Posts Tagged ‘ politics

The Bikecast Episode #55: Chit-chatting About the Patriarchy

Th Bikecast is back, albeit without the bike this time. I’ll transition to another name when I think of a good one.

In this reboot premier episode, I’m thinking through the history and nature of patriarchy and how its position as the fundamental organizing principle of the various and myriad institutional hurdles to human happiness and flourishing. Good stuff!

PS. I have no idea why the embed is doing that. The Internet Archive has changed up some stuff since last year.

Nothing New in the National Defense Authorization Act

The National Defense Authorization Act (HR 1540) was signed on the last day of 2011. The bill, now law, has been in the non-mainstream news lately because of several clauses that “allow” the indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens without trial.

As always, discussion and skepticism about the claimed authority to cage human beings forever, without a stated reason, and without any recourse is extremely healthy and I applaud anyone who brings the topic up at all[1].

That said, the belief that this power hasn’t always existed under the Constitution is patently incorrect. The indefinite detention of the seditious without trial is as old as “the republic” itself. A typical American lifetime has seen multiple instances of indefinite political mass-detention cloaked in the claim of national defense; ours is unlikely to be any different.

The root of the problem isn’t that the current government is becoming tyrannical, it is already demonstrably so. The root is that the government has always been tyrannical. It has always used prisons and the military/police to kill or cage anyone[2], foreign or domestic, who challenges the existing power structure in a meaningful way. What we’re currently witnessing is simply the increase in numbers of domestic subjects who recognize, to some degree, the nature of the existing structures and who are compelled to challenge them.

The NDAA, then, is just a reminder that you too are subject to indefinite, trial-free detention; or indefinite military detention; or trial-free military detention. You will not, however, be held indefinitely in military detention without a trial, they promise.

Besides not being worth the paper it’s written on, the signing statement will not protect anyone from disappearing whom the government deems to be a threat to “business as usual.” Even the party hacks for the democrats concede that point. Their focus is on the fact that the NDAA claims not to expand current executive power . . . aaand that the executive can currently do whatever it wants to anyone in the world. History, both mainstream and revisionist, reminds us in no uncertain terms that government has always claimed and exercised this power.

Simplistic, though thoroughly sufficent, evidence is offered by the Injustice Everywhere’s worst police misconduct of the year poll[3].
Here you will see a sampling of the thousands of instances of government killing, detaining, and caging human beings without trial.

You could argue that the killers aren’t from the military–not even the federal government in most cases. I would like you to reexamine the trees and keep an eye out for the forest. Putting aside uniform colors and the jurisdictional questions of whose cages/bullets belong to whom, your rulers will not let you disobey in any meaningful way. Even movements as mainstream as the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street are threatening enough to provoke fear-mongering about domestic terrorists and reminders, like the NDAA, of the price of dissent.

To sum up: the NDAA is a reiteration of the relationship between the subjects and the rulers. The rulers can beat, cage and kill anyone they want at will. There is no systemic recourse to speak of. There are no legal nor practical limits to their power over you within the nation-state framework. Until this observable fact is . . . observed by a critical mass of the ruled, we will continue to exist and live our lives at the pleasure of the power structure.

Update: Glenn Greenwald and Mike Adams do wonkier and better written analyses of NDAA but come to similar conclusions.

  1. [1] I’m definitely not trying to use the “This has always been a problem, so shut up,” technique. Rather, I’m going for, “let’s talk about how f’d up it is that this has always been and continues to be the case.
  2. [2] It will also, without hesitation, kill or cage anyone in the vicinity or of the same race or religion.
  3. [3] I originally misattributed the poll to, another great, illuminating website. Thanks Ademo for the correction

You Are the Security Threat

If you concede that sound weapons may exist, may be permitted to exist, then sorry, but you must also accept and understand that they may one day be used against you, just as satellites and drones peer through your curtains as readily as they peer through the curtains of Kabul, just as the Total Information Awareness machine minds read your blog as happily as Vladimir Putin’s tumblr. . . You will often hear civil libertarian types say that the police should not act like soldiers. Why not? They are. —IOZ

This has been on my mind alot lately. There’s a growing awareness of the secret that is foundational to the existence of violence-based social systems: that the technologies and techniques of state power will be used against all enemies of that power–foreign or domestic. Additionally, the enemies of power aren’t limited to armed foreigners, but include anyone who calls into question any aspect of the corporate-state system and its various crimes against the wider population.

Glenn Greenwald has a good piece up related to the topic

It’s a very small step to go from supporting the abuse of defenseless detainees (including one’s fellow citizens) to supporting the pepper-spraying and tasering of non-violent political protesters.

At the root of all of those views is the classic authoritarian mindset: reflexive support for authority, contempt for those who challenge them, and a blind faith in their unilateral, unchecked decisions regarding who is Bad and deserves state-issued punishment.

To take this thought one step further: at the root of this view is the ability to compartmentalize violence and the moral schizophrenia that enlightenment philosophy has only just begun to disassemble. The idea, with humanity since the beginning, that violence in general is harmful to society; but violence carried out by the leader, the patriarch, the king, the parent, the husband, the police, is a necessary part of social order.

Enlightenment philosophy, at least for the purposes of this post, is premised on the equality of human beings and opposed to the various magical hierarchies that have historically been used to divide human kind into dominant and submissive classes. Its growth has pushed back against the general acceptance of slavery, oppression of women, non-personhood of children, and even against the unchecked power of the ruling class–though these last checks have proved temporary and fleeting.

With growing coverage of the state’s response to peaceful protest, both here and abroad, it seems that we’re on the cusp of grasping the universal nature violence. Militarized police forces are leaving America’s ghettoes and the drug war for awhile to beat and cage the white and middle class enemies of the corporate state. For the first time in 40 years, we’re being reminded that the “average citizen” is no safer from the state–should he/she decide to challenge its power– than the urban poor and “illegals” against which the police state was supposedly constructed.

“Austerity measures” combined with the corporate strangle-hold on any avenue of independent, decentralized wealth creation will push increasing numbers of people into direct opposition to the existing system. The state response is escalating in brutality and frequency and will prove asymptotically similar to the tactics previously used to occupy foreign countries.

The mainstream response to this process, repeated endlessly by state licensed broadcasters, will be continued excusing of any and all abuses. Hopefully, enough people will have been exposed to a framework of non-violence to form a critical mass of discernment which can demand a final and total dissolution of the instruments of centralized violence.

The majority opinion, I imagine, remains that no penalty is too great to inflict on those who push back against authority. My hope is that within the growing minority who understand the irrationality and danger of that view, a complete understanding of violence can be fostered; reform of violent institutions isn’t the answer, abolition is what’s required. Anyone who tries to carve out an exception for armies, parents, spouses, or police, is–perhaps unintentionally–an ally of the forces that prop up the historical and existing dominance-based social paradigm and an enemy of civilization.

It’s Not a Fact Just Because You Want It To Be

Frequently discussion/arguments between theist and atheists begin with the theist counting off all the things that science doesn’t have a explanation for (What came before the big bang? What causes gravity? How did life begin?). After much circling and probably a fair amount of misdirection, one of two outcomes are reached, a) the theist concludes by saying that both he and the atheist have equally indefensible positions or b) he will simply demand the acceptance of his belief system regardless of its absurdity. God does exist because he has to exist–it’s so obvious only a crazy person could argue against it.
have to make the case for government, because it’s so obviously good and necessary!

A case in point, That we need government is just fact, by Amanda Marcotte [1].

It [an article praising the state for not stealing and reselling all of North America to developers] also caused me to want to ball up on the floor and cry. Not because it’s bad; it’s great. But because it had to be written in the first place. That’s how stupid our political discourse has gotten, that people are actually defending the existence of the government. It’s like having a debate about whether or not water is good for you.

It would be like arguing whether or not water is good for you if water had bombed, shot, tortured and imprisoned some millions of people in the last year–and every year since the beginning of time. Generally water doesn’t do that. It’s really only dangerous in huge quantities–especially when driven by wind.

Amanda continues:

In a sense, I feel like defending the existence of government is wasting your breath. If people who are just generally “against” government can’t see how their day to day life is affected by—usually for the better—the existence of government, I don’t know that rational arguments pointing it out are going to make much difference. They clearly live in a fantasy world. Rationality has no influence on them.

Of course, the principled anarchist makes the same argument in return. These may be seen as symmetrical positions, much as the theist’s and atheist’s above. In a context free from reason and evidence, and with a healthy dose of cultural indoctrination, one may be able to squint and say, “yep, there’s no way to decide whether or not God exists.” Of course, if you just fucking look around, maybe read a book or two, and think about it for a bit, it’s pretty evident that there’s no supernatural power that exists outside of material reality and is intervening in earthly events.

It’s equally evident that government is a construct dedicated to the preservation of existing power and privilege, that it is the last remaining “acceptable” perpetrator of violence, and that it always and everywhere grows, heaping increasing misery on the poor until it collapses in ruin; leaving the powerful and privileged to start a new government. Sure, this is a simplified description of a very complex process. The theory of evolution is a simplification of a complex process. You can pick nits around the boundaries of either, but if you don’t accept the reality of the processes described, you’re missing the forest for the trees.

Next comes a challenge from Amanda to the reader:

Seriously, just grab a notebook and put in a hashmark for every time you do something that you couldn’t do if it weren’t for government regulation, funding, and organizing. You’ll find you fill a page up before lunch with hashmarks. I’ve been up for an hour now, and I’ve made coffee(1,2,3), eaten breakfast (4,5), had a glass of water (6), used the toilet (7,8) . . . [the numbers relate to a list included below]

That’s nothing. If you’re one of the 2.5+ million prisoners in the country, you’ll have that notebook filled up by 9am. Oh, except you might not have anything to write with–hey, that’s a hashmark too: seizure of contraband! Let’s say you just counted off in your head. Government provides your wake up call. Government opens the door for you. Government provided you with the door, the bed, the floor. Government arranged for your roommate. Government day planning–what a full calendar! Amanda’s premise is that none of these things would happen, or not nearly as well, if the government didn’t exist. Her evidence is that it just wouldn’t and only a moron can’t understand that.

We all understand, though, that even without a government provided loudspeaker outside you cell, somebody has managed to provide you a means of getting up in the morning; even without a government provided yard to walk around in circles, somebody has figured out a way (probably lots of ways) to help you get your exercise and social interaction. The fact that the government has a monopoly on these services in prison doesn’t mean that a free human being is deprived of them.

The same is true for the items on Amanda’s list. Even without marines enforcing U.S. corporation’s claims on vast swaths of S. America and even without death squads preventing peasant labor from leaving, somebody would grow and sell coffee beans to American consumers. Even without eminent domain being used to throw people from their homes so giant asphalt monstrosities can be built and the surrounding land sold off to politically connected developers, somebody would provide means (again, probably lots of them) for moving goods and people between places.

The same goes for all the items on her list (1-8 corresponding to the above quotation, see her article if you care for more).

1. Clean water.
2. International trade agreements getting the coffee to the U.S.
3. Roads to ship it to the store.
4. Clean water.
5. Roads!
6. Water!
7. Seriously, water.
8. Regulations governing size and other aspects of the toilet.

The idea that toilets wouldn’t exist except that someone will fine you for toilets of the wrong size is kind of weird. The idea that a trade agreement (i.e., not arresting people and stealing their good for crossing a border) is somehow fostering trade as opposed to simply ceasing to stop it is also pretty inexplicable.

The roads are another issue that I’ve touched on here and way back here. But the drum beat for infrastructure from the left has become pretty monotonous lately–I guess due to the “Rebuilding ‘merica” bill. Ivan Illich and I might have to drop another post or two about it.

Anyhoo, to sum up, the existence of god and the need for government are not “just facts” because somebody really, really, REALLY believes they are and wants them to be. God and government are both frauds intended to bully the weak and indoctrinated for the benefit of folks who a) would rather get paid for pretending to solve problems with imaginary solutions than exchange value for value in the real world (or would rather receive huge amounts of money from those people in exchange for patronage) and b) don’t give a shit about shafting other human beings (I’d put this group around 80%), or are honestly so broken that they really think the fantasy to be real (probably mostly on the religious side, but that’s just a guess).

  1. [1] I know Amanda in real life and she is a fantastic human being. I end up responding to a fair amount of what she posts because I try to read everything she writes. I agree with her 100% on all things patriarchal, on everything to do with women’s health, republicans, justice, sex, god(s), the police state, and most things food, drink, music and culture related. Her political writing is instructive because she fully inhabits and owns the role of the unflinching political apologist. She expresses the viewpoint of the very last folks (on the left anyway) trying to keep belief in “the system” alive. I think that position is quietly clung to by a large number of smart and well meaning people. It’s also a fairly flimsy position, and it’sthe last refuge before giving up on violence and allowing oneself to imagine and participate in alternatives. This is why I respond to it, directly or indirectly, somewhat frequently. That said, I can’t recommend her website enough. Skip the political articles if you need to, the rest is gold.

On the Non-Existence of the Lesser Evil

The winds of the blogodrome are converging, as they must in the year-and-a-half before a presidential election, on the question of why anyone should bother voting at all. For the next 15 months, expect the party hacks to be shrieking nonsensically about how you must vote and for one of the two major parties (depending on the hack).

The majority of people will ignore them because 1. it’s illegal for them to vote or 2. they understand that their vote doesn’t matter.

Glenn Greenwald has noticed that presidential candidates typically end up substantially identical.

The reality is that both parties’ voters, early on in the process, like to flirt with candidates who present themselves as ideologues, but ultimately choose establishment-approved, establishment-serving functionaries . . . The two-party system and these presidential campaigns are virtually guaranteed — by design — to produce palatable faces who perpetuate the status quo, placate the citizenry, and dutifully serve the nation’s most powerful factions.

He’s in some kind of back-and-forth with a party hack who is upset that Glenn won’t admit that Obama is, at least, much better than whatever the republican alternative was/will be. For the details, I commend you to the much more erudite and pants-pissingly hilarious IOZ.

This excellent article tracks the essential continuity of policy and details a number of the personnel choices that have stripped out the moderate elements of the current regime and replaced/supplemented them with legacy right-wing advisers and staff.

The view, in spite of the evidence, that one’s party’s candidate is at least better than the opposition party’s candidate is entirely illusory. As a non-partisan (in the sense that I was first a green, then apolitical, and now anti-political), I have watched the actions of government without elation or disappointment based on my investment in the parties. The first president of my majority, Bill Clinton, stripped down social programs, starved 500,000 Iraqi children–with his secretary of state chiming in that is was worth itwantonly bombed civilian populations in the Balkans, and deregulated global capital.

These were the actions required by the system that created and promoted Bill Clinton. If Bob Dole had been president, the prerogatives would have been the same. Anything these men couldn’t do that needed doing would be done over their objection or by their successor. It’s the bias built into ego-identification with a political party that leads to the belief that Clinton was a peace loving socialist and Bob Dole would have been a financially frugal hawk.

The George W. Bush regime were a pack of especially detestable war criminals. Why though, does anyone imagine that President Al Gore would have been able to do anything differently than Bush? We see that the Bush policies are favored by existing concentrations of capital–they been continued and expanded by a democrat’s administration. How would Al Gore have denied global capital their garrisons in the Middle East; their contracts for arms, logistics, security and infrastructure; and their ability to create sink-holes for wealth that the United States government have been trying to fill for 10 years?

I posit it could well have been far worse, in fact, had Al Gore been president on 9/11. At least there were somevoices of dissent when already achitected global war and domestic surveillance was being executed. Who would have been marching in opposition to Al Gore’s “defense” of the United States? Judging by the anti-war movement under Obama, very few. And when those few were disappeared, who would track them down? Would the ACLU even have received enough funding to continue its existence?

Only Nixon could go to China, as they say. Only Nixon could start the EPA, OSHA, the Clean Air Act, the Consumer Products Safety Board. It takes Clinton and now Obama to impose “austerity measures” and dismantle the social safety net. Republicans grow government and raise taxes, Democrats start wars and build prisons.

This is a caricature of the parties, of course. There are numerous exceptions, which is ultimately the point. The actions taken by these two parties only appear different when viewed through the American Political Narrative. When viewed as though a single party with a single purpose had a monopoly of power, one four year span is indistinguishable from another.

I know I’m way past being a broken record this point: the narrative of political back and forth in this country is purposeful. It’s supposed to be impossible to argue that a democrat is more of a warmonger than a republican, or that a republican is less tough on crime than a democrat. There are always alot of ins, outs, and what-have-yous that allow wonkish weaseling to bullshit its way around the obvious contradictions in the two-party narrative.

We have been trained from early childhood to believe that the choices we make in the voting booth drive the direction of our society. We interpret events, with the assistance of everyone around us and the mainstream media, to assign substantive political differences to individual politicians that simply do not exist. The voters have zero influence or control over the course of events via their engagement with the political system. They are either aligned with the preexisting desires of capital, in which case, they will see “their side” winning; or they are opposed, and will see their policy desires warped and twisted if not ignored outright.

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.

The Unprincipled Nature of Political Violence

A few thoughts on the attempted murder of Gabrielle Giffords.

Firstly, I want to express massive sympathy to the friends and families of the victims. The lack of empathy towards those who have had loved ones irrevocably ripped from their lives by human violence is a foundational reason that we live on a planet overflowing with needless sorrow.

That said, everyone in the political class is projecting their world view onto this event with almost no sign of even basic circumspection. This event didn’t take place in a vaccuum, and the angry political speech that is, in some circles, being blamed as the cause didn’t spring from nowhere, and the notion that the solution to a problem is to kill it wasn’t invented by Jerrod Loughner.

We are surrounded by a society steeped in violent domination of the weak by the strong. The foundational premise of human political institutions is that one group should use weapons, cages and confiscation to impose it’s will on another group. The foundational premise of our nation is that the non-ruling group can justly kill and replace the ruling group if, for example, taxes get too high, or the court system is deemed unjust.

The entire structure of our ruling institutions comes down to us from a barbaric and superstitious past. In this one unique thread of human endeavor, no hint of modernity has been allowed to permeate for 2,500 years.

The gun is always on the table in politics. Nearly every American supports both the use of state violence against undesirable people *and* the use of anti-state violence against oppressive government[1]

The credibility of the grievances varies (surely the weakest claim of oppression was that of the colonial americans in the 18th century), but there’s no political principle about when anti-state violence is good and when it’s bad–it’s entirely subjective[2]

There’s also no principle governing the appropriate use of state violence. Some people prefer guns be waved at those who farm certain plants or cross invisible lines. Others want to threaten those that have sex with forbidden persons (or in forbidden ways) or drop trash on unowned land.

This lack of principle, the lack of any basis for rational discourse, is precisely what leads to angry screechy shouting, jumping up and down, waving of arms, gnashing of teeth, and when those impressive displays repeatedly fail to convince: the threat of and use of violence.

We live in a domination system, a patriarchy, a rape culture in which the predominant belief is that physical control of one group of humans by another is necessary for our continued existence. As long as this is the case, violence will be used by individuals who feel that it’s a reasonable way to solve a particular problem. Most of the time, the victims will be the poor and politically powerless, but on occasion, the victim of violence will be a member of the ruling class or their enforcers.

The only way to avoid violence against the ruling class is to refuse to legitimize violence as a means of human interaction. Of course, it’s the ruling class that monopolizes the institutional use of violence against the rest of humanity, so to some degree the ball is in their court.

I imagine that we’ll know that we’ve reached the dawning of a new day when every murder around this planet is treated with equal horror. Since this killing is the first of the thousand-or-so politically related murders of the last year that has made the news in anything but a passing manner, I know that dawn is not yet come.

Update: The always amazing IOZ hits my note (but funnier) in paragraph 4.

Update: See for yourself has a nice round-up of other quality online publications that are presenting what I believe to be largely the same sentiment in a number of ways. Here’s a nice summary sourced by one of the linked posts:

Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.
— Derrick Jesen, Endgame vol. 1

  1. [1] The right-wing rhetoric that’s got everybody in a tizzy currently was used by the left in the 1960s. It was used by third world nationalists in the 40s and 50s and by anti-colonialists for 100 years before that. It was considered a sign of hope in post-soviet eastern europe and still is in the nuclear boogieman-of-the-day, Iran.
  2. [2] If one concedes the use of revolutionary violence, it certainly seems most appropriate against the regime that holds 1/4 of the worlds prisoners, that is fighting a whole host of wars that are illegal by any international agreement or treaty regarding national conflict back to 1648, that is responsible for 10s of millions of deaths in the third world since the mid 20th century, that claims the right to detain or assassinate anyone on the planet–including its own “citizens” without any process other than a go-ahead from the supreme leader.

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.

Non-violence and Political Solutions

A position of non-violence is incompatible with the idea of political solutions to social problems. The state, as we know it, ultimately has only one tool for controlling behavior, it can legitimately kill individual people. All other punishments are premised on this power. Until this is understood, the mass of humanity will remain the the impoverished slaves and servants of a tiny parasitic ruling class and will, perversely, thank them for the “safety” they provide.

If you oppose the non-violent position, then you will only ever contribute to problems stemming from violence. While you may point to a temporary victory–a political solution that “solved” a social problem–growing from the “solution” like bamboo shoots will be dozens, hundreds, thousands of resulting problems, each begging for a new political solution.

I’ve encountered alot of anger around this argument. Almost nobody, especially on the left, wants to be in a position of preferring violent solutions to non-violent. Yet how can one logically argue that support of state solutions is anything but the preference for violent solutions (answer: you can’t).

This puts the angry person in the position of having to create an imaginary world in which violence and only violence can stave off apocalyptic disaster. In this fiction, attempting, or even beginning to attempt to organize voluntarily to address social problems leads immediately to a fate worse than death–a world of chaos and violence in which everyone good dies at the hands of the evil, mad and powerful. These arguments, lunatic as they are, can be persuasive because a) no matter how horrifying real-life state atrocities are, the apocalypse is worse and b) they rely on fear, a historically reliable way of overriding rational thought and bringing debate to an end.

A novel position came up in a conversation recently that simultaneously surprised and delighted me. It is worth addressing because it is the only alternative to the fear based response. The position is that the state doesn’t need to use violence but could be reconstituted in such a way that it is a voluntary organization. In principle, how can I have any problem with that? If the state renounces violence in favor of voluntary cooperation, it will cease to be a remnant of stone-age barbarism and become a part of the future of humanity. By my definition, it would no longer be a state at that point, but I would be happy concede to calling it a state if it is ever brought into being.