The Times blames the victim, again

Kyle has a good analysis of the shockingly bad New York Times article on the UN killings in the Haitian slum of Cité Soleil. (Shocking? Okay, it's not that shocking.)

The original article is here.


The last time the USA considered nuking China

It's interesting how deeply hypocritical public culture is. Two poor countries constantly threatened by the most powerful country in the world try to develop nuclear weapons in self-defense, and are branded immoral and insane. American leaders talk about actually using nuclear weapons offensively, and it barely registers.

The Bush administration, of course, has talked publicly about using low-yield nukes, but what are they talking about behind closed doors, in records that the public won't have access to for 40 years? We don't know, but we do know what everyone's favorite liberal, JFK, was talking about in 1963:

'63 Tapes Reveal Kennedy and Aides Discussed Using Nuclear Arms in a China-India Clash

That's right, the Kennedy administration was seriously considering nuking China if it got into another war with India.

Defense Secretary Robert McNamara told Kennedy, "Any large Chinese Communist attack on any part of that area would require the use of nuclear weapons by the U.S., and this is to be preferred over the introduction of large numbers of U.S. soldiers." Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Maxwell Taylor says, "I would hate to think that we would fight this on the ground in a non-nuclear way." Kennedy goes along with them.

Jesus Christ! Using nuclear weapons so you don't have to send troops? It's surreal how matter-of-factly they talk about it. Yet another case of the banality of evil.

Yet it really shouldn't be that surprising: American leaders seriously considered using nuclear weapons in the wars in both Korea and Vietnam, and that would have killed far more people than presumably isolated nuclear bombing in the Himalayas - unless the hpyothetical war escalated. Yet it is surprising, because as Americans we're taught to see our leaders sympathetically, not as the demons foreign leaders are frequently made out to be. Yet the cold evidence is there: leaders both American and foreign act, and often think, in exactly the same ruthless ways and with the same blood-drenched results.

The icing on the cake is the quote from über-liberal George Ball (the only high administration official who opposed the Vietnam war): "If there is a general appearance of a shift in strategy to the dependence on a nuclear defense against the Chinese in the Far East, we are going to inject into this whole world opinion the old bugaboo of being willing to use nuclear weapons against Asians."

A classic liberal argument: don't massacre people, because it might make us look bad. It certainly tells you how debased the discourse - or possibly the person - is, when you have to appeal to the national interests in order to argue against that old bugaboo, mass murder.

The Times article, btw, misrepresents the border war between China and India as "an invasion of India by China, which sought to acquire disputed border territories". While border disputes left over from colonialism pretty much never allow for clear apportioning of blame, it's generally acknowledged that Indian provocations started the war, even tho China decisively won.


The delicate task of criticizing Tolerance

When I was in LA a couple weeks ago I went to the Museum of Tolerance. What is the Museum of Tolerance you ask? Well it turns out that it's mainly about learning to tolerate Jews and not kill 6 million of them. But it also comes out against all kinds of intolerance, from ethnic strife to homophobia to class hatred.

Hold on! Class hatred? A significant fraction of the time I spend talking with people is spent subtly encouraging class hatred, thru the insinuated disparagings of "rich people", "fancy shit", "bourgeois taste", "fatcat semi-fascist bastards, blood-suckers of the working class", and the like.

Sure it's nice to have little slogans telling the kids that "hatred is bad". But it's one thing to accept cultural diversity, quite another to tolerate Nazis and slaveowners and bosses - and I'm not uncomfortable grouping the last one in with the other two.

There was a sense of vacuity about the whole the place, of empty moralizing against "hatred" with little to no explanation of what causes hatred or how we can end it. Might intolerance have to do with struggles over control of resources or the state, or with politicians looking for a mass base to support their rise? Might all the different supremacies - based in race, gender, class, culture, or species - be fundamental parts of individuals' identities, structuring how people see the world and allowing them to accept all the many other ways it crushes them underfoot? If so, what structural social changes should we make, what strategies should we pursue, who are our allies and who our enemies?

Who knows? But I did learn this: Hatred is bad.


Isn't that cute? Bollywood wants to be like grown-ups

Bollywood's Leading Actor Goes Mainstream

This isn't a bad article on Bollywood movie star Aamir Khan, but what drew my attention was the headline.

Khan is making a high profile English-language movie in the hopes of breaking into international markets. Therefore he's going "mainstream".

The presumption here is that the American (British, Australian) market is central or normal, everything else is merely appealing to some niche audience. In this case a niche of 1 billion people.

The cultural arrogance is overwhelming, and it's exactly this sort of thinking that props up American and Western hegemony by casting the West as the lodestone around which the rest of the world rotates. The West works its will upon the rest of the world while everyone else waits with bated breath to see whether it will accept their importuning. Unfortunately, this is sometimes true - but the history and current practice of global inequality which lie at its root are rarely explored. And more often than not the people of other parts of the world are perfectly happy with their own cultural resources and don't see themselves as part of some marginal culture outside the "mainstream" of those (actually a rather small global minority) living in the rich countries.


The rotating door between government and corporations

Remember Michael Powell, Colin Powell's son who - definitely thru his own qualifications and not at all because of nepotism - became chairman of the FCC and did his utmost to end any sort of regulations on the rapidly consolidating media industry? (Is there even more than 1 company left now?)

Well, again exclusively thru his own qualifications and not at all because his political connections will enable him to manipulate the government, he's won a job as senior adviser to Providence Equity Partners, an equity firm whose main job is making deals and buying stakes in media corporations.

This illustrates one of the key processes in American elite formation and reproduction: the rotating door between government agencies that regulate corporations and high-paying consultancies with those same corporations. Someone holding a high position in a regulatory agency or working on regulations in Congress, as soon as he (occasionally she) leaves government, can expect to receive sweet job offers from all the companies he was just overseeing. Unless, of course, he did a good job regulating them, in which case the sweet jobs will not be forthcoming.

Having become "senior consultant" or whatever, he then goes on to use his connections in the bureaucracy or Congress to convince the people who succeeded him (themselves looking forward to sweet corporate jobs), of how closely the interests of his company line up with the public interest. Frequently the corporate consultant cycles right back into a regulatory position a few years down the road. This is a longstanding pattern, certainly not an innovation of the Bush administration.

Might this practice have some influence on the quality of the regulating process?

Adding insult to injury, this important and nearly universal phenomenon goes almost unremarked upon in the media. The Michael Powell story should count as one of the more egregious and high-profile examples of its kind given his crass pursuit of the media companies' interests during his tenure as regulator and his rapid move to working for the same companies. Yet it received only capsule treatment on page 14 in the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times didn't report it at all, and the Reuters article is literally a press release from Providence Equity Partners.

But surely TV news, freed by Michael Powell from the suffocating effect of all those rules and now able to properly do its job as watchdog for our great democracy, will come to our rescue.


I also have a less strident side

I've started a new blog to humor my less political impulses.

But fear not! I haven't given up on this one. Expect a fascinating new post soon.