Friday, December 31, 2010

WikiLeaks, Secrecy States and the Call for Blood

Leave it to veteran pacifist David McReynolds to point out the pathology of the right's latest calls for violence. David has been emailing a group including me almost daily pointing out the ways in which right wing hawks' current call for blood is the culmination of the the violent secrecy state. At a time when almost 20% of Americans are unemployed, underemployed, and in general, employment-challenged; at a time when we are fighting two illegal wars and watching our domestic infrastructure crumble and social programs dry up because of it; after we've suffered the worst oceanic oil disaster in human history; what does the right do? Call for the assassination and/or execution of people leaking and disseminating classified documents. Rather than being outraged at the content of the documents, conservatives want to send one of our James Bonds out to assassinate the founder of the web page releasing that information.

This isn't just a couple of over-exposed loonies, not the hideous hybrid created by the joining of Ann Coulter and Michael Savage, not just Alan Dershowitz writing another book. The calls for assassination are coming out of the conservative woodwork. It's crass opportunism rather than sound policy analysis, of course, but it provides further proof that, as conservatism circles the drain, its adherents will go to ever greater lengths to demonstrate their verility and marketability. Nor should we forget that what passes for analysis from the conservative side is mostly provided by politicians who are receiving bonifide paychecks from Fox News.

As I said on Wednesday's podcast, Bradley Manning is the whipping boy for the secrecy state. Even if the "limited" solitary confinement of Manning is not torture, it's not clear what the policy purpose of such confinement is if it's _not_ punitive. And, of course, if it is punitive, it is unconstitutional and even violates the UCMJ's Article 13: "No person, while being held for trial, may be subjected to punishment or penalty other than arrest or confinement upon the charges pending against him, nor shall the arrest or confinement imposed upon him be any more rigorous than the circumstances required to insure his presence..."

Unnecessary, unlawful confinement and drain-circling political figures trying to make their name, or keep their name, by calling for murder: These are the whines of a dying military-industrial complex and spokespersons desperate to make a few more bucks before the collapse of empire. We need to keep articulating the alternatives in 2011.

The Real Dexter

Not sure about this other "Dexter" everybody's talking about. The real Dexter has a massive laboratory and can time travel and stuff. Much cooler than being a (yawn) serial killer.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

image management

Just like Bill Clinton gutted welfare better than any Republican could, President Obama has overseen the dismantling of major components of New Deal and Great Society policies--in the midst of an economic crisis the likes of which haven't been seen in half a century. And to think the right wing subintellosphere still calls him a socialist...
One fact says a great deal about the reality of Obama’s policies: the reduction in the estate tax included in his tax-cut deal with the Republicans brings the tax on inherited wealth to its lowest level since 1931, prior to Roosevelt’s coming to power. Roosevelt during World War II pushed for the tax rate on the highest income tax bracket to be raised to 91 percent and imposed a cap on executive salaries.

Obama’s measures will provide an estimated $70 billion a year in tax breaks for the rich and hand over an additional $23 billion in estate tax cuts to 6,600 families.
The shift on Obama exemplifies the ceaseless efforts of the corporate-owned and controlled media to artificially create political realities by means of image making. Obama’s election was largely the result of a media marketing operation, backed and financed by sections of the ruling class that saw the need for a change in image and personnel after the foreign policy disasters of the Bush years and in the face of public hatred for Bush and the Republicans.
Now, the media is seeking to repackage and repair the badly discredited Obama administration. Why? Because it is dutifully doing the bidding of the financial aristocracy.

does yours?

Inspired by a random note by a friend...

My butt shines like gold
There's too much of it to hold
It smells like a pretty flower
Although I never shower
It jangles when I walk
I wish that it could talk
They'll say when I am old
That my butt shone like gold
--MJS 12-28-10

Monday, December 27, 2010

start from anywhere post 2

The WikiLeaks affair presupposes "state secrets." So what is the state, and on what grounds may it keep secrets?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

DADT and Economic Justice

Sometimes acts of justice move in the same normative direction even though they may not be fully consistent with one another.  Activists negotiate their movement around these acts in different ways.  While millions of people are celebrating the impending demise of the ban on openly GLBT military personnel, a few organizations, and many individuals, have questioned the appropriateness of progressives celebrating a policy which, foundationally, is a victory for the military-industrial complex, a route for more smoothely escorting people into the imperialist death machine.

While it is important to note that the public justification for lifting the ban drips with the rhetoric of imperialism, there's not a lot of new information to discover there.  The U.S. military is simultaneously the oppressive arm of multinational capital, and home to millions of working class people, many of whom are economically dependant on the military and, of those, many who discover, too late in some instances, that much of the solidarity, honor, and valor they may initially have sought in their jobs has been hijacked by the imperialist-mercenary role of U.S. forces. 

One terse dismissal of the DADT victory came from Queers for Economic Justice, who seamlessly tie the struggle for economic justice to the overall struggle against militarism:
QEJ believes military service is not economic justice, and it is immoral that the military is the nation’s de facto jobs program for poor and working-class people. And since QEJ organizes LGBTQ homeless people in New York City, we wanted to remind the LGBT community and progressive anti-war allies that militarism and war profiteering do not serve the interests of LGBT people.
When I posted QEJ's statement on the Shared Sacrifice FB fan page, one reader responded that it was shameful QEJ seemed incapable of distinguishing between doing one good thing and solving every systemic problem.   I agree, but I'm trying to understand their argument better. They needed to better articulate how, precisely, this is a setback or a distraction--the only two warrants, as I see it, for their conclusion. It is true that, as presently constructed, "military service is not economic justice." But neither are most jobs where we're demanding an end to discrimination. What I do agree with, vehemently, is the need to prioritize the struggle for economic justice.

Last Saturday, Jason & Annette & I had a good discussion on the Shared Sacrifice Weekend podcast about the tension between equal rights within existing institutions, and the true argument that this is all just more human beings being thrown into the grinder. Several arguments emerged, of which the following are the general types, and I am not necessarily endorsing any of them as I list them: (1) Gays already serve, always have, so kind of a "non-unique, only a risk you increase people's dignity" argument. (2) Equal opportunity: Serving in the military is often a pathway to getting good jobs, paying for education, and other benefits. Saying "f--- the war machine!" doesn't answer back the equality argument, it just makes you sound like a hippie who has nothing to offer the working class. (3) The "it's not militarism itself, it's the bourgeois fat cats who start the illegal wars" argument. Essentially: the military can be used for good ends such as fighting the Nazis, disaster response, space exploration, anything good requiring major amounts of discipline, comaradery and collective will. Don't knock the military--reform society and end the corporate colonization of all aspects of American life, and institutions will invariably change for the better. (4) Don't insult people in the military by reducing the entirety of their existence and their values to "dying for oil" or whatever.

Personally I see no more contradiction fighting imperialism while promoting equality in the military, than I see fighting wage slavery while promoting equality in the workplace.  In a sense, these are inconsistent, because the social and material conditions under which we live are themselves inconsistent.  But like I said at the outset, they move in the same normative direction.  Controversial, even uncomfortable conversations like those sparked by QEJ, help us forge that normative space, important in the long view.  And while we argue, we can fight for common goals (think ENDA, since even after DADT is repealed, bosses all over the country will still be able to fire workers for being gay). 

Sunday, December 05, 2010

start from anywhere post 1

A paradoxical, consistent historical phenomenon: When the number of poor in a society increases, so do the open, blatant attacks on the poor (it's their own fault, they shouldn't be allowed to vote, let's criminalize poverty, etc.).  As socioeconomic forces increase poverty, the rhetoric reducing poverty to a moral choice escalates.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ten Reasons to Believe: Important Sites on Worker Cooperatives

I recently asked Shared Sacrifice Facebook readers whether, as the economy collapses, people will turn to hate, or turn toward each other. The response was a unanimous, fearful prediction of hate. That led me to think about the people out there who have thought about and implemented, in some cases with extreme success, alternative economic models on the ground. So before you sink into despair at what economic decline will do to one another, take heart in the possibility that more people will come to realize that cooperation _is_ self-interest. For those only slightly familiar with cooperative work models, here are ten web sites to visit that will get you seriously thinking about the economic case for cooperation.

1. Most progressives have probably heard of Mondragon. Here's a quick read on how Mondragon works and some critical analysis the author speeds quickly through at the end.

2. Listen to this podcast by Business Matters on worker-owned coops.

3. The U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives is a national grassroots organization offering advice, resources, solidarity for worker cooperatives in the U.S.

4. Equal Exchange: a food cooperative

5. Check out Citybikes, a Portland cooperative bike shop--actually two branches in Portland

6. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development supports --and funds-- worker-owned cooperatives. "Over the past ten years, CCHD has supported worker-owned cooperatives focused on paraprofessional healthcare, child care, cleaning, sewing and craft production and temporary employment businesses."

7. Listen to "Your Call" with Rose Aguilar: "Worker-Owned Cooperatives: The Work We Do is the Solution" .

8. Personal essay by a worker-owner at the well-known Rainbow Grocery cooperative.

9. Participatory Economics guru Robin Hahnel on reducing inequality among worker cooperatives.

10. "The United Steel Workers Union, North America's largest industrial trade union, announced a new collaboration with the world's largest worker-owned cooperative, Mondragon International, based in the Basque region of Spain."

A careful study of worker cooperatives has something to offer progressives of varying tendencies. For the socialist, worker cooperatives really are schools and laboratories for what works and doesn't in trying to build a post-capitalist economy. For Greens, they're an example of the kind of policies that should be promoted by legislation and built by grass roots movements. For Democrats, they are a reason to push their party away from corporatism, if that's possible at this point. They may even have something to offer the non-paleo libertarians. Happy reading. I mean, this is happy reading, so happy reading!

Monday, November 08, 2010

the empirical-research-challenged person's guide to sound policymaking

In Connecticut, Governor Jodi Rell vetoed a bill that would have banned capital punishment in the state.  Her explanation couldn't have been any less intellectually or morally satisfying:

"There is no doubt that the death penalty is a deterrent to those who contemplate such monstrous acts.  The statistics supporting this fact, however, are not easily tabulated."

The last I heard, if there's "no doubt" about something, it's possible to empirically verify it.  At least, you know, when we're talking about public policy rather than the existence of God or the Easter Bunny. 

Back here in the real world, the death penalty does not deter crime.  It just doesn't.

Sunday, November 07, 2010


One of the more amusing things about Keith Olbermann's suspension is the amount of barely-concealed professional jealousy that has emerged from the media woodwork. A quick review of stories that have emerged on the Olbermann suspension in the last few hours:
In a few clumsy paragraphs, CNN contributor John Avlon manages to compose the most intellectually dishonest column I've seen on the issue so far. He cites Fox News's 30+ hyperpartisan hosts and contributors, in order to compare them to MSNBC's two or three, in order, finally, to cast a blanket of equivalency on all of them. This despite the fact that neither Olbermann nor Maddow have ever _endorsed_ a candidate, appeared at a campaign rally jointly sponsored by a Fox program and the candidates, and so on. Editorialists can be ideologically oriented without overtly supporting a party or candidate. Avlon doesn't get this. He also misses the fact that both Olbermann and Maddow have been critical of the Democratic Party and Obama, where one would never expect (nor ever witness) equivalent criticism of GOP leaders from Fox News.

He calls Maddow, who has an independent history all her own, Olbermann's "on-air protege." That's Ann Coulter language. It's also inaccurate and meanspirited, but was probably an attempt to sound clever. And, he explains Maddow's defense of Olbermann as a natural consequence of their ideological afinity, ignoring the fact that she, um, actually made some arguments. Avlon doesn't care about arguments, particularly those emerging from female proteges with no histories or personalities of their own.

He wraps it up with the most meaningless display of statistics I've seen since I used to go to L.A. Clippers games: Guess what, kids? 15% identify as conservative republicans while ONLY 11% describe themselves as liberal democrats. Good Gosh, a four-point gap among polar opposites! That didn't help the nutbags take over the Senate, but it's supposed to make Olbermann and his sidekick somehow contrite? Because, as Avlon contends, MSNBC's lefty partisanship emboldens Fox News?  Sigh. Another article to throw in the "don't write like this" basket.
Clever, albeit with an over-use of both metaphors and bold print (omitted below), is Tommy Christopher's speculation that IT'S ALL A CONSPIRACY!!!:
Amid the white hot coverage of MSNBC’s indefinite suspension of Countdown host Keith Olbermann, speculation furious enough to shame Melle Mel’s collegial quintet has emerged. Is this Olbermann’s Waterloo? Does Keith still have the juice to weather the maelstrom? Does the whole thing scream “Comcastic?”
One wrinkle that hasn’t been explored is an intriguing notion that a colleague of mine floated to me. Could the whole thing be an ingenious part of MSNBC’s re-branding effort, a publicity stunt with the dual purpose of drawing a sharper contrast with rival Fox News? Was 11/5 an inside job?
Deliberately or not, the Olbermann suspension is accomplishing great things for MSNBC. First of all, this thing is generating enough publicity to make P.T. Barnum look like Greta Garbo. But more than that, it also appears to have cleverly enlisted its own enemies in a Tom Sawyer-esque fence-painting exercise.
The bigger story is that MSNBC is now run by Republican Overlord and Bush-buddy Steve Burke. Even the New Republic thinks that's noteworthy.

My own take: We should, if we care to, condemn the suspension of Olbermann. But we should not settle for Olbermann, let alone worship him like many lib dems do. Moreover, we should explain the context of the supension and what it reveals about the economic forces at work in even the "liberal" media.

corp + state = fascism

My friend Joseph recently reminded me that Benito Mussolini allegedly said "Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power."

In addition to the difficulty in verifying the quote (damn, there's a lot of that going around these days), there is some legitimate doubt that, when he used the word "corporatism," Mussolini meant what we mean today.  Chip Berlet, however, points out that BM used the word to describe guilds, which would imply business conglomerates. Here's il duce himself saying:
It may be objected that this program implies a return to the guilds [corporazioni]. No matter!... I therefore hope this assembly will accept the economic claims advanced by national syndicalism. (p. 24)
It doesn't ultimately matter whether BM or his ghostwriter ever said this specifically.  Fascsism is an elite-driven historical act of desperation, where the freedoms, including market freedoms, associated with capitalism are sacrificed in order to save capitalism.  It's capitalism's "special period."  In that sense, it is a merger of the state and the corporate elite, or the intensification of that already-existing relationship.

So here's the question the quote, and discussion around it, sparked for me: Why do conservatives always conclude the solution is to eliminate state power only? Does it have anything to do with their conflation of fascism and Stalinism?
A third essential element of fascism, which evolved by necessity, but whose origins were intrinsic to the goals of fascism, is the thorough, public use of brutality to crush dissent and/or deviance. That quality is not a factor in the question, but it may be in the answer.

Friday, November 05, 2010

the rightist billionaire learning curve

Concerning the role of Latino voters in preventing a GOP Senate takeover, indulge me just one prediction:

Sooner or later the right will just learn to appeal to the ruling classes of each ethnic group, and those groups will, in turn, deploy subjectivist identity politics to subdue their organic critics.

Monday, November 01, 2010

isolationism as farce

William Astore is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and the kind of exacting, precice critic of war and the military inpooprial complex I like to read. He's got a good new essay, The New American Isolationism: The Cost of Turning Away from War’s Horrific Realities over at TomDispatch. Although not a wholly original idea, or perhaps because it's a commonly uttered theme--we're too removed from war to mount an effective opposition to it, this summation of the argument is especially effective.

Astore writes:

When you’re kept isolated from war’s costs, it’s nearly impossible to mount an
effective opposition to them. While our elites, remembering the Vietnam years,
may have sought to remove U.S. public opinion from the enemy’s target list, they
have also worked hard to remove the public as a constraint on their war-making
powers. Recall former Vice President Dick Cheney’s dismissive “So?” when asked
about opinion polls showing declining public support for the Iraq War in 2008.
So what if the American people are uneasy? The elites can always call on a
professional, non-draft military, augmented by hordes of privatized hire-a-gun
outfits, themselves so isolated from society at large that they’ve almost become
the equivalent of foreign legionnaires. These same elites encourage us to
“support our troops,” but otherwise to look away.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

on sending messages: Ilario Pantano

While deployed in Iraq, Ilario Pantano, GOP and Teabag-backed congressional candidate in North Carolina, shot two unarmed Iraqis 20 times. After they were dead, he changed his clip and fired 20 more shots into them. He told the media he did it to "send a message to other Iraqis." He left a threatening note on their bullet-ridden bodies to drive the point home. The military chose not to prosecute him because the unarmed Iraqis had made threatening gestures to him.

Say one thing about the guy, he's all about going above and beyond the call of duty.
Pantano is struggling against Democratic Blue Dog hack Mike McIntyre.

What other "messages" does he want to send? 


You can read about the head-stepping incident here, here, and here. You can watch the video here. MoveOn is reporting that the woman has a concussion and sprained arm. Rand Paul himself has declined to even hypothetically condemn the violence. [UPDATE: RAND PAUL CONDEMNS ATTACK AND EVEN ADMITS IT WAS PERPETRATED BY A PAUL SUPPORTER.  WELL-DONE, MR. PAUL.]

My interest was a quick survey of the gut reactions of Paul supporters and apologists.  So I browsed a few comments sections and this is what I came up with:

(These are all real--when quoted they are direct; otherwise they are paraphrased, and I'd be happy to track down the original should you care to context-check me)

1. MoveOn staged the whole thing--the people who attacked her were really members of MoveOn. (several righties have accused MoveOn of staging the attack)

2. "It's obvious she was unhurt and was attempting to be disruptive. Maybe she'll exercise a little common sense next time."

3. Lefty thugs exist in some other context and at some point or another hurt somebody, so this is okay/vindication/deserved.

4. It wasn't her head, it was mostly her shoulder.

5. We have no sympathy for her precisely because she's a member of MoveOn

6. She deserved it because she was wearing a wig to conceal her identity

7. If she was a victim, why did the police question her after the incident? (YEAH, COPS NEVER INTERVIEW VICTIMS)

8. Valle has been arrested in nonviolent protest actions before, so she's a fishy character.

9. This was a reasonable way of telling MoveOn members they are not welcome in Kentucky.

10. Rand Paul supporters stomped on her head because they believed scary union thugs were outside of the building.

*Honorable mention: A couple of 'baggers claimed Valle "rushed the stage," but she didn't. She walked.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

"I am the very model of a modern mad conservative"

(With halfhearted apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan)

I am the very model of a modern mad conservative
If you don't have the benjamins you've forfeited your right to live
I eschew any notion of social responsibility
And spend my weekends lamenting the government with bags of tea

He spends his weekends lamenting the government with bags of tea
He spends his weekends lamenting the government with bags of tea
He spends his weekends lamenting the government with bags of tea

Obama is a socialist but also he's an Islamist
That these are contradictory it doesn't matter in the least
He aims to grab America and tear it down with all his might
From years of sitting in the pews and hearing Jeremiah Wright

I will protect you from the sodomites and the pornographers
Unless the latter group sends large donations to our headquarters
And in my presence you need never fear attacks by terrorists
Except of course for those whose names are on our biggest donor lists

Except of course for those whose names are on our biggest donor lists
Except of course for those whose names are on our biggest donor lists
Except of course for those whose names are on our biggest donor lists

I will unite the Bachmannites the Palinesques and Limbaughnaughts
The Beckers and the Hannitights the Anglers and the Cheneybots
For imposition of my prejudice no reason I will give
I am the very model of a modern mad conservative

For imposition of his prejudice no reason he will give
He is the very model of a modern mad conservative

amazing interview with Neill Franklin of LEAP

I've interviewed around a hundred celebs, activists, candidates and public officials over the past two years--none have affected me as profoundly as the interview I just concluded with Neill Franklin, Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. His personal journey from undercover narcotics agent to advocate for legalization is an amazing story that everyone needs to hear.  And while we've all heard the statistics and stories about the way our country's misguided drug policies affect minority communities, Mr. Franklin's insights into this, as a Baltimore cop, make for essential listening for everyone concerned about drug policy, social justice, and rational lawmaking. 

Friday, October 08, 2010

Three fun facts about Jan Brewer

1. This week she declared a "Child Health Day" -- after cutting child health programs in Arizona.

2. Rumors are floating around Arizona that Brewer is very sick. She looks terrible in photos, she slurs her words and blanks out, like a drunk would do, and she had that mini-stroke moment in the debate, where she couldn't read the notes that were in front of her. Whatever the specifics, it's clear something ain't right up there. 

Actually, the lies she's told about her father and goings-on in the Arizona desert could also be brain disease-related, although I ain't no physician, so please don't accept any advice from me on medical issues. My point is she lies and lies and lies, and there may be a medical explanation for it. That's all I'm sayin'.

3. She's got a cheatin' heart. Put another way, Arizona Democrats have filed a serious complaint that, even if she wins in November, will follow her into this office she so little understands. True to Arizona form, her defenders are aghast and circling the wagons. We already know of her ties to the private prison industry that stands to benefit from a crackdown on immigration.

Bonus fact: She's probably still gonna win the election. Double-bonus fact: This just means we'll be able to enjoy the meltdown later, when it will do more damage.

Just How Dishonest & Stupid Is Charles Krauthammer?

This blast from last February at Media Matters for America, courtesy of Jamison Foser, sums it up nicely and bears re-posting as we look ahead to Krauthammer's fascist-sympathizing rhetoric between now and the mid-term elections.
Charles Krauthammer says environmentalism is "the new socialism," compares Barack Obama's 2008 campaign to China's Cultural Revolution, accuses Obama of thinking of himself "in messianic terms" and of using "Orwellian language that you expect" from Hugo Chavez and calls Chavez Obama's "new pal" and invokes the Nazis in writing about Obama's stem cell policies. He referred to Khamenei as Iran's "Supreme Leader," attacked Barack Obama for doing the same thing a few days later, then just a few days after that, again referred to Khamenei as the "Supreme Leader." Principled!

Krauthammer has called possible torture investigations "banana republic politics" and made false claims to support his case against investigations. That's unsurprising, given that Krauthammer goes back and forth on whether waterboarding is torture -- but is unwavering in his support for it. And like any good Washington Post columnist, he didn't like the Plame investigation, or feel bound by the facts when discussing it -- and even wrote that Bush should pre-emptively pardon Libby. And Krauthammer has falsely defended the Bush administration's use of Iraq intelligence. He even praised Dick Cheney for doing the "manly thing" in withholding information about his shooting of a hunting companion.
Foser roasts a few of the other Little-Streichers in the piece too.  It's well worth a lookback.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

TSOL at the Key club

More from the unsung craftsmen of American punk. Nobody did the slower, cutting, methodically killing punk better than them.

Suburbia - TSOL

TSOL was an underrated, influential, daring band at a critical time in punk rock. They sacrificed commercial fame and, intentionally or not, kept the west coast American punk tradition alive during the otherwise dilluted 1980s. Glad I ran across this melodic song that anticipates some of the better emo-esque and "pop" punk of the 90s.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Some scumbags are even too toxic for Republicans. After several blogs and news sources (including The Underview) spread the word on Westchester County, NY Republican candidate Jim Russell's racist essay in the hate journal Occidental Quarterly, the Westchester County Republicans "pulled the plug" on their embarassing candidate.

"We're going to pull the plug on him immediately," said Westchester GOP Chairman Doug Colety, who is also a county election commissioner. He said he wanted to remove Russell from the ballot altogether but wasn't sure that would be possible. Russell also has the Conservative line, and party representatives did not return calls Tuesday.
"We were unaware of any of this," Colety said, referring to the essay.
Like any good bucket of human feces, Russell vows to continue his campaign undaunted.

Reached by phone, Russell said his "research paper" was being misrepresented ... He said he plans to continue his campaign, with a 12:30 p.m. appearance today at the White Plains office of the state Department of Labor.
Russell's campaign manager may be an even bigger piece of garbage than Russell himself:

Russell's campaign manager, Frank Morgenthaler, acknowledged the article but would not comment on it. Like Russell, he sought to put the focus back on Lowey and the candidate's platform on job loss, health care and failed border security.
"We're in a situation now where our country is on the brink of death almost," Morgenthaler said. "That's a heck of a lot more important than any articles or any spin that the incumbents want to put on it. Obviously the incumbent cannot defend her poor record."

Hey Morgenthaler: Nice to know you're loyal. As your next show of devotion, please sterilize yourself in order to clean up the gene pool.
"White people's brains are thiiiiis big..."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Face of the Contemporary GOP

I would have thought he was a fictional character; a satire.  But Jim Russell is very real: He's a GOP candidate for the U.S. House, he's got staunch supporters (read some of the comments underneath the article), and he possesses systemically sophisticated views against Jews, interracial marriage and dating, and the "de-Europeanization" of Europe.  

He's not a fringe candidate, not a fake-GOPer, not a rogue.  He has been endorsed by the New York Republican Party and the New York Conservative Party.  If you donate to GOP causes, you've likely donated to him. 

And now the poop's about to hit the fan on the GOP's colossal failure to vet this scumbag.  The initial credit seems to belong to Maggie Haberman at Politico, who dug up Russell's Streicheresque essay at the hate journal Occidental Quarterly.  The story has been picked up by Salon, and a few other sites as well.

Incipient fascism.  That's what we're seeing here. And this is one of the few times the link is so explicit.

Friday, August 27, 2010

There's opinion, and there's opinion

A new CBS poll finds that a majority of Americans, of all self-described and institutionally categorized mainstream political identities, want higher taxes on the wealthy.  It is now incumbent upon the mainstream media to teach us why this poll means nothing.  The general principle to remember: Polls with progressive conclusions don't matter; polls showing increasing preference towards Republicans (who two years ago were consigned to the dustbin of history, and who really are on that trajectory*, despite their recent ill-gotten gains) do matter, because the media has to teach us a few lessons between now and the November bloodbath.

Remember, though, the CBS poll on taxes means nothing.  It means nothing precisely because, not in spite of, its indication of public support for more egalitarian tax and fiscal policy (as Daily Kos reminded readers when discussing tax cuts, remember the 60-70% of the public, including a majority of Republicans, who wanted a public health care plan). It cannot be allowed to mean anything because the public doesn't get to really discuss economic issues.  There is very little left left in the mainstream media, but a whole lot of left left in the streets, in community activist networks, and in the alternative media.  The mainstream media uses its own agenda-setting as evidence of the nonpopulation of egalitarian activism in legitimate politics.  This allows Barack Obama a free pass to do things like derisively kick Single Payer off the table, so that the "pragmatists" in the center-right Democratic party and their media defenders can rise to his defense when the GOP calls him a commie anyway. (Most polls that bothered to ask the question prior to Obamacare, by the way, showed majority support for Single Payer Health Care.)

A majority support cap and trade. A majority support tough financial reforms, regardless of talk about how such regulations kill the free market (they're anemic compared to the damage unregulated markets can do, and they DON'T kill "free markets" whatever those are).  The entire process of health care reform legislation consistently traveled against the public tide--but not the direction the mainstream media created, practically out of whole cloth.    

Instead, it's the ideological minority that matters to the mainstream media, evidenced by their over-coverage, and uncritical narrative-spinning, concerning the corporate-created Tea Partiers.*  The result of this filtering and appealing to the lowest common denominator as a matter of both form and content is an electorate that hates the Democrats and favors the policies normally associated with them.

-  -  -  -  -

*On the Tea Parties: Even Chris Matthews is entitled to be right about something once or twice a year:
They want to tear the country apart if it will relieve them of the duty of living in modern America, which I truly believe, despite all their anger, continues its march towards making this a more progressive land. That's something they just can't stand.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Believers and Terrorists

Executed right-wing terrorist Tim McVey is often brought up as a counterpoint to the 9/11 hijackers, particularly in response to irrational conflation of those hijackers with "all of Islam."  While the comparison is imperfect, the right has frequently responded with posts claiming McVeigh was an atheist.  But the real argument should not be that McVeigh was a "Christian."  That term is too subjective to provide clarity.  What is objective truth is McVeigh's affiliation with the Christian Identity movement.  Like most terrorists, McVeigh played religion rather than practicing it.  Neither he nor the 9/11 hijackers likely possessed the intelligence to think through that distinction, but religious terrorists are classified as such because they deploy religion, not because they practice it. 

One needn't be a "Christian" to be a "Christian Terrorist." The majority of American Muslims did not and do not see the 9/11 hijackers as legitimate Muslims. It's certainly not clear he was an atheist. When interviewed by Time, McVeigh claimed that although he had "lost touch" with Catholicism, he still "maintain(ed)" its "core beliefs." He told Time " I do believe in a God..." and declined further religious discussion. He wrote a letter to the Guardian claiming to be an agnostic, but accepted Last Rites before his execution. More important is what influenced McVeigh: The Christian Identity movement and its eschatological catechism, The Turner Diaries.

McVeigh self-identified with Christian extremism. Whether one is a full-on professed member of a religion is not as important as whether they are willing to (a) model their behavior along the ideological lines of that religion and (b) exploit others' religious beliefs to their own ends. McVeigh made several calls to the Elohim City enclave in the weeks prior to bombing the Murrah Building. McVeigh had also signed up for membership in the Ku Klux Klan, an organization that specifically requires that its members "conduct themselves with Christian character."

All of which is simply to say: McVeigh was to Christianity as the 9/11 hijackers were to Islam.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Angle tries to sound educamacated and fails

Assuming Sharron Angle could even find Chile on a map, she got her history and contemporary policy analysis wrong on the question of social security privatization there (to say nothing of her lauding the policy of a mass murderer, but who's counting anymore?).

The Associated Press: Angle on private Social Security: Chile's done it:
Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Sharron Angle says the nation's Social Security system needs to be privatized, and she says it was done before in Chile. Angle referred to the South American country on Thursday in North Las Vegas while explaining previous statements that the United States should phase out its current system. However, the pension system established in 1981 by right-wing Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet is no longer a fully private system. Chile's system was revamped in 2008 to expand public pensions for groups left out of its system, including low-income seniors.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

drivel covered with whipped cream

Reading Ross Douthat's passive-aggressive lamentation on the Proposition 8 decision, I find no reason to modify my longstanding opinion of Douthat's skills as a columnist, his intellectual capacity, or the pedagogical value of reading his work.  He's a shallow, pretentious, intellectually inferior culture-warrior who somehow bamboozled his way into having a regular column in the New York Times.  If I were personally against same-sex marriage, I'd beg him to switch sides on the issue.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Because they have to...

Those opposed to repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell are lying and fudging data in order to make it appear that 70 + percent of the public doesn't favor repeal. 

Thanks to my friend Alex for bringing this to my attention.

Monday, August 02, 2010 (GOP regains generic congressional edge)

After a short-lived lead change, the GOP has regained the generic congressional poll lead they've had for several weeks. Charlie Cook got caught with his pants down on this, and he's probably not the only columnist who didn't catch the quick change.

Obama's approval rating is 45%--Clinton's was 46% on the eve of the disasterous 1994 midterms. Historically, according to this WSJ blog I just read (how's that for a citation), generic congressional poll differences have done a good job pr...edicting midterms, the more difference nationally, the more seats won/lost. Worse for the Democrats, as the election draws nearer, Gallup will switch from polling registered voters to likely voters, which is expected to bump GOP numbers up even higher. Finally, just for gee-whiz sake, the reason all this is true is that older white voters make up a higher percentage of midterm voters than their percentage in general elections. That may comfort Democrats considerably in 20 years but makes things pretty dismal now.  And in 20 years, there will be a genuine major party to the left of the Democrats anyway. 

On the other hand, if the GOP does win control of both houses in November, I wouldn't be surprised if Obama's approval ratings shot up through the roof by March or April.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Independence Day Post Mortem

Bill Van Auken, celebrating July 4th, in his article "A government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich."
The Democratic House and Senate leadership have blamed Republican obstinacy for the defeat of these meager relief measures. The reality, however, is that both big business parties accept the doctrine of deficit reduction and agree that social spending—including the pittance offered to the unemployed—must be curtailed to that end. As for the Obama White House, it declined to make an issue of millions of workers being left destitute.
No such obstacle stood in the way of paying for imperialist war, however, with the Congressional Democratic leadership determined to approve the $33 billion supplemental package—roughly the same amount that was withheld from the unemployed and the state governments—before July 4.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

nutjobs and mother-of-all-nutjobs

"Rand Paul has been widely cast as a libertarian but there’s considerable evidence tying him to another tendency – theocratic Christian nationalism, and specifically Christian Reconstructionism." B.E. Wilson

If you have friends in Kentucky who are undecided on this, or are voting for Rand Paul because he's a "conservative like them" they at least deserve to know what they're voting for.  Several weeks ago I suggested that Alex Jones' love of Rand Paul speaks volumes about both gentlemen. It's hard to read the following interview fragment and not break out laughing, and perhaps you can even keep up the laughter as you contemplate that Paul is in a dead heat against his Democratic opponent Jack Conway, that this guy could end up making federal policy as part of an emerging Republican majority.
Alex Jones: Rand, I want to ask you about John P. Holdern, the science czar. Generally the social planners admit they want socialized medicine; they want carbon taxes, he says, to carry out eugenics. And even the forced drugging of the water to sterilize us. That sounds like Nazi Germany. What would you do in the Senate about this?

Rand Paul: Well if I were there we would get to expose it before he's gotten a hearing—during his hearing; that's what these hearings are for, to expose this before he gets approved.
Another Paul appearance on Jones' show found the candidate giving tacit support to all manner of nutbaggery, including this gem:
During a rant about the Fed, Jones claimed "we know that the Federal Reserve was clearly implicated in the kidnapping of a congressman's baby" and commended Paul for his "courage" in taking on the Fed. Paul replied, "I appreciate that," and he told Jones that he could not mount his Senate run "without you." 

Rather than being an aberration of conservatism, it's important to understand that the fantasy-world and intrigue of conspiracy theorists serves to supercharge a conservative worldview that would otherwise have been weakened by history, economic realities and political evolution. Rand, along with Sharron Angle, Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and others are part of a new GOP power-base of theological-paranoid-fantasy-mongering conservative metaphysicians. Alex Jones, while paying lip service to "libertarianism" (a philosophy that finally emerges as whatever its practitioners want it to mean) is the movement's willing extremist lunatic--more of a Streicher than a Goebbels--expanding the space of extremism in order to make the far right GOP seem reasonable by comparison.

Whether you're working to defeat Rand Paul electorally, or working as part of a larger movement to defeat the conditions responsible for the present reemergence of the far right loon brigade, you're doing good work. Keep it up.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


(Terry Allen)

This is from Juarez, an album which has garnered incredible critical praise.

I feel just like a dogwood tree
Yeah somebody come carved a cross outta me
Carried me down to Jerusalem
People they gave me to the carpenter’s son

Yeah they carried my weight up on the old gotham plain
Sky turned black and it started to rain
Police with this a hammer drove his white hands into me
Made him a part of the dogwood tree

Yeah he may be gone far away from here
Sun may shine bright, the sky might be clear.
But the eye that they used to nail him to me
Remains dark in the bog of the dogwood tree

Monday, June 28, 2010

One Year Since Honduran Coup

Keeping Honduras at the Forefront of Our Thinking

From Bill Van Auken, some clarity on Honduras one year out:
In justifying the coup, its backers within the Honduran oligarchy accused Zelaya of launching an extra-constitutional power grab for a third presidential term. This accusation, dutifully repeated by the media in the US, was nonsensical on its face, given that no vote to convene a constituent assembly could be organized before the ballot to choose Zelaya’s successor.
Both Honduras’s ruling “10 families” and the Obama administration in Washington had other reasons to seek Zelaya's overthrow.
The native oligarchy had begun to view Zelaya, himself a wealthy landowner and timber baron, as a traitor because of minimal reforms, such as an increase in the minimum wage, which threatened a slight infringement on fortunes built through its collaboration with the transnational corporations in the super-exploitation of low-wage Honduran labor.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

bad company

This is a worthy flashback to 2007: In "US Economy Leaving Record Numbers in Severe Poverty," Tony Pugh puts some perspective on how little the U.S. allocates toward poverty reduction:
With the exception of Mexico and Russia, the U.S. devotes the smallest portion of its gross domestic product to federal anti-poverty programs, and those programs are among the least effective at reducing poverty, the study found. Again, only Russia and Mexico do worse jobs. One in three Americans will experience a full year of extreme poverty at some point in his or her adult life, according to long-term research by Mark Rank, a professor of social welfare at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Friday, June 11, 2010

there's nothing more American than the original Socialist movement

I've been chatting with socialists over the last several days.  Tonight, we'll be podcasting my interview with Dan LaBotz, SPUSA candidate for Senate from Ohio. 

Last week I talked to Billy Wharton, co-chair of SPUSA. 

Both Wharton and LaBotz emphasized left unity and solidarity with workers as the basis of political vision and strategy.  Socialists are joining forces with Greens; many small socialist organizations are suppporting LaBotz's candidacy, and in general, there's hope for convergence rather than fragmentation on the left.  Refreshing.

quote of the week

From David Grossman's editorial on new evidence demonstrating IDF soldiers executed Mavi Marmara Victims. Grossman is expressing his disappointment in Obama's weak response to the incident:

"There are times when ineffectual leaders with good intentions can do even more damage than those like Bush who never had any good intentions to begin with."

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Good, they deserve it

More later maybe, but small justice is better than no justice.

Mormon Church Fined for Prop 8 Spending :: EDGE Boston

Glenn Beck loved that Nazi's book so much before he forgot

The Book Glenn Beck Loved So Much - Norwonk - Open Salon:

I'm talking, of course, about the 1934 classic The Red Network: a 'Who's Who' and Handbook of Radicalism for Patriots by Elizabeth Dilling. Glenn Beck was very enthusiastic after reading it, although he can now, a couple of days later, barely remember mentioning it. I know how he feels; I have ADHD, too. But one should not judge a book by its Nazi author.

And I contend Beck truly believes this passage from Dilling's book. I'm not kidding:
The colored people are a sincerely religious race. As long as they stayed in Africa un-Christianized, they remained, as did pagan white men, savages. Their pagan brothers in Africa today are savages, while in a comparatively few years, under the opportunities of the American government and the inspiration of Christianity, the American Negroes have acquired professions, property, banks, homes, and produced a rising class of refined, home loving people. This is far more remarkable than that many Negroes are still backward. The Reds play upon the Negroes' love of their own people and represent them as persecuted in order to inflame them against the very white people who have in reality given the colored race far greater opportunities than their fellow negroes would give them in Africa today. Only recently the U. S. government was protesting slave holding by colored officials in Liberia. The Reds look upon the Negroes as their greatest hope. They want them to do their dirty work in stirring up bloody revolution and to bear its brunt. Then whether the Reds win or lose the Negroes will be the losers, for Sovietization is slavery.
That's just a the article!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A Higher Vision

Jewish activist Michael Sussman explains why he is leading flotilla protest: "since we commenced organizing this protest, some have called me and warned me that my political career is over for co-sponsoring this rally and forum and that I am associating with anti-semites, etc. i wanted to address those issues briefly. from an early age, my vision of Judaism was a vision replete with social commitment and activism. the rabbis who influenced me were active in the civil rights movement and deeply involved every day in promoting social justice. my own inspiration comes not merely from my own family, but from these individuals. as a jew, I cannot accept the notion that 'my people' have superior rights to others and 'my state,' Israel, can act in any manner it wishes, contrary to international law."

Monday, June 07, 2010

Columbia Elections Update

News is trickling out concerning the runoff in Columbia between status quo candidate Juan Manuel Santos and Green Party candidate, former Bogota Mayor and unapologetic progressive Antanas Mockus. Mockus is behind in questionable polls (they're all questionable) and some say he has trouble expressing himself, touts "unpopular" policies like taxes, and stumbled on security issues.

Even if he loses (and mainstream media says he probably will), Mockus has already done something very special for Latin American politics:
even if Mockus does not embody all the hopes and aspirations of environmentalists or indigenous peoples, this political maverick has inspired nascent green parties across South America. Even if he does not win the second round and goes down in defeat to Santos, Mockus will have demonstrated that parties like his may have a political future in a region hardly known for its adherence to green principles.
Both the Greens and their opponents, Partido de la U, have approached third-place finisher Gustavo Petro in hopes of forming an alliance with Petro's Polo Democratico party, and he has rejected them both.

The Polo Democratico leader reiterated that his team will not support either Mockus or Santos in Colombia's second round presidential election, which means his party will advise followers to either abstain from voting, or turn in a blank vote.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

"Really, Arizona" Update! Rationality Prevails!

The dumbass talk show host/council member in Prescott has been canned.  And the mural will not be "whitened" after all.

To everyone hatin' on Israel right now

First, as Cindy Sheehan saw fit to publicly say the other day, anger at the state of Israel (I would even go further and say the ruling class of Israel) should never transpose itself as bigotry against Jews.  Never. 

Second, I agree that the Israeli ruling class is arrogant and that Israel functions as a colonial settler state. But Iran's ruling class is also arrogant, and Ahmadinejad is a hateful, opportunistic, steaming pile of s**t and both the Israeli and Iranian ruling classes don't care about their people, and even less about other peoples. I'd just appreciate it if you'd acknowledge that the Netanyahus and Ahmadinejads (and the Bushes) grow from the same patch of fungi.

If you want a world where nations and ethnicities and religions are no longer threatening each other, the only way to get there is by forging common interests and solidarity between the workers, parents, children, teachers, clergy, bureaucrats, athletes, artists, scientists, and soldiers inhabiting those nations.  There's no other way.  Taking sides ain't gonna do it.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Really Arizona?

A few blogs are starting to pick up on this story. Mural painted for a Prescott, Arizona school results in mountain of racial slurs and campaign of derision by conservative radio guy (who is also on the Prescott City Council). Then, this shocking combination of spin and something far more nefarious than spin.
After facing weeks of racial slurs hurled from passersby, the artists painting the mural have been asked to lighten the children's faces, although the principal insists that it has nothing to do with race. [emphasis added]
If true and accurate, Prescott is at least guilty of profoundly bad decisionmaking and aesthetic taste, but is likely guilty (and completely unaware) of caving in to racism in a racist way. Thus, if true and accurate, this could well be the third-times-a-charm turning point in Arizona's long white night: not the end, but possibly the beginning of the end.

I'll update this story faithfully. I am also trying to find a public domain or otherwise accessible picture of the mural if anyone can help with that.

Mavi Marmara Incident: more questions than answers

The evidence emerging from autopsies conducted in Turkey is making it more difficult to maintain a balanced perspective on this week's Gaza aid boat incident. CNN reports that the autopsy results reveal five of the nine shooting victims on the Mavi Marmara died with bullet wounds to the head. One casualty had bullet wounds to the head and multiple bullets throughout his body. Another appeared to be shot in the head at a range of two to fourteen cm.
The story also gives details concerning the Humanitarian Relief Foundation's side of the story, one which is at least partially and indirectly confirmed by Israel, concerning the treatment of captured Israeli soldiers on the boat.
In remarks to the press, [IHH chair Bulent] Yildirim said his colleagues fought Israeli troops in self-defense aboard the Mavi Marmara. He added that in the early stages of the clashes, his activists captured several Israel commandoes, as well as their weapons, and took them below decks. The Israeli troops were given water, Yildirim said. He insisted none of the activists fired the captured Israeli guns.
Now, Israel legitimately responds with video evidence of an IDF commando being beaten with a chair, and evidence the ship contained small weapons; the former argument is more convincing than the latter; it can be argued that even if the objects in question were fully intended to be weapons, they were weak defensive weapons at best, and if the craft was truly a terrorist transport, wouldn't Israel have found guns on board?

In fact, some of the participating activists made no qualms about the crew and passengers being prepared to defend the ship.
"The defense of the boat was quite well organized," said Espen Goffeng, a 38-year-old activist from Norway who sailed aboard the Mavi Marmara. "There was a plan to keep soldiers off the boat." Goffeng said passengers aboard the lead ship Mavi Marmara at first successfully repelled Israeli troops on boats. Then, he said, soldiers began their helicopters assault on the vessel. "They started off with some kind of paintball bullets with glass in them that left terrible soft tissue wounds. And then rubber bullets. And then live ammunition afterwards. And that's when things started to get really dangerous," Goffeng added.
So, if you're still trying to be objective and fair like I am (and therefore willing to incur the wrath of folks on both sides form whom the issue is always already cut-and-dried), the questions that remain are: 1. What did international law require of the Mavi Marmara? Is there an expectation or requirement that a vessel carrying humanitarian aid through a blockade passively allow itself to be boarded?  2. Why the heavy-handedness of the IDF? There were choices made at every juncture that were unduly aggressive rather than practicing a rationality and willingness to use force tempered by calculated restraint. Why the shots to the head? Conceding the possibility that Turkish Medical Examiner Haluk Ince is deliberately describing his evidence to sound like the IDF executed nine men, why did the IDF make it relatively easy for him to do so? 3. How much does Israel get to defend its actions in the first place if the blockade itself is morally dubious and illegal under international law? This is a question whose answers are likely to rapidly degenerate into each side's remaining in their respective trenches. But sometimes it's possible to learn things from listening carefully to what each side says from within those trenches.

Other news, courtesy of Al Jazeera: Israel is releasing the remaining activists detained from the Mavi Mamara by the IDF. Why? Aren't they terrorists?  Also, a Greek activist said that he saw Israeli troops using laser-guided weapons to shoot people aboard the Mavi Marmara.

Haretz reports that PM Netanyahu is "prepared to consider" easing the naval blockade. The same article reports Israel's assertion that "International law permits defensive operations on the high seas" (a partially accurate and partially question-begging position), and this interesting argument:
...the use of force was reasonable and proportionate. Had the soldiers not been attacked by the Mavi Marmara's passengers, no casualties would have occurred ¬ just as none occurred on the other five ships.
The use of sticks and rocks by the Mavi crew and passengers may have justified their detention and some shooting. I am not convinced it justified the things revealed in the autopsy. The argument that the other ships' passivity demonstrates that the use of force against the Mavi was reasonable and proportionate is fallacious; at best it demonstrates that the other ships were being prudent (I concede that) while the Mavi was acting belligerently. That doesn't establish justification for the actions of the IDF.

Finally, the U.S. ruling class and intelligentsia is clearly irritated by the blockade and this week's events, and is pressuring Israel to make concessions.
Anthony Cordesman, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, suggested that Israel could now be a "strategic liability" for the US. Officials in the Obama administration stressed that they had called for Israel to exercise "restraint" before the raid on the flotilla. The aftermath has complicated the US drive to secure approval from the UN Security Council for new sanctions on Iran.
Those interested in the right-wing Israeli take on this should read Jonathan Spyer's scathing attack on the IHH in the Jerusalem Post:
IHH is openly and unambiguously opposed to the existence of Israel, and is keen to assist Islamist organizations seeking to destroy it. IHH has read the zeitgeist of the early 21st century well. It seeks to combine a superficial commitment to “human rights” and the mantle of victimhood, with support for Islamist militancy against the West. These aspects, and the contradiction between them, have been very much in evidence this week.
I particularly noted Spyer's observation about the relationship between "hardcore" Turkish "militants" and naive Western activists. The latter, Spyer reports, were "afraid and depressed" by the presence of people openly committed to violence against Israel. At the very least, I have to concede that those are some pretty unlikely and unwilling bedfellows, and this entire episode highlights the fact that "peace" is not necessarily a shared goal, particularly when the leaders of militant anti-Israeli groups have the same power-based stake as the Israeli right, and international arms merchants, in perpetuating the conflict.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

18 U.S.C. § 600 : US Code - Section 600: Promise of employment or other benefit for political activity

18 U.S.C. § 600 : US Code - Section 600: Promise of employment or other benefit for political activity:
"Whoever, directly or indirectly, promises any employment,
position, compensation, contract, appointment, or other benefit,
provided for or made possible in whole or in part by any Act of
Congress, or any special consideration in obtaining any such
benefit, to any person as consideration, favor, or reward for any
political activity or for the support of or opposition to any
candidate or any political party in connection with any general or
special election to any political office, or in connection with any
primary election or political convention or caucus held to select
candidates for any political office, shall be fined under this
title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both."

Is this what the Obama administration did to Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanov? Should he be impeached? Should Obama apologists argue that because Bush wasn't tried for war crimes or numerous other instances of breaking the law, Obama should not be targeted? What then, of the ability to deploy the rule of law as a tool to fight imperial executives?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

They say the darndest things...

Tennessee Guerilla Women has this Hillary Rodham Clinton quote:

This is my opinion; I’m not speaking for the Administration. . The rich are
not paying their fair share in any nation that is facing the kind of employment
issues [America currently does] — whether it's individual, corporate or whatever
[kind of] taxation. . Brazil has the highest tax-to-GDP rate in the Western
Hemisphere and guess what — they're growing like crazy. And the rich are getting
richer, but they're pulling people out of poverty. There is a certain formula
there that used to work for us until we abandoned it, to our regret in my

Monday, May 31, 2010

Green Presidential candidate in second place, runoff in Columbia election

This is great news for Greens and progressives in general--all over the world. 

A recent poll found that "If a second round was to be held, 50% of those interviewed would vote [Green candidate Antanis] Mockus and 43% would vote [Juan Manuel] Santos."

The runoff is June 20th.  This will be very interesting to watch, to say the least.  Nice t-shirt too, Mr. Mockus.  Good luck!!!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

happy birthday, mr. whitman

A friend reminded me that tomorrow is Walt Whitman's birthday. 

by: Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
And now gentlemen,
A word I give to remain in your memories and minds,
As base and finale too for all metaphysics.
(So to the students the old professor,
At the close of his crowded course.)

Having studied the new and antique, the Greek and Germanic systems,
Kant having studied and stated, Fichte and Schelling and Hegel,
Stated the lore of Plato, and Socrates greater than Plato,
And greater than Socrates sought and stated, Christ divine having
studied long,

I see reminiscent to-day those Greek and Germanic systems,
See the philosophies all, Christian churches and tenets see,
Yet underneath Socrates clearly see, and underneath Christ the divine I see,
The dear love of man for his comrade, the attraction of friend to friend,
Of the well-married husband and wife, of children and parents,
Of city for city and land for land.

Friday, May 28, 2010

If you thought Beck's attack on Malia Obama was over the top...

The skeletons in Glenn Beck's closet Media Matters for America has some historical context. No wonder Beck and his disciples consider his cute little racialist jokes about an 11 year-old girl unobjectionable by comparison:

The animosity between Beck and Kelly continued to deepen. When Beck and
Hattrick produced a local version of Orson Welles' 'War of the Worlds' for
Halloween -- a recurring motif in Beck's life and career -- Kelly told a local
reporter that the bit was a stupid rip-off of a syndicated gag. The slight
outraged Beck, who got his revenge with what may rank as one of the cruelest
bits in the history of morning radio. 'A couple days after Kelly's wife, Terry,
had a miscarriage, Beck called her live on the air and says, 'We hear you had a
miscarriage,' ' remembers Brad Miller, a former Y95 DJ and Clear Channel
programmer. 'When Terry said, 'Yes,' Beck proceeded to joke about how Bruce
[Kelly] apparently can't do anything right -- about he can't even have a

Thursday, May 27, 2010

did grumbling management doom Deepwater Horizon?

Some grim details have emerged on the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster, which suggest that workers were aware of the risks and dangers of Horizon specifically, had gone forward with those complaints, and were brushed off by management.  AP reporters, citing testimony from witnesses and participants on and around Horizon, describe workers waiting too long for approval from management to initiate shut-down procedures, as well as workers' safety and equipment concerns not being taken seriously.  The article describes
...Doug Brown, chief rig mechanic aboard the platform, testified that the trouble began at a meeting hours before the blowout, with a "skirmish" between a BP official and rig workers who did not want to replace heavy drilling fluid in the well with saltwater.

The switch presumably would have allowed the company to remove the fluid and use it for another project, but the seawater would have provided less weight to counteract the surging pressure from the ocean depths.
Brown said the BP official, whom he identified only as the "company man," overruled the drillers, declaring, "This is how it's going to be." Brown said the top Transocean official on the rig grumbled, "Well, I guess that's what we have those pinchers for," which he took to be a reference to devices on the blowout preventer, the five-story piece of equipment that can slam a well shut in an emergency.
And worse:
In a handwritten statement to the Coast Guard obtained by the AP, Transocean rig worker Truitt Crawford said: "I overheard upper management talking saying that BP was taking shortcuts by displacing the well with saltwater instead of mud without sealing the well with cement plugs, this is why it blew out." 

Pressure problems were discovered at least 20 minutes prior to the fire. No one tried to shut off the well until after the fire started, which makes about as much sense as it sounds. 

Some testifying workers displayed a sense of long-term causation that eludes executives and upper management. 
"They gambled with our lives," laborer Stephen Stone told the House Judiciary Committee. He said the accident was "set in motion years ago by these companies needlessly rushing to make money faster, while cutting corners to save money."
From the classic labor song "We Have Fed You All for a Thousand Years"--

There is never a mine blown skyward now

But we're buried alive for you
There's never a wreck drifts shoreward now
But we are its ghastly crew
Go reckon our dead by the forges red
And the factories where we spin
If blood be the price of your cursed wealth
Good God we have paid it in...