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March 2, 2011

Air Strike Anarchism


Crispin Sartwell:

i really think the u.s. and britain, or the u.s. and the eu, or nato, needs to nudge gaddafi from power with high explosives and special forces operations.

So, is Crispin Sartwell an airstrike anarchist or a propertarian cruise-missile liberal in drag? Thoughts?

There's democracy, and then there's democracy

I'm quite surprised so many folks seem to feel O'Barry and the rest of the global security clique "fear" democracy, and tremble as Uncle's local stooges tumble over the side like so many wooden dummies.

I guess one can describe a form of democratic rule that might perturb the NS boys and gals -- like Father Smiff's bloody-minded understanding of the word -- but certainly that form of democracy is not the democracy our White House and corporate media have in mind.

Thesis: In fact the overlapping of these three meme sets -- pluralism, liberal democracy, open society -- i.e. the establishment's definition of democracy -- is an ideal custom-made for transnational corporations.

To the extent that, say, Turkey emerges into full pluralism, the NSers rejoice. Odious thugs like Pinochet are regrettably necessary SOBs in the cycle of social "management" of national development.

Second thesis:

Peaceful pluralistic liberal open "democratic revolutions" play directly into the hands of corporate hegemony.

Third thesis:

It's a naked bloody violent forced overthrow, and/or direct seizure of power by a popular bottom-up armed rebellion that can get dicey for the global free-range limited-liability mandarins.

Libya has more of those high-pedigree earmarks than, say, Egypt or Tunisia... unfortunately.

The credentialling sector strikes back

So the Wunderkindverteidigungsminister has had to resign -- because he plagiarized his doctoral dissertation!

Of course I'm not sorry to see him go -- he seemed like an awful person. And if Angela Merkel ends up with egg on her brutish face over the affair, that's okay too.

But still -- because he cheated in school?! Good Lord, what's the world coming to? Where I come from, cheating in school was a badge of honor, and rightly so. I myself was subjected to a ritualistic, fetishistic ceremony of corporal punishment for the crime of cheating in school -- more than once, too -- and my status rose considerably as a result. To this day I consider the chaféd glutei an excellent investment in peer-group cred.

Admittedly, it's hard to understand why the Tabloid Baron would have to cheat. The great scholar's dissertation was apparently on the subject of "the development of constitutional law in the U.S. and European Union," a topic on which surely one could blow a few hundred pages of smoke in one's sleep; it's right up there with "pagan and Christian elements in Beowulf". But the aristocracy aren't used to doing their own banal daily scut-work -- the Baron, like Auden's Mozart, has probably never had to make his own bed.

There was a droll piece about the whole affair in the Wall Street Journal:

The baron's defense—he claimed he had written his thesis in good faith, lifting hundreds of prose passages from other authors only by "mistake"—outraged middle-class university graduates, who dominate Germany's establishment.

"The literate bourgeoisie, who have worked hard to pass exams, were not amused," said Gerd Langguth, a politics professor and member of Ms. Merkel's right-leaning Christian Democratic Union.

In contrast, mass-circulation tabloid Bild-Zeitung said "to hell with the doctorate," and its readers overwhelmingly backed him in a phone-in poll....

But after Ms. Merkel quipped last week that she had hired a defense minister, "not a research assistant," tens of thousands of academics and students signed an online letter accusing the chancellor of making a mockery of scholarly values.

A mockery of scholarly values! No, you idiots, that dissertation's topic was the mockery of scholarly values. By giving degrees for horseshit like that -- really, it's down at the level of Melissa Huffle-Puffle or a "studies" major -- you've forfeited any respect that might have ever accrued to "scholarship", as currently defined by the diploma industry.

And oh, the pathos of these "middle-class Uni grads" and their prized sheepskins. These people need to get out more.

The whole business is much like a Preston Sturges movie; every little twist and turn is a delight. There's this, for instance, from the WSJ piece mentioned above:

The minister's doctoral supervisor, law professor emeritus Peter Häberle, on Monday turned on his former student, saying: "The shortcomings—unimaginable to me—that have been discovered in Mr. zu Guttenberg's dissertation are grave and unacceptable."
Hmm. Unimaginable, is it, sehr geehrter Herr Doktor Professor? Considering that most of your student's plagiaries came from newspapers -- newspapers! -- and other well-known "scholars" in the "field" of "political science", should we not be surprised -- rhetorical question alert -- that you didn't notice them?

Rhetorical answer: no we should not. If you actually read the Baron's indigestible tome -- much less the work of your dreary colleagues, or horrors, the newspapers -- then you'd be utterly unworthy of the otium cum dignitate that comes with a tenured professorship -- a German tenured professorship, forsooth, at -- wait for it -- the University of Bayreuth!

(Do the frat boys there all aspire to date Wagnerian sopranos, or Heldentenori, as their predilections may dictate?)

But leave it to the Times -- in the link referenced up top -- to furrow the brow and strike the proper note of concern:

Because of the way the ministries are divided among the conservative bloc, analysts said the new defense minister would come from the Christian Social Union, though it has few known experts in military, security and foreign affairs.
My own initial response to this dire prospect was: well, good. Lord save us from the experts. But then I had a second thought. Wouldn't a crafty non-expert be a much better "defense" minister than a credentialled expert mired in the stultification that only an empty degree can confer? And would I rather the Germans had a clever and capable wildcard Minister of War -- let's call it what it is -- than a respectable dolt with a poli-sci doctorate from a "good" university?

To ask the question is to answer it. Bring on the experts. And this time, Angela, get somebody from Heidelberg or Tubingen, not a frat boy from... Bayreuth! Because the rest of the world, which has a longer memory than you may think, would much prefer to see a thorough, reliably certificated dullard in charge of the Bundeswehr, than somebody who might have actually gotten in under the radar.

March 3, 2011

Oh Really?

Performance reviews corrupt the system by getting employees to focus on pleasing the boss, rather than on achieving desired results. And they make it difficult, if not impossible, for workers to speak truth to power.

The Daily Philistine

I fail to see a problem with this. The reviews are working as intended. They are achieving the desired results. There's no need to reform them. At the very top of the food chain, the reviewers of reviews speak power to truth. At the very bottom, the reviewees speak when spoken to. In the middle, everyone guesses what's expected of them. Sometimes they guess right. When they do, they get to review people lower down the food chain. If they guess wrong, they move down the food chain. Or not. It all depends.

The author, a professor, has dedicated years of his life to an empirical study of performance reviews. This makes me very happy. He's proposed something wondrous:

Is there a way out? I believe there is, and it works for both government and business. It’s something I call the performance preview. Instead of top-down reviews, both boss and subordinate are held responsible for setting goals and achieving results. No longer will only the subordinate be held accountable for the often arbitrary metrics that the boss creates. Instead, bosses are taught how to truly manage, and learn that it’s in their interest to listen to their subordinates to get the results the taxpayer is counting on.

Instead of the bosses merely handing out A’s and C’s, they work to make sure everyone can earn an A. And the word goes out: “No more after-the-fact disappointments. Tell me your problems as they happen; we’re in it together and it’s my job to ensure results.”

The word goes out indeed! Bless his heart, I love this professor. It's the same protocol that's been in place throughout the history of industrial management. The lion lies down with the lamb. The lamb lies down in the mint sauce. The lion gets up and burps. This is called achieving the desired results.

March 4, 2011

Frugal Pharisees

The NY Times has a cud-chewing piece on the "tide of remedial students" entering the city university system. "Tide"? Their institutional gift for infelicity remains untrammeled by experience or humane considerations. It gets worse from there in the usual style; insinuations and the shallowest prurient interest—both intended to display a decent regard and adult responsibility, both failing completely. They can't bring themselves to say, straight out, that Bloomberg's teacher-baiting and child-grinding initiatives have made things worse.

Nor can they bring themselves to point out the obvious. The other prosperous social democracies get better educational "metrics" for less direct educational money because they offer a comprehensive system of social services and support. It's not hard to understand what's happening in US schools. Children whose parents endure constant stress will be stressed themselves. Children whose parents are subjected to a series of petty and gross humiliations are going to be scared. They're going to have a hard time, and if they're treated like criminals at school they're going to conclude that they're hated.

After all that, some are still going to try to make the best of a bad situation, and will still want a credential that might reduce their exposure to being treated like shit. They're going to need help with that. So, yeah, "remedial" education.

On a positive note, the NY Times recognizes that the students who do get some support are able to pass standardized tests. Thanks!

Subversion into decency

Here and here. I like the concept. It's small, but hey now! Small is beautiful, sometimes, and no genuine act of kindness should be despised.

A friend observed in passing that the "liberal media" prefers to have cretins writing the history and expressing the sentiments of a people. They do it passively, by accurately quoting vicious morons and giving endless column inches to a deconstruction of their own fascination with them. It's a reverse-engineering of subaltern studies. The professional navel-gazers and the thugs get their freak on in a series of grudge fucks passed along as the events of the day.

March 5, 2011

What's the scoop on Janette Sadik-Khan?

From what I've read, her unforgivable flaw is that she's 1) a woman 2) who is acting like a spoiled, entitled, rude and insensitive man. According to the NY Post, she's been dragging drivers from their cars and publicly castrating them. That does seem a bit extreme, but... According to the NY Times, she's set up lots of pedestrian-only zones and lots of bike lanes. They also feel that mistakes have been made; by whom is an exercise left for the reader. An ambitious Democrat named Wienerschnitzel hates her for the bike lanes. That alone might be taken as a positive endorsement.

But I don't really know anything about what she's done, or whether it's any good. Any city dwellers care to comment?

1977 all over again

The Morgan Freeman of the Hill, John "appleseed" Conyers is building a plan for the next act of the soap opera called the United States. Here's his latest pwog blueprint to a better America. It includes carved-in-stone targets for national unemployment:

  • 9 percent unemployment after 6 months;
  • 8 percent unemployment after 2 years;
  • 6 percent unemployment after 5 years
  • 5 percent unemployment after 8 years
  • 4 percent unemployment after 10 years
My, my.

Of course I like the form, if not the deadlines. We do need employment targets tied to deadlines, with automatic injectors to get us back on course and goose us along this path to the final 4%. Johnny has a "trust fund" for same -- a tax on financial trades!

Gotta love that, eh? Pwogs make soft landings sound so easy. Of course that requires you exist for ever in 1977 -- the year Carter hit the WH and the Dems controlled both houses of Congress; Nixon had been rebuked; the Nambo gig was over, the armed bully-boys chastened, etc. etc. -- and yet, we got the Carter debacle.

Professional pwogs don't seem to realize we've been here before, when we get a '93 or an '09. They act as if it's still the first or real '77 this time, not the same old '77 all over again.

Hostage Situation

Here's the Fed's pension breakdown by asset class. I seed red, all puns intended, whenever I look at anything related to pensions. The "credit market instruments" category is an exercise in euphemism which should be read as "paper that's not exactly toxic, but as pension fund managers we don't actually know and we do think it's pretty cool." Aren't they the dickens...

March 7, 2011

#WINNING the future

Terminator would like to know if you want that collated.

As if the yellow hordes of China weren't enough to contend with, another faction in the battle for the future has just been spotted. It's the robots, and they're coming for our office jobs!

Chris Bertram has the appropriate response:

Paul Krugman is worried that lots of jobs will be replaced by machines in the near future. What will all those people do!? Brad DeLong thinks there’ll still be plenty of jobs, but massive income inequality. Some of Brad’s commenters think that the reserve army of unemployed will take up prostitution on a large scale. Oh dear.

Allow me to suggest a third possibility. Instead of mass unemployment or horrendous inequality, technological improvement could reduce the time people spend working to meet their needs and give them more free time.

This can't be repeated often enough. The inability of Krugman and DeLong to look beyond the artificial scarcity imposed on the many by our capitalist system is quite amazing, really. Here we have what should be an economist's wet dream, but since our capitalist system turns it into a nightmare with the utmost efficiency, a nightmare it must be.

Speaking of turning dreams into nightmares, I'm a bit uneasy about Bertram's next point:

"Free time that they could use for other purposes (such as their all-round human development) ."

I think this might just be a poor choice of words, but I'm getting visions of jazz in the park, Tilley hats and educational television. If we have to offer something to fill these parentheses, then instead of "human development", how about "developing a substance abuse problem" or "having an affair"? That would be a better start.

Thankfully, Keynes -- who spent his own spare time cruising for Jewish twinks, rather than editing a textbook -- was already thinking about our impending predicament:

Thus for the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem-how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.

The strenuous purposeful money-makers may carry all of us along with them into the lap of economic abundance. But it will be those peoples, who can keep alive, and cultivate into a fuller perfection, the art of life itself and do not sell themselves for the means of life, who will be able to enjoy the abundance when it comes.

Yet there is no country and no people, I think, who can look forward to the age of leisure and of abundance without a dread. For we have been trained too long to strive and not to enjoy. It is a fearful problem for the ordinary person, with no special talents, to occupy himself, especially if he no longer has roots in the soil or in custom or in the beloved conventions of a traditional society. To judge from the behaviour and the achievements of the wealthy classes to-day in any quarter of the world, the outlook is very depressing! For these are, so to speak, our advance guard-those who are spying out the promised land for the rest of us and pitching their camp there. For they have most of them failed disastrously, so it seems to me-those who have an independent income but no associations or duties or ties-to solve the problem which has been set them.

I feel sure that with a little more experience we shall use the new-found bounty of nature quite differently from the way in which the rich use it to-day, and will map out for ourselves a plan of life quite otherwise than theirs.

For many ages to come the old Adam will be so strong in us that everybody will need to do some work if he is to be contented. We shall do more things for ourselves than is usual with the rich to-day, only too glad to have small duties and tasks and routines. But beyond this, we shall endeavour to spread the bread thin on the butter-to make what work there is still to be done to be as widely shared as possible. Three-hour shifts or a fifteen-hour week may put off the problem for a great while. For three hours a day is quite enough to satisfy the old Adam in most of us!

Muslim Americans: No improvement on other Americans?

That dirtiest of dirty birds, congressman Peter King of (where else?) Long Island, is working up a little congressional jihad against American Muslims:

Mr. King said ... that Al Qaeda was trying to radicalize Muslims and that its effort was the leading homegrown terrorism threat.

“The threat is coming from the Muslim community,” he said, “the radicalization attempts are directed at the Muslim community.

(By the way, am I the only one who hates this "community" trope? The business community, the gay community, the black community, the bigot community. Why do we have to demote the substantive to an adjectival role and posit some nonexistent "community" for it to modify? Don't we all live in real communities, with, like, streets and sewers? With black people and businessmen and gay people and bigots, crossing paths all the time? But I digress.)

There was a little counter-demo against King's inquisition today, and a sad affair it was. From the same Times story linked above:

In New York, 500 people demonstrated near Times Square to protest the hearings and to call on Mr. King to expand his witness list to include other groups....

Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding(*), and Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam who is a co-founder of a project to develop an Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero, addressed the crowd.

“To single out Muslim Americans as the source of homegrown terrorism and not examine all forms of violence motivated by extremist belief — that, my friends, is an injustice,” Rabbi Schneier said....

“Everybody I talk to worries about it,” [Democratic Representative] Ellison said during [a] Sunday morning appearance with Mr. King ... on CNN. He added, “It’s absolutely the right thing to do for the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee to investigate radicalization, but to say we’re going to investigate a — a religious minority and a particular one, I think, is the wrong course of action to take.”

Yet for many Muslim leaders, the initial outrage and fear is giving way to a determination to participate in the testimony and shape the outcome. Rizwan Jaka, a board member of the Adams Center here, said leaders of mainstream mosques were eager to testify about their cooperation with law enforcement.

"Include other groups!" The equal-opportunity police state, where Jews and Christians nobly ask to be sat on as hard as Muslims. The rabbi and the Democrat are quite willing to let slip the dogs of Homeland Security, as long as they bite every "community" equally. (If this included the "business community" it might have some appeal; but dream on.)

Where could you find a better example of the stultification and dementedness of conventional high-minded American thinking on the subjects of "extremism", "radicalization", and -- wait for it -- "diversity"?

Compare and contrast. Elsewhere in the world, a lot of people seem to have shaken off these mind-forg'd manacles and are happily being radical, extremist, and so on. When will we catch up?


(*) How great is that name? "Ethnic understanding". There's some magisterial ambiguity there. Does it mean "understanding ethnicity" -- which would be a great thing, though it might have a somewhat critical and dissolutive tendency with respect to its topic? Or does it mean "understanding things like an ethnic does"? Or "ethnics understanding that other ethnics are also ethnics, with all that that implies, whatever that 'all' might be?" Or something even more subtle?

Ethnic understanding, my ass. What's this a euphemism for?

March 8, 2011

Trains running normally now

Comments were inadvertently blocked for the post just below this one. Dunno why this happens sometimes. Should be OK now.

Scylla & Charybdis

boink asks:

"What if the rebellion in Libya is shown to be heavily CIA backed and promoted? Would/should that alter one's attitude about Qaddafi?"

My answer: No.

Doc Johnson, I think, compares a choice between those two as that between a flea and a tick.

But history has need of its fleas and ticks, and even the plagues they bear; history uses many agencies to advance human society, in whatever sense human society can be said to advance. They include, often in turn, both Qaddafis and trans-nat Langley stooges.

In fact, one soul, one party, one institution, can play several conflicting roles over time, as has Senor Qaddafi, it would seem -- if not the Langley rangers. Many a task facing Clio if She is to guide us through the flux and flex requires turning agents into their opposites. If it takes CIA agencies and not a thousand villages to smash Mr Q's little pig sty, so be it.

In the end, one sees the outcomes of history as damnedly random or equally damnedly determinate. But this is to split the complex contradiction that is "reality" itself, always massively chaotic but determinate. Do not despair; we are going somewhere, even if all these mutually independent "wills" colliding with each other seems to suggest a Hobbesian "otherwise".

The notion of an overarching Providence pops into the head, as if by itself, as if an original creation, because each of us is a creature of our own intending mind.

Shortage of hatred

Shown above, the gloriously pseudonymous "Brigitte Gabriel". That name! Sheer genius. Brigitte: a touch of Sixties erotica, a touch of Catholicism. Gabriel: a touch of American Protestantism, and perhaps even a whiff of Judaism. Talk about covering the waterfront.

"Brigitte" has got quite a lovely anti-Muslim scam going:

As a child growing up a Maronite Christian in war-torn southern Lebanon in the 1970s, Ms. Gabriel said, she had been left lying injured in rubble after Muslims mercilessly bombed her village. She found refuge in Israel and then moved to the United States, only to find that the Islamic radicals who had terrorized her in Lebanon, she said, were now bent on taking over America.
What I want to know is, why can't we can't do hate as well as these people can? Why can't we hate AIPAC as much as they hate -- or claim to hate -- Al-Qaeda? The former is at least as deadly and destructive; maybe more so.

There's a lot to be said for hatred, and there are a lot of people who richly deserve it. Why are we so shy?

March 9, 2011

Cretinous Hoaxsters

O'Keefe and NPR were meant for each other. As with all wingnut stings of liberal institutions, the real story is the speed with which the targets issue fatuous, unnecessary apologies and undertake a pointless, melodramatic corporate seppuku. This doesn't head off the tut-tutting sanctimony, of course. The finger-waggers are not to be denied.

At this point, I think it's deliberate. Professional liberals climb the ladder by demoralizing the Democratic Party base. The money is pretty good, but that's clearly a secondary consideration. The real thrill lies in making a disgusting spectacle of themselves.

Libysticae fabulae

This is the product of an eagerly cerebrating pinko stinko meme refinery -- to wit, one of those Lefty mailing lists that Father S is always fuming about -- so I can't link to it:

"I have been wondering in my paranoid way...if the subtext for what is happening around intervention in Libya is that some of the Imperialists would like to use it as a trial run for what would happen if Saudi Arabia should fall to a revolution.

If the House of Saud were to lose control, I would expect a fraction (large?) of the American ruling class to argue for an invasion and the capture of the oil fields, which they would endeavour to hold against all comers."

Lefty types often suffer from an overly deterministic -- shall I say mechanistic -- notion of what constitutes imperial "market earth" steerage. It's not all about occupation and gunmanship.

The Saud's oil fields in the hands of a color revolution hardly threatens the Yankee hegemony, inasmuch as that new improved liberalized cosmo-state has to sell its oil somewhere, and protect itself from the Shiite menace across the Gulf, eh?

Of course a Shiite splintering along the east coast of the penisula that by stages became part of a greater Shiite co-prosperity sphere HQed in Teheran... well, that would be quite another matter.

But by the the looks of it so far, this libyan insurgency -- if it succeeds -- oughta prove to be a fairly harmless semi-secular and even colorish operation, a setup more unlikely to choose to share its oil revenue with Egypt and Tunisia then with say Exxon and Shell.

What makes matters uncertain then? and most definitely more promising?

Well, God love 'em, the stout-hearted bastards are in arms, not bearing peace, equality, freedom, and love candles. They might just fight a humanist intervention, not just demo agin it. They might shoot at Uncle's (or even the baby-blue-hat) liberation legionnaires.

March 10, 2011

A foolish consistency is....

Heres a poser: FDR and the Spanish civil war? Would that also have been "hands off"?

Take the wayback machine to 1937. How do you urge your gubmint on this one?

(Soviet tank paid for with Spanish gold)

(Naughty Comrade Major Orlov, NKVD)

Uncle Joe's boys are "all in" -- sort of. In our parallel pink bizarro universe, how 'bout Mr New Deal?

And I got another:

China, May 1989 -- are we supporting... the party? If not -- if we're supporting the goddess of liberty kids -- are we siding with a color revolution?

The list could go on. But for now, just one more:

Poland, 1980. Oh no, it's a working class rebellion? A color revolution? Hey, wrong class...no?

Let's hear the views, ladies and gentlemen.

March 13, 2011

So... back to business as usual?

Will there be a second act in Libya?

Forget the no-fly zone BS. I suspect Uncle's technical experts have determined Q's "forces" have sufficient stand-off bombardment capability from the ground alone. Add in some helicopter mobility...

So far it seems the opposition looks to win on spirit. But events suggest they will lose if they hope to hold Benghazi with that alone.

I also suspect this will come down to Egypt as safe rear area for any people's gubmint and to fitful raiding actions into Libyan territory.

Will the new "revolutionary" Egypt play host? The arab league seems unwilling to form its own relief legion, eh? Imagine a Nasser brigade like the lanky-Link brigade made up of "volunteers" from egypt's military: part Korea, fall '50, and part Spain, fall '36.

It would be surprising if this clearly possible outcome of the asymmetric conflict underway doesn't get talked up by the herd of independent chatter monkeys fairly soon.

Oh yeah -- then there's the west side. Tunisia, a second safe zone? Since the dashingly brave souls that rose in western rebellion seem to have disintegrated before Q's minions, at least as a coherent city/town holding operation. Maybe talk of Tunisian "tacit support" for cross-border fighting units might arise before Egyptian side options set the liberal western press to gabbling.

The actions so far seem very brutish and bloody but comparatively light and brief, for both strokes and counterstrokes. We will see what any second act will bring after the fall of free Benghazi. If there is a fall of free Benghazi. If the great powers permit that to happen. If the brave spirits there -- Allah preserve them -- can't find some way to counter the bastard Q's big guns.

Awful awful awful.... so lopsided.

Don't tell me you aren't torn up by all this. I certainly am.

March 14, 2011

Matty Woodchuck takes aim

Dr IOZ usually does a thorough job of anatomizing Matthew Yglesias into chopmeat suitable for a cannibal's Bolognese -- a very hungry cannibal, of course; a hungry cannibal who was pretty undiscriminating to start with. Use lots of nutmeg and tomato for this one, Chef.

The good doctor's latest on the subject is no exception, but for once I feel moved by the Spirit to add a footnote. Here's the 'Chuck, gnawing with his big sharp rodentine incisors on the Japan earthquake and its consequences:

Cars, trucks, and other pieces of useful equipment have been ruined. Roads, docks, and other pieces of transportation infrastructure have been blocked by debris.
What strikes me here is Matty's need to promote concreta to abstracta -- as if cars and trucks, roads and docks had to be dissolved into categories like "useful equipment" and "transportation infrastructure" before the mighty reasoning engine in Yggy's cranium could process them.

Chuckie isn't entirely consistent, though:

Tens of thousands of human beings are dead or injured.
If he'd been running true to form here, he'd've said "Tens of thousands of human beings and other economic feedstocks" vel sim.

Does he have deep inside some wizened, desiccated atrophion of a human soul that feebly waved him off with its spindly little arms? Or was it sufficient for him to invoke the quasi-taxonomic category of "human beings" instead of merely saying "people"?

March 16, 2011

Here comes the public finance czar

The breadth of the nationwide assault by the GOP at the state level is really impressive. I came across this cute one from Michigan, called affectionately "financial martial law".

Here's one of our brothers, Buck Hall, over at AFL-MIA HQ, mulling this "reform":

"The so-called emergency managers bill would allow Gov. Rick Snyder (R) to declare a “financial emergency” in a city or school district and appoint a manager with broad powers, including the ability to fire local elected officials, break contracts, seize and sell assets, eliminate services—and even eliminate whole cities or school districts without any public input."
And it's not just public-sector unionites: the babied construction trades are under the gun here, too. Prevailing wage and community labor agreements are about to get outlawed in 20 or so states.

What more are the ghoul party types up to? Read Brother Hall's post; it's festering with link-ups to more and more roll jobs.

Hey, we voted these creatures in, eh? Quite a way to demonstrate highly legitimate popular fury at Ohbummer's democracy. But was there any other way availible? One sees a mad charge into a box canyon, eh?

What can you say? Fight like hell, gang!

Radio Free Cyrenaica

We have a nice contrast: On the one hand, Egypt's "democratic revolution" and its supreme military council vis-a-vis Libya; on the other, the Saud dynasty vis-a-vis Bahrain.

Where are the covert warnings out of Cairo: "Stop, Colonel Q; go no deeper into Cyrenaica. If you advance on Benghazi, we will intervene massively."

If this were happening, Cairo right now would be declaring a refugee emergency and using it as cover for a massive military buildup on the Libyan border. There would be numerous violations of Libyan air space by Egyptian air force units, etc. etc.

But nope.

Whereas... ah, the great whereas... the Saud tyrany has in essence invaded the island of Bahrain and occupied it, securing it for the Sunni royal ruling clique.

The White House?

Egypt is obeying and the Saud fuckers defying... that's my take.

March 17, 2011

Dawns false and true

"There is no denying that bourgeois society has for the second time experienced its 16th century, a 16th century which, I hope, will sound its death knell just as the first ushered it into the world. The proper task of bourgeois society is the creation of the world market, at least in outline, and of the production based on that market.

Since the world is round, the colonisation of California and Australia and the opening up of China and Japan would seem to have completed this process.

For us, the difficult question is this: on the Continent revolution is imminent and will, moreover, instantly assume a socialist character. Will it not necessarily be crushed in this little corner of the earth, since the movement of bourgeois society is still, in the ascendant over a far greater area?"

-- Karl M to Fred, October 8, 1858

Not often enough pondered, this passage -- at least for one of my kidney. A few fragmentary notes to start a chat round here (perhaps):

1) seems bourgeois society has had at least one more 16th century, eh? By which of course I mean the post-WWII decolonization and subsequent intensified globalization.

2) The word "crushed" has a nice ring. I wonder what sort of mechanics the evil Doctor had in outline in his head as he penned that bit?

3) How often in the past 150 years have good and bright spirits had something like this in their brain's gut: "revolution is imminent and will, moreover, instantly assume a socialist character" -- about some advanced "little corner of the earth "?

4) It still appears to be the case that "the movement of bourgeois society is still, in the ascendant over a far greater area," and if one stares long enough at Chindia alone, the solar god of capital does seem exceeding bright.

Lesson for today: despite these endless orbits of darkness, Clio every once in a blue moon of blue moons likes to pull off a fast quake-like jerk from deepest midnight to a new dawn. We just had one in the Arab world, eh?

March 18, 2011

I'm shocked, shocked

Alternet is deeply concerned:

The Shocking Way US Cops Are Trained to Hate Muslims

On a bright January morning in 2010, at Broward College in Davie, Florida, about sixty police officers and other frontline law enforcement officials gathered in a lecture hall for a course on combating terrorism in the Sunshine State.... The instructor, Sam Kharoba, an olive-skinned man wearing rimless glasses and an ill-fitting white dress shirt, stood apart at the front of the hall reviewing PowerPoint slides on his laptop.

As he got under way, Kharoba described how, over the next three days, he would teach his audience the fundamentals of Islam. “We constantly hear statements,” Kharoba began, “that Islam is a religion of peace, and we constantly hear of jihadists who are trying to kill as many non-Muslims as they can.”

.... Kharoba strode forward to the front of the room, his voice slower now, more measured. “Islam is a highly violent radical religion that mandates that all of the earth must be Muslim."

And so on and so on, for a staggering 6600 words. A few excerpts:
People at the highest level of law enforcement and intelligence—to say nothing of civil liberties groups—have concerns about the strategy.... one danger is that the system will be flooded with bad leads. An increase in [such] incidents ... would only degrade police work, obscure real threats, and spoil relations between America’s cops and America’s Muslims—who have thus far volunteered some of the most fruitful leads in preventing domestic terror attacks.

It might be theoretically possible to ward off such an outcome if police could be provided with impeccable training. But one of the central problems is that the demand for training far exceeds the supply of qualified instructors. Even the CIA and FBI have had trouble finding people with the key skills to fill their ranks. For state and local law enforcement departments, the scarcity is even more acute. Into the void, self-styled experts have rushed in [sic].

I have a hard time understanding what the problem is here. "Flooding the system with bad leads" sounds like a swell idea to me -- I just got off the phone, dropping an anonymous dime on my landlord and a couple of obnoxious colleagues. See something? Say something. Or, hell, say something anyway.

Apparently Alternet wants impeccably-trained, effective cops, possessed of excellent and accurate "intelligence". Alternet, it seems, wants nothing more than to help the cops do their jobs better.

Not for the first time, I marvel at the liberal mentality. I don't understand how anybody couldn't want to subvert the cops as much as possible; to keep them as stupid and ridiculous as possible; to send them off, as much as possible, chasing their own tails and as many ignes-fatui as we can gin up.

Is it not obvious that under present circumstances, cops are a much bigger menace to the ordinary citizen that "terrorists"?

Is there even any difference between the two?

March 19, 2011

I am become profit

Adam Curtis has posted an interesting episode on nuclear power from his 1992 Pandora's Box series. As with most documentary makers, Curtis often plays fast and loose with the facts, but he always manages to dig up some rare footage and put it to an interesting storyline.

This one deals with the relationship between nuclear energy, safety standards, government and business. It gives a good background on the current disaster, and explains how it was known at the time that the type of reactors used in Fukushima were never safe, but were sold anyway.


From Mike Flugennock, who writes:

President Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize winner, quoted by Al Jazeera in a statement as opposing violence against civilians – on the same day that his Predator drones engaged in more slaughter of civilians in Pakistan – has sold a shit-ton of weapons to Saudi Arabia who, in turn, has joined the army of Bahrain in the massacre of unarmed civilian protesters in the streets of Bahrain. Is that pretty much it? Have I missed anything here?

Partition: Not what it used to be

Glen Ford beat me to it -- as usual.

Owen's reference, a few days back, to Cyrenaica got me thinking -- thinking, but not as fast as Glen thinks: Maybe, thinks I, the imperial response to the uprising and repression in Libya hasn't been as incoherent as it appeared. Maybe a period of wait-and-see has given way to a widening imperial consensus that partition is the way to go.

They like that sort of thing -- especially the Israelis. Israel is very keen on partitioning Sudan, for example, and now that the South is taken care of, presumably Darfur is next. But doubtless Israel isn't the only party with an interest in carving Sudan up, and while Israel may also be happy to see Libya carved up, it seems quite likely that the Euros and Washington would be equally so. After all, not even I can blame Israel for what happened to Yugoslavia -- though everybody else, from Berlin to the Vatican, seems to have had a hand in that particular crime. It's like Murder On The Orient Express -- all the suspects dunnit. (Sorry if I just spoiled the book for anybody.)

And of course, although the neocons, those pilotless drones run out of the Israeli propaganda ministry, were making a lot of noise a few years back about partitioning Iraq, that plan seems to have gone nowhere -- partly, perhaps, because the Turk would presumably take a dim view of an independent Iraqi Kurdistan on his border.

Modern imperial partitions don't much resemble the picturesque scenario shown up top; it's no longer a way of managing contention among great powers. Rather, it more often reflects the collusion of great powers. China probably doesn't much like the partition of Sudan; but everybody else apparently does. And even China may not be much bothered by the partition of Libya, judging from its abstention in the Security Council the other day.

March 21, 2011


So Left Forum has started up, here in my fair city. I haven't ever been to one. No doubt I should go and blog about it.

I'm glad it wasn't this year, though. Oh sure, there are probably lots of good speakers and panels to be heard through the weekend. But it didn't get off to a good start: the buffoon shown above, Cornel West, opened it up with a speech so far below his usual low standard that I really had to try several times before I could steel myself to watch it on Youtube. It was obscurely embarrassing; made one squirm.

I was trying to figure out why (apart from West's usual shallow platitudinousness, I mean). Best I could come up with: it was like watching a tasteless and untalented parody of, say, Jesse Jackson, performed by a white guy in burnt cork, false beard, and fright wig. (The beard in particular looked as if it might have been left over from a high-school production of The Merchant of Venice, or perhaps a Midwestern Christmas pageant.)

Barbara Ehrenreich, a writer whose books I have enjoyed, followed West with an equally disappointing speech -- though, to be sure, she didn't make herself ridiculous, as West always seems to do. Barbara spent most of her time making fun of Glen Beck and the Teabaggers.

Both speeches were greeted by the assembled comrades with wild enthusiasm. SIgh.

Maybe next year. Or maybe not.

March 22, 2011

Blame it on the Bossa Nova?

Really, is there anybody who doesn't love the Brazilians? I know, I know, there are people so hip they *say* they've gotten bored with Brazilians. But I think they're lying.

March 24, 2011

QUITE contrary

As a former whitewasher for this jungle statesman, way back there, long before auto-genocide was cool, last night I had a very sudden and profound recrudesence of that stoutly contrary spirit.

It occurred to me "enough is enough", after a particularly hyped BBC broadcast of an interview by phone with an innocent insurgent cooped up inside one of those besieged liberated towns in west Libya.

I've taken as my immediate task to step up and apply the same bleach to Col Q's record till humiliated by hard facts to run for cover.

Let's look at the bulletins that have rolled our way since the beginning of this uprising against his tyranny. My considered and boldly presumptuous conclusion:

There is very little third-party evidence of much beyond the usual autocrat's rough stuff and pot shots. In fact since the rebels "came after him" in Toyota trucks armed like an ad hoc mobilization of Somali irregulars, the colonel's forces have adhered pretty consistently to rules of armed engagement worthy of, say, the LA SWAT teams.

It's an asymmetrical conflict, after all...

Hey, states -- those coagulations of force and nasty action -- have a right, a well recognized right, or rather a duty, to defend themselves and due process against irregular bands of armed would-be topplers, don't they?

March 26, 2011

Poutine Revolution

So the Harper Government fell yesterday, and Woody Mattchuck immediately waddled into action, citing an absurdly over-cooked poll from Ipsos-Reid. Here's a rundown of the recent polls. Take a look at those Ipsos-Reid numbers.

It is amazing, isn't it? Given any subject, the Woodchuck inevitably finds the worst possible source. Whether he's repeatedly plagiarizing the nutty neo-monetarism of Scott Sumner, or citing Ipsos-Reid, a well-known organ of the Conservative Party, he always manages to seek out and promote the fraudulent.

But enough about Matty Chucksteak. I'm not going to let him ruin my mood right now. I'm elated at the prospect of this election, as it augers an ignominious end for Michael Ignatieff.

The general situation is this: if Harper doesn't get a majority government, he will be forced to resign, and if Michael Ignatieff doesn't win a minority government, he will be forced to resign. The most likely outcome is another Conservative minority government, and therefore both of them are likely gone within a year or two. I intend to do whatever I can to ensure that outcome. Das right: I'm voting in a federal election for the first time ever.

My riding is going to see a close race between Peggy Nash, president of the NDP and union negotiator, and Gerard Kennedy, a not-so-odious Liberal. My own favoured party, the Work Less Party of Canada (slogans: "Alarm clocks kill dreams", "Workers of the world RELAX") apparently neglected to file the necessary papers to maintain their status as a political party, so I'm voting Dip.

This is the great thing: my vote could be the one that causes Michael Ignatieff to lose the election, and his job! Who says voting is a waste of time?

March 27, 2011


An exceptionally surreal and confabulatory item in the New York Times this morning, even by that publication's very high standards of deliberate obfuscation and sincerely disordered thinking -- and as usual, it's not always easy to tell the two apart:

Unrest in Syria and Jordan Poses New Test for U.S. Policy

WASHINGTON — Even as the Obama administration defends the NATO-led air war in Libya, the latest violent clashes in Syria and Jordan are raising new alarm among senior officials who view those countries, in the heartland of the Arab world, as far more vital to American interests.

Deepening chaos in Syria, in particular, could dash any remaining hopes for a Middle East peace agreement, several analysts said. It could also alter the American rivalry with Iran for influence in the region and pose challenges to the United States’ greatest ally in the region, Israel.

"Vital to American interests" requires translation as always; in this case, it clearly means "of interest to Israel". Why else would Syria conceivably be more "vital" to the US than Libya? Or Jordan, for that matter?

And how about "dash any remaining hopes for a Middle East peace agreement"? Really, it's astonishing that they can bring themselves to commit this stuff to paper. What hopes? Indeed, whoever had any such hopes? Certainly not the Israelis, unless by "peace" you mean Israel's complete domination of the region and its reduction of the Palestinians to utter unresisting subjugation -- if not, indeed, their expulsion from Palestine altogether, an option increasingly favored in Israel.

So our man Landler is off to a strong start, Times-wise; but it gets better.

Syria ... could pose a thorny dilemma for the administration.... Having intervened in Libya to prevent a wholesale slaughter in Benghazi, some analysts asked, how could the administration not do the same in Syria?

Though no one is yet talking about a no-fly zone over Syria, Obama administration officials acknowledge the parallels to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi....

Mr. Assad had also probably disqualified himself as a peace partner for Israel.... with his population up in arms, analysts said, he might actually have an incentive to pick a fight with its neighbor, if only to deflect attention from the festering problems at home.

Bomb, bomb, bomb Syria! One would certainly like to know who these unnamed "officials" and "analysts" were that Landler talked to. It's pretty clear what their, and his, top priority was.

Hence, I suppose, that coy little Popian finny-tribish phrase "its neighbor." One imagines a neighborly back-fence conversation:

Syria: Howdy neighbor! Hey, wow, is that an atom bomb on your deck?
Israel: Fuck off. Oh, and hand over that kiddie pool, asshole.
Why the periphrasis? Perhaps because in a 1200-word story ostensibly about Syria and Jordan, the word Israel clangs eleven times, like the monotonous tolling of a harsh cracked bell(*). Did Landler have a merciful impulse to spare us at least once? Or did it fleetingly occur to him that he might have become a little too... obvious?


(*) 'Jordan' occurs only four times; 'Iran', seven.

March 28, 2011


Father Smiff has got me haunting the lefty lists. Here's a recent exchange. Comrade A writes:

The thought I've been pondering is this: Assuming NATO is successful in overthrowing Gaddafi, what kind of legitimacy could the new gov't claim considering it was put into power only because of NATO? Any new gov't has to improve the standard of living and material position of Libyans very quickly, because it will be marked as illegitimate just because it was de facto installed by imperial powers.
And Comrade B responds:
I expect they're very conscious of the new regime being perceived as illegitimate, and will try very hard to disguise it. My guess is they'll try to create the appearance of legitimacy by stopping short of Tripoli, declaring a ceasefire, and arranging for stage managed talks between regime and opposition representatives mediated by Turkey, the Arab League, the African Union, the UN or some combination thereof, leading to an interim "national unity" government pending new elections
"Pending new elections." It occurs to me: why should Uncle fear free and fair elections in the Arab world? Toppled henchmen of empire, big deal. What's all this stuff about imperials trembling in their boots? "Oh no, not the briar patch!"

The record since 1946 suggests Uncle wins nearly as often as he draws and hardly ever loses big enough to sweat over any one or even a string of three or four -- let alone tremble.

Look at Latin America. The naughty elections come and go -- Arbenz, Allende Ortega, Chavez.... do you see anything to shake 'em up there? Nothin' a little diddle-diddle can't cure, with patience and a few swift kicks in the nuts.

Black Africa? Give me a break. South Asia? Exhibit A: the "world's largest democracy," the center of Pax Hindia. Could Uncle really have a better counterpart than New Delhi?

Someone has to convince me that free and fair multi-party Queensberry-rules elections are ipso facto good, really good for the little people out there. I'm ready to listen, believe me. My own Jeffersonian streak runs bone-deep.

So sock it to me, gang. Uphold the hallowed liberal rights of citizenship. The ghost of John Milton is listening too.

Boots on the ground

Latest from Mike Flugennock, who writes:

For those of you who were able to tear yourselves away from the tragedy in Japan and the US media’s gushing over Obama’s “humanitarian intervention” in Libya, there was some horrifying news from Afghanistan which underscores Obama’s hypocrisy in the area of human rights and violence: the publication in German publication Der Spiegel of a batch of photographs taken by US soldiers with their “trophies” — the corpses of Afghan civilians murdered by “kill teams” who created artificial “combat situations” in order to hunt human beings for sport.

March 30, 2011


Cruise missile liberals are willing to concede that bombing and shooting people requires supplies of munitions. They understand that the supplies of munitions come from companies that politick against the cruise missile liberals' favored domestic policies. They understand the process that gives money to the suppliers of munitions. They even understand that some of the money will be used to politick against them, that none of the money will be used for their benefit and that their advocacy for war is effectively advocacy for increases in the amount of money given to suppliers of munitions. However they bristle at the suggestion that they're fundamentally the same as the bumper sticker patriot, peckerwood jingoist Republicans, who also do everything humanly possible to sink themselves into squalor, and they meet any suggestion to that effect with accusations of groupthink.

The suggestion that they're fundamentally the same as the bumper sticker patriot, peckerwood jingoist Republicans is unfair. They're not. The bumper sticker patriots only get enthusiastic for wars started by Republicans. The cruise missile liberals maintain an impeccable, non-partisan consistency: any war will do.

March 31, 2011

Stalinism: Not what it used to be

"Participants in Libya's uprising certainly deserved protection from the brutal attacks the Gaddafi regime unleashed against them"
-- Nerf People's Planet editorial

Seems the humanitarian pretext for armed intervention is indivisible: either the empire can't use it, no matter what, or the empire can use it, no matter why (real 'why', that is; the nominal 'why' is always he same).

Hugo and Danny and Fidel are scrambling here because they could be next, if sovereignty is conditional on good behaviour, as defined by the western media machines.

Seems to me that's plenty good reason to play for Col Q's side in any venue available, no matter how much of a neoliberal torture-chamber Minotaur in glad rags the Colonel has become. Hoping to somehow stymie a clean win for Uncle Slamdunk here looks like a game you gotta play, whatever the odds, if you happen to be running a sovereignty-bolstered outfit that Uncle might decide to Slobo-Sad-icide some bright sunny morning.

Then we get this from the Webb-ites:

It is ironic that an international conference of over 30 countries, to consider, in the president's words, "what kind of political effort is necessary to pressure Gaddafi, while also supporting a transition to the future that the Libyan people deserve," is being held after the military intervention began. Had such discussions taken place earlier, one wonders if a consensus could have emerged for more powerful political and economic measures, short of military intervention, to protect Libyan civilians and open a space for a popular uprising.
"Containment," comrades?!

Might I point out the events of the Kennedy 60's vis-a-vis cuba. Oh how these red nerfers have spongified.

About March 2011

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

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