Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Keep Up To Date


“How the World Swung to the Right – Fifty Years of Counterrevolutions,” by Fracois Cusset, 2016 (2018 English Version)

Merci beaucoup France!  Where they take philosophy seriously.  The gilets jaunes are no accident.
Time To Put Your Thinking Cap On

This is part of a French philosophy series, Semiotext(e), that puts out slim volumes that usually adhere to a Marxist or anarcho-syndicalist perspective.  Cusset himself seems to be part of the current of French philosophers that concentrate on new developments in capital.   Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, Badiou, Barthes etc.  You know, more of the ‘cultural Marxists’ feared by the U.S. Alt-Right.

Cusset describes how the left was defeated world-wide in 3 separate decades.  He tracks the rise of neo-liberalism in the 1980s; the victory of the market in the 1990s over state ‘socialism’ and lastly, the ‘clash of civilizations’ war/security lockdown after 9/11.  Statistics and Cusset’s own optimism show that revolts, protests and resistance against capital are now statistically increasing across the globe.  He indicates that if the gap between class-based ‘macro-politics’ and identity-based ‘micro-politics’ is bridged, along with the North/South divide, a world-wide upheaval against capital is only a matter of time.

He, like Zizek, stands up for the right to violence on the part of the oppressed.  This right at present is reserved to the state and its minions.

Cusset looks at the ‘colonization of time’ and of ‘the mind’ that neo-liberal capital has successfully implemented, especially through the internet. Cusset also looks into the concept of ‘biopolitics’ and how capital has attempted to control the 5 general parts of the human anatomy on a micro level.  These perspectives accelerate individuation and what he calls ‘culturalism,’ to the detriment of united political action.  It is part a successful pacification program aimed at the world population.

That program is now breaking down.  In the U.S., the waves of teacher, hotel, fast food and warehouse strikes indicate something is changing - even here in the land of conformism, complacency and fear.  In India in 2016, the largest strike in history – 180 million workers – happened.  A week ago another 150 million went out.

An enjoyable read, not too academic, some illuminating new concepts, shines a light on things we ‘know’ but have not thoroughly gone into, ‘named’ or understood in such an elegant way.

And I bought it at May Day Books!  You can too…

Red Frog

January 15, 2019

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Spinoza Lives!

“The Atheist in the Attic, plus …” Samuel R. Delaney, 2018

Delaney is a prolific science fiction writer who also writes prose.  This slim PM Press collection includes a fictional narrative about a visit to Baruch Spinoza by fellow-philosopher Gottfried Liebniz.  The year is 1676, the month November, the locations Amsterdam and south of that city.  Spinoza of course is the famous “Jew” who questioned God even before Nietzsche.  In Spinoza’s discussion with Liebniz, Spinoza describes his philosophically materialist theory about the separation between the concept of God or human thoughts and physical reality.   
The Writer and the Coffee

The story is a mannered and florid description of Liebniz’s thoughts and actions, including a visit to an old friend and his encounter with a threatening or servile servant.  “Small clothes” play a role.  (Now known as underwear.)

The second part is a famous essay by Delaney about being segregated from other writers at various science fiction events.  He is gay and light brown, so didn’t fit the regular cream-colored drill. 

The third is an interview with Delaney by Terry Bisson, the writer of “Fire on the Mountain.” 

Other science fiction / dystopian fiction reviewed below:  “Hunger Games,” “The Road,” “The Dispossessed,” “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “World War Z,” “Cloud Atlas,” “The Heart Goes Last,” “Divergent-Insurgent,” “American War,” “Blade Runner,” “War for the Planet of the Apes,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” “Handmaid’s Tale,” “Good News,” “Fire on the Mountain.”  Use blog search box, upper left, to find these.

And I bought it at May Day Books!
Red Frog
January 12, 2019

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Buy the Dip!

May Day Has Books?

As we sit here in our one-of-a-kind bookstore drinking cheap coffee, Craig started to wonder – again.  We get visitors and book buyers from all over the U.S., from isolated out-state Minnesota communities and from other countries.    Hey India!  Thank you for Europe!  In addition, the website and blog are viewed all over the world.

But the flow of customers from left groups in the Twin Cities is sparser than it should be.  The ‘Christmas’ season showed this up.  Minneapolis has branches of the Democratic Socialists of America, the Communist Party, the Industrial Workers of the World, Socialist Alternative, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Socialist Action, the International Marxist Tendency, the Socialist Workers Party, the International Socialists, the Socialist Party, the Revolutionary Communist Party, the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the Committees of Correspondence. (Whew!) There are even some members of the Socialist Rifle Association in town.  No one from the Spartacist League, Worker’s World or Solidarity is an official member here, but there are sympathizers.  Did I leave anyone out?

Then we have a number of community groups that are grounded in class, anti-racist or left politics of single-issue or smaller multi-issue causes.  Then there are the many independent, ‘poly-vanguardist’ single lefties who are not tied to any one organization.  There is even a Green Party with a rep in the City Council, though their ‘left’ is somewhat mysterious and hard to find.  Now, if you do the numbers, that is a lot of people.  You might ignore my idea that if all of these left groups formed a ‘Left Front” we might scare the bejesus out of the ruling elite in town.  God forbid. But we’re talkin’ books here.  Buying books.

I know almost none of these people are actual Christians.  Christ’s Mass is really a pagan Solstice celebration that the Christians stole – trees, lights, gifts, drinking, movies, family, arguments.  So you’d think more than a few of the above would come through the door and buy some fantastic book for their list.  But noooo!  Is it the unironic hammers and sickles?  The coming recession?  The quiet person behind the counter?  The people sitting at tables and actually talking?  Too many commies?  The low, low prices?  The deep, depressing titles?  The scary West Bank?  Tricky parking?
This was on outside of store for years.  Did Banksy Do This? 

We carry progressive books of every kind ... our 'bench' is deeper than any liberal bookstore in town and perhaps in the nation.  Books by famous authors like Naomi Klein, Slavjo Zizek, Noam Chomsky, Michelle Alexander, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Howard Zinn, Chris Hedges, Murray Bockchin, David Harvey, yadda, yadda, down to unknown ‘losers’ like me.  It is not all Mao, Trotsky, Lenin, Marx, Engels or Stalin’s little brother.  Or are you afraid to be in the same room as the latter group?  They have their own little corner in back …like the porn bookstores of old where they kept ‘the hard stuff.’ So…what?

It is no secret the left loves labels and unfortunately, our label is 'various.'  Many leftists are so busy they don’t have much time for ‘theory’ or ‘revisionism’ or even ‘the present.’  It is no secret that many left groups have assigned reading.  Or that they want to cover the Communist Manifesto or The Short Course for the 50th time.  Or that they only read books written a long time ago.  Hey, I get it. I’ve been there. We love you all!  But if you want to actually widen your understanding of the present capitalist conjuncture, you have to read beyond that.  Stuff about now too.  Really! May Day apologizes for carrying books of every kind, for being an up-to-date, non-sectarian, left-wing bookstore.  But we’re here when you get tired of your assigned reading.  Class dismissed.

Of course it takes a movement to raise a bookstore.  Right now we are waiting to be saved by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and I’m a little dubious of that prospect.  So we have to put in our own oar.  When people are active, organized and aggressive, we sell books.  When people are isolated and negative, or falsely hopeful, we don’t.  Don’t sit this one out, your brain included.

Now what I think is also going on is something else.

Reading a blog post, seeing a podcast, perusing Counterpunch, the World Socialist Web Site or The Intercept, a Party newspaper or magazine is not sufficient.  It isn’t!  No more than listening to an iPod download of one Grace Slick tune beats listening to the whole ‘Bathing At Baxters’ Album AND reading the LP or CD liner notes in bright, living color.  Otherwise you are not really serious about the Jefferson Airplane.   Or pick newer groups like My Morning Jacket or the Decembrists or the Black Keys or Happy Apple.  Immortal Technique or Boots Riley would agree.  This is what the Electric Fetus is for and they are a real music store.  Just as we are a real book store, not a digital one, not a ‘skimming’ one for bite-size knowledge.  But you do have to leave your house.

Here's Lookin' At You Kid! - Joe Hill

And we get it.  The internet, not books, is the new model of learning.  Yet that has both positive and negative sides.  After all, the internet is incomplete in one sense.  There is more in one book than many, many journalistic posts.  So books and the internet have to work together. Yet attention spans are being molded by on-line life and that means shorter ones. Which means ‘books are too long.’ Just like many TV series or movies are too long.  Which is why you have to choose wisely no matter what you do.

So meanwhile, what is going to happen at May Day Books, among other things like dying, is that the “Red Frog” is not going to write uber-detailed descriptions of May Day books for awhile.  This as a science experiment.  The point in doing that was to spread theory and information and incentivize people to read the books or other books.  Kind of a free ‘sampler.’ But if local people are using the reviews to get the ‘Cliff’s Notes’ version of the books and not buying them, then, well, there is going to be nice, general stuff instead.  Good but general.  Generally not specific.  I.E. you will have to BUY THE BOOK to find out what is really in it!  Like a mostly wrapped package.  It starts now.

Reviews of non-May Day issues will continue as normal.  Fahrenheit 451 will be postponed.  The Book of Eli is still in the future.

Prior comments on this issue:  “Why People Don’t Buy Books,” “Reading Paper Books versus Reading E-Books” and books on the digital ‘revolution.’

The Kommissar Of Kulture

Athens, Georgia, USA

January 9, 2019

Friday, January 4, 2019

The New Cold War


“War With Russia?  From Putin & Ukraine to Trump & Russiagate,” by Stephen Cohen, 2019

This book is a series of somewhat repetitive blog posts between 2014-2018 opposing the new Cold War between the U.S. and now Russia.  Cohen was at one time a prominent historian, Russia scholar, journalist and academic who promoted ‘détente’ between the USSR and the U.S. He now laments that there is almost no force in the U.S. – in either Party, in the captive media, in the national security state, even among the capitalist class – that wants a normal ‘big power’ relationship between the two nuclear nations. He targets U.S. aggressiveness as the cause of the ‘new’ Cold War.  Cohen quit the Council on Foreign Relations in 2018 after they endorsed the new Cold War against Russia.  Like Chris Hedges, he is another refugee from the increasingly narrow ruling intelligentsia in the U.S.
It Can't Happen Here

Cohen is a past sympathizer of Nicolai Bukarin’s, but this book is not couched in ideological terms, or indeed any Marxist terms at all.  It ignores the growing ‘cold war’ with China, or the capitalist economic & imperialist rationales behind the demonization of Putin, of Russians or of Russian foreign policy.  But he does see the New Cold war and Russiagate as the policies of U.S. elites, not the population.  Surveys show that a large majority of U.S. citizens want better relations with Russia.  However, the opinions of the population have no role in the foreign policy of the U.S. government.  Cohen thinks Trump is about the only barrier to even more severe actions that might bring a wider conflict.  Trump has been pressured into increasing hostility in response to the Russiagate claims, though he ran as a ‘détente’ candidate.

The new Cold war is actually a product of aggression by the U.S. security state and its wider military wing, NATO.  These are its roots:

A.  Now copious public documentation shows that the U.S. and NATO made promises to Gorbachev in 1990 that NATO would not move ‘one inch further east.’  At present, Georgia, Ukraine and the Baltic countries are either in NATO or getting NATO aid – all on the border with Russia.  Tallinn in Estonia is 198 air miles from St. Petersburg. 
B.  George Bush unilaterally canceled the ABM nuclear treaty with Russia in 2002. 
C.  The U.S. and NATO backed an early Georgian proxy-war with Russia in 2008 over South Ossetia on the Russian border.
D.  In 2011 Obama made promises to Russia that Russian ally Gaddafi would not be deposed in NATO’s regime change plans.  A lie, celebrated by Hillary Clinton.
E.  The U.S and NATO backed a militarized regime change coup against the elected and corrupt president of Ukraine in 2014. The shootings in Maidan Square were actually carried out by the Right Sector – then blamed on the government.  The final push came from armed ultra-right and neo-fascist Ukrainian groups like the Right Sector and the Banderist Svoboda Party, who installed another corrupt oligarch, still in power today. 
F.  The U.S. has ignored the Minsk Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, which would have de-militarized Ukraine, allowed some home rule for Donbass and agreed to Ukraine having economic ties with east and west.
G.  The 2014 ‘annexation’ of Crimea was by an overwhelming popular vote of its nearly all-Russian ethnic population.  This in the face of anti-Russian ethnic laws and terror by the new Kiev coup government, including a massacre of pro-Russian protesters in Odessa. It was actually similar to what the U.S./ NATO did in Kosovo in 1999, when they split Kosovo from Serbian Yugoslavia. 
H.  U.S. & NATO-backed Ukrainian armed forces, including neo-fascist units, are waging a proxy war in Donbass against the Russian ethnic population there.  The neo-fascist Azov Legion has been incorporated into the Ukrainian army.  Anti-Jewish incidents in Ukraine are the highest in Europe.
I.    The legal Russian intervention in Syria overturned another regime change project by the U.S. security state.  It led to the defeat of Daesh and of jihadist groups backed by the Saudis, like Al-Nusra and the polyglot “Free” Syrian Army.  At present, it ‘seems’ to be protecting the Syrian Kurds from a Turkish invasion of Syria.
J.  NATO’s military role in the world since the fall of the USSR has been disastrous.  It started ‘mildly’ with the bloody bombing and breakup of Yugoslavia. Then amped up with invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, the destruction of Libya, the failed regime change plan in Syria and now the destabilization of Ukraine and Georgia.   
K.  What Cohen calls ‘media malpractice’ by the New York Times and the Washington Post and their echo chambers at CNN, MSNBC, NPR & PBS has made the thinly or falsely sourced Russiagate story a page one, 24-hour headline for years.  It is a clear example of a full-on propaganda offensive.
L.  Obama stopped negotiations over nuclear issues like ‘no first strike’ and MAD, then passed a massive and expensive ‘updating’ of U.S. nuclear forces in 2016. 
M.  Trump unilaterally left another nuclear treaty, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2018, a goal of the national security state and neo-cons like John Bolton.
N.  Continuing economic warfare sanctions to ‘isolate’ Russia passed by Obama and Trump – which Europeans see as actually preventing Russian products from the European market in favor of U.S. ones.
The Resistance in league with ...the Pentagon?

That is the story of the U.S. initiated and amplified new Cold War against Russia.  These are some of Cohen’s more general points below:

1. There are various forces in the Kremlin and Putin is actually more pro-Europe/U.S. than hardliners who do not trust the U.S. or Europe in any shape or form.  He has shown far more restraint in Syria for instance, where Russian planes were shot down, soldiers killed and airbases bombed by U.S. forces.
2.  Putin is actually more of a statesman than nearly anyone in the U.S. government and is able to get agreements between hostile countries – like the Iran deal.  Obama played a diplomatic but vacillating role, as he too responded to pressure from the U.S. security state. 
3.  Trump’s discussions with Russia ‘were’ and ‘are’ normal procedures for presidents since Eisenhower, including pre-election contacts.
4.   Hysterical ‘traitor’ talk floods the media after condemnations issued by former or present CIA or FBI sources like Brennan, Comey & Clapper.  These actors are not part of a ‘deep state’ – they are part of a very public national security state, which has been obvious since Wilson sent troops into Russia to defeat the Soviet revolution in 1918.  Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept took their arguments apart in his Constitutional analysis of what ‘treason’ legally means.
5.  Russia’s economic outlook was to have a good trading relationship with the EU and even the U.S.  So the idea that Russia is ‘attacking western democratic values’ makes no sense to their economic plans.  They have recently signed deals with Merkel and Macron.
6.  Putin has much more support in Russia (77% in last election) than new cold-warrior Hillary Clinton had in the U.S.  Her political line was revealed in August 2016 when she called Trump “Putin’s puppet’ at an electoral debate, long before the propaganda offensive reached its peak, but indicative of the future angle to be taken. 
7.  Cohen questions the allegation that Democratic e-mails were ‘hacked‘ instead of being an inside job.  He also questions the Steele dossier and the national security assessment that was not issued by 17 intelligence agencies. He also briefly looks at the Skripal, Nemtsov, Politkovskya and Litvinenko cases.  He calls all of this ‘Intelgate.’  Convictions so far in the investigation are all about other issues.  In all this, he says there is no actual way to prove that the Russians swayed the election.
8.  The list of hysterical insults by prominent Democrats and some Republicans against Russia or Putin is long and off-base.  “Crime of the Century,”  “another 9/11;” “Pearl Harbor,” “We are at war,” “Trump-Putin axis,” “the Red Menace of Vladimir Putin’s Russia,” and “fascist Putin” are all quotes from U.S. politicians  The latter insult is especially incorrect, as Russia actually played the main role in DEFEATING fascism in WWII.
9.  Cohen does not talk about money-laundering, bribes, quid pro quos or Trump’s building projects in Moscow or loans from Russians to his companies.  He does not ‘follow the money.’ This behavior is similar what other capitalist corporations in the world have done. Corruption is endemic to international capital, no matter what FinCen rules say.  Look at the treatment of the money-laundering bank HSBC for instance.
10. Cohen counters the inaccurate ‘neo-Stalinist’ verbiage about Putin by mentioning the recent establishment of both a state-sponsored museum and a memorial in Moscow to the victims of the Stalinist gulag.
11.  Neo-McCarthyism in the U.S. has returned in Democratic and Republican attacks on anyone who disagrees with the national security state line on Russia.
12.  Since 1991 and the fall of the USSR, Russia has been treated by triumphalist and ‘indispensable’ U.S. politicians as a defeated and inconsequential nation. 

The hostility to Russia and China (and Iran/Venezuela/Cuba/Syria/N Korea and …) is being manufactured by the U.S. ruling class as it attempts to increase its failing imperial control of the whole world.  If you do not understand imperialism, then you cannot understand world politics.  This book, while only pro-détente, will help.

Other prior reviews on this subject, below:  “Coleen Rowley,” “Doublespeak,” US/EU Meddling,” “Why Are U.S. Oil Prices Dropping,” “Dressed Up For a Riot,” “Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives,” (Cohen); “Look at the War-Monger Facts.”   Use blog search box, upper left.

P.S. - Link to Intercept article published today on resignation of William Arkin as reporter, related to national security state role in present media:  https://theintercept.com/2019/01/03/veteran-nbcmsnbc-journalist-blasts-the-network-for-being-captive-to-the-national-security-state-and-reflexively-pro-war-to-stop-trump/

P.P.S. - and then there are the crickets in Cuba... more anti-Russian disinformation debunked. 

PPPS - "+ Even the Washington Post seems to have thrown in the towel. In an underplayed story by Philip Bump, the paper concedes that the Russian SM trolling operation during the 2016 election wasn’t “sophisticated, specific or targeted.” This was obvious to anyone who took even 10 minutes to actually look at the ads…anyone but Rachel Maddow, that is." – Jeffrey St. Clair, 1/11/2019


And I bought it at May Day Books!
Red Frog
January 4, 2019

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.

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. 

WHITE GUILT
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…

GOOD NEWS
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