May 2013 archive

Reborn? More Like Invasion of the Country Snatchers: by James Hepburn

Originally posted by James Hepburn here, and reposted with express permission.

And now re-posted from Voices on the Square– ek hornbeck

Am I the only one who saw the America "being reborn" diary and it immediately conjured up images from some scifi dystopian movie you probably only saw the trailer for? Like, "It Lives II – The Rebirth"

Well, if it didn't, it should have. Let me summarize that diary's main points:

1. America was never all that – there was no heyday.

2. Shit has sucked before and so it will again.

3. Not falling apart – being reborn, into what nobody knows.

4. But it's not that bad because 3D Printers can print solar panels.

5. We're in a great revolution, shift, change – reborn into what even the powerful don't know.

6. Now is the time to steer the direction of history, these are not end times, but interesting times – "Homosexual couples can get married in America. A Black man is President. We are world leaders in a reduction of CO2 emissions."

7 The world is changing, but the powerful will "push back."

8. They will appear insurmountable, until they aren't.

This evoked cries of Yay! from many commenters extolling the virtues of optimism. 'Things aren't as bad as that. And thank you for being positive for a change.'

One commenter even asked what hole all these pessimists crawled out of. "Progressives are supposed to be about progress. Leave the "we-can't" stuff to the other guys," he said.

I have long suspected that some on this site exist in some kind of shell, and when news or information that threatens or challenges their views gets posted, or even makes it to the Rec'd List, they simply ignore it.

And I will say now, I don't blame them. Reality is depressing. Who wants to sit around thinking about how earth is in its 6th mass extinction event, or how, at the current rate, the Amazon Rainforest will be wiped out before the end of the century greatly amplifying and feedbacking the effects of climate change, or how climate change is, according to a report (PDF) sponsored by the World Bank, moving us toward conditions that could be accurately likened to an apocalypse, or how the world is running out of fresh water and our aquifers are drying up,or how, as we speak, the Fukushima reactor in Japan is leaking untold amounts of radioactive water into the Pacific ocean, or how Obama and BP's solution to the Gulf oil spill actually made it much worse, or how the real unemployment rate is actually worse and continues to get worser still, or how the same economic "policies" that have devastated Detroit and other formerly industrial cities will be devastating your city soon enough, or how our schools have become pipelines to prisons, or how our corporate produced foods have become poisonous, etc etc etc.

I get it. This shit, like, totally harshes your buzz. So it's easy to turn away – especially when a lot of it is happening somewhere else or doesn't quite effect you personally yet (except for the tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts, floods, snowpocalypses, epidemics of strange illnesses and other more normal ones like childhood asthma, health care bankruptcy, getting fired from your job, etc etc etc). So as long as we ignore all the things that are wrong, things look pretty fucking good.  As one commenter in said diary said, compared to 2nd world countries, "We're in pretty good shape."

A lot of it depends on one's perspective. My inlaws paid about 1.5 mil. for their house. It's in a gated neighborhood with water sprinklers that keep the vast acres of grass green, even in some winter months. Things look super from there. No crime. Best public schools in the state. Roads perfectly paved.

It helps to put things in perspective. I guess.

Anyway, as for the "Reborn" diary, I just want to make a couple of corrections.

It is true, there was never a heyday when all was well in America. But utopian perfection has never defined what made up the US's heyday. Trajectory does.

1930s-1970s: That was America's heyday. Not because there weren't serious wrongs during that period. But because things were getting better. We were on a progressive trajectory, established by progressives. That trajectory began to change in the early 70s. Not because of some unknowable, great global shift revolution that is "all around us."

It began to change because a few assholes figured out how to rig the system and then went about doing it. It's not a mystery. And it's not a secret. They got together with all their right wing, billionaire buddies and coordinated a campaign to change the trajectory of this country.

Their plan was pretty simple. Work together and form big lobbying groups. Buy the government. Buy up all the mass media and get it away from all those bleeding hearted liberals. And impose their pro business agenda on every major university.

It ain't rocket science.

Muskegon Critic says that America isn't falling apart. He's right. It is being disassembled, piece by piece. The shifts that are occurring aren't a result of an inevitable force. We are not being swept up in some mystical wind of change.

We are simply under attack. And it's an attack that has been ongoing for decades.

The agenda of our attackers is also quite simple, once you get past the distractions. Their agenda is to transform America from the great society vision encapsulated in the New Deal, with a high paid labor class, widespread advanced education, the expectation of a strong social safety net, and tight government controls on big businesses to prevent the exploitation of workers, the pollution of the environment, and ensurance that those who benefit most from our society pay the most to maintain it.

In place of this, they want basically the opposite. They want apeasant labor class to exploit, to weaken government by corrupting andsabotaging our democratic institutions, unfettered access to our naturalresources which, in any sane society would be consider our commonwealth, and no social safety net.

What big business figured out is that they need lots of poor people.The poorer a country is, the more corruptible it is, the moreexploitable it is, the easier it is to pillage.

The kind of society that the New Deal began to create, was unacceptable to the  corrupt parasites of the ruling class. Suddenly you had this emerging labor class, middle class, and academic class that was uber-educated, pretty well informed, and getting smart enough to demand a more just, more equal, and better managed society. Some people call it the 60s. But it wasn't just a trend or an era. And it wasn't limited to hippies or university intellectuals. They were just the cutting edge of something entirely new: the ascendency of a new class in world history. An educated, empowered, financially secure, and politically activated lower class.

The world had really never seen that before, nowhere near on this scale. And all those smart people who used to be too insecure to complain, too ignorant to know what to complain about, and to alienated by the political process to act anyway, were now becoming a big problem. They had expectations of fairness, and the political power, through unions etc, to, to leverage those expectations. They were getting too uppity to be sent off to die in Parasite wars. And they were demanding that the environment be protected. Something had to change.

When all the big business, right wing assholes came together around the Powell Memo, they weren't just acting to advance their business interests. They knew they needed to transform the American public. We needed to become a lot more like a 3rd world country.

That's what's changed. No great tides, or winds or the inevitable replacing of the old with the new. Just some assholes, who own TV networks, radio stations, newspapers, universities, think tanks and countless other little organizations, all designed to make people think what they want us to.

Nothing mysterious about the changes that have transformed our economy either. Over the last 40 years, and in response to New Deal labor laws, and then new environmental regulations passed by LBJ and Nixon, big American businesses basically said fuck America, we'll go to Indonesia, and pollute the fuck out of wherever we want. And labor will be 3 cents on the dollar.

And they and their lobbyists over at the CFR bought up our two parties and, while we were enjoying the sex revolution and Meathead on TV, then quietly began the process of dismantling the entire manufacturing sector of the country. Incredibly, most liberals still don't comprehend what happened there. But that's a huge part of what has changed. The US is now suffering varying degrees of Detroit. And it's going to keep getting worse.

Now is the time to shape history. But unless you have at least some grasp of what that change is, and who's causing it, and how they're causing it, you don't have a chance in hell of changing it.

Yes, America's being reborn alright. But you won't want to see what it's being reborn into. For those of us who have been paying attention, the end result of this re-birthing is no mystery at all. It's exactly what we've seen in other countries, where neoliberalism has been allowed to run unchecked.

And it's not pretty. Liberals generally decry notions of American exceptionalism. But we have our own brand. The "it can't happen here" brand. Are we really so different than the people in Columbia or Chile, where leftists and labor leaders are hunted and murdered?

Is the mass surveillance apparatus, much of which is controlled not by the big brother state, but by private corporations, really immune from abuse by those who wish to defeat American labor and progressive politicians?

Is it really so hard to comprehend why allowing phone calls to recorded and stored by a nameless, faceless, security apparatus is a threat to not just your privacy, but to democracy itself?

Is the trajectory of our country towards increased concentration of wealth and power in the hands of fewer and fewer people, towards greater and greater poverty, towards poorer and poorer education, towards even more manipulation of public perception by corporate mass media, and the threat that poises for all of us, not obvious? Even to those who enjoy good paying jobs?

America has never been perfect. Not even close. But there was a time when its trajectory through history was in alignment with its promise.

Its trajectory now is toward the unthinkable. Unthinkable power, through of technology of weapons and surveillance, combined with an unthinkable absence of democratic governance or accountability.

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On This Day In History May 27

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on image to enlarge

May 27 is the 147th day of the year (148th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 218 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1813, former President Thomas Jefferson writes former President John Adams to let him know that their mutual friend, Dr. Benjamin Rush, has died.

Rush’s passing caused Jefferson to meditate upon the departure of the Revolutionary generation. He wrote, We too must go; and that ere long. I believe we are under half a dozen at present; I mean the signers of the Declaration.

A Rift

Despite their close friendship, Jefferson wrote that he and Adams were often separated by “different conclusions we had drawn from our political reading.” The two maintained their friendship despite their political differences until 1801, the year that Jefferson became president. As Jefferson wrote Mrs. Adams: “I can say with truth that one act of Mr. Adams’s life, and one only, ever gave me a moment’s personal displeasure.” By this, Jefferson was referring to last-minute political appointments made by Adams just before Jefferson succeeded him as president. Jefferson wrote that the appointments “were [selected] from among my most ardent political enemies” who could be counted on to work against his executive authority. Jefferson admitted to “brooding over it for some little time,” and during this period, they ceased writing one another.

A Reconciliation

When Jefferson retired from the presidency in 1809, Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration that Adams and Jefferson worked to create, took it upon himself to renew their suspended friendship. He had no success until 1811, when one of Jefferson’s neighbors visited Adams in Massachusetts. The neighbor returned to Virginia with the report that he had heard Adams say, “I always loved Jefferson, and still love him.” In response to these words, Jefferson wrote Dr. Rush: “This is enough for me. I only needed this knowledge to revive towards him all of the affections of the most cordial moments of our lives.” He asked Rush to persuade Adams to renew their correspondence. A letter from Adams was forthcoming, and they continued to write until their deaths.

This reconciliation began a rich correspondence that touched on myriad topics, from reminiscences about their contributions to the young nation’s history, to opinions on current political issues, to matters of philosophy and religion, to issues of aging. Their letters were also lighthearted and filled with affection. Jefferson wrote, “I have compared notes with Mr. Adams on the score of progeny, and find I am ahead of him, and think I am in a fair way to keep so. I have 10 1/2 grandchildren, and 2 3/4 great-grand-children; and these fractions will ere long become units.”

A Lasting Legacy

After fifteen years of resumed friendship, on July 4, 1826, Jefferson and Adams died within hours of each other. Their deaths occurred — perhaps appropriately — on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Unaware that his friend had died hours earlier, Adams’ last spoken words were “Jefferson still survives.”

Kinky Boots

Saturday Morning.  10 am.  No content.  Brain fried from petrol.  Time for Video that makes you think.

Cyndi Lauper lost her voice and was told by at least 3 doctors (that would be Hartnell, Troughton, and Pertwee) she would never sing again.  In all her original work she has been a great champion of LGBT causes though she’s relentlessly ‘tro.

I invite you to populate the comments with your favorite performances, I always liked her more than Louise Ciccone (whom I have developed a certain grudging respect for).  Her current artistic effort is the Broadway Musical Kinky Boots, nominated for 13 Tonys (named after a woman) and summarized thusly-

(A) struggling, family-owned English shoe factory … avoids bankruptcy when its young boss, Charlie, develops a plan to produce custom fetish-type footwear for drag artists rather than the men’s dress shoes that his firm is known for.

Liability Fear or Greed?

So it seems the reluctance of some U.S. Garment Companies to sign on to improve conditions at Bangladeshi Sweatshops (where over 1000 have died recently in building collapses and fires) is that they may be exposed to law suits by former slaves employees about the inhumane conditions they previously worked under.

Actually I take that back.  This is exactly like the arguments made by Slaveholders about their “human” assets that represented over 50% of the entire wealth of the United States at the time of the War of Southern Rebellion.

U.S. Retailers See Big Risk in Safety Plan for Factories in Bangladesh


Published: May 22, 2013

American retailers remain sharply opposed to joining an international plan to improve safety conditions at garment factories in Bangladesh as their European counterparts and consumer and labor groups dismiss the companies’ concerns about legal liability.

A few shareholders at Gap’s annual meeting this week questioned the company’s refusal to sign on to a plan that commits retailers to help finance safety upgrades in Bangladesh, where 1,127 workers died when the Rana Plaza factory building collapsed on April 24.

“In the United States, there’s maybe a bigger legal risk than there is in Europe,” Gap’s chief executive, Glenn Murphy, responded. “If we were to sign onto something that had unlimited legal liability and risk, I think our shareholders should care about that.”

Matthew Shay, president of the National Retail Federation, gave another reason for opposing the Bangladesh plan, saying it “seeks to advance a narrow agenda driven by special interests,” a reference to the labor unions that helped shape the plan and then pressed retailers to sign on.

In rejecting the accord, Wal-Mart outlined its own proposals that it said would meet or exceed the accord’s goals. The company, the world’s largest retailer, predicted quicker results, saying it would inspect all of the 279 factories it uses in Bangladesh over the next six months.

While Wal-Mart, voicing concern about potential liability, said the plan “introduces requirements, including governance and dispute resolution mechanisms, on supply chain matters that are appropriately left to retailers, suppliers and government.”

Totally in keeping with our history of subjugating brown people long after the “civilized” world has moved on.


Late Night Karaoke

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Liberalism is Dead, Now What?: Two Cheers for Bhaskar Sunkara by LeGauchist

Bhaskar Sunkara’s recent essay in The Nation, Letter to ‘The Nation’ From a Young Radical, argues persuasively that American liberalism is “practically ineffective and analytically inadequate” to the twin political tasks of mobilizing supporters and generating policy.  Sunkara blames the crisis of liberalism on the fact that, “Liberalism’s original sin lies in its lack of a dynamic theory of power,” which leads liberals–Sunkara specifically cites Obama–to treat

politics as a salon discussion between polite people with competing ideas. . . [in which] the best program … is assumed to prevail in the end…[and] political action is disconnected … from the bloody entanglement of interests and passions that mark our lived existence.

Admitting that liberalism is “a slippery term” Sunkara defines it in terms of the two dominant species of Washington Democratic insiders, which he defines as follows:

to the extent that we can assign coherence to the ideology, two main camps of modern American liberalism are identifiable: welfare liberals and technocratic liberals. The former, without the radicals they so often attacked marching at their left, have not adequately moored their efforts to the working class, while the latter naïvely disconnect policy from politics, often with frightening results.

Both sorts of liberalism, Sunkara argues, have failed analytically and politically, though in different ways and for different reasons. Nevertheless, Sankara has the same prescription: “the solution to liberalism’s impasse lies in the re-emergence of American radicalism.”  

What would that look like? The first task is that

Socialists must urgently show progressives how alien the technocratic liberal worldview is to the goals of welfare-state liberalism-goals held by the rank and file of the liberal movement. … Broad anti-austerity coalitions, particularly those centered at the state and municipal levels like last year’s Chicago Teachers Union strike, point the way toward new coalitions between leftists and liberals committed to defending social goods.

But anti-austerity is not, of course, the full program, but

just one example of the kind of class politics that has to be reconstituted in America today; surely there are many others. The Next Left’s anti-austerity struggles must be connected to the environmental movement, to the struggle of immigrants for labor and citizenship rights, and even, as unromantic as it sounds, to the needs of middle-class service recipients.

Although Sunkara’s essay, like his groundbreaking publication Jacobin Magazine, is an important attempt at creating bridges between liberals and radicals during a time of onslaught by the corporate Right, even as it demonstrates the analytical weakness of liberalism, it suffers from some of the very same analytical inadequacies of liberalism itself, especially its lack of a dynamic theory of power.

Specifically, Sunkara’s categories of analysis are rooted in politics and ideology, with no moorings in the social formation beyond a few statements about working class support for social welfare liberalism–statements which fail to recognize the accomplishments wrought via American working class and subaltern self-activity. In light of this, it is perhaps not surprising–though it ought to be–that a self-described “young radical” had no place in his analysis for a discussion of capitalism as an exploitative economic system whose nature is at the root of or contributes greatly to every one of the social problems liberals profess to care about.  

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On This Day In History May 26

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on image to enlarge

May 26 is the 146th day of the year (147th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 219 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1637, an allied Puritan and Mohegan force under English Captain John Mason attacks a Pequot village in Connecticut, burning or massacring some 500 Indian women, men, and children.

The Pequot War was an armed conflict in 1634-1638 between the Pequot tribe against an alliance of the Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, and Saybrook colonies with American Indian allies (the Narragansett and Mohegan tribes). Hundreds were killed; hundreds more were captured and sold into slavery to the West Indies. Other survivors were dispersed. At the end of the war, about seven hundred Pequots had been killed or taken into captivity. The result was the elimination of the Pequot as a viable polity in what is present-day Southern New England. It would take the Pequot more than three and a half centuries to regain political and economic power in their traditional homeland region along the Pequot (present-day Thames) and Mystic rivers in what is now southeastern Connecticut.

The Mystic massacre

Believing that the English had returned to Boston, the Pequot sachem Sassacus took several hundred of his warriors to make another raid on Hartford. Mason had visited and recruited the Narragansett, who joined him with several hundred warriors. Several allied Niantic warriors also joined Mason’s group. On May 26, 1637, with a force up to about 400 fighting men, Mason attacked Misistuck by surprise. He estimated that “six or seven Hundred” Pequot were there when his forces assaulted the palisade. As some 150 warriors had accompanied Sassacus to Hartford, so the inhabitants remaining were largely Pequot women and children, and older men. Mason ordered that the enclosure be set on fire. Justifying his conduct later, Mason declared that the attack against the Pequot was the act of a God who “laughed his Enemies and the Enemies of his People to scorn making [the Pequot] as a fiery Oven . . . Thus did the Lord judge among the Heathen, filling [Mystic] with dead Bodies.”  Mason insisted that any Pequot attempting to escape the flames should be killed. Of the estimated 600 to 700 Pequot resident at Mystic that day, only seven survived to be taken prisoner, while another seven escaped to the woods.

The Narragansett and Mohegan warriors with Mason and Underhill’s colonial militia were horrified by the actions and “manner of the Englishmen’s fight . . . because it is too furious, and slays too many men.” The Narragansett left the warfare and returned home.

Believing the mission accomplished, Mason set out for home. Becoming temporarily lost, his militia narrowly missed returning Pequot warriors. After seeing the destruction of Mystic, they gave chase to the English forces, but to little avail.

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

Bangladeshi garment factory owners on defensive, fear losing ‘lifeline’

By Sohel Uddin and John Newland, NBC News

As many of the world’s largest clothing labels signed a pact earlier this month to try to bring safer working conditions to the Bangladeshi garment industry, factory owners in the country were on the defensive, saying they were already struggling to comply with the labor standards Western companies demand while keeping prices at a level they will tolerate.

“Look, we make a particular brand of polo shirt, which they pay us $15 to make and they sell for $150. We only make five percent on that by the time we pay the bank, the workers and compliance costs,” said Adnan Bhuiyan, who along with his father owns the major manufacturer MIB near Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital.

His comments came in the wake of the Apr. 24 collapse of the Rana Plaza, a complex housing five garment factories on the outskirts of Dhaka, collapsed and killed more than 1,100 people. Six months ago, a fire killed 112 people at Tazreen Fashions, also in the city’s garment district.

Sunday’s Headlines:

Industry, fires and poachers shrink Sumatran tigers’ last stronghold

Terror in Woolwich: Internet is the vital frontline in war against extremism

Tunisia’s long, difficult path to a new constitution

China must stick to ecological ‘red line’: Xi

Proposed law to protect Afghan women faces backlash

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