Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Brief History Of Delegitimization

Sometimes you just can't trust people. And humans are weird because while we really don't like when another group tries to claim they're legitimate when they're totally like not, we usually happen to be oppressing someone while this is happening.

Here's the former president of Iran in his noble defense of the lying Jews:
 PELLEY: Mr. President, you say you love all nations. I have to assume that includes the Nation of Israel.

AHMADINEJAD: Israel is not a nation. Well, we like the people, yes, because they are victims as well. They used to live in their own countries, in their own cities.

Here's the former president of Israel in 1970 setting the record straight:

I’m not saying that there are no Palestinians, but there
is no such thing that can be entitled Palestinian people (Meir, 1970a).

So did Jews make it up? No. It goes back farther than either Meir or Ahmadinejad:

Is it actually true, one may ask, that the Jews have no real fatherland? The short summary of Jewish dispersal does not by itself answer this critical question. We cite Ferdinand Fried’s book The Rise of the Jews [1937] for the answer: “They are not rooted in any land, but they proliferate everywhere, acting as destructive parasitic bacteria in each host people."
Okay so Jews and Palestinians don't have any legitimacy. What about Filipinos? Nope:

[T]here is no people in the Philippines. There are a number of distinct tribes... none really civilized.

What about just democracy in general?

When, therefore, Marcius saw that the senate was in pain and suspense upon his account, divided, as it were, betwixt their kindness for him and their apprehensions from the people, he desired to know of the tribunes what the crimes were they intended to charge him with, and what the heads of the indictment they would oblige him to plead to before the people; and being told by them that he was to be impeached for attempting usurpation, and that they would prove him guilty of designing to establish arbitrary government, stepping forth upon this, "Let me go then," he said, "to clear myself from that imputation before an assembly of them; I freely offer myself to any sort of trial, nor do I refuse any kind of punishment whatsoever; only," he continued, "let what you now mention be really made my accusation, and do not you play false with the senate." On their consenting to these terms, he came to his trial. But when the people met together, the tribunes, contrary to all former practice, extorted first, that votes should be taken, not by centuries, but tribes; a change, by which the indigent and factious rabble, that had no respect for honesty and justice, would be sure to carry it against those who were rich and well known, and accustomed to serve the state in war.

That's all folks. I'd be interested to learn if other parallels exist.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

George Orwell's Observation of Hypocrisy (With 2 Examples, One Less Serious)

I'm no expert on US foreign policy but in some ways I don't have to be. Human nature pretty much stays the same over the years and follows the same rules. George Orwell had an observation about the press coverage of the Spanish Civil War:

I have little direct evidence about the atrocities in the Spanish civil war. I know that some were committed by the Republicans, and far more (they are still continuing) by the Fascists. But what impressed me then, and has impressed me ever since, is that atrocities are believed in or disbelieved in solely on grounds of political predilection. Everyone believes in the atrocities of the enemy and disbelieves in those of his own side, without ever bothering to examine the evidence. Recently I drew up a table of atrocities during the period between 1918 and the present; there was never a year when atrocities were not occurring somewhere or other, and there was hardly a single case when the Left and the Right believed in the same stories simultaneously. And stranger yet, at any moment the situation can suddenly reverse itself and yesterday's proved-to-the-hilt atrocity story can become a ridiculous lie, merely because the political landscape has changed.
So I wasn't surprised to see when I came upon this in an article about whether the US recognizes that Iran is entitled to be enriching uranium, that it went back on its word:

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who is leading the U.S. delegation at the nuclear talks (as long as John Kerry isn't in the room), denied Iran's right to enrich uranium during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month. "It has always been the U.S. position," she told Florida Senator Marco Rubio, "that Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not speak about the right of enrichment at all."

Speaking to reporters in Geneva on November 6, an unnamed "senior administration official" insisted that "the United States does not believe there is an inherent right to enrichment, and we have said that repeatedly to Iran." He added later that "the United States does not believe any country has a right... We believe Iran does not have a right. We don't believe any country has a right."

"They have a right to peaceful nuclear power and to enrichment in that purpose," Kerry said.[...]U.S. Undersecretary for Nuclear Security Thomas D'Agostino said at a press briefing in Vienna. "We believe quite strongly that nations have the right to develop their civil programs for civil purposes," D'Agostino said when asked specifically about Jordan's nascent nuclear program. "We are not trying to tell other nations that you can't have enrichment."

On a lighter note: the same human nature is hilariously at work when looking at what political values -- real or imaginary -- a children's cartoon has. When Spongebob Squarepants supposedly talked they were quick to play the fairness card (which they usually believe is an enemy of free speech whenever the law comes up):

CARLSON: We all know that SpongeBob is popular with the kids and for the life of me I still keep trying to figure out why it is. My kids watch limited TV but every time they chose that show, I'm like, 'Why?' Anyway -- it's hard to even follow sometimes. Anyway now maybe that will be a good thing because SpongeBob is talking a lot about global warming, and he's only looking at it from one point of view.  (Media Matters via  Gawker via Mother Jones)
However, play the right song (he gets fired and is determined to have his job back) Fox News observes that:
“Even SpongeBob SquarePants isn’t safe from corporate down sizing….The harsh economic climate has hit the underwater community … Instead of mooching off social services in Bikini Bottom, SpongeBob sets out to return to the workforce,” Fox News anchor Heather Nauert said during an Oct. 31 broadcast of “Fox and Friends.” (Politico)
Apparantly, there can't be two sides to reality, except when one of them is YOUR side.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Same Bullshit, Different Audience

Reading over Bin Laden's rants, he complains of "Interior Minister Prince Nayif, who, according to Bin Laden:

filled the prisons with the nation's best sons,
bringing tears to the eyes of the mothers whose sons were jailed unfairly. Does the
regime want to pit the public, civilians and military, against one
another as was the case in some neighboring countries? I have no doubt that that is the policy of the Israeli-American enemy alliance, the main beneficiary of all that.
But, thank God, the vast majority of the people, civilians and military, are aware of that
sinister plan and will not allow themselves to be an instrument for strikes against one
another in implementation of the policy of the main enemy, namely the Israeli-American
alliance, through the Saudi regime, its agent in the country.

...there must be concentration on hitting the main enemy who has thrust the nation into
whirlpools and labyrinths for decades since dividing it into states and statelets. Whenever
a reform movement appears in the Islamic states, that Jewish-crusade alliance pushes its
agents in the region, the rulers, to exhaust and abort such a reform movement by various
suitable means, sometimes aborting it by luring it to armed confrontation, for which it
chooses the time and place and through which it would nip it in the bud.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Double-checking A Problem From Hell

The book "Manufacturing Consent" and "A Problem From Hell" both cover the country of Cambodia, the genocide there. However MC goes on to distinguish a pattern of three phases in the ugliness. The first phase it is claimed we participated in, and it cites two scholars, David Chandler and Philip Windsor who argue there were "ingredients" of a "violent...unrelenting social revolution" (p. 264) due to a US-generated crusade. Unfortunately, none of this shows up in representative Samantha Power's book. One simple answer to how to stop genocide would seem to be to stop participating in it. This answer surprisingly was not supplied in either Edward Hermann's review or in APFH.

Clinton aggravated the Bosnia-Serbian civil war, like Nixon's bombing of Vietnam. Power tries to confront that by laying the blame on when "American resolve...wilted." So immediately following a threat by Clinton's aggressive remarks violent bombers should "deal with the consequences" and the follow-through, Power lays the fault on an overly pacifist country who "trust in good-faith negotiations and traditional diplomacy." Pretty scary that an author of a book which suppresses useful facts will be involved in negotiations for us now.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Antisemitic double standards in a nutshell

Out of the three reporters from the Jersualem Post I could find willing to use the phrase "Arab lobby" only Alan Dershowitz is cocky enough to wag his finger at someone for doing something he did only 2 years ago, still accessible on the web.

Somehow this guy is still around. He wrote this about Arab foreign influence (evidently he had in mind only the Saudi lobby) in the US:

The methodology employed by the Arab lobby is thus totally inconsistent with democratic governance, because it does not reflect the will of the people but rather the corruption of the elite, while the Israeli lobby seems to operate within the parameters of democratic processes.  

Then has the chutzpa to write this in 2012:

Hagel’s appointment would send another disturbing message to the bigots of Tehran, who believe that the only people calling for military action against Iran are “the Jews.” Hagel speaks their language. He is the only mainstream American politician to talk openly about how “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people.” Others refer to the “Israel lobby,” which includes Jews, Christians, and others. They understand that not all supporters of Israel are Jewish, and that not all Jews are part of the Israel lobby. But Hagel apparently sees things in terms of Jewish interests versus American interests.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Israel's Latest Bombing Is Not Defensible

12/4/2012: Yesterday the comment went through. The original article can be found here.

This is an unpublished comment from an article with minor spelling and grammar corrections.

The overwhelming fact remains the rockets were the same pretext for attacking Gaza that Israel used in 2008 (Reuters 05-01-2009 via Wikipedia). It becomes less believable and less credible in its repetition, not more.

So there is a gap between action and speech. It indeed fits the idea of a "release valve" -- every friend of a Zionist on Facebook is well aware of the constant updates by the IDF of rockets into Israel. Less well known is the nationwide exercise the Israeli government undertook in 2009 to make the threat of war "feel real." (Jun 2009 Al Jazeera). To get a sense of how strong this need is, created and encouraged by both sides, there is even outrage against Netanyahu for imposing a ceasefire.

The question remains how to judge Israel's actions once the pretext falls apart. One thing I agree with leftists on is terrorism is not defensible. The CRIF, a French Zionist organization of Jewish groups, and Fox News, pointed to several causes for the war. Benjamin Netanyhu is facing an election (CRIF noted many more). He can perhaps sacrifice the 4% of Israelis who question the war (Haaretz November 2012), while winning over the majority of Israelis who want to see the government do more to stop the violence (Brookings 2011). The picture of two people fighting each for a defensible cause starts to fall down with consideration of these facts.

The CRIF -- in my opinion -- had a good reason to involve their broken Western sensibilities in the conflict. French Jews  report being attacked increasingly as the Israel-Palestine conflict heats up. Further, it's hard to miss the parallel between French Jews and Israel on the one hand, and Gazans and Iran on the other.

The question remains as to what violence resolves when it's practiced under the right pretext. There are lessons that Jews can bring to the table. A Reform Rabbi denied America a biblical pretext for its most cruel and violent adventure, slavery. Man is created free, he noted, not in a state of violence or in an egotistical power trip. This seems to hold true even under the whip.
 When Frederick Douglass fought his master, he probably had a good reason. But even then, it wasn't necessary for his freedom, he noted. That came from his previous master who, after realizing he was learning to read, became furious. By reacting with outrage and violence, his master had proven to him he was taking the first step to his freedom. Jews then can argue to the Palestinians that it is their writers and artists, and extending the lesson to the Civil Rights movements, their successful petition to the UN, where they are making progress. It becomes harder to do this when their media apparatus is bombed. (LA Times Nov 18)

With Cole's perspective in mind, one fact should increase the critical attitude one takes to character reforming (the "adventurer" character in Max Weber's "Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism").The Weberian philosophy looked at in this fashion points to an economical, not a moral or ideological problem. In short, it's about having control over land. And it's confirmed in the founding records. Israel's first immigrants were encouraged to create a new "character" and as noted above, this is enforced with mass fear-inducing spectacles on both sides.

You want to educate and that's all I can applaud. Imposing character reformation is not.

Monday, November 26, 2012

State Dept's Shifting Standards For Rights

In response to political concessions that might not be very effective granted after a 2011 uprising against a corrupt Moroccan king, US State representative Victoria Nuland said:
As you know, we believe that all people have the right to free assembly and to
express themselves, but we’re encouraged by the proposals that were put forth by the King on June 17th to transform Morocco’s democratic development through constitutional, judicial, and political reforms, and we’re watching closely.
Great, we have all the ingredients of a successful human rights movement! I'm sure they will show up in a similar situation, like say Honduras, where they have corrupt unaccountable leaders and terror. But in response to the unsolved killing of a human rights worker reportedly killed before he could testify in Washington, the US State department representative Victoria Nuland said:

Mr. Trejo Cabrera worked tirelessly to resolve the tragic and complex land conflict in Honduras’s Bajo Aguan, relying on legal challenges and negotiations in a region where disputes are too often settled through violence. We urge all parties to continue his efforts to bring peace to the Bajo Aguan.
We're now down from government reforms to just government petition. What about Palestine, where they don't even have much of a state to reform? In response to the upcoming Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN, Nuland said this:
"We continue to make clear that we believe that the only realistic path for the Palestinians to achieve statehood is through direct negotiations," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said last month.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Raising The Right Questions to Shut Down the Israel/Palestine Conflict


My last blog post argued terrorism is predictable. I listed three ways to prevent it: organizing, rapport, and petitioning. This blog will look at Brown vs. Board of Education as a model for a successful movement. For some balance, I'll add in the Indian Independence movement and Occupy Wall St. This doesn't mean I'm answering all questions about civil rights, national independence, and stopping violence, but it's a start. For the sake of making the ideas stand out, I'm also assuming that the information on Wikipedia is a fair sample of the things involved in the Civil Rights movement, and that Brown vs. Board of Education is too.

Organizing, rapport and petitioning in Brown vs. Board of Education

I will now test to see how these tactics are represented in the three successful movements: the Civil Rights movement, the Indian independence movement, and Occupy Wall St.

The Civil Rights movement presents several pieces of evidence in support.As I'm presenting this evidence, it comes to mind there is a contrast here between the traditional story and the facts. The story I learned was the government came to its senses and had to enforce desegregation with military might. But  according to a source on Wikipedia

Herbert Brownell Jr.: Instrumental in convincing Eisenhower to give up his Army service and run for president, Brownell was rewarded when Eisenhower appointed him as attorney general in 1953. He served until 1957, helping make the case for Brown vs. Board. According to biographer John P. Burke, Brownell "tenaciously supported and enforced" the Brown decision despite personal attacks by opponents on his integrity. He died in May 1996 at 91.
The main politician involved was only there because he left the army. The Indian independence movement further shared this rapport-building.Ex-patriots were reportedly very good at getting their fellow nationals to stop fighting for the British. This carries more weight than it first seems.

One thing to highlight in the Indian movement though is, although mass education and organizing were there from the start, Wikipedia articles again and again document divisions within the movement -- radicals and moderates could not agree, and Muslims were left out. Gandhi himself was not a part of the movement at first, and much of his early writings do not show respect for the humanity of Africans. I think this could go a long way to explain the current corruption in India.

Back to the US Civil Rights, petitioning has further evidence here:

But Eisenhower did not prevent the action, saying in a letter to a longtime friend there "must be respect for the Constitution -- which means the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution -- or we shall have chaos."

Eisenhower wanted to protect the ideal of the Constitution. He was pushed, but he was pushed into the right place.

And finally organizing is obvious from the sub-headline itself: "Thirteen parents representing 20 children signed up as Topeka plaintiffs."

Unfortunately for Israel/Palestine, it breaks down along nationalities, with more than one government there to petition, more than one set of religious values to appeal to. Occupy Wall Street had a similar problem, but an impressive and documented effect on lowering crime rates where the protests occur. The lessons should be clear. Movements that care about the least fortunate, and that press their claims through courts will be effective. 

After considering my experiences and comparing them to three historical cases, I arrived at these questions to ask in regards to Israel/Palestine:

What are the organizations that exist, and how inclusive are they?
What choices does a soldier have besides joining an army?
If someone brings a court case, who will enforce it?
Are the potentially criminal being fed and given a voice?
What are the enjoyable things for them to do in a protest?

What I learned about these from my own life

When I showed up to an Occupy demonstration, the protest was fun and the people were very educated and straight-forward. We were fed, we sang, and made it in the paper. This inclusiveness is the strength of the movement. The focus on economics is a strength as well. It's not clear to me if there were fun ways of standing up to racism in the 1950's, if there is an equivalent yet to the desegregation law for example, or what that would even look like. But the positive lessons from the Civil Rights movement should be easier to see in effect-- to gather a dozen or so people together and press for action.

Organizing brings to mind power. There is a tendency to see oneself only as doing good. Bullies get jealous of it in others, and bullies deserve to be stood up to.  Doing this is a demonstration not just to the bully, but hopefully to others as well. A charity worker once told me that volunteering is something you do out of kindness, not status. It was hurtful to hear that, because I wanted the status that came from it, but I was wrong to demand that. That's not a helpful tendency to have. She stood up to me for representing the lust for status and abusing a kind institution for my own protection. 

Before that I once told someone the US crushes liberty and used a very ugly metaphor that I knew would make the person I was talking with insecure. Someone pointed out to me this was abusive in a very matter of fact way. He didn't yell it, in fact we were on Internet Relay Chat.

Rapport comes in with clear communication. On the one hand, I find rapport sometimes too difficult to establish. Someone I once considered a friend, although he was very right-wing, once argued that homosexuality was a social disease. I found it too much to bear respecting him as a friend. On the other hand, I still get along with my ex-girlfriend because I applied psychology to our misunderstandings. Each person has a way of thinking, either in labels or contrasts, emotions and so on. Once you establish this, and can adjust what you say, every idea you have will be understood. It's not about changing opinion at all, just finding a way to open up ways to talk.

Finally there is petitioning. I know about this from the Indian independence movement. Reportedly, the ex-patriots were able to get Indian nationals who were working for the British to their side. What comes to mind with my life is when I had to discuss evolution with a friend. I asked him why there were dinosaur bones. I don't think that was all that it took, but it was the tipping point. What he really wanted was to understand human nature, because he started to apply evolution in his thoughts as he expressed them to me. I am the most wary of this strategy though, because he became disillusioned with religion shortly thereafter. I respect him for living out his life, and I think it's for the best that he was free from that doubt, but it's possible he was harboring a separate self, something he didn't understand fully, and it made him pursue more irresponsible things associated with that self -- not serious problems, just undeveloped wishes like a road trip and worshiping marijuana. I think it's important to ask people to anticipate those conflicts, so that the truth can be less shocking to the person.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Terrorism Is Not Random

As I write this highly civilized Israelis are flying over Gaza bombing various things and people, reportedly with the President's approval. Israel's attacking Gaza right now follows the usual pattern of violence and political insecurity lining up. Palestinians are at the UN this year asking for state recognition, Netanayahu's elections are coming up, and reports now are saying that a peace deal not only was on the table, but the Palestinian who was to be involved, was killed. This is significant for a reason.

I first developed an understanding of terrorism as I studied civil wars and assassinations in the US. But more recently, I found other people who discovered the same thing. They weren't bloggers either.

Some months back (my memory doesn't deal with timelines well) there was a massive rise in antiSemitic attacks across the world. My neighborhood was hit with graffiti and broken windows. It was worse in Europe, particularly France and UK.

Two explanations were possible. One was that this violence was chaotic and unpredictable -- a very scary option. The other is that terrorism is predictable. Every time there was political uncertainty between Israel and the Palestinians, serious violence broke out. I recall Glenn Beck disagreeing, citing the more scary version, but according to the people being hurt, who for their own interest have to figure out why, a different reason is available.

The first has one useful quality -- it easily parallels in justifications for more violence. If someone is choosing targets randomly, it's a greater more pressing threat, and deserves more effort, because more people will be hurt. That is to say some particular belief of a person is the problem, and they cannot be dealt with. This is already a predatory mindset, and I question whether it should be ever used on higher mammals, let alone people. If there was a reason why people seem to be acting stupid, I would put it on this. They have to be ignorant in order to justify violence.

There's another theory, and one does not have to rely on testimony from violent people. A study done by the group CRIF, the leading group of Jewish civil society in France, while cautioning that this evidence alone was not enough to confirm an exact parallel, confirmed that more reports of antiSemitic attacks occurred during the times of year when political insecurity in Israel/Palestine was greatest. It turns out there is quite possibly a reason for the terrorism, not a just cause at all, but an undeniable pattern.  It was traceable not just on a timeline but in the acts themselves. Graffiti in France named Israeli figures. This second theory is something I think any reasonable person can understand and apply. It suggests that terrorism, or violence against civilians in order to establish a political goal, can be predicted.

I think getting everyone on the same page about this is a good step. In my next essay I will outline strategies to stop political insecurity. These will include popular organizing, establishing rapport with people who work for powerful interests, and demanding accountability.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Balance by NBC

Walmart workers are calling for a strike next week. From what I can gather this is because they are being silenced for attempting to organize a union, and strategically not allowing workers the 30 hours a week necessary for benefit compensation to kick in:
Newly hired part-time employees at Wal-Mart will have to work a minimum of 30 hours a week, up from 24 hours previously, before they qualify for coverage. The Affordable Care Act only requires larger employers to provide coverage for their staff who work at least 30 hours per week.
NBC helped their readers understand who was really responsible for the problems here:
Some workers say the price hikes for next year have pushed them to drop coverage.
"I really can't even afford it now, so for it to go up even a dollar for me is a stretch," said Colby Harris, who said he makes $8.90 per hour and takes home less than $20,000 per year working in the Walmart store's produce department in Lancaster, Texas.
Harris, a 22-year-old smoker, was set to see his cost per paycheck rise to $29.60 from $25.40. He says he has decided not to sign up for coverage. Given his low income, as Harris foregoes coverage any major medical bills could potentially fall to taxpayers through the government's Medicaid program
Much of the comments on the article followed suit. I'd have to estimate about 80-90% of them were against the workers.

There's an interesting story to be told. The big money behind the Corporate Solidarity Network contaminated food that tested positive for chemicals that make you sterile.

It''s always the worker's fault when those chemicals come up there too, even when serious questions are raised
Since the 1980s, banana workers from Central America and elsewhere have filed cases in the United Statesfor sterility damages caused by exposure to the nematicide dibromochloropropane (DBCP) used duringthe1960s and 1970s. .. In 2010, Dole successfully sought to dismiss not only that case, but other cases brought by Nicaraguan plaintiffs. The company claimed that there was evidence of widespread fraud among Nicaraguan plaintiffs, attorneys, and judges, as well as lawyers based in the US. However, many of those accused of fraud did not have a chance to respond to those allegations or cross-examine their accusers. 
or not:
"There [are] massive amounts of evidence demonstrating the recruiting and training of fraudulent plaintiffs to bring cases in both the Nicaraguan and U.S. courts," Chaney wrote.
NBC's journalism produces suspicion on working people, and not on the people with money, even when they provide an impressive lesson in the story.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why Is Obama Vetoing CISPA?

There's a bill that everyone hates called CISPA that Obama is supposedly going to veto, because he just really believes in "privacy, confidentiality and civil liberties safeguards."

There's an interesting precedent in history, when Harry Truman vetoed what is called the Internal Security Bill. It let the government target communists. Here were his stated reasons:

1. It would aid potential enemies by requiring the publication of a complete list of vital defense plants, laboratories, and other installations.
2. It would require the Department of Justice and its Federal Bureau of Investigation to waste immense amounts of time and energy attempting to carry out its unworkable registration provisions.
3. It would deprive us of the great assistance of many aliens in intelligence matters.
4. It would antagonize friendly governments.
5. It would put the Government of the United States in the thought control business.
6. It would make it easier for subversive aliens to become naturalized as United States citizens.
7. It would give Government officials vast powers to harass all of our citizens in the exercise of their right of free speech.
What's funny is the government at that point was in the thought control business, and the great assistance of many aliens in intelligence matters is one of the most horrible scandals of the country's history. So there's really not much information in Obama's reasons, is there?

Friday, September 21, 2012


Was overjoyed to see that headline. But turns out, it's not what I thought: 

The number of U.S. forces there peaked at about 101,000 last year, and they have been coming out slowly over the past several months.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


In JK Rowling's Harry Potter series there is a demon called a Boggart. Its purpose is to frighten you. When it cannot solve the puzzle in a way to make everyone afraid, it compromises, and loses. It can only scare you by trying to appear as something it's not. To remove its power over you just give it too many goofy things to attempt to be all at once.

The most bullshit ever to come out of the left follows closely to this formula:
A. Someone made a point I'd rather not think about
B. Here's a lot of half-baked ideas that show how evil they are
C. Because I know where it's really at. I'm the authority on this subject.

When the Chicago teachers struck, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown was there on the scene to interview the teachers, he seemed like an ally -- but reading it closely he was keeping his distance.   (1)  On the 13th for example, he happily was bashing the right (for them?) for picking a fight and trying to anticipate the spin:

All week, this strike has been playing out on two different levels: locally, where most of the public has been on the teachers’ side, and nationally, where a strange cadre of union-bashing conservative cheerleaders, self-styled “education reformers” and newspaper editorial boards have been singing the mayor’s praises.
I have no idea what the latter group is going to say about the mayor’s final product. They may decide he’s won as well if he retains the right of school principals to pass over laid-off teachers when they fill job openings. I’m sure that’s what Emanuel will be saying.
Three days later he was starting his column "Some people just don’t know when to leave well enough alone." Yes, when push came to shove though, he lectured the teachers to stand down. Now as he hears Karen Lewis give a speech (that he doesn't cite a single time), he magnanimously declares "teachers need to be heard" while "traditional education" is destroyed or at least harmed. Of course, he can't help but add " those two extra days on the picket line after the deal was ripe did not help them."

Another instance of Boggart-dom is this whole controversy around a book: first popping up in Reddit with the phrase "Kindle censors Naomi Wolf's book's title" had me lulled into thinking the left was on her side. Then a Penny quote showed up on my Facebook. 

"‎"Writing about one's vagina has become shorthand for a style of feminist writing where the personal being political becomes an excuse for the political to collapse at every stage into the personal."

The formula is the same: the person offends in some way, and then the bullshit starts to flow. I checked out the article and was appalled. It was trashing Wolf in every way imaginable without a single citation. In fairness to the author, I looked up Laruie Penny's writing where she quotes approvingly of Wolf. . I was happy to post a comment there saying I recognized her betrayal of Wolf (I assumed her readers knew her work well enough, but I've added her introduction to Wolf below) (2).

Today I got the new edition of the Nation, and what did I see? Another review of Wolf's new book, filled with lots of rhetoric and very few quotes.

I just wish there were a more serious debate on what unions and Naomi Wolf actually are talking about, rather than what wins emotional points. The truth is bigger than what a "slam" piece will give you.

2.  "The formal rules of late capitalist pornography are the fulcrum of modern sexual affectlessness: an endless parade of disembodied cocks going into holes, a joyless, piston-pumping assembly line of industrial sexuality". Meat Market, Laurie Penny. p 21.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Class Privilege And The Mayor's Assault On Chicago's Labor

In my other analysis, I purposefully left out class since it is not one of the declared principles of the anti-union side. As I saw it, the principles were not being greedy, accepting responsibility of education, and making serious claims.

But I couldn't help but see the parallels. I was having a conversation with a former class mate of mine who is now a teacher. Paraphrasing, the standardized testing model Rahm is pushing an unfair standard because poorer students -- and especially the ones coming from broken homes -- do not test as well. I responded:

Douglas and Paine both argued that the society is responsible for preventing abuse of the workers and for education -- and Paine was put in jail for the arbitrary reason of being a British citizen because the French didn't like him. Douglass was not even allowed to learn to read and was put under a new master when he stopped fearing the current one. That's a part of their disciplining of you. They're not just being stupid. In the times of slave whippings, everyone knew the abuse was going on, it was quietly tolerated (not celebrated), so long as the master did not get a reputation for enjoying it. That's about as far as their logic takes them even today.

There are two ways to come at this, principle and fact. The fact is, they are horribly misinformed. And so was I. There is coverage of class and test scores and it explains that race and class play a role in test scores. Whether or not that can be reasonably accommodated in testing, or whether it does enough, is something I have to do research on. It's an uphill battle. Market journalists need money for advertising and for campaign donations and by and large that comes from the same private interests who lie to us constantly as well, to put it bluntly. It's not a conspiracy, it's a business.I'm ready to disagree with the teachers on this principle if testing can be reformed. Bloggers like this, filled with comforting snark, still manage to question the status-quo fairly even-handedly:

In the Texas public schools, all three major demographic groups have tended to outscore their peers from around the nation. It may be that funding cuts will harm this statewide performance. But in recent years, there have been large funding cuts to public schools in other states too. In our view, the failure to compare the size of the Texas cuts to those in other states was one of the obvious, groaning flaws with yesterday’s news report.
Bottom line: Conservatives do enjoy blaming the unions. Liberals like to mess with Texas. 
We live in highly tribal times. Such times may tend to lower comprehension among even the brightest players.

It's here where the liberal heartstrings must be muted. Obama, by not speaking out, is also considered a victim, which is effectively support for Emmanuel.  I don't even have to cite this, this is his own dogma, his spokesman said he knows he wants "both sides" to solve it. In reality, both Fox News and NPR support this delusion. Honestly, Obama just paraded Emmanuel down here, effectively trading him for another Daley, and I'm supposed to pretend he had no idea this was going to happen? The teachers aren't dragging him into this, it's the other way around. Or I suppose you can believe that "By walking out on Second City kids, the AFT’s Chicago affiliate has inadvertently handed Emanuel a new opportunity to take a different approach to reform. " Like the teachers are Jonah and are being rescued by the whale. Sure. That's more likely.

Sorry for the snark. Back to the facts.

This does not neccesarily mean become exactly like Texas in every way, for example while unions are not widespread, they have other (less dignifified in my opinion) forms of collective bargaining:

Texas public school teachers may vote to have a group represent them in discussions with school management in a process known as “elected consultation” — if the local school board allows it. Elective consultation is similar but not identical to collective bargaining, with the most crucial difference being that any agreement reached through elected consultation is not binding on the school board, says Rob D’Amico, spokesman for the Texas branch of the American Federation of Teachers, one of several public school employee organizations. Texas AFT represents 65,000 public school employees but not administrators.

 But it is definitely a powerful argument in defense of public schools. The claims of "reform" are not usually made without some mention of charters though. Here is a Daily Beast columnist arguing to "tie federal aid, and thus ultimately school revenues and teacher compensation, to measured results" which is "paying off in small but sustained improvements in test scores nationwide." The mayor also made this claim in today's paper. Timothy Stanley from CNN gave a long reasonable-style account of the facts, concluding with "austerity isn't just a tea party slogan. It's an inescapable necessity." It's clear why they like to scapegoat the unions. Both portray the management of government, the bigwigs, as the victims. "Stanley, an Oxford professor, is amazed that "the latest elected official to do battle with a public-sector union isn't the Republican governor of Wisconsin. It's Rahm Emanuel, the Democrat mayor of Chicago and President Obama's former chief of staff." the Beast's Frum's headline blares "Rahm Stands Up To Teacher Union Bullies."

It looks like the message is established but it's on shaky ground. Emmanuel is keeping the focus off of poverty for now, who knows when the media will ever start, and I really don't feel like preparing for how ridiculous they are willing to bend the facts to get out of that.

My personal belief undercuts all of this though, and that's the teachers have not stopped teaching. This is probably the most educational thing that has ever happened to this city in my lifetime.


A More Principled Attack On Emmanuel and Union-busters

By saying what follows I should rightly be seen as jumping to conclusions. This is because the principles of society are not for me to dictate. I will keep to widely accepted sources on living a principled life -- Adam Smith, Thomas Paine, and Frederick Douglass.

First, what should not be controversial. The teachers have undeniable facts on their side. Their ability to form a union was challenged (still got 90% with a 75% minimum), and the President did not come to their aid as promised (by the way, "both sides" kind of people in questions of freedom is who Martin Luther King explicitly told to go to hell). 75% of fired teachers were non-white and the public did not find solidarity then.

Market education is against American conception principled government
One only need to search for #CTU on Twitter or read the columnists from the New York Times. The only argument for charter schools is if they are in fact a better form of protection to the students. The research is not clear on this, but as far as it is about the parent's authority, the argument loses merit. From the "first principles of government" liberty to control someone is not a defense of liberty. Keeping with the definitions of rights set out by Thomas Paine, "their rights are under the sacred guardianship of the aged" who "have not and cannot have the right to make a law to set up and establish hereditary government, or, to speak more distinctly, an hereditary succession of governors." 

Following this, parents cannot impose control on students, they can only act as guardians. Charter schools and private education are brought up in arguments opposing the teachers as being too expensive, not as bad guardians (although it is usually concluded for good measure).This is the ground for a principled debate, not whether the teachers or the city is asking too much. It's clear who sees this part on their side based on who is spinning more. The solution is to stop the spinning, not to spin the other way. Chicago  has indeed been making steady improvements in literacy.

Both sides can make principled arguments with Adam Smith's capitalism:
Doing the same thing day in and day out is the easiest way to make a person stupid. One only needs to look at Joe Biden who has been a professional politician for about half of his life to see this is the case.

There are serious questions that follow: What part of teaching is routine? What encourages students to break out of routine? Again, there is room for a debate here. If teachers are a problem at all, it's because they do the same job their whole lives. But the solution to that is not to make them work year-round, with a curriculum mandated by standardized tests, with less recess, and so forth. They are not babysitters, they are educators. Is allowing for natural intelligence important at all to the mayor and the charter school advocates? It's obvious whose side I see this point favoring but it's the facts that support me, not my ideology.

Why a strike is only the start
The easiest and probably least controversial example of self-defense should not be taken out of context. The most significant form of resistance this country's history provides comes down squarely on the side of the laborer, an educated one. Frederick Douglass did not fight his master until he knew that his master feared him being educated in ideas he did not like. Before resistance, Douglass could only survive as a by holding back. If you worked too efficiently, that raised expectations, which were impossible to live up to. His master was used to whipping him and was not about to lose this habit.  That's what is at stake with education since it should hold for all contracts, if self-respect and self-defense are to mean anything at all. There is no leader who can free you if you cannot demand freedom at all costs.

Emmanuel should live up to his principles of defending Chicago like he thought he was doing with Chick Fil A. Just give them the raise like the contract says and talk about the real issues. That's what the city wants. Nobody has his back except the president and various sophists in the media.

No sane person denies another the right to resist abuse. I can't imagine a more useful lesson in life. But it only now that they are demonstrating that ability. That ability is for anyone else to judge. That is why the common principles must also be addressed. Until, now, the teachers were in this situation alone to a considerable degree. The strike is the right thing to do. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Maddow Doubts Her Abilities Too Much

Fairly recently, NBC News' Rachel Maddow had this to say about studying terrorism (note 1):

But all of these little tweaks — all of these little changes that we made — had the effect of letting a president wage war without political restraint and letting us wage war in a way where we didn't necessarily notice or know the names of all of those who were deployed in our name. Because a lot of them were working for companies that didn't have any obligation to report to us when their people were killed. We ended up doing stuff in a way that insulated the American public from what our military was doing to the point where we don't feel much friction when Americans go downrange."

In this interview she also observed (I'm paraphrasing, there is no record of this online anymore) that she cannot imagine stepping into the shoes of a terrorist. But she gets all hot around the collar at the thought of interviewing Dick Cheney. Let me interview you is literally her plea in her book and in the interview.

What's odd is that she is perfectly capable of understanding most of the logic of terrorism, in fact, she assumes everyone understands it already. For a benchmark, here's Bin Laden arguing for why his friends should be acquiring WMD's:

"It would be a sin for Muslims not to try to possess the weapons that would prevent the infidels from inflicting harm on Muslims." -- Bin Laden 

MADDOW: One of the things that people have questioned is if the U.S. has this high level of electronic capability, why is Libyan state TV still on the air? Is that not one of the things they would want to shut down?

From NATO's website on bombing Libyan journalists via WSJ:

‎"Striking specifically these critical satellite dishes will reduce the regime's ability to oppress civilians while [preserving] television broadcast infrastructure that will be needed after the conflict" -- NATO

Her chirpy rebuttals are therefore false, Here's Maddow mockingly interprets Republicans "Terrorism isn't the big battle. It's the battle between us and the liberals." It's okay to say the truth, just do it in a funny voice. 

Note: I've since contacted NPR about this quote. It appears that either the interview is clipped or I'm mixing them up.

Monday, September 10, 2012

ABC Helps You Understand Drug War: Slaves Are Stupid

Recently Honduras has been advertised not as one of if not the cocaine and murder capitol of the world, but also a great investment for all of you concerned with their political corruption:

Investors can begin construction in six months on three privately run cities in Honduras that will have their own police, laws, government and tax systems now that the government has signed a memorandum of agreement approving the project.
An international group of investors and government representatives signed the memorandum Tuesday for the project that some say will bring badly needed economic growth to this small Central American country and that at least one detractor describes as "a catastrophe."
The project's aim is to strengthen Honduras' weak government and failing infrastructure, overwhelmed by corruption, drug-related crime and lingering political instability after a 2009 coup.

All the mistakes in the drug war, by the way, as the ABC finely points out are because foreigners can't read..
The United States has suspended sharing of radar intelligence with Honduras because the Central American nation's air force shot down two suspected drug planes in violation of agreements with Washington, the State Department and U.S. military confirmed Friday.
A six-page agreement in 2004 on U.S. support for aerial counter-narcotics efforts with Honduras bans damaging, destroying or disabling aircraft as they are flying. It says Hondurans are allowed to fire warning shots "as a signaling measure, using ammunition containing tracer rounds," but says suspect aircraft cannot be in the line of fire.
ABC News puts it in perspective:
Poor communications and a language barrier between the Peruvian military and [Clinton year] U.S. personnel on the CIA-run tracker jet, as well as Peru's inadequate air traffic control system, played a role, a U.S. Senate committee concluded.

In fact, our mistakes are forgivable, because we're always the victims!:

I wanted to pull a quote from one of those horrible, cheesy treaties the US colonists signed with America. But when trying to find it, I came across another:

If you were a colonist, you knew that your technology was superior to the Indians'. You knew that you were civilzed, and they were savages....But your superior technology had proved insufficient to extract anything [...] and so you killed them.

The available sources on slavery in 18th-century Virginia-- plantation and county records, the newspaper advertisements for runaways-- describe rebellious slaves and few others. The slaves described were lazy and theiving; they feigned illeness, destroyed crops, stores, tools, and sometimes attacked or killed overseers.
Shout out to the first colonists in documented history (that I know of):

The Hyksos brought with them knowledge of bronze weapons, chariots and composite bows. But it is not clear that they were required to use this military know-how to take control of upper Egypt. Certainly they had to fight to keep power, but Manetho may be right to infer that there was no initial battle for dominance. This supports the suggestion that immigration and the political weakness of the Egyptian kings of the time had set up the environment to allow a group to seize power relatively easily.
Given this slow advance by the Hyksos rulers into southern Egypt, it seems reasonable to infer that the superior military technology of the Hyksos was only an element of their strength. Their success may also have relied upon their exploitation of the political weakness of the late Middle Kingdom. Another intriguing possibility exists. It is possible that the whole area was blighted by plague (was this god smiting?) and that the Hyksos were badly affected by this too. Thus they took over during a time of crisis and were unable to push further into Egypt because they too were suffering the effects of the plague.

Although they did not directly control all of Lower Egypt, the other rulers there were reduced to the status of vassals. Upper Egypt also seems to have been reduced to a vassaldom until the Thebans raised a rebellion against them.

This is actually less principled than slaves laws from the past:

40. If a soldier disappear, and a vassal arise and the vassal say, AThis is my military holding, but this other one is my tenancy,@ and lay hands upon the fields of the soldier, he may both hold the military holding and perform the tenancy duties. If he refuse the military service, then he forfeits the vacant fields of the soldier. The men of the village shall cultivate them. If the king give a captive, they shall give the fields to him, and he becomes a soldier

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Why Is the Truth Always An Aside?

Forbes columnists ;like to bullshit a lot, and they have an interesting tell. Right before they say something totally ridiculous, they first go through a "yes there's this other point of view but Serious People Know Best Just Ask Me."

You know what's the first sign of Nazis? Angry letters from your Congressman:

And it isn’t strictly about the First Amendment. Yes, it’s disgusting that a state legislator who purports to have a PhD knows nothing of his constituents’ free-speech rights (or the proper use capital letters), but he’s far from the only ignorant, hypocritical politician in America.[...]Earlier this summer, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino foolishly told a business, Chick-Fil-A, that it wasn’t welcome in his town because of the company’s political advocacy. He was lambasted and rightly so. This incident is far worse: Menino was targeting a business, not an individual, and it was a business he currently has no jurisdiction over. While repugnant, it was political blathering....Burns’ Gestapo tactic goes a level further, and it should make any business owner wince. 
The economy will be destroyed if the government goes into debt!

For most of us, the debt seems like an abstraction. We can’t see or feel the debt. The debt doesn’t appear to have any tangible effects. But the debt is a serious problem. It’s become a bit of a cliché to point out how the debt crisis is wrecking Europe. And the European situation is different from our own.
But rest assured that if foreign governments like China stop buying our debt, interest on that debt will rapidly rise.

 Imagine an America where all purchases are made with cash, and where nobody can buy or sell a home. That is an economy in free-fall.
I like to suspect the gods are angered by lies. They demand a sacrifice.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The New York Times Is Full Of Shit About Egypt

Two headlines in 2012 of the swag-filled paper warn of "Economic Crisis" followed by "Economic Struggle." But it's easily discovered, once the NewSpeak is accounted for, that Egyptian's parliament and public programs were killed off by groups like the IMF and US government -- they control aid.

Now the New York Times today scrambling to hide this by boasting of its intimate wisdom of democracy:
Mr. Morsi and his party, the Muslim Brotherhood, initially adopted the self-defeating posture of rejecting outside assistance. Since his election in June, however, Mr. Morsi has become much more pragmatic as he confronted the real challenges of governing.
But the Fund had the posture of rejection, not the Brotherhood (May 17th, 2012):

I'll take a question, if I may, "The Egyptian finance minister has said that Egypt will sign an agreement with the IMF on a loan to Egypt by the beginning of next month." He referred to some discussion between the IMF and the Egyptian government to get the first phase of the loan within two weeks.
Let me describe where things stand on Egypt.
We have no fixed timeline for an agreement on a standby arrangement with Egypt. We stand ready to support a home-grown program that maintains macro stability and promotes inclusive growth, and enjoys -- and here's the key point -- the necessary broad political support, and includes adequate external financing from Egypt's international partners. And so we look forward to advancing the discussion, with a view to consideration by the Executive Board, once those elements are in place.
So, as I said, no firm timeline on Egypt.
In fact, according to the Times' own reporting, it was the military who "rejected" the offer, but only on the terms that the government actually address public needs (links are theirs):

Egypt’s military rulers are now realizing how big a threat the collapsing economy is — and they clearly don’t want to be blamed. In May, they rejected a $3.2 billion loan from theInternational Monetary Fund, saying it would infringe on Egypt’s sovereignty. They wanted the money, but with no strings attached — no mandatory reforms or austerity measures, like cutting food and fuel subsidies. Now desperate, they resurrected the loan request this week and welcomed an I.M.F. delegation to discuss possible components of an economic program. The I.M.F. probably won’t make a decision on that request until March.
The fund’s officials say that they do not intend to impose conditions on the loan. But even without conditions, Egypt must make reforms if it wants to spur private business ventures, foreign investment and growth. Such measures can never be sustained without public support.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Health of the State

From a Wired article, citing US's reasons for attacking defenseless countries:

U.S. hasn’t gone anywhere close to suggesting drugs be decriminalized. Gen. Douglas Fraser, the head of U.S. forces in South and Central America, said last year to the House Armed Sevices Committee that “the violence continues to increase in Central America, and that’s where and why we are focusing there.”
Remember the last time you broke your foot, and your doctor decided to break your other one too, for your own good?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

AP Won't tell you: IMF, Morsi, US Government Blocks Democracy To Help Allies Outside of Egypt

At the start of the Arab Spring, Obama said he supports the democratic aspirations of all people, and his administration clarified, especially Egypt.

The IMF is the crucial factor though, because it withholding money on the condition of how much the government in Egypt is going to change itself,  One can easily learn that "Aid packages from the EU, oil-rich Arab Gulf states and elsewhere are contingent on Egypt signing off on the IMF loan" whose governments everybody knows are not at all interested in helping the poor. Let's go back to how AP reports this:

Talks with IMF stalled over differences within the Egyptian leadership. Now that Morsi has taken office and the parliament has been dissolved, agreement might be easier to achieve.
The IMF demands a comprehensive Egyptian recovery plan addressing economic imbalances, protecting the poor and generating foreign investor confidence.
Even according to their own reporting, it's useful to mention that the Egyptian Parliament wanted to do all of that themselves, proposing to do a variety of internal actions while taking on a loan. The reason Egyptian democracy isn't important to the IMF is because they are interested in trying to make a 1.1% profit off of charity and are willing to dismantle democracy, while withholding aid to literally starving people on that condition

The AP summarizes this story by saying it's only the Egyptians who are hampered by and excess of pride.

Going back to US's stated policy, another peculiar phrase caught my eye there, "the commercial and strategic interests" are balanced against democracyThe US government's standard in other words is you can have democracy but only as long as your people there are willing to lick the boot.  Essentially, the IMF is no different. It is doing the same thing as the Obama administration did in relation to "democracy promoting" (political-rigging) institutions that receive our funding, which even by his own administrations standards, did not succeed.

The AP is really just terrible for not considering any of this. The IMF is about opening up markets, not protecting the poor -- that's just cover for their predation. I don't want to say Egypt needs it, I know they had water rationing before the revolution.

It's really up to Egyptians. They deserve their own say, not just because you aren't interested in the truth, but because that's what democracy means. 


And this is just a minor quibble, but why did you make it harder for me to read an older story?

You can see they are one day apart. But put them in your browser. You will get the same story-- today's story.Google them and you will see two separate headlines. 

The original story has been moved here.

Boycott Confusion

Nationalism is one of the silliest things a politician can ever use to justify something because it comes down to Nietzchean power struggles -- my job is too look out for me, and people who are going to keep me in power. This opens you up to irrationality because anything you can use against others is fair game :
Israel is condemning a new South African regulation requiring that products made in West Bank settlements must be labeled as coming from "occupied Palestinian territory."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor calls the requirement "totally unacceptable."

but also implies you know better than your own citizens, as well:

Prime Minister Netanyahu threatens to withdraw funding from theaters whose actors refuse to
perform in city located beyond Green Line, says 'the last thing we need is boycotts from within.'  

All because one group inside the country is more organized to get you elected, not because you are principled but exactly because you put reason in service of power. Thanks for making it very obvious how little help you are even on good causes, so I don't have to seriously feel humanity itself is evil.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

IMF -- Seriously?

The IMF is withholding billions of dollars from `Egyptians because they want to be promised a " a comprehensive Egyptian recovery plan addressing economic imbalances, protecting the poor and generating foreign investor confidence."

That's the IMF for you, teaching Egypt a lesson in what it takes to help your poor.

I'd be happy to be told off by an actual Egyptian, but I'm pretty sure this goes beyond the white man's burden. The US threatened to withdraw aid too, over some petty political shit, because it's US policy to control the trade there. Funny how the IMF has the same goals!

Our Traitors Are Your Heroes

From the Washington Post:

The Obama administration has granted exemptions from trade restrictions with Syria and Iran to allow U.S. tech firms to make their goods and services available to customers in those countries.

To hold their government accountable, they argue. Like Bradley Manning did, with no outside assistance, who ended up naked and sleep-deprived, and has a lawyer arguing he's just an angry misunderstood gay guy, who really didn't mean it.

Sorry Obama, you know how you said there is evil in the world? Look in the fuckin mirror.