Saturday, February 7, 2009

Just what we needed

A guarantee that the next "stimulus" bill will be a total boondoggle. I must hand it to the Senate: cutting out the few parts of the bill that might have been somewhat helpful was a stroke of genius. Bravo.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Speaking of the Great American Swindle

Ted Rall's most recent:

I always wondered why those Wall Street execs "needed" such outrageous salaries

Now we know:
Wall street lawyers, investment bankers, CEOs and media executives often used corporate credit cards to pay for $2,000 an hour prostitutes, according to the madam who ran one of New York's biggest and most expensive escort services until it was busted last year.
Let's just hope that those firms we've been bailing out since the Great American Swindle began last fall are curbing that nonsense. I'm not really surprised that such abuses of organizational resources occur - combine gargantuan salaries with a veritable lack of accountability and one can expect stories like the above.

As an aside, I can't help but notice that the long arm of the law only seemed to reach as far as the madam of the escort ring and not the clients. Wealthy men can expect to walk away from such scandals barely scathed - in our corporate culture, they'd probably be promoted. The sex workers, on the other hand face the full force of the legal system. There's something very wrong about that.

Sports interlude

The first season for the OKC Thunder (the NBA team formerly known as the Seattle Supersonics) has been rough, but there are some signs of improvement. It'll be a while before the franchise is back to being a playoff contender (the Sonics were once pretty formidable). Now if the OKC fans can remain patient while the franchise rebuilds...

The backlash against neoliberalism gains momentum

¡Que se vayan todos! - that's the global backlash talking (h/t Marisacat):
...Perhaps the sturdiest thread connecting this global backlash is a rejection of the logic of "extraordinary politics" - the phrase coined by the Polish politician Leszek Balcerowicz to describe how, in a crisis, politicians can ignore legislative rules and rush through unpopular "reforms". That trick is getting tired, as South Korea's government recently discovered. In December, the ruling party tried to use the crisis to ram through a highly controversial free trade agreement with the US. Taking closed-door politics to new extremes, legislators locked themselves in the chamber so they could vote in private, barricading the door with desks, chairs and couches.

Opposition politicians were having none of it: using sledgehammers and an electric saw, they broke in and staged a 12-day sit-in of parliament. The vote was delayed, allowing for more debate - a victory for a new kind of "extraordinary politics".

The pattern is clear: governments that respond to a crisis created by free-market ideology with an acceleration of that same discredited agenda will not survive to tell the tale. As Italy's students have taken to shouting in the streets: "We won't pay for your crisis!"

Some situationism for ya

Courtesy of Mickey Z:
Let’s not change bosses, let’s change life

In a society that has abolished every kind of adventure the only adventure that remains is to abolish the society

A cop sleeps inside each one of us. We must kill him.

The liberation of humanity is all or nothing

No re-plastering, the structure is rotten

By stopping our machines together, we will demonstrate their weakness

If we have to resort to force, don’t sit on the fence

A single non-revolutionary weekend is infinitely more bloody than a month of total revolution

The forest precedes man, the desert follows him

Under the paving stones, the beach

Concrete breeds apathy

Making revolution also means breaking our internal chains

We want a place to piss, not a place to pray

The economy is wounded — I hope it dies!

Talk to your neighbors

The freedom of others extends mine infinitely

Open the windows of your heart

You can no longer sleep quietly once you’ve suddenly opened your eyes

The future will only contain what we put into it now
I came to groove on situationism just a bit later in life than a lot of radicals - but it is approach that has increasingly influenced me in recent years.

Still more "change" you can believe in

Panetta: No Prosecutions For CIA Torturers. No need for additional commentary from me - y'all pretty well know my thoughts. Obama is sending more signals that his talk of change was nothing more than empty words.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I just love "change"

Thus far it appears that the Obama regime is going to keep on looking the other way regarding the previous regime's use of torture, and intends to make sure that its partner in crime (UK) does likewise. I'm really not surprised.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Nativist Lobby Exposed

My guess is that regular readers here will respond with something like "could have seen that one a mile away." Mark Potok sez:
Three Washington, D.C.-based immigration-restriction organizations stand at the nexus of the American nativist movement: the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and NumbersUSA. Although on the surface they appear quite different — the first, the country's best-known anti-immigrant lobbying group; the second, an "independent" think tank; and the third, a powerful grassroots organizer — they are fruits of the same poisonous tree.

FAIR, CIS and NumbersUSA are all part of a network of restrictionist organizations conceived and created by John Tanton, the "puppeteer" of the nativist movement and a man with deep racist roots. As the first article in this report shows, Tanton has for decades been at the heart of the white nationalist scene. He has met with leading white supremacists, promoted anti-Semitic ideas, and associated closely with the leaders of a eugenicist foundation once described by a leading newspaper as a "neo-Nazi organization." He has made a series of racist statements about Latinos and worried that they were outbreeding whites. At one point, he wrote candidly that to maintain American culture, "a European-American majority" is required.

FAIR, which Tanton founded and where he remains on the board, has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Among the reasons are its acceptance of $1.2 million from the Pioneer Fund, a group founded to promote the genes of white colonials that funds studies of race, intelligence and genetics. FAIR has also hired as key officials men who also joined white supremacist groups. It has board members who regularly write for hate publications. It promotes racist conspiracy theories about Latinos. And it has produced television programming featuring white nationalists.

CIS was conceived by Tanton and began life as a program of FAIR. CIS presents itself as a scholarly think tank that produces serious immigration studies meant to serve "the broad national interest." But the reality is that CIS has never found any aspect of immigration that it liked, and it has frequently manipulated data to achieve the results it seeks. Its executive director last fall posted an item on the conservative National Review Online website about Washington Mutual, a bank that had earlier issued a press release about its inclusion on a list of "Business Diversity Elites" compiled by Hispanic Business magazine. Over a copy of the bank's press release, the CIS leader posted a headline — "Cause and Effect?" — that suggested a link between the bank's opening its ranks to Latinos and its subsequent collapse.

Like CIS, NumbersUSA bills itself as an organization that operates on its own and rejects racism completely. In fact, NumbersUSA was for the first five years of its existence a program of U.S. Inc., a foundation run by Tanton to fund numerous nativist groups, and its leader was an employee of that foundation for a decade. He helped edit Tanton's racist journal, The Social Contract, and was personally introduced by Tanton to a leader of the Pioneer Fund. He also edited a book by Tanton and another Tanton employee that was banned by the Canadian border officials as hate literature, and on one occasion spoke to the Council of Conservative Citizens, a hate group which has called blacks "a retrograde species of humanity."

Together, FAIR, CIS and NumbersUSA form the core of the nativist lobby in America. In 2007, they were key players in derailing bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform that had been expected by many observers to pass. Today, these organizations are frequently treated as if they were legitimate, mainstream commentators on immigration. But the truth is that they were all conceived and birthed by a man who sees America under threat by non-white immigrants. And they have never strayed far from their roots.
David Neiwert sez:
One can only hope the report will finally persuade genuine conservatives and thoughtful Republicans that they would want nothing to do with either these organizations or their largely fabricated disinformation, which disguises a hateful, white-supremacist agenda.

Together with the immigration-reform group America's Voice, the SPLC held a press conference this morning in Washington to discuss the report and its ramifications -- particularly for Americans interested in advancing a rational debate about immigration, free of racist scapegoating.

The result of the activities of groups like these has been profound -- a grotesque distortion of the immigration debate in America. As AV's Frank Sharry said at the conference, most people on the side of immigration reform in the past decade went in believing they were going to be engaged in a rational policy discussion, but instead found that for these groups on the right, the only interest was in finding more bodies to throw on the culture-war bonfires.

It's played a huge role in providing fuel for right-wing talkers like Bill O'Reilly, Lou Dobbs, Michelle Malkin, Glenn Beck, and their hosts of imitators.

Dare to dream. See also Imagine 2050 and America's Voice.

Apt characterization of one of neoliberalism's lead henchmen

Owen Paine offers the sort of description of Jeffrey Sachs that I wish I would have written. A one-word description of Sachs that I would use: grifter.

Achilles' Heel

The War on Terra's Achilles' Heel is access to Afghanistan, which is dependent upon a supply route through the Khyber Pass and a sprawling military base in Kyrgyzstan. Guess what: the former is being increasingly attacked, and hence blocked and the host nation of the latter is apparently giving the US an eviction notice. Interesting times.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Anniversary (Pop Culture Edition)

February 3 marks the 50th anniversary of "the day the music died." The music didn't really die with the performers who died on that tragic air flight. Buddy Holly's legacy includes the much-ballyhooed British Invasion of the 1960s, and of course a number of his hits have been covered in the intervening decades (I was a kid when Linda Ronstadt was riding such tunes as "It's So Easy" to near the top of the pop charts). Heck, bands have been named after him (The Hollies is the most obvious, although admittedly the only tune of theirs I ever liked was the eerily CCR-sounding "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress"). Cats like Elvis Costello have emulated Holly's appearance. Ritchie Valens' short career would go on to inspire cats like Los Lobos. You get the picture.

H/t Oklahoma Lefty

Governments across Europe tremble as angry people take to the streets

France paralysed by a wave of strike action, the boulevards of Paris resembling a debris-strewn battlefield. The Hungarian currency sinks to its lowest level ever against the euro, as the unemployment figure rises. Greek farmers block the road into Bulgaria in protest at low prices for their produce. New figures from the biggest bank in the Baltic show that the three post-Soviet states there face the biggest recessions in Europe.

It's a snapshot of a single day – yesterday – in a Europe sinking into the bleakest of times. But while the outlook may be dark in the big wealthy democracies of western Europe, it is in the young, poor, vulnerable states of central and eastern Europe that the trauma of crash, slump and meltdown looks graver.

Exactly 20 years ago, in serial revolutionary rejoicing, they ditched communism to put their faith in a capitalism now in crisis and by which they feel betrayed. The result has been the biggest protests across the former communist bloc since the days of people power.

Europe's time of troubles is gathering depth and scale. Governments are trembling. Revolt is in the air.
The rest of the article is in The Guardian (h/t Inteligentaindigena Indigenismo Novajoservo). While we're at it, see Economic Woes Fuel Russian Protests (h/t Inteligentaindigena Indigenismo Novajoservo), and read the Icelandic anarchist collective's statement about the situation and regime change in their nation (again, h/t Inteligentaindigena Indigenismo Novajoservo).

Quotable: Jean-Paul Sartre

"It is guilty of being deceitful, evasive, of lying, and lying to itself, embroiling itself every minute a little more, despite the lessons that this unique and unbearable experience has taught, on a path along which there can be no return. It is guilty, by its own admission, of knowingly conducting this war of ‘example’ to make genocide a challenge and a threat to all peoples. When a peasant dies in his rice field, cut down by a machine-gun, we are all hit.”

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Of course that was part of the plan

When you're a regime hellbent on ethnic cleansing, destroying crops and making farmland unusable would be critical to the success of your endeavor. Makes starving the survivors off whatever remains of their land, or to death (whichever comes first) so much easier.

The senryū will be revolutionized

us. them. deceptive
dichotomies demanding
defiance. right. now.

Note: Just a little something off the top of my head this late evening. Seemed a fitting enough way to start a new month. That's what I get for watching V for Vendetta for the first time in months, I suppose.

For those curious, senryū and haiku are quite similar in structure, but differ in content. I can drop some 'ku every once in a while as well.