fast.

I'm so excited to see something so unique happening in my lifetime.

I'm also glad Clinton didn't win, she never would have picked new fresh faces like these!

To the amazement of every three-year-old...


No comment needeed:

Spying on Americans:
Democrats Ready to Gut the Constitution To Protect Their "Constituents" -- The Telecoms

....Congressional Democrats are preparing to gut the Constitution by granting giant telecom companies retroactive immunity and liability protection on warrantless wiretapping by the Bush regime.

... "Congressional leaders and the Bush administration have reached an agreement in principle on an overhaul of surveillance rules."

.... According to sources familiar with the negotiations, the compromise would be very similar to the last proposal by Sen. Christopher S. Bond , R-Mo., to House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md. Sources said the major change is that a federal district court, not the secret FISA court itself, would make an assessment about whether to provide retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies being sued for their alleged role in the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program....

Without clear standards for determining whether immunity for these privateers is even justified, the courts will be forced to issue virtual get-out-of-jail-free cards to corporate executives and their shareholders, thus freeing them from any and all liability, should companies claim they had "received assurances" from the state that its spying program was "legal."

Indeed, no warrants at all would be required when the administration and their outsourced private "partners" choose surveillance "targets" under "exigent," or urgent circumstances. Needless to say, such "exigent" circumstances are determined by executive branch "intelligence officials,".... According to the ACLU,

Allowing phone companies to avoid litigation by simply presenting a "permission slip" from the president is not court review. This is immunity pure and simple because the companies are NOT being judged on whether they followed the law. A document stating that the president asked them to conduct warrantless wiretapping is not enough justification for violating the basic privacy rights of Americans. ("Facts on Senator Kit Bond's (R-MO) FISA Proposal," American Civil Liberties Union, June 13, 2008)
... Back in January, [Democratic Senator Jay] Rockefeller defended the actions of the telecom companies....

June 19, 2008

Obama: NAFTA not so bad after all

Courtesy of Fortune magazine:
Obama: NAFTA not so bad after all
The Democratic nominee, in an interview with Fortune, says he wants free trade "to work for all people."

WASHINGTON (Fortune) -- The general campaign is on, independent voters are up for grabs, and Barack Obama is toning down his populist rhetoric - at least when it comes to free trade.

In an interview with Fortune to be featured in the magazine's upcoming issue, the presumptive Democratic nominee backed off his harshest attacks on the free trade agreement and indicated he didn't want to unilaterally reopen negotiations on NAFTA.

"Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified," he conceded, after I reminded him that he had called NAFTA "devastating" and "a big mistake," ....

Obama's tone stands in marked contrast to his primary campaign's anti-NAFTA fusillades....

In February, as the campaign moved into the Rust Belt, both candidates vowed to invoke a six-month opt-out clause ("as a hammer," in Obama's words) to pressure Canada and Mexico to make concessions....

Now, however, Obama says he doesn't believe in unilaterally reopening NAFTA.....

Obama also reiterated his determination to be a tougher trade bargainer. "The Chinese love free trade," he said, "but.... It's no secret they have consistently encroached on our intellectual property and our copyright laws.

Well, at least Disney and Microsoft should feel reassured.

Killing for kindness

Generalissimo Mia Farrow wants to send in the mercenaries:

Activists turn to Blackwater over Darfur

Mia Farrow, the actress and activist, has asked Blackwater, the US private security company active in Iraq, for help in Darfur....

Ms Farrow said she had approached Erik Prince, founder and owner of Blackwater, to discuss whether a military role was either feasible or desirable.

She acknowledged that many people might have reservations about Blackwater being involved in Darfur – the company’s men were involved in the fatal shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians last September – but said the threat of violence to refugees meant all options had to be explored....

Mr Prince has raised the possibility of a role in Darfur for security companies.

Ms Farrow, who represents Dream for Darfur, a human rights group, and other lobbyists this week lambasted the UN Security Council for its “shameful” failure to halt killings in the Sudanese province....

“How long will you continue to allow the government of Sudan to manipulate this body?” Ms Farrow asked council members. “Did Adolf Hitler get to choose which troops should be deployed to end his genocide?”

It's a fascinating exercise in the sociology of military humanism to explore the tangled web of nested and interlocking committees, coalitions, front groups, and so on that branch out and return to this "Dream for Darfur" outfit. Ex-Clintonites and various tentacles of the Israel Lobby octopus(*) are conspicuous, but there are some wonderful free-lance eccentrics too; DfD itself lists at the head of its advisory board one "Bob Arnot," whose occupation is described as "Humanitarian". I think this must be the same Bob Arnot who used to be an NBC News correspondent, but was fired because his cheerleading for the Iraq war was too over-the-top even for NBC.


(*) Including that ubiquitous old stager Ruth Messinger, a short-period comet in my sky since I moved to the Upper West Side of Manhattan thirty years ago.

June 20, 2008

From zipless fuck to life of the mind

I don't read the Huffington Post often enough, apparently. I missed, until today, a hilarious exchange between second-wave 70s feminist Erica "Zipless Fuck" Jong and Matt Taibbi, now in its fourth iteration.

Seems that Jong took exception to Taibbi mentioning that Hillary Clinton had "flabby arms." She offered a bit of free and fairly shallow psychoanalysis suggesting that Taibbi really wanted to fuck his mother. (Well, duuhh, who doesn't?)

Taibbi responded by quoting a number of much worse things he's had to say about the physical appearance of some men in politics. At this point the suddenly intellectual Jong made a quick dash for the high ground:

What exactly is the point of talking about body deformity rather than ideas? We live in a time when... people are being tortured despite our heritage of the Magna Carta and the Constitution....

If you were my writing student, I'd challenge your reliance on physical mockery and ask you to find better ways of arguing your points. I'd try to engage your brain not your spleen.

One can't help wondering whether Jong has many writing students, and if so, what they're getting out of the experience. One hopes they're learning, from someone, to cite old texts to more effect than Jong's puzzling references to the (US?) "Constitution" and -- stranger still -- the Magna Carta. What on earth does she think the latter document is about? Are these scraps of World History 101 just emblems of some vaguely conceived tradition of high ideals?

Fear of Flying was terrific fun -- but Jong is no Susan Sontag. One wonders whether she's ever read any of Milton's polemical prose, or Swift's, or Martin Marprelate's. For savage personal abuse of their targets, these gods of the canon make Taibbi look quite moderate.

But of course the real oddity in this schoolmarmish lecturette is the assumption that there were any "ideas" to talk about in the Clintonobamamachia. As far as ideas went, the two were always utterly indistinguishable -- try asking a fan of either candidate to attribute random quotes correctly. The contest was always entirely about appearance, demeanor, charm, and the capacity of various demographics to "identify" (horrible word) with the handsome, cool young black guy or the frumpy old free-alterations feminist(tm).

Flabby arms, flag pins -- might as well talk about one as the other.

June 22, 2008

Long shot

Here's MoveOn.org (aka NothingToSeeHereFolks.org):

Dear MoveOn member,

On Friday, House Democrats caved to the Bush administration and passed a bill giving a get-out-of-jail-free card to phone companies that helped Bush illegally spy on innocent Americans....

Last year, after phone calls from MoveOn members and others, Obama [vowed] to "support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies." We need him to honor that promise.

Can you call Senator Obama today and tell him you're counting on him to keep his word? Ask him to block any compromise that includes immunity for phone companies that helped Bush break the law.

Obama's presidential campaign: (866) 675-2008

What, do you think, are the odds of Obama doing bupkis about this bill?

June 23, 2008

Signs and seals

You saw it here first. Several days ago we noted that the Obama camapign seemed to be experimenting with a new, amped-up, patriotic upgrade to the soothing Obama blue-pill logo:

That version doesn't seem to have been entirely satisfactory. Here's the latest:

In case you can't make out the Latin inscription above the ruptured duck there, it's "VERO POSSUMUS", which is a reasonably good translation of "Yes we can."

Amazing, really, how Obama's formerly almost perfect-pitch campaign has taken this sudden plunge into laughable bathetic grandiosity. The New-Dealish blocky sans-serif type -- the constipated, chalky colors -- the frathouse Latin -- and above all, the splayed, two-dimensional eagle, a bird of very ill omen indeed.

All in all, it reminds me irresistibly of the new uniforms Nixon once designed for his palace guard:

June 25, 2008

Oil and vinegar

I've spent the last few weeks trying to figure out if any one has a useable notion of what makes crude oil prices happen as they do. Interim answer: No.

One chap in public torment over this is our old friend and Bush-basher the ever-beaverish merit badger Paul of Princeton. The Krug-man cometh and goeth on this one -- in fact over and over again he cometh and goeth.

Here's a recent such effort:


In this one, he sez twice he ain't got "no dog in the hunt". And nope, he doesn't. But he sure gets himself into a fix as he tries to rationalize what appears to be monstrous, and in the process looks like a man chasing a greased pig -- across an iced-over pond.

Krug believes by all thats logical and Marshallian and taught at MIT that this huge price soar ain't from tampering, ain't from the dark arts of the corporates and fundsters at work. Can't be! He's Dr Pangloss without even knowing it. All's well that ends well in the best of all corporate markets

Oh hell, why do I bother to lampoon the Paulmeister? The truth is, nobody with a PhD in economics has a decent model of pricing -- for oil or electricity or corn or interest rates or doctors' fees or anything, really, other than abstract widgets. Nobody understands prices in the world we all actually live in.

But one doesn't have to be an Ivy-trained Marxian attack economist to have one's suspicions. Don't we all, if we're not drunk on conventional wisdom? Any fool can see something ain't quite right, eh?

So how do guys like Paul get to where it's all "spontaneous and to be expected maybe grim but natural and transitory and on the yellow brick road and blah blah blah"? Unless it's demonstrated to be the exclusive doings of the Other Team, aka the GOP, Paul's standing up for the orthodox tower troll calmative -- which is? In the long run we'll all eat cake.

That brings me to the other classy set of smug hand-sitters, you green-aholics -- you shits just love these higher prices -- am I right?

For obvious reasons, I suppose -- you don't so much care who's pocketing the windfalls, like I do, just so long as the sky high pump charges reduce hoi polloi's consumption -- right? I mean down the road when Mr and Mrs Below Average IQ buy the next four wheeled planet stinker.

Yaah, great! Thousand dollar oil with 980 dollar profits! Lets give our blessed mother planet and her exiguous dime-thin atmosphere a chance to recoup its life-sustaining freshness.


Barack embraces the hangman

Obama is nothing if not fast on his feet. The Cool Young Black Dude is transforming himself, faster than the Incredible Hulk, into a Bloodthirsty Reactionary Asshole. You won't like me when... I'm the nominee.

Background: the Supreme Court decided by a narrow 5-4 majority that you can't be put to death unless you've actually killed somebody. So we're not quite yet back in the palmy days of serious justice when you could be hanged for just about anything. But Mister Change We Can Believe In wasn't happy with this namby-pamby stuff:

Obama Condemns Supreme Court Decision in Child Rape Case

Barack Obama criticized the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision today striking down the use of the death penalty in cases of child rape.

“I disagree with the decision...." [he said].

The expected Democratic nominee said he believed the rape of a child “is a heinous crime” that fits the circumstance, siding with the four conservative justices who sit on the court, Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas.

Obama, like Alito, disagreed with the decision because its impact would mean a blanket prohibition on the use of the death penalty. In his dissension, Alito wrote that the decision means the death penalty would not apply “no matter how young the child, no matter how many times the child is raped, no matter how many children the perpetrator rapes, no matter how sadistic the crime, no matter how much physical or psychological trauma is inflicted, and no matter how heinous the perpetrator’s prior criminal record may be.”

Expected Republican nominee John McCain also disagreed with the court’s decision....

Obama’s criticism—and alliance with the court’s conservative judges—may come as a surprise to some Democrats, but the Illinois senator has made notable steps toward the center of the political spectrum in recent weeks.

I don't know which bit of prose pleases me me more. The contenders are:
  • Alito's sadistic-salacious reverie on how many children one might rape, how often, and with what unspeakable attendant circumstances of filthy cruelty;
  • "The Illinois senator has made notable steps toward the center of the political spectrum in recent weeks. "
Alito's fantasy is delightfully reminiscent of Dr Strangelove ruminating that "animals can be brrred -- and slllaughtered!". Maybe nostalgia really *is* what it used to be.

But even so, the idea that this ghoulish Jack Ketch stuff represents the "center" has got to take pride of place.

It's too bad Obama isn't a southern Governor, like Clinton. Otherwise, it seems certain that he would not only fly home to supervise the conveniently-scheduled execution of some slightly darker-skinned citizen -- he'd probably pull the switch himself.

June 26, 2008

Mean Greens

Something there is in me that hates a windfall, that wants it downed. Its the damnable inefficiency of it all that galls my cold, three sizes too small heart, not the inequity of it; not the upward bound "wealth transfer" greedhead orgy of it.

Well, not really.

May I suggest this line of reasoning to you green goblins to munch along with the morning latte? You want reduced consumption of oil -- fair enough; but you're great believers in some variant of wealth as equal as possible too, aren't you?

Now you guilt-drenched strivers, then ask yourself this: Is there today a long run real price of crude that maximizes the rate of adjustment? And if there is -- if there's a price beyond which we're just shooting extra superfluous cash at the corporate swine -- then are we at it, above it, or below it?

I say we're above it, cellmate -- well above it. And I say remember the little folks. Don't we need to factor out any global economy-wide slowdown effects on total consumption these hypothetical uber-plus price hikes might lead to? Shouldn't starve-the-beast strategists avoid setting up a a regular-guy deparment? Even Malthus had his limits. In other words: the income effects on total household consumption of everything including oil need to be compensated, don't they?

As the late Sir Johnny Hicks might say: to substitute is divine but to consume is human.

Here's a brief overview of Johnny's nice distinction.

To cut to the chase: just what might the crude price be that would maximize the adjustment rate? My guess: 60 to 80 dollars oughta be more than enough to sustain the development and production of alternative sources of energy. Anything higher is pure windfall -- a serious production of pleb-prole misery gone to waste.

On the brighter side

A comment Too Good To Be A Comment showed up on an earlier entry just now:
I had a pleasing thought the other day.

Barack Obama's candidacy may be the thing that ends the surefire support of the Democrats among Black people.

Not among all of them, certainly, but maybe there will be enough peeling away from the party to make things difficult for the lesser head of Orthrus. Now that we actually have a Black candidate, and he's being forced to turn his back on his own people, treat them with scorn, and spit upon (at least half) his heritage, many may wake up to the fact that the Democrats are responsible for this state of affairs. That they're just taking the Black vote for granted, so Black people can be treated with as much derision as is needed to win back some of those who yearn for the white-hooded days of the Democratic Party's past.

The disgust and discontent could be made more palpable by the fact that nobody can excuse it as the candidate's own private white supremacism coming out, as they might with a white Democratic nominee. It will be clear that this is the structural white supremacism of the Democratic Party.

June 28, 2008


From the Times -- the London one, that is. Ignore the quaint orthography:
Barack Obama may recruit defence chief Robert Gates

In defiance of traditional party labels, Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, may ask the defence secretary of President George W Bush to stay on if he wins the White House.

Obama’s top foreign policy and national security advisers are pressing the case for keeping Robert Gates at the Pentagon after he won widespread praise for his performance. The move would be in keeping with Obama’s desire to appoint a cabinet of all the talents.....

Richard Danzig, an adviser to Obama on national security and a former navy secretary, said: “My personal position is Gates is a very good secretary of defence and would be an even better one in an Obama administration.”

The appointment would cause a furore among Democratic party activists but would have the advantage of providing continuity at a time when Iraq appears to be stabilising and demanding more independence from America.

Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution in Washington, a foreign policy adviser to Obama, said: “Robert Gates is one of the best defence secretaries we have had in a long time and it makes a lot of sense to keep him.”

Gates, a former member of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, was initially sceptical about the troop surge in Iraq and has been quietly seeking an orderly transition to a new US administration in January so that hard-won military gains in Iraq are not thrown away in a hasty withdrawal.

At one stage last year, he had hoped that 60,000–70,000 US troops could be withdrawn by Christmas this year, but he was persuaded to back more modest reductions by General David Petraeus, the US commander. ...

Gates showed he was comfortable working with Democrats when he appointed John Hamre, a former senior official under Bill Clinton, to serve as chairman of the influential Defence Policy Board last year. He also appointed William Perry, a former defence secretary who is advising Obama, to the board....

James Carafano, a defence expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, said Obama would be making a “smart move” if he asked Gates to carry on. [Gates] has clearly adopted a mainstream course on national security that would be acceptable to either McCain or Obama.”

Surprise, surprise. But here's the best:
Speculation intensified this weekend that Obama may offer Hillary Clinton the position of health secretary after he appointed Neera Tanden, her senior policy director and a key architect of her healthcare plan, to his campaign team.
Aiieee! Once wasn't enough? Spare us, Pharaoh! Spare us!

June 30, 2008

Enlightenment vs enlightenment

Pwogs are all aglum: now their black mage is The Nom, he's moving like a linebacker before the snap -- to the right.

But for us dreamers of sublation, the cry is hoorah for Hollywood. Now is that so wrong?

Let's do the parallel universe thing: Let's imagine what would have happened if, instead of the rocky reign of the Stuarts, Britain had endured the lesser evil of three consecutive Elizabeths. Would that green and perfidious island have "ended up in complete servitude"?

So claimed the magnificent Diderot: "Two or three consecutive reigns of a just and enlightened despotism... is one of the great misfortunes of any free nation."

Sound to you like the possible pending Obama anni mirabiles? Recall that the three consecutive terms of the New Deal saved corporate America to march triumphantly under the victory arch of world war two right smack dab into the heyday of the American century.

Is this why, on some tacit, crumbling-infrastructure mind level, we rads fear Obie's success far more than his failure? Is this why we root for dismalitude? Why are we so fond of spoiling the ballots of Lady Liberty -- while she remains on the limited liability plan?

I always kinda wondered...

... just why Tony Blair and "New Labour" generally were so very keen on the Iraq war. Comes now an interesting piece in The Palestine Chronicle that sheds some light:
Before New Labour was invented, the Labour party was more sympathetic to the Palestinians. Jon Mendelsohn of the Labour Friends of Israel has explained how it changed: '"Blair has attacked the anti-Israelism that had existed in the Labour Party. Old Labour was cowboys-and-Indians politics, picking underdogs to support, but the milieu has changed. Zionism is pervasive in New Labour. It is automatic that Blair will come to Labour Friends of Israel meetings."'

One of Blair’s first acts on becoming an MP in 1983 was to join Labour Friends of Israel. But the major change only occurred after he rose to control of the Labour party. To carry out his planned policies, he needed to try to break the funding influence of the trade unions. So he needed an ally with ample funds.

In 1994, a legal friend and colleague of his, Eldred Tabachnik, Q.C., the former president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, introduced him to Michael Levy, a pop music mogul and fundraiser for Jewish and Israeli causes....

Levy expressed his willingness “to raise large sums of money for the party” if there was a “tacit understanding that Labour would never again, while Blair was leader, be anti-Israel”.

The result: Levy ran the Labour Leader’s Office Fund to finance Blair’s campaign in the 1997 General Election. Levy in effect made New Labour possible....

But, Blair needed a constant source of funds if he was to reduce the influence of the unions – and, it seems, he needed to hide its source lest it be questioned. One of the better known figures at Labour Friends of Israel is David Abrahams, a Jewish property developer.... Abrahams took on part of the task of secretly funding New Labour. He gave more than £650,000 to the Party under four other people’s names – a move since admitted to be unlawful by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown but which has had no legal consequence....

Levy became our “special envoy” to the Middle-East despite having a serous conflict of Interest. He was supposed to negotiate impartially with Palestinians and Israelis but he had acted as a fundraiser for former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak as well as lobbying for Israel in the UK. He has both a business and a house in Israel and calls himself an ‘international Zionist.’...

Gordon Brown

Gordon is more personally immersed in Zionism than Blair. It is something he grew up with in his childhood. He told a recent gathering, ‘I have been proud to be a member of Labour Friends of Israel over three decades. My father used to spend many weeks in Israel, he was the chairman of the Church of Scotland’s Israel Committee. He went on visits to meet people twice a year for more than 20 years.’

... One of Gordon Brown's first acts after assuming the Prime Minister's role was to accept an appointment as Patron of the Jewish National Fund founded in 1901. The Israeli government sold to this Fund the land seized from Arab refugees – and then made this land only available for Jews to settle on. It planted forests over the uprooted olive trees of former Palestinian settlements. It currently owns about 14% of Israel....

[Brown] has ensured continued Jewish funding of New Labour by appointing Mendelssohn of Labour Friends of Israel as his chief fundraiser for the next election. He has also appointed former British ambassador to Israel, Simon McDonald, as his chief foreign policy adviser. Israel has expressed satisfaction with the choice, saying he is "a true friend to Israel."... [Brown's] new Middle East Minister is Kim Howells, a former chair of Labour Friends of Israel. The Director of Labour Friends of Israel is David Mencer, a former volunteer for the Israeli Defence Force.

About June 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in June 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

May 2008 is the previous archive.

July 2008 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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