Friday, February 25, 2011

And then they woke up.

Obviously the U.S. government was quite successful in importing state capitalism into Iraq, as evidenced by the outbursts of grieved protesters and their now-archetypal counterweights, the riot police. Nothing says quote-unquote-democracy like citizens confronting men in burly black armor.

How many homes go without electricity so these dudes can hide behind big plastic shields?

Ahh, the bourgeois democracy. That is, democracy for the rich, a lifetime of squalor and servitude for most everybody else.

Thank the maker we don't have anything like that here. Oh shit, wrong link. Ahh, nevermind ... what's much more interesting to note is that since Obama got elected, class struggle has been relatively low. Riot cops haven't been quite so necessary, not even at the immigration rights marches I've been to. Those waiters seem to be reserved for parties of 10,000 or more....

And they're curiously absent from the current protests in Madison, Wisconsin, which have occupied the state capitol and seen thousands of people come and go from all over the state and indeed all over the nation.

Solidarity is a curiously effective component of democracy, contrary to how absolute democracy is usually portrayed.

And no riot police (knock on wood). Police officers have been encouraged to sleep among the protesters. They guard doors but for the most part leave the crowds alone. There's been a few arrests, I hear, but despite Walker's swagger and bluster, no crackdown yet.

Today thousands of people are again rallying to Madison. As in Egypt and Tunisia and Iraq, Libya and Bahrain and Yemen, Jordan and Morocco and Algiers (apologies if I've left any of my cuzes out), "the people have lost their fear." There are still divisions and bitter feelings, as the disenfranchised public sector workers feel public unions should be dragged down to their level, rather than restored to the elevation they once enjoyed. (Why you would side with the rhetoric of the people who cheated and defiled you, I'll never understand....)

It's quite affirming to finally see the workers of the United States standing up for themselves. They've done their "patriotic duty" for years - bought products, taken pay cuts, let politicians handle politics. We've just kept our head down and done our job. "Git er done" was the slogan of the American worker and we were proud to do it for the red-white-and-blue. But the politicians kept pushing our buttons, kept looking for the line, kept on pushing down our standard of living while raising the expectations. They picked this fight, not us. It's just the unions who got fed up first this time around ...

... but there are a lot more of us with a bone to pick. March is just around the corner, and when the snow begins to melt (and the rivers begin to flood) the whole upper half of the country will rouse itself, crabby from hibernation. We will pack sand bags and hoist signs and on March 19th we will hold nation-wide anti-war marches against the continued occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. May 1st is May Day, a day for workers and new-agers (a solidarity I approve of). There are always immigrant rights marches then too. May 22nd is Harvey Milk Day, for LGBT rights and there's a lot yet to be done.

The left has been anything but sluggish these last 10 years - the media just hasn't been watching. Now that workers are really moving into action however we are beginning to hit the establishment where it hurts - the wallet. In closing I'm reminded of a few lines of lyrics and prose I feel really speak to this sudden worker's empowerment.

The first is a song, by Suicidal Tendencies:
"And I go 'wait, what are you talking about, WE decided? MY best interests? How do you know what MY best interest is? How can you say what MY best interest is? What are you trying to say? I'M crazy? When I went to YOUR schools, I went to YOUR churches, I went to YOUR institutional learning facilities? So how can you say I'M crazy?'"
- "Institutionalized"

And the second is a bit of a quote from one of the best movies of all time: Fight Club.

"We cook your meals. We haul your trash. We connect your calls. We drive your ambulances. We guard you while you sleep. Do not fuck with us."

Workers of the world, unite :)

There is no substitution for a people's revolution.

The United States and the "international community" (read: global state capitalists) are attempting to hijack Libya's revolution, in a sense. To poor effect. The imperialist powers are scrambling to make their voices heard now that madman Muammar Qaddafi met his people's democratic demands with extreme violence and repression.

The problem? Once again: too fucking little, too fucking late.

(Not to mention the fact that this total arsewipe has no interest in playing by any rules but his own and their treatment of him sounds like dialogue from a work of absurdist theater. "The United States, France and other Western powers are trying to remove Libya from the 47-member Human Rights Council." Really? What the blue fuck was Qaddafi doing on there in the first place??)

Libya is a complicated situation in that Qaddafi does not represent Western neo-colonial interests, but is instead a fossil of the anti-colonial movements that swept the "third world" after the rise of the Soviet Union. He is, of course, no less a despot, and so his half-baked claims to Marxism are about as laughable as his allegations that Al Qaeda drugged his rebelling population, or that Wikileaks is a CIA conspiracy to overthrow the enemies of the United States (you know, enemies like Hosni Mubarak....).

So history, as history so often does, is cleaning house, deposing the archaic despots of the Middle East with little regard to their allegiances. It is a "combined and uneven" housecleaning, of course, one that has so far spared the monarchs in favor of the pretenders to democracy. But "Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi — neither a king nor a president" (sez NYT, accurately), responds in his own idiosyncratic way, ie, mowing down demonstrators with machine guns and hiring mercenaries to plug the holes left by defectors to his regime.

The Obama administration gained an unfavorable reputation during the Tunisian, Egyptian, and Bahraini uprisings. O didn't have much to say about Tunisia until Bin Ali fled. He stood on the sidelines with Mubarak and let his administration make conflicting assessments; Biden and Clinton painted the Egyptian despot as a stable ally, for example. That was egg on the admin's face almost as soon as the words were out of their mouths.

Granted the response to Libya, where Qaddafi has long operated as a gadfly to the West and attempted to woo African and Middle Eastern radicals for decades, might have required a little more consideration. How and when do you intervene when an antagonistic nutcase turns on his own people? The Obama administration seemed to want to find straight historical precedents ("it's like Somalia, or wait, we don't want this to be like Rwanda ... or can it be more like Kosovo....) when they ought to have been thinking a little more dialectically (what are the historical forces in play in Libya and the region and how do they interact).

For example, I think few of the instances where the United States has been involved in the last century showcase such bravery, determination, and agency on the part of the population involved. The mistake is in how anti-Qaddafi forces have been characterized.

These are not helpless demonstrators. These are not Kuwaitis clamoring for outside aid. As far as I know, no forces inside Libya have yet called on the "international community" for help. Some of Qaddafi's strongmen have defected and are training the rebels - and effectively. The rebels are seizing government weapons caches and pushing back the Colonel's forces.

They are creating a provisional government in Benghazi.

This isn't a humanitarian crisis for the United Nations to intervene in. This isn't even a civil war with two sides bogged down and exchanging blows. This is a revolution, the beginning of a whole new order.

not so bored now, are ya, asshole?

Sending Hilary Clinton to Geneva for international talks will end up being a waste of federal money. By the time the talks wind down, Qaddafi will be swinging from a lamp post (Allah willing). For Chrissake! Compared to the capacity of working people and activists to coordinate these actions in a democratic and nearly real-time manner through social media, international talks are like watching a brontosaurus wake up from a nap.

The best thing the "international community" can do is freeze Qaddafi's assets. By the time they've done anything else, they'll be dealing with a whole new government. Who are you going to impose a no-fly zone on then, huh? Yeah. S'what I thought.

Wake up and smell the incense, guys. The cutting edge of democratic change in the world has done a radical shift and the West is in danger of getting left behind. Without an urgent reassessment, the capitalist democracies are going to find themselves on the wrong side of history, much like Qaddafi - not any time soon, but too soon for comfort.

The support of democracy ought to be a geopolitical strategy.

Of course all this underlines how antiquated our whole political system has become, not just our foreign policy paradigm (which is still influenced by Cold Warriors, sadly). To address the necessary changes in our domestic structure is a task for another day.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Permanent Revolution in the NYT and Egypt

The New York Times webpage is adapting to the protests in the Middle East. This is the beautiful thing about the internets: it adapts format. Newpapers can't give you a live feed of people's tweets, especially not as they engage in revolution. (Plus it gets me around the corporate blackout of Twitter! How utterly kind of them.)

But since that page is in movement and in all likelihood will be gone in a few months, I'll add something more substantial....

Egyptian activists have advanced their demands (partway down the page). Among their more routine call for the release of detainees, the end of the emergency law (which bears some striking similarities to certain U.S. legislation?), restructuring ministries and generally sweeping out the old guard, is a certain new phrase, an invention so radical that they need to explain it.

"- Forming a new technocratic government."

(Disclaimer: as a former table-top roleplaying game nerd, I have a particular soft spot for this phrase, a sort of hipster irony and nostalgia. So sue me!)

"Technocratic government: is a specialized government which doesn’t belong to any party. This government is used in the case of political differences."

Emphasis my own. Russians everywhere are amazed as Lenin spins somersaults in his tomb.

Is it naive of them to think they can end party politics? Perhaps. But there is something very appealing in the image of a country governed out of the makeshift volunteeropolis of Tahrir Square. A country where nuance and dialogue is the order of the day, where tweets and facebook groups coordinate the work of society and provides both jobs and compensation. The government is the people, pouring in and out of Tahrir like a fluid neural network, and the issues of the day are resolved in real-time, collaborative conversation.

Something that would take a lot of work. A lot of electing committees and discussing issues in a logical and civilized manner. A way fraught with challenges like any other system, but finally realizing both democracy and technology and advancing our lives in new ways....

"Our revolution and struggle will continue until we achieve all our demands.

The revolution is not finished yet… April 6 Youth announce that there will be another demonstration on Friday the 25th and a sit-in in Tahrir Square on Friday until the implementation of our demands."

The embryo of the future, a people's technocracy

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Losing the Green Future

Yet another of those sacred pillars of the American Empire is evidencing some particularly ominous cracks: the auto industry. As domestic automakers were some of the biggest losers and/or crybabies of the Great Recession, the character of the industry was profoundly changed. The federal government had to quasi-nationalize General Motors, long seen as the figurative engine of the American industrial economy.

this is called a factory. we used to have these in this country.

(But of course, the industrial sector in the United States has long been in decline. Just ask Wisconsin workers.

Or, for that matter, take a look around many places in rural America. Or Northeast Minneapolis. Or the Southern California urban sprawl where I was born. You can see the hollow shells of industry everywhere like the concrete exoskeletons of shellfish behemoths. All the crunchy capital and gooey labor long since fled to friendlier - aka more oppressive - climates.)

But the problem with the automotive industry isn't strictly its finances, despite the war on United Auto Workers the last few decades. It isn't government regulations, which every industry encounters eventually (if the government knows what's good for it). The problem isn't even design. I have no patience for the arguments that Americans only want big gas-guzzling SUVs and hostile-looking mini monster trucks. Those are the fault of advertisement campaigns and the dismantling of city planning and the cancer-like spread of suburbia as much as it is any dream of the American public.

The problem is systemic. The problem is the auto industry's linkage and co-strategery with oil interests. This is an alliance that has dismantled public transit in key metro regions (especially Los Angeles, where commuters sit trapped in their cars for hours with right-wing hate radio pumped through their car speakers).

By de-socializing transit, the capitalist system in America not only placed the burden of commuting on each family, but also spun a nationalist narrative that equated freedom with machismo and geographical dominance. Goading said families into accepting this burden. Even valuing it. To the point where the car loan is right up there with the other heavy hitters in the world of modern debt slavery: medical bills, student loans, and the car loan's dialectical opposite: the sacred home loan.

As consumerism rose and real wages stagnated the last 30 years, consumer debt became one of the quiet underpinnings of the U.S. economy. Now more than ever U.S. workers are searching frantically for good deals on commodities and services to make ends meet. The more progressive elements of the working class - including college graduates, many of whom can't find the high-paying jobs they were promised - also want to do their part to help the environment.

climate change has turned my home region into a tinder-box

But government initiatives to expand green, high-speed mass transit between urban centers keeps getting cock-blocked by teabaggers hissing about budgets that have come unbalanced (because of right-wing corporate tax cuts, mostly). And the working class hasn't woken up to the reality of car ownership yet - and it will be a struggle to do so, considering our suburbs have developed along auto, not mass, transit channels. (Massive retrofitting required - but that would also bring jobs back in massive numbers, if we can figure out how to pay for it....)

So the U.S. auto industries do a little bit, as part of their green PR campaign, to capture the green progressive demographic. Problem is, they want to offset R&D and capital and production costs by marketing hybrids and electrics as luxury cars. As if the fate of the planet, and the species, is a luxury.

Not exactly doing their duty as a human institution to make their own sacrifices for the good of the planet. While we spend our own hard-earned cash on new lightbulbs, energy-saving appliances, and candles for brownouts (something we Californians are pretty used to), they generally look for every feasible way to lower their own costs, including passing off that cost to consumers and the environment. Would they ever consider operating at a loss to fund green research and low-cost, low-emission transit options?

Not in your life. So don't believe any talk of "shared sacrifice." As in so many other realms - budget cuts are one popular example right not - there is more sacrifice to business than from business.

But, as long as the environment remains fashionable - and it should, considering it's not exactly poised for a rebound anytime soon - rest assured automakers will continue their lackadaisical wandering towards cheap green transit ... eventually ... in their own good time.

That's where China comes in. Apparently the F3DM, while doing next to nothing to redeem the stereotype of boring communist consumer goods (more of an industrial-era thing, you know, silver is the new Fordian black), is the first mass-produced hybrid. In the world.

You heard right. Cheap hybrids for everyday folks.

they also have high-speed rail.

A little bumpy, yeah, but what working person doesn't have something that's falling apartment? Nice things are for rich people - just look at Comrade X and his coffee pot. I'm being a little facetious, yeah, but it would be nice to own something so cheap that we didn't feel trepidation when trying to open it up and customize the damn thing.

All this once again underlines the role of government in business. As if the fat profit sharing GM autoworkers are going to get didn't hammer it home well enough for you. (Remember, GM was the one that got nationalized.) For Chrissake, as if the very internets you're reading this on wasn't evidence enough that government involvement in business can be good for both business and workers.

'Course the Chinese gov't treats their workers far, far worse than we do here (uhh, right?) and that needs to be changed. But this is just further evidence of a fraying American empire, unable to meet the stringent demands of the 21st century - the very century it has played such a central role in creating.

A couple other slick readings for you: ECW's discussion of last year's holes, which includes a good rendition of oil's significance true significance, and a recent post from Mr. Thomas L. Friedman that I, frighteningly enough, almost completely agree with: use Libya as an excuse to get off oil dependency once and for all. Friedman even says "history is back," which has interesting repercussions. Slowly the amber lets go of the Middle East, coagulates around the United States....

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Egypt And Capitalism's Lack Of Vision

Democracy for an insignificant minority, democracy for the rich- that is the democracy of capitalist society.- V.I. Lenin

Our ruling class loves to pass the buck. When an administration comes into the White House they desperately try to hold as much of the creaking American Empire in place as possible, praying that the whole rotten structure doesn't collapse on their watch.
When the inevitable happens and one of their client states erupts in revolution against the corrupt autocrat Washington has been backing for decades, these assholes have the nerve to be surprised.
It is amusing to watch Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the rest of Empire's caretakers running about in a total gagglefuck over the revolutions sweeping across the Middle East. One day they back Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's self- appointed president- for- life. The very next they ask him to leave Egypt. The current strategy seems to consist of mumbling platitudes about freedom and democracy while quietly maneuvering another stooge into Egypt's presidency.
Nice try. The Egyptian people allready know Omar Suleiman, Egypt's vice- president, C.I.A. liasion, and former military intelligence chief, is an asshole and can be counted on to overwhelmingly reject him.
Why are capitalists so inept at Empire? Or building any kind of political stability in the world? Han China existed for over 400 years The Romans built an empire that lasted for over 7 centuries. The first great capitalist empire, that of Great Britain, spanned the globe but burnt itself out in less than two hundred years. Other European colonial empires were extinguished even faster.
The ruling class of the United States came up with a new variation of empire- indirect rule. By the mid- twentieth century, technological advances in communications, transportation, and armaments ( particularly in air and sea power )made direct rule obsolete. It was much easier to rule a country by proxy. A general, a monarch, or a dictator is much easier to maintain than a garrison. The fact that the autocrat was a native of the country he ruled on the behalf of the American ( now global )economic elite preserved the fiction of independence. The native military, not the American, would do the dirty work of empire- torture, imprisonment, and murder of anyone who rose against the status quo. Only if the shit got totally out of hand did the U.S. Marines go charging in.
So why is this brutal yet elegant system falling apart before our very eyes?
The answer lies in the lack of vision on the part of the real power behind modern nation states: the capitalist class ( aka the ruling class, the investor class, the bourgeoisie, the Bosses, The Man, The Enemy ). Unlike the elites of empires past, our rulers are not motivated to leave a legacy to history. They are not motivated by outmoded notions such as glory or honor. They are motivated by greed, the bottom line, the profit margin. There are no plans for the future- the capitalist only exists for the present. It matters not a bit to him if in order to increase his own personal wealth he has to impoverish thousands of American workers by sending their jobs to markets with cheaper labor. His interest in freedom is limited to his personal freedom to make more money- to to this he his perfectly willing to back dictators, military strongmen, and corrupt " democracies", where the people suffer from the attentions of not a single tyrant but from that of a hundred petty tyrants ( e.g. Haiti). All beholden to The Man, of course.
The stability of the Middle East is of no interest to the capitalists who caused it by backing autocratic regimes for so long. As long as their investments paid off, the Middle East can go to hell. Similarly, the long term well- being of the United States does not concern them at all. America may be bankrupt, in chaos, and reviled throughout the world in the near future but as long as our capitalists get their ill- gotten wealth, they are perfectly willing to let the country they profess to love so much collapse into ruin. If these parasites were true patriots they would accept a high tax rate on their fortunes and pay their taxes instead of putting the burden on the working class. If they really wanted to balance the budget they would voluntarily pony up the dough rather than make cuts to social programs working people use- cuts that are not going to make a even a miniscule dent in the deficeit anyway.
Capitalism has run its historic course and served its purpose of pulling the world out of the Middle Ages. Now it is dying and like a dinosaur, is crushing everything around it in its death throes. Markets are dissaprearing, resources are being consumed in ever greater quantities, nations are being destroyed, and economies are being broken. Time has come for the American people to wake from their long slumber, and , like a titan, shake ourselves free of the fetters our new aristocrats seek to bind us with. Follow the brave examples of the people of Egypt and Tunisia. One day, soon I hope, the world will stand amazed at the sight of millions of Americans standing up to their own corrupt, isolated elite and telling them " Enough!".

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Friedman clouds important issues ... as usual.

I know this is no surprise to my small audience, but Thomas Friedman - an incredibly influential economist and political commentator - has quite a flawed method of reasoning. Below I will respond to his article "B.E., Before Egypt. A.E., After Egypt," which was published February 1st in the NYT. But I would also like to point out that this is the man who wrote The World is Flat, a naive argument that technology resulting from capitalist globalization creates an "even playing field" for economic actors. While the world of communication has radically altered, creating with it a young global culture, the economics have not caught up and cannot catch up on the basis of capitalist production. Anyway, to the issue at hand.

POINT: Friedman's "retired Israeli general" tells him from the opening, "everything we thought for the last 30 years is no longer relevant.”

REFUTATION: All of the joint US-Israel strategy over the last 30 years was antagonistic to the Arab world. It is not merely "outdated," it was unsustainable, imperialistic, and unrealistic in the first place.

POINT: "The peace treaty with a stable Egypt was the unspoken foundation for every geopolitical and economic policy in Israel for the last 35 years, and now it’s gone. It’s as if Americans suddenly woke up and found both Mexico and Canada plunged into turmoil on the same day."

REFUTATION: This comparison is ridiculous. Israel's border with Egypt is tiny. The US borders with Mexico and Canada, two geographically and demographically huge countries, are likewise enormous. The United States is still able to dictate policy to much of the world (though in a decreasing capacity). Egypt is one neighbor; Canada and Mexico are two, and our only two, and the only two other countries on North America's mainland, at that. Israel and Egypt are both part of a complex overlapping geopolitical network that includes Europe, the Mediterranean, the "Middle East," North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, the "Arab World," the "Muslim World" ... the list goes on. The religious complexities of the region alone warrant in-depth analysis, not Friedman's platitudes.

POINT: Friedman hammers home Iranophobia in a not-so-crafty way by quoting a "Tel Aviv strategist" to paint a superficial Middle East backdrop for all of us paying superficial attention: "And it [the Egyptian Revolution] is happening right at a moment when nuclearization of the region hangs in the air."

REFUTATION: This region is "nuclearized." It's an open secret that Israel has WMDs, including nuclear capacities. Shame on Friedman for reinforcing American ignorance about the complexity - and the history - of the weapons situation.

POINT: Friedman says, "The best time to make any big, hard decision is when you are at your maximum strength. You’ll always think and act more clearly," and goes on to point out Mubarak had 30 years to introduce reforms to his country.

REFUTATION: Friedman apparently doesn't understand how a dictatorship works. Having a single strongman give the orders in a militarized security state isn't conducive to progressive developments. If democracy had been Mubarak's goal he would have pressed for changes to Egypt's constitution upon becoming President. A dictator "think[ing] and act[ing] more clearly" means only more thoroughly curtailing freedoms and curb-stomping public cries for liberty.

POINT: "Now he [Mubarak] is trying to reform in a panic with no leverage."

REFUTATION: Appointing new ministers and "promising" to step down in the fall are not reforms. They are executive window-dressing. "Reform" actually involved changes to the laws that keep the dictatorship in place, ending the curfews and the state of emergency. A tyrant will not make reforms; he stoops to grant "concessions." Nothing about what Mubarak has done changes the power of his office or sets a precedent of democracy.

POINT: "[I]t is virtually certain that the next Egyptian government will not have the patience or room that Mubarak did to maneuver with Israel."

REFUTATION: Friedman neglects to mention the U.S.'s vested interest in making sure the transitional government will play ball, and probably any government after that. Will they use force to prop it up? If necessary, you betcha. Friedman is propagating a naivete that harms the worldview of everyday Americans. It is the responsibility of writers, journalist, economists, political nerds, etc. etc. to dig down deep for the truth, not dumb down analysis until it whitewashes the importance of geopolitical strategy.

POINT: "With the big political changes in the region, 'if Israel remains paranoid and messianic and greedy it will lose all its Arab friends.'" Embedded quotation attributed to "Khalil Shikaki, a Palestinian pollster."

REFUTATION: Arab friends, huh? Israel has been paranoid and messianic and greedy for the almost 30 years I've been alive. It's astounding to me that they would have Arab friends even now, and any buddies they may have strike me as very good examples of the possible beauty of the human spirit. And also a bunch of people who are very, very scared of the U.S. military. Let's face it: Israel is never going to gain acceptance in the Middle East by siding with the U.S. and pursuing a policy of fear. That is one(?) country and two(?) populations that need to do some serious soul-searching now, as many pundits have pointed out. Let's hope for the sake of the Israeli people (and not necessarily its government....) that this soul-searching won't come too late.

POINT: "What the turmoil in Egypt also demonstrates is how much Israel is surrounded by a huge population of young Arabs and Muslims who have been living outside of history — insulated by oil and autocracy from the great global trends. But that’s over."

REFUTATION: Just the term "living outside of history" is enough to make my blood boil! No one lives "outside of history," no one, anywhere, ever. That is some kind of weird neoliberal fetish. "The end of history." "Stuck in the dark ages." No one is immune to history. Mubarak is falling prey to thinking he could insulate himself from the past. His clique thinks barbed wire can keep out thousands of young folks possessed by memory and empowered by hope. The U.S. thinks it can treat "backwards" - sorry, "developing," that's the word we use now - nations like puppets and pawns. The Middle East has not been "insulated" by the great global trends; it is a shaper of great global trends. Oil and autocracy are facts of the last 100 years. They are a part of our history and give form to our mode of transit, our cities, our foreign policy, our language, our unconscious anxieties and fears and expectations. Until we grapple (never to conquer) with the full dialectical extent of these issues we are victims of history rather than its inhabitants.

POINT: "It is vital for Israel’s future — at a time when there is already a global campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state — that it disentangle itself from the Arabs’ story as much as possible."

REFUTATION: You ever had someone you don't care for, say a family member, or a significant other's friend, come stay with you for a period of time? And at first you don't like them, you rail against their being there, you butt heads a lot? And then perhaps things settle down for a while, you find some common ground, etc. But maybe they don't get a job, or they don't earn their keep, and you get frustrated and tell them, "Shape up or ship out." Israel deserves to exist now partly by virtue of it having existed so long that it has integrated into the Middle East dynamic. It is impossible to "delegitimize" the "Jewish state" by any convincing force of narrative. But I do think it's completely reasonable that the Arabic narrative too take a dialectical change, that the people of Egypt want democracy and they want it to be safe from their militarized neighbors. It's only fair that these people have the opportunity to live in harmony. Good leaders would arrange more dialogue between the populaces of these countries, foster good feelings, talk about cultural values and common grounds. (What a hippy, Dresden!)

POINT: "There is a huge storm coming, Israel. Get out of the way."

REFUTATION: The storm is here. Friedman, you and your bad reasoning are about to get swept to sea.

And perhaps the entire notion, the paradigm even, of America as the City on the Hill, the light of freedom and opportunity for people all over the world, is on the wane, just as our own democracy is on the wane. This country has experienced a dialectical shift from the inspiration and model to the very barrier of the ideals it once pioneered. New models, global models, fueled by communication technology and ideas of participation and new, innovative solutions are in order. They have not yet been born; they have been struggling for form and articulation since the Tennis Court Oath. And there have been false blooms and flashes in the pan but now there are new challenges, new hopes, and America's ruling class paradigms and their dialectical opposites aren't going to cut it. We will be in doldrums for a long time yet.