“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, May 13, 2006

the seventies show

LI was going to write about an important issue today: the American Idol election. According to the Washington Post, all America voted for whoever it was that won the contest. And this puzzled me – since it is clear evidence that I’ve been sleepwalking again. Damn. My enjoyment of America’s show, a show that is American as idolatry with less calories, but more filling, with four on the floor, Ram tough, built to last, I’m lovin’ it, is a bit baffled by the fact that I can’t watch it – my tv being so sensitive to the many waves and follies that float invisibly through the air that I can only watch one channel – Fox – and every show looks like a heavy blizzard having an epileptic seizure.

This puts the keebash to the only show I really want to watch – the Simpsons – and definitely would make viewing American idol, which depends, I believe, on sound, a little boring. Of course, I could get the DVDs of American idols past and see what I voted for. I also could slit my wrists with the kitchen scissors. Life is full of possibilities.

Instead, I’ll go back to my own previously interrupted show, your favorite and mine, Philosophe idol. The seventies show – the 1770s. Or, Condillac and expectation.

As I wrote in the last post, Condillac starts not with Robinson Crusoe, but with Crusoe’s island, so to speak. That is, a small group of people who grow their own food. Marx criticized the economists fatal penchant for methodological individualism by jeering at the notion of Robinson Crusoe as a starting point for explaining a social phenomenon like exchange. However, Marx ignored something that is interesting about Condillac’s Commerce and Government – which is that Condillac embedded exchange and use in the framework of expectation. In Condillac’s version of little people on the prairie, an islanded group growing its food, over time, learns how much it needs to plant and how much it needs to store. And that learning is related to its desires and fears. In other words, the superfluity of the product does not begin as a judgment about an objective quantity, but begins as a judgment about risk and uncertainty:

“Let’s suppose that after having picked out the grain necessary for sowing the land again, there remains one hundred bushelweight (muids – about 2 and a half bushels); and with this quantity, they could expect a second harvest without fear of lack.”

After reconstructing a little narrative about harvests, Condillac comes to the main point:

“It is thus in opinion that one has quantities, rather than in the quantities themselves; it is where abundance, surabundance, or shortage (disette) is discovered: but they are found in opinion only because they are supposed in the quantities.”

This may seem upside down (Marx will invariably use figures of topsy turviness or things being upside down when he comes upon ‘ideology’ – like St. Paul, he thinks we see now, as through a glass, darkly, but unlike St. Paul, he prescribes an astringent and earthly corrective for this problem), since after all disette is marked by more than opinion – it is marked by sickness and death. But this, which is the objective, corporal basis of fear, does not of itself make opinion “objective.”

This is where Condillac is more sophisticated than one might think at first. For C., the little people does not exist as the individual times x, but has a separate existence that emerges and animates the group. This grounds economics in two things –physical need and opinion – and allows Condillac to posit, at the beginning of his story, a bifurcation in need.

“We have two sorts of needs. One are entailed by our physical disposition: we are disposed to have need of nourishment – we cannot live without food. The other is entailed by our habits. Such and such a thing, of which we can do without, since our physical disposition does not make it a need, become necessary to us by usage, and sometimes as necessary as if we were physically disposed to need it.

I call natural those needs entailed by our physical disposition, and factitious (factice) the needs we owe to the habit contracted by the usage of things.”

That distinction ramifies into a whole history of civilization in Condillac – for whom the political economy is just one way of telling that history. Adam Smith, of course, has the same notion of the political economy, but he is, as we know from our little textbooks, wedded to the classical ideal of objective values – and in particular, labor. Condillac’s conventionalism is often discussed in terms of use and exchange – Jessica Riskin, a marvelous historian, in her essay The Spirit of the System and the fortunes of Physiocracy, writes:

“Condillac… rooted value, not in nature, but in social convention. He opposed the tendency to “regard value as an absolute quality, inherent in things independently of the judgments we make.” The value of a thing, Condillac said, arose primarily from assessments of its “utility”, the needs and uses people had for it. He therefore argued for free trade on the basis of the social, rather than natural, origins of value. Condillac’s conventional origin of value implied that commerce was not sterile, despite the claims of the physiocrats; exchanges between people who valued what they received over what they traded always maximized value. Taxes would inhibit such exchanges, and it was for this reason, and not the sterility of commerce, that Condillac opposed them.”

Now, the history of expectation in economics is a convoluted one. Currently, the neo-classicals rejoice in a theory, rational expectation, in which government activity is so thoroughly encoded in the expectations of the market that there is no need for it – in fact, the government acting is, by definition, an upsetting of the equilibrium posited by rational expectation. Government is the drunken daddy, the market is the sleeping baby, and drunken daddy will just stumble in the nursery and make the baby cry. This is so obviously ridiculous that it has been unanimously embraced by the conservative ideologues as the perfect explanation of the bad state theory of economics (otherwise known as, one hundred and one excuses why absentee owners should be allowed to ruin the planet and enslave the working class), and awarded nobel prizes in economics, and extended to explain why, for instance, the stock market is perfectly rational (which got rather hit on the head after 2001 – no matter. The ideologues then explain why the market is perfectly irrational. In any case, bad daddy state can’t wake up the baby.)

Of course, it should be pointed out that the ideological windowdressing only operates to prevent the state from exerting itself on behalf of the working class. When the governing class needs help, economic theory is quietly stashed in a closet and the government spends like a drunken sailor, most notably on some convenient war that it discovers that it has to wage.

However, the Keynesian notion of adaptive expectation, the realistic explanation of expectation, would seem to have its origins in Condillac. So – we shall return once more to the Abbe, but I don’t know when.

Friday, May 12, 2006

d. 2001

All the liberal blogs, lately, revel in the President’s falling poll numbers. LI doesn’t. LI finds those numbers extremely depressing. They map the incredible political impotence of any opposition to Bushist politics, rather than the reverse. The extension of tax giveaways to the wealthy today are the latest sign of the absolute victory of Bush’s values. Another, more familiar sign, one that every American can warm himself with: the murder of seven American soldiers in Iraq, yesterday, in the bloody farce of the Iraq vanity project. Then there is the dispossession of most of New Orleans, the lack of any attempt to deal with global warming. Yada yada yada. That depressed personal approval rating of the man whose policies are opposed by an utter vacuum shows how utterly Bushist culture has triumphed, not the opposite. Whenever I read a progressive site touting, say, Bush’s popularity being down to 31 percent, it seems to me I’m seeing a corpse crawl out of his grave to point proudly at his death date.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

addenda

First things first. LI says: SUPPORT THE TEN.
As a long time supporter of breaking the American military, LI has been heartened by the lack of enlistment, and the Army’s quiet desperation as it eyes various dire thresholds in Iraq. So this story in WAPO caught our eye:

“The Army Reserve, taxed by recruiting shortfalls and war-zone duty, has adopted a policy barring officers from leaving the service if their field is undermanned or they have not been deployed to Iraq, to Afghanistan or for homeland defense missions.
The reserve has used the unpublicized policy, first adopted in 2004 and strengthened in a May 2005 memo signed by Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, its commander, to disapprove the resignations of at least 400 reserve officers, according to Army figures

"I don't think during a time of war you would want to let people go when you have a shortage of people," Army Reserve spokesman Steve Stromvall said when asked to comment on the memo, which surfaced during litigation over the policy. At least 10 reserve officers have sued the Army, saying they should be allowed to get out because they have finished their mandatory eight years of service.”

In the longer term, the crucial job is to wrest the military away from its use by an out of control executive branch. This is a struggle that will, really, decide what form of government rules this country. We already have a gerrymandered map for the house, and a relic of slave days ensuring white supremacy in the Senate – the way the Senate seats are distributed would shame Iran’s mullahs. I often read conservative bloggers go on about how the U.S. is a Republic, not a democracy – which doesn’t prevent said bloggers from totally supporting the supposed Bush effort to bring democracy to the Middle East. LI is for bringing democracy to the U.S. You can contribute by talking up the horrors of a military that is the plaything of the President’s vanity. Remember, every potential recruit you divert from the military brings us that much closer to taking back the country.



And this just in, as an addendum to our Myth post of yesterday on the strange rebirth of socialism in Latin America. Readers will remember that John Harris cast about for some way to explain the irrationality of the wave of nationalizations in Latin America. Today’s Independent has a fine story that will bring a tear of joy to the eye of the libertarians among us, a story of capitalism in the classical mode, a story that echoes with New World motifs that reach back to when Caliban was a pup

A. first, it involves the original, divinely ordained mineral that started it all. The El Dorado square on that monopoly board, the Periodic table. Gold.
B. There’s the discovery. The original discoverer is a native, Luis Arteaga, who went into the hills near his village of Palo Ralo twenty five years ago and found the stuff. Palo Ralo is in Honduras. We know the next step in the story, of course. The foundation of a society of property law depends on stealing the property of natives, and this was done in due course. The Honduran courts are still hearing his case:
“… in 1998, in the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane Mitch and with the help of a new mining code designed to attract foreign investment, Entre Mares was awarded the lease to San Martin and Mr Arteaga's claims were ignored. To add to the insult, the villagers claim they were coerced into agreeing to move from their homes and relocate to is now the new village of Palo Ralo.
The company insist the move was done on the basis of "willing buyer, willing seller".

Despite the resources ranged against them, Mr Avila has fought ferociously for his client and for his claim of millions of dollars. Remarkably it seems he may even have won. The lawyer was able to show legal documents that appeared to show not only his clients' legal stake for discovery of the gold but also rulings from two lower courts upholding his claim to 5 per cent of Entre Mares profits. He said the case was now with the Honduran Supreme Court. "The court has ruled in our favour twice," he said.”

C. Entre Mares is a wholly owned subsidiary of Glamis, a gold mining company in the old fashioned style. Not one to bow to newfangled, socialistic ideas about the environment or fair pay or any of that crap. Fighting the good Randian fight. Prospero’s distant breed, American branch hq-ed in Nevada:

"We were happy, super happy. We thought we were going to uncover riches and wealth," he said, sitting outside his house in the newly created village of Palo Ralo, his eyes sunk deep in tobacco-brown skin. "But if I knew what I know now I would have never have accepted [what has happened]." Mr Arteaga is just one of many outspoken critics of the sprawling San Martin goldmine, operated by Glamis Gold, a mining company with headquarters in Nevada. Some locals say the company's behaviour is so exploitative they have likened it to a new form of "colonialism" while the Honduran public prosecutor has filed an action accusing the multinational of deforestation, pollution of streams and illegally altering the course of water-ways and roads.”

Now here’s the kind of thing that any country would embrace. Glamis has a special way of finding that precious metal: “Meanwhile, internationally the company's activities have been seized on by campaigners who say the growing dispute in Honduras un-derlines the need for wide-ranging changes in the way mining leases are awarded and the need to ensure full consultation with local people. The controversy also highlights how - with the world's most accessible gold reserves having already been taken - mining companies are now using highly destructive and toxic methods in the developing world to feed our enduring demand for this precious metal.
Such methods, which produce up to 30 tons of toxic waste for each ounce of gold produced, have been banned elsewhere.” Nimbys, you know. Happily, paying that four dollars and two bits per day and using massive amounts of cyanide has been very good to all concerned. Oh, some villagers complain about hair loss, and there will be the decades after the operation closes down of misbirths, poverty, and the uselessness of the land. On the other hand:

“… Local environmental activists say the mine has created huge problems, has taken up precious water resources and caused cyanide pollution in local streams as a result of its heap leeching techniques, in which diluted cyanide is sprayed over huge piles of quarried rock to separate the microscopic flecks of gold. They believe such pollution may be the cause of skin problems and hair loss suffered by local people.

That's an allegation that Joe Danni, the vice-president of Corporate Relations at Glamis disputes. "There was a significant shortage of water locally already. It's famine or feast in Honduras, mud and water or dust."
Campaigners have questioned whether the mine should be operating in a drought-prone area but Mr Danni argues that Glamis has improved the year-round supply of potable water to residents by drilling wells.”

Drill the well, use the cyanide, drill the well, use the cyanide. A company like Glamis, as you can imagine, by doing good is doing well. So very well:

“This week, while shareholders met in Toronto, the company revealed that first-quarter profits had soared by 668 per cent, largely as a result of higher prices for metals and a full quarter of commercial production at the new mine in Guatemala. The Guatemala operation was established with the help of a controversial $45m loan from the World Bank despite the fact that the mine is only expected to create 160 long-term jobs.”

Imagine: side by side we have a picture of irrational communists, banded together in a religious mass, and we have the happy shareholders of Glamis, going home in their SUVs. I think the Tech Central people could point to the side they want to be on.

Of course, the World Bank loan should clue us in that there are limits to the free market. In fact, Glamis has been an outstanding global corporate citizen, willing to reach across international lines even in the U.S. – the company’s Canadian branch has sued under NAFTA for a fair compensation for its Imperial valley project. The simply proposed a mile wide, open pit, cyanide heavy gold mining operation in Imperial county, California. They proposed to process 400 tons of rock and soil for every ounce of gold. They would use up to 389 million gallons of water annually. Shockingly, one of the last things Clinton’s Interior department did was deny the Imperial a permit. Of course, that had to change once friendly, friendly George Bush came into office, and friendly, friendly Gale Norton couldn’t see the big deal. Permit granted, and go where the spirit of Rand leads you. That’s when the California Mining and Geology board stepped in, with pesky filings about back filling. Can you imagine? More government on our backs. We need that gold!
Ah, and you will remember that little fight a year ago, over CAFTA – the Central American version of Nafta. You might wonder why on earth it would matter. Was Bush just trying to fight poverty in Central America?

No way. The fight – and the CAFTA’s successful passage – is insurance for companies like Glamis. In the case some future government in Honduras wanted Glamis to, say, stop massively poisoning the land, Glamis could use CAFTA rules and the State department simply to ride over that weak assertion of sovereignty.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

a little justice for condillac

Condillac

In 1776, the Abbe de Condillac made the mistake of publishing his thoughts about the political economy, Commerce and Government. He should have chosen 1777, or 1778, since his book came out at the same time as the book from a Scottish philosophe, Adam Smith. Piss poor timing has undone many a man. Overshadowed by the Wealth of Nations, it took two hundred some years for Condillac’s book to be translated into English. Not that he was totally ignored. Menger, that semi-founder of the marginalist school, liked him – and subsequently, Condillac, as the founder of the subjectivist school of economics, has been held in warm regard by the Austrians. Marx, on the other hand, reserved one of his minor thunderbolts for the man. Quoting Condillac in Das Kapital, Marx remarks:

“We see how Condillac not only throws together use value and exchange value, but childishly foists upon a society with developed commodity production a state in which the producers produce their own means of subsistence and only throws into circulation the surplus (Uberschuss) over their own needs, the superfluity. Yet Condillac arguments is often repeated by modern economists….”

Recently, the scary free trader, Jagdish Baghwati , claimed that Condillac understood trade better than Smith. And then, of course, there is Derrida’s stunning essay on Condillac which uses one of his great economic ideas – les besoins factices, or factitious needs – to analyze the frivolous.

LI just started reading the book. As we have mentioned, we are translated a book on economics, which has stuffed us to the very gills with talk about money.

Marx was wrong to be so dismissive. Condillac was not a writer of what Marx called Robinsonades – the myth at the heart of methodological individualism that we begin with man, the bare forked thing, on his island. He does, in a sense, begin with islands however. Or the separation of one people from another.

SUPPOSONS une petite peuplade, qui vient de s’établir, qui a fait sa première récolte, et, qui étant isolée, ne peut subsister que du produit des champs qu’elle cultive.

(Let’s suppose the following situation: there is a small group of people, just established, which makes its first harvest and, being isolated, is forced to subsist on the product of the fields they cultivate.)

As in all histories of beginnings, the history is supplemented with a beginning before the beginning. But that criticism shouldn’t blind us to what Condillac was doing, which – pace Marx – was to ask about excess. That is, what is an excess, a surplus? How would a petite peuplade decide this question? And what would it mean?

I'll return to this in the next post.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

myths about myths

Lee Harris’s article about socialism at Tech Central says some smart things – and puts them at the service of a very dumb thesis.

First, let’s go to the dumb thesis. Harris poses the question: why, almost twenty years after the Berlin Wall fell, is there a resurgence of nationalizations in Latin America? One answer would go like this: neo-liberalism, or the Washington consensus, encoded a contradiction at its heart: at the same time that it encouraged massive consumer spending through loans and the selling off of nationalized industries, it stripped the state of its abilities to institute counter-cyclical economic policy. In effect, it speeded up and deepened the effects of the business cycle while attacking the immune system that could mitigate its harsh effects. All of this among nations with pervasive inequality, stagnate working wages, and entrenched poverty. The effect was to systematically de-legitimate capitalism when the bottom fell out of the boom.

Now, this answer is arguable. It is certainly not irrational. But Harris dismisses the petty stats in favor of the grand historic sweep (a sweep that ignores how much twentieth century capitalism has incorporated socialist ideas, and how the U.S., surely one of the purest “capitalist” states, supports its internal economy on a state guarantor structure), and comes up with an answer that was a ringer in 1947, and is a ringer today: Socialism is a religion, depending on a revolutionary myth, a la Georges Sorel:

“… in the introduction to Reflections on Violence, Sorel says that the French thinker Renan "was very surprised to discover that Socialists are beyond discouragement." He then quotes Renan's comment about the indefatigable perseverance of socialists: "After each abortive experiment they recommence their work: the solution is not yet found, but it will be. The idea that no solution exists never occurs to them, and in this lies their strength." (Italics mine.)

"Sorel's response to Renan's comment is not to say, "Renan is wrong; there is a socialist solution, and one day we will find it." Instead, he focuses on the fact that socialists gain their strength precisely from their refusal to recognize that no socialist solution exists. "No failure proves anything against Socialism since the latter has become a work of preparation (for revolution); if they are checked, it merely proves that their apprenticeship has been insufficient; they must set to work again with more courage, persistence, and confidence than before...." But what is the point for Sorel of this refusal to accept the repeated historical failure of socialism? Here again, Sorel refuses to embrace the orthodox position of socialist optimism; he does not say, "Try, try, try again, for one day socialism will succeed." Instead, he argues that it is only by refusing to accept the failure of socialism that one can become a "true revolutionary." Indeed, for Sorel, the whole point of the myth of the socialist revolution is not that the human societies will be transformed in the distant future, but that the individuals who dedicate their lives to this myth will be transformed into comrades and revolutionaries in the present. In short, revolution is not a means to achieve socialism; rather, the myth of socialism is a useful illusion that turns ordinary men into comrades and revolutionaries united in a common struggle -- a band of brothers, so to speak.”

Harris is engaging in a tactic that is almost universal in the social sciences, right or left. The interpretation of social phenonomena is always bumping up against social phenomena that seems either nakedly counter-productive, or immoral, or both. Social science has a vested interest in the rational agent, and so it is important to have a story at hand. The common story is this: on the left, to speak of the fetishism of commodities and false consciousness; on the right, to speak of brainwashing or – as with Harris – an exploitation of the worshipful part of human nature. In fact, the revolutionary ethos that did hold together bands of communists in the 20th century was a wonderful and strange thing. For the conservative, it is natural that the managerial class hold together – its self interest is served by preserving a system in which it can accrue more. (I should say that the rationality of this is only rational from the point of view that takes the getting of more to be the very center of rationality). But the band of brothers, the revolutionary cadre, what are they getting out of it? In the cold war, the answer, at first, was much like Harris’ – partly because the answer was given by intellectuals who were once part of the Communist movement. The Burnhams and Koestlers. The dramas in their own lives they projected upon the history of Communism itself. A longer tradition, one going back to Burke, claimed that the set of motives were purely about power – the theoretician confused justice with those tactics that would put him in power, and so fought for justice as he saw it and gained such power as was unchecked by traditional limits.

If Harris’ explanation for why socialism is not dead seems, in the end, a non-starter, along the way he does say some interesting things. For instance, he takes Marx seriously about creating scientific socialism – which, oddly enough, has been pretty much ignored by Marx’s academic followers. It is as though the latter are ashamed of the claim to science. LI thinks that if Marx was not doing science, in Das Kapital, than no economist or social “scientist” has ever done science. That he might be wrong about this or that is irrelevant – one expects scientific work to be in continual need of revision.

Harris, of course, thinks Marx failed, but he does trace, with as much neutrality as he can muster, the Marxian tradition in socialism:

“For Marx, scientific socialism had nothing to do with what Marx called utopian socialism; indeed, it was Marx's boast that he was the first socialist thinker to escape from the lure of fantasy thinking that had previously passed for socialist thought. Utopian socialists love to dream up ideal schemes for organizing human life; they engage in wishful politics, and design all sorts of utterly impractical but theoretically perfect social systems, none of which has the slightest chance of ever being actualized in concrete reality. For Marx, on the other hand, socialism had to be taken down from the clouds, and set firmly on the ground. Thus Marx, instead of spending his time writing about imaginary utopias, dedicated his life in trying to prove -- scientifically no less -- that socialism was not merely desirable, but historically inevitable. Capitalism, he argued, had been a good thing; a necessary step that mankind had to take to advance forward; but, according to Marx, capitalism would eventually suffer from an internal breakdown. It would simply stop producing the goods. Like feudalism before it, capitalism was inevitably bound to pass away as a viable system of social organization, and then, and only then, would socialism triumph.

But in this case, what was the role of the revolutionary? For Marx, it made no sense for revolutionaries to overthrow capitalism before it had fulfilled its historical destiny; on the contrary, to overthrow capitalism before it collapsed internally would be counter-productive: the precondition of viable socialism was, after all, a fully matured capitalist system that had already revolutionized the world through its amazing ability to organize labor, to make the best use of natural resources, to internationalize commerce and industry, and to create enormous wealth. Therefore, for Marx, there was no point in revolution for the sake of revolution…”

The “inevitable” is one of those hotly contested questions – it depends on what you think Marx thought about the role of the political, and whether he was giving an ideal model of capitalism in Das Capital or outlining a logic to which all real manifestations of capitalism must succumb. Harris’ point, however, is to drive a wedge between the economist Marx and the “revolutionary myth”, which he is sure is the way socialism culturally reproduces itself.

However, even though Harris doesn’t mention the business cycle or inequality in his essay – an odd gap when talking about Bolivia and Venezuela, one big enough to drive an army of socialists through – he does have to acknowledge the poverty. Which is how he lights upon Latin America’s rational man:

“The Peruvian economist, Hernando de Soto, has argued in his book, The Mystery of Capital, that the failure of the various socialist experiments of the twentieth century has left mankind with only one rational choice about which economic system to go with, namely, capitalism. Socialism, he maintained, has been so discredited that any further attempt to revive it would be sheer irrationality. But if this is the case, which I personally think it is, then why are we witnessing what certainly appears to be a revival of socialist rhetoric and even socialist pseudo-solutions, such as the nationalization of foreign companies?

It should be stressed that de Soto is not arguing that, after the many socialist failures of the twentieth century, capitalism has became historically inevitable and that its expansion would occur according to some imaginary iron clad laws without any need for active intervention. On the contrary, de Soto is fully aware of the enormous obstacles to the expansion of capitalism, especially in regions like South America, and his book is full of dismal statistics that demonstrate the uphill battle against bureaucratic red-tape that is involved in getting a business license or even buying a house in many third world countries. But, here again, the question arises, If capitalism is mankind's only rational alternative, why do so many of the governments of third world nations make it so extraordinarily difficult for ordinary people to take the first small steps on the path of free enterprise?”

Here, it is hard to keep from laughing out loud. Morales was elected precisely because a first world country, out of an irrational fear of markets, has interfered majorly with Bolivian entrepreneurs – the country being the U.S., the market being in coca, and the interference being the wiping out and making illegal of a crop grown for thousands of years, and a mainstay of just those small entrepreneurs so dear to De Soto’s heart.

Hmm, banning a plant that leads to a drug that kills perhaps one hundred times fewer people than alcohol, and two hundred times less than automobile driving. Irrational? Religious? You be the judge.

PS
For a good time, LI urges readers to go to this WAPO discussion with a CIA analyst about the promotion of Michael Hayden from officer in charge of breaking the 4TH amendment at the NSA to officer in charge of breaking the 4TH amendment at the CIA. The CIA analyst in question seems to be a machine programmed to say outstanding things about the outstanding Hayden at intervals of every four sentences or so:

“…Kappes [the deputy director} and Hayden are outstanding intelligence professionals…”

“That is why having experienced intelligence professionals like Mike Hayden and Steve Kappes take the helm of CIA is so important at this time of transformation …”

“Mike Hayden is an outstanding intelligence professional, and he has demonstrated over the years that he is willing to stand up to the SecDef on intelligence matters.”

“Mike Hayden made a number of very important changes at the Fort.[NSA} Did he make everyone happy in the process? No. But strong and innovative leaders never do.”

“I believe he [Mike “Jesus” Hayden] is the right person at the right time. he probably has a better sense of HUMINT than virtually anyone else who has been appointed to head up the CIA “

“Mike’s NSA experience and his experience as DDNI gives him outstanding insight to the HUMINT world and the role that the CIA needs to play in the future.”

“The combination of Hayden and Kappes, in my view, will be a home run for the Agency and for the country.”

And this is only half way through the discussion. It is an outstanding discussion, a home run for the Washington Post and for the nation. I’ve never read answers that fit the high professional level of beyond the call of duty like these highly intelligent answers. High intelligence is always needed to talk about intelligence in an intelligent way, and these strong and innovative answers not only answered all my present questions, but all questions I will ever have about our strength and going into the futureness of our strength in these perilous times.

the masque of castlereagh

The British are used to lunatic leaders. Castlereagh, the emblem of odiousness in the Masque of Anarchy, committed suicide in 1822. Shelley wasn’t alive to hear the glad tidings:


”I met Murder on the way--
He had a mask like Castlereagh--
Very smooth he look'd yet grim;
Seven bloodhounds followed him:

All were fat; and well they might
Be in admirable plight,
For one by one, and two by two,
He tossed them humanhearts to chew,
Which from his wide cloak he drew.”

Castlereagh was, of course, a relentless pursuer of native radicals spawned by the French Revolution, and the proto-chartists who were beginning to respond to the horrors of the new industrial system. But even Castlereagh might have hesitated to propose the Blairist blasphemy acts.

Then of course there was Anthony Eden, who, after Suez in 1956 and the realization, among the English political elite, that they were no longer independent of America – basically, the Americans told the English, get a new p.m. – retired with a nervous breakdown. Churchill finally went senile in office. Thatcher, of course, came into office senile, but her senility was ideological. And then there is the mad Blair.

Simon Hogarth’s sketch in the Guardian captures the inheritor of Castlereagh’s mask, the mullah of the third way, in all his seedy, lunatic glory. This is Hogarth’s report on the Blair press conference – the one after the reports were out that Blair had demoted his foreign secretary due to Jack Straw’s slight hesitation to endorse the Bush doctrine of tossing about nuclear weapons to win popularity and power the winds of democracy. Well, you have to stay with the Americans, after all, to moderate their line:

“He {Blair) also showed - unusually - signs of suffering from secondary Prescott, the verbal disorder that afflicts anyone who has dealings with the deputy PM, like the lasagne that laid waste Spurs. Of Charles Clarke's dismissal, he said: "There was no one I less wanted to make the decision in respect of."
And through it all we were hypnotised by the eye, the one gleaming, bulging eye that tells us so much about what is really going on inside the Blair brain. It seems to act independently of the other, often wider, sometimes hooded. Occasionally, even while he is grinning, the eye focuses balefully on a tormentor. It resembles a special branch officer, who, while the politician glads hands and slaps backs, scans the crowd for concealed weaponry.
The amazing thing is that the eye has changed sides, twice! I checked with my colleague Steve Bell, who first spotted the staring orb, and he said it was the left one.

But just a year ago, while he was defending himself over Iraq, it was the right eye that resembled Sir Roderick Spode's, capable of opening an oyster at 60 paces.”
Well, LI can only see this as the realization of the curse. The throngs of the dead haunt the “coalition” leaders, lying scoundrels every one. It is true that LI’s often expressed wish that the dead of Falluja surround the bed of the President and his “caliente” wife every night seems, as of yet, not to have come true. On the other hand, Bush’s soullessness, the path upward from failure to failure and promotion to promotion, that makes it hard to pinch the man under all that Pavlovian conditioning. The self made Manchurian candidate.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

snopes, revisited

Snopes, revisited

In the aftermath of the election of Bush (not the coup in 2000, but his real election in 2004), LI wrote a series of slamming posts directed at a silly meme in the progresso-sphere. This meme crudely separated the cultural from the economic, and was postulated on the idea that the working class folks in the red states just didn’t understand their economic self interest.

LI thought this was bullshit. The Snopes well understood their short term interest, which was to substitute, for wage increases, tax cuts; and to further substitute heavy borrowing, at reduced interest, in both the private and public spheres, for real time increases in wealth. What the progs thought was some mystical kind of false consciousness was nothing of the sort – it was classical Free Ride behavior.

At the time, we made such angry comments as:

“We want to pick up on our freerider thesis. Some readers might think that we have gone nihilistic. We haven’t. Really, our point is simple. From the turn of the twentieth century to the 1970s, progressive thought in America was all about instituting progressive legislation at the national level. It so happens that this extended benefits for the working class to a whole region of the country, the South, which generated no autonomous progressive organizations. Between the Revolutionary War and today, I can think of only one Southern generated progressive movement: the Civil Rights movement. The Civil Rights movement, led by middle class blacks and peopled by working class and agrarian blacks, broke the back of the South’s pseudo-feudal system and opened it up to the world market. The South owes its prosperity to this act; and so, in gratitude, throughout the Snopesian South, from South Carolina to Mississippi, the Confederate colors were sewn into the state flag, where they remain today. Reminders that the Snopes leave no act of generosity unpunished.”

And:

Dems have taken on the role of both Herbert Hoover and Roosevelt, reigning in the deficit through paying for it while trying to preserve national progressive programs, like social security. The Snopes hate the Hoover thing – hate the idea of paying for something when they have figured out how to get it free. And of course they hate the Roosevelt thing of tolerance and enlightenment and blacks moving in next door and marrying their kids. But what they hate most is the idea that the progressives they are conning don't understand what is happening. The progressive harping on the ignorance or bad consciousness or brainwashing of the Snopes class has to stop. Far from being ignorant or unaware of their self advantage, they have had a free ride that has given them the luxury of being able to indulge in reactionary hate while being bankrolled by progressive legislation and opened up to the world through Civil Rights. Everything they hate has supported everything they love: credit cards, big trucks, big motor boats leaking oil over various federally funded dammed lakes, etc., etc. It is no wonder they feel like God's remnant on earth. They have the satisfaction of knowing who is conning who in the great progressive deal, and what they really can't stand is that the liberals that are being suckered don't know who is suckering them. This is the Snopes version of class consciousness. It is that resentment which is at the bottom of the conservative complaint that the liberals are “snobby”. What they mean is: we are screwing you, and you think you are so smart!”

Well, out there in Snopes land, there are intimations of a free rider meltdown. And it isn’t going over well for Bush. LI misjudged the timing, here – the world market continues to support Bush’s economic policy, which is much like the steroid use he so deplores among athletes – inject a hundred billion borrowed bucks here, a hundred billion tax break there, and presto chango – the economy is hitting home runs! Except, after a while, the runs are all being made by the wealthy.

This is from the NYT story surveying the Snopesian landscape:

“Wayne Toomey and Nancy Tuttle, who live in Parrish, Fla., and co-own a vending machine business, have gotten smaller cars and cut some household costs because of high gasoline and insurance prices.

But many Americans now say they are feeling squeezed in the absence of these factors. Their concerns are instead centered on a combination of high gasoline prices, creeping insurance costs and the pressure of a large number of adjustable-rate mortgages, now jumping to market rates, that helped to fuel one of the largest housing booms in American history.”

Well, well, it seems that there is a puzzling sour taste in the mouths of the parents – and the chillen’s tooths are bein’ set on edge no less. And hurricane season is around the corner - which has nothing, nothing whatsoever to do with the warming of the ocean.

"We're really worried about a lot of things," said Nancy Tuttle, co-owner of a vending machine business in the suburbs here. "The cost of gas, the cost of house insurance, the cost of medical insurance, it's just everything."

The increase in prices, particularly of gasoline, is taking a political toll on President Bush, even in a Republican area like these suburbs. A recent nationwide CBS News poll found that only 33 percent of those surveyed approved of Mr. Bush's job performance and that 74 percent disapproved of his handling of the gasoline issue.

"We went from totally believing in Bush to really having our doubts," said Wayne Toomey, who owns a house with Ms. Tuttle in the nearby suburb of Parrish. "It comes down to his lack of care about gas prices."

That lack of care about the gas prices is a killer. I mean, he was doing good there for a while – the torture thing, he was for that; the dozing at the wheel while NYC was attacked, check; and the persecuting homos thing was so very sweet. It was like everything was becoming cool and Christian again. But now, how about taking care of our SUVs, motherfucker?

I love, oh I love love love good old fashioned American values. That’s what I like about the South.