Thursday, October 23, 2014

More Gas and Oil

Saw Prof. Michael Schwartz speak last night at the U of M about my favorite subject, oil wars. His basic thesis is: It's the Oil, Stupid! So he takes us around the Middle East ( mostly, a few detours into Russia and Ukraine and China) and explains the "oily substrate" of ongoing conflict in the region. Something new I learned was the relationship between Israel, Palestine, and Natural Gas. Turns out there is a giant formation right there in the old Mediterranean, just to complicate matters even further, right? I also learned about the vast amount of oil smuggling that goes on, this whole crazy enterprise where various militants capture a well or a pipeline, tap into it and sell the crude on the black market. And then, serendipitously, I hear a report on NPR this morning about the incredible sums involved guessed it, oil smuggling. Get some kalishnikovs, maybe some rpgs and shit,and some big trucks filled with barrels and you are in business, and a brisk business it is, 2 million smackers a day! I live near an oil patch here in Montana, I'm just not ambitious enough. One last thing I learned about was the oil that is being pumped from Kirkuk, now in the hands of Peshmurga Kurds, THROUGH TURKEY! Throw in a little EXXON- Mobile and a little Gasprom, maybe a couple of warlords and clan chieftons...

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Wedding/ Gas/ Oil Boom

As someone always looking to get in on the ground-floor, I am stoked by the Supremes latest non-decision. It's a little known fact that I am a minister who has presided over four wedding ceremonies (two of my own daughters). Being quite liberal in my views, I am happy to marry same sex couples and see a real niche here. I also bartender and DJ and would not be above serving hor d'ourves. The Democratic candidate for US Senate here in Montana is a gal who was in our IWW chapter and the Repubs are accusing her of wanting to "abolish capitalism". If only. I suspect Fellow Worker Amanda is actually seeing some career possibilities in bourgeois parliamentary "politics" and will try to dodge her anti-capitalist past. She doesn't stand a chance of actually winning this race and it is too bad she doesn't use her 15 minutes of fame to "mess wit people" as old Utah Phillips like to say. The Dems will lose the Senate but continue believing their neo-liberal agenda is the right way to go. What else on the local scene? I heard the Feds are giving grants to Indian tribes enabling them to explore possibilities for gas, oil and mineral exploration on their land. Colonization made easy with another ground-floor opportunity! Cash in on the American Dream while the boom is on and get rid of those last traces of "archaic", mystical, spiritual connections to Mother Earth. The Final Project! The Final Treaty!

Friday, October 03, 2014

Colstrip Montana

The Montana Dept of Environmental Quality (DEQ) did a "listening session" in Colstrip Montana regarding the new EPA regulations around coal fired power plants. Colstrip, as the name suggests, is the largest such plant in Montana and the source of the greatest CO2 emissions in the state, so as one might suspect,the folks there are...apprehensive. Much as the "Blue -Green Alliance would like to pretend some win-win is possible, this is in fact the classic capitalist tragedy, a bunch of hard working folks caught between forces they only vaguely comprehend. All of them had to know in the back of their mind that this day was coming but I suspect the initial reaction will be to toe the Fox News line and blame extreme environmentalists, bureaucrats, the government, Al Gore,Obama, somebody, anybody but the industry which exploits them for profit. They will have to go home and explain to their children that somebody is going to burn the coal so why shouldn't it be us? That it is unfair that they should carry the burden. That the science isn't "proven". That a warmer Montana might not be all bad. And what does the DEQ actually gain by going to this place where the reaction is so pre-determined? Of course the people will express their immediate financial concerns and will be suspicious, after all, isn't The Market supposed to be making all these decisions? Why not just let The Market speak? Meanwhile, new reports show unemployment dropping to 5.8% with wages (indexed with inflation) remaining stagnant and all the gains in productivity going to those same shareholders and CEO's who own the Coal Industry. The ones the workers don't blame for their dilemma.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Alan's Mea Non-Culpa

First off, anyone in America can become President...except Mitt Romney. Yet he is out there stumping for The Party and one wonders how long before we see George Bush Jr and Tony Blair working the circuit. Which is a perfect segue to another George, George Harrison, who wrote: with every mistake, we must surely be learning". I believe he was being overly optimistic- what would even hint at that proposition? Not Alan Greenspan's new book about the sublime beauty of free market capitalism. As a mediocre intellect and ideological follower of Ayn Rand, Alan is only capable of boiler plate pablum and his book will take its rightful place between Glen Beck's Life Story and the work of Ann Coulter. (Who buys these?) Stephen Holms works it over pretty good in the latest London Review but with the death of irony, monkeys like Greenspan should give us pause. Speaking of The Market, I don't think it is going to like Obama's new EPA rules over carbon emissions from coal fired power plants. Doesn't he understand that poisoning ourselves and the planet crates jobs and growth and Our Way of Life? The Death Wish is what keeps this whole system in motion and the people of Appalachia know that better than anyone.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Missing Burroughs

In the London Review of Books, there is a review of the new Barry Miles biography of William Burroughs by Gary Indiana. I would love to think that is his real name and believe Burroughs would also appreciate it. Home of The Music Man! Anyway... Indiana opines that Burroughs "lived in the future from an early age" and so anticipated the "staccato, associative patterns produced by the internet,TV channel flipping and 'screen reality'; considered unreadable when they were published, the trilogy books can be followed today almost as effortlessly as a novel by Hemingway." The fact we can now read Burroughs says something profound about our cultural moment. Again, Indiana: "The radically anti-authoritarian, left-libertarian notions he espoused probably look like irresponsible nihilism to many of those ensconsed at their computer screens during most of their waking life, or bedazzled by mobiles and ubiquitous electronic signage ina society overloaded with information yet drained of authentic experience. It now seems almost logical that the insight Burroughs offers into the brain-scrambling technical synaesthesia spreading everywhere would be exactly what brands him a crackpot..." The logic he found so grotesque is now normalized, Exterminators run rampant, and we cannot even mock the practitioners anymore, now that irony has vaporized. I am reminded of another lost, drug-addled hero who foresaw ( and foretold) the future: Hunter S Thompson. He too had a prescient relationship with guns and would have had a thing or two to say about the primary season.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Religion, Capitalism and Democracy

The election of Narenda Modi of the BJP is the logical expression of the global neoliberal economic project. As inequality, climate chaos and conflict over scarce resources increases the pressure on the fragile fabric of global society, we see xenophobia and religious/ethnic sectarianism spread exponentially. The burgeoning newly educated class of India, mostly young and ambitious, came out in record numbers to support the pro-corporate Hindu nationalist who promises de-regulation and growth. Their "education" has included indoctrination into the virtues of capitalism, the glories of Krishna and resentment at The Other, in this case Muslims, for holding back their personal prosperity and material success. They dream of "mountains and mountains of things" ,as the Tracy Chapman song goes. In the Ukraine we see fierce sectarianism based on language and culture. A xenophobic right-wing is in ascendency as it exploits economic tensions and the collapse of basic institutions. We could say much the same dynamic is playing out in Syria, Egypt and other countries caught in the backlash of the so-called Arab Spring. Here Islamic fundamentalism thrives and spreads south to Nigeria, Sudan, Yemen and beyond, far faster than the USA and Europe can build drone bases. Extreme drought brought upon by anthropogenic climate change is changing the landscape and social relations on an unprecedented scale. The US is not far behind. Religious fundamentalism and scapegoating of The Other are growing with the uncertainty and fear. Expect to see heightened rhetoric about threats to "our way of life" in the election season as people continue to believe they can elect their way to security. I keep a picture on my office wall of the ecstatic youth celebrating after the election of Barack Obama and imagine the youth of India also continue to believe in Hope and Change through capitalist "democracy".

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Stand Your Ground

In this NY Times article we learn a little about a tragedy that hits very close to home. The young foreign exchange student who was shot and killed was a soccer player on the team my best friend ( and co-blogger) teaches. As in every situation, we have a continuim within Montana "gun culture" from the legislator "with a gun in her closet" to the ever-growing number of whack-jobs with full on arsenals in their bunkers. I have my own hunting rifles and shotguns so I can harvest game. My neighbors have stacks of assault rifles so they can withstand " the coming firestorm" and "coming collapse" (language from survivalist website In a post-rational America, none of the crazed logics around the term "collapse" would surprise anyone; Christian millenialism, The New World Order, the rise of Cliven Bundy's negroes or the NRA Tea Party loathing of Big government. And we don't yet know what kind of "ideological rubble" the shooter was buried under, but we are going to learn more about his own arsenal and paranoid delusions. The point is, as the Patriots and weapons manufacturers arm everyone to the teeth to make themselves safer and the world safe for democracy, we can expect chaos to reign. Chris Hedges refers to these glassy eyed believers as "neoliberalisms shock troops" because private property, the foundation of capitalism, is the God they worship above life or any nebulous "pursuit of happiness". Perhaps the model Wayne La Pierre and Sarah Palin would most like to emulate is the Congo where every citizen is armed and everyone Stands Their Ground. Those people know how to keep and bear arms, by God, and the Castle Doctrine is the highest ( perhaps only) law of the land ( or jungle).