Weekend, March 1, 2008
Puzzling Reflections on Buckley -- After the recent death of William Buckley, who founded the National Review in 1955 and is widely credited with pulling together the disparate elements of conservatives and founding a movement that produced Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, enigmatic questions hover. In an interview with David Gergen in 2004 on The Lehrer News Hour, William Buckley said, "My conservative position is ultimately based on my conviction that the individual is supreme, that you can't mess with the individual. In this sense, I think Jesse -- Martin Luther King said really the same thing."
Perhaps it is just the essential yin/yang character of nature and the universe, but while Buckley proclaims the supremacy of the individualism, the conservatism that we are left with today has distinctly drifted toward corporatism, which is severely anti-individual. As Chomsky and others have pointed out, the development of corporations can coherently be drawn back to Hegelian ideas about organic institutions that are seen as greater than the individual. These were the same ideas that gave rise to fascism and Soviet communism.
The affinity of fascism and communism in their totalitarian authoritarianism is not hard to see, though it is ignored when theoreticians place them on opposite ends of the political spectrum as "extreme left" and "extreme right". How one moves left on the spectrum and ends up on the right has always been puzzling to schoolchildren, but perhaps it is one of the early steps in miseducation with the purpose of obliterating the critical functions of children before they have a chance to develop mental defense systems.
In any case, all three share this lineage and this affinity with large institutions that dominate over individuals. In fact, Mussolini did not distinguish between fascism and corporatism, said they were the same thing, and we should also recognize the identity. So again, it is very odd that an ideology, modern American conservatism, would start on a premise of the individual as supreme and end up with corporatism, in which the individual is trampled to the ground by the corporate elite as we see today, or by the Supreme Soviet as we saw in Stalin's day.
If we are to size up Buckley by his belief in the individual, then I am a fan and I will call myself a conservative. If we are to take him at his word that the source of his belief was Christianity, pointing out his affinity with Martin Luther King, for whom, "Christianity as the source of his feeling that man should be free," then I am again sympathatic to his beliefs. I am sympathetic not in that I am a fan of Christianity in terms the kinds of behavior it has produced, but in terms of the essential spirit that inspired it. As Lenny Bruce said, "If you call yourself a Christian, then I love you because I know you will try to relate to the world in the way that Jesus did." That rarely seems to be the case with today's so-called Christians, at least not the one's whose names and faces often appear in public places.
So what happened? How does a religion based on love, kindness, tolerance turn into such a hateful intolerant way of life? And how does an ideology based on the primacy of the individual, the limitation of the powers of government and frugality in economics turn into precisely its opposite as we see in the Bush-Cheney rogue administration? Buckley did not definitively comment on these contradictions as far as I know up until his death a few weeks ago, but it is interesting that he was proclaiming an affinity with Martin Luther King in his last book. He said he regretted in hindsight that conservatism had not supported the civil rights movement.
He also lived to call down the Bush administration, which he said would be judged by the failure of the Iraq war (See Truthdig). But he went along with the motivation for the war and claimed to believe that Cheney was "misled" by faulty intelligence rather than the reverse, that Cheney forced the intelligence agencies to produce the reports he wanted to justify his agenda, which is proven by the record.
Buckley's Christian assertions notwithstanding, however, he is seen in a 1970s clip from his TV show "Frontline" (included in the movie Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media) telling Chomsky, "I'll smash your fucking face," which was hardly a Christian sentiment and made Chomsky, a Jew, look clearly more Christian in contrast.
March 1, 2008Fear Itself -- Guy Lawson in Rolling Stone writes on "The Fear Factory" and gives specific instances of how the government is manufacturing terrorism threats.
Fading Sunset Media -- According to a Zogby study, "Two thirds of Americans - 67% - believe traditional journalism is out of touch with what Americans want from their news." This is quite amazing, as you look further into these numbers, especially considering the widely held presumption that the traditional corporate media are the legitimate news outlets. Apparently they themselves are about the only people left who think that. A majority of the public no longer does. According to Zogby, "While most Americans (70%) think journalism is important to the quality of life in their communities, two thirds (64%) are dissatisfied with the quality of journalism in their communities. Meanwhile, the online survey documented the shift away from traditional sources of news, such as newspapers and TV, to the Internet - most dramatically among so-called digital natives - people under 30 years old. Nearly half of respondents (48%) said their primary source of news and information is the Internet, an increase from 40% who said the same a year ago. Younger adults were most likely to name the Internet as their top source - 55% of those age 18 to 29 say they get most of their news and information online, compared to 35% of those age 65 and older. These oldest adults are the only age group to favor a primary news source other than the Internet, with 38% of these seniors who said they get most of their news from television. Overall, 29% said television is their main source of news, while fewer said they turn to radio (11%) and newspapers (10%) for most of their news and information. Just 7% of those age 18 to 29 said they get most of their news from newspapers, while more than twice as many (17%) of those age 65 and older list newspapers as their top source of news and information. Web sites are regarded as a more important source of news and information than traditional media outlets - 86% of Americans said Web sites were an important source of news, with more than half (56%) who view these sites as very important. Most also view television (77%), radio (74%), and newspapers (70%) as important sources of news, although fewer than say the same about blogs (38%)."
March 2, 2008Bush was a portrait of seething anger during his press conference on February 28. He is one extremely angry individual. And considering he holds more power than anyone in the history of the world, that's scary. It's fascinating to see the world from his point of view. "You can't expect these phone companies to participate if they think they're going to get sued," he explains with dramatic, exasperated condescension as if his audience is made up of idiots. But yes, that's the point. They should feel accountable for breaking the laws, even if Big Brother Bush is asking them to do it. Americans don't want the government spying on them. Hearing Bush talk about it, it's all about "foreigners"
"It's in our national interest because we want to know who's calling who, from overseas, into America, we need to know, in order to protect the people," he explains, slapping his hand repeatedly on the podium in rhythm with the cadence of his speech. Now these "class action plaintiffs attorneys... see a financial gravy train ..." hence the lawsuits. "I guess you could be relaxed about all this," he says, obviously irate nearly to the point of throwing his shoe, "if you didn't think there was a true threat to the country. I know there's a threat to the country. And the American people expect our Congress to give the professionals the tools they need to listen to foreigners who may be calling into the United States with information that could cause us great harm ... I just can't tell you how important it is not to alienate these phone companies. How can you listen to the enemy if the phone companies aren't going to participate with you?" It's all so simple to Bush. Take a look at this horrifying video of a raging man at YouTube.
Justice Bush Style -- Paul Craig Roberts, a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury under Reagan and former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, writes in Counterpunch, "Don Siegelman, a popular Democratic governor of Alabama, a Republican state, was framed in a crooked trial, convicted on June 29, 2006, and sent to Federal prison by the corrupt and immoral Bush administration. The frame-up of Siegelman and businessman Richard Scrushy is so crystal clear and blatant that 52 former state attorney generals from across America, both Republicans and Democrats, have urged the US Congress to investigate the Bush administration's use of the US Department of Justice to rid themselves of a Democratic governor who 'they could not beat fair and square,' according to Grant Woods, former Republican Attorney General of Arizona and co-chair of the McCain for President leadership committee. Woods says that he has never seen a case with so 'many red flags pointing to injustice.'" Read on.
Distortions -- A story on AOL credited to the New York Times Science section is titled "Climate Skeptics Rejoice." The idea is that because it is so cold this winter, that it disproves the global warming theories. It's a fundamental misunderstanding of the theory to make the statement. The theory is that there is a rise of the global mean temperature, the average, not a uniform rising of the temperature at all times and all places, but a disruption of climate patterns. Abnormally cold weather is part of it just as abnormally hot weather is. This cold snap is not going to change the upward trend of the average. But freak weather like the recent tornadoes in February in Tennessee are evidence of the disruption of climate patterns. Oh God if it were only a nice steady little increase in temperature the world over! That would be fine. I heard someone on the radio recently say that it would be a benefit to New York because making it a little warmer would be great. I don't know if he's spent much time in New York in August, but that's not what global warming is about. It's about hurricanes like Katrina, more destructive than anything seen in the past, and tornadoes in February when they never used to come till summer. It's about coastal areas returning into the sea because the sea level is rising with the melting of the icecaps. It's about the slowing of the Gulf Stream that keeps Great Britain warm even though its as far north as Newfoundland. These are not speculation, these things are already happening. Whose interest is it in to keep the public clueless as to the threat of global warming? Who profits from procrastinating in the mobilization for alternative energy? Who pays millions to hire a few corrupt "experts" who will claim that the rest of the scientific community is wrong about what is happening? The oil industry. Who runs the U.S. government? More Distortions -- John McCain is great! Great at misframing events so that their real meaning is incomprehensible. Today he was seen on TV castigating the Democratic candidates for saying that they would "unilaterally abrogate the free trade agreements we have with Canada." McCain frames all this around the war, of course, his obsession and that of the war industry. Our allies haven't been as supportive of this war in Iraq as we'd like them to be, he says. But Canada has been helping us. And now my opponents are saying they will turn their backs on the solemn agreement we've made with Canada. Well I'm here to tell the Canadian people that we are not going to back out of our solemn agreements... and blah blah blah. It's not the Canadian people who want NAFTA or who benefit from it, any more than it is the Mexican people, who are even worse off than before, or the American people who have clearly been hurt by it. Even its big supporters and advocates, like Bill Clinton, admit that. They chalk it up to "an adjustment period." But the dirty secret is that it isn't the people in any country who benefit from these so-called free trade agreements, it is the multinational corporations, who have no allegiance to any country and couldn't care less about the welfare of the people in any of them. They have done beautifully because the free trade agreements give them power in many ways to override the governments of the countries involved. These agreements like NAFTA are licenses to rape for the major corporations, ways to undercut the power of the local governments to protect their own people. It's corporations versus people, not Americans versus Canadians or Mexicans. Again, ask yourself, who do McCain's lies benefit? GE Employee Tim Russert -- According to MediaMatters.org, "During this week's Democratic presidential debate, Russert didn't ask a single question about global warming, continuing his longstanding habit of all but ignoring the topic. He didn't ask a single question about the mortgage crisis. (As one Cleveland resident noted, 'We've got the mortgage industry's toxic waste scattered all over this city, but Mr. Blue-Collar-Buffalo-and-Cleveland-Marshall-Guy Russert couldn't be bothered with a question about it.') He didn't ask a single question about executive power, the Constitution, torture, wiretapping, or other civil-liberties concerns. But that shouldn't come as a surprise; of all the questions he has asked while moderating presidential debates during this campaign, only one has dealt with any of those topics. He has, however, asked Dennis Kucinich what he felt compelled to insist was a 'serious question' -- whether Kucinich has seen a UFO. And he has asked about John Edwards' expensive haircut." McCain's Makeover -- Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi wrote an insightful and entertaining profile of McCain's resurrection. "He's survived because Onward to Victory is the last great illusion the Republican Party has left to sell in this country, even to its own followers. They can't sell fiscal responsibility, they can't sell 'values,' they can't sell competence, they can't sell small government, they can't even sell the economy. All they have left to offer is this sad, dwindling, knee-jerk patriotism, a promise to keep selling world politics as a McHale's Navy rerun to a Middle America that wants nothing to do with realizing the world has changed since 1946."
March 3, 2008It's the War, Stupid -- I remember back when all the senators were falling in line behind Bush and giving him everything he wanted, including the Patriot Act and eventually the invasion of Iraq. I remember being very pissed off at people like Hillary Clinton for supporting it, but feeling completely impotent to do anything while this catastrophe was being launched. In my opinion it was already a catastrophe even if it had gone like they said it was going to go. Even if "major combat operations are over" was really true. It was still a flagrantly wrong and illegal violent attack on another country for no justified reason and many people died who did nothing to deserve it. Even if Bush's lousy mission really had been accomplished as he crowed that it was, it was still a crime of mass murder at the very least. It was the shame of the United States, the breaking of the moral authority of the country, to whatever extent it then existed. But as it worked out, not only was it a megacrime in the first place, the arrogant fools completely botched what they were trying to do, and it was a complete failure, except to the extent that Halliburton; KBR, Bechtel and hundreds of lesser hustlers are making a killing off it. Now barely any of the population in America support it, it's become a relentless drain on the morale and resources of the country. And ultimately, I believe it is the one element that unequivocably prevented Hillary Clinton from sealing up the nomination. It's her weak spot. No matter what she says about experience, Obama can always point to the fact that her experience was of no value in helping to avert that catastrophe, to even register one's disapproval for the record, as Obama did. As even Chris Matthews did, oddly enough. So though I ultimately believe she would probably be a very good president about now, I also believe that if her vote to support the Iraq invasion, as the leading issue in a host of similar sellouts, is what is breaking her aspiration to be president, it is just. It was a very big mistake and the catastrophe is still in progress. Even if it were over it would take a generation to undo the damage economically and morally. The war against Iraq is sucking billions out of our economy every week. And there's not even an end in sight now. Nearly 4,000 American servicemen have died, but in addition over 90,000 have been injured, maimed, mentally shattered. The damage is incalculable. Americans are deeply sick of it, just fed up. Bush's approval rating was 19 the other day. Estimates of the number of Iraqis who have died in the mess created by America is in six figures or even more. It's a huge mistake and she was one of many made it, and now it's destroying her campaign. It is a tragedy for her, and for those who have believed in her and what she could do for the country. But the disaster is much less for her than it is for many other people.
Total War -- Now Ecuador and Venezuela are moving troops to their borders with Colombia. When does all this officially qualify as World War III, or IV by now. Seems like the whole world is erupting in war. Reuters
March 5, 2008People Like Obama -- According to a new Fox 5/The Washington Times/Rasmussen Reports poll, nearly as many Republicans — 23 percent — chose Mr. Obama as the most likable candidate as chose McCain -- 24 percent. And among all adults surveyed, Mr. Obama was rated likable by more people than Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mr. McCain combined. Washington Times
Tough Numbers -- According to Jonathan Alter writing for Newsweek, as of Tuesday before the results were in, Hillary Clinton could win every other primary election, 16 of them, by fairly large margins and still come out behind in delegates. Even God can't beat a royal flush with a full house. Public Sacrifice -- Marion Cotillard, winner of Oscar, Bafta, Golden Globe and César awards, has been recently getting skewered by the American mainstream moron media for having spoken on French TV about a year ago about her doubts about American official stories on such things as 9/11. The predictable viciousness with which she was attacked tells more about the attackers than it does of her, but check out the comments to the article on huffingtonpost.com. There are a number of snide little putdowns as you would expect, but there are quite a few rather thoughtful comments as well, showing that the real people of America are not quite as clueless and shallow as the media portrays them.
March 6, 2008Justifiable Means? Christy Hoppe, posting at a blog at Trail Blazers Blog, of the Dallas Morning News, writes that "Hillary Clinton and her campaign is pushing for precinct captains for Texas' 8,000 Democratic polling places. They need to train folks to lead the caucus sessions that will determine more than 60 delegates after the primary voting is over. In training materials being handed out by the Clinton campaign, it is clear that they want to control those caucus sessions. The materials say in part, 'DO NOT allow the supporter of another candidate to serve in leadership roles.'" You can read more about that at burntorangereport.com.
I know the win-at-all-costs mode has become the norm in our society, but when I see it employed with cold determination like this by the Clintons, it strengthens my impression that they are frantically trying to stem the tide of history and it's a losing game. When Bill Clinton was running against George Bush he saw himself as the inevitable wave of historical change. Now Obama is that wave of change. Obama's candidacy has the same sense of historical inevitability. It has become old versus new and Hillary Clinton is on the side of the old. She established that by misjudging the Bush-Cheney plan to invade the Middle East. Hillary Clinton was one of a generation in Congress who were not capable of standing up against the disastrous Bush regime, and they are now being repudiated. The Clintons may make some gains based on their hardball strategy in taking control of caucuses and other kinds of maneuvering, but they will not succeed in stemming the tide of history. Clinton is now in the old school. The ones who enabled the Bush administration. McCain is more than an enabler. He's a rabid war lover, essentially a new face to continue Bush's disastrous, troglodyte foreign policy, to keep feeding the fat cats. It will be old versus new with Obama versus McCain, only in a much more pronounced way. But a Hillary-McCain contest would not be the old versus new, it would be old versus prehistoric. Hillary is on the old side not because of her age, but because of her error on Iraq. She made the wrong decision and in a sense made herself obsolescent in doing so.
During most of the last seven dark years of the Bush II period it has been hard to see anyone on the political horizon could provide the kind of dynamic, principled leadership America really needs. Obama has come forth and sounded a call for change, and the theme has resonated deeply in the American public. The message has caught on powerfully and a large part of the collective unconscious seems to be intently focused on the possiblity of his becoming president. For many Obama seems like the best possible step to dig out of the mire of the Bush years. He personnifies a stark contrast from the Bushies.
Marion Caught Saying a No No -- According to an AFP story, "French actress Marion Cotillard, who picked up an Oscar for best actress in Hollywood last week, has admitted to having doubts about the official version of the September 11 attacks in the US. 'I think we're lied to about a lot of things,' she said during a television programme first broadcast last year which has resurfaced on the Internet. The actress, who picked up the award for playing Edith Piaf in the French film 'La Vie En Rose,' cited the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001 as one example, adding: 'I tend to believe in the conspiracy theory.'"
For having said such a thing and having it caught on a video, she now must mount a defense through her lawyer. Cotillard's lawyer issued a statement that sounded like an updated version of "I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist Party." The lawyer made a typically lawyerly non-denial denial type of statement. According to AFP, "her lawyer, Vincent Toledano, told AFP she had 'never intended to contest nor question the attacks of September 11, 2001, and regrets the way old remarks have been taken out of context.'" The disclaimer taken literally is not actually a denial of anything nor an apology. It says she "never intended to contest nor question the attacks of September 11". What does that mean, "question the attacks"? Question that they happened? How do you question the attacks? Marion was fabulous as Edith Piaf. She's a marvelous actress. She has a mind. She asked questions. Don't get excited.
March 7, 2008Chomsky Unloads -- "Why Isn't Iraq in the 2008 Election?" he asks. "The public is massively against the war, and the Dems are debating over tactics in Iraq..." alternet.org. No one lays it down any more firmly and clearly than Chomsky. His take is on the current sitution is always of great value, always inescapably thorough and definitive in terms of what the government is doing versus what it leads people to believe it's doing. Beneath Chomsky's mild manner is a volcanic fury of outrage, which he justifies meticulously through his research and his argument, and which he channels into passionately driven reasoning. Iraq, he says, is "a land of wreck and ruin. You've already heard a few words; I don't have to review the facts. The highly regarded British polling agency, Oxford Research Bureau, has just updated its estimate of deaths. Their new estimate a couple of days ago is 1.3 million. That's excluding two of the most violent provinces, Karbala and Anbar. On the side, it's kind of intriguing to observe the ferocity of the debate over the actual number of deaths. There's an assumption on the part of the hawks that if we only killed a couple hundred thousand people, it would be OK, so we shouldn't accept the higher estimates."
-- David Cogswell