Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Viva Sophia!

Old and "new" Europe: I'm on the Tallink ferry, floating Wisconsin Dells/Vegas/cruise ship hotel, from Stockholm, Sweden to Tallinn, Estonia. In the casino/showroom there is a variety show that has the Swedish Henny Youngman without the laughs and a Bulgarian, new Europe, cover band that plays American rock and hopped up Latin numbers both in impeccable English and Spanish. The band is dressed in white and black, lead singer with no underwear, crooning to the hits like Vegas pros of old. They are enthusiastic, sincere and horribly entertaining. The Swedes, Estonians, sole American and Finns love them and dance all night with loads of gusto. At the "English" pub on the ship, the world is also littered with "Irish" ones run by multi-nationals, the Swedes, a sullen race who I have been told only open up under the influence of a 12-pack, are singing Karaoke to Swedish and American tunes with cynicism, irony and drunken debauchery. Both worlds celebrated the current dilemma of Europe, one defiant the other optimistically hoping that the new neo-liberal regime will lift all boats. The problem is, as Thomas Frank has tragically pointed out, we're not in Kansas anymore.

The Swedes are now experiencing something of a social crisis that has been compared to the alienation of US society in the 1970's, of which I was a participant. Middle class, there is no other-I exaggerate, Swedish youth now sport greasy shortish hair, t-shirts and jeans, ride skate boards and are now consumed by the "rebel" culture of glue, grass, graffiti, grunge and hip-hop. Their faith in and vision of Social Democracy seem to be shaken as the Yankee speed up, east and south Asian export boom and European integration challenge their very successful society. This became harshly apparent to me as the Swedes savagely parodied US pop music while with tongue in cheek sang Swedish oldies and newies as the Bulgarians blissfully rocked around the clock. Imagine the Bulgarians or the new North African Scandanavian immigrants at the pub, horrified at the decadence and vulgarity? The Swedes and other elders of Europe were surely the cultural predators, particularly of the underless one.

Europe is at a crossroads. The EU commission has dedicated itself to a contradictory mission of social and capital "harmonization." Meaning that at the same time that they advocate societies of a Social Democratic nature-long vacations, health, workers safety, education and training benefits guaranteed by the state, it also encourages the idea of competition between private and public enterprises that want to maximize profit and "efficiency." This project has run into a major snag as the main proponents of European integration, Germany and France, are now confronting opposition internally and elsewhere in Europe, particularly from trade unions, which has forced them to put the brakes on the service protocol put forward by the EU Commission. The so-called Social Democrat's Schroeder and Blair as well as "conservative" Jacques Chirac are running into a wall of opposition as the EU Commission puts out directives and goals that now say that the service sector of all EU members should now be in one market. Imagine what this means in a project supposedly dedicated to a Social Democratic Europe? This "free" market idea puts workers in countries like Latvia, where I am writing this from, where there is a relatively low wage and benefit package in competition with Swedish workers who enjoy a wage and benefit package rivaled by few. This exact issue has now come to a point with the Swedish workers now fighting the good fight over integration and globalization on the issue of a fellow EU member, Latvia, sending lower endowed (look for reference below) workers to Sweden for a construction contract. This has brought the contraction union with the toughest, roughest, baddest ass class struggle name of all time, BYGGNADS, into a general strike like fever to stop the lowering of their wages in the short term over this contract and the long term vision of a labor market whereby workers from countries with a lower wage and benefit package can work in any country in the Euro zone.

The choices are now very clear for workers of Europe and the rest of the world and they have to have to decide whether they are going to resist the lowering of their social wage or if they want to live the peasantist existence of the Baltic. Where do you want to live workers of Northern Italy, Germany, and Sweden? In the post-industrial slum of Milwaukee and Detroit where capital left without a peep from the working class and where now wages have fallen to Eastern European levels with little safety net or in Norway and Finland where you drink Vodka on break and when you knock up your old lady you both get time off to raise your child as a human being?

Monday, March 28, 2005

Hey (the incredibly formal and complex greeting in Swedish)

I am not used to traveling in the first world. Class and race are, not totaly, less apparent. I am commonly greeted as a Swede which is un-nerving given my total ignorance of the language. But of course every Swede I have talked to speaks English better than most Hoosiers. A few observations of Stockholm: super rich but not pretencous, advertizing is here and there but no where near the omnipresence of it in the US or Japan, there are places to wrap gifts for free in many stores, there's lots of space at bars and restaurants but people are willing to sit down next to strangers and chat, the new immigrants are a hot topic; they blame them for everything, if you are into talking with well read, well traveled, super model types this is not the place for you. Off to Tallinn, Estonia.

Friday, March 25, 2005

War Industry and Blowback

The US sells F-16's to Pakistan . The likelyhood of an anti-US government coming to power in Pakistan in so slight I don't see how this might be a problem?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Koalas Are Bitches

A must read from an eighth grader from Pittsburgh who has no use for endangered species.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Woody Allen Bashing

Here's a sure fire way of evaluating someone's film taste and independence: ask them if they like You Can Count On ME (see in Films Worth Watching to the right) or Woody Allen movies. Mention of Mr Konigsberg will usually illicit, "only his funny old movies" or "I hate him that, pedophile." Notice the latter statement has little to do with his films.

I recently heard a scathing review of Woody Allen's latest on Fresh Air by David Edelstein . Never have I heard such venom towards a film maker, one of the greats, or artist. You would think he was reviewing a D.W.Griffith film or should I say Fatty Arbuckle?!

Woody Allen wears his intellect and emotions, and private life on his sleeve in film, not publicly. For this bravery his art is treated as a degenerate (Jewish?). In his forty or so films he has made some misogynist, boring and awful films. But he has also made films that changed film- Annie Hall/Manhattan, make you pee in your pants from laughter-Sleeper/Love and Death, challenge your views of morality and family-Crimes and Misdemeanors/Hannah and Her Sisters. He makes lots of films and some of them are clunkers but for this does he deserve the scorn that even high school students can parrot without even seeing any of his films? I think not.

I.F. Stone asked for some good WA films from the last 15 years. Here are my choices:

Sweet and Lowdown
Everyone Says I Love You
Shadows and Fog
Crimes and Misdemeanors

BBC Reporter Advocates Not Shooting Civilians In Kenya: Good!

Biased BBC report advocates not shooting civilians. Left wing bias exposed!

Urgent Action Needed

Death squads have threatened a major human rights activist, bishop and journalist. These guys rarely make idle threats. The Guatemalan Human Rights Commision is requesting a number of actions. Go to the GHRC website for suggestions and information.

New Feature: Get Your War On

Thanks to Ted for a brilliant comic, Get Your War On , now a feature to your right on this blog.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

PHD For Principals Truly Means Piled Higher and Deeper

Columbia Teacher College has a new study out on the PhD in education. Failing grade would be generous for the "rigors" of the "doctorate" that pricipals and administrators get. This is no surprise to any teacher that has spent more than five minutes in a school. Administrators tend to be money chasers of average ability, I'm being kind.

The Neo-Con Dream?

Juan Cole on the democracy "wave" in the aftermath of the invasion.

Bummer, Bobby Short Dead

I will never forget the scene of Dianne Wiest and Woody Allen in Hannah and Her Sisters at the Carlyle Hotel listening to Bobby Short as Wiest's character dabbles with the white stuff. She then takes him to a Strokes like band and Woody is looking for ear plugs and grimacing and skirming as was Wiest during Bobby Short. The scene and movie were so New York.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Oh Happy Day!

Nothing could make me more happy than two new articles from Russell Jacoby (see above)and Daniel Lazare. Well, I can think of a few things.

The New New McCarthyism and Its Causes

Russell Jacoby on the cry baby sore winner right wing on campus and their original snob/rat William F Buckley. I have read Russell Jacoby's, The End of Utopia, worth the price of admission.

"Conservatives seem little interested in exploring the political orientation of engineering professors or biogeneticists. The more important the field, in terms of money, resources and political clout, the less conservatives seem exercised by it. At many universities the medical and science buildings, to say nothing of the business faculties or the sports complexes, tower over the humanities. I teach at UCLA. The history professors are housed in cramped quarters of a decaying Modernist structure. Our classiest facility is a conference room that could pass as generic space in any downtown motel. The English professors inhabit what appears to be an aging elementary school outfitted with minuscule offices. A hop away is a different world. The UCLA Anderson School of Management boasts its own spanking-new buildings, plush seminar rooms, spacious lecture halls with luxurious seats, an "executive dining room" and--gold in California--reserved parking facilities. Conservatives seem unconcerned about the political orientation of the business professors. Shouldn't half be Democrats and at least a few be Trotskyists?"

Sugar Free Yogurt

Another communist plot? Yogurt leads to less tooth decay!

Opiate of the masses

Thomas Frank is right. With this kind of diversion as well as booze and TV we don't have a chance.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Gimme Pennebaker

Watched Gimme Shelter last night and was transfixed. The "documentary" follows, sometimes-there are lots of flash backs/flash forwards, the Stones 1969 tour and the ill-fated Altamon free concert of 300,000 4 months after Woodstock. It's incredible. I've been to lot's of outdoor concerts and seen some violence at them. This film truly gives one the feel. I can't wait to show parts of it to my students. I remember wathing it in HIGH School, if you know what I mean.

Coalition of the Willing?

The 4th largest contingent of troops occupying Iraq will leave at the beginning of next year says Italian plutocrat Berlusconi. Italy now joins the Netherlands, Ukraine, and Poland in announcing their intent to leave Iraq within the year.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Against the LIES!

Vatican issues fatwa against the LIES of the insidious Da Vinci Code.

Fake News

I don't think the Bushies are the only propogandists to ever do this but they do seem to have brought it to a new level in our country.

"The White House is infiltrating local news broadcasts with taxpayer-funded covert propaganda. At least 20 federal agencies have produced and distributed fake news stories touting Bush administration policies. Last Friday, the Bush administration told government agencies to keep on producing the bogus broadcasts -- even after Congress' Government Accountability Office declared these "video news releases" to be illegal."

Take action on fake news.

Suicide Bombers

Suicide Bombers

Moshe Machover on suicide bombers and morality.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Ruthless Entertainment

Quote from a Ruthless Review of Carlito's Way:

"I am wondering why though, Pacino had a better Latino accent than Leguizamo?"


"Lund and Meirelles, the directors [of City of God], seem to have gone to the Guy Ritchie Story-Telling Academy where it is taught that substance can be sacrificed for style. Better put, could you imagine watching a Tarantino film about the Holocaust? Me, neither, but it felt like that from time to time."

This is why I go to Ruthless Reviews (see link in the margin also) when I want to be entertained.


China's industrial past is discussed here on the BBC business page. It reminded me of Andre Gunder Frank's book Re-Orient of a few years ago where he argues that with the current economic revival of East Asia we are actually heading back to the norm whereby East Asia is the dynamic center of culture and technological change. It's an amazing book worth the read.

Thursday, March 10, 2005


Here's a decent article on Lebanon and why the current politics are are what they are.


Here's a transcript of the Tuesday Chris Matthews program on Lebanon and Democracy sweaping the Middle East. Zogby by the way is a liberal Arab nationalist not a radical of any sort. Take a look at the line up, three folks who think Bush's policies are the reason for any positive change in the region all three pro Zionist plus Matthews who makes statements like:

With the forces of democracy at work across the Middle East, President Bush put all of his own weight on the accelerator today and came down hard on Syria and Iran.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Mathews: Jingo or Objective?

I watched a discussion of "freedom and democracy" sweeping the Arab world on Chris Matthews last night. Objective it was not. They put out the transcripts 2 days later so stay tuned.

Here's a question: in this interview does the journalist and Chris Matthews have a nationalist bias?

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

PR Offensive IRA Style: Slick They Ain't

IRA offers to kill the IRA guys who killed Irish guy. Facing a backlash against Sinn Fien and the IRA the leadership of the IRA gave a statement today outlining their proposal for the execution of their comrade.

I think these guys need to contact Hill and Knowlton.

NY Times Reporter Advocates Deadly Force Against Indigenous Protestors

In today's NY Times reporter Juan Ferero advocates a hard line against indigenous protesters who want the current government to increase taxes on natural gas and oil that is exported from the country. JF bemoans "choking protests that ... had made the country nearly ungovernable." He also seems clearly sympathetic to the President who has tendered his resignation to gain support for his sop to multinational bankers and energy corporations. And why are they in such a quandry (choking protests) according to the Times reporter? Because he has not stood up to the protesters with deadly force. "Antigovernment leaders retain solid backing and have been emboldened by Mr. Mesa's repeated assurances that he will never use deadly force to control protests." He leaves us with the quote from a right wing analyst from Miami who say's the president "Mesa has to understand that governments have the right, the legitimate right to use force" to deal with the protests.

Here's why the Times reporter is wrong.


A brouhaha has arisen over West Virginia Senator Byrd's latest comments about Bush and the Republicans threat to do away with filibuster rules in the Senate. Byrd said the tactics were Hitler like refering to the badly dressed Colonel's path to power which included a steady erosion of Democratic rights which led to a personalistic fascist regime as brutal as any in human history. Republicans have screamed foul calling the rhetoric over the top. Some leftists have cried foul claiming hitlerite tendencies are in the Bush's genes, bologna!

Bush and company are dangerous plutocrats and imperialists. They would kill hundreds of thousands (particularly "feerners") to expand transnational power and to expand their political power but we are not heading towards a fascist state.

All societies are constantly in flux depending upon the relationship of forces in said society. At this point we are no where near establishment of a dictatorship based on the personality of an ill mannered vegetarian.

Prisons in the US are over filled, the fourth amendment is practically dead, nationalism and war are national sports, covert racist arguments are used in the popular discourse. But compare this to the 1950's or the 1920's when overt racism was all the rage, the Klan was out, the President touted Birth of a Nation as a national treasure, segregated Federal jobs, etc... If anything we have moved away from outright fascism. If the president advocated segregation he probably would be impeached. We now have the voting rights act, the ability to speak any idiotic statement possible without government harrassment (sometimes), Jews, gays, gypsy's, and other traditionally oppressed groups are out and meet in the White House. This is not a fascist state.

Yes, liberal capitalist states have extremely complex propoganda systems that buffalo the masses. But this is not the same as a fascist state that allows no freedom of expression, puts people in camps and has no pretense of democratic governance.

The rules by the way ARE anti-democratic, as well as the entire Senate. Madison and co. set it up that way to make sure that the aristocracy could block any piece of popular legislation. Two Senators for California and South Dakota? I think not.

Daniel Lazare on Senator Byrd and the Senate as a democratic institution.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The International Division of Wealth

"Judging from its size, this is no paltry economy. How does this pet economy compare with the poor economies of the world? To give the poor economies the greatest advantage in the comparisons, we will measure their size in terms of international dollars. By this metric, America's pet economy is 1.2 times larger than the economy of Pakistan with a population of 148 million; it is 1.4 times larger than the economy of Bangladesh with a population of 138 million; it is 2.7 times larger than the economy of Nigeria, with a population of 122 million; and it is 10.6 times larger than the economy of Congo (Democratic Republic) with a population of 34 million; and 24 times the size of the Albanian economy with a population of 3.2 million. In other words, the US pet economy is larger than most of the poor economies in 2003."

The entire article.

Lev Davidovich

Fantastic review of the new publication of Duetcher's Trotsky trilogy.

The Next Cusades

Uri Avnery on Bush policies and a history of Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, and Israel. His point is that US policies will have implications that cannot be known.

Bono or Wolfi?

Besides having an ego almost the size of Bono here are 10 reasons Paul Wolfowitz would be a great World Bank president.

Outrage In Italy

Italians were some of the most vociferous opponents of the war in Iraq partly because there government (headed by plutocrat Berlesconi) is a junior partner in the "coalition of the willing." The latest outrage by the US military has Italian in a state of national mourning. This incident combined with the Gondola incident where 20 Italians were killed by US pilots who were having some fun flying low makes for a very high level of anti yankee feeling in Italia.

Friday, March 04, 2005

US Leaders, Democrats and Republicans Alike, Outraged By China's $30 Billion Defense Budget

The US spends over $400 billion a year. And they have bases on every continent, invade a country every three or four years, occupy Iraq, have a treaty with a run away province of China's, have a base in Cuba.....

British Censor Offended By Cat Pounceing On Pingeon

I'm not making this up.

Straw and Rice Demand Syria Withdraw From Foreign Land

Is this rich or what? How do these guys do this stuff with a straight face? And the BBC and the Times report this without a touch of irony!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Air Safety

NOVA had an amazing investigation last night of an air plane crash in the 1990's. It turns out that the insulation and rubber caps used on half of all US planes STILL are highly flammable after this plane crashed because of a fire in air. I thought it was a remarkable program given all the attention payed to airline safety. This is a current problem that is not being fixed because of cost.

Democracy Sweeping the Middle East?

Do a Google search on Democracy sweeping the Middle East and thousands (an example from NPR ) of articles will appear explaining how the war party is succeeding in bringing Democracy to a region frozen in Islamo-despotism. Let's look at the three cases they tout as proof of their thesis; Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon.


The US OPPOSED the direct election of the current interim government of Iraq. They wanted a constitution, so they could have more influence on it, to be written first before there was an election. This was impossible because the bearded one Sistani vetoed this proposal and threatened non support if the US did not hold direct elections. To call the election free and fair is laughable on its face but that's another issue. I will concede that it in a very small way represents the will of the masses far more than Baathism although it will be less successful from a egalitarian perspective (more on this if anyone reads this and cares).


Yasser Arafat died, something the US and Israel actually regret given his bogeyman status, and the Palestinian Authority held an election for a successor. This was not the first election that the PA has held, Arafat won one years ago by a substantial margin. The US and Israel had little to do with this given that they have done everything in their power to deny any semblance of a civil society to the Palestinians including DENYING THEM A STATE!


Syria has actually brought a semblance of stability to Lebanon which has allowed a very limited democratic opening there. I am not endorsing Syrian imperialism here. But to say that the US and its ally Israel have been a force for democracy in Lebanon is on its face untrue. The US OKed the invasion of Lebanon by Israel and sent in troops that caused further instability in Lebanon during the civil war. To the issue of the day, the assassination of the former Prime Minister, which has led to an anti Syrian democracy movement I ask, how is the US responsible for this turn of events? unless they are claiming part in the assasination of Harrari. The US is taking advantage of any circumstance to claim victory. Will NPR discuss these minor matters of fact?


The US is for it if they achieve their ends, open markets so international corporation can plunder the natural resources of the nation. If the outcome of the election is counter to their desires, Iran 53' and the present, Guatemala 54', Chile 70', Nicaragua 84', Venezuela a whole bunch lately, Algeria 92', there are more, then the US will claim the government illegitimate and call for new elections until they get the required result.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Labor's Continued Decline and Some Ideas For Revival

Andy Stern of SEIU has at least got some of the tops in the labor movement talking. Here's a pretty good summary of what they have been talking about.

Peaceniks Meet in St Louis

A national meeting took place in St Louis last month to map out a strategy to end the war in Iraq. Here's a report.

Scalia's Xenophobic Dissent

A strong and rare verbal rebuke of the majority (sans "moderate" Sandra Day) from Capo Scalia:

"The court proclaims itself the sole arbiter of our nation's moral standards — and in the course of discharging that awesome responsibility purports to take guidance from the views of foreign courts and legislatures," Scalia said. "I do not believe that the meaning of our [Constitution] should be determined by the subjective views of five members of this court and like-minded foreigners."

His reference to sole arbiter is bizzare to say the least, 30 states say that the killing of those under 18 by the state is wrong.

What he hates about the majority's decision in reference to "foreigners" is that there is a move to recognize and embrace international trends in jurisprudence. He hates this because he's a bigot and a nationalist. And did I mention he thinks killing kids is a good idea?!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Bad News

Bad News: Eating less linked to longer life. I saw this disturbing story on the genetic evidence that creatures that have a low caloric diet seem to live longer. The research shows that there are genes in all beings that tend to keep one alive longer if they are not overloaded with calories. It seems to be a survival mechanism for the lean times, DEPRESSING.

A Nation Founded On the Christian Religion?

Most of the founders were diests. Here's an essay on the pragmatism of Jefferson, Hamilton, Paine and Wsahington when in came to religion and politics. A far cry from our Jihadi Presidents Clinton and Bush.