Archive for Happy new year

Belated Holiday Greeting and Assorted Grumbling (Did somebody say Putin?)

Posted in Elections, Europe, Media, News, Politics, USA with tags , , , on January 15, 2017 by Z

My assessment of the holidays can be pretty fairly summed up by the following:


Much more efficient than a bunch of words.

On the upside, if it turns out I forgot to give someone a gift, I imagine I’ll be able to get off the hook by claiming Putin hacked my amazon account. “Wow, sorry man. I didn’t forget; it’s those damn Russians. They must have changed the shipping address to the Trump tower!”

Can you believe 50% of Clinton voters think Russia “tampered with vote tallies” to elect Trump? Even the “free” press hasn’t claimed that. If anyone needed it, this should serve as final proof that Democrats are just as dumb as Republicans, who of course were overwhelmingly likely to believe Iraq was involved in 9/11, despite no news outlet actually making that claim. Republicans clearly aren’t the only ones not actually reading the articles. The Dems, too, are absorbing suggestive headlines at an alarming rate and verifying nothing. I’m also getting a little fed up with the hyperbolic accusations that seem to be levied at anyone questioning the Evil Russia story. On the other hand, it is remarkable that the Democrat talking heads have managed to achieve red baiting without reds. I was sure that was against the rules (Walter: “Without a hostage, there is no ransom. Those are the fucking rules!”), but apparently not (“We still want the money, Lebowski.”). Hey, maybe I can get paid without working.

The unRed baiting going on is particularly interesting because it centers on accusations that Russia influenced an election in another nation, which the US did in spades following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In fact, the US intervened in Russian elections (see above) to keep Boris Yeltsin in office – because he was propping up the disaster of shock therapy and the slapdash privatization favoring former managers and party officials that it entailed (and embezzling a little something for himself, as well). That’s the same Boris Yeltsin, by the way, who selected one Vladimir Putin as his acting prime minister and successor, meaning US intervention in Russian elections is what set the stage for Putin’s current role in the first place. Putin is not some epic evil that passed through a membrane from another reality – he is simply a politician caught in the unenviable position of having to navigate the wreckage that is post-soviet casino capitalist kleptocracy by playing various oligarch factions against each other while riding assorted waves of popular discontent ultimately traceable to the gross mishandling of the soviet breakup by Yeltsin and co. He isn’t Putin, Bringer of Homophobia (Russia has a population that has long had a sizeable homophobic contingent – even before ol’ Vlad), he’s just the leader of a dysfunctional semi-democracy trying to rebuild itself following Yeltsonian idiocy. His popularity in Russia largely stems from the simple fact that he presided over a vast improvement in the Russian standard of living, which had plummeted after the Soviet breakup due to the aforementioned shock therapy reforms, which led to a catastrophic drop in GDP and hyperinflation that would have shocked a Weimar German. Large scale barter economies existed throughout Russia during those years, so useless did hyper inflated currency become in certain areas. We didn’t learn any of this in the US, of course. Obviously, we assumed, the arrival of American style democracy meant everything was instantly ok in Russia, so there was no need to actually look at the real conditions – at least as far as our media was concerned. Those unfamiliar with Russia’s internal politics may be forgiven for not realizing that absent Putin’s maneuvering, the leaders of Russia might well have been Zyuganov’s communist party – decent folks, but generally not full of new ideas – or contemptible fascist cartoons like Zhirinovsky or Limonov – not decent folks at all. I, of course, would have preferred Zyuganov over Putin, but many who currently rant about Putin-as-anti-christ would probably like Zyuganov considerably less. No one outside of the neofascist right wants Zhirinovsky or Limonov in power. I wouldn’t want those nuts in charge of so much as a Dairy Queen, never mind a nuclear armed world power. Whatever objections one may have to Putin (and there are perfectly valid objections among which one may choose), realize that Putin is a vital rearguard against far, far worse. You think Trump’s bad news? Be glad Putin has largely neutralized Zhirinovsky.  The fantasy that Putin is all that stands between Russia and utopian democracy under the mild and benevolent Garry Kasparov is exactly that. “Blame Putin!” is ahistorical nonsense. Russia’s problems, as with those of any nation, are far larger than any one individual, and all possible systems are not available in every historical circumstance. Frankly, given the conditions Russia endured during the 90s, it’s amazing any pretense of democracy exists there at all.

Finally, can someone please explain why so many of the right wingers I’ve come across lately are obsessed with Saul Alinsky? On at least five occasions recently (internet and real life), I’ve witnessed a slew of complaints aimed at “Campus radicals” allegedly acting as his disciples. Do young leftists these days actually read Alinsky? I was one of those “Campus radicals” and I’ve never read a single word of his, nor have any of my fellows, then or now. Based on what I’ve been hearing, you’d think the man was the only left leaning author available. I’m sure he’s a nice guy (actually, I have no idea) but next to the vast number of far more important thinkers out there, he always struck me as a footnote; a man of his era, with little relevance beyond it, the kind of guy liberals read when they want to convince themselves they’re on the cutting edge. Why don’t these people pick on Marx or Fanon? Maybe Gramsci? Surely the right could get some mileage out of mocking Mao’s lil’ red. Even our marginally coherent political tribalism is lazy these days.

Finally, as recently as a week ago it was over 50 degrees Fahrenheit. In New England. In January. I went outside in sandals and it was no problem. This is definitely the golden age of global warming. We’ll no doubt look back fondly on this mild weather in the future, as we drown / burn / starve, etc. Ah, nostalgia.

A (Shitty) Year in Review

Posted in Capitalism, Economy, Elections, Israel-Palestine, Media, News, Politics, USA with tags , , , , , , on January 10, 2013 by Z

Happy new year.  Let’s review.  We’ll start small:

Status quo in another revolving door election between party A and party a.  (No other result was possible, so we classify this as small).

Stepping up now:

We were treated to the holy wisdom of Richard Mourdock from the heart of Indiana as he revealed to us the Almighty’s position on rape.  (A note on the lighter side: Shouldn’t someone who might be nicknamed “Dick” generally avoid commenting on gender issues?).

Moving on from troglodytic verbal gaffes, we reach domestic surveillance:

It seems the Occupy movement was closely watched by the FBI and Homeland Security even before the start of public protests.  Apparently, the FBI’s Memphis Joint Terrorism Task Force actually described Occupy as “domestic terrorism.”  Apparently, the FBI communicated their findings to corporate America.  So, what we have here are government agencies (the FBI and Homeland Security) coordinating a national crackdown on a nonviolent protest movement according to the needs of the cash engorged corporate world.  This is nothing less than part 2 of the Palmer Raids.  Why mention this now?  Well, because this surveillance is still going on as Occupy plans for the coming spring.

And now manipulating public opinion:

CNN decided to go ahead and selectively gather data on drone casualties from obviously suspect sources in order to cheerlead for Obama-as-war-president.  Here’s an article from The Atlantic that covers the bases, but frankly isn’t critical enough.

On to the real big leagues – death and wrongful imprisonment:

Gaza is still blockaded.

The drone wars of Bush-Obama continue to kill civilians.

Bradley Manning is still not free.

Leonard Peltier is still not free.

Mumia Abu-Jamal is still not free.  (Three is good enough for now.  We only have so much space, after all).

We had a school shooting, following which a president whose personally authorized drone attacks have killed more children than died at Sandy Hook gave what I can only consider a deeply hypocritical speech.  We then had to be dragged through the requisite media find-some-music-or-movie-or-videogame-to-blame-this-on routine before arriving at gun control as an issue.  Once there, the limit of the national discourse seems to be an assault weapons ban not substantially different from the one we had not too long ago.  (Never mind, of course, that that ban only expired in 2004; those of my generation who were finishing up high school in 1999 ought to be acutely aware that this ban was in effect during the Columbine shooting, so hooray for useless legislation).  There’s a great post over at SMBIVA suggesting what should have been obvious from day one: there’s a common element to all school shootings that no one seems to want to talk about – schools.  Check it out.

Finally, stuff of global import:

2012 was the warmest year on record, with tons of extreme weather.  Climate change deniers would be well advised to wear sunscreen when they go outside to yell at the rest of us about how climate change is a hoax.  Unless, of course, sun burns and skin cancer are also hoaxes.

The 2012 Mayan apocalypse failed spectacularly.  Granted, it was based largely on a blatant misinterpretation of Mayan beliefs.  But hey, at least a horde of ignorant rubbernecking tourists did irreparable damage to a couple of archaeological wonders as part of their world’s end party.

You know, I’m getting some serious déjà vu here.  In ’99, we had a horrible school shooting, I finished an academic program, and a prediction of apocalypse (Y2K) didn’t deliver.  In 2012, we had another horrible school shooting, I finished another academic program (if we include high school, that makes four now and still no lucrative, fulfilling career.  Ever wish you could place a call back in time to your high school guidance counselors?), and another apocalypse fizzled.

We lost both Alexander Cockburn and Gore Vidal.  I can only see this as a severe blow to the left and to the United States in general.  We don’t have that many good people left, and these losses only hasten the end of the era of the public intellectual, already being replaced with talking heads and credentialed idiots.  With Howard Zinn already gone, things look pretty bleak to me.  If Noam Chomsky, Jeffrey St. Clair and Cindy Sheehan ever travel anywhere together, maybe we should insist they take separate flights.  The flame is low, and there’s a big wind coming.  The liberals capitulated big time (again) and think the Democrats have saved them from some thug named Cliff whose nickname appears to be “Fiscal.”  As usual, there will be no meaningful help from them.  This year, my eyes will once again be on Occupy.  Here’s hoping.


On the bright side, I did read a pretty damn funny satire recently.  I’ll probably add more on that soon.