Anyone who has seen the videos of the recent attacks on students at UC Davis and Berkeley Universities will not soon forget the images. The former shows a row of students seated cross-legged, arm-in-arm, doused in military grade chemical by a rotund moustached drone in a Darth Vader costume. The uniform wearing attacker appears completely unaffected as he walks back and forth emptying the contents of his canister into the faces of his victims. Students are screaming in the background, begging the police to stop, but the mechanistic assault continues. The latter is somewhat less peaceful. A human-chain of students, arms interlocked, has what appears to be its weakest link tested by truncheon wielding thugs in spaceballs-esque uniforms. They target the sternum of woman who could not have weighed more than 120 lbs after a large meal, and proceed to ram the truncheon repeatedly into her chest, with each strike more forceful than the last. To the officer’s apparent frustration she does not fall as she is propped up by the mass of peaceful students behind her and he continues to furiously ram his truncheon into her chest as if he was trapped in a burning building and she was the only exit.
The grotesque violence of the attacks is as brutal as it is obscene, but it is not the brutal violence that should surprise us—these are police officers after all. The students defied the orders of a police force made up of reactive automatons heavily armed, but ill-equipped to deal with defiance.
What is surprising, however, is the readiness of so many to defend the officers despite their indefensible acts. “It’s a stressful job,” or even worse, “I don’t want to play Monday morning quarterback, and second guess the police.” Statements like these persistently manage to find a way into an otherwise intelligent conversation on police conduct. You can practically see the truncated syllogisms well up in the apologists’ foreheads before they parrot the vacuous phrases they heard on Fox and Friends. Even after viewing the assault on the student body, many cannot seem to accept the them-and-us dichotomy that is so apparent.
We must address this dichotomy if we are to end it. The police do not see themselves as our fellow working class citizens, bound by the rule of law, but instead as enforcers who are above the people they claim to protect and the laws that they pay lip-service to. They are wrong.
Beneath the blue uniforms are people like us. People who struggle to make ends meet, people serving a power that does not care for them. Surely they must realize, even if only momentarily, that when they remove their costumes, they are people not predator drones. They must have moments of doubt, moments where they question why they are dousing the eyes of students with chemical agents. Lets remind them that they have a choice.
I was asked recently by a friend of mine why the Occupy movement matters. My first reaction was to go into a summary of the events that lead to the financial crisis of 2008 and how the people most responsible for it were either unaffected by it or profited from it. I now think this was wrongheaded.
Occupy Wall Street is not just about the prosecution of Goldman Sachs, or the re-enactment of the Glass-Steagall Act. It is not about choosing a new leader; the occupiers know that they cannot simply vote their way out of our current state of affairs. It is instead a complete rejection of at least the last 30 years of neoliberal dystopia and for many of us much more than that. It is a rejection of debt incumbency and peonage and the idea that these are somehow the necessary products of our nature. Piecemeal revision is anathema, for any system that commodifies human beings is fit for the abattoir. This is about an idea whose time has come.
This idea is not new. Aristotle wrote 2500 hundred years ago that free men do not rent themselves out. Only those who didn’t have worry about their finances could be expected to be virtuous. He knew then that both extreme poverty and extreme wealth were corrupting forces on everyone, and to believe otherwise was second-rate thinking at best. It is a symptom of just how sick our political culture has become that Aristotle’s common sense approach to human affairs would label him a radical by today’s political elites.
From 1861 to 1865, the American civil war was fought against all forms of slavery, which, to the fighters from the north, included wage-slavery. It was self-evident at the time to the fighters from the north that being required to lower oneself for another’s gain was nothing the free would ever do. That this is so acceptable today is a tremendous achievement in social engineering.
For Marx the need for creative production was as central to human nature as our capacity for language, and to subjugate this for the profit of another was to be exploited and would lead to a state of alienation.
Adam Smith—the writer of The Wealth of Nations, not the idol that political hopefuls worship—knew that the division of labour, although effective for capital accumulation, would result in what he called the “mental mutilation” of the workers, as they were reduced to mere cogs in a machine no different than the lever they pull for a pittance.
Dr. Martin Luther King, following in a long tradition of thinkers believed that equality was meaningless without economic justice. He was killed at rally of striking sanitation workers of all races. Only the day before he was planning a massive march of the poor on Washington. His dream was that his children be judged by the “quality of their character” and this could only be done with a radical restructuring of society. “Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God’s children,” said King. This has been sterilized from the rhetoric embraced by political elites and pundits, but it remains to be scrubbed from the historical record for those who look. Dr. King’s march of the poor took more than 40 years to manifest, but it is finally here.
The Occupy movement has put this back into the converstation. Though political pundits, the courtiers of the plutocracy, miss the point entirely, arming the masses with vacuous slogans to wield over facts like police truncheons over students, what they think does not matter, for like Samuel Adams said, “It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.” This is why we occupy.
This same friend and I were discussing the popularity of zombie movies and of them he said, “They tap into some common vein of anxiety and estrangement, hyper-intensifying that which we feel day to day in our dealings with the Other. We all have those moments of profound alienation wherein the collective rest of humanity can seem hostile, insensitive, unthinking and savage—zombie-like.” I think he hit the nail on the head.
Back in the day, long ago, American revolutionary fighters were a poor, ill-equipped raggedy-ass lot. They fought with what they had, which wasn’t much. Somehow, though, they managed to beat the worlds strongest and best-equipped army, the English. Maybe it was because they were fighting for their own country and had nowhere else to go if they lost.
Fast-forward a few hundred years and the worlds strongest and best-equipped army is getting its ass kicked again, only this time its the ill-equipped, raggedy-ass guys in Afghanistan doing it to the American army. The Afghan fighters have no tanks, no planes, no predator drones. They have old taped-up kalashnikovs and improvised explosives and a fierce will to win. Maybe its because they’re fighting for their own country and have nowhere else to go if they lose.
Whats the saying ? ‘Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to keep on repeating it’ ? Something like that. Afghanistan is Vietnam all over again. You’d think people would learn from their mistakes. Its really simple. People who are fighting for their own country against an occupying force, whatever the differing specifics, will always have the greater will to win.
The ‘war’ in Afghanistan drags endlessly on, bone-headed, pointless, muddled, without any direction or clue. Billions of dollars that should be used to drag America out of recession and help the unemployed and sick and homeless is being sucked out to kill innocent people and devastate a primitive country already ravaged by decades of fighting off invading armies. Money that could build is being used to destroy. How criminally stupid is that ?
I truly wonder whats going on in the heads of those in Washington who talk about ‘winning’ this ‘war’. Are they really so lacking in understanding and sense ? Are they really so utterly stupid ? Have they ever read a history book in their lives ? As long as there is an invading army occupying Afghanistan there cannot possibly be peace and there won’t be. Kill as many as you want. It simply won’t happen.
Of course its more about political advantage than doing what is right or moral. In Americas illusion of democracy its twin parties, the Pepsi and Coke of politics, use national security as a stick to beat each other with. Each has to ‘out-tough’ the other to appeal to the voters. Or so they think but increasingly the public are seeing through their lies and resenting the reckless profligacy with money and lives.
They want someone in Washngton .. anyone .. it doesn’t matter who .. to have the balls to tell it like it is. To say ‘Iraq and Afghanistan were disastrous mistakes and we cannot afford to continue along this bloody and foolish path a moment longer’. They want someone to bring all American troops home from foreign countries where they have no business being before one more human life or one more tax-payers dollar is wasted. They want ALL troops home. Not just a token, headline-grabbing few. ALL.
Because the alternative is what ? More trillions of dollars wasted ? More precious lives lost ? Endless ‘war’ ? Endless lies and endless political cowardice ? I think if I had a hotline to the president I’d suggest he reflects on what the English learned back in the 1700s, that ultimately empire-builders can’t beat people who are ready to fight and die for their own country. Truth.
It’s too bad, but the cancer drugs appear to have really taken their toll on his faculties. As hard-to-hold the stance on American foreign policy he’s committed himself to for the last decade is, it was at least novel in its boldness and brio. In his latest he’s proven that his best work is all far behind him, and his death, unfortunately for him, has not come soon enough to save his reputation. Instead, they confirm both his professed greatest fears: to be be boring, and to be finally recognized for what he is.
His latest begins is titles “Chomsky’s Follies”, presumably because it is about just that. This, however, is not the case. Though he begins by addressing Chomsky’s argument published in Guernica, albeit in straw man form, he quickly turns to an irrelevant, and uninteresting attack first on radical islamists, then Michael Moore, and then, for reasons not clear attacks the 9/11 Truth movement. He then summarizes Chomsky’s thoughts on the assassination of bin Laden and calls it a wrap. He restates them, them makes an innuendo about Chomsky’s ability to learn, as if by attacking him again, all the work of casting doubt on Chomsky’s claims had been done with a pathetic attempt of an attack on the man. It’s sad because the one thing Hitch had on today’s public intellectuals was ad hominem.
“There Is No Alternative” to Supply Side Economics!
The Republican lackeys-for-corporate-welfare obsession with Ronald Reagan tax and economic mythography follows closely the Thatcherism laid down in Britain.
And the song remains the same in 2011 …
28 May 2011
The TUC has launched a new report on corporation tax which makes for some interesting reading. Among other things, it looks into the relationship between corporate tax rates and growth, concluding:
…there are only weak associations between declining tax rates and increased growth rates and declining tax rates and increased rates of employment. In addition, even these weak relationships do not prove causality. Such analyses also disguise aberrant data such as Ireland’s high growth rate before tax rates were cut and the collapse in growth in that country after they were reduced. It therefore suggests that the impact of planned corporation tax cuts on growth prospects is weak at best and unlikely to be significant.
Source: Corporate Tax reform and competitiveness - TUC - 27 May 2011
”With capital globally mobile, moreover, governments are now in a race to the bottom with regard to corporate taxation and loopholes for personal taxation of high incomes. Each government aims to attract mobile capital by cutting taxes relative to others. Governments like Ireland have created tax havens that drain revenues from the rest and act as conduits to tax-free Caribbean hideaways such as the Cayman Islands. The rich are doubly benefited: by the underlying market forces of globalisation and by their governments’ policy response.
“…both the US and UK are aiming to do the impossible: run a modern, high-technology, prosperous 21st-century knowledge economy without the requisite tax base, largely to satisfy the upper classes and multinational companies, which threaten to decamp to milder tax regimes, or direct their campaign contributions elsewhere, if they do not get the tax cuts they obsessively crave… Multinational companies and their disproportionately wealthy owners are successfully playing governments against each other. The game is clear, and it is working fiercely well.”
"Those of you who have been through college know that the educational system is highly geared to rewarding conformity and obedience; if you don’t do that, you are a troublemaker. So, it is kind of a filtering device which ends up with people who really, honestly (they aren’t lying) internalize the framework of belief and attitudes of the surrounding power system in the society."
Economics professors are scarcely more delighted than when relaying their favorite defense of privatization: The Tragedy of the Commons. The phrase made famous by Garrett Hardin, is now conventional wisdom espoused as fact in first year text books in most every college and university. It argues that in order to protect a resource, it must not be commonly held, as this inevitably leads to its abuse. The only way to protect something valuable like, say, water is to make sure it’s owned privately. In defense of this logic, econ texts love to use the used car example. Basically it goes like this: If you would rather own a car that previously had one owner vs. one that was formerly a rental, this proves that shared resources are no good. The logic of course is simple. Rentals are often abused, whereas conventional wisdom is that most people take care of their own(ed) things. This logic led to the short-lived privatized water scheme in Bolivia, but its most interesting application was almost one hundred years before Hardin wrote his seminal text.
The tragedy of the Commons argument for privatization was the same one used to defend slavery: George Fitzhugh argued for slavery with arguments like these. He argued that low-income earners were better off under a slave system, because as the property of the wealthy, they would be better looked after. In a capitalist society, wage earners were essentially rented humans who were worked to exhaustion then thrown away, and replaced when they began to break down. Owned slaves were treated well, given proper rest and nutrition so they could continue to work for their owners efficiently. This wasn’t true in the beginning, but the 19th century, many black slaves in the south were treated better than black workers in the north who were ‘free’ to earn wages.
These arguments are exactly the kind you hear from economists talking about the joys of capitalism as it makes things better than they were in the past. Even if it is true, that alone isn’t enough to justify a system. It didn’t justify exploitation then, and it doesn’t justify exploitation now.
Scientists analyze ALL of the Porn on the Internet .
Neuroscientists Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam painstakingly analyzed the results of 400 million online searches for porn and uncovered some startling insights into what men and women may really want from each other, at least sexually. It seems they managed to accomplish this without going blind or mad. Allegedly.
So is violent porn really on the increase ? Why are cheating wives so popular ? Why is rape porn so popular with women ? Does that effect how men behave ? Whats the deal with granny porn ? How do men and women differ in the kind of porn they like ? What is mens favorite porn search ? What turns women on ? Whats slash porn ? Is porn addictive ?
For the answers to these and many other questions read this article. Only if you’re interested of course but, lets face it, who isn’t ?
The recent election of Stephen Harper has led pundits to scratch their heads in wonder. How did the majority of Canadians fail to unite and defeat the minority of voting Canadians who support trickle-down economics, militarism, increased police presence and the infamous ‘deep integration’ policy with our neighbours to the south? Perhaps the answer is empire.
Canada originated as an anglo-capitalist empire. In some ways Canada is no different than the Persian or Roman or British Empires past. It is at base the imposition of a political arrangement designed to maintain the socio-economic status quo, benefiting those at the top, the capitalists in this case, the Alcaemenid royal family in the case of Persia, and the Roman aristocracy in the case of Rome.
In this sense, Canada parallels the United States. According to Howard Zinn, the states were organized into a union for the main purpose of making it difficult for isolated rebellions to succeed. If Virginians rebel against the Virginian rich, the big men in Washington can say “They are rebelling against America! Now Americans, you from New York, you from Illinois, all of you, bear arms in defense of our blessed union!” Its easier for the poor to prevail in specific communities and regions then it is for them to achieve liberation across vast disconnected swaths of land. Uniting these regions as a country gives those in power the jurisdiction to enforce policies, or “laws,” to further their own interests.
Back to Canada: with the population spread over such a huge landmass, it is all but impossible to unite people for a common cause. They don’t even cheer for the same hockey teams, how are they supposed to agree on which executive will abuse his power the least?
It cannot be pure coincidence that the most enviable countries according to the Human Development Index (HDI) are all relatively small.