Tuesday, April 07, 2009

This blog has moved...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Voices of Madmen in Authority Distilling Their Frenzy

“When policy-makers have already witnessed a significant move in asset values, and are confident in what that move means for the outlook, it should be prepared to adjust policy accordingly. The central bank must be responding to its assessment of what an already observed movement in asset prices will mean for output and inflation.”

- Timothy Geithner, at the NY Association for Business and Economics.

“Monetary policy itself cannot sensibly be directed at reducing imbalances.”

- Timothy Geithner, at the Global Financial Imbalances Conference in London.

“To do otherwise would run the risk that monetary policy would be too accommodative, pulling resources from the future in a way that would alter the trajectory for the growth of the capital stock, perhaps amplifying the imbalances, and compromising the price stability.”

- Timothy Geithner, at the Japan Society Corporate Luncheon in New York City.

"...in the field of economic and political philosophy there are not many who are influenced by new theories after they are twenty-five or thirty years of age, so that the ideas which civil servants and politicians and even agitators apply to current events are not likely to be the newest. But, soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil."

- John Maynard Keynes, General Theory

Images of the Recession

Thousands of people at job fairs, construction cranes, closed factories, cul de sacs with no houses, foreclosed home-buying tours, unused freight containers, etc. What does this all mean? - that we are in a recession. Take a look at the photographs.

What kind of capitalism is this that images from times of down and out look identical to images from times of up and coming? These photographs look like they could have been taken at any point in the business cycle. Creative destruction? Accelerating change? The law of uneven development?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Understanding Media...

"Obama sets new standard for managing the news". - McClatchy Newspaper.

In the past week, Obama has done the following.

  1. Spoke with Iranians through video conferencing.
  2. Spoke to viewers of a Latin American music awards ceremony through video conferencing.
  3. Appeared on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show".
  4. Appeared on "60 Minutes".
  5. Wrote an opinion column that appeared in newspapers around the world.
  6. Held a prime-time news conference aired on television.
  7. Held an online town hall meeting.

A former Google manager is Obama's new director of "citizen participation". Obama has directors of new media, directors of online programs, broadcast media, regional media,
African-American media, Hispanic media, research, and "message events". All of this has created - in the words of McClatchy - a "symbiotic government-media relationship".

The gift of Television

"I call a cat a cat."
- Boileau

Because of the Treaty of Lausanne, the Turkish Republic only officially recognizes two special ethnic groups: Jews and Greeks, because of a long-standing animosity between Jews, Greeks and ethnic Turks. These ethnic groups are protected under special provisions that give them the same rights as Turks.

The question remains what Turkey has to say about Kurds, Nogais, Zazas, Ossetians, Laz, Arabs, Georgians, and Armenians who officially are not recognized by the treaties. Minorities in Turkey are discriminated against not just in practice, but also in legal writing. Did you know that speaking Kurdish was still an illegal practice in Turkey until 2003? The Turkish penal code has many other problems, which is why Turkey cannot enter the EU. But what to make of the new 24-hour Kurdish-speaking television news station?

It may seem like Kemal is smiling upon the Kurds at last, but the Turkish Republic is full of secrets and many disguises. This is probably the most salient feature of the country I realized when I visited in July of 2007: the country is rife with conspiracy theories. For every Turk I talked to, I heard at least three conspiracy theories. The generals did not trust the politicians, the politicians did not trust the intellectuals or the military, and the intellectuals did not trust anybody. Everybody else is caught in the crossfire of propaganda.

The ruling political party, AKP, chose to use wicked brute force to invade the Eastern region settled by the Kurdish separatists about a year ago. Now they want to give Kurds a television station, just before an election cycle. Is it not the case that this television station is merely a way to create divisive feelings amongst those Kurds who see it as an act of kindness and Kurds who see it as an act of appeasement? Those who see it as an act of appeasement truly believe that Kurds must be separate from Turks politically. Those who see it as an act of kindness can be bought by the government into the Turkish political system.

You cannot look at the situation and say, "Either way, Kurds win", because even though they have a television station, it comes at the expense of many Kurds turning to the statist and corrupt Turkish government. It comes at the expence of political capital. The AKP party is set to win these elections again, which means the Eastern Kurds will have to endure more bombings. The TV channel, since its state-owned, might then become just another mouthpiece for the government. And that, my friends, is why the government is kicking your asses.

Separatists will never get anywhere if the people they defend are constantly giving into to concessions.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Supply Chain disruption

On any given day, millions of containers carrying up to 32 tons of goods each are moving on trucks, trains and ships in and out of ports. This movement has become remarkably affordable and economically expedient for global supply chains of manufacturers, retailers, and until now, the US military.

The possibility that "foreign terrorists" would seize control of a public port, or bring in a dirty bomb to explode it inside a port facility near a large city, would haunt Homeland Security ever since 9/11. In the past port security compromised port efficiency by constantly packing and repacking at checkpoints. This proved very costly. As a practical matter, some considered that process a non-tariff barrier to trade.

Today only about 5% of containers entering the US are inspected like this, and the Department of Homeland Security is suggesting upgrading its ports to operate much like Hong Kong's port where every container passes through a gamma-ray machine and a radiation portal to detect nuclear weapons. Just one bomb that sneaks in through a port could prove disastrous - not just for the city affected, but for the entire economy afterward. In the words of author and policy analyst Stephen Flynn, "The entire intermodal container system will grind to a halt."

In effect, every guerilla warfare operation has realized that one of the most effective ways to cripple an empire is to disrupt its supply chain security, and make every movement of goods and commodities extremely risky.

It is for this reason that protesters, playing on the government's fear of 'homegrown terrorists', would find that supply chain disruption in their own backyards could prove costly for the occupying forces as well. In the past just a group of about 40 people has proven very costly, up to $500,000 for just sitting and blocking traffic. These are, in effect, non-tariff barriers to trade. So much so that the Army will not use the sea-port system for the future shipment of military vehicles. Instead, it will fly all of the military vehicles to Afghanistan for the upcoming surge.

But is this because of activists in the US? And if so, is it a victory or an acknowledgment of Port Militarization Resistance (PMR)? Difficult to say.

Guerrillas are busy disrupting the military supply chain in Pakistan as well, and the US and NATO forces may be using air travel as a way to get supplies deep into the land instead of driving them through port cities.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A pensioner's capitalism

Peter Drucker argued in Post-Capitalist Society (1993) that Western economies are no longer capitalist because ownership of the means of production is largely in pension funds, and the pension funds are owned by the workers, not the capitalists.

However, capitalism does not necessarily involve two mutually exclusive social classes, where each individual can be unambiguously assigned to one social class or another. For example, some theorists in the 'agorist' tradition like Samuel Konkin argue that each person is a worker-capitalist-entreprenuer. But in Konkin's conception, there are in fact three mutually exclusive social classes - statist capitalists, non-statist capitalists, and entrepreneurs. Workers simply do not exist in this theoretical framework are considered a "relic from a previous Age". As for the 'non-statist capitalists' Konkin considers them as "relatively neutral drone-like non-innovators." This is partly how Konkin distinguishes the "new libertarian left" from the "Marxoid" theories.

However, whether capitalism can unambiguously assign individuals to one of two (or three, or four, or possibly zero) social classes or not, it is evident that capitalism is an economic structure with two important sources of income: one from the ownership of the means of production, and the other from employment for a wage salary. These two categories can be conflated, and this leads theorists like Drucker to say that capitalism is now in the hands of "the people", a kind of utopian Thatcherite vision that has long existed in the US and UK.

But it has always been possible in principle for individuals to receive income from both of these sources. I can grow my own vegetables and sell them, whilst taking a wage salary from a grocery store to supplement my income. I am suddenly a capitalist, a worker, and an entrepreneur all at once. This does not mean I live in a post-capitalist society, and does not imply that the contradictions of capitalism have been supplanted. Still, if I receive a substantial income from both selling vegetables and working at the grocery store, then this may put difficulties in the way of attaching the single label "capitalist" or "worker" or "entrepreneur" to me, although these difficulties are only misunderstandings.

But even still, if I am a pensioner this does not even qualify me as a capitalist. Typically, pension funds are not even under the direct control of their owners, nor subject to their free disposal. The argument that pension funds have "democratized" the stock market is completely false, by disallowing worker control or decision making. Besides that, most people derive the majority of their income from wages and not from stock options or pensions, and the rich minorities still derive substantial income and power from property outside of pension funds altogether. A pension is just like any other investment in the stock market, only most of them are held in the tight hands of fund managers.

Saving income has always been a necessary tool for surviving under capitalist conditions. There is nothing particularly revolutionary about this, only that it allows skilled workers to be further divided from unskilled workers, and younger workers from older ones. But if the stock market crashes, pensioners find their futures at risk, just like the capitalists who own the production, thus intertwining their interests and upending the potential for radical change.

FBI informant guilty

The Star Tribune:

Andrew Darst, 30, who is said to have played an important role in an undercover investigation of anarchist protesters at the Republican National Convention, was found guilty of third-degree damage to property, a gross misdemeanor, and two counts of assault in the fifth degree, which are misdemeanors. He was found not guilty of two counts of first- and second-degree burglary, both felonies.

You don't hear very often that FBI informants are being tried for the same activities they're informing the FBI about. What's interesting also is the case Darst's defense attorneys came up with to prevent Mr. Darst from going to jail like many of the protesters he and the institution he worked for incarcerated.

Michael Colich, a prominent Minneapolis criminal defense attorney, said Darst would be labeled a "snitch" if he goes to jail and might be potentially at risk, so his attorney will likely strongly argue for an alternative to jail such as home detention and community service.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Historical Legacies of the IWW and Workers Control

Howard Kimeldorf, Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan, speaking in Seattle on the 90th anniversary of the Seattle General Strike. The audience cheers when Kimeldorf talks about the legacy of the IWW in the Pacific Northwest, and boos when he talks about the AFL leader, Samuel Gompers, who believed in "pure and simple unionism". Gompers described capitalism as the best economic system that ever existed.

The Seattle AFL was clearly out-of-step, however, since the only votes cast against Gompers were from the Seattle chapter. When the IWW came under attack from local employers, the AFL came to its aid. This was "unthinkable" anywhere else in the US.

Kimeldorf gives three reasons as to why the General Strike happened in Seattle - (1) the post-war strike wave, (2) the unified and radical character of the Seattle labor movement, and (3) and the international influence of the Bolshevik revolution. The Seattle AFL sent a delegation to the Soviet Union to investigate the new conditions and to offer assistance. There was so much "dry tinder" in the Pacific Northwest, and all they neeed was a spark.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Do you know the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter?

Tacoma will never be a destination

Why Tacoma will never be a destination, TAKE ONE.

The City of Tacoma wants more than anything to get white upper-class residents from Seattle to move into its newly-renovated apartments and gentrified condominiums. In so doing, it realized that there is a vast hole in the city's culture and none of their traditional methods of beautification work. Or more accurately, the artists realize this. On a big wall in Portland I saw a large mural which said, "Art fills the void" with a big banana next to it. Art clean-up, homeless person eradication, racial profiling, and building pointless highways have gotten the City of Tacoma nowhere. No one wants to put their feet on the street, if that was ever the goal, and the city is even shittier because now there's more condos and cops and very few small business districts.

Even though they hire professionals from Community Development Corporations and consultants to tell them where they got it wrong, the city cannot do a damn thing to get its house in order. They should have listened to the consultant Lars Gemzoe who came all the way from Copenhagen to say that pedestrians (not to mention bicyclists) in Tacoma are obviously "invisible in the planning process" and that "people, life, and vitality are the biggest attractions of a city." But instead of hearing out the wisdom from that successful public art architect, the city council and mayor seem to take their advice from successful fascist mayors like Rudy Guliani and bankers who think they can be like the Medici family - moneymen of the Italian Renaissance - by only funding "high art" for the rich and famous.

"People, life, and vitality" are the biggest reasons why most people even want to travel at all, or get out of the house, or explore new cities. I was excited to go to San Francisco again last week because of the people, life, and vitality there. Nobody complains that the weeds are overgrown in Golden Gate Park. In fact, the vegetation is half the charm. My friend and I ooed & awed at the overgrown brushes and trees and envied their verdant walkabouts. The ganjaweed dealers deal out in the open and the cops don't seem to be needed at all. Adults must be "accompanied by children" in order to step foot on the kids' playground. The kids know best. People from all over the city come to the park to enjoy the day.

Tacoma's parks, sadly, are like golf courses. If that's the case who would want to come out of their offices for their lunch break? This weekend for our antiwar march, the city would not allow the Food Not Bombs group to cook food in the park. We either had to have a business license or $1,000,000 in insurance to do this. Yet another reason to stay home. The City thinks art means building more art museums for stagnating, glass-enshrined exhibitions you'll need to pay to see. Art has a department. It's someone's responsibility. It must not interfere with commerce, unless it is commerce.

The recession is causing an exodus in the Tacoma art community. Artists say want to live in cities like Portland where their work is appreciated. In Tacoma city henchmen claim to "work with the community" to solve problems, but I have never seen any of these people, and I work with the community too. They don't advertise these community groups because they want to autonomously take action to eradicate art and sterilize the city when no one is looking. So the message to everybody in the community is: this is simply not a good time to venture into new and uncertain territory, like art. In the words of artist Chip Van Gilder in the Tacoma Volcano:

“I‘ve pretty much dropped out of the artist community. I found a minimum-wage day job... I put a few years effort into getting my work out there and helping others, but the foundation didn’t produce any long lasting results. My personal feeling is that the good ole boy society of the Tacoma business has done everything it can to eradicate art as a culture in Tacoma.”

Eradicated art as a culture. That's what Tacoma did. That's why it will never be the great city it imagines itself, in its wildest dreams, as "the city of destiny".

Economic Draft

From the Tacoma News Tribune:

“When we first deployed (last fall), a lot of them didn’t want to re-enlist,” he said. “They’d tell me, ‘Oh, Sergeant Frazier, don’t come talk to me about that. Don’t even bring it up. I’m done with the Guard after this.’

“But a few months later, a lot of those same guys came back up to me and said they were worried about the economy, about paying the bills. They catch me going to my hooch, to chow, to the gym. They tell me they’re looking for more work because there’s not much back home.”

In the army, there is no recession, because the war machine keeps churning.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Iraq and Afghanistan are ...

Over the years people have come up with lots of analogies just for Iraq. For example, I have heard that Iraq is like... "a quagmire," "a deep hole," "a descent into hell," "an oil fire," "embers in the night," "a cancer patient," "Vietnam," "South Korea," "a teenage pregnancy," "a variable-rate mortgage," and the list goes on.

Guantanamo also have a variety of analogies too. People have said it's like a Soviet gulag, which actually originated with London Amnesty International, and plenty of people have chimed in on that. Turks call Guantanamo "Silivri," after the largest prison in Europe located in Turkey.

But what's the use comparing something to something else when the original is just as bad or worse? I'm not sure if any one thing can capture all aspects of the war on terror. But this weekend two of my friends and I decided the war on terror is like a game, a board game, the goal of which is total global domination. Like a game of Risk.

We used that concept to create a commercial for television to advertise a protest in Tacoma on March 21st. We used the concept of playing a game of Risk to frame the expanding war on terror under Obama's administration, so that it more closely resembles imperialism. As Obama announced on February 27th, the war in Iraq is as of now - "over" - but 30,000 to 50,000 troops will remain in order to "advise," "equip," "support," and
"train" Iraqi security forces. He said "all" combat missions in Iraq will end in 2011, but there will still be American "counter-terrorism missions" which will most likely happen under the radar. So the occupation will not end, it's only getting bigger.

He also said there will be a combat troop surge in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the next few months, and according to budget research group, the National Priorities Project, Obama will actually spend more on military defense expenditures than George W. Bush. There are not a lot of details on how the new military budget will be spent, but he asked for a 75 billion dollar war "supplemental" budget, making 2009's military budget a new spending record.

John Stewart breaks down Obama's foreign policy here.

Our friend who works for a Tacoma-based cable provider, Click!, helped us get access to cheap ad space, so that our 15 second and 30 second ads can be seen on CNN, the Discovery Channel, MTV and USA. Here is the ad. Go to demonstrate253.org for more information about the march.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Fuckin thieves

Came home Sunday morning to find that my house had been robbed the night before.

It's such a bad feeling, to know that you have been punked by a band of high school boys roaming the street. Around 11 o'clock Saturday night I left the house to stay the night at a friend's house and watch a movie. When we walked got outside, we saw a group of boys skulking around aimlessly by our mailbox. One asked if we were having a party at the house. They must have heard my housemates' band playing downstairs, I thought.

But he asked the question like a bratty teenager would ask his mom for the car keys, as if he was entitled to a party if there was one. I said it was just band practice. This was supposed to sound like it was nothing exciting, friendly but parsimonious at the same time. Instead it probably came off sounding too generous. He said, "Oh, ok," and they all left. I noticed one of them was carrying a big case of golf clubs, but I did not think anything of it. Four people were downstairs, and another person upstairs. The house should be safe.

When I came back home the next day my housemates asked me if I knew where all their stuff was. I said no, and went to my room to discover that a $4,000 video camera I had been using for the past two years was stolen. I knew right away what happened. I said to myself, "Those fuckin thieves."

Looking back, it was so obvious! I should have caught on to their suspicious behavior. But who ever does until it's too late? I figured the boys might have stopped at our house to check out the anarchist newspaper/zine box we have sitting outside, which was intended to attract pedestrian attention. I figured they might have been looking for college parties, which happen nearby every weekend. I figured they could have been playing night-golf, because I have seen frat boys play golf at night before. And I figured the music downstairs attracted them to our house. I guess I was proud to live in an "interesting" house, and so it seemed not worth paying attention to.

"Well, at least you learned your lesson," some friends told me. But what lesson? Maybe people who read this blog can help me out.

One obvious lesson is that you should be vigilant and lock your doors even when people are home. Maybe that is inconvenient and maybe you'll seem paranoid. If you have expensive stuff then your friends will understand. But how friendly should you be to your extended neighbors? Should you be friendly and invite Oliver fucking Twist into your house? Or should you tell him to get the fuck away from your mailbox and if you see him again you're getting out the shotguns? Should you ask him where he lives and what he's doing? Or would that only make friendly people suspicious, instead of making suspicious people fearful? Should you lay booby traps? How many? And if you catch the fucking bastards red-handed, how much (if any) mercy should you give?

As I told my housemate, so long as these thieves steal from us and thereby stop us from being effective community organizers or activists etc., they are no better than the police. Are we supposed to think of this crime as driven by class oppression - as if they're the proletariat stealing from the bourgeoisie? Yes, we have "wealth" in terms of computers, lap tops and cameras. Yes, we are college-educated and make food with quality herbs and spices. Yes, we have a painting by Jean Honoré Fragonard in our living room. Does that make us petite bourgeoisie?

In one analysis, we own the means of production because we make propaganda. We have our own means of production. But this analysis is incoherent. Since the thieves have the means now - it would make them the bourgeoisie and now our roles are switched. Anyone who ever published or created intellectual content is the bourgeoisie. No, we should have a better class analysis than that. If we think of ourselves as petite bourgeois consumers with surplus wealth for the taking, then we must really be confused.

And is it true what Machiavelli says, that it is better to be feared than loved? Some people are simply not interested in what they can gain mutually from friends in a relationship and would rather take from you, no matter who you are, no matter which side you are on. How do you scare the shit out of those people, while making new friends and maintaining your mutual respect for others? How can you tell friends from enemies and what do you tell your enemies?


Monday, March 02, 2009

Afghanistan opium

According to a UN Office on Drugs and Crime 2007 opium survey in Afghanistan, the region produced 8,200 metric tons of opium - twice the annual estimate of global opium consumption. Afghanistan produces more opium than anywhere else in the world. But the price of opium is not being driven down by overproduction. Antonia Costa for the Washington Post writes,

"The (unweighted) national average price of dry opium at the farm gate in Afghanistan is dropping, but not significantly -- it was $125 per kilo in December 2006 compared with $150 per kilo a year earlier. Prices differ across the country, not surprisingly, since Afghanistan is not a unified territory or market, even for opium. But overall, the drop in prices is modest when compared with the massive increase in opium production, 50 percent, in 2006."

Opium also has a longer shelf-life than cocaine, and can be used as a store of value. It is considered a source of liquidity and is used as collateral for credit. But if this is so, why aren't Afghan farmers using their collateral to build up capital? Why isn't Afghanistan more prosperous? Something is not adding up. An alternative explanation is that the estimated annual global demand, thought to be 4,500 metric tons, is not actual demand. The real demand for opium could be much higher, or could be growing as fast as the production, as the illicit market spreads to new places.

But if new markets were absorbing the surplus, Costa writes, "we would expect an increase in seizures of the drug and overdoses in these countries. That hasn't been happening." She offers another alternate explanation.

"Drug traffickers have a symbiotic relationship with insurgents and terrorist groups such as the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Instability makes opium cultivation possible; opium buys protection and pays for weapons and foot soldiers, and these in turn create an environment in which drug lords, insurgents and terrorists can operate with impunity."

"I suspect," she concludes, "that the big traffickers are hoarding surplus opium as a hedge against future price shocks and as a source of funding for future terrorist attacks, in Afghanistan or elsewhere." She warns that Afghanistan's neighbors are "either accomplices or victims in the opium trade, so they need to be part of the solution."

Her last statement echoes a longtime NATO accusation. NATO, with 55,000 troops in Afghanistan, accuses Iran of allowing weapons and drugs to be smuggled into and out of the region, and giving money to 'insurgent' farmers and fighters. The UN International Narcotics Control Board says Pakistan is also a popular trade route.

If the supply of opium does not affect the price, then buyers are willing to pay a lot for it. But while the price of opium has not significantly dropped (even though production is twice the expected demand) farmers are entering the cannabis market instead. The UN's International Narcotics Control Board said in its annual report that because of overproduction in opium there has been a rise in the production of cannabis in Afghanistan. Many provinces which had been declared by the post-9/11 Afghan government and NATO to be free of poppy cultivation have switched to cannabis. The report went on:

"The lack of security in Afghanistan has severely hampered government efforts to eradicate illicit opium poppy; a total of 78 persons involved in the eradication efforts lost their lives in 2008, a six-fold increase over the previous year. The increase in illicit cultivation of cannabis in Afghanistan is also a worrying development."

Another law of economics commonly touted is "comparative advantage", which says that countries should produce in whichever products they have a comparative cost advantage over other countries. Afghanistan has comparative as well as an absolute cost advantage over other countries in drug production. And while Afghanistan is considered one of the least-developed countries in the world, with the lowest standard of living, their most traditional and cost-effective ways of industrial organization is outlawed, which leads to prohibition-style murder. The UNINCB does not see it this way. They say,

"The large-scale smuggling of Afghan opiates has resulted in a wide range of social ills, including organized crime, corruption and high illicit demand for opiates. For example, the Islamic Republic of Iran has, for a number of years, the highest rate of abuse of opiates in the world."

The same could be said about US energy firms, whose large-scale operations result in a wide range of social ills. The United States has, for a number of years, the highest rate of abuse of oil in the world; oil money leads to massive corruption, and the propping up of imperialist regimes; world government leaders have been trying for years to switch oil producers to more legitimate ways of life, but the oil drilling persists. In addition, many of the legalized US agricultural commodities harm other countries in the same way the US claims opium harms it, through policies like dumping. What if the overproduction of these crops were banned by the international community? Oh wait, they are.

As occupying Western armies have learned, from Winston Churchill to the Soviet Empire, controlling Afghanistan is much harder than invading it. Alternative solutions to Afghanistan's illicit drug "problem" should include the legalization of its drug trade.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Hummer, no returns!

Every good American played the game slug bug as a kid, where if you spotted an old VW bug you would shout "slug bug!" and hit your brothers or sisters in the arm. "Ouch!" they would complain and vengefully hit you back even if there wasn't a slug bug around.

On the other side of the size spectrum are Hummers. They're big, ugly and easy to spot. Since around December, I swear I have seen more H2s and H3s around than before. So I started hitting people out of anger.

With the US economy finally reaching where Detroit has been for the past quarter century, you would expect gas-guzzling hummers to fade away like consumers' income. It's true, new H3 sales were down by nearly 50% from 2007 to 2008. But used Hummer vehicles sales from 2007 to 2008 have increased by 71% according to General Motors. All GM luxury vehicles - Saab, Cadillac, Hummer, etc. - have seen strong year-to-year increases in the certified, pre-used market.

Hummers also get tax breaks for their weight. Vehicles over 6,000 lbs are tax-deductible items for small business owners. Besides a $25,000 write-off for to a basic equipment deduction, and another $25,000 write-off for for a bonus depreciation loophole, all SUVs qualify for bonus depreciation, an added write-off of 30 percent of the purchase price above $25,000.

HybridCenter.org illustrates:

"For example, a business owner purchasing a Hummer H1, with a sticker price of $106,185, would be able to deduct $60,722 in the first year under the revised rules: a $25,000 equipment deduction, $24,356 in bonus depreciation, and $11,366 in regular depreciation."

Combine that with the unusually low, election year gas prices this Winter, and it makes sense that rich, capitalist swine who support dictators, don't believe in global warming, love militarization and human rights abuses and ozone depletion, who support CIA coups, and oil spills, and preemptive war, and the Apocalypse, and human extinction, are out driving their big beasts more often.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How to address climate change with Business ethics

This is a follow up from the previous post on the way business marketing authors approached the Viread retro-viral drug and its use in Africa during clinical testing trials. In the chapter on business ethics in this textbook, International Marketing, the authors subtly discuss environmental ethics and its effect on business.

Activists are the bane of a marketer's professional life. They are constantly working to destroy the image of a business and expose its innermost flaws. This is something the business class needs to reply to with skill because it could tarnish the image and the profit of the business. Exxon Mobil, for example, funded climate change skeptic groups - the Heartland Institute, Advancement of Sound Science Center, etc. - in order to refute the claims of environmental activists who were making it difficult for the oil industry to ignore climate change.

"Business ethics" comes to the rescue. It provide business professionals with better rhetorical skill and strategies to further exploitation. The study of "business ethics" is an excuse to teach the student of marketing how to get around ethical norms, how to promote an image of ethical leadership, and how to make business as usual viable for the business.

Here is a section of the book that discusses global warming.

"The Ethical Nature of Promoting Large SUVs

Cars emit carbon dioxide, which is thought to contribute to global warming. Such emissions can be reduced when fewer people purchase large SUVs, which are generally fuel-inefficient vehicles. CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) rules are set at only 20.7 miles per gallon for SUVs as compared to 27.5 mph for full-size cars. Hence, SUVs have come under attack as making the United States more dependent on imported oil, as well as for their poor safety record. The industry, by manufacturing and promoting more fuel-efficient cars and trucks, could help reduce dependence on energy imports. Should car companies, therefore, promote fuel-efficient cars and encourage to buy them at the expense of pricier, more profitable, large, fuel-guzzling SUVs? In Canada, the answer has been a resounding "yes." Canadian automobile companies signed an agreement with the Canadian government, agreeing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent over five years, which would involve using fuel-saving technologies and alternative fuels such as ethanol, clean deisel, and biodiesel."

The book says that when there are multiple stakeholders, corporations need guidance as to how to deal with and prioritize values.

"A puzzle for corporations is that there are many worthy causes and constituencies. A firms' consumers and its shareholders might ask what it is doing about global warming, terrorism, governmental corruption, and poverty, among other issues. An automobile company might well argue that its products have little to do with terrorism, governmental corruption, and poverty. The company may go on to state that it is working on reducing emissions and is devoting funds to research to develop an engine that is clean-burning, thus helping to reduce global warming. In rebuttal, activists might point out that the company imports thousands of containers full of parts every year and that its manufacturing processes in other countries, coupled with these shipments, contribute to pollution and global warming."

In the Questions and Research section, the book asks students to consider a few points from the chapter and discuss them in groups. The question relevant to this portion of the textbook is not, "What is the role of business in addressing climate change?" or, "What are some ways the automobile industry can address climate change?" or something along those lines. The question is,

"How does the presence of multiple stakeholders affect conduct? Focus on the issue of reducing environmental pollution globally to discuss how the green lobby affects global business practices."

Business ethics - just an excuse to act up

It is becoming more and more common for philosophy professors to teach business ethics. The University of Pennsylvania, for example, has four philosophy professors in its business ethics school within the philosophy department. Robert Solomon at UT Austin, better known for his work in existentialism, in his later years started teaching business ethics too.

The problem with business ethics is that is forces the same criteria it uses for business management down the throats of ethics professors. Because of this, ethical standards are viewed as a means to an end; they are determined by their 'performance' in the marketplace, and are scrutinized under cost benefit analysis.

Business professionals learn to think of ethics as something which serves their business, rather than the other way around. When ignoring ethical norms would prove disastrous for the business, your business should speak up about the company's reputation for high ethical standards, or how the company goes beyond compliance with the law, or how any unethical actions do not reflect the company's code of conduct, etc.

Philosophy can lend itself easily to this problem because philosophy is not instructive, and other academic pursuits are. More often, what business professionals glean from philosophy is how to argue their way out of nasty moral dilemmas. A philosophy professor typically will not want to pontificate "the answer" to a difficult moral dilemma, unless they want to defend or entertain a particular perspective. Philosophy does not teach teach truths and values, but to puts them into a perspective, and argues for the superiority of that perspective.

On the other hand, the business ethic perspective frames ethics in terms of business - "How valuable are ethics to my business?" This is not philosophy, it is business. The superiority of the business perspective is totally taken for granted. What happens, then, is that philosophy becomes the handmaiden to business professionals - the age-old sophist tendency.

To illustrate this point I want to mention the work of HIV/AIDS activists and the effect it had on business practices. The group Act Up - originally started by the friends of Michel Foucault to raise awareness and dispel myths about AIDS - made its way into an International Marketing textbook authored by Terpstra, Sarathy, and Russow, in a chapter titled "Ethics and Global Marketing".

A little bit of background. Africans account for 25.4 million of the 39.4 million people around the world who have HIV/AIDS. Naturally, the place to bring HIV/AIDS prevention drugs would be Africa. In 2005 the US drug manufacturer Gilead needed to determine whether its drug, tenofovir (marketed as Viread), could prevent HIV/AIDS in a similar way to a vaccine. The drug was thought to prevent an exposed person from contracting HIV/AIDS. Once Viread passed the clinical trial test, it would then be sold globally at a premium prices. African prostitutes would be the proverbial guinea pigs in the clinical trial process.

The cost of AIDS "cocktail" drugs, which stop the progress of AIDS and allows patients to achieve some level of stability, averages over $10,000 a year. This is well beyond the reach of most Africans. Viread, while cheaper than some, costs around $17 a day and must be taken daily, which is roughly $6,400 a year. Still beyond the reach of many AIDS-affected Africans. Remember, a billion people in the world live on a dollar a day, many of them live in Africa.

The group Act Up-Paris, after perusing Gilead's clinical trial's research reports, decided that this needed to be protested, stopped, and added that the African trial participants "got too little information and care for their participation" - a legal claim that would stop the trial. The Wall Street Journal reported that "Act Up claims that by holding trials in Africa, '[Gilead knows] they will find...women willing to let them carry out a trial at minimal cost.'"

A probable side-effect of the drug is kidney dysfunction. It was not known whether the drug would cause kidney problems, or worsen existing kidney trouble. Gilead decided it would go ahead and test female prostitutes from Ghana, Nigeria, Malawi, Cameroon, and Cambodia. The unfortunate five women who contracted HIV/AIDS in Cameroon during the study were promised long-term access to therapy.

On the flipside, WSJ commentator, Roger Bate, said,

"Act Up is being flat-out hypocritical in its attempts to keep the trials from being conducted in low-cost environments. Activists are always complaining about the high price of drugs, and the best way to keep prices down is for trials--the most expensive part of any drug development--to be as cheap as possible."

Now, as a student of marketing, let's look to our textbook to learn more about this ethical problem.

International Marketing textbook says that "ethical conflicts can arise when the only access to health care for low-income patients is through participation in such clinical trials." This was certainly the case for Viread. But other than this, the text doesn't come close to a stance on whether this practice set ethical standards high or low, or whether Gilead went "beyond compliance with the law." It does not even provide a list of key international legal frameworks to judge Gilead's practices by.

Instead it ends the section on ethical international research with a quote from a pro-Africa-testing AIDS group called Treatment Action, which decried Act Up-Paris's actions as "ethical imperialism", and backs up the study by mentioning that the clinical trials were supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.
Certainly, if other activists are complaining about the work of activists in Paris, it must not be legitimate. And certainly if philanthrocapitalists support the AIDS research then it must have been carried out in an ethical way, or at least had the right intentions.

In the next section, the authors advise that an ethical move would be to employ market segmentation for poorer people, or what author K. Prahalad calls "inclusive capitalism", so that "companies can do well financially and and develop new sources of value." This means lowering the price of products in emerging markets, in order to find an entry path into that market. Proctor & Gamble (their example) sells bottles of shampoo in India for a penny a piece, which allows them to outsell competitors and maintain dominance. By including Africans in its clinical trial, by analogy, they are saying it was an act of inclusive capitalism.

On one hand, I can appreciate the moral complexity of the problem Act Up-Paris and Gilead Sciences have dealt with. Eventually the clinical trial was canceled due to pressure from Act Up-Paris. But is providing 400 prostitutes with a little bit of retro-viral drugs, just to take them away and sell them to rich people in the First World, a fair practice? Who is John Rawls? Who is Ronald Dworkin? Who is Derek Parfit? The only question I have boggling in my mind is, "Is this 'inclusive capitalism'??" Do the authors really think Gilead would have provided 25 million people with affordable Viread? But isn't that what they should have done? And what about the four people who got AIDS from the clinical study itself? Where was Immanuel Kant when all of this went down?

On the other hand, what is the value of a textbook that proclaims to know something about business ethics, when it cannot provide a solid philosophical basis for judging the right course of action? Instead, the text is more like a set of clues to form better strategies for further exploitation. It teaches the marketing student how to get around ethical norms, how to promote an image of ethical leadership, and to think in terms of what is better for the business, without ever explicitly mentioning that this is what the text is here for.

If we say that the textbook neither agrees nor disagrees with those activists who criticize certain business practices, we're right about that. It only tells the reader how the business operation was affected by the activist criticism, and then asks the reader to form an opinion. The point I am making is subtle. The textbook wants you to see its literature reviews as objective information, but by limiting the scope to the business perspective, they imply that the only implied ethical criterion is the business's reputation and profit.

Here are a few questions at the end of the chapter related to this problem.

Questions and Research

  1. How can concerns over ethical behavior affect global business practices? Provide examples.
  2. Why should a firm be concerned about ethics in international marketing activities?
  3. How can a firm connect moral principles to the development of ethical standards that would govern its international activities?
  4. How do ethical issues affect the clinical testing of new pharmaceutical drugs in emerging markets?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Upgraded BlackWaters: Information Sharing and Analysis Centers

BlackWater - or Xe as it's now called - was only the beginning of modern private mercenary market. Today there are corporate intelligence community networks springing up in large numbers, providing "intelligence" to the intelligence community while trading its shares on the market.

I stumbled across these organizations as I was breezing through this document, which a homeland security group - the Highway Watch and Information Sharing and Analysis Center - drafted in preparation for the RNC 2008. The document was recently leaked from TwinCities Indymedia. Homeland Security had ranked the anti-war and anti-capitalist groups who would attend the convention in terms of 'power centrality' and mapped places where members of the RNC Welcoming Committee had been scoping out for protest.

The HWW-ISAC also included a social networking analysis of the groups involved, which measured the groups' "betweenness", or how embedded they were with other organizer groups. The document links directly to two anarchist websites, including one from a North Austin, TX bookstore. (It would later be revealed that DHS infiltrated an Austin anarchist group, provided them with molotov-making material, and is now charging them with terrorism using the Minnesota Patriot Act.)

What do ISACs do? Where did they come from? The HWW-ISAC document revealed that these "Information Sharing and Analysis Centers" are operating under the radar to spy on people, not just in select areas. There is a much broader organizational framework involved. I was able to find a number of ISACs in operation. This includes:

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about these ISACs is that they are publicly-traded corporations. Some say they are "not for profit", others do not explain anything. But each combines law enforcement-type searches, seizures and investigative work with private enterprise. Read the "About us" on each of their pages to get a sense for how each sector ISAC operates.

ISACs are "private entities", says the Surface Transit ISAC website. They gather reports from academia, vendors, government, local, federal, state, and international law enforcement agencies. The Seattle-based Supply Chain ISAC, for example, says it is a "federally-sanctioned", "information-sharing community" whose goal is to receive "actionable intelligence" to protect the supply chain infrastructure. Among their tools include "the world's most comprehensive covert cargo monitoring".

As if being driven by profit weren't enough, through mergers these federally-sanctioned spy networks are teaming up with private security corporations. In 2006, the Supply Chain ISAC joined forces with another private corporation, LoJack, which is "globally-respected" and has "unrivaled, proven solutions and direct integration with law enforcement" according to their own website.

The Telecom ISAC has members that have "secret" or "top secret" security clearances. It has operated 24x7 since September 2001, and its lines of communication monitoring include email, alternate email, secure message forums, phones, cell phones, faxes, pagers, and in-person briefings.

Under executive orders and presidential directives, the government has authorized these ISACs to work with its DHS people. From EO 13231, October 2001, the document states via REN-ISAC,

"The President shall designate a Chair and Vice Chair to enhance the partnership of the public and private sectors in protecting information systems for critical infrastructures and provide reports on this issue to the President, as appropriate; and propose and foster improved cooperation among the ISACS, the NIPC, and other federal government entities."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Arthur Miller, IWW

Recently I had the opportunity to meet an important labor organizer with the IWW, Arthur J. Miller. A friend of mine who organizes with IWW is working on a Pacific Northwest labor history zine, in which Miller is a prominent figure for the Tacoma region.

As we drank cup after cup of coffee, Miller explained that he didn't want to be treated like a famous object in any academic historical analysis. Nonetheless, he acknowledged a deficit in labor history, especially the industrial history of South Puget Sound, and a lack of inspirational literature written by workers.

Miller stressed the importance of workers writing their own publications, because workers tend to have their own language - their own "shop talk" as he called it - with which to exchange ideas with one another. Each industry is a bit different. And with today's explosion of new service industries, it's likely that a young worker today would have experience only working with service jobs like waiting tables, or doing customer service. It's very important to organize these industries, and the workers who have experience organizing need to write about it.

My friend and I explained that, as young people ourselves, we only had experience with the service industries. We've waited tables, worked in bookstores, we taught students, we were consultants, and in every job we have been in the store-fronts rather than in the back. We've always provided a service instead of the raw material.

To get an idea for Arthur Miller's own writing, check out his pamphlets "Making Anarchist Revolution Possible" and "Principles of Solidarity". In light of anti-union government tactics in the US, such as the Taft-Hartley Act, which allows the President to suppress strikes with police power, and the various decisions of the NLRB, Miller suggests that labor, as a class, should openly defy anti-labor laws in order to break them open. As he explained to us over coffee, solidarity between industries during a strike is key to preventing scabs, thus key to winning a strike. If a business is on strike, but the delivery service workers keep delivering goods for scabs to work with, it defeats the purpose of the strike. The principle there would be for the delivery service workers to stop delivering to the strikers, being openly defiant toward the scab policy of the other business.

Miller has written longer pamphlets too, and tried publishing a book on labor organizing. But the publishing industry wasn't interested in what he had to say. Even publishers who put out leftist literature, he said, only seemed interested in what academic writers had to say. Miller is not impressed with academic leftist writing. He protested that their work is often disengaged from real worker organizing, and tends to get wrapped up in Marxian analysis. Other workers generally don't understand class struggle from the pages of Das Kapital, but through direct experience being under the thumbs of the ruling class.

The academics stay far away from real organizing, and analyze the workers as if they were ants in an anthill. He described it as a class division, but with some degree of solidarity between. The academic leftist's job is to be an academic leftist, which means nothing more than academia, and nothing less than academia. You cannot count on them to really be interested in worker ideas, worker culture, let alone labor organizing.

I can post my friend's labor history zine onto this blog when it's finished.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Linguistic condottieri

Companies that supply services to military contractors make up the third largest contributors of forces in Iraq, proof that mercenary work is highly profitable. A company like DynCorp will supply national armies with civilian police forces, drug eradication services, and linguists, for whatever cause and for the most pay. Its Global Linguists Solutions division works in Iraq with the US Army, but the company also works for the UAE, Australia, Nigeria, and anybody else it can please.

There are new rewards for ESL mercenaries working for US after recent modifications to US immigration rules. The Pentagon recently announced it will be recruiting from the ranks of immigrants with temporary visas, and "accelerating" mercenary routes to US citizenship. The immigrant recruits are valuable to the military if they speak any of 35 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Igbo (a Nigerian language), Kurdish, Napalese, Pashto, Russian, and Tamil. Immigrant mercenaries can apply to become citizens on the first day of active service, will have all their naturalization fees waived, and they can take an oath of citizenship in as little as six months. But if they do not serve in the military, says the NY Times, citizenship is uncertain and "at best agonizingly long, often lasting more than a decade."

"The Army will gain in its strength in human capital," General Freakley said, "and the immigrants will gain their citizenship and get on a ramp to the American dream." ... If the immigrants do not complete their service honorably, they could lose their citizenship.

The message is, 'fight for us and then you might become citizens.' This is the new bargain. Rather than the CIA paying groups of armed rebels in remote places to fight against enemies of the West, the military instead will hire them from its own backyard, as its own soldiers, on its own payroll.

In Renaissance Italy, wars were fought by mercenary soldiers recruited by the condottieri, partly as a business venture, partly as a political speculation. City-states and principalities had to rely on these recruits because the political culture of the time did not allow for efficient coercion. There were no conscript armies. Essentially, the immigrant recruitment mechanism is efficiently coercive, and a politically acceptable form of conscription today.

It is the perfect political and military solution to US problems with 1) immigration, 2) imperial overstretch, and 3) human capital. New waves of immigrants to the US can be molded into pawns for the empire, easily, and asked to prove their allegiance by going above and beyond. The government does not have to rely on middle class whites to go to war for its own sake. Instead it draws from the poorest, and most vulnerable sections of its population: the most efficient type of coercion imaginable.

But mercenary recruits who fight in wars against successful anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist armies usually get wasted by aftermath courts. This is the take-home message. Recall the Luanda trial of 13 British and American mercenaries towards the end of the successful Angolan war of independence from 1961 to 1974, which ended in death sentences. Americans put ads in papers like Soldier of Fortune - a magazine for mercenaries - declaring their willingness to fight for hire "anywhere in the world" against independence movements and rebels.

The US State Department denied that it had condoned the hiring of any mercenaries. Two US lawyers who attended the trial accused the Ford Administration of violating the Neutrality Act by allowing mercenaries to fight overseas. The prosecutor in that trial, Mr. Montiero, scorned the U.S. as "the home of the CIA and the mother of mercenaries" and Henry Kissinger as "the traveling salesman of the international crime syndicate."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hold on to the Feeling, Streetlight People

The myth of Obama's "change" is essentially providing protective cover for entrenched forces of racism, sexism and class domination. Barack Obama is a political figure who wants to unclench your fist, whose presidency will highlight the indeterminacy of change and the paradoxical tendency to legitimate oppression by creating a false sense of formal neutrality and equality.

Mark Tushnet wrote that, "It is not just that rights-talk does not do much good. In the contemporary United States, it is positively harmful." He and the other critical legal theorists argued that just having new laws that instated equal rights for people creates fertile "protective cover" for a deeply embedded social hierarchy to thrive underneath.

The obvious example is the 14th Amendment to the Constitution - a paradox which the civil rights movement had to confront many years later. The law is either not enough, or it could never be enough under the existing political conditions. Just so, a president - any president - is either not enough, or could never be enough under the existing political conditions.

Barack Obama is constantly saying that he needs your help to change America, that he cannot do it alone, that change comes from below. He is wrong about this. If he wanted to push America in an undemocratic direction he could get away with it, easily, because he does not operate in a democracy. What he really means is that he cannot democratically change society at all, and that he needs your help entirely. Without a decisive attack on public consciousness through popular action and mutual aid, then liberal legalism - the false hope of protective cover rhetoric - reinforces the myth that social progress still comes from the top.

Don't believe the hype. Liberal legalism creates a sense of 'the self' that is illusory and ultimately destructive, by empowering corrupt institutions as the agents of change rather than participant cooperatives. But how, we should ask, can change come from below in a system that only invests in a hierachy? In the words of Journey, "Don't stop believin'. Hold on to the feeling, streetlight people!"

Does Tacoma have music history?

It's 9pm and that means its time for band practice at my house. I live just above the basement where two bands, Head Bangs and Rituals, play every other night. So I hear all the songs. The other night we were talking about how Tacoma's music scene is not well known, and its history is too often jumbled with Seattle's history instead. After all, Nirvana wasn't from Seattle either - they were from Aberdeen, WA. This prompted me to see what bands, if any, had come out of Tacoma. I found three bands from the 50s and 60s that still are chart-toppers, so I wanted to share. Tacoma's music scene is built on a strong backbone.

The Ventures

In 1959 a band known as The Ventures burst on the scene with what was called "surf rock". Their music was purely instrumental, but topped the charts. Their songs were used in Quentin Tarantino films, and the group is the most popular American rock group in Japan to date, having outsold the Beatles 2 to 1. This band is, in fact, the best-selling instrumental band of all time - having sold over 100 million records. And they're from, of all places, Tacoma. Here is a taste.

The Wailers

From the same era as The Ventures, The Wailers (not the reggae group), is known to many people as "the first garage band", and the group that gave rise to the Seattle grunge scene. The song "Louie Louie" comes from this group originally. One of their hits is, "Tall Cool One". Here is a short documentary about The Wailers.

The Sonics

Another group from Tacoma - The Sonics - are considered the first punk band. I could not believe this, so I found the Seattle PI newspaper agrees, saying The Sonics "foreshadowed the punk era", which is a bit different. Still, this is big news. Here is a taste of their music.

According to these sources, then, Tacoma is home to the first garage band, the first punk band, and the most popular American instrumental band in Japan. There haven't been too many female artists from Tacoma, but I found one diamond in the rough who goes by the name Junkyard Jane. If you like the sounds of Head Bang, they will be playing in Olympia and in some Tacoma house shows next month, check out their myspace.

More sounds from Tacoma's past.

Vonnegut- Don't Tell Sophie

Monday, February 16, 2009

Olympic Bobsledding Advertisements - a case study

Perhaps you are not watching the 2009 Utah Olympics. But I did for a very, very brief moment and here is what I noticed.

Your vantage point is not exactly the one most suitable for watching sports, so much as watching ads. To view your favorite Olympic team get the gold, you must experience this event as they maneuver around - not the slope of a mountain - but around numerous advertising apexes. The goal is exposure. Okay, so this is really obvious, I know.

There is another thing, too. Capital and the state are two thing you confront when watching the Olympics. The reporters and announcers are constantly comparing nationalities, getting the audience to identify with an imaginary community - not a bad thing in itself - but one that exists within the confines of imaginary legal borders, with a false unification.

For the Olympic Games, advertising creates the frame, creates the experience, creates a spectacle. The ads actually block our view in most scenes. But they are necessary, integral to the experience, and we don't even need to respond to them. They didn't really ask a question in the first place, and so they get no response. What is their use - who can say? This is something Marshall McLuhan and Jean Baudrillard noticed about mass communication in a simulation economy.

Frame by frame, the fantasmagoria is lining up to greet you. A camera patiently waits at the next station, carefully placing another ad into the centerpiece of its broadcast - this time for KONICA MINOLTA. The bobsled finally comes into view and passes by swiftly enough, in a neck-breaking blur. But the whole time the logo KONICA MINOLTA is staring you directly in the face.

Things last no longer than the time it takes for them to happen. From the very beginning to the very end of this one-and-a-half-minute experience, you might have been exposed to thirty or more advertisements. Many of which you probably did not notice. Through your viewfinder you see a little red spot appear at the bottom of the screen, announcing "OMEGA".

It's the perfect mixture of exhilaration and deception.

But to tell you the truth, I don't see how bobsledding can be deceptive. The ads do not deceive. The slope of a mountain does not deceive. Nothing here is deceptive. Everything is pure fact. At bottom there is this truth: nothing deceives, there are no lies, there is only simulation.

Simulation is the separation of value from fact. This is the way I understand it.

Political economy has a strategy of using exchange values and use values as "alibis" for one another when it is convenient. But the new political economy can do no such thing. When the only thing being exchanged are simulated experiences, value is arbitrary in a political economy of signs.

I can spy with my little eye, an INTERSPORT ad... whatever that is!

If we stay with this line of thinking, we become suspicious of reality. But here there is no suspicion, the facts are there before us, "ADIDAS", "KONICA MINOLTA".

The critique of simulation is not a complementary critique of political economy - it is the new critique of political economy, because simulation has already replaced reality.

ADIDAS, by the way, stands for "all day I dream about simulation".

Advertising is just a system of objects, just a technology. Or is it?

By reinventing capital in each successive phase of capitalism, (1) counterfeit, (2) production and (3) simulation, the ads confirm the latest initiative capital has enjoyed since the dawning of the simulation economy. It is a way of life!

The lonley slope of a mountain, an event that was made for television, and one advertisement. There are no accidents here, no catastrophes, no terrorism, no traffic-jams, no panic, and no Soviets. It is just surplus time. But it is still a 100 percent advertising event. This is a desert in real-time, a scenery full of value, and the clock is ticking.

At least we know it was a good day for KONICA MINOLTA.

And America!

The bobsled team see their whole lives flashing before them in one big whooosh! For you it is a moment of truth. To quote Jean Baudrillard from Symbolic Exchange and Death:

"Reality itself founders in hyperrealism, the meticulous reduplication of the real, preferably through another, reproductive medium, such as photography. From medium to medium, the real is volatized, becoming an allegory of death. But it is also, in a sense, reinforced through its own destruction. It becomes reality for its own sake, the fetishism of a lost object..."

Who will have the final word? Let's talk to the bobsledding team and find out.

With the ubiquity of ads here, it's amazing these sports channel announcers have the audacity to say they will return once again to the Olympics after a short "commercial break".

But the American bobsledding team's colors are red - the world about to dawn! - and black - the night that ends at last! - and he's got his fist up in the air, so who can really complain...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Why Israel targets the kids

The direct and witnessed experiences of children in Palestine:

There is a famous photo of a young boy strapped to the hood of an Israeli jeep, to protect the soldiers from Palestinian stones, and hundreds of photos documenting Israeli soldiers' deliberate targeting of children in street attacks. A popular punishment for Palestinian kids who throw rocks at the occupying army is to smash their fingers to pieces. To break the hand of a stone-thrower, the soldiers reasoned, would stop them from throwing stones for at least a month. But few people really have a sense for the scale of state-condoned violence against Palestinian children.

The reason why Israel targets children is because the Palestinian children are active participants in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza's struggle against Israeli military occupation. During the first and second Intifada young kids threw stones, erected roadblocks, burned tires, marched in demos, became lookouts, wrote political slogans on walls, and confronted settlers and soldiers during raids on refugee camps and neighborhoods. Between December 1987 and December 1993, Palestinians under sixteen were 40 percent of an estimated 130,000 Palestinians seriously injured by Israeli soldiers. Essentially one of out every twenty Palestinian children. In order to crush the Intifada, it seemed, all Israel had to do was crush the spirit of the youth.

The IDF violates human rights and the 'rights of the child' as sketched out in the UN declaration, Rights of the Child. But in the few cases where the IDF was tried for their 'unauthorized' assaults, soldiers are punished lightly, and the charges are swept under the table in kangaroo courts. The IDF imposes curfews and other collective punishments on local Palestinan populations, but looks the other way when settlers set out on vigilante rampages against affected Palestinian communities. Thirty seven children were killed during the first five months of the First Intifada from the excessive use of tear gas in confined places. PTSD among children is common. This brutality is summarized in a pithy UNRWA brief, and added to a mound of UN briefs documenting the devastation of an entire people.