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Feb
15

Crashing The War at Their House

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Obama has requested that Congress give him permission to wage official war on ISIS/ISIL without regard to geographic constraints.

ISIS/ISIL claims to be a Caliphate and the official state of all muslims everywhere, so they are also anxious to take the fight wherever it may go. Paris, Copenhagen, Los Angeles, whatever.

The American Media machinery busily promotes the alienation and vilification of all things Mohammedan, while at the same time pretending to be surprised and shocked that individual Americans are out in the hinterlands performing violence against perceived enemies in the Homeland.

(Last week, a man in Chapel Hill shot three young Muslim students to death in what has been described as both a hate crime and an argument over parking. A Muslim school in Houston was burned. A Muslim American man was attacked at a Kroger store in Dearborn, MI. Etc.)

ISIS and the American Government are both playing the same game. They both want this conflict to rise above all others. They both want “the war”. And all we get to do is play along, and let our sons and daughters be killed in the process.

If the pattern seems familiar, it is, and it did not start with Bush I or Bush II. This has been the pattern of American foreign policy with only minor shifts in our level of engagement since the middle of the 19th century.

American thinking at its genesis included a healthy amount of isolationism. Thomas Paine, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and many others held the notion that the new American states should regard the world as a place to join in commerce, but not in alliance or politics. We were to lead by example and make a profit, not push with a sword tip and make colonies.

Trouble is, commerce soon became the only thing that mattered politically. Our modern foreign policy looks and operates like a business, whereby war is waged for economic leverage. Which is why American involvement in the Middle East, especially as pertains to ISIS/ISIL, is a cluster fuck of epic proportions.

About a hundred years after we gave Britain the finger and established a more perfect union in the former colonies, the occasion presented itself for America to decide whether it wanted to take on the burden and responsibility of managing an empire abroad. In a move that permanently changed our trajectory in the world, the US found itself unable to resist the temptation to play absentee landlord over the Philippine Islands, a prize given to us at the conclusion of the Spanish-American war.

There is no substitute for the awakening of a people to the possibility of a better way of organizing society and governance. In the Philippines at that time there was a nascent move towards self-governance. They wrote a Constitution, and Emilio Aguinaldo issued a proclamation declaring the Philippines a free people. It should have resonated.

But the United States had just won the place in a war disguised as a poker game, or a poker game disguised as a war, and that just would not do.

The heady days of the American experiment in the Philippines in the first decade of the twentieth century created the blueprint for American intervention, and we have been doing it pretty much the same way ever since that first foray into empire abroad. The first phase is a brutal conquest against an inferior and badly managed alien force that tries to fight in conventional ways but is forced by circumstance to adopt a guerrilla style engagement. This is met with an unheralded brutality, adjusted for the inflation of brutality over time and with special incentives for technological advances.

This period is then followed by a social and psychological offensive, in every sense of the word, in which the American presence tries to present itself as the only logical protection from the barbarianism of the local revolutionaries. If you want a good laugh, you should look up the American Insular Government and the “Policy of Attraction”. It will be familiar to most. It is the first look America got of the future President Taft as well.

It was the birth of American adventurism. After several domestic trial runs in the western sections of North America, the US made the decision that we would play the same game other empire nations before us had so gloriously pursued. So much for a more perfect union, I guess.

The Philippine experiment was eventually a great success, as those things are measured, mostly premised on the lucky happenstance of an invasion by Japan in the second world war. The philippine state still has a GDP roughly the size of Atlanta, Georgia, but hey, that’s not so bad considering they spent fifty plus years working America off it’s back.

But what would happen if we broke the cycle of  the last hundred-plus years of foreign adventurism, and we instead let the Middle East evolve without the interference of our petro-political and quasi-religious free-market fanaticism? We might find that offering a better vision from afar does much more to inspire a wave of self-rule along democratic lines than does our constant self-serving economic and political meddling.

Instead of asking for a declaration of war, Obama should be asking for a flotilla of ships to receive refugees, an army of planes to fly families to safety, food assistance for the entire subcontinent, and a Congressional permission to label the area completely off-limits to American corporate shenanigans, and thereby divest America permanently from its compulsion to desert adventure, which has robbed us of fortune, integrity and blood for twenty-five years (if you only count the current mess from Gulf I, which is a highly charitable accounting).

Can you even imagine the outcry? I’m obviously holding my breath on this.

It is possible to affect with great prejudice while abstaining from the position of active combatant. It was an opportunity lost in 1899, it was an option ignored in 1956 in Vietnam. It is absent in current American policy in the Middle East, and it will continue to cost us lives, treasure and integrity until we learn the fucking lesson the architects of our democracy saw fit to warn us about. Or until the art of diplomacy somehow makes a comeback.

If we do not allow the Middle East to evolve on its own terms in its own way as a Domestic struggle – no less real than our own genesis – and the Japanese don’t conveniently invade, we will be fighting this war for another hundred years. As long as we HAVE to be there, because we imagine ourselves crucial to everything, we won’t afford it a logical end.

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Aug
06

Enough with the altar calls

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I got into a bit of an internet tussle after referring to Dr. Barber’s sermon in Asheville and mentioning that altar call aspect of his speech. Someone corrected me, saying that it was not in fact either a sermon or an altar call.

But I am not convinced of that, and despite the obvious good things that the Moral Monday movement has accomplished in terms of publicity and enthusiasm, I feel like it plays into an aspect of politics that is a long term loser for the Democratic side.

It’s not that I don’t like his kind of theater. I appreciate Reverend Barber, and also admire the folks who support him. He’s doing a good thing. To a point.

My issue is that this kind of appeal to emotion, phrasing political arguments in terms of subjective behavioral observations leaves too much room for the other side to dismiss the argument, because it is always easy to discredit the other side’s opinion.
Unless it can be also made into an intellectual argument, steering away from emotional appeals, it is just another form of church, where we all congregate and congratulate ourselves for being better than they are. That’s never going to work, and in fact is probably one of the largest things wrong with the world right now.

Rather than insinuating that our side is morally superior to the other side, as objectively real as that may be, the way to make real progress is to demonstrate that the policies of the other side simply do not work and consistently create results that are objectively, demonstrably and measurably bad for far more people than those who might benefit. Facts. Just plain facts. A torrent of facts.

I want to see people chaining themselves to the Governor’s desk, not because he’s morally repugnant, but because his policies are mathematically repugnant.

Lots of people out there are voting against their own interests on a consistent basis because they can’t bring themselves to identify emotionally with liberalism. They can’t get past social issues, issues that are always about emotional appeals to moral superiority. It plays right into the gridlock.

Our group catharsis and the momentary high we get from it are not worth the resulting alienation of other groups who look at the display and instantly begin fighting against it. We need to take that away from the other side because it is one of the only things left that works for them.

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Jul
15

The GOP knows what women want

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Hey Baby,

Yeah, I’m talking to you hot pants! You so fine I want your vote to be mine. Didn’t you know I was a free-market Love God? It’s because I’ve got “invisible hands” but it feels so good when they make the market run in perfect harmony, you know what I’m sayin’?

Hey, sweet cheeks, don’t get upset. I’m just trying to bring the debate down to your level, honey! Are you getting me yet? Are you voting for me yet? Do ya love me Baby? Do ya? Can you fetch a cool glass of privatized water for me Baby?

 

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Apr
03

The Union Business

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“The union business”. Americans Against the Tea Party put a Target corporate video up online that purports to help their employees protect themselves from the wolves of main street, those nasty union business guys. In it, unions are portrayed as just another business. One that is intent on stealing your money, taking your job, and ruining your prospects for employment. In exchange for your casual signature on a perfectly innocent-looking form. The trouble is that most people already believe this crap. Read More→

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Mar
31

Go Read This

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At the risk of doing so without asking his permission first, like I would ask anybody’s permission first who wasn’t two strings and a b-cup shy of naked, I am forwarding this little nugget for you in case you missed it on the Book of Faces. LINKAGEUMONGUS.

We can discuss the implications in the comment section, if you are so inclined.

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Jul
16

What’s Yer Theme Song?

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Well, in case you missed it, our own Gordon Smith made it official and will stand for reelection on Asheville’s City Council. According to the internets he is also standing for “re-election” but hey, who you gonna trust Webster or the AP style book?

While a lot of politics comes down to issues as narrowly focused and weighty as hyphen usage, there are also questions and arguments that are very fundamental to our society, and extremely important to everyone. I’m glad that we have people around like Gordon who are willing to wade into those arguments, large and small, and work to make our town the best it can be.

I think it’s very appropriate then, at this juncture, for all of us to suggest to Mr. Smith some possible campaign theme songs for his consideration. And since I got here first, I’ll put up my suggestion. Read More→

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Jul
15

They Finally Got Their Tax Deal

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There has been a tax deal reached. We can all breathe again. I’m still looking for a complete picture of the new lay of the tax landscape in North Carolina. I’m no expert, but I’m betting some of you are, and I’d like to know how you think they did putting the package together.

If I heard right, it means among other things a flat state tax, and the lowest corporate tax rate in the South. It means the state will take in half a billion dollars less in revenue by 2015. It means no more tax holidays. No more NC estate tax. Goods and services previously exempt from sales tax will now have to pay up.

My own opinion is that they are in bad need of some revision and reform in the tax system that are more operational. They do not seem to have addressed any of the burdensome tax bureaucracy bullshit to try to save money on the cost of running a state department of that size and scope rather than just slashing the tires of the machinery of state. no streamlining, no improvements in reporting, no reductions in accounting paperwork. My accountant will be pleased.

They did just made a bunch of right wing tax dreams come true though, so that’s something.

Share what you know, say what you will, and do what you think best.

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Jun
06

Two Speeches

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It occurred to me tonight to juxtapose two speeches. I was reminded of the first by Digby, who posted The Day of Affirmation speech by Robert Kennedy, from 1966. That led me to remember the second, the famous “Yes We Can” speech by President Obama which was his message upon coming in second in the New Hampshire primary to Hillary Clinton early in 2008. Read More→

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Apr
28

Valance Nation

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A while back now, I read a piece by Terry O’ Keefe in which he references The Wild One, a quintessentially American movie, to illustrate a point about how the public presence of guns violates the sanctity of the public sphere.

But as relates to the gun issue in America, I’ll take The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance if picking movies. Read More→

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Apr
10

Dear Friends, Let Us Pray

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Or not. I couldn’t help but notice a little noise in Scru-ville about the Mayor’s entreaty to those of the persuasion to pray and fast to make the big bad budget troubles go away.

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