Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

more on social conservatism

Monday, November 15th, 2010

**just a note to say much of the following is a reiteration/encapsulation of some previous stuff**

I ended the last (most recent) post as such:

“Like their view on government, they don’t mind big government as long as its driven by corporate welfare, as they don’t mind supporting culture and family, as long as its the complicit to authority, retrograde, and backward looking kind.”

Thought I’d fill out this ending with some further elucidation. When a Jim DeMint talks about social conservatism, what he’s really talking about (beyond the complicit to authority, retrograde, and backward looking kind) is whats left of the traditional inherited obligation family/social structure. This is the old model family structure that was grounded in the agrarian based past, where its members, as they grew into maturity were given highly structured, restricted, and pre-scripted rolls to play within the extended family and society. There were both, benefits, for those who took upon themselves to assume and protect  their assigned rolls, and punishments for those looking to exercise greater personal autonomy. Like most tribal based social societies, the primary desire and design is toward maintaining the societal status-quo traditions that evolved, and served society over very long periods of time. And also like most tribal based societies they are authoritarian bound and predicated usually, on a set of eternal religious scripture that reinforces authority.The baseline characteristics of these traditions then, are both highly statist and static, in that they are highly collectivist ( with many predetermined expectations) and highly resistant to change ( or very uncreative). This structure should be seen in comparison to the “negotiated family structure” that arrived with the advent of modernity. In the negotiated family structure preordained rolls and participation are held as something to be decided upon by the participants, weighing the potential benefits, costs, and abilities against personal autonomy. Essentially, this is the modern, liberal variant of family and social life  evolved in response to the new found individualism that came with in tandem with the increase in free time, technological advances, internationalism, and scientific orientation. This type of family structure is NOT what Jim DeMint is talking about when speaks of family and social fabric.

What DeMint is referring to  when he talks social conservative is specifically the old tradition bound inherited obligation family structure.. At first glace it would seem counter-intuitive that in a modernist society, the insatiable wheels of innovation, technology, and capitalism would find a natural ally in  the collectivist,  static, and un-dynamic social element. Certainly, modernity if nothing else, is the epitome of flexible change, adaptation, mobility, and free thinking. What possible connection to the demands of modern society,  could be fulfilled empowering the vestiges of backward looking tribal society? I think the answer to this question is several fold.

First off, the old tribal elements are at once, both the most threatened element  of society – by the forces of modernity  and it’s contrarian  “negotiated (instead of inherited) obligation family structure” – and so, are the most likely segment of society to grasp at any hopes or illusions that promise its preservation. This promise (not unlike, the check is in the mail) is fulfilled in the various identity and dog whistle social issues republicans make and never really deliver on, and why would they? To deliver on these proposals would dry up the need.

Secondly, there is a mirror image connection to the preeminence of hierarchy and deference to authority  in both the the old school and the republican ideal. To the old school, there is in this a comforting distant echo of the feudal past when everything had its place, its honor, and most importantly, its resistance to change and infallible consistency come immortality.

Thirdly, as implied in the first, the right wing tolerates this little deal with the devil (or Christ if you will, depending on how you look at it) because it has no intention of ever delivering, and thus disarming the need, the social wants of the old school. They are well aware that the backward, static, anti-science, and fantasy oriented crowed is no model for a successfully competing modernist society. Because a modernist society, by definition needs a mobile, educated, creative, and inventive population in order to maintain a competitive edge – it is in many respects is the antithesis of the old school.

And fourth, as I pointed out in the modernism post (below), this arrangement above all else,  serves the interests of the economic elite to whom the republican party ( and to a slightly less degree the democratic party) are beholden. Because they never have any intention of directly honoring the demands of the old school – see Tea Party frustration with the republican party old guard – they instead focus on the feared modernism and its dependency on government services. More fully developed modern society NECESSARILY demands greater government intervention into peoples lives in the form of social services, civil guarantees, and security networks. This is clearly the case in the current European social democracies, all of which facilitated the natural growth of government that correspond to the developments of modernism, and the newly created human needs that come with it. People that have personally become an active participant in secular modernist life have, for all intents and purposes,  abandoned the traditional old family and social order. Having left the old order means that, while people have much more personal autonomy and freedom of choice, and the opportunity to innovate and be productive, they also find themselves in a position, contrarily, that  can no longer rely on the fabric of the old social order  to provide basic human needs and securities. And unless government is expanded beyond the narrow parameters of basic national security, police and fire work and into the social realms of education, economic regulation, health care, social security, and the like the chances are pretty good that individuals left to fend entirely on their own devices will sooner rather than later, come to suffer the consequential lack of any or all of the above. This of course, is a more general outline of the modernist dilemma writ large, that is also incidentally, the source driving much of the suspicion within the fine arts on the  effects (loneliness, alienation, depersonalization, etc) of modernism experienced on the personal level. When government fails to step in and take up the initiative on behalf of the very citizens that are the creative and entrepreneurial driving force of its competitive edge, then society becomes progressively dysfunctional, chaotic, and ultimately, irrational. See the popularity of Glenn Beck.

The Jim DeMint’s of this world seize upon this dysfunctionality as a self fulfilling prophesy – cut government social programs and create the means to sow chaos – which then is used as proof that liberal modernity and government are failures. This creates a back draft appealing to the religious old schooler’s who flock to the notion of less government as  a way to to beat back modernity. And at the same time frees up his elite overlords from the the threats posed by big government to business through taxation, regulation, oversight, and economic intervention. While at the same time preserving enough personal autonomy of the individual necessary for innovation, a large multifaceted mobile if not un-rooted workforce, and the necessarily large amounts of unregulated capital and military hardware useful for expansive international financial exploitations.

Like I said in the previous post, it’s a pretty neat trick where the rich get to eat their cake and keep it too. The rest of us either go back to the static life or take on modernity without the benefit of oversight or security.

jim demint confirms anna missed

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Yesterday on Fox news conservative leader Senator Jim DeMint confirmed pretty much everything I’ve been saying lately about how the right  political wing has an “arrangement” with retrograde (traditional) social identity in order to promote the interests of the economic elite – and how this phenomena is what we can confidently call American exceptionalism. And he did it in three remarkable sentences:

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) doesn’t think you can be a fiscal conservative without also being a social conservative — or so he said last night on Special Report:

BAIER: Some of your fellow Republicans — Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana, has suggested calling a truce on social issues while the country deals with the emergency economic situation. What do you think about that?

DEMINT: Well, you can’t be a fiscal conservative and not be a social conservative. A large part of the expansive government is to make up for a dysfunctional society because our culture’s falling apart. The family’s falling apart.

What DeMint is saying is that, in a democratic society like ours (where you rely on votes to rule), you can’t simply  champion the interests of the economic elite unless you also champion the interests of the retrograde traditional social structure (who are under constant threat from modernity) – hence, the aforementioned deal with the devil I’ve been harping on (see post back to the future down page).

However, the most interesting thing about DeMint’s admission is that he goes right to beating heart of what makes this deal with the devil tick,  and that’s a big fat fucking CATCH 22. You see, the reason that our “society is dysfunctional, that the family’s falling apart” – is because we’ve been living under 35 years of essentially republican deal with the devil policies. Its not so much that the republicans want smaller government (there’s simply no factual  evidence of this) it’s that they would rather spend the money on the interests of the elite, with their bailouts, welfare, and wars, as opposed to spending money on policies aimed at shoring up the collective welfare, education, economic rights, and the basic security needs of its citizens.  This is a self fulfilling prophecy that on one hand willfully eviscerates the social fabric of the nation, then on the other, woefully bleat and wail like spoiled children over the consequences (they created) like they are the upstanding and wholesome victims of an some dark and evil conspiracy.

Like their view on government, they don’t mind big government as long as its driven by corporate welfare, as they don’t mind supporting culture and family, as long as its the complicit to authority, retrograde, and backward looking kind.

But you gotta admit, it’s a pretty clever trick.

exceptionalism, again

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

The other day Andrew Sullivan posted a piece at The Atlantic, called The Big Lie, that took a whole bunch of the village gas bags to task over the issue if American exceptionalism. Sullivan’s complaint is how these folks had taken out of context, for their own dishonest purposes, Obama’s recent public declaration championing the concept of American exceptionalism:

This is the era of the Big Lie, in other words, and it translates into a lot of little lies – “death panels,” “out-of-control” spending, “apologies for America” etc. – designed to concoct a false narrative so simple and so familiar it actually succeeded in getting into people’s minds in the midst of a brutal recession. And integral to this process have been conservative “intellectuals” who should and do know better, but have long since sacrificed intellectual honesty for the cheap thrills of enabling power-grabs. And few lies represent this intellectual cooptation of talk radio/FNC propaganda better than the lie that Obama has publicly rebutted the idea of American exceptionalism.

Sullivan continues by illustrating the full text of the speech, where Obama endorses what he thinks are the central tenets of this exceptionalism:

“I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I’m enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world. If you think about the site of this summit and what it means, I don’t think America should be embarrassed to see evidence of the sacrifices of our troops, the enormous amount of resources that were put into Europe postwar, and our leadership in crafting an Alliance that ultimately led to the unification of Europe. We should take great pride in that.

And if you think of our current situation, the United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional.

Now, the fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we’ve got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we’re not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise and that includes us.

And so I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we create partnerships because we can’t solve these problems alone.”

What the pundits have done, as Sullivan points out, is to clip out the first sentence (or paragraph) of the speech in order to construct a false narrative that a) Obama has the wrong idea of what American exceptionalism is, b) so that he doesn’t think America is exceptional, c) and by implication, Obama cannot be a real American.

What the pundits are  doing here (and Sullivan is right about this) is to equate American exceptionalism with sense of simple national pride – as either the British or the Greeks might think of their country, or even how a community might feel about the local high school football team. But what they are really doing here is using this simple notion of exceptionalism to screen out, demean, and ultimately eviscerate  the more complete definition of Obama’s following description of American exceptionalism, which is a text book liberal description of that exceptionalism. Liberal exceptionalism is basically faith in the rule of constitutional law that in the end is suppose to produce a fair, egalitarian, and meritocratic society unbound by the need of overwrought government oversight (aka socialism). But of course on the other hand (and Sullivan is no where to be found), the right wing’s version of exceptionalism is an altogether different animal, that is grounded in the unique concept of a Christian based nation where freedom equates to a right if not the obligation, to make shit up, lie, cover up, deny, or use any other extra legal means necessary to prop up the illusion of a shining city on the hill fairytale notion of itself to justify the pillage the world in the name of being the last great hope for the mankind. Which is exactly what the before mention pundits are doing in taking Obama to task.

possible solution to the israeli/palestine (non)negotiations

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Politicalgraffiti55 in 50 Stunning Political Artworks

Unknown Graffiti art in the Palestine territories.

Now back to your regular programing.

back to the future (or something like that)

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Back in April I made several posts (HERE, HERE, and HERE) on how  widespread and politically entrenched the kkk had become in America during 1920’s – they very nearly secured a  controlling interest in the Democratic Party at the time – and how the recent Tea Party movement mirrors  many of the same kkk political objectives of preserving white cultural dominance and privilege against all threats.  Looking into this a bit further it’s become apparent, that the 1920’s kkk connection to the modern Tea Party is really just part of an incomplete bigger picture, and that more than any period of American history, the roaring twenties most clearly mirrors our own time.

One way to look back at the twenties is to see that (although not exclusively) it embodied the first real culture clash between the old agrarian based inherited obligation family structure  that formulated the social structure and hierarchy, and the emerging liberal oriented culture of modernity – that are the precursors for the culture wars being fought today. Typical of how this all plays out in both the 20’s and present times, is how culture clash reveals itself in a predominance of contradictory countervailing of forces, such as passage of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote, while at the same time enacting Prohibition. Or more to the point, the sudden re-emergence and burgeoning membership of the kkk at the same time that women were not only voting, but flaunting ( or flapping if you will) their new found freedom by discarding many of the cultural trappings and expectations of the traditional American woman. We see a similar dynamic today in the efforts to pass strict immigration laws (also happened in the 20’s) with advances in gay rights, or comparing the recent technological advances in information and connectivity coupled by  desires to re-design educational curriculum to teach religious scriptures like creationism, as science. But most of all, the roaring twenties reads like an echo of today in that it was also a time of cultural crisis – that brought out the armies of both contingents – the emerging liberal moderns and the counter revolutionary right – into open conflict.

Informing this climate of discontinuity in the twenties was a supply side economic agenda driven by the three successive Republican administrations of Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover that at every turn found new ways to shrink government, deregulate business, and lower taxes on the highest incomes, going from (a pre-20’s) 77% down to as low as 28% in 1925. With all the money flowing into Wall street, the economy manifested the illusion of real growth, only to end in a gigantic speculative bubble that finally burst in 1929, sending the country into a prolonged ten year depression. While we haven’t had three consecutive republican administrations (unless you count Clinton as a republican, which he was economically) then the twenties again is an accurate supply side template that today replicates both in record levels of income disparity, and the ongoing Wall Street/real estate financial crisis.

Having explored some of these connections, it strikes me in a weird disquieting  deja-vu kind of way. Judging from how the media treats these ongoing economic and cultural conflicts today, one would get the impression that all of these issues are suddenly erupting  for the first time, and that “no one could have predicted” either the causes or their impacts on society. This is what Oliver Stone, (in the recent Mother Jones interview) meant when he talked about “the tyranny of now”. There is simply no reflection on the fact that our society, since the twenties has been enmeshed in the same cultural tape loop for nearly a century – it’s as if we are all Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, before he meets Rita and looks within to improve himself and break the spell.

The bad news here is that one could conclude that the time warp we’re in is essentially, what we are. That the defining characteristic of our society is a sort of willful stubborn ignorance that thinks a return to the old ways will magically  renew society and cure all its ills.

The good news, I suppose, is that this monotonous two step can  be analyzed and understood, and just maybe, be improved upon. Looking at the twenties is important because it is the prototype confluence of modernity and traditional agrarian based tribalism. From this confluence flows both the cultural conflicts  that identify it along with the economic and political structures that both serve to benefit from conflict within it and so willfully perpetuate it. On the most basic and archaic level, the wheels of this system turn as they do because of the benefits it generates for what ever the current notion of  elite power happens to be. The technological advances that spawned the industrial revolution created a multifaceted dynamism, that above all gave the people more free time, which in turn, accelerated yet more innovation. Soon people found themselves no longer shackled to a life of physical toil and strict preordained, and enforced social behaviors, and relatively speaking, allowed a much higher, unprecedented  degree of personal autonomy. On the social level this development allowed people to escape from the restrictions of traditional social structure of (what Lakoff calls) inherited obligation society. And because the traditional inherited obligation tribal structure is a matrix of dependent benefits and obligations on the individual, the emerging modernity also emerged as a mortal threat to its fixed, un-dynamic, and static structure. At the same time, as the modern individual became detached (or rejected) from the security of the old social structure, he looked to government to replace or mediate the  abandoned mode of security through collectivist social guarantees, equal rights, civil rights, and such. The natural evolution of modernity is necessarily also, an evolution toward some form of social collectivism dependent on the power of government. There is simply no way around this fact.

From the perspective of elite power, this circumstance presents a quandary. Because the dynamic potential of modern technology has become/is essential to furthering their interests, but it’s also against their interests, to allow the (naturally) accommodating role of government empowered and enlarged as a result of embracing modernism. So the ungainly alternative (and to have it both ways) is to preserve the aspects of modernity that serves their interests while at the same time denying the aspects of modernity that will throttle their potential, like the growth of social(ist) democracy, by making an unholy alliance with the bedraggled social loser in the game, the traditional tribal social structure. By making alliance with them elite power can maintain, and even ingratiate their own authoritarian posture, while at the same time guarantee a self perpetuating infinite stream of adaptable and mobile cheap labor, while maintaining enough demographic to maintain political power. People tend to see this arrangement as people in effect, voting against their own interests, which of course it is, until one understands that voting against their own interests is all they have against the ever increasing threat of annihilation as a social group, by the more alluring siren call of modernism. The growth and expansion of government, that comes with modernism, is also a threat to their social structure in that it replaces or displaces  its internal structure of rewards to punishments, security dependencies, and power heirarchy of authority. Simply put, by accepting this deal with the devil, they will permit the unregulated economic scorched earth policies of elite power to reduce themselves (and everyone else) to helpless flotsam in exchange for propping up their religion, myths, and other backward threadbare vestiges and waxing memories of their honor based society. This arrangement  is really what American exceptionalism – the thing that makes America different, and presumably, better – is. It’s what differentiates us from our more socialist counterparts in Europe, who have continued on with progressive modernist development, along with variously greater levels of government involvement in social beneficials to good effect – certainly in available health care, education, worker benefits, and what works as social security, not mention  continuously higher ratings on various happiness (with the quality of life) indexes.

And while it’s no small irony that this peculiar economic/social exceptionalist arrangement is predicated on the notion that a greater role of government is synonymous with a decrease in  individual “freedom”, when in reality the social structure in defense of this idea is far more restrictive, inflexible, uncreative, and unproductive than anything short of a place like Saudi Arabia never seems to enter the debate, and yet somehow it continues to ostensibly  control  the parameters of the debate through the claims of religious persecution, while resorting to false equivalencies, fear mongering,  race baiting, and red baiting instead of deliberate comparisons.

The lesson in all this is that like the kkk ascendancy in the twenties, the Tea Party movement is really a reactionary movement against the tide of modernity, which is also, necessarily, a movement against government empowerment. The Tea Party defines itself, as in the twenties, as a movement to restore and revive the one true and purified Christian oriented America – read as a revival of traditional non-governmental freelance authoritarian tribalism. The Tea Party, mirroring the kkk wants to severely restrict immigration to maintain racial hegemony. The Tea Party views its alliance to the power elite as template to their own feudal based hierarchical society, and would rather have them rule our lives instead of the government. On the whole this arrangement is what the Tea Party, like all reactionary movements from the twenties on, consider the thing that made America great, and EXCEPTIONAL.

And anyone who disagrees with this way of doing things is UN-AMERICAN.

The Tea Party at root is ANTI-MODERN in a MODERN world.

Go figure how this all adds up to anything advantageous, in terms of a FUTURE.

the “it” girls

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

In 1920 the 19th amendment was finally passed in the United States and women won the right to vote. And following right on the heels of that legislation, women forged an analogous and complimentary cultural movement in the heat of the roaring twenties popularly known as the “flappers”. Although the entomology of the term still remains vague, suffice it to say it’s meaning falls somewhere between being a young  woman (with low hanging hair flapping on their back), to any number of slang  phrases denoting “prostitute”. Or to put it another way would be, the unlikely union of innocence  and intrigue, or the combination of ingenue and femme fatale. The flapper name was eventually conjoined with another popular term of the twenties, “it”, or in this case “the it girl”. “It” was originally coined by English writer Elinor Glyn who described the effect as such;

In Glyn’s story, It, a character explains what “It” really is: “It…that strange magnetism which attracts both sexes… [e]ntirely unself-conscious…full of self-confidence… [i]ndifferent to the effect… [s]he is producing and uninfluenced by others.”

The notion of “IT” eventually became synonymous with flappers through its personification in popular silent films, culminating in the movie of the same name, “IT”, that featured Clara Bow as the “IT” girl. These were movies where the subject itself was self referential to the flapper movement itself or the new fangeld notion of “it” as a way to explain the appeal of the movement and the special quality of it’s headliners.  Clara Bow, along with Louise Brooks, and Colleen Moore became the pivotal film stars that helped popularize the flappers and the notion of it, as a sort of power potion, that laid out both the texture, attitudes, risks, and rewards of the movement itself. Interestingly enough, both Bow and Brooks not only played “it girls” but were actually  “it girls” in real life, having come from poverty ridden lower class backgrounds (Bow) or regular middle class backgrounds (Brooks & Moore), who somehow through their own personal tenacity, charisma, natural talent, and stunning good looks,  got themselves in front of the Hollywood cameras and wildly succeeded without the benefit of either education or training. These three women, through the new medium of film  laid out much of the aesthetics of the newly liberated woman, not so much through playing one in the movies, but by simultaneously being that new woman in real life as well.  Louise Brooks and Clara Bow, went well beyond a simple anti-establishment aesthetic of dress, choice of art preferences in music and dance, or sexual titillations, but went on to established notorious reputations within the film industry of being independent to the point of openly if not colorfully challenging the authority of the very studios that employed them. Clara Bow was especially troublesome with her “unpredictable” Brooklyn street language and mannerisms, and as a consequence, was never never invited to  elite Hollywood parties or social events, and according to some, wasn’t even invited to her own premiers. At any rate, both Bow and Brooks, in spite of their enormous natural talent and success were  eventually blackballed out of the movie business because of their no nonsense and confrontational posture toward the movie elites – both also found themselves living out the the remainders of their lives from whence they came, in relative obscurity, if not in poverty. Colleen Moore, on the other hand quit the flapper identity when scripted alongside Bow (in the Ultimate Flapper) and found herself wanting, married a producer and continued making films until retirement.

Some of the attitudes promoted by the “IT” phenomena beyond the utilization of sexual liberation, unselfconscious charisma, personal independence,  natural self confidence, and a decided anti-authoritarian attitude  were; an implicit internationalism in the adoption of European avant-garde clothing styles instead of American traditional ( flapper dress was distinctly French art nouveu), the first unabashed (and serious) embrace of African American cultural arts in both music – jazz being the preferred music, and the popularization of African American dance styles like the Charleston, the Black Bottom, and later the Lindy Hop, and finally, the blurring of sexual identity and the beginnings of acceptance of gay lifestyles into popular culture.

More than anything though, the “IT” quality pioneered by the above actresses soon became the defining quality of success of the modern woman untethered from traditional roles and expectations.

***The lasting impact of which I witnessed yesterday. In the grocery store I saw a middle aged woman with a perfect Louise Brooks haircut, and just after dark saw any number of  teen girls dressed as flappers for Halloween.

Or as William Faulkner said once, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

steve gilliard & sayyiad muqtada al-sadr

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

In case anyone might be thinking I’m the only one pinning the Sadr angle in what’s been happening in Iraq, Driftglass has posted up a compendium of posts by the late Steve Gilliard that puts my own posts on the subject in (wanting) perspective. Unfortunately, I came upon blogging about the time Steve Gilliard passed away, so I’ve never seen this string of posts, but by any metric the guy was amazingly prescient.

righteous brothers reunited… more time

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Moqtada al-Sadr, left, dropped his opposition to the serving Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki

Well this is getting a little old, seeing that I’ve posted at least three or four times (in the last 7 months) predicting that the Brothers had buried the hatchet and were back together like old times, but this time I think its finally safe to buy those concert tickets. This report covers all the details outlining how Prime Minister al-Maliki and Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have made amends to the degree that they can begin forming a new government in Iraq. While it’s been my contention all along this process that this, from the vantage of the larger Iraqi narrative, would be the eventual outcome, I must admit that I underestimated the animosity between the the two. It was my sense last spring, that the press was making too much over the bad blood in a bout of wishful thinking that saw the election as a real chance for Iraq to magically transcend its sectarian political complexion  and sprout into western colored liberal flowers. For a whole host of reasons  (especially how the Iraqi constitution was drawn up) this was never going to happen even if Ayad Allawi’s Iraqiya party won the election, which they did, or if a newbee like Adil Abdul Mahdi could be shoe horned into the process (as a compromise), which he wasn’t. The thing is,  and what has always been the underlying bottom line bedrock is Shiite power. The major Shiite powers, when push comes to shove are not going to compromise the power that comes from majority based unity over the petty infighting that gets much of the publicity. And much of the last seven months of bickering for the most part boils down to how both Maliki and Sadr can be accommodated into a majority alliance satisfactory to the internal and outside powers of Iran and to a lesser degree the United States and Syria. Which itself boils down to what Maliki and Sadr both want individually. Malik wants to remain, with his “nationalist” political apparatus, as PM. Sadr wants the United States out, a nationalist theocratically grounded government installed, and his political allies released from prison. So in a lot of ways this conclusion was always in the cards, it simply took this long to hammer out the deal.

The early indications of how this deal between Maliki and Sadr (according to Roads to Iraq sources)  went down as thus, assuming the certainty of the government sticking to the 2011 withdrawal date: The Sadr Trend will head up the anti-terrorism security apparatus and five service ministries. The former head of the Mahdi Army will head the Interior Ministry. All political prisoners from the Sadr Trend will be released from prison.

And oh yeah, Nuri al-Maliki will remain Prime Minister of Iraq.


According to this, the new government in Iraq will be a big step toward theocracy in Iraq:

The allied government has already agreed to give the Najaf Marjaiyah, the Shi’ite religious council, supreme power to issue binding edicts in the country, and would make Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the dominant power in the council, the virtual ruler of Iraq.

Sadr’s role in this is almost certain to cement him as a growing force not just politically but religiously, and as he continues to pursue his own Ayatollahship he will find those powers increasingly one and the same, and establishing himself as a dominant force in the country long beyond Maliki’s term.

This development has been in the works for a while. Early in the INA negations there was a motion to give Sistani final decision making oversight/power in political matters, not unlike the Iranian model.

teabag zombies, haha

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

I see that the tea bag/republican = zombie metaphor I came up with last week might be going mainstream today. Not that I had anything to do with it. But, nonetheless.

redistributing the wealth

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

One buzz word the republicans are always using to point the voodoo bone at democrats is “redistributing the wealth”, and like its cousin “class warfare”, usually evokes a sense  that some sacred American taboo is being violated. Usually, this taboo is brought up in the debate over taxes and government programs where the enterprising, hardworking, and successful  are being forced (or punished even) into paying for the lazy and shiftless to drink beer all day while stirring up trouble. This notion that there are legions of parasites out there living the high life while sucking the life force out of the earnest and noble reached mystic icon status during the Reagan years with the myth of the Cadillac welfare queen. And as a consequence of this elevated taboo icon status, I can’t recall anyone in the media ever challenging the misbegotten stature of what redistributing the wealth really means beyond the usual, and restricted, interpretation.

To be sure taxation is one form of redistributing wealth, typically, from those with more to those with less. But, there is a lot more to the story than that, because taxation is but only one form of “intervention” into the wealth and the creation of wealth on part of its citizens. It is the central function of government to arbitrate through its laws and regulations the economic playing field that its citizens are obliged to use and abide by. Governments around the world have developed many different sets of rules of how economic life functions in their particular country and is reflected in the well being of its citizens. A major component of those rules determine how wealth is created, distributed, and eventually passed on to inheritors.

In the United States we have very liberalized regulations on the three vectors of wealth. This state of affairs creates an economic playing field that is front loaded with advantages to those with more rather than those with less, with the net effect of redistributing wealth upward from the poor to the rich. And while this redistribution of wealth is in play before the  issue of taxation comes into play, it is still a distribution of wealth. Take for example the lax regulation on hedge fund speculation. If unregulated speculation in the oil markets creates a price bubble, that then is reflected in higher gas prices at the pump, then wealth is being redistributed from those that have to pay more. Or, if you get a credit card, under the current bad usury laws, in effect at 7% interest and run up $10,000 dollars on it and the interest is changed to 32%, your wealth is being redistributed. The same can be said about the real estate bubble where your house was turned into a cash machine for Wall Street. Simply put, an unregulated capitalist system is designed specifically to redistribute wealth to the wealthy, and keep it there. It’s why the top 20% own 85% of the wealth in this country. It’s why their earnings have gone up during the worst depression since the 30’s while everybody else has gone down.

Of course all this happens silently in the dead of night and nobody seems to notice. It’s not until taxes come into play as a means to mitigate the wholesale “redistribution of wealth” economic disaster on the middle and lower class that the other meaning of “redistribution of wealth” rears its ugly mythic head. And even then those decrying the redistribution of wealth to be a rising socialism fail to notice that close to 8 trillion dollars of present and future taxpayers money has been redistributed upward to the same few (and failing) elite institutions and individuals.

On the one hand the whole story of redistribution of wealth is really a redistribution of wealth from whence it was stolen,  and on the other hand its trumped up and imagined evil (for political purposes) is a sucker punch at the notion government itself. Because for some reason it’s alright, or even encouraged for the private sector to rig the system to redistribute money from the middle and poor class upward, but when the government for the people, does the same to the rich, it’s suddenly transformed and levitated  into the epitome of evil.