Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The state of Israel

Is it me or has the Israeli government become the biggest long-term threat to Jews living in the Middle East?

Israel sponsored Hamas in the 1980's because it didn't want to negotiate with the secular PLO. Israeli strategy was premised on an acknowledgment that the powerful don't need to make concessions to the weak. However, in pursuing this line, Israel required a pretext for diplomatic purposes. This pretext was the idea that "there is no partner" for negotiations, because the "partners" are terrorists who want to destroy "the state of Israel." Israel then helped this along by giving aid to radical groups like Hamas who were, in fact, publicly committed to the end of Israel -- if transparently lacking the means to accomplish it.

Whatever consortium presently dominates the Israeli state apparently feels that the benefits derived from keeping the Palestinians in "the world's largest open-air prison" outweighs the inevitable harm that will likely come to the Jewish people as a result: more wars and increased hatred toward Jews. But then governments aren't really in the business of protecting their citizens -- as if this isn't obvious from 60 years of perpetual conflict over the concept that land and resources should be shared! At present, Israel's leaders appear prepared to send their youth into yet another bloodbath, the bombing of Palestinian neighborhoods not sufficiently murderous in their view. They will send Israel's children to their deaths in the probably futile attempt to overthrow the very forces they nurtured from infancy. If there are bigger anti-Semites left on the planet, I would like to see them.

Like it or not, Israel is the only actor with sufficient power to change the dynamic between itself and the Palestinians. This will happen only when Israeli policy is changed either by the Israeli citizenry taking control of their government for their own benefit, or when the US stops giving Israel carte blanche military support for its hopelessly self-destructive -- not to mention highly murderous -- campaigns. American citizens could play a critical role in the latter, and should work towards that end.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Change we can immaculately conceive in

Yes, friends, it would be a miracle if I could get some change around here. That said, I will settle for a ten, a five, and five ones. See you at the bar.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Iraq: Just not ready for shoes

The Iraqi government has condemned shoe throwing as a "barbaric and ignominious act" that may require another invasion to correct.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.

-- Winston Churchill

It's true that I like to poke fun at capitalism from time to time, but, in all seriousness, Winston Churchill was right. "Democracy" -- which for most westerners means "democratic capitalism" -- has a compelling advantage over other systems: It is the only form of government which permits direct election of the people who don't represent you.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Age of discovery

It is a design of the class system that the people who work the longest and hardest for the least compensation will have neither the resources nor the energy to rebel against their conditions when they are not at work. Under such conditions, it becomes incumbent upon them to rebel against their conditions while they are at work.

It was this understanding that presaged the modern labor movement.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


The New York Times surveyed Iraqis about shoes and W.'s legacy, but as the sample group did not include anybody of the exploded persuasion, I did not find it wholly representative.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A reservation

I always suspected that Andy Stern's preference for running unions like a business held great career possibilities for Andy Stern. That said, it would not surprise me in the least if it also held great career possibilities for the many Milorad "Rod" Blagojeviches of America -- and let's not forget their spouses! But if Stern is not yet the power broker he portends, millions of nurses and janitors might still have their pensions, Bernie Madoff's spectacular financial fraud notwithstanding.

Increasingly, I wonder if there isn't cause for concern when it comes political devices like "card check" -- the Employee Free Choice Act, which would streamline union certification -- when you've got these big-box union wholesalers like SEIU and the Teamsters dominating the American scene, "organizing" by any means necessary because they basically see themselves as a business -- the corollary being that they see their members as "customers."

This is a world apart from the kind of organizing undertaken by syndicalist unions like the IWW, who don't even aspire to government recognition and are explicitly opposed to proxy unionism -- and perhaps for this reason barely exist. But their approach is much safer; when people are accustomed to acting for themselves, they are less susceptible to becoming suckers to somebody else.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Aristocrats of New England, Unite!

More of HBO's John Adams.

I must say I like this Thomas Jefferson fellow. It is pleasurable watching him spar with a man named Alexander Hamilton over questions of centralized power, especially regarding finance. I believe Jefferson may have been ahead of his time -- except that he owned slaves, expelled natives, and didn't adequately anticipate industrialism. Nonetheless, his philosophical affinity for anarchism stands out at a time when republicanism was still a heady trip. I suspect he eventually capitulates to the latter in practice -- he was president for crying out loud -- if not in philosophy.

What is lost in the constant obsessing over the founding fathers are the sort of people who got it right from the beginning. The problem is that very few were white, landholding males. This presents audiences with a choice: are you interested in historical figures who most share your contemporary values, or with white men who assumed authority and, by consequence, significance? If you think slavery was wrong, you may be surprised that many slaves shared this forward-thinking attitude. I am sure none of them thought "it had to be." The same goes for making native Americans extinct: they weren't explicitly opposed to sharing the continent, you know. But if our frame of reference is merely "what needed to happen to build the republic" with "the republic" being dominated by a European propertied class, then you end up with a bunch of historical necessities that were only "necessary" for a very small portion of the population.
All the shelter from the storm, and not an inch to retreat

Last week it was decreed that my shift would be assigned every unsheltered vehicle in the fleet, despite an idle abundance of closed-cab tractors, because somebody with an office and a college degree presumed to carve up what had previously been a "first come, first serve" distribution as practiced by employees. I tell you: if ever you should like to introduce inefficiencies into a system, just establish a hierarchy where decisions are made exclusively by those who are not affected by them -- especially when it means the difference between freezing one's ass off part of the time versus all of the time.

In this case, the cost to be paid was a shift full of pissed-off employees, who variously did not comply, cursed management, and plotted revenge. Unfortunately, as much as we may have "third-party" representation, we do not have a union: we are not in the practice of formulating our own responses to the day-to-day issues that may not be covered by contract language. Thus, we have bitch sessions and individuals acting out in ways that invite disciplinary action -- and of course the ever-ready threat of calling in our "shop steward," who just acts as messenger.

In this case, the shop steward successfully appealed to our immediate managers, who are seasoned enough to know their own self-interest when they see it. But they could easily have pursued a hard line, and punished dissenters with impunity, since I am confident they are free to allocate their equipment any which way they choose. As workers in their "employ" and on their property, our rights to fairness or even consideration are confined to whatever words are recorded in our collective bargaining agreements, or in workplace regulation -- and that is only if the government has any interest in enforcing them. As always, people are best served by learning to how to defend themselves directly.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

But will it get you dates, young lady?

In her own words:

"I first went to prison on September 23 and served 35 days. I am lucky, after 2 times in jail, I got a medical discharge, but I'm the only one. By the time you read this, many of my friends will be in prison too: in for three weeks, out for one, and then back in, over and over, until they are 21. The reason? We refuse to do military service for the Israeli army."
How to make a Somali pirate

What you will need:

One fisherman from a coastal community dependent on fishing

Too few fish due to overfishing and waste dumping by foreign operators

Omit the Somali Navy

Add guns to taste

How to unmake a Somali pirate

Two views:

1) Blow him up (favored by the commercial shipping industry, the defense industry, the private security industry, and "non-Somalis" generally)

2) Change the ingredients in the mix to include more fish and less dumping in Somali waters (favored by Somalis)

SO... which will approach will prevail? I can hardly wait to find out.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Entrepreneur by another name

The governor of Illinois wanted to sell Obama's Senate seat so bad he couldn't help but talk up it's worth to potential buyers. "It's fucking golden... and I'm not going to give it up for fucking nothing," he declared.

His best efforts have since erupted in scandal, owing namely to how "fucking golden" the governorship of Illinois is to aspiring governors and the political parties of aspiring governors.

His crime is severalfold: One, he exposed politicians as corrupt and self-serving. Two, he antagonized other powerful groups by openly flouting agreed-upon protocols when "selling" something of political value: he got caught. Three, his failures may cast a negative light on others who are "in it" solely "for the money."

This leads me to conclude that if only Rodney Blagojevich had pursued a career in the private sector he could have made these kinds of deals with the protection of the law, and made a lot more money doing it, too. Offending the powerful is a crime, but denying kids with HIV antiretrovirals is a perfectly legal, patent-protected money maker? Often the biggest crimes aren't in violation of the law but in compliance with it.

At the last meeting this guy got up and told everyone how much they mean to him -- that the company was "like a family."

This time the guy is no longer with the company, and not to be mentioned.

This is one of the ways in which employers are not "like a family."

Monday, December 08, 2008

Don't tread on me patience

HBO's John Adams. Or, as colonial America's first revolutionary rapper, NoToryAss, hailed his full-length debut, John Blabbums and Abigail's Grab'ems. The hits are all here: "Nuthin But a Tea Thang," "Better Dead than Red (skinned, coated, whatevs)," and the plantation club hit "Spinnin in Yo Slave."

Pig vomit makes a fine founding father, though it is my opinion of modern entertainment that putting millions of dollars behind anybody who does not work a day job will permit them to do things the rest of us can't. Look at "Ashlee" Simpson -- or, for that matter, Sarah Palin. Just put an orchestral score behind my ass getting out of bed every morning and I promise it will bring you to tears! We are all stars, I say -- if only the world would listen! And patriots? Negro please! I haven't seen a single black face in the entire five hours of farce thus far! Did black people exist in colonial America or not? Was Morgan Freeman not available to reprise his role as the elder Barack Obama of America's pearly white soul? I trust HBO will come to these subjects in their own good time, not unlike the government they portray.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Help wanted -- in more ways than one

True to form, Wall Street cons the pros of government employment after single-handedly precipitating the global meltdown of "employment" period. Nobody wants to be associated with Hurricane Katrina or Pentagon-contracting scandals, right!?

Speaking for the many friends I know presently in a private sector holding pattern just to apply for a government job: Good luck with that, you bankrupt bastards.
Pragmatism we can believe in

Politicians are like barometers of how power is distributed at any given moment. Quite apart from being "leaders," they take their lead from whatever group or alliance of groups wields the greatest domestic power. This misconception about where power lies informs a lot of confusion over why politicians "say one thing but do another" when they are supposedly "in charge," free to pursue whatever course they desire. The corollary of this is that people wind up devoting all their time to the individual personalities of the political class -- i.e., what is promoted through party politics, and adopted wholesale by news media -- as if this reveals anything important about policy outcomes. A 14-page feature in The Atlantic or The New Yorker on Barack Obama's "character" may be informative, but that does not make it particularly useful in anticipating his decisions, themselves contingent on the choices which bigger forces will impose.

To illustrate the connection between politics and power, consider that Barack Obama won election to the presidency by campaigning on a progressive platform, none of which can be identified in the political history of anybody he is appointing to his cabinet. So, why the "betrayal," to use the word being thrown around among certain liberals? Well, under one set of circumstances -- electoral process -- power was surrendered temporarily to the general population, which required appealing to them on some level. That was called "change." Now that the process has ended, the public is out of the loop, and power returns to the institutional actors who shape day-to-day policy, which means a quick shift to "pragmatism" -- which is another way of saying that the ownership class must be appeased. Obama has no control over this, except to say that he is smart enough to acknowledge the reality: he does not need the editorial board of every major newspaper in the country to register their "grave concerns" about the direction his administration is headed before it even takes office.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hard power

There is no relationship that can be mended by one party signaling a desire to "restore [their] leadership" over another. Leadership is not arrived at through presumption; or, rather, when it is, it is little more than a euphemism for control.

Should any gentleman hope to test this theory, get together with an ex-girlfriend sometime and tell her of your sincerest intent to "restore [your] leadership" over her genitalia. You will not wait long before you have an answer.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Bidnis skillz 101

Knowing how to take orders is an important part of being at the bottom of the corporate chain of command. However, knowing how to take orders and passing them on to those at the bottom is an important part of earning a much larger salary.

The advantages to earning a large salary should be self-evident; however, the advantages of earning jack shit are not to be overlooked. For one thing, you never have to order other people around, which makes interacting with them as pleasant as you choose -- especially in cases where you choose it to be infrequent, a luxury the manager does not have.

Also, don't forget that while taking orders is a crucial part of what makes your national economy tick, carrying them out is entirely up to you. Courteous agreement with superiors over methodology yields the most liberty to do things how you prefer -- or as a 60 year old Italian package handler once said, "I just nod my head when they talk and do what I want when they're gone."

Monday, December 01, 2008


Most man-made conflicts of the modern era pose a basic question. Should social wealth be owned and managed by particular groups, with everybody else assigned to an ancillary role, or should this responsibility be shared?

The first model offers unparalleled freedom and reward for whatever group or alliance of groups -- read: whatever class -- exercises this authority. Under various "communist" systems this has been executive officials in government; under the so-called "free-enterprise" or "democratic" regimes it is the domain of investors and managers within corporate institutions; while most of what is described as "socialist" involves a kind of middle ground between the two, with government controlling some industries and the private sector others.

All of these models claim to be "representative" in the sense that the governing class derives its authority, somehow, from the population it governs; and, moreover, that it governs in the best interests of all. For instance, in constitutional republics -- of which the above examples include -- there is a piece of paper which lays out the rights of the people and the responsibilities of the rulers, and this paper -- in addition to future bits of paper doodled by legislators -- will form the basis of that nation's "legal system," which can be summed up as an elaborate attempt to conceal power disparities by filtering them through a supposedly neutral institution known as "the judiciary." It is one example, along with elections and other devices, of how legitimacy is explained.

All of this can be very impressive in form, and yet it brings along with it many horrible dimensions, best observed when the people in charge fail to deliver a basic means of survival to the population. The ensuing desperation plays itself out in many different ways, with violent outbursts -- such as terror attacks on financial centers, or civil war -- coloring the most extreme -- you might say, "poverty-stricken" -- examples. Where people have food, and some means of stability -- as in the wealthier nations -- they may simply riot or partake in crime; where they are sufficiently affluent and educated, they may petition their government more politely, or seek to enter its ranks.

India is a hugely unequal society with a big domestic terror problem, whether linked to the most recent attacks or not. And like many modern societies, it is organized in a way which makes poverty for many the basis of incredible wealth for a few. Thus, that wealth becomes a big target, in various ways, by the many. It can continue to be the monopoly prize of competing groups, or it can be diffused to address basic needs. One guarantees more terror attacks; the other guarantees resistance from privileged groups who would rather bomb the world and all its inhabitants in a "war on terror" before ever relinquishing an inch of their privilege. We should never confuse their interests with our own.