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Mendocino County Today: April 19, 2012

Pinches

THIRD DISTRICT SUPERVISOR John Pinches was reported to have suffered a significant heart attack last weekend and was said to be recovering in Howard Memorial Hospital in Willits as of Tuesday afternoon.

A READER CLARIFIES: “According to a couple people I talked to just now — people who should know — it’s not true. John was, I’m told, finally convinced to have some issues checked out, he’d been having trouble breathing, and he has been in the hospital, where they did do a procedure putting a stent in his artery — no real surgery, no heart attack — and he is doing much better and apparently is expecting to be released today, maybe, and he is expecting to be attending Monday’s board meeting.”

CATCH-22. The reason Catch-22 worked is well understood by those of us who lived through the years immediately following its publication. Lifting our heads as we became young adults, and looking around, we were forcibly struck by the fact that the world was run by madmen. The 1960s wasn’t about sex, drugs and rock and roll, although they were there: it was about the Cold War. We thought it highly likely we would be blown off the planet, and that, somehow, it was up to us — children after all — to prevent it. We were the first global generation, and we found ourselves alone in that lunatic landscape; we clung to each other because there was no one else we could trust: a presentiment grimly fulfilled, it seemed, in the marches and the streets, and in the end at Kent State. We were also, incidentally, shipped off to fight before we turned 20 to be killed in Vietnam; and many of us did die, and many of us who lived paid the price all our lives.

Joseph Heller, 1970

Catch-22 captured the central characteristic of that world: its inhuman, anti-human insanity. We tried to meet it head-on, and of course failed, and were left with wild satire as our only weapon against it, and a bitter, existential, ultimately impotent rejection of its appalling logic as our only stand. It may not have been much set against the millions who were dying, in Vietnam, in Cambodia, in Laos, in South Africa, but it was all we could come up with. That was Catch-22. It was an older voice, and set in a past that was another country, but we recognized it instantly as our own. — Geoffrey Wells

FACEBOOK. This idea of labor being hidden in things, and the value of things arising from the labor concealed inside them, is an unexpectedly powerful explanatory tool in the digital world. Take Facebook. Part of its success comes from the fact that people feel that they and their children are safe spending time there, that it is a place you go to interact with other people but is not fundamentally risky or sleazy in the way new technologies are often perceived to be — that VHS, for instance, was when it was launched on the market. But the perception that Facebook is, maybe the best word would be ‘hygienic,’ is sustained by tens of thousands of hours of badly paid labor on the part of the people in the developing world who work for companies hired to scan for offensive images and who are, according to the one Moroccan man who went on the record to complain about it, paid a dollar an hour for doing so. That’s a perfect example of surplus value: huge amounts of poorly paid menial work creating the hygienic image of a company which, when it launches on the stock market later this year, hopes to be worth $100 billion. — John Lanchester, ‘Marx at 193’

Anti-Suicide Netting under FoxConn Factory Windows in China

APPLE. Apple’s last quarter was the most profitable of any company in history: it made $13 billion in profits on $46 billion in sales. Its bestselling products are made at factories owned by the Chinese company Foxconn. Foxconn makes the Amazon Kindle, the Microsoft Xbox, the Sony PS3, and hundreds of other products with other companies’ names on the front — it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that it makes every electronic device in the world. The company’s starting pay is $2 an hour. The workers live in dormitories of six or eight beds for which they are charged rent of $16 a month, their factory in Chengdu, where the iPad is made, runs 24 hours a day, employs 120,000 people — think about that, a factory the size of greater Santa Rosa — and isn’t even Foxconn’s biggest plant: that’s in Shenzhen and employs 230,000 people, who work 12 hours a day, six days a week. The company’s answer to a recent scandal about suicide rates was to point out that the suicide rate among Foxconn employees is actually lower than the Chinese average, and that it turns away thousands of applicants for jobs every day, and both of those facts are true. That’s what’s really shocking. These conditions are equal to or better than most of the equivalent manufacturing jobs in China, where most of the world’s goods are made, and that life is widely seen among Chinese workers as preferable to the remaining alternatives of rural life. — John Lanchester, ‘Marx at 193’

PETER BYRNE: On Running For Congress in the Second District to the Left of Obama: I do not doubt that Norman Solomon is sincere in his personal politics about Occupied Palestine, and the IPA is, indeed, a fine information resource on that and many other issues. In Marin-Sonoma, however, it is obvious that being tagged as “pro-Palestinian” would present a fundraising problem for any Congressional candidate. Unfortunately, that means that when it comes time to run for re-election in two years, it will still be a fundraising problem. So it is very unlikely that Norman will take a strong stance on the Middle East while in Congress, such as calling for defunding the Israeli military, or upholding the UN's 1967 mandate against settlements, or protesting the Israeli murder of peace activists (since he did not raise his voice last year when such protest was really needed). Political courage means having the guts to resist the status quo, to support the unpopular issues (usually issues of life and death importance to oppressed people). As the Chronicle article points out, there is not much difference between any of these candidates on many issues: so it is not an act of political courage in our district to oppose Vampire Squids and the current wars on Iraq and Afghanistan (just common sense, in fact). Reading through the issues section of Norman's website, I find that I applaud most of his stands. But then comes the rub: “I support a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestinians, with genuine security for all.” This is the standard AIPAC-lite line: two-states means continuation of the current oppressor state/oppressed state model. It means eating away at what remains of Palestinian lands with more illegal settlements. It means exploiting Palestinian labor and invading Palestinan-populated concentration camps using the doctrine of collective punishment as a brutal rationale for bulldozing houses, shooting children and adults with American-made fighter jets and depleted uranium bullets, blockading food and medicine, ad infinitum. It means the continuation of hell on earth for these poor people, and it is mealy-mouthed politics to pretend that there is a such a thing as a genuine two-state solution as long as America hands Israel $3 billion a year to squash the Palestinians and wave its nukes at the Iranians and arm right wing dictators around the globe. So: one has to decide whether or not to vote for Norman (or anyone of these folks), considering that they are either political cowards on Palestine or satisfied with the status quo. Can one in good conscience vote for Norman (or publicly support him) because he is good on just about all of the other issues? Well, there is no guarantee that he will actually push forward on those issues if he is spiritually constituted to value his own (re)election above taking unpopular stances on the really hard issues. There is no guarantee that he will not just be another cog in the Democrat Party War Machine. If he were to take a courageous position on Occupied Palestine, I would be inclined to believe that such courage would extend to other issues, too, and I would walk precincts for him. But I am distressed by Norman's suggestion that we should (wink, wink) “trust” him to do the right thing on Palestine because of his past writings. And I can't forget his support of Candidate Obama when Obama was clearly funded by the War Machine and Wall Street. Actions do speak louder than words. And the take-home lesson here may be that Norman values winning the election above publicly supporting the liberation of the Palestian people in such a way that would at least draw attention to the issue and help a just cause. Without monetary and political support from American congresspeople, including Woolsey, the Israeli state would not be able to continue its veritible pogram on the Palestinians, since a half century of this oppression disgusts most people in the world. It would be honorable to lose an election because of one's support for the oppressed. It is not honorable to win high office on their backs. The Democratic Party cannot be "reformed" in a way that is acceptable to life on Earth, any more than Chevron can be reformed to be "green". We need new parties, new organizations from the grassroots. We need people who demonstrate courage through action, not by trying to climb aboard the neck of the imperial juggernaut which currently rules this country (and much of the world). A single mouse cannot put a bit into the jaw of a dinosaur and cause it to halt. But a million mice can. Let us put our efforts into organizing the millions (or, locally, the dozens), not into perpetuating the historic crime against the Palestinians by putting faith in the unspoken promises of politicians. Power corrupts, it seems, even in the seeking of it. I will vote in this election: On my ballot, I will write in the name of a living Palestinian child.

IF FACEBOOK maintenance counts as “work”

And every breakfast menu is launched into e-murk.

Then there’s not enough room

Even with a big broom

For every Face-wired person to go berserk.

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