the irs/tea party scandal sure is a beaut. for one thing, the whole thing perfectly justifies the self-presentation of those groups; it is a lovely confirmation of their worldview. the best thing is the notion that the irs targeted groups that "sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Consititution." i do think the irs is just the group which ought to be in the business of repressing that document, which is entirely incompatbile with their conduct of life.
my other prediction is about afghanistan: this will be recalled as a failure a la vietnam, but smaller. there'll be 'entrepreneurs' and corrupt officials clinging to the underside of the last american cargo planes as we evacuate, giving way to civil war. see here's the slight problem: we imposed on them by force more or less the most corrupt government in the world. this never endears the populace. one of the last chances we had to jump off was the election of 2009; barack and hillary completely screwed that up; they needed to back another horse or demand another election and enforce fairness.
i don't think the average person needs an assault weapon anymore; basically, it's useless in self-defense. but it's completely obvious that every american citizen needs access to predator drone technology. this is especially true, i feel, in the dc suburbs, where every teenager and every grandma and every small business owner needs whatever would enable her to detect and knock down incoming assassination attempts; monitor the white house, the pentagon, langley and so on; and, if necessary, put missiles through the windows of these facilities. my legal counsel, john yoo, gives me, and all of us, full legal authority under international law to act to preserve the homeland, but only if there are significant barriers to capturing and detaining the people who work at the white house, cia heaquarters, and the pentagon, and only if one determines that those people constitute an imminent threat, which on the prospective targets' own account they certainly do. i like, say, the chris matthews approach: these insane gun nuts and survivalists think they might be attacked by our own government! have you ever heard anything so ridiculous? well yeah i read it once in a memo somewhere. cheese it, the cops! has sworn a sacred oath to protect the american people.
it would be amazing to see obama propose something fresh. tax the rich? ok, tax the rich: ain't gettin no further this year than last. really, our politics is frozen where it has been since the new deal: tax the rich, no don't etc. regulate, don't. government is your friend, your enemy. i don't know: give me something, anything. you've got all these supposedly smart people, but they can't think of anything, maybe cause they think in herds or parties. who speaks for the middle class? dunno, really, but i know who speaks for the mediocre ideas. shit is boring. let's say creativity is lacking. it'll be the same little catch-phrases, produced mechanically. that's one thing about newt; even the little dose of something fresh he provides is thousands of times greater than a figure like obama or the clintons etc. i don't know that you can really give people hope and be utterly without imagination. obama ought to put on a tape of last year's speech and hit the sack.
the only really watchable part of a state of the union is the red-carpet phase: walking in, shaking hands, scanning the supreme court, the joint chiefs, whatever emblematic peasants michelle will be dragging along. it is our most monarchical moment.
in henry adams's history of the united states in the administrations of thomas jefferson, jefferson is portrayed as a charming, good-hearted, and principled man. generous stuff from an adams. now there were many compromises of principle, but these had to do either with the fact that jefferson wanted everyone to like him (and so was always trying to find grounds to cooperate), or (in the humongous case of the louisiana purchase) just faced temptations that were too strong. he himself was trying to persuade his secretary of state madison, or the leaders of his party in congress (randolph, e.g.), that they needed to amend the constitution to make the buy. they were all like "shhhhhh!"
[really his positions were more or less what ron paul was saying today in various news outlets, announcing his candidacy for the presidency: neutrality in foreign conflicts, low taxes, individual liberty, states' rights, small government: we're too broke to go to war. "Peace was his passion," says Adams several times.]
he was always making grand democratic gestures, like riding horseback to his inauguration (rather than in a carriage). one episode. in 1803, he welcomed the brand-new british ambassador anthony merry to the white house, an occasion of solemn protocol and punctilious etiquette, even more because the french charge pichon was there and england and france were at war. yet jefferson's seating pattern was what he himself called "pell-mell; you sat wherever you wanted or wherever there a free seat, first come etc. and jefferson's appearance was described by a recently-elected senator as follows:
"A tall, high-boned man came into the room. He was dressed, or rather undressed, in an old brown coat, red waistcoat, old corduroy small-clothes much soiled, woolen hose, and slippers without heels. I thought him a servant, when General Varnum surprised me by announcing that it was the President."
nor did jeff bother to shave for the occasion. it was extreme anti-pomp, a pointed lesson for the old monarchy and the new empire (under the screeching anti-republican, napoleon) in democracy. jefferson wrote that after everything, merry 'perservered in a pretension to take precedence at dinner, etc. We have told him that the principle of society as well as of government with us is the equality of individuals composing it; that no man here would come to a dinner where he was to be marked by inferiority to any other."
and though the president was notably disarming on this as on so many occasions, merry was offended to the tune of writing an outraged letter to his boss, the foreign minister, regretting that he had ever been appointed: "In short [we] are now placed here in a situation so degrading to the countries [we] represent, and so personally disagreeable,...as to have become almost intolerable."
paul krugman/naomi klein statist leftism vs. right-wing corporatism presents us with a horrendous dilemma: state or corporation? it articulates a stark choice between forms of subordination: state control of the economy (along with and backed by military or police coercion), welfare-state regimes of total surveillance and public housing vs. horrendous economic inequalities, third-world exploitation, and every surface plastered in advertising. choose a spike for your impalement. but i suggest that this opposition is anachronistic, still based on marxist vs laissez-faire models as they squared off in the 19th century. seriously, on which horn of this dilemma do you place china? both at once, and the u.s. and the eu are constantly approaching the condition of squishy totalitarianism: the merger of corporation and state into a single overwhelming power (well, they were never as distinct as the ideologies made them seem). the point has to be resistance to power. if the choice is state or corporation, we had better colonize a new planet and start again.
say your strategy to reduce the power of goldman sachs was to give more power to the treasury department...you'd merely be naive and confused.
i often hear people ridiculing the pretensions of the tea party to represent the position of the founders. well, this is an extremely complex question! if the assertion is that we are a 'christian nation,' for example, i'd point out that most of the founders were enlightenment-style religious skeptics of various sorts: deists and unitarians, for example. on the other hand, the basic set of values derives from protestantism (as well as ancient republicanism). cf. roger williams, and also the role of the protestant churches throughout the 18th century in agitating for freedom of conscience and against tyranny. the extent to which locke was a sincere believer is too often overlooked, and his ideas are inconceivable without radical protestantism.
the tea party, i believe, is profoundly divided on defense and security-state-type issues. but i will note that many of the founders opposed nothing more vigorously than a 'standing army.' we have come a long long way since then in this and many other areas, and the scope of federal power is exponentially greater than any of the major figures, with the possible exception of hamilton (a constitutional monarchist) could have envisioned. i can see why the individual mandate to buy health insurance makes sense and solves a problem. i also think it's clearly unconstitutional and will be found so. and the idea that the patriot act is consistent with our form of government is baldly ludicrous.
and we might remind ourselves of a few simple, obvious facts.
(1) the american revolution was to a large extent a tax revolt. the revolutionaries saw excessive or arbitrary taxation as the very essence of tyranny.
(2) the tradition of the founding is a tradition based around individual rights, both a radical protestant individualism and a more urbane or tempered lockean liberalism.
(3) though the founders disagreed profoundly on the scope of federal power, almost all agreed that it should be carefully circumscribed, in contrast to the british and european monarchies. this is enshrined in statements in both the articles of confederation and the constitution (e.g. the tenth amendment).
i don't think the left, and for that matter the neo-cons, really care what the framers had in mind, and that truly they could give a shit about the constitution; the left actually prefers the swedish constitution, while security-state rightists prefer hosni's pharaoh-style system. but they can't just say that without abandoning the debate, and all in all i am glad the constitution still plays that role. however, we might also point out that the constitutional convention was called explicitly to invest the federal government with much more scope. and then point out that it would not have been ratified without further attempts at limitation, enshrined in the bill of rights. etc.
ok but if you're just giggling at the idea that tea-party types have a connection to our actual traditions, you might read or re-read jefferson's kentucky resolutions, opposing the alien and sedition acts. among the many benefits to be derived from a perusal of this document is that you get to try to read the longest english sentence ever composed (section 8).
if elected, i will fight to change the national motto from 'e pluribus unum' to 'report suspicious activity.' (i will just point out, once again, that a wal-mart superstore, or a big public high school, cannot be secured. if terrorism were common here, these places would cease operations. think about all the vehicles that pull up, the deliveries, the trash. think about how many people walk in and out, etc. you cannot have institutions like that in a terrorist world.)
honestly, i don't think you can really secure an airport either. but while a city might have one or two airports, there's a wal-mart and a public high school in every suburb and small town. they have to operate relatively cheaply or they can't operate at all. you're just not going to have DOE screeners reaching into the underwear of every american child, every whitetrash christmasshopper, etc.
this thing with fema staging a press conference where they were themselves the reporters is the most radical postmodern thing ever. the fact that they got caught shows you that we're in the popomo period now: the era of john mccain.
or think of it this way: while a large decentralized group of people can produce a sort of intelligence, as in open-source etc, a large group of people organized hierarchically, characterized by elaborate structures of subordination is, literally, an inanimate object. it is incapable of making decisions and it is incapable of telling the truth: it is incapable of making decisions precisely because it is incapable of telling the truth: it floats into a world of delusion and ceases to act intentionally in this world at all; it does not respond to stimuli. if you poke it in the foot, the message might reach the brain in some distorted form after a period of decades. you might as well ask the actual concrete out of which the pentagon is contructed for a strategy as address such questions to a military hierarchy the size of the us's.
300 million seems a bit excessive. fortunately the bush admin seems intent on helping us commit suicide. actually, one actual american would be refreshing: it's all european mercantilism and socialism over here.
one way to get ahold of the electoral victory of hamas would be to compare it to the rise of the taliban in afghanistan, though obviously the situations are extremely different. but the taliban seemed to make sense because of the extremely corrupt and amoral rule of warlords, which in turn seemed the only alternative to actual foreign occupation. the moral surety and fierce independence of the religious party can be extremely attractive under such circumstances. in palestine we have the deeply ineffectual and corrupt fatah movement, unable to transform the basic situation of repression. i don't know how much of a factor it was, but the bush admin's financial support for fatah was idiotic: a backlash was the only rational response: there could have been no more compelling way to discredit fatah.
now here is an interesting story: new hampshire is quanitfying the value of views of the landscape and adding that quantity to the assessed values of homes. i'm teaching marx right now, and there's something sweet about his critique of capitalism: all value is reduced to cash value! sex = cash. truth = cash. life = cash, etc. it'd be hard to quibble with that. but we have now transcended capitalism: now all human values amount only to different dimensions and strategies for taxation (beauty = tax). we have aufhebunged all things to the sublime level of revenue enhancement, sublated reality into bureacracy. the end of history!
fusillade update . they apologize for subjecting the neighborhood to a hailstorm of bullets.
"They're not hiding," Emerson told reporters.
"They're honorable, decent individuals. They're proud professionals of
the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and they're willing to
stand up and tell the community that they do apologize."
ok. fair enough. i accept everything besides "professional." when the professionals set up a situation in which they're shooting straight at one another, when they expend 120 rounds at point-blank range and can't kill the "suspect," one prays that the criminals will be pistol-whipped by amateurs.
i hope y'all have been following the "fusillade" story out of compton. the video is frigging amazing, a la bonnie and clyde or butch cassidy: perhaps a dozen heavily armed policemen lining a street and just firing and firing, wounding one another and riddling houses with bullets (at least ninety shots). unlike bonnie and clyde, however, winston hayes was unarmed. and unlike bonnie and clyde, winston hayes was only wounded, which indicates that these people are pathetic as well as vicious. like ten people standing ten feet away from a car, firing like madmen at the driver for quite some time, and they don't even kill him. it's in a way surprising and perhaps unfortunate from the standpoint of natural selection that all the cops weren't killed: the video shows these fools standing on both sides of the street, firing straight through the car at each other.
well . it seems like an obvious observation: various government bodies are the biggest purveyors of vice in our country. they seek a monopoly on gambling, and they promote it incessantly. in pa, where i live, they have a monopoly on the sale of wines and liquors. all substance abuse that doesn't fill their coffers directly is regulated to minimize competition and taxed to within an inch of its life, including illegal narcotics and legal pharmaceuticals. states are dependent on tobacco setllement money as well as extreme taxes on tobacco products. that is: the state profits from the addiction of its citizens, and seeks at once to reduce it and to profit from it maximally. i am seriously surprised that the state is not the major provider of pornography and prostitution services. these facts actually raise foundational questions about the nature and function of the state. can it be distinguished from organized crime, for instance? what is it actually for? does it have a positive effect on people's lives, and is it intended to?