None of my comrades on the left, or my friends on the right who know me would be shocked that I’m a firearms enthusiast. I own an AK-47 (with an eeeeeeevil 75 round drum magazine) because its fun to shoot, it’s important to learn how, and because I appreciate the craftsmanship and durability of the weapon. Same goes with the Glock 17, whatever caliber-snobs might have to say about the 9mm. Suffice it to say, I very much enjoy guns.

I’m an ardent leftist, an avowed Socialist even, but independently minded enough for the gun control debate to force me into introspection. Lazy political analysis would put me with the right-wing on this issue, and perhaps that may be practically true, but despite (or because of) empty-headed rhetoric from both sides, I’ve realized there’s nothing that gives the American right-wing exclusive ownership over gun rights. The fight to protect gun-rights can and should be cross-partisan.

There is a fundamental problem with accepting a theory of Pre-Packaged Politics; the notion that, because one identifies with a particular party, or space on the political spectrum one must assume a pre-determined set of beliefs based on the conception of others. It’s as lazy of a form of politics as the your-team-my-team substance-free horse race we see every two to four years.

Alex Jones and Ted Nugent make me cringe every time they appear on television to talk about guns; today the worst spokesmen are the usual suspects who make anyone with a .380 in their nightstand sound unhinged. Nonetheless I’m a gun-rights enthusiast for a number of reasons, most of which I’ll spare you by staying with one.

Being on guard against government overreach in the use of force, particularly against it’s own citizens, is at once the most derided and necessary reason to be a gun-rights enthusiast. Leftists (and liberals not completely moist with adoration for the President) who complain of a metastasizing national security and surveillance state should be appreciative of this. Yet, such concerns are laughed at while, as with education, those least experienced with and furthest removed from firearms seek the most control over them.

No, I don’t seriously consider that the United States Army will soon be rolling tanks down the streets of America, or that all service-members would comply with orders to do so. I don’t seriously consider myself evenly matched against an A-10 running a bombing sortie on a protest rally, even with my so-cherished AK-47. We’re nonetheless living in an era of our country’s history in which the president claims absolute power to spy on every aspect of your life, detain anyone he likes indefinitely without charge or trial, kidnap and disappear anyone he likes, assassinate anyone he likes on a whim with no meaningful restrictions. In times as unprecedented as this there is something fundamentally unnerving to watch the president claim and aggressively defend such powers, and still be told with a straight face and steady voice that, in the face of this I must to be disarmed and made totally helpless and defenseless to a government that claims such powers

So sneers like the one’s depicted in this meme fail completely against those who believe as strongly in the Second Amendment as they do equal marriage and women’s rights just as they should fail against those independently minded enough to be able to reconcile the two without distress.

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To my embarrassment, I’ve come across an example of where the radical folks on the ultra-left go off the rails every now and then. In all political camps, you have your eccentrics (to be polite), but vaccine skeptics are on the same moral plane as climate change denialists because they both reject science and logic as a precondition for their conclusions.

In fact, there is a term for the kind of fallacy committed by the vaccine skeptics here in this particular case; post hoc ergo propter hoc: After this, therefore because of this. Arguments like these, presented in the above-mentioned article which rely solely on “event B happened after event A, therefore B is caused by A” collapse the moment you demand evidence for any connection. The people who wrote this article suggest that because India has pursued a campaign of polio eradication led by the WHO and somehow financed by the Gates foundation, “non-polio acute-flaccid paralysis” has become an epidemic. For one, the article claims that 100-180 cases crop up every year, which, considering India alone has a population of roughly 1,300,000,000, makes for a shitty campaign to paralyze, much less exterminate a whole people of the world’s second most populous nuclear-armed state. Presuming no change in the population (births, deaths, immigration/emigration, etc.) such a campaign would take roughly 7.2 to 13 million years to execute completely, several orders of magnitude longer than the entire history of human civilization. These cases are not linked to the conclusions of vaccine skeptics in any way that’s remotely intellectually defensible. Just because you call it “non-polio acute flaccid paralysis”, doesn’t mean it was caused by a polio vaccine.

These folks want to make vaccines out to be evil just because these large corporate firms might be promoting them, not because they have any evidence that these vaccines are directly linked to these maladies. I understand the temptation; I’m explicitly an anti-capitalist, but let’s at least be intellectually honest about this issue. If these firms killed people just because they wanted to cut corners, or keep quiet a fuck-up in production, that would be one thing and not the least bit surprising; but to assert with any sort of seriousness that it’s part of a corporate conspiracy to reduce the world’s population by 2/3rds (and why exactly that number?) give me a break; you’re in the same league as those who claim HIV is part of a government conspiracy to wipe out the world’s black folks.

Even from a Marxian perspective these assertions are absurd; the idea that the capitalist class would deploy biological weapons only for the purpose of reducing the population makes no sense because we understand the role of supply and demand in any economy, capitalist or socialist. In a capitalist, free-market economy especially, a larger population depresses wages. Marx even formulated a concept of this: the reserve army of labor. High unemployment is good for the capitalist because it provides the capitalist class a large pool of human beings they can use to threaten the rest of us with arbitrary firing; the boss can say “Hey asshole, I don’t care about your repetitive motion injuries, if you can’t make 600 burgers an hour for minimum wage, do it, or I’ll find someone else”.

Even if you wanted to assert that this was a racist campaign to exterminate the world’s “brown people”, it doesn’t pass the test of historical development; Especially in American history, the existence of brown and black folks has been face-palmingly useful to divide poor whites from black and brown folks and set them against each other to the benefit of their common oppressors. Understanding this, especially in the face of such assertions that this vaccine campaign is a racist campaign of genocide, we should understand the potential power the working-class has if it united across racial lines rather than divided by identity politics.

People like these do more harm to poor and working-class movements than any good. Not only do they wipe out any credibility to those attached or associated with them, they also effectively advocate for dooming people to be exposed to the ravages of diseases that have killed millions throughout history. These people deserve nothing more than derision, contempt, and above all, to be ignored once their lunacy is exposed and laid out.

Obama Voters from 2008 rightfully disillusioned

“…almost four in 10 millennials said that it doesn’t matter who is elected because Washington is broken. A quarter of them said that neither candidate represents their views, and almost three-quarters admitted to not being politically active.”

The 2008 Obama campaign fired up the youth vote by campaigning as a (supposedly) genuine liberal with  fresh, new perspective, but instead governed as the same kind of staid or craven servants to the 1%. Obama, lavishly soothing the wounds of the banksters, expanding imperialist wars, overseeing a metastasizing totalitarian national security and surveillance state (a la NDAA and Espionage act driven war on whistleblowers) that is an expansion of the Bush-era legacy, his giveaway to the health insurance companies on the right-wing Heritage Foundation’s framework for Obamacare, and his bipartisan assault on education and the organized working-class (amongst other betrayals) has demonstrated that he deserves the votes of no one who doesn’t work for Goldman Sachs the Koch brothers, or Michelle Rhee.

In doing so, the greatest sin of this administration was to tell (especially) young voters, by his actions, that their vote truly doesn’t matter; no matter which puppet of the 1% you vote for, you’re choice is still over who will jab the knife in your back the least.

Protip: There are more than two parties to cast a vote for president; to say that voting for them is a throwaway vote is a self-fulfilling prophecy; of course they’ll never win if you never vote for them. What’s amusing about Obama-bots, especially in Texas, is that they say such things about third parties without a trace of irony; the electoral college ensures that voting Democrat in Texas is a throwaway vote too, so vote your conscience and your principles and make history. It’s a damned sight better than voting who’s going to bleed you the slowest.

With the dawn of the Citizens United era, SCOTUS made the ridiculous decision that money equals speech. That doctrine now unfortunate carries with it the force of law, but no one would argue however that writing a check to Hezbollah or Al Qaeda is a mere free-speech expression of approval for what they do. The term for that is providing material support for terrorist organizations, and that is the line where an activity being mere “free speech” ends.

Likewise, the problem isn’t who’s served at Chic-fil-A, but that the restaurant chain provides millions of dollars in material support to anti-gay hate groups. Face the fact that when you give your money to Chick-fil-a, you help such hate groups make life more difficult, dangerous and miserable for LGBT folks. When you pocket your money and go elsewhere to eat, or your city denies them a permit, be encouraged by the fact that you don’t have to be intimidated, emotionally blackmailed or tricked into thinking that you’re denying Chick-fil-a anything owed to them; you and your community have the right to not be forced to support businesses that fund and support hate groups.

To masquerade this behind a hollow facade of a “free-speech” issue is to engage in gross obscurantism and misses the point entirely. It does seem silly that the fight against anti-gay bigotry is not being waged in a fast-food chain, but this kind of obscurantism and support for hate groups must be rooted out, combated, and destroyed; unchecked bigotry spreads like a cancer.

That is the point.

“Obama is No Pro-Worker President” or: He’s Just Not Into You

“In response, hundreds of janitors in Houston walked off the job last Tuesday, and there have been solidarity strikes in Denver, Minneapolis and a number of other cites…. If Obama wanted to offer a textbook example of a major campaign theme — America’s widening income gap — that would also signal his commitment to helping workers, he could at least release a statement supporting the strikers, yet he and other Democrats seem content to let the janitors fight alone.”

Orthodox, unthinking Obama boosters invariably accuse critics-from-the-left of secretly rooting or working for Romney to win. This is silliness; you’d be hard pressed to find any critic from the left who thinks Romney actually deserves to be elected. 

Speaking for myself I’ll vote for any genuine, progressive-left, anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobia, working-class oriented Democrats (or Leftist Independents, Greens, Reds, etc.) with a demonstrable, substantial track record of being exactly that. 

Vote for whomever you want, but while we’re playing the game of lesser-evilism in which corporate-owned Democratic Party bosses demand everyone from the center-left onward perpetually lower our sights for empty, ultimately meaningless electoral gain, let us at the rank-and-file at least have the dignity not to pretend that Obama actually deserves re-election either.

We can’t keep having a long, slow bleed in which every four years the decision boils down to who sinks the knife into the back of the working-class the deepest; of who sells us out for the lowest price. That’s not a real choice and if unthinking apologists keeps pretending that it is, we’ll all be subjects of the ultra-reactionary GOP free-market fantasyland sooner than they can possibly believe.

Link  —  Posted: July 23, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Capitalism is an irrational system

“We make a mistake if we think that the top tier of monopoly capital is committed to a robust recovery that would lift all boats, to the reproduction of capitalism on an expanded scale. That fiction is best left in introductory economic textbooks.”

Link  —  Posted: July 11, 2012 in Uncategorized
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As a former liberal, I didn’t get much for buying into “hope and change” in 2008. But I do have to credit Obama for opening my eyes to the fact the whole of the Democratic Party is as much in the pocket of business as the Republicans are. I’ll never forget the moment I learned he invited the health insurance lobby to write the legislation…

In any case Democrats may throw out sexy platitudes to the working-class every now and then, but they ultimately serve right-wing, capitalist-class economic interests. Justice Roberts siding with a law that grants the health insurance industry, they very cause and core of our health-care crisis, a captive market of over 300 million people is strong evidence of the interchangeability of Democratic and Republican policies. As much as Obama has championed right-wing policies, it’s a real wonder why conservatives hate him so much.

As someone admittedly on the far-left (proudly, though the bar for what’s considered far-left is pathetically low in the US) I’m deeply embarrassed for the  liberals who cheer for a brainchild of the Heritage Foundation. It’s a chilling reminder that the Democratic Party has been an intellectually and morally bankrupt institution since at least the Clinton administration.

What Republicans have going for them is they at least ostensibly claim to have a set of principles; even if they’re morally repulsive, and backed by bullshit and stunning intellectual gymnastics, they at least stick to them, and I respect that. The Democratic Party on the other hand shucked itself of any principles to steal the clothes of Republican policies for the sake of naked electoral gain. Now they seem to exist to get people elected to public office for no apparent reason. This is why they lose, or are hugely but predictably disappointing when elected. But until the rug gets pulled out from underneath the Democratic Party and the working-class says “no more” to a Republican-lite politics, what will continue is this: the extreme right will sprint further to the right and the Democrats will just keep following along. Today was a decisive victory for the Obama administration and the health insurance companies, not for the American working-class.

Posted: June 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

In every way, an entry like this demands to be read.

I have been forced to leave Cairo prematurely following a horrific sexual and physical attack in Tahrir Square.

The atmosphere was one of jubilation, excitement, and happiness as I walked, accompanied by two male companions for safety along Kasr El Nil bridge. I had had an awful day, caused by problems in personal relationships, so I was so happy to be in such a wonderful environment, getting such amazing footage. Women, children and fathers smiled, waved, and cheered happily at the camera, calling out the widely used phrase “welcome to Egypt! Welcome!”. Fireworks lit up the sky. It was a moving and captivating experience.

Just as I realised I had reached the end of the bridge, I noticed the crowd became thicker, and decided immediately to turn around to avoid Tahrir Square. My friends and I tried to leave. I tried to put my camera back in my rucksack.

But…

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Some of my liberal comrades will probably enjoy this infographic, but It needs and deserves a riposte.

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Let’s not forget that Obama and the DNC sat on their asses for Wisconsin and let the working-class hang out to dry. Quite frankly, Labor should do the same to the world’s second most enthusiastic capitalist political party. The working-class should forge its own political destiny and actually seek state power instead of squabbling with capitalists over vacation days and pensions. What unions fight for are undoubtedly important, but crude economism misses the forest from the trees and dooms the working class to subservience.

Case in point being that liberal savior-in-chief President Obama now wants to grant to corporations shocking endowments of extraordinary new political powers under the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Under this deal minimum wage laws, occupational safety mandates, environmental protections, banking and finance regulations, could all be swept away at the whim and request of multinational corporations if they consider them too “anti-business”. It bears mentioning that Mitt Romney and the US Chamber of Commerce are totally behind Obama in this NAFTA of the Pacific. Two sides of the same coin…

When infographics like this come out, Liberals can choose to allow themselves wowed and distracted by the cynical, calculated overtures about equal marriage rights or immigration reform. These are the political equivalent of shiny jingly keys dangled before liberals after years of inaction or outright capitulation to the right. But we’d be more honest with ourselves if we keep in mind that this guy isn’t really looking out for any of us and there’s very little daylight between the two candidates. Obama will not appoint liberals or leftists to the Court and we all on the left need to disabuse ourselves of that fantasy.

And to the “lesser evil” unthinking, orthodox Democrats, no one left-of-center thinks Romney shouldn’t be elected president; but don’t be so morally bankrupt and intellectually empty as to act as though Obama actually deserves re-election. In any case, anyone who believes Obama is working in the interests of the working-class is a fool or hasn’t been paying attention.

Looks like Houston could become the next Wisconsin in a fight over city pensions…

Earlier this month, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker survived a bitter and protracted recall fight with public sector unions over pensions, benefits, and collective bargaining rights. Just two weeks later, Mayor Annise Parker says that she too has a plan to address the city’s alleged pension problems. The plan, unveiling late this summer, is expected to be part of a public relations offensive aimed at changing state law which governs the city’s three public pension systems.

How the mayor plans on changing state law with the aid of a Republican-dominated Texas legislature in the 2013 remains to be seen. This latest move by Mayor Parker, lines up with efforts by fellow Democrats Rahm Emanuel, Pat Quinn, and Angel Taveras in a bipartisan attack on unions and working-class organizations, which is likely to draw support from conservative Republicans in the Texas State Legislature.

Houston Firefighters are not eligible to draw Social Security benefits; instead, the money they would otherwise normally put into the Social Security system goes into the Houston Firefighters Relief and Retirement Fund.  All HFD retirees count on the money they pay into the pension system in concert with a contribution from city taxpayers. This pension fund provides firefighters a mainstay of a secure retirement after decades of dangerous public service.

The total pension obligation of Police, Firefighters and city workers amounts to less than 10%  paid out from the city’s general fund budget. which raises questions regarding the true motivation behind Mayor Parker’s pension offensive.

A few questions are terribly apparent:

  1. Last year she threatened to lay off nearly 300 jailers in the in order to force the Police to come to the bargaining table over pensions. Will Mayor Parker attempt to divide and conquer the Firefighters on this issue in this way?
  2. Will other public sector employees unite with the Firefighters to resist attacks on pensions and union rights?
  3. What kind of recourse do the firefighters see themselves resorting to should the Mayor’s proposal be as onerous as feared and implemented over the objections of firefighters and their supporters?

Mayor Parker’s plan has the support of the Laura and John Arnold foundation, which advocates for the abolition of defined-benefit pension plans and their replacement with much riskier defined-contribution plans such as 401(k)s which place workers’ retirement money in the stock market  and at the mercy of Wall Street.

Mayor Parker’s expected proposal paints a bleak picture of Labor’s relationship with a political party that claims to protect the interest of working-class Americans neglectful at best, and abusive at worst. A battle over pensions will be a test of Mayor Parker’s political mettle and the ability of unions to withstand the bipartisan onslaught against the economic interests working-class Americans. Last November saw the two-term mayor nearly forced into a runoff against a political unknown who she outspent. Mayor Parker escaped a runoff by just one percent of the vote.