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Monday, January 30, 2012

J'Accuse: Where Is MY Rocket-Powered Jet Pack, Mr. Gingrich?!!!

Well, haven't we all been treated to quite the show lately?  Of course I'm talking about the debates for the Republican Party's primary in Florida, which have degenerated into an unseemly picking over the corpse of Reagan-era optimism, each candidate trying to prize from Zombie Ronnie's rigor mortised grasp the famed Talisman of Americana.  Shameful and disgusting.

The mind readily grasps the allure of laying claim to the mantle of the august Uncle Dutch (i.e., being the only legitimate basis of rule, the "One Meme to Rule Them All").  Therefore it is hardly surprising that its power should attract the devious lust of unsavory creatures from beneath even the dankest rocks in the even the darkest corners of America's mushroom garden.  That is merely natural and expected, actually a necessary function of narrative causality, being all the better to highlight by means of contrast the enlightened munificence and nobility of the True Heir of the king who single-handedly defeated the corrosive and perverse troglodytes of The Evil Empire. What is unbearable is to see how far you have fallen from thine birthright, oh Padawan.  Woefully are we disappointed in thee, Newt Skywalker!

Where is my rocket-powered jet pack, Mr. Gingrich?!!! 

I and millions of others just like me came of age in the waning days of the Soviet Union and were raised on the promise of unlimited horizons in the new frontier that was supposed to supplant the forces of monolithic evil.  Loyal soldiers of the Cold War we were, instilled daily with the knowledge that our confrontations with wily machinations of pencil-pushing bureaucrats must necessarily be crowned with eventual success, our manly revolutionary virtues being altogether unstoppable by the feeble, crippled imaginations of pallid, apparatchik eunuchs hiding behind the skirt of an effeminate and decadent Socialism.  It was a heady, romantic time of dreams and ambition, all fuelled by the unique vision that only you and Ronald Reagan could conjure in the American imagination.  Don't pretend that it wasn't you who inspired Moonraker, Mr. Gingrich, my generation's Beowulf.  It's no use in pretending otherwise.

Yet here we are today in 2012, living in the world that you and my generations' heroes made, a world very different from the sleek futuristic glamour promised us by the Hollywood visions like Mad Max:  Beyond Thunderdome and Blade Runner.  We have a housing market with demand worse than that seen at the nadir of the Great Depression, and plagued by the locusts of foreclosure, fat on the rancid feed of robo-signed title documents crafted by the very devils you told us had been vanquished when the Berlin Wall fell. 

Oh we moved the effective tax rates for multimillionaire "job creators" to the demanded levels alright.  But where, pr(e)y tell are the plenteous "jobs of the future" to be found in today's 10%+ real unemployment landscape?  Walmart?  Is this the "transformation" you had in mind when you came to power in a 1994 landslide?  The landslide powered by the votes of idealistic Gen X-er's like myself, seduced by your Orpheus-streaked, honey-dripping eloquence and roguish good looks?

Where is my Nexus-6 "pleasure model" android wife, Mr. Gingrich?!!!  You seem to be able to spring for a new one every couple of years.

Were we perhaps expecting too much of one man, Mr. Gingrich?  Was your venture into the belly of the beast merely a standard literary trope, part of the proto-typical heroic cycle of Call/Answer/Confrontation/Setback that serves to heighten the dramatic tension before you recoup and sally forth to eventually defeat the dragon?  Perhaps so.  Perhaps so.

But I tend to doubt it.  Such a thematic interpolation at this point in the story seems irretrievably at odds with the character of the mentor you have chosen to guide you to the appointed Confrontation with Evil.  Sheldon Adelson's chequered career path calls to mind more Emporer Palpatine than Obi Wan Kenobi, with an ethical code more along the lines of The Ferengi Rules of Acquisition than Ramon Lull's cult of chivalry.

So here we are, Mr. Gingrich, me and my Gen X cohorts drawing nigh on to mid life, a generation lost in space, with no time left to start again.  Third down and ten to go, you promising (yet again) to find some magic to pull out of your "transformational" thinking cap.  And all I want to know is:


Thursday, January 26, 2012

America's Bad Girlfriend: Mossad Agents Impersonate CIA to Foment Trouble in Iran

Another sad one.  I think everybody's had a Crazy Girlfriend at some time in their youth.  It's all thrills and drama before you're mature enough to realize that the untraceable charges for men's clothing on your cedit card and cryptic messages on your answering machine are signs of a deep, deep feeback loop of Daddy Problems, self-loathing and manipulation.  Unwittingly you've signed yourselves up to play the roles of abuse victim/avenger and rescuer/cuckold.

Few of us have had totally ideal childhoods, but self-aware people usually get past this stuff by the time they've graduated college.  The scripts get more and more alike and the Law of Diminishing Returns kicks in.  If you're altruistic types you'll try to explain the whole thing rationally before retreating to your separate corners in order to get your heads together.  Ideally you'll be able to part on friendly terms, but more often there are some undignified scenes ahead, complete with gouged eye sockets and your shame forever documented in a police report.  From Haaretz:

Israeli Mossad agents posed as CIA officers in order to recruit members of a Pakistani terror group to carry out assassinations and attacks against the regime in Iran, Foreign Policy revealed on Friday, quoting U.S. intelligence memos.
Foreign Policy's Mark Perry reported that the Mossad operation was carried out in 2007-2008, behind the back of the U.S. government, and infuriated then U.S. President George W. Bush.
Perry quotes a number of American intelligence officials and claims that the Mossad agents used American dollars and U.S. passports to pose as CIA spies to try to recruit members of Jundallah, a Pakistan-based Sunni extremist organization that has carried out a series of attacks in Iran and assassinations of government officials.
According to the report, Israel's recruitment attempts took place mostly in London, right under the nose of U.S. intelligence officials.
"It's amazing what the Israelis thought they could get away with," Foreign Policy quoted an intelligence officer as saying. "Their recruitment activities were nearly in the open. They apparently didn't give a damn what we thought."

According to a currently serving U.S. intelligence officer, Perry reports, when Bush was briefed on the information he "went absolutely ballistic."
"The report sparked White House concerns that Israel's program was putting Americans at risk," the intelligence officer told Perry. "There's no question that the U.S. has cooperated with Israel in intelligence-gathering operations against the Iranians, but this was different. No matter what anyone thinks, we're not in the business of assassinating Iranian officials or killing Iranian civilians."
The intelligence officer said that the Bush administration continued to deal with the affair until the end of his term. He noted that Israel's operation jeopardized the U.S. administration's fragile relationship with Pakistan, which was under immense pressure from Iran to crack down on Jundallah.
According to the intelligence officer, a senior administration official vowed to "take the gloves off" with Israel, but ultimately the U.S. did nothing.
"In the end it was just easier to do nothing than to, you know, rock the boat," the intelligence officer said.
Apparently, the Mossad operation caused a fiery debate among Bush's national security team and it was only resolved when U.S. President Barack Obama drastically scaled back joint U.S.-Israel intelligence programs targeting Iran, Perry quotes several serving and retired officers as saying.
The U.S. State Department has vehemently denied any ties to Jundallah and many U.S. intelligence officials remained angry with Israel over the 2007-2008 operation.
"Israel is supposed to be working with us, not against us," Foreign Policy quoted an intelligence officer as saying. "If they want to shed blood, it would help a lot if it was their blood and not ours. You know, they're supposed to be a strategic asset. Well, guess what? There are a lot of people now, important people, who just don't think that's true."
The CIA, the White House, and the Mossad failed to respond to the Foreign Policy report by the time it went to press.              

Monday, January 23, 2012

Would Andrew Adler Be in Guantanamo If He Were Muslim?

It's an important question.  But you can be sure that not even Ron Paul, would mention this in a televised debate.  Still, it'd be interesting to see what sort of response Gingrich comes up with, given his recent financial commitments.  From the Sydney Morning Herald:

ASSASSINATING US President Barack Obama for refusing to wage war on Iran is an opinion Andrew Adler wishes he never published. But that's exactly what the owner of the Atlanta Jewish Times did on January 13 and now he's facing vocal opposition and a Secret Service investigation.

''Give the go-ahead for US-based Mossad agents to take out a president deemed unfriendly to Israel in order for the current vice-president to take his place and forcefully dictate that the United States' policy includes its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies,'' Adler wrote in a piece called ''What would you do?'' Adler issued an apology, saying, ''I very much regret it. I wish I hadn't made reference to it at all.''

However, the Secret Service is not taking the threat so lightly, CNN reported. ''We are aware of it,'' Secret Service spokesman George Ogilvie told the news channel. ''We are taking the appropriate investigative steps.''
While the weekly Atlanta Jewish Times has a modest circulation, found the op-ed piece and brought it into the spotlight.

Adler offered three options for dealing with an American president unwilling to defend Israel fighting a hypothetical war: First, strike Hezbollah and Hamas. Second, attack Iran's nuclear facilities. Third, ''order a hit'' against the president.

Reaction from fellow Jewish journalists has been swift. Chemi Shalev lamented the poor choice of words at ''It will indeed take a long time and a great effort to undo the damage Adler has wrought.''

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Leak That Made America

Well, no surprises in the Iowa caucus.  Gingrich, Bachman and Perry beat themselves into irrelevance and the voters remain undecided whether their priority is to be impoverished by Wall Street wh*res like Mitt Romney or burned at the stake by puritanical simpletons like Rick Santorum.  If the Democratic Party's Achilles heel is a lack of conviction and willingness to fight for its stated beliefs, the Republican Party's fatal flaw is its love of stupidity.

But that's just us, the electorate.  Supposedly the great education and ethical commitment of professional functionaries should mitigate against the creeping culture of mediocrity that's overtaken American culture in the last 50 years.  Does it really, though?  For example, do the judges deciding the fate of Bradley Manning have clue # 1 that their nation's very founding legal principle owes its existence to a state department leak in 1773?  Do any of them remember the Hutchinson Letters Affair?

Benjamin Franklin
Bradley Manning

On the face of it, the late 18th century should, by all rights, have represented a gratifying period of peace and contentment within the British Empire.  The vicious civil wars that marked the 17th century had finally been resolved with the decisive defeat of the Jacobite rebellion in 1745.  A remarkably stable political settlement had been achieved which conclusively destroyed the arbitrary power of absolute monarchy. 

True, it did not satisfy or even address many of the concerns of the age's most idealistic revolutionaries.  And that was exactly why the settlement proved so durable; truly radical  destabilizing forces had been violently eradicated and the remaining disparate threads of British society had been assimilated into an ambiguous consensus.  Oliver Cromwell brutally suppressed John Lillburn and his populist Leveller movement.  Cromwell ensured that no one need concern themselves with Ireland's welfare for another two centuries by murdering one quarter of that island's population in a bloody campaign of genocide and theft.  At home he quashed (seemingly) for all time the politically volatile mix of British Protestant sectarianism by triangulating a non-ideological sort of state Anglicanism that offered some degree of toleration to all non-Catholic denominations. 

Although Cromwell was, by virtue of his control over the military, king in all but name, he refused to assume such a provocative title publicly--providing the illusion if not the substance of representative government.  This belief in representative government became a core defining principle of national identities throughout the Anglophone world.

While the American colonies were generally founded as private commercial ventures with limited rights of self-government granted by crown charter, these odious restrictions were largely mitigated by several unique practical factors.  Owing to the extreme geographic isolation of these colonies from the mother country, the monarchy's domestic preoccupations and general satisfaction with the balance of trade in those earliest years, settlers were provided with a great deal of de facto local autonomy. 

Gradually these private charters were revoked and administration abrogated to the crown--a policy which did have some redeeming aspects.  If anything, this appeared to draw American colonists closer to the mother country than ever before.  Now they theoretically enjoyed direct right of appeal to the crown for the redress of grievances whereas before they were subject to the tyranny of self-interested, petty commercial tyrants.  Now they enjoyed the same right of appeal that all British subjects enjoyed--or so they thought.  Until 1763.

North America was a central theater of the French and Indian War, known as the Seven Years' War in Europe, which concluded in 1763.  While the treaty of Paris settled Britain as the uncontested European hegemon of the North American seaboard, and on the surface at least, seemed to resolve many of the colonists' most anxious worries about security and prospects for economic expansion while simultaneously making them a more integral part of the political part of the empire than ever before, the settlement which followed gradually clarified the deepening divergence of interests between locals and the mother country.

The resentments of American elites like George Washington over petty snubs from the haughty and incompetent behavior of British-born generals may provide fodder for interesting speculations about their personal psychological motivations, but they could be and were for a long time swept under the rug in the interest of the 'common good' and misplaced confidence in the benevolence of the monarch himself.  Over time, however, it became painfully clear that the monarch either could not, did not wish to, understand the sense of alienation engendered by its uneven division of the spoils of war.

Time and time again the crown signed off on policies that were seen as directly opposed to the interest of colonial Americans.  For a long time fly-by-night British-born speculators and military officers received promotional preferments and western land grants far in excess of their colonial-born comrades--each one a direct insult to the sacrifices endured by loyal colonists who lived and died on the front lines of the war.  And yet further sacrifices were demanded of the locals: George III's Proclamation of 1763 specifically forbade further colonial expansion beyond the Appalachian Mountains.  American economic opportunity was at the whim of the Hanoverian kings.

These sort of crony-relationships were really quite par-for-the-course for mercantilist colonial monarchies in the 18th century.  Mostly they had not yet developed professional civil services or progressive taxation schemes, so really there were few viable alternatives to pay for such massive war efforts.  Yet, it came as a profound shock to our naive colonial ancestors who believed so fervently in their natural-born rights as "Englishmen" and the paternal benevolence of the crown.

Suspicion and Unease
Eventually, the final betrayal would be the imposition of a series of tax schemes by the British parliament--a parliament in which the Americans had no direct representation.  This was a direct violation of the social contract which had created their identities as British subjects. 

The 17th century revolutions that had up-ended society and the long lasting settlement that finally quelled them, all balanced on the principle that the British persons could not be subject to arbitrary taxation without formal consent.  This was the cause for which Cromwell had killed Charles I and set off nearly a century of turmoil.  If this principle were abandoned, all bets were off and the American colonists could no longer consider themselves willing parties to the pragmatic Cromwellian settlement, but rather a species of private property to be used and abused at will; an unacceptable indignity.

Before 1773 this betrayal was seen more a vague yet insistent perception rather than a clear and indisputable fact.  More like a dull toothache than a gangrenous compound fracture. Public dissent until that time had been limited to a small cadre of professional troublemakers like Sam Adams in Boston.  He had been dismissed as a filthy congenital malcontent whose activities were limited to comical street theater, wonky manifestos and "committees of correspondence" with like-minded losers.  Of course he was angry--his father had been bankrupted in 1741 when the crown-appointed governor of Massachusetts used his insider influence to destroy the small, proto-credit union he'd established in 1739.  Povos will be povos; there will always be winners and losers in any system.  No need to pay them much mind.

But then Benjamin Franklin leaked the Hutchinson Letters.


Thomas Hutchinson was a Massachusetts native whose family had been prominent in the governance of the colony almost since its first founding.  Like Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, he studied at Harvard and was seen as a bit of a flip-flopper and regarded with suspicion by populists like Sam Adams.  At various points in his career, Hutchinson had both opposed and supported the Stamp Act, both acted as an advocate for Massachusetts residents in negotiations with the crown and ordered searches and seizures of private property to enforce controversial crown policies.  Hutchinson undermined the effectiveness of protest against policies he claimed to oppose though tepid, ineffectual political maneuvering.  He was part of the very small circle of royal patronage that profited from the very tax policies he publicly decried.  And between 1767 and 1772, while Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, Hutchinson wrote some very, very stupid letters to a member of the Privy Council's Board of Trade, comparable to an office within the modern U.S. State Department.

Hutchinson had ordered British army units to quash demonstrations in Boston opposed to arbitrary crown actions.  During one of those demonstrations, soldiers fired into a crowd of unarmed civilians, killing five civilians.  Hutchinson effectively weathered the short-term storm by managing a show trial where 6 of 8 soldiers were acquitted, partially on the basis that the victims were merely a " . . . motley rabble of saucy boys, negroes and mulattoes, Irish teagues and outlandish jack tarrs."[1]  The remaining two had their death sentences commuted from death to a "branding on the thumb".  Public reaction was largely limited to some small, desultory rhetorical protest.

However it did sharpen the focus of public suspicions of Hutchinson, and they were no further pleased to discover in 1772 that he'd accepted a royal salary of £1,500, independent of that granted by the colonial assembly.  So Benjamin Franklin was probably not surprised when he somehow acquired a series of letters written by Hutchinson and his brother-in-law to Thomas Whately, a British MP and member of the Board of Trade, explicitly suggesting a policy of gradually eliminating the colonists' liberties and approving dubious military interventions.  But he was certainly outraged.  Outraged enough to break with centuries of gentlemanly diplomatic protocol and send copies to Thomas Cushing, speaker of the Massachusetts assembly, who published them in June 1773.


The contents of the letters were unambiguous.  Despite his public pieties and rhetorical espousal of American virtues and liberties, Hutchinson was colluding with the Privy Council to disenfranchise colonials and institute a police state to ease the working of the royal patronage network.  A complete account can be found in The Life of Thomas Hutchinson, Royal Governor of the Province of Massachusetts by James Kendall Hosmer, but here are some of the choicest comments from a letter dated 4th October 1768:

 " . . . . Many of the common people have been in a frenzy and talked of dying in defense of their liberties and have spoke and printed what is highly criminal, and too many of rank above the vulgar, and some in public posts, have countenanced and encouraged them until they increased so much in their numbers and opinion of their importance as to submit to government no further than they thought proper. . . ."

 " . . . . They met and spent a week, made themselves ridiculous, and then dissolved themselves after a message or two to the governor which he refused to receive; a petition to the King which I dare say their agent will never be allowed to present, and a result which they have published ill-natured and impudent. . . ."

". . . The government has so long been in the hands of the populace that it must come out of them by degrees . . . "

Americans had long suspected treachery and some, like Sam Adams, acted on their suspicions.  Others, maybe being more timid or conservative, bided their time.  But after Benjamin Franklin leaked these letters, everyone knew the duplicity of Hutchinson and the Board of Trade to be an actual fact.


From the publication of the Hutchinson Letters, the public furore in Massachusetts was continual until the end of the War of Independence.  It sparked a series of further demonstrations, like the November 1733 Tea Party, and repressive counter measures by the British government.  Franklin was dismissed from his post by the Board of Trade and additional troops were sent to Boston under General Thomas Gage.  Then came Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill in 1775.  You know the rest.  I hope.

These royal appointees were probably incapable of responding in any other manner, really.  The eighteenth century's expectations and conceptions of government were very rudimentary and minimal.  Like misguided libertarians of the 21st century, they believed private property to be society's central institution.  Wealth and privilege, to them, were the only criteria for enfranchisement as a practical matter of logistical operations rather than moral or ideological commitments to the citizenry.  Might makes right.

It's a part of America's founding mythology that this isn't so, however.  Our identity was forged in the totally improbable victory of a tiny, practically unarmed civilian underdog against the world's most powerful military machine, pooling our resources together as a united people to secure the common goal of American liberty.  Right makes might, in the long run at least.

Do you figure any of the judges at Manning's trial are aware of this?  Do they know that were it not for a leaker like Bradley Manning, their "ill-natured impudence" in assuming the authority to put a man on trial under the U.S. Constitution would have been regarded as an act of rebellion?


[1]  John Adams' speech at the trial.