November 6, 2014 archive

Homage to Catalonia

The book was finally published in April 1938 but “made virtually no impact whatsoever and by the outbreak of war with Germany had sold only 900 copies (about twice as many as Cuomo).

I have talked today about Anarcho-Syndicalism and how we kicked Marxist butt from here to Barcelona.  Well, here’s how it went down-

Throughout Catalonia many sectors of the economy fell under the control of the anarchist CNT and the socialist UGT trade unions, where worker’s self management was implemented. These included Railways, streetcars, buses, taxicabs, shipping, electric light and power companies, gasworks and waterworks, engineering and automobile assembly plants, mines, mills, factories, food-processing plants, theaters, newspapers, bars, hotels, restaurants, department stores, and thousands of dwellings previously owned by the upper classes.[14] While the CNT was the leading organization in Catalonia, it often shared power with the UGT. For example, control of the Spanish National telephone company, was put under a joint CNT-UGT committee.

Trade union control also spread to small businesses of the middle class handicraft men and tradesmen. In Barcelona, the CNT collectivized the sale of fish and eggs, slaughterhouses, milk processing and the fruit and vegetable markets, suppressing all dealers and sellers that were not part of the collective. Many retailers joined the collectives but others refused, wanting higher wages than the workers.[16] Throughout the region, the CNT committees replaced the middle class distributors and traders in many businesses including retailers and wholesalers, hotel, café, and bar owners, opticians and doctors, barbers and bakers. Though the CNT tried to persuade the members of the middle class and small bourgeoisie to join the revolution, they were generally unwelcoming to the revolutionary changes wanting more than just expropriation of their businesses under force or threat of force and a worker’s wage.

In response to these problems, the Generalitat of Catalonia, backed by the CNT approved a decree on “Collectivization and Workers’ Control” on 24 October 1936. Under this decree all firms with more than 100 workers were to be collectivized and those with less than 100 could be collectivized if a majority of workers agreed. All collectivized enterprises were to join general industrial councils, which would be represented in a central planning agency, the Economic Council of Catalonia. Representatives of the Generalitat would be appointed by the CNT to these regional councils. The goal of this new form of organization would be to allow central planning for civilian and military needs and stop the selfishness of more prosperous industries by using their profits to help others. However these plans for libertarian socialism based on trade unions was opposed by the socialists and communists who wanted a nationalized industry, as well as by unions which did not want to give up their profits to other businesses. Another problem faced by the CNT was that while many collectivized firms were bankrupt, they refused to use the banks because the financial institutions were under the control of the socialist UGT. As a result of this, many were forced to seek government aid, appealing to Juan Peiró, the CNT minister of industry. Socialists and Communists in the government however, prevented Peiró from making any move which promoted collectivization.

After the initial disruption, the unions soon began an overall reorganization of all trades, closing down hundreds of smaller plants and focusing on those few better equipped ones, improving working conditions. In the region of Catalonia, more than seventy foundries were closed down, and production concentrated around twenty four larger foundries. The CNT argued that the smaller plants were less efficient and secure. In Barcelona, 905 smaller beauty shops and barbershops were closed down, their equipment and workers being focused on 212 larger shops.

Another aspect of the revolution was the rise of an anarcho-feminist women’s movement, the Mujeres Libres (Liberated Women). The organization, with 30,000 members at its disposal, set up schools to educate women and worked to persuade prostitutes to give up their way of life.[26] The anarcho-feminists argued that overthrow of patriarchal society was just as necessary for personal freedom, as the creation of a classless society. To demonstrate this new sexual equality, some women even fought at the front (no more than one thousand) and several more joined women’s battalions in the rear.

In the days following the fighting in Barcelona, various Communist newspapers engaged in a massive propaganda campaign against the anarchists and the POUM. Pravda and the American communist Daily Worker claimed that Trotskyists and Fascists were behind the uprising. The Spanish Communist party newspapers also viciously attacked the POUM, denouncing them as traitors and fascists. The Communists, supported by the centrist faction of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) under Indalecio Prieto now called for the POUM to be dissolved, but PM Largo Caballero resisted this move and the Communists along with their allies in the PSOE then left the government in protest.[68] The following crisis led to the removal of Largo Caballero by President Manuel Azaña. Azaña then appointed Juan Negrín (a centrist socialist and ally of the Communists and the Kremlin) as the new premier. The new cabinet was dominated by the Communists, center socialists and republicans, the CNT and left wing of the PSOE were not represented. The Communist Party of Spain (PCE) had now come to the fore as the most influential force in the Republican government.

In Catalonia, now controlled by troops under the Command of Communist General Sebastián Pozas and newly appointed Barcelona chief of Police Ricardo Burillo, the CNT independent police patrols were dissolved and disarmed. Furthermore, the CNT were completely removed from their positions at the Franco-Spanish border posts. Another major blow to the CNT was the dissolution of countless revolutionary committees throughout Catalonia by the army and assault guards. When a new cabinet was formed by President Companys, the CNT decided not to participate. In the months that followed, the Communists carried out a campaign of arrests, tortures and assassinations against the CNT. The imprisonment of many Anarchists caused a wave of dissent in working class quarters. Meanwhile the Communists working with Soviet agents seized most the POUM leadership along with many of its members. The POUM secretary Andrés Nin was also arrested, send to a secret prison in Alcalá de Henares and eventually murdered. Nin’s disappearance and the repression of the POUM caused an international outcry from various left wing organizations and further deepened the divisions within the Republic.

I have little love for Stalinists, Nazis, and Facists.

Oh, so why would I be writing this if it didn’t have a hook to today?

Spain’s Corruption May Set Catalonia Free

By Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg View

Nov 5, 2014 8:02 AM EST

Catalonia’s determination to go ahead with a symbolic vote on independence from Spain on Sunday — despite being banned by the nation’s constitutional court — now has an additional layer of legitimacy. Spain’s ruling People’s Party, which scuppered the Catalan version of “devo-max” four years ago, has turned out to be so sickeningly corrupt that it has no right to tell anyone what to do.

Catalonia is no Somaliland, and nothing is extreme about its treatment by Spain. Yet Catalans could argue that their rights were first recognized and then trampled by Madrid. In 2006, both houses of the Spanish parliament — and the people of Catalonia in a referendum — voted for the region’s new Statute of Autonomy, and King Juan Carlos signed it. The document granted the wealthy region — which accounts for 16 percent of Spain’s population, 19 percent of its gross domestic product and 21 percent of research and development spending — broad self-government and fiscal powers not unlike those Scotland is about to get after its failed independence referendum.

Had those powers remained in place, there would probably be no question of secession now. Yet the People’s Party, in opposition at the time, challenged the document in the Constitutional Court. Four years later, the court struck down 14 articles of the statute and reinterpreted another 27. The ruling, in effect, said that Catalonia had no right to call itself a nation, just a “nationality” under the Spanish constitution. It declared Catalonia’s extended tax powers unconstitutional and told the region it had to stick with the Spanish scheme of administrative division.

Throughout the appeal process, it was the current prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, who led the People’s Party. After it returned to power in 2011, Rajoy went back to the Constitutional Court again and again, seeking and receiving rulings against continued Catalan attempts to get more independence from Madrid. And we now know that throughout all this, he presided over some of the most rampant corruption ever revealed in Spain.

The People’s Party’s former treasurer, Luis Barcenas, says Rajoy and a former economics minister, Rodrigo Rato, received illegal cash from a slush fund. Rato has also been accused of running up an enormous bill on a corporate credit card issued by Bankia, the bailed-out financial group he chaired between 2010 and 2012. Local party officials seem to have been caught taking kickbacks to award government contracts. Last week, 51 former and current officials, including some top People’s Party figures, were arrested.

Rajoy has apologized on behalf of his party “to all Spaniards for having appointed to positions for which they were not worthy those who would seem to have abused them.” The apology, however, will not be enough to explain to Spaniards why the leader of a party whose banners have “austerity” written all over them has not been able to impose it on his close co-workers and perhaps even on himself.

The Sands of Time

So you think all sand is the same?  Not quite.

Why Sand Is Disappearing

By JOHN R. GILLIS, The New York Times

NOV. 4, 2014

The sand and gravel business is now growing faster than the economy as a whole. In the United States, the market for mined sand has become a billion-dollar annual business, growing at 10 percent a year since 2008. Interior mining operations use huge machines working in open pits to dig down under the earth’s surface to get sand left behind by ancient glaciers. But as demand has risen – and the damming of rivers has held back the flow of sand from mountainous interiors – natural sources of sand have been shrinking.

One might think that desert sand would be a ready substitute, but its grains are finer and smoother; they don’t adhere to rougher sand grains, and tend to blow away. As a result, the desert state of Dubai brings sand for its beaches all the way from Australia.

And now there is a global beach-quality sand shortage, caused by the industries that have come to rely on it. Sand is vital to the manufacturing of abrasives, glass, plastics, microchips and even toothpaste, and, most recently, to the process of hydraulic fracturing. The quality of silicate sand found in the northern Midwest has produced what is being called a “sand rush” there, more than doubling regional sand pit mining since 2009.

But the greatest industrial consumer of all is the concrete industry. Sand from Port Washington on Long Island – 140 million cubic yards of it – built the tunnels and sidewalks of Manhattan from the 1880s onward. Concrete still takes 80 percent of all that mining can deliver. Apart from water and air, sand is the natural element most in demand around the world, a situation that puts the preservation of beaches and their flora and fauna in great danger. Today, a branch of Cemex, one of the world’s largest cement suppliers, is still busy on the shores of Monterey Bay in California, where its operations endanger several protected species.

As a child I remember my family in the summer visiting the beach close to where my father took the train to work.  Though it was late afternoon the powdered sand would be so hot as to induce a cool numbing of your feet even as they baked while you raced down to the water.  When my Dad arrived he would fire up one of the public grills with Kingston (not a troll at all was he) and we’d have hamburgers and hotdogs.  After dinner (What?  Touch water less than 30 minutes after you’ve eaten?  Do you want to drown of cramps?) my sister and I would go to the playground across the parking lot (considerably cooler than the sand) to play on the tall swings, and the high slide, the big Monkey Bars, and the human powered Merry-Go-Round until we felt dizzy and sick, and most especially the fiberglass animals on top of springs that you could rock in three dimensions.

I’m not sure why this amused me, but it did.


The Breakfast Club (Bang! You’re Dead)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgMy late Uncle called the History Channel The War Channel because of it’s steady drumbeat of World War II documentaries and other celebrations of armed conflict which, along with the “Great Man” theory of history, Marx shows us is a mere outgrowth of underlying economic dynamics.

Not that he was a Marxist, nor am I.  I’m a proud Anarcho-Syndicalist and we kick Marxist butt from here to Barcelona.

Anyway among the objects of their fascination are guns of every shape, size, and description because big explosions are good Television.

Just what about bigger do you not understand?

So I’m a factoid factory about firearms even though I do not now and never have owned one (though I do have a dusty old NRA Pro Marksman certificate which attests I can hit a sheet of paper if it gets close enough to threaten me).

For the purposes of today’s story we’ll start off with the mechanics of basically every gun until 1808.

Now we all have this vision of a frontiersman in his coonskin cap carefully pouring powder from his Powder Horn into the Pan of his Kentucky Long Rifle, lowering the Frizzen and putting the Hammer on Half Cock, putting the Stock on the ground and pouring more powder from his Horn into the Muzzle, grabbing a Patch of cloth and a lead Ball from his pouch and carefully seating them in the Barrel, and finally pulling out his Ramrod and tamping it all down, returning Ramrod to its sleeve, then raising the Rifle, pulling the Hammer to Full Cock, aiming, and firing.

That’s completely wrong.

It actually matters a great deal just how much powder you use and if you want consistent results (and incidentally a gun that doesn’t blow up in your face) you’ll monitor that quantity quite carefully.

In fact since the 1500s most militaries haven’t used loose powder at all.

Well, except for priming the Pan and at that they’d have carefully crafted quills which they would dip like a cooking measure into flour to procure the desired amount.

Instead they have used a paper cartridge which has powder and ball enclosed in a waxed or oiled paper wrapper.  You tear off the seal (usually just a twist like a candy) of the powder end and pour that down the Barrel.  Then you seat the Ball end of the cartridge (with paper replacing the Patch) and ram that down.  The waxing not only contributes to waterproofing the powder (let’s keep it dry Democrats) but also makes it easier to slide down the Ball.  Rumours that the British were using Lard and Tallow to grease their cartridges was one of the proximate causes of the Sepoy Rebellion.

Still, it’s a pain in the ass.

Starting in 1808 we see the emergence of cartridges designed for Breech loading using Percussion Caps for ignition.  While many designs used paper and other self consuming material to contain the charge it was eventually found that Brass would expand to prevent leakage of the propellant into the Breech while maintaining enough integrity to be easily extracted to accept the next round, and they were waterproof to a large extent.


By now you’ve heard all the panic about 3-D printed guns and frankly there’s a lot to be worried about.  They are 100% plastic and don’t show up on metal detectors.  They’re made of commonly available materials by reasonably ($400) priced machines according to specifications easily downloaded off the Internet.  All this technology is thoroughly dual purpose and essentially unregulatable.

Until now the only problem has been that they are single shot and have a tendency to blow up because the Barrel and Breech are not quite strong enough.

A machinist from Pennsylvania has solved that problem (well, the blow up part at least, but that’s the key).  Instead of using a Brass cartridge he uses a Steel one to contain the detonation at its highest pressure point.

Now his is machined and takes about an hour a round to make, but you can reload it and the design could just as easily be stamped (if you have an industrial stamping machine, Kalashnikovs are stamped for instance).

Now perhaps you think this a radical breakthrough, yes in some respects, not so much in others.  Behold the Colt Paterson 1836

The revolvers came with spare cylinders and the practice of the day was to carry spare cylinders loaded and capped for fast reloading.

Yup, and that was without smokeless powder in a basically Ball and Cap design.

Technologically this is essentially a dead end.  Plastics with the requisite characteristics and the machines to create them will continue to evolve but don’t be too worried, even today if you know what you’re doing you can construct a fully automatic AR-15 out of a $35 receiver you can buy unregistered over the Internet and some “spare” parts.

Are you ready for the Zombie Apocalypse yet?

The Bullet That Could Make 3-D Printed Guns Practical Deadly Weapons

By Andy Greenberg, Wired


As 3-D printed guns have evolved over the past 18 months from a science-fictional experiment into a subculture, they’ve faced a fundamental limitation: Cheap plastic isn’t the best material to contain an explosive blast. Now an amateur gunsmith has instead found a way to transfer that stress to a component that’s actually made of metal-the ammunition.

Michael Crumling, a 25-year-old machinist from York, Pennsylvania, has developed a round designed specifically to be fired from 3-D printed guns. His ammunition uses a thicker steel shell with a lead bullet inserted an inch inside, deep enough that the shell can contain the explosion of the round’s gunpowder instead of transferring that force to the plastic body or barrel of the gun. Crumling says that allows a home-printed firearm made from even the cheapest materials to be fired again and again without cracking or deformation. And while his design isn’t easily replicated because the rounds must be individually machined for now, it may represent another step towards durable, practical, printed guns-even semi-automatic ones.

“It’s a really simple concept: It’s kind of a barrel integrated into the shell, so to speak,” says Crumling. “Basically it removes all the stresses and pressures from the 3-D printed parts. You should be able to fire an unlimited number of shots through the gun without replacing any parts other than the shell.”

Last week, for instance, Crumling shot 19 rounds from a 3-D printed gun of his own design created on an ultra-cheap $400 Printrbot printer using PLA plastic. (He concedes his gun isn’t completely 3-D printed; it uses some metal screws and a AR-15 trigger and firing hammer that he bought online for a total of $30. But he argues none of those parts affected the gun’s firing durability.) Though the gun misfired a few times, it didn’t suffer from any noticeable internal damage after all of those explosions. Here’s a time lapse video that shows 18 of those shots.

Crumling’s steel-shelled rounds seem to control their explosions well enough to protect printed guns created with even the very cheapest printing techniques. “This guy has refined 3D printed firearms such that they can be reliably printed on very low end 3-D printers,” says Sullivan. “It’s so brilliantly simple. I love it.”

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On This Day In History November 6

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.

November 6 is the 310th day of the year (311th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 55 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1860, Abraham Lincoln is elected the 16th President of the United States over a deeply divided Democratic Party, becoming the first Republican to win the presidency. Lincoln received only 40 percent of the popular vote but handily defeated the three other candidates: Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge, Constitutional Union candidate John Bell, and Northern Democrat Stephen Douglas, a U.S. senator for Illinois.

Lincoln received 1,866,452 votes, Douglas 1,376,957 votes, Breckinridge 849,781 votes, and Bell 588,789 votes. The electoral vote was decisive: Lincoln had 180 and his opponents added together had only 123. Turnout was 82.2%, with Lincoln winning the free Northern states. Douglas won Missouri, and split New Jersey with Lincoln. Bell won Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, and Breckinridge won the rest of the South. There were fusion tickets in which all of Lincoln’s opponents combined to form one ticket in New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, but even if the anti-Lincoln vote had been combined in every state, Lincoln still would have won a majority in the electoral college.

As Lincoln’s election became evident, secessionists made clear their intent to leave the Union. On December 20, 1860, South Carolina took the lead; by February 1, 1861, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas followed. The seven states soon declared themselves to be a sovereign nation, the Confederate States of America. The upper South (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas) listened to, but initially rejected, the secessionist appeal. President Buchanan and President-elect Lincoln refused to recognize the Confederacy. There were attempts at compromise, such as the Crittenden Compromise, which would have extended the Missouri Compromise line of 1820, and which some Republicans even supported. Lincoln rejected the idea, saying, “I will suffer death before I consent…to any concession or compromise which looks like buying the privilege to take possession of this government to which we have a constitutional right.”

Lincoln, however, did support the Corwin Amendment to the Constitution, which had passed in Congress and protected slavery in those states where it already existed. A few weeks before the war, he went so far as to pen a letter to every governor asking for their support in ratifying the Corwin Amendment as a means to avoid secession.

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America Remembers It Forgot To Vote

14 / 2 == 8

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