Monday, June 30, 2008

Stop sexploitation, ignore exploitation

Sex Work is Different from Sex Slavery, aver Carnal Toilers by Martha Rosenberg

"The right-wing-backed human trafficking movement, part of the 'anti-prostitution industrial complex,' deliberately blurs the line between sex work and sex slavery to further its moralistic agenda and line its pockets said Jasmine, a [Sex Worker Outreach Project-Chicago] organizer at the presentation called Sex Workers, Criminalization and Human Rights.

It has duped many, including the media, into seeing 'sex slavery' where labor, immigration, gender and human rights abuses exist and occluded the plight of both consensual sex workers and women trafficked into household, farm and sweatshop work which is more common, charged Jasmine."

I can just imagine the anti-prostitution activists driving to a conference in a car manufactured by exploited Mexicans, made of metals mined by exploited Africans and South Americans, powered by oil drilled by exploited South and Central Asians, then drinking coffee grown by exploited Colombians all while wearing socks and underwear made by exploited Salvadorans and clothes by exploited Malays and Chinese (though carrying a made-in-the-USA purse made by exploited Samoans) - then walking up to the stage and podium made by exploited Central American undocumented immigrants, and speaking into a microphone powered by electricity generated by exploited nonunion plant workers about how prostitution is a singularly bad business because its workers are exploited.

Well, all its female workers at least - male sex workers don't seem to get much attention. Because to add another creamy layer of irony, these members of the "anti-prostitution industrial complex" adopt the patriarchal view that sex is everywhere and always an act during which men dominate and women are defiled.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Economy is Dead! Long Live the Economy!

The Game is Over. There Won't be a Rebound - Mike Whitney Interviews Michael Hudson on the Economy

No rebounds, but there may be a few dead cat bounces.

"Supporting the dollar’s exchange rate by the traditional method of raising interest rates would have a very negative effect on the stock and bond markets – and on the mortgage market. This would lead foreign investors to sell U.S. securities, and likely would end up hurting more than helping the U.S. balance of payments and hence the dollar’s exchange rate.

So Bernanke is merely being polite in not rubbing the faces of European and Asian governments in the fact that unless they are willing to make a structural break and change the world monetary system radically, they will remain powerless to avoid giving the United States a free ride – including a free ride for its military spending and war in the Near East.


when a bubble bursts, time makes things worse. The financial sector has been living in the short run for quite a while now, and I suspect that a lot of money managers are planning to get out or be fired now that the game is over. And it really is over. The Treasury’s attempt to reflate the real estate market has not worked, and it can’t work. Mortgage arrears, defaults and foreclosures are rising, and much property has become unsaleable except at distress prices that leave homeowners with negative equity. This state of affairs prompts them to do just what Donald Trump would do in such a situation: to walk away from their property.

The banks are trying to win back their losses by arbitrage operations, borrowing from the Fed at a low interest rate and lending at a higher one, and gambling on options. But options and derivatives are a zero-sum game: one party’s gain is another’s loss. So the banks collectively are simply painting themselves into a deeper corner. They hope they can tell the Fed and Treasury to keep bailing them out or else they’ll fail and cost the FDIC even more money to make good on insuring the 'bad savings' that have been steered into these bad debts and bad gambles."

America's Free Lunch is Over - How Should the Middle East Invest Its Oil Profits? by Michael Hudson

Ding dong, neoliberalism is dying. What will replace it, and how will the world's geopolitics be reshaped? One interesting suggestion for a step towards a post-neoliberal, post-Pox Americana world, directed at the oil-rich Middle Eastern countries:

"Offer to buy out the U.S. bases under construction, perhaps including the Green Zone buildup, at fair market value (certainly not at the exorbitant prices that Republican campaign contributors have been paid, with contracts that both the United Nations and the U.S. Congressional Budget office have found to have been corrupt and handled with improper oversight). This can best be done by making clear to the United States that the free lunch it obtained after going off gold in 1971 is over.


Two centuries ago the United States announced the Monroe Doctrine: Europe should leave the Western Hemisphere to U.S. as a sphere of influence. Is it not time for the world to act symmetrically and ask that the United States for its part leave the Eastern Hemisphere to that region’s nations, to develop as they wish in peace?"

Monday, June 23, 2008

Demonize the enemy, ignore the demon ally

Freedom of Expression and Human Rights in the Andes by Vincent Bevins

Why I feel compelled to vomit every time I hear that "freedom of expression" is threatened in "Chavez's" Venezuela:

"The public of the English-language press is convinced that Chavez is evil and freedom of expression here is nonexistent. It makes sense why the local private media in Venezuela and Ecuador would oppose its presidents and Uribe would be able to count on his. Uribe is openly an ally of the business interests which own the media, and Chavez and Correa have projects which frighten them. ... But why should the English-language media do the same, concentrating on every struggle or supposed violation in one country, but almost completely ignoring much more serious problems in another? In the end this raises more questions about the legitimacy of the major English-language media than about the situation in Venezuela."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Review: Threatened Existence: A Feminist Analysis of the Genocide in Gujarat

Threatened Existence: A Feminist Analysis of the Genocide in Gujarat by International Initiative for Justice in Gujarat

Hindu fascists are alive and well in India, totally under the radar of the Unitedstatesian left (and right, as if they would care anyway; the only religious fascists they care about are the Islamic ones with no real power). This book chronicles the state-sponsored genocide in Gujarat, orchestrated by the Modi government and looked upon with approval by members of a pervasive network of right-wing Hindu nuts across the country and the Indian diaspora. Eyewitness and victims' testimony details women being gang-raped and fetuses being cut out of uteri, people tortured and their bodies, sometimes alive, being burned to destroy the evidence.

More evidence that when Westerners cry "Never Again!" in response to the genocide of the European Jews, they mean "Never again (will we allow Hitler to come to power in 1930s Germany, etc.)!"

Friday, June 13, 2008

Dusk of the Dead

John McCain: War Hero or North Vietnam's Go-To Collaborator? by Douglas Valentine

Readers of the eXile already know about McCain's traitorous history during the Vietnam war (see But the concept of 'traitor' is a nationalistic one, and in McCain's case ignores the fact that during the Vietnam war, the U.S. was the bad guy. If that sounds controversial to you, just know that it isn't. Killing 4 million civilians is pretty universally regarded as bad form, even if the victims weren't first rounded up into camps and even though they may have had off-white skin, non-European facial features, and may have harbored ideas about politics that are at variance with those common in the United States.

So this article actually makes McCain look good, first for admitting that he is a war criminal for killing innocent women and children (not to mention men), and then for giving the Vietnamese National Liberation Front information that saved the lives of thousands of innocent women, children and men. "As result [of the informat
ion McCain volunteered to his captors,] the US lost sixty percent more aircraft and in 1968, 'called off the bombing of North Vietnam, because of the information McCain had given to them.'"

Of course, he is a hypocrite, and very likely a psychopath as a Cuban psychologist who analyzed him noted.

This isn't an endorsement.


No Rest for the Working Poor
by Laura Carlsen

More on neoliberalism's death, and its proponents' obliviousness to it. It's the economic ideology equivalent of Weekend at Bernie's...

"In a June 9 speech at the International Labor Organization in Geneva,
[Mexican Secretary of Labor] Lozano expounded on the perils of granting living wages to the working poor: 'The legitimate aspiration of higher wages for workers should come about through increases in productivity and not artificial measures such as generalized price controls or emergency wage hikes.' As Sec. of Labor, you'd think that Mr. Lozano might have seen just one of the dozens of studies that show that Mexican manufacturing has experienced a marked increase in productivity accompanied by a fall in real wages.

But the use of the word 'artificial' belies his conviction that anything outside the dictums of the neoliberal market is 'unnatural.' So whatever reality serves up that contradicts these dictums continues to be treated as an inconvenient anomaly or ignored completely."

[Jesus preaching his blessed-are-the-poor, rich-people-can't-get-into-
heaven claptrap to neoliberal Christians.]

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Review: The Dilemmas of Social Democracies: Overcoming Obstacles to a More Just World

The Dilemmas of Social Democracies: Overcoming Obstacles to a More Just World by Howard Richards and Joanna Swanger

Put in general terms, the point of the book boils down to this:
1. "Expecting people to be motivated to act to meet other people's needs by a desire for economic gain or profit is only a partial answer to the problem of motivation, not the whole answer."
2. "Expecting the price-signals generated by supply and demand in markets to tell people how to act to meet other people's needs is only a partial answer to the problem of guidance, not the whole answer."

So far, it sounds like the authors are in the mainstream Unitedstatesian liberal/European social democrat stream of thought. Let's stick with liberal economics, capitalism, but put some soft stockings on the market's invisible foot so it's stomping doesn't hurt so much. But then...

3. "To the extent that a society depends for meeting people's needs on profit motives and price-signals, measures designed to alleviate poverty, which weaken profit motives and/or distort price-signals, are likely to backfire."

This sounds like the same thing that conservatives will say, that the good intentions of the liberals/social democrats are actually counterproductive, and do the opposite of what is intended, thanks to the counterintuitive but immutable laws of economics.

The authors wouldn't disagree, except they would note that "economics" should not be reified and turned into universal laws like the laws of physics. On those (vanishingly rare) occasions when neoliberal economics is correct about the real world, it is only so because the governing customs are those of neoliberal economics.

What the authors' argument boils down to is similar to that of the early communists who viewed European social democrats as deluded traitors whose concessions to capitalism would never work, because the intrinsic nature of capitalism - namely, that high profits are essential to ensure investment hence employment and high wages down the road - would not allow the ideals of social democrats to be implemented for long. Without wealthy foreign markets that demand a social democratic country's products, the country will be without the high level of profits necessary to ensure both high wages and high levels of investment at the same time. When once-backward countries caught up and began to produce high quality products using highly exploited laborers - hence at a lower cost of production - social democratic countries simply couldn't compete as well, and their incredibly successful economies finally experienced problems in funding their redistributive policies, much to the relief of neoliberal economists, who previously had been reduced to arguing that these wealthy, egalitarian societies would be even better if only they ditched the policies that made them what they were.

The bottom line is: the underlying constitutive rules of the modern worldwide economy must be changed to allow for motives other than self-enrichment (for a few) and self-preservation (for the many) to operate. Kind of like... socialism.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Good sex in a bad city, and marijuana in Guantanamo

"Sex and the City" Through a Man's Eyes by Wajahat Ali

Wajahat makes some interesting observations about the opening night of Sex in the City: The Movie - like that some women in attendance were "dressed up like they were attending the opening of a San Francisco club – dressed to the nines and sporting 'do me' heels" (Never understood that - "do me" heels? Do me skirt, or lingerie, sure, but heels? Makes as much sense as foot-binding to me.) And he's just about right when he writes that "the entire movie revolves around the ladies’ near obsession with corporate merchandise, most notably shoes and purses." Maybe not "revolves," but certainly very thoroughly"involves." Even a supposed-to-be-touching scene where Carrie rewards her Black servant (sorry, it's "personal assistant" because she doesn't do the cleaning - presumably that's left to a brown-skinned woman, off-screen) involves a thousand-dollar brand name purse. (Her servant remarks at how happy she'll be showing off this status symbol to her working class neighbor/friend/competitors back home.)

That's the bad part. There's far too much of everything that makes New York City despicable: the crass materialism that empties minds and atrophies hearts, the horrific mutilations capitalism wreaks even on those it grants good fortune. For instance, Carrie's love interest (all of whom throughout the history of the show have never been below upper middle class) is a wealthy investment banker. He is portrayed as an affable, romantic guy, whose only fault in the movie is getting cold feet on his wedding day. Never mind his investments in corn and wheat futures that made food even more unaffordable for the world's poor, surely adding a few more to the 20,000 who die daily from hunger and malnutrition, not to mention the emotional wrecks these deaths (and the far more widespread fear of death, desperation and suffering) caused. But in the film's lens, he's an asshole only for waffling over whether to go through with his marriage for a period of some five minutes.

But while he comes close, Wajahat misses the mark by failing to see the revolutionary character of the show, which was not entirely snuffed out in the movie under the weight of so much product placement. He concedes that the film may have: "depicted women in a raw and uncensored fashion; the way women are behind closed doors after shedding their societal demeanor of being 'prim, proper and chaste.'" Sure, there is that. But there is more. Some three billion women live on planet earth. On the greater part of the earth's surface, a woman who wanted to enjoy a sexuality like Samantha's would face, at best, social ostricization, and at worst torture and a gruesome execution. Hell, even in New York City, one would need to be as financially independent as Samantha to really escape any harmful social backlash for choosing to avoid the suffocation of monogamy and enjoy male bodies and sex with as many of them as possible the way she does. And while Samantha is the sexual revolutionary par excellence, none of the Sex in the City women hew to the patriarchal sexual norm, which for women has always been: find an owner, and only let his penis inside you. Miranda, while in the film is married and monogamous, in an earlier episode revealed that in her lifetime she slept with forty men: a respectable number. Also, Miranda, a successful middle class professional, chose to mate with someone from the working class whom she found attractive - which is a prerogative reserved only for men in patriarchal societies like this one. Even Charlotte, the sheltered ruling class WASP, had sex with all sorts of men, including a fling with a repairman - in which case you could say she fucked him in more than the sense that she exchanged for his labor the monetary equivalent of far less of her's (which is to say, because she lives off of an inheritance, none). Although Carrie is the least revolutionary (and worryingly, the most popular) of the group, what with her bank account dating criteria, she's the only one who works in a poorly paid profession: writing. So I give her a pass.

So until Hollywood stops producing counterrevolutionary, reactionary capitalist films, at least give Sex in the City props it deserves for embodying the spirit of sexual revolution.

UPDATE - Sex sans the City (A Post-Marxist Preview) by Susie Day - A brilliant parody

Film Review: Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay by Eileen Jones

This review in the eXile is spot on: Hollywood's best political film of the year, a brilliant attack on the rotten cultural core of the conservative United States. (Like Sex in the City, it too is flawed, in that it attacks racial stereotypes while leaving gender stereotypes in place.) In 2008, it's remarkable to see a Hollywood comedy with two Asian-American men as the protagonists? Yup.

The most politically subversive part of the whole film comes when the two first arrive in their prison cells at Guantanamo bay, and meet the guys next cell:

Kumar: "So what are you guys in here for?"

Detainee 1: "For giving the United States a taste of its own medicine."

Kumar, incredulous at meeting these people at Guantanamo: "You guys are real terrorists?"

Detainee 2, defensive: "Some call us terrorists - others call us heroes."

Kumar, surprised and angry: "Screw that, you think you guys are heroes for killing innocent people?"
Harold: "It's because of assholes like you that we're even in this fucking place, you fucking cowards!"

Detainee 2, delivers a sneering riposte: "Well maybe if the people in your country stopped eating donuts, and started realizing what your government's doing to the world, 'assholes' like us wouldn't exist."

At this, Kumar has no response but the following: "Fuck you donuts are awesome!" Harold can only add: "They're delicious."


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Review: Logics of Disintegration

Logics of Disintegration: Poststructuralist Thought and the Claims of Critical Theory by Peter Dews

I bought this book on a whim in the hopes that it would make writers like Derrida, Lyotard and Foucault comprehensible. To some extent, it did. But even in explaining Derrida (in particular) the writing gets so bogged down (or lifted to celestial realms?) in exotic concepts born from centuries of philosophical inbreeding that I skipped a few chapters in the middle. The section on Foucault was excellent and quite readable, on the other hand.

In essence, the postmodern French philosophers so revered in the United States (if not in France) start from an extreme phenomenological point of view (heheh, is that a sort of pun or redundancy?) - can't be sure of anything since all we know was filtered through our senses - get influenced by Nietzsche and want to smash down the ideologies and philosophical systems and sciences with all their illusory certitude - and end up building castles of sand.

Just wish the devotees of these guys would take their beliefs seriously by stripping naked (textiles today are heavily influenced by science) and living in the woods so as to stop acting as if scientific discourses were accurate truth claims, since they profess a strident agnosticism on this point. If you act as if scientific discourses made accurate truth claims by, say, living other than in a forest, entirely off the grid: then you are implicitly starting from the critical realists' starting point. Dispense with differance and a neologism-a-minute writing style, and start working on changing the world instead of explaining - rather, fantasizing about it.