John le Carré on Bush’s Iraq War – The United States of America Has Gone Mad

John le Carre - wikipedia imageJohn le Carré, author of many beloved spy novels, e.g., Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy, wrote this piece critiquing the then upcoming War on Iraq in January 2003. Besides pointing out the very strong connections between big oil and the Bushes, many other elements of the critique continue to be applicable to current American foreign policy.

Here it is reproduced in its entirety: Continue reading

The Job Creators – Who Are They? The Rich, Really?

In recent years a standard bit of political rhetoric in the US has included references to “the job creators”. This most usually  flows along the lines of higher taxes on the wealthy will injure the job creators. Or, government regulation is crushing the job creators. The presumption of course is that the wealthy, the 1% in the current rhetoric, create jobs (and those not created by the wealthy are created by small business – this being another, long term part of our political discourse). Thus, government must do nothing that will upset the wealthy.

It must be noted that we have already had a large experiment with the obverse of this “don’t disturb the wealthy” policy. What if we made the wealthy even richer by lowering their tax rates? By simple logical deduction, this would incent them to invest more and create more jobs. Well, the Bush II years proved that this does not happen. Despite the largest tax reductions  on the wealthy in US history, job creation under Bush II was worse than in any presidency back to Hoover.

At some level believing the wealthy to be the job creators seems natural enough. They have lots of money to invest and in their desire for more they will be out investing in new projects that per force must create jobs. Without the aid of real analysis, I have always been a bit suspicious of this idea. Wealthy people have their money managed for them by large financial institutions and financial specialists. Very few of them are directly involved in any business other than the business of worrying about whether their financial advisors are ripping them off or doing stupid things. Why do real work when you can have your advisors leverage the vast scale of your wealth to get special deals on bundled high return financial instruments.

Nick Hanauer TED TalkAlong comes a wealthy guy, Nick Hanauer,1 with a five minute TED Talk debunking this job creator mythology that is more soundly thought out than my ramblings.

BTW – Hanauer’s analysis is straight forward Keynesian economics. We have a demand problem. US corporations have record sums of cash on the balance sheets. Yet they are not investing it. The answer is lack of demand, increased sales to generate the virtuous cycle of profits  followed by jobs. Though both the US and Europe are busy proving again that our economic problems are not going to be solved by austerity, debt reduction policies, other countries, like South Korea,  have proved anew the merits of Keynesian remedies. Unfortunately, we have no one in the elites who have the political will to do what has worked before very reliably. They used to call it “pump priming”. Now our pump is dry, unemployment and underemployment  is perniciously eating away at our society. 

  1. he was an early investor in Amazon []

Parallels and Prescience – on the Tenth Anniversary of 9/11 and the “War on Terror”

Uncle Same war-on-drugs

Having successfully avoided much of the national moment for our politicians to blather on about the true meaning of 9/11, I was struck this morning by parallel between our “War on Terror” and our longest war, the “War on Drugs” (I have written earlier about this here). Some may be offended initially by this comparison. The War on Drugs was invented for the most cynical of purposes by one of our more craven Presidents, President Nixon1. But, when one observes the gigantic interests in Federal, State, and local bureaucracies (think your local police) and corporate worlds that immediately lined up to feed at this trough of a war, a bit of cynicism can not help but creep into mind.

Nixon’s invention spawned a plethora of Federal, State, and local bureaucracies consuming vast resources and spreading around the globe. Meanwhile, our social and criminal policies gauranteed high prices for the drug lords thus supporting a marketing and distribution system that provides service levels 24/7/365 to make Fedex give up. No other commodity is available in every location in the US with such reliable service packaged to meet local demand and local financing needs. On top of that, Nixon’s war, supported continuously since then by every President, the Congress, the court system, State governments and of course your local police departments, put millions of drug users in jail. This of course has swollen the ranks of those cursed with a criminal record and increasingly unemployable. Finally, no one is willing to discuss the outcomes of our drug policies. No one will vote to shrink or eliminate this war, America’s longest war. The policies continue to suck up resources, destroy other countries, and gravely damage millions of our own citizens.

Bush-War onTerrorAs reported by Admiral (Ret.) Dennis Blair, former Director of National Intelligence, earlier this summer at the Aspen Security Forum, we are now spending $80 billion per year , not including our War on Terror wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (these would add hundreds of $ billions to this) on the War on Terror. He went on to report that a generous estimate of the world-wide strength of al-Qaeda and its affiliates is 4,000 men. This means that we are spending $20 million per year per potential terrorist. Others have reported on the continuing growth by tens of thousands per year of employees in our burgeoning public and private security apparatus. Meanwhile we have numerous agencies spying on Americans in the name of “national security”. It seems enormously likely that emails are regularly being subject to capture and it is hard to imagine that cell phone conversations, transmitted in the open (as are emails), are not also subject to surveillance. Where has the Fourth Amendment gone? To top it all off, do you feel more secure when you take your shoes off to enter an airplane? Do you think that our current anti-terrorist policies will be any more successful than the first ten years? Do you think that anyone will speak and act to end this second longest war?

  1. I used to refer to him as our most craven, but Bush Junior has caused some reconsideration of this point []

Bush, Anger and Dispair Over Our Situation

New Thoughts as of 1/18/11:

This month’s Atlantic Monthly has a two page piece, “The Last Stand of Ricardo Sanchez” about General Ricardo Sanchez, the first commander of US forces during the now 8 year old Bush war, Iraqi Freedom. This reports on Sanchez’s quest to bering the Bush regime to some accountability for their war. Definitely worth a read.

Original Posting 11/27/10

Bush Mission Accomplished on aircraft carrier

The return of George Bush to the national scene with the release of his memoir, Decision Points, once again roused feelings of anger and dispair. Anger that we have such a weak sense of ethics, basic right and wrong stuff, in our culture. This man and his cohorts lied, aggressively distorted facts, and mislead the country into what has turned out to be a disastrous adventure in aggression in Iraq. If we had any real politics in this country at least some national politicians should have been calling for his impeachment and, perhaps,  trial for war crimes. The man is responsible for the devastation of Iraq, ten of thousands, at a minimum, civilian causalities, the flight of millions from their country to neighboring states, and the vast expansion of anti-US militancy around the world. This not to mention the costs directly to us in dead, wounded and financial costs running off into the far future. That is the source of my despair that Americans continue to be oblivious of the true cost to others and to themselves of our empire. In large part this ignorance is due to decades of propaganda from the government, industry and academies. Seemingly everyone in the elite is on the payroll of the empire.

The executive-congressional-military-industrial complex is real and effective. This renders us without any politics to grapple with this state of affairs.

The elite rolled out the big guns to puff Bush’s book. Heavy weight interviews with Matt Lauer and Oprah replete with a dust up with some silly rapper named Kanye West. This is what Bush faced instead of people who might have been capable of posing some serious questions with some serious follow ups. But, what exactly am I expecting. We are the people to whom politicians lie, reflexively and without any fear of repercussions. This has been going on continuously for my whole life. Bush is just the cherry on the ice cream float.

Bush – the worst modern President

Since my entry this morning I have been thinking more about the Presidency and Bush. My knowledge of 19th century Presidents is a but spotty. Certainly the names Buchanan, Pierce, Johnson and Grant pop to mind as less than top of the heap.

But, for the modern era, post WW2, Bush is clearly the worst, most destructive President.

In the international sphere, we will be digging out from the morass of his crazed policies for a decade. This will most prominently feature the disaster of Iraq. A particularly problematic consequence of Bush’s policies is the increased militarization of our foreign and domestic security strategies.

On the home front, we have the staggering debt, degradation of civil rights and government practices, and lost time dealing with health care, infrastructure, income inequality, education, housing and more. I do not particularly hold him responsible for the global economic meltdown. That is really the result of a global infatuation for ” free markets” in which both US parties and numerous others worldwide have indulged themselves for more than three decades.

The Interrotron

In a recent visit to the movies I picked up the FLM [Magazine] (Winter 2004), a product of Landmark Theatres, and found an article by Errol Morris, “13 Questions and Answers on the Filmmaking of Errol Morris“. It contained a bit of drollery about the Interrotron.

In The Fog of War and other Morris’ movies, the interview subjects stare straight into the camera while responding to a voice interviewing them from off screen.

Here is the text lifted without permission from the magazine’s website (http://www.movienet.com/fogofwar.html). I have attempted to maintain the design and layout. I did add the picture of the Interrotron from another source.

Q Is it true that you interview people using a machine?

A Yes, the (patent pending) Interrotron. It’s a machine that uses existing technology in a new and novel way. When I made my first film, Gates of Heaven, I interviewed people by putting my head right up against the lens of the camera. I would be talking to them, and it seemed as though they were looking directly into the lens of the camera, but not really. Almost, but not quite. Of course, they were looking a little bit off to the side.

Q Why? What’s the point?

A To create the first person. When someone watches my films, it is as though the characters are talking directly to them…There is no third party. On television we’re used to seeing people interviewed 60 Minutes style. There is Mike Wallace or Larry King, and the camera is off to the side. Hence, we, the audience, are also off to the side. We’re the fly-on-the-wall, so to speak, watching two people talking. But we’ve lost something.

Q What?

A Direct eye contact.

Q Eye contact?

A Uh huh. We all know when someone makes eye contact with us. It is a moment of drama. Perhaps it’s a serial killer telling us that he’s about to kill us; or a loved one acknowledging a moment of affection. Regardless, it’s a moment with dramatic value. We know when people make eye contact with us, look away and then make eye contact again. It’s an essential part of communication. And yet, it is lost in standard interviews on film. That is, until the Interrotron.

Q I don’t get it.

A I got tired of sitting so close to the camera. (In my early films, my cameraman would grab the back of my head and pull me back because you could see the side of my head in the lens. When he yanked me back, it often hurt.) And I started to wonder, what if I could become one with the camera. What if the camera and myself could become one and the same?

Q You’re losing me.

A Well, not literally. Are you familiar with Teleprompters?

Q Not really.

A Well, Teleprompters are used to project an image on a two-way mirror. Politicians and newscasters use them so that they can read text and look into the lens of the camera at the same time. What interests me is that nobody thought of using them for anything other than to display text: read a speech or read the news and look into the lens of the camera.







(image borrowed without permission from http://www.spin.com)

Q OK.

A  I changed that. I put my face on the Teleprompter or, strictly speaking, my live video image. For the first time, I could be talking to someone, and they could be talking to me and at the same time looking directly into the lens of the camera. Now, there was no looking off slightly to the side. No more faux first person. This was the true first person.

Q It sounds like Buck Rogers. Were people willing to tolerate this?

A I worried at first. Would it frighten people? Would they run out of the studio screaming? Who could say? I used it for the first time in Fast, Cheap & Out of Control. And it worked like a charm. People loved the Interrotron.

Q The Interrotron? Did you make up the name?

A No, it was named by my wife, Julia Sheehan. She liked the name because it combined two important concepts — terror and interview.

Q But doesn’t the device intimidate people?

A Oddly enough, no. It doesn’t. People, if anything, feel more relaxed when talking to a live video image. My production designer, Ted Bafaloukos, said, “The beauty of this thing is that it allows people to do what they do best. Watch television…” We often think of technology as working against the possibility of intimacy. But there are so many counter-examples. The telephone is a good counter-example. There are things we can say to each other on the phone that we would never say if we were in the same room. You know, “Being there is the next best thing to using the phone…” The Interrotron is like that. It creates greater distance and greater intimacy. And it also creates the true first person. Now, when people make eye contact with me, it can be preserved on film.

Q Have you used it much?

A Whenever I need to. I used it in a film that introduced the Academy Awards® in 2002. Gorbachev, Laura Bush, Iggy Pop, Al Sharpton and Walter Cronkite have all been on the Interrotron.

Q Did Robert McNamara like it?

A Well, you have to remember that we are talking about someone who has been interviewed a thousand times. He walked into the studio and said, “What is that?” I smiled and said, “The Interrotron.” He said, “Well, whatever it is, I don’t like it.” But then he sat down, and we proceeded to record over twenty hours of interviews. I guess he came to like it, too.