Saturday, October 14, 2006

hands off ed rosenthal

I recognize that all of the truly addictive/dangerous drugs that are in common use--like alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, barbiturates, amphetamines, and opiates-- can and do cause large amounts of personal and family suffering and social harm.However, experience teaches us that criminalizing the adult use of such drugs generally does nothing but make the situation worse. For example, we already tried prohibition with alcohol, and that "Noble Experiment" caused our grandparents and great-grandparents many of the same sorts of problems that our current "drug war" is causing for us.

Most experts agree that our society needs to move toward a treatment/medical/education model to deal with addictive/dangerous drug use-- and to move away from the criminal justice model. I know that many people in law enforcement are very discouraged and troubled because society is asking them to fight a war that is not really winnable in the criminal justice system, and that is causing a huge drain on our social resources. - Justice Larry V. Starcher of the West Virginia Supreme Court, State v. Poling (2000) 531 S.E.2d 678

It is a small step, decriminalizing medical marijuana. LI stands for the chemical autonomy of the human being, which means that the government cannot prevent you from buying, selling or using marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, heroine, methamphetamines, crack or any other substance, the jackbooted thugs.

The war on drugs seems like a small thing, but actually it was a huge opening, created by the American government, to stealthily destroy your rights. It has done a crackerjack job. In California, poor Ed Rosenthal is again being prosecuted by Federal terrorists, otherwise known as the Drug Enforcement Agency.

The drug war won’t end until the DEA is destroyed. Also, LI would like to see the restitution of the property of drug dealers from the government, which must, by this time, amount to billions of dollars.

Of course, my readers may cry: this is obvious. Of course we will only vote for that Presidential candidate who promises to reimburse drug dealers, let them out of jail along with all inmates convicted of drug possession, and in general set up regulations for drug sales that imitate those for legal drugs now, i.e. cigarettes and alcohol.

I’m waiting for that voice of liberty to make its appearance.

Hands off Ed Rosenthal. Arrest, instead, William Bennett.

goodbye to my boogie liberalism

LI started out as a standard issue lefty, but somewhere along the way we realized that we were really a postwar, bourgeois liberal. Unfortunately, there is no father of postwar bourgeois liberalism, and this has made it easier, in these dark times of white magic, to forget what it was about in the first place. So today, if someone presents a liberal vs. conservative dialogue, or a liberal vs. libertarian one, they are apt to base it on something like: government vs. the private sphere.

This is so sad. The versus is so bogus. The b. liberal insight was, is, to dispute the compartmentalization of public/private in this way in the first place. In other words, the theoretical distinction between private enterprise, which works within the free market, and government simply is not the two oppose each other, or that we need fundamentally different models to talk about the two. There's a hoary old fable, retold with chuckles by your Republican uncle, about how if somehow, sonny, ever'body had an equal share of things, why, gracious, you know in a week or a year somebody would have more and somebody less. Knees are slapped, beer is drunk, and the great point is made: which is egalitarianism discounts other social factors. Well, the same is true for the conservative and libertarian myth that the government exists in a different compartment than the private sector, or that the market in commodities is oh so much different than the market in power. Democracy is, in fact, all about the interdependence and interpenetration of private and public power. Legislation is a biddable service. This isn't a pejorative description - it is simply the inevitable result of democratic governance and a profit driven market system. To creat a real compartmentalization between the two would require destroying democracy - but even then, that would, in turn, lead inevitably to the well known path of rent seeking. There is a reason that the Marxists thought capitalism leads to fascism -- in fact, without any other factors getting in the way, it does, as the owning class seeks to seal off other bidders in the power market. But fascism then saps capitalism, as power players become market makers in the 'private' sphere.

While this sounds theoretical, it is actually quite practical. Take the conservative fixation on flat taxes. Now, in reality, flat taxes are logically equivalent to freezing wages and prices. Sometimes such freezes work, but the time is limited. Eventually, as we all know, such freezes generate black markets. In the same way, the flat tax creates a perverse market in tax breaks. Simply put, much of the purpose of government is to supplement private power in one way or another, and one of the great ways of doing this is to take costs off business by the seemingly neutral method of giving businesses tax breaks. In reality, this fastens higher costs on some third party -- which is why it is great. After all, businesses compete, and they use the auction system of democracy to compete as well. Thus, they bid for legislators who then ceaselessly find ways to lower the costs of business. The flat tax would simply hide the regressive movement in the tax system -- and it would aggravate it insofar as that regressive movement is a constant, and can only be countered by occassional progressive gestures.

Liberalism's postwar triumph was not to use the government more, but to enroll the government, ocassionally, on the side of labor, on the side of oppressed racial and ethnic minorities, on the side of women, etc. However, the main business of government even during the heyday of liberalism was always to curry to the rich. Conservatives have so succeeded in creating a wholly false image of government -- as some sort of friend of the poor and the working man -- that rightwingers themselves are surprised that every time they get in power, the size of government balloons. There's nothing surprising in this - the predominance of conservatives means a shift in power to the wealthy, who have one loyalty only : to get wealthier. Government spending has always been the path to that. No surprise that after the stock market shock of 2001-2, in which trillions were lost by companies and investors, that the government ruled by and for companies and investors went into the red like nobody had ever seen before.

So much of the talk about what is liberal and what is conservative, nowadays, is complete nonsense. The scale of government (lets shrink the government!) or the public vs. private argument are as bogus as so many wooden nickles. The question is always about who is using the state.

And such is democracy. There aren't, by the way, any neutral positions here.

So: I thought I'd write this out as a mark, a little sign, like the kidnap victim leaves for the trackers. All of this is eminently rational, but we have been saying goodbye to all that. Since LI was visited with the vision of the war culture, since we saw that the state is subordinate to war, to the secret system, to the world structure of it, we can't really make this cohere with our boogie liberalism. In fact, the Martian system is sheer lunacy, and I am convinced that it rules us with an iron hand. Which sort of makes me -- feel like turning to Satanic historiography.

Friday, October 13, 2006

pamuk and me

My faithful commentator Mr. NYP rightfully called me upon my too too sarcastic description of Jacob Weisberg. The hanging judge style of making someone out to be an absolute felon is a vice I am all too liable to - it is also a vice that is common in the b-b-blogosphere. But on the whole, I would say that Slate’s political side combines the arrogance of the TNR set with the arrogance of the Washington Post pundits set to create a whole new element in the periodic table of attitudes, a superheated, superconcentrated arrogance - a rare form of Ultrasnarkium. This, in spite of the fact of the terrible, terrible record of Slate’s political side, available to any reader – the penchant for predictions that go wrong, support for policies that blow up in Uncle Sam’s face, etc. On the other hand, let me say something good about Slate: they have a pretty excellent cultural side. And they know how to use the web – having a store of articles, when something comes up which is relevant, they recycle those articles.

Getting me to the point of this post – when I look at what Slate does, it depresses me all the more to see a site like In these Times. This week, Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel Prize. Now, I happen to know that In these Times could recycle an excellent little review of Pamuk’s My Name is Red – because I wrote it. And I am pretty sure that is what they have in the way of Pamukiana. But, unlike Slate, they still have not come into the 21st century – it is still a ‘look it up in the paper archives’ mindset. How dumb. I would not be so irritated if (ho ho ho) I hadn’t somehow misplaced my computer copy of that review, with selected bits of which I would love to regale my readers. But no, somehow, from 7/2001 to 12/2001, there is no file anywhere of that review. Damn.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

a non-contrarian, going with the crowd on moral relativsm, kind of post

LI had a nice little poem/screed about these here states that we penned yesterday, but looking at it this morning, we thought: so much typing!

So perhaps for later. For the moment, we’d like to consider the notion of interest in American foreign policy. Oh, don’t worry – this won’t be a long and dull post – I’m saving that for when I feel like doin’ more typing.

Specifically, we would like to know: what advantage does the U.S. accrue in remaining hostile to Iran?

The assumption that Iran should be our enemy is laid on so thickly by the D.C. pundit class that it has helped blur the question that should guide any country in chosing, or having forced upon it, its adversaries. Let me use a Slate writer for an example – Slate being the dead level of conventional wisdom. I don’t think you can write for Slate unless you can come up with twelve contrarian reasons to defend the status quo just as it is – which, lo and behold, is the same status quo that has so richly benefited those who write for Slate! It is a minor miracle that reporters and opinion makers, using only the most objective criteria, continually discover that they are not only at the top of the heap, but deserve to be there. It is like self-beatification. Anyway, today one of the truly dumb writers at Slate, Jacob Weisberg, pens a stirring condemnation of the Bush foreign policy that was all the rage, at Slate, in the post-coital glow of invading Iraq. Weisberg starts off in classic Slate fashion – when Slate wants to come down hard on a platitude, it begins by first dismissing the clueless majority of striving pinheads that are clinging to some obvious error:

“In his first State of the Union Address in January 2002, George W. Bush deployed the expression "axis of evil" to describe the governments of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Critics jumped on the president for his belligerent rhetoric. But the problem with Bush's formulation wasn't his use of the term "evil," a perfectly apt description of the regimes of Saddam Hussein, the Iranian mullahs, and Kim Jong-il.”

There you go, for those of you who don’t think Saddam, the anonymous but shadowy mullahs, and Dear Leader were evil! The majority, in this case, is the 90 to 99 percent of Americans who have dismissed God as a fiction and are wallowing in moral relativism. Of course, included in that are the ever powerful Chomsky crowd, and maybe Howard Dean. However, Weisberg is one tough cookie. A cop, even. Sure, he sees there’s evil afoot – plenty of it, baby! But he’s hard as nails. He’s been on this beat for all too long. The things he’s seen! Why yesterday, the waiter brought him a cold coffee. So he uses his super powers to see that there is a problem with the formulation in spite of its clear descriptive power. The article runs into the ground from there, covering the usual blah blah in 1000 words or less. Isn’t that sweet?

Now, we do wonder if the evil Iranian mullahs are as evil as, say, the ruling elite in Egypt. Or the one in Saudi Arabia. Are they as evil as Israel’s recent war with Lebanon? How about Putin – are they as evil as Putin? I am not going to insult your intelligence by asking about the U.S., which recently legalized torture – obviously we aren’t evil! Like angels, we are perched her on our mountains of virtue surveying the world for evil.

Weisberg is an echo chamber of D.C. assumptions, and that’s the worth in this otherwise worthless article. By making the mullahs (they are always in a crowd, those mullahs) evil, the discussion of what advantage we accrue by being Iran’s enemy is obviated. No advantage necessary when it is St. Michael against Belzebuub.

Otherwise, though, we see a history of disadvantages:
- hostility to Iran prevented the U.S. from discouraging the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan
- hostility to Iran prevented the U.S. from operating in an efficient way in the 90s to topple Saddam Hussein, without armed U.S. intervention
- hostility to Iran prevents the U.S. from forming any kind of exit strategy from Iraq at the moment.

So where, pray tell, are the advantages in this? or: cui bono?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

north korea and mars

Fred Kaplan’s response to North Korea’s announcement of it’s a bomb test is pretty standard:

“It doesn't take more than a handful of nukes to become a "made man" in this club. If Saddam Hussein had possessed some nukes in 1990, before he invaded Kuwait, it is doubtful that the U.S.-led coalition (and that really was a coalition) would have mobilized armed forces to push his troops back. If Mao Zedong had not possessed an atomic arsenal in 1969, during intense border clashes with the Soviet Union, it is likely that Leonid Brezhnev would have mounted an invasion. More to the point, without the nukes, Mao wouldn't have had the nerve to trigger the border clashes to begin with.”

LI totally agrees with this. Which is the reason I suggest we sue the Pentagon for, oh, 5 to 10 trillion dollars. As Kaplan shows, practical invulnerability is cheap. Spend, say 50 billion dollars over a decade, build 20 to 100 H bombs, and that is it. Instead, the U.S. built something like over 40,000. It built perhaps around 20,000 to 40,000 ICBMs. In other words, after the threshold of practical invulnerability was reached, in 1952, the U.S. just kept going. My estimates for Pentagon overspending are probably off by as much as ten trillion dollars, but what the hell. LI is feeling generous this morning. Ten trillion, what is that? Lagniappe. In any case, what we want to know is: Why? when the evidence is right before our eyes on things like China, why did the Pentagon, why did the American people, keep spending and spending and building and building weapons?

There are two answers to that question. One, on the practical narrative level, is that once Mars has its hooks into a nation, the nation is fucked. There was way too much money to be made making redundant weapons, and way too much power to be accrued in approving and overseeing the redundant weapons programs, and so a powerful alignment between economic, military and political oligarchs was forged while the world’s total (virtual) destruction became a multiplier – and the thing that brought, for instance, the primitive South back into the U.S. economy. A powerful constituency emerged that ultimately depended on the defense dollar. This is the very origin of big government conservatism.

The metaphysical answer to this question is the advance of the notion that a nation could actually be the end of history. Could, that is, be so important that its fall should be prevented at the price of extinguishing all future human life. War, in the insane LI view, is the real political system here on planet Mars, and the state is a function of war. But just as the veil of Maya prevents us, as individuals, from seeing that our individuality is an illusion, so, too, a similar veil – the veil of Mars – prevents the state from seeing its subordination to war. From the veil of Maya, one gets methodological individualism and the market society. From the veil of Mars, one gets the absolute state.

Which is not what I meant to write about today.
I’ll save that for my next post.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

new american liberalism - don't be fooled.

Mr. Scruggs been up to his old tricks again. I notice, through MaxSpeaks, that he has created this amazing parody

Of course, I saw through this right away. A new liberalism group heralded by the New York Sun? With Marty Peretz and Michael Ledeen playing the aging but virile sons of old rancher Harry Truman? That’s the Harry that potters around and mutters about the a-bombs. “Warnt nuthin to me, Marty, a-droppin them firecrackers. Why, I had me a good old nap that day! Fucked Bess. I’m spry for my hundert thousand years of age. Like my pappy Lucifer!”

However, Mr. Scruggs has put a lot of work into this obvious sham. For instance, notice the care he has taken in compiling a faux editorial board composed of the kind of academic deadwood that is routinely hustled out to defend the latest atrocities perpetrated by the American Wehrmacht. I have to say, picking Russell Berman and Jeffrey Herf betrays the fine hand of the practiced satirist. Russell Berman, you’ll remember, is the man who has built an academic Marxist magazine, Telos, into a cult from which he preaches war against Iran when he isn’t publishing French racists. Telos was, of course, the journal that published the first translations of Nazi political “theologian” Schmitt . As for Jeffrey Herf, he is a TNR Book section reliable – a sort of handmedown Sidney Hooks type, if Sidney Hooks had suffered a lobotomy at a young age.

It is Scruggs best piece of work since he launched the bogus Washington Times owned, supposedly, by the Moonies. Luckily, LI is not so naïve that we’d fall for things like that. Oh, there are times that we fear that the parody is getting out of hand – for instance, when Scruggs created a cutout editor of the WTimes, one Francis B. Coombs Jr , he whimsically gave him a glaring white power past, and to add spice, he made up a wife for Coombs who is on the board of several white power groups. The point, of course, is to test the D.C. waters, and see who would continue to suck up to such obvious moral lepers, and whether they would be excused in general. Such is Scruggs cynical mindset. Imagine his surprise when all of D.C. universally shunned a paper owned by a cult and run by a Klansman knockoff. Not a single politician or public figure cooperates or writes for it, or even pays any attention to it whatsoever. Conservatives, who long ago refused to have anything to do with segregationists in Moonie clothing, have denounced the Wash Times – or would have. But Conservatives are practical jokers. Seeing that the paper was a parody, they’ve gone along and actually write for it and pretend like Coombs isn’t even there!

We suspect this time Scruggs has gone too far. New Liberalism, centered around the Euston Manifesto, with Peter Beinart all signed up? – we detect a heavy handedness, I’m afraid. Nobody is going to believe it. I mean, does someone like Beinart still have a career? Of course not. Common sense tells us that the people who advocated the invasion of Iraq, a great, avoidable stupidity, managed with maximum corruption to the miserable end of making Iraq even worse than it was under Saddam Hussein, are universally shunned in our capital, which is, when all is said and done, manned by hardworking patriots who, using the best information available, make choices that are best for this country, no matter what the cost to their own careers and reputations. That’s why poor Beinart was run out of town on a rail. Last I heard, he’s washing dishes in a diner in Wheeling West Virginia. However, being an intellectual sort, he has reviewed the many mistakes he’s made, and his complicity in the crime of the War, and has decided that he just isn’t really smart enough to figure out foreign policy. So he has turned his sights to trying to be the best damn dishwasher in Wheeling, West Virginia. It is truly a Hollywood story. He wants, supposedly, to work his way up to cook, and then, saving up his money, maybe one day start a diner of his own! Beinart, to be fair, is doing his best to make amends. In an interview with a Wheeling paper, he said that he realized, after a while, his total incompetence at understanding public policy. “If an auto mechanic doesn’t understand engines,” said Beinart, “he shouldn’t repair them.” Shifting around for something to do that would occupy his talents, he has discovered that he is pretty good at whipping up grits. Thus, his newfound ambition. He’s hoping to hire his friend Chris Hitchens, who has quit his various media positions, given the money he earned from them to charity, and has been trying to master 3 minute grits himself in Beinart’s trailer kitchen. ‘Chris is totally ashamed,’ Beinart says. “Do you know, he actually supported installing a known criminal and peculator as head of poor Iraq? Every day he bemoans his blindness and vanity.” Meanwhile, of course, in our capital, the militantly anti-war Democrats, proud to have opposed the war from the very beginning, adamant about never rolling over for a tyrannical hick of a president, see with eagle vision that sacrificing American military men to the imbecilic vanity of iniquitous old warmongers in D.C. is highly immoral, akin to colluding in murder, and not something they will put up with. What a Party! We are truly blessed. Our political system has never been healthier or more vibrant. So, sorry, this parody – excellent as it is in several respects! – is not going to fool anyone.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Note on the dirty war

LI’s readers and other spectators of this long movie should note the coordination of two events happening in America’s dirty war in Iraq. The last couple of weeks have seen the reintroduction of a push to ‘federalize’ Iraq – which is a long way to say, SCIRI wants to break off Southern Iraq and use its Badr brigade militia to create a state as autonomous as the Kurdish state, under SCIRI rule. Really, that means under the rule of Mohamad Baqir Al Hakim. This, it might seem at first glance, is counter to the Bush junta’s interests. After all, Hakim is notoriously close to Iran.

But in the dirty war, nothing is what it seems. From the start of the war, the idea of breaking off Southern Iraq and creating a neo-liberal slave state has been floated around as a project. The NYT’s group of reporter/propagandists were particularly dreamy about that prospect in 2003 and 2004, writing thumbsucker pieces about a Chalabi-headed Iraq ‘Singapore.’ To have a notorious thief in charge of territory right above Kuwait, this was an irresistible wet dream to the Bungalow Bill set. James Glanz, one of the worst reporters of the war so far, wrote a story on 2/27/05 with the grotesque title, “Iraq's Serene South Asks, Who Needs Baghdad?” Glanz, in wet dream mode, wrote:

“Several different versions of a southern Iraqi republic have been proposed. One would include only the three or four southernmost provinces -- Basra, Muthanna, Dhi Gar and Maysan; and another would stretch as far north as the holy city of Karbala, 50 miles from Baghdad.

The one that sparks the most interest here, though, is a Singapore-style Republic of Basra alone. Comparable in area to neighboring Kuwait, such a republic could be equally rich. With foreign investment, Ramzi asserted, its economy could overtake that of the tiny but sparkling Gulf emirate of Qatar within three years.”

With the saliva coming out of the corner of his mouth, Glanz conjured up a gentle, business friendly, Brown and Root friendly entity. One of the great things about Glanz as a reporter is that he is so invariably wrong that the article was a sign in itself – surely the war was coming South when a reporter as blind as Glanz couldn’t see it. And so it went, as into the trash went the gentle Singapore south, and out came the new, Taliban version South, envisioned by SCIRI.

Yet, SCIRI’s scheme has annexed the American military, who are presently campaigning to destroy Muqtada al-Sadr’s forces. Sadr is, of course, the enemy of SCIRI. He is also an advocate of Iraqi nationalism. And his party is as popular as or more popular than the proxy party of SCIRI’s.

Why would the Americans have become part of the scheme to break up Iraq and hand a considerable amount of territory to a Islamacist group? Well, the key is still the dreamy dream of Singapore. The South would, to this view, be a smaller, and much more easily dominated entity. And whatever SCIRI’s ties to Iran, they are a group very much interested in the money to be grafted off of privatizing oil resources – under one cover or another. The Dirty intentions of the Bush junta and the dirty intentions of the Badr brigades shake hands over their mutual interest in money money money. And the price is cheap – a few hundred American soldiers, white trash lives the president, and this country, could give a shit about. Being a bold Rebel in Chief, the president is willing to risk American flesh here if the price is right. It will cost him a pang – he’s not an unfeeling brute. Out there, toking up among the Crawford Ranch brush, he might think of the losses suffered by his guys and remind himself how tough he is, to take them. For their wounds are, metaphorically, his wounds. It is the third awakening, and we should count our blessings in getting a sub-messiah like our Bush, but as an even bigger man once said, you gotta take up your cross. And Bush’s cross is made of American and Iraqi bodies.

This is why it is important that Hakim has been meeting with Iraq’s vice president, Abd-al-Mahdi.


  “In brief, cultural history only represents a surface strike against the insight [of historicism], but not that of dialectics. For it lack...