Monday, January 31, 2011

Viva Assange! (And Bradley Manning To)

Aside from CBS's Steve Kroft's occasional bullshit...."He has conspiratorial views....." which is a just a subtle smear trying to link him with silly 9-11 truth. A decent interview, at least on Assange's end.

Part II on You Tube of course (embed disabled).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Great Loss, Howard Zinn, Died One Year Ago Today

Howard Zinn's Peoples' History of the United States is a book that can and has revolutionized peoples consciousness about the true history of the United States of America.  How much poorer we would be without that comprehensive work of history that thread together the truth about Columbus and his treatment of the Caribbean natives, the class divisions within the 13 colonies, slave revolts, the atrocities against Native Americans by that man honored on the $20 dollar bill, President Andrew Jackson etc..  And also the history or the civil rights and labor movements, and how working people have organized and fought back to push America in the direction of social justice and living up to her highest most humanistic ideals; and his argument and example that it is common people in the street of their communities who make history.  Thank you Howard Zinn! Presente!

Don't Know Much About Smoky the Bear

More from Judson Phillips and the Tea Party Nation on applauding Rand Paul's proposals and the fantasy to deeply cut government spending, A good start - Tea Party Nation

"Massive cuts in the Department of Agriculture.  Here is a shocking statistic.  There is one Department of Agriculture employee for every nine farmers.   At that rate, every farmer should know half a dozen of those employees on a first name basis."

Phillips doesn't provide us with much of what he thinks is wrong or wasteful with government spending here.  Of course the U.S farm bills and subsidies to farmers for various production and non-production practices is a place we might consider reforming.  But this statistic is pretty much worthless and misleading.  Also within the domain of the USDA is the U.S. Forest Service.  Perhaps Phillips hasn't noticed, but National Forests take up a massive amount of public lands throughout the country that require managing as "lands of many uses" such as recreation (hunting and fishing!, mining, timber sales etc..  Most likely a goodly portion of USDA employees are not likely directly involved in farming related stuff.  Now I am sure he would be more than happy to argue that all these  public lands don't need to be managed and should be sold off to the highest bidder.  But the point is, its easy to say cut this or that without knowing what the hell you are cutting. 

Phillips of course sees all kinds of cuts to domestic care of this country as imperative.  But what needs to be increased predictably is......
"Defense is the one budget that needs to be increased.  For almost ten years our country has had ongoing combat operations.  George Bush increased the defense budget some, but he still tried to do the war on the cheap.  Since the Obama regime took over, defense has been gutted."
One wonders why many of these Tea Party people are so enthusiastic about foreign wars?  More on that another time. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Title? Who Needs a Title?

As a Federal employee I periodically receive emails at work from the White House soliciting suggestions and ideas, and asking for votes on these ideas, as to how the U.S. Government agencies can save money by cutting this or that practice.  I have responded with both ideas, and votes to choose winning ideas.  I guess this has gotten me on a email list for the White House's propaganda I mean public communications efforts.  (I am in fact not a registered Democrat, nor did I campaign or vote for Barack Obama or the other guy).  Anywhoooo, today's email in anticipation of the State of the Union address said:
"Good morning,
Tonight at 9 p.m. EST, President Obama will deliver the State of the Union Address and outline his vision for putting aside the politics that divide us and moving forward to create jobs, up our game to out-compete in the global economy, and win the future for our children and our country."
Really?  Isn't it high time Obama pull his head out of his ass and stop thinking we should put aside the politics that divides us?  After all, that is what makes politics interesting and exciting.  The fact is, if you make more than 250 grand and don't think you ought to pony-up some more cash to pay for your wars, and your bank bail-outs, and my salary, then fuck you, we are going to be divided.  How's that for the "new civility"?

And what is this about "uping our game and out-competing in the global economy."  Lets not fool our selves fellow workers. When the ruling class talks about competition, they just might be talking about a race to the bottom for you and me, and that's your cue to be prepared to take a pay cut and drop to your knees begging for the better crumbs.  But seriously, Krugman's most recent column does a good civil job of questioning the The Competition Myth, and still manages to maintain civility.   

To Hell With the New Civility!

To hell with this new civility bullshit!  Lets face it, this is just another ploy of the mainstream corporate press and the Obama Democrats to smooth out the real conflicts of American society that should have erupted into full view yesterday.  Politics is about the life and death struggle for power and resources, and its about time people start standing up, not laying down.  Doug Henwood says it nicely (January 15th 2011 entry):

Perhaps most annoying has been the call for a return to civility. Well, no, I don’t feel like being civil. I like being rude. The problem with the rudeness in American political discourse is that it’s often so stupid, not that it’s so rude. The idea that politics can be civil is a fantasy for elite technocrats and the well-heeled. I’m reminded of something that Adolph Reed once said to me, characterizing a mutual acquaintance as the kind of person who thinks that if you could just get all the smart people together on Martha’s Vineyard, they could solve all our social problems. Obviously they couldn’t.
Margaret Atwood once wrote that politics is about “power: who’s got it, who wants it, how it operates; in a word, who’s allowed to do what to whom, who gets what from whom, who gets away with it and how.” There’s no way that could be rendered civil. The field of politics is constituted by vast differences in interests and preferences. Much of the time, we don’t talk about those things directly or explicitly. We talk about them in caricature or euphemism, or take it out on scapegoats.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I like Google!

I got to admit it. I like Google products, Gmail is great and their unobtrusive adds versus Yahoo's obtrusive annoying adds lured me away from Yahoo. And here I am using Blogger, which seems to work pretty well for me, although I have heard good things about Wordpress, I am still using Blogger. And then their is Google Earth which is one of my favorite internet toys. So color me a lemming, and I am sure there is a dark underbelly to the beast, but the fact that they are moving to employ more people against the wishes of Wall Street just puts a little bit more icing on the cake.
Searching For Work? Google's Hiring Thousands : NPR: "But Google's push to further expand a work force that grew by 23 percent last year may not be as well received on Wall Street, where the Internet search leader's spending has annoyed some investors who would prefer a more frugal approach in hopes of fatter returns."

Throwing the Birthers a Bone

In my efforts to make a sincere effort to understand where Tea Party people are coming from, I signed up for a log-in to the Tea Party Nation web site. You see, unless you sign up, then they don't want you reading about what they are thinking and saying to themselves. At least that's what I am guessing. So now I receive multiple emails daily with links to the rantings of Tea Party activists. I thought I might do some public service, or just have some grist for my mill, and post and comment on some of this stuff. The most regular author is Judson Phillips who gained recent acclaim as an admirer of the Founding Father's practice of limiting voting rights to property owners. This is what he has to say about the Obama's birth origins (you can try the link for yourself, but it probably won't work):

Obama has been itching for a fight with the conservative Supreme Court members knowing they will not fight back publicly. Perhaps they won’t, but if John Roberts had the backbone, he could make Obama’s life really interesting.
To start with, he could grant cert (permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, for the non-lawyers) on one of the Obama birth certificate cases. Preferably Orly Taitz’s case.
I, for one, believe that the evidence available, such as it is, makes it more likely than not that Obama was in fact born in Hawaii. Whether he lost his citizenship when he was adopted by a foreign national and moved to a foreign country is a different story. Obama has spent millions to keep his birth certificate private. Now, Hawaii’s governor Neil Abercrombie has stepped into it, first vowing to release the birth certificate, then saying it could not be located and finally saying Hawaii law prohibited the release of the document. 
So I guess Phillips wants to throw the Birthers a bone to keep them in the fold, but does not want to personally concede to their total nuttiness. Never mind the fact that if you are born within the United States, nothing like moving to another country or being adopted by a foreign national is going to cause you to lose your citizenship. Now I am so charitable, that I even checked into to look into this claim that Obama has spent millions to keep some version of his birth certificate private. Couldn't find any reference to it. All I know is I have seen a scan of his birth certificate that looks alot like the one I have used to obtain a passport, but it says "Barack Obama" and is from the state of Hawaii.

Obama could of course release the document. He has spent millions of dollars, in true liberal fashion by using other people’s money, to keep that birth certificate out of sight.
I happen to subscribe to the theory that there is something on that birth certificate that destroys the myth of Barack Obama. Myth destroyed, he simply fades away.
Gosh, I wonder what myth he could be destroyed? That he's is a secret Muslim? A Socialist? Of course for the latter, is just plain to see from his pro-corporate kiss ass policies, and these yahoos can't even break out of that delusion.

One more thing, be very careful when watching the State of the Union address. The following link was posted in the comments to the aforementioned article.

Marty Two Bulls | Indian Country Today Media

I happen to live in so-called "Indian Country" which is actually the whole United States, and I deal with native issues as part of my job.  And so I check into Native American web sites and media.  And it really is too bad that Native American humor isn't jabbed in the eye of Euro-American folks more often.  I would do them some good.

Marty Two Bulls Indian Country Today Media

Monday, January 24, 2011

Smart Things Some People Say on the Internet 1

From a comment by GRMCE on the article:
Caller: Dr. Laura Is Lying About Me | Media Matters for America:

"This is what I mean about confusing 'freedom of speech' with using a privileged position in the mass media to spout lies and falsehoods about those who do not have equal access to defend themselves.

Not the same."
And of course Dr. Laura has vastly disproportionate power and a platform to rewrite history.  Much, much, more so than one of here average callers like Nita "Jade" Hanson.

"She's just a bully," Hanson said
Yes she is!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Wanna-Be Heroes With Guns

I made the following comment at NYT's Timothy Egan's post Myth of the Hero Gunslinger.
I actually live in Arizona, and on occasion I see people with un-
concealed weapons at their side in public. One wonders what they think they are accomplishing? It simply looks very uncomfortable to me.
If the store that we both happen to be in at that time is the site of an armed robbery, do they think they are going to draw and take a shot at the robber? Seems in that situation it would be best to stand aside and let the cashiers hand over the money and hope for the best. And if they do take a shot at the robber, are they so sure they are going to hit the bad guy instead of an innocent bystander? Perhaps they think that by being visibly armed that they are a deterent. Instead, it just may make them a target. The bad guy sees they are armed and takes a shot at them.

I can't help but think these people have seen too many movie shoot-outs and are just looking for their chance to play the hero. However, things don't always turn out for the best like they do in the movies.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Some Basic Marxist Education Part 2: David Harvey on The Current Crises of Capitalism Animated!

This is a great and very short YouTube video of a snippet of a lecture by David Harvey presenting a Marxist analysis and explanation of the most recent crisis of capitalism, and it is accompanied by a very cool animation illustrating the analysis.

A word about David Harvey.  At this point in history, he is an amazing resource for understanding Marx's very difficult magnum opus, Capital.  This is because Harvey has been teaching a course on the book for something like 20 years, and now the course is available on the inter-tubes in multiple video and audio formats, and in his very pleasant British accent.  You don't even have to attend Columbia University (Or is it NYU?)!  I will be linking to the course and his web site soon.

Interestingly enough, Harvey's primary academic discipline is geography, not economics.  And now he has a professorship in an anthropology department.  A man after my own heart, Marxist economics, anthropology and geography.  Enjoy.   

Class Struggle, We Are Losing (another link dump with a quote)

Profits, however, depend on two things: the amount of value that gets created (output) and the share of that value that goes to profits. With a high level of unemployment, workers are in a poor position to demand higher wages—i.e., a larger share of that value. So businesses, and the wealthy who get their income from owning businesses, do not want unemployment to fall too low—low enough to give workers more bargaining power.
The weak position of workers in the current economic situation affects more than wages. While a recession lasts, businesses are able to implement changes more readily than in “normal” times. For example, they can change work rules, get rid of older workers, and bring in new technology more easily, as workers are in a poorer position to resist change. Also, the “shock” imposed on society by bad economic conditions can be used in the political sphere, making it possible for businesses and the wealthy to obtain concessions from government—the tax incentives state governments offer, for example, in the hope of generating some local growth. (However, an economic crisis also opens up possibilities for changes in the other direction. Consider, for example, the progressive changes in the United States that came out of the Great Depression of the 1930s.)
From the perspective of the wealthy, then, perhaps a bit more growth would be better, but not so much as to weaken their positions. Most important, if that growth required the government to spend a lot more by running deficits, the wealthy are not interested. They fear that high deficits now mean more taxes down the line. In part, higher taxes could be needed to pay off the debt the government would incur when it ran those deficits. Perhaps more important, upping government spending today threatens to entrench a long-run higher level of government activity, which would require higher taxes on a permanent basis. The wealthy might be able to push the tax obligations onto lower income groups. Yet, with income inequality as great as it is, it’s hard to get much more out of anyone but the wealthy. You can’t get blood from a stone.

Aborted Post Link Dump 1 (or is it 2 or 3?)

Well, my original intention for this blog was for me to do the actual writing and thinking. But I am busy with a job (wooo hooo lucky me), a naggy wife, and an energetic seven year old boy.  I just don't have the time I would like to have to devote to this.  But I want to stay active, so here is another "link dump" of articles I intended to think and write about.  With maybe just a little commentary from yours truly.  That Blogger share button sure is handy!

Why the Rich Are Getting Richer | Foreign Affairs
I am sure its complicated, but this article makes the argument that it is purposeful government policy.  

Then there is all this righty rhetoric about how the U.S. Constitution is the closest to thing to perfection that a political document could ever be.  And then the poppycock about the infinite wisdom of the "Founding Fathers".  Its about time that people start turning a critical eye on these quasi-religious beliefs.
Let's stop pretending the Constitution is sacred

The battle over the Constitution:

For the next two links I was going to write about how the US Military is so widely adored in American society, but is in fact a very socially ill and corrupt institution in any number of ways.  From the corruption linked to military spending, rape and sexual harassment in the military, imposed religious persecutions and conformity, to the epidemic suicides of returning soldiers etc..  Shit, this isn't even getting started on the atrocities perpetrated by the U.S. Military overseas!

There were a few days when I happened on lots of links at Al Jazeera.

And of course healthcare, which I should have more links for, oh well:

Some Basic Marxist Education For Those Who Care to Know, Part I (?)


In the past few years since the 2008 presidential election, the intended derogatory label "Marxist" and "socialist" it seems has been hurled around with ever greater frequency.  Most of the time the writer or speaker is a right-wing idiot who doesn't know diddly squat about what they are talking about.  The fact of the matter is, lots of people think they know about Marx, but they really don't.  A one time read through The Communist Manifesto just won't cut it!

Furthermore, I have been following Eli's Rust Belt Philosophy blog for several years now, and I have always enjoyed his debunking of right-wing idiocy and other thoughts.  As I understand it, he is a grad student at the Unv. of Pittsburgh's department of The Philosophy of Science (I also took some courses in that department many moons ago, but that is another story). a recent blog post, Eli says:
So I'm no Marxist - I've never read the guy and to be completely honest I'm not sure that I get the outlook in general - but that won't stop me from trying my hand at (what I take to be) a Marxist analysis of some movies I've recently seen. On the one hand, there is poverty, represented by Winter's Bone; on the other is wealth and Rabbit Hole.
 At least he's honest (and I have yet to read his reviews). But I thought to my self, here is a well educated left-leaning fellow, a philosophy of science student no less, who claims he has not read Marx and knows very little about Marxist thought, and this must be corrected!  Now I am certainly no expert on Marx and his intellectual legacy, yet compared to the vast majority of my fellow citizens, I am relatively quite knowledgeable on this subject.  So I thought, why don't I compile some resources from the web to provide some basic Marxist education for anybody who might want to educate themselves about Marx and Marxist thought?  So why don't we start out with a little humor and song?  Parts 2 to...... ??? will be forthcoming....

Politics and Values "Could Sarah Palin be right about Michelle Obama?"

Could Sarah Palin be right about Michelle Obama?! - No!

I do not believe it is the job of the federal government to teach us anything. It is simply part of the apparatus of compulsion and coercion whose job it is, at most, to main the basics of social order. When we allow it to become our Teacher we are elevating it to a role for which it has no comparative moral authority. Why should its values be authoritative? Why not my values? Why not your values?
Really, lets just knock off the bullshit here.  The fact of the matter is, public health and childhood obesity is a matter of public interest.  Even the military is concerned that childhood obesity will interfere with a viable and sizable pool of cannon fodder.  Whether society decides to maintain our dependence on private for profit health insurance, with or without "Obamacare", or more preferably move towards genuine universal socialist healthcare, our collective health effects us all.  The avoidable and unneccessary health problems associated with childhood and adult obesity will cost us all, no matter how we decide to pay for it.  And in fact it will disproportionately hurt the poor and lower income working class more.  On the other hand, the owners of America's fast and processed food industry will continue to get rich on people's poor eating habits.  

Let's also face some other facts about values, politics, and government.  These are already and intrinsically a battlefield for people's values.  In fact, politics is all about "values".  Its about fighting about whose values gets to win out collectively in society.  Its about whether we value education, human health and welfare for all people.  Or whether we value privileges and obscenely disproportionate wealth for a relative few, and military hardware for  blowing people and their stuff up in far away places.  Unfortunately the latter set of values have held sway for to long.  So yes, it is time we start fighting to impose the former humanistic values on the greedy bastards who don't hold them.   

Friday, January 21, 2011

This About Sum up My Attitude....

How to Change the World: Tales of Marx and Marxism, By Eric Hobsbawm - Reviews -

"Hobsbawm is generally pessimistic about the future, seeing no new agency of transformation. This has not changed his view of the intellectual greatness of Marx, or of what he can contribute to our understanding of contemporary politics.
The 2008 financial crash was a reminder of how capitalism continues to generate system-threatening crises. Marx's own millenarian hopes about the creation of a classless society beyond conflict may have proved illusory. But Marx as the shrewd analyst of the realities which continue to determine the way economy, politics and society operate under capitalism remains indispensable."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Risks and Rewards

You often hear propaganda to the effect that those who own and invest capital take risks with that capital, and thus deserve the extravagant rewards to the tune of millions and millions of dollars.  The worker on the other hand risks nothing and supposedly gets a fair wage for his day of labor.  This is of course bullshit, and nowhere is this so starkly clear than in the case of Don Blankenship of Massey Energy who was overlord to the deaths of at least 29 coal miners.  And these deaths were do to the Blankenship's purposeful attempt to dodge safety regulations.  From the Pro-Publica web site: 

The company poses a particular challenge to regulators. The Washington Post reported this week that for years the company managed to strike deals and get passes from regulators:
Massey's approach to federal regulation has been notable for two tactics that, according to critics, allow the company to thwart or skirt safety requirements. First, Massey has persuaded regulators to forgo safety rules on a case-by-case basis. Second, the company routinely contests federal citations in a manner that makes it virtually impossible for the government to force quick safety overhauls in the nation's most hazardous mines.
Under Blankenship, Massey had mastered the art of the regulatory waiver, a way to legally circumvent federal mining laws. The MSHA has approved 30 petitions from Massey to operate its mines outside of safety mandates, more than for any other company. Most were in the past decade.

As for the rewards, Blankenship gets to retire with a 12 million dollar severance, and I am sure that is already on top of the millions he already has.  As for the salt of the earth coal miners, the ones still alive get black lung, future unemployment in a degraded environment, and likely an early death.  Lets not forget who really takes the risks with life and health.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

NAILED IT! On Government Censorship in America

Glenn Greenwald - "The reason there's so little government censorship of the press in America is because it's totally unnecessary; why would the government even want to censor a media this compliant and subservient?"

And I highly recommend the article by Greenwald on the U.S. Media's Iraqi War Propaganda.