Archive for November, 2010

The Bikecast Episode #47: On Having One’s Little Libertarian Touched (or TSA Gropefest Part II)

This bikecast is a restatement of and expansion on the previous episode. The current anger over TSA screening can serve as a point of reference for unconsciously patriarchal anti-authoritarians. The humiliation and violation that airline passengers are experiencing at the gropey/grabby hands of federal agents are identical to those that women and other “2nd (or 3rd or 4th) class citizens” have been experiencing for decades and centuries. That their accounts were discounted or ignored might provide some insight into the incredulity around and negative response towards anti-TSA/no-fly activists.

On the flip side, that the TSA agents aren’t on par with national socialists tried at Nuremburg–a point made to counter the sometimes hysterical reaction emanating from the newly threatened–doesn’t mean that other hysterical reactions of libertarians and anti-authoritarians aren’t justified. The TSA might not be a war crime tribunal worthy organziation, but there are plenty of war crime level individuals and branches of government. Hysterics are appropriate in far too many cases.

Download this episode of the bikecast

The last podcast’s show notes cover this episode as well. With the holiday travel weekend behind us, I’ll use this space to do a quick run through of the highlights. In a predictably bizarre role reversal, the political right came out against the TSA policy, a legacy of the Bush regime demonstrating, the umpteenth time the relative prioritization of security theater vis political theater.

Sadly, Alisa nailed the political left’s majority position, that anti-TSA trouble makers should shut up a do what they’re told. There is a variety of rationales: that they’re paid libertarian provacateurs, that they’re exposing Americans to terrorism/are terrorists, it’s the price we pay for security and so forth. Here’s a good roundup along with notable exceptions (to which I’d like to add Pandagon and Big Think).

The Nation really went out of its way to connect the anti-TSA sentiment to Koch funding. It’s primary innuendo weaving was done at the expense of John “Touch My Junk and I’ll Have You Arrested” Tyner. None other than Glenn Greenwald popped up to lay on a smackdown of the Nation piece. To which (in the name of completing the tale), Mark Ames and Yasha Levine responded with this defense and the Nation published this partial apology. One last link collects together responses from three other anti-state types who were mentioned as part of the vast wingless conspiracy.

Not especially important, but interesting and worth ten minutes of work time. Anyway, good on you Glenn G. and the several other lefties still in the system but unwilling to flow with their majority.

The Bikecast Episode #46: Alright, How About Nobody Touch Anybody’s Junk

There’s a well known pattern governing the spread of evil. The first to fall are those out-of-power. Isolated, mistrusted, and without recourse, the smaller, the weaker and the outnumbered are inevitably the first victims of any societal ill. Eventually, the cancer–ever growing–will begin to affect the privileged classes. They had, until now, ignored the pleas for help from those who had succumbed. Now they look around desperately, wondering why no one comes to their aid as they cry out, “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.”


Download this episode of the bikecast

Thus we find the forces of human dignity facing off against the dehumanizing empire over one of the more minor matters in the ever growing catalog of state crimes: airport security. Additionally, the fight is against, essentially, “bad touches,” something that women and children spend much of their time avoiding or enduring anyway.

And thus the question of, “why?” is quickly answered. The physical control, domination and humiliation that characterizes patriarchy has finally reached it’s latex glove into the genital area of the soi-disant privileged class (or law abiding citizenry, if you will).
I’ll let Lindsay Beyerstein and Amanda Marcotte fill you in on the details. Their analysis is spot on.

My message is primarily to the “freedom movement.” Being scanned and groped by the TSA might give you a pretty direct metaphor to empathize with the complaints and concerns that women–among others–have been expressing since they were no longer set on fire for talking in public.

I mean this as a helpful suggestion: capture your experience of outrage and stand with those that live in a world of perpetual violation. Most people resonate with the message of peace and freedom, but it sounds odd and false when one warns against a state imposition of a regime of violence and humiliation that someone has already experienced–and may still be experiencing–in their private lives.

Sooo, yeah . . . welcome to the big tent everybody. As will become progressively clearer, there are many unlikely alliances in the struggle against patriarchy/tyranny . Going forward, we will discover that those we thought were political allies are actually the enemy of integrity: libertarians who themselves physically dominate and violate the persons of those around them and progressives who want men to join women and children on the lower tiers of human society for the safety and convenience of governing institutions[1].

Update:

A perfect example of an attitude that I would like to see properly categorized with “If you aren’t a terrorist, then you have nothing to be afraid of,” or, “If you don’t like it, you can leave the country”–dangerous, stupid, evil positions:

. . . I feel more convinced than ever that America gets many things wrong about sex. Right there near the top of the list is our attachment to the idea of consent.

In Paris, it seems as if the straight male attitude toward consent is that it doesn’t exist. At clubs, bars, bistros, in the street or on the Metro, Parisian men lobby very aggressively for sex. At the clubs in the 8ème, off the Champs-Élysées, and all along Rue de Rivoli, it is fairly common to watch men literally grab and touch the girls who weave through the crowd.

What a dick. (h/t pandagon, original article here)

  1. [1] I realize I just sort of threw that last one in there. Alisa predicted that someone would take this angle, but I haven’t seen it yet. Instead of accepting non-violation of genitals to be a universal good and demanding that no one be groped at a security checkpoint nor anywhere else, we can say that everyone should be violated equally–I’m happy that nobody I like has recommended this course of action.

The Bikecast Episode #45: Iraq For Sale and Creepy War Profiteer, Michael Chertoff

Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers covers the art form of syphoning tremendous wealth from the body politic into the hands of state corporations under the guise of “defense.” In recent years, this racket has become even more sophisticated as the military moves from purchasing materiel from “private” sources to hiring out for services previously provided internally.

In the days of Smedley Butler, war meant ridiculous profits around the provision of goods: leather, nickel, sugar, meat, cotton, steel, coal, garments, etc. Today, similar artificial profits are realized by corporations serving meals, washing laundry, building infrastructure, and providing internal security for the military.

This serves a number of purposes: it allows for misrepresentation of the size of the military presence overseas and it allows avoidance of auditing and oversight (what little there is to begin with). Most importantly, however, it allows for unimaginable amounts of wealth to be appropriated by the corporate-political ruling class with a minimum amount of political effort.


Download this episode of the bikecast

As usual, when I listen back to my (very brief) review of someone else’s work, I sound far more critical towards it than I feel. This podcast is no different–I end up picking nits rather than doing a traditional review. But hey, I’m a nit-picker. It’s what I do.

Iraq for Sale covers alot of interesting material and is well made. The unspoken position that I believe underlies the documentary is that “re-nationalizing” the peripheral services that have been outsourced to “private” corporations would lead to a more efficient, less corrupt, “better” military. I’m skeptical of this position and believe that it surrenders a crucial point. The fraud, waste and abuse around lives and wealth in Iraq is a function of the warfare state. That the people involved are nominally “military” or “civilian” is irrelevant.

At the end of the bikecast, I touch on another war profiteer who is making his money from the domestic police state. Michael Chertoff’s security consulting group has a client, Rapiscan Systems, which is one of two manufacturers of the backscatter x-ray machines currently in the news[1]. While the big news is the constitutionality of being imaged without clothes, the real story[2] is how a creepy, incompetent [3] evil fuck like Michael Chertoff can, apparently, bring about the irradiation and intrusive imaging of every airline passenger in the united states in order to pocket a few million dollars in the process.

For more on the Chertoff story:
Mother Jones (from before the current porn/cancer/grope fiasco): The Airport Scanner Scam
Glen Greenwald (apparently no relation to Iraq for Sale director/producer Robert Greenwald): The Obama administration’s war on privacy
The Hill: GOP lawmaker: Full-body scanners violate Fourth Amendment (yeah, cause they give a shit).
Alternet: Details of the increased lobbying by Rapiscan

  1. [1] I claim, mistakenly, in the bikecast that M.C. is an executive for Rapiscan–my bad, Mike.
  2. [2] at least for this episode of the bikecast
  3. [3] Thanks to the commenter for setting me straight

The Bikecast Episode #44: Armistice Veterans Day and Moral Honesty

On Veteran’s Day[1], as on most other days, I find myself pulled by a fierce need to condemn the role of “soldier.” This concept, soldier, is used to create an inverse morality where killing is noble and those who kill are heroes. Surely nothing could be less heroic than taking money in order to kill, without question, whomever one is directed to kill.

On Veteran’s Day, as on most other days, I find myself pulled by a fierce need to condemn the role of “soldier.” This concept, soldier, is used to create an inverse morality where killing is noble and those who kill are heroes. Surely nothing could be less heroic than taking money in order to kill, without question, whomever one is directed to kill.
At the same time, it strikes me as unjust to lay blame at the feet of the human being who has assumed the role of soldier. Most soldiers were 18-year-olds who were sold on the honor and virtue of service to one’s country; their friends, relatives, peers, church and community leaders spoke in solemn tones about the noble sacrifices that the armed forces of the united states have made throughout its history. They’ve heard during 12 years of state schooling about how the u.s. military has repeatedly and continuously protected the freedom of the citizenry while spreading liberty and democracy around the globe. How is it fair to hold someone to account for their actions when they’ve been told all their life that the evil they’re signing up to do is good?


Download this episode of the bikecast
It is for this reason above all others that I believe it necessary to be unrelenting in the moral condemnation of soldiering. Mercenaries and hitmen[2] are paid commensurate with the social stigma attached to killing for money. Nobody honors assassins–there is no day to thank (expressly) paid killers. Nobody becomes a hitman with the expectation that one’s church community will be proud.

To a healthy person, the moral context attached to joining a military is identical to that of becoming muscle for a crime family. Everyone who is considering a career in the military should have the objective nature of the job presented honestly to them. Anything less is moral fraud of the most harmful kind.

The vast majority of the victims of the current slate of wars are, of course, those killed, kidnapped, robbed and displaced by the u.s. military. The greatest moral condemnation, by far, belongs to the political class and their corporate counterparts. In between are the humans sent to do the killing and the dying. Their lives as full humans will likely end with their first kill or their first interrogation. Thereafter, they’re doomed to a shadow existence, unless they brave the road nearly untraveled and examine and atone for their actions.

It will be a great kindness to a large number of potential recruits to accurately and honestly describe moral import the choice that lies ahead. When somebody chooses not to join the military, everything good in the world wins and evil is slowed, however minutely, in its mindless destruction of humanity. The greatest good is likely to the soldier-not-to-be him/herself. We’ll be on the right path when we thank and honor those that choose not to join the military.

Recommended reading:
Punk Johnny Cash on being thanked.
Arthur Silber: On Veteran’s Day, Fuck that Shit
Kelly Patterson on the 2738 Soldiers that died on the final day of the war so that it would end at 11:11 on 11/11/1918

  1. [1] previously known as Armistice Day, until the “War to End All Wars” turned out to be the bloodiest century the world has ever seen
  2. [2] and hitwomen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUBAx8jbYNs&feature=related

The Bikecast Episode #43: Semper fidelis! 235 Years of Brutality

Protecting corporate profitability against pesky third world peasants and leaving the working class with the bill, the United States Marine Corps celebrated today[1]235 years of making the world a worse place. Semper fi, indeed! No one ever asks, cui?


Download this episode of the bikecast
I’ve made only light notes for this podcast to give the reader time to check out the excellent source articles.

The Marines were doing before 1941 what the whole U.S. military has been up to since. The Marines from 1800 until the second world war were at the beck and call of business interests who needed to protect their assets against the people who had previously owned the assets and still lived uncomfortably close. The Marines are the reason that you will have to scroll way-the-fuck-down on this page, before you see a military engagement that you have ever even heard of.

I’m a second generation military BRAT[2] and (along with my cousin) are the first civilian males in my extended family since the 1940s. It came as quite a surprise to me, therefore, when I discovered that the armed forces of the united states had ever been used for anything other than opposing tyranny and spreading liberty.

Two time congressional medal of honor [sic] awardee major general Smedley Butler USMC had no small part in correcting my flawed mental model:

WAR is a racket. It always has been.
It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.
A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

War is a racket is a must read for anyone who believes the military has ever been used for anything other than to advance the interests of extremely wealthy and powerful people.

The other articles I reference (excerpts below) in the bikcast I found via Punk Johnny Cash a former Marine whose website gonzotimes.com I can’t recommend enough.

I often do not know what to say as people find out I am a veteran of the U.S.M.C. and they thank me. I find the legacy of violence and brutality repulsive. I do not want to hear your thank you. I do not want to hear the ‘happy birthday’.

If you want to thank anyone thank the Winter soldiers for doing what is right. They are the true patriots. Celebrate those who speak out against the murder and violence of the American Empire. I will not be always faithful to the murder of the state. I will not condone sending young people to die and kill.
Punk Johnny Cash — Eat the Apple Fuck the Corps

The USMC is the tip of the spear for spreading the corporate slave state into the depths of the world, securing yet another corner of the globe for faceless multinationals. All on your dime.
source

  1. [1] Nov. 10th
  2. [2] Born Raised And Trapped

The Bikecast Episode #42: 70% of Citizenry Vote for Nobody–Landslide Victory!

Another election and another World Series in the books. The individual american has zero influence on the outcome of either event (unless you are on either roster or are a Diebold software developer). That’s not to say that we can’t derive some Bikecast value from a quick examination of last week’s events. First and foremost, participation was way up this election, meaning that almost 15% of the people in the united states get to say it’s their elected representative keeping the global prison system and war machine up and running. That’s a level of popular election of leadership on par with the mongol kahns and holy roman emperors.

Download this episode of the bikecast.

Vote for Nobody!

The turnout, of course, doesn’t matter. 100% of people choosing to bomb foreigners doesn’t stop it from being evil, but the premise of our quirky brand of despotism is that the “majority rules.” It’s worth noting, therefore, that the super-majority did not participate. By any standard of democratic’ish governance (and america, if I recall my public schooling correctly, is supposed to be the non plus ultra of awesomeness when it comes to participatory government), the current government is illegitimate.

Even allowing the self-contradictory premise that it’s possible to give one group of people the right of absolute power over another as a just and sustainable means to solve social problems, to be ruled by the preferences of 15% is pretty fucking terrible.

I don’t want to go on too long allowing this premise. To do so is to bait the authoritarian who will solve our problems by adding more violence to the situation: if 29% of people isn’t enough to mandate a group of sociopaths to rule the world, let’s force people to vote! Then we can have 100% participation and everyone will be happy!

Leaving the cage of mainstream premises, something else popped onto my radar the other day. That’s x2012.us. Many anti-authoritarians are ambivalent towards electoral politics because they have “educational value.” That is to say, a Ralph Nader or Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich won’t ever win a presidential election, or even have a measurable effect in the legislature, but their political presence allows for exposure to non-mainstream ideas for people who are unaware of the positions the candidates represent.

x2012.us is calling for a boycott of the elections. I like the idea because it recasts the passive act of not voting as a positive act, boycotting. There’s no shortage of reasons to boycott the election, illegal wars, millions of political prisoners, wide scale disenfranchisement, boundless voting “irregularities” (a computerized voting system with proprietary software is insane enough to blow all 3rd world voting shenanigans away), state collusion with all manner of corporate theft and malfeasance, torture, draconian immigration policies, etc.

It would be (dreaming here, I know) a nice change of pace if the voter felt a little guilty about their compulsion to engage in the charade of representative government instead of trying to guilt the mathematically and practically (and ethically) minded among us into providing cover for the crimes of the ruling cadre.