Saturday, June 26, 2010

Conservatives Say The Dumbest Things

I had a chat with a conservative friend ( come on- like you don't have at least one right- wing troglodyte as a friend or relative) during a backyard BBQ session about the Gulf Oil Spill. I mentioned that Nigeria has had unchecked oil spills for decades now and the Niger Delta is an ecological disaster. That must have triggered the dittohead Pavlovian Response, because suddenly I was bombarded with right- wing talking points and what passes as wisdom in conservative circles. Hold your nose:
1) " The Gulf Oil Spill is no big deal. It's natural and it will be cleaned- up naturally in about a hundred years."
2) " Lots of oil tankers were sunk in World War Two and the coast survived."
3) " Nigeria? Who cares? God has forgotten Africa."
The weird thing is this is a guy who would give you the shirt off of his back if you needed it. He voluntarily went to help sand bag a levy when a river threatened to flood a town. Perhaps being conservative means not being able to emphasize with people you are not immediately in contact with.
I don't get it.
Did any of your right- wing family members or aquaintences say something dumb lately? Share with the rest of us!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

NATO In Afghanistan: Its All Over Except For The Dying

" You know, when the puppet starts talking back to the puppeteer, the puppeteer's in bad shape." - Malcom X
Face it, American capitalists- your bid to wring any sort of profit from Afghanistan is over. Just a few days after you guys announced to the rest of us that Afghanistan is a mineral treasure house ( which was discovered by the United States Geological Survey in 2007- why the big hoopla now?) your handpicked puppet Hamid Karzai cut his strings and gave you the finger. The Japanese looters will get first crack at Afghanistan's wealth.
Karzai waxed eloquent on how Afghanistan will become the " Saudi Arabia of lithium" but given the fact that he is little more than an Central Asian mob boss I doubt that the average Afghan citizen will be cashing in on this bonanza. Nigeria and Brazil are examples of how corrupt elites " share" the wealth of their respective nation's natural resources- by dumping toxic waste on their people and brutally suppressing the smallest act of dissent.
In the meantime, Karzai has finally climbed down from his fence and decided that the Taliban are going to win this fight. After blustering about Pakistani interference in Afghan affairs through the ISI's support of the Taliban last year, he is now embracing them. He is openly talking of negotiating with the Taliban.
As Drez pointed out , there is a silver lining in Afghanistan's dark cloud of torment. The wealth of lithium and the other minerals discovered under her soil has the potential to transform a country broken by war to one that has an industrial base again. Even if that wealth is controlled by a tiny group of elites, it will slowly have a positive effect on the Afghan economy.
But to make even that tiny progressive step, the Afghan people need peace. A stable regime, even a corrupt Islamic republic ( which is basically what they have now courtesy of the American ruling class), is preferable to the bloody chaos occurring at the present.
Time for our American plutocrats to give up on this bloody imperial cluster fuck. Your chance to outdo the British Empire has come and gone. The people of Afghanistan want us out, the Pakistanis want us out, hell, most Americans want us out. Why the fuck are we spending so much blood and treasure over there still? To protect Japanese mining interests? To prop up Karzai's Islamic Opiate State? So the American Empire can save face?
None of these are good reasons to drop one more bomb, shoot one more bullet, or shed one more drop of blood. This useless war needs to end NOW.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Hills are Alive with the Sounds of ... Profit

Personally, I don't like to reflect much on political personalities and the changes in bureaucratic cogs. Rearranging the deck chairs (or changing the mast head) may have an impact on how people percieve what's occuring, but it doesn't change the underlying reality of capitalism, consumerism, and the fundamental character of the state. My comrade Nullstellensatz wrote recently in his own blog, "Liberals believe that fundamental change can be secured by replacing a few politicians." I would say that description applies to conservatives as well, only on the opposite side of the spectrum. Even the tea baggers are taking a conservative, rather than a radical-right, stance when they call for ousting incumbent officials.

Policies and personalities shape each other, but for all intents and purposes (or at least my own at this stage), I am not interested.

I am interested, however, in the study released last week concerning "mineral riches" lying under Afghanistan.

States the NYT: "The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe. "

This is, in my humble opinion, the best political news of the year so far. My only criticism is the timing of this report. I imagine these particular causes for enthusiasm and concern are not obvious, so let's look at it in more detail.

Why Afghanistan Needs Capitalism

This central Asian, civil-war-torn nation is fucked. Caught between insurgents and imperialists, the every-day people can't get by, industry can't grow, government can't provide services, and the overall quality of life remains as landlocked as the geography. Agriculture remains the central feature of the economy - and opium remains the central feature of agriculture. No matter how much opium occupying forces light on fire, the economic incentive to grow drugs remains. Proving, yet again, that the characteristics of an economy play a decisive role in determining the characteristics of a society.

The presence of valuable minerals is a game-changer. But only, of course, for the long-term prospects. Local industry is hideously under-developed. Even hiring a bunch of people to go dig up some gold is pragmatically implausible. Who has the money to spare for shovels or gold pans, not to mention labor? And you probably aren't going to mine any friggin minerals at all without the use of hydraulics. And then you have to refine the mined product. It's the same way for each mineral, and it requires some serious capital investment. Not to mention supply lines for exports or distribution lines for commercial retail. And the presence of commercial retail in the first goddamn place.

So we can see the opportunities for domestic investment and development of a mining industry in Afghanistan is pretty goddamn microscopic.

That means foreign investment, foreign capital, which is a form of imperialism (which is an advanced stage of capitalism, not to be confused with colonialism, a cruder stage of capitalism). And in this case, foreign business is a little reluctant to put down roots. And will probably be especially hesitant to invest in such a labor-intensive industry. No matter how much investors may foam with lust for the Islamic Republic's rich lithium veins, the present situation just isn't safe enough to support their desires.

It is inevitable that foreign capitalism will attempt to make Afghanistan "safe." (Incidentally, "safe for democracy" is really just a code for "safe for our investments," they don't give a rat's ass if they need a dictator to do it. A sham democracy just looks nice. Foreign policy/public relations brownie points!) And there will be those investors who want to challenge the situation, "get the jump" ... and inevitably get creamed. (The poor sods they get to work for them are the "contractors" you hear about, getting kidnapped or beheaded. Workers get screwed every which way.) But it will take a while. It will take paying off the insurgents like they did in Iraq, and the blood of many more Afghans. Men, women, children. More US and coalition soldiers, too. Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, flag-draped caskets you won't see on the news. But we'll squeeze that precious dust from the rocks, by God.

Karzai, inevitably, will also have to go. More warlords and ter'rists too. Allies will become enemies and enemies allies. Eventually, either American imperialism will breed Afghani puppet-capitalists, or the United States will be forced to pull out in a humiliating defeat, and a breed of capitalists more acceptable to the Afghani ruling class (and more marketable to the Afghan people) will assume the role. The top three candidates for the position, in order of least likely to most likely, are Russia, China, and Iran. (I won't get into why right now; perhaps you can muse it over yourself and let me know what you think.)

"But Drez," you poor beleaguered souls may be saying, "I thought you stand opposed to all capitalism, foreign and domestic."

Too true, comrades! I don't trust capitalism as far as I can throw it, and as a vast and complicated political system I can't even hoist the goddamn thing. But history has shown (at least so far) that you can't "skip over" the "phases of development." Afghanistan needs some degree of capital investment to make a transition into a more sustainably democratic society. The Afghani working class will only have something to seize and be thus equipped to revolutionize their society - if there is an introduction of capital.

Or should I say ... a re-introduction of capital.

Why This Report is Suspect

(I mean, besides the fact that it's been released by the US government.)

This poor country gets a lot of flak. I mean, people talk about it like it's been the backwaters of the planet for its entire history. And that's just not true; back in the day, Afghanistan was a pretty swingin' place - well, if you were a rich Afghan or a rich Brit, at least. And you have to hand it to the European colonialists: they were interested in "civilizing the savages." Often that meant shooting the crap out of anyone who resisted their rule, but in this case it also meant helping draft a constitution, build up infrastructure, and introduce compulsory education. All very capitalist developments.

Eventually Afghanistan got some indepenence from the Brits, and then - as was fashionable in poor countries in the latter half of the century - went on a Marxist kick. At one point the standard of living began to have similarities to industrialized nations. The US backed the anti-Soviet forces in the country, the corrupt USSR invaded in retaliation, the Taliban took over, and the rest is history. (Or current events, if you will.) Booting out the Marxists in favor of the USSR and then the ultra-right wackos tore the country to bits.

Yay Umerika!

So in reality, the complete disarray of this country isn't an unbroken thread of barbarism, but a dialectic of development and the strategic intervention of international powers and the internal competition for the country's soul, so to speak (will it be a country ruled by might, or will it transcend nationhood and build itself on reason?).

And furthermore, there have been sophisticated studies on the valuable mineral deposits in this region at least since the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in the 1970s, though I don't doubt that the anal-retentive British colonialists also scoured the soil meticulously. The gold, at least, should have been common knowledge in geological (and, presumably, military intelligence; those guys are pretty damn comprehensive in their analyses) circles. The lithium has probably been known since pretty early in the invasion.

Now obviously, the US didn't declare war on Afghanistan just because there are gold deposits under Takhar. We aren't talking about oil, the great consumer-capitalist lubricant. Gold is a capitalist bauble in comparison.

It is the timing of this report that is suspect. At a time when the popularity of "the good war" is steadily sinking, and disillusionment in Obama is building, I think the administration is looking for some way to rebuild the confidence of its own investors. There have been almost 10 years of conflict and there can easily be another 10 and you have to reassure the corporate world that you can, and will, and should slug it out. It isn't a revelation; it's a reminder.

And it should remind us, too. It should remind us that war is a racket. Fought by we the workers, lost by we the workers, and won - win lose or draw for us - by the rich.

There has Gotta be a Better Way

It's not looking too positive now. In another five years the world may start shooing away the gluttonous supply of Afghanistan opium. That's good. Any number of people out of that particular drug trade is positive. Constructive jobs for the Afghan people? Also positive. Without a doubt some citizens remember, or have at least have knowledge of, a better period for their people. Keeping that hope alive can always infuse their struggle with purpose and vigor and throw off the oppossed oppressions of the US and the Taliban.

There is always a possibility, albeit small at this stage, of a third route that circumvents US capitalism and other forms of foreign oppression: a planned economy. Democratic control of the workplace by the workers and nationalization of industries and the co-struggle of workers and farmers - therein lies the key to this route. Such dramatic participation of the people in the economy and government could so radicalize Afghanistan that industrialization could occur in a matter of years and make it a major regional, even world, power. That was the effect on Russia in 1917 when it transitioned to vast Tsarist hinterland to a republic of worker's councils.

But that republic in Russia was quickly lost - an unindustrialized country simply does not have the economic basis to maintain this advanced form of organization for long. It would need to link up to working-class movements in more developed countries, such as Greece, Ireland, or Spain, where those movements are challenging capitalism's global oligarchy. It's a tall task. But otherwise, the people of Afghanistan will end up living in mining towns that resemble work camps, and their harsh but beautiful countryside will be subjected to the worst practices capitalism has to offer. The profit system leaves undeveloped nations few alternatives to exploitation, and so the working class there needs to seize foreign capital with zeal and vigor and just not let go.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Keeping it in the class

According to the NYT, billionaire Dan Duncan's estate has effectively passed into the hands of his heirs tax-free.

$9,000,000,000 split between four children and four grandchildren. All of whom were doubtlessly living pretty decent lives before Pappy passed on. I'm sure they had no problem launching businesses of their own, or going to college, or getting sweet business gigs using the family name. How much have they had to want for? How much have they done to deserve their share of nine billion dollars?

We the workers usually grow up thinking of money as a reward. We're like little monkeys, pulling the levers of capitalism and getting pennies in return. While the gold pours up, into the pockets of the masters of machines. Perhaps they, too, see it as a reward somehow ... their right, as the favored strata of society. Our magnificent benefactors.

Certainly, the NYT says, our friend Duncan "contributed to a wide assortment of wildlife foundations and community institutions like the Houston Zoo and Houston Museum of Science, and an assortment of medical institutions. The various medical centers at Baylor College of Medicine received more than $250 million from Mr. Duncan and his wife, with more than $100 million used to found the Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center."

No mention of how much damage his oil pipeline could cause. In disruption of habitat. In contributing to Co2 emmissions. In the frayed nerves and muscles of exploited workers. There are dozens of pipeline owners like this; they are innumerable throughout history.

Duncan was also an "avid hunter," although he was not content with the regulated hunting of deer - oh no. When you are wealthy you hunt the exotic, for fame, to have "more than 500 entries in the Safari Club International record book for killing animals including polar bears, rhinoceroses, bighorn sheep, lions and elephants." Most of which are now endangered, thanks to the reckless passion of people - especially rich white people - like Don Douglas.

And it isn't just that the whim of one man decided the buying and selling of billions of dollars in a lifetime, ending in an accumulated $9b horde, or that his donations (which only skim the top of his lifetime profits) inevitably also fund unelected bureaucrats. We have a society in which an increasing number of social programs manifest as nonprofits at the whims of the rich, rather than in a planned, democratic way that could effectively meet the needs of the poor or sick or unemployed.

No, nevermind that. The worst part is we have a government that can't even feebly challenge this family's right to boundless wealth. Somewhere, somehow, our government thought it would be good to suspend the estate tax (we don't really need that money in a recovery, anyhow, right guys?). And now we might never get it back, despite the fact that this looks like a "temporary measure":

"Many lawyers say Mr. Duncan’s heirs have the means and motivation to wage a fierce court battle to challenge the constitutionality of any retroactive tax."

Heirs of wealthy estates can hire lawyers to do just about anything to the laws, given enough time and in the absence of working-class response.

But I say screw it, a death tax is ineffective anyway. Get the wealth at the source - seize the workplaces. Redistribute the wealth from there. We can take care of the capitalist estates after they launch a reactionary counter-attack. All we really need to worry about is organizing against them where it hurts the most.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Racist Assholes Resurgent

So what could be offensive about a mural depicting school children? Apparently if you are a racist Klanboy wannabe, plenty. In Arizona, where the governor wants to emulate the pass laws of Old South Africa, workers and elementary school kids painting a mural of their school had racial epithets spat at them by white suburban losers that had nothing better to do. The ringleader of this asinine spectacle is one Steve Blair, city councilman of Prescott, AZ. The flabby old hater is also a right- wing media whore and hosts a radio talk show.
On that show, Blair stirred up a controversy where none existed ( a standard tactic of reactionary propaganda). He objected that the mural depicted an African- American child larger than the other children. He also objected to the " diversity" of the painting. The principal of the school, in a spectacular display of chickenshit, ordered the faces of the Latino and black children depicted in the mural whitened.
Give that man the Neville Chamberlain Award.
Meanwhile, South Carolina, land of politicians who believe in family values- as long as it is someone else who has to keep their pants on- seems to be jealous of Arizona's new status of The Asshole State. To correct this, one of their dumber state senators described his fellow Republican Nikki Haley as a " raghead" ( Haley is of Indian descent) and then referred to the President using the same racial slur on a radio show. Of course this fat fuck immediately backpedaled, describing his remarks as appropriate to the free- for- all atmosphere of the show. He didn't intend the remarks to be racist, you know- wink, wink.
And even here, in Minnesota, the bluest of the Blue States, we have a racist demagogue running for Governor. Tom Emmer ( R) thinks SB 1070 is a " wonderful start". The start of what? Sounds like Emmer has visions of Manzanar dancing in his head.
The crazy talk coming out of right- wing media ( socialists, Muslims, and illegals want to take away your guns and date your daughter!), the teabagger movement, and the Minuteklan have all combined to embolden racist scumbags to crawl out from under the rocks they retreated under in the 1990s and start attacking people they see as The Other. Instead of caving in to their demands like the above mentioned school official, us Reds must vigorously oppose them and expose them for the assholes they truly are.
P.S. Boycott Baja Sol Restaurants... the franchise is owned by the head of the Minnesota GOP and another lover of SB1070, Tony Sutton.

Send the Donkey to the Dust-Bin

While X is on the subject of the uselessness of the two pro-business parties, I thought I'd throw out the idea of what a real working people's party would look like, if it were to spring out of the movements and sentiments of right now.

It would require the broad enlistment of rank-and-file members from these sectors of society:
  • Trade Unions, both from the big, traditional industries and the more grass-roots efforts;
  • The LGBT movement, from the couple who wants their marriage recognized by the state to the transsexual triad that recognizes their oppression is one more way to divide the working class and therefore they will not subscribe to gender-normative consumer culture;
  • Every immigrant, legal or not (whatever the term you want to use), their family and friends, of every race and color and creed and ethnicity, who knows that Democrats and Republicans alike only enforce borders when it suits their own conquest of wealth;
  • The anti-war movement, whether its members be freshly angered by the raids in Pakistan and Yemen, or burnt out on nine years of protest without a single goddamn acknowledgement from the System;
  • Community activists and environmentalists, who know that free trade and the destruction of the environment are two sides of the same coin;
  • Some Marxists and socialist, although admittedly this portion of the left as a whole has failed at really stepping in and assisting the working class - for a wide variety of reasons, some the fault of the Marxists (or "marxists") and some not - the sectarian portions cannot and will not take a notable part.
And what, pray tell, would this party's platform look like?

Hopefully - and just going off popular sentiments today - something like this:

  • The nationalization of BP as punishment for the global eco-disaster they have created, profits to be invested in a gigantic, national mass-transit system - and a bit fat tax on the profits of all other oil companies doing business with America;
  • The immediate repeal of SB1070 and the strict enforcement (and expansion) of all federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, language, gender (and/or gender identity), sexuality, etc.;
  • An immediate withdraw of all United States forces from Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Egypt;
  • A condemnation of the policies of the state of Israel as regards not only the Flotilla Massacre, but also the rampant human rights abuses committed against the Palestinian people - complete severing of all weapon sales and suspension of commerce until it fucking shapes up;
  • Full funding for schools, Social Security, medicare and medicade, unemployment and employment services - to be funded by the money-formerly-known-as "the military budget."
Now that is what I call "a start." With a party like that up and running, what would we need these spineless so-called Democrats for?

(Also the Socialist Rose makes a much cooler emblem than some dumb animal.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

GOP Falls On Its Sword On Immigration Issue

Not since the Chinese Exclusion Act targeted Asian immigrants in 1868 America has there been such a legal boon to bigots as Arizona's SB 1070 Support Our Law Enforcement And Safe Neighborhoods Act. In the great tradition of Orwellian doublespeak the name means the very opposite of what it is. The majority of law enforcement think its going to make their jobs more difficult and the neighborhoods are not in great danger. At least the Exclusion Acts had an honest ring to them. Their authors were proud they were racist assholes.
So Governor Jan Brewer ( R) joins the Far Right Pantheon of Short- Sighted Losers who are dragging the GOP on the fast track to the Dustbin Of History. For the sake of their own personal careers, by pandering to the fears of the for now majority of white folks, they are alienating the soon- to- be largest block of voters in the Southwest, the Latino population. Within a generation, look to see the Republican Party as a rump neoconfederate relic, dying a slow death in the Old Confederacy. Which means the Democrats can complete their triumphant march to the Right and build a new conservative party, with not race, but how big of an asshole you can be to workers the only criteria for joining.
In the meantime, resistance to the biggest racist asshole law in recent memory has spontaneously risen from all kinds of sources. Naturally the Latinos, both native and recently arrived, are raising hell. The unions are condemning it. Other states are boycotting ceremonial and sports functions.
The Republican Party's self- immolation over this issue is a great example of what Marx described as Capitalism's contradictions setting the stage for its eventual destruction. The current crop of Republican politicians are willing to sacrifice anything, even their party's future, for their short- term self - interest. The party of unfettered greed a victim of its own philosophy. Irony. Us Reds love it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Flotilla Massacre

Why confront Israel?

Sabrina Tavernise and Michael Slackman of the New York Times pointed out in a recent article that "the [Free Gaza Movement] has hit on a strategy that, even when it fails in its aims, succeeds in tactical terms: The world sees Israel use military force against civilians." Free Gaza was successful several times in delivering aid to the oppressed people of Palestine. But like any good activist group, their aims didn't end there. They don't simply aim to alleviate the suffering of oppressed Palestine; they aim to expose that suffering and its causes and thereby draw out the powers that can eliminate that suffering.

The oppression has two main causes: the barbaric state of Israel, and the barbaric tactics of Hamas. Like so many so many oppressed groups, the oppression of the Palestinians is as much a product of the so-called "liberation" groups as the immediate oppressors. While both sides would like to portray this as a binary conflict with their "side" on the side of good and right and justice, it's abundantly clear that both sides use mistaken tactics - constantly.

Palestinian children have been shot for throwing rocks at Israeli police-soldiers. Hamas fired rockets that provoked an all-out war in 2008. Resistance tactics are pitiful gnats in the rhino-hide of the police state, but the buzzing of the gnat gets it swatted. But even relatively peaceful tactics, such as kneeling in front of a bulldozer in the desperate effort to cease the destruction of Palestinian homes, cleared for Israeli settlers, are met with unprecedented brutality on the part of Israel.

Here in America, I think this conflict has actually been a tremendous contributor to the festering cynicism of the last forty years. It manifests directly in erroneous statements like "those people [generally meaning Jews and Arabs] have been fighting for thousands of years." (When in fact, for most of their history, the religions of Judaism and Islam have been relatively tolerant of one another.) It's part of this whole idea that human nature is corrupt, and these two groups will never see eye-to-eye (essentially playing into the popular idea of the subjectiveness of truth) , etc. and so on.

Worst of all, among centrists, and including a lot of the center-left (liberals) there is an idea that one side or the other cannot be criticized. Because it's somehow wrong to criticized oppressed people? Some people say it is wrong to criticize the tactics of the Palestinian people that support Hamas, because they live with the daily reality of Israeli occupation. (And believe me, most Americans wouldn't put up with the bullshit of being occupied by a police state. Now, a domestic police state, on the other hand....) And others say that Israel cannot be criticized, because basically Jews have been oppressed since the beginning of history, and they suffered greatly at the hands of the Nazis, and therefore any criticism of Israel is tantamount to anti-Semitism.

Well I call bullshit.

The only way we're ever going to make this planet a better place to live is by use of our critical reasoning skills. That means no one is above reproach. Hamas has to be held responsible for its very dangerous stupidity, and Israel has to face the blame for its routine practice of grossly disproportionate retaliation.

Who's going to do that? Certainly not the United States, who favors Israel at every fucking turn. None of the other major world governments are going to do it, either, because every single one of them is pursuing an agenda whereby they bid for power. And the only way for them to keep and expand that power is by robbing the working class at home and abroad.

In some regard, the confrontational tactics of the Free Gaza movement seem to have worked: the international capitalist class is now criticizing the blockade, at least. The issue has arrested global attention where once ignorance prevailed. Despite the right-wing's insistence that the blockade (against an essentially non-sovereign entity) is entirely legal (seriously?), the debate calls into question - once more - the character of Israel and the fate of the Middle East.

Naturally, the oppressed of both peoples actually need to rise up and throw off their mutual oppressors. Hamas is as detrimental to the well-being of Palestine as Israel; only cooperation along class lines can abolish the motivations for the bloodshed in this region. It isn't about religion; it's about land and hegemony and wealth.

ADDENDUM: And, in other, less weighty news, Facebook is no longer cool. (Officially, I mean; it's been losing cred for a long long time.)

Bush has "visited 20 states and 8 countries; given over 65 speeches; launched the George W Bush Presidential Center; participated in 4 policy conferences through The Bush Institute; finished the first draft of his memoir, "Decision Points"; and partnered with (former) President Clinton to establish the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund." Seriously? How has he not been arrested for war crimes by now?