Saturday, July 30, 2005

Former classmate and current birdchaser (as well as my strange political cousin) Rob Fergus provided these links concerning genetics and political orientation:

Here's the press release about the article on genetics and political orientations;
And the actual article itself:

We test the possibility that political attitudes and behaviors are the result of both environmental and genetic factors. Employing standard methodological
approaches in behavioral genetics—–specifically, comparisons of the differential correlations of the attitudes of monozygotic twins and dizygotic twins—–we analyze data drawn from a large sample of twins in the United States, supplemented with findings from twins in Australia. The results indicate that genetics plays an important role in shaping political attitudes and ideologies but a more modest role in forming party identification; as such, they call for finer distinctions in theorizing about the sources of political attitudes. We conclude by urging political scientists to incorporate genetic influences, specifically interactions between genetic heritability and social environment, into models of political attitude formation.

Hmm. Must sharpen Ockham's Razor. More on this later.
Apologies to Michael Berube

Yeah, that was kind of reactionary. My friends will tell you I get that way sometimes.

Maybe it's just that it was golf. You might try bowling. Anyway, try to remember when you were young and impetuous. As someone who also argues for the unionization of grad students and (at our fine institution) the custodial staff, I'd be more than happy to join you.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Letter to David with Thanks for Picture

"I am thinking this morning of the men in the mills and the factories; of the men in the mines and on the railroads. I am thinking of the women who for a paltry wage are compelled to work out their barren lives; of the little children who in this system are robbed of their childhood and in their tender years are seized in the remorseless grasp of Mammon and forced into the industrial dungeons, there to feed the monster machines while they themselves are being starved and stunted, body and soul. I see them dwarfed and diseased and their little lives broken and blasted because in this high noon of Christian civilization money is still so much more important than the flesh and blood of childhood. In very truth gold is god today and rules with pitiless sway in the affairs of men." (Eugene Debs, Statement to the Court, 1918)

I had these thoughts looking at my friend David's picture of himself with his father in front of Karl Marx's grave. "Workers of the world unite!" is prominent on the gravestone, appearing above and to the right of Dave's and his father's heads.

For me it just seems intuitively obvious that one might object to a system that even its most passionate and competent proponents admit "causes"* arbitrary harm to innocent people. Maybe all systems "cause" such harm, but as debaters say, a critique doesn't HAVE to be unique. The impact scenarios are unique, and now is certainly the time, but the "moral compulsion" against capitalism seems intuitively defensible. Not so much that I think people who support capitalism are all evil, but that Marx's ideas ought to at least be an accepted part of public political conversation because anyone in their right mind should be able to understand why others desire socialism, even (I know I've belabored the point) if one does not agree with them. Even if socialism is guilty of moral naivete (and I will argue well into the evening and morning why it is not guilty), the instinct and basic idea of social altruism is inherently, logically, and intuitively defensible, and should be communicated as such. That natural understanding sometimes expresses itself in ways which seem sentimental and "unscientific."

Eugene Debs "recognized" his "kinship with all living things"** -- "recognition" indicating both an arrived-upon conclusion and the acknowledgement of something...already there. More and more I think that moral opposition to capitalism, as imperfect as moral schemes are, is an indispensable way, for now, to establish a common space of argument for a socialist political project. Not merely because most other spaces of radical argument consciously or unconsciously point away from "socialism," or because, to a large extent, corporations own the very ground of public argument itself, although both of those observations are important. The main reason I find the moral-ethical argument important is that it contains an intuitive affirmation of human solidarity that one can understand even if one does not agree. This may be because dialectical materialism and socialist politics are fundamentally rational, so it's only natural they would also be intuitive. Altruism may (as has been reported before on this blog) be hardwired or evolutionary. But whatever the reason, we should express it as such, and be no more or less ashamed of its sentimentality than Debs was in that beautifully sentimental language, or of the simple grandeur of "Workers of the world, unite!"

* The capitalist would probably be more comfortable with the phrase "results in arbitrary harm," a concession that would mean more to them than it would cost us.

**"Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the earth. I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free." (Eugene Debs, Statement to the Court, 1918)
Another Reason I Hate Golf

Here is Michael Berube's sad attempt at self-effacing humor and an explanation of why he plays golf all summer.
For two consecutive days, I did not revise my book manuscript or work on the copy-edited versions of a pair of new essays (they're sitting on my desk under a packet of golf tees). I did not get anywhere with the tenure cases I'm reviewing this summer -- or with the books I'm supposed to be reviewing.
Then again, I did birdie the hardest par four on the back nine, rolling in a 15-footer from the fringe (it was a devilish pin placement). So there's that.

This piece makes academics look pretty bad, ignorantly privileged, whiny, and trite. But class differences abound in academia. Those instructors and assistants who spend their summers teaching extra classes, to make ends meet, working second jobs, often because of 9-month contracts or just plain inadequate salaries, really aren't interested in Michael's golf scores or his complaints. Even tenured professors with large families often have a hard time of it, and despite his shallow attempts to vindicate professors' 60 hour work-weeks during the school year, Berube ignores the economic situations of those on whose backs he and his "Marxist" friends are playing their 18 holes. He can suck it.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Love and Death (1975)

Just saw it on IFC. It's been at least 15 years since I last saw it. I've forgotten how incredibly funny it is.

Some memorable lines:

Sonja: Judgment of any system, or a priori relationship or phenomenon exists in an irrational, or metaphysical, or at least epistemological contradiction to an abstract empirical concept such as being, or to be, or to occur in the thing itself, or of the thing itself.
Boris: Yes, I've said that many times.

Death: You're an interesting young man. We'll meet again.
Young Boris: Don't bother.
Death: It's no bother.

Sonja: To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy, one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you're getting this down.
Natasha: I never want to marry, I just want to get divorced.

Napoleon: If this pastry is to bear my name, it must be richer. More cream.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

New Monthly Review Webzine!

From one of my favorite activists and bloggers, Yoshi Furuhashi, who landed this rocking editing job:

MR webzine made its debut today (edited by yours
truly). Here's the lineup:

Thursday, July 14

Adrienne Rich
"A Debt to the World"

John Bellamy Foster
"The Wall Street Journal Meets Karl Marx"

Michael D. Yates
"Let's Put the Nature of Work on Labor's Agenda: Part One"

Richard D. Vogel
“Wal-Mart’s End Run Around Organized Labor -- Aided and Abetted by the State of Texas”

Matthew R. Anderson
"Social Medicine 101"

Gloria Rudolf
"Panama Journal"

Greetings from Liza Featherstone, Eduardo Galeano, Harry Magdoff, Marta Harnecker, Doug Henwood, Louis Proyect, and Annette T. Rubinstein

If you click on the image of the Bastille on the homepage, you can listen to "Ça ira" -- our homage to the French Revolution.

And tomorrow. you'll see:

Bill Fletcher
"Can We Do Anything besides Watch?: Some Ideas for Addressing Labor’s Crisis"

Marge Piercy
"Less than You Bargained for"

"An Interview with Samir Amin"

Soon, you'll be also able to read the work of such regular LBO-talk contributors as Tom Walker and Steve Philion at MR Webzine.

Yoshie Furuhashi
How Many Mothers' Hearts Must Be Mained?

Anyone who has been misled, or is being misled to believe that by killing innocent people he or she is serving God should think again because it's not true.

Death and destruction of young people in their prime as well as old and helpless can never be the foundations for building society.

A speech by Marie Fatayi-Williams, the mother of one of the victims of the London bombings (Thanks to Tom H. at Net Benefits for bringing it to our attention):

"This is Anthony, Anthony Fatayi -Williams, 26 years old, he's missing and we fear that he was in the bus explosion ... on Thursday. We don't know. We do know from the witnesses that he left the Northern line in Euston. We know he made a call to his office at Amec at 9.41 from the NW1 area to say he could not make [it] by the tube but he would find alternative means to work.

"Since then he has not made any contact with any single person. Now New York, now Madrid, now London. There has been widespread slaughter of innocent people. There have been streams of tears, innocent tears. There have been rivers of blood, innocent blood. Death in the morning, people going to find their livelihood, death in the noontime on the highways and streets.

"They are not warriors. Which cause has been served? Certainly not the cause of God, not the cause of Allah because God Almighty only gives life and is full of mercy. Anyone who has been misled, or is being misled to believe that by killing innocent people he or she is serving God should think again because it's not true.Terrorism is not the way, terrorism is not the way. It doesn't beget peace. We can't deliver peace by terrorism, never can we deliver peace by killing people. Throughout history, those people who have changed the world have done so without violence, they have [won] people to their cause through peaceful protest. Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, their discipline, their self-sacrifice, their conviction made people turn towards them, to follow them. What inspiration can senseless slaughter provide? Death and destruction of young people in their prime as well as old and helpless can never be the foundations for building society.

"My son Anthony is my first son, my only son, the head of my family. In African society, we hold on to sons. He has dreams and hopes and I, his mother, must fight to protect them. This is now the fifth day, five days on, and we are waiting to know what happened to him and I, his mother, I need to know what happened to Anthony. His young sisters need to know what happened, his uncles and aunties need to know what happened to Anthony, his father needs to know what happened to Anthony. Millions of my friends back home in Nigeria need to know what happened to Anthony. His friends surrounding me here, who have put this together, need to know what has happened to Anthony. I need to know, I want to protect him. I'm his mother, I will fight till I die to protect him. To protect his values and to protect his memory.

"Innocent blood will always cry to God Almighty for reparation. How much blood must be spilled? How many tears shall we cry? How many mothers' hearts must be maimed? My heart is maimed. I pray I will see my son, Anthony. Why? I need to know, Anthony needs to know, Anthony needs to know, so do many others unaccounted for innocent victims, they need to know.

"It's time to stop and think. We cannot live in fear because we are surrounded by hatred. Look around us today. Anthony is a Nigerian, born in London, worked in London, he is a world citizen. Here today we have Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, all of us united in love for Anthony. Hatred begets only hatred. It is time to stop this vicious cycle of killing. We must all stand together, for our common humanity. I need to know what happened to my Anthony. He's the love of my life. My first son, my first son, 26. He tells me one day, "Mummy, I don't want to die, I don't want to die. I want to live, I want to take care of you, I will do great things for you, I will look after you, you will see what I will achieve for you. I will make you happy.' And he was making me happy. I am proud of him, I am still very proud of him but I need to now where he is, I need to know what happened to him. I grieve, I am sad, I am distraught, I am destroyed.

"He didn't do anything to anybody, he loved everybody so much. If what I hear is true, even when he came out of the underground he was directing people to take buses, to be sure that they were OK. Then he called his office at the same time to tell them he was running late. He was a multi-purpose person, trying to save people, trying to call his office, trying to meet his appointments. What did he then do to deserve this. Where is he, someone tell me, where is he?"


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Islamic Militants Beheading Buddhists and Poor Workers in Thailand

From Reuters:

BANGKOK, July 6 (Reuters) - Suspected Islamic militants beheaded a policeman in Thailand's restive Muslim south, officials said on Wednesday, the tenth decapitation in more than 18 months of unrest but the first such attack on police. At least two militants shot senior police sergeant Sampan Onyala, a 43-year-old Buddhist, with a pistol and an AK-47 rifle late on Tuesday in a Muslim village in Pattani, one of the three southernmost provinces plagued by the violence, police said.[...]
Although most of the violence takes the form of daily shootings or small bomb or arson attacks, in the last month militants have stepped up a beheading campaign against Buddhists.
So far, most of the victims have been migrant labourers such as rubber plantation workers.

There is absolutely nothing progressive or anti-imperialist about these actions, nor is there any value to progressives in ignoring, defending, or failing to criticize these actions. These people are ultra right wing loonies. They are fascists. They make it impossibly difficult to forge any coherent or conscientious movement against imperialism, and they make it equally hard to keep U.S. militarism in check.

They are the worst kind of scum, because they capitalize on the misery of their followers.