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  • Oprah as POTUS?

    Oprah as POTUS?

    By Dennis Loo (1/11/18)

    Reportedly, Oprah never considered a presidential run because she thought she didn't know enough until she saw Trump win. As someone who doesn't even understand business that well, just because Trump was elected does not mean any famous person ought to now run for office. Seal is right about Oprah. This isn't to say that an experienced person like Hillary is the direction we want to go. As I said at the end of my last article, Dialectics Precede ... Part 6, capitalism and imperialism are what threaten the planet's viability. We need an entirely new system where social needs supplant profit needs. And I don't mean social democracy.

  • No Rushing to Judgment

    No Rushing to Judgment

    By Dennis Loo (12/10/19)

    While it is a very good thing indeed that those who have been sexually preyed upon for so long are now speaking up, it is important that we not rush to judgment simply because of an accusation or many accusations. An accusation is not by itself equivalent to conviction; the desire to treat it as such by some for whatever reason should not be given in to. We are still dealing in the world of empirical reality (listen up Donald Trump!) and there should be and is no skipping over due process and taking short cuts, in the name of sounding like you are on the side of angels. 

  • The Woman Question: Al Franken et al

    The Woman Question: Al Franken et al

    By Dennis Loo (12/7/17)

    Let it be said that powerful men, of either main party or affilliation, including what I stated long ago about Tiger Woods: unless and until women are treated as fully human and completely equal with all the rights attached to that, there will be other forms of bigotry and mistreatment such environmental damage or anti-immigrant sentiment will be problems as well. Unless and until...

  • Sexual Assault and Harassment: Let the Dam Break

    Sexual Assault and Harassment: Let the Dam Break

    By Dennis Loo (11/19/17)

    Some people are wondering how long these accusations of sexual assault and harassment will go on? Here is my answer: as long as it's been a problem, may it continue to storm and rage. To correct for these wrongs perpetrated by those wiith power against those who have little or none, is going to take a social movement. I say bring it on! 

     

  • Trump as POTUS: the Consequences

    Trump as POTUS: The Consequences

    By Dennis Loo (10/29/17)

    What difference does it make that Trump now occupies the most powerful position in the world? Some say (or perhaps hope) that it doesn’t matter because the office can tolerate an incompetent, as others around him will make up for his shortcomings. But this is dangerous, think what he said to nuclear weapons-possessing North Korean leader Kim alone. Think how much political inexperience surrounds him, with Jared Kushner the poster child for this, wearing his flak jacket while posing for pictures.

    Trump’s inexperience is precisely why many voted for him. People expected he would learn something on the job, but no such luck, and still some remain faithful to him, so they find his inexperience refreshing: politically incorrect and saying what he really thinks. This his loyalists point to, but has anyone then asked them in response: "But he doesn’t just say something frank, he says things that are wrong."

    This would be like having a really bad QB in the NFL surrounded by Hall of Famers, or a very bad pitcher in the World Series to start the game for you. You would be shellacked, no matter how good those around you might be, because none of them is allowed to outshine or make up for the main guy. His unquenchable ego is why a record number of people have been fired or quit under Trump.

  • Is Democracy an End in Itself or a Means to an End?

    Editor's Note: This essay was written by a student in one of Dennis Loo's social theory classes as a final paper. The student is a working class Latina. We publish it here as a good example of student reaction to Chapter Five in Dennis Loo's Globalization and the Demolition of Society. The paper has been edited very slighty for clarity for readers who are not familiar with the works that she cites. Readers are also urged to read an essay by Dennis Loo at OpEd News published on March 19, 2012 entitled "Is Voting a Solution?

    Democracy can be defined as the free and equal right of every person to participate in a system of government, often practiced by electing representatives of the people by the majority of the people. But in reality people do not have much of a choice of who to vote for because there are only a certain number of candidates one could vote for. In other words, we are only given certain choices and whether we like them or not, we must vote for one of them. An example similar to this is given by Loo (2011) in which he states:

    If someone offers you vanilla ice cream and you eat it with relish, this does not mean that you decided that you would rather have vanilla than, say, chocolate. It merely means that you respond favorably to vanilla and are willing to eat it… the fact that you eat the vanilla does not prove anything other than that you would rather have vanilla ice cream than nothing at all (p. 220-221).

    Karl Popper sees that the meaning of democracy is representative and not directly participatory [democracy “is the right of the people to judge and to dismiss their government, the only known device by which we can try to protect ourselves against the misuse of political power; it is the control of the rulers by the ruled.”]. As Loo (2011) points out, however, this means that people will never have any real power over politics because the very most that the people can do is to determine which of the few candidates will exercise political rule over them (Loo, 2011, p. 240-241). “As long as the people remain in a politically passive position vis-à-vis the rulers, democracy will remain an unrealized rhetorical devise, fit for masking the true sources of political power in the hands of the few” (p. 241). Even once the people elect someone, nothing guarantees us that the winning candidate will follow through on the promises he or she made during his or her campaign (p. 241). At least with the vanilla ice cream example, we know how it will taste, therefore, we know what to expect, but on the other hand, with the elected candidate in reality we do not know what to expect. The people’s lack of control over the rulers or elected leads me to say that if democracy is assumed to be good because it allows people to have a say over their lives and society then is democracy in reality an end in itself? Or is it a means to an end?

    Democracy as an end in itself means that the outcome of the democratic processes matter less than the fact that you have done things democratically (Loo, 2011). For example, what matters more is that you vote and not really who you vote for, so it really does not matter how informed you are; what matters is that you participate. The philosophy that forms the foundation of this perspective is agnosticism which means the truth is not knowable. Therefore, if truth is not knowable, then you might as well let the majority vote. (Loo, 2011, p. 252). Loo (2011) further explains:

    If the truth is not knowable, and facts can all be disputed such that no decision can be made about their veracity, then it does not matter what one’s opinion is because we cannot determine what is real anyway. Hence, all opinions are equal because there is no independent criterion of truth (p. 252).

    Immanuel Kant supported this view; he believed that some of the world will always be unknowable, specifically, that we can never know a “thing in itself” or real truth. On the other hand, Engels [in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific] critiqued Kant’s view and stated that if it is possible to have objective knowledge or truth then it is possible to have a scientific socialism instead of a utopian socialism which is based on good intentions and good ideas apart from historical development (Engels, 2007). If we can know real truth, then humanity can become conscious participants in shaping society. Nonetheless, expertise and knowledge is necessary and some things should not be subject to just a vote (Loo, 2011, p, 252). The problem of the lack of expertise can be addressed by an informed populace (p. 253). However this is not easy to do. By contrast, Durkheim claims that the state and the media represent the collective conscience [i.e., the people] (McIntosh, 1997). The media and the government have an incredible ability to mislead the people which in turn leads the people to have incorrect beliefs and make incorrect decisions. (Loo, 2011, p. 253).

    Democracy as a means to an end is the view that voting in itself is not sufficient. People must become aware of what is really going on and understand and participate in political rule though mass participation. Loo states that “an informed opinion means more than an uninformed opinion and expertise and experience matter” (p. 255). The philosophy that forms the foundation of this perspective is empiricism which is the view that truth and reality are knowable. If truth is knowable then the majority should not be the only one voting but also the experts in order to make most advanced decisions. However the involvement of mass participation is necessary if the historic inequalities between those in power and those who are ruled are to be eventually overcome (p. 255).

    After considering what democracy as an end in itself is understood as in comparison to democracy as a means to an end, it is clear to me that currently democracy is being treated as an end in itself rather than a means to an end as it should be.

    Marxism and Leninism treated democracy as a means to an end. Marx believed that people are capable of great things and all deserve to be treated with dignity and to be exposed to the greatest things that humanity has to offer. The end in the Marxist view is composed of two factors - the best decisions and social equality. In order to move towards that end, the contradictions of those who lead and those who are led must be settled. This contradiction actually expresses an underlying dialectic which is the tension between freedom and necessity (Loo, 2011, p. 256).

    Democratic theory glosses over the gap between leaders and led. The theory in principle suffers from two problems. The first has to do with the nature of organization itself which democratic theory glosses over. The second has to do with the fact that economic inequality and the means of coercion are part and parcel of power exercised in and through the state (p. 256).

    Robert Michels’ “Iron Law of Oligarchy” underscores the problem that no two people have equal voices in the face of an organization’s demands. Nonetheless, groups cannot operate without group leaders (p. 257). Leaders are leaders because they have more insight, experience, and a deeper understanding and therefore might make the best decisions. However, this introduces a problem to democracy because then only one person decides what is true. Also other problems that could arise are that first of all, sometimes the expert could be wrong. Secondly, the leaders can take advantage of the power given to them and make certain decisions for their benefit and third, people out of the loop never learn to become leaders. Marx stated that you cannot get rid of leadership but there must be a certain kind of leaders in order to accomplish this end, “leaders and the led operate in a dialectical relationship to each other, when handled properly” (p. 257). Loo defines two different kinds of leaders, one that says “Trust me I know what is best” and the other that says “This is the situation, what should we do? I want to train you to learn how to lead others in order to realize your species-being.” The first kind of leader excludes the led and just expects them to follow. The second kind of leader wants the led to learn from history, learn from others and understand what is really going on. Marx believes that the kind of leader that would be ideal is the one that believes in working together to achieve and that has the interest of the group in their heart and who is more inclusive. Marx also believes that leadership will always exist but in order to have a just society people must be involved and we must have the right kind of leader, which would be a charismatic leader (McIntosh, 1997).

    Marx believed that oppression and class differences were the main problem and should be eliminated. In Letters to Weydemyer Marx states:

    Long before me bourgeois historians had described the development of this class struggle and bourgeois economist the economic anatomy of the classes. What I did new was to prove: 1. that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production, 2. that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat 3. that this dictatorship itself only constitutes to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society…” (McIntosh, 1997, p. 107).

    The bureaucratic spirit is anti-democratic in nature and it runs the modern world. Michels and Weber felt pessimism about bureaucracy’s dominance. Michels believed that as long as there is an organization involved then it will turn into an oligarchy which is an outcome of the nature of bureaucracies. Michels and Weber felt that bureaucracies were forever and were interrupted only rarely by charismatic leaders and their movements. Marx and Engels believed that as long as there are classes there will be inequality and therefore oppression and coercion will exist. This is because there is no such thing as a neutral state and a state or government exists at all because there is an unequal division of resources. There are people who believe that revolution is the fullest expression of democracy. However, revolutionaries cannot leave the bureaucracy alone because it will once again be in control. (Lenin, 1966, State and Revolution).

    Weber’s observation that bureaucracies inevitably triumph over community action holds true because bureaucracies systematize and routinize the allocation of responsibilities and tasks which makes them highly organized. Mass movements, while much larger than bureaucracies in general, do not have this level of specialization and rationalization of tasks. There is no getting around the fact that if an oligarchy is to be avoided, the led must step up to monitor and increasingly participate in self-governance (Loo, 2011, p. 258).        

    Bureaucracies are necessary but they are an obstacle to authentic popular rule. Weber states that they are hierarchical, top down, suppressing, secretive, and antidemocratic. An alternative to cope with the problems that bureaucracies create is to rely on people who have political consciousness, the ones who want mass participation. Also to win over as many people who have expertise and who are interested in helping the people. Then people must be taught to become experts and use forms in their structures that will be made by mass bodies and mass debates. In order to learn, people must engage and participate in popular rule and mass debates which will lead to the slow breakdown of bureaucracies.


    References

    Engels, Frederick. 2007. Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, Pathfinder.

    Lenin, Vladimir. 1966. Essential Works of Lenin, Bantam Press.

    Loo, Dennis. 2011. Globalization and the Demolition of Society. Larkmead Press

    McIntosh, Ian. 1997. Classical Sociological Theory: A Reader, NY University Press.

     

               

                      

     

  • Banks and the Crisis of Capital: What Greg Smith Noticed

    Banks and the Crisis of Capital: What Greg Smith Noticed

    By Dennis Loo (3/16/12)

    What follows were remarks that I prepared for Bank Transfer Day several months ago. The Occupy LA person who was going to read it for me got sick that day so it was never delivered. I'm posting them now because Greg Smith's resignation on March 13 from Goldman Sachs is in the news and these questions are being raised anew.

    I want to give you some background on the reasons why these banks are so central to what’s going on and the crisis that the people find themselves in. I have to first go back in time some.

    In the mid-1800s capitalism was in its free enterprise stage. But within fifty years, free enterprise had evolved into the monopoly stage. The monopoly stage is where banks and a relative handful of large industrial enterprises dominate and control most economic activity. This is what we see here today: a handful of banks control the financial activity of the nation and, together with several other nations’ banks, control the world’s economic fate.

    How did this come to be? Some people say that the solution to this problem of monopoly is to get government out of regulating banks and other businesses and that everything will be fine if we let competition and free enterprise do their thing. This is known as Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” of the market: Let the market do what markets do and everybody’s needs will be met and the most efficient businesses will thrive.

    This rosy picture overlooks two things: first, the historical record and second, the underlying reason why the historical record is what it is: the fact that the very nature of capitalist competition inevitably leads to monopoly. In order to maximize profit, as a business you try to squelch your competition. That is what every business tries to do and if you want to be a major economic player, that is what you must do. You must expand or die as a capitalist.

    It’s like the board game Monopoly. The object of Monopoly the game is to bankrupt the other people in the game. If you don’t bankrupt them then they will bankrupt you. The same is true for these banks and big businesses in real life: they make more money if they can dominate the market. You dominate the market by buying up your competitors and getting bigger and/or by driving the others out of business. The drive for profits, in other words, this relentless competition under capitalism, leads inevitably to the victorious businesses becoming oligopolies and monopolies so that they can dominate their competition and thus make more money.

    The drive for profit in free enterprise thus leads necessarily to undercutting competition and eliminating free enterprise. Thus, the very things that make capitalism what it is will always and cannot otherwise result in anything but oligopoly and monopoly. Politicians will not prevent this from happening overall because public officials exist to serve, not dominate, the business community. How could it be otherwise? How could you have a hugely lopsided economic system in which a few banks and large corporations dominate economic activity and yet a political system that isn’t affected by this huge disparity in the economy? How can you have an equitable political system when you have a hugely inequitable economic system? How can “one person, one vote” determine things when you have gigantic banks and companies that will of course lobby relentlessly and offer huge money for politicians’ campaigns and other inducements to public officials with these banks becoming so large that they can do what they want or else the whole economic system collapses? These banks are the elephants in the room and they get to do whatever they want to do.

    Monopoly’s other name is imperialism. Imperialism is a stage of capitalism in which the pursuit of profit has been extended beyond national boundaries and into the attempt to control resources and labor on a world scale. Because other nation’s banks and big corporations are also doing the same thing, and because there is only so much pie to divide up, this brings banks and large corporations and their governments into violent conflict with each other over the labor and resources of the globe. This is exactly the dynamic that leads the criminal underworld into violent conflicts with rival families because they’re fighting over the same turf. Every so often they have these big get togethers where they try to work things out between them without resorting to slitting each other’s throats. You’ve seen this depicted in movies like The Godfather. But sooner or later they have to resort to killing each other again because they’re in ruthless competition with each other.

    The same thing goes on except on the grander stage of the whole globe between different nation’s governments when they get together to divide up the world’s markets and resources. They call these gatherings the G8 or the G20 or the WTO. But sooner or later these get togethers and their agreements break down and nations do what the mafia does, go to war and try to settle these conflicts through force of arms. War, as the famous military strategist Von Clausewitz has said, is the continuation of politics by other, violent, means. That is what this country’s numerous wars – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and Yemen, with Syria and Iran in their sights – are all about. They’re about control over resources and strategic positioning. They are about Empire and profits. And they will use our people, our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our sons and our daughters, as cannon fodder for their bloody profits.

    When a company becomes a monopoly or one of the oligopolies, this doesn’t get rid of competition. It actually intensifies competition, but it does so under conditions of monopoly where major banks and huge corporations fight fiercely for dominance and do so on a world scale.

    The First World War was fought in the early 1900s because free enterprise capitalism had entered its monopoly stage. Nations and their banks and big corporations were fighting over who would have the biggest colonies from which to extract superprofits. Millions died in WW I, ordered into battle by the governments in order to violently decide which countries’ banks and large corporations would control the colonies and world economy.

    As a result of the incredible strains and destruction that WW I caused and because in times of war and economic crisis the real priorities of governments become much, much clearer to millions – that these governments will willingly sacrifice the lives of millions of people at the alter of profit and the defense or pursuit of empire – revolutions tend to occur during times of crisis. People wake from their political slumber and see the horrors and suffering caused by their leaders and their economic system, and if there are enough revolutionaries around with enough influence among the people, they can and have led people in revolutions against these governments and their monopolies. This is what happened in 1917 when Lenin led the Russian people in the first socialist revolution.

    Over the last several presidents’ administrations, under both Republicans and Democrats, stretching from Reagan to Obama, the regulations that were put into place during the 1930s and 1940s to regulate and monitor banks and other businesses in order to prevent a re-occurrence of the Great Depression were systematically eliminated. Regulations to prevent companies from dominating markets were lifted and banks and companies have been allowed to become bigger and bigger. In 2008 banks were holding risky financial derivatives of $183 trillion (thirteen times the size of the U.S. economy) at the time of the Lehman Brothers’ collapse and just before the TARP bailout. They are now carrying, as of late 2011, $248 trillion. Thus, the banks have not “learned their lesson” since the nature of their operations is not one in which prudence and foresight are rewarded or relevant to the logic of capitalist accumulation, particularly at this stage of development.

    The New York Times reported on January 20, 2010 quoting the Inspector General over TARP, Neil Baroksy, as saying about the U.S. economy “we are still driving on the same winding mountain road, but this time in a faster car.”

    The solution to this does not lie in elections and does not lie in trying to persuade the very people who are responsible for these crises to stop doing what they have been doing. The only way out of this is for the people to act in our thousands and eventually our millions, to put an end to this insane system and build a system not premised on profit but on meeting social needs.

  • This is What Liberation Looks Like: U.S. Massacre in Afghanistan

    By Dennis Loo (3/11/12)

    Reporting on its website tonight, The New York Times stated: “Stalking from home to home, a United States Army sergeant methodically killed at least 16 civilians, 9 of them children, in a rural stretch of southern Afghanistan [in Kandahar Province] early on Sunday [March 11, 2012].”

    After murdering these innocents one by one, this U.S. soldier - many Afghan witnesses, including one whose father was killed, saw several U.S. soldiers involved in the attack - then covered his/their victims with a blanket and set them afire.

    “This incident is tragic and shocking, and does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan,” Mr. Obama said in a statement.

    Yet another example of the “exceptional character of our military” and its extraordinary “respect” for the Afghan people – one of a whole string of incidents that show the U.S. high regard for the people whose country it has been occupying for more than ten years in the longest war in U.S. history (not counting its wars on Native Americans).

    The Marines who filmed their urinating on the corpses of dead Afghan fighters is another instance of the “exceptional character of our military” and its extraordinary “respect” for the Afghan people.

    The Korans deliberately burned by the U.S. in Afghanistan is still another illustration of the “exceptional character of our military” and its extraordinary “respect” for the Afghan people.

    The 2005 Haditha Massacre where at least two dozen unarmed Iraqi civilians were murdered by U.S. troops under the command of Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich who admitted that he had told his soldiers to “shoot first and ask questions later” is but more evidence of the “exceptional character of our military” and its extraordinary “respect” for the Iraqi and Afghan people.

    In return for his “exceptional character” Wuterich was convicted of “dereliction of duty.”

    The U.S. policy of bombing large gatherings in Afghanistan, including wedding parties, is still another example of the “exceptional character of our military” and its extraordinary “respect” for the Afghan people.

    This is what liberation looks like, U.S. style.

    To those who want to assert, as Mr. Obama and Mr. Panetta keep having to repeat, that these actions do not represent the attitudes and policies of their fine military machine, let’s note for the record and for accuracy’s sake that these wars were illegal, immoral, and unjust in the first place. These atrocities are merely the most publicized incidents of a policy; these are not aberrations. These are the results of the mentality and deliberate policies of this government, first under Bush and now under Obama.

    As Cofer Black, Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, replied to the Russian official who was warning him that the U.S. plans to invade and occupy Afghanistan were going to lead to the same disastrous results as what happened to the Russians:

    “We’re going to kill them,” he said. “We’re going to put their heads on sticks. We’re going to rock their world.”[i]

    This is not some random, solitary bad apple speaking. This is the Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. This is a U. S. leader. This is their view of the Afghan people. This is an example of their mindset.

    Aggressive war. Unjust and immoral occupation in which U.S. soldiers are routinely instructed by their superiors to “shoot first and ask questions later.” Free fire zones. Torture of innocents. Indefinite detention. Drone attacks. Breaking down Afghan civilians’ homes' doors in the dead of the night and then one by one, gunning down the families inside - men, women, and children - then covering their bodies with blankets and setting them afire.

    These are not the actions of lone, mad, pathological individuals; this is U.S. policy. This is how empires behave and think.

    Here is U.S. style liberation. Here is yet another fine example of the exceptional character of the U.S. military and U.S. government.



    [i] Bob Woodward, Bush at War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002), 103.

  • The Separation of Religion from the State and the Overthrow of the Anti-Woman Islamic Regime in Iran is the First Step toward Women’s Emancipation!

    International Women's Day 2012

    This statement was read by Elaine Brower at the NYC roving protest on March 10, 2012 at Times Square in front of the U.S. military recruiting station:

    March 8 is on its way. Heartbeats intensify, and our sights are set on the struggle of our sisters all around the world, to join together, hand in hand, for a world free of gender oppression.

    For yet another year, we followed, day by day and moment by moment, the struggle of women all around the world. We became furious with the attacks on women in Tahrir Square, those brave women who refused to be kept out of the struggle in Egypt. With women protesting in Wall Street, we women challenged the defenders of "Democracy and the World Capitalist Order". In Libya we women cried out that we don’t need Sharia laws. We women in Greece poured into the streets and shook the "United and Free" European order, and we women in the US are fighting for abortion rights and against pornography and patriarchy.

    The beautiful voice of "Amol Al-Maslosi" from the occupied streets of Tunisia, conveyed the message of “I am the voice of rebels. I am free, and my world is too...” and this is the cry of women in the Arab countries. In these times women, in huge numbers, powerful and fearless, have poured onto the streets and captured the headlines of world media and overturned the image of Muslim women. We are determined to turn our struggles into a worldwide hurricane for putting an end to the inferior position of women.

    We, the women in Iran, experienced a reversal with the coming to power of the anti-women regime of the Islamic Republic, thirty-three years ago. We genuinely fear that history may repeat itself in the Arab countries.

    We witnessed how in Iran, from the uprising of 1979 through the protests in 2009, revolutionary and progressive forces dropped women’s demands under the pretext that those demands were not the main points of the revolution. With that position they disarmed themselves in the face of reactionary Islamic forces, and because of that, the whole revolutionary movement rapidly accelerated down the hill to defeat.

    Today, we know extremely well that presenting basic demands, a programme and an outlook for the liberation and equality of women is a dividing line question for progressive, militant forces seeking to move society forward.

    We, the women of Iran, have felt in our flesh and blood that the ideological foundation, symbol and parameters of an Islamic regime are based keeping women in an inferior position, in fact, slavery, by totally denying their rights. Reactionary religious forces, hand in hand with their international partners, stole the fruit of the people's just struggle.

    We have been imprisoned by the forced wearing of the hejab for over thirty years. We also know that the hejab, whether compulsory or by choice, is a symbol of the slavery of women and brings them under the domination of the other half of society.

    With the coming to power of anti-women reactionary Islamists, we saw how religion meant utter obedience before God’s representatives on earth, meaning daily punishment for our disobedience and rebelliousness.

    The implementation of Islamic laws over the past thirty years has suffocated women in Iran. We know full well the effects of Islam in power and the implementation of Sharia laws in theocratic Islamic governments such as Iran. Whether it be the backward and reactionary Taliban or the Karzai government in Afghanistan, the harsh feudal regime of Saudi Arabia, the "soft and secular" Islamism in Turkey, or the government in Iraq ... they have all brought nothing but degradation, absolute oppression and slavery for women.

    We organised the biggest demonstration against the compulsory hejab on March 8, 1979. Since then, in our struggle for our basic rights against the Islamic Republic regime, we have been tempered and accumulated enough experience to know that the first step in the emancipation of women is the complete separation of state and religion, which can only be obtained as a result of the overthrow of the anti-women Islamic Republic order in its totality.

    On March 8, 2012, we will be in the streets to shout that the struggle of our sisters in the Arab and other Islamic countries, united with all the progressive forces there, is the first step of our struggle for the complete separation of religion and state. This is the message of women in Iran, under the rule of an Islamic regime, to our sisters all over the Middle East and North Africa.

    Look at the slave-like conditions of millions of women in Iran. Do not allow this experience to be repeated. Focus your conscious struggle on keeping the reactionary Islamic forces from coming to power.
    We women have to be at the forefront of struggle against the rotten religious and traditional customs upheld by backward Islamists. It is our daring struggles that can bring the most progressive forces to the battlefields to resist numerous reactionary forces. It is our continuous and uncompromising struggles that can assure that the people's struggle for emancipation can flourish.

    Only our perseverance can beat back both reactionary Islamic forces and their imperialist backers – who, under the pretext of "humanitarian intervention" or "defending women’s rights", have ruined the lives of millions of women in Iraq and Afghanistan. Through their puppet regime in Libya, they forced Sharia laws and polygamy on women, and now they dare talk about defending women’s interests in Iran. We know well, that the male chauvinist imperialists are seeking their own interests, and they will never free a single woman on this planet. We women in Iran will not allow them to force another historical reversal on us in our name. The Islamists and the imperialists are all patriarchal and reactionary, and must be thrown into the dustbin of history.

    We must not confine ourselves to what might seem possible. We must identify the obstacles and demand the impossible, keep our sights high and climb rocky and huge mountains. We must fly over the old order of religion, capitalism, and patriarchal society to gain momentum and capture new and higher mountaintops of emancipation, where the freedom and equality of women is carved out and shines as a centrepiece.

    Let us join together to celebrate International Women’s Day on a massive scale, with pride and joy, with our struggles focussed against patriarchal order that rules the world.

    8 March Women's Organization (Iran-Afghanistan)
    01/03/2012 [March 1, 2012]
    www.8mars.com
    zan_dem_iran@hotmail.com

  • Rush Limbaugh on Sandra Fluke

    "So, Ms. Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here's the deal: If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. And I'll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch...." - Rush Limbaugh on Sandra Fluke after she testified on behalf of making contraceptives available to women. Rush also called Sandra a "slut" and a "prostitute."

    "Defeating the empire is not something that occurs only on the literal battlefield. It is also something that is determined throughout the continuum of battles over many issues, including: ideas; philosophy; forms of organization and leadership in economy, politics, and other realms; ways of arguing; ways of responding to and respecting empirical data; interest in truth as opposed to expedience; how people and the environment should be treated; the nature of relations among people (e.g., between women and men, different races and ethnicities, rich and poor countries, etc.); ways of responding to criticism and ideas that are not your own; ways of handling one’s own errors and those of others; and more, all the way up through how warfare is carried out. The contrast between the methods and goals of the neoliberals and those of us who seek an entirely different world is stark." (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, Pp. 326-7)

  • Burning Qurans and Burning Empires: Afghanistan in Turmoil

    By Dennis Loo (3/1/12)

    Update: In today's New York Times (3/3/12) the paper writes about this incident, citing the conclusions of a joint commission of three Afghan security officers and an American official:

    "the military personnel involved in making the decision to get rid of the Korans and those who carried out the order did not set out to defile the Muslim holy book.

    “'There was no maliciousness, there was no deliberateness, there was not an intentional disrespect of Islam,' he said."

    I wonder if the writer of this story, Alissa Rubin, and/or her editors, are aware that this distinction that the joint commission is trying to make is a distinction without a difference. If you have already made the decision to "get rid of the Korans" by burning them in a big pile of books (over 1200 confiscated holy books and other books, taken from the prisoners being held by the U.S.), then where does the lack of "deliberateness" even enter the picture? How is the fact that the actors in this drama might not have "intentionally" meant to disrespect Islam change the fact that they decided to "get rid of the books" in the first place and thereby showed their disrespect by their actions?

    Let us consider this from the perspective of fundamentalist Christians: suppose it is they who are being held captive by Muslims who are an occupying army in a heavily Christian nation. The Muslim authorities find that some of their American Christian prisoners have made marginal notes in English in their Bibles, which their Muslim captors can't read, and the prison authorities suspect that these Christians may be actually passing notes to each other and "organizing." The Muslim captors confiscate the Bibles and other holy books and decide to burn them.

    What would the response be of the other fundamentalist Christians in the occupied Christian nation? If one of those under occupation was a certain Rick Santorum, who nearly vomited when reading JFK's speech asserting the centrality of the separation between church and state, what would be his response, since he thinks that his holy book, the Bible, contains the literal words of God? What would all of the other fundamentalist Christians do who also think that the Bible consists of the literal words of God, just like their fellow Abrahambic Muslim bretheren who think that the Quaran contains the literal words of God? Would they not respond in a similar manner?

    Would Santorum's near vomiting result in his being force fed by his Muslim captors to ensure that this prisoner, this terrorist, was not signaling to his fellow terrorists that he and they should carry out a protest/hunger strike?



    On February 21 Afghan workers discovered that U.S. personnel had tossed at least four Qurans into the trash for incineration. Risking and enduring burns to their hands, the shocked workers rescued the burning Qurans. The public reaction has been swift, fierce and even more inflamed than the Qurans that were consigned to the trash. Nationwide riots have broken out, leaving more than 40 people killed, including two U.S. officials executed by a single shot to the back of their heads within their offices in the supposedly secure Interior Ministry.

    On NPR’s Talk of the Nation last night the turmoil in Afghanistan was the topic. Why, an American solider caller who had served in Afghanistan wondered, do the Afghans eat up so eagerly any evidence of U.S. insensitivity to the Afghan people?

    I mean, after all, it's not everyday that U.S. Marines deliberately urinate on Afghanis that they have just killed.

    If the U.S. were the country being occupied by a foreign power, Americans would not be as eager to pounce on every sign that their occupiers were being arrogant about their occupation over us as are those ungrateful Afghanis.

    No, Americans would be a most polite and understanding domesticated population, gracious hosts to our occupiers, who are here, after all, for our own good: to build our shattered nation-state and teach us how to rule ourselves. We would accept these new overlords as blessed saviors to our benighted selves and accept their random killings - including bombing attacks on wedding parties of Americans - and torture of American children, women, and men as the price we have to pay for being saved from ourselves.

    Don’t you think?

    What follows are excerpts from Globalization and the Demolition of Society that relate to this issue and beyond (Pp. 206-211). In it I discuss the foreign invasions and occupations by the US government and military and its logical domestic corollary in the erasure of the rule of law and due process, treating everyone as a "suspect," and ubiquitous surveillance. If you're going to carry out the supreme war crime abroad - attacking countries that have not first attacked you - then you must shore up your domestic base to suppress dissent and free assembly and speech or else you will not be able to carry out those foreign policies. Unjust and illegal foreign policies are and must be matched by unjust and illegal domestic policies:

    “With regret,” the Russian official said [prior to the US invasion of Afghanistan], “I have to say that you’re really going to get the hell kicked out of you.”

    Cofer Black, Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, responded: “We’re going to kill them,” he said. “We’re going to put their heads on sticks. We’re going to rock their world.”[i] This kind of grotesque arrogance can explain much about why we are losing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it does not explain why the neocons wanted to invade Afghanistan and Iraq prior to 9/11 in the first place. It does not explain their outsourcing the pursuit of bin Laden and their willful exchanging of bin Laden as “Public Enemy Number One” with Saddam Hussein. Cultural myopia and arrogance can account for tactical blunders but they do not explain the overall strategy.

    Bush and Cheney knew when they launched their campaign to parlay the anger and fear of Americans as a result of 9/11 into an invasion of Iraq that Saddam Hussein and Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.[ii] Bush and Cheney elected to go after Iraq under the signboard of the “War on Terror” knowing that al-Qaeda was elsewhere. Incompetence and cultural arrogance do not comprise the central reason for the bungling of this “War on Terror.” As [MIchael] Scheuer points out, Bush and Cheney (and for that matter Obama) need their putative enemy al-Qaeda just as much as al-Qaeda needs its foil in the US government.

    The anti-terrorism measures employed by the White House are not just dramatically counter-productive; their anti-terror measures appear to be designed primarily to repress and control the US population and the people of other countries. As PBS’s 2007 Frontline show, “Spying on the Home Front” chronicled,

    On New Year’s Eve weekend [2003] the FBI demanded records from all hotels, airlines, rental car agencies, casinos and other businesses on every person who visited Las Vegas in the run-up to the holiday. Stephen Sprouse and Kristin Douglas of Kansas City, Mo., object to being caught in the FBI dragnet in Las Vegas just because they happened to get married there at the wrong moment. Says Douglas, “I'm sure that the government does a lot of things that I don't know about, and I've always been OK with that -- until I found out that I was included.”A check of all 250,000 Las Vegas visitors against terrorist watch lists turned up no known terrorist suspects or associates of suspects.[iii]

    Here is the problem with this event: If you were a terrorist planning a dramatic terrorist attack upon Las Vegas, would you register in a hotel or rent a car in your real name in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve? Would you not place some people in the Las Vegas area months or even years ahead of time and have them working and/or living in the town under pseudonyms? Does the FBI not realize this? Of course they do. That is why the unconstitutional demand for all of the names of all of the visitors to Las Vegas that weekend was in all probability a testto see if the FBI could obtain the compliance of Vegas businesses to their demands, and to set a precedent for future incursions into business and private records. As another segment in the Frontline show relates, Peter Swire, a law professor and former White House privacy adviser to President Clinton, tells FRONTLINE that since 9/11 the government has been moving away from the traditional legal standard of investigations based on individual suspicion to generalized suspicion. The new standard, Swire says, is: ‘Check everybody. Everybody is a suspect.’”[iv]

    Bush openly mused while president that a dictatorship would be fine, as long as he was the dictator.[v] On May 9, 2007, with little fanfare and no protests from the Democratic Party, Bush issued two new presidential directives, the National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD 51[vi] and Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD–20. These directives allow the president to decide on his own say-so when and if a national emergency has occurred, and they also give him the power to carry on governance absent a role for Congress or any other branch of government whatsoever. The Bush White House’s shocking actions and policies were not, however, an aberration. They were actually a continuation and acceleration at a higher level of policies begun in earnest under Reagan and carried forward with somewhat different attributes by Clinton.

    Since taking office, Obama has retained the apparatus created by his predecessors and gone even further, insisting, for example, on a new principle his Department of Justice (DOJ) calls “sovereign immunity” with respect to the government’s ubiquitous surveillance: the executive government is not subject to supervision unless it can be shown that private information about someone was deliberately released in order to harm that person. As Glenn Greenwald described it:

    [T]he Obama DOJ demanded dismissal of the entire lawsuit [brought by the Electronic Freedom Foundation in October 2008 against the government for its warrantless spying on Americans] based on (1) its Bush-mimicking claim that the "state secrets" privilege bars any lawsuits against the Bush administration for illegal spying, and (2) a brand new "sovereign immunity" claim of breathtaking scope -- never before advanced even by the Bush administration -- that the Patriot Act bars any lawsuits of any kind for illegal government surveillance unless there is "willful disclosure" of the illegally intercepted communications.  

    In other words, beyond even the outrageously broad "state secrets" privilege invented by the Bush administration and now embraced fully by the Obama administration, the Obama DOJ has now invented a brand new claim of government immunity, one which literally asserts that the U.S. Government is free to intercept all of your communications (calls, emails and the like) and -- even if what they're doing is blatantly illegal and they know it's illegal -- you are barred from suing them unless they "willfully disclose" to the public what they have learned.[vii] [Emphases in original.]

    In 2010, Obama publicly targeted an American citizen, Anwar Al-Aulaqi, for assassination. The ACLU, on behalf of Al-Aulaqi’s father, filed suit attempting to prevent his son’s assassination and to reverse the precedent that allowed a US president to act as judge, jury, and executioner of someone who has merely been accused. The Obama DOJ replied that Al-Aulaqi’s father’s fear for his son’s life was not credible: the allegations that Al-Aulaqi had been targeted for killing are “entirely speculative and hypothetical [and] plaintiff cannot demonstrate that he faces the sort of real and immediate threat of future injury,”[viii] that the evidence against Al-Aulaqi could not be examined because the president declared it to be “national security secrets,” and that the executive branch’s decision to target Al-Aulaqi was a “battlefield” decision and should not be subject to supervision by the judicial branch:

    “It would be intolerable that courts, without the relevant information, should review and perhaps nullify actions of the Executive taken on information properly held secret.” Chicago & Southern Air Lines, 333 U.S. at 111. “Judges deficient in military knowledge, lacking vital information upon which to assess the nature of battlefield decisions, and sitting thousands of miles from the field of action” cannot reasonably review the lawfulness of a an alleged military or intelligence operation. Dacosta, 471 F.2d at 1155; see also Schneider v. Kissinger, 412 F.3d 190, 196 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (“Unlike the executive, the judiciary has no covert agents, no intelligence sources, and no policy advisors. The courts are therefore ill-suited to displace the political branches in such decision-making.”). That resolution of plaintiff’s claims would put at issue the Executive’s confidential military, intelligence, and diplomatic information, including information concerning the threat posed by a foreign organization against which the political branches have authorized the use of all necessary and appropriate force, whether that threat is imminent or concrete, whether there are reasonable alternatives to lethal force, and how such actions may affect relations with a foreign state, is further evidence that plaintiff raises non-reviewable political questions. . . .

    It should therefore be apparent that to litigate any aspect of this case, starting with the threshold question of whether plaintiff has in fact suffered any cognizable injury that could be remedied by the requested relief, would require the disclosure of highly sensitive national security information concerning alleged military and intelligence actions overseas. For this reason, the Secretary of Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the CIA have all invoked both the military and state secrets privilege, and related statutory protections, to prevent disclosures of information that reasonably could be expected to harm national security. Absent the privileged information, the case cannot proceed.[ix]

    These are the words of the administration that came into office claiming that Bush and Cheney were violating the Constitution and promising to change that.[x] Let us assume for the sake of argument that Al-Aulaqi really is a bad guy. Allowing a president to order someone’s assassination, even a really bad individual, without any trial and without any supervision, means that any president, those that you like and those that you do not, those that you trust and those that you do not, those who have no problem with you and those who regard you as a dire political opponent, can simply order you eliminated. That is why the legal system’s philosophical linchpin is that no one is above the law.



    [i] Bob Woodward, Bush at War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002), 103.

    [ii] In September 2000 the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a neoconservative think tank, published a ninety page report entitled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces, and Resources For a New Century” (RAD). PNAC’s members included, among others, William Kristol, Richard Cheney, Elliott Abrams, Gary Bauer, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Steve Forbes, Jeb Bush, and William J. Bennett. RAD quoted extensively from PNAC’s June 1997 “Statement of Principles” and called for expanding upon US military preeminence. On page 26 RAD states: “While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.” In other words, Hussein is the pretext but the real agenda is US dominance in the Gulf. On page 63 RAD states, “the process of transformation [of ratcheting up US military might], even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.” That catalyzing event came a year later. As Bush wrote in his diary on September 11, 2001, “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today.” (Dan Batlz and Bob Woodward, “America’s Chaotic Road to War – Bush’s Global Strategy Began to Take Shape in First Frantic Hours After Attack,” Washington Post, January 27, 2002, A1.) RAD can be found online at NewAmericanCentury.org, www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf, accessed on February 14, 2011.

    [iii] “Spying on the Home Front,” PBS: Frontline, PBS.org, May 15, 2007, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/homefront/view/, accessed October 11, 2011.

    [iv] Ibid.

    [v] Bush said this out loud at least three times. See “If Only I Were a Dictator, by George W. Bush,” Buzzflash.com, October 29, 2002, http://www.buzzflash.com/analysis/2002/10/29_Dictator.html, accessed May 23, 2008.

    [vi] George W. Bush, “National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive,” WhiteHouseArchives.gov, May 2007, http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2007/05/20070509-12.html, accessed February 15, 2011. Bill Weinberg, “NSPD-51: Bush Prepares Martial Law,” World War 4 Report (blog), May 24, 2007, http://www.ww4report.com/node/3940, accessed August 27, 2009.

    [vii] Glenn Greenwald, “New and Worse Secrecy and Immunity Claims from the Obama DOJ,” Salon.com, April 6, 2009, http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2009/04/06/obama, accessed February 14, 2011.

    [viii] “[T]he relief he [Plaintiff] seeks is based on unfounded speculation that the Executive Branch is acting or planning to act in a manner inconsistent with the terms of the requested injunction. Because such allegations are entirely speculative and hypothetical, plaintiff cannot demonstrate that he faces the sort of real and immediate threat of future injury that is required in order to seek the relief he is requesting. Moreover, the declaratory and injunctive relief plaintiff seeks is extremely abstract and therefore advisory—in effect, simply a command that the United States comply with generalized standards, without regard to any particular set of real or hypothetical facts, and without any realistic means of enforcement as applied to the real-time, heavily fact-dependent decisions made by military and other officials on the basis of complex and sensitive intelligence, tactical analysis and diplomatic considerations.” From “Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Memorandum in Support of Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss,” pp. 2-3, at Scribd.com, September 25, 2010, http://www.scribd.com/doc/38129561/Aulaqi-v-Obama-DOJ-Main-Brief, accessed February 16, 2011.

    [ix] “Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Memorandum in Support of Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss,” in the Matter of Nasser Al-Aulaqi, on behalf of Anwar Al-Aulaqi v. Barack Obama et al, Civ. A. No. 10-cv-1469 (JDB), filed September 25, 2010, in the US District Court for the District of Alabama, available at Scribd.com, http://www.scribd.com/doc/38129561/Aulaqi-v-Obama-DOJ-Main-Brief, accessed February 16, 2011.

    [x] Obama’s pledge to assassinate Al-Aulaqi has been reported by numerous mainstream media outlets such as the New York Times and ABC News and confirmed by Obama’s Director of National Intelligence Adm. Dennis Blair in Congressional testimony. Glenn Greenwald summarizes this in his column, “Confirmed: Obama Authorizes Assassination of U.S. Citizen,” Salon.com, April 7, 2010, http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/04/07/assassinations, accessed April 7, 2010.

  • Jeremy Lin, Racist Headlines, and Drone Attacks

    By Dennis Loo (2/24/12)

    A prelude and background:

    One summer, when I was young, a group of us - family and friends - rented a house in Kihei, Maui. This was long before Kihei became a major tourist destination. Back then it was mostly Kiawe trees and a few old houses here and there dotting the landscape. The house we were in was across the street from the beach so it didn’t get the shore breezes and became fairly warm, especially in the daytime.

    One evening when we were sitting around the house I got into a discussion with someone who was a friend of my cousins about Punahou School. She was a Punahou graduate and I was a student still, probably in fifth or sixth grade.

    Haole Protestant missionaries (haole is the Hawaiian word for Caucasians) founded Punahou School in 1841 in Honolulu as a college prep school. Most of the school’s buildings are named after rich haoles in island history such as Dole, Dillingham, Bishop, Alexander, and so on. (Barack Obama, or as he was known then, Barry, graduated from Punahou.) If you grew up in Hawaii you know that going to Punahou is a mixed blessing: you went to the best school in the islands but there were also people who resented your privileges, so not telling people where I went to school was a tactic that I more than once employed. I got tired after a while when I said that I went there hearing people say in response: “Oh, you went to PUNahou?” (To be fair, not everyone responds this way and I don’t know if it’s changed in recent times.)

    (I remember thinking when we were at high school football games that the cheerleaders of the other schools wore a lot of funny ribbons on their outfits and that they dressed oddly compared to our cheerleaders. And then years later I ended up marrying one of those other school’s cheerleaders who wore those funny clothes. She and I decades later attended the Punahou graduation of one of her nieces and I was stunned by the sense of entitlement emanating from the podium. I cannot recall the exact words of the school’s principal, but it was something stronger than that you’re golden because you just graduated from the best school in the islands and everyone else envies you. When I was a student there I suspect that this kind of self-congratulatory talk I merely took for granted.)

    The discussion in Kihei with this other woman turned into a debate, with my counterpoint (who was haole) asserting firmly that Punahou was not a haole-dominated school and I insisted the opposite. I remember the conversation well, even though it was ages ago, perhaps because it was possibly my very first really intense political debate with anyone and also because this woman was remarkably insistent that she was right. I wasn’t deeply invested in my perspective, other than certain that I was right (!), but what amazed was how determined and important it was to her to tell me that I was wrong.

    My parents liked to talk about how much they liked and admired Punahou President John Fox who they said spearheaded the admission of Asian-Americans to Punahou against the sentiment of others at the time.

    I tell you this story because one of the factors that led me to conclude that things are not as they should be in our society was my experiences personally with racism.

    Across the school from Punahou there was a Mom and Pop store that kids would frequent before and after school. The store was there for decades from before I started in first grade till well after I graduated twelve years later. The store was known on campus as the “Chink Store.” “Are you going to the Chink store?” “Yeah, I’ll see you there!”

    In my naïveté as a youngster I always thought that people were calling it the Ching Store, in part because I guess I couldn’t believe that people would actually be calling it the Chink Store and the fact that owners were in fact named Ching. I think it was my way then of getting along and not making a scene.

    This comes up, of course, in connection with ESPN’s recent racist headline about the loss that the Knicks suffered against the New Orleans Hornets, their first defeat after seven wins in a row since Jeremy Lin started as their point guard. The headline read: “Chink in the Armor” and featured a picture of Lin under the headline.

    ESPN pulled the headline after it had been up for about 35 minutes and subsequently fired the editor who penned the offensive headline and suspended the anchor who read the copy that included the headline for thirty days. This has provoked comments from various right-wingers such as Glenn Beck.

    As described at NBC Sports:

    “Beck said that the anchor, who he pointed out is married to an Asian, had used the line ‘in proper context’ without intending to offend anyone. ‘How is this racist?’ he asked, before replaying a clip of the audio.

    He said that ESPN ‘wears panties,’ and directed the network to ‘man up.’”

    What’s striking about following the comments thread about this ESPN headline is how many yahoos there are out there who think nothing of posting the some of the most heinous kind of racist rants imaginable. The sampled comments here are reproduced exactly as they appeared, typos and all.

    Keith in San Diego: “If anything remotely as offensive as this were said about blacks Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton would be leading a riot before they burned down the ESPN building. Blacks are the most sexist, racist, homophobic group in this country. Its time they were held accountable for their bigotry.”

    Casco: “ESPN is afraid of its own shadow. Panic. Much about nothing. Since Lin is not black, no reason for alsharpton and jesse to show up and shakedown more money. Just like Golfchannel suspending Kelly Tighlman for an innocent comment. Absurd. What a wussypussy culture.”

    Casco: “Such crap. A harmless pun, not very funny and creators not too bright. But to make a big deal of it highlights our wussypussy culture.”

    Wes: “Maybe the Asians in this country can riot because of this....oh, wait, only blacks do that, Asians work hard and had no problem assimilating into American society and working to enjoy America's benefits with pride, so no need to riot, they are not looking for a free ride. And blocks think they suffered, Geezz!”

    Paul in LA: “Give me a #$%$ break,it's no wonder this world is soo dull and boring and non creative ,whatever you say is going to offend someone ,people,especially when you have 7 bilion and counting,whatever you say you'll offend some ethnic race,this political correctness has really out of hand and having to walk on tiptoes and watch every little word you say because you might lose your job,if One word slips out is really taken it way too far and has got WAY out of hand.i'm beginning to hope the 2012 thing is correct,at this point,too many people,and not enough too sustain this many forever ,I think that's why the planet sheds everytime it gets overloaded in the past,and needs a good shedding about right now,”

    Conservative Republican in Dayton, OH: “Humor always offends someone, no doesn't it. There are jokes like, Willard Romney has about as much chance as a one legged man in a b&tt kicking competetion - offensive to one legged people. And what about, Willard Romney is about as bright as a retard. Doesn't offend retards, because they can't comprehend what you are saying, but does tend to offend people that know retards. FAct is, no one needs to appologies to the Chinese. They are offensive by their very presence on this earth.”

    Neither “Conservative Republican” nor Glenn Beck have deemed it necessary, however, to comment on the two recent racist deaths of Asian-American soldiers Danny Chen and Harry Lew – hounded to death by their racist officers and fellow U.S. soldiers. Since “Conservative Republican” finds all Chinese to be offensive then I suppose it just makes sense that he wouldn’t find these deaths to be problematic. Interesting how Beck and "Conservative Republican" intertwine masculinity with being angy, intolerant, and unapologetically racist, even while claiming that they're not and that they are the ones who get humor and everyone else is humorless.

    (This incident has sparked some people to propose that the phrase “chink in the armor” should be retired. You don’t, however, eradicate racism by banning certain words or phrases. Racism and sexism are not about words and phrases per se. Whether something is racist or sexist has to do with intent and context.)

    The unleashing of bigotry-as-journalism that people like Rush and O’Reilly have made famous and politics-as-resentment spearheaded by the GOP, creating an atmosphere of intolerance and reactionary nativist sentiments, has directly led to the murders of people such as Dr. George Tiller, the assassination of Arizona judge John Roll and five others and near assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and the recent deaths of two Asian-American soldiers.

    To those who want to say that the murderers in these cases are just crazies, they should pay attention to the fact that human behavior exists on a continuum and that if a political atmosphere is created in which bigotry becomes “legitimate” and people such as Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter claim that the commie, panty, PC, Muslim, anti-American traitors are out to destroy America, then it can only be expected that the most loosely screwed among us will act out those sentiments in murderous acts. Murderous words such as theirs stoke murderous reactionary acts and any plaints to the contrary by those who bray such venom are the height of hypocrisy and deceit. As I wrote in Globalization and the Demolition of Society at p. 185:

    These are the early expressions of a full-blown fascist movement. They are the domestic analogue of the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war and torture. As long as the Bush Doctrine remains in place in foreign policy, its equivalent in domestic policy will and must persist because the government cannot continue those policies abroad without shoring up a xenophobic domestic base. As Paul Craig Roberts puts it, referring to Chris Hedges,

    Indeed, Hedges reports that “radical activists in the environmental, [anti]-globalization, anti-nuclear, sustainable agriculture and anarchist movements are already being placed by the state in special detention facilities with Muslims charged with terrorism.” Hedges warns: “This corruption of our legal system will not be reserved by the state for suspected terrorists or even Muslim Americans. In the coming turmoil and economic collapse, it will be used to silence all who are branded as disruptive or subversive. [Syed Fahad] Hashmi [American accused of terrorism] endures what many others, who are not Muslim, will endure later.”

    This is not confined only to the right-wing. Or, put another way, the right-wing now consists of both the GOP and the Democratic Party leadership.

    When President Obama says and also acts upon his claims of executive powers to be judge, jury, and executioner of those he alone has decided are “terrorists,” extends this power to the military when he signs the NDAA that permits the military, based on a mere accusation, to arrest and indefinitely hold individuals as “terrorists” who will not ever have recourse to challenge their detention, and sends drones upon alleged militants and innocents alike, including targeting with drones those who are coming to the aid of those who’ve been hit by drone attacks and those attending their funerals, then this poisonous atmosphere is being curried by both Republicans and the Democrats.

    As reported by The News International, “’CIA drones deliberately target innocent people,’” by Noor Aftab on February 7, 2012:

    In what can only be described as a gross violation of the Geneva Convention, the CIA-sponsored drone campaign in Pakistan has killed dozens of innocent civilians involved in either rescuing injured victims, or partaking in funerals.

    According to a report published by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism with the Sunday Times, between 282 and 535 civilians, including 60 minors, have been credibly reported as killed as a result of drone strikes since US President Barack Obama took office three years ago.

    “A three months investigation including eye witness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims,” affirmed the report. It went on to state that “More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners.”

    Speaking publicly for the first time on the controversial CIA drone strikes, Obama claimed last week they were used strictly to target terrorists. However the new report counters this claim, with international law specialists fiercely positing that the strikes amount to little more than state-sanctioned extra-judicial executions, and going on to question just how the US government would react if another state such as China or Russia started taking similar “justified” action against those they declared enemies.

    It has been reported that when the US attacks militants in Pakistan, the Taliban seals off the site and retrieves the dead. But an examination of thousands of credible reports relating to CIA drone strikes also showed frequent references to civilian rescuers. Mosques often exhort villagers to come forward and help, for example ñ particularly following fatal attacks that mistakenly kill civilians.

    The upsurge in Washington ís unmanned war has been so dramatic that the US now has 7,000 drones in operation, with 12,000 more on the ground, while not a single new manned combat aircraft is under research or development at any western aerospace company.

    In response to the BIJ’s report cited above, The New York Times breached their own standards for citing anonymous sources and permitted unnamed officials to claim that those who criticize the drone program are terrorists and terrorist sympathizers. As FAIR put it:

    Earlier this month, in a story (2/6/12) about a new Bureau of Investigative Journalism report about CIA drone strikes targeting rescuers and funerals, the Times granted anonymity to a U.S. official who equated the nonprofit news outlet's researchers with Al-Qaeda sympathizers.

    “A senior American counterterrorism official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, questioned the report's findings, saying ‘targeting decisions are the product of intensive intelligence collection and observation.’ The official added: ‘One must wonder why an effort that has so carefully gone after terrorists who plot to kill civilians has been subjected to so much misinformation. Let’s be under no illusions--there are a number of elements who would like nothing more than to malign these efforts and help Al-Qaeda succeed.’

    Both examples clearly violate the paper's stated standards on the granting of anonymity. That privilege is to be used rarely, should be "the subject of energetic negotiation" and should "tell the reader as much as possible about the placement and motivation of the source." The policy also bars granting the cover of anonymity "to people who are engaged in speculation," and states directly: "We do not grant anonymity to people who use it as cover for a personal or partisan attack."

    In these cases, government officials are being granted anonymity to attack individuals critical of those governments’ policies. The privilege the Times extends to these powerful figures means they are shielded from any accountability for their words.

    As I wrote in Globalization and the Demolition of Society:

    Leading individuals are the group’s cutting edge. Depraved individuals, on the other end, express the darker side of the group. There are, of course, different groups within any society, with their own respective representatives. We might compare a group’s leader to an arrowhead that can penetrate an object when propelled through the air attached to an arrow and its fletching. Without the connection to the arrow shaft, the arrowhead itself could not perform properly. You could not even send an arrowhead minus the arrow shaft through the air with any real force; the arrowhead would tumble about and fall quickly to the ground.

    The interaction between the individual and the group is also evident in public leaders addressing a rally or audience, athletes competing on a field of play before a stadium of fans, actors performing on stage, musicians playing before a live audience, and teachers speaking in front of a class. All of them experience the same dynamic of the interplay between performer and audience. This interplay is either strong or tepid. When the connection is strong, the audience feels that the performers in front of them are expressing their deepest sentiments and highest aspirations, entertaining them by striking a responsive chord, or perhaps stirring their darkest fears in a concentrated way. The audience members hear and recognize elements of themselves through the performer/leader.

    The individual’s connection to the group is also evident when you sample people’s opinions about a given subject; you will find without exception that their opinions can be grouped into a fairly small number of categories. If the alpha and omega of individual opinions reside within the individual and are not traceable back to any group, then why do individual opinions constitute identifiable patterns that can be grouped? There is no such thing as an entirely unique idea or an entirely unique behavior, no matter how bizarre or outstanding. (p. 37)

    The unleashing of reactionary sentiments is a direct result of the nature of neoliberal regimes' need to suppress popular action against their moves. What is needed more than anything now is the mobilization of the opposite values and perspective to the ugly manifestations of reactionary values and policies.

    [P]ublic policies, corporate behavior, and any other group behavior are not the product primarily of the values, personalities, or choices of the individuals within them. They are primarily the product of the standards being set by the leading individuals in those groups and organizations and the governing logic and rationale of those organizations and groups. Changing the behavior and nature of public policy, et al requires a structural change, and said structural change must be led by individuals who enlist the support of others to supplant the existing leaders and the existing structures. Change, in other words, requires leadership and groups of people acting in concert with each other and under that leadership. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, Pp. 356-35)

  • Jeremy Lin, "Coming from Nowhere," and Hiding in Plain Sight

    Jeremy Lin, "Coming from Nowhere," and Hiding in Plain Sight

    By Dennis Loo (2/15/12)

    When a player is playing that well, he doesn’t come out of nowhere. It seems like he comes out of nowhere. Go back and take a look, and the skill level was probably there from the beginning, it’s just that we didn’t notice it.         

                – Kobe Bryant on Jeremy Lin after the Knicks beat the Lakers on February 10, 2012

    As everyone who pays any attention to sports knows by now, Jeremy Lin has been burning up the town. In New York point guard Lin has become a huge sensation, breathing major hope into New Yorkers’ dreams of glory for the Knicks, at long last and after many years of frustration. Spike Lee, a fixture at Knicks’ games, was positively giddy recently doing take-offs on Lin’s name in rhymes.

    In his first four NBA games as a starter he scored more points than anyone since they started compiling stats on the NBA in 1976-1977, exceeding Allan Iverson, Michael Jordan and other prodigies of basketball. In his first six games he has exceeded the gaudy numbers put up by Shaquille O’Neal in Shaq’s first six NBA games.

    Since Lin started for the Knicks at point, they have won six games in a row. In the fourth game of that series he outscored (and outplayed) future Hall of Famer and the best active player on the planet Kobe Bryant 38 points to 34.

    If Hollywood wrote a movie script with these facts no one would believe the tale.

    Like Lin, I’m a Harvard grad and Asian-American. Like him, I also love basketball and I used to be pretty good at it, although not anywhere near his ability. At 6’ 3” he’s six inches taller than me and I’m no great leaper. (Michael Jordan has a brother who is also 5’ 9” who I have heard Jordan talk about as being just as determined a ball player as him, but unfortunately, a good foot shorter than his Airness.)

    If I were still young enough to play the game with others a lot younger than myself, I’d say that Lin’s emergence is wonderful because I’d be taken more seriously right off the bat by others in pickup games on the U.S. mainland who used to look at me before and think, “this guy must not be a player, he’s Asian, and he ain’t tall” and so when I gave up the ball to someone in a game, I wouldn’t get it back unless I stole the ball on defense.

    I can’t tell you what it feels like to see a fellow Asian-American starring on the court in MSG, the most famous arena in sports, and hearing the crowd chant “MVP, MVP, MVP.” Watching the NBA is a different experience for me – and I’m a long time avid NBA fan - now that Lin’s in the game, in a way that it wasn’t when Yao Ming was playing. I couldn’t really relate to Yao who is physically so dramatically different from me and also because I was a guard like Lin. It’s hard to describe how different it is. It’s just that I feel more in the game and the rest of the players look different to me than they used to.

    But that’s not mainly what I want to talk about. I want to talk about why it was hard for so many people – in fact, everyone in the NBA in authority who had a look at him on their teams – to recognize what they had in Lin. Even now, after six games in a row, including hitting the winning shot with .5 seconds left on the clock last night against Toronto, swishing a three-pointer from the top of the key, ice in his veins as he dribbled the ball waiting for the clock to tick down to nearly nothing, you have so-called sports experts, as some retired hockey player on ESPN last night said, “I’ll believe it when he’s done this over sixty games, not just six.”

    What?!

    Lin was undrafted, despite being the star on the Harvard squad and leading the team to a near upset of perennial powerhouse UConn, and he spent time on the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors with little playing time before being released and ending up on the Knicks’ bench. He was only brought onto the floor as their starter out of desperation: Mike D’Antoni, the Knicks’ coach, had no one suitable for the point position. On ABC’s morning show today, Lin was incorrectly described as a “late bloomer”: Lin led his Palo Alto high school team to the state championship and actually wanted to go to Stanford to play but scouts showed little interest, despite his being named the player of the year. Harvard was his second choice.

    So why didn’t people who should know better notice it? Why are some people still skeptics?

    I’ve only seen Lin play one whole game, his game against the Lakers on Friday, but this is what I saw: a guy who plays a lot like two-time MVP point guard Steve Nash but who can penetrate the lane more aggressively and consistently. His ability to handle the ball, to stay on top of his feet and in balance, to see the whole court and open teammates, to make the right decision at the right time (pass when he should and shoot when he should, as Coach Jeff Van Gundy has said), and to break down defenses, are all there. He doesn’t have extraordinary speed but neither does Nash, who I think is actually a tad bit slow by NBA standards, but because he and Nash both move with great agility, they are able to get away from others and get to where they want with surprising ease, almost as if they’re operating in a different time zone than their opponents.

    Why wouldn’t the experts see what Lin could do? Why wasn’t this evident on the practice floor to the coaching staffs? D’Antoni, who Lin describes as an “absolute offensive genius,” is as astonished as anyone.

    Some were saying before the Knicks met the Lakers that teams would adjust to Lin and find ways to neutralize him and that his jumper was suspect and that his extraordinary results for three games in a row were therefore going to come back to earth. The data’s in. They’ve attempted to neutralize him with specific game plans and haven’t been able to: Lin is a legitimate star. His game is so fundamentally sound that you can’t say that somehow these last six games have been a fluke. His only weakness so far has been to commit turnovers and his D isn’t the greatest, but if he can keep leading his team to victories, then who’s to argue?

    The fact that Ivy League basketball is considered second class next to Kentucky’s, where the 2010 number one NBA draft pick John Wall played and who Lin outplayed in the summer league, has to be a major part of the answer of why he’s been overlooked and also, and probably more importantly, the fact that Lin is Asian-American. Lin’s high school coach originally dismissed ideas that racial stereotyping was in play with Lin being overlooked, but he later changed his mind when he saw the way an African-American player was courted by recruiters who did not have anywhere close to Lin’s talent.

    “[T]hroughout his career, Lin has had to deal with suggestions that he doesn’t fit the image of a baller. Lin’s high school coach, Peter Diepenbrock, frequently tells the story that the first time Lin was selected for the annual Pro-Am exhibition at San Francisco’s Kezar Pavilion, a security guard told him he was in the wrong place: ‘No volleyball here tonight, sir — it’s basketball.’ He dealt with racism from across the line, even in Ivy games, with crowds and opposing players talking about Chinese take-out and suggesting that he should be playing violin instead of hoops. Even now, when people talk about his ‘sneaky, unexpected athleticism’ and ‘high IQ,’ there’s a feeling that these terms are being used to push him back into the box that he’s threatening to explode.” (Jeff Yang)

    Right after Lin led the Knicks to victory over the Lakers on Friday, there was this:

    “Then this was tweeted:

    “Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight.

    “That racist remark came from Jason Whitlock, a Fox Sports columnist. Whitlock later apologized for his attempt at humor. But it was another reminder that racism is still very much around us.” (Edwin Torres)

    In two incidents recently Asian-American soldiers have died due to overt and relentless racism aimed at them by their fellow soldiers and commanding officer, including fellow soldiers hurling rocks at one of them. So it would be wrong to underestimate how racism has been a major factor in the disregard of Lin as a baller until he was finally given a chance in a third game in a row for a weary and depleted Knicks team by a coach who is supposed to be the very best in the game at using pick and roll offense schemes and who therefore should have seen that Lin was exactly what the doctor ordered for his team.

    But I want to mostly talk about why it’s hard to see things when they’re there but they’re not there until you see them.

    People mostly see the world through the lens of what already is, not what could be. It is much harder to see something in embryonic form or imagine what could be, even when the evidence is there, when you’re accustomed to seeing things in a certain way.

    Lin’s been overlooked because people didn’t see the usual package – a Black or White player - and therefore his abilities on the court were not properly recognized. According to Mike Brown, the Lakers coach, Mitch Kupchak, Lakers’ GM, was interested in Lin, but Brown didn’t know anything about Lin so they passed on the opportunity to sign him when Houston released him and before the Knicks picked him up. This is particularly unfortunate for the Lakers given that Lin is exactly what they need and what they tried to get when they signed Chris Paul only to have the deal nullified by NBA commissioner David Stern.

    Just as so many so-called experts have not recognized the mad skillz that Lin has and had, people also fail to see whom they should be paying attention to and what they should be seeing in politics and other affairs. It takes the ability to see beneath the surface appearance of things and penetrate to the essence to really know what’s going on.

    One need only consider the déjà vu that people ought to be having now that the U.S. government is preparing the ground to attack Iran using the same basic playbook they used in the run up to the war upon Iraq. They are trying to scare the people with “They’re going to use NUKES on us!”

    Oh, scary. Oh, I’m so afraid. Oh, but of course – let’s bomb ‘em out of existence! American and Israeli lives are more important than Iranians. Yay team America and team Israel! Woo hoooo!

    The suppression and oppression of the people under the existing political and economic system creates a system in great dynamic and ongoing tension. The underlying forces in play aren’t apparent on the surface unless you’re basing your analysis on the centrality of this underlying tension. What is possible is a dramatic turn of events and profoundly different alignment of political power, but this prospect needs to be seen while it is still embryonic – e.g., the Occupy movement – to take advantage of what is there in situ. The people’s widely felt sentiments in opposition to what is and who rules and how must be focused and unleashed.

    Then, a different scene can unfold, sweeping away this exploitive system that rests for its continued existence upon systematic lies and brutal force. Like Jeremy Lin, the Occupy movement arose out of seemingly nowhere. But if you’re paying attention, you could see that this is not something surprising at all, but something that was hiding in plain sight.

    "Changing the behavior and nature of public policy, et al requires a structural change, and said structural change must be led by individuals who enlist the support of others to supplant the existing leaders and the existing structures. Change, in other words, requires leadership and groups of people acting in concert with each other and under that leadership... The bottom line, the fundamental division in our society, is between, on the one hand, those whose interests rest upon dominance and the drive towards monopolizing the society and planet’s resources and, on the other hand, those whose interests lie in the husbanding of those resources for the good of the whole rather than the part. The startling evidence of the neoliberals’ bankruptcy surrounds us everyday, and grows starker as time moves on. Their attacks on the people grow more vociferous and damaging by the day. The prospect of a radically different future from that spreading nightmare exists in embryonic form today.

    "Which path will be taken? The world awaits. The future beckons. Who will answer the call?" (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, p. 357)

  • Occupy: What It's Done and What Remains to Be Done

    Occupy: What It's Done and What Remains to Be Done

    By Dennis Loo (2/10/12)

    Yesterday (February 9, 2012) David Carr at The New York Times wrote an article about Occupy entitled: “The Occupy Movement May Be in Retreat But Its Ideas Are Advancing.” He points out that Obama’s SOTU address took up the rhetoric of Occupy and quotes an Occupy participant, “Brendan Burke, a protester, said the president’s State of the Union speech ‘was all our message. It was great. I mean, he didn’t mention Occupy Wall Street, he doesn’t have to. The conversation in the culture has changed now, over four months, and it’s a blessing.’”

    As I’ve written previously, OWS did win a major victory that will last into the indefinite future: it has changed the conversation by substituting the 1% v. 99% frame for what was there before – “I’ve got mine, don’t you envy me?” This is enormously important and points to the significance and power of social movements such as Occupy and how paltry or useless by comparison hitching your wagon to electoral campaigns is. Obama would not have made economic fairness the centerpiece of his SOTU if Occupy had not happened and if instead progressives had devoted themselves to lobbying the White House and the Democratic Party.

    The 1960s’ social insurgencies changed the conversation in a similar fashion:

    In the 1960s, liberal elites argued that concessions (e.g., the War on Poverty) needed to be made to the insurgents lest a conflagration result. Conservatives argued that concessions would only fuel the fires of insurgency and a crackdown was what was needed. The Sixties insurgency breached the public agenda ordinarily generated by elites. A society-wide debate raged over whether the key social problem was crime or social injustice.

    The crime issue, as authored initially by conservative elites in the Sixties, was challenged largely successfully by social movement activists who argued forcefully that social injustice, not crime, was the central social problem of the day. This is one of the key reasons—probably by far the most important reason—that the public did not adopt the elite discourse that crime and social protest were one and the same. The Sixties’ insurgencies created significant splits—for a short time—within elite ranks. The insurgencies’ influence prevented crime from emerging at the top of the MIP [Most Important Problem in the Nation] polls during the Sixties, because the public was split in its views and its loyalties, with the majority faction favoring the insurgencies. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, p. 113)

    While the ascension of the 99% vs. the 1% motif is very important – you can’t mobilize people and you can’t change things if you can’t create a competing interpretive frame to the dominant one – at this point the only thing that the Democrats are doing is, on the one hand, trying to co-opt the movement with their rhetoric, with their actual actions on the policy front to be negligible, and, on the other hand, forcefully suppressing the Occupy Movement’s protests. The recent violent crackdown on Occupy Oakland is a sterling example of this, as was the prior co-ordination by the White House and DHS of the evictions of the Occupy encampments and Obama’s signing of the National Defense Authorization Act. Obama is at his best when he can sound superficially wonderful. But that is where it stops. He is not going to do anything more than sound superficially good if he has anything to do with it and he isn't absolutely forced to do otherwise. 

    It's worthwhile going into more depth on this last point. Obama has not broken his campaign promises because he's a two-faced politician or because he discovered things once he took the White House that he didn't know when he was a U.S. Senator. He has broken his promises because his promises were never more than an attempt to mislead people into thinking that he was going to right the wrongs that Bush and Cheney had so famously committed. Obama's candidacy was an effort to rope people who were threatening to spin out of control in their allegiance to the system into believing that they could once more have faith in the system. His policies since taking office (and even as President-elect in votes in Congress) have been to not only not reverse the general direction of Bush and Cheney but to carry them even further in the wrong direction from the standpoint of the public's interests.

    The following comes from Globalization and the Demolition of Society, pp. 155-158:

    When running for office and after taking office, Obama made a point of saying that he believes in, and is implementing, transparency in government:

    "Just weeks after taking office, the Obama administration adopted an unprecedented policy of sunlight, directing bureaucrats across government to 'apply a presumption of openness' regarding the release of documents to the public, according to a memo by Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder.

    "Obama’s policy does not cover an important part of the White House: the Office of Administration, which oversees much of the day-to-day functions of the president’s own office and staff.

    "In 2007, then-president George W. Bush, whose penchant for secrecy was a reliable villain in Obama’s campaign speeches, became the first president to declare the White House Office of Administration off-limits to public inquiries. At the time, Bush was engaged in a heated court battle with good government groups over access to information about a massive batch of missing White House e-mails.

    "A federal court ruled in favor of the Bush administration, agreeing that the office was not technically an 'agency' as defined by FOIA, and was not required to abide by the openness law.

    "Today, the Obama White House Web site announces that the Office of Administration 'is not subject to FOIA and related authorities.'"

    ...

    This outcome was actually predictable.

    First, as I have been arguing in this book, neoliberal policies have been ascendant and dominant, and both major political parties in the US operate within the overall parameters and logic of that ideology.

    Second, public policy and especially public policy shifts are not ever carried out successfully by individual leaders, no matter how powerfully placed. They require movements and they require institutional support. This is true from the top of the political system and it is also true from the grassroots or from any other social or economic stratum. The widespread notion that electing a particular individual to high office will produce anything more than superficial changes reveals a lack of understanding of how politics actually operate.

    Third, the elevation of an individual to the status of a viable, “legitimate,” and “electable” candidate cannot occur absent the backing of powerful organizational and institutional forces that are by their nature key players in the status quo.

    Fourth, promises that public officials make are not immune from evaluation to determine what they actually intend; one does not have to wait and see until after they take office. We can, with proper analytical tools, decipher what these public officials’ promises and pronouncements really mean before they take office.

    As I wrote in June 2008, after Obama was nominated: “How can the same system, and the same specific individuals, who have cooperated in, permitted and/or legalized the outrageous and profound crimes of the Bush regime – including torture and war crimes – now tell us that the candidate that they endorse is the solution to the monstrous things that this system and these individuals have themselves allowed and colluded in?”

    End of excerpt.

    Political power is not exercised in the fashion that most people think - that is, through elections. Nor are key decisions made through floor votes in Congress, by votes taken in Congressional committees, or for the reasons stated publicly by the White House. Those are merely the public face of political power. Political rule is carried out behind closed doors by a relatively small group of people, some of whom are well-known public officials and the rest less well-known individuals and groups. Decisions are not infrequently bipartisan in nature in that those who have major input into decisions come from both major parties who collude more than they collide. Their continued ability to do what they want and what is in their interests is dependent on their ability to continue to appear to be legitimate in the eyes of most of the public and their generous use of state violence where necessary. That is why Obama said what he said in his SOTU address about economic fairness: he and his fellow officials recognize the popularity of Occupy and the great hardships that the neoliberal policies they are implementing - and will continue to implement - are causing most people. They could not continue to rule if they did not misrepresent what they're actually doing because they know that what they're doing is against the interests of the vast majority of the people and that the opposition to it (as embodied in Occupy for example) is widespread and growing. Thus, Obama must try to persuade the people with his words that he is on their side, even as he continues to carry out in actual deeds acts that are expressly against the people's interests and that belie his words (though a close reading of his words not distorted by wishful thinking does reveal his true intent). Obama does this because if he didn't, then popular resistance would grow more rapidly and dangerously. If he were to be truthful, the game would be up and their system would be overthrown.

    David Carr cites approvingly the slogan “You can’t evict an idea” but in fact, you can suppress the radical edge of the Occupy Movement by using violence to repress its public face in its encampments and mobilizations. That is what this system will continue to do: attempt to co-opt the movement with fine sounding phrases while ratcheting up their coercive apparatus and use of violence against real challenges to their power. That is why it is so important that people come to the defense of Occupy and struggle for its right to publicly assemble, to create “liberated zones,” and to carry forward the fight to actually transform the society and world.
  • Aggressive War: the Supreme War Crime

    Aggressive War: the Supreme War Crime

    By Dennis Loo (originally posted at Open Salon and OpEd News on 2/3/12)

    The U.S. and Israel have launched punishing sanctions upon Iran and one has - or both have - assassinated Iranian scientists. Sanctions are not a way of avoiding a war; they are a prelude to war; they are the beginning stages of a war.

    Before the unprovoked attack upon Iraq by Bush and Cheney, some of us tried to alert the public to what The New York Times and others would not tell people: it is a war crime to attack a country that has not first attacked you, WMD or no WMD. Apparently, this was not among the "news that's fit to print."

    Had the people learned this simple fact, then we could have avoided the more than a million Iraqis who have died violent deaths because of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq and the more than 50,000 Americans who have died in the war, either of injuries inflicted in combat or afterwards due to suicides (with 18/day killing themselves because of PTSD and related grief and pain). 

    Not only is it a war crime to launch an unprovoked attack on another country, it is the supreme war crime.

    The reason for this should be clear: if it is permissable for a country to invade other countries as long as they claim that they feel threatened by that other country, then there would be no bar against wars being carried out right and left under the fig leaf justification that the country didn't like the way that other country was looking at them.

    In the instant case, the U.S. government is justifying an attack on a country that does not have a nuclear weapon, has not indicated that it is going to produce a nuclear weapon, and is not threatening to use its radioactive watches (which is about where their nuclear program is at) as weapons against any other country. 

    The only country to ever use nuclear weapons upon a civilian population (i.e., non-combatants) is none other than the biggest sword rattler here, the U.S. of A.

    The other sword rattler, Israel, has hundreds of nuclear weapons, refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and will not allow the IAEA to inspect its facilities. It is also likely the guilty party for the assassinations of several Iranian nuclear scientists. 

    Yet, you don't hear the halls of Congress and the Oval Office resounding with calls for a pre-emptive attack upon Israel or upon the only country that has used nukes on people - the U.S. government itself - in the name of preserving the peace.

    Iran has attacked no other countries. The two most bellicose countries in this contrived drama are, on the other hand, the worst perpetrators of aggressive war themselves - the U.S. and Israel. 

    None other than American Judge Robert H. Jackson who served as the chief American prosecutor at Nuremberg made clear the nature of aggressive war:

    "[T]he Nuremberg Tribunal sentenced a number of persons responsible for starting World War II. One consequence of this is that nations who are starting an armed conflict must now argue that they are either exercising the right of self-defense, the right of collective defense, or - it seems - the enforcement of the criminal law of jus cogens. It has made formal declaration of war uncommon after 1945.

    "During the trial, the chief American prosecutor, Robert H. Jackson, stated:

    To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." (From Wikipedia). 

    When officialdom and media mouthpieces speak lies to the people in order to justify mass bloodshedding, the truth must be spoken. When lies carry the day, not only does the truth suffer, but innocents die.
  • Dirty, Pretty Things Part 3

    Dirty, Pretty Things Part 3

    By Dennis Loo (1/31/12)

    Part 1 can be read here. Part 2 is here.

    A friend at Red Room, where the first two of my article series are also posted, commented on my "Dirty, Pretty Things: Apple, Inc. and China" series that the conditions of the Chinese workers at Apple suppliers such as Foxconn and Wintek are preferable to the conditions that Chinese peasants face in the countryside and that this is an outlet of urban jobs and job training that if taken away, would produce great unrest in China. He goes on to say:

    “Would we not have far more to fear from a China on the verge of collapse, due to isolation, than a China on [the] verge of its own economic take-off due to its interdependence with the west?”

    The question of the Chinese countryside’s conditions and that of the urban areas are inter-connected, but not in the way that my Red Room friend has characterized them. The paradigm of “economic take-off” is a popular but very flawed reading of the situation that Third World nations face.

    I appreciate this dialogue and it raises some very important questions. But to get into this I have to lay some groundwork. Fair warning: It’s going to take me more than one essay here to get into these questions because there’s a lot of complexity to them and there are a lot of misconceptions that need to be untangled.

    We need to step back a moment here first to consider the nature of the shift from feudal and semi-feudal relations to the development of capitalism both within the First World and within Third World countries.

    Capitalism developed in the West first, and in England first and foremost. This period of the rise of capitalism in the 1800s was memorialized in fiction by Charles Dickens and in non-fiction by Marx and Engels.

    When capitalism breaches its national boundaries and goes abroad, this represents a distinct stage in capitalism’s life course. This stage is called imperialism (although its proponents or apologists like to refer to it euphemistically as “saving the benighted natives/savages” or the “spread of democracy and freedom”). This stage is characterized by, among other things, monopoly in which the major players in business are few, gigantic in size, and exercise oligarchical control over the economy and correspondingly, the political arena. If you’re an industrial/financial giant, how could we expect you to not to wield a huge amount of political power? If you didn’t, you wouldn’t long remain a monopoly/oligopoly.

    The course of capitalism’s development in Europe can be briefly described this way: in the mid-1800s capitalism was in its free enterprise stage but by the end of the 1800s, that is, within fifty years, free enterprise capitalism had given way to monopoly capitalism. This transition to monopoly capitalism/imperialism happens for two very simple reasons that are an outgrowth of the very dynamics of “free enterprise.” They come about because capitalism’s purpose is to make as much profit as possible and this drive to make more profit means that capitalists seek to control the market by eliminating their competitors through buying them out, taking them over, or driving them out of business. This drive for profit also leads companies to seek to vertically integrate their operations because they can make more money at each step in the process. By doing these things you can better dictate prices and make more money.

    As a corollary to this, economies of scale come into play: the bigger you are, the less it costs you per unit to make your product or service, and therefore you make more money as well. Naturally, because human labor is both the source of value and because labor costs are the largest item in your cost structure, to make more money means seeking to drive the costs of labor down to the lowest that you can.

    The essence of capitalism is the drive for profits (“expand or die”) and this drive ironically means that you seek to reduce and hope to eliminate competition. If you can severely limit competition, you can dictate your prices and the quality of what you make and therefore make beaucoup profits. Like rock bands that frequently change their membership's make up, combining and recombining, capital also aggregates and disaggregates and so the process moves forward.

    Because of the uneven development of capitalism, those that developed capitalism first such as England possessed both technological advantages and the driving incentive/compulsion to go elsewhere and exploit the resources (labor, resources and markets) outside of their national boundaries. It is to the advantage of those first in line capitalist/imperialist countries to use the Third World countries as appendages for their development, parasitically sucking the labor and resources from this induced, distorted, dependency relationship. Thus you see the pattern of infrastructure, for example, in Third World countries of train tracks and shipping facilities that are/were designed to bring goods out of the country rather than to evenly develop the national economies on a balanced basis in the interests of that nation's people. The extremely lopsided power relationships between the imperialist countries and the later developing Third World countries produce a situation not unlike baby birds that are born in the nest. The first born ones can and do destroy the chances of the later developing eggs from hatching.

    Anyone who has played the Parker Brothers’ best-selling board game Monopoly is familiar with this dynamic. After a few hours of play at most, one player emerges as the big winner and everyone else has either been bankrupted or is soon to be bankrupted. This happens in Monopoly despite the fact that all of the players start out with exactly the same amount of money, unlike the real world where resources are distributed extremely unevenly (one does not choose one’s parents, after all).

    It is in the nature of free markets to cease being free markets. Libertarians’ belief that free markets are the solution to all ills, therefore, cannot be realized and implemented any more than a butterfly can go back to being a caterpillar. Small may be beautiful, but big is cheaper and more powerful. Small businesses can, and always will, emerge just as small saplings spring up amongst the towering pines, but the economy’s key players will continue to be big businesses. Some of the big businesses will be supplanted—witness General Motors’ bankruptcy plight even though for a long time it had been the world’s largest corporation—but the companies that supersede their previous competitors will then assume the monopolist position themselves. The players may change, in other words, but the disparities of position between big and small remain structurally and fundamentally the same.

    Second, capital seeks profit-making opportunities everywhere. This ceaseless drive for profits leads—indeed, compels—the largest companies to burst past national boundaries and roam the globe in search of still cheaper labor and resources. Sam Walton, Walmart’s founder, believed that his company should sell only American-made products. His insistence on this, however, has obviously passed away like eight-track stereo. Walmart would be non-competitive today if it did not seek the cheapest labor it could find. This fact, put very briefly, is what imperialism is in the economic sense. Imperialism is a compelling and inevitable consequence of capitalism itself within the more advanced capitalist countries. It represents capitalism’s underlying logic carried forward into monopoly capitalism and expressed and active on an international scale. Imperialism is, therefore, not a choice; it is not something that could be dispensed with by corporations and their governments any more than a vampire could choose to be a vegetarian. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, Pp. 77-78)

    In the world as a whole, this gross unevenness is not the result of the relative backwardness of the Third World countries. Indeed, China in particular was extremely advanced, being the first inventor of many things including gunpowder, the compass, and movable type (invented by Bi Sheng four centuries before Gutenberg). But because capitalism developed in the West first and because China did not have a desire or need in its feudal stage to go elsewhere and exploit foreign resources in the way that the Western powers did, it did not use its inventiveness for the purposes of conquest far across the seas as the West did.

    This is apparent, for example, when the British sought to engage in trade with China. The English had nothing that the Chinese wanted, whereas China had silk, porcelain (china), and tea that the English dearly wanted. The unevenness of demand created a severe problem for the English until they latched onto the idea of creating a mass drug dependency in China for opium. The Brits didn’t start the opium trade; Indians did. But they recognized what it meant if they were able to expand it themselves.

    When Chinese authorities attempted to stop this drug trade the Brits declared war on China and after defeating China in the Opium Wars (1839-42 and 1856-60), demanded Hong Kong and various other major concessions in the Treaty of Nanking (fixing Chinese tariffs at a low rate, granted extraterritorial rights to foreigners not given to the Chinese abroad, etc.) so that they could continue their “trade” with China - i.e., continue to be the drug dealers to China. Before the Columbian drug cartels there was the British East India Company. 

    As Johnny Come Lately to the scene, the U.S. declared an Open Door policy so that they could get their piece of the carving up of China that the various European powers were feasting upon. This initiated the beginning of China’s “Century of Humiliation” and China’s widely named status as the “Sick Man of Asia.” This was also the period in which foreign owned and run industrial enterprises were first introduced to China, long before Steve Jobs and the iPod and iPad were born. But like the Foxconns and Wintek’s of today, those enterprises were not set up in the interests of the Chinese people but to enrich foreign corporations and a tiny fraction of those Chinese who were happy to sell out their own people in return for personal privileges and family fortune. The situation was so bad that every morning people would pick up and load onto carts the dead bodies of Chinese that littered the streets of Shanghai and other major cities who had died the previous night.

    This century of humiliation was finally brought to an end with the 1949 Chinese Communist Revolution when, as Mao Zedong declared from Beijing, “the Chinese people have stood up.”

    As a result of the revolution, China was able to end the despicable conditions that the Chinese people were living in and set about developing the economy and society in ways that did not subject workers and peasants to the degrading and killing conditions that they had previously faced. Women and girls, some of whom had been sold by their families into prostitution, were liberated from sexual slavery and prostitution was eliminated by providing women alternatives and by, in a more general sense, freeing women as equal partners to men in the society as whole.

    China was and is a very populous and poor nation, the result of more than a century of foreign domination and the fact that it was not yet an industrially developed country, but one that had been only piecemeal and in a fragmented way developed along industrial lines. The challenge the country faced then was immense and natural disasters and enforced backwardness were not something that could be either ended, in the case of truly natural disasters such as pestilence and floods, or ended overnight, in the case of the legacy of backwardness.

    The struggle over how best to develop China and along what lines that I referred to in part one of this series raged within the Chinese Communist Party: should China become another capitalist country or should it develop, but develop along socialist/communist lines where equity and fairness and bridging of the historic differences between town and country, between mental and manual labor, between men and women, and so on? For the genuine revolutions, the slogan that embodied their position was “Grasp Revolution, Promote Production.” For the “capitalist roaders” like Deng Xiaoping, their slogan was “It doesn’t matter whether the cat’s white or black as long as it catches the mice,” by which he meant that revolutionary politics are really a hindrance to the development of the economy and should take a backseat. One of the slogans of the capitalist roaders (aka revisionists) is and was “Some must get rich first.” (See my lengthy article on the 1989 Spring Uprising for background on this.) In other words, they were the Chinese equivalent of our very own neoliberals here in the U.S. who preach the gospel of “trickle down economics.” Give tax breaks to the very rich so that they will in turn give people jobs and stimulate the economy. Except, of course, that they don’t. The very rich like Mitt Romney aren’t job creators. They’re job destroyers. That is exactly how many of them have made their multimillions and billions – by laying off workers and combining and merging and cutting the payrolls for everyone except those on the very top who have been paying themselves extraordinary sums even during the times when they have driven their companies to the brink of bankruptcy.

    After Mao’s death the leaders who had fought tooth and nail during Mao’s life to convert China into a great capitalist power - while pretending that they were only trying to carry forward socialism - seized power. They had to pretend that they were revolutionary communists while Mao was alive and for a number of years after his death maintained the fiction that they were Mao’s true inheritors and The Four who were arrested secret plotters against Mao and against socialism because socialism and communist norms were extremely popular and the social standard. You could not pursue a capitalist agenda openly because if you did the public would have roundly denounced you and think that you were crazy. The memory of what capitalism and imperialism had done to China was all too fresh and clear and the benefits of socialism were exceptionally well understood and deeply appreciated.

    There is more to say about the specific conditions in China, but that is going to have to wait for my next article. Let me end this piece by returning to the question of the U.S. and its relationship to the Third World in light of the current elections hoopla:

    Imperialism produces dramatic inequalities in the world—in essence, the economic plunder of other countries. The American people benefit economically from these savage inequalities; one cannot help but benefit from them merely by living in the US. This means that absent a conscious decision to try to redress these gross inequalities, the spontaneous tendency among many Americans, particularly those who are more materially privileged by these inequities, is going to be to support policies that, at the very least, maintain these inequities, and at worse, exacerbate them. You do not have to be an evil, conscienceless person. You merely have to do what comes naturally. You just have to follow the path of least resistance.

    Thus the inherent wisdom or goodness of the American people—to whatever degree it exists—is subject to this ineluctable material fact. Relying on the people’s wisdom/goodness means relying on a population that is vulnerable in substantial degree to political leaders who play upon Americans’ fears of terrorism, promote ethnocentrism, and expand and intensify the tendencies of a populace to spontaneously favor what benefits them personally in the narrowest sense. The social base for the politics of plunder and domination of other countries exists in the US for material reasons. The social base is not itself the source of such politics (elites are the source), but the social base constitutes the fraction of the population for whom such politics resonate most strongly. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, Pp. 253-254)

    The Republican Party is the most open, aggressive, and unapologetic proponent of plundering other countries for profit. Their differences with the Democrats are overwhelmingly differences over which segments of the domestic population they are trying to rope into their ranks and bring along as willing co-conspirators, not differences over policies. Who they are trying to appeal to, in other words, is where their primary differences lie, not in what they do when they’re in office. When you look at what they actually do in terms of policies while in office, the distinctions between Republicans and Democrats (or even the occasional Green Party or other third party person) become as difficult to tell as detecting the physical differences between identical twins. When Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney spoke in the aftermath of the Florida primary on January 31st, they both claimed that they were going to reverse America's decline. They can do this, however, no more than Obama can. In both Republican and Democratic rhetoric we see authorities attempting mightily to conceal the crisis of capital and the rending of the historic social compact. In Steve Jobs' memorable words, "Those jobs aren't coming back [to the U.S.]." The Republicans are more exclusive in their appeal ("White (and honorary white) Americans only") while the Democrats are more inclusive ("Not black America, not white Americans, we are the United States of America") but the mission that they both preach rests upon the systematic suppression, exploitation, and killing of the Other in countries like China and savage inequalities here at home.

    Do we have an alternative to this? Yes, we do. Is there real hope? Yes, there is. But it cannot rest upon a foundation of others' broken lives.

    To be continued.

  • Dirty, Pretty Things Part 2

    Dirty, Pretty Things Part 2

    By Dennis Loo

    Part I can be found here.

    The New York Times’ articles on Apple in China (I and II) have struck a chord and there is talk of an Apple boycott circulating among American journalists. Since Apple’s success depends a great deal on its being seen as cool, the explosions and suicides caused by its “drive the costs down as much as possible” that lead directly to their suppliers trying to cut corners on workers’ safety and welfare, present them with a PR nightmare.

    So enter Larry Dignan at CBS rising to Apple’s defense in a January 27, 2012 article entitled “Roughing up Apple: Time to whistle time out.” In it, Dignan says that Apple is being unfairly singled out when the picture fits for not only all of hi-tech but also clothes and nearly any other manufactured product bought in the US today. So far, so good, on that he’s right. But then he goes on to say:

    [A]ll of these takes on the abused supply chain are all viewed through the Western lens. To that person working in the Foxconn plant he’s providing for his family and future generations. To him, the pay is probably pretty good. Maybe the second and third generations wind up running Foxconn. Ditto for the guy in the textile worker in Africa and every other person in an emerging market.

    The bottom line here is we enable a supply chain that has a lot of warts. We want to examine those warts, but not really. This flap about worker safety isn’t about Apple, the tech industry or any other vertical. It’s about us.

    I don’t know. Western lens: does it look different from the Chinese lens when parents learn that their children have committed suicide at their Foxconn dorm by jumping to their deaths? Do Chinese people feel differently than Americans when they’re forced to work 16 hour shifts and some of them stand for so long that they can’t walk because their legs have swelled up so much? Do Chinese lens regard with casual indifference the fate of their family members who are burned over 90% of their bodies and their faces a mass of red and black and unrecognizable after explosions due to poorly ventilated factories that allow the aluminum dust to collect in combustible quantities? Is that why Lai Xiaodong's mother fled sobbing from his hospital room when she saw him after the accident? Do they think differently about being forced to sign agreements not to sue for permanent lung damage due to toxic chemicals being used to clean the shiny iPad screens rather than regular rubbing alcohol because n-hexane dries three times faster? In other words, in the statement that has always driven me crazy when Americans say it: “Those Asians don’t regard life the way we Westerners do.”

    According to Dignan, this man who is so broadminded that he can appreciate that his “Western” regard for life is not the same as the degraded one that non-Westerners must operate from, maybe the second or third generation of the deplorably exploited assembly-line worker goes on to run Foxconn. Even if this were true, what about all of the other 1.2 million workers that Foxconn employs? Are they ALL going to be running Foxconn one day? Does that mean that there will be 1.2 million Foxconn companies for them all to run?

    You see, this is the problem with the logic of apologists for capitalism like Mr. Dignan. They can’t do simple math. A few individuals who experience upward mobility does not mean that everyone escapes the fate of being a savagely exploited worker. You don’t have billionaire capitalists like Steve Jobs without most of the rest of the people being exploited workers.

    Which brings me to my next point: Apple got started because Steve Jobs’ friend Steve Wozniak single-handedly built the first user friendly personal computer/Mac. Wozniak had the outlandish idea that he’d give the idea away, get this, for free to the world. Steve Jobs, that genius, that technical wizard, that man who changed the world, persuaded him to instead co-found Apple with him. Wait. I thought that inventors and the drive for innovation is what must be rewarded with money in order for inventions to happen? And you’re telling me that Steve Wozniak, the actual inventor of the first Mac, wasn’t motivated by material incentives? Get out of here!

    The race to the bottom that characterizes the U.S. economy and neoliberalism more generally throughout the world today is not here because, despite the erudite Mr. Dignan’s piercing insights, the U.S. consumer suddenly started demanding that everything be cheaper and that if this meant that Main Street should languish and die and that Wall Street should laugh all the way to their banks bulging with cash, that the manufacturing sector should be exported lock stock and barrel abroad, and that a substantial part of the working class and now the middle class should be rendered disposable, then so be it. Why, the joys of shopping for bargains at Walmart and getting crushed on Black Fridays surely exceed those tired old things like a decent job, a house, and a thriving Main Street! What would have made the U.S. consumer suddenly decide that - to, in essence, commit social and economic Hari-Kiri? How come they weren’t doing this during the middle part of the 20th century when the gap between the rich and the rest of us was actually contracting?

    The reason, Virginia, that his blaming all of us (and therefore none of us) doesn’t make any sense is because that’s not why deindustrialization, privatization, and deregulation have been happening over the last thirty plus years.

    The rise of neoliberalism is due to a movement that began among elites and that became possible for them to implement when the socialist camp came apart and capitalism no longer had to try to appeal to people. Capitalism without any rivals could now present to the world the Hobson’s choice – take it or starve. To paraphrase Henry Ford, you can have any color of unemployment and degrading living standards you want, as long as I, and the capitalist class, are still in charge. These dramatic changes aren't because of the American consumer. It’s because of the American (and German and Russian and English and Japanese and Chinese… ) capitalist and the capitalist system worldwide. 

    In the wake of the Left’s decline, the capitalist camp now ruled the world roost as unchallenged champion. No longer restricted by countervailing forces such as socialist states or vibrant unions, capitalism could now slough off the welfare state’s unwanted strictures and dictate terms the way a victorious army sets the terms of the peace.

    Contemporaneous technological developments—especially computerization, more advanced telecommunications, and automation—also made production’s internationalization more feasible and inexpensive. As a result of the Left’s retreat and the emergence of these technical innovations, virtually the entire world’s labor force, consumer markets, and resources were now flung wide open to capitalist expansion and exploitation. If corporations such as Walmart and Nike could pay Third World and former socialist bloc workers a fraction of what they paid US workers and still sell their finished products for the same price, what right-thinking executive with demanding shareholders and Wall Street to satisfy could resist sending their factories abroad and outsourcing relentlessly? Even if some compassionate US executives wanted to preserve American jobs and the communities that grew up around those jobs, to buck this trend meant that they were both compassionate executives and career suicides. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, p. 49)

    To be continued

  • Dirty, Pretty Things: Apple, Inc. and China

    Dirty, Pretty Things: Apple, Inc. and China (1/27/12)

    By Dennis Loo

    Capital … comes into the world soiled with gore from top to toe and oozing blood from every pore.”

                            -- Karl Marx, Capital

    I love my Mac and iPad. Their design and aesthetic appeal make PC’s look like clunkers made by people who never thought that design and technology have anything in common. I hate working on PCs because of this. And don’t get me started about Microsoft’s products.

    Apple is also the most successful and admired company today. When The New York Times surveyed people about Apple as part of its series (I and II) on China this week, Americans had trouble thinking of anything negative to say about Apple, with the largest complaint being the prices and only 2% citing its overseas labor practices. On Tuesday Apple announced one of the most profitable quarters for any company in history: $13.06 billion in profits from $46.3 billion in sales.

    I am going to first excerpt a few segments from the second Times’ article. I recommend, however, that you read both articles in their entirety if you haven’t already.

    “Apple typically asks suppliers to specify how much every part costs, how many workers are needed and the size of their salaries. Executives want to know every financial detail. Afterward, Apple calculates how much it will pay for a part. Most suppliers are allowed only the slimmest of profits.

    “So suppliers often try to cut corners, replace expensive chemicals with less costly alternatives, or push their employees to work faster and longer, according to people at those companies.

    “’The only way you make money working for Apple is figuring out how to do things more efficiently or cheaper,’ said an executive at one company that helped bring the iPad to market. ‘And then they’ll come back the next year, and force a 10 percent price cut.’

    “In January 2010, workers at a Chinese factory owned by Wintek, an Apple manufacturing partner, went on strike over a variety of issues, including widespread rumors that workers were being exposed to toxins. Investigations by news organizations revealed that over a hundred employees had been injured by n-hexane, a toxic chemical that can cause nerve damage and paralysis.

    “Employees said they had been ordered to use n-hexane to clean iPhone screens because it evaporated almost three times as fast as rubbing alcohol. Faster evaporation meant workers could clean more screens each minute.

    “Apple commented on the Wintek injuries a year later. In its supplier responsibility report, Apple said it had ‘required Wintek to stop using n-hexane’ and that ‘Apple has verified that all affected workers have been treated successfully, and we continue to monitor their medical reports until full recuperation.’ Apple also said it required Wintek to fix the ventilation system.

    “That same month, a New York Times reporter interviewed a dozen injured Wintek workers who said they had never been contacted by Apple or its intermediaries, and that Wintek had pressured them to resign and take cash settlements that would absolve the company of liability. After those interviews, Wintek pledged to provide more compensation to the injured workers and Apple sent a representative to speak with some of them.

    “Six months later, trade publications reported that Apple significantly cut prices paid to Wintek.

    “’You can set all the rules you want, but they’re meaningless if you don’t give suppliers enough profit to treat workers well,’ said one former Apple executive with firsthand knowledge of the supplier responsibility group. ‘If you squeeze margins, you’re forcing them to cut safety.’”

    “’We’ve known about labor abuses in some factories for four years, and they’re still going on,’ said one former Apple executive who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements. ‘Why? Because the system works for us. Suppliers would change everything tomorrow if Apple told them they didn’t have another choice.’

    “’If half of iPhones were malfunctioning, do you think Apple would let it go on for four years?’ the executive asked.”

    What stands out about this are a few things, but what I was immediately struck by while reading this passage was how Apple’s strategy of squeezing suppliers is exactly what Walmart is infamous for doing. Now at least some of the people in Apple are more socially aware than the plunder dogs who own Walmart. As the article points out:

    “Some former Apple executives say there is an unresolved tension within the company: executives want to improve conditions within factories, but that dedication falters when it conflicts with crucial supplier relationships or the fast delivery of new products.”

    What was Steve Jobs’ view of this?

    “In 2010, Steven P. Jobs discussed the company’s relationships with suppliers at an industry conference.

    “’I actually think Apple does one of the best jobs of any companies in our industry, and maybe in any industry, of understanding the working conditions in our supply chain,’ said Mr. Jobs, who was Apple’s chief executive at the time and who died last October.

    “’I mean, you go to this place, and, it’s a factory, but, my gosh, I mean, they’ve got restaurants and movie theaters and hospitals and swimming pools, and I mean, for a factory, it’s a pretty nice factory.’”

    Yes, they have these amenities, but what you’ve got here are a few modern conveniences side by side with working and living conditions most similar to the oppressive and inhuman conditions described by Charles Dickens in the early stages of the Industrial Revolution:

    “[T]he company’s dorms, where 70,000 Foxconn [which produces 40% of the electronics for all high tech companies in the world] workers lived, at times stuffed 20 people to a three-room apartment, employees said. Last year, a dispute over paychecks set off a riot in one of the dormitories, and workers started throwing bottles, trash cans and flaming paper from their windows, according to witnesses. Two hundred police officers wrestled with workers, arresting eight. Afterward, trash cans were removed, and piles of rubbish — and rodents — became a problem.

    “The next year, a Foxconn employee fell or jumped from an apartment building after losing an iPhone prototype. Over the next two years, at least 18 other Foxconn workers attempted suicide or fell from buildings in manners that suggested suicide attempts.”

    As I commented in the NY Times thread on their second article, in response to someone who said that American workers would jump at the chance to take jobs like this: Yes, they’re jumping alright. Over the balcony, into the air, and down to the ground to their deaths.

    The Background

    In the 1960s and 1970s in China, before Mao’s death in 1976 and while China was still a socialist country, a fierce struggle went on within the Chinese Communist Party leadership and the entire society over the road forward. There were those such as Deng Xiaoping who asserted that it “doesn’t matter if a cat is white or black, so long as it catches mice” – in other words, those in the Party who are concerned about how things were being done should not worry, capitalist norms for production are just as good as (in fact, better than) socialist norms. This was one expression of the gulf between those in the Party whose real goal was to turn China into an industrial powerhouse along capitalist lines and those such as Mao and The Four who were his closest allies who believed that the revolution would be lost if Deng’s revisionist views were allowed to carry the day. Within hours of Mao’s death, Deng’s allies seized power and arrested The Four, and set about progressively turning China into Deng’s vision. For the first few years after their coup they continued to pretend that those in charge were the true inheritors of Mao and that The Four were secretly the enemies of socialism. Over time, however, they began to shed that pretense as their power was more secure and they began to more and more openly embrace capitalist norms. This led to the elevation of capitalists to the prize spots and the degradation of the working class to the bottom of the heap.

    In 1989 arose the famous Chinese Spring Uprising, a popular upsurge of tens of millions of people, most popularly known in the U.S. as Tiananmen, against the unraveling of the Chinese revolution under Deng and his allies. This struggle occurred not only because of the growing inequities in China but also because there had been a revolution in China and there had been socialism for decades, along with mass campaigns (especially the Cultural Revolution) that involved the masses of people to help to train them in seeing the differences between capitalist norms masquerading as socialism (as it existed during Mao’s days) and genuine revolutionary values and policies.

    When socialism was the dominant form, those who opposed it had to engage in complicated subterfuge to oppose it, and they arose from within even the highest levels of the CCP itself. Unlike Stalin, who experienced the same problem in the USSR, but who didn’t understand why it was emerging and incorrectly assumed that these people must be counter-revolutionaries in collusion with foreign capitalist powers, using prison and executions to deal with them, Mao grasped that these contradictions were arising because of the material basis that still remains in socialist society for a new group of exploiters to personify these still unequal relations. Mao realized that the way to deal with this was fundamentally two-fold: first, you had to recognize that as long as social inequality exists, that this problem of “capitalist roaders” (those within the Party who wittingly or unwittingly wanted to adopt the capitalist road instead of the socialist road) would exist and you had to progressively work throughout the whole of society to bridge the differences and reduce and eventually eliminate the material basis for capitalism, and two, you needed to raise people’s consciousness throughout the society about the situation so that they could become sophisticated enough themselves to recognize this and progressively become masters of their society. Both of these things meant that you could not combat capitalism through arrests and the actions of the few at the top. You had to raise mass consciousness and you had to over time work to eat up the social inequalities (since you can’t simply declare by fiat that everyone is now equal).

    My Masters Essay was on the 1989 Spring Uprising and it is posted in its entirety in multi-parts here.

    In Globalization and the Demolition of Society, I write in part about China:

    “Under Mao the leading and most celebrated class was the proletariat. They were the heroes of the revolution, path-breakers in transforming China. On the eve of and during the 1989 Spring Uprising, workers articulated their deep dissatisfaction at Deng Xiaoping’s moves to restore capitalism to China:

    This government favors every social group except the working class. The so-called “leading class of the society” has been consigned to limbo. Not only has the government not showed any kindness to workers, it has further tried in various ways to abuse us.—Chinese worker, Zoomlens, December 6, 1988

    All bosses are the same—they’re only there for making money. God damn it, I’ve worked for thirty years and still have to serve dishes to capitalists! I still do not understand why we have to enter into joint ventures with bosses and that the masters of our country, the workers, have to work for capitalists.

    —Restaurant worker, Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, China, 1987

    Although the official media still call the working class the leading class of the nation, workers seem to know well that it is nothing but a cliché. For instance, from 1984 to 1987, the NCTU [National Chiao Tung University] conducted a series of surveys in many cities. The results showed that 56 percent of workers thought that the social status of the worker was declining (Xiao & Shi 1989: 18). Workers’ frustration grew even stronger as time went on. A survey of 33 cities . . . in late 1987 found that 71.6 percent of the worker interviewees believed that, rather than being the leading class, the working class was now at the bottom of society, because workers had no political power, no money, and no higher education, the things the [sic] Deng’s regime highly valued. What they can offer is only manual labor, which was less compensated for those days. A more recent survey showed that those who felt that workers’ social status was declining had gone up to 83 percent.[i]

    “Today in China the capitalists, both foreign and domestic, are the celebrated and leading class, with the proletariat now consigned to working endlessly for micro-wages under inhuman conditions. A rising tide of violent clashes with authorities numbering at this point in the tens of thousands of incidents annually, along with a rash of suicides and desperate, murderous acts against children by profoundly alienated individuals, have accompanied China’s ‘modernization’ campaign. They make up the seamy underside of the bright, shiny, elegant capitalist toys such as gold-plated Mercedes Benzes and iPhones for the nouveau riche in today’s China.”

    The New York Times’ series on China’s principal author states that the only way to deal with Apple’s egregious sweat shops is for consumers to demand that Apple change its ways of doing business. This would help. But the more fundamental issue requires something else because the dirty, pretty things that make up our society will continue to hold true unless and until we upend the existing order.

    To be continued.



    [i] Dennis Loo, “China 1989 First Installment,” from “Exorcising the Ghost of Mass Political Activism: Deng Xiaoping, Workers, Peasants and the 1989 Spring Uprising,” DennisLoo.blogspot.com, February 5, 2007, http://dennisloo.blogspot.com/2007/02/china-1989-first-installment.html, accessed March 4, 2009.

  • On Obama's SOTU Speech

    On Obama's SOTU Speech

    By Dennis Loo (1/25/12)

    I'm going to comment on just a few things about Obama's SOTU speech last night. So many lies, so little time!

    First, obviously absent the Occupy Movement, there would have been no talk in his speech about making the rich pay their fair share. This indicates the significance of social movements' impact, even if what Obama proposes to actually do about his fine sentiments is virtually nothing. It's important, nonetheless, to note this in more than passing that had people not risen up in the Occupy Movement and changed the discourse from "I've got mine, aren't you jealous?" to "1% v. 99%" and instead said to themselves and others: "Well, I can't stand the GOP so I guess I have to support Obama, even if he has broken every promise he's made," this reframing even though only rhetorical in Obama's hands would never have occurred. It's interesting to see how this is playing out in the GOP race too as Gingrich is going after Romney for his plutocratic ways and Gingrich is taking heat for his rich consulting fees for Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae of $1.6 million.

    Now we have to not only change the discourse, we have to change this system that is producing these awful outcomes.

    Second, this speech exemplifies the "middle ground" that Obama is so marked by: an attempt to have it both ways while really siding with the wrong side.

    Third, as the NY Times reported recently, when Obama asked Steve Jobs (note the irony of his last name!) if the jobs that Jobs has exported abroad for Apple could come back to the U.S., Jobs' response was: "Those jobs aren't coming back." This is the true nature of globalization. Obama's role is to make it appear to the people that this isn't what's necessarily going to happen and to make people believe that he's going to do something about it. Exactly what he's been doing since taking office in 2009, yes?

    As I point out in Globalization and the Demolition of Society:

    "The socialist camp’s collapse by the late 1980s opened up the formerly socialist and quasi-socialist world of more than a billion and a half people to capitalist exploitation. In one fell swoop, whole sectors of the US population were thereby rendered disposable from the perspective of capital, especially transnational capital. For blue-collar workers and those in the broken sections of the proletariat for whom steady work is nearly impossible and who must survive at the margins in the gray and underground economies and through hustling, compliance with the status quo becomes increasingly problematic. What is to be done with these people?

    "For those most oppressed within the US, jail and prison are the short answer. Prisons and jails have, since at least the early 1990s, been the biggest supplier of public housing and public services to US youth.[i] The US leads the world in imprisoning its own people: every fourth prisoner in the world is behind bars in the US even though the US accounts for less than 5 percent of the world’s population. In 2006, two million people were behind bars and another four and one-half million were under some form of custody—probation or parole. By 2010 those numbers reached 2.4 million behind bars with a total of more 7.5 million under some form of correctional supervision. Even when South Africa was under apartheid, the US imprisoned more blacks both in absolute numbers and per capita.[ii] Criminal justice expenditures have been rising since the mid-1970s, rising an additional 95 percent by states in the 1980s, compared to a decline in state spending on education of six percent.[iii] In California, spending on criminal justice now exceeds its spending on higher education, with ten percent of its general fund going to prisons versus seven percent going to higher education. This has happened even while index crime rates have been falling in California and nationally since the early 1990s.

    "For the middle class, the answer to keeping them in line in this game of ever-ruthless musical chairs has been deception and fearmongering, about which I have more to say in Chapters Two and Six. This explains what some have observed as otherwise ironic about the GOP’s rhetorical stance with regard to government: while they rail against the alleged waste of “big government” and seek to slash government programs, they have constantly bolstered state expenditures for coercion and security and moved to bail out and protect the behemoth corporations, throwing hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ dollars at them when they are/were in danger of bankruptcy. Moreover, by continually outsourcing formerly governmental activities to private companies, the two major parties can continue to claim that they are reducing government while actually expanding governmental spending, except now under the auspices of private, for-profit companies." (Pp. 54-56)

    Fourth, Obama has the nerve to say: "Over the last three years, we've opened up millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I'm directing my Administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources." If you haven't seen the excellent new documentary Gasland, then go see it, quickly. It shows how this so-called "clean" fuel of natural gas exploration has been a disaster for those who live in proximity to the drilling and that it has produced horrid leakages of toxic chemicals into the water table, including causing some homeowners' water faucets' water to catch fire when a flame is put to their water. Obama says he's going to require the companies to list all of the chemicals that they are using in the exploration. As if that would change the situation! Note from the documentary Gasland where the existing sites for this natural gas exploration is and where they are planning to put more, including in some of the most populous areas in the country such as the NY/NJ metro area.

    Fifth, Obama ratcheted up and won't remove from the table any options to use against Iran in the name of stopping them from producing a nuclear weapon. And this is after Leon Panetta recently admitted that Iran isn't producing a nuclear weapon. Past is prologue. See next item #6 below:

    Sixth, and relatedly, Obama starts his speech by lauding the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, wars which are war crimes in and of themselves since they were pre-emptive invasions of these countries upon nations that had not threatened and had not attacked the US first.

    The state of the union is as fragmented and fractured as before while our lead speechifer papers over the deep divisions and tries to conceal a fundamental fact:

    “To grasp what is going on we have to probe beneath the surface to the underlying forces at play. The problems of capitalism that are now being expressed are not simply the product of a few (or even a lot of) greedy, corrupt, and shortsighted business figures. They are not primarily the result of poor monitoring by the Federal Reserve and the federal government. They did not arise principally because of an inattentive media. They are not fixable through a set of adjustments or through electing one party over the other, or installing into power one individual or another. They are not mainly the fault of a mall-obsessed, savings-allergic public. These are systemic problems. Life will never again be the same as the life Americans have known for the last few generations. The limits of consumption are upon us if we will only recognize them. But recognizing what is up is not so easy. Systems do not change just because you put a new face in the White House and new faces in Congress.” (p. 74)



    [i] As Currie put it in Elliott Currie, Reckoning: Drugs, the Cities and the American Future (New York: Hill and Wang, 1994), 19:

    Under the impact of the drug war, indeed, the correctional system has become our principal public agency for disadvantaged young men – their chief source of publicly supported housing and one of their most important sources of employment, nutrition, and medical care. We now spend considerably more on institutional housing for the poor via the jail and prison systems than we do on ordinary public housing for low-income people: eight times as much is spent on corrections as on low-rent public housing, for example, and nearly twice as much as on public housing and rent subsidies for the poor combined.

    [ii] Becky Pettit and Bruce Western, “Mass Imprisonment and the Life Course: Race and Class Inequality in US Incarceration,” American Sociological Review, April 2004, 151:

    Combining administrative, survey, and census data, we estimate that among men born between 1965 and 1969, 3 percent of whites and 20 percent of blacks had served time in prison by their early thirties. The risks of incarceration are highly stratified by education. Among black men born during this period, 30 percent of those without college education and nearly 60 percent of high school dropouts went to prison by 1999. The novel pervasiveness of imprisonment indicates the emergence of incarceration as a new stage in the life course of young low-skill black men.

    [iii] Tara-Jen Ambrosio and Vincent Schiraldi, “From Classrooms to Cell Blocks: A National Perspective,” Justice Policy Institute, 1998, abstract cited at the National Criminal Justice Reference Service online, http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/Abstract.aspx?id=189746, accessed February 6, 2011.

  • On the National Defense Authorization Act and the Eviction of Occupy LA

    December 2, 2011

    By Dennis Loo

    Yesterday the Senate passed a bill, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012 (S. 1867) that makes a suitable matching pair for the prior day’s forcible police action evicting the last remaining large occupation, Occupy LA, and that of the Occupy encampment in Philadelphia.

    This bill represents a return to the “Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010," (S. 3081) introduced by Sens. John McCain and Joseph Lieberman on March 4, 2010 that did not pass and that received no mainstream media coverage at the time except for an article expressing alarm by Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic. That bill and today’s S. 1867 mandate the military to detain anyone indefinitely, including U.S. citizens, here at home or abroad, on the grounds that someone in authority in the military designates that person as a “terrorist” or someone who “substantially supports” Al Qaeda, the Taliban or “associated forces” (Sec. 1031). The mere accusation, in other words, is enough now to put you away for life.

    What is remarkable and disturbing (but I have to say, unfortunately not surprising to those among us who have been closely following statecraft during the Bush years and under Obama) is that despite those bills’ nullification of due process and therefore straight up fascist character, the mainstream media with only one exception did not deem it worthy to bring up the fact of its introduction in its earliest incarnation as S. 3081. One would have thought (and as I wrote at the time) that the bill’s sponsors, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Joe Lieberman, the immediate past GOP nominee for President and a past Democratic Party nominee for Vice-President (Al Gore’s running mate in 2000) respectively, and thus a “bipartisan” move, would have made the bill noteworthy by itself, let alone the fascist nature of the bill, to publicize. But no, these are not ordinary times. These are the times of the “War on Terror.”

    As I point out in my book, however, this trend to a radically different paradigm for governance, public order policies, in which everyone is treated as a suspect rather than those who have actually committed and thought to have committed a crime (i.e., a legitimate suspect based on evidence), has been underway since in the 1970s, in other words, prior to 9/11. These policies have been becoming more and more explicit and sweeping since the 1970s, with 9/11 and other terrorist incidents in other countries serving as the fig leaf justification for policies that do not have to do with terrorism per se at all.

    The treatment of the non-violent symbolic free speech and free assembly protests by the Occupy Movement as vermin who must be removed (and famously, pepper sprayed by Lt. John Pike at UC Davis as if he were spraying bugs) and their forcible and at times extremely brutal evictions and treatment, are part and parcel of this perilous and odious trend. You may not, under these new rules, petition your government for redress of grievances. You may not, under these new rules, speak out in public or private space (e.g., Zuccotti Park) if what you are saying is inconvenient, embarrassing, or exposing of those who run the society. You may not, under these new rules, act as if you have any rights to due process, because authorities can and are designating you as a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism or merely someone who doesn’t show respect for others’ views (as LA Mayor Villaraigosa dishonestly described Occupy LA), and you will be forcibly removed, beaten, or detained until you die, without recourse to a day in court or a chance to confront your accusers (does this sound Kafkaesque to you?). Crime and terrorism is anything authorities don’t like and want to remove, shut down or shut up.

    [T]he forces insisting that order is under siege and that repression and extralegal measures are necessary to cope with that disorder are the same forces creating disorder in the society by dispossessing increasing ranks of the people, endangering the planet’s biosystem, and provoking greater and greater levels of social insecurity.

    Neoliberal regimes’ ever-growing inequities produce dissension and dissatisfaction, not because the disaffected elect to feel disaffection—although the already privileged tend to see it that way, as if there is bounty for all if everyone would simply put their noses to the grindstone, there being no structural logic to the dispossession of so many for the wealth of the few. Rather, the disadvantaged’s status brings them into conflict with those that the system favors. The position of the disadvantaged is what makes them criminal, dangerous, and potential terrorists. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, Pp. 153-154)

    Some people are holding out hope that Obama will veto this bill. Three things should be pointed out specifically about that hope, as Glenn Greenwald has written. First, “as Dave Kopel documents, that ‘it was the Obama administration which told Congress to remove the language in the original bill which exempted American citizens and lawful residents from the detention power,’ on the ground it would unduly restrict the decision-making of Executive Branch officials. In other words, Obama officials wanted the flexibility to militarily detain even U.S. citizens if they were so inclined, and are angry that this bill purports to limit their actions.” The bill’s sponsors had excluded American citizens and lawful residents and Obama wanted them put in.

    Second, the objections being raised by the Obama White House to the bill are not that the bill abrogates due process and that entirely innocent people could have their rights stripped and be detained indefinitely. Their objections are that the bill interferes with the Executive branch’s free exercise of these powers unto itself. Which brings us to the third point.

    Third, this bill, as horrible as it is, is essentially a “Me Too” bill signifying the Legislative Branch’s jumping wholly and enthusiastically onto the “We’re Against Terrorism Too!” bandwagon, showing how willing they are, as is the Supreme Court and the White House, to use torture, ubiquitous surveillance, and powers befitting not a country that respects due process as the linchpin of a society that is not a tyranny, to suspend people’s rights and exercise dictatorial powers.

    Notably, as Greenwald also points out, the bill only passed because sixteen Democrats joined the majority of Republicans, including some “liberal” stalwarts:

    Every GOP Senator (except Rand Paul and Mark Kirk) voted against the Udall amendment, while just enough Democrats – 16 in total — joined the GOP to ensure passage of Levin/McCain. That includes such progressive stalwarts as Debbie Stabenow, Sheldon Whitehouse, Jeanne Shaheen and its lead sponsor, Carl Levin.

    I’ve described this little scam before as “Villain Rotation”: “They always have a handful of Democratic Senators announce that they will be the ones to deviate this time from the ostensible party position and impede success, but the designated Villain constantly shifts, so the Party itself can claim it supports these measures while an always-changing handful of their members invariably prevent it.” This has happened with countless votes that are supposed manifestations of right-wing radicalism but that pass because an always-changing roster of Democrats ensure they have the support needed. So here is the Democratic Party — led by its senior progressive National Security expert, Carl Levin, and joined by just enough of its members — joining the GOP to ensure that this bill passes, and that the U.S. Government remains vested with War on Terror powers and even expands that war in some critical respects.

    This makes you oh so enthusiastic to go out there and campaign for progressives and the Democrats more generally because they will do such a bang up job of representing the People, does it not?

    There is a path that represents the only real road forward in the face of this, as I write in my book:

    In the neoliberal world not only do physical characteristics matter, but behaviors, dress, class background, attitudes, and so on, can create a sense of “insecurity” for others, justifying clampdowns. The law no longer represents the standard that people must abide by in order to avoid having police actions and prosecutions imposed upon them. The new standard is that one can be subjected to governmental or private social control measures simply for being a perceived threat or source of discomfort to someone. This undermining of the rule of law is being carried out across the full spectrum of bureaucratic and corporate purview and policy making from top to bottom. As Hornqvist puts it: “It may seem absurd that a single area of policy should cover everything from truancy and drug sales to acts of terror. But it is absurd only because so many of us have not yet learned to proceed from a concept of security that has broken away from the logic of the law.”[i] From this perspective, Bush and Cheney’s express violations of the rule of law are then not unique to them. They were merely on the cutting edge of that trajectory. And Obama’s perpetuation of their actions represents the further advance of that neoliberal project. This means that attempts to restore the rule of law will not succeed as a strategy separate from a fundamental challenge to the entire logic of the system itself. (p. 155).


    [i] Magnus Hornqvist, “The Birth of Public Order Policy,” Race and Class 46, no. 1

    (July-September 2004), 37.

  • What's Newt - and the GOP - Up To?

    What's Newt - and the GOP - Up to?

    By Dennis Loo (1/20/12)

    New York Times’ Op-Ed Columnist Charles Blow in today’s issue (January 20, 2012) writes of “Newt’s Southern Strategy.” He ends his piece in which he chronicles Newt’s pugnacious extremism with this:

    “Gingrich is appealing to (and exposing) an ugly, gut-level anger and animosity among a sizable portion of the Republican electorate. This may work for him in the primaries, but it doesn’t bode well for his party in November.”

    Is this a bad electoral strategy on Newt’s part? Or is it something else? As I wrote in my book, Globalization and the Demolition of Society:

    “Some people view these developments [the Birthers, the murder of abortion doctors such as Dr. George Tiller, the murderous assassination attempt upon Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, etc.] as signs that the GOP is digging its own grave as a legitimate party. This is not, however, principally an electoral strategy by the GOP. It is instead a strategy of a small minority banking on bullying and intimidation to get its way by enlisting the support of a relatively small but highly aroused social base—the Tea Parties —as a kind of shock troops strategy.

    “These are the early expressions of a full-blown fascist movement. They are the domestic analogue of the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war and torture. As long as the Bush Doctrine remains in place in foreign policy, its equivalent in domestic policy will and must persist because the government cannot continue those policies abroad without shoring up a xenophobic domestic base. As Paul Craig Roberts puts it, referring to Chris Hedges,

    ‘Indeed, Hedges reports that “radical activists in the environmental, [anti]-globalization, anti-nuclear, sustainable agriculture and anarchist movements are already being placed by the state in special detention facilities with Muslims charged with terrorism.” Hedges warns: “This corruption of our legal system will not be reserved by the state for suspected terrorists or even Muslim Americans. In the coming turmoil and economic collapse, it will be used to silence all who are branded as disruptive or subversive. [Syed Fahad] Hashmi [American accused of terrorism] endures what many others, who are not Muslim, will endure later.”’[i] (Pp. 185-186)

    “These egregious policies should be exposed, isolated, and repudiated. But the Democrats and Obama refuse to do this. A new basis of unity is being configured in the US, one based on narrow nationalistic and profoundly immoral premises. In this new compact, the rule of law is subordinated to a permanent emergency condition. Security trumps liberty and freedom, and freedom is being redefined to mean the freedom of corporations and the freedom to consume. To accomplish this new compact will require silencing and neutralizing the Left and dissenters and freethinking rationalists through intimidation, repression, violence, and the Big Lie.”

    It is a mistake, in other words, to view the contestations and rhetoric of both marjor parties as primarily directed at electoral victories. Political power isn't primarily exercised via elections. For more on this question, see my article "On Elections and the Real Sources of Political Power."



    [i] Paul Craig Roberts, “Liberty Has Been Lost,” OpEdNews.com, January 5, 2010, http://www.opednews.com/articles/Liberty-Has-Been-Lost-by-Paul-Craig-Roberts-100105-429.html, accessed January 6, 2010.

  • Who’s to Blame for Urinating Marines? (Jan. 15, 2012)

    Who's to Blame for Urinating Marines?

    By Dennis Loo (1/15/12)

    The four U.S. Marines shown on video urinating on the dead bodies of Afghanis, allegedly Taliban fighters, has sparked heated debate in this country and sparked outrage in the world. In an MSNBC story entitled: “Extreme war stresses to blame in Marine urination video?” Eugenia Weiss, a USC psychologist is quoted at the beginning of the story supporting the story’s headline:

    “The act of urinating on the dead bodies ‘could be a coping mechanism in dealing with a very difficult situation,’ Weiss said. ‘Or it could be this sense of vengeance, because a lot of troops in combat have lost comrades in the line of duty, or even post deployment from suicide or have later died from injuries. So there can be this great sense of vengeance. And that certainly can turn twisted.’

    “She also said it may have simply ‘started as a lewd joke, and often times that can get carried too far, you get a group dynamic that kicks in, and perhaps vengeance.’"

    Another psychologist at Clark University, Michael Addis, echoes Weiss in the story, saying that wars are “inherently traumatic.”

    Disagreeing with them is Col. Jack Jacobs, an NBC News analyst and a Medal of Honor recipient for his actions in the Vietnam War who says that there is no excuse for this, calling the four Marines “idiots.”

    The Obama Administration has criticized the Marines’ actions as “deplorable” and GOP candidate Rick Perry has in turn criticized the Obama administration for “over-the-top rhetoric” and said the soldiers deserve no more than a reprimand.

    What is not mentioned in these media stories or by these public officials or cited psychologists or veterans is the following:

    First, these soldiers are acting out the views of those who launched and continue these wars, that is, the highest levels of the U.S. government and U.S. military brass. As egregious as these soldiers’ behavior is, they are the lesser of the criminals responsible for these immoral, illegal and unjust wars. The lead criminals are Bush, Cheney, Obama, Clinton, et al. They are the ones who created and continue these wars and they are the ones who have trained these soldiers to think of the people they are killing as subhuman. The MSNBC story cites retired Army Sgt. Maj. Herb Freidman, “an author and authority on psychological operations”: ‘They are murderers and terrorists that think nothing of blowing up soldiers, civilians, women and children. What have they done to deserve our respect? There are Marines being killed and maimed on a daily basis by these people. They are flying in from Muslim countries all over the world to get their crack at martyrdom. If some Marine that fought them in battle fair and square feels that he has the right to urinate on a defeated enemy, what is the problem? Hell, it could be worse....’” What Friedman conveniently forgets is that these Marines are “flying in” from outside of Afghanistan and it is they who are the occupiers.

    Second, wars are not separate and apart from the politics and economics that brought them on. As destructive as they are, wars are not utterly capricious and random acts of violence without any rhyme or reason. Wars, as Clausewitz famously described them, are a continuation of politics by other, violent, means. That means that the politics that brought on the wars also characterize the wars themselves: why the wars are being carried out, why they continue, how they are being carried out, and so on. Those who think that anything goes in a war misunderstand or choose to misunderstand this fundamental fact. Those who excuse the behavior of these Marines as due to the stresses of wars and even those who call them idiots miss this point. These “idiots” are acting out the idiocies of their officers and of their commanders. Those who do not oppose these wars as war crimes are missing the point.

    As I wrote in the last chapter of my book, Globalization and the Demolition of Society:

    “People now in charge possess hubris in the classic meaning of the term—they do not believe that their adversaries are capable of being imaginative, ambitious, or brave, even in the face of dramatic and repeated evidence to the contrary. This is a blind spot on their part, not one which every single person in charge is guilty of, but one that pervades and dominates the institutional culture; empires tend to think in these ways. Why would you, if you were the top dogs after all, ascribe admirable attributes to your adversaries, whom you regard as your inferiors? This is one of empires’ central weaknesses; it is also one of the reasons why even those people who are not in favor of revolutionary change need to think very carefully about which side they are choosing to support. The empire does not really care about your individual fate and is doing things daily that jeopardize people’s lives and the planet’s welfare and viability.

    “Defeating the empire is not something that occurs only on the literal battlefield. It is also something that is determined throughout the continuum of battles over many issues, including: ideas; philosophy; forms of organization and leadership in economy, politics, and other realms; ways of arguing; ways of responding to and respecting empirical data; interest in truth as opposed to expedience; how people and the environment should be treated; the nature of relations among people (e.g., between women and men, different races and ethnicities, rich and poor countries, etc.); ways of responding to criticism and ideas that are not your own; ways of handling one’s own errors and those of others; and more, all the way up through how warfare is carried out. The contrast between the methods and goals of the neoliberals and those of us who seek an entirely different world is stark.” (Pp. 326-327)

    And in the concluding passage of my book, there is this:

    "[D]ifferent classes and different groups have different material interests, and those material interests are reflected in ideologies, values, beliefs, and their pursuit of their group’s interests. Recognizing the parameters of different ideologies and how they serve different classes and groupings within those classes is critical to developing an ability to see beneath the surface to the essence of any social issue and social struggle. Put in more common parlance, there are vested interests, and those interests are expressed or articulated by the leading spokespeople for those groups. The bottom line, the fundamental division in our society, is between, on the one hand, those whose interests rest upon dominance and the drive towards monopolizing the society and planet’s resources and, on the other hand, those whose interests lie in the husbanding of those resources for the good of the whole rather than the part. The startling evidence of the neoliberals’ bankruptcy surrounds us everyday, and grows starker as time moves on. Their attacks on the people grow more vociferous and damaging by the day. The prospect of a radically different future from that spreading nightmare exists in embryonic form today.

    “Which path will be taken? The world awaits. The future beckons. Who will answer the call?” (p. 357)

  • Statement on the 10th Anniversary of Guantanamo (Jan. 11, 2012)

    Statement on the 10th Anniversary of Guantanamo (1/11/12)

    Dennis Loo delivered this statement during the press conference/vigil outside the LA Federal Building on January 11, 2012:

    A society’s level of humanity or inhumanity can be read by looking at how it treats those it incarcerates. By that measure, we as a people and society are in terrible trouble. The prisoners who are tortured in prisons abroad and here at home, some of whom have died under torture and some driven to end their suffering by suicide, bear the weight of our collective souls on their sullied bodies.

    I am a criminologist and have studied, taught, and written about prisons and jails here and abroad for many years. There are startling parallels between how much more savage domestic prisons have become and the impact of the so-called “war on terror” (WOT) on our world.

    There is a general degrading underway of public administration and political leadership that emanates from the very highest levels of the U.S. government, with the willing collusion - or at least silence - of much of the major media. In that degrading of public leadership, the most draconian policies are now becoming the standard operating procedure and rule by lies and terror and indifference to the fates of people who do not toe the official line are now the rule.         

    In the WOT people whom the government dislikes, both actual terrorists and those who are merely dissenters engaging in or merely contemplating dissenting speech and/or assembly and/or thought, or even innocent bystanders, are being labeled enemies of the state. Until the ACLU and I called attention to it in 2009 the Defense Department, for example, was training all of its employees that non-violent protest was a form of “low-level terrorism.” We see the repressive powers of the state being further expanded with Obama’s signing on New Year’s Eve the National Defense Authorization Act that mandates the military to arrest and indefinitely detain people, both Americans and non-Americans, merely on the basis of an accusation, without recourse ever to the right to challenge your detention. (The inclusion of American citizens in the bill was specifically requested by none other than the Obama Administration.) In our domestic prisons administrators likewise label prisoners “gang members” as a form of repression, designating people as gang members whether they are actually gang members or not.           

    In the WOT torture and indefinite detention has been and is being used to extract “confessions” from detainees with the net cast exceedingly widely to include mostly entirely innocent individuals. This is neither a mistake nor an accident. The purpose of torture is not intelligence. The purpose of torture is terror. That is why capricious treatment of innocents is a core component of torture: you are supposed to be terrorized by its use into complying with whatever authority tells you to do because you could be the next innocent victim. In domestic prisons torture and long-term isolation are being used to terrorize prisoners. “Debriefings” are being used in an attempt to get prisoners to “name names,” much as the House UnAmerican Activities Committee of the McCarthy period did. “Naming names” is seen by those who act as inquisitors as the ultimate act of submission to authority because you are implicating your friends and family.

    The WOT is a form of collective punishment and prison administrators are using collective punishment in domestic prisons, with punishment meted out to everyone, not just the individuals who have actually violated rules. 

    These parallels are not a coincidence. They are a natural and inevitable consequence of rule by tyrants who are scandalously using the so-called War on Terror to carry out a War Upon the People. People who see this must find every way to resist and to support those who are resisting. A new day must come, for the darkness grows ever deeper and malignant.

  • The War OF Terror's Deadly Embrace, the Drums of War, and What Time It Is (Jan. 6, 2012)

    By Dennis Loo

    The media have, with few exceptions, not covered the passage and signing by Obama of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA) in a fashion that would alert the populace to the momentousness of what is afoot. Even among those who know of the NDAA, many are reacting with astonishing muteness, with all too many of those who despise the Republicans still planning to vote for Obama on the sole grounds that they can't stand the GOP. If you can't stand the GOP but can stand what Obama's been doing, then pray tell what distinctions are you making that would puzzle even the angels dancing on the head of a pin? Fortunately, there are those who are appropriately alarmed.

    Obama in his signing statement upon the NDAA on New Year’s Eve stated that he would never use the provisions of NDAA against American citizens. Whether he uses it or not is moot since he is not going to be president into perpetuity. If he didn’t want the law to be used against Americans, then why not veto the bill? An even more salient point is that it was his administration that asked for the inclusion of American citizens in the bill before Congress passed it. If you don’t want American citizens to be subjected to indefinite detention merely on an accusation, then why would you insist that it be put into the bill in the first place?

    Obama’s words and actions can only be viewed as a calculated attempt to mislead people into thinking that what he’s doing is not as monstrous as it is. If one is not blinded by partisanship or by personality cultism, when one looks at what he’s been doing since he won the election, it is impossible to conclude anything else than that his candidacy and his presidency were a ruse in the first place to try to mislead Americans about what their government is doing. Republicans and Democrats can only continue this path of relentlessly and ruthlessly refashioning the norms of governance through considerable subterfuge and by instilling fear among the populace. In this excerpt from my book Globalization and the Demolition of Society, I discussed this from the particular angle of the “War on Terror”:

    “Bush and Cheney’s approach was to use the fear of attacks to consolidate their power and control (witness the USA PATRIOT Act and illegal spying) rather than to take obvious steps that would truly help make America safer. In the spring of 2002, for example, the Bush White House slashed the Energy Department’s requests for funding to protect nuclear plants and waste against terrorism by 93 percent. The Bush White House’s priorities in response to 9/11 indicated that they were not even particularly interested in preventing another attack. Beginning in the summer of 2007, several people who supported or represented the White House made it brazenly clear that another 9/11 would in fact be good and necessary because it would justify White House policies.

    “Dennis Milligan, Arkansas GOP Chairman, stated on June 3, 2007: ‘[A]ll we need is some attacks on American soil like we had on [9/11], and the naysayers will come around very quickly to appreciate not only the commitment for President Bush, but the sacrifice that has been made by men and women to protect this country.’[1]

    “Rick Santorum, ex-Senator from Pennsylvania, speaking on the Hugh Hewitt Show on July 7, 2007, stated: ‘Between now and November, a lot of things are going to happen, and I believe that by this time next year, the American public’s going to have a very different view of this war, and it will be because, I think, of some unfortunate events, that like we’re seeing unfold in the UK. But I think the American public’s going to have a very different view.’[2] [Boldfacing added]

    “Lt. Col. Doug Delaney, War Studies Program Chair, Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, said on July 8, 2007: ‘The key to bolstering Western resolve is another terrorist attack like 9/11 or the London transit bombings of two years ago. “If nothing happens, it will be harder still to say this is necessary,’ adds Delaney.[3] (Delaney paraphrased by Toronto Star reporter, Andrew Chung.)

    “A Sacramento Democratic strategist, paraphrased by one of the pro-impeachment Democrats at a Democratic gathering on July 17, 2007, offered the following as one of the reasons why he thinks impeachment is foolhardy for the Democratic Party: ‘There will be another terrorist attack between now and next November . . . the public will run into the arms of the Republicans as a cause of that, and . . . Democrats are essentially helpless to do anything about that.’[4]

    “Jack Goldsmith, head of the Office of Legal Counsel in 2003 and 2004, quotes David Addington, Cheney’s then-current Chief of Staff, in his book The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration as saying in a February 2004 meeting: ‘We’re one bomb away from getting rid of that obnoxious [FISA] court.’[5]

    “Preceding these overt comments was a 2005 internal GOP memo that indicated that another terrorist attack on the US would help Bush and the GOP because it would ‘restore his image as a leader of the American people,’ and ‘validate’ his ‘War on Terror.’[6] As it turned out, no such attack occurred, but not for the lack of wishing and prognosticating by these forces. The openly expressed desire for such an incident was very revealing of the underlying political agendas. (More on this in Chapter Four.)

    “Bush/Cheney represented neoliberalism’s most extreme and aggressive variant. Under Clinton/Gore, globalization and neoliberal policies were also pursued, albeit less unilaterally, yet generating fundamentally the same ineluctable consequences in economic and social fallout. The largest gap between the rich and poor in history occurred under Clinton, only to be exceeded subsequently by Bush/Cheney. Under Clinton/Gore, NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) was pushed through, terrorism grew, the criminal justice system expanded, and ‘welfare as we know it’ was eliminated. Under sanctions against Iraq some five hundred thousand Iraqi children perished. When asked about this, former UN ambassador Madeline Albright famously said that the ‘price is worth it.’”[7]

    In short, the people who run this country are cynical and ruthless enough to invite and actually wish for devastating terrorist attacks upon the country in order to justify their ongoing unconstitutional attacks on the people’s rights. The Democrats have not been as bold and frank as the GOP in describing such attacks as a good thing for them, but have gone along willingly with it, including providing the necessary Democratic votes to pass the NDAA (drawn from among the putative progressive Democrats) and Obama’s signing the bill after insisting that the bill include American citizens picked up on American soil as potential indefinite detainees. As Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, NDAA actually only extends to the military the unsupervisable and unfettered executive acts of Obama such as publicly assassinating those he has alone determined to be “terrorists.” This is the man that so many people thought was going to be an alternative to that awful Bush and Cheney.

    The drums of war are being beaten in earnest now; we are on the verge of a probable attack upon Iran with excuses no more credible than the WMD one was against Iraq. Those in power need to stoke the tools of repression here at home because they know that their policies are triggering, and can only trigger, mass dissatisfaction here at home and abroad and because they know that their illegal, immoral and unjust actions abroad can only be carried out if the populace is prevented from expressing its opposition and from publicly exposing the deceitfulness of this government’s actions.

    The mass media are, as before, rallying around the tattered and bloody flag of lies and bellicose national chauvinism. In light of these developments, such as Obama and Congress’ NDAA, those who are not blinded by fear and/or hate can see ever more vividly everyday what those in power are really about. The idea that voting for one or the other in their electoral circus is any kind of useful exercise becomes more clearly absurd.

    The hope that people of conscience have is to strike out in an independent direction, building upon the work that Occupy and other groups such as World Can't Wait have been blazing, decisively casting aside with disdain the quicksand trap of electoral politics. We are the 99%. We cannot be stopped by bullying, intimidation, fear-mongering, and repression if we recognize both the dangers and the opportunities inherent in situations such as this. The storms of the present and the grander storms of the future will tear and break some, but it will steel others. If we do not give into fear, our struggle will bring others to our side who have been waiting on the sidelines, gnashing their teeth. If you want others to be brave, you must yourself set an example. The future can be ours. We must not allow the future to be written for us and for our children by those who every day take the world further down the road to ruin.



    [1] Josh Catone, “Arkansas GOP Head: We Need More ‘Attacks on American Soil’ So People Appreciate Bush,” June 3, 2007, RawStory.com, http://rawstory.com/news/2007/Arkansas_GOP_head_We_need_more_0603.html, accessed July 1, 2007.

    [2] This was originally posted at Hugh Hewitt’s blog, but it has been removed. A transcript of Santorum’s remarks is still available at 9/11 Blogger, “Rick Santorum predicts some unfortunate events will give Americans a very different view of this war,” Infowars.com, July 7, 2007, http://www.infowars.com/articles/us/santorum_predicts_some_unfortunate_events.htm, accessed February 6, 2011.

    [3] Andrew Chung, “Why Military Might Does Not Always Win,” TheStar.com, July 8, 2007, http://www.thestar.com/News/article/233617, accessed July 20, 2007.

    [4] dday, “How An Insider Consultant Changed My Mind on Impeachment,” DailyKos.com, July 17, 2007, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/7/17/141844/051, accessed July 18, 2007.

    [5] Dan Eggen and Peter Baker, “New Book Details Cheney Lawyer’s Efforts to Expand Executive Power,” WashingtonPost.com, September 5, 2007, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2007/09/04/AR2007090402292_pf.html, accessed September 10, 2007. The FISA court [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] was created in 1978 in the wake of Congressional revelations of Nixon’s illegal domestic intelligence surveillance against political opponents such as the anti-war movement. FISA provided congressional and judicial oversight over executive foreign intelligence work while providing secrecy for those activities so that sensitive activities would not be compromised. If the executive branch wanted to apply a wiretap, for example, it applied to the FISA court in camera for authorization. Since its inception, FISA has only turned down two or three executive applications for covert surveillance. When it was revealed in 2005 that the Bush White House was skirting FISA approval for its massive domestic surveillance, the White House asserted that the “war on terror” necessitated their acting swiftly and avoiding FISA. FISA, however, has provisions allowing retroactive surveillance approval, a fact that the White House never mentioned. In 2008 after the revelations of the White House’s illegal activities, the Democratically controlled Congress revised FISA to grant amnesty to the major communications companies such as AT&T, Verizon and so on that had illegally gone along with the White House’s demands that they secretly allow NSA to wiretap all US electronic communications.

    [6] Doug Thompson, “GOP Memo Touts New Terror Attack As Way to Reverse Party’s Decline,” CapitolHillBlue.com, November 10, 2005, available as of February 6, 2011 in its entirety at http://forums.mtbr.com/showthread.php?t=143814.:

    A confidential memo circulating among senior Republican leaders suggests that a new attack by terrorists on US soil could reverse the sagging fortunes of President George W. Bush as well as the GOP and “restore his image as a leader of the American people.”

    The closely-guarded memo lays out a list of scenarios to bring the Republican party back from the political brink, including a devastating attack by terrorists that could “validate” the President’s war on terror and allow Bush to “unite the country” in a “time of national shock and sorrow.”

    [7] Sheldon Richman, “Albright ‘Apologizes,’” The Future of Freedom Foundation online, November 7, 2003, http://www.fff.org/comment/com0311c.asp, accessed on February 11, 2011.

     

  • The Occupy the Rose Parade Action (Jan. 3, 2012)

    The Occupy the Rose Parade Action

    By Dennis Loo (1/3/12)

    I participated yesterday (Jan. 2, 2012) in the Occupy the Rose Parade action along with several thousand others. A good three thousand gathered afterwards for a rally in the Pasadena City Hall area and assuming that another thousand didn’t stick around for the rally (on the basis of my on the ground view of the march itself), I’d say that there were at least four thousand as a whole who came out. Peter Thottham, the main organizer, estimated the turnout at between 5-7,000. The LA Times quoted the police as saying there were 400 demonstrators, which is an absurdly low estimate. But then, this is the game that they routinely play.

    The day before the march the Pasadena Star-Ledger ran a hit piece on Peter calling him a questionable figure with a shady past and the LA Times stated as their January 1, 2012 article that “Those disrupting Rose Parade face fines, jail time.”

    Despite these attempts to scare people away and despite some alleged friction between Peter and Occupy LA and Occupy Pasadena over the failure to get the official endorsement of the General Assemblies of both occupies (I say alleged because I don’t know if that was in fact the case), the turnout was very large. I was there at OLA helping to do a dress rehearsal of the Octopus (which was used to bring up the rear of the march as our Rose Parade “float”) when Peter announced his plans to carry out the Occupy the Rose Parade action and invited OLA to attend. I am assuming that Peter probably also did this before the GA.)

    I am not going to attempt to summarize the entire action but I will mention two anecdotes. Since the march wasn’t officially part of the Rose Parade but brought up the rear of the end of the parade and was followed by a lot of riot police, the crowds were partially dispersing through our ranks as we marched. One of them, a 60ish rather overweight white woman who was walking a few feet away from me declaimed around her: “Join the military and get your ass whipped.” To which immediately, a man and a young woman near me both rejoined: “I did, did you?” The hostile woman looked a bit shocked, had nothing to say, and scurried away quickly. The other incident I witnessed was a 40ish white woman, probably upper middle class judging from her dress and grooming, who said to us: “I work for a living and support you people” to which two other women near me said back: “I work for a living too.”

    What those who are hostile to the Occupy Movement don’t really understand, as these anecdotes underscore, is how broadly representative the ranks of the Occupy Movement are of the populace. This is not just a bunch of unemployed hippies banging drums. This is, as the chant that seemed to be the second most popular on the march: “WE are the 99%! YOU are the 99%!”

    Most of the planned speakers at the rally, with the exception of Cindy Sheehan, put forward a reform the system position, calling for people to support various voting initiatives and electing different representatives to office. Cindy, by far, got the strongest response from the crowd, not only because of who she is, but what she said. She spoke of her hope that 2012 would be a year of revolution.

  • Why People Aren't Mainly Motivated by Money (Dec. 30, 2011)

    By Dennis Loo

    I just found this delightful video today (it has over 7.3 million hits) that shows in about 10 minutes why the central tenet of neoliberal thought is dead wrong. It originally appeared on Business Insider.

    It’s entitled: RSA Animate – Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us.

    It shows how very conventionally-minded economists at the University of Chicago, Carnegie-Mellon and MIT found out in studies they designed and ran (and paid for by the Federal Reserve Bank) that the accepted wisdom that giving people more money to get them to work harder and better only works for the most mechanical of tasks and has a reverse effect on any task that requires even the most rudimentary kind of thinking.

    What people are motivated by in life, in other words, isn't mainly material incentives but engagement, autonomy, purpose and contributing to something larger than themselves. When subjects in a poor rural area of India (Maduri) were given two months more salary as a bonus for harder work they did WORSE than those who were given less bonus cash. This replicated what they found when they carried out this experiment on MIT students.

  • Why “the Lesser of Two Evils” Isn't (Dec. 18, 2011)

    By Dennis Loo

    Whenever the election cycle starts up, some people tell us that they feel that they have no choice but ”to hold their noses” and vote for the “lesser evil,” by which they usually mean the Democratic candidate (although there’s a right-wing version of this in which they choose the Republican when they’d really rather have the libertarian).

    One respondent to a recent Energy Insiders Poll in National Journal about the [Keystone XL] pipeline explained that these groups will reluctantly come back to the President: “Environmentalists will not be happy, but they have nowhere else to go, since they scorn Republicans.”

                                                                            — Jessica Goad and Stephen Lacey

    For the last few presidential race cycles we’ve heard people from the left and from the Democratic Party tell us that “this is the most important election in your lifetime.”

    It’s funny how for several times in a row it’s been the “most important election in your lifetime.”

    And what have we gotten by this process?

    People have been holding their noses so long that some of them have suffered some brain damage from lack of oxygen.

    In an episode of the TV show “The Simpsons,” Homer finds himself in an alien spaceship orbiting Earth. The aliens have managed to kidnap the Republican and Democratic Party nominees for president and have them imprisoned in capsules on their ship. Hitting buttons randomly on the ship’s control, Homer inadvertently jettisons the two candidates into deep space. Doh! After this, Homer somehow manages to steer the spaceship back to Earth and upon landing in Washington, D.C. finds the two aliens, disguised as the two presidential candidates, giving campaign speeches together on the Capitol steps. Homer unmasks the aliens, revealing them to be two very large, very grotesque, octopus-looking creatures. The crowd gasps. The aliens hesitate for a moment. Then one of them says to the crowd: “It’s a two-party system; you have to vote for one of us!” There is a pause and then somewhere from the crowd says: “He’s right!”[1]

    Is he?

                                                                                                                — Dennis Loo[2]

    We’ve gotten the most egregious violations of the rule of law under the former Constitutional Law professor, Barack Obama, who has assassinated American citizens with drones without trial and without convictions, just on his say so as president.

    This former Constitutional Law professor told Sen. Carl Levin to take out of the NDAA before Congress passed it the language that would have excluded American citizens on U.S. soil from being summarily arrested and indefinitely detained.

    Not that I think that the bill is any more acceptable by exempting American citizens, but the point is that Obama is to the right of those who proposed and passed this – and I say this as a strict descriptor – fascist law.

    The only thing worse than this law would be mandated executions on the spot of people that the authorities regard as a threat. That is the next step beyond the NDAA. And, in fact, we’ve had incidents in which exactly that has occurred: where an individual has been summarily executed, except that it hasn’t yet been put down on paper as a mandate. It’s de facto and not yet de jure.

    So let’s be straight on what the situation is, shall we?

    What is this business of elections, since according to the news and the government this is where it’s at, this is where the people get to have their say and decide what’s going to happen.

    Let’s put this in context: If you were a member of the 1% and enjoyed your luxuries and lifestyle more than justice and fairness, would you allow one of the two major political parties in this country or any candidate for office to actually pose a threat to your multi-millions and multi-billions?

    Would you put the American Empire with its nearly 800 military bases, its military industrial congressional complex, its CIA, DHS, NSA, DIA, NYPD, and all the rest of the damn acronyms up to a popular (grimace) vote?

    Would you allow the public to have the power to unseat your de facto rule through the simple process, god forbid, of voting?

    Would you? If you did, you probably got your money from an inheritance and can’t think straight.

    Wouldn’t you make sure that the people who were the nominees on the ballot were in your pocket before the votes were counted?

    And if anyone somehow slipped through the cracks and got elected or who had an epiphany while in office and turned against you, getting it into their head that they were going to tell the people the truth (I know, it’s a wild thought, but imagine it for a moment), wouldn’t you make sure that they were muzzled or disgraced or disappeared in an accident?

    The Occupy Movement has shown that the people have somewhere else to go besides trailing after and pleading with Democrats to do something other than enriching the plutocrats and raining death upon people abroad.

    The anti-Vietnam War movement had somewhere else to go besides begging the Democrats to please “give peace a chance.”

    The civil rights movement and the black power movement of the 1960s had somewhere else to go besides waiting for Democrats to end racist oppression.

    The women’s movement had somewhere else to go besides being respectful and asking Democrats to honor the rights and autonomy of women.

    The trade union movement and the unemployed and the poor had somewhere else to go besides putting their hopes and dreams and fates in the hands of the Democrats.

    Do the people of this country who can think straight and who are not all wooly headed from fear and complacency have somewhere else to go besides voting for Obama again after he has shown repeatedly since winning office that he is like your partner who abuses you because he knows that you will never leave him and have nowhere to go? “Sure, I know you don’t like what I’m doing, but at least I’m not the other guy.”

    Do you have somewhere else to go? Do we have something else to do besides being played for fools every four years?

    I think we do. And history shows that we do, including very recent history.

    As GOP pollster Frank Luntz openly admitted in front of a crowd of Republican governors this month: "I'm so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I'm frightened to death. They're having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism.”

    Scaring them is good. Scaring them some more is even better.

    Notice that Luntz, the GOP pollster, didn’t say he was scared to death that people would vote for Democrats.

    When your adversaries tell you that the path you should take if you want to change things is a path that your adversaries advocate and celebrate, you need to take stock and ask yourself: if this is something that my adversaries endorse, doesn’t that mean there’s something innocuous to them about this path? If the people who endorse it are the people who do the very things that I think are awful, then shouldn’t I be doing something other than what they recommend?



    [1] "Treehouse of Horror VII" 
Episode #801 4F02, 
Original Airdate: 10/27/96

    [2] Dennis Loo and Peter Phillips, Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney, New York: Seven Stories Press, 2006, p. xxiii.

  • Obama, Congress, the People and the NDAA (Dec. 16, 2011)

    The NDAA: An Act of Infamy for Congress and for Obama

    By Dennis Loo

    The White House announced on December 15, 2011 that Obama would not veto the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012. The NDAA mandates the military to arrest and indefinitely detain any person, including American citizens, anywhere in the world, including on US soil, who is accused by authorities as a terrorist or alleged to be providing support to terrorists and organizations designated as terrorist. It is now enough - de facto and de jure - to be merely accused, for the sentence to be pronounced upon you by virtue of the accusation, as if Lewis Carroll's Red Queen was now in charge: "First the sentence, then the trial!"

    Except now, they won't even bother with a trial, before or after sentence. In doing this, this president and this Congress deserve to go down now and in history as the most infamous and craven in US history.

    Barack Hussein Obama, the man who campaigned on a platform of undoing the illegalities and gross injustices of the Bush Regime, has thus affirmed in no uncertain terms which side of history he is on – the side that Franz Kafka famously and graphically derided, the forces that posture, preen and say louder than anyone, while wrapped in the flag and the Bible, that they are the great defenders of Freedom, Liberty, and the Rule of Law, and no sooner as these words leave their lips and their poisoned pens, they cynically carry out the most lawless and most abhorrent practices. These practices deny the People the most minimal protections of due process and the rule of law, the very protections that distinguish tyrannies from just societies.

    There are those who had hoped that Obama would veto this patently fascist law. But all the advance indications were negative: his complaints before December 15th's announcement were all about the fact that he considered the NDAA to unduly restrict the executive's prerogatives to do the same things that the NDAA extends to the military - to act under the cover of the "war on terror" to summarily arrest, detain indefinitely - and in Obama's case, assassinate - those who were declared guilty by the government.

    More to the point, as Glenn Greenwald has correctly pointed out, the NDAA merely extends to the military the policies that Bush and now Obama, who has one-upped Bush since taking office, have already been engaging in via the White House. For those who remember the "unitary executive" doctrine which came out of the Federalist Society and that the GOP had been championing and still champions today - the notion that the executive branch has unlimited, unsupervisable, unaccountable power - Obama deserves to be feted by the Federalist Society for carrying their doctrine even further than Bush dared.

    It's come to this - you are guilty if anyone in authority says you're guilty, not because you've had a day in court, not because you have a chance to confront your accusers, not because you dare to think that you are innocent until proven guilty. Proof is no longer the standard. Assertion by authority is all that is now needed to put you away forever.

    This so-called “war on terror” has thus revealed to the world its true character and logic: a malignant tumor on the body of society that will kill the patient. “In order to save freedom, we had to annihilate freedom.” Anyone who recognizes the magnitude of this moment dares not remain silent. Scoundrels will bray in triumph, the uninformed, apathetic and cowardly will cower, and the clear-seeing will take up the mantle of responsibility for the sake of humanity and stand up and be counted. 

     

  • On Elections and the Sources of Real Political Power (Dec. 14, 2011)

     

    December 14, 2011

    By Dennis Loo

    Contrary to most people’s understanding, real political power does not principally exist either by the vehicle of voting or through the publicly displayed actions of the existing political institutions such as Congress and the White House.

    Real political power actually rests upon two bases: coercion and legitimacy. The nature and features of the official political institutions are fundamentally irrelevant to this. As the sociologist Max Weber put it, political power is a monopoly over the legitimate means of violence. The hard core of political power, in other words, as I put it in Globalization and the Demolition of Society, is coercion, not the consent of the governed.

    Why is violence so critical to political power? In order to have political power you must have the ability to get people to do what they don’t want to do. If you don’t have the ability to get people to do what you want them to do, even against their resistance, then you do not have political power. The difference between the mafia and others such as rapists and robbers who use violence to get their way and the government that also uses coercion is that the government is widely perceived as having the legitimate right to use force whereas the mafia and other criminals do not.

    What Weber did not analyze or discuss are the circumstances under which a government’s monopoly over the legitimate means of violence is called into question by a sufficiently large number of people in the country. As is apparent from popular struggles that are currently underway in the world (e.g., in Syria, Egypt, and the U.S. in the Occupy Movement v. the government), when the right of the government to use force is widely questioned, then government’s right to rule is actually what is being questioned in the ultimate analysis.

    By contrast to this perspective, official bodies of political rule such as the judicial, legislative, and executive branches are merely the outer shell of political power. The people who exercise political power are in part those who are public officials, but the manner in which decisions are made is not the equivalent of the show votes and the public statements of those in office about why they are doing what they are doing.

    When a vote is taken in a legislative body, for example, the vote’s outcome is almost always already known before the vote is taken. The legislative leadership would not put the matter up to a vote of the whole body unless and until it knows what the outcome will be. If the legislative leadership doesn’t want a measure to come to a vote and even if the issue would pass if allowed to come to a vote, then they simply pigeonhole the measure in committee and block it from coming to a vote by the whole chamber or even a vote within the subcommittee itself. Popularity, in other words, isn’t what decides whether something is passed or not, even among the legislators themselves. The Speaker of the House has the power, for instance, to single-handedly block something from being considered. This is how Nancy Pelosi prevented impeachment articles against Bush and Cheney from being considered in Congress even though a plurality of Americans favored just that.

    As I discuss in Globalization and the Demolition of Society, another way that this exercise of authority is evident is through decisions about who gets to be considered a “legitimate” candidate for public office. If they had no other authority but this, the ability to decide who will get the backing of the party and who will get a chance to be in the major debates during the campaign are enough to determine the outcome of the elections. If you can decide who the finalists will be, then all you have to do is make sure that the finalists (e.g., the Democratic and Republican nominees) are both within the parameters of what you as a member of the 1% will accept and you thereby get your way. Dennis Kucinich’s presidential platform for the 2008 election more closely matched what the majority of public wanted so if the leading candidates were decided by popularity among the public, he would have been the leading contender instead of treated as a “marginal” candidate. Wall Street, by contrast, favored candidate Obama, giving him even more money then they gave McCain. The 1%, in other words, knew who to put their money on and who to rely upon to protect their interests.

    This underscores the fact that appearances – what one looks like, how one sounds, and how a candidate tailors their message to be most appealing to the social base they’re seeking the votes from among the electorate – are not what you should use to judge candidates or how you should judge anything at all. As I argue in Globalization and the Demolition of Society:

    Obama’s campaign pledge [was] that he would restore habeas corpus because holding innocents is “not what we do.” In his [May 21, 2009] National Archives speech, Obama hastened to add that the decision to hold someone who has not been found guilty of any crimes should not be the action of the executive branch alone and that detention should not be open ended. “That’s why my administration has begun to reshape the standards that apply to ensure that they are in line with the rule of law. We must have clear, defensible, and lawful standards for those who fall into this category. We must have fair procedures so that we do not make mistakes. We must have a thorough process of periodic review, so that any prolonged detention is carefully evaluated and justified.” How does one square abridging habeas corpus with ensuring you are “in line with the rule of law?” How do you have “lawful standards” when you are breaking the law itself to establish said standards?

    This outcome was actually predictable.

    First, as I have been arguing in this book, neoliberal policies have been ascendant and dominant, and both major political parties in the US operate within the overall parameters and logic of that ideology.

    Second, public policy and especially public policy shifts are not ever carried out successfully by individual leaders, no matter how powerfully placed. They require movements and they require institutional support. This is true from the top of the political system and it is also true from the grassroots or from any other social or economic stratum. The widespread notion that electing a particular individual to high office will produce anything more than superficial changes reveals a lack of understanding of how politics actually operate.

    Third, the elevation of an individual to the status of a viable, “legitimate,” and “electable” candidate cannot occur absent the backing of powerful organizational and institutional forces that are by their nature key players in the status quo.

    Fourth, promises that public officials make are not immune from evaluation to determine what they actually intend; one does not have to wait and see until after they take office. We can, with proper analytical tools, decipher what these public officials’ promises and pronouncements really mean before they take office.

    As I wrote in June 2008, after Obama was nominated: “How can the same system, and the same specific individuals, who have cooperated in, permitted and/or legalized the outrageous and profound crimes of the Bush regime – including torture and war crimes – now tell us that the candidate that they endorse is the solution to the monstrous things that this system and these individuals have themselves allowed and colluded in?”[i]

    Some folks still think, nonetheless, that they would rather have a Democrat in office than a Republican. There are also those who put their faith in a third party. I am going to talk about both of these ideas now.

    As Glenn Greenwald wrote very recently in commenting on the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012’s passage by Congress, these measures that annihilate due process and the rule of law have passed with the active assistance of the Democratic Party and the votes of some of Congress’ stalwart “progressives.” Without their assistance, these measures would have been defeated:

    Every GOP Senator (except Rand Paul and Mark Kirk) voted against the Udall amendment, while just enough Democrats – 16 in total — joined the GOP to ensure passage of Levin/McCain. That includes such progressive stalwarts as Debbie Stabenow, Sheldon Whitehouse, Jeanne Shaheen and its lead sponsor, Carl Levin.

    I’ve described this little scam before as “Villain Rotation”: “They always have a handful of Democratic Senators announce that they will be the ones to deviate this time from the ostensible party position and impede success, but the designated Villain constantly shifts, so the Party itself can claim it supports these measures while an always-changing handful of their members invariably prevent it.” This has happened with countless votes that are supposed manifestations of right-wing radicalism but that pass because an always-changing roster of Democrats ensure they have the support needed. So here is the Democratic Party — led by its senior progressive National Security expert, Carl Levin, and joined by just enough of its members — joining the GOP to ensure that this bill passes, and that the U.S. Government remains vested with War on Terror powers and even expands that war in some critical respects.

    With regards to what Greenwald calls “Villain Rotation” I wrote an article on September 8, 2008 [reposted at World Can’t Wait on September 12] entitled “To Those Who Put Their Faith in Progressive Democrats and Obama” that exposes the same kind of behavior as these Congressional “progressives” in their actions prior to the 2008 Republican National Convention and Obama’s actions suggesting that Bush should launch drones upon Pakistan. The article is well worth reading and is hard to excerpt from without leaving out the full flavor of what was going on and what it reveals. The upshot of it is, however, that reliance upon the more liberal elements of the existing political apparatus is a losing strategy. It’s a losing strategy because the liberal or even radical versus conservative/reactionary spectrum isn’t how public policy is shaped because it is based on an incorrect understanding of how political power is actually exercised.

    That is why even if a third party were able to win the White House and a majority in Congress the situation would not really change.

    Consider a scenario in which socialist politicians, constituting a majority, are elected to office in the US but with no mass movement present other than the one that funneled people into an electoral solution. In such a scenario, the president would also be one of the lefties, given the preponderance of public opinion that produced a legislative socialist majority. What impact would this have on the economic and political landscape of the US? What might we expect to happen? For one thing, the political system would now be dominated by politics at odds with the current economic organization and institutions. What would happen if this political system, now dominated by socialists, moved to curb the extant huge disparities of economic power.   

    During Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration (his White House was not even remotely socialist but it did carry out reforms), prominent economic elites actually plotted a military coup modeled after Germany and Italy’s fascist regimes. As Alan Nasser relates, based on the recent release of data from the National Archives,

    The owners of Bird’s Eye, Maxwell House and Heinz, among others, totaling about twenty four major businessmen and Wall Street financiers [“including Prescott Bush, George H.W. Bush’s father. Bush, along with many other big businessmen, had maintained friendly relations in 1933 and 1934 with the new German government of Chancellor Adolph Hitler, and was designated to form for his class conspirators a working relationship with that government”] planned to assemble a private army of half a million men, composed largely of unemployed veterans. These troops would both constitute the armed force behind the coup and defeat any resistance this in-house revolution might generate. The economic elite would provide the material resources required to sustain the new government.

    The plotters hoped that widespread working-class discouragement at the stubborn persistence of the Great Depression would have sufficiently disenchanted the masses with FDR’s policies to make the coup an easy ride. And they were appalled at Roosevelt’s willingness after 1933 to initiate economic policies that economists and businessmen considered dangerously Leftist departures from economic orthodoxy. Only a fascist-style government, they thought, could enforce the kind of economic “discipline” that would reverse the Great Depression and restore profits.

    Interestingly, it was a military man, a prominent retired general assigned the task of raising the 500,000-man army, who blew the whistle after pondering the grotesque implications of the undemocratic installation of a fascist dictatorship in Washington. FDR was thus able to nip the plot in the bud.[ii]

    Nasser notes that FDR declined to reveal the plot publicly and punish the fascist coup conspirators, despite their treasonous plans, out of class solidarity and concerns that if the plotters were broadly exposed it would produce a victory—at a particularly sensitive time—for anti-capitalist sentiment. The coup’s failure, it should be noted, turned on the decision of just one man—the general who was picked to lead the coup.[iii] The conspirators themselves, key figures of this country’s economic elite, cheerleaders at every opportunity for “freedom,” “democracy,” and “the American way of life,” were not at all reluctant, when their fortunes appeared to be even mildly attenuated, to override the putatively sacred principles of what America claims to be all about.

    In Chile in 1970, a socialist president, Dr. Salvador Allende, was elected—the first Marxist to assume power through the electoral process. Allende proceeded to nationalize industries that had previously been dominated by foreign businesses. The US government in conjunction with multinationals such as Anaconda Copper conspired to overthrow the Allende government. The coup’s approach in the weeks and months before it happened on September 11, 1973, was apparent to everyone in Chile. The masses demanded of Allende that they be armed in order to defend the government and to have a chance to fight off the coup. Allende wavered and ended up staking his hopes on the military upholding the Constitution, declaring repeatedly in public pronouncements that the army was “patriotic” and would not participate in a coup. Why would he do this when it was clear that this was foolish in the extreme? To a significant extent, Allende did so because he adhered to the USSR’s political line—securing a compromise with the US imperialists for a piece of the action, but not a genuine revolution. Allende and thousands of Chileans paid for this halfway version of socialism with their lives.

    This highlights a critical point. In Mao’s pithy phrase: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Or, as one American Congressional member in 2007 said candidly when asked by some of his constituents why he was not moving to impeach Bush and Cheney: “They have the guns.”[iv]

    Any serious attempt at structural and dramatic political change must confront this reality. You can elect all of the sympathetic politicians you want, but if you do not command the coercive apparatus, you will lose the (political and economic) war sooner or later. A gun placed against one’s temple, after all, makes a very persuasive argument. An amply equipped and trained military force facing a larger, unarmed, untrained, and relatively unorganized mass assemblage nearly always carries the day. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, pp. 245-247)

    Having said all of this, let me conclude that this reality of the real nature of political power does not mean that there is nothing that can be done. Quite the contrary. If you realize that the monopoly over the use of legitimate violence is what makes up the essence of political power then you realize that the word “legitimate” in the phrase is key, more important than violence itself. Movements that expose the illegitimacy of both political parties, democratic theory’s central premises (which I elaborate upon at length in my book, especially in Chapter Five), the values in charge now and the organization of society and the economy under capitalist rule, and their warped priorities (a product of the logic of that very system) such as Occupy are very powerful. As the Republican pollster Frank Luntz very recently admitted, “[I’m] scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I’m frightened to death.” He warned that the movement is “having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism." 

    Frightening the 1% to death is what Occupy is doing. And it did so within the space of two months or less.

    How much farther is it possible for movements like Occupy to go? That is why authorities resorted to violence to evict them from the encampments – because the authorities cannot tolerate the ongoing exposure of their bankrupt measures.

    The story is still to be told and is being written as we speak…



    [i]Dennis Loo, “Of Whales and Worms,” Counterpunch.org, June 16, 2008, http://www.counterpunch.org/loo06162008.html, accessed June 16, 2008.

    [ii] Nasser, Alan, “The Threat of U.S. Fascism: An Historical Precedent,” Commondreams.org, August 2, 2007, http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/08/02/2933/, accessed July 10, 2009.

    [iii] This was U.S. Marine Major General Smedley Butler, who stated in a 1933 speech: “I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. . . . And during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. . . . I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. . . . Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents. . . .” From “War Is A Racket,” twf.org, September 11, 2001, http://www.twf.org/News/Y2001/0911-Racket.html, accessed February 14, 2011.

    [iv] Two individuals who spoke to the quoted representative in his office related this to me in person.

  • On the American Dream and the Fundamental Agreement Between the Democrats and the Republicans on Its Nature and Fate

    December 8, 2011

    By Dennis Loo

    The American Dream, as everyone knows, is that if you work hard, play by the rules, and persevere, that you will have a comfortable life for you and your family: (what used to be described as) the house with a white picket fence, 2.5 children, a chicken in the pot, and a Winnebago.

    What is the situation for the American Dream today?

    The Executive Editor of Gallup was on NPR this morning and reported that if you ask Americans what their job prospects are now that only 8% say that this is a good time to be looking for work, the lowest percentage that they have ever recorded. He went on to say, “however,” and this is “a big however,” he emphasized, if you ask people on a longer time horizon if they’re still hopeful for themselves and their family’s future, that they still mostly believe that things will be alright.

    The continued hold of the American Dream over people can be seen in this poll result and Gallup’s interpretation of it. What can also be seen is how under siege this view is, even among, or perhaps more accurately put, especially among average Americans. If we look at the overall trajectory of the U.S. political economy and that of the rest of the world (see the most recent weeks’ news out of the Euro zone, for example), we can see that the conditions for the 99% are not hopeful and in fact, the reality of what has been happening and the course of economic and political policy is why a critical mass of people came together so rapidly in the Occupy Movement – the recognition that conditions are bad and getting worse and that the existing institutions offer no relief from that picture.

    As I wrote in my 2006 book, Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney:

    [A]s the New Deal/Keynesian Welfare State is systematically dismantled by the neoliberal state—the political expression of globalization—as privatization takes the place of social programs, as deindustrialization and downsizing and speedups and take-aways proceed, as insecurity of job and livelihood becomes the norm rather than the exception, as the positive incentives, in other words, for normative behavior (jobs and decent pay, etc.) are increasingly shredded, the state and the corporate world have no choice but to rely more and more heavily upon coercion to ensure co-operation and to forestall rebellion and revolution. Coercion itself must be used more, but even coercion doesn’t work in all instances and sheer terror must be employed given their overweening ambitions for world domination. (p. 106)

    The Republicans and the Democrats, in other words, both operate within the logic and constraints of the overall system of neoliberalism, whose characteristics are briefly listed in the quote above. Both parties behave, however, as if they were adversaries in a professional wrestling match that is full of bluster and posturing, fake punches and throws of their opponent designed to dramatize to the audience that they really, really hate each other and they really, really want to win. Like professional wrestling matches, the American polity is called upon to pick a side, to choose who their champion is and whom they will root for and whom they will in turn boo. But as former wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura put it in describing the GOP and the Democratic Party: like wrestlers who despise each other in the ring, after the show is over they all go to dinner like the best of buddies (or, perhaps, in the case of public officials, play golf together).

    This is evident in the most recent public speeches of Obama and Mitt Romney. Obama “came out swinging” as some pundits put it, sounding like a populist and decrying the grotesque greed of the 1%, describing the middle class as endangered, and calling for fairness and a return to the ideals of equal opportunity. Romney, firing back, asked rhetorically if we were going to be a country of merit or one of entitlements, a peculiarly hypocritical stance since the truly entitled are none other than the 1% that the Republican party unabashedly represent.

    To illustrate why these two positions are really essentially the same, let’s take a look at the Parker Brothers game Monopoly. In the game everyone starts out with exactly the same amount of money and everyone gets a turn to roll the dice and advance across the board. As everyone who has ever played this game knows, within the space of a couple hours or so one player becomes the monopolist and the rest of the players are either bankrupted or close to bankrupted. Monopoly the game is thus both a realistic portrayal in one sense of the fundamental nature of capitalism and in another sense unrealistic. The outcome of Monopoly the game is largely realistic, although in the real world there continue to be small business people and a professional middle class that continues to exist even as many of them, especially the small business people, are wiped out. They continue to exist because in a real society they perform necessary functions in the overall division of labor and cannot be entirely dispensed with, especially those from the managerial and professional classes.

    The part of Monopoly the game that is unrealistic is the way that the rules call upon everyone to start with the same amount of money. In the real world, of course, no such equal opportunity exists and people start out life dependent to a large extent on how well they have chosen their parents.

    What the game Monopoly illustrates, however, is that even if absolute equal opportunity existed, the outcomes over time would be extremely unequal. This is not because some people are so clearly smarter, more talented, and harder working but because of happenstance and the advantages or disadvantages of choosing your parents well or poorly and choosing your gender, race/ethnicity, place of birth, and so on. What an individual does and how much they persevere in the face of challenges, of course, matters and we are all of us different and better or weaker in our different attributes but these things do not overall matter as much as the social forces that we are all surrounded by all of the time.

    In the economic system of capitalism, competition (aka free enterprise or market forces) exists side by side with monopoly. Some, perhaps many, people believe that all would be well if we could just get the monopolists, the megacorporations, out of the picture or limit their power. This is not true and here is why, put into a nutshell:

    First, economies of scale undermine free market competition; big fish eat up little fish. The drive for profits impels businesses to seek competitive advantages, to expand their market shares, and to eliminate their competition, either through buying out competitors or by driving them out of business….

    It is in the nature of free markets to cease being free markets. Libertarians’ belief that free markets are the solution to all ills, therefore, cannot be realized and implemented any more than a butterfly can go back to being a caterpillar. Small may be beautiful, but big is cheaper and more powerful. Small businesses can, and always will, emerge just as small saplings spring up amongst the towering pines, but the economy’s key players will continue to be big businesses. Some of the big businesses will be supplanted—witness General Motors’ bankruptcy plight even though for a long time it had been the world’s largest corporation—but the companies that supersede their previous competitors will then assume the monopolist position themselves. The players may change, in other words, but the disparities of position between big and small remain structurally and fundamentally the same.

    Second, capital seeks profit-making opportunities everywhere. This ceaseless drive for profits leads—indeed, compels—the largest companies to burst past national boundaries and roam the globe in search of still cheaper labor and resources. Sam Walton, Walmart’s founder, believed that his company should sell only American-made products. His insistence on this, however, has obviously passed away like eight-track stereo. Walmart would be non-competitive today if it did not seek the cheapest labor it could find. This fact, put very briefly, is what imperialism is in the economic sense. Imperialism is a compelling and inevitable consequence of capitalism itself within the more advanced capitalist countries. It represents capitalism’s underlying logic carried forward into monopoly capitalism and expressed and active on an international scale. Imperialism is, therefore, not a choice; it is not something that could be dispensed with by corporations and their governments any more than a vampire could choose to be a vegetarian. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, pp. 77-78)

    In other words, free enterprise leads inevitably and naturally to monopoly. Monopoly represents a mature or late phase of capitalism where monopoly exists side by side with competition and intensifies that competition on a world scale, leading to convulsive crises, immiseration, repression, and wars.

    Both major political parties in the U.S. and also the ruling parties in other nations in the world today operate within this capitalist/imperialist framework, which is why siding with one party or another against the other opposition party is as useful (or useless) as rooting for one professional wrestler against the rest. Another way of putting this is that the old game of “good cop/bad cop” is a game meant to delude the person in custody into doing things that are against the person in custody's own interests. Today the world is being held in the custody of the Good Cops and the Bad Cops. The only solution to this dilemma is to break out of the framework that the 1% want to keep us contained in.

    Recently pollster Frank Luntz, while conducting a session for GOP governors on how they should respond to the Occupy Movement, described himself as  “scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I’m frightened to death.” He warned that the movement is “having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism." Luntz went on to tell the Republican governors that they should avoid using the word "capitalism" and that they should emphathize with the protestors: “First off, here are three words for you all: ‘I get it.’ … ‘I get that you’re. I get that you’ve seen inequality. I get that you want to fix the system.” The whole set of advice was very interesting and very revealing, especially given the official Republican line which is that the Occupy movement is futile and confused.

    Obama, for his part, tried to co-opt Occupy and the Tea Parties in his "Teddy Roosevelt" speech while trying to keep people's faith within the confines of the existing game.  

    Both major parties responses, then, illustrate a core fact about politics that the parties themselves and nearly all pundits deny: that social movements that don't tie themselves to electoral politics are NOT wasting their time. The main reason these officious bodies and individuals claim that the only politics is the politics that they control and dominate is because they genuinely fear the independent actions of mass movements. As such movements become more popular and more determined, the establishment tries all the harder to rope these movements back into the fold and keep them from changing the game.   

  • The National Defense Authorization Act and the Eviction of Occupy LA

    December 2, 2011

    By Dennis Loo

    Yesterday the Senate passed a bill, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012 (S. 1867) that makes a suitable matching pair for the prior day’s forcible police action evicting the last remaining large occupation, Occupy LA, and that of the Occupy encampment in Philadelphia.

    This bill represents a return to the “Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010," (S. 3081) introduced by Sens. John McCain and Joseph Lieberman on March 4, 2010 that did not pass and that received no mainstream media coverage at the time except for an article expressing alarm by Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic. That bill and today’s S. 1867 mandate the military to detain anyone indefinitely, including U.S. citizens, here at home or abroad, on the grounds that someone in authority in the military designates that person as a “terrorist” or someone who “substantially supports” Al Qaeda, the Taliban or “associated forces” (Sec. 1031) (as Glenn Greenwald described it). The mere accusation, in other words, is enough now to put you away for life.

    What is remarkable and disturbing (but I have to say, unfortunately not surprising to those among us who have been closely following statecraft during the Bush years and under Obama) is that despite those bills’ nullification of due process and therefore straight up fascist character, the mainstream media with only one exception did not deem it worthy to bring up the fact of its introduction in its earliest incarnation as S. 3081. One would have thought (and as I wrote at the time) that the bill’s sponsors, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Joe Lieberman, the immediate past GOP nominee for President and a past Democratic Party nominee for Vice-President (Al Gore’s running mate in 2000) respectively, and thus a “bipartisan” move, would have made the bill noteworthy by itself, let alone the fascist nature of the bill, to publicize. But no, these are not ordinary times. These are the times of the “War on Terror.”

    As I point out in my book, however, this trend to a radically different paradigm for governance, public order policies, in which everyone is treated as a suspect rather than those who have actually committed and thought to have committed a crime (i.e., a legitimate suspect based on evidence), has been underway since in the 1970s, in other words, prior to 9/11. These policies have been becoming more and more explicit and sweeping since the 1970s, with 9/11 and other terrorist incidents in other countries, serving as the fig leaf justification for policies that do not have to do with terrorism per se at all.

    The treatment of the non-violent symbolic free speech and free assembly protests by the Occupy Movement as vermin who must be removed (and famously, pepper sprayed by Lt. John Pike at UC Davis as if he were spraying bugs) and their forcible and at times extremely brutal evictions and treatment, are part and parcel of this perilous and odious trend. You may not, under these new rules, petition your government for redress of grievances. You may not, under these new rules, speak out in public or private space (e.g., Zuccotti Park) if what you are saying is inconvenient, embarrassing, or exposing of those who run the society. You may not, under these new rules, act as if you have any rights to due process, because authorities can and are designating you as a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism or merely someone who doesn’t show respect for others’ views (as LA Mayor Villaraigosa dishonestly described Occupy LA), and you will be forcibly removed, beaten, or detained until you die, without recourse to a day in court or a chance to confront your accusers (does this sound Kafkaesque to you?). Crime and terrorism is anything authorities don’t like and want to remove, shut down or shut up.

    [T]he forces insisting that order is under siege and that repression and extralegal measures are necessary to cope with that disorder are the same forces creating disorder in the society by dispossessing increasing ranks of the people, endangering the planet’s biosystem, and provoking greater and greater levels of social insecurity.

    Neoliberal regimes’ ever-growing inequities produce dissension and dissatisfaction, not because the disaffected elect to feel disaffection—although the already privileged tend to see it that way, as if there is bounty for all if everyone would simply put their noses to the grindstone, there being no structural logic to the dispossession of so many for the wealth of the few. Rather, the disadvantaged’s status brings them into conflict with those that the system favors. The position of the disadvantaged is what makes them criminal, dangerous, and potential terrorists. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, Pp. 153-154)

    Some people are holding out hope that Obama will veto this bill. Three things should be pointed out specifically about that hope, as Glenn Greenwald has written. First, “as Dave Kopel documents, that ‘it was the Obama administration which told Congress to remove the language in the original bill which exempted American citizens and lawful residents from the detention power,’ on the ground it would unduly restrict the decision-making of Executive Branch officials. In other words, Obama officials wanted the flexibility to militarily detain even U.S. citizens if they were so inclined, and are angry that this bill purports to limit their actions.” The bill’s sponsors had excluded American citizens and lawful residents and Obama wanted them put in.

    Second, the objections being raised by the Obama White House to the bill are not that the bill abrogates due process and that entirely innocent people could have their rights stripped and be detained indefinitely. Their objections are that the bill interferes with the Executive branch’s free exercise of these powers unto itself.

    Which brings us to the third point.

    This bill, as horrible as it is, is essentially a “Me Too” bill signifying the Legislative Branch’s jumping wholly and enthusiastically onto the “We’re Against Terrorism Too!” bandwagon, showing how willing they are, as is the Supreme Court and the White House, to use torture, ubiquitous surveillance, and powers befitting not a country that respects due process as the linchpin of a society that is not a tyranny, to suspend people’s rights and exercise dictatorial powers.

    Notably, as Greenwald also points out, the bill only passed because sixteen Democrats joined the majority of Republicans, including some “liberal” stalwarts:

    Every GOP Senator (except Rand Paul and Mark Kirk) voted against the Udall amendment, while just enough Democrats – 16 in total — joined the GOP to ensure passage of Levin/McCain. That includes such progressive stalwarts as Debbie Stabenow, Sheldon Whitehouse, Jeanne Shaheen and its lead sponsor, Carl Levin.

    I’ve described this little scam before as “Villain Rotation”: “They always have a handful of Democratic Senators announce that they will be the ones to deviate this time from the ostensible party position and impede success, but the designated Villain constantly shifts, so the Party itself can claim it supports these measures while an always-changing handful of their members invariably prevent it.” This has happened with countless votes that are supposed manifestations of right-wing radicalism but that pass because an always-changing roster of Democrats ensure they have the support needed. So here is the Democratic Party — led by its senior progressive National Security expert, Carl Levin, and joined by just enough of its members — joining the GOP to ensure that this bill passes, and that the U.S. Government remains vested with War on Terror powers and even expands that war in some critical respects.

    This makes you oh so enthusiastic to go out there and campaign for progressives and the Democrats more generally because they will do such a bang up job of representing the People, does it not?

    There is a path that represents the only real road forward in the face of this, as I write in my book:

    In the neoliberal world not only do physical characteristics matter, but behaviors, dress, class background, attitudes, and so on, can create a sense of “insecurity” for others, justifying clampdowns. The law no longer represents the standard that people must abide by in order to avoid having police actions and prosecutions imposed upon them. The new standard is that one can be subjected to governmental or private social control measures simply for being a perceived threat or source of discomfort to someone. This undermining of the rule of law is being carried out across the full spectrum of bureaucratic and corporate purview and policy making from top to bottom. As Hornqvist puts it: “It may seem absurd that a single area of policy should cover everything from truancy and drug sales to acts of terror. But it is absurd only because so many of us have not yet learned to proceed from a concept of security that has broken away from the logic of the law.”[i] From this perspective, Bush and Cheney’s express violations of the rule of law are then not unique to them. They were merely on the cutting edge of that trajectory. And Obama’s perpetuation of their actions represents the further advance of that neoliberal project. This means that attempts to restore the rule of law will not succeed as a strategy separate from a fundamental challenge to the entire logic of the system itself. (p. 155).



    [i] Magnus Hornqvist, “The Birth of Public Order Policy,” Race and Class 46, no. 1

    (July-September 2004), 37.