Friday, December 31, 2010

Imagining Alternatives

"It seems to be easier for us today to imagine the thoroughgoing deterioration of the earth and of nature than the breakdown of late capitalism."

Frederic Jameson

Certain readers of this blog will argue that they imagine either as equally preposterous but his point concerns the state of imagination more generally. It is about what John Lennon wrote his famous song about: I wonder if you can?

Those few with imagination propose alternatives in defiance of those who claim none exist. I give you this pamphletby the Organization for a Free Society as an example of work by those unwilling to succumb, work we should all be doing ( I include myself).

On Revolution: We stopped at an I Hop on the way to Oregon where a sign asked us to "Join the Pancake Revolution/ Pancakes to the People! seriously.

In the latest Mother Jones is a review of Revolution:The year I fell in love and went to Join the War- about Deb Unferth's time spent in Nicaragua in 87. "She didn't become a revolutionary" says the reviewer "but she did become a grown-up."
Two pages away we find an interview with rocker Eugene Hutz who fled Kiev in 86. "I have no agenda.I know what I love to do and that's my religion. I think political revolution discredited itself ONCE AND FOR ALL TIME.." I would rather read The Economist or Wall Street Journal.

National Geographic is doing a series on population, noting the earth is nearing the 7 billion human mark. They begin by taking a swipe at modern Malthusian Paul Ehrlich for stating in his 1968 book The Population Bomb that "hundreds of millions..are going to starve to death" in the 1970's. The authors state "the bomb was a dud.The green revolution...was under way.Today many people are undernourished but mass starvation is rare."

Actually, almost 130 million did die of causes related to malnutrition throughout that decade.They still die every day which seems like mass starvation to me.
They then state: "In Kerala, on the south west coast,investments in health and education helped fertility to fall to 1.7.The key, demographers there say, is the female literacy rate.." They seem uninterested, however, in WHY Kerala is advanced in these areas compared to the rest of India. Anyone know?

The article ends with: "How many of us there will be and how we will live-depend on CHOICES WE HAVE YET TO MAKE..."

Will "we" all have equal say? Will some choose to be poor and starve? This is a familiar capitalist narrative, that "we" all have agency and power, yada yada, but of course we know such choices never show up on a ballot or in a Market. Perhaps the February issue will tell us about the role of economic structures in reproducing inequality and the ideology around it, especially when it comes to impact and ecological footprint. Right.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


" Capitalism is only kept going by this army of anti-capitalists who constantly exert their powers to clean up after it, and at least partially, compensate for it's destructiveness."

Rebecca Solnit

In a long essay the intelligent Ms. Solnit points out how those in the non-profit world and those doing "social" work ( "daycare, nursing home aid workers" etc) as well as an "army of the unpaid" (working as volunteers in soup kitchens, food pantries, etc) make it possible for capitalism to do it's dirty work while avoiding social unrest. The disturbing thing is ,nowhere does she call for abolishing this gross system. Instead she calls for ever more volunteers. She wouldn't abolish slavery but she would like to see the slaves treated better.

You only have to look at her choice of words. For instance, "compensate". Who actually receives any compensation within this system she promotes? Capitalists of course.( although altruists get to feel joy,peace,less guilt as well) And notice as well that the compensation is only partial, meaning tens of thousands still starve to death each day and so the "army" will be required to do more and more (endlessly).

I will agree here with Glen Beck when he includes George Soros and the other give-with-one-hand-take-with-the other "socialists" in this milieu. They could be forgiven for thinking this new form of capitalism, where the slaves lock themselves up every night, is indeed the "end of history". It is far beyond mere co-dependency, it is Stockholm Syndrome on crack and yet Ms. Solnit ( who I pick on mercilessly though she is but one such left intellectual among hundreds)offers hope in the form of innate goodness in human nature.

For example she cites the facts that "polar bears got some protection". In other words, "another world isn't just possible, it's here." Even on Christmas morning I can't buy such glass-half-full, rose colored sentimentality because it ignores such a crucial point, displaying either a terrifying blindness or simple human weakness (along with intellectual laziness).

Those pantry workers, volunteer bird scrubbers, trash picker uppers, etc. do not themselves possess an anti-capitalist critique. They have no coherent philosophical system to explain history. They can not articulate an alternative vision in part because these leftist intellectuals are condescending, comfortable and afraid to use their own stunted imaginations.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Classified Information

It occurred to me a while back that with all the talk now about classified information I really had little idea what that term actually meant, how many classifications there might be, how they were determined or what kind of oversight of the process might exist.

I posed these questions to Cheryl Rofer over at Phronesisaical who had some personal knowledge ( she is a scientist at the margins of policy making) and was kind enough to hunt down some reference materials.

Much of what I wondered about is contained in Executive Order 13526 and there is a good summary here. I found this part of the definition interesting:

EO 13526 limits classification to information that pertains to scientific, technological or ECONOMIC matters relating to national security.

It occurs to me how easy it would be to conflate economic prosperity with economic security, making any action which results in profit classifiable, and anyone who exposes corporate malfeasance guilty of undermining the country. Unpatriotic and criminal. Hopefully the next batch of leaked cables point to this form of complicity between our government and U.S. business against foreign governments and foreign workers.

This is the alliance which makes it so hard for mainstream U.S. unions to declare any kind of international solidarity with workers in other parts of the world. Globalization has made this murkier but there is still a whole " Made in America" , get our economy moving and " re-build the middle class" meme out there. The problem is that if the new global middle class manufactures and consumes like America if the 50's and 60's it will mean the end of our ecosystem.

It is also against the rules to classify something just to "prevent embarrassment" or to"conceal violations of law, inefficiency or administrative error". I think that is who we need to be prosecuting, those who classified memos just to avoid embarrassment.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wrong again

I must own up to totally missing this one. When Wikileaks posted Iraq war logs I wrote this:

"Surely they (Wa Po) understand that the public is more interested in Juan Williams...and that in a week the leaks will have disappeared." Oct. 26

I guess I didn't know how the leaks would just keep coming, how well Assange would orchestrate the whole thing, and how idiotically the government and it's media would play into his hands. By turning it into a spectacle they missed their chance to have the "event" meld into The Spectacle.Now they have Bianca Jagger and Sarah Palin jumping in and it is totally dominating the "News" cycle. I have been afraid to turn on FOX but I can only imagine the rage.

I rarely venture into Liberal land either but found this Trojan horse on Huff Post by Sam Mc Phee:

"That WikiLeaks censors anything at all shows a basic agreement with the United States we have an unelected, unaccountable entity making these decisions."

In one breath he casts aspersion because Wiki tries not to kill people and in the next shows his faith in representative "democracy".Sam would prefer someone accountable in the CIA or maybe Mitch Mc Connel? If they have a "basic agreement" would they really have everyone from the President to John Waynes corpse denouncing him?

He goes on: "If I don't like (Gen) Petraeus's conduct there are plenty of elected representatives I can beef to. Yes, the odds are astronomical against my affecting change.So what? That's life in a representative democracy."

I'm not making this up. He worships at the alter of his fifth grade civics lesson, admits it's a joke in the next breath and then laughs the dissociation off.

To top it off: "Operation Payback (hackers) is an...attack..on the rule of law." Wow.Law.Gee whiz.

I found another Liberal at the same site using the same Spectacular logic to defend his vote in favor of tax cuts for billionaires: Al Franken. He said his Minnesota constituents wanted their unemployment benefits extended.I guess he didn't want to let the perfect be the enemy of the good! I'd rather drink Clorox than be so absolutely, pathetically craven.But that's just me.

Of course the Conservatives really got it goin on, calling for Assange's murder and yesterday:

"Government should be censoring the American news media.." Rep. Elect Allen West (R) Fla.

By the way, I WAS correct about the Superman movie,crappy propaganda, too long and nobody bought it other than a few FOX watchers who apparently don't want to live in Finland?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

War on Schools

Tomorrow we are going in to town to see Waiting for Superman, a propaganda piece for privatized education. There will be a panel discussion afterward but I have no idea who organized it. This is another of our "social democrat" ( according to Pagan) president's ideas, masterminded by Arnie Duncan and supported by a lot of Big Money Republicrats. ( helping my argument that there is no substantial difference). Would Bernie Sanders really pick Tim Gietner, Larry Summers and Bill Gates?

The film is made by a guy named Guggenheim who also did Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth and a film company involved with liberal blockbusters like Syriana and Food Inc. Lot's of big Digital-Tech type moguls support this version of education reform because entrepreneurialism is their religion and they have made common cause with right-wing union haters, a match made in heaven.But they also believe they are doing GOOD and that you can do GOOD and do WELL.

The movie itself is full of lies and distortions ( shocker) but I'm surprised these guys ( the ones who aren't just being philanthropic) think they can make money at the education "industry". I mean prisons sure, mercenaries sure, but school kids are genetically engineered to fuck with you. And the government is broke. I would get into nursing homes personally, where you can starve people and take all their savings and they won't fight back. But what do I know?

This all supports Zizek's position on cultural capitalism.The old model of charity you have a George Soros or Bill Gates, taking with one hand and giving with the other. For the new form he uses Starbucks for an example, where with your coffee you are also buying fair trade beans and investment into sustainable farming and on and on ( as he puts it) All these products we buy that say they are donating part of their profits to such and such. Google providing catered lunches and suanas for it's work force. It's a new form of charity which begs the question:

Who is crueller? The slave owner who treats his slaves well or the one who treats them badly?

Friday, December 10, 2010


Desiring at least one score Obama drives down the court and dunks it. In the wrong basket. Again and again. Unfortunately, the Republicans don't want him on their team, and act a little embarrassed at the pathetic, craven display.

I think we need a Huey P Newton for President. This is from Bobby Seal's book Seize the Time:

Huey put his hand around his M-1 rifle and continued, "We have a constitutional right to carry the guns, anyway, I don't want to hear it."
The pigs backed up a couple of steps and Huey was coming out of his car...When he came out of the car he dropped a round off into the chamber right away, clack clup.
The pig said "What are you going to do with that gun?"
"What are you going to do with your gun?" Huey said. "Because if you try to shoot at me or if you try to take this gun from me, I'm going to shoot back at you ,swine."

That's how you deal with racist pinheads if you actually have some dignity and want respect.You don't go all boot licker. Of course, being a black revolutionary organization, the Panthers were all murdered and dispersed, so it is not a model for movement building but for ATTITUDE. They thought they understood the white power structure but they read a little too much Fanon and not enough Debord.

Back to Obama.Bibi Netanyahu treated him like a doormat. The Senate just shot down his "don't ask don't tell"deal and his Dream Act ( or Fill The Military with Brown People Act) . After climate negotiations crumble in Cancun any part of the world that didn't hate us after the Wikileaks will now. Bill Mc Kibben still won't use the word capitalism but he looked as pathetic as Obama when he talked about Oh yeah, then there is the capitulation on the Afghanistan withdrawal date.

Here on the sidelines it is easy to quarterback ( like these sports metaphors?) but there isn't much else to do but wait. I was just down in Palm Springs California last week and the chi chi art galleries, jewelry stores and boutiques are hurting, empty shop windows all down Paseo Drive. So that tax break comes just in the nick of time. And while it drives the last nail in the coffin for Social Security, you won't have to worry about any death taxes or death panels.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Worm Turns

From the Dec.7 Missoulian: "History professor Richard Drake asked if the growing state of environmental degradation in the name of markets and profits might be reason to re-examine why Americans are so attached to capitalism."

The good professor, who is no radical, asked this at a lecture filled with mostly liberal alumni and progressive community folk who had come to hear an author speak about the moral cause of "Saving the Earth". It is remarkable only because, as in the classes at this university (where the lecture was given) , when these intellectually serious folks gather to learn about the world around them the word capitalism is almost never uttered. But lately,Certain Radicals have been injecting the economic critique into public discussions at many junctures and perhaps it is having an effect after all.

The article goes on: "Moore (the lecturer) responded that she wondered if it was the idea of capitalism or the actions of corporations that was the problem."

This is the standard trope of liberal environmentalists and was no doubt well received by the audience. Fearful that her ethical stance be misconstrued as an attack on capitalism, she prefers to blame "bad" corporations, "bad"regulators, "bad" CEO's, etc. This way they can keep their moral high ground but not upset the status quo or take any real risks, physically or intellectually. She could never cede the fact that the "idea of capitalism" is antithetical to sustainability.

The next paragraph is illustrative: "But physics-astronomy professor David Andrews questioned whether that blame could be laid at capitalistic corporations feet. He observed that the communist regimes of the former Soviet Union and present day China are creating equally disastrous ecological legacies."

So while the worm may very slowly be turning we can see that idiotic responses by supposedly educated individuals still rule the day. This simplistic, Fox-news-type "observation" sounds like something Pagan would say. It instantly equates any critique of capitalism with totalitarian Communist Party rule. It also somehow ignores the fact China has very much embraced markets. These are standardized mantras hegemonically reproduced for mass consumption.

This is exactly why Pagan emphasizes that "Health care is a labyrinth of Byzantine proportions" in the last thread. The intellectual sounding metaphor disguises a trope so worn out and unoriginal,( and so beneficial to capital) that one is stunned it is taken seriously by so many.Such is the power of repetition.

A health care system could be designed by any 11 year old. It is only profit which makes it "Byzantine".