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October 2010 Archives

October 1, 2010

O'Bomber's Vanity War

Do you all follow the reports of incursions into Pakistan? From the latest, it looks like O'Bomber has decided that destabilizing the entire region is a splendid idea. If he called a colloquium of certifiably insane think tank intellectuals and asked them what to do, his present plan would be sure to come up in the top ten suggestions.

I'm not sure he has any idea what's at stake there; he's too self-involved. His imperial focus is always on finding patsies and trying to trick them into taking the fall for whatever is polling badly. Mere facts and horrific consequences are for the little people.

I can easily see some hapless foreign policy careerist trying salvage the shreds of self-respect by giving him a real, serious briefing on Pakistan's nuclear weapons. While he's doing that, O'Bomber keeps asking those stupid corporate responsibility-shucking questions.

"So what you're really saying is..."
"In other words, what you're leading up to is..."
"So if I understand correctly, what you're suggesting is..."

He's supposed to be the leader of the Smart Party. But he's managed to make the Chimperor look like a strategic genius in comparison.

25 Sigma Charlatanism

I had almost forgotten about Nassim Taleb when I came across his interview regarding this year's Pseudo-Swedish Dynamite Prize in Economics.

"I want to remove the harm from these economic models. And the Nobel is not helping. They should be held partly responsible, if not largely responsible, for the crisis," Taleb told Reuters by telephone.

The Nobel prize, really?

Taleb is a former trader who took advantage of the mispricing of derivatives to make his fortune in the years before the crisis. He published "The Black Swan" in 2007 and went on to make millions more during the upheaval.

No, Taleb actually lost money and ran his first hedge fund, Empirica, into the ground until it finally collapsed in in 2006. His second fund, Universa -- which no one in New York would touch following the Empirica disaster -- was funded by promoting to rubes in California, run by an Austrian Mises.org-reading fool, and lost money until achieving a return of 100% at some point in the crisis of 2008.

One hundred percent -- that's pretty good though, isn't it? Well, no, it's not really. A fund that was set up specifically to take advantage of that once-in-a-lifetime event and steadily drains money at all other times should have had returns of 500% to 5,000% when that event occurs, like those run by Andrew Lahde, and many other people who actually foresaw the crisis and understood its nature. If he did, he would have bought some CDS instead of equity puts, like everyone else who got in on the big short. Maybe that's what motivated Nassim to tell embarrassing lies about his fund's performance.

Federal Reserve Governor Ben Bernanke he calls "a true charlatan," arguing his idea of a "Great Moderation" made the world more dangerous because it masked underlying risks. "He got us here. He crashed the plane," Taleb said. "I say it literally, he doesn't know what's going on."

A true charlatan! That's a laugh, coming from Taleb. Bernanke may be many unsavoury things, but a charlatan he is not. I suspect that Taleb has never bothered to read any of Bernanke's work with Gertler. Bernanke understands what is going on fairly well, and that is what makes him so culpable.

For now, Taleb is content to write books and try to advance his ideas. He says he has given up trading, but has a clear purpose for all the profits he made. "I'm using the money now to finance the destruction of the economic establishment."

Hmm, so he's "given up" trading now. I take that to mean that his deeply philosophical strategy of buying OTM puts has run down the gains from 2008, and is now sinking Universa in the same way that Empirica was sunk. It seems to be following the same pattern: get lucky in one year (2000 in Empirica's case, 2008 in Universa's) go on a promotional fundraising blitz, and then lose all of the money over the next few years. And as if his marquee strategy were not stupid enough, last year Universa started another fund dedicated solely to betting on hyperinflation. I'm sure that has worked out swimmingly.

It would have been helpful if the interviewer had asked Taleb exactly how his mountain of money is being used to finance the destruction of the economic establishment. And, since he is, we are told, spectacularly rich, and only concerned with attacking the economic establishment, it might also be worthwhile to ask if he still charges a speaking fee.

Anyways, on to the money quote:

Asked if he would accept a Nobel prize himself if selected, Taleb is uncharacteristically hesitant. People might think he had sold out, he worries. But he concludes: "If it would help society that I got something like that, I probably would."

Yes, for the good of society, of course.

Like rats from a ...

Sorry for the cliche. But first Larry, and now Rahm. Even the talking heads on NPR this morning allowed as how Rahm might be thinking he'd be out of a job anyway in two years -- and the understrapper of a President without a legislature, in that many months, they might have added, but didn't.

It'll be nice to see the last of Rahm. Supposedly he's going to run for mayor of Chicago. It's hard for me to believe that the good people of that bloody-minded city won't hand him his tutu on a platter. It's still very much a machine town. But it's been years since I lived there, and who knows, maybe he's got the thing... choreographed.

October 2, 2010

Gratuitous Lockdown Syndrome

From suicidal ideation to...

The man's family was escorted from the home, neighbors were also evacuated and a nearby elementary school was put on lockdown.

Police eventually went into the home and detained the man about 7 p.m.

Are there any non-hysterical police left in the country? They sent a SWAT team to cope with a guy having a bad day. From there, they disrupted hundreds of people's lives. Then, and only then, they decided it might be a good idea to talk to him. I'd write it off as Phoenix, where grandiosity competes with paranoia and real estate fraud. But this is a national phenomenon.

October 3, 2010

The Infantile State

The mindset of the US government closely resembles the mindset of a spoiled rotten hipster in the throes of an "ironic" behavioral episode. Destructive, socially autistic, reactive and defiant when confronted and given to morbid self pity. Like the hipster, the USG is also capable of a dim, vague awareness that somehow things are not going the way they're supposed to. And it gets lonely, bless its heart. So it reaches out in what is supposed to look like a gesture of responsible adult concern.

The US State Department issued a travel alert Sunday to urge Americans traveling to Europe to use caution and vigilance in the wake of a terrorist plot uncovered last week to attack major European cities.

The warning has the same utility as hipster concern. The premises are dubious. It's vacuous, irritating and useless. Caution and vigilance are fine qualities, but in practical terms, what are the travelers supposed to do? They're unlikely to encounter anything more threatening than a tourist scam. If, by some cosmic joke, they do come across a group of terrorists—real ones, not the kind who set their underpants on fire—their best bet is to go back to their hotels and tell the desk clerk what they've seen.

The warning is fatuously exculpatory. Hipsters who attempt their performance art through e.g. arson may, when the fire finally takes, become worried that someone will get hurt. Not because it's bad to burn people, but because no one understands the creative impulse. But it wouldn't do to give helpful specifics. That's a bad road to travel. It leads to trouble. So rather than saying they set a fire at 275 North Henderson Boulevard, they advise people to avoid the east coast. Can't say you weren't warned, dude.

Finally, it's the set up for the next "ironic" behavioral episode. Hipster performance art involves the audience, whether the audience likes it or not. Their reaction is the art. Don't ask me to explain. It's not explicable. It's "ironic". However, there's a key difference. No one takes the hipster seriously and the hipster lacks the means to blow up the planet.

Maybe that explains the appeal of the Obama regime to the "creative class". The crude, punchbowl-shitting of the Bush regime lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. There was no Pabst Blue Ribbon, and therefore no way to identify with the performance. But when one of their own holds the nukes...

Decency Today

There's nothing quite like the moral seriousness of the Decent Left. They have an administration that's completely uninterested in addressing their concerns. The Obama regime has made that disinterest clear, time and again. Obama and his flunkies berate and ridicule them, and of course the regime continues to pursue policies guaranteed to make it impossible to remediate actual, really existing problems.

So what does Decency do? Needless to say, they do the most useless thing possible. They tune in to the wingnut dog whistle and stage themselves a Condemn-a-thon, with a funny video as the target of their outrage. The wingnuts respond with the usual, their special blend of hysterics and sanctimony. This inflames the Decent Left so much, and to such a fever pitch, that they feel forced to accuse the wingnuts of hypocrisy.

This is why I pray, every night, that nothing I do ever becomes popular with the Decents. I have enough problems without adding the grim, dragging weight of their moral seriousness.

October 4, 2010

A Laputan Lullaby

The Globe and Mail recently ran a good piece on the Drone War in Pakistan:

The same President who pulled combat troops from Iraq, and promises to start reducing forces in Afghanistan next year, appears to view Hellfire missiles as the best alternative to soldiers. Drone strikes have quadrupled during his term, and the military plans to double production of drones next year.


If drones are the future, Pakistan’s tribal areas offer a look ahead at the dystopia that emerges when mechanical hunters drift overhead.

It’s a dark and confusing picture, making it hard to say whether the missile strikes reduce, or increase, the number of terrorists.

People who sleep under the buzzing of the drones say it’s hard to settle down for the night, listening to the sound of armed machines nearby.

Muhammad Amad, executive director of Idea, an aid group that works in the tribal areas, was telling a visitor that the drones are counterproductive because they stir up local anger, when he was interrupted by one of his local staffers from Waziristan, interjecting in broken English: “Mental torture,” said the bearded man, with sun-weathered skin. He repeated himself, struggling to enunciate: “Mental torture.”

“Yes, it’s mental torture,” Mr. Amad said. “When we lie down under the noise of the drones, nobody sleeps.”

Several people from the tribal areas said the same thing. Sleeping pills and anti-depressants have become a regular part of the diet, they said, even in poor villages where few people can afford meat.

“They come here with headaches, insomnia, anxiety,” Dr. Shafique said. “They lie down at night and they don’t know if they will get up again. Especially at night, they are seized with anxiety.”

The doctor paused as a Pakistani fighter jet thundered past, so loud that it set off car alarms in the street. Drones are not the only thing that can kill you in the tribal areas, but Dr. Shafique said their omnipresence gets under your skin.

“I understand the U.S. has a job to do, but this 24-hour buzzing in the sky gives people a fear that’s worse than dying,” he said.

That sounds delightful.

How long can it possibly be until we get the civilian version? An LAPD procurement committee has probably already ordered a few Protector drones, the premier platform for the deployment of 21st century law enforcement systems like the LRAD acoustic torture machine, the Raytheon ADS skin-microwaving device, and if current research proves fruitful, a heat ray that lights people on fire.

Marchons, marchons, marchons, marchons....

After happily committing to blowing off that thinly-disguised Donkeycratic GOTV rally, I ended up letting my comrades in the Town Hell Posse talk me into coming out with them to shoot it with the idea of putting together a nasty, sarcastic music video to the tune of the Dead Kennedys' "Holiday In Cambodia".

Jeezus, what a fucking mistake. This was, without a doubt, the dullest demonstration ever held in DC -- and I mean the Dullest. Demonstration. EVER. Even inasmuch as my pals warned me what I was letting myself in for, it was still a soul-crushingly wretched scene in its own way even worse than Beckapalooza was in August. No street theater, no puppets, no militant pizazz, no civil disobediences, no genuine sentiment, just a bunch of goddamn' liberals waving mass-printed placards. I chose to cover the immigrants' rally and feeder march because 1)it was at the Capitol, five minutes' walk from my house, and 2)the immigrants' protests have always been better because they all come from countries where they really know how to throw a protest. Huh, some fuckin' hope. The immigrants' rally was totally overrun by SEIU jerks still proudly wearing their goddamn' purple Obama '08 jackets -- and featuring Al Sharpton, to boot. Augggh, Reverend Fucking Al, The Cosmic Media Attention-Sucking Vortex, spouting his standard-issue faux militant boilerplate. It was all downhill from there.

(For example, The bubbly young thing in the clip above is a great favorite of Father Smiff's, Sara Haile-Mariam, captured in full burble, which will give you some idea of the tone of the event.)

I arrived at the Lincoln Memorial just in time to hear some guy yelling about how "we can't let Obama fail," or some godawful shit, and I knew then that I was in for a long, hard afternoon.

This Kool-Aid tripper was followed by a bunch of students taking turns reciting pieces of King's "I Have A Dream" speech as if they were in some kind of school Christmas pageant, followed by MSNBC's Ed "I Know No-THING" Schultz who bellowed his usual partisan line of bullshit at the top of his goddamn' lungs. You don't know scary until you see that windbag Schultz yelling at you from a goddamn' Jumbotron.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot to mention the Jumbotrons -- lots of fucking Jumbotrons. Yeah, nothing says bottom-up, grassroots peoples' mobilization like a fistful of Jumbotrons.

After I finished having the skin peeled off my face by Ed Schultz's blustering, I decided I just couldn't take any more and headed back to the Washington Monument snack bar for a hot dog and a beer or three.

Normally, I just couldn't see paying three and a half bucks for a goddamn' Budweiser, but after witnessing that weak-assed spectacle I was more than happy for a few overpriced Buds to help me recover.

It wasn't until I met up with the rest of the Posse and headed back to my house to review the footage that the true wretchedness of what I'd just endured really set in.

I only shot about half an hour of tape that afternoon because I knew I wouldn't be able to stand looking at it again. Boy, was I right. The more deathly dull footage I saw rolling by, the more I realized that here was five hours of my life I'll never get back again, and found myself wishing I'd just stayed home and made a start on painting the living room, like my wife's been begging me to do.

The sleep of reason

Awhile back. Monsignior Smiff suggested to us that reasonable folks are the really dangerous ones -- much more than the ineffective or barmy ones.

I researched this point by a quick review of two nearly simultaneous takes on nuclear war from the the edge time between the Camelot and feedlot mid-60's, namely Dr Strangelove and Fail-safe, and I'm forced to agree with him.

Henry Fonda in Fail-safe is much the most frightful figure in either movie, acing Sellers' Prez and Sellers' doc with the greatest of ease.

October 5, 2010

Sing coup, coup

A hit on this guy? Whose call? Is the white-hat imperator Barry O'Bummer playing more hardball south of the border? Or is this a case of local initiative by Uncle's spooks?

The Comic Genius Of Yggie Wiggles

Ethan found another gem.

According to my calculation, if we were to cut America’s $663.8 billion defense budget by 1%, that would free up enough funds to double the budget of the FBI. Doesn’t it seem like that would probably, on net, reduce the risk of Americans dying in a terrorist attack? And in the meantime we might catch some more bank robbers or other banal threats to public safety.

I think I can help with this.

First off, the FBI agents are hopelessly unqualified to do anything related to their putative remit. They're too stupid to cheat properly. They raid harmless activists—activists who are working to reduce terrorism. The FBI is famous for harassing and firing agents who take the putative remit seriously. So giving them more money is a bad idea. It's an incredibly stupid thing to do. If the point is to do something nutty, then the money would be better spent on steam-powered meatloaf slicers.

Second, cutting the war budget doesn't free up funds. The funding for anything, good and bad, is not a zero sum thing. The steam-powered meatloaf slicers could be ours, today, without foregoing a single Predator drone strike or kangaroo court trial for children that have been tortured into a false confession.

Third, the notional military budget is a fraction of the money spent pursuing militarism. Much of the funding for it is left out of the national accounting, on the principle that gaseous propriety is an excellent substitute for serious consideration of national priorities.

Fourth, and last, as Ethan observes, bank robbers are arguably doing God's work. We should be funding the expropriation of the banksters and retraining them in the honest skills of building and operating steam-powered meatloaf slicers. Money spent on their protection is a very bad idea, easily as counterproductive as giving it to the FBI.

Subjunctive crime

So the Times Square fizzlebomber has been sentenced -- prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, with the able assistance of the head of the FBI's New York office, Janice K. Fedarcyk, and finally sent away, with the usual solemn admonitions to reflection and penitence, by U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, who appears to be an educator manqué. Ah, the gorgeous mosaic.

Maybe he'll he get the Underpants Bomber as a cellmate. Wouldn't those conversations be interesting to overhear?

Full disclosure: I hoped the Times Square exploit might at least clear the wretched tourists out of that godforsaken patch of ground. It doesn't seem to have worked. The tourists appear unimpressed with the deadly terr'rist peril. Not for want of trying by the cops:

Prosecutors introduced a dramatic videotape of an FBI-staged explosion in a Pennsylvania field that they said demonstrated how deadly Shahzad's bomb could have been.

The FBI's car bomb — a 1993 Pathfinder fitted with 250 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and diesel fuel, three 25-pound propane tanks and two five-gallon gasoline canisters — blew up with a force that ripped the sport utility vehicle in half.

The explosion caused a giant fireball that overturned and shredded four other cars parked nearby, obliterated about a dozen dummies and shot fiery debris hundreds of feet in all directions.

Your tax dollars at work!

Back to the future

Old warhorse Bob Gordon, sachem of the all-too-numerous Gordon clan of academical economists(*), has reached forecasting conclusions tinctured with a protracted gloom even beyond the fondest fantasy of our claque of poison-pond pwogs.

According the Bloomsberry Bugle, ole Sawmill Bob predicts that

"Between 2007 and 2027, gross domestic product per capita will grow at the slowest pace of any 20-year period in U.S. history, going back to George Washington's presidency....

His prediction is based on several strands of existing research on workforce demographics, educational attainment, and technological change. His contribution has been to pull the strands together and draw the logical conclusion...

Based on research he published earlier this year, GDP per capita in the U.S. grew at a robust 2.44 percent annual rate from 1928 to 1972. That slowed to 1.93 percent from 1972 to 2007 and is likely to slow further, to 1.5 percent from 2007 to 2027. At that rate, GDP per capita would increase by a total of 35 percent by 2027. That's far short of the 62 percent that it would grow if the 1928-1972 pace of growth had continued, or the 47 percent increase if the 1972-2007 pace had continued."

Twenty years of pooped-out capitalism. Wowsah.

What must lesser-evil social dembots like Henwood Doug make of this? A new depth to dismal-science eschatology -- not a roaring cataclysmic convulsion, not a final conflict, just a slow dimming of the fires of enterprise, a bathetic anti-Byronic time-lapse swoon, a heat death.


(*)The robustly self-promoting Gordons are the Newman family of econ-cons, not in any even remotely plausible sense the Bernoulli family.

October 6, 2010

Great minds, same channels, etc.

My palaeocon pals over at antiwar.com seem to share some of my own suspicions about Obie's recent Palmer Raids:

Four of the antiwar activists who were subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury will refuse to appear, according to their attorneys. The group includes a number of the antiwar activists whose homes were raided on September 24.

...The open-ended detention of the activists could ... strengthen the belief that the operation is designed primarily to intimidate the likely organizers of antiwar protests against President Obama at the 2012 DNC.


Courtesy of Mike F:

Pretty good, huh?

Of course I couldn't help noticing the sinister phrase "harness the potential of every American" right at the beginning. This notion of people as some kind of raw material or industrial feedstock is so universally accepted that nobody realizes how grotesque it is.

A joy forever

I'm pleased, I guess, to see that Comrade IOZ has taken to tossing around a favorite medicine-ball of my own, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, shown above in an exceptionally unflattering photo.

Melissa certainly deserves a large and diverse non-fan base, and spews far more nonsense daily, hourly, and on a mass scale than I could possibly keep up with.

But I'm a little jealous too. The relationship doesn't seem so... special, now.

Mad doctors

Not really a topic for this blog, except insofar as it offers some insight into the ways in which manifest pseudo-science, supported on the public teat, is a vital part of the ideological apparatus. An old pal recently passed this along to me:

New Study Identifies Risk Factors That Lead to Bicycling Injuries in City Traffic The streets of New York City can be dangerous for bicyclists, but they can be especially risky for young adult male bicyclists who don’t wear helmets, have too much to drink, or are listening to music through earphones, a group of investigators from New York City’s Bellevue Hospital reported ....

This study [was] commissioned by the State of New York....

Danger, Will Robinson!
87 percent were men and 96 percent were over age 18; 13 percent were intoxicated; five percent were listening to music. Despite helmet laws, only 24 percent of the injured bicyclists were wearing helmets.
Well, when the State of New York pays you to come up with some numbers, you come up with some numbers. Never mind that the numbers are meaningless.

The problem, of course, is the missing denominator. The Nine Doctors who signed this brain- dead document report that 13% of injured cyclists in New York are listening to music.

Well, that's nice to know. But it tells you nothing about music as a risk factor(*).

If 13% of the cyclists who made it home safe and sound were also listening to music, then music isn't a risk factor at all. If 20% of the safe and sound cyclists were listening to music, then music makes you safer.

You see the problem? 87% of injured cyclists were male? Well, what percentage of cyclists in general are male? 80%? 90%? Without knowing these background numbers, the stats which the long-suffering taxpayers of New York paid these Dr Feelbads to accumulate are, bluntly, dogshit. They mean nothing. Less than nothing; they darken counsel by words without wisdom, as Jehovah observed in one of His testy moments.

There are a few cases where the denominator actually is provided, and the conclusions are, shall we say, unsurprising:

New York City mandates helmets on all working cyclists—the latter typified by the bicycle delivery persons weaving through Midtown traffic. Forty-one percent of the study subjects sustained injuries on the job, but only about one-third of those working cyclists (32 percent) were wearing helmets. “I don’t think the New York City laws are being enforced,” Dr. Frangos said.
Well, duuhh. We could all tell the good Doctor about a number of other laws that aren't being enforced, some of them rather consequential -- when, I wonder, was the last time a New York cop wrote a driver a ticket for failure to yield to a pedestrian? Much less a cyclist?

Frangos' conclusion is accurate though banal; note however that his stats say nothing about the efficacy of helmets, or about "risk factors." He's just discovered the stop-the-presses news that New York cops don't "enforce" Mickey Mouse laws like the one about helmets; rather, they use these law to harass people they don't like.

Some results have a certain, no doubt unintended, drollery:

Eighteen percent of the injured cyclists were using a bike lane and 17 percent collided with a vehicle door.
Hmmm. Same number, roughly. Maybe bike lanes are a risk factor? Maybe they put you in the Door Zone? Why... why... Stop the striping!
The investigators [are] seeking a state grant that would have practitioners speak to community groups to reinforce bicycle safety measures and prevent further traumatic injuries to bicyclists.
I bet they are seeking yet another grant, extracted from my pocket, for dogshit science, and I bet they get it. Propaganda is always well-funded by the public purse.
Coauthors with Drs. Frangos and Ayoung-Chee are George Foltin, MD; Ronald J. Simon, MD, FACS; Deborah Levine, MD; Omar Bholat, MD, FACS; Dekeya Slaughter-Larkem; Steven S. Schumacher, MD, FACS; and H. Leon Pachter, MD, FACS.
Dr Slaughter? Please. Too good to be true. But I wouldn't go to any of these doctors -- not Pachter, not Foltin, not even Ayoung-Chee -- for a runny nose. I don't know what they teach in med school these days, but clearly, elementary arithmetic is no longer required.


(*) Now, if they were listening to Vivaldi....

October 9, 2010

One nation, jerking together

Latest from our friend Mike Flugennock.

Property is theft


"America's Union", SEIU won a big representation fight at health services giant Kaiser-Permanente: 18,290 votes for SEIU (61 percent) to 11,364 for the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) (38 percent).

Bad news for progressive unionism? Most reports from the left say so, but we'll need to see what happens next.

The loser, feisty independent NUHW, took a near two-to-one beating. Was this microscopic outfit of former SEIU cadre simply outgunned? Probably. But at least in part, the problem lay elsewhere.

Despite many enemies among the college of labor organizations, thanks to both the success and ruthlessness of ex-SEIU purple duce Jimminy Stern, it seems SEIU leverage managed to cut off both major sources of funds and human resources for bootstrap op NUHW. The nurses' union and after them, the the hotel workers, both dove into this fight against SEIU, but then both, as part of comprehensive national settlements of outstanding jurisdiction disputes, agreed to get out and stay out of SEIU's fight with NUHW.

Not a very encouraging start to any new era of broadly-based contested representation. The ruling paradigm remains exclusive franchising, enforced collectively by the ad hoc invisible confederacy of business unions.

The union chieftains appear to still dream of reconstituting the George Meany era, even as this squalid collaborative paradigm, after 30-plus years of total war by their limited liability counterparts, finds former "big" unionism with nothing but pathetic scraps of membership, bankrupt treasuries and contemptuous laughter from the boardrooms of corporate America.

If I were the NUHW crowd, I'd use the present base inside Kaiser to push for multi-union "company" recognition under other provisions of the National Labor Relations act in the upcoming contract negotiations. Exclusive rep contracts are not the only legal form of collective rep contract. Even with the checkered history of right-to-work laws to the contrary, the legal reality has always left other options open.

The stark motivation behind striving for an exclusive rep pattern is simple and sensible enough: involuntary dues collection from all members of a bargaining unit. That explains the exclusive pursuit by all "real" unions of exclusivity.

I hardly need add: much needs to be discussed here....

October 14, 2010

Obie channels Snidely Whipsnade

To foreclose, or not to foreclose? That appears to be something of a banksters' dilemma, and therefore, of course, the banksters' wholly-owned President's dilemma, as well. On the one hand:

Obama resists call to halt foreclosures nationwide

As all 50 states escalate efforts to quell a rising tide of foreclosures, one prominent figure is resisting calls for the federal government to do more: President Obama.... Top White House officials worry that imposing a national moratorium on foreclosures would backfire by driving down prices even more, delaying the real estate shakeout and potentially creating more foreclosures as additional homeowners find themselves underwater.

But on the other hand:
Approximately 11.5 million U.S. home mortgages are in danger of foreclosure, or about 20% of outstanding mortgages. Foreclosures anywhere near that total would be devastating to the economy and society in general.... Foreclosure is the worst-possible outcome for everyone - the financial system, homeowners and their local communities.
Now I love to see the banksters in a dilemma. A foreclosure moratorium might drive down prices(*). But a foreclosure wave might also drive down prices. Either way, prices seem to be going down. Hooray.

(I may have said this before, but it always has seemed very puzzling to me that housing is the only commodity whose price everybody wants to go up. Usually we're pleased when prices go down. I certainly wish Chateau Haut Brion cost a lot less than it does.)

A massive wave of foreclosures wouldn't bother me at all, which no doubt seems terribly heartless; but as I have written at length, mass "home" "ownership" -- which of course means mortgage slavery -- is surely one of the greatest triumphs of reactionary obfuscation, stultification, and social control ever devised. If a foreclosure wave drives house prices into negative numbers, well all the better; and if it turns out to be bad for "the financial system," not to mention that mythical beast, "the economy" -- what fun.

But of course the banksters, like all corporate honchos, hate to be told what to do and what not to do, even if the substantive effect of what they're being told to do might be in their interest. Back in the day, they hated being told they had to hire black folks and women, though they quickly realized that "diversity" worked in their favor.

But there's no doubt in Obie's mind what to do. He's going to do what they want, no matter whether it's good for them, or bad for them, and certainly without regard to anybody else. Including his own electoral prospects; it seems pretty clear that among the certain casualties of a foreclosure wave would be Obie's second term -- admittedly, an increasing hypothetical entity in any case.


(*) By the way: how, exactly, does a fall in prices "delay the shakeout"? Surely driving down prices is what the "shakeout" consists of?


Kevin Zeese wants to stop corporate masked political messaging by lawsuit, because "big business interests are using non-profit front groups to hide their donations in an effort to dominate the elections anonymously."

Seems the corporations don't want to insight us, eh?

He then goes on to make this point: "concentrated corporate power is the central issue creating dysfunction in government."

Example: "Concentrated corporate power prevented a real solution to the health care crisis in America because the insurance, pharmaceutical and for-profit hospitals would not allow real reform."

I note "for profit" used here as if nonprofit hospitals aren't part of the problem, or AMA doctors, or or or....

If you over-focus on the for-profit corporate form you miss the full thrust of these interested parties, whether it's hospitals or universities or churches or professional associations. These huge nonprofit formations are as surely enemies of the interests of us common people as any Wall Street private equity fund.

Even if we someday get single-payer, even if we purge "for-profit corporates" out of the health services industry entirely, the remaining interested parties will fight like hell to retain their advantages, whether they form up as for-profit corporations or remain as pristine, as free of private profit motives, as, well... the Roman Catholic hierarchy!

October 17, 2010

The Magic of Framing

The answer to Enlightenment-loving progressive woes won't be found in psychology, better marketing or firmer asseveration of values. The notional environmental values are widely shared. Already. They got that way without the Lakoffian framing and the analyst's couch. The transition from values to national policy has been a dismal failure. This, in spite of a general acceptance. That acceptance takes the form of generous volunteering, individual initiative, group initiative, local policy, charitable giving and willingness to accept additional expense. Yet policy doesn't follow. How could that be?

I'm a bit reluctant to invoke the Enlightenment, given the kicking the poor thing has taken, but there's a reason for this failure. It's a knowable thing. There's a process of inquiry. The components of the failure can be studied. They could, theoretically, be remedied too.

It might reward to take a look at elite progressives' conduct. Do they actually support the values in any real sense? Does their marketing translate into actions consistent with the expressed values? Is the political leadership accountable to the mass of voters? Do the voters have a ready means of requiring compliance from their leaders? Does the second tier leadership spend its energy on frivolous backbiting? For example, when the corporate code orange enthusiasts start shrieking, does the second tier join the chorus? Further examples are readily available.

To the belabor the point a little, progressive "defenders" of the Enlightenment might wish to use some of its tools.

Anarchy in the blogosphere

I hold a pretty dim view of anarchism. I've always thought of it as a silly, juvenile sort of rhetorical posture. Given that a few of the commenters here and bloggers that I enjoy consider themselves to be anarchists, I thought that it might be worthwhile to see if I'm wrong about anarchism.

Since it is difficult to find any central text that all anarchists agree upon, I'm just going to start with a very basic anarchist view as found in IOZ's tagline:

"you're nuts if you think you can up and change a society like that, or from that. that's the whole fucking point, man. that's the whole gist of this blog, man: let people alone. permit everything. approve nothing. I can see how some of this might be confusing for some of ya'll. . .because I mean, the laws were there and they were bad to begin with. . .and we must never have such bad laws. . .therefore we must have better, more equitable, less racist laws? WHY DON'T YOU STOP ENFORCING STUPID FUCKING SHIT? how about that? why is that not the simplest and best argument? ENFORCE NOTHING. JUST FUCKING STOP. it actually is that breathtakingly simple. "

Is it really that simple? Are laws against murder "STUPID FUCKING SHIT", or could this argument itself just be a pile of deluded horse shit?

Yes, the state murders people too, and yes, the state doesn't prevent murder, but at least it has some deterrent effect and provides a means of stopping murderers from continuing to kill people.

The anarchist solutions to the problem of murder that I have seen are not very convincing. They range from ad hoc vigilante justice, to 'we can just sit down and talk it out', to 'well there just wouldn't be much murder when people are no longer under state oppression'.

I really have to wonder though: have any of these anarchists ever had any remotely personal experience with murderers? Y'know, bona fide psychopaths? I have. There are bad people out there who kill people for nothing, slowly and torturously, in front of many other people, without being stopped by the onlookers, and who would do it again without a second thought. If the guy in question were not serving life in prison, there's not a bit of doubt in my mind that he would have killed more people. I would not care to live in a society where there is no mechanism for stopping such a person, and I haven't seen any remotely plausible anarchist solution to this problem or similar ones related to spousal abuse or child abuse.

Let's look at another function of government: regulation. What would take the place of the FDA? Do anarchists agree with Greenspan that the market would magically take care of poisonous toys, dangerous medicines, and various other safety issues? How?

In general, the anarchist position strikes me as similar to that of a person who is feels fine because they have been taking medication for a long time, thinks that the only effects of the medication are the negative side effects, and therefore wants to stop taking it.

Sorry if I'm attacking strawmen here, or if I'm missing some key arguments. I'm admittedly not very familiar with the corpus of anarchist thought, and I'd like to hear some arguments in favour from those who are.

October 18, 2010

Play it again, Sam

Nerf-Stalinist Uber-commissar Sam Webb of the dear old CPUSA -- yes, somebody still has the letterhead -- responds to people like us:

"Some voters on our side of the struggle are taking a powder on the elections. They claim that President Obama raised their hopes as a candidate and let them down as a president. They expected bold action on the economic crisis, but it didn't happen. The stimulus didn't go far enough. Ditto for health care legislation.

The scale and pace of change has been too slow. Too many people are out of work, out of affordable health care, and out of their homes. Meanwhile, their riff goes, bloodletting continues in Afghanistan, corporations are sitting on nearly $2 trillion of idle money, profits are up, inequality is growing, and tax cuts for the wealthy are draining our treasury and driving up the national deficit."

Seems Sam's in the same basic reality frame we're in, eh? Apart from that fatuous deficit-hawkery, of course, which sounds mighty strange in a Commie's mouth.

But dang, then comes this nerfy stuff:

"The question is: is it enough to stay home? I say no for three reasons."

To begin with the most obvious, the elections' impact on people's lives. Even though the size of the stimulus was inadequate and a public option was missing in the new health care law, both bills bring a measure of relief to millions of people. And as a friend of mine keeps reminding me, it may make only an inch of difference, but a lot of people live on that inch."

So big Sam concludes that hypomeliorism -- that marginal inch -- is worth going to the polls for! Because:
"that inch of difference (things like unemployment insurance extensions, food stamps, relief for local and state governments, modest jobs and infrastructure programs, readjustment of tax policy in favor of working people, funding for education, a real fight over military appropriations for Afghanistan) will probably vanish -- along with hope for more far-reaching measures. Furthermore, "austerity" will become the watchword, the pressures to weaken Social Security and Medicare will grow, and the economic pain for working people is likely to get much worse."
Ain't that reason enough for you bloody rag-wavers! But there's more reasons that comes the little people's way, should the ballot box take a wrong turn at the upcoming intersection. Call it a one-way ticket to Doomsville:
".. A Republican victory at the polls on Nov. 2-defined as winning a majority of seats in the House-would be the opening act of a horror show, culminating in the Republican right reclaiming full dominance of Congress and the White House in 2012."
Jeeez, Louise. So we lose that inch, Sam. Ohbummer is the sine-qua-non Atlas able to hold on to our marginal inch?

No; there comes more quantity-morphs-into-quality:

"For the far right, electoral success in the current elections and then in 2012 is the eye of the needle through which it must pass in order to radically transform the country to the advantage of the most reactionary section of monopoly capital and its allies."
Yikes! The Far Right, Sam! The honest-to-Benito far right!

[Stop snickering, Paine.]

"The claim that the two parties of capitalism are indistinguishable is a fool's notion..."
And if you want more reasons, here's reason three:
"A Republican victory this fall will not simply weaken the president and his party, but likely demoralize and take the wind out of the sails of the loose coalition that emerged in 2008 and after a post-election hiatus is finding its stride again, as evidenced by the Oct. 2 rally in the nation's capital."
"The nation's capital"? This is a Commie talking? Commies have fallen on hard times, it appears.
"People act on the basis of their feelings. The mobilization of people in the post-election period will become more difficult."
That ends the body of the piece; but then, as a mopping-up operation, big Sam turns on us malcontents!
"Of course, some people are so deeply cynical that nothing could persuade them to vote.Then there are a few others who will sit these elections out for ideological reasons. They argue that participation in the two-party system spreads illusions about the Democratic Party, delaying the formation of an anti-capitalist alternative."
Here's what we come across as through the nerf-Stalinist inverted telescope:
"In their view, the elections are simply a contest between two parties with no differences of any importance; thus, it makes little, if any, difference who wins-Bush or Gore, Bush or Kerry, McCain or Obama, candidates of the right or candidates of the center and left of center."
Yup, that about gets it, Sam.
"Any even temporary and tactical alliance with the Democratic Party-well, it's worse than the plague, to be avoided at all costs. Support for a Democratic candidate as a "lesser evil" is tantamount to craven political bankruptcy and opportunism.

What is to be done? It's simple, say the advocates of this point of view: make a "strategic break" with the two-party system."

"But there is an oh-so slight hitch that serious progressive and left-thinking people can't afford to overlook. A "strategic break" makes sense only if millions of people and their organizations are ready to march out of the Democratic Party into a labor/people-based political party, but guess what? They aren't...

The rise of right-wing extremism reinforces this sentiment. Broad unity, not division, not attacking people's leaders as the "super leftists" love to do (they see these leaders as the main reason that people stay put in the Democratic Party -- how simple-minded) is the blood that flows through the veins of the people's movement at this moment."

The Popular Front, New Deal II version! When New Deal II is more like New Deal divided by two.

But I'll give this avuncular chief geef his due. Comes now the latest russet sage of Union Square at full throttle:

"Politics is a contested, complex, and impure process. There are waves and breaks -- progressive and reactionary -- in continuity to be sure, but in between there are longer periods in which the struggle doesn't soar to new heights or sink to new depths, but still is consequential to the breaks that do come. In 2008, politics, economics and mass thinking became unhinged from their old moorings and a political turn, albeit partial, occurred. Since then the completion of this turn has become a more protracted and difficult process than many, including myself, thought."
There's always next year, eh, Sam?

Finale rally line:

"The elections in less than three weeks, for good or bad, will mark a new phase in this process. No one with an iota of common sense will sit it out. Shoot yourself in the foot if you like, but don't do it on Nov. 2 because the buckshot will hit the rest of us!"
Really, this is the sort of thing that makes one look back on the Gus Hall days with a certain nostalgia. Monosyllabically-named Sam makes monosyllabically-named Gus look like a world-historical thinker.

October 19, 2010

Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!


I cannot begin to tell you how deeply I desire to possess this set of Nazi figurines. I would play with them obsessively by the hour. We could have rallies with architectural searchlights (using small LED flashlights for the purpose). We could annex Austria and invade Poland and France and generally tear up the pea patch. We'd leave the Jews alone this time, of course -- that was always the un-cool thing about the Nazis. Strange, because the uniforms were so consummately cool, not to mention the helmets and the Panzer tanks and that irresistible salute.... Where'd that creepy nerdy kink about the Jews come from?

All preadolescent boys love the Nazis, and the preadolescent boy continues to lurk within the grave old man's mind, as the reptile brain survives beneath the neocortex. Seeing these figurines called that old preadolescent boy right up out of my vasty deeps, as fresh and feisty as he ever was.

The figurines form part of an exhibit in Berlin of Nazi memorabilia, which as the New York Times solemnly observes, "explores a wider circle of guilt". In fact, if the Times is to be believed -- admittedly, a stretch -- it posits collective guilt; something strangely like the collective guilt for the Crucifixion that used to be laid at the door of the Jews.

The Times clearly loved this idea of collective German guilt, and oddly, so do many Germans. One of the most disquieting things about contemporary bien-pensant liberal Germans is their voluptuous delight in self-flagellation over their granddads' dirty deeds.

The show focuses on the society that nurtured and empowered [Hitler]. It is not the first time historians have argued that Hitler did not corral the Germans as much as the Germans elevated Hitler. But one curator said the message was arguably more vital for Germany now than at any time in the past six decades, as rising nationalism, more open hostility to immigrants and a generational disconnect from the events of the Nazi era have older Germans concerned about repeating the past.

“The only hope for stopping extremists is to isolate them from society so that they are separated, so they do not have a relationship with the bourgeoisie and the other classes,” Mr. Thamer [the curator] said. “The Nazis were members of high society. This was the dangerous moment.

“This we have to avoid from happening.”

There's some very interesting dissection, of delicate and intricate psycho-anatomy, to be done here. One thing that comes rather quickly to mind is that these same beautiful-souled German penitentes are for the most part thoroughly down with one of the most Nazi-like states in the world today -- I mean Israel, of course. The lessons of history seem to be rather restricted in their application; and perhaps the Germans' inner Nazi has really been no better exorcized than my inner preadolescent.

The ritualistic beating of a long-dead horse no doubt serves many purposes. Perhaps most importantly, it shows that you are a Good Person. And it also costs nothing. It's a bit like waving the poor chicken over your head to avert the vengeance of a very appropriately indignant Jehovah.

Don't get me wrong here. I greatly approve of penitential rituals, and the more earthy and primitive they are, the better I like 'em. I was debarred by accident of birth from the chicken-swinging, but I well remember the gritty ashes on the forehead that my landsmen get once a year. It's only meet and right that we should be reminded every so often that we're all more or less fuckups,

But the danger comes when we think that because we've done the ritual, we're now OK. We've taken a shower, and now we're clean. Deploring the Nazis is a lot like swinging a chicken who's got so many sins of his own that he can't very well absorb ours.


What you mean 'we', paleface?

Have I mentioned that I'm on the DSCC's mailing list? It's become increasingly frantic of late. Two or three times a day I get a desperate appeal for money from these whores -- and don't even have a BJ to show for it.

The latest one amused me. This is faithfully reproduced, every jot and tittle and uppercase and lowercase:

breaking: brand new poll out of PA has Sestak ahead 46-45, erasing a 9 point deficit a few weeks ago. You gave, ads went up, and now he's surging at just the right time – 14 days out.

Latest polls show there are 9 races within 2 percentage points – dead heats. PA, WA, CT and IL prove we can pull ahead when we have enough resources. But time is running out.

I just told J.B. that we need $66K by midnight tonight. That means we need 1,100 people to help, now. Tomorrow might be too late.

Can you give ten bucks? Whatever you give will be matched.

We can win this.

This is really a fanbase communication, isn't it? Who the hell is J.B.? We're breathless to hear poll results from someplace called PA -- and desperate to see that somebody named Sestak might be drawing even with his nameless twin on the other side of the duopoly. And it's all so urgent we can't be bothered with pronouns or the shift key.

(As it happens, I know who Sestak is; he once made my flesh creep.)

Really, it makes me want to find out who Sestak's opponent is and send him ten bucks, just to make J.B.'s head explode.

Allons, enfants de la Patrie

"No to reform!"

Is that a great slogan, or what?

God, I love the French.

I know Owen doesn't feel the same way. But how pleased would Owen and I both be if we Amurricans were kicking up this kind of fuss?

October 21, 2010

The Great Unteachables

Distant Ocean has the goods.

A serious effort to teach lessons presupposes an ability to learn. Incorrigibly stupid people can't learn. Neither can solipsists, psychopaths or Democrats, who routinely manage to combine all three qualities. I wouldn't waste my time on them. A spite vote has some passing appeal, but they read every vote the way they want to, regardless of intent. In short, as a method of signaling or teaching, there's no point to voting.

There is, however, something to be said for a "third party" vote that gives Robert Parry a full blown conniption. A bit silly? Sure, but I'm not so morally vain that I'd pass. There's also a tiny chance a genuinely decent person will sneak into some office or another and, once there, do a few, small, genuinely decent things. It's a wisp, admittedly, hardly the stuff of which revolutions are made, but at the very worst a vote for a good person is a respectful gesture. The Democratic purists may wish to foul themselves and run around shrieking for attention over that, but that's what they do anyway. And if my inbox is any indication of what portends, they're winding themselves up for another irredentist tantrum. Their tantrums make the Baby Jesus cry. That's a bad thing. There's nothing I can do about it, sadly, but it's also no reason to spite my "third party" friends.

I'm almost, but not quite, tempted to vote for the Republicans. The last time they had an electoral majority, Democratic Party supporters, though not the Democrats themselves, felt obliged to offer nuisance value opposition to Cat Food Commissions, bankster-coddling and crackpot hegemony. They didn't really mean it, but some of them were panicked enough to act like grownups. That's good practice, according to the developmental enthusiasts. It can become habitual and, eventually, thoughtful. But even in a very good cause, there are limits. No matter how much I'd like to see grownup Democratic Party supporters, I can't stomach the aggrieved triumphalism of Republicans. Where it's possible, I'll hug a meliorist instead.

Brand Defamation

Fox News media personality Juan Williams was fired from his NPR gig for brand defamation. The maintenance of NPR's brand is a vital corporate interest. Transparent bigotry hurts it. No public relations agency can tolerate spokesmen who step out of line.

Moving forward, NPR should insist on explicit "exclusivity" clauses and message discipline in its contracts. That would prevent similar debacles.

October 22, 2010

The Punishment Freaks

John Halle offered some thoughtful responses to Robert Parry.

The partisan obsession with punishment continues. So it's worth taking a quick look at recent history, starting with ACORN's fate. The organization was targeted with a "sting" video by a wingnut impresario who enjoyed dressing up as a pimp. The Democrats took it at face value and voted to defund ACORN. The sanctimony ran thick and heavy until, unsurprisingly, it turned out that the video was a fake. Then they wanted the whole affair to go away. But only after they flew off the handle and punished one of their best supporters.

In fact, the agenda for the first two years of the Democratic majority has shown a greater focus on punishing the base than on enacting any of the base's cherished policies. The policies that did get enacted were laughably bad. The Democratic response to the dismay created by them was to hector and ridicule the critics; drug tests, mental hospitals, etc. Is there any reason the base should not punish the party? Punishment is entirely appropriate.


The Parry argument is that punishment will make things worse for the base. But the base is in a no-win situation already. Cooperation with the party means their punishment will come from the Democrats. Non-cooperation means it will come from the Republicans. The one thin hope is that sufficient punishment for the Democrats, now, will force better behavior from them at a future date. That's all that's left, and it's entirely the Democrats' fault.

What My Inbox Told Me

The Parry threads are getting a little bogged down, but that's no reason to stop feeding into the bogs. Or maybe it is. Was I blogging? But anyway. Parry's argument is based on what his inbox tells him. My inbox tells me many things too, e.g. I could have an enormous penis and get Christian debt relief. I don't consider this indicative of a broad trend. There might be a few debt-free Christians running around with enormous penises, but my inbox is still not a good gauge of reality. Parry's is, for some reason, and it's difficult to resist a poke or two at the resultant crackpot rationalism.

October 23, 2010


Yes, fascism. And not just any old fascism either. I'm talking about fascist fascism. The kind that runs over your foot with its Medicare scooter while the Democratic president approves raids on peace groups, while the Democratic congress retroactively legalizes foreclosure fraud, while Democratic military occupations get rebranded and expanded and disemployment becomes officially denied policy.

As bad as that sounds, and I concede it sounds dreadful, there's even more. But let's skip that and just imagine what would happen if Sarah Hitlerpalin were to resign in a petulant tantrum while attempting to manage government business. That's what she did when she was governor of Alaska. It could happen again. John "Adolf" Hitlerboehner could cook liberals in tanning machines... Mitthitler Romneyhimmler might turn Obamacare into Romneycare. Bobbyeichmann Jindalgoering could sign leases for BP to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. It goes on. Distant Ocean explains how and why. Consider that before you dismiss the threat of fascism.

It's a league game, Smokey

I've recently been accused of not knowing what anarchism is (does anyone?) and arguing against a straw man version of anarchism. This second charge is simply false. After reading some (but obviously never enough) anarchist writing, and searching out definitions of anarchism, I have to say that my arguments apply directly to "anarchism" as it is defined by Webster's and, I think that it is very safe to say, the vast, vast majority of anarchists themselves. Now there may be other forms of "anarchism", and I will attempt to deal with them momentarily, but can we put the straw man bit to rest?

I'm going to start with Kropotkin's definition for the Encyclopedia Britannica:

ANARCHISM (from the Gr. an and archos, contrary to authority), the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government - harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being. In a society developed on these lines, the voluntary associations which already now begin to cover all the fields of human activity would take a still greater extension so as to substitute themselves for the state in all its functions.

I argue that there are certain basic, defining functions of a State (monopoly on legitimate violence) that cannot be fulfilled by anything other than a State, and upon which the existence of Law is dependant. You can argue that those functions are not desirable, or are outweighed by the inherent evil of the state, or the evil of the foreseeable behaviour of any state, and although I disagree, I have to at least acknowledge that such an argument would be valid, even though it is, in my opinion, unsound.

IOZ has argued that there are certain forms of anarchism that are not subject to these "Crackpot Hobbesian" arguments about states, laws, force, legitimacy and other "pseudopractical" concerns. I might just call them "Basics of Modern Political Theory", or "Foundations of the Philosophy of Law", rather than "Crackpot Hobbesian", but hey, that's just me. Anyhow, I really don't buy it. You can't escape the issues by giving them a nasty name, or by affixing "-communitarian" or "-collectivist" to the term anarchism.

The only way other way out (besides actually making an argument in favour of a stateless society or taking some sort of natural law position) is to redefine anarchism in such a way that it is compatible with the state.

I don't think that it is possible to maintain a coherent concept of anarchism while avoiding the argument about the merits of a stateless society versus one where there is a state. One suggestion is that anarchism only advocates stateless society as an eventual goal, perhaps with some intermediate period of compromises. This only pushes the scenario into the future, and does nothing to avoid having to make an argument in favour of a stateless society vs. a stateless one. You can argue that "anarchism" is compatible with having laws and/or some sort of system that substitutes for a state, but this hardly escapes the problem if we recognize that an organization that functions as a state is just a big, bad State by another name.

You can argue, as Noam Chomsky does, that anarchism is not incompatible with the state, but is rather

an expression of the idea that the burden of proof is always on those who argue that authority and domination are necessary. They have to demonstrate, with powerful argument, that that conclusion is correct. If they cannot, then the institutions they defend should be considered illegitimate."

This would be a nice solution, if it made any sense at all as a description of anything that can plausibly be called anarchism. Unfortunately, Thomas Hobbes, Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss, Mussolini and any other person who has seen fit to give an argument justifying an authoritarian regime is probably an "anarchist" according to this definition. Would any of them object to the conditions set out by Chomsky? Would it be terribly uncharitable of me to suggest that this just doesn't work as a coherent concept of anarchism?

Another description of one form of anarchism has been supplied by IOZ :

for many of us, certainly myself, anarchism embodies a radical skepticism and cynicism that comes from a belief in the totally ineluctable reality of the oppressive state.

"radical skepticism ... that comes from a belief"

Eh? Nice turn of phrase, but how does that work, exactly? I'm dying to know. And the idea that the state is oppressive -- is that an a priori claim or an a posteriori claim? Would it be heinously, disgustingly unfair of me to suggest that this sentence is just a worthless pile of equivocating nonsense? I'd love to be proven wrong.

Does anyone have a better definition of anarchy that I have missed?

A Moment Of Unusual Clarity

The AP writes:

Health insurers flirted with Democrats, supported them with money and got what they wanted: a federal mandate that most Americans carry health care coverage. Now they're backing Republicans, hoping a GOP Congress will mean friendlier regulations.

I don't know how that one got past the editors. It's accurate, succinct and intelligent. It describes what happened, what's happening and gives a good guide to what will happen next. Heads should roll for this. But at SMBIVA, we take a kinder and gentler approach. Credit where it's due: the AP has reported the news.


"For decades, as productivity goes up, wages stagnate. The profits from increased productivity are siphoned off into the financial sector... In order to maintain the high profits drained by the financial sector, and avoid paying higher wages, one industry after another has moved its production to cheap labor countries. Profitable enterprises shut down as capital goes looking for even higher profit."
That's a line you see everywhere on the anti-neo-lib left these days: the financial sector is sucking off the value added of production corporations, so production corporations are moving production to low-wage foreign platforms.

Fine, and the piece it's from is fine too, but "how" is the important question: how does the financial sector suck off this value to start the cycle?

The literary left hasn't a clue, and I bet readers here, besides a sifted few, don't either.

Hint: it isn't by high interest rates.


My experience of applied anarchy has been pretty good, overall, and could fit tidily into "libertarian communism". That is, communal living and enterprise, with no written rules, a few unwritten rules (some of which were amusingly eccentric, such as the proper care of cast iron skillets) and contributions to the common good based loosely on 'from each, according to his ability; to each, according to his needs'. It was not robust. It depended on the moral authority people who faced a degree of external pressure I didn't understand until I was an adult. And of course it fell apart. As far as I know, that's the outcome with any non-authoritarian intentional community.

Building and maintaining an anarchic intentional community is hard to begin with. It appears to be impossible to maintain from generation to generation, never mind scaling it up in the capitalist context. Shades of "socialism in one country", eh? There are so many things that can go wrong internally, and so many things that will go wrong externally, that functionally it's completely impractical. Foolish, too. A lost cause, if you like, that's lost from the moment it starts.

It sounds perfect to me. Trial and error, empiricism, good faith, human frailties, human strengths and... cookies!

The idealized anarchic condition, in which social reality accommodates individual worth and vice versa, is what brought me leftwards in the first place. And according to the anarchists linked on our blog roll, my lefty decoder ring is not an issue as far as they are concerned—provided I don't want to kill them, which seems very reasonable. So, where's the harm? Are the neighborhood anarchists going to turn out for Obama? I realize there some "self-identifying" anarchists who will. Just as there are millions of self-identifying lefties who can imagine nothing finer than that ghastly act of auto-erotic asphyxiation by proxy. The CPUSA and the SDS retreads come to mind. Does their activity reflect on the lefties who won't buy into the program?

There's more, but I have no appetite for it.

Taxes are for the little people

Don't imagine that the only profit arbitrage open to our vigorous multinational shapeshifters is built out of forex-manipulated wage and input costs. Check out this tax arbitrage:

"Google Inc. cut its taxes by $3.1 billion in the last three years using a technique that moves most of its foreign profits through Ireland and the Netherlands to Bermuda. Google’s income shifting [reduced] its overseas tax rate to 2.4 percent... [Google] operates throughout the world mostly in high-tax countries where the average corporate rate is well over 20 percent. The U.S. corporate income-tax rate is 35 percent. In the U.K., Google’s second-biggest market by revenue, it’s 28 percent.

Google, the owner of the world’s most popular search engine, uses a strategy that has gained favor among such companies as Facebook Inc. and Microsoft Corp. The method takes advantage of Irish tax law to legally shuttle profits into and out of subsidiaries there, largely escaping the country’s 12.5 percent income tax.

.... Such income shifting costs the U.S. government as much as $60 billion in annual revenue."

Google's reward?
"Google’s transfer pricing contributed to international tax benefits that boosted its earnings by 26 percent last year, company filings show... Based on a rough analysis, if the company paid taxes at the 35 percent rate on all its earnings, its share price might be reduced by about $100 [currently ~ $600 -- OP]"
On this very loophole mechanism, hopers got a promise from Barry O:
"... the Obama administration proposed measures to curb shifting profits offshore, part of a package intended to raise $12 billion a year over the coming decade. While the key proposals largely haven’t advanced in Congress, the IRS said in April it would devote additional agents and lawyers to focus on five large transfer pricing arrangements."
Note part II, there: the IRS could hammer these outfits if unleashed by the White House, but Baby Bush's gang saw to it that "Google received approval from the IRS in 2006 for its transfer pricing arrangement. The IRS gave its consent in a secret pact known as an advanced pricing agreement."

Time Ohbummer's IRS revokes that secret deal, eh?

Read the link. It's lovely. And as with most beauty and other devil's work, it's all in the details.

I saved this bit as an after-dinner mint:

While the administration “remains concerned” about potential abuses, officials decided “to defer consideration of how to reform those rules until they can be studied more broadly.”

October 25, 2010

Assume the position, Mr Chips

Check out this gem:

"A 265-page spreadsheet, released last month by the chancellor of the Texas A&M University system, amounted to a profit-and-loss statement for each faculty member, weighing annual salary against students taught, tuition generated, and research grants obtained...the move here comes amid a national drive, backed by some on both the left and the right, to assess more rigorously what, exactly, public universities are doing with their students—and their tax dollars...The movement is driven as well by dismal educational statistics."
Of course the results, as you'd expect suggest the humble exploited contract types are way too often making the thickest margins for the big U team. No wonder "part-time lecturers.. make up at least 50% of the nation's higher-education faculty—up from 30% in 1975." And how is the learned guild taking all this? Just imagine the horror!

Take these performance metrics:

"[Teachers] earn points...for pushing students to take science, engineering and math; for ensuring that they complete classes that they start; for improving on-time graduation rates; and for boosting more low-income students to degrees."
Imagine the cries of bloody murder that must incur in the faculty lounge of Mortarboard U's department of Circadian Arcadian Plebular Music Studies. Heavens to Sallust! But then how about this approach:
"Minnesota's state college system has created an online "accountability dashboard" for each campus. Bright, gas-gauge-style graphics indicate how many students complete their degrees; how run-down (or up-to-date) facilities are; and how many graduates pass professional licensing exams...The California State University system, using data from outside sources, posts online the median starting and mid-career salaries for graduates of each campus, as well as their average student loan debt."
Sniff sniff...no wonder there's pushback, or at least dark subvocalizations from our gowned goons:
"It's a reflection of a much more corporate model of running a university, and it's getting away from the idea of the university as public good... the focus on serving student "customers" and delivering value to taxpayers will turn public colleges into factories... it will upend the essential nature of a university, where the Milton scholar who teaches a senior seminar to five English majors is valued as much as the engineering professor who lands a million-dollar research grant."
Clearly written to undermine itself, eh? Gotta love objective reporters and editors. If they're not exactly Father Smiths, they're at least all Winston Smiths at heart.

Youth: not wasted on the young, let's hope

(Note: the image above is no longer an embedded video, for reasons which may become more clear if you read the first few comments. Click on it, though, and you'll see what set this off.)

I like it when she tells me I'm cute. Of course I know it's a lie, since this is a Democratic Party ad, but still, it's nice to hear -- until one realizes that as with all Democratic Party lies, the inversion law which must be applied suggests something very dire about my cuteness.

"Morning Boehner" is, of course, delightful. Credit where it's due.

The personalization is also rather nifty, though if you're not logged on to Facebook they shamefacedly have to ask your name. I originally replied that I was Joseph Stalin, which is what I usually do with these things, and that produced some unintended comedy. The protestor's sign, for example, took on a very enigmatic character.

This is of course the work of MoveOn, hoping to jolly young guys into trooping out for their local Dembot dead sheep. Since I firmly believe that the kids are all right, I don't think it's going to work.

But then... she's a little scrawny, isn't she? No doubt MoveOn did some market research and discovered that tippable 18-to-25 dudes responded well to her meager charms. This is not a good sign, unless the pool of young male tippables is negligibly tiny and psychologically atypical, which doesn't actually seem too unlikely.

October 26, 2010

Whew. Just another deluge after all.

From The Note:

CRESTED WAVE? Nevada’s Sharron Angle, Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Alaska’s Joe Miller, among others, may eventually prevail, but right now all three contests look tight. It may be all be part of a wave that “seems to have crested,” according to political odds-maker Charlie Cook. “This is approximately where the 1994 election was -- something in the range of eight Senate seats, 52 House seats,” Cook told the Washington Post’s Michael Gerson. “A month ago, there was a chance it could have gone from gigantic to titanic. But the possibility of Republican House gains in the 60s or 70s has declined in the last month.” http://wapo.st/dDosy8
Merely another '94? The feeling seems to be growing among the Democrats that they dodged a bullet here. Yes, they'll be the minority party again, and yes, a few relatively junior elected officials may have to take shelter for a while in the private sector or a foundation. But on the other hand, nobody expects anything of you when you're in the minority, and the top Party dogs will continue sucking the public teat and pissing in the public face.

Chump change

A commenter in another thread -- let's call him Muiops -- recently quoted, with apparent approval, his local representative in Congress, who had voted against the condemnation of the Goldstone Report -- which passed the people's House, incidentally, by 344-36. This Mr Smith Goes To Washington boldly uttered the following fightin' words:

"Israel is a strong and resilient democracy, and successfully investigating this episode could only make it stronger."
Now the humor in this is that any reasonable person would see it as grovelling obsequiousness to Israel, not to mention bare-faced mendacity: Israel, a democracy?! For Muiops, however, it's apparently something to be pleased about and shows his local Dembro in a good light.

I read it differently, of course. The fact that feeble yesbutnik gestures like this are the best the Democrats can do seems to me ample justification for concluding that they're utterly worthless.

Perhaps even more to the point, one is personally disgraced by any kind of apologetics for these handwringing hypocrites, no matter how qualified and faint.

The concept of "chump change" needs to be invoked here. The difference that the Democrats offer from the Republicans -- granting, arguendo, that it's non-zero, a point which is far from self-evident -- is still so derisory that one shouldn't lower oneself enough to evaluate it, much less accept it in exchange for anything, even a vote.

Human action shouldn't be about the instrumental calculus all the time. There's such a thing as self-respect too.

And yes, as Chomsky says, a vote is easy and cost-free, but for me at least it's not entirely an arms-length thing. To vote for a villain is to touch pitch, and to touch pitch, we're told on good authority, is to be defiled.

One may have to endure some degree of defilement to live in the world at all, but if you're going to defile yourself, do it in aid of something substantial.

Race to the bottom

IOZ calls our attention to this remarkable piece of Parson Thwackum rumination in the New York Times:

48th Is Not a Good Place

The National Academies, the country’s leading advisory group on science and technology, warned in 2005 that unless the United States improved the quality of math and science education, at all levels, it would continue to lose economic ground to foreign competitors.

The situation remains grim. According to a follow-up report published last month, the academies found that the United States ranks 27th out of 29 wealthy countries in the proportion of college students with degrees in science or engineering, while the World Economic Forum ranked this country 48th out of 133 developed and developing nations in quality of math and science instruction.

Many questions crowd to mind here. What were the raw scores, and how were they obtained? How big is the gap between Number One and Number Forty-Eight? Is Number One at, like, 100, and Number Forty-Eight at 20? And if so, where's everybody else? Down in the minus-300s, maybe? Or is Number One at 100 and Number 48 at 98, with everybody else spread out at the third decimal place in between? (Which amounts to the same thing, of course, once the stats are normalized.)

One thing it seems the National Academies are academies of is propagandistic number-doctoring, not to say witch-doctoring.

In a 2009 survey, nearly a third of this country’s manufacturing companies reported having trouble finding enough skilled workers.
Poor babies! You mean they're not finding workers ready-made to their requirements at no cost to themselves? They might have to spend some time and effort training people in the specific skills that these exploitation mills require? The horror!

This math-and-science fetish is very strange. It's utterly at variance with everybody's daily experience. We've all seen at first hand this process of replacement: the old Amurrican gets replaced by the twenty-something from India. There may be cases -- maybe even a thousand or two, coast to coast, in the last five years -- where this happens because the young Indian guy can explain Heisenberg's uncertainty principle better than his sclerotic Anglo counterpart. But this is quite rare. Mostly, it's because the young Indian guy is willing to work harder, for less money, than the obsolete antediluvian fossil he's replacing, who grew up -- spoiled brat that he is -- expecting things like a forty-hour week, and some vacation time, and health insurance, and a pension.

On the other hand, if the credentialling sector can make some money out of this race to the bottom, selling apotropaic magical gold stars guaranteed by the Academy Of Witch Doctory to drive away the unemployment demons -- well, why not? In this economy, you sell what you can, for whatever the market will bear.

October 27, 2010

Dead in the water

Of course the usual patter of strikebreaking news continues, as if the press could will the French workers back to their appointed tasks in the great hyperconnected mechansim that is a national economy these days:

" France's massive strikes appear to be losing momentum as garbage collectors in the southern city of Marseille went back to work and workers at three oil refineries voted to end their protest.

Striking garbage collectors in Marseille on Tuesday started chipping away at the trash that has piled up in the streets during two weeks of protests over plans to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.

The FO union has voted to end the protest out of concerns over 'hygiene and safety.' Nine oil refineries are still blocked by strikers, but workers at three plants voted to return to the job on Monday. It is expected to take a few days to return to normal operation.

About one in four gas stations in France has been shuttered, and trains and schools have also been affected."

Could it be possible? Have the quite small but well-located French unions begun to strangle the beetlejuice out of Sarkozy and his fellow neolib bedbugs?

I know the students playing Red Mardi Gras have captured most attention here; but what counts, what gives traction to it all, where the wheels meet the road, or in this case don't meet the road -- is in the parallel strike underway.

For two weeks now the transport and refinery unions are oh so elegantly constricting the windpipe of modern France.

No general strike this; no big stand-up of the job class; no mass sitdown. Nothing hyperbolic here in either sense of the word, no sharp rise only to fall: just a methodical clamping down, a one-hand-only strangulation, and to one end only: with the vanishing of all things combustible, the gradual disappearance of commercial motion itself.

The Fourth International Bake-Off

SMBIVA's own dear comrade, Uncle Al Moray Shutzmien, the generalissimo of all well-patterned iron filings, recently buried this link inside one of his devilishly sincere auto-buffets. I thought it deserved a fuller broader more prominent venue.

The dateline appears to be April 1, 2009. If you think I'm aiding in a hoax here... well... so be it!

"Today the anarchist space in my city got a package in the mail from Mexico. It came with a flat, cardboardesque peanut butter cookie and a letter stating that the cookie was made from the stolen remains of Leon Trotsky.

It came with the following letter, translated from Spanish, reproduced here exactly as it was written:

To whom it may concern,

The cookies that you have in their hands contain in them the current remainders of Leon Trotsky, Bureaucracy Grandfather Toad. They were taken in 20 of March 2009 -- almost the anniversary of the suppression of the rebelion of Krondstadt -- by a robbery launched on its museum in the City of Mexico, D.F.

For some, these remainders are sacred. They are the physical remainders of a revolutionary martyr who incorporate the idea of a proletarian fight of the masses toward a forumlaic triumph and historic determined. For other, these remainders are profane. They are the remainders of a murderer, burocrat, and usurper of authentic rebellion. The two perspectives, nevertheless, they share the museum as a standard of value, the only question being whether Trotsky deserves display.

Everything that enter to museums are frozen and without life, transformed to dead objects that raise up and against us. To get, to bake, and to consume Trotsky as cookie, we are acting with history on our terms. We give life to the lifeless along with the fights and tensions incorporated inside. We are Gods. If Trotsky, however, was correct about history, then the fact that his remainders are now dessert was written in the fabric of the October Revolucion, and we are the only messengers.

The holy communion has served as a spiritual nourishment for the expresion of obedience to the God consumed. Alternative, the consumption of the flesh of an enemy has been seen like the method of absorbing the force of an adversary. In the two interpretations, nevertheless, the final resting place is in shit. We do not want to venerate this God or to absorb its power. To consume these cookies is not to free us of the legacy of Trotsky, but to affirm our superiority over the dead things that to dominate us. When the dead enslave us by acting as the historic artifacts of ideology, we would prefer that they are appropriated by the hostile forces of our imagination and become in desserts.

We are keeping a few cookies with us. Whoever that assaults the next museum, whoever that throw the next bullet to history, whoever rekindles the rebellions that give us life -- we will send them one. Good luck."

Another purported communique from the Trotskyphagoi, on a different site, confessed that the cookies were a little "sandy."

October 28, 2010

Base, and base-less

From The Note:

The Times/CBS News poll carried grim news for the Democrats: "Republicans have wiped out the advantage held by Democrats in recent election cycles among women, Roman Catholics, less affluent Americans and independents. All of those groups broke for Mr. Obama in 2008 and for Congressional Democrats when they grabbed both chambers from the Republicans four years ago, according to exit polls. ... The poll provides a pre-Election Day glimpse of a nation so politically disquieted and disappointed in its current trajectory that 57 percent of the registered voters surveyed said they were more willing to take a chance this year on a candidate with little previous political experience. More than a quarter of them said they were even willing to back a candidate who holds some views that 'seem extreme.'" http://nyti.ms/967KJ4
The Usual Victims are catching on. And "extreme" views! Oh my stars!

Alas for Johnny Paycheck, and all his kind

So how's the national pay packet doing? Let's ask a tax guy:

"Measured in 2009 dollars, total wages fell to just above $5.9 trillion, down $215 billion from the previous year. Compared with 2007, when the economy peaked, total wages were down $313 billion or 5 percent in real terms... Every 34th wage earner in America in 2008 went all of 2009 without earning a single dollar... Total wages, median wages, and average wages all declined, but at the very top, salaries grew more than fivefold."
The sorry history buried in these returns "... is one of a strengthening economic base with income growing fastest at the bottom until 1981" -- That memorable year, when Jodi Foster's biggest fan put a slug in Reagan's ass!
"Since then the base has fared poorly while huge economic gains piled up at the very top."
Our man here attributes this dramatic pivot in the trend line to "an abrupt change in tax and economic policy."

Yeah, I'd say maybe that played a role. Here's a nice stat: in '09 the top 74 pay earners made as much as the 19 million lowest-paid.

Postwar middle America, God shed his grace on ye; and then came Ronnie.

A whole new Kansas

A recent forecast:

"The U.S. is in the midst of another “jobless recovery” ....employment gains have been meager relative to enormous job losses that occurred during 2008 and 2009. We anticipate that job gains will continue at a moderate rate... the pre-recession peak in private nonfarm payroll employment won’t be reached until 2013, nearly 4 years after the recession ended....approximately four times as l after the recessions in 1970, 1973–75, and 1981–82."
How long, oh Lord? How long? About 2-1/2 more years, sez this outfit; that is, 2-1/2 years before the economy is employing as many jobbler souls as at the peak of the prior cycle, the poker-chip flat Baby Bush recovery.

Now embedded in that prediction, is a very interesting expectation: next year, according to this "well respected" tanker model, we will reverse the recent slow net job formation.

How much of a diff in rates are we talking here?

Well, let's say we finish this year up a million private sector jobs from the trough of '09. Next year these Merlins expect the private sector to generate about 2.7 million net new jobs, i.e. a pace two and a half times faster than this year.

Here's the oddly disquieting rub, however: first we'll slow down even more! Yup, the forecasted pace for the rest of this year is a dramatic slowdown -- seasonally adjusted -- from the pace of the first 9 months of the year, from about 100 thousand new jobs a month to 30 thousand.

But then supposedly we're to expect a a jump up to over 200 thousand net new jobs per month next year.

Where in hell is this surge expected to come from? We can count out the obvious policy impactable sources -- gub, Fed, and trade. So how? Spontaneous household spending binge? A sudden revival of house building? Or maybe a surge of.office building, plant building, commercial building... In other words, an apparently completely unmotivated acceleration of new facilities investment by corporate America and landlord America.

Sound likely to you? Well, it's all a matter of millions of interacting agencies, so in truth who the fuck knows.

These models we get oracular predictions from are like talking parrots; they have no comprehension of what they are saying. The models mimic the motions of the economy in a purely mechanical fashion. They attempt to foresee the future based on extrapolations of equations derived from past patterns -- mostly recent patterns, by the way.

They're like weather forecasts before attempts at actual physical modeling were pioneered in the 50's, largely thanks to computers. It's all closer to the Farmer's Almanac than we ought to feel comfortable about.

Guys who run these operations of course use "hand variables" to add a certain slant of plausibility into the raw outputs, and of course they are constantly jiggering their parameters, regearing on the run, to better mimic what history has recently revealed to be her latest style of locomotion, but as Rudy Dornbush, a great old reactionary econ-con, used to say, "These fuckers work fine... till something new and important happens."

Maybe something new and important has just happened, eh?

All indications are clear on one point: overt interventionist macro policy worldwide or at least throughout the advanced half of the world, is uniformly inadequate, as much by design as by blind pigheadedness -- much like parallel policies during the third act of the great depression of the 30's.

Yes, the grim outcomes of the period '37 through '39 may have an echo in the next few years.

These model forecasts, grim reading as they seem, are actually meant -- believe it or not -- to put a rosy hue on the prospects.

Agitprop requirements, as any SMBIVAer knows, makes these scientific estimations of tommorrow and tommorrow and tomorrow plain and simply irrelevent, especially if, as I suspect we really really aren't in the gimcrack Kansas of Ronnie Reagan anymore.

Trahison des clercs

IOZ, whom I am finding increasingly indispensable, recently took a jab in passing at this rather remarkable essay from the pen of Chris Hedges:

The lunatic fringe of the Republican Party, which looks set to make sweeping gains in the midterm elections, is the direct result of a collapse of liberalism. It is the product of bankrupt liberal institutions [which] abetted or did nothing to halt the corporate assault on the poor and the working class of the last 30 years... The liberal class... failed to defend traditional liberal values during the long night of corporate assault....
And so on at some length.

Now I love to see the liberals get beaten up, and Chris' language is suitably scathing. But there's something off about it.

Let's start with the very first sentence, about a "collapse of liberalism". No such thing happened. Liberals have not become less numerous, or less secure in their views, in the last 30 years.

Of course they have continued to serve, as they always have served, the structures of power which engendered and incubated a "liberal class" in the first place. But they have never abandoned the kindly pious hopes they have always cherished for nicer behavior on the part of those who wield power.

That the power-wielders paid no attention was hardly the liberals' fault; and the liberals quite properly responded to this indifference with redoubled sedulousness in reciting the Liturgy of Deploration, which is one of their important social functions.

The most curious thing about Hedges' piece is that he seems to believe there was a time when liberals called the shots, and that they somehow culpably dropped the ball. To mix a metaphor. But mixed or not, this story has no resemblance to reality. Hedges apparently thinks that the "liberal class" as such once had some agency:

The liberal class, which once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible, functioned traditionally as a safety valve. During the Great Depression, with the collapse of capitalism, it made possible the New Deal.
The liberals "made reform possible"? This is utter nonsense. What happened was that the power-wielders became frightened enough of social upheaval to believe that reform was necessary -- to be rolled back, of course, as soon as the crisis passed.

Liberals thinking they made the New Deal possible is like the rooster thinking he made the sun rise; and blaming the liberals for the ascent of the Tea Party is, correspondingly, like blaming the rooster for the gathering darkness.

If the rooster had only crowed a little louder, then the sun would not have set.

October 29, 2010

NOBODY expects the Knights Templar

"The liberal class, in our age of neo-feudalism, is now powerless. It offers nothing but empty rhetoric."
--Christopher Robin Hedgerow III
This could have, maybe more properly should have, been a comment caged here, but I think this notion of "neo-feudalism" absolutely marks its white hat author as a self-certified ignoramus, though one who prolly spells everything correctly and knows a very extensive catechism he's able to apply universally and with the rapid reflexes of a karate master; a battered soul that can recount ten thousand outrages to his own personal good conscience, outrages perp'ed by his fellow Americans of the corporate authoritarian and/or professional liberal kind alike.

But "neo-feudalism"? What manner of slouching beast be that? I was led to believe we lived... mostly... in an age of global, multinational, for-profit, limited-liability corporate hegemony, and I can't see a whiskers worth of feudalism in any of it, neo- or updated or redacted or progresso-fitted or reinvented or mystically conjured or whatever.

These fanciful marzipan and dungheap concoctions, these figurative frightwig memes, usually the work of our nonstop chorus of elfin library-glued secular scarecrows, like our boy Hedges here, that clog the collective analytic faculty of a once crafty and boldly pragmatic settler nation... These pointy heads and squash brains are a serious menace to us all with their ersatz gospel and scattered leaves of liberal grass.

Friars like brother Chris here, their skulls filled with hyped-up indignation, end up with no place to go and nothing more fulfilling to do than open their bedroom window and cry "socialism!" in the night -- and by the way, that's a particularly refined brand of socialism, my fellow critters; a socialism safe for humanist sensibilities; a socialism that fits the foot of Luftmensch pilgrims like a moccasin. Slow-shialism socialism. Candle in hand socialism. Passive agression in the hind quarters socialism. The kind of socialism that poor old whisky and rye Debs would race right up to, and bite its dick off, if it had one.

"Please good people of mother Earth, gather together... gather around this candy pole of progress here...rally to us and our song, all you goo-goo mild genteel flan-brained types, all you of the higher literacy and well-tempered tastes!

(WARNING: these congregations are rated "fragile": no anarcho narco-nihilists allowed at any club gatherings without an accompanying adult.)

Well, why not? There's a socialism for every class, or so say them damn Furry Freak Brothers of the Rhineland.

October 31, 2010

Bro. Doug preaches it

Owen will probably demur, but I like this tour d' horizon from Doug Henwood. One thing Owen might agree with is putting Carter appointee Tall Paul Volcker (from Teaneck, New Jersey) in the dock:

Paul Volcker came into office[in 1979] declaring that the American standard of living had to decline, and he made it happen by driving up interest rates towards 20% and creating the deepest recession since the 1930s. (We just beat that record, but it took 30 years!)
It was the Carter administration that first suggested to me the metaphor of the ratchet effect. But now I think this may have been a little too kind. The Carter administration was actually Reaganism avant la lettre. It didn't retrospectively legitimize the revanche from the 60s; it led the charge. Carter was to Reagan as John the Baptist was to Jesus of Nazareth.

Needless to say Doug's remarks produced some comedy on my lefty mailing lists. Here, for example, is one dependable defender of the Dems -- let's call him Brunellus:

> Reagan and his minions established many more aspects of
> Reaganism than Volcker's interest rate hike. Even economically,
> Volcker didn't do "supply-side" and deficit hawk cuts of welfare. But
> critical in Reaganism is the whole political, cultural and ideological
> change. Volcker played a relatively small role in the whole of
> Reaganism compared to Reagan.  
This suggests an addition to Smith's Laws Of Life: anybody(*) who uses the word "minions" is an idiot. Particularly in connection with Reagan, of course, who was a minion himself to the extent that he was anything.


* Anybody born later than Chris Marlowe, anyway.

In Queens, yet?

One of the aleatory pleasures of urban life is undeliverable mail -- things misaddressed, or addressed to somebody who moved away ten years ago. In my building, such material is left on a handy little shelf under the mailboxes in the lobby.

Thanks to this amiable New York folkway, I recently came into possession of a surprisingly thick -- 52 pages! -- and unsurprisingly tedious newspaper called The Jewish Week. It's a bit like reading a model railroaders' gazette. It might not be your thing, but you can sorta see how folks might get into it, and why not?

The difference is that model railroading is apolitical, and The Jewish Week is anything but. The issue I picked up from the dead-letter shelf featured, on its first page, a cri de coeur from Queens (yes, of course there's a Web version) :

Battered By Boycotts

Back in May, when my 7-year-old daughter suggested we host an Israel-themed birthday party, my immediate reaction was, “Fabulous!”

We were walking home from ballet class, where she’d received an invitation to a friend’s Greek Gods and Goddesses party, and she was eager to top that with her own theme. Since I’d been teaching her a little Hebrew and taking her on occasional shopping trips to Kew Gardens Hills’ “Little Jerusalem,” Israel seemed like a natural and easy choice. Having lived in Israel for a year and a half and having recently refreshed my Hebrew in an ulpan, I actually know quite a bit about the state. And Ellie, who is usually the only Jewish kid in her class at public school, feels an affinity for this mythical faraway land (she’s not yet visited) in which Jews are the majority.

My second reaction, sparked no doubt by our passing a Palestinian-American neighbor (with whom I carefully avoid discussing politics) and her children on the sidewalk, was: uh oh.

And sure enough, despite our upbeat invitation promising to teach both the Arabic and Hebrew words for “peace,” despite my carefully worded note to parents explaining that the party would not be political or a propaganda stunt (all crafted amid great feelings of ambivalence in which I indignantly wondered if it was really necessary to apologize for having an Israel party), our August event was boycotted.

There's a great deal to enjoy in this text -- the 7-year-old in ballet class, the need to "top" the classmates, all very Long Island -- but I especially like the "uh-oh" sinking feeling about the Palestinian neighbor. Is this a great country, or what?

I love boycotts. One of the nice things about boycotts is that they're something bien-pensant liberal-schmiberals can actually do -- just buy a different brand, or shop in a different store. Or decline a party invitation from your neighbor, who is probably a bit of a bore anyway.

But really, I had no idea. If this Zionist fanatic -- an Israel-themed birthday party, for Adonai's sake! -- is starting to feel some coldness in the air in Kew Gardens, Queens, Long Island, New York, then we're a bit further along than I realized.

About October 2010

This page contains all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in October 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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