29 April 2010
27 April 2010
My frequent correspondent d. eris, who runs the Poli-Tea and Third Party and Independent Daily blogs, did the sensible thing. He asked a genuine socialist whether Obama's program met his party's standards. You can read the answer provided by an Ohio candidate for the U.S. Senate at your leisure. The main point Dan Labotz makes is that "nationalizing" any industry is not the same thing as workers' control -- and the latter is what socialism is all about.
"The Obama administration proposes that a government run by corporations also regulate the corporations in order to save the corporations from destroying themselves in their chaotic struggle to control our nation's wealth and resources," Labotz writes, "Obama's government, like Bush's did, acts as a kind of super-executive committee of corporations, working to coordinate the corporations so they will be more successful in wringing their wealth from us." I'd add that Democrats are at least motivated partly by a desire to preserve working people's jobs that might otherwise have been lost without bailouts, but Socialists are obviously just as concerned with keeping people gainfully employed. They believe, in fact, that workers will be more gainfully employed when they control their workplaces.
What would socialism mean? Here’s an example. The U.S. government now owns almost half of General Motors, so why don’t we turn those plants to green production—solar panels, wind turbines, hydrothermal equipments—to solve both the economic and environmental problems we face? We could as a people democratically elaborate a plan for the banks and corporations which we own, a plan to be carried out by workers collaborating with consumers, advised by environmentalists.We would not run these plants or others for profit, but rather to take care of the human needs of the American people.
In a way, the Socialist and Republican critiques of Democratic party liberalism converge. Both groups condemn a "liberal" political class that claims to know what's best for the rest of us. But while Republicans, Libertarians and most conservatives appeal to the superior wisdom of The Market, Socialists believe the people can govern themselves politically without the tutelage of politicians beholden to capital, and govern the market as well without the tutelage of capital. Now that public dissatisfaction with government is reportedly at a historic height, Socialists might well want to borrow from the reactionary playbook and argue as much against politicians as they already do against corporations. No third party is going to have lasting success unless it can convince people that people can govern the country without the expertise allegedly conferred exclusively by the two major parties. Socialists (as opposed to Bolshevik Communists dedicated to rule by the "vanguard party") have been making that argument all along -- maybe more Americans are finally ready to listen.
26 April 2010
"It is of no concern to me whether this president, or any president, issues prayer proclamations," Thomas wrote this weekend, "I can pray or not, without government encouragement." While he notes that "Republicans and conservatives" may make political hay out of the court controversy, Thomas regards the whole issue with something like a shrug. "What difference does a national day of prayer make?" he asks.
Of course, we should note that Thomas isn't outright opposed to the idea of a nation united in prayer. It's apparent, however, that he considers the National Day of Prayer as currently conceived as vague to the point of worthlessness. "There are many non-theistic religions in America," he notes, "Does a presidential proclamation aim to ask such people to pray to those gods? And if it does, then the entire exercise is meaningless. Sending letters to the same person at different addresses would mean that most aren't delivered."
In other words, unless the people pray to the right God, any presidential encouragement of prayer could be counter-productive. That aside, the idea of the Day of Prayer as a petition for blessings offends Thomas's judgmental sensibility. "Should God be expected to bless a nation that tolerates, even promotes, so much evil?" he asks. We can guess at what he means: abortion, pornography, non-theistic religions, etc. He'd rather hear us repent our "evil" and beg for forgiveness -- again, only so long as we beg the right way. But at least he knows not to expect that, and for that reason he sees no point in any official national call to prayer. So let's give credit where it's due. On this occasion, Cal Thomas would not use politics to force his religion or any religion down our throats. You know what they say about the broken clock....
The columnist concedes immediately that today's actually existing Tea Partiers would never go for an import tax on oil. He blames this on their "hard libertarian right" bias, and if he's right, it also shows us an important difference between 21st century TPs and their supposed role models. The resistance to British mercantile policies often took the form of non-importation and non-consumption. It involved a degree of self-denial and a spirit of modesty (as opposed to ostentation, that is) to which today's TPs may pay lip service without necessarily walking the revolutionary walk. Tea Partiers are supposedly prepared to go without certain government programs in order to close budget deficits, but I doubt they expect to feel hardship from their supposed sacrifice, since they probably don't see themselves benefiting from the programs they'd cut. As self-styled entrepreneurs and Reaganite optimists, the generic Tea Partiers more likely still expect to have it all after having been held back by the tax-fueled regulatory state. They probably expect to tell other people to tighten their belts, not do so themselves.
Friedman's pessimism about the Tea Partiers leads him to look again to his hoped-for new party of the "radical center." Judge the prospects of such a movement for yourselves after reading Friedman exhort his radical-center GTPs to support an emissions-control bill sponsored by Lindsay Graham, John Kerry and Joe Lieberman:
The reason a Green Tea Party should coalesce to support this bill ... is because it will set a price on carbon pollution and help foster commercialization of clean technologies — like hybrids, batteries and solar — at sufficient scale to enable the U.S. to rapidly ramp up when the seriousness of climate change becomes inescapably obvious to all.
A rabble-rouser Friedman isn't, nor does he want to be one. But if he wants to call into being a Green Tea party that "that brings the same passion to cutting emissions that the Tea Party brings to cutting deficits," he's going to have to do better than that. The idea may be sound, but it doesn't sound like anything likely to inspire passion. Maybe if he went on the radio and translated all of the above into "JOBS NOW!!!" it might make an impression. The only way it will, I suspect, is if he puts the horse of job creation before the cart of emissions-reduction and long-term green-industry growth. Friedman may hope that a radical center would be sufficiently aroused by calmly reasoned arguments, but I'm not sure it can be that radical and that reasonable at the same time. However, Friedman may have provided some useful raw material for real radicals to exploit.
25 April 2010
This Sedighi strikes me as the type who, should the Israelis decide to preempt the Iranian nuclear program, would blame the bombings on the enemy within, the sluts of Iran who provoked God into raising his curtain of protection just to teach them a lesson. It would just go to show that while doctrines divide us, a certain type of religious mentality is really the same everywhere.
Redlich also wants the Republican line this fall, and hopes that the Libertarian nod will increase his credibility in Tea Party circles. He may overestimate the libertarian strength of the New York brew, however, since the TPs look more and more like the rallying ground for old fashioned movement conservatism. I wonder, too, whether it's implicitly demeaning to the party that's just tapped him to head their ticket to so openly aspire to another nomination. It's understandable, however, since there won't be a Libertarian line on the November ballot unless the party meets the usual onerous signature quota.
The Times Union article I cite insinuates that New York Libertarians are small and incoherent, noting the nomination for U. S. Senator of a candidate who claims to be more liberal than Chuck Schumer. That candidate is also a comedian; make of that fact what you will. Questions of consistency aside, this "convention" looks especially unimpressive given the belief that there's more receptivity to libertarian ideas these days. This would have been the time to make every effort to make the Libertarian Party look like a mass movement; they may have actually made it one in the process. But it may be that a movement, mass or not, founded on an inherent distrust of politics is inherently handicapped in any effort to make itself into a major party. If there was a moment for libertarians to exploit widespread dissatisfaction with both government and the political process, this should have been it, but I notice little effort made to exploit it. It could be that a party that has little will to govern lacks the will to win elections. It's now up to Redlich to prove me wrong.
23 April 2010
The practical question remains whether the full-spectrum antiwar movement can be motivated into uniting behind candidates who would run on an almost exclusively antiwar platform. It seems unlikely this year. As Iraq slowly calms, Afghanistan isn't generating enough American casualties yet to distract most people from domestic debates. The movement disagrees on too many other issues for it to coalesce behind a single slate of candidates. The next-best-case scenario would be to ensure that antiwar progressives and antiwar conservatives win elections and then vote together against intervention and excessive military spending. The prospects don't look good here, either. Antiwar progressives will be pressured to swallow their differences and defend the President at all costs, while antiwar conservatives will find themselves confronted by the usual neocons as well a Tea Party movement easily goaded into jingoism by pro-war radio. Things will have to get worse in Afghanistan or elsewhere before war becomes a hot issue again.
The good news about efforts to build antiwar coalitions across partisan and ideological lines is the truth they reveal about our political system. They pit people of the left and right against a "center" that pretends to be both at the same time and stages very convincing combats to prove the claim. If more people see such forces arrayed against each other, they may finally question the whole political nomenclature. If "left" and "right" can stand against the "center" on even one issue, can the "center" really be what it claims? Even if they can do nothing else, antiwar opinionators of all persuasions can keep raising that question in the hope that other people will start asking the same questions themselves.
21 April 2010
I'm sure that Olbermann does resent the association of his image with those of his enemies. In his mind, they're inciting people to violence, not he. But the series was not called "America the Incited unto Violence." It's called "America the Angry," and there is no way that Olbermann can deny that his "Countdown" show stokes liberal anger. Oxymoronic as it sounds, it exists, though it may result in the subject no longer being liberal. For that matter, MSNBC is supposed to be the "liberal" news network. Shouldn't that mean some tolerance for criticism of the house talent? An apologist might argue that Fox News would do no different in a comparable circumstance, but isn't that to be expected of the reactionary channel? And isn't a liberal channel supposed to be different? If there's no room for anyone on air to question the channel's chief propagandist, doesn't it prove the charge that MSNBC is essentially a propaganda channel?
According to the New York Times, Donny Deutsch said that he'd tried to be a "purple" voice in a nation and media environment torn between "red" and "blue." It looks like he picked the wrong-colored network.
The first comes from a Cal Thomas column from earlier this week. This article was one of a wave of writings published in reaction to Bill Clinton's speech last week in which the former President warned that excessive rhetoric from the right might lead to violence on the level of the Oklahoma City bombing, the anniversary of which he was observing. They most hysterical reaction from the right came from Rush Limbaugh, who felt that he'd been personally accused of inspiring Tim McVeigh's terrorism. His response to Clinton was to charge in advance that any right-wing terrorism in the near future would be Clinton's fault, not his, that Clinton's predicting it would provoke the crazies to action more than Limbaugh's polemics. By comparison, Thomas's response was lucid. He simply resented what he took to be an insinuation that any criticism of the Obama administration from the right was an incitement to violence. Like other rightist writers, he took Clinton's remarks as further proof of liberal hypocrisy. Like others, he brandished Hillary Clinton's protest from 2003 against alleged conservative attempts to portray critics of the invasion of Iraq as traitors. Clinton's inferred charge against Republican radio, these writers implied, belied his wife's insistence on respect for dissent. None of this actually has to do with the excerpt I'm going to quote, but I thought you should understand the occasion for Thomas's remarks. Clinton's speech provoked him to make a general defense of conservative opinion against the general charge that it is insensitive, hateful, or inappropriately judgemental towards those who don't share conservative values. This required him to clarify what Republicans and related thinkers really mean, in their own minds, when they make their occasionally controversial comments. For my purposes, here's the key paragraph:
If you think the Founders wanted to restrict the power of the federal government and that your taxes on hard work and initiative are too high, you are a greedy uncaring person who disregards the poor and needy. If you think many of the poor and needy made wrong decisions about their lives which contributed to their poverty, and that by making right decisions they could better their circumstances, this proves you are insensitive, judgmental and a religious nut.
Thomas phrases this very carefully. Note the "many" instead of "most," for instance. Does he think that most of the poor are so because of "wrong decisions" rather than economic upheavals over which they had no control? You can't quite tell from this paragraph, but "many" can certainly be very many. However you read it, it's as plain a statement of the "personal responsibility" ethos as you could ask for. On top of that is the presumption that "you," the alleged "insensitive, judgmental ... religious nut," have indisputable knowledge of what those people have to do to better their circumstances. "You" know what the "right decisions" are, and the implicit corollary is that the only right decisions possible are the ones you recommend. After all, at least some of those right decisions must be based on supernatural revelation; otherwise why would anyone call you a religious nut? But whether they are or not, we see something essentially conservative here that transcends the partisan or sectarian particulars of today. However much paleoconservatives, neoconservatives and those in between may disagree amongst themselves on important issues, as conservatives all would agree with a general statement that the answers to society's essential questions are already known and have probably been known for quite a while. That's why they can tell the unfortunate the "right decisions" they need to make, no matter what actually caused those people's misfortune. No matter what's going on with the local, national or global economy, the conservative assumes that "character" can overcome all adversity, and that lack of "character" contributed to individual adversity more than macro-economic factors. I can see why a "bleeding-heart liberal" might call this attitude "insensitive," but "ignorant" may be the correct, if also insensitive term.
The absurdity of "taxes on hard work and initiative," meanwhile, should require no explanation from me, except the note that income is taxed whether it is based on hard work and initiative or not. That lack of discrimination is lost on those who feel every tax as a penalty or an unjustified bailout levy for the losers who made all the wrong decisions. But the resentment of taxes is not essentially a conservative trait, so we can let that matter rest.
20 April 2010
Gerrymandering is arguably an inevitable response to a constitutional requirement that representation in "popular" houses of bicameral legislatures (the House of Representatives, the New York State Assembly) be based on population rather than geography. If every x number of people are entitled to a representative, how do you determine which people will vote as a unit to elect that person? Good-government types trust that there's a rational way to divide the nation and the states into represented districts. New York Uprising wants to take the districting process out of the hands of elected politicians and give the power to an ideally nonpartisan citizens' board. The end that people like Koch have in mind is to make all elections more competitive. They hope that eliminating incumbent complacency will remove some roadblocks to more extensive political reform.
I'm not sure if there is a rational way to divide states into districts according to population. I don't mean that any way you try is automatically going to be partisan or biased -- just that the problem doesn't necessarily allow for a rational solution. The insistence on numbers as a basis for representation seems to be a legacy of bicameralism and the distinction that concept draws between the people and the land, or the landless and the landed. Once U.S. Senators became subject to popular election, the bicameral concept really became obsolete; Senators as well as Representatives represent the people. So why can't Representatives as well as Senators represent the land? Geographically-based representation is probably the closest thing to rational representation that you're going to get. On the state level, that would mean the counties, and it could mean the counties on the federal level as well, with each getting as many seats in a legislature as population merits. Since many congressional districts encompass several counties, my idea would mean a larger legislature, and perhaps an unwieldy one, though arguably a more democratic one and one more likely to produce representatives of actual local interests instead of national partisans. This isn't a fully formed idea, just one that occurred to me while reading the news from New York.
In any event, the reforms demanded by Koch and endorsed by the candidates will still require the consent of those legislators whose security in office is theoretically threatened by the plan. That fact may doom the idea, but dissatisfaction with incumbents seems strong enough this season that challengers of any party could only help their chances by promising to carry out the reform. But this is one of those reforms that could undermine your incumbent, the guy you usually think is doing a better job than the rest of those bums. That's what defenders of gerrymandering will tell you if they dare speak up. Since there's no such thing as an indispensable man in a democratic republic, that argument should have little impact -- right? Just in case, however, let's think of this the way the Citizens Union group recommends: do you want to keep a system that "allows legislators to choose their voters before the voters choose them," or do you think we can do better?
19 April 2010
Interestingly, many Americans remain unwilling to believe that there's something wrong with our politics on a systemic level. A majority of respondents told Pew that individual officeholders, not the system, were the real cause of today's troubles. It's worth emphasizing that professed Republicans are the most likely to take this view, 60% of them saying so as opposed to 50% of Democrats and 51% of independents. This discrepancy may be explained by a strong Republican conviction that the nation's problems could be solved quite simply by replacing as many Democrats as possible with Republicans.
According to Pew, Americans are dissatisfied with bureaucracy as well as with legislators. Public opinion of government agencies has plunged across the board with two odd exceptions. By one percentage point, we hold a more favorable view of the CIA than we did in 1997 -- but the favorable rating for the Internal Revenue Service has jumped up by nine points over the same period.
American dissatisfaction extends to the private sector as well. Banks and financial institutions as a category have the worst rating of all, 69% of respondents deeming them a negative influence on the country. "Large corporations" are similarly malign for 64% of respondents, but "small businesses" are regarded favorably by 71% of them, and "technology companies" by 68%. In mixed news for Democrats, Congress and the federal government are deemed a negative influence by 65% of respondents, but those surveyed are split on the Obama administration, 45% viewing it negatively, 45% taking the opposite view. Apart from small businesses and tech companies, the institutions regarded most favorably are churches (63%) and colleges (61%). The different opinions on small and big businesses point at a populist mood, and not so much a preference for the private over the public sector as a distrust of anything big -- including big media, big labor, etc. The respondents don't want government to "control" the economy, but they do want more regulation of the financial sector in particular. This does not, taken as a whole, look like an endorsement of the Republican worldview. The GOP may benefit from the angry mood for one election cycle, but unless a new Republican majority takes what would have to be radical action to favor small businesses over corporations, they'll only find themselves on the receiving end of the same anger two years later. Whether by then more people will have finally changed their minds about the system being sound remains to be seen.
18 April 2010
The judge refuted the prevailing reasoning that argued that a call to prayer itself does not violate the First Amendment so long as it's vague enough not to endorse any specific faith or denomination. Her finding is that prayer itself is inherently religious, and that no matter how broadly religion is defined, a presidential call to prayer is, in effect, an endorsement of prayerfulness as opposed to the irreligious attitude that there is no one or nothing to pray to. The call to prayer might be defended as a mere invitation, and implicitly an invitation to believers only, but the plaintiffs in this case have just as much right to feel that they are being exhorted against their consciences to perform an offensive act. It might be easy to argue that there's nothing compulsory about the call, but it's just as easy to argue that a presidential endorsement of prayer as an appropriate activity for any or all Americans could have a chilling effect on those who decline to pray. While religious activists have argued that the First Amendment does not confer "freedom from religion," Judge Crabbe says that it does. That makes sense; there can only be freedom of religion if there is also freedom not to be religious.
In our stupid age, it was necessary for the judge to add that she was not ruling that prayer itself was illegal. Don't be surprised, though, if radio heads tell you over the next week that that's exactly what she ruled. There are more formidable arguments against her position, however, in the form of precedents. Even our "deist" early presidents issued calls to prayer or thanksgiving, as did onetime and possibly lifelong agnostic Abraham Lincoln. Even those leaders who denied the literal truth of scripture endorsed, if only for the sake of public order, the idea of a supreme being, gratitude to which for its creation of life was a prerequisite for morality. Only in very recent times have professional fundraising atheists made a stink about it. Speaking for myself, I've never felt myself under pressure to pray as a result of any presidential statement. I've gone for years at a time happily unaware that I'd been encouraged to pray on a certain date of the year, and it goes without saying that I've never suffered for not doing so. Some nonbelievers are more sensitive on this point than I am, and some have an active interest in silencing religion altogether. But the real issue here seems to be whether anyone really feels oppressed by the call to prayer, or whether they're merely offended by it. I'm offended by it intellectually but not emotionally, and I can tell myself that the call is really aimed only at those already inclined to respond. I've never felt a need to put an end to the National Day of Prayer, but at the same time, it's not a big deal if it does end, apart from the stink it'll raise among the professionally pious. When you look at it, the only person who's had his rights limited by this ruling is the President of the United States, and despite his low-risk defiance of the ruling, I'd like to think that the President does not feel that much less free this weekend.
For more on the history of the National Day of Prayer and its unsurprising origins in anti-communist religiosity, read here.
16 April 2010
Some local CPs did hit the streets. According to this illustrated report, a local CP held a counter-demonstration in Boise. Fifty CP members showed up to protest the protesters in Wichita yesterday. These are the only counter-demos I've found reports for. CPs elsewhere are still in the organizational stages, from what I could tell. I've seen some pro-tea commentators note this as a failure of the coffee movement, but the TPs themselves inflated the prospect of coffee-driven confrontation, attributing to the CPs, for instance, the inane infiltration strategy proposed by a separate "crash the tea party" organization. It may be, also, that the CPs' mandate for reasonable, rancor-free discussion will make manifestations like those in Boise and Wichita exceptions as a rule. It'd be ironic, from a historical perspective, if the coffee party claimed to represent a "silent majority" while the tea party boasts of its numbers on the ground as proof that it really represents the majority. That would be a reversal of the opposing lines of forty years ago, when President Nixon claimed support from a "silent majority" that outnumbered the antiwar protesters then flooding the streets of America. The tea party's real contribution to American history may be its proof of right-wingers' willingness, after generations of abhorring mob behavior, to show their strength in the streets. What contribution the coffee party will make remains to be seen.
15 April 2010
The issue seems to be less about Stein's opinions than about his appearance of partisanship. Despite his group's name, Stein denies attempting to speak for the national tea-party movement, such as it is, and is considering changing his page's name in order to eliminate the offending reference. Like it or not, the Pentagon regards the Tea Parties as a partisan phenomenon, but the ACLU is understandably concerned that a ban on "partisan" expression amounts to a ban on dissent itself.
This looks like a different sort of case from those we heard about during the Bush presidency, when soldiers were discouraged from publicly criticizing the President's conduct of the war in Iraq. It's an accepted part of the whole "commander-in-chief" thing that soldiers have no business publicly questioning the military policies of the White House. Whether the same principle should apply when the subject isn't military or foreign policy is arguably another matter. If we can take Stein as his word, his opposition to healthcare reform doesn't compromise his readiness to obey Obama's orders as commander-in-chief. He seems to think now that he might be able to express his dissent so long as he doesn't label himself as a Tea Partier. If explicit partisanship was the problem initially, he may be right. However, since we live in a Bipolarchy there'll be a temptation to view any criticism of Obama's domestic policies (unless it comes from his left) as "partisan." Whether that's fair is subject to debate. A separate but related problem brings us back to the question of representation. Whether or not he claims to represent a political party, any public commentary by Stein under his military byline (so to speak) would raise the question of whether he speaks for the United States military or any branch of it. I doubt whether Stein ever meant to suggest that his views were those of the Marine Corps as a whole, but identifying himself as a Marine might give his views a kind of authority, if not credibility, that they might not otherwise merit.
My gut feeling is that any soldier has as much right as any civilian to criticize his commander-in-chief's policies, foreign and domestic, civilian and military. If we don't accept "I was just obeying orders" as a defense of accused war criminals, we have to recognize soldiers' right to question the President's commands and his policies. At the same time, I think restraints on partisanship within the military are reasonable. You can make a more plausible argument for them on the basis of "unit cohesion" than you can about some other military rules. A middle way should be available for people like Stein, and such a way is available. It'd be a simple matter of swallowing one's pride and emulating the Founding Fathers. In other words, come up with a pseudonym and publish anonymously like Madison, Hamilton, et al did throughout their careers. That way you don't represent anything but your opinions, which would stand or fall on the strength of your argument. Anonymity and pseudonyms came into disrepute at some point because they seemed like evasions of accountability, but if we don't believe in punishing people for expressing political opinions, and if we want to debate policies and principles instead of practising identity politics, then there's no reason why someone like Stein can't express himself without anyone knowing he's a soldier, or even a Stein. I do this all the time and I'm not even a military man. The same option should be available to everyone.
14 April 2010
13 April 2010
This was attached to an "Audit the Fed" motto that most likely marked the signbearer as a Ron Paul supporter. Along with the signs were the usual array of flags, including your standard U.S. flag, the "Gadsden" ("Don't Tread on Me") flag, and a design I hadn't seen before. Check it out for yourselves.
It turns out that this is a "Revolution2" flag invented and marketed by a reactionary entrepreneur who explains the symbolism here. It looks like the number 13 may end up being as mystically significant to the Tea Partiers as the number 19 is to the Nation of Islam. To the extent that this fellow's money-making scheme is adopted as the standard of the Tea Parties, it'll be another deal-breaker for people who may have problems with wasteful government and crony capitalism but don't want to be associated with anything that looks like the Christian Right.
Meanwhile, today's demonstration may also be a testing ground for Jason Levin's plan to discredit the Tea Parties by infiltrating them and exaggerating their least pleasant tendencies. Albany is the dateline for an Associated Press story detailing Levin's scheme, which he hopes to see play out across the country during scheduled "Tax Day" protests this Thursday. Levin elaborates on his plans on his own website. While he seems to be aiming at a "Yes Men" like parody through reductio ad absurdam of Tea Party beliefs, his reference to instigating the TPs' "pre-existing propensity for paranoia and suspicion" may hint that he may not even feel it necessary to show up. His goal may be to get real TPs wondering whether their more vehement compatriots are "for real" or not. However it unfolds, Levin's conspiracy shows the extent to which many people on the left have given up on trying to engage the TPs or change their minds -- admittedly, the TPs themselves have given enough signals to convince people that the effort would be pointless.
However that plays out, there was an indisputably genuine counter-demonstration under way in Albany this morning. Across the street and far enough down hill so that the two groups would not see and most likely not hear each other, a group of Democratic sympathizers were on the sidewalk declaring their thanks to the ruling party for passing a health-care reform bill. If one of today's demonstrations looked like "astroturf," I hate to say, this was the one. And so I left each group in its little free-speech zone, unable or unwilling to communicate with each other, an American Bipolarchy in miniature. It's the beginning of a week of activity encompassing Tax Day and the Lexington-Concord anniversaries that have acquired dark connotations in recent history. It could get more interesting soon.
Update: the local paper estimates the turnout at about 200 people, with no count for the counter-demo. The writer is more concerned with the Carl Paladino angle than with anything the TPs had to say for themselves. For those outside New York, the businessman and self-proclaimed Tea Party candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination has been called out for sending racist and pornographic images in private e-mails. The charge earned him the "Worst Person in the World" award for last night from the Keith Olbermann show, which Paladino might wear as a badge of honor if it had anything to do with his political beliefs. In any event, for the moment Paladino represents no one but himself, but it's still fair to ask an authentic TP what they think of a man who actively solicits their support. It would be wrong to hold anyone but Paladino responsible for his foibles.
12 April 2010
Note: Paul deserves extra credit for daring to say the obvious to the obtuse: the President is not a socialist. In the congressman's opinion Obama is a "corporatist," a label with which many on the left might agree.
11 April 2010
I found it hard to care about this apparent prayer for a politician's death because the only thing original about it was the insertion of Gov. Christie's name. Do a Google search with the names Swayze, Jackson, etc., and the phrase "Obama is my favorite president" and you get 1,060 matches as of tonight. I saw such things months ago, long before anyone got worked up over what the divinity might do with Christie. You might be able to insert the name of the politician of your choice and get a hit, whether that now-accursed figure is Democratic or Republican.
The form letter to God is just an attempt to smear a clown smile on the ugly face of American public opinion circa 2010. More and more people seem ready to wish politicians of the "enemy" camp dead, and there's no point in trying to label this a phenomenon of the right or the left. Partisan ideology has whipped passions to a frenzy, so that people of the right fear the imminence of tyranny, while people of the left fear the imminence of murder, mob violence, armed insurrections, etc. Objectively, the fear of right-wing violence seems more plausible than the Obama administration imposing martial law or otherwise suppressing civil rights. But in our current environment the likelihood of left-wing violence in reprisal for or anticipation of rightist outbursts can only grow. For this, the right will have itself to blame. If it happens, it will be because the right has so uncompromisingly refused accommodation with the liberal/progressive agenda and so consistently characterized it as socialistic, communistic, fascistic (!) and tyrannical that they are likely someday to be confronted by exactly the sort of demon they've accused their current foes of being. If reactionaries fear the loss of their freedoms and hate the idea of a "nanny state," their opposite numbers fear being thrown to the wolves of the marketplace or being literally left to die from poverty, and hate the thought that citizenship means no fellow feeling, no collective loyalty, as far as Republicans, Tea Partiers, and others are concerned. Worst of all, no one with power has any interest in calming these terrors or weaning everyone off their ideological red meat. No one has yet successfully marketed an idea that might reconcile personal responsibility with social responsibility. Until someone does, the least we can expect are more stupid prayers, which are at least harmless. If no one does, we may as well all say our prayers.
09 April 2010
Did Governor Jindal of Louisiana and ex-Governor Palin of Alaska not comprehend what Gingrich was saying? Each one basically told him to drop dead today. They like the sound of "Party of No," and Jindal, for one, likes it better as the "Party of Hell, No!" Both affirmed that it was perfectly fine to be the PN when faced with unconstitutional or merely unsound proposals from the majority. You would think from the way they reacted that Gingrich had told them to say Yes to the Democrats, when he had said nothing of the sort. Gingrich was making the strategic point that it might hurt his party to be seen opposing everything while offering no constructive suggestions of their own. He's conscious enough of the world outside the movement bubble to recognize that the PN label might be a pejorative for many people. He gave no Republican cause to believe that a PY would stand for acquiescence in "secular socialism" or anything like it. Yet Palin and Jindal responded with exactly the sort of obtuse bullheadedness that Gingrich warned against. I stand by all I said against him in the article below, but news like this makes the man look like a mental titan compared to his competition. They're staking their party's future on the U.S. being a Nation of No, and they may be right about that -- at least when the subject is their own presidential ambitions.
The most interesting moment in the debate (in the modern moderator-plus-prerecorded-questions format; Lincoln and Douglas need not apply) came when Rove described the Democratic healthcare-reform legislation as a kind of Bernie Madoff scheme. Dean's comeback was to ask Rove, "Who allowed Madoff?" By conventional debate standards, this did nothing to refute Rove's charge. In any event, the Republican rejoined by reminding the crowd that Madoff began his scam during the Carter administration, and was only brought down by investigators under George W. Bush. Dean scoffed at the latter claim, factual though it was, but Rove affirmed that Madoff was taking his lumps in prison today because of actions undertaken by the Bush administration.
While Madoff himself has claimed that he only began to engage in fraudulent practises during the 1990s, Rove's account reflects the opinion of federal prosecutors who claim that he had begun his Ponzi practices back in the 1970s. When Dean blurted out an assumption that Republican misregulation or indifference allowed Madoff to flourish, Rove countered that Democrats under Carter had neglected to nip Madoff in the bud. For the sake of argument, let's adopt Rove's history of Madoff. In this account, the evil one began his nefarious scheme under the noses of Democratic appointees. From then until 2008, Madoff continued to operate under the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush (Republican), Bill Clinton (Democrat) and for most of the George W. Bush administration (Republican). During this time, Democrats controlled both houses of Congress most of the time until 1994, and Republicans ran both houses from then until 2006. While suspicions were first expressed back in 1992, the earliest known whistleblower denounced Madoff in 1999, under a Democratic President and a Republican Congress, and was rebuffed for years afterward by the SEC. Madoff fell from grace in the last weeks of a Republican presidency, under a Democratic Congress.
If you assume, as both Dean and Rove do implicitly, that the party in power is responsible for keeping an eye on investment brokers and preventing Madoff-style practices, then objective observers must conclude that both parties dropped the ball. On their own terms, Democrats and Republicans alike "allowed" Madoff to do his thing. Whether the government under either large party could have caught Madoff early is a subject for another debate. The moral of this story, as told by Rove and Dean, is that both parties either failed to notice or simply ignored the Madoff malignancy. If voters hope to elect leaders who'll prevent the next big Ponzi scheme, whether it comes from Congress or Wall Street, the cumulative testimony of two party leaders should show them that the institutions of the American Bipolarchy aren't cut out for the job.
08 April 2010
Groupthink is a distasteful notion, and it seems wrong to assert that there's an appropriate ideology for blacks. After all, blacks were once as rigidly Republican as they now seem dogmatically Democratic. It was only in the 1930s that blacks began to cross the bipolarchy divide, attracted by the (often ill-fulfilled) promises of the New Deal and repelled by the apparent indifference of Republicans to Depression poverty. As late as 1960 as iconic a black celebrity as Jackie Robinson could endorse Nixon over Kennedy. But the unholy alliance of entrepreneurial conservatism and Southern racism tipped the balance apparently beyond recovery at the same time that the racists crossed the divide in the opposite direction, some after a third-party sojourn under George Wallace's standard. When the Republican party decided that state's rights mattered more than individual rights, they imposed a heavy handicap on themselves with blacks. But Obama's election may have convinced many people, blacks included, that the civil rights struggle is over, whatever inequalities remain. It's inevitable that some blacks, especially if they become entrepreneurs and acquire the pathological mindset to which that class is so susceptible, will question why they should base their political loyalties on old news. It stands to reason that blacks are just as likely as any group to look around them and resent other people getting "breaks" for being "lazy" that they don't see themselves getting. It stands likewise to reason that black entrepreneurs would learn the same contempt for mere working people or the unemployed that their counterparts of other races so often feel. It is probably a form of wishful racism to assume that blacks might have some innately greater sense of social solidarity or more entrenched hostility to the every-man-for-himself ideology of entrepreneurial Republicanism than other demographic groups. One might still assume so as long as entrepreneurial Republicans remain a wretched minority in their midst, but we should definitely avoid any impulse to call them race traitors -- especially if we don't belong to the race in question. But blacks, too, should avoid the temptation. If people like that are traitors to anyone, it's to all of us.
The left is used to dismissing the former charge as nonsense -- especially socialists who see Democratic regulations as far short of the ideal. It's more unusual for a writer from the left to dismiss the latter charge of "market fundamentalism" as nonsense. That's what Dean Baker does in the Spring issue of Dissent. I mean that literally.
"Progressives have wailed against 'market fundamentalism' for the last quarter-century," Baker writes, "They complain that conservatives want to eliminate the government and leave everything to the market. This is nonsense. The Right has every bit as much interest in government involvement in the economy as progressives. The difference is that conservatives want the government to intervene in ways that redistribute income upward. The other difference is that the Right is smart enough to hide its interventions, implying that the structures that redistribute income upward are just the natural working of the market."
Examples of upward redistribution include the bank bailouts and, most relevantly to current policy debates, a patent monopoly system that allows exclusive patent holders -- the pharmaceutical companies -- to charge far more for drugs than they could in a truly competitive market. In such a market, Baker writes, competitors would drive prices down by marketing their own versions of generic drugs. Baker calculates that doing away with patent monopolies might cut the collective cost of prescription drugs by 90%.
"The idea that a 'free market' is allowing some people to get incredibly rich and causing other people to be poor of financially insecure is nonsense," Baker resumes. In the case of patents, government intervention was justified as an incentive for research, but corporate research itself is arguably redundant given what the government spends on medical research. Baker proposes replacing patent monopolies with a "prize" system that would pay patent holders for the right to release their products into the generic market. This would be a case of changing market rules, which are made by government, not nature, to ensure "better distributions of income." If greater competition benefits the most people, a progressive government should structure markets to encourage competition. Baker takes this premise to a daring extreme by suggesting that Americans be allowed to buy into the vaunted health-care programs of other industrialized nations. While the idea seems far-fetched if it means ordinary Americans making regular trips to Europe, Baker's point is that competition with the existing American health-care system should result in reducing that system's own prices. Republicans might make arguments against such a proposal, but they wouldn't be able to argue in the name of free markets.
Baker claims that progressives only make Republicans look good in the eyes of some people by calling them "free market fundamentalists" He writes: "There are no free market fundamentalists in this debate, just conservatives who want to pretend that their rules are the natural working of the market." Whether he includes libertarians in this statement is unclear, but even leaving them out, I'm not sure if Baker is right. There may have been a void separating reality from propaganda when progressives first posited the existence of these fundamentalists, but nature and "the market" alike abhor a void. My impression is that there are "free market fundamentalists" out there. They are the naive populists in the tea party movement, those to whom the bailouts of 2008 revealed the existence of a "crony capitalism" abhorrent to their own ideals of rewarding success and punishing failure. They denounced the collusion of Big Business and Big Government while retaining an ideal of a free market in which Big Business would not be able to bend the rules in order to save itself from the consequences of bad decisions. The flaw in their assumption is the notion that dismantling Big Government would effectively deny Big Business any means to cheat. This assumption fails to consider the possibility that Big Business itself (or "power" or "wealth") calls Big Government into being for its own reasons rather than those of the bureaucrats and regulators these "fundamentalists" despise. The politicians Baker criticizes may well be hypocrites, but there are true believers on the ground all over the country, and abandoning the critique of "free market fundamentalism" simply because some exponents are liars can only allow a misguided mindset to spread among voters, where it can hurt progressives the most. Baker makes a good case for directing the critique more accurately, but he doesn't prove that the "myth" can be safely ignored.
06 April 2010
Quoting Paddy Chayefsky's screenplay for Sidney Lumet's Network is kind of like singing "Born in the U.S.A." at a patriotic rally. It doesn't quite mean what you think it means. While anyone may agree with the literal sentiment expressed on air by Howard Beale, it should be remembered that, in the film, these were the words of a man who was losing his mind. When he exhorts his viewers to go to their windows and repeat his slogan, the fact that so many do so is not shown as a Capra-esque uprising of the common people, but as the rapid viral spread of a mass psychosis, accompanied by scary lightning flashes in the night sky. It should also be remembered that Beale's sermons inspire no rebellion or reform movement that the film notices. He only inspires more people to watch his news program, which degenerates from a dry news summary to a prophetic vision of today's rantfests from O'Reilly to Olbermann. According to Network, Howard Beale's ranting is not a remedy for the ills of American society, but a symptom. Carl Paladino offers himself as a remedy with the same sort of rhetoric about running government on business principles that politicians have used for more than a century. But the fact that he commends himself to us by declaring himself mad, in the language of a fictional madman, suggests a different diagnosis.
05 April 2010
In a recent interview, McCain denies ever calling himself or considering himself a maverick. This report makes the paradoxical suggestion the senator, supposedly in the race of his life against a kind of maverick in the form of J.D. Hayworth, believes he must disavow his past maverickism in order to retain or regain the loyalty of the base of primary voters who demand ideological orthodoxy in their nominees. But this may be to overanalyze the case. Isn't it possible that he just forgot?...
Most of the professed conservatives approached by the magazine seem more pessimistic than ever about the prospect of cross-ideological or counter-ideological coalition against an interventionist foreign policy now perpetuated by the Obama administration. William S. Lind, for instance, fears that leftists will reject anyone who doesn't share their "ideology of cultural Marxism, aka political correctness," the purpose of which, Lind claims, is to "poison Western culture." Paul Gottfried worries that most leftists are hypocritical when denouncing wars carried out by right-wingers, muting their criticism (he charges) now that Democrats control the war machine. He also suspects that leftists don't share the paleoconservative fear of executive power that fuels the latter group's opposition to the current wars. Justin Raimondo takes a different approach, arguing that there's no real Left in the U.S. anymore in the traditional anti-imperialist sense. He also admits to hurting the prospects for coalition when he explains that he can keep up flagging opposition to the war on terror among rightists by calling it "Obama's War." Donald Devine makes an odd demand that leftists recognize Ronald Reagan as an antiwar President, while Thomas E. Woods complains that leftists are happy to make common cause with neocons to slam his unorthodox interpretation of U.S. history. All of these writers also concede that their minority standing within the Republican party or conservative movement in general gives them little influence and little leverage. Gottfried, for instance, states bluntly that there's "no recognizable advantage for the Left to be allied to marginalized people on the Right."
The liberals and progressive participants in the symposium all express disappointment with Obama's failure to wrap up the wars quickly. They also recognize that many leftists remain Democratic partisans who are reluctant to risk compromising Obama's domestic agenda by pressuring him on foreign policy. Restating the obvious, they also note that the antiwar paleocons don't exactly bring much to the table in terms of numbers. Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos uses his space to denounce mainstream Republicans for using national security as a club to beat Democrats. "If Republicans quit trying to score political points by accusing Democrats of being weak on national security, then Democrats could quit being cowards," he writes -- forgetting that he's addressing exactly those Republicans (or plain conservatives) who aren't doing that. Robert Dreyfuss notes that the Tea Partiers have mostly come out in favor of war ("vociferously, if not intelligently") and predicts that "a two-winged bird is unlikely to take flight, if for no other reason than the fact that its left wing is many times heavier than its right wing."
Nevertheless, as someone closer to the left I have to say that the paleoconservatives have probably been the most principled opponents of the war on terror simply because it has forced them into conflict with their normal political home in the Republican party, while opposition imposed no such risk on Democrats until 2009. What the paleocons can contribute disproportionately to their numbers is a kind of moral authority, if only on this particular issue. They embody the fact that anti-interventionism is not strictly a "left" or "Democratic" stance. That's why they're needed in a broader movement no matter how few they are.
The writers in the symposium too often get trapped in lingering partisanship, criticizing left or right when they really mean Democrats or Republicans. A few transcendent moments shine through, however. Lind calls "democratic capitalism" the "third great totalizing ideology of the 20th century" (after communism and fascism, that is) and states that the U.S. is really a one-party state -- ruled by "the Establishment Party" for whom "war is a racket that pays well." John V. Walsh of CounterPunch notes that anti-imperialists and anti-interventionists have been "defeated because we have been divided," and "the deepest fissure is loyalty to the political parties of empire, Democrat or Republican, in place of a unifying commitment to the principle of nonintervention. As long as this crippling nightmare persists, we shall have empire and its necessary acolyte, war." A rightist and leftist agree that an Establishment that doesn't include them welcomes war. The question for the future is whether they can resist the impulse to war on each other in order to end the wars that imperil us all.
The ultimate objective of this strategy--to wipe out poverty by establishing a guaranteed annual income--will be questioned by some. Because the ideal of individual social and economic mobility has deep roots, even activists seem reluctant to call for national programs to eliminate poverty by the outright redistribution of income. Instead, programs are demanded to enable people to become economically competitive. But such programs are of no use to millions of today's poor. For example, one-third of the 35 million poor Americans are in families headed by females; these heads of family cannot be aided appreciably by job retraining, higher minimum wages, accelerated rates of economic growth, or employment in public works projects. Nor can the 5 million aged who are poor, nor those whose poverty results from the ill health of the wage earner. Programs to enhance individual mobility will chiefly benefit the very young, if not the as yet unborn. Individual mobility is no answer to the question of how to abolish the massive problem of poverty now. It has never been the full answer. If many people in the past have found their way up from poverty by the path of individual mobility, many others have taken a different route.
Organized labor stands out as a major example. Although many American workers never yielded their dreams of individual achievement, they accepted and practiced the principle that each can benefit only as the status of workers as a whole is elevated. They bargained for collective mobility, not for individual mobility; to promote their fortunes in the aggregate, not to promote the prospects of one worker over another. And if each finally found himself in the same relative economic nevertheless clear relationship to his fellows, as when he began, it was nevertheless clear that all were infinitely better off. That fact has sustained the labor movement in the face of a counter pull from the ideal of individual achievement.
But many of the contemporary poor will not rise from poverty by organizing to bargain collectively. They either are not in the labor force or are in such marginal and dispersed occupations (e.g., domestic servants) that it is extremely difficult to organize them. Compared with other groups, then, many of today's poor cannot secure a redistribution of income by organizing within the institution of private enterprise. A federal program of income redistribution has become necessary to elevate the poor en masse from poverty.
In retrospect, Cloward and Piven's proposal seems incredibly naive in failing to anticipate the sort of reactionary backlash that we'd take for granted now. But their wisdom or foresight is irrelevant to the historical question of whether their article actually influenced anyone from the time of its writing to the present day. The "strategy" was first exposed by Rudolph Giuliani while he was still mayor of New York, according to David Horowitz, a reactionary publicist credited with doing the most to popularize the idea. While Horowitz claims that Giuliani denounced Cloward and Piven by name, the mayor doesn't do so in a transcript of the speech Horowitz quotes from, though he may have done so elsewhere. (Another scholar explains that Giuliani name-checked them in a written draft of the speech, but left them out of his spoken remarks, apparently not yet realizing the power of their dread names) I have no reason to doubt that Republicans were aware of Cloward and Piven (who remained active authors until Cloward's death) at that time, but I don't know if anyone claimed, or if they even really claim today, that the activists' article was the single decisive inspiration for any government action, partisan strategy or activist movement. Horowitz claims that Cloward and Piven were instrumental in forming the National Welfare Rights Organization, a group he accuses of intimidating welfare workers, but he has no smoking gun linking the authors to that great satan, ACORN. Like most conspiracy theorists, he and his fellow researchers depend on circumstantial evidence based on presumed affinities among common enemies. That the founders of ACORN and related groups in the Tea Party demonology shared beliefs and goals in indisputable. Whether that proves that anyone after 1966 consciously followed a Cloward-Piven blueprint is less certain. Rightist researchers might want to trace a history of citations in progressive or radical publications if they want to prove the long life and influence of "The Weight of the Poor," but I suppose they assume that conspirators wouldn't be so blatant about where they got their marching orders.
The "Cloward-Piven" conspiracy theory has understandable appeal for reactionaries because "The Weight of the Poor" is written in a way guaranteed to scare them. The authors knew what they wanted and felt no shame about wanting it. I suspect, however, that it'd spook most modern-day Democrats. I can imagine an experiment along the lines of those conducted by tricksters who submit unattributed texts of the Declaration of Independence or Bill of Rights to politicians who end up rejecting them as extremist proposals. In this case, I'd bet that if you sent your Democratic Representative or Senator an anonymous copy of "The Weight of the Poor," he or she would trash it at once as an outburst from the loony left. What that says about Cloward, Piven or today's Democrats I leave for you to determine.
02 April 2010
Cantalamessa and I may not agree on what was the most shameful aspect of anti-semitism, but until he contradicts me I have to assume that he was comparing the perceived persecution of the Pope and the Vatican hierarchy not just with pogroms, but with the Holocaust itself. He pre-emptively excused himself by saying that a Jewish correspondent first made the suggestion to him. This same person, Cantalamessa said, reported his indignation at the "violent and concentric attacks against the church, the pope and all the faithful of the whole world."
From this account you might expect to learn, on Good Friday of all days, that mobs across the planet are besieging cathedrals and stoning Catholic school students. They aren't? Then that's why Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa is a late entrant in our Idiot of the Week competition. Vatican spokesmen are distancing themselves from Cantalamessa, stressing that he did not speak as a representative of the Holy See. That should help make it obvious to even the most obtuse, including Cantalamessa himself, that this comment is no concentric attack against his church, but a boot to his own thick head.
Google "Guardians of the Free Republics" and you get two possible destinations. One is pretty dodgy looking, demanding that you click an "accept" button before you see any content. The other looks like the real deal, or at least it's the one reporters have looked at before describing the group as advocates of a "Restore America" plan. The home page affirms that the "Guardians" are dedicated to "behind-the-scenes peaceful reconstruction of the de jure institutions of government without controversy, violence or civil war." On the other hand, the Restore America Plan was supposedly drafted "[a]fter consultation with high ranking members of the United States armed forces." Are these consultants expected to assist in implementing the plan?
What is the plan? It seems to consist of dismantling the federal government (aka "the territorial jurisdiction United States Federal Corporation (corp. ref. 28 U.S.C. 3002) posing as the de jure United States of America."), and reducing the nation to a state of common-law anarchy without licensing, registration or other "intrusive" regulations. We seem to be looking at paleo-conservatives here as opposed to neos or unmodified conservatives. You can tell the difference when the Guardians wish to "Restore the People’s money and wealth from the banking institutions, war profiteers, and international loan sharks." The key phrase there is "war profiteers," a category most other American conservative types don't recognize. Likewise, one of the Guardians' motivations is to prevent "World War III" from breaking out, a conflict they must expect us to start unless they intervene in time.
While many conservatives claim to want to return to the Constitution in its original form, the Guardians appear to find even that too confining. Their Plan will "Issue orders to the military and police powers to enforce the Peoples’ divine rights of birth," rather than their constitutional rights. A similarly spiritual note emerges when they demand an end to "all taxes on the sacred rights of labor and privacy."
The Guardians' statement of their "rationale" gets more spiritual yet. Here's a sample:
[W]e constructed “The unanimous Declaration of the sovereign People of the united States of America to restore and reinhabit the free American Republics” to be a shining covenant with the Creator. His charging the People with dominion over all the earth in the Book of Genesis is declared in the very first paragraph as the foundation for the restoration. In so doing, the Declaration is established in history as a genuine covenant with the Creator in honor of the Law.
Some of this rhetoric jibes with what I've seen at the few Tea Party-like events I've visited, particularly the Guardians' emphasis on grand juries as the ultimate sovereign entities. Also familiar is the opinion that the Constitution began to get out of control around 1860, which means they have issues with the post-Civil War amendments -- with they way they were ratified, they'd probably claim, rather than with their content. What seems to distinguish the Guardians is their aspiration to be an invisible power, a kind of counter-illuminati dedicated to Restoring the ancient republic "quietly, efficiently and quickly without provoking controversy, ridicule, violence or civil war....in a manner designed to get results, not glory." In their best case scenario, they'd dismantle the bad state gradually, without people noticing, and without telling anyone about it. They claim that their strategy mirrors the manner in which the bad statists gradually imposed tyranny on America without twirling their moustaches and cackling maniacally, so to speak. Of course, the quiet part has been blown out of the water by the publicization of their letters to the governors, and if they thought that these communications would be conducted away from public scrutiny, the tactical soundness of their "war college restoration strategy" isn't really that sound. However, they did anticipate such exposure.
And in the event the process should ever fall under public scrutiny, the unanimous Declaration was written to be a shining beacon of reason, history and forgiveness. It even looks like, sounds like, and cites the original Declaration of Independence as its authority so that condemnation of the Restoration is also condemnation of the original Revolution. The Restore America Plan is protected by the very Declaration of Independence upon which it was modeled.
As for the "Unanimous Declaration of the Sovereign People of the United States," here it is. For the moment, so long as the Guardians haven't threatened violence, they may be treated as no more than well-organized cranks. But their insinuation that a usurpation of power will take place behind the scenes, and most likely in military ranks first, should focus federal attention on anything peculiar that might happen in the next few weeks. The Guardians have already missed their original March 31 deadline for takeover, but the letters, perhaps late in arriving, still announce an intent to commit a coup d'etat, no matter how bloodless they hope it will be. If there is a conspiracy involving "high ranking" military people, it needs to be tracked down. If it's all an elaborate and slightly mistimed April Fool's hoax, then the laugh's on me and everyone else in the news media. But it looks otherwise, and in the end, the joke's more likely to be on the Guardians.