Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How Corporate and Political Forces Have Almost
Neutralized All Avenues of Resistance in US Culture


From AlterNet, my favorite journalist with a master's in divinity from Harvard Chris Hedges on a depressing but real strategy for the left:

All conventional forms of dissent, from electoral politics to open debates, have been denied us. We cannot rely on the institutions that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible. The only route left is to disconnect as thoroughly as possible from the consumer society and engage in acts of civil disobedience and obstruction. The more we sever ourselves from the addictions of fossil fuel and the consumer society, the more we begin to create a new paradigm for community. The more we engage in physical acts of defiance—as Bill McKibben and others did recently in front of the White House to protest the building of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would increase the flow of “dirty” tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico—the more we can keep alive a new, better way of relating to each other and the ecosystem.

Most important, we must stop being afraid. We have to turn our backs for good on the Democrats, no matter what ghoulish candidate the Republicans offer up for president. We have to defy all formal systems of power. We have to listen closely to the moral voices in our society, from McKibben to Noam Chomsky to Wendell Berry to Ralph Nader, and ignore feckless liberals who have been one of the most effective tools of our disempowerment. We have to create monastic enclaves where we can retain and nurture the values being rapidly destroyed by the wider corporate culture and build the mechanisms of self-sufficiency that will allow us to survive. The corporate coup is over. We have lost. The trolls have won. We have to face our banishment.


More here.

Of course, Hedges is riffing on his most recent book, Death of the Liberal Class, which strongly and, I think, successfully, establishes that traditional American liberal institutions, like the Democratic Party, labor unions, the news and entertainment media, the arts, and the universities, are all now effectively controlled by corporate ideology and influence, rendering them useless to actual liberals, while at the same time bending their function toward legitimizing and advancing the goals of the corporate state. That leaves the American left now lost in a wilderness the likes of which they have never faced.

That is, in spite of the non-stop ranting of right-wing demagogues to the contrary, the left has virtually no influence over the affairs of this country. But what to do?

I wholeheartedly agree with the notion of disengaging with the consumer culture and resisting all "formal systems of power." Whatever that may mean. Actually, I'm sure it means resisting traditional "liberal" institutions because they now stand against liberalism, but resistance to power more generally, and pulling out of consumerism, have yet to be defined--I know that Hedges, for instance, no longer owns a television, if only to evade the constant barrage of materialism and pro-capitalist messages. I guess this is up to liberals to determine for themselves.

This notion of creating liberal monastic enclaves, however, appears to be, at first glance, kind of silly. But if you think for like two seconds about how the right wing came to power, it becomes a much more compelling thought. That is, go back to the late 1940s and you'll see that conservatism, at that point, was very much in the same position that liberalism is in today, something of an ideological wilderness, albeit with the latent power of big business waiting in the wings. This was when concerned conservatives began several grass roots efforts that most watchers believed hadn't a chance in hell of succeeding. They established conservative journals like William Buckley's National Review. They established conservative universities like Pepperdine. They found ways to join together fundamentalist Christians with anti-communist businessmen. Eventually, they established right-wing think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. This all came to a head when they found their perfect spokesman, Ronald Reagan, and ran him for president, and, amazingly, he won. The rest we already know.

In short, these liberal "enclaves" for which Hedges calls are in essence the creation of an alternate ideological infrastructure, insulated from the propaganda and influence of the corporate state, laying in wait for the day when the plutocracy has so utterly squeezed the life out of the American citizenry that fresh ideas will be like manna from Heaven.

I think I can get behind that.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Republicans Against Science

From the New York Times, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman on the GOP war against reality:

To see what Mr. Huntsman means, consider recent statements by the two men who actually are serious contenders for the G.O.P. nomination: Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.

Mr. Perry, the governor of Texas, recently made headlines by dismissing evolution as “just a theory,” one that has “got some gaps in it” — an observation that will come as news to the vast majority of biologists. But what really got peoples’ attention was what he said about climate change: “I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”

That’s a remarkable statement — or maybe the right adjective is “vile.”

The second part of Mr. Perry’s statement is, as it happens, just false: the scientific consensus about man-made global warming — which includes 97 percent to 98 percent of researchers in the field, according to the National Academy of Sciences — is getting stronger, not weaker, as the evidence for climate change just keeps mounting.


More here.

I've been wondering for some years what a rational response to all this ought to be. I mean, Democrats and liberals love to argue, but when people start bringing obvious bullshit into the debate, the argument's effectively over. There is no way to persuade people who aren't in touch with reality. No way to have a serious discussion when the conversation keeps drifting into demonstrably false information--indeed, I have no doubt in my mind that many conservatives actually know what the truth is, but use these popular lies simply to eradicate discussion, clearing the way for demagoguery; it's a cheap way to "win" a debate.

Thought experiment:

You're having a talk with some friends about, say, how to fight hunger and poverty. It's a good discussion, lots of ideas bouncing around, and everybody seems serious about the topic. Suddenly, one of them says that we ought to hire a hundred wizards who would cast spells to magically create food, clothing, and shelter for the poor. Everybody laughs at first, but the guy persists. Slowly, it dawns on you that this guy really means it. Then, amazingly, a couple of his friends take his side. They seem serious, too.

What was only moments ago a great exercise in democracy, a rousing discussion among citizens on an important issue, is now a fucking joke. Of course, you can walk away, now wise to the fact that some of your friends just aren't worth it in as much as political discussion goes, and try to find better conversation partners. I mean, that's life: people are often full of shit. But our leaders really ought not to do such a thing. They are, after all, our leaders and such debate matters greatly in terms of how public policy affects people's lives.

So let us add to our thought experiment the limiting factor that you can't walk away. You have to try to win this debate that has been hopelessly sabotaged by assholes. What do you do?

Here's my answer. The wizard faction has behaved in a reprehensible manner. They have literally destroyed a good conversation on an important topic. You can't disprove a notion that is already false. You can't treat their words as though they have any merit at face value. Instead, you should treat their words for what they are, an aggressive and hostile act designed to confuse and conceal accurate information. That is, these people are being big douche bags.

I say, call bullshit on that. Chastise for irresponsibility. Do not in any way behave as though they have a point even worth addressing. The wizard proposal is only worth a "fuck you." It's only worth "How dare you pull this crap? How dare you just fucking destroy a good conversation? Go fuck yourselves, assholes. I'm not in any way going to entertain such fairy tale horse shit, and your head zips up the back if you think I ever will. Fuck you, assholes. I'm only going to talk about reality, and I don't give a shit how you interpret Harry Potter or the Bible or the National Review. Just fuck off, you retarded pieces of shit."

This is essentially what the entire Democratic Party would be doing if they had big dicks.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

WOODSTOCK

From Wikipedia:

Woodstock Music & Art Fair (informally, Woodstock or The Woodstock Festival) was a music festival, billed as "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music". It was held at Max Yasgur's 600-acre dairy farm in the Catskills near the hamlet of White Lake in the town of Bethel, New York, from August 15 to August 18, 1969. Bethel, in Sullivan County, is 43 miles southwest of the town of Woodstock, New York, in adjoining Ulster County.

During the sometimes rainy weekend, thirty-two acts performed outdoors in front of 500,000 concert-goers. It is widely regarded as one of the most pivotal moments in popular music history and was listed among Rolling Stone's 50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll.

The event was captured in the 1970 documentary movie
Woodstock, an accompanying soundtrack album, and Joni Mitchell's song "Woodstock" which commemorated the event and became a major hit for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

More here.

It's funny how the above paragraphs do, indeed, describe Woodstock accurately, but just don't get across at all what it was really about. Heh. As if I was there and actually know what it was all about. But I certainly came of age in the post-Woodstock era, when the event was spoken of as legendary, the rock and roll event of all events, the pure essence of the 60s and hippies and free love and acid and pot and peace and on and on. My brother had the album when I was a kid and I've known many of the performances for most of my life. And I finally got to see the documentary movie in the late 80s when MTV aired it countless times: by that point, I had come to understand that, yeah, Woodstock really was something incredible and weird, uplifting and visionary.

You know, they had half a million people there, almost all of them fucked up, and not one fight broke out. Not a single fight. That, in itself, is worth a mention in the history books.

Anyway, the twenty second anniversary of Woodstock was a couple of weeks ago. So I figured I'd celebrate by posting the movie here. Check it out:



Peace, brother.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

What would Martin Luther King Jr. say to President Obama?

From the Washington Post, Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis chimes in:

As a minister, never elected to any public office, Dr. King would tell this young leader that it is his moral obligation to use his power and influence to help those who have been left out and left behind. He would encourage him to get out of Washington, to break away from handlers and advisers and go visit the people where they live. He would urge him to meet the coal miners of West Virginia; to shake the hands of the working poor in our large urban centers, juggling multiple jobs to try to make ends meet; to go to the barrios of the Southwest; and to visit native Americans on their reservations. He would urge Obama to feel the hurt and pain of those without work, of mothers and their children who go to bed hungry at night, of the families living in shelters after losing their homes, and of the elderly who chose between buying medicine and paying the rent.

Dr. King would say that a Nobel Peace Prize winner can and must find a way to demonstrate that he is a man of peace, a man of love and non-violence. He would say it is time to bring an end to war and get our young men and women out of harm’s way. Dr. King would assert without hesi­ta­tion that war is obsolete, that it destroys the very soul of a nation, that it wastes human lives and natural resources.


And

He would say that righteous work makes its own way. There is no need to put a finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing. There is no need to match each step to the latest opinion poll. The people of this country recognize when a leader is trying to do what is right. Take a stand, he would say. Go with your gut. Let the people of this country see that you are fighting for them and they will have your back.

More here.

Lewis nails it, of course. Indeed, these assumed suggestions are simply culled from MLK's rhetoric, that is, from the speeches and writings that don't get much airplay in January because they don't fit into the establishment's narrative. Actually, the stuff we hear and see in the mass media on MLK day is fairly sanitized, good vibes stuff about getting along, but none of the severe criticisms of our economic system, none of the scathing indictments of the American war machine. In this respect, and only this respect, is our President like the venerated civil rights leader: Obama's all about neutral positivity lacking teeth.

The really sad thing is that such recommendations are, by and large, impossible for most politicians today. They're too beholden to the wealthy organizations and citizens that fund their campaigns. They're too guided by consultants and strategists, who are always risk-averse. They watch too much cable news to really know what's going on out there. They're poll watchers. They're most concerned with being reelected, far, far, far more concerned than they are with doing the right thing.

I mean, it doesn't have to be that way. There are no rules that preclude our leaders from actually leading. But virtually all of them do it the way everybody else does. They follow, and the people our leaders follow are most definitely not the people of the United States.

So Obama, if he actually wanted, could do everything Lewis suggests above. He could throw caution to the wind and take this country in bold new directions. He could use the Oval Office's bully pulpit power and start a media war against the corporations which dominate the political system. He could appeal directly to the voters, standing with them, instead of with the special interests and the wealthy. He could change our culture. If he wanted.

Of course, that's not going to happen because President Obama's not a leader. He's a manager. And managers don't change the world. They keep it the same.

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Friday, August 26, 2011

FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING
Canine Edition!

Kuzco




Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics!

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GOP MAJORITY WHIP TO HOME STATE: FUCK YOU

From Think Progress courtesy of Eschaton:

This week, Virginia experienced a magnitude 5.8 earthquake, one of the most powerful tremors on the east coast since 1897. As Virginians scramble to assess the damage, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) quickly returned from his trip in Israel to survey the damage done to his congressional district.

“There is an appropriate federal role in incidents like this,” Cantor said. That role? The bare minimum. According to Cantor, Congress’s traditional practice of providing disaster relief without strings attached — a policy its followed for years — is going way beyond the call of duty. If Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) asks for federal aid, Cantor insists that the relief be offset elsewhere in the federal budget


And

While touring the damage in his district, Cantor surmised, “Obviously, the problem is that people in Virginia don’t have earthquake insurance.”

More here.

What an asshole. But that's what we're dealing with here: the GOP has been seized by a weird ideology that really does insist that government is the wellspring of all evil, and can only make problems worse, never better. So when an earthquake comes along, you're on your own--better go get some of that earthquake insurance, buddy; one comes along every couple centuries or so! And if you don't have any of that earthquake insurance, too fucking bad.

I don't think I even need to offer any serious argument in rebuttal to such a selfish and immoral attitude. This is just psychotic. Leaving everything to the private sector means nothing will ever get done. Suffice it to say, the market-driven utopia in which these guys believe is an impossibility. Massive disasters are far beyond the capabilities of private business. In Market America, when an earthquake or hurricane comes along, everything gets obliterated, and then lies in ruins forever.

This is what you want if you vote Republican, whether you understand it or not. Same thing with the Libertarians. All these "small government" cretins. There is an infinite number of activities and services that all modern nations absolutely need in order to exist and function, and many of these can only be performed by the government. You go after government the way these people are, and you destroy your country.

I hope a few of these Tea Partiers had their homes destroyed in the earthquake. I hope they have to go through the process of reaching out for government aid. I hope they get to see their homes rebuilt with taxpayer money. Even then, I wonder if they would get it, if they would take off their stupid fucking tricorn hats and reevaluate everything.

On the other hand, the Democrats, who still believe the government has a vital role to play in the nation's affairs, thank god, would prefer to give the majority of government aid to corporations and the wealthy. Some choice: support the party of "fuck you, victim" or support the party that will rebuild your community, but have no problem at all with your inability to pay your rent or health care bills. I mean, I guess I'm thankful that the Dems are still into the concept of disaster relief, but with friends like these...

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Killing in Our Name

From CounterPunch:

We make a bargain with our governments. We pay taxes and expect a set of government services in return. And in return for a guarantee of some measure of security, we grant the government a monopoly on legitimate violence. In theory, then, we forswear mob rule and paramilitary organizations, we occasionally accept the death penalty as an appropriate punishment, we delegate the responsibility to declare and prosecute war to our legislative and executive branches, and we put guns into the hands of the army and the police.

Governments, in other words, kill on our behalf. This arrangement is a form of social contract, which means that governments are basically contract killers. Some states, like Nazi Germany, use the tremendous power of arms and bureaucracy to transform their territories into slaughterhouses. Regimes that are merely authoritarian can be equally brutal but display a greater selectivity in their tyranny. In our more decorous democracies, meanwhile, we perfume our conversations with words like “justice” and “national security” to mask the odor of death.


And

Rather than view these acts as some unfortunate stage in the evolution of democracy, I prefer to think that democracy consistently attempts to obscure its relationship to violence. Wars are not put to a vote. Indeed, here in the United States, Congress has been largely shunted to the side when it comes to war, and it generally weighs in only after the fact. The militarism of the Bush administration required a concentration of power in the executive branch and a flouting of international law (such as the Geneva Conventions). The Obama administration, with its policies on drones and extrajudicial killing, has not relinquished much of that executive power or shown much greater sensitivity to international law. More troubling, perhaps, is the fact that leaders don’t necessarily hijack the political process in order to use violence. Swayed by fear and nationalism, a democratic society can agree, albeit with significant minority dissent, to a rollback of democracy (such as the USA PATRIOT Act) or a full-scale military invasion (into Afghanistan, for instance).

More here.

The essay concludes with a call for civilization to find ways to restrict state violence as much as possible, a notion with which I wholeheartedly agree, but what's fascinating here is the reminder that when the government kills, it does so in the name of the people of the United States--it kills for us.

As much as I'd like to be a pacifist, I just cannot be so absolute. What happens, in some ideal social reality, when the collective farm over the hill runs out of water, and comes with guns for ours? If the situation is dire enough, you've got to fight. I mean, sure, try to find a way to coexist if you can, but if your attacker or oppressor has his mind made up, and your own existence is on the line, you've got to fight. Or die. Personally, I prefer fighting to death.

But in this day and age, especially in fortress America, such existential situations are extraordinarily rare. So even though I'm not a pacifist, it seems pretty clear that most wars are avoidable. And as far as the death penalty goes, there is no justifiable reason at all, at all, to kill a person who is behind bars and no longer a threat to society. Capital punishment is barbaric and wrong. Nonetheless, we continue to fight wars and to kill criminals who have been rendered harmless. All for the people of the United States. For me. For you.

The reality, of course, is that the government doesn't really kill for the people. It only uses our name for false justification. The reality is that the government kills for the special interests, the wealthy, and the massive corporations that actually run the government. Not us. Sure, there are voters who support the wars, voters who support the death penalty, but all that strikes me as the result of these interests owning or having access to the mass media. That is, most media portrayals of victims of US state violence strongly assert that they had it coming; conversely, innocent victims of capital punishment and the so-called "collateral damage" of war are, by and large, invisible.

I think that if most Americans had a crystal clear picture of what it literally means to have the government kill on their behalf, to see the corpses, to hear the sobbing and weeping of victims' families, to have wet and warm blood on their hands, there would be a lot less state sanctioned killing. Perhaps this is the direction we ought to go if we're serious about restricting the state's ability to rain down death on whomever it wants.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Corporate Power Decried By Former Lawmaker

From the Huffington Post courtesy of AlterNet:

Lawmakers rarely speak candidly about the relationship between large corporations and government, avoiding the ugly realities surrounding campaign contributions and legalized corruption. But occasionally when lawmakers leave office, they're more frank about the intersection of business and politics. In an interview with The Huffington Post, former Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) issued a stark warning about the government's inability to rein in the growing power of multinational corporations.

"Because [corporations] have become so international and global in nature, it's highly questionable whether governments can actually control corporations to a sufficient degree to prevent them from controlling governments," said Kanjorski, who served for 26 years in the House of Representatives until he was ousted last year amid a swarm of Republican congressional victories.

Two of the most worrying examples of the increasing ungovernability of corporations, Kanjorksi argued, are the current push to bestow tax breaks on American firms for stashing capital overseas and the failure to implement a new rule breaking up too-big-to-fail banks.


And

Kanjorski said his proposal did not imply that the U.S. government needs to micromanage corporate affairs. There's a difference, he said, between limiting corporate power in order to preserve a viable economic architecture and dictating how every aspect of a business ought to operate.

"I'm not saying we should get involved in capital in all things, but where it's abusive, you damn well should."


More here.

I love it when you get such honesty. Usually, outgoing Congressmen keep their mouths shut about all the corruption because they're absolutely depending on corporate largess so they can make the big bucks in the private sector after their years of public service have come to an end. But not this guy. He's speaking his mind, and damn the traditional hush money. I particularly like this because whenever I talk about how the corporations control everything it's very easy to dismiss my assertions because I'm just some guy with long hair--I mean, of course the hippies are always talking about the evil corporations. But when a Congressman says it, he's speaking from first hand experience. It bears a lot more weight, more ethos as they call it in public speaking classes.

Of course, Kanjorski isn't quite saying the same thing I am. I go all the way. I say that democracy is over, that the corporations bought it cheap, and all that's left is the void-of-substance formal theater we call "voting" and "debate." But the former representative hedges a bit, talking about it being "questionable" as to whether corporations can now control the government. For me, it's the same difference. That is, if we really have to sit down and seriously question who actually runs the country, its people or the vastly wealthy and highly influential economic organizations known as corporations, we're already in a big heap of trouble.

I mean, if there's any doubt at all that the government is not of, by, and for the people, then we're definitely headed down the wrong track.

I also like how Kanjorski heads off the usual establishment retort to such rhetoric: regulating corporate ability to subvert the people's will is not the same thing as socialistic state control of industry. I mean, if you listen to the GOP, hell, if you listen to Obama, pushing the corporations out of the Capitol is tantamount to joining the Communist Party. But that's just corporate propaganda designed to stop this much needed discussion in its tracks before it actually gets people thinking.

That is, if you're going to have big business, you must necessarily have big government. I mean, if you're cool with democracy. If you're all for rule by the wealthy, small government is the way to go.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gallup National Poll: Obama In Dead Heat With GOP Challengers

From Talking Points Memo courtesy of Digg:

President Obama's national approval rating has never been lower, and it's starting to drag him down in head-to-head matchups against his potential GOP rivals in the 2012 election. Gallup polled the President against former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, Tex. Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). Each trial heat produced a statistical tie among registered voters.

By the numbers, Obama is only bested by Romney, 48 percent to 46. He ties Perry at 47 percent, and outpolls Paul 47 - 45 and Bachmann 48 - 44. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus four percent, meaning that in each case, the race is a dead heat.


More here.

A year ago if you'd asked me about this I would have said that voters still remember how fucked up it was the last time we had a psycho Republican in the White House. No way could Obama lose in 2012. I mean, even with Democrats losing the House in 2010, I still thought the President had it wrapped up. After all, the GOP primary field is chock full of nuts. Who's going to beat him?

But joblessness has been stuck between nine and ten percent for what seems like forever, and Obama's done nothing but windmill tilting disguised as deficit negotiating. Screw the people; let's fix this deficit! I hadn't counted on Obama's sabotaging himself so thoroughly that the lunatic fringe doesn't look half bad. Indeed, the lunatic fringe is nothing more than a purified version of the vomit the President's been spewing on America since he took office. Virtually every policy he's proposed was first formulated by a Republican. Almost all his rhetoric is GOP lite. If conservative ideas and legislation are all he has to offer, why not just go for the real thing?

I'd say Obama can save himself with a radical 180 degree turnaround, admitting that he'd been a fool to try to "triangulate," as the strategists say, apologizing again and again for going in the absolute worst direction he could take the country, while at the same time putting on his boxing gloves, jumping into the ring, and bloodying as many conservative noses as he can hit, spending as much federal money as he can get together in order to get some demand going so as to match the massive supply businesses have been sitting on for a several years now.

But it's too late. Obama's fucked himself. He's going to have to pull a massive rabbit out of his ass if he wants another four years. Frankly, I don't think his ass has enough room to hold such an animal. Too much corn cob.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

"UNNATURAL HAIR COLOR"

This is why I keep my last name off here for the most part: I'm about to rail away on my employer.

To be fair, my job here in the NOLA area at a corporate chain restaurant that serves decent Italian food has been good to me for the most part. I make decent money and have good relationships with my bosses and most of my co-workers. But this isn't about me. It's not any petty bitching about any sort of job dissatisfaction, or even about some sort of Marxist analysis of labor/capital relations, although I could just as easily go there if I wanted.

No, this is about what I consider to be a pretty clear cut case of racism, and it has me so infuriated that I don't know what to do. Except go to my blog and scream at the universe. So here I am.

A black guy I work with recently dyed his hair blond. He wore it well for a couple of days. It wasn't some trashy tacky something or other; it was pretty stylish, a high dollar professional job. He looked like something from a fashion magazine cover. When I walked into work last Wednesday or Thursday, I saw his new dye job and didn't think anything of it. I just said, "nice," as I walked by, and he thanked me for the compliment.

A couple of days later I started hearing that the company made him get rid of it, insisting that he cut it all off and dye the remaining roots black, his "natural" color. I asked my comrades why this happened and they told me about an obscure provision in the front-of-house dress code that forbids "unnatural" hair color: apparently, this rule, which was obviously intended to keep punk rockers and their ilk from strutting their rebellious attitudes by way of shocking pink, or green, or purple dye jobs, was interpreted to mean "unnatural" according to race. That is, at my restaurant, and presumably all others in the chain, a black man cannot dye his hair blond because the color is "unnatural" for black men.

Of course, this necessarily means that I, a white man, am totally free to dye my hair blond. Blond is "natural" for white people. So I get to have blond hair if I choose it. Or red. Or brown. Or black. But not black people; they can only have black hair because it is the only "natural" color that grows out of their heads.

You see the problem? My company has gotten into the business of telling the various races what hair color is appropriate for them. And it just so happens that white people get to have any "natural" hair color they want. Non-white people, well, fuck non-white people. You wear the hair you were born with.

I understand dress codes. Generally, especially in the schools, I don't like them. But in the business world, it is completely reasonable to tell employees what to wear. I mean, we're getting paid, after all, and the kind of image a business projects is important in terms of its success. I get it, and accept it, even if I prefer more freedom of individual expression in my ideal world. But I'm not bitching about dress codes here. Rather, I'm shocked and appalled that any American business would develop standards for its employees which are race specific, standards that allow white people more freedom than black people.

Really, I'm still having trouble believing that this has happened.

And it's not even some Southern dumb-shit latent racist cultural thing, either. When I finally got to talk to my buddy about the incident, he told me that it came down from one of the company's top executives, who had come down last week for a visit from the corporate headquarters in the Midwest. Apparently, this guy saw it and immediately told the general manager to do something about it.

I'm totally infuriated by this. I feel ethically bound to do something. But I have no idea what to do. Also, I fear for my job: waiting tables is low skilled stuff, or, at least, that's how it's perceived; people in this business who start making waves tend to be unceremoniously tossed out. My buddy, the one who is directly suffering this blatant discrimination, essentially has the same attitude--don't make waves. Before I found out this came down from the top I was considering an anonymous letter to the HR department, but now I think that would just be a dead end.

How can a company do something like this in 2011? Does the executive who creatively interpreted the "unnatural hair color" clause in this racist way even understand what he has done? What are my options?

I really don't want to just sit on my ass and say "That's just the way it is." I'm deeply disturbed.

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

FACT CHECK: Recession is culprit in high US debt

From CNBC courtesy of Digg:

It's the loud and clear consensus of Republicans in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail: Runaway government spending is the problem, not taxes.

But the math isn't so simple.

The number at the heart of the battle cry of the Republicans and their tea party allies — that federal spending has risen to an alarming 25 percent of the economy — is skewed by recession dynamics.

In recessions, federal spending always goes up and tax revenues go down. And the economy contracts in recessions, shrinking the gross domestic product, which is the total output of goods and services and the broadest measure of the economy's health.


And

But it also reflects the mathematical reality that during recessions, tax revenues go down sharply because people and companies make less money and so pay less in taxes. Federal spending goes up, even before stimulus programs, with an increasing demand for government help from food stamps and unemployment compensation and other safety-net programs.

And

Economist Bruce Bartlett, who worked in the administrations of both Reagan and President George H.W. Bush, said some of the statements by Republicans make him cringe. "And what sometimes makes me cringe more is the silence from their competitors."

More here.

Keep in mind that CNBC, unlike its sister cable news network MSNBC, is fairly right-wing, and definitely pro-business.

So what we have here is a situation where the entire US political establishment either doesn't understand the actual economics underlying current deficit spending, or simply doesn't care--it's very likely a combination of both. In the end, it doesn't really matter: the Washington zeitgeist is all about cutting spending in order to improve the economy, even though we're spending more relative to GDP because of the shitty economy. That is, the way out of this is not by contracting the economy with Draconian spending cuts, which is obvious, but rather by improving the economy with more spending, lots more spending, which will eventually pay off by shrinking the federal deficit while at the same time increasing tax revenues, which will also shrink the deficit.

But none of our leaders are interested in this. The Republicans talk about business "uncertainty," which keeps businesses from expanding and hiring more people. I'm not really sure what businesses are supposed to be uncertain about, federal regulations perhaps, or inflation, which deficit spending might cause some years down the road, even though it is nowhere on the horizon right now, what with the inflation rate currently hovering around 3.5%. It is far more likely, and rational, to boot, that businesses aren't expanding because people aren't buying their products--after all, it isn't as though businesses don't have the capital on hand to expand; indeed, US business is sitting on buttloads of cash at the moment, waiting for demand to pick up so they can increase production.

In other words, it's a demand problem, not an "uncertainty" problem, whatever that means. And you know what else a demand problem is? An unemployment problem. Or, if you prefer, a shitty economy problem. Whatever. The point is that the Republican rationale for their preferred package of economic policies, embraced as well by President Obama and most of his party, totally falls apart with even the vaguest scrutiny. Indeed, such scrutiny also mandates heavy federal stimulus spending so as to increase unemployment and therefore demand. Do that, and the deficit, by and large, takes care of itself. I mean, it would be nice to get rid of those Bush era tax cuts for the rich, but my optimism can only go so far.

At any rate, our leaders and their fucktardedness are literally destroying our great nation. I'm getting tired of hearing myself saying this.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING

Frankie



Sammy




Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics!

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HARD TIMES

Who says old school hip hop wasn't political? And this little Run DMC gem resonates now more than ever:

Hard times spreading just like the flu
Watch out homeboy, don't let it catch you
P-p-prices go up, don't let your pocket go down
When you got short money you're stuck on the ground
Turn around, get ready, keep your eye on the prize
And be on point for the future shock

Hard times
Hard times
Hard times

Hard times are coming to your town
So stay alert, don't let them get you down
They tell you times are tough, you hear that times are hard
But when you work for that ace you know you pulled the right card
Hard times got our pockets all in chains
I'll tell you what, homeboy, it don't have my brain
All day I have to work at my peak
Because I need that dollar every day of the week

Hard times

Hard times can take you on a natural trip
So keep your balance, and don't you slip
Hard times is nothing new on me
I'm gonna use my strong mentality
Like the cream of the crop, like the crop of the cream
B-b-beating hard times, that is my theme
Hard times in life, hard times in death
I'm gonna keep on fighting to my very last breath

Hard times
Hard times
Hard times
Hard times
Hard times
Hard times
Hard times


Sing along:



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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tenet and 9/11: a Real Cover-Up?

From CounterPunch, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern on a startling development that ought to make the 9/11 Truthers get their panties in a wad:

In an interview aired on Aug. 11 on a local PBS affiliate in Colorado, Clarke charges that Tenet and two other senior CIA officials, Cofer Black and Richard Blee, deliberately withheld information about two of the hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77 — al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar. The two had entered the United States more than a year before the 9/11 attacks.

Clarke adds that the CIA then covered it all up by keeping relevant information away from Congress and the 9/11 Commission.

Lying by senior officials is bad enough, and there is now plenty of evidence that former CIA Director George Tenet and his closest agency associates are serial offenders. Think for a minute about the falsehoods spread regarding Iraq's non-existent "weapons of mass destruction" stockpiles.

But withholding intelligence on two of the 9/11 hijackers would have been particularly unconscionable — the epitome of malfeasance, not just misfeasance. That's why Richard Clarke's conclusion that he should have received information from CIA about al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar, "unless somebody intervened to stop the normal automatic distribution" amounts, in my view, to a criminal charge, given the eventual role of the two in the hijacking on 9/11 of AA-77, the plane that struck the Pentagon.


More here.

Unfortunately, it appears that no American official will ever see any criminal charges at all for, well, anything. Not torture, not war crimes, not lies about WMD, and of course, not rank incompetence or conspiracy regarding 9/11. Even if there ends up being mountains of evidence. Just for the record, I am in no way a 9/11 Truther. I mean, at one point I was convinced that Bush, like FDR with Pearl Harbor, knew that a massive terrorist attack was imminent, even if he didn't quite know when or where, but then I read Noam Chomsky's observation that the total debacle that was the Iraq occupation made speculation about some sort of US collusion in the WTC and Pentagon attacks pretty much moot. That is, I'm very much in the incompetence camp when it comes to understanding how it was all allowed to happen.

But there continue to be many unanswered questions.

The biggest of them is figuring out who, exactly, fell asleep at the switch. Another is about how the intelligence system, which costs hundreds of billions in taxpayer dollars, broke down. It's been years now since the hurried, and probably white-washing, 9/11 Commission Report was released, but, as far as I know, nobody has been held responsible for the break down, certainly not the guy who was in charge of it all, President George W. Bush. But it sounds like some tantalizing information is starting to bubble its way to the surface.

So if we're to believe Clarke, who has a well deserved reputation as a straight-shooter, slimy CIA Director George Tenet purposely kept the US official who had the responsibility to keep terrorist attacks in the US from happening out of the loop. Why? Will we ever know?

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Three GOP Presidential Candidates Sign Pledge To Investigate LGBT Community

From Addicting Info courtesy of AlterNet:

Get ready for another round of McCarthyism. Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum have all signed a pledge to form a commission to investigate the LGBT community if elected President.

This pledge was created by the National Organization For Marriage, and they have a history of extreme views against homosexuals and anyone who votes to extend marriage rights to them.


More here.

Wow. I'd be even more amazed if this wasn't very much like already existing GOP pushes to investigate American Muslims for terrorist sympathies...when the real threat for homegrown terrorism comes from the far right "patriot" movement.

Same thing here. The article goes on to explain that this pledge is coming from a sense that gay activists persecute and harass fundamentalist Christians, and that this problem is ostensibly so severe that it warrants massive show trials in Congress. All this despite the fact that LGBT Americans continue to suffer discrimination, on the job, in housing, from the courts, as well as plain old fashioned gay-bashing beatings out in the street. That is, fundamentalist Christians, who always feel persecuted anyway, think that gay political activism is much more of a national threat than the actual persecution that gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgendered suffer every fucking day.

It's tempting to chalk this all off to homophobia, which is definitely a factor, but I think the real issue here is that the LGBT movement is pretty much the only organized force in the nation that routinely calls out fundamentalists on their bullshit. So they just don't like being challenged, and are willing to use the power of the US government to inject persecutory fear into the hearts of Queer Americans.

Apparently, the notion of combating gay free speech with fundamentalist free speech is seen as a losing proposition. I guess.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Health Reform Without an Individual Mandate? Yes, It's Called 'Medicare for All'

From the Nation via Common Dreams courtesy of Digg:

The individual mandate was always a bad idea. Instead of recognizing that healthcare is a right, the members of Congress and the Obama administration who cobbled together the healthcare reform plan created a mandate that maintains the abuses and the expenses of for-profit insurance companies—and actually rewards those insurance companies with a guarantee of federal money.

And

But those of us who have no desire to perpetuate the insurance industry can and should recognize that the proper—and entirely constitutional—reform is an expansion of Medicare to cover all Americans.

There is no question that Medicare is a sound and popular program. (Just ask House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, who took an epic political beating when he proposed a scheme to replace the successful single-payer system with a voucher scheme designed to enrich insurance firms.)

While Medicare is exceptionally popular, polling shows that the individual mandate is not—according to recent surveys, roughly 60 percent of Americans oppose it.

It also passes constitutional muster.


More here.

The individual mandate, if I understood all the horse trading correctly, was all about getting the insurance companies to accept customers with preexisting conditions, as well as other stinky new regulations. It was like, okay, we're going to make you do some stuff you don't like, going to make you take a few for the team, but in return we're going to require everybody to buy your product, which will more than make up for any revenue losses. Indeed, the mandate stands to go well beyond simply making up for lost income; if it passes an inevitable date with the Supreme Court, Big Health Care will make billions more than they're making now.

It took a while to figure this all out, but it very much now looks like Obama's universal coverage will be happening only because he's forcing everybody to buy private insurance. The above linked essay goes on to quote Obama the candidate criticizing Hillary's plan, which also included an individual mandate, saying something to the effect of how this is like solving homelessness by passing a law requiring everybody to buy a house. Indeed. Perhaps we should also consider passing a law requiring terrorists to stop threatening American interests abroad, or a law requiring drug users to stop taking drugs.

Oh wait, I guess they've already done that last bit, and with rip roaring success, I might add.

At any rate, Obama Care is now utterly exposed as nothing but a giant giveaway to the health insurance industry, at the expense of average ordinary citizens. And there is absolutely no guarantee that people will be able to pay for this shit, or that it will even cover the most dire illnesses, which is why people actually need insurance. I know liberals are really pissed right now at the President about the way he handled the whole debt ceiling mess, but the writing has been on the wall for several years. Really, the fact that Obama's a corporate shill became apparent almost immediately, when he handed over hundreds of billions without any strings attached to the bankers who nearly toppled the economy.

He's not our guy, and he never was.

That's why he'll never, ever, ever even attempt the simplest and most workable solution: extend Medicare to the entire nation. His bosses in the health insurance industry wouldn't like that. Not one bit.

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THE STAR TREK CALENDAR PICTURE OF THE MONTH IS...



...Kirk and McCoy!

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Roubini: Marx was right. Capitalism may be destroying itself.

From the Daily Kos courtesy of AlterNet:

They claim they're doing cutbacks because there's excess capacity and not adding workers because there's not enough final demand, but there's a paradox, a Catch-22. If you're not hiring workers, there's not enough labor income, enough consumer confidence, enough consumption, not enough final demand. In the last two or three years, we've actually had a worsening because we've had a massive redistribution of income from labor to capital, from wages to profits, and the inequality of income has increased and the marginal propensity to spend of a household is greater than the marginal propensity of a firm because they have a greater propensity to save, that is firms compared to households. So the redistribution of income and wealth makes the problem of inadequate aggregate demand even worse.

Karl Marx had it right. At some point, Capitalism can destroy itself. You cannot keep on shifting income from labor to Capital without having an excess capacity and a lack of aggregate demand. That's what has happened. We thought that markets worked. They're not working. The individual can be rational. The firm, to survive and thrive, can push labor costs more and more down, but labor costs are someone else's income and consumption. That's why it's a self-destructive process.


More here, with links to video.

First, here's a little background on the guy quoted above: suffice it to say, Nouriel Roubini, a well respected mainstream establishment economist, is no communist. But it really sounds like he's familiar with Marx.

And that's the thing.

Even though there are some really big problems with Marx's assertions for a just and productive economy - for instance, the failure of pretty much every large scale attempt at communism - his analysis and criticism of capitalism has always been spot on. I mean, don't get me wrong. It's not like I'm a voracious reader of Marx or anything. I've read the Communist Manifesto, a few excerpts of some of his other works, and gotten bits and pieces here and there, so I'm no expert, but his central notion that the rich exploit the poor while using their wealth to control the political process is undeniable to sane and reasonable individuals. Actually, as playwright George Bernard Shaw once noted, a lot of Marx's critique is totally obvious, once you get away from pro-capitalist orthodoxy.

This notion Roubini's hitting on, business squeezing labor so much that it effectively destroys consumer demand, is a great example. I've said as much myself here at Real Art on multiple occasions, not even thinking that the notion had anything to do with Marx just because it's so obvious. You've got to have consumers, and in order to do that, you've got to pay your labor enough to actually buy the things businesses produce. After all, consumers and labor are the same people. So there is definitely a lower threshold to what you can pay workers in order for a capitalist economy to actually function.

And Roubini seems to be saying that we're very close to crossing that lower threshold. So, if you like, it's not really even about Marx's sense of economic justice: rather, it's about the integrity of the entire economic system we've been propagandized our whole lives to love and champion. If we want it to continue, if we want to have some semblance of the "free enterprise" Americans have to love, enterprise must necessarily lose some of that freedom. That is, the government has to be involved in the economy, has to force what the Fox News people deride as "redistribution" on the business world.

Or there won't be a business world.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING

Reine




Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics!

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The Hijacked Crisis

From the New York Times, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman:

Check out the opinion page of any major newspaper, or listen to any news-discussion program, and you’re likely to encounter some self-proclaimed centrist declaring that there are no short-run fixes for our economic difficulties, that the responsible thing is to focus on long-run solutions and, in particular, on “entitlement reform” — that is, cuts in Social Security and Medicare. And when you do encounter such a person, you should be aware that people like that are a major reason we’re in so much trouble.

For the fact is that right now the economy desperately needs a short-run fix. When you’re bleeding profusely from an open wound, you want a doctor who binds that wound up, not a doctor who lectures you on the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle as you get older. When millions of willing and able workers are unemployed, and economic potential is going to waste to the tune of almost $1 trillion a year, you want policy makers who work on a fast recovery, not people who lecture you on the need for long-run fiscal sustainability.

Unfortunately, giving lectures on long-run fiscal sustainability is a fashionable Washington pastime; it’s what people who want to sound serious do to demonstrate their seriousness. So when the crisis struck and led to big budget deficits — because that’s what happens when the economy shrinks and revenue plunges — many members of our policy elite were all too eager to seize on those deficits as an excuse to change the subject from jobs to their favorite hobbyhorse. And the economy continued to bleed.


More here.

Yet another reminder that we don't have to be experiencing chronic ten percent unemployment, that we don't have to be witnessing the stock market wildly whipping its hair back and forth, that we don't have to be worrying about deficits, that we don't have to be on the verge of European style massive civic unrest because it has been within our power all along to jump start the economy. Huge amounts of spending, on the scale of the spending we did during WWII, would put a stop to all these economic troubles, just as the Big One put a stop to the Great Depression. And once people are back to work and spending again, tax revenues would skyrocket, greatly reducing deficit spending, putting our federal budget in a much more manageable position--as Krugman observed, because so many people are now putting their money into t-bills, the cost of federal borrowing is at an all time low: we really can get an amazingly large bang for our buck here.

I mean, we can do this.

The only thing stopping us is our leaders. Our leaders, who are so fucking stupid that they compare the federal government, which deals with monetary flows on a global scale, to a modest family budget, which is like comparing God to an amoeba. Our leaders, who have their heads shoved so far up their asses that they think Rush Limbaugh knows something about economics, or that they run for advice to the same Wall Street parasites who got us into this mess in the first place. Our leaders, who would destroy our economy instantly by defaulting on our national debts, or who would destroy our economy slowly, purposely shrinking it by way of federal spending cuts.

You know, one can almost forgive Herbert Hoover's retarded economic austerity programs early on in the Great Depression: Keynesian economics was fairly new at that point, and he very likely just didn't understand what was going on. But President Obama has taken the same high school history courses we've all taken. He knows how we spent our way out of the Great Depression. He knows, and yet he does his damnedest to reenact Hoover's great folly.

There will be no forgiveness for him.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

TONY BENNETT: BIG HUGE LIBERAL!

And I'm not talking the Hollywood bullshit kind.

From AlterNet:

Progressive Reader: Just to recap. What are some of the most telling moments of Tony Bennett’s political activism?

David Evanier: Marching at Selma, refusing to sing in the South after witnessing a cross burning from his car, refusing to sing in apartheid South Africa, insisting that Count Basie have first billing over him wherever they appeared, insisting that black performers be allowed to stay in the hotels where they where starring in the nightclubs. Also, asked if he would support his sons if they decided to evade the draft, Bennett [who served at the front lines in Germany as a U.S. infantry soldier in World War II] said, “All the way. In fact, I’d say that’s exactly what I’ve brought them up to do. I’ve told them to hate war.”

Reader: What or who do you think most influenced Bennett’s politics?

Evanier: Tony was most influenced by Dr. Martin Luther King, the voice of conscience of his generation; by his father, John, who expressed great compassion for human suffering and spoke to Tony about his heroes; by Paul Robeson and Gandhi; by his sister, Mary Chiappa, who also was deeply committed to civil rights; and by his older mentor, Frank Sinatra, who was a civil rights advocate when Tony was a soldier. Sinatra filmed “The House I Live In” about racial equality in 1945 and was outspoken on behalf of the civil rights movement from the outset. Harry Belafonte also had a profound effect on him and called upon Tony to take part in the march from Selma to Montgomery and in other civil rights activities.


More here.

Of course, I've loved Tony Bennett for many years. I even got to see him perform once, at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo of all places, back in the late 90s. But until now I had absolutely no knowledge of his left-wing street credentials. That is, the guy actually participated in the famous Selma march with MLK. I mean, that's enough, really, but he's been quietly doing his activist thing for virtually his entire career. Not quite the same thing I once called for in my "Real Art" post some years ago, but the above linked article goes on to explain that Bennett has long been conscious of the impact his singing can have on the public's political imagination, shying away from negativity, and refusing to sing anything that is pro-war or "jingoistic." He even walked away from a recording contract with Columbia Records during the Vietnam era because the label refused to allow him to set some peace poetry to music.

This is very cool. Tony Bennett's a big lefty. I love him all the more.



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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Capitalism at the Guillotine

From CounterPunch:

History shows it does not matter whether an economic system is based upon feudalism or capitalism or socialism, or any ism. When it fails to accommodate the masses, the masses force change. Is capitalism the answer to, or the cause of, economic failure today? Stalwarts of capitalism like the United States, the UK, Italy, Spain, France, and Portugal have already had their turn at providing the answers and more questions than answers have now arisen. Are the tenets of capitalism, i.e., private property, competition, market-based, economic freedom, consumer sovereignty, and laissez faire today’s equivalent of the Ancien RĂ©gime circa 18th century? The answer is: There are ominous signs the masses are once again seeking change; after all, the president of the United States was recently elected on an amorphous promise of “change.” People are searching for it, and the operative question is: Why, if not for a failed economic system?

There should be little doubt that the 2008 financial meltdown influenced voters to vote for change in November 2008. The citizenry witnessed, live on the news and on Wall Street and in home ownership, the withering of capitalism, and as of today, every American knows the name Goldman Sachs, the catchword for failed policies for the republic at large but the savior of the aristocratic few. The question remains: Are the masses taking to the streets and where and why and how does capitalism play a role?


And

Every economic cycle has a beat or a rhythm unique to the times, but none has had such pervasiveness across the capitalistic world as the current one; no it is not a depression in the classical sense, but it may be a depression for more people on an absolute basis, and possibly on a relative basis, anecdotally speaking, than ever before, time will tell. What is certain, however, is a palpable tension is spreading across the lands, an undercurrent coming to surface sparked by global capitalism, providing a pathway for the invisible hand to find the cheapest labor in the least amount of time, a process undermining the very basis of a fluid, functioning capitalistic structure, a strong middle class. Thus, upsetting a time-honored formula for successful capitalism by reverting to the timeworn and dissipated economy of the 18th century Ancien RĂ©gime when “let them eat cake” literally had a perversely jovial meaning and a harsh means of enforcement, until the authorities pushed and they, the masses, pushed back.

More here.

Yeah, I'm really starting to feel this now.

The last couple of days the left-leaning sites I usually visit have been totally awash with an overwhelming sense of anguish over the recent performance of liberals' one-time champion President Obama in the debt ceiling debate debacle: the left, or at least the left-leaning people who write on the internet, are starting to wake up, starting to understand that the Democrats are just as much on the take as the ostensible enemy, the Republicans. That is, liberals are beginning to realize that they're on their own.

The Tea Party people, misguided as they are, have already figured this out. Of course, the GOP, seeking to harness such grass-roots emotion for their own benefit, has gone to extraordinary lengths to ride herd over this band of ignorant, race-resenting rabble, with some success, but it cannot be denied that Tea Party passion and anger is righteous and true: these rank-and-file American citizens are hurting, too, and are, by and large, excluded from from any real say in government dealings, too.

It is now crystal clear to large segments of the population, on both the left and the right, that the government manages the economy such that the people do not matter. Disgust and rage are in the air. The only real question is what form it will eventually take when it hits the streets for real.

Will it be a left-wing movement of peace and inclusion that seeks to affirm the dignity of every individual? Or will it be a right-wing movement of hate and division that seeks to destroy minorities branded as scapegoats by demagogues?

I think revolution is on the horizon. It could be beautiful.
Or it could be ugly.

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Monday, August 08, 2011

HARLAN COUNTY, USA

From Wikipedia:

Harlan County, USA is an Oscar-winning 1976 documentary film covering the "Brookside Strike" or "Bloody Harlan", an effort of 180 coal miners and their wives against the Duke Power Company-owned Eastover Coal Company's Brookside Mine and Prep Plant in Harlan County, Kentucky in 1973. Directed by Barbara Kopple, who has long been an advocate of workers' rights, Harlan County, U.S.A. is less ambivalent in its attitude toward unions than her later American Dream, the account of the Hormel Foods strike in Austin, Minnesota in 1985-86.

And

When the film was re-released film critic Roger Ebert praised the film, writing, "The film retains all of its power, in the story of a miners' strike in Kentucky where the company employed armed goons to escort scabs into the mines, and the most effective picketers were the miners' wives -- articulate, indomitable, courageous. It contains a famous scene where guns are fired at the strikers in the darkness before dawn, and Kopple and her cameraman are knocked down and beaten."

More here.

Facebook, for all its lameness, continues to be something of a place to exchange ideas, political, cultural, artistic, and, of course, trivial. I mean, most of it is trivial, but not always.

Case in point. A buddy of mine posted this trailer earlier tonight:



All I can say is "wow." As far as I can tell, this is what happens when you strip away the veneer of civility plastered over the facade of worker/capitalist relations. That is, everybody acts like the economic arrangement under which we all live is the way it's supposed to be, everybody in their place, everybody working toward common goals, whether you're a worker or a capitalist. But when workers start to object to the arrangement - and this only happens when workers disagree because capitalists make all the decisions - capitalists start to show their fangs and claws. Indeed, the entire power establishment starts to get really nasty really quickly when regular ordinary Americans start questioning "the way the world works." If the opposition becomes loud enough, that's when goons start to bust heads.

Seriously, this happened fairly recently, back in 1972, and as our economy continues to implode today, it's very likely that it's going to happen again soon. Don't be shocked when workers trying to get a fairer shake start showing up on television with blood running down their faces. Because that's ultimately what it's all about: capitalists call all the shots, take all the profit, and fuck you up if you resist.

After a little digging, I found the full documentary online, albeit with Spanish subtitles. So I'm watching this tonight. Care to join me?



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America in Decline

A few words from the legendary Noam Chomsky, via Truth Out, courtesy of Digg:

The self-inflicted blows, while increasingly powerful, are not a recent innovation. They trace back to the 1970s, when the national political economy underwent major transformations, ending what is commonly called “the Golden Age” of (state) capitalism.

Two major elements were financialization (the shift of investor preference from industrial production to so-called FIRE: finance, insurance, real estate) and the offshoring of production. The ideological triumph of “free market doctrines,” highly selective as always, administered further blows, as they were translated into deregulation, rules of corporate governance linking huge CEO rewards to short-term profit, and other such policy decisions.

The resulting concentration of wealth yielded greater political power, accelerating a vicious cycle that has led to extraordinary wealth for a fraction of 1 percent of the population, mainly CEOs of major corporations, hedge fund managers and the like, while for the large majority real incomes have virtually stagnated.


More here.

And that's just about as succinct as you can get when describing the massive Gordian Knot that our politics have become: the freeing up of capital controls resulting in the primacy of financial institutions, coupled with relentless, but bogus, "free market" propaganda have resulted in a governmental system that, by and large, now exists solely for the purpose of enriching and empowering the already fabulously wealthy--"the general welfare," which is what our government is Constitutionally bound to regard as an agenda, no longer matters; only the rich matter, not infrastructure, not employment, not public safety or health, not freedom, none of the things that most of us believe the government ought to be doing, just padding the pockets of the wealthy.

If you want to understand the seeming chaos in which Washington appears to operate these days, the words above are something of a Rosetta Stone. Sure, politicians go on and on about all kinds of bullshit, the debt, spending, the wars, all kinds of policy minutia. It can be overwhelming, but that's only because none of it makes any sense when you consider it at face value. Only when you look at it all in terms of who's getting rich and who's getting fucked does any of it become rational. And what you come to see is that politicians' words are almost totally irrelevant: what matters are actual deeds. So when Obama says he's making health care better, but the plan he signed allows insurance companies to make billions more than they're making now because the government is forcing everybody to do business with them, whether they want to or not, it becomes crystal clear that the whole thing is just a scheme to enrich the already wealthy.

Really it's not so much that politicians' words are irrelevant as much as that they often mean the exact opposite of their dictionary definitions. There's a word for that: Orwellian. We really are a nation in decline.

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Sunday, August 07, 2011

Helicopter downing in Afghanistan kills 30 Americans

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Insurgents shot down a U.S. military helicopter during fighting in eastern Afghanistan, killing 30 Americans, most of them belonging to the same elite Navy SEALs unit that killed Osama bin Laden, as well as seven Afghan commandos, U.S. officials said Saturday. It was the deadliest single loss for American forces in the decade-old war.

The downing was a stinging blow to the lauded, tight-knit SEAL Team 6, months after its crowning achievement. It was also a heavy setback for the U.S.-led coalition as it begins to draw down thousands of combat troops fighting what has become an increasingly costly and unpopular war.

None of the 22 SEAL personnel killed in the crash were part of the team that killed bin Laden in a May raid in Pakistan, but they belonged to the same unit. Their deployment in the raid in which the helicopter crashed would suggest that the target was a high-ranking insurgent figure.


And

The deaths bring to 365 the number of coalition troops killed this year in Afghanistan and 42 this month.

More here.

Of course, the loss of any human life in this way is a terrible waste, but given all the talk of deficit reduction these days, it is well worth noting that these SEALs were the absolute best of the best, worth hundreds of millions of dollars in training alone, which is now gone, along with their lives. So Bin Laden is dead but the war continues. For some reason. I'm not entirely sure why. Needless to say, none of these men would be dead now if we weren't still there.

So...why are we still there? I mean, we're not seriously trying to get Afghanistan, which is, and has always been, more of a collection of tribes and clans than it is a nation, to actually become stable, are we? That's about as laughable as the notion that massive federal spending cuts are going to mellow out Wall Street investors.

Oh yeah. Right. Sorry. I forgot.

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