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Tuesday, November 29, 2005



how dangerously detached from reality is the administration leadership? donald rumsfeld had an "epiphany" over the weekend -- we are not faced with an insurgency in iraq.

this page would clearly argue that we are -- in fact, with one much broader and deeper than many are willing to admit. and ideological blindness to uncomfortable truths does not wish it out of existence.

"Cuckoo" Where have you been: I am looking for this all over the market. Please anyone know where is cukoo.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005


bombing the messenger

members of the british government have leaked to the daily mirror portions of a memo which details the expressed intention of president bush to bomb the facilities of television outlet al-jazeera in its home country of qatar during the american military destruction of fallujah. british prime minister, according to the memo, sensibly talked bush out of implementing the plan as a potential public relations disaster.

the madness of this administration grows clearer by the day, and this is a shining example of the mindset of amoral imperial impunity that infects the white house sinking ever deeper into the mire of spartanism.

but what concerns me now is the apparent ease with which the administration equated their physical enemies on the ground in iraq and around the world in al-qaeda with the media that reported on misguided american efforts to dispatch them. as american politics sinks to new lows of polarizing propaganda daily, as america broadly takes sides against itself, one may ask: how long will it be until those in power transfer the field of conflict that is the mideast back home and start reproducing these perverse decision chains domestically? after all, in a political world where the antagonist is no longer an opponent but an enemy and a traitor -- not to be reasoned with as a fellow human being with a differing view but prosecuted and eliminated with prejudice -- how far off is political violence? and where those who would freely report on the abuses of power in seeking its ends are equally deserving of the violence accorded to those enemies, could a free press -- or any equivalent articulated right -- survive?

with the meme of an incorrigible liberal media firmly ensconced in the heads of all the suburban armchair warriors that make up the republican militia, i seriously doubt it.

I don't think this administration is exhibiting madness at all. I think we're seeing a significant setback in what has been a dogged, methodical plan.

It saddens me to be saying this, but it clearly is in the best interests of the US and the world that the Bush Administration be humbled and its aims discredited. The Iraq war is -- disastrously and humiliatingly -- lost. If this causes Americans to swing away from identifying with the apocalytic vision of the Religious Right elements that Bush represents and with whom the war's aims are closely identified, then there is something to be gained from our losing the war. A harsh reality, not expressed lightly, but a reality.


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"how far off is political violence?"

Well, someone threw a grenade at Bush, someone else was arrested to plotting to kill him, shots were fired into Bush/Cheney offices, Dems slashed GOP tires on election eve, and someone tried to run over Katherine Harris. All the violence seems to be going against the people you delusionally claim are fascists.

Meanwhile your comrade-in-ignorance above seems utterly unaware that our military makes more progress in Iraq every day, and generally believes the endeavour is succeeding.

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BTW, Bush was joking. Like we would seriously consider bombing Qatar. Good Lord you people are paranoid. Have you considered that prescription for lithium I recommended?

Oh, and if the liberal media is just a "meme" please explain the Rathergate and Easongate debacles, and also why journalists self-describe as overwhelmingly liberal.

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Well, someone threw a grenade at Bush, someone else was arrested to plotting to kill him, shots were fired into Bush/Cheney offices, Dems slashed GOP tires on election eve, and someone tried to run over Katherine Harris.

fwiw, i agree -- both sides are ready and perhaps eager to contribute to civil unrest.

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"...our military makes more progress in Iraq every day, and generally believes the endeavour is succeeding."

It depends on who you take to represent "our military" when you process news like this. another perspective, from a field officer who wrote to Iraq Veteran Paul Rieckhoff from Ramadi recently:

"I wish I had the time or energy or memory capacity to describe to you how wrong this whole thing has gone. It's just as you described it a couple years ago. We *can* make a difference here, and i believe in the mission as it looks on paper. But your president and his brain-dead colleagues aren't even trying to give us what we need to do it. the add-on armor HMMWVs are a joke. The terrorists target them b/c they know they offer no protection. The M1114s have good armor, but every time we lose one (i had one blown up monday, driver had his femoral artery cut -- will recover fully -- b/c there apparently is no armor or very weak armor under the pedals) it's impossible to replace them. So now I have to send yet another add-on armored vehicle outside the wire daily. The M1114s also have certain mechanical defects, known to the manufacturer, for which there is apparently no known fix. For example, on some of them (like mine) if it stalls or you turn it off, you cannot restart it if the engine is hot. We have to dump 3 liters of cold water on a solenoid in order to start it again. Not that much fun when your vehicle won't start in indian country. I wonder if DoD is getting a refund for the contract. Speaking of contracts, KBR is a joke. I can't even enumerate the problems with their service, but I guarantee they do not receive less money based on how many of the showers don't work, or how many of us won't eat in the chow hall often because we get sick every time we do.

"There is so much. I could go on forever. the worst thing, which we have discussed, is that they are playing these bullshit numbers games to fool America about troop strength. If they stopped paying KBR employees $100,000 to do the job of a $28,000 soldier, maybe they'd have enough money to send us enough soldiers to do the job. As it stands we have no offensive capability in the most dangerous city on earth. General Shinseki should write an Op/Ed that basically says, 'I told you so.' Idiots.

"Where are the AC-130s? The apaches? They have them in FAR less active AOs (areas of operations). All we ever get is a single Huey and Cobra team, both of which are older than I am. it's such a joke. They're not even trying. At all. They have apaches in Tikrit but Hueys in Ramadi.

"I wish every american could see this for him/herself. Registering your frustration at the ballot box isn't nearly enough. There should be jail terms for this."

We've all heard these stories from the field, marvel that the grunts still have the morale they somehow retain, and hold this testimony in the backs of our minds when we listen to the Rumsfeld/Cheney perspective on the "progress" we're making every day in Iraq. You're saying, Dave, that Rummy has a better vantage point?


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i rather think as well that john murtha speaks for the military to a far greater extent than donald rumsfeld, whose mutual antipathy shared with the military brass is the stuff of legend. as was pointed out by many washington observers, murtha speaks for the military leadership -- he would never have come out with these views if they were not shared by american military leadership.

rummy, on the other hand, has seen fit to lie to the troops who know better. the problems outlined in that ramadi letter are old news and remain unresolved, costing american troops their lives as rummy remains dedicated to building a flexible imperial army designed for frequent use. it's no wonder that rumsfeld is an object of great contempt.

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Monday, November 21, 2005


sharon's gambit

israeli prime minister ariel sharon, one of the founders of the likud party which has become the focal point of israeli militant nationalism, abandoned that party in favor of creating a new centrist party, to be called "national responsibility". this follows quickly on the heels of israel's left labor party -- now under labor union leader amir peretz, who recently ousted longtime labor leader shimon peres -- withdrawing from the governing coalition, which resulted in sharon's calling for the dissolution of the knesset and for new elections to be scheduled. sharon reputedly will invite peres to join national responsibility, giving rise to wonderful hopes of a broad-based party in the israeli center.

two weeks ago, sharon was faced with the emergence of the likud rebels, a hardline faction of likud centered on uzi landau and benjamin netanyahu, militantly opposed to almost any concession to the palestinians, which defected from sharon's leadership and his efforts to consolidate a restless likud behind the israeli evacuation of the gaza strip. this followed his surprise defeat of netanyahu's bid for likud leadership in september, turning back an earlier attempt to wrest likud from an increasingly moderate and sensible (and popular) sharon.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin explained the prime minister's decision: "Sharon understood that he was going in a direction that the Likud couldn't accept, both politically and in his taking of independent initiatives, and now he's chosen a very risky path."
that path, and what likud's more abjectly militant elements could not broach, was one of real steps toward a peaceful two state solution for the palestinian problem -- a view toward creating a new palestine in gaza and the west bank. such a step away from a militant nationalist zionism such as infects likud, which sees not only the israel demarcated by treaty in 1947 but much of the levant as israel's manifest destiny, is impossible for hard-bent paranoid ideologues like landau. sharon responded to the jeers of these rebels:

"We must decide if the Likud will continue to lead the nation united, with statesmanship and responsibility or if the Likud will be led by an irresponsible, extremist, mutinous opposition."

"I hear terrible sounds of shunning, hatreds, and excommunications," Sharon declared, "voices that threaten to the point of civil war, voices that call for refusal, that call for violence against soldiers, police, and against me."
as this page has said before, there is an israel that is not militant, not torturous, not paranoid, not obsessed with mercilessly dominating and humiliating the palestinian people, not a cauldron of wild-eyed messianic zionism. it sometimes seems that this is the only israel in the american news, largely because likud under sharon has dominated israeli politics since the failure of the oslo accords, and the intifada has only served to further radicalize many elements of israeli politics on both the left and the right.

this break with likud and a middle-road alliance between sharon and peres, venerable icons of israeli politics, may offer a genuine hope of that other, better israel seeing the surface in the knesset and relieving some large fraction of beleaguered israeli people from the onslaught of moral depredation that has sadly accompanied constantinian judaism. it is my sincerest hope that peres and sharon find a way to work together to resuscitate israel from its moral slumber and work to impart some of the moral lustre of judaism to the state that would purport to represent it -- not least because israel's moral and political dilemma represents a possible future for the united states, as it too suffers under the paranoid fantasies of an unhinged and morally bankrupt neoconservative political elite.

UPDATE: peres has left labor and is joining sharon.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005


john murtha

a venerable and respected bipartisan, a decorated marine corps veteran of 37 years and inveterate hawk, congressman john murtha is one of the last people i would have expected to rescind his position of support for the ongoing war in iraq. however, in a move that signals a sea change among even formerly solid supporters of the administration and its misguided elective war, murtha today came out for an immediate withdrawal of american armed forces in iraq.

"The American public is way ahead of the members of Congress," [Murtha] said. "It's time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk."

... "The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion."

... "We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interest of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf region," Murtha said.
i would hardly disagree on any count.

his comments come on the heels of a new political offensive in which vice president cheney employed the typical fraudulent and duplicitous bluster that has made him the least credible and most dangerous politician to have an office in the white house since the nixon administration. cheney, like many politicians (but unlike others), simply isn't stupid enough to believe what he's saying, as men like longtime friend but now ostensible enemy brent scowcroft have noted. unlike many politicians, however, cheney has seated himself at the reins of the chariot the empire, where he can do immeasurable damage. cheney's comments elicited this response from murtha:

Murtha, a Marine intelligence officer in Vietnam, angrily shot back at Cheney: "I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."
in another sign of rebellion, a bipartisan group of senators is threatening to scuttle the renewal of the patriot act because many of the limited safeguards for american citizens contained in the senate version of the bill were eliminated in committee. raimondo discusses the unrest on capitol hill as an administration caught in a mire of serious scandal with microsopic public approval becomes a 2006 electoral liability to its allies.

but this shouldn't be confused with murtha's reversal. he is one of the few congressmen on either side of the aisle who eschew grandstanding for competence and leadership. murtha shed tears at his press conference and talked at length about visiting with the wounded, betraying a deep sense of moral culpability for an amoral war and a matching barely-concealed rage at the administration which compounded in iraq the manifold flaws of its incredible utopian ideology with the most egregious and incompetent mishandling of the war's execution. one hopes murtha's considerable influence awakens more of the supporters of this sorry episode in american imperial decline to the nature and extent of the disaster they have helped to facilitate.

UPDATE: how desperate is the white house in the face of murtha's reversal? while trying to keep the president above the fray, spokesman scott mcclelland tried to smear murtha so ridiculously as to make himself laughable.

The debate over Iraq policy turned more bitter after Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., called for President Bush to remove troops from Iraq within six months. Republicans called Murtha's position one of abandonment and surrender and suggested that the decorated Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War and like-minded politicians were acting cowardly.

On Monday, Murtha, a key Democrat on military issues, defended his call to get out of Iraq, saying he was reflecting Americans' sentiment. "The public turned against this war before I said it," Murtha said. "The public is emotionally tied into finding a solution to this thing, and that's what I hope this administration is going to find out."

Last week, the White House responded to Murtha's statement with ire. Spokesman Scott McClellan linked Murtha, a longtime supporter of the military who had backed the war, to maverick filmmaker Michael Moore and the far-left wing of the Democratic Party.

But Bush, who is returning Monday from a tour of Asia, later eased up on the criticism, praising Murtha as "a fine man" and saying that disagreeing with the administration was not unpatriotic.
this is the same murtha correctly described by steve clemons as "out of a Tom Clancy novel" and a "living version of John Wayne in Congress", who is one of the most ardent supporters of the american military in government. he is also, as raimondo notes, a confidant of the american military brass -- people who he speaks for because they will not speak themselves, and with whom he certainly deliberated on coming to this change of position. it is no exaggeration that murtha is speaking for a great many american generals in saying that we should not be in iraq anymore. and that is the injury that provoked such rabid vitriol from histrionic militant nationalists -- he is putting the lie to the administration propaganda piece that claims its position is only that of america's military experts.


woodward enters the fray

the investigation of the plame affair took an unexpected turn yesterday, as washington post editor bob woodward was called to testify that, unbeknownst to anyone, he had learned of plame's undercover identity from a different (as yet unnamed) source prior to scooter libby's indiscretion of that same information with judith miller.

how this new revelation may affect the fitzgerald investigation is impossible to say. who the unnamed source may be will determine much. for some, it calls woodward's credibility into question -- the hero of watergate, in the process of cultivating insider contacts with the bush administration in order to write lucrative books, suddenly can be painted as a rather unobjective figure with post reporter walter pincus essentially saying that woodward isn't really telling the truth. however, it should not do much to affect the prosecution of libby, who was indicted under perjury charges.

but, as kevin drum has noted, the multiplicity of leaks relating to plame -- now at least five, possibly six -- is almost undeniably the result of an administration plan. the odds of a good soldier like libby going out on a limb without his overseer cheney's approval was always small; likewise with rove and his political owner, president bush. the trick would be establishing proof of such a criminal conspiracy within the white house -- an uneviable and perhaps impossible task for fitzgerald.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


peter drucker

peter drucker, 95, died last week. he became famous as an exponent of management theory and practice, but was an iconic figure and enduring personality because of his perceptiveness and wisdom -- both inevitably linked to his deep sense of history. he was a man of his times -- dedicated to perpetual change, managerial to the core -- but also a man of great perspective who understood better than most the limits of human management in a complex world.

the globalist runs an examination of the man and a listing of ten maxims attributed to drucker as a means of eulogy -- many of which elicited a smile.


ceding asia

roubini global macro collects a number of articles this week analyzing the rise of china in the westernized anglophone global power structure now under a decaying american stewardship and examines the likely shift in power and its possible effects. particularly interesting i found was this paper prepared for the imf by the institute of international economics which examines the increasing ineffectiveness and illegitimacy of the western g-7 (which has for decades functioned essentially a proxy for american political and economic power) in steering the global economy through its proxies (the united nations, the international monetary fund and the world bank).

The ineffectiveness of the G-7 stems in turn from two fundamental causes. The chief problem is substantive. The large high-income countries have essentially adopted a mutual non-aggression pact under which, facilitated by a global regime of flexible exchange rates and huge international capital flows that enable them to ignore external criticism of their policies, they simply eschew making such criticisms or at least pursuing any serious attempts to alter the behavior of others. The United States rejects all foreign critiques of its excessive tax cuts and unsustainable budget deficits. Europe resists external advice on both structural changes and expansionary macroeconomic policies that would strengthen its growth. Japan took more than a decade to revamp its banking system and thus restore a foundation for expansion, despite atypically aggressive foreign criticism (notably from the United States), and exacerbated the problem along the way with a series of major macroeconomic policy errors. The G-7 has little credibility in counseling other countries to adopt responsible fiscal and exchange rate policies when it permits huge budget imbalances and massively misaligned currencies to persist in its midst without any serious effort to correct or even address them.

In earlier periods, the G-7 and its predecessors adopted coordinated and effective responses to very similar problems. In the 1960s, the G-10 more-or-less successfully resolved a series of exchange rate crises (centered mainly on sterling but also including the dollar and several others) and created SDRs in an effort to shore up the Bretton Woods system. In the late 1970s, the Bonn summit worked out a global recovery program with very precise national commitments that was well on its way to success before the second oil shock again derailed the world economy. In the 1980s, the Plaza and Louvre Accords prevented both a US relapse into system-threatening protectionism and a free fall of the dollar. There were failures during these earlier decades too: the G-10, for example, was unable to prevent the breakdown of the Bretton Woods exchange rate regime in the early 1970s. But no such cooperative adjustment program has even been seriously contemplated, let alone adopted, during the present onset of problems that are not only distressingly similar to these earlier episodes but much larger and potentially even more dangerous. A meeting of high officials and academics that I recently attended to discuss these issues reached the profoundly depressing conclusion that there is virtually universal agreement on the diagnosis of the current problem but virtually no possibility of governmental action until the inevitable crisis hits.
it cites by way of example the inability of the united states (through the g-7 and its agent, the imf) to impose a solution to the argentinian debt default and to coerce a desired paradigm for international trade in the doha round of wto talks. but most interestingly, it notes the rise of a powerful new economic bloc that operates outside western hegemony. the point of the paper is, in light of such a momentous event, to call for a new steering committee for the imf -- no longer should it be a proxy for only the core western powers and the vision of globalization/economic empire that serves them.

In particular, East Asian countries are actively negotiating a series of subregional and bilateral agreements in the areas of both money (i.e., the network of swap agreements under the Chiang Mai Initiative) and trade (e.g., China-ASEAN and Japan-Korea). ... In the short run, it will be essential to assure that these new regional and subregional entities are compatible with the existing global rules and institutional arrangements and/or that those rules and institutions are amended to encompass the newcomers in an agreed and harmonious manner. The longer run significance could be even greater. Successful realization of these regional aspirations—especially in Asia, where until recently they have lagged far behind Europe and even the Western Hemisphere—could lead to the emergence of a tripolar world economic structure. Such a construct would encompass the European Union and its neighboring associates, a Free Trade Area of the Americas (or perhaps a NAFTA and expanded Mercosur that were loosely linked) and an East Asia Free Trade Area/Asian Monetary Fund. In such a world, a global steering committee that included the key players from each of the three regions—including China and Korea as well as Japan in East Asia, Brazil and perhaps Argentina in South America—would be of cardinal importance in managing relations among the regions, which would in turn be central for global harmony and stability.

The prospect of such a tripartite world, which is quite possible over the next decade or even less, provides a powerful additional rationale for the proposition that a broader grouping should supersede the G-7 as the informal steering committee for the world economy. The G-7 would be even more inadequate for that task in a world where not only its share of the world economy continued to decline substantially but where leaders of key regional arrangements were outside the group.
the end of dollar supremacy, which has been discussed here on a few occasions, is a foregone conclusion at this point and is all but generally accepted knowledge in financial, economic and political circles. it is the inevitable result of a transfer of american economic power to the chinese -- a result, at least in part, of the mismanaged american consumer debt bubble and the concomitant massive current account deficits that have resulted in assigning some $400bn+ in american debt instruments to china. this is an enormous amount that effectively cedes control of american interest rate and currency policy through forex markets to the chinese central committee and hu jintao.

very few people in the mainstream of the american political dialogue seem to grasp what a profound change that is, and what far-reaching consequences it has. the mises institute encapsulated the momentousness of it in this analogy.

International finance is closely intertwined with international politics. While a predominant role in international finance does not come without the basis provided by politics, it is sound finance on which the continuation of the dominant global role will depend later on. Both of these, however, have a more profound basis: it is basically the ethical attitude to the matters of money and finance, the deeply rooted sense for prudence and rectitude, which is required to be maintained in order to keep the privileged position.

Near the end of the Hapsburg Empire, before the outbreak of World War I, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk wrote in his essay "Our passive trade balance" that all those theories brought forth to explain the persistently negative trade balance of the Austro-Hungarian Empire—such as a surge in industrial strength and its attractiveness for foreign investment—do not stand a more profound analysis. These argument would imply that the "passivity" would be transitory. The persistency of the trade deficits requires that the situation be analyzed beginning with the capital balance, and this way, Böhm-Bawerk pointed out, the negative trade balance had its roots in a lack of domestic savings, the unproductive use of resources and "wasteful consumption".

A "change of mind" had occurred, said Böhm-Bawerk, and the accumulation of massive deficits reflected a "lack of morality": "We slithered from surpluses into a phase of easy-hearted and willing expenditures, and we continued to slither even after the surpluses were long gone."
these issues were not particular to the hapsburg empire -- at the same juncture in history, another global empire mired in its own hubris was lost similarly, though with somewhat less speed and finality. it may be plain that i consider these historical parallels -- indeed the appropriateness of these exact analogies -- to be potentially very meaningful to our current course.

and yet, whatever the sorry economic reality already in place may be, there will be great political resistance to the final concession of such power as china has come to merit -- particularly in the united states, which is gripped in the throes of a tremendously hubristic episode of self-infatuation so well illustrated by the emergence of the patently ridiculous ambitions of neoconservative militarist imperialism. even a multifacted failure -- militarily, economically and politically -- in what should be a relatively minor imperial foray in iraq (which certainly appears to be what is underway) seems to be insufficient to crack the shell of american self-delusion. paranoia about the rise of china as a threat to these cherished grandiose concepts of a global benevolent despotism has already found voice in congress, where china-bashing as insincere scapegoating has become second nature to both managing parties. the political recognition of the loss of american suzerainity, even after the fact of the event, and the resulting wave of national insecurity is likely to spark a deeper sinophobic rage that may even have military consequences. given the demonic volatility of the american imperial establishment unhinged from morality, humility and decency to even small challenges to what is perceived to be an american utopia ordained by an american god, there is reason to fear what may come.

such a response is likely to be vastly more damaging to america than any transgression of mere pride could be. whether or not the united states is mature enough as a national society to accept an economic and political situation of its own making, china and america are bedfellows now -- conflict between them, while not impossible and hardly unprecedented, would be unimaginable and a self-immolation qualifying as an american national suicide -- indeed, as the western gotterdammerung.

one can only instead hope and plead with the american management class to accept the geopolitical straw that they have drawn -- that they themselves in fact cut short, wittingly or not, in their mismanagement of american fiscal and g-7 economic policies. ceding asia to its own fate at the hands of china, india, korea and japan is the good and right adaptation to this new reality. let us hope for the sake of the american people and peoples all over the globe that the imperial presidency has the courage to accept as much.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005



via angry bear -- the economist, via its buttonwood column, calls the top of the american housing bubble.

What could give this scenario an uglier twist is the sharp increase in funny loans to funny borrowers over the past few years. “Subprime lending” to people who would not normally be able to make the grade is running at about $500 billion a year. Much of it takes the form of variable-rate, interest-only and negative-amortisation loans. Both debtors and creditors are now more exposed to interest-rate changes.

Banks have been happy to lend to marginal debtors, safe in the knowledge that they could unload many of the loans either on one of the quasi-governmental housing agencies (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac) or to private investors in asset-backed securities. Many of these loans end up in collateralised debt obligations (CDOs, which slice up bundles of referenced loans into tranches of different riskiness for different investors). Japanese and European investors have been especially enthusiastic buyers of this sort of paper, but there are signs of battle fatigue now: spreads have widened sharply over the past couple of weeks.
the drying up of lender liquidity at the fringes of the credit market is an early sign of instability and could portend ominously for the entire american economy. as i wrote in september:

the lender, ultimately, is in control of this bubble -- the borrowers of the masses would likely immolate themselves on ever-more debt for so long as lenders grant them the rope with which to hang themselves. it is when the lender -- not the borrower, but the lender -- decides that the terms are no longer advantageous that the bubble will pop. banks will only lend for so long as there is money in lending; even as banks now function only as irresponsible pass-through fee generators, without actually having to profit from interest-rate differentials themselves, a disappearance of buyers for their mortgages (and securities backed with them) will be the consequence of unprofitability in lending long-term with funds borrowed in the short-term -- that is, when the yield curve inverts.

it is in this way that the end of the american debt bubble (and the housing bubble which is its primary component) hinges on the slope of the yield curve. a recent example of this in practice is provided by the british housing market, which responded to the bank of england rate inversion of mid-2004 by promptly flattening -- which is forcing the onset of a general consumer recession. another is in the manner in which the nasdaq bubble (also driven by money borrowed at low short-term rates and then invested willy-nilly in search of capital gain) collapsed in march 2000, only two months following the american curve inversion of that january.
with the yield curve continuing to flatten -- the five-year note yield is now just 24 basis points less than the 30-year bond, and the 30-day is separated from the 10-year by only 64 bp, conditions quite similar to october-november 1999 -- anticipation of the unwinding of the carry trade is already shutting some credit windows.

UPDATE: calculated risk too is seeing signs of a top.

Just passing through to call you an ass. Changing the world? No. But satisfying and an accurate assessment, I believe.

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lol -- at least you're anonymous. some people are actually proud enough of being an imbecile to attach a name to their periods of emotional fragility.

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the fall guy

via steve clemons -- the washington post, at the risk of stating what many must be thinking and some must know, outlines the speculative case that scooter libby has thrown himself under the truck that is patrick fitzgerald's investigation of the plame affair, courting indictment for the sake of protecting his boss and mentor, vice president cheney.

In the aftermath of Libby's recent five-count indictment, this curious sequence raises a question of motives that hangs over the investigation: Why would an experienced lawyer and government official such as Libby leave himself so exposed to prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald?

Libby, according to Fitzgerald's indictment, gave a false story to agents and, later, to a grand jury, even though he knew investigators had his notes, and presumably knew that several of his White House colleagues had already provided testimony and documentary evidence that would undercut his own story. And his interviews with the FBI in October and two appearances before the grand jury in March 2004 came at a time when there were increasingly clear signs that some of the reporters with whom Libby discussed Plame could soon be freed to testify -- and provide starkly different and damning accounts to the prosecutor.

To critics, the timing suggests an attempt to obscure Cheney's role, and possibly his legal culpability. The vice president is shown by the indictment to be aware of and interested in Plame and her CIA status long before her cover was blown. Even some White House aides privately wonder whether Libby was seeking to protect Cheney from political embarrassment. One of them noted with resignation, "Obviously, the indictment speaks for itself."
cheney's involvement in the affair is, to use george tenet's infamous words of hubris, a "slam dunk" -- his methodological fingerprints are all over the situation, including the brazen disregard for law, and it seems highly improbably that a good revolutionary soldier like libby would ever have gone out on this kind of a limb without the express consent of his political master. with the power of the pardon ostensibly in cheney's corner, libby seems to have sacrificed himself in the hopes of redemption and, one imagines, apotheosis into the pantheon of heroes.

what remains to be seen is whether or not fitzgerald can find the evidence he needs to step over libby's wasted political body to get to the heart of the lawless evil that resides now in the white house, beating within the office of the vice president.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


the return of chalabi

a boggling episode in the incorrigibility of imperial american politics transpired this week when ahmed chalabi -- the iraqi national congress leader, aspirant to iraqi power under an american suzerain and all-around con man who is under current fbi investigation as an iranian spy for feeding deliberately misleading information to an all-too-receptive white house -- and who furthermore certainly defrauded the american public through former new york times reporter and humiliated neocon plant judith miller in the runup to the invasion of iraq -- was feted at that venerable neoconservative thinktank, the american enterprise institute. he there met with vice president dick cheney, following a meeting with secretary of state condi rice and other top-level members of the white house.

i find it amazing that the american vice president -- regardless of the depth of his own criminality -- sees fit to meet a man who is under well-founded suspicion of being a spy for a nation which is defined as an enemy of america, indeed a nation that should be preemptively attacked with nuclear weapons at the slightest provocation by the vice-president's own instruction. but chalabi, despite the reality of events, serves an ideological purpose for these warriors of the mind. being imbued with such importance by disconnected and hubristic minds is akin to a secular canonization -- there can be no flaw in him, for there is no flaw in us.

how openly delusional with respect to chalabi is the neoconservative crowd? take this account, via tpm, from a blogger who attended chalabi's speech and who subsequently entertained himself in a conversation with neocon mouthpiece and trotsky apologist christopher hitchens.

Hitchens then turned the subject back to Chalabi, his good friend. I asked him if he thought Chalabi had been passing American intelligence to the Iranians. "No," he insisted. "It's possible that with his training, you know, at [The University of] Chicago that with his own ability he was able to crack the codes. He is a mathematical genius. His expertise is cryptology. It is possible that he broke the codes himself." (This is a paraphrase since I was walking down M Street and crossing Connecticut Avenue all while being amazed that I was having an actual conversation with Christopher Hitchens at the time).
now, hitchens is, like many a journalist, entirely ignorant of higher mathematics in his education, and so would have utterly no idea of what it may or may not take to crack codes beyond having watched a few world war two movies on late-night television. however, as you might expect upon a cursory perusal of number theory, the idea that any individual (even an expert in cryptography, which chalabi is in fact not) can sit down at a computer and break american military cryptography is -- well, to be charitable, quite stupid. i don't think hitchens is a stupid person; however, it seems very clear that hubris has made him stupid. and not him alone.

david corn sums up the event, including another interesting exchange with hitchens, and raimondo appropriately blames all sides for the fiasco.

said euripedes, "those whom god wishes to destroy, he first deprives of their senses." we may only hope to be so fortunate.


a new religion

belgravia dispatch's greg djerejian addresses the french civil unrest thoughtfully, as does this commenter.

what is causing the rioting? Well, I allude to the causes above, but the problem is deeper and more structural than that, and I think it goes to the very heart of the French notion of republicanism: "color blind," all individuals are basically the same, they must conform to some kind of model of "Frenchness," etc. Secondly, the French labour model is biased in favor of protecting older workers with "cushy" jobs at the expense of enabling younger workers to enter the labour market. In other words, risk and economic pain is loaded on to one segment of the population - primarily young, primarily minority - in order to protect the privileges of generally older, whiter workers.

As such, the French republican ideal and the nature of its political economic have meant it has difficulty dealing with a multi-ethnic society, and as such, I think it has to be rethought to provide a more flexible, decentralized polity. as well as a labour model biased to protect older workers with established "cushy" jobs.
while, as i've said, addressing employment is merely assuaging the symptoms of a deeper issue of social disintergration, this comment at least points out the principle of french rigid cultural uniformity being projected from the top down onto an unreceptive people that has served not to promote but to undermine french social consensus by alienating its immigrant proletariat. as djerejian comments:

It is indeed sad when a country's citizens have become so removed from an esprit of fellow-feeling with their common citoyens that they must lash out in anarchic fashion to get attention and communicate.

... It's more a tragic result of a Hobbesian, gritty life in satellite towns devoid of hope and jobs and dignity--where youth feel disenfranchised, unmoored, without a nation really. Indeed, too many of the young see themselves as 93'ers (the postal code most afflicted by the violence to date)--before they are Frenchmen. Somehow, this must change.
i would suggest that the youth of 93 learned this alienation as much from their parents and milieu as from any direct experience in their young lives. their acts are the physical expression of the social and spiritual esprit that pervades all generations of the banlieus.

and i think the degree of disintegration is somewhat denied.

[the riots] represent something of an apogee for a 'time of troubles' that has afflicted France of late. The list is long, but a hastily put together incomplete one would have to include the stunning popular defeat of the European Constitution (by the very country most closely associated with spearheading European unification since the time of Jean Monnet), the painful loss of the 2012 Olympic Games to London, Chirac's geopolitically inept and disingenuous ginning up of a rift with the U.S. (mostly as transparent ploy to buttress his sagging popularity via faux and pitiable neo-Gaullist swagger--rather than as a result of true conviction, that is, beyond being enamored with a quite putrid, Pasqua-esque status quo), the now even more apparent alienation of disaffected youth grappling with high unemployment, endemic racism and feelings of 'otherness'--all these bad tidings have now culminated in a very dramatic break-down of basic law and order through significant swaths of France. No, the Bastille is not about to be stormed, and if you're staying at the Crillon for a spot of shopping off the Place de la Concorde you can still rest (somewhat?) easy--but one certainly surmises that long simmering frustrations have now reached the proverbial boiling point. Having taken in a good deal of the French press this Sunday--I sense that there is a genuine sense of crisis and helplessness and demoralization at the current hour through the French polity.
transient issues of normal political frustration are not at the root of this lawlessness. the abdication of order implies the futility of that order -- not a point arrived at in a year or a few years, but underwritten by decades of growing frustration passed on from father to son and spread around the social proletarian milieu. these outbursts have more in common with 1968 that djerejian seems prepared to believe.

however, not understated is the potential tragedy of a radical militant response such as that espoused by le pen, who wrongly believes that the problem is merely one of opportunists exploiting an incoherent (read: weak) political class.

These internal ruptures are for the insurrectionists an enticement to profit from the too obvious fragility that, in a time of crisis, becomes a grave peril for all of society. Because, through the agents and symbols of the state, it's France herself that is attacked, by hordes that the so-called anti-racial laws prevent us from designating as foreigners.
god help france if a militant reaction against this youth takes hold. such a thoughtless mistake very well could be the final wedge that splits what remains of the french nation imagined by archaistic gaullists finally and irreconcilably.

but, having said that, it's also clear that a total abdication of social and moral cohesion in favor of an anglophone globalized non-culture of weakly-interacting economic monads without a social compact is also not a solution. france -- indeed, the west -- needs a new social compact that reconciles the interests of the banlieus with the interests of the bourgeoisie under a common set of moral values, with a deeper understanding of our strength in brotherhood and our weakness in isolation. the west needs a new religion to transcend the cultural, political and economic divisions that have riven our civilization in decline over the last several centuries -- if not to save this civilization, then at least to provide a home for its people in wait of the next.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


french insurrection broadens

night is falling once again on europe as i write, with every prospect of continued widespread violence in france and beyond. the french government is imposing curfews for the first time since the algerian independence movement of the early 1960s in an effort to stem the tide. civil unrest is now international and represents the most significant challenge to government leadership since 1968.

as i wrote earlier, the violence in france is the fruit of the latent conflict between, on the one hand, a management class obsessed with french cultural uniqueness and its difficult perpetuation in the face of a vulgarizing "cultureless" anglophone globalization; and, on the other, the "unfrench" immigrant proletarians that make up large tracts of france's population, which are a product of this same borderlessness. but what we are witnessing is merely a symptom of a much larger degeneration of western civilization -- the riots in france could and in fact have happened in every western nation to some extent, and indeed may spread throughout europe as they have already to belgium and berlin -- with bankrupt elites ensconsed in bunkers clinging to power where their actions merit no moral allegiance on one side; fractured suspicious masses consisting of a stubbornly multicultural patchwork of aggrieved proletariats demanding autonomy on all the other sides. the conditions are merely more intense in france, where the importance of an unified national culture is a high government priority. indeed, contrapuntally, many french muslims are asking for an analogue of the ottoman millet system which was adopted in the dessication of byzantine civilization.

The director of the Great Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, has previously suggested that France should be regarded as a ‘house of covenant’, by which he appears to mean that France should enter into an agreement with its Muslims to grant them autonomy within the state.

His response to the current violence is not to take steps to bring his own community under control but to suggest instead that the French government shows ‘respect’ and sends ‘a message of peace’.
the deeply-rooted disenfranchisement that makes an allegiance under a french national management unteneble is a cultural problem beyond mere economic remediation -- to say that jobs for french immigrants would end the grievances is confusing the amelioration of some symptoms with treating the disease. just as the civil rights movement in the united states did not end in the assimilation of african-american culture into the mainstream but in fact enhanced its capacity to stand against it defiant, a mere redistribution of social benefits cannot make these aggrieved parties feel a part of western civilization. in the end, even if successful on some level, these jobless immigrants would be only employed immigrants -- perhaps better off, but still segregated from a french social polity that views them as unfrench, still separatist in fear of becoming too much like the decadent godless westerners.

in this context, it isn't as mystifying as it might seem that so many of the 9/11 hijackers were educated in western universities and decided to forego lives of economic access in the west to act on their hatred of postmodern western culture. terry mcdermott's research paints a rather detailed picture of middleclassmen harboring a deep spiritual conflict regarding their potential position as members of a westernized muslim intelligensia collecting the benefits of what they ultimately saw as a cultural betrayal. most had no particular disposition to religious fundamentalism per se early in life -- this came later as a symptom of their proletarianization during their time in the west. olivier roy has discussed how displacement within the west became a motivating force behind a decontextualized islamism, which adopted the heroic individualist ethic of its postmodern western environment and conflated it with a perceived struggle of their lost history against a deracinating globalization. as pointed out by andrew sullivan, he agrees essentially with paul berman that islamism is a product not of islam but of a debased western angst and rootlessness contextualized by an islamic heritage that is seen to be under threat of western cultural usurpation.

the force of this angst and its accompanying anger is encapsulated by this email from an observing parisien:

What is exciting about the present riots is ... that they are genuinely political and, so far as I can see, legitimate: the inhabitants of these suburbs are burning their own cars, schools and possessions (and not, so far, people) because they (rightly) believe them to be emblematic of all that their situations trap them to: crime, joblessness, helplessness, voicelessness, boredom, alienation and the awful horror of grotesque concrete tower-blocks. They are political in Plato's sense: of ceasing to fight for space within a pre-existing and deviant order, and instead going to the outside and forcing that order to reform.
it is not at all an exaggeration to say that these riots are a complementary manifestation of the external insurgency against western misrule that is quickly becoming the dominant global social and historical trend of the 21st century. episodes like this are exactly what men osama bin laden and ayman al-zawahiri promised us in what was as much a threat of violence from without as an observation of our growing potential for implosion within.

france is, like all postmodern western nations, in dire danger of a devolution into outright tyranny as the management takes any and all steps to retain power in the face of this insurgency. but what one must work for is a moral solution for these aggrieved peoples -- a way to make them feel at home in france and indeed europe and around the world, to make them feel of our society and in harmony with it, not as muslim proletarians who happen to be in but not of the west or under assault from its military, political and economic engines -- reconciling their goals with those of western elites and bourgeiosie in a new social compact under law.

such a solution would have to entail changes which may not be possible in our ossified society, but are necessary nonetheless to avoid a regrettable future.

the response to the immisicible oil-and-water society is usually the final abdication of any culture at all -- as the romans did in advancing hellenic dessication, simply allowing anyone to be anything they were with little or no assimilation within a morally and culturally vacuous economic and political construct. this is a step beyond france that has been taken in the united states most noticably, with its concept of a melting pot.

the response isn't a solution, of course, so much as a deferral of dissolution punctuated by ever more common periods of volatile civil strife fuelled by the toleration of rival, autonomous, often openly subversive power centers within the society, not to mention repeated and relentless attack from beyond the borders of western civility. we need to find a different way if our civilization is to avoid the fate of rome in a future much nearer to us than many suspect, if the shock and denial eminating from many westerners in response to these sad events is any gauge.

Someone has suggested erecting a tribute to people like yourself:

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TallDave, I guess in your world everything is duckies and bunnies! That's great for you. A few of us actually appreciate people who look at our society with a skeptical view.

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Saturday, November 05, 2005


paris riots

now going on two weeks of growing unrest, paris remains explosive night after night as immigrant youth rages against french government and economics. violence is spreading to other cities, including marseilles, and the french government -- initially in denial of the extent of the problems -- is now in full crisis mode, with police speaking of a possible descent into civil war.

the quiet racism of a nation and government obsessed with its sense of self is being exposed as never before. not many american tourists in france understand, i think, the deep divide that exists between the french middle class and its immigrant, primarily muslim minorities (except to say that it is similar to the gulf between the american middle class and african-americans). their unavoidable unfrenchness has made them victims of france's desperate struggle to stave off the globalization of french identity as borders dissolve under an anglophone suzerain. as part of the decadent west even france, seat of high western culture, has precious little cultural charisma with which to assimilate immigrants -- just as american or british immigrants now hang on to their former identities, opting for a multicultural existence in lieu of assimilation -- but has done far more than either to resist vulgarization from the top down. managerial attempts at forcing unity, such as the headscarf ban blindly thought by many french bourgeoisie to be a step toward a unified french culture, symbolize the repression and antagonism of foreign minorities that has become second nature to french managerial policy. france is now paying in spades for its resistance to the vulgarization that is the unavoidable consequence of civilizational decline.

the french management class has responded thusfar with a bluster -- "not backing down", "standing firm", the promise of retaliation through the police, et al -- that would not sound out of place in the mouth of any american imperialist. designed more to reassure the frightened obedient (including themselves) than to be the solution to any problem, these comments serve only as a redoubled antagonism. but such is entirely typical of the dessicated western management elite -- long ago having lost the creative merit by which they held allegiance in the west's halcyon days, intimidation has become the only basis of a government that exists merely to perpetuate itself and not to find moral solutions to the difficult moral problems that pervade western society.

UPDATE: de villepin and sarkozy continue their political battle -- de villepin being the voice of the french cultural inflexibility which got france into this mess, and sarkozy forwarding reasonable proposals (representation for immigrants) as well as condescending ones (the establishment of a "french islam").

The lack of coverage on the riots in France is really interesting to me. How come nobody in the U.S. is concerned?

It's been more than 10 years since I was in Paris, France. I remember taking the train out of Paris was always very interesting. Looking at the suburbs, I felt like I was taking the South Shore Line out of Chicago through the Southeast side an into NW Indiana. That was when I realized the dirty little secret in Europe is that they have "the haves" and "the have nots" just like here in the states. They just hide them out in the suburban areas and not in their city centers.

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You refer to immigrant rioters, but many are French-born.

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in many very important ways, mr twba, these people are and will always be immigrants to france -- and never french. that is the crux of the problem, as i see it. i think it's quite right to use "immigrant" as a adjective to the rioters.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005


the end of the coup

as was tentatively forecast here and elsewhere, the tenuous gang of 14 has apparently dissolved over the alito nomination.

The early defection of two of the group's Republicans, Mike DeWine of Ohio and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, will give the GOP the upper hand if Democrats decide to attempt a filibuster of Alito, the New Jersey jurist nominated Monday to replace Sandra Day O'Connor.

If Democrats do filibuster, Frist wants to change the Senate rules to eliminate the delaying tactic — something the centrist group blocked in May.

"People like Lindsey Graham and I, who were part of that group, I think you can bet we'll be willing to vote to change the rules of the Senate so that we do not have a filibuster," DeWine said only hours after Alito was announced.
this is a major blow to the power of john mccain as leader of the mccain 14. as i wrote then:

i imagine that the first real test of that will be with the death of aged supreme court justice william rehnquist. if the bush administration decides to nominate another antonin scalia -- or, worse, a john ashcroft -- to the bench, mccain will become the broker to which the white house must go for approval.
the white house has apparently won that battle. so much for the new center -- it seems the politics of fascism have triumphed.

Fascism? If you think there's anything remotely resembling the Hitler/Mussolini mythos in America you need a dictionary and a prescription for lithium. The press, the people, and the elections have never been freer.

Also, more evidence today that your economic theories are wrong:

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american gulags

the washington post today ran a long investigative report on secret american prisons in the former soviet union and elsewhere around the planet.

this is an expansion of what has previously been known, both about the american global prison/torture network and extraordinary rendition.

those who apologize for torture and illegal secret prisons invariably cite their safety as the primary concern behind condoning these heinous acts. certainly those who live in a ridiculous mortal fear of dying in a terrorist act would not be appeased by a trivial net reduction in the threat they perceive. the unstated implication of the apologia is that there must be a meaningful reduction -- and it follows that a greater reduction would be better.

so, without saying as much, the apologist posits a moral threshold. my question: at what point does our level of monstrous amorality and -- no other term fits -- abject sin become so spiritually painful for us that we accept some higher probability of dying in an event that has never happened to us and in all likelihood will never happen to us?

clearly it's beyond fabricating wars of moral weakness in afghanistan and iraq and the deaths of thousands of american boys and girls in same, to say nothing of the tens of thousands of iraqis and afghanis. clearly it's beyond the bill of rights, as the patriot act and other legislation has proven. clearly it's beyond the establishment of a global imperial gulag network. (and now it seems more than ever, "gulag" is an appropriate term.)

so where does it stop? what level of self-revulsion will give us a sufficient illusion of control of our destiny?

i hope it isn't far off -- especially considering these acts are being done merely for the illusion, as the evil of the acts themselves guarantee redoubled efforts on the part of those who oppose us in our madness.

UPDATE: reason's comments.

Torture is prohibited.

And what about freedom and democracy for Afghanis and Iraqis?

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the brazen depth of the fraudulence eminating from the white house continues to astound. defense secretary rumsfeld denies the existence of a "cabal" as alleged by colonel lawrence wilkerson by laying out the textbook definition of american foreign policy.

But, obviously, the president is the one who makes foreign policy, and the secretary of State is the one that implements foreign policy. And it's the country's policy.
putting aside the near-certainty that rumsfeld does indeed know wilkerson despite his denials, this is an obvious and monstrous lie -- foreign policy has become a defense department activity in this administration as never before, capping the long decline of the department of state. as was reported by ivo daalder and james lindsay in 2001, funding for state has been slashed by half since 1985 -- a trend which has continued under this adminstration. of course, foreign policy plays an ever larger role in american politics with every passing year as we grow more imperial and global as a suzerain. so where has the money and power funneled? to the lowest point, of course -- the department of defense. this parallels a similar trend regarding intelligence, where the cia has been gradually sidelined, being made scapegoat for intelligence failings that were not solely its responsibility, in favor of military intelligence -- nearly 90% of intelligence funding is now allocated to the pentagon, not to the cia nor to the state department's intelligence resources.

this misdirection and obfuscation of the increasingly militaristic operations of an american government consolidating under the aegis of the department of defense is a constant issue from the bush administration, which, whether or not it understands the potential implications of this course for a free society, does not wish to be questioned in any way about its executive prerogative to behave imperially. these trends are symptoms of the madness of decline, with a management class uncomfortably aware of the loss of merit that once commanded respect and fealty both within and without western society. in its place, regretting peace for war, eschewing concordia for control, they have worked tirelessly to construct a authoritarian leviathan, designed to extort by force that which is no longer deserved and has not been deserved for some time now. as the paranoia within the american management class grows -- believing themselves heavily charged with the defense and perpetuation of western civilization and the world and fearing themselves not capable of the task in any other terms, with our government and indeed our society growing ever more frightened, ever more insecure, ever more unstable -- we also grow ever more militant in response.

it can now be said that the events of 9/11, terrible as they were, should not have elicited the wild, unfocused, outsized and ultimately futile response that it did from american government. when the criminal actions of a band of insurgents against an american suzerain is enough to push our fading political and military juggernaut into attempting the hopelessly utopian and godlike task of remaking an entire region of the world and the home of an entirely different culture in our own image, it can be observed that the depth of our decline into paranoia and managerial futility has been underestimated by just about everyone heretofore -- and indicates that western civility is indeed far advanced in the direction of barbarity and, ultimately, its own dissolution. the hubris that comes before a fall is upon us.

we are far from the first to walk this path. the athens that survived the peloponnesian war, shocked and broken by the discord and destruction of hellenic internecene warfare, desperate to force harmonia where none was merited, devolved from democracy into a utopian conception of spartan military dictatorship. this model of authoritarian control meant to stand against gradual dissolution was widely adopted by city-states as discord spread throughout the greek world, and whether it slowed or accelerated the pace of decline is a subject of debate. its adoption in hellenized rome following the destruction and chaos of the punic wars made sparta the model for roman empire, plato's republic writ immense. its failure is apparent in the record of almost constant domestic unrest and foreign agitation with occasional repreives which was the nature of the roman world between the death of hannibal and the implosion of the third century, then hanging on feebly at the cusp of anarchy until alaric's sack of 410.

this is a picture of our possible future as much as any past. notwithstanding the dissembling cant of our management class, we in the united states, nervous masters of a global anglophone empire that has been constructed and maintained since the advent of british imperialism under the rubric of globalization and facing its baffling perplexities, now flirt with, even demand the outright establishment of this vulgar spartan system in our cultural desperation to stave off the decline into powerlessness that has grown to be for so many our unspoken social obsession.

"the hopelessly utopian and godlike task of remaking an entire region of the world and the home of an entirely different culture in our own image"

Yeah, the Soviet people will never embrace capitalism and liberal democracy. It's silly to think they ever would, or could.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005


judge samuel alito

a commenter on the previous post regarding the rescinding of the miers nomination felt sufficient unease with the process to ask

Why does this all make me so uncomfortable?

i submit to you, dear commenter, that this is probably why.

the bush administration yesterday selected federal judge sam alito as its replacement nominee for the supreme court.

while there are more volatile possible selections, this is nonetheless a nomination from a social archaist's short list and a sure spark to an ideological/political firestorm the dimensions of which cannot yet be ascertained -- but which carries the perhaps small but insidious possibility of spilling over into political violence.

alito represents an opening shot in a social battle fired out of weakness and a major step for the militant right, on top of already impressive gains, within a potentially sensible republican constituency. the administration, apparently rattled by the discord in its activist social conservative base (to which, unlike prior centrist administrations from both parties, it has tied its viability from the start) and facing political impotence without their allegiance, necessarily reverted to the politics of base excitement and nominated one of the heroes of supposedly-archaist revolutionaries -- giving them a window on the open political and social war they've been dreaming of in ever larger and now biblical terms since newt gingrich in 1994, since 1980 and reagan, truly since 1968 -- an attempt at the third stage, the manifestation of a metaphysical dream of the world, a conservative stab at revolution, conquest and impossible utopia.

this movement may not be, articulated in these terms, a popular revolution by any means, but neither can it be dismissed -- motivated militant moonbats on the warpath are very dangerous in an open society even as a small but active minority. moreover, they draw upon a broad and deep base of social discontent with postmodernity which permeates all western societies in our decline which permits them to operate in the open and with significant populist support -- making empty promises to turn back the clock to a golden age to which we cannot return to any more than we can our youth and which never existed as it is now envisioned in the first place.

alito is, unlike miers or even roberts, prima facie an excellent technical candidate for the court, with a long judicial record of opinion and one of the most experienced and best vetted candidates in the last century. he represents a major change in a prior white house strategy of conflict avoidance through secrecy. this will make him difficult to derail in the senate confirmation hearings, as american government has been maintaining in response to the growing fracture of our society on cultural issues a consensus to refuse (with small exceptions) to argue the ideology of a candidate or position so long as the technicality of its existence is sufficiently beyond reproach. like a dam behind which a growing body of water and the force of its weight rises ever higher, this consensus not to deliberate the essence of what it means to be american in the core deliberative body of american society -- giving rise to the most legalistic society on the planet, embodied in stubbornly static unresolved controversies like 1973's roe v. wade or the civil rights movement, which have grown into albatrosses around the neck of the society -- is merely accruing enormous social pressure from both sides, which falsely imagine themselves to be pushing simply one against the other when they are in fact both pushing egregiously against the maintenance of civil order. both sides now field socially subversive units in the form of militant political parties that place the advancement of political ideologies vastly ahead of any consideration for legality or the health of institutions of government which they consider to be misshapen, broken, useless and inhibitive.

nearly four decades of building pressure must in time seek an outlet -- breaking the dam. few observers of american society have missed the growing polarization on political and cultural issues that is the product of this enormity as the water rises. in recent years, as any listener to talk radio or reader of what passes for political literature in america knows, civility has been abandoned at the fringe -- holes in the dam, impeding ever further toward the limit beyond which social integrity can not endure. we are now, it seems to me, at a point where even relatively thoughtful and educated members of society -- who were once the moderating forces essential to the existence of a government by cooperative consensus -- have abandoned their critical egalitarian seamanship of these treacherous political waters to instead flow and ebb with this or that partisan tide, becoming mindless marchmen in one or the other of what i can only see as budding political armies of near-spiritual passion.

ultimately, the flood must come -- this is the lesson of ten thousand years of the history of civilization. this same pathetic situation of managerial stagnation and fundamental deterioration punctuated by periodic civil chaos was exemplified in a tenuous roman republican government within a dessicating hellenic civilization, with populares and optimates playing out the roles of now held by our democrats and republicans, both working against the legalists as much as each other. the roman solution, after more than a century of intermittent internal warfare, was the installation, by a patrician condescending to populism, of an imperial autocracy modeled on spartan lines. many once-vital city-states had previously taken on the spartan model of totalitarian dictatorship in the interests of arresting decay and fractiousness, including athens itself after the death of pericles -- rome was merely the most materially successful among them in applying the concept of arrested decline to the entirety of the hellenic world. but the solution proved to be nothing of the kind, it must be noted, and did little to delay the extinguishing of the light of classical civilization -- and perhaps even accelerated it. in the final analysis, dictatorship is not and can never be a sufficient substitute for concordia.

to the extent that the nomination of alito represents as much an indulgence of these most barbaric and retrograde aspects of the american conservative character as sulla's performance at the colline gate did the roman, his confirmation will be an event which, like several before it -- notably the recent narrowly-averted disaster of the abandonment of the filibuster in the senate, a legalist compromise that may also pass away in the alito confirmation process -- may finally be that one impassioned rainstorm too many which breaches the dam of byzantine management and plunges america into violence and a powerful abdication of the rule of law.

I do appreciate the response.

As I see it, the balls are all racked for an ugly confrontation between the almost-completely disenfranchised minority and the scandal-weakened majority. There are huge risks for both sides if, as I foresee, the filibuster is launched, followed by Frist's "nuclear" counterstrike. But in spite of the risks, I'm anticipating this little armageddon with some eagerness.

Seriously, what have the Democrats got to lose if they allow the debate cutoff rule to be triggered? Spun effectively, it could actually help them next year to position the Republicans as totalitarian ideologues, strengthening the argument that the majority's far right wing has dragged the country too far toward the radical fringe, from which the only way back is to cede at least a house of Congress back to the more rational-sounding Democrats, if only to counterbalance the excesses of the White House.

Your historical perspective is always intriguing. I don't command enough history myself to gauge its relevance to the current mess, but clearly American democracy has thrown a rod. I hope all these little kleptocratic allies-of-convenience we keep trying to force-feed Jeffersonian principles are paying attention to how well it's all working over here.


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