Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Gas and Inflation

I don't know if it's me or it really is an interesting topic but inflation seems to get the student at least a little exicted. Here's some ideas about the current price of gas.

In 1960, gas was 31 cents a gallon (regular, leaded), but in today's dollars, that would be $1.95. In 1980, it was $1.25 (unleaded, regular), or $2.82 in $2004. 1990, $1.16, or $1.65 today. The latest average is $1.72.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004


Just back from 5 days in the bay area. Some observations. Weather wise I see the draw. Traffic wise I do not. Sprawl, sprawl, sprawl. Cheap housing at outrageous prices. My brother lives in Davis, a university town with lots of strong zoning laws, around 70 miles north of San Francisco. Houses start in the early $300,000's. I was looking at the median prices in the bay area, all were over $400,000! Not new news I know but how do people live? Sprawl, sprawl, sprawl.

It would be nice to have a well written muckraking journal like the Guardian in Milwaukee. The Shepard is a schmiberal rag these days with very little hard hitting and quality writing. The letters to the editor alone told the story for me.

Like many large cities SF actually has cheap, high quality food. You can pay any amount for anything there. Fisherman's Wharf is a minor Wisconsin Dells/Branson, MO, what were they thinking? Was this Williy Browne's doing? I think it was before his time.

United Airlines sucks.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Rehnquist, 1877, Reconstruction and Bush v. Gore 2004

In my class, not an original idea, one of my major themes is how current politics flavor how we view historical events and forces. Reconstruction puts the point on this theme more than any other.

A primer: Reconstruction is the period of time after the US Civil War, 1865-1877, whereby the 13-15th amendments abolishing slavery and establishing civil rights for black males were passed. The traditional narrative went something like this; near the end of the Civil War Republican President Lincoln wanted dearly to leniently assimilate the defeated South back into the union, something that would be easy because he never officially recognized the secession of the Confederacy. After the assassination this lenient policy was continued by Andrew Johnson, Lincoln's Vice and a Democrat, who valiantly tried to defend Lincoln's policies but was thwarted by the Radical Republicans in Congress. These radicals are the bad boy's in the traditional historiography, allying with the Northern "carpetbagger," who went south for profit and power, "scalawag," southern opportunists, and "ignorant" emancipated slaves who were taken advantage by the former to oppress the southern nation. The good guy's are the Democrats who "redeem" the south by organizing the Klan.

This narrative was upset by radical black historian WEB Dubois and civil rights era historians such as Eric Foner. The new narrative, to simplify, embraces the advance of this period politically, economically, and socially. No longer was Reconstruction seen as a tragedy for white southerners but it was now seen as a time when the state got involved in social welfare, political rights, at least for men, and equality for all, including poor whites. The issue of the Klan is also taken up by the latter historiography, seeing it for what it was, a one way fight for white power, as opposed to the redemption that it is presented as, in the infamous Birth of a Nation (the great liberal Woodrow Wilson's favorite film) and in the traditional view of reconstruction.

In an effort to say, see we were not the only cheaters Chief Justice Rehnquist explains the history of the Compromise of 1877 that ended the Reconstruction period in his latest book. What is miraculous about this book according to Eric Foner is Rehnquist's ignorance of or blatant disregard to the last 100 years of scholarship that has discredited the old racist view of Reconstruction.

I guess I don't know what is worse? A Chief Justice that doesn't know the non-racist history or a country that is so ignorant that they don't at least call him on it?

Russell Jacoby on Camus and Sartre

This week's Nation has an article by Russell Jacoby, author of The End of Utopia, a book I got a lot out of, about Camus and Sartre and contemporary radicalism.


The BBC on i/emmigration around the world.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Karl Rove Genius?

Here's Steve Perry on Karl Rove and US politics.


Whenever Alan Greenspan speaks we are all supposed to listen. It's as if a god has given scripture and we must obey. Alan Greenspan is a political animal (married to Andrea Mitchell of NBC news) who is trying to keep rich people rich and get Bush re-elected. His latest outrage came last week or so about Social Security. Of course, he said grandma is eating to many Alpo cans and is going to have to go back to Kibbles and Bits. Here's William "who will tell the people"-presumably him-Grieder on the sham that is Greenspan.


I would argue that the assasination of Shiekh Admed Yassin is fair game. I am sure this will be the arguement of the war party. If they are consistent when Sharon gets his they will say the same.


I have always wanted to create a Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia wall in DC next to the Viet Vet one to show the relative destruction for humans in the conflict. Someone please steal this idea. Here's the Iraq body count so far.

Cockburn on Gay Marriage

"Marriage diverts us from the path of necessary reform. Civil union, today lawful only in Vermont, is what makes sense as a national cause. Unmarried couples, straight or gay, need to be able to secure joint property, make safe wills, be able to have hassle-free hospital visits and so forth. But issues of hospitals visits or health care should have nothing to do with marriage, and marriage as a rite should have nothing to do with legal rights. Separate "marriage" from legal recognition of a bond, of a kinship." Gay Marriage

He's right, equality is not enough, but in the meantime shouldn't it be a goal? Voting is not enough either.

Dick Clarke, Not The Dorian Gray One

The Richard Clarke interview on 60 Minutes last night combined with former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil's revelations that the Bush puppet masters were itching for an excuse to invade Iraq pre 9/11 raises lots of interesting questions but most important to me is WHY NOW are these ideas getting press? Most sane people said what they are saying now from the beginning of the march to war, so why the fuss now?

Here's my supposition: elites in this country are split. Perpetual war, unilateral actions and affirmative action, special ed presidents are bad for business. For instance, the Saudi's have just opened up their oil sector to "competitive" bids, the first time since nationalizing the industry in the 1970's, and surprise, surprise, US based corporations came in second place in every one (see story). There has also been noise in the OPEC world that petrodollars should be de-dollarized and replaced with the Euro. The "doves,"- multilateralist imperialists-let's let the UN privatize and occupy, Iraq, Haiti, Korea, etc... are very nervous about how things look when power is used so nakedly. The neo-cons don't really care how things look because they have the power and what are you going to do about it? The doves say plenty, see above petrodollar and contract stories. This brings us to why the dogged media bring up the story now? Because they are crass opportunists. They are hedging their bets on the next election. Just think if Leslie Stahl wasn't invited to dinner at the Kerry tomato farm or where ever they hang out? They want access to power and if your not flattering you don't get access.
The profit motive is also at work, they want to sell books and get ratings. This explanation is secondary however to the above analysis in my eyes. I think Chomsky summed this up well when he talked about sensationalism and the press. They are usually only sensationalists when it suits their interests, Spanish-American War, Terrorism, EVIL, etc... but other sensationally gorey stories somehow go un-noticed, cluster bombs in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam that maim people to this day, genocide in East Timor, Guatemala, Pinochet's crimes, and lots more. Let's face it there are deserving and underserving victims.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Thomas Friedman and The Axis of Ignorance

There are so many idiotic assumptions in today's Thomas Friedman column that it would take days to catalogue them all but here goes a few.

1) The people who are resisting the US occupation of Iraq are all "Islamist" terrorists. Even the US military doesn't claim this. They (the US military) usually say that the resistance is a mixed bag of ex-Bathists, Arab nationalists from all over the world and jihadis. This line of argument helps perpetuate the clever propagandist trick of the war party conflating the "war o' terror" with the invasion and occupation of Iraq. This helps Bush by the way, someone Friedman tries to seem highly critical of, in his re-election effort which depends on this trick by claiming that he is fighting in Iraq because of what happened on 9/11. From the beginning many correctly argued that an invasion of Iraq would make us all more unsafe because all sorts of people would be angered by such a clear imperial adventure. Spain clearly proves this.

2) There are not enough troops in Iraq! This is the way that Kerry and company, the doves, are trying to show that they are tough. No, actually one is too many troops in Iraq and if there were 200 or 300,000 troops there would be even more targets for the people who are resisting the occupation. The US has pulled back its troops from the streets and tried Iraqiazation because they were such easy targets. More troops, more death in Iraq! Kerry-Friedman 2004 should try this one out in a focus group.

3) We (the US I presume) don't have enough allies in the war on Iraq/terror? because of the bumbling of Donald Rumsfeld and the Bush administration. No, the reason we don't have any significant allies (excluding the Brits, sorry Latvia) in Iraq is because the people of the world were overwhelmingly against the war and their governments resisted the significant diplomatic pressure by the Bushies because they were doing their jobs as representatives of the people. If we would have waited longer in the run up to the war the truth would have come out (there were no WMD, terrorist ties), like many opposed to the war argued, and the US would have had fewer allies. Just as they will have fewer the longer they occupy "Mess-o-potamia" (John Stewart).

4) "Spain (his use of the phrase) is going to do something crazy" by withdrawing their troops from Iraq. No, actually the US is doing something crazy that will endanger its citizens by occupying Iraq, supporting Israel, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and many other repressive regimes and putting military bases in just about every country in the world so they can interfere in people's business. The Spaniards are actually the sane one's Tom.

5) If the Bush administration dispenses with its argument for the war, WMD, people will then support the occupation. Four countries have already expressed their desire to leave Iraq, Spain, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala not because of terrorism but because their populations are against it and the political costs are too high. The invasion and occupation was against the UN Charter, unnecessary, and just plain wrong. Unfortunately the US can do what they want these days and the US population can easily be convinced of just about anything.

6) Thomas Friedman is a running dog of imperialism.

Phony Media Stories By Bush A Big Story? Nah!

The Bush administration has sent phony "news" stories about the new Medicare bill to local stations around the country and 5 stations have broadcasted them as straight news stories. The Times picked up the story yesterday and John Stewart did a bit on it last night but otherwise I have heard and read nothing about it. The journalists and seniors in the stories were all actors but the punditry doesn't seem to think that such propaganda is a problem?

The Double Standard

Colin "don't go there" Powell is visiting Pakistan this week. He wants to show support for his ally in "THE WAR ON TERROR." Last time I checked the US claimed it supported democracy, secularism, and non-proliferation and just fought a war in the name of these ideas. So why then does the US support General Pervez Musharraf, the President of Pakistan, who overthrew the democratic government of the country, supported the Taliban in Afghanistan and allies with the government more than any other that is responsible for selling nuclear technology to many of the so-called enemies of the United States? Because at this moment they need this ally. They call it Realpolitik, we call it hypocrisy and lies.

Many of you have probably seen the latest international poll on the decline in the view of the US internationally. This among many other issues is why people have a dim view of our leaders.

Kerry will change this only to the extent that he will attempt to get other imperialist governments to share the responsibility of policing the world so that trans-nationals can come and go as they please around the world. People who are voting for JFK must think of this because terrorism, occupation, and poverty will remain widespread if either Bush or Kerry are re-elected or elected.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Is $12 An Hour Enough To Draw "Good" Workers?

Here's a good discussion on productivity and what a good job in the US is.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Who Is Mordechai Vanunu? And Why Should You Care?

Mordechai Vanunu was an Israeli technician who blew the whistle on Israel's nuclear weapons program and was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his courageous act in 1986. He is due to be released this year but of late the word is that he will continue to be under some sort detention even though he has served his full term of which 11 1/2 years were in solitary confinement. There is an international campaign for his release. Consider signing the petition, writing a letter, sending some money, etc... at:

Why should you support this character? Vanunu worked in a country that he emigrated to because of his beliefs. While serving in the IDF Vanunu became more and more troubled by the capacity of the Israeli nuclear weapons program which is reportedly able to produce around 200 weapons. He then began talking to the press about his experiences and was drugged and kidnapped in Italy by Israeli intelligence operatives and tried in a secret court.

I don't have a problem with countries having nuclear weapons but I do have a problem with the hypocrisy of the US and its allies when it comes to who CAN have them. Vanunu, I believe, exposed this program because of the obvious danger to millions that Israel's program represents. Let's not forget that since its inception Israel has continued to expand its borders, displace and abuse the indigenous population, invaded all of its neighbors and has pissed off probably 90% of the planet.

Vanunu should be celebrated as a hero and not be rotting in jail!

Monday, March 15, 2004

Justice For General Gramajo

Genocidal Guatemalan General killed by bees!

Media Activism Works

Take a look at this update by FAIR on the civil union/gay marriage debate. Both ABC and the Times changed the way they covered the issue because of a FAIR alert.

Bush, The Lesser of Evil on Foreign Policy?

Here's an argument by Gabriel Kolko that Bush's re-election is the lesser of evil, at least in foreign policy. I am not saying I buy this although I do think Bush and Co. will be a lot more restrained than Kerry because of Bush's track record so far.

"Critics of the existing foreign or domestic order will not take over Washington this November. As dangerous as it is, Bush's reelection may be a lesser evil because he is much more likely to continue the destruction of the alliance system that is so crucial to American power."

Victoria or blackmailia?

This may seem an odd post coming from me but the victory for the Socialists in Spain is to say the least bittersweet. Aznar and his band of neo-Phalangists deserved a defeat and a trial but it kind of looks like the crazed jihadists got just what they wanted on this one. Are these characters going to be players in elections now? This has seriously negative consequences. In Israel the Likudists pretty much bank on a killing before a key election or peace negotiation, I am sure the right in Europe and the US will figure out how to play that game pretty quick. Hell, they already do in a way with the perpetual "war on terror" and all.
I know the parallels are not exactly there but here is the scenario for Blair now, hype terrorism all the way to re-election. They know it's a double edge sword but enough people will not want the Tories and enough people will vote for Blair because he is fighting the "war on terror" for our protection etc... And then boom the bomb will go off in Piccadilly Square.

Friday, March 12, 2004

New Bush Ad

Hitchens and The Peasant

Friday, March 12, 2004
Last night Christopher Hitchens was on Scarborough and boy were those religious freaks irate. I was really suprised they had him on. He explained to the blow dried Scarborough that Mel Gibson had been watching too many Leni Riefenstahl movies and has listened to his holocaust denying father too much and that his film was treading in the old time jew hating of the middle ages.

He seemed happy that most of the young boys (the dominant demographic for the film) going to the Passion were missing the simple, not so, sub-text (what's above that again?) of jew hating. Hitchens also mused about the homo eroticism and sado masochism of the film.

A truely enjoyable interview wherein he called Gibson a fascist a peasant and and old fashion medievalist. It was just fun to see an athiest on. I would posit that the only way that he got on was because of his pro-war and anti-abortion positions.


Comments in the Works

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My Life As A Blog


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