Friday, October 31, 2008

The Death Knell of Conservatism, Episodes 943 and 944

This is a video from CNN of McCain spokesman Mike Goldfarb accusing Obama of being an anti-semite for once being friends with Rashid Khalidi (who, for the record, is not an anti-semite). His stonewalling technique is roughly equivalent to that of a tenth grader whose bag of weed has been found by his parents.

Conservative editor and windbag William Kristol. I think they gave him nitrous oxide before the shoot to keep that shit eating grin on his face the whole 7 minutes.

Three-year-old fights police

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Robbed Blind

Remember the reason the banks got the bailout? That the banks needed it to continue lending to "Main Street America?" That they were too big to fail? Well apparently, too big just isn't big enough, because a lot of that bailout money will be going to help mergers, not to improve the credit market:

In his column on Saturday, The Times’s Joe Nocera told about a conference call that he had listened in on recently between employees and executives of JPMorgan Chase. Asked how an infusion of $25 billion of bailout funds would change the bank’s lending policy, an executive said the money would be used to buy other banks.

“I think there are going to be some great opportunities for us to grow in this environment, and I think we have an opportunity to use that $25 billion in that way,” the executive said. He added that the money could also be used as a backstop in case “recession turns into depression or what happens in the future.”

There was not a word about lending — not to businesses or home buyers or car buyers or students or other consumers. Just the opposite. In response to another question, the executive said that the bank expected to continue to tighten credit.
Once again, one has to marvel at the chutzpah of our betters.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Felipe Calderón tries to open Mexican oil to privatization

This is a big deal. It seems the the Mexican government is attempting to use the world financial crisis and the inefficient(read: massively corrupt) Mexican national oil company, PEMEX, to erode the President Lazaro Cardenas' 1938's nationalization of the nation's oil in 1938. A longer post is on the way.

Like Kweli Said...

don't ask me what i'd say to a dead cop's wife
cops kill my people everday that's life

Tony Cliff on Lenin and the Party

A useful discussion of Lenin's theory of the party and what it means for organizers. Also, for those of us with ADD, funny cartoons.

Halloween: Capitalist Horrorshow edition of the International Socialist Review

It's spooky.


LANCE SELFA: A new political landscape

LEE SUSTAR: An Economic system on the edge

EDUARDO LUCITA: A crisis of capital

Battle at Boeing


Racial scapegoats for the crash
Conservatives are blaming the economic crisis on affirmative action, Phil Gasper writes in “Critical Thinking”

Capitalism’s worst crisis since the 1930s
Joel Geier

Beyond the surge in Iraq
Ashley Smith looks behind the hype about success in Iraq

Afghanistan: The new quagmire
Christian Parenti, interviewed by Helen Scott

Bolivia after the referendum
Jeffery Webber and Tom Lewis

Charter schools and the attack on public education
Sarah Knopp

Hothouse Earth: capitalism and climate change
First of two articles by Chris Williams

The echo effect of 1968
Mexican author Paco Ignacio Taibo II, interviewed by Todd Chretien

Energy imperialism
Lance Selfa reviews new books by Michael T. Klare and Andrew J. Bacevich

A life spent in struggle
Todd Chretien remembers Peter Miguel Camejo, 1939–2008


What to read about Afghanistan
Charles T. Peterson reviews five recent books

PLUS: Hooked on prescription drugs; Deadly lines on the map; Overblowing the risks of terror attack

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A real professional on the stump...

The freak-show rolls on...

Mike Davis does NPR

So it occurred to a few members of the bourgeois press that with all this talk about socialism, they might want to ask a self-proclaimed Red about what's going on.
Nice to hear Mike on NPR. The other day, I woke up to an interview with Bernard-Henri Lévy. Yech.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

So whatever happened to those caps on executive pay?

To get working class Americans to swallow the bailout plan, Congress, lead by the Democrats, had to add a few spoonfuls of sugar. One of those was a promise to put a cap on executive pay on Wall Street. However, it turns out that Wall Street compensation is almost as outrageous as before

So far this year, nine of the largest U.S. banks, including some that have cut thousands of jobs, have seen total costs for salaries, benefits and bonuses grow by an average of 3 percent from a year ago, according to an Associated Press review.
Even now, when the bailout money is already flowing, no executives are taking pay cuts. To experts, the result was easily forecast
But executive pay experts said the regulations are too weak to spark major reform in the way companies compensate top officers, and too narrow in scope to change the pay structure that encouraged finance executives in boom times to take on enormous risks.
Even Neel Kashkari, Paulson's right-hand man on the bailout and a fellow ex-Goldman Sachs executive, told executives that he would protect their pocketbooks
Attempts by Congress to make beneficiaries pay for their mistakes, such as placing caps on executive pay, were "quite reasonable" and "a pretty modest hindrance to you," he told them, according to a recording of the Sept. 28 conference call made public on video-sharing Web site YouTube.
As Dean Baker, whose blog has been quite helpful, points out
The public should continue to follow this issue even if the media does not. They should keep asking the members of Congress who touted the pay restrictions in the bailout bill which executives are getting their pay cut.
That's a particularly good question to ask when President Obama tells us that we will all have to sacrifice to get through these trying times.

Lest we forget, Obama played an instrumental role in getting the bailout passed, and liberal Democrats like Tammy Baldwin also helped sell the idea that the bailout would cut executive pay. This is the American ruling class' B-Team at work.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

BONO WATCH: His Holiness to pen NYT columns

For a brief stint, Thomas Friedman will no longer be the biggest blowhard on the New York Times opinion page. In 2009, Bono will be writing between 6 and 10 columns on "Africa, poverty, and, importantly, the music of Frank Sinatra." God help us.

Devoted Bono Watchers will remember this is not Bono's first foray into journalism. Two years ago, Bono "edited" a single edition of the Independent, the liberal British daily. Counterpuncher Harry Browne summed up the politics of the paper

Even "The 5-Minute Interview", with BBC radio DJ Zane Lowe, finishes with an incongruous, not to say idiotically phrased, question, "Can big corporations make a difference to people's lives?" Lowe sings from Bono's hymnsheet: "The only thing people who are trying to make a difference can do is work alongside corporations. We're not going to abolish big business, people aren't going to stop drinking Starbucks and buying Nike, but you can say to them, 'There's a big difference you can make and if we find a way to make it easier for you, would you contribute?'"

This notion of lowest common denominator activism is the keynote of Bono's signed, somewhat tetchy editorial: "So forgive us if we expand our strategy to reach the high street, where so many of you live and work. We need to meet you where you are as you shop, as you phone, as you lead your busy, businessy lives."
If the past is any indicator, we can look forward to NYT columns gushing with praise for any western leader or corporation willing to lend their name to Bono's "cause."

However, Bono, clever lad, has preempted my criticisms of his movement
On the far left, we will meet "better dead than RED", a reaction to big business that is not wholly unjustified. But given the emergency that is Aids, I don't see this as selling out. I see this as ganging up on the problem. This emergency demands a radical centre, as well as a radical edge. Creeping up on the everyday. Making the difficult easy.
The idea is that ordinary people can "team up" with people like George Bush, Gordon Brown and Jesse Helms (imagine that degenerate cracker giving two shits about Black people) to help Africa. Sounds plausible, but what happens when real African people decide to resist another threat, like AFRICOM? Will Bono use one of his columns to condemn the U.S. and show solidarity with Africans resisting American imperialism?

I think not. We wouldn't want to upset the rest of the team.

In other celebrity news...
Angelina Jolie, the UN's head celeb, does the "bearing witness" thing in Afghanistan. Last time Jolie visited a country under U.S. occupation, she penned this little ditty (will someone keep these people out of the papers) backing the occupation. Jolie's visit is well-timed considering Obama's promise to surge in Afghanistan.

Friday, October 24, 2008

How Bill Clinton helped to (nearly) murder Troy Davis

In understanding why, in light of all the evidence for a retrial, Troy Davis has nearly been murdered by the state of Georgia three times, it is essential to look at Bill Clinton's Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. Marlene Martin does just that.

Troy Davis gets stay of execution

We win again!

Palling around with Pinochet

John Dingus, eminent NSA archive spelunker, has recently uncovered a series of previously classified embassy cables describing one Congressman John McCain's meeting with Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, in 1985. If McCain/Palin's claims that Obama's association with ex-Weather Underground member Bill Ayers spoke ill of his dedication to defending America, McCain's ties to the contras, pro-fascist groups, and now mass murderer/torturer Pinochet leaves no doubt as to who has the real terrorist connections.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Video of Police horse trampling veteran: Ghost of Bonus Army Past

Disclaimer: this is brutal.

I'd like to repeat: not a peep out of outrage or compassion from Obama and McCain.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Military opens $15 million hospital for dogs wounded in war

Are you shitting me? While Long Island cops use horses to brutalize HUMAN veterans, not a peep is raised from either side of the aisle or either candidate. What kind of message might this be sending to vets who have seen the VA budget slashed time and time again and skyrocketing suicide rates?

Torture cop Jon Burge is arrested

For once, the right man gets it. Burge, a former Chicago police lieutenant, was responsible for torturing black men into signing confessions for crimes they didn't commit, some of whom ended up on death row. Hoo-ray!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The human cost of economic meltdown

Most of us would welcome Paulson, Bernanke and CO. throwing themselves from buildings. Unlike most of their precursors during the Great Depression, however, the bankers and other capitalists who helped cause the current economic meltdown seem to be floating pretty with the help of golden parachutes. On the other hand, the brunt of the violence caused by this crisis is faced by the millions of Americans suffering eviction, job loss, continued unemployment and bankruptcy. As a recent article from TomDispatch shows, Addie Polk is not the only one driven to the most desperate of actions. Suicides and violent confrontations with the police are taking place across the country and receiving no coverage from the media. This article gives a sobering view of the inhumanity of the crisis never mentioned by Obama, McCain and the rest who support bail outs to Wall Street and nothing for the rest of us.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Death Knell of conservatism, episode 276

National Review, the most important conservative intellectual magazine in the country, faced with Obama's inevitable victory, has adopted the editorial tone of a petulant teenager.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Obama's Terrorist Friends

Friday, October 17, 2008

Republicans want government small enough to fit in your bedroom...

...or your uterus

RIP Levi Stubbs

Not that political of a post, but Levi Stubbs' passing deserves homage where homage is due, especially since the Four Tops are one of my favorite Motown acts.

Hopefully there will be a better obituary out than CNN's. I'll post it when I find it.

Update: Here's the New York Times obit. It's much more informative.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


As we're constantly reminded, the collapse of the market means that we need financial experts now more than ever. Despite the infantile protestations of a demagogic populace rejecting its betters, it's painfully apparent to the educated classes that expertise is crucial at this conjuncture. Bertolt Brecht wrestled with a similar situation in the 1930s, and I thought a poem of his might help us illuminate our current position.

Difficulty of Governing

Ministers are always telling the people
How difficult it is to govern. Without the ministers
Corn would grow into the ground, not upward.
Not a lump of coal would leave the mine if
The Chancellor weren't so clever. Without the Minister of
No girl would ever agree to get pregnant. Without the
Minister of War
There'd never be a war. Indeed, whether the sun would rise
in the morning
Without the Fuhrer's permission
Is very doubtful, and if it did, it would be
In the wrong place.

It's just as difficult, so they tell us
To run a factory. Without the owner
The walls would fall in and the machines rust, so they say.
Even if a plough could get made somewhere
It would never reach a field without the
Cunning words the factory owners writers the peasants: who
Could otherwise tell them that the plough exists? And what
Would become of an estate without the landlord? Surely
They'd be sowing rye where they had set the potatoes.

If governing were easy
There'd be no need for such inspired minds as the Fuhrer's.
If the worker knew how to run his machine and
The peasant could tell his factory from a pastryboard
There'd be no need of factory owner or landlord.
It's only because they are all so stupid
That a few are needed who are clever.

Could it be that
Governing is so difficult only
Because swindling and exploitation take some learning?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Death Knell of conservatism, episode 312: Christopher Buckley quits National Review

Lil' Buckley:

"While I regret this development, I am not in mourning, for I no longer have any clear idea what, exactly, the modern conservative movement stands for," Buckley wrote. "Eight years of 'conservative' government has brought us a doubled national debt, ruinous expansion of entitlement programs, bridges to nowhere, poster boy Jack Abramoff and an ill-premised, ill-waged war conducted by politicians of breathtaking arrogance. As a sideshow, it brought us a truly obscene attempt at federal intervention in the Terry Schiavo case," he also wrote.
Now I know what you're thinking, "what would his father say?" But Dad may not have been far behind him, had he lived.
But the conviction hinted in the columns only hardened during the last year of Buckley’s life, when he arrived at a tragic view of the Iraq War. He saw it as a disaster and thought that the conservative movement he had created had in effect committed intellectual suicide by failing to maintain critical distance from the Bush administration.

Oh How They Love Each Other

Joe Biden: "I don't think there's a prejudiced bone in John McCain's body."
John McCain: "I hate the gooks," McCain said yesterday in response to a question from reporters aboard his campaign bus. "I will hate them as long as I live."

BONO WATCH: The Annoited One to appear in new Bible, more evidence he actually believes he is Christ

I think some enterprising scientists should do an experiment on liberal celebrities to determine if there's a relationship between them surrounding themselves with fawning, dark-skinned children and delusions of being the messiah

Instead of following the usual Bible format - lots of words but somewhat lacking in celebrity portraits - Swedish ad man Dag Soderberg has decided to repackage it in the style of Vogue. Passages are written out in a magazine-style format and accompanied by striking images. Jolie's picture is included alongside Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and U2 frontman Bono, to illustrate the importance of doing good deeds.
You know the world is in need of a new Left when an ad agent can get away with equating liberal, do-gooders like Angelina Jolie and Bono to Gandhi and Mandela. I guess in the current political context, celebrities who care about Africa seem like the best thing going. However, let us not forget that the politics of humanitarianism (I guess that's "doing good deeds") can put you on the wrong side of the struggle, like Jolie's support for US occupation of Iraq and Bono's hobnobbing with every dirtbag politician under the sun in the name of "supporting Africa."
There are enough reasons to look forward to a revival of Left-wing politics, but one bonus might be the end of celebrities making pious, patronizing appeals to "care."

Friday, October 10, 2008

McCain Tries to Put Out a Fire He Started

This is entertaining. John McCain tries to calm a crowd of rabid racists in, where else, Wisconsin. Listen to the crowd rage as McCain hints that his opponent may, in fact, be a human being. Imagine the joy which would pour forth if he would let his true feelings out and yell "That nigger is going to be president over my dead body!" The crowd is all but pleading for it.

Also note the bizarreness of his reply to the woman who doesn't trust Obama because "he's an Arab." "He's a decent family man." WTF?! That'd be like if I said "Tim is a good cook" and you said "No, he wears bifocals."

Confronting our worthless liberal Congresswoman

Check out the article as well.
It takes a lot of nerve to look a bunch of college students in the eye and tell them that taxpayers could actually make money off of these bad loans that no one in the private sector will touch with a ten-foot pole. I guess that's the kind of talent it takes to be a member of the U.S. ruling class, even for a nice liberal like Tammy.

Musicians on Strike!

Here's an article I wrote for Socialist Worker about the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra strike. Check out the article and their blog.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Poetry by W.D. Ehrhart

W.D. Ehrhart is a Vietnam veteran who became involved with Vietnam Veterans Against the War when he returned home. His work features prominently in a course on the Vietnam war I'm currently helping teach.

To Those Who Have Gone Home Tired

After the streets fall silent
After the bruises and the tear-gassed eyes are healed
After the consensus has returned
After the memories of Kent and My Lai and Hiroshima
lose their power
and their connections with each other
and the sweaters labeled Made in Taiwan
After the last American dies in Canada
and the last Korean in prison
and the last Indian at Pine Ridge
After the last whale is emptied from the sea
and the last leopard emptied from its skin
and the last drop of blood refined by Exxon
After the last iron door clangs shut
behind the last conscience
and the last loaf of bread is hammered into bullets
and the bullets
scattered among the hungry

What answers will you find
What armor will protect you
when your children ask you


Making the Children Behave

Do they think of me now
in those strange Asian villages
where nothing ever seemed
quite human
bu myself
and my few grim friends
moving through them
in lines?

When they tell stories to their children
of the evil
that awaits misbehavior,
is it me they conjure?

For Mrs. Na

I always told myself,
if I ever got the chance to go back,
I'd never say "I'm sorry"
to anyone. Christ,

those guys I saw on television once:
sitting in Hanoi, the cameras rolling,
crying, blubbering
all over the place. Sure,

I'm sorry. I never meant to do the things I did.
But that was nearly twenty years ago:
enough's enough.

If I ever go back
I always told myself,
I'll hold steady
and look them in the eye.

But here I am at last-
and here you are.
And you lost five sons in the war.
And you haven't any left.

And I'm staring at my hands
and eating tears,
trying to think of something else to say
besides "I'm sorry."

Monday, October 6, 2008

City Lights: another blow to the myth of the surge

I'm not sure how much this has gotten around, but this report, Baghdad nights: evaluating the US military 'surge' using nighttime light signatures, is essential reading.
Basically, several geographers and one political science professor from UCLA used satellite imagery of Baghdad's lights at night to observe the changes in population distribution throughout surge. Overall, a decrease in nighttime lights in Sunni and mixed neighborhoods, while Shia nighborhoods remained the same. In particular, the neighborhoods of East Rashid and West Rashid, historically mixed areas with a slight Sunni majority, experienced the greatest decline in light density.

The outcome seems to have been both a total loss of Sunni population (these neighbor-hoods have produced many of the refugees fleeing Baghdad) and a successful Shia
strategy of `pacifying' those areas in the city hitherto most hostile to Iraq's largely Shia government. The city neighborhoods east of the Tigris River, many of which were mixed Sunni/Shia and other before, are now heavily Shia. But citywide, there has been a dramatic decrease in the extent of ethno-sectarian residential intermixing. This probably explains the overall lowering of the level of violence. Locally, there is no one left to attack.
The verdict:
Yet, as other Iraqi cities experienced just such an intensification of their nighttime lights, Baghdad had the opposite experience. We interpret this change as indicating that violence has decreased in Baghdad not because of an overall improvement in material conditions or because US troops have imposed a Pax Americana on the city but because large parts of the city have been emptied of their existing populations and sometimes replaced with coreligionists, thus reducing the local stimulus to violence emphasized in the Jones Report (2007).
Science, son. Science.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sarah Palin: why women should bear their rapists' babies

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The VP debate transcript

In case you missed Thursday night's tussle, Dennis Perrin has conveniently provided a transcript of the debate

IFILL: Let's talk foreign policy. Which of you is the biggest supporter of Israel?

BIDEN: Gwen, there's no doubt that it's me, and anyone who says different is a Holocaust denier.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Bailout passes

The fix, as they say, is in. In the meantime I couldn't help but notice this story about a 90 year old woman who attempted suicide after the bank foreclosed on her. Sadly, I think we can look forward to more of this.

September Sees Biggest Job Loss Since 2003

And this survey was taken before Wall Street went belly-up.