Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Class Anger...

...it's back

Radical Rock Journalist Dave Marsh to Debate Bono!!!!!

Bono is finally going to get the public whomping that he has so desperately asked for. From the latest Rap Rock Confidential:

On a perfectly pleasant evening at the end of May, my colleague Gavin Martin and I were sitting with most of the E Street Band and a few dozen others in the bar of the Merion Hotel in Dublin after a Springsteen show. It was getting on towards midnight. The room was conversationally loud. I was drinking red wine because I can’t stand Guinness, never mind my last name.

The noise level rose noticeably as another troupe entered. It was U2, in full, and their manager, Paul McGuinness. Gavin and I looked at one another in trepidation. We knew what probably came next and sure enough, ‘round the corner of the couch came a man dressed in a ginger suit with ginger hair, possibly the recent victim of some surgery but nonetheless recognizable as Bono Himself.

Himself did not plop down on the couch—there wasn’t room and both Gavin and I have trained ourselves against obeisance even to godlike celebrities. So Bono leaned over and began to engage us in conversation. He spewed out theories, analyses, opinions and attitudes. All he got back were monosyllables and mumbles. We weren’t talked out, exactly. Maybe kind of dumbfounded, that He was living out such a perfect caricature of himself.

That’s a little unfair because He did eventually ask what we were working on. I don’t remember what Gavin said, because I was busy inventorying what I didn’t want to talk about: Not my book about why American Idol is evil (because I feared the response) and not the one about the civil rights movement (because I didn’t want to lose my temper about that moronic songs that says Martin Luther King did not lose his “pride” when he was assassinated, as if MLK were a preening, pretentious pop star). So I said, “Actually, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about celebrity politics and how ineffective they are.”

I have been. I started at No Nukes (the MUSE concerts) which did succeed, with help from Three Mile Island, in shutting down the U.S. nuclear power industry for 25 years. But after that, I couldn’t think of a problem that actually gained a solution from celebrity involvement: AIDS is a bigger crisis than ever, hunger is rampant precisely where hunger was rampant at the time of Live Aid, nuclear power is making a comeback in the States, and celebrity endorsements failed to elect the last several Presidents. (Which is one reason the McCain-Palin complaint that Obama is nothing but a celebrity is preposterous—they wish.)

Then again, my thinking wasn’t so sharp that night. Bono seized my statement and, with a look of determination, declared: “I think I know something about that. And you’re dead wrong.” I said, well, not as far as I could see. He said, “No. It does work…I think we should have a debate about this, Dave. A public debate.”

I responded that I had a satellite radio show called Kick Out the Jams, two hours every Sunday, and we could do that debate any week he’d like. He said that sounded good to Him, I said I’d put the folks at Sirius to work on it that very night. We parted soon after. A weird story, I thought, but put in a call to Sirius just in case.

He had plenty of wiggle room, Gavin being my only witness. But the next night, Bono told my wife, “Tell Dave not to forget about our debate.” Paul McGuinness was standing right next to them, too.

U2’s New York office took a couple weeks to get back and then said that the debate would happen, after the band completed recording its new album. (The release date has now been pushed back to January.)

I figure, if it does happen, I can’t exactly win—celebrity counts for something, after all—even with the facts on my side. I also think it’ll be fun, and some additional listeners (and readers—RRC will of course provide a transcript) will get the point. Which is empowerment of those who are not celebrated, who are in fact the wretched of this Earth. Those people have voices, too, and the solution to many of these problems is to hear them, speaking for themselves, not through a bullhorn controlled by Bono and Bob Geldof into the ears of politicians who are deaf as a matter of principle.

And if it doesn’t happen, believe you me, I’ll have even more fun. I’m thinking that, now that the record is due in January, the time to begin the count for Kick Out the Jams Held Hostage is probably March 1—it’s not only a Sunday next year, it’s also my birthday.

Of course, I’d rather present the debate.—D.M.

Legal Kidnapping in the 'Land of the Free'

1,157 nabbed in California after statewide raids. Note the ideological window dressing - we're only kidnapping the bad ones.

Here's what los desterrados can expect in custody.

No Donny, These Men Are Nihilists. There's Nothing to be Afraid Of.

Nihilists are running our country! Won't someone think of the children?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Russell Brand: Antiracism with Flair

Friday, September 26, 2008

Vote Nader

Israeli Right Attempts to Off its Critics

Apparently not content with regularly terrorizing Palestinians, the Israeli settler movement has expanded its activities inside of the Green Line. Professor Zeev Sternhall, a world renowned expert on European fascism who has published books emphasizing its confluence with Israeli national mythology, was the victim of an attempt on his life Wednesday when a pipe bomb exploded outside of his home. Investigators found fliers distributed around the site offering 1.1 million shekels to anyone who killed members of Peace Now, one of Israel's leading peace groups.

Effectively, this places a bounty on the head of any left winger in Israel. While authorities have responded with grave pronouncements and vows to not to rest until the "terrorists" are behind bars, the previous responses of Israeli law enforcement to settler violence are not encouraging. As Sternhall himself said "Society does not respond" to violence against the Palestinians, and when it does respond it is "positively or with a wink."

Though many portray this reticence to confront the settlers as mere cowardice on the part of official Israeli society, such a representation obscures the role the settlers play in Israeli politics. The settlers are, quite simply, the means by which Israel expands its control over formerly Palestinian territory. They are the leading edge of Israeli expansionism, a dynamic which has been at the heart of the state since 1948. Sharon's famous injunction to the settlers in 1998 -
‘Grab more hills, expand the territory. Everything that’s grabbed will be in our hands. Everything we don’t grab will be in their hands.’ - reveals the unity of the Zionist Boers with Tel Aviv.

The tacit peace treaty between settler thugs and the police is an open secret in Israel. From the IDF to Shin Bet to the local police, the agencies all turn a blind eye to settler violence against the Palestinians. The very juridical codes with which settler violence is handled attest to the legal dehumanization of the Palestinians. Assault on a Palestinian by a settler is officially categorized as "disturbing the peace," the same kind of language used to discipline a college party. Notice the lack of a victim in the category. Unlike say, Assault, battery, destruction of property, there's no implicit "against who" here. In Israel, violence against Palestinians is a victimless crime.

On the US front, Sarah Palin explains that all you need to understand Middle East politics is the narrative of a children's story:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Last gasp of the free-marketeers

One of the few upsides of the financial meltdown has been the humor provided from hardcore libertarians trying to cope with their complete loss of credibility. As soon as the bailout deal came down, thousands of bow tie-wearing young men cried out in unison, "If only we had REAL capitalism."

You know, real capitalism. The kind that exists solely in the imaginations of econ majors.

At any rate, one of their favorite scapegoats has been something called the Community Reinvestment Act, a piece of Carter-era legislation "enacted in response to both intentional redlining and structural barriers to credit for low-income communities." According to the Ayn Rand set, this single piece of legislation is the source of our woes. Fortunately, Robert Gordon from American Prospect has set the record straight.

Forget it free-marketeers, the jig is up. The protests have already begun. Back to the political wilderness with ye!

The economee: I explainz it

New column on the economic mess for the Badger Herald

It is a bit shocking to watch the Masters of the Universe become overwhelmed by their own system. Last week, to prevent an economic catastrophe, the Federal Reserve paid $85 billion for effective ownership of AIG. House Majority Leader Harry Reid defended Congress going on recess during a financial meltdown because “no one knows what to do.” Once again, the system is out of control, and all the painfully predictable jokes about “Wall Street socialism” will not be the worst of it.

Congress is preparing to pass a law allowing Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to spend $700 billion to buy off banks’ rotten debt. The bailout is quite ironic coming from the U.S. government, which for years has preached self-reliance to the poor. Apparently, giving unemployed workers a handout is rewarding bad behavior, but propping up the yahoos who crashed the economy is not. Truly, the rich are different than you and me.

Although the banks are getting help, the credit crunch means that a recession is still to come. The question is who will pay for it. The Wall Street Journal is already praising the capitalists’ “impressive resilience,” noting “to the discomfort of workers — companies are quicker to adjust wages, hiring and work hours when the economy softens.” In English, that means companies are going to stick it to their workers.

There is another way to pay for the crisis. The Pentagon is spending $2 billion a week to pulverize Iraq. Stopping the war and slashing military spending would free up the money necessary to bail out homeowners who have defaulted on their mortgages. As for the banks, if they are ultimately backed by our taxes, there is no reason why they should not be publicly owned.

Sadly, neither political party would ever consider this option. The Democrats have made some noise about protecting “Main Street Americans” (heaven forbid a Democrat ever utter the words “working class”). If history is any guide, all this talk will mostly amount to election season posturing. To save our futures, we are going to need our own program for solving this crisis. Here’s a start: Stop the war. Tax the rich.

To understand how we got to this point, we have to see this crisis in the context of neoliberalism. For 30 years, the capitalist class has waged an economic attack on the working class. Deregulation, privatization and falling wages have been the hallmarks of the neoliberal era. Since 1973, the U.S. economy nearly tripled in size, but real wages fell. In other words, free-market policies created massive wealth but the working class did not see a dime.

One of the most fateful deregulation measures was the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Services Modernization Act, signed by Bill Clinton, which unleashed the growth of the “shadow banking system.” One of the law’s architects is former Sen. Phil Gramm, erstwhile top economic advisor to the McCain campaign who resigned after calling America “a nation of whiners” and blaming the crisis he helped create on a “mental recession”. Former Treasury Secretary and current Obama advisor Robert Rubin lobbied for the law. This legislation allowed commercial banks to sell people’s mortgages to investment banks, which turned the debt into bonds and sold them to investors.

In the neoliberal era, one safeguard workers had against losing their standard of living was the rising value of their homes. Workers could refinance their mortgages at lower interest rates and use the savings to buy a car, a college education or health insurance. This is what conservative pundits mean when they refer to “Americans’ irresponsible borrowing.” It’s working Americans trying to stay out of poverty.

Low interest rates kept housing prices up until summer of 2006. When prices began falling, people who had taken out loans with the expectation of selling their house for a higher price were now stuck with insurmountable debt. The extent of the bad debt in the shadow bank system means that bonds thought to be worth trillions are worth much less. Moreover, now that home prices are falling, workers are cut off from a key supplement to their incomes, one that provided $800 billion a year to the working class from 2004 to mid-2007. The coming recession will squeeze a working class already suffering from 30 years of capitalist attack.

If your head is spinning from the absurdity of the situation, you’re not alone. What kind of system goes into crisis from building too many houses, when there are over a million homeless children in this country? What kind of system forces austerity on the working class but rewards traders for shuffling money around? What kind of system has billions for war and pennies for health care? Most importantly, is it any kind of system we want to live in?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Nader Zings the Washington Post

Earlier this week, after meeting with independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, the Washington Post decided that it would not cover his campaign. The Post's rationale: there is no way that Nader could win the election. Despite this black-balling of a candidate whose campaign represents a left-wing challenge to the two-party stranglehold (read: consensus) on politics, Nader came up with this fantastic response: "On that basis, why would you report on the Nationals?" he asked. "There are a lot of reasons to cover losers."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hell Yes

Good work to everyone who called in. As always, the struggle continues.

Ruling Class Media Turns Against the Republicans

Finally! Though it's been evident for about two years now that there's been a major shift of ruling class support away from the Republicans (who've fouled things up not a little for the American Empire), I've been quite disappointed so far this election cycle with the timidity of ruling class attacks on the conservatives. Remember Mark Foley in 2006? Why haven't the institutions of ruling opinion begun trotting out the skeleton's in the Republican closet yet this time around? While I don't have an answer for that, I think it is has finally begun.

CNN has regularly been carrying "Fact Check" segments where it subjects McCain campaign claims about Obama to empirical verification, where they typically come up quite thin. The latest regards Obama and gun control.

McCain's campaign hasn't helped itself by going on the attack against the ruling class media, calling the New York Times "a pro-Obama organization that every day attacks Sen. McCain, attacks Gov. Palin, and excuses Sen. Obama.” The irony here is that there is a rational kernel to McCain and co's conspiracy theories of the liberal media. The media's owners have made a real shift to the Democrats, and the Republicans are finally beginning to pay.

Proposed Syllabus: Black Communist Biography and Authobiography

Carole Boyce Davies - Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones

Nell Irvin Painter - Narrative of the Life of Hosea Hudson: His Life as a Negro Communist in the South

Harry Haywood - Black Autobiography of an Afro-American Communist

Angelo Herndon - Let Me Live

Gerald Horne - Black Liberation/Red Scare: Ben Davis and the Communist Party

W.E.B. DuBois - Autobiography of W.E.B. Dubois: A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the Last Decade of Its First Century

Paul Buhle - CLR James: The Artist as

William Patterson - The Man Who Cried Genocide

Monday, September 22, 2008

US-Backed Imperialism in Trouble in Somalia

From the World Socialist Website:

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has warned that he is prepared to withdraw his country’s troops from Somalia, where they are propping up the US-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG), even if the latter was not in control of the country.

His comments in an interview with the Financial Times at the end of August mark a significant shift in policy. He had previously indicated that Ethiopia would stay in Somalia until the TFG was in control of the country and well established.

He threatened that “technically we could bring them [the Ethiopian troops] back home tomorrow. We feel we have done what we planned to do in terms of preventing a total takeover of Somalia by a jihadist group.”

Probably not what the US ruling class needs to be hearing right now.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Ten National Security Myths

The Nation's lead article this week is "Ten National Security Myths," an effective debunking of both candidates' talking points on foreign policy. It's quite good, aside from the odd liberal nonsense about American leadership.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Why Obama Will Win

Whatever the US ruling class wants to gain out of this election, it sure as shit isn't this.

Josh Howard (NBA) Tells Ofay America Where to Stick It

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Two on Pakistan from Tariq Ali

Tariq Ali has two good articles on the US and Pakistan this week. The first is an interview on Democracy Now! where he describes just how little the the US cares about democracy in Pakistan. The second is an article from the Asia Times where he does an excellent job showing where US strategy in the region is heading.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

More on Palin

Though by this time any liberal with a pulse can probably point you to at least five articles demonstrating that Sarah Palin is a liar, vindictive, etc (and can probably do an impression of Tina Fey's version of Palin as well), I found Chris Hedge's piece particularly worthwhile. Hedges investigates in some depth Palin's relationship with masculinity and the Christian Right.

An especially rich part is where Hedges talks about James Dobson's reflections on the innate differences between men and women:

For a woman, Dobson writes, love is her most important experience: Love gives woman her "zest," it makes up her "life-blood," it is her primary "psychological need." Love holds less meaning in a man's life than a woman's -- though a man can appreciate love, he does not "need" it.

Surely this tells us more about one particular man than the sex in general.

Sarah Palin: Anti-woman trogolodyte

Here is one of the more appalling nuggets discovered about McCain's VP: as Mayor of Wasilla, she oversaw the policy of having rape victims pay for their rape kits (that can run as high as $1000). See multiple sources here and here.

The fact that the Obama camp can't muster any kind of response is simply disgusting. The Democrat's are showing themselves to be impotent to this neanderthal. The election is still theirs to lose, but if the so-called "party of the people" cannot figure out how to win in November, the coffin in which the Republicans should have been buried might see a different occupant.

Monday, September 15, 2008

As of 9:30 this morning, the stock sell-off has begun.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wall Street in Panic

Alan Greenspan says the economy is in a "once in a century" crisis. Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch are supplicating themselves before any possible buyer. Wall Street executives hunker down in their financial bunkers.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rest in Peace Peter Camejo

Longtime socialist activist and organizer Peter Miguel Camejo has passed away. Rest in Peace Peter.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Our kickoff column

At pauly's insistence, here's something I wrote for our student paper, plugging our yearly kickoff meeting. Despite the frigid reception of the BH trolls, we had about 75 people in a standing-room-only meeting. Not too shabby.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Eyewitness to Occupation

Dahr Jamail, author of Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq, at Socialism 2008

CNN On Why Deportation is Inhumane

This CNN article is quite remarkable. It's an effective illustration of the brutal inhumanity that results from the "enforcement" discourse on immigration. Yes, it ends up being a sop for some Christian philanthropist whose group, Organization to Help Citizen Children, does as much as damage as good by framing the issue around citizenship, but nonetheless it's extraordinary that an article which treats undocumented workers like people should be headlining on CNN.

Monday, September 8, 2008

No, Iraq is not all Seashells and Balloons

Article I wrote for SW about the state of Iraq:

It was with great fanfare this week that US officials announced the handover of security in Iraq’s al-Anbar province, home of Fallujah and once where the insurgency was at its fiercest, to the Iraqi army.

The New York Times’ Dexter Filkins (as obsequious a mouth piece as any the Bush regime could ask for) waxed delusional on the situation in Anbar, writing that “the arrangements in Anbar seem immune to those strains” which are threatening the peace in other parts of Iraq. He continues, “Perhaps because the province is almost entirely Sunni, there are no sectarian tensions to speak of.”

Filkins’ reporting is, unfortunately, utterly typical of a press which has (again!) swallowed the Bush administrations lies about what is going on Iraq. Every drop in violence is chalked up as a victory for the occupiers, regardless of its causes or implications. Indeed, if Bush hadn’t been burned once before when declaring ‘Mission Accomplished,” he would surely be tempted to do so now.

The administration’s propaganda surge has been successful in disorienting parts of the antiwar movement. If people don’t have an understanding the unimaginable destruction the US-led occupation is still subjecting Iraq to, protesting the war seems a lot less urgent.

The first thing to recognize about the post-surge Iraq is that, despite sunny news reports, people’s lives remain shattered by the occupation. A poll by a British news agency earlier this revealed that one in four residents of Iraq (45% in Baghdad) had a family member who had been murdered. Recent drops in sectarian fighting don’t take away the fact that the United States unleashed almost unimaginable levels of violence in Iraq.

The slowdown of ethnic strife also didn’t alleviate the judgment of the Iraqi Red Cross/Red Crescent earlier this year, when it declared that “The humanitarian situation in most of the country remains among the most critical in the world," and that Iraq’s health care system is “now in worse shape than ever.”

Iraq’s 18 provinces average 15 hours of electricity a day, a potentially deadly situation for hospital patients.

Poverty also remains the norm for many Iraqis, with many families using up to a third of their monthly income to buy drinking water.

Though it’s true that sectarian violence has declined, the occupation forces remain a brutal presence in Iraqi’s lives, a fact highlighted by the US military’s “mistaken” killing of six Iraqi security personnel on Wednesday.

Four million Iraqis remain displaced, and contrary to administration stories of returning families, that number isn’t changing much. The highest number of internally displaced people (those forced to flee their homes but remaining in Iraq) was about 2.3 million a year ago. The Iraqi Red Crescent reported that as of the end of May 2008, that number had dropped to about 2.1 million – a drop of 5% over 8 months. At that rate it will only take 120 years for all of the internally displaced to return to their homes!

Internally displaced people only account for half of Iraqi refugees. The rest have been forced to flee the country altogether. In Lebanon, a country with a large population of Iraqi refugees, Human Rights Watch has just reported an epidemic of deaths among migrant domestic workers, with at least one dying every week from unnatural causes – a disturbing prospect for refugees trying to eke out a living.

There are also good reasons to believe that the administration is putting pressure on the Iraqi government to limit the information on instability in Iraq that reaches the media corps.

A recent article by Dahr Jamail and Ahmed Ali showed how, in the Diyala province, kidnappings of Sunni residents are going unreported by the local government. While one tribal leader told the reporters that at least ten people from his tribe have been kidnapped recently, the police were reporting no kidnappings in the last four months.

Government censorship has been of the more blatant variety as well. Just this Thursday the vice-governor of the Babil province banned journalists and media workers from covering a march by protesting municipal workers.

Iraq’s political situation is also showing signs of instability. Last month the Iraqi Parliament ended its session unable to reach a deal over the provincial elections originally scheduled to take place in October. The crucial issue behind the stalemate is the question of who will control Kirkuk, an oil-rich northern city which Iraqi Kurds are attempting to bring under their control. The ruling class Shi’a parties of Iraq, led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, are resisting this attempt.

The conflict between the ruling Shi’a parties and the Kurds is an ominous sign for Washington, as these two groups have been the twin pillars of Iraqi political support for the occupation.

Even more potentially explosive are the recent moves by the Iraqi government against the Sunni Awakening councils (which are essentially former insurgents who are now on the US payroll). While some have called for the complete merging of the councils into the Iraqi security forces, the government itself has declared that no more than 15% of the 100,000 former insurgents will be allowed to join. The few that are allowed will be forced to accept low-level positions as foot soldiers or police officers.

Beyond discriminating against the councils, there are also reports of Nuri al-Maliki’s government arresting Awakening council leaders and confiscating their weapons. Last month Battalion 36 of the Iraqi army, known as “the dirty group,” was involved in operations in many of the central Iraqi provinces in which prominent Sunni tribal leaders and Awakening council leaders were arrested. In several cases, these arrests led to violence between government troops and council members (both supposedly US allies).

Such clashes reveal the potential that still exists for open conflict between Sunni militants, who once formed the backbone of the insurgency, and the Iraqi government.

Beyond Iraq, the war is still having a devastating impact at home. Army officials announced yesterday that the suicide rate for veterans was set to pass last year’s record, as well as passing the rate for the general US population, a number it hasn’t approached since the Vietnam War.

The antiwar movement still has a case to make, and in a presidential election where both candidates agree that “victory” in Iraq is the goal, it’s more important than ever that activists put forward the argument that the US has only made the lives of Iraqis worse.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Slingshot Hip Hop: Free the P

This is my attempt to bust pauly's musical trust on the Tank. While awaiting the arrival of my copy of the new Son of Nun album, here's an excellent sampling of Pro-Palestinian hip hop.

The Arab Summit:

The Philistines:

And Son of Nun w/ the Welfare Poets:

Courtney Love

While it's quite hip (and cliche) these days to make Courtney Love the butt of various jokes, in their heyday Hole rocked like Nirvana wished they could.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Exhibit C:

Socialism 2008 final rally

Socialist Worker editor, Alan Maass at the Socialism 2008 final rally.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Great Russian Chauvanism makes a comeback

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev:

"Russia, just like other countries in the world, has regions where it has its privileged interests. In these regions, there are countries with which we have traditionally had friendly cordial relations, historically special relations. We will work very attentively in these regions and develop these friendly relations with these states, with our close neighbours... Certainly the regions bordering [on Russia], but not only them."

St. Paul Police Target protestors, journalists

As many of you have probably heard, the police presence outside of the Republican National Convention for the Labor Day rallies was immense. CNN reported that the police received a federal grant of 50 million (taxpayer) dollars to beef up the police presence with 3,500 extra officers. A fact that strikingly shows the priorities of the feds, especially in light of the Republican charade to shuffle their convention schedule in hopes of hoodwinking us into thinking they actually give a shit about the people of the Gulf coast, is that this sum is a fourth of the necessary investment needed to rebuild the barrier islands and wetlands that would have acted as a major buffer to any hurricane. This could have potentially prevented the tragedy that was Katrina and the trauma being caused by Gustav.

Back to the title of the post. So, despite a spirited and well attended (about 10,000 people) march and several direct action events, the police victimized several journalists and activists, in particular Democracy Now's Amy Goodman, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. Kouddous and Salazar were picked up for 'felony rioting' –which is absurd considering that they were journalists covering street demos– and Goodman was picked up for obstructing an arrest when she inquired into what was happening to her colleagues. (Here is a video of her arrest). Thankfully the three have since been released from custody, but the charges against Kouddous and Salazar have yet to be dismissed. In addition to these bogus charged that amount to an assault on free speech, all three were handled violently by the police. Here is DN's statement condemning the arrests and providing more details. While the case of the DN three has been more widely noticed, some 300 activists were picked up and attacked with rubber bullets, tear gas, and concussion grenades for participating in direct action against the Republicans. Ironically, Fox News has a fairly decent description of the horror expressed by the poor Delegates who were the targets of the activists' ire (one managed to get on a delegation's bus and yell "Thanks for fucking up the country"). Apparently, Fox has since paired down (excised) all mentions of the positive aspects of the protests and sit-ins and also the horrified convention goers interviews. Typical. Anyhow, the repression against activists and journalists stayed on par with the amount of security personnel and the tenor of the past eight years of Bush's assault on civil liberties.

Despite the repression, however, the outpouring of anger at the past eight years of Bush among leftists of all shades (from Obama supporters to far-leftists) was truly inspiring. Iraq Vets Against the War, Vets for Peace, the Campus Antiwar Network and the ISO all had excellent contingents. I personally met many people for whom this march represented their first foray into activism. Given the criminal fact that there hasn't been a national anti-war demo since January 2007, this march represented in a significant way the potential for rebuilding an anti-war movement in this country despite the cold douche of election year politics on activism.

Here is Socialist Worker's coverage of the protest.

Update on Thailand

The PAD protests in Thailand have taken a turn for the worse, with Prime Minister Samak declaring martial law today. Though at the end of last week many commentators were speculating that Samak had won this round by holding firm without using force, it now looks as though the PAD has forced his hand. The Asia Times article I linked to above makes it clear just how reactionary a PAD victory would be (though of course Samak and his People's Power Party (contra the name) are no progressives). In addition to the links to General Saprang Kalayanamitr, "former Internal Security Operations Command deputy director Panlop Pinmanee and former spy chief and 2006 coup architect Prasong Soonsiri."

Even more disturbing than the reactionary nature of the PAD, however, is the way that some progressive forces have agreed to march under its banner - namely labor leader Somsak Kosaisuk, who commands loyalty among many lower level government workers. His work with the PAD is a devil's bargain. The coup of 2006 removed from power a president who had constructed Thailand's first universal healthcare system, a massive victory for labor which reduces the cost of job loss dramatically. There's also the matter of military coups being historically unfriendly to workers, to put it lightly.

In the ego front, the article I wrote for SW on Thailand has been reposted at Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific and Europe Solidaire Sans Frontieres. Thanks for the links!

Monday, September 1, 2008

'Be Fruitful and Multiply'

I know, I know. This is obvious. But who can resist pointing out the karma involved when a Christian fundamentalist promoter of abstinence only education finds out that her 17 year old daughter is pregnant?

What could have been done before Gustav... and Katrina for that matter

Among them:
*state and federal officials could have done a lot more to assess the weak links in the levee system, from New Orleans to Morgan City, Louisiana.
*more of an effort should have been made to repair damaged areas on levees. In many places, he said, there is bare soil, no grass at all on the levees.
*both before and after Katrina, he said the Army Corps of Engineers has not allowed enough outside experts to work with them to make improvements

But perhaps the greatest neglect has been restoration of the wetlands off the Louisiana coast. “For 14 years we’ve been trying to get the state to start a more large scale effort to rebuild the barrier islands,” said van Heerden.

These islands act as speed bumps with an approaching storm.

“If the existing barrier islands were a little higher and wider, it could knock two to three feet off the storm surge. It would have been about a $200 million dollar project, it could have been finished by now...” he said.

Here's a great article from Socialist Worker highlighting even more of the government's criminal neglect of New Orleans since Katrina. So, we are still going to protest your asses today whether or not you shuffle around your schedules.