The Nation awakes


Rip van Winkle starts to his palsied feet and stares wildly about him:

The Left Ought to Worry About Hillary Clinton, Hawk and Militarist, in 2016

[I]t ought to worry progressives that the next president of the United States is likely to be much more hawkish than the current one…

She’s … taken a more hawkish line than Obama on Ukraine and the confrontation with Russia….

Clinton joined Panetta, CIA Director David Petraeus and the military in proposing that the United States go to war in Syria. (That the United States didn’t act more aggressively in Syria back then was entirely due to President Obama’s decision to resist Clinton and the other hawks.)

… Clinton—joined by several other administration officials, including Samantha Power and Susan Rice—pushed hard, and successfully, for the United States to go to war in Libya….

…[T]here was far more tension between the White House and the State Department under Clinton than is usually cited.

And on and on and on. What a strange narrative. The writers — Bob and Barbara Dreyfuss — seem very determined to keep Obie untarnished, and blame Hill for all the Bad Stuff.

Why? Who cares about Obie, that tiresome, overexposed, played-out lame duck? Is there some retrospective self-justification at work? Were Bob and Babs Obamanauts back in the day? Are they feeling a little… well… sheepish about it now?


I particularly loved the bit about how “President Obama” — as The Nation always refers to the God-Emperor — “resisted” Hillary’s push for war in Syria. I don’t remember it quite that way. I seem to remember Obie being balls-to-the-wall for war in Syria, until it became clear that not even the British House of Commons would go along with it. At that point, any fool could see the cause was lost.

For the time being, anyway. Don’t think it won’t be in the headlines again, probably as soon as the imbecile Ukraine adventure blows up in Hill’s — and Obie’s — face. Assuming it hasn’t already.



You can’t beat the Thais, can you? Even their military coups have a certain good-natured, fun-loving quality. One does of course worry that the good nature may wear off, and the fun turn to un-fun.

I continue to wonder how involved the US is in this. So many of these bogus insurrections — Libya, Syria, the Ukraine Maidan in the Bear’s backyard, now the Thaidan in the Celestials’. After a few halcyon years of the unipolar world, it looks like that old lantern-jawed serial killer, Uncle Sam, is gearing up for the next round of bloodletting among the global powers.

Clearly China and Russia are both on the target list. Complicated, of course, because we also make a lot of money trading with each of them. But that was also true before both phases of the 20th-century 31 Years’ War.

Delightful, innit, how they’ve turned to each other? Oh, sanctions? sez Mr Putin. How ’bout I sign a thirty-year gas deal with China? And an arms deal while I’m at it? Fuck you, Uncle.

I have a feeling Uncle might get his testicles served up, lightly sautéed in a mix of chicken fat and peanut oil. If so, couldn’t happen to a more deserving Uncle.

Meanwhile, I’ve made a lowball offer on Ted Kaczinsky’s old place up in the mountains. I suspect it will end up going for more than I can afford. I hear there are other bidders.

A must-read, I think


Comrade Paine is going to give us a better-informed response to this book than I can manage. I have just begun reading it and although it is very thick and heavy, and a bit frightening on that account, it is also written in a lucid, jargon-free, down-to-earth and rather droll style. I am enjoying it very much.

Piketty asserts for himself a kind of coy non-Marxism, and I’m sure he’s not being dishonest. As far as I can tell, he approaches his subject without Marxist theoretical commitments. But he is respectful to the Moor, and suggests we might have something to learn from his way of approaching the matter.

His title — CAPITAL in the 21st century — is unmistakably an hommage to our old hero. The Belknap Press, his American publisher (alas, a tentacle of Harvard) has driven the point home with a lot of red on the cover. They’ve also printed it on nice paper, and the typeface is easy on the eye, which matters when you have 600 pages before you.

The book seems to be fresh, original, un-dogmatic, and rather impressively fact-based, unlike most economic writing. I kinda think it’s going to be pretty important. Not just a nine-days-wonder. Check it out.

The veil of unknowing — and of knowing


This started out as a comment:

There is a not uncommon intellectual deformation among us admirers of Dr Marx. We seem tempted to believe that because the old Moor gave us some very important insights into the big picture of history, we must therefore be able to divine in detail what’s going on in the streets of a city halfway around the world, though we don’t speak the language, we’re not present, and our sources of factual information are next to useless. Perhaps even worse than useless, come to think of it.

It occurs to me that this is under-generalized. Isn’t this in fact the besetting sin of our time? Isn’t it also the problem with sociobiology, and ‘evolutionary psychology’, and so on? Aren’t there those among us who are shallow, dogmatic Darwinians in just the same way that many of my Lefty comrades are shallow, dogmatic Marxists, always trumping each other with proof-texts?

Surely there is nothing less ‘scientific’ than the belief that one has found an all-purpose answer for every question.

And yet, how we crave it!

The magazine that cried wolf


My Lefty mailing lists are dominated, these days, by the anti-tyrannical Left, posting fast and furious anything they can dig up in support of the Syrian rebels or the Ukrainian Iron Maidan. But I was surprised to see a link to an article in Time magazine — yes, Time magazine — sounding the alarm about Cossacks on the march, a story which must have made a lot of old folks’ blood run cold in Washington Heights.

The Time item was illustrated by the wonderfully comical picture above(*); click on it for a link to the whole article, should you have some time to waste and an appetite for the comedy of breathless journalism.

Now I realize that boosting the Maidanites requires a somewhat selective and yet, at the same time, uncritical inventory of sources. Even so, I was surprised to see a self-identified Marxist citing Time magazine, a notoriously and thoroughly mendacious and tendentious jingoist shitrag.

I mentioned my surprise — oh, all right, I mentioned it in my usual snide snarky way: “Hmmm. We’re reading Time now, are we?”

This provoked a good deal of sanctimonious lecturing from the Maidanophiles. Apparently one is not supposed to “consider the source”, proverbial wisdom notwithstanding. My favorite spanky came from a very frequent and voluble contributor — let’s call him Humillus Dirtwick:

I would be very interested in seeing something on this list impeaching the Time’s article on the Wolves’ Hundred. I get highly annoyed with people who think they can avoid that by just impeaching the source. I consider it a corrupt practice.

Where can I get the official Marxist list of prohibited words and prohibited sources? Can someone post them here?


Caps in original.

Apparently the anti-tyrannical schematism in thinking about politics extends to a similar schematism in thinking about thinking: as if people had — or ought to have — a completely zero-based, amnesiac attitude toward everything they read or heard. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind. The villagers should never have decided that the boy who cried wolf was an inveterate liar, and should have continued to muster up with the torches and pitchforks when called. After all, it turned out he was telling the truth — once.

I daresay Time occasionally tells the truth too, by accident or design. But in fact anybody who does any thinking or reading at all has heuristics for filtering the torrent of information, misinformation, disinformation, and plain imbecility that crosses his screen every day.

I’m sure that Humillus has some such heuristic as well, though in his case I suspect it comes down to whether the item before him does or does not support his beliefs.

(*) It put me in mind of a sniffy review of a long-ago Metropolitan Opera production of Siegfried, which included, the reviewer wrote, “a man in a bear suit.”

People are just no damn good, says The Atlantic


Click on pic for the story. Three questions:

1. Suppose you had $100 in a savings account and the interest rate was 2 percent per year. After five years, how much do you think you would have in the account if you left the money to grow? A) more than $102; B) exactly $102; C) less than $102; D) do not know; refuse to answer.

2. Imagine that the interest rate on your savings account is 1 percent per year and inflation is 2 percent per year. After one year, would you be able to buy A) more than, B) exactly the same as, or C) less than today with the money in this account?; D) do not know; refuse to answer.

3. Do you think that the following statement is true or false? “Buying a single company stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund.” A) true; B) false; C) do not know; refuse to answer.

The Atlantic deplores the results:

In Russia, 96 percent of those surveyed could not answer the three questions correctly…. only 30 percent of Americans aced the quiz. The best-performing respondents were the Germans (53 percent got a perfect score) and the Swiss (50 percent), but this still leaves almost half of each country’s population without a basic understanding of financial matters… 79 percent of Swedes, 75 percent of Italians, 73 percent of Japanese, and 69 percent of French could not respond correctly to all three questions.

We’re living in the world of The Hunger Games, and the Atlantic wants everybody to learn archery.