Commentary on news and culture from a left wing perspective.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Naomi Klein looks forward to the day when we can put away our Bush-bashing paraphenilia and focus on the real problems of global capitalism, including European style:

But it's worth remembering that it was under Bill Clinton that the progressive movements in the west began to turn our attention to systems again: corporate globalization, even - gasp - capitalism and colonialism. We began to understand modern empire not as the purview of a single nation, no matter how powerful, but a global system of interlocking states, international institutions and corporations, an understanding that allowed us to build global networks in response, from the World Social Forum to Indymedia. Innocuous leaders who spout liberal platitudes while slashing welfare and privatizing the planet push us to better identify those systems and to build movements agile and intelligent enough to confront them. With Mr Dum Gum out of the White House, progressives will have to get smart again, and that can only be good.

Some argue that Bush's extremism actually has a progressive effect because it unites the world against the US empire. But a world united against the United States isn't necessarily united against imperialism. Despite their rhetoric, France and Russia opposed the invasion of Iraq because it threatened their own plans to control Iraq's oil. With Kerry in power, European leaders will no longer be able to hide their imperial designs behind easy Bush-bashing, a development already forecast in Kerry's odious Iraq policy. Kerry argues that we need to give "our friends and allies ... a meaningful voice and role in Iraqi affairs", including "fair access to the multibillion-dollar reconstruction contracts. It also means letting them be a part of putting Iraq's profitable oil industry back together."

Jim Lobe also believes Kerry will rebuild the US alliance with Europe:

Thus, his main foreign-policy goal will be to restore those alliances to the greatest extent possible, beginning with what Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld derisively called ''old Europe'' within the NATO alliance if, for no other reason, than to try to get more help in extracting U.S. troops from Iraq without leaving a ''failed state'' in their wake.

At the same time, Kerry will likely move quickly to try to defuse other burgeoning crises -- notably over North Korea and Iran -- where the current administration's stubborn refusal to deal directly with the charter members of what Bush called the ''axis of evil' has not only permitted them to advance nuclear-weapons programs, but also contributed to the alienation of Washington's closest allies, both in Europe and East Asia.

On a third front, Kerry has said he will make a series of gestures towards the larger international community, particularly the United Nations, to demonstrate that Washington will once again pursue a more multilateral approach.

Among those moves, he will almost certainly bring the United States back to the bargaining table over the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the Biological Weapons Convention; sharply cut programs for developing a national missile defense (NMD) system and eliminate funding for new nuclear weapons; commit substantially more money to the multilateral Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and restore U.S. contributions to the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA); and abruptly halt Washington's effort to undermine the International Criminal Court (ICC).

My prediction: the split with Europe has been building for a long time, as a result of US economic and ideological weakness. It is not going to go away. This is why Kerry has been so half-hearted in opposition to Bush's policies in public. Progressives should relish this split, not act like it threatens false consciousness, as Klein seems to believe. The belief that we live in a unified global economy, promoted by Michael Hardt and now Klein, is itself false consciousness promoted by US ideologues like Thomas Friedman. The greater the split, the more space for Southern economies to play off the two (possibly three) centers of the world economy.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Excellent piece by Barbara Ehrenreich on Ralph Nader's electoral bid.  However, I must dissent when she says  
Who could have guessed that ...a whole slew of candidates — Dean, Kucinich, Sharpton, Moseley Braun — would be preaching your vision of peace and social justice from within the Democratic Party?  
Kucinich is the only progressive among this bunch. And he has not amassed nearly enough delegates to seriously challenge the Democratic Leadership Council.  The crisis of political representation will continue even if Bush is defeated.

Friday, July 16, 2004

This is the kind of crap that makes a Democratic victory in November worthwhile.

The fast-growing movement to unionize graduate students at the nation's private universities suffered a crushing setback yesterday when the National Labor Relations Board reversed itself and ruled that students who worked as research and teaching assistants did not have the right to unionize.

The Republican-controlled board reversed a four-year-old decision involving New York University, a private institution, in which the board, then controlled by Democrats, concluded that graduate teaching and research assistants should be able to unionize because their increased responsibilities had essentially turned them into workers.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Frank Rich thinks Spiderman 2 is more important than Farenheit 911. Hmmm.. I saw Spiderman 2 this weekend, and while it deserves some (not all) of the praise being showered on it, I can't say it resonated in the least for me politically.

One thought I had about F911. I remember when the Blair Witch Project came out--a movie that cost less than 10,000 to make, and grossed over 100 mil I thought it would revolutionize the role of independent film. Reality check--no noticeable impact. Sometimes a fluke is a fluke.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

I haven't read Tom Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas? yet, but I'm increasingly concerned with the way it's being used. Take, for example, this column by Nicholas Kristof. Kristof cites Frank as evidence that Democrats have lost touch with 'working class' Americans, and hopes Edwards can rectify things. Nothing against Edwards... but Democrats still solidly win the working class vote. Gore won large majorities of people making less than 30,000 (not to mention people who identified themselves as working class). Some other categories Gore won big in: working women, union members. Republicans may have a lock on rural white votes, but the rural vote is shrinking. In fact, the working class is looking more and more 'diverse' (i.e. non white) and female, both of which bode well for Democrats. Kristof also brings up the non-sequitor of religion. Religious whites vote heavily for Republicans. Then again, religious blacks vote heavily democratic, and they make up a larger portion of African Americans and thus somewhat distort the totals for 'religious Americans', which seems like a flat out Republican category, although it's not. The Democrats should concentrate first and foremost on making sure this is a clean election which there constituents votes will be counted (It's so often forgotten that the Democrats won in 2000, only to have the election stolen due to Republican perfidy and Democratic laziness). Then they should consider making pitches, such as Kerry's to raise the minimum wage, that will appeal to the working class and maybe undercut the religion factor. But trying to play the game on the Republicans turf--the psuedo-pieties of American conservative Christianity--is a sucker's game.

Friday, July 02, 2004

I love Counterpunch, but their embrace of Nader is dumb. His candidacy is going nowhere, is becoming a joke, is attracting support from Republicans. I don't care that he's polling 6%. I'd be shocked if he breaks 2% this year, whether he campaigns in swing states, red states, blue states, or wherever. People are excited about an election for a change. Mostly because we're fearful about another four years of Bush, but there is a sense of purpose. Bush has not simply been Clinton in cowboy boots. He's been a nut, surrounded by nuts, and he's showing no signs of mellowing. I have to say, that even if this campaign were blander--McCain vs. Kerry, for example--I remain less convinced than ever that a third party is what will lead the left in this country out of the impasse. Third parties seem to naturally attract the most dogmatic and isolated forces, so that right there is two strikes against them. Then there is the American political system, which structurally consigns third parties to the role of spoiler. Participating in elections as third parties takes us no closer to reforming that system, despite what some Nader supporters pretend. The left needs to regroup independent of the democratic party--perhaps through a social forum structure. But it should not mistake that for a posture of opposition to the entire Democratic party, which just isolates us from most of the people we want to unite with. The right both has independence from the Republicans and power within the party. Why not the left?

Meanwhile the Democrats try to sabotage the Nader campaign, which is also completely pathetic, morally indefensible, and likely to backfire.

Conservative groups with strong Republican ties urged their members to attend the [Oregon ballot status] convention to help get Nader on the ballot, while Democrats asked their members to show up, and not sign the petition, in hopes of thwarting the Nader effort.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Barbara Ehrenreich is the replacement columnist at the Times for a vacationing Thomas Friedman (can we make this switch permanent?). Her first column is a defense of Michael Moore.

This website is making the rounds today--it suggests that Moore blows up the 'Saudi connection' in Farenheit 911 because it would've been too scary to look into the Israeli connection. I certainly agree that it's a mistake Moore commits to conflate politics of father (pro-Saudi) and son (pro-Israel). Poppy has discreetly been one of W's biggest critics.

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