Saturday, May 25, 2013

Death of a thousand cuts

I always know that when people start saying Obama gave a great speech, he said something awful. This is how Obama chose to address black graduates:
"I understand there's a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: 'Excuses are tools of the incompetent used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness.' Well, we've got no time for excuses. Not because the bitter legacy of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they have not. Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; we know those are still out there. It's just that in today's hyperconnected, hypercompetitive world, with millions of young people from China and India and Brazil - many of whom started with a whole lot less than all of you did - all of them entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything that you have not earned."
Or, as Stuart Zechman unpacked this: "It's not a global race to the wage-less, democracy-free bottom, young man, it's a chance to prove your individual competence through healthy competition with billions...I mean 'millions of young people'."

Although this message of hopelessness is one Obama has been delivering to all of us, he seems to take a special pleasure in making it to blacks, as if they are some especially spoiled bunch of greedy graspers who need to face the music and start putting their shoulders to the grindstone instead of lying on the sofa eating bon bons while someone else does all the work. You know, because blacks have all the cash and get all the luxuries.

Ta-Nehisi Coates didn't like it much, either:

Taking the full measure of the Obama presidency thus far, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this White House has one way of addressing the social ills that afflict black people -- and particularly black youth -- and another way of addressing everyone else. I would have a hard time imagining the president telling the women of Barnard that "there's no longer room for any excuses" -- as though they were in the business of making them. Barack Obama is, indeed, the president of "all America," but he also is singularly the scold of "black America."


But I also think that some day historians will pore over his many speeches to black audiences. They will see a president who sought to hold black people accountable for their communities, but was disdainful of those who looked at him and sought the same. They will match his rhetoric of individual responsibility, with the aggression the administration showed to bail out the banks, and the timidity they showed in addressing a foreclosure crisis which devastated black America (again.)They wil weigh the rhetoric against an administration whose efforts against housing segregation have been run of the mill. And they will match the talk of the importance of black fathers with the paradox of a president who smoked marijuana in his youth but continued a drug-war which daily wrecks the lives of black men and their families. In all of this, those historians will see a discomfiting pattern of convenient race-talk.

I think the president owes black people more than this. In the 2012 election, the black community voted at a higher rate than any other ethnic community in the country. Their vote went almost entirely to Barack Obama. They did this despite a concerted effort to keep them from voting, and they deserve more than a sermon. Perhaps they cannot practically receive targeted policy. But surely they have earned something more than targeted scorn.

Coates is kinder to the Obamas than I would be, but he still wants to be a believer.

Right now, all over the country, communities are getting together and working hard (as Michelle Obama advises) to improve their schools and their environment, and in every area they are met with intractable government officials who have made other plans, together with some very rich, very powerful people. Like Rahm Emanuel and his insistence on closing a lot of Chicago schools. What happens when communities get together to work for their betterment? Let's see what the headlines say.... Oh, yes, here we are: "Protests Fail to Deter Chicago From Shutting 49 Schools."

I can't help the feeling that the Obamas know very well they are making it harder for people, either individually or in groups, to do anything to improve their lives. Because people with good lives are a lot harder to lure into the pleasures of working as slave-laborors. We aren't likely to beg for bad jobs when we have better options, and then "we" won't be able to "compete" with China.

But when wages fall to subsistence for most people in the United States, remember: It will be all your fault for not picking yourself up by your bootstraps and "taking personal responsibility".

* * * * *

Dean Baker was the guest on this week's Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd.

Elizabeth Warren seems unconvinced that the Treasury Secretary is focusing on stopping banks from being too big to fail.

The New York Times finally has an editorial condemning the Obama administration's chilling effect on the press: "Obama administration officials often talk about the balance between protecting secrets and protecting the constitutional rights of a free press. Accusing a reporter of being a 'co-conspirator,' on top of other zealous and secretive investigations, shows a heavy tilt toward secrecy and insufficient concern about a free press. "
And in the WaPo, Downie himself actually complains about Obama's war on leaks. Although Pincus swears this one is different. But that doesn't make the administration any less guilty of playing a nasty game. They are happy to "leak" classified information when it makes them look "good" (macho), but what they have gone after, time and time again, is people who dissent from the propaganda. It's become too hard to trust them.

Ezra has a post up called, "Stop celebrating our falling deficits" which says, "It's time to stop celebrating last week's Congressional Budget Office report. Our deficits aren't dropping because we're doing something right. They're dropping because we're doing everything wrong." Which is true, leaving aside the fact that we haven't been celebrating and we aren't the ones doing everything wrong. But I couldn't help noticing that while he's talking about deficits, the graph he uses shows "Federal Debt Held by the Public", which is something else.

Obama Uncare:
"The "unbanked" are 27% of those eligible for ObamaCare, and may be denied coverage because they have no way to pay that insurance companies will accept."
"The calculators are broken because actuarial value is a crapshoot."
"Union members with multi-employer, Taft-Hartley plans thrown under the bus." Because: "Many UFCW members have what are known as multi-employer or Taft-Hartley plans. According to the administration's analysis of the Affordable Care Act, the law does not provide tax subsidies for the roughly 20 million people covered by the plans. Union officials argue that interpretation could force their members to change their insurance and accept more expensive and perhaps worse coverage in the state-run exchanges." So that thing about being able to keep the healthcare you had before? Um, not so much.

Bruce Schneier on why, though it leads to terrible policy, It's smart politics to exaggerate terrorist threats. (This dovetails nicely with Matthew Rothchild's article in The Progressive about Spying on Occupy Activists and the unholy alliance that actually makes it harder for us to be on the lookout for real terrorism.)
Bruce in the Guardian, "Will giving the internet eyes and ears mean the end of privacy?: Corporations and governments are turning the internet into a colossal, always-on surveillance tool. Once passive objects are able to report what's happening, where is the power balance?"

Senator David Vitter (R-Slime Mold) has introduced an amendment to the Farm Bill that would permanently ban anyone who has ever been convicted of a violent crime from SNAP eligibility. Because, like, people who already can't find employment won't turn to violent crime when they have no other way to get food. A little kicker in the story: "Democrats accepted it without trying to modify it to address its most ill-considered aspects."

Thanks to CMike for reminding me that Michael Kinsley hasn't been keeping up for a long, long time (scroll down).

The shadowy Gnome Liberation Front has successfully invaded the Chelsea Flower Show.

Neat clouds

This is cool. Now highlight between these quotation marks to see why it's even cooler:
"Alexandre Dumas hideaway on the grounds of Monte Cristo Castle in Marly le Roi, France"

Rufus Harley was a little different from other jazz musicians.

26 Discworld Quotes About Life, The Universe, And Everything

Eric Burdon & War (Full version,Beat club 1970)


  1. Obama, in between getting all bootstrappy to those grads, might have said something like, “Once upon a time, I genuinely wanted to make the world a better place, but along the way I realized that would be hard and less lucrative. So let’s be frank, my policies, as intended, haven’t helped you—your opportunities are at least as bleak now as when I first took office. My sincere apologies. So I’d have to say that in addition to bending over and grabbing hold of your, ahem, destiny, learn to ingratiate yourself with the powerful and serve their interests. It’s done wonders for me.” Now that’d be inspiring.

    1. I have my doubts about the first half of the first imaginary sentence.

  2. As I daily grow evermore jaded in the conclusions I draw ore the goings on east of The Rockies I can't help but chuckle ore the ignorance of those of the elite international bankers perpetuatong this pervasion of ignorance. A mob of angry, hungry illiterates is never-the-less a mob, and they don't eat cake. If I recall my mythology correctly, the half-breed "Jesus" nailed that lesson.

    Gnomes 1; Pink Flamingos 0.

    No fear.

    1. How was Jesus a "half-breed"? Unless you're talking about mi amigo Jesús. Or do you buy the myth of Jesus of Nazareth as a demigod, half-man and half god? And what lesson did he "nail"?

  3. The very sharp Dean Baker gives it the old, "Karl who? ...Never heard of the guy."

    Krugman Misrepresents the Left-Right Divide in U.S. Politics

    [Indent]>>>>>...[Krugman] tells readers: "Start with the proposition that there is a legitimate left-right divide in U.S. politics, built around a real issue: how extensive should be make our social safety net, and (hence) how much do we need to raise in taxes? This is ultimately a values issue, with no right answer."

    This is not an accurate characterization of the left-right divide in U.S. politics since there is actually little difference between Republicans and Democrats or self-described conservatives and liberals in their support of the key components of the social safety net: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and even unemployment insurance. Polls consistently show that the overwhelming majority of people across the political spectrum strongly support keeping these programs at their current level or even expanding them.

    The main impulse for cutting back these programs comes from elites of both political parties who would like to pay less in taxes. There are also industry groups, who are generally more aligned with the Republicans, who support privatizing a larger portion of these programs in the hopes of getting more profits. Describing this privatization drive as a values issue would be a gross mischaracterization.

    There are much smaller programs that are designed primarily to help the poor or near poor where there is a clearer partisan divide (e.g. TANF, SSI, WIC). While it may be more accurate to describe the debate over these programs as a values issue (with a strong racial component), they amount to a relatively small portion of government budgets. These programs may be important to the people directly affected, but they are not central to debates over the budget....<<<<<[End indent]

    And JCAPAN, here's a guy who should always skip delivering his prepared remarks and forever go straight to questions. Of course, if you listen to his comments about Chávez and then later his laudation of the OWS organizational structure it's hard not to think he suffers from that purist radical compulsion to keep the left in a political ditch.

    1. CMike, I'll have to take your word for it unless you track down a transcript. A-V rarely an option for me. Despite our recent tête-à-tête, trust that I don't treat CH as an oracle. For that, please see Chomster or the late, great Zinn.

    2. JCAPAN just to be clear, I'm a big fan of Hedges myself, I learn a lot from him. It's just that when he's speaking off the cuff I think he's a lot more engaging than he is... the rest of the time.

      I'll type up three of the Q's and their A's.

    3. March 13, 2013 at The University of Western Ontario

      [Indent]>>>>>[57:58] Q: You touched on the role of the press. I wonder what you think of satire...

      A: That's a really good question.

      Q: ... figures like Jon Stewart, etc.?

      A: I don't like 'em. That's a really good question. He's asking about the role of satire. For me, these figures like Stewart and Colbert, let's remember: number one, they're entertainers and number two, they're millionaires, they're paid a lot of money to do this. They function the same way the cabarets functioned in Berlin with the rise of the Nazi Party. Everybody goes to the cabaret and laughs at all the buffoons like Göring and Goebbels and goes home.

      Michael Moore's a friend, I admire him. His heart's in the right place but-- this isn't funny. It's not funny. There's nothing funny about our health care system where 45,000 Americans a year die, where a million people a year go into bankruptcy because they can't pay their medical bills. There's nothing funny about the gun culture, there's nothing funny about it and I think that you're going to laugh yourself right into the gulag. And that's exactly what happened.

      I don't want- I understand that's it's not Nazi Germany, I'm not trying to say that it is but it is a species of totalitarianism which has its own characteristics. But, in essence, totalitarianism is centralized power that can not be checked or challenged in any way. So that corporate totalitarianism is different from fascism, is different from Communism (let's call it Stalinist Communism). And the person who laid it out best is Sheldon Wolin, our greatest living political philosopher, in his book Democracy Incorporated where he explained what we live under is called inverted totalitarianism and by that he means that it's not a totalitarian system that finds its expression through a demagogue or charismatic leader but through the anonymity of the corporate state.

      That [in] an inverted totalitarianism you have corporate forces that purport to pay fealty to electoral politics, the iconography and language of American patriotism, the Constitution yet, internally have gripped all the levers of power as to render the citizen impotent.

      And so laughing at these bizarre figures like Newt Gringrich is to misunderstand their potency and that we are really now devolving into a fight for our own survival. So, yeah, I'm not a huge fan of either Colbert or Stewart, they're not going to go after corporate power, they will go after some of the sort of idiotic figures within the system but they're not going to critique the system itself.

      I mean the only, when you talk about satire, the only person who did that was the late George Carlin. But very, very few people do. And in a way I think it works as a kind of safety valve to blow off steam and, I think, diverts us from what is happening.<<<<<[End indent]

    4. [Indent]>>>>>[1:12:44] Q: If you could be a leader of, say, a new movement, something all of us could get behind, what is one or two things to make the world a better place that you would want to do, that we could all help you accomplish?

      A: Well I don't want to be a leader of a movement. Karl Popper in The Open Society and its Enemies said the question is not how do you get good people to rule, that's the wrong question. Most people attracted to power are, at best, mediocre which is Obama or venal which is Harper.

      The question is how do you make the powerful frightened of you. And, I think I am a great supporter of movements, and I've lived in France. I mean Sarkozy was a cretin and yet he was scared. My son, you now you go to college in the United States it's $52,000 a year. I said to him, "Look, you know, can you imagine Sarkozy getting up and telling French university students they had to pay $52,000 a year? They'd shut the damn country down. What are you guys doing?"

      And you see within Canadian- I was sort of surprised when I was at UT [University of Toronto], and this was a couple of years ago, to see the extent they're hammering Canadian students with loans just like they're hammering American students with loans. But there's a kid down my street who is about $120,000 in debt, he's paying $700 a month, living with his parents, he's finished college, he can't get a job, he's painting houses. That's- you know debt peonage is- [has] become the new form of political control.

      And they starve institutions, they starve your health care program because they want to kill it. So the Canadian health care system is probably underfunded by about 50%, that's on purpose. And they're doing the same thing in education. It's exactly the system we've undergone within the United States because the engines behind it are the same- which are corporations.

      [1:14:49] Q: What are your reactions to Hugo Chávez's death and do you see his legacy translating into a challenge to anywhere [inaudible]?

      A: It's sort of a complicated question. He did incredible stuff. He kept whole parts of Harlem heated, he kept Cuba heated or, whatever, air-conditioned. And yet, you know I lived in Latin America for six years, he has that kind of classic caudillo persona and mentality.

      One of the reasons I liked the Occupy movement is I really don't like hierarchical structures. Now the- you know, anybody who had been to a General Assembly- I mean sitting through a seven hour General Assembly was-. And yet I thought that there was something really healthy about that. So, I mean Occupy was looking for different paradigms. It's far harder to decapitate a movement when it's like that. And one of things, whatever you say about Occupy, it did take them forever to make a decision, but once they made one they stuck by it. So, those would be my critiques of Chávez, I think.<<<<<[End indent]

    5. I've lost track, is that three yet? If not...

      [Indent]>>>>>[1:16:11] Q: I'm wondering what your advice is for radical journalists as far as what we need to be careful and conscious of, ourselves, when we're going about exposing the truth [inaudible] and the system.

      A: Well I was just at the Bradley Manning trial. I mean here you have a classic whistle blower, he approached the New York Times, the Washington Post first, and you see what happens to anybody who challenges the official narrative. You know Manning, certainly the government is trying to make sure Manning spends the rest of his life in prison and they are working overtime.

      It's interesting that during the trial that the prosecutors for Julian Assange were sitting in the courtroom because they want to extradite Assange on either conspiracy or espionage charges.

      So I used to wonder was Huxley right or was Orwell was right. And it turns out they're both right. First we got Huxley, you know Wolin talks about access to credit and cheap mass-produced consumer goods as being political pacifiers. But now that that credit is gone and those cheap consumer products are no longer cheap were getting Oceania; we're getting, you know, the iron fist of Big Brother. And we're [re-configuring] a society as Oceania was, as Orwell writes: an inner party of 2 to 4%, an outer party, corporate managers, the security and surveillance state, public relations of 12 to 14% and then 85% of us are proles.

      So in terms of journalism I think what's most important is that we begin to understand how power is configured because if we are entranced by the mirage of the formal systems of power, the political theater, we end up doing what Bill McKibben did with 350 dot org where you get 40,000 people walking around the White House on a Sunday and not stepping off the sidewalk.

      That's not going to stop the XL pipeline. The only thing that is going to stop the XL is the blockade and McKibben would have been far better taking fifty people down to sit in front of the pipeline than 40,000 people standing around the White House chanting, as they did, "We are your supporters." And I think that is a failure to understand where power lies.

      And we can't effectively fight back until we make an astute critique of power which means that the very liberal institutions are essentially our enemy in this sense: that they divert energy back into a dead political system.

      So I think it's incumbent upon us, and frankly the only that's going to happen is for you to shut down your electronic hallucinations. Turn off Facebook, don't put anything in your ears, throw out your TV. I don't tweet, any of that. You have to read and that's what frightens me, that as we sever ourselves from a print based culture we lose the capacity to deconstruct the culture around us, which I think is only going to come through print.

      So I don't think- you know, you have to read Wolin, you have to read Marx, all of this stuff you're never going to get electronically. And then you'll have to find, you'll have to date someone who also lives like that or, otherwise, they will think you're a freak [laughter].
      <<<<<[End indent]

    6. Beyond the sad misunderstanding of "print" vs "electronic hallucinations"...

      Why does CH think "the gun culture" has anything to do with corporate, quasi-state tyranny?


    7. If you're going to read Marx, it's helpful to put something in your ears and listen to Reading Marx's Capital with David Harvey here.

    8. SZ,

      Whether Hedges differentiates between the followers of any of the, er, distinct genres of "the gun culture" I don't know, but here's where he would lump together all the devotees of one of the schools:

      [Indent]>>>>>[52:52] Q: At our recreation center, the facility where we work-out on campus, I have noticed recently that there have been advertisements posted which are recruiting for the military, what is your opinion on that?

      A: Well... take them down. I mean America is just a sickeningly militarized culture. Again, we're way ahead of you [Canadians], you should all get on a bus and take a little tour of America and you'll know what not to do. The highest good within American society is-- you know like when you're in the South and you're going through an airport in Atlanta or Dallas, and you'll see uniformed military members go through, people will applaud.

      Now, I've covered wars of occupation. I know how dirty they are, I know what they're doing. And as our Congress has an approval rating of 9%, I mean as the political paralysis continues, the reason this is dangerous is that self-identified liberals like Obama -although, of course, if the Democratic Party was in Europe it would be a far right party- [54:26] but these self-identified liberals, it reminds me of Yugoslavia, you have a center that is unable to respond, as Krugman says "rationally," and so it's increasingly discredited but what's also discredited are these purportedly liberal values.

      Weimar, this is what happened at the end of tsarist Russia, and you vomit up these very frightening distortions, Radovan Karadžić, Slobodan Milošević, or the Nazi Party, and you have to remember within American society, and I think this is a profound difference between Canada and the United States, is that America is a very violent culture, we are very violent. And if you were just to tick off the number of random gun shootings, it's a pretty staggering list. I mean it's now become so common that within American society it doesn't even elicit, except maybe locally, much comment.


    9. ...continued

      [Indent]>>>>>[55:25] And we have very powerful proto-fascist movements embodied in the Christian right, nativist groups, militias, the Tea Party, and the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party who speak in the language of violence, celebrate the gun culture, and who do what fascist movements always do which is demonize the vulnerable; undocumented workers, Muslims, homosexuals, intellectuals, feminists, liberals, and a long list of people they hate. And they are a powerful force within American culture.

      And so the longer that paralysis persists the more you empower the extremes but because our movements have been destroyed. I didn't get into it but it's sort of two hundred pages in Death of the Liberal Class- you know, labor consciously destroyed in the name of anti-Communism. We've been -those of us who care about an egalitarian democracy, an open society- have been severely weakened.

      In essence, we are almost starting from scratch at a moment of crisis. So, the celebration of the military and, quote/unquote, military values; the hyper-masculinity, the notion of obedience within the military, you're not, of course, taught to think, you're taught to obey. That is a kind of awful logic with the corporate state which seeks closed, hermetically sealed institutions- and that's what a corporation is. But they seek, of course, to [put that in place] upon the wider society and if you go to a mega church, structured in exactly the same way.

      I wrote a book on the Christian right called American Fascists: the Christian Right and the War on America -I was trying to reach out to them [laughter]- and you go to these mega-churches and there's a white male pastor who is in direct contact with God, who can not be questioned and you see these kind of rigid hierarchical, male dominated structures which is what the military is, you just see that kind of blossoming throughout the wider society. So it fits precisely, and the celebration of quote/unquote military values is something that goes hand-in-hand with the emergence of the corporate state.<<<<<[End indent]

    10. Well, firstly, thanks for transcribing all of that CMike. He does manage to get a few good points across. I particularly liked this:

      "And we can't effectively fight back until we make an astute critique of power which means that the very liberal institutions are essentially our enemy in this sense: that they divert energy back into a dead political system"

      And his larger point about "electronic hallucinations" is spot on.

    11. He takes a while but Hedges gets to his "electronic hallucination" point at the end of his answer here:

      [Indent]>>>>> [1:01:32] Q: The responsibility of journalists has always been to act as the public's watchdog to keep a steady eye on corporations and government, but we live in a digital age now where the people formally known as the audience are creating content themselves. So I guess my question to you is: has the responsibility of journalists changed in this 2.0 world?

      A: She's asking about the responsibility of journalists in the digital age. First of all, journalism- my wife's an actor and left Scarborough [in Ontario] at seventeen, which I can understand, and went to Juilliard and never came back. And she's classically trained, so, when I met her, she was starring in Antigone.

      Now classical actors, like classical muscians are lucky, even if they're steadily employed, to make $20,000/$25,000 a year. And that's what's going to happen to journalism, that's what's going to happen to teachers. I don't know the situation in Canada but in the United States only 35% now of professorships are tenured track. And I can guarantee you most of those are in the sciences, technology, and business schools which are going to be funded by corporations.

      But if you're in the humanities you're going to starve. So that, if you get a degree in Classics you're going to be an adjunct where you make $5,000 a course if you're lucky, you're not considered a full time employee so you don't have benefits because this is really about a war against all of those whether it's art, whether it's journalism, whether it's literature, whether it's philosophy. I spoke at the University of Washington, the state imposed 10% budget cuts and they have this giant, gleaming, obscene business school in the center of campus and what did they do? Instead of imposing it across the board they abolished the theater and philosophy department[s].

      This is insane because it's a moment when we need desperately to teach people how to think critically for our own, literally our own survival. So journalism will end up being like that. It will be extremely difficult unless you go in public relations, which is about as evil a discipline as, I think, can exist on the planet. You're not going to make any money, you are going to be reduced to living as a member of the working class, that's just the reality. Anybody who gets up and tells you you're going to make a fine living writing for the internet is lying to you. It's just not true.

      That's the first thing. The second thing is that with all the many faults of newspapers, that's a whole nother lecture, it did teach you the ability to report and I worry under the internet we're not training another generation the skills of reporting. When you think about it, the internet is completely inverted from traditional news because you throw anything out there whereas, when I started as a newspaper reporter, you had to go out, report a story, check with other sources, fact check it, bring it back to your editor, it was edited, and then it was published.

      And there is very little real reporting done on the internet; very, very little. There's some great commentary but in terms of reporting, especially investigative reporting-


    12. ...continued

      [Indent]>>>>> [1:05:07] Investigative reporting, when I covered al-Qaeda out of Paris, I wrote five stories that year. Now some of those stories were 5000 words long, they took me weeks to do and I was traveling between different countries in order to put them together. It's extremely labor intensive and it's, it's just expensive. And, of course, as newspaper organizations are downsized one of the first things they do is get rid of that investigative journalist. And investigative reporting, you know, journalism is not brain surgery, it's a trade but it takes you ten years to be a master carpenter and, I think, it takes you a long time to be a good reporter. And I worry that we're losing that capacity.

      And there will always be great journalists but I think like- you see it with classical actors, they are going to be pushed to the margins. And you have this faux-journalism, you know, people who are making- Katie Couric was making $15 million a year on CBS News. This is insane, let me guarantee you one thing, no journalist makes $15 million a year. It's all about that ability to connect and build a kind of emotional rapport which is, of course, what electronic media is about. It's about how they make- making you confuse how you are made to feel with knowledge. That's what skillful electronic media can do.

      So, yeah, we'll always have journalism but, like the arts, like the humanities, it's going to, unfortunately, be pushed to the very fringes of society.<<<<<[End indent]

    13. "you are going to be reduced to living as a member of the working class"

      Depressing but also a reason for hope. Because I never met Satan at a crossroads, b/c I've spent so many years as an adjunct wage-slave, I've never been confused about my where to marshal my class sympathies (or antipathies). Maybe when enough of the media wakes up to their newfound status, they’ll learn to empathize with us—equally valuable, they'll start doing their fucking job, being adversarial to those in power instead of serving it. When that power is wielded against them I reckon it’ll be quite unsettling. The elites, determined to cut down on the table scraps for the rest of us, might just awaken a slumbering giant.

    14. Thanks for posting this, CMike. Whatever apparent disagreements I have with CH (like his elitism-tinged confusion of working class people's applause their own in uniform with the 21st century-marketed, jackbooted power fetishism of Northrop Grumman's corporate image ads during "Meet The Press"), it's great to read these quotes in full. Thank you so much.

  4. Listen to Tavis Smiley and Cornell West call out Obama for, among other things, the way he constantly condescends to black people.
    They have been hip to Obama for a long time.

  5. JC:

    This is bizarre

    "And we have very powerful proto-fascist movements embodied in the Christian right, nativist groups, militias, the Tea Party, and the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party who speak in the language of violence, celebrate the gun culture, and who do what fascist movements always do which is demonize the vulnerable; undocumented workers, Muslims, homosexuals, intellectuals, feminists, liberals, and a long list of people they hate. And they are a powerful force within American culture."

    These are, all of them, relatively powerless. What "very powerful proto-fascist movement?" Unless we're talking about the populist rightists in the House Republican faction (who are currently saving our asses by obstructing the establishment Grand Bargain), there's no real power at all, and certainly no real para-military force. Calling these people a powerful proto-fascist movement is as silly as Fox News reporting the threat that the New Black Panther Party poses to free elections. It's ridiculous.

    And what is this "the vulnerable" group amongst which "liberals" are somehow members? Why on earth would "liberals" be vulnerable to anyone other than the (now omnipotent) security state? Are we all invalids? Are we somehow incapable of defending ourselves? If the Pinkertons were put out against us again, would we not know how to smash them and send them hobbling back to their masters? Why would "liberals" be vulnerable? Are we all involuntary pacifists?

    Who was out in force against us at Zuccotti/Liberty Plaza Park? "Americans For Prosperity" weren't there with their hobbyist-rigged AR-15s, it was the entire "Homeland Security" apparatus that physically suppressed whatever genuine leftist dissent could be mustered there!

    "Speaking the language of violence" is exactly what "occupation" means! What's the problem with that? The un-indicted criminals on Wall Street were literally meant to be "occupied," i.e. placed under citizens' arrest! How on earth could anyone calling themselves a "leftist" believe that violence, at some point, won't be involved in the restoration of democratic power? What, we can't talk about it? We can't say "Once we're more organized, just try to take away the people's power, plutocrats, and see what happens"...that kind of language somehow culturally empowers American Imperium? The "gun culture" caused Hillary Clinton to vote for the occupation of Iraq, and Barack Obama to continue it in privatized form? Why don't we have our own gun culture? Is this how liberals have become so confused about the vast difference between the evils of bureaucratized, industrialized state and corporate militarization and, say, "Pink Pistols?" What could possibly be the problem with popular militarization? If we don't know the first thing about tactical force deployment, if we disparage the ideas of honor, courage and loyalty as crude, macho-ist residue, if we find interest in military science distasteful, if we don't want to learn how to defend ourselves --if we don't have the slightest idea how to occupy anything-- how on earth can we successfully resist the cops when they tell us to step back 1000 feet or be physically assaulted, now that they've moved the Free Speech Zone pens another mile away from the latest G20 summit?

    Where does this apparently submissive, victimized, confused, terrorized "left-wing" role come from, JC?

    This is clearly not of the same liberal left that seized 8 hours of time away from the robber barons.

    1. SZ, so you're saying that if all the DFHs had gone to OWS armed, the liberal left would be closer to realizing its goals? I've long contended that the corporate pigs running the country will never peacefully surrender power. After all, they've spent all these years and billions creating the perfect state, one which precludes the restoration of a functioning democracy through normal channels. But I'd never taken you for a revolutionary before. If nothing else, it would certainly go a long way towards explaining your otherwise strange fixation on gun rights.

      As for Hedges, I think he says it better at the end:

      "And they are a powerful force within American culture." That's undeniable.

    2. [WARNING: I just got another pallet of paste delivered to my computer.]

      Historically speaking, the left in the United States owes a lot of whatever political success it has achieved in Washington to violence but not to any coordinated violence carried out by a group. I won't review them here, but do take a moment to recall the transformations of the American political economy which followed directly from these two events. [LINK] [LINK]

      Now back to the mega Ctrl + v.

    3. [Indent]>>>>>STANFORD, CALIFORNIA
      Saturday, December 8, 2012

      Stanford University’s Center for Ethics in Society hosts a discussion on the disparity of wealth during the Gilded Age. Stanford History Professor Richard White argues that the majority of Americans in this period viewed excessive wealth as an embarrassment....

      [1:06:50] Question: ...I grew up outside of Chicago and they recently had a large strike there, the teachers, and I was just reading about the PATCO strike, the great history of that. I was thinking about how the ideas of what a strike means in the last thirty years changed, my dad telling me how great an idea-- how bad an idea the PATCO strike was. He's always complaining about striking unions. And then-- now my dad is talking about what a great idea the strike was for Chicago. It's a kind of changing feeling, a lot of people have seemed to have supported that teacher's strike.

      [1:07:26] And I was wondering about the Gilded Age. Both of you were talking about individuals and ideas about wealth at that time. I was wondering if you could comment on the types of strikes that were happening in that period and the popular notion of what a strike meant in that period. Was it a way for people to partake in the wealth that was going on, was it a way of moving up in class, what was the popular sense of what a strike was...

      [1:08:25] White: There are two kinds of strikes in the Gilded Age. They grow bigger and more violent as time goes on. The early ones are about control of work, the critical thing is not so much strikes for wages but the idea as an independent republican citizen you should have control over your working life and that no corporation and employer is able to dictate the conditions of work. That's a matter of negotiation, that prompts many of the strikes of early nineteenth century.

      [1:08:50] The middle class largely support strikes until the 1880s, 1890s. What happens in the 1890s is a whole series of strikes which grow increasingly violent and which look a lot like warfare. And, in fact, the way they are put down is not that the strike is lost, they-- usually the states, and later on when the states prove incapable, the federal government puts forth troops to -- that's why there are many armories all over cities, and things like this -- troops are used to suppress the strikes which for anti-monopolists, this is exactly what they are talking about.

      The government is not neutral in these kinds of actions, the government supports one side against them and they see themselves as literally being suppressed by the armed forces of the federal government. It's why the hate injunctions from the Court. As they see it, "we can win elections but we're helpless against the Executive branch and, mostly, we're helpless against the courts." And that's where this turn takes place.

      But in the middle class in the late nineteenth century there is a real fear that the United States is going to break down into class conflict and revolution and when you look at many of those strikes they are extraordinarily violent strikes with armed men on both sides.<<<<<[End indent]

      I've added emphasis to White's comments here about the reaction of the late nineteenth century American middle class to the domestic violence of their age because they dovetail with the point Hedges makes in the excerpt which follows.

    4. I didn't know where to start this excerpt but I do know the transcript of the important part ends up coming in the next comment block. Try to stay with it until you get there.

      [Indent]>>>>>Chris Hedges Death of Liberal Class Feb 7 2012

      [44:27] And the danger of this movement [i.e. Occupy], for the power elite, was that it is a mainstream movement. It articulated concerns and issues that swept across class lines, political lines, and racial lines and for the power elite --and let's be clear who the power elite is, it's Lloyd Blankfein and Robert Rubin, and all these guys-- this was truly terrifying. And it was really terrifying for the Democratic Party.

      And let's now remember that all these occupying encampments were shut down by a Democratic president who publicly has kept silent about Occupy but there's no question certainly with the shutdown of those 18 encampments that that was a coordinated national effort done by the Obama administration. And it was done because Occupy called Democrats out for who they were and for that reason the movement was dangerous.

      [45:37] For me, when they shut those 18 encampments down that was kind of a seminal moment for me. Because it was an illustration of how tone-deaf the corporate state is, how out of touch they are. There's a kind of Versailles quality, a Forbidden City quality to our elite who, because they are so wealthy, has so utterly severed themselves from the mainstream. I think it was a New Yorker writer who said these people don't live in America, they live in Richistan. [Laughter]

      And so they thought they would physically erase these encampments. Now all of the issues that pushed people into these encampments, of course, are still there and getting worse. If they were astute, if we had a Roosevelt, Henry Wallace New Deal classical liberal power elite still within the structures of power they would have immediately forgiven the $1 trillion in student debt, they would have called a moratorium on foreclosures and bank repossessions, and they would spend a trillion dollars on a job program especially targeted to people under the age of 25.

      [46:47] And, instead, by trying to shut [Occupy] down that was, I think for me, an indication how woefully out of touch they are with the suffering that is sweeping across the United States. And, of course, all you have to do is go back and look at what the US government did to radical movements in the 1960s as a kind of template for what they're doing now. They tried to physically remove them and internally destroy them.

      continued...<<<<<[End indent]

    5. Whoops, the important part ends up coming in the next comment block.


      And I wrote an article that did not endear me to Black Bloc anarchists on Monday calling the Black Bloc the cancer of the Occupy movement. They used the Occupy movement as a cover to carry out acts of petty vandalism and embrace a kind of repellent cynicism that they confuse with revolution. And I can assure you the corporate state could not be happier.

      Every sort of example of what the movement should not become can be found on what the New York Post says it is. If you read the New York Post at all, on those days before they shut the encampment down, it was vicious, hate-filled fabricated propaganda. And any step you take, however inadvertently to fulfilling that vision, all of the warning lights should go off.

      I have no evidence that there are agent provocateurs inside the Black Bloc, I do know they were in Canada. We know because they testified against the people after the G20 but my guess is that is where they would be.

      And we saw- we've seen some frightening trials coming out of, for instance, a protest at the last convention where there were these two kids in Texas, I forget their names, who were completely setup by a police agent. It's such an old story, they're giving them the bottles with the gasoline, and showing them how to stuff the rags in, and the next thing you know they spend 23 months in prison.

      So the movement's not going to go away. How will it manifest itself no one knows. I've covered enough movements to understand they're kind of mysterious forces.

      continued...<<<<<[End indent]

    6. [Indent]>>>>>...continued

      I was in East Germany for the overthrow of Honecker and the East German government. You had mostly clergy out of Leipzig, candlelight vigils, you know, a hundred people would show up, seventy people would show up, and then suddenly 20,000 people showed up, and then 70,000 people showed up. And the Honecker decided to send down an elite paratrooper division to shoot them and the paratroopers wouldn't shoot, and it was over. Honecker lasted another week after 19 years in power was out.

      In Czechoslovakia it was the same where you pull a half million into Wenceslas Square and the foot soldiers of the elite finally would not carry out the forces of control that a corrupt and discredited group within the inner circle wanted carried out. That's how revolutions always happen.

      [50:33] People forget the Russian Revolution [of February,1917] was a bloodless revolution, not on the part of the Cossacks and the Tsar and the Okhrana but on the part of the people. On the abdication of the Tsar, there was no armed uprising to get the Tsar to abdicate. What happened in the Russian Revolution -and Paul Avrich has written a very good book about this called The Russian Anarchist[s]- is that all of those local soviets, which were primarily anarchist in nature, which had risen up and were ruling Petrograd, Lenin infiltrated them, there was assassinations of large numbers of anarchist leaders, we don't know a lot about them because so many were killed, because [Lenin] wanted centralized control. And then, of course, the Bolsheviks carry out an armed putsch against Kerensky and the Cadets [in October, 1917] not against the Tsar, the Tsar was gone.

      [51:26] And from my time in Eastern Europe I am convinced that the corporate state, the corporate centers of power are as corrupt and as rotten as the regimes we saw in East Germany. How will it take place, how long will it happen, none of us can answer. In Poland it took ten years, in East Germany it took ten weeks, and in Czechoslovakia it took ten days, and by the time I got to Romania that guy was gone in four days.

      We don't know, no one knows, or even will it succeed. There's no guarantee that it will succeed. It's got to be smart, it's got to be organized, it's got to be disciplined, it's got to be non-violent because as long as it continues to articulate those mainstream complaints and suffering that has been inflicted on two-thirds of this country, and as long as it is a movement that in a physical form makes that mainstream feel comfortable then the power elite in this country is in really, really serious trouble.<<<<<[End indent]

    7. JC:

      I'm not a revolutionary, as evidenced by the fact that I'm leaving written records of my rejection of pacifism online.

      What I'm saying is that an ideology that sees its participants as perpetual victims of the popular right, threatened either by savage, creeping cultural hegemony, or by the physical danger represented by various imminent freikorps, and in existential need of a benevolent protector in the form of the central state, is pathological.

      There is a danger in leftist intellectuals assuming the pose of the oppressed via various unified theories of everything attempting to aggregate opposition to the nativist, revanchist, power symbol-fetishizing right: weakness.

      The last thing we on the liberal left need to do is to literally define ourselves as weak, JC. That's not revolutionary talk, that's just reason. Forget about actual physical violence, if we reject out of hand the organization, the values, the skills and, yes, the aggression required to recreate a movement of people willing to defend themselves and their rights, then we're done for.

      In order to survive as anything other than the center's appendix, we need a culture of that sort of willingness, JC. People need it. Surely you can see the danger in letting the popular right be the only socio-political force telling people they've got to stand up for themselves, right?

    8. We're in complete agreement here, SZ. Thanks for the reply.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Seem like a good place for this partial transcript [LINK]:

    [BEGIN AT 2:08:18] BookTV host Peter Slen: In your book Empire of Illusion: -2009- The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle you have a chapter where you visited Las Vegas for a month, or for a while. What chapter is that?

    Chris Hedges: On the porn industry and of...

    Slen: Illusion of Love

    Hedges: Yeah. And I get very angry at liberals on the left over their refusal to condemn pornography. Why is it morally indefensible to physcially abuse a woman in a sweat shop in the Phillipines or in southern China but somehow it's an issue of free speech when it's done by the sex industry in the United States? When I started inteviewing these women who came out of the porn industry, having suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [myself], I instantly, after a minute or two said all these people have PTSD. And I wrote, I wrote it graphically and brutally and I think it intended to engender a kind of disgust. I never write in the chapter we should or shouldn't ban porn, I just said if you want to defend porn then you better understand what it is you're defending. These women, and you know they last one or two years on the sets and if they continue within the industry they just, in essence, become call girls; shipped around the country in hotel rooms, it's just awful. But they're popping handfuls of pain killers before they go on the sets.

    This violence, which sells in porn, it's not the soft lit porn of the Playboy channel anymore, it's so-called gonzo porn. The violence is not simulated, it's real. These women are black and blue by the time they finish. They are constantly going in for surgery for anal and vaginal tears because they are penetrated by two, three dozen men in the course of an afternoon; knocked around, abused, insulted verbally, assaulted physically. And I was, as somebody who doesn't watch porn, I was pretty blown away. It was really sick. And I end the chapter, you know because the only emotion that women on porn sets are allowed to express is a craven desire to be degraded physically and morally; physically, and verbally, and morally.

    And I end the chapter two ways talking about these seven thousand-five hundred dollar silicon dolls which are anatomically correct and people take home and buy Victoria Secret clothing for and... Because, in essence, porn is really finally about necrophilia. And if you look closely at the images out of Abu Gharib, they look like stills from a porn film. The pornification of culture and, especially, the young- most of the viewers of porn on the internet are between the ages of about thirteen and eighteen.

    It's a completely pornified culture. And I think in this, boy, I stand with the right-wing on this. I mean, I think it is a symptom of deep moral degeneracy and an utter failure on the part of the so-called liberal class to stand up for the values it purports to espouse. They won't take a stand against it. [END AT 2:11:38]