Thursday, April 30, 2009

Capitalist swine flu

Published Apr 29, 2009 3:35 PM

Every disaster—whether earthquake, flood or epidemic—exposes the fault lines in society.

Such is the case with the possible pandemic—worldwide epidemic—of a virulent flu caused by a newly mutated virus. This human version of swine flu has hit Mexico most severely, with the United States a close second. It has rapidly spread to a dozen other countries.

Politically, the greatest threat is that right-wing demagogues will try to scapegoat Mexicans, especially Mexican immigrants, for the epidemic’s spread. This is a serious political challenge to progressive forces in the U.S. It will require a redoubling of the already necessary effort to build solidarity between immigrant and U.S.-born workers, a solidarity that will be emphasized at May Day events across the country.

The attempt to blame Mexicans is not only despicable, it is way off. Look at these facts.

ABC News reported on April 28 that “Mexico’s first suspected case of the swine flu was detected in the remote farming village of La Gloria” a month ago. Some 800 of the 2,000 people there got sick. “The most likely way that this young boy got the infection was from another person who had been in contact with the pigs,” said Dr. Kathryn Edwards of Vanderbilt Medical Center.

What ABC failed to report was that the pigs were on a nearby industrial farm run by a subsidiary of Smithfield Farms, the anti-union, polluting, factory-farm monopoly based in Virginia and North Carolina. For years, the communities around these farms have been complaining about the unhealthy conditions and stench from thousands of pigs and their waste crowded into small areas.

Historian Mike Davis, a professor at the University of California at Irvine and author of “The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu,” wrote in the Britain-based Guardian newspaper of April 27 that the “fecal mire of an industrial pigsty” was the likely environment in which a new flu virus could develop. Smithfield, wrote Davis, will ferociously resist any efforts to change its dangerous but highly profitable production processes.

An experienced writer on these issues, Davis also mentioned three obstacles to an efficient and effective defense against any pandemic: the weakness of the U.S. public health system, the negative attitude of the U.S. and other wealthy countries toward promoting cutting-edge public health facilities in the poorer countries, and Swiss-based Roche Pharmaceutical’s patent on the flu medicine Tamiflu, which prevents poor countries from developing generic anti-viral medicines.

The first lesson of this is that the U.S. has a disgraceful record regarding health care. The trillions spent on war should be used instead to set up a world-class national health system and bypass the overpriced, profit-guzzling health care industry.

Secondly, don’t blame Mexicans for this outbreak. Investigate Smithfield and take action against the polluters.

Next, pressure from imperialist banks over the last 30 years has forced poor countries to cut their public health outlays. This has not only debilitated health care, it has increased the danger of pandemics. Instead of criminalizing immigrant workers and militarizing the border with Mexico, the U.S. should be supporting Mexico’s efforts to improve its health system—especially since U.S. corporations like Smithfield are making huge profits there, by super-exploiting Mexican workers.

And lastly, the monopoly on new drugs held by a few privately owned pharmaceuticals impedes the development of a worldwide supply of generic medicines. For the health of humanity, medical knowledge must be shared and all countries be free to manufacture their own medicines.

This all points to one conclusion: that the capitalist system as a whole is an obstacle to protecting the life and health of humanity when faced with swine flu or any other possible pandemic.

Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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More along this same line here:

And quite simple expressed here by Mike Davis:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spells and the Nether World

From reading:

"A similar movement is going on before our own eyes. Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. For many a decade past the history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against modern conditions of production, against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeois and of its rule. It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on its trial, each time more threateningly. In these crises, a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity — the epidemic of over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce. The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property. The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them. And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. That is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented."
The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx / Friedrich Engels

... and believing that the pirates are leading the way.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Maybe they should have made them walk the plank into a sea of zeros and ones. And ... whats up with that hat!@? Shouldn't it have 3 corners on it and be a bit more beat up?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

RSS and

While I'm a huge fan of for the hosting and archiving of podcasts and audio artifacts one of the things that has always been a bit of a let down about the site is the general lack of RSS. While most other sites are now creating RSS feeds for every imaginable content view, only has RSS for newly added items to the entire site. Not much help if you are trying to use the site to host podcasts for an event or a project and want those podcasts embedded in the project blog. This recently came up for me specifically in developing the Waiheke Podcasting Project on the Ning platform. After looking at a variety of free podcast hosting solutions I still considered to be the most preferred. Not only are they a non-profit organization like we are, they just seem like the best place to store heritage style artifacts to describe our community because they have some solid sponsorships and a good reputation for the work they're doing. Also for our project a big plus was that they don't have a limit on the amount of podcasts that can be hosted there or their file size. This worked well for us because although Ning was going to be great as a community podcast site, it only allows 20MB uploads of audio and there is a limit to the amount of audio each user can have on the site.

All the podcasts that we hosted on have a tag applied to them ... so this was halfway towards where I needed it to be. As long as members of the project uploaded their podcasts with the "waiheke podcasting project" tag then we could get a page that displayed all the posts. But how to get this into Ning? The solution was to use a service called Feed43. Feed43 is a free online service that converts any web page to an RSS feed on the fly. It's not as simple as just pointing the URL you want turned into RSS at Feed43 though, it requires a bit of tweaking but the results are pretty good and I now have an RSS feed from the page that aggregates all the "waiheke podcasting project" tags, and displays them on our Ning page.

How It Works (the expurgated version)

Basically Feed43 goes off and grabs the URL you provide and displays the HTML generated from that page... so if you're scared of the sight of web page blood and guts then this might not be the job for you. From there you need to try to identify some unique HTML classes or IDs or whatever that is used to display the title, the URL, and any other descriptive information that you're interested in to generate your feed. This is called the search pattern and Feed43 uses the results of these patterns to create a fully formed RSS feed. There's a bit of mucking around in this bit and I didn't really have much luck with my trial-and-error start to this process until I had a good look at the tutorial - then it started to make sense, so I'd suggest doing that if this is something you need to do. Once you've got a result that looks like a nice feed Feed43 will generate you a URL that you can use as an RSS feed to link to from your blog or Ning site!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


The Library of Congress now has a YouTube channel. Some fascinating stuff in there including this very strange experimental sound film made for Edison's kinetophone -- a combination of the kinetoscope and phonograph -- but apparently never distributed.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Public Schools and Public Libraries

This kid has fortunately spent way too much time in the library. I love his description of the vid as well: "I aggressively compare public schools and public libraries". Italics mine.

I've also recently been quite impressed with the new search functionality of the Auckland City Library with its visual relationships graph of keywords you search for and the ability to subscribe to an RSS feed of individual searches (here's a feed for the above young learner: Also the University of Auckland beta library catalog has the ability to login and "tag" individual items which is just great I reckon. Viva la
bibliothèque! I say.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

One year on ...

I just realized that its been about a year since I posted to this blog. I did have another one going for a while .. a Wordpress that I hosted and administered myself ... but I'm over that and back on board with the concept of freeranging. I've also just set up my first Ning site for a project at work. Wow! that thing is fantastic. Reminds me a bit of blogger in fact. More on that later. Good to be back.