Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Civil Rights or True Justice?

I was treated to a great lecture last night at the University of Montana (every once in a while they surprise the hell out of me) by Prof.Eric Arnesan of the U of Illinois Chicago. As the last in the Martin Luther King Series, Prof. Arnesan talked of the life and legacy of A.Phillip Randolph, one of the most important Black leaders to be wiped from the popular narrative by capitalisms relentless effort at historical revisionism. While much scholarly work has been done on the black labor movement, the average citizen or college grad recognizes a little "I have A Dream", a little W.E .DuBoise and maybe some Thurgood Marshall. Garvey,Afro- wearing black power militants and Malcolm X complete the scary section.

Randolph was a rare figure of courage and intelligence who could articulate a broader vision for black society, rooted in a deeper analysis, a great Wobbly, socialist and staunch anti-communist.He realized true liberation would only come about through a combined working class struggle of blacks and whites, a proposition as true today as it was when he spoke to Harlem crowds in 1917. Randolph was instrumental in organizing the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, fighting the railroad companies as well as rascist unions, and led successful movements to end discrimination in the US military. He stood by Dr.King and Bayard Rustin at the March on Washington and no doubt had a profound influence in radicalizing Kings own politics.

Prof. Arnesans books include Black Protest and the Great migration ,Brotherhood of Color, and Black Railroad Workers and the Struggle for Equality. He is currently working on a biography of Randolph which I eagerly await. Raised the dirt poor son of an AME minister, his was a moral life based on ethical considerations and truly embodied the promise of America.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hells Club for Growth

Old Suharto just joined his own chums in Hell, a pantheon of pukes such as Pinochet, Reagan, Sadaam, Thatcher, Marcos, the list ,of course ,goes on and on and on. Each time their phlegmatic, putrid corpses are laid to rest ,(defiling the sacred soil) whether it is amidst pomp and ceremony or some obscure midnight dumping, the press is required to give us an obit of some sort and the capitalist apologists have to do their Lucy impersonation. "Lucyyy, you got some splainin to do!" Each of these decrepit US officials or allies is eventually judged by the humanitarian crimes they committed in the name of profit. The euphimism is often "anti-communism" but it was always about market share through terror, a policy still in effect obviously. When I say eventually it is because "the record" is a partisan affair and collaborators will be expected to scramble with their own obscurantist narratives for a while . Suharto was a stand out, a ruthless tyrant who could even cause Henry Kissinger to blush but he is worm food and we can now observe the treatment he gets in the Mainstream Press and on the Campaign Trail of Tears.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Date in Davos

I had SO hoped to be able to slip away to Davos for a little confering with chums and perhaps some skiing (did they get snow this year?) but things just got in the way. This that and the other, Millie wants to re-decorate the parlor. Always something! It would have been lovely to catch up with my buds at the various central banks and finance ministries and share a chuckle over this latest little "correction" in world markets and that strange French trader who seems to have bungled away billions. I'd love to talk to old Wolfy about his new job with the US State Dept, such an enterprising fellow, Paul. It is remarkable to see how worked up everyone has gotten over a few poorly placed bets and a few trillion that went to the House, surely all these "stimulous package " types realize sometimes you win and sometimes you lose! If they want to hand out a few free chips to keep people in the game, like cheap food or a Wayne Newton show or reduced fare packages to the MGM it's all well and good, but it's a bit gauche to whine when the dice fail to roll your way. Remember people , it's a GAME, anyway, I will miss sharing gossip over brunch in the rarified air of Switzerland but we'll catch up at the Grove this summer! Ta ta.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Some More Recession

I'm not usually this fascinated with economic indicators but my instincts tell me this is not just a blip.
"There's something approaching panic in the market," said Holger Schmieding (great name!) ,the European economist at Bank of America in London. "There's been a REASSESSMENT in the market of the US economic outlook."
Its all about the language, I mean, you can sort of picture some dude on the floor of the stock exchange suddenly REASSESSING his ass as shit starts to go south. We like to think of these smart fellows in pin-striped suits way up on the forty fourth floor having all this data and making all these rational decisions affecting all of our lives, but really they're just a bunch of drunken sailors in a whore house who didn't know the gun was loaded.Panic seems an odd human emotion to have a system of global production and allocation dependent upon. The sailors reassess their situation when the gun goes off and kills the whore and they panic.

So while the American markets are closed in honor of a civil rights hero who was trying to tell his country capitalism was a brutal syndicate run by criminals (and so was killed) ,the Euro,Asian and Aussie markets are all plunging this morning. All last week foreign investors were busy buying up the Home of the Brave. "Foreign investors poured a record 144 billion into securing American companies in 2007" and have already bought another 22.6 billion in 08. What's old HillarybamaMccainGulianiedwardsromney got to say about it? Change! As in get ready to change your underwear.

What did Dr.King have to say about it, pre-bullet? "When millions of people have been cheated for centuries, restitution is a costly process...White America must realize that justice for black people cannot be achieved without RADICAL changes in the structure of our society."

What did the Saudi Prince tell little Georgie Bush when he begged for some cheaper oil? He said "it's like this Georgie, we'll give you twenty billion for some more guns and bombs, now you give us back the twenty billion and we'll give you some oil!" It's a beautiful system.Maybe he'll get some change for the twenty.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The "R" Word

If we dive into a deep recession will all the financial pundits who two months ago said fears were overblown lose their jobs and credibility? Will capitalism? Will the financial advisors who lost your whole 401K have to pay you back? When Bush gets back from his sordid brown nosing expedition to Saudi Arabia, will he still favor "personal investment accounts" in place of Social Security? Does he get to keep the sword? Will my fishing clients who still work for Merril Lynch get to Keep their Beemers? Now that we won the Iraq war, do we get anything, like spoils or something? Would a stimulus package include ammunition to protect my food supplies? Will the excesses of the sixties ever be forgiven? Could Ben Bernankhe still get a job at Citibank? Or Harvard? Will I end up using Mike Huckabees squirrel recipes (assuming I GET the ammunition stimulus )? Would this be a good time to invest? In what? Is the "Annapolis Process" still in play? Condi? Should we be more worried about inflation or the falling dollar or unemployment or Islamofascism? Why would we need Democracy if there is Intelligent Design?

So many Questions! Where do we turn for Answers?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Osar Peterson RIP

I had to read it in The Week magazine. Oscar gone. Ive been working outdoors construction the last couple of weeks up here in frosty Montana, six whole degrees out there this morning. Putting down sill plates. They were right, I should have stayed in school! Actually , it's kind of amazing what you can get accomplished when it's so friggin cold. Ive spent most of the last thirty years working outdoors all winter up here and though I would have rather been a piano player there is something rewarding about just surviving another day in Ice Station Zebra.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Boom and Bust

"That the dot com and housing hyper-inflations transpired within a period of ten years, each creating trillions of dollars in fake wealth, is, I believe, only the beginning.There will be and must be many more such booms, for without them the economy of the US can no longer function. The bubble cycle has replaced the business cycle."
Eric Jantzen from his essay,The Next Bubble; priming the markets for tomorro's big crash. It's instructive to listen to all the candidates spin the issue of the "not-quite-a-recession", not wishing to disparage capitalisms basic premises,while looking for fall guys to whack on the latest crisis. Allen Greenspan. Ben Bernanke. Unscrupulous lenders and irresponsible borrowers, the Chinese, my dog ate it, I got it off the toilet seat, yahda yahda.

It's all Chicago School "free-marketeering" (they should have a club and little hats with big ears) when the bubble is being blown, the glorious nature of the Invisible Hand and all that rot but as the air suddenly goes out of these giant Ponzi Schemes and the peasants start reaching for their pitchforks all the Big Players turn to government bailouts,deficit spending, Central Bank intervention and "capital infusion" by our good friends the Saudis. Help Mr.Wizard! The moron brigade over at the Republican Debate certainly inspires confidence. How do China,Japan, S.Korea feel about owning hundreds of billions of quickly depreciatiating dollars and hearing Fred Thompson call for lowering interest rates and extending the tax cuts?

Now that the US no longer makes anything but still demands the right to buy everything, the cash has to trickle down from finance, insurance and real estate. In other words, speculative wealth. Look at all the Growth! Isn't it a fine Bubble? Eighteen holes and lunch at the Club!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Road Music

I recieved a great old CD for a Christmas gift, Pat Methany's American Garage, with the big Airstreams on the cover. Playing it can instantly transport me to 1982, sitting behind the wheel of my 1974 Rambler Ambassador, bashing though the crater size potholes on the highway to La Paz. On the roof are three surfboards and the muffler that was ripped off on the way out to Punta Rosalalitta ( in a month or so it will be welded back on in a little shop in Tijuana) and so to compete with the roar of the engine (4 barrel 401) my little brother and I have Methany and Mayes wailing at full blast. The guitar and synthesizer rise and build like the Pacific surf we have embraced into out very pores, sand in our hair ,salt on our skin, fish tacos and tequila and Pacificos with lime. The huge trunk is filled with fishing gear and wetsuits and we have been living on so much protien ,abalones, octopus, sea bass and scallops we feel like ubermench.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


Is someone invisible if you pretend he's not there? The Mainstream Media seems to think it is worth a try. I pathetically watched the Newshour, Washington Week,McLaughlin Group, Bill Moyers and Charlie Rose, all PBS mouthpieces, while keeping track of the number of times John Edwards got mentioned. Maybe four times. ObamaClinton, who are on board when it comes to neoliberalism, separately or in combination were mentioned 79 times.The four times he WAS mentioned the word "angry" was used in conjunction. Who underwrites PBS? Why, all those corporations Edwards is angry with. "Change " is fine, "Hope" is great, but anger is unacceptable. The chat about Huckabee was how he beat the odds, defied the conventional wisdom and won while being outspent. They didn't care to apply that narrative to Edwards.

Don't get me wrong, Edwards is no socialist and I'm cynical enought to think this whole anti-corporate narrative can just serve as capitalisms pressure release mechanism but it could lead to more if people are losing jobs and homes. All candidates want to "reign in" corporations although it creates a problem for Ron Paul because he hates government and regulation. Populist John with his rags to riches American story only wants to curb the excesses once again, ala New Deal, stop "greed" or "lobbyists" blah blah, not examine the logic of the Market. Profits and People Power, marching hand in hand to a Shangra La of swimming pools and hairstylists for all. Still, Edwards (and all populism) provides an opening which could be exploited. The MSM wants to make sure that doesn't happen.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Working Class Hero

"If we can do it, we'll change politics in this country and we won't turn it upside down but we'll turn it right side up, like it ought to. That's what America is supposed to be. Not a nation of a ruling class and a servant class.
"The way our Founding Fathers had it, the ruling class is the regular folks out there voting, the servant class is the one who gets elected.
"We're not elected to be the ruling class, we were elected to be the servant class serving the people who are the ruling class. Let's make that happen."

This is Mike Huckabee's populist shtick. Interesting take on class formation.The Republican establishment is rightly worried working people, especially poor working people, might get inspired to start asking questions about class that Gomer the Preacher will have trouble explaining. That don't fit into Disneyland Main Street. The Party just spent the last twenty years convincing white people they are "middle-class" no matter their income and that mention of a ruling class is inciting "class war". He's about to get Swift-boated.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Spirit of a Culture

My society polices its boundaries with more and more self-destructive Manichean violence now that its boundaries are exposed not as naturally or supernaturally ordained but as organized through various sorts of coercion by some members of the society to benefit themselves and disadvantage others.
You feared Fanon, that winning a war of independence in Algeria, no matter how protracted and bloody the struggle, would be less difficult than maintaining a clear vision of the goals that had made declaring war against France a necessity for colonized Algerians and eventually for you. You realized that oppressed people could be convinced to sacrifice their lives for the promise of freedom,dignity and self –determination, and also that its easier to die for such ideals than it is to live them, live with them embedded, uncompromised, in place day by day, choice by choice, in the institutions of society, in the consciousness of individuals and the spirit of a culture.

John Edgar Wideman, from his novel Fanon

"A shift in the structure of experience" is a quote I cannot source but it sits on my humming refrigerator and perfectly encompasses a notion swarming my brain lately, a notion about process and building a democratic culture infused with radical spirit. This notion of "easier to die" is also important because almost daily we see how easy the martyr or hero role is played in this fools paradise. Annie GetYour Gun!

In a rare moment of harmonic convergence I followed my reading of Mouffe with Hardt and Negri's Multitude and found these affirmations of what I have been struggling to convey, all in the same spirit of the amazing project that calls out for our immediate attention.

"…immaterial labor tends to move out of the limited realm of the strictly economic domain and engage in the general production and reproduction of society as a whole. Immaterial labor is biopolitical in that it is oriented toward the creation of forms of social life; such labor then tends no longer to be limited to the economic but also becomes immediately a social, cultural and political force. This is the creation of new subjectivities in society.

The multitude is composed of innumerable internal differences that can never be reduced to a unity or a single identity- different cultures, races ,ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations; different forms of labor; different ways of living; different views of the world; and different desires. The multitude is a multiplicity of all these singular differences.

The primary forces that have guided the history of modern resistance struggles and liberation movements,along with the most productive resistance movements of today, we will argue , are driven at base not only by the struggle against misery and poverty but also for a profound desire for democracy-a real democracy of the rule of all by all based on relationships of equality and freedom. Today, the new characteristics of the multitude and it’s biopolitical productivity give powerful new avenues for pursuing that dream."

Once we can explain democracy and learn to live it we can begin the practical building of structures, institutions, forms. We can usher in that "change in the structure of experience".