Saturday, January 26, 2008
The key to the narrative is to grasp the change in economic policies since the Raygun years, an increasingly oppressive police state, and a return of social Darwinism. I was in my mid-teens when the Raygun regime decimated the air-traffic controllers' union in the midst of its workers' strike back in 1982 by doing what seemed unthinkable - firing the striking air-traffic controllers; I was in my late teens when the UK's Thatcher regime similarly declared war on the miners' union during its strike. By attacking strong unions representing crucial sectors of their respective economies, and doing so successfully, the message was sent to workers to shut up and take what was offered. That would prove crucial to our government's ability to increasingly outsource whole industries over the next couple decades. During the roaring 80s and 90s the economy might very well have "boomed", but only for a select few. The rest of us ended up working longer hours for lower wages and less job security than our predecessors, suffering in silence in the process.
At the same time there was a major push to roll back what few gains had been made by the various civil rights movements during the 1960s and 1970s. By the 1980s we witnessed a return of talk about "law and order", of the need for a "war on drugs", and so on. As that decade wore on, we witnessed the erosion of search and seizure protections, the push for a return to the death penalty in many states, mandatory minimum sentences, and "three strikes laws" that co-occurred with the removal of whatever social safety net had been in place since the 1930s. By the time the 1980s were winding to a close, the US was already just behind the Soviet Union and South Africa in per capita prison population. The US is now currently the leader in imprisoning its residents. Not only has the prison-industrial complex exploded, but so has the use of electronic surveillance (via cameras, tracking devices, data mining, etc.). Police brutality, is also back in vogue, with all manner of high-tech gadgets including those little torture devices known as Tasers. One will not read of US leftist leaders being "disappeared" as might be the case in other dictatorships, but the subtext has been well-absorbed by many: do as you are told or else. Instead it is merely sufficient to jail them (if trumped up charges are needed, so be it), deport them, or fire them. Think about the aftermath to the May protests of 2006: as our immigrant laborers made their presence felt and asserted their humanity, the US cracked down with ICE raids aimed not so much at catching so-called "illegals" as to intimidate those who might otherwise make troublesome demands for better wages and humane treatment. Those who've witnessed these ICE raids first-hand will note that brown-skinned people in the vicinity of these raids are indiscriminately harassed. One consequence? Last year's May rallies were more sparsely attended.
Social Darwinism also came back with a vengeance during the 1980s. Oliver James views the publication of Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene as providing some of the "scientific" justification to the kill or be killed mentality that neoliberals hold as self-evident. That book, along with others in the realm of economics would be the touchstones of contemporary discourse. We are conditioned to accept that those who are at the top of the economic heap are those who are "most fit" and that those at the bottom are "merely the result of poor breeding." That mindset is indoctrinated throughout our K-12 years, and reinforced through plenty of mass-media propaganda. Neoliberalism is hyper-individualistic at its core, and such hyper-individualism does not foster the sort of fellowship or solidarity needed to sustain any sort of leftist social movement.
These are the threads that I've been increasingly weaving into a narrative - one which makes sense of the silence of the American public at a time when we should be taking it to the streets. If anything, I expect even more silence for a while longer. Americans are simultaneously believing in the hype that anyone can succeed with enough hard work and that stepping outside of whatever boundaries are sanctioned by our elites will lead them to lose whatever small slice of the pie they might still possess - after all, they're being watched. As long as those illusions hold, expect the status quo.
I realize that seems rather pessimistic, and that would be a fair enough characterization. At the same time, I'd also suggest that illusions can be shattered, and that people can be awakened. The predatory capitalism that currently dominates can only succeed to the extent that it can find new frontiers and new sources of natural resources to exploit. As long as that happens, economies "grow." What happens when the economic system runs up against the very real limits imposed by Mother Nature? In the post peak-oil era we will likely find out - probably sooner rather than later. It is at that point where I see an opening for more human an sustainable forms of political and economic relations.
Speaking of disaster capitalism, my friend Nezua has a friendly reminder of the Clinton I era's effect on the nation.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Thursday, January 24, 2008Unfortunately, I guess Aravosis became both unhappy with the negative feedback that he received in mass quantities, so he killed off the original post (thus decoupling it from the 500+ comments it had received), reposted, got yet another set of negative feedback (which he subsequently censored heavily), and then deleted the post altogether. Like Sir Robin, he "bravely ran away." So, for a second day in a row, Aravosis has earned the top honors for wankery - this time for cowardice.
The Dems just gave away your stimulus check
by John Aravosis (DC) · 1/24/2008 10:23:00 AM ET · Link
Discuss this post here: Comments (20) · reddit · FARK ·· Digg It!
According to AP, congressional leaders have reached a deal on those economic stimulus checks. And rather than being geared towards helping the economy, they're apparently geared towards redistributing wealth (that would be our wealth) to the poor. What a surprise. Folks in the middle (i.e, those who are not rich or poor) are screwed by the Democrats (and Republicans) yet again. Let me give you the details that just leaked, and again this may not be the final deal, but it sure sounds like it:
Families with children would receive an additional $300 per child, subject to an overall cap of perhaps $1,200, according to a senior House aide who outlined the deal on condition of anonymity in advance of formal adoption of the whole package. Rebates would go to people earning below a certain income cap, likely individuals earning $75,000 or less and couples with incomes of $150,000 or less.That means that if you make $75,000 or more a year, no check for you. Forget that fact that you live in NYC or DC or San Francisco, where prices from property to food are outrageous. No, forget that. Some guy living in a mansion in Topeka making $74,999 a year will get his little gift from the US Treasury and you, living in NYC making $75,001 out of a 300 sq ft studio apartment will get nothing. How about my friend who bought an entire house in Baltimore for $275,000 when that would get you a very small studio in DC. I know someone who got an entire house in Ohio for $2000 a month when that would get you a one-bedroom apartment in DC. I have a friend who moved to North Carolina and got offered a bit over $75k a year. He said it was a king's ransom in NC. In DC, well, again, keep checking out those studios. And another friend has a 900 sq ft condo, and paid more for it than another friend's parents paid for their 6000 sq ft house.
That's because far too often the Democrats don't give a damn about anybody who isn't a minority or starving to death (both valid causes to be sure, but are they the ONLY causes out there?). If you're in the middle, you're on your own.
And don't think this is only about a stupid $300. It's about health care. It's about education. It's about every single issue you care about. The powers that be simply aren't in this to help people in the middle. The Republicans want to help the big pharmaceuticals and the big business hospitals, while the Democrats want to help uninsured poor people and kids. And while all of that's nice, what are the rest of us supposed to do when our premiums hit $2000 a month and, God forbid, something catastrophic hits us?
The Republicans ONLY want to help the rich, and the Democrats ONLY want to help the poor. Screw everybody else. I am so sick of these people.
Cross-posted from Mo Betta Meta.
About 3:00 AM on Wednesday morning Jan. 23, well-coordinated explosions demolished the iron wall built by Israel to seal the southern border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt (the Philadelphi axis). Tens of thousands of Palestinians streamed across the border and entered the Egyptian side of the town of Rafah, which had been bisected by the wall, in search of food, gasoline, and other basic commodities which have been in short supply for many months in Gaza. The first wave of Palestinians to cross consisted of hundreds of women who were met with water canons and beatings by Egyptian security forces.The picture (found at Left I) says what I've read elsewhere: "happy slaves build walls; those with freedom share it." For those in Gaza, that means penning them up in what amounts to little more than an open-air prison (as Left I refers to it). That's something to keep squarely in mind as the Department of Homeland Insecurity endeavors to build its own "Great Wall" in order to keep those who are being starved to death by NAFTA (which has been displacing people at an alarming rate since the mid-1990s) from finding some modicum of subsistence.
The wall was the starkest expression of the international boycott of Hamas imposed by the United States, Israel, and the European Union after Hamas won a majority of the seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections of January 2006 and formed a government the following March. Hamas has been in sole control of the Gaza Strip after it executed a coup d'état against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in June 2007. Since then, Israel has tightened the siege of Gaza which had been in effect since June 2006.
Despite the siege, Israel continued to provide electricity and water to the Gaza Strip, allowing people to live on the edge of survival, hoping that the economic pressure would bring down the Hamas government. Half the population now depends on charity handouts from the UN refugee relief organization and other humanitarian NGOs. Four days before the wall came crashing down, Israel sharply cut back fuel and water supplies, imposing a harsh collective punishment on the entire population of 1.5 million.
Meanwhile, at Rafah Egyptian security forces initially tried to stop the Palestinians from streaming across the border. But as the numbers swelled to tens of thousands, the government had no choice but to acquiesce. President Hosni Mubarak told journalists that he had instructed the security forces to: "Let them come in to eat and buy food" and return "as long as they are not carrying weapons."
Of course over at Left I is a bit about Maddie Albright's reaction to the developments in Gaza, and suffice it to say, she was not amused. Her concern was not with the near-starvation conditions faced by 1.5 million human beings (which can easily fall under the rubric of structural violence), but on the possible "consequences" of about a fifth of them crossing that stupid border in order to find some food, water, basic necessities for survival. Albright of course is the same Clintonista who showed such flagrant disregard for the lethal effects of sanctions against Iraq during the 1990s, stating that the deaths of a half million Iraqi kids was worth the price.
In what passes for our news media, much of what we can expect is more lame talk about good intentions:
The above news clip and commentary courtesy of The Distant Ocean; hat tip to A Tiny Revolution. I've had a few things to say about "good intentions" before:The Egyptian border debacle is just one more reminder that the law of unintended consequences tends to rule in the Middle East, despite the best intentions of U.S. policymakers. It is also an illustration of just how difficult it will be for George W. Bush to realize his hopes for a "West Bank First" strategy that aims to turn Gazan public opinion against the Islamists--much less his goal of a comprehensive peace agreement. The Bush administration's strategy since Hamas swept to power in local elections two years ago has been to squeeze the Islamists by depriving them of the aid money the Palestinian economy usually depends on to operate. For a while at least, the tactic seemed to be working, at least on some superficial level.Yes, there's just no telling what those wacky Palestinians will do. We try to show them that we only have the best intentions for them by strangling them economically and fomenting a civil war, helping to bring the already-devastated Gaza Strip to the brink of "total collapse". And how do they respond? Do they sit around candles in their darkened homes, hungry, huddled under blankets, discussing our wisdom and benevolence? Do they understand that their suffering is just a precursor to a bright future of peace and democracy, all thanks to us, and bear it gladly? No, of course not; in a baffling display of ingratitude, they blow up the border wall with Egypt and race through desperately before the hole in their cage of pain is patched up again.
Many atrocities have occurred in which the perpetrators ostensibly had "good intentions" or "meant well." Maddie Albright certainly "meant well" in defending a US policy against the Iraqi people that led during the 1990s to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children due to starvation and disease. Eichmann seems to have been a "nice guy" and a "well-intentioned true believer" in the Nazi cause whose actions as a bureaucrat led to mass extermination of human beings who just happened to belong to the "wrong" ethnic group. The various corporate technocrats and bureaucrats whose actions cause displacement, starvation, disease, death in many corners of the Third and Fourth Worlds likewise might have "good intentions" (think about Churchill's usage of the phrase "little Eichmanns" in that context). I can guarantee you that the victims and potential victims of such "good intentions" don't really care about the perps' motivations for doing harm. There's that old saying, you see, about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions.By way of a friendly reminder, here's something I said a couple weeks ago that, although referring to the on-going efforts to erect a border wall between the US and Mexico, seems relevant in this context as well:
Walls divide and imprison those on both sides. We need fewer of them rather than more. It's refreshing to see the shows of solidarity that have emerged.Tear 'em down and keep 'em down.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Note and update as of Friday afternoon: I had to correct a broken link - somehow the original post was "disappeared" thus decoupling it from the original comments (still available here, for now), as one of my commenters noted. If those get deleted or tampered with, I've saved a copy which I will gladly post for posterity if need be. The 20 some-odd new comments on the new thread are being heavily censored by Aravosis himself.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
You can be a white feminist and vote for Hillary Clinton. But you can’t vote for Clinton if you’ve raised a single objection to George Bush’s murderous and insane foreign policy. There is no candidate more pro torture, pro mercenary, or pro war than Ms. Clinton. Likewise, her contempt for international law, particularly that which would limit civilian casualties, is fucking unrivaled.That's Benjamin at the Try-Works, with a post, Anybody But Hillary. Personally, I prefer ABC to ABH, but that's mere quibbling on my part. Beyond that though, Ben hits a grand slam. I don't get the alleged "progressives" who seem to be okay with a Hillary Clinton presidency. If my wife is any indication, it simply boils down to she's a woman who wants to be prez. From my perspective, BFD. I'll gladly support a Cynthia McKinney presidency. Heck, Gloria La Riva is well worth serious consideration. Both of these women are solid activists, engaging speakers, and promote policies that would in all probability actually enhance the lot of women and men everywhere, rather than merely benefiting the most privileged of the privileged.
So, yeah, a Clinton presidency would be a token victory for wealthy white women in the United States. But it’d also be a vote for the butchery of non-wealthy non-white women, the rest of the world over.
Meaning, in a way, it’s the perfect stance for white feminists, isn’t it? A vote for Hillary Clinton helps ensure white feminist interests, while ensuring the open imperialism that ensures their over-indulged status is reinforced.
All in the name of, ahem, diversity.
SCOOP - As part of a package on ‘Stimulus Fever Hits Hill,’ Politico’s John Bresnahan gets it done with
‘Top Dems stall Miers, Bolten contempt vote’:
‘House Democrats will postpone votes on criminal contempt citations against White House chief of staff Joshua BOLTEN and former White House counsel Harriet MIERS, while congressional leaders work with President Bush on a bipartisan stimulus package to fend off an economic downturn, according to party leaders and leadership aides.
Senior Democrats have decided that holding a controversial vote on the contempt citations, which have already been approved by the House Judiciary Committee as part of its investigation into the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, would ’step on their message’ of bipartisan unity in the midst of the stimulus package talks.’
Wow. Big surprise!
See also Corrente's commentary, which offers up a couple other useful links.
Update: This is too funny for words. File under "attack the messenger if the facts refuse to cooperate." Of course if one looks at the funding from the CPI website, it becomes clear in a hurry that the organization has funding from a wide variety of sources, and although I guess at one point so-called "leftist" George Soros (who I guess is a "leftist" in the same sense that Warren Buffett is a "leftist") might have contributed a few bucks at some point in the past he doesn't appear to be doing so now. Somehow I don't see folks like the Ford Foundation, or the Rockefeller Brothers Fund as threats to the current social order. When was the last time you heard of anyone in the Rockefeller family quoting Che or Malcom X or chillin' with Subcomandante Marcos? These folks funding the CPI are only "leftist" to someone who's idea of a great humanitarian is Genghis Khan or Benito Mussolini. Jeez.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Now Horizon is doing a show on sensory deprivation (with a celebrity comedian!), a well researched torture technique, they innocently claim it to be about- what does it do to a person? There is no shortage of literature on the subject (will they quote from the CIA’s torture manuals I wonder?) and even if they suppose this program demonstrates what an effective ‘interrogation’ technique it is for making people say what you want them to say and acts as a warning, to ask the question is to presuppose there is real debate about this method of torture. There is none, only war criminals are pretending it’s an open question (and the American Psychological Association, which I guess makes them liable too), this is realtime education in exactly how societies perpetrate great evils, hope the producers are proud. It is also no coincidence that the series is increasingly funded in conjunction with an American broadcaster, this has been going a while and it has lead to lighter weight less demanding programs paced to take advantage of commercial breaks. In short Horizon has been going downhill for a while and now it is playing the Alan Dershowitz game of saying how awful something is, but if you wanted to do it, here’s how. A nadir if you will of ratings grabbing stunts replacing serious scientific documentary making and now more sinisterly it is part of the false debate on torture, marked by its newspeak use of the term ‘interrogation’. In fact what it most reminds me of is intelligent design advocates claiming there is huge debate (or as they say ‘controversial’ to connote any issue where the facts are known but they conflict with powerful groups intentions), which is ironic for a science program, oh except, is that going to be their next show?The quote of course is from RickB of Ten Percent. The video clip ("This is Entertainment") is by Cabaret Voltaire from around 1980. I'm sure this will catch on in the US, with torture as entertainment the next wave of the so-called "reality" teevee boom. Yeah, we can all laugh as contestants undergo sensory deprivation, electric currents through the 'nads, ad nauseum as they compete for the remote possibility of winning a million dollars (which of course is the American Dream). That should make it easier for our rulers to sell the public on the notion that what we all should know is torture isn't really torture - it's no worse than a "harmless" reality show. After all, "this is entertainment; this is fun." Praise the Lord and pass the remote.
Or better yet, just kill your television.
Each segment lasts no longer than 10 minutes. Viewing quality is a bit dodgy, but the sound is just fine.
On a related note, see Psychology's Tortured History: "Modern Torture's Scientific Bible", and Psychology's Little Ethics Problem.
Monday, January 21, 2008
I ask Vasily Illarionov, the head of the Yakut Language and Culture Department at the local university, what role the weather played in folklore. "Yakuts have always had a tremendous respect for the world around them and for nature, because they know how powerful it can be," he says. "But cold itself doesn't play a huge part in our traditions. Anyway, it's nice cold we have here because we don't have wind. When it gets down to minus 40C I like to walk to work. I like our weather, but I don't think I could live somewhere windy."Something tells me that Professor Illarionov would not like the winds in the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma.
The tiny city of Mount Rainier is considering whether to declare itself a sanctuary for illegal immigrants, entering a regional and national debate over enforcement of immigration law.
If the City Council approves the proposal, the eclectic city of 9,000 in Prince George's County will join nearby Takoma Park in prohibiting police officers and city workers from checking the immigration status of residents or reporting those who lack legal residency documents to federal immigration authorities. Takoma Park has been a "sanctuary" city since 1985.
Mount Rainier City Council member Pedro Briones, who proposed the measure, said his intent is not to protect criminals but to allow all immigrants access to community services "so long as they are contributing residents of Mount Rainier and follow our city rules and regulations."
Brenda Norrell has this to say about solidarity in the face of the threatened DHS land seizure in order to build its Apartheid Wall:
As the Rio Grande winds around, creating the natural border between Texas and Mexico, Homeland Security attempts to seize with power this land to build a wall. This is a region where cross-border friendship has become a binational honor. After spending two weeks riding the rails and buses through South Texas, and along its border, I came away with the understanding that South Texas is a state all its own. While the people fight in unison the land seizures by Homeland Security, a new nation of solidarity emerges.There's plenty of darkness, though, as Norrell reminds us:
And of course there is always plenty of nativist hatred, even far away from the US/Mexico border, not to mention the ever present racism practiced by the DHS itself or the continued expansion of the system of gulags used to imprison those unfortunate enough to be ICEed.GREEN VALLEY, Arizona – A panel of US/Mexico border speakers said that the North American Free Trade Agreement has benefited the United States, while forcing people in Mexico off their lands. The result has been a wave of displaced people crossing the US/Mexico border, with racist rhetoric and migrant deaths increasing in the United States.While the United States talked about “equalized trade,” out of one side of its mouth, out of the other side, the US was calling for the closure of its borders.
“We have created a community of slaves,” said Delle McCormick, executive director of BorderLinks. McCormick pointed out that many Americans want migrants to come to the US, but for the wrong reason.
McCormick said many Americans want “slaves,” and do not want creative, intelligent, thinking people from Mexico to relocate here. Once here, they want migrants to be “invisible.”
McCormick joined a panel of speakers at the Santa Cruz Valley Border Issues Fair on Saturday, Jan. 19. More than 400 residents from Green Valley and Tucson, primarily retirees and winter visitors, attended and praised the humanitarian efforts underway to save lives at the border and battle with education the growing migrant xenophobia in the United States.
McCormick pointed out that NAFTA was launched on January 1, 1994, with the promise of bringing Mexico into the modern world. But while the people of Mexico waited for their lives to resemble those on “I Love Lucy,” their worlds began to crumble.
The US sent big business to seize the lands of the poor in Mexico. Further, the big box stores like Wal-Mart were soon putting smaller, locally-owned stores out of business. At the sacred places, Indigenous Peoples were pushed away and vendors began selling “Made in China,” trinkets, slowing the demand for handcrafts.
McCormick said while Mexico cut funding for social services, it increased funding for trade-based corporations.
Meanwhile, in Chiapas, dams were built to provide electricity for the US corporations, pushing Mayans off their lands. Like never before, this began the exodus of Indigenous corn farmers, now displaced and bound on foot for the US, desperate to survive. Today, a higher percentage of people walking across the US/Mexico border come from Chiapas, since NAFTA has wielded its damage, she said.
McCormick pointed out that the people of Mexico, including the Zapatistas, have creative ways of emerging and developing a new economy.
What the United States needs to do, she said, is “Get out of their way.”
Sunday, January 20, 2008
The states listed at the end are the ones besides Montana that have refused to comply with the latest unfunded mandate to come from the Feds. The whole Real ID thing comes across as yet another step down the path to a National Security State, and we've gone way too far down that road as it is over the last decade or two. As to be expected, the Feds have been completely dismissive and elitist in their approach to those dissenting states, going so far as to threaten us with collective punishment for not being good little Germans.
Montana governor Brian Schweitzer (D) declared independence Friday from federal identification rules and called on governors of 17 other states to join him in forcing a showdown with the federal government which says it will not accept the driver's licenses of rebel states' citizens starting May 11.
If that showdown comes to pass, a resident of a non-complying state could not use a driver's license to enter a federal courthouse or a Social Security Administration building nor could he board a plane without undergoing a pat-down search, possibly creating massive backlogs at the nation's airports and almost certainly leading to a flurry of federal lawsuits.
States have until May 11 to request extensions to the Real ID rules that were released last Friday. They require states to make all current identification holders under the age of 50 to apply again with certified birth and marriage certificates. The rules also standardize license formats, require states to interlink their DMV databases and require DMV employee to undergo background checks.
Last year Montana passed a law saying it would not comply, citing privacy, states' rights and fiscal issues.
In his letter (.pdf) to other governors, Schweitzer makes clear he's not going to ask for an extension.
"Today, I am asking you to join with me in resisting the DHS coercion to comply with the provisions of REAL ID, " Schweitzer wrote. "If we stand together either DHS will blink or Congress will have to act to avoid havoc at our nation's airports and federal courthouses."
Privacy groups counter that the rules create a de-facto national identification card and won't stop terrorism or identity theft.
For his part, Schweitzer struck back at DHS statements he obviously considers arrogant.
"I take great offense at this notion we should all simply 'grow up'," Schweitzer wrote, referring to Thursday remarks from DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff about border rules regarding Canada. Schweitzer says those remarks "reflect DHS (sic) continued disrespect for the serious and legitimate concerns of our citizens."
A DHS policy maker suggested earlier this week that Real IDs could also be required to buy cold medicine and to prove employment eligibility.
Schweitzer's letter went out to the governors of Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Maine, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Arizona, Hawaii, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington.