politics

A Solution to the Abortion Problem

I think that abortion opponents have been going about their desire to end abortions in entirely the wrong way. The real core of the problem of unwanted pregnancy is not that women are getting pregnant when they don't want to be, it's that men are getting women pregnant when they don't want to be fathers. As such, I would like to propose a new abortion law that will get at the heart of this problem: mandatory vasectomies for the male parents of aborted fetuses.

The Upside of The Coming American Disaster

Doom. That's what's on the way for us here in the fifty nifty United States. Doom doom doom. Big fucking Doom. That's right, I said it. The world is in fact coming to an end in a total cluster fuck of denial, false consciousness, and Machiavellian intrigue. Ten years from now, you will look around you and no longer recognize the world you live in. I do not say this lightly. I am no doomer. I genuinely believe that global warming and peak oil will most likely cause a crisis that will meet with some sort of solution. In the middle term, those are problems that I think humanity is more or less capable of dealing with. There will be problems, but those problems are not insurmountable. No, the people who see in the coming food crisis an end to all things are mistaken. They are mistaken for good reasons. They worry about the rise of unchecked economic power in the post-industrial world. They worry about the unsustainability of current modes of production. And these are real problems. But they fail to grasp the flip side of that coin. They make the same mistake that Ronald Reagan's conservative children make, and see only the supply side of the economy. This is the path we have been on in the United States and in much of Europe for a good 40 years now. So dominant is this view of the world that even in the thinking of an astute and critical mind like that of Chris Hedges, the coming dystopia is mistaken for something akin to the feudal dark ages of Europe. This is a historically conditioned vision of the world and it says more about the fears of those who have them than it does about what the world will look like in ten years. I am sympathetic to those fears, but fear is not a civilizing impulse and it is a severe impediment to rational thought.

The Obamanation of Escalation

I think I've figured out why it is that a certain segment of the left is so disappointed in the various mediocrities of the Obama administration. Clearly, there's a population of leftist democrats in the country who thought they were voting for Will Smith and were disappointed when President Obama turned out to be neither Bagger Vance nor Hancock.

That's right. I'm calling you all a bunch of racists. Deal with it.

Now, I know I've had my own beefs with Obama from time to time. I had high hopes. But I knew he was a centrist that I would disagree with a lot going in, and that's what makes the really outraged statements of disappointment sound so hollow to me. Yeah, it hasn't been as good as it might have been, and yes, I think some of that at least is Obama's fault. At the same time, some of the things people are surprised about (his view on gay marriage, the fact that he wasn't pushing harder on DADT, the issue with Gitmo, the failure of the public option) are things that were either unrealistic or things that he was upfront about being a centrist on.

Thing is, politics in America is always about numbers and noise. You can't just sit back on Nov. 5 and figure that your work is done. Movement leftists need to constantly nag, constantly push, constantly try to move the ball a few more inches in the right direction. When you get quiet you die. That's part of the reason Obama compromised as much as he did, and it's definitely the reason that the GOP took the House back last year.

So, yes, I'm sorry your "super duper magical negro" didn't fix everything with a bob of his massive afro, but maybe before you start scape-goating the best hope we have of keeping a disaster like Michelle Bachmann or Mike Huckabee out of the whitehouse, maybe take a good long look in the mirror and ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for you country.

Fuckers.

The Federal Budget Deficit is Not a Problem Right Now

In 1936 John Maynard Keynes, the most important economist in the history of economics after Adam Smith and Karl Marx, published a book called The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money. The book is highly technical and difficult to follow for a non-specialist. I have read it, but had a very difficult time getting through it. Luckily for those of us who are not economists, there are many very bright people who devote their lives to this stuff and many of them have done a very good job of explaining it to the rest of us. The key insight of the book, despite the book's difficulty, is relatively easy to understand. In it Keynes argues convincingly and at length for the thesis that full employment, meaning the economic state where everyone who wants to work can find work, is not a function of the price of labor, but of the aggregate demand in the economy. Even as I rephrase that I can't help but notice how it's rife with jargon, shibboleths and mathematical concepts that are beyond the high school mathematical education of most American adults.

So think of it this way: suppose the economy consisted of just four people. One of those people is a consumer, one is a capitalist, and two of them are workers. The consumer pays the capitalist for the things the consumer wants and the capitalist sells them to him. The capitalist pays his workers to make the things that he wants to sell to the consumer. The workers do what the capitalist tells them to do. The consumer is independently wealthy. The capitalist makes money from profits that are the difference between what he has to pay the workers and what the consumer pays him for his goods. Got all that? Ok good.

On Right Wing Fantasist Reactionism

The latest hubbub in the nerdosphere is an absurdly stupid article from Leo Grin that basically says that fantasy was much better in the good-old days when JRR Tolkien and Robert E. Howard (Conan the Barbarian) walked the Earth, and that since then fantasy has succumbed to liberal elite moral relativism to give us gritty, "nihilistic" fantasy writers like Joe Abercrombie, who naturally, by extension, represent the Decline of Western Civilization. Forget that Conan was an amoral figure who basically killed anyone who got in his way and took any woman he saw, and was in turn a send-up of what Howard saw as the namby-pamby chivalric knights that were popular in historical writings at the time. And forget that the morals in Tolkien's work have (pretty deliberately) the complexity of a fairy tale. But then that may be the point; the author wants to see beautiful, noble good up against ugly, traitorous evil and anything more subtle, more realistic than that is somehow the End of Civilization. In other words, he wants the kind of shoehorning of everything into a reductionist, black-and-white worldview typical of right-wing ideology in general.

Freedom

There is nothing more hopeful than civilian unrest against an autocratic dictatorship. Some of my earliest memories of the world as a political environment were formed in April of 1989. I was eleven years old and didn't fully understand the backdrop of what was happening in China as the Tienamen Square protests turn violent and ugly as the Beijing government unleashed the power of the military agains its own people who were demonstrating for more dramatic reforms. Five months later, I remember watching the news full of hope and fear as the Berlin Wall fell and Germany began the process of reunification. A little over a year later, I found my first contemporary political hero in the person of Lech Walesa, whose Solidarity movement had succeeded in ending Poland's satellite relationship with the Soviet Union. That same year as Nelson Mandela was released from prison it became more and more apparent that the Soviet union was crumbling and the order of the old world was done as Belarus and the Balkan and Baltic states began breaking with the Soviet Union. By the end of the year, Stalinism in Eastern Europe was more or less done and we were entering a new world.

The Disembodied Standpoint; or Why I Don't Take Certain Parts of the Leftwing Blogosphere Seriously and You Shouldn't Either

So I haven't been following #mooreandme closely, because as I've stated before I don't think twitter phenomena are things that really happen, but apparently there's been a dustup in certain quarters based on Sady Doyle's protest over Michael Moore posting bail for Julian Assange. There are a few points I would like to make about this whole crop of nonsense that to me underline my general larger refusal to take those certain quarters seriously.

Point 1: It is fundamentally unjust to draw conclusions about the criminality of a person's actions based on news reports.

The Thing About the Tea Party Movement, or False Consciousness for Fun and Profit!

It's not clear that Karl Marx ever used the term "false consciousness" to describe ideology and the way it is used to convince members of the proletariat to act against their own interests politically, but the notion is one that has shown remarkable prescience and staying power as a problem for leftist politics in the last couple centuries or so. It's a useful tool that at least helps to explain how it came to be that Irish immigrants who were apparently no friends of black folks at the time nevertheless joined the Union Army during the civil war to participate in a fight to end slavery in America. It seems to be lurking in the background of the poor kids who got duped into fighting in Korea and Vietnam where it has never been clear that brinksmanship with Mao's China had any real benefit for an American workforce in the middle of the greatest prosperity any labor force has ever had in the history of the world—thanks in no small part to the strength of labor unions in the forties, fifties and sixties; and to President Eisenhower's 70% top marginal tax rate. And frankly, arguments about getting money for school and gaining job skills aside, I can't help but think it's there in the fresh faced kids signing up to learn how to be IED fodder year in and year out in a Military that hasn't had to fight a defensive war in almost four generations now. It also explains to a great degree the question Thomas Frank asked and attempted to answer a few years book in his book "What's the Matter with Kansas?" Frank's answer is wrong because Frank is a milquetoast liberal, and like all milquetoast liberals, he has conceded too much to capitalist propaganda to continue to make a coherent argument for a robust leftwing agenda. But the problem he has identified is real, despite the many attempts to discredit his work by right wing "intellectuals" shilling for the GOP.

Whither Now My America?

It's been a couple of days since the election, and I've let the disappointments sink in. In a lot of ways, this feels like 2004 all over again and in that I have some hope because things in many ways look brighter than they did during that dark election year. But I have to look around and wonder at the problems that my nation faces and the bizarre and unproductive electoral decisions that my fellow citizens have made in the face of those problems. My fear, and it's a very real one, is that the we have stood on the precipice of empire for too long and now the westward it has plotted its course and in its wake we have been left to drown for a good long while. I think that perhaps the American century has come to a close and what will happen now is that we will begin to settle into a long decline that remakes the face of global politics where the faults of our nation give rise to a new balance in the distribution of resources and global power that will need to account for the resurgence of Europe and new strength in India and China. That is probably a good thing in many ways. It's been clear for a while that the unitary superpower status that the United States held after the collapse of the Soviet bloc was something that was both unsustainable and that was just as bad for us as it was for the world living in our shadow. Where it's troubling is in the diminishment of American surplus and an over all decrease in the abundance that had sustained us for so long. In the end, I worry about what will happen for the weakest among us in the wake of a new austerity that will be imposed from without as much as we seem hell bent on imposing it from within.

Zeitgeist Contretemps: The Weltanschauungen of the Now

Consider: Around five thousand babies will be born before you finish reading this.
At current rates:
Of those babies, something like 750 will die before the age of five.
Children in poor countries are more than 20 times more likely to die before the age of five than children in wealthy countries, which means the vast majority of those 750 children will be born in poverty.
Of the 4250 or so that make it to their fifth birthday, another tenth will die before they are adults, again disproportionately in the poorest countries.
Of the 3800 or so that remain, 80% will live in poverty where poverty is defined as living on less than ten dollars a day.
Most will die before the age of sixty and a significant percentage will die before the age of forty.
Of the 750 who remain, they are the heirs to something on the order of 3/4s of the worlds wealth.
Of those 750, 75 will grow up to control half of the wealth of that group.
Of those 75, 7 will grow up to control a third of the wealth of the richest 75.
These disparities have been steadily increasing over the past 100 years.
Numbers of children who die before the age of 5 have decreased significantly.
Mortality rates for teenagers and young adults have not seen a similar decline.
The World Health Organization tracks infant mortality as the chance of death before the age five.
These two facts make me think of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.
There are nearly seven billion people living on the planet as of 2010.
This is almost double the population of the earth in 1970.
By the end of the next decade, the population of the earth will be more than triple the population in 1960.
It is 4 AM in the morning, somewhere in North America.
I have steady electricity, central air conditioning, and clean running water.
As a firmly middle class earner, my lifestyle is fairly modest for most Americans, probably about as close to the median for single college educated men as you can get.