The 2 justifications for Capitalist Absolutism

The Bush regime is a simple aristocratic executive. As far as I can tell they only have two (2) rationales for every despotic and destructive piece of policy, legislation, rule, and executive order:

(1) Terrorism;

(2) Reduce Dependence on Foreign Oil.

It’s such a simple mantra, used to justify eveything from anulling habeas corpus to helping mining robber barons blow off the tops of mountains, that the Two Universal Justifications are even conceptually related. The Two Universal Justifications are so simple, all Communications Professionals can repeat them for every single fucking piece of schlock they pump out, as if they were stating reasons for policies and mandates. Thus all discussion and explanation ends, nowhere, and the holy Capitalist Absolutist era may shine on in all its rapacious glory.


Power’s Memo on Neocon Foreign Policy Dogma

Is Obama the public face of a semi-elite political community (who besides Samantha Power?) trying to reorient the bulk of the Israeli-US-UK foreign policy community? What are the fine distinctions among these belligerents? Bush and Clinton are the public faces of the ruling elite. Their public discourse and policy approach is obviously riddled with flaws. But in the New Absolutism, are they not impervious?

The foreign policy establishment’s opposition to “targeting terrorists” suggests that there may in fact be no terrorist-Others per se. It suggests that “terrorists” are window dressing, and that is why focusing on them is considered “unserious”.

August 3, 2007
To: Interested Parties
From: Samantha Power — Founding Executive Director, Harvard University Carr Center for Human Rights Policy
Re: Conventional Washington versus the Change We Need

It was Washington’s conventional wisdom that led us into the worst strategic blunder in the history of US foreign policy. The rush to invade Iraq was a position advocated by not only the Bush Administration, but also by editorial pages, the foreign policy establishment of both parties, and majorities in both houses of Congress. Those who opposed the war were often labeled weak, inexperienced, and even naïve.
Barack Obama defied conventional wisdom and opposed invading Iraq. He did so at a time when some told him that doing so would doom his political future. He took that risk because he thought it essential that the United States “finish the fight with bin Laden and al Qaeda.” He warned that a “dumb war, a rash war” in Iraq would result in an “occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.”
Barack Obama was right; the conventional wisdom was wrong. And today, we see the consequences. Iraq is in chaos. According to the National Intelligence Estimate, the threat to our homeland from terrorist groups is “persistent and evolving.” Al-Qaeda has a safe-haven in Pakistan. Iran has only grown stronger and bolder. The American people are less safe because of a rash war.
Over the last few weeks, Barack Obama has once again taken positions that challenge Washington’s conventional wisdom on foreign policy. And once again, pundits and politicians have leveled charges that are now bankrupt of credibility and devoid of the new ideas that the American people desperately want.
On each point in the last few weeks, Barack Obama has called for a break from a broken way of doing things. On each point, he has brought fresh strategic thinking and common sense that break with the very conventional wisdom that has led us into Iraq.
Diplomacy: For years, conventional wisdom in Washington has said that the United States cannot talk to its adversaries because it would reward them. Here is the result:
* The United States has not talked directly to Iran at a high level, and they have continued to build their nuclear weapons program, wreak havoc in Iraq, and support terror.
* The United States has not talked directly to Syria at a high level, and they have continued to meddle in Lebanon and support terror.
* The United States did not talk to North Korea for years, and they were able to produce enough material for 6 to 8 more nuclear bombs.
By any measure, not talking has not worked. Conventional wisdom would have us continue this policy; Barack Obama would turn the page. He knows that not talking has made us look weak and stubborn in the world; that skillful diplomacy can drive wedges between your adversaries; that the only way to know your enemy is to take his measure; and that tough talk is of little use if you’re not willing to do it directly to your adversary. Barack Obama is not afraid of losing a PR battle to a dictator – he’s ready to tell them what they don’t want to hear because that’s how tough, smart diplomacy works, and that’s how American leaders have scored some of the greatest strategic successes in US history.
Barack Obama’s judgment is right; the conventional wisdom is wrong. We need a new era of tough, principled and engaged American diplomacy to deal with 21st century challenges.
Terrorist Sanctuaries: For years, we have given President Musharraf hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid, while deferring to his cautious judgment on how to take out high-level al Qaeda targets – including, most likely, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Here is the result:
* Bin Laden and Zawahiri – two men with direct responsibility for 9/11– remain at large.
* Al Qaeda has trained and deployed hundreds of fighters worldwide from its sanctuary in northwest Pakistan.
* Afghanistan is far less secure because the Taliban can strike across the border, and then return to safety in Pakistan.
By any measure, this strategy has not worked. Conventional wisdom would have us defer to Musharraf in perpetuity. Barack Obama wants to turn the page. If Musharraf is willing to go after the terrorists and stop the Taliban from using Pakistan as a base of operations, Obama would give him all of the support he needs. But Obama made clear that as President, if he had actionable intelligence about the whereabouts of al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan – and the Pakistanis continued to refuse to act against terrorists known to be behind attacks on American civilians – then he will use highly targeted force to do so.
Barack Obama’s judgment is right; the conventional wisdom is wrong. We need a new era that moves beyond the conventional wisdom that has brought us over-reliance on an unreliable dictator in Pakistan and an occupation of Iraq.
Nuclear Attacks on Terrorist Targets: For years, Washington’s conventional wisdom has held that candidates for President are judged not by their wisdom, but rather by their adherence to hackneyed rhetoric that make little sense beyond the Beltway. When asked whether he would use nuclear weapons to take out terrorist targets in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Barack Obama gave the sensible answer that nuclear force was not necessary, and would kill too many civilians. Conventional wisdom held this up as a sign of inexperience. But if experience leads you to make gratuitous threats about nuclear use – inflaming fears at home and abroad, and signaling nuclear powers and nuclear aspirants that using nuclear weapons is acceptable behavior, it is experience that should not be relied upon.
Barack Obama’s judgment is right. Conventional wisdom is wrong. It is wrong to propose that we would drop nuclear bombs on terrorist training camps in Pakistan, potentially killing tens of thousands of people and sending America’s prestige in the world to a level that not even George Bush could take it. We should judge presidential candidates on their judgment and their plans, not on their ability to recite platitudes.
Vision: American foreign policy is broken. It has been broken by people who supported the Iraq War, opposed talking to our adversaries, failed to finish the job with al Qaeda, and alienated the world with our belligerence. Yet conventional wisdom holds that people whose experience includes taking these positions are held up as examples of what America needs in times of trouble.
Barack Obama says we have to turn the page. We cannot afford any more of this kind of bankrupt conventional wisdom. He has laid out a foreign policy that is bold, clear, principled, and tailored for the 21st century. End a war we should never have fought, concentrate our resources against terrorists who threaten America. End the counter-productive policy of lumping together our adversaries and avoiding talking to our foes. End the era of politics that is all sound-bites and no substance, and offer the American people the change that they need.
Barack Obama’s judgment is right. It is conventional wisdom that has to change.

Greenwald on Foreign Policy Dogma

Let us quit this farce that US policy is independent of Israeli interests. It is not and has not been since prominent Jewish political actors (and I am not necessarily referring here to the professional politicians in the House and Senate) went neocon and began to work through the Republican Party, as well as the Democrats.

What a critical journalist needs to do is to accept and clearly articulate that in the American political realm, US foreign policy interests (and even many domestic interests) are not conceived as separate from Israeli interests. What we need to examine critically are: What are the contradictions this presents? That means we need to articulate: Where is Israeli policy headed? We cannot understand US foreign policy until we learn to talk publicly about what Israeli leaders want and intend.

Could there be a coalition of leftists in the US and the Middle East to oppose the foreign policy establishment with democratic demands?

Here is what is popularly known about the Iraeli-US-UK foreign policy dogma:

1) Displaced and dispossessed non-Jewish communities and countries must be continuously disrupted.
2) Israel must be stabilized and provided the financial and military support to be an affluent society–its citizens must enjoy strong market positions.
3) US oil must be provided the military to appropriate resources, such as oil, in the non-Israeli Middle East. (So that China and Europe cannot get or buy them without going through US and British capital.)
4) US, UK, and Israeli military industry must be provided sufficient public funding to profit strongly from their role in the appropriation of resources in the non-Israeli Middle East.
5) US and UK financial capital must be protected and given free reign, in order to maintain political strength in the US and support Israel.
6) The Saud family and other despots must rule Middle Eastern countries in a way that prevents state-building and social progress in the non-Israeli Middle East. That is, Enlightenment-informed policy and culture must be averted to maintain balkanization and disruptability.
7) In exchange for supporting elite absolute rule in foreign policy, American religious leaders and institutions must be given pork barrel contracts and funding to run vestigal domestic public social services and education. American voters/consumers/taxpayers are encouraged to justify this exchange with the lofty notion of hastening the Christian Armageddon. As well, public quiescence is assured in Israel-US-UK through the proliferation of security, military, communications, and intelligence jobs.
8) Israel-US-UK must justify repressing Middle Eastern resistance to the above policy with the “terrorism” rubric.
9) Oil dynasties will not see their sons (“terrorists”) killed in support of publicity campaigns.
10) As the extreme focus on the Middle East has allowed socialism to resurface in Latin America, the US counters state and society-building in Latin America with ideological denunciations and poorly-planned coups.

What we would like to know is: Given its un-negotiably undeomcratic operation, does this foreign policy dogma have any redeeming value at all for uninterested parties, like the general American public? What does this foreign policy do to democracy in the US, and the MIddle East? (How) does this foreign policy dogma strain the US economy or put non-elites in an uncompetitive position? *Why* do Isareli strategists and the Israeli-US-UK foreign policy establishment feel this policy is the necessary route? There are more questions.

Below I quote Glen Greenwald in bulk (though editing out a bit).

Wednesday August 8, 2007 12:50 EST
The foreign policy community
Glen Greenwald

America is plagued by a self-anointed, highly influential, and insular so-called Foreign Policy Community which spans both political parties. They consider themselves Extremely Serious and have a whole litany of decades-old orthodoxies which one must embrace lest one be declared irresponsible, naive and unserious. Most of these orthodoxies are ossified 50-year-old relics from the Cold War, and the rest are designed to place off limits from debate the question of whether the U.S. should continue to act as an imperial force, ruling the world with its superior military power.

Most of the recent “controversies” involving Barack Obama’s foreign policy statements — including his oh-so-shocking statement that it would not make moral or political sense to use tactical nuclear weapons to bomb isolated terrorist camps as well as his willingness to attack Al Qaeda elements inside Pakistan if the Musharraf government refuses (as they did for some time) — were not “controversial” among the Establishment on the merits. They were “controversial” (and “naive” and “irresponsible”) because they breached the protocols and orthodoxies imposed by the Foreign Policy Community governing how we are allowed to talk about these issues.

This was vividly illustrated by the sharpest exchange from last night’s debate, where both Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd excoriated Obama for his comments on Pakistan, not on the ground that Obama’s statements were wrong on the merits (i.e, not that we should avoid military action inside Pakistan under those circumstances), but instead on the ground that he committed the sin of actually discussing with the American people what our foreign policy would be.

The Foreign Policy Community is more secretive than the Fight Club. They believe that all foreign policy should be formulated only by our secret “scholar”-geniuses in the think tanks and institutes comprising the Foreign Policy Community and that the American people should not and need not know anything about any of it short of the most meaningless platitudes. They are the Guardians of Seriousness. “Serious” really means the extent to which one adheres to their rules and pays homage to their decrees.

It is hard to overstate how self-important and impressed with itself is the bi-partisan Foreign Policy Community. When I was attempting this week through a series of e-mail exchanges to convince a reluctant Michael O’Hanlon to agree to an interview with me about his field trip to Iraq, he explained his reluctance this way: “I have gone light on what people say about your work. I have not slammed you the way various people have told me you’ve slammed me. I have simply said that people tell me you go after scholars very very hard.”

People in the Foreign Policy Community refer to themselves and each other as “scholars,” and they have a long list of Byzantine rules with which one must comply in order to be permitted to participate in our country’s foreign policy discussions.

Over the past couple of days, there has been a continuation of the ongoing dispute between Matt Yglesias and Michael Rubin, a “Resident Scholar” at the American Enterprise Institute. The lastest dispute concerned an attack by Rubin on journalist Mark Leon Goldberg over an article Goldberg wrote a couple of years ago about an AEI event. Over at National Review’s Corner, Rubin attempted to explain why this petty dispute was, in fact, so important:

“The point, Matthew, is not how many years ago the incident was: Everyone in the policy community assesses which journalists regardless of ideology are honest and accurate and which perhaps take too many liberties, if only so we know who is serious or honest enough to talk to regardless of ‘what their politics may be.'” (Please remember to read this extremely narrowly as “what end of the Republocrat network they get their bread buttered on.”)

The Foreign Policy Community — our establishment “scholars” — were almost unanimously supportive of George Bush’s invasion, worked themselves into a lather over Saddam’s WMDs and mushroom clouds over U.S. cities, stayed silent in the face of obvious Bush abuses and excesses, embraced the most manipulative and fictitious neoconservative doctrines, and they still continuously issue all sorts of theoretical constructs to justify America’s increasingly militaristic and imperial role.

There is no real dispute within it about the most fundamental foreign policy questions we face (which is why the “liberal” Brookings Institutional “scholars” are so pro-war and work so cooperatively with the neoconservative AEI). And they not only have a monopoly over deciding who is Serious and who is not, but also in declaring which issues are off-limits from real debate. The foreign policy disasters of the last six years, at least, are their doing.

As Powers points out, the Foreign Policy Community has proven itself to be reckless, irresponsible and deeply unserious. These “scholars” have lost the right to judge anyone or to declare anyone else unserious. It is long past time to aggressively challenge their most precious orthodoxies.

There are few issues more vitally important than destroying the supremacy and monopoly of our Foreign Policy Community and forcing a re-examination of our most fundamental assumptions about America’s role in the world. To the extent that Obama’s campaign will continue to challenge not only the establishment’s orthodoxies by the Establishment itself (and whether he will remains to be seen), that can only produce vitally needed outcomes.

See Greenwald in for the following update: Where was the Foreign Policy Community — our establishment “scholars” — when all of this was happening?

Greenwald’s critique of the Foreign Policy Cabal’s “seriousness” discourse:

Let us also take note of the bizarre fact that the Rules of Seriousness seem to allow someone to run around talking about attacking, invading, and bombing everyone except for the people who actually attacked us on 9/11. All the Serious People cheered on the invasion of Iraq and talk openly about attacking and bombing Iran and Syria. None of those countries, of course, had anything to do with 9/11, but no matter. The Serious People are free to speak as openly and explicitly as possible about new wars with those nations.

But Barack Obama speaks of the possibility of attacking the actual individuals who attacked us on 9/11 if we know where they are and Pakistan leaves them be, and suddenly, he is a terribly Unserious and Naive and Irresponsible person for suggesting such a thing. Apparently, it is very Serious to ponder new wars on a whole list of countries and groups provided they had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

One would be equally remiss if failing to note that people like Mike Rubin, who reside in the belly of the neocon beast, who wanted to turn Iraq over to Ahmad Chalabi, and who devotes his life to fueling the flames for a new war with Iran, still thinks he is in a position to designate who is “serious” and who is not, and his friends at Brookings Institution, who hosted AEI’s Fred Kagan when it was time to unveil his Surge Plan, would undoubtedly agree. In the Foreign Policy Community, arguing in favor of new wars never removes one from the Realm of Seriousness provided — as the Obama “controversy” proves — the new war targets have nothing to do with any actual attacks on our country.

Foundational Policy Moments

… brought to you, courtesy of academic professionalization:

In The Mismeasure of Man (1981), Stephen Jay Gould demonstrates that one of the founding moments in 20th century US political history is a technocratic racism moment as well.
At the turn of the twentieth century, a psychology academic functionary, Robert Yerkes, aimed to establish his discipline as a policy-contributing science by offering, to that fundamental American institution the US Army, to administer to all recruits intelligence tests–devised by himself. This was a period of high immigration and high inequality. The US government agreed. Yerkes was able to process millions of tests, which–very biased, very poorly formulated–“showed” that the average American male in the army was…mentally retarded.
The policy conclusion?
To psychologists and policymakers, Yerkes’ results authorized the conclusion that US political and economic policy should be run–not to reduce inequality and improve human capital across the immigrant population, as you might think–but rather to preserve and manage a population kept functionally retarded. This is what Goran Therborn (2013) means by conservative stunting, in the psychological militaristic-society-meets-slaver-society knowledge and governance program. The army brass and helpful, professional psychologists concluded (surprise, surprise) that democracy is not feasible, given the U.S. population is filled with what they regarded as mentally-retarded ethnic others and working class mental-deficients, a natural resource of inferiors.

Academic ambitions reinforced the American conservative anti-democratic bent through scientism.



Radically-individualistic Anglo-American Psychology is a standout in its professional political conservatism. It’s the crudely biased, politically-mobilized, gaudily-marketed construction of knowledge in the fashion of Psychologists Yerkes and Jonathan Haidt that lends credence to 20th century social philosophy’s claim, as per Foucault, that all non-economics social scientific knowledge is nothing more than parasitical governance technology. (Foucault thinks that conservative economics, implicitly like that other true ruling knowledge, philosophy, escapes subordination to the parasitical knowledge-power regulation function, by deploying a strict discourse of objective, apolitical logic and truth. Eyeroll.)


As well, clearly other scholars have lent their sanction to conservative politics and policy, in order to further their professional goals. Ehrenreich discusses a conservative policy position (the culture of poverty theoretical construct) unwittingly unleashed by anthropologists and sociologists concerned with professionalism and career (although, more understandably, in the face of repression, and again, a little more unwittingly. It’s a good example of how socialists can produce conservatism to stay in a terribly-rigged game). Fraser describes how feminists and other post-modernists were similarly incentivized to contribute to conservatization.


I’m still waiting on Careerism: Prolegomena to a Political Theory.

Rural Idiocy

According to Preston, Julia. 2007. “Surge in Immigration Laws Around U.S.” New York Times, August 6, “State legislatures, grappling with the failure of the federal government to overhaul the immigration laws, considered 1,404 immigration measures this year and enacted 170 of them, an unprecedented surge in state-level lawmaking on the issue, according to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures.”

Some states adopted laws to discourage illegal immigration–such as regulating employers, while others adopted anti-immigrant laws, designed to reduce quality of life–theoretically for immigrants only, yet somehow all us non-elites get the royal rear penetration.

“Every state debated immigration issues, and 41 states adopted immigration laws. A large number of new laws cracked down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. The broadest measure was passed in Arizona and signed into law by Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, in July. Arizona employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants face suspension of their business license for the first offense and the permanent loss of their license for a second offense within three years. The law requires employers to verify the status of job applicants with a federal immigration database known as Basic Pilot.

‘The message loud and clear from our constituents was their frustration that the federal government has not taken the necessary action to secure the border,’ Timothy S. Bee, a Republican who is the president of the Arizona Senate, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Tennessee made it a criminal offense, rather than a civil one, to ‘recklessly employ’ an illegal immigrant, with fines up to $50,000. Several states passed laws denying state contracts to employers of illegal immigrants, and other laws barred those immigrants from collecting unemployment benefits. In all, 26 laws on employing immigrants were passed in 19 states — covering the nation from Hawaii to Arkansas to Georgia — with most of the measures intended to curb illegal immigrants’ access to jobs.

But in Illinois, lawmakers barred the state from requiring employers to verify job applicants through the Basic Pilot system. The legislators called the system unreliable and error-prone.”

Immigration economist George Borjas points out that “The United States could probably deter many more illegal aliens by imposing substantial penalties on the employers who hire them (than by barring illegal immigrants from public services and goods). These firms–large agricultural enterprises, sweatshops, and native households that hire illegal aliens as maids or nannies–get the bulk of the gains from illegal immigration, but bear few of the costs. The demand for illegal aliens would probably drop dramatically if the government began to bill the owners of the fields where the aliens toil and the families who hire illegal servants for the expenses incurred by public schools and Medicaid” (Borjas 1999:206). Borjas runs through other discincentive suggestions from an economic efficiency point of view, before suggesting that the US link the point system for legal immigration with the size of the illegal alien flow.

Preston describes anti-immigrant laws: “Several states — including Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana and Nevada — passed new laws or hardened existing ones to bar illegal immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses. The ‘toughest’ (eg. most fascist) law was adopted in Louisiana, which now requires applicants’ names to be checked against a federal immigration database as well as the Department of Homeland Security’s terrorism watch list.

Eleven states enacted 15 laws on public benefits, most of them denying state assistance to illegal immigrants. In May, Minnesota passed a version of a federal law that makes illegal immigrants ineligible for most medical aid.”

Here is a depressing story about how American conservatives are scapegoating immigrants for (capitalist class warfare and) the decline of the American working class (what’s new, Know-nothings?):

Kotlowitz, Alex. 2007. “Our Town” The New York Times, August 5.

Way too many Americans will do anything to other people just to cling to that one source of status they have remaining–nationalist. When the going gets tough, American working class chumps get their festering, ineffectual hate on! How’s that been working for y’all? Solving lots of problems, Mean Joe Blow Green? Restoring quality of life much? While you bluster furiously about your nasty, punitive little laws, *further* decreasing the quality of life (oh sure, you’re just trying to immiserate the immigrants, and yet it just gets worse and worse for everyone), your bosses are laughing. All. The. Way. To. The. Bank.

And as for the educated liberals–at whose behest we never, ever talk about the central role of capitalist class warfare in our lives–are you enjoying living in your fasco-racist society and pretending it’s all the fault of working class people for not accepting their lot and being nicer?

The only way anything is going to change is if somebody manages to privately recognize that the U.S. is set up to be run by vicious pricks and managed by unreflective cogs–and yet still works to help people develop some semblance of humanity in the public sphere. How can we facilitate working class leaders to come up with something other than authoritarian responses to the problems of rampant authoritarianism? The mega churches aren’t doing it.

Venezuelan Media

“On April 12 (2002), Venezuelans awoke to television personality Napoleon Bravo, host of Venevision’s ’24 Horas’ morning show, declaring ‘Good morning Venezuela–we have a new president!’ During this extraordinary television moment, the guests thanked the private media channels for their integral role in making the coup happen and explained in detail the plans leading up to the coup. They specifically underlined the key role of the private media in broadcasting the images that justified the coup…Later on that same program, bravo hosted Rear Admiral Carlos Molino Tomayo, Leopold Lopez, Victor Manuel Garcia, and other coup participants who gave an in-depth account of the coup plotting and plans.”

Gollinger, Eva. “The Chavez Code 73”. Cited in Monthly Review 59(3) 2007: 142.

Note to CIA: When attempting to overthrow democratically elected presidents outside of US, (1) make sure they don’t have functional military connections, and (2) stifle the boorish braying of the local elite co-conspirators. Just in case you assholes fail.

the context of falling bridges

Empire Burlesque has a good analysis of the crumbling US infrastructure.


Look at the recent collapse of a major Minneapolis bridge. It was a bridge over 60 feet above the Mississippi, over 1000 feet long (450 of which were only supported by a steel beam inserted in 1967), smack in the middle of the city.

The communications professionals are reporting it as “not involving a terrorist attack”. OK. Good semi-diversion. But what is it–and all the other growing infrastructure fatalities around the US–the result of then?

Q. What do you get after 25 years with the dogma “No taxes”?

A. The infrastructure of the US is collapsing.

Get it?

Here’s the report card on American infrastructure from the American Society of Civil Engineers:

If you want to be honest about it, it’s not just transportation infrastructure. It’s obviously education. Plus the complete lack of healthcare for the underclass. In our faith that inequality is OK, we are bringing not just the underclass but the whole society down, while the happy, blithe, unaccountable overclass builds themselves golden rafts.

With any luck, MInnesota will realize what they’ve done to themselves, vote the Republicans out, start paying taxes again, and stick in a light rail where the bridge used to be.

Don’t know where to start? Call up the Swedes. Go ahead. They speak English really well, due to their excellent and affordable PUBLIC education system. And don’t call up those fucking Alliance vultures. Call the LO economists. They’ll help you figure out how to run a vibrant society that doesn’t foster greed and corruption. I’d recommend doing it quickly, before the neoliberals eradicate social democracy and all we’ve got left is our fat asses propped up by the stump of the giving tree.