Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Probable Cause

Interesting how this probable cause works. Easy to find thousands of times across the country every day, particularly if you've the profile that fits, but no where to be found when it counted last night.

Rest in peace Michael Brown, and all the victims of our peculiar institution called a "justice" system. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Capital is afraid of their own economic system

The response to HRC's recent comments regarding who creates jobs has been interesting.

http://m.wsj.com/articles/BL-WB-50148

In a market economy, consumers create jobs. Business does everything in their power in order to not create jobs (e.g. raise productivity of current workforce), as labor is a major expense, and is only forced to when demand overwhelms capacity. I thought this was market economics 101?

She was posturing, trying to fend off Elizabeth Warren, to be sure, but capital is so afraid of this basic fact (which at least in theory gives the rabble some power) it gets buried in hyperbole. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Once secret but now available documents show that people like Anne Applebaum are intellectual hacks of the worst kind

It seems the sole purpose of people like Anne Applebaum is to warn educated and engaged liberals (you know, the kind that read "The Atlantic" and 'The New Yorker") about allowing their ideology to stray too far from bourgeois comfort zones. Make your home in identity politics, vague and self-righteous notions of human rights, hell, maybe even support a national health service, but by god make sure you don't start talking about property relations because then before you know it you'll wake up, look in the mirror, and you'll have a big bushy mustache and be starving Ukrainian peasants!

Of course, some new found information (you always find it in the last place you look! Doh!) always will pop up to ensure you that Stalinism was indeed purely ideological and there is, of course, a straight line from Marx's "workers of the world unite" to Stalin's "socialism in one country." No pragmatism there. No, none whatsoever. The Communist International notoriously switching from promotion of world revolution to suppression of it? Yes, well that was well understood to be a purely ideological move, based on Marx's (although probably largely ghostwritten by Engels) polemic "How to Keep Some Guy Who Hasn't Been Born Yet Named Stalin in Total and Complete Power."

You know, in order to understand societies based on classical liberalism, nuance is ok. Yes, our development was based on genocide and slavery, but freedom of speech and Iphones and stuff. Yes, they went from a backwards peasant society to first in space in a couple generations but everything about it was BAD. BAD. BAD. BAD. And that was because of IDEOLOGY. Get it yet? Even with lots of the same people running things the same way in the post-Soviet states, the people are much better off because they lost the ideology.

Thanks Anne, because of you I can't have a decent conversation, with proper historical context, without a liberal (or anarchist for that matter) feeling it necessary to drown the baby in the bathwater violently in front of me. Yes, fuck Stalin, I'm with you, but if you can still pull some feelings of hope out of the glimmer in lady liberty's eyes (I'm with you on that too) let's talk about ideology, history, and politics like well-rounded adults that understand life is full of contradictions. That's why anything about everything is fucking complicated. Reductionist punditry of this sort is taken serious by powerful people, and therefore far more reactionary than what comes from punching bag buffoons like Bill O'Reilly. So let's stop thinking these people are fucking geniuses because they write in the New York Review of Books and can find other countries on a map. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Soldier Policeman


The events in Ferguson Missouri have me thinking about former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his infamous “Midnight Crew.” While much has been made about the militarization of the police regarding body armor and Humvees, not so much has been said about what certainly can be seen as a shared mentality, even identity, between the soldier and the police officer. Burge brought the Phoenix Program from Vietnam to Chicago and tortured people (black men of course) freely for decades. Certainly this was a militarization of the police.

A couple years ago the Obama Administration made a conscious effort to get war veterans into police uniforms. For the first time since its creation the Justice Department’s grant program “Community Oriented Policing Services,” or COPS, (one wonders how long it took them to come up with words that fit the acronym) required cities to hire only veterans with the federal money. Just like Black Hawk helicopters, we have a bunch of them and have no clue what to do with them. With the Department of Veterans Affairs in shambles, it is easier to give them the same weapons with a new uniform, and a new enemy.

In a paper done by the Naval Center for Combat and Operational Stress Control specifically dealing with the question of war veterans going into law enforcement after PTSD diagnoses, it was concluded “PTSD is not generally an automatic disqualification for employment with law enforcement agencies.” Furthermore, “several agencies, including the Seattle Police Department and California Department of Forestry, stated that they had hired individuals with histories of PTSD, although most agencies alluded that they had as well.”

People fighting in unnecessary wars overseas come back to find the only marketable skills they have are put to use fighting unnecessary wars at home. Our industrial complexes, both prison and military, aren’t so far apart.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

C > I

Back in 2008 I wrote the following description of an exercise I took part in while I attended an immigrant rights coalition meetings-

The moderator, in all seriousness, had us draw a flower. Our flower needed at least four large petals, with a smaller petal drawn inside the outline of the larger one. We were then to label each petal. One should be race, one gender, one whether or not English is our mother tongue, and one marking our social class (which wasn't talked about much, if at all). If you are white, male, and speak English, then you were to fill in the outer layer of your flower petals. This means you are an 'exploiter' in these areas. If you are female, non-white, and learned a language besides English when you were young, then you were to fill in the inner layer of the petals. You are "exploited." 

I went on to make a basic point that should be obvious to any socialist, or anyone on the left for that matter. Succinctly put: while both are important, class ultimately trumps identity. The people who facilitated the meeting saw the post and confronted a friend of mine, who was much more active in the coalition than I, about it. Briefly put, they were activists looking to make a career out of that sort of thing and had no interest in challenging fundamental social relations that privileged local business owners they considered "allies" (nevermind those business owners had no problem paying immigrants poverty wages). He is an immigrant worker who, gasp, thought they actually might be trying to help him and had no illusions whatsoever in capitalism being anything other than what it was in his home country.

The recent bout of identity politics gone wild over a Jacobin piece reminded me of the above episode. I won't recap, as for some goddamned reason I spent a good couple hours staring at tweets and blog posts and facebook updates and smoke signals, and going over it again could ruin my brain, but Fredrik Deboer's excellent blog provides the context.

Just so I'm clear, let me say again identity issues are important. Extremely important. Some of the most important progressive advances in human history have involved issues of identity. In specific situations it's more important than class. (You aren't likely to be the victim of a hate crime because of your class.) But, if you want to not only change society but create a new one, you have to use a tool that can't be co-opted by the ruling class. This has been understood, in various degrees, by the radical left since the original Jacobins.

What's really troubling here, aside from the prose of this stubbornly awful sniveling, is the discussion that was and will be taking place. This isn't a nuanced discussion on the relationship between class and identity with people more or less on the same side, it's a new version of red-baiting. Call it red-baiting 2.0. These people are not interested at all in changing the status quo. On the contrary, they are interested in becoming a more integral part of the status quo, the smiling and accepting face of neoliberalism. I suppose it's not too surprising all villains aren't as cartoonish as the Koch brothers and Fox News, and it's certainly not news neoliberalism has a "left" wing, but I was a bit surprised at the overt and obvious intent to attack Jacobin (and the left in general). Even the pretense of a semi-serious discussion was missing. I will be surprised no longer.