On March 8 in 1911, International Women’s Day is launched in Copenhagen, Denmark, by Clara Zetkin, leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany. International Women’s Day (IWD), originally called International Working Women’s Day is marked on the 8th of March every year. It is a major day of global celebration …
Mar 08 2016
Aug 17 2015
I’ve been running around to various left conferences this spring and summer and everywhere I go the cooperative movement is touted as the potential savior of the global economy. Admittedly, cooperatives are only “a grain of sand on the beach” (to use a summer metaphor)when one views the entire global economy. At this point it is also not clear that the interest in a cooperative economy is not just a desperate hope that something – anything – can save us from total economic catastrophe as capitalism seems to be in its last throes with levels of inequality that cannot be sustained.
Do cooperatives really have the potential to be a transition to another more fully progressive economic form that can replace capitalism? Or is it – as cooperatives generally have been – a temporary safety valve during depressions which disappear or are assimilated over time or a capitalist reform as capitalism regains its footing (i.e., the mines in England, the paper plants in the Northwest United States, the electric cooperatives in the Southwest United States).
Since the cooperative movement is currently the fastest growing movement for systemic economic change it deserves an overview of what it is and where its going –which I will attempt to do, in a very limited way.
I will briefly comment on the recent changes in the cooperative movement in:
1) Venezuela which has attempted to use coops as part of its transition to socialism;
2) In the Mondragon cooperative network which applies the cooperative principles in the capitalist system;
3) In the United States because it is in the belly of the beast of capitalism and as such has special problems, and
4) In Cuba which is using cooperatives to transition away from a fully socialist economy to a more mixed economy. (I will write a separate article on cooperatives in Asia or Africa as BRIC countries have unique problems, although India has a highly developed cooperative economy and China has the most cooperatives in the world.)
Aug 03 2015
I don’t know about you, but if I never have to read another piece that mentions the Koch brothers in the first sentence that would be fine with me. Oops. It seems so unnatural to do so, especially during a hot summer of so much fun, except for the police killings, right wing terrorism, ongoing Greek tragedy, and countless other bummers that are absolutely ruining my beach blanket bingo.
But I generally assume their will to power must be confronted by mine at every opportunity. And because their will to power (collectively including that of their amazing retinue of bought and paid for attendants) is way bigger than mine, it’s going to be pretty miserable if I spend much of my time dreaming of how to bring down their kingdom, but I do it anyway.
They alone (and they are not alone) also have a huge head start in cultural hegemony, with a massive perpetual intellectual propaganda campaign involving not only think tanks, billions of dollars, binders of semi-famous dead and living capitalist economists and other scholars, and a famous dead mercenary woman with a cool first name who wrote two incredibly awful but famously anti-altruistic novels in the 1940s and 50s followed by decades of mostly inhumane essay writing, but also by a famous and imposing dead German philosopher whose name until recently I could neither spell nor pronounce.
I suppose I should on some level study up. Instead, what a major part of me really feels compelled to do down deep on hot summer days with the planet melting is to ignore my anti-capitalist comrades, to practice the fine art of chilling out, which apparently involves working on thinking more happy and grateful thoughts, appreciating family, friends, and neighbors more, and whimsically watching life drift by with the thermostat turned way down. And I think on some level those ultra-rich superior brothers know that, which disturbs my reverie-potential even more. So, in truth, for me, it is much easier to want to fight them compulsively with all my meager energy and will to power, every single waking minute until, like the Black Knight in Monty Python, I can fight no longer, the assholes.
But I awake need more than my compulsions, even my compulsion for fighting the power. I awake need to be both among the familiar and a small hopeful part of nurturing a better world. I awake do not wish to be a human commodity waiting on economic growth to trickle my way or anyone else’s, but neither do I wish to be the silly Black Knight.
I awake am not, and you are not, to use the term in Le Gauchiste’s piece last Sunday, “homo oeconomicus.” I awake want to be unchained, and I awake want others to be as well.
But how can we take power away from the Koch brothers and those like them without saying their names with the repetition of a liturgy, becoming fixated on their power and our lack thereof, and even routinely employing martial metaphors in our theory and practice? I am not talking about “eliminationist” language, which of course is disgusting, authoritarian, and rightly verboten. I am talking about the language “of force,” using imagery we may routinely feel justified if not compelled to use, but which we sometimes would prefer not to use on some internal level.
Perhaps sometimes to be squeamish is to be healthy. I may be hesitant, but I cannot simply stay inside and ignore the cries and gasps of my brothers and sisters on the outside who cannot breathe. In that situation, I have no choice, if I am to be moral, but to go outside and to join some way in the revolt against the hands and ropes literally around their throats.
Interestingly, Dr. Fanon’s full quote begins with, “When we revolt it’s not for a particular culture.” Revolution is not culturally, much less genetically, predestined, and neither is it designed in advance to implement this or that 10-point plan. “We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe.”
If I am not of the particular culture that is the oppressed group outside my window, I cannot pretend to be in a position to lead them in their time of greatest need, to tell them what their priorities should be, or to attempt to move their gaze from the hands and ropes around their necks back to the Koch brothers, income inequality, global warming, TPP, or even to the holistic and fundamental need for global system change from anti-human unsustainable capitalism to deep democracy with economic, social, and cultural, as well as civil and political, rights for all. It is their breath being lost in that moment, not mine.
Similarly, if one is being deported, or one’s parent or spouse is, in that moment, nothing else matters. Or, if a woman is being forced to abandon control of her own body because of someone else’s religion or brutality, the invasion of her person, her human dignity, and her most personal liberty and privacy is being violated, which cannot be condoned or made to wait.
While never forgetting root causes, I need to join them, follow them, take whatever solidarity positions in the masses they prefer me to have. I may even catch some words or glances of misdirected hostility or suspicion from time to time, because, THEY CAN’T BREATHE and can’t be expected always to speak or see clearly and fairly in their agony toward those who fit the outward description of the oppressor group who show up in peaceful support. Within strict limits of my right and duty to protect my own person, I should be tolerant and forgiving of their occasional minor mistakes that result from the confusing plight for which they did not ask.
And indeed, if I am not in the oppressed group, I may make mistakes too–some of my “fighting words” and show of support from time to time may not be helpful or revolutionary but rather inauthentic, presumptuous, or pretentious. While self-flagellation helps no one, neither does grandiosity.
More broadly, even from a revolutionary perspective, by being a fighter all or most of the time when I want or need more than anything to be a lover, am I not thereby becoming in some way part of the system I detest? I want to have a clean conscience as regards my friends and even my enemies as much as possible, but it is more than that. I awake want to reject holistically the system that has been foisted upon us, but even “to reject” at every turn is to live in contrast to that system rather than in freedom from it.
I am guilty as charged in some or all this and raise this complex issue of “just means” in all sincerity. In fact, I recently, ironically rather haughtily, stated as such in a religiously-themed piece I published at Daily Kos, which thankfully only a few of my best buds read (which may be the same with this here piece!): “[I] don’t claim to be pious and admit to being something of a fighter out of a sense of obligation, but with words only.”
In my opinion, apathy, not confrontation, is the social disease of our time. Faced with the seeming choice between allowing myself to be apathetic and risking imperfect confrontation, I often feel obligated to do the latter in part because so many choose the former. But is that wise? Is that the best I can be doing as a species-being?
We won’t get any modicum of heaven on Earth without raising a lot of hell. We still live in a “fighting age” and need to put on our “fighting clothes” (shout out to JayRaye and the Hellraisers like Mother Jones who are daily chronicled in Hellraisers Journal). But how we each choose to raise hell must be personally authentic to the time, place, and particular Hellraiser, with justice in the service of love not unforgiving fanaticism.
Many of us would prefer to stay in our caves, preferably a well-appointed man or woman cave. Nonetheless, caring humans crawl out even when we do not have to, blink at the uncaring sky, and seek out peace, liberty, and justice for all or at least for those we see before us being choked by “the man.” In that case, our duty is to do whatever we can to stop the choking. Our solitude and circumspection may have to wait.
But they cannot always wait. We must in general follow our bliss even as, when duty calls, we “confront,” “battle,” and “defeat” the “foes” who are the beneficiaries of divide and rule. Not always an easy balancing act. Even to begin to describe the system is to risk a migraine and to expose our own disproportionate political-economic weakness as individuals in it–a bubble-driven system powered by financial gimmickry, non-dischargeable consumer debt, production based on profits and not human need, and environmental destruction; the unsustainable but seemingly unstoppable use of non-renewable resources; the exploitation of labor and the reserve army of the unemployed; and prejudice and discrimination by “race”/ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, place of birth or other happenstance that has nothing to do with one’s infinite value as a beautiful human being; and which, in a workplace and on a street near us, is reinforced not only by institutionalized state violence but also by cultural hegemony.
Pass me the bong. As bad as the global system is, we the people, taken off the farm and often wedged into inhumane living conditions, are not at all inclined to or interested in external violence. Stress results in massive self-medication involving alcohol and other drugs, at its worst a form of internal violence. However, right wing terrorists who say, for instance, that they are trying to provoke a two-way “race” “war” are not only grotesquely immoral but also liars. It is a one-way war of right wing terror and police violence against people of color. The former (and sometimes the latter) hope to dehumanize African Americans and to encourage other lone wolves and small groups of racist killers. They do not seriously expect that African Americans are going to engage in retributive racially murderous acts.
Almost all working people, regardless of our race or ethnicity, first and foremost want peace and security for ourselves, children, elderly, and other vulnerable persons with whom we may come into contact and will not purposely engage in violence except as a last resort. In short, except for the terrorist who is exercising a bloodthirsty and hateful will to power, every normal human instinct is to walk or even run away from a gunfight. That is why stand your ground laws are not only completely unnecessary but also causative of violence. They pretend people are in harm’s way who are not in order to sell unnecessary guns that cause unnecessary injury and death. We may chafe at and hopefully do protest injustice, but we do not use violence unless truly exceptional circumstances are presented–unless, that is, we are among those mercenaries engaged in state-sanctioned local or international police action or those desperate who have been unable to find lawful employment and get caught up in the illegal non-prescription drug industry.
But how do we ourselves also avoid wallowing in the toxic language of hate?–for there are things to hate. Should we avoid the intellectual exercises and temptations involved with understanding and refuting the intellectuals and propaganda gurus of the powerful? Must we ourselves eschew aesthetics, intellectual development, and intellectual pleasure? How can we engage in the study that leads to greater ability to engage in argumentation against the philosophers of the powerful, such as Nietzsche and Rand, without becoming mesmerized or coopted in the process?
I will not link to “The Atlas Society” website, but in a 3/5/11 piece by one Stephen Hicks, the many differences in the two are, to my view, overwhelmed by their similarity in rejecting socialism and aid to society’s losers and exalting “the hero”:
In politics, they agree that contemporary civilization has very significant problems, and that socialism and the welfare state are nauseating; but while Nietzsche has good things to say about aristocracy, slavery, and war and bad things to say about capitalism, Rand says the opposite. Finally, they share the same exalted, heroic struggle sense of life–although Nietzsche adds to that a strong dose of bloodthirstiness that we do not find in Rand, while Rand regularly adds a strong dose of anger that we do not find in Nietzsche.
We have no choice but to “fight the power” and the ideas they use to blind us to the fact that they are not actually engaged in exalted, heroic struggles but mass injustice to maintain their system of divide and rule by any means necessary for the purpose of controlling the world’s resources for their own profit-taking and capital accumulation. However, we refuse to lose sight of what makes us beautiful, which has nothing to do with how we look or winning spelling contests, or our fighting ability
or winning anything else, from awards to games to wars to battles for interpretation of our history.
True allies respect the disrespected:
“I cant speak on it ’cause I’m not gonna see it,” [Spike Lee] tells VIBETV. “All I’m going to say is that it’s disrespectful to my ancestors. That’s just me…I’m not speaking on behalf of anybody else.”
We must also respect ourselves and our own imperfect humanity. Permanent deployment is deadly, including participating in endless political battles against mercenary politicians, pundits, think tanks, and advertising gurus who wish to define and commodify us at so many dollars per vote under a “First Amendment” that speaks not the language of justice in the service of love but the language of money in the service of more money. And it is not simply a matter of getting back to the future either. Our ancestors made horrible mistakes too, often of tribalism, paternalism, sexism, and other forms of division and social hierarchy, so that to awake is not merely a retrospective cultural event.
So not only the will to power but also power itself as an end or a means to money stinks with the stench of greed, selfishness, and death. We absolutely don’t want to become like the Koch brothers.
But is there an easy, or at least emotionally cathartic way out? When we awake, as we must, should we try to make being a loser “cool”?
That “loser as coolness” commodity was produced and sold two decades ago to great aesthetic effect … seems like yesterday
We should refuse to be purchased by a consumer culture that can even package the language of the desperate and their would-be allies for commercial purposes. Surely the stuff of revolution is more than adoption of a certain fashion consciousness. Signs of solidarity must be more than proudly affecting the pose of “losers” in some kind of kubuki show of support for those who truly suffer from the grosser forms of injustice.
As a precaution from being frauds, do members of the left then need to adopt cultural austerity? Do we need to stop reading all books other than our chosen school of socialist thought and lose what little sense of humor we still have? Will doing otherwise lead us down the slippery slope to being poseurs? Of course not. We should not try so hard to “fight” “the winners” in their own fixed games that we either adopt the tokens and terminology to which we have been assigned or only speak with our own insider terms of reference.
The advertisers and other mercenaries working for the ruling class have decided all manner of linguistic packaging to keep us enticed and preoccupied when all the while inside the packages there is very little there there. “Mystique” itself is such an impressive French-sounding word. But we should not adopt an anti-intellectual pose any more than we should adopt the pose of “loser.”
Still, when we unwrap the supposedly precious intellectual commodities of the ruling class, when we touch those rings of power, we should be careful and realize that, like Frodo Baggins, there is nothing so special or moral about any of us that makes us beyond temptation.
Let us begin to be awake by giving up our craving for acceptance in the supposedly glamorous world of waiting for Mr. Übermensch. Let us not be so occupied with the minds of our enemies that we are unable to free up our mental energy away from that which does not make us more loving global citizens, including the “correct” spelling and pronunciation of the names of mercenary intellectuals we are expected to admire. Let us not be taken in either by their brilliance and mental dexterity or our own.
We do not want to become one of the ruling class or one of their mercenary class who gets to stand nearby in the high places, feed our betters grapes, and wave fans over them in their exalted, heroic struggles.
Jul 27 2015
By Le Gauchiste
The term “Neoliberal” is used a lot here at Daily Kos: 203 posts included the term during the first half of 2015 alone, a little more than one every day. Many of these posts stimulate lively discussion, especially regarding the alleged neoliberalism of various Democratic Party figures, most notably President Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Quantity is not always a sign of quality, however, and many of these discussions suffer from a failure to define neoliberalism adequately or even at all, leading to understandable confusion and misplaced accusations that the term is meaningless. This post will try to avoid that pitfall by proposing a definition of neoliberalism that emphasizes its nature as an ideology, and will then apply that definition to one of Clinton’s most important recent speeches, in which she was widely reported to have returned to traditional liberalism.
May 25 2015
Epidemics of cholera as well as other serious diseases, including neoliberalism, can take a toll on solidarity. “Trade” deals, and the conduct used in pushing them through to adoption, can be purposely choleric in order to accentuate a breakdown in solidarity. A carefully-orchestrated disinformation and intimidation campaign can provide a loud and pushy disincentive to obtaining and sharing knowledge and growing into a healthier society.
The Gipper is credited with the famous saying “trust, but verify.” However, it is actually an old Russian proverb. The phrase came in handy when scrutinizing the actions of the potentially dastardly Russian Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
With matters of political economics, we have learned over the last hundred years that verification is not always easy because labels sometimes defy reality. Since the fall of the authoritarian state capitalist Soviet Union, which claimed to be real and scientific socialism, apathy has set in about true human choice on matters not having to do with consumer goods. The possibility of a heterodox deeply democratic vision for humanity is laughed at by commenters. They blithely point to North Korea and the supposedly happy riveters south of the border who produce things once made by Americans for the great now debt-driven and trade-imbalanced American marketplace.
Speaking of Russia, its dolls and other trinkets are now made in China too. Ironically, the British Green Quaker documentary filmmaker David Malone aptly says that modern “trade” agreements are like Russian dolls, with lots of other dolls inside that have nothing to do with trade. We are expected to place the doll up on a shelf and not worry what’s inside, even if the shelf is getting repossessed.
Anyway, it’s not really as simple as opening up to see the next doll inside, although it would be nice if we were allowed to at least do that before making the purchase. If the global “we” really wants to understand something that comes with risk, such as a disease, or a series of massive “trade” deals, we must first be able to put the pieces as well as the whole under a microscope, do DNA tests, and have plenty of time to learn what exactly it is we are seeing. Learning the ecological context is also critical.
Sounds like technical questions best left to experts! So, we can sit this one out. Maybe it is we who are dialectical dolls here, expected to live superficially without addressing our interior selves. Why concern one’s pretty little self with such manly and adult details?
More broadly, absolutely do not ponder whether the globalization of hegemonic capitalism is the disease or the cure. That would necessitate openly and closely studying and discussing, without fear of repression, the system that is being imposed, the crises it inevitably causes, the insolvency it constantly courts, the reserve army of unemployed workers, the lack of fair distribution of the winnings that arise from the system, and calmly comparing the available alternatives, including everything from tweaks to overhauls to repeal and replace.
Democracy is this potentially great mass experimental method if the powers that be would allow it to work deeply and openly. If we were allowed to trust but verify we could be engaged citizens. Instead, we are forced to leave democracy to neoliberal politicians, experts, and talking heads, as if they will explain to us what little it is that we need to know after they have made their decisions, which have bound within them unprecedented curtailments to democracy.
This sounds more like oligarchical exploitation than rule by the people. But what can we do to defend ourselves in times like these?
At least from the time of Spartacus, solidarity has been the enemy of exploitation, always has been and always will be. But woe unto those who take the risks of speaking the truth to power, or even seeking the truth. The doubt-inspiring whispers are reaching a chorus of “shut-up and know your place.” Self-doubt cannot help but set in:
In the end, did Spartacus really want to be free and in solidarity with other people in the struggle to be free? Wasn’t it really pretty nice being a Thracian gladiator after all? And for his followers, as they were hanging from crosses every bit as real as Jesus’s, might they not have had a little buyer’s remorse?
Come to daddy. Put aside those passions. Don’t question too much. It’s for your own good that you are being led through the valley of the shadow of death in a blindfold.
Jan 21 2015
Just how strong is the US economy? In his sixth State of the Union address, President Barack Obama touted it strength and made proposals that would make it stronger but how does that hold up in the face the recessions in European and Asian countries? Real News senior editor, Paul Jay discusses the real state of the union with William K. Black, professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri Kansas City, and James S. Henry, economist, attorney and investigative journalist.
Transcript can be read here
Jan 18 2015
Money, and capitalism, are in and of themselves soulless, neither good nor evil. Like all tools, they come alive in the hands of their master.
The ways by which you may get money almost without exception lead downward. To have done anything by which you earned money merely is to have been truly idle or worse. Henry David Thoreau, Life without Principle
I agree. I much prefer to work at some task that satisfies my mind and spirit, and need not think about it feeding my body, unless I am uncommonly hungry. Yet even that great Transcendental anti-materialist, Thoreau, had to admit the native wisdom of woodcutter Alex Therien’s reasoning for the utility of cash:
When I asked him if he could do without money, he showed the convenience of money in such a way as to suggest and coincide with the most philosophical accounts of the origin of this institution, and the very derivation of the word pecunia. If an ox were his property, and he wished to get needles and thread at the store, he thought it would be inconvenient and impossible soon to go on mortgaging some portion of the creature each time to that amount. Walden
For more discussion about the utility of having an economy, vs. the valuing of money over people, please follow me, beyond the Infinity symbol a la kos.
Nov 17 2014
Some illusions are not good. Keeping up appearances can be dangerous. We should have the courage to admit that we or those we love or should love are in need. A political party that is too afraid to speak this message is nearly worthless.
I love the honest moment many critics hate in Akira Kurisawa’s One Wonderful Sunday (1947) when the director, through the female co-lead, confesses the act of creating for the public good by turning to us, the viewers, and begging for help for the poor lovers of post-WWII Japan: “There are so many poor lovers like us.”
Generations later, the Japanese left is by and large retaining its moral courage against a denialist onslaught that would have fit right in with Fascist days gone by. In a vicious campaign of moral inversion that would make Karl Rove proud, those who dare to stand by the historical veracity of the exploitation of “comfort women” are themselves scandalized. The current conservative Japanese effort to expunge from history the Japanese military’s mass brutalizing of women during WWII is, needless to say, itself deeply shameful. But this need for maintenance of societal illusion is by no means a new creation. Nor can the U.S. exempt itself from criticism with respect to its own deep and wide illusion at home and abroad, and in particular with respect to Japan.
In these sad days it is difficult to remember except with sadness that not too long ago a first term presidency was won on a simultaneously discomforting and audacious vision—
The title of The Audacity of Hope was derived from a sermon delivered by Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Wright had attended a lecture by Dr. Frederick G. Sampson in Richmond, Virginia, in the late 1980s, on the G. F. Watts painting Hope, which inspired him to give a sermon in 1990 based on the subject of the painting – “with her clothes in rags, her body scarred and bruised and bleeding, her harp all but destroyed and with only one string left, she had the audacity to make music and praise God … To take the one string you have left and to have the audacity to hope… that’s the real word God will have us hear from this passage and from Watt’s painting.”
While “her” audacity is commendable, where is “ours”? Can we look on at a person in such a condition and not ask why and then do all we can to change those conditions?
This vision, which was ultimately an appeal to honestly assess the requirements of justice in the service of love, has been diminished through a societal psychosis brought about only in part by an opposition party strategically incapable of telling the truth on anything serious. The Republican Party is built on lying, to be sure. But it has received decades of assistance from the pathetic unwillingness of the U.S.’s so-called liberal party to have the audacity to honestly call even for old time liberal religion and from the pathetic unwillingness of the so-called liberal media to have the audacity to expose lies on a prolonged basis except of the inconsequential variety–such as the covering up of the pathetic sex life of a president with a consenting intern. While I hope most of us would agree that Bill Clinton was a putz, our collective political lives should not turn based on what he does with his. Had he turned to the camera and said “There are so many poor [so to speak] lovers like us” we all should have clapped, laughed, or yawned, but certainly immediately moved on.
It is worth pondering who is really running this sickly thickly syrupy daytime theatre of life in the U.S.–so comfortable with societal psychosis once reserved for dreams of a heavenly one–while we put on our daily generally modest costumes. We have lost the will to pray, oh Lord, for a Mercedes Benz or even a new pickup, although we may still feel this unexplained ungratified compulsion to purchase new gizmos with whatever is left over after the tank of gas that will get us from our trailer to our part time jobs if we can get them.
It can sometimes be difficult, however, to tell the actors from the playwrights, for even the playwrights have to play dress up, or, more typically, dress down. When you are an imperial family, it is important to look the part, which will vary according to the needs of the occasion. If your power is mainly cultural, with pretentions of divinity, your plumage may need to be bold. While living large you may feel compelled to use your women and children more like props than actors on the stage of your pampered world.
If your power is economic, you may need to dress like regular small business folk on the way to the quaint grand opening of a new five and dime, complete with soda fountain. Your appearance should reflect the business needs of your milieu, even if that means you too must look like you eat tons of that processed corn-shit you sell to us at everyday low prices.
Before I come back to them, I want to mention the customers. You may wholly or partly not realize it, but, if you are reading this, you are likely sitting or standing (pray not driving) in the Wholly Walton Empire. You won’t actually get to “[m]eet the 6 Walton Heirs at the [t]op of the Walmart [e]mpire,” but it is important to their tight hold on power in the U.S. that you and hundreds of millions of species-beings like you remain alienated and not develop class consciousness of them and moral consciousness of the ends and means of their empire.
Now back to our story …
The Walton family are just regular folk, plus lots of money and power. They are at the pinochle of a homestyle capitalist family built on the illusion of choice. They are mere country vendors.
Other small town folk make the stuff that they vend, which we stuff into our bodies and souls to the limit of our credit and physiological and psychological capacity to intake stuff.
These ultra rich “regular folk” use slick mercenary politicians from both U.S. ruling parties to carry out their policies in exchange for chump change and neoliberal-circumscribed political power implemented through the kabuki theatre of “aw shucks, pass me them taters” known as U.S. “democracy.” A broad spectrum of “regular folk,” sometimes already wealthy but usually not “ultra rich,” compete within this mercenary class. Enter folks like Jeb (make no mistake, Jeb does not come to Arkansas because he cares about education)
and “our” very own HRC.
Now what in tarnation does this have to do with Japan?
Nov 12 2014
There appears to be a war on the homeless and needy in certain states and not just the red ones:
To Clear Waikiki For Tourists, Hawaii Gives 120 Homeless People A One-Way Ticket Out Of State
by Bryce Covert, November 10, 2014
Hawaii’s Institute for Human Services (IHS) is beginning a $1.3 million campaign to clear the homeless out of Waikiki, a big spot for tourists, after businesses have complained that the homeless are hurting tourism.
The majority of the money will be used for intensive outreach services to connect the homeless with shelter, employment, and medical services. IHS’s goal is to move 140 people into shelters or housing in the first year.
But it also plans to fly back to the mainland United States another 120 people, who will be identified through a vetting process it says is aimed at making sure they have a plan in place when they get there. “We found out that many [Waikiki homeless] are transient who made a choice to become homeless, as well as people who became homeless shortly after arriving in Hawaii,” said Kimo Carvalho, development and community relations manager for IHS.
Last year, state lawmakers $100,000 in funding to give Hawaii’s homeless population one-way flights out of the state back to the mainland. But Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) refused to release the funding amid concerns that people would fly to the state and expect a free ticket home.
Fort Lauderdale Votes To Make It Harder To Feed The Homeless, Joining Two Dozen Other Cities
by Alan Pyke, October 22, 2014
A few hours before dawn on Wednesday morning, city counselors in Fort Lauderdale, FL passed a bill to make it harder to feed the homeless. Amid raucous protests from activists, the council voted 4-1 in favor of a long-pending slate of new regulations on where and how groups can provide food to homeless people.
The vote makes the south Florida city the 13th in the country to pass restrictions on where people can feed the homeless in the past two years, and the 22nd town to make it harder to feed homeless people through either legislation or community pressure since the beginning of 2013, according to a report released Monday by the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH).
Counting towns that are still in the process of advancing some sort of crackdown, NCH says, 31 American cities “have attempted to pass new laws that restrict organizations and individuals from sharing food with people experiencing homelessness” in 2013 and 2014.
Florida City Will Throw Homeless People In Jail For Asking For Money
by Scott Keyes, November 10, 2014
Lake Worth, FL, a city of approximately 35,000 people just south of West Palm Beach, voted last week to impose a crackdown on homeless people who ask passersby for spare change.
Ordinance No. 2014-34 was approved by a unanimous vote on November 4th. The new law bans panhandling on city-owned property, such as near bus stops, ATMs, and other downtown areas, as well as on private property without express permission. According to the Palm Beach Post, “That covers most of downtown,” effectively banning all panhandling in the area where homeless people would be able to raise the most money.
The measure also bans “aggressive panhandling,” a nebulous term that theoretically prohibits panhandling in a threatening manner, though in reality is so subjective it gives authorities free rein to crack down on any homeless person asking for money.
If a homeless person is convicted under the new law, he or she could face as much as 60 days in jail or a $500 fine.
California City Bans Homeless From Sleeping Outside: If They Leave, ‘Then That’s Their Choice’
by Bryce Covert, November 10, 2014
Last week, the city council of Manteca, CA unanimously passed two ordinances aimed at clearing out the homeless population.
One will ban people from sleeping or setting up encampments on any public or private property as of December 4, although the homeless won’t be jailed or fined. It will, however, allow the police to tear down any homeless sleeping areas as soon as they appear without having to be invited by the property owner, as was the case previously.
Explaining why the ordinance is necessary, Police Chief Nick Obligacion said, “The goal is actually to correct the wrong. So, if the correction is them leaving Manteca, then that’s their choice.” He also opposes any sort of shelter for the homeless.
The other ordinance bans public urination and defecation, but also comes after the city temporarily closed public restrooms in a park, a location often used by the homeless to relieve themselves in private.
90-Year-Old Man Arrested In Florida For Feeding The Homeless
by Scott Keyes, November 6, 2014
There are a lot of strange local ordinances in this country. But perhaps none are stranger than the one that resulted in the arrest of a nonagenarian for giving food to hungry people.
Last month, Ft. Lauderdale city officials passed a new measure to crack down on people feeding the homeless. On Sunday, two days after the new law went into effect, Arnold Abbott, 90, a longtime advocate for the homeless and regular volunteer at a local soup kitchen, was arrested for the crime of giving food to the needy. He now faces up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Two local pastors were also arrested and face the same potential sentences.
Nov 09 2014
Yes, comrades, we need to talk about crises again, the term recession simply does not explain what is really going on! Just in case you might not have noticed or perhaps the mainstream media where you live ignored it, the obvious has happened and the end of the so-called recession has disappeared into the fantasy novel. Once again there is a slowdown in growth and the financial markets are not particularly happy. This time, Germany and China are showing signs of slowdown. Globalisation has not ended the potential towards crises in the capitalist economic system; in fact, the greater interconnectedness of the world economy has exacerbated the situation and ensured that the contagion spreads.
For those who believe the fantasies of neoliberal economics, the shock of these latest failures of neoliberalism must come as a surprise. But for those of us that have been warning of the stupidity of squeezing wages and destroying work conditions, rising inequality in income and wealth, the dangers of export-led growth when wage incomes are being squeezed meaning that unless governments become the sole purchasers of goods and services that are being produced (and they are not) that obviously there comes a point when working people cannot purchase goods and services as their incomes are too low, wiping out of savings has happened and personal indebtedness leads to default and bankruptcy. Neither of these things helps to maintain capitalist growth, accumulation and profitability in the long run; forget that, it hasn’t even lasted in the short run.
I will be giving a run through on what is going on and why our lives feel as though we are living through the Shock Doctrine (which we are) then address the proposals of dealing with persistent unemployment under capitalism from the Left on which there is significant disagreement.
Jun 09 2014
[Note: This is my version of light summer reading (but my nickname’s not “Buzzkill” for nothing). Hey, I’m even breaking this diary into two parts. It’s not healthy to read while you eat but if you do, have a nice sandwich (better make that two), chew slowly, and by the time you’re to the pickle, maybe you’ll be done. I want to present in bite-size easily digestible pizzas my vision of a peaceful deep democratic revolution. I’m not there yet. I enjoy all the rabbit trails that make up the whole too much and mixing metaphors like a … concrete mixer. (Do similes count?–see, I do know the difference.) Below all bad writing is my own and unintentional.]
No pressure, but in late 2012 Kyle Thompson at The other Spiral wrote:
I think the most important thing at this point in time is for the left to reclaim three areas: 1) Internationalism 2) The vision of the future and 3) Economic legitimacy. Without internationalism each struggle feels isolated and localism will never be anything more than localism. … Similarly the left needs to reclaim the future. If all we can imagine for the future is dystopia we will never be motivated enough to build socialism. This is basically the work of artists, conjuring up an image of what might be …. Finally the left must fight to achieve at least a niche of respectability in economic discourse.
I’ll up the ante and say that together we must constantly work to combine all three into a new praxis, one that learns from the past but also is willing to modify or even Jetson imagery that unnecessarily divides us. But, we’ve caught a break: in case you haven’t noticed, a lot of capitalist imagery has worn thin. Ecology and unemployment are biting capitalism on the buttock, just as our side predicted. When I was a kid, I was counting on one of those glass-topped space sedans to zip me around town one day. I’m beginning to doubt that’s going to happen. The caution yellow Pinto with shag carpeting on the dash that zipped me to my first job has long since finished rusting to nothingness, and only the bondo I liberally applied during those bong-heady times remains at the bottom of some landfill.
The future is with us, and that’s scaring the bondo out of the oligarchy, but our side’s still dazed and confused, and the oligarchy wants to keep its party going until the polar ice cap has gone and every last carbon chain has been broken to fuel the Pintos of the 21st century we will purchase to drive to the jobs we won’t have. I’m no artist and have no credentials for economic discourse. That leaves me with a possible niche of utility if not respectability researching internationalism. But since I’m writing from the Deep South of the U.S., home of a widely-held theory about the U.N. involving the mark of the Beast, I’d better toss in some revolutionary ever-modern art to get things started, and, in Part 2, follow-up with Luxemburg, who gives the political-economic basis for anti-capitalist democratic internationalism. If Rosa’s not respectable and respectful enough for the dismal scientists they can kiss my grits.
When El Lissitzsky created “Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge” he made a conscious decision to use the forms of the unrepresentational feelings-based supremacist school he had helped found to focus on their artistic opposite: the material world as he perceived it. This professional betrayal was motivated by a higher duty: universal morality. As a Russian Jew who’d lived most of his life under the Czar’s antisemitism, he wanted to use the best tools that he could muster to help beat the reactionary White Army. Nothing could have been more literal in the minds of the populace who viewed the poster and others like it in the Russian Civil War. Yet the use of geometric shapes and a limited palette brings a discordant transcendence so that even now when one looks at the poster it appears relevant– or so would have said two kids I showed it to if they used big words. Subconsciously, it is up to the individual viewer to decide where he or she fits among the objects, while pining for something missing from this divided two-dimensional incomplete but sadly accurate plane.
What tools do we have to muster and for whose cause should we be mustering them? Key questions of the 20th century and always.
I write this on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, when humanity did not need national banners to know that Hitler’s eliminationist ethnic nationalism was so inhumane it had to be defeated. (But humane posters are always useful.) Capital “F” Fascism has a way of reemerging on our one planet, and we rarely on this day consider why that is in our justifiable remembrance of the lives that were lost on those bloodied shores of Normandy. I am sure that millions of D-Day-themed posts and comments in blogs and on Facebook pages will be published before this one comes out on Sunday night, June 8, 2014. Rather than add to the digital pile, I am instead going to focus on the war to end all wars that came one generation before WWII, the choices that are involved in warring, and the political-economic reasons we keep doing the wrong thing as a single human species.
Interesting, “national” banners. They pop up, as with the U.S. Civil War, before ethnic armies that are not even nations. Two passed me night before last as I was walking my dogs in the Deep South: the rebel flag flying proudly on the right of the back of an old imported pick-up truck with its windows down driven by a “white” man with the Libertarian “Don’t Tread on Me” flag on the left. The skinny bearded great American working class Confederate man calmly smiled and nodded at me inclusively, assuming I was part of his team, like we were about to go over together and kick the dead Yankee bodies at Bull Run just for grins, or perhaps attend a lynching and pass the bottle (not spin the bottle mind you, 100% virile straight man fun stuff). I was wondering if he heard my loud “Booooo,” particularly when he began to slow down about thirty yards past me. (At least I thought it was loud, but not so loud as to upset the dogs–but pretty darn loud people.) I thought he, likely packing, was turning around to come back and tread on me or worse, but he turned right, fittingly. Maybe he had second thoughts about murder or maybe it was his muffler problem that allows me to write these words. How do we get him out of the white circle and in the natural polychromatic sphere of life, not pictured here? I think he’s hopeless, so mostly I ignore him, but, if and when he waves his hateful flags in my neighborhood or yours, I propose confrontation, red wedge wielded. And somewhere, those flags are always waving. And innocent kids are being raised to be in the white circle.
May 11 2014
“Happy Mother’s Day” in many countries in the world. Hopefully you did not have to prepare a hormone-laden turkey dinner for eleven as in Rockwell’s “Freedom from Want” painting. I’m not an art critic, so no problem with his Thomas Kinkade style, but I never liked the composition of the painting, and now I pretty much hate it–it’s unchallenging paternalism, the grins, particularly of the younger men, the bourgeois crystal, linen, “silvah,” and china, unh-unh–it did not strike me as, shall we say, reflective of the seriousness of the challenge of resolving hunger in most of the world, or even of “coming out of” the Depression in the U.S. with a fledgling of a welfare state. What an incredible cultural missed opportunity to educate Amurrricans. On the other hand, we have to know our fights, and “our” rights will be met or unmet on tables both alike and unlike this one, and maybe we should suppose that those young men might indeed be overjoyed with the first feast they have had ever or in a long time. IMHO, best not to get too picky with our potential political allies in such matters. So, Norman, if you’re up there, hope you don’t mind my imaginative doctorin’; you did some good popularizing work on human decency, but in this case, thanks for nothing. I sort of love that, according to the most trusted name in news, in 1948 you voted for another Norman, Thomas, but you soon fell off that wagon (and by voting for him you in a tiny way almost helped throw the election to another Thomas, Dewey, and because I am a pragmatist on the left wing of the possible, I would not have liked to see that happen). I will not be holding any candles in your late afternoon-glow honor.
I will try to be at least a little more pro-system change in this diary than a Rockwell painting. This has turned into a socialized Mother’s Day wish directed equally to men and women–not to deprive mothers of deserved praise but in hope of one day achieving a world that will bring all women, and children and men too, freedom from want and fear, if not an occasional huge Butterball. If we want to achieve such a world we must first recognize the clear moral justification for it, something Rockwell completely missed, undoubtedly on purpose, and for that he is morally accountable in my accounting. This moral justification is the underpinning for “rights,” not hoped-for Thanksgiving Day bounty. However, “visualizing” our rights to freedom from want and fear, while incredibly important, is obviously not the same thing as “achieving” it. This diary is also about pursuing the most efficient and peaceful path to such a world. To be as efficient and peaceful as possible on the journey to a just and loving world, we need to know our fights as well as our rights. As many people as possible need to learn about humane “cat herding.”
I hesitated (not really) to raise this confusing cat-laden subject at a website that devotes a lot of cyberspace to cute kitty stories, and they are adorable, concerned that I would be rebutted with expertise about actual cat behavior, glorious traits, etc. In all seriousness, at the outset I do want to disclaim any intent to talk down to anyone, but especially the poor and their allies, by using this soon to be extremely tiresome cat herding motif, which will go on for several paragraphs and then abruptly end, I promise. It is just an illustrative tool. Please do not think that I think that any human beings, even the fat cats running our world, are actually less than full human beings and somehow lower forms of life, such as cats. That is not at all what I am trying to suggest. This diary will be clunky from start to finish, but it is with good intent, and not intended to disparage anyone by suggesting that I think any human beings are literally cats or “subhuman.”
Nor do I want to promote a “vanguard” approach to cat herding. I certainly do not mean to suggest that “the masses” are stupid, waiting around for a free turkey dinner, or even in need of external or hierarchical leadership. Rather, as I just stated in the above italicized sentence, “As many people as possible need to learn about humane ‘cat herding.'” Capital’s mercenaries, themselves the dominant cats in my illustration, are already herding us around with their sharp teeth and claws away from the world’s sustainable buffet table, which is derived from our rightful land. To defend ourselves and future humans justly and lovingly, we must learn to fight back efficiently while recognizing the inhumane but still all too human predilection for tribalism and susceptibility to the exploitative divisive tactics of the right.
I am endorsing and promoting the full democratization of cat herding. When we all become cat herders, the mercenaries will themselves be herded, if not declawed, and we will rise to our best non-Rockwellian expression of our inherent worth and beauty as human beings in full possession of HUMAN rights, not cat rights. And the only cats left will be the 1% or less, that’s right, the fat cats. All on the left have a role to play in deeply democratic cat herding. As much as possible, we all should become our leaders. We each, IMHO, have to figure out our most effective leadership role on one or more of the fronts against capital.
Women, whether they are mothers or not, often have been and still are forced to herd most of the cats. This typically reflects a desperate and unfair state of affairs antithetical to socialism, both in terms of the need for cat herding to begin with and in terms of the involuntary roles of women. Again, I am not advocating a vanguard of cat herders, whether composed of women or some secret society of enlightened cat herders. Certainly, if there is a need for cat herding, supplying this need should be equally done by men and women. However, I do believe that on the long journey to global deep democracy massive amounts of cat herding will be required and that when conscious united species beings arise with insistence to demand our HUMAN rights, most will naturally become cat herders wanting to make a positive difference in one way or another. In winning a global deep democratic revolution this special skill can at least partially be redeployed from internal nuclear family survival to external human family survival. Perhaps more women than men will in fact tend to lead the female and male “cats” of the world to “unite” and demand true freedom with full HUMAN rights.
Solidarity requires that beings formerly acting more like cats learn to cooperate in order that we may collectively lose our “chains” (Marx’s word). While “chains” is still an apt metaphor for the restraints on billions of women and other humans around the world, probably a better metaphor in many places is “the silver-inlaid concrete” of the paternalistic institutions imposed on us by the racist white males who have run our world for millennia, wrote the U.S. Constitution, and have since developed and imposed a system of global neoliberalism. So, let’s go with that. “Concrete,” as I use it, is something of a play on the word as used by Herbert Marcuse when he was giving a talk in 1966 about his late friend Paul Baran:
I would like to discuss the topic assigned to me by first dealing with Paul Baran’s critique of the social sciences. In his critique of the social sciences he emphasized the dialectical element in the Marxian method. The sentence he liked to quote again and again was “the truth is the whole.” To him it was a revolutionary principle of thought, because it broke with the fetishism and reification, with the fallacy of misplaced concreteness, prevalent in the social sciences, a pseudo-empiricism which in his view tended to make the objectivity of the social sciences a vehicle of apologetics and a defense of the status quo. Baran defined this dialectical principle negatively and I will read to you the definition, the short definition, he gives in “The Commitment of the Intellectual”: “The principle ‘the truth is the whole’-to use an expression of Hegel-carries with it, in turn, the inescapable necessity of refusing to accept as a datum or to treat as immune from analysis, any single part of the whole.”
I would like to supplement this negative definition by a positive one to the effect that in and for the social sciences every particular phenomenon, every particular condition, every particular trend, in a given society must be analyzed and evaluated in terms of its relations to the whole, i.e., to the established social order. Isolated from this whole the respective phenomenon, condition, or trend remains a false, at least incomplete, and inconclusive datum concealing rather than revealing its true place and function in the social order. The social order itself, the social order as a concrete whole, is determined and defined for Baran following Marx by the material process of social reproduction and by the hierarchy of functions and values established in this social process of production. But the concrete relation between any particular fact, datum, condition, or trend, on the one side, and the whole social order, on the other, is never a direct and immediate one. It is always established through various intermediate factors, agencies, and powers, among them psychological factors, the family as agent of society, the mass media, language, images prevalent in a society, and so forth.
In politically but not economically “democratic” nation states, we are supposed to make-believe that the silver-inlaid concrete of the paternalistic institutions all around us are sufficiently malleable to be in our best interests; and that we can “participate” on an equal footing in national or sub-national elections, and maybe even national or sub-national court proceedings now and then, and these institutions can somehow be conformed to “our” satisfaction, consistent with free market supremacy of course. All this deception is intended to ensure that “the gold” of the world stays with the fat cats, and that the workplaces and fields of the world are producing that “gold” and not the gold of grains for hungry mouths to feed and other useful things.
No, “Brother Francisco,” aka Galtisalie, did not get into the bad acid again. I do tend to mix and match my metaphors like unto a tie-dye shirt. (“You think,” the generous manage to chuckle.) Again, I did not intend to make this a “Mother’s Day” message at all. I, a privileged male, have no qualifications to address women of the Deep South of the U.S., where I live, on Mother’s Day or any other day, much less the women of the world. But I am going to try anyway to address women as well as men, crummy metaphors and all. While I am hopeful that men in general will become truly free leaders deserving of the words in the revolutionary future, I know enough to doubt that men generally have the best stuff “to lead” our world any longer, and I am begging women of the left to error on the side of democratically taking over elective and other leadership positions before it is too late. I am not pandering, or giving up my own right to vote and otherwise participate in the forms available to me in these flawed institutions. I simply have the honesty to admit that men have messed up the world big time, so I reject on the basis of abundant evidence any paternalistic mindset as a qualification for leadership and look for leadership far outside of that paradigm. While I am not asking for a substitution of maternalism for paternalism, “far outside” of paternalism points me in the direction of the hearts and minds of women of the left.
I am definitely not trying to say I can tell women of the left what their priorities should be, as concerns for instance, the relative weight any or all should give to the class struggle versus “women’s” struggles. I know from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man that it is unfair for “white people,” even well-meaning white people of the left, to seek to impose a world view on African Americans. Similarly, it is unfair for me, a male, to seek to impose a world view on females–on this or any other day of the year. When I say, “know our rights and our fights,” I am not trying to pre-determine the rights and the fights that are most important to you. For one woman at any point in time, the most important right may be the right not to be attacked or beaten by an abusive person, for another it may be the right to reproductive freedom. But, whatever your most important of our rights, you and I must know how to build unity to assure that they and hence we are protected. So, I hope that this diary will, without seeming to dictate “rights and fights,” help to identify “fronts” where the rights and fights most important to you, whatever they are, may be vindicated.
I certainly did not intend to talk to my comrades about cats. I am not at all suggesting that cats disprove dialectical materialism. Rather, “they,” (i.e., the cats a narrow “we” in the “wealthy” pet-keeping and powerful, typically northern, portions of the world, such as the Deep South of the U.S., typically think of when “we” think of cats, i.e., puddy tats which are well-fed and domesticated), seem to have a lot of priorities that are not measurable in caloric intake. (They do not truly need to eat Tweety, if you will–head spinning, stay with cat motif and away from birds.) While greedy capital runs the human world, focusing on the emotion of fear, in the “they” cat world pride and aloofness seems to be dominant.
My cat-related thesis begins first with the observation that because humans who reach high levels of capitalist power, be it in the, now transnational, “business world” or in the silver-inlaid concrete institutions that serve capital, be they the true fat cats or merely their handsome mercenary cats, do not fear where their next meal is coming from, when they are not purely motivated by greed at the behest of capital at their best tend to behave like well-fed spoiled-rotten self-centered cats. They use the walls of the halls of the silver-inlaid concrete institutions as posts to scratch their claws. Second, billions of hungry cats around the world are in a severely weakened and fearful state, and perhaps a billion or two more are comparably just enough more comfortable to still be extremely fearful of losing the extra that is “theirs.” These combined billions are unlikely to depose the cat powers that be, at least without a “united” effort, which these institutions are designed to prevent; so they need to build their own new institutions as much as possible, both locally where they live and globally to unite and self-humanize, with full HUMAN rights, cats everywhere. IMHO, the world-wide cat-human revolution primarily needs to take place on the ground level, wherever we can put our paws on the actual earth, and at the international level, where the silver-inlaid concrete is not quite completely dried. Third, because even ideally “conscious” masses of cat-humans cannot have full access and control of the earth and its resources without deeply changing national and sub-national institutions which undercut deep local and global democracy, and because we have to survive during a long revolution for there to be a successful revolution, we must continue to participate and in fact try to take over the very institutions that are most rigid so that we can eventually, somehow, someway, fundamentally change them to the extent they deserve to continue in existence.
For humanity, penned in by oppressive and repressive capitalist institutions, to accomplish great things for itself by all appearances will require great skill at cat herding. Being herded is against the nature of cats. The most archetypal domesticated felines are the least cooperative. Some well-fed cats perhaps can be made to cooperate if they do not realize they are being herded and can instead receive particularly tasty warm milk or stroking, but generally speaking, well-fed cats could not give a flip about where a well-meaning human wants them to go. Once in a while, however, through enormous effort and skill, all the necessary herding takes place to present a quorum or win an election and thereby accomplish something for some of the rest of the cat-human world.
The temptation on the left has sometimes been simply to call all of this faux democratic quorum-seeking, electioneering, and judge-justice appointment-seeking out for all of the bullshit that it is, because out there, outside the halls of power, billions of cats are not well-fed, and we cannot wait on behalf of the hungry, that is not our right. While I understand this, I do not think that we (the broader and inclusive non-fat cat “we”) can avoid cat-herding. Thankfully, with anarcho-socialism at the base of my ideal world, and even today in some places, we can potentially say, “screw you fat cats” to a limited degree and build our own new truly democratic and non-autocratic institutions of cooperation. But the fat cats do not want these oases of freedom to exist. So, in order to get to build most of our cooperatives, etc., we are going to have to have a “revolution” by most of the non-fat cats. And, that revolution will involve all manner of cat herding, not only of the proletariat cat-humans but also of the fat cats themselves, as well as the robust cats who form the mercenaries protecting the fat cats, as well as the not currently starving but fearful cats who form the bulk of the population in the so-called developed world, where they have civil and political rights entitling them to vote on the mercenaries.