Happy May Day!

by Steve, May 1st, 2008

I always find that on International Workers Day it is good to reflect on the basic reality that labor creates all wealth. This year, as the global economy teeters on the brink of calamity, the end game of three decades of deregulation of the financial sector, this concept is especially poignant.

Hedge fund managers, investment bankers and stock traders don’t create wealth, they skim it. It would actually be more accurate to say they steal it, since they don’t produce anything of intrinsic value to society.

The sub-prime crisis is just the canary in the coal mine, indicating a financial system rife with ethical corruption and iniquity. Among other things, this crisis represents one of the greatest transfers of wealth away from black Americans in the history of our nation. To blame the victims, even as we bail out the predators to the tune of $30 billion, is as offensive as it is ignorant.

Capitalism is predicated on continuous growth. Like a shark, it must keep moving to survive. This basic premise ignores the fact that we live in a closed system with finite resources. It is becoming undeniable that the system is feeding on itself in a way that, if left to its own devices, will lead to its demise, much like Marx predicted.

It may not be too late to steer clear of total collapse. The first step is to re-regulate all aspects of the financial sector.

We’ve also got to stop squandering money and lives on the Iraq occupation. This military adventure is part and parcel of the gross upward redistribution of wealth of the past decades.

And we’ve got to socialize health care in this country as part of a new New Deal. Instead of continuing our devastating investment in “killingry,” as R. Buckminster Fuller called it, we need to reinvest in “livingry.”

Will Obama be the FDR to Bush’s Hoover? So far both Democratic candidates have bent over backwards to show their loyalty to Wall Street, which indicates we’re not likely to see any major change of course from three decades of bi-partisan neoliberal deregulation.

There is another way, which is better for the planet, better for our neighbors, and which, above all, gives credit where credit is due: to the workers.

Too bad nobody running for president is willing to talk about it.

Portland Peace Rally Tomorrow

by Steve, March 14th, 2008

Peace Rally flierStop the War, Bring the Troops Home Now!
This Saturday, join PDX Peace in the South Park Blocks for World Without War: a day of resistance and hope.
Where: South Park Blocks (SW Park and Madison)
When: Saturday, March 15, 2008
10:00-6:00 Action Camp featuring workshops, exhibits, performances, music, food and more!
2:00 Rally and March

More information

How Much Is Health Care Worth to Bush?

by Steve, October 3rd, 2007

Answer: Not very much.

With a veto of a five-year, $35 billion bipartisan expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), Bush has shown he doesn’t give a rip about the health of our nation’s children.

If you think this veto is really about rejecting expansion of government or Bush being a deficit hawk, compare and contrast his weekly $2 billion spent on his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s $520 billion over five years. In other words, our children’s health isn’t even worth 6% of what we’re spending to expand the part of our government that’s blowing shit up in Iraq.

War Must End (and Thirteen Imaginings for a Better World)

by Steve, March 1st, 2007

Note that I don’t say the war. I said War Must End. It’s the 21st century. Killing children as means to political ends can no longer be rationalized by sane humans. The future of civilization is at stake. We are at a crossroads.

There can be no disputing that the Bush Doctrine has been a complete and total disaster. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children dead, many more wounded, many, many more displaced, shattered and weary. Hundreds of billions of dollars (more than enough to insure our own nearly 50 million uninsured and fix our broken public schools) squandered on a futile war and its disastrous after-effects. And let’s not forget the equally disastrous side-effect: A recent study finds a nearly seven-fold increase in terrorism due to what it calls the “Iraq Effect”.

And right when you think it can’t get any worse, you find out much of the intelligence on Iran and North Korea is bunk, too.

The neoconservative doctrine of preemption may perhaps best be described as a cataclysmic failure of imagination.

It is time to stop the madness. All leaders who would attack another country unprovoked should be deposed. Let’s get past this bullshit and spend our treasure fixing what’s broke in our own house, not destroying our neighbor’s.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk to you about. It’s still Thursday (at least in Portland), and Thursday Thirteen has been handed off and resurrected before it even hit the ground. Thanks to Carol and all the crew over at TT central for keeping this crazy blog meme thing going. In the spirit of hope and confidence, I give you Thirteen Imaginings for a Better World.

  1. Imagine a sudden outbreak of peace.
  2. Imagine that people will no longer tolerate spending two billion dollars — that’s two thousand million dollars — every week in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  3. Imagine we no longer need fossil fuels. We know we are surrounded by untapped, limitless energy.
  4. Imagine we know how to tap it. Cleanly, safely.
  5. Imagine you wake up one day and know there is no war anywhere on the planet.
  6. Imagine that same day realizing that much of what you knew yesterday is wrong. The things you were most certain about: those are the things you are most wrong about.
  7. Imagine discovering, suddenly and certainly, that you are much larger than your corporeal self, and have a direct, deep and literal connection to many people on Earth you’ve never met, and some you have, as well as to the Earth itself.
  8. Imagine the entire globe as a single, living organism working together, for once and forevermore, in harmony.
  9. Imagine that power.
  10. Imagine using all that power to reforest deserts, clean up all pollution, and feed and house all of humanity comfortably.
  11. Imagine that there is no hunger, no poverty, no crime.
  12. Imagine all these things actually will happen. Put yourself there and feel it.
  13. Imagine looking up at the sky, past billions upon billions of stars, deeply into the universe, and seeing — with perfect clarity — yourself.

    Watching yourself.

    Are you doing the right thing?

And with that, I bid you Good Night.

Deep, Deep Denial

by Steve, November 28th, 2006

politicsReading the news, I was struck by the bald-faced denial evident in our president’s words. “I am not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete,” said Bush. “We can accept nothing less than victory for our children and our grandchildren.”

Any thinking person has to ask, “What is the mission? How do you define victory? Just yesterday, I was reading Juan Cole’s excellent blog, and he was hammering this point.

What is the military mission? I can’t see a practical one. And if there is not a military mission that can reasonably be accomplished in a specified period of time, then keeping US troops in al-Anbar is a sort of murder. Because you know when they go out on patrol, a few of them each week are going to get blown up or shot down. Reliably. Each week. Steadily. It is monstrous to force them to play Russian roulette every day unless there is a clear mission that could thereby be accomplished. There is not.

Bush seems to be further distancing himself from reality every day. Even the centrist-by-design Iraq Study Group may be too radical for him. The strange thing to me is that he is supposedly trying to rescue his legacy in his final two years. How can he think digging in his heels like this will help in that regard?

Thursday Thirteen Ed. #63

by Steve, October 18th, 2006

politicsIt’s been a while since I’ve done a Thursday Thirteen list, and even longer since I’ve written about anything but hockey here. (And there’s been some damn good hockey so far this season!) But this being election season, I am bound to get into politics again sooner or later. So why not start with Thirteen Failures of Geo. W. Bush ?

1. Iraq. Wrong target, wrong reason, wrong plan. Now we find ourselves backing a Shi’a regime (which also enjoys the backing of our fundamentalist extremist friends in Iran). We are fully engaged in a civil war, with our troops used to prop up an Islamist regime with direct ties to unlawful militias and death squads. We’re on track to lose around 100 US service men and women this month. Nice. Way to support the troops. Thanks, George.

2. Afghanistan. We went in there to… get bin Laden? Bzzt! Failure. To defeat the Taliban? Bzzt! They’re coming back with a vengeance. Liberate women from the Burqa? Bzzt! Didn’t happen (To quote Arundhati Roy, “It’s being made out that the whole point of the war was to topple the Taliban regime and liberate Afghan women from their burqas, we are being asked to believe that the U.S. marines are actually on a feminist mission. If so, will their next stop be America’s military ally Saudi Arabia?”)

3. North Korea. This will probably go down in history as his greatest failure, even bigger than Iraq. Why? Because when Bush took office, the US had a working policy, the Agreed Framework, that had successfully contained North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. This Framewok had been in place since 1994, and under it North Korea had halted all nuclear development. Bush promptly discarded the Framework, and North Korea promptly went back to the nuclear drawing board and—surprise!—produced a nuke. And Bush has the chutzpah to suggest that dialog with North Korea had failed. Wrong George! Withdrawing from the Framework is what failed!

4. Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Another brilliant example of the complete lack of realpolitik in Bush’s foreign policy. In the Bush world view, we don’t talk to our enemies, and—surprise!—they don’t do what we want them to do. Because of the Bush policy of freezing out the relatively moderate Fatah government, Fatah became completely ineffective. And they were voted out in favor of the religious fundamentalist Hamas party. Had we worked with Fatah, this could have been avoided. Really.

5. Lebanon. Again, Bush’s failure to talk to non-allies (in this case Syria and Iran) and his green light to Israel led to the near destruction of Lebanon and it’s fragile coalition government. For all its talk of promoting democracy in the Middle East, the Bush administration has all but destroyed the only two democratically elected Arab governments in the region.

6. Iran. Another case where not talking to our enemies has emboldened them.

7. Privatizing Social Security. For this failure, I am glad. Bush’s only significant domestic policy push wildly misjudged the popularity of one of the last vestiges of New Deal Social Democracy in this country.

8. 9/11. First, in not taking the specific threat seriously. Second, for completely freezing in the face of the attack. Third, for running away like a scared child instead of going back to Washington to take charge.

9. The Patriot Act. His first giant swipe at the constitution. (This is more properly thought of as a Bush success that is a failure for democracy and human rights.)

10. The Military Commissions Act of 2006. This suspends the Writ of Habeas Corpus for anybody Bush arbitrarily determines to be an “enemy combatant”. One little problem: “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” (US Constitution, Article 1, Section 9) I don’t see no Rebellion or Invasion here, so this law is clearly unconstitutional. This is Bush’s most flagrant power grab, and, again, a Bush success at the expense of liberty.

9. Enron, Halliburton and the culture of corporate corruption.

10. No Child Left Behind. Better to call it “No Child Left a Dime.”

11. The tumors on my dog’s ass. I don’t know how, but somehow Wacky Mommy thinks we should be able to blame Bush.

12. Global Warming. Bush refuses to submit the Kyoto protocols for ratification. The US stands alone with Australia in its refusal to ratify this treaty.

13. The loss of Congress in the ’06 mid-term elections. I’m calling this one in advance.

My favorite bumper sticker of late has a very simple, very encouraging message: “January 20, 2009”.

Less Hockey More War

by Steve, August 15th, 2006

hockeyIt’s been a long offseason, in which war has flared up in a most grotesque way in Lebanon. Israel has the obvious edge in civilian kills, but there is no clear military advantage coming into the first intermission:

non-combatants killed:
Israel: approximately 1,000 Lebanese civilians.
Hezbollah: 43 Israeli civilians.
combantants killed:
Israel: unknown number of Hezbollah fighters.
Hezbollah: 114 IDF troops.
source: BBC

A sickening first period, and that’s just the dead. Are the Lebanese dead are better off, considering the literal and figurative rubble the nearly million displaced living Lebanese are coming home to? How many more children and old people will die horrid deaths in Lebanon due to destroyed infrastructure and leftover ordnance? No matter who “wins”, it is Lebanese civil society that is the biggest loser. In many ways, this has been a war on democracy and pluralism, to the extent that that’s what Lebanon represents in the region.
Beirut in ruins (BBC)(See more pictures here) Politically, the war criminal Hassan Nasrallah has won a huge victory in the Muslim world. Hezbollah has stood up to the previously invincible Israeli millitary machine like no Arab army before. The IDF was unable to take and hold small villages a short distance from their own border, much less destroy Hezbollah. The war criminal Ehud Olmert, with the blood of 1000 unarmed men, women and children on his hands, is facing a gathering political storm in his own country. Armed with the most modern millitary technology available, in overwhelming quantities, Olmert was unable to stomp out a small militia, armed with WWII era anti-personnel rockets, anti-tank weapons and small arms. Instead, he has emboldened Hezbollah as a mass popular movement and left its military wing intact.

As thousands of dirt poor, rural Lebanese make there way to pick through the shattered remains of their lives, the truce looks highly questionable. I fear the potential for a gruesome second period, with peasants killed by bombs from 30,000 feet as they dig up and re-bury their dead, and Hezbollah launching more Katyushas on Israel. The US is already saying the French-led UN force will not disarm Hezbollah. The Lebanese army is politically and militarily incapable of doing so. Will Israel be willing to walk away with Hezbollah intact? What will Israel have accomplished, other than inflaming its enemies and destroying Lebanon’s infrastructure?

Meanwhile, did anybody notice that 3,400 civilians died in Iraq in July? I am really, truly ready for More Hockey and Less War. Bring it on! Drop the puck!

You’re either with us or against us

by Steve, July 14th, 2006

politicsReligious fundamentalists are consolidating power in this world, and it’s time to draw the line. Who benefits from the 9/11 attacks and the ensuing “long war”? These guys.
Osama bin Bush
Who suffers? Normal people. Moms, dads, brothers, sisters, grandmas and grandpas. Tiny little babies and toddlers are dying for these bastards’ holy war. Three thousand normal working people died in the US on 9/11. Upwards of 43,000 Iraqi civilians have died in the killing fields we’ve created in the ashes of Iraq. Lebanon and the re-occupied Gaza strip are under attack and in flames. What little control exists in Somalia has fallen into the hands of Taliban-like fundamentalists. The actual Taliban in Afghanistan are staging a strong comeback. Our own fundamentalist leader was twice barely elected only with overwhelming support of Christian fundamentalists.

Read the rest of this entry »

Thank God we didn’t shoot him

by Steve, June 12th, 2006

politics entryThe brutal death of brutal killer Abu Musab al-Zarqawi should bring a tear no no one’s eye.

But what irony to hear US officials broadly brushing off any rumors that Zarqawi was killed while in custody. No, he died from the result of us dropping two 500 lb. bombs on his head, not by gunshot or beating. Somehow, half a ton of military-grade explosives is acceptable but fists are not. It’s war after all, and we all accept war as legal and legitimate for a modern civilization, don’t we? Dropping bombs on people (and their family and neighbors) is the civilized, acceptable way to kill them.

Well, I don’t accept that. Especially since Zarqawi is largely a product of this ill-begotten war in the first place. He was nothing but a low-life thug until Geo. W. came along to elevate him to the thrown of uber-terrorista. I’ve read only spotty reports of the several other people killed in this attack. Who were these three women? His wife and daughters? Neighbors? Terrorists? We may never know.

War is the problem. Peace is the solution.

Iran and our “successes” in Iraq and Afghanistan

by Steve, June 12th, 2006

politics entryFrom Juan Cole’s Informed Comment, Al Hayat reports that an Iranian official “joked that there was not need for the US to invade Iran. He said that the US had invaded Afghanistan and established an Islamic republic there. Then it had done the same thing in Iraq. Since Iran has had an Islamic republic for 27 years, he said, there really isn’t a point in a US invasion.” Ouch.

Meanwhile, back at Guantanamo, US State Department official Colleen Graffy called the suicides of three men held for years without charges or access to legal representation “a good PR move.” Camp commander Rear Admiral Harry Harris called it “asymmetrical warfare.” You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. This is a sickening disgrace to all Americans with any sense of human decency.

Close Guantanamo now.