Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Republicans are Running Scared?

Of their TeaBagger Brownshirts and their Leader, La Palin?

I don't think so. Not even close. TeaBagging has been the most effective tool the Republicans have used to revive their dying hopes of electoral relevance after the disastrous eight years of the Bush/Cheney Regime.

TeaBagging has done its work by using that tried and true Bush/Cheney tactic of Doubling Down against resistance. It works surprisingly well. So well, in fact, it's a wonder the Democrats don't try it now and then just for shits and giggles.

When Herself goes out on the hustings, the ravening TeaBagging mobs can't get enough of her.

The most telling thing about it all is that TeaBag candidates beat less radicalized candidates all the time (though not always), and the more "radical" the candidates seem to be, the more they are admired and appreciated, even if they don't win.

They move the discussion.

That is something Democrats and the so-called Progressive Movement simply haven't been able to do more than once in a very great while. It's been the critical failing of the Democrats and the so-called Progressive Movement all along. Seemingly forever, now, the erstwhile "Left" in America has been doing little but reacting to whatever OUTRAGE!!!!™ the Rightists wish to commit at any given time. There are always so many OUTRAGES!!!!!™ the Left doesn't have time, and doesn't have much of an inclination in any case, to move the discussion in the other direction.

Not only that, but the so-called Progressive Movement can't choose candidates appropriately and can't get them elected in critical cases. Holy Joe Lieberman is still in the Senate; Bought-and-Paid For Blanche Lincoln will be there until she is defeated by the Republican candidate in the fall. But her "Progressive" primary rival would have been just as defeated in the fall if he'd won the primary anyway.

This is an absurd situation given the fact that Americans are not for the most part the radicalized Rightists that the TeaBaggers are, and they are politically more inclined to the more Liberal wings of the Democratic Party.

But the Democrats simply can't routinely mount or voice the kind of exciting brawling campaign the Rs have become experts at, and they don't even want to mobilize activists, let alone radicalize them. Consequently, we get the "Enthusiasm Gap".

The notion that the Republican Establishment is running scared of their own creation is a comforting one. It fits right in with the iconic Frankenstein storyline. But so far, this "fear" looks more like a strategic move to put the Dems off-guard.

No, I think the Rs rather like the success of their little operation, and they're not about to run scared. If it ever comes to that, they'll simply crush the TeaBaggers and toss them in the trash.

It's happened before.

Monday, September 13, 2010

September Memories

I was in Seattle on September 11, 2001. I'd arrived the night before, and I was staying at a hotel next to the old public library that was under demolition. In the morning, I'd be conducting a training for new federal employees for the agency I was working for.

I woke up at 6:00am to the persistent sound of sirens outside; it sounded like a major emergency of some sort. I looked out the window and saw the partially demolished remains of the public library. There were some flashing lights somewhere in the distance, but I couldn't see where. Something was going on, but I had no idea what.

I turned on the teevee. I believe it was CBS news (with Dan Rather) was showing the World Trade Center tower on fire. They didn't know just what had happened or how, but it was thought that a small plane had collided with the building. Rescue efforts were under way. I flipped through the channels, and all the news shows were showing the same thing, from slightly different angles, but essentially the same. Much chatter about it, but no real news.

I did my morning routine, then went back to look at the teevee; I saw a plane headed toward the other tower and then a huge explosion out the side of the building. The astonishment I felt was mirrored by the newscaster, another "small plane?"

This couldn't be happening.

At that point, I did not think it was real. Call it basic denial, but what I was seeing struck me as some kind of staged spectacle -- which, if the stories be true, it was.

The report came in that the Pentagon had been hit by a plane or a missile. "We're under attack!"

The South Tower commenced to collapse. It was inconceivable.

I called the office -- located on an upper floor of one of Seattle's tallest buildings -- shortly after 7:00am when employees should be shuffling in to start their day. The person who answered the phone was someone I'd known for a long time, and she was in shock. She said she was almost the only one there, and she was terrified. "What if they hit here?"


"The people who did this."

She said that as far as she knew, everyone was called in to work normally, and she was frightened, terribly, for them and for her, and she asked me if I felt it was OK to go ahead with planned activities today. I asked her if they had heard anything from Washington.

She said not yet, she just got there. But she thought the Assistant Director should be arriving soon, and there would probably be a general message of some sort. She asked whether I was coming in (I was staying only a few blocks from the office.) I said yes, I'd be there about 7:30. She said, "Be safe." I said, "You too."

I continued to watch dumbfounded as the level of reporting deteriorated and hysteria increased. A huge cloud of gray dust covered lower Manhattan and out into the Hudson while the other tower continued to burn. There were reports of car-bomb explosions all over Washington.

I headed to the office.

When I got upstairs and into the secure area, most of the employees were gathered in a small auditorium watching television. The other tower had collapsed while I was on my way to the office. The level of shock was unimaginable.

There had been no word from Washington, but we were told that the Regional Director was on the phone with headquarters and we would receive word shortly. There were sporadic reports on the teevee about Bush and his activities in Florida and then getting on AF-1 and going... where?

Flights were being cancelled, then word came that all planes were grounded indefinitely. The Assistant Director told us that Washington was giving us the option of continuing with our schedule or going home today.

Probably half opted for home. The rest, including me, stayed. I couldn't exactly get home, as it were, since all flights were grounded. So I decided to go ahead with the training that was scheduled. It was a chore. But the trainees (who were also mostly from out of town and could not get home either) said they were grateful to have something to take their minds off... events.

We did a half-day training the first day. I let the trainees go watch teevee or make phone calls or whatever they felt they needed to do. We'd just take it one day at a time.

Meanwhile, I was trying to figure out if I could rent a car and drive home. Sure enough, Alamo had a special deal for Federal employees: one way rental at a reduced price and no drop off fee. I reserved a car for Saturday pick up, and another fellow who needed to be with his family in California and I decided to share driving on the two-day trek.

I was really in a daze most of the rest of the time I was in Seattle, and though I was a real chatterbox on the drive back to CA (unusual for me), I have no recollection of topics and only vague recollections of scenery. When I got home, it was with relief, to be sure, but that's when the shock really settled in.

My strongest impression then and now was that "this is not real."

But of course, it was -- in its own, horrible, way.

What really happened that horrible day is still not entirely known or understood. But the process of transforming our government and nation got underway in earnest almost immediately.

And we aren't going back to the way things used to be.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Your Wages Are Still Too High

I've been working on a post regarding why the economic "recovery" hasn't occurred, focusing on the fact that the Way Things Are is Policy and that Changes Underway are Strategic and Structural.

Well, Meteor Blades over at dKos has beat me to the punch. Perhaps he's not as distracted as I have been lately. Whatever the case, his post touches on, but doesn't really get into the fact that a great deal of deliberation has obviously gone into the ongoing unemployment crisis.

After all, if there had been any real jobs programs implemented years ago -- or even months ago -- the army of unemployed would have been reduced, conceivably even eliminated. But no. There were no jobs programs at the outset of this Endless Recession and there are none now.

The reason? Simple. American wages are "too high."

Many working Americans have already taken huge pay cuts -- 10%, 15%, 25% is routine if you want to keep your job; 50% pay cut is not unusual any more. But as President Obama has said many times, he wants American companies to be able to compete globally "on a level playing field." He never quite says what he means by that -- though it is widely interpreted to mean raising global standards to American ones. But I submit that's not what he means at all; what he means -- which should be obvious from the economic policies out of the White House -- is that he intends to reduce American standards (wage standards at the very least) to global standards.

50% pay cut apparently isn't enough.

I don't know what would be enough. Since wages in China, India, and even Vietnam are rising, perhaps there is a Global Median that could be reached, let's say $10-15 a day for an average American worker, about the same as in Russia today.

As the AEI flack cited by MB proposes, with an "appropriate" wage scale, American employers would be hiring again, but damn if there aren't all these impediments, like minimum wage laws and overtime and other nuisances that get in the way.

No, the Market Must Rule.

And that means you are being paid too much. Give it up. Now.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Heh. Well, good.

Tony Blair pelted with eggs and shoes at book signing

Former prime minister attacked by anti-war protesters in Dublin as he promotes memoirs

That's the way it should be.

There is no excuse for this man being able to swan around creation pretending to be a man of Goodness, Charity, and Faith when he is as bloodthirsty as any creature who walks.

Read the whole article. It's delicious.

Éirinn go brách!


So I open today's paper, and what do I see but the latest "We're working on it, really!" trial balloon from our rulers with regard to the, erm, unemployment problem we've been having now for years.

Having apparently discovered that telling the masses over and over again that "it could be worse" doesn't cut it, they've figured out they have to do something. And being the clever dicks they are they've apparently seized upon Robert Reich's "payroll tax holiday" idea and are floating it around before Labor Day to see who looks up.

Except... what the fuck do they think they are doing by suggesting that such a payroll tax holiday -- if there were to be one -- would only apply to employers, not employees?

They are seriously deranged if they think that either this will win them any votes or that it will do fuck-all for employment or the economy.

It is inconceivable.

Worse than Hoover. Truly.

At this point, all the Rs have to do is throw any kind of bone to the ravening masses -- the masses that Congress and the White House has been ignoring for years as they continue to suck up to the MOTU -- and the Rs win.

Which many people have speculated is the outcome desired by the Administration, but I don't know.

This latest proposal is just crazy.

Of course they will deny there was any such proposal, claim that "everything is on the table," and that "no decisions have been made yet," yadda, yadda, the way they always do, and then do what they intended all along, which is essentially somewhat less than Hoover would.

One assumes they know how this will play among the People.

Not well.

So. We'll watch them circle the drain.

I for one don't like what I see.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nationalism vs Tribalism vis-à-vis Iraq

I've taken some commentators apart over their ignorant and arrogant misuse of "tribalism" to describe what is really Nationalism. It's a fairly easy task given that one of the justifications they use for their mischaracterization of tribalism is George Orwell's "Notes on Nationalism." Orwell doesn't mention "tribalism" but he describes Nationalism in starkly specific detail, pointing out that many, many "isms" of the modern era are all versions of Nationalism. That is apparently a difficult concept for some folks to grasp. They seem to need to believe that nationalism and tribalism are the same thing. They're not.

The difference is that of scale, most obviously. But there is also the difference between "mindlessness" and "mindfulness." Tribalists are for the most part "mindful" of their loyalties and their sense of place and purpose. It's really quite remarkable. Nationalists, on the other hand, are deliberately made "mindless." De-tribalization is a necessary step in the process of creating a Nationalist enterprise because it is necessary to replace the mindfulness of the tribe with the mindlessness of the Nation.

I'm reminded of all this again because of the hooey over the "End of Combat Operations" in Iraq, once again, supposedly, solidifying the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iraq as an Independent Nation.

Well. Hold on. This "sovereignty" thing has been something of a bête noire with regards to Iraq throughout the last 20 years or so, since the end of Combat Operations in the first Gulf War. Shortly thereafter, Northern Iraqi Kurdistan was calved off as an Autonomous Region under an American protectorate. A "no fly zone" was established over the southern and largely Shia part of Iraq which was lethally enforced by American military might. At that point, Iraq as a "sovereign nation" ceased to exist in any sensible form.

But then, as a Nation, Iraq was created by Winston Churchill drawing some lines on a map of Mesopotamia in the British Colonial Office after WWI and the break up of the Ottoman Empire.

Mesopotamia was never a Nation. It is not in any viable sense a Nation now. There is no national government to speak of, and despite all the stresses and strains they have been under during the Saddamist years and under the Occupation, city-states, tribes and tribalism endure as the fundamental units of society and such governance as there is.

This is not necessarily a bad thing.

Much as Tito in Yugoslavia tried to form a Nation out of the disparate afterthoughts of Ottoman and Austrian Empires in Europe, Saddam tried to make Iraq into a Nation in Mesopotamia. Both temporarily succeeded, ultimately failed. Such failure was almost foregone.

In the Former Yugoslavia, after an intense period of domestic upheaval and civil war -- and international intervention -- a series of independent states were established based on essentially ethnic and to some extent tribal lines. Czechoslovakia was broken up, too. The smaller states that have taken the place of these former Nations are more comprehensible and appropriate to the will and interests of their citizens, whereas the more or less artificial amalgamations of ethnic, religious, and tribal affiliations that had been assembled into Nation-States by the Great Powers after World Wars I & II never really made any local sense.

So it is in Iraq.

It seems that Iraq has been trying to come apart into its constituent parts since the invasion, but the occupiers, not knowing what to do, fought shadows and demons, while the peoples of Iraq attempted to sort out a future for themselves -- and were thwarted at every turn.

Autonomous Kurdistan was the exception to the rule of constant interference with and destruction of everything the Iraqis tried to do to govern themselves. They were trying to do it almost from the moment Saddam was overthrown, and every step they took toward their own forms of self-government was thwarted, often quite brutally.

They were to submit, first, to the occupation forces, subsequently to the puppet regime installed by the occupiers, thence, they were to be subjected to a "managed democracy" that had some of the forms of democratic institutions but was in essence a sham.

What the Iraqis have been saying to the occupiers is that they are capable of governing themselves. They've been doing it for thousands of years, even under the many harsh (and/or benign) occupations of the past. They don't have to have a strong central government, they don't even need the trappings of Nationalism. Tribal structure is still very strong. And from their tribal base, Iraqis can assemble a functioning self-government. They know how to do it.

If only they were left alone.

The struggle comes when one group tries to oppress another or steal their means of living or survival.

Some months back, most of the ministries in Baghdad were blown up -- apparently by the Insurgency (that amorphous assembly of resisters.) More than likely the deed was done -- as so many similar instances in Baghdad and elsewhere have been done -- by Sunni resisters who hold a grudge and a grievance against the ruling Shia majority. The Sunnis largely stopped their resistance during the relatively brief period of the so-called Surge when they were being paid by the Americans not to fight. When those payments stopped, the resistance resumed with great violence and bloodshed.

What seems clear is that the Sunni Arabs are intent on making Iraq ungovernable -- unless their demands are met. They were the ruling minority under Saddam, and before that under the British and before that under the Ottomans. They seem willing to give up rule so long as they receive fair compensation on negotiated terms. Which the ruling Shia majority won't countenance. In fact, the ministries were blown up soon after the so-called Government in Baghdad decided not to resume payments to the Sunnis. It was obvious the one led to the other.

This whole No-Negotiation regime was part and parcel of the early stages of the occupation, and it was soon obvious where that path was leading. It was years into the occupation before it dawned on the real rulers of Iraq -- the military -- that it was a simple matter to stop the insurgency, something they might have realized the day they took over the Republican Palace.

But their neo-con ideology, utopianism, and deep contempt for "Sand Niggers" forbade it.

Tribalism is actually the solution to the Nationalist problem in Iraq.

But how many more years must go by before that is figured out?