Saturday, October 27, 2007

Defend Majid Hamidi

I worked in a maintenance union for 4 years, and while I am critical of the labor movement in the West, I still feel labor unions are one of the best ways for working folks to organize and focus their collective desires to make their lives better.

In nations like Iran, they are at the center of the fight for democracy. Therefore, they are attacked by the ruling elites:
“On the morning of Thursday 18 October, 2007, three masked men shot Majid Hamidi, a 48-year old grocery worker and labour activist in Sanandaj, Iran, seven times in his arm, shoulder and neck. Hamidi was eventually taken to Tehran for specialist surgery and remains in critical condition. Iranian labour activists are convinced that armed attacks of this type are done with the knowledge and support of the government. Already Iranian labour activists face jailings, beatings, and other forms of persecution, including the jailing of labour leaders Mahmoud Salehi, Mansour Osanloo and Ebrahim Madadi, as well as the severe repression of strikers at the state-owned Haft Tapeh sugar cane company. But this represents a considerable escalation. Iran is a member of the International Labour Organization and we call upon the ILO to press the government in Tehran to stop these attacks immediately.”

Thanks to the New Centrist and Bob from Brockley for the heads up. I know that these petitions mean little in the real world, but if it helps spread word of this man’s cause then it is worth doing.

Pray to Castro for Candy

This great piece of Cold War propaganda would be hilariously bad if it wasn’t technically true.

I must say, I have never known someone to doubt the existence of God by using candy as an example, but there it is in all its sinister glory!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Korean Game Room

I had a rather fine evening last night with some of my fellow co-workers playing Starcraft at one of our local game rooms. I considered myself a relatively competent player until yesterday; my comrades showed me up time after time. Nothing got by them!

For years, Korea has put high tariffs and limits on the number of goods that can enter their country from Japan. Some of it was the nature of the various military dictatorships or protectionist governments, but a lot of it had to do with the distaste for Japan that many Koreans share. I guess decades of brutal colonial control will do that to you.

Therefore, even though Japan is the world’s leader when it comes to publishing videogames, these products never really caught on in Korea. The home console (ie Nintendo, Sega, Sony) is not nearly as common as PC based software. Just walk into any of these PC rooms to see get a glimpse of what I am talking about. It was modern, fun, and accommodating (the venue had food and drinks readably available).

The place was packed, and this was at 10:30 PM on a Wednesday in a relatively small town. Nearly half the room was playing some type of online RPG (World of Warcraft, Maple Story), and the others were playing Starcraft. Why this game has been so huge in Korea is beyond me, but to show you how popular it is, there is a television station dedicated to the game! The video above is lifted from that very station, and I occasionally put it on when I am studying and need something to bounce about in the background.

Some have questioned how healthy this gaming culture is on the Korean psyche and culture, and I admit that these types of places and the games that are played their can be very incising. Up-to-date computers, engrossing games, and the comfort of playing with a slew of kindred spirits who find the online world more enticing than the one they live. That is a powerful draw, and isn’t easy to combat.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Zany Third Parties, Part 3!

Here is the third portion of my running thread on some of the third party candidates running in 2008 that you likely know little about. If you missed part 1 and 2, there they are.

If you thought the previous round-ups were were made up of unelectable weirdos, just take a look at this week's gang!

Frank Moore

Ahh, Frank Moore. What can you say about this guy? Quite a lot actually: Frank is a Bay Area mainstay who is a performance artist, poet, essayist, painter, musician and television personality, and all around weird guy.

What’s even more astounding is the fact that he was born with cerebral palsy, can not walk or talk, but has "written books, directed plays, directed, acted in and edited films, regularly gives poetry readings, plays piano, sings in ensemble music jams, and continues to lead bands in hard core punk clubs up and down the west coast" (or so says his resume and Wikipedia).

When I input “performance artists” and “Berkeley” and add them with “presidential candidate” into my handy dandy political calculator, I end up with “insane uber-Moonbat Candidate – approach only when high.”

But some of Frank’s platform isn’t as off the wall as one would expect after glancing at his resume. Not that most of it is plausible, but some of his positions are at least interesting. Here are a few:

1. "I'll do away with welfare and social security. Instead, every American will receive a minimum income of $1,000 a month."

Hmmm, sounds like welfare Frank, even when you say it isn’t. If you don’t earn the money yourself, and the government gives it to you, it’s called welfare.

2. "Government should leave marriage to churches. Instead, any two or more adults who have been living together for at least 2 years should be able to register as a 'family.'"

Sounds fair to me. I have no problem with different family set-ups registering to receive similar tax benefits that married folks get.

3. "An individual taxpayer will be able to direct her taxes to what functions she wants to support. But corporate taxpayers should not have this option."
Sure to make conservatives and libertarians happy. It should make left leaning folks happy as well, but something tells me those social programs the socialists love so much would not have a lot of support if people actually had the ability to direct their tax dollars.

4. "All businesses selling their products in the U.S. will have to certify that their products were manufactured in accordance with this country's labor, wage, environmental, and safety laws."
Sounds great, and won’t ever happen.

5. "The use of drugs should be legalized and taxed. Pot and spirits should be sold over the counter to adults only. Tobacco and other addictive drugs should be sold by prescription only."
Also sounds great, but likely won’t ever come to be.

Frank also wants to cut military spending, destroy our stockpile of nuclear weapons, and ban the sale of arms to any country. That page of his platform could fit nicely in the Kucinich’s playbook.

To show that she’s committed to the Berkley type leftist in the coming election, perhaps Hilary should pick this guy to be her running mate. How could the hard left turn on her when you’ve got Frank Moore on the ticket? And since he can’t talk, he won’t be able to mess up like their candidate did 4 years back!

Socialist Workers Party

Much like the SWP in Britain, the SWP-USA has been one of the biggest proponents of Trotskyism in America during the last 50 years, and is one of those marginal communist parties that just won’t die. In 1986, the party won a lawsuit against the FBI when they were able to prove that the agency had been spying on them for some years. You can still find active members within colleges and places like New York.

I attended a few of their meetings in my early college days. Nothing about them seemed noteworthy, other than they have been going on about that whole communism thing for a long time now. I am sure there are over a dozen splinter groups that were spawned from their ranks.

Interestingly enough, some pretty “big” political players were once part of this group. Peter Camejo (Green Party Heavyweight and Ralph Nader running mate), Lyndon LaRouche (political cult leader, perennial third party candidate, and anti-Semite), and Max Shachtman (proto-Neoconservative) were all once part of this organization.

Roger Calero

As far as I can tell, the party has not endorsed anyone to be their candidate for the 2008 election, but their 2004 candidates were simply too good not to mention. Their presidential hopeful was Roger Calero, who was born in Nicaragua and currently resides in Newark, New Jersey. He is a writer for the SWP’s newspaper.

Calero’s main problem in the 2004 election was not the fact that his party, platform, and ideology were completely unelectable, but that he was not a citizen of the United States and could not technically run for the office! And get this; his running mate (Arrin Hawkins) wasn’t old enough to run for the office (she was only 28 at the time)! Let’s forget for a second how out of the mainstream the SWP is; sure, they won’t be elected even if their candidates meet election guidelines. But wouldn’t you at least try to make it appear as if you could take the office? Nothing says “we are irrelevant!” quite like running candidates for an office they can’t hold.

Or maybe their whole campaign was just a stunt to sell more of their group’s newspapers (and a paper both candidates work for). If you can’t win the White House, at least you can litter college campuses with your drivel!

My Favourite Things

If you found the Republican debate less than inspiring tonight, try this jam on for size. Still one of the best tracks around.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Reagan’s Ghost

Get ready for another “I am more Reagan than you are!” debate brought to you by the Republicans.

Don’t you just love these silly one-issue debates all the candidates have been involved in thus far? It is almost like both parties are trying to burn anyone who isn’t firmly in their camps. I understand that this is how our primary system works, but these things are getting a bit tired.

I look forward to the Republican/Democrat debate where the candidates have to actually make some sense and not just play to hardliners. Maybe we can even get the Greens and Constitution Party in their as well. Actually having the election debated by the “major” candidates running; what a novel concept!