Category Archives: War Criminals

Black Bloc 101

Chris Hedges made a few waves with his recent piece describing the black bloc as the cancer in occupy.

click me pleaseI  believe in diversity. I think diversity is a fundamental natural law of the universe.  But I understand that human beings have a tidiness gene that makes us think that we can organize and be more efficient through suppression of diversity, by rejection of the natural order and diversity that constantly arises and evaporates back in to the order of chaos.  Chaos is not merely disorder.  There may be a level of order benefit and diversity in chaos that is not easily observed and is under-appreciated.

The black bloc tactic is something that arises from police violence toward non-violent protest and the willingness of society to choose order over the bedrock right to peacefully assemble and petition for redress of grievance.

Diversity of tactics and tolerance of the diversity of tactics is something that I embrace whole-heartedly.  Things can go wrong.  I have seen that.  Things can go right.  I have seen that as well.   I am usually pleased to see a black bloc tactical option in a crowd of protesters.  I believe Hedges could not be more wrong about the black bloc tactic.

Here is an interesting and informative piece in response to Hedges cancer article.  I recommend that you read the piece if you don’t understand and appreciate the black bloc tactic or if you read the Hedges article and thought what he said made a lot of sense.

After you read the piece, you might want to look through the n + 1 zine that is carrying the piece.  Looks like a pretty informative vehicle.  A weapon of mass instruction.  I am down with that. Thanks to my friend Elliot Stoller for bringing this piece to my attention.

Free Market Follies

It’s easy to beat up on Keynsian economics in good times, but in a serious economic downturns, keynsian economics are the way up and out.  The push and pull between keynsian economics and free market economics represent a scale and reasonable people will understand that both have their place in large-scale economic, real world applications.  <img src=”http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e2/US_annual_federal_deficits_1901_to_2006_redblue.svg/449px-US_annual_federal_deficits_1901_to_2006_redblue.svg.png” title=”Wiki Commons courtesy 84user” alt=”Wiki Commons courtesy 84user” vspace=”3″ width=”365″ align=”right” border=”2″ height=”271″ hspace=”3″ />

Unregulated free markets give you the mortgage crisis economic collapse.  The answer?  regulate the free market.  Regulation does cut into profits.  It also prevents rampant corruption in the free market that can create a long term economic downturn in exchange for short term bonus income.  Regulate the free economy.  It ain’t rocket science.  The second tool to create a relatively stable and honest “free” market is a steeply progressive tax schedule that makes short term profit-taking too difficult.  It changes the dynamics of corruption, greed, temptation for folks with weak ethical constitutions if they know that the government is going to get the lion’s share of their income if they throw out good sense and choose to enrich themselves at the expense of their businesses and the larger economy.

Well, that’s where we are these days and we are not getting out of the global economic slump without turning to Keynsian economic fixes.  They are counter intuitive and they work.  The deficits have to increase to get the economy growing again (this would be a good time to spur green economic growth – clean energy?  energy independence? move away from internal combustion personal transportation?).

But the free market fundamentalists cannot understand that their end of the economic scheme spectrum cannot bring an economy out of a slump.  It’s akin to “the beatings will continue until morale improves,” pulling more money out of the economy in a slump by cutting government spending simply deepens the downturn.

There are different problems that can develop with an economic model that is too tightly regulated, central state economic planning cannot harness the economic engine of fashion, desire, etc. that is like a force of nature.  Free market economics knows how to derive growth from the force of nature that is fashion, fad and desire.  But we don’t have to worry about too little free market freedom.  That is not our problem today.

<a href=”http://news.yahoo.com/doubts-grow-not-economy-under-uk-austerity-drive-071138072.html” target=”_blank”>David Stringer at AP has an article</a> out:
<blockquote><strong>Doubts grow, not economy, under UK austerity drive </strong>
<p id=”yui_3_3_0_1_1317568704325295″>MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Jobs have been lost, libraries shuttered, sailors sacked and street lights dimmed — <span class=”yshortcuts cs4-visible” id=”lw_1317559979_2″>Britain</span> is beginning to taste the bitter medicine <span class=”yshortcuts cs4-visible” id=”lw_1317559979_0″>David Cameron</span> warned was necessary to fix its wounded economy. It’s left some wondering: Is the remedy worse than the symptoms?</p>
</blockquote>
<p id=”yui_3_3_0_1_1317568704325295″>This is a badly flawed question.  The framing of the question suggests that an austerity program is the remedy to deficits that pile up in an economic downturn.  It is not a remedy, it is an expression of free market fundamentalism.</p>
<p id=”yui_3_3_0_1_1317568704325295″>The US free market fundamentalists have a hybrid model, they love government spending that feeds corporations, they have no qualms about government spending as long as the spending is not committed to health care, education, food security.  There is a low profit margin in that stuff compared to weapons systems and war profiteering.  The “austerity” program of US free market fundamentalists is not about austerity, it is about class warfare.  The shift of wealth from the many to the few that has occurred over the past thirty years is not about rewarding the most productive folks in our society, it is about class warfare. Top tax rates of 70% plus did not prevent the US economy from growing and adding jobs.  Obama was correct when he said, it’s not class warfare, it’s math.   And a little history.</p>
The website of G. William Domhoff (sociology professor, UC Santa Cruz) seems to have a lot  of good information.  <a href=”http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html”>Who rules America?</a> Is that a rhetorical question?
<p style=”text-align: center”><img src=”http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/01/Gini_since_WWII.svg/800px-Gini_since_WWII.svg.png” title=”Wiki Commons GNU license” alt=”Wiki Commons GNU license” vspace=”3″ width=”582″ border=”2″ height=”422″ hspace=”3″ /></p>
<p style=”text-align: center” align=”right”> </p>
<p style=”text-align: center” align=”left”>hmm..  we are up there is the top three or four countries of income disparity.  Brazil, US, and China, UK going for more disparity, Bulgaria, Norway, Mexico trending for less disparity.</p>
<p style=”text-align: center”> </p>

We Can’t Live with Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Power Plants

The annual peace walk to the Ground Zero Center in Bangor is wrapping up today with a talk by Dennis Kucinich at 6:30 pm.   I was able to speak with Senji Kanaeda for a few minutes on July 31st and am finishing up a short video with Senji’s thoughts front and center.

I still have a little tweaking to do on the video, but it’s almost finished and I wanted to get this up.  I am also using the video to publicize the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant event at Traditions on Monday, August 8th at 7 pm.  We have to stop nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants.  This is a road that leads nowhere.

Organizing 101 Part I 10 questions about organizing

Tacoma activist Arthur M sent along an email and link about organizing that I think is right on.  Thanks, friend.

Here is the link if you want to read the whole article.  It’s 14 pages and I recognize that we live in a world of tweets and sparkle fingers today, so I want to tweet this article down a bit.

It’s funny, email seems so 1999 now.  I still rely on email and I do not like telephone calls or telephones, but emails seem superfluous to blogging and the resultant give and take. Now I am thinking/wondering if blogging is becoming superfluous, being replaced by more interactive social networking tools.  Not sure about that.  I am continuing to blog, but also becoming more involved in social networking stuff.

Back to Organizing.  Thanks again to The End of Capitalism for this work.  I recommend reading the whole text, but here is Part 1:

“We aren’t done, we’re not leaving, and we’re in this together.”

1. What Is Organizing?

A. How to actually organize and build lasting radical organizations, particularly in terms of maintaining radical politics while reaching beyond insular communities

B. Without a sense of why they are there or a program about which to talk with people, door knocking will yield few productive results

C. Build Dual Power, Confront State Power. Building coalitions, political infrastructure, and visionary, alternative institutions that prefigure the types of social relationships we desire — while simultaneously confronting the state, right-wing social movements, and other forms of institutional oppression. One without the other is insufficient

2. How Do We Build Intergenerational Movements? (A Challenge to Young and Old!)

A. Recognizing that the struggle is for the long haul means that no generation can or should exist in a political vacuum

B. Most people do not work in productively intergenerational groups or live intergenerational lives outside tightly circumscribed roles (e.g., teacher-student)

C. We have a responsibility to find and work with the teenage radicals who are just now becoming political conscious and active

3. What Role Do Militancy and Confrontation Play?

A. People want to not just register their dissatisfaction with the war through petitions and periodic protests but actually end it

B. Develop a strategy that incorporates a sense of direct action in line with the state of local movement

C. Maintain relationships with other activists and groups who may not have engaged in the same tactics but who remained committed and sympathetic

D. Continually expand the movement numerically, while simultaneously increasing the militancy of those prepared to take risks.

E. Build mass movements where militant tactics can be present without dividing the movement

4. What about Anti-racism and Multiracial Movement Building?

A. The left, like U.S. society in general, remains significantly divided by race, so proactive measures are needed to create multi-racial spaces

B. The relationship of race to gender to class is still a challenging one for many U.S. radicals to grasp and organize around

C. How do we build a radical power base among white people that is profoundly anti-racist to contribute to toppling white supremacy?

I think the groups that M & I are working with in Olympia are very much about 1. C. right now.  I feel good about the dual power.  More of the ten questions sometime soon.

Solidarity.

More Notes on the Fragility of Empire

“Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the
American military-industrial establishment would have to go on, substantially
unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be
an unacceptable shock to the American economy.”
— George F. Kennan (1904-2005) US advisor, diplomat, political analyst, and Pulitzer-prize winning historian, Professor Emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study and former US Ambassador to the Soviet Union.    1987

So Kennan understood clearly in 1987 that the American economy was built around military industry.  The need for an enemy, the threat to the US economy from not standing in opposition to an enemy had become an end in itself.  Americans and the world had learned to live with the threat of nuclear annihilation (the thermonuclear war variety, not the poor engineering variety demonstrated at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and most recently at Fukushima).  We got desensitized to that “hard rain” threat over a couple of decades and all attempts to reduce nuclear weapons around the world have been effectively thwarted by the US failure to lead, to comply with our obligation to reduce our nuclear stockpile as an important part in the non-proliferation treaty.  We continue to upgrade and adapt nuclear weapons for use in changing battlefield scenarios.  Need an example?  Look at depleted uranium ammunition.  We have avoided the issue of safely disposing of the uranium tailing produced in enriched uranium processes by turning the waste material into a heavy projectile weapon that can be used to pierce armor, kill enemy combatants and coincidentally expose a population in foreign lands to a chemical agent.  If these were exploded on American soil by some party I think they would be called a dirty bomb.  But they are just armor piercing DU shells when we use them.

A “good” thing for the American economy, I suppose.  Lots of profitable economic activity dedicated to enriching uranium and a win-win for the military industrial complex to be able to turn the waste material into another profit opportunity in du sales to the American war machine.

But where does it get us?  Does it make us safe?  I think our distance, our continental isolation, from the peoples we exploit economically and oppress culturally is the dominant factor in the American experience of security and stability.  I believe that our choices to build economic stability on the rock of military weaponry makes us less safe.  As empires have historically discovered, the price of maintaining a standing army capable of taking on all comers (and even all comers at the same moment) is the oppression and exploitation of foreign nations and peoples.  The formula is not stable.  Great Britain chose to step back from empire at the end of WWII.  Was it a choice or had GB had been so depleted by its proximity to the war in Europe that its time at the top of pyramid was over?  I am not sure about that question, but the long term outcome was the shift to GB as servant to American hegemony, a bit of role reversal for the two countries, notwithstanding some notable disagreements between the two nation-states including a fracas in 1776 and another in 1812.

Here’s another thought from Kennan, from an earlier date:

US State Department 1948, Review of Current Trends in U.S. Foreign Policy: …We have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population… In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction. George Kennan, US State Department 1948

Clearly, Kennan was not just a sophisticated insider and observer of the American Empire, he was an architect or engineer in the construction of empire.  If there is a section of hell reserved for the dogs of war George Kennan has earned his place there.  But these things are beyond human knowing or understanding.  A person like Mandela spends decades in jail and a guy like Kissinger has yet to be arrested.  Justice in our time is a chimera, a roll of the dice, a happenstance, not a predictable outcome of any human process that I can identify.

The US and Obama had an opportunity to put our feet on a different path.  The collapse of the Wall Street megabanks, the banksters (financial wizards with conscience comparable to Kennan’s) who have arisen to lead the military economy were momentarily vulnerable.   Coincidentally, the climate, the planet itself is starting to respond to our species hubris in ways that will force change, but sadly, Obama played it safe and propped up the banksters and chose to double down on the military economy instead of committing resources to an employment program based on clean energy and energy independence. The door was open, a path away from military empire and back on industrial and environmental stability lay on the other side through that door.  Obama is not a dumb guy.  He must have recognized the opportunity, but he appears to be a really cautious guy who just could not take bold steps.  An effective orator and ineffective politician.  I was never sold on the guy, so I don’t have to deal with the betrayal factor, but I am certainly disappointed.  My energy and passion are with candidates like Kucinich and Dean.  Do these guys have a chance in the big money politics arena?  David, meet Goliath.  He’s the big guy with heavy armor.  Good luck with that guy.

Well, Goliath sometimes loses.  It’s historic when he does, it’s history when Goliath prevails as he most often does.

Alternet is running a piece by Noam Chomsky today.  Noam continues to respond to the “Obama Kills Osama” story in the same way that I do, by wondering how the country has  moved forward into the realm of lawless, rogue states with so little outcry.

Noam asks When Did America Completely Jettison the Rule of Law? It’s a good question.

So we move forward into the post-rapture-disappointment week with Obama wearing the armor of Goliath.  Somehow we have to find a way to reach Goliath.  To persuade Goliath that might does not make right.  That is the real David versus Goliath battle.  Persuade Goliath to lay down his arms.

Happy Monday to all!

Is It Time To Send Out An SOS?

I am thinking about suggesting that the progressives, radicals, and rabble (that’s me) consider sending out an SOS. Yes, an emergency call.  I think we are there.

In this instance I think the SOS will be an emergency call for a Summer of Solidarity (think Summer of Love).

Those of us who voted in 2008 elected Obama as President and put him in charge of a democratic Congress and at the end of a two year session with that group we had an escalated war in Afghanistan, huge bailouts of Wall Street banks and traders, and a corporatist health care reform bill crafted on a table where single payer or even a public option had no place.

2010 elections gave us a tea party sweep of new corporatists idealogues in Congress who defy description or classification, but any way you look at this group, they are not good news.

In 2012, there will be 33 Senate seats up for election.  21 of those seats are now held by democrats and 2 by independents who lean left and 10 Senate seats now held by republicans will be for voter and Citizen United selection.  Bad as things may currently seem, they could get worse after November 2012.  That’s my take on the federal situation.

Budget woes from the Wall Street robbery of Main Street and the 2008 crash have created a state by state funding crisis that has become a golden opportunity for cuts to social welfare programs, for privatization and capitalist takeovers or dismantling of important public functions.  Tim Eyman has continued to hammer on the state budget in Washington to create a funding snarl that creates a new excuse for hammering on the middle class, the working poor, the disabled, the lowest 50% of the socio-economic scale (that’s me and most of my good friends).courtesy Wiki Commons, photo by judy seidman, poster by Anita Willcox

That’s my take on the State level.

Folks can argue (and they do) that Obama and centrist democrats are so much better than the other real alternative, but I think it is difficult to argue that Obama is taking us in a progressive direction.  He has continued the imperial presidency, violates national and international law with the drone attacks on civilian populations in countries that we are not at war with.  He has arguably committed war and high crimes, most recently with the murder of the people (whoever they were) in the compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan.  So, even if you think this is better than the alternative, I will challenge you to persuade me that Obama is taking the country in the right direction.

Back to the Summer of Solidarity.

We wrapped up our Friday the 13th zombie crawl to the Olympia Capitol yesterday.  It was a good time, good food, good music, good cause, good company.  And there is reason to believe that the pressure that we have brought to bear on the Washington legislature is producing results.  A tax loophole ending bill made it out of committee yesterday on a straight party line vote and is heading to the floor for consideration. Would this have happened without the demonstrations, without the occupation of the Rotunda last month, without incessant pressure from the groups and individuals who have spent time in Olympia over the past couple of months?  I think not.

But, it’s small victories that we are achieving in a sea of big battles.  Environmental degradation, corruption of the political process by court decisions that find that money is speech and corporations are people, deregulation of markets and industries, wholesale class war on unions, teachers, the poor, the disabled?  It’s hard to see how a small legislative victory or two is going to turn the tide.  Still I think we are right to claim those small victories.  They are ours.

That’s as much as I have time for today.  I need to work on a few things around the home front as so much time and energy has been directed to the zombie event over the past couple of weeks.

I will tell you this much: a lot of the discussion is evolving toward creation of the alternative community.  The battle for good public policy is important and should continue for those who have the time and energy for it, but we also need to let the good times roll.  We need to step in and fill the vacuum that is created by the failure of public policy.  And we need to do it in the company of good friends, enjoying music, sharing food and really FREE (that’s you, Lee) market thinking and that is what I am thinking about when I start organizing myself around the idea of a Summer of Solidarity.

More tomorrow.  Love and peace to all of you who put energy into the activities in Olympia over the past two months.  I am optimistic because of your ideas, your ideals, and your energy.

Sanity, Power, Values and More

“It is said that power corrupts, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.”
— David Brin
(1950- ) Author

I don’t know much about sane folks, but I get the drift here from Mr. Brin.  I figure the realm of politics attracts opportunists the way a basketball court attracts tall folks.  It’s just obvious that this realm appeals to a certain population. One population that is called to politics are reformers, utopians, philosophers who want to see if their ideals can be put in practice.  That is probably the best of the lot. Another group are or become pragmatists who think they can see a way to move a body politic toward an ideal through compromises and the politics of the possible. And yet another group are simply political functionaries who understand the political realm as primarily a playing field for exercise of power.  All of the experimentation that attends the exercise of power is done without the counterweight of the human values captured by Eleanor Roosevelt’s master work, the declaration of universal human rights. Or perhaps it is done in the context of a different philosophical realm – the social darwinism of Ayn Rand or the puritanical criminality of folks who come to power with the idea that ethnic cleansing of society is a means that is justified by their dream end of a pure society.  And really, this ethnic cleansing model is simply operationalizing social darwinism.  It is an impatient social darwinism that doesn’t even have the moral conscience to enact policies of neglect and exclusion that will achieve a similar end more slowly.  I will give those folks points for efficiency.  The trains will run on time or the conductors will be thrown under the wheels.

So, in an exercise of brutal or brutish efficiency, our country now engages in some horrendous stuff and there is not much outcry.  Waterboarding?  Is it ever ok to torture beings?  I don’t think this is a tough question.  Our efficiency (misunderestimated imho) overcomes our values and we are drawn into questions about whether torture works?  Does torture work?  Of course it works.  The work product is tortured individuals on both sides of the equations.  Torture creates monsters. 

The correct question is should we torture beings?  Is there ever a justification for torture?  The simple and correct answer is no.   Kick the question to ethics philosophers, to religious leaders, to large political bodies, the answer is the same.  Torture is wrong.  Don’t bother playing around the margins with sleep deprivation, isolation, stress positions etc.  This is torture.  Subject any of the individuals who favor these “pragmatic” options to skirt the clear moral and legal prohibitions to torture to enhanced interrogation techniques for 72 hours and let’s see if they continue to think this is ok.  Of course, that is a rhetorical proposition.  Unless the proponents of enhanced interrogation techniques volunteer for the treatment to show that is not inhumane, we who believe the treatment is inhumane cannot cross that line.  It’s just that simple.

public domain Wiki CommonsHow about murder?  Is murder ever ok?  “Thou shall not kill” seems  to be a pretty common principle in religions and moral philosophies.  Geopolitics continues to find justification for wholesale violation of this principle in decisions to enter into wars or “police actions.”  Intentional destruction of life is delivered through our proxies, the drones, that circle above us. The finger that pushes the button is isolated from humanity by electronic screens, the screens of violent computer games, the screens of electronic drone control panels, the human screens that allow this murderous activity to be conducted anonymously.  Murder from behind the screen of anonymity.  Pay no attention to the man behind the screen or curtain.  The drone attacks are surgical and intelligent.  We get the illusion of smart bombs when we need the reality of smart leaders, smart policies, smart action.  

So, this country recently sent a team of assassins into another sovereign country in the dead of night to murder an unarmed man.  Our agents captured a man who had been convicted of no crime and it is said they shot him in the face, possibly in front of his family members.  Are we ok with that?  Is that an event for celebration?

I say no.

So what are our values?  Why do other folks around the planet find themselves in conflict with us?  I will let John Foster Dulles have the last word:

 

“Somehow we find it hard to sell our values, namely that the rich should plunder the poor.”
— John Foster Dulles former Secretary of State

Sunday Round-up

I was wrong about the rightness of military action in Libya.  Military action simply can’t remain defensive. Gaddafi’s son and three grandchildren were killed by a Nato strike.  We are killing children.  I get that Gaddafi has to be persuaded to release his powerful hold on Libya’s politics.  The military approach only knows one way.  Common Dreams has coverage.

When the only tool you own is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  Well, there were children in this house that was targeted and struck by Nato bombs.  I am reminded again that the pacifists are right.   The May issue of Harpers has an interesting article by Nicholson Baker about pacifism and World War II (the good war example) and it is pretty persuasive.

Meanwhile – the mainstream media is turning on the radical right.  Bob Schieffer called Trump a racist.  Hm..   was that a hard call?

Common Dreams ran this cartoon that I think captures the situation.

NPR has spent the past decade trying to move to the right to appease the right winger ascendance, but you know, first they came for the blacks, and I said nothing because I wasn’t black, then they came for the gays, and I said nothing because I wasn’t gay, but now that the right-wingers are on the verge of cutting all funding to NPR and PBS, the systems have found their voice again.  Boy, it’s a little late.  You tossed folks like Bill Moyers off your network.  Voices of dissent, voices of reason and compassion.  No room for them.  Like the Libyan attack story, some folks at the top of organizations simply can’t understand the complexity and nuance of the mission, they are simply bureaucrats who understanding programming, but can’t keep the values front and center.

So, the right-wingers have moved on from Barack’s birth certificate to his grades.  Barack is no revolutionary.  He is no socialist.  He’s just a black guy in the white house.  Some folks can’t stand the thought. I grew up in the segregated South.  I have not forgotten what racism looks like.

McCain was born in Panama.  Was that a problem when he ran for President?

George Romney, Mitt’s father, was born in Mexico. Was that a problem when he ran for President?

So, what is different about Barack Hussein Obama?  Yes, that does not sound like an American name.  The muslim-sounding middle name probably raises some racist thoughts, but I think it’s mainly skin color.  We would like to think that we live in post-racial America.  I don’t think that such a place exists.