Who is this left anyway? Archives

October 21, 2005

I got your litmus, right here

Read my virtual lips: universal single-payer health care. What Hillary should have done, and did the opposite instead.

If you're a lefty -- even if you're a liberal -- hell, even if you're a "progressive" -- you've wanted this since you morphed from a polliwog. Don't try to deny it. You know you want it.

So let's nail our colors to the mast on this one. If we can't insist on this, then we might as well crawl into a hole and pull it in after us.

As far as the flea-cracking details go... leave that to the Ivy wonks. But let's resolve to run some third-party wild man against any Dembo who won't flat out endorse single payer... period.... no exceptions. Anybody who waffles on this one -- let's close the iron door on him.

Or, ahem, her.

November 19, 2005

True blue collar

One of the wonderful things about the unexpected thunderbolt of John Murtha is his district, the 12th of Pennsylvania. On a map, it's the oddest-looking thing you could ever hope to see -- clearly a classic gerrymander, occupying roughly the third ring out from Pittsburgh (after the city core and the near suburbs).

A quick galnce at the Census results shows that it is, to say the least, decidedly blue-collar: The 2000 median household income was $30,612. Only 6% of families had incomes over $100,000. 20% of families with children under 5 were below the official poverty level. 14% of the population over 25 were college graduates.

As the guy says in the opera, Traulich und treu ist's nur in der Tiefe; falsch und feig, was dort oben sich freut. Loyal and true are the depths -- false and frightened, they who enjoy life on high.

November 22, 2005

Jes'-folks wisdom

Even the local Republicans acknowledge that John Murtha is a shoo-in for re-election next year in his very patriotic, very blue-collar district. His courage in coming out against the Iraq war will cost him nothing with his constituents, who dwell deep in NASCAR country.

Meanwhile, in wealthy, well educated Rye Brook, NY, Hillary Clinton was afraid to give the same message to her enlightened, ultra-Blue constituents.

"It will matter to us if Iraq totally collapses into civil war, if it becomes a failed state the way Afghanistan was, where terrorists are free to basically set up camp and launch attacks against us," she said. Probably without blushing at all.

In a way you have to hand it to Hillary. She has her own kind of honesty. When she's bought, she stays bought. I don't know exactly who's put the injun sign on her, although the Israel lobby wouldn't be a bad guess. They wanted this war bad, and they'll find that their latter condition is worse than their first once the US runs down the flag and packs up.

So Hillary has her orders, and she's staying the course. For the time being. It'll be fun to watch her wriggle when she finally decides she's got to fight free, somehow, of this particular tar baby.

December 2, 2005

His soul is marching on (I hope)

Today, December 2, is the anniversary of John Brown's execution in 1859.

Somehow, thinking of Old Osawatomie, I just don't feel like saying anything flip or ironical. He deserves better, much better. Better than anything I have the eloquence to say.

But then, as far as I know, no American writer or thinker has even come close to giving Brown his due. Talk about a Founding Father -- and yet so strangely relegated to footnotes, when men a tenth of his stature crowd the pediments of our civic temples.

In the very limited setting of this blog, perhaps I can at least claim Brown as the great, the definitive critiquer of two-party politics. In his day the Democrats had the honor of being the greater evil. But Brown was just as stern, and as unpalatable, to the lesser. Abe Lincoln had to spend a lot of time distancing himself from the terrorist of Harper's Ferry, when his Democratic opponents were as eager to wield the tarbrush as, say, Chuck Schumer is nowadays; and Brown himself saw no hope in Lincoln's party as long as it confined itself to the politics of "yes, but..."

Brown saw to it that "yes, but" was no longer an option.

When will we follow his example?

January 3, 2006

Put up the price of beans, dammit

It's all the rage: put a minimum wage lifter on every state ballot next November.

Bravo. It's a winner everywhere. It'll get out the "right " vote -- in fact the idea is so hot out in Arnie land that the walnut man has tried a pre-emption -- after straight arming two earlier legislative moves to raise the state rate.

He's now doing a Disraeli end run by proposing a minimum raise of his own and, according to the LA Times,

" ... California business owners...facing a ballot initiative that would increase the minimum wage to $8.75 an hour and require cost-of-living increases after that.... [and] internal polling showing widespread public support... are inclined to support the Governor's plan."
Did you catch the why-for?

<Begin X-ray of Wal-Mart's brain>
First and foremost we gotta keep those hordes of raise seekers and goo goos away from the off-election polling booths.
<End X-ray>

Yup -- this hot number needs a cool jerk-down from the masthead.

But also notice, besides a heftier raise, the intiative includes indexing to the CPI. This indexing is the real deal here with indexing at the fed level, well ... that's dynamite. The latest nine years without a change follows an earlier 8 year or so de facto "freeze," both of them clearly a matter of quiet bipartisan consensus. Indexation would find few sincere friends on either side of the aisle.

Actually, if I was running the Cal ballot operation I'd welcome the Gub's law, and use it to call for an indexation amendment -- then wait for his scramble to settle down into a signature.

<Begin Terminator voice>
"I'll be back... to you... on zat."
<End Terminator voice>

February 12, 2006

Huis clos?

Tim D wrote in a recent comment (I'm excerpting):
... We are on a bullet train heading toward a gaping chasm full of environmental and social catastrophes... We need radical change now, but no political vehicle for it.

[Some argue] we need to take it one school board and local election at a time.... Well, I don't necessarily disagree, but time is not on our side. However, I'll admit that even if an informed and incorruptible person like Nader was elected to the presidency, she or he wouldn't have the kind of dictatorial powers necessary to arbitrarily make the kind of changes we need (nor should he).

What to do, what to do...?

Quick, slightly flippant answer: we need to stop behaving predictably.

More serious answer: Nobody knows what will work, but the necessary precondition to finding what will work is to stop doing things that not only don't work, but make things worse (like pinning our hopes on the Democratic Party).

Once public discontent breaks out of the vessels designed to contain and tranquilize it, the elites start getting worried. That's when they stop pushing and start making concessions. There have been several such phases of "instability" in American history, and every one of 'em had positive effects.

Considerable intellects like Karl Marx have proven unequal to the task of mapping out in detail what will happen or must happen to bring about social change, and none of us in in that league. But let instability be our watchword. Get the genie of public discontent out of the bottle of the party system. Stuff will happen. I don't know exactly what form it will take and neither does anybody else. But once the water overflows the levee, it will find its own course.

Sorry for the mixed metaphors. Sniffing those Pythonic vapors always does that to me.

May 11, 2006

Strain builds on the fault line

The split ticket stuff has me posing this question -- are we about to see a spontaneous spliting of the Orthrian two headed brute?

Instead of much ado about nothing -- which has indeed been our three squares since '66 at least -- is this the massive buildup of subterranean class forces that leads to a great divide a la the 1890's? And no, we didn't get a permanent new major party like we did in the 1850's, but we got the serious morphing of one major from just a second cola party to a plausible enough uncola party.

Any Kos type, at this point, would note with consternation that this uncola party was an even lesser half electorally than it was as the cola alternative -- and stayed so for nearly all of the next 36 years.

But our hypothetical Kosnik would have missed the point, as usual. A real difference had been created, and survived -- a difference that no opportunism of the DLC kind could entirely remove. Once that fault line started expressing itself in the early 90s (I mean the 1890s of course, not the awful more recent 90s), it didn't settle down till it reached hegemony through the New Deal.

Mark me down as an optimist on this one. I'd lay even odds on another such massive social-political upheaval, well before Bush II applies for Medicare.

June 24, 2006

The none-of-the-above bloc

ms_xeno writes:
If I had ample time and resources to recruit potential voters and activists wherever I wanted to, I definitely wouldn't waste time in echo-chambers like Alternet. I am so bloody sick and tired of their colossal laziness, stupidity, bullying, guilt-mongering and above all-- their smug, implacable belief that their overlords own anybody who's ever voiced a progressive view or voted Dem. I'd go among non-voters before I'd waste time with these people. They need more deprogramming than any of us can provide, I fear. If you caught a non-voter before he or she started reading the tracts, you might have a chance. With pwogs, there ain't even that much to hope for...

July 11, 2006

Corporate unionism from Andy Stern

An interesting item, from the Daily Labor Report, reproduced on the lbo-talk mailing list:
Contending that the employer-based health care insurance system is "dead," Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, June 16 called for creation of a new "uniquely" American health care system....

While Stern was not specific about what kind of health-care system he envisions to replace the current one, he did say that the United States has to build its own system, not import a system from Canada or any other country.

Stern, who leads a union that represents 1.8 million members, including about 1 million health care workers, rejected calls for a single-payer, universal health insurance system built on Medicare, which have the support of many others in the labor movement. He said that a new system should have multiple payers, not a single payer. "Single-payer is a stalking horse for I'm not sure what," he said.

Sorta breathtaking, huh? "A stalking horse for I'm not sure what" -- now there's an incisive critique for you.

Stern was talking at an event sponsored by Brookings and the New America Foundation ("Fresh ideas that are neither left nor right" -- only corporate). Even so, it's startling to see a union leader -- and a supposed sansculotte, too, by American standards -- dismissing single-payer out of hand in this cavalier manner.

As the DLR item notes, more than half of Andy's union's members work in the health-care racket in some capacity or other. Under single-payer, which would trim this bloated sector considerably, at least some of these folks would end up looking for jobs elsewhere, and Andy would be a figure of less consequence. So he has cast his lot with the bloodsuckers who own and run the laughably-misnamed American "health-care" industry.

Plus ca change... there's the history of the American labor movement in a nutshell. Scratch brave new Andy and you find old George Meany.

Strikes me that single-payer needs to become a litmus issue, just like out-of-Iraq-now. Anybody who won't unhesitatingly endorse these two inarguably sound ideas isn't worth a second thought or a minute of your time.

July 31, 2006

To the pure all things are pure

A earlier post evoked a discussion of "purism". Crackpot realists like the Kosniks tend to think of anybody to their left as a "purist". Stanley Rogouski made the following trenchant comment, which pretty much says it all:
Things I'm a purist about:
  1. The First Amendment
  2. The right to an abortion
Things I can debate about:
  1. Tolls on the NJ Turnpike
  2. Taxes
Things the Kos/Atrios crowd is purist about:
  1. Support for Israel
  2. No third parties, ever.
Things the Kos/Atrios crowd is willing to negotiate away:
  1. The First Amendment
  2. The right to an abortion

August 10, 2006

No mas

Here's a voter pledge I signed. It comes in two parts. Part One:
I will not vote for or support any candidate for Congress or President who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq and ....
Part two:
...preventing any future war of aggression, a public position in his or her campaign.
Part one is not bad -- I prefer "now" to "speedy", but not bad.

Part two? Well, it's nice there is a Part Two. For one thing, it heads off the donk Murtha frame -- redeploy to an air war with a dark-ops option, or any other sotto-voce re-intervention proviso. We hardly need some update of the infamous Platt amendment, or TR's bill-collector civil-order revision of the Monroe doctrine.

Imagine -- we Yankees, back at the turn of the last century, actually "embedded" a unilateral right of intervention in the constitution of "liberated Cuba."

We need tighter language, for sure. A "war of aggression" label is way too easily finessed. I suspect, for example, a redeploy that after some Sunni-menacing by the Shia, led back to a Kosovo-type air war, could avoid the war of aggression label fairly easily.

So this term, "war of agression," is no sound basis for policy reformation of the "never again" variety -- not unless we prevent all pretexts, starting with the best of all, a war of humane emergency.

Barring "wars of agression" is only a fair start -- we need to work together towards something more like "no gringo interventions, period." And to insure a deep lesson is learned, pass a a one time levy on the transnational corporations to pay us all back for all the prior interventions. We could call it the Smedley Butler levy.

This is not an easy task, needless to say -- a world without nations intervening on each other. But then, I suspect, neither was ending human sacrifice.

Bottom line -- humane empire is still empire. Perhaps we prove to be the final evil of civilization itself -- Benthamite imperialists, intervening for the greater good, or Pastor Niebuhr types interested in universal values enforcement.

Try your passivity against, say, murderous state oppression like Sudan, or state-without-a-state rule of the gun like Somalia -- or both, like Congo. Policing or disarming terrorist armed states within a state or or or....

It ain't easy to agree what is not to be done. But surely a line must be drawn and the struggle to find that line needs to be "dialogued out" right now. The bulk of the American citizenry must share a new line, that clearly tells our Uncle Sam what he's never ever to do again.

August 11, 2006

Where do movements come from?

(Another comment Too Good To Be A Comment, from 'NYCO'. -- Ed.)

Well, you're spot-on about the limited utility of electoral politics. I live in New York, and everything is just ossified. Four incumbents got defeated last year in a state legislature of 200-odd people, and it was considered an earthshaking year.

And in New York, the Democrats are completely controlled by the downstate party establishment, and they don't do much for the party upstate except enable the numbnut, no-talent sloppy seconds who have become Democratic mayors and the odd county executive, who keep presiding passively over the area's economic decline. If you want a good look at how Democrats hover around the fire of the status quo while pretending they are progressives who care about all Americans, look no further than New York City. They have no desire to lead, just to wallow in their own little lucrative world. They can't even lead their own state out of the abyss. I was reasonably enthusiastic about Spitzer being a bit of a rebel but my enthusiasm is starting to fade. He's coasting.

You do need movements focused on concrete embodiments of the issues, but those are hard to come by. People would rather flee than fight. We have an interesting (to say the least) situation in upstate New York with opposition to the New York Regional Interconnect (NYRI) project, a monstrous 200-mile power line that's going to kill about 40 small communities. The Greens are pretty vocal about it (and Maurice Hinchey), but interestingly so are the traditional anti-downstate Republican/independents. So there are some odd bedfellows.

Democrats (including Spitzer) are reluctant to take too strong a stance against it. After all, those 40 communities are in line to be economically exterminated in order to make New York City bigger and shinier, and the Democrats are all creatures of the City. You cannot expect too much from the Democrats. In the end, they will give in (the power company has run crying to the federal government to have 200 miles of upstate NY taken by eminent domain as a "National Energy Corridor"). Schumer, Hillary, all of them. They will gladly sell some of their constituents' homes out from under them (or stand by while it happens) if it means they can continue in their hegemony.

In any case, I'm not really explaining the NYRI situation that well. The company that is pushing this is shadowy, arrogant and has an Enron-like whiff coming off it. It's just foul, and the Bush Administration is behind it. The larger issues lying behind the fight have to do with the decay of social contracts, the question of sustainable energy generation and transmission, sustainable growth, etc.

It's very specific, even geographically centered, issues like these that are prime coalescing points for greater movements. Indeed, no one can remember such a wide coalition of upstaters - not just from rural towns; there is at least one city, Utica, involved -- trying to form a collective defense movement for their communities over 200 miles of space. But do people want to pay attention if the movement-creators are "the little guys"? I'm not sure. There is still a self-flattering that goes on among alleged progressives that says they're doing OK if they vote for the "right party." They are unable to see what's happening in their own back yard.

But if the people who are forming real, on-the-ground movements -- without permission from the Democratic Party, or the blogeoisie -- endure and find ways to meet up with each other (for instance, as someone interested in anti-NYRI efforts, I have been in touch with other folks in Appalachia who are fighting similar battles to come against the federal government)... then new, actual networks of actual action can form pretty much under the radar of the parties. Then, election politics becomes just one tool in the toolbag. But first I think a lot of actual movement work needs to be done.

August 13, 2006

Party! Party!

Why support reform of an old party? Or for that matter, why even bother to build a new party, if it's just to win elections?

After all, the victory at the ballot box, or through the ballot box in the legislature or executive, is really only the result of a fired-up, effective mass movement that won't stop, and won't take anything less. It's hard to argue with the notion "put your efforts where the real push comes from" -- hard to counter the bald command "no more wasting energy on that old war and Wall Street mule."

Some contributors here recently have been making this case loud and clear -- and some have said more: some say flat-out "no party -- no party politics at all" -- not even Green or peace or jobs, or what not.

These folks start where Stop Me ends. Our line here is "Democrat party ... wherever you go, don't go there anymore... it's a diversion... a distraction ... a shock absorber for anything anti-corporate." But they go a further step. They say "forget party politics altogether -- go for direct action movement building only. Make it exclusively a bottom-up gig, kids."

So far as I can see for the moment, this set of marching orders is all well and good, and coincides with our Stop Me minimum program, as far as that goes. Our program is effectively acomplished if folks in flocks simply make it clear they won't vote for Wall Street lite's donkey totem.

So what's my unease here? Well sure all these frustrated, fired-up folks can join "the movements," and in particular, build or re-energize the nation's long list of noble issue orgs. We can never have enough people power, direct action, or rap music. But as a union boy by adoption -- sort of a Pharaoh's-son reverse Moses -- let me say if the majority of job folks, as they claim when asked by outsiders, really would like a nice organization at their job site -- an organization that "worked with them and for them" like job unions' standard blue prints call for them to do -- why don't they have them already?

The answer to that is obvious -- it's de facto impossible. And why? Because by code, law, precedent, and court and administrative actions, it's illegal to use techniques necessary if you want to succeed at organizing most job sites. Like a thousand other venues, job organizing is effectively barred by the system.

It's not enough to have the abstract "right" to organize, to agitate, and to take joint action, if the time, the place, and the type of all these actions are all hedgerowed. No elite ever lost out by holding on to the house odds. Unless the odds are changed, the spontaneous desires of the "people" can be easily thwarted. Such is the source, not only of movement fights but of recourse to a party too. The Job Crow system will not end by spontaneous mass action alone, any more than Jim Crow did.

Sure, there's huge movement-building to do on the job-site front. The mass of jobsters haven't the first clue about what they can do, or what needs to be done. All we know is this -- the job-site revulsion in this country is massive, and I suspect it already exceeds the flash point. But the jobsters are not even in motion yet, let alone the organizations that must arise to articulate goals, and devise ways and means.

But attendez-vous -- at last I reach my point: as soon as that org gets effective, it's bound to bang its collective head against the "state," and as Joe Friday sez so wonderfully, "that's where we come in." Electoral party activity becomes not just part of the problem, as it is now, but one of the necessities of a solution.

Obviously, on big fronts, where many stand to gain some, and a few lose lots, influence wil not be enough -- only seizing, drastically reforming, or building anew will get it done. Either way, a party capable of electoral success in these "blood" fights must emerge -- must and will become crucial.

The necessary second job of all movement fighters is building political power, and unlike the job movement, the anti-Iraq war movement is already at the point where party action is on the agenda -- and the failure to take it is hurting the movement.

Right now the troops need to be pulled out. No time to find a better vehicle. Scare these opportunist careerist scamps into doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, as with civil rights. The peace movement today needs to force this stance on the donkey like a nasty training bridle.

August 21, 2006

Gettin' on for seventy times seven

Where in hell was the post-Katrina black march on Washington?

I read that somewhere today, and it's a good question. And where was the torchlight rally in front of the Lincoln memorial? And where was the black siege village around the White House?

The whole 200K poor black folks' diaspora from the Big Easy has just completely drowned its righteous outrage among its thousand and one "official places of refuge." The easest whitey trick of all: dilution. This vast black dispersion, this callous vale of smeers removal, this forced semipermanent vacation from all that prime location property -- why, that's just pure realtors' sneaky Pete: an opportunistic cleansing conspiracy to turn slumlords' warrens into big-D genteel developments.

This whole disgusting process should instead have led directly to a re-collection of every last one of these same expelled black folks, right outside the White House fence line, and America's black leadership should have camped out with the displaced persons, and dared Cheney to send in the troops.

Why hasn't this happened? What's more -- why can't it still happen? Why hasn't the black community risen up over Katrina like the Chicano community did over the house Republican Migra concentration camp plan?

Simple: today's national black leadership is tied by the neck to the Democratic party, and can't you hear the lily donk barons' response even to the slightest suggestion of a black poor folks' siege of the Bush/Cheney White House?

"Hush up now -- you know the score -- don't go gettin' conspicuous on us again. Those days are gone. We don't need a repeat of the early 70's, and you all damn well know it. We don't need you rappin' round the White House now, like you did just about everywhere back then. Christ almighty, it was you black types actin' up that turned us into the minority party in the first place! Wanna ruin our chance to recover?"

That's the DLC donks' way of talkin' -- hard-nosed. Kos would like it. It's pragmatic. It's winners' talk. Didn't Clinton electrocute some poor retarded black fella back home in Arkansas, right on the eve of his election to the presidency? "Bzzz! Get the message, gang? and Sister Souljah -- you could be next."

The papers tell us black folks forgave Bill his sins -- though I wonder how deep or broad that really is. They have to do a shitload of forgiving, when it comes to the donks.

As a white bystander, may I respectfully ask -- why do you bother?

October 14, 2006

Don't blame Dixie

The long slog of the Iraqupation has the South looking pretty damn close to just like the rest of us now. Look at these recent survey results :
  • 57% of Southerners believe the U.S. "should have stayed out of Iraq," compared to 44% who think the U.S. "did the right thing" by taking military action. Nationally, 58% of the public believes the U.S. should have stayed out and 43% now agree with military action.
  • Southerners are skeptical about the goals of the Iraq mission. 29% of Southerners agree with the Bush Administration's position that "Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism," compared to 25% nationally. But 30% in Southern states -- the same as the national average -- believe the main reason the U.S. is in Iraq is "to ensure access to oil."
  • By at least one measure, Southerners are more frustrated with the war than their counterparts in other regions. Asked if they were "proud" or "sad" about Iraq, a surprising 62% of respondents in the South said they were "very sad" about the course of the war, compared to only 56% in other regions of the country. Only 10% of those surveyed in the South say they are "somewhat proud" or "very proud" of the Iraq mission -- slightly less than those polled in other states.
  • 30% of those polled in Southern states say the U.S. should "withdraw completely" from Iraq. Those in non-Southern states were less likely to call for a total withdrawal of U.S. troops (26%), but more likely to think U.S. troop levels should be decreased "some" or "a lot" -- 34% in non-Southern states, compared to 26% in the South. Put together, 56% of Southerners and 59% in other regions support a decrease or withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Allowing for survey error, these look like fraternal twins, though I kinda like the south's (prolly) statistically insignificant stronger mix of an "in or out" attitude better then the rest of us with our fudged "partial withdrawal."

October 18, 2006

Their extremists can beat our extremists

According to the LA Times, a "pink purge" may be imminent:
Some Seek 'Pink Purge' in the GOP
By Johanna Neuman, Times Staff Writer

In recent years, the Republican Party aimed to broaden its appeal with a "big-tent" strategy of reaching out to voters who might typically lean Democratic. But now a debate is growing within the GOP about whether the tent has become too big — by including gays....

[T]he GOP is facing a hard choice — risk losing the social conservatives who are legendary for turning out the vote, or risk alienating the moderate voters who are crucial to this election's outcome.

"There's a huge schism on the right," said Mike Rogers, a gay-rights activist who runs a blog to combat what he calls hypocrisy among conservative gay politicians. "The fiscal conservatives are furious at the religious conservatives, because they need the moderates for economic policy. But they need the social conservatives to turn out the vote."

....Republican National Committee Press Secretary Tracey Schmitt [said], "Our core supporters understand that a Congress led by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi [the Senate and House minority leaders] would be devoid of a values agenda. They are mobilized and committed to electing Republicans on Nov. 7."

Schmitt is certainly right about Reid and Pelosi not having a "values" agenda, unless the values in question are real-estate values. Whether the Bible crowd is as dependable for the Republicans as, say, anti-war liberals are for the Democrats, is another matter.

In one way, I hope they are, and I hope the great Democratic faux-mentum of the last few weeks fizzles spectacularly. In another way, I hope they're not, and I hope they take a walk, and set a shining example for our hapless Left, who will never get the respect the fundies get until, like the fundies, they're willing to withdraw their support when they're displeased.

November 21, 2006

Balls of empire, part III

The fact is that we have come a long way. The American people are increasingly dissatisfied with war and Empire--in fact we are sick to death of it.
That's J V Walsh, a 24/7 imperial war stopper.

I wish I saw this the way he does, but I don't. I see plenty of room to finesse this as... a bridge too far; an ambitous mistake; a fool's sand trap, etc. etc.

Hell, we can still be crusaders -- we just need to be smart about it. And as to the fed up little guys -- If you view our overseas emerging market in failed states -- armed intrusions as pure spectacle -- like the NFL, it's hard to not see the "kick".

I vividly recall that armored cav charge across the desert to Baghdad, and the statue topple. Even the pouch-packer line "mission accomplished," framed like that and paid for on Uncle's credit card -- what's not to like about an intervention for freedom?

Even say we pay go it next time, if we just do the old liberation in-and-out, the topple and scram, at $100 billion total package cost, do the math: divided by 140 million households thats less than a grand per viewing family. Say we spread the cost over 18 months, from pre-strike talk to post-topple talk, thats a cable bill upgrade: $40 per month.

See, it's the stickin' around and the breakage fees, the occupation, that's what can get old quick. We need to get our trade partners to pay for this part. Or maybe they are paying for it, by swapping trade goods for our sure to sharply devalue UOUs -- Uncle Owes You, and good luck collecting.

As Herr Scruggs sez at his site:

The consensus of the state elite is that they have the right to meddle, coerce and violently impose their will inside and outside the borders of the country. Doing that outside the borders makes a reflecting effect back in, which allows them to handle domestic repression and exploitation with small violence, narrow legalistic attrition, the perjured media and the self-appointed bootlickers.
Indeed, not only is there twin-tower blow-back, there's feedback too.

But conjure with this, dear children of the white dove: plain Caucasian folks 'round here still don't think the state has a bone for 'em. To them, all this ramping up of the 1984 state is like aquiring a pack of trained attack dogs for the neighborhood. The furry monsters "just all know... by smell" who to roll for, and who needs a savage limb-by-limb ripping apart.

100 million shit-ass jobs, and 2 million straw bosses -- with that out there waiting for 'em 40 hours each week, the "system" can crank out these bloody-minded pro-empire types like blocks of Velveeta.

December 18, 2006

Not always incurable

Thus James Boyce, on the Huffington Post:
James Boyce
I Fubared Iraq.

I can't believe how dumb I am....

I really and truly believed that the Democratic leadership would read the results of the elections properly - and push every single day to end the war....

I even thought that that the political pressure would be such that in the end Iraq would not be the issue in 2008 that it would have been if the Democrats had not regained control of Congress....

I am complete idiot.

Sounds like a good start. I will follow Boyce's recovery with interest. Is there a twelve-step program for sobering Democrats, I wonder? What would the steps be?

February 8, 2007

Mock the G-WOT

I'm still tickled about the Aqua Teen Hunger Force stunt in Boston.

A nation harrumphs in indignant sputter, as slap-happy hoaxsters unrepentantly quack, "What, me g-wot?" Wouldn't it be wonderful if deliberate emulation followed their inadvertence? Call it the mock heard round the world.

Boston, the city that once stood alone and unafraid, now stands as an emblem of hunkered abject official hysterics. Freaks and geeks, beware, if your pranks happen to fall into the faultless metallic grip of the Beantown security heavyweights.

But even after all the big heat, the bluster and the squeeze, these two miscreant millenial post-Seattle nihilists in dreadlocks and paint-stained jeans saw fit to mock their way out of the jam and into the hearts of anti-Big Brothers everywhere.

Mock the g-wot! Mock the g-wot!

July 9, 2007

The lowering boomers

Ahhh, the Monthly Review -- often I turn to it for... well, in this case, it turned out to be foolkrieging:

As many of you may know, I hate my generation of meritoids -- the woodstock wing in particular, and its "new left" solarium in even more particular.

Long abandoned, its walls of glass smashed in at a thousand points by the stones of time's hard realities, I've often recalled it with a mellow snicker. But now, I'll be goddamned if after nearly a third of a century of total eclipse, this least worthy of radical structures isn't appearing from behind the leading edge of our new century. A gen-X maxim proves true again: just when you begin to believe their reign has finally ended, recall this bloody fact: old boomers never die, they just wade wade wade... back in.

The old new-left Undead have "rewrtitten" -- how pathetic is that? -- a document that sank like a stone back in '63, when it was first written. For a patch of unintended self-parody, the current version deserves immediate induction into the boomer travesty temple of Olympian laughter. Early on, there's a whack at the "long-winded" Vaclav Havel, which is very welcome of course, but then talk about long-winded:

...drafted by several MDS and SDS activists with criticisms and suggestions from Bruce Rubenstein, Jay Jurie, Penny Rosemont, Mark Rudd, and Devra Morice for MDS, Senia Barragan and Josh Russell for SDS, and a valued friend from War Times, Max Elbaum. Paul Buhle did most of the drafting and rewriting....

We stand at the beginning of a new social movement as well the beginning of a new century. The global overreach of US strategies has created divisions in society unknown since the 1960s, in some ways unknown since the 1890s. Here, a soldier is shot to death after a fourteen-hour domestic standoff because he is driven mad by the prospect of his return to Iraq. There, casualty figures are systematically underreported, the degree of military brutalization and eco-poisoning warfare hidden as effectively, or ineffectively, as in the early years of the US invasion of Southeast Asia. In Washington, powerful forces with billions of dollars behind them (and clearly more at stake) rage against each other, hopeful of protecting Empire but blinded by their past triumphs and unable to find a way out. New SDS, with several thousand members and several hundred chapters, takes the field in the name of a newly rebellious generation, its membership reaching into community colleges and high schools far from the liberal arts limits of the 1960s, and across borders to Canada, Germany, Indonesia, and elsewhere. We also see the beginning of yet a new project: the founding of MDS, the Movement for a Democratic Society.

Can't touch stuff like that, now can ya? You just gotta bottle it for posterity.

What follows that opening florish is a lickety-split dash through the last 45 years or so. Upshot : Uncle won all the marbles -- set up a global rigged casino -- and got to use even "depleted uranium" where and when needed, without much meritoid yowling.

Yes, it's gotten pretty dark on planet earth, but fortunately for civilizations' better angels, 9/11 proved "This was not the end of history." Since that frightful moment, "The truth is out and the subservient backers of American military conquests have grown sheepish and silent." However, "Rather than engage in the sort of introspection that would reveal the role and purposes of U.S. power projected across the globe," the TNC goblins upped the ante, switching to No More Mr Nice Guy mode, i.e. a "strategy that can be neatly encompassed as a Patriot Act for the whole planet."

Mid-voyage sum-up:

On the forty-fifth anniversary of the Port Huron Statement... we once again face a world in which existing modes of thought are treated by the public with contempt. Institutions both old and new seem to be threatened....

The golden age of confident socialism, in the first decade of the twentieth century, can be book-ended with the golden age of capitalism during the final decade of the same century... why then the self-confident predictions of the Marxists and equally self-certain predictions of the 1980s-90s globalizers fail so miserably?

It seems the Wall Street rats, in drafting up their new world order, didn't reckon with "a moiling world of people." This triggers another plunge into Clio's record books, now back to the age of the two Roosevelts, which saved capitalism from itself -- but
Then FDR died... [beginning a] march toward total global hegemony at any cost.... Labor leaders, screenwriters, even career diplomats associated with leftwing causes either abandoned their ideals or found themselves banned and discarded...A new world of atomic bombs and Cadillacs emerged, with light weapons and Chevrolets for small-fry wars and consumers, respectively....

... keen economic analysis updating a century of Marxist predictions.... notes that stagnation and sluggish growth in the old-fashioned categories of GNP and productive capacity have continued as leftwingers long predicted they would.

Now we get a run of why that's good -- no, that's bad -- because despite the GNP secular sluggery,
... remarkably enough, these disappointments have not impeded profit levels, nor brought down the world's leading capitalist power, its center still situated on Wall Street....

No one, neither Keynes nor Milton Friedman, had sufficiently credited the power of seemingly bottomless debt.... [or] predicted the degree of the financiers' takeover, displacing actual production with the concentration of paper [or] the strange contemporary conjunction -- punctuated by the Chinese State-directed bailout of Wall Street....

Perhaps, and this is a grim thought, slow growth and wild speculation are locked together in a downward spiral of widening class differences and ecological decline. Making money steadily displaces the making of anything else, goods or services. Debt creation and the collaterization of debt, the magic instruments of recovery (or pseudo-recovery), demand ever taller towers of cash. These disproportions come, naturally enough, from a vast heightening of exploitation in every respect, now no longer draining only the lives of people on the planet but the earth itself. Lacking a successful challenge, they will, within two generations, have wiped out nearly every species of fish, eviscerated all but the least of rainforests, and set the planet upon a near irreversible course of global warming. The lives of suffering humanity, in the face of these threats, can only be imagined....

But! Be of good cheer! There's the "Crisis of Empire":
The explosion of simultaneous crises, as leading scholar of empire William Appleman Williams noted long ago, stems from the demands for absolute planetary control... [and yet] How much does "the average American" feel the suffering of others in less fortunate places of the planet?
Pretty sweeping, eh? And -- there's more! There's a "A Short History of the Old and Heroic Left." Starting point:
A special moment in the 1840s-60s [which] saw abolitionism, women's rights, and pacifism predict the movements of more than a century later and offered a legitimate counterpart to the emerging class struggles in Europe and elsewhere.... If the Communist Manifesto and the Paris Barricades of 1848 had any single counterpart anywhere, it was surely the Seneca Falls Convention and the declarations of Woman's Rights.
At this point we enter the full Barnum and Bailey world of lefticle struggle. After a Dante to Virgil-like adeiu to Allen Ginsberg, we reach "1962, the year of Port Huron," Like Finnegans Wake, river run back to that mudsill of the left's "Age of Aquarius."

Oh I grow weak -- but read on: such topics await you as "Globalized Labor -- At Home"; such insights as:

In the new century, the situation has changed utterly... new radical hopes become visible on the horizon... a version of egalitarianism, successor to visions of socialism and anarchism.... the day has not passed when working people, as part of a broad coalition (and not likely to be unionized) can make a decisive difference.
Final panorama:

The Society We Face -- Then and Now

Perhaps the work begun at Port Huron will be taken up once again around the world, for the globalization of power, capital and empire surely will globalize the stirrings of conscience and resistance. While the powers that be debate whether the world is dominated by a single superpower (the US position) or is multipolar (the position of the French, the Chinese and others), there is an alternative vision appearing among millions of people who are involved in global justice, peace human rights and environmental movements -- the vision of a future created through participatory democracy

July 16, 2007

Bag it, Bageant

Just read an interview with Joe Batshit, whom Joshua Frank apparently, and disappointingly, takes more seriously than he deserves:

This guy Bageant is a pageant of frauds. Take this sum-up on the prospects for America's pantomime class struggle turning to war mode:

I don't think that will ever happen, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't keep up the fight. I think so-called terrorism and ecocide may tear down the system for us, though.
Political inaction has its square-one excuse when change is probably impossible, doesn't it?

Joe presses on:

Danger has no favorites!
(Having that level of phrase lilt in ya prolly gets you published.)
The good old days of "the teeming masses," that sweat-soaked, beer-farting mob of working class Americans who didn't have a pot to piss in, much less a credit card, but instinctively knew fascism when they saw it, are over
Oh no, there's that old high-60's chestnut again -- the post-scarcity white prole libel!
Seattle in 1999 may not happen in the states again. We have all become an artificial product of corporately "administrated" modern life.
Always, always, when you least expect it, Clio pulls the rug out from under the never-again poundcakers. Or as Joe himself sez: "Life has a funny way of making us eat every word."

December 13, 2007

Baby steps

Read this piece by Mz Wypplesbruegerski at C-punch:

... with all innocent curiosity, and got IED'd -- didn't a sour bomb go off in my mortal soul department (such as it is), and I've been off and on nauseated for two days since.

Heres the entryway to my tour of boomer rad post-9/11 ground zero:

"I don't think either mere cheerleading -- we need the will! we need the courage! another world IS possible! -- is much of a solution to anything. There are world historical forces afoot here, and one of the jobs of anyone who considers herself on the left is to try to understand them. I don't think the Left in the heady days of empire really thought too much about the privileges and distortions being children of the empire conferred on it, except to say, in some quarters, We don't want any part of it! But opting out only goes so far, and is delusional even if understandable. Now that the empire is exhausted at the top -- and we could disagree about that, but I think the signs are more indicative of fundamental weakness than of strength even if the US can still kill everyone in the world many times over and still 'afford' billions of dollars a day doing that in one way or another... Radicals are feeling what it means to be part of the general decline. How do we deal with it? That's not an idle question, or one that has an obvious answer. There was a certain amount of chauvinism attached to the American Left in the sixties, a sense of being at the center of the political universe even if people did make their trips to Hanoi or Ghana or Paris...."
...And from there off she went into the malaise gauche:
Sometimes I think that at a minimum we ought to be encouraging people to join -- anything. The PTA, the Kiwanis Club, the local pathetic chapter of the NAACP, the local tenants group, the freelancers union, the local Democratic club or libertarian club, whatever, just to start remembering how to think together. And even if it prompted people to see what they don't want to be part of, maybe it would encourage them to create something that they do. This sounds pretty lame, I know. But the situation is pretty lame...
As I read this sober, "baby-steps" assessment (as Joanne herself chracaterizes it), I felt like Orson Welles' character must feel as he slides, glides, staggers, and tumbles into the gunblast-shattered climax of Lady from Shanghai. And as I type this, see me, in overhead crane shot pullaway, running like a ten-year-old apple thief, if for nothing else, at least to preserve my sense of invincible personal insanity.

September 30, 2008

The deluge

I really wouldn't have thought that anything could make me proud of the US House of Representatives, but yesterday's stunning rejection of the bailout bill certainly did -- no thanks to the Democrats, who voted for it 140-95.

All the experts and wise men were for it -- the Waxmans, the Franks, the Rangels. In fact anybody with a safe seat was apparently for it. The people who bolted were the people who don't take their re-election this fall for granted -- in other words, the people who had to listen, however unwillingly, to what the public was saying.

For the experts, deeply invested in their knowledge of the arcane institutions of finance, a threat to those institutions is a threat to civilization itself. Apparently the public, however, doesn't grasp just how indispensable these institutions are. I'm with the public on this one.

* * *

Comrade Owen understands these matters better than I do, so I asked him about it. His take:

The returning mariner immediately chivy-ed me with "meltdown" questions:

"Just what would be so terrible if we let all these bankrupt institutions evaporate? -- Nobody to lend to solvent businesses any more? But surely that's nonsense -- the Fed could do it directly if need be, no?"

Yes indeed, if Uncle stands ready to put the whole corporate economy (globally) on a new "artificial" gubmint hi-fi vascular system. The chaos would be temporary and the damage to organizational momentum among our production outfits minimal. Boldness to the max of course would be de rigueur. Damn the glitches and full speed ahead -- anything less would yield unnecessary losses of real output.

Warning, Will Robinson! Warning!

Yes the commanding heights are right there within Uncle's grasp. he has all he needs to get on with it. But need I notice a jilted Wall Street gathering herself on her Manhattan Laputa, ever ready across the Rhine -- like any deposed ancien regime, preparing her vicious pounce at even the slightest wobble or uncertainty on Sam's part.

Obama got the fire in his belly for the likes of that? I mean do he look like this guy to you?

The black man who straight-armed Wall Street. Hmmmmm.

February 26, 2009

Hunter for the home team

A recent communique from my guardian gremlin, Hunter T:

"Some of you life members of the hate-America-first league oughta sit up a moment and take notice. Your preferred exploiters over there around Eurodisney are calling for the wagery to eat from the cat box these days, too:

"...and I say for all their class consciousness and red ribbons, they'll eat at least as much kitty litter as we will.

"So fuck 'em, and fuck their better cheese too. When the local hegemons over there start passing out the pink slips and report-to-the-rear notices, watch what happens -- I bet them old world wage slaves won't get one finger's length ahead of us doughfaced yanks. Fuck it, I bet we show 'em tailpipe, baby.

"Okay, you multilingual, bisexual, French ass-kissin, Uncle-is-Frankenstein types -- let's see who sinks faster and further here. And let's see who fights back harder and stronger -- Swedes and Lombards or us good ole boys playin' fer Team Dixie."

Ahh, Hunter, my Virgil -- still the rabid loyalist hometeamer, eh?

So much for the rant of a dipso gun-lusting sports fan. As guide to a class struggle world view, what's he worth?

Call me in a year or three.

March 7, 2009

The ethnomethodological interventions of the Trollblog

These are good people, with a good program for fighting the good fight. They've taken on the heavy burden of helping decent folks overcome the self-serving, self-satisfied efficacy fetishism of the neoliberals.

I can't contain my warm regard for the Trollblog. It's useless to even try. They're afflicting the comfortable and they've chosen, as their victims, the least sympathetic hacks in the world.

April 18, 2009

Alexander the Undoubtedly Great

The man hisseff!

I realize the impression has gotten around that I, Owen Thaddeus Stevens Paine, take a dim view of Counterpunch.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It's tonic to me nearly every day. Alex himself is ever-delightful, the range of topics lovely, his stable of authors wondrous.

Okay, so Alex isn't the greatest political economist of the last four decades. He doesn't think so, either. In fact, he readily admits the whole topic bores the shit out of him.

From my partial point of view, that's too bad. The site seems to fall unfailingly for the wrong rad take on most bread-and-butter macro issues.

Guys like Hudson and Pollin are utterly without value; in fact they are a dangerous diversion from the real thing. They are essayists, rabble-rousers, poseurs. They add nothing to the body of work out there floating in greek-letter space, much of it well worth a rad's time to devour.

Stiglitz' Whither Socialism, as I never fail to mention in polite company, has all the insights one needs to demolish the neolib paradigm.

You gotta get past the liberal lamb stew he makes of it, of course -- but you hardened rad types can do that standing on your heads.

Then there's Alex's home for little libertoon wonders.

Sorry, but the undersigned is one red beetle that would treat 'em generously to a guest supper now and again, and then rush 'em out the door before they could get seriously into the port.

May 3, 2009

Pinker than thou

We have a pretty functional horror show on our hands, here at the planetary epicenter of boundless corporate exploitations -- what with our public choice restricted to either the corporate cheerleader party or the party of corporate co-dependence, here in the land of the free and white and bold.

Coverage of the popular will's spectrum gets nicely reduced to a compact binary forking device: every two years or so we can choose either more corporate rampancy or a moment of corporate recovery and that's it -- that's all She-who-must-be-obeyed, Madame la Grande bourgeoisie, is gonna 'llow 'round here or ever plans to 'llow 'round here, so help her Clio.

So comes a time like now, a time of cataractic tumbling a time when our great fleet of corporations are wallowing amid the whitecaps, mastless hulks all -- and what do we hear coming out of the the left side windows of our great hall of the people's representatives?

Purple-faced shouts of "No mas! Off with their heads!"?

Not quite. What we hear is more like "they must mend their ways -- they must be good boys from now on -- they must they must they must...."

Times like these, the tower trolls resign themselves to the dragooning of the Nurse Ratcheds of the big D party. It's a 12-step morning here in America -- 12 steps to recovery.

As the codependent party plunges forth to help bind the wounds these profit freaks inflicted, even they themselves undoubtedly see through this scam, this bluff, this corporate self deception.

In their guts they know these very same abusive bastards today croaking "mea culpa" will soon enough be back up on their hind legs and at it again. But even so -- they soldier on toward squalid compromise, halfway-house socialism and detox capitalism -- ahh well, we must live together with each other somehow, right?

Why flip out at this? As the party of the second part, this is their mission, isn't it? Even as they strain at their own internal bonds, even as their rank and file grow restless, even as their big tent -- their ultimate mission-impossible triumph -- their gruesome mirage-infested prisonhouse of the exploited gets so riven with contradictions it yanks at its stake posts -- even with all this, and maybe even the possiblity of an explosive sundering of their blessed party in pieces -- the party of Marse Tom and Andy and Bill and Franklin itself -- in other words, even if it means the end of 'em -- they are preparing to lead us in a wave of forgiveness and forgetness sessions to reconcile with our limited liability tormentors.

And don't some of our most ardent radical Ricks rage like Jerry Lewis playing King Lear, at the sight of this coming our way?

Not much point in all this raging and fuming and fussing -- unless as Father Smiff recomends, it's out there in corporate traffic yer fussin' -- out there making realtime bad shit happpen right inside one of our corporate profiteering carnivals. So whence this outrage at the very thought of healing "reforms" that preserve the system?

It's simple enough really. Father Smiff's hero Doug Henwood gets it. Some radicals have reform phobia -- fear of any reforms that will preserve the existing system. If all this moment of crisis produces are reforms that lead back to corporate rampages, then we're fools to push for 'em. And horror of horrors, these half-assed thoroughly compromised spongospinal reforms might be just enough to keep "our system" in operation through another few dozen laps around the sun.

The radical Ricks present a bold choice: go for system-changing reform, and condemn anything less. Maximum plan or nothing! In-between is pure delusion.

Quite naturally, as courageous hardened ready-for-combat social souls, prepared personally to storm the local Winter Palace at the first sign of hesitation by the royal guards, they hardly quake at fierce struggle but -- the masses! The poor benighted kulak masses! The hyperpinks fear them too -- fear their easy natures, their policy ADHD, their gullibility, etc. etc.

What's a hardened cadre to do but try, by cargo-culting and rain-dancing and Tinker Bell wishing, somehow to bring on the radical conditions for change in the hearts and minds of the wage smurfs. And if that's not working too swiftly, maybe we could whip up a decent majority out of minority helots of all flavors and conscience-stricken plebs and meritoids.

Now since our missions always get mediated by our various character types, Radical Rickery too often, in my experience, gets expressed through rage-a-holic temper fits, banging of little fists and stamping of flat feet -- tantruming for revolution, so to speak.

The rage is often directed against some group of oafs, cowards, nitwits and Sybarites who in their cynical selfserving lassitutde and willful cretinism are prepared to settle for a few twigs broken off the doggy-dog tree of corporate golden apples.

In times of change like today -- these great forerunners of a better world "demand" we citizens of the world not take a corporate agent's compromised handout, but rip up as many roots of the tree of corporate life as possible. Call it revolution, one root at a time.

Mates! Brothers and sisters! Don't "settle" for a little branch removing here and there! Hell, that's pruning! Why, by taking that crumb pile and returning to quarters, you're actually giving this parasitic organism that soaks up the sweat and blood of the toilers of the earth another lease on life! You're helping horror thrive -- in spite of itself!

Now hyperpinks are harmless enough, of course, in themselves. The record shows 'twas ever thus. But there's an interesting assumption often behind calls for radical reform, that needs exposure here because it exists inside many minds out there beyond the set of hyperpinks.

Take a recent example: the call for single payer health care.

Obviously we will get there someday. Its superiority is obvious to all but its corporate opponents -- and in fact it's probably obvious even to them.

But agitprop along the lines of "we need to stab the HMO's in the heart, sweep 'em away all at once, or else" simply confuses reform with revolution.

This is a reform process, right? No one thinks hacking away the HMO's will bring the New Jerusalem. Single payer is far from a threat to the "entire corporate system". Put a stake in the HMO Dracula's heart, and fine, he's gone -- till some one else pulls the stake out in the sequel.

Surely the friggery going on around Social Security for the last 26 years proves that nothing stops the bastards. We can win a sweeping reform, but if the corporate system wants by its "spontaneous nature" to reject that reform -- it will try and try and try. And somehow, someday, it will get its agents to remove any Glass-Steagals in the way.

Such calls for sweeping reform grossly misplace the center of the revolutionary process, which does not exist inside maximum reformism, comrades. Reforms are a theater of struggle we take one by one. They are not an integrated whole. They are by definition second-bests -- all of 'em. So you push as hard as you can, but learn to move on when you hit a structural wall.

And one always arrives eventually at a structural wall.

Structural walls only fall under their own weight, and most often only just before revolutionsary situations arrive. Structural walls are interconnected, by definition, eh?

Reform movements only rearrange partitions. Reform movements you take one by one. You unite opportunistically where you can, and move forward as far as you can.

Hence popular fronts (rather than class fronts) are a reform strategy. Hyperpinks too often act as if pushing their quixotic demands for radical reform is making revolution, and as a consequence they never grasp the role of either reform or revolution in the history of class struggle.

They read Lenin and say, come the next reform struggle, "out with the cadets!"

Like the woeful knight, they see revolutionary opponents in windmills, and revolutionary allies in windbags.

Radical reform is not a tabletop way to social revolution. A revolutionary context arrives after the old regime has effectively gone into convulsions of potentially terminal disfunctionality.

If the regime can reform itself, it will, and obviously, it will then survive to exploit another day -- alas, another Biblical day, another horror-rich interval of indefinite period.

The final conflict is not about this radical reform or that radical reform. It's about taking the rare Clio-given opportunity to build the system itself anew.

If someone's so pink as to feel a thirst for radical change so powerful that the paultry harvest of reform movements just enrages 'em -- well, maybe they'd best get themselves as near as they dare to an actual revolutionary situation, and pronto.

Why waste your energy on rallying the walking dead of Broadway? There are always points of struggle on this globe where fundemental social change is aborning.

Get thee to a deeper sharper class struggle, dear hyperpinks. Leave this ulcer-building act, here in the belly of the beast, to more supple, less self-aggrandizing combatants.

December 18, 2010


A minor flapdoodle has erupted in recent days after publication of "An Open Letter to the Left Establishment" sent by, who else, the left establishment, or a portion thereof. Full disclosure: though my own distinguished signature was not individually sought for this broadside, I nevertheless went to the Web site and signed on as a steerage passenger, and I encourage everybody else to go and do likewise, for two reasons: 1) The letter calls for "disruptive" protest -- an idea dear to my heart -- and 2) it made Tom Hayden furious.

Hayden's response is worth reading, if you've got a few minutes to kill, and if you enjoy the spectacle of a preening popinjay writhing under an affront to his amour-propre. But he doesn't have anything interesting to say, of course.

Bill Fletcher, however -- one of Obie's legions of "critical supporters" -- is somewhat interesting, though a little obscure, in his own clearly annoyed response to the letter:

"The Letter reads as if those named in the first paragraph have been sitting on their hands or standing at the gates refusing to permit the masses to pass through and challenge Obama... it is odd that the names would all be thrown together as if someone were actually trying to stir up confusion and promote disinformation. I don't know, but i have actually seen a film much like this before....

One thing that the authors of the Letter did not address was the question of the African American electorate. I don't know about you, but how we handle the question of this administration is particularly dicey when the African American electorate feels, overwhelmingly, that Obama is under an intense racist assault from the political Right (which is, as you know, quite correct). This basic question of the African American electorate and huge portions of the Latino electorate means that our electoral tactics in the coming two years will have to be handled very carefully, even while we put the pressure on this administration and struggle against its defense of warmed over neo-liberalism.

That second paragraph is intriguing. What's Fletcher's downside scenario, I wonder? Attacking Obie from the left is going to make some black folks do... what? Join the Teabaggers? Get annoyed at white leftists? Vote Republican? Sit out the next election?

Some of these scenarios seem unlikely -- the Teabagger option, for example. Others, though perhaps regrettable, are tolerable: tension between some white lefties and some black activists is an old story; it doesn't necessarily reflect badly on either party -- nobody has a monopoly on wisdom, and everybody has a duty to fight his own corner; and we can always get together on the things we agree about, even while sniping about the ones we don't agree about.

But one, at least, of these scenarios seems to me like an unalloyed good: namely, that disillusioned black folks might sit out the next election in droves. As I've argued many times here, it's better to do nothing than to do something that's actively harmful.

May 7, 2011

The gnawing criticism of the mice

Today we ask the Vozhd's old question, 'How many divisions'? In this case, with reference to Professor N Chomsky.


Latin master father M Tully Smiff, after much importuning, finally got yours insincerely here to visit that left blisterkrieg listserv girdling the known world and run by the reDougable Mr Henwood.

I'm hooked. Each day I read more deeply there. It makes me ruminate massively, constantly, and without relief. My cud runneth over. Now I'm-a gonna share a chaw with y'all, as Father's Kentucky kinfolks would say.

We begin with a quote from Father's diocesan, Bishop Chomsky:

"When the world’s two great propaganda systems agree on some doctrine, it requires some intellectual effort to escape its shackles. One such doctrine is that the society created by Lenin and Trotsky and molded further by Stalin and his successors has some relation to socialism in some meaningful or histoically accurate sense of this concept. In fact, if there is a relation, it is the relation of contradiction."

"The founders of classical liberalism, people like Adam Smith and Wilhelm von Humboldt... were what we would call libertarian socialists.... For example, Humboldt, like Smith, says, Consider a craftsman who builds some beautiful thing. Humboldt says if he does it under external coercion, like pay, for wages, we may admire what he does but we despise what he is. On the other hand, if he does it out of his own free, creative expression of himself, under free will, not under external coercion of wage labor, then we also admire what he is because he's a human being.....

"I think that the libertarian socialist concepts-and by that I mean a range of thinking that extends from left-wing Marxism through anarchism-are fundamentally correct and that they are the proper and natural extension of classical liberalism into the era of advanced industrial society."

Noam apparently stepped on some red corn-covered toes:
"His description of the then USSR as "the society created by Lenin...and molded further by Stalin" is... nothing but inverted Stalinism, made worse, if possible, by the anticommunist slander of Trotsky as the sponsor of the gravedigger of the revolution."

Nothing like a Trotter for out-of-the-gate speed; but the pain and the repressed shame brings out this wonderful troika of venal particulars:

"Chomsky makes his reputation by rehearsing the obvious crimes and hypocracies of the imperial powers. When he talks about history or socialism he is a total numbskull. When he talks about politics he is an Obama-voter."
My God, I could float forever on this Mississippi of the pink mind. There's always the innocent wabbit hefting a papier-mache stage dumbell:
"Theoretically they might be contradictory, but historically, I don't know how much better Lenin/Trotsky might have done."
Should maybe have left it at that; but then this bunny shits a painted easter egg:
"My favorite definition of socialism so far came from Howard Zinn: "I believe in socialism without prisons," he said."
As a cap to this all-too-brief jester's tourney, we have of course the the saturnine host himself, Captain Henwood, parting the stage curtain and interjecting with a positively Chaney-like scowly growly:
"Classical liberalism? Really?... This only confirms my worst suspicions about anarchists-they're individualists of a fundamentally conventional sort... If individuals weren't "distorted" by society, they'd naturally tend towards truth and justice. Which is a very strange and shallow notion of the individual, isn't it? ... In other words, remove the "distortions" and we'll blossom into freedom and self-realization. Which fits in perfectly with C's whole political project of fact-checking the bourgeois media. If it weren't for those lies, the truth could run free. Sure."

October 1, 2011

Return of the repressed

The NYPD creeps seem to have entrapped some hundreds of Occupy Wall Street participants on the Brooklyn Bridge, and are now arresting them and shipping them off in buses ordered up from Rikers Island -- New York City's local portion of the American gulag archipelago -- well before the contrived emergency occurred. Clearly a premeditated move.

One wonders whether Czar Michael(*) himself was down with this. I had the strong feeling, last night, that the cops were restraining themselves with great difficulty from their usual amusements with pepper spray, BDSM gear, and toilet plungers; and I figured that this reflected an ukase right from the Kremlin, to the effect that we don't want any more pepper-spray embarrassments. Leave 'em alone, they'll get bored and go away.

Did the rather impressive numbers last night change the Czar's mind? Or have the cops taken the initiative here, and created, as our Israeli friends say, "facts on the ground"?

Either way, the OWS comrades should feel very pleased. Clearly they are being taken seriously by people in positions of authority -- if not by crabby old Marx queens on mailing lists.


PS -- Serendipity department: Literally a second after I posted this, the following plopped into my inbox:

New York City Police Foundation — New York

JPMorgan Chase recently donated an unprecedented $4.6 million to the New York City Police Foundation. The gift was the largest in the history of the foundation and will enable the New York City Police Department to strengthen security in the Big Apple. The money will pay for 1,000 new patrol car laptops, as well as security monitoring software in the NYPD's main data center.

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly sent CEO and Chairman Jamie Dimon a note expressing "profound gratitude" for the company's donation.

"These officers put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe," Dimon said. "We're incredibly proud to help them build this program and let them know how much we value their hard work."

Accent on the "us", hey Jamie?

Really, as they say, you can't make this stuff up.


(*) Bloomberg, that is; our God-anointed absolutist mayor.

October 13, 2011

I never drink... wine

Comrade Mike Flugennock, on target again.

Sweeping up the filth

So Bloomie's patience, never very long, is finally at an end, and he's moving to roll up the Occupy Wall Street presence in Zucotti Park at police gunpoint. The hammer is supposed to descend at 7 AM tomorrow (Friday the 14th), and the occupiers are calling for people to show up beforehand. I plan to head down there.

The pretext, rather humorously, is that the park needs to be 'cleaned'. It's interesting to contemplate the link between cleanliness and repression -- in both the political and psychological senses of the latter term.

Bloomberg's justification for rounding up the occupiers in the name of 'cleanliness' is only a pretext, of course, but it isn't randomly chosen. He might just as well have said he needed to dig up water pipes or electric cables or replace the pavement, but he didn't. The imagery of 'cleaning up' no doubt appeals to Bloomie himself on a psychic level, but it also appeals to his constituency.

The accumulation of wealth is notoriously connected, in the economy of libido, with the retention of feces. Gainers and retainers of wealth, on a deep level, hug their own filth to themselves -- even wallow in it, as Scrooge McDuck so evocatively did in his Money Bin, like a dog rolling in his own excrement. Do we not describe people as "filthy rich"? These old phrases contain much wisdom, hidden in plain sight. But the filth of the rich must be regarded as clean; pecunia non olet, as Vespasian remarked in connection with another public-sanitation initiative. Therefore something else must become filthy -- and what more suitable, more poetic, than people who don't have any money?

"Treating people like dirt" is another phrase that contains more wisdom than we realize. (Was it Levi-Strauss who said that from the anthropological perspective 'dirt' can be defined as 'matter out of place'?) One must view people as dirt before one can sweep them up. The occupiers astutely note that the "real dirt" is not to be found among them, but among their enemies. And for this very reason, they're the ones who have to be cleaned up.

October 14, 2011

The old war horse canters again

He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.

My daughter and I got up at the crack of dawn -- before it, actually -- and went downtown to join the Wall Street occupiers in anticipation of Bloomberg's 7 AM cleanup, announced yesterday. We arrived about 5:30.

I had been quite apprehensive about it. I used to be a bold fellow about this sort of thing, but age has made me timorous; and though the NYPD were always brutes, they're a lot worse now -- too numerous, too heavily equipped with expensive lethal toys, and too eager to use them: and the human material of the force seems much more twisted, degraded, and malevolent than it was twenty years ago.

Still: somebody once said that 90% of life is just showing up, and I felt that if I didn't show up for this show-down it would be even harder than usual to look at myself in the mirror. And my daughter, who's been hanging out with the occupiers for the last few days, was also eager (though also apprehensive). So there was no choice, really.

I felt a lot better as soon as I turned the corner and saw the crowd. There were lots of people there, and more streaming in along with us. I'm no good at estimating crowd size, but the square, which is not small, was chockfull and shoulder-to-shoulder, and spilling out onto the sidewalks and streets nearby.

As always, a very young crowd, though there were a few grizzled old stagers like myself. The crowd was very revved-up and full of beans, and at the same time calm and resolute. They were clearly determined to stand their ground as best they could, but one felt none of the crazy chaotic energy of a mob.

There was a look on so many of these young faces that was really beyond praise. How my old heart went out to them. It's been a while since I've felt this pleased to be a member of our peculiar species.

Some union contingents arrived while we were there and they were lustily cheered.

There was some tension in the air as the 7 AM deadline approached. A speaker was trying to circulate information about legal aid and sort out those willing to be arrested from those not; the willing were to stay in the park, the others to retire to the sidewalks adjacent and lend moral support and bear witness. I was trying to figure out whether I was among the willing or not.

I'll never know; Bloomberg blinked. The speaker broke off and then read a communique from City Hall: the "cleanup" had been "postponed" -- if I understood correctly -- "because there are too many people in the park".

Well, that last clause, at least, was truthful -- probably the first truthful thing City Hall has said in quite some time. It was a fine moment; people cheering, hugging each other and so on.

Okay, so it wasn't Stalingrad. I expect we'll see a lot of dubious Eeyorish head-wagging about the long road ahead, about the difficulty of 'building' -- what? Whatever.

An acquaintance of mine recently reminded me of a trenchant passage in the Moor's Civil War in France, speaking of the Communards of Paris:

They have no ideals to realize, but to set free the elements of the new society with which old collapsing bourgeois society itself is pregnant. In the full consciousness of their historic mission, and with the heroic resolve to act up to it, the working class can afford to smile at the coarse invective of the gentlemen’s gentlemen with pen and inkhorn, and at the didactic patronage of well-wishing bourgeois-doctrinaires, pouring forth their ignorant platitudes and sectarian crotchets in the oracular tone of scientific infallibility.
Old Charlie was no dope.

Not Stalingrad, okay. But it's been a long time since the Ringwraiths of Mordor-on-Hudson even had to rein in their nightmare steeds momentarily. And I don't think anybody who was in the square today will soon forget how they stared down the iron juggernaut just by being there.

There are more of us than there are of them. It's a priceless insight, and the foundation of everything else.

October 25, 2011


I wish I could take credit for the eloquent image above, but alas, I just found it on the Web.

My daughter and I went down today to spend a couple of hours with the Wall Street occupiers, and she took a lot of quite nice cell phone pictures, but we couldn't figure out a way to get them off her phone. We'll keep trying.

She's been there more recently that I have; it's been a week for me. I was very struck by a couple of things.

The whole place is a tent city now. Tents were supposed to be strengst-verboten when the occupation started, but after the mayor backed down, week before last, it seems that the occupiers have taken the bit between their teeth. There are nice North Face tents and ratty Coleman tents and tents that aren't tents at all -- just thin cheap blue plastic tarps draped over nylon clothesline stretched between the spindly trees of the park.

The ratty and improvised greatly outnumber the spiffy and nice. There are beach umbrellas with tarps draped over them, and wild fantastical constructions supported on bungee cords and broomsticks and PVC tubing. There are areas of twenty by thirty feet or so entirely covered by such interlinked ingenuities, and although I didn't trespass, one has the feeling that the spaces so created are not sealed off from each other -- that there's a labyrinth of passages and portals and interconnections among the dozens of little cells under each integument. It made me think, oddly, of the notorious Viet Cong tunnel network back in the day.

Along with the residential development I felt a slight difference in the composition of the crowd. Much of today's group seemed like residents -- not just droppers-in, like me, or brave and praiseworthy fellow-travellers like a lot of the kids who came two weeks ago to face down Bloomberg's cleanup. A slightly sterner-faced, more committed crowd today: people who looked like they had been there for a while and might even be starting to think of it as home.

The natterers have been working overtime the last few days. First we were told that the drummers were going to spoil it for everybody else. Then there was a flap with something called the "Demands Working Group", vel sim, which seems to have come into conflict with other activist elements. The twists and turns of this latter story are a lot too complicated for my brain -- I can't even remember who's who in King Lear. But in this case too, the conflict seems to have fizzled.

On the subway, coming home, I mentioned to my daughter that people were saying the occupiers were a largely white and largely male group. She looked at me as if I had suddenly begun to practice glossolalia. "That's... crazy!" she said. "That's not true at all."

She's right. It's not. It's probably even less true than it was a week ago.

November 3, 2011

There IS a there there, after all

Gertrude Stein, who was from Oakland, famously observed that "there's no there there." Probably true at the time, but there's certainly a there there now.

A lot of my Lefty comrades are trying to draw a very sharp distinction between the tens of thousands who marched there yesterday and shut down the port, on the one hand, and those (apparently rather few) who broke some bank windows and spray-painted some bank facades, on the other. There's a near-consensus that the latter are probably provocateurs.

Wouldn't surprise me a bit if that were true -- if the window-breakers were cops in disguise, trying to put the movement in the wrong. We'll probably never know, but there certainly isn't anything implausible about this hypothesis.

However. I am inclined to believe that hoping for backlash is as foolish as fearing it. That is: if the cops think that bad behavior attributable to the Occupiers is in itself going to turn the public against them, then they are as deluded as the timorous Lefties who spend their lives worrying that backlash will spoil everything.

Smashing some bank windows doesn't seem like such a terrible thing to me, and seizing an abandoned building seems brilliant.

November 10, 2011

DEFINITELY all right

Look at the way the kids stand their ground. God, how I love 'em.

November 12, 2011

Bellum intestinum

One of my old Maoist comrades,a lurker on this blog -- let's call him Feliks -- has been berating me lately for being squishy-soft on anarchism.

Feliks has got a point. I'm not as antagonistic to the whole anarcho thing these days as I once would have been.

'These days' is the operative term. Feliks and I knew self-proclaimed anarchists back in the 70s whose anarchism was merely a thin left cover for bourgeois liberal anti-communism, but let's face it, communism isn't scary enough these days to produce anti-communists. It's just not on the table at all, in fact. One may deplore the fact, but fact it remains.

The vaguely-defined 'anarchism' that seems to be frequently met with among the Occupations seems rather open and undogmatic to me -- not a defense mechanism against real activism, as it so often was back in the day. (Obviously, since they're out there stopping traffic.)

As the Occupations continue, evolution will do doubt take place, as is its wont. Will the Occupations evolve into something that Feliks and I might find more familiar and ideologically congenial? Who knows? Part of me would like to think so, and part of me is wondering whether we might be looking at something new and different. What's the right analogy? 1905? 1789? 1649? None of the above? I personally have no idea how to answer this one. Only time will tell, surely.

Meanwhile, it seems clear that trying to sell classic Leninism constitutes pissing into the wind. Some of these old arguments may become relevant again -- probably will, in fact -- but if they do, they will only usefully do so in a practical context, not on a mailing list or a blog.

The old ML war horse in me is certainly not dead, and when the sealed train arrives at the Finland Station I'll happily place myself under strict Party discipline along with Feliks. Do us both a world of good. Meanwhile, the moment seems too intense and interesting to waste in arid, abstract, and over-familiar quarrels.

November 15, 2011

OWS live stream

Wonderful stuff. I'm going to be off the grid for a few hours this afternoon.

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