Monday, October 29, 2007

UW Regent resigns in protest over Doyle's denial of tuition breaks to undocumented students

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Friday:

Jesus Salas, a Bay View resident who was appointed by Gov. Jim Doyle to the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents in 2003, this morning resigned from the board because of a Doyle policy decision on tuition for undocumented students.

Here is the text of Salas' resignation letter to the governor:

"The following is to inform you of my immediate resignation from the UW-System Board of Regents. I find that your retreat from your support in the 2007-09 UW-System budget for tuition remission for qualified students who happen to be children of undocumented workers as intolerable.

"It follows your signing the Real I. D. legislation which prevents the same population from obtaining a driver license. In spite of the fact that Latino leaders proposed alternative options that other states were following in dealing with this federal unfunded mandate, you proposed no legislative alternative.

"Earlier you also capitulated to extremists by signing legislation that denied WI's housing agency from assisting those same hardworking individuals who were gainfully employed and otherwise satisfied all banking requirements. You did this while knowing that during the time that this window of opportunity was available there was never a known default of any of the loans made.

"Finally, in spite of the fact that Latinos share the same fundamental values that brought generations of European immigrants in the same manner to Wisconsin, it is only we who are 'illegal.' Everyday there are those, individuals as well as representatives of communities as a whole, including state entities who are contriving ways to further deprive us of our U.S. Constitutional rights to life and liberty. There is a daily deterioration in the quality of life for the Latino both for the undocumented as well as those of us who were born here.

"Today, I refuse to join you in celebrating the signing of the 2007-09 WI budget. For us, it is day of mourning for the future of our children who through no fault of their own continue to be denied access to the UW-System."

Salas' biography on the regents' Web site says he taught social studies at Milwaukee Area Technical College for 18 years before retiring in December 2005, and that he has also taught Chicano/Latino studies courses at UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee. He is a graduate of UW-Milwaukee's School of Education and received his masters in political science from UW-Madison.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

St. Clair and Frank on the Environment in Iraq

Jeffery St. Clair and Joshua Frank on the environmental impact of the war in Iraq.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Hiding the Spectre of Capital

So NASA has just announced that it is withholding data from a recent airline safety survey because "Release of the requested data...could materially affect...the commercial welfare of, the air carriers and general aviation companies." In other words, fliers are not entitled to know the safety records of companies they are using. This comes after the massive pork-barrel bailout the industry received after 9/11, and after they used that bailout to fire their employees and improve their stock. Is there any argument left against nationalizing the airlines?

Iraq's Casualties by the Numbers

Good article from Foreign Policy in Focus assessing consequences of Iraq.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Revisiting the Resistance

There has been a welcome efflorescence of talking about the Iraqi resistance in lefty-liberal circles over the past few weeks. We have Michael Schwartz's article summarizing developments in the resistance, we have Pepe Escobar providing the reporting which Schwartz bases himself off of, and we have Robert Dreyfuss talking about the actions of the occupiers over the last few months galvanizing a new Iraqi nationalism. This is a breath of fresh air, especially when you compare it with things like Katha Pollit's drivel.

Dreyfuss, Escobar, and Schwartz all emphasize the significance of a Sunni-Shi'a parliamentary bloc (with the blessing of Ayatollah al-Sistani) challenging al-Maliki on an anti-occupation basis. The coming together of such groups is certainly to welcomed, and the fact that they've explicitly taken a stand against takfiri violence is especially important. It's also important that the coalition includes a large number of Sunni tribal leaders. The US has consistently tried to spread the idea that such leaders are the new base of US support in the occupation, something I argued against nearly a month ago. In other words, it's clear Schwartz and co. are right that there are some major new developments in the Iraqi resistance.

At the same time, I think there is reason to be sober about the long term stability of these developments. Nearly all of the forces involved have a strong history of vacillation between collaboration and resistance. al-Sader, for example, while often taking a militant stance, has recently been involved in talks with the US military. Sadr's lieutenants argue that the purpose of the ceasefire is to identify takfiris in Jaish al-Mahdi and drive them out. This could be the case, as Sadr's aide explicitly declares that "Anyone who collaborates with the Americans will be considered a traitor." However, as Dreyfuss points out, this could simply be Sadr positioning himself closer to the US and essentially convince them that he can keep order if they leave. Hardly the die-hard anti-occupation persona he sometimes adopts.

The so-called "New Ba'ath" front appears to be maneuvering in a similar fashion. Its leader, Izzat al-Douri, while recognized as a leader of the resistance, has also indicated that he would be willing to negotiate a ceasefire if the US agrees to a timetable. Again, like al-Sadr, the idea seems to be negotiating with the US to be in a better position to rule Iraq once the occupiers leave. There's also, of course, the long history of Ba'athist collaboration with the US.

The Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC, formerly SCIRI) has an even worse history of collaboration. Juan Cole's description of SIIC's class background is essential for understanding its actions:

“SCIRI represents the great merchants, landowners and clerics of the shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala, who have dollar signs in their eyes at the prospect of the billions of dollars that the Iranian pilgrimage trade will bring in. The Sadrists represent the little people, who wonder where their next meal is coming from and who suffer from lack of fuel, electricity and services. SCIRI represents the Shiites who can afford their own generators.”
SCIRI was one of the first groups to ally itself with the United States after the invasion. As upper-class Shi'a, they had the most to gain from Saddam's overthrow (namely, a partnership with US capital.) In return, the US gave SCIRI control over the Ministry of the Interior. In this capacity, SCIRI's armed wing, the Badr Brigade, functioned as an extension of the US military. When the resistance was primarily Sunni, it was to the Badr Brigades that the CIA turned to break up emerging nationalist consciousness and enflame sectarian tensions. SCIRI, now SIIC, has gradually moved in a more anti-occupation direction since then, but this sordid past won't be easily escaped. Indeed, Escobar points out that the presence of the Badr Brigades at the united resistance talks casts an ominous shadow on promising developments. Escobar also mentions that the head of SIIC, Ammar al-Hakim, is in fact a supporter of "soft-partition," which puts him alongside that raging anti-occupation activist Joe Biden.

None of this should be taken to mean that there aren't exciting things happening in the politics of the Iraqi resistance right now. The fact that these different groups are starting to work together is extremely exciting. To me, it represents the leaderships of the different groups, whose position of power had previously often been based on sectarian grounds, finally coming around to the views of ordinary Iraqis, who have consistently opposed attacks on Iraqi civilians by elements of the resistance. This (belated) convergence of views is to be welcomed.

I also think, however, it's important to keep in mind the vacillation of the middle class leaders of the resistance. The stability of these leaders in resisting US buyoffs is going to be dependent upon the militancy of the resistance's rank and file (in addition to the ever-present stupidity of the occupiers).

*Update* As I said, the stupidity of the occupiers seems boundless. In the midst of a cease-fire with Sadr, they go and shoot up Sadr City, the base of his support. The excuse was going after the "Special Units," supposedly elite forces trained by Iran. This little incident will probably put more pressure on Sadr to take a harder stance.

Michael Schwartz on the Latest Developments in the Resistance

Michael Schwartz is one of the sharpest Iraq analysts out there. This is his latest piece on the resistance.

Is the US about to be driven out of Iraq

According to Pepe Escobar (below), one of the most informed and astute observers of Iraq events, there have been some momentous developments inside Iraq in the last few weeks, developments that could actually result in making the American occupation militarily and politically untenable.

Basically he says recent meetings among and between Shia and Sunni groups have initiated a set of alliances that could result in a united resistance that will suppress sectarian fighting (by suppressing the Sunni terrorist and the Shia death squads) and move in a coordinated way (using armed attacks and political maneuvering) toward expelling the U.S..

Here are the key elements:

First, there is a new nationalist bloc forming from those who have withdrawn from or always opposed the American backed government. It includes leaders of the Sunni resistance (including the groups that are supposed to have made an alliance with the US), Sunni parliamentary leaders (including the vice president of Iraq), Muqtada al Sadr and his Mahdi Army (the most powerful Shia faction which has always opposed the U.S. presence) and the Fadhila (the most powerful Shia group in Basra, which recently withdrew from the government). According to Escobar, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the most powerful Shia cleric, has blessed the new group.

Second, the key goals in the newly developed pact are: united efforts to expel the U.S. from Iraq, including dismantling the bases—with explicit endorsement of armed resistance if the U.S. does not agree to leave; an arms length relationship with Iran; no division of the country into autonomous regions; and no tolerance of jihadist groups that attack Iraqi civilians or death squads, or any armed forces attacking Iraqi civilians.

Third, the various Sunni resistance groups are now negotiating alliances among themselves (with a tentative agreement currently in place among all but one of the most important groups). Included in this new unity is a commitment to demobilize the jihadists who set car bombs in Shia areas (forcefully if necessary) and direct all armed struggle toward expelling the Americans, unless the U.S . agrees to leave.

Fourth, the SIIC, the strongest faction within the Maliki government (though Maliki himself is from another group, the Da'wa), appears to be responding to the pressure created by this new movement. Until now, despite being elected on a platform calling for U.S. withdrawal, SIIC had always said that U.S. troops were absolutely crucial to government survival and had said nothing against the permanent U.S . bases. Then, last week, the temporary leader of SIIC, Ammar al Hakim, called for U.S. withdrawal and for dismantling the bases, a position that is so alarming to the U.S. occupation that there has been a virtual news blackout about this dramatic switch of position. Whether this is an actual change of policy by the SIIC, or simply a rhetorical response to these latest political developments, remains to be seen.

Finally, it appears that recent statements by U.S. occupation authorities calling for "soft partition" of Iraq into three mostly autonomous regions may be a response to this new unity between Shia and Sunni. Realizing that the U.S. probably cannot sustain its presence if this new alliance is consolidated and strengthened, they are looking for a "divide and conquer" strategy that would allow the U.S. to control the three regions separately.

Escobar's article pieces together a bunch of separate developments into a coherent analysis, but it remains speculative. But his analysis does make sense of a lot of otherwise confusing developments. We need to see if the trends he identifies are consolidated, or if they are reversed by the strong centripetal forces within Iraq.

I think this is a very good starting place for making sense of the news in the next few weeks.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Aesthetic Tragedy Strikes Midwest

"Your outdated ideas of what terrorism is have been challenged," an unidentified, disembodied voice announces following the video's first 45 minutes of random imagery set to minimalist techno music. "It is not your simple bourgeois notion of destructive explosions and weaponized biochemical agents. True terror lies in the futility of human existence."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Blackwater's "Honorable" Work: What a Massacre Looks Like

This is gut-wrenching.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Tough on Defense, but Tougher Than Ripley?

What kind of swaggering stupidity would lead a man to claim that he will be ready to lead our nation in the event of an alien attack? I realize that Giuliani is representing himself as the defense candidate, but this is simply absurd. What was it that Marx said about tragedy and farce...?

It's Like Rain on Your Wedding Day

According to the LA Times, Blackwater 'employees' in Iraq may legally constitute unlawful combatants (to any rational person, there is no bloody doubt) and thus, under the policies, actions and precedents set by the Bush Administration, theoretically earn them a one way ticket to Guantanamo Bay:

"U.S. officials have described many of the suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban affiliates it holds at Guantanamo Bay as unlawful combatants either for taking part in hostilities against the United States or by supporting the hostilities while not part of a nation's military."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pentagon Plans for a Century of Urban Warfare

This is a really interesting article by a journalist who, in the mode of Jeremy Scahill, had the cajones to sit through a meeting of arms merchants and war planners talking about the future of warfare.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Lancet: little improvement in helping women survive pregnancy and childbirth in the last two decades

Here's a summary of the findings of an exhaustive and international study published in the British medical journal The Lancet about availability and abortion rates in countries where the procedure is legal and illegal.

Here's the NY Times article as well.

I'm going to spoil the ending and just let you know that the obvious conclusion is that the "best way to reduce abortion rates [is] not to make abortion illegal but to make contraception more widely available."

"Peace" Prizes

In light of Al Gore's recent winning of the Nobel Peace Prize, I'd like to put up a few choice descriptions of recent winners. Here's last month's Rock Rap Confidential profile of Gore:

DEAD EARTH WALKING... Al Gore's biggest hypocrisy isn't the fact that, after two decades of telling us how to raise our kids, on July 4 one of his offspring was yet again arrested for drug possession.

Gore's biggest hypocrisy isn't even the fact that he started an anti-rock witch hunt via Congressional hearings and the PMRC in the 1980s and then was a front man for the July 7 Live Earth concerts at which Madonna and the Beastie Boys-artists attacked as scum by the PMRC, starting with Mrs. Gore--performed.

Nor is Gore's most devious double standard the fact that the rightwing group Focus on the Family-spiritually and structurally a part of the PMRC-opposes Earth Day.

No, Al Gore's biggest hypocrisy is that he portrays himself as an environmentalist at all. Gore is a major shareholder of Occidental Petroleum, one of the world's worst polluters. He is pro-nuclear war (ask the Japanese what that does for the environment), having voted for the first-strike MX missile after promising he wouldn't. Al Gore says nuclear power is the solution to climate change and he's backed both Gulf wars, which have done untold damage to the ecosystems we all need to survive. He is an avid supporter of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), whose founder John Bryson is the head of major polluter Southern California Edison. NRDC helped ram through Gore's pet project NAFTA, which has undermined environmental standards throughout the western hemisphere. When WTI Corporation, financed mainly by major Gore contributor Jackson Stephens, wanted an operating permit for a hazardous waste incinerator located near an Ohio elementary school, Gore as vice-president did not object. The permit was issued.

As for global warming itself, Gore worked to derail the international Kyoto Protocol by making sure it wasn't submitted to the U.S. Senate for approval.

Al Gore works the same hustle that Bono does. He describes himself as a leader who reveals important new dangers, then fronts for the people and institutions who've caused the problem in the first place.

We don't need to be told that global warming exists. We already know that. We need to actually solve the problem but we can't because we let someone like Al Gore speak for us while he co-opts our culture, a culture that he said as a Senator that he hates and wants to destroy.


SICKO... In 1993 three Arkansas teenagers-Damien Echols, Jesse Miskelly, and Jason Baldwin-were convicted of the murders of three children. Echols was given the death penalty. As anyone who has seen the excellent documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills knows far beyond a reasonable doubt, Echols, Miskelly, and Baldwin are innocent. The clothing the alleged killers wore and the music they listened to were admitted as "evidence" by the court, not because they contained clues, but so the jury could by outraged by their style.

The West Memphis 3 were convicted because they were heavy metal fans living as best they could in a country where Al Gore and a bizarre amalgam of rightwingers had created anti-metal hysteria through Congressional hearings, the PMRC, and a pliant mass media. Watching Paradise Lost (made with the support of PMRC target Metallica) and seeing the lunacy unfold in the courtroom, you half expect to see Tipper Gore called as a prosecution witness.

Now that the censors have stolen the youth and then some from those who were convicted, there is finally some good news. New DNA testing by defense lawyers this summer shows that none of the genetic material recovered from the murder scene is from Echols, Baldwin, or Misskelly. Prosecutor Brent Davis admits this is true and has agreed to allow the defense to do more DNA testing. But there's no guarantee that their innocence will get the West Memphis 3 out of prison.

Tawn Mastrey was a key figure in the heavy metal scene at a time when the Gore-led attacks were at their most intense. She was a DJ at seminal Los Angeles metal station KNAC-FM from 1986 to 1989 where she was known as "The Leather Nun" and could be found wherever metal titans played or partied. Recently, Tawn was diagnosed with Hep C and told she must have a liver transplant.

In 1996, heavy metal hater and vice-president Al Gore helped to preside over the Democratic Party convention where universal single payer health care was removed from the party platform. Tawn Mastrey has no health insurance. Metal musicians are, of course, coming out of the woodwork to play benefits for her (you can donate at Musicians have to try to do the impossible because Al Gore and other American politicians haven't done what is possible. They refuse to do what politicians in every other industrialized country have done-provide their citizens with free health care. Thus there's no guarantee that Tawn will be able to pay for a new liver if she finds one.
The last two recipients from the US were none other than my PERSONAL definitions of peace makers: Jimmy Carter and Henry Kissinger. I mean, honestly, who's next, Ariel Sharon?

NOTE: Here's an update and more in-depth look at Gore from this weeks' Socialist Worker.

Monday, October 8, 2007

More Good News: Oral Roberts U. Being Sued for Embezzlement!

To this I can only add a brief HA HA!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Pinochet Family Arrested in Chile: Drinks on me!

After being stuck in a class today with a disgusting student presentation about the women who supported Pinochet, and about how there was no way that class entered into whether someone opposed/supported the bloody dictatorship because she had PERSONALLY seen more 'lower socioeconomic' people at the funeral than full fledged aristocrats, I got this breath of fresh air!

"The widow and five children of Chile's former military ruler, Gen Augusto Pinochet, have been arrested on charges of embezzlement."
Hoorah! I know I'm having a drink tonight to celebrate, and you should too.

Former CIA officer less hawkish than Dems

Today the National Interest, a conservative foreign policy journal, had a brilliant article written about the saber rattling against Iran after President Ahmadinejad's recent trip to New York. Written by former CIA intelligence officer and Francis Walsingham Fellow for the American Conservative Defense Alliance Philip Giraldi, the article goes into detail about how, in fact, the Iranian president is highly unpopular and if he runs in the 2009 election, he will most likely be defeated by a large margin. This myth about all Iranians supporting the bizarre and often offensive claims of their president is the same bunk as the Red state/Blue state crap (if you need counter-examples see Texas, and the Deep South) peddled to rationalize Bush's reelection in any way aside from pointing to Kerry's miserable campaign.

Furthermore, Ahmadinejad has very little power:

"Contrary to the assertions of Columbia President Lee Bollinger last week, Ahmadinejad is no “petty and cruel dictator.” He is an elected president with very little power, frequently at odds with the country’s religious leadership and its parliament. Even if Iran had a nuclear arsenal, which it does not, his finger would not be on the trigger...He does not command the Iranian armed forces and he does not determine Iranian foreign policy. Far from being a belligerent expansionistic power, the last time Iran attacked a neighbor was in the seventeenth century."
I only wish those who froth at the mouth at the thought of attacking Iran to ensure regional stability and peace could point to our over 300 year abstention from invading other countries.

Giraldi continues by challenging the reality of the 'diplomatic approach':
"Bilateral sessions in Baghdad have consisted of little more than staking out adversarial positions. The United States is demanding that Iran suspend its nuclear enrichment program as a precondition for serious negotiations, but Iran is legally entitled to carry out enrichment as part of an energy program and both the Iranian public and the government are strongly supportive of that right. The U.S. insistence on Iranian capitulation in advance of any talks means that the negotiations are intended to be a non-starter, leaving only a military solution to the Iran problem."
As far as destabilizing intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, a key claim by both Democrats and Republicans, any definitive evidence proffered by the White House is undercut by the rampant arms black market in Central Asia and contradicted by the Iraqi and Afghani governments. Nor, according to this expert, is there any solid evidence of a nuclear arms program.

Ultimately, Giraldi chastises Congress for not challenging the White House and paving the way for military intervention with the Kyl-Lieberman amendment to the Defense Procurement that classifies the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.

On the whole this article is a brilliantly sober assessment of the bluster and hawkishness that has been drippings from the presses and mouths of many these last few weeks. The major issue Giraldi fails to address (and considering his job, I'm not surprised) is the rise in anti-Arab and Muslim racism that pauly talks about in his most recent post. The effects of justifying imperialist policy abroad IS being felt at home.

White Supremacy on the March.

Racism is alive and virulent in America. Don't believe me? Look at nooses at the Coast Guard Academy: in Jena, LA; outside Jena; in Maryland. Look at a Black student at Gallaudet held down and marked with swastikas and 'KKK. Look at the mayor of Jena telling a white supremacist: "I appreciate what you are trying to do. Your moral support means a lot.” And of course you have Bill O'Reilly's surprise that Black people in restaurants behave, shockingly, just like white people. If I didn't know better I'd think Birth of a Nation was playing down at the multiplex. In that spirit, here's a column I wrote for the school newspaper excoriating the honkies.

If a poll came out tomorrow that showed 40% of Iranians were in favor of making Jews wear special identification from the government, the world would be justifiably outraged. It’s not difficult to picture the apoplectic fits we would see on the nightly news as pundits tried to outscore each other on who could condemn Iran the most stridently. Fortunately, it’s not true that Iran wants Jews to wear special identification. In fact Forward, the Jewish Daily, has reported that Iran’s Jews actively resist Zionist entreaties to emigrate to Israel.

It is true, however, that thirty nine percent of Americans think Muslims require special government identification. I’m guessing most people reading this haven’t heard this statistic, which is from a nationwide poll taken last year. The lack of furor caused by this openly racist sentiment (and yes, it is racist. Have you ever heard anyone calling for white folks to be kicked off a plane for speaking “strange languages?”) demonstrates something frightening about the acceptance of racism in American society today.

Ever since 9/11, lawmakers and talking heads have been bombarding us with the most disgusting anti-Arab and anti-Muslim doggerel imaginable. Witness, for example, Rep. Virgil Goode using the fact that there is one Muslim in Congress to whip up scare campaigns about how “if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office.” Or CNN’s Glenn Beck threatening Muslims that they will soon “be looking through a razor wire fence at the West." Concentration camps? Special ids for minorities? We know how this story ends.

Nor is acceptable racism in America limited to Arabs and Muslims. The supposed “immigration crisis” that congress is constantly trying to scare us into believing in has spawned a newer, more confident white nativism with devastating consequences for Latinos. This is most obvious in the movement of “the Minutemen,” a racist terrorist group which has gained legitimacy thanks to the scaremongering of Pres. Bush and congress. Their members have a signal new approach to immigration “problem.” One member said simply "Just shoot 'em on sight. That's my immigration policy recommendation. You break into my country, you die." Rep. Tom Tancredo called these men “heroes.”

Is it any wonder, then, with US policymakers openly supporting domestic terrorists, that this violence trickles down to people’s everyday lives? That’s just what happened to a Latino boy near Houston, Texas, who was assaulted last year in a vicious hate crime. The victim tried to kiss a white girl at a party, at which point two white boys beat him with a metal pipe, used it to sodomize him, and then poured bleach all over his naked body. While the Minutemen may think its fun to play army on the US border, it’s not fun for the Latinos who have to endure the kind of torture and humiliation we saw on display at Abu Ghraib.

Even more disturbingly, perhaps, is the degree to which the legitimization of groups like the Minutemen has given neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan a foot back into the door of American political discourse. It’s not uncommon to go to Minutemen events and see both Nazi and Confederate flags flying high. The acceptable racism against Latinos has given these despicable symbols new currency in America. Is it any wonder, then, that a white supremacist group felt confident enough last month to post the addresses of the Jena Six online “in case anyone wants to deliver justice?” The lesson is clear: the racist scapegoating of Latinos increases the confidence of racists against other groups as well.

The same lesson applies to the anti-Muslim sentiment described above. Before 9/11, America was moving towards a nation consensus that racial profiling was illegitimate. Afterwards, however, federal and state law enforcement agencies moved with a frightening swiftness to single out anyone who looked remotely connected to the Middle East. This rehabilitation of racial profiling in the “War on Terror” has had disturbing consequences for African-Americans. Just look at Los Angeles in 2002, where 22 percent of Blacks stopped were asked to get out of their cars, compared to a mere 7 percent of whites. The numbers could go on, but suffice to say that once more racism won’t stay in its cage.

It’s for these reasons that the International Socialist Organization, the Wisconsin Black Student Union, and the Multicultural Student Center are having a panel discussion this Wednesday about how to fight racism here in Wisconsin. As the evidence marshaled here shows, racism has a powerful grip in American society. Nothing less than a mass movement will dislodge it. Join us Wednesday, October 10th, at 7:30, TITU, for a discussion of how to start one.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Iran Recognizes Imperial Overstrech

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki had this to say in front of the UN General Assembly:

"Our analysis is clear: [the] US is not in a position to impose another war in our region, against their taxpayers"

Nonetheless, his sources say they have received plans of an attack and that they are preparing themeselves. An animal backed into a corner is always extremely dangerous. This lesson has not been lost on the Iranian government.

A Bitter Nod to Predictability

I was right about that mine.

Ship out to Iraq or out of the US

A US naval officer, Eduardo Gonzalez, is about to deploy for his THIRD tour of duty overseas. However, he fears that the US government is going to deport his wife, a Guatemalan immigrant who has been in the US since 1989. This would leave their infant child without a family, a consideration that that the government has proven will not deter it.

The army says that it deals with these issues on a case-by-case basis and that gee, it must be hard for soldiers to risk their lives and concentrate on killing the enemy when their own government is potentially going to deport their families. According to Lt. Col. Margaret Stock, a law professor at West Point who deals with immigration, "On the one hand, the government is supposed to be providing military families with assistance, housing and other forms of benefits while their spouses are overseas. On the other hand, the same government is trying to deport the very same people."

Even though a judge granted her an extension, if she does not change her status she will have 60 days to voluntarily leave following June 8, 2008 or be deported.

Gonzalez, on the other hand, entered the country illegally from Mexico, but obtained a green card by joining the Navy and became a citizen in July 2005.

The Gonzalezes are not alone, as U.S. Army Sgt. Emmanuel Woko, who faces his third tour in Iraq fears constantly that his wife and child could be deported to Nigeria. As well as this particularly nefarious case of another Guatemalan immigrant.

To me, this story brings out a lot of key hypocrisy about immigration and the government’s treatment of veterans.

First, Gonzalez's wife Mildred came to the US with her mother fleeing the war in Guatemala and was granted political asylum as a war refugee. Now, a little bit of a historical background on Guatemala is necessary to discuss the factors of WHY someone would come to the US and to take on the arguments of hardline nativist scum like Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, who feels that

"What you're talking about is amnesty for illegal immigrants who have a relative in the armed forces, and that's just outrageous," he said. "What we're talking about here is letting lawbreakers get away with their actions just because they have a relative in the military. ... There's no justification for that kind of policy."
Well Mark, the reason Mildred and her mother were forced to flee their country, which I'm sure that they love more than an adopted land full of racists like yourself and the people who run it, is that the US personally helped to start and fuel the bloody civil war that has raged their since 1954, when the CIA helped engineer the coup against left-wing President Jacobo Arbenz because he supported peasants who challenged the landowners of the United Fruit Company. According to an Inventory of Conflict and Environment case study, “during the last forty years, the military has been levying a campaign of terrorism and genocide against these groups [demanding agrarian reform], most of them Mayas, in order to distribute native peoples' land among plantation owners.”

This flies in the face of the ‘they’ve come to steal our jobs/reconquista of the southwest, traffic drugs/leach off of our economy’ rhetoric tossed around by the Right and universally accepted by media.

Secondly, listen to this head-spinning rationale:
“In September 2000, Mildred's mother applied for legalization and included her daughter in that application. Her mother was granted legal status in July 2004, according to Gonzalez. However, six weeks earlier, Gonzalez and Mildred got married, canceling Mildred's ability to apply for legal status through her mother because she was no longer an unmarried daughter under the age of 21. As a result, her legal status still remains in jeopardy.” So, if you’re not an unmarried, dependent female, the government will toss you to the back of the line and inevitably forcing her to face deportation."

Lastly, since when has the government cared about veterans? From the Bonus Army following WWI , until now, I can’t seem to find any positive examples.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Development Arrested

So according to the US Criminal Justice System, "defraud[ing] the oil-for-food program by making illegal payments to the Hussein regime, ...trad[ing] the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people for the satisfaction of his own greed and the greed of the former government of Iraq” = ('conspiracy to commit wire fraud' to Saddam Huessein to get lucrative oil contracts in legalese) = 18-24 months in prison.

Growing and possessing marijuana = 75 years for the former, 75 more for the latter (which upon appeal was reduced to a paltry 90 years).

The reason for the light sentence: the guy is an 'octogenarian.' Well, according to my math, James Geddes, the victim of the latter 'mandatory minimum' sentence will be well past 100 when he's done with his time.

Why I Don't Watch Reality TV

This isn't particularly political. But it is a noteworthy plea for some kind of dignity and compassion in our media.

However, since I am political, I shall add an addendum (does one ever do anything else with them?)

Reality TV, it seems to me, demonstrates perfectly the tendency of different modes of production to eventually become fetters on human development. The relevant passage from Marx is here:

At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.
(Those unfamiliar with Marxese can consult the Marxist Internet Archive glossary here).

What Marx is saying, more or less, is that a good way of doing things in one era becomes a bad way of doing things as time progresses and new technology develops. For example, Newtonian mechanics were a tremendous advance over previous physical theories, but Einstein showed their limitations (just as Einstein is currently being shown his own). The same applies to economic systems. Though capitalism unleashed enormous creative powers (especially when contrasted with the stagnation of feudalism), it too has become quite obsolete, as readers of this blog are no doubt fully aware.

What does this have to do with reality tv? EVERYTHING! The culture of any society is bound to be influenced by its mode of production, capitalism no less than the others. Just as feudal art until the renaissance depicted Great Chains of Being which justified the rule of kings, so capitalist art ultimately is produced within the sphere of capitalist society. The aforementioned obsolescence of capitalism surely affects its art.

Reality TV is, I think, ultimately that obsolescence expressed in the television format. It's almost as if, given capitalism's stultifying influence, it's harder and harder to find some new kind of art which can resonate on a broad level. Hence the trends towards subcultures. Reality tv is an attempt to recapture the societal imagination on a broad level by turning the camera inwards. There aren't any new ideas that are working, so why not just watch ourselves in a mirror. Of course this mirror is monstrously warped by ideology, but it's a mirror nonetheless. Reality tv is, in short, our culture smelling its own farts.

There is hope, however. I think that the success of Heroes (and its clones) bespeaks something significant and new in American culture: ordinary people's desire for power to change the world. For the last thirty years, people have been convinced nothing could change. I think this is starting to change. Of course, this desire for change is transmuted in the television program and infused with all different kinds of ideology, but the very fact that they have to warp it in such a way speaks to its power.

Fuck tha Security Guards!

Via Lenin's Tomb. Just watch the video.