The real purposes of a democratic society …

A post by Jim Fitch of Some Assembly Required.

The real purposes of a democratic society cannot
be achieved by violence and destruction.
George Kennan.

Balance Sheet: The housing market continues to deteriorate. Unemployment is rising. National retailers are seeking Chapter 11. The economy is slowing, if not in recession. Auto sales are non-existent. Americans have drastically cut their leisure travel. Based on this declining demand, the price of petroleum has fallen. Yet Stocks Soar as Oil Plunges

Housing Plan: When I bought my first house, the rule was 20% down and not more than 2.5 times primary income. Of course those ratios were based on years of experience, not modern economic theory.

Everything’s Connected: The fighting between Georgia, Russia and South Ossetia doesn’t have anything to do with the Baku-Tiblisi-Ceyhan pipeline, does it? Can’t have an oil war and not invite the US. An all-out war between Russian and Georgia would be about as helpful to the world economy as the planned US/Iran conflict.

Pick A Number: How many investment houses will buy-back dubious paper, now that Citibank and Merrill Lynch have shown the way? (a) less than 5 (b) more than 9 (c) how many are there?

Nail, HorseshoeCredit’s crumble is starting to squash US consumer credit. If American plastic dissolves, there’ll be nothing left but actual cash. No mortgages, no credit, no consumption. Imagine a world where people buy necessities for cash and save for everything else. ‘Save’ – it’s an old timey word; look it up.

Identity Crisis: Wal-Mart: anti-union, biggest of big business, doggedly anti workers-rights, champion of healthcare-less cheap labor is now one of the largest givers to the Democratic Party. Wonder what they expect in return? Worse, what have they been promised?

Kill Yourself After Reading : The Bush administration drew up a response to Congress’ questions about a new cybersecurity program, then redacted everything including what the program was designed to do, the names of the contractors who may or may not be working on whatever the program may be, and how much all this was going to cost. It did state, however, that the privacy of US citizens will be protected.

Prior Restraint: Displaying the courage that has become common in the US since 9/11, Random House has ‘postponed indefinitely’ publication of a novel about the Prophet Mohammed’s child bride, fearing it could “incite acts of violence”.

Bigger than a Breadbox: The US military is housing prisoners in cute little boxes, three feet deep six feet long and six feet high. The prisoners are checked frequently and revived when necessary.

Some Assembly Required reflects my somewhat cynical view of the world on a daily basis. Think of it as having coffee with a curmudgeon. Come visit; bring your own coffee.

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  1. Dan Duncan

    Are you really beginning a post filled with the typical Chomsky-esque Leftist rants by quoting George Kennan?

    Seriously, a blogger decrying US treatment of military prisoners blithely quoting “The X-Man”, George Kennan….Too funny.

    I don’t have time to spill ink over the bitter hack that was Kennan…who led the charge for the “containment” policy against the USSR, only to lose a power a struggle to Acheson and then spend the rest of his life claiming he was “misunderstood”, so I’ll finish with this quote from wikipedia:

    “Kennan’s commitment to freedom in the sense of democracy, rather than the freedom of action of the United States government, has been criticised by Noam Chomsky, who noted Kennan’s advice that we (i.e., the U.S.) should “‘cease to talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization’ and must ‘deal in straight power concepts,’ not ‘hampered by idealistic slogans’ about ‘altruism and world-benefaction.'”[42] A recent biographer chronicles Kennan’s “baffling” appreciation of Europe’s dictatorships: Mussolini’s in Italy, Dollfuss’s in Austria, Salazar’s in Portugal; Kennan believed that ‘their kind of authoritarian government was a healthy and welcome alternative to inefficient parliamentary democracy.'[43]”

    If you’re angry about US treatment of prisoners, etc., etc., you should not be leading off with a quote from George Kennan. Really, you have no idea what you’re writing about do you?

  2. Anonymous

    It’s been obvious to me that a drop in oil prices would be linked with a rise in stocks, regardless of economic conditions. It’s simply a matter of moving funds out of a deflating commodity bubble, or a “flight to dollar assets” as one of the quoted analysts put it.

  3. Anonymous

    Stocks may continue to soar like an eagle towards the moon, but from what I see the dividend check will not be in the mail, thus I wonder how sustainable this new trend will be, as the foundation (for future growth) is exposed as being worthless.

  4. Richard Kline

    Wal-Mart funding Donkeys: protective coloration. Democratic Congress; ‘Democratic’ President; bad reputation for Elephants; minimum healtch care mandates and minimum wage hikes bruited about the scaffold. So wear a bloody horsehide and bray yer fool head off.

    Re: Georgia attacking a Russian protectorate, this has Cheney and Dufus’s fingerprints, M. O, and destructive petulance all over it. Less than two weeks ago, Russia locked up Turkmenistan’s natural gas exports, and major, and perhaps _the_ major near term coup in carbon fuels from Central Asia. This was a colossal and embarassing defeat for US imperial policy, which entered office in 00 with limitless ambitions to get a head lock on Central Asia, but has accomplished nothing more than a face plant.

    Don’t think for a second thae President Idjit of Georgia would have launched an attack with is tinfoil but American funded, trained, and co-opted military _without US prompting or at least approval_. Remember that ‘Sunni governement’ push in Lebanon this past Spring? Or the Hakimi Shi’a push and gainst the Sadrist Shi’a in Iraq near the same time? Both went way bad wrong for those toadies egged on by the US, when, as now in Georgia, Bush and Cheney did NOTHING SUBSTANTIVE BECAUSE THEY COULD DO NOTHING SUBSTANTIVE to come to the help of the idiots who picked the fight. The Georgians are going to have their heads knocked off and wedged in their collective tockhus for buying in to Dick and George’s ‘You Fight ‘Em’ program. And I like the Georgians and wish them nothing but good luck and a good grape harvest, but their present autocratic US running dog is a plague upon their land.

    What I find most remarkable regarding the near total and totally humiliating failure of Cheney and Bush’s foreign policy neo-imperialist program is how totally they manage to discredit and even ruin _their own foreign client-cronies_! At one level, this is just the end state of the world historical incompetence of these two guys. But one sees the same thing with regard to their domestic fellow travelers, too: time and again expected to thrown themselves under the bus for the delusionally anticipated momentary advantage of Dick and George. There is something psychological at work here, something truly twisted, even sick in a way, where these two so completely ruin those who back them the most. If I was to take a wild guess, it smells to me like a personal contempt on the part of either or both of these guys for running dogs who let themselves be used against the interests of their fellows; Dick and George will use them, but ruin them also for being the weak but grasping sellouts that they are, just like President Idjit in Tblisi. Sick, sick, sick.

  5. Dan Duncan


    It might be best (and far more insightful) to play the little 6 Degrees of Seperation game with Kevin Bacon—as opposed to this 6 Degrees of US “neo-imperialist” foreign policy. [Yes, it pains me to write “neo-imperialist”…god what an annoying “sub-intellectual” phrase that is. Can we get a “post-fascist” please?)

    First off, you’ve taken one side of the story as fact: That Georgia unilaterally attacked a Russian protectorate. This has not been established as fact.

    A more accurate portrayal is to state that Russian troops first entered Georgian territory late last week under disputed circumstances. Russia says Georgia had launched an unprovoked assault on South Ossetia Thursday night and that Russia was obliged to protect its peacekeepers and citizens.

    Georgia, on the other hand, retorts that South Ossetian troops breached a ceasefire Thursday and launched a major attack, while Russian forces were already en route to back them up.

    You’ve conveniently chosen the narrative that that justifies your rant. For some reason, it makes sense to you that a country with a “tinfoil” army would unilaterally attack a much stronger neighbor…all because of some vague “encouragement” by BushDick. Your foreign policy “analysis” is like a Seifeld episode. “I saw him wink, did you see him wink? Yeah, that’s what I thought. OK, let’s attack!”

    The best part about all this is your ability to connect the dots between an issue which pre-dates the Bush-Cheney tenure by 10 years (the SEPARATION of Abkhazia from Russia) with Bush-Cheney IMPERIALISM…ah sorry, NEO-IMPERIALISM….

    [Sorry for the cap-lock abuse. But the distinction between one regions desire to be independent and USA’s “desire” to be imperialst seems to be lost on you.]

    Trenchant stuff this is: A flare-up over an early 1990s SEPARATION of a vowel-lite alphabet soup region is actually a covert “NEO-IMPERIALIST” plot designed by Bush—possibly while he was governor of Texas—only to be executed 3 months prior to end of his admittedly interminable presidency with a wink and a slight head nod.

    I am in a state of neo-post-uber-hegemonic-stupefication over this one.

  6. etc

    UK Telegraph picked up an eyeopening article on sexual harrassment in Russia.

    In a survey of professional russian women: 100% said they’d been sexually harrassed by their bosses; 32% said they’d had sex with at least one boss; 7% said they’d been raped at least once; 80% said it wasn’t possible to be promoted without providing sexual favors to superiors.,-Russian-judge-rules.html

  7. Richard Kline

    So Dan D., I have followed Georgia and it’s ethnic subdivisions for decades, and I have a close perspective on millennia of history in the Caucasus, the ethnic groups, and languages, and much else. Simply because I do not choose to parse and footnote all that in a toss-off comment needn’t imply a lack of familiarity. Just for your information. The Ossettes have nothing whatsoever to do ethnically or otherwise with the artificial boundaries of a state sovereignty grandfathered to the Georgian SSR when Big Daddy SSR fell apart. Their determination to maintain a single Ossettian communal state, that artificial boundary nothwithstanding, is as valid as any other independence movement one might care to find elsewhere in the world at this time or in the last two hundred years of ‘imperial’ Empire dissolutions. That poses a big problem for the Georgians in that they have other ethnic separatist groups who have no love of the East Georgian (to simplfy) population and government who numerically dominate that multi ethnic state. Etc., etc., but I do not see the Georgian government in any way in the right, even if they surely have a right to negotiate a mutually agreeable outcome. The Georgians have been short on negotiation, for many and complex reasons, but the ball has been in their court for years. Instead, Saakashvili has chosen to recruit foreign diplomatic support and military cover in a context which his country cannot afford, inherently exacerbating a confrontation with Russian that is madness for his state. No amount of American applause will sustain Georgia in the face of Russian hostility, near term or long term. An independent Georgia whatever its borders has to live with the reality of Russia, and the faction running Georgia for some time cannot bring themselves to do that.

    Furthermore, Dan, your characterization of the events of the last week in the Caucasus strikes me as inaccurate at best, and exceedingly favorable to Saakashvili and his nutcase colonels. Who did or did not violate the ceasefire of _years_ duration may be unclear; your buying into the propaganda that it was ‘those dastardly renegades’ when they had no need whatsoever to do so seems less than even handed. What is certain, and which I recommend that you consider, is that Georgia had a major military push READY TO GO because they crossed into S. Ossetia rapidly, in force, with a defined objective. Think about that; not the kind of thing one prepares in less than 48 hours even if a major provocation happened, especially given the risks which are now only too obvious. This smells planned. It is an easy thing to run a little border raid, scream one is ‘attacked,’ and then go for broke, even if that may not be the case, here. Then there are two other things clearly missing from your brief summation, all that we know for certain given that pervasive lack of detailed news and natural exaggeration from reports relayed by panicked civilians. Georgian forces clearly entered the major town in S Ossetia in force, but were either ambushed or badly handled, with many vehicles destroyed and significant casualties—before the Russians entered S Ossetia; that is, the Georgians went looking for a fight in the one place the Ossetians would have to fight, but even then got more then they bargained for. Second, there are clearly hundreds of slain Ossetian civilians at least, particularly in that wrecked town (I discount claims in four figures until and unless they are verified). The Georgians have the blood of hundreds of people on their hands over what to that point had been a border clash at most. Where is your sympathy, concern, or outrage over that? My clear impression is that once the Georgians were pinned down in that town they bombed and shelled it more or less indiscriminantly because they were taking fire in the city center. That is a war crime in anyone’s book. Where is your concern, circumspection, and judicious weighing of events in relation to that clear decision by the Georgians? The fact that this voluntary destruction of the major urban area in S Ossetia is not at the center of your response to the events in the Caucasus, just as US media can’t quite get its mealy and well-fed mouth around the substance of the Georgian _offensive_, let’s call it what it was, even with the cause unstated, tells loudly whose life and right you weigh more dearly. I do not share that view.

    To me, the issue of ‘who started this’ is puerile, the kind of issue that comfortable people who never get bombed concern themselves with when reading about rude natives in other lands. The Georgians sent a major military force into a region where they had been barred for a dozen years, with severe and probable consequences that they must have understood or should have, with massive loss of civliian life there. This was an OPTIONAL act; Georgia, even if itself attacked, had many choices. We see the one Saakashvili prefered. And that one, and what follows from it, is on him. It is an obligation of heads of state with military command authority to act with restraint with maximum concern for the long term outcome beyond short term advantage. Saakashvili has been indescribably reckless, no matter what provocation did or did not happen. For the record, I see this as wholly Georgian provoked, with US complicity, as I stated, but I’ll grant that that ‘isn’t proven.’ He’s a danger to his people, a very large number of whom wanted him replaced. He probably lost that election last year, there was massive fraud. He has no legitimacy in my eyes. Do I want him overthrown? Well, it would be better if the Georgians did it, but they tried and he used the Army on them—which the US trained, equipped, and practically leads. What does THAT say, Dan?

    Regarding my characterization of Dick and Geordie’s program as neo-imperialism, I’m not going to summarize their polices, stated and in action, in a score of countries over two Administrations here. I do not use that wording either lightly or without regard to its meaning, Dan. Their policy IS imperial in effect. They have a clear modus operandi; this is a matter of looking at events closely and comparing them and the associated language over time. I didn’t mention July 06 in my previous comment, but the present events in Georgia are a carbon copy, nothing changed but the names and dates. The manifest aggressor then, as now, was rankly defeated, having used massive firepower on civilian areas in a patently pre-planned offensive. I’m referring to the Israelies and the Georgians, just in case you drank the koolaid on that one so that the inference isn’t apparent. Think about that, if you care to Dan, and the substance, schema, and trajectory of my remarks may better hold. Your view may differ; that is of course your choice. I think mine is both accurate and well defensible in relation to the facts.

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