Archive for February, 2010

the haunting of george wallace

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Lots of folks in blog world are talking about THIS article in the National Journal, and how the Republican Party has evolved lately, as if it can now be defined as; ” in one sentence: Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller got into an argument and George Wallace won.” The article then proceeds to outline George Wallace’s particular brand of right wing populism, and to show the similarities to the modern Republican Party and, in particular Sarah Palin’s Tea party-esque political rhetoric. As the author points out;

Wallace’s national appeal came neither from the racial backlash he exploited nor from his program, such as it was. “It was a deep sense of grievance,” Carter says — a feeling that elites “are not only screwing you over but at the same time they’re laughing at you, they’re looking down their noses at you.”

Following with a comparison of both Wallace’s and Palin’s campaign rhetoric;

Palin: “The soul of this movement is the people, everyday Americans, who grow our food and run our small businesses, who teach our kids and fight our wars…. The elitists who denounce this movement, they just don’t want to hear the message.” Wallace: “They’ve looked down their noses at the average man on the street too long. They’ve looked [down] at the bus driver, the truck driver, the beautician, the fireman, the policeman, and the steelworker….”

Palin: “We need a commander-in-chief, not a professor of law standing at the lectern.” Wallace: “We have a professor — I’m not talking about all professors, but here’s an issue in the campaign — we got these pseudo-theoreticians, and these pseudo-social engineers…. They want to tell you how to do.”

Palin: “What does he [Obama] actually seek to accomplish…? The answer is to make government bigger; take more of your money; give you more orders from Washington.” Wallace: “They say, ‘We’ve gotta write a guideline. We’ve gotta tell you when to get up in the morning. We’ve gotta tell you when to go to bed at night.’ “

And finally, concludes with;

First, with the important exception of race, not one of Wallace’s central themes, from his bristling nationalism and his court-bashing to his anti-intellectualism and his aggressive provincialism, would seem out of place at any major Republican gathering today.

Second, and again leaving race aside, any Republican politician who publicly renounced the Wallace playbook would be finished as a national leader.

Third, by becoming George Wallace’s party, the GOP is abandoning rather than embracing conservatism, and it is thereby mortgaging both its integrity and its political future. Wallaceism was not sufficiently mainstream or coherent to sustain a national party in 1968, and the same is true today.

Conservatism is wary of extremism and rage and anti-intellectualism, of demagoguery and incoherent revolutionary rhetoric. Wallace was a right-wing populist, not a conservative. The rise of his brand of pseudo-conservatism in Republican circles should alarm anyone who cares about the genuine article.

I think this observation is all well and good, but to better understand the phenomena of right wing populism we should probably look past George Wallace, and into the heritage of Southern society to understand the root causes that make these “deep seated grievances” possible in the first place. – as it seems counter factual, that such a political identity known for its overblown sense of patriotism, militarism, and all round embrace of anything authoritarian, could also harbor the necessary distrust of elite power to create the schism of “grievance” in the first place. But, it does. In spite of the essentially contradictory nature of the proposition.

The antebellum South was basically an agrarian society, and agrarian societies trend toward societies that are necessarily resistant to change and more dependent on established (extended) family units, where the reward/punishment structure for behavior is inherited or fixed, as opposed to negotiated and subject to change. This rigidity was further reinforced through the institution of slavery, where the maintenance of order, necessarily becomes an even more vulnerable, and all consuming task that must radically eschew any demands toward change.

Southern culture then as a result, became dependent on maintaining a massive status quo, the institution of slavery, as the primary agent of creating growth for that society. And as a consequence, the South became intellectually and creatively bogged down. This can be illustrated by comparison to the North of the same period, where the the rate of invention literally exploded into one of the most creative periods in history. Whereby the North led the industrial revolution with the inventions of the steamboat, sewing machine, the revolver, mass production, interchangeable parts technology, anesthesia, the screw propeller, and even the cotton gin, among others – whereas in the South, where change was discouraged by necessity, virtually nothing new was invented. This disparity of course, then went on to create a great tension in the whole of society that eventually precipitated the civil war, when the South’s grip on political power suddenly slipped away with the election of Lincoln. Simply put, the South became an intransigent drag on the emergence of a dynamic and modern American society.

From the Southern perspective, this dynamism itself, represented a mortal threat to the foundations of their “way of life”. The replacement of traditional values as societies engine of growth, with the much, much, more productive liberal values of science, technology, and the arts, as the engine of growth – then produced in its wake, a festering animosity or a “deep seated grievance” toward these agents of change. Or in other words, its creative intelligentsia, and their big government politically elite enablers.

The problem of course, with this “deep seated grievance” scenario is that it essentially based on an emotional inferiority complex that fails to admit to its own very real failings, both as a legitimate form of competitive governance and culture for society – which it clearly is not, and the fact that such a system of governance is itself controlled by its own silent party of elites. Namely, the economic elites that have transformed this grievance into a political machine that replaces the government functions of oversight and regulation with a system whereby the economic elites are free to carry out their feeding frenzy predation in the dark of night – moving, as it were, from consuming the last remaining drop of blood in the economy, toward devouring the tax base itself.

UPDATE (or reduction of the above)

The antebellum South was an agrarian based culture, that was by structural nature, resistant to change. The primary “instrument of expansion” (growth, promoting accumulation of wealth) was by consequence, the institution of slavery.

The static nature of agrarian based culture coupled with institutional slavery, basically removed all motivation toward invention, which is itself the more productive “instrument of expansion”.

Which is illustrated in comparison to the North where innovation proved to be the far more productive “instrument of expansion”.

This disparity produced in Southern society a sense of “grievance”, whereby the dynamic success of the liberal Northern institutions became a threat to their agrarian based society.

In modern times, this grievance is capitalized upon by demonizing the “government” as the “elite” agent of displacing traditional values with liberal values.

The problem with this scenario is that when the “liberal government” is rejected, government function and oversight is also rejected.

Which in turn liberates the true economic elite to fill the void of control and general operation of society.

To which we know, has absolutely no moral obligation to society what so ever.

And so thus, negates any vestige of legitimacy to the notion of a “deep sense of grievance”.

Unless of course they are willing to live as the Amish, in which case their point would be valid.

banality of something or other

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Ever wonder why you see more speed traps, parking enforcement, and such in your neighborhood these days? Looks like one city government might provide the answer:

The accusations cast a new light on one of Oakland’s most contentious issues during the past year. Desperate for new revenue in a faltering economy, the City Council in June increased parking fines, meter rates, hours of enforcement and enforcement in neighborhoods.

So where’s a cash short government gonna look to make up the deficit? Exactly where you might expect:

Oakland parking officers were ordered to avoid enforcing neighborhood parking violations in two of the city’s wealthier neighborhoods but told to continue enforcing the same violations in the rest of the city, according to a city memo obtained by The Chronicle.

Yeah, thats the way it is, right down to the banality of parking tickets.

(h/t to Eschaton)

better fire up the old firebrand honey, cuz mookie’s back in town

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Well not exactly, but, according to THIS report the Muqtada Sadr Trend is predicted to wrestle control over the the INC (Iraqi National Congress) away from the SIIC in the upcoming elections in Iraq. As a self confessed Sadr watcher (recently here and here), I’ve been following the peculiar evolution of his movement, especially in recent years, and how it has grown into what now seems self evidently, as a long developing, but understated, alliance with the Maliki government. If we remember back to the last election, the SIIC was significantly weakened, while Maliki’s “State of Law” block came out the surprising winner – that pushed Sadr’s party, still reeling from the combined Maliki/US push back, into a retreat from further militia activity that appeared to have set his influence back, and into what appeared to be subordinate and weakened position. At least until the results of that election were confirmed, at which point the Sadr bloc and the Maliki bloc publicly announced, that they a had in fact formed a political alliance with each other. In retrospect, this announcement gained little if any media attention. Because the announcement seemed so counter-intuitive to the conventional wisdom (that Sadr’s movement was a fading power) it was totally ignored by the Western press, and was at best seen as Maliki giving Sadr a charitable a fig leaf.

However, as I’ve tried to illustrate several times before, all of these events, that appear to show Sadr’s waining influence, never actually drifted far from both parties integral interests and have remained totally consistent with the reciprocal political needs of both organizations dating as back as far as the 2007 ethnic cleansing of Baghdad.

The current projections of a major win by Sadr’s party casts a new light on all these developments, and what  happened subsequently, now seems to have been contrived as political high theater, designed to both build up and reinforce Maliki’s power base while at the same time answering all of Sadr’s major demands, all of which have been construed to undermine the U.S. occupation authority. If it’s true and Sadr does win big (and SIIC looses big) this will only hasten the process, as his party will not only have elevated its authority, at the expense of its rivals, but also, put them in a position of if not king maker, of actually choosing the next Prime Minister. Which in turn, could also establish the new emerging political profile of the Iraqi government in post occupation Iraq, largely through taking credit for crafting the end of the occupation itself.

little joy, unattainable

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

beautiful lyrics, phrased just as beautifully.

alela diane, tired feet

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

More appreciated there, than here.

lisa hannigan, lille

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Lisa Hannigan says that every time she sings this song, she starts out melancholic, but, by the time the song is over she always catches herself  smiling.

message from norway

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

The Joe Stack IRS story continues to unfold in some curious directions. Today on Good Morning America Joe Stack’s daughter, weighs in by calling what her father did in Austin an act of heroism. After that statement hit the airwaves, the son of the other man killed in the attack called in to say that if anybody is a hero, it’s his father and Vietnam Veteran, Vernon Hunter. Following Hunters call, Samantha Bell called back in order to retract her earlier statement, and agree with Hunter that it was really his father that was the hero, but then went on to reaffirm that the motivations behind what her father did were still valid, saying “But if nobody comes out and speaks up on behalf of injustice, then nothing will ever be accomplished. But I do not agree with his last action with what he did. But I do agree about the government.”

It would appear that this incident has taken on a sort of Who Framed Roger Rabbit dimension, whereby the cartoon narratives of heroes and terrorists, the right wing creates, have finally had a head on collision with reality. For one thing, the right wing cartoon definition of terrorism has been forced to differentiate itself from the classic definition of terrorism – to which the attack clearly applies. This leaves their narrative no choice but to expose itself to the truth, in that they are forced to selectively re-define terrorism in the unseemly order of race and religion, in order to exclude the motives by which Stack carried out his attack, because they happen to identify with it.

If on the other hand, their view of terrorism was reality based they would be forced to acknowledge that Stacks attack was a classic example of domestic terrorism. And that in following, the government and the media would have to carry out a full monty Liz & Dick Cheney anti terrorist campaign. Which would of course, mean that all of Stacks associates would have to be rounded up and sent into secret indefinite detention , and interrogated, if not tortured. All sympathetic anti-government sentiments that might threaten violence would have to be demonized around the clock on the media. Full fledged and media centric McCarthy style congressional hearings would have to be organized and then be allowed to drag on for years. The government would then create an entirely new branch of Homeland Security dedicated to eradicating the scourge of domestic terrorism.

I suppose this exactly the kind of response that Samantha Bell had in mind when she declared her father to be a hero. Especially since her anti-tax endorsement of terrorism comes as it does from her foreign location of Norway, where she now lives. You know, Norway, the country of choice for those seeking to evade the slavery of high taxes and the evil of socialist government.

art vs bureaucrats

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

This link will connect you to Pat Lang’s “Artists vs Bureaucrats”. This is both an amazing analysis of the structure of the intelligence institutions of the United States, and how the functioning of these institutions is symptomatic of how large national “institutions” can loose sight of their original (“instrumental”) purpose – and how they can resist attempts to reform themselves.

i drink your milkshake

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

If you ever wondered what the bottom line for our economic situation, and its future is, this is it. Everything flows from this simple statistic. And everything that happens in the future will ultimately depend on how this situation is either rectified or not. As the graph clearly indicates, we have approached 1929 levels of income disparity and when people either have no money or are afraid to spend what they have, the economy dies. Its as simple as that.


Sunday, February 21st, 2010

2010, Oil paint on wood, 13″ x 9″ x 1 1/2″ (click on image for enlargement)