Sunday, December 31, 2006

Ask Noam

My companero and fellow CAJA member Che Bob got ahold of Noam Chomsky to interject in a little discussion we were having over on Che's interesting blog Lonestonerevolutionary. I am the "fellow activist and WFP alum" mentioned below...

CheBob: "Is there a theoretical flaw in Marxism that necessarily leads to the centralization, even authoritarian, concentration of power? Wasnt this what Bakunin predicted? A fellow activist and WfP Venezuela alum asked me: Can authority be eliminated? Should it? I believe, naively perhaps that it both can and should be."

Noam Chomsky: "What's called "Marxism" in the West, and in most of the world, is actually Leninism, a right-wing authoritarian deviation from Marxism that was sharply condemned by many of the most important Marxist thinkers and activists -- those who Lenin denounced as "ultra-leftists." In reality, Lenin and Trotsky carried out a major attack on socialism, at once. The brutal state they created is called "socialism" by the West in order to defame socialism, and they appropriated the term so as to benefit from the association with the authentic socialism that they instantly destroyed. The later movements that called themselves "Marxist" or "socialist" were, for the most part, Leninist, therefore anti-socialist in essence. Chavez might turn out to be an exception, and one should certainly support tendencies that move in that direction. But without illusions.

No one knows to what extent illegitimate authority can be eliminated. Much of it has been dismantled in the past, and it is always a task for the future."

It is certainly true that Trotsky and Lenin tended to conflate the interests of the CPSU with those of the working class in general leading to over-Bolshevikianisation. (my own word!) This party fetish is something the Bolivarian Revolution should avoid but I don't accept an automatic leap from Chavez's calls for a new ,united ,socialist party to a repeat of 1920s Russia. Trotsky was wrong to have favored the forced collectivization of the peasants and wrong to favor bans on factions and extra-party political activity. It allowed a reactionary bureacracy to form with divergent class factions which the workers were then unable to organize against. There are no such bans in Venezuela, quite the contrary, a lively opposition exists, a great deal of political and ideological diversity exists and a strong ,grassroots libertarian streak is vigilant in guarding against coercion and repressive measures.

It is also true , in Trotskys defense, that there is not an invasion and civil war to deal with (as there was in post-revolution Russia, attacked by the US, Britian, Turkey and other Imperialist members of the White Army) and Venezuela has not been recently savaged by the effects of a world war, as was Russia in 1917. From where we live, discerning a revolutionary peoples movement from a revolutionary state can be difficult. The internationalist Left must remain vigilant ( no illusions). But there are plenty of real forces attacking from the Right, hoping to sow seeds of doubt, hoping to divide and conquer. We should have no illusions about them either.

The questions of "theoretical flaws" and "eliminating authority" are crucial and definately need to be adressed at length. ( I hear groans from the theoretically exhausted gallery)

Stand Up Time

It seems to be accepted knowledge that the War President is devising some sort of escalation in Iraq in opposition to the advice of his generals, Iraq Study Group , every serious analyst and against the will expressed by the American electorate. No real surprise there, it is the cowards way to retreat into ever less rational behavior when confronted with his overwhelming malfeasance and guilt. The question is, what will be the reaction? It is also accepted opinion that any opposition to this plan will have to come from "the Democrats". We must reject that notion. This is the last opportunity to salvage the last shred of real democracy in this country and it's up to the people to take back the power they have ceded, not some idiot political party.

The man picked by the new Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to head the House intelligence committee is a knucklehead named Sylvestre Reyes. He got the job because he is Hispanic and that means votes. In an interview he said he "plans to focus on Latin America, particularly Venezuela. President Hugo Chavez has influenced elections acrosss Latin America, has called Bush the devil and has ALIGNED himself with Iran." Sounds like somebody sonia-belle could get behind. When asked if he knew whether al Qaeda was Sunni or Shiia, Reyes babbled a little then guessed wrong. He got the name recognition to get where he is today "through his agressive programs to secure the porous border in El Paso." So he's also got the Tom Tancredo vote.

The minute Bush calls for increased troop levels we need to shut this whole thing down. General strike, barricades in the highways, huge marches in every city and town. Game over. Fuck the Democrats. One day of national paralysis to save a lot of lives from being needlessly wasted. Whadda ya say? By the way, happy new year!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Walk and Chew Gum

So while the US has been "engaged" in it's little blood for oil fiasco, the rest of the "War on Terror" (following phronesisical's lead with quote marks) is quickly slipping out of control. I refer to events in Afghanistan and now Somalia where we have our usual wonderful choice of actors to support: 1. The local warlords we've funded up till now ( results with warlords, or ,lords of war, have been mostly mixed) 2. the Islamist fundamentalists who have popular support or 3. the Ethiopian security forces who "make routine use of various forms of human rights abuse to deter and punish dissent", according to Human Rights Watch. Their crackdown on protests in Nov.2005 led to the death of nearly fifty and the arrest of thousands, including journalists, politicians and activists. We could support Eritrea?

Good Old Jerry "the football hero everyman" Ford met with Kissinger and Suharto in 1978 to work out arrangements.
Suharto: "We want your understanding if we deem it necessary to take rapid or drastic action."
Ford: "We understand the problem you have and the intentions you have."
In fairly short order, 200,000 Timorese were dead.

In the WaPo we read that "the US Challenges Israel on West Bank Settlement, State Department, in rare criticism, says plan would violate "road map". Gee,..sure hate to see em violate the road map. Condi is polishing up her black stillettos!

And Id like to leave us with this final thought on the new computer game ,Eternal Forces, available NOW at your local WalMart Life and Well Being Center. This fun filled game, based on Tim LaHayes popular Left Behind series of books, takes the "gamer" through the Apocolyptic Final Solution, where he blasts and maims and kills his way to Everlasting Glory and the Second Coming. Oh yeah... the final thought....um..maybe we'll wake up tommorro and this will all just have been a weird dream!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Compassionate Capitalism

Another position held by "realists" is that capitalism is here to stay and we should therefore find ways to make it a tad less brutal. They get outraged over the stats, like finding out 1% of the population controls 40% of the worlds wealth (study by World institute for Development Economics Research ) and with indignant righteousness call out for less greed. The Pope and a few "progressive " clergy nod in agreement, NGO's and a few thinktankers, second the motion. Barack Obama and John McCain co-sponsor a Delay Less Greed Bill in Congress.

Here is how I picture it institutionally. Suppose we expanded the Super Wal Mart concept and started building them large enough so you could have a mega-church in one section and all local government offices over in another? This would be in addition to everything else you could possibly want or need and all in one handy location, all under one big, inclusive "tent", as people like to think of our great melting pot. They already have banking services, so theoretically, if you lived in the corporate developed housing out back and worked in the Greatest Store on Earth, you would never have to leave the compound. You could be greeted and feted, get all your entertainment, have all your needs met.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Been Wrong Before

I went out on a limb just as the ISG (anyone remember Baker-Hamilton?) came out with it's recommendations and predicted the US would draft a new strategy which sided with the Shiia, drove the Sunni out, and started serious negotiations over a Palestinian state. I never would have guessed the un-prodigal son would have given his Dad's councilor the finger but I can see him liking the sound of a "last chance surge" and all the drama it invokes. I thought the Saudi's would accede to my plan, good businessmen that they are, and they still could.

Condi, meanwhile, now has to be prepared with a real offer for Abbas while pretending not to notice the new West Bank settlements. The downtown Damascus Hilton can barely keep clean sheets for the visiting Dems and it would seem the recent Iranian election results might have created an opening there but I'm wrong again. And now we wait for "The January Speech"! Condi on Iraq: "Once it emerges as a country that is a stabilizing factor you will have a very different Middle East," and as for you young fellas on the line,"It is worth the investment." Red Holiday dress, straight face.

Over at neo-neocon you can learn that the US lost the war in Viet Nam because of that original cut and run traitor ,Walter Cronkite. RIP. He's being swift-boated into the right-wing pantheon of appeasors, liberal media flacks and recievers of sexual favors. The War on Terror is now the Battle of Modernism, which conservatives are now "mostly " in favor of. As long as Modern means cell phones and not gay marriage. For my own take, there is a long essay called Struggle For The Future over at clearheadwaters.

"The historic ascent of man, taken as a whole , may be summarized a s a succession of victories of consciousness over blind forces- in nature, in society, in man himself." Leon Trotsky

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

How to Overthrow a Dictator

Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. But you gotta do it right. number1. explain the plan to your own citizens in terms they understand and avoid bullshit like" we have to really hurry and circumvent the UN because they have WMD". They should understand.
2. what not to do is also important. Do not "sanction" to death 500,000 of their children prior to liberating them.Do not "shock and awe" bomb the shit out of the people you are going to liberate.
3. do not plan to take control of valuable assets like oil fields (looks suspicious) or plan to maintain a permanent presence. (also looks suspicious)
4. After sweeping through with a large ground force ( you lose a few more troops now, a lot less in the looong run), be sure to stabilize the country, prevent breakdown of law and order, etc..
5. Begin immediate re-building, employment , services, new indigenous government.
6. In order to demonstrate consistency, overthrow a tyrant or two without oil or with whom you have unwisely colluded in the past.
7. You might want to have some reliable information as to the historical, political, social and economic conditions of the country you wish to liberate, to see if what you are replacing with is better than what you wish to replace.
8. next time, call me , not Condi or Bremmer or Perle, Wolfowitz, Kagan, etc etc

By the way, this is not a "fruit salad" from which to pick and choose. All or nada.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Imagine No Religion,I Wonder If You Can

The review of two books, Reaching for Power: The Shi’a in the Modern World by Yitzhak Nakash and Shia Revival:How conflicts within Islam Will Shape The Future by Vali Nasr, by Max Rodenbeck in the November NY Review of Books provides needed insight into a very current dilemma. To me it ,reinforces my negative assessment of religion in general and provides new arguments for just this position.

A huge problem in having a religion which incorporates prophets into it’s belief system is the issue of whether this “holiness”,this having been singled out by God, then becomes a hereditary trait. It is just this question of inheritance and lineage which has historically plagued Islam and continues to cause deep divisions within the Muslim world today, divisions which are now and will continue to affect us all.

Within the Shiia account of Holy lineage, or House of the Prophet, a grudge arose immediately after the death of Muhammad, when his cousin Ali was passed over three times for the title of caliph, or worldly successor, in favor of the Ummayad cousins. This is your basic Hatfields and McCoys, only with somewhat more serious historical implications. Ali finally reigns for a bit but is assassinated. His son Hussein trys to rally, but Ummayad Yazid slaughters Hussein and his followers. Sister Zaynad survives and on it goes.Questions arose over the number of generations of legitimate direct decendents, with some arguing seven , others insisting on twelve. “Twelvers” believe a second coming of Muhammad alMahdi, the last in their “chain’ of succession, is immanent. Twelvers, including Irans bellicose President Ahmadinejad , Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and those of the Badr Brigades, believe religious scholars should be outspoken regarding politics. Traditionally the Najaf, the religious school led by Ayatollah Sistani, has championed political quetism.In terms of rights or liberties, all sides remain forbidding social conservatives.

Now we get to the rupture with the most serious consequences for our time, that between the Shiia and Sunni sects. Sunnis , making up 85% of the worlds 1.2 billion Muslims, reject the exalting of cousin Ali and the notion of a hereditary imamate, regarding it as a dubious innovation which obscures Islams core message. While respecting the House of the Prophet, they believe the worshipping of tombs to be a form of corruption”.In the Sunni narrative , the Shiia are seen as outsiders, Persian-tinged schismatics whose assault on Muslim unity has periodically weakened the faith.”

Because ,for the past millennium, half the worlds Shiia have lived within Iran with the rest diluted within overwhelming Sunni populations, sectarian conflict has been in remission. Historically, pan-Islamist unity has increased under the threat of Western imperialism, and around causes such as the formation of the Islamic state of Pakistan and that of the plight of the Palestinians. We see this now in a shared antagonism towards the US occupation in Iraq. Both sects express yearnings for a unified Muslim nation, or ummah, but it is clear this is threatened by forces now shattering the calm between the sects. Increasing Sunni radicalism and triumphalism, in the form of Wahibism, and the rise of “Sunnification” of political discourse, both harden positions and condemn Shiism as an obstacle to progress. Failures throughout the 1950s and 60s of forms of secular opposition such as unions, communism, Pan-Arabic nationalism and Baathism (contributed to by Western intervention) have forced both Shiia and Sunni to adopt more theocratic forms with strict clerical leadership.

To my mind, all religion is a bit demented and appeals ,with some exceptions, to the most regressive tendencies within the human psych. To the religious ,faith becomes certainty, peace becomes war and truth becomes a possession to be fought over. The dream of a future ,a modernity, where justice creates the condition for peace, is held hostage by those clinging to a past of retribution and redemption. Whether it is the Sunni extremism of Hamas or the Christian extremism of apocalyptic Milleniallism, the project of democratic equality and the flourishing of human potential is held back by the severe limitations and restrictions they place on imagination and political possibility. While superstition and ancient dogma may not be the root of oppression, they collaborate willingly or as pawns with the institutions and structures of power which perpetuate injustice. Church and State must be entirely separated, religion and politics must be isolated spheres and eventually, religion itself reduced to a non-role in civil society.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

K K K

With the coinciding death of Milton Friedman, Jeane Kirkpatrick and Augusto Pinochet I have been thinking a lot about their legacy and the geneology of ideological strains which lead to our present historical moment. The K K K I want to discuss here is Kirkpatrick, Kissinger and Kagan , their relative and cumulative impact and the tentacles which extend into the New American Century.

Greg Grandin has a great essay at Counterpunch called The Bloody Realism of Jeane Kirkpatrick in which she is described as a "realist" who argued against idealistic interventions to democratize the world and yet who never the less laid the philosophical groundwork for current neocon adventurism. Deeply ideological, even religious, about American exceptionalism, she, along with Robert Kagan, were able to use the Reagan moment to justify the carnage of Nicaraugua, El Salvador and Guatemala in terms of "national security". By the way, Kagan is still very influential, a co-founder, along with William Kristol, of the Project for a New American Century, hierling of Elliot Abrams, author of books about "total war". His wife is Dick Cheney's Deputy National Security Advisor. Cute couple.Wish they'd go hunting with Dick.

Anyway,thus began the synthesis of idealist/realist, pro-Friedmanesque capitalist, pro-Reaganite-beacon-on-the-hill democracy,pro-Kissingerese-realpolitic security traditions making her the mid-wife of the neocons. Like Kissinger, she believed autocrats, no matter how anti-modern their values, allowed for a degree of autonomous civil society which socialists, like Allende, whom they equated with totalitarians, could not. It is telling that a notoriously corrupt and brutal Contra unit in Nicaraugua took the name of the Jeane Kirkpatrick Brigade because her philosophy was built on the Hobbesian notion of the centrality of brute power to establish political legitimacy. There is plenty of that "primitive accumulation" aspect mixed in with Bush- idealism on the Right today. Add a dash of Born-Again and simmer.

In a moment of realist prescience, she anticipated this insight ofGuy Debord: Once the running of the state involves a permanent and massive shortage of historical knowledge, that state can no longer be run strategically". Kirkpatrick put it thus:" thought set free from experience is unlimited by constraints of experience or of probability. If history is not relevent, then the future is free from the past.Theories cut loose from experience are usually blindingly optimistic."

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Din

"The noisless din that we have long known in dreams, booms at us in waking hours from headlines."
Theodore Adorno

The six member Gulf Cooperation Council has decided to study a "joint civil atomic program". Condoleeza Rice said she could understand Egypt's participation as it is running out of natural gas ,but not Saudi Arabias. The Death Queen is also proposing " tens of millions of dollars"to strengthen the secuity forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who just called for early elections. According to experts "disbanding the government would put Abbas on shaky legal ground." His "decision puts the Palestinian political situation into limbo, paralyzing attempts to build on recent efforts towards peace with Israel." You can always count on Palestinians to paralyze efforts and undermine initiatives that might help them. Dysfunction is my simplistic analysis but in his book The Iron Cage, scholar Rahshid Khalidi trys to answer why the Palestinians have failed to achieve statehood and comes up with a couple of core issues. One ,of course is external, the British and American committment to Zionism. The others are internal, having to do with the elites tendency to entrust their peoples fate to imperial powers, the conflation, by Palestinian leaders, of the national cause with their own egos and the movements "specifically religious character."

Meanwhile a three judge Israeli panel ruled that : "It cannot be determined in advance that every targeted killing is prohibited according to customary international law." Right. What about this for instance? "In July 2002 the air force dropped a one ton bomb that killed Salah Shedadeh, a top Hamas operative, along with his body gaurd and 13 bystanders, including nine children." Israel says it is permissible in the context of armed conflict. Which could conceivably include bank robberies. But it does save on trial costs, investigations, etc..

"We will each take measures to adress global imbalances, notably through greater national savings in the US and through increased domestic consumption and exchange rate flexibility in China." US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, commenting on results of delegation to China. Im sure that message was well recieved over at WalMart headquarters, not that any consumer in either country would be influenced in any way. Talking to communists, thats as bad as talking to the Axis of Evil!

If nobody trusts the press, is that a problem for democracy? Is the din of headlines such that we have all given up on" informed opinion" or objective knowledge, even truth? The left sees bias, the right sees bias, I see bias, Laura Bush and Don Rumsfeld and this soldier see bias, it's all one, vast right/left wing conspiricy:

22 year oldMarine sniper Orth: "Yes, we all know that the American people thought negatively about the war but we didnt care because the media is telling different stories about what is really going on. Most news networks will interview us during combat and completely change what we said just to have better ratings."
Interviewer Doc Block: "What is the one thing the American public does'nt understand about Iraq?"
Orth: "That there WERE WMD and the people talk about them all the time."
Block: "What images will stay with you for the rest of your life?"
Orth: "Mostly death and destruction but also the happy kids that can now play in the streets safely...after a while you sometimes..out of nowhere..you start to cry or just feel totally alone , like there is no one there for you."
Block: "If you could go back in time would you sign up again?"
Orth: "In a heartbeat."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Wild Animals

One good piece of advice in dealing with wild animals is not to back them into a corner. This applies to the ever-present but increasingly threatened right-wing around the globe. On right-wing blogs I am hearing more talk of how only war can create peace, of how sometimes you have to destroy a village in order to save it, of how General Shermans scorched earth policy was just tough love directed at the South and is what's now needed in Iraq, of how Pinochet worked such wonders in Chile.

In Mexico and Argentina and Colombia the right-wing is back to it's time-tested methods of death squads, torture, assasination and "dissappearances" while in Chile they mourn the death of their viscious, fascist ex-leader. In Israel the virulently racist-russian- right is desperatley lashing out with the appointment of Avignor Lieberman to "minister of security", only the latest sign of reactionary ascendence after their failed war. We know about the religious fundamental right in both the Christian and Muslim camps, what some wish to call "political Islam" or Islamism or Islamofascism or political Christianity, blah blah. They are all feeling the pressure of a failed history, of failed policies and pressure to reform.

In the US the neocons are definitely backed into a corner over their foreign policy debacle. Their masters in the House of Saud are demanding they take out Sadr in a "go for broke" offensive,gloves off, bombardment, mini-nukes, you name it. Break out all the toys like we "failed" to do in Viet Nam. Baker and the "realists" see a minority Sunni population who were demonized Baathists and Saadam loyalists and figure they can be sacrificed without US public outcry and the bases and oil wells maintained. Perhaps with a few concessions to Iran. The right-wing in Israel doesn't want to hear of any talk about the West bank or Golan Heights and will strike out at Hezbollah if Lebanons government collapses. The rightwing Musharrif of Pakistan doesn't dare risk alienating his Taliban support and has his own nukes but NATO will not tolerate being picked off from cross border raiders. The Mexican government will consolidate military and corporate power for a showdown with the popular social movements. Sudan, Ethiopia, Congo, Somalia. The Internationalist movement must be cautious and leave political space for these failed actors to articulate and manuever. Fascism is always one step away.

All About Risk

In all the critiques of capitalist theory floating around I never see any discussion on what I feel to be it's most intrigueing and essential element, risk. The mythology of the great leader, the explorer, the wild west,and the self-made man are all built on this social Darwinian "natural selection" of the brave risk-taker.Entreprenuership, as discussed in the last post, is essentially based on a willingness to accept risk, manage risk and I believe, enjoy risk. The thing about taking risks, however, is it is not fun to lose, as of course, many entreprenuers, leaders,explorers and pioneers do. Establishment capitalists writing in the Economist or Financial Times are worried the once understandable system has devolved into a casino-like anarchy with ever increasing, and potentially devastating, risk involved. Beyond exciting risk, into very scary risk.

As Gabriel Kolko puts it in his Counterpunch essay, Factors in our Collosal Mess, "capitalism is going crazy. It is the era of the fast talker and buccaneer- snake-oil-salesmen in suits" Chomsky just calls them gangsters, but gangsters, pirates and salesmen all share that love for risk. New "financialization" schemes like hedge funds, "structured credit products",futures markets and derivative trading are the logical extension of a system built on greed and desire but this system is an elaborate house of cards, or, increasingly, a roulette wheel spinning wldly out of control. "Spectacular chances are now being taken...everyone has become less risk averse. In late November there were 75 billion in global mergers and aquisitions in a 24 hour period."

Our political arena too has this casino-like atmoshere, with generals, pundits and politicians deep in a hole, willing to bet wildly on a "last chance" to extricate themselves. Desperation inspires gamblers to" go big" or "go for broke". With nothing left to lose they will take bigger and bigger chances. Backed into a corner they might attack Iran, praying for the ace.For the neocons in Iraq and Americas global dominance and Israels precarious Zionist state and George Bush's legacy they are hoping to draw to an inside straight. For politicans it is getting riskier as well, with a fickle public swinging wildly from pro to con almost over night.

Kolko leaves us wondering: "The American public is already deeply alienated, the world financial system is teetering, the US's military resources are virtually exhausted. We shall see."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Entrepreneurial Imperative

More insidious than the blathering of Milton Friedman (may he rot in Hell) and his syncophants on the Right are these types of neo-liberal, "reformist" pronouncements flowing from the hegemons narration centers. First, here is Dr. Mohammad Yanus, developer of the Grameen Bank and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize with what seems like an enlightened project.

"By defining 'entreprenuer' in a broader way, we can change the character of capitalism radically and solve many of the unresolved social and economic problems within the scope of the free market." He wants more poor people to buy into the system which makes them poor and believe the lie which is the "free market". He said glorification of the entreprenuerial spirit has led to 'one dimensional human beings' motivated only by profit." He read his Marcuse but missed the point. While international companies motivated by profit may be crucial in adressing global poverty, he said, nations must also cultivate grassroots enterprises and the human impulse to do good. There was a discussion on this blog about "cultivation" and how the revolutionary must be courageous enough to "change men" but the idea that "one can do good and do well" is at the heart of the moral lie that informs the so-called benevolent, compassionate, entreprenuer. To Janus' way of thinking, women and Muslims have been "liberated" from the traditional aversion to charging interest through"micro-credit". Usary is just fine, even liberating.

Advertised on our public radio station every five minutes is the new book by Carl Schramm titled The Entreprenuerial Imperative, celebrating American's "unparalleled skill as entreprenuers" and defining this "skill" as our niche in the 21st century economy. As Arundahti Roy makes clear,the check book and the cruise missle have been making a pretty lucrative "niche" for some time now. Our Comparative Advantage, as the economists like to say. Explaining why the UN Millenium Goals project of" halving world povertyby 2015" has been "diverted" ,Dr. Janus put the blame on the resources squandered on the War On Iraq,which has shifted the worlds attention "from a more pressing project". Funny how that ALWAYS happens, Dr.Janus, when the entreprenuerial imperative of finding resources, cheap labor and open markets comes up against the worlds poor people.

Koffi Annan demonstrated this same naive, liberal faith in his farewell speech: "Today, we realize that market access, fair terms of trade and a non-discriminatory financial system are equally vital to the chances of poor countries...you Americans can make a crucial difference to many millions if you are prepared to save the Doha Round of trade negotiations." Yeah, right. A sudden change of heart. This is what the mutualists and other pro-market libertarians dream of, with an equally unsatisfying explanation of HOW this change would come about or WHY those with wealth and power would suddenly be willing to share it.

Raising Your Child to be a Soldier

Soldier son's email to his mom:

"I was gonna call you but the phone is broken. I hate this place more than anywhere else i've been. I guess is a compilation of all the time I've done overseas fighting. Bullshit fights, its really bringing me down. I can't wait till all this is over…I'll be the biggest anti-war person this country will have… at least against this war in Iraq....Let's go fight a different one somewhere else cause this one is lost. I swear i wish you could spend a week over here…you would know it's lost. You can't stop ‘holy warriors,' especially in their territory. Tonight we are about to go drop off generators to the enemy (Iraqi civilians) hoping they will give us info about the enemy (bullshit storys). The shit your tax dollars go to would make you puke. You really would puke. I almost do when i think about it..... thomas jefferson would have a heart attack if he saw all the shit goin on today. Oh well. I really hope it changes soon when Bush is out…but i doubt it. I thinks its all Gods plan…he runs the show no matter what. Fate and all that…its good to trust him.
"…I'll keep the machine gun lubed in hopes of killin em all at the first opportunity for you. I love you ma and i know that no matter what you support me. I hope you don't find this email burdensome. Just hit delete if that's the case."

This young man's mother will lay in her bed tonight wondering how she raised a blood thirsty killer. She taught him to be patriotic, to believe in God, to fight for freedom. Our school system, our pop culture, a church and our media all did their work on him. A good boy who believed what they told him, who wanted to do the right thing. Bush, God , Fate, Thomas Jefferson. If he lives through this he will become someones employee or boss, a voter, a worshipper or drug addict, a husband and father, a mental patient or politician. If he doesn't they will bury him in a flag draped coffin and give his mom the medals to put by his picture on her mantle. His name will go on a new Wall somewhere in D.C. We will all go on eating ,sleeping and shitting, blogging and buying. And the viscious cycle will continue.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Korean Comrades in Struggle

It was my honor to march and rally in solidarity with an incredibly powerful group of anti-globalization activists from Korea, New York, and Seattle last Friday. They have been camped out in Bozeman and BigSky Montana for ten days, facing agressive police harrassment, an inattentive media and sleeping for two nights in zero degree temperatures in the cordoned off corner of a parking lot designated a "free speech zone". In the plush resort conference center trade representatives were hammering out differences in the fifth round of talks in what is called the Kor-US FTA. We all (those who read here generally) know the destructive aspects of these NAFTA clone deals, especially to small farmers, peasants, and workers so I won't go into detail. What I did want to express was my admiration for the fighting spirit, demonstrated in so many ways by these fearless people. This was demonstrated through the sacred aspect of resistance, through laughter, song, dance and sharing of food and drink. Lots of drink.

I also had the pleasure of celebrating the struggle through testimonies, toasts, roasts and a generally hilarious good time. These are definately my kind of warriors, activists who had been to Seattle, Hong Kong, Miami, Cancun and wherever else these ministers try to meet in secrecy. I had a great discussion through a translator with JeonSung-Do, deputy general secretariat of the KoreanPeasants League, and not only learned a great deal about a nation and society with which Americans share a great deal of painful history, but also learned just how much I don't know but need to learn. It was heartening once again to see so many determined and powerful women actively leading a movement for social justice and to see that so many around the globe have made the same analysis as I concerning the predatory nature of capitalism and the need for deep , radically democratic change.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Grand Strategy

Im going to speculate a little further on this possible shift away from Israel, signalled first by this resignation of Bolton. My instincts tell me this is Bakers work and that soon we will be saying goodbye to the influence of people like Ed Meese,Clifford May and Michael Rubin. Baker is locked in a struggle with Lindeen, Kagan and Kristol, and their Zionist allies at PMAJO (Presidents of major JewishAmerican Organizations) and AIPAC. He will also run into Nancy Pelosi and her new advisor but Baker knows he has to deal differently with Iran and Palestine or it's game over.

There is truth,however in this observation by Retort: "The US sees itself in the Israeli mirror.It sees the modernity it most believes in; 'democratic' and consumerist, totally militarized and compulsively quick on the draw." Over at Axis of Logic, James Petras sees a battle looming as well in his essay The US and Middle East:Grand Settlement VS the Jewish Lobby. A bit windy and overblown but he is a needed advocate for Palestinian sovereignty.

Although Israel isn't mentioned specifically, one assumes it's fate is implied in the overall thesis of Christopher Laynes book: The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present. Reviewed by Peter Gowan in NLR 41, it sounds as though it could have been written by Chomsky rather than a"maverick libertarian and sometime Republican voter with links to the Cato Institute" and scholar at the Bush School of Government ( not a joke) in Texas. There is a bizarre convergence, as in this explanation as to why the US involved itself in both world wars: "Laynes answer is unequivicol: American strategy was to establish it's hegemony over the major industrial powers of Eurasia, once the Second World War had created the conditions to do so." In this he builds on Kolko's work and answers the question that threw the "realists" ( Waltz, Kennan, Morgenthau) into such crisis: If the US grand strategy was really just a noble 'counter-hegemony", preventing the spread of the Soviet Bloc through "balancing" power, why didn't the US" pull back from Europe, East Asia and the Middle East once the Soviet challenger disappeared"?

There are arguments as to how great the "challenge" really ever was,but in any case, this "hegemonic drive, Layne contends, has turned the country into a National Security State with a bloated military-industrial complex" whose "expansionist thrust has undermined Americas social institutions" and "brought involvement in wars which are of little or no importance for the US itself." I like this libertarian! (It IS important to remember that Viet Nam provided raw materials to Japan,where we had a large stake in rebuilding the economy)

Layne's proposal is a Buchanan like draw- back, no more exporting "the American Way of Life", no more opening doors of other states to capital penetration or making good democratic-capitalists out of the barbarians. Layne also identifies the false paradigmatic ideological-security threat as emanating from a core of "large capital-intensive corporations that looked to overseas markets and outward looking investment banks"; around this core were assembled "the national media, important foundations, the big Wall Street law firms and organizations such as the Council on Foreign Relations." Where have you heard that name before? Oh yeah, my last post. This is old school conservatism, the kind not interested in global primacy.

Why I Didn't Go To Harvard

Besides the fact I don't actually remember going to highschool (I set a non-attendance record that may still stand) I didn't go to Harvard because I would have had LOTS of problems with professors like Kenneth Maxwell, who spoke in Missoula last night. Maxwell is a visiting prof at Harvard's Rockeffeller Center for Latin American Studies (no irony there!), a former Fellow on the Council on Foreign Affairs and author of numerous articles in it's mouthpiece ,Foreign Affairs magazine, and books such as the one he was trying to push last night, Naked Tropics-Essays on Empire and Other Rogues. I didn't buy one.

He comes on with an affected humbleness (British accent doesn't help) and criticizes government for not listening to academia in regards to foreign policy and the media for dumbing down the discourse. He then proceeds to dumb down the discourse in a classicly academic, obfuscatory manner. His discussion, titled What the Turn to the Left Means for America, never touched on meaning per se. Instead he de-constructed " left"in simple economic terms (patronage, populism and petro-states) and never mentioned Porto Allegro, the landless peasant movement, the worker occupied factory movement , or the Bolivarian Missions. (He scoffed at the appropriation of Bolivar as a revolutionary symbol because of his euro-centric views) Each Latin leader was given an appellation (Chavez- caudillo, Kirchner- Peronist, Lula - unionist, Humalla- fascist, Bachelet- social-democrat, Garcia- opportunist, etc) and summarily dismissed. End trade sanctions with Cuba? End funding for Plan Colombia? End FTAA process? The man introduced as a daring interlocutor between scholar and public policy said not a word.

Anyone who read the article about Chavez in Foreign Affairs would not have been surprised at this treatment but I say if it takes a "cuadillo" to initiate a constitutional referendum which distributes more wealth and power to the societies least privileged and deepens democratic structures and civil society, please, give US a caudillo! So is there a "Red Wave in Latin America"? Don't ask "expert" Kenneth Maxwell. You will just get a long winded, if erudite and perfunctory, dodge, duck and hedge.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Big Wrap Up

Ive been going on for awhile about Laclau and Mouffes thesis in their book from 1985, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, even though no one but me cares. It is long and dense, how I like it .What can I say?

Up to this point we've discarded a lot of dogmatic orthodoxy which may have been relevent for Marx's time or even Luxemburgs but isnt helping us think about resistance to advanced capitalism. So we are working on a project of radical democracy, way beyond representative, liberal democracy, which may be fine for resolving antagonism but is not enough to build something. It is a great logic for "the elimination of relations of subordination and inequalities" but is "incapable of founding a nodal point of any kind around which the social fabric can be reconstituted.This being the case ,no hegemonic project can be based exclusively on a democratic logic but must also consist of a set of proposals for the positive organization of the social." In other words ,we are developing a hegemonic project which is a way forward for the Left, countering the hegemony of both neo-liberal and classical liberal capitalism.

This means not allowing "the total expulsion of utopia from the field of the political", denying the possibility of "the construction of a radical imaginary." At the same time we are avoiding
the two extremes represented by the totalitarian myth of the 'The Ideal City' and the positivist pragmatism of reformists without a project." In other words a hegemonic construction of the Left somewhere between Leninism and liberal. This between, "this moment of tension which gives the social it's essentially incomplete and precarious character, is what every project for radical democracy should start to institutionalize."

As mentioned previously ,the authors argue against a "unified discourse of the Left" (the "essential","universal" character of the proletariat" ) in favor of an open-ended articulation reflecting the un-sutured nature of the social, a radical democracy which rejects a pre-destined hierarchy of agents. "Every project for radical democracy necessarily includes...the abolition of capitalist relations of production, but it rejects the idea that from this abolition there necessarily follows the elimination of other inequalities. The project for a radical democracy is a form of politics which is founded not upon dogmatic postulation of any 'essence of the social' but, on the contrary, on an affirmation of the contingency and ambiguity of every antagonism." This "plurality of spaces does not deny, but rather requires, the overdetermination of it's effects at certain levels and the consequent hegemonic articulation between them." Tension is where it's at and we who hope to organize need to embrace it like a Zen koan.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Inflatable Democracy

This great quote is from PeterSloterdijk, through Tobias, through helmut over at one of the best blogs going, Phronesisaical:

He imagined that the U.S. Air Force should have added to its military paraphernalia an “inflatable Parliament” which could be parachuted at the rear of the front, just after the liberating forces of the Good had defeated the forces of Evil. On hitting the ground, this parliament would unfold and be inflated just like your rescue dingy is supposed to do when you fall in the water. Ready to enter and take your seat, your finger still red from the indelible ink that proves you have exerted your voting duty, Instant Democracy would thus be delivered! The lesson of this simile is easy to draw. To imagine a parliament without its material set of complex instruments, “air-condition” pumps, local ecological requirements, material infrastructure, and long held habits is as ludicrous as to try to parachute such an inflatable parliament into the middle of Iraq.

This was always the problem with the" purple finger" theory of democracy building, promoted by Chalabi and the Iraqi intellectuals (and their naive neo-con supporters), that all one had to do was print some ballots and put out some boxes with a slot in it and a system for solving politial greivances magically appears. Today we still heard Stephan Hadley say six times on Meet The Press, like a Jeffersonian mantra, "they had an election in which twelve million people participated". US democracy may be hollow but Iraqi democracy is a mirage. There is no Iraq.

Prussion Blue

Anybody seen the White Power Pop Princesses called Prussian Blue? Google up the picture and you get two cute fourteen year old, blonde, blue eyed smiling teeny boppers wearing smiley-face Hitler T-shirts. These homeschooled youngsters may have slept through the lesson on racial tolerance but they were wide awake for the one on eugenics. Their grandad was a rancher who used the swatztika as his cattle brand and their classic "stage mom" April parades the girls around to sing at racist gatherings. Little sis's name is Dresden. This wholesome family just moved to Montana and is booking for Holiday, oops, Christmas gatherings.If you want to meet some more real scary* people check out the Montana Human Rights Network website at mhrn.org. (*not HRN, the racists and their supporters in our legislature)

I doubt they would know what a Palestinian was but they sure don't like Jews. Speaking of which, if Olmert is serious about negotiating Palestinian prisoners for Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalif, I hope he is alive. The fate of the planet could be resting on this. Oh Troutsky, cmon, the PLANET? Im serious, it'll be a tragedy Shakespear himself could not have imagined if something happened to that one man. Discussion ends ,truce ends, poop hits fan.

Saw Al Gores movie last night then had a confused ,disjointed conversation about "changing the world" with some young men who were torn between social justice and getting some more beer and finding some chicks. Guess which won out.