Thursday, December 30, 2004

American Sight

If this year is remembered for anything beyond the elction that wasn't, it'll be that two serious tragedies hit the world and the U.S. govt's response was rotten. Sudan, which happened right around the anniversary of Rwanda, got barely a raised eyebrow - right after all the hullabaloo about fighting terror and protecting human rights that got us in the Imperial debacle in Iraq. And now the U.S. ups their initial 15 million dollar pledge to the victims of the Tsunami in Asia to thirty five million after getting called out for being stingy. Thirty five million dollars is still short of the forty million they're planning spending on the inauguration. I was reading about one of the morning shows talking about all the children who had been killed (one third of the total, which as I write this is between sixty and a hundred fifteen thousand). All four children they showed on the show were white kids.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Errata and Addendum

A couple quotes and notes as we exit one year and go into the next.
Finished Union Square by Meredith Tax and The Freedom by Parenti. Parenti is three for three on books right now. The writing is serious, sharp, and intensly readable. Tax's Union Square was a sequel to Rivington Street, which was surprising as neither the book cover or people who recommended it managed to mention this fact. It was good, but not as good as the first book. Perhaps this was inevitable as the first book ends on a note of success and this one ends in the great depression just before world war two. What was interesting was how the book covered pre-Israel zionism. Instead of taking a simplistic zionist stand or reducing the storyline to an anachronistic critique gifted with otherworldy hindsight, both which would've been awful, the book places the pre-Israeli debate for a Jewish state firmly in a context of world antisemitic terrorism (Nazism, Pogroms, Immigration quotas), Arab poverty and sharecropping, and Zionist racism and brutish violence. It was handled well. What was handled more perfunctory was the relationship between Blacks and Jews. Tax throws in a token black character and certainly makes a standard response to white racism, even having one of the main characters, a fiery white woman organizer, realize that she had been completely blind to organizing blacks in the sweatshops. But that character could've been Tax who white washes a lot of blacks out of New York. One could argue that Tax's characters, Jewish white female socialists, probably didn't have too mush connection, historically, with blacks organizing in the city, but again this could've been remarked upon and examined instead of simply having the whole issue being nearly omitted. That said, it is still an excellent book.

"I offer neither pay, nor quarters, nor food; I offer only hunger, thirst, forced marches, battles and death. Let him who loves his country with his heart, and not merely with his lips, follow me." Giuseppe Garibaldi

"Who Does not know that kings and rulers sprang from men who were ignorant of God, who assumed because of blind greed and intolerable presumption to make themselves masters of other men, their equals, by means of pride, violence, bad faith, murder, and almost every kind of crime? Surely the devil drove on." Pope Gregory VII (Mar 15, 1801)

"Human law is law only by virtue of its accordance with right reason, and by meansit is clear that it flows from Eternal law. In so far as it deviates from right reasn it is called an Unjust law; and in such a case, it is no law at all, but rather an assertion of violence." St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologiae, 1a-2a, Q XCIII, c. 1260)

Searching for a Mac version of Abbyy's finereader.

Monday, December 13, 2004

R.I.P. G. W.

Sadly, Gary Webb died last Friday of an apparent suicide. He wrote Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion (Seven Stories). In better news, Pinochet was indicted. The only question is: When is it going to be Kissinger's turn to get indicted?

(Henry Kissinger and Pinochet)

No, Kissinger gets the Tonight Show.
Seven Stories also has a free Ebook of the Mark Twain's The War Prayer, which is so nice that perhaps it should be put on the main web page.

Here is an interesting quote from George Orwell from Looking Back on the Spanish War, (1943)

I know it is the fashion to say that most of recorded history is lies anyway. I am willing to believe that history is for the most part inaccurate and biased, but what is peculiar to our own age is the abandonment of the idea that history could be truthfully written. In the past, people deliberately lied, or they unconsciously colored what they wrote, or they struggled after the truth, well knowing that they must make many mistakes; but in each case they believed that "the facts" existed and were more or less discoverable. And in practice there was always a considerable body of fact which would have been agreed to by almost anyone. If you look up the history of the last war in, for instance, the Encyclopedia Britannica, you will find that a respectable amount of the material is drawn from German sources. A British and a German historian would disagree deeply on many things, even on fundamentals, but there would still be a body of, as it were, neutral fact on which neither would seriously challenge the other. It is just this common basis of agreement with its implication that human beings are all one species of animal, that totalitarianism destroys. Nazi theory indeed specifically denies that such a thing as "the truth" exists. There is, for instance, no such thing as "Science". There is only "German Science," "Jewish Science," etc. The implied objective of this line of thought is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, "It never happened" -- well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five -- well two and two are five. This prospect frightens me much more than bombs -- and after our experiences of the last few years that is not such a frivolous statement.

Added Smedley Butler's War Is A Racket and an excellent Audio file of Christian Parenti's Lockdown America talk.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Another day, another book.

Just finished the third book in as many weeks: Rivington Street by Meredith Tax. It is like a paperback romance set in the first decades of the twentieth century, except along with the characters bouncing off each other, you also have the different Feminist and Socialist schools of thought kissing as well. The language is quick and utilitarian, reminded one of Bukowski at some points, but it is well written, vibrant, and would be best suited for a younger activist who's just getting started. As the characters go about learning and debating various tactics and philosophies, the reader can't help but pick up a number of really great questions.

Picked up a copy of this Van Gosse book, "The Movements of the New Left, 1950-1975: A Brief History with Documents," which has a nice excerpt from Mario Savio and another good one from Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer.

In searching for a graphic for that last book, this link to Monterey Bay Educators Against War came up and it looks nice.

And lastly, there have been some (cough, cough) who've been talking about the push for counter-poles in the last several years to balance out the force of the washington consensus. The European Union is clearly one such tendency. And today, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname all signed on to the Cuzco Declaration to form a new Trade Bloc. Interesting. While this isn't outright class war, it is a development to pay attention to vis-a-vis the WTO, the dollar v. the Euro, and the FTAA.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Recent Reading

Recently finished Detroit: I Do Mind Dying, which was just so good. It's about the Detroit Revolutionary Union Movement and League of Revolutionary Black Workers. Black-led, smart, and dynamic, DRUM and the League didn't die in hail of bullets and had a number of important successes. The only complaint was that it was originally written so soon after it had peaked (It was roughly from 1968 to 1972 and the book was published in 1975), that a much longer afterward about what lasted, what didn't, and why and a "where did everyone end up" section would've been nice. Currently reading, or at least perusing, several books in the South End Press Classics Series, which are all just so good.

When is Our Enemies in Blue by Kristian Williams going to be released? It's always about to be released. As soon as it is, it'll be added to the library. Several of us went and saw Christian Parenti speaking about Iraq and when asked about the January thirty elections and people's thinking about them there, he said people on the ground just dismissed them as an imperial sham.

Today is the nineteenth anniversary of the invasion of East Timor and Chomsky's Birthday. Here's a good quote of his from Chronicles of Dissent: Propaganda in the US vs in the USSR, (October 24, 1986):

"[In] Democratic societies ... the state can't control behavior by force. It can to some extent, but it's much more limited in its capacity to control by force. Therefore, it has to control what you think. ... One of the ways you control what people think is by creating the illusion that there's a debate going on, but making sure that that debate stays within very narrow margins. Namely, you have to make sure that both sides in the debate accept certain assumptions, and those assumptions turn out to be the propaganda system. As long as everyone accepts the propaganda system, then you can have a debate."