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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

 

house majority leader indicted


tom delay -- quite possibly one of the most corrupt politicians ever to sit in congress, which is saying a lot -- was today indicted on felony charges by a texas grand jury in an expansion of a probe into his past fundraising efforts and will step down as house majority leader.

this page has commented on delay's complete abasement here and here, as he and his minions in congress -- who surely knew this shoe would one day fall -- worked to obviate the ethics rules of their chamber to ensure that their eventual indictment would not jeopardize the totality of their influence. apparently, his power steadily declining within the house as a result of his "radioactivity", delay has been convinced that what he could now do within the rules he gutted is nonetheless not in his best interests.

UPDATE: compounding delay's indictment with senate leader frist's troubles isn't enough, it seems. in picking a successor to delay as majority leader, the gop apparently couldn't bring itself to get far enough away from its fallen angel to evade collateral damage -- missouri republican roy blunt, named surrogate leader yesterday, turns out to have been caught up in delay's illegal dealings.

Even as DeLay professed his innocence and his lawyers said they hoped to avoid having him handcuffed, fingerprinted and photographed, potential for fresh controversy surfaced.

Records on file with the Federal Election Commission show that Blunt's political action committee has paid roughly $88,000 in fees since 2003 to a consultant facing indictment in Texas in the same case as DeLay.

Keri Ann Hayes, executive director of the Rely on Your Beliefs Fund, said officials of the organization have not discussed whether to end the relationship with the consultant, Jim Ellis, in light of his indictment.

"We haven't had that conversation," she said, adding that so far, Ellis' indictment had no impact on his work.
what a tangled web we weave.


What is the point? We live in AMERICA - there is no reason that there should even be a law that prohibits contributions. And if the broke the law, so what. I am not a DeLay fan nor Republican, but this is ridiculous.

IF the left does not like DeLay's ideas, then try to come up with better ideas. More laws, legislation, and trails are rarely the answer.

Coomerfan

 
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the making of a proletarian


more revelations of the use of torture by american armed forces in the field have continued to surface since the initial scandal of abu ghraib -- and the rote amorality, apologism and perversity with which the nationalism-mad, blinded by their golden calf, denied it -- first came to light.

the existance of the events and a search for their cause has become the focus of an army captain, one ian fishback, whose letter to senator john mccain was recently reprinted in the washington post. his cause has become celebrated in some circles, as he assumes great personal risk to challenge a military-state bureaucracy headed by men without any significant compunction of ethics but posessed of a ruthless drive to secure by management their own position atop a rootless hero-cult bent on permanent revolution.

whether captain fishback knows what he risks or not, what is brilliant and clear is a strong ethical and moral grounding that radiates from his actions. this is a man in the perverse service of a secular state who has managed -- unlike so many others in easier positions, despite being subject to all the indoctrination of the religion of the state that could be mustered against his soul, despite being subject to the full horror of what that dessicated, desperate state is capable of -- not to confuse the administrative mechanism of the city of destruction with a moral and righteous god which is the centerpiece of the civitas dei. he has chosen instead to stand morally against the amorality that has infected his society and the authority that dominates it, making helots of its citizens, no matter how lonely a road it may be that he has chosen.

captain fishback is becoming a proletarian, in the technically perfect sense of the word -- a man alienated of his dying society by the horrifying and retarding actions that its management class has taken and commanded him to take against the greater society of the world and, by extension, against both himself as a social individual and the god which created him and lives through him in the brotherhood of man. he joins the swelling ranks of those who find themselves strangers in their homeland, seeds of dissolution planted in the soil of western civility.

UPDATE: more on the dissembling of our corrupted management class as they make torture a pillar of authoritarian empire from balkinization.

UPDATE: senators mccain, lindsey and graham -- representatives of the mccain 14 -- responding to fishback's letter with a move to legislate explicitly the illegality of torture, were faced with the telling prospect of a white house veto of such a measure.

this from a white house that has not exercized its veto pen once in its two terms. it appears to be utterly and undeniably clear now that torture is part of the policy and practice of this administration, notwithstanding any law, treaty, moral, ethic or tradition to the contrary -- serving to irrefutably define the apex of ethical bankruptcy in american governance.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

 

why renting is better, part 2


angry bear updates some numbers and methods but comes to the same conclusion -- it's better to rent than to own, especially considering the risk.


 

collapsing confidence, flattening curves


today's reading of recent consumer confidence presents yet more convincing data that the american economy is heading into recession. as i posted some months ago:

the fed's handiwork to this point is having its effect in the economy -- consumer confidence data is weakening. while the february headline number looks encouraging, what is not is the most relevant measure to economic forecast -- future expectations (95.7) less present situation (a strong 116.4) equals -20.7. whenever this figure reads negative, it forewarns of a coming recession with an long lead time (often years). it first began to flirt with the zero line in early 2004, and has in recent months dropped several points. more considerable recessions often are preceded by a reading of less than -50.
the differential now rests at -37.2 -- driving ever further into recessionary territory. this is compounded by the continuing wane of the leading economic indicators, for which the august ecri figure was 137.6. while still expanding, the expansion is slowing into what may be a peak, which precedes recession.

the press is blaming these ominous signs on hurricanes katrina and rita, but the ecri makes explicit in its press release that "[t]he economic effects of Hurricane Katrina are not reflected in the August values". a greater tide is turning in the american psychology, i fear, as the steady diet of rising short rates works to invert the yield curve and eliminate the carry trade, the money machine upon which the american economy has become completely addicted to and engorged upon.

it must be said again -- the american debt bubble has reached potentially catastrophic proportions. this is particularly relevant to a discussion of the yield curve as put forward in some proprietary analyses i've read recently.

the lender, ultimately, is in control of this bubble -- the borrowers of the masses would likely immolate themselves on ever-more debt for so long as lenders grant them the rope with which to hang themselves. it is when the lender -- not the borrower, but the lender -- decides that the terms are no longer advantageous that the bubble will pop. banks will only lend for so long as there is money in lending; even as banks now function only as irresponsible pass-through fee generators, without actually having to profit from interest-rate differentials themselves, a disappearance of buyers for their mortgages (and securities backed with them) will be the consequence of unprofitability in lending long-term with funds borrowed in the short-term -- that is, when the yield curve inverts.

it is in this way that the end of the american debt bubble (and the housing bubble which is its primary component) hinges on the slope of the yield curve. a recent example of this in practice is provided by the british housing market, which responded to the bank of england rate inversion of mid-2004 by promptly flattening -- which is forcing the onset of a general consumer recession. another is in the manner in which the nasdaq bubble (also driven by money borrowed at low short-term rates and then invested willy-nilly in search of capital gain) collapsed in march 2000, only two months following the american curve inversion of that january.

the yield curve itself is now rapidly flattening in the united states, as the fed raises short rates and long-bond yields remained suppressed under foreign central bank purchasing demand. this is a warning to the observant. coincident with sharply lower future expectations and declining leading indicators, a bull-flattening curve signals an imminent end to lending expansion in the american economy and the onset of a contraction and recession -- if not worse, given the massive imbalances in the global economy and the need of an immense deleveraging of the kind not seen since the years 1914-45. such an event has been in the wings since the late 1990s, when analytical heads first began to talk about the frightening quantity of borrowing in the global financial system. the federal reserve bank under alan greenspan delayed that deleveraging by radically cutting rates in the aftermath of the 2000 curve inversion and the popping of the global equity bubble. but, in doing so, greenspan opened the floodgate to a massive and unanticipated expansion of consumer borrowing from those already lofty levels, making the eventual inevitable vastly more damaging, painful and uncontrollable -- uncontrollable, particularly meaning the vanishing authority of american policy over global economic management through the dollar, which has become a potential horseman of economic apocalypse.

weathering such a storm as we may be entering without sustaining traumatizing destruction -- globally, nationally and personally -- is a very difficult, perhaps impossible task. i wish you luck, as i hope you wish me luck.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

 

more harm than good


london's sunday mirror ran an article this week, in the aftermath of a crystalline display of occupation antagonism toward not only sunni iraqi insurgents but the shi'a authorities, a plea from many british grunts in basra: bring us home.

Our brave troops, largely forgotten amid the July terror attacks and New Orleans floods, will stay as long as they are told to. But, for the first time, officers and squaddies are thinking the unthinkable.

They are saying out loud that staying in Iraq is no longer making things better.

One soldier speaks for many when he says: "It's time to get home. There is no point in anyone else dying here. We are past the time that we are needed here in Basra. We have done enough."

He, like others, has spent hour after hour doing his bit to train Iraq's soldiers and police to take control of their own dusty, stinking streets.

"We have trained the police and the Army," he says. "Now it is up to them. We are simply here to help the Iraqis - but they just give us abuse."
i would be the last to suggest that any poor individual soldier is or should be the final authority on what anglophone imperial stewardship should entail. but there is an observation to be made from the comments of these people, and that is that they are not helping anymore, but harming, peace and progress in iraq. if the british command decision to take military action against the british-trained basra police forces wasn't a sufficient moment of clarity on the state of affairs in occupied iraq, this should be.

the concept that an anglophone military occupation was doing more harm than good was once generally considered laughable, even if i considered as much to be the obvious nature of the problem, both short-term and long-term. indeed, it was once widely accepted, if criticized and deplored, by the iraqi majority themselves. but that tide has apparently turned against it now in iraq among the shi'a as well as the sunni -- and perhaps the tide is turning in america and britain as well.


After Uday and Qusay reached room temperature and Saddam had been captured, the victorious troops should have packed and left.

 
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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

 

caravaggio in chicago


loyola university museum of art will be hosting, beginning next week, the north american premiere of "the complete works of caravaggio: an impossible exhibition".

i could wax rhapsodic about the dark, burning intensity and shocking realism of the italian master, but many others have done so better than i. better to say that the exhibit, which is not of original works but of digitally-reproduced transparencies ensconced in modular arrangements which are designed to give an "originalist" interpretation of the works, will be of great interest to appreciators of 16th c italian painting.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

 

in his own words


there's no more valuable reading to recommend at this point in american history than the words of the enemies of western civilization. to the extent that these words ever get a fair public hearing, they provide an invaluable window onto western civility in decline from the perspective of those on the outside who have been mortally alienated -- indeed, the opportunity is identical to examining the mind of a contemporary attila.

that is why i eagerly anticipate the forthcoming compilation of the words of osama bin laden. while the translation is cause for due caution, randy hamud's book will be riveting both as an revelation upon the nature of the west's conflict with the east and as a firsthand account at the birth of what may be a new islamic chivalry.


Thursday, September 08, 2005

 

katrina


with the political aftermath of hurricane katrina -- which has left an unimaginable 10,000 americans dead -- now swamping political levees on all levels, the latent skepticism of our managerial elite that pervades western society in decadence has come to the fore with a vengeance. jack shafer at slate chronicles a break between the heretofore access-mad and cowing media and the central authorities that have so abused them.

The rebellion of the talking heads reached its culmination today as CNN.com contrasted "the official version" of events in New Orleans with its "in-the-trenches" account by its reporters and authoritative sources. Muted compared to the on-air growling, the Web story still portrays the government as a pack of liars, or worse, as bumbling idiots. The broadcasters' angry dispatches break with the "public face" they usually give their work: polite, patient, neutral, generous. A steady diet of such confrontational reporting would probably be as edifying as a Jerry Springer show. But when the going gets this tough—when government incompetence and lies become so insurmountable—sometimes the only way to get the story is by getting mad.
as welcome as that development -- if not ephemeral -- is, it is certainly a part of the broader onset of the age of irony and the open contempt and abject distrust of society and authority which has marked the acceleration of western decay, centuries old and now firmly entrenched, since 1918. raimondo opines:

People are mad as hell, far too mad to take seriously the liberal – and neoconservative – guff about how Katrina shows we need more government, symbolized by a strong Giuliani-esque leader who can restore "faith" in our "institutions." The age of faith in government – and leaders – is over, and a new era of skepticism is well underway. ... After dutifully wearing American flag lapel buttons during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, and serving as the government's megaphone since 9/11, the American media is rebelling – and, as usual, they are reacting to a general sense of alienation from authority bubbling just beneath of the surface of American society.

Americans, in their millions, are finding that they don't like this new kind of American very much: indeed, we are beginning to find them – our rulers – quite hateful. That is one of the lessons of Hurricane Katrina. Here's another: it's time to start putting America, and Americans, first. To heck with "liberating" the rest of the world: the absurd conceit of the idea is all too apparent in light of the devastation wrought by Katrina. Our foreign policy of self-righteous aggression in pursuit of a policy of exporting "democracy" to the darkest corners of the globe acquires a surrealistic comic edge as we contemplate the apparent indifference of the authorities to the fate of Louisiana and Mississippi. As the Iraqis complain that we haven't installed working electricity in Baghdad, the lack of even more basic amenities in New Orleans makes a mockery of U.S. pretensions.

My advice to our rulers: forget that other insurgency in the Middle East, and attend to the one germinating in your own backyard – before it overtakes you.
many are shocked at the speed with which new orleans degenerated into anarchy following katrina. some compare the devastation to that which occured last year in florida -- and wonder why things this time degenerated so quickly.

some propose that the damage this time is far more complete, and the situation therefore far more desperate. but in truth the devastation that wracked florida last year was little better than this, and people were similarly deprived of services. yet it took just a few days for new orleans to slide into an iraq-like anarchy.

we can and should say why: those affected were this time primarily of what is unarguably america's most disaffected proletariat. many among them don't particularly like the west, and i can't say i blame them, considering the hand it has dealt them and their forefathers, who were stolen from their traditions and enslaved for an exercise in improved western economic efficiency. when one's understanding of society, often reinforced by hard experience, is that it works primarily against one, functions to repress and sideline instead of foster and nurture, primarily for the perpetuation of an undeserving management class, it's hard to see why order would be maintained when the power of coercion washes away.

as was illustrated similarly in the la riots in 1992 of the civil rights insurrection of 1968, the historical axioms of internal proletariats apply to the modern west in decline as they applied to all collapsing civilizations past. they are tinder to which only a match need be applied. and, lest anyone foolishly imagine me "racist" for saying so, let me further say that the same principles in varying degrees apply or have applied to muslims in europe, uighurs in china, sikhs in india, kurds in arabia, and in addition to countless others my very ancestors in the roman empire. this is not a question of genetics; it is a question of culture, particularly for a people who were torn away from theirs and forced into bondage for another, a blow from which many proletariats in history have found it all but impossible to recover from.

jesse walker over at reason has discussed katrina and its aftermath with sociologist e.l. quarantelli, who points out that the reaction of the vast majority in most events of this kind -- probably including even this one -- is not social breakdown but the expression of our innately social character as human beings. and i'd submit that this is true even in the worst of times: singular events which threaten survival remind and reinforce the moral character of men.

but these stories, one will note, are of men helping men -- not of men supporting the framework and institutions of civilization, which, mismanaged as they are, come in for yet more excoriation and mockery. these pathetic tribal bands into which people organized themselves for action represent a hobbesian degeneration of society, not its vitality. the undercurrent of disloyalty and apathy toward a bumbling and ridiculous dominant few is palpable.

but what's most notable about these stories of cohesion in the wake of katrina is the sharp contrast which they provide to our everyday existence of insular individual isolation, amorality, alienation and unaccountability -- strands of feeling that run particularly strongly in those who count themselves wronged by society. such cooperation is notable, even shocking when it appears because it is so absent in our normal lives of lawless struggle and competition.

i recall a story reported out of afghanistan back in 2001 when the american management were trying to demonize the taliban and afghanistan generally as a savage land which would benefit from forced conversion to modernity and a sacrifice of american youth. amid the endless condescensions, a reporter allowed himself to recount a bag dropped by a woman in a market -- and how everyone within earshot stopped, came over and helped her pick it all back up, only then resuming what they were doing.

in such a society, barbaric though it may be, cohesion is a daily norm. what is it in the postmodern west? an object of derision -- the "slave mentality" -- a weakness to be exploited. only when reminded in disaster of our own profound vulnerability is our hubris deflated enough to see that we all depend ultimately not on succeeding over but with one another.

when hellenic society finally collapsed in the third through fifth centuries, it was not because romans refused to help one another in crisis -- it was because they would not help one another in anything except the most dire emergencies, having lost any faith in the institutions and leadership which might have obligated them to act in spite of their judgment.

that pattern is increasingly what we seem to emulate, and the plight of the new orleans underclass under the simultaneous duress of nature and a dying society's mishandled response has highlighted it.


I have just stumbled across your blog. Thank you for this fascinating piece on Katrina, which I took care to read carefully.

I shall be back to read more, on this and other subjects.

 
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Oops, so much for 10,000 dead.

Hmm, maybe you shouldn't have accepted gov't propaganda as fact. I guess you're not that selective.

Wait, I think I see -- when it comes from Dmeocrats, it should be immediately accepted as fact. When it comes from Republicans, it should be immediately dismissed as propaganda. About right?

 
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as to katrina's casualties, a thousand or ten thousand -- awful, any way its sliced. i don't see how the count is material to the point.

as to by alleged political affiliation -- in the interests on not looking like a fool, mr talldave, maybe you should read me more before you presume to characterize my views. i'm probably close to the opposite of liberal in the postmodern sense. however, it may be that i'm conservative in a way you're perhaps not sophisticated enough to understand -- if i read your slavish, sophmoric blog correctly, you imagine clinton was bad and bush is good. i would eschew democrat and republican alike -- labels for simpleminds, in my opinion, engaged in a fictional ideological dialectic that only stupid people believe exists along party lines. both parties are mere painted shells representing of what was once a legitimate social debate between liberalism and traditionalism -- a debate that has been resolved in the triumph of fascism/socialism, the autocratic inperial management state.

note that it was the democrats who championed this state of affairs, not the republicans, who have merely adopted the mantras in order to gain political currency.

 
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in such a society, barbaric though it may be, cohesion is a daily norm. what is it in the postmodern west?

A car I was following the other day had a tire blowout. I stopped and changed the tire for the driver and her young daughter. In Arizona, barbaric though it may be, cohesion is a daily norm. Don't let big, bad Chi-town wear you down.

 
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