Saturday, December 16, 2006

seems like the only possible explanation 

Overheard on the 6 train toward Bleeker:

Chick #1: Yeah, Lovely Bones is my favorite book. Totally. What's yours?

Chick #2: Oh, this book called On the Road. It's by this guy, Jack Kerouac.

Chick #1: Yeah? What's it about?

Chick #2: It's about this beat stuff. 'Cause the guy -- he was, ya know, beat.

Chick #1: Beat?

Chick #2: Yeah, like, him and Allen Ginsberg wrote stuff and hitchhiked and dropped out of Columbia.

Chick #1: Oh my god. Why would you ever drop out of Columbia? Must have sucked to be them.

Chick #2: Yeah, I dunno. I guess they were, like, broke.

from Overheard in New York

Friday, December 15, 2006

get informed 

The January Harper's has two really excellent pieces that are worth checking out if you have time. I'd link to them, but the Harper's website is useless.

The first is by David Graeber, one of the more interesting Left thinkers today, called Army of Altruists: On the alienated right to do good. He'll tell you why America is actually a nation of frustrated altruists and why that has made them vote Republican (until recently). Finally! The secret at last!

The second is a new National Intelligence Estimate on the United States by Chalmers Johnson. In laying out our current choice between Republic or Empire, Johnson neatly outlines the ravages of Military Keynesianism on our politics and how it shapes the choices we've got to make at the moment. His thesis is essentially an updated version of sections of Chomsky's famous Poetry Center Lecture from 1970, Government in the Future.

Also, it was surprising to see that BBC's excellent show In Our Time did a recent episode on the subject of Anarchism which was unually fair and informative by mass-media standards. In Our Time is one of those freakish media anomalies in which people who actually know what they are talking about and know something worth knowing are asked questions about what they think. It's pretty hard to imagine. You really have to actually listen to it yourself to get the full effect.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Tim Johnson has AVM, which is (if I remember correctly) the exact same condition suffered by Nate Fisher in Six Feet Under. (Sex, "narm," coma, revival, death.)


Johnson will recover, but if he doesn't, and the Republicans attempt a Senate coup by replacing him with a S.D. Republican, there must be a peaceful, massive direct action to shut down the Senate until the coup is reversed.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

it's over 

I just wanted to respond to speakingcorpse's comments in the post below:

Of course it's not as simple as just "getting out", but we're simply going to have to face the fact that we've strengthened Iran's position and lost control of Iraq. We can only influence events at the margins.

In order to do that we're going to have to think carefully about what that means for the global economy. It's not at all clear that the planet will go into economic death-spiral just because Iran becomes the regional hegemon. Simply asserting that there will be such a catastrophe, however, stalls thinking about the post-occupation scenario because it implicitly argues for continued occupation.

There are, and always have been, only two option for the US in Iraq: We can stabilize the country or get out.

In order to stabilize the country at this point we're going to have to kill and terrorize a lot of people. Orders of magnitude more than we are currently. Genocidally more. This would compound an already historic atrocity and maximize a strategic blunder.

So we have to get out. Which means that in order to keep the chaos contained and minimal we're going to have to negotiate with Syria and Iran. Which means that EVERYTHING is on the table: full diplomatic relations, oil markets and supply, nukes, Golan, Lebanon, Palestine, everything. To negotiate is to compromise. We will necessarily lose our maximal position. This must be accepted. If we are smart, and agile, we can negotiate in such a way as to strengthen the more moderate factions in Iran and weaken Ahmadenijad. Negotiating at all necessarily weakens Ahmadenijad since his legitimacy is driven by antagonising external enemies to create internal polarization. Offering full diplomatic relations, up-front unconditionally, would call his bluff, unite his enemies, and delegitimize him internationally if he refused.

It will of course be said that doing this would make the Iranians think that they've won. The simple fact is that they have already won. We can, however, have some influence on which Iranians win and how much they win.

Getting out also means launching, funding, and garnering support for a massive humanitarian aid project to deal with the refugee crisis and pay reparations to whatever polity eventually emerges in Iraq.

Finally, it means impeaching Bush and Cheney. If they were to be removed from office, it would be a tremendous step toward de-escalation and immeasurably improve our bargaining position internationally.

If we care at all about not committing more mass-murder and definitively becoming the greatest terror-state on the planet, if we care at all about being human beings and not monsters, and if we care at all about anyone else besides ourselves, we are going to have to accept defeat in Iraq and the consequent diminution of the US global strategic position. There is no way around this.

The Bush Administration has destroyed the Empire. It's over. The US will lose its hegemon status whatever happens. There is no good outcome for the United States from the point of view of Great Power politics. The best thing we can do is minimize the loss of life and go out to pasture with some shred of our society and our humanity left, avoiding total collapse. It's over.

American elites need to start thinking about how to transition the US into the post-American world, much the same way British planners did after the First and Second World Wars. The Iraq war has demonstrated definitively the decline of American power. American elites must accept this and wake up from their fantasy of omnipotence. If they do not, it will fall to us to get rid of them in order to survive in a free society.

It is not enough to note that the Iraq debate remains infantile and paralyzed, it is imperative to look to the cause: the people in power are resisting mightily the inevitable diminution of their power. Because it is inevitable, their only recourse is flight into delusion and thus the infantilization and paralysis.

Bush and the Lotus Eaters of the Right lose themselves abandoning all remaining vestiges of mature humanity in the grotesque shapes of power and the possibility of success which they discern in their opium cloud. The Democrats do likewise by merely advocating withdrawal that they know will not happen with Bush in office and remaining silent on a comprehensive strategy that they imagine will be unpopular with the public and which they know will be unpopular with centers of private power and the Israeli government. They've removed the possibility of achieving their stated aims and are left to narcotize themselves on their own vaporous hypocrisy and self-righteousness.

They must grow up. We all know they will not. Where they are not ideologically hidebound, stupid and venal, they are craven cowards or hobbled by their rivals and institutions.

The burden falls to us.


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