Sunday, August 31, 2008

Review of Christopher Hill: Milton and The English Revolution

Let us never forget Milton, the first defender of regicide.
-Frederick Engels, The Northern Star Dec 18th, 1847.

Biographies are bourgeois. More often than not, they are little more than the supports to Great Man theories of history, in which the dynamics of historical change are explicable through the actions of the most prominent individual actors. We can see this in the tremendous academic industry of biographies of the Founding Fathers of the United States, whose every whisper and fart becomes more relevant to national history than the culture (in Raymond Williams' sense of a way of life) of the millions over whom they ruled. (Highlighting the genre's ideological proclivities does not, of course, render it useless).

Christopher Hill's biography of John Milton is particularly worthwhile for its interaction with the these strictures of the genre. Milton was one of the first bourgeois radicals, and in many ways the high water mark for the tradition until Thomas Paine. It is thus not inappropriate that he should be examined through an ideological lens (partially) commensurate with his own. More important than this congruence, however, is Hill's own subtle revision of the problematic of biography. Counterpoising the previous efforts of scholars to trace the influence upon Milton of authors like Plato, Aquinas, and Homer, Hill argues that a far more fecund source of his subject's ideas lay in his dialogue with his fellow countrymen. By emphasizing the collective input into Milton's development, Hill does much to defetishize the bourgeois ideal of individual genius.

This emphasis on the dialogic nature of Milton's thought is at the heart of Hill's argument. He argues that in the political terrain of the English Revolution, there were three main cultures contending - the Royalists (led by Charles I), the Parliamentarians (Oliver Cromwell), and the radicals (the Diggers, Levellers, and Ranters.) For Hill, Milton is located perpetually in the interstices between the second and third culture. Though of a middle class upbringing - the son of a moneylender - Milton developed enthusiasms for the democratic currents in England early in his life through friendships with many of the radicals of his day.

Milton's contact with the radicals led him, when the revolution began, to adopt a position well to the left of many of the Parliamentary leaders. Though he did not always agree the positions of the radicals, and often criticized them, a dialogue existed nevertheless. It was partially this positioning that led Milton to take the radical position in favor of free speech he did in his famous pamphlet the Areopagitica. While older scholarship has focused on the Biblical and Greek philosophical quotations Milton uses to make his point, it has never bothered to ask why he chose to make the defense in the first place when other, no less dedicated classicists, endorsed censorship. The same contact with the radicals informed Milton's spirited defense of regicide, the Eikonoklastes.

Milton's radicalism was not limited to the political, however; it extended to the personal as well. Though Milton was once the bete noire of feminism (see Mary Daly), recent scholarship has placed him firmly on the side of antimisogyny. Hill was one of the earliest (1977) to argue against the received wisdom on Milton and women. Through a close examination of Milton's relationship to both the rulers and the radicals, Hill demonstrates that the former viewed the poet as a disgusting libertine for advocating divorce on the grounds of incompatibility, while the latter saw his work as a foundation to build off. Though Milton was certainly displeased by the direction in which some of the radicals took his work, such as excusing adultery, he was nonetheless well in advance of many of his contemporaries in his views on relations between men and women[1].

Unsurprisingly, this radical in politics and romance was also a radical in theology. Though a committed Christian, Milton flirted with the radical theology produced by the third culture which even contemporary Christians would have a hard time accepting. Among other things, Milton was a mortalist, who believed that the soul died along with the body. In all his theology, Milton was far more concerned with what transpired in this world than in the next.

Even when considering the material realm Milton went farther than most of his contemporaries. Though not an antinomianist himself, Milton was strongly influenced by the plebeian theology which held that men in the community of God were not subject to laws either spiritual or mundane. While stopping short of endorsing such theses, Milton did argue that whatever heresies the people of England did commit, they were not responsible; the Bishops of an idolatrous Church who had kept the people in ignorance were. He also thought angels had pretty wild sex.

Though they occupy a large portion of the book, I cannot do justice to Hill's readings of Milton's great poems (Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, Samson Agonistes) in this review. Suffice to say that through a meticulous examination of the texts, Hill argues that one can find distinct echoes of the debates surrounding the English Revolution. In reconstructing the poems' contexts, Hill maps out a compelling progression through the three works. Paradise Lost, written in the aftermat of the restoration of Charles II to the thrown, seeks "to justify the ways of God to men" That is, to examine why God allowed the English Revolution to fail. In narrating the Fall, Milton was also engaging in (self)-criticism of the shortcomings of the Parliamentarians and Radicals. Paradise Regained, the story of Jesus' resistance to temptation, Milton offers a program for humanity in which God's kingdom can finally be brought to earth. Finally, Samson Agonistes shows what an ordinary (fallen) man can do with the proper faith. Though the defeat of the revolution deeply shook Milton's faith in the English people, his poetry offered him a means by which to maintain hope.

Some of the parts of Milton and the English Revolution that I found the most engaging were Hill's little asides explaining this or that detail of his argument. Culled from a lifetime's study of seventeenth century English history, Hill packs more things to make you say "hmmm" in a paragraph than are found in many books. To take one example: in discussing Milton's ideas on women, Hill briefly surveys middle class Puritan and bourgeois ideas concerning the family. Hill notes that although bourgeois women were often surrounded by an aura of grace and deference, this aura actually concealed their powerlessness in society. While Puritan women, as part of an economy based on household production, played a vital role in producing and reproducing society, the bourgeois woman was utterly removed from this whole process. Her husband's employers did the producing, and her servants the reproductive work of raising children and maintaining the home. Though only an aside here, Hill's argument introduced a whole level of depth previously lacking in my understanding of bourgeois English society.

Milton and the English Revolution stands as a testament to the ability of Marxist historiography. Though largely free of terms like 'mode of production' and 'class struggle,' Hill is deeply committed to a Marxist method which sees society as a totality and seeks to excavate the dialectical interactions of its different parts. It is perhaps a final dialectical irony that a genre so deeply influenced by bourgeois society should reach its apogee in the hands of one committed to that society's undoing.

*For those interested in getting into Christopher Hill, I recommend his (very) early essay "The English Revolution 1640," which is available courtesy of the good folks at Marxists.org.*

[1] In another context, Hill offers a partial explanation for the harshness with which so many contemporary commentators view Milton: "Part of the difficulty in assessing Milton is that some of his ideas are so advanced that we tend to treat him as though he were our contemporary."

Phil Gasper on Imperialism: Lenin and Bukharin

Police make pre-emptive RNC raids

The Minneapolis-St. Paul police have been protecting and serving in preparation for the Republican National Convention and the planned protests.

In a statement Saturday morning, Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said the St. Paul raid targeted the RNC Welcoming Committee, a group he described as "a criminal enterprise made up of 35 self-described anarchists...intent on committing criminal acts before and during the Republican National Convention."
Woo-hoo! And the fun begins. Yours truly will be on the bus tomorrow to the protest. Hopefully there will be pictures and video to come here on the Tank.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Biden and friend

Just in case you needed one more reason to hate this bastard.

Highly Recommended: Stratfor on Kosovo and Georgia

Stratfor's George Friedman has a very helpful article detailing the history of Western-Russian relations since the conflicts in the Balkans. He goes through the details of the Balkan conflict, puncturing a number of NATO's myths from that period.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Decoding the media: Biden's "expertise"

Obama’s selection of Joe Biden as his running mate unleashed a painfully predictable round of braying by the media about Biden’s “foreign policy expertise.” Let’s take a moment to dissect this euphenism.

For a foreign policy expert, Biden has managed to concoct the most brutal and stupid Iraq plan of any presidential candidate, Democrat or Republican.

Of Biden’s “soft partition” plan, Marc Lynch of Abu Aardvark had this to say

I've never understood the appeal of "soft partition" to anyone other than dedicated pro-Kurdish activists. It sounds like such a nice, clean exit strategy. But near as I can tell, it would actually mean heavy and active involvement of US troops in facilitating "transfer" of peoples (ah, how delicate that sounds) and a long-term military commitment to protecting the new entities (especially the Kurds). It would simultaneously exacerbate Shia-Shia conflict while enhancing Iranian influence in the Shia areas. It would infuriate the Sunnis who cling fiercely to the principle of a unified state and fuel the most radical trends in those areas while undermining more moderate leader. It would guarantee that the crisis of the internally displaced and refugees will never be solved, promoting instability in the country and the region for decades (while also rewarding sectarian cleansing strategies and encouraging them in the future). And - most ironically - it would probably go along quite nicely with the current Bush strategy of ignoring the national government and focusing on the local level.
Toby Dodge told the following to Foreign Policy magazine
If you look at the three communities that are allegedly going to be partitioned, go down to the supposed Shiistan in the south. What we have in the south is a low-level civil war between the two main Shiite parties led by members of the Badr Brigade and al-Sadr. So, are we going to partition the south into a Badristan and a Sadristan? When we come up to supposed Sunnistan, we have a fight between al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a largely indigenous organization with foreign leadership, and the so-called sheikhs of Anbar— that is an intra-Sunni fight. Then we have Kurdistan. The Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan fought a vicious civil war in the 1990s, where the KDP actually asked Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard to come in and help them. The idea that we have three neat communities is sociologically and politically illiterate.
Iraqis greeted Obama’s pick of Biden with dismay, still wary over his plan for ethnically-cleansing Iraq.

So, does being head of the Senate Foreign Relations committee mean one is going to have a progressive, informed opinion on international affairs? It turns out that “foreign policy experience” or “expertise” does not mean knowledge or wisdom. After all, Biden’s predecessor on Foreign Relations was Jesse Helms.

Biden’s “expertise” is that he is a long-time cheerleader of American imperialism. As Stephen Zunes points out, Biden was calling for U.S. invasion of Iraq back in 1998, years before that wily Colin Powell hoodwinked us all with his UN Security Council presentation. Before the war, liberal criticism was based on an argument that this was “a rush to war” and that Bush was creating a new, dangerous doctrine of unilateral intervention. However, Biden attacked even these milquetoast criticisms in a Senate debate
I do not believe this is a rush to war. I believe it is a march to peace and security. I believe that failure to overwhelmingly support this resolution is likely to enhance the prospects that war will occur. ... [Saddam Hussein] possesses chemical and biological weapons and is seeking nuclear weapons. ... For four years now, he has prevented United Nations inspectors from uncovering those weapons...

Mr. President, President Bush did not lash out precipitously after 9/11. He did not snub the U.N. or our allies. He did not dismiss a new inspection regime. He did not ignore the Congress. At each pivotal moment, he has chosen a course of moderation and deliberation.
And just weeks ago, Biden was in lock-step with Bush and the rest of the Washington establishment over the invasion of Georgia.
Declaring that "Russia's actions in Georgia will have consequences," Biden has called for $1 billion in new U.S. aid to Georgia. Biden has long wanted Georgia to be admitted to NATO and considered a U.S. ally--a deliberate provocation toward Russia.
Given Obama’s recent trouble in the polls, the casual observer might wonder why Obama would pick someone who could further alienate his own anti-war base, particularly when Biden comes from a state with only three electoral votes. The pick is another sign of who Obama is really trying to woo, not the mythical swing-voter, but the American ruling class.

Protests in Thailand

Here's an article I wrote for Socialist Worker about the street protests going on in Thailand.

Thailand’s ongoing political crisis took a turn for the worse Tuesday when anti-government protestors took over government buildings, set up roadblocks, and forced a state-run television station off the air.

The protests are led by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a movement headed by media tycoon and multimillionaire Sondhi Limthongkul. Despite its name, the PAD is a vehicle primarily for the urban middle and upper classes, described by the Bangkok Post as the “blue blood jet set.”

The PAD first achieved international prominence in the coup of September 2006, when it, along with sections of the military, overthrew the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin was the founder of the populist Thai Rak Thai Party (roughly translated as Thai Unity Party), which had led the government since 2001.

Founded in the late 1990s on a platform of debt relief, subsidies to farmers and universal healthcare, Thai Rak Thai’s tenure in power was marked by an ambiguous legacy. On the one hand, Thaksin followed through on his healthcare plan and created a system of universal coverage that expanded health care access from 76% of the population to 96%, as well as providing low-cost access to HIV/AIDS medication. On the other hand, Thaksin went ahead with various neoliberal and free trade agreements which threatened to undermine the progress made, especially with respect to Thailand’s ability to manufacture generic HIV/AIDS medication.

Even more disturbing was Thaksin’s record as a vicious prosecutor of the international War on Drugs. In his first term in office over 3,000 suspects were executed without ever coming to trial.

Discontent with Thai Rak Thai’s human rights abuses and neoliberal policies resulted in a growing protest movement. In 2004 protests of 200,000 workers helped delay an energy privatization plan pushed by Thaksin.

Seeing an opportunity in the political instability, upper class forces created PAD in an attempt to channel people’s anger at Thaksin’s neoliberal policies into safer channels. Given the historic weakness of the Thai Left, the PAD was able to absorb large layers of the protest movement without significant contestation. Embracing an end to political corruption as its watchword, the PAD sought to use the instability to remove Thaksin from power and replace him with a less dangerously populist figure.

PAD’s accusations of government corruption were ironic, given that Thaksin’s regime had seen a decrease in political corruption and the 2005 re-election of Thai Rak Thai was marked by the largest voter turnout in voter history as well as a massive reduction in vote-buying. In order to explain Thai Rak Thai’s apparent popularity, the PAD argued that the party had “tricked the ignorant rural poor” into voting for it. This was, as Thai Marxist Giles Ji Ungpakorn argues, “a convenient justification for ignoring the wishes of 16 million people.”

The PAD achieved victory on September 19th, 2006, when a military junta calling itself “The reform committee in the democratic system with a monarchy as head of state” took control of Bangkok while Thaksin was visiting New York. The junta relied on the twin support of the PAD and the Thai royalty. Thai Rak Thai party members came under repression, and many resigned.

The coup regime, renaming itself the Council for Democratic Reform (CDR), immediately instituted a massive censorship campaign. Heads of television stations were instructed to carry no news reporting on public opinion. 300 community radio stations were ordered to cease broadcasting. The CDR issued an ominous announcement that it would "urgently retaliate against foreign reporters whose coverage has been deemed insulting to the monarchy” (in whose name the CDR governed).

The junta promised elections within 12 months of its seizure of power. To combat the still massive popularity of Thaksin and Thai Rak Thai, party was officially dissolved and banned. Elections were scheduled for December 2007. In an attempt to regain power, many prominent Thai Rak Thai members agreed to stand in the elections on the People’s Power Party (PPP) ticket, a right wing party headed by Samak Sundaravej, a former governor known for his brutality in repressing protests.

The PPP would go on to win the elections, and Samak became Prime Minister. Thai Rak Thai members did exercise some influence in the party, however, leading Sondhi and the PAD to describe Samak’s government as a proxy for Thaksin.

It is this charge which has been the prime motivator behind this latest round of protests. Though many Western newspapers have been describing the protest forces as “pro-democracy,” their history shows that they are anything but. Additionally, the PAD currently has close ties to General Saprang Kalayanamitr, a key player in the 2006 coup who was passed over for Army Chief General. Saprang represents the extreme right wing of the Thai military, and has been quoted in newspapers saying he will shoot his political opponents himself. Recently, he told Thai papers that he is personally giving orders to the PAD.

Contrary to their image in the West, the protests in Thailand are not a movement for democracy. Instead, they represent an attempt by the extreme right of Thai politics to gain even greater influence in the government. Without an independent Left, Thai workers’ anger over neoliberalism has been hijacked by ruling class forces intent on forcing through even more brutal attacks on the people’s living standards.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Bring Back the Teddy Roosevelt Republicans!"

CNN's iReport is a wonderfully democratic new form of reportage that gives people the opportunity to humiliate themselves in front of an international audience. The latest offering does just that. It's a report on the founders of the website hiphoprepublicans.com:


My favorite moment is definitely when the man interviewed starts a gushing paean to...Teddy Roosevelt? Given Roosevelt's well-known economic liberalism, it's pretty strange to identify him with current Republicans. The comparison to McCain, however, might be a bit more apt. Both of them displayed a remarkably playful attitude towards the devastation of other peoples' countries.

Though silly, this interview gives me an excuse to post Adolph Reed's essay "The Descent of the Black Conservative," a gleefully nasty little piece of work.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

TORTURE: From Guantanamo to Chicago Interrogation Rooms

Jeremy Scahill, Martina Correia, and Darrell Cannon at Socialism 2008.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Marxism and Identity Politics

Sharon Smith, columnist for Socialist Worker and author of Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States and Women and Socialism, at Socialism 2008.

International Solidarity Movement Boats Reach Gaza!

Apparently human rights activists bringing hearing aids for children rank above cameramen in the Israeli ranking of human life. Good to know.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Fatah Increases Attacks on Hamas

In recent weeks, the Fatah-led government in the West Bank has sharply increased the pressure on the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip. Since Hamas' defeat of Fatah's abortive coup attempt last summer, the two governments have engaged in a series of tit-for-tat aggressions resulting mainly in the detention by security forces of the opposition's loyalists.

Recently, however, Fatah has markedly increased the pressure on Hamas. First, there was the bomb on a Gaza beach a month ago which killed several high-ranking Hamas military figures. Though no conclusive evidence has surfaced linking the bomb to Fatah, there is reason to believe that the West Bank government was at least sympathetic to thsoe who planted it. Egyptian Labour Party leader Magdi Hussein pointed out that "When news of the beach blast was initially broadcast on PA television in Ramallah, it was accompanied by triumphant music and patriotic anthems as if it were a victory."

Following this, Fatah ceased its regular shipments of Palestinian passports to Gaza. Though Fatah and Hamas are officially not talking, they have continued to work together on some bureaucratic issues like the distribution of passports. Withholding the documents from Gaza residents has effectively intensified the Israeli-led siege that Gazans have suffered under since they dared elect Hamas in Feb. 2006. Though Fatah spokesmen blamed the cessation of shipments on a lack of paper, West Bank residents are still receiving their passports.

In the last few weeks, Fatah has moved against Hamas-associated charities and hospitals still operating in the West Bank. PA Minister of the Interior
Abdul-Razzaq Al-Yehia ordered his forces to take over "all Islamic institutions, including charities, boarding schools, orphanages as well as youth and sports clubs." PCHR Gaza also reports that included in the raids were a number of independent printing houses in the West Bank. The attempt to dissociate Hamas from the infrastructure of civilian relief in West Bank is clearly an attempt to remove a major source of its popularity and consolidate Fatah's hold over the West Bank.

All of this occurs, disgustingly, with the death of the great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish in the background. An initial supporter of the PLO, Darwish left the organization in 1993 over its participation in the Oslo Accords. After Darwish died, Abbas and Fatah held a state funeral in which they attempted to use his legacy as a bolster for their own policies of Israeli appeasement. Darwish's death, as Sumia Ibrahim points out, is in many ways symbolic of Palestinian politics' inability to forge the unity for which Darwish fought.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Punk





Living for the City

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Taliban begin 'surge' against NATO forces

The New York Times explains how this latest and fiercest offensive by the Taliban is putting 2008 at a pace to be the deadliest year for NATO forces.

Also, "For the third month in a row, more US troops have been killed in Afghanistan than in Iraq."

Wow. I've always thought that Iran would be the next walloped by US military intervention, however these articles tend to suggest that Pakistan might be the next victim. I mean, I guess this IS the center piece of Obama's foreign policy: punitive strikes against guerrillas in Pakistan and a surge in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Another one bites the dust... another US-backed stooge, that is

"Snehal Shingavi explains why the U.S. could no longer keep its man Musharraf in charge of Pakistan."

Gaging the recent referendum in Bolivia

Tom Lewis argues that Evo Morales' recent victory in the recall referendum is anything but a reason to celebrate for the Bolivian Left. When Lewis breaks down the numbers, tit is undeniable that the Right is gaining steam. A victory of the right-wing separatist movement (which would completely eviscerate the country's natural resources, the major engine of its GDP) would be a huge blow to the living standards of the already heavily impoverished country.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The New York Times and the End of White Guilt

Having just moved to Newark, New Jersey, I recently found myself confronted at a newsstand with this week's New York Times magazine's Profound Quandary: "Is Obama the End of Black Politics?" Since Obama secured the nomination, this kind of article has been appearing in every pesudo-intellectual magazine in the country.

I loathe these writings with an intensity I find hard to describe. What makes them such, vile, foetid pools of intellectual sewage is the barely contained celebratory air over the supposed death of the "Civil Rights Generation"-style politics (i.e. holding America responsible for its racism) present in every one of them. The NYT piece is merely the culmination of an underground party that's been going on in White Middlebrow America for the last few months, the invitation to which reads "The Guilt is Over!" (The card, it should be noted, is signed by Barack himself.)

The piece itself is unremarkable in its banalities. Lots of quotes from conservative Black mayors, like Newark's own Cory Booker, exalting their own supposed novelty and relevance. A profound ignorance of the history of Black politics (seemingly a job requirement for being hired by the NYT). And of course, a great deal of feigned chin-scratching over "what this all means now."

One item that jumped out at me from the article was author Matt Bai's tortured attempt to demonstrate Black economic progress. In a classic case of the proof disproving itself, Bai writes "According to an analysis by Pew’s Economic Mobility Project, almost 37 percent of black families fell into one of the three top income quintiles in 2005, compared with 23 percent in 1973." First of all, who ever uses a category as utterly arbitrary, and confusing, as "top three economic quintiles" unless they are trying to pull a fast one? I can picture Bai at his desk, working late into the night, trying desperately to find some articulation of the statistics that can make Black economic progress seem impressive. Second, and most importantly, the stat, while appearing to suggest something like a twofold growth in Black income parity, actually reveals the tremendous gap that still exists. The top three economic quintiles should represent 60% of the population. Yet Bai's example shows that Black folks constitute almost half of the proportion they should of these brackets. Hardly something to celebrate.

Glenn Ford of the Black Agenda Report does an excellent job taking apart the specific logic of Bai's article, so I'll point readers there for more. In closing, I just want to note the article's denkverbot on any of the actual issues facing Black America today. The Black Gulag isn't mentioned. The mortage companies' swindling is no where to be found. Likewise for Katrina. And Black poverty is whitewashed. These issues are the real reason that, when I walk down 125th street in Harlem, I see street vendor after vendor selling shirts juxtaposing Dr. King and Obama. Black America doesn't celebrate Obama because they think he's going to leave Civil Rights politics behind, but because they hope he will complete them.

Mark Ames on Georgia

Mark Ames, one of my favorite writers, has good piece in the Nation last week on the invasion of South Ossetia. He does a good job of providing some of the crucial context that's missing from the media's ebullient celebrations of Georgian nationalism, such as the long history of South Ossetian oppression. He goes a bit overboard, however, in his attacks on McCain, which, while hilarious, ignore Obama's similar response to the fighting. He has, as the Chicago Sun-Times notes, stepped on board the "Blame Russia"* train along with the rest of the ruling class. Even more disturbing is this interview with Obama's main man on foreign policy,Zbigniew Brzezinski, who, in a daring simile never before attempted by a ruling class politician, compared his enemy to Hitler. Brzezinski is an old hat at Russia-bashing, going back to his days in the Carter administration when he helped engineer the bloodbath in Afghanistan in the eighties. Ultimately, while Obama may be immeasurably more well-spoken than his fossilized opponent, he is no less dangerous when it comes to projecting American power.

*To be sure, Russia has imperialist ambitions for Ossetia and ultimately Georgia, but that hardly means the United States does not.

*UPDATE*
Ames has a newer piece on the Nation that is equally valuable. I particularly like his description of Saakashvili:

While Bush and McCain speak of Saakashvili as if he's a combination of Thomas Jefferson and Nelson Mandela, he's seen by his own people as increasingly authoritarian and unbalanced. Last year, Saakashvili sent in his special forces to violently disperse opposition protesters in the capital city, followed by a declaration of martial law. He sacked the opposition television station (partly owned by Rupert Murdoch), exiled or jailed his political opponents, and stacked the courts with his own judges while removing neutral observers, leaving even onetime neocon cheerleaders like Bruce Jackson and Anne Applebaum feeling queasy. Hardly the image of the "small democratic nation" that everyone today touts.
A good antidote to the know-nothing delusions of that blonde ass-hat on CNN Glenn Beck.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fallout for NATO in Georgia

As Georgian and Russian military leaders toss recriminations back and forth regarding who first violated the French-brokered ceasefire, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has taken a page from Karzai and Musharraf's book and petulantly blamed his imperial backers for his own misfortune. Saakashvili told CNN that Western leaders had "failed to analyze Russia's intentions" before it invaded Georgia and "are partly to blame" for the current situation. He continued ""The response has not been adequate. Not only those people who are committing all those atrocities are responsible, but those who don't react to that, I think they also share responsibility." This little display of snotty sub imperial whining has made me wonder what the fallout for NATO is going to be here. As StratFor argues, this war did not shift geopolitical relations; rather, it revealed the already established shift of US impotence and Russian ambitions. Given this, I wonder to what degree Saakashvili will try to turn this against his former allies. It seems he is quite interested in using the Americans' current situation to his advantage as much as possible, but how much room does he really have? DEBKAfile is promising an analysis of "Why Saakashvili stirred the Pot" that I'm very much looking forward to, as the future of the conflict in the Caucuses right now seems very unclear (at least to me).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

China does a Milli-Vanilli

Or is it an Ashlee Simpson? Either way, it's fucked.

Games organizers confirm that Lin Miaoke, who performed "Ode to the Motherland" as China's flag was paraded Friday into Beijing's National Stadium, was not singing at all. Lin was lip-syncing to the sound of another girl, 7-year-old Yang Peiyi, who was heard but not seen, apparently because she was deemed not cute enough.

NATO-Israeli involvement in the Georgian conflict

Here's a great article from Global Research that explains the rationale behind Israel, US, and Nato backing of Georgia in this conflict and provides a very helpful discussion of the geopolitics of energy at stake.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympic Pwnage

Continuing our round-the-clock coverage of the Olympics, I want to draw attention to the Dave Zirin's smackdown of Jonah Goldberg on the 1968 games' Black Power salute. I won't waste time describing it. Just read it.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Blackface is not satire

Alright. I need to start the discussion about this crap movie now. I'm sure everyone has heard of the new Ben Stiller/Jack Black/Robert Downey Jr comedy 'Tropic Thunder' that's coming out in the near future where RDJ plays an actor who takes a blackface role. This is not satire. Everyone who thinks otherwise needs to see Spike Lee's Bamboozled, stat. I imagine that the controversy on the Left over this movie will be quite loud. I'm guessing that Stiller will be held up as a brilliant satirist - which he firmly believes. Fpr example:

"It's such a touchy area, " he said. "It had to be clear: What we are satirizing is the character and his loss of identity. So we have a black actor there" -- Brandon T. Jackson, who plays the braggadocios rapper-actor Alpa Chino in -- "calling [Lazarus] on every moment to be perfectly clear about our point of view. We never wanted it to be OK."
Let's see if Spike Lee anticipated this kind of tried and true bullshit excuse, shall we?


This sambo crap needs to be called out for what it is: straight up racism.

Here's a montage of blackface in US history from the end of Bamboozled and more fuel for why Chuck D had it right about Hollywood:

Friday, August 8, 2008

Army recruiter lies caught on tape

Another military recruiter caught threatening a high-schooler with jail time

Sgt. Marquette: “This is what will happen. You want to go to school? You will not get no loans, because all college loans are federal and government loans. So you’ll be black-marked from that. As soon as you get pulled over for a speeding ticket or anything with the law, they’re gonna see that you’re a deserter. Then they’re going to apprehend you, take you to jail ... you will do your time, as you deserve. All that lovey-dovey ‘I want to go to college’ and all this? Guess what. You just threw it out the window, because you just screwed your life.”

Thursday, August 7, 2008

China bars members of "Team Darfur" from Olympics

Throughout the games, radical sportswriter Dave Zirin will be blogging at the Nation.com. Check out his first post on China's clampdown

Joey Cheek is someone who actually believes in the Olympic ideal, the quaint notion that sports could be used as a force for good, to raise awareness, understanding and even bring people closer together. The 2006 speed skating gold medalist will now not get the chance to test his theories. Cheek, the president of Team Darfur, a coalition of as many as 200 athletes aimed at raising awareness about the suffering in the Sudanese region, had his visa revoked the evening before he was to fly to Beijing.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Successful CAN action against military recruiters

Check out members of Campus Antiwar Network countering military recruiters

Has liberalism made a comeback?

Monday, August 4, 2008

American massacres in Korean War

"South Korean investigators, matching once-secret documents to eyewitness accounts, are concluding that the U.S. military indiscriminately killed large groups of refugees and other civilians early in the Korean War."

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Rock and Roll

Bob Dylan - Isis


Warren Zevon - Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner

The United States Military is An Apparatus of Rape

GAO reports that up to 40% of women in the military have been sexually assaulted by their fellow servicemen.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Marching to the Winter Palace...

A group of liberal-lefty activists have drawn up an open letter and petition to Obama in the Nation magazine.

Since your historic victory in the primary, there have been troubling signs that you are moving away from the core commitments shared by many who have supported your campaign, toward a more cautious and centrist stance--including, most notably, your vote for the FISA legislation granting telecom companies immunity from prosecution for illegal wiretapping, which angered and dismayed so many of your supporters. We recognize that compromise is necessary in any democracy.
We understand that the pressures brought to bear on those seeking the highest office are intense. But retreating from the stands that have been the signature of your campaign will weaken the movement whose vigorous backing you need in order to win and then deliver the change you have promised.
They go on to list some "key positions you have embraced that we believe are essential to sustaining this movement."
The contents of the letter are rather unremarkable. They demand "Withdrawal from Iraq on a fixed timetable" rather than immediate withdrawal, and "Universal health care" rather than single-payer. However the fact that the letter exists is another sign of dramatic shift since 2004. That election year, liberals were so desperate that any dissent from within the Kerry camp was considered treasonous, especially by Nation-type liberals. A letter like this would have be unheard of, tepid though it is.
Another sign of the growing confidence of American liberals, not to mention this confrontation.