Quote of the day

As the United States lunges into another reckless, foolish war, we may wish to notice that:

Regardless of the trigger mechanism, the [Obama] administration seems intent on pushing through Donald Rumsfeld’s old madcap blueprint for the Middle East, which involved toppling the governments of seven consecutive countries on the way to unchallenged dominion over Arab and Persian fossil fuels. Their eyes are on the prize. The rest is detail. It seems to make little difference to the Americans what becomes of Syria, only that Assad is overthrown, and the warlord that plants his flag atop the wreckage is hostile to Tehran and is willing to viciously put down any foolhardy bids for self-determination that might emerge from the populace. After all, the U.S. has left a trash bin of fallen monuments and blown infrastructures in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. If the entire Arab world is a flaming midden whose only functional entities are oil derricks, what cause for concern is that to our imperial chieftains? Let the Islamists slaughter each other on the peripheries of the bonfire while we vacuum every ounce of natural gas and petroleum from the core of the earth. (One conjures visions of Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood, mocking his young evangelical rival and shouting, “I drink your milkshake!”)

Jason Hirthler, author of the above, continued by pointing out that America’s “Liberals stare blankly from the sidelines while their ‘lesser evil’ does another expert impression of the ‘greater evil’.” How much blood must their standard bearer shed before they break with him and the party duopoly which runs Uncle Sam’s empire? I would guess a lot of blood as long as they can put affordable gasoline in their cars.

Quote of the day

Rob Urie, echoing Daniel Goldhagen, wrote:

Ten years after the invasion, occupation and widespread destruction of Iraq was set into motion the revisionist apologetics are flying fast and furious. These include the denial of culpability for crimes committed, the systematic undercounting of the innocents slaughtered and displaced and the conveniently forgotten hubris of empire in the high theater of technocratic carnage. They also wanly posit the historical epic is behind ‘us,’ the 75% of the populace reported in poll results to have supported the war before news began leaking that its murder and mayhem weren’t achieving their hypothesized results. So to this 75%, a/k/a the American people, is the problem that we murdered too many or not enough? Put another way, what number of murdered Iraqis would be too many if today there were a Starbucks on every corner in Baghdad and Payday Lenders to bridge the cash flow shortfalls of the citizenry that remains?

Those murdered cannot speak up in order to be counted as such. Nor can they retaliate, demand justice or ask for a do-over. They died in order to affirm the vanity of America’s Chicken-Hawks and to meet the national-security needs of Israel’s morally unhinged elite. There may be only outcome which could make their deaths meaningful as grand Historical facts — common American standing up to their ‘leaders’ and forcing them to make good on the demand, “Never Again.”

Recommended: In the Zone of the Homeles

Michael Doliner (his blog can be found here) wrote a restrained yet powerful essay describing the personal and social disasters which mark homelessness in Los Angeles. In his telling and my interpretation of it the homeless are homo sacer, beings present in society only as those excluded from its common practices, its typical places and from the law itself. Doliner does not use this term but the point of using it appears with clarity in the following passage:

Naturally, the police cruise the zone [in which the homeless live]. Almost always, along fifth street, one or even two cruisers sit at the curb. Beside them a couple of officers usually scold a homeless man or two. I wonder what, given their passivity, the homeless guys might have done? In any case the police seem only to talk to them, for what else can they do? Drag them in? Fine them? I have seen no real violence. It all seems rather routine. Clearly, a modus vivendi has developed.

In these districts a minor ironic reversal of privilege prevails. The homeless stagger about in the street, often down the center of the street with impunity. California has a no-jaywalking law the police gleefully enforce. The fine is $200. But the homeless are immune. Where are they going to get $200? Give them a summons and they are likely to use it for toilet paper. And what is the city going to do about it? Jail them? They might prefer it to the street. Recently, while in the fabric district just above an area particularly dense with the homeless, my friend, Liam, warned me that although the homeless were wandering about in the street it was not safe for me to do so. I looked like I could pay the fine, and the police would single me out among the jaywalkers.

The homeless are sacred and profane, legally controlled but autonomous, inside and outside society. They are the bad fate which can befall anyone who participates in a money-driven social order. And they are “superfluous,” as Doliner remarks. They cannot be rehabilitated or given a secure place in society. As such, they strongly structure the personal horizons of most Americans, for losing one’s home and becoming homo sacer is but a job loss away during the new Age of Austerity and Barbarism.

Doliner’s essay is worth reading.

Quote of the day

Philippe Marliere wrote:

Days before the first round of the French presidential election, Nicolas Sarkozy was addressing his supporters at a mass rally in Paris. His final words sounded desperate: “French people, help me!” The conservative candidate looked tense and the public mood was grim. A record attendance of 150,000 was hastily announced. Journalists on the ground showed that no more than 30,000 had gathered on Place de la Concorde.

This ever more likely defeat has been a long time coming. While he was campaigning in 2007, Sarkozy’s economic advisers concocted a fiscal plan that gravely offended the French sense of egalitarianism. The Tepa law — or “fiscal shield” — ensured that the richest people would not pay more than 50% of their annual income in tax. Thanks to the perverse tax cap, Liliane Bettencourt — France’s richest person — received a €30m repayment. Sarkozy’s reputation as a friend of the rich who benefits from their largesse has never rescinded since then.


Sarkozysm may be seen as an avatar of Berlusconism. “Sarkoberlusconism” attempts to run the state as a firm. Under Sarkozy, justice, culture or education have become economic goods which should be subjected to the rationality and assessment of market rules. In this respect, Sarkozysm is an Americanism; the closest France has got so far to US-style neo-conservatism.

A discussion about Barack Obama’s political persona

Corey Robin, a professor at Brooklyn College, posted an interesting and much needed discussion which focused on the questions:

Is Obama politically inept or does he want these massive cuts? And if he wants them, is it because of political calculation? Is he a true believer in neoliberal economics? A hostage of Wall Street?

The occasion: The Debt Ceiling Debate and Glenn Greenwald’s debunking of a few persistent myths about Barack Obama’s political behavior, namely, that Obama is “weak” and “inept.”

The discussants are:

Joshua Cohen

Jodi Dean

Jay Driskell

Lisa Garcia Bedolla

Alex Gourevitch

Doug Henwood

Joe Lowndes

Rick Perlstein

Katha Pollit

Adolph Reed

Thaddeus Russell

Thomas Sugrue

Shane Taylor

The consensus opinion broadly construed: Obama is not ‘weak,’ is not ‘inept’ and is effectively a neoconservative, albeit a neoconservative who wants to be considered a well-meaning tailor who mends the tears found in America’s political fabric. Obama is, as I have long claimed, a system politician, which is to say, that he is an agent of finance capital and the security-surveillance state as well as a proponent of elite governance and weak form of democratic accountability. And I would say that Obama’s Presidency has validated this political judgment. Had the Democratic Party in 2008 wanted to run a reform candidate with national, popular and democratic bona fides, it would have selected Ralph Nader as its candidate. It did not, and the United States now seemingly confronts a situation in which its better impulses have already suffered a major political defeat.

The discussion is well worth reading.