Monthly Archives: May 2007

Cheney's Granddaughter

You stupid liberals.

Cheney’s daughter and grand daughter will be able to do whatever they want because they have shitloads of money and come from a powerful family. Hello, McFly.

The idea that people of that ilk will see this as some cause to confront institutional racism/homophobia/etc. is just retarded. It will be roughly as effective as using OJ as a cause celebre to fight racism.

They’re both already living in the Big House.

Ariel's Mirror

I. INTRODUCTION

Long before John Edwards spoke about the two Americas, José Enrique Rodó wrote Ariel, drawing on Shakespeare’s Tempest. The character Ariel represents Latin America; Caliban the Anglo North. Those were the two Americas then. In a sense, it is an anti-American polemic. But it reflects the realities of 100 years ago. Today, looking north, Ariel would see more of himself than he might expect.

This is not a piece about immigration. I am not suggesting, implying, or hinting that the United States’ decline is the result of Latin American immigration. It would be easy to read the above paragraph and come to that conclusion. On the contrary, it is the old ruling class’s own failures that are at the root of this change.

Ariel has been criticized equally as an anti-American polemic and as apologetics for the abject failure of nearly every Latin American state. [cite.] But as one author put it, that complaint amounts to “[accusing a woman of being of bad virtue after being raped.]” In other words, how much of the failure of those states is the United States’ fault? In the year Ariel was written, 1900, it would be fair to attribute American interference to be the predominant cause of the problems in México (stemming affirmatively from the Mexican-American War, Wall Street’s backing of Porfirio Díaz, and negatively from the US’s failure to backup the Monroe Doctrine during the Civil War, thus allowing the French interference—just to name a few). It was too soon to see whether the US would help or hurt Cuba and Puerto Rico (though it was not wrong to assume it wouldn’t). Blaming the perennial strife in Colombia on the theft of Panamá for the canal completely misstates the realities of the sad history of that land.

Though the story in the 20th Century would certainly unfold along the lines suggested by Rodó, with the United States military and CIA acting as the personal brute squad for United Fruit, Anaconda Mining, et al., America’s incipient imperialism had only begun to turn ugly in 1900. The worst deeds would come later in Guatemala, Chile, and Nicaragua (though I cannot name a single country in this hemisphere without a legitimate gripe against us in the 20th century, those countries were not only wronged, we sinned against them.) Yet none of these rampages seemed to poison the soul of the United States—enough attention was never paid.

Given that frame, and given its amazing prescience, one marvels at the profundity of Rodó’s metaphor. But I’m not accessing its deep nook’s and crannies. I’m going to leave it at its basics. Ariel is the Greco-Roman ideal of Latin America, and his foil, Caliban, is the utilitarian and imperialist North American. Rodó exhorts Latin Americans to embrace this humanism and live in a culture that, while democratic, does not ignore the cultural achievements of its best.

But if Ariel looked in the mirror, he would see a culture wracked with inequity predating even the Conquistadores in some places, but no younger than the first sighting of a galleon in others. He would see a racially divided society still struggling to come to grips with its independence from Spain almost 100 years later.

If Ariel looked north, across time from 1900 to 2007, he might think for a moment that he was looking in the mirror. If he could look across time even further to, say, 2025, I’m afraid he might be sure of it.

All of the indictments that could be brought by Latin America for the judgment of the United States’ soul have bounced off it, or been eclipsed by the triumphant light of the victory in World War II, and the subsequent domination of the world both economically and culturally that followed. We do not feel shame for those acts.

But slowly, the light is dimming, and behind the glare a state much in the mold of an oligarchical plantation economy, a “banana republic” is emerging: it’s Ariel’s twin.

II. THE DNA

The early intellectual lights of independent Latin America greatly admired the North American revolution. Both Bolívar and San Martín, though, to varying degrees did not think that their America was ready for the libertarian constitution of North America.

I do not know what the libertadores knew about slavery or genocide in North America, but it wasn’t that North America was “ready” for its constitution—it’s that its rules only applied to whites. It’s quite possible that such a framework could have been applied to various places in Latin America equally as well, if only the Spanish and creole classes were included. We simply had fewer Indians, I guess. In any event, Ariel and Caliban were identical twins from birth who only differed in self image and psychology.

But for reasons that have been discussed across thousands of pages, Latin America suffered through decades of chaos after independence. North America simply deferred its problems for 90 years, resolved them in a bloodbath, and then moved on.

But the contrasts are overstated by everyone. North America still has not remedied its own legacy of slavery and genocide. To be sure, the “included” group included a much broader swath of the population than it did in a typical Latin American strongman state. But that is beginning to change.

It’s beginning to change not because of imperial overstretch, or creeping self-loathing, or regional strife. It’s beginning to change because North America’s failure to create a social democratic state that safeguards the economic well-being of its included group is resulting in a precipitous decline in that included group.

The same players are playing the same part in the North and South as well. Instead of the Catholic Church’s grand estates and reactionary lecturing, we have a fusion of all of the “freedom of religion” groups all pushing a reactionary agenda, using cash instead of land to generate wealth.

The military isn’t rolling tanks through the Mall in Washington, D.C., but it doesn’t have to. It is the agent of reaction equally, if not more, in the US as anywhere in Latin America. To feed its ever increasing hunger for size, the US dedicates the world’s greatest amount of treasure to its military. In Naill Ferguson’s early work, The Cash Nexus, he argues that states have faced the choice of warfare state or welfare state. The US chose the former at the expense of the latter. This mutually exclusive choice alone sets the military as agents of reaction, regardless of any further action it takes.

The laboring class, supposedly more well educated in the US, fits itself neatly into the Orwellian framework. It will not rise. It finds its sustenance in NASCAR and its politics in the propaganda streams of the oligarchy (Fox News etc.).

More to come. . . .

III. Bush As Caudillo.
IV. The Mortal Illness of the Middle Class
A. The Death of the Union
B. The Death of Manufacturing
V. The Complicity of the Intelligentsia
VI. The World-Wide Monroe Doctrine And Imperial Exhaustion.

Fucking Pussy Ass Democrats

After several years of shame and regret for voting for Ralph Nader, which was only amplified by the degree to which I now sincerely admire Al Gore, I’m over it. I don’t regret it at all. I was smarter than I thought back in my college days.

After waiting for so many years for the Dems to have some voice in government, I am starting to get the picture here. Make a show on Iraq, but don’t actually do anything even though you have public support. Run a campaign on lobbyist reform, but don’t actually do anything.

And, worst of all, run a campaign on trade reform, and then broker a Bush administration written trade deal with phantom labor and environmental protections. Haven’t they seen what these deals have done to our country (never mind the catastrophes abroad) over the last decade?

If you bother to take even the most cursory glance at the state of Latin America, you will see that resentment against the US is once again boiling over. It’s not just Castro anymore. Chavez is leading a whole new clique of left wing leaders. There’s Morales in Bolivia, Bachelet in Chile (socialist), Kirchner in Argentina (socialist)—and a pretty clearly fraudulent election in Mexico to keep out their socialist.

Why? Is it because the spirit of Marx is alive in Latin America? No. It’s because the already dismal inequality in that region is being made even worse by these exploitative deals.

I was fooled by Neoliberalism, but only until the empirical evidence started coming in. No longer. I should have listened to my libertarian high school history teacher who, commenting upon the hundreds of pages in NAFTA, said “a true free trade agreement could fit on one page.” Indeed. There wouldn’t be draconian intellectual property protections in a true free trade agreement. But of course, those are ok—fuck the environment though.

My wallet just dried up for 2008.

¡Viva Chávez!

The Hard Knocks of History

There is a poem by a Peruvian César Vallejo called “The Black Heralds,” which, during its time, was a forerunner of the emotionally raw archetype that came later in Latin American poetry. Somehow for me, this captures the resigned sadness that can only be credibly summoned by someone from a place like Perú–or maybe Russia, where history itself is optimism killing.

Think about how strongly that contrasts with this country’s idea of itself. Americans of my generation or older don’t see history as tragedy. We have kept the modernist idea of history as progress alive. We subconsciously know that our peril lies in hubris, not in resignation.

But is that the case anymore? And if it is, isn’t it a sad delusion? After all, America is becoming more like América. We’re killing our middle class. The industrialists–think Halliburton, the Carlisle Group, ExxonMobil–instead of United Fruit, Anaconda, etc.–rule us and can change the law at will. This same cabal has undemocratically installed the Bush junta.

What’s the difference? Is history for Americans now about sad resignation and past glories? This sociological self-image is something I don’t read much about, but what was the mood among the British when the finally surrendered their Empire after World War II? Surely not as optimistic and haughty as the Victorian–or the Romans of the late western empire–or Spain in the seventeenth century?

Is America depressed? And if not, shouldn’t we be? After all, it’s only this faith in the future that allows us to somehow manage the guilt of past crimes. If we lose that, if our progress comes to a grinding halt, then we lose even the ends justifying the means rationalization for our bloody and sad past.

I take some solace in the fact that many post-imperial nations are wonderful places, certainly better than post-colonial places. We’re both–which end of the stick do we get?

Stoic Philosophy, Clemency, Power, A Divided Nation, and Bush

One of the best stoic philosophers from a literary point of view is Seneca. He’s certainly not the most rigorous from a 21st century analytical point of view, but that’s neither here nor there. He wrote a piece called De Clementia–On Clemency. He argued to the Emperor that a truly powerful ruler could show clemency, that he could show his strength by showing leniency. It also stops generational vendettas.

It makes sense if you think about it. Only in a situation where power is tenuously held is there a need for a series of purges. Those who have the weakest mandate always seem to make a point of purging their opponents. It’s the same story in every banana republic coup, every African civil war, in Nazi Germany, and……….. in today’s United States. Whether it is a true divide, or just one made real by our Rube Goldberg electoral contraption, no one party can plan on having uncontested rule for long. Even the masters of latter day political strategy only managed to keep control of Congress for 12 years, and that against some of the shittiest, weakest, and lamest opposition.

Whether they recognize this counter-Machiavellian corollary or not, conservatives are acting just like the Adams administration and are doing their best to stack every nook and cranny of government with their operatives so that when what looks like the inevitable happens in January, 2009, the new boss can’t consolidate much power anyway.

It’s also why our politics is so degraded. No one can govern for long, and no one can afford to show the clemency to the other side without looking as retarded as the Democrats did in 2002. Unless there is some transformative, Depression-level event that provides the basis for a new American consensus, this will continue to escalate, and the purges will escalate.

This US Attorney scandal, by the way, shows an intent to turn prosecutions into political acts against political opponents. That’s the next step, but they got stopped butt cold. For now.

What comes after that?

Time for Enviros to Get Real on Renewables and Efficiency

The global warming issue has turned from countering a Conservatron disinformation campaign to a grasp for solutions. The issue is at the Presidential Buffet Table and once the chuckleheaded Bush junta is finally retired in 20 months it seems likely that real policy solutions will get an honest airing. Defelct Ignore & Photo-Op won’t cut it anymore.

Environmentalists are proficient at clanging alarms with a moral purity that is usually more the purview of the right. Once GW is mainstreamed, however, they could quickly lose their voice in the Solutions part of the conversation if they continue to confront difficult questions about energy with the exhausted “we can make up for less {insert name of baseload energy here} generation with energy efficiency and renewables” canard.

This canard is often presented as an implicit criticism, as if entities are refusing to make efforts on these front. In truth, utilities have been running efficiency programs for decades and will continue to do so, but even as the “low-haning fruit”, to use an efficiency cliche for obvious opportunities, continues to be picked demand continues to grow as the population expands and people plug in more gadgets. If energy is a problem then efficiency stops it from being worse. This is valuable, but it is not a solution.

You will not find a bigger booster of renewable energy than myself. I believe that every surface facing the south should have a solar panel and that wind farms should be plentiful. Unfortunately, not all megawatts are created equal. Solar panels could do much to reduce demand side domicile energy use (were they widely distributed), but they will not be able to make up for the energy demands of an AC induced heat-wave demand surge or a cold snap becuase they provide no capacity (or nighttime generation beyond what may have been stored in a battery). Wind is an excellent fuel displacement resource, but even though wind forcasting technology has gotten much better it’s intermittance means that it is only marginally useful as a generation resource. On July 24, 2006 when the WECC (the interconnected grid stretcing from Alberta BC to Northern Mexico and from the West Coast through the Rocky Mountains) faced a record load demand; and low-income elderly people were dying in central California as their ACs failed; and utilities throughout the region were buying energy at whatever price the market could bear, the region’s collective wind farms were generating at less than ten percent of their capacity. Outside of the Northwest wind energy is “firmed” by adding more thermal capacity; insde the Northwest this is not necessary because of the tremendous flexibility of the hydrosystem (hydro generation can be adjusted at almost the flip of a switch whereas thermal energy takes time to “warm up”), but trying to get a Northwestern enviro to admit this inconvenient truth is as impossible as getting a slug to race through a salt flat.

Renewables are a part of the solution, but they are not THE solution. The reasons that they are not the solution are obvious enough that Enviros will lose some hard won credibility if they continue to push them as such as the rest of the American polity begins to address Global Warming seriously.

DC Statehood

Apparently the issue of DC Statehood has come up again. I don’t think I’ve written extensively on this issue, if at all.

I fully support the right of DC getting its voting rights in the House of Representatives, and, even though it would be antithetical to the original purpose of the senate, I would have no problem with DC being granted two senators.

But those two benefits are not coexstensive with statehood. Statehood means that you add a governor, a giant bureaucracy, and another layer of politics. Can’t a place just be given representation without the need for it to be a “state”?

In addition, I don’t support statehood or representation for DC until the status of our other territories is resolved. Guam, the Marianas, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico are subject to the jurisdiction of federal courts–they should have federal representation. The other territories, like Samoa, should probably have a say as well.

American Idol Boycott

Believe me, I never watched this show because I was awe-struck by the rags-to-riches theme, or whatever you want to call it. I certainly don’t listen to that kind of warmed over pop regurgitate, either. But after Bush’s appearance on the show last night, I’ll never turn it on again.