Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Drill, Bwana, Drill!

A friend of mine asked the other day: "Is there anything major left on which Obama has not sold out?" After pondering for several days, I responsed: "He's been pretty decent on the environment."

Well. . .

Later this year, I anticipate he'll start lightening his skin, begin smoking a pipe, and wearing a Stetson.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sneak Out / Hero In

Change you can believe in, if you're a brain-dead urban-prog mark such as myself. We worked and paid for change. What we got instead is perhaps the grossest (and surely the most self-regarding) weasel in US political history. Listen to his weasel words, going down smooth as Bosco: repeating virtually word-for-word the lying justifications given by Bush/Cheney for the US war, claiming that 100,000 troops are being deployed in Afghanistan to fight Al Qaeda, whose strength in the country has been estimated by US military commanders at barely 100.

Real reason why Obama snuck in and out of Afghanistan in the dead of night?

Courtesy of the New York Times:
Mr Obama's visit to Afghanistan came against a backdrop of tension between Mr Karzai and the Americans. It quoted a European diplomat in Kabul as saying, "He's [Karzai] slipping away from the West" and it went on to point out that the Afghan president "warmly received one of America's most vocal adversaries[from Iran]" in Kabul and then "met with him again this past weekend in Tehran", apart from visiting China, "a country that is making economic investments in Afghanistan, ... taking advantage of the hard-won and expensive security efforts of the US and other Western nations."
Better hire a food-taster, Mr. Karzai.

And now the hero.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Coming Age of Terror and Blood

Chris Hedges wonders if Americans yearn for fascism.
The language of violence always presages violence. I watched it in war after war from Latin America to the Balkans. The impoverishment of a working class and the snuffing out of hope and opportunity always produce angry mobs ready to kill and be killed. A bankrupt, liberal elite, which proves ineffectual against the rich and the criminal, always gets swept aside, in times of economic collapse, before thugs and demagogues emerge to play to the passions of the crowd. I have seen this drama. I know each act. I know how it ends. I have heard it in other tongues in other lands. I recognize the same stock characters, the buffoons, charlatans and fools, the same confused crowds and the same impotent and despised liberal class that deserves the hatred it engenders.

“We are ruled not by two parties but one party,” Cynthia McKinney, who ran for president on the Green Party ticket, told me. “It is the party of money and war. Our country has been hijacked. And we have to take the country away from those who have hijacked it. The only question now is whose revolution gets funded.”

The Democrats and their liberal apologists are so oblivious to the profound personal and economic despair sweeping through this country that they think offering unemployed people the right to keep their unemployed children on their nonexistent health care policies is a step forward. They think that passing a jobs bill that will give tax credits to corporations is a rational response to an unemployment rate that is, in real terms, close to 20 percent. They think that making ordinary Americans, one in eight of whom depends on food stamps to eat, fork over trillions in taxpayer dollars to pay for the crimes of Wall Street and war is acceptable. They think that the refusal to save the estimated 2.4 million people who will be forced out of their homes by foreclosure this year is justified by the bloodless language of fiscal austerity. The message is clear. Laws do not apply to the power elite. Our government does not work. And the longer we stand by and do nothing, the longer we refuse to embrace and recognize the legitimate rage of the working class, the faster we will see our anemic democracy die.

The unraveling of America mirrors the unraveling of Yugoslavia. The Balkan war was not caused by ancient ethnic hatreds. It was caused by the economic collapse of Yugoslavia. The petty criminals and goons who took power harnessed the anger and despair of the unemployed and the desperate. They singled out convenient scapegoats from ethnic Croats to Muslims to Albanians to Gypsies. They set in motion movements that unleashed a feeding frenzy leading to war and self-immolation. There is little difference between the ludicrous would-be poet Radovan Karadzic, who was a figure of ridicule in Sarajevo before the war, and the moronic Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin. There is little difference between the Oath Keepers and the Serbian militias. We can laugh at these people, but they are not the fools. We are.

The longer we appeal to the Democrats, who are servants of corporate interests, the more stupid and ineffectual we become. Sixty-one percent of Americans believe the country is in decline, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, and they are right. Only 25 percent of those polled said the government can be trusted to protect the interests of the American people. If we do not embrace this outrage and distrust as our own it will be expressed through a terrifying right-wing backlash.

“It is time for us to stop talking about right and left,” McKinney told me. “The old political paradigm that serves the interests of the people who put us in this predicament will not be the paradigm that gets us out of this. I am a child of the South. Janet Napolitano tells me I need to be afraid of people who are labeled white supremacists but I was raised around white supremacists. I am not afraid of white supremacists. I am concerned about my own government. The Patriot Act did not come from the white supremacists, it came from the White House and Congress. Citizens United did not come from white supremacists, it came from the Supreme Court. Our problem is a problem of governance. I am willing to reach across traditional barriers that have been skillfully constructed by people who benefit from the way the system is organized.”

We are bound to a party that has betrayed every principle we claim to espouse, from universal health care to an end to our permanent war economy, to a demand for quality and affordable public education, to a concern for the jobs of the working class. And the hatred expressed within right-wing movements for the college-educated elite, who created or at least did nothing to halt the financial debacle, is not misplaced. Our educated elite, wallowing in self-righteousness, wasted its time in the boutique activism of political correctness as tens of millions of workers lost their jobs. The shouting of racist and bigoted words at black and gay members of Congress, the spitting on a black member of the House, the tossing of bricks through the windows of legislators’ offices, are part of the language of rebellion. It is as much a revolt against the educated elite as it is against the government. The blame lies with us. We created the monster.

When someone like Palin posts a map with cross hairs on the districts of Democrats, when she says “Don’t Retreat, Instead—RELOAD!” there are desperate people cleaning their weapons who listen. When Christian fascists stand in the pulpits of megachurches and denounce Barack Obama as the Antichrist, there are messianic believers who listen. When a Republican lawmaker shouts “baby killer” at Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak, there are violent extremists who see the mission of saving the unborn as a sacred duty. They have little left to lose. We made sure of that. And the violence they inflict is an expression of the violence they endure.

These movements are not yet full-blown fascist movements. They do not openly call for the extermination of ethnic or religious groups. They do not openly advocate violence. But, as I was told by Fritz Stern, a scholar of fascism who has written about the origins of Nazism, “In Germany there was a yearning for fascism before fascism was invented.” It is the yearning that we now see, and it is dangerous. If we do not immediately reincorporate the unemployed and the poor back into the economy, giving them jobs and relief from crippling debt, then the nascent racism and violence that are leaping up around the edges of American society will become a full-blown conflagration.

Left unchecked, the hatred for radical Islam will transform itself into a hatred for Muslims. The hatred for undocumented workers will become a hatred for Mexicans and Central Americans. The hatred for those not defined by this largely white movement as American patriots will become a hatred for African-Americans. The hatred for liberals will morph into a hatred for all democratic institutions, from universities to government agencies to the press. Our continued impotence and cowardice, our refusal to articulate this anger and stand up in open defiance to the Democrats and the Republicans, will see us swept aside for an age of terror and blood.

Friday, March 26, 2010

What's Good for the Goosesteppers. . .

This week in Berlin, a man named Heinrich Boere was sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes committed 66 years ago; specifically the murder of three Dutch partisans in October 1944.

Bill Van Auken:
In handing down the sentence in Germany, the judge referred to Heinrich Boere’s gunning down of suspected supporters of the Dutch resistance to Nazi occupation as “practically incomparable maliciousness and cowardice—beyond the decency of any soldier.”

What can one say of those who kill defenseless men, women and children—and those suspected of resisting US occupation—by pushing a button while sitting in front of a video screen 7,000 miles away? One can only imagine what Adolf Hitler could have done with such technology.

The main theme of the article in the Washington Post is the role of CIA Director Leon Panetta in directing these assassinations and mass killings. It focuses on one particular drone attack that killed Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud last August. CIA officers told Panetta that Mehsud, whose movements were being tracked by a drone camera, was not alone, but with his wife. He ordered them to “take the shot” that killed them both.

What is described is a policy of cold-blooded murder in which so-called “collateral damage”—the slaying of innocent civilians—is not some accident, but a calculated, deliberate act.

In an earlier period, when the CIA gained its epithet “Murder Inc.,” there was an effort made in Washington to keep such bloodthirsty acts secret. Now, US officials—including Obama—openly boast of “taking out” their enemies, provoking little or no controversy in the political establishment and the media.

Such a debased political and moral atmosphere is an unmistakable manifestation of a deep-going crisis of US imperialism, which America’s ruling elite is attempting to resolve by means of war abroad and a wholesale assault on the working class at home.

The reality is that Obama, Panetta and Gates, just like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld & Co. before them, are guilty of war crimes. The individual atrocities, assassinations, acts of torture and collective punishment are the inevitable byproducts of waging wars of aggression, the principal offense for which the surviving Nazi leaders were tried at Nuremberg.
Notice how in Panetta's decision to "take the shot" and kill the wife, the two people were not defined as two humans, a man and a woman, a father and mother, a husband and wife, a son and a daughter. No, merely an object (with spouse) opposed to Leon Panetta's filthy ideology, shit on the ugly dwarf's shoe.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

And Now, Indonesia

Professor Peter Dale Scott with some interesting background.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Moore on Less

Two obvious continuing occurences in the wake of "BARACK IS BACK!" ejaculations, post-Proctologist Bill:

1. The identity linchpin for all Urban Liberals is each one's uniqueness. Yet have we ever heard such atavistic, tribal, sheep-like bleating from any group as we've heard from the media/blog Beigeocracy this week? "Oh, what a historic anal-tubing we've received, and goddamn we like it!"

2. Non-stop mention of the word "historic" in connection with the bill. Yes, Obama passed something called "health reform" and attempts in that name did fail under FDR, Harry Truman, Jack Kennedy, LBJ, and Richard Nixon. All attempts by those five presidents were designed to de-link the natural born right of health care from any profit motive. Sure, if Lyndon Johnson had stood in the well of Congress and said: "Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to propose the passage of a bill which will take our unfortunate, unprotected citizens and hand them over to gangsters who will overcharge them, deny them coverage, provide rotten coverage when it is provided, cost them backbreaking deductibles; along with the IRS, who will enforce steep fines (and possible jail sentences) on those citizens resisting the gangsters." 'Course Lyndon would have sweetened the pot a bit, but the passing of that sort of "health reform" would've taken about 10 minutes. What Barack Obama and His Scummy Band have actually accomplished is handing over to the vampires -- again, with no strings attached (see Bailout, Wall Street) --  one of the last frontiers of what is not a commodity: good health.

Next stop: Social Security. And after that: Air and Water.

Michael Moore on "Democracy Now":

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


ObamaCare has passed! Let us all celebrate a hard-earned victory for:

Pathetic Expectations

And a Real Bad Odor. . .

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Since we're stuck with the Bizarro version, Chris Floyd tells us what a Real Obama might say in an alternate -- and much healthier -- dimension.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mirrors of Inch-Deep Water

When the New York Times isn't calling for the destruction of Iran or celebrating the decent helplessness of the Israeli state or embodying most everything compromised, middle-brow, and mediocre, it tries its best to stroke  (usually on weekends when the gas of office-stroking is low) the completely understandable cultural insecurities of its dwindling yet still intensely compromised, middle-brow, and mediocre city readership. So it gives an occasional tip-of-the-hat to local artistes of undue ambition and impotent imagination, those invariably more interested in being part of an elite than in the creative act itself.

Today, we are introduced to the new Poet Laureate of Brooklyn (when was that election?) in a story titled (believe it or not) "A Poet Who Doesn't Do Lofty." (How did GAP admakers miss that one: shots of decadent over-dressed partiers, b&w stills of the American working class [perhaps from Williamsburg], a narrator [with Howling Wolf in the background], "In this age, who wants lofty?")

Supposedly, not Tina Chang. (Yes, that's the poet laureate of Brooklyn. And it tells you about all you need to know about what's happened to early 21st-Century Brooklyn.)

But I was Manhattanese, friendly and proud!
I was call’d by my nighest name by clear loud voices of young men as they saw me approaching or passing,
Felt their arms on my neck as I stood, or the negligent leaning of their flesh against me as I sat,
Saw many I loved in the street, or ferry-boat, or public assembly, yet never told them a word,
Lived the same life with the rest, the same old laughing, gnawing, sleeping,
Play’d the part that still looks back on the actor or actress,
The same old role, the role that is what we make it, as great as we like,
Or as small as we like, or both great and small.
Closer yet I approach you;
What thought you have of me, I had as much of you—I laid in my stores in advance;
I consider’d long and seriously of you before you were born.
Who was to know what should come home to me?
Who knows but I am enjoying this?
Who knows but I am as good as looking at you now, for all you cannot see me?

Okay, Walt Whitman. Maybe not fair.

Neither is featuring this on the front page of the New York Times:

About "Roman," Tina Chang's new baby:

My child was once a thought and he had
no name, locked in the stall of my making.
The child was housed inside me for a long time,
held still in water, his limbs floating on a screen,
fingerprints intricate as aerial maps.

On suicide:

Red door open.
They come from the trees hanging,
they come cheering,
they come silent.
Swishing, swishing.

A small cord around my neck
makes a kind of song like a flute.
A flower planted inside my mouth.
Let's say it was a rose.
Let's say it was noon,
time to swallow a pill, let's say valium.

About. . .  I have no idea:

There’s a baby in a basket. There’s a burning
basket lullabye. You know the words.
The words are mixed with the soil when
the soil is lifted with a shovel.

Place the soil on top of the wooden boxes
whose bodies dream oo’s and ah’s,
of fireworks branching out in the sky
on holiday, pots and pans clanging,
children playing by dawn, a dream
nailed down to a box.

How Tina Chang thinks: “We don’t only want to engage Park Slope and Williamsburg and Dumbo and places that might be considered — I want to phrase this carefully — places that might, um, already benefit from these rich communities of literature." (And this is when she's being careful.) "We also want to be able to penetrate neighborhoods such as Bensonhurst and Bed-Stuy." Well, Ms. Chang, you might have a tougher time "penetrating" certain Bed-Stuy neighborhoods or the Soprano Family than you had in the D-Day invasions of Greenpoint or Boerum Hill. Still, you do have the zoning boards on your side. . .

Yet, amidst the portobello-mushroom-and-leek quiche baked by her partner (a Haitian named Castro), her flowing black hair and a remarkable ability to pull off form-fitting black leather pants, reading T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" to Roman in utero, and her Afghani sister-in-law, the sister-in-law's brothers' wives from Columbia and Ecuador, and that Haitian partner, Ms. Chang does have a super-cute baby and very nice feet.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Stand Up Girl

Unlike 98% of the pwogosphere bleaters who've been exposed as ego hacks by Obama's attempt to shove us all into the BigPharm/BigInsurance trick-bag, Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake has stood up.
The thing I have learned above all else in this campaign is that the corporate control of government is much more extensive than I ever imagined, and the tools we have to fight its influence are ineffective.
She writes about many things in her terrific essay, but perhaps the most significant (and funniest) part revolves around Joltin' Joe Lieberman. Remember back last autumn when Lieberman was portrayed as just this side of Benito Mussolini by the pwogs (using pretty much the same fifty-against-one tactics they used last week on Dennis Kucinich, before he took the pipe) because Lieberman basically proclaimed that a public health coverage option would pass the Senate over his dead body? What a slimy corporate whore was he. . .

Turns out Lieberman was ordered by Saint Barack Obama to say exactly the things he said. (After Harry Reid refused to do it.)

Jane's Kucinich essay.

On Emanuel, the Joys of a Scumbag.

And her incomparable fact-sheet regarding this abomination and all the lies Uncle O. is telling about it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Abandon Ship

Be careful what you wish for. How long ago was it when I and the rest of the Hope-a-Dopes truly expected the beginnings of a US social democracy? -- the End of Everything Reagan and everything that absurd devil brought to the "spirit" of the country: psychopathic materialism and the belief that life is all about kicking those beneath you and kissing the rear ends of those above you; self-regard and the resulting self-delusion; historical stupidity; boorishness; easy and cheap cynicism; condescension toward all things earnest and passionate.

It would all be turned. Even as recently as one-year ago (in spite of the horror of the appointments, the turgid Inaugural, the already evident backsliding), the feeling was still alive that principle would matter, that the "weak" would have priority again over the "strong." How could we not think that? As Spring follows Winter, surely the fine and honorable part of our spirit would begin again to dominate, after 30 years of moral vomit.

But experience does tell. Two generations have been told little but buck up, keep your powder dry, and care only about yourself. What was it Adam Smith wrote: "All for ourselves, and nothing for others." So the honor, the caring for others, the humility, compassion, patience, modesty, self-mocking wit, yes the bleeding heart, what Simone Weil called "the tender germ of embrace" -- is not here.

"The world for which I was made, is not here" - Thoreau. The world this country was ready for, its only salvation from the darkness of collapse and terror, could not be made. There was much too much of the other stuff. In fact, it would be difficult to find what was not "the other stuff." Like a child beaten and deprived of all chance to use the sympathetic, empathic part of her heart, when we had to show it, we had nothing left to show.

Hence health reform. What this sickening and dispiriting process has exposed is that there is nothing (on an establishment level) left of "the tender germ of embrace." What we have seen is a war between fascist haters and greasy pole climbers. Sarah Palin vs. Commander KOS, Cheney vs. Biden, the Tea Party vs. the Coffee Party, Fox News vs. MSNBC. What has been exposed is that both sides are the same: my foot on your throat.

We now see that the main problem "liberals" were suffering since 2000 was merely being out of power. And now the main priority is staying in power, now matter how much principle is flushed or how many weasel legislative tricks need to be used. (And oh! how these precedents will lead to a 1933 post-Reichstag Fire-type Enabling Act under Palin, Petraeus, or Heinrich McChrystal. Their day will come.)

The Weasel-in-Chief, it turns out, is not some liberatory or revolutionary spirit. Nope, just a dime-a-dozen liar and hustler, and so the very appropriate role model for two generations of dick-swinging mediocrities and turncoats. And so the assumption that "pwogs" were just waiting for their turn at the trough proved to be true. What a disgrace.

Glenn Greenwald with a very important read.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Man vs. Ex-Man

Amy Goodman hosts a debate between Ralph Nader and former-progressive Dennis Kucinich on the Health Care Pimp Bill.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Caliber Light, Range Limited

Rahm Emanuel's blackmailers must've had an effect.

Chris Floyd.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


CIA analyst Ray McGovern has written an astonishing piece about what former President Harry Truman suspected about Dallas. And what co-conspirator Allen Dulles did about it.

The controversial Truman editorial.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Vetoing Greater Intelligence

President Barack Obama probably would veto legislation authorizing the next budget for U.S. intelligence agencies if it calls for a new investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks, an administration official said.A proposed probe by the intelligence agencies’ inspector general “would undermine public confidence” in an FBI probe of the attacks “and unfairly cast doubt on its conclusions,” Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence committees.

Glenn Greenwald has more.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Like Baghdad

Harper's publisher John MacArthur.
There are good reasons George Clooney never cracked a sincere smile during the Oscars. For one thing, there was nothing funny or dramatic in the ceremony — not a single decent joke or memorable line in the whole dragged-out spectacle. But beyond that, there was something dispiriting about the evening that I suspect brought out the worst in this usually charming leading man.

Clooney is our era’s thinking-person’s actor. Obviously intelligent, and a liberal, he carries what little remains of the heavily politicized legacy of Hollywood in the ’70s and ’80s, when such frankly left-wing personalities as Jane Fonda, Robert Redford and Paul Newman had a great deal to say. In keeping with less strident times, Clooney adopts a style that is quieter and, perhaps, more ironic than the style of the older generation of stars. Still, I wonder if it wasn’t pure disgust displayed on Clooney’s face — disgust with the low-quality “humor” and the hypocrisy, sentimentality and political correctness that marked the event.

Of course, Clooney might have been unhappy simply because he knew that he couldn’t win the Best-Actor award for playing the role of someone who fires people for a living. Downbeat doesn’t earn mileage points in perpetually upbeat, happy-ending Hollywood. While the Academy might want to acknowledge a certain kind of dark performance with a nomination, the Polyannas of the movie establishment, epitomized by Tom Hanks, don’t quite want to celebrate it, either.

But how could Clooney laugh at Steve Martin’s “Jewish joke”? Evidently emboldened by the tone of anti-Nazi schtick in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds,” the Academy Award scriptwriters decided to go real low. “Christoph Waltz played a Nazi obsessed with finding Jews,” said the Baptist-raised Martin. Gesturing broadly to the audience, he delivered the punch line: “The mother lode.” Is that funny, or just obnoxious? Jews “dominating” Hollywood is one of the oldest clichés in the anti-Semite’s handbook. I doubt that a Jewish comedian — even a self-hating caricature — would have used such material.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. Inevitably, Sandra Bullock won Best Actress for playing an exemplary Christian, who, from the goodness of her white, conservative heart reaches out to a lost black teenager and saves his life. Those are the rules of the feel-good game and I wouldn’t be an American if I didn’t (mostly) enjoy “The Blind Side,” including Bullock’s appealing portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy.

However, there’s a limit to my tolerance for treacle, especially when it’s accompanied by tokenistic recognition of poor, unhealthy black people, symbolized at the Oscars by Gabourey Sidibe and Mo’Nique, the stars of “Precious.” Isn’t it just a little grotesque that real-life and movie-version Sean Touhy, adoptive father of the very hefty teenager Michael Oher, is a fast-food mogul, the owner of numerous Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell franchises? Black people are disproportionately the victims of fast-food fat and grease, and the gushing tributes to Sidibe and Mo’Nique delivered by svelte white actresses mocked the class and racial divide that separates the healthy and affluent from the impoverished and obese.

More than any other aspect of this dreary evening, though, I was depressed by Kathryn Bigelow’s acceptance speeches for Best Director and Best Picture. “The Hurt Locker” might, I suppose, be construed to be an “anti-war” film, but clearly it is not politically engaged in the tradition of “Platoon” or “Apocalypse Now.” When she stepped to the podium, Bigelow, who has said she’s “a child of the ’60s” who sees “war as hell . . . and completely dehumanizing,” could have said something straightforward about ending the destructive and self-defeating American occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan (the best way to remove U.S. soldiers from bomb-disarming duty). But instead she opted for the purest bromide: “I’d like to dedicate this to the women and men in the military who risk their lives on a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world, and may they come home safe.”

Evidently embarrassed that she singled out the military, Bigelow upped the blandness in her second acceptance by making “one more dedication to men and women all over the world . . . who wear uniforms, not just military, but hazmat, emergency, firemen.” Why not mention the medics and doctors who stitch together and amputate the limbs of civilians and G.I.s who step on unexploded cluster bombs dropped by Uncle Sam and improvised explosive devices buried by the rebels? Why not say something clearly anti-war, or pro-withdrawal?

When ABC’s Sherri Shepherd interviewed Clooney and his Italian girlfriend, Elisabetta Canalis, on the red carpet before the show, he was smiling but already ornery. To Shepherd’s professed admiration for him, Clooney remarked that Canalis “doesn’t understand English or she’d kill you. She’d cut you with a stiletto.” Fortunately for all concerned, he wasn’t in the mood to attend the Vanity Fair post-Oscar party. I don’t blame him. The U.S., following Hollywood’s example, more and more resembles a gated community, and the Vanity Fair gala embodies the very essence of America the humorless, America the frightened, America the stratified.

Among journalists, the New York Post’s gossip columnist Cindy Adams best captured the true atmosphere of Oscar night and, perhaps, the state of the nation. The après-Oscar security, she said, was astonishingly good: “Let [the government] hire the Vanity Fair group to protect us. These guerrillas in spike heels know what they’re doing. It’s color-coded cars. Color-coded limo passes. Streets blocked off. Lanes blocked off. Checkpoints every few feet, like it’s Baghdad.”

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Message to Garcia

Hundreds of powerful US “bunker-buster” bombs are being shipped from California to the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in preparation for a possible attack on Iran.

The Sunday Herald can reveal that the US government signed a contract in January to transport 10 ammunition containers to the island. According to a cargo manifest from the US navy, this included 387 “Blu” bombs used for blasting hardened or underground structures.

Experts say that they are being put in place for an assault on Iran’s controversial nuclear facilities. There has long been speculation that the US military is preparing for such an attack, should diplomacy fail to persuade Iran not to make nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, Chris Floyd blows up The New York Times.
Dear New York Times,

OK, OK, we get the picture: you want the United States to attack Iran. Why don't you go ahead and put a permanent banner across the top of the front page with the Cato-like adjuration: "Iran Must Be Destroyed!" Or maybe you could just tack it on to every single story: "Yankees Trade to Bolster Outfield; Iran Must Be Destroyed." "Mixed Results for Apple I-Pad; Iran Must Be Destroyed." "Markets Anxious Over Health Care Vote; Iran Must Be Destroyed." "New Bistro Revels in Bohemian Ambience; Iran Must Be Destroyed."

After all, hardly a week goes by now without some big juicy piece of Times scaremongery about Iran's nuclear program, usually with the same image of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a lab coat looking blankly at metal tubes. The thrust of these stories is always the same: Iran is galloping toward nuclear weaponhood -- a "global threat" that "cannot be allowed to stand." Last week, it was Bill Broad, goosing the rubes with this little number, a supposed "science" piece: For Iran, Enriching Uranium Only Gets Easier.

For a moment, let's put aside the fact of Iran's persistent denials of a desire for nuclear weapons -- including the explicit, repeated statements of the theocracy's supreme religious and political leader that such weapons are anathema. And let's put aside the fact that despite the most extensive and intrusive inspection regime in the history of atomic energy development, there is no evidence whatsoever that Iran is not doing exactly what it says it is doing: developing non-weaponized nuclear power for peaceful purposes. These are just facts, after all -- and facts, as the sainted Ronald Reagan once told us, are stupid things.

But even if we were to grant the fevered fantasies of our masturbatory militarists the slightest tincture of credibility -- or even take their brazen propaganda as gospel truth -- they have never yet explained exactly why Iran's possession of nuclear weapons would be a greater "global threat" than, say, the bristling arsenals produced by the illegal, covert, crimeful programs in Israel, India and Pakistan. Nor are we told why an ill-gotten Iranian bomb would be worse than the vast "legal" nuclear arsenals of Russia, China, France, Great Britain and, of course, the only nation in the history of the world that has actually used nuclear weapons to slaughter hundreds of thousands of defenseless civilians, the United States of America.

Or to put it another way, in the immortal words of Arthur Silber: "So Iran Gets Nukes. So What?"
The brilliant remainder.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Blackwater Bigelow

Stranger and stranger. Alex Cockburn at CounterPunch.
The circumstances of Hurt Locker's filming were distasteful, with scenes shot in a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan. “We had these Blackwater guys that were working with us in the Middle East and they taught us like tactical maneuvers and stuff – how to just basically position yourself and move with a gun,” Hurt Locker actor Anthony Mackie told the New York Times’ Melena Ryzik. “We were shooting in Palestinian refugee camps. We were shooting in some pretty hard places. It wasn't like we were without enemies. There were people there looking at us, 'cuz we were three guys in American military suits runnin' around with guns. It was nothing easy about it. It was always a compromising situation.”

Jeremy Scahill writes an item in The Nation about Blackwater’s role, as disclosed by Ryzik and the author of The Hurt Locker’s screenplay, Mark Boal, made haste to contact him to deny that Blackwater had ever been hired in any capacity. Boal, apparently, supervised all such hiring of military and security consultants. Scahill asked him about comments made by the film's director, Kathryn Bigelow, in other interviews, mentioning the presence of Blackwater personnel on set, including as technical advisers. “It's possible,” Boal conceded, “that at some point somebody on set worked for Blackwater, but we never hired Blackwater.”

The New York Times writer Melena Ryzik describes how Mackie showed her how the Blackwater men trained him to hold his weapon. “If you're a trained killer,” Mackie told Ryzik, “you're very precise.” This is Blackwater-precision, as displayed by the panic-stricken contractors, when they mowed down 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square in Baghdad in 2007.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Naked and the Dead

One of the greatest of all war movies, now mostly ignored or forgotten, remains Brian DePalma's Casualties of War (1989). It is everything The Hurt Locker is not. Both works focus on an American cadre trying to survive in an unpopular war, and from that point DePalma and Bigelow take off in two morally-opposed directions.

For the Oscar Winner, the members of her cadre are mere objects to be aesthetically eroticized. We see nothing of moral weight or consequence (nothing that wouldn't occur to a 12-year-old), but there sure are plenty of brawny arms, magnificent chins, and deep glistening tans. Anything beyond that is chum since it doesn't get Kathryn Bigelow wet.

The DePalma movie -- and perhaps the explanation for its critical (Pauline Kael aside) and box office failures back in '89 -- embodies much more than just a statement against US involvement in Vietnam, and more than just a general statement against war. DePalma's movie, expressed in operatically emotional terms, calls for the rejection of power, the rejection of domination and demonizing; it calls for quiet, thoughtfulness, empathy and compassion. It spits in the face of many tenets of the American "character": brutishness, ignorance, aggression, hatred of women, fear of sex, self-justification, and the love of war. Brian DePalma sides with the raped and those who would protect the raped. Bigelow sides with the rapists and those who would mythologize them. Strange days, indeed.

What happens on the bridge is the only scene I've ever watched in a movie theater where I had no control over yelling out. It is one of most powerful fictional scenes ever filmed. And it may be movie history's greatest scream against the endless violence of the "strong" against the "weak."

The girl on the bridge, named Oanh in the movie, is thought to be dead: stabbed to death by members of the cadre after they raped her through the night. But in the middle of a firefight, she appears.

This is what is being done, every day and every night, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan by Kathryn Bigelow's murdering "heroes."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Size Does Matter

“Violence in a cinematic context can be, if handled in a certain way, very seductive" - Kathryn Bigelow
"There is that saying, 'There is no politics in the trenches,' and I think it was important to look at the heroism of these men." - Kathryn Bigelow
“Fear has a bad reputation, but I think that’s ill-deserved. Fear is clarifying. It forces you to put important things first and discount the trivial.” - Kathryn Bigelow
“The Jordanian royal family was very supportive of this production.” - Kathryn Bigelow
"The most important thing in life to me? Size, baby! -- Jenna Jameson

One watches the annual "Oscar ceremony" for the same reason one marries again: the triumph of hope over experience. The presentation of March 7, 2010 offered little in the way of hope, so let's say one watched out of fascination with a culture gone totally depraved. And speaking of  depraved, how about that Kathryn Bigelow?

Of course, the best reason to watch the Academy Awards is for the insight provided into that final outpost of total irrelevance: 21st-century Hollywood. From last night's results, one can clearly see the social process which is taking shape: as the US prepares for wider war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen (and who knows where else), and prepares for eventual Israeli/US airstrikes on Iran, the "elite" layer of US liberalism is accomodating itself quite comfortably to Obama-style aggressive war, justifying its new attitude by claiming the "progressive" adminstration in Washington is conducting a different kind of intervention, for different aims. Different in what way, no American movie can quite explain, as the corpses continue to pile up.

Hence Kathryn Bigelow. What exactly is The Hurt Locker? Its "story" is non-existent, and what does exist between the dribs and drabs stolen from the movie violence pallettes of Peckinpah, DePalma, Anthony Mann, Malick, Walsh, Ford, Kubrick, Coppola etc. is the rankest male bonding swill via (of course) violent, drunken, macho horseplay in the barracks and the trenches. The "Iraqis" (actually Jordanians, but a raghead is a raghead) are portrayed as either faceless, darkly-clad terrorists or cliches worthy of Butterfly McQueen. . . who are also terrorists. So what is the point of this completely unnecessary movie? And why did it win last night?

Regarding the point, one can look to its very nasty ending when Johnny (or in this case Jimmy) Comes Marching Home: Bigelow actually celebrates the idea of a dedicated, fearless military caste, permanently on call. Nothing here to upset the likes of Heinrich Himmler, Roberto D'Aubuisson, Papa Doc Duvalier, Dick Cheney, David Petraeus or Stanley the Manly McChrystal. Why did it win? George Packer of the New Yorker points to it:
Above all, The Hurt Locker is an Iraq movie with a modest agenda and no obvious political views. That, more than anything, is the source of its strength.... Perhaps, with the departure of the Bush administration, the withdrawal of American combat units from Iraqi cities, the attention of the new President shifted to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran...Iraq can start to become a real war, not a symbol of all-consuming evil—the subject of movies that try to be good movies rather than major statements.
Right. So it is a good thing that one of the great crimes of modern history -- the US invasion, destruction, and occupation of Iraq -- is treated "neutrally" with no politics. But of course to treat this
A million Iraqi casualties minimum.
Five million displaced from their own nation.
Complete destruction of Iraq's infrastructure: roads, bridges, telephone systems, oil refineries, gasoline storage tanks, power plants, water-pumping stations and sewage treatment plants, even village water tanks.
Total destruction of what was once among the best education systems in the world, targeting in particular the university system and university professors. (Over 300 professors have been murdered by US sanctioned death-squads.)
Extermination of the oldest culture in the world, beginning with the mass theft of some of the most precious artistic treasures in world history.
The targeting and assassination of archaeologists, writers, painters, calligraphers, and singers. (100 singers have been murdered to date!)
Per the World Health Organization, 70% of Iraqi children have suffered nervous breakdowns.
"neutrally" is as aggressive a political statement as one can make. (Perhaps Bigelow's next project will be her version of Helter Skelter, sort of an updating of Only Angels Have Wings with Charles Manson in the Cary Grant role.)

Aside from being a talented huckster, and a talented. . .  well, let's turn to Mailer and The Deer Park:
Tentatively, she reached out a hand to finger his hair, and at that moment Herman Teppis opened his legs and let Bobby fall to the floor. At the expression of surprise on her face, he began to laugh. "Don't you worry, sweetie," he said, and down he looked at that frightened female mouth, facsimile of all those smiling lips he had seen so ready to serve at the thumb of power, and with a cough, he started to talk. "That's a good girlie, that's a good girlie, that's a good girlie," he said in a mild little voice, "you're an angel darling, and I like you, you're my darling darling, oh that's the ticket," said Teppis.
What otherwise might be the interests of Kathryn Bigelow? The Widowmaker is little but pre-nuke worship of all things martial. There's the by-the-balls calculation and Nieztchean babble of Strange Days. (How stupid can one be about a city, in the face of Angela Bassett's greatness?) The imbecilic Blue Steel somehow mistakes Jamie Lee Curtis for Maria Falconetti. Bigelow finds some memorable images (and the very sexy Jenny Wright) as backdrop for the video version of Tangerine Dream's Near Dark. But it is Point Break  -- her 1991 remake of Buck Angel's Sea Food, Part XIV -- which may be key.

Vampires, surfers, serial killers, cops, drug dealers, Russian spys, and most recently male racist murderers who travel to distant lands for sport. Not a cookie-baker or a mommy in the bunch. Well, hee-haw ~ how butch of you, Kathie. The list reminds me of my old school buddy Ed Bray, who wanted to be liked so much by girls that he became the Mayfair High version of George Constanza (before there was a Seinfeld): he would enlist in whatever he thought would bring him closer to them: ballet class, piano, home economics and fashion courses; Bray even volunteered to be assistant coach on the girls' track team. Didn't work, of course.

So let us congratulate Ms. Bigelow on figuring out how to be close to as many he-men as possible. And let us drink a toast to her no doubt seething sexual life. Now put down the camera.

Let us end with the man who should have directed The Hurt Locker ('though I hear his sex life wasn't so great):
"I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents." -- General Smedley Butler

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Primping for the Pimp

Guess who the Master Villain of the Week is among our brave Pwogosphere? You know that brood, those iMac Sandinistas who basically adopt the following personality: "I'm smarter than you are. I'm more educated than you are. I dress better and have far better taste in music and movies. I'm cooler. My career is everything, plus I've memorized every episode of 'Lost'. I'm on my second divorce and my kids are everything, except when they're not. I Twit, Kindle, and Kopi Luwak. And you don't." Not exactly attitudes one wants in a Sierra Maestra foxhole. Yet they've gotten their high-and-mighties up this week about a new face of evil. It couldn't be the American Quisling Barack Obama or perhaps Israel-Firster and Intergalactic Incompetent Rahmbo Emanuel, could it? Has sexy Sarah Palin done and said something stupid again? Perhaps it was Beck or Limbaugh or Cheney who stepped in the fascist doo-doo this time.

No, it's none other than Last Man Standing, Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Huh, you say? Yes, Kucinich is being attacked all over the place at holes such as, DailyKOS, the Progressive, 538. Congressman Kucinich is the target because he doesn't seem to be going along with the program: Obama's assassination (in order to retain power) of everything Obama ran on in 2007 and 2008. So Kucinich voted against the shitty little "jobs bill" (nowhere near enough jobs with way too many tax breaks for business); he's campaigning against Obama's plan to make us all prisoners of the BigPharm/BigInsurance/BigHospital crime combine; and he's forcing a House vote on total and immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan (in order to put everyone on record).

So what's the problem? Isn't this what a true progressive should be doing in the face of resurgent reaction? Or are the Pwogs interested in something else? What has gotten their dander up?

Since it was obvious on Day Two of ObamaLand -- the day he appointed Sammy Glick as White House Chief of Staff -- that there would be no relation between candidate Barack Obama and President Barack Obama, the greasy pole climbers masquerading as mainstream media "leftists" would have to make a career choice: suck up to the sell-out. Or be a man. Dennis Kucinich is a man. Markos Moulitasas is a greasy pole climber. Life is wonderful when things are simple.

The great Chris Floyd has more on the circle jerk.

And on Dennis Kucinich's brave forcing of the Afghan vote.

The roll of honor.

Amy Goodman with the man himself.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mister Kane, He Dead

One of our great movie critics David Walsh has put together a brilliant essay (and matching PowerPoint presentation) taking us through the collapse of what was once the heart and soul of American movies: the democratic spirit.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Professor Noam Chomsky this morning with Amy Goodman.

Dr. Cornel West on Avi Lewis's "Fault Lines."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Never Mind

More cravenness from the Coward-in-Chief.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mister Businessman

Nothing in the foul, reactionary disaster known as the Obama Administration has been quite so sickening as the sight of the Conman-in-Chief going before the US Chamber of Congress and throwing 93 teachers and teacher assistants to the wolves.

These words from the same guy who made zero demands of the Wall Street banksters who brought the US and world economy to the brink of collapse. Did he call for the firings of Blankfein, Dimon, Lewis, or Ed Liddy? No, he instead handed them the keys to the US Treasury, in order to reward themslves with record bonuses.

No one since Ronald Reagan fired the striking PATCO air traffic controllers in 1981 has a national leader so openly trashed the interests of working people as a whole. The teachers from Central Falls High in Rhode Island are being used as scapegoats for the inevitable outcome of 30 years of federal policy aimed at starving public education and encouraging the growth of private-marketeer charter schools. The Central Falls teachers are not to blame for shutting schools, eliminating programs and increasing class sizes.

In order to pay for the Wall Street bailout and the US War on the World, massive cuts in public education are happening all across the country.

Just this week:

-- The Kansas City, MO school system announced the closing of 26 of the city's 61 schools and the firing of 25% of its employees.

-- San Francisco announced the firings of 900 teachers and staff.

-- Los Angeles sent out layoff notices to over 5,000 teachers and other school employees.

-- Detroit announced it would close 40 more schools, on top of the 29 shut down last year, and the privatization of student transportation.

All this is happening under an administration whose Education Secretary announced last month that "Katrina was the best thing that could have happened" to the New Orleans school system. 60 percent of the city's public school students now attend charter schools -- the highest percentage of any American city.

Public education was a conquest by the working class, achieved through decades of mass struggle: the right of all children, regardless of wealth, to a decent public education. It is precisely that egalitarian aspect of public education which has long been the main target of the American Right, an aspect now seen as foolish and out of date by our "socialist" President.

These firings (and pronouncements by Obama) are meant to serve as an object lesson and warning to any workers who dare oppose their working conditions. Just over a year after its inauguration, the Obama Administration has turned out to be the most right-wing government in modern US history. The defense of public education requires an intense struggle against this man, as well as against the two wings of the Property Party and the profit system which it defends.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Toxic Sludge

The days of Kay Graham, Ben Bradlee, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward sure are over at the Washington Post. Capital's newspaper chose to become a neo-con rag awhile back, but a piece this week by the dependably stupid Dana Milbank shows that this once jewel-of-a-newspaper's devolution continues apace in the Obama Era.

Milbank's latest bowel movement embraces that embodiment of light and human progress, Rahm (or as Milbank swooningly calls him Rahmbo -- oh yeah, what a stud this dwarf is) Emanuel. Milbank begins by declaring that it is now "the current fashion" to call for the removal of Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff, in light of the state of total political disaster in which the President currently finds himself. (And we know how hard the Milbanks of the world always fight against the current fashion). Exactly what is that state of disaster? When Barack Obama entered office 13 1/2 months ago, he, the Democratic Party, Congress, and "progressivism" were riding high, in both polls and historic expectation. Why not? The country was being ripped apart by several major disasters at the same time, it was in revulsion against all things Bush/Cheney, the Democrats had stronger majorities in both houses than at any time since Richard Nixon was stealing the White House silver, and the man just elected was blessed with extraordinary political gifts and likeabilty.

Now? It is to laugh. Obama's poll numbers are the lowest ever recorded this early in a President's first term. The positive numbers for Congress and the Democrats are at about the same level as those of the New Jersey Nets. Democratic Senators and Representatives are quitting and running for the hills en masse. MSM commentators across the dial are predicting this November's midterms could break all records for an in-party's smashing.

Where oh where went?:

Card check
Health care reform
An Iraq withdrawal
The closing of Gitmo
A wind-down of the Afghan war
Immigration reform
The Consumer Protection Agency
Financial reform/hearings/trials/prosecutions
Torture reform/hearings/trials/executions

Everything the Adminstration ran on has been denied or scotched, as Obama "leads" ever further to the right. Yet that anti-fashionista Dana Milbank thinks the problem is Obama hasn't been enough of a greasy sell-out and coward -- he hasn't listened or followed enough of Rahm Emanuel's precious advice.
Obama's first year fell apart in large part because he didn't follow his chief of staff's advice on crucial matters. Arguably, Emanuel is the only person keeping Obama from becoming Jimmy Carter.
Keeping Obama from becoming Jimmy Carter? Carter is the Michael Jordan of Presidents compared to ObieRahm's first year -- a man with many valuable Congressional accomplishments, along with brokering the still-active peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. It was only after Carter turned to the right, losing his 1976 base and opening the door for a 1980 Ted Kennedy primary challenge when things began to fall apart. (Iran being the final nail in the coffin.)
[Emanuel] understands the congressional mind, in which small stuff counts for more than broad strokes.
Yes, he understands it about as well as the Captain of the Titanic understood icebergs. Nothing of significance has passed a Congress in which the incumbent held -- until Rahmbo's twiddling turned Massachusetts on its head -- overwhelming, filibuster-proof majorities in both houses; while accomplishing nothing in so-called "bipartisanship" with Republicans.
Obama's problem is his other confidants -- particularly Valerie Jarrett and Robert Gibbs, and, to a lesser extent, David Axelrod.
The Three Stooges, no doubt. And no defense can be made of the political effectiveness of these people. However, there are many incompetent stooge-worthy names in the Administration. Yet Milbank just happens to select the three most liberal (or least-reactionary) members of the team.
The president would have been better off heeding Emanuel's counsel. For example, Emanuel bitterly opposed former White House counsel Greg Craig's effort to close the Guantanamo Bay prison within a year, arguing that it wasn't politically feasible. Obama overruled Emanuel, the deadline wasn't met, and Republicans pounced on the president and the Democrats for trying to bring terrorists to U.S. prisons. Likewise, Emanuel fought fiercely against Attorney General Eric Holder's plan to send Khalid Sheik Mohammed to New York for a trial. Emanuel lost, and the result was another political fiasco.
'Course the other possible option for Obama -- the winning option -- would've been to actually LEAD on these issues, instead of tap-dancing and letting others (Rahm Emanuel) define the debate. And both are constitutional issues, the LAW, in which Obama and Holder had no choice. (But they went ahead and broke the law anyway). And aside from the fact that campaigner Obama promised he would close Gitmo and move the Mohammed trial to New York.
Obama's greatest mistake was failing to listen to Emanuel on health care. Early on, Emanuel argued for a smaller bill with popular items, such as expanding health coverage for children and young adults, that could win some Republican support. He opposed the public option as a needless distraction.
That needless distraction -- the Public Option -- is by far the most popular of the long list of items Obama sold out on in this debate, all the sell-outs recommended to him by Emanuel. And now the failure to pass any sort of genuine health care reform will be Barack Obama's political tomb.
The president disregarded that strategy and sided with Capitol Hill liberals who hoped to ram a larger, less popular bill through Congress with Democratic votes only. The result was, as the world now knows, disastrous.
Up is down, black is white, right is most certainly left. Not only did Uncle O. not side with "Capitol Hill liberals" (all eight of them), he went out of his way to secretly form the Blue Dogs (while whining about them in public) in order to block any threat of a runaway progressive House. Since Milbank does nothing but kiss insider ass all day long, he knows this. He just assumes you don't.

One more shot at liberal Valerie Jarrett.
Contrast Emanuel's wisdom with that of Jarrett, in charge of "intergovernmental affairs and public engagement" -- two areas of conspicuous failure. Jarrett also brought in Desiree Rogers as White House social secretary; the Salahi embarrassment ensued.
Oh, no -- the Salahi embarrassment! Sure ranks up there with skyrocketing unemployment, the ideological emasculation of the Democratic Party, the explosion of the Tea Party, the niggerization of Labor, and the destruction of all hopes for comprehensive Wall Street reform.

Robert Gibbs has his turn.
Then there's Gibbs. It's hard to make the case that you're a post-partisan president when your on-camera spokesman is a hyper-partisan former campaign flack.
Translation: Robert Gibbs is not a reactionary. Perhaps Rahmbo's Israel-Firster fellow-traveler Ari Fleischer is available.
No wonder Emanuel has set up his own small press operation and outreach function to circumvent the dysfunctional ones that Jarrett and Gibbs run.
He has? Does Barack Obama know this? Is Dana Milquetoast's column, pray tell, its first product? But there is a piece of actual news amidst the Beltway pimping.
The failure of the president's message also reflects on his message maven, Axelrod, who is an adept strategist but blinded by Obama love. A good example was Obama's unproductive China trip in November. Jarrett, Gibbs and Axelrod went along as courtiers; Emanuel remained at his desk in Washington, struggling to keep alive the big health-care bill that he didn't want in the first place.
And there it is. Barack Obama's Chief-of-Staff was sabotaging the bill behind his boss's back. Thanks, Dana. Now back to your only real talent: licking boots.