Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Big News - First Live Giant Squid Photographed!

OK, I am coming out of the cephalopod closet today to announce some really huge news, namely that on Sept 27, 2005, a Japanese team of researches released film of a healthy, live giant squid in its natural habitat. The grand Architeuthis Dux approximately 1 km below the surface was filmed going after the bait which the team had on the end of a fishing line. The squid grabbed the bait to eat it, and when it got caught on the hooks lost one arm or tentacle (the report said tentacle, but the photo of the detached appendage looked more like an arm).

This link will take you to more photos: Squid Photos

This link will take you to an article:
Squid Article

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Socialist World Map Project

With a long standing interest in interests geographic, indeed my BA from the University of Texas was achieved with a double major in Geography and Political Science, I have great pleasure in announcing my latest project.

My initial goal with this project was to better understand the claim that "capital has won"and to explore the extent of globalization and neo-liberal policies fueled by the IMF and World Bank. In fact what I found was quite the opposite.

Socialism is alive and well throughout the world and in fact is on the rise. The much touted "new world order" and "end of history" espoused by the self-deluded guardians of the spectacle are less true today than when they were spoken.

The first installment of the project is a map of the western hemisphere. The countries are categorized with regards to the degree that their ruling party have adopted a socialist program. The categories are as follows:
  • Socialist (red) - the ruling party identifies itself as Marxist or socialist and has adopted various programs of social justice
  • Social Democracy (light red) - the ruling party has adopted aggressive social welfare programs for the benefit of the people
  • Neo Liberal (light blue) - the ruling party has adopted some or many social programs but is aggressively in favor of neo-liberalism, privitization and globalization
  • Reactionary (blue) - aggressive capitalist or reactionary agenda; includes the spectrum from democratically elected conservative governments to unelected tyrants
I understand that the categories are somewhat arbitrary and I welcome comment and dialog. The research has been done primarily using Wikipedia to determine the current governing party of each country, and its program. Again I welcome comment and corrections.

Socialist World Map Project - Western Hemisphere - September 2005
Click here for the most recent version.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Be Useful Part 2

A group of folks made some interesting (if misguided :P ) comments to the "Be Useful" post of a few days ago. I had neglected to include more prominently the link to the article from which I lifted the quote.

I disagree that Chavez is authoritarian. He was democratically elected twice and beat a recall - all by popular vote. There is no evidence that Chavezista's have organized any sort of authoritarian measures, unlike the great shining hope of American Interest in neighboring Colombia, Mr. Urbide, who under the cover of a "war on drugs" funnels money to right-wing paramilitary thugs and murder countless villagers (objective evidence here).In the case of Venezuela, take the following example from a recent AP article:
"We're capitalists, consumers by nature," said 26-year-old Marbelys Gonzalez, strolling through the mall with two friends, carrying a shopping bag filled with five pairs of designer jeans.

"We're crazy about shopping. If we go out and don't end up buying anything, we don't feel good," she said, sunglasses perched atop her bleached blond hair.

I think that we can all agree that mall-rats spend their time and money in a useless fashion (not to mention how vapid they are - they think they are capitalists but in reality they simply support capitalism). And this is Chavez's point - with massive economic efforts put towards creating more and more exchange value at the expense of creating use value (e.g. the intrinsic value of an object which provides tangible, but not necessarily physical, utility for people, i.e. a sports coat has a use value that is derived from it keeping one warm and protected from the elements, but it also contains different exchange values depending on which fashion designer has his name on it).

The evidence in Venezuela is a small portion of people involved in conspicuous consumption and a large number struggling to survive. Chavez makes the correct point that society and by extension government must focus on helping ALL people, instead of protecting the wealth of the few at the expense of the many.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Be Useful

"You have to strip yourself of self-centeredness. You have to strip yourself of the yearnings for personal wealth. You have to strip yourself of egotism. You need to be, simply, useful." - Hugo Chavez

Monday, September 05, 2005

How the Free Market Killed New Orleans

The following is from a piece by Michael Parenti which was published on ZNet on September 3rd:

The free market played a crucial role in the destruction of New Orleans and the death of thousands of its residents. Forewarned that a momentous (force 5) hurricane was going to hit that city and surrounding areas, what did officials do? They played the free market.

They announced that everyone should evacuate. Everyone was expected to devise their own way out of the disaster area by private means, just like people do when disaster hits free-market Third World countries.

It is a beautiful thing this free market in which every individual pursues his or her own personal interests and thereby effects an optimal outcome for the entire society. Thus does the invisible hand work its wonders in mysterious ways.

In New Orleans there would be none of the collectivistic regimented evacuation as occurred in Cuba. When an especially powerful hurricane hit that island in 2004, the Castro government, abetted by neighborhood citizen committees and local Communist party cadres, evacuated 1.5 million people, more than 10 percent of the country’s population. The Cubans lost 20,000 homes to that hurricane---but not a single life was lost, a heartening feat that went largely unmentioned in the U.S. press.


The free market played a role in other ways. Bush’s agenda is to cut government services to the bone and make people rely on the private sector for the things they might need. So he sliced $71.2 million from the budget of the New Orleans Corps of Engineers, a 44 percent reduction. Plans to fortify New Orleans levees and upgrade the system of pumping out water had to be shelved.

Army Corps of Engineer personnel had started work to build new levees several years ago but many of them were taken off such projects and sent to Iraq. In addition, the president cut $30 million in flood control appropriations.

Bush took to the airways (“Good Morning America” 1 September 2005) and said “I don’t think anyone anticipated that breach of the levees.” Just another untruth tumbling from his lips.


Saturday, September 03, 2005

Killer Kate

This afternoon I am beside myself with sadness and rage. Hurricanes are a fact of life in the US. In the incredibly wealthy peninsula known as Florida, frequent hurricanes are handled as routine events with little loss of life or property. As a country, we have the engineering, planning and organizational capacity to handle most types of natural disasters with astounding capability. Most of this infrastructure was put in place after the disaster which hit Galveston, Texas on September 8, 1900, one-hundred and five years ago, which flattened the city and killed over 6,000 residents (20% of the population) trapped on the island with little warning.

An excerpt from one historical website has this account:
The criminal element began looting the dead, and the cold blooded commercial element began looting the living. The criminals were stealing everything they could with safety lay hands on, and the mercenary commercial pirates began a harvest of extortion. The price of bacon was pushed up to 50 cents a pound, bread 60 cents a loaf, and owners of small schooners and other sailing craft formed a trust, and charged $8 a passenger for transportation just across the bay from the island to the mainland.
As a result of this, the greatest natural disaster to affect the US up to that point, President Theodore Roosevelt signed legislation which formed the precursor to the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). By the late 1970’s the US had established FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency, now a part of the Department of Homeland Security) as well and by any measure, the federal organizations established to predict, prevent and help victims of disasters where massive, well funded and well staffed by the best and brightest in their fields.

So given that our Great Nation has such an incredible capacity to deal with disaster, what happened in New Orleans?

I lived in San Antonio, Texas for seven years. San Antonio often got into the national headlines due to flooding problems. It was universally acknowledged that the flooding was a result of human activity – namely construction of roads and parking lots which disallowed the rain water from soaking into the soil – it had no place to go. Nevertheless, the city continued to allow developers to build unabated. Tellingly, the areas affected when the floods did come where generally the poor areas. One of the centers of old wealth in San Antonio, Alamo Heights, and the central downtown area, had long been protected by massive dams, levies and other engineering feats. But the Mexican-American west-side was more often than not submerged under several feet of standing water.

Today we see incredible suffering in New Orleans and nary a white face in the crowd. The poor, black people of New Orleans are made to suffer while their white betters have escaped to posh hotels in nearby counties or states. With no jobs to go to, no money coming into households that get by check-to-check at best, and no stores open to buy the essentials from (let alone homes to return to) many people have resorted to “looting.”
The response of the “democratically” elected governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, is to call these desperate poor people “hoodlums” and issued the following warning (as reported by the AP):
Hundreds of National Guard troops hardened on the battlefield in Iraq have landed in New Orleans.
“They have M-16s and they’re locked and loaded,” she said. “These troops know how to shoot and kill, and they are more than willing to do so, and I expect they will.”
Instead of threatening to murder the people who are supposed be her wards, she should be in the streets manning soup kitchens. Instead of posting guards around the city disallowing people from leaving by foot, she should be ferrying people in her own car. Instead of using her platform to demonize and make other the people who need the most help, she should be doing her best to show how rampant poverty and inequality are root causes of the human disaster occurring today in New Orleans.

But instead of doing what is right, she has opted to serve her capitalist masters and demonstrate in unabashed form the high regard which the ruling classes holds for the unwashed masses. The ruling classes have opted to demonize the poor, and to mobilize the police and army to kill and contain the victims versus sending in the Red Cross and humanitarian organizations to support and diffuse the situation.

Kathleen Blanco, not hurricane Katrina, is the true “Killer Kate” of New Orleans.

This article is cross-posted at the Uncapitalist Journal.

The Containment of Hell

This post comes from The Dark Wraith:

Unfortunately it [...] happened in New Orleans: people were being kept from escaping; and the problems associated with mass movements of refugees were being abated by keeping the citizens of the wrecked city from becoming refugees.

In other words, the National Guard was actually blocking the routes into the city with checkpoints.

You know: "checkpoints" as in the ones at the old Berlin Wall; "checkpoints" as in Falluja before the Coalition attack; "checkpoints" as in the ones between Palestinian places and Israeli places; "checkpoints" as in take your pick of a thousand places where Hell is kept on the other side of machine guns and soldiers with orders to shoot.

As some of you who will read this are aware, I make no apologies for the speculations, analyses, and theories I set forth; and that will be the case for the present matter as I give you this warning:

Beware of what you are seeing in New Orleans; this is the first modern, domestic implementation of a strategy you might very well see again and again as crises come to other American cities in the months and years ahead.

The Dark Wraith welcomes you to the 21st Century.

More here...