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Posts Tagged ‘capitalism’

THE SECOND STEP: FORGET THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on November 13, 2016

My alter-ego, “Lefty” Hooligan, would no doubt say “Fuck the Democratic Party!” I’m not so belligerent because I’m not at all sure whether the Democratic Party should be abolished, ignored, embraced, reformed, or rebuilt from the bottom up. Nor am I as certain as my ultraleft counterpart that bourgeois political parties or even revolutionary parties have no role to play in bringing about social change, let alone social revolution. The whole issue of electoral politics is highly problematic from a number of perspectives, so I think it best to put aside the Democratic Party in discussing what is to be done in the wake of Trump’s win and the Republican Party’s victories.

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What I am certain about is that an active and engaged mass social base is needed in order to take the next step, whether that is forming a progressive, labor or revolutionary party, building an extra-parliamentary opposition, or attempting radical reforms or even social revolution. The two necessary components to an effective, vibrant mass social base are lively autonomous social movements and independent street politics based on direct action. And crucial to any mass social base with agency in my estimation will be an organized and organizing working class committed to direct action in the streets. Combine these two components, and true social power begins. I can endlessly debate the need for extra-parliamentary politics; what is absolutely necessary are broad, non-parliamentary social movements in the streets.

Posted in black bloc, capitalism, Democratic Party, direct action, labor unions, life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ed Lee urges homeless to self-deport

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 1, 2015

A brilliant little op-ed piece, written by San Francisco Chronicle’s columnist Jon Carroll:

Photo: Brant Ward, The Chronicle Mayor Ed Lee stopped to talk with residents of the Raman Hotel on Howard Street where he made the announcement Wednesday May 13, 2015. Mayor Ed Lee and members of the Board of Supervisors announced $28.9 million in new funding over the next two years to support the homeless in San Francisco, Calif. including the addition of more than 500 supportive housing units for chronically homeless seniors, expand medical care and continue the new Navigation Center.

Photo: Brant Ward, The Chronicle
Mayor Ed Lee stopped to talk with residents of the Raman Hotel on Howard Street where he made the announcement Wednesday May 13, 2015. Mayor Ed Lee and members of the Board of Supervisors announced $28.9 million in new funding over the next two years to support the homeless in San Francisco, Calif. including the addition of more than 500 supportive housing units for chronically homeless seniors, expand medical care and continue the new Navigation Center.

Ed Lee urges homeless to self-deport
By Jon Carroll
August 31, 2015 Updated: August 31, 2015 7:11pm

So this happened: Ed Lee told homeless people on the Embarcadero that they will “have to leave the street” before the weeklong waterfront-spanning Super Bowl carnival of cross-promotional opportunities that will precede the 2016 game.

“OK,” said the homeless people, “we’ll go to our second homes in Tahoe.”

So many questions! The first, I would think, is “Why is Ed Lee pimping for the NFL?” The NFL is a gigantic corporate entity, zealously guarding its brand while doing everything possible to degrade it. The league came very late to the notion that beating up women was a bad idea, and is now in an utterly dumb and maddening fight with one of its star quarterbacks over deflated footballs.

It’s just like when Lee tried to pimp for the Olympics, a known money loser that leaves behind a lot of infrastructure and no money to pay for its upkeep. Residents of the Bay Area were all “Can we think about this?” while Lee was going, “It’ll be great!” Lee lost that fight, so he transferred his allegiance to another rapacious entertainment cartel.

So the idea was: Get out, you filthy people, because we need a postcard-ready city for media executives to stroll around in.

Then there’s the larger pesky problem of what to do about the homeless. Many words have been expended recently on the deepening problem of San Francisco residents forced to encounter urination and defecation in public places. I hold no brief for those activities, although I do point out that they are a predictable consequence of being alive.

It should be mentioned that a fair number of the urinators and defecators are, to use the clinical term, crazy. We don’t believe in mental hospitals anymore (because they are too costly, unlike homelessness, which is, wait, even more costly), so the crazy people walk among us and, guess what, act like crazy people.

And there’s no street-level policy that can deal with that. Either kill ’em or move ’em out or deal with ’em. San Francisco has made a morally courageous decision to deal with the problem. That decision has to be made again and again, because the problem is intractable.

That decision comes with consequences, one of the least of which is bad smells and disgusting sights. Caring enough about human misery to risk discomfort is a virtue; caring together is a civic virtue.

A large subset of the crazy people are also addicts of various kinds. They’ve been offered the programs; they didn’t want them. Or they couldn’t stay with them. Or whatever. Addiction kills people by convincing them they don’t need help.

Most homeless people are not crazy addicts. They would experience great shame and humiliation if they were forced to do their business in the streets. Like any experienced urban resident, they have a very good idea where the publicly available bathrooms are. If that alternative were somehow not feasible, they would do their best to go deep into the most secret corners of the landscape.

Homeless people are not animals; they are very poor people, is all. Poverty is not an infectious disease; you can’t get it even by brushing past a homeless person on your way to the Nike Gatorade Punt Like an All-Star Celebrity Game.

Homeless people are sort of like me and you. They have mothers and fathers. They’ve known love and heartbreak. Maybe they never had a chance; maybe they had a chance and then stuff went wrong.

How far are you away from homelessness? How many multiple bad things have to go wrong before you run out of your last couch to surf on? Suppose financial reversals plus death of a partner plus debilitating costly disease — how’s your cushion? Maybe all that would be so depressing you’d seek escape in a bottle. And then you’re at a bus station and you’ve got $2.30 in your pocket. And, hey, how about a civil war? You a refugee yet?

It could happen. It could even happen to Ed Lee. Everything is mutable; status comes and goes. We’re all human. Which is sort of the point. We treat other people the way we would want to be treated ourselves. I think that’s some kind of Rule.

So maybe there’s something better than urine-shaming as a social philosophy. Maybe there’s trying to be useful. The problem will be with us as long as there are people, so the only approach that makes some kind of sense involves finding your place in the social fabric. There are dozens of useful volunteer groups; find one.

You may find homeless people offensive. It may also be that some of them find you offensive, you resource-hogging, water-swilling, ocean-warming, sweatshop-clothes-wearing, vacation-in-Bali-taking human placeholder. It’s all a matter of perspective.

“And the moral of that is — ‘Take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves.’” “How fond she is of finding morals” in jcarroll@sfchronicle.com.

Posted in capitalism, homeless, life, San Francisco, San Francisco Chronicle | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Why the Rich Love Burning Man

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on August 30, 2015

This was originally printed in Jacobin Magazine:

Trey Ratcliff / Flickr

Trey Ratcliff / Flickr


Why the Rich Love Burning Man
Burning Man became a festival that rich libertarians love because it never had a radical critique at its core.
by Keith A. Spencer

In principle the annual Burning Man festival sounds a bit like a socialist utopia: bring thousands of people to an empty desert to create an alternative society. Ban money and advertisements and make it a gift economy. Encourage members to bring the necessary ingredients of this new world with them, according to their ability.

Introduce “radical inclusion,” “radical self-expression,” and “decommodification” as tenets, and designate the alternative society as a free space, where sex and gender boundaries are fluid and meant to be transgressed.

These ideas — the essence of Burning Man — are certainly appealing.

Yet capitalists also unironically love Burning Man, and to anyone who has followed the recent history of Burning Man, the idea that it is at all anticapitalist seems absurd: last year, a venture capitalist billionaire threw a $16,500-per-head party at the festival, his camp a hyper-exclusive affair replete with wristbands and models flown in to keep the guests company.

Burning Man is earning a reputation as a “networking event” among Silicon Valley techies, and tech magazines now send reporters to cover it. CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Larry Page of Alphabet are foaming fans, along with conservative anti-tax icon Grover Norquist and many writers of the libertarian (and Koch-funded) Reason magazine. Tesla CEO Elon Musk even went so far as to claim that Burning Man “is Silicon Valley.”

Radical Self-Expression

The weeklong Burning Man festival takes place once a year over Labor Day weekend in a remote alkali flat in northwestern Nevada. Two hours north of Reno, the inhospitable Black Rock Desert seems a poor place to create a temporary sixty-thousand-person city — and yet that’s entirely the point. On the desert playa, an alien world is created and then dismantled within the span of a month. The festival culminates with the deliberate burning of a symbolic effigy, the titular “man,” a wooden sculpture around a hundred feet tall.

Burning Man grew from unpretentious origins: a group of artists and hippies came together to burn an effigy at Baker Beach in San Francisco, and in 1990 set out to have the same festival in a place where the cops wouldn’t hassle them about unlicensed pyrotechnics. The search led them to the Black Rock Desert.

Burning Man is very much a descendent of the counterculture San Francisco of yesteryear, and possesses the same sort of libertine, nudity-positive spirit. Some of the early organizers of the festival professed particular admiration for the Situationists, the group of French leftists whose manifestos and graffitied slogans like “Never Work” became icons of the May 1968 upsurge in France.

Though the Situationists were always a bit ideologically opaque, one of their core beliefs was that cities had become oppressive slabs of consumption and labor, and needed to be reimagined as places of play and revolt. Hence, much of their art involved cutting up and reassembling maps, and consuming intoxicants while wandering about in Paris.

You can feel traces of the Situationists when walking through Black Rock City, Burning Man’s ephemeral village. Though Black Rock City resembles a city in some sense, with a circular dirt street grid oriented around the “man” sculpture, in another sense it is completely surreal: people walk half-naked in furs and glitter, art cars shaped like ships or dragons pump house music as they purr down the street.

Like a real city, Burning Man has bars, restaurants, clubs, and theaters, but they are all brought by participants because everyone is required to “bring something”:

The people who attend Burning Man are no mere “attendees,” but rather active participants in every sense of the word: they create the city, the interaction, the art, the performance and ultimately the “experience.” Participation is at the very core of Burning Man.

Participation sounds egalitarian, but it leads to some interesting contradictions. The most elaborate camps and spectacles tend to be brought by the rich because they have the time, the money, or both, to do so. Wealthier attendees often pay laborers to build and plan their own massive (and often exclusive) camps. If you scan San Francisco’s Craigslist in the month of August, you’ll start to see ads for part-time service labor gigs to plump the metaphorical pillows of wealthy Burners.

The rich also hire sherpas to guide them around the festival and wait on them at the camp. Some burners derogatorily refer to these rich person camps as “turnkey camps.”

Silicon Valley’s adoration of Burning Man goes back a long way, and tech workers have always been fans of the festival. But it hasn’t always been the provenance of billionaires — in the early days, it was a free festival with a cluster of pitched tents, weird art, and explosives; but as the years went on, more exclusive, turnkey camps appeared and increased in step with the ticket price — which went from $35 in 1994 to $390 in 2015 (about sixteen times the rate of inflation).

Black Rock City has had its own FAA-licensed airport since 2000, and it’s been getting much busier. These days you can even get from San Carlos in Silicon Valley to the festival for $1500. In 2012, Mark Zuckerberg flew into Burning Man on a private helicopter, staying for just one day, to eat and serve artisanal grilled cheese sandwiches. From the New York Times:

“We used to have R.V.s and precooked meals,” said a man who attends Burning Man with a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. (He asked not to be named so as not to jeopardize those relationships.) “Now, we have the craziest chefs in the world and people who build yurts for us that have beds and air-conditioning.” He added with a sense of amazement, “Yes, air-conditioning in the middle of the desert!”

The growing presence of the elite in Burning Man is not just noticed by outsiders — long-time attendees grumble that Burning Man has become “gentrified.” Commenting on the New York Times piece, burners express dismay at attendees who do no work. “Paying people to come and take care of you and build for you . . . and clean up after you . . . those people missed the point.”

Many Burners seethed after reading one woman’s first-person account of how she was exploited while working at the $17,000-per-head camp of venture capitalist Jim Tananbaum. In her account, she documented the many ways in which Tananbaum violated the principles of the festival, maintaining “VIP status” by making events and art cars private and flipping out on one of his hired artists.

Tananbaum’s workers were paid a flat $180 a day with no overtime, but the anonymous whistleblower attests that she and others worked fifteen- to twenty-hour days during the festival.

The emergent class divides of Burning Man attendees is borne out by data: the Burning Man census (yes, they have a census, just like a real nation-state) showed that from 2010 to 2014, the number of attendees who make more than $300,000 a year doubled from 1.4% to 2.7%. This number is especially significant given the outsize presence 1 percenters command at Burning Man.

In a just, democratic society, everyone has equal voice. At Burning Man everyone is invited to participate, but the people who have the most money decide what kind of society Burning Man will be — they commission artists of their choice and build to their own whims. They also determine how generous they are feeling, and whether to withhold money.

It might seem silly to quibble over the lack of democracy in the “governance” of Black Rock City. After all, why should we care whether Jeff Bezos has commissioned a giant metal unicorn or a giant metal pirate ship, or whether Tananbaum wants to spend $2 million on an air-conditioned camp? But the principles of these tech scions — that societies are created through charity, and that the true “world-builders” are the rich and privileged — don’t just play out in the Burning Man fantasy world. They carry over into the real world, often with less-than-positive results.

Remember when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg decided to help “fix” Newark’s public schools? In 2010, Zuckerberg — perhaps hoping to improve his image after his callous depiction in biopic The Social Network — donated $100 million to Newark’s education system to overhaul Newark schools.

The money was directed as a part of then–Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s plan to remake the city into the “charter school capital of the nation,” bypassing public oversight through partnership with private philanthropists.

Traditionally, public education has been interwoven with the democratic process: in a given school district, the community elects the school board every few years. School boards then make public decisions and deliberations. Zuckerberg’s donation, and the project it was attached to, directly undermined this democratic process by promoting an agenda to privatize public schools, destroy local unions, disempower teachers, and put the reins of public education into the hands of technocrats and profiteers.

This might seem like an unrelated tangent — after all, Burning Man is supposed to be a fun, liberating world all its own. But it isn’t. The top-down, do what you want, radically express yourself and fuck everyone else worldview is precisely why Burning Man is so appealing to the Silicon Valley technocratic scions.

To these young tech workers — mostly white, mostly men — who flock to the festival, Burning Man reinforces and fosters the idea that they can remake the world without anyone else’s input. It’s a rabid libertarian fantasy. It fluffs their egos and tells them that they have the power and right to make society for all of us, to determine how things should be.

This is the dark heart of Burning Man, the reason that high-powered capitalists — and especially capitalist libertarians — love Burning Man so much. It heralds their ideal world: one where vague notions of participation replace real democracy, and the only form of taxation is self-imposed charity. Recall Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s op-ed, in the wake of the Obamacare announcement, in which he proposed a healthcare system reliant on “voluntary, tax-deductible donations.”

This is the dream of libertarians and the 1 percent, and it reifies itself at Burning Man — the lower caste of Burners who want to partake in the festival are dependent on the whims and fantasies of the wealthy to create Black Rock City.

Burning Man foreshadows a future social model that is particularly appealing to the wealthy: a libertarian oligarchy, where people of all classes and identities coexist, yet social welfare and the commons exist solely on a charitable basis.

Of course, the wealthy can afford more, both in lodging and in what they “bring” to the table: so at Burning Man, those with more money, who can bring more in terms of participation, labor and charity, are celebrated more.

It is a society that we find ourselves moving closer towards the other 358 (non–Burning Man) days of the year: with a decaying social welfare state, more and more public amenities exist only as the result of the hyper-wealthy donating them. But when the commons are donated by the wealthy, rather than guaranteed by membership in society, the democratic component of civic society is vastly diminished and placed in the hands of the elite few who gained their wealth by using their influence to cut taxes and gut the social welfare state in the first place.

It’s much like how in my former home of Pittsburgh, the library system is named for Andrew Carnegie, who donated a portion of the initial funds. But the donated money was not earned by Carnegie; it trickled up from his workers’ backs, many of them suffering from overwork and illness caused by his steel factories’ pollution. The real social cost of charitable giving is the forgotten labor that builds it and the destructive effects that flow from it.

At Burning Man the 1 percenters — who have earned their money in the same way that Carnegie did so long ago — show up with an army of service laborers, yet they take the credit for what they’ve “brought.”

Burning Man’s tagline and central principle is radical self-expression:

Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.

The root of Burning Man’s degeneration may lie in the concept itself. Indeed, the idea of radical self-expression is, at least under the constraints of capitalism, a right-wing, Randian ideal, and could easily be the core motto of any of the large social media companies in Silicon Valley, who profit from people investing unpaid labor into cultivating their digital representations.

It is in their interest that we are as self-interested as possible, since the more we obsess over our digital identity, the more personal information of ours they can mine and sell. Little wonder that the founders of these companies have found their home on the playa.

It doesn’t seem like Burning Man can ever be salvaged, or taken back from the rich power-brokers who’ve come to adore it and now populate its board of directors. It became a festival that rich libertarians love because it never had a radical critique at its core; and, without any semblance of democracy, it could easily be controlled by those with influence, power, and wealth.

Burning Man will be remembered more as the model for Google CEO Larry Page’s dream of a libertarian state, than as the revolutionary Situationist space that it could have been.

As such, it is a cautionary tale for radicals and utopianists. When “freedom” and “inclusion” are disconnected from democracy, they often lead to elitism and reinforcement of the status quo.

8.25.15

Posted in anarchism, capitalism, class war, corporations, counterculture, libertarians, life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Bill Maher on the “Sharing” Economy

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on August 22, 2015

Again, my sentiments exactly:

Posted in capitalism, life | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Struggling with mini-chain stores

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 18, 2015

Here’s an article in Berkeleyside about mini-chains, covering among other stores my personal fave, Top Dog.

Family-chain-photo
FROM MOM-AND-POPS TO MINI-CHAINS

By Jessica Kwong

August 11, 2010 7:10 am

Bongo Burger and Brazil Cafe are two of Berkeley’s family-owned mini-chains.

When Berkeley folk think food — even in the order of grab-and-go — their palates usually paint a picture of small, family-owned places unique to the city’s borders.

Favoring independent, locally owned businesses has been characteristic of the city since its inception and through its evolution, according to the city’s economic development project coordinator Dave Fogarty.

“Some of the chains that have attempted to come into Berkeley have really not been successful and they decided they didn’t want to be here because people weren’t [spending] there,” he said.

While chain restaurants have generally been resisted, at least half a dozen mom-and-pops have entered into a gray zone by expanding into “mini-chains” within the city.

Top-Dog
Perhaps the eatery that started the chain reaction among some family-owned businesses is Top Dog.

Rewind to fall 1966: the original Top Dog on Durant Avenue began in true mom-and-pop fashion. Dick Riemann, 76, still the owner today, opened Top Dog with a business partner on Saturday morning when “the paint on the floor was still a might tacky.”

Within 10 minutes, there was standing room only. However, it wasn’t the appeal of the business but the fact that a hot dog seemed like the most logical food to eat en route to the UC Berkeley football game.

“The place was absolutely mobbed,” Riemann said. “It was a very fearful moment but we learned from it and many people got to know us.”

Three years later, Riemann and his wife opened a second Top Dog on the other side of the university on Hearst Avenue. About eight years ago, a third store appeared near downtown Berkeley on Center Street. “It was a matter of having a presence on the other sides of campus,” he said. “The east side had nothing by the way of foot traffic so there was no business opportunity there but the other three sides seemed naturally fitting for the university trade.”

Another family-owned business that shares a similar story is Bongo Burger. The first one also opened on the southside of UC Berkeley on Dwight Way in 1968. Because “it was successful,” owner Alireza Hamid, 63, opened two more stores, one on Euclid Avenue in 1982 and another on Center Street in 1992.

Apart from having a great presence, Hamid expanded in the places he did as a matter of convenience. Food is made daily at a Berkeley-based store and distributing to three stores within the city makes sense. “We are preparing fresh food everyday. It’s not like a fast food chain store,” he said.

Other ethnic family-owned eateries have also grown to be Berkeley mini chains.

La-Burrita
The founder of the first La Burrita that opened on Euclid Avenue in 1986 helped the owner of the second store, Sal Naser, 49, start up next to the flagship Top Dog on Durant Avenue a couple of years later.

Although the stores are still managed by different families, the owners are good friends and agreed to maintain the same menu and even advertise and accept the same coupons.

“In general they are almost the same, so when people have a good experience at one La Burrita they combine both together,” Naser said.

A family-owned eatery that was named one of the top 10 cafes in the United States by National Geographic in 2005 has chosen to remain humble and local. The first Brazil Cafe — a “barraca,” or a small shack — appeared on University Avenue 10 years ago.

Lease complications led owner Pedro Rodin, a 42-year-old Berkeley resident, to open a larger, restaurant-style Brazil Cafe on Shattuck Avenue. “I have a good reputation, good name, good food, and wanted to stay in the business,” he said. “In case they closed my [first] place, I would be one block away and people would follow me.”

Both locations are still operating, and Berkeley residents including Wesley Hamel, 30, aren’t complaining. “There are two and it’s different from a big chain, it looks authentic,” he said. “This is a nice place and I would enjoy hanging out at another one.”

Thai-Noodle
The opposite direction of expansion occurred for Thai Noodle. The first restaurant opened on Shattuck Avenue in 2000 and Thai Noodle II appeared on Telegraph Avenue a year and a half ago. Both are doing “really, really well” and experienced only about a 5 percent decrease in business since the economic downturn, according to manager Piyanuch Phettun, 26. “We’re looking to open number three next year,” he said.

While the recipe for success for some family-owned businesses has been expanding around UC Berkeley, operating on the campus itself is another option that has been tapped. Brazil Cafe is exploring the possibility.

Nine years after establishing his first business on Oxford Street, the owner of Yali’s Cafe, Ayal Amzel, 43, won two separate bids and opened locations on campus in 2008.

In the midst of negotiating for a fourth location in the Downtown, Amzel said he does not feel threatened by the few corporate chains that do exist in Berkeley.

“When new mom-and-pop’s open up they usually have new ideas because they care, so the competition is more fierce,” he said. “It’s easier for me to compete with Starbucks because I can move faster and use my creativity and put it in place faster than a corporation that is limited by its own size.”

Expansion of small businesses into family chains drew mixed reactions among community members. A frequent customer at mini chains including Top Dog, UC Berkeley senior John Lee, was “torn between the idea of convenience and monopolizing around campus.”

“I think Berkeley is unique because there are so many different mom-and-pop shops but if they keep expanding it kind of loses its flair for being a place for mom-and-pop shops,” the 22-year-old sociology major said.

While waiting for his usual burrito, Berkeley resident Richard Banegas, 25, said he didn’t think La Burrita should open any more locations. “That is when it starts losing its respect to customers,” Banegas said. “People don’t see it the same way, they [would be seen as] in it for the money.”

Still, the city’s economic development manager Michael Caplan saw expansion in a positive light, noting a difference between a locally owned chain and a national chain that sometimes doesn’t always have a longstanding connection to its customers.

“When one small business expands to a new location it’s a testament that there’s a lot of demand for the product,” he said. “Sometimes businesses outgrow their existing location and they can’t expand where they are but one way to grow and serve more people is to find another location.”

While some family chain business owners have their sights set on having a greater presence in the city, many of them are proceeding with the city’s Buy Local philosophy — certainly a mindset that puts them more in line with mom-and-pops than with corporate chains.

“I have a great interest in this city being successful and economically viable and have enough commerce in it to keep it alive, so it was natural and important for me to stay close to home,” Amzel said of his expansion plans.

Jessica Kwong is a trilingual freelance journalist whose work has been published in Spanish- and English-language publications in the Bay Area, Southern California and Latin America. She served as city news editor, investigative reporting instructor and business beat reporter for The Daily Californian while at UC Berkeley. A 2010 Hearst Fellowship recipient, she will begin working as a staff writer at the San Francisco Chronicle in the fall.

Photos by Jessica Kwong

Posted in Berkeley, capitalism, life, San Francisco Bay Area | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Big Business is the new Big Government

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on July 26, 2014

Bill Maher got this right. A clip from his Real Time HBO show:

And yet Republicans love big business and hate big government.

Posted in capitalism, capitalist monopolies, Federal Government, Republican Party | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Income inequality aka class warfare

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on July 19, 2014

Here are two takes on income inequality in this country, both of which are underscored by the reality of class warfare. First, John Oliver’s piece on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight“:

And then there is this cartoon “A Formula for Inequality, Told in Four Generations,” a “Tom the Dancing Bug” comic strip by Ruben Bolling:
1*tGqJ7ZPG-n6_G5m7E5QHGA
Ah, for the good old Class War Federation and their words to live by: “No war but the class war!”

Posted in capitalism, class war, economics, life, US economy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Cloud Control to Major Dumb

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on May 23, 2014

This is an outstanding cartoon by Jen Sorensen, a political cartoonist based in Austin. Her cartoons are seen in The Progressive, The Nation, Ms., Daily Kos, AlterNet, Politico, NPR, etc. (@JenSorensen)
1*R-urABnDoROjPkBN0NySsA
Cartoons and graphics like this are available at The Nib.

Posted in capitalism, capitalist monopolies, corporations, economics, life, tech industry | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Spoiler alert!

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on May 7, 2014

Tell me if you heard this one before.
1*TOUG9HZyfIyYlt2aBuP5DQ

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Frank Espada, 1930-2014, Que En Paz Descanse

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on February 18, 2014

fes_portrait
I had the privilege of knowing Frank Espada through my wife. Frank founded the organization, Bay Area Photographers Collective, of which my wife is a member. Being an opinionated, cantankerous old/New Leftie, he eventually quit BAPC due to political and artistic differences, but he continued to mentor and inspire local photographers with his skill and talent. I own his book The Puerto Rican Diaspora: Themes in the Survival of a People, a brilliant portrait of his community whose black-and-white photographs are visceral and tactile. I’m proud to say that my wife and I own a number of Frank Espada original, old school darkroom prints, which hold an honored place on our walls and shelves.
malcolmx
Just one Frank Espada story. I remember attending one of his exhibitions, where the above iconic photograph was prominently displayed. I was admiring it when Frank walked up alongside me. Noticing that the Malcolm X photo was actually quite reasonably priced, I asked him if there were copies of the print available for sale. He said no, that this was the one print available at that time, and that he didn’t do large runs of particular photographs. Then he asked me whether he thought the price and quantity of his photography should be commercially determined. When I said yes, unthinking, with an eye toward owning my own copy, he immediately came back with the comment that the value of art, all art, should never be determined by the market. From there our discussion turned to criticizing “art for art’s sake,” the social responsibility of the artist, the need for art to be accessible, etc. Frank was a socialist with an abiding critique of capitalism, one of the things I liked and admired about him.

Frank’s papers and photos were recently acquired by Duke University, and his website can be found here.

Que En Paz Descanse.

Así son las cosas de la vida.
One obituary
Another obituary
Yet another obituary
A final one

Posted in capitalism, Frank Espada, life, socialism | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Anti-Techie backlash: bus blockade tactic

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on December 31, 2013

So I’m walking around Market Street, doing a bit of extra exercise between my workout sessions, when I encounter this sticker on a newspaper kiosk near the corner of Church Street.
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Its an old slogan (“Die Yuppie Scum!”) updated for present realities in San Francisco. The techies flooding into the City have become a lightning rod for local frustration, discontent, protest, and worse. In particular, those Apple, Google, and Genentech buses seen cruising the city’s streets have become prime targets. On December 20, four separate incidents involving blockades and/or attacks on tech buses occurred in Oakland and San Francisco, according to the SF Chronicle. People peacefully surrounded and briefly detained buses at MacArthur BART Station in Oakland and the 24th Street and Mission BART Station in San Francisco. At 7th and Adeline streets near the West Oakland BART Station, violence greeted another bus, rocks and bottles were thrown, and window was shattered and tires were slashed.
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Video can be found here. These protests, nonviolent and violent, follow a bus blockade on December 9 in the Mission, covered here. The folks staging this protest called themselves the San Francisco Displacement and Neighborhood Impact Agency, and sighted the following reasons for their protest:

[W]e’re stopping the injustice in the city’s two-tier system where the public pays and the private corporations gain.

Rents and evictions are on the rise. Tech-fueled real estate speculation is the culprit. We say: Enough is Enough! The local government, especially Mayor Lee, has given tech the keys to shape the city to their fancy without the public having any say in it. We say, lets take them back!

Tech Industry private shuttles use over 200 SF MUNI stops approximately 7,100 times in total each day (M-F) without permission or contributing funds to support this public infrastructure. No vehicles other than MUNI are allowed to use these stops. If the tech industry was fined for each illegal use for the past 2 years, they would owe an estimated $1 billion to the city.

We demand they PAY UP or GET OUT!
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Those tech workers temporarily trapped on the buses in question were furious about being “held hostage” by the protestors blockading the means of transportation to their jobs. These techies have demonstrated a profound myopia over their own part in gentrifying San Francisco and in engendering the hostility among the locals to their intrusion. All the while tech workers are safely ensconced in their buses with tinted windows, air conditioning and wifi without thought one about giving back to the neighborhoods and the city they’re blithely destroying.

Business leaders narrowly argue that the backlash against the tech buses makes no sense, because the buses take solo drivers in individual cars off the roads. These business interests deliberately ignore the wider damage done to San Francisco by the tech industries relentless encroachments. And they conveniently look the other way as Mayor Ed Lee and other corporate complicit local politicians provide $14.2 million annually in tax breaks to stimulate growth in tech, biotech, and cleantech, most prominently to keep Twitter in San Francisco and to stimulate economic growth around its mid-Market Street headquarters.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian has provided a much needed critical counterbalance to the Chronicle’s pro-business cheerleading that simultaneously bemoans all the fuss being made over tech workers and the tech industry. Along with the YouTube of the December 20 bus protests below, SFBG continues to cover the bus blockages and other anti-techie protests.

Posted in capitalism, evictions, gentrification, Google buses, life, Oakland, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Guardian, San Francisco Chronicle, tech industry, techies | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Ladies and gentlemen, the vanishing middle class

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on October 29, 2013

It’s a set of platitudes mouthed by all American politicians everywhere, that “the middle class is the foundation of this country’s prosperity,” that Washington “is doing everything possible to strengthen the middle class,” and that “the future looks bright for the American middle class.” Absolute hogwash! Here are a few more charts and graphs, thanks to the Business Insider:

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Nothing up the sleeves of the American ruling class, except for the demise of the American middle class.

Posted in capitalism, jobless recovery, life, politics, United States of America, US economy, US middle class, US ruling class, US society, US working class | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

USA! We’re Number One!

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on October 29, 2013

It’s official. The United States is #1 at creating rich people. Here’s the chart (based on this study):
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The consequences of this “wealth creation” is an ever widening gap between rich and poor, the decimation of the American middle class, the potential for societal segregation, social unrest and class warfare that is exacerbated by such class dynamics. This income gap is the highest since the “Roaring 20s.
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What’s more, even prominent moderate-to-liberal individuals are beginning to see this as a problem.

Then, there’s so many other ways that the United States excels at being #1 in very bad shit. Here are the graphic representations, including the first one mentioned above:
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Makes you fucking PROUD to be an American! Third World Banana Republic, here we come!

Posted in American Empire, capitalism, corporations, homeless, life, politics, poverty, United States of America, US economy, US middle class, US military, US society, US working class | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »