Monday, December 31, 2018

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

NAFTA 2:  U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) No Bargain

There has been almost no coverage of the details of this issue in the bourgeois press.  The Trumpists are heralding this as some great deal for the working class. It is not.  The corporate liberals don’t care, as they sense it is following well on the heels of their revered NAFTA I. Here is a summary of some left comments on the ‘new’ NAFTA from various journals and websites: 

1.  NAFTA 2 No Relief for Workers - Counterpunch (Laura Carsen):   While enthusiastically approved by the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, the ‘new’ NAFTA / USMCA is not a brand new deal.  It retains text from the old NAFTA and the TPP.  There are some gains on paper, but no guarantee they will be enforced.  The USMCA strengthens the corporate hand in the area of monopoly intellectual property.  It eliminates secret tribunals by corporations over limitations of profits but they can still resort to regular courts.  ‘Exploitation’ has been recognized as an unfair labor practice, but not once in 24 years did the previous NAFTA ‘labor side agreement’ result in any sanctions.  ‘Cooperation and consultation’ are the methods in this agreement too.  Rights related to gender, indigenous people, consumers or labor are all voluntary.  As they say, toothless.
Mexican Autoworkers

No wage floor was set, but the right to organize a union was agreed to, along with prohibiting fake company unions and company contracts by Mexican employers.  However, nothing in the agreement prohibits companies from moving plants to Mexico.  Presently a typical Mexican auto worker earned $83.00 in a 72-hour week after deductions.  There is a ‘labor content clause’ for autos, defining that 75% of a car (up from 62%) must be made in the country it is to be sold in, with 30% of that at a $16 an hour minimum.  But the Mexican auto industry trade group is not worried and says this will not change Mexican wages or content!  This clause seems to be limited to Canada and the U.S… 

There is nothing in the agreement on labor mobility, thus enshrining ‘illegality’ as the context of much cheap labor migration into the U.S.  Nor does it prohibit the continuing decimation of small Mexican agriculture by U.S. or Canadian farm products.  Any corporation from each country can access resources or labor in any other country.  The agreement still limits the power of local bodies like states or cities or provinces to do anything about issues they disagree with.  Meet the new boss, same as the old boss!

2.  Fooled Again on “Free Trade”Counterpunch (Pete Dolack):  This is a document by and for multi-nationals, according to Dolack.  As to the helpful elimination of the ISDS secret tribunals, it still retains this language:  “No party shall expropriate or nationalize a covered investment either directly or indirectly through measures equivalent to expropriation or nationalization.”  This clause has been oddly used to oppose local laws against food or environmental safety or local content.  Another clause says: “when a Party considers that a benefit it could reasonably be expected to accrue to it” is breached, then it can also sue.  Again, corporations can sue for reduced profits. 

The phrase ‘customary international law’ in the agreement is also used to favor corporate profits.  For instance in August, a U.S. federal judge ruled that a Canadian gold company can seize control of the Venezuelan state oil company’s U.S. subsidiary, Citgo, because their gold mine in Venezuela was nationalized.  The Permanent Court in the Hague recently ruled against Ecuador and for Chevron in their toxic oil waste dispute in the Amazon, saying that Ecuador had to pay Chevron! So ‘regular courts’ will still accommodate these corporations.  They don’t need a secret tribunal. 

Protections for anyone but corporations is couched in voluntary terms, while anything related to corporations is couched in the terms ‘shall’ and ‘must.’ Chapter 15 includes a prohibition of ANY restrictions on financial firms, while Chapter 20 “grants pharmaceutical companies their full wish list.”  The latter relates to generics.  This is another neo-liberal document favoring big capital.

3.  Why Trump’s NAFTA 2.0 Is a Win for Big Oil – But a Huge Loss for Workers and the Environment  Independent Media Institute (Benjamin Dangl) – Food & Water Watch head Wenonah Hauter said: 
1. “The [USMCA] has giant giveaways to the agrochemical industry that paves the way for unregulated gene-edited GMOs, rolls back Mexico’s regulation of GMOs, and lets chemical giants like Monsanto and Dow keep the data on the safety of their pesticides secret for 10 years.” 
2. “The energy provisions will encourage more pipelines and exports of natural gas and oil that would further expand fracking in the United States and Mexico.”
3. “The text also provides new avenues for polluters to challenge and try and roll back proposed environmental safeguards, cementing Trump’s pro-polluter agenda in the trade deal.”

Regarding intellectual property, copyright time limits are extended to 75 years, while internet IP violations can now be dealt with by an easy ‘notice and take down’ rule.  The patents for biologic drugs will extended from 8 to 10 years, increasing drug prices and blocking generics longer. 

4.  “Here’s Who Wins and Loses From Changes in NAFTA” The Conversation (Atif Kubursi) – Canadian dairy farmers lose some market share, while part of the Canadian dairy pricing system is eliminated, allowing U.S. farmers to undercut Canadian dairy farmers.  In exchange, the Trumpian threat of tariffs on Canadian automobiles was removed.  Patent and trade mark protection for biotech, financial services and domain names have been increased. 

5.  “Trump’s New NAFTA Would Drive Up Drug Prices” Truthout (Mike Ludwig) – The AFL-CIO has not supported the new NAFTA.  There is no mention of climate change in the agreement.  Pharmaceutical monopolies can maintain their prices if they just use or administer the drugs in slightly different ways.  The language on intellectual property was imported wholesale from the TPP.  Secret USMCA tribunals (not normal courts) have a carve-out and can still be used for telecom and energy firms operating in Mexico. (!)   

6. “Revised NAFTA Shows Every Sign of Being Another Trump Scam” Counterpunch (Pete Dolack) -  The agreement has added intellectual property enforcement of: “cam-cording of movies,” “cable signal theft,” as well as “Broad protection against trade secret theft.”  “IP rules” in the agreement “also prohibit regulations against cross-border transfers of data.”  Most importantly, it guarantees no restrictions on “U.S. financial service providers,” which will allow Wall Street to further control Mexico and parts of Canadian economy. The Sierra Club has said that NAFTA II negotiators want to explicitly lock-in the deregulation of oil and gas. This comes out in language about required Mexican / Canadian / U.S. ‘regulatory cooperation,’ which means the lowest common dominator country – the U.S. – can dictate to the others.  Canada suggested many progressive additions to this agreement, and most were shot down.

"Jim Hightower Decodes Alta-NAFTA" Alternet (Jim Hightower) - Big Pharma gets bio-product protection for 20 years (even in Canada and Mexico).  Big Oil still gets access to extra-legal tribunals.  Big Corporate fake 'trade unions' are outlawed, but there is no mechanism to monitor compliance.  Big Meat in Mexico still gets to sell sub-standard unsafe meat in the U.S.

P.S. - The USMCA was passed with Republican and Democratic Party support on 1/15/2020, including E Warren.  One change was engineered according to the Guardian: "
…the administration agreed to drop a provision that offered expensive biologic drugs made from living cells 10 years of protection from cheaper knockoff competition."

Prior reviews on other periodicals:  “Lapham’s Quartlery,” “Jacobin,” “Monthly Review,” “Socialist Revolution,” “Labor Notes,” “Granta.”  Prior reviews of labor issues:  “Reviving the Strike,” “Embedded With Organized Labor,” “Save Out Unions,” “On New Terrain,” “Class Against Class.”  Use blog search box, upper left.

And I bought Counterpunch at May Day’s excellent magazine section!
Red Frog
December 31, 2018

New Year or New Tears?

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Snap Rattle & Roll

Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers Again – Adventures in New Politics

I’ve been a leftist and activist since I was about 16 – or maybe since Junior High School.  I just spent some time working with an organization I will not name, with younger people I will not identify.  But they know who they are.  It was a funny and odd experience.
.4% Celsius Increase of Global Warming from Tar Sands Oil

I’m borrowing this quote from Tom Wolfe because the point of the experience was a People’s Lobby to convince a Democratic Party governor to stop a tar sands pipeline running through this U.S. state.  Stopping tar sands pipelines is an essential struggle to keep global climate change down.  If the Alberta tar sands are fully exploited, they alone will add .4 degrees Celsius to global climate change.

The Action
What we ended up with was two hapless bureaucrats for the governor – his environmental appointee and his ‘associate’ chief of staff – being grilled by a crowd of 45 people on the climate emergency.  The flaks kept their cool, which, like Sarah Sanders, is what they are paid to do.  I knew they would ignore us in a semi-polite way.  The majority of leaders of the group expected more and were actually disappointed.  This group works to put pressure on the Democratic Party as their main strategy, so their disappointment figures.  I’ve never asked a Democratic Party politician for a thing – knowing they rarely act (and which academic studies bear out for all elected ‘representatives’) so the experience was new to me, but the stonewalling was not.

Of note:  Instead of clapping, saying loud ‘yeahs’ or other verbal remonstrations over some good comment, these activists politely snapped their fingers like repressed hipsters.  After the negotiations / confrontation with the flaks, they all jumped on Twitter® and Facebook® and the Governor’s office became as quiet as a study hall.  Which sucked the energy out of the room like a giant digital hose.  In exchange, I imagine the digital world lit up just a little bit. 

Before the action at a library meeting room, we all had to stand, and in some kind of weird ‘prayer’ session, told to close our eyes while a white woman intoned that we should dig our roots into the ‘soil’ beneath our feet, along with other new-agey comments.  This was to be ‘grounded.’  I’m an atheist and I’m grounded without some fake ceremony.  I looked around to see if anyone else had their eyes open and a few did!  Unbelievers!  I think they were in the IWW.
Union regiments turn Confederate left at Nashville

The New Abolitionism
The People’s Lobby took place in a room lined with massive paintings of Union regiments cresting Missionary Ridge; fighting at Plum Creek at Gettysburg to stop a key Confederate advance on the Union center on the 2nd day; turning the Confederate left at Nashville; marching into Vicksburg and Little Rock; fighting at Corinth, Mississippi.  It was appropriate.  The same kind of battle for ‘abolition’ is going on now.  ‘Abolition’ of slavery led to massive financial losses for the southern plantation owners while ‘abolition’ of gas, oil and coal will lead to massive financial losses for the carbon capitalists.  I agree with Lincoln that no compensation will be offered.  The only exception is that union jobs should be guaranteed to all workers who lose their jobs. 

The Meetings
At the meetings to prepare for this action, we all had to say our names, any organizational affiliations and … our preferred pronoun.  So the first time this happened at a broader meeting, I told them they could call me anything they wanted...  The next times I ignored it.  You are supposed to say ‘he/him’ or ‘she/her’ or some other thing.  Yet not once in all the meetings did anyone use one of these pronouns in addressing someone.  This is what names or name tags are for.  Or pointed fingers.  Or ‘hey you.’  Or ‘next.’

At meetings the group did not use a chair but a ‘facilitator,’ so it was kind of a controlled free-for-all, but got confused or off-course occasionally.  When they had to decide something significant – the demand for the event – they used ‘consensus.’  Now if you are familiar enough with organizational functioning, democratic organizations like unions, union support groups, most hard left groups and most coalitions use real voting on a clear question for important issues.  But the methods of small, ‘warm’ fuzzy non-profits or NGOs or ad hoc groups always use consensus and in this case, confusion too. Consensus is a way of saying – EVERYONE must agree – otherwise we beat you over the head until you agree.  A form of liberal totalitarianism, if you think about it. 

Non-Profit Methods
Many NGO’s and non-profits, including ‘Green” ones, are for the most part legalistic, funded by capital, big foundations or rich people and will never become anti-capitalist.  They are the band-aid brigade to the normal functioning of capital and mostly reflect market approaches to the environment.  They can be temporary allies of course.  Their wonky politics and methods reflect their outlook and these methods apparently filter into other groups that might be to their left. That is not to say the people in these groups are not hardworking or progressive or won’t evolve.  But the domination of corporate-oriented non-profits in the long run in ANY movement is a bad sign.

The organization prepared for the People’s Lobby by writing a broad leftish letter to give to the Governor about the climate emergency.  Very big socialist stuff in that letter. But the ‘action’ demand that was consensually adopted to present to the Governor was … small stuff.  A Mountain produced a Mouse. 

During meetings or the event, binges of white guilt had to be dealt with.  Confessions of middle class white privilege had to be endured.  If you’ve spent long enough on the left or the liberal-left or with straight-out liberals, you know guilt is a very big thing.  Yet most people of color know that white guilt is somewhat useless.  Politics for guilty people is a ‘do-gooder’ rite or a purely personal struggle for ‘peace’ or ‘justice’ or ‘virtue.’  These people are not actually fighting for themselves and that makes them weak allies and when the going gets tough, missing in action. 

As meetings drew to a close, the group sometimes did a round of ‘how do you feel’ for each person at the big tables, like some kind of therapy session.  Of course you couldn’t always tell the truth.  It was an uphill struggle to learn the jargon naming these methods, though jargon is common to any group.  I’ve forgotten these.  Anyway, if this stuff is happening in your organization, it will slowly push away proletarian people.  Just an FYI…

The good news is that the Minnesota Commerce Department sued the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission Friday, December 21 over the PUC’s decision to give Enbridge’s pipeline the go-ahead.  One wing of the government fights another!  This split in the politics of the ruling elites on climate issues bodes well for left action.  The Democratic Party Governor strongly supported the decision by the Commerce Department.  Perhaps our little intervention did some good, though many, many had come before it.  The next Democratic Party governor is a fence-sitter – a typical approach.  The outgoing Governor may be protecting him, as mass direct actions that ‘do not reflect well on the Democratic Party’ will start to occur in the winter and spring if Enbridge is not stopped.

P.S. – The Mau-Mau / Kenyan Land & Freedom Party were Kenyan nationalists fighting British colonialism in the 1950s-1960s.  They were relentlessly persecuted by the British, with mass detention camps, executions, torture and lies.  “Mau Mau” probably comes from an Akamba phrase for “our grandfathers,’ meaning to go back to the time of the grandfathers, before the British seizure of Kenya.  Later British government files on Kenya were conveniently hidden, destroyed or misrepresented.  Only a few were later dug out to partly reveal the extent of British atrocities, long after the events had happened and long after any political reckoning could take place.  Which is standard procedure, as we know.

Reviews on leftist organizations below:  Revolution in the Air,” “Threat of the First Magnitude,” “Heavy Radicals.   A new book of reflections by former members of the Progressive Labor Party will be issued soon and reviewed on these pages.
Reviews on the tar sands below:  “Tar Sands,” “Stop Tar Sands Oil,” “The Race For What’s Left,” “Oh Canada,” “Climate Change is Coming for You,” “This Changes Everything,” “Climate Emergency,” “The Party’s Over,”  “Blue Covenant.” Use blog search box, upper left.

Red Frog
December 27, 2018

Monday, December 24, 2018

Rock Me!

“Marie and Rosetta,” Park Square Theater, December 22, 2018, directed by Wendy Knox

This play digs into the history of rock and roll and rhythm and blues, showing the powerful early role played by Sister Rosetta Tharpe in the 1930s and 1940s.  A powerful singer, a biting tough guitar player, a pianist, a woman who joined gospel and blues together, she had been forgotten, but that is changing.  This play brings her partially back to life.
Bringing out the folk guitar on the gospel of rhythm
The play focuses on the conflict between the church-going gospel scolds and the nightclub-going happy dancers in the black community.  This conflict is represented by Marie, a young woman who Rosetta decides to bring on tour with her because of her excellent piano and vocal skills.  Marie was brought up ‘properly’ by her church-crazy mother and tries to prevent Rosetta from lyrics and instrumental styles that ‘rock.’  Rosetta on the other hand tries to blend gospel and rhythm, knowing that a huge audience is thirsting for something outside sedate choir music.  She wants ‘music with hips.’  Rosetta figures ‘joy’ joins both forms.

Part of the conflict is reflected in the continuing gag about ‘Mahalia’ as in Jackson, who at the time sang straight gospel in a more mournful and calm style, and was Rosetta’s chief competitor. 

Marie and Rosetta finally agree on a rhythmic gospel after Rosetta lays down the law, with Rosetta’s distortion-laden guitar providing part of the drive.  When Rosetta brings out the electric guitar in the play, Marie’s reaction is the same as when the audience booed Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival.  Satan’s instrument!  It’s hard to be ahead of your time, sometimes.
Tharpe in England in 1964

In the real world, Marie Knight and Rosetta were only together for a few years.  The play hints at some sexual attraction in the comments by Rosetta about Marie’s beauty.  The play has a somewhat maudlin finish, with Marie predicting Rosetta’s death in Philadelphia, her unmarked grave, her losing a leg to diabetes, along with her steep fall in popularity.  Marie further predicts the house fire that will kill Marie’s children and mother.  She also mentions Hendrix and Presley to Rosetta in her view into the future – names Rosetta is as yet unfamiliar with.  Chuck Berry seems to have borrowed his buzzing guitar style from Tharpe, but he is unmentioned.  Since the play is staged in a southern funeral home surrounded by 3 caskets, the setting is prescient.   

For her part, Rosetta schools Marie about segregation in the 1946 Jim Crow south, which is why they are also sleeping in the funeral home of a friend. Their concerts across the South took place in barns, warehouses and other out-of-the-way places where African-Americans were allowed to congregate. 

The actresses playing Rosetta and Marie are great singers – Jamecia Bennett especially blows the gospel roof off, at one point to a standing ‘O’ from the almost sold-out audience.  Rosetta’s songs are the centerpiece here – almost like you are at one of her concerts.  While Rosetta makes a comment that she doesn’t like ‘the vibrator’ used by Marie – vibrato singing - Bennett uses plenty of vibrato in her singing, which is massively popular today.  So this is somewhat confusing.  Those who are more familiar than me with Tharp’s singing might be able to explain it.  Tharpe’s performance on the 1964 Blues Caravan in a decommissioned Manchester, England railway station shows little vibrato singing. This tour was attended by and inspired future members of many top British blues bands. 

I would have appreciated more actors on stage, such as other band members, as the play was a bit claustrophobic with 2 people onstage for 2 hours.  The piano and guitars were played by musicians behind the scenes, but the actresses almost convince you that they are truly playing. It would be a bit much to sing, act, and also play piano and guitar!

The play at the Park Square Theater in St. Paul, just next to Vieux Carre, continues until December 30. It is almost the only play going that is NOT about Christmas in some way.

Other reviews on black religion or early blues music:  “The Blues – A Visual History,” “In Search of the Blues,” “Life,” (Keith Richards); “33 Revolutions Per Minute,” “Treme,” “Rising Tide,” “Searching for Sugar Man,” “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” “Red Hook Summer,” “Black Radical, (Nelson Peery).  Use blog search box, upper left.

The Cultural Marxist, bane of the Alt-Right
 December 24, 2018

Friday, December 21, 2018

Getting Through the Work Day

"The Customer is Always Wrong - The Retail Chronicles,” edited by Jeff Martin, 2008

Do you remember when paper ‘zines’ were a thing?  There used to be one out of Madison, Wisconsin that was full of stories by temporary workers about their short-lived visits to various job-lands.  This collection is similar - 21 stories by former retail workers – some just summer jobs, some long-time gigs, some ‘until I become a famous writer’ journeys. These are mostly funny tales of asshole customers, incompetent work and even enjoyment.  They work in department stores, restaurants, video, liquor and music stores, gift and coffee shops, ice-cream pavilions or selling knives door-to-door.

Sarcastic bastard!
The best story is a hilarious tale of a Rockford, Illinois restaurant that sold cheap, unhealthy food to retirees who gobbled it down enthusiastically.  The son of the owners warned his parents that the food would kill the customers and sure enough, a number of them dropped dead outside the restaurant after their fatty, salt and sugar-laden meals.  Dark humor, that. 

There are a few evil bosses here, but also some sad managers who lisp, have blackheads and yet know more than their terrible employees.

The title, of course, makes fun of a quote by department store owners like Marshall Field - "The Customer is Always Right!"  This basically puts the worker in a subservient position to the 'customer,' but was an improvement over the earlier motto of tricking buyers, as in fake Medicine Shows.   Since modern day capitalism sees only the consumer and not the worker, it fits in with the essence of neo-liberalism and is followed to this day.  Though the trickery continues, of course, especially in the food, financial and pharmaceutical industries.

If you’ve worked in retail, this is a collection for you.  And if you have not, it might open your eyes to the weird world of small scale capitalism. 

Other reviews on the subject of retail: “To Serve God and Wal-mart,” “Slaughter on Target Avenue,” “Lost Connections,” “Shopping World,” “Behind the Kitchen Door,” “Waiter Rant,” “Manny’s Steakhouse,” “Treme,” “Super-Size Wages!” "Factory Days."

Happy Solstice!  Welcome the light today…

And I bought it at May Day Books!
The Cultural Marxist, bane of the Alt-Right
December 21, 2018

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Marching Proudly Backwards to the Future

“The Department of Homeland Decency – Decency Rules and Regulations Manual,” by Frank & Susan Fuller, 2008

This manual is mandatory reading for all citizens.  The document was stolen from the archives of Gilead, the homeland of “A Handmaid’s Tale.”  It is based on a Christian Dominionist takeover of the United States, which has moved the country back to the 1950s.  Though all of it is suspiciously familiar even in 2018, and would not be out of place coming from Evangelical nationalists, Fox News or neo-Confederates. Or Viktor Orban.  Or Jair Bolsonaro.  Or ...
Required Reading after a Dominionist Takeover

It warns us of our enemies and our friends.  It loves the leader.  Women are in their place having babies and cooking.  Prayers are useful.  Gay people, atheists, liberals, vegetarians and socialists are hated.  Buying corporate food, SUVs and chemical lawn fertilizers and pesticides is strongly encouraged.  Surveillance is total and informing is appreciated too.  Meat should be consumed in vast quantities.  A week off is sufficient holiday, but make sure you spend it in an approved location.  Work is always good, no matter the conditions.  Black people or  'other' people do not exist.  Sex is just ‘it’ – I shouldn’t even have brought ‘it’ up.  There is more…you are required to read it.

Being read underground, in private with no one watching, the book can be a mild and somewhat familiar laugh in these dark days of winter, Trump and a failing Capitalism.  Or that permanent global summer thing. However, if you are discovered with this book, or any of the other books sold at May Day Books by the DODH Homeland Neighborhood Posse, you will be quarantined in an isolation cell and made to read the Bible in the dark. 

Quotations from the DOHD Manual:
* “If you are a man and you have a gun collection, clean and polish it while sitting in the living room with the rest of the family while watching the “Family Viewing Hour.” 
* “Tinkering is an acceptable male activity.”
* “Lunch is not free.”
* “Wilderness camping requires traveling light, negating the use of giant coolers filled with enormous amounts of meat and beer that support the Homeland’s food industry.”  (Don’t do wilderness camping, citizen.)
* “Fair and balanced news shows will set conversational agendas.”  Or MSNBC.
* “Day care providers … who do not promote the concept of winning at all costs and don’t practice corporal punishment…” are suspect.
* Our slogan:  “Marching proudly backwards to the future.”

Other prior reviews on comedic subjects:  “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The End of Free Speech for Sony Pictures...” “The Chapo Guide to Revolution,” “Get Out,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Ideation,” "The Dark Side of Christian History" and "A Less Modest Proposal."

And I found it in the recesses of the May Day Books used/cutout section for $2!
The Kultural Kommissar
December 18, 2018

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Put Down That iPhone!

“New Dark Age – Technology and the End of the Future,” by James Bridle, 2018

This book is a somewhat too lyrical and scattered meditation on the effect information technology and the computer ‘revolution’ is having on human society.  It challenges the techno-utopianism of Silicon Valley.  It undermines the cheery corporate commodification of information overloads, software upgrades and endless gadgets.  It challenges the idea that pure ‘computation’ will make us free.  It makes a point that humans have to use technology and not let technology or information use them.   This book will remind most computer users of the flaws in software, which we are all familiar with.  This is why computers are tools like any other, but anyone who takes them as fail-safe systems – like self-driving trucks and cars – will find out soon enough darker consequences.  
Medieval Times Are Back Again?

For the capitalist computer companies or many governments, they are busy using the technology of the digital age to profit and to control.  Some bourgeois tech thinkers say ‘information is the new oil.’  Bridle thinks it is the new ‘nuclear power’ – with all its radioactive dangers.

Bridle sees the internet now as a world-wide ‘mass mind’ that shows all the weaknesses and strengths of human beings - their uncontrolled lizard brains and their amazing intelligence.  This is guided by robot algorithms and corporate and government needs, which is at the root of ‘the cloud.’ In a way, he’s warning us that films like “The Matrix” or Terminator’s Skynet are not so unreal.   

Bridle discusses ‘computational thinking’ (which some have called cybernetics, others artificial intelligence - AI) as a danger without any analytic context.  Machine thinking substitutes for human thought as the path of least resistance.  This is his ‘dark age,’ where the positivist “Moore’s law” is a fraud. Instead pure massive data is driving propaganda, advertising, surveillance, profits and human thinking in ways that mold citizens into obedient servants, even if they think otherwise.  He grounds the history of the computer in the development of weather forecasting and nuclear weapons done by the U.S. government in the 1940s.  The weather forecasting system ultimately became SABRE, which is now used to book travel.  GPS systems came out of this, so you can now be led down a dirt road to save distance - if you are not paying attention.       

Bridle looks at how this relates to the failing climate.  Big Data actually requires enormous amounts of energy to run server farms, along with all the technology connected to them – cell phone towers, fiber optic cables, the ‘internet of things,’ satellites, internet phones and computers. Bitcoin alone is a huge user of energy. 

Bridle touches on many software and hardware subjects, including the increasing number of retractions in scientific studies because of computer-driven ‘brute force’ data fails.  Or why more data has led to less development in capitalist drug research.  He covers the same ground Michael Lewis did in “Flash Boys” about the increasing speed of technology, leading to financial market crashes and extreme stock price swings.  Even technology’s relation to inequality is addressed.  Bridle says “Complexity itself is a driver of inequality.” 
We Have Your Number...

Artificial intelligence, Friedrich Hayek, facial recognition software, Stuxnet, computer chess, government secrecy, drones and the NSA, Amazon and Uber – it’s all here.  Oddly, he comes out against whistle blowers, who he thinks feed the idea that there is a smoking-gun conspiracy secret that ‘we’ don’t know.  He continues this with a long discussion of how ‘chemtrail’ conspiracy theories are riffing off the very real 'contrails’ left by high-flying jets.  Conspiracy theories themselves are enabled by fact-free suppositions that spread on the internet.  He is shocked by the terrible quality of very popular children’s ‘entertainment’ on YouTube, much of which is moronic, repetitive, violent and probably created by robot algorithms. Even the Ashley Madison scandal shows up, where husbands looking for affairs plunked down money to talk to 70,000 AI 'bots' that seemed to be real women.

At the end of the book, if you were not familiar with the computer’s dark side, you will be.  But he never addresses the key role computers have in replacing human labor, leading to unemployment, deskilling or lower wages, which is odd.  He also does not look at the political uses of data.  The British Cambridge Analytica data used by the Trump campaign, the Russian troll farms; Facebook, YouTube and Google's banning or hiding many left-wing sites - all missing.  In all this, Bridle has no solution except to suggest that this tool be controlled.  But how?  Like an untethered air-drill jumping around an auto shop because it is stuck in the ‘on’ position, the computer itself has to come to heel.  But as long as it is controlled by capital, the computer’s dialectical dark side can prevail. 

Prior archived reviews on this subject:  CypherPunks,” “Propaganda,” (Bernays); “Cyber-Proletariat,” “Why People Don’t Buy Books,” “Manufacturing Consent,” “In Letters of Blood and Fire,” “Creative Destruction,” “The Endless Crisis,” “Time Wars,” “Flash Boys.” Use blog search box, upper left.

And I bought it at May Day Books!
Red Frog
December 15, 2018

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Big Suck

Stop Tar Sands Oil ‘Straw’ Going Through Minnesota

Minnesota is one of the latest battlefields in the fight for clean water and against global warming.  Enbridge Energy Partners, a Canadian firm headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, is trying to increase the size of their dirty oil pipeline across northern Minnesota.  The Line 3 pipeline is to travel further, pumping larger amounts of  tar sands oil than their small existent line can handle, all for export.  Line 3 is one of 5 new pipeline ‘straws’ that were proposed for the Alberta tar sands in Canada.  So far, 4 of them have been stopped by climate activists, Canadian governmental bodies and U.S. courts.  Only the Enbridge 3 pipeline remains ‘alive’ at present. 
Front Line Camps are already in Northern Minnesota

Lazy political thinkers assume only Trump is bad for the earth.  They will be flummoxed by this situation if they are honest.  The Enbridge 3 Pipeline was just OK’d by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), though opposed by the Minnesota Commerce Department.   3 of the 5 members of the PUC were appointed Democrats, one a Republican and one some kind of independent.  If you think ‘regulatory capture’ is unique to Trump or Republicans or just in the last 2 federal years, think again.  The staff and commissioners of this state-level department ignored all testimony from experts opposing the pipeline and instead took everything that Enbridge said as ‘good coin.’ 

The PUC said it had a 'gun to their head' since the old pipeline was decaying.  Get rid of the gun by shutting down the old pipeline too.  This project will carry oil for the next 30 years.  The environment cannot handle something like that.

Just as Democratic and Republican politicians in northern Minnesota are salivating over the water-destroying sulfide mine proposals of various criminal mining concerns from other countries, so too do politicians in Minnesota sit on the fence or support Enbridge.  Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (The Liberal Party is a partial version of the Democrats in Canada) has strongly supported the Trans Mountain pipeline from the tar sands by buying it!  Basically, the Democratic Party majority doesn’t have a clue on how to stop global warming, as they are addicted to a ‘market’ or ‘all options’ approach.  Tar sands, fracking, deep water and Arctic drilling, solar, wind, ethanol, etc. – what is wrong with this picture as painted by Obama or Clinton?  Lame-duck Minnesota Governor Dayton is one of the few who is suspicious of this pipeline.  He calls himself ‘the Water Governor.’  We will see how suspicious or how pro-water…

This fight is crucial to the battle to stop global climate change.  The site of the pipeline crosses Ojibwe tribal land and the inevitable spills will wreck wild rice production in surrounding waters. This is covered by an 1855 Treaty, a treaty ignored by the PUC.  It will make the Alberta Tar sands more economically viable, giving it a constant large outlet for dirty oil.  The long dig path is close to two large tribal areas – Red Lake and White Earth – and to 2 large population centers – Duluth and the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area.  The over whelming majority of Minnesotans are against this line, just as they oppose sulfide mining in northern Minnesota.  But few listen to the people, as capitalist governments have been captured by corporate cash and logic.  The two main political parties are based on two different wings of capital which have different tactical outlooks, but both support a market approach to environmentalism - or no approach at all.  After all, this country is ALSO a petro-state.  It's not just Nigeria or Saudi Arabia or Kuwait or Russia...

You cannot negotiate with Mother Nature.
EEP Bond Deal Prospectus - Book Runners

Among financial firms recently issuing corporate bonds for Enbridge is Wells Fargo Securities, part of one of the most criminal banks in the U.S. and also located in Minnesota.  The support of Wall Street and Toronto’s financial firms is ESSENTIAL to the funding of these pipelines and corporations. They are the hidden actors behind the scenes.  Attached is the cover of the latest prospectus for their truly ‘junk bonds.’  Enbridge has told investors that they are confident Line 3 will be operational in ‘2H 2019’ – the second half of next year.  Firms like RBC Capital (located in Minneapolis) issue analyst recommendations.  Their analyst said to ‘hold’ these bonds, not sell them, so they are propping up Enbridge’s market value.   RBC is “Royal Bank of Canada” which claims to have a ‘Blue Water’ project.  Yet they fund various Alberta oil sands projects including Enbridge, which helps pollute the McKenzie River basin, one of the largest in North America.  By any other name, this is corporate ‘blue-washing.’ 

Most labor unions in Minnesota would oppose the Line 3 project, but not the construction unions and maybe not the Teamsters.  To win over the whole working class, the U.S. needs a guaranteed job economy to provide union jobs at scale as a part of a transition away from fossil fuels.  It will need to nationalize these carbon companies under workers’ control and slowly wind them down.  None of these measures are being talked about in polite company.

In fact, it is not just federal government agencies that have suffered from 'regulatory capture' by the industries they regulate.  Because of this decision by the Minnesota PUC and other decisions by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Department of Natural Resources on sulfide mines in northeast Minnesota, regulatory capture is also a state issue.  Not to mention the capture of politicians of both parties by the capitalists they are supposed to regulate.  The oil and mining interests in the state rule, slowly but surely.

U.S. government agencies have recently issued two reports indicating the dire prospects to the environment if global carbon production is not slowed or stopped.  The UN IPCC has issued another report that says the world has 12 years to act, as all efforts to date have not stopped the rise in carbon concentrations.  A collapse in global food production caused by warming oceans and desertification will lead to widespread starvation if nothing is done. and that is only one of the deadly effects.  Now is the time to act. 

Shut down the tar sands’ ‘straws.’

Ojibwe Nation leader and head of Honor the Earth, Winona LaDuke, discusses the proposed expansion of the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline across Minnesota, including indigenous land on “Democracy Now.”

P.S. – Hemp growing has just been legalized in the U.S. in the next ‘Farm Bill,’ but the bill has not been signed by Trump.  Hemp is superior to cotton in many ways, using less water and chemicals, and easier to grow and harvest.  Corporate ‘Reefer madness’ is the only reason it has taken this long to legalize on a mass scale. As LaDuke pointed out, canvas is merely a reference to 'cannabis.' 

See prior reviews on this topic:  “Tar Sands,” “Collapse,” “Stirring Up the Bacon Eaters,” “Climate Emergency,” “Planning Green Growth,” “Sulfuric Acid & the Boundary Waters.” 

Red Frog
December 12, 2018

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Who Rules the World?

“Giants – The Global Power Elite,” by Peter Phillips, 2018

Like those detective shows where they trace the web-like connections within a crime family on a large wall, with pictures and everything, left sociologists have also mapped the U.S. ruling class.  The two most prominent books on that subject are “The Power Elite” by C. Wright Mills and “Who Rules America,” by William Domhoff.  Phillips and his researchers have gone one better – this book maps the power matrix of what he calls the transnational capitalist class (TCC) and the various individual members of the global power elite (GPE) by name, 389 people in all.  No pictures or addresses of this particular crime family are included however.
"They Got the Whole World In Their Hands..."

This is significant because capital has long burst the boundaries of nation states.  Neo-liberalism as a market ideology presupposes relatively free transit across national boundaries by capital flows, by private ownership, by propaganda, by military force, by labor, by trade and by travel.  The internet is part of the technological structure that makes this possible, along with the software that binds the various players together.  Capitalist “globalism” in this context is the last stage of imperialism, which is now penetrating into every nook and cranny of the world.

This book is useful to anyone attempting to understand who they are dealing with in a social struggle.  This matrix, if presented visually, would look like a huge spider web of interconnections between these individuals and their non-governmental organizations, finance firms, media companies and military and mercenary contractors across the world.  Most are centered in the U.S., then Europe, but outposts extend across the former British colonies, and into various other countries like Zambia, Kuwait, Qatar, Columbia and Mexico.  Notice, no Saudis, who don’t show up in other groups either.  Evidently they are still trying to gain admission.      

Phillips names 17 asset management financial firms and their controlling board members.  These firms own $41 trillion in assets and control the shares of most large corporations in the world.  Prior sociologists have not ‘named names’ but Phillips does so in this listing of the 199 directors of these various companies and institutions. “Interlocking directorates’ was the term used by Domhoff for people who show up on board after board.  These firms are cross-invested with one another, so any ideas of capitalist ‘competition’ at this level are absurd  Below the level of the ‘giants’ are ‘new giants’ and ‘near giants’ who also cross-invest, all together 69 firms controlling $74T in assets.  No small cheese. 

This group has also been called the ‘superclass’.  It includes ‘shadow elites’ that make money from illegal activities like drugs, gun-running, prostitution and slavery.  Which are all part of the capitalist economy too.

In these lists there is an almost total ABSENCE of anyone from Russia, except one NGO member.  Remember, Russia was thrown out of the G8 a few years ago over Crimea.  Also of note is the limited role of the Chinese, although 5 Chinese, including a member of the Communist Party Central Committee, are listed as members of the International Monetary Conference, the top banking conference in the world.  There is one Chinese member each on the Trilateral Commission and the G30.   

This explains quite a lot about the war drive against Russia, which is full of oil and gas, cheap labor and minerals.  The EU and US would certainly like to get their hands on these riches, so sanctions and low-intensity warfare are the methods to 'make the economy scream' and weaken support for Putin or Russian products.  It also explains part of the trade war against China.  Russia is not in ‘the club’ while China has a very limited role in 'the club,' even given its massive economy.  It is somewhat odd that Chinese banks are not listed anywhere in the 17 investment firms.   

Phillips goes on to name the 6 media companies that dominate world ‘news’ and culture; the 3 public relations firms that do most of the advertising for the corporate world; the 3 private mercenary firms that provide armed muscle for the TCC.  And lastly, the main capitalist transnational organizations planning and acting for world capital: – the World Bank, IMF, NATO, WTO, G7, G20.  Less familiar ones are the Council on Foreign Relations, the Group of 30, the  World Economic Forum, the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group and the Atlantic Council.  These groups actually set policy for the TCC.  
Davos 2012 - The Global Power Elite Socialize

3 of these are most important – the G30, the Atlantic Council and the Trilateral Commission.  Phillips names the members of all 3, including the G30’s Executive Group’s Paul Krugman, a liberal commentator for the NYT.  Another notable on the Executive Group is Zhou Xiaochuan, member of the CP Central Committee, two banks in China, the Bank of International Settlements, the World Economic Forum and the Trilateral Commission.  Members of the Trilateral Commission are from all over the world, including a healthy contingent from the former workers’ states in Central and Eastern Europe.  David Gergen, constant yapper on CNN, is a member.  The Atlantic Council is a veritable who’s who of neo-cons and financial capitalists and are behind some of the anti-Russia propaganda in the U.S. today (see below).  The 3 PR firms listed represent almost every major corporation you can think of, along with many governmental bodies, states and nations.

Phillips does not call these arrest lists, but it could certainly help in the future, as this is a mapping of the capitalist world’s ‘Central Committees’ as presently constituted. 

Unlike right-wing and fascist conspiracy theories that pretend that secretive organizations like the Masons, the ‘Jews,’ the Knights Templar, the Illuminati, a ‘Round Table’ of British bankers, communists, aliens or Shriners are running the ‘One World Order,’ the people and organizations here are obvious, as long as you do the research.  They are essentially right out in the open.  Fascist theories want to divert people from seeing the international capitalist class as driving increasing misery around the world.  In this the rightists provide the useful veil of misdirection, since right-wingers love capital, the ‘free’ market and money and can’t believe that “IT” is actually the cause of all these problems. In a way, right-wingers' version of politics is like seeing the truth in a particularly twisted fun-house mirror.

For solutions, Phillips makes the standard rhetorical nod to ‘non-violent mass resistance.’  His actual program for this struggle against the TCC and the GPE is the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which incidentally does not allow the working class to seize capitalist property). Just looking at the history of the world since that document came out shows it to be polite cover to the actions of the large imperial nations.  Phillips repeats the inaccurate Occupy reference to the ‘1%,’ as if they were the only people in the population that are materially invested in protecting the system as it is. 

Like Ralph Nader’s plea for billionaires to ‘save us,’ Phillips makes an appeal to these 389 powerful and wealthy people to ‘save us’ from a world of poverty, war, hunger, inequality, unemployment and environmental destruction.  ‘Capitalism with a human mask’ is his goal, not a sustainable economy run by the majority based on peoples’ needs.   The odds of this group of capitalists hearing Phillips’ humanitarian plea and doing anything about it is about nil, but then, what else is new? Most are too busy steering the Titanic, making and hiding money and planning their bolt-holes. 

Other reviews on this topic, below:  “Richistan,” “Look Who We’re Calling Comrade,” Capital in the 21st Century,” “The Necessity of Social Control,” “Understanding Class.”  Use blog search box, upper left.

And I bought it at May Day Books!
Red Frog
December 08, 2018
For instance: -  (Salon, 12/7) “Furthermore, as FAIR (8/22/189/25/18) has already catalogued, media giants such as Facebook are already working with governmental organizations like the Atlantic Council to control what we see online, under the guise of battling Russian-sponsored fake news. The Atlantic Council is a NATO offshoot whose board of directors includes neoconservative hawks like Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger and James Baker; former CIA directors like Robert Gates, Leon Panetta and Michael Hayden; as well as retired generals like Wesley Clark and David Petraeus.  Leave alone that much of the most sensational reporting and claims about Russian influence comes from the Atlantic Council’s reports in the first place, thus creating a perfect feedback loop justifying more active measures. Therefore, much of the coverage of Russian state propaganda is itself state propaganda.”