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Monday, July 6, 2015

Note To Palestinians: Forget Democrats

Hillary Clinton has sent a  letter to some big money Israel lobby figures saying the BDS Movement must be crushed, as reported in Politico magazine. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is a movement started by Palestinian civil society that has slowly gained steam over the years, in the US and even more so in Europe, and is now seen by top Israel officials as the greatest threat Israel faces. It's modeled after a similar movement against that other racist apartheid regime, South Africa, and was one of several primary factors in bringing about change there, the defeat of the South African Army in neighboring Angola by Cuban troops being another, but the BDS part had a lot to do with bringing the public's attention to South Africa and forcing the white supremacist power elite in the US and Europe to turn on its white South African allies.

Anyone who knows Hillary's record won't be surprised that she's 100 percent behind Israel and supports it's ongoing theft of Palestinian land, it's periodic slaughters of Gazans, its routine imprisonment and torture of thousands of Palestinians at a time including children, and all the rest.

But don't expect anything different from Bernie Sanders, who had another big turnout last night, in Portland, that has the social media Progressives who have propelled his campaign into the mainstream, all excited.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

No To Austerity

The macabre Neoliberal project launched in mahogany paneled staterooms in the l970s, sold to the public in the 1980s by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and adopted in the 1990s by Democrats in the US and Social Democratic parties in Europe, enters a new chamber of horrors as Greeks in their referendum demonstrated an unwillingness to give another pound of their flesh to the greedy European and American Capitalist elite.

Although the mainstream media is confused about the specifics of the situation in Greece, it's possible to detect a changed tenor in its reporting here and there. The sneering demands that Greeks face up and knuckle under are largely gone, relegated to fetid corners occupied by publications like the Wall Street Journal. Others in the media have gotten a whiff of the rotting flesh the Journal's Capitalist clientele feeds on and it's beginning to emerge what happened in Greece. It's hard to find an article in which the common tropes of a year ago can be found of lazy Greeks living beyond their means. Like young African Americans have been doing in the US, working class Greeks and their allies across Europe have demanded that the truth be told.

It's becoming understood that the loans being made to the Greek government by the "troika" of the IMF, European Central Bank and IMF, weren't being pumped into the Greek economy -- which has shrunk a full 25 percent since the loan program began -- but were going almost entirely to Greece's creditors -- banks -- to cover loan payments.

The large Greek Capitalist class doesn't pay taxes. They simply don't file or are exempt. The huge Greek shipping companies -- four of the world's five largest shipping companies are Greek -- pay no taxes at all on money they make outside Greece, which means the vast majority of it.

What was going on in Greece is the same as goes on in the rest of Europe, in the US and anywhere Neoliberal Capitalism has entrenched itself -- a massive redistribution of wealth upward. The gutting of pensions, the massive unemployment, the dramatic rise in suicides as futures disappeared overnight, was simply the local manifestation.

In the US, an alert group of activists who know how to use media, consisting of unions and Leftists radicalized in the 1960s and 70s, although unable to halt the onslaught of Neoliberalism, which is endorsed uncritically by the media, have been been able to keep prorams like Social Security and Medicare largely intact, despite Democrats having in the last few years joined Republicans in finding ways to undermine and eat away at those programs. Programs like food stamps and Head Start, which disproportionately benefit minorities, haven't fared as well.

All the current memberts of the New Mexico delegation to the federal legislature have voted to cut Social Security, Medicare and Head Start. Every one of them. There is no alternative media in New Mexico; activists are tied to the Democratic Party, and unions in New Mexico have sat silent, lapping up the puny amount of attention their elected officials give them and endorsing them without imposing a single demand.

The presidential candidacy of the nominal socialist, New Deal Democrat Bernie Sanders, which was propelled entirely by social media until his rising poll numbers brought attacks from conservative mainstream Democrats and forced the media to take note of it, will force Democrats to make promises to the working class constituency it relies on to get elected, but those promises will be broken as soon as the last vote is counted in November 2016. Barring a genuine uprising of the working class, the Neoliberalism of Democrats and Republicans will continue to bring flat wages and declining living standards to US workers, and the bizarre public theater being played out in Greece will eventually come to television screens here.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Don’t wake up evil while it’s quiet, nor turn pale at the mention of a tiger

That's a catchy combining of two phrases, one Russian and one Chinese, that headlines an article about Chinese-Russian cooperation in Eurasia at the web site China In Central Asia, a site that focuses on China's increasing presence in central Asia, and, since Russia also has many interests in that region, has articles about the conflicting interests Russia and China have in the region and on the areas they are cooperating in.

Map credit Stratfor

That last -- China-Russia cooperation-- should concern US policy makers, and does except for the ones who still subscribe to the Neocon fantasy that, after the dissolution of the USSR, the US could use its bloated military to bomb and bully its way to global hegemony; a policy still in sway in Washington as evidenced by US fumbling efforts to expand NATO into Ukraine, or by its aggression in Syria and the Middle East in general, or its efforts to contain China with President Obama's "pivot to Asia," which includes such elements as the TPP treaty, increased military cooperation with Pacific Rim countries Australia, Vietnam, South Korea and Japan, and with various provocations against China, which the US media reports as Chinese aggression (land grabbing, island building) in the same way the US media reports as "Russian aggression" anything Russia does to protect its interests.

Not that China and Russia aren't ambitious or aggressive, but they are pursuing their interests much differently than the US is; in ways that are quite frankly a lot smarter, and are beyond what the jingoistic US media can fathom.

In May I posted a picture of Vladmir Putin and Xi Jinping, the Russian and Chinese presidents, conspicuously posing together in Moscow on the occasion of the anniversary of VE Day. Recall that US and European rulers snubbed Putin's big country-wide celebration of VE Day's 60th anniversary.

After the ceremonies, Jinping and Putin retired to the Kremlin and posed for more pictures after signing some agreements, which along with previous agreements have greatly expanded Russian and Chinese strategic economic cooperation.

Russia is rich in resources but poor and underdeveloped. China is basically the opposite. China, having what some are now saying is the world's largest economy, has been spending massive amounts on infrastructure projects in central Asia. Several high speed rail lines now link the industrial regions of China with cities and ports in Europe, meaning Chinese freight doesn't have to take much slower sea lanes, that are also vulnerable to US naval power.

Branch routes in this system now include Russia, as does a web of oil and gas pipelines that crisscross Eurasia. These mean not only closer economic ties between China, Russia and Europe, but render somewhat mute US attempts to control with naval power the flow of oil to China from the Middle East and Iran.

China calls its Eurasian development plan the Silk Road Economic Belt, after the ancient trade route. It encompasses vast regions. It includes, for example, rail lines to Iran and Turkey, where China has also built sea ports. It's part of a broad, long-range Chinese strategic vision, that Alfred McCoy lays out in an article in Tom Dispatch that's being widely reprinted now, that rests on a traditional view of Eurasia as the strategic global pivot point, a view formulated in 1904 by Halford Mackinder, head of the London School of Economics, that has been furthered by Zbigniew Brzezinski of the US in his time in government and more recently in his books an articles. McCoy writes of China's all Eurasia encompassing Silk Road project:

Mackinder's map of the world

"For the first time in history, the rapid transcontinental movement of critical cargo —oil, minerals, and manufactured goods— will be possible on a massive scale, thereby potentially unifying that vast landmass into a single economic zone stretching 6,500 miles from Shanghai to Madrid. In this way, the leadership in Beijing hopes to shift the locus of geopolitical power away from the maritime periphery and deep into the continent’s heartland."

To help finance its goals, China last year announced creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. It wasn't much covered in the US press, but diplomatically it was a defeat for the US when it was unable to coerce a single one of its European allies, even the UK, from joining as founding partners. It was sign of growing, direct economic ties China is building with Europe. Another is that much of the new Chinese rail system is being built by the rail giant Duetsche Bahn AG that's solely owned by the German government.

China has quietly been pursuing the same kind of policy in Africa for years, spending vast sums on infrastructure projects and using the same approach Xi Jinping outlined in a speech announcing the new Silk Road in which he tried to put Russia at ease by promising to follow the policy of Three Nos.

"China does not interfere in the region’s domestic politics, does not seek the right of leadership in the region’s affairs, and does not seek a sphere of influence in the region."

All of which are quite foreign to US foreign policy with its god-granted "American Exceptionalism" providing it with the right to dictate to other countries.

Part of President Obama's plans to counter China include the eventual economic colonization of the Pacific Rim by multinational corporations, at the expense of US workers, which is why he's pushing the TPP treaty, but US strategy relies primarily on US military might, for which, with Reaganomics firmly in control in Washington, US workers also pay the brunt of the cost. But while the US tries to encircle China militarily, China, now joined by Russia, has been encircling the US economically.

Friday, July 3, 2015

No Capital Outlay Required

Free classic movies, free audio books, free online courses, free ebooks. Lots and lots and lots of other free stuff for your edification and enjoyment can be had here at the Open Culture web site.

This is an amazing site. It was fun just scanning some of the categories. The lists of free books, the lists of free movies, go on and on. I tried a few links and they worked. They collect things from all over. One link was to 1,000 free online courses from top universities.

The old IWW poster I posted here is part of a new addition of 2,200 classic protest posters. The editor of The Nation magazine, Katrina Vandenheuvel, posted a link to it which led me to the site.

In introducing the new posters, Josh Jones, the University of North Carolina scholar and an editor at the Open Culture project, writes:

 "I recently heard someone say his college-bound nephew asked him, “What’s a union?”"

The days of the American Empire are numbered, folks, but at least its cultural output and that of Western Europe from which it springs will be preserved on an NSA hard drive buried in the sand somewhere because it was posted here, and in the future they'll have an idea of what we were all about.

Meanwhile we, the last literate inhabitants of Imperial America, can spend our remaining days pleasantly.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Rail Yards

Google Maps absorbs my wanderlust these days, what's not consumed physically by the 480 mile round trip run I make to Holbrook and back to Albuquerque five nights a week.

A few days ago I was looking at the overhead view of Pyongyang, North Korea on Google Maps and noticed a sizable rail yard going through the center of town. I took a screen shot of a section of it and posted it on Twitter, which absorbs what impulse I have to socialize, and wrote a little poem to caption it, something like Pyongyang rail yards, She was headed east, I was headed west, The rest is history. Which was universally ignored like everything else I post to Twitter. Twitter is kind of like an abbreviated Facebook. I switched over a few months ago because Facebook seemed like a big waste of time. It's basically a bunch of people commenting on things that are going on and doing nothing about them. "Oh that's great!" "Oh, that's terrible." That's Facebook and Twitter. People on a porch watching the world go by and commenting on it.

In Twitter you're limited to 140 characters in your posts and comments so it does take up less time. I'm not clear on the informal rules governing it but most people don't generally post things about themselves. They post headlines and links to articles and the more creative and well informed ones write quick takes on current news. Just like on Facebook. There are people who use Facebook to post things about their personal lives but the posts that come onto my page on both Facebook and Twitter are put there by the people I've associated myself with, my Democrat brother and people interested in Palestine and some US socialist leaning activists.

I was thinking about the Pyongyang rail yards today and looked up the rail yards in the town I grew up in, New Buffalo, Michigan. They're entirely deserted. They were always busy and provided some good union jobs. A friend, George Bates, got a job there after we put in our two years at Lake Michigan Junior College in Benton Harbor, but eventually he'd been transferred to the big yards 40 miles away in Gary, Indiana, outside Chicago. But there were still always hundreds if not thousands of train cars parked in the New Buffalo yards. They used it to store the kind of cars that carry shipping containers, and now those are gone, so it looks pretty naked.

I lived directly across from the New Buffalo Elementary School and it was maybe a quarter mile through the woods to the rail yards. You could hear the trains, especially at night lying in bed, the cars banging together as they made up the long trains, and feel the rumble of the switching locomotives when they put the fuel to it to get a string of cars moving.

In Pyongyang, North Korea, there's a kid lying in bed who has that. Maybe he can't leave, but he can think about it.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The US Isn't The Only Place

Where police simply pull out their guns and blow away unarmed people. In Brazil, a cop was caught on live camera emptying his gun into two youths who had just crashed.From an article at the Free Thought Project.


Which I wrote about last post. In a piece published in Market Watch, Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph E Stiglitz breaks down the situation in Greece, which has deteriorated since I posted about it last evening. It's about wealth being trasferred to the top, and it's about power, Stiglitz says, and who will wield it from now on.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Disobedient Greeks

The stock markets don't like it that Greece isn't heeling under to its creditors. The Wall Street Journal today in a story with the sneering headline "Greek Suicide Watch" haughtily lectures Greeks about the consequences they face for not severely slashing their own wages and pensions. A weekend financial service article solemnly reports, "U.S. investors brace for more Greece debt drama."

In other words, rich people are concerned about what's being played out in Greece, and what's playing out in Greece is a classic example of an attempt by the Capitlist class to discipline the working class, and the working class resisting, or at least trying to.

The ramifications go far beyond Greece. The Capitalist class is well aware of the potential that working class insubordination will spread from country to country. Greece is important because similar cases of working class insubordination threaten to or have already broken out in many other places, Spain, for example, where PODEMAS Party candidates are winning elections, and earlier in the US with Occupy Wall Street.

What's happening in Greece is that the capitalist class, represented by the European Central Bank, the EU leadership and the IMF, the so called Troika, urgently want to break the spirit of working class resistance that has most recently broken out in Greece with the election last year of the Syriza Party.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Rainbow House

The first time I saw this on my Twitter feed tonight I thought it might be somebody's Photoshop job but no, it's all over the place now.


He shows these flashes of occasional brilliance. Bathing that big white house in a rainbow. I looked at part of his Charleston eulogy, where he sings from his soul and gyrates before the congregation channeling Cornel West. That was very emotional for a fanatic Socialist Black gospel music fan like myself. It's hard to think about going back to bland white presidents who stiffly maintain the "dignity of the office," as the media likes to say.

While brother in chief gyrates, though, home ownership in the US has reached a 20-year low, and it's been steadily declining all that time. How is it that home ownership, the checkpoint for the American Dream, has reached a 20-year low? Twenty years. Oh, but gay marriage. Oh, escaped convicts. Do a Google search for living standard in the USA and you find opinions. Some say it's declining. Others say it isn't. Other that it's not declined all that much. What you won't find is the expectation that it will ever go again.

Oh, that Democrats would lead. That Obama, and Grisham and Heinrich would get emotional about the American workers whose living standard have declined, who have lost their homes, who are paying higher rent, while they hobnobbed with the criminal bankers. Oh that Democrats would get emotional about the lives that will end up in the toilet because of this Trans Pacific Partnership huge corporate giveaway treaty they're easing past us in slow motion. As they pose and pretend to be against it, and slowly slide it past our noses so we can gradually get used to its stink.

Oh, that the president would put his heart into singing for his drone strike victims, and the nations, now, of people living under sheets of plastic far from home, and all the dead because of the string of murderous Middle East wars he's started, that they are all are complicit in.

Oh, that we still possessed a soul.



Thursday, June 25, 2015

It Was You And Me

Podcasts are my life. Not really, I have no life, but I listen to many podcasts.

I haven't followed it in awhile but one of the first podcasts I came across outside the Pacifica radio network was called Cherokee Voices, Cherokee Sounds, which comes out of the Cherokee Nation headquarters in Talequa, Oklahoma, hosted and produced by Dennis Sixkiller, who gives much of the information in English and Cherokee.

Dennis Sixkiller
As I was driving out to Holbrook last night I looked it up on my cell phone to see if he still uses the same opening music, a nice little version of the gospel classic Turn Your Radio On sung in Cherokee. It's still there. It's a knockout, flawless performance of what is basically their customized version of the arrangement recorded by The Chuckwagon Gang way back when.  The Cherokees add a little more internal complexity and tailor it to their voices, I think. I don't know who's singing but it's obviously a Cherokee gospel quartet.

After listening to it a few times through my excellent ear buds I went looking for other versions on YouTube, which is where I found The Chuckwagon Gang version and why I say it's the same basic arrangement. Here's a nice 38-minute long collection of The Chuckwagon Gang recordings -- some sound rather repetitive, you might say, but some are pretty interesting. You have to like that kind of music, I guess. The beauty of listening to it sung in Cherokee is you don't have to know what they're singing about. Turn Your Radio On by the way was written by Albert Brumley who wrote such classics as I'll Fly Away.

Albert Brumley
I also came across a bizarre modern day re-incarnation of The Chuckwagon Gang. Some evangelical Christians, perhaps one or more of whom is a descendant of one of the orignal group, which was a father, son and two daughters, has re-recorded some of the tunes and then made one of those highly produced videos to sell them with where they pretend to be singing the songs they recorded earlier in a sound studio.

White Christian music is just plain bizarre. There's a code -- you can only move around so much, only get so vocally demonstrative. You've got to show that you're entirely under control at all times. If you're singing a song done earlier by Black people you must erase all the Blackness from it. No soul allowed. At all. No getting the holyghost on stage. (An exception is The Gaithers, who do get the holyghost on stage at times.)

The modern The Chuck Wagon Gang. These women are wearing the equivalent of burkas.

Here's something to get that image out of your mind with.


Like Country of Origin Labeling For Meat? You Won't Like TPP

Under the Did you know? category:

Brazil and Mexico just won a judgement in a secret court in Geneva that will force the repeal of country of origin labeling on meat sold in the US.

It sounds unreasonable, but Brazil and Mexico challenged our country of orignin labeling under the WTO treaty and just recently won.

A treaty becomes part of the US constitution, remember, and this TPP is a treaty, not a "trade agreement," as the media like to call it.

Country of origin labeling has overwhelming support, but it's gone now. The TPP treaty is full of this kind of stuff. Only 6 of its 30 chapters have anything to do with trade. Mostly it's about expanding corporate rights -- to long term monopoly patents on medicines, for example,.

Ralph Nader breaks down the TPP here. And here.

President Obama wanted "fast track authority" and got it. Now I'm hoping details of the TPP, which is being negotiated in secret with 400 large corporations, become known widely enough that congress has no choice but to reject the entire treaty.

No one touts the benefits of NAFTA anymore. It's accepted that it hurt workers in both the US and Mexico. The TPP is more of the same and goes much further. It's as they say, NAFTA on steroids.