Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Elie Wiesel's Dawn, a sort-of sequel to his death camp memoir, Night, is the story of Jews employing guerrilla tactics and terrorism against the occupying British force in Palestine after World War II, with an eye toward establishing their own state.

All of which seems somewhat relevant in light of the guerrilla tactics and terrorism that others have employed against the Israeli occupying forces, with an eye toward establishing their own state.
Pollution goes green!

New York Times:

If products are recycled rather than dumped, parts of the machines are refurbished for new use where possible; if not, they are disassembled, their glass and precious metals are recycled, and the plastics, which have no reuse market, are often shipped overseas to developing countries for disposal.

...[O]nce there, they are often incinerated, because they cannot be reused, and spew toxic chemicals into the air.

Exporting waste to the developing world gives wealthy consumers "peace of mind." This why the New York Times calls it "A Green Way to Dump Low-Tech Electronics": it is "green" for the people who matter.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Plato's republic

Wall Street Journal:

While lawmakers in both chambers craft health-care bills for votes later this summer, some Senate Democrats are whittling down provisions considered sacrosanct by liberal advocates, reducing proposed subsidies for the uninsured and opposing the creation of a government-run plan to compete with private insurers....

Some Democratic lawmakers say they are trying to keep the party from moving too far left and alienating voters.

Look at these high-minded Democrats. How could they "alienate voters" on a controversial subject like national health insurance -- which is only supported by most Americans and a majority of doctors -- when greeted daily by an avalanche of health care industry "votes?"

This is the essence of moderation.
Dollars and sense

New York Times:

For decades, Mr. Madoff built his reputation — and his client base — on the promise of healthy returns that flowed in as reliably as the tides.

Reputations are easy to build when money flows in as reliably as the tides, aren't they?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lyndon LaRouche and Obama's Nazi health plan

I was speaking with a Lyndon LaRouche tabler about, among other things, "Obama's Hitler Health Care" plan, when he called everyone an idiot who did not recognize that the British Empire controlled the world. Then he asked me for $500, which was ironic.

LaRouche has been around a long time, but that hasn't stopped most people from never hearing about him. And it probably doesn't help his cause that those who do have no idea what he is on about.

Like many fringe groups, there are some good ideas in there, but you always notice that the good ideas are never original to that group, but are borrowed from some already established tradition. It is only the crackpot shit that they come up with on their own.

Friday, June 26, 2009

How constitutional is now?

David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, Wall Street Journal:

If the government cannot proscribe -- or even "unduly burden," to use another of the Supreme Court's analytical frameworks -- access to abortion, how can it proscribe access to other medical procedures, including transplants, corrective or restorative surgeries, chemotherapy treatments, or a myriad of other health services that individuals may need or desire?

By broadening the scope of affordable health care options available to Americans, the government will invariably limit some health services. The objection here is that this is a job best left to insurance companies, who accomplish the same thing by not covering people at all.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Gail Collins, New York Times:

The people currently in charge in Iran may very well be nut jobs. On a scale of 1 to 10, with North Korea as 9.5, maybe Iran is an 8.

David Brooks says the people currently in charge of Iran are crazy because they want to remain in charge of Iran, and Gail Collins concedes his point. This is called debate at the New York Times.

Monday, June 22, 2009

To the owner, the spoils

Wall Street Journal:

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D., Conn.) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D., Mass.) recently introduced a bill that would guarantee workers up to seven paid sick days per year.

Business advocates see such measures doing more harm than good for workers. To pay for additional benefits, employers may have to reduce wages or other benefits, said Randy Johnson, vice president of labor, immigration and employee benefits for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Business logic with respect to employees rests on the idea that because what generates greater profits for the employer has the potential to benefit workers, social goals must therefore defer to this formula at all times, because it necessarily will.

However, I think the larger point history would like to make is that it won't, necessarily: whether some portion of the profit created by workers is subsequently captured by them is a decision that lies squarely with management, and made in what is perceived to be their own best interest. Because this means different things at different times, and for different reasons, it is impossible to say what greater profits -- or conversely, greater obligations -- will mean for workers in every case.

What can be said with any degree of certainty is that employers are constituted in a way that compels them to pursue profit, and being so constituted, they will do so by any means they can. It is a public responsibility to enforce decent behavior.
Democracy in America

Financial Times:

[A] New York Times/CBS poll on Saturday...showed 72 per cent of Americans supported the creation of government-administered health insurance available to all, which would compete with private schemes in an attempt to expand coverage and force private insurers to cut their prices.

But the measure faces an uphill battle in Congress...

Three quarters of Americans support some kind of universal Medicare option, and yet the political advantage remains with the health care industry. How can this be?

While three quarters of Americans are working for a living, the health care lobby lives by working on Congress. Private industry often plays a role in public life that the average citizen does not, because it is easier for them to bear the costs. Corporations can afford to be citizens; Americans can only afford to be employees.

What Americans can do about Iranian repression is limited because the US has little influence over Iran. On the other hand, there are plenty of repressive governments which the United States openly supports, which could conceivably be denied support, should Americans become as preoccupied with the policies they can change as they are with the headlines that they can't.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hanging 'nads

Power is always eager to "help" in areas where it lacks sufficient influence, principally as a means to establish greater influence. So you get yer Iraqz and yer Vietfragistans, whose measure of success boils down to whether sufficient influence was achieved, and for what cost, politically and economically speaking (and shit).

But let us observe that power is much less inclined to address identical challenges in areas where it already has influence, since this, by definition, means abandoning some mode of influence. And do you think the point of power, existing, is to evaporate on behalf of some corny constitutional principle?

No, my friends: there is a reason shit like that is deposited on paper! The point of power is to be advanced, defended, and maintained. Championing rights and freedoms is helpful when advancing in foreign terrain, but denying rights and freedoms is necessary when defending one's turf.

This is why Iranians are being "denied their rights" in the event that their unfree elections were additionally unfair, whereas American voters are merely disenfranchised by the former, and thus occupy a unique position to tutor others.
Give them liberty or give me CNN!

Roger Cohen, New York Times:

Deceit and the attempted silencing of dissent are now Iran’s everyday currency. In this city of whispers one of the whispers now is: Where is Obama?

The short answer to this might be "the United States" -- the same place Roger Cohen will be (or the closest hotel room to it) during the final crackdown in Iran, no doubt helped along by the perception of foreign intrigue à la certain columnists in the New York Times.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Reading LOL!ita in Tehran

"A student in Iran," New York Times:

We look over this wall of marching people to see what our friends in the United States are saying about us... To our great dismay, what we find is that in important sectors of the American press a disturbing counternarrative is emerging: That perhaps this election wasn’t a fraud after all. That the United States shouldn’t rush in with complaints of democracy denied, and that perhaps Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the president the Iranian people truly want (and, by extension, deserve).

Wow, what important sector of the American press is that? I would very much like to become acquainted with this important sector of the American press, and other important sectors like it, which pen disturbing counternarratives implying the United States shouldn't rush to judgment on the subject of Iran.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hate the player

Wall Street Journal:

All you loyal foot soldiers of business who have endured the forced camaraderie of team-building exercises at corporate retreats, whose office shelves bulge with loose-leaf binders from long-forgotten management-training seminars, who have wearily committed to memory the latest makeover of the company's inscrutable Mission Statement, rejoice. Jonathan Littman and Marc Hershon offer a way to cope in their breezily cynical survival guide, "I Hate People."

This captures the sociopathic ethos of corporate culture nicely.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Let the good wars roll

Financial Times:

They [Islamic militants] have a global agenda, they have a regional agenda, they are not confined to Pakistan. They could go in to the [Persian] Gulf, they could go in to India, they can go anywhere,” [Pakistani foreign minister, Shah Mahmood] Qureshi said. “There is a collective interest and there has to be a collective realisation that this is not Pakistan’s problem. It’s a larger problem”.

One of the most salient features of the war formerly known as "on terror" is that the enemy is so pitifully conceived as to be virtually ubiquitous. Do they have two legs? Then they are not confined to Pakistan. Do they have a particular way of seeing the world? Then they have a global agenda.

It is an insurmountable handicap in any war to define an enemy in no greater terms than having the ambulatory capacities of a human being and a "suspicious vibe." This only gets many, many people killed -- or as the folks in Special Forces like to say, "How the fuck am I supposed to tell difference between a goat-herder and an insurgent, unless the goat returns fire?"

Of course, there is utility in setting the bar so low that anyone with two feet and a gripe can readily cross the threshold: the enemy is whoever you want them to be. Today they are the Taliban. Yesterday they were al-Qaeda. Tomorrow they will be the world -- rest assured, plenty of it is poor and pissed-off; has dark skin but never had Communion; and lives on top of resource wealth that incorporated private interests would prefer to call their own.

But who is brave enough to stick their hand into someone else's livelihood in order to take it for themselves? Of course, no one is. That is why it is done in the name of national defense, for the benefit of others -- or by soldiers who just needed the cash and wanted the education. It is the poor who take land from the poor, just as it is the poor who take bullets for the rich.
Wireless welfare

New York Times:

[W]ireless carriers are receiving subsidies to provide people like Mr. Cobb with a phone and typically 68 minutes of talk time each month. It is a form of wireless welfare that puts a societal stamp on the central role played by the mobile device....

Telecommunications industry analysts said the program, while in its infancy, could benefit mobile phone carriers, who face a steep challenge of their own: most Americans already own a cellphone, so the poor represent a last untapped market.

When the impoverished citizen -- or, more accurately, the government -- is the final frontier for growth in a prevailing domestic industry, a service that was once regarded a luxury slowly takes the appearance of a human right.

That poor people aren't perceived in need of cellphone service until service providers have turned every corner and a corner more for subscribers -- Cuban-Americans, who George Bush last year made "free" to buy plans for island-bound relatives -- speaks volumes in itself; the poor enter the field of benevolence when invited, in tandem with the needs of their benefactors.

This underscores the point that what the poor might really "need" -- like, some material way to be less poor -- can never be the starting point of respectable conversation, but must evolve out of the self-referencing deliberations of the rich.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

With friends like these, who needs insurgencies?


The army’s progress is encouraging. On May 23rd it entered Swat’s biggest city, Mingora, where only 20,000 of around 375,000 inhabitants are estimated to remain.

Financial Times:

In a stark reminder on Thursday that the threat of further terror attacks still looms across the country, a bomb went off on a train in Baluchistan, the south-western province at the centre of a past separatist insurgency, killing one person and injuring 35.

As I mentioned earlier, Pakistan was not initially keen on making several million people homeless in order to get at several thousand Taliban fighters.

"Humanitarian crisis" is not the stuff of reelection, for one. But perhaps President Zardari was moved by Barack Obama's soaring oratory; alternatively, a large wad of cash and the chance to add Obama to his Facebook friends.

2.5 million refugees later, the West celebrates its crimes as evidence of success, and the relative impotence of the Taliban as portending disaster.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


FedEx argues that losing a regulatory advantage over a competitor constitutes a "bailout" that America cannot afford.

As for me, I miss the days after 9/11 when the common grievance could be extrapolated into "terroristic threats" for maximum redress.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

If the shoe fits


On the wall behind the desk of Andrea Jung, the boss of Avon, a beauty company, hangs a plaque labelled “The Evolution of Leadership”. It displays four footprints: that of an ape, then a barefoot man, then a man’s shoe and finally a high-heeled shoe. It is a symbol both of Avon’s self-proclaimed mission to empower women and of Ms Jung’s own high-heeled ascent to the corner office.

Appropriately enough, Ms Jung first saw the plaque hanging in the office of James Preston, the previous boss of Avon, when she was interviewed for a job at the firm in 1993.

Isn't the high-heel both restrictive and appealing to men? In a word, empowering.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Loose change

New York Times:

We were encouraged when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on China this week to confront its past.

Personally, I was encouraged when I called on my bank account this week to confront its past. And yet, no progress has been made in the balance.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Pillow talk

New York Times:

“The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends,” Mr. Bush said, to applause. “It is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them.”

In the seven more years that he would govern the United States, Mr. Bush would often repeat those words, or ones similar. So too would his advisers. And yet, America’s relationship with Muslims continued to deteriorate.

This takes me back to my post-collegiate days, when I would bring home a little more than $100 a week from the old parcel plantation. In the endless conflict between rent and food I would repeat the words, "I don't have to eat," or ones similar. And yet, my relationship with consciousness continued to deteriorate.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Anatomy of a speech

The thing about speeches is that they sound differently when you are in a refugee camp vs. when you are updating your status on Facebag.

I've heard a similar distortion can occur when you are unwittingly transformed into many separate pieces on behalf of the person speaking.
Subjects, naturally. But subjective?

New York Times:

[T]he idea that women may inherently view the law differently on occasion is something that troubles even several female judges who believe it may be so.

You have to admit it's troubling to think that women judges might "see things differently" than an all-scrotal SCOTUS, especially if you are the far-left, liberal New York Times.

I mean, this is the kind of thing that could have implications and shit, you know, for "society."

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A woman's work is never done

Wall Street Journal:

As the downturn persists, U.S. employers flooded with resumes increasingly insist that job hunters jump through unusual hoops. An investment bank ordered an experienced female marketer to come dressed in fancy evening wear suitable for entertaining wealthy clients.

This reminds me of my theory that the task of the "restaurant hostess" isn't so much to chart a course to table from door as it is to announce the sexual preference of the restaurant owner as patrons arrive. And this is supposed to be a step up from waiting tables. Jobs kill me when you think about them.
The sins of Sotomayor

If you take Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court and contrast it with Barack Obama's ascension to the White House, what you see is an openness to people of color insofar as they play "post-racial" -- which means they attach only as much significance to race as white preference will bear, thus ensuring "consensus."

Barack Obama did this in spades, which is one reason why he is so widely admired, ushering in the "post-racial era," and so on. Finally: a capable black leader who lets white people set the pace on race, rather than pushing them to catch up with reality; may he set the precedent for all who follow!

To the extent that Sotomayor departs from this standard (not only does she confess to being influenced, even graced, by her non-white background; she's being appointed for life!) she is called a "reverse racist" or a "racialist": in short, she acknowledges the significance of race (and gender) in a way that certain, self-appointed white gatekeepers do not. In some corners of the political class, this has made her a very controversial figure.

Fortunately for the country, these corners are diminishing rapidly, with most of the population solidly behind Obama's pick. Still, the old guard dies hard; they propagate their arguments through ownership structures (radio, TV, and the internet) that can make the "debate" seem much more national than it really is.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Enjoy the silence

Democracy Now!:
AMY GOODMAN: That question of Barack Obama being handed, by President Hugo Chavez, Open Veins of Latin America, your classic work, what you would like him to learn from this book, President Obama?

EDUARDO GALEANO: No, I don’t want to teach anybody anything. Never. I even insisted last evening, when I was talking in that theater—

AMY GOODMAN: At the Ethical Culture Society.

EDUARDO GALEANO: Yes—the fact that I would be glad if Obama and all the USA progressive governors or people here begin to change the word—the word “leadership” by the word “friendship,” because leadership implies the resistance in someone over, above the other ones. And in the real human relationships, the real ones are horizontal, horizontal, not vertical; solidarity instead of charity; and no borders and no classes to receive from anyone, because the Northern world acts as if God would made them the teachers of the South, and they are taking examination all the time. To Venezuela, for instance, is it really democratic country? We’ll decide, because we are the teachers on democracy.

And paradoxically, the teachers on democracy are the factories of military dictatorships. I mean, the United States, and not only the United States, also some European countries, have spread military dictatorships all over the world. And they feel as if they are able to teach democracy.

So I don’t want to teach anything to anybody. I just want to tell stories deserve to be told. That’s all.
Galeano goes on to say that "when words cannot be better than silence, it’s better to shut up." There is certainly something not to be said for that.