Archive for October, 2010

The Bikecast Episode #41. Election Special: The Left that Outflanks the Left, and the Teaparty

I can sense the coming electoral event in the air around me! The people of a right’ist persuasion whom I know or whose blogs I read are also anti-statists and shall not be voting in November. Most of this podcast is an analysis of the pre-election noise coming from the the left: their attempt to grapple with the nature of the Tea Party, and their anger at the progressive “wing” of the movement that keeps insisting that the democrat controlled government behave in some small, distinguishable way, differently than the Bush regime.

Download this episode of the bikecast

Very few people I know demonstrate any compelling belief that voting has any significance. Statistically, of course, it doesn’t. Most voters in my peer group are “defensive voters” or are surrounded by people who treat voting as a moral good (and not voting as irresponsible). But very few people demonstrate even the belief that one political figure or political party is drastically, or even noticeably, different than another.

Those that do have a clear grasp of the talking points: Yes, the current regime has increased the size and scope of the war on terror. Yes, the Iraq withdrawal is meaningless. Yes, Bush era policies have been maintained if not furthered in almost every case. Yes, covert operations, assassinations, clandestine and unconventional military operations are expanding rapidly. Yes, the gap between the rich and the poor is the largest it’s ever been. Yes, corporate profits are booming while the recession looks to continue indefinitely for the working class. Yes, Health Care Reform is crafted by the medical and insurance industries for a massive transfer of wealth to those industries[1].

Yes, Iran is still being routinely threatened. Yes, the spectre of Internet censorship is greater than ever before . Yes, the political advancement of homosexual equality has been abandoned.

Yes, the war on drugs is at full throttle.

“But it would have been so much worse if the republicans were in charge.” Honestly, that’s all that’s left in the arsenal of leftist authoritarian “reasoning.”

Though counter-factuals can only be argued using reason, I am fairly convinced that, in fact, the opposite is true. At least when the sociopaths that the left recognized as sociopaths were in power, there was some noise protesting the security state, the warfare state, the torture regime, the secret prisons etc. Now, though I’m sure the hardcore is still out there fighting the good[2] fight, the rank-and-file leftists are silent as church mice. Little atheist church mice. It’s difficult to claim that there are any meaningful limits to executive power, but if there are, they limit leftist regimes only when that regimes pushes left and limit rightist regimes only to the right[3].

This provides a nice segue into one of the pieces I talk about in the bikecast.
It addresses the role of the remaining progressives (Glenn Greenwald, John Aravosis, Digby, Marcy Wheeler and Jane Hamsher) who are sticking by their positions[4] even though they are hopelessly to the left of the center-right regime currently in power.

Prediction: expect to see alot of (continued) in-fighting between the cheerleader democrats who will blink at nothing short of encampment and extermination of all arabs and the political right, and those few outliers (mentioned above and those like them) who will probably all be anarchists in an election cycle or two.

I also talk a little about Matt Taibbi’s Tea party analysis. The article is worth reading. I think it’s interesting that, in a couple spots, Taibbi sounds like he’s given up on the political process:

In the Tea Party narrative, victory at the polls means a new American revolution, one that will “take our country back” from everyone they disapprove of. But what they don’t realize is, there’s a catch: This is America, and we have an entrenched oligarchical system in place that insulates us all from any meaningful political change.

Prediction (appropriated from Matt Taibbi’s article): There’s bound to be some pretty substantial disillusionment on the margins of the “Tea partiers” after the current batch of “revolutionary” politicians is entirely coopted or they fall to democrats leading, inevitably, to a right-wing invocation the Nader fallacy–blaming the third party for the failure of the preferred establishment candidate. Also, it will mint a whole new batch of anarchists.

  1. [1] As predicted, insurance companies are simply leaving markets where regulation would endanger profits. Recently (09/23/2010) the inability to refuse children with pre-existing conditions provision of the HCR bill kicked in, and Blue Cross and Aetna simply stopped offering child-insurance. Pretty predictable really. Oh, and all the rest of it, I’m willing to wager, is similarly filled with loopholes and escape hatches–except the part where everyone is forced to buy insurance.
  2. [2] but futile
  3. [3] I mistakenly reversed this in the podcast.
  4. [4] anti-war, anti-torture, anti-assassination . . . pro-human, I guess is a good summation.

Don’t Act so Surprised

Arthur Kaplan Ph.D. is shocked–shocked[1] to discover that psychopaths from the United States experimented on human beings in guatemala in the 1940s.

It should be shocking, it should be a goddamn once-in-a-lifetime occurrence (if that) in a civilized society. But it is far less than shocking, far less than surprising, far less, even, that somewhat odd that the government of the US would treat . . . well anyone this way.

Just a couple years before, the US government was testing out nuclear weapons on population centers in Asia and experimenting with incendiaries to create city-wide crematoriums in central europe. For over a decade, it had been performing similar medical experiments on its own citizens. These experiments would continue until the 1970s.

The full list of unethical human experimentation inside the United States–on people that, the theory goes, the government is protecting–should prepare us for the fact that they’ve probably been doing some really horrible shit to the people around the world that have the great misfortune to have U.S. puppet governments assigned to control their geographical area.

That goes doubly for guatemala, a country in which the U.S. trained, armed, and lead death squads against troublesome peasants attempting to claim ownership of the place where they had lived for generations.

The degree of surprise about past crimes against humanity in a day where the same government has remote controlled flying robot assassins assassinating tribesman at will and raining death wedding parties and funeral processions in multiple foreign countries should be low (the degree of surprise, that is, sorry about the run-on sentence).

I can already foresee in my twilight years, should I be so lucky as to see them, the shock and astonishment when it’s revealed what horrific evil shit the medical, psychological and public health [sic] establishment conducted on the peasants of the several occupied countries of the “war on terror.” For chrissakes, how silly is it to believe that the people who are already setting fire to thousands of people for no reason whatsoever would hesitate to use them for experiments? It reminds me (stretching here for an great link), of IOZ’s line about the concern over pain and suffering during lethal injections: “You’re going to enact the ultimate cruelty, the most singularly irrevocable act of violence, and you’re concerned that it’s going to sting?”

If you were an inhabitant of the middle east who had been the victim of US aggression, you’d better hope that you had had some disease injected in you and been sent on your way. The alternatives would be indefinite detention and torture, expropriation, limb removal, eradication of immediate famly, death, and/or who knows what else.

My point is that this shit goes on every day and has for a few thousand years. Thugs and sociopaths, calling themselves the “government of X,” have used the people under their control, foreign and domestic, as a resource for whatever the hell they felt like doing. The united states is no exception and you should[2] accept that similar (and worse) activities are going on today. It’s been OK’d by the president, congress and supreme court, and is considered standard procedure no matter how horrific or how inhumane the activity.

  1. [1] OK, he said astounding, but astounding doesn’t get me the movie reference. I’d also like to apologize to Dr. Kaplan, his was just the first article that came up. I think it’s honorable that he took the time to write about the subject.
  2. [2] if you wish to be considered a member of the reality-based community.

The Bikecast Episode #40: Giving Up on Politics

Another element of Getting from Here to There is giving up on politics. The theatrics and drama of politics, along with the ever appealing us vs. them dynamic involved, freezes people for years and decades in the mistaken belief that the state can effect a reversal of social ills. Endless energy and resources are expended in the pursuit of political solutions and are thereby diverted from alternative efforts. This starving of effective, decentralized, and sustainable non-governmental approaches to social problems insulates and protects the existing power structures from the threat of any substantive change.

Download this episode of the bikecast

Case in Point, Ralph Nader

I recently watched a documentary on Ralph Nader titled, An Unreasonable Man. Nader is the platonic ideal of a citizen in a democracy. His roots are in small town New England where the image is of political activities occuring with every town person present and having a say in the decisions affecting the community[1].

Tangential note: this direct democracy is the model that the populist-statist mind attempts to wrap around 300 million people. The idea that everyone is participating and has a say and is therefore justly bound to the decisions arrived at by the political process.

Unsurprisingly, Nader has a number of tremendous successes finding corruption and inefficiencies in the ballooning federal state of the 1950s and 1960s. The legislative process still had enough remnants of openness that he was able to blindside the corporate-political partnerships of the time and force politicians to make at least a show of protecting their constituents.

Another tangential Note: Something I might talk about some other time was Nader’s role in drawing the revolutionary margins, especially the academic margins away from anti-state/anti-authoritarian activities and into the political arena. Ron Paul is the conservative equivalent in this respect.

In the bikecast, I focus on Nader’s persistence in the face of ongoing disillusionment. If we accept the documentary’s narrative, having reached his political apex in the 70’s, he is betrayed by Carter and then has the state agencies he worked so hard to create dismantled or perverted under 12 years of republican executives. Next comes Clinton and the vitual 4 and 5 term of republican rule (here’s a good summary of Nader’s views on Clinton’s presidency)

Finally, he decides to run for office in 1996, 2000, and 2004[2]. The viciousness and venom towards him since 2000 highlights the mental instability of a people looking for something, anything, to blame for their own weakness and cowardice–their own inability to admit to the systemic flaws that preclude anything but human suffering to come from the state.

The corrupt and despicable system that Nader believed in and that he encouraged so many others to believe in had at last destroyed him.

Nader supporters claim that the united states would be much worse off today without his legislative victories, even though most of them have been rendered impotent by subsequent legislation or turned, in some cases, into tools of corporate plunder.

I like to imagine what the world would be like if the Ralph Naders turned their attention away from the state and started solving problems on the community level via organic institutions akin to the townhall meetings of his youth. Continue to point out the injustices, yes, but stop asking the source of the injustices to increase its size and power in the vain hope that it will fight those injustices.

Unshakable Faith and my Own Dumb Story

Nader is also the ideal citizen insofar as his faith cannot (apparently) be shaken that the state can be made to serve the citizen, despite all of his experience to the contrary.

Luckily for the human race, not everyone has Nader’s loyalty. As the world burns and the nation plunges into financial ruin, the bar for loyalty rises. It used to be that several administrations had to pass before the astute would notice the pattern of state power.

I became politically aware in the early 90s and was completely convinced that, once a democrat took power, the globe spanning military would bases would be disbanded and the resources spent on war would be turned to education and social programs.

Disillusionment happened in a stair-step series of stages. After watching Nader get torched and then villified in 2000 and after the US invaded all points east despite the largest global protest in the history of the world (and with near full support of the opposition democrats, I finally accepted that these institutions of governance were irredeemably flawed. Eventually, I came to accept that governance itself, based on violence, was fundamentally unsustainable.

Establishment politics had me entranced for around 10 years. People younger than myself, who don’t remember the pre-Clinton political scene were alot more likely to get excited about Barack Obama, I think. Many of them won’t be fooled the next time around. The same is true, I think, for conservatives, and I imagine the inevitable collapse and/or co-opting of the Tea Party will send the more alert off the edge of establishment politics.

Another point tied to my 10 year arch from a believer in politics to near anarchist: I don’t think it takes nearly that long anymore. It may be a cliche that “information moves faster now,” and it’s probably the case that a number of my peers in highschool had already learned from their elders that politics is a racket.

I still think an 18 year old me in 2010 would be able to reason through to statelessness in a year or two–if I was even still a statist given 6 or 8 years of casual access to the sum total of all human knowledge. The possibility of being shielded the war pre-internet youth were from streams of information unfiltered by authority figures is much greater, in any case.

In Summary . . .

In the time before each disillusionment, though, think of the time, energy and resources squandered in the political process. Collectively hundreds of millions of dollars and billions of productive hours spent campaigning, arguing, worrying, cajoling, researching, defending, and attacking. All for nothing. Worse yet, all to create a façade of participation and legitimacy that provides an air of legitimacy to the crimes of the state.

The historical record is completely clear on this: democrats start wars, republicans grow government spending, democrats neuter social programs, republicans regulate small business to death. Of course both parties do all these things, but the tiny amount of influence that the whole weight of opposition public opinion can sometimes check the most egregious moves by the party in power. Any move in the direction of opposition finds no resistance at all.

Although this is obvious and the evidence is piled a mile high, most people will continue to support their chosen party. Most of those who leave one party will join the other. Most that leave both will attach to a third party. A small but growing super-minority is accumulating that have been sloughed off the ends of the political spectrum. The elements of this group may disagree on some issues, but each carry a piece (or two, or seven) of the airtight case against the state: practical, moral, around economic issues and issues of justice, racial, spiritual, sexual, statistical, philosophical, ethical, mathematical, you name it.

The future is unwritten and anything can happen, but I have high hopes that the accumulation of people opposed to imposing political solutions on their neighbors and on strangers will outpace the growth of people brainwashed into supporting the political establishment. I hope that the simple truth is eventually accepted by a critical mass of people: The historical struggle isn’t between left and right, it’s between the rulers and the ruled.

I’ve got a couple more “Giving Up on Politics” podcasts in the pipeline. Let me know if you dig them or if there’s something in particular you’d like to hear about.

  1. [1] Which doesn’t change the underlying immorality of imposing the majority’s will on the minority, of course.
  2. [2] He was actually a write in candidate in 1992. He ran as “None of the Above.” I had forgotten (or never knew) this