Archive for June, 2014

The Empire of Shamelessness

June 17, 2014

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Iraq’s slide into sectarian civil war is conclusive proof, as if any were needed, that the US’s Middle East policies of the past twenty years have been an absolute catastrophe. Yet it is an indication of the neoconservatives’ endless capacity for stupid opportunism and self-delusion, that they see the current crisis as an opportunity to re-occupy Iraq.

The New York Times – which, you may recall, published false claims about Saddam Hussein having “weapons of mass destruction” – recently posted a puff piece devoted to the neoconservative “historian”, Robert Kagan. In it, we learn:

    To Mr. Kagan, American action to stop the militants is imperative, but a continued military presence in Iraq and action in Syria would have averted the crisis. “It’s striking how two policies driven by the same desire to avoid the use of a military power are now converging to create this burgeoning disaster,” Mr. Kagan said in an interview.

Mr. Kagan apparently failed to notice that the presence of US troops in Iraq failed to stop a previous sectarian civil war in that country, one in which thousand of Sunni Muslims were driven out of Baghdad. As for “action in Syria”, I assume that what he means by that is going to war against the Assad government, which is fighting against ISIS, the same group that Kagan wants us to now fight in Iraq. Yes, this man is clearly a master strategist.

We do learn some interesting things from this article. For example:

    But Exhibit A for what Robert Kagan describes as his “mainstream” view of American force is his relationship with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who remains the vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes. Mr. Kagan pointed out that he had recently attended a dinner of foreign-policy experts at which Mrs. Clinton was the guest of honor, and that he had served on her bipartisan group of foreign-policy heavy hitters at the State Department, where his wife worked as her spokeswoman.

    “I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy,” Mr. Kagan said, adding that the next step after Mr. Obama’s more realist approach “could theoretically be whatever Hillary brings to the table” if elected president. “If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue,” he added, “it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”

Those liberals who are “ready for Hillary” are in for a nasty surprise should she ever be elected president.

We also learn that Kagan is married to Victoria Nuland – yes, that Victoria Nuland. The article tells us that Nuland is:

    … an assistant secretary of state and one of the country’s toughest and most experienced diplomats, whose fervor for building democracy in Ukraine recently leaked out in an embarrassing audio clip.

Just how stupid do these people think we are? Nuland’s notorious “fuck the EU” phone call showed a sneering contempt for democracy. It was all about her belief that she has a right to tell the Ukrainians how to run their country.

Meanwhile, Paul Wolfowitz showed up on Meet the Nation:

    … on June 15 from his NBC platform, Wolfowitz opined that the current Iraqi violence could be traced to the absence of U.S. troops, suggesting that we should have stayed in Iraq just as we “stuck with South Korea for 60 years.”

Wolfowitz must surely be aware that the US pulled out of Iraq at the insistence of the Iraqi government. Such is Wolfowitz’s arrogance, that he doesn’t even pretend to care about the sham democracy that he helped to create. When asked what he would do about ISIS, Wolfowitz said, “I would do something in Syria.” Uh, you mean like drop bombs on people? The US has been dropping bombs on various parts of the Middle East for years now, and nothing much has really changed.

Even the ghoulish figure of Tony Blair has been resurrected. (George W. Bush appears to be too busy with his newfound career of painting, as well he should be.) He has been telling people: “We have to liberate ourselves from the notion that ‘we’ have caused this.” We need to liberate ourselves from the notion that we need to listen to the advice of people such as Tony Blair, Robert Kagan, and Paul Wolfowitz. Only then can we begin to understand what is going on in this world.

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Nation Building

June 14, 2014

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Why does it seem as though armies trained by the US always turn out to be a joke? The South Vietnamese army (gone, but not forgotten) was famously ineffective, finally collapsing in the face of a North Vietnamese offensive. The US-trained Afghan army has been unimpressive. The US trained the Nigerian army, and they have proven to be useless in fighting the psychopaths that make up Boko Haram. (The US has sent advisors to Nigeria to do some more training. Maybe they will get it right this time.) And now, the Iraqi army, which the US spent $25 billion to train, has fled Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, abandoning it to an army of religious fanatics.

At the risk of sounding conspiracist, I can’t help but suspect that perhaps this is deliberate. Making sure other countries have weak armies keeps them dependent on the US. What’s more, it means their armies can never pose a threat to the US. (The logic here is not unlike that of Trotskyist and Maoist sects, which keep their front groups weak, so they can never pose a threat to them.)

Why Michael Moore is Not a Hypocrite

June 8, 2014


Michale Moore and Kathleen Glynn

Michael Moore and his wife, Kathleen Glynn, are getting divorced. The Smoking Gun has the details. Just as you would expect, it turns out that Moore is a wealthy man. His assets are reportedly worth tens of millions of dollars. He owns property in Michigan and New York, including a Manhattan townhouse. He apparently owns a $2 million dollar mansion near Torch Lake in Michigan. (This may actually belong to Glynn. The news reports are unclear about this.) Since this news has broken, the Internet has predictably been filled with comments about Moore being a “hypocrite”.

One thing thing that really annoys the hell out of me is when people argue that anyone with vaguely leftish views is a hypocrite if he or she happens to own a nice house or drive a nice car. Their assumption seems to be that anyone who cares about social justice issues is obligated to live in a cardboard box and eat out of trash cans. What’s more, these people don’t seem to understand Moore’s actual politics. If Moore were, say, an advocate of anarcho-primitivism, then, yeah, owning a mansion would make him a hypocrite. But he is no such thing. In fact, Moore’s views are not as radical as most people think.

Despite his occasional syndicalist posturings, Moore’s views are basically those of a left-of-center Democrat. In Capitalism: A Love Story he argues for worker-owned cooperatives – not incompatible with capitalism. In Sicko he argues for single payer healthcare – again, compatible with capitalism. In Bowling for Columbine, he calls for stricter gun control laws – not an anti-capitalist position. In Roger and Me, he argues for keeping factory jobs in the US – a position that many right-wingers would agree with.

Moore’s undeserved reputation as a fire-breathing Bolshevik largely stems from his notoriously ultra-left anti-war speech at the 2003 Oscars (“Time’s up, Mr. Bush!”) Yet the very next year, he endorsed the presidential candidacy of the pro-war John Kerry. (This was not a “lesser evil” calculation. Moore absolutely adored Kerry, who is now our middle-of-the-road Secretary of State.)

So, sling whatever insults you wish at Moore, but don’t call him a hypocrite. He isn’t.

Annals of Unemployment, Part 5: Kafka’s Castle

June 6, 2014

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Last November I went to the Covered California website to look for health insurance on the exchange. I was told that I qualify for Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid, under the new rules. I filled out the application on the website and submitted it. I was told that my application would be forwarded to the Department of Social Services. I waited a few weeks without hearing anything. I called my caseworker at DPSS and asked her about it. She said that the new rules didn’t go into effect until January 1, and I wouldn’t hear anything until then. So I waited. January 1 came and went. In the middle of January, I called my caseworker. She told me that they were still waiting for instructions from the federal government. Until then, they couldn’t do anything. I would just have to wait until I heard from them.

I waited a few weeks. I called my caseworker again, and she told me the same thing. In late February, I looked at the Covered California site again. It did not say that my application had been approved. I called my caseworker, but she was out of the office. So, I called the DPSS’s information line. I gave the operator my case number. He said that they had never received my Medi-Cal application. I told him that I had applied through the CC website. He told me I should try calling them. So I called Covered California. The person there told me that my application had been forwarded to the DPSS.

So I downloaded another application, printed it out, and filled it out by hand. I then put it in an envelope and wrote my case number and my caseworker’s name on the outside. I then went to my local DPSS office and put it in the mail slot. Several days later, I received a letter from my caseworker saying that she needed proof that I was receiving unemployment benefits, as well as a copy of my driver’s license. So I sent those to her. I waited a while, and then I called her. She said that my application was “pending” and that they would contact me when it was approved. I waited a couple of weeks and called her again. She said that my application was still pending. This went on through March, April, and most of May. A couple of weeks ago, I called my caseworker. A different woman answered the phone. She told me there was something in the computer system that was blocking my application from going through and that they were working on it. After I hung up, she called me back and said that she needed proof that I was receiving unemployment benefits. She gave me a fax number. I had already given this information, but I decided not to argue with her, so I faxed it to her. The next day she called and said that my application had been approved. She said that I would receive my Medi-Cal card within a week.

A week later I received a plastic card in the mail. On it was printed, “State of California Benefits Identification Card”. On the back, it said, “This card is for identification ONLY. It does not guarantee eligibility.” This didn’t sound encouraging to me. I called my caseworker. The woman I had talked to the week before answered the phone. When I asked her about the card I had received, she said that was my Medi-Cal card. When I asked her when would I receive instructions on how to use it, she said that I didn’t need instructions, I just had to show the card to my medical provider. When I asked her if I could get a list of physicians who accept Medi-Cal, she told me I would have to “research” that myself. She said they would eventually send me a list, but they couldn’t do it now.

Today, out of curiosity, I looked at my account on the DPSS website. It said that my Medi-Cal application had been DENIED. What the hell??? I immediately called my caseworker. This time, a third woman answered the phone. When I told her my case number, she said that my Medi-Cal application was still pending! When I asked why the website said that my application had been denied, she said she didn’t know. She said that my regular caseworker will be in tomorrow, and she will have her call me.

It is now June and I still don’t have the coverage that I was supposed to receive back in January. If I had become seriously ill during this time, I would have been screwed.

Yeah, Obamacare is a huge success, ain’t it?