Friday, August 31, 2007
Dylan will be portrayed by Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Marcus Carl Franklin, and, of course, Cate Blanchett. And, according to the New York Times, the film will be shot in multiple styles reflecting the atmosphere of selected points in Zimmy's life.
Cate Blanchett made me cream myself from the trailer alone.
(yes, that's David Cross.)
Monday, August 27, 2007
Socialism in America Equals Hope for the World
By Paul A. Donovan
“While there is a lower class I am in it; while there is a criminal element I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free”
–Eugene Debs, American Socialist
“The only thing most American know about socialism is they don’t like it. They have been led to believe that socialism is something to be either ridiculed as impractical, or feared as an instrument of the devil.”
It is in fact difficult to shed light on what a socialist United States will look like, mostly because many think socialism, or other forms of publicly owned, and democratically controlled economies is an impossible goal to achieve in our country, mostly due to the hyper capitalist mentality of our nation, the strength of our ruling classes, and the overwhelmingly successful propaganda apparatus of the corporate system, which comprises the media, educational system, and many other venues, including the religious and political pulpit, and is reflected in the apathy, alarming confusion, and at times, indifference of our nation’s citizens, many of whom simply don’t know, don’t want to know, or don’t care where this country is headed (for a terrific insight into this puzzling and exasperating mindset I strongly recommend Deer Hunting with Jesus, by Joe Bageant, who also happens to be one of Cyrano’s senior contributing editors).
However, the capitalist systems own irrepressible dynamics and “make up”—which easily translate into a bill of indictment—are bringing about yet another wave of global repulsion and re-awakenings. In this framework, when I speak of this dynamic I am referring not so much to the more technical aspects of this phenomenon, but to its mass-perceived aspects, such as the following (in no particular order):
• the intense class stratification of the capitalist system itself, and the sharp and rising polarization in domestic and global wealth;
• the inherent exploitative nature of business with its constant siphoning off of surplus value from labor, and the system’s parasitic necessity to transform all living nature into commodities with near complete disregard of the environmental consequences;
• the unrelenting wars between capitalist nation states spawned by the age-old compulsion to grab new markets, and which issue from the constant need by the core ” industrialized nations” to meddle in nearly all political and economic affairs of the world’s sovereign “periphery nations” (there has never been a war between socialist states as such, other than those instigated by Western meddling, as in Indochina);
• the extensive commoditization of human culture;
• the implantation of usurious trade institutions, such as the WTO, IMF, and World Bank which serve as a supranational unelected government for the corporate elite , often nullifying local and national policies;
• the despair and ” atomization” felt in the souls of people as a result of pinning human against human in an eternal and inescapable predatory battle for basic subsistence, better jobs or to simply outdo or out perform our neighbors, something that inevitably leads to a sense of depression among many resulting from the loss of community and the working together for the common good;
• the outsourcing of jobs by our so called “American companies” at the first sign of a potential cheap labor market, the corporate crime, and political lobbying of invidious special interest groups, the purchasing of our so-called democratic elections; the alienation people have from the goods they create with their own hands, hearts, and minds, and the constant job insecurity in conjunction with often being over worked and underpaid;
• the outrageous health care costs in all of the medical system’s dimensions, from the extortionate cost of drugs, perhaps the biggest rip-off in the history of the American republic, to the corrosion in hospital care induced by the relentless pursuit of profit instead of the duty to serve the population;
• the booms, busts, and constant recessions of the market, along with the crime brought about by joblessness, a social blight that gives way to helplessness, addiction, domestic violence, ghettos and gang violence, and many other totally avoidable factors and expensive social costs whose burden is borne by the people;
• an educational system that trains and conditions young people to value material success above a humanistic education, something that, as Joe Bageant points out, makes untold numbers of people mere members of the economy, but not citizens of society or the nation in any real sense;
• the unrelenting nuclear proliferation to ensure imperial hegemony, a policy as criminal as it is transparently hypocritical, since we also pick and choose who is to become a new member of this “select club.” as our hysterical denunciations of Iran’s ambitions to go nuclear bear witness.
Incidentally, if you, as an American, or citizen of a developed nation, recognizes the truths in the above litany of ills oozing out of capitalism, imagine how these same features affect the rest of the world where their severity is at least a hundred times more vicious.
The constant state of fear, badly repressed disgust, and anxiety we live in as a global community as a result of these factors, have shaped the conditions in which the consciousness of people is changing in a new direction; people are waking up, starting to talk, vehemently criticizing (much too often in a completely misguided way) existing values and certain institutions. While all of that is extremely encouraging, for nothing can be cured or solved unless recognized, there are still formidable stumbling blocks, and perhaps one of the most serious is the fact that America has been sold on the counterfeit notion that there is no solution to capitalism. As Michael Parenti, Patrice Greanville, Robert McChesney and other media critics have observed, the object has been to sell the public the idea that we have reached the “end of history”, the “end of ideological struggles,” and therefore the “end” of class war. As a consequence, all that we can “reasonably” aspire to is “more and better capitalism”—forever. The fact that the Western media, and especially the American corporate media, are solidly behind this utterly fraudulent construct is evidence enough to discern whose interests are being served
Time to discuss socialism once again
As the saying goes “nothing sensible goes out of fashion”, as it so with the idea of socialism, which is nothing if not a broad rubric for the idea that human beings should live in national and regional communities built upon collaboration and generosity between their members and not one of constant personal warfare.
The idea of Socialism has natural appeal to many groups, essentially just about anyone except those who benefit directly from capitalism—the upper riches of the system, the corporate elite, the plutocracy itself, the so-called small business crowd, and other groups of wealthy professionals—and those millions still mesmerized by its siren song, who often think they are benefiting from capitalism or what the Republican (or Democratic) party is selling them.
Ironically (but logically, given the system’s upside-down hierarchies, which gives the most to those who do the least socially useful work) many of these people are the ones who get the least from the spoils of Capitalism, but who really keep the system afloat: they have little choice but to do as they are told, who shoulder the most egregious indignities in the name of honoring some concept their so called “betters” long ago betrayed, and, most important, traveling the world to shed blood on battlefields, in jungles, cities, and desserts, to fight wars built upon lies all to preserve and further the interests of the world’s minority of greedy elites, who are often only elite because of their enormous bank accounts, which many inherit, but not due to any Darwinian biologically determined superiority, as the people on the top often imply by sheer arrogance. The people of America, who have been manipulated, or forced, as in the case of Vietnam, time and time again, remain to this day, the “boots in the field” that keep capitalism and its organic outgrowth, imperialism, in business. The war in Iraq could not go on without them fighting, and hopefully they won’t have to pound the pavement of Iran anytime soon if we have something to say about.
Further, what about the rest of society, those who do have an instinctual affinity for social change being they are the ones that suffer the indignities of the system most often? These groups I refer to are the working poor, the unemployed and underemployed, idealistic students, many self- employed professionals, a large portion of what we call minorities, a plurality of women, same of intellectuals, and surprisingly many among the elderly and other grossly undervalued or ignored groups.
The idea of social ownership over the goods, services, and institutions we humans create with our own labor is very much alive, and over the course of the 19th, 20th, and now 21st centuries, has been a topic of great controversy, misconceptions, fraudulent propaganda, and at times legitimate criticism. As American socialist leader Eugene Debs once noted in respect to the capitalists’ mode of production “Those who produce should have, but we know that those who produce the most - that is, those who work hardest, and at the most difficult and most menial tasks, have the least.”
Debs could not have possibly known about the miners who recently died at the Sago mines and now Crandall Canyon, in Utah, losing their lives for what is a joke in terms of pay when compared to the obscene rewards received by American CEOs and many other financial “wizards”, who are experts at manipulating the markets, but he certainly was speaking for all of them when he recorded those words for posterity. Debs could “see” into the future because he understood well the irrepressible dynamics of capitalism, which is to constantly exploit labor in the interests of the owner, or capital.
Capitalism is an intrinsically exploitative system, which supposedly relies on the impartial buying and selling of commodities as an indicator for what rational decisions are made in human society, even if many of these “rational” decisions are informed by manipulated facts and an unrelenting barrage of propaganda, or what has come to be known to all as advertising, or even more accurately stated by Robert McChesney & John Bellamy Foster, as the “Commercial Tidal Wave”, in their indispensable Monthly Review essay of the same title. Often when we criticize capitalism we tend to focus on high concentrations of wealth in the hands of the few, and say to ourselves, “well that’s not right that so few should posses so much, in fact it’s outright unjust” but rarely is an explanation provided as to how this process of accumulation is carried out in the production and sale of commodities.
To paint a clearer picture of how this process works in countries where class lines are not as blurry, or in other words, nations with very small middle classes, Charles Kernaghan of Columbia University describes capitalist exploitation at the micro level from a trip he and a group of students took to a Nike plant in the Caribbean:
“One day in the Dominican Republic we found a big pile of Nike’s internal pricing documents. Nike assigns a timeframe to each operation. They don’t talk about minutes. They break the timeframe into ten thousandths of a second. You get to the bottom of all 22 operations; they give the workers 6.6 minutes to make the shirt. It’s $0.70 an hour in the Dominican Republic. 6.6 minutes equals $0.08. These are Nike’s documents. That means the wages come to three tenths of one percent of the retail price. This is the reality. It’s the science of exploitation.”
Capitalism is truly the science and practice of massive exploitation—with impunity. In the period of time the worker’s pay is earned, the capitalist then works you for many more hours, and in this case, even days more to make himself more and more profit, which is correctly defined in technical terms by Marxists as “surplus value”. The Dominican example irrefutably demonstrates this point.
Currently, on the Internet, Nike is advertising one of it’s items called the “No Excuses” T-Shirt for $14.99, which is one of their most modestly priced shirts; maybe it’s time that Nike applied this shirt’s slogan to it’s own labor practices, and corporate entitlements? The retail cost of that one Nike t-shirt is roughly equal to 21.4 hours of work for a Dominican wage slave—but s/he got paid for only 6.6 minutes of that product’s market value. The huge difference, as already mentioned, is all profit that is shoveled upstairs.
Given such framework, Nike can really rake in the bucks using wage slave labor, and as a result, in 2006, Nike’s revenues grew 9% to 15 billion dollars. In that same year Nike former CEO “left the company” with 8 million in severance pay, two years salary totaling 1.4 million a year, plus a bonus of 1.76 million the fiscal year 2006. Furthermore Nike was purchasing Perez’s home for 3.6 million dollars.
I suppose, CEO sympathizers may say that the CEO is entitled to more than an assembly line worker—but do you really think this type of polarization of wealth is fair, and if so, why shouldn’t the worker even make a living wage? To me “wage slave”—as the above example illustrates, is the rule and not the exception around much of the world, hence hardly a hyperbolic term.
When I recently mentioned this labor situation in the Dominican Republic to a friend of mine he thought it was somewhat unfortunate, but sort of dismissed it as the natural order of things, and couldn’t figure out why I really cared so much? I was actually made to feel guilty, or to feel that I said something wrong by raising this point. Naturally, I was a bit perturbed by my friend’s indifference and automatic corporate allegiance, and replied in the words of Jack London, “well the blood is dripping from their (the corporations) rooftops,” which my friend viewed as a fanatical statement, even though I said it very coolly and matter of fact.
Due to indoctrination in pro-capitalist ways of looking at almost any reality, it appears the prison of the mind is a cell many people would rather live in. I just hope that cell is padded, and furnished luxuriously, because it may be a long time before someone or something breaks us free.
Speaking of and to fanatics
The true fanaticism in this country is not emblematic of those opposing the unjust status quo, as the media would have us believe, but rather of those who support it, or even just as guilty, remain complacent in light of it. Those who delude themselves into thinking that turning a blind eye, or making an excuse for exploitation, or iniquity of any kind, is a healthy human response to gross human injustice. I am sure we can assume that if the middle class rug were pulled out from my friend (as it slowly is) and their own ageing parents could not retire, hardly surviving on .70 cents an hour, that they just may at such time raise some timid objections, if not scream to high heaven, but the middle class buffer in America is still robust enough, although the cartilage between our bones is wearing away due to constant systemic weights, and as a result of this weathering, we are starting to hear some of the system’s rusting machinery making that metal on metal sound, with Charlie Chaplin still wedged in the gears of these “Modern Times”, which in reality, should have been history by now.
It still seems that many among the general public would rather take it easy and just see what happens, while relying heavily on doses of beta-blockers to suppress the anxiety of the “daily grind”, while letting the wealthy of the planet, who obviously seem to be lacking basic scruples, decide for us, which path of doom is the shortest to take.
Following this script, the collective weight of our plethora of sins may land on the shoulders of maybe our great grandchildren; by then we will be long gone, and they can’t curse at us directly. In response to those who share the attitudes of some of my cynical associates, Eugene Debs may have said,
“Now my friends, I am opposed to the system of society in which we live today, not because I lack the natural equipment to do for myself but because I am not satisfied to make myself comfortable knowing that there are thousands of my fellow men who suffer for the barest necessities of life. We were taught under the old ethic that man’s business on this earth was to look out for himself. That was the ethic of the jungle; the ethic of the wild beast. Take care of yourself, no matter what may become of your fellow man.”
Here's the rest
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Here's an arts & crafts project I put together for my community. Just thought I'd give a few glassy-eyed department store shoppers some place to aim so they can relieve their frustrations while relieving their bladders.
Grab your own copy of the Presidential Toilet Target so those in your community can join in on the fun!
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Dear Senator Feingold,
I am writing you in regards to your recent proposal to Censure President Bush. It is my view, as well as that of the majority of Americans, that this is an insufficient, and indeed a reckless, response to this national crisis. It is difficult to determine how this minute, symbolic gesture would stop the current Vampirarchy in power.
Few would disagree with the assertion that they have dismantled some of our - America's along with Western Civilization's - most cherished civil protections such as the writ of habeas corpus, our inherent right to privacy and the first amendment. I must ask, how is this any different than an elected dictatorship?
The answer is clear - impeachment. We must send a message reverberating throughout history that domestic eaves-dropping and self-authorized torture will not be tolerated by the good people of America.
Cast aside this embarrassing call for Censure. Our Republic is frittering away before our eyes. It is time to restore accountability in our once great nation. If democracy means anything to you, Senator Feingold, support impeachment.
Friday, August 17, 2007
The Old Iran-Contra Death Squad Gang
Is Desperate to Discredit Chavez
by John Pilger
I walked with Roberto Navarrete into the national stadium in Santiago, Chile. With the southern winter’s wind skating down from the Andes, it was empty and ghostly. Little had changed, he said: the chicken wire, the broken seats, the tunnel to the changing rooms from which the screams echoed. We stopped at a large number 28. “This is where I was, facing the scoreboard. This is where I was called to be tortured.”
Thousands of “the detained and the disappeared” were imprisoned in the stadium following the Washington-backed coup by General Pinochet against the democracy of Salvador Allende on September 11 1973. For the majority people of Latin America, the abandonados, the infamy and historical lesson of the first “9/11″ have never been forgotten. “In the Allende years, we had a hope the human spirit would triumph,” said Roberto. “But in Latin America those believing they are born to rule behave with such brutality to defend their rights, their property, their hold over society that they approach true fascism. People who are well-dressed, whose houses are full of food, bang pots in the streets in protest as though they don’t have anything. This is what we had in Chile 36 years ago. This is what we see in Venezuela today. It is as if Chávez is Allende. It is so evocative for me.”
In making my film The War on Democracy, I sought the help of Chileans like Roberto and his family, and Sara de Witt, who courageously returned with me to the torture chambers at Villa Grimaldi, which she somehow survived. Together with other Latin Americans who knew the tyrannies, they bear witness to the pattern and meaning of the propaganda and lies now aimed at undermining another epic bid to renew both democracy and freedom on the continent.
The disinformation that helped destroy Allende and give rise to Pinochet’s horrors worked the same in Nicaragua, where the Sandinistas had the temerity to implement modest, popular reforms. In both countries, the CIA funded the leading opposition media, although they need not have bothered. In Nicaragua, the fake martyrdom of La Prensa became a cause for North America’s leading liberal journalists, who seriously debated whether a poverty-stricken country of 3 million peasants posed a “threat” to the United States. Ronald Reagan agreed and declared a state of emergency to combat the monster at the gates. In Britain, whose Thatcher government “absolutely endorsed” US policy, the standard censorship by omission applied. In examining 500 articles that dealt with Nicaragua in the early 1980s, the historian Mark Curtis found an almost universal suppression of the achievements of the Sandinista government - “remarkable by any standards” - in favour of the falsehood of “the threat of a communist takeover”.
The similarities in the campaign against the phenomenal rise of popular democratic movements today are striking. Aimed principally at Venezuela, especially Chávez, the virulence of the attacks suggests that something exciting is taking place; and it is. Thousands of poor Venezuelans are seeing a doctor for the first time in their lives, having their children immunised and drinking clean water. New universities have opened their doors to the poor, breaking the privilege of competitive institutions effectively controlled by a “middle class” in a country where there is no middle. In barrio La Línea, Beatrice Balazo told me her children were the first generation of the poor to attend a full day’s school. “I have seen their confidence blossom like flowers,” she said. One night in barrio La Vega, in a bare room beneath a single lightbulb, I watched Mavis Mendez, aged 94, learn to write her own name for the first time.
More than 25,000 communal councils have been set up in parallel to the old, corrupt local bureaucracies. Many are spectacles of raw grassroots democracy. Spokespeople are elected, yet all decisions, ideas and spending have to be approved by a community assembly. In towns long controlled by oligarchs and their servile media, this explosion of popular power has begun to change lives in the way Beatrice described.
It is this new confidence of Venezuela’s “invisible people” that has so inflamed those who live in suburbs called country club. Behind their walls and dogs, they remind me of white South Africans. Venezuela’s wild west media is mostly theirs; 80% of broadcasting and almost all the 118 newspaper companies are privately owned. Until recently one television shock jock liked to call Chávez, who is mixed race, a “monkey”. Front pages depict the president as Hitler, or as Stalin (the connection being that both like babies). Among broadcasters crying censorship loudest are those bankrolled by the National Endowment for Democracy, the CIA in spirit if not name. “We had a deadly weapon, the media,” said an admiral who was one of the coup plotters in 2002. The TV station, RCTV, never prosecuted for its part in the attempt to overthrow the elected government, lost only its terrestrial licence and is still broadcasting on satellite and cable.
Yet, as in Nicaragua, the “treatment” of RCTV is a cause celebre for those in Britain and the US affronted by the sheer audacity and popularity of Chávez, whom they smear as “power crazed” and a “tyrant”. That he is the authentic product of a popular awakening is suppressed. Even the description of him as a “radical socialist”, usually in the pejorative, wilfully ignores the fact that he is a nationalist and social democrat, a label many in Britain’s Labour party were once proud to wear.
In Washington, the old Iran-Contra death squad gang, back in power under Bush, fear the economic bridges Chávez is building in the region, such as the use of Venezuela’s oil revenue to end IMF slavery. That he maintains a neoliberal economy, described by the American Banker as “the envy of the banking world” is seldom raised as valid criticism of his limited reforms. These days, of course, any true reforms are exotic. And as liberal elites under Blair and Bush fail to defend their own basic liberties, they watch the very concept of democracy as a liberal preserve challenged on a continent about which Richard Nixon once said “people don’t give a shit”. However much they play the man, Chávez, their arrogance cannot accept that the seed of Rousseau’s idea of direct popular sovereignty may have been planted among the poorest, yet again, and “the hope of the human spirit”, of which Roberto spoke in the stadium, has returned.
· The War on Democracy, directed by Christopher Martin and John Pilger, will be shown on ITV on Monday at 11pm.
John Pilger has been a war correspondent, film-maker and author, and has twice won British journalism’s highest award, that of Journalist of the Year. He has also been named International Reporter of the Year, and won the United Nations Association Peace Prize and Gold Medal. For his broadcasting, he has won France’s Reporter Sans Frontieres, and television academy awards in the United States and Britain. He holds the prestigous Sophie Award for “thirty years of exposing deception and improving human rights”.
© 2007 The Guardian/UK
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
And it's not even Friday Flashback yet.
From MyBuddy in Air force
""FUCK THE PEOPLE WHO SAY FUCK THE WAR!" You stay up for 16 hours. He stays up for days on end. You take a warm shower to help you wake up. He goes days or weeks without running water. You complain of a "headache", and call in sick. He gets shot at as others are hit, and keeps moving forward. You put on your anti war/don't support the troops shirt, and go meet up with your friends. He still fights for your right to wear that shirt. You make sure you're cell phone is in your pocket. He clutches the cross hanging on his chain next to his dog tags. You talk trash about your "buddies" that aren't with you. He knows he may not see some of his buddies again. You walk down the beach, staring at all the guys. He patrols the streets, searching for insurgents and terrorists. You complain about how hot it is. He wears his heavy gear, not daring to take off his helmet to wipe his brow. You go out to lunch, and complain because the restaurant got your order wrong. He doesn't get to eat today. Your maid makes your bed and washes your clothes. He wears the same things for weeks, but makes sure his weapons are clean. You go to the mall and get your hair redone. He doesn't have time to brush his teeth today. You're angry because your class ran 5 minutes over. He's told he will be held over an extra 2 months. You call your boyfriend and set a date for tonight. He waits for the mail to see if there is a letter from home. You hug and kiss your boyfriend, like you do everyday. He holds his letter close and smells his love's perfume. You roll your eyes as a baby cries. He gets a letter with pictures of his new child, and wonders if they'll ever meet. You criticize your government, and say that war never solves anything. He sees the innocent tortured and killed by their own people and remembers why he is fighting. You hear the jokes about the war, and make fun of men like him. He hears the gunfire, bombs and screams of the wounded. You see only what the media wants you to see. He sees the broken bodies lying around him. You are asked to go to the store by your parents. You don't. He does exactly what he is told even if it puts his life in danger. You stay at home and watch TV. He takes whatever time he is given to call, write home, sleep, and eat. You crawl into your soft bed, with down pillows, and get comfortable. He tries to sleep but gets woken by mortars and helicopters all night long. "SUPPORT OUR TROOPS! SO YOU CAN ENJOY YOUR LUXURIES""
Let's begin the dissection with a story of a true American hero. Everybody is familiar with the name of Pat Tillman, and most have an idea of his inspiring life and tragic death. A talented football player forsakes the seductive promise of money and fame to join the military and fight for our profligate "way of life". The DoD couldn't have penned a better propaganda tale. Yet, there's plenty that's left unsaid about Tillman. For example, he was an atheist and had once met with one of his favorite authors, Noam Chomsky. Tillman was an intellectual who was critical of the Iraq War. He joined the military to fight in Afghanistan, not Iraq.
I say that to say this. At the core of this message is by opposing the war we oppose the troops because every soldier thinks exactly the same. But what should we do with the Pat Tillmans? Are they against themselves? Or soldiers like these:
Anecdotal statements alone should not change people's minds. The truth is there are as many points of view in the military as there are soldiers. One doesn't need to quiet him or herself because their thoughts clash with those of a single soldier. Despite personal disagreements most would agree those in the military deserve our esteem to the point of only asking for their sacrifice when threatened with truly imminent doom.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Whatever possessed one of the founding fathers of neoconservatism, Richard Perle, to go toe to toe with the granddaddy of the new left, Noam Chomsky, is beyond me. Perle's got some pretty things to say about freedom and democracy and America's disinterest in the reconstruction of post-WWII Japan and Europe, but Chomsky makes quick work of these specious statements. By the end of the first hour Chomsky has worn Perle down to the nub. When asked what he would do to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, instead of regurgitating some ready-made pablum Perle says bluntly "I don't have an answer." Here Chomsky gets some acerbic jabs in and ends the debate with an uproarious response from the crowd.
To other countries America is like herpes. We have military bases in 63 countries and military personnel in 156 countries (source) This includes Western Europe and Japan. The lesson is simple - once you've got us you're never getting rid of us.
Fast forward to Iraq. The Democrats are smart enough to see that Bush is a liability to the Republican party. To the public at large Bush/Cheney/Rove/Gonzo all come across as mouth-foaming lunatics. It is in the Democrat's best interests to cast themselves as adversaries to this administration's lunacy. That's where their "tough talk" comes in. They promise to "do the right thing" and "end the war immediately!" but who are they kidding? By repeating these virtually meaningless slogans (meaningless if you keep in mind who's saying them) they will be able to snatch the Executive branch away from the other party because it is politically expedient.
They don't have any intentions whatsoever of ending the war without finishing Bush's dirty work. They just want to wrest control away from the other wealthy ruling party. That's why they've been a bunch of jellyfish when it comes to Bush's demands i.e. expanding warrantless wiretapping, supporting the escalation of troops in Iraq, etc. etc. They see the destruction of their rivals over the horizon and when it arrives they'll be handed the Executive branch fully loaded with a host of new presidential powers.
Don't be fooled. This has never been an issue of right or left, liberal or conservative. This is an issue of top to bottom, the haves and the have nots.
Democrats Say Leaving Iraq May Take Years
by Jeff Zeleny & Marc Santora
DES MOINES, Aug. 11 - Even as they call for an end to the war and pledge to bring the troops home, the Democratic presidential candidates are setting out positions that could leave the United States engaged in Iraq for years.
John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator, would keep troops in the region to intervene in an Iraqi genocide and be prepared for military action if violence spills into other countries. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York would leave residual forces to fight terrorism and to stabilize the Kurdish region in the north. And Senator Barack Obama of Illinois would leave a military presence of as-yet unspecified size in Iraq to provide security for American personnel, fight terrorism and train Iraqis.
These positions and those of some rivals suggest that the Democratic bumper-sticker message of a quick end to the conflict - however much it appeals to primary voters - oversimplifies the problems likely to be inherited by the next commander in chief. Antiwar advocates have raised little challenge to such positions by Democrats.
Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico stands apart, having suggested that he would even leave some military equipment behind to expedite the troop withdrawal. In a forum at a gathering of bloggers last week, he declared: “I have a one-point plan to get out of Iraq: Get out! Get out!”
On the other side of the spectrum is Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, who has proposed setting up separate regions for the three major ethnic and religious groups in Iraq until a stable central government is established before removing most American troops.
Still, many Democrats are increasingly taking the position, in televised debates and in sessions with voters across the country, that ending a war can be as complicated as starting one.
“We’ve got to be prepared to control a civil war if it starts to spill outside the borders of Iraq,” Mr. Edwards, who has run hard against the war, said at a Democratic debate in Chicago this week. “And we have to be prepared for the worst possibility that you never hear anyone talking about, which is the possibility that genocide breaks out and the Shi’a try to systematically eliminate the Sunni. As president of the United States, I would plan and prepare for all those possibilities.”
Most of the Democratic candidates mention the significant military and logistical difficulties in bringing out American troops, which even optimistic experts say would take at least a year. The candidates are not only trying to retain flexibility for themselves in the event they become president, aides said, but are also hoping to tamp down any expectation that the war would abruptly end if they were elected. Most have not proposed specific troop levels or particular rules of engagement for a continued presence in Iraq, saying the conditions more than a year from now remain too uncertain.
In political terms, their strategies are a balancing act. In her public appearances, Mrs. Clinton often says, “If this president does not end this war before he leaves office, when I am president, I will.” But she has affirmed in recent months remarks she made to The New York Times in March, when she said that there were “remaining vital national security interests in Iraq” that would require a continuing deployment of American troops. The United States’ security, she said then, would be undermined if part of Iraq turned into a failed state” that serves as a Petri dish for insurgents and Al Qaeda.”
So while the senators’ views expressed on the campaign trail do not conflict with their votes in Congress, particularly to set a deadline for withdrawal, they are grappling as candidates with the possibility of a sustained military presence in Iraq, addressing questions about America’s responsibility to Iraqi civilians as well as guarding against the terrorism threat in the region.
Among the challenges the next president could face in Iraq, three seem to be resonating the most: What to do if there is a genocide? What to do if chaos in Iraq threatens to engulf the region in a wider war? And what to do if Iraq descends into further lawlessness and becomes the staging ground for terrorist attacks elsewhere, including in the United States?
“While the overwhelming majority of Americans want to bring the troops home, the question is what is the plan beyond that?” said Gov. Chet Culver of Iowa, a Democrat. “The first candidate running for president, I think on either side, who can best articulate that will win.”
Four years after the last presidential race featured early signs of war protest, particularly in the candidacy of Howard Dean, a new phase of the debate seems to be unfolding, with antiwar groups giving the Democrats latitude to take positions short of a full and immediate withdrawal. Neither MoveOn.org nor its affiliated group, Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, have sought to press Democrats here in Iowa to suggest anything short of ending the war immediately.
“Of course we would like to get them out right now. That sounds wonderful,” said Sue Dinsdale, who leads the Iowa chapter of Americans Against Escalation in Iraq and has seen nearly all of the Democratic candidates. “I don’t think that people realize what their specific plans are and what they are saying about it, but just that they are working to end the war.”
The leading Republican candidates have largely chosen not to wrestle publicly with Iraq policy questions, instead deferring to President Bush and waiting until Gen. David H. Petraeus delivers a progress report next month on the troop buildup this year.
While the Democrats talk exhaustively about Iraq, a review of the remarks they have made during campaign stops over the last six months leaves little ambiguity in their message: If the president refuses to end the war, they will.
To accomplish that goal, they all discuss a mix of vigorous diplomacy in the region, intensified pressure on the Iraqi government and a phased withdrawal of troops to begin as soon as possible. But their statements in campaign settings are often silent on the problems of how to disengage and what tradeoffs might be necessary.
“It is time to bring our troops home because it has made us less safe,” Mr. Obama said to a throng of supporters, cheering wildly despite the pouring rain, at a campaign stop in New Hampshire last month.
Mrs. Clinton has been equally vocal in making “bringing the troops home” a central theme. In February, she said her message to the Iraqi government would be simple: “I would say ‘I’m sorry, it’s over. We are not going to baby-sit a civil war.’ ”
Both candidates, in interviews or debates, have said that they would not support intervening in a genocidal war should the majority Shiites slaughter Sunnis - and Sunnis retaliate - on a much greater scale than now takes place.
Mr. Edwards, who has suggested that he would intervene in a genocide, has tried to position himself as the more forceful antiwar candidate by criticizing both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama for not pushing hard enough in the Senate to bring the troops home.
“There are differences between us,” Mr. Edwards said in a June debate. “I think there is a difference between making very clear when the crucial moment comes, on Congress ending this war, what your position is and standing quiet.”
Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut has called for the United States military to “begin redeploying immediately.” In a debate this week in Chicago, he said: “We can do so with two and a half divisions coming out each month, done safely and reasonably well.”
Americans Against Escalation in Iraq has created its “Iraq Summer” campaign to persuade members of Congress to support legislation changing course in Iraq. While the group is focusing on Republicans across the country, including deploying a blimp to fly above the Iowa straw poll on Saturday, it has not weighed in on the Democratic side of the presidential race and the fact that several Democratic candidates call for an extended but limited military commitment in Iraq. “We are in a good position when leaders are debating the best way to bring our troops home,” said Moira Mack, a group spokeswoman, “rather than whether or not to bring them home.”
Marc Santora contributed reporting from New York.
© 2007 The New York Times
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Thursday, August 09, 2007
One of the strangest quirks of political theater is when two traditional enemies overlap. The unlikliest of bedfellows can be made when one ideology finds common footing with its adversary. For instance, I've noticed an echo of "Paul/Kucinich" ricocheting through the congested tubes of the internets, but these two men couldn't be more different. Ron "Dr. No" Paul, a libertarian almost to the point of religious devotion, and Dennis "Sea Biscuit" Kucinich, a Euro-style socialist, appear to have nothing in common except the mutual hatred of their respective parties.
What unites them in our minds?
There's something that scares members of their parties, causing these men to be openly mocked by the bought-and-paid-for tier of the campaign. It is exactly this division which concerns me, and millions of other voters who feel voiceless in an ocean of disinformation. Let's try and discover what characteristics make "Paul/Kucinich" a perfect political marriage then call for their secession and the creation of a third, viable party, one a socialist and libertarian can inhabit without contradiction. How would such a party behave? Is there a way to construct a "big tent" of this size and thrive?
Although integrity and honesty are two obvious points of contact, there's something deeper underscoring their candidacies. Ron Paul has been principled in beating back the oppressive forces of big government and Dennis Kucinich has made it his mission to slay the dragons of corporate domination. But to what end? The answer is, simply put, equality. Not equality for the wealthy but for the other 99% of the population, you know, the majority! Funny thing about democracies, typically leaders are compelled to listen to majorities, but I guess we're more sophisticated than that. It would be the primary goal of this new party to promote equality, the yardstick by which all legislation will be measured.
The biggest way this new party would differ from the two others would be in the wallet. If you want to "summer" in Fiji on BP's dollar this party is not for you. All funds will come from public donations (not lobbyists) who care about the party. This way the only group holding sway would be the public. For the duration of this country's existence our leaders have been selected from a rather shallow pool of candidates namely the cultured class. As much fun as these adventures in meritocracy have been one of the aims of our new party would be to demolish this restriction, opening up the political arena to anybody of merit. Man or woman. Jew or gentile. Black or white. Gay or straight. Town hall meetings would be held all across the nation, even during non-election years, and would be open to everybody who cares to join and inject their perspective. Everyone has equal chance of getting the party's nomination, regardless of economic status, and after demonstrating their exceptionalness would receive full monetary support.
Because of the party's inclusiveness plenty of internal debates could be expected. This would strengthen, not weaken, its potency. As compared to the artificial, often arbitrary, boundaries drawn between the established parties, our platform wouldn't need to conform to any one ideology - just what's best for the equality of Americans. This is how a Ron Paul and a Dennis Kucinich would move in concert.
Underrepresented Americans would no longer be pressured into choosing between a false dichotomy. With each issue we could form our own conclusions and make them known to our representatives who would be empathetic to our concerns as our elected officials would surface from our ranks. The media would be expected to give our new party equal opportunity to tell its story and ample chance to elucidate the dishonesty of the two corporate blocs. It is time to enact a tricameral party structure composed of Republicans, Democrats and Equalitarians, and to finally realize the promise of equality made by our founding fathers two hundred thirty-one years ago.
If you're mad as hell and refuse to take it anymore turn your back on the Republicans and Democrats and proclaim yourself an Equalitarian.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Monday, August 06, 2007
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Wage slavery seems to be a ticklish topic of discussion in a capitalist society. Many contend that compensating a workers' time and labor isn't a type of coercion, that it is in fact voluntary. Here's a simple way of understanding this complicated concept. Decide for yourself if the following is a product of free will.
The human impulse toward work (or, more accurately, aversion from idleness) is arguably as essential as drinking itself. We need to quench our thirst, not too many people will dispute this point. Imagine you've been crawling through the desert for hours, the sun baking your back and you're too dehydrated to sweat. A man approaches you and offers you a choice: either continue crawling and die or take a coke and live. In exchange he'll own you for eight hours a day, but he'll shelter you from the heat and supply you with ample cola. Reluctantly you accept. The coke may cause obesity, destroy your teeth and eventually kill you, but it doesn't matter as long as you're protected from the indifferent sands of the desert. What you truly need is cool, cleansing water free of charge, but that's not an option. It's either go with the man or perish.
This is akin to the economic system we're ensnared in. We can either trade our autonomy, time and skills for crippling stress and wages, which are meager (remember, poverty is when there's too much month at the end of the money), or starve. Both will kill us and both are humiliating and dehumanizing.
We need a third way. We need the ability to not only drink the water, but also provide it to everyone, not just the super rich, not just to the privileged property owners. It is time to protect ourselves from the callous hand of the "free market".
Saturday, August 04, 2007
Who would have known that Anarchism would be such a thorny topic? When I posted my essay, Anarchy made easy on my myspace blog it received a flurry of praise and, as expected, harsh criticism. Most who disputed the article either hadn't even read it, didn't read it close enough or knew next to nothing about the basic tenants of Anarchist thought. But one who purported to be an anarcho-"capitalist", Bon, didn't challenge my portrayal of Anarchy as it were, but my assertion that Capitalism was in effect inconsistent with Anarchy. I proceeded to engage him in the following debate.
Here are a few highlights from our exchange. In the interest of brevity (although in its truncated form it is still rather lengthy) I will only provide the juiciest parts. For the full text of our debate visit my myspace blog and scroll down to the comments section.
*NOTE* I said he could have the final word but have yet to hear back from him, as soon as he offers his final rebuttal I will post it.
please show me an example of a corporation that requires compulsory consent. in the former soviet union or communist china, perhaps, but certainly not in the u.s.--though we are headed in that direction, for all the reasons i spell out below.
every one of us in the job market knows--you go with the corporation that gives you the best benefits, the best hours, the best working conditions, and (ideally) the most rewarding work with the best products that suit your interests. only the state would require compulsory consent--say, for example, it conscripted you for a public work service--or even when the IRS "compels" you to work four months straight out of the year to pay off the interest on the national debt created artificially by the fed. also, ideally, you would own some stock in the company, and you would have some say over where the money is invested. again, how is this incompatible with anarchism?
remember, not everyone favors the idea of being a part of a collective. and not everyone favors the idea that the harder you work, the more life stays the same... some people like the distribution of labor that the corporate structure provides and don't necessarily want to be involved in the managing/financial/marketing/distribution aspects; they simply want to sell shoes, get their paycheck, and go home.
the only beef i have with the modern corporation is that it used state coercive power to gain "personhood" rights under the 14th amendment, and it then becomes impossible to prosecute the individual members for their nefarious business practices, because, after all, it was the "corporation's" fault...in other words, i have a problem with it being treated as a "collective," which is the same problem i have with the communes you are proposing.
i'm not sure how you would divide up the labor. ...if i put in the least amount of time in the group, i would still have as much say over it as the other guy who put in 12 hr day shifts? you see, it's the incentive problem all over again. iif i was smart, i would make sure that i put in the *least* amount of time and had the *most* say over the whole process. this, of course, is the problem many people have with the CEOs of these giant corporations. but remember...many of them got in that position only because they were willing to invest more time, labor, money, etc. than most and got the surplus they needed to invest in the infrastructure everyone else is using on his or her behalf...which is why they have proportionally greater ownership rights.
the communes would not compete? i'm not sure how this would work. would they all agree to the same quotas? again, this would result in a kind of tyranny of the majority. what if my commune was simply more efficient and able to get more goods and services out to others--would i have to slow down my capacities and wait for the other guys to catch up? what if they never did? then it would be the people that depend on those goods and services who would suffer the most.
on the contrary...by developing that assembly and investing in the resources necessary to keep it operating, i am doing the community a great service. in exchange, certain members of the community agree to *trade* their time and labor for the wages necessary to enable me to go out and enjoy the products created by the assembly line. of course, as time goes on my workers may become dissatisfied with the way i am investing the resulting surplus and profits, and they may either go someplace else that offers better hours/benefits/salary/etc., or they may get together as a group and demand better treatment--in which case i could possibly fire them (which may result in a shortage of labor and, therefore, a shortage in production) or simply comply and raise their wages. this is the kind of "competition" that typically takes place between labor and corporations for a "fair wage" in a free market. but under no circumstances, i repeat, would they be entitled to any portion of my assembly line--which they have agreed to operate, but not own, by voluntary contract. again, since it is a voluntary contract, there is no "exploitation" here. only the state has the capacity to "exploit" someone when it enforces non-voluntary contracts through taxes or selective service conscriptions or what have you.
so, the commune taken as a whole would be *private* property when it comes to *other* communes and other workers--but it would be *public* to the members of that particular commune. i have no problem with that. i am simply trying to remind you that this is still a matter of private property and there are still certain implicit rules (even if you don't want to call them "laws") that would regulate how members vs. non-members would use that property. is it the case that the more i operate the assembly line, the more i own it? or does everyone in the commune own it, regardless of how many hours they put into it. if this is the case...again, it's the incentive problem. if the lazy people can own just as much of the loot...well, what's to distinguish them from the corporate fat-cats you despise so much?
how is this not capitalism? you have productive tools. you have "capital" that results from those productive tools. it is only a question of who will own the means of production: the person who invested the most money in that assembly line (the CEO), or the people who invest the most time in assembly line (the workers)...remember, in some cases time and money are equal. that is to say, my greater monetary investment may reflect the greater amount of time i had to work to achieve it.
there is still the problem of the surplus. now, you can either cap it at an artificial limit, which may result in scarcity if the demand is greater than you intended...or you can simply count on a greater demand and produce the greatest number of goods at the highest capacity...which is likely to result in a surplus. now how to invest that surplus? do you share it equally among the workers...in which case the part-time worker would get paid as much as the full-time worker and the full-time worker is likely to feel scammed (this is *real* exploitation here, folks)...or do you reward labor in proportion with a greater amount of the loot...which is likely to result, indirectly, in the hierarchical structure you seem to despise. of course, you could argue that this hierarchy would arise spontaneously from the bottom-up rather than a forced top-down management scheme...again, i would have no problem with that. but it would, in essence, still retain a kind of corporate structure, even if you don't want to call it that.
once again, i see no contradictions here between anarchism and capitalism. as i have tried to emphasize...in a truly free market, capitalist enterprises would be allowed to compete (or even work together) with socialist ones--communes and corporations, private companies and public organizations--and may the best goods and services come out on top.
in the end, it is the consumer of those goods/services who profit from the wide range of competing enterprises and interests. even if monopolies are created in such a free market...it will only mean that a greater proportion of consumers prefer this enterprise over all the others...which would mean it would have to provide nearly perfect services...
the only problem that is likely to result with monopolies is in a state-managed economy where corporations that are doing poorly can be subsidized by the state because in its divine wisdom it deems its services "essential to the public good"...this would be like one commune subsidizing another commune that is doing poorly, which takes away from the commune that is doing well and creates similar problems, in that the lesser commune has no incentive to do a better job and the more efficient commune is forced to work harder for the same share in the loot.
in the case of the oil cartels, for example, when the government bails them out time and time again so consumers can have cheaper gas prices, when in a truly free economy the gas prices would reflect a shortage in the supply and consumers would either demand refinery expansion and/or alternative sources of energy that are cheaper and this would create a perfect opportunity for electric car dealerships, for example, to fill the void...in other words, it is the state that is preventing alternative resources/energies from existing, not the free market.
as such, these cartels are able to become monopolies not based so much on their popularity with consumers but on their ties with the regulators and central planners in washington who, in turn, make it impossible for other smaller enterprises to get started and compete because they cannot afford to comply with the rules and regulations (minimum wage, licensing fees, paid vacations and overtime, benefits, ergonomics, hazard and environmental laws, etc.) and/or the money supply has been so artificially inflated by the central bank that property values skyrocket all out of proportion to their real worth and no one but the usual chain stores can afford to buy into the strip malls (many of which are again subsidized by the government in the form of corporate welfare--in the interests of the "community" of course).
it seems in your ideal society there would exist some kind of mandate...that only communes of a specific variety would be allowed to exist, and no one would be allowed to compete or generate any surplus. how would you implement such a mandate, other than by force? what if i wanted to take my extra money and invest it in a singularly brilliant idea (like, for example, a combustible engine that runs on salt-water) with an assembly line of my own and i wanted to invite people to work for me so i can realize this idea and use the profits to grow my production capacities, so i could become more efficient and lower prices for the consumer...would the mandate in your ideal society prevent me from doing such a thing, would i have to ask permission of my workers to sell and market my brilliant idea (which would result in a kind of inverted hierarchical tyranny) and give them equal ownership, which may result in an irreversible perversion of my original intent?
again, it would be narrowing my range of possibilities artificially, a form of coercion...and what anarchist, in their right mind, would agree to such a thing?
you are essentially talking about socialism, not anarchism. the core principle of anarchism is the non-aggression principle. no one has the right to use force on you or anyone else as long as you are not hurting anyone. but the core principle of socialism is the equal-ownership principle. which is why socialism so often results in a coercive state of affairs, because "equality" is a very hard thing to impose on any group of people with different talents and strengths and resources.
for example, in an anarchist society if i carved out a piece of land and produced a large quantity of food for myself...no one would be entitled to any of my food through the use of force. it must be a voluntary exchange. however, in a socialist society everyone is equally entitled to that food, which means if i don't give it up i will be forced, by majority vote or state coercion, to do so. which, of course, is why true anarchism can only exist, paradoxically, in a constitutional republic that protects you and your property from the use of such force (even if i used weapons, i would still likely be overrun by the mob).
of course, you could still say that anarchism means, in essence, that no one has property rights or ownership rights...but you have already said that the commune "belongs" to those who work in it--and i personally don't see how it would work any other way--which immediately brings in the whole classical liberal philosophy which bases *all* rights on these fundamental property rights.
the only thing that is compatible with the core principle of anarchism, as such, is a laissez-faire free market economy, where labor is able to organize voluntarily on its own terms--be it anarcho-capitalist or anarcho-syndicalist--without state coercion. i just don't see how it would work out any other way.
which is of course why i support ron paul, as you pointed out...because his libertarian candidacy comes closest to implementing the non-aggression principle in nearly every facet of our society.
when it comes down to it, i believe the "equal-ownership" principle has led to more disastrous consequences, historically, than the non-aggression principle ever has. it all comes down to whether you would prefer to err on the side of anarchy or totalitarianism. i would choose the former any day. as jefferson put it, "i would rather be confronted with the inconveniences of too much liberty than those which attend too little of it."
the great schism that exists in america today is that increasingly the equal-ownership principle is taking over the non-aggression principle upon which our republic was based (which is reflected in the fact that we must work four months out of the year or more just to pay the federal income tax, medicare, unemployment, social security, etc. etc., we must put the interests of the "nation" before our own in times of war, etc., because everyone believes they are entitled to a portion of our labor and the state is happy to oblige by expanding the size and scope of its regulatory powers)...
this is why we are sliding headlong into totalitarianism today.
As not to grope blindly through the shadows I would like to offer my definition of Anarchism. John Clark states: "[the] essence of anarchism is, after all, not the theoretical opposition to the state, but the practical and theoretical struggle against domination." This has been the position of every major Anarchist thinker since Proudhon so this will be the idea I will touch base with from time to time.
The first point I must address is your view of corporations as "collectives". The advent of corporate "personhood" was indeed a harbinger of dark days to come, however, to characterize corporations as "collectives" in the anarchist sense is misguided. It is the corporate owners who shield themselves from prosecution, not the true family of workers who would like nothing more than to have their keepers unseated. These workers are trapped in a system which requires them to sell their time and skills for wages in an institution they have no direct control over. This is domination and is, to a true anarchist, dehumanizing and exploitative. So when you ask for examples of a corporation that demands compulsory consent I have to answer by asking can you show me a corporation that doesn't? Individuals are given a narrow range of options all of which require entering into a humiliating contract with a master. It is as though a person is given the choice of which plantation they want to toil under. Some may pay better wages, offer pensions and/or a complement of vacation time, but the individual is still forced into a corrupt arrangement.
Within the commune the labor would be divided according to skills and interests (which would inevitably overlap). You must recognize under Capitalism workers exist as cogs in the corporate machine, in an Anarchist commune machines will do the muscle work freeing laborers to pursue more edifying activities which duly benefit the society. So it would be unlikely anyone would be required to work 12 hours a day, and if they did it would be at their discretion. But the thrust of your argument remains: what will happen to those who choose laziness as their art?
A sluggard would be defined in an anarchist society as an idler who contributes nothing to the commune but still utilizes its resources. It can be demonstrated that the type of society a person resides in nourishes certain human traits and represses others. For example, nineteenth century India.
Louis Fischer observes "....in 1869, India had already been under foreign domination for centuries. Remarkably, for the last hundred-odd years of the period, it lay in the grip not of an ordinary conqueror but of a mercantile operation, the British East India Company. Licensed by the Crown to pursue its fortunes by virtually any means it liked, including raising its own armies and waging war..."(Louis Fischer, "The Essential Gandhi", Preface pg. x). What was the result of this glorious free market? Indian farmers were forced to grow their crops for export, not for local use, and 4 hundred thousand died of starvation in 25 years. Millions more died subsequently. With this type of stifling aggression the Indian population became lethargic and uninterested in fighting for fair wages, livable conditions or a political voice. In the meantime the Company, along with Britain and her Industrial Revolution, flourished while the Indian people disintegrated. One may argue that there wasn't enough competition, that the country would have actually benefited from additional corporations, but these corporations would only have constructed more efficient ways of plundering the countryside.
It can be seen quite clearly that one's environment shapes one's character. This is why I contend that laziness would be in short supply. Work would be an enjoyable endeavor, it is not labor alone people dislike it is bosses, deadlines, shortage of leisure, etc. The hope of the anarchist is that such a society would place work as an incentive in and of itself. But in the rare case there is a person who contributes nothing to a commune social pressure would be employed to try to persuade the individual into either joining a syndicate or providing something for the public good. If this does not prevail, the members of a commune could elect to expel such a person and would not be required to share the fruits of their labor, but they would not deprive the individual the right of venturing outside the commune in order to seek the means of life. Camillo Berneri sums it up best when he says anarchism entails: "no compulsion to work, but no duty towards those who do not want to work."
Now, because the producers and consumers are one in the same, it stands to reason the producers would contain intimate (not necessarily perfect) knowledge of what they consume. The limits they decide upon (by popular vote, of course) would not be a shot in the dark, nor would it be inflated by the creation of artificial wants by a multi-trillion dollar a year advertising industry. But, as we know, it is impossible to look into the crystal ball and determine exactly what a commune will consume, that is why it would be wise to manufacture a surplus of goods. If this surplus remains it would be up to the commune to redirect it according to their wishes taking into account the needs of the young, sick and elderly. In Capitalism, these individuals are considered a liability as they are unable to produce, but in an anarchistic society they are given the right to live a full life. If a syndicate were no longer useful to a commune it would either be absorbed into a more useful syndicate or shut down all together, and this too would be decided by the consumers through popular vote.
In regards to your salt water engine business, let's suppose you live in a commune and want to break from the syndicate mold. You obtain the required machinery and offer laborers to work beneath you. There will be no special police force stopping you from making this offer, yet, no worker will give up his or her control of the salt water engine syndicate across the street to make you rich while straddling their backs. You bemoan the inverted triangle of hierarchical tyranny that would emanate from abdicating your rights as a private owner to the workers. By allowing the majority to marshal their own affairs doesn't sound like tyranny to me - it's democracy. And as far as your fruits and vegetables go you're viewing this all wrong. Anarchists are against private ownership of property which could potentially be used for exploitation. That means possessions such as family heirlooms are perfectly acceptable. In a communal atmosphere, where everyone's quality of life is guaranteed, there would be no angry mob demanding your food, and you would have no reason to stockpile anything as you could always acquire sustenance. This attitude is Capitalistic and would baffle an individual living in a communal society.
There is plenty of debate to be had over how communes would interact. Would they link together into a giant confederation? Or would they operate independently? Or would they determine their fate on an individual basis? The appeal of Anarchism is that it would be a pulsating mesh of ever-changing free associations based upon the principle of "one worker one vote". It would be left up to the laborers. When it is said that each commune "privately owns" their property I believe it deserves a slight qualification. Anybody has the opportunity to join a commune and become an owner of that property consequently having a say in the future of that property. This is dramatically removed from the fundamentals of private property under our current system. The acquisition of truly privately owned property ends up in a separation of classes with the upper tier upholding dominance above the lower tiers. However, if you're willing to acknowledge the anarchist's definition of property you may call it "private" if you wish.
As demonstrated, corporations, even without government intrusion, are inherently tyrannical. They centralize wealth and power among an elite, dehumanize the spirit of their workers and place dollars above dignity. No matter what a particular corporation produces there is a single commodity which links them all - domination. It is for this reason that Capitalism is incongruous with anarchism.
i am not familiar with the history of the "free market" in india at the turn of the nineteenth century, and i will do some research of my own, but my feeling from reading the excerpts above is that it was an example of a state-managed market, with "the Crown" essentially giving no-bid contracts to its mercantile operations and preventing indians, by force of arms and/or law, from importing and exporting their own goods (which is essentially the role of the WTO today--which is another example of a managed market).
--So when you ask for examples of a corporation that demands compulsory consent I have to answer by asking can you show me a corporation that doesn't? Individuals are given a narrow range of options all of which require entering into a humiliating contract with a master. It is as though a person is given the choice of which plantation they want to toil under. Some may pay better wages, offer pensions and/or a complement of vacation time, but the individual is still forced into a corrupt arrangement.--
i'm still not sure how the individual is "forced" into a corrupt arrangement...I've never heard the people at google, for example, complain about their "wage-slavery"...indeed, as i have said, if google were forced by some collective mandate to give all the power to the workers and rule by majority vote (in essence, giving power over the company to a group of people who may be less qualified to run it rather than the entrepreneurs who came up with the idea and its implementation in the first place), how would this not be another form of coercion/domination? you seem to think that oligarchies are the only form of domination. well, democracies can be just as bad...if you were the only dissenting vote as a minority in the south you could have found yourself at the end of a rope. and if a majority had the total capacity to vote away your property (i.e. my assembly line), then what's to prevent them from simply not working at all and voting away all the property of the workers (this is what occurs in the welfare state, for example).
and, yes, corporations *are* collectives, just not the sort you would wish upon everyone...they are collectives in the sense that everyone is doing their job and working together to ensure not only their private wages but also the future of the company...what you seem to abhor is the hierarchical division of labor, with this person working on the assembly line and this person working on the finances...but like i've said before, not even your syndicates would be able to avoid this structural problem...the only difference being that in a corporation part of the division of labor includes a specific delegation of "management," that is, just as the brain thinks and the hand grasps, the logic of the corporate structure is that the hand should not think (or, only in a limited capacity) and the brain should not grasp. they are no less a part of a collective, however, and they are just as important to the proper functioning of the body. (and the point i am trying to make is that some people *like* being the hand!) now, you may say, "but aren't the people working on the assembly line better qualified to know what should be done with the goods produced by that assembly line?" and i would say that what is needed here is not "intimate knowledge" of the product but intimate knowledge of the market--which are two completely different things, and the corporate structure takes this into account.
workers should be allowed to organize and invest and establish their own syndicates, yes, and there is nothing about capitalism in a free market society that mandates a corporate structure--indeed, the structure of your syndicates may prove to be a more fair/efficient way of doing business--but individuals should be allowed to organize and invest and establish their own corporations as well. again, it is all about voluntary contracts, and i repeat: some people prefer the corporate structure over the syndicates--and i am still unsure how the syndicates would be able to avoid the corporate structure entirely (for all the reasons of the incentive problem, surpluses, scarcity, etc., i discussed above).
our problem today is that the corporate structure has been subsidized by the state at the expense of all the others--mostly due to their lack of accountability as "persons," a right which should be taken away immediately by the next administration (and i believe ron paul has proposed something along these lines in order to "free" up the market).
once again, i do not believe you have shown capitalism to be incompatible with anarchism, if we understand capitalism to mean the use of productive tools to generate "capital" and then investing the resulting surplus back into the enterprise...as that investment can either be done through a corporation or through a syndicate. you may have shown, however, that the fundamental principles of anarchism and socialism may be at odds, however--in that you cannot easily enforce the equality of ownership principle without resorting to force, whether it be physical force or through force of law in your ideal ociety, which is something fundamentally abhorrent to anarchism at its core.
remember, the tyranny of the majority can be just as dangerous (in some cases, even moreso) as the tyranny of some elite. there is no good reason to see why your syndicates would not result in domination by the group of the individual in the same sense you caution us against the domination by the individual over the group in the corporation. as long as both structures are entered into by voluntary contract in a free market, the issue of "domination" becomes moot.
whether it be taking orders from the collective or taking orders from management...there is still a division of labor, there is still a form of structural inequality, there is still domination of one group by another--and only hard-core socialists would force equality on us all.
again, it is the use of force that is the main issue here.
Quality of life is a poor way of ascertaining the morality of a given system. Non-Jewish Germans living under Hitler lived a better life than what preceded them nevertheless this system was disgusting. Whether you're an "indoor" slave with regular meals and a hot bath or an "outdoor" slave where you battle the elements and fear regular floggings, you're still a slave. Most people don't recall the hotly contested election for Google's CEO early last year as decided by its employees. This is because it never happened. Google's employees still rent their freedom for monetary compensation regardless of their attitude toward the arrangement. If there were a syndicate comparable to Google in every positive way and workers directly controlled their administrative branches democratically which do you think they would choose? Unfortunately, such an option does not exist. So the most that can be said of their "voluntary" participation is that, for them, this company is the lesser of all possible evils.
Private owners of an assembly line only desire to turn a profit, ethics be damned. Within the direct democracy I outline a wider range of ideas are considered through proposals, discussions, elections, challenges and counter-challenges, a well-oiled democracy allows for the minority's view to become the majority's. Even after a decision is made the minority is encouraged to dissent in a syndicate, or, in extreme cases, the minority may even separate from the syndicate.
You contend the corporate contract between worker and master is not exploitative, but then you go on to describe the managerial body as the mind and the laborer as the hand, graciously illustrating my point. What could be more exploitative than the reduction of human beings to an appendage of corporate greed without any input in the policies their bosses enact. The workers get to cut the grapes but they can't drink the wine. You go on to say in the anarchist's society the worker who wants to be left out of the decision-making process is forced into self-determination. In reality, each worker is provided the option to be heard through their vote and public debates held at communal assemblies but no one is obliged to participate as it is a free society. The level of participation a worker chooses is determined by the individual. If the laborer wants to forgo the assemblies they are free to do so.
I agree with you, the use of force is the main issue, and this is why Capitalism and Anarchism is dissonant. The socialism you allude to, the kind which would and has used force against its populace, is State Socialism, quite different from what I'm proposing. In a free society, there is no special security force patrolling the streets. Anarchism would be arrived at not through coercion but through education and persuasion. Syndicates would offer a more appealing life and greater transparency and control to the workers than a corporation could ever dream of. The commune promises a world without masters, a vote and a voice in what is produced, the absence of poverty (because everything is owned mutually and the members of a commune would care for each other), an abundance of leisure time, and voluntary labor in an individual's field of interest. However, if the rare case should arise that an entrepreneur obtained the means of production, left the commune (as the members wouldn't change their democratically determined system because the minority wanted to reintroduce wage slavery) and persuaded individuals to rent out their time for wages and rationed benefits that is their right to do so.
But bare in mind this ceases to be anarchism at this point. The problem I have with your definition of Capitalism is it neglects the key component of what the economic system is - privately owned. Once property is privatized the disparity of wealth distribution is inevitable. That is because the amount of freedom a person possesses is proportional to the amount of property he or she owns. Those who own more property exert domination over those who have less or none. Workers are threatened with the specter of unemployment and homelessness forcing them into one of your "voluntary" contracts. This would be an impossibility in a commune.
Capitalism is not truly voluntary and gains its purchase from fear, coercion and inequality. The only way to succeed in a Capitalist environment is through Authoritarian tactics giving the spoils to the most brutal. True anarchism encourages subversive ideas, thrives on individuality and values persuasion, not aggression. Communes provide for themselves even for those considered untouchables (infirm, elderly) in Capitalism. As compassion isn't profitable this concept is bemoaned by Capitalists. The immutable march toward expansion in Capitalism requires a feature for creating artificial wants, however, in a communal society the consumers have direct control over what is produced. To quote Kropotkin "[production is] the mere servant of consumption; it must mould itself on the wants of the consumer, not dictate to him [or her] conditions." To the Capitalist, the human spirit (which nobody can buy, sell or trade) is subordinate to material wealth. Not only is Capitalism incompatible with anarchism, it is incompatible with rudimentary human decency.