8/31/10

American Apparel: Being Hip Becomes a Consumer Brand

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One Short of a Whole

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I hereby give notice. He appears to be one short of a whole. I'm well designed to call it ambiguity. The label sticks under statement.

You're informed yet unknown. The more you gather under stand will be assimilated. Like a piece short of the puzzle. I'm at my most vulnerable in this state of animation.

Right-Wing Media Fanatics

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Anyone who has listened to right wing radio, Republican rhetoric, or to Rush Limbaugh ”dittohead” true believers should be familiar with the “free market can solve all America’s problems” rhetoric that keeps returning to the forefront of American political debate.

I thought this rhetorical promise was so discredited following the economic collapse that it would be a while before it resurfaced, but that turned out to be a bad assumption.

Being a conservative with a megaphone, it turns out, means never having to say you’re sorry or consider alternative evidence and points of view.

The non-conservative “guests” on these right-wing programs exist largely as whipping boys for the egos of the authoritarian pundits of the day, including the likes of Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and others.

Rarely are these guests allowed serious space to disagree with their hosts, as the slightest sign of disagreement is met with an immediate interruption, talking over, and caustic attacks of those with whom the Hannitys and Limbaughs of the world disagree.

What makes the smug contempt and arrogance of the right-wing punditry all the more obnoxious is their complete refusal to engage in any sort of empirical evidence that challenges their neoliberal worldviews in the “magic” of “free markets.”

Their dominance of television and talk radio, as a result, is truly shameful in light of their status as “useful idiots.”

The likes of Hannity and Limbaugh lambast Democrats for ill advised spending and taxation that stifle the economy and run up “unsustainable, crippling debt” for future generations.

The only way to stimulate the economy, these pundits warn, is not to pass aid packages to keep masses of teachers and other public workers from being fired, but rather to pass tax cuts for the rich and watch the benefits “trickle down” to the masses.

Forget about extending unemployment for the masses. Another stimulus? No way. That would be “reckless,” since we all know that the “free market” requires massive deficit spending only for corporate welfare and warmongering.

What’s saddest about all these promises from the right is their complete disconnection from reality.

Capitalism & the Commodification of Sport

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When large-scale industrialisation and urbanisation of rural societies started it brought with it some leisure time (otherwise factory workers would have dropped dead where they stood).

Leisure was threatening to the capitalists because it contained elements that undermined the efficient and productive values of capitalist hegemony.

Subversive elements such as spontaneity, intrinsic rewards, a non-competitive and non-acquisitive orientation and 'freedom' might sour workers' attitude to their lot in life and (quel horreur!) foster dissent.

By gradually turning sport into a market, capitalism has held off this threat, with sport becoming incorporated into the commercial and competitive logic of capitalism and goals such as efficiency, productivity, performance and winning becoming dominant.

Sport, once a pastime and mode of conviviality and communal identification, says McKay, has become a serious profession and part of big business.

That our current 'commonsense' notions about sport rest on the importance of winning, conquest and the social Darwinism of success in society going to tough, masculine competition in a fairly run race is a triumph of capitalist cultural hegemony.

Demystifying and debunking sport, analysing its political and social context, are elementary for socialists.

Sport is a social prop for the domination of capitalist ideas and values.

Fundamental to the maintenance of this dominance are the mass media, which selectively articulate capitalist rationality, masculine hegemony, Eurocentric racism, militaristic nationalism and liberal values.

It's a toxic mix of ideological viruses.

Profits Rise as Big Business Fires Workers

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Corporate profits are rising, corporate cash is piling up, business has increased. But jobs are not coming back any time soon for the millions of unemployed.

This is the theme running through the big business media. It shows deep anxiety over the new stage of the capitalist economy and the way the “jobless recovery” is playing out.

While 30 million workers remain unemployed or underemployed, corporate profits have soared to an annual rate of $1.2 trillion — higher than at the height of the bubble. Much of that $1.2 trillion comes from laying off workers and getting more production out of those who remain.

“It turns out,” wrote Steven Pearlstein in the July 30 Washington Post, “that companies have found ways to produce as much as they ever did, but with fewer workers.

"As a result, over the past year, output for each hour worked rose more than 6 percent, even as average hourly earnings have risen less than 2 percent.

"The rest of those productivity gains have gone straight to the bottom line, creating a record stash of cash on corporate balance sheets.

“Some of the cash has been used to pay down debt or buy back stock. But so far the one thing businesses haven’t done is hire back full-time employees, preferring instead to contract for temporary workers or increase the hours of the workers they already have.”

Pearlstein then made a remarkably candid observation for the big business press:

“The only surprise is that anyone is surprised by the lack of private-sector hiring. It is only in the world of Chamber of Commerce propaganda that businesses exist to create jobs.

"In the real world, businesses exist to create profits for shareholders, not jobs for workers. That’s why they call it capitalism, not job-ism.”

When a mouthpiece of big business such as the Washington Post allows such anti-capitalist commentary, it is a sign of deep worry about the permanence of this economic system.

Pakistan Disaster & Western Hypocrisy

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More than 20 million people – nearly 12 percent of the entire population – are suffering. More than 160,000 square kilometers, or 20 percent of Pakistan’s land mass, are inundated. A million homes have been destroyed or damaged.

Of the 50 million acres of cultivable land, more than 10 million acres (about 20 percent) of standing crops, mainly cotton and sugarcane, have been destroyed or severely damaged.

The plight and extreme misery were described in the latest issue of Time magazine in the following words.

“But now Pakistan stands at a precipice, its political class toothless, its army overstretched its economy bankrupt. Looking at the heavens, countless stranded, starving Pakistanis can only hope for bluer skies.”

These words reek of the hypocrisy of the imperialists. When it comes to spending billions of dollars on drones, bombs and bullets, their generosity has no bounds.

But when it comes to providing bread, clothing and shelter for millions of starving and homeless people, their generosity suddenly ends.

The smug political hacks in Washington blame the “toothless political class” in Islamabad, which they have backed in return for support for a criminal war in Afghanistan.

They blame the Pakistan army which is too “overstretched” to help the people because it is doing the dirty work of the Pentagon.

They blame the economy which is bankrupt because most of it is drained away by paying foreign bankers the interest on the foreign debt and paying the soldiers to fight Washington’s wars.

And finally, adding insult to injury, they advise the homeless and starving people to hope for “bluer skies”! Such hypocrisy has established new levels of cynicism even for the hardened cynics in Washington.

Americans in Dire Straits

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Because they lack savings, Americans borrow money to cover all of their other expenses, including education, health care and consumption. American consumer debt now totals about $13.5 trillion.

Many people are suffocating under the burden of their debt. Some 61 percent of Americans have no financial reserves and are living from paycheck to paycheck. As little as a single hospital bill can spell potential financial ruin.

But Americans have been inculcated with the idea that poverty is an individual's fault, not the system's.

In America, free-market capitalism is king, and people with low incomes are seen as having only themselves to blame.

Those who make a lot of money are applauded and emulated. The only problem is that Americans have long overlooked the fact that the American Dream was becoming a reality for fewer and fewer people.

Statistically, less affluent Americans stand a 4-percent chance of becoming part of the upper middle class. A number that is lower than in almost every other industrialized nation.

So far, politicians have failed to come up with solutions for the growing social crisis.

Washington is still waiting for jobs that aren't coming. Obama and his administration seem to be pinning their hopes on the notion that Americans will eventually pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

Preferably, by doing the same thing they've always done: spending money. Domestic consumer spending is responsible for two-thirds of American economic output.

But even though Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke continues to pump money into the market, and even though the government deficit has now reached the dizzying level of $1.4 trillion, such efforts have remained unsuccessful.

The problem is that many Americans can no longer spend money on consumer products, because they have no savings. In some cases, their houses have lost half of their value.

They no longer qualify for low-interest loans. They are making less money than before or they're unemployed. This in turn reduces or eliminates their ability to pay taxes.

8/30/10

Capitalism & the Commodification of Sport

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It's Simpler Not to Say Very Much

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I've always found it difficult to say what I do. I'm not convinced enough. Would that I were a recreationist. I'm unpersuaded. I can Imagine most means of assertion. That's the benefit of doubt. It's simpler to say not very much.

How many possible paths in the psyche? We choose a few to get through. As if we've found. A routemaster's got no knowledge of. Am I repeating myself?

Glenn Beck: The Rabid Right's Preacher-in-Chief

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The Washington rally organized by right-wing Fox News TV personality Glenn Beck on Saturday offered a twisted mix of religion, potted history and the glorification of the military under the banner of “restoring honor” to the USA.

He came before the crowd as the nation’s preacher-in-chief, promoting a gospel of Mammon, Americanism and militarism that reflects the very direct interests of the powerful financial figures who have turned the former drug addict into a multi-millionaire.

These right-wing moguls include Rupert 'Foxy' Murdoch, the Scaife family foundation and the other billionaires and corporate entities that bankroll FreedomWorks and the so-called Tea Party movement that played the principal role in organizing the rally.

Instead of policies, principles and action steps, Beck offered reactionary bromides, telling the crowd, “The poorest among us are still some of the richest in the world… and yet we don’t recognize it.”

“We all must realize how nice we have it here, in spite of our problems,” added Beck, who resides in a $4.5 million dollar mansion in New Canaan, Connecticut. He counseled the crowd that “charity begins at home first.”

Such complacent crap will find no support from the vast majority of the population. If Beck were to advance an explicit political program based on the interests and aims of the financial aristocracy for whom he speaks, the hostility and opposition would be overwhelming.

France: The Stench of Fascism

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There is a stench of fascism rising from the anti-immigrant, law-and-order measures being implemented by Sarkozy.

Policies and methods which people had hoped were forever left behind in the 1930s and 1940s are being revived by the European bourgeoisie in an attempt to deal with the consequences of the global economic crisis.

While Roma and burqa-wearing women are first in the government’s line of fire, its ultimate target is opposition to austerity and war by the entire working class.

The government has looted the economy in the interests of the financial aristocracy.

Having orchestrated a €360 billion handout to the banks and allegedly taken campaign contributions from billionaire Liliane Bettencourt while helping her evade taxes, Sarkozy is pressing ahead with pension and budget cuts.

The press is also calling for France to boost its military spending, anticipating broader wars in the Middle East and Asia.

Sarkozy’s measures are a preparation to meet social opposition to these policies with violent repression.

This is endorsed by the entire political establishment. The bourgeois “left’s” criticisms are largely from the right. The Socialist Party and its allies pose as more skilled administrators of the police than Sarkozy.

The particular measures Sarkozy is proposing suggest that he anticipates a clash with 'street fighters' in impoverished suburban estates, largely populated by immigrant families.

The bourgeoisie’s moves towards police-state rule are a serious warning to the working class.

The defense of democratic rights as well as working class living standards is possible only through the independent mobilization of the working class in a struggle for workers’ power and socialism.

"Free-Market Religion"

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American capitalism could be called"free market religion", or the belief in neo-liberal "market efficiency".

This blind faith swept across the Western world, and made governments lose control of their economies.

The result was that the regulatory system that had been established in the US in the 1930s, which was quite successful, was slowly dismantled under ideological pressure. That was the beginning of financial institutions' control over the economy.

The institutions have created a whole range of exotic financial instruments common, and the resulting predatory behavior of speculators has created "crisis after crisis."

As part of that process, manufacturing industries flowed out of the US and into Asia - Japan, then China.

It boosted the Asian economies, but it also meant loss of jobs in the US. And speculative capital filled the gap created by the real economy, reducing job opportunities.

But despite all this people's belief in "market efficiency" has not changed. The old mode of development has hit a dead end, yet there is little hope of a new post-crisis economy being built.

Ideological Warning: Capitalism Can Kill You

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Foxconn, the Chinese company that makes the iPhone, treats its employees like dogs. Hours are too long, management is too rigid, and the assembly line too fast.

Capitalism is all about making money. For Foxconn profits have been made at the expense of labor rights.

Foxconn has had twelve worker suicides this year, and they've installed safety nets on their buildings to catch those workers who just can't take it anymore.

Chinese-style capitalism seems to be a purer form than its U.S. counterpart, and therefore a Republican nirvana, minus the part about government planning.

While Chinese workers jump out of windows, Americans are dying as well.

In the U.S., workers die on exploding oil rigs and in deathtrap coalmines because their regulation-hating employers want to maximize profits. And besides, they say, regulations are dumb.

Consumers die from unsafe food because food companies want to cut corners.

Just like the Great Depression days when people lacked a safety net, the unemployed, foreclosed and student debtor-prisoners of today are turning to suicide at an alarming rate, with an increase of calls to suicide prevention hot lines.

The jobless take their own lives at a rate two to three times higher than the general population. That could be a scary proposition in a nation that sanctions the corporate-sponsored proliferation of firearms.

Meanwhile, all of this happens in a country where the chronically unemployed number as many as they ever did, yet the jobless are characterized by conservatives as lazy drug abusers that would rather have a welfare check than go to work. Let them work at McDonald's, as Glenn Beck would say.

8/27/10

Marketing Obama: Cool Dude in Oval Office

Idlers of the World Unite!

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He's on the lookout for a generalisation. He was caught in a cultural phenomenon. I can't make head of this tale. Are we programmed? Who's the maker? Does he get up like the rest of us?

I thought he was about to submit us to another of his ideologies. Idlers of the world unite! You have only your minds to admire. That's why I work out. I've got plenty of time to marvel.

Living Standards Sharply Decline for US Workers

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# 61 percent of Americans "always or usually" live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007;

# The bottom 50 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth;

# 24 percent of American workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year;

# Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009, which represented a 32 percent increase over 2008;

# Only the top 5 percent of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975;

# More than 40 percent of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying;

# For the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number to go up to 43 million in 2011;

# Approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010—the highest rate in 20 years.

Iraqi Sovereignty Is a Myth

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The U.S. government never wanted to endlessly have U.S. combat patrols on Iraq’s streets. It wanted a new compliant government that would do its bidding, and some offices, including the world’s largest embassy, to conduct its business.

Now the U.S. is a step closer to its goal of returning Iraq to a colonial-type status.

The announcement that combat operations have ended is really just the announcement that the puppet forces have improved to the point where they can take over some of the duties of the U.S. military—mainly, the fighting and dying.

Iraqi sovereignty is a myth. The “democratically elected” government would crumble if it did not have Washington’s backing.

The Iraqi government doesn't have the authority to make any military, political or business decisions without the approval of their masters in Washington.

U.S. officials will continue to pull the strings of its new comprador government from the largest embassy in the world, and from its military bases and fortified compounds that will remain in Iraq indefinitely. So much for “Iraqi freedom.”

While we are being prodded to rejoice over the “end” of the wildly unpopular war—to divert attention from the other unpopular war—the relative calm in Iraq at this point is teetering on the edge.

This is obvious by the spike in violence over the past couple of months. Iraq is still in a fragile position with election disputes, power struggles, deep-seated and widespread opposition to U.S. domination, and armies of resistance fighters who took a break from fighting the occupiers to collect a paycheck.

Iraq could very quickly be thrust back to its highest levels of resistance—to which the U.S. would respond by doing everything possible to prevent losing Iraq as a colony.

The reduced number of occupying troops would again be increased. In as little as a single day, the Iraq war could again become the bloodbath that so many took to the streets to end.

Obama said it himself as he announced the end of the war: “The hard truth is we have not seen the end of American sacrifice in Iraq.”

For the Iraqi people, for U.S. troops and our families, our lives will be absolutely no different than they were before we were shown the media stunt of armored vehicles “leaving” Iraq.

American Myth: 'Anyone Can Make it'

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We all know more or less how the United States was founded in practice: as a colonial settlement that expanded and waged war on Indigenous peoples to acquire land, and then brought over millions of Africans in chains to work that land. It was founded primarily by the use of force.

But beyond force, the country also has a founding idea—or what could be better called a founding myth. And that myth is that we are in a country where anyone can make it.

The Declaration of Independence states “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It was a last-second revision that made the phrase come out like that; initially it read “life, liberty and property.” The idea was that everyone had a natural right to work hard and acquire property; that without property you could never really be free, independent or happy.

This myth had some basis if you were a white man. In most of Europe, centuries of feudalism and the beginnings of capitalist agriculture meant that there was little unclaimed and available land.

Small farmers were pushed off their land by big landowners. While major class confrontations over land also took place in America, it was, by contrast, a land of opportunity where a much higher proportion of white men—the only ones qualified for citizenship—could actually own a small farm and possess property.

The myth of the United States was that the opportunities and availability of property meant that this country did not have permanent social classes as in Europe.

If sharp distinctions did develop between rich and poor, these distinctions reflected the natural abilities of the individual.

Of course this myth conveniently overlooked that in much of the country it was the hard, unpaid work of slaves that made property and prosperity possible for white men who previously had little.

Likewise, the opportunities to pack up and move West—which remained possible until the closing of the frontier in the late 19th century—were created at the expense of the continent’s Indigenous peoples.

8/26/10

The Joy of Sexual Seduction

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The Difficulty of Being Unoccupied

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I mean, if I didn't keep myself bush I'd go melancholy. One's always on watch. I've got a mindset for example. Would you like to play?

We take in random order. By coming out to declare I make myself vulnerable. Have you noticed the difficulty of letting it go idly by? To be unoccupied.

Shall I continue? I'm stepping out of character here. The uses of discipline. I sometimes think in order to.

It's all very well being supple. That's not what I meant. Where's the stamina? I'm in training. I take my thought out for an airing. Does it need to get wise?

Housing Crisis: "Armageddon"

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On Tuesday the National Association of Realtors announced that existing home sales in the United States dropped a whopping 27.2% in the month of July.

The consensus among analysts was that we would see a drop of around 13 percent, so when the 27 percent figure was announced it sent a shock through world financial markets.

Only 3.83 million units were sold in July, which was down from 5.26 million in June, and which was the lowest number that the National Association of Realtors has ever seen since they began tracking this statistic back in 1999.

To say that the real estate industry is alarmed by these numbers would be a tremendous understatement. What we are seeing unfold is essentially “Armageddon” for those involved in the housing and real estate industries.

The real estate market is grinding to a standstill and a shockingly low number of people are actually in the market to buy a home right now.

This ever-increasing crisis has been brought about by decades of huge government subsidies. To see the systemic problems of the US housing industry, consider its basic economics.

The "American dream" of owning one's home was never affordable to the vast majority of US families because the wages or salaries paid by their employers were never enough.

To realize the dream therefore required borrowing. However, because working families had insufficient wages and salaries and no accumulated wealth -- their situation inside US capitalism -- private banks rarely lent to them.

The vast majority of them, not merely the poorest among them, were too risky as borrowers.

A "solution" was found by out-of-control capitalism. The government would subsidize and guarantee private banks' loans to millions of home buyers.

This solution boosted profits in private banks' mortgage loan business. It indirectly subsidized all the industries producing for private homes. Yet it did not raise wages and salaries (something capitalists opposed).

Many US workers became homeowners with large, long-term mortgages, making them more dependent on keeping jobs, not offending employers, etc.

That experience also prepared workers to accept credit card, student loan, and other consumer debts.

Expanding debt became the way most Americans bridged the gap between their incomes and the "good life" relentlessly advertised by capitalists needing buyers.

The US housing industry's basic problem is the system in which it is embedded. The larger capitalist economy shapes the gap between the costs of privately produced homes and American workers' earnings.

Over the last 75 years, US capitalism has bridged that gap by means of private credit guaranteed and/or subsidized by the government.

This system provides incentives as well as opportunities for excessive home prices, diminished wages and salaries, and excessive quantities, risks, and costs of housing credit.

The last 30 years have seen all three phenomena converge into a systemic crisis.

'Working Class' - US Media's Taboo Phrase

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America's mass media have relentlessly fed the belief that better-paid white workers can succeed in the system. That they are in fact not workers at all, but “middle class.”

This ideology, with all its inherent prejudices, has been particularly strong with certain sectors of the population.

The “white collar” sector of office workers, educators, administrators and salespersons expanded in the 1950s and 1960s when U.S. imperialism developed a dominant position in the global economy and world finance.

Many of these "professionals" had family members who had worked in factories, but they could look back and say:

"Look at what America allows, the American Dream is possible if you work hard. I have a life of relative comfort compared to my parents, and my children will have it even better.”

But now during a deep economic crisis, it is precisely these middle sectors that are realizing how little they have:

How the banks really own “their” homes, how their 401(k) retirement plans add up to very little, how the moment they lose their jobs everything else will crumble.

How paying college tuition can wipe out life savings and create huge debts, how a medical emergency can sink them into bankruptcy.

As the living standard of this sector plummets, they will be looking for answers. They will question the established politicians and may become more open to a radical critique.

But they can also become more open to a reactionary, racist critique. This is what right-wing sectors of the ruling class will use to deflect attention away from themselves and the contradictions inherent in capitalism.

The right will point to immigrants, talk about high taxes and promote a racist image of Black “welfare mothers” so as to target the most vulnerable sectors and play on this country’s long-established racist traditions.

So while the erosion of “middle class” living standards highlights the country’s real class divisions, building a class-wide fight back is not an automatic process.

We will have to confront, with ever greater urgency, divide-and-conquer tactics. This means talking directly about Wall Street as the real enemy.

Talking directly about socialism as the only answer to capitalism’s ills and proving in practice how working people of all nationalities can benefit by struggling together on the same side of the barricades.

America's Imperial Role in Pakistan's Disaster

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The disastrous floods that have inundated large parts of Pakistan are a graphic example of how Pakistan’s unequal, dependent relationship with the U.S. has left the country backward, distorted, totally unprepared and unable to deal with unusually heavy rainfall at a time of global climate change.

The alliance with the U.S. has been of absolutely no help in the country’s hour of greatest need. The corrupt feudal officials and even more corrupt repressive military, all kept in power by enormous amounts of U.S. military aid, have proved totally unable to even notify the millions of people who were clearly at risk or to move into place the most basic emergency equipment.

For decades Washington has made generous funds available to Pakistan for police and intelligence agencies, but infrastructure development, education, health and other social needs have been neglected. Pakistan is more than $40 billion in debt, much of it for U.S. military equipment.

U.S. and NATO forces are an overwhelming presence in Afghanistan, just across the border. Their technology is so sophisticated that the Pentagon can maneuver a pilotless drone from the other side of the planet and have it fire a missile into Afghanistan or Pakistan.

But it does not even take complicated technology to measure rainfall or communicate weather threats to millions of people. The equipment to do this has been around for decades.

However, this simple task appears to be impossible because the U.S., the most powerful of the exploiting capitalist countries, subverts popular governments while promoting those who collaborate with its system based on maximizing profit, where technology is at the service of imperialist military oppression.

8/25/10

Lindsay Lohan: Pole Dancer

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He Fell in without a Splash

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Are we still in play I've had this dreadful feeling. I'm out of control. Like the master of ceremonies who's got nothing to say. It's that awful. I don't know if I'm going to get by.

I fall into the pool without a splash. How will anyone know? I suppose it leaves me to practise my stroke. What's the time of a length?

Rush Limbaugh: Bootlicker for American Capitalism

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Rabid right-wing talk-show host Rush Limbaugh devoted his Tuesday commentary to the struggle of workers at the Indianapolis General Motors stamping plant against demands for a 50 percent wage cut.

He expressed understanding for the actions of GM and the United Auto Workers union (UAW) in seeking to push through the wage cuts, and scorn for the workers who are resisting.

Here is the real class position of Limbaugh. For all his posturing at being the populist voice of “real” America, he is a multi-millionaire who speaks for the interests of the most backward and reactionary sections of the financial aristocracy. He knows nothing about the real conditions of life of the American working class.

It is doubtful that Limbaugh is aware of the conditions that prevail in American factories today, or if he has ever set foot in one.

He is clearly unfamiliar with the elementary difference between the base wage (paid to all hourly workers, with additions for special skills or tasks) and the starting wage (paid to newly hired workers.)

The wage for new-hires at GM plants was reduced to $14 an hour in accordance with the terms demanded by the Obama administration last year in return for government aid to the company. The UAW fully supported the wage cut, along with a six-year no-strike clause.

Limbaugh’s reference to the “lavish benefits and pension packages” supposedly enjoyed by auto workers is a clear statement of his venomous hostility to the working class and the gains American workers won through the struggles of past generations.

For his years of rhetorical boot-licking of American capitalism, the right-wing blowhard has amassed a personal fortune estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Yet he can fulminate about the modest benefits that auto workers accrued over decades of toil under frequently hellish conditions.

Monuments to American Terrorism

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The Republicans are stirring up outrage against the "Ground Zero mosque" (actually a prayer room in a Muslim community center to be built on the site of a former Burlington Coat Factory a couple of blocks away) to gain an edge in the November elections.

The right wing has called the proposed Cordoba Center a "monument to terrorism" on "hallowed ground."

Actually, if you want to find a state-sanctioned monument to terrorism, you don't have to look any further than your wallet. As comedian Dave Chappelle said in For What It's Worth, our money "looks like baseball cards with slave owners on it."

For example, Andrew Jackson's face is on the $20 bill, which honors a slave owner whose policies of "Indian removal" directly lead to the Trail of Tears, the ethnic cleansing that killed over 4,000 Cherokee men, women and children.

Finally, Columbus Day is still a national holiday in honor of a mass murderer and enslaver of Native Americans.

Andrew Jackson, Jeffery Amherst, Christopher Columbus and other perpetrators of slavery and genocide are celebrated by the mainstream media and politicians, while their crimes are glossed over and excused if mentioned at all.

Over the years, campaigns to change the name of Amherst, Mass., or to teach the real history about Christopher Columbus receive nowhere near the amount of attention paid by media and politicians to the "Ground Zero Mosque" hysteria.

The U.S. government responsible in recent years for the deaths of over 1 million Iraqis. Then there were over 500,000 children killed by sanctions in the 1990s).

Add to that the tens of thousands of civilians killed in Afghanistan. The US has more in common with the perpetrators of the great crimes of history than with their victims.

Just as Black slaves and Native Americans were deemed inferior in order to justify their enslavement and extermination, so today are Muslims dehumanized in order to justify the occupation of Muslim nations abroad.

Iraq: America Pretends to Practise Coitus Interruptus

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Obama recently announced that he was fulfilling his promise to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq. Is the U.S. really bringing the occupation to an end?

On the surface, that appears to be case, but it's not in fact true. Obama plans to retain 50,000 soldiers in Iraq after the supposed withdrawal of combat troops. He is merely re-branding these remaining combat troops as advisers and trainers.

These remaining forces will be doing exactly what they have been doing since the occupation began. They will be fighting, attacking various insurgent strongholds and calling in aerial strikes, as well as artillery and tank strikes.

While the level of U.S. military action has dropped in the last couple years, they still do fight and will retain their ability to do so after the so-called withdrawal.

Since they have been fighting recently--and will be fighting in the future--alongside Iraqi soldiers, their mission is now defined as "advice and training," even though they're still fighting.

The big mystery is what will happen at the end of next year with the approach of the deadline for complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops, which the U.S. agreed to in its "status of forces agreement" (SOFA) with Iraq.

We have seen a lot of coverage about the amount of materiel, armaments and troops being taken out of Iraq.

Obviously in the last year, there has been a reduction of about 70,000 troops, so what's left is approaching 50,000. The question is whether that number will actually go down to zero, and what kind of American presence will remain in Iraq.

The U.S. has three forces that it will use to replace those troops that it has withdrawn.

First, the number of contractors in Iraq is very high. Jeremy Scahill, author of the book Blackwater, recently estimated that there are about 150,000 contractors in Iraq.

A large number of these are armed mercenaries. So the U.S. has a surrogate armed force different from the military in the country.

Secondly, the State Department actually has a small military force of its own. It's going to increase that military force to a tremendous size to protect all of the American civilians in Iraq.

It made requests to take over the five major military posts that remain in Iraq, each of which is meant to accommodate about 10,000 soldiers.

Third, the U.S. has flooded Iraq with civilian contractors and bureaucrats. What U.S. officials call their "civilian presence."

They built the largest embassy in world history, and they plan to expand it quite considerably to accommodate almost twice the 1,000 diplomats it was built to hold.

These civilians will constitute a very important presence for the U.S., different from the military, but nevertheless constituting pressure on the Iraqis to conform to U.S. policies.

But even with these surrogates, the U.S. military leadership has repeatedly said that it expects a modification of the SOFA that will permit a continued American military presence.

The fact that it isn't dismantling the five major bases suggests that it expects to get some kind of agreement to retain a significant military force to control the country.

U.S. officials are determined to do so because the Iraqi government has not been compliant with American wishes.

When the current political impasse since the election gets resolved, we should not expect the next Iraqi government to be any more compliant.

Therefore, the U.S. will need a military force to discipline the Iraqi government, thus maintaining Iraq as a quasi-colony.

8/24/10

They Make a Grown Man Cry

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The Fiction of Theory

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The best thing to be bone idle. One's a perfect example. He believes for the sake of it. He's always in the process of making. Have you read his fiction of theory?

I don't know why you're getting so distraught. Even emptiness comes with a frame. So, why don't we stretch out in time. Let's try to get over ourselves.

"The Professional Left"

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In his petulant little self-pitying rant White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’s railed against what he called “the professional left.”

“I hear these people saying Obama is like George Bush. Those people,” Gibbs pouted, “ought to be drug tested.”

Who is the “professional left” that Gibbs claims to loathe and which he and others in the corporate-neoliberal and militarist Obama administration periodically take shots at as part of the triangulation agenda they inherited from the Clintons?

The "professional Left" are all the major, well-funded liberal interest groups. They have repeatedly shown themselves to be more loyal to the Democratic Party and Obama than to their alleged policy/ideological missions.

That kind of Left isn't built like successful social movements of the past.” It doesn’t have the structure, independence or stomach for oppositional politics, or even for telling and perceiving basic truths about the new administration.

For me and others on the actual left, the so-called hard left – not even on Gibbs’ radar screen – it has been hard to hear reflexive liberal defense granted to a president.

One who has behaved so clearly in accord with the dollar-marked approval that corporate lobbyists and election investors had granted him since he was first carefully vetted on and around K Street and Wall Street in 2002 and 2003.

As one Washington lobbyist caustically told us: “Big donors would not be helping out Obama if they didn’t see him as a ‘player.’"

The lobbyist added: "What’s the dollar value of a starry-eyed idealist?”

The moneyed elite could see basic things that much of our so-called professional left could or would not.

Of course, big money capitalists and political investors have strong material reasons to be grounded in reality when it comes to who holds office and who doesn’t. The calculations are different for some on what passes for a leftist.

Jobs Crisis: Obama Is out of Touch

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Slowly but surely we are moving in the right direction. We're on the right track. ~ Barack Obama, Aug. 18, 2010

Obama's pollyanish comment reveals just how out of touch he is is with the tens of millions of everyday Americans who are engulfed by the jobs crisis.

There are more than 29 million Americans who have lost their jobs or are forced into part-time work. Unemployment is stuck at 9.5 percent--and that's just the narrowest measure of joblessness.

The more accurate Bureau of Labor Statistics jobless rate is over 16.5 percent. This includes people who have stopped looking for jobs and those working part-time involuntarily.

Five workers are competing for every job opening while the average length of unemployment is over 35 weeks. If it weren't for unemployment insurance and food stamps, we'd have Depression era soup kitchen lines going round the block.

Since the 1930s struggling workers like these have flocked to the Democratic Party, which they viewed as the party of jobs. Now they're not so sure, and the party risks losing its mass base.

Our current unemployment trough, by far the longest and deepest since 1937, directly violates the social compact that glues together modern industrial societies. Thnat's the tacit commitment that business and government will produce a full-employment economy.

When that promise goes unmet for long periods, chaos ensues. It is not an accident that the rise of fascism in Europe during the 1930s corresponded with a prolonged period of high unemployment.

Unfortunately, rearmament and war also are tools to put people back to work. Our political and business leaders are playing with fire by failing to seriously address the jobs crisis.

Wall Street gamblers tore an enormous hole in our economy, destroying 8 million jobs in a matter of months. Those jobs still haven't come back and may never return.

It's the fundamental purpose of government to relentlessly attack the problem, just as we did during the Depression, with long-term funding to get people into decent, sustainable jobs.

Lowering the Flag on the American Century

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Thirty-five years from now, America’s official century of being top dog (1945-2045) will have come to an end. Its time may, in fact, be running out right now.

We are likely to begin to look ever more like a giant version of England at the end of its imperial run, as we come face-to-face with, if not necessarily to terms with, our aging infrastructure, declining international clout, and sagging economy.

It may, for all we know, still be Hollywood’s century decades from now, and so we may still make waves on the cultural scene, just as Britain did in the 1960s with the Beatles and Twiggy.

Tourists will undoubtedly still visit some of our natural wonders and perhaps a few of our less scruffy cities, partly because the dollar-exchange rate is likely to be in their favor.

We might have a chance to reinvent ourselves as a productive, normal nation;

If we dismantled our empire of military bases and redirected our economy toward productive, instead of destructive, industries.

If we maintained our volunteer armed forces primarily to defend our own shores (and perhaps to be used at the behest of the United Nations).

If we began to invest in our infrastructure, education, health care, and savings.

Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening. Peering into that foggy future, I simply can’t imagine the U.S. dismantling its empire voluntarily, which doesn’t mean that, like all sets of imperial garrisons, our bases won’t go someday.

Instead, I foresee the U.S. drifting along, much as the Obama administration seems to be drifting along in the war in Afghanistan.

The common talk among economists today is that high unemployment may linger for another decade.

Add in low investment and depressed spending (except perhaps by the government) and I fear T.S. Eliot had it right when he wrote: “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.”

8/23/10

Obama Is Watching You

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Third-World America

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Just what kind of country has this become? Have we reached the tipping point in our society where the gap between the haves and have-nots is insurmountable?

Are we so unconcerned about certain segments of our society and unmoved by their plight that we would cast them aside?

Have we moved to the edge of self-destruction as a society?

Throughout history all empires have fallen. Are we witnessing the beginning of America’s demise?

The arrogance displayed among some in this country, outlandish wealth and greed juxtaposed against abject poverty, and the disregard for the “least among us” are foreboding signs of a disintegrating society.

Can you imagine sections of this country suffering in third-world conditions? We don’t have to merely imagine it; it is happening right now.

What shall we do? As many have said before me, beneath everything you will find economics.

Black people especially must come to a better understanding of that principle and act upon it by collectively working our way out of this quagmire.

Regardless of what happens in the government or big business, we must work together to empower ourselves and move away from the futility and danger of waiting for government officials and corporate moguls to “do right by us.”

The Edge of Extinction

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I appear to be the make-up artist. For modesty's sake, a figment. The irony of it all. We strive for something we'll never experience. The means by which we survive.

You've only got yourself to blame. I told you not to go near the edge of extinction. Nothing's securely sited round here. It's a relief to have the belief.

I Owe My Soul to the Investment Bank

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Company stores and company towns were a way for those with economic and political power to extract a few more dollars from the people doing a lot of the work and assuming a lot of the workplace risk.

Like investment bankers who apparently couldn't come up with a good mortgage product with"low transaction costs and low interest rates" that "would have helped people manage the risk of home ownership.

This should have included protection in the event their house loses value or borrowers lose their job," just as some coal companies could not come up with a means of providing necessary housing and food to employees without also further impoverishing workers and enriching owners.

That lack of creative, far-sighted innovation got them (and us) unions and excessive regulation. A communist plot? Hardly.

More like capitalist myopia, something that seems to plague certain sectors of our capitalist economy in ways that doom them (and us) to repeat the past.

There's strength in numbers, especially in a democracy (unless, of course, one can successfully distract the people with emotionally-laden issues like gay marriage, guns, race, abortion, undocumented workers).

"But wait!" you say, "Strength in numbers? This sounds suspiciously like the beginning of collective action. Egad, what's next? A union or a strike or, worse, class consciousness? Why we have only (gasp!) capitalists to blame for this!"

Ironic, isn't it? Socialized investment banking, the result of unfettered self-interest in combination with unregulated conflicts of interest, may accomplish what generations of coal miners, steel and auto workers, teamsters, teachers unions, and union organizers could not.

Unfortunately, collective action uninformed by virtue is unlikely to result in anything that is any better than that achieved by investment banking without virtue. It might even be worse.

More Sex Less War

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Numerous studies have documented that "no sex" societies are often plagued by acts of rage.

A cross-cultural investigation by American psychologist J.M. Prescott, for example, found that societies which punished premarital sex tended to have higher rates of crime and violence.

Prescott also linked sexual repression to aggression, insensitivity, criminal behavior, and a greater likelihood of killing and torturing enemies.

Of course, just as sexual repression can lead to aggression, a culture of war can equate intimacy with violence. So these days, it comes as no surprise that lethal weapons are often described in loving, phallic terms.

As a nation, we have fulfilled the very definition of fetishism: we have transposed genital sexuality onto a non-sexual object - the gun.

"Obviously, there's a phallic element here somewhere, it's not exactly a giant leap for mankind to figure out what that shiny, steel shaft is supposed to be."

When a macho view of weaponry and war becomes the norm, however, women often become "the enemy," with dehumanization and sexual abuse following close behind.

8/21/10

Disney Imperialism

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Religion Is Anticipating Immortality

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I've anticipated immortality. That matters. Effectively, I get by. My new heaven. I prefer the idea, not its implementation.

Can life be imagined? First, as a terminal illness. Before we know where we fall into cliché. There won't be any seconds in my canon. If the concept fits. He took on board for the thrill of it. If the art works.

“Ground Zero Mosque” & Right-Wing Bigotry

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With the US mid-term elections less than three months away, the issue that has become the focus of this campaign season is a telling indicator of the intensely reactionary character of official politics in America and of both big business parties.

Employing unbridled hypocrisy and cynicism, right-wing forces centered in the Republican Party, but aided and abetted by leading Democrats, have attempted to whip up mob hysteria against a proposed Islamic cultural center.

Semi-fascist elements have denounced the proposed center—to be built two and a half blocks from where New York City’s World Trade Center once stood.

They claim it's a desecration of the “sacred ground” where over 2,700 people were killed on 9/11. Former House Speaker and likely contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 Newt Gingrich has compared the backers of the project to Nazis protesting outside the Holocaust museum.

The reality is that, nearly nine years after the attacks, the former World Trade Center largely remains a hole in the ground, a sprawling construction site in which little has been built.

No memorial has been erected to those who died, as real estate developers and government officials have haggled year after year over financial terms.

Within roughly the same walking distance from this “sacred ground,” one passes strip joints, porn shops, betting parlors and dance clubs, none of which appear to have wounded the sensibilities of these patriotic defenders of the sanctity of Ground Zero.

The center itself is to take the place of a dilapidated warehouse, previously the site of a Burlington Coat Factory outlet.

The real aims of those attacking the Cordoba House are not the protection of the nonexistent sanctity of Ground Zero or the shielding of the sensibilities of 9/11 victims’ families.

It's a vicious attempt to foment and exploit religious bigotry, xenophobia and outright racism to drive politics ever further to the right.

The controversy has ensnared the Obama Regime in an unavoidable contradiction.

US imperialism needs to recruit Muslim allies and puppets to further its two ongoing wars, as well as to support aggression against Iran.

But it has whipped up anti-Muslim sentiment within the general population and among US troops in order to generate religious-based support for these wars.

Will Chinese Workers Challenge Global Capitalism?

Real News Video

There has been a wave of strikes that has been taking place in many foreign-owned factories, especially in the export-oriented sector. And in addition to that, there was a wave of strikes that took place last year in the state-owned enterprises.

The combination of these waves, I think, probably would represent the beginning of a longer-term trend. So we know that for decades China's economic development has been based on the super-exploitation of the massive cheap labor pools. But that is about to come to an end.

First of all, there has been this dramatic change in the population structure, so China's population is aging rapidly. So the portion of the labor force that is 30 years old or younger is likely to decline in the coming years.

It could be that this wave of strikes for higher wages could become a political movementGo to Real News Clip

SOS America

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The US is sinking fast. To borrow from Lenin, “What can be done?”

Here is what can be done. America's wars, which benefit no one but the military-security complex and Israel’s territorial expansion, can be immediately ended. This would reduce the US budget deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

More hundreds of billions of dollars could be saved by cutting the rest of the military budget which, in its present size, exceeds the budgets of all the serious military powers on earth combined.

US military spending reflects the unaffordable and unattainable crazed neoconservative goal of US Empire and world hegemony. What fool in Washington thinks that China is going to finance US hegemony over China?

If war and endless imperial expansion aren't immediately stopped we will be relegated to the trash bin of history.

The neocons allied with Israel, who control both parties and much of the media, are strung out on the ecstasy of Empire.

The US and the welfare of its 300 million people can't be restored unless the neocons, Wall Street, the corporations, and their servile slaves in Congress and the White House can be defeated.

Without a revolution, Americans are history.

8/20/10

The Allure of Anorexia [Ana]

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My Delusion's Greater Than Yours

By the time you get this I'll be long gone. When you join me I'll be dying to know. Were you round long enough to see the novel eclipsed? Did I play a small part in it?

I want all of you to get off the floor, move and shake after me. I bet my delusion's greater than yours. I'm going to shape the things to come. Suppose it doesn't happen?

Pakistan Drowns; US Worries about Security Threat

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As the toll of death and destruction in Pakistan from unprecedented flooding continues to mount, US government officials and the American media are raising concerns.

Not over the colossal human tragedy, but over the potential threat to political stability and US security interests in the region, the focus of American military action for nearly nine years.

John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, arrived in Pakistan Wednesday after a previously planned visit to Kabul, the Afghan capital.

He declared his concern that the flooding could destabilize the Pakistani regime and create an opening for Islamic fundamentalist groups allied with the Taliban.

In a sign of the priorities of both Washington and Islamabad, the Pakistani military has not deployed any active-duty troops on flood relief, using only reserves and troops assigned to training, rather than military operations.

The US government has been the leading aid donor with a derisory $90 million. That's one one-thousandth of the amount expended this year on the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

America's the principal concern is the potential repercussions in the border region, the target of relentless US missile strikes even during the worst of the flooding.

The commandant of the US Marine Corps, General James T. Conway, called on Pakistan’s army chief of staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, at general headquarters in Rawalpindi Wednesday.

While Conway brought perfunctory condolences on the flooding, the Pakistani press said that “during the course of the meeting with General James T. Conway they discussed issues pertaining to national security, war against terrorism, defense needs, etc. at length.”

Europe Is Starting to Feel Sorry for America

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When you read about America in European newspapers, what you are likely to find is a tone bordering on pity. The U.S. is depicted as a fraying empire of obesity, ignorance, debt, gridlock, stagnation, and mindless war.

Sure, the iPad is cool, but it is evidence of what America was, not what it will be again. The stories are not angry, accusatory, or even ideological. It’s worse: they are condescendingly elegiac.

European disdain for the United States is centuries old, of course. But over the course of decades of traveling in the U.K. and on the continent, I have never gotten the sense that I got on a recently completed three-week trip to Italy, Greece, Turkey, and the Black Sea.

America is no longer admired, imitated, or feared. We remain—for now—a safe haven for dollars (of which there are too many in the world). But we increasingly are seen less as a model or as an empire than as a cautionary tale of national neglect and decline.

Some Europeans can’t quite hide their schadenfruede. The British—whose publications and personalities are increasingly (and annoyingly) influential in the colony they lost 227 years ago—are global leaders in condescension (think Simon Cowell).

But for America they add a special twist of bitter lemon to their analyses. It’s the triumph of the doddering older brother who no longer has to be grateful to his junior.

Memories fade, and the Brits no longer feel they have to be kind out of homage to our having saved them from Hitler.

Capitalist Crisis? What Crisis? Not for Corporate America

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The Left's failed predictions of capitalism’s demise are a result of their underestimation of the extent to which the White House and Congress would plunder the public treasury to resuscitate capital.

They underestimated the degree to which capital had been freed to shift the entire burden of profit recovery onto the backs of labor.

In that regard, leftist rhetoric about “labor resistance” and the “trade union movement” reflected a lack of understanding that there has been virtually no resistance to the roll back of social and money wages because there is no labor organization.

What passes for it is totally ossified and at the service of the Democratic Party’s Wall Street advocates in the White House.

What the current unequal and uneven impact of the capitalist system tells us is that capitalists can overcome crises only by heightening exploitation and rolling back decades of “social gains”.

The current process of profit recovery, however, is highly precarious because it is based on exploiting current inventories, low interest rates and cutting labor costs.

It is not based on dynamic new private investments and increased productive capacity. In other words, these are “windfall gains” - not profits derived from increased sales revenues and expanding consumer markets.

How could they be – if wages are declining and unemployment, underemployment and lost labor is over 22%?

Clearly, this short-term profit boom, based on political and social advantages and privileged power, is not sustainable.

There are limits to the massive layoffs of public employees and production gains from the intensified exploitation of labor. Something has to give.

One thing is certain: The capitalist system will not fall or be replaced because of its internal rot or “contradictions”.

8/18/10

Green Porn

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The 99ers

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The headline jobless figure of 9.5% is bad enough but does not begin to convey the problem as it fails to measure those who have stopped looking for work.

Over the past three months alone more than a million Americans have fallen into that category: effectively giving up hope of finding a job and dropping out of the official statistics.

Such cases now number some 5.9 million and their ranks are likely to grow as millions more find their jobless status becoming a permanent state of hopelessness.

Though corporations, especially in the banking sector, are posting healthy profits, they are not hiring new workers.

Government cuts are sweeping through city and state governments alike, threatening tens of thousands of jobs and slicing away at services once thought vital.

Schools, street lighting, libraries, refuse collection, the police, fire services and public transport networks are all being scaled back.

America appears to be a society splitting down the centre, shattering the middle class that long formed the cultural bedrock of the country and dividing it into a country of haves and have-nots.

There's a new name for those falling down the black hole of joblessness that has opened up in America's economy. They are the 99ers.

It is a moniker that no one wants. It refers to the 99 weeks of benefits that the jobless can qualify for in America.

Government cash helps those laid off keep a tenuous grip on a normal life. It keeps a roof over their heads, pays a phone bill, puts food on a table and petrol in a car. But once the 99 weeks are up the payments stop – as is happening now for millions of people – and they are 99ers.

For many, that moment, which America's politicians have refused to extend, represents the moment of destitution; a sort of modern American version of the old Victorian trip to the workhouse. There are now more than a million 99ers and the number gets bigger each week.

Ignore the Fear-Mongering on Social Security

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Today's Social Security critics use many of the same false arguments of those who tried to stop it 75 years ago. In fact, with only minor adjustments, the popular program will easily remain solvent.

Alf Landon, the Kansas governor running as the Republican Party's 1936 presidential candidate, called it a "fraud on the working man."

Silas Strawn, a former president of both the American Bar Assn. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said it was part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's attempt to "Sovietize the country." The American Medical Assn. denounced it as a "compulsory socialistic tax."

What was this threat to American prosperity, freedom and democracy they were all decrying? It was Social Security, which Roosevelt signed into law on Aug. 14, 1935 — 75 years ago Saturday.

The opponents of Social Security were not right-wing extremists (the counterparts of today's "tea party") but the business establishment and the Republican Party mainstream.

In the early Depression years, more than half of America's elderly lived in poverty. But most business leaders and conservatives considered the very idea that government had a moral responsibility to help senior citizens retire with dignity to be outrageously radical.

It was seen as a dangerous trampling of individual liberty. They predicted that the Social Security tax would bankrupt the country.

As New York's former governor, Roosevelt knew that business groups had opposed the most important pieces of social legislation on that state's books.

It included the factory inspection law (passed as a result of the 1911 Triangle Shirt Waist factory fire that killed 146 women), the law limiting women's workweek to 54 hours, unemployment insurance, pensions for the elderly and public works projects to put people back to work.

Once elected president, FDR viewed Social Security as part of his broader New Deal effort to humanize capitalism. Born to privilege, he understood that many wealthy people considered him a traitor to his class.

They were, he thought, greedy, unenlightened and on the wrong side of history.

FDR outmaneuvered Social Security's opponents, using his bully pulpit to explain why they were misguided.

Does He Give Good Head?

What's worth dying for? The end of narrative. What's really been happening? A storm brewed in the drawing-room while we were ruminating. Didn't I tell you about it?

I'd gladly go if we could drop the narrative experience. What a novel ideology! Of course, we'll continue to make believe. I don't care if he's well-read. Does he give good head?

Mosque Controversy: Media Stoke Islamophobia

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One of the criticisms of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the Islamic center, is that he refused to call Hamas a terrorist organiztion.

And here's Hamas standing up for the Imam's mosque, in firm agreement with Obama. Hamas, Rauf, and Obama all agree: Build the mosque!

In reality, of course, Obama did not "endorse" the Islamic center. Rauf is widely seen as a moderate, and he has condemned terrorism.

Here's what Rauf actually said about Hamas:
I'm not a politician. I try to avoid the issues. The issue of terrorism is a very complex question...I'm a bridge builder.

I define my work as a bridge builder. I do not want to be placed, nor do I accept to be placed in a position of being put in a position where I am the target of one side or another...

The targeting of civilians is wrong. It is a sin in our religion. Whoever does it, targeting civilians is wrong. I am a supporter of the state of Israel.

I will not allow anybody to put me in a position where I am seen by any party in the world as an adversary. This debate is all about symbolism, not about reality.
It's about insinuating, or indeed stating outright, that Obama is on their side, and not on ours. How long until Liz Cheney or Sarah Palin proclaims that "Hamas has now come out in support of Obama's 9/11 mosque"?

8/17/10

Gustav Klimt: 'Masturbation'

From Jo Swift

Need More Jobs? You Can Depend on the War Department

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America’s biggest and only major jobs program is the U.S. military.

Over 1,400,000 Americans are now on active duty; another 833,000 are in the reserves, many full time.

Another 1,600,000 Americans work in companies that supply the military with everything from weapons to utensils. (I’m not even including all the foreign contractors employing non-US citizens.)

If we didn’t have this giant military jobs program, the U.S. unemployment rate would be over 11.5 percent today instead of 9.5 percent.

And without our military jobs program personal incomes would be dropping faster.

The Commerce Department reported that the only major metro areas where both net earnings and personal incomes rose last year were San Antonio, Texas, Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. — because all three have high concentrations of military and federal jobs.

This isn’t an argument for more military spending. Just the opposite. Having a giant undercover military jobs program is an insane way to keep Americans employed.

It creates jobs we don’t need but we keep anyway because there’s no honest alternative. We don’t have an overt jobs program based on what’s really needed.

The Pentagon’s budget — and its giant undercover jobs program — keeps expanding.

Obama has asked Congress to hike total defense spending next year 2.2 percent, to $708 billion. That’s 6.1 percent higher than peak defense spending during the Bush administration.

This sum doesn’t even include Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, nuclear weapons management, and intelligence. Add these, and next year’s national security budget totals about $950 billion.

That’s a major chunk of the entire federal budget. But most deficit hawks don’t dare cut it. National security is sacrosanct.

Yet what’s really sacrosanct is the giant jobs program that’s justified by national security. National security is a cover for job security.

Wouldn’t it be better to have a jobs program that created things we really need — like light-rail trains, better school facilities, public parks, water and sewer systems, and non-carbon energy sources — than things we don’t, like obsolete weapons systems?

Historically some of America’s biggest jobs programs that were critical to the nation’s future have been justified by national defense, although they’ve borne almost no relation to it.

The National Defense Education Act of the late 1950s trained a generation of math and science teachers. The National Defense Highway Act created millions of construction jobs turning the nation’s two-lane highways into four- and six-lane Interstates.

Maybe this is the way to convince Republicans and blue-dog Democrats to spend more federal dollars putting Americans back, and working on things we genuinely need: Call it the National Defense Full Employment Act.

Wall Street Traders Hooked on Testosterone

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Of all the causes of the financial crisis, one of the biggest was a power shift on Wall Street that left the traders in charge.

With a trader, the goal of every minute of every day is to make money. So if running the economy off the cliff makes you money, you will do it, and you will do it every day of every week.

Traders are the "guy thing" on steroids. Imagine a million little Napoleons. Wall Street's macho ego trip went ballistic after 2008 when they scammed Congress, the Fed and Treasury out of trillions.

Then they accelerated to warp speed recently, overpowering Washington, sucking the life out of financial reform with hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of lobbyists.

The Alpha-males running America are textbook examples of the Oedipus complex in action. Men? No, inside they're still little boys who secretly want to win mommy's favor by knocking off big daddy.

Basic psychology, except they're overdosing the real world with too much edgy testosterone ... aggressive, arrogant, narcissistic ... bullies on the playground over-compensating for an inferiority complex ...

They love games, fights, contests, winning, deals, risks, wars, anything to prove they're king-of-the-hill ... like owning truckloads of money, enough for several lifetimes ...

Think Liar's Poker. They play for bragging rights, to tell "the guys" how they beat "the other guys" on the playing field ... but psychologically they really are just little boys in big-boy costumes playing "grown-up" ... especially the new breed of Wall Street traders gambling in history's greatest casino, the $700 trillion global shadow banking system for derivatives.

Their secret, collective death wish is taking America down with their childish games: Beating daddy, winning mommy's favor. Yes, too much testosterone is killing our world.

Crumbs from the Rich Man's Table

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Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and the world’s second-richest person, and Warren Buffett, the world’s third-richest person, have convinced the 40 richest U.S. members of the Forbes 400 list to donate at least half their personal fortunes to charity under a plan called the Giving Pledge.

Philanthropic giving is a useful way for capitalist exploiters to protect their unearned wealth from taxation while creating a public image of generosity.

Charitable giving is a sop. While some of this charitable giving may provide for an individual or family for a short time, it makes no dent in the overwhelming poverty experienced by millions.

The systemic problems caused by capitalist exploitation cannot be undone through the philanthropic endeavors of the capitalist rulers themselves, in part because they give with no intention to solve those problems.

Gates’ own charitable pursuits are a shining example of the futility of capitalist giving. Gates, who comes from a wealthy family himself, has earned billions exploiting workers around the world.

Capitalist charitable giving is often used to impose the wishes of the capitalist class through gentler means.

On an international scale, this means promoting imperialist super-exploitation. U.S.-based non-governmental organizations are notorious for their role in undermining progressive movements in underdeveloped nations across world.

In reality, the capitalist system itself is the source of widespread poverty and oppression. The solution then is to undo the system.

Lessening oppression will never be achieved by the charitable contributions of those who benefit directly from the system.

Rather than handouts from the rich, workers need to take power into their own hands and build socialism—a system where the vast resources of the world are used to benefit the majority of people.

A Dying Man's Last Idiom

So, the tutor siad. For homework this week I want you to dig your thought. It's the cheapest form of therapy. A few finds in the excavation. Like ecstasy, you'd better be brief. One number, not the whole fucking musical. I declare mine on the mound. How many points make the prophet's head? Have I missed the meaning here?

I thought you were going to give me the figures, not a speech. I don't need the daily excretion. A specimen will do for analysis. It was the dying man's last idiom. May I be the future remains of an earlier civilisation! How did they find him? Rather imperative, actually. There were traces of a personal mood.

8/16/10

Obama Goes Swimming to Save Gulf Coast Tourism

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He swam in the Gulf of Mexico and played putt-putt golf — touchstones of a real Gulf Coast vacation.

President Obama wasn't in town long — a little more than a day — but he made sure to deliver a message that despite the BP oil spill, "beaches all along the Gulf Coast are clean, they are safe, and they are open for business."

Proving the point, he jumped in the water himself along with his daughter Sasha. Reporters weren't permitted to see the presidential torso splashing about, but the White House posted a photo online that showed him from the shoulders up.

Pakistan's Devastation Amplified by Imperialist Intervention

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It is probably the worst catastrophe in its history. The devastation has been amplified by covert and overt imperialist intervention.

Over 1,600 people have died and 4 million have been displaced throughout the country, with the worst destruction in the North-West Frontier Province.

This area has been ravaged by years of heavy fighting between government forces and insurgent fighters resisting U.S. domination over Pakistan as well as Afghanistan.

This conflict has wreaked havoc on local infrastructure and made an effective response to the disaster nearly impossible.

Groups affiliated with the Islamic resistance movement have mobilized thousands of volunteers to provide assistance to those impacted by the disaster.

The U.S. government is attempting to trump these efforts with a transparently insincere and bitterly ironic $35 million aid package.

The hope is that the aid, delivered by helicopters used in the occupation of Afghanistan, will win the “hearts and minds” of the Pakistani people, who have suffered for centuries under Western colonialism and imperialism.

The destruction caused by the floods would have been significantly milder had the United States not backed successive military dictatorships and submissive “democratic” leaders.

Since 2004 these regimes, first Pervez Musharraf’s, then Zardari’s, have waged a war in the Northwest and the neighboring Federally Administered Tribal Areas to support NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Perhaps the most blatant and devastating violations of Pakistani sovereignty are the constant bombings carried out by unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, controlled by the U.S. military. Drones have killed over 1,700, nearly 98 percent of whom were civilians.

If the U.S. government truly wanted to ease the suffering of the Pakistani people, it would immediately end drone attacks and withdraw support to the corrupt Zardari administration.

The people of the United States can show solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Pakistan by fighting imperialism, which causes misery abroad and at home.

It's Getting to, Not the Point

To come back, as I said. Don't you realise idle thought? I'm forever in the process of. I feel compelled to do it. Is there a justification? How many draws in the lottery? It's the way I play. The panhndler of ideas.

Let me end on the crux. A suitable symbol, don't you think? Would you buy this scent if I called it succinct? I'm on a self-improvement course. In this novel setting. It's getting to, not the point.

Ideological & Repressive State Apparatus

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Althusser argues that the ideological dominance of the ruling class is, like its political dominance, secured in and through definite institutional forms and practices: the ideological apparatuses of the state.

He suggests every Ideological State Apparatus [ISA] is also in part a Repressive State Apparatus, punishing those who dissent:

"There is no such thing as a purely ideological apparatus … Schools and Churches use suitable methods of punishment, expulsion, selection etc., to 'discipline' not only their shepherds, but also their flocks."

Repressive ISAs have internal 'coercive' practices. For example, the forms of punishment, non-promotion, displacement, being 'out-of-favour' experienced by socialists and trade union activists/ militants historically and currently across numerous countries).

Similarly, Repressive ISAs attempt to secure significant internal unity and wider social authority through ideology (for example, through their ideologies of patriotism and national integrity).

Every Repressive ISA therefore has an ideological moment, propagating a version of common sense and attempting to legitimate it under threat of sanction.

Governments, and the ruling classes in whose interests they act, prefer to use the subtler forms of repression and conditioning.

For example, changing the school and initial teacher education curriculum, abandoning 'general studies' and 'liberal studies' and horizon-broadening for working class 'trade' and skilled worker students/ apprentices in 'Further Education' (vocational) colleges.

This is is less messy than sending the troops onto the streets or visored baton-wielding police into strike-bound mining villages, or against peasant demonstrations or protests by the landless.

Democrats & Republicans: United Political Front for Capitalism

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The US economy is based on the guiding principle of “all guns and no butter.”

It’s a testament to the class war being waged in this country. And like Warren Buffett said, his side of the class war is winning.

The “guns” can be literal but are often metaphorical. That is, spending or taxing in favor of the rich are the metaphorical guns for our class war.

The “butter” follows a similar vein. We in the working class are getting less and less butter and are being told to eat cake instead.

Many progressives have some residue of liberal partisan politics in them that foolishly thinks the Democratic Party has the will or the desire to stand up for the working class.

Let’s be clear: they don’t. The Democrats rely on campaign funds from particular blocs of investors so they can wage PR stunts to hoodwink voters into voting for them as the GOP does.

The Democrats are on the side of big business. There’s a class war going on and both parties consist of gunslingers but that isn’t to say the Democrats sling iron for the working poor – this is often the fatal mistake liberals make.

They naïvely assume the Democrats are on their side. The Democratic Party is no more than the 'other' front for capitalism.

You won't see the Democratic Party line up behind a platform that says the economy is tanking because we are catering to the rich.

Or that we need to cut the corporate welfare and fix the tax code so the burden of paying for necessities is no longer pushed off on to the working class (not to mention the threat of their elimination).

No, their economic stimulus packages were too weak and ineffective because to beef them up and to make them effective would require putting some pressure on the business community and that’s unacceptable.

The mantra of our politicians is “Bail out Wall Street, bail on Main Street.” Same with their health care and financial reform. The private institutions were left in place and in power. We can just eat cake.

You won't see the Democratic Party close ranks and say the deficit is a direct link to nine years of war and decades of class war (i.e. rigging the tax code in favor of the rich).

When Obama came into office the Pentagon’s own business advisory board advised him that he needs to reduce the Pentagon budget and he responded by increasing it.

Again, we can just eat cake. He has escalated the War in Afghanistan and moved it deeper into Pakistan and into Yemen and has obstructed ending the Iraq War.

Not only did he say the war would end this year but last year he pressured the Iraqi president to not hold a referendum calling for an early withdrawal.

This year in a classic case of Orwellian tactics he announced ending the war is “on schedule” and that the “combat” forces would be removed by end of 2011.

He might as well have added a “P.S.” and say that, “Chocolate rations have been increased. Love, Big Brother”.

That’s the change we can believe in: increased war spending, escalated wars and continuation of the rigged tax system (including Bush’s tax cuts for the rich). Obama represents the Empire’s New Clothes.

I don’t know about you but my belly is aching to say, “Please, no more cake.”

8/14/10

A Teenager's Sexual Gaze

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The Thinking Woman's Orgasm

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Is it possible to bring yourself to orgasm just by thinking?

Barbara Carellas more than thinks so. She says she knows so, since she's been "thinking herself off" for more than twenty years.

Carellas says that she wanted to explore alternative ways of being sexual. She went to an informal workshop to learn how to orgasm using nothing but her mind.

Researchers at Rutgers University have been studying the mind-body-sex connection, and have found that there seems to be documented evidence of Carellas' claims.

They put her in an MRI, had her "think off" and found that the parts of her brain that should light up when she climaxes did just that.

The idea of thinking yourself to orgasm is not new. In the early 1970's, the Masters and Johnson research team documented the strong connection between sexuality and thought.

The connection is particularly strong in women, says Dr. Ian Kerner, author and sex therapist. "The brain is the most powerful sex organ," he says.

Men, he adds, have a much harder time making themselves climax without any touch whatsoever, but some women "think themselves off."

Art Is a Compulsive, Obsessional Disorder

I've tried everything from shoplifting to shambolism. I mean, can't I channel the desire to? I could consummate this relationship. Does it pass as discourse? Dare we call it art? Now, there's a compulsive, obsessional disorder. If I were to find one. A mechanism by means of which.

I may be on to something here. How to be idle as another party chatters. Tell me. How do you cope? By putting down my thought. Here's my latest theory of everything. I like to keep on my toes. Whatever you call it's getting by.

UK: More Daylight Robbery from Banks

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They are back in the money. But the banks aren’t fuelling any recovery by lending out cash to businesses which want to borrow and keep people in jobs. Instead they are preparing to pay out billions again in bonuses and salary packages paid for by taxpayers.

The chancers and gamblers who brought on the economic crisis with their reckless greed now have the audacity to help themselves to obscene bonuses out of the savings and dividends that rightly belong to others.

Normal service has been resumed. This at a time when, partly through the action of the banks and mostly through the inaction of the Government, the risk of the economy being driven into a double-dip recession is increasing.

There appears to be one law for the banks, the new deserving poor, and another for the NHS, schools, the police, prison and fire services, benefit claimants and the entire undeserving poor of the public sector.

Private sector jobs are shrinking, the building trade is in meltdown, graduates cannot get a foot on the employment ladder.

Yet, to take just one example, HSBC, which has recorded half-yearly profits of £7.2 billion and which lost 4,600 jobs last year, has set aside £1.5 billion for staff pay and bonuses, up 7 per cent on last year. A similar pattern is seen at Barclays, RBS and Lloyds.

The banks received money (your money] on the cheap and are selling it high. HSBC received £33 billion more in repayments from borrowers than it gave out in new lending. In this climate the economy risks stagnation and full-blown recession.

No wonder many potential borrowers are scared off from extortionate “offers” from the banks. Europe-wide governments are holding short rates at zero, which means that banks are pretty much getting free money because they can borrow for nothing.

The difference between that and what they are charging customers is another source of almost pure profit.