A reflection on the times

Years ago, I read London Fields by Martin Amis, and I recall being struck by how every transaction in the novel was corrupted- the street market was full of hustlers, the taxi driver ripped the main female character off I think, and the plumber was totally on the take. All of the manufactured goods in the novel were falling to pieces and everything ran late. I don’t remember much else about the novel, but I remember coming away with the impression that what it was essentially about was England, more specifically London, in the rubble of the empire.

The theme seemed to be that it was impossible to have an honest transaction, pound for pound, to get what one paid for in the London of that time.

I can’t help thinking about that now. 

I know Amis’ father was Kingsley Amis, an early anti-Stalinist and one of the first classically defined “Neo-Conservatives,” (former Communist turned conservative) and that Martin volubly defends his father’s life and work in “Korba the Dread,” so I suspect that London Fields was never meant as a criticism of capitalism, but interestingly, to me it reads that way.

We learn from capitalism that we must hack out our own well-being, even if its out of the flesh of our neighbors. Now we have the lesson, but the rewards elude us like water rushing out to sea after the tide shifts. All we have left now is the hacking. 

Romney Says…

from TPM:

Republican Mitt Romney said Wednesday that if elected president he and his wife will not embarrass the nation by their conduct in the White House as happened in “the Clinton years.”

He went on to say that he was going to embarrass the country in a more “the last seven psychotic years of impotent old men with access to military force” style. Kind of a “fundamentalist with a secret agenda” meets “tool of corporate power thingy” he said, continuing “a sort of… you know… a nouvelle Inquisition vibe, only with talking salamanders and magic underwear as a bonus.”

“It’s going to be a whole new FLAVOR of embarrassment… that is, if anyone has any shame left to burn after Mr. Bush leaves office.” He concluded his remarks by blowing a small silver dog whistle that only angry white people can hear, and then barked “Thanks, folks…. see you at the polls!”

Someone tell me I am just being paranoid

Am I just being paranoid?

Someone tell me I am.

Six minutes and ten seconds into this interview with David Frost, Benazir Bhutto refers to Omar Sheikh as the man who “murdered Osama bin Ladin”. The interview was about who she thought was behind the first attempt on her life back in the autumn.

Mike Malloy noticed as well. So did a bunch of people. Did she misspeak?

I have spent a day or so rolling this around in my head. Did she mean “the man who murdered Daniel Pearl”?

so… y’know, it doesn’t do my paranoid mind any good that RIGHT ON CUE, another Bin Laden tape turns up from the usual sources yesterday.

If you, like me, are struggling to make sense of what is happening in Pakistan, you could do a lot worse than going and reading this article, and hunting down any information you can find from Tariq Ali. You can also get a great rundown on what is happening inside Pakistan by listening to this broadcast of Democracy Now! featuring Ali and also Manan Ahmed, historian of Pakistan and South Asian Islam.

See also:Juan Cole, particularly this and this and this as well.

Also, Robert Fisk has some interesting things to say about the view from inside Pakistan. Not surprisingly, he mentions Tariq Ali as a good source to seek out for more information.

Alright, folks. You have your reading assignments. I’ll be back to talking about music here shortly….

I told you this would happen

If one digs a hole in the desert, pours money into it while setting it on fire, then prints more money in order to cover the gap caused by pallets of billions of dollars gone missing, what results is a massive devaluation of currency. See also: inflation, causes of.

Welcome to the five dollar gallon of gas, coming soon to a city near you:

The US trade deficit is near all-time records. By itself, this proves nothing: the US supplies reserves to the world system, and it can run any deficit that the world is prepared to finance. But, sooner or later the world may start to get other ideas.

So here’s the big question: is the age of the dollar economy lurching toward an end? Are China, Japan, Saudi Arabia and other big holders of T-bonds about to start a rush, or even a stately promenade, toward the exits? Let’s hope not, because the world is unprepared to replace the dollar with anything else. The euro is not suited for the job, and a joint dollar-euro system would need better central bankers than either America or Europe has got. An end to the dollar system would therefore be chaotic, inflationary, and very tough on world trade. The best argument for the dollar has always been: it’s not in anyone’s interest to bring it down.

Could it happen, though? Yes, it could. And it could be connected to that other unfolding disaster. As the “Pax Americana” goes to hell in Iraq – producing a nervous breakdown among the pro-war elites – let’s remember that security and finance are linked. Typically, the country that provides global economic security enjoys the use of its financial assets in world trade. And when the security situation changes, that privilege can be revoked. The consequences are unpleasant. Ask the British: after the sterling area folded, it took a generation for the UK to come all the way back.

Yay, us.

I like it. I like it a lot.

Offense. Sometimes defined as “the best defense.” The democrats have spent way too much time “explaining” the “nuances” of their positions.

Well. Not so much this week. The Big Dog (who I like a LOT more as an ex-president than I did as a president, but that’s between you and me, ok?) got in there and threw some punches the other day. Now who’s explaining?

Oh, exactly the same folks who OWE us an explanation:

“What we did in the eight months [between Bush’s inauguration and 9/11] was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years,” Rice told the New York Post in comments published Tuesday.

“The notion that somehow for eight months the Bush administration sat there and didn’t do that is just flatly false.”

Rice’s remarks followed Clinton’s TV interview on “Fox News Sunday” in which the ex-president defended his efforts to track down and kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Clinton lashed out against “the right-wingers who are attacking me now,” saying the same people had accused him of being “obsessed” with bin Laden.

What was it JC Watts said?

Anti-Union Thugs Doing What Thugs Do

In 1979, a group of men hired to intimidate striking workers raped and killed a pretty 23 year old college student, and not one of them has spent a day in jail.

For more than a quarter century, the brutal sex slaying of Hope College student and hotel clerk Janet Chandler baffled law enforcement officials.

As the case grew colder with each passing year, it became less likely that whoever was responsible would be brought to justice.

And is it any wonder it took nearly 30 years to catch them?

Suspects’ bitter plot led Chandler to her death:

According to the affidavit, Chandler was “intimate” with some of the Wackenhut Security guards who were staying at the inn while working at the strike-bound Chemtron Corp. in nearby Holland Township.

Wackenhut, if you’re not familiar with them, are old school strikebreakers from WAY back:

Wackenhut also offers security for employers experiencing poor relations with labor unions, including strike actions. Wackenhut has a poor reputation with labor unions as a result.

That’s putting it mildly.

Wackenhut isn’t just a handy source of muscle and intimidation to use against strikers, they’re also one of those private firms who the Grover Norquists of the world want to use to supplant the role that government should perform for its citizens:

(more from Wikipedia)

Having expanding into providing food services for prisons in the 1960s, Wackenhut in 1984 launched a subsidiary to design and manage jails and detention centers for the burgeoning private prison market in the United States and abroad. Wackenhut became the nation’s second-largest for-profit prison operator. Although the corrections branch of Wackenhut was financially successful, critics claimed the company’s guards abused inmates in Florida, Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana.
In 1999, Wackenhut was stripped of a $12-million-a-year contract in Texas and fined $625,000 for failing to live up to promises in the running of a state jail after several guards were indicted for having sex with female inmates. In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, five guards at a Wackenhut work-release facility were fired or punished for having sex with inmates. In April 1999 the state of Louisiana took over the running of Wackenhut’s 15-month-old juvenile prison after the U.S. Justice Department accused Wackenhut of subjecting its young inmates to “excessive abuse and neglect.” In the same year a New Mexico legislative report called for a near-total revamp of prison operations, including two run by Wackenhut. U.S. journalist Gregory Palast commented on the case: “New Mexico’s privately operated prisons are filled with America’s impoverished, violent outcasts — and those are the guards.”

(Hey, it’s Greg Palast…. Hi, Greg!)

But let’s get back the murder of poor Janet Chandler- gang raped by anti-union thugs, beaten to death and her body then dumped in the snow. Where did Wackenhut find these monsters?

Cox identified those arrested this week as: James Cleophas “Bubba” Nelson, 59, of Rand, West Virginia; Arthur Carlton “Carl” Paiva, 54, of Muskegon; Freddie Bass Parker, 49, of Powellton, West Virginia; Laurie Ann Swank, 48, of Nescopeck, Pennsylvania; and Anthony Eugene Williams, 55, of Boscobel, Wisconsin.

Now, why on earth would a bunch of strike breakers be hired out of West Virginia? Labor activists are rolling their eyes at that, I am sure. We know exactly why. There are lots of coal mines in West Virginia, and the owners of those mines have been more than willing to hire out-of-work men and professional thugs to beat, shoot and intimidate striking workers.

Mine and factory owners, Wackenhut, Pinkerton and an army of shiftless and otherwise unemployable muscle have historically used whatever means they deemed necessary to intimidate workers out of standing up for a contract that guaranteed them a decent living.

And here in Michigan, we see the wages of this brutality: Men paid to stand around and intimidate workers while doing no real productive work were engaged in intimidation and extortion, philandering and fear mongering. These sorts of guys swagger around on the periphery of strikes, knowing that they’re working on behalf of the Powers That Be, such as they are, and they get drunk on their impunity. In Michigan, their freewheeling partying and immunity from the law seems to have gone to their heads. They turned on a local college girl who had been sucked into their influence, and they beat, raped and killed her.

More from the Grand Rapids Press:

State police Lt. John Slenk, supervisor of the collaboration between the state police and Holland police, described the situation among guards at the inn and female staff as “a sordid affair, and it just went bad from top to bottom.”

“You have dozens of guards in and out of the hotel. There was a lot of alcohol and quite a bit of drugs,” he said. “You are going to get a band of renegades, and that’s what you got.”

The Chemtron strike ended two weeks after Chandler’s death. Threats against anyone who talked about the murder kept the slaying a mystery for decades as the guards scattered to other states, police say.

Wackenhut is the sort of company Grover Norquist would like to see handing the duties of the Federal Government. Are these “guards” the sort of men you want to be your police force? Do you want these men running your schools?