Sunday, May 31, 2009

Marx's Relevance Right Now


Remember when WalMart lobbied in favor of upping the minimum wage?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Williiam Carlos Williams "The Dance"

 . . . . Kicking and rolling about  / the Fair Grounds, swinging their butts, those / shanks must be sound to bear up under such / rollicking measures, prance as they dance / in Breughel's great picture, the Kermess

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Back when she was a child, Helena pretended to be sleeping and then slipped out of bed.
She dressed all in white, as if it were Sunday, and without a sound snuck out on the patio to discover the mysteries of the Tuscuman night.
Her parents slept, her sisters as well.
She wanted to see how the night changed and how the moon and stars moved. Someone had told her that the heavenly bodies shifted and sometimes fell, and that as the night advanced they changed color.
That night of nights, Helena watched without blinking. Her neck ached, her eyes hurt. She rubbed her eyes and looked again. She looked and kept on looking, but the sky did not change and the moon and stars remained firmly in their places.
Dawn awakened her. Helena shed a tear.
Later, she consoled herself with the thought that night doesn't like anyone spying on its secrets.

- Eduardo Galeano, "Night." Voices of Time: A Life in Stories. Trans. Mark Fried (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006) 40.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


The debate about whether "human rights" can ever truly be separated from politics and economics is not unique to Latin America; these are questions that surface whenever states use torture as a weapon of policy. Despite the mystique that surrounds it, and the understandable impulse to treat it as aberrant behavior beyond politics, torture is not particularly complicated or mysterious. A tool of the crudest kind of coercion, it crops up with great predictability whenever a local despot or a foreign occupier lacks consent to rule: Marcos in the Philippines, the shah in Iran, Saddam in Iraq, the French in Algeria, the Israelis in the occupied territories, the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. The list could stretch on and on. The widespread abuse of prisoners is a virtually foolproof indication that politicians are trying to impose a system--whether political, religious or economic--that is rejected by large numbers of the people they are ruling. Just as ecologists define ecosystems by the presence of certain "indicator species" of plants and birds, torture is an indicator species of a regime that is engaged in a deeply anti-democratic project, even if that regime happens to have come to power through elections

As a means of extracting information during interrogations, torture is notoriously unreliable, but as a means of terrorizing and controlling populations, nothing is quite as effective. It was for this reason that, in the fifties and sixties, many Algerians grew impatient with French liberals who expressed their moral outrage over news that their soldiers were electrocuting and water-boarding liberation fighters--and yet did nothing to end the occupation that was the reason for these abuses.

-- Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine (New York: Picador, 2007), 155-156.

Harold and Maude

HAROLD: You sure have a way with people.

MAUDE: Well, they're my species!


(esp. in Marxist terminology) the unorganized and unpolitical lower orders of society who are not interested in revolutionary advancement.

ORIGIN early 20th cent.: from German (a term originally used by Karl Marx), from Lumpen "rag, rogue" + PROLETARIAT.

Oxford American Dictionaries

Wednesday, May 13, 2009