Archive for March, 2011


Morning News Roundup, March 28, 2011

Hi all,

First day of a new quarter for myself, and I can’t think of a better way to start than another News Roundup!

First thing’s first–today’s News Soundtrack:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJDnJ0vXUgw

New Vietnam(s)

Libya:

Libyan rebels captured two oil refineries and a strategic port within a 20 hour push.  The U.S. military have stated that the successes could be pushed back if airstrikes stopped.  Rebels claim to have taken the town of Sirte, the home of Gaddafi.

 

Japan:

Highly contaminated water is escaping one of their damaged reactors, and is quite close to leaking into the ocean.

U.S.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York set a budget that cuts more than $2 billion in healthcare and education costs, and gives millionaires a tax break, because when Andrew Cuomo sabotages New York’s future, he sabotages it right.  There was a day-long Saturday meeting in Iowa among Republican hopefuls for presidential candidacy, whose biggest source of friction is whether 2012 candidates should focus more on fiscal conservatism, or social conservatism.  Michelle Bachman argued strongly, in effect, that you can’t simply be classist and turn America into a Third World nation through stomping labor, but you have to stomp on women’s rights and the LGBTQ community too, on behalf of your hateful imaginary friend, whose wishes are dictated to you in a really old translated compilation.  [Note: This is not a critique of theism or Christianity, but of the assumption that God is homophobic, classist, and antifeminist.  It’s also not what she literally said. . . just what I think she meant. ]

Today’s another short news day.  Ever notice we don’t get news on Iraq or Afghanistan anymore?  I know Japan, Egypt, Libya, Wisconsin, etc., are all important–but full radio silence from nations we are still in is a little. . . odd.  Just sayin’.

Have a great day!

Reflection: Different movements, same problem.

United We Stand, Divided We Fall

The Right is unified.  Disparate issues, unified front–there are divisions (libertarians versus social conservatives, for example), but when the day is over, class issues unite them, and gender isn’t far behind.

The Left, however, is fragmented.

You have environmentalists, feminists, queer activists, union folks, civil rights and immigrants rights coalitions, anti-war protesters. . . many groups fighting for many causes, each prioritizing their own (in so many cases) and not drawing the connections between them strong enough to really convince the uncommitted why they should integrate new areas of concern.

This fragmentation has served the traditional Right strategy of ‘divide-and-conquer” well.

Towards a Stronger Left

How do we get beyond this for a strong coalition?  How does one become part of a unified movement?

Sexual practices and orientation, abortion rights, the ability to move safely from one country to another, and struggles for control over one’s workplace certainly don’t look like the same type of issue–but at their core, they are diverse threads of a singular political tapestry.

Each of the arenas of social concern and activism that characterize the New Left involve, in essence, one group with power fighting to control the life and activity of another group, that is, to use them instrumentally towards the acquisition of greater power.

Economic Power

Capitalists fight to gain political and intellectual leverage because they want ever-more-power to regulate the opportunities and possibilities for workers.  Control over workers’ labor, and over their ability to be independent from dependence on wage labor (preventing them from, say, going into business for themselves, surviving off their own plot of land, etc) are the primary ways that capitalists gain increased profits.

Their power, money, prestige, and influence are used to fight for a world in which:

(1) At least someone in your family needs to work for some boss for members of the family to survive (guaranteed through the erosion of welfare rights, Social Security, etc, so survival relies on wage labor), and

(2) That boss has increasing control over how they can progressively maximize your productivity and keep you working harder (eroding labor laws and collective bargaining, etc).  They want control over your activity for their benefit.

Gender and Sexuality

Traditional ‘separate sphere’ beliefs regarding ‘women’s place’ posit women’s ‘roles’ in society as (1) being a wife, and (2) mother of the husband’s children, while (3) taking care of the home, and (4) being perfectly sexually available.

Total deference.

These beliefs (which are enforced directly or indirectly) keep women subservient to men, giving men control over women’s activity.

Heteronormativity and homo/bi/queerphobia further leech into these considerations, inasmuch as free sexuality and reproductive autonomy are really harmful to patriarchal family structures.

Patriarchal family structures, grounded on men having control over women, rest on a monopoly of such control–no sexually free women, certainly no women having sex outside legally binding patriarchal marriages, no reproduction rights, and certainly no women in relationships with other women.

Period.

And men with men?  Men are supposed to exhibit and pursue control over women, and to deny all traces of activities or desires associated with women in a hetero-normative patriarchal society–so all non-heterosexual activity is prohibited.

These regulations stem far back, encoded into belief structures when families were the prime locus of production and holders of wealth, and so control over families (and the expansion of families through the prohibition of all sexual activity that didn’t result in babies) was important.

Thus, beliefs formed that chastised men and women for, and outlawed, non-reproductive sexual and relationship freedom, which became the dominant model of the ‘family’ (which, as it just so happens, gives collective power to heterosexual men over women and queer men).   Control over activity, yet again.

Intersectional Complexity

Civil rights issues are clear; racism is admittedly about the dominant racial group trying to control the subordinated racial group.  Anti-immigrant fervor is usually a thinly disguised racism, or a deep-seated fear (about terrorism or something), but either way the design is to control immigrant activity through either keeping them from one place to another or, alternately, to reduce their privileges while here.

Anti-environmental policies and behaviors, too, involve the unconditional domination of human beings (frequently capitalists nowadays) over the environment and all life within it.

In other words, all New Left movements can be unified into a movement of the Now-Left, built around freedom as self-determination, i.e. no group having control over another, but all individuals having control over the conditions of their own existence, living life with an egalitarian autonomy.

Only this is freedom.

Only this is democracy.

And other common factors connect to this notion (well being, sustainability, etc.), but freedom as self-determination could be a unifying guiding light for the movement we need right now, if we are to save what world we have left.

Morning News Roundup, March 26, 2011

Hi all,

It’s time for yet another Morning News Roundup, this time brought to you by. . . coffee! (which doesn’t distinguish it from any other morning, I admit)

First thing’s first–today’s News Soundtrack:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_swaxOidGU

New Vietnam(s)

Libya:

Rebels seized Ajdabiya on Saturday following yet another night of airstrikes, with Gaddafi’s forces retreating.

Afghanistan:

A NATO airstrike targeting Taliban fighters accidentally killed seven civilians, including three children Friday in the southern province of Helmand.

Other news from the region:

Syria:

Another crackdown in Syria in the city of Sanamin near Daraa killed at least 20 people on Friday.

Yemen:

Big protests on Friday, and it is reported that an arrangement towards a peaceful transition of power could come as early as today, based on an offer by President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down by the end of the year.  But then again, who knows?

Labor News

Britain:

It is expected that up to 300,000 people are expected to protest public sector cuts today.

Mexico:

The Mexican parliament is considering regressive labor reform laws–really bad–and whose details can be found here.

Japan:

Radiation levels are spiking in the seawater near Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

China:

A major Chinese pro-democracy activist, Liu Xianbin, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Friday for, well, being a democracy activist.

North Korea:

Major food production shortfalls = 6 million hungry.

 

Okay all, there you go, and go forth and have a really good day!

Reflection: The Founding Fathers, or Honesty in the U.S.

Lots of nations have mythologies built around their founders. Hell, Romans believed Rome was founded by two twin brothers, descended from the gods, who were sucked by a she-wolf as children. I think that story needs a fact-check or five, but if you think a nation is great, you’re inclined to think that every part of it is Good, Noble, and Decent, right down to its founding. Had the Nazi’s won WWII, five hundred years later history books would paint them as spreading civilization, freedom, and democracy across the globe.

Like Rome, we have our own foundation myths. Popular mythos is that America was founded on the purest, truest love of freedom and democracy anyone has seen since, well, God. Sure, there were little minor blips, like slavery, but the Founding Fathers meant well. But in real life, this country was, in fact, founded on the most massive (and successful) genocide the world has ever known, among the largest systems of slavery (and perhaps the most brutal) in human history, and originally this country was designed to disallow the vote to women and non-propertied men (and every non-white person, of course). By design. But instead of facing it critically, and seeing things for what they are, why can’t we acknowledge the weaknesses and atrocities of the past, so we can have a bright future?

Morning News Roundup, March 23, 2010

Hi all,

I’m keeping today short.

But first, here’s today’s News Soundtrack:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bng3agUOYiI

New Vietnam:

Libya:

Libya’s pro-democracy fighters have formed an “interim government,” though they remain outmatched thus far by Gaddafi’s forces.Fighting overnight left 14 people dead and 23 injured in Misurata. Also, it has been announced that Gaddafi’s air force has ‘been defeated’.

Other regional news:

Syria: 6 Protesters dead.

Yemen: Opposition to the government gaining momentum, but no clear potential leaders of Yemen have stepped up.

Japan:

Japan issued a radiation warning on tap water and 11 vegetables.

Everything Else:

Detroit:

The most recent census shows that the population of Detroit has dropped by 25 percent over the last decade.

Morning News Roundup, March 22, 2010

Hi all,

One thing I try to do every morning is keep up on the previous day’s news–so I figured I’d share with you all.  Exhaustive? No, but I’ll try not to waste your time.  Opinionated? Most of the time, but never in the Fox News fake-news way.  Here we go.

First, here’s today’s News Soundtrack:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBfjU3_XOaA

New Vietnam(s)

Libya:

After a third day of Western air strikes in Libya, Gaddafi’s forces have continued to press their siege against the rebels, shelling Misurata, an important Western rebel holdout, and bringing in snipers and tanks.   An American F-15 crashed, but reportedly from technical failure, not Gaddafi’s forces.  I’m not sure if one fighter plane crashing is news, except that it reportedly costs $27.9 to 29.9 million.  The stated U.S. plan is to achieve some quick objectives in Libya towards a no-fly zone, and hand off leadership of the intervention to European nations.  I suppose we’ll see, won’t we?  (Remember Shock and Awe? Wasn’t Iraq supposed to be quick in-and-out?)

Speaking of which, Iraq:

March 19th marked the eighth anniversary of the Iraq War (to whom do I send the birthday card I bought?).  The Department of Defense has identified 4,430 American service members who have died since the start of the Iraq war (with 32,000 wounded) and 1,493 who have died as part of the Afghan war and related operations.  In 2010, more soldiers died from suicide than from combat.  But the real tragedy is what has happened to the Iraqi people.  The British polling firm Opinion Research Business estimated “that over 1,000,000 Iraqi citizens have died as a result of the conflict which started in 2003” in a 2008 analysis, and their infrastructure is still destroyed, many living without electricity, clean water, or medical care [This links to an excellent Al Jazeera article, I’d recommend you read the whole piece].   Otherwise, we’re still there.   Yaa-a-a-a-ay *blows party favor* Happy Birth. . . day?

Afghanistan:

Army Spc. Jeremy Morlock is on trial as one of 12 soldiers who were effectively mass murdering serial killers who kept trophies from and pictures of their victims.  (Side note: he’s from Wasilla, Alaska.  Not to say there is any connection between that and his actions, or him or his actions and Sarah Palin, but it’s strange.)  Apparently we’re now at a stage in Afghanistan where we’re supposed to be beginning to transfer power to the Afghan government by 2014 (we have about 100,000 troops there now, and we’ve been there for more than nine years), but  it’s not a “sure thing” and could be, in theory, indefinitely longer.

 

Other news from the region:

Police are breaking up protests in Morocco, fighting in Sudan.

Syria:

Protests, crackdowns.

Yemen:

Protests.  Yemeni leader says he’ll leave office earlier, but protesters want him out now.  3 top Yemeni generals defected to support the protesters.

Bahrain: After major crackdowns on protesters last week, with the aid of Saudi Arabia, protesters are softening their demands. Bahrain is a major U.S. government ally. . . I wonder which freedom package they will get?

 

Labor News

Wisconsin:

On Friday, a judge delayed Walker’s anti-union bill from going into effect.  So, that’s stalled for now.

Indiana:

Union agitation and protests have effectively stopped Indiana ‘right-to-work’ (that term is such ideological b.s.) laws.

Japan:

Power has been restored to three reactors, and Japanese authorities report the death toll from the earthquake and tsunami as exceeding 18,000.  There is concern about contamination of food and water in the region, and they are still trying to prevent a full meltdown at the Fukushima plant.

Oh, and one more thing. . .

Obama Kicks Off Latin American Tour

Straight from Democracy Now:

“President Obama is in Brazil to kick off a three-nation tour of Latin America that will also include stops in Chile and El Salvador. In Chile, protesters gathered on Sunday calling on United States to apologize for its support of the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Meanwhile, in El Salvador, Obama is expected to visit the grave of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated in 1980.”

That’s got to be an awkward conversation.  “Yeah, so. . . um, sorry Chile about the supporting-a-coup, killing-your-democratically-elected-president, and installing-a-Neoliberalism-friendly-dictator thing.  Our bad.  Oh, and can you tell El Salvador we’re sorry about the Romero assassination that we had a role in, too.”

Anyway, y’all have a damned good day!


A Fine Slave (poem)

Auction block,
How study his legs,
Strong teeth, bright eyes
A fine slave. Fine slave.
Takes a whipping, never resists.

A fine slave.

Labor market, crisis,
Application, application, rent’s due,
Dental work needed, must keep power,
Application, application, denied, denied,
Lower down the chain, lower down the chain, fuck my degree,
Rent’s due. Sure I’ll take your job,
I’ll flip burgers fine. No questions.

A fine slave.

Why Ross Douthat Doesn’t Matter

Ross Douthat’s new NY Times Opinion piece, Why Monogamy Matters, approaches the question of family structures with a very traditional style of conservative reasoning, which can be loosely demonstrated as follows:

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it is probably an elephant because that’s what I want it to be.

Let me explain:

Douthat first cites a CDC report showing that “American teens and 20-somethings are waiting longer to have sex.”

This, he argues, is a “good thing” because of a distinction he makes between “different kinds of premarital sex,” one involving “monogamous couples on a path that might lead to matrimony one day” and one that’s “casual and promiscuous, or just premature and ill considered.”  One guess as to which he favors.

He proceeds to cite a recent book by two sociologists titled Premarital Sex in America, which “finds a significant correlation between sexual restraint and emotional well-being, between monogamy and happiness — and between promiscuity and depression.”  It argues the correlation is stronger for woman, as “Female emotional well-being seems to be tightly bound to sexual stability” and “the happiest women were those with a current sexual partner and only one or two partners in their lifetime.”

Douthat argues that “The ultimate goal is a sexual culture that makes it easier for young people to achieve romantic happiness — by encouraging them to wait a little longer, choose more carefully and judge their sex lives against a strong moral standard.”  See, don’t get me wrong–I think people should respect themselves and their partners.  I also believe that teenagers are 40% less smart on average than your average-sized seedless watermelon.  All that said, (1) I think you have to ignore a lot of social context to come out swinging so hard for early-picked life-long monogamy, especially from research that appears from the account given to focus on merely one current trend among one age bracket, (2) I want to look into the research, because it sounds like the conclusion is a taller order than the premises, and (3) I think coming out all family-valuesy in the manner of the opinion piece is again not warranted.  Its premises involve the naturalization of our current social order, a favorite tactic of the Right. Here’s why I’m suspicious:

I can see how you would think, for example, that monogamy is natural for the human species.  I mean, if you ignore:

(1) the evidence that suggests our species’ polyamorous human history (from about 2 million years until agriculture, maybe 10,000 years ago);

(2) all the instances both historical and contemporary of polygamous and polygynous societies;

(3) the polyamorous kinship structures in our closest mammalian relatives, chimps and bonobos;

(4) the prevalance of (a) serial monogamy, (b) non-monogamous fantasies, (c) current polyamorous relationships, and (d) cheating within ‘monogamous’ relationships;

(5) the structures of our physical bodies, suggesting that our species won ‘natural selection’ through neither monogamy nor a ‘harem’ style of reproduction based on physical strength, but sexual selection under polyamourous prehistoric conditions; and

(6) the historical fact that monogamous family structures emerged with the onset of inegalitarian class societies [the exact explanation for that fact is controversial] and family structures reflect components of the class society they are in, with leftover components of prior class societies [e.g. [a couple quick facts] early families, formed during slavery, were centered around a man ‘owning’ his wife, who was transferred as a ‘gift’ from her father to her new husband to bridge the gap between two families or clans; also, note that with the onset of capitalist production and property relations, marriage became a contractual relation, and the expectation over time was of mutual monogamy, characterized by treating the other person as ‘yours’ of whom you could ‘expect pure fidelity’–i.e. your attitudes towards each other was of mutual private ownership. . . funny, huh?]

. . . If you ignore all those facts, you might have a very strong case that some people might be naturally monogamous.  If someone gives you a stronger opinion than that, you can bet that it’s either (1) good natured but their research is grounded in ‘common sense’ intellectual assumptions, which are unfortunately factually wrong, or (2) someone is really, really reeeaaalllly wanting to convince you a duck is an elephant.

* * *

If you want more info on these facts, check out Sex At Dawn.  Or just post a comment.  OR both.  Your choice.

It’s easy for Scott Walker to pick fights with labor–thanks to the brave workers and their allies protesting, not as easy as might be expected, but still easier than it should be.  Let me make my point clearly: If the majority of Americans identified as working class, and not middle class, (1) unionization battles would be easy, and (2) an attack on any laborers in favor of business would be seen as an attack on all (class consciousness, anyone?).  Americans don’t identify as working class, as workers, and so pro-business ideologies such as “neoconservatism” and “libertarianism,” acting like they have some real freedom, some virtue in them, have ‘selling points.’ They sound good, and they continue to sound good because (thank goodness!) they’ve never been tried in a pure form, and shown to be the Trojan Horse ideologies that they are.

[Commercial Break]

From the makers of the all-time classic teenage hits “You Can’t Tell Me What To Do (You’re Not My Mom!)” and “I Hate Everyone! Leave Me Alone!!” comes that political philosophy for the ages. . . Libertarianism!

[End Commercial Break]

(Right) Libertarianism is predatory callousness masquerading as the advocacy of freedom.  Realistically, though, little in libertarianism is distinct from what is known in general as ‘classical liberal’ ideology–loosely meaning that early pro-capitalist set of beliefs that the Market, left to its own devices, will stay competitive and solve all the world’s problems in the absence of government.  You have varieties of libertarianism–your quasi-sociopathic Objectivism, your rigid Austrian variety, and your Chicago school Friedmanesque version, to name a few–and each worships the ‘entrepreneur,’ the myth that the people at the top of the economic food chain are really just better than the rest of us, a special breed of human, who are the trendsetters and inventors that, over time, have made the world.

But what makes their dreams real? And why do they have the luxury to pursue them?

In all these cases, it is the labor behind the dream that turns idle ideals into something that actually makes life better.  And in most cases, it is those with the luxury of time and resources to pump out inventions–long ago the province of the inspired and obsessed few, but now of the well-financed R+D department.  The daily capacity of the everyday person to be inventive with the labor they do all day is forbidden by a system that centralizes autonomy in a select number of engineers and ‘thinkers’ at the top, and dictates commands to the bottom of the economic food chain of the firm.  You get no more credit for being the source of invention in a system that prevents anyone but you from inventing (and by thinly veiled force at that) than you would for being the one guy with a lemonade stand in a country that forbids the selling of lemonade from anyone other than you.

Our entrepreneur mythos, quite frankly, is an intellectually cancerous bullshit fable, preached by those at the top of the pyramid to defend their ‘Greatness’ to the mass of people lugging boulders up the ramps.  “Why do I have to lug these damned boulders?” laborers ask.  “Because I’m the reincarnation of Ra a hardworking entrepreneur, and you’re lucky I’m building this pyramid for you!” the entrepreneurs reply.

[This commercial interruption is brought to you by my cat, who at this point jumped on my keyboard to give you an important message:  nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn                                      bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb,,.  We now resume our regularly scheduled blog post.]

The majority of the population of every country works, but yet we’re told that the majority of the population are most accurately defined as a politically apathetic, culturally bankrupt, all-consuming herd animals who follow the trends promoted by these ‘entrepreneurs’ –consumers, not producers; receivers, not creators.  This is how libertarians, classical liberals, ‘Tea Partiers,’ and conservatives see workers and the everyday population.  And this is the opposite of what we actually are, and of how we should see ourselves if we are to take America back from the Right wing juggernaut.

I want people to see themselves as ‘working class.’  It is common in America to see yourself as ‘middle class’. . . but what does that mean?  “Working class” intuitively references what you do and makes sense of your social role in society, conceptually lumping you with the other people who, you know, work for a living.  “Middle class” implies, what, you’re in the middle between other classes? What other classes, and in the middle by what criteria? It is common in popular discourse, on the very, verrrry rare occasion that class is mentioned, to define classes not by your place in the structure of society, in the scheme of working-versus-owning, or controlling-others-labor versus controlling only your own (or no one’s), but by income–by how much stuff you can buy.  In this frame (which has bled into sociology) we are all merely different levels of consumers.  Not only does this hide how much social power you gain from ownership (not to mention income) but it hides the question of how you feel about work itself in all its aspects.  ‘Work’ doesn’t exist–and even ‘working class’ (if it makes it into this income-style schema) is somehow transformed into an income category, not a structural position.

It is work that is the background of society, of civilization.  People should be proud to see themselves as workers, whose identity is embedded not in what they have, but who they create themselves to be through their action, and through the ways their actions have benefitted society.  Work makes life work, and without work. . . what would there be to consumer, anyway?  Entrepreneurs, the favored Right term for capitalists, clamp down on resources, holding them for ransom until conditions are profitable–and we don’t need ‘them’.  We need a world where we can manifest our creativity and meet our needs freely, proudly, and where something like Scott Walker’s valorization of business combined with disrespect towards teachers and public servants is completely foreign–we need to see ourselves proudly as working class, and take this country back.

Hey y’all,

I just wanted to make a plug for a push to get single payer health care in Oregon.  There is a bill on the table in the Oregon legislature, and there is a rally to support it in Salem on 3/11:

11-3-11 flyer

I encourage you to support the rally and bill if any of the following conditions apply to you:

(1) You will need healthcare and would like to have it when you need it, or;

(2) You could possibly need healthcare and would like to have it if you did need it, or;

(3) You love or like anyone who either will or may need health care, and you would like them to have it if they need it, or;

(4) You can never get sick, and have no one you love or like, but you are a pretty damned good person anyway, and want people who might need health care to have it.

If you can’t attend a rally in Salem on a weekday (I can’t either), there are plenty of ways to support single payer health care in Oregon, and you can learn more about the campaign, the organizations supporting it, the bill(s) and proposal, etc., here or here.

How else can you help? (From Health Care for All Oregon)

❑ Arrange  a presentation to your civic or faith group or union.

❑ Endorse the bill and campaign. You can find endorsement forms (for individuals, organizations, and businesses) at hcao.org/oregon/aff ordablehealth-care-for-oregon-act

❑ Ask community leaders and organizations to endorse the bill and campaign.

❑ Host an informational meeting for your neighbors and friends, for your civic group or faith community. We’ll send a speaker.

❑ Use Twitter and your Facebook page to let people know about the campaign.

❑ If you have a Web page or blog, link to www.hcao.org.

❑ Distribute copies of this AHCAO flier at events.

❑ Write letters to the editor, contact legislators, and attend hearings in Salem.

❑ Donate money: make checks out to HCAO–Oregon Single Payer Campaign (OSPC), and mail to HCAO, P.O. Box 51422, Eugene OR 97405.