"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Apr 28, 2010

Thoughts on Arizona and Oklahoma

Approximately one hundred years ago, Anglo settlers finally finished their colonization of Apache, Shoshone and Comanche lands.

In modern parlance, they committed race expulsion and genocide.

Asking "papers please" might seem like small potatoes, as a means of holding on to White domination of those colonized, genocidally cleansed lands, now that national border has fewer and fewer believers.

Let's remember, though, that the original justification for expulsion followed on Lockean theories of improvement, and the justifications for enclosure, and nothing has changed when it comes to White theories of domination: Whites improve and save what brown people cannot manage for themselves. Whites civilize. Whites legalize, they put the papers in order. Remember - the Lenni Lenape, the Shawnee, the Micmac, the Arapaho, the Algonquin, the Haudenosaunee, the Tsalagi, the Utes, the Comanche, the Pawnee, the Seminoles, the Lakota did not have paper titles to their land. The Whites had all the papers. And they still have them. Even today, it takes papers to belong to a First Nation, and papers to live on reservation land. And it takes just a few papers to strip mine and pollute that pittance of leftover land...


Only thirty seven years ago, the Supreme Court managed to extend long understood privacy rights, following a chain of precedent extending back into the early days of the Republic, to a woman's self-possession. Last week, the assclowns of the Oklahoma state government discovered, ex nihilo, that women in fact and law need a doctor to rape them by violation with instruments before they can exercise those rights to self-possession and privacy. Let's repeat: in Oklahoma, a woman has to endure object rape, and then get permission papers, before she can exercise her own privacy.

What a truly progressive, modern age we live in. Surely, Barack Obama heralded the coming of hope and - fuck it, I don't even have enough snark left in me to continue the thought...

Apr 27, 2010

Prepare to Walk Away, Now


h/t John Smart


"The state can't give you freedom, and the state can't take it away. You're born with it, like your eyes, like your ears. Freedom is something you assume, then you wait for someone to try to take it away. The degree to which you resist is the degree to which you are free."

~ Utah Phillips

M.I.A, Born Free from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.

Apr 26, 2010

Some More Love

Dispatch From the Militarized Death State

"CHICAGO – Two Illinois lawmakers say violence has become so rampant in Chicago that the National Guard must be called in to help.

Chicago Democratic Reps. John Fritchey and LaShawn Ford made a public plea to Gov. Pat Quinn on Sunday to deploy troops.

The request comes amid a recent surge in violent crime, including a night last week that saw seven people killed and 18 wounded, mostly by gunfire.

Fritchey says Chicago has had 113 homicide victims this year. He says the police department has done a commendable job, but its resources are stretched thin.

Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis says he appreciates the lawmakers' frustration and willingness to help, but doubts the National Guard is the best answer.

A message left for Quinn wasn't returned Sunday."

A small number of poor people, living under the death state, gather into criminal syndicates to fight for control of the dregs of the drug trade, working for fabulously wealthy crime lords in a pyramid scheme to make Goldman Sachs and Amway proud. Amid that violence, other poor people kill each other in the urban pressure cooker of the stratified, caste and class ridden death culture. Some, not content with impoverished enfranchisement, seek redress through re-appropriation. Or vanish into narcotic escapism.

Solution, as proposed by government apparatchiks?

Militarize the urban environment.

America, fuck yeah!

PS: the Pentagon and DARPA already have cyberwarfare planning in the works, y'know, for security from domestic threats to order.

Apr 25, 2010

Some Love

A Few Words, A Tremendous Capture of Meaning

A bit back, I wrote,

"To take power, a person has to preserve it, hold on to it. Holding power does not follow from mere intent, from the desire. A man with power enforces it. He employs others as instruments, shaping their loyalties to his ends. Whether deft or clumsy, he uses their willingness to obey as an extension of his person. To the extent that some one or many obey him, his personhood increases. He inhabits their obedience, expanding the scope of his efficacy. They become extensions of his desire.

Perhaps, in the service of his ends, they fulfill some of their desires. Or come to identify with his as if their own. But they must yield some portion of themselves, and their labor, in order to increase his.

For one to rule, others must submit.

To wit: to preserve power, the holder of it must prevent the liberation of others. This specific relation of one to another obligates those who obey to defer the fullness of their desires, that those they serve may attempt a greater portion of living."

I struggled some, in finding the way in which I could best convey both ends of the obedience-enforcement spectrum.

Rob Payne, in the latest Dead Horse essay, has found a formula which hits the mark better than I:

"...Western Culture is a recipe culture. When we learn how to do something we don’t have to understand what we are doing or why we just know that if we follow the steps in the recipe we will get the desired results."

Apr 24, 2010

A Question Which Answers Itself

Why do MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe spend so much time and copy on the shenanigans of white, angsty Christian boomers and know nothing twenty somethings who gather in the thousands, when they could barely rustle up a stringer between the lot of them, to cover the age, race, creed, sexuality and language spanning gatherings of hundreds of thousands, and millions?

Let's ask that question again:

Why do corporate media conglomerates - owned by defense, energy, entertainment, real estate, insurance and banking combines - spend so much time and copy covering the minor protests of misdirected angry white middle class antagonists who agitate for reductions on the tax burdens of corporations whilst clinging to a nationalist and militarist disciplinary state (maintained to punish domestic and foreign brown people) when these corporate behemoths could barely rustle up a stringer between the lot of them to cover the insurrectionary, anti-imperial, anti-corporate mass gatherings, often organized by anarchists and leftists, of protest against wars, border control and globalization?

Answers itself.

Apr 23, 2010

If You Have Any Doubt About The Wrongness

...that Facebook represents:

Down the Rabbit Hole

A rogue nuclear state violates international agreement and its own peace accords, committing war crimes in the name of internal security, whilst the grand poobah of an ancient nation condemns the use of nuclear weapons and nuclear terrorism as an affront to philanthropy and religion.

The US government, along with its western allies, will chastise and sanction the former, while it moves to support and demonstrate solidarity with the latter, right?

Senator Chuck, Democrat, representing New Amsterdam Banking and Trust, will demand that the President stop the counter productive posturing and show fealty to that august ancient nation, to its leader's call to condemn war crimes and terrorism, n'est-ce pas?

Don't count on it.

h/t Juan Cole

Sixty Minute Assassinations

When Art Silber and Chris Floyd call the US a death state, they don't play footloose with the language:

"WASHINGTON — In coming years, President Obama will decide whether to deploy a new class of weapons capable of reaching any corner of the earth from the United States in under an hour and with such accuracy and force that they would greatly diminish America’s reliance on its nuclear arsenal.

Yet even now, concerns about the technology are so strong that the Obama administration has acceded to a demand by Russia that the United States decommission one nuclear missile for every one of these conventional weapons fielded by the Pentagon. That provision, the White House said, is buried deep inside the New Start treaty that Mr. Obama and President Dmitri A. Medvedev signed in Prague two weeks ago.

Called Prompt Global Strike, the new weapon is designed to carry out tasks like picking off Osama bin Laden in a cave, if the right one could be found; taking out a North Korean missile while it is being rolled to the launch pad; or destroying an Iranian nuclear site — all without crossing the nuclear threshold. In theory, the weapon will hurl a conventional warhead of enormous weight at high speed and with pinpoint accuracy, generating the localized destructive power of a nuclear warhead."


So, Imperial Barack arrogates the power of a fiat execution. Then he approves the production of murder tech so nasty that the Russians want the Death State to cough up a damned nuke for every one it builds.

Sarah Palin probably loves it. I hear the moose and wolves recognize her by scent now, in Alaska - and run. She could bring aerial death to a whole generation of ungulates and pack hunters.

But, what of our dear friends, the professional progressives?

Nary a word, as of this hour. Except for Lady Huffington, who definitely puts the buzzkill on the many swooners who graze at her trough:

"In fact, the president is on track to spend more on defense, in real dollars, than any other president has in one term of office since WWII. In that time we've had Korea, Vietnam, the massive military buildup under Reagan, and Bush's funded-by-tax-cuts invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, but in the most trying economic times since the Depression, Obama's out-gunning them all."

Hear, hear! - for those words of truth.

Worry not, though - Chuck Schumer's on the case.  Er, on Imperial Barack's case, for not cooing softly enough at Bonny Prince Bibi. Yep, giving billions in military and financial support to the Israeli garrison state, plus a blind eye to its myriad war crimes, plus tacit and explicit approval of its ongoing 21st Century colonization and expulsion program equals counter-productive posturing, against Israel. So says Senator Chuck, Democrat, representing the New Amsterdam Banking and Trust.

So much irony, that.

Still, I wonder how the Death State will pay for all this once and future mayhem. Seems Obama fibbed a bit, about the historic health care reform legislation giant fucking hand out to insurance companies. Seems he and his progressive shills fudged the numbers a bit:

"WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law will increase the nation's health care tab instead of bringing costs down, government economic forecasters concluded Thursday in a sobering assessment of the sweeping legislation.

A report by economic experts at the Health and Human Services Department said the health care remake will achieve Obama's aim of expanding health insurance — adding 34 million Americans to the coverage rolls.

But the analysis also found that the law falls short of the president's twin goal of controlling runaway costs, raising projected spending by about 1 percent over 10 years. That increase could get bigger, however, since the report also warned that Medicare cuts in the law may be unrealistic and unsustainable, forcing lawmakers to roll them back.

The mixed verdict for Obama's signature issue is the first comprehensive look by neutral experts.

In particular, the warnings about Medicare could become a major political liability for Democratic lawmakers in the midterm elections. The report projected that Medicare cuts could drive about 15 percent of hospitals and other institutional providers into the red, "possibly jeopardizing access" to care for seniors."

The boondoggle will cost a whole lot of treasure. It will "insure" a bunch of poor blokes, by making them captive customers. It will hand predatory corporations (sorry for the redudancy, there) a giant kit of cash, with which to buy better two party clients.

And one day, that bill will hit accounts payable.

I wonder - which people will have to cough up their lives to the Death State, when that bill comes due?

You think Uncle will renege on  its obligation to WellPoint and McDonnel-Douglass-Boeing-ExxonMobil-SAIC-Halliburton-Chevron-ADM-Walmart-Yale-Harvard-TimeWarner-Disney?

Or will it continue to do what it does best?

Apr 22, 2010

Where I Wade Into The Shark Tank

I have a generally negative impression of middle class, white, wage-and-power parity feminism. The whole party line smacks of reaction. I don't mean that these sort of feminists have regressive ideas. I mean only that they conceive of their points in reaction to business and political organizations which will continue to chew up poor people close to home, will continue to grind up resources (but now with shiny greenwashing), will continue to bomb or excuse the bombing of poor people somewhere else, the world over.

They react to power and patriarchy by treating access to the throne room as a magical curative for the problems which arise from the use of thrones themselves.

Forgive me (truthfully, because I fully admit to the exponentially increasing possibility of my own errors) if I offend, but what's the fucking point of wage parity or access to high office, or the board room, if the fucking organizational machinery still eats up the lives and labor of everyone who doesn't have legacy or merit access - when that same machinery shits out their living deaths as alienation, isolation and captive markets?

Why should I care if Betty so and so gets elected, if she's just going to end up drawing a wage from an imperial war machine?

Why should I give a damn if Marjorie whomever has a huge salary and bonus package when her business model still depends on her shilling lies for oil barons and the enthroned princes of the war industry?

On this account, perhaps the great, the inestimable Red Emma ought have the last word:

"The misfortune of woman is not that she is unable to do the work of a man, but that she is wasting her life-force to outdo him, with a tradition of centuries which has left her physically incapable of keeping pace with him. Oh, I know some have succeeded, but at what cost, at what terrific cost! The import is not the kind of work woman does, but rather the quality of the work she furnishes. She can give suffrage or the ballot no new quality, nor can she receive anything from it that will enhance her own quality. Her development, her freedom, her independence, must come from and through herself. First, by asserting herself as a personality, and not as a sex commodity. Second, by refusing the right to anyone over her body; by refusing to bear children, unless she wants them; by refusing to be a servant to God, the State, society, the husband, the family, etc., by making her life simpler, but deeper and richer. That is, by trying to learn the meaning and substance of life in all its complexities, by freeing herself from the fear of public opinion and public condemnation. Only that, and not the ballot, will set woman free, will make her a force hitherto unknown in the world, a force for real love, for peace, for harmony; a force of divine fire, of life-giving; a creator of free men and women."


A Brief Note to the Oil Generations

...which have subsisted fully on the fat of the disciplinary state, the extraction-enforcement regime, the depoliticized dregs of the New Deal:

Dear Homo Petroleumicus,

Fuck you.

The fighting unions, the reds and the anarchists, the labor agitators and general strikers fought the state and its funding corporations to their knees. They didn't win. But they won a respite, a break in a five thousand year project of  systematic oppression.

You handed it back to the bankers, the oil men, the insurance companies and the defense contractors. You weighed out the drug war, and decided that if the blacks couldn't behave within the narrow confines of their enfranchised impoverishment, more prisons, more cops and more lawn order would do the trick. Same too for your own sons and daughters.

Sacrifices on the altars of your convenience, on your petty security. For green lawns and Sunday brunches.

You weighed out the advantages, and never looked back.

You gave Kennedy, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, the Bushes and Obama the moral whitewash, allowing them to savage the Commons and call it progress. You consistently supported candidates and policies who undid all that the reds and the other misbehaving misfits ground out their lives to defend. You gave your imprimatur to Lebanon, Grenada, El Salvador, Colombia, Panama, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, East Timor, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Balochistan, Kurdistan, Iran, Yemen and Afghanistan every fucking time you re-elected and refinanced the architects of those war actions. You traded out liberty and vigilance for security and and some belly fat.

You turned the forests into clear cuts and mountaintops into strip mines. You literally raped the earth, and you wear it around your fattened middles, riding that excess on fat cars and fat asses.

You pillaged the schools and built shopping malls. You broke the farmers' backs, and you got cheap sugar, suburbs and poisonous syrup of corn.

You squeeze the last gasp out of Medicare and Social Security, whilst one half of you bitch about new taxes and new costs and the other half tells us to suck it up and take the lesser evil.

You raised two generations of moral nitwits. You hooked them on bad programming, bad pharma, bad literature and bad beer.

You suck and I'm tired of you.

Fuck off, already.

~ Jack

PS - Yes, I know this is scribbled in broad strokes. If it doesn't apply to you, don't get your druthers up...

Apr 21, 2010

Today in Swooning Gobbledygook

"Obamaism at its core is largely about bottom-up change rather than top-down dictates. The reason: federal silo'ed programs and one-size-fits-all solutions don't work well anymore. The key to building new, innovation-driven programs, especially to turn around our economy, is finding, nurturing and scaling the best private and public outcomes at the point of effective delivery - in regions and communities.

Growth, job creation and shared prosperity lies in creating opportunities for entrepreneurs and small companies to find financing, university researchers to find private collaborators and suppliers to find customers in virtual or real networks outside the DC Beltway. That's where we netted 40 million new jobs from 1980-2005, from young companies less than 5 years old.

Hence the unheralded Obama focus on bottom-up investments in US long-term competitiveness in energy and Electricity 2.0, broadband infrastructure and education reform to fertilize our future..."


I bet the assclown wrote this with a straight face and a tear in his rosy tinted eye.

Apr 20, 2010

A Reminder to the Shitheads...

...who cannot differentiate Jews from Zionists:

...and to the hasbara provocateurs, tough shit. .

h/t the inestimable JSF

SEC Covering Its Ass, Gaming for Imperial Barack?

Interesting speculation:

"Henry Blodget (yes, that Henry of the you’re-so-fired-for-a-tech-bubble-scam) is now a cited blogger on business matters. He speculates that the SEC surprise, unannounced suit against Goldman was timed and framed to obscure a scathing internal SEC review of its failure to act or investigate documented ponzi schemes going back to 1997. Speculative. But such craven, self-serving actions are a commonplace in D.C.
Reuters doesn’t go that far but also declares the SEC is using Goldman. They note clumsy efforts to scramble after the meltdown and pursue firms have been swatted down by courts and judges. Some judicial dismissals of SEC’s after-the-act ham fisted enforcement are scathing.

Pundits intone that SEC’s Goldman suit will bolster significantly Dodd’s the toothless and greatly watered down ‘financial reform’ bill. Republicans didn’t get the memo and have better focus group research. There’s always a tension in cynical D.C. between doing something or doing just enough to keep an issue alive for the next campaign. In our current meme environment, it’s even more stark. Actual achievement in any legislation is irrelevant to the perception in hyper-real twit-like consumptions. Thus, the astoundingly weak Dodd bill is already being amped up like a HiWatt stack as radical, massive ‘reform.’

Of all the people forced to chow down on that thin gruel, how bitter it must taste to the Left [sic], Progressives and Others Who Know Better. Again."


As an unrepentant cynic, that makes sense to me. Republicans panther stalked a health care reform bill mandatory transfer of wealth to insurance companies that they would've supported under the War Hero. The Dems, thankful for the GOP's Circus of Intentional Stupid, passed it with "historic game changey hopeyness."

(To idgits with the Palin brigade, none dare call it "socialism." But, that mayhap another day...)

So, I guess I cannot feign surprise at the above surmise. Let's wager that the SEC scapegoats a fund manager and a few veeps, now that Obama's vaunted moral man has come to save the Gold-Sach's day. (Gitmo still has its doors open, so what's a moral man to do? Help keep the torturers at G-S in fancies?)

And what's a Nobel Laureate to do? Sign on to Dodd's house of cards and wait for the Circus of Intentional Stupid to ratchet up the rhetoric again?


Bugsy Siegel Sez

"Speaking at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem before relatives of fallen soldiers, Peres added, 'A threat to the peace of the Jewish people always carries the danger of turning into a threat to the civilized world as a whole.' "

Translation:  "We Zionists get what we want [dead Palestinians, Isfahan irradiated, silenced Israeli dissidents, continued colonial expulsions], or else we force the Americans to bomb the universe."

Molly Sez

Regarding Earth Day and corporate greenulism:

"I think the key word in all the above is the term "expand." I have no doubt that certain important reforms can be accomplished even in our present political and economic system. Still, if we are to lead a life that is both sustainable and also humanly fulfilling I cannot see how this can be done when we are burdened with an economic system whose very nature demands continual expansion. Neither can I see how this can be done when this drive is mirrored and quite often exceeded by centralized government and its planning. Both the corporations and government presuppose the division of society into order givers and order takers. Any reforms that might come about by their efforts will see the costs borne chiefly by the order takers and the benefits reaped disproportionately by the order givers. That's the way it will be."

Right on, Molly. Right on.

It bears continued repeating: we cannot expect liberty or liberation from an economic system organized around the satisfaction of the needs of command hierarchies. We cannot expect any reforms of that system to intentionally challenge those command groupuscules which "give orders" to the "order takers."

We cannot expect that people who extract labor and resources, as wealth, and who use some share of that extraction to enforce the arrangement, to give up the good ship lollipop.

They play to win.

Perhaps, so should we...

The Sad Truths Cassandra Tells

Vital reading:


Apr 19, 2010

Fifteen Years Later

The President claims the power for which the State killed Tim McVeigh when he tried his hand at it, on his near lonesome. Omnibus Crime bill, passed. The surveillance state grows like mold. Repeal of Glass-Steagall, check. Commons and civilian killing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - done. Social safety net - unraveled. Children starving blockade of Iraq, accomplished. Dubya, Dick, Yoo and Rummy out golfing, professing, chopping wood, collecting speaking fees and face-hunting, with impunity. Colossal hand out of stolen labor value, to insurance companies, banks, pharma companies, defense contractors and trading houses - well under way...

...What did the Neetch warn about taking shots at princes?

Apr 18, 2010

Gaming the System

People accustomed to controlling others develop the habits of power. It should come as no surprise, then, when famed pragmatists of power propose legislation which will enable the federal, state and municipal governments to identify their subjects "biometrically."

Senators Chuck Schumer (D-New Amsterdam Banking and Trust) and Lindsay Graham (R-Confederate South Carolina) have cosponsored legislation which will create a "new Social Security card [that can] be swiped by employers through a machine to match a fingerprint or some other personal biometric feature against data stored on computers. Those who refuse to cooperate or otherwise knowingly hire unauthorized workers would face fines and even prison."

As a reminder, the State of Florida has developed a software program which will help officers of the State "to predict crime by young delinquents, putting potential offenders under specific prevention and education programs."

And Barack Obama has arrogated the authority to propose and order fiat executions, chooses to prosecute whistleblowers, continues assaults on privacy, whilst all the while defending Bush era invasive surveillance.

I won't suggest causative correlation, or sweeping conspiracy.

We don't need weak rhetorical tricks to relate the continuing encroachments upon a dwindling set of civil liberties, and the Commons, by the various power factions now ascendant.

We don't have to drown ourselves in the rabbit hole of conspiracy to see clearly that these encroachments occur routinely, and with little institutional and popular opposition.

Although the various institutions and power blocs often compete for control of population groups and captive markets, with varying degrees of success, they nonetheless share a similar and common structure.

Whether organized as states, or as corporations, command hierarchies form the dominant kind of  organization for accumulation (and therefore, power) in the US (and in Europe, Japan and coastal China). These hierarchies may have a few chief operators, with a governing board and a stable bureaucracy, or a small number of elected officials with a permanent superstructure of executors and enforcers.

They might have efficient managerial cultures, or organize towards competitive and internecine power maneuvering - but abiding in all of them remains a single, viral constant: the organization's command structure provides a means for the extraction of labor and resources from the environment whilst continuing ongoing efforts to reduce the likelihood that those doing the labor, or having the earth extracted out from underneath them, will resist their oppression.

Extraction, coupled with enforcement.

As technology (in regions with intensive "development," first; but also along those hybrid zones where "core" preys upon "periphery") allows new means of control and resistance to power, the various competing state and corporate factions must either keep up, or lose out on the ability to take value while preventing resistance.

So that what we see, in these latest efforts (outlined above, but also including private data mining regimes and corporate cooperation with protective governments), we ought understand as gaming the system.

As the rhizomation of information and communication proceeds (especially via the confederated data sets of the internet, despite strong corporation/state presence; and also in the less governable social spaces of intentional community, protest and illegal immigration), the various competing factions must attempt this system gaming, or else lose their capacity to dominate the cultural inheritance (the message, if you will) by which they constantly affirm and reinforce their authority.

If the various governments and corporations fail to constrain, co-opt,* attack or eliminate these ungovernable social loci, they allow resistance an opportunity to spread.

If those who labor for them begin to accept the validity of resistance, or believe that they can gain advantage from the weakening of control, political and economic ruling parties run increased risks of diminishing returns. In other words, the more wealth they must spend on enforcement, the less they invest in extraction.

Seen from that perspective, efforts to game the system make sense. If the various factions can embed enough mechanisms for control, and pre-planned disruptions of extra-systemic cooperation, before a populace stirs with resistance, enforcement (which includes isolation of insurrectionary elements, and their managed ostracism from the body politic) will not obstruct or degrade extraction.

* - see also, http://wunderkammermag.com/politics-and-society/trouble-service-liberalism

h/t DCBlogger @ Corrente

Red Emma Said

"...Indeed, conceit, arrogance and egotism are the essentials of patriotism. Let me illustrate. Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot consider themselves nobler, better, grander, more intelligent than those living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others. The inhabitants of the other spots reason in like manner, of course, with the result that from early infancy the mind of the child is provided with blood-curdling stories about the Germans, the French, the Italians, Russians, etc. When the child has reached manhood he is thoroughly saturated with the belief that he is chosen by the Lord himself to defend his country against the attack or invasion of any foreigner..."


But what for, this nativist conceit? To what ends?

The nation itself, that ill defined and ruthless thing?

Or, more to the point - those who define it, and run it for their own emolument.

After the Fall

I imagine that the Reaction storyline, following the Slide, will resemble something like: Teh Gays, along with the Negro Liberal Usurper, in coordination with the Godless, the Muzlims and the Joos, destroyed the Great and Holy Nation with their Jooey Negro Turrist Anti-Amurricanism.

That Barack Obama continues the Reagan program with a zeal unmatched even by Reagan, that Zionist Israelophiles and Wall Street Bankers do not represent every Jew on the planet, that atheists can only manage to agree on not believing in God, and then barely, that most of the world's Muslims remain subject to US client tyrannies and have little power over their own lives, and that gay folk  do a whole lot more than fuck each other, and fuck horses so rarely as to equal never, still long suffering routine abuse at the hands of the state - this won't matter.

Reactions need domestic enemies.

And we lefties have walked into that trap, hiding behind the umbrella of liberalism and the excesses of the socially tolerant, economically murderous liberal capitalist state.

h/t Corrente for the link

Apr 17, 2010

Conjunctions of Thought V (Tying It All Together)

Human Poverty Index (2002).

Purchasing Power, by country (2002).


Conjunctions of Thought IV

War deaths, by nation (compiled 2003; yup, pre-Iraq invasion)


Conjunctions of Thought III

Arms exports, by nation (2003)

Military spending, by country (2002; pre-GWoT)


Conjunctions of Thought II

Which States are the most likely to be involved in wars involving thousands, tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of deaths, again?

(the map provides an overview of oil imports, by country)

Conjunctions of Thought

"The laws of most nations protect property fiercely, the individual capriciously and society scarcely at all. A single murder is prosecuted; mass murder is the legitimate business of states. Only when these acts are given names – genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes of aggression - do we begin to understand their moral significance.

The same applies to nature. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 criminalises anyone who “intentionally picks” a single flower from a protected plant(9). But you can grub up as many as you like as long as it’s “an incidental result of a lawful operation.” Pick a buttonhole and you could find yourself in the dock. Plough out the whole habitat and the law can’t touch you."

George Monbiot

"Never adequately explained in the midst of all the talk of social contracts and the legitimacy conferred by elections, however, is why one human institution is allowed to violate the basic norms of right and wrong, "murder" to you or me becoming mere "collateral damage" if carried out with enough brutality by a government agent. If children are taught early on that consent, not violence and coercion, is to govern human relations, why does that lesson not apply to government? What is the moral and philosophical case for exempting any subset of humanity from the rules by which the rest must live?

The state, envisioned as that great mechanism for promoting human cooperation and betterment, is -- outside the realm of textbook -- in reality clearly anti-social, its very essence the "flagrant negation of humanity," as Russian radical Mikhail Bakunin once wrote. The government's de facto right to violate universal notions of individual morality is, Bakunin argued, both "its supreme duty and its greatest virtue" in the eyes of those who support it..."

Charles Davis

Or, as a friend once said to me, "If you or I dump a gallon of benzene in the river, we're going to jail. If Dupont or Dow dump ten thousand gallons, they get a tax deductible fine."

Oh, Come On

I have no truck with the RCC or holocaust deniers, but come the fuck on already:

"BERLIN (AP) - A German court has convicted ultraconservative British Bishop Richard Williamson of incitement for denying the Holocaust in a television interview.

A court in the Bavarian city of Regensburg on Friday found Williamson guilty of incitement for saying in an interview with Swedish television that he did not believe Jews were killed in gas chambers during World War II."


On Wasting Votes

Recently, fwoan wrote an excellent take down of electoral lesser-evilism.

Starting right out of the gate, fwoan writes, "As our country gears up for the election cycle again, we will be subjected to the tired campaigns of status quo politicians explaining to us that this year’s election is “the most important in our history” as we’re told every election cycle to make sure true democracy is stifled by inhibiting actual choice – increasing their wealth while decreasing ours."

Immediately, he* tackles a core problem with the American electoral project. Every two, four or six years bundlers, fund raisers, PACs, interests groups and campaigns invite the electorate to pick from a narrow slate of candidates who will, almost invariably, use their positions to enact enforceable policy with results that hurt - in a very real way - the voters.

These candidates, with rare exceptions, belong to the capitalist class, either as owners or as managerial professionals. Because they can afford to run, or have access to the funding which the majority of citizens cannot obtain, they enter the lists ahead of the large number of filing candidates who do not gain media coverage.

They possess a sympathetic hearing from the press, known as "viability" in electoral parlance. Let's gain some clarity - a "viable" candidate comes in one flavor only: he or she has sponsors. He or she can win.

Let's muse on that. A viable candidate has the access, power, position, resources and sponsorship to beat other candidates who also have access, power, position, resources and sponsorship. Before we treat this as a corruption of the original intent, let's remember that Thom. Paine languished in a French prison (pondering the abolition of private property) and John Madison wrote the Constitution with an eye to the continued power of the landed and mercantile elite.

Fwoan soon continues with, "How are we to ever institute social justice if we can never move beyond those who would sacrifice their sisters and brothers in the name of capital? I propose that if you don’t already, please vote third party!"

And while I think the invitation to voting third party channels involvement towards a dead end, fwoan uses the next several paragraphs to outline the relationships between struggle and social perception, keeping always in mind the admirable project of toppling the political economy which rests on the capitalized one. He* unravels the mystical appeal to a lesser evil, with alacrity, here:

The fight to win a more just society is not a fight that can be won in the short-term but rather, has to be part of an organized effort. Those who would say that voting third party only empowers the Republicans (And you don’t want to see a President Palin do you?) are missing the point! While yes, the Democrats are less conservative than the Republicans – both parties are on a slow crawl to the right. In that crawl, eventually candidates like Palin will become the norm, and later still will be considered progressive when compared to candidates of the future. I already outlined how Obama has been doing everything he can to empower conservative talking points as if McCain had been the one that was actually elected in 2008. The point is to upset and destroy this rightward crawl, not empower it by choosing what you perceive to be the lesser of two evils! But let’s humor this argument. Let’s say a mass movement to vote third party only splinters the traditionally Democratic vote and allows Republicans an easy victory. This would mean that the Democrats would suffer overwhelming losses, and Democrats are in the business of winning elections just as the Republicans are too, so a loss like this would not be something they would enjoy, correct? As often as they like to make us think otherwise, the Democrats didn’t become one of the strongest parties in our country by being stupid so it seems reasonable that they would study the election results and find the reasons for such a splintering of their electorate. When faced with demands for a party that doesn’t support wars, enable theft by the rich, allow discrimination, etc, the Democrats could choose to continue to lose elections, shift to the right even faster hoping to take away Republican voters (which worked disastrously for them in the first half of the last decade), or shift back to the left to earn their electorate back and gain new voters."

And on this I must part ways with him,* however estimable the reasons provided.  Over the four or so decades of my life, I have never seen the Democratic Party lurch leftward after an electoral defeat. The ratchet only works to the benefit of the ownership class because their membership controls the means by which ideas disseminate, the banks through which investment passes and the organs through which politicians finance their campaigns.

An electoral defeat for the Democrats won't result in a reformist party (and fwoan rejects a reformist party as a goal, rightly). It won't result in leftist or liberal programs, because the Democratic Party does not represent the constituencies of "the left." It neuters them. The Democratic Party represents that faction of the powerful who prefer to use social spectacular means (see, the Spectacle) to maintain the status quo, in occasional opposition to the broadly militarist-nationalist (still spectacular, all the same) GOP.

Casting votes and campaigning for third party candidates won't undermine the power of those who've accumulated control of the American economy, and the protective government which shields it from revolt. It will rather, I believe, isolate insurrectionary population groups from each other, in piddling factions and sects, providing easy targets for political machination and domestic anxiety.

Instead of raising consciousness, especially in the context of the American system, it will create pockets of disaffected sectarians who will inevitably retreat into defense of their positions, even as the spectacular media consigns them to mocking irrelevance, or focuses on them as examples of the dangers of "extremism."

Instead of encouraging an uprising, or new models for cooperation, working towards third (or fourth, or fifth) party electoral efforts will waste labor on a project which cannot but isolate its proponents, because it simultaneously affirms the electioneering, whilst guaranteeing its members will only suffer defeat.

* - a generic grammatical assumption on my part

Apr 16, 2010

Why Surfing The Intertubes Can Lead...

...to bouts of depression, especially when wondering about the world into which you brought children:

"...the Florida State Department of Juvenile Justice will use analysis software to predict crime by young delinquents, putting potential offenders under specific prevention and education programs. Goodbye, human rights!

They will use this software on juvenile delinquents, using a series of variables to determine the potential for these people to commit another crime. Depending on this probability, they will put them under specific re-education programs. Deepak Advani—vice president of predictive analytics at IBM—says the system gives 'reliable projections' so governments can take 'action in real time' to 'prevent criminal activities?'..."


The Gall, the Chutzpah

"...We, the undersigned, have traveled to Israel over the years with The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). We brought with us our decades of military experience and, following unrestricted access to Israel's civilian and military leaders, came away with the unswerving belief that the security of the State of Israel is a matter of great importance to the United States and its policy in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean. A strong, secure Israel is an asset upon which American military planners and political leaders can rely. Israel is a democracy - a rare and precious commodity in the region - and Israel shares our commitment to freedom, personal liberty and rule of law.

Throughout our travels and our talks, the determination of Israelis to protect their country and to pursue a fair and workable peace with their neighbors was clearly articulated. Thus we view the current tension between the United States and Israel with dismay and grave concern that political differences may be allowed to outweigh our larger mutual interests.

As American defense professionals, we view events in the Middle East through the prism of American security interests..."


h/t ICH

Vicariously Awesome

Apr 15, 2010

Scylla Over Here, Charybdis Over There


I get the argument. Sort of.


Short version: Afghan war = bad because Americans don't have jobs, which could be created if only that Afghan war money was spent on job creation.

Kept within the confines of its own argument, the position seems reasonable enough. Don't drop bombs over there, build factories and whatnot over here.

Except - it just flat ignores the underlying contradictions.

Let's say we*  "get out of Afghanistan."

What then?

Will McDonnell-Douglas-Boeing-ExxonMobile-TimeWarner-GE-Disney stop occupying the middle marches of the North American continent? Will these leviathans stop extracting resources from underneath the feet of brown people everywhere else?

Who will control these "jobs created" by transferring payroll receipts to these State contracted private firms? Will Uncle tell GE how to set its wage scale? What about Wally World? Do we really want to have Uncle tax us to create low paying jobs for those of us not currently shit-stuck in a crap job, so that ADM et al can strip off the greater share of our labor value, to then buy up more politicians, who will undoubtedly trick up a war somewhere else?

Who will derive the lion share of the profit, and the political benefits of that accumulation, after most of the labor value gets skimmed and extracted?

How will ending the occupation of Afghanistan prevent these same corporate behemoths from using that power and new accumulation to find a better military playground, one not tied up so intimately with imperial graveyards, opium and "pathologically unconquerable" tribal recidivists?

I should also note that the appeal to "jobs creation" ignores the most obvious, discernible and easily recognizable problem with occupying Afghanistan - we* kill them, loot their land, bomb their homes and imprison those stupid enough to speak up about it. We* turn our neighbors and children into murderers, to do so.

Ending occupation of Afghanistan seems like a no brainer. I get the argument. But, let's not take all that "saved money" just to strengthen corporations at home, under the false flag of "jobs creation," eh?

* - heh, the conceit, when the word really ought to read as They, as in the guys who occupy and buy the offices, sit at the desks, issue the orders, outline the quarterly estimates, determine recruitment needs, coordinate procurement with delivery, convince poor kids to don uniforms and kill other poor people who speak English and their own native tongues...

Public Witnesses

Uri Blau:

And Anat Kamm:

(photos from Haaretz)

Sample of Uri's work:




Apr 14, 2010

Things I learned today

"It is sometimes believed that nuclear weapons contribute to maintaining a balance between super-powers, making the international system more stable. In fact, there have been many nuclear near-accidents throughout the Cold War and since then, due to systems’ malfunctioning or human errors. Maintaining nuclear arsenals in place only increases the chance that a real accident will one day happen.

For instance, during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, the world came very close to global nuclear war, averted thanks to a Soviet submarine commander, Vasili Arkhipov, who countermanded an order to fire a nuclear-tipped torpedo at US warships off Cuba. US destroyers whose orders were to enforce a naval quarantine did not know that the Soviet submarines sent to protect their ships were carrying nuclear weapons and fired at the submarines to force them to the surface. The officers in Arkhipov’s submarine thought this meant World War III might have started, and the first captain said 'We’re going to blast them now! We will die, but we will sink them all. We will not disgrace our navy.' But Arkhipov calmed him down and torpedoes were not launched: in the words of Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, ' The lesson from this is that a guy called Vasili Arkhipov saved the world.' ”

Wow. Literally, one man staved off great gobs of cosmic level lethal stupidity. One man.


"The New START Treaty, on its part, calls for two kinds of reductions: nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles. 

Warheads are the part of a missile or bomb that contains the nuclear explosive charge, and currently, the US has about 2,200 strategic warheads and Russia 2,600. Under New START, both must reduce their arsenals to 1,550 deployed warheads by 2017. Media reports have emphasized that the treaty will “slash nuclear stockpiles” by about 30% compared to the Moscow Treaty signed by Bush in 2002 that imposed a limit of 2,200 warheads. 

The problem with this 30% figure is that it is wrong: the real warhead reductions will be less than that, in fact, probably about 10-15%. This is because of a special counting rule in the treaty by which all warheads associated with one bomber aircraft are counted as one. For example, if an American bomber carries 20 nuclear bombs, that counts as only one warhead, not 20. Therefore, it’s easy to see that the 1,550 limit will in fact “hide” many more actual warheads. How many exactly will depend on how the US and Russia allocate their cuts among submarines, land-based missiles and bombers, but estimates are that when they reach the limit of “1,550” in 2017, the US will in fact possess about 1,800 warheads and Russia slightly less than 2,200—reductions of about 13% compared to current arsenals, not 30%. 

In short, the treaty gives no incentive to get rid of nuclear bombs launched by bomber aircrafts and as such underestimates the real number of warheads deployed by both powers. Further, the treaty does not require that any warhead be destroyed: they are merely to be moved into storage, and could be brought back into operation eventually. And there is no requirement to remove the 200 US tactical nuclear weapons located in Europe.

Delivery vehicles are what brings the warheads to explode on the adversary’s territory in war and are of three kinds: bomber aircrafts, ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, land-based) and SLBMs (ballistic missiles launched by submarines). The treaty imposes a limit of 700 deployed delivery vehicles for each side. But here again, reductions are small: Russia currently has about 600, so it literally has nothing to do since it is already in compliance. The US has 798 and will have to reduce this by 12%, to 700."


Barack Obama, a charlatan imperial grifter? Whoddathunkit?

Gee, someone wants to bomb Iran...

...and drill for 3000 days worth of oil off of American coastlines.

Against the Electors

This one's for Poor Konrad, Captain Swing, the Ranters, Warsaw Mordechai, the Rebeccas, Captain Pouch, the LPM, Abahlali baseMjondolo, the MTST, Piper Hans, and the sisters and brothers in the banlieues, favelas, slums, ghettos, shanty towns, tent cities, barrios and inner cities everywhere.

Or for those not yet introduced to them...

Wherein I get to agree with Žižek...

...and don't blow vomitous effulgence all over my randomly ordered computer desk:

"One should resolutely reject the liberal-victimist ideology that reduces politics to avoiding the worst, to renouncing all positive projects and pursuing the least bad option. As Arthur Feldmann, a Viennese-Jewish writer, bitterly noted, the price we usually pay for survival is our life."


What I Actually Fear

That I've wasted my wife's time, or haven't loved her well enough. That those days when I've smeared my assholishness all over our little world will outweigh the days when I've figured out how to tease a smile out of her. That she made the wrong choice, in letting herself love me. That someone who would've allowed her greater freedom, shown her greater passion, and given her greater joy never got the chance because I came along.

That my children repeat my mistakes, or do harm to themselves trying to live up to my stupid expectations. That they ever, ever mistake my weaknesses for strengths. That they die without experiencing the first blush of attraction, the first kiss, the first stolen moment of lust and terrible, beautiful longing. That they meet bad lovers and don't know when to leave them. That they don't ever figure out their own expectations, their own joy, or how to walk away from assholes.

That my wife or kids die before me.

Heights. Spiders. Assholes in their cars, on cell phones, sucking on cancer sticks or shitty coffee, whilst ignoring those of us who run, walk or bicycle to wherever. Angry school yard bullies acting out their parents' misdeeds on mine own beloved offspring.

Do-gooders with police forces.

Dying before I've lived enough.

Dying alone.

Apr 13, 2010

Free Market of Fear: The Short List

Rachel Maddow wants me to fear the next Tim McVeigh.

Sean Hannity wants me to fear everyone who has skin darker than Catholic high school portrait Jesus.

Keith Olbermann wants me to fear a world without his voice reminding me to fear Sean Hannity.

Barack Obama really wants me to fear Iran, but not his nuclear saber rattling.

He also would like to remind the rest of you that he's got fiat execution powers.

Ezra Klein wants me terrified of a world where the hoi polloi make policy.

Revlon wants me to fear a world where my wife ages gracefully, or just ages at all.

Jenny Craig wants me afraid of body fat.

Sarah Palin wants me scared of the East Coast, California, the Pacific Northwest, Canada, Europe and Russia.

The creepy Shakescult wants me to shake in horror at loud white people with badly spelled signs.

Loud white people with badly spelled signs want me to fear a black planet.

Everyone at Fox News wants me to fear everything, but especially nebulously defined "socialism."

GE wants me to fear global warming that doesn't have GE as the "green" solution.

Alan Dershowitz desperately wants me afraid of Palestinians with ballot boxes.

The US Chamber of Commerce wants me to tremble at the thought of single payer.

The NYT wants me to fear a world where my cousins in the tribe don't shape the American view of Israel.

Michelle Malkin, ironically, wants me to fear people who look like her but don't have an Oberlin education.

Jim Cramer wants me to quake at the thought of a world without hedge funds.

Mitt Romney wants me to fear Romneycare, now that people call it Obamacare.

Dick Cheney just wants everyone to fear.

Glenn Beck would like me to fear a grand conspiracy, if only he could articulate his thoughts in coherent English.

Creationists want me to fear rational inquiry.

Evangelical atheists want me to fear creationists.

Homophobes, curiously, would like me afraid of man-horse sex.

Bestialitists, thankfully, have nothing to say.

Christianists think I ought to fear myself, my generative organs, desire, passion and wit.

The Vatican wants me to fear International Homesexual Paedophile Jewry.

Rush Limbaugh wants me to fear, loathe, hate and despise all the Mexican domestic staffers not currently dispensing illegal narcotics near the Florida coastline.

Rudy Giuliani still thinks I ought to worry about Nine Eleven.

The Partnership for a Drug Free America wants me terrified of ecstasy, self-abandon and chemical disobedience.

And my liberals friends want me afraid of the conservative ones who want me to fear the libertarians, who think I need a desperate, immediate education in terror, when it comes to the nine Marxists left in America...

Because reading Greenwald often leads to sadness...

...I have decided to make it your problem, too.

Glenn Greenwald trying hard not to take an Irish hammer to our knees:

"...As Katyal noted, Kagan relied upon the warning from Alexander Hamilton about a "feeble executive" that was beloved by Bush/Cheney legal theorists, and she hailed "strong, executive vigor."  On the legal spectrum, Kagan clearly sits on the end of strong assertions of executive authority -- perhaps on the far end, almost certainly much further than where Stevens falls.  It's perhaps unsurprising that a President -- such as Barack Obama -- would want someone on the Supreme Court who is quite deferential to executive authority.  But given that so many of the most important legal and Constitutional disputes center on the proper limits of executive power (including ones that remain to be decided from the Bush era), and that Kagan and her rulings will likely long outlast an Obama presidency (i.e., any pro-executive-power decisions she issues will apply to future George Bushes and Dick Cheneys), shouldn't these pro-executive-power views, by themselves, prompt serious reservations (if not outright opposition) among progressives?"

I guess, for me, the problem finds a simple equilibrium, when seen outside its own conditions (echoing Art Silber): anyone interested in attaining the office of the Presidency probably has a lot of bad habits, up to and exceeding the desire to write his name in blood all over the lives of millions make an historical splash of himself. Furthermore, anyone so inclined to claw his way to the top of this corporate-political heap probably has a number of hungry sponsors, in various boardrooms and chains of command.

En bref, the likelihood that we can discover a really bad motherfucker behind the veneer of civility worn by graspers after power approaches 1.

Can we expect much better from those they appoint to shore up the legitimacy of their choices?

Just Read It

Justin @ Americana.

A taste of the excellence:

"...That is demonstrates how f'ed up and arbitrary the sports media rules of moral behavior are. It's commendable, or at least not worth commenting on, for a man to subvert his humanity in becoming a brand. However, the admittedly reprehensibly humiliating and cheating on a spouse and entering consensual sexual relationships outside of wedlock garners fury and scorn even though the number of people affected by those transgressions are infinitely smaller than the corporate exploitations Tiger has put a friendly face on for years. And if you think my riff about ‘subverting his humanity’ is hyperbole, then spend a few minutes imagining yourself making that Nike Ad..."

On Taking the Spectacle Too Seriously

A New Hampshire woman could hear from the family of the man she was convicted of running down and killing after he was said to have taunted her for being a New York Yankees fan.

Forty-five-year-old Ivonne Hernandez is in court Tuesday to be sentenced for a December conviction of second degree murder for the May 2008 death of 29-year-old Matthew Beaudoin in a Nashua parking lot.

Police have the dispute outside a bar started as an exchange about the Yankees and Red Sox, when people in the crowd made comments such as "Yankees suck."

Hernandez testified she was terrified because Beaudoin and others pounded on her windows when she made a comment about how many baseball World Series the Yankees had won compared to the Red Sox."

The Urine Leaker


h/t JSF

My own minor comment: Did all the real journalists decide to work for Al Jazeera?

Apr 12, 2010

Summing up a trend...

...Al Schumman (of SMBIVA) recently commented that "Democrats are savvy consumers. When they're warming up for turning the state loose on a bunch of yahoos, they insist on the very best rationales. Robinson's arguments are wordier than the Beck Baggers', but they're no different in kind. She wants them hurt, and she wants someone else to do it."

This Sara Robinson, who has recently upped the ante in the promotion of her "sedition" thesis, one which has  drawn appropriate fire from Chris Floyd, Charles Davis and Al in the past - for her liberal version of the conservative homage to the monopoly on violence.

A very short introduction to Sara Robinson's argument: government does good stuff, therefore people yelling about government abuses threaten the government's ability to do good stuff, and should either shut up or someone will shut them up.

Better minds than I have already tackled the inanity of  her argument, but I'll leave it to Charles and Kevin Carson to sum it up again. Kevin writes,

"...I think the term Robinson’s actually looking for is “seditious libel”:  language that tends to defame, discredit, criticize, impugn, embarrass, challenge, or question the government, its policies, or its officials.  And that’s clearly the kind of language, coming from the Right, that Robinson treats as seditious in spirit.  In this, she puts herself in good company with previous enemies of sedition:  blue-nose, powdered-wig conservatives like John Adams, and the know-nothing Legionnaires and Red Squads who rounded up Wobblies and Socialists during the War Hysteria under Woodrow Wilson.  In both cases, they were guilty of calling into question the legitimacy of the state, using language that called it into disrepute, undermining the moral authority needed to carry out its policies, and in some cases directly impeding the execution of those policies.

In the pink-ass, “Why Mommy is a Democrat,” suburban world of most mainstream liberals, apparently, the bounds of permissible non-seditious discourse are pretty limited.  It doesn’t take much of a deviation from plain vanilla-flavored, managerial-professional centrism to qualify one as an extremist–at least when liberals are in power."

"...Perhaps they shouldn't just be ignored, but until Glenn Beck's followers kill two dozen people in a remote village, I'm going to spend most of my time focusing on those with control over the tanks and nuclear weapons. And rather than seeking to bolster the state and reinforce the idea of some mythical, mystical social contract, I just might seek to undermine this government, so far as I can, for as long as it continues enriching a politically connected corporate elite while imprisoning and enlisting the rest of its population, no matter how "duly elected" our politicians might be as a result of the sham two-party electoral system. When political leaders are engaged in senseless war and widespread human rights abuses -- and the occupation of Afghanistan and the U.S. prison system at home and abroad qualify -- the person of conscience's duty is not to the state but to justice, which usually means opposing the state and questioning its presumed legitimacy."

Which brings us around to a remarkable piece written by Ethan, from 6th or 7th. Whilst the essay does not directly touch upon the subject at hand (Mrs Robinson's crusade to stifle dissent under the aegis of preventing racist uprising), it does address one of the foundational aspects of our modern world,

"Human beings, moving around in their predictable/unpredictable ways, interacting and forming societies, inevitably create all kinds of ideas and cultural norms and aphorisms and expectations. These are often the specific creation of individuals that end up being popular, and also are often the result of mixing and matching all kind of pieces originating from different groups of people; either way, the rise to relevance is largely random.

But there are selective pressures. And in a capitalist, rigidly class-stratified culture like the one we've got, the overwhelmingly strongest of these pressures come from the interests of power. The big money system sees all these ideas percolating around. It sees some of them getting more popular. And it evaluates them for usefulness. Those that are useful--those that are immediately profitable, those which will perpetuate the system--get shitloads of money thrown at them. Those that are not do not or, worse, get money thrown at their opposites. In this way, the ideas that are useful to power survive and reproduce and spawn new ideas in new heads that are also useful to power, while those that are either useless or against power tend to die off before having much of an impact."

The whole essay is brilliant on its own terms, and I don't wish to detract from the original subject matter, which bears its own relevance and import.

Still, I think the insight grants its users a wide applicability.

Mrs. Robinson's thesis is tailor suited to that demographic introduced by Al Schumman above, to Democrats vested in the consumption of a "world space" that (natch, of course) places them at the apex of modern history - saviors of the social order and the economy, then of the planet, and lately (or, I should write, yet again) of a number brown people, using the humanitarian agency of bombs and bullets.

Those aforementioned selective pressures reveal themselves in her attitude towards challenges to the legitimacy of power, power which enforces first and foremost the property arrangements which just happen to benefit Mrs. Robinson's class, as well as those sorts who belong to its so-called liberal branch.

Mrs. Robinson may never have the opportunity to challenge her own premises,or face the sort of crisis which brings her contradictions into relief, for her. She may never have that moment of reflection, and clarity, which allows her to see the consequences of her argument - that it violates the liberal tenets she allegedly holds dear.

Nonetheless, she has done us a great service, a demonstration in a "play, with one act."

She illustrates precisely that which Al introduces, and Ethan so aptly describes - that these selective pressures shape and colonize the minds of those who wish to rule, however nobly they conceive of themselves.

And Sara Robinson most definitely wants to rule:

"...But I'm very concerned that the appeal to civility appears, at the moment, to be the only tactic coming from our side. And, frankly, the only way it's going to be respected is if conservatives believed that failure to cooperate comes at some material cost to them. Talking softly is so much more likely to work when you're holding a nice big stick.

My point is that focusing on civility seems to have blinded us to the fact that more and more, what we're dealing with is incipient (and increasingly, actual) criminality. We can be civil, and still call sedition out for what it is. Those laws exist, and they may be a useful big stick."

A minor thought on the murdering of civilians...

...in Afghanistan. The most recent case, one of so many.

It seems that occupiers view everyone as else as a potential enemy, or at least with suspicion. Says quite a bit about occupation, that.

Seems not unlike how most governments deal with their subjects and subjected taxpayers.

Says worlds, that the people with guns feel threatened by the people without them.

Quotable Meditation on Power

"To be respectful is to attentively incline oneself towards the other in recognition of their autonomy and integrity.

There is no one we can respect and simultaneously try to change. When we coerce or manipulate someone, we cannot respect them because our attention is focused not on them but on what we want.

If one views respect as a resource, nowhere is it generally more scarce than among the powerful.

The conceit of power is that power elicits respect, when in truth the tokens of respect bestowed on the powerful are rarely more than expressions of fear, envy or duty. (Hence an underlying paranoia haunts the powerful: they know they are the beneficiaries of a social investment that could, if things turn sour, be swiftly withdrawn.)

Respect is not the fruit of power, but on the contrary, it is a self-propagating virtue that becomes mirrored through its own expression."

~ Paul Woodward, War In Context, April 12, 2010

Apr 11, 2010

The Shirky Principle

Really quite useful:

"Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution."
-- Clay Shirky


"...About 15 years ago, the supply part of media’s supply-and-demand curve went parabolic, with a predictably inverse effect on price. Since then, a battalion of media elites have lined up to declare that exactly the opposite thing will start happening any day now.

To pick a couple of examples more or less at random, last year Barry Diller of IAC said, of content available on the web, 'It is not free, and is not going to be,' Steve Brill of Journalism Online said that users 'just need to get back into the habit of doing so [paying for content] online”, and Rupert Murdoch of News Corp said “Web users will have to pay for what they watch and use.'

Diller, Brill, and Murdoch seem be stating a simple fact—we will have to pay them—but this fact is not in fact a fact. Instead, it is a choice, one its proponents often decline to spell out in full, because, spelled out in full, it would read something like this:

'Web users will have to pay for what they watch and use, or else we will have to stop making content in the costly and complex way we have grown accustomed to making it. And we don’t know how to do that.' ”

h/t Dymaxion

Power or Liberation (Part Two)

Part Two:

"Forward he cried from the rear
And the front rank died.
And the general sat and the lines on the map
Moved from side to side"

~ Richard Wright and Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), "Us and Them," Dark Side of the Moon

To take power, a person has to preserve it, hold on to it. Holding power does not follow from mere intent, from the desire. A man with power enforces it. He employs others as instruments, shaping their loyalties to his ends. Whether deft or clumsy, he uses their willingness to obey as an extension of his person. To the extent that some one or many obey him, his personhood increases. He inhabits their obedience, expanding the scope of his efficacy. They become extensions of his desire.

Perhaps, in the service of his ends, they fulfill some of their desires. Or come to identify with his as if their own. But they must yield some portion of themselves, and their labor, in order to increase his.

For one to rule, others must submit.

To wit: to preserve power, the holder of it must prevent the liberation of others. This specific relation of one to another obligates those who obey to defer the fullness of their desires, that those they serve may attempt a greater portion of living.

Liberated, they no longer serve.

Understanding this, perhaps we can see where the promise of deliverance, or liberation, fails to emerge from the grasping at authority over others.

To take power, others must obey. This obedience does not translate into liberation, except in the fiction of empty promises and faith betrayed.

Power does not abolish itself. To use it, a person must reinforce it, must assert its legitimacy.

A man employing others as his instruments must use some share of his authority (the obedience of others), some element of his time and persuasion, confirming his right to it.

He must deliver. To do so, though, requires him to further isolate those who obey from those who command. Rewarding followers, keeping the faith of his human instruments, he separates the labor of some, to the benefit of others.

To keep authority, a man must use it, he must reward service and obedience. The power must use a part of the wealth bound in the service of power, accumulated from the service of others, from the alienation of their labor from their desire, to preserve the hierarchy of obedience, by coercion or deception, by persuasion or confusion - by distributing rewards, securing loyalties, maintaining resources, providing support; by promoting the chief fictions of the right to compel and the necessity of obedience; by setting rivals against each other; by maintaining the myths and symbols of authority, the snares in the cultural inheritance, the outposts of ritual and belief, buried in memory and thought.

So that he who promises that the grasping of power shall lead to liberation, promises always a lie.

To maintain power, defer liberation. In fact, prevent it.

Holding power, a man conforms to the continuity of it. He must, or he has no power. Moreover, it seems in main case that in those social orders where staff remain in place, though office changes hands, extra-political centers of authority tend to influence the outlook, decisions and loyalties of those who hold office. The continuity of power lies not in the office holder, but in the staff who serve him, the chains of command which persist despite the vacancy of the office.

The officeholder does not hold enduring power, unless he seizes it beyond the confines of the office itself, unless he breaks the bonds of loyalty, using his human instruments to capture a greater share of wealth and obedience.

More often, though, the man subordinates himself to the office, slotting himself into preexisting conditions, so that people who gain control of an office of the state (or any organization) can come to resemble those they have replaced. Precisely because the officeholder provides the temporary part, the state depends so little upon him, he himself serving as a sign, a public fetish, a token of the “popular will.”

He becomes, in truth, an armed staffer himself, a lesser authority subject to the whims of his more enduring extra-political superiors – or one of a number of competing interests, forming blocs and factions, using the offices of the state (or, at this point, the corporation) against each other, vying for mastery over segments of the population, and their material inputs and interests.

Such persons, as might seem rather obvious, do not deliver liberation.

They can only promise it.

Holding power, competing for it, maintaining or increasing it, they must prevent liberation, or use a facsimile of it only as a reward for obedience, co-opting service by setting a new tier in the perpetuated hierarchy of command and submission – by making new masters, and therefore new subjects, in obedience.