Saturday, September 5, 2009

Incendiary Catharsis: (Or, Pardon Our Bombs While We Rethink This Whole Thing)

Incendiary Catharsis: (Or, Pardon Our Bombs While We Rethink This Whole Thing)

I was completely transfixed this morning by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen's comments. Though I concede I have not yet read the Admiral's full essay which I plan to do.

My gut feeling is he's embarking, unwittingly I suspect, on far more than a military mission. What he characterizes here as perceptual challenges (a blurry lens that must only be turned 1/16 inch to the left) have their roots in a profound American self-confusion that too often employs faraway villages to exercise its funk.

Oh shit America's discovering itself again. Everybody duck! On the Road with napalm! Or is this some 'tail-wagging-dog' permutation of the Military Industrial Complex as it seeks to alter American culture for the Higher Purpose of waging more intellectually consistent warfare?Here we have the Admiral-as-social-engineer refashioning American culture in an effort to, what, win the hearts and minds of others? Victory becomes paramount, even if we must stop being ourselves in order to achieve it. If America decides it must change in order to capture those hearts and minds, why did we set off, armed only the prevailing vision of America in the first place? Presumably we were firm enough in that prevailing vision to venture war on others. Now we're there, we're stuck and we must change in order to prevail? Face-saving matters aside, wouldn't it be better to concede our inner confusion, and leave...yesterday --rather than cobble a new identity for America while dropping bombs on others as a weird form of catharsis?

A fascinating quote:

“To put it simply, we need to worry a lot less about how to communicate our actions and much more about what our actions communicate,”

What of the actions themselves? Do they not by themselves possess communicable powers? Or is it only how we articulate these actions --in word and image-- to our adversaries (perhaps their intepretational faculties have been jiggered by shellshock? Let us rush to their narrative assistance while the fighter jets refuel!) Are Americans arrogant and insulting or is this simply a perceptual miscue on the part of our ostensible adversaries? Indeed are our adversaries existential or merely ostensible, that is, actualizable friends but for a ruffled feather here and there that can be ironed out with the appropriate communications. "We are good men though we bomb your villages. Our bombs take their origins from a fundamentally decent people. You leg was lost through kindness"

Is there a certain naive arrogance in the notion that Muslims can be better wooed with more 'strategic communication'? When I hear strategic, I think selective or premeditated, certainly a notch beneath authentic or full-throated, unflinchingly honest dialogue.

Have we as Americans become so seduced by the notion of promotional campaigns that we believe there is nothing endemic within our culture or identity that might potentially be anathema to another's culture or identity? Is there nothing in the world that won't collapse beneath a few judiciously selected winks and nudges?

Prince of Tears

My latest attempt to keep this oh-so-diligent blog a breathin''s me singing an original song 'Prince of Tears' with fellow writer Tom Saputo at The Serbian Crown in Great Falls, Virginia on Sep 2, 2009. The actual video of the evening will appear on Fairfax County's Channel 10 at some point in the near-future. I promise to keep my vast blogger audience posted, literally.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Rehabilitating Huey Long: It's Long Overdue

I'm a pretty religious reader of Jesse's Cafe Americain. Usually he's on the right side of the debate. But in his 2/23 entry 'The Word for the Week' he misses by a mile.


The problem is not an 'individual' one or else it involves so MANY individuals that the term becomes well-nigh useless and you might as well call it systemic-by-practical-default. Alright we won't swing the bank tellers from the highest trees. I'm all for teller amnesty. But this is more than a few bad apples. This is in many ways about a rotten apple cart.Then there's a picture of Huey Long trundled out for demogogic effect. There's a pretty good case that Huey Long was shot by the same scumbags who brought us the Federal Reserve. I've reconciled myself to the fact that I'm steadily claiming more and more traditional tin foil hat territory in recent months. So be it. It's all out there on the Internet for those with a desire to find it.

Long has been maligned/marginalized of course as a corrupt drunken fool. With all due respect what politician is not laden with venality about an inch beneath his surface? So that's selective character assassination. If they're all croooks to one degree or another why sanction one as a crook --unless of course you have damned good reason? After all, some crooks are better than others. Long was all over the banking cartel. And along the way he delivered near-universal literacy to Louisiana. As we know, the elite hardly welcomes a literate underclass. Long was for the poor, a soon-to-be burgeoning class in 21st century America. So we would do well to get the revisionist pens writing on this fascinating character.

Demagoguery is in the eye of the beholder. Some leaders pose a clear and distinct threat to the powers-that-be. In these cases, the term is often wielded as a slur. Long was one of those. He scared the bejeevers out of the same guys who led the aborted FDR coup and whose offspring are no doubt in the forefront of the current TARP coup. The current wholesale theft of the public treasury requires a man --or people-- of Long's charismatic appeal to countervail it and rally the common man. Some will be demagogues in the worst sense of that word. Some will be leaders with fire in their belly and with a pulse on the legitimate outrage of the average American. We need a sustained progressive counterweight in this country like never before. It's 1932 all over again.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Poor is Cool

Earthlink just slashed its monthly Internet dial-up rate to $7.95 from $9.95. The report of the demise of dial-up --this looming Depression will soon prove-- was somewhat exaggerated. McDonald's value meals are the rage.

Poor will be cool again soon. Or if not cool, then at least damn common. I'm writing an article right now on the death of Free TV. People are gonna to miss Free TV. I recorded a Channel 10 FCAC show on this very subject this past weekend. We're doing another one this Saturday.

This site FreeDTVPlus discusses the issue more fully. It happens to be my Dad's site. He's an Emmy-award winning television engineer and executive and has been a voice in the wilderness on this topic for years.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Fix Is In

Brace yourself for a series of I-told-the-world-isms...

I was castigated in many places for showing bad faith and unsportsmanlike conduct for not allowing Obama his ceremonial victory lap. The implication from some was that I was ungracious. My sense of these folks is that many are fully-seduced Obama girls, easily duped, predisposed to pomp and permanently affixed to spectacle.

I said on TV we would know in his first month who we had as president due to the banking crisis falling on his doorstep. I maintained that the stakes to our nation were so huge they should trump our self-celebratory dance about electing a transformational African-American president. I said it remained to be seen whether indeed his 'transformationalism' had a substance component. I voted for Obama knowing 3 of his top 7 corporate contributors were Wall Street banks. I applauded America for electing an African-American as it represented true social progress, knowing that this time especially we needed a helluva lot more.

After allowing him the longest possible honeymoon that can be allowed in these precarious times, I've concluded, as the Financial Times appears to be edging towards in the link below, that Obama is a paper tiger. The Geithner plan fell well-short of seizing the moment. It's the only moment he --and we-- had. What will follow is social unrest by 2010. Obama was the last great hope offered up by this System. My concern all along was Systemic --how the required fixes really lie beyond the ken of this System. Railroad engineers can't build bridges. The train will first have to hurtle into the ravine.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Prozac IndigNation

What Engels failed to understand was advanced capitalism's deft wielding of complexity, the cloaking of risk, the originate-and-distribute 'hot potato' model, securitization as camouflage, the democratization of credit, the false hope of counter-parties and unanticipated concentration risk, etc. Heck, who beyond a select few people understood it even nine months ago? Even now, the rationale of post-bubble fervor is hard to reconstruct. My guess is Engels would resist the anomalous language of 'bubbles' and argue that the so-called anomaly is simply the business-as-usual, crisis-to-crisis nature inherent in capitalism. He might also marvel at the financial capitalist's ability to 'feed at the socialist trough' whenever it suits him. Should we be surprised? Greed observes the ideology of expedience. Or is it that capitalism is institutionalized greed and not an ideology at all?

Anyway as the elite stole from the top via stock options, ridiculous salaries, acquiescent boardrooms etc., they simultaneously (and ingeniously) created credit models that augmented stagnant wages and sustained the workers' consumption patterns against the Marxist cul de sac of overproduction. In short, cheap credit caused the worker to believe he was still keeping ahead and enjoying the fruits of his production. For a time it masked his real wage declines.

The Freddie/Fannie paper factory also benefited from an implied govermental (read: socialist) backstop which, as it turned out, was ultimately invoked; this aggressive credit creation relied upon the gumption of relatively less sophistocated and emergent capitalist markets (many prior Marxist-Leninist states ironically) that, for a variety of currency and developmental reasons, were happy to remain production-bound and vendor-oriented.

Like any Ponzi scheme, this dog-and-pony trick can only succeeed once. No one will be fooled again. Meanwhile the American worker is being unceremoniously dumped back into a classic Marxist overproduction trap as credit sources evaporate, home equity disappears, manufacturing jobs vanish and inflation looms. The new cars and houses are stacking up. Absent credit, no one can afford them. Which is to say, no one can afford them. When the deleveraging process completes itself, we will be back to 'merely' wages --and horrendous wage disparities-- a more classic Marxist playing field.

The question to me is, when will the American pot finally boil over into meaningful social unrest? Or are Americans so naturally docile (and/or medicated) that outrage is not an available response? Is Prozac Huxley's soma? If so, they sure as hell better find a way to keep the pills rolling.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The world economy seems in need of a world war that is 'well-crafted and geographically strategic' i.e. one that preserves the productive capacity of Asia (seems a waste to raze good factories) while destroying the consumption/demand centers such as N. America and Europe. Human need is easily replicable. If mindless consumption has in fact become the American Way, as it seems to have, what would Jefferson say of preserving 'the right to consume toasters and iPods'? The West inhabits a moral vacuum that nature will invade one way or another. Let it be a rapacious and well-conceived war.

A bout of good old fashioned destitution in the developed world would topple the Mazlow Hierarchy and bury the Rostow post-industrial pretensions once and for all. These were the self-actualization springboards that led the West into a narcissistic cul de sac. I'm thinking a collapse of first-world into third and third into first, rendering Martin Luther King's 'higher synthesis'.

The trouble is, the military industrial complex is on the wrong side of the conflict --unless China stops bankrolling it. Post-war, Asia can serve as the Marshall Planners. You need an untrammeled space (similar to post-World War II America) to serve as the launching point for renewed development.

Call it Pax Sino.