Friday, February 25, 2011

The Road to Cairo

From Rortybomb:

There’s a three-prong approach in Governor Walker’s plan that highlights a blueprint for conservative governorship after the 2010 election. The first is breaking public sector unions and public sector workers generally. The second is streamlining benefits away from legislative authority, especially for health care and in fighting the Health Care Reform Act. The third is the selling of public assets to private interests under firesale and crony capitalist situations.

This wasn’t clear to me at first. I thought this was about a narrow disagreement over teacher’s unions. Depending on what you read, you may have only seen a few of these parts, and you may have not seen them put together as a coherent whole. This will be the framework that other conservative governors, and even a few Democratic ones, will use in their state, so it is good to get a working model in place. In order to frame where it stands now, I’m going to chart this and give a set of descriptions and must-read links:

The rest here.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The thesis is sound

Although, I don't know if the facts align with it just yet. I have maintained for some time that the globalization of the manufacturing supply chain meant Karl Marx's vision of the source of social agency and a new phase of human history was obsolete-- unless some labour leadership emerged which was able to organize around the world via the 'net. The ricochets back and forth from Egypt to Wisconsin are undoubtedly too rhetorical to make a substantive difference.....

But since the GFC I routinely peek in on the Tokyo markets in the evenings, and the London market in the wee hours when I wake up. Capital never sleeps, which is why capital is revolutionary. You say you want a revolution? go 24/7.

I'm still waiting for the first net mobilized labour action across all time zones. But maybe we won't have to wait too long. If can do it, why not labour? Then watch the elites soil their knickers.

From Matt Stoller via Yves at NC):

Egyptians are trying to throw off the IMF-imposed austerity measures that created such a system for their country. The new government there is proposing raising taxes on oligarchs, increasing food subsidies, and reducing inequality. Their new cabinet is letting more people apply for “monthly portions of sugar, cooking oil, and rice.” The previous cabinet, “which was comprised of businessmen and former corporate executives”, had refused this.

And look at how Egypt is treating public employees: “Temporary workers who have spent at least three years working for the government will now be given permanent contracts that carry higher salaries, and benefits such as pension plans, and health and social insurance.”

Pension plans, health, and social insurance, oh my! How are they planning to pay for this? One member of a left-of-center party made it quite clear:

Confiscating wealth looted by cronies of the former regime, more egalitarian distribution of wealth, gradual taxation, better government oversight, and placing “a reasonable ceiling” on profitability of goods and services sold to the public are among the measures that should restore an economic balance to society, he said.


Perversely, people may be so beaten down that they only want to side with institutions that are visibly and aggressively advocating for them. This might lead them to recognize that middle class interests are aligned with those of labor, which was the widespread view in the first generation after World War II. However, that also means that the de facto business unionism of the 1970s onward isn’t appealing. People might only like unions when they see strikes, otherwise all they hear about is backroom negotiations. Perhaps effectively striking is actually the way to force people to ask questions about what kind of country they want to live in. I haven’t seen this much labor coverage since, well, ever in my lifetime. There seems to be multiple feedback loops at work: political, global, and economic.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The AP tends to be right wing on foreign affairs

But maybe not on domestic issues, or else this was just too juicy to pass up. I wonder if Fox will mention it --- probably not .. too close to home...

On prank call, Wis. governor discusses strategy

AP – Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker talks to the media at the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., Wednesday, Feb. …
By RYAN J. FOLEY, Associated Press – 13 mins ago
MADISON, Wis. – On a prank call that quickly spread across the Internet, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was duped into discussing his strategy to cripple public employee unions, promising never to give in and joking that he would use a baseball bat in his office to go after political opponents.
Walker believed the caller was a conservative billionaire named David Koch, but it was actually the editor of a liberal online newspaper. The two talked for at least 20 minutes — a conversation in which the governor described several potential ways to pressure Democrats to return to the Statehouse and revealed that his supporters had considered secretly planting people in pro-union protest crowds to stir up trouble.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mark Your Calendars

Saudi dissidents are calling for a much bigger 'Day of Wrath’ on March 13 to press for political freedoms.

All eyes on Bahrain as Gulf tremors frighten oil markets

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Gaddafi looks to be a goner

Al Jazeera's live blog has a lot of details:

February 21

1:00am: Saif El Islam Gaddafi, the Libyan leader's son, is speaking live on Libyan state television. He says he will address the nation without a written speech, in the Libyan dialect.

He says the media has greatly exaggerated the events in Libya, and says the number of casualties is 14, adding that he regrets the deaths of civilians. He also says unions and Islamic groups are beind the protests - and they are benefiting from the situation.

Translated snippets of his speech as he gives it are below:

"Citizens tried to attack the army and they were in a situation that was difficult. The army was not used to dealing with riots," he says.

"Libyan citizens died and this was a tragedy.

"There is a plot against Libya. People want to create a government in Benghazi and others want to have an Islamic emirate in Bayda. All these [people] have their own plots. Of course Arab media hyped this. The fault of the Libyan media is that it did not cover this.

Libya is not like Egypt, it is tribes and clans, it is not a society with parties. Everyone knows their duties and this may cause civil wars.

Libya is not Tunisia and Egypt. Libya has oil - that has united the whole of Libya.

"I have to be honest with you. We are all armed, even the thugs and the unemployed. At this moment in time, tanks are driven about with civilians. In Bayda you have machine huns right in the middle of the city. Many arms have been stolen.

"No one will come to Libya or do any business with Libya.

"We will call for new media laws, civil rights, lift the stupid punishments, we will have a constitution... We will tomorrow create a new Libya. We can agree on a new national anthem, new flag, new Libya. Or be prepared for civil war. Forget about oil.

"The country will be divided like North and South Korea, we will see each other through a fence. You will wait in line for months for a visa.

12:11 am: Libya's ambassador to China, Hussein Sadiq al Musrati, has just resigned on air with Al Jazeera Arabic. He called on the army to intervene, and has called all diplomatic staff to resign.

He made claims about a gunfight between Gaddafi's sons and also claimed that Gaddafi may have left Libya. Al Jazeera has no confirmation of these claims.

12:01 am: The European Union calls on Libya's government to refrain from using force against peaceful demonstrators and address its people's demands for reform.

February 20

11:59 pm: Lebanese officials say Libya is jamming Lebanese TV stations because of their reporting on the crackdown on protesters in the North African country.

11:54 pm: Further reports suggest the 500,000-strong Tuareg tribe in south Libya has heeded the call from the million-strong Warfala tribe to join the uprising. Protesters in Ghat and Ubary, home to Libyan Tuareg clans are reportedly attacking government buildings and police stations.

11:25 pm Online reports claim remaining pro-Gaddafi militia in Benghazi, around the Elfedeel Bu Omar compound, "are being butchered by angry mobs". It is impossible to verify the claims, though Al Jazeera has spoken with several people in the city who say protesters control the city, as security forces flee to the airport.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Turning the Tide for Labor?

God knows, it's been a long cold and lonely winter.

Madison, Wisconsin Friday night. (h/t Daily Kos)

Friday, February 18, 2011

The ruling family of Bahrain: May they rot in Hell

But even as they fled in headlong panic, a helicopter sprayed gunfire at them and more fell. Paramedics from ambulances that had rushed to the scene darted forward to help the wounded, but they too were shot at.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


(h/t Warren Senders)

A surgeon needs a doctor

From the Guardian:

Sadiq al-Ikri, a trauma surgeon at the hospital, was in an intensive care ward after being attacked at the roundabout camp, then handcuffed and repeatedly kicked in the head. Al-Ikri had talked with the Guardian only hours before the attack, inside the small hiking tent he had bought to use as a triage facility for any demonstrators with minor ailments. "We are not looking to overthrow the regime," he had said, offering dried apricots and nuts. "They just simply have to be more accountable, and the king has to play a role as a constitutional monarch."

Colleagues say al-Ikri's tent was slashed open by charging riot police who first handcuffed him then kicked him savagely about the head. As he was being treated by his colleagues, most of the others from the camp who had been wounded were in nearby wards, many with broken limbs and gaping wounds.

I hope the US press is covering this, but I no longer bother to check, they are so captured by the imperial mindset.

Thugs called "Rulers"

Sleeping people, including children, attacked in the middle of the night with live ammunition. No warnings given.

Smite them, O Lord.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Jeff Sachs Off the Reservation

Whatever happened in Russia, he seems intent on redeeming himself. His response to the Obama budget.

More from Amar -- a hopeful analysis

What I find most persuasive is that his analysis makes so much more sense of the actual events we saw with our own eyes than anything else I've read.

It is crucial to remember that this uprising did not begin with the Muslim Brothers or with nationalist businessmen. This revolt began gradually at the convergence of two parallel forces: the movement for workers’ rights in the newly revived factory towns and micro-sweatshops of Egypt especially during the last two years, and the movement against police brutality and torture that mobilized every community in the country for the last three years. Both movements feature the leadership and mass participation of women (of all ages) and youth (of both genders). There are structural reasons for this.

The rest here.

The analysis of Paul Amar looks to be enlightening

Many international media commentators – and some academic and political analysts – are having a hard time understanding the complexity of forces driving and responding to these momentous events. This confusion is driven by the binary “good guys versus bad guys” lenses most use to view this uprising. Such perspectives obscure more than they illuminate. There are three prominent binary models out there and each one carries its own baggage: (1) People versus Dictatorship: This perspective leads to liberal naïveté and confusion about the active role of military and elites in this uprising. (2) Seculars versus Islamists: This model leads to a 1980s-style call for “stability” and Islamophobic fears about the containment of the supposedly extremist “Arab street.” Or, (3) Old Guard versus Frustrated Youth: This lens imposes a 1960s-style romance on the protests but cannot begin to explain the structural and institutional dynamics driving the uprising, nor account for the key roles played by many 70-year-old Nasser-era figures.

To map out a more comprehensive view, it may be helpful to identify the moving parts within the military and police institutions of the security state and how clashes within and between these coercive institutions relate to shifting class hierarchies and capital formations. I will also weigh these factors in relation to the breadth of new non-religious social movements and the internationalist or humanitarian identity of certain figures emerging at the center of the new opposition coalition.

The whole post here.

Matt Stoller on the Egyptian Revolution

In a rush, but this post at NC caught my eye -- and the Paul Amar reference needs to be looked at...

The political architecture of the Mubarak regime was directly pulled from the neoliberal shadow government model, right down to the political rhetoric of toughness as a mask for theft. Paul Amar has by far the most persuasive account of the Egyptian revolution. Amar goes beyond the absurdist Facebook revolution narrative, and points out that what is going on is in effect a youth-driven labor uprising, combined with fights between Mubarak-centric Rubinite elites and the domestic nationalist business community tied to the military. Mubarak had made tight alliances with the Islamic right, while slashing the social safety net and bringing in international investors to open low wage manufacturing (this is part of Mubarak’s son’s Bank of America training, more on that below).

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Grammy for the Chocolate Drops

Carolina Chocolate Drops put an exclamation point on a triumphant year Sunday night, winning a Grammy Award.

The Triangle-based old-time group won the best traditional folk album category for last year's "Genuine Negro Jig," over a formidable field of nominees that included 14-time winner Ricky Skaggs.

Read more:

Trends bubbling around us

OK, maybe the Social Network is long on breathless money and ego hype and short on values.

Try this:

Collaborative Consumption

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Talk about Burying the Lede

This story in the Independent about the US-Pak diplomatic impasse has a nice summary of a very murky incident.

Counterpunch sleuths made a further contribution by noting:

The Florida Secretary of State’s office, meanwhile, which requires all Florida companies, including LLSs (limited liability partnerships), to register, has no record, current or lapsed, of a Hyperion Protective Consultants, LLC, and there is only one company with the name Hyperion registered at all in the state. It is Hyperion Communications, a company based in W. Palm Beach, that has no connection with Davis or with security-related activities.

The non-existent Hyperion Protective Consultants does have a website (, but one of the phone numbers listed doesn’t work, an 800 number produces a recorded answer offering information about how to deal with or fend off bank foreclosures, and a third number with an Orlando exchange goes to a recording giving Hyperion’s corporate name and asking the caller to leave a message. Efforts to contact anyone on that line were unsuccessful. The local phone company says there is no public listing for Hyperion Protective Consultants--a rather unusual situation for a legitimate business operation

It seems pretty clear that the guy is an agent. But boy, if the last line of the Independent story is true, then are we really witnessing a covert, slow-motion effort on the part of the CIA to take on the "rogue" elements in the ISI? This suggests a low grade spy-vs-spy war underway.... and more importantly, that the heart of the Pakistani state is now under extreme conflicting pressures.

India and China watching nervously as the US tries to foreclose on the mortgage of its wayward client.

"CAP'N, the dilithium crystals canna take any more! the engine's gonna blow!"

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Juicy details from Fisk

The Independent:

Last night, a military officer guarding the tens of thousands celebrating in Cairo threw down his rifle and joined the demonstrators, yet another sign of the ordinary Egyptian soldier's growing sympathy for the democracy demonstrators. We had witnessed many similar sentiments from the army over the past two weeks. But the critical moment came on the evening of 30 January when, it is now clear, Mubarak ordered the Egyptian Third Army to crush the demonstrators in Tahrir Square with their tanks after flying F-16 fighter bombers at low level over the protesters.

Many of the senior tank commanders could be seen tearing off their headsets – over which they had received the fatal orders – to use their mobile phones. They were, it now transpires, calling their own military families for advice. Fathers who had spent their lives serving the Egyptian army told their sons to disobey, that they must never kill their own people.

Thus when General Hassan al-Rawani told the massive crowds yesterday evening that "everything you want will be realised – all your demands will be met", the people cried back: "The army and the people stand together – the army and the people are united. The army and the people belong to one hand."

Last night, the Cairo court prevented three ministers – so far unnamed, although they almost certainly inc-lude the Minister of Interior – from leaving Egypt.

But neither the army nor Vice-President Suleiman are likely to be able to face the far greater demonstrations planned for today, a fact that was conveyed to 83-year-old Mubarak by Tantawi himself, standing next to Suleiman. Tantawi and another general – believed to be the commander of the Cairo military area – called Washington, according to a senior Egyptian officer, to pass on the news to Robert Gates at the Pentagon. It must have been a sobering moment. For days, the White House had been grimly observing the mass demonstrations in Cairo, fearful that they would turn into a mythical Islamist monster, frightened that Mubarak might leave, even more terrified he might not.

Army not so divided, it seems

The US and the Egyptian Army may be playing the crowds with a good cop/bad cop routine....

The Guardian reports:

Bahgat said the pattern of accounts from those released showed the military had been conducting a campaign to break the protests. "Some people, especially the activists, say they were interrogated about any possible links to political organisations or any outside forces. For the ordinary protesters, they get slapped around and asked: 'Why are you in Tahrir?' It seems to serve as an interrogation operation and an intimidation and deterrence."

The military has claimed to be neutral in the political standoff and both Mubarak and his prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, have said there will be no "security pursuit" of anti-government activists. But Morayef says this is clearly not the case.

Of course, if the crisis continues, that could change.

Grandpa Mubarak Speaks

and you gotta wonder what the junior officer corps is thinking......

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What Egyptian revolution?

Unless the army splits, ain't nothin gonna happen.

Pepe Escobar at Asia Times lays it out.


Gilbert Achcar, professor of international relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, goes straight to the point, "In order to impose such a thorough change, the mass movement would need to break or destabilize the regime's backbone, that is, the Egyptian army."

Meet the new boss ...
Egypt is a hardcore military dictatorship. The army, essentially paid for by US taxpayer money, is no "honest broker". The Mubarak regime's repression against the protests has not been even more vicious because soldiers in this conscript army would certainly have refused to shoot their own people; thus plan B, the regime's goons and the hated baltagia - state-sponsored thugs in plainclothes - unleashed last week.

Still, the regime was never shaken to the core - because the army remains in charge. Graphic example; the state-owned newspaper al-Gomhuria had a monster headline this Monday reading "New Era" above a photo of Suleiman meeting some of the opposition under a picture of Mubarak.

Mark LeVine writing in AlJazeera is correct that a true revolution would alter the world situation profoundly, for obvious reasons:

Whether Islamist or secularist, any government of "of the people" will turn against the neoliberal economic policies that have enriched regional elites while forcing half or more of the population to live below the $2 per day poverty line. They will refuse to follow the US or Europe's lead in the war on terror if it means the continued large scale presence of foreign troops on the region's soil. They will no longer turn a blind eye, or even support, Israel's occupation and siege across the Occupied Palestinian territories. They will most likely shirk from spending a huge percentage of their national income on bloated militaries and weapons systems that serve to enrich western defence companies and prop up autocratic governments, rather than bringing stability and peace to their countries - and the region as a whole.

They will seek, as China, India and other emerging powers have done, to move the centre of global economic gravity towards their region, whose educated and cheap work forces will further challenge the more expensive but equally stressed workforces of Europe and the United States.

In short, if the revolutions of 2011 succeed, they will force the creation of a very different regional and world system than the one that has dominated the global political economy for decades, especially since the fall of communism.

This system could bring the peace and relative equality that has so long been missing globally - but it will do so in good measure by further eroding the position of the United States and other "developed" or "mature" economies. If Obama, Sarkozy, Merkel and their colleagues don't figure out a way to live with this scenario, while supporting the political and human rights of the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa, they will wind up with an adversary far more cunning and powerful than al-Qa'eda could ever hope to be: more than 300 million newly empowered Arabs who are mad as hell and are not going to take it any more.

Doesn't seem likely that the US and Israel would let that happen.

A revolution seems unlikely led by the twitterati. Without an insurrectionist party (which the MB assuredly ain't) able to organize a militia, hard to see the need for a coup. At this moment Khomeini looks like a genius while Osama bin Forgotten is shown to be the criminal terrorist idiot which he is.

Give us a lever large enough....

Maybe I'm too isolated from the mainstream, but this clip with the rapper Omar Offendum, full of visual cliches as it might be, reminds me what is possible as large numbers of people get empowered and energized...

Once a process starts, it sometimes takes on a life of its own

From the Guardian blog:

9.30pm GMT: Still on the Suez Canal, Ahram Online says that workers from five service companies owned by the Suez Canal Authority have begun "an open-ended sit-in" today:

Over 6000 protesters have agreed that they will not go home today once their shift is over and will continue their sit-in in front of the company's headquarters until their demands are met. They are protesting against poor wages and deteriorating health and working conditions and demanded that their salaries and benefits meet the standard of those working for the Suez Canal Authority.

The Adriana Maneuvre

Michael Wolff on the merger of the week:

It’s an advertising play.

What’s wrong with the Internet and with HuffPo and with AOL is that Internet content CPMs suck. HuffPo, as a senior-most media buyer told me over lunch last week, will sell anything and do anything for an ad buy—becoming the true generic mix-up of the sponsored and the true—and still it couldn’t muster a CPM that was worth much. That would be true of AOL, too. What the business demands, then, is ever-more traffic—and this is where the combination is arguably "one and one makes three" (we conjure an extra page view from your traffic, you conjure one from ours)—ever more miserly economies of scale, and a whole new level of clout.

That last point is the play: clout.

The proposition is that AOL is on the way to controlling so much traffic and so much content real estate that it can start to have more meaningful, more creative, more—spread your arms, and gesticulate widely—wide-ranging conversations with marketers and media buyers. The combination of so many opportunities and so much one-stop ease and so much smart and efficient packaging can result in significant margin improvement

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cascading Effects of Extinction

"The buds ripen and send a colour signal but they don't open up until a bird comes along and squeezes the top and if that doesn't happen the plant doesn't get pollinated. It turns out these native pollinating birds are pretty much the only birds that know the trick of opening these."

More here.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Michael Lewis' Ireland Piece Trashed

Turns out that many are disputing the substance of the Lewis piece as too soft on the soon to be departed government -- though in my reading so far nobody is disputing the 7 million euro for 7 pages....

Alea has a post and comments that outline the main complaints.

Ecological Owenism

The early nineteenth century socialists tinkered with new forms of organization as they grappled with the industrial age.

Here is something along the lines of my thinking lately. Put this in Labrador or some arctic archipeligo, and we have one of the possible futures of humanity.

By our analysis, most of the technologies needed for a sustainable and pleasant standard of living could be reduced to the cost of scrap metal + labor. There is immense potential for social transformation once this technology is fully developed for building interconnected self-sufficient communities, since people will be freed from material constraints and able to seek self-actualization.

A lot more to explore at Open Source Ecology

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Writing Fiction Can Be Lucrative

A Million Euros per Page.......

But in the seven-page memo to Brian Lenihan—for which the Irish taxpayer forked over to Merrill Lynch seven million euros—they kept whatever reservations they may have had to themselves.

Michael Lewis on the Irish mess.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Perimeter Defence

The negotiations will be politically controversial, especially on what could be the eve of a spring election. While it plays to key Conservative priorities – protecting the economy while deterring crime – many Canadians oppose closer ties to what they see as a declining power that has compromised its democracy in the war on terrorism.

nice to see Michael defending Canadian sovereignty after his bang up job cheerleading the Iraq war.

I have no doubt the US will annex Canada later this century as the midwest turns to desert, when today's debates will seem quaint.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

1789 meet 1979 (1917, stand aside please)

Slavoj Zisek in the Guardian:

Even in the case of clearly fundamentalist movements, one should be careful not to miss the social component. The Taliban is regularly presented as a fundamentalist Islamist group enforcing its rule with terror. However, when, in the spring of 2009, they took over the Swat valley in Pakistan, The New York Times reported that they engineered "a class revolt that exploits profound fissures between a small group of wealthy landlords and their landless tenants". If, by "taking advantage" of the farmers' plight, the Taliban are creating, in the words of the New York Times "alarm about the risks to Pakistan, which remains largely feudal," what prevented liberal democrats in Pakistan and the US similarly "taking advantage" of this plight and trying to help the landless farmers? Is it that the feudal forces in Pakistan are the natural ally of liberal democracy?

The collapse of the left's ideology is in large part due to a lack of development of an economic theory of global processes which could serve as a credible alternative to neoliberalism. We have always been on one planet, but now it is obvious to all. Yet while the plutocracy has effectively abandoned the nation-state -- the left has not really managed to do it.

The proverbial "Ace in the Hole"

Egypt's US-backed army will prevent Islamists from ever controlling the country's government, a US Senator has told Reuters, stressing Americans must not be "ashamed" of backing that military.
"Every American should be very appreciative of the fact that for years we've been providing aid to the Egyptian army in terms of equipment and training, because that army is our ace in the hole, as a world, to make sure Egypt doesn't go into a radical state," said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.
Asked whether he meant the army would step in should Egyptian voters pick an Islamist government, Graham replied: "It is my belief that the Egyptian army will protect the Egyptian people from becoming a radical Islamic state."
"That is my hope, that is my prayer," Graham, a member of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters. "So the fact that we provided the aid to their military is not something we should be ashamed of."
Graham also praised the way President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for doing "a very good job" of handling the crisis thus far, but called for a global "plan" to bring about a smooth political transition.

Except that it is a conscript army........