Friday, January 05, 2007
"But our main purpose is to make the case that the five-year purgatory through which our predecessors had to pass through back then is very similar to the nearly three decades of purgatory many of today’s workers have passed through since a similar, but far more slowly developing, decline in mass living standards began in 1980."
How can they claim a decline in mass living standards? There is no reasonable interpretation of any data that says that our standard of living has declined. People are living longer, eating more, shopping more, are more likely to be employed, have better health care, can surf the web, buy better cars, shop at Walmart, etc., etc., etc. Any argument based on a decline of living standards since 1980 is patently absurd.
"SOS [Soldiers of Solidarity] has made it clear what it stands for in its numerous public statements distributed throughout the movements of left-wing trade-union activists in North America and beyond. They communicate mainly through the Internet, a powerful medium of mass communication. The Internet is a medium open to anyone with access to a computer. It has supplied rank-and-file workers with a powerful organizational and educational tool. And there can be no effective grass-roots organizing without teaching workers the lessons of labor history, its victories and defeats."
I sure am glad that Socialist Viewpoint has finally understood the internet. I think they must have been talking to that expert from Alaska, Ted Stevens, who thinks the internet is a series of tubes that get clogged, and then people's data can't get through. It is quite amazing that, despite our decline in mass living standards, rank-and-file workers are now equipped with a powerful organizational and educational tool. Regarding the last sentence in the quoted paragraph - it appears to be a non-sequitur. Or at least I can't follow the train of thought.
"In fact, anyone who thinks seriously about the change in mass consciousness from the time of the official beginning of the Vietnam War can sense that a state of mass radicalization has engulfed America."
I've quoted a complete paragraph here. If it is out of context that is not on purpose. I am honestly clueless as to what this sentence is supposed to mean. Why, for example, is it important that we measure changes in "mass consciousness" only from the "official" beginning of the Vietnam war (whatever that is), rather than the unofficial beginning? What is "mass consciousness" anyway? Is that the same thing as the rise of Christian fundamentalism? When I look outside, I see US flag decals and yellow ribbons on almost every car. Am I witnessing "mass consciousness"?
"The usual argument offered by so-called professional labor experts and pro-labor professors—many of whom are on the payrolls of the billionaire owners of the mass media—is the myth that there has been and continues to be a process they call the 'deindustrialization of America.' "
Since when are professors beholden to the owners of mass media? Not likely. Besides, SOS members are on the payroll of the billionaire owners of GM. Are they beholden to the opinions of GM? Not likely, and why should professors be any different? This whole chain of thought is silly. Anyway, the article then goes on to say that the "myth" of deindustrialization has a grain of truth. Indeed, by the time one gets to the end of the article, the so-called myth has been substantially vindicated. For example:
"Although the workers in basic industry are certainly fewer, both absolutely and relatively, they retain exactly the same power to make the wheels of industry stop and go."
So though deindustrialization is a myth, nevertheless there are fewer workers in "basic industry". Is the internet "basic industry"? How about Microsoft, or Google, or eBay? How about Walmart, or FedEx, or Craigslist? How about Toyota, Honda, Hyundai or Sony? What about "Made in China"?
Here is the truth: the workers at GM and Delphi have it within their power to put GM and Delphi out of business. Of this there is no doubt. But their power to shut down "basic industry" is nearly zero. There are just too many other ways of putting cars together, and too many other people happy to earn that extra buck, that GM and Delphi will be missed only for a couple of weeks, if that long. GM is going broke anyway; whether that is because the UAW has simply priced itself out of the market, or more because they can't build cars that anybody wants to buy, or for some other reason, I do not know. I think SOS is rather like the mechanics in the Titanic's engine room arguing to go on strike. It is "basic industry" to be sure, but a lost cause and not one on which the world depends.
Anyway, if readers have the stomach for a few thousand words of nonsense, then they can read the editorial themselves and draw their own conclusions.
Monday, January 16, 2006
Hot & Cold on Condi
I don't know if the First Lady was voicing an opinion that has a strong standing in the Republican Party, since many of its members have learned to wear high collars that keep their red necks from view.
This is something of a slur - frankly, I think most of the rednecks are Democratic, or at least they are in the part of the country where I live. I like Condoleeza, and frankly, I hope she runs.
Unfortunately, she has decided she doesn't want to run. I can't say as I blame her. I don't know of a single Presidential candidate who won in November who had not previously run for high office - and congressman does not count as high office. Politics ain't beanball, and anybody who runs for president needs to be experienced. Condoleeza, however smart and charming she might be, lacks experience - a smart Democratic machine is going to turn her into mincemeat. Hillary understands this - she ran for Senator before seriously contemplating a presidential bid. But Condoleeza has never run for office. She doesn't have a chance.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
The Bishop & the Professor debate evolution
This article is inspired by an exchange in www.firstthings.com, a magazine edited by John Richard Neuhaus. It mostly concerns issues of culture, art and theology, issues which are of little interest to me. But on the sidelines they discuss science, and in particular the relationship between religion and so-called “neo-Darwinism.” This I do find interesting.The latest exchange is between Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, and Stephen Barr, professor of physics at the University of Delaware. Now I confess that I do not understand the issues under debate. Perhaps it is because I do not have easy access to the Bishop’s initial essay in which he allegedly disputed Catholic teaching on evolution, or perhaps it is because the issues under discussion are so sophisticated and subtle that a rube like me cannot hope to comprehend. Or perhaps I am no longer sufficiently in tune with Catholicism to take the dispute seriously. Whatever, it seems to me that the parties agree on nearly everything. More-->
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
The Goals of the Left
Ascher's thesis is interesting, but in my view wrong. First, it assumes a complex psychology that is beyond any mass (or semi-mass) movement. Mass movements always work at the lowest common denominator level, and I think it is impossible for them to have ulterior motives; what you see is what you get. Hence Ascher's thesis has the ring of a conspiracy theory.
Second, it assumes that Leftists are simply people of ill-will. That may be true for some individuals (as it is for some folks on the Right), but it is not true generally.
And finally, there are counter examples. Since Ascher mentions Trotskyists, I'll simply point out that the SWP has distanced itself from radical Islam. They refer to both the Jihadists of Iraq and also groups like Hamas as "bourgeois." For those in the know, this is a lower level of Hell than the nearly ubiquitous "petty-bourgeois" epithet. The logic of their position is questionable, (and I'll probably blog more about that later), but the political virtue is beyond doubt. In this they distinguish themselves from the competition, who refer to the "insurgency" as the insurgency.
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
The January edition has an article by Jeff Mackler on the decline of the dollar. For more background, the reader is referred to the 2004 Political Resolution, which is a (not very) succinct statement of SA’s positions. Here is their position in a nutshell: Enjoy--->
Monday, January 10, 2005
The Militant: Cuba Defends Itself
The Militant quotes young Cuban citizen-soldiers as follows:
Julio César Arteaga, a young first sergeant from Camagüey, told the press he had received six years of advanced weapons training. “What sets us apart from an invading army is our background and the values we have acquired,” he said. “There could be soldiers with a material and technical support system superior to ours, but they could never have our commitment to our revolution and our nation.”
Rafael Ramos Traba, an agricultural worker and reservist, made a similar point. “We aren’t just prepared physically and militarily but also psychologically and above all ideologically, which makes us stronger and even invincible against an enemy that needs to draw the lesson that we shouldn’t be underestimated.”
According to Mercedes Valdés, a young soldier in her first year of anti-aircraft artillery training, “These days have helped me a lot in every way. First because I know I am being useful, and secondly because, even though it’s not an exam, for me Bastión 2004 is my first trial under fire.”
Mr. Traba sounds like members of those African militias who believe they are invincible because of witchcraft - bullets can't hurt them. There probably isn't much daylight between witchcraft and revolutionary thinking, so if the Africans are right, then so is Mr. Traba. But I doubt even Mr. Traba believes this.
Ms. Valdes comes off worst of all, for she states that she "is being useful." Surely she knows this cannot be true, because if there is one stunning fact about the Cuban defense mobilization it is that it was a complete waste of time. Any student of the Iraqi invasion can see that if the Americans were serious about invading Cuba, the government would be overthrown within 24 hours.
I'll let readers of The Militant article judge for themselves, but the examples given in the article are pathetic: distributing textile work to homes in case the factory is bombed, and building tunnels all around the country. Look how much good that did Saddam's government?
The sad part is that The Militant humiliates its correspondents. I'm sure that Arteaga, Traba and Valdes realize how inane their comments are. They are forced to utter such nonsense; but the editors and writers for The Militant should know better. Why do they publish the names of Cubans forced to grovel in their own vomit?
(Question for readers: Am I unethical in reprinting those names here?)
Saturday, January 08, 2005
The Militant: "Geology indisputably played a role. "
- We are hopelessly hypocritical. All the aid we are giving to Indonesia is just a figleaf to hide the fact that we're responsible for the tsunami in the first place. All we're really doing is stealing Indonesia blind, and now giving some small fraction of that back while pretending to be super-generous.
- There was never any investment in a tsunami-warning system, and of course this demonstrates just how heartless and evil the imperialists really are. But we can't win no matter what, because The Militant points out that in a poor country such a warning system wouldn't be very effective. Even so, we're still guilty. I searched the back issues of The Militant for "tsunami warning." The results come up empty, so not even The Militant thought of this in advance. Those imperialists are really clever, aren't they?
- The reason a tsunami warning system wouldn't have worked is because the infrastructure in Indonesia is really, really bad. And guess whose fault that is? Colonialism, of course. Presumably, prior to the Dutch arrival in the 16th century, Indonesia was full of superhighways, abundant electricity, and sophisticated early warning systems. And it would all still be there if the Dutch hadn't stolen it!
"The response of Cuba’s revolutionary government to recent natural disasters is a sharp illustration of the potential that exists to minimize the loss of human life during such calamities and in their aftermath when workers and farmers run society and are mobilized to defend the interests of the vast majority rather than the profits of the wealthy few. The Cuban example stands in stark contrast to the chaos, scarcity, and corruption that have characterized the response to the Indian Ocean tsunami by imperialist regimes and the capitalist governments of the affected countries."
Unlike Indonesia, Cuba had several days to prepare (courtesy of the US NOAA), for a hurricane that did NOT directly hit Havana (contrary to what The Militant implies). But yes, let's give the Cubans some credit; now, if they could only feed their people and keep the lights on, it might be a country where somebody would actually want to live.
But geology did play a role. The Militant doesn't completely ignore the truth.
Anyway, this really is much too long, about 2300 words. I've tried to shorten it, but frankly, I think it says what needs to be said. I hope you find it interesting. Enjoy--->
Friday, January 07, 2005
The rule I live by is to try to create the win/win situation. I learned this idea first from Steven Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, but I've thought about it more since then. Covey addresses it primarily to the world of work, and also thinks it is consistent with Christianity's Love your neighbor as you love yourself. I believe it applies well beyond the workplace, and it is nowhere near as stringent as the rule set in front of Christians. Unlike love, the win/win way is actually practicable.
The view toward charity is one big difference: Love requests that ideally you give everything you own to the poor; there is no limit on how much charity is enough. Win/win, on the other hand, calls charity by its proper name - win/lose, or even lose/lose. From the win/win perspective, charity can never be more than a necessary evil.
Charity probably is necessary for tsunami victims, and as I said, even I have contributed a small pittance. But much more helpful are the tourists who are returning to Phuket, and market people who are re-opening their stalls in Sri Lanka. Those people are creating win/win, and those people will truly improve the lives of tsunami victims.
Thursday, January 06, 2005
Now I admit, as the son of an immigrant and the husband of an immigrant, it is really hard for me to be anti-immigrant. But despite that disclaimer, logic surely is on the pro-immigration side. Compare the US to Russia or Europe. Russia (population = 0.14 billion) is right next to China (population = 1.3 billion), and if the Chinese ever took a mind to settle in Siberia, Russian control of the Far East is gone. Likewise Europe (population 450 million) is right next to the Islamic Middle East (population 300 million). Here the problem is only partially demographics, but mostly an enormous cultural divide that makes it very difficult for Europeans to assimilate Muslims.
Now consider the United States (300 million) next door to Mexico (100 million). Even if every last Mexican picked up sticks and moved to the United States (and then including all the Mexicans who are already here) they wouldn't make up more than 40% of the population. In otherwords, we are in no danger of being demographically swamped.
But more than this, Mexicans adhere to a Christian religion (mostly Catholic, but increasingly Protestant, with also a small Jewish population), and speak a language (Spanish) that is as closely related to English as any. The cultural divide is as small as it can possibly get. Beyond this, Mexicans are politically quiescent, they are hard workers and they don't complain. What is there not to like? Bring 'em on!
But we do need control over our borders. Obviously, criminals and terrorists can hide amongst the large number of economic migrants who want to come and work here. We need to keep them out. An further, we can't accept immigrants faster than we can assimilate them. So a balance needs to be struck, and fortunately, President Bush seems to finding that balance. It is one of the reasons I voted for him. As I said before, What's there not to like?
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
A reader writes...
Q. "What I don't get about these socialist parties is who they align themselves with. While in theory, their ideas make sense, they always seem to run with open racists and bigots who do not even hide it. Which of course calls into question the underlying party itself."
A. Basically, my friend is correct - Socialists turn out to be racists. But there are some unexpected nuances here. I'll blog about that in the future.
Q. "Why the fascination with prostitution?"
A. The subject combines politics, travel, geography, sociology, ethics, economics, business and sex, all into one big pot. What can be more interesting than that? Besides, I like prostitutes and I know something about it.
I'll blog about other subjects besides prostitution. It's just that this week I've got to get the Donna Hughes fisk completed.
More thoughts on Swedish prostitution laws
Far be it from me to judge what lurks in the heart of a Swede, but there is at least one other alternative explanation. Swedish women are not likely to be prostitutes, and thus the labor force would have to be imported. Rather than importing the immigrants, Swedes export the customers to Thailand. Hence the anti-prostitution law can be interpreted as an anti-immigrant law. I don't know if this is true, but it is a reasonable explanation.
This begs the question: Why are Swedish women uninterested in prostitution? I surmise three possibilities:
- Sweden is an egalitarian society. Women will sell themselves only to men who are significantly richer than they are. Since few such men exist in Sweden, Swedish women have no incentive to become prostitutes.
- Sweden is an aging society, and thus there are relatively few young women, all of whom have better options than prostitution. (This argument can be criticized: there is a shortage of young women in China, but there it is having the opposite effect.)
- Sweden has essentially abolished traditional marriage, reducing all sexual relations to a "what have you done for me lately" level. In this sense, all Swedish women are closer to being prostitutes than, say, their American counterparts.
These are speculations. I have no idea which, if any of these ideas are true.
Monday, January 03, 2005
Swedes in Thailand
So is it a surprise that the largest contingent of tourists in Phuket are from Sweden? Of course not - Sweden is a small, rich, country, and it is perfectly easy for men to travel to sunnier and friendlier climes. And apparently they do - big time. Maybe this is good news for Sweden (they don't have to put up with prostitutes), but it is definitely good news for Thailand. More money, more development, less poverty.
Saturday, January 01, 2005
Donna Hughes is getting a free ride; her essays on trafficking and sex abuse are accepted without comment. She is a leading spokeswoman for that brand of feminism I call “trafficking feminism.” These people hold that millions of women and girls worldwide are being “trafficked” for prostitution and other forms of “sexual abuse.” This is being done against their will, and enforced through deception, violence and rape. The world, according to Hughes, has to finally stand up and take notice and put a stop to this heinous crime. (Enjoy --->)
UPDATE: The original article on which the Stupid Ukrainian Girl is based is found here.
Ukraine and "Trafficking Feminists"
According to the trafficking feminists, the “Natasha trade” involves the "trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation[. It] is a serious problem in Ukraine affecting 100,000s of victims and their families," (here) all to staff the brothels of Europe. These women, so they say, have been kidnapped or tricked into going with the trafficker, told they would be waitresses and office workers, but then raped and brutalized into prostitution.
I’m sure this happens. I don’t think the trafficking feminists are totally making this up. But the fishy part comes when one looks at the recent political events in Ukraine. Neither the Orange nor the Blue parties mentioned the theft of women and girls as part of their campaign platform. So this doesn’t add up: hundreds of thousands of women and girls just disappear off the street, and it isn’t even a political issue? I know the mafia is powerful, but one has to postulate some awesome conspiracy theories before one can make any sense out of this. Kidnapping is a serious political issue in Columbia and The Philippines, but Hughes will have us believe it is many, many times worse in Ukraine, with no political consequences whatsoever.
The truth is probably this: the trafficking feminists are exaggerating the extent of this problem. Most of the women who leave Ukraine leave voluntarily, knowing full well that it is prostitution they are signing up for. (I can't find the reference, but The Economist has also reported this.) The worst nightmares of the trafficking feminists cannot possibly be true, though they're probably still entitled to some bad dreams.
Thursday, December 30, 2004
A Day at the Beach?
If I didn't have to be at work Monday morning I'd be on the next flight to Phuket myself.
My primary interest this weekend is prostitution. Here is the only piece I wrote on that subject for the 'zine. It was published on Feb. 12th, 1999, and is about 1400 words long. Enjoy it here.
As often as not, tsunami news from South Asia is datelined “Phuket.” And why is that? The answer seems obvious:
- There were many thousand foreign visitors on the island, many of whom were caught up in the disaster. Hence a Swedish government official is sent to Phuket to try to account for the 1500 Swedes who were in Phuket at the time.
- Phuket has a functioning (undamaged) airport, and lots of hotels, most of which were undamaged. Thus the infrastructure is there to support reporters, government and UN officials, and aid workers.
- Phuket has functioning phone lines, satellite feeds, internet cafes, etc., that make it part of the modern world. Unlike its neighbors, Thailand is a real country.
- Reporters and aid workers like traveling to Phuket.
So what is it about Phuket? After all, there are thousands of islands and millions of beaches around the Indian Ocean. Western Sumatra must have some excellent beaches, as must Burma, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. Of course there were some tourists in those places as well, but nothing like Phuket. So what is it that makes Phuket different?
The answer is obvious: women. The young ladies from Isaan province and elsewhere in Northern Thailand are the girls who put Phuket on the map. Without them, Phuket would be just another isolated backwater, ignored by the world, and swamped by the Tsunami. The night ladies of Patong Beach (mostly undamaged, by the way) have built Phuket, and it is they who are rescuing it from its current predicament.
I don’t begrudge Thailand a single penny. I respect the sacrifice of the aid workers who have gone to assist the people of Phuket. I’m sure they work hard during the day; I’m equally certain they have a lot of fun at night. But let’s give credit where credit is due. The people who are most helping Thailand in her hour of need are the young women of Phuket. And they’re still helping. Most of them are not from Phuket and don’t have families there, and thus are relatively unaffected by the disaster. The bargirls of Phuket are still on the job, helping their families and their country. So folks, if you’re lucky enough to go to Phuket, make sure you tip your hat and lay some cash on the true heroines of Phuket.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
A: I'm a former member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), and I guess I resent my time spent in that Trotskyist movement. Of course it was my own stupidity, but somehow I feel compelled to trash my former comrades. So that's the primary purpose of this blog: to expose the Socialist Workers Party and its offspring for what they are (mostly stupid idiots). This blog covers Trotskyism with all the seriousness it deserves. It's a pretty small beat, but somebody's got to do it.
Q: So how'd you get the name Anti-Militant?
A: The SWP's newspaper is called The Militant. Need I say more?
Q: Is that all you are going to do?
A: Of course not! I'd only have a post once a week if I just did that! I'm interested in several other things, and I'll post on them when I feel like it:
- Politics generally, well beyond Trotskyism. In 1976 I voted SWP. In 1980 I voted for Jesse Jackson. And in 1984 I cast the best vote I ever cast: I voted for Ronald Reagan. I'm a pretty loyal Republican with a libertarian streak, but I think I'll surprise you on some issues.
- Science - I'm a chemistry professor by trade, but I'm also especially interested in human evolution, game theory and economics. I have no special expertise beyond having read a lot, but I do have some ideas. I hope they'll be entertaining.
- Religion: I'm especially interested in the evolution/intelligent design debate. Of course I'm on the side of evolution, but I try to take the other side seriously. They're definitely smarter than Trotskyists! - but that's not saying much. I'm a practicing Catholic, but I guess I can't really say I'm a believing one anymore.
- Prostitution: I took a trip to Thailand once and had a wonderful time! No, I won't tell you about all my exploits - that's boring - but I find the topic generally to be really interesting. I'll share some ideas with you.
- Other stuff as it comes to mind.
Q: Who are you?
A: Are you kidding! I want to keep my job. I want to keep my wife. I want to keep my friends. I'm ashamed to have been a Trotskyist, I'm not public about my closet atheism, and I'm not sure I want the world to know about my prostitution kick. So this is all the info you're going to get, at least until we know each other a little better.