Thursday, April 30, 2009

Stratfor, you're full of crapfor...

I suppose there are benefits to having to analyze public policy analysis from all angles while doing my "day job." I get exposed to the briefings and reports of groups like Strategic Forecasting, Inc., or Stratfor, a self-described deeply connected mystery of a think tank whose very declaration on a crisis, controversy, or question serves as its own evidence.

For example--did you know that the release of the torture memos caused a "chilling effect" on U.S. counterterrorism? Never mind that what the U.S. has essentially admitted to utilizing techniques designed to produce false information.

The article goes to great lengths to evade the fact that it is begging the question. The techniques in question did not produce vital information. It doesn't work that way--CIA analysis willing to actually identify themselves insist that torture in general yields false information. And these particular techniques were even designed to yield false information. In this case, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, hell-bent on establishing a connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq, conscientiously living outside of the "reality-based community," authorized techniques that would yield whatever they decided was real in the first place.

Moreover, the publicity Stratfor decries was inevitable. You can't tell me, with a straight face, that perceptions of the U.S. abroad, or the ability of fundamentalist or cynical demagogues to exploit public knowledge of U.S. torture hinges on the release of what amounts to a little more specific information. The article itself admits this:
The memos’ release will not have a catastrophic effect on U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Indeed, most of the information in the memos was leaked to the press years ago and has long been public knowledge. However, when the release of the memos is examined in a wider context...

Translation: The catchy premise that pulled you into reading this article is bull****, but we want to paint an ideological picture of the poor, shackled intelligence community, so keep reading.

But then, who needs evidence when you lead the article with "our contacts in the intelligence community report that the release of the memos has had a discernible 'chilling effect' on those in the clandestine service who work on counterterrorism issues."

I'm calling BS on that, Stratfor. Or better yet, my numerous contacts in the intelligence community, who you can't see because they're invisible, tell me that everything is hunky dory, because they typically get off on torturing one another anyway, so's they can extract some false information about your mama. You just need to trust me on this.

It's important to remember that those whose ideological (and material) interests are served by asserting the unlimited right to brutality will resort to any means to keep insisting that they are the mainstream on the torture question. They're not. They don't even have the support of experts on international security or law enforcement. They don't have the support of their own analysts and field workers. That's why they have to make stuff up.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

more memories of Jets: Morning New Disease

This is an incredible performance that captures the intellectual as well as musical energy of the band...and also their authenticity, if that makes any sense...

morning new disease charcoal in bed
bone-soaked anemic listen in horror
to the scraping of flatware and china
and saran wrap to stifle libido
air shaft a chasm their lives flung open
sickness is a time for hating your neighbors
in their milk flats with five kids too many
having day sex because they're all daughters
and you're thinking the same two things
over and over again
I am dreaming of a life and I am dreaming of waking up
there's this anger rising cancer in me standing like a wall between
the waking world I seek and this infected plane of sleep
love come like an axe to all this ice and set me free
there's a black rewarding book
beneath this stiff sheet if you look carefully
noise police white hearse tv air wave methadone
diet contact safe sex antibiotics
for your safety we've taken sharp objects
it's their object to keep you from waking
taste test serenade we dig the grave
lose weight astrologically no money down
for your enjoyment we've excised the dialogue
for your protection we've installed a camera
just keep thinking the same clean thoughts
and keep telling yourself it's allright
I am dreaming of a life
and it's not the life that's mine
in a stolen car I rocket west out past that Jersey line
and the robots in their riot gear glimmer in my rearview mirror
love came like an axe and had her way with this coarse earth
and a small deserving book she was recovered and understood
and I awoke

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

sad and pathetic bedfellows

No offense, but if this is the best strategy that some on the "left" think is possible to combat Israeli brutality, then we're doomed. Doomed.

Ahmadinejad called the Holocaust "dubious" and has no solution other than hatred and binarism. European leaders might have been hypocritical to walk out, but their actions made a lot more sense than those of the tools who stayed to listen to this crap.

Ahmadinejad or Netanyahu? These are our only choices? I could produce better leaders growing fungi in a pile of goat feces.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

the pain that comes with clarity and mirrors in well-lit rooms

There is only one truly legitimate way to listen to Conrad, by Jets to Brazil.

Loud, very loud, with tears gradually welling up in your eyes.

The below performance isn't quite as good as the album version. The latter's production value is largely responsible for the emotion it mercilessly squeezes out of me. But it's a respectable performance.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

on the tragic murder of another innocent child

There is a sickness that causes people to hurt other people in shocking ways
There are several competing names, titles for that sickness and its accompanying shock
There are several people fighting over the names, because the power to name is the power to control
There is a power underneath the power to name which is the power to generate the conditions of naming
There are victims of both that sickness and that power strewn across the world like rag dolls
They are indistinguishable, except for the names

Peter Zimmerman: Convoys Solve Pirates

A decent commentary proposing a cheap and effective solution to piracy.

I realize there is a debate to be had about the causes and even justifications of piracy, and that for some, it can be interpreted as a positive thing if it helps break down the system (I feel like I should say "break down the system dude" or something like that). I do understand that kind of thinking but I don't have a great deal of sympathy for those who resort to gangsterism and extortion rather than political organization in response to exploitation and poverty. Trotsky and Lenin are still right about individual acts of terror. And there are no coherent arguments for why individual attacks against individual capitalists or merchants advances any cause whatsoever (pre-empt: I understand it's complicated). So in the meantime, I'd like for working people at sea to be safe, and convoying seems less militaristic and less accomodating to imperialism than militarizing the shipping lanes.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Mises Manuever

These are only cursory reactions to a quick first reading of George Reisman's "The Myth that Laissez Faire Is Responsible for Our Present Crisis," at

In response to a request I recently made for a defense of free markets, someone generously provided this link. What I should have said was that I wanted to see who was defending business as usual, not necessarily free markets. The distinction is so obvious that it scarcely needs to be explained. What was educational to me about the incorrect language of my request is that publications like the Mises Daily and others exploit that conflation in an effort to equate regulation with socialism. This puts us in an awkward situation: the free marketers hate regulation, while socialists believe it ultimately fails and tends to make things worse because of the way it papers over fundamental structural inequalities.

If, as it seems, the entire premise of the article is to refute idiots like Nicolas Sarkozy and me who unthinkingly say this is a crisis of "Laissez Faire," then Reisman could have saved himself, and us, valuable time by simply pointing out the obvious. He would, and does, say the obvious is an otherwise sound market system corrupted by governmental intervention. We would say that such intervention, such "gaming" and horrendously bad social decisionmaking, either distorting or externalizing social costs and harms, is inevitable. That essential difference makes much of this particular article irrelevant. For while we agree that government intervention fails and makes things worse, Reisman's insistence on conflating socialism with liberalism merely indicates he is not ready to discuss any of this in good faith (the alternative, that he is unaware of the whole distorting conflation, would sacrifice his intellect to save his ethics). The critique of Keynesianism (specifically of the belief that consumer spending is key) is observant, but ignores the even sharper critique of Keynesianism from the socialists. In fact, the entire enterprise of criticizing government intervention and then attributing the philosophy of such intervention to the larger philosophy of socialism is just so clumsy and predictable. Not only has the "blame the Community Reinvestment Act" been exposed as a popular conservative lie; whatever truth can be attributed to the charge that left liberalism and government intervention fails is, at least, incidental to the sources of structural inequality and, at most, a further indictment of the entire enterprise of regulated capitalism. Same goes for the indictment of the Federal Reserve Board.

The article further: 1. Assumes, does not prove, that "government intervention" is always worse than the worst possibilities under a world with no government intervention; 2. Asserts (quite ignorantly) that Marx (and his seeming plethora of followers in media and education) believes "government" to be "rational" ; 3. Devotes several paragraphs to 1 and 2, often repetitively, never containing internal links or warrants; 4. Then conveniently asserts laissez-faire capitalism "does not exist in today's world"--in rejoinder to an argument that's never been made. Where does one begin with such work? Configurally, in ways untraceable to linear logic, I find Misesians to be like those who frequent medieval simulations, who can spout Tolkein from memory.

Monday, April 06, 2009

the whole "obstructionism" and "hope for failure" thing

Here's why, at least temporarily, the Democrats are winning and the Republicans really can do nothing except hope for failure and try to hijack the process:

For at least three decades, the Republicans have hitched their wagons to an ideological and economic model that has proven to be a failure.

The Democrats have done a better job hiding their connections and dependence on said economic model. Some of them are even being coaxed into a path away from that model, however slightly and uncertainly (and with right wing cries of "socialism" every step of the way, a ritual that has now become comical and fails to convince a public that genuinely doesn't believe a more "socialistic" --regulated and egalitarian-- model would be any worse than what the neoliberals and free marketers have produced, and they're right).

There's at least some hope and mystery in the Democrats. The Republicans literally, and I mean literally, still believe in Reaganomics, trickle down, and deregulation. They tell this to the public and get about 25% of us to agree with them. They may as well be trying to pitch Molly Hatchet albums, pet rocks, or NAMBLA memberships. Keep up the good work, boys.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

untoward thoughts about the aftermath of the dale watson show

The title is probably more provocative than most of the post will be.

You might just be reading this because you linked here from my article on Shared Sacrifice. The blurb at the end promises inappropriate commentary about the show and the club.

I'll just cut to the chase. I have occasionally played in bands, and without exception, the bass player always gets hit on the most. Monday night in the Continental was no exception. But here's the deal: I am pretty sure Lone Stars bassist Gene Kurtz is either married or in a serious relationship (hardcore Lone Stars fans please correct me if I'm wrong). I mean, the guy did pen one of the hottest soul songs ever, "Treat Her Right." But even if he weren't, the two women hitting on him at Monday's show would have needed to be a heck of a lot better looking to get his attention. Having reasonable back seats doesn't compensate for having horse-faces. And to the brunette who did the "oh I need to fix my shoe trick" that even my very inebriated friend noticed: Sorry, but we all looked away. And not because we're gentlemen.

Why am I even remembering this? Because these ladies' awkward attempt to seduce a bass player, rather than ruining the night for me, only intensified the feeling that I had spent a quality evening in a club full of human fallability. Music like Dale's will do that to you.

"Ladies, I'm Gene *&%* Kurtz. Pleeeeeze!"