Thursday, July 10, 2014

strike out against the culture of impunity!

When the military junta in Argentina folded in 1983, President Alfonsin came to power, and started proceedings against certain members of the military high command who had participated in the Dirty War, as well as the leaders of the Monteneros (those who survived) for kidnappings and murders. However, the trials affected only a few. In 1986, the full stop law was enacted, the limited suits to those that would be enacted within 60 days of its passage, all others to be rendered null, and the due obedience law, in 1987, which halted the trials that had passed the full stop law. Then, when Menem wasw elected in 1989, he began issuing mass pardons, mostly for the military but some of them for the Montenero leadership (which, it must be said, has always been suspected of actually being led by agent provacateur, notably in the case of the leader, Mario Firminich – see Martin Edwin Andersen’s Dossier secreto for details).
Collectively, Alfonsin’s decrees were known as the impunity laws. In this way, the State covered up for the almost thirty thousand murders committed by the military junta.
Against this coverup, a civil rights organisation began to hold Tribunals against Impunity in Buenos Aires in 1990, with the aim of revealing as many facts as possible and shaming the state.
I’ve been thinking about this vis-à-vis the United States. It seems to me that we have been living through the era of Impunity, here: from the horrors committed in the name of fighting terror to the invasion of Iraq through the Obama directed drone war; from the unwillingness of the Justice department and the SEC to reign in or jail anyone for the financial meltdown of 2008 to the widespread fraud by the banks in the paperwork they have submitted to courts concerning mortgages; from the abolition of jury trial in the case of suits for damages to corporations to the Supreme Court’s increasing willingness to lend cover to any plutocratic attempt to buy elections and change laws in their favor. On the cultural front, there is the impunity enjoyed by those in the media who have cheered along all these things, and who have never lost a dime for being not just wrong, but disastrously wrong; not just mistaken in their reporting or analysis, but being willing conduits of propaganda and lies.
And I’ve been thinking – wouldn’t it be nice if the occupy organizers did something on the Argentina model. With the masses of information made available by Snowden, with what what we know about the massive frauds in the financial sector, and finally, with what we can find out about the massive buying of the federal legislative and executive branches – the revolving door between officeholders and business, and the more secret doors that link the hiring of their relatives and associates – their clans – by the corporations they are supposedly regulating, it would make for, at least, entertainment. RFK in the sixties took a subcommittee to various locales in this country to investigate poverty. On similar lines, a tribunal against impunity could go to Cleveland and take testimony on the sack of that city in the 00s by mortgage lending bottom feeders – could go to Atlanta and show how laws against fraud were fundamentally abandoned by get rich quick state legislators – could go to New Orleans and show how few people have suffered for the negligence in Katrina – could go to Reston, Virginia, where the CIA is located, and show how the CIA systematically constructed and operated an  international network of torture sites. This is just the tip of the impunity iceberg, of course.

I had a dream… 

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Celebrating Slate Magazine always wrong coverage of the War on Terror for the last eleven years!

Crooked Timber periodically hosts a fest mocking Charles Krauthammer's promise, in 2003, to retract his beliefs if the US didn't find the WMD in Iraq. In that spirit, LI has long wanted to mock a buncha targets for their administrative asslicking and general stupidity in the great war bubble period between 9.11 (which, the press assured the American public, somehow proved that George Bush was a great president, perhaps the greatest) and Mission Achieved day May 1, 2003.

I keep coming back to Slate, the home of the always wrong contraro-belligerati, Christopher Hitchens - whose columns on Iraq can even now provide hours of sick humor - and such astute warhawk liberals as Jack Shafer. Shafer, somehow, sticks in my head because he took it upon himself to mock Johnny Apple, the NYT thumbsucker-reporter, for harboring any doubts about our great and glorious victories in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Here's a quote from a Shafer piece that, word for word, could be used as a sort of standard unit to measure stupid. An SUS, if you will.

From March 27, 2003, Shafer begins with what he obviously thinks is a delicious quote from his low hanging liberal fruit. Shafer sizes him up with the standard Slate smarm, then delivers what he obviously thinks is a knockout blow:

Like other leaders facing larger, technologically superior forces, [Saddam] has found ways to improvise and to take advantage of the fact that the fighting is taking place on his home ground. He is waging a campaign of harassment and delay. It is not likely to change the outcome of the war, but it will prolong the fighting, make it more costly for his adversaries and profoundly affect the way it is seen in other Arab countries and around the world. [Quote from Apple]
Apple doesn't use the word "quagmire" to describe the allied effort as he did on Oct. 31, 2001, during the early, shaky days of the Afghanistan campaign. (See "Military Quagmire Remembered: Afghanistan as Vietnam.") But the gist of his Afghanistan piece and today's Iraq piece is the same. The United States has bitten off more than it can chew; the allied war effort is underpowered; we've underestimated the enemy—again!; air power is overrated; and guerrillas can do U.S. forces great damage as they did in Vietnam.
Apple's fear that dropping bombs on civilians wouldn't "win Afghan 'hearts and minds' " and that the country would prove ungovernable even if the United States won turned out to be unfounded. Two weeks after his comparison of Afghanistan to Vietnam, the allies liberated Kabul, and 16 months later the place is at least as governable as San Francisco."
This, this is the guiding spirit of Slate, its faith. For a long time, slate has been a sort of goldplated SUS for the media. Shafer, of course, is the stupidest of the stupid, meaning he is enamored of his own brightness and credentials, and is the sort of fellow you want to invite to a talk show.

But there are many Shafers out there - it was his talent to wrap up, in one heaping helping, the CW of the press, which collaborated as much as they could in making the Middle East and Central Asia a place of dizzying and endless violence.

Ha ha! That stupid liberal, comparing Afghanistan to Vietnam. And in a way its true: we've been in Afghanistan much longer than we were in Vietnam.

Slate- were glib analysis based on shaky factoids goes to die.

the second week and Rousseau

The second week. 
Every morning Adam boils over when we finally arrive at the school, and clings to me – but with less and less conviction and fear. Today, I got him to his classroom through the kitchen area. There is a sliding door between the two areas, so as soon as Miss Britney swept him up, I closed the door, stocked his box in the refrigerator, and snuck around to see how he’d do through the windows of the class, which face the hall. In Miss Britney’s arms he was wearing an air of contentment, and she brought him to his little scoop seat and sat him down with the rest of the kids. As she was doing so, some child yelled, “Adam!”
A friend!
One of the reasons we are breaking Adam’s heart each morning and exposing him to the discontents of civilization, such as they are, in a pre-school is that he has only been around adults. He is, after all, an only child. He’s a sociable one too – it doesn’t surprise me that he is soon calm and contented in his teacher’s arms, because he seems to have a knack for adults. What he needs, of course, is to pull away from his parents into childhood – the ‘hood of other children. It is an odd bond, this between parent and child – it grows by splitting.
Rousseau, in the Discourse on Inequality, writes:

“Were we to suppose savage man as trained in the art of thinking as philosophers make him; were we, like them, to suppose him a very philosopher capable of investigating the sublimest truths, and of forming, by highly abstract chains of reasoning, maxims of reason and justice, deduced from the love of order in general, or the known will of his Creator; in a word, were we to suppose him as intelligent and enlightened, as he must have been, and is in fact found to have been, dull and stupid, what advantage would accrue to the species, from all such metaphysics, which could not be communicated by one to another, but must end with him who made them?

It isn’t true that everything Adam thinks ends with himself, since he loves to babble to us, have us chase him, have us change the video (taking my hand and pressing it on the tablet’s screen to indicate we’ve had enough of this episode of Petit Ours Brun), hug us, laugh with us, disagree with us about his clothes, tell us in no uncertain terms that it is not bedtime, etc.  This is not civilization and its discontents, however. Adam is perhaps not old enough yet for the child who yelled Adam! But it is a good sign to me.



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