Sunday, May 31, 2009

Steady As She Goes

The British generals are telling Brown to increase the number of troops Britain is sending to Afghanistan otherwise the British military will lose credibility with America!? That’s the best reason I ever heard, how about you?

Meanwhile on other imperial fronts we see more stability resulting from U.S. foreign policy as Pakistan wages war with the Taliban most likely in an effort to keep the U.S. happy so it won’t “liberate” Pakistan. Something like 3 million people have fled the fighting and 1,217 “militants” murdered (most likely women and children) thus the U.S. once again asserts its stabilizing influences.

You can’t say we don’t do good work. According to Patrick Cockburn…


Iraq is deemed the third most corrupt country in the world after Burma and Somalia, out of 180 countries, according to the corruption index compiled by Transparency International.

To think that over one million died for this.

I see that Somalia beats Iraq and of course Somalia is one of the fronts for our war on terror or what ever we call it these days. We certainly have the Midas touch when it comes to stability. That’s the U.S., creating democracy, spreading freedom and stability wherever we go. You just have to watch your feet so you don’t trip over the bodies or slip on the blood soaked ground.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The phantom rider on the phantom bus that runs along First Street

When I saw a picture of Justice Sotomayor my first thought was, "Mmmm. This is the first Supreme Court nominee that I'd ever consider, you know, getting down with."

There are a couple of reasons for my line of thinking, but the biggest one is simply that I'm getting older and she's younger than me. Sorry, Ruth. Ms. Sotomayor's got a nice smile, too, and over the years I've developed a thing for substantial women. Hey, her and me, a couple of drinks at a bar and maybe if I'm lucky I'm, you know, reading her briefs...

But, as they say in a legal debate, that's not the test. The best judgment of the qualifications of a Supreme Court Justice does not rest with my taste in women. Oh no. What a world that would be. Forget Sotomayor, bring on Justice Jessica Alba!


The instant Republican response to Sotomayor's nomination has been two-pronged and breaks down, as one wag defined it, this way: Is she an elitist or is she a wetback? The former charge is standard fare, but she doesn't look elitist-ish and she talks about eating pigsfeet with garbanzo beans. That doesn't sound like an elitist either. But the Republicans are losing the Hispanic vote, so outright racism doesn't work well here either. As it stands, this move by Obama will provide political capital within the Hispanic community for the Democrats. If most Hispanics go the way of African Americans to the Democratic Party then the rump of the Republican Party will be pretty much limited to the old Confederacy.

Fortunately for them, they won't have to fight too hard against her.

Sotomayor's nomination is not a left-right argument at all. It's a top-bottom argument, or at least it should be. Most of us just don't know this. And the networks, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox, the Comedy Network, whatever, all owned by big corporations, don't want us to notice it. All the screaming and counterscreaming, that's all just professional wrestling. Don't sit too close to the ring, folks, or you'll get hit by a folding chair thrown by one side or the other.

Sotomayor is neither an elitist nor a wetback. She's a corporatist. Her rulings almost always side with Big Business. That's why the Wall Street Journal likes her. That's why the Republicans, or enough of them necessary to get the job done, will eventually vote for her after the game is played out in front of the cameras.


This is how I predict her nomination process will play out over the corporate airwaves:

We've already had someone call her Che Guevarra in robes (or a dress, I forget which). Meanwhile, because she said that she uses her life experience in her understanding of the law, and her life consists of being a Latina, she has also been accused of being both a racist and a sexist (because she has both a race and a sex). Rush Limbaugh will find something to complain about and call her "de-SPIC-able" in his usual racist punnage. The racists who listen to Rushbo will get a chuckle over this. The Left will come to her defense. Someone will write a column about her hardscrabble youth in the Bronx projects. There will then be a debate about empathy and emotion in the courtroom. One side will pretend that their side and all of their judges never feel any emotion and that they are strict constructionist automatons who rule by the letter of the original intent of the law. The other side will wax fondly about the wisdom of growing up with the common people and eating pigsfeet. Both sides of this debate will be full of shit.

(She was first appointed to the federal bench by George H. W. Bush, for chrissakes. Maybe ol' Poppy eats pigsfeet on the porch of his mansion.)

Ms. Sotomayor will be confirmed, but the "conventional wisdom" generators of Washington, D.C. will solemnly announce in their columns that Obama "owes one" to the "moderate Republicans" who voted for her and that he will have to choose his next Supreme Court nominee from "farther to the right." In the upcoming session of the Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor will consistently vote with Alito, Roberts, Thomas and Scalia on cases involving Big Business. Someone will comment, "Gee whiz, you never know what you're getting when you appoint someone to the Supreme Court! Who could've guessed?" She will occasionally vote with the moderates to limit extreme torture or summary executions in the streets or some other issue involving civil rights. This will ensure that she is branded as a "liberal activist judge." Her effigy will on occasion be taken out to be marched about on the Fox Channel.


Neither party now represents the people. Their role is to act like they represent the people. You are now watching their performance.

But Rosa Parks did not sit down in vain. As a result of Sotomayor's appointment, anyone, no matter what race, creed, ethnicity or national origin, anyone at all will be able to sit anyplace where he or she pleases on the bus. This freedom will be protected.

But fewer and fewer of us will be able to afford to ride on the bus.

And there will be no bus.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Korea: Another Exaggerated Threat

Following U.S. foreign policy in the news is like following a string of bubbles wherein each bubble is a jaw dropping, hair raising, unparalleled class one emergency heretofore unknown in the annals of international incidents and intrigue. For example the latest missile-fest brought to you by Kim Jong-il seems to have fired the imaginations of the news media. For example consider the following headlines.

“World powerless to stop North Korea”

“Russia fears Korea conflict could go nuclear – Ifax”

These are just bit melodramatic it seems to me. I mean shiver-me-timbers. Is the world really powerless to stop North Korea? The article itself thankfully is better than its headline.

North Korea's decision to test the bomb likely had several motivations. Firstly, given that the October 2006 test was widely considered to have fizzled, yielding less than 1 kiloton, Pyongyang needed its own reassurances that it had a fully functioning nuclear weapon. The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) confirmed as much, when it stated, "The test helped satisfactorily settle the scientific and technological problems arising in further increasing the power of nuclear weapons."

In the absence of such confirmation, the regime of Kim Jong-il could not be certain that it had sufficient deterrent to repel any external aggression. In addition, the North also needed to make a credible demonstration of its nuclear arsenal to the major powers in the region that it considers hostile, namely the United States, South Korea and Japan. Just to reinforce the message, Pyongyang also test-fired several short-range missiles off its east coast, facing Japan. Nonetheless, international observers still doubt that North Korea has the means to attach nuclear warheads to its array of missiles.

The second reason for North Korea's nuclear test was to put the country at the top of the US's international agenda, at a time when the global economic recession and the war in Afghanistan have emerged as its most pressing challenges. Pyongyang had sought to do this with its April 5 Taepodong 2 missile test, but the world's reaction was somewhat muted. As to why the North craves the US's attention, the main reason is to extract economic and diplomatic concessions. Ultimately, there are reasons to believe that Pyongyang seeks a grand bargain with Washington in which it would be granted diplomatic relations and economic assistance while receiving official acceptance of its nuclear status.

However unrealistic that may sound, North Korea has seen how nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan in 1998, initially condemned by the international community, were later overlooked as the West came to see those two countries as too important to ignore. Pakistan became the West's frontline ally in the "war on terror" after September 11, 2001, and received billions of dollars in aid, while India's rising economic power made it unrealistic to marginalize it. Unfortunately for Pyongyang, it has nothing to offer the rest of the world. Thus, its brinkmanship if anything makes it harder for the US to offer North Korea meaningful rewards.

The third reason for the nuclear test - albeit somewhat more speculative - is that Kim Jong-il is seeking to reassert his authority after months of illness since last summer. This may also have been a motivation for the Taepodong 2 test in April. Kim's illness has raised heightened uncertainty about his succession, with most observers anticipating his third son, Kim Jong-un, will eventually succeed him.

However, it is more likely that a military-dominated collective leadership centered around the National Defense Commission (NDC) - the highest decision-making body in North Korea - would fill the vacuum if Kim senior exited the scene. The NDC was expanded to 13 members in early April at the first session of the North's new parliament, and all its members' photos were published in the North's official media, underscoring their rising prominence. In light of this, Pyongyang may well be signaling that there will be no let-up in its hardline policy in the event of a leadership transition.

I see nothing in the above excellent rundown about North Korea plotting to conquer the world like the U.S. is attempting to do at the moment. As for Russia’s claim that the North Korean nuclear test could result in Armageddon that is just a trifle fanciful. As the Asia Times points out you need to be able to attach a warhead to a missile before it is useful as a weapon unless of course the North Koreans cleverly smuggle a nuke into the U.S. hidden in a violin case. But then they might just as well drop it on themselves as explode one here for the results would be the same.

Manuel Garcia, Jr., a former physicist at Lawrence Livermore Nuclear Laboratory, explains.


A yield up to 20 kT is clearly a "success" and indicates the verification of one design of an implosion system (discounting the possibility of a gun-type assembly as in the Hiroshima bomb). I presume, but do not know, that this bomb is an experimental device that is neither compact and light-weight enough, nor ruggedized enough to fit within the payload mass and space limitations of a slim missile body, and to withstand the forces of acceleration required of a ballistic missile nuclear warhead. Any program aimed at that goal will require another test (in perhaps three years?) of a militarized packaging of the "pit" (nuclear core and its surrounding blanket of high explosives) tested today.

True, this is just conjecture as Garcia admits yet it seems like a much more reasonable estimate than “Korea Threat to Entire World.” Garcia ends his article with the following most sensible suggestions.

Unfortunately, urging the DPRK leadership to engage in nuclear disarmament is equivalent to urging it to dissolve; the nature of their brittle power structure could not withstand the corrosive effects of the psychological, cultural and economic forces within world capitalism. They know this, hence the obsessive defensiveness. The most humane policy toward the DPRK would be to leave it alone. Over the long term, if it is neither harassed nor provoked, it will slowly relax many of its fears. Once the apprehensions of the DPRK are reasonably lowered because it is no longer being pressured and hurried to fit into a foreign capitalist agenda, then it is likely the society of the DPRK will evolve into greater harmony with the world consensus on many issues. Such a policy would be one of respecting the integrity of another society, and of non-interference. It is definitely not the policy with the highest expected return on investment (ROI), nor the earliest expected payoff, but it is the policy with the least likelihood of harming the Korean people and their neighbors. One has to imagine the possibility of arriving at nuclear disarmament as the inevitable consequence of the disuse of nuclear weapons: they are no longer maintained and rust away because their owners have moved on to other activities.

Internationally, patient respect will ultimately soften the fearful pride of an otherwise unaggressive state. The real solution to nuclear proliferation is the expansion of social and economic justice within our own nations, because nuclear arms are primarily a symptom of economic class warfare coupled with racism. Let the people of North Korea deal with their economic elite, and let us reform ours; and in that way we can eliminate the nuclear weapons squeezed out of the world's popular collective labor by our various ambitious and parasitic ruling classes.

Remarkably, Garcia is the first person whose writings I have read who actually expresses concern for the safety of the Korean people while most Americans seem overly concerned about their own which seems strange to me as we seem to be the greatest danger the world faces with our constant invasions, interventions, and military occupations.

Monday, May 25, 2009


North Korea makes the headlines again, this time for testing a nuclear bomb underground. While I’m not happy to see the proliferation of nuclear weapons I continue to be impressed with the hypocrisy provided by the United States leadership. Legitimacy of smaller third world nations seems to depend on how much they are willing to be bullied by the United States which definitely leaves North Korea out of the circle of accepted nations. Israel has an estimated 300 nuclear warheads yet because Israel is, for the most part, our “special” partner in crime, indeed is dependent on the monies we send them for their military, you never will hear a peep about it from Washington.

Never mind that we are the only nation to have ever used atomic bombs against civilian populations as it is a given that only the United States and its go-along-for-the-ride allies may decide which nation is legitimate enough to have nuclear weaponry. Here is what Obama oh-so predictably said regarding North Korea’s latest transgression against the legitimate world…


President Barack Obama called the test a matter of grave concern to all countries. "North Korea is directly and recklessly challenging the international community," he said in a statement. "North Korea's behaviour increases tensions and undermines stability in north-east Asia."

He added that North Korea's behaviour would serve only to deepen the country's isolation. "It will not find international acceptance unless it abandons its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery," he said.

The short quote above is rife with hypocrisy piled on top of hypocrisy. Who challenged the international community with reckless abandon when it illegally invaded Iraq? Who, even as Obama spoke, is undermining stability from Africa to South Asia and everything in-between? Clue; it wasn’t and isn’t North Korea.

This, in a way, is part of the problem with our continued pursuit of global domination. Is it unreasonable to assume that our use of military force in defiance of international law has scared more than one third world nation as they watched the U.S. invade Iraq? Is it any wonder that some nations might be arming themselves imagining they are next on the list of a people to be “liberated?” Did the United States provide stability when our government applauded the vicious attack against Gaza by Israel? But then again what Obama said is exactly what I would have expected him to say. He is living up to my expectations and then some. Obama is like totally legit.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fair and Nuts: Keeping the Big Picture in Mind

“Power,” said Mr. World. He scratched his chin. “And food. A combination of the two. You see, the outcome of the battle is unimportant. What matters is the chaos, and the slaughter.”

--American Gods, Neil Gaiman

It’s always annoying and tempting at the same time when I see the media cover for the tyrants and death merchants who pass themselves off as national leaders. How sadly they shake their heads as they direct the missiles and bombs at dirt-poor villagers on the other side of the globe. It’s a dirty job but somebody has to do it. And goodness me, nobody wants to torture. Such a messy business, after all. Still, when it comes to protecting America it is so important to see the bigger picture rather than the human detritus left behind, mere details in the greater scheme of things, don’t you know?

When it comes down to the nitty-gritty the name of the game is power, and torture is part and parcel with the chaos and slaughter that feeds power, makes it grow, for those with guts enough to seize it. At least in their own dead eyes. And what a rare treat it is, according to the Guardian, to see two veritable titans of our times duke it out over the closing of Gitmo. In the Guardian’s own words…


“The Obama and Cheney speeches offered a glimpse of the kind of foreign policy debate that the US has seldom had since 9/11.”

I think that’s pretty generous to say the least as I’m not sure there has been any foreign policy debate since 9/11 with a few minor exceptions which were quickly forgotten, offered up as sacrifices to the American gods of war and plunder. Since the closing of Guantanamo would be nothing more than a gesture to mollify our sense of propriety while the torture continues elsewhere one wonders how one can have a debate over something no more substantial than a piece of fluff floating on the wind? Or as old Willy would say, “Much ado about nothing.” The whole premise of the article, that a serious debate occurred, is based on a lie, that the U.S. no longer tortures under Obama the Magnificent (may he live forever) and the closing of one hellish prison is held up as proof.

God, democracy in action. It sends chills up and down my spine. Just as Mr. World said, the outcome doesn’t matter, so the outcome of this “debate” matters naught, as long as people believe that democracy is being enacted the chaos and slaughter can continue while we congratulate ourselves on our wonderfulness.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tuesday the 19th

I'm taking a break of about a week to attend to some nonblog things. Normally I wouldn't announce this, especially since I'm not exactly a supremely prolific poster and I don't anticipate much bated breath out there, but I also wanted to touch upon some other things.

1.I'm sorry that Micah Pyre decided to stop blogging, although I gather he still comments, both here and elsewhere. MP told me he came to feel very discouraged by the present state of affairs and didn't want to find himself preoccupied and overwhelmed by it, hence the break. I paraphrase, but needless to say he can amend my description in the comments if he wants.

One of the reasons I started a group blog was because I felt that a group of 3-6 or 7 or so bloggers sharing the "burden" of a lefty political nanoblog are less likely to feel discouraged knowing that x and y etc are also out there making a contribution to a shared effort, since I well understand what he means by getting discouraged, and inviting others to blog at my "home base" of Hugo Zoom was difficult for me as I found myself feeling territorial and excessively critical of other contributors' efforts, as the incredibly patient Rob Payne can well attest to, even though he's been too gracious to do so.

2. I hope both Bob from Pacifica and Rob Payne will continue to contribute here. (I think they live less than 100 miles from one another, unless Rob has moved again. Maybe I should encourage them to get together for a barbeque or something, unless that's something that people from California don't do.:^)

3. In the past I've invited people to blog here, but maybe I should approach that somewhat differently. (For example I've avoided inviting bloggers whom I didn't think would be interested.) So now I'm making a general invitation to interested parties to contact me at my yahoo addy if you think you might want to blog here. If you think you are interested I'd recommend you look here(1) and here(2) to my introductory statements describing the reason I started Dead Horse. Please note I'm not looking for persons to march in lockstep with my views, just persons who also feel that the ill health of US liberalism is an important topic for conversation.

Labels: ,

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bad For Democracy- Dana D. Nelson

Dana Nelson is a professor at Vanderbilt, and I believe Bad for democracy is her second book. Her publisher sent me a copy some time back, and unfortunately I've been busy with other matters, so I've just started on it. It does look promising, discussing the history of popular representations of the role of the president in US society, which she regards as generally anti-republican, in the classical sense, and far more often geared towards representing the president as the prime mover of government upon whose shoulders all power and responsibility lie, a phenomenon she terms presidentialism.

cross-posted at Hugo Zoom

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Day of Empire-Amy chua

Empires, race and power: Yale prof Amy Chua on "strategic tolerance"

from the UC Berkley youtube channel.

cross-posted at Hugo Zoom.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

"Hunt people for Jesus"

Mimi writes:

It seems the evangelicals enjoy fertile proselytizing ground in the U.S. Army, according to an article by Jeremy Scahill in Common Dreams. Org:
"New video evidence has surfaced showing that US military forces in Afghanistan have been instructed by the military's top chaplain in the country to "hunt people for Jesus" as they spread Christianity to the overwhelmingly Muslim population. Soldiers also have imported bibles translated into Pashto and Dari, the two dominant languages of Afghanistan."
I remember when "separation of church and state" was a basic American tenet. Now it's "torture and kill for Jesus."

I couldn't find the Common Dreams link, but I found this at the Huffy Post, also via Scahill:

Trying to convert Muslims to any other faith is a crime in Afghanistan. The fact that the video footage is being broadcast on Al Jazeera guarantees that it will be seen throughout the Muslim world. It is likely to add more credence to the perception that the US is engaging in a war on Islam with neo-crusader forces invading Muslim lands.


The video footage was shot about a year ago by documentary filmmaker Brian Hughes, who is also a former US soldier. "[US soldiers] weren't talking about learning how to speak Dari or Pashto, by reading the Bible and using that as the tool for language lessons," Hughes told Al Jazeera. "The only reason they would have these documents there was to distribute them to the Afghan people. And I knew it was wrong, and I knew that filming it ... documenting it would be important."
The broadcast of this video comes just days after a new poll of White Americans found that, in the US, church going Christians are more likely to support the use of torture than other segments of the population. The Pew Research Center poll found: "White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified -- more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did."

I'm reminded of this video I came across recently, regarding proselytizing efforts in India. I know nothing about the context of this video, nor how representative it may or may not be of what's going on at a larger scale(the still image, though intriguing, is not representative either):

cross-posted at Hugo Zoom.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, May 03, 2009


It’s been said that we live in a world of dualities. Left – right, up – down, you know the routine. There are things that are acceptable to say in public and things that aren’t. These two “truths” coexist, though separately, in our minds partitioned from each other like keeping anti-matter particles and matter from annihilating into sweet oblivion.

The dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a tale twice told, indeed there are many aspects of Truman’s decision that are debated today though the overwhelming majority of Americans likely believe the official version why the atomic weapons were used that version is problematic in many aspects. But you see it doesn’t really matter which version you believe because the sheer horror of such an act is monstrous. It’s hard to imagine the sheer evil of instantly snuffing out so many lives, mostly civilian, that I don’t think any words can do it justice. Why ever it was done is not as important as that it never should have happened. So we recreate the past to our liking and everyone is happy dappy discarding the obvious for the nebulous.

So here I am wondering how we’ll reinvent the past for Iraq. And considering the amount of imaginative material that entered us into that conflagration I’m sure we’re in for a real treat when explanations for why we are still there in 2059 are bandied about by the long-beards and textberts. Lately I’ve read quite a few “you break it you buy it” types of philosophy when it comes to leaving Iraq. And I’m sure that’s just the beginning of ever more complex fair and balanced thinking leading to ever more imaginative ethereally glowing vistas of corpusculating grandeur that would awe H.P. Lovecraft himself. But then like always we’ll have been there for so long it only seems natural to stay even longer. Just think of Iraq as the newest state in the Union.

Maybe the doomsayers have it correct, we’ll self emolliate before we can keep the empire going that long. Who knows? I feel emolliated already, how about you? We see similar patterns when it comes to U.S. torture as in discussing whether torture actually works or not. It doesn’t matter if torture works or not, all that matters is that it is wrong in every sense of the word. Even if torture “worked” it would still be wrong. But then the practice of torture has never been about “working” it’s an act of terrorism, State terrorism sanctified from the highest level. The message is always clear, challenge us and this is what will happen to you. Forget about whether it works or not, the point isn’t, or ever was, about gathering intelligence it’s about control through acts of terrorism by the State. After all who wants to be grabbed by some federal goons to be disappeared into a hidden labyrinth of torture chambers populated by ghoulish figures with gargoyle grins as they prepare your new set of electrodes? Torture is an act of State terror pure and simple. And how will historians treat torture by the U.S.? A pimple on the otherwise airbrushed American buttock according to popular lore. It’s a classic case of good cop – bad cop. Bush was too brash, he crossed the acceptable line of national etiquette by so openly admitting to and relishing the use of torture so Obama was inevitable. If Obama wasn’t the Democratic candidate then someone else just like him, a solid centrist Democrat, would have ascended the throne and proceeded much as Obama so predictably has done. Get some Brasso out and polish the brass, spiff things around the edges, restore the illusion of wholesome goodness so lately stained by the impetuous Bush and once again anti-matter and matter can defy the laws of physics to coexist in the American collective.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

briefly, regarding Arthur Silber

Arthur Silber "The Power of Narrative" has a new series going, but he is also in bad shape financially, and has called out for assistance from his readers, so I'm noting this to encourage you to help him if you are in a position to.

Labels: ,