Skip to content

The Debt Ceiling Crisis Is FAKE

July 29, 2011

That’s all.

Out of Work

May 17, 2011

OUT IN REAL LIFE your humble narrator here at Stump Lane got laid off. Boss Man made a “business decision.” Margins are so squeezed, it just doesn’t make sense to keep the operation going. He’s closing up shop. For Ol’ Montag, it was a slip down another step in the decline we’ve been documenting in this space recently.

But it’s not ALL gloom and doom. I have this opposing sense of liberation from the alienation we’ve also begun dissecting in this space. You [I] have nothing to lose but your [my] chains. The chain I’ve labored on since the start of my working life. It is a ponderous chain! Oh but if it goes on too long they could take our house away? Well lah-tee-fucking-dah! The only thing they’ll have taken is the FAKE money we invested in the down payment, and the thousands of additional FAKE dollars and hundreds of hours of labor we’ve “invested” in maintenance and improvements, not to mention interest payments and FAKE “principle” payments. One day we’ll look back on it as having been done a terrific favor. The chains coming off.

Do your worst, Strivers and Moneymen!

For years I’ve been moonlighting on the side and have a few small jobs to work on for the very short term. Hoping to ramp that business up to replace the lost income, though construction is slow all over right now, and from what I’m hearing, likely will be until past 2014. Wish me luck. While I like to keep real life and blog life compartmentalized, I’ll let old blog friends in on the secret in private, if interested. Especially ones who might have connections in the construction or design fields. ;-)

Anyway, the pertinent result of this development is that my posting, commenting elsewhere, BLAWGing in general, will be sporadic and probably more dim-witted than usual for a little while as I get my bearings. Apologies to all who commented on the Revenge and Justice post, especially Justin who’s comments I still hope to respond to at some point, in some form.

Truth Revenge, Justice and The Rest of It

May 5, 2011

O-gamer
Image via: fuck yeah dementia!!1!

GREAT SUCCESS in the war on terror, right? We’re told they killed that one guy, anyway. Which is symbolically a huge huge deal. And there seems to be a lot riding on folks buying into this thing.

What was remarkable about the military operation to me, is the same thing that troubles Jeff Goldstein:

What remains troubling to me is the circumstances surrounding bin Laden’s death: if he wasn’t armed, the SEAL team would have apprehended him if at all possible, unless they were given an entirely new kind of order, one that I’m nearly certain Holder and Obama would have never given (even as this “kill order” story continues to be floated). [Goldstein]

I’m far less certain that kind of order was one Obama would have never given, though this bizarre account of the decision making process, if there’s any truth to it, would seem to confirm but complicate the notion.

If there is any truth to the official account of the raid itself being offered for public consumption, it seems safe to assume, whoever was pulling the strings, the order was given that bin Laden not be taken alive.

Michael Moore offers a hilarious criticism of the decision to execute rather than bring to trial. He starts with a 100% repudiation of the death penalty, and concludes with an endorsement of it LOL:

I am a Catholic, and the position of the Catholic Church and the Pope is that we are 100 percent against the death penalty unless it is in self-defense. Look at the Nuremberg Trials. We didn’t just pop a bullet in the heads of the worst scum in history. We thought it was important to put them on trial and expose their evil. In a democracy we believe in a system of justice and we believe in a judicial system that gives people a day in court…and then we hung them.

It doesn’t mean we can’t hang them afterward… [Moore]

The conventional defense of the decision to kill goes something like this, from Winston Smith:

A bunch of smart, well-informed people undoubtedly started thinking about this soon after 9/11. They apparently concluded what a bunch of laypeople, including myself, concluded: that there were too many problems associated with a trial for OBL. Dude was guilty as sin, and there was no doubt about it. It’s not like he denied it. Putting him on trial would have taken forever, given him a platform, stirred up the crazies…and there is always a nonzero probability that he could be found innocent–prosecutorial misconduct or who knows what. [Smith]

Tried and true. People have this argument handy and ready to go, don’t they? It’s the same rationalization used to prop up military tribunals and justify the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects at Gitmo.

Smith starts with an appeal to authority. No not the “smart, well-informed people” bit, the presumption of guilt bit. This is the part where we know a terrorism suspect is guilty because the authorities say he’s a terrorist! This is the same magical thinking that leads to a Bradley Manning being held for months and months without trial for “aiding the enemy!”

I know what you’ll say next: bin Laden admitted responsibility! He claimed credit for 9-11. He confessed! To what exactly? What was his role in the attack? I don’t put any stock in confessions. To my mind, they should never be accepted as evidence of guilt. Confessions can be false! I’d consider confessing to a crime to protect one of my kids from going to prison. Maybe bin Laden took credit for 9-11 to add to his own mystique, or to protect al Quaeda operatives out in the field. Who knows? That said, even within the criminal justice system as it stands, defendants who have confessed stand trial before punishment is meted out.

Would a trial have helped the country better understand 9-11? Shed any light on the inner workings and organization of al Qaeda? On bin Laden’s capacity? NO! Because Osama Bin Laden was a symbol. An irrelevancy. A creation of propagandists. A figment of collective imagination. Osama Bin Laden was the Bogyman. This is why Winston Smith gets partial credit for saying, “there was never any intention of taking OBL alive.”

Jonathan Simon looks at this case as well, delving in to the concepts of revenge and justice. While it’s an interesting post, it too gets really weird. Bin Laden seems to have that effect on people, huh?

Having differentiated the military operation as act of revenge served cold, from a measured and deliberate process of penal justice, Simon concludes:

Moments like this, where revenge and justice are together enacted in an act of both courage and dignity, are certain to be rare. We should take them for what they are; experience whatever healing and sanctifying work they can do; and carry on with the business of creating forms of penal justice that transcend revenge and retribution to achieve dignity. [Simon]

Revenge? Yes.
Justice? Fucked if I know.
Healing? Huh?
Sanctifying? Perhaps it sanctifies the myth.

Is the search for truth important in justice? Did any portion of the truth die with the villain?

Sketching Out A Thought Process

April 27, 2011

SO THIS HAPPENED this morning…

ADAMCRAZYPANTS: I’d say that authority and institutions are the antithesis of life itself. There is [no] logic or architecture or structure to the human dogpile, [it’s just] a dogpile.

Frederick: I couldn’t disagree with two statements more. They ignore everything you can observe with your own two eyes everyday.

As one who has dabbled in the Eristic principles of Dischordianism myself, I might gently chide Frederick for this. “The principle of disorder is just as significant as the principle of order,” “There is no tyranny in the State of Confusion,” and so on. Kidding aside, it is tricky accepting the evidence observed with one’s own two eyes every day without attempting to come to terms with it in some way. And the discussion does fit right in with the general arc this blog has taken of late.

There is a post in the “drafts” folder meant to give a little more form to several running themes of whatever it is we’ve got going on here, but that’s just it, it’s languishing in the “drafts” folder. In the meantime, here’s a quick sketch of the thought process aroused by the conversation excerpted above. Take it as an embrace of the virtue forwarded in drip’s recent comment that, “really, more people should ‘show their work’.”

what’s morality?
reject gods and divine command
is there an objective morality?
based on what?
no compelling evidence
still, intuition, nagging convictions remain

clues from nature/science/Darwin?
after all, human’s most basic/urgent drives are centered on survival
air, shelter, water, security, reproduction…
biological imperative
survival of the species and whatnot
sketch out an ethic based on subsistence
universal ideal to meet basic human needs for all

ignoring the less urgent/higher needs
or social structures that incentivize the “wrong” ones
(domination vs. nurturing)
limits the potential of altruism and solidarity
inequality* leads to the above
inequality* is the design flaw of social structures and institutions
life in a fucked-up society

“might makes right”
Social Darwinism
seems unbecoming in
social
big-brained
self-aware
creatures
that are equipped to feel empathy
maybe such creatures, (ones who emphasize altruism and solidarity,) simply aren’t biologically viable from an evolution standpoint?

are we human beings
or mere animals?

* inequality meaning the unequal value placed on time not spent directly tending to one’s own needs.

Democracy Is FAKE (Part 1 REVISITED)

April 21, 2011

I’VE BEEN banging my head trying to organize thoughts for a follow-up to my recent post on the evils of democracy, and have come to realize the terms “rulers” and “elite,” as I employed them, don’t satisfactorily convey my intended meaning.

For instance, when I say the foundation of functioning democracy, that is, a democracy that is able to function in perpetuity, is: “an elite: technocrats charged with steering the majority where it ‘needs’ to go,” I’m speaking of a small group of technocrats in whose judgement the majority is said to have placed its trust. I don’t mean to say that this small “elite” is itself entirely secure in it’s position. These “elites,” are just the ambitious devils who happen to have been able to scramble to the top of the pile, at least for the time being. “The elite,” in my system of thinking, is a position, a slot, a category. The individual people who inhabit this category are essentially interchangeable.

It does occur to me that thinking about democracy as a structure which requires a foundation, where the “foundation” is a trusted minority who have scrambled to the top, draws a pretty fucking confusing picture, doesn’t it? Let me just duck out of my stupid mixed-metaphor and once again drag out this fantastic explanation, which is thankfully the product of a clearer mind:

The ruling class comprises those people who have their own independent means of survival, while the ruled is everyone forced to work for them.

The salient thing about the ruling class though is that it’s a class, not a conspiracy. It arises and perpetuates itself not according to some Plan scrawled in goat’s blood in a musty grimoire somewhere, but inevitably out of certain blindly deterministic functions of economics/psychology/etc… There’s no capstone to the economic pyramid, no one ultimately pulling the strings. The system is such that the strings pull themselves. Everyone, no matter how high up they might seem to us, is replaceable, because it’s the machine that’s immortal. [boetian]

Moving on, when I regrettably went on to mention the potential threat of “unadulterated, one-person-one-vote, majority rule,” rather than calling it a threat to “the rulers’ pocketbooks,” the idea would have been better served if I’d called it a threat to financial power itself. That is, the unequal allocation of resources through which a minority is able to wield power over the majority.

My phrase, Power Seekers, (another idea I plan to flesh out in yet another planned re-write of another post,) has also proven to be a point of contention. For now let’s say: A) a Power Seeker’s motivation is to maintain and/or consolidate and/or gain power over others; that B) successful Power Seekers, having attained whatever position of power, are more able to remain in it, and gain more; but that C) Power Seekers have little choice but to serve the system that affords them their position, for they will lose power should they seek to affect the system in a way that runs counter to the purpose of the system.

Not sure if this is true of all power arrangements, but in functioning democracy at least, I hope to have shown that its purpose is simply to go on functioning, to remain as THE system of power.

So here is the questionable text from the original post which I have revised to include the edits shown here:

There’s a famous argument that says, “[Democracy] can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury,” but don’t read this as a threat to sound fiscal policy! It’s a threat to the very foundation of functioning democracy itself, the need for an elite: technocrats trusted experts, authorities, charged with steering the majority where it “needs” to go, where the need is always to allow democracy to perpetually “function.” The result is a category of public figures you might call “a ruling class”. The threat of unadulterated, one-person-one-vote, majority rule would not be the draining of the public treasury, it would be the fair distribution of society’s total wealth. It is a threat to the rulers’ pocketbooks financial power itself. By examining the circularity of the logic at work here, we learn what it means to have a functioning democracy. Worse than a mere tyranny of the majority, (i.e. a bunch of assholes;) it’s a tyranny of a tiny cadre of oligarchic elite functionaries, (i.e. a handful of Überassholes.)

At some regrettable point long ago, “politics” stopped being a broad category encompassing all manner of human social interactions and became instead A Political System alienated from everyday life. I’m inclined to think Original Alienation occurred with the emergence of an elite. (More on this in part 2.) (Let’s forget this was even here and just leave a potential discussion along these very poorly drawn out lines for part 2.) Along with a privileged elite deference and authority come self interested Power Seekers: those who strive within such a system to gain or keep said privilege power and authority, (privilege, comfort, prestige,) for themselves. What’s more, the system of functioning democracy depends on this power seeking impulse. [and in the interest of maintaining power, some mechanism like what we’re calling “functioning democracy” becomes necessary.] (Again, let’s just forget this last bit of cart before the horse nonsense was even here before.)

In a prior post on power and human nature was a proposed dichotomy for evaluating the ethics of exercises of power: power employed to nurture (good) vs. power employed to dominate (bad). Democracy, as an instrument of elite power amoral system of power, which only “functions” when it serves to protect authority, to preserve the favored status and wealth of an elite are preserved, resulting in the inequalities inherent in a class system, if not Hereditary Aristocracy Lite, is domination.

Credit where due to: Mr. Magundi, ADAMCRAZYPANTS (begrudgingly) and John Michael Greer for helping Your Montag uncross his wires. ;-)

Mr. Magundi On Work

April 1, 2011

MR. MAGUNDI, who never hesitates to speak his mind, and whose recorded opinions vacillate between the outstandingly astute and the disappointingly inscrutable, has held forth touching on two of our favorite topics, the alienation of work life and FAKE money, in a post entitled On Work, which sets the standard at the outstanding end of the spectrum.

“Go read it,” I suggested.

On the Possibility of Imperial Humanitarianism

March 29, 2011

THE PRESIDENT last night, (via IOZ)

[G]iven the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. [Obama]

To elaborate just a little, here is what Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough said on the same topic earlier in the day:

[W]e don’t get very hung up on this question of precedent. What we do — because we don’t make decisions about questions like intervention based on consistency or precedent. We make them based on how we can best advance our interests in the region. [McDonough]

Though I think McDonough sells empire short on the consistency charge. Entrenched power consistently makes decisions based on furthering its interests. And, really, can a one trick pony be anything but consistent? US power is an ordinance.

Democracy Is FAKE (Part 1)

March 28, 2011

UPDATE: This post has been revised. In the interest of transparency, please see this post for an explanation of the edits against the original text.

OKAY, OKAY, DEMOCRACY ISN’T “fake” in exactly the same way that money is fake, or obligation is fake. These things are powerful fictions: fibs agreed upon, mass delusions, conformity to which is a survival mechanism for life in a fucked up society. They’re defined through our thoughts, given power through our acts. Yes, democracy is very much all of this, but so much worse!

Democracy is obligation devoid of truth. It obligates us to submit to, and alternately, impose the power of the group, according to majority vote. And the majority is an asshole! It is devoid of truth in that the ideal it furthers, (of pursuing the interests of the majority, i.e. a bunch of assholes,) is not a universal ideal. Something that masquerades as a truth that isn’t universal is simulacrum. Imposing the power of simulacrum is terror. Terror is a form of evil. So rather than “Democracy Is FAKE,” my headline here would be more accurate if it read, “Democracy is EVIL.” Mea culpa.

There’s a famous argument that says, “[Democracy] can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury,” but don’t read this as a threat to sound fiscal policy! It’s a threat to the very foundation of functioning democracy itself, the need for trusted experts, authorities, charged with steering the majority where it “needs” to go, where the need is always to allow democracy to perpetually “function.” The result is a category of public figures you might call “a ruling class”. The threat of unadulterated, one-person-one-vote, majority rule would not be the draining of the public treasury, it would be the fair distribution of society’s total wealth. It is a threat to the financial power itself. By examining the circularity of the logic at work here, we learn what it means to have a functioning democracy. Worse than a mere tyranny of the majority, (i.e. a bunch of assholes;) it’s a tyranny of a tiny cadre of oligarchic functionaries, (i.e. a handful of Überassholes.)

Along with deference and authority come self interested Power Seekers: those who strive within such a system to gain or keep power and authority, (privilege, comfort, prestige,) for themselves. What’s more, the system of functioning democracy depends on this power seeking impulse.

In a prior post on power and human nature was a proposed dichotomy for evaluating the ethics of exercises of power: power employed to nurture (good) vs. power employed to dominate (bad). Democracy, as an amoral system of power, which only “functions” when authority, favored status and wealth are preserved, resulting in the inequalities inherent in a class system, if not a squishy form of hereditary aristocracy, is domination.

This does not abide.

You: “Oh for fuck’s sake, Montag. What would you have instead? ‘Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.’

Me: “Really? Winston Winston Churchill?” [sigh]

You: “…”

Me: “OH ALRIGHT, we’ll try to figure something else out in Part 2!”

You: “…”

Me: “OKAY?”

Jeeze.

On Using Force

March 24, 2011

REGARDING THE TENDENCY to try and bomb all of the world’s problems away, a dear friend sends this quote along:

Following Pascal, let’s say: we have always already found the means of giving justice to force, but we aren’t close to finding the way to give force to justice. The very project doesn’t make sense. A force is a force. It can be reasonable to make use of it. But it is irrational to want to render it reasonable. [Ranciere,
The Ignorant Schoolmaster, 90-91.]

On Power As We Know It, In It’s Natural Habitat: The Western World

March 24, 2011

[No, this isn’t the post promised about democracy. That will come… eventually.]

THIS PROBABLY ISN’T a proper Anarchist critique, but I don’t care. I’m my own person and come by these views honestly. The following was conceived in the comment section on this JRB post On Intervention.

I don’t think of Western power as something that we can solicit. It’s something to cope with, an element in the ecosystem in which we survive. Like the wind. Sometimes a nice cool breeze is all you need on a hot Summer day to take the edge off. But wind is unpredictable! Most of the time it’s out there being a pain in the ass, trollin’, blowing your paper plate off the picnic table, messing with your hair, slowing you down on your bike ride. And with alarming frequency, if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, it’ll tear through and suck the roof off every house in the neighborhood.

Just as Western power isn’t something we solicit, it’s also not something we can really foreclose to anyone else. My criticism of the Libyan situation is its violence. I don’t believe that any of the three violent actors (i.e. the Colonel, the rebel leaders, nor Western power,) are honestly acting with the interests of everyday Libyan people at heart.

Reflecting on my own principles, the largest part of my idea of ethics is simply: persevere! By that measure I should be happy for the nonviolent Libyan who has been bought some time by a US cruise missile strike against Gadhafi’s troops. Sure there is dissonance here, but is it inconsistent or hypocritical to both feel sympathetic to that person while abhorring the violence of the situation?

Western power says, “Look! An incredibly violent and regrettable situation!” And “BOMB ‘EM!!!!” is the first and best answer? Really? Is that as far as your imagination will carry you? I mean, there are literally (literally, Joe Biden!) an infinite number of things, short of launching missiles, the powerful could do to help if only they were concerned with the interests of people.

That’s not how Western power operates. No matter how good a cool ocean breeze can sometimes feel, the wind don’t know how to do anything but blow.