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Will a man on horseback come to rule America?

2012 May 7
by Ian Welsh

I think the US will take longer, but a man-on-horseback can still happen in the US.   Remember that virtually the only trusted institution in America is the military.  The difference in America, as opposed to Europe, that the left isn’t going to get its chance, if at all, for quite some time.  Obama trashed the left’s reputation since the hoi polloi think he’s left, and since the left refused to primary him, which I and a few others, told them they needed to do.

This generation of left leadership, with almost no exceptions, needs to be retired. They are almost always willing to sell out, and when not willing to, they are ineffectual twits who won’t do what’s necessary and worse, will make sure that no one else can.

So for the US, there is no “left gets its chance and IF it fails”, because the left already failed.

Also in the US there’s going to be one more (shitty) boom, based on fracking.  The US will be a post-apocalyptic wasteland when it’s over, but in the meantime, enough people will be kept employed, and thinking they might make it, to keep the game together.  How long that’ll go on, I don’t know.  Stirling Newberry thinks its good for as much as 20 years.  I think it’ll be less, just because these elites are so frickin’ incompetent.  More on that in a post soon.

81 Responses
  1. Morocco Bama permalink
    May 7, 2012

    And to think, some people have accused you of not being optimistic! This post is much more optimistic than my outlook.

  2. Celsius 233 permalink
    May 7, 2012

    Oh gods, please tell me you don’t mean the white knight (on horseback).
    No how, no way, IMO; we’re way beyond that.
    The down-hill slope is much steeper than that.
    (chuckle) But then, what the hell do I know?

  3. Bolo permalink
    May 7, 2012

    Celsius 233: To my understanding, “man on horseback” = military dictator. Or something in that direction at least.

  4. Ian Welsh permalink*
    May 7, 2012

    Man on horseback means a “heroic right wing figure”. Usually military.

    The archetypical man on horseback was Napoleon.

    The man on horseback promises to cut through all the bullshit, to make things work again. Mussolini is another one – make the trains run on time. When people get tired of a society that doesn’t work, they will turn to a strong man (or someone they think is strong), to just make society work again.

  5. Celsius 233 permalink
    May 7, 2012

    Bolo PERMALINK
    May 7, 2012
    Celsius 233: To my understanding, “man on horseback” = military dictator. Or something in that direction at least.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Thanks, didn’t know that.
    Yeah, not exactly a knight, yes?

  6. Morocco Bama permalink
    May 7, 2012

    Here’s your man on horseback.

    http://www.vincegolangco.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/FS_MarlboroMan.jpg

  7. May 7, 2012

    Ha. I wrote a piece on managers and “fixers” called “The Fixer”. It’s kind of a compliment to this piece as it talks about the difference between managers who try to manipulate and control but don’t fix anything and what would be real fixers. Sometimes the fixers are like Steve Van Zandt’s character in Netflix’s Lilyhammer”. In his former mob life he was actually called “The Fixer”. Also I mention Jim Caviezel’s character in CBS’s “Person of Interest” as another avenging guardian angel who goes around authority. But both guys employ bashing heads.

    My conclusion is similar. I think the U.S. government is doomed. We are very much in danger of some military guy in charge because the left doesn’t exist in any significant numbers except for the bubbling Occupy. But maybe we can try to fix at the local level. In this the left and right libertarians are in agreement. Bureaucracy sucks. And maybe secessionists aren’t all that nuts. My governor was pushing for a Montana health care plan. Well, along with fricking and fracking. With the fracking we will need it. http://themontanamaven.com/2012/05/07/the-fixer/

  8. May 7, 2012

    I think it is entirely possible that the right wing is about to discredit itself in a big way.

  9. The Tragically Flip permalink
    May 7, 2012

    Digby has been wisely watching Petraeus for some time as a likely candidate for this.

    The US, like all Presidential systems that don’t have figurehead Presidents is already vulnerable to such a dictator, and they’ve spent a couple decades since the Watergate reforms eroding the controls on the executive branch. Something that I think got far too little attention in the Bush years was that Condi Rice suggested that if the Democratic Congress cut the Iraq War funding, Bush would simply keep funding the war out of the Treasury anyway, Article I be damned. I sometimes think Congress is so pliant to the Executive branch on defence matters because they know they have no power and prefer the illusion that they approve of everything to starting a staring match and losing.

    After all, if Pelosi had held firm in early 2007 and refused to fund the Iraq war, and Bush has violated Article I to keep funding it anyway, the public would have cheered his resolute decision to “fund the troops” and all that rot.

    The only reason the Iraq war was even authorized by Congress was that Daschle begged to be allowed to hold a vote, and promised it would pass. Bush was prepared to go it alone even then. Obama refusing to seek authorization for Libya was just the inevitable next step in the progression.

  10. nihil obstet permalink
    May 7, 2012

    “The left” in the U.S. has been discredited and doomed because the leaders of the so-called left have connived at it. One thing that hasn’t been tried is defying the labels. “The left” may be doomed but the left isn’t necessarily so. Run against Obama’s insurance subsidy bill with a genuine health care act. Run against his deference to Wall Street with a genuine economic program. Run against his wars with a peace platform. It doesn’t matter to me if Obama’s policies lose because their so “left” or if they lose because people are now taught what the left really is. The right has been successful at pejorative labels; it’s time to quit supporting them by insisting on labeling ourselves and them. “We will not cut Social Security benefits. You can call that liberal or conservative or left or radical or anything you want, but we will not cut Social Security benefits.” That’s the template for all our popular positions.

  11. ATYD permalink
    May 7, 2012

    By the time the white knight comes, there will be no shared sense of ‘america’ left to rule. when the money runs out and shit hits the fan, we will not pull together but rather pull apart.

    southwestern america will become northern mexico

    perhaps the mormons will break away

    there are already rumblings in the south about secession again

    this is actually a better solution than forcing all of us to stay together IMO

  12. Jack Crow permalink
    May 7, 2012

    The right wing never discredits itself. Because the left-wing is made up of people who continuously carve out room for the right.

    Until we embrace the hangman, our side, it will be same as it ever was…

  13. Jack Crow permalink
    May 7, 2012

    I can’t imagine a more banal evil than a “shared sense of ‘America’.” It is by virtue of this petty hydra that we have the stupidity of a national project eating its way through the lives, heads and livelihoods of millions of people who would other wise at least be rational enough to admit that they are better off without fealty to a national notion.

  14. John Puma permalink
    May 7, 2012

    To me “the man on horseback” represents the only critical characteristic of “classic,” frank fascism that seems to be missing on the American scene – the charismatic leader revered as embodiment of the nation itself.

    Currently, due to a politically divided country and/or lack of leadership charisma, we seem to be missing this factor. However, I’m not convinced this factor needs be fulfilled, as strictly defined, for the country and the world to experience the full measure of suffering expected from re-emergent fascism. (Did it ever really go away?)

    Substitute for that leader factor, the US military, “virtually the only trusted institution in America” (and heavily funded) you have the whole picture, complete with the world wide empire that Hitler and Mussolini fondly dreamed of.

  15. tatere permalink
    May 7, 2012

    it’s looking like our best likely end result is to continue down the Soviet America path with a bunch of colorless apparatchiks until it all comes apart. not that that worked out all that well for Russia itself, but at least the rest of the bloc got to spin out and have their own individual troubles…

    meanwhile, speaking of the vague beast known as the American “left” – am i missing something, or does this Robert Reich post actually outline a fairly credible left-wing platform?

    http://robertreich.org/post/22542609387

    sans foreign policy, but still – i was a bit surprised.

  16. May 7, 2012

    You got to hand it to obama … the man, the brand … he’s made fascism fashionable. It now comes in a “progressive” chic line.

    Z

  17. May 8, 2012

    Ian’s idea of a “man (or woman) on horseback” coheres with an idea I have been hesitant to repeat. I have posted only a few times in comments elsewhere over the past few years.

    Basically, in the U.S. post-industrial economy, the last remaining significant reserve of technological competence is the military. Almost anyone who rises in business in a post-industrial economy must, by definition, conform closely to Veblen’s characterization of a technically uninformed and incompetent “leisure class.” Rising in business in a post-industrial economy requires that one learn to think of businesses not as foci of technological knowledge and capability, but as mere financial assets that can shuffled and reshuffled to fit a particular hedge fund portfolio (this is what James Crotty of PERI calls the portfolio view of the economy). This view of corporate assets goes hand in hand with financialization., Mitt Romney, of course, is the exemplar of someone who has thus risen in a post-industrial economy.

    The military, because of its mission of war-fighting (meaning holding territory by killing or incapacitating people) is largely immune from this depreciation in technological competence.
    The military, to continue to fulfill its purpose, must maintain its technological competence.

    Now, this is very ironic, because Veblen, of course, lumped in the military with the rest of the leisure class. From a strict Veblenian perspective, of producers versus non-producers, this is true, because the military exists to kill and destroy, not to build and nurture. But the reality in a post-industrial economy is not that simple: when New Orleans was destroyed by Katrina, the only societal entity able to respond on a large scale was the military. This include not just outright rescue efforts, but emergency provisioning of food, water, and shelter.

    But the New Orleans / Katrina example may tend to obscure the larger truth: that in our post-industrial economy, the only institutions that value and reward technological competence – building and fixing things – is the military. Look at the point Ernest Callenbach (the recently deceased author of Ecotopia) makes on “Practical skills” here: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/05/07/1089518/-Open-thread-for-night-owls-Epistle-to-the-Ecotopians-from-Ernest-Callenbach-RIP-

    That the military are the only institutions that value and reward technological competence is all the more significant because the military is willing to ignore the increasingly rigid class stratification that has come to characterize the U.S. Indeed, for many youth of the working class, the military has become the only readily available path for escape from the penury, poverty, and pain of working class live in modern America. Access to the colleges and universities that provide entry to the networked pathways of ruling elites, such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, etc., is now, for all intents and purposes, closed off to the working class. While the military officer corps continues to feature a large number of graduates from such institutions, especially the higher you go in the flag ranks, the officer corps really is a much more homogeneous sampling than the corporate boardrooms.

    And if you look at the ranks of non-commissioned officers – the sergeants and chief petty officers that have forever been and will probably forever be the real backbone of command and order of any military – the military in the United States truly is, for the working class, the last bastion in America of non-prejudicial advancement based on mastery of technological skills.

    So, it might be that the emergence of “man on horseback” my not necessarily be an entirely bad thing in the context of a post-industrial economy largely stratified by class. Indeed, as the economy continues to be ravaged by looting from rentiers and usurers, making the mere physical survival of the working class ever more precarious, the military becomes one of the few areas we can look to for someone to emerge to national leadership who does not (as Obama does, which is his fatal flaw) share wholesale the outlook and view of the ruling rentiers and usurers.

    All of which, let me hasten to note and emphasize, does NOT remove the danger of the oligarchy fastening its favor on an “Austrian corporal.”

  18. Bolo permalink
    May 8, 2012

    Tony: I read your conclusion as saying “but the man on horseback may know what kind of work is needed to turn this country around, especially if he comes from our tech-savvy military.” Even if that ends up being true, military leadership and the exercise of such power is of an entirely different quality than democratic civilian leadership and life under a military leader will be… bad. We’d be hedging out bets on the possibility that the benefits of his infrastructure and societal reforms will outweigh the likely brutality of his regime–and given the loosening constrains on the Executive power in the US, his regime will be oppressive. On top of that, once we have a military leader running things how will we get rid of him when he’s outlived his (hypothetical) usefulness?

  19. May 8, 2012

    It is also instructive to look at the failure of the left in the context of technological competence. There are a few points to make here. First, is the left’s acceptance of the post-industrial paradigm for the economy. This is what made it so easy to predict and bewail the likely (and now realized) failure of Obama to rebuild the economy when he first announced his economics policy team, even before his inauguration. Much of the left throws the baby out with the bathwater – it condemns industry itself, without realizing the impossibility of supporting current levels of world population without an advanced industrial economy, and as corollary, without realizing the differences between industrial capitalism and financial capitalism, and how industrial capitalism must be defended from the attacks and depredations of financial capitalism.

    In the American context, what is required is a fusion of the two antithetical historical forces first set in motion by Hamilton and Jefferson. Hamilton was correct in seeing that the future of American security and prosperity required a shift from an agricultural to an industrial economy. Jefferson was correct in seeing that the danger of Hamilton’s proposals was to create a “stock jobbing” mentality in the population – i.e., financialization and a portfolio view of the economy. Here, the left errors grievously when it accepts the false argument that Hamilton’s financial program was intended to create a new financial oligarchy, rather than the more accurate, and benign, view of intending to create the capital basis for funding future industry. On this, see Chapter Seven of Frank Bourgin’s extremely important 1989 book, The Great Challenge: The Myth of Laissez-Faire in the Early Republic. What is required now is a reassertion of Hamilton’s emphasis on industry, coupled with Jefferson’s desire to prevent the emergence of a new financial oligarchy. We want real captains of industry, not hedge funds titans or leveraged buyout bandits.

    Second is the left’s knee-jerk reaction against the military. Now, this is understandable, given that the military has always been the oligarchy’s instrument of repression. But what the left has to accept is that no revolution has ever succeeded against an oligarchy without the creation of s separate military not under the influence and control of the oligarchy, or the co-optation and co-operation of a sizable chunk of the military. Chris Hedges is quite clear on this point – and he has been witness to almost all the revolutions in East Europe – a regime finally falls when the military and the police refuse to accept orders from the existing elites. That is why I believe the turning point in Occupy last year was Occupy Marines, when the open alignment of recent, war-wise and combat ready veterans with Occupy forced U.S. elites to move swiftly and per-emptively to end Occupy as a public spectacle. Quite simply, U.S. elites could not, and cannot, afford to suffer the existence of a social movement that attracts the support – and worst, allegiance – of those members of the U.S. working class who know how to select the proper target and neutralize it. In other words, bring to bear technological competence against the oligarchy itself.

  20. zot23 permalink
    May 8, 2012

    As Bolo said, it just doesn’t matter. If the MoH (Man on Horseback) comes in corrupt, the system is corrupted completely and it is awful. If the MoH comes in completely straight, having absolute power in our completely corrupted system would corrupt them completely.

    Think of it this way: let’s say the MoH rides on to the scene and gets the trains running on time and sets our houses in order (magically without a nice, robust bodycount.) When does he choose to leave? 4 years? 8 years (end of term limits)? Or does he at some point decide the wisest course to to stay in power to make sure America “stays the path”? Unless this individual has the wisdom of Aristotle, the personal fortitude of Odysseus, the iron will of Churchill, and the the connection to the working class like Lincoln, there is no way he’ll step away from a dictatorship with a massive military and no opponents.

    If you end up with a MoH, it is all over. One way or another, no matter what his personality.

  21. John B. permalink
    May 8, 2012

    Washington stepped a way, so there is a precedent for that zot23. Granted, the times are different now and General George didn’t have a massive military indistrial complex to do his bidding, but he is the closest example we have to a MoH deliberately choosing to do what needed to be done and then going back home to his plantation…

  22. Pepe permalink
    May 8, 2012

    “I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such: because I think a General Government necessary for us, and there is no Form of Government but what may be a Blessing to the People if well-administred; and I believe farther that this is likely to be well administred for a Course of Years and can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government, being incapable of any other.”
    –Benjamin Franklin

  23. Bolo permalink
    May 8, 2012

    Tony: I’m generally in agreement with you on the point of needing a more coherent industrial policy and that there’s very little discussion of such a thing in the US at the moment. I’m not sure if the left is culpable or not, since I haven’t really seen the left in the US much (and let’s not get into an argument about who/what is “the left” in the US :) ). I do believe that, across the entire ideological spectrum in the US, there is a huge deficit in clear thinking about technology, energy, and the use of them to provide for the general welfare and liberty of the people.

    I would be very hesitant to create a new class of captains of industry unless it were stipulated that (1) they manage the economy not based solely (or even mostly) on the profit motive and (2) they be accountable to the people and to democratic means of control–in other words, they can’t truly own the capital which they direct and if they screw up they go to the poorhouse rather than get a golden parachute. Even then, I’m worried that such a setup would easily fall back into the robber baron era after a generation or two. Granted, at least the “captains” of industry were producing things back then, but they were still sucking the life out of much of the economy.

    By odd coincidence, I’m reading Veblen’s The Theory of Business Enterprise right now. :) Only on page 43 though…

  24. Bolo permalink
    May 8, 2012

    Think of it this way: let’s say the MoH rides on to the scene and gets the trains running on time and sets our houses in order (magically without a nice, robust bodycount.) When does he choose to leave? 4 years? 8 years (end of term limits)? Or does he at some point decide the wisest course to to stay in power to make sure America “stays the path”? Unless this individual has the wisdom of Aristotle, the personal fortitude of Odysseus, the iron will of Churchill, and the the connection to the working class like Lincoln, there is no way he’ll step away from a dictatorship with a massive military and no opponents.

    Additional, zot23, you have the problem that even if he does do all that and wants to relinquish power, there will be others waiting in the wings to take his place. The system will have been set up for strongman rule, so the natural succession will be in that manner. To avoid this, I’d wager he’d need to oversee a new Constitutional Convention or something to completely reset the system of power and ensure that what he did cannot happen again (at least, until the next major systemic crisis in a few hundred years). Otherwise we become like Rome–the Republic transitions to direct Empire when the strongman enters the picture and, once the system is set up that way, it tends to perpetuate itself for as long as possible.

  25. May 8, 2012

    In reply to Bolo – and in the spiirt of Pepe’s quote of Franklin. The military, like any tool or institution, can be used for good or for evil, or even for a bit of both at the same time. Pepe’s quote of Franklin points us in a useful direction, but we must ask HOW is a population corrupted? But before we answer THAT, we need to understand The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (see the book by that name by Bernard Bailyn, and Gordon Woods’ The Creation of the American Republic).

    Both the Revolution, and the creation of the Constitution and federal union, were motivated by specific beliefs that only a republican form of government could ensure political and economic freedom; that the goal of any good government was to promote the general welfare, and that the maintenance of republican government depended above all else on a sense of public virtue. When Franklin warns about the public being corrupted, he is pointing to the erosion of the concept of public virtue.

    Sp, what is public virtue? Some idea may be gleaned from these notes of mine from Woods’ books:

    P47 “…as Thomas Paine pointed out [in The Rights of Man] “What is called a republic is not an particular form of government.” Republicanism meant more for Americans than simply the elimination of a king and the institution of an elective system. It added a moral dimension, a utopian depth, to the political separation from England—a depth that involved the very character of their society. “We are now really another people,” exclaimed Paine in 1782.”

    P2 52-53 “Thus before a nation is completely deprived of freedom, she must be fitted for slavery by her vices.”

    GW 53-54 “The sacrifice of individual interests to the greater good of the whole formed the essence of republicanism and comprehended for Americans the idealistic goal of their Revolution. From this goal flowed all of the Americans’ exhortatory literature and all that made their ideology truly revolutionary… it alone was enough to make the Revolution one of the great utopian movements of American history. By 1776 the Revolution came to represent a final attempt, perhaps—given the nature of American society—even a desperate attempt, by many Americans to realize the traditional Commonwealth ideal of a corporate society, in which the common good would be the only objective of government.”

    55 “From the logic of belief that “all government… is or ought to be, calculated for the general good and safety of the community,” …followed the Americans’ unhesitating adoption of republicanism in 1776. The peculiar excellence of republican government was that it was “wholly characteristical of the purport, matter or object for which government ought to be instituted.” By definition it had no other end than the welfare of the people: res publica, the public affairs, or the public good. “The word republic, said Thomas Paine, “means the public good, or the good of the whole, in contradistinction to the despotic form, which makes the good of the sovereign, or of one man, the only object of government.” “

    The conservative movement, most especially the Randians, have frontally attacked these very ideas, and argue that the slavish following of self-interest results in, through the magical power of the markets’ invisible hand, in the greatest common good. In fact, they argue, the very concept of “general welfare” is a slippery slope to despotism and fascism. Note that the philosophers conservatives quote to support these arguments are mostly European, in large part, British (Adam Smith, Hume, Locke, Mandelville, Ricardo, Burke). In other words, lackeys of the old world’s oligarchs.

    This has resulted in our present corporatist state, where it is argued that the sole purpose of a corporation is to increase shareholder value (the corporatist’s form of individual self-interest) . This is completely at odds with the historical record of early American corporate chartering, when corporations were generally limited to explicitly explained economic functions, and generally expected to do so in the interests of the general welfare. Corporations that failed on these counts could, and sometimes did, have their corporate charters annulled.

    Here is the point I am driving at, in the context of the present discussion. What institutions in America society now come closest to the Revolutionary concepts of common good, general welfare, and public virtue? What institutions are more focused on getting an individual to think of himself or herself in service to others, rather than ones’ self? I believe the honest answer can only be the military. Even American christianity and organized religion, at this point, fails the test: the emphasis is on individual salvation – saving the self from damnation – rather than on the social gospel of good works (for a long, but vitally insightful view of how American christianity has been so corrupted – remember Franklin’s quote – see William Neil’s Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Market at http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/2010010211/sinners-hands-angry-market). It is the military, with its emphasis of sacrifice of self for the preservation of the unit, and the concepts of honor and national pride, that comes closer to the Revolutionary ideal of public virtue than anything you can find in corporate America.

    But the issues raised by Bolo remain quite valid, and dangerous. Again, the military, like any tool or institution, can be used for good or for evil, or even a bit of both. We would be failing in our duties as citizens were we to fail to attempt to influence our society’s military institutions simply because we simplistically dismiss them as hopelessly reactionary.

  26. Lurker the Third permalink
    May 8, 2012

    Oh come on. The military isn’t the only institution “focused on getting an individual to think of himself or herself in service to others, rather than ones’ self.” How about public schools and public libraries, and employees of the park service (local and national). There are many organizations with a focus on being of service to others, to the community. That’s precisely why they are under attack and defunded and privatized. That’s precisely why we need to defend them. And yes, it’s even possible to win over much of the police, just as Occupy Marines were ready to help.

  27. someofparts permalink
    May 8, 2012

    As men on horseback go, an Eisenhower would be an improvement on most of the folks we have had since him. I don’t imagine the one we will get will be like Ike even if he wanted to be, but I wish it were possible.

  28. ATYD permalink
    May 8, 2012

    Tony is hitting it out of the park here. We will transition away from the Republic just as Rome did. We deserve nothing less. I cant wait for the Imperial Cult to form!

  29. Pepe permalink
    May 8, 2012

    Aristotle and Plato’s ideas on how to prevent political degeneration into tyranny included having a large middle class and a well-educated public. (Franklin’s quote was based on their ideas on Kyklos).

  30. Bolo permalink
    May 8, 2012

    I always like to bring up Ghost in the Shell when we start talking about military dictators in America:

    Imperial Americana:
    http://www.tony5m17h.net/AmericanEmpire.jpg

    Flags of the Former United States: 2000 – Present Day
    http://fc03.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2011/057/5/6/ghost_in_the_shell__americana_by_ynot1989-d3ahihm.png

  31. StewartM permalink
    May 8, 2012

    Tony Wikrent:

    Basically, in the U.S. post-industrial economy, the last remaining significant reserve of technological competence is the military. Almost anyone who rises in business in a post-industrial economy must, by definition, conform closely to Veblen’s characterization of a technically uninformed and incompetent “leisure class.” Rising in business in a post-industrial economy requires that one learn to think of businesses not as foci of technological knowledge and capability, but as mere financial assets that can shuffled and reshuffled to fit a particular hedge fund portfolio (this is what James Crotty of PERI calls the portfolio view of the economy). This view of corporate assets goes hand in hand with financialization., Mitt Romney, of course, is the exemplar of someone who has thus risen in a post-industrial economy.

    The military, because of its mission of war-fighting (meaning holding territory by killing or incapacitating people) is largely immune from this depreciation in technological competence. The military, to continue to fulfill its purpose, must maintain its technological competence.

    I differ with you on this. The US still yet contains islands of competence–indeed, military competence is derivative in nature, as it originates in the technological and educational competence of the society at large. The improvement in the performance of the victorious Soviet army of WWII vs the defeated one of WWI is such an illustration; it can be explained by the vast improvement in both technology and educational opportunity in the 1920s and 30s Russia. One of the things which might have been decisive is simple literacy–the Soviet WWII army had it, whereas the czarist army of WWI was largely illiterate.

    The problem is that the engineers and scientists no longer have much sayso in calling the shots in the US anymore; they’ve been superceded by the financial elites. In almost every company, technological prowess is given lip service while the focus is on short-term financial wheeling and dealing, designed to help the short-term bottom line often at the cost of the long term future (Ian has called this “burning down one’s home to keep warm”).

    The corollary to this, and the ultimate irony for the financial oligarchs of the Right, is that the loss of technological and industrial competence dooms the military force they are so eager to employ. Ian says that the oligarchs are stupid and incompetent, and I tend to agree with that observation. They don’t even do the right thing for their own self-interest.

    Access to the colleges and universities that provide entry to the networked pathways of ruling elites, such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, etc., is now, for all intents and purposes, closed off to the working class.

    It’s not just that. These so-called “elite schools” *don’t value competence. They even sell themselves to prospective students as enclaves where the most important thing is not what those students will learn, but who they can *network* with. It’s quite literally what you know when you come out, it’s who you know.

    I tell you, not only are the top 10 % of students at a Cleveland State the equal of the top 10 % at Yale or Princeton, they might actually be superior in competence. They might be superior because unlike the “elite” schools, their grades might not be assigned from a curve.

    -StewartM

  32. StewartM permalink
    May 8, 2012

    Tony Wikrent:

    Much of the left throws the baby out with the bathwater – it condemns industry itself, without realizing the impossibility of supporting current levels of world population without an advanced industrial economy, and as corollary, without realizing the differences between industrial capitalism and financial capitalism, and how industrial capitalism must be defended from the attacks and depredations of financial capitalism.

    Bingo! Though I would also add to that the 1960s counter-culture 0rejection of science and technology. The chief threat to humanity was seen by these as the soulless technocrat, the Dr. Strangeloves, without the appreciation of what the real alternatives were. Right now the 1960s economy looks a heckuva lot better than what most have now.

    I say this as someone who believes in limits to growth (both in terms of human population growth in in resource extraction) and that ignoring these limits is going to lead to catastrophe on a global scale (and is, the updates to the 1972 Limits of Growth charts are still tracking the predictions made in the basic run of the World3 model). Being a scientist and a technocrat does not mean that you must buy into notions of “onward and upward forever”. Technology is neutral and can be used to help heal the world as well as destroy it.

    -StewartM

  33. Radical Livre permalink
    May 8, 2012

    I agree, Lurker the Third. Tony seems to be amongst those 80% Americans that vastly overestimate the virtues of their military. One might wonder why the American elites invest so much money in the pentagon if it was really some kind of last bastion against the corruption of the oligarchy. Indeed, one might wonder why the military budget keeps increasing while other, much more essential, programmes get cut. Including some that, as you point out, do a much better job “on getting an individual to think of himself or herself in service to others, rather than ones’ self.”. Personally, I think it has to do with Lockheed’s bottom line. Somebody has to buy those overpriced jets.

    P.S.: I don’t live in the US, though I like to keep up on the news from the Imperial Capital by following Ian’s blog, among others (lest I am taken by surprise when the Senate sends the legionnaires marching South). Let me tell you by personal experience: military dictators are as corrupt as any other, and twice as incompetent.

  34. nihil obstet permalink
    May 8, 2012

    Is the military really very competent? It would help if they could actually win a war. Or else, be clear about the fact that their so-called wars are unwinnable. Instead, the generals show up before Congress with chests full of salad and shit-eating grins to talk about the surge that’s going to succeed.

    The U.S. spends about as much on its military as the rest of the world combined. There is no other conventional army that can stand up to it. In that situation, officers are more likely to succeed by being good at internal politics than at technological tasks. Besides which, very large parts of the work is done by contractors who have no accountability except profit for their well-connected stockholders (Halliburton, Cheney, et al.)

    The military’s propaganda has been very successful; its actual competence is questionable.

  35. StewartM permalink
    May 8, 2012

    Nihil Obstet:

    The U.S. spends about as much on its military as the rest of the world combined.

    To me the jaw-dropper is that our military spending today is within spitting distance of WWII!!

    Let’s compare then and now to see what we’re getting for almost as much money.

    Over 12,000,000 personnel in uniform then vs 1,400,000 now.

    88,000 tanks produced in WWII’s four years to about 300/year?

    300,000 aircraft produced in WWII to about what? You can look here for an estimate, production runs are in the hundreds: http://www.defense-aerospace.com/article-view/feature/114488/cost-of-us-military-aircraft.html — seem to be in the dozens.

    36 fleet carriers vs 11? 23 battleships? Over 8,300 ships in service in WWII. 281 today.

    WWII: 250,000 artilllery pieces produced? The Liberty ship merchant marine? The list can go on and on and on…

    It seems to me that our “bang for the buck” for our money today is rather poor.

    Now, some will protest that our technology is superior today which makes weapon systems more costly. I would argue that in relative terms, that was not so. The B-29 Superfortress was considered a technological marvel for its time, incorporating many innovations. US battleships used radar-controlled gunnery which by mid-war meant that they could paste enemy vessels well-out of range. The US Navy had invested a lot of research in ship armor, so that our 12.9″ belts on battleships produced during the war was equal in protection to the 18″ armor on Japanese battleships. The US employed proximity fuses for artillery, gyroscopic compensation on tank turrets, sonar, and many other technologies considered “high tech” in WWII.

    And lastly–there was the Manhattan Project, which was as high-tech as anything could come.

    Much of US military spending is just corporate welfare.

    Oh, and for the Bin Laden raid as a sterling indication of recent success–I still buy the leak, reported in the UK Daily Mail, that the Pakistani military was bought off. They had in essence detained Bin Laden, and our money convinced them to look deliberately the other way while US Navy Seals swept in to kill him. Even then, with no opposition, things fsck’ed up–one of the helicopters crashed.

    -StewartM

  36. May 8, 2012

    I am, alas, in agreement that given the lack of anything resembling a left infrastructure, the right-wing dictator might well be an end result. I see it happening as the result of a meltdown where Congress is totally deadlocked, paychecks don’t go to Federal workers, and not only aren’t the troops being paid but major necessities like air traffic control and Customs go black.

    When I say lack of left-wing infrastructure: Unions bought into the post-WW2 civil society and neutered themselves both ideologically and in terms of strike actions, and are currently toothless and useless. There are no left-leaning political parties of note. The Occupy movement was deliberately leaderless and as usual got taken over by anarchist thugs who merely disgust the majority of the population, who dislike violence and those who perform violence. (And don’t give me the BS that violence against property isn’t violence, I can tell you that if someone throws a brick through my window I am extremely upset, as are the majority of normal people who have a brick thrown thru their window). Etc. There’s no “there” there, and victory goes to the organized. Maybe some traditional right-wing organs like the Republican Party have become discredited, but there are other organized right-wing things that are *not* yet discredited, and the military is a biggy. If the military doesn’t get their pay… what do they do? What does America do when they do it? Consequences… I’ll discuss those later, but dire.

  37. May 9, 2012

    nihil obstet asks the obvious question: “Is the military really very competent? It would help if they could actually win a war.”

    Earlier this year or late last year, Ralph Nader made a very interesting observation that it was not the professional military that pushed us into the Iraq War, but the conservative politicians – Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, and the rest of the bastards – who even set up their own intel analysis shop that would churn out the threat assessments needed to justify war.

    And recall that the initial war in Afghanistan was actually won within three months, at a cost of about $90 million total at the time, and by less than 2,000 special forces troops inserted to assist the Northern Alliance forces attack and defeat the Taliban.

    It’s been a few years since I’ve written this, but I can pinpoint the exact date and event at which the United States was foredoomed to turn the quick victory in Afghanistan into a defeat by plunging into a protracted, unwinnable war in Iraq. George Packer described it in his book The Assassins Gate. On pages 110 to 112, Packer describes a meeting at the American Enterprise Institute where Condeleeza Rice presented the plans drawn up by the State Dept and the military for the post-war rebuilding of Iraq:

    Chris DeMuth, president of the American Enterprise Institute, where the administration’s neoconservatives drew their support and many of their personnel, neither consented nor refused when Gelb broached the possibility. On November 15, the representatives of the think tanks met with Rice and Hadley in Rice’s office at the White House. John Hamre of CSIS went in expecting to pitch the idea to Rice, but the meeting was odd from the start: Rice seemed attentive only to DeMuth, and it was as if the White House was trying to sell something to the American Enterprise Institute rather than the other way around. When Gelb, on speakerphone from New York, began to describe his concept, DeMuth cut him off. “Wait a minute. What’s all this planning and thinking about postwar Iraq?” He turned to Rice. “This is nation building, and you said you were against that. In the campaign you said it, the president has said it. Does he know you’re doing this? Does Karl Rove know?”

    Without AEI, Rice couldn’t sign on. Two weeks later, Hadley called Gelb to tell him what Gelb already knew: “We’re not going to go ahead with it.” Gelb later explained, “They thought all those things would get in the way of going to war.”

    The competent people were frozen out of the war planning. It was incompetent, and moreover, ideological, civilian leadership that overruled the military officers.

    The more damaging criticism is by Radical Livre and others, who argue that I “vastly overestimate the virtues of their military.” Perhaps. But they are missing the more important point I have made – which is that whether you like it or not, the outcome of almost every revolution is finally decided at the point that the military and police refuse to obey elites’ orders to disrupt or kill fellow citizens in the streets. I suggest that it is not “vastly overestimating the virtues of the military” but, rather, insisting on recognizing the overwhelming importance the military will have in any future regime change in the United States.

  38. Morocco Bama permalink
    May 9, 2012

    the outcome of almost every revolution is finally decided at the point that the military and police refuse to obey elites’ orders to disrupt or kill fellow citizens in the streets.

    It’s a good thing you said “almost”. Cuba certainly didn’t happen that way. The corrupt Batista regime and his corrupt lackey military were defeated fair and square by an organized, well-armed and dedicated opposition. In the end, that’s really what matters the most. If Cuba had a larger Middle Class at the time, I’m not so sure Castro could have been successful. And so, the one vital ingredient that is necessary to pave the way to any successful revolution is the one most people lament…..the loss of their vaunted Middle Class status and accompanying lifestyle.

  39. May 9, 2012

    Yes, Morocco Bama, “almost.” But, unfortunately, refer back to my second post: “no revolution has ever succeeded against an oligarchy without the creation of [a] separate military not under the influence and control of the oligarchy, or the co-optation and co-operation of a sizable chunk of the military.”

  40. May 9, 2012

    Janet Eaton writes about the Occupy movement and notes Gar Alperovitz’ ideas in “America Beyond Capitalism”. She points to Latin America now as revolutions happening replacing dictatorships with leadership that actually addressed income inequality and the common good.
    Also, Alperovitz like David Korten, Francis Moore Lappe and anarchists such as David Graeber point to the paradigm shift beneath the radar of worker owned businesses, alternative money experiments, and other cooperative ventures. http://beyondcollapse.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/occupy-economics-how-the-occupy-movement-has-helped-to-shift-the-economic-paradigm-2/

    Thomas Paine was way outside the box when it came to his contemporaries. He was more of an anarchist in that he distrusted “government”. (anarchist main tenets of organization are 1) Temporary 2) functional 3) small and 4) voluntary – Colin Ward). What Paine envisioned was hardly what our elite “founders” wanted. The early Confederation of States was working all too well as far as democracy was concerned. Most of the state legislatures were being run by , oh my god!, blacksmiths and farmers. Yikes! They were experimenting in different forms of banking and not borrowing at interest from private bankers. Yikes, Oh my God. Bring in the military. And they did in greater numbers than in the Revolution to crush the farmers of the Whiskey Rebellion. The myth of the benevolent Washington needs to get canned.

    Faith in the military is returning once again to a paternalistic type of organization. It is hierarchical. It is following orders. Yes, they join to be “of service to others”. But why? is the more profound and interesting question. According to Graeber in “Revolutions in Reverse; Army of Altruists” (available free on line), “Service to others” is how our working class young people get to enjoy that sense of purpose that elite children get to enjoy by working at charities, environmental organizations and lobbying groups, NGOs, unpaid internships, the world of books, art, … To seek something noble for many means joining the military to build dental clinics and schools. “To serve others” is then equated with the word “patriotism”.

    To view human behavior as being about economic calculation flies in the face of thousands of years of anthropological study. There are other forms of organization other than hierarchical or by markets. There is communalism and gift societies. There are societies that don’t even have words for “self-interest”, he says. Yes, how do you explain that studies show that American lower income earners give more money away to strangers proportionally than the top earners? They give to church and charities, but they also buy a six pack for friends or a round of drinks at the bar. “Catch me later” means there is no direct exchange of goods and services that the Randians and even the liberals seem to think exist. At our most basic level we live communistically in a gifting society.

    Sorry to go on and on, but the excitement for me of the Occupy movement was that we could look to alternatives that have been left out of the discussion by the propaganda of the last hundred years.

    Next time you are on a plane and asked to applaud a military person on the plane, maybe after that applause, you should stand and thank the engineer that made it possible for you not to fall out of the sky, and the teacher that gave him his first math lessons, and the welder that made sure it got done right. We ARE all in this together.

  41. nihil obstet permalink
    May 9, 2012

    I’ve always thought that the point of the second amendment was to insure that citizens constitute the armed organizations that keep the peace, rather than the mercenary, frequently foreign, armies that the European monarchies were fond of. An army drawn from the people will possibly side with the people if government gets too oppressive. The authoritarians quickly turned that into a very silly wild west fantasy. But it reads to me as though the founders would agree with Tony Wikrent on the need for an army with weaker loyalty to the oligarchy.

  42. RTFMplease permalink
    May 9, 2012

    When he does come, he will be carrying a cross and draped in the American flag.

  43. Morocco Bama permalink
    May 9, 2012

    Next time you are on a plane and asked to applaud a military person on the plane

    Is this going on? I haven’t flown in several years, so I don’t know. It never happened when I did fly before several years ago. What happens if you don’t applaud? I’m sorry, but if I did have to fly, I’m not applauding if this happens, and I’m willing to get in the face of anyone who has a problem with that. I don’t agree with these “wars” and I don’t agree with having a bloated military budget, so I’m not lending any more support other than my compulsory federal income tax, and if I could change that (the tax), I would. I’ll be damned if I’m going to applaud it, or anyone directly involved with it. That being said, I don’t agree that spitting on them and mocking them is constructive, either.

  44. May 9, 2012

    Excellent, @Montana Maven. Cheered me up a bit, you did.

  45. May 9, 2012

    To Morocco Bama: My husband has pleaded with me not to stand up and say “and are there any teachers on board. Let’s hear it for them.” even though he agrees with me and he’s a “conservative” rancher. He just doesn’t want to have to get me out of jail. Yes, MB, it happens on every flight now and thanking the military signs are everywhere in the airport. It used to be during a war, but now that we are perpetually at war, it is all the time. But really it is softening us up for the guy on the horse I’m guessing.

    Petro: I google and read everything Graeber to keep me from despair. He is our young Chomsky along with Paul Street. It is heartening to hear that other societies have lived within a different paradigm. I love the tribe in Madagascar called “they who would not cut their hair”. When the Kind died, men were supposed to cut their hair. This tribe didn’t and hid in the woods rather than give their tax money.
    Also become a Groucho Marxist. Watch “Duck Soup” . One of the greatest anti-war movies ever made. Filled with wholesome anarchy.

  46. Radical Livre permalink
    May 9, 2012

    The more damaging criticism is by Radical Livre and others, who argue that I “vastly overestimate the virtues of their military.” Perhaps. But they are missing the more important point I have made – which is that whether you like it or not, the outcome of almost every revolution is finally decided at the point that the military and police refuse to obey elites’ orders to disrupt or kill fellow citizens in the streets. I suggest that it is not “vastly overestimating the virtues of the military” but, rather, insisting on recognizing the overwhelming importance the military will have in any future regime change in the United States.

    Well, I don’t know about others, but the reason I didn’t address that point is because I fully agree with it. However, it must be noted that usually the soldiers that turn against the ruling elites belong to drafted, badly trained and (most importantly) badly paid armies, which is entirely not the case in the US. Also, for what it’s worth, I think the American military is relatively competent as far as winning wars go, though it’s a terrible occupation force.

    Then again, if you give me a handful trillion dollars a year, I’m sure I can scrape something together and conquer third world countries every now and then too! :)

    P.S.: Montana Maven, Janet Eaton seems to be misremembering Latin American history. In general, the dictatorships were first substituted by neoliberal governments. Only after those governments wrecked what was left of the economy and the American government was too busy in the Middle East to coup d’etat everyone (though they tried it against Chávez, and succeeded against Zelaya) did some semblance of a left manage to obtain power in much of the region. But please don’t paint too rosy a picture, most of said “left” is composed of nationalist developmentalist Keynesians, which can only be considered radical in our crazy times.

  47. May 9, 2012

    @Radical Livre:

    But please don’t paint too rosy a picture, most of said “left” is composed of nationalist developmentalist Keynesians, which can only be considered radical in our crazy times.

    Hey now! Let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good here, eh?

    *ducks behind sofa*

  48. Walter permalink
    May 9, 2012

    The fascists have always been here. The one thing they do not want is to leave the shadows. As long as they have remained shrouded in secrecy they had no opposition.

    The only thing keeping things from getting VERY VERY bad is that people do not fully grasp how fucked they are. They are coming to that realization very slowly.

  49. Phoenician in a time of Romans permalink
    May 9, 2012

    So, it might be that the emergence of “man on horseback” my not necessarily be an entirely bad thing in the context of a post-industrial economy largely stratified by class.

    Save for the teeny tiny little point that faced with insurmountable systemic problems, a man in horseback will turn to military adventures to maintain his hold over society. Always.

    Which means that in a couple of decades, my children and your children may be shooting at each other. And that in a decade after that, your country and a large chunk of the rest of the Earth may glow in the dark.

  50. May 9, 2012

    Radical Livre: I don’t know and can’t speak for Janet Eaton. I found her site as I was late night googling and linking about Occupy and David Graeber. But from what I’ve read, I’m assuming she does not the history of Latin America with its attempts to redistribute land to peasants, nationalizing copper mines etc. Then these attempts were beaten down by the Chicago Boys and various juntas as chronicled in “The Shock Doctrine” and “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.” And now Latin Americans are pushing back with successful people’s movements in Bolivia, the rise of Chavez, and several countries telling the IMF to go jump in a lake. Some glimmer of hope.

  51. Montanamaven permalink
    May 9, 2012

    Correction: She does “know” the history.

  52. May 9, 2012

    Phoenician in a time of Romans: really, now. Is that a hard and fast rule of history? I can only assume you are not aware that Hugo Chavez was a colonel in the Venezuelan army, with elite paratrooper training. His military adventure would be…? Or is he not really in the category of man on a horse?

    Charles deGaulle? Well, there is Indochina, and even Suez, I suppose.

    Juan Peron? Peron, I will definitely need help with.

  53. May 9, 2012

    Other military officers who became, imho at least, men on a horse, and who defy the typical leftist stereotyping, include, again imho, Charlemagne, Uthman ibn Affan, Suleiman, Gustavus Adolphus, and Frederick II (the Great).

  54. ATYD permalink
    May 10, 2012

    Dont bother Tony. Liberals don’t read history

    “At our most basic level we live communistically in a gifting society.”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

  55. Phoenician in a time of Romans permalink
    May 10, 2012

    Except, Tony, that Chavez didn’t face insurmountable systemic problems in leading Venezuela – as Ian points out in his last paragraph in the post above, whoever is leading the US WILL.

    Please do try to read what was actually written.

  56. May 10, 2012

    “Chavez didn’t face insurmountable systemic problems…” Sadly, I know you’re not joking.

  57. May 10, 2012

    One country that utterly fascinates me is Poland, so I am chagrined to realize I did not include Józef Piłsudski in my list of positive examples of men on a horse.

  58. Morocco Bama permalink
    May 10, 2012

    The problem with many of the examples of South American countries is that they are inextricably tied to the destruction of the planet for their perpetuity. They rely on the colonial system put in place that strips their habitat of its pristine beauty. Yeah, they share the wealth of that process a bit more equitably, but they are still Feeding The Beast, and I’m sorry, but I can’t be on board with that. It’s not the solution. I refuse to be defined as a “worker” just as I refuse to be defined as an “employee”. We must find another way, or we’re doomed as a species. We can’t lose sight of that. These half measures, and quarter measures are too little, too late.

  59. StewartM permalink
    May 10, 2012

    ATYD:

    Dont bother Tony. Liberals don’t read history.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

    Apparently you don’t read anthropology, which was the reference to that quote:

    To view human behavior as being about economic calculation flies in the face of thousands of years of anthropological study. There are other forms of organization other than hierarchical or by markets.

    Which is factually, objectively, true. I understood what MontanaMaven was talking about.

    Oh, and BTW: “history” does not encompass the whole story of humankind. Only the itsy-bitsy bit of it after writing was invented, by which time many things had already gone terribly wrong. If the aim of the study of the past is to understand humankind and how humans behave and interact better, it doesn’t do to focus on the last 10,000 years and ignore everything else that came before. You get as warped a perspective as if you had studied only, say, US history and had ignored Chinese or European history.

    -StewartM

  60. May 10, 2012

    Thank you Stewart. I don’t do Graeber justice, so I will quote him from an interview in the Boston Review. I’ve studied a great deal of history in my lifetime and in my field, but I’m a relative newcomer to anthropology. So far I love it. Graeber’s book “Debt: The First 5000 Years” is chuck full of stories and ideas I knew zero about. Mind opening. But here is a little from “What We Owe Each Other”.

    The fact that we can do anthropology means they’re building the things out of the same materials that we are; they’re just putting the pieces together in different ways. And once you understand that and look back at your own society, you just see it with new eyes. And that’s again what I was trying to do, to start by talking about radically different sorts of economic systems and ways that people interact with one another.

    So I think one of the questions I’m asking in the book is not just about the power of debt but also why we come to see debt—exchange whereby complete transactions are debts—as being the essence of all social relations, because the very logic of exchange is just one of many ways that we ourselves think of the morality of distribution and transfer of material goods. There are always different registers and different moralities that we bring to bear, but the basic principles really are the same everywhere you go. So the moment you realize that everything we’re doing is not an exchange, suddenly you realize that forms of feudal hierarchy actually exist right here, but forms of communism also exist right here. Almost any social possibility already exists and is part of the daily fabric of our existence. We’re just taught not to notice it or think it’s particularly important.

    DJ: That argument reminded me of philosopher Jerry [G.A.] Cohen, who uses the notion of a camping trip to examine the sort of norms we take for granted in everyday relations. They’re communist norms.

    DG: Yeah! Most interactions with people that you trust, people that you love, or people that just need to cooperate with on an immediate basis, take the form of “From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.” It doesn’t matter if you’re working for the government, working for a corporation, or working in your family; if you need to fix the toilet because it’s leaking and you say “Hand me the wrench,” the other guy doesn’t say “What do I get for that?” It’s not an exchange; people act according to their abilities to chip in. Ironically communism is applied because it’s the only thing that works; it’s the most efficient way to allocate resources. Thus I like to say that you could argue that capitalism is just a bad way of organizing communism. [laughter]

    http://www.bostonreview.net/BR37.1/david_graeber_debt_economics_occupy_wall_street.php

  61. Morocco Bama permalink
    May 10, 2012

    Not to discount Graeber’s welcome ideas as food for thought and potential action, but he can’t self-describe himself as an Anarchist and be in the employ of Yale University. Seriously, Yale? Consider the implications of that University….its tentacles into all these things we discuss here. It’s at the very center of it. Even if Yale gives him a long leash, and obviously Yale does, it’s still a leash. Yes, Graeber may appreciate many of the notions of Anarchism as he defines it, but appreciating the notions and walking the talk are two very different things. And, don;t get me wrong, I know walking the talk is a near impossibility considering this onerous system. If he did walk that talk, he wouldn’t have an audience. Obviously, Yale considers him useful in some way other than his face value. It would be interesting conjecture to consider what that use is for Yale. Afterall, this fine upstanding Ivy League School is the cornerstone of U.S. intelligence. What purpose does Graeber serve for them?

    I’m not trying to be contentious with the above observation, rather I’m just trying to keep it real and in its proper perspective, if there such a thing as a proper perspective.

  62. May 10, 2012

    He is no longer at Yale. No tenure. He is at Goldsmiths in London.
    From Wikipedia:

    In May 2005, the Yale anthropology department decided not to renew Graeber’s contract, preventing him from coming up for consideration for tenure as he would otherwise have been scheduled to do in 2008. Pointing to Graeber’s highly-regarded anthropological scholarship, his supporters (including fellow anthropologists, former students, and anarchists) have accused the dismissal decision of being politically motivated. The Yale administration argued that Graeber’s dismissal was in keeping with Yale’s policy of granting tenure to few junior faculty and Yale has given no formal explanation for its actions. Graeber has suggested that his support of a student of his targeted for expulsion because of her membership in GESO, Yale’s graduate student union, may have played a role in Yale’s decision.[1]

  63. CityExPat permalink
    May 10, 2012

    @Montana – thanks, I was just going to mention that as well. But really, according to MB Chomsky isn’t “allowed” to call himself anarchist (which Chomsky does) due to his employment by MIT (which Chomsky himself notes is obviously problematic).

    Whilst we would all love to live up to our ideals many of us fail in this. I could go out to the fields and live in a shack or truly live in the not as ideal muck of this world in my very not ideologically pure occupation (finance). More power to those going off the grid and living the ideals, but if that’s the expectation (i.e. a sort of ideological purity), it’s no wonder we’re all rather fucked. Rigidity in any philosophical leaning is a sort of intellectual death. Maybe I’ve read too much Hannah Arendt…

  64. Morocco Bama permalink
    May 10, 2012

    By virtue of your response, CityExPat, you are no anarchist. And if you claim you’re not, and never were, why the hell do you even give a flying fuck? In fact, your words and sentiment are anathema to the spirit of it. You’re yet another Fanboy, and a prime example of why things will never change. Those who think they want change really just want more of the same, except them on top.

    Montana Maven, thanks for that link. It explains the Yale portion of my observation. The rest of my point remains. I throw myself in the category of Graeber, meaning I appreciate the notion of Anarchism, but I am no Anarchist.

    Montana Maven, have you ever had any exposure to the concept of Dunbar’s Number and its implications? It’s a great topic to weave in with the many issues Graeber raises.

  65. Morocco Bama permalink
    May 10, 2012

    Here’s an informative video debate between to individuals whose opinions I greatly respect. It’s a great conversation….one we should be having continually until we finally get on that road. After viewing it, which one would you consider to be the Anarchist, if you had to choose one or the other? I would go with Foucault, and note his comments on the university system, and institutions in general.

    Chomsky can call himself anything he likes, just as I can call myself Santa Claus, but that doesn’t make it so. I don’t like to label or categorize, because I believe to do so puts things and people in a box and tries to keep it/them there, but only as a directional, I see Chomsky more as a Reformationist, rather than an Anarchist. That’s the problem with Anarchism, though, the concept itself precludes defining it…..because at its core, in the least, confinement is anathema to it.

    http://www.myspace.com/video/this-isn-39-t-noam-chomsky/noam-chomsky-debates-with-michel-foucault/806445

  66. May 10, 2012

    @MB:

    The problem with many of the examples of South American countries is that they are inextricably tied to the destruction of the planet for their perpetuity.

    Ecuador (from 2008):

    By an overwhelming margin, the people of Ecuador today voted for a new constitution that is the first in the world to recognize legally enforceable Rights of Nature, or ecosystem rights…

    Article 1 of the new “Rights for Nature” chapter of the Ecuador constitution reads: “Nature or Pachamama, where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution. Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognitions of rights for nature before the public bodies.”

    Efforts are being made.

  67. Everythings Jake permalink
    May 10, 2012

    Talk about your man on a horse, an inmate in West Virginia took 41% of the primary vote from Obama. Ian was right, Obama should have been primaried hard from the left.

  68. May 10, 2012

    EJ: as has been frequently pointed out, there is no political “left” in this country; there are only variations of rightists, including the so-called progressives, in American politics.

    There is something of a radical left, and even the remnants of a revolutionary left, but neither of them participate in American politics in any animate way.

    And then there are the anarchists who don’t generally participate in the political system, either (though it’s a fiction to claim that they don’t vote; they simply have no illusions about the function of voting.)

    So. As long as our current political system endures, it will be rightist. We get to choose what flavor…

    The horseman metaphor has often been applied to people like the Divine St. David Petraeus. Personally, I have no doubt that he is being groomed for service well beyond his current function as CIA Director. As it is, he can step in at any time, whether by election or coup. And I can almost guarantee he will hailed by (almost) all as a Savior.

  69. Morocco Bama permalink
    May 10, 2012

    an inmate in West Virginia took 41% of the primary vote from Obama

    We’ll all be squealing like piggies in no time with results like that.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwulUkvxbnk&feature=related

    That’s not a Man On Horseback, it’s a Man On A Bar Of Soap.

  70. May 10, 2012

    Just to be clear: the emergence of a military “man on a horse” might be a good thing. But chances are that it won’t be. The number of positive examples from history is simply minute compared to the number of examples that were bad. Often, really, really, really bad. Myself, I’m so pessimistic it’s affecting my relationships.

  71. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    May 11, 2012

    On Friday the 19th of December, 2008, the local papers reported the removal of the last equestrian statue of the dictator Francisco Franco from its plinth in the square in front of city hall in Santander, Spain. This was the last public vestige remaining of another “man on a horse” who, (with others), “rescued” (coup d’état against the legitimate government) authoritarian Spain. Be damned careful what you wish for.

    If anything, there is a parallel in the run-up to the Spanish Civil War (X – there have been several) to what is transpiring in the U.S. today. The probable result will be the same unless other factors are introduced. Good luck.

    No mention as to where the pigeons are now alighting and depositing.

  72. David Kowalski permalink
    May 11, 2012

    Latin America provides many examples of variations of the Man on Horseback theme.

    The Perons in Argentina represented a decades long example of a man-and-woman on horseback. It was Eva who was the charismatic one. Juan was the general. Juan, in fact, was part of a military group known as the gulpistas. They publicly discussed the idea of a coup for months and maybe more.

    In Mexico, General Lazaro Cardenas was elected President for a six year term in 1934 and was widely expected to be more of the same. In fact, he was the great leftist reformer in the history of the country. Thank you FDR. Many US Presidents would have ousted Cardenas after he nationalized the US-owned oil industry. An elected man on horseback more in keeping with US tradition (Eisenhower, Grant, Washington, W.H. Harrison, Jackson).

    In Brazil and other countries the military has at times ousted elected leaders and immediately installed others. Sometimes the generals form a caretaker military government that lasts for an indefinite but limited time.

    The military may have a weird ideology where it (rather than elected leadership) functions as the guarantor of the nation. The man on horseback has a permanent presence but is often in the background.

    The elites in some of these countries make “the 1%” look like a broad-based coalition. A college professor of mine taught me in the 70s that “every President of Colombia is related to every other President of Colombia.”

    Washington, btw, consciously emulated the example of an early Roman Man on Horseback, Cincinnatus who went back to his farm after saving Rome circa 500 B.C. He had an officer’s alumni group called The Society of Cincinnatus. The city in Ohio was connected to Washington and his vet group (also of course investors/speculators). The name was considered a synonym for Washington.

    I would expect that the US form would be that the military either installs a compliant politician (example what Smedley Butler was “supposed” to do with John Nance Garner in the 1930s) or is elected to the office under a promise to fix the country. “I will go to Korea/Iraq?Wall Street. etc.”). If elected a man-woman combo a la the Perons seems like it would fall within recent US tradition.

  73. Radical Livre permalink
    May 11, 2012

    David Kowalsky, small quibble. Peron didn’t belong to a group called “gulpistas”. Golpista (with an o) literally means something like “Couper” in Spanish. i.e.: Person who performs a coup d’etat. Peron was part of a coup in the forties, but that coup only landed him in the labour department. It was his populist policies and cooption of the labour movement while in that department that brought him popular support to protect him against his rivals in the military and got him elected president later.

    The 30s and 40s is actually a time where “Men on Horses”, elected or not, thrived all over Latin America (thanks, in great part, to the breakdown of the old agrarian social order accelerated by the Great Depression), and interesting comparative studies can be made on the variation between countries. Just like they could be made about the current rise of “the left”.

  74. Blaze Pascal permalink
    May 11, 2012

    Ian was right, Obama should have been primaried hard from the left.

    The primary process is a fraud–the party has made it clear indeed that grubby democracy will not be permitted to interfere with the One’s re-affirmation.

  75. Morocco Bama permalink
    May 12, 2012

    Decent documentary here on the Spanish Civil War. Prelude to a Tragedy is perhaps where we are right now in the U.S. This fits nicely with Ian’s post. There are many similarities.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=x7S9XcDMkdA

    Do not beckon the dreaded Man On Horseback.

  76. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    May 13, 2012

    MB, nice catch, the youtube presentation gives the general drift and some of the complex relations present in the lead-up to the Spanish Civil War, but is slightly weak in knitting these factors together (difficult to do with 5 or more factions contending contemporaneously); one of the problems with multimedia and time constraints involved. Presenting some of those surviving on film (ca. 1983) adds the human dimension and gravitas to the film.
    For reading, Paul Preston’s “The Spanish Civil War, Reaction, Revolution and Revenge”, ISBN 978-0-00-723207-9 was “… published to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Civil War, … (about the historian writing book (from back cover))”. Until recently Spain has had to rely upon outside historians to write this history, the remaining wounds of the period being still fresh and raw; see how barely healed they are from the U.S. Civil War after so many generations.

  77. Morocco Bama permalink
    May 13, 2012

    Thanks for the book suggestion, FTB. It will most likely be the next one I read. As you mention, the tragedy of the Spanish Civil War has been largely overlooked by the world at large for many reasons, to include an atmosphere of censorship of the subject in Spain, but also, I believe, because so much time and effort has been focused on Germany, the Nazis, and Hitler, that it’s overshadowed every other significant tragedy in this tumultuous period. It was an amazing period. Worlds were quite literally rocked, and yet, this younger generation, and even the generation that preceded it, no little about the depth and complexity of it all, and that’s a very sad statement, because you know as I do, if you don’t have anything near an accurate representation of the past, you’re doomed to repeat the same mistakes.

    It is mind-boggling to consider that Francoist Spain survived until 1975. It makes you wonder about Hitler and the Nazis if they hadn’t gone the expansionist route replete with preemptive war. The world would be a very different place today.

  78. May 13, 2012

    Thanks for the documentary link, MB. Priceless footage I’d never seen. Now to watch the other 5 parts…

  79. CityExPat permalink
    May 14, 2012

    @MB – So, I take it that Graeber and Chomsky in your opinion are not anarchists? I believe that was the main thust of my post. They state that they are, but instead you just call me a “fan-boy”. Jesus H-on a popsickle stick. Chomsky has said (as I noted) that it is problematic that he works at MIT and how they help in the military, but the world isn’t a clean place. From your answer, I guess you think they collude and can’t be trusted. But you didn’t say that, so I’m surmising from your dismissmal of me as fanboy.

    I, by the way, never said I was an anarchist in the post, mearly that I don’t live an ideologically pure life. I don’t live up to my ideals was my point. So I am not going to throw stones in that glass house with reference to a person like Graeber.

    My other point at the end of my post, which I seemed to have made poorly, since you dismissed me as the problem, was what seems to be your drive for no compromise in life and world view would silence interesting thinkers who do have things to contribute to how the world can and should be very different. It’s comendable that you can live up to the ideals.

  80. S Brennan permalink
    May 14, 2012

    When Democrats in the late 1970′s turned away from the payroll stiff, away from FDR paradigm and embraced the disastrous 19th century economics of Milton Friedman, it freed the Republicans from paying lip service. The early prostitutes in the Democratic party were well paid for their customer service and have been replaced ever more eager whores.

    Ripped from today’s headlines:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/post/exclusive-wisconsin-dems-furious-with-dnc-for-refusing-to-invest-big-money-in-walker-recall/2012/05/14/gIQAj6lxOU_blog.html

  81. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    May 15, 2012

    A little something to put some flesh on the wounds inflicted by Franco’s dictatorship and their present day consequence from El País English (14 May).

    http://elpais.com/elpais/2012/05/14/inenglish/1336996949_106345.html

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