Archive for August, 2011

Rubbernecking: The Train Wreck of Integrity

My beloved and I were talking to a friend the other day when the topic of the 2012 election came up; we three range from being repulsed-by to highly-skeptical-of the notion that social progress can come from a violence based hierarchical institution deriving its powers from a corporate oligarchy.

Nevertheless, our friend reported being grimly interested by the presidential electoral process, the cultural dynamics revealed and the narratives surrounding the spectacle. I am drawn to the dark process in a similar manner. While I don’t endorse any aspect of the imperial corporate theocracy, I can’t help but be fascinated by–as one example among many–the moral wreckage of the political sycophantic class as they attempt to bend reality with pseudo-reason to indicate the superiority of their preferred ruling party.

I come to the apolitical position from the left. In my experience, most rank-and-file progressives believe the function of government to be something along those lines of uplifting and empowering human beings, protecting them from violence and helping them recover from catastrophic events. The policy staples around these abstract goals are socially libertarian in the personal realm; anti-war, anti-prison, anti-empire, anti-corporate and pro-human in the political realm.

With the political season upon us, 15 months out from the election, the political lackeys of the democrat-aspect of the ruling class are having trouble herding the rank-and-file progressives into their reelection effort.

For whatever psychological failing on my part, I can’t stop reading their attempts to alternately lure and beat their one-time supporters back into the fold. It hits the same sweet-spot for me as watching theologians doing n-dimensional mental gymnastics to prove the inevitability of their god’s/worldview’s existence.

These efforts are impressive at first because the establishment propaganda has to paint rampant corporatism, endless global war, overflowing prisons as matching exactly that which the voting progressive cares about: peace, human dignity, and justice.

Since, no matter the intellect of the authors, this approach fails on targets who’ve retained the ability to Google or otherwise access anything other than American mainstream media; the effort then devolves into incoherent screaming about the danger of policies worse yet than those that are being put in place by the current regime. Voting for a third party, or heaven forfend, not voting at all puts a reluctant progressive into the camp of the childish, the naive, the selfish, and the irresponsible.

On top of this circus, this election cycle has an extra-fun twist. Since the late 19th century, Texas congressperson Ron Paul has been providing the catch-all for the principled political right that Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich supply for the principled political left. These are the most potent and potentially revolutionary wings of still-engaged people in society; they can’t be allowed to float away from the established political institutions. One or two representatives are allowed to sit in congress or run for president thereby providing a thread of plausibility that the system can be improved “from the inside.”

Ron Paul is against foreign wars across the board, against imperialism, against the war on drugs, and against federal “protection of marriage,” etc. and must be, I guess, freaking out the democratic machine a little bit. It sounds like, from the blog chatter, there are progressives who are “being tricked” into supporting Ron Paul.

If they are supporting Ron Paul, then they have been tricked. Ron Paul can’t change anything any more than Barack Obama could. It’s impossible to turn an organization against the purpose for which it exists.

But why would democratic machine parts care that Ron Paul is running in the Republican primary? Wouldn’t their time be better spent doubling down on ridiculing Rick Perry’s idiocy or Mitt Romney’s magical underpants, or some aspect of a candidate who might actually win the Republican nomination?

The only thing I can figure is that it’s simply uncomfortable to have his wildly popular positions in the political discourse without a democratic counterpart. In 2008, Ron Paul was easy for the left-o-sphere to ignore because they had Kucinich to point to as their principled anti-war candidate and once he was gone, Ron Paul was as well.

This time around, everyone who watches this garbage[1] only gets to see republican candidates and compare them to the legacy of the incumbent democrat. When the sole anti-war voice is Ron Paul and he’s also against the drug war, etc., it creates an uncomfortable level of cognitive dissonance that may cause right-thinking lefties to give up on the system and look elsewhere for social progress. Any efforts made in this direction reveal that the state is the violent defender of social stagnation–which is the realization that all state PR and the electoral process itself is intended to obfuscate.

The democratic vote-rustlers have to associate the anti-war, anti-drug war, pro-human stance itself with racism, homophobia, misogyny and any other label a progressive voter would be mortified to have applied to them. This may work against the truly psychologically feeble for whom the badge of “progressive” is a part of his/her identity. For an increasing number of people being called a racist for opposing war or for questioning the justice of the largest prison-state in the world will serve to make the nature of the nation-state and its toady mouth pieces that much clearer.

  1. [1] Myself included.

A Fundamental Misunderstanding of Wealth and Power

Apparently, you can be an atheist and scientist and still be held in sway by cultural fairy tales. Sam Harris recently blurged about the wealthy and how they should Pay Their Fair Share. This has been a party hack point of late since tax increases on the rich can supposedly eliminate the need to end the military occupation of the globe or to remove the remaining threads of the social safety network.

Sam and his ilk labor under the illusion that “the rich” and the state are independent entities. In Sam’s worldview: “Many people have amassed fortunes because they (or their parent’s, parent’s, parents) created value.”
In reality, very, very few people have amassed fortunes (at least the of the magnitude he’s talking about taxing) based on value they’ve created. Their fortunes are based on favors showered on them by the state. I’ve gone over the list of benefits before, and urged the reading of Kolko, Chomsky, and Zinn–refer to them if you doubt me. The institution to which Sam Harris and others are applying for taxation of the rich is the body that, for 245 years has taken money from everybody else and shoveled it to the rich. That is the function and purpose of government.

It’s almost impossible to amass a great fortune “creating value” because everybody else can “create value” too. You need to have somebody with police power mandate the purchase of your products, or criminalize the purchase of your competitors’ products. You need to make sure that immigrants will be arrested for doing the same thing that you do. Better yet, make it illegal for anyone to replicate the goods or services you provide. Then the poor stay poor (or go to jail or are deported) and you’ve got a leg up on fortune amassing.

And if you’re good–if you’re really good, you can get flat-out paid, of billions of dollars for no reason at all.

Trying to recover money from the super-wealthy via the state is like trying to blow up an air mattress with a vacuum cleaner.

The party hack doesn’t provide reasonable solutions. He says whatever is required to keep his party in power. The idea that the baton wielding, tank driving thugs that cruise around beating the crap out of helpless peaceful people would, by executive fiat, roll up on Wall street and take all the loot and apply it to granny’s medical bills is appealing. It will keep millions of democrats occupied–along with mocking Rick Perry–while more wars are declared, the currency is inflated, jails are filled, bankers are paid and the already rich get richer.

The absurdly wealthy are not so because they are under-taxed by the state, but because the state takes the wealth of the other 99% and hands it to them.

What Would Global Capital Do Without an Army?

As I wrote previously, the political left cannot meaningfully criticize or imagine alternatives to the malignant structures of global capital. It is in a state of complete agreement with the political right that nothing should fundamentally challenge existing power structures, concentrations of capital, and associated economic institutions.

Part of the consensus (also mentioned previously), holds that absolute military control of as many of the earth’s resources as possible should be maintained no matter what the cost. And why not? The cost is borne by the tax victims who spend an increasing amount of every work day paying for the war machine; by the uneducated (after 12 years of state education) who are paid to kill strangers and bear the psychological consequences thereafter–assuming they live; and, of course by the innumerable individuals who have the misfortune to live within cruise-missile’s distance of a mine, a well, or a deposit that will bring riches to somebody–just not them.

The victims of the enforcement arm of global capital are entirely distinct from the few thousand direct beneficiaries world-wide. It is clearly in the interest of global capital to garrison the planet to defend against any challenge to their ownership of everything.

Yesterday, Leon Panetta and Hillary Clinton had a public forum to discuss downsizing the imperial army.

“Very simply, it would result in hollowing out the force,” he said, alluding to reductions made in the aftermath of the Vietnam War that left Army units undermanned and ill-equipped. “It would terribly weaken our ability to respond to the threats in the world.”

Given the understanding above, it goes without remarking that democrats are against meaningful decreases in the military. The hack writing the story fills in the details of Panetta’s allusion by positing that “Army units [were left] undermanned and ill-equipped” in the 1970s. For what? Which foreign power overran those undermanned and ill-equipped units and occupied the homeland? Where’s the list of American victims left unprotected? What battles were lost? What threats is he talking about?

All of Western Europe and the Pacific remained fully garrisoned. All puppet states were armed against their populations. Was it Guatamala? Nicaragua? Was the fact that local political movements were able to gain toeholds on the fringes of the global plantation that lead to the conclusion that “our interests” were at risk?

The idea that any country or any conceivable coalition of countries could ever get a single foot soldier onto the North American continent with aggressive intent is absurd. It’s the basest part of the reptilian brain that believes such dangers are out there–a modern day Genghis Khan sweeping down from the Canadian steppes–laughable.

Oh, and recall that the alternative to reducing a military presence in, say, Germany or Japan[1] is cutting the legs out from under social security and
medicare–two programs which people have been stolen from their whole lives to fund. These are the fucking liberals! They’re worried more about their goddamn occupying armies than returning to the elderly the “pension” and medical care that they’ve spent a lifetime paying for!

“It [the threat of budget cuts] does cast a pall over our ability to project the kind of security interests that are in America’s interests,” she said. “This is not about the Defense Department or the State Department. … This is about the United States of America. And we need to have a responsible conversation about how we are going to prepare ourselves for the future.”

The Big Lie is that “security interests” or “America’s interests” are anything but the inverse of the interests of 99% of the people who live under the rule of these sociopaths. Our interests [2] are not being in debt to global finance; not having homes taken away by global banking; not being jailed for non-crimes; being free to conduct peaceful activities without bureaucratic overhead; freedom in general really; freedom from the arbitrary whims of lunatics like Leon Panetta and Hillary Clinton–freedom from being human fuel for the engine global capital. How nice would that be?

  1. [1] Or any of the other 130 countries garrisoned by US soldiers.
  2. [2] With full awareness of the risks of speaking for a collective.

Pity the Party Hacks

One of the many things that swing out of the mainstream from time to time to knock a bit of reality into my delightful pocket of anarchism is the political left’s inability to abandon, or even critisize, capitalism.

Capitalism, corporatism, crony/state capitalism, call it what you will–I’m referring to the economic system that has always obtained in these glorious united states. In this system, concentration of capital–purchasing power and means of production–use the legitimized violence of political institutions[1] to increase their wealth in ways that would otherwise be impossible [2].
This, in turn allows capital to concentrate in greater amounts and at a greater rate providing additional resources to create favorable monopolies, governing/regulating bodies, tax structures, and foreign policy (i.e. war). Which, in turn results in further abnormal and absurd profits, and so on and so forth.

Eventually, the oligarchs of accumulated wealth in this country have even won control of the printing of money and the issuance of debt (at interest rates set by their own cartel!). They’ve been awarded mineral rights around the globe by puppet regimes–mineral rights protected by the largest and deadliest military the world has ever seen. Their property and means of production in the home country are protected by a legion of police only slightly less well armed than the hordes sent abroad.

The reason they can do this is that they get it all for free! Certainly they pay some taxes, but in return they have access to assets on the order of trillions of (public) dollars to protect “their” property, mineral rights, even the pictures, sounds, words, and ideas that their workers develop for them.

Their employees’ retirement pensions and eventual healthcare are paid for, not by them, but by the public. The people that work for them are educated by the public. Goods flow in and out of their warehouses on public roads. Their merchant fleets shuttle cheap goods from poor countries with brutal leaders installed with public dollars to keep their people poor and compliant and working for nothing. Those fleets are protected by an awe inspiring navy under the watch of thousands of navigation and communication satellites. None of which is purchased, built, or placed by the majority beneficiaries.

Capitalism is the way by which the wealth and well-being of the 99% are trapped, extracted, and collected to benefit the interest of the tiny remainder. The entire nation-state is bent toward taking money and labor stolen from the workers and building armies, police, infrastructure, and regulation that benefit the people who built the nation-state for just that purpose.

As the inestimable Dennis Perrin points out:

Liberal groups bemoan the class war, but do little to oppose it. For one thing, they’re not opposed to capitalism — though what we’re enduring is beyond supply-and-demand definitions. Modern capital has its own language, its own currency, its own country. Liberal commentary rarely touches on this. They believe that modern capital can be bent in a progressive direction. By who or how is fuzzy. But it can be done. First, we need to elect better Democrats; and then etc. etc.

The democrats, individually and as a party, benefit mightily from serving accumulated capital. They will not take actions that threaten their share of power; if that means supporting wars, prisons, torture, a police state, the slashing of social spending, so be it.
Party Hack
The hacks on the political left benefit from the trickle down from the democrats. They can make a living reading, writing, speaking, and anlyzing as long as their conclusion is that:

  1. The structure of capitalism must remain unchanged and unchecked[3].
  2. and

  3. The democratic party, not a third party, and certainly not an alternative social structure is the means to social progress using the structures of capitalism; as Dennis says, “by who or how is fuzzy, first we need to elect democrats.”

This puts the party hacks in a weird and convoluted position. All of the traditional left-wing recommendations for real improvement in people’s lives and society at large–legalizing local organizations to compete with corporate monopolies, absolving bogus debt and laughable absentee property claims, the closing of prisons, the ending of wars, and the end of legal statute enforcing morality and social norms. . . the party hacks can’t really use any of it. They’re left cheering when the stock market goes up because maybe some of the newly appropriated corporate billions can be used to buy catfood for the elderly; or trap children in the mind-numbing prison camps of public education for 10 more days a year, or create jobs by increasing the ranks of homeland security.

It’s a testament to their intelligence that they can form a cohesive narrative and defend it at all.

  1. [1] After, if necessary, creating said institutions.
  2. [2] If you’re unfamiliar with that what of I speak, I recommend Gabriel Kolko’s The Triumph of Conservatism, or anything by Howard Zinn or Noam Chomsky
  3. [3] Other than, perhaps, regulation further insulating some corporations against competition from some others; enshrining political favorites as indefinite rulers of a sector of the economy.

The Mythology of Police “Service”

I remember being shocked when I found out, as a young lad, that “bobbies”–british cops–didn’t carry guns. Even Barney Fife[1], in the entirely non-violent town of Mayberry, had a gun with a bullet for the one-in-a-million chance that he would need to protect somebody with deadly force.

The narrative of police service–in Mayberry, USA or London, England circa 1950–is that it was a relationship between a corp of caring persons of integrity and a population that occasionally needs some protection or a helping hand. “Peace officers” were a combination of AAA agent, google maps, responsible friend (in alcohol related scenarios), occasional therapist and only in very rare circumstances, a body guard.

I have read and heard countless stories that fit with this model: flat tires changed by a cop; rides home provided by a cop; high-speed escorts to hospital provided by a cop; barroom scuffles broken up by a cop. I have no doubt that these stories are true and that, historically, police service meant that (some) people were served by police. I don’t doubt that, even today, police exist who really want to serve others on their “beat.[2]

However, during the same historical era that Andy Griffith was providing homespun wisdom and good natured dispute resolution to the town of Mayberry and that baton twirling bobbies were helping old ladies carry their groceries home in Tottengham; ghettos in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Northern Ireland were crawling with heavily armed, abusive state thugs who were terrorizing the minority inhabitants.

The police in these areas were an instrument of social control. They violently upheld the existing economic order, attacked organizations that the ruling class perceived as competing for loyalty, and beat down any resistance to institutions of central authority. The techniques employed were savage and dehumanizing and robbed great number of human beings of life, health, freedom and possessions.

Now, when baton charges and water cannons are unleashed on Her Majesty’s Loyal Subjects in the Home Counties, it’s not a new form of policing, it’s simply expanding the relationship between police and subject formerly reserved for the Catholic minority in Ulster. When highly militarized police roll up to a house in working-class suburbia and kick in the door, it’s an expansion of policing policies that have been in government housing projects in every major US city since the 1960s.

As the minority inhabitants of western countries have been shouting all along, the police “protect and serve” the rulers, not “the people”. When Britain was largely middle class and all of the “troubles” were caused by enemies of the monarchy in Northern Ireland, local policing was friendly and public opinion turned a blind eye to the brutal policing across the Irish Sea. When suburban and rural communities were largely middle class, local police provided a “service” and nobody raised a fuss about the virtual military occupation of black communities in decaying urban cores.

With the western economies in free fall, the middle class has and will continue to evaporate. Formerly loyal subjects of the monarchy and the nation-state will find themselves in the same plight that 2nd, 3rd, and lower class citizens have been facing lo these couple hundred years. The policing tactics that previously happened “over there” will increasingly be applied “over here.”

Yet the pundits and the rulers clamor for more. On the political right, there can’t be enough cops being brutal enough to enough people; even on the political left, in the name of “job creation,” Rachel Maddow advocates the increase in the number of police nationwide.

Demographics that have traditionally been exempted from police are now experiencing life as “perpetrators.” All but the most privileged are increasingly subject to arbitrary police violence. Sites like CopBlock, The Agitator, Injustice Everywhere, Gangsters in Blue, and Photography is Not a Crime, attempt to keep up with and report on all manner of crimes conducted by the police.

The police are not here to protect and serve you. They’re very likely to, accidentally or intentionally, hurt, cage or kill you or someone around you should they be called for assistance. Their job is to control you and to assist their masters in extracting money and obedience from you in all cases. The police of the mythological past are no longer with us–if they ever were–the today’s police are not to be trusted by anyone under any circumstances.

Update: And then of course, there’s Syria

  1. [1] This post is premised on your knowledge of The Andy Griffith Show a quick glance at the Wikipedia article should suffice.
  2. [2] Even these hypothetical “good” cops are still required by the policies of their governing institution to make unjust arrests of non-violent offenders of arbitrary statues and ordinances; there’s only so much even a well-intentioned cop can do.

Atrocity Prevention

Not being an anarchist means being denied the tragicomic jolt upon seeing the headline: President Obama Directs New Atrocity Prevention Measures.

For me, the comedy comes first and my mind begins to generate possible (or, sadly, impossible) additions to the headline: “President Obama Directs New Atrocity Prevention Measures: Arrests George Bush, Self” or “Disbands Army” or “Surrenders to Al Qaeda.”

Let’s take a peek at the actual text. First sentence:

In the decades since the world first pledged “never again,” the U.S. response to mass atrocities and genocide has confronted several challenges.

“First, it’s hard to deny that mushroom clouds, napalm burns and drone strikes are your doing, when you’re the only country that has those weapons.”
It’s too easy. Okay, one more one more:

We know that often holding those who have carried out mass atrocities accountable is at times our best tool to prevent future atrocities.

“We know this because the one group of people that have never been held accountable keep committing most of the world’s atrocities.”

Alright, it’s not that funny, hence the tragi bit of tragicomic.

What’s actually happening, of course, is a preemptive casus belli is being generated for enemies that we, or at least I, can’t even guess at yet.

The text mentions Libya, which the US has been bombing the hell out of for months now, as a fine example of atrocity prevention. It’s insane, but to be expected from a people who beat children “for their own good,” lock people in cages who haven’t hurt anyone “to protect them from themselves” and generally run to the uniformed distributors of “legitimate” violence to solve any and all disputes with their fellow human beings.

Season of the Witch

Presidential election season is on the horizon again, and this time around, it’s the left’ish part of the hackarati that has to spin a reactionary, pro-corporate, pro-warfare, presidency of historical proportions into something that will “energize the base”–i.e. to get the 10 to 20% of the population that might bother voting (and voting Democrat) out to the polls[1].

Vast Left political cartoonFrom the American Extremists archive
In my political lifetime (starting circa 1992), the institutional left has lost all credibility, and the non-institutional left has demonstrated how impossibly silly challenging an oligarchy within a political framework set up by oligarchs is. Come to think of it, the non-institutional right got a chance to demonstrate the same thing in the same window.

As the empire decays, and it’s barbarity and depredations become yet more fantastic and impossible to ignore, the spectacle of elections becomes all the more . . . . spectacular.

In the last 8 years, we have seen the very best that the two-headed beast of the American political party has to offer. Principled persons across the political spectrum are giving up on the whole depraved charade. Nobody with any grasp of reality and any ability to reason–apart, of course, from paid shills–can make a case for being spending valuable time and energy “engaging” in the political process.

It will be interesting to see what feats of mental acrobatics and what depths of dis-ingenuity are possible as the intellectual and media bodyguards of the collapsing political system attempt to herd everyone into the polling stations this time around.

I predict renewed interest in alternatives to politics.

  1. [1] Mostly, they just have to do their part to get something around 40% of the population to vote, total, so the whole thing isn’t a complete farce . . . well, more of a complete farce.

Dusting off the Blog

Well, hell, if IOZ is back, then the medium must have some life left in it. In any case, I updated WordPress; so there’s that. Coincidentally, The Vast Left-wing Conspiracy has picked up pace too.