Archive for the ‘Globalization’ Category

A Global Revolution?

June 19, 2013

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The recent protests in Turkey and in Brazil have brought some renewed optimism to this country’s perpetually gloomy Left. In The Daily Kos, Ray Pensador writes:

    We’re here folks. This is the real thing. The global revolution has started. What’s happening in Turkey, and Brazil, as a write this, are not unrelated events. The revelations about how corparatist cartels are using government institutions to cast a wide net of surveillance over the entire population (NSA spying) with the intent of using it as a tool to control, manipulate and exploit the citizenry, is part of the collusion.

I don’t want to sound like Mr. Downer, but I’ve heard this kind of talk before. I heard it after the “Battle in Seattle” in 1999. (I remember Alex Callinicos saying that Seattle was “a fork in the road”. It was more like a speed bump for neoliberalism.) I also heard this talk in the Occupy movement in the fall of 2011. Yet at some point the increasing corruption and criminality of our global economic system is going to produce some kind of sustained fightback. If not now, some time in the near future. Something has got to give.


February 10, 2013


I unfortunately missed Bullhead when it was first released in this country. This Belgian film was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign language film. (It lost out to the Iranian film, A Separation, which is also very good.) First time director Michaƫl R. Roskam has crafted a powerful and disturbing movie.

Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts) belongs to a cattle-raising family in Flanders. His family uses hormones to fatten their cattle, which is illegal in Belgium. Jacky uses steroids to bulk himself up, in a manner eerily similar to the way he bulks up cattle. Through a series of flashbacks we learn that Jacky’s behavior is the result of a traumatic childhood experience. Jacky’s family becomes increasingly involved in the trade in illegal hormones. When a leader of the “hormone mafia” has a government agent killed, Jacky begins to fear that his family may be in over their heads. At the same time Jacky obsesses over a girl from his childhood.

Bullhead derives much of its power from Schoenaerts’s performance. One can sense the frustration and rage boiling inside his character. Much of the suspense of the film comes from knowing that his anger can explode at any time.

This film depicts Belgium’s hormone mafia. This group presents a real problem in that country. In 1995, they murdered a government meat inspector (this incident was the inspiration for this film). It appears that farmers are willing to break the law just to give themselves a competitive advantage. The logic of capitalism fuels such behavior. Here in the U.S., where agribusiness practically controls the government, there are no prohibitions on hormone use. The U.S. has been pressuring European countries such as Belgium to lift their bans on hormone use. It seems that the U.S. has become a sort of hormone mafia.

Random Thoughts on the Current Troubles

September 15, 2012

The growing inter-connectedness of the world does not always redound to our advantage. Case in point: a cheesy movie made in a strip mall in Monrovia, California, causes riots and the deaths of four people on the other side of the world. We are living in the Global Village, and just as Marshall McLuhan warned, it is filled with “panic terrors, exactly befitting a small world of tribal drums, total interdependence, and superimposed co-existence.” Fear increasingly becomes people’s normal state of existence, because they are increasingly bombarded with ideas and facts that they don’t understand or only partially understand.

Reading the comments on threads on other sites, I am struck by how many people have no desire to try to understand what is happening. We have an amazing informational tool in the form of the Internet, yet some people would prefer to use it for spewing hate and parading their ignorance. Sad.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, alias “Sam Bacile” is the auteur responsible for that blood and sand epic, Desert Warrior Innocence of Muslims. Nakoula is a Coptic Christian from Egypt, yet he told the Wall Street Journal that he is an Israeli and that the film was funded by Jewish donors. The kindest thing one cam assume here is that Nakoula wanted to prevent any blame for the film being placed on Egypt’s Coptic community, yet there is something sinister about the fact that Nakoula invented a story about non-existent Jewish donors. One has to question what game Nakoula is really trying to play.

The cast and crew of the film say they were duped, and I believe them. The 14-minuste clip on Youtube is heavily (and badly) dubbed. These people will be haunted by this for the rest of their lives. They were used by Nakoula, Steve Klein, Terry Jones and other right-wing Christians to advance their twisted political agenda.

Mapping American Decline

September 11, 2012



USA Today has two maps on its website, showing which counties in the U.S. have substantial poverty rates. (You can find an interactive version of the maps here. One is for 1980 and the other is for 2010. The colored areas indicate a poverty rate of 20% or more. The dark brown areas indicate poverty among the elderly, the light brown areas indicate childhood poverty, and the gray areas indicate a combination of the two.

Overall, the maps give the impression that Americans are poorer today than they were thirty years ago. Also, there has been a shift from poverty among the old to poverty among children. This is perhaps because declining wages have resulted in more children being raised in poverty. One is also struck by the increase in the poverty rate in Western states (with the notable exception of Utah). This may indicate that the inland West is being largely passed over in the new globalized neoliberal economy.

One thing that is clear from these maps is that the southern half of the U.S. has always been poorer than the northern half. This is probably the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and so-called “right-to-work” laws. This shows what a sorry joke the much bally-hooed “New South” is. It’s worth noting that while the population of this part of the country has been steadily increasing, it has apparently not gotten any wealthier.

There are two large areas where poverty has not apparently increased substantially. One is a region that the French geographer, Jean Gottmann, called “Megalopolis”. It extends roughly from Boston along the Atlantic coast to Washinton, D.C. (Judging from these maps, one can add northern Virginia, Vermont, and New Hampshire to this.) This is the most densely populated region in the country. (Note how lightly populated counties in the West have gotten poorer.) It’s also a region with major port cities. This no doubt shows the importance of global trade to the economy. This region also has a good deal of high tech companies

The Great Lakes region has has also been relatively steady, with the notable exceptions of Michigan and Ohio, which have been hit hard by outsourcing in the automobile industry.

Also indicating the importance of trade and technology is the fact that the major West Coast ports, plus the Silicon Valley and Hawaii, have been doing comparatively well. Los Angeles and Long Beach appear to be the exceptions here, but bear in mind that Los Angeles County covers an enormous area, mostly desert and mountains, so this may be deceiving.

Note also that the poorer states tend to be what pundits call “red states”, that is, they tend to vote for the Republican candidate in presidential elections. Since Republicans don’t even pretend to care about the poor, one must assume that this is due to social conservatism. Clearly, we on the left have our work cut out for us.