Saturday, April 20, 2013

A few thoughts on Tsarnaev

There has already been plenty of spilled ink and pixels on the recent capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev - one of the young men believed to be involved in the Boston Marathon bombing earlier this week.

At the moment, there is much that is simply unknown. Assuming he recovers from his injuries (which as of this morning seemed likely), he’ll get his day in court, and we’ll hopefully have a better picture of what happened.

We know that at least one of his relatives has contended that he and his older brother were set up by US authorities. For the time being, I find that implausible. If I had been one of the relatives, I am sure my initial impulse would be one of denial. From what is available, it seems pretty likely that the Tsarnaevs were the perps in this week’s bombing.

Equally implausible for now is the notion that this was an attack that was motivated by religion, politics, or ethnicity - nor do there appear to be any ties to any terrorist organizations. Oftentimes, terrorist attacks that have been motivated by such reasons are followed up a statement or manifesto explaining the reasoning behind the attack (the exception seems to be right-wing terrorist groups in the US, who seem to prefer to remain largely silent). No such statements were ever forthcoming, nor did any organization rush to claim responsibility. My opinion, for now, is that this was probably some sort of lone wolf attack. I could be wrong, but until I see some evidence to the contrary, I think I will stick to what I see as the simplest explanation.

What I think should be avoided are any broad generalizations about Chechens (I have seen way too much of that), or Muslims (again, I have seen way too much of that) and connections to terrorism. Personally, I feel I know way too little about Chechnya or the surrounding Russian states or surrounding independent nations in and around the Caucasus to make broad statements. What little I do know would suggest that the lot of those who live in Chechnya along with those who have fled has been fraught with hardship.

In the meantime, hopefully, the victims of the bombing can start to find some closure. What happened was horrifyingly awful.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

In summary...

From the information general news reports + analysis from venezuela I have gathered that:
  • The election was won by a close margin by Maduro and the opposition called for a recount (despite the fact that every election in Venezuela has an automatic recount hosted by independent observers as well as people from all parties).
  • Maduro supported the idea, but the electoral commission said no, because a recount had already been conducted.
  • Caprilles called for demonstrations, and riots broke out in Merida, where Cuban medical clinics as well as left-wing groups were attacked, 7 people have died, and they were all political activists who supported the socialist government.
  • Most of the riots have occurred in the wealthy suburbs in the cities.
  • This seems like it could lead to another coup attempt by the opposition, similar to the one in 2002 (which Caprilles supported).
  • The opposition is using old footage from the past to propagandise against the government, and much of the Venezuelan media (the private sector) is assisting in that.

Monday, April 15, 2013


By now there is plenty of coverage of the explosions at the site of the Boston Marathon. I won't speculate about who was behind the attacks, because quite honestly it is too early to know. Needless to say, the reports of deaths and injuries are simply awful. There are very few words of comfort that a pseudonymous blogger could offer. I can only hope, like many others, that whoever was behind it gets caught.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Maduro Wins!

I've been following a live blog of the Venezuela election for much of the evening. The official results are in, and the Bolivarian Revolution continues. However, it was close: 50.66% for Maduro to 49.07% for Capriles. For now, there is some tentative hope that what was set in motion by Chavez will continue. That said, the ruling party really needs to get its act together. My impression, correctly or incorrectly, has been that the party has benefited largely from Chavez’s larger-than-life charisma. A lot of good has been done for the country’s 99%, but 21st Century Socialism needs to become more than a populist slogan if it is to have any staying power. These results are a wake-up call.

Worth Reading

One thing that we on the Left desperately need is a sober analysis of the current situation. Let's face it, the neoliberal phase of capitalism is looking far from invincible (of course that's been obvious for quite a few years now). However, it will remain unchallenged until there is an effective and organized Left that can actually do battle on a number of fronts - both parliamentary and extraparliamentary, nationally and internationally. Hence, a couple items to read and ponder:

pink scare: A Few Notes on Austerity

Lenin's Tomb: The actuality of a successful capitalist offensive

There may not be a lot of happy talk in either of those posts, but each author does offer a diagnosis and prescribes some tentative courses of action that we could take. One might even find something resembling hope in these two posts.

Sometimes a hiatus can take a while to break

For Riverbend, the author behind Baghdad Burning, it took about five and a half years. She made it worth the wait. She has much to say worth reading. For those who are willing to listen, and sincerely ponder the questions she poses, there is much to be learned.

Slayage for The People?

"The thing about changing the world...Once you do it, the world's all different." -- Buffy Summers

A couple years ago, I decided to re-view an old Joss Whedon series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I've been periodically rewatching it ever since. About the same time, I was reading various treatises by the likes of The Red Army Faction, who operated as urban guerrillas in West Germany during the 1970s and 1980s. Somehow, I began to wonder if one potential "reading" of Buffy was that of Buffy Summers and her sidekicks as acting as urban guerrillas.

From one standpoint, one could say that the vampires (including the uber-vamps that appear in season seven), the Mayor of Sunnydale from season three, Glorificus from season five, Adam, and a host of others as representing various facets of capitalism sucking the life blood out of all who come into contact with it. But could one find a revolutionary ideology articulated by Buffy or others within her collective? Perhaps. Certainly, by mid-series, the group has become very conscious of the need for collective action - something made increasingly explicit over the last three seasons of the television series. And one could say that Buffy's efforts to share slayer powers more universally as one action that is truly had revolutionary implications, within the framework of the Buffyverse. One can view the various references in season six and beyond to everything being connected to everything else - by both Giles and later Willow - as providing something of a cornerstone for justifying correct action.

There are a lot of interesting strands in that series that makes me think of much of what would have been going on during the 1960s and 1970s. The tension and discord between Old and New Left can be viewed as represented by the conflicted relationship between the Watchers' Council and Buffy (and increasingly Giles as the series progressed). The Watchers' Council is represented as inflexible, bureaucratic, and out of touch, much as the Old Left seemed represented in much of the New Left writings from back in the day. The tensions between the intellectual and the fighter were represented throughout the series through the often strained relationship between Giles and Buffy, and later Willow. There is of course the strained relations between revolutionary and mercenary represented by the interactions with Faith (who occasionally reminds me of a female equivalent to Carlos Sanchez) and Spike.

Anyway, right now, all I have are a few scattered ideas, very much in need of fleshing out. Hopefully, as time permits, I can expand on a few of the strands in my head. I suspect Joss Whedon would be horrified at the prospect of his work being interpreted in an explicitly anticapitalist fashion - the show's themes from his perspective were more of a liberal flavor of feminism. But I do think something could be said for my proposed alternative reading. The series even offers something of a tentative happy ending that all but eluded groups like the Red Army Faction, the Red Brigades, and the Weathermen in real life.