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April 1, 2011

The loyal non-opposition

Predictably enough, the Empire's latest Great Moral Crusade -- I mean, the one in Libya; there may have been more, by the time you read this -- has caused the usual crocus-like crop of Lefties to pop up, eager to demonstrate that there is nothing knee-jerk about their anti-imperialism. Among them is the owlish pedagogue shown above, one Gilbert Achcar, who caused a bit of a stir recently with a couple of pieces -- here, and here. It's all very familiar stuff:

if we could turn back the wheel of history and go back to the period immediately preceding the Rwandan genocide, would we oppose an UN-authorized Western-led military intervention deployed in order to prevent it?

... What is decisive is the comparison between the human cost of this intervention and the cost that would have been incurred had it not happened.

To take another extreme analogy for the sake of showing the full range of discussion: could Nazism be defeated through non-violent means?

It's all there, isn't it?

I. The calculus of immediate local utility

Achcar, the Auld Dominie, wants us to base our decision entirely on the balance of human cost in the immediate situation at hand. We are to prescind from all consideration of any bigger picture.

We're not to consider whether there are institutions in play that we would like to weaken or strengthen; or whether there are principles involved that we want to support or oppose. We're not allowed to notice trends, or ask ourselves whether we would rather encourage or discourage them. (One such trend might be the increasing pace and scale of "Western" armed interventions, with the usual humanitarian fig-leaf, around the world; another might be the sudden rash of popular uprisings in the Arab lands which have not owed anything to NATO or the CIA.)

It's quite a lot like the lesser-evil argument for voting Democratic. Like the Prof, the zealous Democrat only wants you to think about potential third-order effects that may occur in the next four years. He doesn't want you to think about the fact that he's asking you to support a criminal and repressive institution and encourage it, to the best of your modest ability, to become even worse than it already is.

This fly's-eye narrowing of focus and willed obliviousness of larger context is a strangely impoverished, self-stultified intellectual stance. Why would anybody embrace it and evangelize for it?

Perhaps the evangelism is easily enough explained, given the embrace; the Achcarian thinker, and the Democrat, are like the fox in Aesop who lost his tail and tried to persuade the other foxes to give up their tails too. But then why the embrace? Why lose your fine, fiery, foxy tail if you had the choice to keep it?

One can only conclude that Achcar and the Democrat have started with the conclusion they want and worked backward to the methodology that produces it. Achcar, for some reason, wants to be an apologist for an imperial military adventure every so often.

Who knows why? Perhaps he wants to appear judicious, discriminating, and un-doctrinaire to his cubicle-mates down at the diploma mill. Perhaps he gets tired of being a peace weenie, from time to time, and likes to show that he's really a tough guy, whose nerves, to borrow Auden's phrase, won't flinch at slaughter as long as there's a higher purpose. Perhaps he's just a bit of a contrarian, though not a very imaginative one.

This is all speculation, of course. One would have to know Achcar better in order to form any real hypothesis about what makes him tick. But the mention of speculation brings me to another topic:

II. Phantoms meet Figments at Chimaera Field today

The truckloads of corpses that Achcar wants us to weigh against each other are hypothetical ones, to whom he gives, or tries to give, a specious weight and number with label-grabbing phrases like "Who in his right mind could believe...?"

But neither Achcar nor anyone else knows knows how many people Qaddafi will kill, or how many NATO will kill, or how many a neoliberal comprador regime installed by "Western" firepower will kill.

Oh, we can all make our guesses, and it's an amusing, though heartless, pinko parlor game to argue for our various numbers. But we can't count the corpses before they're dead. Still, that's no problem for Achcar. He's fine with sending in the bombers on the basis of a guess.

On the other hand, one of the few things we do know for sure, as it happens, is that the Empire does not send in bombers for benign reasons. It's not because the imperial oligarchs' hearts have been touched that they're helping the rebels in Libya (unlike those in Egypt, and Tunisia, and Yemen, and Bahrain, and...).

We all agree on this, right? I bet even Achcar does. When the Imperial bombers are sent, they're sent for imperial purposes.

But in accordance with Achcar's Canon I above, this is inadmissible evidence. No matter that we all agree the Empire has malign intentions and will enact those intentions wherever and whenever it achieves a position of sufficient strength. We are not allowed to take into account this fact, which we all know and acknowledge. Rather, we must confine ourselves to counting hypothetical corpses.

Here again the parallel with Democratic Party shills, and their extensive reliance on the apodictic subjunctive, is quite strong: "You can't possibly believe that Gore would have invaded Libya! -- Er, I mean, Iraq!"

III. The Great Good War

There probably hasn't been a single apologist for war in the last sixty years who hasn't hauled in the Great Ant-Fascist Titanomachia to justify his pleading -- the way Woody Allen produced Marshall McLuhan:

I really wish somebody would undertake a thorough cold-hearted debunking of World War II's moral grandeur. Getting rid of Hitler was a nice side-effect, of course, but hardly the motive. The European war was fought to keep Germany in a box (which the victorious Allies ended up opening anyway, just a few decades after the bloodletting stopped) and the Pacific war was fought to keep Japan in a box (ditto; though the box was kept shut long enough to allow Uncle to replace the European colonial powers on that side of the world).

But for the sake of argument, let's grant every self-congratulatory Parson Weems myth about the noble purposes of the war. In that case, is it not obvious that WWII was an absolutely sui-generis undertaking, utterly and entirely exceptional in the blood-soaked history of Uncle's foreign adventures?

And that being so -- isn't it extraordinary that this completely unprecedented and never-repeated lusus naturae should be trotted out year after year to justify every squalid sanguinary romp that the gangsters in Washington -- and latterly, London and Paris and Berlin -- embark upon?

Indeed, it's hard to resist the conclusion that anybody who trots out WWII to justify some jolly little war he's promoting might as well have tattooed on his forehead the words "Liar" and "Fraud".

For Achcar, I'd be happy to do the job myself -- though it would mean getting closer to him than would be pleasant.

Still, it's a question of public safety. After all, who knows how many people this guy will kill if he's not stopped?

So right, and so wrong

Counterpunch has found a soul mate for Father Smiff:

"Here are the politics of the war in Libya: Gaddafi is trying to crush a democratic revolution;... the U.S. is scrambling to check the most widespread and powerful revolutionary upheaval since 1848 from sweeping its strongmen into the dustbin of history. The no-fly zone is damage control, an attempt to co-opt the Libyan revolution. "
That seems to me wrong on all three points.

1. Col Q is certainly "trying to crush" something, but is it "a democratic revolution"? Seems this chap knows better; he writes earlier:

"... Unlike in Egypt, Libya's revolutionaries have not appealed to the rank-and-file of the military to switch sides, nor have they sought to mobilize the country's workers to strike against the regime. This took social revolution off the table and confined the struggle between Gaddafi and the rebels to a purely military dimension, guaranteeing him the upper hand and setting the stage for the LNC's desperate plea for help from the region's most anti-revolutionary force: the U.S. government. This failure was no accident; many members of the LNC are top figures from Gaddafi's decrepit and brutal regime. Instead of mobilizing workers, they've issued proclamations honoring all contracts with foreign oil companies."
Democratic revolutionaries? Only if color revolutions qualify.

2. "The U.S. is scrambling to check the most widespread and powerful revolutionary upheaval since 1848 from sweeping its strongmen into the dustbin of history."

Really? Looks to me like Uncle can ride this color-type revolution wave with a sidesaddle.

3. "The no-fly zone is damage control, an attempt to co-opt the Libyan revolution."

Damage control or opportunistic showmanship? In the end, Uncle couldn't lose either way here. But he could score some humanist points, eh? And reinforce the interventionist reflex among the civilized liberal class.

Our man's conclusion holds up, to be sure:

"All anti-imperialists should oppose the no-fly zone. Revolution? Yes! Intervention? No!"
... but it totally mises the point that Hugo, Fidel and Danny see so clearly. This is Uncle telling his tinpot opponents everywhere: "Boys, this could be you" -- not to mention Father S's buddy Ringo, and that cruelly overmatched son of the shrewd toupee of Damascus, whatsisname, president Bathyscape of the Greater Aleppo alewife republic.

What makes these people tick?

There was an item in the NY Times a couple of days ago, about Samantha Power, shown above. I found it quite disturbing, somewhat to my surprise.

Surprise, because one thinks one knows these people. One imagines that they're just Pecksniffs -- cynical opportunists affecting a moral cover, and laughing at anybody who takes it seriously. But the reality is quite different -- and much, much worse.

It looks like Power really believes what she's saying. There really is something going on in her head which appears to her, subjectively, as a passionate humane concern for the victims of "genocide" -- a very broad term, in Powers' lexicon. But this tender passion coexists with, and feeds, a thirst for violence -- or at least a capacity for fantasizing about violence -- that might evoke the admiration of a Genghis Khan.

Let's think a bit about Samantha's ideal humanitarian world. In that world, there would have been even more wars in the twentieth century than there actually were.

Surely, you exclaim, most sane people would agree that there were enough -- and then some? Not for Samantha. Samantha appears to think that something should have been "done" about Armenia in 1915, about Cambodia, about Rwanda; something should have been done about Iraq, earlier than it was, and more, apparently, should have been done, and sooner, even in poor hapless Yugoslavia, that locus classicus for the benign effects of "Western" involvement. Oh and of course something should certainly be done about Darfur.

In short, Samantha fantasizes a world in which "the West" -- or maybe just the US -- is constantly occupied in sending the gendarmerie here and there, to do good for a change, rather than evil as has nearly always heretofore been the case.

We might spend a moment here on the childlike naivete of imaging that a leopard can not only change his spots, but actually turn into an ibex -- an ibex who retains the sharp teeth and claws of the leopard, but who has converted to a vegan diet, and embraced a mission to defend other peaceful quadrupeds everywhere from its former fellow-leopards.

For Samantha, US or "Western" might, now partly at her disposal qua courtier of the God-Emperor, is a neutral instrumentality, like, say, a tire iron, which Samantha and her fellow-courtiers have found lying around and fallen to arguing over. Look! A tire iron! What shall we do with it? It might be used for good -- to change a tire, say -- or for evil, to bash in somebody's head. To be sure, it might be dangerous in the wrong hands; but it's not a thing with a life and purposes of its own -- not an organism, with desires and needs, with teeth and claws designed to rend flesh rather than grind grain. Turn it this way, turn it that; use it for good, use it for evil; but in any case it doesn't have a mind of its own.

Silly, huh? And yet this flattened-out view of the world is nearly universal, among citizens of the empire who have run the elite university gauntlet and achieved positions of responsibility and emolument.

The world is all before us, they think, open to our activity -- and they think this because they are seeing the world from the imperial point of view. And there is no problem that can't be solved with intelligence and sedulous study -- and they think this because they did so very well on their SATs.

Oh, there are the well-understood laws of nature, conceived as something entirely external to ourselves -- laws which we understand so well that we have bent nature to our will, and even our whim. There are good people and bad people, smart people and stupid people. The bad and stupid may oppose us, who are the good and the smart; for the stupid we have schools, and for the bad -- we have the Marines.

But there are no alien powers, or more to the point, there is no alienation of our own powers, taken away from us and formed into something that confronts us as a foreign, autonomous, and inimical force. It certainly would never occur to Samantha that her zeal might just be fueling a monster from the imperial id, as in Forbidden Planet:

I have to return for a moment to the strange duality that I think we see in Samantha's nature -- the tears for the Armenians, alongside the insatiable desire to scramble the jets. Oh, there's no logical contradiction; but there has got to be something peculiar going on emotionally.

Samantha must have some idea what wars are really like -- or if she hasn't, she's systematically passed up the many opportunities she's had, in the course of her studies, to take it in. And no wonder. Such an awareness, once entertained, would create a severe conflict with her save-the-children side. So she constructs an impoverished and sanitized conscious view of what "military action" entails; it allows her to revel in the idea, without acknowledging the underlying sadism which alone can explain these extravagant fantasies of incessant bloodshed.

Her love of genocide victims -- very, very broadly defined; the more the better, since more victims justifies more war -- is really quite genuine. It's not assumed as a con-man's mask. Its taproot goes very deep, right into the heart of her nature, into whatever repressed boiling fury made her want to kill kill kill; gave her that gaunt haunted facies; makes her eyes dart sideways and up when she's talking to you. She's not trying to fool us; rather, her sadism is hiding itself from her, and manifesting itself to her as love and concern for the victim -- which, of course, implies annihilation or the penal colony for the perp. The annihilation is the ultimate object of desire, but the secondary cathexis of the victim is, as far as it goes, quite real.

And this, of course, is the disturbing part. A Pecksniff doesn't force us to recall Freud's harsh but accurate observation that we are not masters in our own psychic house. Samantha, on the other hand, is frightening not just because of the horrors she would like to commit. To invert one of Dr Johnson's observations, she diminishes our conception of the powers of humankind.

April 2, 2011

Clairvoyant urgently needed

We've seen of late a familiar type of argument unfold, at the usual insufferable length, on some of my Lefty mailing lists, about the topic of Uncle's intentions in Libya. Sample:

> The uprising provided a great 
> opportunity to establish a regime more favorable 
> to their interests.

So why is the U.S. pulling out of the bombing campaign 
and refusing to arm the rebels?
It's all so perplexing!

But the comrades, or many of them, seem to feel that they must have answers. They must know, in effect, who said what at meetings they weren't invited to; and they must know it on the basis of a close reading of the Grundrisse and The Forty-Five(*).

Whence this compulsion? Is it some confusion with, or envy of, natural science, among people who mostly don't do natural science and thus overestimate its capacity for explaining things? You'd think Marxism stood or fell on whether or not Doug Henwood's or Louis Proyect's mailing list could collectively figure out what they're thinking in the White House this week, and why it's different from last week.

Why isn't the big picture enough? We know what the empire does, as a general matter, and why it does it, out to a couple of decimal places. We know that we're agin' it, and we know why, and we know enough to persuade other people, from time to time, to be agin' it too. Doesn't that suffice?


(*) Volumes of Lenin's collected works, for those from a different faith tradition than my own.

April 3, 2011

The missing mass problem

Tower of proletarian vigilance Alex Cockburn has, by means satiric, drawn a clear question out of the ramshackle hugger-mugger we call the Libyan civil war: where in hell's bells has the bulk of the Libyan armed forces got themselves off to?

They're certainly not slugging it out along the coast with the fearless freedom fighters from the east. Footage from the various fronts makes it all look like random outtakes from one of those poorly staged tv movies like "Hellhole in Somalia".

Brother Alex, using a heretofore unsuspected keen tv eye, claims "...the mighty armies contending along the highway west of Benghazi would melt into the bleachers at a college baseball game."

I've gotta agree. Speaking of college -- Christ, in my day I've seen beer riots that looked better organized and a darn sight more dangerous than what the networks have been showing us us from Libya. And yet, as AC puts it, "News stories" that run under these pictures "suggest mobile warfare on the scale of the epic dramas of the Kursk salient."

Speaking as one who often carps at the guy, it's gotta be said that this time we have Alex in peak form. If the god of mirth has any pull in Rhadamanthus' courthouse, Alex will be forgiven a lot. This is the best:

".. most of the action revolves around one tank. I’ve seen it in hundreds of video feeds. Like the tooth passed from witch to witch in Greek myth, this tank performs many functions and to judge from the graffiti on its turret, it’s always the same vehicle."
So where's the 50,000-strong modern fighting force col Q has assembled over 40 years with his oil riches? Where are his armor columns? Where's his artillary lined to the horizon?

Granted, a chunk has defected (though the defectors appear to be AWOL too) -- but where's the rest of it?

Obviously, by mutual agreement, they're all sitting this out, watching col Q's relative handful of picked personal security thugs take on the Toyota tigers of Benghazi.

Updates suggest these loyalists are skulking about the neighborhoods of a few midcoast oil towns, perhaps cutting innocent gay throats out of sheer frustration. Imagine it -- hunkered down, sweating like a pitcher of spring water hiding from NATO's flying apes overhead. Not very glorious, but prudent nonetheless, especially after a few of their palace motor pool tanks (not seen on CNN by AC) got summarily knocked out by supersonic angels in the early hours of emperor Barry 's horrific UN-sanctioned Walpurgistnacht.

Note from the Paine family AU (analytic unit): a cross calculation by my nephew Ballameer Paine: Taking the total reported daily NATO sorties, and dividing that number by the number of in-theater officially sanctioned targets of opportunity, suggests there might be a flyover every couple-three hours in any one hotspot, by a flight of three fighters. So keep your heads down, you brave sons and daughters of the Green Book. And you rebel gals and guys -- you look out, too. Seems smart weapons don't insure perfect targeting. And now that the col Q loyalists are using Toyotas too there's bound to be more friendly-fire kills like today's deadly blooper that killed 10 rebel fighters.

April 5, 2011

Λερναία Ὕδρα

From Mike Flugennock.

Jaundiced view

Topic of the day: the colorless secret soul of people-powered revolutions.

Much to ponder these days, with all the tyrant topples going on in sand-dune country, eh? And yet scepticism about these affairs pervades the now miserably eclectic left of our era (see Flug's cartoon in the previous post).

Hell, we've come to doubt whether any of these dazzlingly quick upheavels, these sudden bright happenings, have a spontaneous but self-sustaining society-sublating oversoul to 'em. We get to figuring enough, and digging, and well... there you have it...just another goddamn sordid little imperial magic trick.

Apropos of just this, at the latest postings at Counterslap, I found a link through to a nice blog by one Mark Almond, a man with a keen sense of Clio's ironic pranking. He has a few erudite tie-ins and mordant refections on this recent spate of unruliness.


I'll sample a little for ya:

"Now the spontaneity of the events is being called into question. The New York Times has a track record of raining on the People Power parade - when it is all done and dusted - and setting the record straight, but only once its editorial line has won. Until the object of popular derision, who happens also to have outlived his usefulness to the White House, has been toppled, the New York Times leads the pack of sententious insistence that only the People are involved. No suggestion of external political forces or internal power-plays is allowed to detract from the purity of the morality play on the streets of captal city X. From Belgrade to Tbilisi with a sidestep to Bishkek, the Times has always told the full story only once the telling cannot influence events.

Already it has begun to name the people forming international links with training centres and cash and technical aid from outside Egypt. Before long as with the Serbs or Georgians who thought they had played the decisive role, the celebration of the backroom cadre of People Power veterans who guide the spontaneous steps of each infant democracy will be "all the news that's fit to print." Instead of Arabic names, our old favourites, Colonel Gene Sharp, the "Clausewitz of People Power," George Soros, "the Paymaster-General of People Power," and the various goatee-bearded NGO activists will get their commendations from the very media which decried any suggestion that a foreign hand might be in play."

A parallel from the annus-mirabilis anti-campus-Sovieticus 1989:
"Just as Romania's Nicolae Ceausescu offended Communist sensitivities and the ambitions of better-qualified apparatchiks by promoting his son, Nicu, as well as his wife, Elena, so Mubarak - an old friend, by the way of the Ceausescus - offended key elements in his regime by letting his son, Gamel, and other family members and cronies not only look set to succeed to the most prestigious job, but also he let them get too much of the economic pie... The people who go out on the streets - however well-justified their grievances and whatever their courage in risking the first steps of public defiance - in practice seem to act as stage extras while a coup d'etat is carried through while the world watches their defiance, not realising it is a popular pageant rather than People Power."
Romantic panels of history long past and today's daily cartoons as swept up together by Mr Almond:
"Back in France in 1789, Louis XVI's government was dispersed long before he was decapitated in 1793: none of his ministers or provincial governors were in office six months after the fall of the Bastille. Real revolutions tend to become more radical, and that it is not necessarily a good thing, but they are more than one-act teasers like our post-modern dramas. Nowadays, revolution seems to be an inverted fairy story with a happy ending at the beginning: it is all over so quickly that most of the old regime's loyal servants hardly have time to turn their coats before they resume work in the same office."

April 6, 2011

Dear Dr Schadenfreude:

Gotta love these public schoolteachers' unions, am I right? Especially now they and their members face... total online wipeout!

Why, it's like the weavers of yore and their guildhalls facing the onrush of Blake's satanic mills. Where's the Mahatma of the three R's?

Here's the iron maiden of Times Square:

"Students in kindergarten through grade 12... are taking online courses.... Nationwide, an estimated 1.03 million students... took an online course in 2007-8, up 47 percent from two years earlier... About 200,000 students attend online schools full time, often charter schools that appeal to home-schooling families... Advocates.. say they allow schools to offer not only makeup courses, the fastest growing area, but also a richer menu of electives and Advanced Placement classes when there are not enough students to fill a classroom. But critics say online education is really driven by a desire to spend less on teachers and buildings, especially as state and local budget crises force deep cuts to education."
[Cue the bell of doom]
" They note that there is no sound research showing that online courses at the K-12 level are comparable to face-to-face learning. "
Had enough? Sorry, one more, and you're gonna hate this most of all, you totalizers!
"About 200,000 students attend online schools full time, often charter schools that appeal to home-schooling families"
Yes... home schooling families!... Not credentialed professionals... families... Oh, the children, the poor poor children! Next thing you know, getting credit for academic stuff will be like, like, I dunno... acquiring a drivers license... or a fishing license or a barber's license, and equally fragmented and partitioned: "Son, for this job I'll need to see a few licenses... Civics II and yer Algebra I and your... "

Well, frankly, Miss Peach, I don't give a damn. To hell with all that 19th century Horace Mann stuff. It's past its expiration date. Liberating? Come now. It's nothin' but universal compulsory childhood hostage-taking. It's right out of Buster Brown's too-tight shoes, his Sunday go to meeting suit, his tutorial ear-twisting, his hours of finger-drumming and foot-shuffling and ass-shifting -- one big 5 through 17 spiritual thumbtack applied to a kid's evolving soul. If there's purgatory here on earth, that there, next to listening to amateur chamber music, is the genuine article. Why, it's worse than a paying job!

And for a twelve-year-old! Why is that even in question? If the little fuckers had the right to vote on it -- you know, categorical imperatives uppermost in their minds -- do you really imagine they'd be in school?

To hell with mass elementary schooling, and secondary too. It's a nanny Gulag, straight from Calvin's breakfast table.

Besides, Miss Peach, I don't care about you and your, what is it, 3 million sorry-ass do-good members' jobs. You want solidarity? I bet you do. I bet you'd like us to figure "after you they'll come for me".

Well, brothers and sisters, they already CAME for me! And where were you when that happened? Raising childhood horizons, no doubt. Where will you be when they automate landscape oil painting? And create online doctor's checkups, and Robo-parsons, and virtual lawyers, and generally crucify the rest of the liberal professions? Where will you be when they replace state legislatures and mayor's offices with two-way TV call centers and direct household lawmaking (subscription required)?

It's happened, it's gonna continue to happen, anti-corporate grapes of wrath notwithstanding. And to me, it's delicious, it's delirious, it's delightful.

Boxed in

Years ago, a girlfriend of mine had a pet turtle. She -- the turtle, I mean -- was a box turtle, not a snapping turtle like her cousin pictured above. Her name was Sweetie Pie. The girlfriend was a sweetie-pie too, about whom I think often and fondly; let's call her Susannah.

There was nothing wrong with Sweetie Pie's turtle skills, but apparently a sound understanding of right angles isn't very important for turtles on their own turf. Sweetie Pie was constantly getting herself wedged into corners, as Cuz is shown doing, and was sorely puzzled about how to get out. She was a fairly energetic, peripatetic turtle, so if we hadn't recently seen her deliberately transiting a stretch of floor, Susannah or I would notice: Have you seen Sweetie lately? No -- I'll check the bathroom. We'd always find her facing into a corner -- she had a couple of favorites -- and we'd pick her up, rotate her 180 degrees in the X-Y plane, and put her back down to resume her rambles.

Sweetie's perplexities came to mind recently when I read this item from Glenn Greenwald:

The impotence of the loyal partisan voter

Rachel Maddow [says]:

A Democratic President kicks his base in the teeth on something as fundamental as civil liberties ... How can the base itself possibly change this dynamic?
I'm not saying I know the answer....What would ever make Democratic Party leaders change how they view this dynamic?
Turtle skills are one thing, people skills another. Turtles aren't expected to understand plane geometry, but people, you'd think, would grasp the fact that you don't get out of a corner by persevering on the course that got you into it. Thus Greenwald's obtuseness here seems downright chelonian. (The less said about Maddow, the better; in fact, what is a bright spark like Greewald doing quoting a teevee talking head like Maddow in the first place?)

Two words, Glenn: third party. That will get their attention, if anything will; and if nothing will -- as I suspect may be the case -- then you might as well at least have some fun, and enjoy the pleasure of pulling a lever without holding your nose.

* * * * *

Speaking of which, Buffalo Beast editor and renowned prankster Ian Murphy is running for Congress on the Green Party ticket in New York's 26th District, formerly represented by Shirtless Chris Lee, the Craigslist tail-troller. I'm tempted to go establish residency in Buffalo just so I can vote for him. It should be fun -- there's a regular Demolican and a regular Republicrat and apparently a couple of Teabaggers too. Stay tuned!

Hook -- or crook?

It's not the greatest thing on earth to agree with Carl Davidson, but it happens -- hey, I'm told I agree with Newt Gingrich on public education.

At any rate -- at a favorite site of us Sitzkriegers, kasama, I read a very militant piece on the Wisconsin general strike movement. Here's what draws my fire -- it's not about the general strike, it's about the recall movement:

"I’m absolutely against the recall as a tactic. I know I’ve heard what some may see as a compromise of both the recall effort and wider agitation around striking being used, but I don’t think it works like that. Electoral politics does not act in a way that is complimentary to working class self-activity and self-organization. It is a co-opting force that clears the discourse for its path to supremacy. For every dollar donated to a Democratic politician, that is one less for a strike fund or bail money. For every hour spent traveling to different districts to gather signatures for a recall petition, that is one less hour one could have spent agitating in their workplace and community for something bigger and better."
Let's pry out the key sliver here:
"Electoral politics does not act in a way that is complimentary to working class self-activity and self-organization."
Cometh now Carl Davidson, repentant Maoite:
"a progressive majority is making decent use of the recall tactic. Rather than staying away from it, I’d make good use of it to build organization in every city and town in the state."
It's called not getting isolated from the masses -- no? And if the fork in the road really has only two ways forward -- general strike and recall election -- well, under present conditions, I'd prolly say the time spent on a general strike would be...umh... worse than wasted; and the time spent on the recall... I dunno... maybe, gosh, what the heck...

Is it really the best option available?

I do like knocking off fuckballs, and I note such a surge has come within a whisker of knocking off a Wisconsin state judge today -- a top court judge, too, in a 4-3 black-hat-wins configuration, and the chap's said to be a real GOP purple-butt baboon... and and and, the court might throw out Walker's kill bill...

I hear it building: "Hell, no! Hell, no!" Is that you, Flug and Oxy and... et tu, father?

But come on, guys, actually knocking some fuckwit off -- that would be like really kool kicks, wouldn't it? Eh?

"Paine, you simpering blowhard candyass -- you're just building the Kos wing of the jackass party!"

Yeah, yikes, that's a pretty damn good point. Gee, lets see. Errrr, I'll call Carl. We'll huddle up, bounce it around, and I'll get back to ya on this, with the final... irony.

April 7, 2011

Where do I sign up?

A recent post by the master of this blog, the ever-provocative high-octane Michael Conelrad Smiff, of Kornkroft Kounty Kentucky, got me to thinking.

Our father, after some complexly emblematic Darwinian business about a former girlfriend, a four-walled bathroom, a self-cornering box turtle, and rotation on the X-Y plane, all delivered at his usual suavely leisured pulpit rate -- ends with this very literal final blasto:

"Two words, Glenn: third party. That will get their attention, if anything will; and if nothing will -- as I suspect may be the case -- then you might as well at least have some fun, and enjoy the pleasure of pulling a lever without holding your nose."
I know, I know: there he goes again, just like Jimmy Carter in the Reagan debates: ever the brief slashing ridethrough on his lead hobby horse.

But as I say it got me to thinking... for once... about other parties.

*shifting to stentorian pink pedant mode*


The urge to build a third party, even when said urge erupts right here in the empire's home nation-state itself, can be either reformational in its collective aspirations or revolutional -- right?

Now if said urge is in essence reformist, as it must be if we're talking electoral action as in the post cited above... then why? I mean why build a new party... just for that... for reforming stuff. Why bother? Particularly in a de facto duopoly system like we have here and have had here since Secretary of State Marse Jeff tucked it to that lovely black gal on a bed of blueprints for UVA.

To me, it's wasteful of scarce pinko resources. I suggest:

Why not an attempt to jazz up one of the existing party ops instead? Isn't that easier? You know, head one of these fired-up reform movements at a few of its candidates by running your own brand of Democrat or Republican -- I particularly like the idea of running Republican.

Of course the third party is an electoral threat made real. It has the nice feeling of building something, and it has in the past -- long past -- levered a takeover or two of the jackass party, and even tweaked the GOP in several spots. One can think constructively of the populists and the progressives, hell, even the socialists in this light.

But I repeat -- isn't it easier just to run candidates with a reform movement backing?

Okay, you're right, it happens all the time already. Then I guess, like my doctor said about building a child, "if it hasn't worked so far, well it ain't cause your shootin' blanks. Just keep firing, Owen."

After all, even if you succeeded, and built the next prohibition party, or greenback party, or anti-masonic party or know-nothing party -- they all pass; like kidney stones, perhaps, but they pass. Even the green earth party shall pass.

These are movement organizations -- softball outfits suited up to play party hardball, and even if they are catalytic, even if they might be sufficient, they are neither easier or more effective then taking strat shots at one or other of the Orthrian heads.

Twice in the last 120 years the jackass party -- the national one, that is -- was taken over by its democratic wing, as that wooden decoy with an MD from Montpelier called it.

Yes, sure, some professional gadfly-type activists want a permanent home base, a headquarters, not only to hang their hat at, but "run" between useful splurges of effort on one or other of their dirty rotten social change tricks.

But I say, let movements be movements, not failed all-purpose outfits. Lots of good spirited folks like visiting the mall of reform now and again -- you know, go over there, hit just the change-op specialty shops they hanker to help, work for, or at, or whatever, and skip the rest of the bedlamite delusionists that happen to be rocking it up at the mall around them.

That said, now, unlike Father's squeeze's turtle, let us turn ourselves 180 degrees in the X-Y plane.

If -- I say, IF -- the urge is... revolutionary, then fellow children of the night, the project at hand, whether we know it or not, has gotta be a vanguard party project. Or at least that's what my own north star of an inner ruling narrative suggests to me.

Yes, I am fully aware a project of that dimension heft and presumption will meet resistance from all sides -- that is, if it ever gets itself to being more than a toy of a few college campuses and the red-nose reindeer sections of Manhattan and San Francisco.

The inchoate urge is there, and it's everywhere, every day, every time an activist tries turning a struggle formation like, say, the Wisconsin recall fight, into something that can outlast the specific struggle that brought that particular ad hoc formation to life.

There are always these projects, these intense brief lovely system-tasking activities, and with them always comes the emergent hope of something bigger -- organization-wise, that is; something that can gain strength each time it fights to a win and can survive both its class enemies' dogged unyielding hatred and its own leadership's periodic utter idiocy.

April 9, 2011

The Nineleven Memorial Car, etc.

You can't make this stuff up, as the man said. There's more, much more, to delight those of us with a mean sense of humor at the Nineleven Theme Park site.

Of course, the Families -- God help us, the Families -- are raising the usual geschrei about how it's not enough (though I personally would have said it was way too much). It's never, ever enough for these folks:

For 9/11 Museum, Dispute Over Victims’ Remains

... 9,041 pieces of human remains — mainly bone fragments but also tissue that has been dehydrated for preservation — are still being sorted through by the city’s medical examiner for DNA...

Now, a dispute over what to do with those remains is simmering between some of the victims’ families and the officials...

Officials plan to take the remains seven stories below ground and place them in the new museum behind a wall with a quotation from Virgil about never forgetting, studded in letters of World Trade Center steel. But the families, appalled by the idea of remains that could belong to their loved ones being turned into a lure for tourists, want them kept in a separate above-ground memorial that would be treated like hallowed ground.

Some very American stuff here: our nauseating, diseased preoccupation with corpses, or even scraps of corpses, and our love of a grievance. How we cling to a grievance, as if it were a piece of particularly valuable real estate! The country is overrun with self-promoting grievers and survivors, like fleas in the pelt of a wharf rat, trying to trade up the value of their asset while they can. The stockholders of Nineleven Grief, Inc., in fact want to trade theirs up in the most literal sense -- about seventy feet up, from a dank subbasement to grade level. They've learned from the POW/MIA entrepreneurs -- all those poor schmucks got was that stupid flag all over the place. The Nineleventers want some fucking masonry. With street frontage.

What news from the front?

Seems the Egyptian people's revolt is now wavering between harmless color revolution and satanic darkness, as the uppity people keep raising objections and demands that the military brass -- and, one has to assume, Washington -- don't buy into.

The armed guardians of the revolution have a fairly simple message: "Listen you assholes: political evolution and social progress have strict limits." Answer, by at least a serious fraction of the people: "Fuck you..we say hang the brass-hats."

The rebellion has life in its legs, yet comrades. Praise the sharpness of real contradictions, eh?

However, on the far side of the land of power pyramid schemes, and camels tall and jerky, lie the sands where Col Q remains standing. What can we say about the humanitarian war aims of empire after the recent and unapologetic nailing of a small column of rebel armor by the sky knights from NATO? Does this mean we have before us what amounts to a formally even-handed "no tanks zone" policy laid down here by the powers of the sivilized church universal?

Yikes. What will they come up with next to torture the people of that small nation?

April 13, 2011

Owen closes the iron door

[Editor's note: This post has been somewhat overtaken by events, but a mea culpa from Owen is always worth reading.]

Behold the dueling Ivorian presidents!

It's a fine thing about providential outcomes, just when you 've made a giant shameless pinko Jimmy Swaggart of a ham out of yourself, as I did over the recent revoltin' developments in that battered Gallican stepchild of a country, Côte d'Ivoire. That hyped-up purple passion flourish no sooner having been typed and posted, don't a big fat fried egg get itself loosed toward my face? Facts on the ground conspired to frame me as a Chicken Little. Kool worldly sardonic me!

The evolving scene there, far from running blood like one of those Neapolitan saint's-day parades, has taken -- glory to Allah and the Fates -- a marvelously mock-epic turn. 'President yesterday' is holding out in his palace bunker, along with his wonderful French-despising wife vowing never to surrender thesupreme national office; while his rival "president tomorrow" is lying about in languid ineffectuality, holding moot court in an uptown western-built luxury hotel. All this even as the bulk of the residents of great city of Abinormal go without water or electricity or... civil governance!

Now we all know our cruise missile humanists care about every hair on every head on that darkest of dark corners of our planet -- so they must be relieved that the nonstop twopenny theatre of alternating slapstick and brutal cruelty down there has taken a turn toward the slapstick and away from the cruelty.

How do this pair of Dueling Presidents rate against the top performers from the continent? Not very high, I fear; not yet, at least. Why, Bokassa ate his rivals; Mobutu did every thing else but 'eat em, and by the freightcar load. Then there's the Tutsi business and the Congo and..yes of course there's the great paratrooping generalissimo Idi Anemin, one of Israel's many gifts to the world.

Only one such titan as he could possibly pass this way in my lifetime. But even that ultimo miles-gloriosus with his unreachable summits of deadly hilarity has rivals trying to best him, practically 24/7.

The collective project in post-colonial statecraft seems to be aimed at proving definitively that terror-state buffonery, African style, can beat anyplace else on earth. The continent's crimes against humanity are so richly textured with outlandishly bizzare crazy quiltings that the whole place seems to exist only to provoke us sivilized 'one world' folks into an apoplexy of the broadest possible whalebone-sized volleys of gasping horror, and fainting spells that would shake the resolve of W C Fields.

And talk about complex and contradictory -- often the very same players, even in the very same acts, can trick out the biggest guffaws imaginable from the Homer Simpsons and Don Cherrys of North America. I see them spewing back at the TV their last swallow of beer or munch of corn chips as one of these dreadnaughts is shown cavorting about like a circus elephant.

Now before you send the Red Guards over to hack me up, I'll ask this exculpatory rhetorical question:

Can any of this be real? I mean: can black Africa really be anything like this? Can't be, surely? Who the hell knows what really goes down there? The media confection must be the empire's... right? The most effective pro-imperial morality play we got.

Needless to say, in this day and age, if the top guys in Washington and Wall Street wanna get stuff across, I mean really across, they gotta go comic strip, whether it's to turn a sow's ear into a sunny day, or convert some ghastly charnel-house spree into playful tomfoolery.

"Africa", by the time we get it, is a TV show.

Readers, I pledge, starting today, I will refrain from any further outbursts of deep feeling and lacrymose agonizing about long-suffering Africa. I will never again break into a sanctimonious hollow threnody over the latest gargantuan gore-soaked pratfall or mind-rattling slaughterfest reported on from the cradle of humanity.

I leave that region entirely to -- who else -- the greatest spotlight-stealing Pecksniff of our time... Jeffrey Sachs.

April 15, 2011

Scratch a Lefty, find a liberal

... and of course, as we used to say in the 60s, scratch a liberal and find a Nazi. Oh, those were the days! What brio we had!

This train of thought was set off by a fine item from the esteemed IOZ:

This is the problem with the left, and this is why, though their language of "national interest" is somewhat distasteful to me, I so often identify more closely with the isolationist right than the sort-of anti-imperial left.... Most lefties apparently do not [understand] that American governments taking up the rhetorical cause of rebels and revolutions are not engaging in rare, admirable acts of solidarity.
(IOZ even manages to work in one of my favorite heroines from English literature, Mrs Grendel of Grendelpool.)

Now though I am a Lefty and IOZ is not, I have to admit the justice of his comment. Way too many Lefties are really just liberals at heart; the moralizing universalism, and the fixed belief that the US Marines might, in the right hands, be a force for good, give the game away.

Where I part company with IOZ is in his lukewarm endorsement of isolationism. C'mon, we can do better than that. Proclaim it from the housetops -- we're proud, unabashed, supermax isolationists. US Out Of Everywhere! Don't wake up, America, whatever you do!

It's kind of amazing how unthinkable isolationism has become in the American ideasphere -- though it's probably still the fundamental (and quite sensible) outlook of most ordinary Americans, who generally have to be cozened with some ginned-up threat to support our adventures abroad. But among respectable college survivors, isolationism is literally unthinkable -- one of those words that evokes a blank stare of gobsmacked stupefaction if you use it in any other context than that of reprobation. It's right up there with human sacrifice and female circumcision.

And this is particularly true, I'm sorry to say, among Lefties. Mention isolationism and they'll start gabbling about Charles Lindbergh and Father Coughlin. It's as if they all fell into a Rip van Winkle nap sometime in the 30s and only just woke up.

The world will be a poorer place

What made Fox push Beck out the tower window -- bad ratings dynamics or a growing corporate sponsor boycott?

It could have required both, of course, but that's no fun to juggle around. More fun to say pure ratings is always sufficient, or pure advertising in this case was sufficient. Maybe both are true...would that be a instance of over-determination?

Whatever the causal pattern, for us speculating outsiders, ever vigilant to avoid the Smiff hammer of scorn -- let's call this a Roar Shark test.

My first cut? I'd like to think it's all about ratings. The show's on a toboggan slide. Roger, to his flunksters: "Get the fuckin' hook, boys!"

That appeals to my baser sense of corporate decision-making: it's all about shameless commerce, and we gotta win here to earn.

But then there's this delicous Tartuffian boycott wave, and that becomes a tale within a tale. Did the corporates decide not to alienate melanin-enhanced folks from their proffered products? Or recalling the hump that is investor relations, might they, on a wild low-percentage shot, fear an NPO hygienic portfolio backlash scourge agin' 'em?

The executive suite scenarios get to multiplying here quick as hell, don't they? Fibonacci speculating! I'd love to see a TV movie on one of these episodes in virtual ethnic cleansing, wouldn't you?

"Yes, Ms Bracewell-Bagshot, we are as outraged as you by Jimmy Crack Corn's racist tirades! Why, even if you had never approached us, the decision was already made to stop advertising on The Angry White Guy Hour!"

[Hangs up phone, turns to flunky]

"Janie, get Frackle in here NOW! Why? Why? Because I say so, you idiot!"

[Exit flunky, enter Frackle]

"Look, Frack, we gotta 86 those ads on Freckle-Faces show. I want you personally to call whoever you call over there... no, better, go over there yourself, TODAY -- and read whoever you read to at that Godforsaken hen coop the fuckin rubber bullet riot act! They better dump that motherfucker, like yesterday. We can't afford to miss all those bloodshot fucking fools' eyeballs that batshit gimp's got turning on him every night. Tell em to axe that pencil-necked rooster or we'll pull off the whole network!"

Oh hell, this is just daydreaming. I do a lot of that. It's a part of the dialectical process.

All things considered, I agree with Alex: better they axe Robert Spoegelman at NPR. In fact, better axe NPR itself than end the joyous mixed-nuts run of Glenn at Fox Hollow.

We marginal left-outs were never left out with you, Mr Beck!

Fear of women: we just can't help it

I seem to have given some offence recently, on one of my lefty mailing lists, by characterizing another post as an exercise in sociobiology -- or perhaps by disparaging the latter, implicitly, as pseudo- science.

Not to aggravate the offence, but it seems to me that there might be a general question here. The contribution that evoked my ire read, in part:

Don’t the Occam’s Razor’ish explanations suffice for explaining [men's] fear of female sexuality(*): we see time and again that males of species attempt to control the reproductive activity and choices of females.
It seems to me that this argument, if we accept it, probably has the opposite effect to the one we want.

Consider, for comparison purposes, the usual bourgeois-liberal argument for non-discrimination against gay people. This usually turns on the postulate that gayness is innate and biologically determined, and *therefore* mustn't be discriminated against.

It's always seemed to me like a poor choice of tactic, because it assumes facts not in evidence, and because it would collapse embarrassingly if the aetiology of same-sex object choice were actually investigated, successfully, and proved to be completely epigenetic. There'd need to be some scrambling done.

Why not choose higher ground in the first place? Even ordinary uncontroversial notions like personal freedom, autonomy and privacy seem to offer a better basis for the case than some venturesome empirical hypothesis about the ontogeny of sexual preference.

Who knows, there might even be more than one reason why some people go down the same-sex path and others don't! Suppose some same-sexers really carry the gene and others are just wannabes. Will the town clerk in Vermont require a DNA test to make sure that Adam and Steve are both real, bona-fide, biological gay people?

But in any case, the way the assumption of innateness is usually deployed in our current political culture is to *justify* the behavior for which innateness is being claimed. Now surely that wasn't the intent of the individual who posted this particular just-so story about men's supposed fear of female sexuality, right?

In general, hypotheses of innateness are a lot more likely to have reactionary implications than the reverse. One very good reason to steer clear of them.


(*) Don't ask. The supposedly deep and pandemic male fear of female sexuality had been mentioned by a thoroughly feminist male comrade, to widespread applause.

Cuz I'm the tax man

Should limited liability corporations -- those ghostly contrivances of our Victorian legal system -- pay taxes on their "income"?

Of course they "should", but as suggested here, in many cases this question is moot. They don't pay any stinking taxes; in fact they often get unearned credits -- subsidies for what? Hell, I don't know. Prolly for just being so damn big and nasty.

But be that as it may -- if they are in fact non-persons why should they pay taxes? Many better ways to do this, of course -- that is, if you want Uncle to more effectively soak the rich and famous.

I wonder at the radicals that work themselves up into a deep-fryer state over the tax system's infernal class tilt. (I hear Oxy or Flug sayin' "what else had they expected?")

The record is clear: if you want to tax the elite -- really tax 'em -- you know, get money of theirs out of 'em, you gotta surprise 'em. Attack on an open flank. The only decent tax attack has to be predicated on one principle: it takes time for their spear bearers and retainers to come up with the right new spears. In the interval you can milk 'em... some.

But I say leave this to the pwog wonks and extortion shysters that love this war by green eyeshade. For us warm-blooded red-hots, I say forget about it. Don't be like this class-piety equity geek writing in Dissent:

I Just Paid More Taxes Than Most of Corporate America

If recent trends in business taxation hold, when I finally get around to writing the check and putting my tax return in the mail, I’ll be contributing more in federal income taxes than the bulk of all U.S. corporations.

Of course, that’s not saying much. It’s not hard to chip in more than zero dollars..."General Electric, the nation’s largest corporation, had a very good year in 2010.

"The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States.

"Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.

Wrangles over raising Richie Rich's taxes are a dead end. If you wanna. do some spreadsheet martial arts, then just work up some numbers on cutting job-class taxes and the job-class nut of living costs -- like say the junk of mortages on house lots and the employee hunk of heath premiums and and ...

Hey, let me be perfctly clear on this: I love playing taxman class avenger maybe even more then most leftoids. After all, I'm a poli-econ-con who in my earlier tossed salad days studied -- in as much as I did study -- under the great and glorious wizard Wild Bill Vickrey.

Yes, indeed. In fact my very first blog entry, by time of actual composition, was on a wealth stealth tax. But please. It's sticky-fingered pipe dreaming and as we all know well, most job folks don't give a damn. They aren't that envious, not like us failed meriters are, anyway. Job class helots just want their own taxes reduced, and it oughta be only in that context that we talk about raising taxes on Nathan Arizona Detroit -- only as part of a massive shift of class burden worth trillions up and down.

April 16, 2011


Two of my favorite people, Yoshie Furuhashi at MRZine, and Alex Cockburn at Counterpunch, have been reliably and laudably contrarian about the recent demonization of Qaddafi, since he became the Empire's monstre du jour. (Yoshie has also always been really good on my man Ahmadinejad, and I love her for it.)

Of course this has led to all kinds of execration from the patrollers of permissible discourse on the Left. Phrases like "rancid reporting", "garbage", "ignorant rants", "utterly reactionary and stupid", "bullshit artist of the year", "crapola", "insane scribbler", "beyond the pale", "fleas", "knucklehead", "they must be made to pay", "totally unrelibale [sic]", "rightwing scumbags", "addled mode of thinking", and so on, are turning the air blue.

Doesn't this seem a little... excessive? A person might reasonably differ from Alex or Yoshie, but this kind of unhinged fury suggests that something deeper than political disagreement is at work.

Of course there are voices of reason too. One such, from a lefty mailing list I read:

>  Being vigorously opposed to imperialist assaults on
> Iran, Iraq, or Libya, and refusing to join in the 
> demonization of the leaders of those countries, 
> does not make one a "supporter" of Ahmadinejad, 
> Hussein or Gaddafi.   

But really, you know, it does. If one is not with the anti-Xites (where X is le monstre du jour) one is against them; and if one is against them one is "objectively" pro-X.

Well, so be it. I don't have a problem with this. If US warplanes are required to bung Qaddafi out of Tripoli, then it follows -- since I don't want the warplanes sent -- that I'm in favor of leaving him in place. The logic seems flawless, and I plead guilty as charged.

I kind of agree with the anti-Xites, in one way; it's an either-or. The plague-on-both-houses stance is rather contemptible, as Owen observed here some days ago, and a notable side-taker from Florence some time before that:

... Questo misero modo
Tegnon l'anime triste di coloro
Che visser sanz' infamia e sanza lodo.
Mischiate son' a quel cattivo coro
Degl' angeli che non furon ribelli
Ne fur fedel' a Dio, ma per se fuoro.(*)

Adding one's own voice to the official chorus of abuse for X, and denouncing anybody who says a good word for him -- while nevertheless proclaiming one's opposition to imperial intervention -- seems dangerously close to this Infernal predicament of falling between two stools.

By contrast, finding something good to say about X shows a sturdy combative spirit and I admire it.

In the case of Qaddafi the job is not a terribly easy one, but I'm much more sympathetic to anybody who wants to make the effort than I am to the anathematizers of contrarian views. All too many Lefties seem all too willing to take up this unattractive role, and I really don't understand why. The Empire's usual propaganda organs seem quite equal to the task, without any help from the likes of us.


(*) Inferno III, for those who like footnotes.

April 18, 2011

Neither a Boer nor a Lerner be

The clammy, creepy Rabbi Michael Lerner (mentioned here before) has pulled another one of his avowal/disavowal stunts. He reproduced, on his Web site, a rather nice piece by Uri Avneri about the recent recantation of Judge Goldstone. Here's Avneri:

MY HEART bleeds for Judge Goldstone. From the beginning he was placed in an impossible situation.

The UN commission which appointed him to head the inquiry into the allegations of war crimes committed during the operation was acting on a seemingly logical but actually foolish calculation. Appointing to the job a good Jew, and an avowed Zionist to boot, would disarm, it was thought, any allegation of anti-Israeli bias.

Goldstone and his colleagues undoubtedly did an honest and conscientious job. They sifted the evidence laid before them and arrived at reasonable conclusions on that basis. However, almost all the evidence came from Palestinian and UN sources. The commission could not interrogate the officers and soldiers of the Israeli forces because our government, in a typical and almost routine act of folly, refused to cooperate.

... After the publication of his commission’s report, his life became hell.

The full fury of the Jewish ghetto against traitors from its midst was turned on him. Jews objected to his attending his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah. His friends turned away from him, He was ostracized by all the people he valued.

So he searched his soul and found that he had been wrong all along....

Altogether, Goldstone has now paved the way for another Cast Lead operation which will be far worse.

I expect , however, that he can now pray in any synagogue he chooses.

So far so good. But the reverend Mr Lerner characteristically wants to have it both ways. He prepends a long and slithery preface to Avneri's piece:
There is much wisdom in Uri Avnery’s analysis of the Goldstone controversy, but I cannot accept the ironic dissing of Goldstone himself. We did not give [Goldstone] the Tikkun award because we agreed with his report — we knew and said publicly long ago that the claim that Israel intentionally sought to kill civilians was at this point unsubstantiated and weakened the report, and I’m glad he repudiated that part. But we gave Goldstone the award for his integrity and willingness to challenge his own people’s blind allegiance to the government of Israel, and I continue to believe in his integrity even if I believe that the op-ed he published in the Washington Post was confused and ambiguous in many respects.
Honestly, give me a straightforward thug like Netanyahu or Avigdor Lieberman any time, over a writhing eel like Lerner.

April 19, 2011

Running with the big dogs

I had intended to give up writing about Melissa Huffle-Puffle for Lent, but if the woman is going to send me email...!

Dear Nation Reader,

I will never forget the day Katrina vanden Heuvel called to ask me if I would be willing to write a column for The Nation. I was already a regular blogger on TheNation.com and had published several pieces in the print magazine, but for a progressive political nerd like me, being asked to write a column was equivalent to being drafted by the NBA....

My father is a longtime subscriber to The Nation and I often saw it folded back on his desk, or dog-eared and scribbled in by his bedside.

Oh the pathos of poor old Dad scribbling in the margins of The Nation! I have a horrible feeling this same melancholy scene must unfold daily here on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, within a bagel-toss of my window. "Nice one, Katha!"... "What about the Tadjiks?!?!" ... "Classism!"

April 21, 2011

Black hole

From the prayer tower of Wall Street:

"U.S. multinational corporations, the big brand-name companies that employ a fifth of all American workers, have been hiring abroad while cutting back at home... The companies cut their work forces in the U.S. by 2.9 million during the 2000s while increasing employment overseas by 2.4 million ... That's a big switch from the 1990s, when the MNC's added jobs everywhere: 4.4 million in the U.S. and 2.7 million abroad...

In all, U.S. multinationals employed 21.1 million people at home in 2009 and 10.3 million abroad."

There you have it, folks: the latest decade of deindustrialization in a nutshell. The MNC's shipped ten percent of their jobs overseas.

We, as dirty pinko sour-appletons of course must append this fact: the number of domestic jobs -- in particular, manufacturing jobs -- blown up by MNC-fostered products and services coming back at us across our borders from various overseas locations is hardly encompassed by this 2.9 million number. Of course not; why, that number is as uncountable as the angels that sat out the war in Heaven.

April 22, 2011

Weekend open thread, 22iv11

Not just my Muse, but all nine of 'em, seem to be on spring break. So have at it, ungentle readers.

April 27, 2011

Local boy makes good

Our old comrade Mike Flugennock's latest (shown above) was a recent Editor's Choice at Cartoon Movement. Here's Mike:

I read on the AP wire earlier this week that the recent McDonald’s “Hiring Day” resulted in the hiring of 50,000 new burger-flippers, news that was of course deliriously cheered by the Beltway Insider crowd as part of its collective pants-pissing over the creation of 230,000 new jobs last month — nearly half of which were on the order of Wal-Mart greeters, Home Depot cashiers, the aforementioned burger flippers, and other assorted shit-wage jobs. So, I decided it was time to redesign the Great Seal Of The United States to reflect current American reality.

The news that really grabbed me, however, was a report from a McDonald’s hiring day in Cleveland. At one of many such events designed to portray McDonald’s as a decent place to work, a fight broke out between two women; the fight escalated to the point where one of the women ended up hitting three people with a car before fleeing the scene.

I’m lovin’ it.

Let dogs delight to bark and bite

In these brutish days, on lovely rare occasions, our Merlin bigfoots clash like mud wrestlers, thank God.

Take this recent piece at gossip rag New York magazine. The topic could not be more moribund: the harrows of being a major pwog econ-con these days.

The setup is an in-camera White House meeting, this past December, between our POTUS and a delegation of six of our best "lefty" poli-econ-cons:

  • Brightest of all sheeple, Joseph Stiglitz;
  • The pwog's own winnie-the-pooh, Bobby Reich;
  • The horrendous Jeffrey Sachs;
  • Human bulb head Alan Blinder;
  • Rubber ball union maid Larry Mishel;
  • and last but not least, Paul "yip yip" Krugman.
"The economists sat ringing Obama -- two Nobelists, a former Labor secretary, and a former vice-chairman of the Fed. Not a Gentile among them, Krugman noticed, but an amazingly high proportion of beards. To begin the meeting, Obama asked each of his guests to identify the most pressing economic issue. Five of the economists emphasized the same problem. Unemployment, they said, was so high that the recovery might never get out of first gear. It was not the time for austerity; the president should focus on short-term job creation and turn to the deficit later."
Only five? The exception? -- Why, of course, the Ivy League shitheel, Jeff "Millenium" Sachs, striking a noble pose about slogging through, eyes on the long run.

But the best is yet to come. The piece then settles down to a profiler on the terrier of Nassau Hall, punky Paul Krugman. And there is a nice little bark-off nestled inside, between Nobel Paul and the porcine paragon, Lawrence triple-X Summers.

"In the early eighties, when the two worked together in the Reagan administration, Krugman realized that Summers had a talent for effectiveness -- winning meetings, organizing subordinates, convincing economic novices of his point of view that he himself could not hope to match. Summers became the insider and Krugman the outsider..."

I think we get the ahh-hahh moment when this writer realized he might provoke a scrap:

"There were moments in conversation with Krugman that I began to suspect he viewed Summers as a one-man control group for his study of himself."
Pressed on the contrast between himself and dark lord Larry, Paul takes the bait:
"When things go crazy, my instinct is to go radical on policy, and Larry’s is to be a little more cautious... Larry’s extremely smart. Ask him -- he’ll tell you."

When these quotes were taken to Larry for "comment" -- well, here's why I love Larry. Forget the hedged "little more" bullshit. Forget the academic's mushed-up understatement. Forget Paul's fencing around. Killshot Larry takes his opponent out -- all the way out:

"[Paul] always gravitates to opposition and dramatic policy because it’s much more interesting than agreement... [imagine a nice pause here, perhaps punctuated with a little lipless grin] when you’re involved in commenting on rather than making policy."
Kool, but not nearly sufficient. Larry goes carpet-bombing:
"[Paul] savaged the early Clinton administration from the right, blistering Laura Tyson and Bob Reich, and then moved to savage the more liberal Obama administration from the left.... The only politician I remember him praising in the last sixteen years is John Edwards."
The coup de grace? Larry fires off a line worthy of an updated, boorishly demotic Cardinal Richelieu:
"There is some element of Paul that is like the guy in the bleachers who always demands the fake kick, the triple-reverse, the long bomb, or the big trade."

April 28, 2011

Might be time to START a fire, guys

(That's Father Smiff's local fire station up above.)

In the battle against the ongoing GOP border-to-border nationwide anti-union press, it looks like at least the firefighters have moved onto a better path by adding some stick to the carrots:

The nation’s main firefighters’ union, long a strong supporter of Democratic candidates, announced on Tuesday that it would indefinitely suspend all contributions to federal candidates out of frustration with Congressional Democrats who... have not fought harder against budget cuts and antiunion legislation....

The union, the International Association of Fire Fighters, said it would focus its contributions and energies on state and local races because many legislatures have sought to curtail collective bargaining or otherwise weaken public-sector unions.

Harold A. Schaitberger, the president of the 300,000-member union, said in an interview that he was dismayed with Democrats in Congress for not fighting harder against Republican budget cuts and efforts to weaken unions in more than a dozen state legislatures...."We’re tired that our friends have not been willing to stand up and fight back on our behalf with the same ferocity, the same commitment that our enemies have in trying to destroy our members’ rights,” he said. “Quite frankly, our enemies are trying to kill us as...a movement."

...The firefighters... donated $1.9 million to Democratic candidates in national elections during the 2010 campaign cycle. The union’s endorsement is especially coveted by candidates, because of the firefighters’ stature in many communities, especially since 9/11....Mr. Schaitberger complained that Congressional Democrats were doing far too little to combat ongoing efforts to weaken public-sector unions in Florida, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee and elsewhere...The firefighters’ union was disappointed that the Democratic-led Senate and House failed to pass legislation last year that would have given firefighters and police officers nationwide the right to bargain collectively...Mr. Schaitberger, echoing several other union leaders, said in an interview, “We’re feeling taken for granted” by the Democrats. "

Indeed, unions and their members -- private as well as public -- are "taken for granted" both as donors and as voters.

Sign up now! Take the lefty pledge, gang!

Why can't a Merica be more like-a France?

I've recently become a quiet virtual visitor at Father S's most favorite of all elite pwog-left mailing lists, and as I write this, the listed few are chewing like the dogged radical high-church hyenas they are on that lovely old bone: "why our Yankee social income transfer system is so disgracefully inferior to advanced Europe's?"

My counter question -- a typical smartass meta-question, I admit: Is it really worth the time? Given the short ration of left pwogs around and, of course, the key point -- the actual street level value of the difference to say the middle 3 quintiles?

Yes, I know the difference to the bottom bulkitude is considerably north of George Wallace's dime. Yet grant me this... it's far far far south of even a structural sublation... eh? The Euro states' bigger national transfers never threaten those nations' corporate hegemony itself; and when the international "concerns" of their corporate hegemons cross the path of popular national interests, then hegemonic special purposes trump the nation's majoritarian popular will, as we see over there today.

Like us, the Euros have open free-for-all ballot battles periodically, but as the great Nixon's lemma to Lincoln's theorem suggests, the corporates can rely on this self evident truth: "You can fool enough of the people enough of the time." Yes, with some patience you can even run Sweden according to corporate requirements.

Speaking of that gorgeous Nordic ice palace reminds me of a small liberal arts college on the west coast of Florida which for the briefest of segments of world historical time this peculiar Paine and doc smiff simultaneously attended(*) in the high 60s.

A bit after our time, in the dusk-like early 70's, this college of barely 300 resident inmates got convulsed by a genuine femdom woman's movement. Said movement declared this small and peaceful place a liberated zone, and took over the administration building.

In the event, and decidedly unlike, say, Berkeley, or my other alma mater, Columbia, the elder powers that be of this most hyperliberal God-is-dead college simply waited the riot grrls out -- allowed 'em even to break what at the time looked like an unbreakable collegiate national record for continuous occupation.

As with the final end of Ahab's quest -- once their ferocious occupation trickled away, the goddamned con job of a place went back to running itself as it had run itself before and as such places are always running themselves and always have been running themselves since the Emperor Charles V's horse shit on the Pope's throne.

Such on a grander scale is the global supranational corporate hegemony -- untouched by tax and transfer systems twice our own's size.


(*) We two attended this joint with quite contrary results... [Paine/Smith dossiers suppressed by editorial fiat].

April 30, 2011

The Crusades continue

Breaking news:

Son of Qaddafi Killed in NATO Airstrike

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi survived a NATO airstrike on Saturday night that killed his youngest son Saif al-Arab and three of his grandchildren, a Libyan government spokesman said.

Mussa Ibrahim said Saif al-Arab was a civilian and a student who had studied in Germany. He was 29 years old.

Libyan officials took journalists to the house, which had been hit by at least three missiles. The roof had completely caved in in some areas, leaving strings of reinforcing steel hanging down among chunks of concrete.

A table football machine stood outside in the garden of the house, which was in a wealthy residential area of Tripoli.

So nice to see the progress that Democracy is making.

The bit about the table football machine in a "wealthy area of Tripoli" is consummate. You mean -- a place like Scarsdale? Oh well, nuke 'em then, the pukes.

About April 2011

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

March 2011 is the previous archive.

May 2011 is the next archive.

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