The horsemen of the Apocalypse…

… are saddling up for the Mother of Abominations. Hillary is apparently assembling — predictably enough — a fine team of neocons, brinksmanshippers, laptop bombardiers, and miscellaneous National Security berserkers for a reign which seems certain to be drenched in blood.

People are talking about Admiral James Stavridis for Vice President. He’s perfect, really. A longtime veteran of the bipartisan War Party, he first achieved notoriety as a retainer of Donald Rumsfeld back in the Bush II days, and became NATO’s El Supremo under Obama, where he played a prominent role in the butchery of Libya. Presidents come and go, but the machine hums on. Lately he has distinguished himself by advocating quite openly for a US alliance with the various Syrian jihadis, to do an Iraq on Syria — a long-standing neocon project, of course. Mr Brass Hat is also, of course, a close pal of the Israelis and a charter member of the Anything For Bibi club.

They’re also talking about Michele Flournoy for Secretary of Defense. After serving in the State Department under Obie, she founded and became executive director of the Center for a New American Security, one of the numberless swarm of Washington NatSec “think tanks”, buzzing like cicadas on a hazy, windless August afternoon. I do not understand the political economy of these outfits: why so many? Particularly since they all say more or less the same thing? Who pays for them? Why? I can only suppose that they’re intended as rocks for Permanent Government vermin like Fluornoy to hide under when they’re out of office, and that hedgies and defense contractors pay for them in order to keep these reptiles well-disposed.

CNAS is very much par for the course, enjoying Madeleine Albright and Joe “Talks to God but doesn’t listen” Lieberman as tutelary deities. Not surprisingly, one of the axes they’re grinding most relentlessly is the nuke deal with Iran. A sample of gloom-and-doom prose, from the febrile pen of one Ilan Goldenburg, CNAS’ cop on the Iran beat and incidentally an honest-to-God Israeli himself:

Iran’s regional behavior remains highly problematic. Provocative ballistic missile launches and continuing support for President Assad, Hezbollah, and Iraqi Shia militias are clear signs that the United States and Iran still have conflicting interests in the Middle East that are unlikely to change anytime soon. And competition between pragmatists and hardliners inside Iran has only intensified since the signing of the JCPOA as President Rouhani and his allies try to leverage the nuclear agreement to gain more influence while opponents of the deal try to box him in.

So if you thought Obie was bad — just wait for Hillary. She’s the real thing, red in tooth and claw. She can’t wait to start blowing people up, and she’s got a legion of fanatic gunsels who can’t wait to feed her the ammo belt.

White privilege?


Some of my friends — I mean real friends, not the Facebook variety — are rolling out the old ‘white privilege’ trope, after the most recent round of police murders.

(That’s the subjective genitive, not objective; I mean murders by police. I’m not losing any sleep over the fact that somebody occasionally shoots back. There are, after all, laws of Nature.)

Now I think this is a bogus concept — white privilege, I mean.

[Voice from offstage] : That’s because you’re white!

Well, maybe. But I also have better reasons than that.

Let’s start from facts that we can all agree on.

1) Nearly everybody in the world — except for that notorious 1% — has a pretty shitty time of it.

2) In particular, and speaking of home matters, cops shoot somewhere between 500 and 600 people a year in the US. In absolute terms, most of these dead people are former white people — though in the grave these distinctions vanish quickly. Importantly, however, in proportionate terms, a young black guy is on average a lot more likely to be shot than a young white guy. This is not an insignificant fact.

3) Therefore: Though most people have a pretty shitty time of it, some — and they are not difficult to identify — have an even shittier time of it than others.

This, in a nutshell, is the case for ‘privilege’ as a concept: most everybody has a shitty time, but some people’s times are shittier than others. For no good reason: they’re not lazier, they’re not less intelligent, they’re not less moral or conscientious.

Now my own inclination is to focus on the overall shittiness, and ask why we have to put up with it.

But the discourse of privilege focuses on the disparity — as if that were the problem, and the overall shittiness were unavoidable; it’s only a question of how we spread it around.

Well, in theory, the disparity could be fixed. We could encourage the cops, for example, to shoot more white people, so as reduce the disparity.

Or we could hold the number of shot white people constant, and try to bring the rate of shot black people down to the same level. That would also reduce the disparity, and would certainly be preferable to Plan A. Particularly from my white point of view. But it’s still a lot of dead people. Rather too many, I should say.

But really, who wants either of these outcomes?

This is why I think the discourse of privilege leads us down a rabbit hole. It presupposes that the quantum of misery is constant, and like a kind of perverse reverse Communism, seeks to ensure that everybody is equally miserable.

I have developed a tactic for responding to my friends who bring up the matter of white privilege. Since it’s usually in the context of police murders — again I mean, murders by cops, not of cops — I ask them, well, if you want to put an end to police shootings, why not disarm the police? Then they couldn’t shoot anybody, black or white.

So far I have not had a single response to this question, and I have asked it many times. It seems clear that my anti-privilege friends are still strongly in favor of state-sanctioned violence — as long as it’s levied with an even hand.

Cheerleading the uncontroversial


I’ve been reflecting on the effusive tributes to the late (and by me, unlamented) Elie Wiesel. Of course it’s obvious enough why people like Madeleine Albright and Bibi Netanyahu and Abe Foxman and Hillary Clinton would have liked him, so we can set all that to one side, having assessed its value and consequence out to the fourth decimal place without even breaking a sweat.

What surprises me just a bit is the spontaneous wreath-laying by jes’-folks. Most of it, to be sure, is on Facebook, where the currency of feeling is seriously devalued, so maybe I’m breaking a butterfly upon the wheel here.

Of course — you know what’s coming — I Have A Theory.

My theory is that we enjoy fervor. We like being enthusiastic about things, and jumping on some jolly bandwagon, and rooting for the home team. And of course we enjoy the bracing, piney air of the moral high ground. But we mostly don’t like disagreement, and argument, and making other people mad: because we are nice people ourselves. (Well, not me, of course. But I mean normal people.)

So the solution is to get all fervent and dewy-eyed and shaky-voiced about matters on which no one disagrees: the Nazis were bad, child molesters are bad, and these characteristically American shoot-em-up amuckniks are really, really bad. Click ‘like’ if you agree.

Best of both worlds, right? We can wave the banners and chant the slogans and march through the streets, with a police permit in due form, and nobody will get in our face.

The Henry Ford of the Holocaust Industry


So that awful old humbug, Elie Wiesel, has at last gone to his long account. Old-time readers here will know that I am superstitious about death and don’t like to say I’m glad that anybody died, no matter who. I can stop at the brink even with old Elie, but only just. What an insufferable Uriah Heep he was. There was never even anything remotely likable about him. That mantle of high seriousness in which he muffled himself never, so far as I am aware, slipped by so much as a micron, even for a microsecond.

Naturally he was the mass murderer’s favorite Voice Of Conscience. So far I note that Bibi Netanyahu, Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, Abe Foxman — I find that Wiesel once received, no kidding, the Jabotinsky Award from Foxman’s ADL — Madeleine Albright, Ron Lauder, and assorted celebrities and other white trash, like George Clooney and Bill Gates, have weighed in with effusive praise. Of course he was also a Nobel Peace Prize recipient — always a very bad sign — along with Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Menachem Begin, Henry Kissinger, and Barack Obama, the last-named having been given the award simply for having been elected President.

Speaking of Kissinger, I haven’t yet heard what he has had to say about the late smarmster, but I can wait. Ditto for Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban. Somebody wake me when it’s over.

One thing I discovered, amid the saponaceous deluge of posthumous praise, and hadn’t previously known, was that the old hypocrite was an ardent advocate of Clinton I’s balkan War. Can’t say I’m surprised.

It’s a kind of fun parlor game imagining how, if one were Rhadamanthus, one would deal with people like this on the Other Side. The trick is to let the punishment fit the crime, without being too sadistic. Away with the Dantesque boiling pitch; let’s be more subtle. I think my sentence for Wiesel would be to lock him up in a seminar room with the late, and also unlamented, Saul Bellow, and let them bore each other for a millennium or so.

All in it together

I may have confessed here before to a shameful solitary vice: I like to watch the proceedings of the British House of Commons on Youtube. The members of the Senate of Lilliput are a lot more droll than our solemn, po-faced soup hounds in the US Congress. It’s a bit like watching Solemn High Mass at a particularly gay Anglo-Catholic parish in San Francisco, compared with the glum, plodding earnestness of the Third Methodist Church of Guelph, Ontario.

Naturally I was keen to see how the House would deal with the Brexit vote. I am ashamed to say that I watched the clip above from start to finish. There are a few good moments in it. Cameron is really quite a quipster, though I hate to say it. He always ran rings around poor Miliband. Corbyn can’t keep up with him either, and like his predecessor, he ends up looking grouchy and sullen under the Tory’s hail of galling little barbs, all delivered in a bouncy, mirthful, offhand way. The Premier always appears to be enjoying himself, and the Labour front bench never do.

But in general it was a depressing spectacle. The overwhelming impression it made was that all these feisty scrappers, who are usually savaging each other con brio, have awakened to the fact that they are all slowly braising in the same broth. — Or if not exactly awakened, that they are stunned enough to let their guard down and allow their essential solidarity to be seen.

A telling symptom was the smarmy compliments bandied back and forth across the aisle. Apparently a lot of these sorry mugs appeared together at bipartisan Remainder rallies, and there was much Tory praise of Labour eloquence in the good cause, and vice versa.

I’m groping for an analogy here. Two, or three, or four, pirate ships firing broadsides at each other all night, until the bleak light of dawn reveals that they are all sinking — far, far from shore, deep in the Bermuda Triangle? The lifeboats are all battered to pieces, and none of the sailors knows how to swim, and the toothy gentlemen with the dorsal fins circle lazily, biding their time, in the pellucid water, now approximately gunwale-high. Imagine the look of weary consternation on the surviving buccaneers’ faces.

There are of course Euroskeptics in the House, but perhaps they thought it was bad form to crow on this occasion. I would have liked to hear from that oddest of odd ducks, Jacob Rees Mogg. He delights me. It’s like meeting a talking stork.

The brownshirts are coming! The brownshirts are coming!


The latest theme to appear in Chicken Little’s Brexit quodlibet: it’s strengthened the hand of nativists and fascists like UKIP.

Well, of course it has; and the Left has only itself to blame. Instead of getting out ahead of the brownshirts on what was clearly a very popular and deeply-felt topic, and articulating a rational case for Brexit, the British Left – such as it is – mostly played the Mere Liberal card, put themselves on the wrong side of history, and allowed the battle to take place on UKIP’s chosen ground.

Take poor Jeremy Corbyn (please!). Though he’s a Euroskeptic himself, he went along with his embedded Blairites and took an obviously half-hearted, not to say insincere, Remainder stance. Result? The aforementioned Blairites are conducting a coup against him and blaming him for the debacle. Whether they will succeed or not remains to be seen, though personally I think it’s quite likely that they will in fact resume control of that deliquescent galvanized corpse, the Labour Party; and much good may it do them.

There will always be Fascists, and they will always have to be fought. There’s always a UKIP or something like it. That would have still been the case, Brexit or no Brexit. But it’s a bad strategy for fighting them to cast your lot with a remote anonymous supranational machine, whose terrible wheels within wheels spin slowly, like Ezekiel’s vision,

‘Way up yonder in the middle o‘ the air.’

There is such a thing as horse sense. Brexiters in general may seldom have been able to articulate good clear reasons for their choice, but we ought to recognize that instinct may be sound even where consciousness is muddled.

Then of course there are the Youths and the highly educated, Remainders to a man, who invert the terms of that equation. – Or no, perhaps that’s unfair. Perhaps they see themselves as more likely to be able to navigate Tom Friedman’s world than the Exiters (rightly) could expect to do. In many cases – though certainly not all – that might even be true.

The Youths, of course, have never known a world without the EU, so in a sense they were casting conservative votes.

And as for the highly educated – well, as we all know, with rare exceptions, the more educated you are, the more indoctrinated you are.

Update: I read that the Scottish Labor party is looking for a way to stay in the EU and the UK. Talk about the worst of both worlds!

De liberalibus comburendis, volumen LXX


(Shown above, that fine old palaeo-neo-liberal William Ewart Gladstone.)

Liberals often wonder why people hate them so much, and it’s a good question. Most of the liberals I know are kindly, conscientious individuals. They’re not hard-hearted and they’re frequently generous. They’re usually gay-friendly and anti-racist. They devote themselves to charities and the PTA at their kid’s school, and pledge to NPR. What’s not to like?

But the good question has a good answer. Liberals, though they are mostly amiable as individuals, show quite a different character en masse and on the political plane. They are, in a word, authoritarian. They distrust and dislike the unwashed, uneducated masses — roughly defined as people who don’t listen to NPR — and they really do tend to think that great matters and affairs of state ought to be in the hands of experts.

This has come out very clearly in the response to the Brexit vote. I’ve been really shocked by all the liberal carpet-chewing. The corpse of ‘populism’ has been exhumed yet again, like poor Cromwell’s, and dragged through the streets and trampled upon.

(In fact this happens so often that the shabby, dilapidated cadaver hardly ever gets a week’s rest in its shallow Midwestern grave. Amazing how an ancestral fright can be handed down לדור ודור. Great-great-granny Mildred — a staunch Progressive and close friend of Bob LaFollette — was startled once by a garter snake, and her multitudinous progeny still shudder at the sight of anything sinuous.)

The Leavers have been roundly castigated as ignorant, bigoted, chauvinistic fools. Really, after all, why else would anybody distrust the gnomes of Brussels? The latter all went to good schools, and know their trade. (What their trade might in essence be is a topic perhaps best left alone.)

And of course the Remainders are enlightened folk about to be drowned beneath the whelming tide of barbarism — like the last shivering Roman Britons, speaking their carefully-enunciated provincial Latin among themselves around the flickering hearth as the days draw in, after seeing the last Legion off.

My favorite trope — endlessly replicated on Facebook, of course — comes from the aforementioned NPR. It consists of a snippet from Google Trends showing that there was a big spike in searches for ‘what is Brexit’ vel sim. after the polls closed on Thursday(*). NPR, in its inimitable finger-wagging, schoolmarmish manner, concludes that

…[I]t was after the polls closed when British voters started to think seriously about the implications of their choice.

Alas, hoi polloi. They just don’t do their homework, and that’s why they didn’t go to Haverford, like me.

Of course there are any number of other explanations for this spike. For one thing, as we all know, Google tries to anticipate your search query, and it’s very easy to go with whatever they suggest. Google does not tell us what its top suggested search was, during the hours in question, when you typed in ‘Brexit’ or ‘EU’.

But the best thing about NPR’s moralizing is its tacit assumption of unitary agency on the part of “British” voters and “their” thinking about “their” choice.

We have no way of knowing whether the spike was driven — as NPR suggests, in its usual oblique, dishonest way — mostly by exiters suddenly asking themselves “what have I done”? Of course that’s a picture which pleases NPR’s smug, liberal audience, with its firm belief in the self-evident value of technocratic, top-down institutions, and so it’s the fairy tale NPR chooses to tell.

But it’s a lot more likely that everybody, leavers and remainders alike, was looking for ammo to argue the point down the pub next day.

(*) Incidentally, this does not reflect independent research by NPR. The original item appeared in Google’s official Twitter feed. Google tweets, NPR retweets.



Of course I was pleased by the outcome of the Brexit vote. I’m quite unable to assess the economic implications, but I’m pretty sure that from the political point of view, the EU is a monster, and any blow delivered to it is a Good Thing.

Naturally, all of my liberal, and most of my Lefty, friends think otherwise. This puzzles me a bit.

Partly, I suppose, it’s just knee-jerk anti-Rightism. Undoubtedly many of the Brit exitees were ‘conservatives’, in one sense of the word or another; many, no doubt, motivated, entirely or in part, by racism or bigotry or anti-immigration sentiment(*). And libs and lefties are no more immune than anybody else to the intellectual error of reversing the sign: I’m against whatever the other team is for, and vice versa.

But then perhaps I’m doing the same thing. It’s clear that our rulers are very much in favor of these big unelected transnational economic constructs, and in general push for a borderless world, subject to no sovereignty or inspection but their own, for them; and a world full of barbed-wire fences, checkpoints, walled-off austerity camps (like Greece) and panoptic surveillance, for us. TPP, NAFTA, EU: same story, over and over.

So am I just reversing the sign on the oligarchs’ grand strategy, and assuming anything that’s good for them is bad for us? Of course, there is a case to be made that in this instance it really is a zero-sum game; that they live by exploiting us, and the better they live, the more we’ll be exploited.

Still, perhaps there are things they like that really are neutral, or even beneficial, even to us. Standard railway gauge, stuff like that.

Then of course there’s a venerable Marxist idea that the bourgeoisie’s triumphal disruption of national boundaries and national consciousness paves the way for a corresponding self-emancipation and universalizing self-realization by the proles. It’s a glorious vision – the locus classicus of course is Marx’s wonderful, soul-stirring preamble to the Manifesto – and I do wish it would happen, but it seems to be taking its time.

Meanwhile the oligarchs stride from triumph to triumph, and each time one of their seven-league boots touches the ground, millions of us are crushed under it.

Perhaps I’m taking the short view here, but until the universal proletariat an und für sich awakes from its long slumber in mere potentiality, I am strongly inclined to applaud any sabot that happens to fall into the juggernaut’s machinery, no matter whose foot it came from.

If nothing else, it shows that our masters are not omnipotent.


(*) They’re not the same thing; but that’s a topic for another post.

Prepare the way, O Zion…

… which is actually a very fine Advent hymn in the little marginal sect I grew up in — tempus imperfectum, prolatio maior. I have brutally, unfeelingly repurposed its incipit here.

Apparently the embedded neocons in Foggy Bottom are feeling their oats, with the near-certain prospect of Hillary in the White House. (The Clintons: Season Two.) Fifty or so of them recently signed onto an internal cable advocating for open war with Syria. The smart money thinks that Kerry is with ’em; no doubt he likes being Secretary of State and would like to continue in that capacity.

The idea here, I suppose, is to create a climate of hysteria and a sense of urgency, such that Hillary can send the Marines as soon as she’s inaugurated; and it will look like she’s moving decisively to address an acknowledged, acute problem — even the cookie-pushers are worried! — rather than simply droning away, predictably, like the Israel Lobby stooge she always has been.

Naturally, this means making Obie look bad: Mister Feckless, who’s been reluctant to lance the Alawite boil, on behalf of our good friends in Israel and Saudi Arabia. Hillary, of course, will show no such hesitation.

I suspect she doesn’t mind making him look bad. He deprived her, eight years ago, of what she considered rightfully hers; so I dare say there’s no love lost on either side.

Obie, unfortunately, seems to be such a team player and organization man that he will take it all like the good sport he is. “It’s Her Turn”, in the White House, and his in the barrel.

There are always the memoirs, of course. Perhaps absurdly, I continue to hope that they will reveal a streak of bloody-mindedness, on Obie’s part, which so far has only shown itself against our subject peoples.

Radio silence


Ever since Hillary’s recent show of solidarity with Trump, I’ve noticed a very gratifying diminution in the number of shrill, contumacious, imperative emails and facebook posts from her fans. (Unless maybe they’ve all just un-friended me.) I’m sure they’ll all still vote for her, and perhaps they’ll be back in full cry again before I can finish this post, but for the moment the silence is intensely refreshing. Tumbleweeds. Crickets. So nice to hear them again.