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...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Reply to a Sectarian

Over on the Shared Sacrifice fan page, someone coming from the anti-capitalist left is asking some pointed questions about why we're interviewing insurgent Democrat Claudia Wright this Saturday, why we welcome Democrats at all.  I think the writer is confused about the purpose of the Shared Sacrifice Media Collective--precisely that it is based on difference, that it attempts to be a gathering place for people from many different progressive, left, socialist, anarchist, and reformist tendencies who are often at odds and so have had no space in which to both debate and celebrate what we're debating about.  So he quoted from something I'd written before--
Whether someone must overtly oppose capitalism to be 'on the left' is one of the many discussions we have on this site, and within the Shared Sacrifice social media collective. We are admittedly a _pluralist_ left organization. We don't have an ideological purity test. We are a gathering place for... socialists, anarchists, Greens, and others who consider themselves left of center. This includes supporters of [Claudia] Wright.
He asked:
So does your "pluralist left organization" include supporters of Barack Obama? Is he "left of center" by your definition? Was Bill Clinton?
I didn't answer the question of whether Obama or Clinton are left of center by my definition, because the answer to that question is obvious to anyone who's read what I've written or talked politics with me.  But I did say this--
I've thought a lot about these conversations so this may sound a little more obnoxious than I'm comfortable with.

It's not "mine" per se. But I think yes, it does. I didn't vote for Obama and I disagree with those who did. But I'd rather have them hanging out here than wandering rightward or having nowhere to go. There is a difference between a dialogue with Obama Democrats and a dialogue with GOP loyalists--even if the Democrats and Republicans represent different factions of the ruling class. There is a difference between the policy agenda of different Democratic political candidates. Leftists who don't see this difference or the necessity of engagement with liberals are welcome to explain why engagement is a waste of time or counterproductive. So far, you have only asked brief questions. You owe us more.

I've done sectarianism. It's bleak, lonely, and induces groupthink. Cults of personality form. The purity of the gateway becomes an abstract ideological system, and a psychological crutch. Instead I have chosen to engage with anyone whose political orientation is community-oriented, other-oriented, willing to put human needs before profits.

My challenge to each and every small organization or party with the name socialist in it is to come together and form a LARGE socialist party--at least with 10,000 + members. I don't need to apologize to anyone for supporting a pluralist progressive organization until all those sectarians put aside their differences and form a movement that can genuinely get something done.

On our podcast, we've interviewed the presidential candidates of the SEP and the SP, interviewed DSA members, and have twice interviewed Richard Wolff, one of the best Marxist economists living. Most people even slightly left of center have a lot of respect for the socialist tradition even if they have misgivings about going revolutionary. That's no reason why we all shouldn't get together and talk--and that's what we do here.

I respect what you bring to this conversation. I know you're committed to a world beyond capital. You have a unique opportunity on a page with nearly 1000 members who are hungry for conversation about how to free humanity from the grip of corporations and their priestly lackeys. Engage us.

the crying apocalyptic gold swindler

Thanks to progressive Democrat Anthony Weiner, we can add "crook" to the other colorful terms we've been using to describe apocalyptic Skousenite crybaby Glenn Beck.

Here's how the scam works: Beck and others devote entire segments of their shows to arguing that the U.S. money supply is destined for hyperinflation, incl. promoting gold as the only safe investment alternative for consumers. Then a commercial from Goldline comes on. And Goldline sells at 90% above melt value, meaning the price of gold would have to double to pay off.

Beck has also featured Goldline's CEO on as an "expert" guest without disclosing the sponsorship.

Fox News ostensibly prohibits on-air personalities from making paid product endorsements.

Beck's response, and I'm serious: "So I shouldn't make money?" Others have made some pretty shallow, uncontextual and argumentatively weak defenses--that there's nothing wrong with someone endorsing something they buy themselves, and so what if they spin elaborate scenarios on air time that embellish this product--which sounds like apologia from someone who spent half an hour in an Ethics class and then smoked weed in their apartment for the rest of the semester.

Further evidence, in this blogger's opinion, that fearmongering, us-vs-them conservative politics, apocalyptic rhetoric, and clash-of-civilizations arguments are, among other things, an elaborate and shady racket.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

thought for the day, hardly an original one...

Capital, that is companies, or corporations, can move freely across borders. Laws not only allow that, they actually encourage it. But labor, or workers, cannot move freely across borders. So immigration law is intrinsically a subordination of labor to capital, combined with a subordination of human beings to arbitrary geographic demarcations.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Muslim-to-Christian Convert and Liberty University Leader is Full of Lies

Ergun Caner has the perfect story for fundies and professional haters of Islam.  Problem is, his story has holes...lots of them.  He grew up in Ohio...Oturkio?  He was taught militant he wasn't...yes he was...?  He has debated other scholars...except he hasn't... He doesn't even appear to be honest about his middle name, which is "Michael" on official documents, but "Mehment" on his self-promoting literature. 

Now Liberty is investigating him. In a nutshell:
Despite his claims about having lived in Turkey, it now appears that Caner was born in Sweden and moved to Ohio when he was 4 years old. His father was a Muslim, but his mother was Lutheran. The couple divorced, and Caner’s mother retained custody. He became an evangelical Christian as a teen; it’s unlike he was ever recruited by jihadists.
There's a sucker born every minute, and more often in Lynchburg and the Islamophobe racket.

yes please

A fan on Contessa Brewer's FB page urges her to "report [on] the Tea Party fairly" and avoid "MSNBC bias."

Should Contessa report on the Tea Partiers in Maine who vandalized and stole from a public school? Should she report on the Tea Partier who made fun of Roger Ebert's cancer? Should she report on the Tea Partier/GOP candidate Ron Kirkland who publicly longed for the days in which homosexuals "were taken care of in ways I can't describe?" The Tea Partiers who threatened gun violence as a response to the passage of Obama's watered-down health care reform?  The re-branded KKK Tea Partiers?  The spitters?  The Tea-Party-backed Republican candidate who publicly expressed a desire to shoot liberals

Or should she report on the true sources of funding for the Tea Party movement: Billionaire oil giants the Koch family? Don Blankenship of Massey Energy? Freedomworks? Americans for Prosperity?

How about the foundational fact, ignored by both the Tea Partiers and the mainstream media, that the historical foundation of the name "Tea Party" is inaccurate, in the sense that the original Boston Tea Party stood for the exact opposite of what the 'Baggers are standing for now? (As an anonymous commenter said recently, this would be like the original Boston rebels defending the East India Trading Company.) 

By all means, Contessa, be fair!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

quote of the day

From Michael Kinsley's article on the Tea Party movement, "My Country 'Tis of Me:"
The government’s main function these days is writing checks to old people. These checks allow people to retire and pursue avocations such as going to Tea Party rallies. This basic fact about the government is no great secret ... If the Tea Party Patriots ever developed a coherent platform or agenda, they would lose half their supporters.

allowing it to work

In Chicago, the Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative's Discussions over Coffee event "brings together Jews and Muslims to converse about religion and traditions."
Deliberative dialogue works when it's allowed to work: when a context is provided and good will extended. 
There is no set structure but the audience dictates the conversation through questions and reflections. A clerical representative of each religion presents a portion of scripture or religious text then the group breaks up into smaller groups to discuss. Coming back together as a large group, audience members can present insights gained and ask additional questions.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Utah GOP: "Insider" Bennett Unseated by Two Faux "Outsiders"

Over the weekend at the Utah GOP convention, three-term Senator Bob Bennett was ousted by two far-right GOP contenders, both of whom enjoyed support of the Tea Partiers.  How true are these candidates to the Tea Party's insurrectionist principles?  About as true as an LDS history document provided by Mark Hofmann.

A few reminders first: The Tea Partiers are funded by the Koch family, big oil, big coal, Americans for Prosperity, who are also funded by billionaires, and Freedomworks, Dick Armey's moneymaking outfit. The movement is sustained by an insider's list of corporate billionaires and GOP public relations firms. Its most influential members are relatively wealthy people. Among its rank and file are people on welfare, people on Medicaid, people supported by the VA, social security, disability and the like. It's not an insurrection, it's not truly grass roots, although it has tapped in to anger--anger at Obama's election (remember these people were never angry at big spender George W. Bush) and in all sincerity, fear of government spending, primarily because they don't understand it. There's also a contingent of well-educated conservatives with libertarian tendencies who support the TPers, and have been unwilling to distance themselves from the TPers' incoherence, racebaiting, and informational deficits because these soft libertarians need all the friends they can get--because the model of pure free markets doesn't exist and deregulation has failed. That's the context; it's a context of political ignorance and hate, but it's been mobilized in response to uncertainty and the very, very modest reforms (and largely dishonest reforms) of the Obama administration.

In Utah, that kind of enthymematic fear, and ignorance about specifics, is often elevated to a spiritual plain. I know, because I spent the first 29 years of my life in Utah. There are millions of Mormons, for example, who believe that conservative politics are divinely sanctioned. I am not exaggerating.

So let's talk about the candidates that beat Senator Bob Bennett:

From GOP Watch at msnbc:
Tim Bridgewater nearly reached the needed 60% threshold to avoid a runoff. He got 57%, attorney Mike Lee finished second with 43%. In the second round, Bridgewater got 37%, Lee 36%, and Bennett finished third with 27%, putting him out of the running. In the first round, Lee finished first with 29%, Bridgewater second with 27% and Bennett third with 26%. The Salt Lake Tribune points out that “Bennett becomes the first Utah senator to fail to get his party's nomination since Democrats tossed out Sen. William King in 1940 over King's opposition to The New Deal.”
Now, Tim Bridgewater is an insider, and that makes his victory, and the TPers' endorsement of him, rather ironic. In fact, Bridgewater is a creature we don't hear much about, but one that's quite common: He's simultaneously a "businessman" and a political insider with the establishment. Read Robert Gehrke's extensive description of Bridgewater's life and career in his May 5th Salt Lake Tribune article. Bridgewater
did a stint at the tail end of the Reagan Administration, working for the Export-Import Bank collecting bad loans in Central and South America. ... Working in Washington, Bridgewater met Dick Richards, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and went to work for the Ogden native. ... "We were doing government consulting, I guess I'd call it lobbying business," Richards said. Their clients included aerospace companies and the Kingdom of Thailand. "Tim is a bright guy. He's pretty innovative. He's aggressive. He's ambitious and he works hard." ... Richards also introduced Bridgewater to the politically powerful, including President George H.W. Bush and his son Neil, who partnered with Bridgewater to launch Interlink Capital Strategies in 1994. ... In addition to his business ventures, Bridgewater has been active in politics for years. He supported the Bush family's political endeavors, becoming a "Pioneer" by raising more than $100,000 for George W. Bush's presidential bids in both 2000 and 2004 and he raised money for the senior Bush's presidential library. ... He raised money for Jon Huntsman Jr.'s campaigns in 2004 and 2008, and served as the then-governor's volunteer education chief, trying to negotiate wiggle room in the federal No Child Left Behind mandates. In '08 he was also western regional campaign director for John McCain's presidential bid."
This is the "outsider" that beat alleged "insider" Bob Bennett. Now let's talk about Mike Lee: Lee is the FreedomWorks candidate. He should have to wear the brand name on his shirt, matter of fact.  They made him, in a safely indirect way, by smashing Bennett's campaign, and they weren't alone. The conservative Club For Growth "spent $172,000 opposing Bennett's re-election, according to its FEC filing, but has not given any money directly to Lee's campaign."

Lee is not one of the common people.  He made $600,000 last year as a lawyer defending oil shale developers and prescription drug companies--as well as Energy Solutions, a radioactive waste storage company in Utah that does extensive business through government contrasts (can any Tea Partiers out there tell me whether this is "socialism?").

Plus, pardon the tangent, there's some creepy stuff going on with Mike Lee. Longtime Tribune columnist Paul Rolly reported the following:
An apparent endorsement for GOP Senate candidate Mike Lee placed on YouTube starts out with a picture of LDS Church founder Joseph Smith that morphs into Lee. It could be an out-of-control supporter of Lee that the campaign has nothing to do with, or it could be an opponent trying to make Lee look weird. Lee's deputy campaign manager Dan Hauser said the campaign had nothing to do with the video. He said someone they suspect is with another campaign was distributing it to different Facebook pages. The morphing is accompanied by the LDS hymn "The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning" and beneath the Joseph Smith-turned-into-Mike Lee video is the quote: "And for this very purpose I have established a Constitution of this land by the hands of wise men whom I raised unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood."
Of course, candidates secretly endorse these kinds of things so they don't have to accept responsibility for them. Lee's campaign manager has clarified that the Lee camp wasn't responsible for the video, but did not distance the campaign from the message in the video.  So far as I know, Mr. Lee has not personally disclaimed this advertisement, or denied its enthymematic message. If anyone has such information, please get it to me.

So there it is, folks: The two "outsiders" and tea party endorsees who beat Bennett are, respectively, a wealthy lawyer whose clients include big pharma companies and a radioactive waste disposal company that thrives on government contracts, and a Washington D.C. insider-lobbyist who is tight with the Bush family and was a coordinator of the McCain presidential campaign.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

how 'bout a little Stalinist magic dust w/ your tea?

Bad week for conservative history: Revelations that the Tea Party movement is funded by money originally acquired from the Soviet Union; and new revelations that Ronald and Nancy Reagan were occultists (and not merely astrology dabblers). I sympathize with my conservative friends who must be experiencing a little cognitive dissonance right now--at least if they're intellectually honest.

But I'm sure a bunch of them are shrugging their shoulders over it.  Because, you know, consistency and stuff, that's hippie commie shit.