Monday, February 26, 2007

Hello?

OK, so Dick Cheney goes to Pakistan to talk to his fellow autocratic ruler about cracking down harder on Taliban/ al Qaeda forces ( they are now one and the same) in the border region between them and Afgahnistan. Pakistan is a Muslim military state, most of whose people hate the Dick and the US in general, so it's what might be described as a tricky situation. The US can't un-seat Musharrif because a de-stabilized Pakistan is even more of a nightmare than Iraq has become (they have nuclear weapons). So our threats and demands about tightening border security are hollow and our support of a military dictator put the lie to our "pro-democracy" rhetoric. General Musharrif is what Sadaam was, a strongman keeping religious factions from turning the society into a reactionary theocracy.Niether, of course, can we act unilaterally, even if there was a practical way to seal a border a thousand rocky mountainous miles long. The US military could not seal the border between Montana and Idaho. The Empire is once again helpless.

As for Afgahnistan, foreign policy "experts" are saying what is needed is a massive infusion of development aid, to win the hearts and minds of a brutalized populous, like Iraq, most of Africa, Indonesia, Latin America. A familiar story but a strange logic. Why do capitalists find it more efficient to provide charity to a society AFTER it has been ravaged and is on the brink of collapse than to share wealth beforehand? Each place the starving , teeming masses are turning to guns and terror is a place we exploited for butter. Each place they are turning to religious fanaticism is a place we could have encouraged secular, humanist leaders and development by sharing resources. Instead it becomes a last ditch effort before a state completely fails. All our Sunni buddys we supported have turned into our Sunni enemies, except ,I suppose, the Saudis. We are their best customers.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Absurd R Us

I'm hurriedly reading Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal by Howard Zinn for Mondays Ravalli Radicals Book Club. It begins with this gem "Vietnam, it seems to me, has become a theatre of the absurd." Bertoldt Brecht himself could not have written the screenplay for Iraq 2003-7. We are now told our escalation is to "give the embattled government some breathing room", an interesting metaphore, the kind of action you would take if someone suddenly fainted in a crowd. Does it have a tactical meaning or have things become so surreal you could tell reporters that "the surge is meant to provide tuna fish sandwiches to every one" and they would just nod and jot it down.

200,000 veterans- mainly from the Vietnam War- sleep on the streets every night according to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. Cheney says liberals are destroying "this nations resolve in achieving success, supporting the cause of democracy and stopping terrorist forces in their ultimate aim of bringing the violence to our shores." The second most powerful officer in our government is living in a Green Lantern comic. A billion dollars every 72 hours and they have mold in the rooms at Walter Reed. Who's in charge? people who hate government. Who's on first? This is all the legacy of Ayn Rand, Jean Kirkpatrick, Ronald Rayguns, Irving Kristol, Milton Friedman, Oakeshott, Schmitt, Straus, von Hayeck, Barry Goldwater.

You think ideas don't matter? These apoligists for greed and avarice exploited Americas struggles with race and class to insert their insipid conceptual framework into the dominant narritive and sugar-coated it with consumer goods and old time religion. 1968 tried to challenge the "normative limits" but backed down in the face of state power. Kent State was not a shot across the bow.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Power of Film

I mentioned the Big Sky documentary film festival going on in Missoula right now and I wanted to highlight one particular film that just pierced me to the heart. It documents a bicycle ride from one end of Vietnam to the other by a group of veterans from both sides of the war. Many are physically challenged, all have psychological wounds and a few have both. The emotional impact of all the sights and sounds and smells which had been buried in the sub-conscious plays out on these ex-soldiers as they travel north to south and it is wrenching to observe. Victims of PTSD and depression,alchoholism, and relationship issues, they wrestle with buried emotions and new revelations as they see this amazingly beautiful country and it's people in a whole new light.

I was eligible for the draft in 71 but fanagled my way out of it (moved to Europe for a few years and lived without an address) . I protested and argued and became "political" during those surreal times but I also developed an emotional reaction which arises, often to my surprise, when I am confronted with those types of scenes, guys recounting the trauma, describing their anguish, recounting the horror. Tears just start to flow from some deep place I cannot really explain.

That deep, unexplained hurt exists in the national soul as well, it seems to me, and is still causing all kinds of irrational behavior. Our nation is still unhealed from this deep gash and each citizen exists in his own form of PTSD. Some gained through direct experience , some got it passed down to them. Im glad someone is putting bike rides and the like together, and making great films about it as well, but we need an effort on a national scale to deal with all that pain and put it somehow behind us.

All faith is false, all faith is true
Truth is the shattered mirror strown
in myriad bits, while each believes
his little bit the whole to own. Sir Richard Burton

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Missoula Montana

I hate to advertise this place because more people is not something western Montana has any great NEED for but I just gotta brag on Missoula. In the first place, there is a great trout river running right through the center of it and a whitewater park for kayakers was completed last spring. Over on Orange Street there is now a great new skateboard park and ball fields, all linked with a paved trail system clear to Mill Town. There are more bicyclists here than anywhere i have lived.

There is also a symphony, theatre and and lots of great bars and clubs, and as a for instance, this week we went in for an Alvin Ailey Dance performance (incredible mostly-black ensemble from NY,if you have never seen The Hunt or Revelations, check it out) went to a documentary film festival(100 films) and went out salsa dancing.

It is also the progressive hub of a pretty conservative region with lots of environmental and social justice (really, Brad) non-profits, a university and a Free School. So with your fishing , skiing, rock climbing and elk hunting you get reggae and punk, ska and jazz. On a bumper sticker I saw today in town : Be Nice To America or We Might Bring Democracy To Your Country!

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Poor Victims of Propaganda

If there is one subject which riles emotions it is education.It is related to child-rearing just enough to have this special power. At an interesting debate last night this tension was on display because at its core education cannot be separated from politics and in these times politics is being turned (purposefully) into a dirty word.

The contestants represented two organizations which claim concern over academic freedom and each had differing views on mechanisms and institutions which should be responsible for ensuring such. On the right (though attempting to disavow the relevancy of ideology, Lynn Cheney, Irving Kristol and Martin Peretz sat on their board) was the group who wants trustees, taxpayers and administrators to have a dominant role in standards and curiculum and on the other was the group who feels that role, to date reserved strictly for faculty, should remain there. Everyone has heard the accusations that the education system has a left-liberal bias. Like the "message" in a political campaign, say it often enough and it is adopted into the dominant narrative, and with Dershowitz and the right-wing purveyors of this strategy, it is pursued with messianic zeal. Even though capitalist- conservative ideology dominates the discourse in all but a few small enclaves in a couple of coastal cities, the right is not satisfied. The government , courts, boardrooms,media culture and churches are not sufficient territory,no, they also feel entitled to colonize academia, the last bastion of any remaining semblance of free thinking.

So the trustees and the tax payers would set limits and establish boundaries for acceptable teaching, knowledgeable and informed as they generally are . Expect to learn a lot about the "free" market, God, US exceptionalism and it's manifest destiny. Nulear families, Columbus discovered America and intelligent design. Oh, and the al Qaida-Sadaam connection.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

South of the Border

It seems Mexico's new Presidente Calderon used his time at the Davos Economic Summit to solidify his position as US bootlicker and water boy. He has come out squarely on the ideological right, endorsing neoliberal economic policies (just as they are facing almost universal condemnation among leading mainstream economists) and taking a hard line in opposition to Chavez, Morales and Castro. Just like a Mexican politician, a day late and a dollar short. He is sucking up to the Empire just as it slips into decline and I predict a major upheaval in that society as he relies more and more on State power and brute force to protect his corporate masters.

As a symbol of this reactionary retrenchment, the new headquarters of the Christian Democratic Party opened recently in Mexico City. Allied with the Cuban Christian Democrats in Miami (which includes veterans from the Bay of Pigs invasion) and "regime change " outfits like the International Republican Institute (involved in the attempted 2002 coup in Venezuela), they have offered Cuban-American exiles a political base from which to organize a "peaceful transition" in Cuba. I guarantee you could find some US state department money involved in the effort as well.

This presents an interesting dilemna for the Mexican middle class as well as moderate forces within the Cuban American community. Can they turn their backs an these quasi-fascist elements once and for all and enter the new millenium ready to help those to whom they are linked through language and tradition? Can they lose that destructive relationship they have always had with corruption and machismo and militaristic violence and join a modern movement for regional cohesion and emancipation for the great masses of workers and peasants for whom the twentieth century was such a nightmare? Can they envision the Americas and not just America?

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Public Broadcasting

We like to think that a system of public owned and operated media, a non-profit entity, might be inclined towards a greater degree of independence than ,say, a corporate owned broadcasting system. But if I tune into the Newshour with Jim Lehrner I must first sit through ads for Chevron, Archer Daniels Midland, CitCorp. and other conglomerates before I get to the news of the day. So I could be excused for a certain degree of skepticism about the degree of objectivity employed in stories about oil or agriculture or finances. I was , however, pleasantly surprised at Magaret Warners recent report from Caracas. The leadoff pictures of red shirted Venezuelans burning American flags was a tad sensationalist but when they played the recent footage of Condi Rice, dark eyes glowering beneath that huge brow, smirkily saying "I do believe that the president of Venezuela is really destroying his own country. The Catholic Church is under attack...We're going to continue to fund organizatios that are trying to resist...we want to make this about American defense of democracy"I myself was looking for a flag to burn. She is a hateful waste of good air, with such an abysmal record of accomplishments that even in the company of people name Scooter she is a total embarrasment.

Margaret, to her credit, gave enough background on past corruption and injustice to put the Bolivarian Revolution in some context and gave a balanced report on the nationalization of the power company, the re-negotiated oil contracts and the loss of the right wing TV stations (RCTV) broadcasting license. ( something that should be considered here in the US for Fox News) She explained how the Church was distancing itself from Condi's remarks and in fact how her only support existed within an elite minority which itself admits the legitimacy of the last elections. That they would even do a piece on Latin America at a time when the myopic press is so focused on Anna Nichol Smith and the "surge" is a credit.

There is an effort underway in Missoula to start a new community radio station but after attending the first organizational meeting I came away unconvinced they were willing to create a space for a controversial or radical left voice such as my own. They cited the need for business support and funding and to not frighten the "moderates". Always the problem when it comes to "free" speech, it's never really free.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Slacker

Posts have been a little infrequent lately because Troutsky has been re-proletarianized. Thats right, the wife finally got tired of me sitting around all day researching the phenomenological implications of sixteenth century culinary arts and said if I was so damn interested in cooking I could go work in a kitchen! Thats a joke but I really did find a wierd job working in a school cafeteria. Low pay, hard work, screaming second graders, the whole catastrophe. Im the only male on the crew, schlepping fake- cheese nachos and tuna casserole until the fishing season comes along.

So, did anyone else catch those Coca-Cola commercials during the Sooper Bowl celebrating how far the civil rights movement had progressed? To the point where two black coaches had reached the mountain top and one of them had a bucket of Coke product dumped on his head. And the almost all black players reminding one of Fredrick Douglas or Stokely Carmichael. They were very serious commercials in a very un-serious crowd. Coke Kills, in Columbia, in India, probably other places of which I am unaware.

Then I heard some pundit say "the point we are at in Iraq is like the Superbowl in the 4th quarter." Well, yeah, except at the end of a football game everyone shakes hands and goes to take a shower, whereas in a civil war they kill and torture each other and destroy everything. John McCain called the Democrats position on a non-binding resolution "intellectually dishonest", an interesting turn of phrase considering what we know about pre-war "intelligence" and Scooter Libby, secret rendition and torture and on and on and on. A billion dollars every seventy two hours. Whatever.

I would never try to equate the bombing campaign in the final stages of the Vietnam "conflict" with anything associated with the "surge" strategy but it seems there is increasing reliance on Hellfire missles and rockets, somewhat indiscriminate killers when trying to win hearts and minds. Do you remember the picture of the little Vietnamese girl, clothes burned off, arms outstretched, stumbling toward the Life Magazine photographer after being napalmed? My wife is going to Vietnam next month, by the way, on a three week delegation with Thich Nhat Hanh (a Buddhist monk) to try to help heal some of those spiritual wounds.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Hard Women

Whats up with right -wing pundit babes? I did a little linking off of neo-neocons blog and while she herself resists the trend I found a number of tough girrlll blogs in a short period to get me wondering. All Things Beautiful has a flattering picture of some dolled up gal followed by some rough right wing rhetoric.Atlas Shrugged starts with a picture of the author in a tight spandex superwoman outfit displaying her mammeries as she denigrates liberal wimpiness and overall masculinity deficit. Last week she was scratching and kicking away at some poor,female ,liberal blogger but she comes down hard on any bleeding heart jihadist enablers. Of course Ann Coulter has made this tough babe genre a mainstream phenom and Michelle Malkin probably revs up a few Limbaugh lovers . I think the overall tone and style is quasi- fascist with plenty of skin. Sonia is in her own category altogether. Tough and mean, not a hint of family values.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sooper Bowling Alone

"Sport is one of the most formidable adversaries of the political left, one that offers ordinary people a uniquely powerful alternative to political engagement; cherished traditions, comraderie, strenuous competition, a glittering pantheon of heroes and heroines, factual erudition, aesthetic appreciation, technical prowess and a good deal more. It is all rather more entertaining than the average cell meeting."
Terry Eagleton

This won't stop me ,of course , from watching the Big Game down at the Eagles Club with the old veterans and rednecks where we can be assured that for a couple of hours at least there will be no mention of suicide bombs or the billion dollars we are throwing down the rat hole every 72 hours. We can drink beer together as Americans, anticipating the next million dollar commercial, complaining about the half-time spectacle, yelling at the refs. La la land. Potato Chips.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Bamako Appeal

I was checking out what went down with the "alter-globalists" over at the World Social Forum (which I still want to get to some day) and found this interesting manifesto on a site called Choike.org, "a portal on Southern civil societies". Bamako is an African place where some anti-capitalists met prior to the forum itself and they came up with this:

"Neo-liberal policies aim to impose as the sole method of socialization the force of the market, whose destructive impact on the majority of human beings no longer needs to be demonstrated. The world we want conceives sociability as the principle product of a democratization without boundaries. In this framework, in which the market has a place but not the predominant place, economy and finance should be put at the service of a societal program; they should not be subordinated to the imperatives of dominant capital that favor the private interests of a tiny majority."

This language about "markets" is a bit opaque and (as people who read this blog know) I have philosphical issues with this social-democratic approach to reform. One can always HOPE that merchants and owners and entreprenuers would operate in the market with social goals in mind but what controls can realistically be enforced to keep exploitation and profiteering at bay? Without overtly authoritarian systems? Im willing to bend a little here in order to make gains but somebody explain how this proposal or the Bolivarian Revolution or Sweden ,for that matter, doesn't fall back into class conflict and liberal privitization? It goes on to seemingly disavow any committment to the profit system or bourgeois democracy:

"The struggle for democracy must also be linked to the struggle to eradicate poverty and all forms of exclusion. Indeed, to solve these problems, the people must become wielders of power. That implies waging a struggle against the logic of capitalist profit and erecting in its place, in whatever areas that can be won, a different, humanist logic of solidarity. It is no longer enough to just assert the need for an alternative society; it is necessary to propose popular initiatives which are alternatives to capitalism and which aim to break the logic of commerce and the relations that this dynamic imposes. But this also involves organizing struggles that cannot be reduced to simple economic demands, as necessary as these are, and which put forward an alternative social project, including real levels of authority and democracy, going beyond the current forms of parliamentary representative democracy and its elections. We must struggle for a new type of democracy, coming from below, for those on the lowest levels of society,..."

Altogether an encouraging proposal and a great starting point for discussion. Check it out.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Our Interests

US under secretary of state ,Nicholas Burns, spoke at the 7th annual Herzliya Conference in Israel recently. He declared "We won't allow nuclear Iran." He may have said nuculear but that's neither here nor there.There also was nothing in his speech about Israel's nuclear arsenal or their continued development of the West Bank settlements but he did remind the crowd that "We are committed to being Israels strongest security partner." Joe Lieberman looked like the Cheshire cat.

Then the young Mr.Burns did an interview with NPR's Steve Insky in which he bristled a bit at critics of current policy and did some all-to-rare "plain talking":

"But it's not reasonable to suggest that because the United States has put carrier battle groups into the Gulf, we are being provocative. You know, we've defended Gulf security for six decades. Our carriers have been there throughout that time. So it's not us who are being provocative or raising the stakes here. We're simply trying to protect our interests in Iraq, the security of the Gulf Arab states and of the wider Middle East. And this has been the American position now through many administrations, and the Iranians need to understand they can't come barging into a situation, and express what they want and seek a position of dominance.."

So lets see if wev'e got this straight. "Iran is seeking a position of dominance" even though it is the US which is unprovocatively putting a couple of battle groups in the Persian Gulf. Iran is "attempting to destabilize the region" even though the US preemptively invaded and is now occupying it's neighbor, throwing the country into anarchic chaos. So even though Iran EXISTS in the region, they are "barging in",expressing what they want; while the US, which EXISTS several thousand miles away, must defend Gulf security and it's "interests".

Its one thing to sing such surrealistic songs in front of a bunch of grinning Zionists, but working the NPR crowd with such bald-faced geoblather is more impressive by far. Condi's acolytes and syncophants are just brimming with that tough guy enthusiasm as they move the deck chairs around yet again.

"the binarized notions of "freedom" and "progress" in the West are juxtaposed to "backwardness" and "barbarism" in Iran and the rest of the Muslim world."
Niki Akhaven, Golbarg Bashi, Mara Kia and Siria Shakhsari

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