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Nearing the bottom of "The Atlantic" (hopefully)

"The Atlantic" and "Harper's" are both iconic magazines that are responsible for promoting the careers of many prominent writers. I have been reading them for years. They also both have a profile of John Kerry in their December issue. David Rohde did a individualist profile of Kerry, lauding him as an "activist" diplomat shaking up the stuffy old foreign policy establishment in "The Atlantic." In "Harper's," Andrew Cockburn rejects this sort on analysis completely and challenges the idea that there is such a thing as foreign policy at all. Kerry comes off as a power hungry but powerless hack who owes his position to back room politics much more than shrewd determination. Cockburn was actually communicating original thoughts and I turned each page with a new morsel of knowledge. Rohde's fluff would have fit nicely after a top ten vacation spot list on Delta's in-flight magazine. Reading the whole thing felt…

May 2, 1996: An entry from "A Colossal Wreck"

The following is a passage from the late Alexander Cockburn's last book, A Colossal Wreck. It is available here.

May 2
"A loan-at-interest is the only known thing in the entire universe that does not suffer entropy. It grows with time. All other things, ourselves included, fade and die." Those of you maxed out on your credit cards but still making those monthly payments at some outrageous rate know this as well as I (who have learned by dint of bitter experience not to have credit cards at all).

Those first three sentences came from an informative letter that Stan Lusby of Otago, New Zealand, sent to one of my favorite newspapers, Catholic Worker, a while back. Lusby commenced his discussion of capitalism with some personal disclosures. He had, Lusby confided, known all his life that lending money at interest was intrinsically wrong. "I came late in life to Christianity, and it was a great source of comfort to verify my intuition through scripture, although I am now…

Whose shutdown!

Republicans don't have the popular support to realize their antebellum era/gilded age utopia, so they exploited the silly rules of a anti-democratic and outdated Constitution in order to shut down the government in an attempt to extort something from their jellyfish rival party of capital. That's why the federal government is shut down.

The "Citizens' Council for Health Freedom" are scumbag shitheads

There are plenty of things wrong with Obamacare. Namely, it subsidizes rather than abolishes the parasitic insurance industry. That said, this campaign (I found this propaganda poster near my apartment at a bus stop off University Ave. in St. Paul) is disgusting. You don't have to be terribly clever to see the undertones of this smut. Black people, bus stop. We get it. In the generalized world of demographic based advertising, that group of "takers" are the ones who will be using the subsidies offered to lower income people, so we'd rather you not have any healthcare than participate in government supported access to private insurance.

And that's the kicker. The fucking insurance is private! Since when do these shitheads have a problem with government money going to private industry? Their ham-fisted ideology somehow tells them a market exchange for private insurance is "big government." They are lying to people with the hope they don't receive pr…

Patriotism is the first refuge of idiots

There is a fairly wide swath of people who refuse to believe government (local, state, and federal) when it comes to issues where the government either has no credible incentive to lie, or it would take a magnificent conspiracy across many levels in order to fudge the truth. Issues like localized public safety, public schools, or even basic economic data have become "controversial" to many people purported to be exercising a healthy distrust of power. Yes, governments need to be kept in check regarding these issues, but most often agencies that handle this sort of stuff are made up of public servants who do great work. 

Meanwhile, when it comes to questioning US military power, where the government has lied repeatedly and been proven to do so (with the results being millions of deaths), many of these same people are the first ones to blindly cheer on every single American imperial military adventure (they usually call it "the troops") and cast self-righ…

Adam Smith on the bourgeois state

"Wherever there is great property there is great inequality. For one very rich man there must be at least five hundred poor, and the affluence of the few supposes the indigence of the many. The affluence of the rich excites the indignation of the poor, who are often both driven by want, and prompted by envy, to invade his possessions. It is only under the shelter of the civil magistrate that the owner of that valuable property, which is acquired by the labour of many years, or perhaps of many successive generations, can sleep a single night in security. He is at all times surrounded by unknown enemies, whom, though he never provoked, he can never appease, and from whose injustice he can be protected only by the powerful arm of the civil magistrate continually held up to chastise it. The acquisition of valuable andextensive property, therefore, necessarily requires the establishment of civil government. Where there is no property, or at least none that exceeds the val…

Why I'm on the political left (in a few sentences)

Culture is a product of your material existence. If that is one of poverty, particularly on a generational scale, it would certainly influence your culture. Even if you live in the developed world and share cultural similarities with those who are relatively rich, a lack of real word resources creeps into your more abstract understanding of who you are. Despite what both liberal and conservative theorists tell us, the way to fix poverty doesn't simply lie in changing people's behaviors, and therefore their culture. It is much more simple, and complex, than that. The solution to poverty is a massive redistribution of wealth, from those who "own" the commanding heights of the economy to those who do the tasks that make our society function. You would be surprised how social pathologies fade away when you no longer have to explain to your kids why your existence is lacking key resources.

Drones are pretty much the perfect weapon

There is no anti-war movement to speak of. There is, however, a small core of activists that like to think of themselves as the movement. Understandably, they have focused their attention on drones. This will continue to isolate them. Put bluntly, your average American doesn't give a shit about drones.

Most people, myself included, aren't terribly interested in the abstract legal justification or condemnation of U.S. drone use. (Domestic law almost always takes a backseat to perceived national security threats and many Americans scoff at the very notion of international law to begin with. How dare the rest of the world tell us what to do!) Morally speaking, Americans continue to support "the troops" when they shoot kids in person so it's highly unlikely they're going to be too bothered when some nameless, faceless Pakistani boy gets blown up via a command center in Nevada. Sure, drone attacks create more "terrorists," but so does smashing down doors…

Hugo Chavez, Rest in Peace

I have this vivid image in my mind of Hugo Chavez pushing through various handlers of assorted powerful people in order to get on stage at the UN General Assembly and recommend Noam Chomsky's latest book. I picture a boyish gaze as he famously hands Barack Obama a copy of "The Open Veins of Latin America." Chavez was drunk on ideas. I remember the feeling of radicalization. The difference being, of course, when I began to give heed to such ideas my main concerns were rent and beer money. Chavez was the leader of one of the most oil-rich nations in the world.

I met Alan Woods, who was an informal adviser of sorts to Chavez, a few years ago in Italy. I was there for a organizational congress (we were part of the same political tendency), and had a chance to hear him talk a few times about Chavez. He would mention all the achievements of course, but he'd always temper them with an aside like, "well, Chavez is no Marxist..." I took that to mean he's still l…

"Django Unchained: Who is afraid of a Black Siegfried? "

It appears everyone and their best friend decided to write a review of Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained." For some bizarre reason, I felt compelled to read just about every goddamn one of them. This one, originally published by The Toronto Media Co-op, is my favorite. (Disclosure, the author is a friend of mine.) 
“A Slave-owner who through cunning and violence shackles a slave in chains, and a slave who through cunning or violence breaks the chains - let not the contemptible eunuchs tell us that they are equals before a court of morality!” - Leon Trotsky, ‘Their Morals and Ours’ Quentin Tarantino’s latest flick has understandably caused a lot of controversy. It has been praised by many but also invited the ire and criticism on part of many others. The most strange-comical of these critics is the renowned African-American director Spike Lee who condemned the movie while admitting he has never watched it and never will!

Once again, at the center of discussion…