Wednesday, December 15, 2010
In short: make the U.S. government's business the people's business. Institute rules for a recall of all public officials, elected or appointed. Free Julian Assange.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
"Hello, I'm Tom Hanks. The US Government has lost its credibility so it's borrowing some of mine."
- The Simpson's Movie
Friday, December 10, 2010
Remember how annoyed I was when the little prince made his wedding announcement, and the British government tried to make the country look the other way for a minute? Yeah, well, I think the students were planning their protests right around then. And looks like they've launched quite successfully. How ya like us now, Charlie? Wanna roll in your Royce through the protest, rub elbows with the rabble? A hundred years ago they'd've had your head, for flaunting your wealth amidst their distress. They might yet, and I would be loathe to blame them. Sell the mansion, sell the kids, shave your head and disappear - my advice to you.
And Comrade X's own anger seems to be manifesting across the left, bringing with it that early banner for reform, the petition, calling for endorsement of the Vets for Peace event in front of the White House December 16th. If you consider yourself liberal, leftist, progressive, or radical, you should read it, and sign it if you agree, and circulate it if you feel it should be passed on. Encourage others to spread the word. There is no other way to make change happen than to encourage one another and just do it. Protest. Walk out. Sit down. You know the drill; look at Civil Rights. Look at strikes. They didn't wait for the Democrats to make things happen, because the Democrats don't make things happen; the people make things happen. So you, you are a member of the people, go make it happen.
I love Wikileaks, too, and the knee-jerk reaction from the American government proves how bold the far-right powers have become. Thankfully this frothing at the mouth is getting called out by Europeans, who still have a spine. (How do you like that, America? All those hippy Euro democratic-socialists know more about democracy and freedom.)
This is only the beginning. There are bigger things to come. But if you want to see shit go in a positive direction and bring justice, you have to get out your surfboard now, because events aren't going to wait on you.
Monday, December 6, 2010
He's using Republican talking points now? What's next, does he run for re- election as a Republican? He might as well, for there are no real differences between the two plutocrat parties today. Obama threw the man-of-the-people routine aside and finally revealed himself to be the defender of privilege and obscene wealth.
Turns out that far from being a socialist, Obama is trying to outdo George W. Bush as Corporate Tool Of The Century. From granting drilling exemptions to oil companies drilling in the Gulf of Mexico ( the first while Deepstar Horizon was still ablaze )to the mandate forcing the public to buy private health insurance, Obama is the bestest buddy money can buy.
It sounds great on the surface, don't it? Our ruling class is sooooo happy. " Every motherfucker in America is getting a tax cut now!" Trouble is, how in the fuck are we going to pay for it? The phony tough guys in Congress lecture us on being frugal while jetting around the country in private planes and sucking the caviar off of the bellies of the $500.00 an hour hookers they rented. Yeah, these flabby bastards are so tough... taking the bread out of the mouths of children, closing their schools, making the elderly work until they drop dead. It doesn't do squat to lower the deficeit, but it looks like they are doing something.
I will be thinking of frugality this Christmas, Mr. President, while you and your new Republican friends stuff your gobs with rare, and expensive, delicacies at the White House Christmas Dinner.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
The State Department condemns Wikileaks for putting US interests in danger. But as far as I've been able to tell the last 10 years (or longer!) US interests have been decidedly AGAINST the interests of working Americans and innocent people around the globe. So I proudly commend Wikileaks and the brave folks who find this information and make it available for the eyes of the world.
Information can't be bottled up, can't be suppressed. Especially now, in the 21st century, an age of communication ... immorality is no longer tolerable. Least of all from our governments. Accountability! Transparency! Justice!
Saturday, November 27, 2010
- "Beijing isn't playing fair! Why isn't this backwards, uppity country doing what I want? Play American, assholes, or we'll start prying at your world interests!" They even say "Old-fashioned balance-of-power style diplomacy." Well, we internationalists are back on familiar grounds....
- "Hey, you can't go spying on diplomats when we're telling the truth! You have to wait for the canned messages. We're servants of the empire, not some common riffraff you can put on a surveillance camera!"
- First Bush, now Palin. I'm starting to think mis-speak is a conservative tactic to win over the less literate element in society, maybe some kind of linguistic anti-intellectual meme?
- Small business Saturday: little businesses are just baby big-businesses. But of course in today's political environ, the capitalist titans are in turmoil and the aging petty bourgeois, stirred by their decades of mis-education by mass media, are gaining confidence.
- Entrapment: nuff said on the case of the Christmas tree kid. "Mohamud believed he was receiving help from a larger ring of jihadists as he communicated with undercover federal agents, but no foreign terrorist organization was directing him, according to a law-enforcement official." The government is in constant threat of being torn down from all directions. All they need to do is find the group they want lynched and lure out the weirdos. Then its "OH NO SOMALIS." "OH NO, MUSLIMS." When thirty years ago it was "OH NO COMMUNISTS." And thirty years before that, "OH NO FASCISTS." There are so-called patriots in our midst who'd overthrow the government if they thought they could set up a goddamn dictatorship, and throw out all the colored folks.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
There has definitely been tough talk on the issue of North Korea from the American government for years, the better part of a decade really. But I for one do not want to see an invasion of the "rogue state," nuclear arsenal or no. Here are some reasons why:
- We've already got U.S. forces committed around the globe. The tricky situation in the Koreas would require a lot of troops. More so if China gets involved (see below). It'd be a waste of human resources in a time where people need to occupy themselves with work, not war.
- Ditto with cash. The corporations would make a ton but working people wouldn't stand to improve their quality of living. What did Iraq and Afghanistan do to prevent the Great Recession? Halliburton and Blackwater and their ilk raked in the dough on fat military contracts. Soldiers got the short end of the stick and I don't think a dime "trickled down."
- North Korea is China's ally. After the boat incident last summer, the new rising star of international capitalism took a harder line on its little neighbor; if it wants to be a global player it needs to put more pressure on its batshit stupid friend there. And I don't think China wants North Korea acting the fool, so let them work it out.
- Following on that last point, if the U.S. invaded North Korea it would be taken as a major offense to China, who has a sort of Monroe Doctrine attitude about the Asian Pacific. Nothing would prompt a showdown worse than aggression against their neighbor, and we can't have a war on China. It's not sustainable. Not even if our very beloved President issued a draft.
And that, my friends, is the point. The ruling class of this country fucked us over. The financiers, the politicians, the military. Their reckless policies in pursuit of corporate profit have stalemated our future as the American working class. We can't let them coerce us into more war - not with North Korea, not with Iran, not with Pakistan or Yemen or Mexico. No more military ops. No more drones. No more "support personnel." Draft workers into an national infrastructure, mass transit, and green energy construction program. Bring us up to speed with the implemented technologies of Germany and Japan. Fund it by levying an 80% tax on corporate profits. Nationalize the companies that don't comply. Issue an amendment to the constitution that provides for federal-level recalls so we can hold any politician who breaks with this program accountable.
It's time we get our heads out from our rectal cavities and go after the bastards who do nothing but pass bad policies before they drag us into more special-interest conflicts. War on North Korea will not keep us safe. It will take all the problems that have been festering under the surface in America for the last fifty years and burst them like a popped boil.
And there will be no going back.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Judging by Ms. Palin's last literary effort, Going Rouge ( yeah, Sarah, representing the interests of the ruling class is a real courageous act of rebellion- insert double eye roll)the sequel will be a collection of typical right- wing gibberish sprinkled with wild accusations of the unamericanism of the President and his family.
But remember the audience. These are folks who need a spellchecker whenever they write up a protest sign. And when it comes to reading, they are challenged by the instructions on a microwave dinner package.
If this tome were anymore dumbed down, there would be panels of cartoons rather than text.
Now there is a widespread belief amongst those who lean to the Left that Ms. Palin is as dumb as her followers. I disagree. You can question her knowledge on geography, history, or world affairs ( I'm still not sure if she is truly ignorant of these things or if it is an act to show the stupid she is " one of them" )but when it comes to hustling she is a master. She has that special GOP talent to convince working people of the Caucasian Persuasion that the very people fucking them in the ass are the ones representing their interests. Sarah is such a master at this that her audience even asks for a few more inches up their collective butts. No wonder she quit as governor- who wants to sit in a crappy office all day when you can print up a collection of personal anecdotes, reactionary propaganda, and other assorted drivel every couple of years and have packs of teabaggers throw their money at you. Need to rent a personal jet? Charge a $100,000.00 speaking fee. Sarah's shameless scamming is so epic that there is almost something inspiring in it. Call it The Audacity Of Knavery.
Well, now your humble muckraker must look not- really- forward to reading Sarah's latest pile of tripe in order to review it. But I am happy to inform you I won't buy it ( and handle it while wearing surgical gloves) but browse through it at the bookstore. Then I will take a page from Sarah's book and quit halfway through it.
So I can serve my country better, don'cha know?
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Interested parties can now focus on a new set of pressing issues: Who will design Miss Middleton’s wedding dress? Who will be Prince Harry’s date at the wedding? And, should Miss Middleton become queen — which would not take place until the death of both the current queen and the future king, Prince Charles — will everyone call her Queen Kate? (Her formal name is Catherine.)
It's always surprised me that Americans give a shit about British royalty. They aren't all that glamorous anymore. Politically, it's awful (don't you care that our country was founded on an opposition to monarchy?). I suppose it seems quaint by U.S. standards ... but when you find out that the British monarch still has technical powers, it seems a little creepy, especially considerign that the UK has no written constitution. There's a certain insistence that the kings and queens and princelets are all part of the government's "dignity" and not day-to-day work. Still, that doesn't quite sit right.
What's most worrisome is the timing, though. With a typically royal disregard for the "little people," the announcement seems intentionally designed to distract the British people from the seriousness of the upcoming budget cuts. In its own quaint British way, this is putting patriotism before politics. It's taking what's considered quaint and characteristic and beloved about Britain and broadcasting it everywhere and marginalizing the actual problems with the government. Even the media admits it:
"After an autumn of dismaying news about budget cuts and Austerity Britain, the engagement provided an all-purpose happy diversion. The BBC started providing saturation coverage of the announcement. Queen Elizabeth proclaimed herself to be "absolutely delighted.” Prime Minister David Cameron said that when he announced the news, members of his cabinet responded with a “great cheer” and “banging of the table."
Thanks, NYT. Circus triumphs over bread in the UK. It doesn't matter who gets thrown out on the dole; the tabloids will save the working class.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Here's a little thought exercise for the comrades out there. What to do about the sole. And I'm talking about the fish, not the spiritual item.
Currently, the Dover Sole is the most sought after flatfish on the seafood market. The price per pound is usually about $32.00. This is due to demand, the relative scarcity of the fish ( it's only habitat is in the English channel ), and the cost of the labor of the fishermen who catch it. In order to make a profit a seafood distributor has to cover these costs and then gouge the customer. How would a socialist economy make this tasty commodity available to the general public? Would it make what is essentially a luxury available at all?
Sunday, November 7, 2010
You know how after you graduate college, you pretend for a little while that you're a real adult cuz you're out on your own, but really you have no goddamn idea what's going on, and you don't care because you want to do things your way, but "your way" is really just an excuse for being irresponsible and putting the blame on everybody else, and meanwhile your bills stack up and you end up paying a lot of your very hard-earned money on debt collectors and overdraft fees - but that's ok, cuz you're doing it your way, you're making your mistakes, you convince yourself that these mistakes are what it means to be free and there's a learning curve. It doesn't matter if debts and overdrafts are unfair, all you need to do is perfect your approach, and it'll all come together.
Come to find out it doesn't work like that.
It is exactly your blundering insistence on individuality that seals your goddamn doom. You know what's being done is unfair. (It's the same way with wars and the economy and rush hour traffic.) As long as you keep doing things your way, you'll be ok, it will be somebody else's problem, the trouble isn't you, it's all those goddamn other people who support the war or take the freeway home. Or it's the government's fault for letting banks get away with stuff. Eventually the government will catch on, right? - you'll keep voting and eventually you'll get a politician who'll be like, "Whelp, bout time to hold the banks accountable," and you won't have to pay overdraft fees again.
And that's exactly what happened - except increasingly now the so-called "middle class" is relying on paycheck advance - once a quaint feature of the topolganger lower class neighborhoods, now available in the common grounds of WalMart and internet banking. Which, as of this writing, isn't that popular a subject on the internet, despite outrageously high APR (120% at US Bank). Some US states made paycheck advance illegal; however, the point is that by sitting by and letting some nebulous "someone else" deal with it, we let "someone else" dictate the terms and conditions of our lives.
We act as though as long as we mind our own business, nothing is going to bother us. Having to think about politics or the economy isn't as important as doing our job and feeding our families. We just want to be left alone. That's all the American Dream has come down to: "Shut up and let me sleep."
9/11 was a rude awakening many people are still trying to out-maneuver. Terrorism - can't be bothered to examine the cause of it, must have some easy answer like "they hate us" (a sullen child's analysis if I've ever heard one). Here are a panel of experts (who made them experts? Who knows), I will copy down what they say, I will use it as a shortcut to absolve myself of responsibility. I cannot be held responsible for my country's foreign policy; it's just not up to me! I'm trying to work and have a family here, I'm upholding my part of the bargain by pursuing the American Dream, look what they have on sale for me today. ("Heart-shaped potholders? It's like they knooowwww me!!")
In reality, the system we allow to run rampant kills people abroad and enslaves them to corporate interests. We all know our government and our corporations are doing things that are downright abominable, things that would make our skin run cold if we could actually stand in the presence of the events. If we could watch an Afghani wedding party get blown up by a drone, it would fucking break us. Instead we hide from our complicity and make fucking excuses. "It's too hard, it's too much, I'm just one person, what am I supposed to do, I know it's wrong but what choice do I have, no one else is doing anything so I won't make any difference."
You fucking slimeballs. You've ingested all this stuff about how America is the best country in the world, and you parrot that, but you won't stand up against injustice? What kind of legacy do you think has been passed down to you? Cowardice? Helplessness? Apathy? Are these the values you stand for? Do you think you're doing your children, or your siblings, or your parents, your friends and coworkers any favors by standing on society's sidelines and shrugging like a sociopath? No wonder we can't look one another in the eyes. No wonder we snap at the fast food workers who get our orders wrong, or the retail worker whose been on her feet eight hours with a holiday line that never seems to move for her or you. You choose not to have empathy, because that might mean your little nugget of a head for once.
And you have no idea, not one goddamn clue, what's out there, do you?
Friday, October 29, 2010
With a typical song-and-dance, the media is painting the elections as an epic struggle of Republican versus Democrat. This entirely distracts the American people from the real issue at stake - the fate of the working class at the hands of the two capitalist parties. Progressives and radicals need to be developing a wider vista of the political landscape. Gird yer loins and prepare yourself for the Democrats' retreat - no matter what size the gains of the Republican horde.
NPR is playing stories in which they interview candidates across the nation. The Democrat they played last night was insistent on his "independence" from the party that endorsed him, said the Republicans had some valuable ideas, and said he was prepared to
receive a reach-around reach across the aisle. Even if Democrats hold or gain offices, they seem more likely than ever to be so-called "blue dogs," aka "the other Republicans."
The question among pundits is "how influential will Republicans become?" Many news stories cover the moment-by-moment bean counting of polls among likely or registered voters. And while the Dems are rallying to greater or lesser degrees in some states (Obama drew 26,000 speaking in Madison, WI recently), they're falling behind in others. It's an important question, of course - the face of the struggle will change state by state and even city by city. But unless we build broader perspectives, we as a political wing remain divided and frustrated.
(Remember the feeling of hopelessness on November 5th, 2004 - when Bush was elected to a second term? That is what happens when you don't have a contingency plan.)
My own experiences with people's political consciousness is limited to paper-selling and tabling and discussions online and at work. Still, advocating the issues that I do, you'd be extremely surprised by the uniformity of answers I receive from people. Political arguments move like memes through people's heads and it takes a lot of work to convince people that there is an alternative to our helplessness, our feelings of political and economic disenfranchisement. Perhaps there is some way to pre-empt people's response to the loss of Democrat "control" of the government (which is not to blame on human nature, alleged conservatism on the part of the American people, or the fact that right-wingers have better ideas, but rather the complete spinelessness and lack of leadership among the Democrats).
Whether or not the Republicans specifically win a certain number of gains in Congress, or gubernatorial positions, we can anticipate the Obama administration's possible responses. We can anticipate the tactics used by both parties because we know their character. We know their agendas, broadly speaking. We know the issues of this election and we know the methods the parties typically employ in the pursuit of their ends. So while many people may say, "We don't have a crystal ball, we can't know the political landscape after the election," I find it helpful to prepare.
Obama's pick for his next chief of staff has signaled, according to the media, a "low key approach" as opposed to the (relatively) proactive attitude of Emanuel. This may be an indication that Obama wants to "work with" the Republicans, even though, of course, Republicans have continually scorned him and have next to no interest in cooperating with him unless they can push his policies ridiculously far to the right. Even I admit that half the reason this poor man looks like such a bad President is because Republicans refused to meet him half way, and even turned members of his party against him. They used every word he spoke as evidence that he is unqualified to be President, even if they had to stretch the truth beyond recognition.
But he hasn't helped himself, either. Like so many Democratic politicians of the past and present, the O-man is setting himself (and his base) up for disappointment by reaching across the aisle to the almost feline-ly fickle Repubs. Government leaders, especially the Dems, like to look like coalition builders, like to look tolerant and amenable to "bipartisan" policies, even when these CONSISTENTLY disappoint Americans and undermine the position of the working class.
See the health reform bill for a now-classic example of this process, although welfare reform under Clinton is also a good example.
And in fact, the right-wing shift of the Clinton era is a good example of the swing-set election pattern the United States has developed. (It's a deceptive pattern. The more Dems concede to Repubs, the more the center moves to the right and, ironically, the more the right screams about leftist bias.)
So we can predict some attempts - mostly in Congress - in the next two years to reach out to Republicans on a number of issues. What EXACTLY these issues will be remains to be seen. One struggle we are likely to see will be over the Bush-era tax cuts, due to expire in January, as the decision has been pushed back. November and December will set the stage for the next period of political maneuvering with implications likely to color even the 2012 elections. In all likelihood, Obama, in his stern and gentlemanly manner, will acknowledge Republican wins as a new period and welcome it as an opportunity to work together. Republicans will unanimously respond with vitriol and incite their base against everything elephant.
The Democrats never respond to these things by whipping up leftist sentiment among their own base. All the talk about working across the aisles with Republicans actually proves DE-motivating, and frustrates and disappoints progressives. Dems respond to this disappointment by making excuses for their party leaders. "He's trying," they say and will say again, "it's all the Republicans' fault."
Rather than being proactive, Democrats plan poorly and drop the initiative time and again, allowing the Republicans disproportionate control over the direction of the country. Rather than rallying to end the war or push for single payer, Dems attempt not to "alienate" the right. But they needn't worry about that; the right is perfectly capable of alienating itself! If the Democrats used their positions to encourage counter-protests, for example, every tea-party rally would be scattered like leaves in the wind. A truly populist agenda is entirely possible in the United States, but the Democrats are unable to script a positive story to frame it. Instead, they let the Republicans catch the media spotlight and spout controversy about socialism and big government. Even the illusion of populist change embodied in Obama's vague '08 promises drew people to the polls in record numbers. The myth that Americans are conservative in nature actually contributes to dispirited low-voter turnout, and in turn enables Republican victory, creating a self-perpetuating cycle in this period.
It's almost like the Democrats don't even know HOW to use the power of government to help out everyday Americans. It would not have been hard to create jobs through Depression-era-style legislation (even though even Roosevelt's policies in the 1930s fell short too). Americans would have been receptive to bolder attempts to create - not just "save" - jobs. Republicans could have screamed bloody murder but if the Dems were ever willing to villainize THEM for a change, as corporate stooges, as reactionary - and CONSISTENTLY - Americans might have listened. Considering, y'know, we had just elected the Democrats FOR A GODDAM REASON.... We were sick of the Republicans.
The Democrats do not distance themselves enough from Republicans and right-wing policies, and do not attempt to paint a more positive picture of the left. Everyone accepts the premise that this is a conservative country and no one seems willing to challenge that presumption or attempt to change it, not even the people who conceivably have the most power to do that.
"Rank and file" Dems - the voters, not the politicians - do no service making up excuses for their politicians, but they inevitably will because they see Republicans as the only alternative. This is not true. Another alternative - pressuring the Democrats - exists. A third alternative is even available - breaking with the Democrats entirely. There are left-wing alternatives in many cities and states - sometimes the Greens, sometimes independents or other parties. This doesn't seem like a winning strategy in the short-term - it seems to be handing victories to Republicans by dividing the left among other parties. But nothing lights a fire under a political party like the thought of actually losing voters. That was what really gave the Tea Party such influence over the Republicans. As long as Dems can COUNT on the left to stick with them - as long as voters feel there is nowhere else to go - they have no incentive to reconsider their bad policies. If they have to work hard to compromise with their leftist base, agitating for progressive policies, they come out the gate hardened against the Republicans.
Y'all were enthusiastic about Obama, yes, but you were enthusiastic to hand over control to a politician. You wanted to rally for a superhero to fix your problems. If you're a Democrat, you need to hold your politicians accountable now. You need to go to the rallies and the fundraisers and the debates and demand actual progressive change, wave signs and chant slogans, and you can't just plop down on your couch after the elections. If you want a better country, you actually have to work for it, and that means working beyond (and inside) your job and your family and transforming your social institutions into instruments of change. You need to threaten the Democrats by voting progressively and embarrassing them in front of the opposition. You have to learn 'em, and then tell them to shape up or you'll really give them something to cry about by forming a new progressive political party.
So yes, come November people are going to be disappointed, and many of them will react in the coming months by making excuses and blaming the Republicans. But unless we start coming up with alternatives to holding our nose and voting Democrat all the time, we're going to be acting like abused spouses an awful lot. It is ALWAYS the time to challenge the people in power, even the people that we see as the better of two evils. How good are YOU if you don't challenge evil, especially the one that tells you you depend on it?
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Much like the US government, I blame this problem on FARC. In and of itself, there just isn't a very interesting lesson going on here that hasn't been learned or discussed on the left a bajilion times. Basically the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia are a guerrilla freedom-fighting group that funds itself off kidnappings and taxing the drug trade. Not very honorable, or indeed revolutionary, tactics.
A Marxist group really ought to know better. A truly revolutionary group orients itself towards the industrial proletariat and the more forward-thinking intelligentsia, and picks up members of and influence in other oppressed groups only because all these groups share a common struggle against capitalism. And Marxism is the only philosophy, the only systematic approach that can link these struggles. Naturally Marxists shouldn't just waltz into other people's struggles and elbow in on the action, but should operate in advisory and solidarity capacities. At the same time, these organizations should not lose themselves in what amount to ultimately futile peasant uprisings. Such uprisings have their place in revolutionary situations but do not make sustainable socialist revolutions of their own; without the organized proletariat, industrial capital cannot develop sufficiently to raise the society fully beyond the reach of capitalism.
The kidnappings and drug involvement are also bad for P.R., of course.
Sure, you can attribute it to the difficulties of their situation. But you have to make some compromises according to your situation, and it's better to disband and infiltrate urban society than to hole up in jungle bunkers and draw military attention.
And don't think this means letting the US and Colombian governments off the hook. Oh no. Declaring FARC a "terrorist" organization isn't exactly conciliatory. There's all sorts of strategery in occupying this particular country, especially to maintain a counter-balance to Venezuela. So long as this US-imposed violence continues to tear apart the region, there is no space for a true and peaceful socialist revolution in Latin America.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Here's an idea, genius. Take a look out your window. See all those four- legged mammals digging through the garbage? Those are dogs moron. You can take in a stray. Or better yet, go down to the local Humane Society shelter ( a socialist organization according to zany Teabagger lore ) and adopt a canine. People do it all the time.
You know, I used to be worried about the Extreme Right in this country. But if it comes to civil war, like many of these clowns earnestly hope for, a single commie soldier could wipe out a division of Teabaggers in an hour. All the comrade would have to do is point to a cliff and tell them, " Sarah Palin says jump off that."
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
The country has one of the most diverse geographies in Latin America, which is saying a lot. This leads to a corresponding diversity of agriculture and industry and its potential wealth is impressive.
You may have noticed in the news that coffee prices are going up, especially as Colombian coffee growers "go green." American retailers have been slow to reflect that price - for a variety of reasons. (One of which is we'd hang the bastards! You don't fuck with our coffee. It's in the Constitution.) One of those reasons is that it's still a challenge to find Fair Trade coffee in many places in America (Minneapolis is one gratifying exception!). Coffee futures are also on the rise after bad weather affected crops throughout the region. The US also imports its coffee from a variety of places. All the resources I've checked imply that of those countries which export coffee to the US, Brazil is the most notable, followed by Vietnam, Colombia, and Indonesia in some order. (Although Colombia seems to be the #1 import for "green," or raw, beans.) Perhaps the production and trade of beans and blends is too complicated to reduce in a way that draws clear lines. That's globalization for you.
But no doubt about it, corporations are interested in Colombia. (Where don't they stick their nose?) In 2006, the United States and Colombia entered into a free trade agreement, the text of which seems pretty typical of such a pro-business arrangement - even though over the last 10 years Americans have become increasingly hostile to the practice. (On a for-profit basis, "free trade" hurts workers in every country.)
"So what is this, Drez, some kind of coffee conspiracy?"
Au contrair. A conspiracy implies some kind of secret shared by insiders. Injustices in the coffee production system are often a result of haphazard business practices and a lack of developed alternatives. But we all know the military intervenes in the affairs of sovereign nations to protect US business interests. So in our next installment I'll take a look at the American presence in Colombia, the role of FARC, and just what is going down in this particular corner of the world.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Over the last week or so, your attention may have been directed more than once towards the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, also known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The Feds claim that the door-busting carried out late last week was solely motivated by an attempt to find domestic groups that fund terrorists.
This raises a lot of important questions which I did not have the answers to, so I've begun to do a little research. I'm going to share not only the results of that, but also my research process, and perhaps you, O Loyal Readers, can help us all come to some consensual conclusions.
The first questions are raised by the FBI raids themselves. First of all, is there a legitimacy to the worry that domestic activists raise money for foreign terrorists organizations (or FTOs, as they say in bureaucratese)? What exactly are the motivations behind these small obscure groups? What relation do they have to an organization such as FARC? Should Americans feel that such actions taken by the FBI actually lead to increased security?
But of course in even asking those questions, we find our information lacking. Who or what is FARC? Why are they emphasized with equal importance to Hezbollah, one of the most infamous "freedom fighter" organizations in the world? (Many people, especially in the younger and post-9/11 crowd may not be familiar with FARC at all; others, such as myself, may have rarely paid them any attention.) Is it true that they fund themselves through drug trafficking and kidnapping ransoms?
These more fundamental questions also raise important political considerations - for those of us who are Marxists, or merely anti-war activists, and for those of us just being brought to political consciousness because damn, the world is fucked up lately, and the people we've let run things are doing a piss-poor job.
So I'm going to try to find the relevant news and information and share it with yall lovely people, and then apply a little of that good ole dialectical materialism, and we'll see what we come up with.
How's that for fair and balanced? (Eat it, Fox News.)
A list of preliminary links:
- Wikipedia Entry on Geography of Colombia
- Wikipedia Entry on Economy of Colombia
- Wikipedia Entry on FARC
For those of you who read my last post and are worried that the government's ability to crack down on its citizens might be on the wane, check out this heartening article. Don't worry, it's for our own protection. You can tell because it's been introduced by the Obama administration, and Obama would never do anything to hurt American citizens, right?
(Except in the case of Anwar Awlaki, of course, a citizen marked for assassination without any actual disclosure of sentencing, or a trial, or any of those "niceties" enshrined by that hippy-liberal "Constitution" nonsense. And don't tell me "oh it's cuz his a terrister," because it's only a matter of time before anti-war activists are considered terrorists, and then the union organizers will be considered terrorists, and so on ... it's called a "slippery slope," look it up.)
The trend towards police state is unnerving in America, almost precisely because it parallels the rise of the police state in other countries too - allies and not-so-allies alike. As this article points out, Saudi Arabia and the UAE banned Blackberries because there was an inability of the government to "monitor" use.
That article also points out that the Obama administration wants to watch every international monetary transaction that goes on between America and the rest of the world. Not just the major ones - not just the big crates of electronic exchanges between banks, for example, or between masters of finance - not, essentially, by those of whom could wreck the most havoc with mismanaging their fortunes (as evidenced by the recession). No, they want to watch every parent sending their exchange student cash, every immigrant wiring money back home to her family. They want to monitor every transaction, every last one, all the foreign aid donated to countries hit by "natural disasters," every eBay and Amazon purchase, every Malice Mizer t-shirt some American otaku orders from Japan.
These are the faces of the new federal suspects. All the new data-combing programs, all the new hires for the DHS, all the new training courses and technologies, the cameras installed in the last 10 years, are going towards atomizing and oppressing the people who inhabit this country.
People need to move from a mindset that trusts or fears the government into an activist-oriented mindset. They need to find the groups in their areas that oppose the abuses of civil liberties and get involved. If you can't find such a group, look on the internet and help start one. Talk to your friends and families. Organize protests. Those of us who are already activists need to be doggedly recruiting and organizing against the expansion of federal authority.
There is still time before the noose closes, and even if it does it's never too late to fight back.
ADDENDUM: And the Democratic Party continues to alienate its base.... I'm so over that stuffy corporate machine. Talk about out-of-touch with the country. They're going to scream and whine as power slips out of their hand, but the worst part is they're leading all of our progressives back into cynicism and inaction. The worst thing those of us on the Left could do right now is make excuses for the goddamn Democrats.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
This also gives us some very revealing insights as to how the Democrats intend to use the PATRIOT Act - to clamp down not on terrorist plots, but on ordinary grass-roots organizations trying to enact positive change. The Anti-War Committee isn't an al-Quada plot to blow shit up, it is a group of US citizens who want to end the bloody conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. But under Bush the rhetoric was to paint any opposition to imperialist strategy as terrorism, and Obama has no intention of calling for the Act's repeal. No Democrat does. It serves their police state means towards their global dominance ends.
This is the real face of federal law: state-sanctioned terrorism. Forcing activists to live in fear. Making Americans afraid to stand for change. Turning our hope into dread. Close your doors, duct-tape your windows, and stay in front of the friendly glow of your corporate-mindwashing television.
Hundreds of Minneapolis activists turned out in solidarity last night against these raids. Because we don't fuck around. We know that an injustice to any group on the left is portent of injustice to us all. And without left opposition to the growing power of the right - led by FOX news, the Tea Party, and the Joint Task Force among other government agencies - then everyday Americans will live in ignorance and helpless fear.
We need a grass-roots political party that will repeal the PATRIOT Act and end the raids on peaceful activists.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Of course September 23rd was the day a number of Obamacare provisions went into effect. And in the fucked- up logic that right wing assholes are famous for, the most controversial was the law that prevents bloodsucking insurance companies from turning down children with pre- existing conditions. That is such a decent thing to stand for that I figured even the most black hearted GOP corporate lickspittle could get behind it. Guess I was wrong.
The controversy began almost immediately when several insurance companies threw their collective hands up in the air and basically said, " Fuck it! We just won't insure any children!" The blame was then placed squarely on President Obama's shoulders, the human lice that own these insurance companies claiming that not being allowed to turn away a kid dying of leukemia was going to bankrupt them.
Isn't this picture as fucked up as a football bat? If the very limited health care reforms hadn't have gone through the dying child would not receive insurance coverage. But now that it has gone through, the child receives no insurance coverage. Best health care system in the world, right? Sheeeeeeit...
But that's what teabaggin' favorite Mike Huckabee still claims. His argument for turning down a kid dying from a preventable condition is a blue ribbon winner in the Bullshit Argument category. You know, where you compare two unrelated scenarios and pretend that it makes sense to apply the same solution:
" It sounds so good and it's such a warm message to say we're not gonna deny anyone from a pre- existing condition. Look, I think that sounds terrific, but I want to ask you something from a common sense perspective. Suppose we applied that principle [ to ] our property insurance. And you call your insurance agent and say, ' I'd like to buy some insurance for my house.' He'd say ' Tell me about your house.' ' Well sir, it burned down yesterday, but I'd like to insure it today.' And he'll say ' I'm sorry, but we can't insure it after it's all ready burned.' Well, no pre- existing conditions."
This nugget of " common sense" ( teabaggerese for " this is the excuse I have for being a complete and inhuman asshole " ) was spewed forth at the hugely ironically named Values Voter Conference. O.K., listen you ignorant teabaggin' assholes out there in Dumbfuckistan: if your idea of " values" is fighting like hell to force women to endure unwanted pregnancies and then do everything in your power to deny the kid basic medical treatment once it is born, you got a pretty fucked up moral compass. You need to pull your heads out of your asses and realize that someday your kid could need life saving surgery, but you aren't going to be able to afford it because of a pre- existing condition. If you vote for a corporate tool like Huckabee, Palin, or O' Donnel, you are basically voting to kill children. It is as basic as that.
That's a hell of a price to pay just for the chance to flip off the Liberal Elite.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
And the article goes on to make plenty of sense. Americans still have no job prospects, they're exhausted, Obama has done nothing. Jobs may not come back until 2013 (plenty of time for a new Republican administration, or at least legislature, to claim victory for cut-throat economic policies that will rob working people of decent living standards). And those gains in employment - will they be largely service-sector jobs? Inquiring minds would like to know.
There might be solutions under capitalism, but they're not very ambitious ones. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an international non-government organization (NGO) says the government could help by providing "additional job training and education programs to better match workers' skills to business needs."
But I find that questionable. What, exactly, are the "business needs" of today? The bottom line is - the bottom line. Businesses aren't hiring much because they can't profit off of it. Productivity soared on the heels of the recession as the bosses squeezed what workers remained for all they were worth (literally!). Now productivity has, according to one WSJ blog, hit its cap, so to speak. This leaves only hiring as a way to increase output.
But there's no reason to increase output if the revenue isn't there. And where is the money going to come from? It isn't infinite. It has to come from sales. The American middle class is not just broke - it's in debt up to its eyeballs and has only seen the tiniest relief. Mergers seem to be the tactic of the moment, with airlines and other industries looking to gobble down "post"-recession (stagnation?) deals. But any dolt who paid attention in high school economics knows that this leads to that most awful of capitalism's by-products, the (gulp) monopoly. (And Mr. Mathias makes the amazingly astute point at the end of his article, one we Marxists have been saying for forever - monopolies are the perfect opportunity to nationalize the industries that provide for people's needs.)
Republicans, Tea Baggers, Libertarians, and other denizens of free-market-fantasy-land (including many liberals and moderates) will probably insist that the ony way to deal with today's resultant monopolies is to bust them up the ole fashioned way (thank you President Taft). This is actually an idealist back-peddle, to think you can drive corporations backwards through time and make them behave like a small business again.
The only way to build jobs, to really build jobs and fix the economy, would be to take the monopolies and cartels (healthcare and finance and energy especially) and nationalize them. Then it wouldn't be up to the fickle whims of the capitalists to provide people jobs; federal aid would be direct and efficient. Not as a temporary stop-gap until the free market feels like playing ball again, but as a threat to corporate sovereignty altogether. Only then will we see actual nation-wide programs to create a green economy, float aid to the unemployed, and provide healthcare (and healthcare training!) to every American.
But it's clear the Democrats won't do that, so what are our other options at this point?
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Now, without fail, every September 11 I have to put up with idiots tooling around in pick- up trucks with American flags whose size is in direct opposite proportion to the driver's I.Q. I have to watch politicians make insipid speeches about " hallowed ground" and " heroes". Some of these pricks are the very one that denied healthcare coverage to 9- 11 first responders. Save your fucking false gratitude, assholes.
9-11 depresses the shit out of me. I meditate on the tremendous waste and loss of life that came out of this tragedy. Namely the two utterly useless wars that George Bush and Dick Cheney started and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis who were killed to expatiate the bloodlust a large portion of the American public screamed for after the Twin Towers fell. Tragically, the poor people who died were quite similar to the 9-11 victims in one respect- they were killed for sins they themselves did not commit.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
You gotta wonder if the bastards at places like Goldman Sachs (or the aptly named Magnetar Capital) ever read the local newspaper. Or watch TV. Or have kids in public schools. Do they feel remorse for the domino effect their ideas and actions had on the rest of society? Working people have lost their homes, their jobs - all of the security that prosperous America once bestowed its middle class. Never again, reports the NYT, will real estate multiply the wealth invested in it. (Perhaps because the capitalist magic known as "bubbles" relies on speculation and market tricks.)
It may very well be that the era in which ordinary Americans participated in economic mobility is over.
So how do they sleep at night? I wonder if it isn't that they occupy a different social class than we do, and that the accompanying psychology inside that class creates a sort of co-occupant America, a country not of use and practicality but of trade-for-profit's-sake. Wherein everything has a price tag, nothing an end use.... Wherein we, the end users, the consumers and the workers, are, effectively, invisible.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Maybe it strikes close to home because I'm from California. I went to a high school where the Latino students outnumbered the whites at least 2:1. In my lifetime I saw the population of California turn to 51% "minority." (And what a stink it caused!)
It also hits close to home for me today, where "home" means the Twin Cities. Recently the tiny Minnesotan city of Lino Lakes passed a controversial resolution in its city council, to the effect of not spending city money on translating city documents into languages other than English.
Lino Lakes, however, is some dinky-ass quasi-suburb on the outskirts of the metro area. In 2000, it was at least 95% English-speaking. Even if things have changed, there seems to be no need for such a measure. There are no expenses to printing said documents, probably because the majority of Lino Lakes is as whitebread as they come.
It's a conservative test. If they can pass it somewhere, they have an example to point to when it comes time to expand their English-only movement. The stakes have been raised.
It's part of a larger battle, to oppress, exploit, tyrannize, and generally destroy the hated brown-skins. I've seen it all before. "Why do we have billboards in Spanish?" "Why can't they learn to speak English?" "They take all our jobs!" "They're all having babies on welfare!"
I'm sure most people are aware of the Arizona law SB1070 that recently went into effect (with some federal injunctions - the proverbial 3" of knife pulled out). What most people may not be aware of is that there is an arm to this law that essentially attacks day laborers, making it a crime to hire or be hired from a vehicle that is in any way impeding traffic. So, right there, you have an economic front.
It's also illegal to "conceal, harbor, or shield" an illegal immigrant, which strikes me as awfully familiar, but maybe that's only because I had a "liberal" education.
Oh, that reminds me - there are attacks, again in Arizona, on "ethnic studies" in school.
Really the point the right-wing populists are making is that it is not ok to be in America and describe yourself as anything but an American. "We only want you if you jump through our hoops, submit to our re-education, and live according to our customs."
What is it Malcom X said? “History is a people's memory, and without a memory, man is demoted to the lower animals.”
It's clear how conservatives think of Latinos. There is a refusal to treat them like equals, to allow them their own history and culture. A refusal even to allow them to scrape by through working on the fringe of society - ironic, considering this is a country wherein we are "supposed" to "pull ourselves up by our bootstraps." Supposedly our white grandfathers did everything necessary to help our families pull through, but the old Mexican man selling oranges at the side of the road doesn't count for that, he's "stealing" a job, he's ahistorical, he's inhuman, even. And shit on the kids who depend on this man for support.
Arizona is even looking to ban such children from citizenship. That hard-line right-wing that so insists on the sacred immutability of the United States Constitution is willing to look the other way so long as they can attack the enemy they so detest.
It's pathetic. I still remember the mother of an ex-girlfriend of mine, back in California, a woman so loving and willing to take me into her own home, working overnights at the Swanson packaging plant. Her husband, gruff but no less open-hearted, crippled with arthritis after a lifetime of labor. They crossed illegally, contributed their share, raised three brilliant children, all of whom are college graduated (one at least from an ivy league) or at least college-bound. These are parents who are devoted to family and to God - ostensibly the same God that the right-wing supposedly worships.
But if it were up to this right-wing - and I'm not even talking about the extreme right, now, you understand - this family would have been split up, or deported, years ago. The world would indeed be a darker place if not for this family of immigrants.
It would seem, indeed, that the border does cross us.
Immigration reform isn't enough. We need an immigration revolution - we need a solution that shows just how obsolete the idea of national borders has become. Continues to become. This is going to be a turbulent becoming, because it will at the same time destroy what we see as the stability of our status quo. The immigration debate is a part of that, a part that proves how quick we are to blame people whose circumstances are forced on them. Forced by our lawmakers, who have pushed a one-sided agenda of globalization and free-market slavery. "Illegal" immigrants are victims of the same bureaucracy that entangles us all, strangles our livelihoods, keeps us from good jobs, and destroys our potential. A little equalization - scholarships for the children of immigrants, for example - can go a long way, but for every single gain the right-wing hollers and howls and tries to drag in average-joe workers.
It works. Why? Because we want some solution to the economic crisis (created, may I remind you, by our politicians and businessmen). We want jobs, we want less crime, we want a stable and dependable society.
Racism, however, is not the solution we seek.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Look, I'm no fan of either of the junoir Abrahamic faiths, but their followers have the Constitutional right to worship whatever faith they want to. A lot of conservative Christians don't like that, despite their lip service to the Constitution. Christianity and Islam are like estranged brothers, who hate each other because they are so much alike. The only reason Christians don't go around burning heretics, infidels, and women these days is that the secular power of the bourgeois state put a stop to that some two hundred fifty or so years ago. Back in the day, even your most ignorant peasant knew one thing- that the Church was an oppressive racket and needed to be beaten into submission. Christianity isn't innately more humane than Islam, only under much more control through humane secular law. But radical Christian fundamentalists seek to break their faith free of its restraints and subject the rest of us to their Dominionist vision for America. Call it the Christian version of Sharia Law ( actually both are very similar, coming from the same source after all). And believe me, the chance of that happening is far greater than some pipe dream about establishing Sharia Law in the States.
A few decades ago, it looked as if the sects of Islam was headed for the same fate as the Christian churches. After independence from their various colonial masters after the Second World War most of the predominately Muslim nations, with a few exceptions, adopted Westernized, secularized, Nationalist governments. Islam was the official religion in all of them, but did not dominate the state. True these states were far from perfect, mainly following the one- party state model, but a secular dictatorship was infinitely more preferable for women and religious minorities than the Islamic Republics of today. Unfortunately for the people of the Middle- East, the West decided such Nationalist governments, with their demands to control the resources of their own countries, had to go. After sixty years of having The United States, France, and Britain constantly fucking with them( via the C.I.A. or their favorite sword in the Middle- East, Israel)the Middle- East is made- up of theocracies or states that have adopted free- market "reforms" that have made them vulnerable to radical Islam as the number of desperately poor people increases.
Ironically the states that have dealt the most successfully with the challenge of Muslim fundamentalism have been the old Nationalist states like Algeria or Syria, with their creaky old welfare systems and conscript militaries.
So get off of your high horse, Christian fundies. For there is nothing as similar as a Muslim jihadist as a Christian Crusader. They are both bad news for the rest of us trying to get on with our lives without being constantly fucked with by The Ignorant Assholes Of The Book.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Let me just make the most obvious objection to this glaring propaganda piece: the young woman in question, Aisha, was mutilated by her husband ( may he rot in hell) in 2009. So unless the entire NATO occupation force went to Disneyland on the day of her "trial", Aisha was cut to pieces while " we" were in the fucking country! Has this kind of atrocity stopped since we invaded Afghanistan? Seems to me the only thing NATO forces have done has added bombs and bullets to the equation.
Kharzai, the U.S.A.'s part- time puppet, presides over an Islamomafia Republic, complete with sharia interpreted law in the courts and dope deals under the table. His government is about as much concerned about democracy as the Gambino Family was. Afghan men are completely free to beat, rape, or murder the women in their homes whether they are in a zone controlled by the government or the insurgents.
Oh, yeah. The insurgents. That's the proper term. For the Taliban is but one group out of many. I wonder how many of these guys were running around the Afghan hills thirty years ago, to bring down a regime that actually treated women as equals before the law. But that regime was controlled by the evil commies of the U.S.S.R. so the U.S. government couldn't throw AKs and other weapons into the hands of these bastards fast enough. Wonder how many of these weapons are being fired at our own troops these days?
Man,the bullshit of U.S. foreign policy piles up so fast, you need wings to stay above it.
So what can we do to keep other Afghan women from suffering Aisha's fate? The sad and honest answer is... not much. The seriously deluded amongst the American government and public believe that if we just add a little more to the bomb tonnage dropped on Afghan and Pakistani villages, then we can put on our white good- guy hats and ride to the rescue of these beautiful damsels in distress. In reality the damsel is more likely to be the victim of a bomb or Hellfire missile launched from a NATO drone than attacked by the Taliban. Better bring a shovel, good guys. The lady is probably buried under a ton of rubble.
That is what we can do- stop deluding ourselves that the occupation is doing Afghanistan any kind of good. We can demand that the U.S. and NATO get out of there and let the Afghan people decide their own destiny. Afghanistan was once a stable and peaceful republic that promoted gender equality before the eyes of the law. They might be able to get that back. But first foreign interference has to come to an end.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
See, nothing is as dramatic in film as a film about war. Decisions made by the characters effect the ultimate stakes of human existence- life and death. Stupidity, cleverness, heroism, cowardice, love, hate, cruelty, and mercy are basic human qualities that are portrayed on an epic scale against the backdrop of armed conflict. We can get a vicarious thrill watching Audie Murphy gunning down Nazi hordes with his Tommy Gun without the inconvenience of being in France in 1944. We can be horrified at the carnage of the landings at Omaha Beach without actually having nasty pieces of metal fired at you by someone who is desperate to kill you. Or we can marvel at the hideousness of fighting in the jungles of Vietnam without experiencing it firsthand.
What I am driving at is that there isn't really such a thing as a " war movie" ( or its cousin, the " anti- war " movie, which is a " war movie" with more gore and weeping). What is known as the war movie is really an action- adventure flick- granted usually a little more meditative on the human cost of armed conflict, but still a species of that genre. As Walt Whitman said of the American Civil War, " The real war won't get into the books." Or, as a German veteran of the Eastern Front of the Second World War suggested, his memoir should be read outdoors on cold nights in the rain or snow, in a hole you have dug, for days at a time. If you think you are learning something about the experience of war by watching a movie, you are badly mistaken.
But surviving the elements and struggling against the boredom of war are not what make exciting war movies. So Hollywood conveniently mentions these things in passing and gets to the good stuff- the fighting. For which I am extremely grateful.
Yet there is a war that is so badly represented in the film industry that it makes me want to tear my hair out. The First World War, aka The Great War, should be a source of action- adventure gold. Fighting in the trenches, fighting in the air, epic sea battles, campaigns in Palestine and Africa, heroic charges, stupid generals... it should be a no- brainer for movie producers.
Yet, time and again, movies about The Great War are produced as love stories. Yeah, that's right, love stories. For some reason what was probably one of the most unromantic wars in human history is constantly pitched as a great time to get laid. So there is too much smoochin' and not enough shootin'. This is especially true of the war in the air. Every single First World War aviation movie devotes an inordinate amount of time to dashing young fliers sweeping buxom young women off of their feet for a bit of horizontal refreshment ( the BBC comedy series Blackadder Goes Forth does an excellent job spoofing this stereo type). There is precious little time devoted to blasting an enemy fighter to shreds with a pair of blazing Vickers or Maxim machine guns. And even scenes like that are generally badly done (e.g. Flyboys, The Red Baron).Even infantrymen get their fair share of booty. Remember Brad Pitt stalking the battlefields of 1915 Ypres in the horrible Legends Of The Fall? The director must have invented two dozen reasons for Pit to remove his cap so he could strike poignant poses with his hair blowing in the wind. And of course we end up with about fifteen minutes of trench fighting and two hours of Pitt pouncing on everything wearing a skirt. And still striking those annoying poignant poses.
I am aware of the vast historical ignorance of the American audience. But why worry about it? Americans don't give a damn about historical content. Just show a bunch of Doughboys tearing the Hun a third cornchute with rifle and bayonet. Oh wait, they did!
In a rare burst of sanity and inspiration, in 2004 A&E network produced an awesome but little known movie called The Lost Battalion, a remake of the 1919 film of the same name. It tells the story of some 550 men of the U.S. 77th Infantry Division who became surrounded by the Germans in the Argonne Forest in October 1918.Despite being heavily outnumbered they held on to their positions for three days until relieved by the rest of the 77th. This has everything a good war movie needs- explosions, bad leaders who we can hate, good leaders we cheer for, ethnic humor, reflections on the insanity of war, bayonet charges, hand- to- hand fighting, and a chivalrous foe ( this is 1918 remember- the Nazis fought the next war). And not a single romantic moment! An absolutely classic American war film.
Other good films about the Great War:
All Quiet On The Western Front ( 1931): The soundtrack is scratchy and the special effects are dated but still stands out as one of the best war films of all time.
Paths Of Glory ( 1957): Stanley Kubrick's meditation on the bullshit of military justice devotes the first part of the film to some interesting trench fighting scenes. The rest involves a trial. Remove any throwable objects from reach- you will get very angry.
Lawrence Of Arabia ( 1962): A great film with awesome actors, LOA also has great battle scenes from a " a sideshow of a sideshow" of the war.
All Quiet On The Western Front ( 1979): The inevitable re- make. But surprisingly well- done. The sets are first- rate, the acting excellent, and the main character Paul Baumer narrates from the book during pauses in the action- nice touch. Surprisingly bloody for a made- for- TV- flick from the 1970s.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Neotrotsky is active in the arts and currently works for a theater company. Despite having a busy schedule, he took some time out to answer a few questions I had about the reaction to 1070's first few days as a law.
Comrade X: Where did the demonstrations occur?
Neotrotsky: Most demonstrations occurred at the Main County Jail on 4th and Jefferson in downtown Phoenix and at the Capital Mall. Other rallies have been held in the predominately Mexican town of Guadalupe, an unincorporated village surrounded by the city of Tempe.
Comrade X: Where you personally involved in or a witness to any of the demonstrations?
Neotrotsky: I was not involved in many of the protests due to my involvement with a theater production, but since the director of the theater I am working at is a Mexican- American, and less than half a mile away from the core city protests, we have been very much watching since the local Sheriff has been known to push crackdowns on mass groups of like- minded individuals. In fact the City of Phoenix has actively stopped lending police and logistical support to the First Fridays arts initiative, which seeks to hold street performances every first Friday of the month in order to encourage the arts scene in the downtown region. Many feel the timing was too convenient since there has been an increase of anti- 1070 sentiment in the community while the official city line is because of the summer heat- which has been fairly mild in comparison to previous years.
Comrade X: What is the general mood like in Arizona right now?
Neotrotsky: The mood is extremely tense, especially after the arrest of civil rights leader Salvadore Reza of the activist group Puente ( Mr. Reza was released yesterday- X), who was detained while standing across the street from a protest at the central jail a few days ago, and not even on state property.
The shooting of two police officers on the West Side due to an unrelated drug sting gone bad also has added fuel to the fire for both sides. Also, rumors posted on many activist Facebook feeds against 1070 , and for it, have stated that there is supposedly a $1,000,000 bounty on Sheriff Joe Arpaio's head, but there are many rebuking that, saying it was probably started as propaganda by the Sheriff's department to increase his tough guy image. What has been true are the bounties placed on Democratic Governor candidate Terry Goddard for his actions in bringing 1, 500 troops and millions of federal dollars to the border to investigate drug trafficking along the border, and his newly penned cooperative agreement with Western Union to start tracking payment transfers of large amounts of money across the border to try to find the money trail to drug traffickers using immigrants as drug mules or forced labor.
Comrade X: You recently related an incident about how a gun shop owner refuses to sell to customers who cannot prove they are a conservative. Could you expand on that?
Neotrotsky: My experience with the one gun shop ( owner) in Mesa that made ( a) comment about a T- shirt I was wearing- a plain red shirt with an image of Che screen printed on it... and kept asking me what I "planned " to do with the ammo I was buying. I said, " Er... shoot it?", thinking it was a rather odd question. Then he asked me for ID, when I then mentioned that there was no law requiring ID to sell ammo, but if he wished to verify my age , I had no problem. He then said, " Oh, don't need that. We need to make sure the wrong kind of people aren't getting this. You have a voter ID card?" I asked, " Why?" and he mentioned that it would prove if I were the " right" kind of person, because ( as he nodded towards my shirt) some people "should not have this - you should know". With Rush Limbaugh's talk show blasting on the stereo and shooting targets of Barack Obama on the wall, it didn't take me long to figure out what he meant. I walked out and he simply said, "Thank you. Now don't come back."
Comrade X: What a dick!
Friday, July 30, 2010
It's like every month for years now. I'm starting to wonder if they even know they're saying it anymore, or if it just rolls off their tongues while their blank lifeless eyes gaze unblinking into the teleprompter abyss. Hello? Anyone out there? Hello?
Isn't someone going to say something?
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Even so, old- style nationalism made a certain amount of sense. The class antagonisms were much more sharply defined than they are today, but in times of international conflict the Ruling Class actually made some sacrifices. Most of the officer corps of the warring powers of The Great War were made up of young men of the upper classes and machine guns did not differentiate between a metal fitter from Birmingham and the son of an Earl. This shared sacrifice increased the feeling of national solidarity, what the Germans called volksgemeinschaft (lit. people's community), a submergence of class interests for the good of one's country. Of course, while it was impressive that the Kaiser visited workers in their factories to " ask" them to increase production, the truth was that the middle and working classes were doing most of the sacrificing when it came to money and resources. But the impression, which grew rosier as the First World War faded into memory, was that everyone pitched in and worked together for the cause.
The last gasp for the old nationalism, at least in the West and Japan, was the Second World War. Despite the resurgence of British pluck during the Blitz and the dogged resistance of the German and Japanese populations to Allied bombing, the war was just too costly for that level of enthusiasm to be maintained, particularly for the war's losers.
Even the Americans, the people least touched by the Second Great Catastrophe, were sick to death of war. The Ruling Class was rapidly seeing that there was no need for their sons to set an example on the modern battlefield and indeed, the few rewards military service had to offer them, such as glory and fame for the family name, had been submerged in the mud of Passchendaele and incinerated by the atomic blast at Hiroshima. There was no room for the heroic individual in the age of industrial war.
Instead, a new nationalism had to be invented, a new way to bring glory and honor to warfare that increasingly took on the character of mechanized slaughter.
The age of conscription gave the American elites their answer. The mass armies gave rise to a new heroic ethos, one that embraced the faceless masses and wove it into a Homeric figure for military personnel and civilian alike: The Common Soldier. In the American Civil War he was Billy Yank and Johnny Reb. World War One gave us Americans the Doughboy. GI Joe came along in the Second World War. Finally the Vietnam War developed the latest incarnation of the American Fighting Man- The Grunt.
Of course war and nationalism are always closely linked, as the later is the psychological tool to get large numbers of people to fight the former. In the new nationalism, the ethos of the Grunt ingeniously relies on the negative aspects of armed conflict to romanticize its legend. A large part of the military's image about itself evolved in the Vietnam War. The Grunt is victimized by the horrors of war- killing, being maimed, losing comrades, and enduring mortal terror- but he endures all out of a sense of duty to the ungrateful civilians back home who ignore or actively oppose the conflict he is fighting in. The Grunt is wiser than those soft people back home, knows better than the politicians in Washington DC how to fight his enemy, and it is his burden to endure criticism of the mission from effete liberal protesters even as he protects them from a cruel and insidious foe.
It is a powerful image, and one that a lot of Americans wish to identify with. Thus the flurry of " Support Our Troops" magnetic car stickers. Of course the troops doing the fighting and dying don't get any real support from a shitty little sticker but it makes small- time jingoists throughout the nation feel as if they are involved, albeit in an absolute minimalist and chickenshit way.
In fact, in the new nationalism being a soldier is the only honorable profession a prole can have. Think about it. Right- wing propaganda has smeared the once honorable profession of teaching as a job that only lazy and talentless losers, protected by an all- powerful union, take on ( that you would take on such a low- paying job already makes you suspect to money grubbing right- wing assholes who measure everything's worth through the prism of greed). Autoworkers? Whiny,overpaid, fat bastards who take a coffee break every five minutes and get undeserved benefits. In fact it would be hard to find any proletarian profession that is not despised or just plain ignored by the right- wing noise machine. The new nationalism has no place for those who are not billionaires or Grunts. And the Grunt finds out very quickly that despite the constant flag- waving and fine words uttered by politicians, celebrities, and jingoistic shills, once he/ she is no longer a useful commodity to The Man ( i.e. wounded or otherwise unfit for duty) he/ she is thrown away. After all, the Bosses can't use a broken tool.
In fact, the remarkable thing about the new nationalism is how overwhelming its negativity is. Old school nationalists dreamed of improving the lives of the people in their empires, through progress and science ( it was mostly bullshit of course- squeezing profit out of the colonies was the main goal). The new nationalism doesn't even try to make that pretense. Even its favorite drum to beat, American Exceptionalism, is shot through with negativity. Other people hate us because of our freedoms, our wealth, or because they are jealous that Americans are so awesome. All those fuckers in those snooty European countries should be grateful because America saved their asses in World War 2 ( actually the Germans had committed most their resources to fighting the Red Army). All those Third World folks should love us because we give them so much foreign aid. Instead they bite the hand that feeds them ( most of the aid given to foreign governments by the U.S. is military in nature- when it comes to actually feeding people, or building infrastructure America kind of stingy). We need to punish them.
Ah yes, now we come to the heart of this beast- being a patriot these days is all about getting back at someone. The Muslims. The Immigrants. African- Americans. Homosexuals. The Left. Single mothers. Unions. Europe. The Gub'mint. The list of enemies is endless. Like any good foe they are weak enough to pick on but somehow strong enough to never really be defeated. And The Enemy knows this. Like Goldstein in George Orwell's novel 1984 the Other dreamed up by Fox News and other right- wing propaganda outlets leaves the red- blooded, flag- eatin' patriot in a seething fume, unable to focus on what to do about his own shitty life. " If only those ( insert evil people who are destroying the American Way Of Life here) would go away, everything would be better!" he rages.
The new nationalism is all about destruction. Destruction of governments, economies, people. The irony is that the creators of this philosophy, this New American Century, have more in common with their foreign allies among the Global Capitalist elite than with their followers back in the States. Quite brilliantly The Enemy has convinced a large section of the American working class that their interests coincide with the elite's. Thus do these deluded souls willingly support those who partake in the dismantling of the thing they claim to love the most- their own country.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Instead of looking for a solution that will benefit workers and put the country back on the economic track the current administration scolds us for not being realistic. " Barack Obama is not Santa Claus" the Democratic Leadership Council ( DLC) admonishes us, wagging their finger in our faces ( what arrogance- personally I would like to break that finger off and shove it up the DLC's collective cornhole). No, I never expected Barack Obama to magically grant us every wish on the progressive list. I expected him to do pretty much what a democratic president does these days- make great speeches about getting shit done and then getting very little shit done. The fucking national house is burning down, with the Republicans throwing more gas on the fire and the Democrats trying to put it out with their dicks.
Already, four months away from the mid- term election, the democrats are playing the only card they have left in their deck. The " Vote For Our Sucky Party Or Those Guys Who Suck Even More Will Get In" card. How about I vote for someone who doesn't suck? I'm tired of the used car salesman approach the democrats take towards their working class base.
Face the facts, you true believers who think that every window- dressing piece of legislation that the O- Team comes up with, whether it was the vastly overrated health care bill or toothless financial reform, is a " start". Look behind the bullshit curtain and you will see the same old manipulation of power to get the right people in the right places to make sure The Man is still gettin' his- at your expense, of course.
P.S. Apologies for the paucity of posts. Both me and Dres have a shitload of, ummm, shit on our plates in July and August. We will try to get two posts out a week for now.