You’ve Gotta Be Kidding Me

April 11, 2008 at 2:08 pm (The 2008 Presidential Race)

This just came up on the MSNBC ticker:

WASHINGTON – Republican Sen. John McCain has erased Sen. Barack Obama’s 10-point advantage in a head-to-head matchup, leaving him essentially tied with both Democratic candidates in an Associated Press-Ipsos national poll released Thursday.

How can this be true? I know it’s early, but for crying out loud, have we not had enough with the warmongering already?

 

 

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Guns, Caviar, and the Elusive Peace Incentive

March 28, 2008 at 7:19 pm (Free Market Capitalism, The War on Terror)

war-and-peace.jpgEver heard of the “guns-to-caviar index”? Here’s how it works….

To determine the effects of war on the economy, this index tracks the sales of fighter jets (which carry guns) and executive jets (which, apparently, carry caviar). Now, it has been universally true for as long as this data has been measured (seventeen years) that selling more fighter jets means selling less luxury jets, and vice versa. This has always meant that you couldn’t expect to have a booming economy in the midst of violence and instability.

Until now.

Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the sales of both kinds of jets began to rise at the same time. The meaning of this is obvious: The world is becoming more and more violent, and more and more profitable (at least for those who stand to gain from the waging of war).

And to make matters worse, the very people who stand to gain from war are those who have pushed us toward it in the name of “homeland security” and “fighting terror.”

Kind of makes you wonder where, in a market economy fueled by disaster capitalism, we can ever hope to find a strong enough incentive to maintain peace.

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O Canada!

March 23, 2008 at 9:57 pm (Free Market Capitalism, Health Care)

health-care.jpgWhenever health care is being discussed, and a progressive says something like, “I wish we had universal health care like they do in Canada,” it usually takes approximately four seconds before a well-meaning patriot retorts, “Yeah, but they have to wait forever to be seen by their doctors!”

Some thoughts, if I may:

1. Have you ever been to Canada?

2. Your tax dollars are being spent, make no mistake, they’re just being spent on services that benefit Halliburton, not you.

3. If this country didn’t have 47,000,000 uninsured Americans who are therefore unable to visit the doctor, then our waiting rooms might be a bit more crowded as well (or would you rather keep health care limited so you don’t have to wait while poor people get treated?).

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Irony or Naiveté?

March 18, 2008 at 11:02 pm (Popular Culture, The War on Terror)

jerichoflag.jpgOK, I don’t know if the producers of CBS’s Jericho are masters of irony or just really naive, but this show is so timely it’s freaky (see this post to get caught up).

In season two, after the crippling nuclear attacks on the U.S., towns like Jericho, Kansas are slowly being rebuilt. The way this reconstruction is occurring, however, is by means of a government-authorized private firm called Jennings and Rall, whose tasks include everything from hiring private security (a company called Ravenwood), to issuing new currency, and writing new U.S. history textbooks that are largely revisionist.

If you’ve read Klein’s Shock Doctrine (or if you know anything about what’s going on in Iraq), you will notice some eerie similarities here. By our government-sanctioned contractors’ own admission, we are not in Iraq to rebuild a nation but to create one. A contract was even issued to print new Iraqi school textbooks here in the U.S. Once a people has been sufficiently shocked (so the theory goes), they will be reduced to such an infantile slate that a new story can be written upon that blank slate.

I just wonder if the fans of this show realize that the despicable tactics they repudiate when done to the victims in Jericho are being carried out by our government elsewhere. “Jennings and Rall,” for all you metaphorically-challenged, is code for “Halliburton,” and “Ravenwood” really means “Blackwater.”

And in Iraq, it’s not fictional but very real.

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O the Irony!

March 14, 2008 at 7:47 pm (Free Market Capitalism)

welfare-state-72.jpg

In The Onion‘s “What Do You Think?” section a couple days ago, the question asked to the person on the street concerned the Federal Reserve’s annoucement that they would be setting up a $200 billion program to assist struggling banks. One of those surveyed responded: “Giving money to institutions that failed at their only job, which was to have money, may not be the best strategy.”

After a hearty chuckle, I was reminded of a section in Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine where she quoted (Ari’s brother) Michael Fleischer, who explained to Iraqi business owners whose livelihoods were in jeopardy due to the mass influx of foreign companies that “protected businesses never, never become competitive.” Klein adds:

“He appeared to be impervious to the irony that Halliburton, Bechtel, Parsons, KPMG, RTI, Blackwater and all the other U.S. corporations that were in Iraq to take advantage of the reconstruction were part of a vast protectionist racket whereby the U.S. government had created their markets with war, barred their competitors from ever entering the race, then paid them to do the work, while guaranteeing them a profit to boot — all at taxpayer expense.”

Who says the rich are against a welfare state?

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A Novel Idea….

March 11, 2008 at 12:20 pm (U.S. Foreign Policy)

slavoj-zizek.jpg

Slovenian philosopher and cultural theorist Slavoj Žižek has recently put forth a rather novel idea concerning voting laws in the U.S. He says:

“I was asked by a academic journal if I were to hold the power for one day as president, and I would have kind of absolute power to introduce a law, what law that would have been? My immediate answer was… let’s [allow] everybody in the world, except US citizens, to vote and elect the American government. I think it would have been much better for you, even, because we all outside the United States would project our desires into how you should be.”

Now hold on just a minute there, Mussolini. Are you actually suggesting that other countries should be allowed to have an authoritative say in how we conduct our affairs? That other nations have the right to impose their thoughts, culture, and way of life upon us? Wouldn’t agreeing to that kind of external control be distinctly un-American?

Well, on further consideration, I would say that our submitting to external forces would indeed be un-American, but our forcing other countries to submit to our way of thinking, our culture, our will, and our military — well, that’s about as American as baseball and Chevrolets.

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Countless “Days of Infamy”

March 9, 2008 at 2:53 pm (The War on Terror)

waterboarding.gif“President Bush” the Associated Press reported Saturday, “vetoed legislation that would ban the CIA from using harsh interrogation methods such as waterboarding to break suspected terrorists because it would end practices that have prevented attacks.”

The logic, it seems, runs thus: Any method that could possibly prevent a future attack is a legitimate weapon against that hypothetical attack. The rationale behind Cheney’s “One Percent Doctrine,” which states that even a 1% chance that a country may be planning hostile acts toward the U.S. is sufficient evidence to attack them first, is here applied not to a nation but to individuals. If we need to detain (without charges or trial) and torture 100 “suspected terror-ists” (read: Arabs) in order to catch just one, it’s worth it.

Here’s my question: If a preemptive strike against a nation or group of people is justified, then why must December 7, 1941, be “a day which will live on in infamy” for years to come? After all, Japan didn’t firebomb New York or drop the A-Bomb on LA (like we did to Tokyo and Hiroshima), they attacked a military base in a U.S. colony which everyone (especially the Japanese) knew was planning to attack them.

I guess preemptive strikes are OK, but only when we are on the giving, not the receiving, end of them.

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Is This Our Guy?

March 5, 2008 at 11:58 pm (The 2008 Presidential Race)

barack-borat.jpgHere are a few excerpts from a recent Rolling Stone article on Barack Obama (and bear in mind they’re endorsing him):   

“Obama is a politician whose best chance for success has always been on the level of myth and hero worship; to win the Democratic nomination, he must successfully sell himself not just as a candidate but as an icon, a symbol of the best possible future for twenty-first-century multicultural America.”

“Whoever Barack Obama is, there’s no doubting the genuineness of his phenomenon. And maybe, who knows, that’s all that matters.”

“It’s a mood thing, not an issue thing, and it stems entirely from Obama’s unique personal qualities.”

“But mostly, Obama is selling himself.”

“There’s just something about him,” says one middle-aged gentleman. When I suggest that his comment was vague, he shrugs. “Yeah, but it’s good vague.”

Is this our guy? Is he more than an undefined symbol of the future (whatever that is)? Will he stand up to corporations and their stranglehold on so many facets of American life? Will he pursue an non-interventionist foreign policy? Will he actually do any of the things we want, or will he merely be “one of the best moderately Republican presidents we’ve had,” as Greenspan said of Bill Clinton?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll vote for him in a close race, but my cynicism just won’t allow me to trust a politician who has made it this far in one of the two major parties.

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On Slavery Symbolic and Actual

March 2, 2008 at 2:59 pm (Free Market Capitalism, Music)

wage-slavery.jpg

In the song “Soul Singer in a Session Band,” Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst sings about the pitiful state of the person (in this case the soul singer) who sells his art for wages. He sings:

“See the soul singer in the session band,
Shredded to ribbons beneath a microphone stand;
Saw the conflict of interest, slipping cash in the hand
Of the soul singer in the session band.”

The lyric reminds me of what the German libertarian Wilhelm von Humboldt said about the man who labors as a wage slave at the behest of a master: “We may admire what he does, but we despise what he is.” Like the singer bearing his soul while keeping one eye on the clock, to perform solely for the enjoyment or enrichment of another is little different from prostitution. Hence the line from the same song:

“I had a lengthy discussion about The Power of Myth
With a postmodern author who didn’t exist;
In this fictitious world all reality twists:
I was a hopeless romantic, now I’m just turning tricks.”

There was a time in this country when “wage slavery” (working for wages) was considered almost as dehumanizing as actual slavery. Both entail working for a master (either in a manor or a boardroom) who profits from the worker’s output, and who controls the conditions of the workplace.

Is this all overstated? Have we grown so used to “wage slavery” that it doesn’t bother us anymore? Should it bother us today, or should we just bite our tongues and make the best of it?

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Getting Beyond the Label

February 29, 2008 at 8:49 pm (Libertarian Socialism)

red-iceberg.jpgWhenever anyone admits that he is a socialist, it takes about seven seconds before Soviet Russia finds its way into the discussion. The USSR was evil, the USSR was socialist, therefore socialism is evil.

But when faced with this objection, Chomsky often points out that there is an “R” in USSR — it’s the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. But no one claims that republics are therefore evil, do they? Why not?

Well, Chomsky answers, it is simply because calling something a “republic” doesn’t mean it really is one, nor does the title “people’s democracy” mean that a true democracy exists. By extension, then, the mere fact that Russia was once called “socialist” doesn’t mean it really was.

The essense of true socialism is the decentralization of power, taking it from the hands of an unaccountable elite and placing where it belongs: in the hands of the people. When seen in this classical sense (rather than in the more popular American version), “socialist” and “libertarian” are synonyms, not antonyms.

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