Archive for March, 2009

Homeless Evicted From Tent City In Ontario

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

America is undergoing a surge in homelessness that is greater that the 1980’s increase due to Reagan’s neglect of the Urban poor. This is the largest increase since the great depression and we are seeing tent cities emerge. Hobo villages might make a comeback and hopefully the IWW and other radical groups will take time to organize among this new angry disenfranchised population.
As I write in Ontario, California homless people are being separated and forced out of a tent city that the city provided in lieu of housing. We should act now to protest this and support the homless of Ontario and everywhere else.

In an article from the Veterans for Common Sense an increase in demand on shelters is reported.

“Shelters across the country report that more people are seeking emergency shelter and more are being turned away. In a report published in December, 330 school districts identified the same number or more homeless students in the first few months of the school year than they identified in the entire previous year. Meantime, demand is sharply up at soup kitchens, an indication of deepening hardship and potential homelessness.

“Everything we are seeing is indicating an increase,” says Laurel Weir, policy director at the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. “And homelessness tends to lag the economy. So we’re probably seeing the tip of the iceberg here.”

In the foreclosure crisis, the people being displaced from homes won’t likely be on the street immediately, explains Michael Stoops, director of National Coalition for the Homeless.

“The people who have lost homes or tenants in homes that were foreclosed … have downsized, and if that doesn’t work they will move in with family and friends,” says Stoops. “After a while, they will move into their RV in a state campground. The next step is a car. And the worst nightmare for a working, middle-class person or even a wealthy person who has never experienced homelessness is knocking on a shelter door.”

Services teeter on brink
As the case of Seattle’s City Team shelter illustrates, many nonprofits serving the poor are working on a shoestring, even in better times. Seattle-area donations to the shelter had to be supplemented from general funds, said Jeff Cherniss, chief financial officer of City Team, which operates shelters and food programs in five other U.S. cities.

“We were hoping (the Seattle shelter) could become self-sustaining,” says Cherniss. City Team Ministries, a Christian organization funded by donations from individuals, corporations and churches, kept the Seattle facility afloat with help from its general fund for most of a decade, but the 2008 crisis prompted them to retrench.

Every major source of funding is under pressure in the current environment: Charitable foundations - which rely on corporate profits for their seed money and investments to preserve and build those funds - have been forced to pull back grants after taking a massive hit as corporate earnings faltered and stocks plunged. The National Council of Foundations recently estimated that philanthropic foundation endowments have lost $200 billion in value during the economic crisis.

A few of the largest foundations have, despite losses, promised to maintain or give at higher levels in the face of the crisis. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation this week said it would increase its giving to 7 percent of its assets from 5 percent. And the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced three gifts totaling $34 million to help homeowners in Chicago avoid foreclosure and keep renters in homes.

Still, the casualties are mounting. Among them: Atlanta nonprofit Nicholas House, which closed a shelter for families in mid-January so it could safely keep other housing services open. Nearly all corporate donors gave to the organization at lower levels this year, says Dennis Bowman, executive director of the 26-year-old agency. The final straw came when a corporate donation ended, and was not renewed.”

Here is an article from the AP new service about tent cities from last summer before the real collapse in the economy hit.

“Tent Cities Spread In U.S. As Economy Sags
Foreclosure Crisis Blamed For Rise Of Homeless Camps In Cities
RENO, Nev., Sept. 19, 2008
(AP) A few tents cropped up hard by the railroad tracks, pitched by men left with nowhere to go once the emergency winter shelter closed for the summer.

Then others appeared - people who had lost their jobs to the ailing economy, or newcomers who had moved to Reno for work and discovered no one was hiring.

Within weeks, more than 150 people were living in tents big and small, barely a foot apart in a patch of dirt slated to be a parking lot for a campus of shelters Reno is building for its homeless population. Like many other cities, Reno has found itself with a “tent city” - an encampment of people who had nowhere else to go.

From Seattle to Athens, Ga., homeless advocacy groups and city agencies are reporting the most visible rise in homeless encampments in a generation.

Nearly 61 percent of local and state homeless coalitions say they’ve experienced a rise in homelessness since the foreclosure crisis began in 2007, according to a report by the National Coalition for the Homeless. The group says the problem has worsened since the report’s release in April, with foreclosures mounting, gas and food prices rising and the job market tightening.

“It’s clear that poverty and homelessness have increased,” said Michael Stoops, acting executive director of the coalition. “The economy is in chaos, we’re in an unofficial recession and Americans are worried, from the homeless to the middle class, about their future.”

The phenomenon of encampments has caught advocacy groups somewhat by surprise, largely because of how quickly they have sprung up.

“What you’re seeing is encampments that I haven’t seen since the 80s,” said Paul Boden, executive director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project, an umbrella group for homeless advocacy organizations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Calif., Portland, Ore. and Seattle.

The relatively tony city of Santa Barbara has given over a parking lot to people who sleep in cars and vans. The city of Fresno, Calif., is trying to manage several proliferating tent cities, including an encampment where people have made shelters out of scrap wood. In Portland, Ore., and Seattle, homeless advocacy groups have paired with nonprofits or faith-based groups to manage tent cities as outdoor shelters. Other cities where tent cities have either appeared or expanded include include Chattanooga, Tenn., San Diego, and Columbus, Ohio.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development recently reported a 12 percent drop in homelessness nationally in two years, from about 754,000 in January 2005 to 666,000 in January 2007. But the 2007 numbers omitted people who previously had been considered homeless - such as those staying with relatives or friends or living in campgrounds or motel rooms for more than a week.

In addition, the housing and economic crisis began soon after HUD’s most recent data was compiled.

“What’s happening in Seattle is what’s happening everywhere else - on steroids,” said Tim Harris, executive director of Real Change, an advocacy organization that publishes a weekly newspaper sold by homeless people.

Homeless people and their advocates have organized three tent cities at City Hall in recent months to call attention to the homeless and protest the sweeps - acts of militancy, said Harris, “that we really haven’t seen around homeless activism since the early ’90s.”

In Reno, officials decided to let the tent city be because shelters were already filled.

Officials don’t know how many homeless people are in Reno. “But we do know that the soup kitchens are serving hundreds more meals a day and that we have more people who are homeless than we can remember,” said Jodi Royal-Goodwin, the city’s redevelopment agency director.

Those in the tents have to register and are monitored weekly to see what progress they are making in finding jobs or real housing. They are provided times to take showers in the shelter, and told where to go for food and meals.

Sylvia Flynn, 51, came from northern California but lost a job almost immediately and then her apartment.

Since the cheapest motels here charge upward of $200 a week, Flynn ended up at the Reno women’s shelter, which has only 20 beds and a two-week limit on stays.

Out of a dozen people interviewed in the tent city, six had come to Reno from California or elsewhere over the last year, hoping for casino jobs.

“I figured this would be a great place for a job,” said Max Perez, a 19-year-old from Iowa. He couldn’t find one and ended up taking showers at the men’s shelter and sleeping in a pup tent barely big enough to cover his body.

The casinos are actually starting to lay off employees.

“Sometimes I think we need to put out an ad: ‘No, we don’t have any more jobs than you do,”‘ Royal-Goodwin said.

The city will shut down the tent city as soon as early October because the tents sit on what will be a parking lot for a complex of shelters and services for homeless people. The complex will include a men’s shelter, a women’s shelter, a family shelter and a resource center.

Reno officials aren’t sure whether the construction will eliminate the need for the tent city. The demand, they say, keeps growing.

© MMVIII The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.” So sue me.

The roots to modern homelessness have their beginnings in the Reagan administration when the Federal government cut back on aid to the poor and the cities. The attitude became one of lets get tough on the welfare cheats and under Clinton they rode that horse right out of town. Now there is no federal welfare when we really need it.

Reagan’s Legacy Homelessness In America by Peter Dreier puts it this way in an article written not long after the death of the great communicator.

“As some Americans mourn the death of Ronald Reagan, let us recall that the two-term president was no friend to America’s cities or its poor. Reagan came to office in 1981 with a mandate to reduce federal spending. In reality, he increased it through the escalating military budget, all the while slashing funds for domestic programs that assisted working class Americans, particularly the poor.

Reagan’s fans give him credit for restoring the nation’s prosperity. But whatever economic growth occurred during the Reagan years only benefited those already well off. The income gap between the rich and everyone else in America widened. Wages for the average worker declined and the nation’s home ownership rate fell. During Reagan’s two terms in the White House, which were boon times for the rich, the poverty rate in cities grew.

His indifference to urban problems was legendary. Reagan owed little to urban voters, big-city mayors, black or Hispanic leaders, or labor unions – the major advocates for metropolitan concerns. Early in his presidency, at a White House reception, Reagan greeted the only black member of his Cabinet, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Samuel Pierce, saying: “How are you, Mr. Mayor? I’m glad to meet you. How are things in your city?”

Reagan not only failed to recognize his own HUD Secretary, he failed to deal with the growing corruption scandal at the agency that resulted in the indictment and conviction of top Reagan administration officials for illegally targeting housing subsidies to politically connected developers. Fortunately for Reagan, the “HUD Scandal” wasn’t uncovered until he’d left office.

Reagan also presided over the dramatic deregulation of the nation’s savings and loan industry allowing S&Ls to end their reliance on home mortgages and engage in an orgy of commercial real estate speculation. The result was widespread corruption, mismanagement and the collapse of hundreds of thrift institutions that ultimately led to a taxpayer bailout that cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

The 1980s saw pervasive racial discrimination by banks, real estate agents and landlords, unmonitored by the Reagan administration. Community groups uncovered blatant redlining by banks using federal Home Mortgage Disclosure Act information. But Reagan’s HUD and justice departments failed to prosecute or sanction banks that violated the Community Reinvestment Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in lending. During that time, of the 40,000 applications from banks requesting permission to expand their operations, Reagan’s bank regulators denied only eight of them on grounds of violating CRA regulations.

By the end of Reagan’s term in office federal assistance to local governments was cut 60 percent. Reagan eliminated general revenue sharing to cities, slashed funding for public service jobs and job training, almost dismantled federally funded legal services for the poor, cut the anti-poverty Community Development Block Grant program and reduced funds for public transit. The only “urban” program that survived the cuts was federal aid for highways – which primarily benefited suburbs, not cities.

These cutbacks had a disastrous effect on cities with high levels of poverty and limited property tax bases, many of which depended on federal aid. In 1980 federal dollars accounted for 22 percent of big city budgets. By the end of Reagan’s second term, federal aid was only 6 percent.

The most dramatic cut in domestic spending during the Reagan years was for low-income housing subsidies. Reagan appointed a housing task force dominated by politically connected developers, landlords and bankers. In 1982 the task force released a report that called for “free and deregulated” markets as an alternative to government assistance – advice Reagan followed. In his first year in office Reagan halved the budget for public housing and Section 8 to about $17.5 billion. And for the next few years he sought to eliminate federal housing assistance to the poor altogether.

In the 1980s the proportion of the eligible poor who received federal housing subsidies declined. In 1970 there were 300,000 more low-cost rental units (6.5 million) than low-income renter households (6.2 million). By 1985 the number of low-cost units had fallen to 5.6 million, and the number of low-income renter households had grown to 8.9 million, a disparity of 3.3 million units.

Another of Reagan’s enduring legacies is the steep increase in the number of homeless people, which by the late 1980s had swollen to 600,000 on any given night – and 1.2 million over the course of a year. Many were Vietnam veterans, children and laid-off workers.

In early 1984 on Good Morning America, Reagan defended himself against charges of callousness toward the poor in a classic blaming-the-victim statement saying that “people who are sleeping on the grates…the homeless…are homeless, you might say, by choice.””

That was the reason in the 1980’s we had the sudden appearance of homless people all over the county in every city.
Before that we had street people, kids who were crashing in cheap apartments and hanging out on streets like Haight Street in San Francisco, and St Marks Place in the East Village of NYC. But they were more of a cultural hangover from the hippies and beats. What happened in the 80’s was the result of social policies made by the Reagan administration looking for a way to fund the huge military build up and boondoggles like Star Wars by cutting money for the poor.
These policies culminated in the Clinton administration elimination of welfare and the federal safety net for poor Americans. The most regressive social policy among the industrialized world. It is a model that was followed by eastern Europeans and Russia as the swept aside communism for free market reforms. Now these countries have people rioting in the streets.

In Milan there has emerged a new Nazi movement that blames the economic crisis on Jews and we hear of an increase in hate crimes across the country. This is an alarming tendency that needs to be stopped before it gains momentum like in the 1930’s Germany.

What we need is a radical reorientation of the values of this country away from service to the rich and the financiers that the Obama administration continues to coddle. This weekend Obama finaly took some action to put the fear into some of these Corporate types by firing the CEO of GM, Oh how the mighty have fallen when the largest auto maker in the country is treated like a delinquent son. About time.
But unfortunately Obama was just warming up the workers for another round of cutbacks. He was warning them as much as the corporate leaders, Obama may turn out to be more of a Reagan than a Roosevelt. If he forces the working people to make more concessions and continues to let the financiers slide, well at least we will clearly know who butters his bread.
Meantime we have a homless crisis and we need to organize a march on city hall, on state capitals and on Washington DC, a poor peoples march just like what Martin Luther King was planning when he was assassinated. More than march we need to demand a level of service to the people on European levels. We need to take back the money Reagan gave to Defence and give it to the people. We need housing, food and medical care for all, it is a human right not some sort of charity.
As radicals we need to be on top of this crisis and moving with the people to provide answers that make sense. We need to follow our gut instincts and our highest vision here and work for a better world now before this one shatters into collapsed potentialities.

USA!!! Gun Crime Capital Of The World

Monday, March 30th, 2009

America is the world murder capital. Guns from America fund the war in Mexico between the dealers and the government. We have shootings daily.
Here are some statistics from National Education Association Health Information Network.

“Every day, more than 80 Americans die from gun violence. (Coalition to Stop Gun Violence)

The rate of firearm deaths among kids under age 15 is almost 12 times higher in the United States than in 25 other industrialized countries combined. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

American kids are 16 times more likely to be murdered with a gun, 11 times more likely to commit suicide with a gun, and nine times more likely to die from a firearm accident than children in 25 other industrialized countries combined. (Centers for Disease Control)”

This is an interesting if you happen to think that killing children in cold blood is a good way to cull the population. It is interesting that the very same people who support the unlimited right to arm oneself, are the same people who think abortion is immoral. I guess it is the same principal as that of hunters in favor of conservation, so there will be plenty of game in the future. Kill them before they even get out of the womb and were is the sport?
Johnathan Swift author of the cute “Gulliver’s Travels” was known to advocate raising Irish babies to be eaten by English gentlemen in high end restaurants. He was protesting the fact the British Policies in the 18th century were causing genocide among the Irish.
Ron Suskind author of “The Way Of The World” is on Rachel Maddow with the story about a Spanish court that is now investigating former Bush administration members who are accused of torture. Dawn Johnson is being held up by the Republicans who want to make sure the administration does not push through its own investigations.
Obama Sunday got tough on the CEO of General Motors Wagner and fired him. This is in preparation for making bigger hits on the workers. The president can justify cutting benefits for the workers and he has decided to chop off a head or two to get the attention of the corporate world depending on Government handouts.
OK a few simple things, I mean I have to check in on the government couple of days to see if they are doing anything to help the average Joe or in this case the specifically Gary Rumor. Not anything I can see.
Bob Corker Republican Senator of Tennessee is complaining that the government should not be telling the car companies who their CEO’s are. On the other hand Corker is the same one who wanted to force workers in Detroit to lower their wages to match non union shops in places like, well like Tennessee were there are Japanese auto plants.
Republican hypocrisy? Not really simply class warfare, the republicans support the rich and are against the workers and especially against unions. Why anyone should be surprised by this I don’t know. On the other hand we are going to see Obama asking the workers to give up benefits and that is what we have to watch. Right now the government is offering to back the warranties on GM and Chrysler cars and they are waiving the sales and excise taxes on American cars. Will the Japanese and Germans retaliate? Certainly through the Republicans as German and Japanese cars are made in southern states in non union plants. We are seeing another Red and Blue battle here. The result will be well it will be hard on the American Worker no matter who wins. We loose. That is capitalism.
Oh but at least here we have the right to bear arms. I wonder why the government doesn’t worry about all those armed blue collar workers getting pissed off and turning those guns on Capital instead of on each other. We can expect a drive for gun control when the guns are aimed at the bosses. Meantime as long as the poor slobs are shooting one another, why not, its open season on the poor. Even a few cops are OK to shoot, just don’t go after the boss.
Personally I am non violent, I had a gun once an nice army .45 automatic and my girlfriend accidentally shot the bullet in the chamber into the cops apartment downstairs from us.
After that I got rid of the gun.
I don’t have anything against guns, its just I think they should be kept is a safe place, like an armory and only used by people who have been trained in their use and only for specific occasions like target practice and designated hunting areas. Certainly no one should have the right to carry a gun around in public, not cops, not criminals, not crazy Joe’s.
Radical friends of mine like to think that the 2nd amendment protects their right to guns, but in my experience the only people who are really well armed are right wing militia men and gang bangers, with the gang bangers coming out a distant second. We would be a lot better off if people were disarmed. I think young soldiers are much less likely to shoot unarmed mothers and children protesting than an armed guerrilla group. Remember the Russian Revolution started with starving mothers marching for bread. The Cossacks sent to suppress them ended up joining them. Once you get started then maybe you need to be able to defend what you have gained but at that point you should have large numbers of soldiers coming over to your side or you don’t stand much of a chance anyway. So I think gun control is a sensible move just like drivers licenses and doctors having to be trained before they start cutting. Call me a socialist but I just don’t think all this killing justifies everyone walking around armed to the teeth.

On the other hand if enough red necks shoot themselves they will be doing the rest of us a favor. Just like those Irish babies, huh.

Bhutan And Gross National Happiness

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Bhutan is a special place, one of the last holdouts resisting modern communications technology. A paradise in the process of becoming lost.
Here is an excerpt from the article “Gross National Happiness” by Orville Schell.

“Looking down from Kungachoeling Monastery through fluttering prayer flags to the blindingly green rice paddies of the Paro River Valley below, one feels utterly escaped from the surly bonds of Earth. Not far from me, a solemn monk lights incense before the Buddha. In the silence of this remote and lovely refuge–one of the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan’s hundreds of functioning Tibetan Buddhist shrines–computer chips, frequent flyer miles, the World Trade Organization, and IPOs seem part of another world.

Especially here on the Indian subcontinent, awash in corruption, ethnic struggle, illiteracy, pollution, poverty, and the clash of civilizations, Bhutan’s pacifism, paternalism, and egalitarianism stand apart. It is hardly surprising that people here often speak of “the outside world” as if it were another celestial body. Under the spell of this tranquil monastery, the unexpected hum of distant engines is like an unwelcome tocsin awaking one from reverie. I spot a minuscule white dot against a peak as one of Druk Air’s two small planes drifts down out of the cumulus clouds toward the country’s only airfield.

The yearning of postmodern Westerners to escape the velvet shackles of our hard-won progress to places like Bhutan is hardly new. In 1921, when the British governor of Bengal, Lord Ronaldshay, visited Bhutan, he too felt intoxicated at the idea of leaving the aggressive, modern world behind. “Just as Alice, when she walked through the looking glass, found herself in a new and whimsical world,” he effused, “so we, when we crossed the Pa Chu [and entered Bhutan], found ourselves as though caught up on some magic time machine fitted fantastically with a reverse.”

And now for some facts….
The democratic Kingdom of Bhutan is a place where they don’t count the standard of living, but the Gross National Happiness is the standard by which they determine how well they are doing as a country. This was declared by one of the kings when an article the Financial Times claimed that the country had a slowly developing gross standard of living.
For some reason this has been linked with the Cumulative Prospect Theory introduced by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in 1992.
This is an extract from the Wikipedia article on the subject.

“The main observation of CPT (and its predecessor Prospect Theory) is that people tend to think of possible outcomes usually relative to a certain reference point (often the status quo) rather than to the final status, a phenomenon which is called framing effect. Moreover, they have different risk attitudes towards gains (i.e. outcomes above the reference point) and losses (i.e. outcomes below the reference point) and care generally more about potential losses than potential gains (loss aversion). Finally, people tend to overweight extreme, but unlikely events, but underweight “average” events. The last point is a difference to Prospect Theory which assumes that people overweight unlikely events, independently of their relative outcomes.

CPT incorporates these observations in a modification of Expected Utility Theory by replacing final wealth with payoffs relative to the reference point, by replacing the utility function with a value function, depending on this relative payoff, and by replacing cumulative probabilities with weighted cumulative probabilities.
This formula is a generalization of the original formulation by Tversky and Kahneman which allows for arbitrary (continuous) outcomes, and not only for finitely many distinct outcomes.

The main modification to Prospect Theory is that, as in rank-dependent expected utility theory, cumulative probabilities are transformed, rather than the probabilities itself. This leads to the aforementioned over weighting of extreme events which occur with small probability, rather than to an over weighting of all small probability events. The modification helps to avoid a violation of first order stochastic dominance and makes the generalization to arbitrary outcome distributions easier. CPT is therefore on theoretical grounds an improvement over Prospect Theory.”

This got the professors a Nobel prize. I am not sure exactly what it has to do with the happiness of the people in Bhutan, a country where tourists have to pay a $200 per day fee for a guide and in any case are not allowed in the country alone, but only in groups.
Television and the internet were not allowed until 1999 and that maybe why the country has one of the happiest populations in the world according to people who measure these things, presumably the CPT people, otherwise why would they even care about tiny Bhutan.
There is a national dress that is to be worn in public and Buddhism and Hinduism are state supported religions. There are something like 24 languages spoken in this mountain country tucked between Tibet, Sikkim and India. Elevations vary from the near sea level of the Brahmaputra river valley in the south to 24,000 foot mountains in the north.
The kingdom is a democracy having held its first elections in 2007 and 2008. The current king is the worlds youngest according to Wikipedia On November 6, 2008, 28-year old Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, replaced his father as the king of a now democratic realm.
Property is inherited through the female line and polygamy is sometimes practiced. The is accepted, often being a device to keep property in a contained family unit rather than dispersing it. The previous King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who abdicated in 2006, has 4 Queens, all of whom are sisters.
According to Wikipedia, “Bhutan has numerous public holidays, most of which centre around traditional seasonal, secular and religious festivals. They include the winter solstice (around January 1, depending on the lunar calendar), the lunar New Year (February or March), the King’s birthday and the anniversary of his coronation, the official start of monsoon season (September 22), National Day (December 17), and various Buddhist and Hindu celebrations.

Masked dances and dance dramas are common traditional features at festivals, usually accompanied by traditional music. Energetic dancers, wearing colourful wooden or composition face masks and stylized costumes, depict heroes, demons, daemons, death heads, animals, gods, and caricatures of common people. The dancers enjoy royal patronage, and preserve ancient folk and religious customs and perpetuate the ancient lore and art of mask-making.”
It sounds like a regular party kind of kingdom. External affairs are coordinated with India and there have been some problems with the Chinese intruding into the territory on the northern border. Bhutan has is own all volunteer army and was for much of history divided among various fiefdoms. It was united in the 17th century by the great Tibetan “lama and military leader Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal who fled religious persecution in Tibet. To defend the country against intermittent Tibetan forays, Namgyal built a network of impregnable dzong (fortresses), and promulgated a code of law that helped to bring local lords under centralised control. Many such dzong still exist and are active centers of religion and district administration.” As quoted from the Wikipedia article.
Religion is estimated that between two thirds and three quarters of the Bhutanese population follow Vajrayana Buddhism, which is also the state religion. About one quarter to one third are followers of Hinduism. Muslim and non-religious communities account for less than 1% of the population. The current legal framework, in principle guarantees freedom of religion; proselytism, however, is forbidden by a royal government decision, again from Wikipedia.
The Bhutanese call their country Druk Yul (Dzongkha: འབྲུག་ཡུལ་) which means “Land of the Thunder Dragon”.
Its neighbor Sikkim was incorporated as a state in India in 1975 after a plebiscite when 97% of the people voted to join India. It has become a popular tourist destination with much of the same geographic diversity as Bhutan. But it is alas not one of the happiest countries in the world, it has been assimilated into the great beast of modernity, something that the Bhutanese seem to be holding at bay with their tentative one step at a time policy. We can hope that Bhutan maintains its Shangri La status for the foreseeable future.
But with the internet and even more importantly cable TV Shangri La is descending into the modern day maelstrom. Here is another excerpt from a Front line article entitled “Gross National Happiness” by Orville Schelle.
“Druk Air–with only several flights a week, the smallest national carrier in the world–can be described as “small pipes,” the Internet offers Bhutan large pipes. But perhaps the largest pipes now linking Bhutan to the outside belong to another arriviste medium. Until spring of 1999, Bhutan was one of the last countries in the world without television. At the same time that the Internet was inaugurated, the Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) started a nightly one-hour TV news and variety show. But the effect of this event paled in comparison with the jolt caused by the arrival of cable television from beyond Bhutan’s protective mountain ranges. While some had already bought illegal satellite dishes, it was not until several local cable companies set up shop that ordinary people truly entered mondo cable.

Dago Beda, the cheerful and energetic managing director of Etho Metho Treks and Tours, is an astute business person who basically fell into the cable business. In 1999, she and her partner, Rinzy Dorji, began hooking up local subscribers to a satellite dish.

“We weren’t sure what would happen,” she coyly tells me in her office overlooking Thimphu’s only movie theater.

Everyone, it seemed, was a bit surprised when the government did nothing.

Thus was born Sigma Cable Service, offering 26 channels, including Home Box Office, Star Plus, BBC, Turner Network Television, Cartoon Network, MTV, and ten pay-for-view channels. Sigma charges 1,500 nu ($52) for a hook-up and a 200 nu ($7) monthly subscription fee. By the beginning of 2002, Sigma had signed up about 3,000 subscribers.

“But you know, when TV finally did come on in June 1999, I really felt a little sorry,” she says, suddenly turning somewhat triste. “Gone are the days when we were so naive, when people just talked together, read, and gardened rather than let the TV tell us how it should be. Now we’ve entered a new world.”

If she feels so ambivalent about this “new world,” why did she become part of the cable-ization of Bhutan?

“Well, I thought better us than someone else,” she explains. “We, at least, can control things. Once we attain our target, I want to review all our channels. We want the BBC, Hallmark Channel, and Nature, but I want to get rid of the action and professional wrestling channel.” She grows increasingly indignant. “I want to say to our viewers that they should not watch this trash! I mean, we still have a moral duty to our kids, and we do care for our country! We can always go to the government and ask them to control it.”

It was confusing to hear Ms. Beda criticize something being shown on her own cable system as if she were somehow not involved with it being there. When I point out the obvious contradiction, she just sighs. “The problem comes from too much freedom. TV has happened outside, and it’s going to happen here,” she says. “But how do we go about keeping TV or the Internet in balance? Maybe it can happen differently in Bhutan. So far, we have managed, because if there is one thing we Bhutanese have, it’s our culture to anchor us against the world.”

But this cultural safeguard is precisely what the advent of the Internet and cable threaten. In fact, since the advent, nothing has agitated the Bhutanese quite so much as the sudden appearance on their screens of beefy World Wrestling Federation ogres body-slamming each other in a way that is hardly calculated to earn much good karma.

The Sigma office is on Thimphu’s main street in a dusty shop where a pack of young children are often playing on the stoop, sometimes dressing up like American professional wrestlers and imitating their theatrical style of fighting. When I visit one evening, I find a bored young woman, Deychan Dema, inside behind a rickety table with a phone and an order pad with carbon paper. (Bhutan is the only place where I have seen carbon paper in the last decade.) The office is decorated with a few tattered posters and the de rigueur portrait of the king above gritty shelves of soft drinks and beer. A glassy-eyed boy sits before a new color TV, surfing desultorily, with a remote, between TNT, the Cartoon Network, MTV, and an action film.

Rinzy Dorji, Ms. Beda’s partner was out of the office. In fact, he had been out ever since a saboteur mysteriously started cutting Sigma cables several days earlier. Like a county lineman, Rinzy Dorji was trying to restore service to those customers deprived of their nightly 26-channel fix.

“When football is on, people now stay up very late,” says Ms. Dema, a neighborhood girl hired to answer Sigma’s phone, sheepishly. “And kids know exactly when the World Wrestling Federation is on. I like wrestling and Popeye.”

“In terms of actually putting controls in effect, I think the government sort of gave up on TV,” complains Kinlay Dorjee, who works for the World Wildlife Fund. “We have strict controls on foreign investment, although I hear this may change. But we have no such controls on television. And now we are also getting hooked on the Internet. Suddenly we find ourselves stuck in front of so many screens! It has become a kind of compulsion, so that we feel it was almost like ignoring God, or Buddha, to not answer our screens!”

Actually, it may not be long before Bhutanese have only one screen to answer. While cable service presently has no connection to the Internet, part of the reason that Ms. Beda and Rinzy Dorji were interested in cable was because they understood that ultimately it could provide pipes for the Internet as well.

Kinley Dorji, the Columbia University-educated editor of Kuensel, has equipped his office with new computers, many of which are linked to the Internet over modem. He is an articulate man of about 40 whose wire-rimmed glasses and tousled hair provide an interesting counterpoint to his pert, gray gho with white cuffs.

As we sit chatting in his office, I ask him how he views all the changes rocking Bhutan. “TV and the Internet are very new to us, and their impact on family and society has not been fully understood,” he says without hesitation. “After all, we are talking about a traditional society that only recently came out of isolation. We feel vulnerable. In the past, we always saw these threats in the form of physical occupation. But with TV and the Internet, we must now fear a new threat–a kind of aerial threat.”

A wistful look began to furrow Kinley Dorji’s brow. “It’s not that TV and the Internet are bad, but that we’re so small, unprepared, and vulnerable. To use things like TV and the Internet intelligently and not lose our uniqueness, our people need to be better educated. If you let a subsistence Himalayan farmer watch sexy girls in five-star hotel pools, . . . ” his sentence trails off. “Well, you have to ask: do human beings ever learn without going through these mistakes themselves?”

Welcome to Hotel California such a lovely place. That Eagles song wraps itself seductively through the brain. It represents so much of what is enticing and evil about technology and the land where dreams can come true, no matter what they may be a devils delight or an angels paradise. We create this dream world and then we blow it all away in some sort of manic childish display of hyper-kinetic god frenzy. We are our own worst and best enemies and we keep stumbling in the path of happiness. Tear it all up with a leaf blower on a Saturday morning insuring that an idyllic moment is ruined with the sound of labor saving devices, with a cacophony that will insure no rest for the wicked, no moment of sublime silence in America, but in Bhutan they have yet to dream of that type of torture, but one can be sure it is coming.

Gho= is the national dress men wear

Kuensel = is the national newspaper

Thimphu = is the capital of Bhutan

Druk Air = National airline

A Night To Contemplate Sand Oil

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

So what is this Alberta Sand Oil? The modern black gold rush in the north where $56 million dollars in Crack Cocaine makes its way to the North Alberta town of Fort McMurray every week according to Andrew Nikifouk in his article “Canada’s Highway to Hell” in the NRDC publication On Earth.
His claim that crack zombies walk the streets of this northern strip mining center where 47% of Canada’s oil is being mined, not drilled, but mined in the form of Bitumen, a very heavy form of oil that is not in a liquid form but in a tar like form mixed with sand. Currently 20% of US oil comes from Canada, making it the largest provider of imported oil according to the Wikipedia article on the subject. Venezuela has the second largest reserves, and they are easier to get at being in a tropical environment and easier to get into a liquid state than the Canadian sand oil which is in an often permafrost environment.
This is a booming oil resource with perhaps 1.75 trillion barrels in the ground in Canada with approximately 10% of it recoverable at a profitable price of $27 per barrel according to Shell Oil statistics in the Wikipedia article. This is done mainly buy huge $15 million dollar electric shovels called “495 HF Bucyrus” and moved by the largest dump trucks in the world Caterpillar “797″ that are 400 tons each. Their tires stand 14 feet tall and have to be hand assembled according to a National Geographic special on the equipment used in the fields of northern Alberta.
It takes 1.67 jewels of natural gas to produce one barrel of oil from Canadian sand oil. The oil itself has about a 5-6 times that amount in energy return. But that is still a huge cost, much greater than crude oil from Saudi Oil fields by about a factor of 10 according to Nikifouk. Also it takes 3 barrels of water to produce one of oil because of the steam methods used to separate the Bitumen from the sand. This water comes from the Athabasca River which starts in a Rocky Mountain Glacier and ends up in Lake Athabasca which with its surrounding wetlands is the largest bird nesting and migratory rest stop in North America.
According to the Wikipedia article the sand oil industry uses 1.3% of the rivers run but according to the article by Nikifouk the amount is 8% during the low water season which is dangerously high. The used water is contaminated with chemicals and oil and sits in huge lakes, one is the largest in the world out side of the new Chinese Three Dams project. This contaminated water leaks out into the Mackenzie River watershed according to Nikifouk and eventually reaches the Arctic Ocean. The damage caused by this has not been sufficiently recorded.
Another impact is the creation of greenhouse gasses. Because of this Canada has fallen 30% behind in meeting the Kyoto accords and there is little being done to mitigate the green house gas emissions. It takes 2 tons of sand to create one barrel of oil. This is scooped up earth, the entire size of the deposits are larger than all of England according to Nikifouk.
Only approximately 20% of the sand oil can be recovered by strip mining. The rest is too far beneath the surface and a variety of methods are used to get at the balance. One method is CSS Cyclic Steam Stimulation where steam is forced into tunnels that heats up the oil and it is then pumped out. But that uses a lot of steam and is very expensive and wastes a lot of water. Another method is SDGD Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage where two horizontal tunnels are bored and steam is forced in the top tunnel which causes the oil to heat and drip into the lower tunnel. Claims of up to 60% recovery rates with this method are the main reason why Canada shot up to having the worlds second largest oil reserves according to the Wikipedia article. There is the VAPEX method Vapor Extraction that uses other hydrocarbons instead of steam and is less expensive and doesn’t waste as much water. Experiments are also underway on using fire to burn off the heaviest bitumen and liquefy the lighter portions but this has the drawback that fires often burn out of control and consume the oil you are trying to reclaim. But if this method works it will have the least environmental impact according to its advocates.
The bottom line is that this is a messy dirty way to get oil. It is scraping the bottom of the barrel of the world oil supply and is much more costly in energy, water, and environmental dedregation than any other type of oil being produced. Yet this is the future of America’s oil. We buy more of it from Canada than they produce for domestic consumption.
The city of McMurray smells of rotten eggs, the sulfur byproduct that comes from the refining process. The local infrastructure is overwhelmed by the influx of workers and housing has increased in cost from about $150,000 for a 3 bedroom home to $550,000, One of the highest if not the highest rate in all of Canada. Drug arrests are 215% the average rate for Canadian cities and there is only one two lane highway that is overburdened with truck traffic, the most highly used road in Canada according to Nikifouk where accidental death rates are high by Canadian standards.
But this as many have noted is the cost of relatively unrestricted development. Conservative Canadian governments have encouraged this cash cow with tax incentives and very lax environmental standards. It is sad that Canada with such a great record in other areas such as medical care is so lax when it comes to its own environment. What goes on in the great white north stays in the great white north. Not really the greenhouse Gas emissions are 75 kilograms per barrel of oil produced. That is 3-5 times the amount of Saudi Oil. Also there is a limited amount of natural gas to burn to produce the energy to turn Bitumen into oil and the talk is to put up to 20 nuclear reactors in the area to provide an alternative energy source. That is one hell of an expensive and dangerous way to produce oil for the American demand.
We need to encourage the Canadians to slow down and plan this more thoroughly. They need to incorporate the cost of reclaiming the water and the carbon footprint in the cost of producing this oil. $27 per barrel does not include any reclamation, only raw production costs. Just as we need effective regulations in the USA to control green house emissions so do our Canadian brothers to the north. And we don’t want to loose all that habitat for birds, not to mention the Caribou populations impacted. We need to get switched to renewable energy sources as quickly as possible because sand oil is a future we do not need.

I Met Some Homeless People Today

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

I went for a walk to Ralph’s, taking advantage of the dollar sale on tomatoes and cream cheese, as I walked home I saw a group of people standing near a pizza joint. Curious about my own near future, as I am almost totally broke and can afford only one more months rent, I asked them if they were homeless. Yes, all four of them said. They were two men and two women, worn faces like leather from being out in the elements. They looked like they were in their 40’s or 50’s, one a tile worker was able to stay in the house he was remodeling. The women and the other guy just looked like ordinary people, except, they were not, they were all homeless, evicted after losing jobs and running out of benefits, and sleeping on the streets.
I asked about the shelters and they said they were all full up. There was only GR if you were lucky they would give you some foodstamps and a couple of bucks to get through the month.
Here were a group of middle aged white people, suburbanite even, polite, with manners, one woman who had just been in an accident recently and had just been released from the hospital even wanted to say a prayer with me. I was touched and let her do it wondering which god she would choose. It was generic god. God of our fathers and mothers and children and she asked this amorphous god to bless us and I felt sad and yet inspired that this person who had no place to stay was praying for me.
I was humbled, I told them I would write about them in my blog. Here we have so many people on the streets now that they are forming tent cities on the LA River, in Sacramento, and god knows where else. These are real hard times in America, this is a depression. It is no joke, Unemployment is up around 15% or more. The state is sloughing off as many people as they can denying benefits and hoping people will simply find some other way to get by.
Western Europe has a welfare state still. Only the romantic youth who choose to be on the streets, the wandering hash smokers are homeless there. Everyone else is housed, fed and treated for their medical problems because there it is understood that unemployment is systemic not personal and needs to be treated as priority of the society at large, not as the personal cross that each unemployed person must bear as a punishment like it is here.
And what of the places like eastern Europe where they gave up their communist systems with their guaranteed jobs, housing, medical care and all the rest? They chose the risky glamour of unbridled capitalism, as was recommended by the neo cons and the Clintonians and now they have riots in the streets and governments about to collapse as people begin to recall the security that they once had, now only a faded memory, a story of the good old days.
What has advanced capitalism given us, economic dislocation, a boom and bust cycle where the connected get ahead and the suckers get screwed. Bernie Madoff was only the most obvious ponzi schemer, but all of finance without production is simply another version of the same scheme to get rich off of manipulating the system instead of making something useful. Lets get rid of that class of parasites, and give the people on the streets what they deserve a dignified life. Just because the economy doesn’t need you is not an excuse to discard people like unwanted baggage. We are not some tribe in the great plains struggling to survive through a harsh winter because the buffalo have gone. We are an advanced industrialized society and we need to benefit the people as a whole not a few greedy bastards.
I can promise one thing, if I end up homeless, I am not going down easy, I am not going to pray that God gives me a break, I am going to organize my fellow downtrodden and work to bring them back to a dignified life. If we are thwarted then I say Eat The Rich!!! Bring back Badder Meinhof and to hell with being nice.
But for now I have a place to live and am spending most of my time job hunting. If I get through this without haveing to become homeless then I will thank my lucky stars and whatever gods that might hear me. But I won’t forget the people on the streets.
I used to work with Food Not Bombs and the wobblies sometimes and give money to homeless people and such, but now that I am facing that reality as a stark eventuality if I am not working by next month, I can see that all of Obama’s or any other politicians promises mean nothing if there are no results on the ground. We need to act as a community because if we don’t then there will be nothing but the wolves and the do gooders handing out sandwiches on the weekends.

President Speaks Again

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

I am not exactly inspired. In fact I am just not into doing this. I have been denied unemployment benefits so it looks like I will have to go into sales and take back the honor I have lost being abused by those assholes I used to work for. They could have simply let me go, let me get my unemployment, but no, they had to be cheap and petty and now I have to take a sales job. That sucks but I don’t see any choice. It leaves me cold to writing because it is a failure of truth and justice. It is a victory of lies and business as usual. I hate it.
Oh yeah the president gave a speech and a press conference where he told the country how he was going to make the world safe for bastards like the ones who burned me. What I mean by that is simply that he wants capitalism to work better, more rationally but it is a system based on profit and profit is based on greed. It is one of the historic seven deadly sins and it has thrown the world off balance.
We need to reorient, find a way to get that genie back in the bottle. The planet needs the human race as caretakers or it doesn’t need us at all. We must return to a sound sense of stewardship on this planet with each of us understanding that nothing that is comes without cost somewhere, in a sweatshop in the tropics or in a polluted water and air supply. When we tread heavily upon the earth, the planet groans. We can create our monuments but what good are they if there is no one here left to appreciate them when the oxygen producing plankton in the ocean die and we can no longer breathe.
I can’t get excited about it. We need a social revolution and a government for the people. We ain’t there yet. And by the people I do not mean a giant shopping mall with everything offered at discount prices. That model of consumer driven capitalism has got us in the mess we are in. I am talking about a world where we work less, play more and breathe and learn to live with what we have, in community. It may not be tribal but it certainly has to be more communal that isolated lives lived in front of screens of radiated bits of data being thrown at us in mesmerising patterns while we sit and fade into the dull sterile light of an infomercial that repeats itself endlessly in meaningless patterns, a travesty of what is our birthright. We are here to walk upon the earth not hide in these cold light caves of isolated indifference.
Obama knows that much when he says turn off the tube and get engaged. But under capitalism it is always a farce because there is always the hustler there waiting to take your coin and charge you for the ride. Life on earth is our birthright and private property is theft.
Until we break that link, and the Spartans had sense there, they taught their children to steal. They valued their social solidarity over wealth and used bars of lead for currency to show their contempt for the shiny obsessions that make men and women crazy with desire to have and to consume.
The only think we have a right to have is one another and we should give ourselves freely, trusting that we are each our brothers keeper. Anyway maybe that is what Obama means, but I wish he would say it and get rid of the gang of operators who have surrounded him with all their neo-free market claptrap about fixing markets and bailing out the institutions that should never have grown so big to start.
Here we have the crux, the investors took a risk and should be allowed to fall with the risk. But because institutions like non profits and pension funds were allowed to play in this risky market it affects every one. And then there are the foreign investors, like China, Japan, United Kingdom, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, The Netherlands, who buy dollars and invest in America because it is a save investment. It is the golden goose that keeps laying eggs that make the rich richer. But for how much longer will we be able to ride on that tide, once China decides to invest more in its own people, right now they want the control of American Debt, it gives them free rein in Africa where China is intensively extracting natural resources to keep its machines running. The USA has little to say because it is a case of one hand rubbing the other. There is no question of morality in places like Darfur, when the powers want their wealth extraction machines to run, let the natives squabble over useless turf. It is a cynical game of power and control out there in the big world as the last of the earths resources are being squeezed to the death of us all. Let us hope Mr Obama has a better way in mind with his energy plan and health plan. Meantime I have no health plan and no employment. Good luck to us all.

Russia and Turkey Today

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

Here is an excerpt of a piece from Stratfor the security analysts that I should be working with. But I am not.

By Reva Bhalla, Lauren Goodrich and Peter Zeihan

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev reportedly will travel to Turkey in the near future to follow up a recent four-day visit by his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, to Moscow. The Turks and the Russians certainly have much to discuss.

Russia’s World
Russia is among the world’s most strategically vulnerable states. Its core, the Moscow region, boasts no geographic barriers to invasion. Russia must thus expand its borders to create the largest possible buffer for its core, which requires forcibly incorporating legions of minorities who do not see themselves as Russian. The Russian government estimates that about 80 percent of Russia’s approximately 140 million people are actually ethnically Russian, but this number is somewhat suspect, as many minorities define themselves based on their use of the Russian language, just as many Hispanics in the United States define themselves by their use of English as their primary language. Thus, ironically, attaining security by creating a strategic buffer creates a new chronic security problem in the form of new populations hostile to Moscow’s rule. The need to deal with the latter problem explains the development of Russia’s elite intelligence services, which are primarily designed for and tasked with monitoring the country’s multi-ethnic population.
Russia’s primary challenge, however, is time. In the aftermath of the Soviet collapse, the bottom fell out of the Russian birthrate, with fewer than half the number of babies born in the 1990s than were born in the 1980s. These post-Cold War children are now coming of age; in a few years, their small numbers are going to have a catastrophic impact on the size of the Russian population. By contrast, most non-Russian minorities — in particular those such as Chechens and Dagestanis, who are of Muslim faith — did not suffer from the 1990s birthrate plunge, so their numbers are rapidly increasing even as the number of ethnic Russians is rapidly decreasing.
The Russian leadership is well aware of this coming crisis, and knows it is going to need every scrap of strength it can muster just to continue the struggle to keep Russia in one piece.
Expanding its buffer against such a diverse and potentially hostile collection of states is no small order, but Russia does have one major advantage: The security guarantor for nearly all of these countries is the United States, and the United States is currently very busy elsewhere. So long as U.S. ground forces are occupied with the Iraqi and Afghan wars, the Americans will not be riding to the rescue of the states on Russia’s periphery. Given this window of opportunity, the Russians have a fair chance to regain the relative security they seek. In light of the impending demographic catastrophe and the present window of opportunity, the Russians are in quite a hurry to act.

Turkey’s World
Turkey is in many ways the polar opposite of Russia. After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire following World War I, Turkey was pared down to its core, Asia Minor. Within this refuge, Turkey is nearly unassailable. It is surrounded by water on three sides, commands the only maritime connection between the Black and Mediterranean seas and sits astride a plateau surrounded by mountains. This is a very difficult chunk of territory to conquer. Indeed, beginning in the Seljuk Age in the 11th century, the ancestors of the modern Turks took the better part of three centuries to seize this territory from its previous occupant, the Byzantine Empire.

The Turks have used much of the time since then to consolidate their position such that, as an ethnicity, they reign supreme in their realm. The Persians and Arabs have long since lost their footholds in Anatolia, while the Armenians were finally expelled in the dying days of World War I. Only the Kurds remain, and they do not pose a demographic challenge to the Turks. While Turkey exhibits many of the same demographic tendencies as other advanced developing states — namely, slowing birthrates and a steadily aging population — there is no major discrepancy between Turk and Kurdish birthrates, so the Turks should continue to comprise more than 80 percent of the country’s population for some time to come. Thus, while the Kurds will continue to be a source of nationalistic friction, they do not constitute a fundamental challenge to the power or operations of the Turkish state, like minorities in Russia are destined to do in the years ahead.

Turkey’s security is not limited to its core lands. Once one moves beyond the borders of modern Turkey, the existential threats the state faced in years past have largely melted away. During the Cold War, Turkey was locked into the NATO structure to protect itself from Soviet power. But now the Soviet Union is gone, and the Balkans and Caucasus — both former Ottoman provinces — are again available for manipulation. The Arabs have not posed a threat to Anatolia in nearly a millennium, and any contest between Turkey and Iran is clearly a battle of unequals in which the Turks hold most of the cards. If anything, the Arabs — who view Iran as a hostile power with not only a heretical religion but also with a revolutionary foreign policy calling for the overthrow of most of the Arab regimes — are practically welcoming the Turks back. Despite both its imperial past and its close security association with the Americans, the Arabs see Turkey as a trusted mediator, and even an exemplar.

The Field of Competition
First, the end of the Soviet empire opened up a wealth of economic opportunities, but very few states have proven adept at penetrating the consumer markets of Ukraine and Russia. Somewhat surprisingly, Turkey is one of those few states. Thanks to the legacy of Soviet central planning, Russian and Ukrainian industry have found it difficult to retool away from heavy industry to produce the consumer goods much in demand in their markets. Because most Ukrainians and Russians cannot afford Western goods, Turkey has carved out a robust and lasting niche with its lower-cost exports; it is now the largest supplier of imports to the Russian market. While this is no exercise in hard power, this Turkish penetration nevertheless is cause for much concern among Russian authorities.

Second, the Russian retreat in the post-Cold War era has opened up the Balkans to Turkish influence. Romania, Bulgaria and the lands of the former Yugoslavia are all former Ottoman possessions, and in their day they formed the most advanced portion of the Ottoman economy. During the Cold War, they were all part of the Communist world, with Romania and Bulgaria formally incorporated into the Soviet bloc. While most of these lands are now absorbed into the European Union, Russia’s ties to its fellow Slavs — most notably the Serbs and Bulgarians — have allowed it a degree of influence that most Europeans choose to ignore. Additionally, Russia has long held a friendly relationship with Greece and Cyprus, both to complicate American policy in Europe and to provide a flank against Turkey. Still, thanks to proximity and trading links, Turkey clearly holds the upper hand in this theater of competition.

The third area for Russian-Turkish competition is in energy, and this is where things get particularly sticky. Russia is Turkey’s No. 1 trading partner, with energy accounting for the bulk of the trade volume between the two countries. Turkey depends on Russia for 65 percent of its natural gas and 40 percent of its oil imports. Though Turkey has steadily grown its trade relationship with Russia, it does not exactly approve of Moscow’s penchant for using its energy relations with Europe as a political weapon. Russia has never gone so far as to cut supplies to Turkey directly, but Turkey has been indirectly affected more than once when Russia decided to cut supplies to Ukraine because Moscow felt the need to reassert its writ in Kiev.

The second potential source of energy for the Turks lies in Central Asia, a region that Russia must keep in its grip at all costs if it hopes to survive in the long run. In many ways this theater is the reverse of the Balkans, where the Russians hold the ethnic links and the Turks the economic advantage. Here, four of the five Central Asian countries — Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan — are Turkic. But as a consequence of the Soviet years, the infrastructure and economies of all four are so hardwired into the Russian sphere of influence that it would take some major surgery to liberate them. But the prize is a rich one: Central Asia possesses the world’s largest concentration of untapped energy reserves. And as the term “central” implies, whoever controls the region can project power into the former Soviet Union, China and South Asia. If the Russians and Turks are going to fight over something, this is it.

Turkish designs on Central Asia all boil down to the former Soviet state of Georgia. If Turkey can bring Georgia fully under its wing, Turkey can then set about to integrate with Azerbaijan and project influence into Central Asia. But without Georgia, Turkey is hamstrung before it can even begin to reach for the real prize in Central Asia.

A Temporary Meeting of Minds?
There is clearly no shortage of friction points between the Turks and the Russians. With the two powers on a resurgent path, it was only a matter of time before they started bumping into one another. The most notable clash occurred when the Russians decided to invade Georgia last August, knowing full well that neither the Americans nor the Europeans would have the will or capability to intervene on behalf of the small Caucasian state. NATO’s strongest response was a symbolic show of force that relied on Turkey, as the gatekeeper to the Black Sea, to allow a buildup of NATO vessels near the Georgian coast and threaten the underbelly of Russia’s former Soviet periphery.

This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution to
© Copyright 2009 STRATFOR. All rights reserved ”

This jives with my own analysis of a resurgent Turkey especially. On my blog I have written that I expect the Turks to play an ever increased role in the areas that were once part of the Ottoman Empire, especialy with regards to participating in a future deal with Israel when the Israeli government realizes that it will have more security with Turkish backing that with American, but that is longer term. In the immediate future I see the Turks attempting to move into the central Asian oil states via Azerbaijan as your article noted. I had not realized that Turkey has become the major supplier of consumer goods in Russia. I was aware of the Korean penetration in Siberia, and that potential time bomb in east Asia with so much empty land there and so many people in China, eventually there will be a Korean/Chinese move into Siberia from the east just as the Turks want to move into central Asia from the west. They may be able to provide a more secular form of Islam to blunt the effects of radical Islam coming from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. The Russians will eventually loose out and become a rump state occupying the very east end of Europe and northwest Asia unless they find a way to incorporate some of these minorities into a greater Russia. They have done it before and they could do it again.
Even though a resurgent Turkey is possible, I doubt if they have the same drive to expand as the Russians do and thus although there is likely to be some tensions between the two, just as the Turks did not press on the Soviets, we are more likely to see these two powers come to some greater terms of cooperation in the future as long as there are territorial buffer states between them that they can alternate in controlling. It is when they have contemporaneous borders as in the 17th, 18th and into the 19th centuries that they were in almost continuous clashes over territory. The dismantling of the Ottoman Empire after World War One ended that series of wars as the Turkish state under Ataturk and the Soviet State under Lenin had some mutual sympathies as modernizing states. The Soviet Union is gone but the state of Turkish state of Ataturk still remains at least temporarily secular. If the Islamist factions end up dominating Turkey then we may see a different face, including the return of the Caliphate that Osama Bin Laden and his comrades dream about.
As for Russia, it is and will be a state with interesting aspirations and a remarkably resilient and intelligent people. Once this transition period is over and they determine what kind of state they wish to be, and we are probably going to see some kind of modified State Socialism with a private sector mostly in name but largely dominated by state players, a mostly autocratic rule if history is to be a guide with perhaps some democratic veneer. The Russians as they redefine themselves as a source of raw materials for the world but not a helpless on like Africa, but a powerful one more akin to the United States, it will find its access to Siberian wealth to be more and more critical and will have to deal with the Chinese threat more imminently than the Turkish one. It already has been dealing with the fundamentalist Islamic threat and has managed to finesse the Americans into carrying their water for them in Afghanistan and may end up making the US provide a security role for Russia in central Asia in exchange for access. Pretty smart move. Let the Americans pay to play, get their noses bloodied fighting the fundamentalists and then get totally bogged down in the north west frontier of Pakistan. Payback of a sort.
That is how I see it from my vantage point.

Time Bomb - Radicals Get Old

Monday, March 16th, 2009

We are in a free fall economy and on hardball Chris Matthews is kicking butt making fun of Dick Cheney’s attempts to defend the Bush administration policies. Claims their policies on terrorism worked and that President Obama is making country unsafe. He also claims it was legal and constitutional for the USA to torture and detain in Guantanamo.
Cheney also blamed the global economic crisis on the world economy and not on the federal government’s failure to deal with it in the Bush administration. He tried to blame the crisis on Barney Frank and Chris Dodd for blocking the Bush administration from reforming Freddy Mac and Fanny Mae.
Dana Perino former Bush press secretary claims that last weeks improvement in the stock market could be attributed to the Bush administration policies last fall and not to anything Obama’s team is doing now.
This is what I was able to glean from MSNBC.
AIG is a popular subject today. President Obama seems to be upset that they are handing out bonuses of $165 Million when they are getting $170 billion in government bailouts. Obama wants to know why these derivative traders deserve any bonus at all and wants them to be cancelled.
The world economy is close to collapse and these guys are getting retention bonuses and golden parachutes. Andrew Cuomo Attorney General of New York is investigating. These guys are scared because they are wondering how long before they start hearing about rebellion in main street America. The president had better be pissed off about it.

Robert Reich is saying we get the worst of both worlds, government taxes and private control, with AIG being 80% owned by the taxpayers but we have no say because of an irrational fear of nationalization in America. Perhaps it is time to break the company up. There should not be any company that is too big to fail. Reich says these are the very people who came up with Credit Default Swaps and now they are being rewarded.
This was on Keith Olbermann. I am not feeling very inspired tonight. I understand that the president is doing his best, but I am more concerned with the antics of my radical friends who are attacking one another in foolish displays of rabid egotism. I know I have had my share of rabid moments, but I am trying to learn to grow up and understand that we are all in this together. Even when we disagree, if we at least respect our opponents then we can act with civility. I am speaking of the weekend quibbling between Anarchists and Communists at the Anarchist Book Fair. Anarchists and communists both believe in communism, it is simply the method of achieving it that is in question. Anarchists believe in going straight from revolution to the dissolution of government and the implementation of communism. Communists believe in seizure of the state taking it over by a communist party and then the gradual withering away of the state to complete communism. There are other differences. Anarchists do not believe in parties, or majority rule. Anarchists believe in consensus in decision making. The communists believe in creating a workers party and the Leninist variant believe in a vanguard party that is to lead the masses to communism.
I am not sure we are capable of communism in our present stage of human evolution. I see too much thuggery in these supposed idealists. I am the first one to be called a thug, back in the 1980’s we had a group of anarchists in San Francisco called Mindless Thugs by local merchants because we threw bricks through windows.
It had its moments, and when the target is an institution that represents an evil authority, there can still be legitimacy in bricking. But the targets should be well considered and picked for serious reasons like military recruiters, particularly egregious real estate developers and business persons who are known to oppress persons in the community such as having homeless people arrested for vagrancy because they are pan handling in front of your store. Or when real estate developers conspire to get poor people kicked out of their neighborhood simply because they are poor and the developers want to make more money converting their apartments into condos, etc.
But to trash a fellow radical because they believe in an alternative path to communism, and to silence them at a public forum like a book fair, is to me crossing a moral line. Anarchists threw water on the literature of the Revolutionary Communist Party because they dared to infringe on an Anarchist only event. This is ridiculous because half of the so called anarchists at the event were council communists, or situationists or even primitivists who border on being right wingers.
Why am I harping on this? It is because like the issue with Rhizome there is a basic immaturity in the radical left in America that may have to do with its essential powerlessness and continual loss of members who after a few years of commitment most move on to become members of the mainstream and accept more mainstream political beliefs. This is not like Europe where radical political groups have youth organizations and then and adult organization. Here we have organizations that often were started by youth in the 60’s or 70’s that simply kept on reinventing themselves with another generation of youth.
This is attributable not only to a lack of power but also to a dynamic that identifies with a subculture that is more related to youthful rebelliousness that to legitimate political opposition.
My friend Dean complained that the communists call anarchists as a youth movement when he is in his 50’s, as am I and a few others. But the vast majority are in their teens and twenties and identify with a lifestyle that often cannot be sustained in the context of a job and family.
Some say it is part of the radical critique to be opposed to the family as it is construed as the nuclear unit and there are arguments for that. But most people want to form more or less stable and permanent relationships in which to raise children. That may be one reason why so many in the radical left are gay or single, simply because it is not family friendly. I have always said that the political critique must be able to fit people of all social types or you end up with what we have in America, a family oriented right wing and a singles/gay oriented left wing. It is hard to be in a family and be on the radical left here. Not so much in other places.
In the late 1980’s when I was participating in the Anarchist Conference, I wanted to focus on education and supporting anarchist family life. I had just come out of a relationship and had a young son. In the religious liberal left there is family life. but among the anarchists and Maoist and Trotskyist left very few. Most unless they find an academic position that gives an income and some flexibility cannot afford to have a family. Or the lifestyle simply is not supportive.
It has been a dilemma that as we grow older, those of us who have remained radical find ourselves either depending on non politically active family or in government institutions that especially anarchists are opposed to. There is no anarchist retirement home and even the communist ones that existed in the 1930’s when there was a large left have disappeared or become part of institutions of reformist unions.
It is time to take note, size up the situation and make some choices, we will have to create a broader infrastructure of our own or we will simply be submerged into the mainstream and only have a few memories of days spent demonstrating but with little to show for it in real changes in social structure. And for that reason I can only say perhaps reform-ism as in the democratic socialist green left may be the best we can hope for in the USA. Certainly as I get older, my choices are becoming narrower just as my friend with his walker finds it harder to demonstrate, so do I find it harder to justify attitudes that don’t reflect reality. Revolutionary dreams may be just that, dreams.
Unless real revolutionaries can step up and out of the comic book world they imagine and create something sustainable in this one. Communist institutions that are inclusive not elitist. Otherwise we will all end up as some one’s crazy uncle or aunt in the retirement home alone. If we should be so lucky…bubbie. Nobody wants to be the kook in the corner, so lets do something about it collectively or we will each of us end up in our own howling silent rage alone.

Seymour Hersh On Iraq, More On Mexico & Pakistan

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Seymour Hersh the reporter who gave us the My Lai Massacre was speaking last fall at Cal State Long Beach on Iraq and the world of the media. I caught this replay on cable and this is what he had to say.
He says the truth about Iraq did not get out from the CIA because the dissenters were cut off. If they did not go along they simply were not invited to critical meetings. The message got across, play ball or go away.
Another point he made is that investors like to come here because of the legal protection they get as investors. It is not just that the USA has a huge military that will keep the banks safe, but it has a legal system that protects investments.
He talks about embedded reporters. It was a brilliant move by the government. After the first 6 months it wasn’t safe. Reporters became friends with the troops and they would not tell the truth about what happened because of their relationships.
Hersh says blogging has replaced the newspapers. Nobody has figured out how to make money off the internet and the newspapers are in a panic.
Hersh started writing about Iran in 2005. There is no evidence that the Iranians are able to make a bomb.
Hersh says these are good papers. NY Times is great, Der Spiegel is good. Washington Post is good. The British press is good and Haaretz in Israel.
Nobody want to see Iraq divided. It was a wacky idea to think we could create democracy in Iraq while we were opposed to it in Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
It was Powell’s biggest mistake of his life going along with the invasion of Iraq. Hersh says we would have mau mau’ed him if he had tried to contradict the presidents line. What he meant by that I think is related to that old book by Tom Wolfe called “Radical Chic and Mau Mauing the Flack Catchers”. Which if i remember correctly was about playing the rich liberal guilt to the advantage of radicals like the Black Panthers. In this case I think he is saying the media would have ambushed Powell because they all wanted the war to happen and by they he means the media, the movers and shakers and even the citizenry. Nobody wanted to hear someone saying no the facts don’t jive and Powell went along with the program according to Hersh.
After 9-11 the media became part of the government team. We failed on the WMD issue, and al the rest. The safe guys get promoted not the guy who would take chances. He says the editors have encouraged becoming too careful and the media should be cleaned out, get rid of all these safe guys if you want to make the media more responsible.
Hersh says money is neutral in the media but on social issues it matters. He claims that the main thing is that humans all think they do no wrong. No matter what. Hersh says Bush was the worst president we have ever had. Vietnam cost the life of 58,000 Americans but it was a tactical mistake. The war in Iraq is strategic. It is much more than just the body count of 4500. But the election of Obama makes a big difference in how the world perceives America.
Pakistan is the place to watch out for in terms of a potential backpack bomb. There is nobody else where that could be done. There was a lucky band that got through in the the 9-11 attack. But there is not another group that is around with a real serious capacity. But the USA reaction to the terrorist attack was to change the way we ran the country with a global war on terror, something that wont work, we should have simply become more vigilant and go after the rest of of those who attacked us instead of turning it into a war on an idea.
The peace in Iraq is dependent on dealing with the neighbors. Hersh claims the US doesn’t have juice anymore with the countries in the Middle East because the country has ruined it credibility.
Hersh says we have it easy here because we have the right to write but in places like Egypt reporters get killed. He seems to relish his role as one of the senior American journalists now he is at the New Yorker.

Eric Cantor Republican whip from Virginia is now raping against the workers right to vote in a union. He is at a conference organized by Politico being broadcast on CSPAN. He is ranting about how if the unions get their way then union membership will go way up. On that point I would say anything that makes it easier to form a Union in America is good. I just got fired for trying to get a Union in my workplace. It is technically illegal but all they have to do is say I was fired for a different reason. The problem with the secret ballot is that it gives the bosses time to intimidate workers into not voting for a Union. There is a whole industry built around that.
What Cantor wants is to help the small business owner. He claims 25% of jobs are created by small businesses that are about to have their taxes increased. He says there is going to be a new stimulus plan and he wants to see a Republican proposal in the new plan.
Cantor is saying that the presidents plan in housing is wrong because it is asking the people who did nothing wrong have to pay for the few who did something wrong. He is opposed to the cram down legislation where the judge has crammed down a lower rate on the lender.
He wants the government to come up with some other plan on housing but he didn’t specify what it would be other than letting the lender come up with the terms.

Here is another story that I found interesting from the Workers Compass on the so called failed states of Mexico and Pakistan.
Mexico, Pakistan, and the So-Called “Failed State”
by Workers Action
Sunday Mar 15Th, 2009 6:40 PM
Are Mexican drug cartels a threat to the United States? This is an easy conclusion to make after reading most mainstream U.S. newspapers. Hardly a day goes by without sensational stories about “broad daylight” gun battles, heart-wrenching interviews with weeping mothers, and praise for the Mexican army in its “war” against “narco-terrorists.”

Interestingly, Mexico has lately been compared to Pakistan as a country “on the verge” of becoming a “failed state,” with the Mexican drug cartels accused of playing the same “destabilizing” role as the Taliban/terrorists in Pakistan. Calling such a comparison a stretch would be a gross understatement, of course.

There is in fact a real connection between Mexico and Pakistan that’s worth discussing, though you’d never hear it mentioned in the mainstream media. Both countries have governments that are virtual pawns of the U.S. and, as such, are having a difficult time with their native populations as they attempt to please their real bosses — U.S. mega-corporations and rich investors.

And these bosses can be demanding. For example, in Pakistan the U.S. dominated International Monetary Fund (IMF) is demanding that Pakistan privatize state-owned banks, railways, power plants, water, insurance, factories, etc. — so that U.S. corporations and investors can buy them at discount rates for private profit.

In Mexico, the same U.S. groups are lustfully eyeing Mexico’s number one source of national revenue: the state oil company (PEMEX). Mexican companies and natural resources had already been gobbled-up by U.S. corporate vultures long before NAFTA came into effect, though this trade agreement intensified the trend, making it a good place to begin if one is to have any understanding of the current political situation in Mexico.

NAFTA is in fact more than a trade agreement, it’s a trade bloc, the size of which rivals the European Union as the world’s largest. A trade bloc is essentially an agreement between countries on economic integration, which inevitably includes varying levels of political and military agreements. Also, every trade bloc has a dominant member — which in NAFTA’s case is the U.S.

When NAFTA was enacted, a new flood of U.S. corporate and private investment flooded into Mexico, requiring that this money be well protected. For the international investor, political instability of any kind is bad for business. This is in fact why NAFTA was extended into the “Security and Prosperity Agreement,” which provides U.S. security (military) aid to protect the NAFTA-created prosperity (investments) inside of Mexico.

In speaking of security and foreign investment, The World Bank’s website says:
“We act as a potent deterrent against [foreign] government actions that may adversely affect investments. And even if disputes do arise, our leverage with host governments frequently enables us to resolve differences to the mutual satisfaction of all parties.” Such security is ultimately guaranteed by the U.S. military.

U.S. investors had a valid fear that their investments in Mexico needed extra protecting. Social inequalities in the country have been intensifying for years, and the poor’s standard of living has continued to deteriorate. This deterioration promised to continue because of the extremely fragile Mexican economy, which was especially vulnerable for the following reasons:

1) Commodities coming in from the U.S. because of NAFTA promised to out-compete and destroy Mexican farmers and businesses.
2) Mexico is highly dependent on high oil prices that have since plummeted.
3) Mexico is highly dependent on U.S. foreign investors whose investments have tapered off (because of the recession)
4) Mexican exports to the U.S. – 80% of its total exports — have sharply declined because of U.S. workers’ inability to consume them.
5) Remittances from Mexicans living in the U.S. have dropped sharply due to the recession.

This economic situation promised that the Mexican working class would be pushed into desperation, and that police-state measures would be needed to control them, since they might demand that U.S. owned corporations in Mexico should instead be used for ordinary Mexicans. Those who didn’t emigrate to escape the crumbling economy would likely rise up.

The first uprising in Mexico began like clockwork, on the day NAFTA was enacted in 1994, led by the Zapatista movement. The Zapatistas were protesting the inevitable effects NAFTA would have on Mexico, though especially the widening of economic inequalities, privatization, and the negative impacts of “free trade” with the more powerful U.S. economy.

U.S. investors demanded that the movement be crushed, and the crushing is still going on today, including a horrific list of human rights abuses by the Mexican military and federal police — the same people that the U.S. media is daily praising.

Laura Carlsen, director of the Mexico City-based Americas Policy Program of the Center for International Policy, writes how the Mexican army has recently used its “war on drugs” as an excuse to repress the Zapatista movement, among others.

The current President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, first announced the “war on drugs” in circumstances that led many to question his motives. For example, millions of people in Mexico rightly believe that Calderon stole the 2006 election. The resulting mass protests destabilized his incoming government, forcing him to be sworn in under conditions of secrecy.

At the same time, an extraordinary uprising in the state of Oaxaca led to a people’s government headed by a democratically elected Popular Assembly (APPO). To ensure the incoming president a somewhat stable beginning — as well as assuring corporate investments in Oaxaca remained untouched — exiting President Vincente Fox turned to the Mexican Federal Police to crush the movement, using the proven tactics of paramilitary squads; “disappearances,” assassinations, illegal detentions, etc. (between 2007 and 2008, 1,602 such incidents of human rights violations were officially reported to the government’s National Commission on Human Rights).

It was under these conditions that President Felipe Calderon declared his “war on drugs.” His motive was not only to distract the public away from his illegitimate presidency, but also, as the Mexican newspaper El Univeral shamelessly pointed out:
“The challenge for Calderón is not just in Oaxaca… the federal government is going to have to intervene if they don’t want to see movements like the one in Oaxaca in several states.”

And intervene they have. This war has sent tens of thousands of Mexican army and federal police into the streets of Mexico, and violations of human rights have exploded in the process. In “Operation Chihuahua,” a major campaign in the “drug war,” the Mexican army rounded up political activists and opposition leaders who had previously led protests against NAFTA.

Another extreme violation of human rights occurred in the Mexican region of Atenco, where activists were targeted and tortured, and a whole community was terrorized by the Mexican federal police to crush opposition to government policy.

The logic is disturbing: “extraordinary measures” are supposedly needed to battle the Mexican “narco-terrorists.” These measures include not only the above-mentioned human rights violations, but the virtual destruction of basic constitutional rights. An apt comparison can be made to the U.S. government’s equally-ridiculous “war on terror,” which has also led to human and constitutional rights’ violations, while being based on similar motives.

In 2008 the ante was upped in Mexico. The Merida Initiative was passed in the US congress — also known as Plan Mexico (based on the similar “plan” in Colombia). This agreement adds billions of dollars in U.S. military aide to Mexico, including “counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, and border security.” Plan Mexico is in fact a mere extension of NAFTA’s “security and prosperity” agreement, but with a more blatant role for the U.S. military.

Recently Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen, updated President Obama on the emerging security threat of Mexico, and the enhanced cooperation between the U.S. and Mexican militaries through Plan Mexico. This meeting happened after a week of U.S. media hysterics over “drug cartel violence spilling over into the U.S.”

Similar scare tactics were used to achieve public support for Plan Colombia, where billions of dollars of U.S. “aide” have helped militarize the country in the fight against “narco terrorists.” The results aren’t surprising: Colombia’s human rights record is the worst in the hemisphere while being the number one cocaine exporter in the world.

Colombia is a much-needed pawn of U.S. foreign policy in a region that despises past U.S. military and economic intervention. It should be noted that the only two openly right-wing governments in the region are Mexico and Colombia.

Ultimately, the accusation that a country has “failed” has been used as a pretext for U.S. military involvement. This is indeed the case for both Mexico and Pakistan, where corporations and investors work in tandem with puppet governments against the wishes of the population.

The possibility that such police state measures can be transferred to the United States is very real, especially because of the Bush-era destruction of civil liberties that Obama is unwilling to reconstruct, let alone talk about. If policies are not put into place that immediately help the newly-created millions of unemployed, un-insured, and recently homeless, social unrest will undoubtedly emerge, and the measures Bush created will be further used against the U.S. working class. In this case, the police and military may be used to “maintain order,” possibly under the guise of a “war on terror” or “war on drugs,” or another creative campaign.”"

An interesting perspective on Mexico. I am not sure it is entirely the case, as they are determined to avoid the real drug war. But just as in Columbia there is an interesting correlation between the drug traffickers on the right who funded the right wing death squads in Columbia. Is it possible that in Mexico there is a similar correlation? I Columbia the FARC and other revolutionaries tax the coca production and protect the producers. We have the right and the left using funds from drugs to fund their campaigns. What is the case in Mexico?
We know a lot about the obvious effects of the drug wars but what do we know about the motivations of the cartels? How did they grow to be so influential in the country? How serious is the war on drugs or is it a cover for a war on revolutionaries? We hear almost nothing about that in the media. There is no social analysis. This article almost draws the connection between the devastating effects of NAFTA on the peasant economy of Mexico and the increase in drug trafficking as people look to alternative methods of income and the increased militarization of the USA as a result of the so called war on Terror. What do we have? I suspect we have a direct correlation.
Peasant farmers loose markets as American corn is dumped in the Mexican market. Farmers leave the farm for the city, find no work, so they head for the border, immigrant simply wants to work in the USA, gets across, maybe, gets a job here, and then ICE catches the poor farmer and sends him back across, now he is approached by a dealer who wants to know if the farmer wants to make some money and there you have it. Maybe. Question is what do we know about the poor Mexican peasants and the realities that drive them. Or the laid off American worker for that matter.
As for Pakistan, well here you have a state that is seen by many of its people as being under the thumb of the USA, and yet here we have the Moslem worlds only nuclear armed nation. It is focused on India, but what about Afghanistan in the background and there you have the USA sending drones across the border with impunity blowing up people from long distance. It seems cowardly to a man on the ground who sees his family or friends blown up in a so called attack on terrorists. No apology, simply a denial of the facts by the American led western force in Afghanistan and the young Pakistani begins to think that maybe there is some reason to support the local Taliban. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out why people join the resistance to Imperialism. But there is such a thing a inertia and most people have to be pushed to change. The USA and capitalism is good at that.

Choices-Brawling between Communists & Anarchists Uncool

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

Sometimes we make choices that are not fun, but they are needed. I chose to spend money on my son’s birthday instead of going to the Anarchist Book Fair in San Francisco. I am unemployed now and on a budget, it is not fun, but in my gut it was the right thing to do. Maybe next year my situation will be different.
I am reading a book on Greek philosophy of the Hellenistic period, one of my favorite periods of history, along with late roman history and history of the 16Th-18Th centuries.
It is a survey of Epicurean, Stoic and Skeptical thought. The ancient Greeks admired quick thinkers. They were quite good at sophistry and Archimedes proved to be a great inventor of war machines that held off the Romans when they assaulted Syracuse. But over all the Greek Phalanx was no match for the Roman Legion and their kingdoms and republics were all absorbed in the Roman Empire.
The Greeks were capable of providing great innovations in banking, when they took over Egypt is was the Greek rent farmers not Jews who got the peasantry into debt with their usurious practices. Greek innovations in military techniques defeated the Persians but were only able to bring themselves into mutual stalemate which the Romans were able to take advantage of.
The key to this is that being smart isn’t always enough, being unified and willing to pull together that counts too.

I just heard about a brawl in San Francisco between the RCP and some anarchists at the Anarchist Book Fair. That is ridiculous. I mean it. Fighting over interpretations of how to get to a communist society is absurd. Fighting with Nazis is sometimes required, but fighting with communists? That is simply impolite.
We may have differences over how to get to where we want to go. Communists believe in Democratic Centralism for the most part, many of them are hung up on party building but anarchists are afraid of party building and have no idea how to run society.
Here is the Modesto Anarchist Crew version of the story.
“Modesto Anarcho Crew own the Revolutionary Communist Party.
It was a glorious day for the Modesto Anarcho Crew here in San Francisco.

Not only did we spread loads of journals, zines, and other things around, we kicked the Revolutionary Communist Party the fuck out of our book fair. With loads of help from our Comrades, of course.

The RCP showed up early in the afternoon to sell their trash in the free area of the Book fair. They were informed that they had five minutes to leave. When the five minutes were up, Anarchists kicked their shit out. Literally. They didn’t get the message, and just set up their table outside.

Sick of watching their ugly fucking faces attempt to distract potential comrades, and sick of the bastards who have done nothing for the past three months but try to co opt and control Oakland’s rage, we stepped in. Armed with a bucket from Salt Lake, and inspiration from San Francisco, we drenched their table in liquid vengeance, destroying several hundred dollars’ worth of dirty, filthy, Maoist Propaganda.

Later on, the fuckers tried to catch up with us; they even interrupted a discussion of destroying middle class anarchism. One individual was singled out, but we quickly backed him up. This is the difference between us and them; we have each other’s backs. We win. Oh, and we’re cool.

Fuck the RCP. Fuck Bob Avakian. Don’t show your faces again. Be afraid. We know who you are. And we aren’t taking your shit any longer. It’s on.

MAC 01. RCP 00.”

I personally have worked with the RCP on demonstrations here in LA on numerous occasions. They often are the only other group that would join with anarchists in direct action such as the attempts to disrupt the Oscars in 2003 or the attempt to breakaway and occupy the CNN offices in Hollywood in the same year.
In the SF Bay area I know there is a history of sectarian competition between communists and anarchists but if this kind of attitude spreads outside of the Bay area there will be nothing but struggles that will lead to more disunity on the part of the radical community.
Anarchists may feel strong when gathered together in events like the Anarchist Book Fair, but when back out in the real world we need all the friends we can get. This sort of infighting only discourages people and confuses them. As the situation in the country and the world gets more critical there is a need for communications between communists and anarchists and for the development of a unified field theory that combines the best of both movements.
Here is the RCP response.

“Denounce the attack on Revolution Books at the Anarchist Book Fair!
by Bay Area Revolution Club
Saturday Mar 14Th, 2009 10:50 PM

Two activists from Revolution Books and the Bay Area Revolution Club showed up at the anarchist book fair today eager to get to know some of the revolutionary-minded and anarchist youth that we have been fighting alongside of recently in protests against the Israeli massacre in Gaza and the struggle for justice for Oscar Grant. Although we were hoping to get into some lofty discussions/debates about the future classless society, free of oppression and exploitation, that we all want to see and the important question of how we are going to get there, our main purpose in coming to the book fair this year was to get the word out about the “People’s Tribunal: The Murder of Oscar Grant & the Epidemic of Police Brutality” happening March 22 in Oakland. We also wanted to mix it up with people about a special issue of Revolution newspaper out right now: “A Declaration: For Women’s Liberation and the Emancipation of All of Humanity.” And we wanted to extend our solidarity to the RNC8 and let people know about the excellent new series in Revolution newspaper about their case:

Unfortunately this message was censored by the organizers of the anarchist book fair. First we were told we could set up our books and T-shirts in the courtyard (where other non-official vendors had set up). Then several older men came over to us, kicking our materials and destroying one of our DVDs. The main book fair organizer told us we had to leave the courtyard, but that we could set up on the grass. After we’d been hanging out on the grass for less than an hour, someone came up to our table and poured a large bucket of water all over our books, newspapers and fliers, destroying hundreds of dollars worth of literature. Many anarchists who witnessed this expressed shock and outrage. One young woman said, “It’s no different from book burning.” The two activists from Revolution Books then went inside to talk to the main book fair organizer about what had happened and see if he could help us in any way. Instead he told us we had to leave immediately and that we were asking for it.

People, this is not how political differences should be dealt with among people who hate this system and are trying to fight for real change. We are revolutionary communists and we operate on the principle of unity-struggle-unity, which means we want to unite all who can be united around the urgent political battles of the day, struggle with people over our final goals, and (hopefully) come to a higher level of unity through debate and discussion. When anarchists and others show up at our protests and events, we welcome them. We don’t fear differences among people. The back and forth exchange of ideas is part of how we get a better understanding of the world in order to change it.

Censorship and destruction of revolutionary literature cannot be tolerated. Who wins when shit like this happens? The fucking system! The movement needs higher standards. If shit like this is accepted, what else will we accept? The two activists from Revolution Books circulated the following petition at end of the day today at the book fair. If you would like to add your name, please put it in the comments section.

The statement reads:
“Revolution Books, a communist bookstore in Berkeley, was forced to leave the anarchist book fair and told they could set up outside by the organizers. After setting up their table, someone poured a bucket of water on their books, fliers, and newspapers, destroying hundreds of dollars of literature. We denounce this act and call on the organizers of the anarchist book fair to do the same. This sort of attack is repressive and reactionary and is the complete opposite of the culture of discussion, debate, and dissent that we need in order to create a vibrant, liberated society.”
And so there you go. Communists revert to rhetoric and Anarchists revert to bravado. The whole thing is childish.
Some communists have been humbled by their experience in power and their failure. Maybe the Chinese haven’t admitted what seems to be a total surrender to capitalism. In any case Anarchists should not be cruel and rude, but should accept them as comrades who have lessons to teach and as people on the same path of revolutionary change unless they prove to be enemies it would behoove the anarchists to work with them when possible. If they can’t learn how to overcome these differences then there will be no hope for anything better than a cruel repetition of the past and both movements will be doomed to extinction.
They may already be dinosaurs, I am not sure, this current crisis will certainly show up whether there is a radical alternative or if the they need to be swept aside as irrelevant antique theories. What is emerging in the world with the USA and China forming some new kind of symbiotic relationship may indicate that there is another path. What it is may be more interesting than anything we have seen yet. Perhaps the end of torture as a state model in the US will lead to the same in China. Perhaps the Chinese reluctance to invade others will provide a model for the US. Perhaps together they can learn to deal with the environmental crisis, as well as the economic one.

How absurd is all this. I mean I look at how messed up the situation is in Austin and now it looks like things in San Francisco are no better. One would think that there is a new cointelpro program in the works.
We have activists in Minnesota facing anti terrorist laws, snitches all over the country and activists in Palestine getting hit in the head with tear gas canisters. Gee, I wonder.

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