Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

mookie’s back in town…..no, really.

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

As predicted all along here, Muqtada al-Sadr has made peace with the Maliki administration, in return for control of 8 government ministries – and to seal the deal, the man himself has returned – physically – to Iraq.

more on the long slow death of detroit

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Here’s another post on the long slow cultural death of Detroit Michigan. The United States of America is the only country in the world that would allow it’s  vital and actual cultural fabric and history to decompose into a rotting corpse in it’s own house, as if it’s a natural turn of events.Talk about fiddling while Rome burns, this is how it happens.

repost of carroll quigley’s evolution of civilizations – summary

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Here’s  a summary for those from MoA interested in Quigley’s theory – would love to hear any responses.

Quigley’s Evolution of Civilizations

I’ve finished reading the Carroll Quigley book The Evolution of Civilizations, and while there are a couple of presumptions that bother me, on the whole the book is really all its cracked up to be. In short, The Evolution of Civilizations is an amazing, solidly grounded empirical analysis of both the essential structure of society and civilization, and how they evolve through various predictable stages. This evolution is presented both as a structure composed of essential characteristics and is followed by four case studies of civilizations and how they illustrate the similarity in structure and evolution. There is much here that is useful/enlightening about Wester civilization in general but, particularly, how these observations may apply to contemporary American society. I will outline a short abstract of the important points by specific chapter:

#2 Man and Culture

The differential between animals and man is established through culture, which “intervenes” between man and the natural environment and instinctual drives. Human nature has a wide variety of potentialities and motivation to make these potentials “actual” – and so, human culture produces various “patterns” of beliefs, actions, and thought that are passed on as traditions. There are 6 divisions of human potentialities that account for all manner of material and spiritual human needs. These are :

1) Military

2)Political

3)Economic

4)Social

5)Religious

6)Intellectual

Culture is adaptive and integrative (but never fully integrated in the sense of being complete), trending the various potentialities into an interlocking unified, but perpetually changing system.

#3 Groups, Societies, Civilizations

Aggregates of persons can be divided into Collections, Groups, and Societies. Societies then, can be divided into either “Parasitic” or non(wealth)accumulating societies or “Producing” societies. The latter of which can evolve into Civilizations. Historically, there have been many more non-producing societies than producing ones, and fewer still the number of civilizations (with no more than two dozen in total).

#4 Historical Analysis

The 6 divisions of potentiality correspond to 6 degrees of human need:

1) the need for group security

2)the need to organize intewrpersonal power relationships

3)the need for material wealth

4)the need for human companionship

5)the need for psychological certainty

6)the need for understanding

To satisfy these needs, there comes into existence, on each level, organizations (or networks or “personal relationships) “Instruments” which are designed to address these needs with relative effectiveness. The essential problem here – and the central thesis of this book – is that these “Instruments” take on a life of their own, distinct from the original purpose, and evolve into an “Institution”. All social instruments trend toward becoming institutions, which accordingly is a “rule of history”. The institutionalization of the original instrument happens because #1) it takes on activities and purposes of its own that are different from the purposes for which it was intended, and as a consequence, an institution achieves its original purpose with decreasing effectiveness, because it s original purpose is subverted by its own needs become its own ends. #2) Because every institution is human, it is subject to the human weakness and ambitions of seeing from a self interested perspective – and away from the original intent that absorbs its time and energies. #3) And because the social conditions surrounding any such organization are constantly changing in the course of time, it makes it doubly hard to adapt to changing circumstances when its having trouble keeping the original intent in focus.

When instruments become institutions – “and they all do” – the declining effectiveness of the institution generates discontent with its performance. Which gives rise to what he calls a “tension of development” which in turn calls for three possible outcomes:

1)Reform, reorganization of the methods to return its effectiveness to instrument status.

2) Circumvention, where the institutions existing “vested interests” are left intact but is left impotent or largely ceremonial, while a new instrument is designed to perform its real function.

3)Reaction, where the institution fights back against reforms and wins, leaving those reliant upon its original intent, stuck with an ineffective institution for an indefinite period of time.

#5 Historical Change in Civilizations

The pattern of change within any civilization consists of 7 stages:

1) Mixture

2) Gestation

3) Expansion

4) Age of Conflict

5) Universal Empire

6) Decay

7) Invasion

resulting from the fact that that each civilization has an “Instrument of Expansion” that becomes an institution. The civilization rises when this organization is an instrument and declines as this organization becomes an institution.

An “Instrument of Expansion” is an organization that facilitates:

1)the incentive to invent new ways of doing things – invention

2) the accumulation of surplus wealth – savings

3) whereby the accumulated wealth is used either to utilize the new inventions and to invent more – investment

When the instrument of expansion becomes an institution (institutionalized) we get “tension of evolution”. The society as a whole has become adopted to expansion and the mass of people expect it and desire it. And when they don’t get it they become disappointed, restless, or bitter, because the society at large is often organized so that if it cannot expand it will collapse. While this true of all Civilizations it is especially true of late Western Civilization and particularly true of the United States – which at the time of writing, appeared to be in the stage 4 age of conflict, and threatening stage 5 universal empire – all of which are characterized by “growing class conflicts, declining democracy, dying science, decreasing inventiveness, growing irrationality, foreign entanglements, and sweeping religious movements”.

Not bad for a book written in 1961. In spite of the many dreadful epiphanies it conjures up.

Link #2 expansion

Link #3 overview

robert c. byrd “mining safety act” killed in the house

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Rallying the Miners, 1931, Herbert Paus.

h/t to grapefruit moon gallery

Just shy of a year after the West Virginia Massey mining disaster, house republicans have blocked a move by democrats to implement the Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety protection Act before the house turns republican early next year. George Miller (D) of California sought to pass the measure by bringing the measure up for a vote:

Current law on “patterns of violations” has so many loopholes that it invites delays and allows some coal mine operators to game the system.

Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine was a perfect example of an operator repeatedly skirting the law and putting workers’ lives in the crosshairs.

The Upper Big Branch mine was subject to 515 violations and 54 withdrawal orders in 2009, more than any other mine in the country. Red flags were waving about this mine’s repeated unwarrantable failures.

And yet, because Massey indiscriminately appealed many of these violations, it evaded stronger sanctions that would have improved conditions and saved lives.

The bill sets clear and fair criteria to identify mines with significant safety problems and eliminate the incentives for mine owners that game the system.

Had this been in place, I believe the 29 miners who lost their lives at Upper Big Branch would be alive today.

Looks like it’s back to the future time again. And pretty soon that lovely and rare old painting celebrating the struggles of the past will look positively avant-garde. I think I’m already there.

Or, as a long lost friend of mine (John Baird) said back in the 70’s in creative euphony, “In the future people will have nostalgia for the future”. Which I suppose in retrospect, means nostalgia for a future.

moon of alabama

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Back in action……….so it would seem.

najaf over qum, the subliminal iraq strategy?

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Juan Cole has a guest post up today by al-Khoei, that’s pretty interesting in that it’s from the Wikileaks trove, and alludes to something I’ve always wondered about. Way back when, it came up on the old Moon of Alabama blog that buried in David Wurmser’s 1999 book Tyranny’s Ally: America’s Failure to defeat Saddam Hussein there was a passage that outlined a strategy of overthrowing Saddam that would have the duel purpose making Iraq an ally of the U.S. while at the same time destabilizing Iran. The idea was that the “quietist” (or uninvolved in government) clerical regime of Sistani in Najaf Iraq would displace the “activist” (dictating government policy) clerical regime in Iran because by comparison,  the people of Iran would would choose the more liberal Iraqi model. And further, this change of heart would also transfer ultimate clerical authority back to Najaf, which is the more historic seat of religious authority. Over the years I’ve brought this idea up numerous times on many different blogs (it’s been one of my pet peeves) seeing that Wurmser became Dick Cheney’s Middle East advisor prior to the run up to war, and that nothing ever alluded to by the Bush administration ever said anything about  exactly how, when a Shiite majority took power in Iraq, that they could be prevented from sliding completely into the Iranian model of governance – and no, I never got anything close to an answer as to if this might be a subliminal overall strategy the U.S. had embraced but never acknowledged.

Anyhow, heres a part of the al-Khoei piece that leads exactly in this direction:

In one of the leaked memos from the US Embassy in Baghdad, diplomats acknowledge that the 80 year-old Grand Ayatollah Sistani is Iran’s “greatest political roadblock” in Iraq. Sistani, who is living in a rented home in a narrow street in Najaf, is more of a bulwark against Iranian interests in Iraq than the military prowess of the Americans. Why? Simply because he does not believe in the system of governance in Iran that is the theological corner stone of both their constitution and zealous expansionist ideology.

Sistani is mentioned in 2 out of 4 leaked memos from the US embassy in Baghdad and his de facto status in Iraq as the most powerful man in the country will likely make him a recurring feature in the 15,000+ memos on Iraq that are to be gradually leaked to the public.

All I can say is. How Long Has This Been Going On?

happy thanksgiving

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Viewing this clip should become a new holiday tradition, whereby the nation should be forced to watch this piece of high political theater every Thanksgiving. Everything you need to know about America, it’s people, it’s politicians, its media, its domestic and foreign policies are compressed into this tight little blood clot of a metaphor.

todays little rant

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Digby , points out today that the Obama administration is considering a peace offering to that vile organization the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. This, along with his appointment of the deficit reduction cat food commission, and his reluctance to axe the Bush tax cuts for the rich, make it abundantly clear where we’re all headed in this mad lemming like escapade. Carrying forth with what started way back when, with post Reagan Clinton’s economic deregulation, NAFTA, and GATT, and followed by the Bush tax cuts for the rich – all of which went on to create the great bubble illusion of prosperity. All of which of course then  predictably, crashed in an exact replicate of 1929. So then we all voted for Obama as a sure fire come FDR, but all we got instead was a Hoover, Coolidge, and Harding retread rolled up into a gigantic exploding cigar. What they all seem to be  banking  on (literally) is more deal with the devil corporatist economic policy and privatizing social security will be the last easy ox to gore, and as the last drop of wealth drags its wearry ass on up to Wall Street, the economy will probably exhale a tiny little fart of relief.

And the first black president of the United States will go on to exhalt victory, and the American dream will continue for another minute or so. At least until the great unwashed mass of  American somnambulist’s wake up some dreary morning only to finally  realize that freedom, equality, and prosperity Obama style, is nothing more than another step backward in America’s never ending long march back to feudalism and a Jim Crow share cropper’s vision of the future, only this time it’ll be for everybody.

bette davis

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

As Julie Marsden in Jezebel, 1938 – 2010, 7″ x 9″ spray paint on panel.

A great film that won Bette an Oscar for best female actress. The film takes place in the antebellum South just prior to the first great American struggle between modernity and tradition, the civil war. From this perspective, the film narrative is developed through the Davis character and her engagement to a young banker Preston Dillard (played by Henry Fonda). Julie and her family are slave holding plantation owners steeped in the traditional old honor society ways, while Preston is familiar with and sympathetic to the modernist anti-slavery North. The highlight encounter between the two takes place when Julie begs Preston to go out with her to buy a dress for the big “Olympus Ball” where all the young debutantes must wear white dresses, but, he refuses because he’s too busy with business. Julie, in a rage goes out and in a fit of martyrdom chooses to purchase a red dress as a misguided attempt to impress Preston with her independence (or her modernity in the face of tradition). Preston tries in vain to convince Julie to change dresses before the big event and when she refuses, decides to take her there anyway. When they arrive, they of course, create a big spectacle and Julie, now aware of her mistake begs Preston to take her home. Preston refuses, and in response to her obstinacy, forces Julie to dance with him on a dance floor that soon empties out and even the band stops playing. Soon after, with the engagement off, Preston travels north on business, and  returns a year later with a Dr Livingston, and his new  northern bride Amy. Preston brings news foreshadowing the differences between the tradition bound south and the dynamic industrialized north that bodes ill for the south. Julie in another attempt to manipulate Preston into her favor incites a confrontation between Preston and her other hometown suitor Buck, that soon goes bad with Preston’s brother assuming the honor role of his brother in a duel with Buck. Unexpectedly, the brother wins the duel and Julie’s other, secondary love interest is killed. In the meantime, Preston has traveled to nearby New Orleans with Dr Livingston to help deal with a massive yellow fever outbreak sweeping the city. Soon after arriving, Preston himself is stricken with the fever and both Julie and Amy travel to be at Preston’s bedside. In the dramatic conclusion of the film, Julie, in an impassioned martyr’s plea (to recoup her honor) convinces the more rational (liberal) Amy that she can better tend to to Preston’s needs. And the film ends with Julie and Preston being carted off, with the other sick and dying to a quarantine island, and an almost certain death.

Update:

It’s interesting to note that Julie’s personification of traditional southern honor culture is primarily dependent on two courses of action; manipulation and display of commitment. Throughout the film Julie tries to stage events in order to facilitate sympathy to her desires. From the red dress sequence, to gathering up their slaves to sing songs together (to dispel the notion that they were there against their will), or to orchestrating the threat of a duel of honor between her love interests, she is ultimately insecure about  whether to leave other people the freedom to assess the situation and decide  things on their own merits. She then backs up the manipulation with her own honor code  commitment to, if necessary,  escalate the threat of violence right on up to the ultimate degree of self sacrifice and martyrdom. It’s this final act of fanatical commitment that eventually defeats her liberal rival Amy, who  in the end looks weak,  indecisive, and unreliable.

If any of that seems not so unfamiliar to our current ideological debates, it’s because these ideological differences have not passed, and are still actively at work today.

the 1920’s and now, a recap of similarities

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Here’s a list of some of the things that happened in the 1920’s that either parallel, or went on to become the origins of, many of the issues we  confront today. Much on this list is the results of a clash between modernity and entrenched tradition.  The full force of which manifested itself in a multifaceted array of conflicting needs. And judging from the relevancy of the list to circumstances today,  it’s pretty evident that either we’ve been  living in an endlessly repeating groundhog day tape loop for the last 90 years, or have simply failed to make any corrections that might remedy these conflicts so we can move on.

1 ) 3 consecutive Republican business friendly administrations (the modern counterpart would be economic policies of Clinton, Bush,& Obama)

2 ) Record low taxes on the top percentile – 28% in 1925

3 ) The adoption of what we now call supply side economics.

4 ) The deregulation of financial activity.

5 ) The beginnings of a widespread use of cheap credit.

6 ) High degree of financial speculation, for the first time including the emerging middle class.

7 ) The highest degree of income disparity, until now.

8 ) Massive financial failure due to speculative bubble 1929.

9 ) Prohibition of alcohol, and the rise of violent crime syndicates that deal the goods. (now – Mexican cartels, bloods, crips, etc in U.S.A. along with the glamorization of “gangsta” violence in rap music & hip hop culture)

10 ) Anti-immigration hysteria with harsh new laws limiting immigration passed in 1921 and 1922, limiting to 3% from any country of origin, reaching a total limit of only 150,000 in 22.

11 ) Widespread fear of “subversive” left wing political groups like the IWW, and various communist/socialist organizations. Many leaders arrested and convicted by dubious judicial means. (largely accomplished post McCarthy, decline of unions & demonetization of anything left of Benito Mussolini)

12 )  Foreign military interventions and occupations based on economic criteria, the so called banana wars in Central America, and the Caribbean. The U.S. occupied Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Dominican Republic simultaneously.

13 ) The notable rise and legitimization of nativist right wing populist groups under the banner of restoring Americanism/ white privilege, like the Ku Klux Klan.

14 ) The expansion of tabloid journalism media empires like the William R. Hearst that expanded into the area of yellow journalism,political favoritism, and advocacy. Hearst publishing reached its height in the mid 20’s.

15 ) The rise of large and sweeping Christian evangelical (Pentecostal) ministries such as the Four Square Gospel movement founded in Los Angeles by Aimee Semple McPherson, and the establishment of the first “mega church”.

16 ) Hysteria over the teaching of evolution in public schools, culminating in the Scopes “monkey trial” in 1925.

17 ) Climate of apprehension, mistrust, and fear over the effects of internationalism on American culture and politics. (eekk! the French)

Update on#17

Eric Cantor, incoming House Majority Leader, outlined this latter objection to a new in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. Asked about a proposal to fix the nation’s federal deficit co-authored by a Democratic budget expert and noted non-European retired Sen. Pete Domenici (R), which would actually lower taxes on income and corporations, Cantor dismissed it because, basically, parts of it look to him like something a European might consider.

18 ) The emergence of media driven (radio) cult personalities defining dubious political narratives, like Father Coughlin.