Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Foreign Hoardes Threaten Native Species

I'm sure this article about the "invasion" of Scottish waters by a seaweed usually found in the Pacific Ocean was not written by racists, but isn't it funny how easily the language of nationalism and immigration can migrate to the field of marine biology?

What do immigrants and Japanese seaweed have in common? They both out breed us:

"Conservationists believe the seaweed's rapid growth could potentially threaten other native species."

The danger of this dangerously fertile and adaptible foreign seaweed is that it will damage and eventually replace the much less fertile, more fragile (pampered, you might say) native species. Conservationists are disgusted at the thought. We need to protect our own because, well, you know:

"At the moment we don't know what impact it will have on marine wildlife, although it is likely it will reduce the diversity of our native seaweeds by outgrowing them, as it has in other parts of Europe," she said."

A dire warning indeed. Clearly our European brothers and sisters have already come under the iron grip of this invading watery menace. It's tentacles have now reached our shores and we must act.

Here's some advice:

...it is important boat users and others take care not to spread it further."

You get that, then? Don't let the foreigners get into or onto your boat or you'll spread them all over the place.

I'm absolutely petrified. I mean, I'm not seaweedist or anything but surely it's only right and proper that we look after our own? What's wrong with that? We can't be expected to provide a home for every species of seaweed that happens to weedle its way into our delicate eco-system, can we? To be honest, I think the people over at Scottish Seaweed First! have it right.

You've been warned Scotland. Now, arise and expell the foreign hoardes! (Unless they make a tasty soup, in which case, some of them can stay).

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Apotheosis of New Labourism

The government's latest 'welfare reform' is horrible on an almost mundane level - mundane in the sense that, like most, I wasn't really that surprised by the extent of its abuses of the welfare principle.

The character who does interest me, however, is the man responsible for this policy roll-out, James Purnell.

Purnell is New Labour incarnate. A public schoolboy and Oxford graduate with an emanantly punchable face. He served his time under Blair and now he's ready for the big push. Isn't it interesting how the plans are being rolled out while Brown is taking his "Fuck Me, He's Useless" Roadshow to the Middle East? Seems to me like Purnell is making a little move on Flash Gordon. And what better way to do that than having a go at the poor and disabled? There's always a few votes in that, you know.

As someone who's spent his life in Glasgow, I know a little about Incapacity Benefit (IB). Most people who are on it are quite ill. Some people who are on it are not that ill, but have medical problems. But that's not really the issue is it? The reason these people don't have jobs is that the industries that employed their fathers have gone, replaced by work in fast-food restaurants and call centres.

The government isn't interested in getting these people "back to work" - the cost of re-training all these people would be astronomical. It's interested in the apperance that it's being "tough" on the disabled and the poor. Going by the comments over at the BBC's "Have Your Say" shout-a-thon, it's popular with the people who read the BBC News website, and why shouldn't it be?

Remember, there's always votes in blaming the poor - it's an Iron Law.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The U.S Oil Industry? Nationalize it!

Very interesting poll here, showing that "only" 47% of Americans oppose the nationalization of the oil industry. The remainder is made up of about thirty percent in favour of nationalization and the rest "unsure". A plurality of Democratic voters favour nationalization and about two thirds of Republicans oppose it.

It's all moot, obviously, but it's a interesting sign, if anyone doubted it, of the leftward swing in American society over the course of the last few years. In the home of neoliberalism, the blowback seems to be gaining pace.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Callinicos on Obama/Empire

There is much to agree with in Alex Callinicos' article on Obama in Socialist Worker this week. He rightly lambasts Obama for his pathetic speech to AIPAC and his weasel words about "the military option" and the Iranian nuclear issue. He correctly claims, following Schlesinger, that the U.S President, for a variety of reasons, wields most of their power in the foreign policy arena. He suggests that Obama may, once President, "water down" his opposition to the Iraq War - so important to his victory over Clinton in the primaries.

However, I must admit that parts of the article left me completely baffled.

First of all, in a strangely weird vein he claims that part of Obama's success is that he offers the U.S ruling class a "better face" for their exploits across the world. Now, I don't know if there capitalists who support Obama because he'll make imperialism more palatable - perhaps there are. But this doesn't explain his popularity or his defeat of Clinton in the primary process. There are not many members of the U.S ruling class voting in the Democratic primary in Wyoming, I'd guess.

Secondly, most of the more venal members of the foreign policy intelligentsia are not rushing to support Obama. Men like Bill Kristol, the egregious Charles Krauthammer and the late Christopher Hitchens have not been desperate to jump aboard. True, there are some members of the liberal foreign policy establishment (Samantha Power, Brzezinski) who have hitched their wagon on to Obama, but this has more to do with his opposition to the war than anything else.

Alex then says Obama's victory was "clinched" by superior fundraising and that this shows how he will be "dominated" by money, just like all the other candidates. It's true that Obama did raise more money than Clinton, although as I said in a previous post, none of it was from so-called "federal lobbyists" and lots of it was from ordinary people making small donations. He powered his campaign by a mixture of donations from "traditional" Democratic sources (liberal sections of the capitalist class, unions) and a healthy stream of small donors, contributing ten or twenty dollars a time.

The question also must be asked: if the idea of a black man as President (or a "black Emperor", as Alex puts it) is so appealing to the U.S ruling class, why is Obama the first? I mean, if having black men running the show is so appealing, why all this resistance to it? Why all the support for McSame? Why all the "questions" about his past? Why is the current President, an appalling Imperialist war criminal positively aching to see America's dominion spread far and wide, so supportive of McCain - a man with whom he shares a volatile past as well as party allegiance?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Lenin On Clinton/Obama

It's becoming clearer and clearer that, bar a complete diasaster, Barack Obama will become the next POTUS. Rasmussen's daily Presidential tracking poll has him up 8 against McCain. This increase in his support since last week (when they were tied) is a result of increased support for Obama amongst Democrats. The end of Clinton's campaign is helping Democratic party identifiers to coalesce around the presumptive nominee of the party. Given the current ratio of Democrats to Republicans, Obama only needs to mobilize the Democratic base to a sufficient degree and he wins.

But Lenin is not enthusiastic about the prospect. He says that Hillary would be a bad choice for VP, which I agree with. He then says that Hillary "commanded" the white working class vote. He lists some of the "overwhelmingly white" states she won - West Virginia, Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania. He claims this can't be explained purely by racism (a point I'll come back to) and instead it can be explained by Clinton's "populist" economic rhetoric as opposed to Obama's "neoliberalism".

Obama won numerous poor and very white states - Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Kansas, Montana, Oregon. Most of the states Lenin listed are a part of the "Appalachian" midwest, and populated with the "tough" descendants of Scots-Irish immigrants. They are states with a history of racial tension, arising either from the trauma of desegregation (like West Virginia) or from acrimonious economic competition in the 70's (like Ohio). These racial tensions have been exarcebated by the process of deindustrialization that took place in these states under Reagan and Clinton. This clearly hurt Obama badly in these states. In West Virginia, 19% of white voters said they voted against Obama "partly because of his race". In Kentucky, this numer was 17%. These are the people, in other words, who openly admitted to pollsters that they were racist. The number of racist votes is likely to be higher still. It would be a good guess to say that up to a third of Clinton votes in these states were explicitly racist - i.e against Obama because he's black - in nature. Clinton did not have play upon fear of the black peril - these people fear the black peril constantly, instinctially - it's what consumed their parents' lives and it's what consumes their own lives.

In a state like Montana, which has an African-American population of 0.5%, situated a way up in the north, the ripples from civil rights and deindustrialization never really made an impact. Obama won this state, filled with its non-latte drinking, quite poor white folks, by sixteen percentage points. Therefore, it was not the "whiteness" or the "working class" nature of states that made them favour of Clinton, it was a combination of poverty and decline and a history of racial tension and racism.

Lenin also claims that Obama is a "neoliberal" candidate. I'm not entirely sure what this means with Lenin. In a discussion in his comments board some time ago, he claimed that the SNP government in Scotland that has recently scrapped fees, reintroduced grants, ended PFI, opposed Trident, restarted social housing projects and and made moves to fund local government through an income-based tax was also "neo-liberal". His proof? They've cut corporation tax. One wonders what usefulness this term has when it covers everyone from Alex Salmond of Nicholas Sarkozy. But, let's take Lenin at his word. Is this true about Obama?

Well, as I said in my post a few weeks back, Obama is not a radical. He supports more tax on those earning more than $100,000 a year (this would be called "Old Labourism" here), a hike on the capital gains tax (which is not popular), he supports "taking back the department of labor for labor", raising the minimum wage, "renegotiating" NAFTA, more pay for teachers and, of course, he's ended the practice of the Democratic Party being funded by Federal Lobbyists. Lenin pointed out that Clinton supported the (John McCain) policy of freezing the federal gas tax for the summer. Obama does not and for good reason - it was and is a pointless gimmick. It would save your average American 30 cence a day. While the price of oil rockets up, any savings would likely be completely neutralized. It's a crap idea.

Lenin is right that this policy and others helped to create an "impression" that Clinton was to the left of Obama on the economy - but she wasn't. The most genuinely progressive Democratic candidate, outside of Kucinich, John Edwards endorsed Obama for a reason. The "rustbelt" trade unions like the United Mine Workers and the United Steelworkers endorsed Obama for a reason. These people couldn't afford another Clinton presidency.

Lenin says that he thinks Obama will be just as bad as Clinton (Bill) when gets into the White House. Of course, this is pure speculation. What I will say is that Obama, presuming he's elected, will almost certainly be working with a Senate and House packed with Democrats. He will be elected to euphoria around the country and a genuine feeling of popular power - even revolt. These forces will be hard to contain.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Anti-Semitic Treaty?

Hasn't it occured to anyone else how Anti-Semitic the ban on cluster bombs is? I mean, it's obvious the anti-Israel extremists are trying to take away Israel's right to deploy weapons which are, and I quote, "highly useful on the battlefield".

That's why they were used to extensively during Israel's war with Lebanon (or "Hezbollah" if you bend that way) in 2006, one presumes. In total, the Israelis dropped around 4 million "bomblets", up to a million of which may not have exploded. These unexploded bomblets are responsible for the death and disfiguration of up to 200 Lebanese since the end of the war. Children are more likely to be the victims of this since the round "bomblets" can be confused for toys.

Luckily Israel, along with other brave nations such as the U.S, India, China, Russia and Pakistan, is not a signatory to this outrageous treaty and so will continue to deploy this "highly useful battlefield device" whenever the terrorists threaten our way of life.

Well, thank god for that!

Friday, May 16, 2008

"Elitism", Class and American Politics

An interesting article in the Worker this week outlining the impact of class on American political discourse focussed on the recent attack against Obama that he is an "elitist". The fake furore erupted months ago when Obama was recorded saying that people in rural American towns had grown "bitter" and become "attached to guns and religion" because of the failure of the American political system to deliver meanginful improvements in their lives.

Now, apart from being demonstrably true, this quote and the way the media reported it indicated some quite interesting aspects of the "American Ideology". Zizek said in the 'Sublime Object' that ideology - attempts to explain and interpret the world by way of a single operation (Marxism, Capitalism, Ecology) - always leaves behind a "real, hard kernel" that cannot be incorporated. This "constitutive lack" is the fragment of the real world that not only cannot be incorporated ("quilted") but is also, in a sense, crucial to the formation of the ideology in the first instance.

To give an example: capitalist ideology would say that we are "free" under capitalism - free speech, free labour, freedom of religion, association etc, etc. And whilst this is true (let's imagine that these freedoms are not being eroded every day) the "freedom" we enjoy under capitalism exists simultaneousy, and indeed is derived from, a very real unfreedom - that is, the fact that every worker under capitalism is forced to sell their labour power to capitalists.

In America, this works in quite a specific way. American society is built on the prospect (illusion) of social mobility for those at the bottom - the American dream (so-called because, as George Carlin says, you need to be asleep to believe in it). This has helped to create the illusion, and concomitant political discourse, of "classlessness".

But what is the reality? The reality is that not only is American one of the most unequal, class divided societies in the world but that it is increasingly so. The bottom 80 percent of Americans owned only 15 percent of all wealth in 2001, a three percentage point decrease since the 1980's (we should all know how and why this came about). In the industrialized world, only in Switzerland does the inequality instrinsic to capitalism appear as stark as it does in America.

The point being that when Obama mentions class, however obliquely, it arouses displeasure precisely because "class" is this "real, hard kernel" which cannot be incorporated. Class is the trauma, the original moment of crisis that warped the social space for the "classless" society. So the media elites and the politicians flap around for a insult (elitism! that'll do), a way of burying the trauma again, so that polite discourse can carry on. Talking about class to an American politician/journalist would be, for them, like trying to hold a discussion with someone who had a great gaping, weeping sore on their forehead - uncomfortable, all averted eyes and sneaked glances.

The only way it can possibly be dealt with is by finding a useful proxy - this is where "elitism" becomes useful. According to this metric, Barack Obama is part of the elite, but Hillary Clinton and John McCain aren't. The fact that Clinton and McCain are both from hugely powerful and wealthy political families and Obama is not isn't important. "Elitism" here refers to a demeanour, a certain "folkish" quality that can be conferred on politicians who hold your "values".

George Bush, that down-home ordinary Texan who chews tobacco, hunts and loves God is not part of the Elite. Obama, the snobbish, effete liberal who Hates America and is probably a sleeper agent for Al-Qaeda, is part of the Elite.

So, how do the American elites deal with "class"? That's it, by not dealing with it.

To be fair, this is how I routinely deal with my problems.

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