zaterdag, juli 31, 2004

175 big ones still not enough to pay for university

Tom Ridge Is Leaving the Administration

Brad DeLong spotted this one in the American Prospect:
"I've got no speculation as to the reason Tom Ridge has made it public that he's likely to step down from his post as Secretary of Homeland Security after the November election. But the given explanation seems a bit off-message for the Bush-Cheney reelect campaign:
Ridge, 58, has explained to colleagues that he needs to earn money to comfortably put his two children, Tommy Jr. and Lesley, through college, officials said. Both are now teenagers. Ridge earns $175,700 a year as a Cabinet secretary.
Ridge doesn't need to spend more time with his family -- he just needs to spend more money on his family. Even Ridge's salary, which on its own puts his family among the top 5 percent of household incomes, isn't enough to pay for college. So much for the idea that families would 'start to see some relief on the tuition front.'"
Cracks me up, this. I was active with the Canadian Federation of Students for, well, far longer than it should take even the laziest student to graduate from university, and after all those years spent fighting tuition fee increases, I find it the funniest thing in the world that Tom Ridge, who earns 175 large, can't afford to send his kids to school.


Anti-Bush toy made in Malaysia, natch.

I get hot and cold about Naomi Klein. One has to credit her with having the foresight to write what would become as many have said, without too much hyperbole, the 'bible of the anti-globalisation movement', No Logo, before Seattle. She was in no way jumping on a bandwagon (not that the global justice movement is a particularly bad bandwagon on which to jump. Jump away) and clearly and in a savvy, well-produced book outlined many of the key arguments against the corporate sacking of the western welfare state and the unmitigated pillage of the third world. Where I go cold toward her is when she embraces the 'march-around-the-state' politics of John Holloway, Ya Basta/Tutti Bianchi, the PGA and other anarcho-reformist/rejectionists.

Right now, I am more hot toward her than cold, and not because she is a very nice bit of anti-capitalist crumpet, but because of her recent subversive little 'endorsement' of John Kerry in the Nation (reprinted in today's Guardian. Oddly, the column's title in the Guardian is "Anybody but Bush - and then let's get back to work" - somewhat more anodyne than its header in the Nation, "Ditch the Distraction in Chief").

She begins the piece by mentioning 'Bush in a Box' - the latest piece of 'standard-issue Bush-bashing schlock, on sale at Wal-Mart, made in Malaysia.' It's

"…a cardboard cut-out of President 43 with a set of adhesive speech balloons featuring the usual tired Bushisms: "Is our children learning?" "They misunderestimated me" - standard-issue Bush-bashing schlock, on sale at Wal-Mart, made in Malaysia."

This is a genuinely riveting anecdote, saying so much about where the libera/left is at the moment. It drew me into the article all the more because yesterday when I was in the Waterstone's here in Brussels, I myself was struck by the sheer volume of anti-Bush publications on sale. Some of them are quite good, but there are just so many variations on the theme (just go to Amazon and type in Bush in the search field and you get a glimmer of this) that have plainly been pumped out to make a quick buck. Visit your local bookshop [even, or rather especially, one in the States itself. I was in a bookshop at Chicago O'Hare Airport last Christmas and you could have mistaken it for some (admittedly rather pleasantly appointed) leftie bookshop in a student ghetto somewhere] and you will see as many tables of anti-Bush books as there are of garishly sleeved chick lit. There are two different books alone titled Why Bush Must Go. It has become a genre in itself.

You can imagine the poor journeyman publishing house editoress that hasn't yet greenlighted any anti-Bush-o-matic literature: 'Cathy! I thought I told you to find anti-Bush shit! What's with this 'New Weird' literary fantasy crap you're championing? Random House has three fucking anti-Bush best-sellers in the New York Times this week! We're being murdered here! Come on, girl, think! Now, let's brainstorm…J.K. Rowling - what are her politics? Didn't one of the Backstreet Boys get in trouble after 9/11 for wearing a peace button or something? No, wait, they haven't had an album in two years…'

On the one hand it is tremendous that liberal/progressive politics are so profitable. I'm sure more than a few well-intentioned liberal book-buyers, having wandered into Borders or Indigo in order to buy something mildly critical of Bush but essentially imperially harmless by Zbigniew Brzezinski, have, Mr. Magoo-like, wandered out with something by Edward Said or Tariq Ali. On the other hand, so much of this stuff is just so blandly uncritical of the Democrats, and harps on about little more than how Bush can't pronounce the word 'nuclear'. Klein, in her piece, notes how very easy it is to attack Bush for being dumb, for his malapropisms.

"Bush in a Box pretty much summarises the level of analysis coming from the left these days. You know the line: The White House has been hijacked by a shady gang of zealots who are either insane or stupid or both. Vote Kerry and return the country to sanity.

"But the zealots in Bush's White House are neither insane nor stupid nor particularly shady. Rather, they openly serve the interests of the corporations that put them in office with bloody-minded efficiency."

She then argues in a similar vein to my posting last week on why it is better for the anti-war and global justice movement if Kerry wins: not because we should have any illusions that Kerry will be any better than Bush - and here she lists his positions on the war, Israel, the war on drugs, Venezuela, free trade, corporate taxation - but because the left does have illusions in Kerry. And they need to be shattered if we are to be able to return to the task at hand. Kerry needs to win not because Kerry will be better, but because he will be just as bad:

"[M]ost progressives are already solidly in the Anybody But Bush camp, convinced that now is not the time to point out the similarities between the two corporate-controlled parties. I disagree. We need to face up to those disappointing similarities, and then we need to ask ourselves whether we have a better chance of fighting a corporate agenda pushed by Kerry or by Bush."

"[I]t's worth remembering that it was under Bill Clinton that the progressive movements in the west began to turn our attention to systems again: corporate globalisation, even - gasp - capitalism and colonialism. We began to understand modern empire not as the purview of a single nation, no matter how powerful, but a global system of interlocking states, international institutions and corporations, an understanding that allowed us to build global networks in response, from the World Social Forum to Indymedia. Innocuous leaders who spout liberal platitudes while slashing welfare and privatising the planet push us to better identify those systems and to build movements agile and intelligent enough to confront them."

"Under a Kerry government, the comforting illusion of a world united against imperial aggression will drop away, exposing the jockeying for power that is the true face of modern empire. We'll also have to let go of the archaic idea that toppling a single man, or a Romanesque "empire", will solve all, or indeed any, of our problems…With Bush out of the picture, we lose the galvanising enemy, but we get to take on the actual policies that are transforming all of our countries."

Preach it to me sister.

vrijdag, juli 30, 2004

The fascist philatelists will be soooo excited about this one

"A stamp featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger goes on sale in his Austrian homeland to mark the 57th birthday of the actor-turned-California governor."

Is it just me, or does anyone else find that this stamp smacks uncannily of national socialist realist posters of another, ahem, conservative Austrian?

woensdag, juli 28, 2004

Medea Benjamin Dragged Off DNC Floor in Handcuffs For Unfurling "End the Occupation of Iraq" Banner

Democracy Now!
"As Teresa Heinz Kerry gave her prime-time address that never mentioned Iraq, Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin attemped to bring an anti-war message onto the floor of the convention. Moments later police were dragging her out of the Fleet Center. As Teresa Heinz Kerry spoke last night, on the floor of the convention, Medea Benjamin from Global Exchange and CodePink unfurled a pink colored banner that read 'End the Occupation of Iraq.' That apparently was not one of the DNC-approved messages of the night because within moments of the banner being unfurled, police were called in to remove Medea Benjamin.

Benjamin was dragged off the convention floor and thrown out of the FleetCenter. She said that the DNC was asked whether they wanted her arrested and that they decided that would not look good."

Okay, so I said a few minutes ago that Medea Benjamin is supporting Kerry, but at least she's still shit-disturbing on the convention floor.

Moore lesser evilism

Reviews, outside the rabid conservative press, of Michael Moore's film, Fahrenheit 9/11, have been largely positive. They do, however follow one of two templates: The first, the four-out-of-five-stars template, follows something along the lines of "Moore may be a little loose with the facts, but this is a film every American needs to see." The second, the three-out-of-five-stars template, goes something like, "This may be a film every American needs to see, but Moore is a little loose with the facts." Neither version ever actually mentions which facts he gets wrong; it's just assumed, following the dictum that a lie, repeated often enough as the truth, will be taken as such. There is however, as has been pointed out elsewhere, one particular problem that progressives may have with the film. In large part the film is a disclosure, like Craig Unger's book, House of Bush, House of Saud —upon which much of the film is based, of the ties between the US government and Saudi Arabia. If Moore is to point out the various ways in which the United States has propped up vicious regimes in the Middle East, to not point out the apogee of such foreign policy barbarism—America's support for Israel—one can only conclude that he either is a hypocrite, or had deliberately not 'gone there' to avoid turning the film into a focal point of Zionist smears that it was anti-semitic. This is perhaps a little cowardlythe great unenlightened inhabitants of red states (somewhat counterintuitive, I know, but, in the States, the Republicans are 'red' and the Democrats are 'blue' [when, if they were honest, they would paint themselves navy blue and baby blue, respectively]. Of course, these are far from the oddest colours political parties have been assigned: Austrian conservatives are black, while the fascist Freedom Party of Jorg Haider is blue and then Canada's social democrats, the NDP, go into electoral battle in orange [No, really. Orange ties on the men, and the women can sometimes be seen in orange editions of those tweed-polyester power suit things political women are obligated to wear] in the middle of the country are in as much need of being told of US-Israeli atrocity as they are of US-Saudi collusion.

Nonetheless, however spineless the decision to excise any mention of Israel in Fahrenheit, it is almost remotely understandable insofar as one must choose one's battles. This year was not the year that America was going to take an honest look at its crimes in the Levant, but it might just have been and indeed, in genuine thanks to Moore, was the year that she took a hard look at issues of American wickedness in the broader Middle East. Moore has doubtless done a tremendous service to the US left, which is largely restricted to the two coasts, in parachuting in a heretofore unknown politic to the Mississippi multiplexes.

What is more troublesome than what is missing from his film is his gallop to the Democratic centre.

At a rally on the fringe of this week's Democratic National Convention, Michael Moore spoke to a crowd of a reported 2000, with another 700 being turned away by fire marshals. On the same platform was failed Democratic presidential candidate and self-described fiscal conservative Howard Dean, as well as the candidate many forgivably deluded progressives supported for the nomination, Dennis Kucinich. Moore, of course, during the Democratic primaries supported neither of these two darlings of the 'Democratic wing of the Democratic party', supporting instead the Bomber of Belgrade, General Wesley Clark. The purpose of the rally was, once again, to solidify progressives into supporting Kerry and to attack peace candidate Ralph Nader.

"Mr. Nader, Mr. Moore said yesterday [as reported in the Globe and Mail], is a "great American." But, he continued, "I appeal to Nader voters because we have to win back the White House. It's so misguided, so wrong, so uncool for him to be doing this."

Apart from Moore being profoundly uncool to use the word 'uncool' in any context, his repeated attacks on Nader are a sad betrayal of the man he so vociferously supported, along with thousands of other progressives, four years ago. Now, I would not go so far as to be hyper-critical of those Nader supporters who for this election who have made the difficult choice to support Anybody But Bush. Bush is so extreme, so radical that I don't think I can bring myself to condemn anyone who has decided they will be casting their vote for Kerry come November. I think they are wrong, but I can't condemn them. Furthermore, there are simply so many tremendous activists of good heart and commitment, who have been in the centre of organising against this atrocious war who, as socialist historian Howard Zinn put it when describing why he would be reluctantly voting Democrat this fall, just want a ledge from which to fight back, that I would actually say that those socialists, anarchists and other progressives who correctly have decided to vote Nader may even need to be wary of the forthrightness (I'm thinking here of the stridency of Alexander Cockburn in the pages of Counterpunch) in their arguments, remembering that these Kerry-voters will be still be on the front lines of the anti-war struggle in a few month's time when, if Kerry is elected, the new Democratic president continues and expands the war, and a sectarianism displayed today will only reap unnecessary divisions amongst those in the marches to come. Remember that genuine change will only come, as it ever has, through the movement of the streets and factories and not through the ballot box, and enemies made over what is ultimately a diversion from the real struggle will remain enemies on the picket lines.

But for someone who, rightfully, four years ago insisted that there was no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans to attack his former friend so - and he has said worse - it is a disappointment. Don't get me wrongthere should be no illusions in Moore, who is no socialist. But then neither is Nader.

To argue for a vote for Kerry is, however wrong, forgivable, but to attack Nader in such a way is to do damage to the building of the genuine progressive alternative to the Democrats that four years ago Moore said was so vital. Most of those progressives who have said that this year they are supporting the Democrats underscore that they do just mean this year. As soon as Kerry is elected, it's back to the streets, and back to the project of building a third partywhich is vital. Lest anyone forget, where every other western country has had for almost a hundred yearsgive or take, depending on the jurisdictiona social democratic party that once elected rapes the working class up the ass without lube, the United States does not have even that. The building of a progressive electoral alternative in the US is compulsory. Or has Moore seen the error of his ways of four years ago and now that project has been abandoned too?


Perhaps I am too soft on the Progressives For Kerry Brigade - which includes, by the way, Noam Chomksy, Michael Albert, Barbara Ehrenreich, Howard Zinn, Norman Solomon, Robert McChesney, Medea Benjamin, Rabbi Michael Lerner and others of long-standing red (in the usual sense) and pink disposition. I was mortified when I read that Chomsky has endorsed what essentially is the same strategy as the US Green party of voting Nader/Cobb in safe states and Kerry in swing states.

Progressives are sadly largely sitting this one out, with the exception of a few hundred noble souls who have braved the designated, fenced in protest zones in Boston. But four years ago, thousands of what we then called anti-globalisation activists filled the streets of Los Angeles to protest the DNC, just as they would the streets of Philadelphia a few months later against the RNC. Have these Kerry-voting radicals forgotten how they were all tear-gassed and brutalised by the LAPD while Gore and company watched on in approval in 2000?

For shame.

US vets to petition for impeachment of whoever wins in November if troops aren't pulled out in ten days

Counterpunch: Vets Demand End to Occupation

"Over 400 Veterans for Peace (VFP) members gathered last weekend in Boston for the organization's annual convention, hearing from Daniel Ellsberg, historian Howard Zinn, former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, members of Military Families Speak Out, and the newly-formed Iraq Veterans Against the War. They also passed a resolution in the form of a memo titled 'To White House Occupant After Jan. 20, 2005,' demanding:

'[T]hat the next U.S. president announce, within 10 days of taking office, that he will withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq within 60 days, and that if this 10-day period following the inauguration passes without a publicly-announced decision to withdraw all troops from Iraq within 60 days, Veterans for Peace chapters around the nation will begin a campaign including, but not limited to, petitions calling for the impeachment of the president.'"

Well, at least the Vets (as in former soldiers, not those who de-worm cats) are putting Kerry on notice. But then perhaps this is to be expected, as historically it is more than common for the normally trustily conservative rank and file soldiers, in time of war, to leap-frog over liberal tactics to the most radical actions. Why? It's simple: to them the war is not an merely an abstract notion to be opposed; the war's continued prosecution means their more of their buddies will die. For them, they want this war stopped now and by any means necessary.

dinsdag, juli 27, 2004

Hitch not just in favour of war, but now, apparently, also opposed to 'Massachusetts liberalism'

I must apologise: I had every intention when I started this blog to produce rapid-fire deconstructions of each of the late Christopher Hitchens' apostatic, pustular cooked meats that he considers to be columns and opinion pieces. However, the chubby sozzled Judas seems to be on vacation currently, his last piece that I can find being some barely readable contractual obligation meandering for The Mirror dribbling his approval of John Edwards. You will have to wait until he has returned from Fiji, or wherever it is that members of the Wednesday Morning Club go en vacances, for something more substantial.

An example, explaining why Edwards was a good choice:

"John Kerry's appeal doesn't carry very far, if at all, beyond the limits of his own party base.

"Massachusetts liberalism is not the style in huge swathes of the country. And especially not in the South, where the party last time failed to capture a state."

'Massachusetts liberalism'? 'Massachusetts liberalism'?! What, like single payer health care and proper funding of public education? Oh, I think that would play very well amongst 'huge swathes' of the country if any presidential candidate ever dared suggest such things, but Kerry is too much in hock to the Democratic Leadership Council to do anything of the sort.

Surely endorsing a pair of criminal, murderous wars does not also require signing up to the mythology that the United States is uniformly conservative outside Boston, New York and San Francisco. For Pete's sake, Nick Cohen may have lost his marbles over the war on terror, but he at least still manages to skewer PFI and other non-foreign policy New Labour fartings.

Or maybe Hitch is talking about gay marriage (wait, no, that can't be right - Kerry's opposed to that too). Nope. I'm at a loss. Exactly what godless commie position does Kerry hold that is a problem for the late Mr. Hitchens?

Lula, Kirchner imperialist running dogs

[A tad Maoist, je sais, but I just love that phrase]

Stan Goff, writing in a recent issue of Haiti Progres, is rightfully incensed by the craven decision of the so-called progressive leadership of Argentina, Brazil and Chile to join the US-French-Canadian occupation of Haiti:

"Has Argentina’s Kirchner forgotten the US’s supportive role during the Dirty War? Has Chile’s Lagos forgotten 1973 and the CIA attack on Chilean popular sovereignty? And has Brazil’s da Silva developed amnesia with regard to Goulart’s ouster at the hands of the same CIA in 1964?

"How is it, then, that these nations, of all nations, can send their militaries to prop up the transparent coup d’etat against yet another democratically elected government? How have they become obliged, in the face of their own histories of struggle against US plotters and assassins, to support this racist subjugation of a fellow Latin American nation?"

US support for anti-government militias with direct links to death squads under the previous 'Papa Doc' Duvalier regime was to be expected. One would be surprised at anything else. As would one be if Paris and Ottawa did not view collaboration in the subsequent US-orchestrated coup d'etat as an easy rapprochement with Washington, following their recent falling out over Iraq. Further, the American lapdog that is the United Nations also had no choice but to support the endeavour to oust a popular social democrat from office as it had failed so spectacularly to perform its assigned task in endorsing the Iraq invasion. Time to get with the programme, dude. Even the participation of Chile (apart from Colombia, America's main point man in the southern cone) in the obscenely mis-named UN 'peace-keeping force' in Haiti is predictable, however disappointing. But the decision of Lula and Kirchner to send troops is a grotesque betrayal, the sole revenge for which will, sadly, be when the US, turns its guns on Brazil and Argentina, as it certainly will sooner rather than later. Indeed, though the leaders may wish that their collusion in the crushing of Haitian democracy may aid in the preservation of theirs—feeding the monster a virgin in the hope that he will be satisfied and leave them alone—the opposite is true. As true as it is in every other field of field of struggle, the Wobbly commandment is apt: An injury to one is an injury to all. Far from saving themselves, they open the door to US military intervention further south in what the US continues to this day to be their own dominion by right of Manifest Destiny.

"Lending the US a hand in one imperial enterprise will not protect them from the predations of the US. In fact, it only strengthens the hand of the US foreign policy establishment to commit the same crimes against them when it’s expedient," says Goff.

Their capitulation is all the more cowardly given that most Caribbean nations continue to refuse to even recognise Haiti's coup-plotters as the new government—and they are in a far weaker position economically to do so vis-à-vis the US.

However foreseeable Lula's move from red to blue of Brazil's may have been, his dispatch in doing so is nonetheless breathtaking.

As Tariq Ali recently told Venezuelan solidarity news website Venezuelanalysis.com:

"Before Lula was elected, a possibility emerged, an image emerged of the following: Argentina had collapsed, in Venezuela there was Chávez, that if you had a Bolivarian federation, of Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba, together you could produce a completely different way of looking at the world and a different form of society, which would not be repressive, which would not be vicious, which would transform the everyday lives of the poor. That has not happened…"

The advent of loosely social democratic/progressive regimes in six (if you dubiously included Cuba) Latin American countries seemed that it might have created enough of a critical mass to at least make the masters of the universe blink, to create a region in the world that successfully rejected the Washington Consensus. Of course, as Nicaragua and a half-dozen other examples prove, there can be not even no socialism in one country but not even social democracy in one country in Latin America. However, for a very brief moment there seemed as though, through a Bolivarian Front of these nations, that there could be something-approaching-social-democracy in one region in the world.

That moment has clearly passed.

This is very far from saying that there is no hope in
Latin America. On the contrary, it was only the very easily convinced who truly expected anything other than capitulation by the Andean progressives. No, the hope lies in the tinderbox that is the Latin American working class and peasantry. In the last few years we have seen successful rebellions that have toppled four administrations in Argentina, chased off water, electric and (we'll see about this last one—it's still in play) gas privatisation in Peru and Bolivia and aggressive self-emancipating land occupation by the MST in Brazil, not to mention the contradictory and top-down 'Bolivarian Revolution' in Venezuela and the Zapatistas of Chiapas. There are enormous problems with the strategies of these movements (especially that of the 'walk-around-the-state' Zapatistas)—in large part due to the lack of on-the-ground leadership with a knowledge of the defeats and successes of the workers' movement (the knowledge base needed in order to know that this or that strategy will work or not work)—but it is an explosive movement of people nonetheless of which only victory or fascism can produce a subsidence. [Why this lack of leadership? Easy answer: those who would have been leaders were almost all murdered by the military dictatorships of the last thirty years. The collective memory of struggle (in terms of what tactics work, etc., not in terms of a memory that there was a struggle) was quite literally killed off]

And this movement is in vital need of solidarity work from us in the north. With so much of the left's (justifiable) focus on the Middle East, events like the Haitian coup d'etat are often missed. What is happening in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Columbia and Venezuela (and they are all very different cases—Colombia to a crimson extreme) is forgotten too, even if there is considerable awareness of Chiapas. Solidarity work will help the movements strengthen themselves, especially in the face of such Quisling leaders as Lula and Kirchner.


One final related point: Tariq, in his comments to Venezuelanalysis, presents this extremely useful corrective to that trend within the Global Justice Movement that rejects the hazard for power:

"I don’t think [the US will attempt to contain the social explosion in Latin America by proposing a softer version of neoliberalism]. They will only do that if they feel threatened. And they don’t feel threatened at the moment. And one reason—I have to be very blunt here—they don’t feel threatened is because there is an idealistic slogan within the social movements, which goes like this: ‘We can change the world without taking power.’ This slogan doesn’t threaten anyone; it’s a moral slogan. The Zapatistas—who I admire—you know, when they marched from Chiapas to Mexico City, what did they think was going to happen? Nothing happened. It was a moral symbol, it was not even a moral victory because nothing happened…But I think, from that point of view, the Venezuelan example is the most interesting one. It says: ‘in order to change the world you have to take power, and you have to begin to implement change—in small doses if necessary—but you have to do it. Without it nothing will change.’"

Put that in your water-bong and smoke it, crusty deodorant-is-a-capitalist-conspiracy anarcho-abstentionists!


For more detail on the US-orchestrated coup against democratically elected President Bertrand Aristide, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now radio out of New York perhaps did the best investigative coverage of the events of any left outlet. She and her team are more than generally good in many other ways and any progressive could do far worse than starting his day by downloading her latest programme.

donderdag, juli 22, 2004

Join the Army! Travel to exotic, distant lands. Meet exciting, unusual people, and kill them. And while you're at it, get a boob job.

The New Yorker: Press Releases
"'Soldiers in all four branches of the military and members of their immediate families can get face-lifts, nose jobs, breast enlargements, liposuction, or any other kind of elective cosmetic alteration, at taxpayer expense,' Karen Schaler reports in the New Yorker. 'Anyone wearing a uniform is eligible,' Dr. Bob Lyons, the chief of plastic surgery at Brooke Army Medical Center, in San Antonio, says. There is no limit on the number of cosmetic surgeries one soldier can have...According to the Army, Schaler reports, 'between 2000 and 2003 its doctors performed four hundred and ninety-six breast enlargements and a thousand three hundred and sixty-one liposuction surgeries on soldiers and their dependents. In the first three months of 2004, it performed sixty breast enhancements and two hundred and thirty-one liposuctions.'

Mario Moncada, an Army private who was recently treated for the loss of an eye in Iraq, says that he knows several female soldiers who have received free breast enlargements. 'We're out there risking our lives,' he says. 'We deserve benefits like that.'"
This is yet more proof of the 'economic draft' in the United States, where young men and women from poor backgrounds with little money and fewer prospects feel that the only way they can get out of the ghetto and afford a college education, sorry, I mean enlarged breasts, is to join the army.

I never really noticed this with Jessica Lynch, mind you. She looked rather flat-chested to me.

Fish, seals, dolphins, otters, falcons, bees joining other team

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Boys will be girls - eventually

"...a third of male fish are growing female reproductive tissues and organs. Effects were most pronounced in younger fish, raising grave implications for future stocks.

Scientists now fear that seals, dolphins, otters, birds such as peregrine falcons and even honey bees are heading towards a uni-sex existence that would lead to extinction. Blame has fallen on the increasing prevalence of a group of chemicals known as endocrine disruptors. These are found in in plastics, food packaging, shampoos and pesticides and accumulate in the environment. They can mimic the female hormone oestrogen when ingested," turning them into girly-men, as the governor of California would describe them.

Well, of course this explains Robert Smith.

As does this.

Kurds 'in the gym, getting ready for civil war'

Salon.com News | Rage and danger in Kurdistan

"...with their future in the new Iraq so uncertain, and their old pal the U.S. so unreliable, the Kurds feel more isolated than ever. Control of Kirkuk ('the city of black gold,' Rozbayani called it) represents their best chance for a strong position in the new Iraq. 'If Iraq doesn't return Kirkuk, it could cause civil war,' Hady told me that afternoon in his office.

A Kurdish-American I met doing business in Iraq put it another way. 'Trust me,' he said. 'They are going to the gym. They are getting ready.'"

The sole aspect of the late Christopher Hitchens' pro-war argument that wasn't blunderingly easy to rebut was his point about the Kurds - the happy, happy Kurds who, under America's protection, according to him, had democracy, freedom and prosperity. Now, in truth, while I do know Kurds who were and still are opposed to the war, it's true that most other Kurds I know (who agreed with me on almost every other issue) were robustly in favour. What this article does uselfully expose is the disatisfaction in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the level of poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment there - all of which Christopher 'To hell with the PKK now, I've got to sell this shit to the Weekly Standard' Hitchens regularly fails to mention. Added to that, according to the Salon reporter, is that the Kurds are more than anxious about their patron's potential abandonment of them to the hands of their other, more important ally, Turkey, and, as the above quote mentions, are readying themselves for the worst. (According to another article in the New Yorker by Seymour Hersh, they are being aided in this by Israeli agents, who are in turn using the Kurds to shit-disturb in Iran and Syria. Which, obviously, makes so much sense. 'I know! The Yankees fucked us over for years supporting Saddam and Turkey, so let's support them now, and when they fuck us over again, let's turn to the Israelis, until they fuck us over, at which point we should then bend over for...')

Another boilerplate inquiry, suprise, surprise, lets Howard off the hook

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Australia's Iraq war case damned

"Australia relied on 'thin, ambiguous and incomplete' intelligence to go to war in Iraq, according to an inquiry.

But the independent report by Philip Flood, a diplomat and former spy master, clears Prime Minister John Howard of 'politicising' intelligence."

Hey, guys, you know, why did we have to go to all the expense of four different enquiries (Hutton, Butler, 9-11 Commission and now Flood) if all you were going to do was photocopy the original?

Iraq Veterans Against the War

Iraq Veterans Against the War

Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) is a group of veterans from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. We are committed to saving lives and ending the violence in Iraq by an immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces. We also believe that the governments that sponsored these wars are indebted to the men and women that were forced to fight them and must give their Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen the benefits that are owed to them upon their return home.

We welcome all active duty, reservist, and recent veterans into our ranks.

The site is still fairly spartan, surely due to its having been launched yesterday, but best of luck to them.

Blue Jays' Delgado protests war in Iraq

Blue Jays' Delgado Protests War in Iraq
Go Jays! I was a fan when I was a kid growing up in Ontario. We'd drive into Toronto to see them play at Exhibition Stadium, have a hot dog and watch them lose. Since then, despite their winning two World Series championships in a row, I haven't really been following them or baseball, but will endeavour to do so now that the Blue Jay's anti-war Carlos Delgado is refusing to stand outside the dugout every time 'God Bless America' is played (such as I can from Brussels). As a Puerto Riqueno, he's also protested similarly against the US' use of Vieques for bombing target practice.

OK! Blue Jays! Lets...play...ball!

More on Bolivian gas referendum

A good break-down of recent developments in Bolivia here and here.

More from me on this in a bit.

dinsdag, juli 20, 2004

Do you feel a draft in here?

The New York Times > National > Governors Tell of War's Impact on Local Needs

Okay. Burson-Marsteller's paw prints are all over this one.

Just as the PR incubi in the lead up to Gulf War II prepped the
US and international public for the upcoming invasion with carefully managed leaks, trial balloon stories, and what the White House itself termed a 'product launch', so they are prepping us again. I think if we read between the lines, as none other than godfather of the neo-cons, Leo Strauss, has taught us to do, we can see that this might just be part of a campaign easing the US public into support for a return of the draft.

The New York Times, home of Judith 'Chalabi' Miller, is reporting that at the four-day US governors' conference in Seattle, governors Republican and Democrat alike were complaining loudly that the war had taken away so many of their National Guardsmen, police, firefighters and even in one case a mayor, that they are facing severe manpower shortages in guarding prisoners, fighting wildfires, preparing for hurricanes and floods and policing the streets.

'The governor of Oregon, Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat, said in an interview after meetings here Monday that the troop deployment had left his National Guard with half the usual number of firefighters because about 400 of them were overseas while a hot, dry summer was already producing significant fires in his state.

'"We're praying a lot that a major fire does not break out," he said. "It has been dry out here, the snow pack's gone because of an extremely warm May and June and the fire season came earlier."'

Oh please. Could it be any more scripted? Let’s have a peak behind the curtain:



[MIKE, a PR with BM, a handful of other flaks and lawyers and TED KULONGOSKI, GOVERNOR OF OREGON are sat around a formica table. Some are standing. Everyone is anxious but no one is smoking because all the flaks know exactly what really goes into the frickin’ things cuz they sell them to two-year-olds in Thailand for a living.]

So, Governor, what would be really good is if you could, like, mention God or something. You Christian?

Jesus, I’m a politician for fuck’s sake, of course I have to be a fucking Christian.

Riiight, well, if when you speak to the New York Times, you could do the God thing when you mention the forest fires that’d be, like, supremo.

How about: ‘I hope to God that a major fire doesn’t break out’?

Yeah. That’s pretty good...but everybody says ‘I hope to God’, you know? How about ‘I’m praying that a major fire doesn’t break out’? Then it’s really, like, you’re invoking God here.

Well, how about: ‘WE’re praying A LOT that a major fire doesn’t break out’?

[MIKE catches his breath and looks knowingly at the other flaks.]

Oh yes, Governor.

[MIKE trills his tongue like HANNIBAL LECTOR does in Silence of the Lambs when he’s talking about eating someone’s liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti.]

That’s perfect. I think this one’s gonna be a slam dunk.


Fire! Floods! Crime! How will we put out the fires? Who will save little Timmy caught down the mineshaft? Think of the children!

'Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, a Republican of Idaho and departing chairman of the National Governors Association, also said through a spokesman that he was worried about the deployment of 2,000 members, or 62 percent of his National Guard, who are now training in Texas for a mission in Iraq.

'"In the past we've been able to call on the National Guard," said Mark Snider, a spokesman for the governor. "We may not be able to call on these soldiers for firefighting capabilities."'


'Roger Schnell, Alaska's deputy commissioner for the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said in a telephone interview that wildfires raging through central Alaska were especially worrisome.

'"It has the potential to get much worse than it is," he said. "It's already bad. That could put us in a bind."'

Is this an attack on the White House and the war? Far from it. While many of the governors complaining are Democrats, Republicans are complaining too. Watch the White House pull some political jujitsu and turn this into a demand that the draft be reintroduced. And if you disagree: “Come on, be reasonable. How are we going to put out the fires?

The solution to the occupation? Arab Israelis must fuck like bunnies.

BBC NEWS | Europe | Sharon 'not welcome' in France:

"French politicians and Jewish leaders have reacted with indignation.

But an Israeli spokesman sought to play down the remarks, saying Mr Sharon's comments to the American Jewish Association in Jerusalem had been badly reported.

While Mr Sharon urged French Jews to move to Israel because of anti-Semitism, Israel has also encouraged Jewish immigration for demographic reasons.

If the current population trends continue, it is estimated that Jews will be outnumbered by non-Jews in the territory that Israel controls within 10 to 15 years."

Oh! That's okay, then. For a moment there, I thought you meant that France was about to start constructing gas chambers, but now I see that really all you meant, Arik, was that you need more whiteys to move to Israel because you're being swamped by the darkies, turning the country into not just an Apartheid state figuratively, but literally, as western Jews become outnumbered by those danged horny Palestinians in Israel proper not just when you include the occupied territories. That's so much better.

Seriously though - exactly how are Sharon's words (and the entire discussion about demographic changes in Israel) any different from those of Pim Fortuyn, Australia's Pauline Hanson, or even Enoch Powell? And yet liberal Jews talk straightfacedly about the 'demographic' problem in Israel, where they would be horrified to hear the same words come out of the mouths of UKIP, the BNP or other far/hard right parties, when they say that immigration threatens 'Britishness'. No one ever points out how fundamentally racist the discourse is.

Similar to what is happening in Northern Ireland demographically, at some point, there will be enough Arab Israelis (Palestinians who are citizens of Israel) born in Israel itself that a simple electoral majority could vote out the occupation. But of course, Israel will never let this happen, and through gerrymandering and repression minority rule will continue. Israel will have to govern identically to how South Africa was governed internally and not just in the territories, which Sharon knows and also knows will be that much more difficult to stomach internationally.

So fuck like bunnies, Palestinians! Pump out those mewling mouths to feed like your lives depend on it! - Because they do.

Allawi shot prisoners in cold blood: witnesses

maandag, juli 19, 2004

The wolf that cried wolf

BBC NEWS | Middle East | French Jews 'must move to Israel'

Ariel Sharon is not only a rabid wolf himself, but he cries wolf as well.

The recent report by a disturbed woman of an anti-semitic assault on her and her child turned out to be false, but for Sharon, the non-existence of the attack is no barrier to exploiting it to perpetuate the myth that France is on the verge of a second Final Solution.

Sharon has told a meeting of the American Jewish Association in Jerusalem that Jews around the world should relocate to Israel as early as possible. Nothing new there: Israel's friends and leaders continue to describe the country as being a refuge for Jews around the world escaping from anti-semitism, despite the reality of it easily being the most dangerous place in the world for Jews. What is new is that added to the usual call to return to the mothership, was Sharon’s commandment that those living in France "must" move because of the supposed rising violence against Jews there specifically.

"We see the spread of the wildest anti-Semitism" in France, he said.

Anti-semitism exists. It is as pernicious as any other oppression: racism (it's close relative), sexism, homophobia. But we must make a distinction between the anti-semitic attacks of neo-Nazi thugs who physically assault Jews and other minorities, and the thuggish attacks of young, often unemployed Muslims in western countries who face the twin assault of virulent Islamophobia and the exclusions and bigotry of the security measures in the West that accompany the war on terror - who rightfully simultaneously see their own plight as lying on same continuum as the occupations of Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan.

Not that it feels much different on the receiving end: a vandalised synagogue or cemetery looks pretty much the same whether performed by Nazi thugs or Algerian kids from the Paris suburbs. But one is the act of psychotic, bigoted-to-the-bone white Christians - members of the dominant race and religion in the west, while the other is the act of misguided members of a severely oppressed group acting out in counter-productive and offensive fashion against the butchery of the Israeli state.

It must be said: There is no new wave of anti-semitism around the world. There simply isn’t.

This is not to condone such acts. The left must work much harder to incorporate minorities in general and Arab youths in particular into our organising for global justice and against the war, thus offering a much more constructive outlet for this frustration. This is especially the case in France, where the left, with a few exceptions, has lined up with the Chirac government in its racist attacks on Muslims who wear the Hijab in the name of some ‘laïcisme républicain,’ - the defence of which looks little different to national chauvinism elsewhere. When progressives do not open up space for the excluded and marginalised, where else does such anger go but into such destructive acts? In Britain, however, for all its considerable problems, the Socialist Workers’ Party has been a near model of integrating Muslim and ethnic minority working class communities into campaign work and the Stop The War Coalition.

And the number of attacks by these kids, such as do exist, is a fraction of the daily, often violent assaults on Muslims in the west by racists, the police and security services. In Canada, attacks on Muslims (and Sikhs and Hispanics, who, you know, are darkies too) are a daily occurrence, but rarely make it to the front pages of the Globe and Mail or the Toronto Star.

In France, are Jews being rounded up, arrested in secret, tried and sentenced in secret, without being able to contact family, employers or even legal representation, deported or tortured and killed? No? Because that is happening on a daily basis in the United States to Muslims. We have no idea how many have been arrested in this way. It could be dozens. It could be hundreds. We have only the reports of these ‘new desaparecidos’ from their families in immigrant communities in the US. Then there are the thousands of ‘normal’ arrests and deportations.

If there is one good thing to come out of this affair, it will be that the French will react with indignation against Sharon’s accusations, and will likely now be more skeptical of Israel. He has also probably killed off the considerable (but mad as cheese) movement of French liberals against an anti-semitism where it doesn’t exist.

Fascism and anti-semitism do exist in elsewhere France, however. But you’ll find them both in the Front National, for which thousands of French Jews have voted in recent elections, knowing full well that Jean-Marie Le Pen and his party is anti-semitic, but overlooking that picayune inconvenience in order to support his brass knuckles approach to (Arab) immigration.

Paul Foot, one of the last century's greatest journalists, dies

BBC NEWS | UK | Veteran journalist Paul Foot dies

There are so few genuinely socialist journalists left in this world, and Paul Foot, though I'm sure he did not believe in such stuff, has, damn him, left this one for the next far too early.

The BBC obituary above is followed by a long list of tributes to the man. I encourage you to read them whoever you are, but if you are a young journalist like myself, read them and you will learn what a true journalist was. It simply, but proudly, is nothing more than to obey that old imperative: "Afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted." He did, and amply. Would that there were more like him.

The dying Wobblie organiser, Joe Hill, commanded, "Don't mourn. Organise!" But we mourn nonetheless.

Farewell, comrade.

Hasta la victoria siempre

BBC NEWS | Americas | Nicaragua: Revolution's legacy

Twenty-five years ago today, the Sandinistas overthrew dictator Anastasio Somoza. A great day. There have been few so great since then.

And how will this play in Alabama?

Al-Jazeera: U.S. hides videotapes of new abuse cases at Abu Ghraib

Seymour Hersh, the investigative journalist Woodward and Bernstein never turned out to be and the dude who originally broke the Abu Ghraib torture - ahem - abuse story, has told the American Civil Liberties Union that the Bush administration is hiding videotapes of US soldiers sodomising young boy prisoners in Iraq.

'"The worst is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking," Hersh told the group, adding that there was "a massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there, and higher."'

It goes without saying that these tapes and the rest of them should be made public immediately. Then we'll see how Tom 'The Hammer' Delay ties himself in knots defending 'just a couple o' good ol' boys who are lettin' off some steam', while simultaneously trying to ban gay marriage via constitutional amendment.


Of passing note, the page on Al-Jazeera from which this story was snatched has a banner ad at the top of the page, with the mysterious slogan, "I'm richer than you!" and a picture of Ghaddafi's daughter, who is apparently worth $300 million. The ad, which alternates between Ghaddafi's daughter and Saddam's (who is apparently worth $500 million) clicks through to a foreign exhange site.

Odd, but I find Ghaddafi's daughter v. seductive, as much as any socialist can find the millionaire daughter of a mad-as-a-poached-egg dictator attractive, that is.

It's a gas in Bolivia

BBC NEWS | Americas | Bolivians vote on gas export plan

The announced general strike in Bolivia against the gas referendum has fizzled out, according to the BBC.

Last October, Bolivian miners, peasants and indigenous people mounted a successful civil strike over the planned export of natural gas. President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada was ultimately forced to flee by helicopter and was replaced by former TV celebrity Carlos Mesa. The issue itself was just the latest flashpoint for anger in South America's poorest country, which had seen mass protests - also successful - against the privatisation of the country's water in 2000. Despite the clear opposition to the export of the gas expressed by the protests, the government has now organised a referendum on the issue.

Mesa has followed something of a similar path to Nestor Kirchner in Argentina in offering minimal reforms and opening up the government to elements of the opposition, including Evo Morales, the leader of the cocaleros - the coca plant growers - attempting to walk a fine line between popular pressure and the international financial institutions and investors. Morales, along with the Federation of Unions of El Alto (the suburb of capital La Paz, which was the locus of much of the protest last autumn) have offered their support to the referendum. In the meantime, the Congrees of Federations of Neighbourhood Juntas (FEJUVE) (the popular committees involved in organising the October rebellion) and other sections of the opposition had organised a three day general strike and boycott of the referendum, furious that they should be asked again whether they wish the gas to be exported when they plainly gave their opinion on the matter last fall.

The response from Morales and co: "Those who want to burn the ballot boxes will be burned."

More on the latest from the land of Lake Titicaca from the comrades on MarxMail.

zondag, juli 18, 2004

Lesser evilism revisited

John Kerry is pro-free trade, pro-war, pro-Israel, would expand the number of troops in Iraq and has said that he would be willing to appoint anti-abortion judges (just not to the Supreme Court. However, while Bill Clinton was similarly seen by mainstream feminists as being pro-choice, through social programme cutbacks [i.e., the closure of clinics], on-the-ground access to abortion actually declined precipitously on his watch, and the centrist, Democratic politics of Kerry suggest that he would be no different on this front. Access to abortion, as should not have to be pointed out, is the product of two things: the law and funding. To have the former without the latter is to be objectively anti-choice, no matter the rhetoric) and his campaign is dependent on corporate support as much as that of George Bush. He will make no attempt to curtail (and certainly not dismantle) America’s empire of bases (there are a hundred and ninety one countries in the United Nations; one hundred and thirty of them have an acknowledged US base or significant military presence), or put an end to America’s genocidal foreign policy. On Venezuela and Haiti, Kerry is downright reactionary, supporting as he does the far-right opponents of Hugo Chavez and the death-squad alumni who orchestrated the US-sponsored coup against Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Indeed, it is not so much the substance of a Kerry administration that would differ from that of Bush, but the style. In many ways, the Bush II administration has undone the two-century-old system of diplomacy, wherein, to put it simply, bad men are permitted to do bad things, but they have to be gentlemanly about the whole business. Bush makes no pretence. Instead of the normal way of making something like Kyoto essentially toothless (not that it was especially toothsome to begin with), which would be to incrementally behind the scenes make sure everybody agrees to do nothing while pronouncing great advances in tackling climate change, Bush simply said ‘fuck it’. In many ways this is why so much of the US and international business, political, military, security and diplomatic establishment are behind Kerry: not because they are liberals, but because ‘that’s just not the way things are done, my boy!’ Bush’s bookless, thuggish approach to international diplomacy exposes the mendacity of elites too manifestly, awaking quickly global outrage and resistance. Better to triangulate like Bush Sr., Clinton, Blair…or Kerry.

Out of the major policy issues, there are only two that separate the candidates from the two different wings of the American Business Party: health care and the death penalty.

It no small relief that for once there is an American presidential candidate who is opposed to the death penalty, but even here, where have we seen the candidate speak out on the issue? His failure to address this question must give some indication of the amount of attention a Kerry administration would pay to dismantling the US criminal death machine. Furthermore, his running mate is pro-death penalty. (It may be pointed out here that John Edwards is anti-Nafta, but whether he is honestly committed to fair trade, or he merely profitably used the issue to advance in the Democratic primaries, an overwhelmingly pro-free trade Democratic Congress and DLC would hardly let his feelings in any way influence US trade policy, never mind the fact that to genuinely remove the retrograde aspects of corporate-led globalisation is to remove its raison d’etre. An effective attack on the Washington Consensus is fundamentally an attack on capitalism or it is nothing, but that is a tale for another night, boys and girls)

However, on the issue of health care, Kerry would make a considerable difference. As economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has pointed out, the Kerry health care plan would reduce the number of uninsured Americans by 26.7 million (paid for by rescinding that part of the Bush tax cut that went to the three per cent of Americans that earn over US$200,000). Even with the inevitable watering down of the proposal that would accompany its passage, this is no small bagatelle. And yet it is still so far from the single-payer universal coverage that is needed and that exists in almost every other western country.

Radical US historian Howard Zinn has said, similar to Noam Chomsky and Michael Alberts’ formulation for lesser-evil voting in November, Kerry gives us a ledge from which to fight. Under Bush II, there is no ledge. This is perhaps the most honest assessment of the dilemma. Democratic liberals simply present themselves as partisan nincompoops when they suggest that they actually Believe In Kerry. Nobody believes in Kerry. Anybody but Bush is the order of the day.

And yet, objectively, the maximum support possible for Nader goes further to establishing the sort of alternative that will deliver the sort of world we all want than a Kerry victory. During the recent federal election in Canada, I had arguments with progressive friends of mine who, once again, were considering voting Liberal, rather than NDP, to keep out the Conservatives (despite the fact that the NDP is often as likely to take votes from working class and rural former Reform Party voters as it is from urban Liberal voters). One friend of mine, never a Trot, but fellow traveller nonetheless, said that, despite despising the Liberals, she was going to vote for them because ‘fewer people will die under the Liberals than under the Tories’. I countered by saying that while true in the short term, the maximum support for the NDP advances the day that they come to office federally in Canada, thus over the longer term, fewer people will die if she voted NDP, regardless of whether that translated into a Conservative government. It was simply mathematical:

If we can assign arbitrary figures to Conservative, Liberal and NDP ‘dead’ (people who will die as a result of their policies) - say, five, four and one, respectively (for the sake of simple math - obviously the numbers are far higher) - then it follows that, over a five-term election cycle, with a Conservative government elected in the first two terms and (due to the advancement of the NDP, aided in part by her vote) the NDP elected in, say, the third through fifth terms, we have thirteen dead in total. Consistently voting Liberal to keep out the Tories, on the other hand, works out to be twenty dead in total. [(C * 2)+(n * 3) = 13; L * 5 = 20]

The same follows for the US, or any jurisdiction (By the way, she voted NDP in the end, and the Liberals won a minority, with a somewhat larger NDP contingent in parliament).

There is, however, one last reason for voting for Kerry.

Recognising the central role of the US working class to global transformation, we (the global justice movement) need another Lyndon Johnson.

The extremity of Bush II on all issues, but the war in particular, has galvanized the US populace like nothing since Vietnam. This is manifest. As the war progresses, Americans (and, particularly and very importantly, working class Americans in the so-called flyover states) are becoming militantly opposed to their country’s actions, are discovering the real history of American foreign policy and taking action. At the moment, while there have often been very large demonstrations - some of them the largest in US history - the focus is on electing a Democrat to the White House. And yet if Al Gore had been in the White House on 11 September, he would certainly have bombed Afghanistan and those who suppose that he would not have gone after Saddam Hussein are kidding themselves. Clinton and Blair’s Yugoslav adventure, not to mention their own 1998 bombing campaign against Iraq, do nothing to suggest that Gore’s response would have been markedly different. Indeed, in the nationalist, hyper-militarist atmosphere following the September attacks, facing down Republicans who would call his response weak whatever he did, a President Gore would as likely as not have been more hawkish than Bush, lest he lose the mid-term elections or this year’s presidential election.

But the liberal-left persists in putting its hopes in the Democratic Party. For a true advance to happen in the US, there has to be a widespread break with US liberalism.

If Kerry wins in November, the war will not end. Kerry will not pull out of Iraq, and Al-Qaeda will not disarm. As the war advances, whether through Kerry’s continued occupation of Iraq or his response to the certain next atrocity on US soil by the Islamists, more and more Americans will oppose the war. The liberals who then continue to support a now Democratic war will be cut off from the growing majority of Americans who want an end to it. This time it will be a Democratic president against whom they will be marching.

Another LBJ. As in, ‘Hey, hey, LBJ! How many kids have you killed today?' - and the rest of the revolutionary explosion of the late sixties.