Sunday, April 30, 2006

Facing Reality

I think I found the last four Bush supporters, and a guy willing to give Cheney the benefit of the doubt, down at the Eagles club, right here in Hamilton Montana! They were down at the end of the bar, and pretty shitfaced, high fiving each other over the governmental stalemate having been broken. They were going off about purple fingers and the good news that never gets reported but they were getting lots of evil stares. The Cheney guy kept saying that quail are super fast flyers, and they tend to stay low and anyway it was just a fucking lawyer he shot anyway.

I can't even imagine the dreadful descent, and Ive seen some rough shit ( did I ever mention the day I rolled down a mountain on a rubber tired skidder and came home from the hospital to find my wife was leaving me?) but Bush/ Cheney/Wolfowitz/Rumsfeld/Perle were so poised to enter the history books as the Great American Leaders Who Brought Order and Stability to the Planet and now the gal at Starbucks spits in their coffee before handing it to them with a smile. Its one thing to accept the fact that the Emperor has no clothes but to realize he has been naked for six years and you didn't notice? Maybe Im just being a "nattering nabob of negativity"( What Spiro Agnew called me in 1970, just before he got busted for tax evasion) but all these guys worked their way up through the ranks, patiently, waiting for the moment when they were in charge of the galaxy and what do they do in their moment of Godliness? Pee their pants in front of billions.

Tommorro is May Day, My Day, I did it My Way. I will speak to the gathered ones on campus about the socialist revolution, about our great tradition, about how change is gonna come, someday. Id better finish my drink and go to bed.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Tale of Three Countries

One more (my wife is gone) before yard work. People in the US are occasionally upset over "excess profits", usually when it is an oil company, always when the price of gas goes up. What the hell is an "excess profit"? Not one of them would complain if some of that excess was ending up in their pockets and in fact those with Exxon/Mobile or Chevron stocks in their portfolios must fake their righteous indignation. Or stand confused and immobilized by the ambiguity, contradiction, and paradox of capitalism. The politicians promise to "investigate" and propose rebate checks. What is this? They all hate rich people but they all want to be one, despite the camel-eye of needle thing." This is not my beautiful house!" (David Byrne)

Lets go on down to Bolivia where the "democratically elected" leaders signed Bilateral Investment Treaties with huge multinational corporations who wanted to develop the natural gas fields, the rights to which had been sold off in the mid-1990s. This is pure neo-liberal economics 101, privitize national industries, sign trade treaties under World Bank imposed rules which allow the corporations to sue if they are restricted from maximizing profits in any way, and squeeze the masses of poor people out of any benefits. The people of Cochabamba rose up and rejected this structural injustice when Bechtel threatened to privatize their water. Many are demanding Evo Morales re-nationalize the wealth of natural gas in Bolivia which they say belongs to no one, that it belongs to Pachamama, the Mother Earth. They say "natural resources" is a capitalist term. Will they stare at TV screens, scratching their nuts, watching Fox News like Americans?

Venezuela, on the other hand, never gave in to the neo-liberal scavengers, and maintained it's nationalized energy sector. They never signed the BITs and now that a peoples movement has taken power (democratically), the people own and are in charge of all that wealth. 73 dollars a barrel yesterday. Venezuelans pay 12 cents a gallon. The socialized industry provides benefits for the mass of people. The capitalist industry (USA) provides swimming pools and yachts for a small, oligarchic elite. The American people continue to scratch their nuts.

Smith River

Beautiful setting, shitty fishing, shitty conversation. As a "team building" exercise I go on a company float trip for five days with the new "partners" of the flyfishing lodge I work for and most of the guides. What it primarily accomplishes is to dramatically emphasize the class differences inherent in such relations. They can't fish , they can't row and all they can talk about is all the shit they own, all the fancy places they go and all the animals they kill.

Out of state millionaires who are "wanna be" flyfishing/outdoorsmen trying to "bro" down is pathetic at best. When they are reactionary, capitalist swine it's all I can do to keep from drowning the bastards. Glad I got that off my chest. If my boss reads this I am totally screwed. What I still find amazing ,after over twenty years working directly with these people (lawyers, developers, venture capitalists, traders, etc) is how abysmally ignorant they are about EVERYTHING. Not that I would expect them to be as brilliant as me. But every opinion is standard, stock, sofomoric, Fox News shallow and they back down at the slightest challenge. Because they are so unused to it. They exist in agreement and much prefer to not have to discuss anything that doesnt have to do with how much wealth and power they have. Bungalo Bills. Gushing about the "natural beauty" while they and their corporate interests and government lackeys do everything in their power to rape and pillage and mutilate it for profit. Remind me not to go on anymore company floats.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Euston Manifesto

I knew without reading it that if neo-neocon was gushing about The Norms latest work, I was going to have "issues" and I can't go fishing for five days with this on my mind. (I should be tying a few last minute killers) The Neo-New Left has finally completed it's metamorphesis, spurred by 9/11, to the point where "Marxist" Norm can sign a manifesto that does not mention capitalism once. Along with the Dissent crowd of apolegetic reformers (Walzer, Cohen) ( did I mention Zionists?) Norm joins the "progressive, democratic, liberals" and does collective penance for Stalin and Mao.

"Genuine democrats, whether socialist or not,we leave open the question of the best economic forms of this broader equality." I guess this says it all. Perhaps Reagan/Thatcherism wasn't perfect but who are we to argue, bring me another pint,would you dear? They believe "the benefits of large scale development ought to be distributed as widely as possible" but whether it is the benevolent King doing the distributing or Milton Friedman )(or Tom) they care not a whit.
"America is the home of a strong democracy" gush the "marxists", further stating "That US foreign policy HAS (note past tense) often opposed progressive movements and governments and supported repressive and authoritarian regimes does not justify a generalized prejudice" so do not bring up that "historical " term imperialism again, mind you, or you are banished with the bigots. Another pint , Hon! They then single out "terrorism inspired by Islamist ideology", insisting the Iraqi insurgency is comprised of Baathist fascists who are at the same time Islamist ? Or is that a separate war? Haven't time for a lot of conjecture , Another pint ,Nick?
Then of course they set up terms where humanitarian intervention is justified and a states claim to sovereignty forfeited to the "international community" ( is this the same as the coalition of the willing?) They courageously embrace freedom of ideas, historical truth and "creative doubt" (which mine would not be considered by the expert panel).

For the whiners about the Iraq War ,which is also the war on terror I will have to assume, they say: Since the day of the 'intervention'( of which it was POSSIBLE to reasonably disagree about justification) and "liberation', the "proper concern of members of the Left should be democracy rather than "picking through the rubble of the arguments". My country , right or wrong.

On to the Agenda of the Left (they don't call it a manifesto for nothing), the "values and goals which properly ( do the Brits say proper a lot?) make up that agenda-the values of democracy, human rights, against unjustified(?) privlege and power, solidarity with peoples fighting against tyranny and oppression.."
Hillary Rodham Clinton couldn't have said it better. Welcome to the Neo-New Left. Working With Capital and Empire for A Better World. Now Im going fishing.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Our Trip

April 14, 2006

Dear Friends & Family,
We returned home March 6th from a great three week trip to Venezuela. Since we returned we have had a chance to reflect and distill what we saw and heard and would like to share some of our experience with you.

The first ten days of our trip were spent in a Witness for Peace delegation, their first delegation to Venezuela. Witness for Peace is a faith and conscience based organization that has been in existence for twenty-three years. WFP is dedicated to the principles of non-violence and investigates and reports on the effects of U.S. foreign policy on Latin American and Caribbean countries.

As many of you may know, Venezuela and its new government under the leadership of President Hugo Chavez, is the focus of much scrutiny and criticism by our own current administration. Condemned by the U.S. for his alleged “strongman” style of governance and his rejection of the neo-liberal economic model, the U.S. State Department has developed an adversarial relationship with this oil rich nation. Meanwhile the U.S. main stream media has played a very critical role in demonizing and isolating President Chavez and his policies. Money from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), U.S.AID, conservative think tanks and foundations have also contributed to a campaign critical of Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution.  Our delegation which focused on media information and disinformation attempted to sort out the facts from the propaganda.

The U.S. media, State Department and Venezuelan opposition groups echo a number of complaints against Chavez which are divided fairly evenly along ideological, economic and political lines. The opposition is very threatened by the Bolivarian Revolution of Chavez and the coalition that supports him. This coalition is committed to a profound social change including the re-distribution of wealth derived from the countries natural resources which are at this time mostly petroleum based. Chavez also rejects the neo-liberal economic model which the U.S. and the international development banking system favors. The opposition is concerned with freedom of the media. We found that there is a vibrant, free media in Venezuela. There are plenty of opposition TV stations and newspapers.  They are also concerned about the militarization of the government because Chavez and a few top officials in the government were members of the military. We never witnessed any or heard of any military repression.

We spent the majority of our time in Caracas, the city of eternal spring. We met every day with people from all walks of life. We met with human rights organizations, opposition leaders, academics, religious leaders, government ministers, PDVSA (state oil company) and the Political Counsel and the Press Attache from the U.S. Embassy. We also toured several barrios and visited a number of cooperatives which included free clinics, subsidized grocery stores and soup kitchens, education missions, and a shoe and T-shirt factory.

President Chavez enjoys tremendous support. He won with over 60% in an election that was certified by international observers, survived a recall initiative with even stronger support, saw his party’s candidates sweep the election for congress and governorships (the opposition chose not to run) and is expected to win by a large margin this December.

We left Venezuela with a fervent belief that the US needs to adopt a strict policy of non-intervention and interference in the affairs of Latin American countries. The Venezuelan people must be allowed to determine their own future free of outside interference, free to explore their own models for economic development and free to use their oil wealth in whatever way is most advantageous for the most people regardless of their status, race or socio-economic position. There is a strong consensus among both supporters and detractors of the Chavez “experiment” that Venezuela is a vibrant democracy and is experiencing a profound social revolution. Many people asked us to come home and tell the people of our country that they are in process and can do it on their own.

We found the people invigorated with the spirit of participatory democracy and the principles of constitutional law. We feel that the American people could really learn a lot from the process that Venezuela has adopted and that our society could benefit from the same commitment to improving the life of all of our citizens.

Besides our experience with WFP we enjoyed sight seeing and experiencing Carnival in Caracas, We danced the meringue and listened to traditional music. We spent two days in our private cabaña at Hacienda Bucare, a cacao plantation where they served chocolate with every meal. Our last five days were spent relaxing in the small fishing village of San Juan De Los Galdonas where the lush jungle meets the turquoise Caribbean.  

This trip has inspired us to become more involved in Latin American issues and we are considering coordinating a Witness for Peace trip in 2007.

We have included an attachment that links to resources about Venezuela and one for the pictures of our trip.

We hope everyone is doing well and we hope to hear from you about your life and travels.

Char & Dave


Shallow issues, but I'm Busy

It had to be more than just a little irritating for President Hu to have to be lectured on democracy by a lightweight, evangelical shyster from Texas, whose best friends are Ken Lay and Tom Delay (is that a French name?). I would not have been nearly as polite. Hu finds the absolute crux of the bisquit when he asks, with a perfectly straight face " exactly what do you mean by democracy?". The difference between a one party system and a two party one would theoretically be one opposition party ,if they weren't interchangeable.

In Italy ,Bush's corporartista buddy Berlosconi refuses to concede the election, despite the Italian courts ruling. Can you imagine the American uproar if Morales or Chavez declared they were refusing to leave? The Iraqis learned a lesson in democracy, refusing to accept the elected leader until chaos forced the issue. How about our ally in Packistan, Musharif? He never bothered with the electoral process but hey. Perhaps a new press secretary. Slap an embargo on Cuba ,which is absolutely no threat to the security of the US, but negotiate with Iran.

OK , here I would like to start a list of all the wrong positions, historically, the Right Wing can take credit for : 1 Soviet Union was a threat to the US global position. 2 If Viet Nam falls, there will be a "dominoe effect" 3 global warming is a hoax 4 Gays choose their "lifestyle", the active promotion of which is part of the "gay agenda" 5 women burning bras will lead to a social meltdown 6 (fill in the blanks) 7

Im gone for six days, torturing the resource with my fellow trout whores. I can feel the fish quaking in their little fish boots. Six guides turned loose after a long winter can bring pain to these sentient creatures but at least we are not out raping and pillaging, working on Madison Avenue or lobbying for Monsanto.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Reform or Revolution

My comrade Che winces anytime someone mentions reform. No, you cannot reform capitalism. The inequities are structural and despite the best efforts of those many great, and sincere thinkers and politicians who hoped to blunt the cruel and violent effects of the capitalist system, (Roosevelt, Keynes, Rawls, Habermas etc) through greater regulation, socially responsible policy, elevation of human rights, expanded suffrage and democracy, the fact remains that there is a built in systemic tendency which will ALWAYS remain antagonistic towards these reforms and will always prevail. This does not mean the anti-capitalist should not work for these reforms, in conjunction with these well meaning "progressives" at the same time he is working to dismantle the system completely.These reform movements, for human rights, for diverse eco-systems , for peace etc.. allow us to make contact with the masses and interject our own analysis. Often reform means compromise.

Lenin said "There are compromises and there are compromises. One must be able to analyze the situation and the concrete conditions of each compromise, of each variety of compromise. As for participating in parlimentary politics or being involved with reactionary unions, he said the duty of the revolutionary is to hold his nose and take part. To do less is to abandon the mass of workers, to work from within the "pigsty" is subversive and necessary. How do we analyze these situations?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Disrupting Class, Iraq Style

Yesterday the Ministry of Education reported that in attacks aimed at "intimidating pupils and disrupting learning" two teachers were beheaded in front of their students in Iraq. Today they are denying the report. There either are, or are not ,quite a few eye witnesses for whom there should be little ambiguity. in my day we threw spitballs. (really bad joke)(sarcasm as a refuge)

With a Navy carrier group bearing down on the Carribean Chavez says he will burn the oil fields before surrendering. He has a flair for the dramatic. But hey, if it helps the price of crude get to eighty dollars a barrel, he will definately play along.

I tried to steal a picture off the web but failed. My favorite current artist is old Leon Golub (google it ),a painter whose work depicts the effects of individual and institutional power. His expressive political paintings, many of which are mural sized, explore issues of race, violence ,war and human suffering. He believes that an "observable connection to the real world and to actual events" is essential if painting is to have any relevance to the viewer or society. You are thinking; does everything have to be political for you Trout? Right now, Yes.

The world has plenty of pretty pictures and lofty sentiments.And I love them more than life, more than money. My lifes finest, most sublime, moments have been spent wandering the Louvre . Or the Uffizi , or the National Gallery or the Royal Academy. But Leon and I share a sense of urgency.

Tom Helps Us Understand

On the Today Show,Matt Lauer, the Minister of Public Information, asks Tom Friedman, Court Philosopher, to help us understand how the world works. Matt: If we sanction Iran won't that affect the price of energy? Tom nods condescendingly through the questioning. Tom: That would be the best thing for the new "flat" earth. When prices skyrocket it will "modify peoples behavior" and then they will seek new technologies. Matt (with a tear in his eye): Thanks once again,Tom.

Skinner, Pavlov, Friedman. The Invisible Hand (the capitalists God) in its infinite wisdom, if not infinate mercy , will guide us through this latest crisis. Unable to Plan, Direct or Decide we are instead modified like mice in a maze. Learning through trial and much error, much pain and punishment, which way the Invisible Hand wants us to go. Is the pain inflicted equally? Hardly. But it is not the Court Philosophers job to explain how the suffering, the war , the disease and privation falls in such disproportionate quantity (and quality) on the poor and powerless. On the multitude of species destroyed in the process.It is enough for us to know it will all work out in the end, for those who survive the learning curve. And here is where Darwin joins the behaviorists.

Tom also forgot to mention what happened in Venezuela in 89 when the pain got to be to much and the people took to the streets and started a revolution. They didnt want to hear about any invisible hands as they were being shot down by soldiers with visible guns. Karl Marx had a couple of things to say about this very process.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Bush With Chopsticks?

What does it say when the Chinese leader meets with Bill Gates before he meets our President?
And (this is the way my mind works) it occurs to me why Cheney's approval ratings have fallen so low. Rednecks are pretty forgiving when you invade the wrong country, or bungle social security reform, hurricane emergency efforts, etc. but you show you can't handle a firearm safely and they will forever look at you like the guy who proudly brought a mule to the game check station, thinking he had bagged a moose. You can kill every species on the planet and you won't live that down.

They handed out pulitzers the other day for best investigative news reporting, like the story of the secret prisons for "terror suspects" and Im thinking, what happened with the secret prisons? Gone, forgotten? What happened to the spying on Americans story, FISA and all that crap? What about the charges against Bill Frist? The outing of Valerie Plame? All Yesterdays News. Today we got Duke rapes, Aruba Murders. The silent Honor roll for servicemen killed in Iraq continues unabated on The Newshour, twelve today.

Home Sweet Home

I met the family that lives here, many miles of rough road out of Caracas. The housing problem is one of the toughest in Venezuela but the people are hopeful there will be more progress under Chavez than under the last government. He is encouraging de-centralization , moving people away from the urban area,but it is easier said than done. I asked the man living here why he didn't just pull himself up by his bootstraps, like Reagan suggested( may he rot in hell) but then I noticed he had no boots.


Lets see if we can make sense from "facts" using "critical thinking". ( i am cruelly mocking neo-neo-con as I am sure she is doing me) Today we have the price of oil up around seventy dollars a barrel, gold prices soaring, house prices dipping, stock market nervous. We have oil/war man Dick Cheney's approval rating hovering around 18%, some shakeups in whitehouse staff. Montana's own Senator Conrad (love those Indians) Burns is listed in Top Ten Worst by Time magazine. I'm beginning to get an impression, a nebulous forming of gasses, still hazy?

Still no government in Iraq, incredible early heat wave in Texas, pipeline through Azerbaijan, Georgia, elections in July in Mexico where Manuel Obrador(in the lead) threatens an alliance with South American Petro states. The gasses , under extreme pressure seem to be taking a solid form, another hurricane season fast approaches as Michael Skilling takes the stand, Saadam takes the stand , Moussaui gets the hot seat. Dying stars, scientists found, pulse at an audible frequency equivalent to the F note above middle C just before they explode into supernovae. "All options are on the table" concerning Iran.The DOW just shot up a hundred points.The galaxy hardens into gold, diamonds, pearls.

Ira Glass and This American Life ,on NPR tonight, will make sense of it all.

Monday, April 17, 2006

John Prine vs Toby Kieth

From Johns new CD : Some humans aint human, some people aint kind, they lie through their teeth, with their head up their behind.
When your feeling your freedom, and the worlds off your back, some cowboy from Texas starts his own war in Iraq

i see where Neil Young gathered some folks to make an Impeach Bush record, should be out soon

Nothing To Lose but Your Chains

Just what the world needs, another Manifesto! Norm Geras, Paul Berman,Nick Cohen, C .Hitchens et al. have laid out their Capitalist-Left Apologia. Leninology works it over pretty good but it is worth mentioning that I started this blog as a reply to the Purple Finger believers in gunpoint democracy and I stand firm in my convictions. November of 05, I asked in a post,"did you consider the damage that might be done to the project of humanitarian intervention if the invasion was ill concieved, poorly executed,planned by people with no historical or cultural knowledge and resulted in chaos...?"
I should have said "the further damage". Zizek makes the case the damage is terminal.
My thoughts on these defenders of human rights and intervention are expanded on in this next post.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Liberty and Justice for All

Neo-neocon is defending liberty, a common theme with the Defenders of Civilization. Promoting critical thinking and logic ( if only lefties used it ) she believes she has the key to make sense of a world in turmoil. Reminds me of an old H.G.Wells quote I saw today: "Even men who were engaged in organizing debt-serf cultivation and debt-serf industrialism in the American cotton districts, in the old rubber plantations, and in the factories of India,China, and South Italy, appeared as generous supporters of and subscribers to the sacred cause of individual liberty."
from The Shape of Things To Come
Like Fox News, she stands alone, Fair and Balanced.

One word seldom used on such self-righteous blogs is justice. William Sloan Coffin was not afraid to confront the main issue of our time when in an essay titled Justice not Charity he wrote: "we are eager to respond to injustice as long as we don't have to confront the causes of it." Arundahti Roy feels we have substituted the limited discourse of "human rights" for the more "magificent" concept of Justice. The problem, put well by Jacques Ranciere is "if those who suffer inhuman repression are unable to enact the human rights that are their last recourse, then somebody else has to inherit their rights in order to enact them in their place. This is what is called the'right to humanitarian interference'"...which often translates into the right of Western Powers to intervene politically, economically culturally and militarily. This humanitarianism,according to Wendy Brown, "presents itself as something of an anti-politics, a pure defence of the innocent". But is there such a thing? Rony Brauman, who co-ordinated aid to Sarajevo, has demonstrated how the very presentation of the crisis there as "humanitarian" was sustained by an eminently political choice - basically,to take the side of the Serbs in the conflict.

Human rights are an important component of the struggle for justice, but they cannot be allowed to enfold the larger concept, that rights without power are meaningless. Wealth is power. Economic justice is the materialists battle cry. No justice , no peace.

Fourth World War

This is not how the "other half" lives, this is how the vast majority of humanity lives. I took this driving into Caracas (My first blog picture, I will figure out the clarity issue) and though I had seen and read about housing conditions in the "developing" countries it was still a shock to confront the reality. A resource rich country, including some of the largest oil reserves on the planet, the brown and black skinned masses have for the most part been excluded from the enjoyment of any of the wealth derived from these resources. Liberation from colonial Spain only lead to other forms of colonialisation and exploitation, the most recent being a large debt to the International monetary fund derived from corrupt governments beholden to foreign corporations. When the IMF imposed "structural adjustments" included doubling the price of fuel overnight, the people poured out of these hillside barrios for days of looting and rioting. Then President Perez ordered his troops to fire on the people and the Fourth World War was begun. Neo-liberal capitalist policies had done nothing in Most of Latin America but make a tiny, mostly light skinned elite very rich (week-end shopping trips to Miami ) and left the huge majority poor and angry. An oil rich country with a huge debt and rampant poverty?Where had all that wealth gone?

The Bolivarian Revolution is a response to these decades, in a way centuries, of abuse ,repression and injustice. Socialism for the 21st Century is a response to Strauss and von Hayeck, Friedman and Kissinger and Thatcher. They are saying "no, in fact there IS an alternative" and they are increasingly saying it with one, unified voice. To join in solidarity is as simple as letting the US government know that it's citizens will not allow any interference in the region, that any hint of further intervention means people in the streets. We need to be mobilized and ready.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Reserved Seating

I just found out that they are selling pay-per-view subscriptions for the execution of Moussaui for three hundred and fifty dollars, there is an 800 number, or a number of seats are still available in the balcony for the live performance, but the scalpers are getting upwards of ten thousand for these. I just made this up as well. And probably misspelled his name.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Land of Borges

Over at neo-neocon (my favorite proto-type of the new "liberal" conservative) they are finding little bits of possibility, and fragments of could have, shreds of "according to an un-named source" that show Saadam WAS involved with al Qaeda, that show Saadam WAS developing WMDs, that they are STILL justified in their opinions, and that the same mainstream media I criticize for licking the Empires boots is actually a vehicle for the anti-freedom Left. This is how far reality can diverge. Is there some Solid Steel Edifice of Empirical Truth upon which I can base my counter-arguments? Luis Borges mocks my attempt at every turn. In his story Tion,Uqbar,OrbitTertius, "a scattered dynasty of solitary men" create a fictional world which gradually, hegemonically, replaces the world of reality. By creating and inserting a parallel narrative complete with history , science, culture, " reality yielded on more than one account.The truth is , it longed to yield." The important point here is: Even supposing the truth can be examined empirically, or that knowledge, derived through an agreed upon process, has some value, no mechanism guarantees the enforcment of it's acceptance. It remains in dispute, a point of contention even if your only argument is I Refuse To Accept That, I Long To Yield . This is the essence of Power, the fight over language, history, evidence and facts. Control the story and you control the territory.

What I ask those grasping for confirmation, for redemption, for the acceptance of their narrative, is this; If Uday Hussein did have some indirect contact with some operative from some group with some shadowy connection to al Qaeda, does the whole war,the destruction, all the blood and grief and horror and incompetence find justification in a fact so murky , so inconclusive? Would this prove our freedom and our security were in such immanent danger? For Gods sake, of course not. They grasp because they cannot accept responsibility. They Long to yield.

By the way, Borges was a great admirer of Chesterton and the Father Brown mysteries. I love this quote about love: "To be in love is to create a religion which is fallible"

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Zizek, always challenging, identifies (through Blibar) the two opposite but complimentary modes of excessive violence in todays capitalism: the objective (structural) violence that is inherent in the social conditions of global capitalism and the subjective violence of newly emerging ethnic and/or religious (racist) fundamentalisms. Liberal capitalist democracy is in fact served by psuedo-naturalized ethno-religious conflicts, the particular rather than the universal form of struggle, diverting our attention from the great struggle of the last century. Zizek puts it thus:"In the age of post politics, when politics proper is progressivly replaced by expert social administration, the sole remaining legitimate sources of conflict are cultural (religious) or natural (ethnic) tensions. We don't hear much about the economic forms being imposed on Afgahnistan, Iraq, Columbia etc..

Reflections on Winning

Let me over-analyze this into a fine powder. The process I sort of described in the last post of a large group of "planned growth" supporters showing up at a meeting of local government to "outvoice" an ordinace onto the books ( temporarily) has many ripe elements for political criticism. For the next year, no big box store over 60,000 sq ft can be built. Our elected officials used the language of a "County Land Use Plan" to justify their decision, a plan fought over for the last fifteen years here in the heart of anti-government reguation country.

All the commisioners are "conservative" as I describe it,( disclosure: I am an extremist) but the most conservative of the bunch asked if the 60,000 number wasn't "arbitrary and capricious". My libertarian readers will know what he was saying, how is it not arbitrary? Many of the people opposed came with the larger libertarian themes such as Freedom and Liberty,questioning the process, a couple brought up class (definate differences in "social" class attributes, education levels, dress,eloquence), some wanted to "separate politics from economics" (von Hayeck, Strauss). Should this decision go to a vote by the people? Should there be a consensus process? An "iteration" process ,a la Michael Albert? Should "the invisible hand" of the Market decide? Should The State ,through democratically elected representatives?

Those fighting Walmartization of the Universe also brought some big, though often subjective themes. Quality of life, community feeling, aesthetic sensibilities etc.. and in an odd switch it was the "progressives" that wanted to preserve. The conservatives wanted to change. As for Jobs, Development, and Growth, everyone, EVERYONE, is for these. Some want to "plan" it, believing they can have their cake (beautiful scenery, small town feel, clean environment,etc) and eat it. (good paying jobs, opportunities for their children ,etc) You think Im a dreamer.

This is "democratic" capitalism, folks. A bunch of people shouted down another group, for now, and the corporate juggernaut was halted.Yea! But when I moved here almost thirty years ago, there was no Mc Donalds, no KMart, no Hardees or Pizza Hut or any of the crappy "strip development that extends for a mile out each side of town, none of the tens of thousands of new houses that have been built in the hay fields and hillsides. Houses occupied by the people for "planned growth", the impossible dreamers. The conservatives lost their sawmills and ranchland to this onslaught, they lost what they wanted to preserve long ago, and now they have to go to WalMart to shop. They just didn't want to have to drive so far. I lost my small town, my quiet bars, my uncrowded fishing holes long ago and all the organizing in the world won't bring them back.

People will continue to pour into this place because you can actually breath the air, even drink the water. They will come because there are no blacks, few hispanics, little violent crime, few homeless. Because they can catch a fish or shoot an elk. The new- agers will come because it is an "energy vortex". It will be Aspinized by the rich elite, turned into a playground, retired folks will come to spend their equity, even an entrepenuer or two will come to exploit a large, educated work force and try to make a buck but anyway it happens, the change no one wants is going to come, is here now, is taking place this morning. And WalMart will be patiently waiting in the wings.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tricky Waltons

Like with Richard Millhouse Nixon, I have a feeling we have not seen the last of them. Them being the Walton Family, who proposed building a Super Center in our small but rapidly growing community.A county commision meeting was called for tonight to vote on an interim planning proposal ( designed by our little subversive group) to limit the size of box stores to 60,000 sq. ft (well under the 140,000 WalMart wants) When we showed up at the old highschool, the line to get in was half way around the block. Most meetings draw a crowd of ten to fifteen tops. Fortunately,proponents out-organized the free-enterprise loving opposition by four to one and the size cap passed. Maybe the Terminator is a better example. They'll be back.

Then there was the BBC Analysis today on the recent electoral victory of Peru's Ollanta Humalla. Throwing around the stock derogatory terms (strongman, populist, etc) about his compadres Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales, they juxtaposed the three resisters to neo-liberalism with the more accomodating Kirchner, Lula and Chile's Bachelet. Maybe Im a little oversensitive but it seemed to me they interviewed about three opposed to "the leftward trend" for every one supporter. The "analyzer"then started throwing around words like fascist. You might have thought he was Pol Pot or had just blown up huge Buddha statues.

I leave April 23 for five days on the Smith River, out by White Sulpher Springs Montana, four nights camping out under the stars, rowing and casting and maybe even catching a few trout. Drinking Lewis and Clark vodka with lemonaid mix. I have a good life. It runs through a beautiful wilderness area ( at least it is un-roaded), narrow, rocky canyon walls emptying out into ranchland and cottonwoods. It is necessary for others to be envious for me to truly enjoy myself so I will rub it in a little more. Did I mention the big brown trout?

Coloring in the Lines

Trying to justify their zenophobia and pandering to racist constituency these Pro-Wall Republicans try the everything-you -need-to -know-you-learned-in-kindergarten approach. "I was taught you can't cut to the front of the line" said one Goldwater clone. This is all about the Law, the Foundation of our Liberal Society. Right. So I propose that everyone from anywhere applying for citizenship and meeting all the requirements be considered in the same amount of time. Move the line faster, open the door wider. Brilliant, huh?I learned that in first grade but I am a little slow.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I'll Fix Your Flat Tire Merle

Continuing my diatribe on Western US culture, I penned this ditty, sung to the tune of Merle Haggards anti-counter culture anthem of the seventies,Proud to be a Redneck fron Muskogee. With flags waving he would sing this to Big Belt Big Hat hippie haters.

Im a brainless redneck from Muskogee, gonna vote Republican this fall
They'll keep me safe from Terror and Latinos, so I can watch FOX news behind this wall
We don't smoke marijuana in Muskogee, we just do the meth and drink like fish
crash our trucks and beat our wives and children, the same for gays and blacks and feminists
We protect our Freedom in Muskogee, free to charge at WalMart all we please
Big Macs, Wendys, Burger King and Hardees, everynight we choose from one of these
The commie union tried to organize me, but I just watch Nascar and drink my Bud
I hate them rich folks but i wish I was one, my trailer house is sinking in the mud
Love them ten commandments at the courthouse, God asked me to kill folks out in Iraq
Our pastor tells us Darwin slept with Satan, no ape man but i got a hairy back.

So if the guiding thing doesnt work out...

Monday, April 10, 2006

Trying to Keep Up

There is just a lot going on. Ollanta Humalla appears to have won a small majority (no numbers yet) that sets the stage for runoff election. The US Navy carrier strike group headed for the Carribean, 4 ships, 60 fighter planes, 6,500 soldiers probably amped it up a couple of knots. Not that the Empire doesnt already have plenty of presence in the region with bases in Aruba, Caracao, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Guantanamo, and several in Columbia. The purported mission is to "promote goodwill", like a sharks mission in a herd of seals. Think oil, think control, Iraq, Iran, Uzbekistan etc.. The US ambassador to Venezuela was pelted with eggs and tomatoes when he wandered into a working class neighborhood. Dangerously armed revolutionaries.

Then there is Romano Prodi apparently knocking out Burlosconi, Huge Latino demonstrations throughout the USA (need a big sit in on Ellis Island) and a gal from Aruaca Columbia coming to Hamilton, Montana to speak about social movements and US collusion with right-wing para-military. Following the pot luck here at my house, bring beer. The Washington Post is reporting that aids found president Bush curled up in a little ball muttering gibberish about Ezekial and the Temple on the Mount. (not really, I just made that up)

"America is, in a way, the inability to think of gold metaphorically." John Fowles

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Country Western Man Love

Saw Brokeback Mountain last night and while i think the short story form was a much more effective vehicle Lee did do justice to Proulxs' unusual? story. And while Western rural types do mumble, when they speak at all ,Im not sure it was effective realism in this case. What did he say?My friend had to turn his translator on his TV to English sub titles.

What was captured was the stark contrast between the beautiful natural world and the often ugly culture which inhabits it. As someone from the Rocky Mountain West I have thought long and hard about this paradox. What makes people so hard? The violence , the booze, the shitty music spring from the poverty and parochialism I suppose and feed upon one another.Tension between solitude, serenity opposed to isolation and loneliness expressed well in this film. Anger, hate and hard people, locked in a closed system surrounded by nothing but space.

Well goodbye world, I fear we must part
Theyre takin my life, cause i shot my sweetheart
I dont say im sorry, I just say im sore
the reason im goin is blood on the floor.

Democracy in Action

There are very few contested Senate seats ( incumbency rules, note irony of post title) but here in Montana one of our Respected Statesmen has gotten himself mixed up in the Abramoff scandal and so his seat is considered perhaps the most vulnerable in the nation. To me it is somewhat irrelevant whether Conrad Burns is corrupt, he is such a reactionary toady of the good-old-boy Right. On the other hand, after listening to Democratic party candidate John Tester yesterday, I am re-confirmed in my opinion that politics as -such is a useless spectacle designed to make us feel better, much like a trip to Disneyland. (note; I Am Always Right)

Of course I realize you have to be a simple ,plain spoken farmer to get anywhere in Montana politics ,Burns makes Andy Griffith looklike an intellectual cosmopolitan. And Tester is certainly no Paul Wellstone, when I asked him whether he would sign the FTAA treaty as it is currently written he asked me what it was. But there is a difference between being a policy wonk and not bothering to inform yourself about the Senate Immigration bill. Or US policy in Israel/Palestine.A very sincere, likeable fellow, he would be in favor of bringing the troops home immediately IF "the intelligence"proved to him it would not result in a bloodbath. John,dear, only God can provide that level of proof and He is obviously nowhere near Iraq. John is all about fighting the "War of Terror" and wants more Special Forces deployed against a nebulous concept. He thinks America can succeed in the Global Market because of our inate ability to Compete. He will bring more jobs, stress education, organic farming blah blah.

The US Empire projects power over the entire globe and all it's peoples. There are hundreds of military bases on every continent, the State shares control of global development lending institutions, the US economy is many times over the largest in the world and a US Senator is in an elite position of power. Power. The power of life and death, of control spread far and wide. John Tester seems to truly believe he will represent me to the best of his ability should he be elected. He is in for a rude awakening.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Fourth World War

Looks like Ollanta Humalla may end up winning the Peruvian presidency. The left leaning Obrador is leading the poles in Mexico. John Mc Cain took a little to much oxycontin (he could barely mumble inanities last Sunday) and will be on the podium at Liberty University in Lynchburg later this summer. With his buddy Jerry "Hugo Must Die" Falwell. Can you even imagine a conversation with a graduate of Liberty U? Since 1846 the United States (with Liberty and Justice for All) has carried out no fewer than 50 military invasions and de-stabilizing operations involving 12 different Latin American countries. I guess the real question is; Will Americans really be ready to kill others and to be killed in order to Make the World Safe for Neo-liberal Capitalism? Will we kill for oil? To protect Zionism? To make way for the second coming?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Historical Amnesia

Much has been written about that peculiar process whereby what is past is transformed by a telling and re-telling into an accepted version. Edward Said had much to say about the process, Edward Thompson, Robert Brenner made their contributions and of course Howard Zinn is battling against revisionism and the American exceptionalist approach. Another great chronicler of the forces at work in time and in places is Eric Hobsbawm whose masterful work, The Age of Extremes I managed to finish last fall. Like most Americans I had learned that history began when Columbus "discovered" America. The Brits were thrown out, the West was tamed and then we proceeded to save the world from first (and second) the pompous Germans and then the sneaky Communists.

Many studies have shown that most Americans can't find Australia on a map or tell you what came first, the Salem witch trials or WWI so Hobsbawms contribution is that much more valuable and that much more difficult on this side of the pond. Still, it should be required reading before anyone becomes eligable to vote, despite it's sometimes flawed analysis and sometimes partisan tone. It is a critical, perhaps THE critical, aspect of intelligent citizenship to at least know the relevent arguments regarding the effects of the forces at work politically, economically, culturally. Shit doesnt just happen.

The movie on the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela we saw the other night characterized the present crisis as the Fourth World War. The forces of self -determination and regional culture versus the hegemonic ambitions of global capital and their neo-liberal structures. I wonder if history will see it that way.He ends his book by describing how difficult the task of prediction is," how extraordinarily poor has been the understanding of men and women who took the major public decisions in the century; how little of what happened, especially in the second half of the century, was expected and still less predicted by them."

Poodle Piss

Are we really witnessing a political movement dissolve like the Wicked Witch of the East, into a little steaming puddle of poodle piss? Condi is off to India to arm the Hindus with nuclear warheads, thats WMDs in the current jargon, which is bound to piss off their dictator buddy, Mushariff,  who is all cozied up with the Taliban.Delay is headed for jail with Abramoff and that whole crowd, Tancredo  is busy making sure Republicans never get another Latino vote and The Boss can’t decide between having our ports run by Saudis or going quail hunting with Cheney.It makes Newt Gingrich’s self immolation look like a sparkler party. I can hear David Brooks ‘ teeth grinding from here. What the hell is a conservative anyway? They start foreign wars in the most god-awful places, Guatemala, Iraq, the Opus Dei crowd plots the next war against commies while the evangelicals snuggle up to the Zionists, the Mormons, country western music, what does it all mean? Did Karl Rove get into a huge sack of peyote? I look to Katie Couric to put it all into perspective.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I don’t actually give a rats ass.I just read where Rosa Parks had her bond posted by a man named Ed Nixon, a protégé of A.Philip  Randolph, a socialist agitator, writer, and union organizer who founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first all black union. In 1985 a US navy cruiser shot down an Iranian passenger plane full of civilians over the Persian Gulf. Saddam Hussein was given a long list of communists to kill by Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld. Several of Francos cabinet ministers were Opus Dei members.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

All Well and Good

Thanks to phronesisaical.blogspot for a riff on the Slavoj Zizek essay; Nobody Has To Be Vile. Zizecks' argument is that the new "liberal communists" ( Soros, Bill Gates, Thomas Friedman etc..) who argue : you can do well and do good, are "the enemy of every true progressive struggle today." Helmut takes exception to this, believing these "liberal" committments to doing good,ie poverty, disease, education, are valuable in and of themselves and to the point where We on the Left can worry about the structural, systemic, "theoretical" dimension in our spare time while fighting for "real" gains. In other words abandoning the dialectical and the revolutionary project in favor of practical results within the capitalist system. This truly is "the crux of the bisquit" as Frank Zappa used to say, another of the BIG questions for our age. Red meat for a theory freak like me.

I have written about multi-millionaire clients of mine who argue, as though their soul depended on it ,that one can do good and do well. Through charitable giving (tax deductable) they share "the grace bestowed upon them", the cash they have appropriated from exploited workers, the largess they can afford because they are smarter, work harder, are great risk takers, are lucky,blah blah, (Ive heard all the justifications) and some people do get help and the rich are able to sleep at night. ButIm siding with Zizek on this one. These" liberal communists" are in the final analysis capitalists with a conscience but if they believe "another world is possible" they are deluding themselves with the notion their business practices, the power structures they perpetuate, don't contribute to the very injustice , poverty etc they wish to eradicate. Its easy to blame the Robber Baron but the moral tension experienced by the typical bourgeoise has always been more ambiguous in regards to doing well and good.

Zizek elaborates on this same theme in his essay ;Against Human Rights in the New Left Review 34, insisting the politics of human rights (UN Declaration etc..) serves as an alibi for militarist interventions, sacralization for the tyranny of the market, ideological foundation for the fundamentalism of the politically correct and a "symbolic fiction" which diverts us from grappling with the larger project of structurally changing the actual relations of our political economy. History shows me no matter how many anti-war protests there are capitalism will always find new wars. No matter how many environmentalists recycle their bottles global climate change accelerates exponentially. No matter how many vacines or how much food we give the poor, the poor are always sick and hungry. Helmuts frustration at the Leftist propensity for endless theorizing is justified .We have our own revolutionary tradition. We need to take to the streets, our streets. Fill the jails. Stuff the ballot box.

Providence or Coincidence?

After writing last night about "rising up"I grabbed my Harpers and headed for bed and found this great essay; The spirit of Disobedience by Curtis White. Assesing what John Ruskin caled our "moral culture" White finds in America "a national confusion about the relation of Christian to Enlightenment thought." In past pieces I have expressed my own belief that this question expanded is the dilemna of our age, Modernity or Tradition, reason or fundamentalism, ratio or religion, legal or moral, Evangelical or Humanist. Not that these all correlate or correspond but the interplay and tension create the chaos we now confront.

White believes ,as I do and Marx would, that "it is capitalism that most defines our national character", in a state of tension with both Christian and Enlightenment values."In the end, evangelical Christianity conspires with technical and economic rationalism" as they both require a "duty that masks unspeakable violence and injustice."Both liberals and Christian conservatives agree we should have the "freedom" to exploit workers because it is "reasonable" to be "competitave" and because it is legal. These are the debates of Strauss and Oakschott, Habermas and Rawls, over what is just and what is legal, creationists who subscribe to social -Darwinism.

White finds a "third way " in the "Imagination" of the European Romantics and American Transcendentalists, in Blake and Thoreau. Here is a disobedience built on a spiritual base ,rejecting the rational scientism and the hierachical authoritarianism of the church. Rejecting also the State that is "out of joint" , the "legal" that is unjust and the "radical evil" or superstructure of conscripted values, work ethic, materialism, divorce from nature etc.. "What Marx and Thoreau shared with Christ was a sense that "the letter killeth", the system and structure.

Here White parts ways with Marx and I part ways with White. He calls for a "spiritual, ethereal, poetic economics" and I am going to hang on to dialectics (at least for a little while longer) and the general strike but his essay is refreshingly radical and thought provoking. "The culture of death" which we now live in strictly forbids any utopian conjecture other than the "heaven" of the Christian right or the New American Century of the power elite . These have nothing in common with ' the other world I believe is possible'. Disobedience is the order of the day.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Spirit of Disobedience

The students and workers of France take to the streets to change a system they feel is unjust. The people of Latin America occupy factories and barricade roads and throw out leaders who try to sell their water or otherwise betray their trust. They change their constitutions and use their natural resource wealth to benefit the most marginalized citizens, the indigenous populations rise up to take power.

The people of America sit on their couches and watch their TVs and grow obese.They take their soma and go to work and eat and shit and die. The students of America go to class and go to chapel and go to the big game. The workers of America produce more for less, vacation in Las Vegas, fight the wars for the ruling class and get their legs blown off. The natives drink. The people of color gang bang. The "bright, lifeless, sameness" has worked it's magic.

Woman Scorned

Condi has had it up to here.Enough fucking around she says, we got an election coming up, I been patient but you boys slam that door one more time... Poor thing is just watching the whole Nobel Prize thing evaporate once more, Palestine went to crap, "democratized" central Asia, same thing, theyre starting to patronize her on the Sunday morning propoganda shows : Well Tim, I havent yet decided whether I will mud wrestle Hillary in the nude yet..Hugo Chavez makes snide comments about her small breasts and forehead...Everyones favorite "brilliant black person" is just another elite whose world view was made of stardust and chocalate sprinkles.

I know, I know, Im just missing the good news. The dow Jones was up this morning.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Bred to Fight

Interesting piece in the new Harpers about the huge discrepancy in the military in partisan political identification. Only" 7% identify themselves as liberals, Republicans outnumber Democrats in the military by more than four to one" . Of course I am no huge fan of Democrats or liberals but it is interesting that "since 1980 ( Reagan fascism) our military has become conservative in a more explicitly ideological sense."So we have some set of factors which is causing this personality disorder which manifests itself as conservative (in the vulgar, racist, sexist, provincial, homophobic sense), patriotic, evangelical, militaristically violent and good at taking orders.

Part of it has to do with how they were raised (that factor varies a great deal) part has to do with how susceptable they are to popular culture, part genetic (IQ, aptitude, etc) and part influence of teachers, mentors, peers. A study of the Hitler Youth could probably yield a great deal in this regard. I think video games factor in here somehow but have no data.

Personally, I don't support the troops. Not our troops, not their troops, not anybodys fucking troops. They personify and embody everything I stand against and if they are stuck in the military and don't like it I feel sympathy for them and if they are in there enjoying it they are sick. But in neither case do I support them in any way, shape or form.They are not defending my freedom or my property or my wealth or any stupid thing.What does "support" even consist of? Some prayer like mental state? Good thoughts? Thats stupid as well. If they want my support they will have to wake up, realize what they are doing and quit. Quit being killers, quit being Republicans, quit being conformist droids walking in lockstep towards glorious battle, quit being stupid.

Et Tu ?

Its one thing to see Corporate Capitalist mags like Foreign Policy publishing schlock like Hugo Boss (Jan Feb 06) but National Geographic, that staid bastion of non-partisan scientism? Whose non-political mission is "The increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge"? Surely theyre different than the Wall Street Journal, or ABC or NPR? No ,my friends, they are all One Big Mouthpiece for The New World Order, it is just that some are a little more subtle,( Nat.Geo), some a little less so,( Fox etc..)

The "journalist" in this case is Alma Guillermoprieta, an obvious believer in Margaret Thatchers famous dictum that "there is no alternative". She gets right to business in the first caption telling us "the number of poor has grown since Chavez took office in 1999." Based on what statistical analysis? Contextualized against what historical events? Nada. Five months after Chavez took office mudslides devastated parts of Caracas, killing fifteen thousand people. A short while later, the" national "oil company went on strike in an effort to oust Chavez by destroying the economy. Failing that the business elite staged a coup attempt. Failing that the powerful oligarchs have used every means at their disposal to undermine and disrupt the programs of the new administration. Even with these factors I am willing to bet Alma is lying or twisting figures. This is the first example of the tone and style of the entire piece which is littered with misinformation, opinion, falsehoods and insinuation.

Next page we have a picture of a Che Guevarra lookalike, complete with camo and beret lighting a fat (Cuban?) cigar with a picture of Chavez in the background. Alma opines that Chavez "rambles, even tends towards the delirious" in his speech.( opposition propoganda emphasizes Chavezs' supposed mental instability.) She tells us that in the speech he gave a "brief account of the progress being made in the oil sector", but that "he used figures previous PDVSA managers would no doubt dispute." She feels comfortable speculating on this, must have been to busy to actually get their quotes. Or to tell her reading public how corrupt the past managers were. "Fair and Balanced" Fox couldnt do it better. She further describes Chavez as a "hallucinatory" speaker, a "freak"with "confused leftist political notions" who will "cast a long shadow" over Latin American politics. A long ,DARK shadow, like the color of his skin. What color skin does Alma have? She gives plenty of space to opposition figures and quotes them at length, her perogative of course, but we also get plenty of her own view, peppered as it is with rejoinders such as "as far as I could tell" or "there is no way to tell whether those who got to keep their jobs are any more loyal to him now.." If there is no way to tell, why mention it? Or, "an unknown number of military personnel dislike Chavez". What does that tell us? Doodley squat. Here she has discovered some "new elites, with their gleaming Mercedes-Benzes, flashy watches" etc.. but no identification, interview, explanation where she found them. We get the intended message though.

She finishes strong, wishing to leave a strong flavor as she goes hard on the descriptive adjectives applying to Chavez. "Sheer force", "self-satisfaction" utter lack of inhibitions", inflamed nationalism","obsessive, hypnotic, unpredictable, unreliable." Now you get the message (does Alma need a baseball bat?). Scary Latin Dictator Bad. Patrimonial Neo-liberal Capitalism Good. Thanks for the increase in my geographic knowledge Alma.