The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

Perpetual War – and Obama’s Perpetual Con Game | Glen Ford

Barack Obama is a master trickster, a shape-shifter, and a methodical liar. The man who has arrogated to himself the right to kill at will, anywhere on the globe, accountable only to himself, based on secret information and classified legal rationales, now says he is determined that Washington’s “perpetual war” must one day end – sometime in the misty future after he is long gone from office. He informed his global audience of potential victims that he had signed a secret agreement (with himself?) that would limit drone strikes to targets that pose “a continuing, imminent threat to Americans” and cannot be captured – a policy that his White House has always claimed (falsely) to be operative. He promises to be more merciful than before, “haunted” as he is by all the nameless deaths, although he admits to having done no wrong.

He is a man of boundless introspection, inviting us to ride with him on his wildly spinning moral compass. But, most of all, he is not George Bush – of that we can be certain, if only because he is younger and oratorically gifted and Black. “Beyond Afghanistan,” he said, “we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror,’ but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.” Thus, magically, he redefined the U.S. war on terror out of existence (in perpetuity) by breaking the conflict down to its daily, constituent parts, while simultaneously affirming that America will soon travel “beyond Afghanistan” despite the fact that many thousands of Special Operations troops will continue their round the clock raids in the countryside while drones rain death from the skies for the foreseeable future.

Such conflicts, we must understand, are necessitated by the “imminence” of threats posed to U.S. security, as weighed and measured by secret means. His Eminence is the sole judge of imminence. He is also the arbiter of who is to be detained in perpetuity, without trial or (public) charge, for “association” with “terrorists” as defined by himself. He has no apologies for that.

America must turn the page on the previous era, because “the threat has shifted and evolved from the one that came to our shores on 9/11.” A reevaluation is in order, since “we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11.” In that case, why not call for repeal of the layers of war on terror legislation that have accumulated over the last 12 years, including Obama’s own NDAA preventive detention bill? Or, he could simply renounce these measures and refuse to employ them as a matter of policy. Instead, the president defended his own maximalist interpretation of the law, and claimed that the legal basis for his kill-at-will authority is firmly rooted in the Congress’s 2001 Authorization of Military Force (AUMF). Although he made vague reference to changes that Congress might make in the AUMF, there was no substantive indication that he sought to impose restrictions on his own or any other president’s authority to wage war precisely as he has for the last four years.

Obama’s blanket interpretation of AUMF – the legal logic - had previously been considered a state secret. It was news to much of the U.S. Senate, too, until assistant secretary of defense Michael Sheehan, in charge of special operations (death squads) at the Pentagon, told lawmakers earlier this month that the AUMF allows Obama to put “boots on the ground” anywhere he chooses, including “Yemen or the Congo,” if his classified logic compelled him to do so.

The senators were stunned – although it is no secret that Obama has already put U.S. Special Forces boots on the ground in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan, and has sent a combat brigade on permanent posting on the continent. Central Africa is one part of the world in which al Qaida has found little traction. The purported “bad guy” hiding in the bush, Joseph Kony, is the Christian leader of the remnants of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Obama authorized the deployment under the doctrine of Humanitarian Military Intervention, or Responsibility to Protect (R2P), a war-making notion that is, at best, ill-defined under international law and non-existent in U.S. statutes. However, if Obama is sincere (!) in wanting to phase out AUMF, as he averred last week, he’s always got R2P as a backup.

Death squad honcho Sheehan is a believer in the perpetual lifespan of AUMF, which he considers operative until al Qaida has been consigned to the “ash heap of history” – an eventuality that is “at least 10 to 20 years” away. Since this is the guy who carries out Obama’s kill orders (the identity of his counterpart in the CIA is, of course, a secret), one would think that Sheehan and Obama would be on the same page when it comes to al Qaida and AUMF. But then, we are told that page has turned.

Obama is very good at flipping pages, changing subjects, hiding the pea in his hand while we try to figure out which bowl it’s under. His call for Congress to come up with a substitute for AUMF – without yet offering his own version – is a ploy to more explicitly codify those powers assumed by Bush and expanded upon by the Obama administration. Or, the Congress can do nothing – a very likely outcome – and Obama can pretend to be the reluctant, self-restrained global assassin, preventive detainer and regime changer for the rest of his term.

Not a damn thing has changed.

Partial Readings: The Rule of Law | Dissent Magazine

[…] To the delight of his staunchest Republican opponents, Obama’s willingness to target forces “associated” with al Qaeda and the Taliban signals his full approval of the notion that “the battlefield is wherever the enemy chooses to make it.” If we add to this notion the definition of enemy combatants that his administration apparently endorsed last year—“all military age males in a strike zone”—the logic justifying drone attacks comes full circle: we kill them because they are our enemies, and they are our enemies because we kill them.

In the three-page “Presidential Policy Guidance” Obama signed in tandem with this week’s speech, a sole footnote purports to retract this definition of a combatant: “it is not the case,” the footnote ends, “that all military-aged males in the vicinity of a target are deemed to be combatants.” But the previous sentence, through a double negative, does include, in the definition of a combatant, “an individual who is targetable in the exercise of national self-defense.” Rather than reversing the chilling “military-aged males” definition of a combatant, Obama’s new “Policy Guidance” merely reinforces the same circular logic through a still vaguer formulation. Who, once targeted, cannot retrospectively be defined as “targetable”?

To round out this hollow—if not outright deceitful—gesture towards accountability in drone warfare, Wednesday’s “Presidential Policy Guidance” concludes by noting that “These new standards and procedures do not limit the President’s authority to take action in extraordinary circumstances when doing so is both lawful and necessary to protect the United States or its allies,” and that a select few members of Congress will be notified—not consulted—when the executive branch is planning to assassinate an enemy abroad. Is this really the bold new framework for accountability that the Obama administration “has worked vigorously” to produce?

The shamelessness of the endeavor is impressive—a far cry, in many ways, from the CIA’s secretive Cold War–era assassination plots. Obama has succeeded in anchoring a legal infrastructure for state-sponsored assassinations on foreign soil while trumpeting it, in broad daylight, as a framework for accountability. Peppered with allusions to the Constitution and to “the law” more generally, the call for transparency instead appears to provide an Orwellian foil for a remarkable expansion of executive powers.

Existing laws, domestic or international, are proving a hopelessly inadequate framework with which to hold the Obama administration accountable for arbitrary assassinations abroad. [++]

Terrorism and the Public Imagination | Hamilton Nolan

The shooting of nineteen innocent people, including two children, at a Mother’s Day celebration in New Orleans [Sunday] was an act of violence only gaudy enough to hold the nation’s attention momentarily. Shortly after the bodies were cleared, the FBI said they “have no indication the shooting was an act of terrorism. ‘It’s strictly an act of street violence in New Orleans.’” At that, we were free to let our attention drift. In America, all villainy is not created equal.

A couple of disaffected young men in search of meaning drift into radical Islam and become violent. A couple of disaffected young men in search of meaning drift into street crime and become violent. A crowd of innocent people attending the Boston marathon are maimed by flying shrapnel from homemade bombs. A crowd of innocent people attending a Mother’s Day celebration in New Orleans are maimed by flying bullets. Two public events. Two terrible tragedies. One act of violence becomes a huge news story, transfixing the media’s attention for months and drawing outraged proclamations from politicians and pundits. Another act of violence is dismissed as the normal way of the world and quickly forgotten. The victims bleeding on the ground may be forgiven for failing to see the distinction between the two acts. For those on the receiving end, violence is violence. For the rest of us, it is a rhetorical tool, to be deployed when it fits a narrative of American triumphalism. Otherwise it will be forgotten, by everyone except the victims. [++]

Running on Empty: Obama Omitted Details, Drones and His Best Chance at Dynamism | Mobutu Sese Seko

"While accepting his party’s nomination for President of the United States, Barack Obama defended his record of doing things and renewed his commitment to doing things in the future. If elected, we can be assured of four more years of things. He also has people killed. It was a good speech, but saying so damns with faint praise. We set the bar for good political speeches so low that a couple jokes, solid elocution, woodenness-avoidance and evidence of non-sociopathic affect suffices to elevate modern American oratory into the pantheon."

[…] Aside from the now-requisite overweening tribute to the Platinum Citizens™ Club of U.S. veterans, Biden laid it on especially thickly when it came to talking about whacking Osama Bin Laden. To borrow a phrase from anotherwriter, “Some major organ is thoroughly rotten… if the one ‘big thing’ America can accomplish is the tawdry, soul-sapping killing of a dilettante porn-addicted rich killer.”

When it came to killing Bin Laden, Biden said, “Obama is our president because he always has the courage to make the tough decisions.” Of the kill order: “He said, do it—and justice was done!”

The joke here should be obvious: that the courageous decision, the tough decision, would have been Abby Carmichael getting Bin Laden’s ass remanded to Riker’s with a public defender, the Law & Order “doink doink” ringing out, and Jack McCoy’s turkey wattle and big beak shaking in outrage that he bought a pig in a poke that might blow up on the stand. Justice, in a nation ostensibly governed by the rule of law, comes equipped with an entire system. But Biden was just so thrilled to whip out the Democrats’ newly re-engorged War Boner and celebrate “justice” via a double-tap to the brain of a sclerotic masturbating whitehair and his family, in the dead of night, by trained killers. There’s no time to get irony when it’s time to get hard. At least he didn’t mention the war on whistleblowers or all them drones. The system worked!

With the numbers and the bloodlust down, Obama had an opportunity to lay out a substantial map for the future, and he didn’t. While he reframed the Democratic Party’s vision as one of a community of “citizens,” he came up short of Clinton in delineating policy and short of Elizabeth Warren in articulating the working of a social contract versus a Wall Street “rigged game.” Although he did mention American cars, which, spiritually and existentially, manifest as an anti-Bin Laden.

Obama echoed Clinton and Warren, crowed about Bin Laden again, and laid out a vision for the next four years that seemed at best a tug of war between the amorphous and the impossible. He will reform the tax code (he can’t), and reanimate our spirit of togetherness (whatever that means), one supposes via the bully pulpit (mostly ineffectual). What he won’t be able to do is control the House of Representatives, which will almost assuredly be dominated by Republicans, and which is the place where the money comes from.

What he especially couldn’t say is that he has shown a willingness to preemptively concede cuts to social programs before even beginning negotiations with Republicans, failed to prosecute anyone responsible for the Great Recession, staffed his cabinet and advisors with the same clowns who engineered the economy’s destruction, hugged the former president who repealed Glass-Steagall, prosecuted a war on whistleblowers that immunizes the executive branch from citizen outcry and accountability, vastly increased a drone war that now targets funerals and the first responders that try to aid its victims—and that, with GOP control of the House, we can look forward to four years of acrimony, wheel-spinning, gridlock and misery.

Obama couldn’t say those things, of course, because his most effective trope, the heaven-high song that resonates fullest, is the confirmation of our optimism, our innate possibility, ourselves. Without the Clinonesque mastery of conversation, there is only the aria. The exigencies of procedure, of precedent—of the brutish cacophonies that are real history—quash it, leaving a stagebound mute, moving his mouth in such a way that he hopes you can divine the words it forms.

Instead, hope and change have given way to experience and lessons learned, with new synonyms for community and new generic ambitions without any plan to enact them. We got his most conventional speech to date, one that will be replicated ad nauseam in the coming two months—one that doesn’t substantially differ from the generic-ambition speech delivered by Mitt Romney the week before, except in one way.

Barack Obama’s speech lucked out and could only be delivered by Barack Obama. Mitt Romney’s speech was stuck with Mitt Romney, and there was no getting out of that.

What Paul Ryan Has and Obama Wants | David Swanson

[Read] this from the New York Times: “The news media have played a crucial role in Mr. Obama’s career, helping to make him a national star not long after he had been an anonymous state legislator. As president, however, he has come to believe the news media have had a role in frustrating his ambitions to change the terms of the country’s political discussion. He particularly believes that Democrats do not receive enough credit for their willingness to accept cuts in Medicare and Social Security, while Republicans oppose almost any tax increase to reduce the deficit.”

So Obama too is willing to take the political risk of cutting the popular programs called Medicare and Social Security. In fact, what Obama wants is not to protect these programs from cuts, but rather to receive appropriate credit from the media corporations for his willingness to cut them. This, we are about to be told endlessly, is in stark contrast to Romney-Ryan’s willingness to cut Medicare and Social Security. But the biggest contrast seems to be that the media gives Romney and Ryan the credit that Obama covets.

Oh no, Obama supporters will reply, there’s a big difference. Romney wants to cut these programs, while Obama is willing to cut them. Romney is evil, while Obama is noble and gracious in his appeasing of evil. I’m sorry, but won’t the catfood that grandma lives on taste as bitter regardless of whether her income was removed maliciously or accommodatingly?

Why Orwell Hated the Cliche

futurejournalismproject:

For what would have been George Orwell’s 99th 109th birthday, here are reflections on his relationship to writing and language from Lawrence Wright:

Orwell’s proposition is that modern English, especially written English, is so corrupted by bad habits that it has become impossible to think clearly. The main enemy, he believed, was insincerity, which hides behind the long words and empty phrases that stand between what is said and what is really meant.

A scrupulous writer, Orwell notes, will ask himself: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What fresh image will make it clearer? Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? The alternative is simply “throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you — concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.”…

…Orwell optimistically sets forward six simple rules to improve the state of the English language: guidelines that anyone, not just professional writers, can follow.

But I’m not going to tell you what they are. You’ll have to re-read [Politics and the English Language (PDF)] yourself. I’m only going to speak about Rule No. 1, which is never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print.

For me, that’s the hardest rule and no doubt the reason that it’s No. 1. Cliches, like cockroaches in the cupboard, quickly infest a careless mind. I constantly struggle with the prefabricated phrases that substitute for simple, clear prose…

…”Political language,” Orwell reminds us, “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits.”

NPR: Orwell on Writing: ‘Clarity Is the Remedy’

I can’t recommend reading Orwell’s essays enough, especially Politics and the English Language. You will begin to look at the media with a fresh set of eyes, something crucially important in this era of propaganda dressed as “news”.

Raw Story’s liberal rhetoric | Glenn Greenwald

Sliming critics of the U.S. Government’s “counter-Terrorism” efforts as sympathetic to or in league with The Terrorists was, of course, a long-standing staple of neoconservative, Bush-defending rhetoric and is still a core tool of the most rabid, extremist Islamophobic venues. That this is now also a common and acceptable tactic in progressive discourse and from writers for sites like Raw Story for sliming critics of the President is reflective of the presidential policies they are forced to defend. I note this not because it’s aberrational, but because any critics of Obama’s militarism and civil liberties assaults encounter these smears — from self-identified progressives — on a virtually daily basis[*] (as Scahill said after his Obama/drone-criticizing MSNBC appearance this weekend: “Today on Twitter, I’ve been called a terrorist, a neo-Nazi, a traitor and a racist. I also want Romney to be president”).
Indeed, this all comes from the top: recall that The New York Times in February granted anonymity to an Obama official to smear the Bureau of Investigative Journalists as Terrorist-enablers after they documented U.S. drone attacks on rescuers and funerals (“elements who would like nothing more than to malign these efforts and help Al Qaeda succeed”). That’s the bile that is being spawned. Raw Story should be very proud of itself for turning itself into a venue for all of this.

*For me, it’s generally an unfollow (that rate has increased as we approach November), but the smears are frequent. Blind loyalty is not a trait I have in any kind of surplus, so I guess this will be par for the course.

Raw Story’s liberal rhetoric | Glenn Greenwald

Sliming critics of the U.S. Government’s “counter-Terrorism” efforts as sympathetic to or in league with The Terrorists was, of course, a long-standing staple of neoconservative, Bush-defending rhetoric and is still a core tool of the most rabid, extremist Islamophobic venues. That this is now also a common and acceptable tactic in progressive discourse and from writers for sites like Raw Story for sliming critics of the President is reflective of the presidential policies they are forced to defend. I note this not because it’s aberrational, but because any critics of Obama’s militarism and civil liberties assaults encounter these smears — from self-identified progressives — on a virtually daily basis[*] (as Scahill said after his Obama/drone-criticizing MSNBC appearance this weekend: “Today on Twitter, I’ve been called a terrorist, a neo-Nazi, a traitor and a racist. I also want Romney to be president”).

Indeed, this all comes from the top: recall that The New York Times in February granted anonymity to an Obama official to smear the Bureau of Investigative Journalists as Terrorist-enablers after they documented U.S. drone attacks on rescuers and funerals (“elements who would like nothing more than to malign these efforts and help Al Qaeda succeed”). That’s the bile that is being spawned. Raw Story should be very proud of itself for turning itself into a venue for all of this.

*For me, it’s generally an unfollow (that rate has increased as we approach November), but the smears are frequent. Blind loyalty is not a trait I have in any kind of surplus, so I guess this will be par for the course.

The Neoliberal Narcissism of Elite Democrats: Three Presidents and a Columnist | Paul Street

In this piece, Street slams (from the left where I live) the “third way” democrats - discussing the “centrist” positions of Carter, Clinton, Obama, and the NY Times’ imperial messenger, Thomas Friedman. This is a snip from the Obama section:

[Obama] has belonged to Wall Street and corporate America from the start. With its expansion of the monumental bailout of hyper-opulent financial overlords, its refusal to nationalize and cut down parasitic financial institutions, its passage of a health “reform” bill that only the big insurance and drug companies could love (consistent with Rahm Emmanuel’s advice to the president: “ignore the progressives”), its cutting of an auto bailout deal that raided union pension funds and rewarded capital flight, its undermining of global carbon emission reduction efforts at Copenhagen, its refusal to advance serious public works programs (green or otherwise), its green-lighting of escalated strip mining and hazardous deepwater oil drilling, its disregarding of promises to labor and other popular constituencies (remember the Employee Free Choice Act?), its freezing of federal wages and salaries, its appointment of a Deficit Reduction Commission “headed by avowed enemies of Social Security” (to quote left economist Michael Hudson), its cutting of a deficit reduction deal was that all about slashing social spending instead of raising taxes on the rich, its refusal to embrace the remarkable 2011 public worker rebellion against the epic union-busting efforts of Wisconsin’s hard right Governor Scott Walker, its role in coordinating the militarized police-state assault on Occupy Movements across the U.S. and much more too terrible to mention, Obama’s “change” and “hope” presidency epitomized the power of what the radical critics Edward S. Herman and David Peterson have called the nation’s “unelected dictatorship of money.” During the sleazy soap opera that was the reactionary, elite-manufactured “debt-ceiling crisis” last summer, it is worth recalling, the “progressive” Obama was ready to advance massive cuts in Medicate and Social Security that went beyond what the rightmost of the two dominant parties was seeking.

This is some recent background to keep in mind as Obama jaunts across the nation on an epic and record-setting pace of elite fundraising events (some costing nearly $80,000 a plate) while claiming to rely on grassroots $3-5 contributions and to be a friend of everyday people in their struggle against the 1 percent.

Along with plutocratic records of Carter and Clinton, Obama’s service to the rich and powerful should be kept firmly in mind if and when Mitt Romney ascends to national power – a very distinct possibility given the current state of economic and campaign finance affairs in the U.S. With a Republican in the White House, liberals and progressives fall into the standard trap of thinking that the only thing wrong with the country is that “those insane evil Republicans are in charge” and that the cure to the nation’s ills is to bring back a Democrat. The real history of the nation’s last four neoliberal-narcissist Democratic Presidents and of the Democratic Party across the long neoliberal era (the mid-1970s to the present) suggests something very different. It reminds us of the wisdom behind [Howard] Zinn’s oft-repeated counsel that the most critical thing isn’t “who’s sitting in the White House” but rather “who is sitting in the streets, in the cafeterias, in the halls of government, in the factories….who is protesting, who is occupying offices and demonstrating” and of Noam Chomsky’s repeated counsel on serious politics:

“The U.S. presidential race, impassioned almost to the point of hysteria, hardly represents healthy democratic impulses.”

“Americans are encouraged to vote, but not to participate more meaningfully in the political arena. Essentially the election is yet another method of marginalizing the population. A huge propaganda campaign is mounted to get people to focus on these personalized quadrennial extravaganzas and to think, “That’s politics.”  But it isn’t. It’s only a small part of politics…”

“The urgent task for those who want to shift policy in progressive direction – often in close conformity to majority opinion – is to grow and become strong enough so that that they can’t be ignored by centers of power. Forces for change that have come up from the grass roots and shaken the society to its foundations include the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the peace movement, the women’s movement and others, cultivated by steady, dedicated work at all levels, everyday, not just once every four years…”

"So in the election, sensible choices have to be made. But they are secondary to serious political action. The main task is to create a genuinely responsive democratic culture, and that effort goes on before and after electoral extravaganzas, whatever their outcome."

Read the whole piece

Beating China, Corporate Style | Hannah Gurman

The simple plea for a supposedly “level playing field” is a constant refrain of both Republicans and Democrats who stress the importance of cracking down on China’s unfair trade practices. But who are we leveling the playing field for, and in what direction? They’re talking about fairness for American corporations, not for American workers. This argument only makes sense if you believe that these are one in the same. […]

To the extent that it ever existed, the compact between U.S. corporations and U.S. labor is over. Especially in light of all that has transpired since 2008, why should anyone believe that catering to the interests of U.S. corporations located in or returning from China will make American workers any better off? As in the past, the nationalist focus on a foreign bogeyman is a dangerous distraction from the pervasive threat of corporate logic in American politics.

Scott Walker's New Defense: Recalling Me Hurts Children & the Elderly

motherjones:

On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Monday morning, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker trotted out a new talking point as he defends himself from a well-organized recall campaign hoping to oust him from office. In a nutshell, Walker said: Think of the children! Think of the seniors! 

How ironic. In his first budget, Walker slashed public education funding by $800 million to $900 million. Walker and his administration have also sought to cut Medicaid funding, in effect booting more than 50,000 low-income families from the program, better known as BadgerCare Plus. The $9 million price tag for his recall election pales in comparison to the cost-cutting now pinching some of Wisconsin’s students and some of its most vulnerable citizens.

Can’t make it up.

(Source: wisconsinforward)

Decoding the Campaigns | Moyers & Company

BILL MOYERS: I don’t have the tape of this, but let me read you what Rick Santorum said in my home state of Texas the other day. Quote,

"When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God-given rights, then what’s left is the French Revolution. What’s left is a government that gives you rights. What’s left in the unalienable rights, what’s left is a government that will tell you who you are, what you’ll do and when you’ll do it."

"What’s left in France became the guillotine. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re a long way from that, but if we follow the path that President Obama and his overt hostility to faith in America, then we are heading down that road."

You can’t say it, but I can as a journalist. That has all the refrain of a hallucination.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: That is an example of the extremist language in which campaigning now takes place. The… on the Flackcheck.org site we have a whole block of attacks that we call Way Out of Whack Attacks, WOW Attacks, statements that don’t bear any relationship to their literal referent. This is just one set of examples. At the point at which you’re analogizing something to the French Revolution, in once case a Republican candidate analogized EPA regulations to a reign of terror.

If you’re calling the opposing individuals barbarians at the gates or a mob (alternative sides of the political aisle by the way use that language), if you’re on the floor of the House during the health care reform debate saying the other sides wants seniors to die (both Republicans and Democrats said that on the floor of the House), you now are existing in a world in which language is decoupled from anything that is reasonably a referent.

What Is Cultural Terrorism? | Maya Mikdashi

We have been told there are cultures of life, cultures of death, cultures of misogyny, cultures of intolerance, and finally, cultural terrorists. In the age of the war on terror, culture is causative. Well, some cultures anyways. After all, culture is never blamed for the fact that every nine seconds a woman in the United states is assaulted and/or beaten. The prevalence of Islamophobia in the Republican primary race is never attributed to American culture, and neither is racism against African-Americans or the continued oppression of the continent’s indigenous peoples.

Within the war on terror, culture is something that other people have and are immersed in. The United States is posited as post-cultural, just as during the cold war it was posited as the post-ideological alternative to the dangerously ideological Soviet Union. For those who have “culture,” in fact culture seems to have them. Everything they do can be explained and/or predicted by culture.

Thus when Guantanamo Bay inmates committed suicide in 2006, a military official explained their actions using these words: “They have no regard for human life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetric warfare against us.” Within this framework, even the suicide of a person who has been detained and tortured seemingly without end is something that is done to the United States. Detainees can not be driven to suicide by US policies, because they were raised within (and programmed by) a culture of death where one does not care about life, even one’s own. A culture of death is one that produces people that are so radically other that the only way to beat them in a war is to eradicate them while simultaneously draining the “cultural swamps” that produce their way of life-a life of death.

While the war on terror is strangely absent from public discourse in the United States today, it still colors daily life in the Muslim and Arab worlds, said to be the “target” of that war. This should not be surprising, as the United States has made a habit of starting wars that continue to fester abroad as the American public moves on to the next war soundbite.

read whole

The Silence of the Technocrats | Thomas Frank

It is easy to understand how Democrats evolved into this tongue-tied, expert-worshipping species. Their traditional Democratic solutions might well have solved our problems, but the ideology behind those solutions — as well as the solutions themselves, in many cases — are totally unacceptable to the people who increasingly fund Democratic campaigns. Instead, the Democrats try to have it both ways: to deliver the occasional liberal measure here and there while studiously avoiding traditional liberal rhetoric. President Obama tries to stay on the good side of companies like Goldman Sachs and BP even as he desperately drives his hook-and-ladder around a world they have set on fire.

The bailouts, the stimulus, the health-care debate: with each of these issues, the path of expertise led the Obama administration toward compromise with the power of wealth. And by the thinking of Washington, that is entirely as it should have been.

The nation, meanwhile, wanted to know: How did the Crash of 2008 happen? How did government miss the warning signs? What are our responsibilities to our neighbors in hard times? In response, Democrats offered technical explanations. They simply could not talk about the disasters in a way that was resonant or compelling. Only the idealists of the Right did that. What the Democrats held out to an outraged nation was a fastidiously detailed flowchart for how things might be reorganized.

No one among them seems to have wondered if bailouts might be done in a different way, or foreseen that Republicans might not play by the debt-ceiling rules. They try what Clinton tried; they are astonished to see it fail. And so they try it again. The Washington Democrats will no more acknowledge the possibilities of other tactics than they will abandon Georgetown and move en masse to some burned-out quarter of Baltimore. Instead they deride their liberal critics as impossible dreamers — or as “fucking retarded,” in Rahm Emanuel’s famous phrase — and try what worked for Clinton one more sorry time.

Read the whole thing →

Part of the problem…is the pretense that Terrorism has some sort of fixed, definitive meaning. It does not. [The] meaning of the term has constantly morphed depending upon the momentary interests of those nations (usually the U.S. and Israel) most aggressively wielding it. It’s a term of political propaganda, impoverished of any objective meaning, and thus susceptible to limitless manipulation. Even the formal definition incorporated into U.S. law is incredibly vague; one could debate forever without resolution whether targeted killings of scientists fall within its scope, and that’s by design. The less fixed the term is, the more flexibility there is in deciding what acts of violence are and are not included in its scope. Iran and the Terrorism game | Glenn Greenwald