Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween 2009

image-white mask

some headlines, 31 October 2009:

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

That Unipolar Moment

Noam Chomsky recently wrote the following.


Every powerful state relies on specialists whose task is to show that what the strong do is noble and just and, if the weak suffer, it is their fault.

In the West, these specialists are called "intellectuals" and, with marginal exceptions, they fulfill their task with skill and self-righteousness, however outlandish the claims, in this practice that traces back to the origins of recorded history.

You will recall how many of our leading politicians demanded that the people of Iraq stand up for themselves despite years of crippling sanctions sandwiched between two savage assaults the last firmly establishing a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq after destroying the infrastructure, causing the death of over one million Iraqi, and millions more sent into exile. None of that mattered in the least for it was obviously the fault of the Iraqi people for not taking responsibility after all we had done for them. Or when Israel attacked Gaza at the beginning of the year it was the Palestinian’s fault for objecting to the loss of their land and rights as human beings under a brutal Israeli occupation. The truth was of course quite different than the official story. The attack on Gaza was just part – though one of the more brutal – of the ongoing practice of ejecting Palestinians from their land yet what we heard was Israel had a right to protect itself.

Not only does this idea of the strong being moral and just apply to how our government views our treatment of Iraq and Afghanistan it also applies to how the American public perceives itself and is perceived by our own government. Recall how just recently the military was disturbed by a lack of enthusiasm for the Afghan War by the American public and it was implied that if the military lost (whatever that means) it would be the fault of the American public. Then there is the housing bubble for who was blamed for that? Why those shiftless and no good losers who bought houses they could not afford. It certainly couldn’t have been the fault of predatory lending schemes cooked up by the banksters after Bill Clinton helped deregulate banking practices or the fault of Alan Greenspan who helped create the bubble.

Most Americans think in terms of winners and losers. Indeed the very idea that the strong are noble and the weak are mere human detritus strewn along the wayside left in the dust as the winners win is germane to the very essence of U.S. philosophy if it can be dignified as such. There is little doubt that many Americans feel superior to the peoples we subjugate by virtue of our wealth, sciences, and technology even if there is any empathy for the people we slaughter and murder on a daily basis. So we see people like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama constantly call for other nations to live up to our standards with “or else” always tacitly in the background and very few bat an eye or wonder at the arrogance of it all because this state of mind is so ingrained into our world view.

It is interesting as more and more of the wealth is acquired by the top one percent (notice how I describe the winners as top, culture is hard to escape) that there are now so many losers that you would think that people might begin to question the value of this preposterous and dangerous philosophy. Don’t hold your breath. Some things take time. Lots and lots of time.

Quite frankly I don’t believe that any change of the status quo in foreign policy will be achieved from within the United States for more than one reason and not the least being the state of our world view as described above. However there is still cause for hope that things can change despite our militarized culture, economy, and philosophy because America’s unipolar moment as an economic power is likely coming to an end. How quickly this will occur I don’t know but as Chomsky points out other economic powers are rising which could pressure the U.S. to curb perhaps some of its more aggressive actions or as Chomsky puts it…

Though the world is unipolar militarily, since the 1970s it has become economically "tripolar," with comparable centers in North America, Europe and northeast Asia. The global economy is becoming more diverse, particularly with the growth of Asian economies.

A world becoming truly multipolar, politically as well as economically, despite the resistance of the sole superpower, marks a progressive change in history.

So this is a progressive change that is occurring despite U.S. foreign policy not because of it. And when someone says that it is your fault that wars are failing or that it is your fault that the government has been pandering to corporate America I would view such statements with much skepticism. Americans are victims, victims of their own government who clearly only represent corporate interests. This is the reason for the ongoing wars, people are getting rich off them like so many bloated ticks. I’m not saying the public is blameless but most of the ills result from the machinations of our own government and the corporations whose only real export is war.

I believe it is often the case that the public really gets a lot of things right as in not supporting the Afghan War or wanting a real single payer health plan not whatever garbage congress will churn out. People know when they are being screwed even if they cannot always define the particulars. National leaders endlessly infer that they know better than the public yet time and again the public has shown a much more realistic view of the world than our political leaders have. You know I almost believe that if America really had a democracy it might actually work rather well.

You should read Chomsky’s essay in its entirety but I would like to include one more important point Chomsky makes which is that Obama has merely continued with W. Bush’s policies albeit in a kinder and gentler delivery.

As Barack Obama came into office, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice predicted he would follow the policies of Bush's second term, and that is pretty much what happened, apart from a different rhetorical style that seems to have charmed much of the world.

Even some of Obama’s staunchest defenders will fall silent under the above criticism because it is true. Obama is essentially carrying on with Bush policy which to my way of thinking makes Obama worse than Bush in that he can pursue the same policies with a good deal less criticism. Once W. Bush left office all the opposition to his policies fell silent for the most part.

So that’s where we are today pursuing the same policies with the same disregard for what it does to our victims and ourselves yet there is still cause for hope as other nations around the world move slowly towards more progressive societies in spite of the destabilizing influence of U.S. military adventurism.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

dry hump days

First, before I lose focus, let me mention the wonderful Arthur Silber, who is again raising funds, and sounds like he's in a tight spot. He's not the only one of course, but if you value his work and are in a position to help him, or even if you just want to help him and can, please consider doing so.

2.I would like to flatter myself(ourselves?) and pretend that Joe Bageant is name-checking Dead Horse here, but it's unlikely:

"Raising Up Dead Horses":

...Somewhere in the smoking wreckage lie the solutions. The solutions we aren't allowed to discuss: adoption of a Wall Street securities speculation tax; repeal of the Taft-Hartley anti-union laws; ending corporate personhood; cutting the bloated vampire bleeding the economy, the military budget; full single payer health care insurance, not some "public option" that is neither fish nor fowl; taxation instead of credits for carbon pollution; reversal of inflammatory U.S. policy in the Middle East (as in, get the hell out, begin kicking the oil addiction and quit backing the spoiled murderous brat that is Israel.

Meanwhile we may all feel free to row ourselves to hell in the same hand basket. Except of course the elites, the top five percent or so among us. But 95 percent is close enough to be called democratic, so what the hell. The trivialized media, having internalized the system's values, will continue to act as rowing captain calling out the strokes. News gathering in America is its own special hell, and reduces its practitioners to banality and elite sycophancy...

the rest is here.

3. I'm sure Michael Lind is a nice enough person, but somehow his essays at Salon often grate on me, even when he observes something that strikes me as true. In "That sound you hear is the social fabric about to snap " he observes that the real unemployment is probably closer to 20 per cent, and I suspect he's right. But his essay makes him seem tone-deaf, as if he's simply talking about a puzzle that needs to be solved, and needs to be discussed in such a way as to demonstrate the cleverness of the writer, but completely disassociated from the human misery involved, and blithely ignoring the corruption that will prevent any of his dainty solutions from materializing.

4. Avedon Carol, "Waiting for Grandma to die"

It's worth remembering that a lot of the people who voted for Republicans because they are twitchy on social issues - still basically racist, still homophobic, still disgusted by hippies and wimmin's libbers - also still love their Social Security and Medicare and think they pay taxes so government can do things for them. They think businesses should not be able to break the law and poison, trick, or rob their customers. They think people who work hard and play by the rules should be able to retire in reasonable comfort and not be treated like dirt because they didn't happen to get immorally rich. They just don't realize that those are the real liberal policies that conservatives hate the most and are trying the hardest to get rid of.

But there's a younger generation out there that, as BDBlue points out, grew up in the Reagan era and doesn't even appreciate what Social Security has accomplished. Young, healthy kids who are now seeing Democrats who were put in power by liberals openly transferring taxpayers' wealth to criminal banksters, and who are about to force them to buy overpriced crappy insurance from the same criminals who've been denying them health care all along.

And the only people who are suggesting in public that these Democrats might be doing them wrong are...right-wingers whose stock-in-trade is bashing the left. And there's no one on TV telling them that it's not "blacks" and "liberals" and "gays" and "illegal aliens" who are responsible for this.

the passage above is of course only an excerpt. Please go read all of it.

Even though I wouldn't say I know her well, I've known Avedon and her writing a lot longer than Arthur Silber or Joe Bageant or any of my co-writers here at DH. In 2005 she discouraged me from going to Iraq as I announced that I planned to in 2007, and I didn't, although it was not because of her advice but the poverty I've experienced for most of the past 4 years. My point, however, is that Avedon has had a strong influence on my thinking about politics and our increasingly messed-up world, going back to when I first discovered the world of political blogs in 2002, and I'd even say she's helped me grow as a writer.

By that same token, her influence on my thought may help you to have a better perspective on my arguments, such as they are. For example, although I agree with Rob about the need to end the US imperial project, I really don't see how it's possible without shoring up the welfare state, and healthcare, and the economy. To me they're tied together, as our whole society seems to be predicated more and more on brutishness, on "looking out for number one," and to me this isn't simply random or culturally driven, but also driven by the structure of government, including the rotten fruits of Reaganism and the deliberate, decades-long project of tearing apart of the New Deal.

(And ironically Bill Clinton did a lot of this, even if he was also more sensible than his successor about paying the bills.)

How are you going to get ordinary people to care about Afghans getting blown up when 800 people show up to apply for just one crummy job as a meter reader? And the lucky schmoes who actually have half-way decent jobs, how do you get them to care about dismantling the empire when they're worried their health coverage may become similarly dismantled, and the press and President Smoke-and-Mirrors tell them the most they may hope for from the current healthcare 'reform' push is a government plan to sell people health insurance, when every other civilized country just provides healthcare-- i.e., allows you to pursue happiness without the fear or need for such insurance? I don't think you can.

Thursday, 22 October, some additional thoughts: I realize as I look at the above words that this argument is significantly incomplete. I don't want to suggest that arresting the US's economic slide and bolstering the social safety-net will suddenly make us a nation of Howard Zinns and Eleanor Roosevelts, but I do think it's a necessary condition for putting us on the right path. There's a lot more that needs to be addressed, from the infantilizing mission of corporate mass media to the amply demonstrated fact that US elites know they can largely ignore the more progressive impulses that popular majorities occasionally have, with no consequences. I was hoping some interesting commenters might leave some interesting comments and further the discussion, but maybe my rude title put them off, or something else... Anyway, I will return to this topic in a few days.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Dinner With The Opposition

I had dinner with a group of friends last night and after generous doses of Cabernet for all of us, we fell to (apt expression!) talking politics. My opponents were of the opinion--and weren't shy about expressing it--that the only solution to our troubles is to get "them" before "they" get us. After all, "they" ran planes into the World Trade Center towers and killed Americans, didn't they?
No, "they" didn't, that was somebody else, but in this discussion--hey wait, that needs quote marks, too--"discussion," the point was moot. They're all "them," from those hot countries and their sole aim in life is not to get enough to eat, not to protect their children, not to live morally under their understanding of God--but to kill Americans. Why? Because they hate us for our freedoms, because they want to convert us to their religion, because they want to capture our oil reserves, because they're just cockamamie nut cases--who the hell knows?
The point here is that all my companions' anger, all their resentment, all their fears are directed toward people in other countries, the barely human, or certainly not as human as we Americans. "They" trashed the economy and took prayer out of schools, along with the dark hordes of illegal immigrants (and with the connivance of the gays and liberals), not the politicians and bankers. How do we know? Why, the media tells us, easily convincing the populace that all their troubles are caused by "them."
It's so quick and easy to cite Nazi Germany as an example--remarkably, both sides sometimes do, although they're arguing from entirely different premises. Often, the allusion is 'way off the mark, but here's one that isn't. It's Noam Chomsky, a calm, reasoned voice who alludes to that topic to great effect. I wish my dinner companians would take a look at this.


Friday, October 16, 2009


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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Window of Opportunity

It seems official now that general McChrystal is going to get his McChristmas present as Raw Story reports that Obama has already made up his mind that he will send 45,000 more troops to Afghanistan which means we have passed that magic moment, a window of opportunity for Obama to either gain a moment of clarity and do the right thing or seal our fate chaining us all to years and years of these miserable wars, occupations, and interventions, not that this is unexpected. Still, when you see the actuality of it you might feel queasy in the pit of your stomach.


Despite a vehement denial from the White House, another British news source is claiming the Obama administration has decided in favor of a significant troop increase for Afghanistan.

The Daily Telegraph cites a senior British military officer who confirmed that the US has decided to send "tens of thousands" of additional troops to Afghanistan, in accordance with the reported wishes of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of the forces in Afghanistan.

This reveals something intrinsic regarding Obama which is what a smooth operator he truly is. I never quite swallowed the story of the rift between McChrystal and Obama though of course I cannot prove it either way. But this does indicate that Obama isn’t above squeezing the most juice out of a dramatic moment by letting everyone wait for King Tut to pronounce his edict but like I said the magic moment has passed and our doom is sealed. But this is exactly why Obama was chosen to be president by the establishment which is because Obama is smooth though with polls showing his war to be unpopular he may not be smooth enough for some.

What is also revealed is perhaps how much the timing of events may be orchestrated for full effect. Consider the recent flap over what is essentially a non-existent nuclear refining plant in Iran. Obama was informed of the plant when he became president but he intended to use it only at the penultimate moment though Iran pulled the rug out from under him by informing the IAEA of their plans for building a plant before Obama made his announcement, to their own peril I would just add. So here are two examples of how Obama works and thinks two examples of how he strives to manipulate public opinion to his advantage and to that of those powers he represents.

What a tragic moment in history. We are now condemned to rot in Iraq and Afghanistan for years to come for there can be no endings to an open ended occupation where we are told that we need to keep something from happening as in keeping what is left of al Qaida from returning to Afghanistan. It may be nonsense but it does have the effect of keeping the occupation going for as long as is desired.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday 13 Oct 09

some odds and ends:

I wish they'd let me embed this, but no dice:

Journeyman pictures(video link): Malindi Pirates: the fishermen of Malindi are celebrating and it's all thanks to the pirates. Since piracy has scared away the international trawlers who were ravaging Kenya's fish stocks, local fishing is thriving again.

"Biggest news you’ve never heard: Earth isn’t warming" -Patrick Jonsson

(This is a really odd article, and particularly disappointing coming from the Christian Science Monitor. The headline suggests one thing, then if you actually read it he admits that he's talking about data for just the past 11 years, then links to a Guardian article which he says refutes this, but if you actually read the linked article it seems he misrepresents that as well-- or maybe just doesn't understand it.)


Rising Sea Levels Are Increasing Risk Of Flooding Along South Coast Of England -via Bob in Pacifica

ScienceDaily (Oct. 10, 2009) — A new study by researchers at the University of Southampton has found that sea levels have been rising across the south coast of England over the past century, substantially increasing the risk of flooding during storms.

So there.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Don't Look, Don't Look!

A Pentagon defense lawyer sent a copy of Noam Chomsky’s book “Interventions” to a Guantanamo prisoner, a confessed member of al Qaida. The book was rejected by the military with no reason given.


A rejection slip accompanying the Chomsky book did not explain the reason but listed categories of restricted literature to include those espousing "Anti-American, Anti-Semitic, Anti-Western'' ideology, literature on "military topics,'' and works that portray "excessive graphic violence'' and "sexual dysfunctions.''

What were the military censors afraid of? That a Guantanamo prisoner might begin to suspect that there is something wrong with U.S. foreign policy? I try to imagine the narrow mind-set behind this kind of attitude and it is all too easy to do because we are all immersed in it all the time. It’s difficult not to step in the dog shit when you aren’t watching your step yet that is the protocol for being a good patriotic American.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ironies all the Way Down

There is no opposition to Obama’s War coming from congress, not really. What is a given is that we must stay the course in Afghanistan the only differences arise in the arena of strategy not if the war should continue or not.

Link Via

The president is reportedly frustrated that the debate has become polarised between those who want to send more troops and their critics, who say it would lead to another Vietnam. They advocate more reliance on drones and special forces.

There you have it. The great split among the gods of Olympus is either more troops or more drones with special forces (Too many James Bond movies?)to boot. The third option, the option that a significant number if not a majority of Americans want which is to get out of Afghanistan altogether doesn’t seem to be anywhere in sight and that’s because, why? Rhetorical question alert! If you guessed it’s because what you want doesn’t even amount to less than a hill of beans you win the prize. No, not the Nobel.

The U.S. has become a parody of itself, everything is bigger than life. W. Bush gave us a parody of the rugged individual, a man of few words yet resolute, the hard-bitten decider with a fake Texas twang. Obama is a liberal’s wet-dream, an articulate, intelligent black man who speaks like they do, isn’t too threatening even though he is black because he has assimilated himself completely in white culture. See? It’s all a joke, a great big farcical rollicking joke only I’m not laughing.

This fantastical journey or wonders is going to continue. We’ll be wondering when it will end, wondering when we will run out of money, that’s why it’s a journey of wonders. Basically as long as there is profit for the defense (war) industry, as long as private contractors can rake in the dough, as long as oil is to be had, and Russia and China to be contained, the wars will continue. And don’t leave the generals out, for they of the Pentagon and the ribbon festooned chests assuredly have their decrepit and warty snouts in the old pig trough as well. It’s just one big happy family after all.

And these are the people who go down in history as great and noble shining examples of humanity. They will talk of their legacies and of their great foresight and vision or perhaps of their military genius. Only a handful will bother with the great artists past or present. It seems to me it is the artists, the composers, painters, sculptors, poets, and authors, are those who make the greatest contributions to humanity, not the bloody tyrants and their acolytes.

And so the irony of giving a Nobel Peace Prize to Obama is just one more irony piled on top of more irony, it’s in fact, ironies all the way down.

Friday, October 09, 2009

we don't do body counts

Wednesday, 7 October 2009: 8th anniversary of the first airstrikes in the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Friday, 9 October 2009: Obama awarded Nobel peace prize.

''I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance, involving civilians. Let me scratch that. There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table.''

Barach Obama, 2008

"Please don't bomb Iran, and try not to kill so many Afghans, OK?"

Nobel peace prize committee, 2009

(I think they told Martin Luther King and that broad under house arrest in Burma the same thing when they got their Nobel peace prizes.)

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

By Rote

Dennis Perrin shares his thoughts on the efficacy of the web as a tool for change (He even mentions yours truly, thanks Dennis) which is certainly well worth reading as are all of Dennis’ posts and essays. Dennis points out that we are too depoliticalized and “scattered to the commercial winds” for even the beginnings of change for the better. I think that’s quite true. It was the last presidential election that really convinced me the web hadn’t really changed anything. Most liberal blogs were convinced that Obama was the answer and shilled for him ceaselessly and were fond of saying that once Obama was in office (the only important thing) that he should be pressured to pursue progressive policies. Though of course what happened was once Obama was president all pressure ceased immediately and liberals went into defense mode.

People often ask “why this” or “what do we do” as if there is some kind of recipe that will ensure change for the better yet there isn’t any sure road any more than Obama has a sure road in Afghanistan. If Obama really knew what he was doing he wouldn’t be changing plans in Afghanistan like some people change their underwear. If people are really committed to some kind of change they should eliminate what doesn’t work even if it has worked in the past. Things like voting, protesting, calling reps, writing the president, signing petitions, to bring change obviously don’t work the proof being that Bush’s horrendous domestic and foreign policies remain largely unchanged. The web helped elect a Democrat but that no longer signifies much of anything. There is no easy answer for any of this. I certainly do not advocate violence for even if a violent revolution succeeded the new government would quickly devolve into something like it already is unless there was some kind of real sea-change in our culture. Plus violence is what I am against in the first place.

Dennis articulates a very realistic answer so check out what he has to say.

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Monday, October 05, 2009



CBS News/New York Times Poll. July 24-28, 2009. N=1,050 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3. (Double-click on image for larger view.)

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

An Unanswerable Question

Obama has endorsed Iran’s proposal to export uranium for third-party enrichment and said that "We support Iran's right to peaceful nuclear power,”. So I have to correct myself here where in an earlier post I wrote that Obama didn’t support any Iran nuclear program. Still, Obama is putting the onus on Iran to prove they are only using the enrichment plants for peaceful use. And how does Iran accomplish this? That’s the rub for there is very little Iran can say or do to prove such a thing. I’m reminded of how a question can be asked in such a way that there is no good way of answering it. For example if we use that old saw “Is it true you stopped beating your wife?” there is no good way of answering that question that damns you even before you answer for if you never beat your wife you cannot say it is true or not without inadvertently admitting you beat your wife. If you say it is not true then you are still beating her and if you say it is true than you are saying you had beaten her in the past. In a similar manner this is the conundrum faced by Iran in the face of U.S. belligerence. Actually it seems to me that the onus is on Obama to prove that Iran is making nuclear weapons but of course with the imbalance of power it isn’t about to go down that way.

Something to keep in mind is that politicians are good at jerking the public around. All the noise regarding Iran is taking attention off of more immediate disasters like the one in Iraq and the one in Afghanistan and the fact that any hope of health care reform happening just got flushed down the toilet as if there was ever a chance in hell that there was going to be any meaningful reform. That is not to say there will be no military action against Iran but this recent blowup certainly has taken center stage from what must be far more pressing issues for Obama.

Obama remains somewhat of an enigma for me. On one hand he isn’t as hawkish as Hillary Clinton of the steely glare. He has kept his promise to escalate Afghanistan but that is about it as far as I can tell and it is not the promise that I would have chosen as one I would like to see kept. Is Obama just an overly authoritarian creature who is completely indoctrinated in American Exceptionalism or is he a very smooth con artist? I believe he is mainly the latter with a little of the former mixed in. In the end it matters little what he is for it is his actions that matter and that is how he should be judged.

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