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September 2011 Archives

September 3, 2011

It stands to reason

Through a ghastly error, I wound up in a place where premises that should be hidden for decency's sake are shoved into forced labor syllogisms. But for the fun of it, it stands to reason that better politicians with better values will enact better policies. From there, and given that better people elect better politicians, the lack of good politicians with good values can be attributed to the lack of good voters with good values. Clearly, then, we need more and better voters.

September 6, 2011

Spiking the story

Fascinating item in the Times today -- fascinating for several reasons:

When Shamai K. Leibowitz, an F.B.I. translator, was sentenced to 20 months in prison last year for leaking classified information to a blogger, prosecutors revealed little about the case. They identified the blogger in court papers only as “Recipient A.” After Mr. Leibowitz pleaded guilty, even the judge said he did not know exactly what Mr. Leibowitz had disclosed.

“All I know is that it’s a serious case,” Judge Alexander Williams Jr., of United States District Court in Maryland, said at the sentencing in May 2010. “I don’t know what was divulged other than some documents, and how it compromised things, I have no idea.”

So we now have judges who are trying and sentencing people without knowing what they are supposed to have done. Truly we live in an age of miracle and wonder.
Now the reason for the extraordinary secrecy surrounding the Obama administration’s first prosecution for leaking information to the news media seems clear: Mr. Leibowitz, a contract Hebrew translator, passed on secret transcripts of conversations caught on F.B.I. wiretaps of the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Those overheard by the eavesdroppers included American supporters of Israel and at least one member of Congress, according to the blogger, Richard Silverstein.

In his first interview about the case, Mr. Silverstein .... said he had burned the secret documents in his Seattle backyard after Mr. Leibowitz came under investigation in mid-2009....

...Mr. Silverstein took the blog posts he had written based on Mr. Leibowitz’s material off his site after the criminal investigation two years ago.... He said the transcripts also included a three-way conversation between a congressman from Texas, an American supporter of the congressman and an embassy official; Mr. Silverstein said he could not recall any of the names.

One imagines that Leibowitz -- to whom be all honor, by the way -- regrets now that he didn't have the שכל to give his material to some bloody-minded resolutes, like, say, Wikileaks, rather than this squishy self-censoring Tikkunist Silverstein. My man Julian Assange, we can confidently say, would not have burned the documents and strangely forgotten the name of a US Congressman having ex parte communications with the Israeli Embassy, communications I'm sure we would all dearly love to hear.

September 8, 2011

Erev Nineleven

Knock knock.
-- Who's there?
-- Nineleven who?
Sob! You said you'd never forget!
Ordinarily I am a great friend to memory, perhaps because my own memory is so poor. But there are things that need to be forgotten before they can be usefully remembered; for which re-discovery is the only discovery, and the resistance to oblivion is a resistance to understanding. Nineleven is one of these things.

I would very much like to forget Nineleven, and I wish everybody else would too. 'Memory', as actually practiced about this topic, is really nothing of the kind; it is a robotic repetition of grievances, a hysterical itch-scratching that only makes the itch worse.

Of course it serves its purposes. There's nothing like a carefully-cultivated sense of victimhood to make people cruel -- if only vicariously cruel; but hey, the world-bestriding thug state will take whatever buy-in it can get.

September 10, 2011

Says it all

Taken by my sharp-eyed daughter today near New Paltz, New York, after a very pleasant leisurely hike in the Shawangunks. The kids and I wanted to get out of New York City for as much of Nineleven Weekend as we could manage.

September 13, 2011

Narcissus, and poor Echo

Normally I'm a huge fan of Counterpunch, and defend it and its proprietors as vigorously as I can manage against the moralistic ankle-bitings of Louis Proyect and such, but I have to take strong exception to a recent piece there, from Michael Brenner:

Barack Obama’s betrayal will resonate in history long after he has become just another name on the over-priced celebrity speaker circuit. It is a betrayal of far more than the youthful idealists and loyal progressives who put him in the White House. Obama has unmoored the Democratic Party from its foundations – philosophical and electoral. No longer is it expression of the programs and ideas that crystallized with the New Deal and which dominated the country’s politics for sixty years.
Huh? The Democratic Party started trying to roll back the New Deal as soon as Franklin Roosevelt was in his grave -- even before, actually. And they were quite good at it. This is all historical record; where does this nutty mythology about 'sixty years' of New Deal ideology come from?

Admittedly, after black folks started tearing up the pea-patch in the 60s -- and even white folks, or young ones at least, were showing a certain mutinous spirit -- there was a brief spate of pushback from the bloody-minded public. Since the Dems happened to be running the show at the time, they get the credit for a program of modest retrenchment and mild concessions on the part of our rulers. But much as I like and admire Lyndon Johnson, it's just absurd to imagine him coming to the Oval Office with a militant "New Deal" agenda, though once it was forced upon him he decided to lie back and enjoy it, which is one of the nice things you can say about him.

After that of course it was back to business as usual with Carter and Clinton, both quite committed to rolling back the 60s and then the 40s. So this phantasy that Obie has 'betrayed' the Democratic Party -- which you hear all the time -- can only be maintained in defiance of easily available facts. Far from betraying the Democratic Party, Obie is perhaps the type specimen -- the Democrat's Democrat, you might say; the only person who can stomach him is a person utterly abandoned to the institutional depravity that is the Democratic Party.

Brenner does have an interesting angle:

What are the most salient ingredients in [Obie's] private-public persona? Most striking is a behavior pattern that resembles closely the narcissistic syndrome – even if he is not a clinical narcissist. ... A complementary narcissistic trait is an ease with blurring the line between virtual reality and actual reality. Narcissists believe everything they say – at the moment they say it.... Narcissists take as given that they never dissemble or lie...
This is fun stuff, but all wrong. It does Obie too much justice, and too little. Too little, because in fact he never lied to us; we -- or at least those of us who heard the music, which I'm glad to say I did not -- we lied to ourselves. In fact he was quite candid about his project; but his besotted maenads of both sexes couldn't or wouldn't hear what he was actually saying -- and, as important, not saying. They put their own words into his mouth, and they have no one but themselves to blame for their disappointment now.

In another way, though, Brenner's theory gives Obie too much credit. He's not mentally ill. It's disrespectful to real high-functioning crazy people -- like, say, Richard Nixon -- to mention Obie in the same breath. His is not really a personality even that interesting. He's a cross between a bureaucrat and a schoolmaster, with a vestigial whiff of BMOC coolth. You meet people like him in every executive washroom. A very commonplace character; and psychoanalyzing him is a waste of couch space.

America's sweetheart

I've always loathed Jackie Kennedy -- not as much as Mattress Jack himself, or Bobby, of course, but still. And yes, she saved Grand Central Station, so I hope that gets her out of Purgatory a millennium or two sooner than she otherwise might.

But still, what an awful woman. That breathy, little-girl voice, and the steel-trap Papisher demi-socialite climber. Ugh.

Come now the Jackie Tapes. One thing that seems quite clear is that there was never a fingernail's thickness of difference between her thinking and Jack's. I daresay she even found the bimbos a welcome relief from Jack's priapic importunities; Catholic girls were always easy but never genuinely enthusiastic. Or so I hear.

Speaking of easy, she found Malraux 'fascinating'; which really tells you all you need to know, doesn't it?

Of course the truly wonderful news is that she hated, hated Martin Luther King; and she seems to have read all the FBI tape transcripts that Miss J Edgar Hoover saw fit to pass upstairs at Camelot Castle. Here again, one feels quite sure that this is the Kennedy White House speaking with one voice. There are people who still believe the shabby myth that the Kennedys were sympathetic to the civil rights movement; and no doubt some will continue to do so; but La Belle Jackie's spitting-cobra venom won't make it any easier.

She seems to have been rather obsessed with Lesbian-Americans under the bed. Hmmm.

The damn book is published by Hyperion, which would ordinarily be a deal-killer for me. But I'll queue up for this one.

September 14, 2011

Apres Wiener, le deluge

"I was out-niggered, and I will never be out-niggered again." -- George Wallace
Of course I was deeply delighted that Democrat David Weprin lost the election to replace Anthony "Wagger" Wiener in New York City's Ninth District, a hotbed of Zionist craziness. Weprin is the scion of a very odious New York political family; I'm old enough to remember hating his dad Saul, the speaker of the state assembly back in the day, which should tell any New Yorker all that he needs to know. This particular revenge was a dish eaten very cold indeed, but as the proverb says, it tasted mighty nice.

The district hasn't returned a Republican since, what, the 1920s? And Weprin, the Donk loser, is a shayner Yid, whereas Turner, the victor, is a shaygetz. Go figure! The tea leaves are being read more attentively even than the opera-omnia of Slavoj Zizek.

Another eminently detestable figure, Ed Koch, got himself into this picture, to what effect remains somewhat unclear. Koch is a New York version of the Blue Dog phenomenon avant la lettre -- a gay(*) Jewish Reform Democrat from Greenwich Village who made his career by promising to unleash the cops and put the shvartzers and the Palestinians in their place. His aisle-crossing embrace of the Republican is very true to form; but one wonders whether he really swung any weight. Did Koch put Turner in Congress, or did Turner just put Koch back, temporarily, in the camera's eye, which he so deeply loves?

For that matter, how much did Fort Zion really have to do with it? Weprin and Turner spent most of their time trying to out-nigger -- I mean, out-Zion -- each other.

Zionist hard-liners have, of course, a vested interest in seeing this result as a referendum on the microscopic differences between the Donk and the 'Derm on Israel. Weprin foamed at the mouth on the subject; but Turner foamed just that little bit more. Conclusion, according to the Lobby: Omit no occasion to foam about Israel, and foam to the top of your bent. No suprise there, eh?

I personally don't buy it. I think it was a referendum on Obie, whose disastrous coattails, let us hope, have swept Weprin into a Toyota dealership vel sim.

I haven't seen the turnout numbers. If they're tiny, as is usually the case in such opere-buffe, then maybe the Zionist reading of the tea-leaves is the right one: four Likudniks voted, and three of them held City jobs awarded through Ed Koch's patronage.

But if turnout was a bit bigger than that -- then we might be looking at something a bit more interesting.

The national DP seems to have awakened rather late to the possibility of disaster. I'm on their money-milking mailing list, which suddenly went nuts a few days before the election. Perhaps they saw it -- or feared, at least, that it would be seen -- as a slap in the God-Emperor's face.

Now, on the morning after, it's really rather difficult to see it any other way. When your party loses a seat it's held for almost a century, in an election where the candidates are nearly indistinguishable...

Bring on the deluge, I say.


(*) Koch is gay only in the most technical sense. My own diagnosis of him is that (unlike Obie, as another writer has suggested) Koch really is a narcissist, and would rather watch old clips of himself on the VCR than have actual sex with any other human being. Nobody is nearly as interesting to Ed as Ed himself is.

He's also not actually very Jewish. There was a funny incident early in his reign as Mayor.

He's a big-time Chinese-food fresser, and during one of these pig-outs -- I use the term advisedly -- he choked on a pork spare rib he had inhaled, as was his wont, without bothering to chew. Some staffer, alas, knew about the Heimlich manoeuvre, and so unfortunately saved him to plague generations yet unborn. In order to avoid offending his black-hat constituents, the absurd story was put out that he had choked of a "piece of spinach".

September 15, 2011


Forget what they want you to remember; remember what they want you to forget.

September 19, 2011

On the one hand, on the other hand

The indispensable IOZ commented recently on a post here, about the upset in Anthony Weiner's old bun -- er, district, to wit, New York's Ninth :

On one of those NPR call-in shows this weekend, they were really laying it on thick. Obama is going to lose the Jews for a generation if he doesn't out-Avigdor Lieberman Avigdor Lieberman soon. I doubt it, of course; Republican-party optics are too Christian... Rick Perry's rootin-tootin routine just doesn't appeal to The People.
It's not even clear how much of a role Zionomania played in the Ninth District result; there was plenty of other stuff going on. But arguendo, let's accept the Zion-centric view of the result. What are the implications?

As Kissinger said to Nixon, Vell, Mr President, zere are Jews, und zen zere are Jews. The Ninth is full of Ultra-Ultras; very few of the other places in the country where Jews live in any numbers are quite so nutty on the subject (apart from Hollywood, of course).

Then there's the generational thing. The American Jewish Committee, which keeps a very nervous finger on the pulse of American Jewry and conducts polls about every five seconds, has found a very consistent downward trend among younger Jews in their attitude toward the Zionist project. Increasingly, they don't give a fuck, which certainly tends to underscrore the universally-acknowledged fact that the Jews are an intelligent people.

IOZ is certainly right about the general distrust within the tribe for people like Rick Perry, who looks like just the sort of guy who might have lynched your grandfather, or wanted to. But IOZ may perhaps be slightly underestimating the Shvartzer Effect. I remember the way the alter-kakers talked about the harmless David Dinkins here in New York; and the thuggish young guys from Brooklyn -- the guys with the knit kipot on their short-cropped scalps -- weren't far behind. But again, this is partly generational and partly local.

Still, though, wouldn't it be just grand if the Dems got bunged out of office for not being Zionist enough? The kind of injustice that's deeply just on a higher plane; the justice of the verdict thrown into sharper relief by the injustice of the indictment.

September 20, 2011

Right twice a day

Since I've spent some time on this blog twisting Louis Proyect's universalist-moralist-Trotskyist tail, it's only right to acknowledge that I agree with him on this one:

What’s wrong with a primary challenge to Obama?
Filed under: Obama,parliamentary cretinism — louisproyect @ 4:10 pm

The best thing would be for a high-profile bourgeois politician to run as an independent candidate against both Obama and whichever nitwit the Republicans nominate in the same fashion as Henry Wallace’s 1948 Progressive campaign.

What Louis seems to be saying -- though he takes a long time to get there, via a number of chatty Polonian reminiscences and sectarian sideswipes en passant -- is that primary challenges are silly; what matters is a third-party challenge in the general election -- a challenge that might actually deprive the Donk of victory in a close-run race, as Nader so gloriously did in 2000.

My uncle -- great-uncle, actually -- used to tell the story of the city slicker who (for some reason) came to visit the old Kentucky farmer. So the slicker goes out before dawn to accompany the farmer on his rounds. Farmer feeds the chickens, slops the hogs, milks the cow and so on, chatting very kindly with the livestock all the while. Finally it's starting to get light and time to hitch up the mule and start plowing. Farmer heads up to the south forty where the mule is kept, strolls into the field, picks up a two-by-four, hauls off and whacks the mule a stunning blow right between the eyes. City boy is shocked: "Why'd you do that?"

"That? That was just to get his attention," says the farmer.

Of course the question may be asked, what is the point of getting the Donks' attention? They certainly didn't learn anything -- or rather, learned all the wrong things -- in 2000.(*) A hell of a good question, of course. But I just want to see the look on their face after the two-by-four connects.


(*) Like the Bourbons: Ils n'ont rien appris, ni rien oublié.

September 21, 2011

Libruls R Conservatives

My poor Muse seems to have been bitten by the dread tsetse fly and fallen into a deep Snow Whitey sleep. Since I am not a Handsome Prince, no kiss of mine is able to awaken her. So I'm reduced to sifting my emails from Alternet in search of inspiration.

This item made the Muse stir slightly and caused a trace of a smile to flit across her unconscious face:

Would a Perry v. Obama Contest Be a Confederacy v. Union Rematch?

The history books tell us that the U.S. Civil War ended in 1865, with the surrender of the Confederacy at Appomattox. But underlying the present dynamics of American politics is an uneasy sense that the war never really ended -- and the Confederacy never quite surrendered.

...Rick Perry, frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, once named Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee as one of the historical personages he'd like to include at a fantasy dinner party. At Perry's 2007 gubernatorial inauguration celebration, rocker Ted Nugent performed wearing a shirt emblazoned with the Confederate flag emblem.

...In introducing Perry to the Liberty U audience this week, Falwell's son, Jerry Jr., lauded the Texas governor "for having the guts to say things that weren't exactly politically correct, like when Gov. Perry said Texas might secede one day from the union."

Indeed, Perry made such intimations more than once...

Well, sheee-it, as we used to say down South. What intelligent person doesn't wish that Texas would secede from the Union? And for that matter, the rest of the old Confederacy with it -- successfully, this time. But Alternet is shocked, shocked! at this wild-eyed, 'extreme', irresponsible stuff.

What exactly is the downside? Does Alternet think that a breakaway New Confederacy would reintroduce chattel slavery?

In the states of the old Confederacy, black folks form a bit more than 20% of the population, if my back-of-the-envelope calculations are roughly correct. These are people who have been free for a long time and overthrew the Jim Crow regime within living memory. Anybody who wants to turn the clock back on this group has his work cut out.

But there's a bigger intellectual problem here -- a remarkably naif and static view of history. The Union victory was a Good Thing in 1865, so it follows that the results of that victory must be a Good Thing for all time and forever.

To my way of thinking, the Union victory was a Good Thing for two reasons: 1) It put an end to slavery in the US, and 2) it diminished the power of the then global hegemon, namely the British Empire.

But now the US is the global hegemon, a brutish demoborous Golem, a universal plague. Breaking it up, now, would be the Good Thing.

What strikes me so strongly about liberal thinking is how unliberated it is -- how narrow, conventional, unimaginative, and, well, fundamentally conservative it is, in the worst sense of that much-abused word: unthinkingly attached to existing institutions and arrangements; convinced that Progress, whatever that might be, is unidirectional, and hence that it can never be an improvement to reverse a motion that constituted an earlier improvement.

September 22, 2011

You have to admit...

... she's as cute as a junebug, isn't she? And this is not even video -- you're not getting the play of expression, and the irresistible laugh. And best of all, she's a complete -- though very lovable -- idiot:

Black President, Double Standard: Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama
Melissa Harris-Perry

Electoral racism in its most naked, egregious and aggressive form is the unwillingness of white Americans to vote for a black candidate regardless of the candidate’s qualifications, ideology or party...

The 2004 Illinois Senate race between Obama and Alan Keyes, two African-Americans, was a unique test of the persistence of old-fashioned electoral racism. For a truly committed electoral racist, neither Obama nor Keyes would have been acceptable—regardless of policy positions, biography or qualification—because both were black.

One way to determine how many people felt this way is to measure the “roll-off.” In presidential election years, a small percentage vote for the president, but then “roll off” by not casting ballots for state and local offices. A substantial increase in roll-off—larger than usual numbers of voters who picked John Kerry or George Bush but declined to choose between Obama and Keyes—would have been a measure of the unwillingness of some to vote for any black candidate. I tested this in 2004 and found no increase, statistical or substantive, in roll-off in Illinois. Faced with two black candidates, white voters were willing to choose one of them.

.... The 2008 general election was another referendum on old-fashioned electoral racism... not only did white Democratic voters prove willing to support a black candidate; they overperformed in their repudiation of naked electoral racism, electing Obama with a higher percentage of white votes than either Kerry or Gore earned....

Wait for it...
The 2012 election may be a test of another form of electoral racism: the tendency of white liberals to hold African-American leaders to a higher standard than their white counterparts. If old-fashioned electoral racism is the absolute unwillingness to vote for a black candidate, then liberal electoral racism is the willingness to abandon a black candidate when he is just as competent as his white predecessors.
Well, maybe not such an idiot, after all. One sells one's product as best one can. This is making something -- not a silk purse, okay, but something; a modest career, perhaps -- out of a sow's ear.

It seems unlikely that many disillusioned recovering Obamaphiles will be shooed back into the Obie camp by the insinuation that they might otherwise be some refined, third-order kind of racists. But you've got to give a girl credit for trying.

Tears of mirth came to my eyes when I saw dear earnest high-scoring Melissa posing it as a question of 'competence'. Obie is surely as competent as two-term Fatback Bill, and surely more competent than one-term Peanut Jimmy.

(One wonders how far back her assessment of relative competence goes. Lyndon Johnson? Franklin Roosevelt? How one would like to see all these report cards, filled in by Professor Melissa, ex-Princeton.)

But okay, a very competent fella, Obie -- a guy who has done, in a thoroughly workmanlike fashion, what he was hired to do. So why should he be deprived of a second term? Isn't that his right? Where's the indignation?

Well, Melissa. All these things are over-determined. Granted the refined third-order racism of the white liberals, you might also want to consider that they persuaded themselves he was anti-war; and he proved to be pro-war. They persuaded themselves that he would roll back the police-and-torture state; and instead, he turned the screws tighter. They persuaded themselves that he would get us out of the Depression; and he has, if anything, deepened it. Even white liberals can learn, up to a point, from experience.

But credit where it's due; Melissa is giving it her all. Win one for the Gipper, Melissa!

September 23, 2011

Die [Amerikanische] Traumdeutung

It always amazes me when anybody can use a phrase like "the American Dream" with a straight face. But there is no straighter face in North America than Katrina van den Heuvel's, a person who never met a cliche she didn't like:

Can a Movement Save the American Dream?

Wisconsin provided inspiration for the effort by Van Jones and others to launch the American Dream Movement. Jones, the founder of Green For All, joined MoveOn.org, the Center for Community Change, the Campaign for America’s Future ... to build an initiative....

Just as the Tea Party provided an umbrella for conservative groups with disparate agendas... so the American Dream Movement hopes to provide an umbrella and help mobilize energy for widespread progressive organizing efforts....

America’s democracy has been corrupted by big money and predatory corporate interests that threaten that dream....Our task is to clean up politics and rebuild an economy that works for working people....

Can ... any truly populist movement, build with Barack Obama in the White House? Disappointment in Obama has sparked a familiar debate among activists....

In his Democratic National Convention speech in Chicago in 1996, the Rev. Jesse Jackson summarized the interaction between movements and presidents:

Progress comes through an enlightened president, in coalition with an energized people.... Dr. King supported Kennedy.
And I'm sure you can see where that is going.

In addition to its feckless Obamaite rah-rah conclusion, this piece provides much else to enjoy. It is noteworthy, for example, that both American "liberals" and American "conservatives" postulate a vanished Golden Age, an America that we need to "take back". "America's democracy", fer Chrissake? Just when exactly did that ever exist?

Then of course there's the notion of a mano-a-mano between the teabaggers (in this corner) and the likes of MoveOn.org (in the other).

Nobody, but nobody, surpasses me in contempt for the teabaggers, but I would lay money -- if I had any -- at hundred-to-one odds that the teabaggers would eat the moveonners alive in the first round. For one thing, the teabaggers have taken the wonderfully bracing and quite correct "throw the bums out" stance, whereas MoveOn was founded to rally 'round the Prez back in Blowjob Bill's day, and appear to be running true to form now that there's another neoconservative Democrat in the White House.

As I was reading this silly and vapid piece, a long-overdue penny finally dropped. Kat van den H thinks she's Henry Luce. She thinks she's going to turn the Nation mag into the Time of our day -- a Time with a vaguely bien-pensant liberal flavor.

Got news for ya, Kat: there is already a Time for our times. It's the Drudge Report.

September 25, 2011

Better exam questions, please

The baby-faced wanker shown above wants to set more difficult orals for Presidential candidates -- as if they were PhD candidates, or job candidates:

I think you’d be left with the concern that Rick Perry is perhaps a bit too shaky on his feet to be your guy, and I don’t think [his] answer on Pakistan would remove those doubts...

I wish moderators in future debates would think a little bit outside the box more..... It would be interesting to see how able the candidates ... are able to answer some slightly less obvious questions. What does America do if the Eurozone breaks up? What if the pro-independence political party comes back in power in Taiwan?

Hell, why not check their skills at fantasy football while you're at it? What if... what if... what if. Life in the subjunctive mood. Highly characteristic of American political discourse, particularly though not exclusively on the liberal side of the feedlot. It always makes me think of Mr Shandy's disquisition on the auxiliary verbs.

The job interview analogy is actually not bad, come to think of it. The muffled white-collar sadistic ingenuity of the "How would you..." question from the hiring manager really captures the flavor of merit-baby thinking about not just politics, but life in general.


Louis Proyect and I -- we have Had Our Differences, as the saying goes. But we found something to agree about today. I think.

Somebody posted an item to Louis' email list asking "What Happened to the American Left." My response, predictably, was "The Democratic Party". Louis replied:

... the real problem is not the DP but the radical implosion of the 1970s and 80s when the Maoists and the SWP went off the deep end. The real need is to break out of that framework altogether and get organized on a class struggle basis but without the insanity. We had a chance to build something significant out of the 2000 Nader campaign but the god-damned Demogreens sabotaged it. I guess that the DP still is the turd in the punch bowl after all...
I grant the space-cadettery of both Maoists and SWP. I saw the Maoist version at first hand, but know little about the Trotskyite side, except what I hear from some friends of mine who were there.

Still, that's a long time ago, though to people of Louis' and my vintage it seems like only yesterday. But the DP is still alive and well and poisoning well-intended minds daily, hourly, and on a mass scale.

Louis has made me little reminiscent here. Shall I tell a story that captures the characteristic flavor of Maoist nuttiness back in the day? -- Well, what's the harm?

Late 70s. I was part of a little Maoist cell here in New York, led by a guy -- let's call him Dave Manchester -- who was really the classic commie ironbutt: he could outlast anybody at a meeting, and never, as far as I know, had to get up and go pee. Owen will remember Dave. In fact I think it was Owen who came up with the term 'ironbutt'.

The moment I'm thinking of is shortly after the Three Mile Island nuke-plant scare. The streets were full of people riled up about nuclear power. Dave didn't quite know which way to jump on this one. On the one hand, the "masses are mobilized." On the other hand -- wait for it -- "after we take state power, we'll have to run these reactors."

True story.

I should add that Dave grew up to be a union bureaucrat and is now a thorn in the side of a friend of mine who runs a union. I gather he is no longer a Maoist but still an ironbutt; and nobody has ever seen him take a leak, from that day to this.

September 26, 2011

Anonymous on Wall Street

I didn't make it to the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) demos -- should have, I know, but I'm pretty old, and I'm really quite frightened of the NYPD, who were vile brutish thugs when I first came here, thirty-plus years ago, and have become steadily worse with every passing year since. Even so, I plan to show up for this event, on Friday, and hope anybody else in the nabe will too.

As usual, I have been mostly disappointed in "the Left's" response to OWS. Much weisenheimer sneering at the naivete of the occupiers' programs and slogans, and a great deal of frankly incoherent thinking. Here's the beginning of an exchange from Doug Henwood's list:

> " Tahrir succeeded in large part because the people 
>  of Egypt made a straightforward ultimatum – that 
> Mubarak must go – over and over again until they 
> won. Following this model, what is our equally 
> uncomplicated demand?"  
Well, the obvious analogy would be 'Obama must go', wouldn't it?
Very disappointing responses, for the most part:
> Well, the obvious analogy would be 'Obama must go', wouldn't it?

To be replaced by the Joint Chiefs of Staff?

Oh snap. That pretty much sums it up, really.

These people have no sense of fun. Don't you love imagining an American Tahrir focussed on getting Obama out? Suppose it succeeded, and Obie had to flee the country in one of the smaller Air Force Ones and go mooch off, who, Tony Blair?

Regardless who 'replaced' him, that would be a pretty significant exercise of 'demokratia' in the etymological sense.

There's no obvious Lenin waiting in the wings, to be sure. But whoever did succeed Obie -- captain, or colonel, or knight in arms -- would have a new-found respect for the mob, don't you think?

As a first approximation, 'decapitate the guy in charge' seems like a rather sound heuristic principle to me.

September 28, 2011

The kids are all right

I mastered my terror of the pepper-spray and toilet-plunger crowd -- meaning, of course, the NYPD gangsters -- and ventured downtown today to check out the Occupy Wall Street encampment. Of course I loved 'em. And I was lucky -- the cops were quiet. Though there were hundreds of them around -- one for every protestor, at least, and a vehicle for every two cops, at a conservative estimate -- the nightsticks weren't swinging, and the pepper spray stayed on the belt. I took a few pictures and got out while the gettin' was good.

Much has been said about the supposed silliness of some of the occupiers. I actually thought the silliness quotient was rather low -- certainly no higher, and in fact probably lower, than in the anti-war marches I went to in the late 60s.

Of course it's a very young cohort, so they have some reading and thinking before them. Still, there was very little I could cavil at. There was the usual ahistorical "take back" rhetoric, and a strangely abundant nostalgic awareness of the old Glass-Steagal act, which struck what was to my ear a slightly discordant note. But I ended up feeling very fond of the occupiers, and I think I'll come back with some food for 'em tomorrow.

But silliness there certainly was. This preposterously expensive cop toy was the second-silliest thing I saw:

And here's the absolute silliest:

The Tadjik defense

Of course I'm a huge admirer of Noam Chomsky, always have been, but in the clip above he seems perilously close to what I call The Tadjik Defense.

This goes back to a demonstration I attended, back in, what was it, '82? -- against one of Israel's invasions of Lebanon. Perhaps I was leafletting. Suddenly a frantic wild-haired chap came rushing out of the shadows and thrust his contorted face uncomfortably close to mine. He looked a bit like Alan Dershowitz. In fact, he may have been Alan Dershowitz.

"What about the Tadjiks?!" he screamed.

I was nonplussed. "The Tadjiks?" I stammered.

"The Tadjiks! The Tadjiks! You're always protesting about the Palestinians! Why aren't you protesting about the Tadjiks? I'll tell you why! You're a fucking anti-Semite, that's why!"

And Alan -- if it was Alan -- melted once more into the shadows whence he came.

I dined out on this story for a good three weeks, and the concept of the Tadjik Defense has proven very useful over the years.

Chomsky's reading of the situation is, of course, a lot more sophisticated than Alan's (if it was Alan). But I've always felt he errs a bit -- as many American Lefties do -- in regarding Israel as a mere puppet of the US. The reality is more complicated, I think.

September 30, 2011

The kids: still all right

Comrade Doug Henwood has a nice report on tonight's Occupy Wall Street events here in New York. With pictures he took himself. I don't have any pictures because I was afraid to take the camera; I figured there'd be some nightstick action, and I can't afford a new camera. In the event, there wasn't any nightstick action, and I was the only person in the crowd without a camera.

Doug's vantage point was the opposite of mine; he was in the backyard of the municipal office building -- not City Hall, and most certainly not at the gangsters' lair known as One Police Plaza(*) -- at a smallish anti-cop rally, and I accompanied the likable young people up from Zuccotti Park to join 'em. Nice moment when the kids surged in and the two groups greeted each other.

Scattered observations:

-- The young folks liked it when speakers said stuff about inequality, and even capitalism. References to imperialism, though, didn't get much of a rise. Interesting, I thought. Some work needed here. They didn't like war, though, so the path is clear.

-- Electronic amplification is verboten; apparently you need a permit in order to use a bullhorn here in the Land Of The Free, and the activities so far have not had or sought permits, or so I'm told. I approve strongly of not seeking the permit, of course.

The alternative to bullhorns and such is that sections of the crowd repeat each phrase from the speaker to those farther out, so listening to it is like an old-fashioned analog reverb effect: "I represent" .. "resent" .. "sent"... "The Transit Workers Union " .. "bunion" ... "onion". You get the idea. This made-up example actually understates the accuracy of the repetition.

It's interesting from both a literary and social point of view. People repeat more strongly the stuff they like, so every phrase gets an instant referendum. And of course you have to adapt your speaking style to the medium, which is a challenge. One of the speakers was a relative of mine, and I thought she did quite well. But one needs to avoid words like 'nexus' -- as in, the nexus of inequality and repression, which is, of course, a fine and sound idea. She rapidly realized the error and said it again, using 'connection' instead. It was wonderful to watch the speakers learning the new rules as they went along.

-- A lot of us old Lefties have been doing some handwringing lately about the naivete and unstructuredness of the Occupiers. The companion of my life put this into perspective nicely for me after I got home. She did some simple arithmetic. I was born some sixty years ago. So suppose a person born sixty-odd years before had been at some of the demonstrations I was at in the mid-to-late 60s. That person would have been born not long after the turn of the 20th century; would remember both World Wars -- might have even served in the First, if he was well-grown and highly motivated and willing to lie about his age. He or she would remember the Depression and not one but two Red Scares. What would that person have made of my contemporaries?

These young people live in a different world than the one we knew. We certainly know a thing or two they don't. But perhaps they also know a thing or two we don't.


(*) 1 Police Plaza is a fine ugly looming overbearing example (c. 1973) of Brutalist architecture in-terrorem. In terrorem in every sense of the world, since the cops are terrified to let anybody near it. It's a fortress on the other side of a narrow and easily-defended bridge over Park Row, which serves as the moat. Park Row used to be a street, but the porkers closed it down after Nineleven(tm) and now use it as a parking lot for their grotesquely over-abundant vehicles.

Here's the google map; we were penned in the backyard of the municipal office building, approximately where the arrow is, and the bridge is at marker A:


A picture of 1PP itself, which none of us saw tonight:

About September 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in September 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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