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July 1, 2008

The mediocre elite

Foreign Policy magazine -- "Where the world’s top thinkers come to debate the most salient issues of the day," as the mag modestly describes itself -- recently ran a beauty pageant for the top 100 "top thinkers" of the world. (What exactly does a top thinker do to a bottom thinker, I wonder? But I digress.)

It's a sad list. Noam Chomsky makes the cut -- but he's only No. 11, right above notorious craniac... Al Gore! The loathesome Richard Dawkins is no. 19. Salman Rushdie(23), Vaclav Havel(26), right above Christopher Hitchens[!]... so far it's mostly the Academy Of The Overrated(*), but it quickly turns to downright comedy with Thomas Friedman(40), David Petraeus(65), and Lawrence Summers(67). I'm certainly glad the general edged out Harvard's pride. Porky Larry must be hopping mad about that.

Man oh man. If these are really the "top thinkers" of the world we are in much deeper trouble than I thought.


(*) Thanks to Woody Allen for this key concept.


Senator Obama strongly approves of patriotism. It's an interesting text, and very much what we've come to expect of Obama: the product of a highly intelligent, reflective individual determined to leave no platitude un-repeated. You can almost see the two sides of his nature taking turns being on top, as one sentence succeeds the last.

Usually I hate Talmudic posts that reprint the text, with the blogger throwing in an occasional catcall from the peanut gallery, but Barack is such a remarkable and unusual talent, and his twists and turns have so much dramatic interest, that it seems right to depart from standard procedure:

We reflect on these questions because we are in the midst of a presidential election, perhaps the most consequential in generations....
Here of course we have a central Democratic Party trope -- last unveiled in the Most Important Elections Of Our Lifetime, two years ago. This observation is aimed at all the useful liberal idiots who may have started to waver in their faith as Barack has plunged rightward since winning the nomination. If you love your children and grandchildren -- vote for me! Even though I'm a fink!

But here's Thoughtful Barack again:

After all, throughout our history, men and women of far greater stature and significance than me have had their patriotism questioned in the midst of momentous debates. Thomas Jefferson was accused by the Federalists of selling out to the French. The anti-Federalists were just as convinced that John Adams was in cahoots with the British and intent on restoring monarchal rule. Likewise, even our wisest Presidents have sought to justify questionable policies on the basis of patriotism. Adams' Alien and Sedition Act, Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus, Roosevelt's internment of Japanese Americans - all were defended as expressions of patriotism, and those who disagreed with their policies were sometimes labeled as unpatriotic.

In other words, the use of patriotism as a political sword or a political shield is as old as the Republic. Still, what is striking about today's patriotism debate is the degree to which it remains rooted in the culture wars of the 1960s - in arguments that go back forty years or more. In the early years of the civil rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam War, defenders of the status quo often accused anybody who questioned the wisdom of government policies of being unpatriotic.

Well, that got my attention. especially the sword-and-shield thing. Whose motto was that? Let me see... ah, well, who remembers? But then, in a classic on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand move, our man goes on:
Meanwhile, some of those in the so-called counter-culture of the Sixties reacted not merely by criticizing particular government policies, but by attacking the symbols, and in extreme cases, the very idea, of America itself - by burning flags; by blaming America for all that was wrong with the world; and perhaps most tragically, by failing to honor those veterans coming home from Vietnam, something that remains a national shame to this day.
Scorecard: the promoters of the Vietnam War were guilty of "questioning" people's patriotism. But the other side attacked the very idea of America itself, burned flags, spit on returning soldiers, etc. I think the counterculture lost this round, don't you?

Thoughtful Barack comes back -- temporarily:

[T]he anger and turmoil of that period never entirely drained away. All too often our politics still seems trapped in these old, threadbare arguments - a fact most evident during our recent debates about the war in Iraq, when those who opposed administration policy were tagged by some as unpatriotic...
Wait for it --
... and a general providing his best counsel on how to move forward in Iraq was accused of betrayal.
Spitting on the flag again! They just can't stop doing it!

Shifting into lyrical mode again:

I remember, when living for four years in Indonesia as a child, listening to my mother reading me the first lines of the Declaration of Independence - "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." I remember her explaining how this declaration applied to every American, black and white and brown alike; how those words, and words of the United States Constitution, protected us from the injustices that we witnessed other people suffering during those years abroad. That's my idea of America.
The guy is good, isn't he? But here's what comes next:
As I got older, that gut instinct - that America is the greatest country on earth - would survive my growing awareness of our nation's imperfections
Uh-oh. When the "greatest country on earth" shows up, it's time to duck and cover. And indeed:
... [P]atriotism is... loyalty to America's ideals... It is the application of these ideals that separate us from... Iraq, where despite the heroic efforts of our military, and the courage of many ordinary Iraqis, even limited cooperation between various factions remains far too elusive.

I believe those who attack America's flaws without acknowledging the singular greatness of our ideals, and their proven capacity to inspire a better world, do not truly understand America.

He lost me with our "singular greatness". I really couldn't read on. Oh, yeah, I know, his defense attorneys -- and they are legion -- will say this is what you have to do in order to be elected. To which I can only respond: In that case, I can't begin to care who gets elected.

July 2, 2008

Not anti-

From the Financial Times, via an intellectual-property scofflaw pal of mine:
Obama camp signals robust approach on Iran

The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is the biggest threat facing the world, according to one of Barack Obama's senior foreign policy advisers....

In an interview with the Financial Times, Anthony Lake, a former US national security adviser who has worked with Mr Obama since the start of his campaign, also urged the US to learn lessons from its traumatic withdrawal from Vietnam regarding pulling out of Iraq....

Mr Lake depicted the Democratic candidate as a tough-minded realist rather than an anti-war politician....

He stressed that Mr Obama, even after withdrawing troops from Iraq over 16 months as he has promised, would maintain "a residual presence for clearly defined missions". These would include military training, and "preparedness to go back in if there are specific acts of genocidal violence".

"That is not 'cut and run and let's just see what happens'," Mr Lake said.....

Highlighting a parallel with his first posting as assistant to Henry Cabot Lodge, a US ambassador in 1960s Saigon, he said: "It is common sense that we could not leave Vietnam successfully unless we left behind a government in Saigon that could govern successfully.

"It seems obvious in retrospect; it was not obvious enough to too many politicians at the time. In Iraq it's the same problem."...

Mr Lake was sympathetic to aspects of Mr McCain's idea of a League of Democracies, one of the centrepieces of the Republican's foreign policy plans.

...[H]e backed the general idea of a grouping that was "not an anti-Russian device but an effort to find ways for the democracies to act together on issues of defence of our common values . . . specifically on issues when the UN can't act".

Even that notion might be difficult to digest for European countries wary of offending Moscow or seeming to sidestep the UN. But as Mr Lake's words indicate, Mr Obama could yet be a demanding partner for the rest of the world.

* * *

So Obama is "not anti-war." I was always taught that in English a double negative added up to a positive.

I really wonder -- not for the first time -- why so many people think the Democratic party is more anti-war, or rather less pro-war, than the Republicans.

It's interesting too that the ancient campaign to keep Russia in a box -- which dates back to well before the US was Top Country, and has now entered its third century under the new management -- seems to be cranking up again. That was high on the agenda in the Clinton years, but seems to have been rather back-burnered under Bush.

Plus ca change: Palmerston and the Whigs were always more interested in an aggressive policy against Russia than the Tories were. Although the parallel is a bit inexact; there really are no conservatives in the 19th-century sense anymore, and certainly none in the Republican Party.

Still, it's fun in a grim kind of way to hear these themes and motifs recur.

Kos locutus est

Mr Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, the cult chief of Daily Kos, has seen fit to administer a spanky to the next President of the United States. Many of his followers are very upset with him:
Rewarding good behavior

So many of you are upset that I pulled back my credit card last night, making a last minute decision to hold back on a $2,300 contribution to Obama. Let me explain further:

First of all, obviously Obama is a great candidate who is running a great 50-state race. That much cannot be denied. But he's had a rough couple of weeks.

First, he reversed course and capitulated on FISA....

Then, he took his not-so-veiled swipe at MoveOn in his "patriotism" speech.

Finally, he reinforced right-wing and media talking points that Wes Clark had somehow impugned McCain's military service....

Kos always had a soft spot for Wesley Clark. I don't know why. I don't think I want to know why.

Kos continues:

...[T]here is a line between "moving to the center" and stabbing your allies in the back out of fear of being criticized. And, of late, he's been doing a lot of unecessary stabbing....

I'm not going to start praising Nader or Barr. I'll still vote for [Obama]. Yadda, yadda, yadda. At the end of the day, I'm pretty irrelevant in the whole affair. Obama is going to raise a ton of dough and win this thing whether I send him money or not.

Ultimately, he's currently saying that he doesn't need people like me to win this thing, and he's right. He doesn't. If they've got polling or whatnot that says that this is his best path to victory, so much the better. I want him to win big....

Others will happily pick up the slack. We're headed toward a massive Democratic wave, and what I decide to do with my money means next to nothing....

Let me see if I've got this right. Kos correctly feels that he and his coterie have been "stabbed in the back," seduced and abandoned, thrown aside with every mark of contempt now that their modest usefulness is over. But he still wants the stabber to win; plans to vote for him; may yet send him the money.

Something very strange going on in those brains.

Keeping Laputa aloft

An old friend of mine -- my informant, mentioned here before, deeply embedded in the credentialling sector -- passed this along, in salutary defiance of copyright law, from the subscription-only Chronicle Of Higher Education. Why these folks might feel they're in any danger from Napster or whoever is anybody's guess, but that's Academia for you -- the smaller the stakes, the fiercer the struggle.

For subscribers:


Pentagon's New Social-Science Program Stirs Old Anxieties

In September 1965, not long after news reports spotlighted a controversial Pentagon-sponsored program to study social conflict in South America, the Social Science Research Council played host to a meeting on overseas research.

Feelings were raw. Opposition to the Vietnam War was mounting, and many scholars worried that the Pentagon's research on conflict and counterinsurgency would bring all overseas researchers under suspicion as agents of American military power. According to Seymour J. Deitchman's The Best-Laid Schemes: A Tale of Social Research and Bureaucracy (MIT Press, 1976), a central theme of that 1965 meeting was whether, if the Pentagon really required research on such topics, it "couldn't be obtained by some independent, 'objective' agency, such as the National Science Foundation."

.... In April, Robert M. Gates, the secretary of defense, announced the Minerva Research Initiative, a Pentagon-financed, university-based social-science program whose purpose is to study the Chinese military, cultural dynamics in the Islamic world, and other topics of interest to the military.

... The president of the American Anthropological Association released a statement urging that such research be funded not by the Pentagon, but by agencies with "decades of experience in building an infrastructure of respected peer reviewers" like the National Science Foundation.

...[O]n Monday afternoon, the Pentagon signed an agreement that will facilitate collaborative social-science projects with the National Science Foundation... The anthropologists' wish has been at least partly granted.

The Pentagon has learned a valuable lesson: find the most respectable front you can, and then suborn it. "Peer review"! The holy of holies! The very best whitewash to use, if you've got a really foul sepulchre that needs touching up.
... [T]he program's supporters hope that it will play a... role in rebuilding trust between social scientists and the military. In his speech announcing Minerva, Mr. Gates referred to "academics who felt used and disenchanted after Vietnam, and troops who felt abandoned and unfairly criticized by academia during the same time."
Gates was at least a bit more balanced than his prospective new boss.
In an interview last month, Thomas G. Mahnken, the Defense Department's deputy assistant secretary for policy planning, said... "We believe that the government will benefit and the nation will benefit if we have a larger cadre of scholars who are conversant in primary-source Arabic documents, for example."
Translation: The overburdened CIA needs a sort of ladies' auxiliary.
He added that he hoped the NSF's peer-review process would give the program credibility among scholars.
No doubt his wish will be gratified. Once the holy water of "peer review" has been sprinkled about with a free hand -- what evil spirits could possibly remain? Besides, these people have... money... for grants! Now there, if you like, is some serious holy water.

But the best is yet to come:

Among the most visible skeptics is David H. Price, an associate professor of sociology and anthropology at Saint Martin's University and the author of a new history of World War II-era anthropology. Mr. Price says that even when the military solicits social scientists' insights, those insights are often ignored.
So let me see if I follow you, David: the problem with giving the Devil advice is that... the Devil doesn't listen?
Mr. Deitchman ended his memoir with a proposition that almost no one in the current Minerva debate is likely to find palatable. After witnessing a decade of angry Congressional hearings and bitter arguments within social-science organizations, he concluded that publicly financed social-science research was hopelessly politicized and that the federal government should, by and large, wash its hands of the entire business.

No matter whether they work for the Defense Department or for less controversial agencies, government-financed social scientists are in danger of swallowing "the values and outlook of the bureaucracy," Mr. Deitchman wrote. But in a new time of war and cross-cultural conflict, it's impossible to imagine that the federal government will follow Mr. Deitchman's advice and retreat from social-science research. The question now, as in 1965, is which agencies will steer that research.

And no doubt the answer will be the same. All the other answers seem to be the same -- or worse. I'm still reeling from Anthony Lake -- Obama's foreign-policy Yoda -- telling us recently that our mistake in Vietnam was leaving too soon.

July 3, 2008

Ignore that man behind the curtain

When does peak oil become an Oiler, Inc. win-win?

When it's an artefact of discovery policy -- when there's more oil, but its still unproven or at least not yet exploited. Speculators and even producers can't beat the effect of undiscovered oil on long run expected demand and supply.

If you have substitutes that have high fixed costs and long lead times, you can deter their entry into a market by a price cycle that dips below the alternative products' long-run break-even price fairly often, but can stay near or even above it for prolonged periods.

Hence the infamous glut-to-scarcity act of big oil in the late 90's -- low prices, low low low drilling for new pools. It seems unlikely that the future demand cycle at least ten years out was completely beyond the range of Houston tower telescopes. But it's always smart to underestimate demand growth in times of supply slack. It's a really cool mechanism to deter sustainable alternatives -- at least, alternatives that would need to cover their costs: i.e. market-based ventures.

In a world where the state steals and never builds; where it taxes to punish and exploit, not to induce optimizing changes in choice -- hell, isn't it obvious? You greens are playing right into their con, and their periodic massive earth-wide windfalls.

Watch: when they're good and ready -- when wind sun and tide are ready to ramp up the alternatives -- discovery and new levels of recovery will explode; prices per barrel of crude tumble; sustainable green earth-friendly alternatives -- languish.

Under the volcano

Last week, you may recall, our Dembotated Congress at long last finally passed a bill extending unemployment bennies for an additional 90 days. Lots of us are gonna need it -- maybe 3 and a half million of us -- this "rolling adjustment" ain't over yet.

The donkeys bray with glee "this one's for you, Mr and Mrs Little Schmuck." Obviously there'll be a virile override of any staged POTUS veto -- the tower trolls know their Bismarc. Fortunately for the job system's unofficial management class, odds are this correction will remain at a pace below freak-out velocity -- and yet....

Ahh, so what if we're back to a job force the size of the one we had last year at this time. Things move so slowly these days. But then again the next six months might see this pace swiften. The ability to plow under jobs, even in good times, is quite impressive -- at least it always impresses me.

Gross job loss from all sources -- quits, fires, layoffs, liquidations, retires, etc. easily can run up into the two million range each and every month. 25 million jobs reaped away, every year

Imagine if the system simply stopped replacing us dispensables. Why, off the solid 5% base we got now, in just a year's time we could reach 21% joblessness. Soup lines! Hoovervilles! Dance marathons!

See how kind these corporations are, taking us in like they do. It's always possible they might not.

Back to the here and now: it takes a net 100k new jobs per month to absord all the entrants and re-entrants into the marketplace. A quick calculation tells us if we're down absolutely by 450k since last December, and if we add in 6 months' worth of these missing 100k shiny new opportunities, then we discover -- as the great Krug did today -- we're, yikes, a million jobs short.

Will the job market's current doldrums spell electoral doom for Hanoi Johnny? Is he suitable for framing as America's latest job drought Judas goat? Is that alone enough to once again shoot down the air pirate? _

Regression to the mean

Ahhh, the magic of peer review:

The ’60s Begin to Fade as Liberal Professors Retire

Baby boomers, hired in large numbers during a huge expansion in higher education that continued into the ’70s, are being replaced by younger professors who [are] less ideologically polarized and more politically moderate.

Here's some good news for Dick Dawkins:
At Stanford a divided anthropology department reunited last year after a bitter split in 1998 broke it into two entities, one focusing on culture, the other on biology.
Going on:
[A] new study of the social and political views of American professors [found that] “Self-described liberals are most common within the ranks of those professors aged 50-64, who were teenagers or young adults in the 1960s,” they wrote, making up just under 50 percent. At the same time, the youngest group, ages 26 to 35, contains the highest percentage of moderates, some 60 percent, and the lowest percentage of liberals, just under a third.

When it comes to those who consider themselves “liberal activists,” 17.2 percent of the 50-64 age group take up the banner compared with only 1.3 percent of professors 35 and younger.

“These findings with regard to age provide further support for the idea that, in recent years, the trend has been toward increasing moderatism,” the study says.

"Moderatism!" There's a conceptual breakthrough for you! What, one wonders, are the tenets of moderatism? Presumably "the truth lies somewhere in between" must figure prominently. You know: a male chauvinist thinks that women are inferior to men. A feminist thinks that women are the equals of men. A moderatist(*) thinks the truth lies somewhere in between.
The authors are not talking about a political realignment. Democrats continue to overwhelmingly outnumber Republicans among faculty, young and old.
It's certainly easy enough to be a Democrat and a moderatist. In fact, it's difficult to be a Democrat and anything else.

But here's the really good news:

... moderation can be found at both ends of the political spectrum [e.g.] A seminar on great books at Princeton jointly taught by two philosophers, the left-wing Cornel West and the right-wing Robert P. George.
O the lion lies down with the lamb! But which is which? And who is dinner?

July 4, 2008

Now see here...

The Wagging Finger Pose:

Have we seen Barack do this before? Or is this one of the classic pathological signs of being the Democratic nominee?

I have the feeling that Democrats do this Pecksniffian gesture more often than Republicans. Am I wrong? Time to accumulate an image archive. Send in your links!

July 5, 2008

Homage to Clio

Here's a memo for the Fourth from a Woodstock generation hanger-on (for meritorious eyes only):

Go 40 years in the Wayback with me -- to July 1968. Now don't it look like Dawn of the Dead? We shoulda gone into mourning if not hibernation. The high 60's ended that summer all over the world -- in Chicago, Prague, Paris, Peking you name it.

Now of course Clio taunted us with Her usual eddies of false prospect. Allende's Chile -- the Black Panthers -- the PLO. But it was over, really and truly over, that summer. Turning points and high water marks litter the era like carnival tattoos. My quondam Virgil, the dumfounding Hunter T, saw the wave break earlier -- way back when a detail of Hell's Angels, 'Nam backers and melanophobes headed off the Joe Colleges at the Oakland-Berkley line. But that was a prefiguration -- a scoop. The massive turn, the turn we all felt, came that summer in 68.

The shift, the quake, the national impasse, wasn't just generational. Or even racial. The real killer was the class fissure right inside us boomer white folks ourselves. And that fucker just kept widening from then on: from those late 60's summers through the "fuck it" Saturday night fever of the Carter dispensation till what else -- uncle Ronnie took America under his Hollywood wing.

It was seemingly bridged for a moment that May in Paris -- pure steet theatre, alas. Even among that nation of hams, it was already crumbling by July. What could have held 'em together? Once the eternal routine of job life kicked back in for the waged smurfs, and the left bank revolutionary merit classers had only their holier than thou arpeggios -- the anarcho unionist oxymoron worked out a nasty separation agreement, and quite easily too -- and not just in France but all over the advanced patches of the planet.

In little more than ten years we got Deng and Thatcher. The topsy turvy was righted -- the iron laws of the market place re-legitimized.

Let's tick off the stations: that ugly July 68 -- July 78 -- don't forget July 88 -- how 'bout that July 98 -- and here we are at July 08, 40 years later. Seems longer, somehow.

Well my fellow highly edified world changers -- I hope you paused to savor each milestone station. Do ya feel better about stuff? Feel it's only the gun fuckers and Jesus creepers that are bitter?

Now cometh Obama. Oh the irony for us Woodstockers. Our devotion to black liberation was both our golden and poison apple, from rad freaks to beatific Aquarians -- and this is our Disney ending? This id projection taking flesh, this lank smoothie, the promised Emperor of ice cream?

As always I take my solace in an upside down rendering of old Hegel's dialectic. I believe history, human history, has her reasons. The peculiar features of our social progress have a loose slothful necessity. So what if it zigzags like a lazy Tennessee river? Why the big hurry? It ain't all about us.

The '68 pivot was a right pivot, so the next one's gotta be a -- well, fill in the blank. And mates, when it hits, it will hit hard and good.


A comment by Bro. Flugennock on an earlier post led me to prowl around on You Tube for a video of JFK's famous Rice University speech -- possibly the silliest moment in a very silly reign; the moment when postwar American hubris really jumped the shark and we decided we could treat the spacious firmament on high as if it were the Caribbean:

Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolutions, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it--we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.

Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world's leading space-faring nation.

There are so many things to enjoy about all this. There's the preposterous boyish Tom Swiftery of it all -- Kennedy might as well have been a fictional President somewhere in the oeuvre of Robert Heinlein. There's the sanctimonious bilge about "freedom" and "peace", uneasily coexisting with the imagery of coming in first and exercising "leadership". There's the trademark shallow but grandiloquent Kennedy rhetoric -- "man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred."

But I think the best part is Lyndon Johnson, squirming irrepressibly behind the boy President, and obviously barely able to keep from laughing out loud. He so badly wants to elbow somebody in the ribs and say, "He wants to go to the moon? He's already on the moon!"

July 6, 2008

Striving for a more respectable servility

Sara Robinson, a progressive pundit, opines that the right wing has no adequate heuristics for coping with rapid change and that this is so because they are possessed of an authoritarian mindset. First, and at the risk of indulging an easy cheap shot, the heuristics the right wingers do have are more than adequate for coping with the challenge of progressivism, which appears to have been cursed by an activist base consisting of hundreds of thousands of overeducated, over-informed, under-experienced and occasionally vicious Arnold Horshacks. Their equivalents on the right have strained their gloating muscles as the Humvee of movement conservatism deals with their pleas to be called on. But this is hardly a setback, nor does it stress their heuristics. Second, and here is where Robinson completely misses the point, any system that's based on manufactured scarcity and rationing privileges is going to cause cognitive dissonance in the people who are subject to its control, even if it's run by completely sincere, ethically committed progressives. The path of least resistance in such a system is to accept noblesse oblige, when it's offered, bay in defense of droit de seigneur when there are incentives for that and move along smartly when the nice policeman sez. There is no way to keep most of the system and overcome the fundamental, embedded injustice; which means there is no end to the severe cognitive dissonance; which means no end to the proliferation of the authoritarian follower mindset. What makes the progressive agenda irremediably fatuous is that when push comes to shove, they settle for securing their leadership's privilege. The crass and bloated blooming of the character traits that appall progressives, in others, are positive adaptations to the perverse incentives of "the only live utopian program in the world today". Who, really, is future-ready as long as that program obtains and who... less so?

Continue reading "Striving for a more respectable servility" »

July 7, 2008

We don't need no thought control

As everyone knows by now, Barackwater's latest is an intricately nuanced stance on abortion:

I have repeatedly said that I think it’s entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don’t think that “mental distress” qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term. Otherwise, as long as there is such a medical exception in place, I think we can prohibit late-term abortions.

The spectacle of Barack trimming his sails is not, of course, very new or at this point very interesting. What struck me personally was a different part of Barack's remarks:

Strang: You’ve said you’re personally against abortion and would like to see a reduction in the number of abortions under your administration. So, as president, how would do you propose accomplishing that?

Obama: I think we know that abortions rise when unwanted pregnancies rise. So, if we are continuing what has been a promising trend in the reduction of teen pregnancies, through education and abstinence education giving good information to teenagers. That is important—emphasizing the sacredness of sexual behavior to our children. I think that’s something that we can encourage. I think encouraging adoptions in a significant way. I think the proper role of government. So there are ways that we can make a difference, and those are going to be things I focus on when I am president.

Barack still at least has, I'm glad to see, a full measure of the most odious aspect of liberalism: a fervent belief in governmental indoctrination (usually referred to as "education"). Isn't it really kind of breathtaking, when you think about it, that a politician should assert that "we" -- meaning, presumably, the government he wishes to head -- ought to tell people what's sacred and what's not? Here Barack of course is departing from the liberals as regards what ought to be indoctrinated -- abstinence, forsooth! But his commitment to soul-engineering as legitimate "role of government" -- and school -- is entirely in accordance with liberal notions.

Of course it's also entirely in accord with contemporary right-wing notions. Are there really any old-style conservatives who believe that government ought to be more modest than this? If so, I would like to meet them. We might have more in common than either would have expected.

There was an exchange here a few weeks ago about libertarianism -- whether a lefty could be in any sense a libertarian, and if so, what one ought to understand by the term in that case.

I'm still groping on this question, but utterances like the one above provide lots of grist for the mill. Right-wing archfiend Grover Norquist observes that "the center right coalition in American politics today is best understood as a coalition of groups and individuals, that on the issue that brings them to politics, what they want from the government is to be left alone." Based on my own occasional forays away from the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I think he might be on to something.

Maybe lefties ought to take this desire a little more seriously, and try to connect with it. The actually existing Right is not going to deliver on "leaving people alone", and liberalism certainly never will. But what really matters to us as Lefties? Is it motorcycle helmets? Gun control? Maybe we think these are good things -- but how high are they on the list? Might it not be possible to combine a greater degree of individual autonomy and privacy with the things that do really matter to us? I believe this merits some thinking about.

Where is Pericles when you need him?

"Of course, the average American is not concerned with the complexities of global finance.But as I talk to ordinary Americans, and I visit the United States once or twice a year, I sense their anxiety about the state of the economy. The irony, they have said to me, is that the middle class felt little benefit from economic growth when the official indicators were pointing upward, but once the downturn started, it hit them immediately, and it hit them hard."

That's Gorby layin' it out for our next prez in an op-ed at the ITH. The man who brought down the socialist camp right on the heads of all its overtasked, undercompensated little campers. His advice to up our economy? Cut the military budget. Lots of our problems can be solved, according to ex-Leninist Gorbachev, if we just turn away from the Bush big stick and bigger swagger approach to global problems. "The size of America's defense budget and the militarization of its foreign policy..." is a real deep troublemaker, not only for all our fellow earthlings, but for ourselves as well -- or at least those not raised by the system into Larry Summers' stateless elite.

Not bad advice, now is it? After all, when is it not a good time to nix empire, American style?

But don't he then fall right on his face: "the next president will have to decide... whether America wants to be an empire or a democracy."

Okay, so his empire was not compatible with "democracy" -- at least as we know it -- but is our empire?

Unlike the empire Uncle Joe built, I think our own brand sprang very easily and quite nicely right out of our special kinda spreadeagle settler state rendition of a democracy. So you might take himself's solemn advice to the next commandante of the world's sole hyperpower with a snicker or two.

"Global dominance or international cooperation: choose. This is an either-or proposition: The two things don't mix, like oil and water."
I'm reminded of side-saddle Adlai's Cuban missile crisis theatrics -- "don't wait for the translation! Yes or no!"

Gorby is, maybe, half right. Like oil and water, democracy at home and empire abroad "don't mix" -- or at least not well, or for long. No good comes of trying to mix 'em, but they can lay almost indefinitely, the ugly one settin' on top of the shiny hill one -- sorta like a Sioux chief's war bonnet.

Didn't such Rushmorean heroes as TR and FDR prove that, in times long long past?

July 8, 2008

Pity the poor bondholder

"Unfortunately, no one, certainly not in Asia or the US, seems willing to bite the bullet and help engineer the necessary co-ordinated retreat to sustained sub-trend growth, which is necessary so that new commodity supplies and alternatives can catch up."

That's Harvard's own Kenny Rogoff, who wants to slow global growth by any means necessary -- because prices are rising too fast. Right now, sez the kenmeister, "governments are clawing to stretch out unsustainable booms... Getting the diagnosis right is the place to start. The world as a whole needs tighter monetary and fiscal policy."

Let's pass by this odd conflation of diagnosis and prescription. As far as cures go, this is the purest kind of allopathic fools' poison. Advice like this breeds cures more sociopathological by far than the social pathology it's alleged to cure. The remedy for a boom -- trigger a bust. Sound familiar?

It's the top-shelf kill cure made at least nationally famous by Paul "submission hold" Volcker back in the Carter/Reagan years. But hey, Kenny wants to go global with it.

See, Kenny means by "sustained sub-trend growth" an earth-wide figure-four financial hog tie. After that euphemism, try on this for pop speak:

"The historic influx of new entrants into the global workforce, each aspiring to western consumption standards, is simply pushing global growth past..."
-- wait for it --
"the safety marker on the speed dial."
By easy analogy we find a plausible, dire diagnosis: the world economy has a safe operating range above which -- what? train wreck? Or is that a con -- like the infamous national operating rate ceiling on job growth and safety limit on economy-wide job-carrying capacity?

The real heavy here is that vastly overrated Mr Nasty, accelerating inflation. Heaven forbid the oppressed bond holders of planet Terra take some real value losses through unanticipatedly swift price level change.

Bust through this mental barrier about paper wealth being king, and we might just morph into a new age of sustained super above-trend growth. Now wouldn't that be awful?

July 9, 2008

The terrible liberty...

... to begin the world anew:

Bastille Day approaches. Regettably, 'round here it approaches on cat's paws.

If there's a single event that one could say announced "the next world is here" -- surely this oughta be it. The great double-domer GWF Hegel, it is alleged -- yes, "Mr World-Historical" himself -- celebrated Bastille Day long after his youthful romantic fires had banked.

Lesson: the mere fact that a state exists and has continued to exist, even for centuries, does not make it "rational"; and if it's not rational -- if it weighs like chains upon "the new passions" of the people? Then "it has to be annihilated -- it is annihilated".

Ahh, but then, dear hearts, comes the terror. eh? Starting from scratch leads to what? All that blood -- blood on the hands of the new "regime" -- the blood of the lambs.

As Chou En-Lai famously suggested, it's "too soon to tell" the full impact of that historical cataract known to termites and kings as the great revolution, except to say -- it was big. The fall of the French 'ancien regime' sounded an irreversible transformation of human society and by that an irreversible transformation of society's essential product -- us human beings.

Now to today's poser:

In a comment on contemporary libertarianism, a few posts back, I struck at a hero of this here site, the miraculous Noam Chomsky. In a sort of offhand slap, I suggested he -- like all progressive libertarians today -- is essentially a reactionary liberal. I had hoped to provoke a nasty response but didn't, so now I'll try again.

J'accuse! Citizen Chomsky -- creature of the best in Enlightenment humanism -- himself is a reactionary "one soul is worth a zillion souls" romantic liberty freak. A beautiful spirit, yes, but built from a mishmash of antisocial glop, some of it as old as Rousseau.

He excludes the only vehicle of social transformation from his to-do list -- society itself. He has no faith in the progressive role of any social activity that might erect on the ruins of an old state -- God forbid -- a new state. All Noam can see coming from this tragic replication of received instincts is a new hierarchy and a new terror. The new state's innovations its retotalizations, its rationalizations, will soak it in innocent blood.

The ancien regime to Noam is pure bad, and he wants it down. But to Noam, progress is worth zero till it morphs directly into the new Jerusalem itself. As an anti-state, anti-party lone wolf libertarian, he puts his faith in only one Kaaba stone. Like Godwin and Thoreau, he worships the reified notion of a spontaneous aggregation of singlularly progressive souls.

It's not enough to rely on a hive-wide spontaneous refusal to maintain the old regime and hence watch it collapse in on itself -- something that is inded the wonder of all wonders. Obviously we all await the next such miracle. But Doc Chomsky refuses to be a party to any notion of building anew on the ruins a revolutionary state. He prefers to wait for the final dawn after the final state collapse -- the advent of a stateless spontaneous oversoul -- something that quite obviously is not struggling to be born right here and now.

What however is struggling to be born, somewhere in the multichambered womb of planet earth's hyperpower-plagued present reality, is another storming of the Bastille, and more sharply, another moment of terrible liberty; another Jacobin movement of social revolution, another bloody new state to propel us just one stage further toward Noam's Godless and Green earth.

Dem congress: kiss your privacy goodbye

As expected, the Senate has overwhelmingly voted -- 69-28 -- to expand the scope of government snooping, and incidentally to give the telephone companies retroactive immunity from prosecution for their own role in illegal surveillance since 2001. Twenty-one Democrats, including Obama and Feinstein, joined the majority.

The vote on the bill follows equally lopsided votes on amendments:

An amendment sponsored by Mr. Dodd to strip the immunity provision from the bill was defeated, 66 to 32.

Two other amendments were also rejected. One, offered by Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, would have required that a district court judge assess the legality of warrantless wiretapping before granting immunity. It lost by 61 to 37. The other, which would have postponed immunity for a year pending a federal investigation, was offered by Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico. It was defeated by 56 to 42.

So it's fair to say, I think, that the results are conclusively in as regards the usefulness of electing Democrats. The Most Important Elections In History, held back in 2006, were supposed to put an end to at least the most glaring horrors of the Bush presidency and his Republican congresses. Instead, what we have gotten from our nice new Democratic Congress is the continuation of Bush's war, and the retrospective blessing of Bush's crimes.

Who said bipartisanship is dead?


Apparently Jesse Jackson has had an epiphany, foreshadowed here some weeks ago:
Jackson also says something about how [Obama] was "going to get his (twin objects of male anatomy) cut off."

Jackson, who recalled his remark as, "The senator is cutting off his you-know-what with black people," expressed deep regrets for saying it, even in what he thought was a "private conversation."

That Jackson and his inadvertently-public private conversations! Unfortunately, what he has to say in private is usually a lot more interesting than what he says in public. His scandalous "Hymietown" comment, which was arguably rather perceptive as to the facts though offensively phrased, famously led to his own self-castration moment.

Now, alas, he's groveling again:

"For any harm or hurt that this hot mic private conversation may have caused, I apologize. My support for Senator Obama's campaign is wide, deep and unequivocal. I cherish this redemptive and historical moment."
The difference between the Hymietown moment and this one is, of course, that this time Jackson was a) on the money about the facts, and b) chose the right words.

What he's apologizing for, then, is not saying something untrue, or using an injurious term. He's apologizing for getting off the reservation... again.

Kind of a tragedy, really -- his capacity and persistent impulse to get off the reservation are in fact his most appealing qualities, and he always finds himself doing penance for his most conspicuous virtue.

July 11, 2008


Ob's lily-white meritoids want like hell for their guy to come through all this as the first national post-color line black pol, but maybe Clio has other plans for him. Maybe he's to play a role like the earnest intense guy pictured here:

Reviewing his recent sermon on fatherhood maybe Ob knows this is his real deeper darker calling, and is cool with it. Maybe he knows he comes off a shitload better as an update of ole Booker T than as a Negro League version of Mattress Jack -- at least in sympathetic non-black job-class living rooms.

His reversal/reversion timely message to the vast white and Latino undershirt class? "Now we're together -- but on the moral plane, anyway, not quite equal."

The logistics and heuristics of the mystics

Our friends at Progs for Obama have posted an article by George Lakoff. Lakoff's impressions move beyond the tiresome atropine and organophosphate dichotomies that have plagued the compartmentalized dialectics of the post structural recrudescence. He presents an argument in favor of cultivating an evolving, omnichronal, flexible exegesis of President-to-be Obama's apparent tactical pandiculations, and 21st century politics in general, while striving to maintain the perseverance that has brought progressives to the cusp of the progressive actualization of recommitting to incrementally express a sense that... Anyway, he does so with a restrained, thoughtful use of capital letters; indicative of an appreciation for the sensibilities of both strict and nuturant mindsets. Extrapolating from this, as I do in my book, Dining Our Way Out of the Doldrums: Progressive Recipes for Success, one feels comfortable asserting that a breaded pork chop may benefit from a dollop of apple sauce, that macaroni and cheese may blossom under a shake or two of paprika and that no one need fear the onion when making an artisanal meatloaf.

As a philosopher and a gourmand, I came away from reading the proffered Text with the conviction that the progressive will to progressivism is, like butter, undergoing a clarifying process. The progressives themselves, however, appear to have a fundamental misunderstanding of their ultimate conjuration -- a real tragedy of méconnaissance.

Pwogs: people should drive more

One almost thinks it must be a spoof. The punch line as usual is at the end:

Beverly Hills activists plan a rally at city's priciest gas station

Who says it's all silicone and shopping in Beverly Hills? Local residents are planning a rally for "an oil-free president" tonight at the "famous" 76 filling station across from City Hall. Here's the invite:

Even this wealthy enclave is not immune to the effects of the rising price of oil and gas. The high cost of fuel is affecting all Americans wealthy and poor. We want to make sure the world knows that Beverly Hills residents are fed up with gas prices and want a president in the White House who will bring the cost of gas down.
It's one of many similar events being held nationwide, organized by MoveOn.org.

July 12, 2008

Hooray for Hollywood

Passed along by Mike Flugennock:
IF BARACK Obama doesn't win November's presidential election in the United States, "you can kiss the Democratic Party goodbye", the actor and director Robert Redford told an audience in Dublin last night.

Speaking at a public interview in Trinity College in advance of his conferral with an honorary degree by the university today, Redford said he hoped Obama would win because while John McCain "represents yesterday", the Democrat embodied the sort of change America needed....

"I think Obama is not tall on experience . . . but I believe he's a really good person. He's smart. And he does represent what the country needs most now, which is change.

"I hope he'll win. I think he will. If he doesn't, you can kiss the Democratic Party goodbye. I think we need new voices, new blood. We need to get a whole group out, get a new group in..."

Judging by Obama's council of wise men and women on foreign policy (Anthony Lake, Madeleine Albright, Sam Nunn...), it's not very clear just why Redford thinks Obama will usher in a "new group." But hey, the guy's time is valuable, you can't expect him to spend it on minutiae like this.

"I believe he's a really good person," Redford says. Much as I hate to say it, maybe this means that George Lakoff has a point. It's not what Obama says, or what he'll do, that matters. Here's what matters to Redford and the other Obamaniacs: Is he one of us? And of course the answer is yes. Which says more, perhaps, about them than him.

I wish I could believe that Redford was right to say that Obama's defeat this November would destroy the Democratic Party. Alas, I fear it would take a lot more than that. Drawing and quartering, burial at the crossroads in the dark of the moon, exorcism with bell book and candle -- do it all, and the fetid old bloodsucker would still somehow shabbily assemble its disjecta membra and come lurching relentlessly back.

July 14, 2008

Giants in the earth

Happy Bastille Day to sansculottes everywhere.

Keeping the faith

Here's the New York Times' artfully-constructed redaction of Obama's recent headlong rightward charge, and the base's response. It's a thing of beauty, really -- the article, I mean, not the Obama campaign. The Times' capacity to disguise a political tract as a piece of bland, factual news reportage has got to be admired. I've snipped a good deal of flesh from the piece, the better to reveal its elegant bone structure:

Obama Supporters on the Far Left Cry Foul

PORTLAND, Ore. — In the breathless weeks before the Oregon presidential primary in May, Martha Shade did what thousands of other people here did: she registered as a Democrat so she could vote for Senator Barack Obama.

Now, however... Ms. Shade said she planned to switch back to the Green Party.

“I’m disgusted with him,” said Ms. Shade, an artist. “I can’t even listen to him anymore. He had such an opportunity, but all this ‘audacity of hope’ stuff, it’s blah, blah, blah...."

While alarm may be spreading among... left-wing bloggers or purists.... There is also a wide streak of pragmatism.... in a party long vexed by factionalism.

“We’re frustrated by it, but we understand,” said Mollie Ruskin, 22... “He’s doing it so he can get into office and do the things he believes in.”

Nate Gulley, 23... said... “It’s self-evident that he’s a different kind of candidate.”

David Sirota, a liberal political analyst and author, [said] “I don’t think there’s disillusion.... He is a transformative politician, but he is still a politician.”

... Many Obama supporters said the most vocal complaining... was largely relegated to liberal bloggers and people who might otherwise support Ralph Nader... or Dennis J. Kucinich....

Kari Chisholm, who runs a blog, blueoregon.com, and does Internet strategy for Democratic candidates. “They believe their ideology is the only idealism and Obama’s is very mainstream. I’m not surprised they’re getting a little cranky. They’ve always been kind of cranky.”...

“I don’t think the test on him is in an explicitly narrow set of check boxes that have to get filled,” said Kevin Looper, executive director of Our Oregon, a liberal advocacy group. “I think it’s about do his campaign and his message embody serious changes for the direction of the country?”

Rhys Warburton, a 25-year-old Brooklyn resident... said... “It doesn’t make the others any better or more attractive to vote for.”

... “Seventy-five thousand people do not attend political rallies unless something truly magical is happening,” Bob Blanchard wrote....

“When [sc. 'where'? -- MJS] are these people going to go, anyway?” Mr. Blanchard said of left-wing critics...

Ms. Shade, the Green-turned-Democrat-returned-Green voter, spoke about Mr. Obama while leaning out her second-floor apartment window, where she has placed homemade signs urging the impeachment of President Bush. Others say “Free Gaza” and “Occupation is Terrorism.” She said twice that the American political system was “rotten.”

“You realize,” Ms. Shade said, her voice fading with resignation, “that you’re talking to somebody who’s pretty far out of the mainstream.”

And the piece closes with that elegiac dying fall. The only kind of person who'd object to Obama's new trajectory would be an obviously crazy lady(*) like the evocatively-named Shade -- a "far left" "factionalist", a person who isn't "pragmatic," a "cranky" "idealist", the sort of "complainer" who "cries foul," very likely a Naderite (horror of horrors) and, needless to say, a "purist".

With enemies like Shade and her fellow loons, who needs friends -- or even reasons? It's "self-evident" that Obama is "different". Large attendance at a rally obviously shows he's "magical." He "embodies" everything that's good. He's not as bad as McCain -- in fact, he would have overtake and pass McCain in his rightward journey before young Mr Warburton would reconsider.

And oh yes, he's "transformative," the sage David Sirota tells us.

This last claim particularly interests me. I'm not sure what Sirota means by it, or why he believes it. The only transformation I've seen Obama perform is the transformation of thousands of bright, good-hearted young people into incoherent, babbling zombies.


(*) Irony alert. I personally agree with everything Shade and her stickers say.

Citizen Sirota

More Bastille Day influenza -- now it's hit the bigfoots:

Take this dashing big wave-haired gob. To the few of you who don't instantaneously recognize him, he's one David Gizzborn Sirota, book author, thoughtful e-roots blogger and now -- as you can see -- hugger of the well-intended, the imperfectly-gifted, yes, us, the little people.

This giant has stooped to grass roots schmooozin' to start a great American uprisin', a low-rent prairie fire for 'progress'. He's always been a man of many and piebald parts -- and through it all, he's remained quite the master strategist.

I'll quote some -- just a taste, mind you; a whole book lies in waiting for you out there, somewhere along the Amazon.com.

Sirota on the class hole that the merit types punched through the center of liberal politics for oh so many years now:

"social issues are really, really important (and, of course, I am pro-choice). But the problem is that the orthodoxy is ONLY about social issues (the issues that are unfortunately more culturally divisive), but not about economic issues (the issues that are more cross-culturally unifying)."
Sirota on -- the old top-down prog-org scam:
"Autocratic Progressives... build... anti-progressive, autocratic, top-down, command-and-control structures.... The much-vaunted new progressive infrastructure — from Moveon.org to well-funded left-leaning think tanks in Washington, D.C. — run the gamut from mostly undemocratic to completely undemocratic.... This is elitism at its worst."
Last, and best of all, Sirota on -- direct action:
"without [it]... epublican democracy is truly disempowering: our only means of influence are to beg... the congressman, the governor, the president, etc. ... to do something on our behalf."

Sum up:

"taking matters into our own hands... [we] can wield a tremendous amount of power."
Now is he wrong here? Nope. He's got the beat down. And even the means to the highest ends and the area for prime attack -- "labor movements" -- he's got that right too. Amazing.

Why then am I not invigorated? Why do I wish he'd go off somewhere else? Anywhere. Just please, master Dave, don't spend the next 4 years limboing through America's union halls.

Shouldn't I be saying at last they get it, they really get it? Am I nothing but an, oh no, direct action snob?

July 15, 2008

Barack: War ain't so bad

From the NY Daily News:
Barack Obama purges Web site critique of surge in Iraq WASHINGTON - Barack Obama's campaign scrubbed his presidential Web site over the weekend to remove criticism of the U.S. troop "surge" in Iraq, the Daily News has learned.....

"The surge is not working," Obama's old plan stated, citing a lack of Iraqi political cooperation but crediting Sunni sheiks - not U.S. military muscle - for quelling violence ....

Obama's campaign posted a new Iraq plan Sunday night, which cites an "improved security situation"....

It praises G.I.s' "hard work, improved counterinsurgency tactics and enormous sacrifice."

Has anybody else noticed this word "counterinsurgency" showing up a lot lately on the lips of Democrats? Hell of an ominous sign for those of us who remember the Phoenix Program.

Pwogs ♥ war

There's a pretty good article by Robert Dreyfuss in The Nation:
Even as he pledges to end the war in Iraq, Obama promises to increase Pentagon spending, boost the size of the Army and Marines, bolster the Special Forces, expand intelligence agencies and maintain the hundreds of US military bases that dot the globe....
More of this horrible stuff further down-page. Reading it prompts a reflection.

We've all known for a long time that professional liberals -- people like Anthony Lake -- aren't against war and empire. Au contraire: they only dislike imperial wars, and aggressive imperial power-projection and meddling, when they don't appear to be succeeding.

But I've always had, in the back of my head, a kind of notion that non-professional, base pwogs -- like the earnest young folk who feel such a need to believe in Obama -- aren't quite so down with the imperial project and its martial entailments. I've always sorta thought that they get schnookered by the Lakes.

Now I begin to wonder whether I've given them too much credit for character and too little for intelligence. The facts about Obama's attitudes on war and empire are just too accessible. He really hasn't tried to conceal them. If the beautiful souls of Obama's base were truly averse to imperial war, they would have the motivation, as they certainly have the ability, to discover what their man really stands for.

I can only conclude that they're not really that bothered about Obama's determination to maintain and expand the Empire. Maybe Lakoff really is right -- they don't care what gets done to the hapless peoples in our imperial crosshairs, as long as it gets done by somebody like them.

More fine stuff from Dreyfuss:

[Obama] pledges to "integrate civilian and military capabilities to promote global democracy and development," including the creation of "Mobile Development Teams (MDTs) that bring together personnel from the military, the Pentagon, the State Department and USAID, fully integrating U.S. government efforts in counter-terror, state-building, and post-conflict operations." He would also "establish an expeditionary capability" for non-Pentagon agencies, including the departments of State, Homeland Security, Justice and Treasury.

Asked which failing states might need attention from Obama, Susan Rice, a former Clinton Administration State Department official who advises the candidate, says, "The list is long. You can start in South Asia and Afghanistan, but there is also Somalia, Yemen, Kenya and the Sahelian countries in Africa." Then, she says, there are countries that, while not yet failing, have weak or poorly formed civil societies....

Even in more resistant countries, such as Egypt and Russia, the United States can still support dissidents and take other pro-democracy steps, says Rice. Asked whether Russia, for instance, would react favorably to such efforts, she says, "No, they would not like it. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't be doing it. And we were doing it, until a little while ago. During the Clinton Administration, there was a much more active democracy promotion effort."

Questions also arise about Obama's attitude toward humanitarian intervention. Several of his advisers, including Rice and Tony Lake, President Clinton's National Security Adviser, are strong advocates of using US military force to intervene in cases of severe violations of human rights.... In 2006 Rice and Lake wrote a Washington Post op-ed demanding a unilateral US "bombing campaign or naval blockade" and even the deployment of ground forces in Sudan to halt the killing in Darfur, and Obama has called for "enforcing a no-fly zone" there....

Indeed, on the issue of the Defense Department and military spending, Obama cedes no ground to McCain.... [D]uring his years in the Senate Obama never challenged military spending bills in a significant way.

In the Senate and in his presidential campaign, Obama has supported the addition of 65,000 troops to the Army and 27,000 to the Marines. He backed the latest round of NATO enlargement into Eastern Europe, and he supports granting Membership Action Plans for Ukraine and Georgia; the latter, especially, is considered deeply threatening by the Russian leadership.... [Obama's] call for the expansion of the Special Forces would empower the most aggressively interventionist of the Pentagon's units....

Obama called for the creation of "a twenty-first-century military to stay on the offensive, from Djibouti to Kandahar." ...He has called for spending significant new money to add unmanned aerial vehicles to the Air Force, boost electronic warfare capabilities and build more C-17 cargo planes and KC-X refueling aircraft to enhance America's "future ability to extend its global power." Obama also plans to "recapitalize our naval forces" so America can patrol ocean "choke points" to protect oil supplies, and he wants to fund new ships that can "patrol and protect the 'brown' waters of river systems [overseas] and the 'green' waters close to our shores."

Along with his determination to pull combat units out of Iraq, Obama has pledged to beef up the US presence in Afghanistan, promising to add at least two combat brigades to the US-NATO force there. "And that's a floor, not a ceiling," says Rice. He's also said that he'd attack Pakistan unilaterally to take out Al Qaeda-linked forces if there was "actionable intelligence" about their location. It's become part of the Democratic Party catechism to accuse President Bush of letting Al Qaeda off the hook in Afghanistan and Pakistan ....

Obama's foreign policy team uniformly dismisses the idea that the Pentagon's bloated budget can be cut, even though, not counting spending on Iraq and Afghanistan, it has nearly doubled since 2000 and is roughly equal to the military spending of all other countries combined.

Irony did NOT die on Sept 11...

... thank God.

The New Yorker magazine doesn't have much going for it except irony. But bless 'em, they've clung to that.

The Obama base went berserk about this image. My favorite response, though, came from a guy who has never before positioned himself as an Obamaniac, namely ABC's Jake Tapper, with his perennial dyspeptic scowl:

Obama Camp Hammers New 'Ironic' New Yorker Cover...

The sophisticates at The New Yorker have come up with a cover that is sure to get the magazine a lot of attention....

Said Obama [flack] Bill Burton: "The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Senator Obama's right-wing critics have tried to create. But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree."

....[N]o Upper East Side liberal -- no matter how superior they feel their intellect is -- should assume that just because they're mocking such ridiculousness, the illustration won't feed into the same beast.... It's a recruitment poster for the right-wing....

But I would assume over at the Conde Nast building, they think it's droll.

Does poor Jake live in DC(*)? If so, his fury is to some extent understandable, as is his ignorance of social geography (hint: the liberals live on the West side, Jake).

There's something very Nixonian about Jake's frothing here -- it reminds me of that David Frost interview with the great man, where he ruminates abut New York "trendies" and generously observes that he no longer tries to "stir 'em up."

But the interesting question is: Why is Jake so angry? He doesn't seem to be an Obamaniac -- rather the reverse, if anything.

Hypothesis: It's because, for him, the New Yorker cover's subtext is, We don't give a shit -- we're above it all -- we don't really care whose chances we enhance or diminish.

Jake can make a living tracking the dreary minutiae of the campaign, because people really have to care in order to read his stuff with close attention every day. Nobody likes to have his trade mocked.

I don't live on the East Side, and I've never been in the Conde Nast building. I seldom read the New Yorker, except for the cartoons. But I'm with 'em on this one. Anybody with any self-respect ought to be above it all; and nobody with a grain of sense should give a shit.


(*) I was born there, actually, so I can say these things.

July 16, 2008

You wish

Tom Hayden confidently writes:
Any proposal to transfer American troops from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan is sure to cause debate and questions among peace activists and rank-and-file Democrats.
Au contraire, it is sure to cause nothing of the kind. It's now crystal-clear to every three-year-old on the planet that Obama's foreign policy will be intensely aggressive, militarist, and adventurist -- that he is, in short, a liberal imperialist in the great tradition. Yet Obama-worship continues unabated.

I conclude that there is no US anti-war movement worthy of the name, and that "rank and file Democrats" are as complicit and content with imperial bloodletting as their leaders.

July 17, 2008

Mom! He said the 'N' word!

Exalted Indignator Jake Tapper has found a way to stay mad at Jesse Jackson, the man Big Media loves to hate:

"Barack ... he’s talking down to black people ... telling n***ers how to behave," Jackson said, using a racial epithet so unacceptable to Jackson he called for a boycott of the DVD box set of the seventh season of Seinfeld to protest comedian Michael Richards' use of it during an infamous 2006 comedy routine, and for a ban of the use of the word in popular culture.
(Gotta love the coy three stars, not to mention the carpet-chewing spray of subordinate clauses.)

This is indeed news. Whoever heard of a black guy using this word? And having the gall to be offended if somebody else uses it?

These n***ers. You just can't please 'em.

Get yer crass roots heah! Hot crass roots!

(Apology from the editor: This post is actually Owen Paine's, but Perry White screwed up the byline. Sorry!)

Seems prog-labeled outfits of the top-down variety must have all gone totally over to the co-oped sell-out side of the struggle ledger. I guess sometime after Lenin okayed the NEP.

But the crass-roots dream is deathless, mates.

Read this over at the Countertop. Its a 5-pointer or 5-stepper or 5-whatever. Some kind of truncated recovery program -- perfect for all us folks, out here in the prog pond, with a nasty top-downer hangover. It's from -- The Grassroots-Netroots Alliance:

1) Move beyond single-issue politics and embrace a multi-issue, radical but practical, platform.

2) Join up and help GNA build up a multi-million email list, a netroots army of multi-issue progressives and radicals, who understand the need to transform the System and literally overthrow the dictatorship of corporations and indentured politicians. The Grassroots Netroots Alliance (with 200,000 people currently on our email list) is currently approaching a dozen or so large, like-minded networks with comparable lists to jump-start this process.

(3) Press the politicians to take a clear stand on all the burning issues.at http://www.GrassrootsNetroots.org.

(4) As we “press the politicians,” we need to consciously and deliberately integrate electoral insurgency and netroots lobbying with non-electoral resistance—including boycotts, strikes, civil disobedience, and other pressure tactics. In the face of an unprecedented Crisis, we must move beyond polite protest to resistance.

(5) Sign the Pledge of Resistance -- in the event of an attack upon Iran, send an email to pledgeofresistance@grassrootsnetroots.org

Somehow, driftwood bravura like this don't make my day. Then again -- how could it?

Think they got enough identical link-up points -- three in five grafs? Gotta be some kind of record.

July 18, 2008

When I hear the word 'empowerment'...

Here's a bit of burble from a fresh-faced young Obamaphile, Sara Haile-Miriam, in the do-it-yourself section of the Huffington Post:

I don't agree with Senator Obama's vote on the FISA Bill, and yet, I'm thankful. A year ago I wouldn't have understood the ramifications and so his ability to draw me into the process, empowering me to have an opinion, is something to be celebrated. I think it's extraordinary that thousands of others felt empowered enough to confront him on it, on his website no less.

Americans are starting to see the power of organizing on behalf of causes that we believe in. We've been empowered by his words, and that power has enabled us to insist on better.

Still, the debacle over the Fisa controversy frustrated me.... [But] before we stalk off yard signs in hand and insist upon keeping our donations and our time hostage, remember that.... [h]e will be a President who will enlist the American people into a mission to change our country for the better. He will be a President who compels us to ask more of our leadership....

Refining a policy is now seen as blasphemy, even if the intention of the original policy was to be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. Evidently, consulting the Generals on the ground isn't seen as careful, it's seen as backtracking.

Lucus a non lucendo, as another man said: all the incantatory references to "power" clearly exhibit the utter powerlessness which Sara here has not only accepted but embraced.

She had to be "empowered" to have an opinion? And this divine afflatus was bestowed, somehow, by a senator from Illinois? Others have been "empowered" to post squeaks of protest on the Great Man's web site. Oh man, the Tennis Court Oath was nothing to this mighty popular upsurge. We now have the "power" to "insist on better" -- though where the power will come from to enforce our insistence does not clearly appear.

Obama appears to have fulfilled Isaiah's messianic promise:

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing.
Sara, who once was lost in insensate incognition, has had her eyes opened and her tongue unstopped, and now she's found -- in "the process". Hosanna!

Actually, she's right about this "process" thing. This is the reason why I loathe the Democratic Party. I'm sure Sara is a fine, good-hearted, well-meaning person. But Obama, like some sort of moral ju-jitsu master, has used her own strengths of character to lever her into the "process" -- where she rapidly descends to arguing for a "careful" withdrawal from Iraq. What does Sara think will be happening during this extended period of "carefulness"? We will be very carefully and judiciously killing more people, that's what. Don't kill hard -- kill smart.

He will be a President who compels us to ask more of our leadership....
Here again, Sara has said something that's very true, in a couple of senses she probably didn't intend. We will certainly end up wanting a great deal more from our "leadership"(*) than we will get.

And the only thing we'll be able to do about it is "ask". Please, Sir, may I have some more?


(*) Sara means our rulers, of course, when she says "leaders". But this euphemism per contrariam is universal.

July 19, 2008

Creeping socialism -- and I do mean creeping

So McCain is in trouble again -- this time for saying that Barack Obama is more Left than the only self-proclaimed "Socialist" in the Senate, Bernie Sanders (shown above in colorful native costume). This may say more about Sanders than Obama, actually.

The back story to this otherwise insignificant dustup is moderately interesting. The National Journal every year ranks Senators for leftiness on the basis on a set of 100 "key votes", or votes NJ considers "key" at any rate. In 2007, Barack suddenly zoomed to the head of the pack, after having been 16th and 10th in his previous two years. Hillary also lurched to the "left" in 2007, or to what passes for a "left" in the US Senate, going from 32d to 16th (neatly enough, the spot Barack held in 2005).

It's pretty transparent what's going on here, right? This is the old base bait-and-switch: seduce the party activists, who are largely left of center, during primary season, then return to business as usual -- and I do mean business, specifically big business -- once you've clinched the nomination (or failed to, for that matter).

And it works every time. The base never seems to catch on, no matter how often they see the trick done. Once you plant the hook you've got 'em for good, and they'll follow you through fire and water -- or rather, through FISA and Waziristan.


I had an hour or two to kill today -- a slow, humid July Saturday in New York. So, motivated by a somewhat gin-fuelled nostalgia, I dropped in, electronically, on the NetrootsNation confab (The Circle-Jerk Formerly Known As Yearly Kos).

I actually went to this event, in the flesh, a couple of years ago, with mixed feelings. Watching the "live streams" -- a slight overstatement -- I found that the mixed feelings were much the same. Lots of these folks are intelligent and well-intentioned. But it's heartbreaking to watch them expending their spirit in that waste of shame known as the Democratic Party.

There was one bright spot, though: seems like hardly anybody went. It's painful, in a pleasurable sort of way, when the camera zooms out and shows the meeting room -- an expense of speakers in a waste of empty chairs.

Obama = Erasmus?

More dribble from one of the HuffPo's uncompensated coolies:
Obama's Christian Humanism

In his campaign's response to Jesse Jackson's live-microphone incident, Barack Obama made it clear he views social and cultural cajoling to be a natural extension of progressive politics. Libertarian-leaning voters recoil when they hear Obama preaching about turning off our TV sets... I believe his embrace of pastoral duties is an important aspect of his "new politics" gambit, and an indicator of his deepest priorities.....

....His simple and lucid (and, it would seem, instinctive) connecting of social cajoling and progressive stances expresses a conviction that government has a role in improving lives as well as guiding us toward ethical behavior.... Like Ronald Reagan, Obama is eager to connect with us emotionally and personally in order to create a channel for values-laden communication.

Whoever said Caesaropapism was dead? Pastor-in-chief, forsooth!

While Obama says he submitted himself to "God's will," he pointedly adds that his faith "came about as a choice and not an epiphany," and that his naturally skeptical mind did not suddenly vanish when he placed his trust in Jesus Christ. Because Obama's religiosity appears to be a consciously chosen pathway with a pragmatic social purpose....
The Galilean Hasid who founded the religion Obama claims adherence to -- that difficult and paradoxical personality -- what would he have said about a "careful" withdrawal from Mesopotamia? The empire of his day tortured him to death -- in the name, no doubt, of "pragmatic social purpose."

July 21, 2008

The shade of things to come...

... apparently will not be green, in the literal sense anyway (and, I think, the metaphorical as well, but that's another topic):

AMMAN, Jordan—An Obama campaign ban on green clothing during the candidate’s visits to Israel and Jordan has created wide puzzlement....

In a memo to reporters, described as “a few guidelines we sent staff before departure to the Middle East,” Obama advance staffer Peter Newell laid out rules on attire....

First among them: “Do not wear green.”

An Obama aide explained to reporters that green is the color associated with... Hamas. But... green is more generally seen as a symbol of Islam.

“A ban on wearing green seems bizarre,” said Richard Bulliet, a professor of Middle Eastern history at Columbia University.... “I think they’re just being overcautious to a ridiculous degree,” Bulliet said.

Mohamad Bazzi, a professor of journalism at New York University and former Middle East bureau chief for Newsday, called the instruction “very strange.”...

Though the campaign’s other sartorial instructions – directing women to dress demurely – are fairly standard, Bazzi said he’d never heard it suggested before that journalists not wear green while traveling in the Middle East, an observation echoed by other reporters.

“I’ve been to the Middle East with Secretaries of State and on my own, and I’ve never heard of anything like that,” said New York Sun national security reporter Eli Lake.

Sermons in stones. This latest foolish overreach on the part of the Obama cult, silly as it is, may well be pregnant with larger meaning.

Immediately one realizes that this is Lakoffism in action: imagery isn't everything -- it's the only thing. If a reporter wears a green shirt, some frother somewhere might put together a fruitcake case that Obama is soft on Islam, to update a fine old slogan -- Red scare then, green scare now.

Which is pretty funny. This mighty movement is scared to death of a few isolated paranoid fools.

What's even more interesting, though, and creepier, is the cult's fanatical conviction that perception can be controlled out to the fifth decimal place, and its willingness to act on this conviction, to the point of telling people what colors to wear. It's like a suburban high school.

We've already seen the cult issue a ukase -- or should I say a fatwa? -- against the New Yorker, and now they've declared war on a sizable chunk of the visible spectrum.

July 25, 2008

Gloomy Gus

As we all savor the progress of the human-faced emperor-presumptive, a beacon of firm informed reason criss-crossing the scar tissue of the sad Old Worlds, it occurs to me my attack on the libertarian option needs another installment. This time -- j'accuse citizen Orwell.

My case is brief: I'll just put this essay into evidence. Among other things, it's a retrospect on the genesis of the Cold War favorite Darkness at Noon. This earthworm of a line is what hooked me up:

"[Koestler's] hedonism... leads him to think of the Earthly Paradise as desirable. Perhaps, however, whether desirable or not, it isn't possible.Perhaps some degree of suffering is ineradicable from human life, perhaps the choice before man is always a choice of evils, perhaps even the aim of Socialism is not to make the world perfect but to make it better. All revolutions are failures, but they are not all the same failure"

Gotta love that postwar English understated stiff-upper-lip melodramatic utterly banal sense of la condition humaine. Those three "perhaps" clauses gout out like gobbets of yellow whizz from a squeezed cheese dog. Then he ends with this cheap toy from his cracker-jack box, this tinny poli-sci koan: "All revolutions are failures, but they are not all the same failure."

Is that an echo of Tolstoy on family life? Tolstoy went on to shed some light on the varieties of familial happiness and unhappiness, but Georgie boy leaves it as an exercise.

What Georgie does make clear is that he doesn't think Koestler is pessimistic enough. Koestler actually thinks human happiness might be... possible! Not now, of course. Not any time soon. Not in any way we can at present imagine. But somehow, sometime, maybe. Georgie, however, wants to exclude the prospect entirely.

Sergeant-at-arms, please escort Georgie to the Man's dancing class to learn the peppermint twist. I sentence him to eternal twistin' -- twistin' the dark away.

Answering gimcrack koan with gimcrack koan: counting the justice of history one soul's fate at a time, leads to a mind puddle.

Nanny wags a warning finger

Talk about a shot across the bow:

Dear Senator Obama,

We the undersigned... are deeply concerned about the stories in the press in the past few weeks suggesting that the Bush administration might be considering a military strike on Iran....

We welcomed your stand against the war on Iraq in 2002. And we were encouraged by your early campaign statements emphasizing diplomacy over military action against Iran....

But we call on you to issue a public statement warning of the grave dangers that any of these actions would entail, and pointing out how inappropriate and undemocratic it would be for the Bush administration to undertake them, or encourage Israel to do so, in its closing months in office.....

[T]he public right to decide should not be foreclosed by last-minute actions of the Bush administration, which will set U.S. policy in stone now.

Rich stuff. We were all "encouraged" by some no-name Illinois legislator's ambiguous murmurings in... 2002? We want... a "public statement"? War would be... "inappropriate"?

The thrust here seems to be that Bush no longer has the mandate of Heaven and that war with Iran should wait until a duly-elected Democrat can wage it.

This "open letter" was signed by many Usual Suspects -- Tom Hayden, Katha Pollitt, Cornel West, Doug Ireland, Michael Lerner. But then there's my hero Noam Chomsky, too, and Doug Henwood. People who really have better things to do with their time.

We're doomed, mates, doomed.

July 26, 2008

Experienced Cold Warrior seeks to re-enter labor force

Am I the only one who thought Zbigniew Brzezinski was dead years ago? (Wishful thinking, I know.) Now he seems to be in the news every day:

All of a sudden, everyone seems to be in favor of sending more troops to Afghanistan... as Barack Obama encourages Europeans to dispatch more NATO forces.... But Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski is not on board -- though it's not the first time President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser has cast a skeptic's eye on the usefulness of dispatching great numbers of troops to the country. In an [in]famous 1998 interview with France's Le Nouvel Observateur, Brzezinski admitted his own role in funding Afghanistan's Mujahadeen in 1979, thereby "increasing the probability" that the Soviets would invade a tough, demoralizing, mountainous theater for combat.

And it's with a similar perspective that Brzezinski now doubts the that the answer to what ails Afghanistan is more troops. "I think we're literally running the risk of unintentionally doing what the Russians did...."

However, Brzezinski noted that just as the Soviets were able to delude themselves that they had a loyal army of communist-sympathizers who would transform the country, the U.S.-led forces may now be making similar mistakes....

Brzezinski, who has endorsed Obama, was far more critical of a few figures now surrounding McCain....

"Well, if McCain is president and if his Secretary of State is Joe Lieberman and his Secretary of Defense is [Rudolph] Giuliani, we will be moving towards... World War IV... If it's [Richard] Armitage, or if it were to be Brent Scowcroft, I think it would be very different."....

"Republicans move toward neocon-ish formulas, and Democrats [follow] idealistically escapist formulas. In either case you don't end up with the necessary mix of idealism and realism."

Man wants a job, doesn't he? And what a resume: Hire the guy who got us into this mess to get us out.

July 27, 2008

McCain gets it right (for once)

From Reuters:
Obama says conditions to dictate final Iraq force

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said in an interview published on Saturday the size of a residual U.S. force left in Iraq after the withdrawal of combat troops would be "entirely conditions-based."

... Obama told Newsweek Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki recognized Iraq was "going to need our help for some time to come."

"We're going to have to provide them with logistical support, intelligence support. We're going to have to have a very capable counterterrorism strike force.... We're going to have to continue to train their army and police to make them more effective.... It's hard to anticipate where we may be six months from now, or a year from now, or a year and a half from now."

.... "Barack Obama is ultimately articulating a position of sustained troop levels in Iraq based on the conditions on the ground and the security of the country. That is the very same position that John McCain has long held," said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.

Obama: Kill more Europeans, buy more gas

Comment seems superfluous:
"If we have more NATO troops in Afghanistan, then that's potentially fewer American troops over the long term," he said, "which means we're spending fewer billions of dollars, which means we can invest those billions of dollars in making sure we're providing tax cuts to middle-class families who are struggling with higher gas prices...."

July 29, 2008

Let's hear it for the Silver Age

Today's topic: why we're not bombing Iran.

There's a nice flame-throw over at Black Agenda Report by the redoubtable Glen Ford:

"I submit that the Lords of Capital and their servants -- today, as in 2003 -- understand perfectly well that the system they oversee cannot long exist under the current paths of world development; that their only hope to perpetuate themselves into future decades is to violently upset the planetary game board, as often as necessary. From the financial oligarchy's perspective, the death of the world as they know and possess it -- their world -- is imminent, and can only be avoided through acts of horrific aggression, terror and barbaric reversion to primitive modes of accumulation, i.e. brute theft and pillage."
It's both a very fine specimen of left rad rhetoric and magic hoping, a magic hoping that can often lead -- as it has here -- to hysterical sounding of the alarm bells.

Join me in digesting the latest avalanche of lefticated yelping about an imminent Iran attack -- some sudden flury of Zionic judo chops to the Persian nuke sites, triggering the final mideast fireball.

This is, what?, the third such foolskrieg over America's dark enemy number one. The whole business is nothing but a very silly distraction.

This ever-looming sudden world-pivoting air strike will be coming to your TV screen, just like the Soviets swallowing the "free" chunk of Berlin never came.

But it's not the wrongheaded deja-vu prediction, not the grade-school fire-drill bit I want to cast an object to. When reading this, I got, and still get, annoyed by the underlying picture it paints of the state of our empire.

My fellow Americans: despite what our liberal media claims, the state of our empire is strong -- strong enough to give any silver age emperor like Barack Aurelius, maybe for his full 8 years, a state of all quiet on the empire front.

Even as we ride out the whitewater contradictions of this latest corporation-induced global economic cataract, the Obama years may prove to be very much like the Clinton years: not really like the boots-on-the-ground years of Truman or Kennedy/Johnson.

Odds favor the empire gaining, both by intent and circumstance, a respite from its slaughter-benching chores. And the imminent rise to power of a voodoo Redeemer, if he can reform our home front, may well make our earth-circling empire, for this spell of history, look like civilization's glorious benefactor.

Then again, maybe it won't. Maybe the boots of our freedom storm troopers will need to follow the occasional rain of bombs, here there or somewhere. Maybe the Pax Baraca won't last much past his landslide re-election. When it comes to anti-empire armed struggle, not every interval will find its champions.

So at best, we fans of darkness and end-times can only hope -- hope without the power of magic.

July 30, 2008

Clap, or Tinker Bell dies!

From The Nation:
Change We Can Believe In
An Open Letter to Barack Obama

Add your name to this Open Letter calling on Barack Obama to stand firm on the principles he so compellingly articulated in the primary campaign.

Dear Senator Obama,

We write to congratulate you on the tremendous achievements of your campaign for the presidency of the United States.

Your candidacy has inspired a wave of political enthusiasm like nothing seen in this country for decades. In your speeches, you have sketched out a vision of a better future--in which the United States sheds its warlike stance around the globe....

Since your historic victory in the primary, there have been troubling signs that you are moving away from the core commitments shared by many who have supported your campaign....

Stand firm on the principles you have so compellingly articulated, and you may succeed in bringing this country the change you've encouraged us to believe is possible.

This letter is signed by a number of quite literate individuals -- we'll get to that in a minute -- so it's baffling to hear them say that Obama has "articulated", "compellingly" or otherwise, any "principles" at all.

Of course he's done nothing of the kind. He's repeated ad nauseam a lot of empty comfort-food buzzwords and catchphrases. He's presented himself, accurately no doubt, as a person very much like the people who want to believe in him -- intelligent, thoughtful, well-educated, and fit.

But really, no one can fairly accuse him of flip-flopping. He never actually committed himself to anything. His language was always vague, hedged, and noncommittal, with all its airy earnestness. His recent shifts of tone and emphasis may be a disappointment to his admirers -- but they have only themselves to blame. The new boyfriend suddenly isn't calling as often -- and his voice is not nearly so warm -- and he gets off the phone so quickly. Didn't he say he loved me? I thought he did. But now that you mention it....

* * * * *

Then there are the signatories to this act of quasi-literary fellatio. Unsurprising names, mostly:

  • Jodie Evans (co-founder, CODEPINK: Women for Peace);
  • Tom Hayden;
  • Richard Parker (president, Americans for Democratic Action);
  • Katha Pollitt;
  • David Sirota;
  • Matt Stoller;
  • Jonathan Tasini;
  • Katrina vanden Heuvel;
  • Howard Zinn.
But then, down near the bottom -- I could weep: Gore Vidal. Surely, surely, if anybody could have been counted on to laugh this beggarly sad-sack kick-me whingery right out of the room, it ought to have been Vidal?

They must have called him in the middle of the night, and not read him the text.

Looking on the sunny side, part XVIII

Mike Flugennock, eagle-eyed Code PInk watcher, passed this along:

CODEPINK: Women for Peace

Dear Friend,

CODEPINK activists have been steadily, faithfully, and creatively pressuring Congress to impeach the criminals in the White House, and we are starting to see results. Last week, at the Judiciary Committee hearing "Executive Power and its Constitutional Limitations," impeachment was referenced dozens of times.

In her first days in power, Nancy Pelosi famously announced that impeachment was off the table, but on the popular television show The View (http://www.watchingtheview.com/nancy-pelosi-on-the-view-july-28th-video/) this past Tuesday, she admitted that she would hold impeachment hearings if someone could prove that Bush committed a crime (http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/taxonomy/term/17). We hope she watched last week as Dennis Kucinich (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRAcenaTVkQ), Liz Holtzman (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dohgkV53tBQ), and Vincent Bugliosi (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDAFozFn4kU) passionately enumerated Bush's impeachable offenses at a Judiciary Committee hearing. Be sure to watch their stirring testimony -- it will inspire and galvanize you...

Mike comments:
Galvanize me? Do I look like a goddamn' garbage can to these doorknobs?

Besides, the idea of Dennis Kucinich "galvanizing" anyone just makes me want to... have a few more bong hits.

The thing that amused me, in a way, was code-pink's belief that "references" -- dozens of 'em! -- constituted a victory.

One makes do with what one has, I suppose.

July 31, 2008

The silly season....

... is upon us. But then, it started so long ago I can't even remember. Today's tempest in a teapot:

Indeed, the very next questioner from [McCain's] audience was another young woman who announced to the crowd: "I'm 18 and I just have to say that Obama, like, terrifies me. And I would just like to say I think you need to call him on every shot. Don't let him get away with a single thing. We can't afford it."

What a nation of poltroons we have become. Oh, I have to agree, up to a point: Obamacult scares me the way Scientologists scare me. But even over Scientologists I don't lose any sleep.

Fox News apparently put up a poll on their website -- since pulled, it seems -- asking people whether they "knew" anybody who's scared by Obama. Dirty pool! The donks, eyes blazing, nostrils flaring, stampeded up Indignation Hill and brayed their outrage to the unhearing firmament. As one of my correspondents wrote:

Knowing the Republicans will try to scare the electorate is like knowing the sun will rise in the AM. It's the standard Republican tactic of fear-mongering. That said, if one were actually "terrified" of an Obama Presidency then it would follow that one would be absolutely shit-yourself petrified of a McCain Presidency. Imagine the US involved in helping a Georgian independence movement? Scary beyond words.
Droll. I seem to recall the last Democratic President sending bombers in aid of a Kosovar independence movement. But hey, water under the bridge.

What's funny, even if you don't remember Clinton or Johnson or Kennedy at all, is to watch our Democratic apologist, without even taking a breath, doing the very thing he reproaches the enemy for. The Rs try to "scare" the electorate. So what does our man do? Try to scare 'em even more.

In fact this is a hoary, time-honored Democratic stratagem, going back (as another correspondent pointed out) at least as far as the famous Johnson-vs-Goldwater mushroom cloud spot in '64.

Yeah, our guy is a creep: but if their guy gets in... the sky will fall!

About July 2008

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

June 2008 is the previous archive.

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