Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 11, 2006

WB: Mutually Assured Dementia

Billmon:

It appears our long national journey towards complete idiocy is over. We've arrived.
[...]
There simply isn't a precedent for the world's dominant superpower turning into a rogue state -- much less a rogue state willing to wage nuclear war against potential, even hypothetical, security threats. At that point, we’d truly be through the looking glass.
[...]
A country that nukes other countries merely on the suspicion that it may pose a future security threat isn't the equal of anybody. America would stand completely alone: hated by many, feared by all, admired only by the world’s other tyrants. To call that a watershed event seems a ridiculous understatement.
[...]
When a culture is as historically clueless and morally desensitized as this one appears to be, I don’t think it’s absurd to suppose that even an enormous war crime – the worst imaginable, short of outright genocide -- could get lost in the endless babble of the talking heads.
[...]
What’s truly scary, though, is the possibility that even though the other members of what we jokingly refer to as the international community don’t share Bush’s delusions, they may be willing to humor them as long as it is in their own narrow self-interest to do so (in other words, as long as they’re not the ones being nuked.) Maybe power really is all the justification that power needs. In which case the downhill path for America – the most powerful country that ever was – is likely to be very steep indeed.

Mutually Assured Dementia

Posted by b on April 11, 2006 at 21:23 UTC | Permalink

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As one of the old gang (I followed Billmon from Kos to the WB, then here, and have since wandered about), it seems only like yersterday that I was ranting about the forthcoming film-at-11-collapse of the ole US of A.

Time flies when we have fun.

Posted by: Lupin | Apr 13 2006 15:34 utc | 101

and let's not kid ourselves. those who made an escape to some bourgeois paradise only prove how far the luxury of american citizenship will carry them.

but, I don't revile the efforts of some to get the hell outta here.

Posted by: slothrop | Apr 13 2006 15:56 utc | 102

gangsters, robber barons, capitalists, moneyed elite. how does one tell them apart?

Posted by: dan of steele | Apr 13 2006 17:03 utc | 103

dan

one doesn't

one hangs them all - as they once did to that beautiful brute mussolini

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Apr 13 2006 18:58 utc | 104

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/tariq_ali/2006/04/italy.html.printer.friendly>Tariq Ali

Modern capitalism doesn't really need democracy. It needs an efficient technocractic leadership that paves the way for the turbo-charged monster.

Posted by: slothrop | Apr 13 2006 19:37 utc | 105

Phew - we're safe. Elite will never invade Iran as they're the only nation just exempted from the ban on exporting caviar

Posted by: jj | Apr 13 2006 20:52 utc | 106

wow. flying barstool time sloth, imho you waste your time and keyboard wear and tear on Groucho the Troll, whose intention afaict is seldom to contribute, mostly to snipe. kind of the blog version of a theatre critic? my beef with G is not that s/he is a moron (the snipes are of too high a quality to be truly moronic in the LGF tradition) but that s/he is mostly boring; there's only so much entertainment value in "nyah nyah nyah you dirty Red, the USSR is dead dead dead," and then it kinda wears thin :-)

now I'll engage with your global capital argument and state that I think the real situation is far more fractal and messy than you (so far) describe. a global capitalist class exists, that I do not doubt: it has been called the Party of Davos among other things, and it closes ranks as we would expect against labour, land-rights movements, and anything remotely resembling socialism or redistributive justice. so there's, as usual, a sense in which a big-picture drawing of class lines is correct.

but w/in that global capitalist class there are guilds, if that term will serve, and they are not all pulling in the same direction. there is the Oil Nexus and the Pharma Nexus and the Chem Boys, the Weapons Boys and the Prison Industrial Gang, the Insurance Mob and the Miner's Mob and the Industrial Ag Mafia; and dancing around among all of them is that load of flimflam men and find-the-pea artistes, the Finance Capital Boys. and they all have alliances, mutual interest and mutual antagonism, rivalries, and so on.

the Insurance Mob could be driven clean out of biz by skyrocketing claims due to climate instability. this puts them at odds with the Oil Mob, investing in lower-carbon energy tech and backing stricter emissions regs. that's two heavies squaring off in our time. the Industrial Ag Mob is in bed with the Chem and Oil boys for obvious reasons, but has feelers in Pharma Turf via that fast-moving little street gang, the Gene Vandals. however the other end of Industrial Ag, the Big Food Retailer Lodge, is divided on the whole GMO thing due to threatened sales, and may throw its weight unexpectedly behind labelling or regulation; OTOH the big retailer's pathetic dependence on cheap oil puts it at the mercy of the oldest and meanest gang in the 'hood, the Oil Mafia. and so on.

there are guilds who directly benefit from "little wars" -- just reckon up the profits that have been reaped by USuk and friends from the invasion of Iraq. destroying stuff in order to make money building it again is an old Mafia trick. but there are guilds who would not benefit from a totally destabilising attack on Iran, and even though they are 'bad guys' they might in this case be "bad guys against the bomb." so the global capitalist class might be split on US foreign policy, and US foreign policy might be dominated by a particular guild of the global overclass in our time, and opposed by other guilds.

then there are pretty clear signs of irrationality in US foreign policy, not just today but in previous decades. sociopaths and godbotherers in high places can push through programs which in retrospect appear to have been suicidal from a national or even a class standpoint...

I agree with you in the broad brush picture, but I think the specifics of US policy in the present moment is less rational or less simple or both, than just following the directives or will of an international capitalist consensus... there's no reason why grand narratives can't be about gangstas, in fact most of of the grand narrative of human history, as written down by the winners, is all about gangstas.

@Anon (are you really Debs-back-from-the-dead? I'm worried about you, Debs, wish you would confirm that you are still among the breathing). Your quote about "failures at the business of living" is superb and I plan to cite it. wish I had a better citation than "null string at MoA".

Posted by: DeAnander | Apr 14 2006 0:49 utc | 107

@DeA:

A brilliant, nuanced performance and explication of the current situation.

This critic always appreciates thespians who bring complexity, nuance, and yes, even ambiguity, doubt, and uncertainty to their roles here.

Makes for the best theatre.

Posted by: Frank Rich | Apr 14 2006 1:52 utc | 108

The obvious just occurred to me. That is probably THE Frank Rich. Yes?

Posted by: jj | Apr 14 2006 2:19 utc | 109

Makes for the best theatre

one of my personal fave performances was that night when eccentric millionaire lionel twain & slothrop wound up being the last two souls in the joint, exchanging vituperative blows that reverberated across the sticky wooden floor in a touching display that eventually went nowhere

Posted by: b real | Apr 14 2006 2:33 utc | 110

That whole attack using novalis's 'blue flower' was pretty good, eh?

Posted by: slothrop | Apr 14 2006 2:45 utc | 111

c'mon. I mean who cites novalis in the fast-moving repartee these days?

Posted by: slothrop | Apr 14 2006 2:49 utc | 112

deanander

forgive me if I'm too doctrinaire, but what you describe--the profligacy of competition--is the "competition among many capitals." This should be a separate concern, indeed is an unproductive distraction, from analysis of "capital in general." obsession w/ the former leads to the view (not yours, I'm sure) that some happy ilyria exists beyond a horizon of greed in which the operation of capital is purified of contradiction. "capital in general"--totality--demonstrates the whole shithouse contains the logic of its own destruction.

Posted by: slothrop | Apr 14 2006 3:16 utc | 113

that some happy ilyria exists beyond a horizon of greed

the only thing over the event horizon of greed is max entropy. imho.

sorry, too tired to expand on that. just that greed/accumulation/monoculture is entropic, whereas sharing/distribution/diversity is as antientropic as it gets in this universe... the world can only accommodate so much sharkness.

@Frank Rich, "gods of the theatre smile on us..."

Posted by: DeAnander | Apr 14 2006 5:20 utc | 114

But the things is, I see a nuclear attack on Iran as "competition among many capitals" much more then "capital in general" as I think so many capitalists stand to loose.

How do you see a nuclear attack on Iran as a logical outcome of "capital in general"?

Posted by: a swedish kind of death | Apr 14 2006 11:37 utc | 115

there are a number of ways to reply to deanander and answer skod's question. the foremost is the arg. focusing on the "military industrial complex" as "consumer of idle capital." well, we've been there. here, I want to focus on the problem of labor exploitation as an example of the diminishing role of "many capitals" and the rational agency of capitalists determined by "capital in general."

The confrontation with iran serves "capital in general" by removing a threat to accumulation privileging global capital. here, I want to restrict analysis on the exploitation of labor. the global capitalist class is fragmented in membership, and creative destruction among the "many capitals" to some extent introduces new capitalists to the club, but binding disparate values is the logic of accumulation. this "logic" includes the practice of creating the reserve army of workers by continuously releasing unproductive labor, the strategic socialization of education, healthcare and infrastructure costs, the creation of a rule of law favoring this accumulation, etc. importantly, and unsurprisingly, the usual "metropolitan" countries continue to absorb the creation of surplus value created in the periphery. but, the relation of core and periphery is now more "fractal" wrt labor exploitation. It is not a chaos of the competing "many capitals" that characterizes "late capitalism" but the interpenetration of traditional core and periphery into something that looks like southern california in which white workers, for so long minimally protected by the state, must now compete for work in a creepingly globalizing maquila programme. now more than ever, technological innovations diminish the importance of qualified expertise chartacterizing the competition "of many capitals." more crucial now is the constant creation and maintenance of a reserve army of workers, everywhere and at once. the threat to such expansion are contumacious outliers like iran, chechnya, cuba, et al. who niether wish to remain colonial captives in the old system of exploitation, nor want to, even if they could, play the game of chimerical labor "mobility" benefiting a very mobile and culturally differentiated global capitalist class.

I haven't mentioned here the old system of exploitation survives of course as exploitation of natural resources. we've talked about this at length before. Iran, Iraq, sa are basically banana republics. the extraction of resources and confiscation of value by metropolitan center (sweden!) props up "our way of life" while the global immiseration of workers steadily undercuts this same luxury.

it's all very rational behavior, because the logic of accumulation determines agency, even among the boldest christian capitalist heroes.

Posted by: slothrop | Apr 14 2006 16:59 utc | 116

oh

and this logic will never permit mullahs to play w/ nukes.

Posted by: slothrop | Apr 14 2006 17:02 utc | 117

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/iran_israel;_ylt=Asr6Tu9oPQbc3egcR5t1YKGs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA2Z2szazkxBHNlYwN0bQ-->Ahmadinejad. I swear, you'd think he's on the cia payroll.

Posted by: slothrop | Apr 14 2006 19:40 utc | 118

interesting choice of pictures of ahmadinejad in that link

Posted by: b real | Apr 14 2006 19:45 utc | 119

Ok.

I agree that a victorious war by the hegemonic power against locals thinking they own their resources is in the interest of the global capitalist class. And as long as the hegemon is victorious most of what I wrote will not happen.

And I suppose once you roll out the nuclear bombs any war agianst a non-nuclear power becomes winable, if you can call genocidal warfare a victory.

But to break Iran so thourghly that the US occupation of Iraq is not overthrown by the counterattack would take more then a nuclear bomb or two, it would take massive destruction of population to ensure that military structures are destroyed. So a nuclear attack on Iran can be expected to be massive.

I wrote here or somewhere else that I guessed our homicidal overlords has more murderous imagination then I could bring to the table. Guess I was right.

And slothrop, I you ever come to Sweden I love to show you around this part of the capitals metropolis.

Posted by: a swedish kind of death | Apr 14 2006 20:35 utc | 120

slothrop

i am still unconvinced of your analysis. you do not differentiate between those who benefit directly, those who share the spoils & thos who receive ancillary benefits

you also infer a hegemonic relation amongst international capital - as if it is without contradictory impulses & actions

the attack on the people of the middle east is not at the urging if the capitalist classes of other countries much less their elites who are not necessarily the same thing

the attack on the middle east is an action by an empire, specifically the american empire in its long war against china

the chinese being long players at this game with many teachers from the different dynasties sell the rope on loan to the empire it will hang from its feet

& yes china itself is not immune from its own contradictions & i do not support the new emporerers but their playin g of this war you must accept is kind of skilful in the face of the ignomonious actions of the criminal american empire

when that empire is attacked whether it is indonesia or latin america or anywhere else it goes first & foremost to protect its own interests which are national interests

again a study of capitaldoes not require a labyrinthine analysis - the old who benefits also leads us to the answers

& i feel somewhere in your analysis - is a kind of filtering of those genocidal actions which have been necessary to the concretisation of the empire. i feel that you are wilfully dismissive of the kind of analysis - necessarily conspiratorial concerning 9/11 & the electoral mafeasance, & the corruption of the judiciary - because the point to points of no return in a system is by its nature, national or otherwise, evil & certainly criminal

i just watched for example the physicist from brigham young universiy who conclusively dismisses the official narratives, i think there is a part of me i must admit that refused to see the machinations behind that disaster because i did not want to beleive an empire could act in such a venal way - when all the evidence of my existence & the study of history would have told me there is nothing at all surprising about fals flag operations - so i have come to realise that the engineering studies, the work of physicists, of documentary film makers, of researchers, of experts on aviation etc lead us to the realisation that this particular empire is quiite, quite mad & perhaps we have long past the point of no return

it is in that sense when i read dkos for example the infantile belief that the political processes can be redeemed by a hero nhere & there appears to be what it is - wishful thinking

the only reason, as someone has pointed out here - that iran will not happen is that there is a war within the national ruling class of america

& from here that still seems far away

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Apr 15 2006 0:49 utc | 121

rgiap I have been reading that same physicist's work and I have mixed feelings.

on the one hand he seems to have an occamworthy theory. it accounts for most/all of the anomalies.

on the other hand he is a fan of cold fusion and I think maybe an Intelligent Design promoter (http://www.tungate.com/Death_Before_Adam.htm>oh yeah, he is...) which makes him in my biased view something of a fringe character :-)

not all fringe characters are always wrong.

but it does make me weigh his work a little more lightly.

Posted by: DeAnander | Apr 15 2006 1:05 utc | 122

de

i'm sure that is true. tho i was simply trying to say that even as a convinced & perhaps decaying marxist i refused in a certain way to look very far into any of these theories that are central to this criminal administration's existence

& amongs these many 'conspiracy' theories there is much to recommend them - mostly their rigour & their passion

i was saying that there is an element in myslef & perhaps in slothrop that does not want to look at late capitalism in all its sordid glory - that we sometimes prefer a bookish analysis to these vulgar realities whichh if true - condemn once & for all - capital in all its forms

& as marxist we want to see a certain logic where in fact there exists only madness & greed & power

i hope i am not becoming too blakean but it is easy to be reminded in his masterful works of our current dilemna

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Apr 15 2006 1:22 utc | 123

Dear DeAnander

Is that not an ad hominem arguement towards Jones's work? (even if you are just taking his work 'more lightly')

In your link (needs fixed anyway) - there is a comment at the top, "In this essay, Elder Jones shows how death before Adam makes sense from a scriptural sense. He is not necessarily saying that evolution of man is true or untrue."

Besides, was not Sir Isaac Newton a Christian with a pastime of looking for "codes" in the Bible? Doesn't really bring Newtonian physics crashing to the ground, does it?

Posted by: DM | Apr 15 2006 1:57 utc | 124

mon cher rgiap

never having been a fully educated Marxist I tend to look at things a little less theoretically :-) I tend to look at the Mafia as a reasonable model for all political and commercial structures -- especially male-dominated ones -- except those that are absolutely open and accountable and democratically elected. a school board is usually not much of a Mafia, a city council may or may not be depending on your burg, but when we get to representational govt and big money and big power, I expect the Mafiya model to work. money, influence, favours, loyalty, nepotism, omerta, violence.

so it's oubliez la femme, cherchez l'argent! ... and when I see a heavily insured overvalued building (with expensive asbestos amelioration issues pending) fall down from causes that don't usually make tall modern buildings fall down, I say to myself that where there's smoke plus profit there's usually arson. if I were an insurance company claims adjuster I'd have been all over the wreckage, but it was removed rather quickly after only certain picked people had access to it. that alone would be enough to make an adjuster's ears prick up. [and that is even w/o the put options on the airlines stock or the mysterious flurry of mid-morning trading which the German data recovery outfit never did, somehow, retrieve off those hard drives...]

I can imagine Elmore Leonard type plots that would account for everything without one Grand Unified Rosicrucian Conspiracy Theory: just a bunch of autonomous wiseguys each knowing something about the date and the chance of an Event, and making his own preparations with his own team to make the best of it. "I seen my chance and I taken it" as an Annie Proulx character says. the net effect of N wiseguys all seeing their chance and taking it, is exactly the kind of mystifying hodgepodge of anomalies and weird clues and interlocking denials and coverups that we've seen since the event. hell to unravel, especially with half the evidence removed or destroyed or (conveniently) classified.

nothing is too sordid. nothing is too ignoble. nothing is too low, for mafiosi intent on enlarging their pile of lucre or the list of favours they can call in.

Posted by: DeAnander | Apr 15 2006 1:58 utc | 125

@DM yes, I think it is somewhat ad hominem and it has to do with the vexed question of trusted sources -- how we decide which sources to trust, how we gain (or lose) respect for sources of information.

for example, the fact that 9/11 skepticism lives most vividly in the pages of "wildcat" sites like Rense, WRH, Rigorous Intuition -- sites where we may also find stories about Area 51, alien abductions, and many other "waaay out there" topics -- means that many rationalist friends of mine dismiss any and all 9/11 skepticism as "tin foil hat nonsense." this is a form of "guilt by association" or "shooting the messenger" I suppose, but it's logical enough: if someone you know believes wholeheartedly in one thing you find nonsensical, you are less likely to take seriously their views on other matters.

f'rexample I love the essays of Ran Prieur, but at times I hesitate to recommend them to others because now and then Ran goes off the deep end and starts positing Kirlian therapies for restoring the biosphere and strange s**t like that. most of us in the reality-based community say "Whoa there!" when we run into the rainbow/crystal/chanting mob, and imho there are some good reasons for this :-) OTOH the moral or ethical arguments of a person w/whom you have deep reality-based disagreements may, strangely enough, have a lot to offer. both Jesus and Marx were in favour of sharing all we have with the poor; a Liberation Theologist has more in common with an atheist Sandinista Marxist, ethically speaking, than with an affluent and conservative Episcopalian Bishop.

I've been mulling over this problem of trusted sources and "tainted" sources and hope to write something serious about it over at ET one of these days.

Posted by: DeAnander | Apr 15 2006 2:11 utc | 126

@DeAnander

Point taken. But where else can "9/11 skepticism" live? Should we wait for a write-up in the Financial Review? We have to live with the Internet as it is, and rather than rely on "trusted sources", we have no option other than to rely on our wits, logical analysis and Parsimony. By this yardstick, the official Government conspiracy theory is a crock of shit.

Posted by: DM | Apr 15 2006 2:26 utc | 127

de

i'm not fond of ignoring things. i have done so & paid the price.

in my work i use a great deal of w. reich & a bit belatedly for all the concrete results it brings. i read him young & was a litle scared off & read madness into what was in essence, fury

the ruling class do their best to destroy our instincts - the better angels of our nature - & it is the furious researches of reich that have led to concrete results

what was wrong was not his work but my fear of it. a fear, i repeat,which is essentially based in not wanting to look at the beast, directly

& to repeat buber - to have power over the nightmare we must call it by its real name

personally i am prepared to swim through seas of scholarly shit to get through to those truths

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Apr 15 2006 2:38 utc | 128

deanande, could you please provide a proper link for the (oh yeah he is) ? the other one doesn't work. perhaps to work at BYU one needs to dip into a little religiosity.

Posted by: annie | Apr 15 2006 3:01 utc | 129

@annie:

DeAnander just had a typo. It's http://www.tungate.com/Death_Before_Adam.htm.

Posted by: The Truth Gets Vicious When You Corner It | Apr 15 2006 3:04 utc | 130

@DeA - I just found Ran P- last night & was thinking of putting up a link earmarked for you this weekend for Easter!

Separating out things in yr post, you raise the issue of how new knowledge emerges & gains acceptance, as well as the size of the elephant - it's so truly vast, that no one can be au courant on more than a tiny fraction at any given time, so I'm very understanding - looking more to why someone thinks the way they do.

I see that DM has raised an issue I was going to suggest you bring to your colleagues attention - what Sir Isaac played around w/"after the fact". He made calculations concerning Noah's Ark, etc. Most Astronomers know this. Could be some material in Lick library. Even he got lost...or went off to play/experiment w/ideas w/in the orbit of his curiosity...

I disagree that one should take the Mormon physicist's work on 911 more lightly, because what he's discussing about the explosions is most importantly how one produces the temperatures necessary to account for the observed behavior & characteristics of the steel beams. How would they have all gone down @~ free fall speed, been sheared at the ends w/molten tips & molten pools at the foundation. Further why the yellow smoke plumes. That's straight forward stuff. If he wants to go play in a sand box in his spare time - perhaps his play time would be more fruitfully engaged hiking, or being a father, but who am I to say. Work should be judged on its own merits. If he shows up for work in smelly filthy clothes, does that make his physics wrong?

Posted by: jj | Apr 15 2006 5:11 utc | 131

@jj yes, and Conan Doyle in later life, traumatised by the loss of his son, turned to spiritualism and seances... I'm still trying to figure out how we establish our trust in a source of information. or how we tend to tune out information if it comes from an untrusted source. or how we can compromise ourselves in a desperate attempt to become "trusted" (legitimate), in order to get people not to tune us out. big topic.

Posted by: DeAnander | Apr 15 2006 8:12 utc | 132

rgiap

my concern as always is to correct the false impression that all the horror of the world can be blamed on this or that americanism. there is sufficient evidence the problems can be explained by examining "the movement of capital in general."

how cultural arrogances, criminality, conspiracy and so on affect this "movement" is less important to know than how the social totality of capital at any moment steers every response, coordinates every agency, even for the swedes.

anyhoo, has the capitalist class ever been less vulnerable? I say this because even among bookish comrades, we don't agree just who these capitalists are. as "their" power becomes more globally abstracted "we" only find shadows to attack: mexicans, conspiracies of every kind, "america."

pynchon called the abstraction "they" or "other kingdom." power to people like death to life.

Posted by: slothrop | Apr 15 2006 15:14 utc | 133

checking out the jones link above (thanks vt) i note the first intro:

Many LDS students face a dilemma:�

this tells us his position as a physics professor @ a religious university he has an obligation to provide an explanation how his support for the theory of evolution does not contradict the basic tenents of his church.

challenging his thesis in all fairness would require one to challenge the thesis of any and all scientists who believe in spirit, soul, etc. to disregard any scientific discoveries by all people of faith makes about as much sense as disregarding jones's 9/11 theories simply based on his religious theories.
which i posit may not even be his opinion

I think there is a way to reconcile

doesn't sound very committed if you ask me.

lets party

Posted by: annie | Apr 15 2006 19:43 utc | 134

not to beat a dead horse but i was checking out links @ the LDS site (above)and i found them very informative.

Some of the creationist theories are so ludicrous that I don't know how any intelligent person can present them and hold a straight face.  One of these is the notion that all of the worldwide geological layers were deposited during Noah's flood, and that the reason more advanced animal fossils are found near the top is that they could swim better.  Why then indeed are the geological layers so well defined?  What about infants, the sick or the aged -- why didn't they sink to the bottom?

It is important to note that not one of the numerous LDS scientists at BYU currently espouses the creationist viewpoint, according to a recent surveys of the faculty.  Thus those Mormons who insist on a literal reading of Genesis not only place themselves outside the mainstream of worldly scientific thought, but they also place themselves outside the mainstream of LDS scientific thought as well.

Posted by: annie | Apr 15 2006 20:16 utc | 135

OK Annie, I'm feeling slightly better about Jones.

his thermite/sulphur theory doesn't sound outlandish to me, and -- big plus -- it does not require a cast of thousands to install, nor complex wiring and timing systems for blast coordination, etc. a krewe of 20 is small enough for any tinpot crook to assemble.

Posted by: DeAnander | Apr 16 2006 3:17 utc | 136

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