Sunday, September 23, 2012

Politics Upside-Down:
Fictional Campaigns, Invisible Issues, and Disappearing Jobs

The fictive nature of American presidential electoral campaigns never ceases to amaze. 

“Fictive,” of course, does not mean simply “false.” It’s not a word that describes some internal flaw of a discourse, but that describes a specific relation between a discourse and its audience.  The difference between non-fiction and fiction is not exactly that the former is true and the latter false, but that the audience is expected to fault the former, but not the latter, for describing a world in which werewolves roam London and Russian nationalists nuke Baltimore, when they don’t.  (Everybody knows it’s vampires, and they’re in Louisiana.  Or is it Seattle?)

During this presidential campaign, liberals and progressives have, rightly, been busy excoriating Romney, Ryan, and the Republicans for their blatant falsity, their proclivity to make assertions and accusations that, it is easy to demonstrate, are contrary to fact.  Romney is also, correctly, charged with constantly taking positions that are contrary to his own previous statements and actions.  These charges can, and should, persuade those citizens whose capacity for intellectually-honest critical thought is not overwhelmed by other, captivating, non-rational identifications to reject Romney-Ryan-Republicanism as false and dishonest.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Teaching Moment

The Chicago teachers’ strike is another fine example of how “reform” becomes an instrument of class warfare.  There are certainly any number of serious problems with the public school system in Chicago and elsewhere that need to be “reformed,” but the current offensive is using the concern for those problems to do something else entirely – undermine the public school system as a whole, and place it increasingly under the domain of private capital.  The goal is not to get better schools, but profitable ones.  The goal is not to create a better school system as a whole, but a system of different classes of schools that includes a class of schools which, although still state-subsidized, is also a field of profit maximization.  Correspondingly, the goal is not to create better teachers, but cheaper ones.
Anyone who doubts this should reflect on what Greg Palast recounts:

This is a true story.

CHICAGO.  In a school with some of the poorest kids in Chicago, one English teacher–I won't use her name–who'd been cemented into the school system for over a decade, wouldn't do a damn thing to lift test scores, yet had an annual salary level of close to $70,000 a year.  Under Chicago's new rules holding teachers accountable and allowing charter schools to compete, this seniority-bloated teacher was finally fired by the principal.

In a nearby neighborhood, a charter school, part of the city system, had complete freedom to hire.  No teachers' union interference. The charter school was able to bring in an innovative English teacher with advanced degrees and a national reputation in her field - for $29,000 a year less than was paid to the fired teacher.

You've guessed it by now:  It's the same teacher.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sound Right to You?


US Taxpayers Spend More on Israeli Defense Than Israeli Taxpayers, Says Former IDF Official

John Glaser, September 12, 2012
Jerusalem Post: 
In an apparent reference to the public spat between the United States and Israel, former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi told the Calcalist conference on Tuesday that preserving strong ties with the United States is an Israeli security necessity“We must preserve ties with the United States. I believe this is a security necessity,” he said. In the past three years, he noted, US taxpayers have contributed more to the Israeli defense budget than Israeli taxpayers.
Since 2009, that amount is more than $11 billion. Explaining why money needs to be stolen from US taxpayers and given to the only nuclear state in the Middle East, despite the fact that Israeli leaders work directly against US interests – especially when they try to pressure us to launch discretionary wars – is getting harder even for hawks to do.
Two points:
1) We are responsible for everything the IDF does.  There can be no settlement enterprise, no attack on Lebanon, or Gaza, or Iran that is not fully the responsibility of the United States government (and its citizens, if it is truly a democratic country).  Whether we like to talk about it or not, we are in it.  And those who are the targets and victims of the IDF are not going to let us forget that.
2)  This is another issue that, short of very radical change in American politics, will never be debated at the Democratic or Republican party convention.  What was that about "democracy"?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Blog Notes:
Comment System

I'm aware that the comment protocols on this platform (Blogger) are awkward, and discourage participation.  I've provisionally opened up comments for anyone.  I'll see how that works out while I look into other comment systems.  I'm considering DIsqus, Intense Debate, and Livefyre.  If you have any experience with, or thoughts on, these comment systems,  please share them with me -- in a comment, or by email (contact form on right of page). 

The Ayn Rand Cruise

The logic of capitalism, illustrated.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Everybody Knows:
The Jerusalem Amendment and American Celebrity Politics

As The New York Times reported last week: “President Obama, seeking to quell a storm of criticism from Republicans and pro-Israel groups, directed the Democratic Party on Wednesday to amend its platform to restore language declaring Jerusalem the Israeli capital.”

A neat little paragraph that reveals a number of the fundamental, and seemingly intractable, problems with American politics in general and the Democratic Party in particular. 

First of all, Obama “directed” the party to amend its platform. This describes a political party that is the epitome of undemocratic, one that is, in fact, nothing more than a vehicle to serve as an instrument of the Great Leader’s will.  We may be inured to that condition of the Democratic Party, but we should nonetheless take a moment to register its significance.  The major political party that claims to act as the tribune of the people, the one party into which our political and media system relentlessly channels all constituents interested in working-class, progressive, and secular democratic policies, is what we would call anywhere else a Stalinist party.

Can anyone with a semblance of intellectual honesty, whatever else s/he thinks of the Democratic Party, deny this?  Keeping in mind what Mark Landler’s Times article neglected to mention, namely that the revised amendment required a two-thirds vote of approval, please watch what happened: 


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