Thursday, August 31, 2006

Reversing the Argument

     Most open-minded people have thought about the possibility of alternatives to capitalism at one time or another. Unfortunately, I think many people quickly dismiss the idea because they think of one or two particular problems that could exist in an non-capitalistic society. The objections range from a number of things, but they generally start with, "It just seems like X would happen". I think many of the objections that people raise to non-capitalistic systems can be reasoned away with a better understanding of what the alternative is actually about as well as pulling from examples from historical events that are not taught and thus are not very well-known.

     However, let's assume that they are valid objections. They certainly could be. After all, few would argue that the alternatives to capitalism are perfect, just that they are better. It's probably impossible to create *perfect* economic and political structures, and it's impossible to guarantee that a certain system will operate in ways that we desire, if only for the obvious reason that it's functioning hinges critically on the complex dynamics of society.

    Having said that, imagine we reversed the situation. Imagine we were living in a socialist society and were theorizing about the possibility of changing to a capitalist society. Just think of all the criticisms one would have!

  • Wouldn't wealth begin to accumulate over time, resulting in the quality of lives that people have being determined almost 100% on the conditions in which they were born?
  • With wealth accumulating to such an extent, wouldn't those with wealth be able to undermine the democratic process, resulting in a loss of not only economic freedom, but also of political freedom?
  • Wait, so even though there are enough means to feed, clothe, and take care of the entire world population, millions will die from hunger and preventable diseases yearly because it is impossible to make a profit off of them? (I have some interesting data from a UN Development Report that I'll post on in the next few weeks relating to this).
  • Wouldn't those who owned the private resources and businesses be rewarded in the market for keeping wages low and polluting the environment?
  • Don't people work better when they "own" a part of what they work with rather than just be paid a wage to work for the benefit of someone else?
  • And so on....

        Point being, when people think about alternatives to capitalism I hope that they will remember to think about what they are comparing it to.
  • Thursday, August 24, 2006

    Busy Week

         I've been wanting to post something for the past few days, but it's been very crazy for me as of late. The semester starts next week and I am basically in charge of the teaching of some 450 students, so I have a lot of preparation and organizational stuff to take care of. And for people whose blogs I normally read and post on, I'm sorry about my absence. I've read some good stuff but just haven't had time to give you my thoughts yet. Things should calm down a little next week.

    Sunday, August 20, 2006

    Bible Comedy

    This is pretty funny. My favorite part is when he describes how the first man and woman were made.

    Thursday, August 17, 2006

    Missing White Woman Syndrome

        From Wikipedia, Missing White Woman Syndrome.

    Missing white woman syndrome, also known as missing pretty girl syndrome, is a tongue-in-cheek term coined by some media critics to reference a form of media hype in which excessive news coverage is devoted to a specific missing white woman or girl, while virtually ignoring missing men, non-white women, or other news stories. According to these critics, reporting of these stories often lasts for several days or weeks, sometimes even months, and displaces reporting on other current events that some people consider more newsworthy, such as economics and politics. This syndrome appears to be most prevalent in U.S. media, but famous examples can also be found elsewhere in the world, e. g. the United Kingdom

        I'm tired today, and the commentary pretty much writes itself.

    Tuesday, August 15, 2006

    Democracy Now! Asks If America Will Become More Authoritarian

         Today's episode of Democracy Now! had an interesting segment with John Dean, author of Conservatives Without Conscience. He discussed some conclusions made by social scientists after WW2 that the type of fascism that Italy and Germany experienced could come to the United States. The social scientists came to the conclusion that there were authoritarian elements within America that could easily rally around a leader regardless of what he did. Dean notes that 23% of people today still don't believe that Nixon did anything wrong. It wouldn't surprise me if that 23% was also part of the 33% that still supports Bush.

         It's easy to say "oh, it couldn't happen here", but what do you think would happen if tomorrow Bush announced a plethora of new programs and "security" measures that would be taken to protect against terrorists? The rally I went to on Saturday was very opposed to the actions of the Israeli government. What if he used that to claim that leftists supported terrorists and therefore should have restricted rights? Do you doubt that at least a sizable fraction of the 33% who support Bush would still support him?

         Imagine what would happen if there was another large terrorist attack. Mix that with some good media propaganda and patriotic rhetoric and I could see a very large portion of the American population supporting Bush and whatever actions he might take. If terrorists attack again, I will fear our government more than anything else.

    Sunday, August 13, 2006

    Photos from the Anti-War Rally and March

         Yesterday I went to a march in San Francisco to protest Israel's invasion of Lebanon and US support of Lebanon, although with any decent protest the root causes-capitalism, imperialism, lack of democracy, etc. all end up being part of the show. Clicking on any of the pictures will give you a much bigger version.

    This was taken as I first got there. There was a very large police presence, as you will see in some of the other photos.

    Here's Uncle Sam with that great corporate America flag.

    We had a rally for about 2 hours before the march actually began where we had speakers and music. Activists went around with petitions and a socialist running for office in San Francisco was telling people about his campaign. There were also a bunch of socialist tables with literature, people selling shirts and bumper stickers, as well as radical bookstores like Haymarket Books and Revolution.

    Across the street from us there was a pro-Israeli counter-demonstration. In this picture you can see someone holding up a sign that says "Israel's enemies are God's enemies". Other people had signs saying things like "America is a Judeo-Christian nation" and "liberalism is a mental disorder".

    Number wise, we had about 10,000 people, whereas the counter-rally had about 300, and that's being generous. But for those of you who've actually been to a rally and then later watched the mainstream media report on the numbers, you won't be surprised with what was reported. A major news channel reported that it was 2000 anti compared to 500 pro, which is just a very blatant lie. All the pro-Israeli demonstrators were on a sidewalk between a building and a street, whereas we had an entire grass-covered area between all the buildings for our rally. We were even more densely packed than they were, so just by geometry alone their 2000 to 500 estimate looks obscene. Arrr....but that's what you expect.

    This is Todd Chretien, who is running for the US Senate in California under the Green party. I'll probably vote for him this November. If not, I'll probably vote Peace and Freedom , whose platform is here. Voting is mostly a symbolic act anyway.

    I wasn't paying attention when they introduced this woman. I think she might be part of the ANSWER coalition, who organized the march. But she was a very good public speaker. I was especially impressed by the fact that she seemed to young and was yet a very active leader in the movement. There's another picture of her that I snapped during the march below.

    So the rally is over now and the march has begun. The Raging Grannies were there as you see above.

    The police didn't want us to go down this street for some reason. The route was planned ahead of course, so I think this was mostly for intimidation. It was the first turn of the march and they didn't do this on the other turns. One of the cops doesn't look too happy about me taking this picture.

    This is taken from the front of the march. There was a guy next to me that was passing out some sort of anti-Bush flier and as he passed this one bystander the person said "Unless that's da Bible I don't need it". I wanted to ask him why he thought that, but the crowd was coming and I didn't have time.

    I thought this was cool. That guy is on top of a bus stop. There's nothing spectacular in that of course. What was neat was that he got up there by stepping up on the hands of that "average American" looking guy in the blue shirt behind the microphone. Just seeing people that come from different backgrounds and who look different working together is nice. Something you don't really see in the media, who like to stereotype all who disagree as something or another.

    We were heading down Market Street, pretty much the biggest and busiest street in San Francisco. Most of those people there are waiting for a ride on the street cars (that's where it picks up). I was glad that we were going to reach a lot of people with the message. Public demonstrations are pretty much the only way to do it, since anti-war views have no time in the media.

    Here are three people with masks as seen in V for Vendetta. I asked them about them later and they said they cost them around $40 for all three. I haven't decided yet if I think it would be cool or stupid to have a whole bunch of people wear masks like this in a march.


    Dog activists.

    So now we're back where we started, where we are going to have a post-rally. This is south of us (where the vans were earlier). I guess the cops are having a discussion on how best they can 'serve and protect' us.

    West of us, more cops.

    So that's pretty much it for my pictures.

    I love going to rallies like this. It's very motivating to go out and see so many people who not only are against the war, but also many of them (from all ages and backgrounds) are also anti-capitalist and very leftist. And those who are more mainstream that attend are surely educated and radicalized as a result of going. The event consumed most of my Saturday, but I was glad that I went.

    And here's a report from the ANSWER coalition about the event. There were other marches nationwide and apparently they had 30,000 people in Washington.

    Wednesday, August 09, 2006

    My Good Luck Charm

         Today I was walking back through my neighborhood after lifting weights when I passed these two young girls (probably about 7 years old) sitting in front of their driveway. I was listening to music so I guess I didn't hear them at first, but I noticed that they were looking at me so I took my earphone out just to catch the youngest one say "Do you want one?" as she held out the leaf shown above. "They're for good luck", her friend added. I said "sure", and then was told that it was going to cost me a penny. I was skeptical about the magic powers of this leaf, but hell for a penny? Imagine if it did work! So anyway, I rummaged through my pocket and informed them that I didn't have any change. The youngest one then said "we'll trade you for your keys". That was easy to say no to. I told them sorry and started to walk off. The youngest one then said "here, take it anyway" and her friend also told me I could have hers. I took the leaf, said thanks, and started to walk off. I got probably a quarter of a block away when I realized I did have my wallet with me. Seeing me walking back one of the girls, somewhat hiding behind the bush that they had clearly picked the leaf from, asked "what are you coming back for?". I told them I didn't have a penny, but that I would give them a dollar for the good luck charm they had so graciously given me. The girl I handed the dollar to looked at it like I had just given her a pot of gold, and the other girl's jaw just dropped. As I walked away I remember how excited I would get when my brother and I would make a few dollars selling lemonade when we were younger and felt good about perhaps giving the same experience to them. That good feeling was much better than anything I could have gotten with that dollar. Sometimes the most selfish thing you can do is to help others.


         On an unrelated note, my good friend Mookie has recently started up a blog called Meme Processing. Mookie, a fellow libertarian socialist and atheist, has always left interesting, intelligent comments on my blog and I recommend that you go check his site out.

    Tuesday, August 08, 2006

    Hilton's Celibacy is a Sign of the Apocalypse

        I apologize for the light posting, but in addition to my brother being in town, I've also been deeply affected by some of the news that has been reported on for the last two (or three) days. Namely that Paris Hilton isn't going to have sex for a year. I am glad that we have so many good reporters out there that could get me all the important details of this story. And if you look at the article, you'll see that they know exactly how these types of stories should be reported.

         The story starts with this
    The 25-year-old who gained international fame when a former boyfriend posted a videotape of the couple having sex on the Internet denied leading a promiscuous lifestyle in an interview with the British edition of GQ magazine.

    This description was crucial for me. I had almost forgot who Paris Hilton was. Today's fine reporters know that I need to have at least a small paragraph description of a person before I learn about their sex life.

    The article continues
    "I'm not having sex for a year. ... I'll kiss, but nothing else"

    Thank you! I mean, yeah, I understand she's going to be celibate for a year, but how far is she willing to go? Isn't this the natural question? This is news you can use, especially on the club scene.

    Guy 1- Dude look, Paris Hilton is over there. She looks great.

    Guy 2- No she doesn't asshole. She's way too skinny, has no chest, and her face doesn't even look that good.

    Guy 1- Whatever. Think I should buy her a drink?

    Guy 2- Nah, I wouldn't bother. Furthest you can get is first base. I saw it this morning on CNN.


    In less important news, here is an interesting statement signed by Chomsky, Zinn, Loach, and others that appeared in the Guardian regarding the Israeli attack on Lebanon.

    Thursday, August 03, 2006

    Subcomandante Marcos on the Importance of Alternative Media

        Just by taking a glance at any mainstream news program or website and it's painfully obvious that we need independent media. Essentially all of's pictures today have been of the Israeli forces, many of them taken in a way that makes the soldiers look powerful and brave and with commentary that makes their cause look just and even noble. I wish I would have saved the one that I saw an hour ago in order to show you. But anyway, I came across this video on YouTube today of Subcomandante Marcos discussing the importance of independent media. It's from 1997, but the problem has only gotten worse since the rise of Fox News. Marcos is an interesting person and has done a lot of good work in Mexico in terms of building political awareness amongst the people as well as participating in direct action.

    Tuesday, August 01, 2006

    Robert Fisk Reports on the Lebanon Situation

        I recommend that you all go over to SH's My Free Thoughts and listen to the phone interview of Robert Fisk, reporter for The Independent, with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now on the massacre of innocents in Qana by the Isreali military. SH has had a bunch of good posts about this situation since the beginning. Fuck, I'm just so pissed off about this.