Sunday, December 30, 2007
Click on image to enlarge
In the week in which General Petraeus reports back to US Congress on the impact the recent ‘surge’ is having in Iraq, a new poll reveals that more than 1,000,000 Iraqi citizens have been murdered since the invasion took place in 2003.
Previous estimates, most noticeably the one published in the Lancet in October 2006, suggested almost half this number (654,965 deaths).
These findings come from a poll released today by ORB, the British polling agency that has been tracking public opinion in Iraq since 2005. In conjunction with their Iraqi fieldwork agency a representative sample of 1,499 adults aged 18+ answered the following question:-
Q: How many members of your household, if any, have died as a result of the conflict in Iraq since 2003 (ie as a result of violence rather than a natural death such as old age)? Please note that I mean those who were actually living under your roof.
Four or more 0.002%
Given that from the 2005 census there are a total of 4,050,597 households this data suggests a total of 1,220,580 deaths since the invasion in 2003. Calculating the affect from the margin of error we believe that the range is a minimum of 733,158 to a maximum of 1,446,063
Please click on this link if you want a local perspective on these figures - a short interview with our pollster Dr Munqeth Daghir - http://188.8.131.52/munqeth/
Detailed analysis (which is available on our website) indicates that almost one in two households in Baghdad have lost a family member, significantly higher than in any other area of the country. The governorates of Diyala (42%) and Ninewa (35%) were next.
The poll also questioned the surviving relatives on the method in which their loved ones were killed. It reveals that 48% died from a gunshot wound, 20% from the impact of a car bomb, 9% from aerial bombardment, 6% as a result of an accident and 6% from another blast/ordnance. This is significant because more often that not it is car bombs and aerial bombardments that make the news – with gunshots rarely in the headlines.
As well as a murder rate that now exceeds the Rwanda genocide from 1994 (800,000 murdered), not only have more than one million been injured but our poll calculates that of the millions of Iraqis that have fled their neighborhoods, 52% have moved within Iraq but 48% have crossed its borders, with Syria taking the bulk of refugees.
And for those left in Iraq, although 81% may describe the availability of basic groceries such as bread and fresh vegetables as “very/fairly good”, more than one in two (54%) consider them to be “expensive”.
The opinion poll was conducted by ORB and the survey details are as follows:
•Results are based on face-to-face interviews amongst a nationally representative sample of 1,720 adults aged 18+ throughout Iraq (1,499 agreed to answer the question on household deaths)
•The standard margin of error on the sample who answered (1,499) is +2.5%
•The methodology uses multi-stage random probability sampling and covers fifteen of the eighteen governorates within Iraq. For security reasons Karbala and Al Anbar were not included. Irbil was excluded as the authorities refused our field team a permit.
•Interviews conducted August 12th – 19th 2007.
•Full results and data tabulations are available at www.opinion.co.uk/newsroom.aspx
•ORB is a full member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
"[Ron]Paul-haters on the Right and the Left unite in a common cause."
Does that make Paul a centrist? Damn I thought that was the Hillary-Obama-Edwards schtick?
When all them Right-Wing Candy Dates are running to the right they all chirp- "Centrist."
The entirety of the American political Apparatus is is so far Right that Ron Paul seems nearly reasonable.
Well you see the real Ron Paul phenomenon isn't the story of Ron Paul it's the story of how truly deranged is the entire American political landscape and how there is a terrible gap in simply understanding the history of the American political economy and how that is reflected in today's political cesspool.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
There is much pretending throughout the progressive and liberal community in my view.
Success and the good life, credentials and status, position and privilege must be protected, at least for people like "us." At the same time, our position and privilege is dependent upon playing a certain role. We must pretend that we are not defending privilege and position and must pretend that we are for the downtrodden. We must pretend that privilege and position is all earned, and that anyone could have anything that we have. We must defend the system of dog-eat-dog competition without allowing that to be too obvious. So we pretend that introducing "fairness" rules and regimens into our personal life nullifies all of the things we do to attain and preserve the spot we have clawed our way to in society.
Sometimes this balancing act is fairly easy, since there are so many people willing to help us keep the facade up and since reality doesn't intrude into our "reality based" fantasy world, but once in a while something like the Bush administration arises and calls our bluff.
When our bluff is called, there is no amount of time and energy we will spare in internecine warfare arguing fine points of what a liberal is, or what our position should be on each and every minute issue and sub-issue and variations on every issue. These arguments can never be resolved, because there is no basis of consensus. Actually there is a consensus, but an important component of the consensus is that we never talk about it and we must pretend that it isn't there.
The consensus from which liberals and Democrats operate:
We are the better people. We are smarter, we are humane, we are more compassionate, we are better informed. We are better citizens, we are more cooperative and realistic. We are winners, not losers, and we deserve everything we get. We are spiritually superior. We are centered and balanced, calm and insightful. We are on the right side of history. We are building a better world.
The general public does not realize that we are the better people, and the ones who should be making the decisions. This is because Republicans are able to take advantage of the people's stupidity and ignorance and turn them against us.
Most of the problems in the world are the result of stupid people running things. If we smart people were in charge, all of the problems could be solved with science and technology and rational social planning.
Class analysis, and the struggles of working class people against tyranny have no place in modern society. They are obsolete and passe, and only something that we read about or see in movies. Romantic as those stories are, they are no substitute for hard-headed practical reality, whether we like it or not. This is a matter of being a mentally healthy, modern, well-adjusted adult in society. None of the lessons from history apply, because things are different now. Only strange maladjusted people are attracted to obsolete political ideas. They are all obviously losers, and are a great danger, almost as much of a danger as the Republicans are.
Since politics and economics in the traditional sense are dead, we embrace a new paradigm of self improvement and self-actualization. Anything that interferes with our focus on ourselves and our pursuit of creating ourselves as an actualized being is to be rejected. The way to achieve the perfect society is first to create a perfect self. Meanwhile, so long as the authorities do not interfere with our self-actualization, we must comply in all ways with that authority. This allows us perfect self-expression within perfect social conformity. Anyone who attacks our personal choices is the enemy, and anyone who attacks the social system based on personal choice is also the enemy.
Others, however, who do not share our values are not to be given personal choice, when and as we can prove that their personal choices are wrong, often with convoluted claims that their choice impacts us somehow. We support the police state and massive incarceration of people, so long as they are being harassed and imprisoned for the right reasons. Any variance from our idea as to how people should be is the right reason, by definition.
We believe that we must “be the change we wish to see,” and the change we wish to see is more people like us: polite, talented, beautiful, intelligent, calm, successful, clever, enlightened. So we merely need to be ourselves, focus on ourselves, and serve ourselves. Those who cannot or will not become like us need to back down and get out of the way.
We fully support aristocracy, capitalism, corporate domination, and consumerism, provided that they support our self-actualization and afford us the personal lifestyle choices we prefer.
Thanks for that mberst.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Immigration is essentially driven by America's OWN grievously immoral, underhanded, fraudulent and criminal actions under a policy of neo-liberal exploitation that has occasioned massive theft, political intrigue and election-tampering, coups, propping-up of corrupt dictators and brutal autocrats, blackmail, assassinations and death-squads, institutionalized terrorism, IMF/WTO/World Bank-imposed privatization and 'restructuring' and subsidized agricultural exports that have displaced huge numbers of small farmers, 'drug-war' skullduggery and forced de-funding of critical social services and public infrastructure -- the concept of 'illegal immigration' falls-apart. It is actually economic and political self-defense.
Illegal immigration is a wedge issue primarily because most Americans are ignorant about, in denial, or unwilling to face the fact that America has taken outrageous advantage of and abused the basic civil and human rights of Latin American citizens in order to prop-up America's bloated standard of living and overextended debt. The principles of rule of law governing allowable and acceptable economic trade practices and respecting the sovereignty of foreign nations have been consistently violated by America's appeal to its imaginary sense of exceptionalism -- which constitutes a huge nationalistic blind spot.
Americans in general tend to be astonishingly uninformed and misinformed about genuine history and the real consequences of American foreign policy-- thanks in large part to its disingenuous mass media and the co-opted public education industry. For all the popular rhetoric about America's National pride, honor and sense of values, and championing the causes of freedom, peace and justice, to a very large extent the American public is clueless about how hypocritical and self-serving the US has been, and how complicit they are by not holding their leaders and policymakers accountable for America's devastating Imperialist pretensions.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Disapproving of the system won't be enough to change it. I was taught to think that racism could end if white individuals changed their attitude. But a "white" skin in the United States opens many doors for whites whether or not we approve of the way dominance has been conferred on us.
Individual acts can palliate but cannot end, these problems.
To redesign social systems we need first to acknowledge their colossal unseen dimensions. The silences and denials surrounding privilege are the key political surrounding privilege are the key political tool here. They keep the thinking about equality or equity incomplete, protecting unearned advantage and conferred dominance by making these subject taboo. Most talk by whites about equal opportunity seems to me now to be about equal opportunity to try to get into a position of dominance while denying that systems of dominance exist.
It seems to me that obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male advantage, is kept strongly acculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all. Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is there for just a small number of people props up those in power and serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of it already.
One of the most important things that we all have to come to grips with is that RACISM KILLS (as do sexism and homophobia, and all the other oppressions.) If NOLA didn't show the world that for once and for all, it showed us nothing.
So many people don't seem to understand what racism even is. "Are you saying ________ is racist?" "Oh, no, I'd never say THAT." BULLSHIT. Of course ________ is racist. And so is everyone else who can't see that it was the racism (and classism) killing NOLA residents more even than the flood, or who shies away from charging most of our leaders and our whole government, the entire system is racist to the core.
It's as if they think racism (or any of the other oppressions) is necessarily a CONSCIOUS construct: "I really don't like black people -- I think they're inferior, so let's not fund the levees and then someday they may die."
No, perhaps the worst, but certainly the most intransigent aspect of racism is the part(s) based on SUBconscious or even UNconscious beliefs that there are people who simply don't count as much, for whatever reason. But the funny thing is, those people tend overwhelmingly to fall into the oppressed groups. "Oh, it's only black folk (so who cares?)," or "Oh, it's only poor folk (who are lazy and therefore deserve what they get) and old people (past their prime and useless) anyway."
The US is a nation born of genocide, suckled on slavery, and weaned on apartheid, and the weaning process has been largely confined to a bottle at board meetings.
And as someone else mentioned, maybe here, maybe elsewhere, the sin, in the eyes of the white and affluent, is not the racism itself, but being reminded of it.
To be fair, it is so deeply ingrained that most do not even realize it, and their indignation is quite sincere when they insist that they are not a bit racist, some of their best friends are black, and they (or their parents) even marched in Selma.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Welcome to Germany
Welcome to the Hyper-White Techno-Evangelical Inquisition.
80 billion additional dollars to the War for Lockheed-Halliburton
now up to a quarter of a trillion for the war for the Brown&Root- for the Dyncorp
in addition to the regular 500 million or so a minute for the
Narcotics Trafficking- CIA- Military- Industrial- World's Greatest Polluter- Criminal Think Tank Complex
Small scale tactical nuclear weapons cocktails
served up to brown skinned children
with distended bellies
by well-manicured barbarians in Citadels and Mansions
by their servants in boardrooms
with distended bellies
With 725 military bases
With 350 outposts
In 132 countries
In Every jungle
In Every tree
All baby-faced tamarinds run for cover, hiding in their mother's breasts
America- A fundamentally sick society
America- A culture of conquest
Get out of Iraq Get out of Viet Nam
America get out of Colombia
America get off the Rez
America get out of Afghanistan
America get out of etcetera
America, a fundamentally sick society.
Welcome to Plastic Racist Nation
Welcome to McAmeriWal-Martika
Germany- The Fatherland
America- The Homeland
Welcome to Soft Fascism
General Reinhard Gehlen head of German military intelligence on the Eastern front and his network of spies and terrorists were brought over to the USA after World War 2 in the now well known Operation Paperclip. From these advisers and functionaries Allen Dulles, copying many of the methods utilized by the likes of Herr Gehlen, shaped what we now know to be the CIA.
Instruments of Statecraft
Strangle Them- Starve Them
Hold an election
Call it Democracy
I pledge allegiance to the United Sports Utility Vehicle
of Der Father- der Home Land of the Fee
Home Land of Wage Slavery
Land of the Tidy White Bestiality
This Land of Pre-Ordained Brutality
This Land of Hyper-Tense Entreprenurial Mentality
Overthrow National Sovereignty
It is time to stop living
The Lie that is America- I Secede
Monday, December 17, 2007
1 Technologies are never neutral, and some are hurtful.
2 Industrialism is always a cataclysmic process, destroying the past, roiling the present, making the future uncertain.
3 "Only a people serving an apprenticeship to nature can be trusted with machines."
4 The nation-state, synergistically intertwined with industrialism, will always come to its aid and defense, making revolt futile and reform ineffectual.
5 But resistance to the industrial system, based on some grasp of moral principles and rooted in some sense of moral revulsion, is not only possible but necessary.
6 Politically, resistance to industrialism must force the viability of industrial society into public consciousness and debate.
◦ What purpose does this machine serve?
◦ What problem has become so great that it needs this solution?
◦ Is this invention nothing but, as Thoreau put it, an improved means to an unimproved end?
◦ Who are the winners?
◦ Who are the losers?
◦ Will this invention concentrate or disperse power, encourage or discourage self worth?
◦ Can society at large afford it?
◦ Can the biosphere?
7 Philosophically, resistance to industrialism must be embedded in an analysis--an ideology, perhaps--that is morally informed, carefully articulated and widely shared.
◦ Anthropocentrism must be opposed by the principle of biocentrism and the spiritual identification of the human with all living species and systems.
◦ Globalism must be opposed by the empowerment of the coherent bioregion and small community.
◦ Industrial capitalism must be opposed by an ecological and sustainable economy built upon accommodation and commitment to the earth.
- Kirkpatrick Sale
Only After The Last Tree Has Been Cut Down,
Only after The Last River Has Been Poisoned,
Only after The Last Fish Has Been Caught,
Only Then Will You Find That Money Cannot Be Eaten.
- Cree Prophecy
Act as if you know where you are going even if you don't know.
Be as unpredictable as you can be.
For instance: Don't go to your favorite restaurant every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
Determine your route in advance.
Always keep distance between yourself and others.
Travel on main, well-lighted roads.
Don't talk to strangers.
Always lock your doors.
Don't keep a key to your apartment or home under the door mat,
or under a potted plant on the front steps.
Don't keep all of your money in one place.
If you think you are being followed, immediately beat a path to public space.
Walk erect and briskly; be alert at all times.
Dress in camouflage.
Report anything unusual or abnormal.
Always remember: You may be a target, even without your knowledge,
simply because of your nationality, ethnicity, political beliefs,
religion, or sexual orientation.
It is always safer to drive close to the center of the road.
Don't accept food from strangers.
Be careful whom you trust.
When going to disease-infested areas, be sure in advance
to get proper pillsand inoculations.
Wear a condom.
Better yet: Don't have sex, especially with strangers.
At night, walk in well-lit areas.
Better still: Don't walk at all.
Drive in heavily armored vehicles.
Install high concrete barriers or walls around your communities to keep out
those who hate you. Call them gates or fences.
If you think you might be attacked, strike first without pausing to assess
whether the threat is real or imagined.
The time it takes to think might cost you your life.
Remember: No place is safe yet some places are safer than others;
you may not be able to determine which is which.
If you know where you are going to die
stay away from that place
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Asphalt- suffocates the earth and heats up everything. Bugs avoid it.
Garbage- everywhere you look it blows through the air and keeps piling up.
Loudness- alarms, buzzers, weed whips. Essential elements to keep us in a state of mild agitation.
Boxes- includes cages, cubicles and crates. Can be used for transport, housing and work.
Growth- essential component of industrial economic mentality. Operates like the cancer cell.
Garage- a must have to store all the boxes.
Plastic- useful for choking up waterways and birds. Also useful for buying stuff, mostly plastic stuff. Never leave home without it.
Wires- dangling from every pole, house and ear.
Vehicles- metal boxes often used to carry other vehicles.
Colossal Banditry- conventional usage names this "Development." Without this minor detail Civilization loses it's veneer and quickly becomes savage.
Grass- necessary to highlight the hedges and make use of Sunday leisure time. Mower not included.
Mirrors- a whole hall full. Necessary for narcissistic culture and to continue the illusion that no one is catching up.
Heavily Packaged- all sales and marketing techniques come with this, like Civilization itself. Ultimately turns into garbage, like Civilization itself.
Well-Groomed- must keep up appearances. The facade is crucial to masque that which lies beneath beneath the skin. That being copious amounts of "uncivilized" blood.
Servants- billions needed. Used to be human units, shackled and chained of 'Slavery' now uniformed human units, often wearing visors, employed in the 'service economy.'
Museums- congealed ideologies live here. Nothing moves. Attendees happiest when eating ice cream.
Insurance- a reminder that no matter what money will secure our future.
Paperwork- lends a certain air of import to those doing it. Mistakenly thought of as work.
Control- everything wild and free to be exterminated or caged. Boxes can be helpful here.
Straight Lines- elegant oxbows are inefficient. Rectilinear architecture to keep things in order.
Lights- all the time. Everywhere. Mystery makes civilization uneasy.
-3,200 cubic feet of bulk gases
- 22 cubic feet of toxic, corrosive and volatile gases
- 2,275 gallons of de-ionized water (a suspected liver, gastrointestinal and neurological toxin)
- 20 pounds of assorted chemicals
- 285 kilowatt hours of electricity (coal-fired or nuclear powered)
- 25 pounds of highly corrosive sodium hydroxide
- 2,840 gallons of wastewater and seven pounds of miscellaneous hazardous waste
There is a longer laundry list of air and waste stream pollutants such as arsenic, lead, chromium, acid fumes and volatile organic compounds that end up in watersheds, wells, and marine ecosystems. I've just skimmed the surface of only one aspect that being just the production. It gets much worse when we follow the entire trail.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Massacre is an acquired taste. The United States is arguably the only country on the planet whose national personality and self-image is rooted in centuries of unremitting expansion through race war punctuated by massacre. There have always been “free-fire zones” all along the coveted, ever moving peripheries of white American power, from the “Indian country” surrounding the settler beachheads of Plymouth Rock and Jamestown to the “Sunni Triangle” of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan. Whole peoples – millions – have been erased in the glorious march of American Manifest Destiny.
It is true that the globe-ravaging European colonial powers certainly killed more human beings in the course of their imperial careers than their settler sons in North America. However, the national characters of Britain, Spain, France, Holland and Belgium were already formed when the Great European Breakout and Worldwide Pillage commenced. Although their wealth was later built on the blood and bones of faraway “natives” and slaves, European civil societies were already shaped by long histories of conflict among themselves, between classes and nations on their small sub-continent. Britain and France stretched forth their naval and army tentacles to ensure that wealth arrived in Liverpool and Marseilles, but the colonized peoples did not effectively intrude on the evolution of European society.
Nobody had to invent the historical personalities of the Frenchman in France, the Englishman in England. Their civil societies were deeply impacted – and some sectors greatly enriched – by the existence of the colonies, but not (until very recently) by the foreign peoples who died for European prosperity.
The English settler colonies in North America were different – unique. Masses of armed migrants came to steal, and stay, and keep stealing. Theirs was an enterprise of aggrandizement at the native’s expense, and unlimited expansion. Less than a century and a half after the massacre and near-erasure of the Pequots – in celebration of which the Governor of Massachusetts proclaimed the first day of Pilgrim Thanksgiving – the white colonists decided that they were a distinct people, no longer Europeans.
They were right. American colonial society was shaped by constant depredations against non-whites, close up and brutal. By 1776, one out of five non-Indian residents of the colonies were Black slaves, the control and dehumanization of which had become a daily collective duty of much of the white population. Across the Alleghenies lay unconquered Indian lands that, once cleansed, could usher into being a white empire that would dwarf Europe. The English King and his treaties with the Indians stood in the way; he had to go.
The “American” mission was clear, manifest: to endlessly expand through the elimination of impediments posed by the External Other (“savage” Indians), while keeping white society safe and separate from the “debauchery” of the valuable, Internal Other (Black slaves). This is the foundation on which the American iconography and celebration is based. Lacking any other, it is the template of white American identity and purported “civilization.”
Friday, December 14, 2007
The brown-skinned man you call "Illegal" is only heading into El Norte to take back what is rightly his. Mr. "Illegal" is only coming to find the stolen goods you see as your birthright Mr. Gringo. Mr. "Illegal" only wants to see what those pretty yellow bananas look like inside the gigantic air-conditioned food warehouse. You know all about the morning blood fruit, right Mr. Gringo? Mr. "Illegal" only walks the grueling pilgrimage towards Never-Never Land, water jugs in hand, to peer over the well-watered hedge into your morning Scottsdale Latte to see if any of his blood remains in your mug-seems there's plenty still there- more than he had remembered. Mr. "Illegal" only comes to the Land of Milk and Honey (Did you steal that too Mr. Gringo?) in order to get a brief glimpse of the sweet mango-to remember the taste of the mango that used to be in his backyard until he got NAFTA-ed off his land.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Even as a bourgeois-democratic document, it really, really sucks. I'm talking about more than the obvious here: more than about how juridical and political "rights" don't impinge on economic society in the worlds richest country, more than about the institutionalization of only two parties, more than the observation that the commoner's House of Lords (the Senate) has more power than the legislature, more than the meaning of why it takes several more amendments 80 years after the first ten to establish that former slaves count as "humans" too and are candidates for "Human Rights" (and another 100 years to implement even those), and more than the two hundred other details that have become obvious in the last few years, such as the inability to recall a government except by criminal trial or coup.
I am talking about the fact that Bush has exposed the absolute power of the "presidency", a power hidden only because of the collusion of the major political parties for the entire life of the Republic. It appears that in this system, there are no limits whatever on the powers of the presidency save elections every 4 years (which would not have counted as "democracy" even in the 18th century), and the only reason that it even appeared that there were any such limits was exclusively the result of a voluntary super-constitutional etiquette practiced by the political participants but in no way enshrined in law. All it took was one asshole to show it all up.
Let me say it as controversially as possible - The constitution wasn't usurped, wasn't diluted, wasn't undermined; it was always like this.
Which means that the U.S. is governed by among the most primitive of current day political charters and that there is much less democracy here than in most recently established bullshit quasi-democracies, even by bourgeois standards... and this is said by someone who thinks that "democracy" don't mean shit, even when it's real.
The Constitution was a shitty document to start with, except if you're a plutocrat, so dissenting with Empire by using the very constructs of Empire in attempting to "change" the Empire is ludicrous on it's face.
"The whole process we call a first-class historical event was, in fact, an entirely routine uninspiring political caucus producing no "prodigies of statecraft, no wonders of political (judgment), no vaulting philosophies, no Promethean vistas." Contradicting everything we've been "indoctrinated from ears to toes" to believe, the notion that the Constitution is "a document of salvation....a magic talisman," or a gift to the common man is pure fantasy.
The central achievement of the convention, and a big one (until the Civil War changed things), was the cobbling together of disparate and squabbling states into a union. It held together, tenuously at best, for over seven decades but not actually until Appomattox "at bayonet point." The convention succeeded in gaining formal approval for what the leading power figures wanted and then got it rammed through the state ratification process to become the law of the land."
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Let me see if I've got this straight. Perhaps two years ago, an "informal" meeting of "veterans" of the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal – holding positions in the Bush administration – was convened by Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams. Discussed were the "lessons learned" from that labyrinthine, secret, and illegal arms-for-money-for-arms deal involving the Israelis, the Iranians, the Saudis, and the Contras of Nicaragua, among others – and meant to evade the Boland Amendment, a congressionally passed attempt to outlaw Reagan administration assistance to the anti-communist Contras. In terms of getting around Congress, the Iran-Contra vets concluded, the complex operation had been a success – and would have worked far better if the CIA and the military had been kept out of the loop and the whole thing had been run out of the Vice President's office.
Subsequently, some of those conspirators, once again with the financial support and help of the Saudis (and probably the Israelis and the Brits), began running a similar operation, aimed at avoiding congressional scrutiny or public accountability of any sort, out of Vice President Cheney's office. They dipped into "black pools of money," possibly stolen from the billions of Iraqi oil dollars that have never been accounted for since the American occupation began. Some of these funds, as well as Saudi ones, were evidently funneled through the embattled, Sunni-dominated Lebanese government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to the sort of Sunni jihadi groups ("some sympathetic to al-Qaeda") whose members might normally fear ending up in Guantanamo and to a group, or groups, associated with the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood.
All of this was being done as part of a "sea change" in the Bush administration's Middle Eastern policies aimed at rallying friendly Sunni regimes against Shiite Iran, as well as Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Syrian government – and launching secret operations to undermine, roll back, or destroy all of the above. Despite the fact that the Bush administration is officially at war with Sunni extremism in Iraq (and in the more general Global War on Terror), despite its support for the largely Shiite government, allied to Iran, that it has brought to power in Iraq, and despite its dislike for the Sunni-Shiite civil war in that country, some of its top officials may be covertly encouraging a far greater Sunni-Shiite rift in the region.
All this and much more (including news of U.S. military border-crossings into Iran, new preparations that would allow George W. Bush to order a massive air attack on that land with only 24-hours notice, and a brief window this spring when the staggering power of four U.S. aircraft-carrier battle groups might be available to the President in the Persian Gulf) was revealed, often in remarkable detail, just over a week ago in "The Redirection," a Seymour Hersh piece in the New Yorker. Hersh, the man who first broke the My Lai story in the Vietnam era, has never been off his game since. In recent years, from the Abu Ghraib scandal on, he has consistently released explosive news about the plans and acts of the Bush administration.
The world of Nineteen Eighty-Four is built around a never-ending war involving the book's three superstates, with two allied powers fighting against the third. But as Goldstein's book explains, each superstate is so strong it cannot be defeated even when faced with the combined forces of the other two powers. The allied states occasionally split with each other and new alliances are formed. Each time this happens, history is rewritten to convince the people that the new alliances were always there, using the principles of doublethink. The war itself never takes place in the territories of the three powers; the actual fighting is conducted in the disputed zone stretching from Morocco to Australia, and in the unpopulated Arctic wastes. Throughout the first half of the novel, Oceania is allied with Eastasia, and Oceania's forces are combating Eurasia's troops in northern Africa.
Midway through the book, the alliance breaks apart and Oceania, newly allied with Eurasia, begins a campaign against Eastasian forces. This happens during "Hate Week" (a week of extreme focus on the evilness of Oceania's enemies, the purpose of which is to stir up patriotic fervor in support of the Party), Oceania and Eastasia are enemies once again. The public is quite abnormally blind to the change, and when a public orator, mid-sentence, changes the name of the enemy from Eurasia to Eastasia (still speaking as if nothing had changed), the people are shocked as they notice all the flags and banners are wrong (they blame Goldstein and the Brotherhood) and tear them down. This is the origin of the idiom, "we've always been at war with Eastasia." Later on, the Party claims to have captured India. As with all other news, its authenticity is questionable.
Goldstein's book explains that the war is unwinnable, and that its only purpose is to use up human labor and the fruits of human labor so that each superstate's economy cannot support an equal (and high) standard of living for every citizen. The book also details an Oceanian strategy to attack enemy cities with atomic-tipped rocket bombs prior to a full-scale invasion, but quickly dismisses this plan as both infeasible and contrary to the purpose of the war.
Although, according to Goldstein's book, hundreds of atomic bombs were dropped on cities during the 1950s, the three powers no longer use them, as they would upset the balance of power. Conventional military technology is little different from that used in the Second World War. Some advances have been made, such as replacing bomber aircraft with "rocket bombs", and using immense "floating fortresses" instead of battleships, but they appear to be rare. As the purpose of the war is to destroy manufactured products and thus keep the workers busy, obsolete and wasteful technology is deliberately used in order to perpetuate useless fighting.
Goldstein's book hints that, in fact, there may not actually be a war. The only view of the outside world presented in the novel is through Oceania's media, which has an obvious tendency to exaggerate and even fabricate "facts", and the rocket bombs ostensibly fired by the enemy. Goldstein's book suggests that the three superpowers may not actually be warring, and as Oceania's media provide completely unbelievable news reports on impossibly long military campaigns and victories (including a ridiculously large campaign in the Sahara desert), it can be suggested that the war is a lie.
Even Eurasia and Eastasia themselves may only be a fabrication by the government of Oceania, with Oceania the sole undisputed dominator of the world. On the other hand, Oceania might as well actually control only a rather small part of the world and still brainwash its citizens into believing that Oceania dominates the whole Earth or - as in the novel - that they are battling/allying with (a fabricated) Eurasia/Eastasia.
It is noted in the novel that there are no longer massive battles, but rather expert fighters occasionally appearing in small skirmishes; this is relatively paradoxical considering the massive amounts of resources wasted to keep the war effort running.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I'll leave most of this to Michael Parenti and the ravens but a small encounters bears mentioning.
I was snacking in the eating area of our locally co-opted Co-Op quite close to the "One-Minute Activist" board, that's all it takes to change the world nowadays- A New York Minute, when a curly-haired blonde guy came over and started to tidy up and the activist board area and arrange all the petitions fastidiously. "Save Darfur" was the cause de jour on the ADD Green Consumer agenda and this particular occurrence seemed to present me with an obligation to inform the man that the narrative presented regarding "Save Darfur" was simplistic and served the interests of forces that would only use "Humanitarianism" as political cover for their very aggressive policies of interventionism. I could tell big academic words were needed with this guy, not sure why but it turns out to be true. I added that the the story as told on the activist board was completely inaccurate and devoid of any historical context. That didn't sit well.
In any case his first words, the very first words out of his mouth were- "There are all sorts of 'conspiracy theories' floating around what's your angle on this?"
A word from Michael Parenti:
Conspiracy or Coincidence?
Often the term "conspiracy" is applied dismissively whenever one suggests that people who occupy positions of political and economic power are consciously dedicated to advancing their elite interests. Even when they openly profess their designs, there are those who deny that intent is involved. In 1994, the officers of the Federal Reserve announced they would pursue monetary policies designed to maintain a high level of unemployment in order to safeguard against "overheating" the economy. Like any creditor class, they preferred a deflationary course. When an acquaintance of mine mentioned this to friends, he was greeted skeptically, "Do you think the Fed bankers are deliberately trying to keep people unemployed?" In fact, not only did he think it, it was announced on the financial pages of the press. Still, his friends assumed he was imagining a conspiracy because he ascribed self-interested collusion to powerful people.
At a World Affairs Council meeting in San Francisco, I remarked to a participant that U.S. leaders were pushing hard for the reinstatement of capitalism in the former communist countries. He said, "Do you really think they carry it to that level of conscious intent?" I pointed out it was not a conjecture on my part. They have repeatedly announced their commitment to seeing that "free-market reforms" are introduced in Eastern Europe. Their economic aid is channeled almost exclusively into the private sector. The same policy holds for the monies intended for other countries. Thus, as of the end of 1995, "more than $4.5 million U.S. aid to Haiti has been put on hold because the Aristide government has failed to make progress on a program to privatize state-owned companies" (New York Times 11/25/95).
Those who suffer from conspiracy phobia are fond of saying: "Do you actually think there's a group of people sitting around in a room plotting things?" For some reason that image is assumed to be so patently absurd as to invite only disclaimers. But where else would people of power get together - on park benches or carousels? Indeed, they meet in rooms: corporate boardrooms, Pentagon command rooms, at the Bohemian Grove, in the choice dining rooms at the best restaurants, resorts, hotels, and estates, in the many conference rooms at the White House, the NSA, the CIA, or wherever. And, yes, they consciously plot - though they call it "planning" and "strategizing" - and they do so in great secrecy, often resisting all efforts at public disclosure. No one confabulates and plans more than political and corporate elites and their hired specialists. To make the world safe for those who own it, politically active elements of the owning class have created a national security state that expends billions of dollars and enlists the efforts of vast numbers of people.
Yet there are individuals who ask with patronizing, incredulous smiles, do you really think that the people at the top have secret agendas, are aware of their larger interests, and talk to each other about them? To which I respond, why would they not? This is not to say that every corporate and political elite is actively dedicated to working for the higher circles of power and property. Nor are they infallible or always correct in their assessments and tactics or always immediately aware of how their interests are being affected by new situations. But they are more attuned and more capable of advancing their vast interests than most other social groups.
The alternative is to believe that the powerful and the privileged are somnambulists, who move about oblivious to questions of power and privilege; that they always tell us the truth and have nothing to hide even when they hide so much; that although most of us ordinary people might consciously try to pursue our own interests, wealthy elites do not; that when those at the top employ force and violence around the world it is only for the laudable reasons they profess; that when they arm, train, and finance covert actions in numerous countries, and then fail to acknowledge their role in such deeds, it is because of oversight or forgetfulness or perhaps modesty; and that it is merely a coincidence how the policies of the national security state so consistently serve the interests of the transnational corporations and the capital-accumulation system throughout the world.
Monday, December 10, 2007
It was suggested that I re-post this. And so here it is. As the political Dog and Pony show reaches it's ultimate faux crescendo perhaps this will become a daily necessity. Make copies, pass it around to your foolhardy friends who are warped by the incessant marketing campaigns pushing the latest Military-Corporate Errand Puppet.
So once again let us leave Never-Never Land and examine The Very Real and Duplicitous Function of the Democratic Party in the American Political System:
The Democratic Party plays an indispensable role in society's political machinery. This doesn't mean it has any power, in terms of controlling the state or setting policy. It means that without the existence of the Dem Party, the US could no longer maintain the pretense that it's a "democracy." If the Dem Party disintegrated, the US would be revealed for what it really is -- a one-party state ruled by a narrow alliance of business interests.
In terms of defending the general population against the depredations of this business consortium, the Dem Party gave up the ghost in the mid-1960's. Their threadbare act as the "Party of the People" serves not to defend the well-being of the population, but merely to persuade ordinary citizens that within the official political system's framework, there's at least some faint hope for eventual progressive change. Their focus is not so much being on our side, as convincing us that they're on our side -- without the slightest serious examination of what that might entail.
The party's true function is thus largely theatrical. It doesn't exist to fight for change, but only to pose as a force which one fine distant day might possibly bestir itself to fight for change. Thus the whole magic of the Dem Party -- the essential service it renders to the US power structure -- lies not in what it does, but in its mere existence: by simply existing, and doing nothing, it pretends to be something it's not; and this is enough to relieve despair & to let the system portray itself as a "democracy."
As long as the Dem Party exists, most Americans will believe we have a "democracy" and a "choice" in how we are ruled. They will not despair, and will not revolt, as long as they have this hope for "change within the system." From the system's point of view, this mechanism serves as the ultimate safety valve -- it insures against a despairing populace, thus eliminates the threat of rebellion; yet guarantees that no serious change to the system will be mounted, because the Dems weren't designed to play that role in the first place.
Aren't the Dems The Lesser Evil?
The Democrats are not the "lesser evil;" they are an auxiliary subdivision of the same evil. To understand the political system, one must step back and regard its operation as an integrated whole. The system can't be properly understood if one's study of it begins with an uncritical acceptance of the 2-party system, and the conventional characterizations of the two parties. (Indeed, the fact that society encourages one to view it in this latter way, is perhaps a warning that this perspective should not be trusted.)
Any given piece of reactionary legislation is invariably supported by a higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats. Does this show that the Democrats are "less evil?" If one focuses on the noble efforts of the few outspoken dissenters, it's easy to feel that the Democrats are somewhat less evil. But in the larger picture, Democrats invariably submit to what Republicans more ardently promulgate, & the entire range of official opinion thereby shifts to the right. Thus the overall function of Democrats is not so much to fight, as to quasi-passively participate in this ever-rightward-moving process. Just as the Harlem Globetrotters need their Washington Generals to make their basketball games properly entertaining, Republicans need the Democrats for effective staging of the political show.
The Democrats are permitted to exist because their vague hint of eventual progressive change keeps large numbers of people from bolting the political system altogether. Emma Goldman once said, "If voting made a difference, it would be illegal." Similarly, if the Democrats potentially threatened any sort of serious change, they would be banned. The fact that they are fully accepted by the corporations and political establishment tells us at once that their ultimate function must be wholly in line with the interests of those ruling groups.
Doesn't the presence of the Dennis Kuciniches, Cynthia McKinneys, et al "prove" that the Democrats are progressive? No. The Kuciniches and McKinneys are indeed significantly different from the Hillary types -- but there are compelling reasons not to get too excited about them, either. First, they are used by the party as a "Left decoration," simply to keep potential left defectors in tow. Secondly, the party power brokers will NEVER in a million years let the Kucinich-McKinney faction have any real power.
In other words, the very modestly-sized progressive Dem faction is cynically used as a marketing tool by the national party. They are dangled before your eyes to make you think that the Dems are the "lesser evil" (since the Republicans offer no such Left decorations). The existence of a few decent Dems makes no real difference in the overall alignment of the party, and they will never be internally influential. They are a distraction.
Can Progressives "Take Over" the Dem Party?
The argument is often advanced by progressives that they might be able to "take over" the Dem Party just as the Republican Party was supposedly "taken over" by the Religious Right and neoconservatives. This is wishful thinking, and ignores the actual history and character of both parties.
The Republicans were always the party of Wall Street & Northern manufacturing. The Democrats were the party of the Southern slaveocracy. When the national Democrats defied southern racism by passing the Civil Rights Acts in the mid '60's, the southern states bolted, destroying the New Deal coalition. The Republicans profited from this by adapting to southern tastes, values, & religious/cultural conceptions.
But this was in no way out of character for the Republicans. The far right was able to take over the Republican Party because that kind of alliance was always very much in the nature of the Republican Party anyway. It was compatible with, not contradictory to, the big-business nature of the Republican party. Forming an alliance with fascists, racists & religious zealots ADVANCED the big-business agenda.
By contrast, for progressives to take over the Democrats would be an unprecedented departure from the party's character. To understand this, one must first recognize that the sole Dem claim to being progressive is rooted almost entirely in the New Deal, itself a response to a unique crisis in American history. FDR recognized that to avert the very real threat of massive social unrest and instability, significant concessions had to be made to the working class by the ruling class. Government could act to defend the weak, and to some extent to rein in the strong, but this was all in the longterm interests of defending the existing social order.
Before FDR, the Dem Party had no progressive record whatsoever; and after FDR, though the New Deal coalition survived until the mid-1960's, it did so with a record of achievement that was restrained compared to the 1930's. After passing Medicare in 1965 the party reverted to its longterm pattern, and since then, there has again been no progressive record to speak of. The party's progressive social reform was thus concentrated mostly in the 1930's, with some residual momentum lasting until the mid 60's. The party's "progressive period" was thus 1) an exception to the longer term pattern; 2) a response to a unique crisis; and 3) has in any case been dead for over 40 years.
The word "progressive" refers to the commitment of a political party to defend the interests of the working class (aka the overwhelming majority of the population) against the depredations of the ruling elite. Not only is the Democratic Party unable and unwilling to engage in such a fight, it is unwilling even to pronounce the fight's name -- "class warfare." Marx is understandably reviled by capitalists for his annoyingly accurate perception that the capitalist class and the rest of the population have a fundamental conflict of interest. Capital seeks only to maximize its return; return can certainly be enhanced by using the machinery of state to transfer costs and burdens to the weak and vulnerable; thus rule by capital is intrinsically inimical to the basic interests of the majority of the population. There is no escaping this reality.
American public discourse attempts to paper over this vexing truth with fatuous happy talk, such as, "By working together, we can make make things better for everyone!" This is a lie. When capital controls government, government is no more than a tool used by elites to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else. This kind of arrangement cannot possibly "make all boats rise" over the long term. Only the yachts will rise. If there is no political mechanism for opposing plutocratic rule, the strong will continue to squeeze additional wealth out of the weak until a) the weak become desperate and rebel, b) the weak are crushed and become permanently enslaved, or c) the strong begin suffering more from guilty consciences, than reaping enjoyment from additional wealth -- and therefore relent. (Very few instances of this last are known in recorded history.)
For the Democratic Party to even begin to serve as a vehicle for opposing the absolute rule of capital, it would at a minimum have to be capable of acknowledging the conflict that exists between the interests of capital and the rest of the population; and of expressing a principled determination to take the side of the population in this conflict.
A party whose controlling elements are millionaires, lobbyists, fund-raisers, careerist apparatchiks, consultants, and corporate lawyers; that has stood by prostrate and helpless (when not actively collaborating) in the face of stolen elections, illegal wars, torture, CIA concentration camps, lies as state policy, and one assault on the Bill of Rights after the next, is not likely to take that position.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
A journey into the most savage war in the world
My travels in the Democratic Vacuum of Congo
This is the story of the deadliest war since Adolf Hitler’s armies marched across Europe. It is a war that has not ended. But is also the story of a trail of blood that leads directly to you: to your remote control, to your mobile phone, to your laptop and to your diamond necklace. In the TV series ‘Lost’, a group of plane crash survivors believe they are stranded alone on a desert island, until one day they discover a dense metal cable leading out into the ocean and the world beyond. The Democratic Republic of Congo is full of those cables, mysterious connections that show how a seemingly isolated tribal war is in reality something very different.
This war has been waved aside as an internal African implosion. In reality it a battle for coltan and diamonds and cassiterite and gold, destined for sale in London and New York and Paris. It is a battle for the metals that make our technological society vibrate and ring and bling, and it has already claimed four million lives in five years and broken a population the size of Britain’s. No, this is not only a story about them. This – the tale of a short journey into the long Congolese war we in the West have fostered, fuelled and funded – is a story about you.
Cellphones fuel Congo conflict
Cellphones may have revolutionized the way we communicate, but in Central Africa their biggest legacy is war.
Nearly 3 million people have died in Congo in a four-year war over coltan, a heat-resistant mineral ore widely used in cellphones, laptops and playstations. Eighty percent of the world's coltan reserves are in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The mountainous jungle area where the coltan is mined is the battleground of what has been grimly dubbed "Africa's first World War," pitting Congolese forces against those of six neighbouring countries and numerous armed factions.
The victims are mostly civilians. Starvation and disease have killed hundreds of thousands and the fighting has displaced 2 million people from their homes.
Often dismissed as an ethnic war, the conflict is really over natural resources sought by foreign corporations -- diamonds, tin, copper, gold, but mostly coltan.
At stake for the multitude of heavily armed militias and governments is a cut of the high-tech boom of the 1990s, which sent the price of coltan skyrocketing to peak at US$400 per kilo. Coltan -- short for colombo-tantalite -- is refined into tantalum, a "magic powder" essential to many electronic devices.
The war started in 1998 when Congolese rebel forces, backed by Rwanda and Uganda, seized eastern Congo and moved into strategic mining areas, attacking villages along the way.
It is a war for coltan. It is a massacre for technology. It is impossible for me to get anyone's attention on this. I have tried on discussion board's, leafletting, tabling and people just look away.
Noone wants to face the reality of how their daily habits fuel the slaughterhouse.
Who is calling you all the time, all day all night?
It is me calling you oh techno-man of the West wondering why you come to kill me. Why do you seem to think the thunder in my ground is for you to steal? Why do you think my life of fourteen-year-old prostitution-death-by-twenty is here to serve your need to know where you are all the time when you never know where you are any of the time? Is this okay for you to force me into servitude for your colonial consumerism? I know its long distance and collect but really who is paying the price here?
Debt is a big scam and permeates every aspect of our lives and keeps us all trapped.
We are awash in fear mongering to the point that we are all half-crazed.
The government is owned lock stock and barrel by corporations.
All of the politicians are a bunch of blood sucking vampires.
We are enslaved. We really, actually are. Walking and driving around and shopping blah blah is all window dressing. We are in prison. It is a big prison. "Seal the borders" for security? Hah. We are being sealed in.
We are in crazy land here, and ANYTHING we do to break out of that is worthwhile - almost nothing is happening to break out of it now - and we have absolutely nothing to lose.
People here are miserable - they are in pain and suffering.
We are intentionally being kept sick, demoralized, and fearful.
We can't see the trouble we are in, because we have nothing to compare to.
The national political discussion is a joke.
The Democratic party politicians should all be tarred and feathered and run out of town.
America is a society gone completely mad. We live in a big prison. It is pathetic. Fear keeps us locked in. We are so saturated with fear, that it would not be off the mark to say that fear is the only thing happening here, and that anything else is ruthlessly suppressed and punished. And we are all trustees. Anyone refusing the role of trustee is isolated and viewed and treated as a pariah. That is not to say that we cannot overcome this - not in the least. We have to fight, though, every hour of every day and break the spell.
Demoralization coupled with fear - all of the thinking and speaking around us everyday is just laced with those two.
Let's smash it up. Let's never rest until we do. Nothing else is anything but a waste of time.
I strongly believe that they should close the border to Mexico. On one condition, which is you close it not only to people but to resources. If you say you want to
close it to people but not resources, what you're saying, one thing, is that you're a racist asshole, but another thing you're saying is - I don't want you but I want the coffee that's grown on the land that used to be yours.
Why is this migration taking place? It's not taking place because suddenly a bunch of people from Guatemala decide they want to take an eco-tour of the strawberry fields in the San Joaquin valley. It's because their communities are being destroyed through the theft of the land. If you don't want these people moving up here then don't steal those people's lands, pretty simple solution.
Yes it is a xenophobic sleight of hand but it is used, as it has been for centuries in America preceding Republican-Democrat nonsense, to point the finger at the victim so as to keep the eyes averted from the horrors being perpetrated upon those victims and to ignore or rationalize the colossal banditry for the beneficiaries. The liberal class is particularly hypocritical and criminally ignorant on this point.
The problem is really quite simple as is the solution.
The problem: El Norte is pushing them there "illegals" off of his ancestral lands so as to steal the resources that reside in Chiapas e.g.
The solution: Stop El Norte from stealing the resources of the people in Chiapas e.g.
NAFTA is merely the latest acronym-IMF the latest international syndicate-World Bank only the latest MoneyChanger in this ongoing colonial conquest.
Neither the employer or the "immigrant" are really the fundamental issue.
Qualifier: Many who do employ "immigrants" exploit them and should be themselves forced to work in the broiling hot sun for 14 hours/day or forced to do backbreakingearlydeath work in the maquiladoras.
Let the truth be the frame.
As for higher paying jobs these too are part of the problem and also obfuscate the issue.
People shouldn't need or even desire to make 70k/year(or even 25k). The problem is that it takes so much to live in our HP society. The solution- Elimination of rent-Free Health Care- Food stipends.
Everyone needs to be (allowed to) getting by with less-MUCH LESS.
Wealth is the problem, poverty it's necessary offspring, and it requires the aforementioned theft from other lands to maintain this obscene standard of living- a standard of living that has death of brown skinned people as one of its prerequisites.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
There are no fucking "choices." Being lectured about choices is being told that "I can afford to do these things and you can't so fuck you."
Choices is a key part of the foundation of white suburban privilege, and I am convinced that the entire political discussion is dominated by people deeply steeped in white suburban privilege and that this is the most important political force we face. It is fucking up everything and having a seriously suppressive effect on all discussions.
But we can't alk about it, except in the most detached and theoretical ways.
I swear, we can't even talk - we talk about talking, as though we were neutral academics, dispassionate and aloof observers of the show.
So what I want to know is this: where are people living? How are they surviving? What are they doing? How can they be so oblivious to the most important and obvious factor in modern politics, and keep pretending that it doesn't exist? How are thyey not running into tons of first hand evidence - overwhelming, obvious examples - of this force at play every single day? How are they immune? How are they existing? What are they telling themselves about their lives?
What is the fucking truth, because it sure as Hell is not being revealed in any political discussions.
If your 'choice' is between the 'free clinic' and bankruptcy, where is the freedom?
If your 'choice' is between medicine and food, where is the freedom?
If your choice is between housing and heating, where is the freedom?
A dear friend wrote:
When I was growing up, the term "liberal" fell somewhere into the spectrum between "moderate" and "opportunist liar" depending on whom you spoke to. It always carried with it an "establishment" veneer, however. People weren't "liberal"... political leaders and elected officials were.
Part of the reason was that it was clear that liberal politics was something different from the very real movements and forces in the society that were demanding something far greater. When the civil rights movement demanded racial equality, the liberals came up with affirmative action and measures against "racism". When the peace movement demanded an end to the war and "interventionism", the liberals substituted "peace with honor" and a less "adventurist" foreign policy. When there was an outcry against poverty in "the richest country in the world", the liberals proposed "job training programs" and food stamps. In a phrase, they not only moderated but they also "de-classed" (some might say, "de-clawed") the demands that were made on them.
Then came the backlash. While what the liberals legislated wasn't much, it was way over the top for the Right... and this Right was in no way the "populist" Right that we recognize today. This was the established Right... the so-called "Goldwater Republicans". And it came on with a tactic as American as apple pie: coalition politics.
Ask any 10th grade Civics class to list the 10 things that make America unique and you will get perhaps 20 discrete claims that together make up the American catechism. The Republicans figured out that you can build a political coalition out of "interest groups" which individually oppose ALL of them:
"Equality before the Law? ...We've always been against that!" (Nixon's Southern Strategy). "Purple Mountains Majesty? ... entire states are against that!" (Reagan's Western Strategy). "Freedom of the Press? ...that's what cooked our goose in Vietnam!". "Seperation of Church and State? ...hell, there's a whole boatload of people against that!" "Nation of immigrants? ...almost everybody is against that!".... and so on.
I kept waiting for the Liberals to fight back... not for my sake but for their own. "This is downright silly! The REPUBLICANs running against the (afterthought -> add "big") GOVERNMENT for chrisakes... gimme a break. They were in on ALL of it!". Instead, not a peep... At the very best, you got a speech at a political convention from a tired Cuomo or Kennedy... and even then in nostalgic rather than fightin' words: "Ah, for the heady days when we came up with the absolute minimum concessions that we possibly could, claimed credit for all of it and then promised a new 'social contract' that would last 1000 years..."
The Right was actually scared shitless for the entire journey. They were dug in deeper than Saddam. They would pop up to whisper a "new idea": "Affirmative Action is quotas, you know...", and then pop down to survive the inevitable firestorm that never came.
Finally came the Reagan "landslide" that "changed everything". The Republicans were claiming (wrongly, it turns out) that they had cracked the code for appealing to Democratic working class constituencies OVER THE HEADS of the Liberals... "we appeal to them as racists or 'taxpayers' or christians, you see..". A friend of mine, listening to this, said at the time, "The idiot liberals have just eliminated their own jobs...". Turned out to be true.
The demonization of the "liberals" inevitably came next... and the revision of history. "Liberals" were guilty of everything that they had, falsely, claimed credit for. THEY had lost the war in Vietnam (wholesale desertions, mutinies, fraggings, war crimes and general deterioration to the point where entire Army Divisions were "deactivated" , notwithstanding). THEY had committed the "real" war crimes by not being nice to the Army and returning veterans (3 million dead notwithstanding). THEY had lied to various constituencies when they had told them that "government" was a "solution" to their "problems".
And not a "liberal" to be found... anywhere...
But then, a miracle happened. The "liberals" started to come back, "from below" (an oxymoron if ever there was one). Bumper stickers, disgruntled "activists", ordinary people... claiming the label without knowing anything about the baggage... becoming "liberal" because that was the worst thing the Right could call them and, if that was the worst, then that was them. They adopted the terms "proud liberal", etc. in the same way that we were proud to be "commie pinkos" when we were kids… without the slightest idea of what that meant (I am much more accurately one, now).
I kept my mouth shut... It will not do to annotate the symbols of resistance at the very moment when they are being displayed.
The problem, of course, was that the "real" liberals had never gone away. They had merely been in rehab… waiting for the Republicans to commit suicide. And, they were emerging to reclaim their birthright...
I heard this on the floor of the house today in the midst of a debate on a Republican sponsored resolution on a "windfall profits" tax on the oil companies: "Finally... finally... finally... after years of pleading and effort, we have gotten the Republican leadership to see the benefits of our approach... we have many more proposals that we hope will eventually win bi-partisan support."
Congratulations, Congresswoman! You have certainly shown the wisdom of moderate proposals and thankless, persistent, debate no matter how many decades it may take (ignore that gun pointed at your opponents head). But, let me ask you…. If it is shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that oil company profits are not “excessive”, a “windfall”, or “evidence of price-gouging” (it is a relative thing, after all), what then? Does nothing happen? Do you patiently explain to us, “how our system works”. Do we freeze next winter? Or do we win an election for you in 2008 or 2012 so that you have the power to “really” do something… maybe “oil stamps”?
But, let me not sound bitter… At least the job market for “Liberals” seems finally to be booming again. There is so much work now to do… it has to be explained to the Right what the people “really” want and what they will settle for. It has to be explained to us what is “prudent”, what is “practical”, and what is in the “common interest”. It is time to reformulate “policy” so that it represents “all” the people. Hell, maybe we can even have the old language again:
Port Security …for the benefit of the working class.
Lobbying Reform …for the benefit of the working class.
Co-Payments …for the benefit of the working class.
Yup, the Liberals are back
…for the benefit of the working class.
Liberal- will blithely be assimilated.
Leftist- will promptly be assassinated.
Liberal- possesses a quaint notion that one can Re-Form hierarchical power structures.
Leftist- desires to completely unravel and eliminate the functions and forms of hierarchy.
Liberal- wishes to turn The Bank into The People's Credit Union.
Leftist- sees the need to turn the tables of the moneychangers and smash the marketplace.
Liberal- feels a warm fuzzy feeling inside while intoning "share the wealth".
Leftist- desires to redefine concepts of wealth particularly as it relates to large metal objects.
Liberal- says "Living Wage".
Leftist- says "Solidarity".
Liberal- willingly shells out $3 for a glass of carrot juice.
Leftist- sees Root Vegetables as sustenance and metaphor.
Liberal- outside the coffee shop talks daily about the need for the Cappuccino Revolution but balks at acting out for fear this would endanger his/her daily cappuccino.
Leftist- reuses the same coffee filter, paper towels or odd socks when all other options have been exhausted in an attempt to squeeze one more cup from yesterday's grounds.
Liberal- wants to 'get out the vote'.
Leftist- recognizes voting as a nominal form of political activity meant to validate the Democratic State and convince the political consumer that they are a participant in governance.
Liberal- can often be seen mouthing the "education is the answer" mantra particularly in the rarified atmosphere of the Citadels of Expertise. Revels in being near theory or people 'doing theory' in the academy.
Leftist- sees education as social engineering and cultural imperialism. Education Academies seen as the proving grounds for the future ruling class.
Liberal- users of 'all natural' deodorant. The armpits are fresh particularly during commercial breaks.
Leftists- recognize deodorant as one of the essential pillars of Empire. Will often raise their armpit in tight quarters due to quixotic impulses.
Liberal- write lengthy position papers on the plusses of developing more efficient killing machines (See Amory Lovins for more details).
Leftist- sees the Techno Warfare State as one of the great life destroying mechanisms in the history of Mankind and understands the relationship between war and oppression. The Health of the State being that which kills everything else.
Liberal- true believers in the New Economy and Seattle (the city) home of Microsoft, Boeing and Starbucks.
Leftist- true believers in a different Seattle (the Amerindian prophet)
Liberal- incessantly complaining about their leftist rentors.
Leftist- incessantly complaining about their liberal landlords.
Liberals- have recently been experiencing a population explosion which seems to have been caused by a grey form of technocratic inbreeding. Much of this exponential proliferation seems to emanate directly from prime time television. And vice versa.
Leftists- an endangered species. Said to be only 723 remaining in the contiguous 48 states of the United States of America. For years they have been scooped up and exiled to the Periphery. To date all efforts to exhume the spirit of Eugene Debs have fallen on deaf ears.
Friday, December 7, 2007
The Economist takes a field trip to visit The Farmer. He sees the fields and takes a few notes. The Farmer stands by with pride as the Economist scribbles feverishly upon his pad.
The Economist closes his notebook and wipes his glasses as The Farmer looks out declaring, "Beautiful isn't it? These fields mean food through the winter for the entire valley."
The Economist sighs knowingly and says, "Possibly but scarce resources mean we must better manage resources to optimize production."
At first The farmer seemed confused and a little dejected that The Economist would not, could not, behold what lay before his eyes but then a gnawing doubt came over The Farmer, "the man of letters must know something", and he asked The Economist to explain how things could be better.
The Economist did just that.
The Farmer excited by the prospects of such amazing abundance practiced exactly what The Economist had preached. This went on for several years, despite decreasing results, as The Farmer thought that The Economist must have the wisdom that would bear fruit but only after years of implementation.
Finally one winter, by now The Economist hadn't been seen for years, The Farmer decided that he would go back to The Old Ways as the people in the valley had suffered since the advent of The Economists' wisdom.
The Farmer found that once again the abundance he produced was quite enough to feed the people of the valley and that this was enough.
After a few years of this The Farmer received an unexpected visit from The Economist. Upon arrival The Economist immediately took out his notebook and began scribbling. The Farmer looked over and said, "I took your advice and the people of the valley barely made it through the winter whereas before we lived in abundance. Now I've gone back to The Old Ways and once again the people are fed."
The Economist spoke, "Yes, I can see that. That explanation may be all well and good in reality, but it will never work in theory."
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
This Line Alone Speaks Volumes:
"... and that it would be fiscally irresponsible for Council to leave such decisions to the Membership."
Without providing any context what would be your initial thoughts/comments?
So where did that line come from?
And what's the context?
This is from our local CoOp. There have been a string of bad decisions over the last few years primarily from an ineffective and corrupt council. I won't go into this here just to say that it's been breathtaking watching this thing unfold and watching the imperious and stubborn assholes in council continue despite all warnings and ignoring all of the core members of the CoOp.
So now the CoOp has had a few bad months, in fact several it's just now catching up, and the Council has been mulling over options as to how to make up the deficit.
Essentially the proposals being considered are punitive to workers and/or members with the management team and Council getting off the hook DESPITE the fact that they are the ones who have made the "fiscally irresponsible" decisions WITHOUT the consent, in fact much dissent, of the members. What a joint. Welcome to the most "progressive" institution in the "most enlightened" city in America:
Here's the entire piece in the monthly Greenstar newsletter:
Proposed Changes to Discounts and Retirement Benefits
Tackling another challenging topic, Council received three formal proposals from its Finance Committee for addressing the Co-op’s current financial problems (see Council News in November GreenLeaf). The Committee has proposed that the Co-op switch from its long-standing practice of granting a 2% discount on purchases by members, at the register, to a patronage rebate system like that used by many other food co-ops. Under the proposed system, Council would decide, at the end of each fiscal year and based on total net income (after expenses), how much of a rebate members would receive on their past purchases.
A second proposal is that the Co-op discontinue its two-year-old policy of making “guaranteed” employer contributions to employees’ 401(k) retirement accounts, based on a percentage of sales, and instead make contributions based on a percentage of net profit.
The third proposal is that Council exempt CAP (Co-op Advantage Program) sale items from all member discounts (regular member, working member, staff and senior). CAP sale items are the primary special deals offered by GreenStar, as stipulated pursuant to a contractual arrangement with the Co-op’s main supplier. When member discounts are applied to these reduced-margin sales, the impact on the Co-op’s margin (and “bottom line”) is multiplied.
Finance Committee chair Art Godin said that steps such as these should be taken quickly, to avoid or reduce the projected operating deficit in the currently-proposed 2008 budget. As Council was not intending to act on these proposals in November, Art asked Council to defer action on the 2008 budget as well (which it did). While some on Council expressed support for the proposals, others asserted that those affecting member discounts must or should be subject to Membership approval, and that supporting employees’ retirement is a basic component of being a responsible employer. In response, some said that the Co-op’s current course is unsustainable, and that it would be fiscally irresponsible for Council to leave such decisions to the Membership. Also, a couple of alternatives to the committee’s proposals were suggested: reducing the member discount (say, to 1%) rather than making it dependent on an annual Council decision, and limiting CAP sales to members (thus applying this particular “benefit-reduction” mechanism to non-members only. Council will resume consideration of these issues in December.