Drill away, come what may

The New York Times reports:

Government officials said late Wednesday night that oil might be leaking from a well in the Gulf of Mexico at a rate five times that suggested by initial estimates.

In a hastily called news conference, Rear Adm. Mary E. Landry of the Coast Guard said a scientist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had concluded that oil is leaking at the rate of 5,000 barrels a day, not 1,000 as had been estimated. While emphasizing that the estimates are rough given that the leak is at 5,000 feet below the surface, Admiral Landry said the new estimate came from observations made in flights over the slick, studying the trajectory of the spill and other variables.


He promises a page turner

I may come as a surprise, but I refer to George W. Bush in the title. Dubya pledges to deliver in a memoir that will appear this November. Entitled Decision Points, you may preorder the book from Amazon.com if you must have it. For those who can wait or know they can bear the disappointment if they were to miss out on this exceptional opportunity, Decision Points will undoubtedly find its way to the remainder bins not long after its initial publication.

And, for those fans with cash to burn on a trifle like this, surely a group limited to members of the Bush Super Rangers, 1,000 signed copies of the book will be sold for $350.00 a piece.


The failed center-left in the United States

Chris Hedges confronts reality:

It’s only extreme when the powerless notice it

James Bovard shows how the common use of the word "extremism" depends not on the acts to which the word is meant to refer, but to the authors of those actions. Interpreting Bovard's depiction of the word-referent relationship, no act will be extreme if the actor in question happens to be America's federal government. The federal government, it seems, is authorized to act as it pleases without also having to suffer this particular label. In other words, the act is not extreme when the American government spies on, tortures, frivolously incarcerates, crusades against, etc. an other. It does not mater if the other is American citizen or anyone else. The act is not extreme by definition. Yet, when a nongovernmental actor accuses the federal government of committing these very acts and when conclusive proof is lacking and even if compelling proof exists, those who make the claim are labeled extremists by responsible journalists, governmental officials, major party apparatchiks and others of this sort. The same derogatory label applies to those who advocate the use of these extreme actions by the federal government when that government wishes to use 'non-extreme' measures or wishes to deny their use.

Bovard did not state as much, but his short article depicts the corruption of the language and the political uses that a thus corrupted language makes possible. As Orwell once put the matter: A language "…becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts." Bovard's article merely reaffirms Orwell's insight.

It’s worth over-quoting at length

Joe Bageant addresses the plight of the Middle Class in the modern western countries:

Class solidarity was such a good idea. It really was. Obviously, most of the people who need solidarity are in the world's laboring classes. After all, the rich have more than enough solidarity already, as was recently demonstrated by their successful execution of the greatest global financial heist in history. Oh sure, we'll see some state sponsored mock show trials of a few of them — they always throw a few of their own out of the sleigh to the wolves during their escapes. The big heist was big news. Working Americans will be applying Preparation H to their keisters for a long time to come.
But the ultimate accomplishment of the already rich, the newly rich and the corporate rich, has been their global solidarity on the corporate/financial front. It's been a long run up to globalism, but the rich have great patience. As an American, all my life I've heard their chief mouthpiece, the president of the United States, beginning with Eisenhower, right on up through Kennedy, Reagan, Ford, Carter and Bush, and now Obama, sing the same song. Which goes moreover like this:
"Trade is the road to peace. Commerce and business know no national boundaries. They link nations together on productivity, creating jobs and peace across the world."
It sounded good at the time. Who would have thought that the people enjoying all this harmony and peace brought about through globalization would be enjoying it in a one big happy planetary work gulag? And if they are not doing so at the moment, they will be as soon global capitalism, under the watchful solidarity of the rich, bears full fruit.
Thanks to globalization, the American, Australian and European working classes are on their way to extinction, in terms of their traditional rights, and quality of life. Just like the workers being poisoned to death by circuit board toxins in Guiyu, China, their fates will be determined by global capital, either by default or by bitter struggle against it. We are not seeing much of the latter and are not likely to, until it is too late, which it may already be. After all, you cannot put up much of a struggle against global capital when you worship it a creed and are addicted to commodities too.

The remedy, according to Bageant:

There is no way the world's working people can win in the long run, which is getting pretty damned short, or even survive, except by joining the worker struggles, of China, Asia and Africa and India. The idea that American workers are the same as the Asian and Latin American and African working people goes down hard in American gullets. (I'm no expert, but it looks to me like the Euros and the Aussies and the Canadians are snotty that way too. In fact, now that I am meeting dozens upon dozens of Canadians from all walks of life, they are looking worse than Americans.)
But for Americans, it does not go down at all. As a people, they'll never ever accept that fact, because they'll never know it for at least two reasons. (1) They are too over worked and undereducated to find out for themselves, and (2) American corporate media machinery will never let them hear of it. Americans are screwed, blued and tattooed.

As always, a mix of education, autonomy and solidarity provide the means for a cure to what ails the lower orders.


Republican vs. Republican

Jon Walker notes that the Tea Party faction in the GOP continues to threaten Republican candidates (whether they be incumbents or newcomers) holding what ought to be safe seats. This uncommon situation suggests that, for the reactionary elements in the GOP, running against Washington requires rejecting party members who are not true reactionaries.

This, to be sure, is a path which ends with a party split.


Another gloomy American anniversary

On this day in 1995, Timothy McVeigh, with the past help of Terry Nichols and Michael and Lori Fortier, destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City with a truck bomb. Known as the Oklahoma City Bombing, the explosion killed 168 and injured another 680 persons. The bombing is considered a terrorist act. It was intended to be a response to the Waco Siege of 1993 and the Ruby Ridge assault of 1992. The US government executed McVeigh in Indiana in 2001.


Resistance is futile

Apple aims to replace Microsoft and Adobe. According to The Guardian:
Last week's announcement by Apple that the UK launch of the iPad will be delayed by a month was the headline news for consumers, but for geeks a more significant development came on Thursday with some changes in the 21,000-word "agreement" that you have to sign if you are going to develop applications for Apple's iDevices.
Section 3.3.1 of the document stipulates that "Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++ and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the documented APIs (eg, applications that link to documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited)."
Incomprehensible, eh? An API is an application programming interface — ie the protocol that programmers must follow if their software is to work with the iDevice. The really interesting clause, though, is the one enclosed in brackets. Translated into English it reads: screw you, Adobe!
The gambit also takes aim at Microsoft, which, as we know, controls the PC desktop. How so? Apple's iGizmos are returning to Job's company the edge it lost in the mid-1980s. Personal computing has become a mature market; the markets for handheld devices should grow in size as the technology develops. Apple, not Microsoft, is the market leader in the handheld device market segment.

If Microsoft were to drop a notch or two, would this not seem to be a pure good any aware person would appreciate? Not really. Consider the arrogance contained in this famous advertisement! Does not the ad say: Humanize yourself by purchasing an information appliance? Take a rebel stand against mass conformism by conforming to the cultural imperatives provided by Apple and its products? Appear distinct among the barely human horde?

If any company can make Microsoft look warm and cuddly that company would be Apple.


Chomsky on America’s political crisis

Update I

Chris Hedges wrote a laudatio Chomsky because of this interview. It can be found here. Hedge also fears a fall into dictatorship.

Last modified 4.19.2010 at 6:26 PM


Locked-in tight?

Writing for TalkLeft, BigTentDemocrat (hereafter BTD) claims that:
The Left Flank of American politics is always destined to "lose" in the conventional sense. The Left does not "win" elections.
Let me begin by recognizing that the statements quoted above are probably true. Surely they accurately depict the recent past in the United States. The evidence suggests as much:

To my mind the record is clear enough, but it always bears repeating that the Democratic Party in no way opposes the Republican Party on key economic and security issues. At best, it provides the GOP with an electoral opponent committed to the status quo, not with an opposition party possessing a programmatic alternative to modern Republicanism. Together they form a political duopoly.

Given these facts, why would a sensible person consider BTD's belief false? Does the passage quoted above not capture the moment well? Is his belief not one of the most plausible judgments one may draw from observing the prejudices and workings, the prehistory and trajectory of the Obama administration? Are both parties not opposed to the emergence of a viable left politics? Sadly, the answers to the questions are obvious. There is, therefore, no reason to consider his claims false when every feature of the present moment affirms them while also suggesting that the future we will likely have will not differ from the past in a way that would favor the left.

The upshot: The left was and remains a marker of an alien and anti-American political culture.

Yet his belief, rooted deeply in America's political history as well as in contemporary experience, may serve, at best, as an obstruction to reform in the future. Why is this so?

A belief in an inevitable failure may become an obstruction because believing it true — which is to say, believing it to be a reflection of the world supported by evidence — provides a well-equipped platform for realizing a self-fulfilling prophecy. The circularity which marks a self-fulfilling prophecy issues from the fact that a belief is also an attitude, a biased attitude, toward the world. It is, in other words, a way of prejudging what exists and what could exist. It is, then, a constraint the imagination places on itself and thus, indirectly, on the world itself. It marks the improbable as irrelevant. Practically speaking, why should anyone seek the nearly impossible? Why suffer the mortification which irrelevance confers on those who embrace it? Why bear a stigma?

The left fails to win elections because it, along with everyone else, expects electoral losses. To expect a left victory entails appearing daft. The prejudgment becomes a fact in the world when many believe it and when the left fails to increase and mobilize its people. Leftists cannot win. They will not win because they fail to attract followers and they fail to attract followers because non-leftists believe they cannot win. Losing elections merely confirms that leftists are losers. Finally, they fail to attract followers because too few human beings would choose to be an alien and a loser.

Unfortunately, the practical failure of the left in the United States serves to undermine any threat it might pose to the party duopoly which dominates electoral politics in the country. Its electoral failure turns the duopoly into the only game worth playing for those who prefer to win.

I hope that it is obvious that I believe BTD's belief to express a constipated and crabbed sense of America's potential and thus of its possible futures. It is, to extend the point by restating it in slightly more concrete terms, an attitude which promotes empire abroad and dedemocratization and social ill-being at home.

That said, we must also remember that those conditions that would enable the left flank of American politics to modify Democratic Party political positions and actions, a goal which characterizes the hopes of the Party's left-wing, would also enable the broader left to form a third party meant to challenge the Democratic and Republican Parties at the polls. Both possibilities are important because a movement such as this would generate a credible threat with which the Democratic Party must contend. A party thus threatened would no longer have the security provided by a reliable base.

The crucial issue in this matter: Can most American citizens jettison a belief in the current iteration of the American Creed by embracing a stronger variant of Social Democracy than the kind of Social Democracy found in, say, The Great Society programs of the 1960s? This issue would affect the "inside the Democratic Party" and "outside the Democratic Party" paths to power. If this claim is true, as I believe it to be, then the left in the United States need not bloody its hands by participating in a party which affirms America's empire and the militarism which defines imperial governance.

Last modified on 4.12.2010 at 4:45 PM

Social Darwinism in action

The Washington Post reports that:
Congress is poised for another partisan showdown over extending unemployment insurance, as concerns about the growing budget deficit have complicated the path forward for an otherwise popular program.
On its first day back in session following a two-week recess, the Senate is scheduled to vote Monday on whether to end debate on a measure extending jobless benefits, subsidies for the COBRA health insurance program and federal flood insurance through May 5. Democrats will need at least one Republican supporter to get the 60 votes necessary to proceed.
Why would the Republicans take this path?
Republicans respond [to criticism] that they're not opposed to extending unemployment benefits but want to offset the $9 billion cost with spending cuts elsewhere.
"We both want to extend unemployment benefits," said Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), the GOP's No. 3 leader. "The Democrats want to do it by adding to the debt. Republicans don't want to add to the debt."
I suppose the Republicans would refuse to support a modest increase in the effective tax rate to offset this spending increase…. But why would they annoy their patrons and social peers when they can abuse the unfortunate mass which cannot defend itself against this kind of attack?


Stevens’ replacement will arrive in a Washington minute

The Huffington Post reports that:

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) predicted on Sunday that the president would have his replacement choice for Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens confirmed through the Senate by the time the Court reconvenes in October.

"There is no question," said the Vermont Democrat. "It would be irresponsible to do otherwise."

Appearing on "Meet the Press," Leahy predicted that a nominee for the Steven's seat would be announced shortly because, as he put it, "we would like to get this wrapped up this summer."

Naturally, Senate Republicans vowed to mount a filibuster if Obama were to choose an extremist to replace Stevens.


Dawn Johnsen ends charade

Dawn Johnsen — a constitutional law professor; liberal proponent of the rule of law, transparency in government and holding representatives and government officials accountable for their actions — vacated her candidacy to lead the Office of Legal Council after a year of waiting for the Senate to vote on her nomination. She was twice nominated by President Obama for this office.

At first glance, Johnsen's withdrawal would appear to be a defeat for the Obama administration since it had thought enough of Johnsen to submit her name twice for the position. But, is it a defeat simply and completely?

I believe it is not. Here is where the charade comes in. If Obama had wanted Johnsen at the OLC, as one would expect, he surely would have included her name in the recent group of recess appointees, as emptywheel hints and Glenn Greenwald explicitly points out. Include Johnsen's name on that list and she has the position. He also could have mustered partisan support for her when his Party had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. But he could bother to make the effort. Given Johnsen's qualifications, policy commitments and the kind of department she would have run had the Senate confirmed her nomination, "you would think confirming Dawn Johnsen would be a priority for the Obama White House," as bmaz points out. Yet it was not at all a priority for the administration. She seemingly was not wanted at all by Obama.

The mistaken judgment which makes the charade plausible emergences as such when one considers Greenwald's point that,

What Johnsen insists must not be done [by the executive branch] reads like a manual of what Barack Obama ended up doing and continues to do — from supporting retroactive immunity to terminate FISA litigations to endless assertions of "state secrecy" in order to block courts from adjudicating Bush crimes to suppressing torture photos on the ground that "opennees will empower terrorists" to the overarching Obama dictate that we "simply move on."
In other words, it is likely that Johnsen would have advised Obama to not be the Obama we have come to know and loathe. Why, one might ask oneself, would Obama promote the cause of someone like Dawn Johnsen if he knew he would have to fire her in the near future or explain away her resignation over a matter of principle, especially if he could shift the blame for her failure to make it through the Senate onto the obstructionist Republicans? He would not if he were as tricky as he is elegant!

When considered in this way, the Johnsen nomination now appears to have been a bit of political window dressing for an Obama administration which has yet to reveal its willingness to abandon the methods and justifications of the Bush administration on matters of foreign policy, national security and executive power. Simply put, Johnsen's candidacy permitted President Obama to take credit for her politics while implementing policies she would have criticized as a matter of principle. The Republican obstructionists merely abetted by opposing her appointment.

* * * * *
Given Johnsen's failed nomination, one must wonder whether Elizabeth Warren, another liberal law professor and the likely choice to be the first head of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, will become a victim of Obama's hypocrisy when the time arrives to put into practice Warren's ideas for such an agency. Would anyone wish to bet against the prediction that the Obama administration would judge her to be too principled and thus impractical to serve in the Obama administration?

Update I

Writing for The Nation, Ari Melber debunks the claim that Obama and Johnsen withdrew her nomination for the OLC post because the nomination process would have meant politicizing the office. Johnsen's goal was to depoliticize the office. Yet, as Melber points out:
Since the goal of restoring "nonpartisan traditions" to the Justice Department was threatened by "lengthy delays and political opposition," the statement explained, Johnsen's withdrawal would actually help restore nonpartisanship and finally get the post filled. See, having her do the job was going to restore nonpartisan leadership, but since the Republicans won't allow it, now having her not do the job will produce the same result. As if that argument doesn't rankle enough, the White House sent out the statement under Johnsen's name. As The Times
Johnsen said she had come to realize that the strong Republican opposition to her nomination had undermined her own goal for the office, which was to restore its reputation for providing legal advice "unvarnished by politics or partisan ambition."
Of all the potentially legitimate arguments available, it is odd to see the White House (and Johnsen) endorse the idea that surrendering to a partisan, unaccountable campaign to sink a nominee without a vote will actually advance nonpartisanship in government.
Surrendering such as we see here could promote a non-partisan mode of governance insofar as it brings the parties closer together on substantial issues. Yet, the apotheosis of the effort to produce a non-partisan politics is achieved when a single party emerges which governs a totalitarian state. Partisanship per se is never a desirable goal for a democratic political system. In fact, treating non-partisanship as a highly desirable goal can effectively undermine a democratic politics by forcing divergent political groups to adopt an untenable consensus position on divisive issues. In other words, conflict, not unanimity, is the normal condition of a democratic politics.

Thus, the senselessness of any defense of Johnsen's withdrawal that relies upon a quest for a non-partisan politics or a non-partisan constitutional politics.

Update II

Laura Flanders interviews Ari Melber and Lyn Paltrow about Johnsen's failed nomination:

Last modified 4.14.2010, 5:12 PM