Wednesday, December 30, 2009

We fight; China prospers

Finally we know the real reason we’re in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our military’s mission is to prepare the way for China’s commercial interests. First, China and Russia squeezed us out of the oil concessions in southern Iraq. Now the Wednesday edition of The New York Times tells us that China has won the rights to mine one of the world’s richest copper deposits near the village of Aynak in Afghanistan. (The current price of copper is $6,600 a ton.)

The article points out that, “The world’s superpower is focused on security. It’s fastest rising competitor concentrates on commerce.”

Of course, the Chinese have one advantage we don’t—they aren’t saddled with a voracious corporate-military parasite that needs a steady diet of wars and threats to survive. We destroy; China builds. Our military drags us into bankruptcy; China prospers.

As one Afghani put it, “The Chinese are much wiser. When [they] went to talk to the local people they wore civilian clothing, and they were friendly. The Americans—not as good. When they come there, they have their uniforms, their rifles and such, and they are not as friendly.”

The article notes that the Chinese “flush with money and in control of both the government and major industries, meld strategy, business and statecraft into a seamless whole.”

The copper contract China has inked with Afghanistan underscores the difference between their approach and ours.

· They will build a 400-megawatt generating plant to power both the mine and Kabul. We bomb wedding parties.
· They will dig a new coal mine, with Afghani workers, to power the generating plant. We kill women and children.
· They will build a smelter to refine the copper. We torture.
· They will build a railroad to carry ore to the smelter and refined copper back to china. We support a corrupt regime.
· They will build schools, roads and mosques. We have reduced their country to rubble.

The article goes on to point out that, “[T]he conclusion is inescapable: American troops have helped make Afghanistan safe for Chinese investment.

China is proving that the pen is mightier than the sword, especially if the pen is used to ink contracts.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bored Violence

A life of bored prosperity is such a numbing existence that only violence can make it feel alive. The days of the prosperous are ordered before them like footsteps dried in concrete as they follow the same tread day in and day out, their life reduced to pure routine even down to the bead length of toothpaste they put on their brush.

Perfect order and perfect predictability yield the boredom that is a prerequisite for violence. Boredom gives a depth to violence that passion is incapable of giving. It is the grit that gives violence its purchase. So sublime is its stimulation that violence quickly becomes a habit.

To the children of a bored prosperity all violence is virtual like the choreographed fistfight in the Hollywood western. This suits the children of prosperity because they can remain unsplattered in their sanitary bubbles while setting into motion the policies that slaughter. Cries of agony and death never reach their ears; blood never splatters over their wingtips. And they revel in their toughness and see themselves realists though the world they occupy is one of pure fantasy: the fantasy of their immortality and the fantasy of their infinite power.

The violence born of boredom has stamina because it is violence filtered through the turgid language of policy, the pain it creates muffled by the nasal intonations of its spokesmen. Barbarity filtered through policy perpetuates itself because the justification for barbarity is constantly shifting and changing—old targets fade, new ones come into focus. The only constant is an enemy, a threat. Words are the sponges that wipe away barbarity’s gore and leave in their wake a shining monument to man’s triumph over tyranny—words sung, words spoken, words of glory; mundane words that sooth and uplift.

The proles sit with pods firmly in their ears, glazed and content to slowly die as boredom’s hand closes around them lowering them into a anesthetized indifference until the Blood of the Lamb dribbles over their foreheads and they are awake and alive, ready to cheer the slaughter, waving their colors proudly to the fetish boom of clusters spiting shards of steel through flesh and clothing. How it stimulates; how alive a man feels as the ground shakes beneath his feet and he glories in his master’s strength, his life now one of meaning and purpose.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Gentle Oppression

The twentieth century saw the birth pangs of a dynamic movement that was to reach its maturity in the twenty-first, and that was ideological totality and its child, social engineering.

The totalizing methods set into motion by Stalin and Hitler were crude affairs whose lack of sophistication and marketing acumen guaranteed their eventual self destruction.

Despite their clumsiness, these early experiments shared one thing in common with the more sophisticated ideological totality of the twenty-first century, and that was the belief that ideological implementation was possible only through the complete destruction of a nation, a community or an individual. Out of the rubble of the old would emerge a new nation, a new community or a new “man.”

The earlier attempts failed because they equated destruction with actual physical destruction. You shot all the dissidents and beat the survivors into submission. Out of this, they believed, they could build an individual who internalize the official state ideology.

You don’t rebuild the human psyche, you corrupt it. Instead of active support, the sole goal of the state should be to induce passive apathy. Once it turns citizens into consumers, the state is free to do as it pleases as long as it continues to entertain the proles. Put a prole in front of images dancing on a screen and community is doomed. This is one of the reasons the twenty-first century is devoid of alternative social movements. You have to leave the house to start one.

Parades, rallies and mass gymnastics are all passé when it come to the modern totalistic state. As long as celebs get the lion’s share of airtime and political coverage is focuses on fund raising at the expense of content there is little chance of the masses rebelling.

Corporatism is scaling heights undreamed of by the totalistic states of old because it understands that effective marketing is more important than propaganda. Noise and toys have replaced chains as instruments of control.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Classic Revisited

The beauty of a classic is the ease with which it can be updated even as it is retold. Shakespeare’s Hamlet moves easily between the centuries with each new production. Classic literature is infinitely adaptable to time and place.

Take the French classic The Story of O, which tells the tale of the training of a female submissive. In the French version, O was a female fashion photographer who loved every indignity to which she was forced to submit. In the updated version, the submissive in training is a male politician so driven by ambition he submits willing to the demands of his handlers.

There are some differences between the two:

· In the original, the heroine admitted her submissiveness; in the updated version, the protagonist is in denial.
· The original was erotic; the revision isn’t.

Our hero is always willing to shill for his handlers. With the Senate passage of the healthcare reform bill, our hero has been trotted out to sing his masters’ song, touting the bill as a major breakthrough when all it does is force the poor to buy insurance from private insurers and fining them if they fail to do so.

His minions accompany him with their familiar descant-: It’s not perfect but it’s the best we could get. Don’t worry; we’ll revisit it latter; it’s only the first step in a long process.


It’s the same song and dance they did when the Medicare drug bill was passed.

Nothing will change; nothing will be revisited. Their masters have spoken and the bill is as it is and as it will remain.

Our contemporary Story of O could well be subtitled Much Ado About Nothing.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Christmas Eve. The solstice, that night when the earth reaches the nadir of it plunge into darkness without which light would be impossible. It is part of the cycle that makes a mockery out of our feeble attempts to impose a linear narrative on the slowly turning sphere of birth, growth, descent, death and rebirth. It grinds our schemes and pipe dreams to dust as it turns, for the cycle knows what we refuse to acknowledge, that all of creation is grounded in death, that the rose blooms best when rooted in the decaying flesh of its brothers and sisters who have died and been enfolded back into the earth.

The cycle mocks our chirpy Christmas music because it knows that the manger sits in the shadow of the cross. The sixteenth century’s “Coventry Carol” captures this tension between birth and death. It is a lament sung by mothers whose infant sons have been slaughtered in Herod’s massacre of the innocents as described in Matthew 2:16-18.

All darkness contains a shard of light just as it is the shadows that give light its depth. Rather than a season of Hallmarkian joy, Christmas should be a time of sad reflection deepened by the sweet pain of memories of times long past and of innocence lost.

We put too much store in our doctrine of eternal happiness. The Spanish have a proverb that reminds us that there is no happiness, but only moments of happiness.

The paradox of darkness is that only by surrendering to it and plunging into its depths are we able to find the light that sustains.

So, may your holidays be a time of growth and of movement towards the light that is present even when the night is at its darkest.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fairy Tales Do Come True

The nation must have been pretty naughty last year because all it’s getting from the Obama administration for Christmas is one lump of coal after another, be it a healthcare reform bill that is gives the insurance industry a barrel of pork or a thirty-thousand troop “surge” in Afghanistan or the ever popular bailing out of a corrupt and ineffectual banking system.

With every passing day the Obama administration morphs into an extension of the GWB administration with the only change being an increase in the level of articulation. Somehow bullshit is easier to take when it’s articulate. There’s nothing worse than a mumbling liar.

Now, according to David Michael Green, another similarity is beginning to emerge. Where Bush had to clear his every move with Cheney, Obama has to clear his every move with that master of corporate ass kissing, Rahm Emanuel. And Emanuel insists that Obama sing the Populist Rag in such a way that it doesn’t upset his corporate handlers.

The mantra that guides this administration is, “Promise everything; deliver nothing.”

Emanuel’s philosophy is that it’s okay to hollow out the country as long as those corporate contributions keep pouring into the party’s coffers.

Green says he can’t figure Obama out. Then he proceeds to answer his question by pointing out that Obama is a corporate hack. He always has been and always will be until his non-policies create such a level of outrage that he is either forced to change course or is kicked out of office. With Emanuel at the helm, the preference would be to sink the administration as long as the coffers were full. Gold is heavier than idealism.

While shopping for Christmas gifts for my grandchildren, I noticed a lot of children books that have been written about the Obama presidency. This is fitting since it is turning out to be a regular fairy tale for adults.

In “Little Red Riding Hood,” the woodsman saved Hood from the wolf. In this fairy tale, the woodsman is feeding both grandma and Hood to the beast.

Green sagely points out that by refusing to make an enemy of anyone, Obama is making an enemy of everyone, except the wolf.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Closing the Carcass Gap

Oppression rests on a bedrock of ideology, be it the divine right of kings, Christianism, Nazism or Communism. Without a dynamic ideology driving it, the best a leader could hope for was a tepid authoritarianism. A war driven by ideology takes on a nasty brutishness not found in wars fought for political or economic reasons. Slaughter rocks when ideology is giving the orders.

The question is how do you spin an ideology out of the raw material of life? What switch must a leader throw, what screw do must he tighten in order to create a jackbooted ideology that destroys all in its path.

We find a clue in the early days of sociology. The discipline arose in the nineteenth century with thinkers like Weber, Comte and Durkheim. These early thinkers were literate and well-red, and in many cases their writing approached poetry.

One of the tools these early thinkers used to understand the working of society was the “ideal type.” This was an abstract construct that represented a social phenomenon in its pure form. Examples of ideal types are democracy, capitalism, freedom and socialism.

It was understood by these thinkers that the ideal type was not reality. It was simply a tool with which one could analyze reality. Human beings are too contradictory, difficult, disorganized and undisciplined to ever achieve an ideal type—unless they are forced to.

Here now is the key to creating an ideology: Treat an ideal type as if it is real. Place this new “reality” on a mountain top, and drive the people up the slope with whips, cudgels and unmanned drones. Stalin did this with socialism and the end result was Communism, a mutant form of state-run capitalism.

The contemporary hotbed of ideology is the United States where every word is literalized and every ideal type is treated as a reality to be achieved. Saint Milton of Friedman is our patron saint of ideology. He took an ideal type, feral free enterprise, and treated it as a reality. The result has been a seething cauldron of poverty, misery, oppression and disenfranchisement. Just as Stalin gave us Communism, St. Milton has given us the Washington Consensus.

In the beginning, the Washington Consensus was rather wimpy as ideologies go. True, it caused its share of misery, but is simply couldn’t achiever the same body count as the traditional European ideologies.

That is until our Oligarchs decided to bring free enterprise and democracy to the Middle East. With that decision, the Washington Consensus started earning its chops as a grim reaper. We still have a ways to go before we catch up with the twentieth century ideologies, but this is America, home of the can-do spirit.

This is why Afghanistan is so important. We simply cannot allow this carcass gap to continue. We must show the Europeans that when it comes to body counts, we are number one.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Keeping the Golden Goose Hale and Hardy

It’s not easy running an unnecessary war. Our leaders really have to be fast on their feet to pull it off. The more unnecessary a war is, the greater the chance that peace will try to break out, especially if the country waging it is bankrupt and a foreclosed public starts wondering why their enlightened leaders are dropping a cool trillion on two wars that won’t do squat.

Things are really looking grim in Afghanistan where peace is really trying to raise its ugly head now that the Taliban have offered a pledge that they will not allow the country to be used for an attack on another country if NATO (read the United States) agrees to a pull out and that they would renounce al Qaeda (not a big thing, really, since there are no more than 100 al Qaeda in Afghanistan).

What the Taliban fail to realize is that peace is anathema to our Corporate-Military Establishment. Hell, how would they reap all those profits if they didn’t have a war to fight? What would we do with all that military hardware?

There are two requirements for the execution of an unnecessary war. The first is a public whose memory can be measured in nanoseconds. The second is spokeshacks facile in the spinning of creative truths. Both of these have come into play in dealing with the Taliban offer.

Huffed one State Department spokeshack, “This is the same group that refused to give up bin Laden, even though they could have saved their country from war. They wouldn’t break with the terrorists then, so why would we take them seriously now?”

Now, that's creativity! The truth is that the Taliban offered three times to surrender bin Laden. The first two times they asked for evidence that he was involved in 9/11, a standard procedure in extradition proceedings. Twice, the U.S. refused, citing “state secrets.” The third time, after the invasion began, they waived the evidence requirement. We still said, “Thanks but no thanks.”

Then Bobby Gates chimed in by saying that we had to grind them into the ground before they would negotiate on our terms, our terms being our permanent presence there so we could protect the pipeline we want to build.

The first rule of unnecessary warfare is that you don’t serve the goose that lays the golden eggs for dinner. It is imperative that you keep it fat and healthy no matter what the cost. The priority in such a war is not a healthy army, it’s healthy defense contractors, and if you have to hollow out the army to keep the contractors hale and hardy, then you do so. After all, military prowess is simply a form of glorious self destruction.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

More "Change" We Can Believe In

It looks like Obama has joined the “Bash-the-Victims” movement that is one of the right’s talking points. However, he’s gone the right one better by giving it a populist spin.

This happened during his radio address last Saturday in which he praised the House passage of a Wall Street friendly banking bill, a bill that is high on spin and low on reform.

In his speech, Obama seemed to lash out at the banks when he condemned the “irresponsibility of large financial institutions on Wall Street that gambled on risky loans and complex financial products, seeking short-term profits and big bonuses with little regard for long-term consequences.” What he forgot to mention is that the “reform” bill will allow many of these practices to continue in all of their unregulated glory. But, when has spin ever spoken the truth?

Having given Wall Street a tiny tap on the wrist, he proceeded to stomp the shit out of Wall Street’s victims by decrying the millions of Americans who “borrowed beyond their means and bought homes they couldn’t afford, and assumed that housing prices would always rise and the day of reckoning would never come.”

Of course, he conveniently ignored that fact that the public did so because swarms of experts assured them that it was financially sound to do so because “housing prices would always rise.” This assertion came on the heels of decades of preaching to the public that consumption was the road to salvation. It was a nice little sleight of hand in which the decline in the public’s standard of living was concealed by forcing to maintain their old standard by plunging deeper into debt.

The only sin committed by the public was putting too much faith in “experts,” something they had been conditioned to do from birth. If there is a lesson to be had out of this entire debacle it is that experts are to be viewed with the most profound skepticism and their utterance are assumed to be incorrect until proven otherwise.

The irony of the bill is that it would not bar financial speculation; the speculators would just have to tell us what they were up to. It’s kind of like telling a criminal to reveal his crime, but promising him he won’t be prosecuted. It makes a break-in much easier to endure.

Once again we have another change we can believe in.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Sweet Momentum of History

History is chaos upon which an arbitrary narrative has been imposed. An African proverb tells us that until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.

In truth, the past is habit run amok until it hits a wall and a new habit is born. The narrative that is imposed on is a post hoc rationalizing of a toxic momentum that rolls over all in its path.

So when John Feffer tells us that, “Barack Obama demonstrated that he, too, cannot step outside history,” he is telling us that Obama has been swept up by the collective habit that drives the Beltway.

It is an ugly habit that leaves dead women and children in its wake. This is why leadership is so often an exercise is sociopathic behavior. A decent leader, seeing clearly the consequences of his actions would cringe in revulsion.

This is why historical narratives are always written on thick paper so the blood of the victims can’t soak through. History is a shroud in which the victims are buried. History sanitizes and sprinkles perfume on the stench left in habit’s wake. So it is that then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (the same Madeleine who said of the half million Iraqi children who were victims of our draconian sanctions, “It was worth it,”) can call the United States an “indispensable nation.”

Feffer cites Obama’s Oslo speech as an example of whitewashing a dung pile. Obama proudly proclaimed that, “Wars are morally justified…if they are conducted in self-defense or as a last resort, if the force employed is proportional, and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared violence.”

Feffer then proceeds to make mincemeat of Obama’s statement by pointing out that:

The problem with the president’s interpretation of just-war theory is that the conflict in Afghanistan—the issue that most threatens to undercut the legitimacy of his prize—doesn’t fit the bill. It is difficult to claim the war is still in self defense, not when the Taliban pose no threat to the United States and al-Qaeda has been reduced to a few fragments that could relocate elsewhere. The force is far from proportional, given that the most powerful country in the world is bombing one of the poorest. And civilians have surely not been spared violence.

History turns deadly when momentum is treated as destiny. Momentum sails into destiny’s harbor on a ship built of lies. (One of the bigger lies is that we are a “military superpower.” If we’re such a superpower, why haven’t we won a war since World War II? Sure, we have more military hardware than anyone else, but most of it is useless in the counterinsurgency wars we have fought and are fighting.)

The truth is that Obama is a much of a prisoner of momentum as his predecessors. He has fallen into a raging torrent that will sweep both him and those who follow along until it is reduced to a trickle. Some call it history; others call it madness.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

'Tis the Season of Hallmarkian Joy

Christmas is problematic for our oligarchs. Talk of peace and love fill the air, and there is always the possibility that things will get out of hand and the public will begin to take it seriously. However, season does give our Beltway minions a chance to spend at least one day wallowing in decency before reverting back to the serene barbarity that is the wellspring of all progress and civilization.

Not to worry. The religious right will make sure this never happens. They worship the parochial god of the tribe and not the God of universal love. Universal love is doomed to failure because too many people associate it with a euphoric skipping through La-La Land with a beatific smile on their faces. They are unwilling to face the harsh reality that Christian Love requires a descent into the deepest pit of Hell and a willingness to love every low-life son of a bitch one finds there, even though one’s knee-jerk reaction is to tear their fucking throats out. This unwillingness to do so is what transforms Christian Love into the spittle spray of Christian bile.

The religious right also guarantees that its followers are kept away from Jesus. Nothing would ruin their faith faster than a public that actually bought into his teachings. Instead, their leaders encourage them to practice Christianism rather than Christianity. Christianism is simply Christianity without Jesus. Under Christianism’s guidance, a dynamic faith is reduced to a fossilized ideology.

Jesus broke bread with sinners and the poor; Christianism marginalizes them. Jesus taught love; Christianism teaches a hate born of fear. Jesus taught salvation; Christianism teaches destruction.

Christianism’s irony is its obsessive propagation of the Ten Commandments and its determination to see them displayed in public building. They don’t seem to understand that the Commandments are downright anticorporatist. They tell us don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie and don’t exploit. How in the hell do you run a multinationals with an albatross like that around your neck?

Christianism could be described as “a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, [that] abandons democratic liberties and pursues redemptive violence...without ethical or legal restraints [and pursues a policy] of internal cleansing and external expansion.”

That is part of Robert O. Paxton’s definition of fascism sung to the tune of “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

I don’t what our oligarchs are worried about, though. You don’t see many crèches among the brilliantly flashing lights of Christmas lawn displays. I think we’ve kind of forgotten what the season is all about.

The Pentagon will be pleased.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jumping Joe--Part II

My goodness, the attempt to pass a healthcare reform bill is becoming more and more like a third-rate sequel to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Jumping Joe Lieberman is wielding his monkey wrench like a frat boy wields a keg while Senate progressives wring their hands and shed crocodile tears over their inability to do anything about it.

Of the many productions our Corporate Congress has staged for the public, this is one of the more elaborate. It’s a classic example of running in place even as you claim you’re running a marathon.

First, there is the false deadline. “We’ve simply got to get this bill passed by Christmas, no matter how vapid it is. The deadline is arbitrary, put there for dramatic effect.

Then there are the mournful statements from Democrats whining that while they're disappointed that Jumping Joe spiked the Medicare buy-in and the public options, the progressives must put on a happy face and be thankful for the few crumbs their corporate masters allowed to fall from their table, such as:

· The bill will extend coverage to an additional 30 million uninsured individuals, as in forcing them to buy coverage from private companies thus providing a super-sized barrel of pork to private insurers. Fifteen million would remain uninsured.
· Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage because of a prior condition or cancel coverage because an insured has maxed out his or her benefits. (Expect the private insurers to take that one straight to the Supreme Court—illegal seizure of property, you know. Not nice because the government can’t do that to a person and everyone knows a corporation is a person.)

What is interesting is that after Jumping Joe threw his hissy-fit, not one Democrat senator threw his and threatened to allow a filibuster. The reason is simple enough: regressives are ruthless; progressives aren’t. If progressives were ruthless, they would allow a filibuster to continue right through the Christmas recess and let Lieberman and his Republican cronies face the wrath of their constituents.

Of course, we forget that the last thing the Senate worries about is what their constituents think. This is because the Beltway has become a foreign occupying power, part of a troika that includes Wall Street and the Pentagon.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Jumping Joe Strikes Again!

The corporate ownership of our United States senators is not a constant. There are degrees of ownership as evidenced by the extent to which our senators dance to their corporate pied pipers.

By this standard, one of the most subservient of senators has to be Jumping Joe Lieberman. This man is so tied into his corporate handlers that he not only eschews his constituents, but he eschews his party as well. It’s no wonder he left the democrats to become an independent (an ironic label if there was everyone.)

Well, Jumping Joe has done it again. The Senate, in a rare show of intelligence, crafted their health reform bill to provide a Medicare drop-down to age 55. This is sensible on several levels. Older workers are hit harder by unemployment than their younger peers, and they tend to have more health problems. In addition, it is commonly agreed, by those not beholden to corporate sponsors, that a government-run single payer system is far more efficient and equitable than the private system now in place.

Trust someone as corporately owned as Jumping Joe to stand up and say, “Wait one fucking minute. My handlers want no such a provision as that in the health bill.” So he has threatened to filibuster the bill unless the provision is removed.

And of course, the democratic leadership immediately flopped down on their bellies and crawled to Jumping Joe to find out what they had to do to placate him.

Kiss the Medicare drop-down goodbye.

Now if the Democrats had both a spine and brains, they’d see Jumping Joe’s threat as a golden opportunity. All they’d have to do is force the son of a bitch to stand up in the Senate and filibuster a program the majority of the country favors. Shine a media spotlight on his obstructionism. Get the wheeling and dealing out of the Senate cloakroom and on to the floor where the citizens of Connecticut can see what a mean-spirited bastard they elected.

At the same time, the Democrats could inform Joe that come the next election they were going to target all their resources on making sure he didn’t return to the Senate chambers. And the linchpin of their advertising would be film clips of Joe’s filibuster against meaningful health care.

Of course, all of the above assumes that the Democrats were serious about the Medicare drop-down in the first place.

And that ain’t necessarily so.

What we could be looking at here is a carefully choreographed song and dance. The Democrats propose the drop-down, and that nasty independent from the Nutmeg state kills it as the Democrats wring their hands in mock despair and claim that, golly gee, we really, really tried to get the measure passed but the political wind just wasn’t blowing in the right direction, though, in truth, the only wind blowing in the Senate chamber is a corporate fart.

In the end, it’s all theater scripted by the K Street Drama Club.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Moving Beyond Gay Marriage

Opponents of gay marriage claim that if it is legalized it would only be a matter of time before marriage between humans and animals will become legal. Of course it would. Good heavens, if a person in in a stable relationship with their cat, why shouldn’t it be sanctified by the sacrament of marriage, though getting a cat to walk up the aisle could be problematic.

The sticky problem is what to do about marriages between humans and vegetables or mineral. If a man is in a deep relationship with his pet rock does it not follow that this too should be sanctified? Or if a man is suddenly smitten by the rutabaga on his plate, should it not follow that this is a union crying out for a deeper bond?

Though, I will admit that the rutabaga does raise some sticky theological questions. Rocks tend to be stable creatures. Their structure does not change, so a long-term union is possible.

The question is how to sustain a long-term relationship with a rotting vegetable. You could vacuum seal it and freeze it, but that would force man and rutabaga to live in a constant state of estrangement.

Another possible solution would be to encase it in amber. However, this brings up another thorny question. A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, but if the spirit is dead, is it still a sacrament? By the same token, a life is an outward and visible sign an inward and cellular vitality. Just as we may ask if a marriage still a sacrament if the celebrant and couple are simply going through the motions, so we may ask if a life is still a life when the outward physical attributes masks an inward cellular mortality.

If we affirm that the physical appearance is the sole determinant of life, then we are forced to consider the viability of a stable relationship between an individual and a corpse. Have we been treating necrophilia unfairly over the centuries? Can a man and his corpse sustain a lasting marriage over time. Is a marriage between man and urn possible?

And, what happens if a developer declares his love for a national park and asks for its hand in marriage. People marry for money, why shouldn’t they marry for undeveloped land. After marriage, the developer , being the good husband that he is, would shower her with condos and shopping malls.

This, in turn, leads to a possible solution to the Afghan war. Instead of raining Hellfire missiles down on wedding parties, the United States should simply propose marriage. As a pledge of our troth, we would drape our beloved country with a bejeweled oil pipeline. Why spend all that money conquering a country when you can marry it instead?
The possibilities are endless.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Framing the Rising Sun Controversy

It is something of a miracle that the Republicans still manage to keep the Democrats on the defensive even though the Democrats control both the White House and Congress. Bombarded by a constant barrage of buzz words and faux issues, the Democrats have barely been able to keep their balance and go on the offensive. The rightwing noise machine has them so cowed they self-censor their every thought less it unleashes a barrage of polemic.

It all gets down to the right’s superb ability to frame any given issue in such a way that the Democrats can only react, and in their reaction come across as weak and uncertain.

The key to framing an issue to make a blatantly false statement with such confidence and certainty that the public believes it must be true. The statement is repeated and repeated until the public accepts it as fact. This entire process is abetted by a supine press that parrots every turd tossed out by the right without questioning it.

For example, a Wingnut could express moral outrage over the Democratic Party’s belief that the sun rises in the East. Such a belief is eating away at the country’s moral fiber because studies have shown that people who support gay marriage and abortion also believe in an East-rising sun. And there the right has its buzz word, the East-rising sun conspiracy, because we all know that in the corporatist state east is west, west is east, north is south and south is north.

Immediately, the rightwing noise machine screams its abhorrence of the East-rising sun conspiracy and demands that the Democratic Party repudiate this subversive heresy.

The Democrats are in disarray. The attack on the East-rising sun conspiracy is so virulent they are too scared to point out that the sun actually does rise in the East. To do so would leave them open to attack.

At first, they try to ignore the issue. But the right refuses to let them off the hook. Why, the right demands to know, are the Democrats silent? Is it possible that they believe the sun rises in the East. Finally, the Democrats issue a statement that calls for further study of the rising sun issue.

The media, of course, laps this all up as they repeat every charge and every futile attempt by the Democrats to defuse the issue. Editorials accuse the Democrats of being weak on the rising-sun controversy. Pundits expound that there are two sides to every issue and that the Democrats are hurting themselves by their failure to take a strong position on the issue.

Pressure builds at the local level for schools to teach both sides of the question. The whole concept of an easterly direction comes under attack. Democrats start losing elections because of it. The party is reeling from the onslaught of the anti East-rising sun movement. Cable news rating soar as the controversy grows. Evangelicals join the fray and condemn the East-rising sun doctrine as another attack on Christianity.

The whole issue is nearly as absurd as death panels. But then, political trivia is just another manifestation of the bread and circuses that keep the public distracted.

It is amazing that after all these years the Democratic Party still hasn’t figured out that it is being gamed. The party has spent so many years on the defensive that it has forgotten how to mount an effective attack.

America is truly a one-and-a-half party system.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Making the World Safe for Whatever...

All war is evil. Period. No exceptions. There are rare occasions when war becomes a necessary evil because a country is attacked, but no matter how necessary, the taking of a human life is still evil. The concept of a "just" war is, at best, a moral obscenity.

Unless you’re Barack Obama.

In accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama stepped up to the podium in Stockholm and used the occasion to reinforce GWB’s Manichean worldview when he said:

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflicts in our lifetime. There will be times when nations—acting individually or in concert—will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

There you have it: our Eternal War of the Empty Policy will go on and on and on because the first rule of missionary zeal is that you must fight evil with evil.

To paraphrase the Chilean journalist Ximena Ortiz, Obama intends to fight evil using other people’s lives. But that’s the way it is with missionary crusades. It’s always easier to slaughter than to covert.

Of course, evil is evil as defined by the reigning power. This is one of the ways in which power corrupts. The more power a nation acquires, the more it becomes convinced that it is the moral center of the universe, and moral centers brook no opposition and are convinced that the carnage they leave in their wake is good for their victims since it introduces to the benefits of civilized behavior.

Cynics argue that morality has nothing to do with wars of aggression. Our wars have been all about acquiring land and resources or expanding markets. (No, the Civil War wasn’t fought to free the slaves. That was only an afterthought on Lincoln’s part to give a moral patina to the butchery the war produced.)

Since the Revolutionary War, we have sacrificed 1,314,400 military personnel in our attempts to reform the world. The civilian body count is even greater, especially since the introduction of industrial warfare.

Of course, Obama is correct when he says we will not eradicate violent conflicts in our lifetime because America keeps starting them.

But who ever thought Moral Purity was easy? It takes a lot of work and a lot of bloodshed to make the world a safe place for our Corporatists.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Song of Praise

Let us pause to praise our legions of technocrats and administrators who hop to each time the God of Policy farts. Praise all the accountants, lawyers, programmers, marketers, implementers of policy, Scribes and Pharisees with their fossilized souls frozen in the resin of intellectual barrenness.

These are the bravest of the brave who leave their piety tucked beneath church pews as they go forth on Mondays to execute, promulgate and sell. They drape death in silks and hang bangles from his neck as they drown his stench with eau de cologne.

They are our noble maggots recycling human flesh into upticks and point spreads as they sacrifice children on the altar of national security that they may justify their anxiety and paranoia. They prosecute the innocent in the name of security, level homes in the name of commerce and tolerate poverty in the name of freedom.

Let us honor and lift them up that God may glorify their efforts. Let us join our voices in thanksgiving, for without them we would be a second-rate power known only for the happiness and security of its people instead of the most feared power the world has ever known. They are the ones who are taking us to the mountain top from whence we may leap forth and soar unto the rocks below.

Without their amorality decency could well ravage the world, shrinking market share as it did so. Without their value-free calculations and formulae fair play could well replace foul. Without their subservience our the corporate state could wither away.

It was they who made the Nazi death camps the stunning successes that they were. Without their administrative skills the camps never would have achieved the productivity that they did.

They are our professionals who understand that professionalism is a synonym for dehumanization. Their upbringing and education has been such that all decency has been leached from their souls. All that is left is a crippled shell that knows only how to implement and not how to think.

The dangerous ones, of course, are those who have clung to their morality despite the best efforts of society to neutralize it. Yet, they are harmless because all they know is technique, not thought, so they see only superficial symptoms and not root causes. This is why most progressive thinking is such thin gruel.

Tacitus said of the Romans that they created a desert and called it peace. Our administrators say that they created a insipid wasteland and called it happiness.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Whose your momma?

So, who still thinks Obama is running the show? When he announced his Afghan escalation at West Point, Obama assured the nation we’d start withdrawing our forces by 2011.

Up to the mike steps Gen. Davy Petraeus who says, “Not so fast, baby! Them troops don’t leave ‘til I say they leave! Hell, you don’t mess with a viable profit center, so stop acting like a commander-in-chief.”

It seems it is now going to take years (at $10 billion per) before the Afghan police and army are able to take over responsibility for their own security. According to Thursday’s New York Times, Karzai says Afghanistan won’t be able to foot the bill for its security until 2024, if then.

Remember, that’s $10 billion a year just to beef up security in Afghanistan. That doesn’t include the expenses we incur for keeping our soon to be 100,000 troops on the ground.

All this just so we can control a wasteland.

Pointing out that the lunatics are running the asylum is a shop-worn cliché.

But, goddamn it…

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Keep those presses rolling!

I’m sure our oligarchs are thrilled with the Tiger Woods scandal. There’s nothing like a trivial headline grabber to keep the public diverted while the Beltway’s media mill pump out disinformation as fast as it can.

The latest shipment to be slipped by the public in the media brouhaha over Woods is Obama’s rationales for escalating the war in Afghanistan.

In his West Point speech, Obama tried to draw a distinction between Afghanistan and Vietnam by contending that we’d fought Vietnam all by ourselves. Paul Rosenberg points out that this is a bold-faced lie. Our allies in Vietnam included:

320,000 troops from South Korea
60,000 troops from Australia
10,450 troops from the Philippines
3,890 troops from New Zealand

If my math is correct, this is a lot more than the number of “allied” troops currently in Afghanistan.

Then Obama claimed that the Taliban refused to hand over Osama in the wake of 9/11. Robert Lopez shines some light on that one. The Taliban offered to hand over Bin Laden three times. The first two times, they asked for evidence of his involvement in 9/11. The Bushites refused, citing national security. The third time, the Taliban said they would forget about the evidence if Osama could be tried in a third country. Once again, we said no because we just had to have a war.

Fortunately, the public was too busy trying to sort our Tiger’s mistresses to notice.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cultural Hubris and the Militarized Corporate State

It is a misnomer to call it racism because the entire concept of race is a myth. Some may point to the slaughter and mayhem this myth has left in its wake as proof of its reality, but the sad truth is that myths of all sorts are always deadlier than reality. Just look at the brutality religious wars create.

Rather what we are seeing in the Beltway’s justification for the Afghan enterprise is a cultural hubris carried to the point of madness. It is the assumption that western, liberal democracy is the acme of social evolution and that its practitioners have a moral obligation to spread it to the far corners of the earth. (One wonders just how civilized the West is, given the millions killed in our wars and our death camps. However, if a culture believes itself on the side of “right” it can do no evil.

A corollary of this hubris is that all other cultures are mired in barbarity, superstition and ignorance, and it is the West’s duty to lift them out of this swamp. And we do this by converting savages into middleclass suits who talk like us and think like us, after we’ve bombed them into submission.

Consequently, we believe that everything outside of our cultural gated community constitutes a threat that must be neutralized.

In his West Point speech, Obama personified this mindset when he said, “This struggle against violent extremism will not be finished quickly, and it extends well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan. Our efforts will involve disorderly regions and diffuse enemies.” “Violent extremism” is code for insurgent nationalism, a no-no for the West because it represents a rejection of our utopian mindset. (Only a died-in-the-wool cynic would suggest that the real reason for our Eternal War of the Empty Policy to justify our militarized corporate state.)

According to Mike Whitney, Obama’s remark was inspired by a report by Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) who said:

He [Obama] must make it clear that the ideological, demographic, governance, economic and other pressures that divide the Islamic world mean the world will face threats in many other nations that will endure indefinitely into the future. He should mention the risks in Yemen and Somalia, make it clear that the Iraq war is not over, and warn that we still face both a domestic threat and a combination of insurgency and terrorism that will continue to extend from Morocco to the Philippines, and from Central Asia deep into Africa, regardless of how well we do in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

That’s the trouble with a gated community; the very presence of a gate makes you feel threatened regardless of whether or not the threats are real. The first law of a militarized corporate state is that if there are no real threats out there, we’ve got to make some up. We need a worldwide conspiracy where none exists; we need phantoms and ghosts, monsters hiding in the closet, rabid natives, frothing fanatics and lots of off-white flesh begging for a benevolent blow from our velvet fist.

In his speech, Obama did more than escalate the Afghan war. He deftly replaced a moribund Communism with Islam as the new justification for a new Cold War. Only this one will be religious, which will make it even dicier.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Third Mouse

Of the many fairy tales our oligarchs have sold the public on, one of the more pernicious is that the only permanence is change. One of their favorite clichés is, “Change is inevitable; growth is optional.” The implication is that your company doesn’t fire you; it liberates you. And in this state of liberation, you are free to move on to higher level of existence as you began collecting unemployment because anxiety builds character.

Some years ago, as corporations were making job security a thing of the past, a pamphlet was making the rounds titled “Where’s my cheese.” It told the tale of two laboratory mice who were made to run a maze at the end of which was there cheese. Once both mice mastered the maze, their cheese was moved to a new location.

One of the mice, when it got to the old location of the cheese, stayed put in expectation that the missing cheese would soon appear. Tragically, it wasted away and died.

The second mouse, being full of get-up-and-go, traversed the maze until it found the cheese’s new location.

The tale conveniently left out the third mouse, the mouse on steroids, that reduced the maze to kindling and beat the shit out of the researchers until they told him where the cheese was.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Whence Freedom?

It’s an interesting question. Why is it that Euromericans remain so passive as their freedoms are eroded? There is no single answer. Paranoia and anxiety are factors. Our leaders are constantly coming up with new threats, both real and imagined, to keep us on edge. And there is no doubt we are distracted by our toys. As long as you plastic isn’t maxed out, you’re living the good life, because we all know that freedom is the freedom to chose from cornucopia of consumer goods.

All of the above play a role, but there is one other factor that is rarely considered. Freedom is messy, inefficient, contradictory, disorderly, sometimes brutish and violent, smelly, chaotic, unpredictable and raucous. This is why the corporate state cannot abide it.

Freedom fosters instability, and instability cuts into productivity. Look at how much was lost during the civil rights movement as cities were burned and sit-ins disrupted respectable businesses. Then there was the sex and drugs of the hippies and the disruptions caused by the peace movement.

The sixties taught our oligarchs a valuable lesson—freedom is counterproductive.

This is why freedom has been reduced to an artifact kept locked away, one that is only trotted out when there is a war to be justified.

The erosion of freedom is aided and abetted by the fact that we are raised to accept fastidiousness as the norm. The slightest disruption unnerves us. A dust mote on a dung pile is unnoticed; the same dust mote on the polished lens of a telescope screams for attention.

Freedom often dirties the fingernails, and we prefer to keep ours clean and manicured.

So it is that we dutifully remove our shoes at airport checkpoints and wipe down the handles of our shopping carts with the sanitary wipes our supermarkets supply us with.

Our philosophy is that it’s better to be neat than free.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Light Bulbs and Markets

According to the Chicago School of economics, we have nothing to worry about. The market is a self-regulating organism that automatic cleans up the shit left by the financial retards who run it. So, let the boys have their fun; the invisible hand will pat them on their asses and send them on their way.

According to Raj Patel there is a joke making the rounds among economists:

Q: How many Chicago School economists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. If the light bulb were burnt out, the market would change it.

As Patel points out, “The great unwinding of the financial sector showed that the smartest mathematical minds on the planet, backed by some of the deepest pockets, had not built a sleek engine of permanent prosperity but a clown car of trades, swaps and double dares that, inevitably, fell to bits.

Actually, we can blame William Petty (1623-1687) for this. Petty is considered the father of “Political Arithmetik.” His philosophy is summed up in his decision to “discard comparative and superlative Words and to use only such reasoning as can be expressed in Terms of Number, Weight and Measure.”[1]

Thus was born the quantification of everything and the gradual rise of the wacky world of the value-free social sciences. (So seminal was Petty’s work that it influenced both Adam Smith and Karl Marx.)

The problem with both Petty and the Chicago School is the mistaken belief that they can impose a rational, linear matrix on the nonlinear chaos that is life. From this premises arises the fallacy that the market is driven by rational beings making rational decisions and that the price of a commodity or stock represents the sum total of all of the input from a given stock or commodity.

As Patel points out, “This is different from saying that the price actually does reflect its future performance—rather, the price reflects the current state of beliefs about the odds of that performance being good or bad.” In other words, the price reflects what the mob thinks.

Because economic theory is so shackled to numbers and formulae, it is unable to factor in greed, stupidity, ego and mob psychology, all of which have a greater influence on the market than rational decision making.

The result has been an economy that has reeled from bubble to bubble to such an extent that it views bubbles as the norm. As soon as one pops, the masters of the universe frantically work to inflate another.

It’s really not fair to blame Petty for the Chicago School. The man believed that a rational government was wise to minimize defense spending in favor of building an effective social welfare net.

But then, history shows us that the mission of disciples is to corrupt their masters' teachings. Look at what St. Paul did to Christ and what Stalin did to Marx.

Meanwhile, Obama still believes that the clowns who built the car can put it back together.

Good luck, babe.

[1] Quoted in Peter Linebaugh’s, The London Hanged

Thursday, December 3, 2009

God speaks!

The New York State Senate has defeated a gay marriage bill, thus preserving the sanctity of domestic violence and divorce.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Obama Channels LBJ

It was pure Bush Lite when Obama addressed cadets at West Point last night.

He’s mastered all of GWB’s buzz words. There was the appeal to “vital national interests,” and several references to the 9/11 logo, along with the allusion to al-Qaeda’s ability to “threaten America.” Then there was the old chestnut that “our security is at stake,” not to mention the “security of the world.” Last, but not least, Afghanistan is “an enduring test of our free society and the leadership of the world.”

It reminded me of Pete Seeger when he sang, “We were waist deep in the Big Muddy, and the big fool said move on.”

Another thirty-thousand troops and another $30 billion even as California is going broke and New York’s Gov. David Patterson wants to cut funding to education and healthcare. People are being turned out of their houses, tent cities are going up all over the country, our children are going to bed hungry, our deficit is in the trillions, unemployment is up around 17%...

and the big fool said move on.

Our mission, he told us is to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” It is estimated that there are, maybe, 100 al Qaeda in Afghanistan at the present moment, but we are going to have a total of 100,000 troops to hunt them down. That’s about 1000 troops for each member of al Qaeda…

and the big fool said move on.

But rest assured, we are not occupying Afghanistan, we are entering into partnership with the country. Now, any country that hears the United States wants to “partner” with it would do well to cringe. Our partnerships are like the one a rapist forms with his victim.

And, of course, he reassured us that Afghanistan is not Vietnam because the additional troops are going to train the Afghan people to defend themselves so we can pull out in eighteen months, just like we did in Vietnam. If, however, the Afghan army proves as corrupt and incompetent and the South Vietnamese army, we might have to hang around a bit longer.

But, it’s not Vietnam.

Obama called for the nation to unite behind his dream, and we can. All we need do is think of the Big Muddy as a vacation spa.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The reason why

Mothers are always telling their daughters that girls develop faster than boys. What they fail to mention is that the boys don’t catch up until their 50s or 60s, if then.

That’s one reason men are always starting wars.

The second is that we’re the poor bastards who have to get it up, and that requires a lost of posturing and bullshit, with an occasional war thrown in for good measure.

Remember that as Obama speaks at West Point, tonight.