Thursday, January 11, 2007

there's never so much seething that it can't be disarmed 

So my promised second installment of the Intergalactica blogging has not materialized. I've been busy, but more importantly, uninspired. I'm not really gonna know what happened until I review the tapes, and even then I don't think anything of particular significance took place. Although I could tell more stories about gastro-intestinal problems.

Today we arrived in Morelia, the capital city of the State of Michoacan. In the next few days we plan to go to Zirahuen, the only Zapatista community outside of Chiapas and talk to them a bit about what they've been doing with themselves.

After arriving we spent the afternoon with our hosts catching up on local politics. Morelia has two distinctions that I know of so far. The first is that it is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, narco-trafficking state. The second is that it claims to have more of its people illegally migrating to the US than any other state in Mexico.

Several weeks ago Mexico's newly minted President, Felipe Calderon, sent the army into Michoacan to "clean house" and round up the Narcos. Thousands of soldiers and federal police arrived and began rounding up low-level drug traffickers. The roundup is political theater designed to show his bosses, foreign capital, that he's a "serious" guy and can take control and be counted on. It is also designed to show Mexicans the same thing.

Felipe, known by his enemies by his abbreviated name "FeCal" (the pun works in Spanish as well), has a legitimacy problem that you may have heard about. The problem being that he's illegitimate. He was awarded the palm in a squeaker of an election that everyone who isn't in his party thinks was rigged. To be fair, international observers were on hand and certified the results. The election was contested however by his opponent Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (aka AMLO). The Supreme Court denied the recount, and FeCal kept the crown.

This was a watershed event in contemporary Mexican politics. It was widely believed that AMLO would pull off a win and would be thus the first remotely progressive Mexican President in living memory. Mexico has three major political parties:

The PRI (with the oxymoronic title of Institutional Revolutionary Party) which ruled the country as a near perfect fascist state for 71 years

The PAN (National Action Party) which is to the right of the PRI, completely neo-liberal on economics and socially/religiously conservative. It is the current home of Mexico's religious right. The PAN's candidtate, Vincente Fox, won in 2000 and was the first non-PRI president since the Revolution.

The PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) is analagous to our Democrats, the left wing of the business party, and is the party of AMLO.

After FeCal won the presidency AMLO and his supporters made a lot of noise about creating a parallel government, but ultimately didn't put their money where their mouths were. FeCal stands.

Incidentally this created a big split in the Mexican Left. Subcomandante Marcos and the EZLN refused to endorse anyone, and Marcos wrote several editorials mocking both candidates. So now the PRD people are giving him the Nader treatment and claiming he spoiled the election. Nearly all of the public intellectuals left of center have abandoned and denounced the EZLN for this reason.

Meanwhile, FeCal has to consolidate his position. So in order to demonstrate that the people with guns are indeed taking orders from him, he's ordered the drug raids in Michoacan. Even though it is theater, it must be hurting the Narcos a bit. The biggest drug family in Michoacan took out a full page ad in the local daily to explain to the public that they're good people. They complained that they were getting blamed for all the drug killings in the state, but that they weren't responsible since they only kill people who intrude from other states and not native Michoaquenos.

Incidentally, I was told last night that drug killings are getting particularly bad here. Several months ago several Narcos were killed, then beheaded and their heads rolled into the nightclubs of their bosses. This was apparently a copycat crime from an event the year before when two policemen in Yucatan were killed by Narcos and their heads put on spikes in front of the Municipal building.

So that's fun.

Not only is FeCal tearing it up in Michoacan, he's announced that the military is going on tour and they're going to hit five states, mostly in the south, the most rebellious area. Ultimately though, it is basically an empty display. No one in power in Mexico or the US has any interest in stopping drug trafficking. If you'd like to know why, I'd highly recommend this article by Catherine Austin Fitts. Fitts is a financial executive and one-time civil executive. In the piece she explains the economics and finance of narco dollars. Suffice it to say, it isn't pretty. Turns out our economic and political system is largely dependent on drug money.

AMLO has announced that he will be touring the country as well. In an imitation of the EZLN's other campaign, he will be talking to his supporters and asking them what they'd like him to do. The EZLN meanwhile will be starting the second phase of The Other Campaign in February and are sending out two Zapatista Commandantes to each region to help organize the locals.

So you've got the right wing on tour with the military. The liberals on tour with their charisma candidate, the radical left on tour, and the APPO in Oaxaca coming back to life after the beat down by the feds. 13 communities in Oaxaca have now declared their autonomy and a major assembly is scheduled for the coming month.

Add to that the price of tortillas has doubled, in some cases tripled, in the last few months as has the price of eggs, milk, chicken, and gas. I read today in La Jornada that in order for a family to have a minimal supply of these basic staples they would have to earn 11 times the minimum wage. On top of that everyone is holding their breath waiting for the US recession which many economists anticipate. 85% of Mexican exports go to the US so when we go into recession their economy will swan dive.

Its going to be a fun year in Mexico.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


ixnay on the ord choiceway:

By now they have requisitioned further lands for the purpose of constructing "Jewish only" roads. Wonderful roads, wide roads, well-paved roads, brightly lit at night--all that on stolen land. When a Palestinian drives on such a road, his vehicle is confiscated and he is sent on his way.

On one occasion I witnessed such an encounter between a driver and a soldier who was taking down the details before confiscating the vehicle and sending its owner away. "Why?" I asked the soldier. "It's an order--this is a Jews-only road", he replied. I inquired as to where was the sign indicating this fact and instructing [other] drivers not to use it. His answer was nothing short of amazing. "It is his responsibility to know it, and besides, what do you want us to do, put up a sign here and let some antisemitic reporter or journalist take a photo so he that can show the world that Apartheid exists here?"

You know you´re pretty far gone when you're using "apartheid" as a euphemism for ethnic cleansing.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Against human rights 

Finchy posed an important question at the end of the last thread, to which I ended up writing a long response. So I'm going take a page from scats' book and turn the exchange into a new post.


Finchy asks:

How can "love" and "dignity" serve as the basis for a political project?

The notion of consensus is essential to democracy. In ideal terms, democracy is NOT a state forcing us to consent to its control. In ideal terms democracy means that WE are the state. But naturally there is no, nor has there ever been, an ideal democracy in operation in this world.

I would argue that the Bush years and the general trend of American profiteering overseas mean that our checks and balances to power need to be severely revised. It does not necessarily mean that the constitution, in essence, was a bad idea, merely that it would be -ideal- if the US could somehow be persuaded to take human rights seriously worldwide, which it currently does not.

It is true that negative freedoms are a kind of sad peak for human political achievement. But in a sense they are the "necessity" that one needs in place before love and dignity become our focus. Love and dignity come after human rights. Any sphere in the world right now where love and dignity can be found are indeed those places where people (those not placed in states of exception) can take their human rights for granted.

Basic human needs should be defended not in the name of “rights,” which are only ever granted by states, but in the name of higher values, like love--without which no human can live a dignified life.

One can try to make sure people aren't being murdered because one is committed out of love to serving other people (perhaps for religious reasons, perhaps not).

Service in love is actually a more realistic program than trying to make sure people aren't murdered because it is their "right" not to be murdered. It is unrealistic to say that people have a right not to be murdered. They eminently do not and have never had such a right.

It is realistic, if you are so motivated, to say that your personal relationship with the victims motivates you personally to defend them. (The relationship can be personal either in immediate relational knowledge, or in the light of some personally mediated communal ethos, perhaps religious—say, belief in the image of God in man.)

We should defend the victims because of their relationship to us, not because of some abstract formal “right.”

As for the question of constitutions: as I have been saying, I am quite glad that I am one of the people whose rights are protected by a serviceable constitution. But this whole debate has the urgency it does because our government has been killing many thousands of people with weapons (and many millions through economic coercion), and these millions of dead ARE NOT PROTECTED by our constitution.

And yet they feel the deadly weight of our sovereign power. What are their "rights"? What are would-be activists and resisters supposed to say? "Don't immiserate Mexico with NAFTA or support Salvadoran death squads because it goes against the U.S. Constitution?" Does it?

Constitutions exist to threaten people with states of exception--to threaten them, in other words, with exclusion from constitutional protection. This exclusion is a kind of brutal inclusion (thus Iraq is totally under the sovereign power of the US). It is an exclusion from U.S. law that exposes the victims to the full weight of U.S. sovereign power. This is what Giorgio Agamben means by “the state of exception,” and this is why he insists that no set of laws has any power at all apart from the specter or prospect of their suspension in the state of exception.

The power of the U.S. Constitution (or any other) is inseparable from the line of division it draws between those who are who are, and those who are not, protected by its granting of “rights.”

That is the essence of a constitution. Inside and outside.

And that is the problem with “rights”--they are only for those on the inside. (And the fate of those on the outside reminds those on the inside that they, too, are not safe.)

What sort of constitution will protect the victims of US power from the US army?

“Human rights” as a political program would make sense only if all human history could be erased--if all the brutal crimes that are currently destroying millions could be undone--and then, in a pristine and impossible state, we could draw up a contract for a universal world government.

This is my problem with scats’ idea that “consent” is at the basis of sovereignty. Constitution presupposed contract, and contract presupposes equality between co-signers. This sort of formal, contractually-mediated equality must deny history. Everyone covered by the contract is formally equal; they accept the same terms.

This way of talking and thinking is brutally beside the point in a real situation of emergency. But people are subjected to this brutal langauge every time the IMF tries to draw up rules for structural readjustment in areas that have been raped and murdered. “Well, sorry about what happened, but now you’re free, you have your rights, so you can compete on a level playing field.” Which means that US companies buy the country and force the people to choose (“freely”) to enter into “contracts” of indentured servitude.

Tell the Iraqis to appeal to the US army (or to the UN, which is nothing but a tool of US military dissimulation) for “rights” and constitutional protection. But who else can they appeal to?

“Rights” must be granted by somebody, somewhere. They are decidedly not natural, as every corpse proves. The US (by which I mean the world market-state) is, now, the sole arbiter of “rights.” And it will never give constitutional rights to the whole world.

The source of constitutional power is the threat of the abrogation of constitutional rights. Constitutional power lives off the blood of those who cannot appeal to its courts.

So if the US army is hurting and killing, it is best not to talk of abstract, formal rights, but to establish and strengthen actual concrete RELATIONSHIPS with the victims.

“Right” is the formal legal language of contract. It exists to be abused. Relationship--which is ordered to love--is the only way to resist the global US market state.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

New Year Dog Blogging 

A belated gift.


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