Friday, December 19, 2008

The Last Manifesto You'll Ever Need

The Manifesto of the Party for Peace and Nuclear Annihilation
By Our Deathless Leader and Minister of Disinformation
Andrew Dobbs

Humans and Peace
Humans are born as individuals, but live in interlocking and outwardly expanding spheres of collectivity. Whenever a group of individuals come together to form a new collective entity—whether it be two forming a marriage or millions forming a “society”—three things must be agreed upon by all if the unit is to remain cohesive.

The first is a symbolic structure: some sort of language and the broader communication contexts language occurs in. Without this the various individuals are unable to exchange ideas and rather than invest limited resources like time and energy in the frustration of babbling incoherently at one another they will quickly part their separate ways.

The next is an ethic: a shared set of standards for behavior and benchmarks for resolutions of disputes. If there is no common ethic for the group, certain individuals will quickly feel violated by or appalled at the behavior of others. Their natural impulse would be to break away and without an established framework for assuaging their hurt sensibilities or compensating their losses they will do exactly this.

Finally, any group of individuals seeking to form a collective entity must develop an economy: a process by which the limited resources available to the group are distributed among its individual members with their unlimited respective desires. A collection of individuals without a set economy cannot effectively use any of its resources. Some will hoard them, others give them away, others trade and barter, etc. A group possessing resources but employing no common economy is indistinguishable from a group with no resources at all and a group with no resources will quickly starve to death, die from exposure or each go their separate ways in search of better fortunes.

From these three fundamental agreements among (or perhaps impositions upon) the members of any group arises a group identity. The symbolic structure is used to create shared narratives and from this an aesthetic, a literary canon and culture among other things. These frequently are employed to defend, explain and expand upon the ethic, which compels the creation of religious practices—or at least some related collection of rituals and teachings. The production and promotion of all of this requires an orderly accumulation and distribution of resources, which leads to the creation of a social hierarchy or at minimum some sort of division of labor, which is to be defended as a just and ethical order and so on. The process is not a conscious one, and any talk of “social contracts” arising out of a “state of nature” is nonsense. Any group that lacks a language, an ethic or economy isn’t a group for very long and any group that is one for long develops a constellation of narratives and shared ideas that create a group identity that subsumes each individual in varying degrees.

Still, how does any group come to develop a common language, ethic or economy? That is to say, how can a multitude of unique individuals come to share such important ideas in common? It is hard enough getting a small group of people to decide upon which restaurant to eat at or movie to see, let alone getting 300 million (with begrudging or ineffectively hostile reservations among a small few) to decide on English, secularized Judeo-Christianity and liberal capitalism. Whose standards get to be the standard for everyone?

To start, we should note that any random distribution of a given value will—when charted out—form a sort of bell curve. There are a small number of outliers at each end of things and a nice meaty bulge of values in the middle. Charting out IQ across the population will show a small number of mentally handicapped people, a similarly small number of geniuses and a whole bunch of Deal or No Deal fans. The 20th century gave us game theory which gives us a mathematical way of describing human interactions, and helped us to understand that the idea “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” isn’t just sage old advice, it is mathematically among the most stable strategies for a society. Now we also know that the strategy is not adopted by all, or perhaps even most. And while it is the stated ethic for our society (group of individuals), it could be argued that we have some other, contradictory ethic entirely: look out for you and yours, get what you can and fuck everybody else, competing self-interest, etc. Still, it seems that this value is one that is more or less pre-programmed into social animals. Richard Dawkins in his seminal work The Selfish Gene suggests that altruism and self-sacrifice in the animal kingdom is determined by genetics and that certain strategies are more likely to survive than others. All this to say that ethical behavior is a randomly assigned value like IQ or height. There are a small number of truly wicked individuals, a small number of saintly heroes and a broad mainstream who are largely decent or slightly threatening but not generally noteworthy for their ethics or lack thereof.

So any random grouping of people is going to be a mix of some baddies, some good guys and a milquetoast crowd of those prepared to be swayed. To maintain this group, however, requires the development of a common ethic. The vast majority will be unable to remain in the good graces of the group and will face repercussions that only the heroic few could stand if the ethic of that elite ethical class is established as the standard all are held accountable to. Either the ethical standard has to be lowered or the group will dissolve. The middling many are distinguished by their very unexceptional-ness, and thus any ethic composed on their behalf will be amorphous, ill-defined and as a result impossible to adjudicate. It will be only a notch above no ethic at all and over time it will surely become just that—the group will soon be forced to break up. Ultimately only an ethic of the lowest common denominator can be agreed upon by and be reasonably expected to hold up among all. The result is either an ethic of such pathetically low expectations that even the most faithful adherence still wouldn’t make the person very good at all (“Don’t kill people—unless you have a good reason--or rape them—and “rape” is usually open to interpretation. Only lie if you feel like you really have to”) or an ethic which is actually evil by the natural standard of the Golden Rule (“Seek your own self interest and compete against other selfish individuals” or “Do What Feels Good”). For this reason only individuals can be regarded as moral agents: societies, communities and other collective entities are defined by their least moral elements—sociopaths and other moral cripples.

Of course there are groups of individuals which come together for the sole purpose of combining those heroic few into fronts for the promotion of the highest good. But ultimately these groups themselves contribute to the lowering of ethical standards for society. To begin, any such group defines its group identity in terms of its righteousness, and thus all who are NOT in the group must be defined by some sort of deficit in righteousness. Such groups are fundamentally oriented towards demonization of the “other” as they must either demand a superhuman level of ethical achievement from the other which can never be met (and in so doing confirm their suspicions about the other’s immorality and subhumanity) or write off the ethical failures of the other as insignificant, thus contradicting their own group ethic and either turning them into hypocrites (and thus the highly moral are now immoral) or causing the group to disband altogether. Groups of the exceptionally ethical are then left to either talk amongst themselves, puttering at the edges of society with no impact whatsoever among the larger groups in which they exist or to fail spectacularly in their attempts to change these larger groups and in so doing lose their own status as the highly ethical. The heroic few can never define the true ethic of any society (or other group), setting an ethical floor just above or in the thick of the beastly few is the only stable strategy. The stated ethic of a society—the story they tell themselves—is going to point to those heroes as its foundation, but this stated ethic is only a story. The truth is less polite to talk about.
A similar process occurs with the language of a society. While there are a few who speak only gibberish and are unable to effectively communicate and a few who are erudite and well-spoken, most use language like sailors using a whore—in a mechanical and sloppy way to efficiently meet the purpose at hand. The common tongue and shared canon of stories and narratives available to the group is determined by the least educated and worldly of the group. A company trying to sell something to everybody—toilet paper or something akin—would do better alluding to “Little Red Riding Hood” than The Brothers Karamazov. They would be advised to tar their competitors as “stingy with the sheets” as opposed to “niggardly with their napkins.” As for the economy, it is not the members which determine it, but the fetishized resources—just as the ethic or language available to the greatest number determines that commanded of all, the economy favorable to the bulk of the concentrated resources is set up over all. Those with the greatest stake in the distribution of the resources are those who possess the most already. As a result the economy is dictated by those who have the most. This is taken for granted in our current climate where economic policy is to be explicitly “pro-business” and any other view is considered heretical or insane out of hand.

I have taken the ethic of a group as my jumping off point for explaining the process by which groups determine these basic uniting features for themselves because the maintenance of the group ethic creates a peculiar situation. Each of these uniting features is in constant flux: what is ethical at one time (wifely submission, for example) is deemed unethical at others, what is unethical (ending a dysfunctional and abusive marriage in divorce) becomes ethical over time. The same is true for language (read a 18th century novel, or imagine an 18th century reader picking up Thomas Pynchon) and economy (Marx made his name talking about this). Furthermore, as we have said there is a class of individuals who always fail or refuse to meet the standards imposed on all. This is especially true of the ethical standards as there is the stated ethic and the true ethic, and they are rarely the same. For the largest of groups—society—there comes a time in most when it becomes clear that the maintenance of the group ethic and handling of disputes over ethical behavior and its alleged breaches is a full-time job. Societies then make a fateful decision to outsource their determination of the ethic, its enforcement and interpretation to a central, distinguished class of individuals: the state.

But it is impossible to keep the state’s portfolio limited to regulation of the group ethic. For one, all behavior can be judged on its ethical standing and the actions of the economy are all human behaviors. The result is that as time passes the state will begin to assert control not only over the ethic of the society, but over its economy as well. Now any institution which determines the behaviors of individuals and oversees the production, distribution and consumption of resources in that same society is to become among the dominant narrators within such. Even its most mundane proclamations have significant impact on the language of the society; its jargon becomes the jargon of all. And the publication or broadcasting of words is both an act—a unit of behavior—and the distribution of a limited resource (either airtime or bandwidth or ink on paper) and thus a function of the economy. Any institution called upon first to regulate the behavior of individuals in a society and then to regulate the circulation of their resources of survival will ultimately seek and likely gain the power to regulate the symbolic structure of that society. Such a state—which controls the behaviors, economy and language of a society—is called totalitarian. And any society—the largest of groups of individuals—which adopts a state will end up with a totalitarian framework which ultimately regulates the ethics, speech and economies of all the smaller groups beneath it. Groups which were established or emerged to allow individuals to achieve some common goals for their respective aggrandizement give rise to a structure which destroys these individuals wholesale.

The alternatives to this scenario are grim. The idea of there only being atomized individuals with no groups formed whatsoever is of course absurd. To begin, if each individual—the only unit capable of moral action, the only not functionally immoral or on the way there—were to abstain from relationships with any other individual(s), the species would go extinct in a single generation and it’d be a pretty unhappy time until then. Human interaction is a fundamental need of our species, not only for the process of procreation but because we are a social animal. Even if humans grouped together in atomized mini-societies free of states and dedicated to nonviolent interaction it would take only one group with a different, forceful ethic to lay waste to all the passive others or force them each to adopt violence and centralized authority for themselves. Only individuals can be moral, but the continued survival of each individual is dependent on the development of structures which are compelled towards gross immorality. Each individual can only be happy if free to follow his or her own prerogatives, and can only be happy if he or she is a part of groups which ultimately will smash the capacity for individual freedom. Thus humans are fundamentally incompatible with notions of peace.

War is the Health of the State
It becomes clear right away to those individuals called upon to serve as the state that their job is impossible without the use of force—without access to legitimate uses of violence—and so the society that has conceived of a need for the state grants the right of violence to its new government. It follows upon this that if everybody else can use violence as they see fit the state is unlikely to survive or its services will be rendered irrelevant. So the state claims a monopoly on violence. This is how the Max Weber, the father of sociology and hardly a bomb-thrower, defined the state: any institution which claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.
The implications of this are that every act of the state is an act of violence. Even the nice and helpful things the state does—paying old people’s salary, feeding pregnant women, rebuilding disaster areas—are financed with tax money. If one does not pay one’s taxes, the state is likely to fine you. If you refuse to pay the fine, they’ll put a lien on your property. If you sell the property under the table to someone, or rack up enough new back taxes and liens they’ll come to arrest you. If you resist the arrest they’ll kick your ass. If you fight back hard enough, they’ll kill you. Liberal states are distinguished by their ability to hide the violence behind many layers of bureaucratic and legalistic bullshit. They issue a regulation, which if disobeyed will go ignored for some time, then a warning will be issued, then fines levied and so on down the same line until fatal violence is at long last used to compel obedience. Authoritarian and totalitarian systems dispense with the niceties and use violence more quickly and openly. Our legal and ethical traditions recognize that the threat of violence—even an oblique one—to compel behavior is itself an act of violence. The state is the only actor that is allowed to use violence and everything it does is backed up by this threat or financed by people’s healthy respect for it.

From time to time the pent up violence of the state must be unleashed in a war. Two or more violence monopolies disagree and seek to compel one another to submit or some armed and organized internal aspirant to the violence monopoly makes a move and immediately the state must round up its resources and focus its effort on deflecting the exceptional violence of its opponent and responding with even more intense displays of such violence of their own. This exceptional violence serves as a motive for the state to expand the capacity for violence in the future, that is, to enhance its own powers. The broad precarity of life that results not only from combat but also from the rationing of resources towards the war effort provides a means by which to pull this over on the people. They are ruled by fear and thus distracted from the constant vigilance necessary to keep the state from gobbling up their power as individuals: the state has new opportunities for the expansion of its powers. And the emotional patriotism inspired by the dread of dying in vain and hope of serving some cause higher than oneself gives the state the motive to foist this over on the people. War provides the means, motive and opportunity to pull over the crime of state expansion. This was the argument of turn of the century U.S. essayist Randolph Bourne when he said “War is the Health of the State.” Even in the liberal, self-righteous United States this is true. Wars in this country have justified dispossession of war opponents of their land and property (the Revolutionary War), the suspension of habeas corpus (the Civil War), the jailing of dissidents (World War I), the internment of minority groups into concentration camps (World War II), the development of a private army for the president’s personal disposal called the CIA (the Cold War), the assassination of radical activists and surveillance of political opposition (Vietnam) and the construction of secret prisons and application of torture to detainees (the so-called War on Terror). Add to this rationing, nationalization of various industries, strike-busting, draft conscription for the armed services and compulsory air raid practices among a host of other infringements upon the individual and one sees that as long as there are states there is a strong incentive for periodic or even continued wars.

Why Nations Want Nuclear Weapons
When the US developed the atomic bomb in World War II, Dwight David Eisenhower—not anyone’s idea of a hippie—pleaded with President Truman to not use the thing. His reasoning was that war was already awful enough and it didn’t need new technology that would make it infinitely more unbearable. Truman of course ignored him and in so doing introduced the world to its cause of death.

We have established that as humans form societies, states become inevitable. We have further shown that states are not only incapable of moral behavior, that they are only capable of violence and will over time seek expansion of their powers through the practice of ongoing warfare. The ultimate limit of this expansion is a totalitarian state where individuals are eliminated as meaningful actors and as such the world becomes devoid of morality. As all these things are true so is it true that all states should seek out nuclear weapons—tools capable now of ending all human civilization and snuffing out more or less all life on the planet.

For one, the state is conditioned by survival pressures to seek out such capacities for violence. What, materially, is the state? There are all those ugly buildings and all that cheap office furniture, but they would be ruins without individuals to run them. It is a set of ideas and symbols (or a series of sets of ideas and symbols) shared by the inhabitants of a society, passed on and gradually changed over time. It is information that is affected by the rules of Darwinian evolution: it descends, it is modified and there is a struggle for survival in the face of pretenders to its place—from street gangs to foreign occupiers and everybody in between. The state is foundationally defined by its access and use of legitimate violence—this forms a powerful environmental pressure within the state as to what policies it prioritizes and which it decides to adopt in the first place. Those policies which expand the state’s capacity for violence are favored, and they result in the state having greater chances of survival over its rivals.

Any external rivals to a state are immediately dispatched with in the worries and bad dreams of a nuclear state. A state with nuclear weapons is absolutely invasion-proof. They could be the victims of a first strike from a more sophisticated nuclear power, but that state will never be overthrown by invasion. They will be undisturbed by their external enemies as long as they live, which by the historic standards of war means that they never have to lose a war. Furthermore it makes the dissolution of that state very bad news among all the other nations of the world—not least its enemies. They are likely to judge the maintenance of that state (bad as it may be) preferable to the seizure of power by some revolutionary movement or coup d’etat and to do all that is in their power to keep even their enemies in power. These upheavals happen nonetheless—look at the Soviet Union—but all the nations of the world, even their enemies, must rally round to insure that some component of the old regime faithfully takes up the reins. The booze-besotted party hack Yeltsin and the KGB spook Putin gained easy legitimacy because the world feared any chaos that might let the old USSR’s nuclear stockpile fall into “the wrong hands.” Nuclear states are warmasters, seemingly capable of impunity so far as they don’t cross some other nuclear power and able to draw on deep wells of support in the face of civil war.

All of this means that nuclear states—regardless of their pettiness, ineptitude or even grosser than normal moral deformity—get to hunker down at the grown up table of global society-building. The legal and diplomatic framework of the globe is the new ethic-setting work of our day as societies are rapidly being transcended by “the planet.” To ignore a nuclear state when drawing up this standard for group identity is to invite petulant display of power. The demands and whims of states like the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the seasonal oscillation between flustered parliamentarians and military dictators in Pakistan are of signal importance in what will someday be the history of the world. States in this position are more powerful than could have ever been imagined by the institution’s pioneers.

Definitionally violent institutions have to seek nukes. The power to be perpetual victors in war and big kids on the big stage results from the successful achievement of this goal, and this success or lack thereof is perhaps the primary determinant of global political importance. We worry so much about which states and other violence trusts get their hands on nukes because we fear some “irrational” force getting hold of them. Iran comes to mind in this regard—people are terrified that the Ayatollahs are psychotic wackos waiting to plunge the world into the abyss. But the fact that this regime has stayed in power in such a diverse and significant country for nearly three decades suggests that their kooky superstitious rhetoric is just for show: these sumbitches govern and are no more irrational than the blatherers within our own country’s civic faith or sense of patriotism. In fact, knowing now how the selection pressures within the state work and the advantages to be gained by possessing the tools of global democide the most irrational thing a state can do is to NOT seek nuclear weapons.

It is therefore our position that states which do not seek nuclear weapons are forbidden from possessing them.

Most states that don’t seek out nukes have not enough money to meet its basic obligations and build a bomb at the same time. Most of the rest of the abstainers are conveniently protected by some other nuclear power. It was all well and good for West Germany to foreswear the bomb, what with the US willing to use its bombs to keep the Germans only real external threat—the Soviet Union—out of the country. Why pay for the things when your friends will use theirs on your behalf if need be? As soon as scientists discovered the opportunity for tremendous energy release with atomic reactions it became inevitable that the nuclear bomb would be invented and that every state with any sense would find a way to get one for themselves. Ever since then the boss has been the one with the most bombs to his name.

Peace and Nuclear Annihilation
Nuclear weapons are the tools of instantaneous genocide. Perhaps democide is a more precise term, but as a nuke would be launched against a particular nation, I suppose it would meet the definition of genocide. Plus genocide is a scarier word than democide. Nukes represent the stockpiling of future genocidal acts—exemplary cases of mass, indiscriminate slaughter of all ages, genders, combatant status, ability and morality unlucky enough to be in a particular place at a specific time. Any ethic proclaimed in the context of these machines is at best completely absurd. At this extreme of ethical possibilities the societies which set out these morals belies them with their potential to slink beneath any meaningful standards of human behavior at the push of a button. At worst any ethic put forward is a craven manipulation on the part of sociopathic institutions hoping to hide their wickedness in a flurry of nostrums. These societies embrace their lack of principle and put forward a stated ethic only to stave off their eventual unraveling. Of course, each of our nuclear states and the states that crowd around them hoping for their protection and benevolence exist somewhere on this continuum and it fluctuates over time. But nuclear weapons make any idea of a coherent ethic impossible in these societies.
So humanity is now faced with a test—an ethical challenge that must be met. If we choose to keep our nuclear weapons we deserve the very destruction they promise. For one our ethic-rein societies are doomed to eventually crack up under the strains of competing ethics all bumping heads with no real way to adjudicate their usefulness or humanity. The nukes will not disappear; they are bound to end up in the hands of the most ruthless and manic among the competitors. For another the only possibility for maintaining a free future or space for individual—and thus legitimately moral—expression and development depends on the rolling back of the ethic of unrestrained violence that underlies the nuclear world administration. If nukes are maintained they ought to be immediately eliminated through simultaneous detonation.

Getting rid of the nukes in any other way is perhaps an even worse proposition. It would require a global enforcement of a standard ethic, that is to say the creation of a worldwide superstate encompassing all peoples, all individuals on the planet. It would require a centralized authority powerful enough to roll back the force of a state armed with these hellish weapons, or even of several such states. No other force could compel these states to give up this power. Just the establishment of the global ethic itself would (we have seen) give rise to a state programmed to seek continual expansions of its authority. Our understanding of the human potential for peace—rooted on a group identity derived from the least ethical, least literate and greediest among us—further alerts us to the impossibility of removing nuclear weapons from this planet without a coincident increase in misery and repression of individuality. We are faced with a choice between devastation and slavery—being vaporized on our feet or ordered around on our knees. This stress within our global system is palpable, the bouncing back and forth between the poles of eratic violence and moralizing authoritarianism defines the ebb and flow of our current international system. The rise of millennial death cults like al qaeda and their (at the moment) more tepid evangelical Christian cousins in the US embody this very spectrum of desperation. At one moment they are toppling buildings or bombing abortion clinics, the next they are hailing strong families and masculine restraint. This concentrated reflection of a broader global pathology only heightens the likelihood of nuclear annihilation.

As has been said, human beings are simply not cut out for peace. We are compelled by our very hope for survival and our propensity towards socialization to build collective entities among ourselves as individuals. Each individual is differentially enabled to maintain an ethical lifestyle and each has an ethic of his or her own, constantly in flux. In order to hold a group together the ethical prowess of the weakest members must ultimately define the ethic for all. In order to enforce this ethic and carry out its dictates states arise among us. These states are defined by their access to violence, and thus they are rewarded when they act violently—especially in the orgiastic explosion of violence that typifies war. Nuclear weapons make their possessing states capable of magisterial levels of violence and secure them as both warmasters and primary parties in the emerging global state. Simply ridding the world of these weapons is not so easily achieved. One must either submit all the peoples of the world to a distant global state capable of even greater violence than even the nuclear powers or one must support the immediate detonation of all nuclear weapons. This would in fact wipe out the human race, and thus society, and thus the state, and thus war. It would be Peace and Nuclear Annihilation.

Joining the Party for Peace and Nuclear Annihilation
Membership in any political party—including this one—or the pursuit of such is grounds for immediate expulsion from the Party for Peace and Nuclear Annihilation. The Party opposes ALL political parties on principle.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In any Time, the Good Times. Enjoy Responsibly.

I've taken up smoking a pipe. A new pipe. More to the point, I've grown a beard.

It is a pesant beard, gone cosmo intellectual. Think Zizek. I've decided to adopt a "hip professorial anarchist" aesthetic to go along with it. Smoking pipe tobacco is a part of it. I'm still hitting the Kool Milds pretty hard, but I'm trying to replace my ritual smokes (after meals, dope, getting in the car to drive, presumably sex, and getting the movies started) with a spot of the Black Cavendish.

I’m a projectionist. I’m a hip, professorial anarchist projectionist in the North Dallas burbs. Ascetic too. I’m a hip professorial anarchist ascetic/projectionist in the North Dallas burbs. Neo-Feudalist, no?

Back to the subject at hand—I’m watching the Colbert Report and he’s got Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations on as his guest. I wanted to watch it, seeing as I’m interested in watching the face of the cospiracist bugaboo in action. Colbert’s first “question” actually revolved around the “rap” on CFR: Illuminati, masons, the whole bit. He says that they “toy” with the nations of the world like “well, toys,” like pieces on a chess board. What say ye, Haass—the question more or less went.

And then Haass says “Well, it’s not just nations. It’s banks, corporations, terrorist organizations, everything.”

I jump up, pissed off at this guy. I’m appalled by his ineptitude. This vid is going to live in conspiracist infamy (except that the official online version looks to be fucked up, only Haass’s response is shown—this too is sure to get their peckers all veiny) . Colbert asks “Hey, are y’all really a superpowerful cult secretly running the world in the interest of creating a one world Nazi superstate?” and he says “yes, but it’s so much more complicated a job than you might think!” Buying the premise. CFR admits to running world.

It opened my eyes to something. One of the reasons that conspiracy theories form around these groups is because the people running them share in the conspiracist delusion. The conspiracists see these groups as carrying out a nefarious, secret plan with perfect efficacy (save for blowing the Colbert interview), and the CFR does too.

They are both wrong, of course. The world, the “economy,” history, politics—everything—are all far to complicated and we are all too temporary for it to be viewed in those kinds of terms. Lee losing his cigars before Antietam, flocks of geese almost setting off nukes, Vasily Arkhipov risking it all for everyone who ever lives now and after—these things can’t be controlled or predicted. It’s just the Tao, foiling the silly plots of men.

I’m still chewing all this over, letting the brain smack some bubbles and figure out what it all means.

One thing is for sure: the beard and pipe are keepers. Next up: sweaters.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More of the Same You Can Believe In *Update*

So let's do a quick rundown of the Obama appointments I can remember off the top of my head:

Hildog, State
Timothy Geithner, Treasury
Eric Holder, AG
Janet Napolitano, Securing the Homeland
Bill Richardson, Commerce
Bobby Gates, undisputed Defense champion of the world
Larry Summers, Council of Economic Whatevers Chair
Rahm Emmanuel, Chiefin' the Staff

So let's see here. One of these people IS a Clinton. Two of them served in the Clinton cabinet. Two of them were appointed US Attorneys by Clinton. One of them was appointed to the Fed by him, another was on his staff. The only non-Clinton alum is in the Bush Cabinet. Am I the only person compelled to ask: how is this change?

The message of Obama's campaign was that wispy, indistinct word change. Clearly people wanted a change from Bush, but the resolution we could gather from the primary season was that people wanted a changed Democratic Party as well. The neoliberal, triangulating, poll smoking and nihilistic pandering of the Clinton years was rejected and the public sought out someone with some sort of progressive vision rooted in leftish principles. Maybe I'm reading too much into things, but there were plenty of options for people to choose from if they wanted Clintinismo to come back--not just Clinton herself but Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd and a whole host of others offered this. Obama seemed to be selling a different set of goods and the public bought them.

Now, however, he puts into power some of the key architects and acolytes of the "pro-business" Democracy offered up by Clinton (Summers, Geithner), the man behind the Elian debacle who served in the same department that massacred the Branch Davidians (Holder), as well as frothing at the mouth Zionists and liberal internationalist true believers (Emmanuel, HRC, Richardson). Just about the only bright spot is perhaps Janet Napolitano. It is an open secret in Arizona that she is a gay woman and if she comes out she'll be the first openly gay person to serve in the US Cabinet. There are questions as to whether her one-time client Anita Hill's shocking presumption in standing up for herself in the face of a man bully might give Napolitano's confirmation some trouble. If the Anita Hill flare-up is still an issue then Iran-Contra--in which Robert Gates was involved--should be too and the traitor Gates should be rejected for renomination. But it is the word on the street that he is "widely respected on both sides of the aisle." I'm reminded of George Carlin's observation that whenever he hears of an effort or proposal receiving bipartisan support he knows that an even more excpetional level of evil than normal is going down. Obama rose to prominence with his purity in regards to the Iraq War. Now he has chosen to keep the military in the hands of one of its handmaidens. Change indeed.

Obama has been the president-elect for three weeks now and in that time he has done absolutely nothing to indicate that he will chart a course different in any meaningful way from the Clinton era, a time which was not much different (IMHO) than the Bush eras that bookended it. Perhaps I'll be proven wrong, but the sources of the agitation among the American people are a neoliberal economic framework, a liberal internationalist/neoconservative foreign policy (they differ primarily in their targets, not in their inanity or destructiveness) and government that says one thing and does another. Obama is keeping in tune with each of these perogatives and the weepy orgiastics of his disciples are quickly being made to look even more pathetic than before.

Susan Rice is expected to be his UN Ambassador. From Wikipedia:
Rice served in the Clinton administration in various capacities: At the National Security Council from 1993 to 1997, as Director for International Organizations and Peacekeeping from 1993 to 1995 and as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs from 1995 to 1997. In 1997, she became Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, serving in that capacity until Clinton left office on January 20, 2001.

So, um, ditto with what I said above.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Not Fit for the Inauguration

In high school I once fancied myself a poet. That lasted until I went back and read the verse I'd composed and realized how truly awful it was. It is perhaps a teenage smart kid rite of passage to try one's hand at poetry, and I failed. That being said I've been reading some Auden recently and last night I put together a piece I feel like putting up. Here goes:

Change and
Yes We Can!
For the first time in forever it seems
the button lies under a blackish hand.

Expectations rise to a fevered pitch
The fabric torn mended with a skinny stitch.

Slanders and
hushed fears abound
What in herd instinct we lost
In a new fangled shepherd is supposed to be found.

Absolute power is expected not to corrupt.
A new day dawns, its dusk feared to be abrupt.

Law and
New boss same as old
Heat without light from fatted rubbing hands
Grabbing at goodies to stave away the cold.

Follow the money defined our just past age.
A forgetful ethic blinds each televised sage.

A fearsome name indeed.
At the trough of power poisoned by conceit
the lowing public is called to feed.

Where great hope is gathered festers the rot of resent.
The bleeding past and gasping future give way to a tripping present.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Palin Puts It In Some Haters' Faces

Since it became clear that Obama would be president, even several weeks before the election, I have been saying that he'll most likely be a two-termer because I doubt that Mitt Romney could beat him and I've been more or less confident that Romney would be the 2012 GOP nominee. You see, the Republicans don't do mystery when it comes to their nominating process. Sure, the media and even GOP politicians themselves act like there is some kind of real contest, but at the end of the day the GOP crowns its heir apparant. McCain, Bush (who had all the money and the family name), Dole (it was finally his turn), etc. Not since 1964 has there been any mystery and that year there was no real crown prince for the party. Romney was second in line this year, he was pretty much every party faction's second choice and he made the money guys who run the party very very happy. QED: Romney for Pres 2012.

Now I'm not so sure. If you didn't see this scene from earlier this week then you really should. It points out how terribly the McCain camp really did manage Palin. She takes questions and is not only poised and sharp, she looks like the GOP boss. The only thing bad about it is my own vile governor Rick Perry grinning like the asshole he is right next to her and playing handler over the Killa from Wasilla.

What I'm getting at is that Palin, by virtue of the VP slot that I think many assumed would go Romney's way and by virtue of her capacity for "history making" (among other assets) is perhaps now the bona fide next in line for the GOP. And if that is the case Obama (who is likely to face a series of headaches, some resistant to any attempts at treatment from the White House) has his work cut out for him.

Oh, and I know what you're thinking and I absolutely agree: why in Christ's name are we already talking about 2012? Probably the same reason Vegas is already taking bets on NEXT year's Series. It's what we do...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Dark Side of the Obama Victory

Anyone who doensn't keep up with the Southern Poverty Law Center's blog Hatewatch is doing themselves a disfavor. The Alabama-based nonprofit has built up a large budget over the years by suing hate groups that kill or injure people and using the winnings to shut down the organizations and fund their own. It is brilliant. Their magazine Intelligence Report will keep you abreast with what our nation's fascist underground is up to at any given time. Plus, you gotta love non-state surrveillance of the bad guys. It belies arguments that we HAVE TO HAVE cops.

Upon Obama's victory they made some important observations following up on recent intelligence they've published:

In all the euphoria after the election of Barack Obama, it is tempting to see the era of overt racism in the United States as past, a dead letter that has no relevance in a country that has finally overcome its ugly history. But sadly, that would be a mistake. Obama’s election reflects the fact that the country has made enormous progress in the area of race relations and is likely to propel it to even greater heights. But progress is never a straight line. There is always the danger of a backlash.

Even before the campaign was over, racial rage, clearly driven by fear of a black man in the White House, began to break out around the country. Effigies of Obama appeared hanging from nooses on university campuses. Angry supporters of John McCain and Sarah Palin shouted “Kill him!” at a campaign rally and even screamed “nigger” at a black cameraman, telling him, “Sit down, boy!” The head of the Hillsborough County, Fla., Republican Party sent an E-mail warning members of “the threat” of “carloads of black Obama supporters coming from the inner city to cast their votes.” A reporter who has covered every presidential election since 1980 told me he had never seen such fury. Similar scenes were reported nationwide.

Naturally, the rage also engulfed the radical right. Thom Robb, an Arkansas Klan leader, described for a reporter the “race war” he sees developing “between our people, who I see as the rightful owners and leaders of this great country, and their people, the blacks.” In Tennessee, two neo-Nazi skinheads went further, allegedly planning to murder black schoolchildren, shoot and behead other African Americans, and assassinate Obama. They were arrested two weeks before the election.


“Historically, when times get tough in our nation, that’s how movements like ours gain a foothold,” Jeff Schoep, the leader of the National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi group with 73 chapters in 34 states, told USA Today. “When the economy suffers, people are looking for answers. … We are the answer for white people.”

Unfortunately, Schoep is right. And the economic meltdown set in motion by the subprime crisis is not the only reason. Indeed, there seems to be a kind of perfect storm brewing of factors favoring the growth of hate and hate groups.


David Duke, the former Klan leader and convicted felon who is the closest thing the radical right has to an intellectual leader these days, believes this could all work to his benefit. In an essay this summer, the neo-Nazi ideologue argued that an Obama victory would serve as a “visual aid” to white Americans, provoking a backlash that Duke believes will “result in a dramatic increase in our ranks.”

An observation the group has yet to make is a parallel to the early and mid 90s. You will remember (if you have an historical memory longer than the last news cycle, almost unheard of in our postmodern dystopia) that in 1992 the right and far right raised questions about Bill Clinton's patriotism, suggesting that his Rhodes Scholar-era trip to the Soviet Union was actually based on his recruitment to the KGB. I suppose they were all proven right when Clinton transitioned the country to Marxist-Leninism, eh comrades, eh? They also painted him as a hippie flower child leftist who would take away everyone's guns, throw open the prison doors and outlaw straight sex. They worked themselves up into a lather.

The right wing ignored what actually happened--Clinton did all of the things Reagan and Bush wanted to do but could never get away with: ending welfare, gutting our financial regulatory apparatus, passing the Effective Death Penalty Act, etc. They ignored it and further stoked their fevered followers until right wing true believers across the country were organizing militias, stockpiling arms and preparing for partisan warfare. The climax of this inanity was the tragedy of Oklahoma City when 168 people were killed by men who believed they were doing the righteous work of liberty--a belief fertilized by Clinton hate and the right wing media circus that shat it out.

Now we have a Black man with a funny name on his way to the White House, and for months the right wing has suggested that he is a "secret Muslim" dedicated to the most dangerous political interpretations of that faith. They also believe him to be a Marxist, a traitor and an election theif (all the malarkey about ACORN suggests this). All this to say that the rhetoric surrounding Obama makes that against Clinton seem rather tepid. Add his race to the mix, and the far right will have even hotter flames firing than those that led to OKC in 1995.

Finally, many of the retrogrades who went away for 10-15 years in the aftermath of that conglagration for criminal conspiracy, weapons violations and other such charges are getting out of prison. They are leaving their cages more bitter, more organized and with internet communications that have proven to be invaluable to terrorist and revolutionary organizations around the globe.

All this to say, we are entering a dangerous time. Clinton only made things worse by massacring the Branch Davidians, creating gun-toting martyrs and a casus belli for the far right. Obama is unlikely to be presented with an opportunity for such a crime, and I frankly believe that his temperament would make such a repeat less likely. But the elevation of a Black man to the White House could be enough in its own right. I fear that Oklahoma City will be seen at the end of Obama's years in office as only the first in a series of spectacular tin-pot fascist crimes. Here's hoping the SPLC and I are both way off base.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On Rahm Emmanuel for Chief of Staff

It'd be nice to think that the fascist Jerome Corsi and his ilk would finally be shamed into silence by Emmanuel's appointment, but I'm sure we'll be hearing right wing conspiracy theories about Obama's treasonous support for Islamism for some time (four to eight years, at the very least).

But it is ominous that no one seems to be questioning the appointment to so powerful a position of a man who fought in a foreign country's military (the IDF) and who has long been suspected of being an agent for a foreign country's intelligence service (Mossad). Is this because the media consider Israel little more than the 51st state? Any hope that a president who once honored Rashid Khalidi and who was acquainted with the legendary Edward Said might introduce a more reasonable policy towards Israel/Palestine seems to have been dashed for the moment.

But seriously... if Emmanuel were a Latin American (as opposed to a Jewish person) who had fought in, say, the Venezuelan military and who was suspected with cause of having been an intelligence asset of the DISIP (the Venezuelan intelligence agency) how much would we be hearing about this? Chances are he wouldn't have even been elected to Congress. And--unlike Israel--Venezuela has never bombed a US Naval ship and up until Chavez's recent buddying up with FARC goons they have never invaded neighboring countries, they are not in gross and persistent violation of fundamental international law and they are not flagrant violators of international arms treaties (though admittedly Israel is not a NPT signatory, their aggression is among the root causes of the dreaded Iranian nuclear program).

In a reasonable world such a development would mean that the US Zionist crowd would shut up about mythical liberal, media or national bias against Israel. I mean, the most powerful job in the White House outside of the president himself is held by a citizen, veteran and rumored spy for the country and nobody objects. But I'm sure they'll keep up their victimization act--and along with Christians, conservatives and other gluttons for dominance they'll continue reaping tremendous rewards.