March 2015
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Rags and Bones

by Jonathan Wallace

The Dalai Lama

I always have my eye out for unusual free speech adventures, and this is one of the most entertaining.The Dalai Lama announced that he may not be reincarnated, and the Chinese reaction is, how dare he? The subtext is that when he dies, the Chinese will identify a Tibetan infant under their complete control as his replacement. If his people believe he was not reincarnated, that hampers Chinese control of Tibet. Translation: The Dalai Lama's statement about his own beliefs,which the Chinese overlords of Tibet do not remotely share, was treated as seditious speech against China.

DeNovo spyware

The allegation that DeNovo computers deliberately incorporated some malware in the OS which had the ability to hack user passwords is a symptom that, at the highest levels, Late Capitalism and banditry are indistinguishable.


I predicted recently in this column that a U.S. opening to Cuba would promote Koch-style inequality and poverty on the island. According to a recent New York Times piece, its already happening.

To complete its diplomatic revision, the Obama administration would have to take Cuba off some official lists of countries that support terrorism. Through the eye of current events, Cuba is not mounting ISIS-style suicide attacks, crashing jets into towers or driving vans full of explosive into Times Square. Yes, a few violent political criminals like Joanne Chesimard still live there. If you take the focus back sixty years, of the two partners, the only one which has actually arranged violence against the other is the U.S., which mounted the Bay of Pigs invasion. Let's take Cuba off those lists.

Why do I want to regularize our relations with Cuba, even though I fear the consequences for the smaller, weaker partner? I am an optimist. I still believe in community and hope the consequences of Late Capitalism can be dealt with before community is destroyed.

Horst Wessel

A young composer briefly quoted the Horst Wessel song in his composition and when it was discovered, a concert was canceled. The Nazi song has been quoted before, in more famous works; this is an example of a kind of detestable, thoughtless censorship deployed against unimportant people, which would never be leveled against, for example, a Nazi rally scene in a Steven Spielberg movie.

The Senate letter

This month's premier ethical spectacle was the letter to the leadership of Iran from 47 Republican senators telling them not to trust President Obama. This is another example of the right wing echo chamber, where actions are agreed without the least comprehension how they look on the outside. What's next, a letter to the Joint Chiefs of Staff directing them not to obey the Commander in Chief if he sends troops to war? Are we Weimar?

Certainly, the right hates Obama, and progressives, and liberals, and reformists, and centrists, and all Democrats--all of whom they can't tell apart--so much they don't care what they dismantle or break to get at them. I remember the poignant lines from A Man For All Seasons, when William Roper has just said he would "cut down every law in Engla nd" to kill the Devil. Sir Thomas More replies: "Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?"

As ideologically distant, violent, and Dreadly Certain as are the Iranians, they are correct in their response, that the Senate letter illustrates the decline of the American polity, degraded by infighting. Democracy depends on all participants wanting to play on the same team despite their differences. Weimar lost that, and so have we.