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May 2011 Archives

May 1, 2011

We are the champions

One can't help wondering: to what ghoulish indignities will the supposed corpse of Osama bin Laden be subjected?

Our robust ancestors exhumed Oliver Cromwell, and drew and quartered him. No doubt they had a whale of a time.

These days, we don't know how to have any fun, or rather, we don't know how to admit that we're having fun when doing so; the drawing-and-quartering will therefore no doubt involve a spanky-clean autopsy suite, a DNA lab, an MRI machine, and a number of individuals with advanced degrees from well-known institutions.

Still and all, though. Mission accomplished, as the current Emperor's predecessor somewhat prematurely said. No doubt all those boots on the ground will be trudging home now -- right?

May 2, 2011

Salve festa dies

From Mike Flugennock:

Welcome, folks, to Day One of Obama’s second term.

... Go ahead, America, throw yourselves a goddamn’ party. Enjoy it while you can, before you wake up and realize you’ve still got no job, your house is about to be foreclosed, and you’re about to lose your Medicare and Social Security.

May 4, 2011

Watching porn

There's been a lot of iconographic commentary on the image above. The comparison that leaped to my mind was the image below:

It's from a rather droll piece in New York Magazine -- yes, New York Magazine -- about how young guys are watching too much porn. That's what the two lads above were said to be doing at the time the photo was taken, and I believe it.

The difference, of course, is that almost certainly nobody died to evoke their rapt expressions.

Much has been made of the hand over Hillary's mouth in the top photo. Apart from the anonymous young staffchick in the background, peering between two male shoulders clad in what appears to be Brooks Brothers pima, Hillary is the only girl in the room.

What expression does Hillary's hand conceal? Revulsion, of which she is ashamed? Excitement, of which she is ashamed? Both, perhaps?

She is, after all, a woman of my generation. They tend to have a problem with porn, in my experience. The staffchick is younger and perhaps that's why she's so unfazed.

She knows the money shot is imminent. She's seen it before. She's following the story but not altogether caught up in it.

But the boys, old and young -- notice that none of them has his hands in sight?

May 5, 2011

Zionist vs. Zionist

Life in New York is really a glorious cycle of song, a medley of extemporanea. Where else can a tedious Zionist playwright get denied an honorary degree from a fifth-rate cop college because he's not Zionist enough?

School blocks Kushner honor over Israel

For the second time in just six months, the City University of New York has become embroiled in scandal over the politics of the Israel-Palestine conflict. This week, the CUNY board of trustees blocked an attempt by one of its member colleges to award an honorary degree to the celebrated playwright Tony Kushner, who is also a prominent Jewish critic of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

A request by John Jay College to award Kushner an honorary degree was tabled on Monday night after one CUNY board member criticized -- and, Kushner argues, distorted -- the playwright's past statements on Israel.

John Jay College! The John Jay College Of Criminal Knowledge, as an old activist pal of mine used to call it -- a place where aspiring police apparatchiks go to get their tickets punched and ascend a rung or two on the bureaucratic ladder above their less energetic coevals.

Why on earth did this dubious institution want to give an honorary degree to one of the more prominent advocates of Gay Nationalism? Only in New York -- it's like an Italian being Grand Marshal of the St Patrick's parade. We're great at that sort of thing. Implausible alliances are our life's blood -- you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.

But of course it gets better. Too Much Is Not Enough -- that really ought to be the town's motto.

The driving force behind the decision to table the honorary degree for Kushner is CUNY board member Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a principal at the firm Bernstein Global Wealth Management. He is also a former aide to Sen. Al D'Amato, R-N.Y., a trustee at the pro-Israel think tank the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and an organizer of the Salute to Israel Day Parade Committee.

"There is a lot of disingenuous and non-intellectual activity directed against the state of Israel on campuses throughout the country, the West generally, and oftentimes the United States as well," Wiesenfeld [said]."

Of course this is deeply unfair to Kushner, though one hates to say it. One wants to think well of everybody; but candor obliges us to acknowledge that Kushner has not deserved this compliment:
[Kushner] has also repeatedly said that he is a strong supporter of Israel’s right to exist, that he has never supported a boycott of the country, and that his views are shared by many Jews and supporters of Israel.

“I have been honored many times by prominent Jewish organizations, proudly identified as a Jew and maintained a passionate support for the continuous existence of the State of Israel,” he said in an interview on Thursday. “An apology should come from the Board of Trustees for not following the dictates of simple fairness and decency when this happened, and allowing someone who deserved better treatment to be treated shabbily.”

Kushner goes on to cite Benny Morris, who famously discovered -- somewhat belatedly -- that Palestinians had been expropriated in order to create the Light Of The Nations, and ultimately concluded that well, you can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs. And what a delicious divine omelette it is!

Kushner, of course, is not quite as complacent about the great crime as Morris. Which is all to his credit, as far as it goes. But it doesn't go very far.

I've seen a couple dozen appeals on my lefty lists today: Let's rally to Kushner's support! Hey, this guy won a Tony! Who do these pathetic time-serving political has-beens on the CUNY board think they are, compared to a Tony jury?

It's a thoroughly accurate characterization of the CUNY board -- though it probably applies with equal force to the Tony jury. And if Kushner were Norman Finkelstein, or Joel Kovel, I'd sign the petition.

But he's not. His defense against Wiesenfeld is that he's actually not anti-Israel as charged; that his views have been "distorted". If so, they've been distorted into something approximating a reasonable outlook.

Then too, one always likes to see the cant of the Credentialling Sector exposed. These institutions like to bill themselves as havens of fearless free inquiry, etc., but as anybody who works in one knows, they are much more often merely part of the apparatus of indoctrination, and factories for the reproduction of received opinion.

Update: subsequent developments.

May 6, 2011

More Zionist comedy at New York's own university

That's Benno Schmidt, center, above. Schmidt used to be president of Yale and has more recently descended to the 'umble post of chairman of the Board of Trustees of the City University of New York (CUNY) -- the body which recently allowed itself to be stampeded by ultra-Zionist fanatic trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld into denying middlebrow playwright Tony Kushner an honorary degree, apparently because Kushner is something less than a full-blown blood-to-the-elbows Likudnik.

Now it seems the institution is sophisticated enough to have figured out that this particular witch-hunt turned up somebody embarrassingly un-witchlike -- to wit, a mere liberal-schmiberal hand-wringer who "firmly supports Israel's right to exist" but wishes Israel would exist in a nicer way. So a backpedal is in progress. CUNY will sheepishly give the honorary sheepskin -- or goatskin, as the case may be -- and a mollified Kushner will graciously accept it, after much indignant Oscar Jaffe huffle-puffle about how badly he has been treated. I close the iron door! -- Okay, okay, I open the iron door. Just a crack. Fold that sheepskin and slip it in. Now go away, and you're lucky I don't criticize you more severely.

So far, so predictable. But here's the funny part. Thus Benno:

If it were appropriate for us to take politics into account in deciding whether to approve an honorary degree, I might agree with Trustee Wiesenfeld, whose political views on the matters in controversy are not far distant from my own.
Now if words mean anything, we can only conclude from this that Schmidt, too, finds Kushner's political views -- such as they are -- to be beyond the pale, you should pardon the expression. But it's a question of due process and perhaps of meritocracy, you see, so we're not supposed to take Kushner's unspeakably vile political views into account.

Here's a sample of Wiesenfeld's own political views, "not far distant" from Schmidt's, sicut ipse dixit:

[The reporter] tried to ask a question about... which side was more callous toward human life, and who was most protective of it.

But Mr. Wiesenfeld interrupted and said the question was offensive because “the comparison sets up a moral equivalence.”

Equivalence between what and what? “Between the Palestinians and Israelis,” he said. “People who worship death for their children are not human.”

Did he mean the Palestinians were not human? “They have developed a culture which is unprecedented in human history,” he said.

Unlike the Israelis, who have developed a culture for which there is, alas, ample precedent.

May 7, 2011

The gnawing criticism of the mice

Today we ask the Vozhd's old question, 'How many divisions'? In this case, with reference to Professor N Chomsky.


Latin master father M Tully Smiff, after much importuning, finally got yours insincerely here to visit that left blisterkrieg listserv girdling the known world and run by the reDougable Mr Henwood.

I'm hooked. Each day I read more deeply there. It makes me ruminate massively, constantly, and without relief. My cud runneth over. Now I'm-a gonna share a chaw with y'all, as Father's Kentucky kinfolks would say.

We begin with a quote from Father's diocesan, Bishop Chomsky:

"When the world’s two great propaganda systems agree on some doctrine, it requires some intellectual effort to escape its shackles. One such doctrine is that the society created by Lenin and Trotsky and molded further by Stalin and his successors has some relation to socialism in some meaningful or histoically accurate sense of this concept. In fact, if there is a relation, it is the relation of contradiction."

"The founders of classical liberalism, people like Adam Smith and Wilhelm von Humboldt... were what we would call libertarian socialists.... For example, Humboldt, like Smith, says, Consider a craftsman who builds some beautiful thing. Humboldt says if he does it under external coercion, like pay, for wages, we may admire what he does but we despise what he is. On the other hand, if he does it out of his own free, creative expression of himself, under free will, not under external coercion of wage labor, then we also admire what he is because he's a human being.....

"I think that the libertarian socialist concepts-and by that I mean a range of thinking that extends from left-wing Marxism through anarchism-are fundamentally correct and that they are the proper and natural extension of classical liberalism into the era of advanced industrial society."

Noam apparently stepped on some red corn-covered toes:
"His description of the then USSR as "the society created by Lenin...and molded further by Stalin" is... nothing but inverted Stalinism, made worse, if possible, by the anticommunist slander of Trotsky as the sponsor of the gravedigger of the revolution."

Nothing like a Trotter for out-of-the-gate speed; but the pain and the repressed shame brings out this wonderful troika of venal particulars:

"Chomsky makes his reputation by rehearsing the obvious crimes and hypocracies of the imperial powers. When he talks about history or socialism he is a total numbskull. When he talks about politics he is an Obama-voter."
My God, I could float forever on this Mississippi of the pink mind. There's always the innocent wabbit hefting a papier-mache stage dumbell:
"Theoretically they might be contradictory, but historically, I don't know how much better Lenin/Trotsky might have done."
Should maybe have left it at that; but then this bunny shits a painted easter egg:
"My favorite definition of socialism so far came from Howard Zinn: "I believe in socialism without prisons," he said."
As a cap to this all-too-brief jester's tourney, we have of course the the saturnine host himself, Captain Henwood, parting the stage curtain and interjecting with a positively Chaney-like scowly growly:
"Classical liberalism? Really?... This only confirms my worst suspicions about anarchists-they're individualists of a fundamentally conventional sort... If individuals weren't "distorted" by society, they'd naturally tend towards truth and justice. Which is a very strange and shallow notion of the individual, isn't it? ... In other words, remove the "distortions" and we'll blossom into freedom and self-realization. Which fits in perfectly with C's whole political project of fact-checking the bourgeois media. If it weren't for those lies, the truth could run free. Sure."

Sleeps with the fishes

The whack of OBL makes a nice contrast with the Saddam spider hole extraction. Flat out assassination. Period. Total plan A.

Yes, they'd have scooped up his family for a fly-out and a few rounds of the Jane Austen school of interogation -- that is if the second copter hadn't done the fucklebuck with that Tom Swift stealth gyro. But as for himself... nope... whack and dump.

Why not capture the guy like Saddam? Why not show-trial him and execute him good and legal before the eyes of the world, etc., etc.?

Because he's no Saddam, is he? And they know it. He's a beloved and admired jihadist hero of earth wide proportions. And with all the clever Ivy League lawyers a spotlight like that could draw, they prolly couldn't convict of anything beyond intemperate language.

Even in a kangaroo court trying to look like it wasn't a kangaroo court -- even then, the whole damn fool happenin' would quickly turn into an off-off-Broadway production of Trial by Jury ... not the style of our present impresario in chief, Barry Artaud Obama:

Now, Jurymen, hear my advice --
All kinds of vulgar prejudice
I pray you set aside:
With stern judicial frame of mind,
From bias free of every kind
This trial must be tried.

And when amid the plaintiff's shrieks,
The ruffianly defendant speaks,
Upon the other side --
What he may say you needn't mind --
From bias free of every kind
This trial must be tried.

Hell, they're afraid to put my boy Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the John Belushi of the GWOT, on trial! Imagine the fuckus fruckus a trial of the very king of GWOT would bring. Bruno and OJ, move over.

So... whack him and toss him into the choppy deep deep sea. Pure gangsta? No. The mob's gotta do their wet work as black ops -- as, by the way, this could also have been done.

This was a classic show assassination. It's not exactly a new genre; this was only another case in a list longer than Noah's passenger manifest, of big fat terror state performing in public. The domestic list is endless; the wrinkle here might be the sovereign violation aspect.

I hear Lumumba's shade protesting: "Hey, what was I, chopped liver?" This was different -- a public open-air full-credit job by our own hands. The message: Uncle Hedge has a global writ. How? He writ it hizzseff, and big Sam is self-appointed sheriff of Earth County.

I love seeing Dersh all over the place on this: "Show the photos...show the proof he wasn't shot in cold blood... inquiring minds must know the truth... show 'em, show em!" It's simply his fury at a White House unwilling to wave the hit shots around in the faces of Alan's blood enemies, the friends of a liberated Palestine. If Alan had his way, O'Barry would personally drag the corpse around Ground Zero behind a red-white-and-blue Humvee.

May 9, 2011

Following the carbon trail

Here's one for you green lefties, and it links to one of my main OCD targets: the GNSFT (Great North/South Forex Tilt).

A recent study by some striving clean mind and body type found some nice numbers using a little bookkeeping trick called "consumption-side carbon accounting", which works like this: if a widget is manufactured in say China and then shipped to the US – where it is “consumed” – the carbon embodied in the widget goes not on China’s books, as per the usual practice, but on America’s.

Apply that to trade figures, and well, guess what: "since 1990 – the Kyoto Protocol’s baseline year – 75% of the growth in the North’s consumption-based emissions took place in China."

Production where it's dirtiest is often also where it's cheapest, and cross border arbitrage by the multinationals results in just this sort of poison trail stretching from dirtiest smokiest inner Hanistan to the plain-of-aspect, low-priced products on the shelves of Walmart.

The smiley guy needs a border cost barrier to o'erleap here -- one that would put a serious block on his household trinket trove, culled planet-wide and now on sale at a store near you.

We the sovereign self-determining job-holding citizen majority need to slap an emergency planet-protecting Pigou-type green fee(*) on every product or service that passes into these free and equal states, just to off set any dirty difference between their production process and a domestic equivalent.

This oughta be job one now, I should think...at least for green geists who want to link up their sacred cause with the venal sprawlquest country livin' economic interests of the broader Homer K Simpson jobster masses.


(*) With direct social dividending of all proceeds...of course of course of course.

The imaginary axis, and the real

My beloved butch Beltway brawler and Wall Street flack Laura Tyson wants us trade-gap Chicken Littles to cool our jets about unfixing the Asian dollar block. It's no time for a forex rectification, sez our Laura, even as a powwow nears between Uncle and jobster America's main enemy, the import death star China.

"The United States and China will hold their annual strategic and economic dialogue discussions next week in Washington, and the exchange rate between the dollar and the renminbi, China’s currency, is again likely to top the agenda ...Added to the mix this year is some offensive, sophomoric and embarrassing name-calling of the Chinese by Donald Trump...."

"The demand for tough action by American policy makers fails to recognize that the renminbi has already appreciated significantly relative to the dollar, exaggerates the benefits of a stronger renminbi for the United States and overlooks the benefits of a stronger renminbi for China itself."

The wheel comes round and round on all this, but the bank that bought Laura's mouth had this in mind, as Dean Baker puts it so nicely:
"It is likely that Morgan Stanley would benefit from having the dollar remain high against the Chinese yuan,since this means that its dollar assets will go further in China. In other words, the position being advocated by Ms. Tyson in this piece happens to coincide with the interests of the company on whose board she sits."
Yes, the currents flow both ways, and the imperial export dollar can find new emerging landing fields when the long uptaper of the yuan reaches the glory moment -- when it's unofficially welcomed into the advanced currency club like Japan was welcomed in the 90's and South Korea is about to be welcomed.

Complexity and contradiction is rife; but through it all, through the ups downs and sideways, the flips and flops, the unders and overs, the key question remains the same, and so does the answer:

Who's the first decider here? Who designs and redesigns the global forex structure and its dynamics through the system of central banks?

No answer necessary, eh? It's Wall Street, and every central bank on earth knows that, and has known since Ike crossed the Rhine.

So what's Wall Street's view today? Tyson's view: hold the forex structure in place; no big adjustments. Seems that reflects our cross-border corporate types' bottom-line best interests here and now.

By the way, two popularly written papers by Stanford's own Ronald Macdonald McKinnon might throw light on the whys of this:



Ron's another friend of Wall Street. Paper one sez trade gaps should be closed by variable rates of import absorption, i.e. by a policy of stagnating the north deficit traders' domestic economies and booming the emerger surplus traders' home markets.

Okay, so he makes his argument in Wonderland, of course. He doesn't try to model anything like a stylized real world system. We're to accept the analogy between these two worlds -- the real one and the impossible one -- because they are twins aspectually speaking, that is, with respect to trade dynamics.

What is absorption? Its the ability to buy imports. Get it? Reduce that ability, you reduce imports. Since income is the basis of everything dynamic, you clip disposable income, or goose it, depending on the direction you want to move the old exim -- the export-import gap.

In Wonderland, absorption reduction (disposable income reduction ) can be accomplished without unemployment and the sacrficed income can be extracted by gubmint through a fair and popularly designed tax, just as absorption increase can be produced by a tax cut.

In addition, in Wonderland these policy moves can be co-ordinated on both sides to hit simultaneously. Beautiful!

Of course, here on the real side of the looking glass, we just had and are still having the real world analogy to this pure absorption policy, right? China booms while America swoons -- but not beacuse of taxes.

It could be otherwise. The asian crisis of '97 was a mirror-image drama. Asia swooned while Clintonian america boomed.

The job class might prefer a fast recovery and a huge forex adjustment; but Ronald's second paper suggests international investors are better off with as much fixity and certainty in the ongoing forex as possible.

This includes, of course, national price level movements too better the price structures retain glacial Elmer Fudd rates of metabolism. All the better for them damn corporate wabbits scurrying about plucking the low-hanging fruit slow adjustment always produces.

May 11, 2011

The jackboot and the jeanboot...

... both, apparently, have a "right to exist".

And why, you ask, was I image-googling the phrase "right to exist"? Well, you already know the answer, don't you? It's Israel, of course -- the only state whose "right to exist" is ever asserted as an unconditional and absolute imperative.

I've been following the Tony Kushner story, mentioned here before, and this phrase "Israel's right to exist" -- which Kushner, ho-hum, "firmly supports" -- has been recurring in Kushner's self-exculpations like one of the more tiresome leitmotifs in Parsifal. It goes to show both what a Zionist Kushner really is -- since nobody but Zionists deploys this phrase -- and also what a shallow, unthinking person he really is, since he has clearly never bothered to ask himself what exactly this ridiculous slogan means.

Did apartheid South Africa have a right to exist? The Confederate States of America? Yugoslavia? Greater Germany, aka the Third Reich? The old USSR? The Ottoman Empire? The Duchy of Burgundy? The Venetian Republic? The Papal States? Manchuguo? South Vietnam?

History is littered with states that ceased to exist -- who lost their right to exist, you might say, along with their existence. This doesn't ordinarily mean that the people whom those states ruled -- or, for that matter, the people who ruled them -- ceased to exist. People and land generally stick around, but borders change, and regimes change. Big states get broken up, and small states get swallowed up. Even when neither of those dire fates befalls them, they often change their character and political arrangements. Black folks get emancipated. Women get the vote. Palestinians get reparations, equal political status, and a right of return.

States, and the political orders associated with them, are contingent, and they have no absolute right to exist -- not Israel, not the United States, not even Canada. States exist by consent of the people they rule, and the other states in the neighborhood. Provoke too many of the people, or the other states, long enough -- and you are, well, history.

And hey, Clio, when it comes to Israel -- we're waiting.

In the meantime, this notion, "right to exist", is not entirely useless. It's a kind of reverse pons-asinorum: any time you hear somebody say it, you know you're listening to a liar or a fool.

May 13, 2011

The wireless land rush

Did Reed Hundt, Clinton's communications czar, do a good job in the golden era of wireless? He seems to think so, in this narrative of triumphs he posted at the frightfully dull digital coffee cup.

He makes a nice dynamic distinction between a competitive stage and a consolidation stage and alludes to the leasing versus selling spectrum -- all sound stuff at the level of an orbiting econ-con satelite like mime-self.

"We made five main decisions: (1) auction methodology, (2) interconnection, (3) standards, (4) number portability, and (5) deregulation. [and we] repudiated the purposeful selection by previous FCC's of a two-firm market [and] capped the amount of spectrum any firm could buy or own."
Could one of you please explain to us generalists this claim:
"Spectrum is a license to be in business. The more a firm has, the less capital expenditures it must incur to create a network...If the goal is to benefit the economy, through creating consumer welfare, jobs and productivity gains, then permitting firms to obtain more than a sufficient amount of spectrum is not the wise policy choice."
[S]ince we trusted in competition as the policy that would cause mobile communications firms to exploit the advances of digitization (over the airwaves), microprocessors (shrinking the size of handsets), and fiber optics, it followed that we needed to deregulate mobile communications. We pre-empted California's attempt to set wholesale wireless prices. We declined to require build-out, to create a universal service policy for wireless, to bar firms from subsidizing handsets, to impose rigorous price regulation over backhaul in certain critical geographic locations, to impose similarly stringent price regulation over roaming, or even to require quality of service. We trusted competition to address issues that might arise in these and other areas.
So... did Clinton-era Federal policy during that first stage of rampant American wireless-ness produce a happy start to telecommunication's future? Thought some of our techno nerd nihilist black-on-bleaks here might roast his butt for our pleasure.

May 19, 2011

Another one bites the dust

I was delighted to see the following in my email this morning, from the thickly-furred Rabbi Michael Lerner, shown above in his winter pelt:

Former managing editor Dave Belden [of Lerner's smarmy mag Tikkun --ed.], Associate Editor Peter Gabel, and I were honored to receive the Utne Reader's Independent Press Award....

Tikkun won in the category of Best Body/Spirit Coverage....

The irony: we are unable to afford to print our Spring issue for lack of funds, or to remain in print. The only way we can continue is if you, Michael, and 400 other people like you, make a tax-deductible contribution of $1,000 each and commit to do so each of the coming years that you can afford to do so.

So the mag is broke. Well, I'm not surprised, and it's long overdue. Here's a sample, taken at random, of recent Lerner handwringing:
We at Tikkun hate violence from whatever source, so naturally we’ve been extremely critical of Hamas through the years both for its violence and its glorification of violent acts of terror against Israeli civilians. We’ve similarly been critical of Israeli violence which is built into the very structure of the Occupation. And we’ve similarly been critical of the U.S. , Russia, China, Iran, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and the list goes on and on. But we also critiqued the Israeli government and the US for demanding that Palestinians become more democratic, then after Hamas won a popular election in 2006, rejecting any negotiations with a government that had Hamas as part....
This really captures something quintessential about the wimpery of Pwogs. Lerner has to read the triptychs of all his other criticalities -- to show he's a single-standard kind of guy, who doesn't "single out" anybody -- before he can get around to a "critique" of Israel and the US. This fretful flank-guarding, this backpedaling before you're even on the bike, this travail of the Prolegomena Mountains and this stillborn mouse of "critique", this absurd self-assurance of issuing every country in the world a report card and "criticizing" those who don't measure up -- it's a curious queasy cocktail of timorousness and conceit. In fact, this word "criticism" is starting to constitute a litmus test for me -- anybody who speaks of "criticizing" a country or a regime or a political movement has just removed his hat and revealed his fair large ass's ears.

And speaking of conceit -- or rather, chutzpah -- he wants a thousand dollars from me, and four hundred other people, so he can keep slaughtering trees to print this pabulum on? Where is the Sierra Club when you need it?

Bellum intestinum

Two of my very favorite people, Cornel West and Melissa Harris-Perry -- both of them "tenured professors", as Melissa never tires of pointing out -- have got a real Kilkenny Cats thing going recently.

It started when West finally jumped off the Obama bus -- motivated, it appears, largely by a sense of personal pique that America's second (or possibly third) Black President wasn't returning his calls.

Melissa promptly leapt into the fray, with perhaps the most entertaining column she's ever written (which is saying a lot). Or at least, it started out that way:

Professor West offers thin criticism of President Obama and stunning insight into the delicate ego of the self-appointed black leadership class that has been largely supplanted in recent years....

It began... when Cornel West’s “dear brother” Tavis Smiley threw a public tantrum because Senator Obama refused to attend Smiley's annual State of Black America. Smiley repeatedly suggested that his forum was the necessary black vetting space for the Democratic nominees. He needed to ask Obama and Clinton tough questions so that black America could get the answers it needed. But black America was doing a fine job making up its own mind in the primaries and didn’t need Smiley’s blessing to determine their own electoral preferences.

O joy! A twofer -- she takes a whack at that awful bore Tavis Smiley, too, the only guy on NPR who's more tedious and insufferable than Robert Seagal (and that, too, is saying a lot). But she soon manages to put her foot in it:
Cornel West ... has spent the bulk of his adulthood living in those deeply rooted, culturally rich, historically important black communities of Cambridge, MA and Princeton, NJ. And it is hard to see his claim that Obama is “most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they” as anything other than a classic projection of his own comfortably ensconced life at Harvard and Princeton Universities. Harvard and Princeton are not places that are particularly noted for their liberating history for black men.
Danger, Melissa! Danger! She attempts to pull back from the brink, but it's feeble, feeble:
Let me be clear, being an Ivy League professor does not mean that one has no room to offer critical engagement on issues of race. Like Professor West, I too make my living at elite, predominately white institutions.
Oh, well, that's all right then.

It's curious, though, that for all her fury at West, she can't find much to say for Obie. Here's the high point of her apologia:

As tenured professors Cornel West and I are not meaningfully accountable, no matter what our love, commitment, or self-delusions tell us. President Obama, as an elected official, can, in fact, be voted out of his job. We can’t.
Not yet. But we live in hope, Melissa.

After this far-from-ringing endorsement, it's all downhill, into the self-exculpatory listing of her own "criticisms", a topic treated in an earlier post:

I have many criticisms of the Obama administration. I wrote angrily about his choice of Rick Warren to deliver a prayer at the inauguration. I have spoken on television about my disagreement with drone attacks in Pakistan and been critical of the administration’s initial choice to prosecute DADT cases. I worked for more progressive health care reform legislation and supported organizations that resisted the reproductive rights “compromises” in the bill. I’ve been scathing in public remarks and writings about the President’s education policy. My husband leads a non-profit that is suing HUD for its implementation of a discriminatory formula in the post-Katrina Road Home program.
Yet, presumably, she's still "in".

Oh, and "scathing," Melissa? Are you writing your own reviews now, a la Glenn Greenwald? Scathing, from Melissa, is a lot like being savaged by a dead sheep -- to quote the late Denis Healey.

May 20, 2011

Oooh that Shakespeherian rag

Speaking of Cornel West, what on earth is the matter with Chris Hedges?

The moral philosopher Cornel West, if Barack Obama’s ascent to power was a morality play, would be the voice of conscience. Rahm Emanuel, a cynical product of the Chicago political machine, would be Satan. Emanuel in the first scene of the play would dangle power, privilege, fame and money before Obama. West would warn Obama that the quality of a life is defined by its moral commitment....

Perhaps there was never much of a struggle in Obama’s heart. Perhaps West only provided a moral veneer. Perhaps the dark heart of Emanuel was always the dark heart of Obama. Only Obama knows. But we know how the play ends. West is banished like honest Kent in “King Lear.” Emanuel and immoral mediocrities from Lawrence Summers to Timothy Geithner to Robert Gates—think of Goneril and Regan in the Shakespearean tragedy—take power. We lose....

No one grasps this tragic descent better than West.

Good Lord. That mountebank West, a Shakespearean hero? Shakespearean, maybe, but on the order of Malvolio, most vilely cross-gartered.

The morality play reference was really more on target, perhaps more than Hedges realizes, unless he's read more morality plays lately than I suspect he has done. The genre incorporates, with increasing prominence over time, an element of stark buffoonery which would suit Cornel West right down to the ground.

Pasture time

Father Smiff and his pal Glen Ford seem to have gone off on quite a jag lately, bashing the leading lights of the African diaspora. The good father has been spitballing Melissa and Cornel, while Brother Glen kicks those poor old mules Al and Jesse.

According to Glen the two are now nothin' but a broken-down pair of "court jesters for Power". Of course that's no news at all -- but maybe this is: not content to scratch and shuffle for the O'Barry bunch, now they're "cheerleaders" for the "so-called War on Terror"! And a lot of lefty palefaces are whoopin' it up right along with the Glenster.

Here's Ford:

"Jackson either needs to hand in his anti-war credentials right now, or find a good mouth doctor that will stop him from encouraging those who would increase the $1.2 trillion national security budget that is pushing human needs programs into the Valley of Death... It does not bother Sharpton that Obama’s bigger picture means bigger wars. Which is alright with Sharpton, as long as he gets a bigger check."
I don't get it, really. Why bring the heat here, and why to these two Passover lambs?

Let 'em be, for fuck's sake. So what if in their twilight hours they play side trumpets for the Obaminator? Ain't times hard all around? Come on, bro, they've earned some slack. There were moments, weren't there, when they made... well... moments -- right? Why not let their mellow sloe-gin juicy-eyed wistful old Heckle and Jeckle gig pay 'em some long-overdue White House dividends?

Scolding 'em like this strikes me as absurd. It's like screaming at the Katzenjammer Kids for stealing a hot pie off Mama's kitchen windowsill.

Let's have some respect for forced indignities. Who among us has not sung chorus in the Beggars' Opera?

May 21, 2011

Bibi to Obie: Fuck you

And Obie, in response: Oh. Okay.

The only thing that's puzzling in this story is why Obie bothered to say anything at all. This is a guy who hired the ultra-Zionist fanatic Dennis Ross as an adviser, and the ultra-Zionist fanatic Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, and and and. He is clearly not a bit interested in grasping the Israeli nettle, or doing anything for the Palestinians.

The most plausible line of speculation I've heard is that Obie is trying to sweet-talk the Palestinians into dropping their campaign for international recognition at the UN this fall.

The General Assembly would no doubt vote lopsidedly in their favor, including, it appears, a number of European countries, who are pretty fed up with the Sir Giles Overreach mentality of the Israelis. But of course it will never reach the General Assembly, since Obie has already promised to veto it it in the Security Council. (When you hear the word "security", count the spoons.)

Of course the Assembly could always pass a resolution favoring Palestinian statehood in principle, and even if it didn't, the Security Council veto would be embarrassing and perhaps even dangerous, considering the state of affairs in the Arab world these days. Particularly if the actual Security Council vote were also lopsided, and Obie's veto the only finger in the dike.

So is it all a shadow play -- Obie's and Bibi's mutual dislike and distrust just another professional-wrestling script? Obie is playing Good Cop vis-a-vis the Arabs, and Bibi is playing the other guy? Is Bibi trying to affect American politics -- perhaps paying some old debts to the Likudniks' Rebublican soul mates? Does he just see Obie as a weak sister, and want to hang yet another American politician's scalp in the Israel Lobby teepee? Nothing succeeds like excess.

Well, who knows. This is the kind of speculation I try to discourage among other Lefties. We'll find out in twenty years, when the memoirs start coming out. In the meantime it's perfectly clear that in spite of Obie's tentative and halfhearted reference to the '67 borders, this administration will do absolutely nothing, nothing, nothing to interfere with the mad dogs of Israel.

May 23, 2011

Google, paladin of liberty

Some labels, first time ya hear 'em, belated or not, they just sing to you. Such a one for me is "Big Content", as in this mock-heroic headline:

Big Content rips into Google, the "corporate imperialist"
The barons of copyright, like Olympian gods, rise to the attack against the dark side of progress, as embodied by das Googleplex, global cloud monster extraordinaire:
"The knives are out for Google Chairman Eric Schmidt... major US rightsholders... brand Google... an arrogant, out-of-control company bent on ruining American creativity...."
Yes indeed, the brute's a liability hydra, "thinking itself above US law."!

Here's Mike O'Leary, brazen Celtic wormtongue and hireling of the Motion Picture Association of America, striking a full chord's worth of notes of indictment:

"Is Eric Schmidt really suggesting that if Congress passes a law and President Obama signs it, Google wouldn’t follow it? As an American company respected around the world, it’s unfortunate that, at least according to its executive chairman’s comments, Google seems to think it’s above America’s laws. We’ve heard this "but the law doesn’t apply to me" argument before—but usually, it comes from content thieves, not a Fortune 500 company. Google should know better. "
This scrap has erupted over a bill in the Senate, with one of those now-standard tiresome cute acronyms: PROTECT IP. I'll leave the details of this pending toll booth system enforcer to Father Smiff, who takes a banausic interest in these nuts and bolts. Suffice to say that it's wildly over the top and provides the US government and civil courts with the kind of ability to blacklist and block foreign sites that the Chinese currently try to apply through the so-called Great Firewall Of China, with some though not complete success. Search engines would apparently have to de-list blacklisted sites, for example, and there's some craziness with something callled DNS, which makes my eyes glaze over.

Chalk it up to Clio's weirdly entertaining use of unintended agency.

Catch this bold pentimento: Google, as beacon of liberty, hasn't overlooked the Chinese parallel, and waves the ultimate warning flag against PROTECT IP's implications: Chicom totalitarian fiends will exploit it for repression!

To which O'Leary blarneys away, with the insouciant dog-faced shamelessness that only the sons of Erin can pull off:

"Google should know better...the notion that China would use a bi-partisan, narrowly tailored bill as a pretext for censorship is laughable, as Google knows, China does what China does."

May 24, 2011

In other news, US Congress still shameless

So while Obie played ping-pong in London with the British PM, back at home, a joint session -- joint session! -- of the US Congress were baying themselves hoarse like football hooligans at every chest-thumping wolf ticket from that cheap gangster Benjamin Netanyahu (accent on the "yahoo").

Maybe Obie should stay in London and Netanyahu just move into the White House. He could certainly get stuff through Congress. Hell, they'd vote to deify him if AIPAC hinted that it might be a good thing.

May 25, 2011

Fed up, and not taking it any more

Yes, it's true: at long last, after what? Is it really 50 years now? Of nothin' but burned fingers and frozen-off toes? Our national union leadership is standing up. They're fed up all the way to their eyeteeth with eclair-spined party-hack "just wait till next cycle " Dembot frazzle-dazzle.

Take brother Ferdinand hizzseff, the top bull of the entire dues-yielding great American organized private sector job pampa. Why he's so pissed-off and flat-out furious that he's closing the iron door on all of 'em: all the dang blue-dogged yellow-legged turkey-necked buzzard-breasted goose-livered sparrow-knee'd frog-footed professional friends-of-the-people buggery-bay politicos.

Hear ye one and all the words of Der Trummer:

"...Our role is not to build the power of a political party or a candidate. It is to improve the lives of working families and strengthen our country. It doesn’t matter if candidates and parties are controlling the wrecking ball or simply standing aside — the outcome is the same either way. If leaders aren’t blocking the wrecking ball and advancing working families’ interests, working people will not support them. This is where our focus will be — now, in 2012, and beyond."
Errr, "focus", Mr President? Focus? Maybe that doesn't really say exactly what it might oughta say, but then, it's been a long time since we've heard this much.

In other blue-collar-blues news, there's this, from the greater international of unionicity, as realized by something calling itself "the European trade union institute." And baby, is it ever the boilerplate special, the steaming heap of corned beef and cabbage, the gold-seal groupthink-up of the decade. It's entitled boldly as a bean-fed fart: "Escape from Neoliberalism: Toward the Rear End of a Brighter Future."(*)

If you're a jobholding average nitwit you can't exactly go home anymore -- at least, not to the one "Kapital" burned down 30 years ago. But you can dream about it. You can even dream of a neat new better one, the job world of tomorrow's tomorrow.

If you're stuck on the pot with the runs and an Ipad, read the jellyfish intro by Joe 'Cousin It' Stiglitz, and of course the inevitable seamless seemlessness of that timeless class actor, jobbler tribune, careful Brit scribbler and all-around self-serious veteran bore, Tom "don't call me Bombadil" Palley. Starts on page 55 -- God, yes, 55 -- of the PDF.


(*) Yes, of course I made that up.

May 26, 2011

Checks and balances

Today's time square sentinel makes careful note: "members of Congress" are muttering about "violations" by Emperor O'Barry of nothing less than the 1973 "war powers act"!

Ahh, the war powers act...the war powers act... slowly I turn... step by step.... What a fucking noodle rod of chastisement that has been all these years, eh?

I suspect almost anyone of my Woodstockian generation recalls the feckless spasm of representative gubmint that produced it, way back there during the oh so horrific Nixonian miasma. But dare I say the memory comes only with a certain wistful chortle?

What a notion, now: the war powers act, unleashed from the stone like the Golem, to crush Barry in its embrace. What a contemplation that is, eh, comrades?

Stillborn wouldn't be too unfair a description -- stillborn and then pickled in a milk bottle and left under Frank Church's desk in the senate. Such has been the utterly lifeless history of this mocked bit of midnight-hour playacting by our nation's legislature.

A noble attempt to override Uncle's overreach? Perhaps failed, but nonetheless magnificant in its aspiration?

Hell, no. The damn thing is only noble and magnificent in its cynical contrived impotence. It's just another witch-doctor brandishment, like that perpetually waved shrunken head, the nuclear option.

From day one of its enactment till this morning's bomb runs over Col Q's camel tent that solemn act of Congress has been mocked and traduced at every turn. The damn thing has been shit on like a park monument. There's been act-defying "armed interventions" by every, yes every, single succeeding POTifex maximus.

The whole business is just bitterly, laughably farcical.

Any mention of the war powers act deserves the purest form of Curly Howard's dukes-flying rampage. It's so infamous, so infuriating, so enervating, that merely at the mention, well we all oughta....

Alas, my sputter fails me here in mid-motion. Come on, Paine, why bother to saw the air like old Lear? Isn't it far far better each of us simply subsides into one of those satori acts of pitch black sarcasm? Haven't we had enough indignation over the failures of Congress for ten lifetimes? It is we who are the fools, to get ants in the pants here... no?

If we keep this rallying up, it's us pwog croakers and lefticulated earthworms that are the hopeless dupes, not the juke-box players at the Nueva York "Kabuki Times" -- 'tis we that are the mutual face-slapping stooges.

What are we shaking our fists at, if not each other? And we do it at every senseless galvanic twitch of this dead third appendage of gubmint, this hunk of ham trailing along after the mighty death star of the... republic.

May 27, 2011

Out of bondage

"Working people need a party of their own", or so sez a spirited commenter at AFL-America's blog.

While reading comments over there recently, under brother Trumka's dire public threat to end all reflexive union sacrificing of "dues sweat and tears" at the altar of the Demo-party.. -- the shameless half-century of piecard Stockholm syndrome -- sure enough, I ran into a hailstorm of like chitter. In summary: "We need to form a third party...NOW!"

What a rallying cry that is, boys and girls. First among sequels to be wished into existence to sublate the Judas goat Democrat racketeers. Specifically, we need a union propelled labor party.

With this as topic, do I hear the ritual SMBIVA "Ho hum"? But honestly, mates aren't we all tempted by thirdness? My favorite: some poor benighted soul even naively suggests we look to perfidious Albion for a model -- yes, the party of Blair and Brown! We even get the Machiavel's dream: "...Labor should infiltrate both parties and take up seats until Labor is strong enough to build its own polical party." I don't buy it. Why bother building a toy class party -- in fact, why bother to build a party of electoral success of any kind? Why waste the time and treasure when you can run just about anyone you want in the general election as an Indy?

"Why else -- to build something lasting, something permanent, Paine!"

Really? Permanent? Like what -- the populists... the Debs socialists... the Greeeeeeeeen party?

Why not simply jam into the democrat big-tent primary scrum? That oughta both get your feet wet and splash some mud on the face of professional Democracy.

Now before Father Smiff, who hates a primary even worse than a Whig, sinks his fangs into my fetlock, I hasten to add that you enter the primary bearing a solemn "sore loser" pledge to fight on, a la Joe the Lieberskin, if the votin' majority of the local party base, in an act of unspeakable self-disgrace refuses to back the one true pwog candidate -- namely, you.

We have, till further notice a twofer ballot box system, in most places, and so far as I can see, that suffices as a basic electoral structure, for whatever electoral politics are worth -- that is, so long as outsiders fail to worship insiders and troublesome resolutes continue to pee through the tent flap as early and often as possible.

May 28, 2011

New! Improved!

A comment some ways back prompted a splendid discovery: the Bichler and Nitzan oeuvre.

What a gas, to uncover just for my own personal sole self, this wondrously un-novel brightly grease-painted nicely slap-shoed buffoons' cavort. This two-reindeer flying-sled act represents the confluence of two mighty milky rivers of intellactation: one from the attic lumber room of the tundra campus of the Comedia del Nortica Titanica, and one from a sort of academic Bedouin who flits from college to college in... Israel! (That's the Canadian gent, Nitzan, above center, holding forth at his alma mater, Harvard. Bichler seems to be camera-shy.)

Is there a message gist? Why yes: Capital is... power, quantified. Let the silver bells ring out, eh?

I really should stop there, and I will, more or less; maybe Father, ever so fond of aeoli furiosi in extenso pedantico(*) will let it suffice, only attaching this blurb from their magnum -- or is it jeroboam -- opus' back cover:

"Conventional theories of capitalism are mired in a deep crisis: after centuries of debate, they are still unable to tell us what capital is. Liberals and Marxists both think of capital as an 'economic' entity that they count in universal units of ‘utils’ or 'abstract labour', respectively. But these units are totally fictitious. Nobody has ever been able to observe or measure them, and for a good reason: they don’t exist. Since liberalism and Marxism depend on these non-existing units, their theories hang in suspension. They cannot explain the process that matters most – the accumulation of capital.

This book offers a radical alternative. According to the authors, capital is not a narrow economic entity, but a symbolic quantification of power. It has little to do with utility or abstract labour, and it extends far beyond machines and production lines. Capital, the authors claim, represents the organized power of dominant capital groups to reshape – or creorder – their society.


(*) Dead languages seem to be obligatory these days for SMBIVA posts, and even comments: I'll see your Hebrew apophthegm and raise you a Hittite limerick. Can Sumerian be far behind? And what comes next? Proto-Indo-European, complete with laryngeals? (Father Smiff knows how to pronounce 'em, or so he says).

May 31, 2011

Small dreams

Now this is exactly what makes my turbid Yankee blood boil like Dunkin's midafternoon tarpit coffee.

It's a bit of retrospective Merlinizing by pro-union striver and former VP econ-con advisor Jared Bumstead, shown at left looking as if Herman Munster had stolen Steve McQueen's hair. Jared asks: if we had it in our power to do it over, what's our fantasy '09 stimulus package?

I think I would have... de-emphasized some of the tax cuts,... This isn't the FDR New Deal era any more.... But I would have tried to get closer to ideas that more directly create jobs."
Jared, you prunehead, we needed -- for countless reasons -- not WPA II but a gout of good old job class puchasing power, paid for by a transfer system of Biblical proportions. But that of course is where the tires touch the road. Such a system would have extracted much less from and injected much more into 180 million little pockets, and would have included:
  • A total payroll tax holiday till further nootice
  • A significant increase in SSI payments (by some casuistical justification like "you got smoked by the Clinton era index fiddle; here's a makeup")
  • A pickup of some fixed dollar part of payroll-deducted employee-side health premium costs
  • Oh and an emergency freeze on health premiums too.
  • Of course a Fed-funded sales tax holiday, and a similar property tax arrangement -- including a passthrough to tenants, naturally.
Anything less, anything more corrective, civilized, green and enlightening googoo would not only not suffice, it would be bad class politics.

But hey, these goo-goo go-go pwogs, even the union-funded ones, never seem to learn a damn thing. Take this fuckwit. He's still trying to create Bacon Act construction jobs and prolly save teachers' jobs too. Okay, fine. But get the system recovered first. Get the average job bums back in high gear, before you replace the post-bubble long-term construction job losses or blow away the education blight, etc. etc. Get the job class masses behind you first. Then and only then, after the electorate thinks you really are FDR returned and updated -- only then can you start to brighten up the nation's dark spots.

Lift up the job markets first, lift 'em all the way to raging payroll surges before you try to up lift the jobsters' souls, way of life, environment, chances for heaven on earth and so on.

About May 2011

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

April 2011 is the previous archive.

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