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Below is a comment I sent to NPR’s All Things Considered in response to a pretty hilarious commentary section on their Tuesday, April 14 show:

I consider myself a person of the left. I’d like to think I’m more open to a wider variety of “crazy” political opinions than many other Americans. But listening to your commentator’s piece on Somalian piracy Tuesday afternoon I found my jaw dropping on the ride home.

What got to me was the suggestion that Jihadists are worthy of more respect than Somali pirates because at “least they are fighting for something they believe in,” rather than cynical self-enrichment. Really, NPR? Really?

I still struggle to figure out why I should hate these raiders from Somalia, this razor edge of Third World capitalism, where no business transaction can exist without at least one sucker; they disrupt the commerce of radical Saudi and Iranian Islamic governments, they are against shariah law and they rarely ever harm their hostages, although that could now be over after the Navy SEALs’ sniper rifle escapade.

What they are doing is unsavory, yes, and no one can begrudge the hostages’ families wanting their captors dead or captured, but I find myself more willing to root for apolitical, anti-fundamentalist and imminently practical pirates who attempt to, as 50 Cent would put it, Get Rich or Die Trying.

After eight years of nightmarish political and religious ideology driving multiple nations, and with the current economic tailspin, a breath of cynical, realist practicality is one of fresh air. If I were Obama, I would be funding these pirates to continue raiding the commerce of America’s real future foes in Central Asia: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and Russia.

Sarkozy pumps €600 million into French newspaper business

I’m sorry. They’re gripped by a rough lot of Communist labor unions, the quality of reportage is probably not that hot (I can’t say definitively, I don’t read French and bookstores barely stock U.S. papers, much less Euro papers that are probably run by anarchists and s-s-s-socialists) and French readership and circulation continues to dip as it does across the rest of most of the First World, but I all but stood on my chair applauding this move.

‘Sarkozy likened the press to any other industry in need of aid, such as the automobile sector.’

‘Sarkozy’s measures included a year’s free, state-subsidised newspaper subscription for all teenagers from their 18th birthday. He said: “The habit of reading a daily paper takes root at a very young age.”‘

A dangerous precedent, sure, a danger to the almighty First World freedom of the press, maybe. But red turns to black by way of green. “Freedom isn’t free,” as the American motto goes.

I’ve always been torn on Rousseau and Locke. The social contract is a noble concept, probably one of the noblest, but even the most cursory glance at current events and back at history will make it plain that natural rights are a sham. Nation states and the contract of rights they grant and/or deny to their citizenry are based on a foundation of violence either explicit or implicit, directed toward its own citizens or outwards towards perceived foreign enemies.

One of my favorite examples is Turkey’s republican democracy: it’s marked with multiple occasions on which the military, whose command structure is largely staffed with scions of Turkey’s highly educated, secular intellectual class, has directly intervened in elections to depose presidents with Islamic fundamentalist leanings. They do this on the claim that key to Turkey’s constitution is a section forever establishing the republic as a secular state. Are the rights of the citizenry–the right to govern themselves, being violated by their military? I would say yes, but not condemn the act. After all, they are violating the democracy in order to depose people who would more than likely erode the democracy much more dramatically had they been left in office.

The firewall between the military and politics is largely a Western, First-World conceit. Imagine if the U.S. military weighed into elections to depose any religious fundamentalists who happened to make it into office.

This is all pure speculation.

If most Western liberal democracies have taken the view of von Clausewitz that wars are an extension of politics, rendering a military’s commanders subordinates to the civilian government, and that total war is an untenable military or political posture, then does that not render a conversion to full-on libertarian, Athenian direct democracy a geopolitical impossibility (short of majority-mandated nuclear hellfire)?

Of course, the libertarian response, and it’s as good one, would be that nation states would play a much smaller part in each others’ domestic affairs than they do now. But still assuming there has been a full return to direct democracy (my conceit here is the assumption that the advancement of libertarian ideals would involve the overhaul of representative democracy/republicanism), then I highly doubt that there would be no highly influential, highly populous voting demographics in the U.S., much less any other nuclear-equipped nation, that won’t harbor a knee-jerk, button-press approach to foreign affairs. In that sense, libertarianism then faces the same problem Marxist-Leninism did: the justification that communism cannot work unless the entire world is communist.

Republican Spain had a democratic army. George Orwell in Homage to Catalonia speaks of it positively, primarily for the fact that it worked as well as it did, but of course we all know how well it panned out for Republican Spain.

This is all pure speculation.

[20:00] Sync: there’s only one forecast I have that I can say with utmost certainty

[20:00] Sync: the quality of American reportage will decline

[20:00] _____: how is that even possible?

[20:00] _____: American media is already crap

[20:14] Sync: it’s possible

[20:14] Sync: man

[20:14] Sync: if that journalism outsourcing actually takes off soon

[20:14] Sync: Asia could stand to make a fucking killing in the next decade

[20:15] Sync: (as in killing me and my career)

[20:24] Sync: well, to refer back to the original point

[20:24] Sync: just look at the state of american journalism’s command structure as of right now

[20:25] Sync: the current aging dinosaur bosses and owners of media outlets seem to have little desire or initiative to change up and vastly overhaul the business model of modern journalism into something that will actually work

[20:25] Sync: and the next generation coming to replace them?

[20:27] Sync: They seem to be happy being eternally happy-go-lucky about blogging and the unfettered nature of the Internet, not bothering to be very concerned about how online journalists will make any money

[20:28] Sync: I’ve described them essentially as sitting there with their emo glasses and dumb grins on their faces more than happy as they stab themselves repeatedly in the belly

[20:28] Sync: slitting their own hamstrings

[20:28] Sync: “BLOGGING IS THE FUTURE OF FREE PRESS!”

[20:30] Sync: so there will be a gazillion free-to-access, free-to-work for online sources of reportage

[20:31] Sync: “staffed” almost entirely by part-time “citizen reporters,” ie: people already connected tenuously and questionably to the stories they have leads on in their local areas

[20:31] Sync: who almost certainly work other jobs totally unrelated to journalism to make a living and aren’t trained as professional journalists

[20:32] Sync: hence: the quality of American reportage will decline

[20:33] Sync: “BLOGGING IS THE FUTURE OF FREE PRESS!”

“Periods of transition are always periods of mismanagement; thus the predominant demand of the time was for efficiency. Acutely conscious of the prevailing insecurity, that small section of the populace which exercised its influence was in general prepared to accept any government which could guarantee peace and order.”

“Few men are so disinterested as to prefer to live in discomfort under a government which they hold to be right rather than live in comfort under one which they hold to be wrong.”

– C.V. Wedgwood, The Thirty Years War (pg. 19)

In the past two or three years I’ve grown increasingly skeptical– or simply cautious– of the distinctly modern worldview that views liberal democracy as the best recourse for effective governance the world over. Of course, this was a keystone in the now largely defunct Neoconservative philosophy for foreign affairs, but in another way it seems to have become part of the First World Left’s philosophy (only as much as the First World Left can be said to have a coherent philosophy, which is mostly does not anymore) as well.

The usual example cited in your run-of-the-mill Tyranny of the Majority criticisms of democratic systems is the one of the Nazi Party being democratically elected to office. The important part to remember about the Nazis’ ascension is that the citizenry of Germany had been suffering under the ineptitude and crippled nature of the Weimar Republic ever since the end of the First World War. To say they hungered for efficiency is most likely an understatement– and of course the Nazis marketed themselves as “National Socialists,” socialism being the Platonic image of efficient governance at the time (Market liberalism was not exactly in the hottest of states in the 1930s, was it?) Of course, I am not condoning the Nazi Party or any of their philosophies, but simply look at it from a Machiavellian viewpoint (something more intelligent people should be doing about more issues more often): For much of the 1930s provided one fit the ethnic, social and political criteria for Nazi affiliation, life in Germany was relatively good.

In Turkey, multiple presidents have been deposed by a largely independent military for attempting to betray the constitution of the Turkish state, in particular the clause establishing secular rule. As journalist and author Robert Kaplan describes in his book Eastward to Tartary, the majority of commissioned officers in the Turkish military are progeny of an established intellectual class: committed to democratic ideals, but even more committed to the preservation of secularism. And a majority of Turks support these somewhat systematic coup de’tat moves. Really, can you blame them? I’ve found that I cannot. After all, we’ve seen the effectiveness of theocracies in providing their subjects a stable, prosperous quality of life in the Taiping Rebellion and the reign of the Taliban in Afghanistan, not to mention most all of Mesopotamia’s history since Hulagu Khan’s sacking of Baghdad in the 13th Century.

After all, aren’t all governments founded on violence either explicit or implicit? Social contracts are well and good, and I don’t say that sarcastically, but look at it practically: what is a law in its rawest form other than a promise of implied violence attached to a self-evident moral code of culture in which it is established? Again, that’s not to say that laws are ludicrous– I’m more or less through with anarchism– but is it not important to attempt to see things as they really are? (“Reality” is the providence of journalists, “truth” that of philosophers)

There are already books out that imply that the system which governs a polity is more attached to that state’s cultural and physical geography more than impersonal international political philosophies (Neo-Marxists are you listening?) With things going the way they are, I figure more books are on the way.

This is all pure speculation.

John le Carre put in summary the primary reasons I love airports so much:

“The airport reminded Leamas of the war: machines, half hidden in the fog, waiting patiently for their masters; the resonant voices and their echoes, the sudden shout and the incongruous clip of a girl’s heels on a stone floor; the roar of an engine that might have been at your elbow. Everywhere that air of conspiracy which generates among people who have been up since dawn– of superiority almost, derived from the common experience of having seen the night disappear and the morning come.” – The Spy Who Came In from the Cold

The phone did not ring, but he pulled it out anyways. Extracted from his left slacks pocket the battered black and gray thing beamed the time and date on its front mount LCD, but no calls missed, no voicemail waiting, that row of icons lay dark. His breath groaned up from his belly up to the chest in one of those self-destructive reflexes to stress that compel the body to rack against itself. Absentminded, he scooted a millimeter away from the passengers packed in on his left, as if to return the phone to its nest. Instead he jumped and whisked it back out, thumbing the LCD back on and checking the time once more: 4:17 pm. The passengers to his right cursed in their Shanghai way.

Then it vibrated in his hand. He hadn’t used a proper ring tone in six years. A little spike of adrenaline coursed through his limbs and he struggled to get the clamshell phone open and up to his head. The other passengers bitched and moaned with their bodies, writhing back against his jutting elbow. He gets a few looks from his older neighbors, shorter, more malnourished women at the tail-end of their middle years with burlap shopping bags slung and tight black afro curls on their heads. The younger people, suits and neon-hued student types, pretend not to see or stare thirty degrees away into the peeling bulkhead posters.

Four rings in, he got it to his ear. “This is Vasili.”

Blood roared in Lushan’s ears as Carob Village streaked into his line of sight. Over his panting he could hear the crunch of the first frosts underfoot and see the tendrils of smoke from the iron chimneys, flush with the steam of his breath. The sun was almost free of the Alps and the featureless matte gray fog—almost time for village-morning activities. He would have to be back at Green-B soon. Hamstrings and triceps contracted, fueled by a fresh pump of acetylcholine. He broke into a new wind sprint.

Lushan’s breath shifted from a recovering 4/4 to 4/3 time signature. He cursed himself for not downing enough water before leaving (before dawn). The lactation in his ankles and things throbbed like battery acid. Sweat bled down into his eyes.

And—there! Finally, he crested the last slope in the dirt path and Green-B came into view, a fog-gray tuna canister cast in concrete. A steel parasol slanted from its roof, a miniature satellite array. The narrow machinegun ports were covered from the inside with black tinted bulletproof Lexan.

Green-B kept a slit eye over Carob from its sentry’s perch on Midori Hill. At 3 pm it would cast its squat shadow over the village’s rice paper walls.

Is Russia as dangerous to journalists as some would have you believe? If you look at the way the stats are collected, then you begin to wonder…