Against the Current, No. 99, July/August 2002

Against the Current, No. 99, July/August 2002

Conventional Wisdom and Nuclear Wisdom

— The Editors

THE THREAT OF war between nuclear powers on the Indian subcontinent appears to be receding as this issue of Against the Current goes to press.  That is grounds for relief, but not comfort.  It may indeed be the case, as many ordinary citizens of India and Pakistan apparently believe, that the danger of all-out war and annihilation was overstated throughout.  But make no mistake, this crisis may be in remission but it has not been resolved.

Is Working a "Major Life Activity"?

— Barbara Harvey

CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME is the single most prevalent industrial disease, affecting nearly half the workforce at some point in their working lives.  Nevertheless, the Bush administration turned its back on Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ergonomics regulation of some of the industrial practices that cause the condition to proliferate.

Oregon Farmworkers' Decade of Struggle

— Michael Connor

TO THE CASUAL observer this winter, Oregon's agricultural class forces appeared to line up opposite their interests.  Consider the following:

GE's PCBs: Who Will Tell the Fish

— Marlaine Browning

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: This article was originally intended as an online resource.  Most documents, therefore, are referenced by their www publications.  Most of these sources are available in print form. For more information on the Hudson River cleanup, please contact Riverkeeper ( and Hudson Watch ( or]

KFC: Corporate Fetishism and Fecal Soup

— Purnima Bose and Laura Lyons

IN CAPITAL, KARL Marx describes commodity fetishism, the process by which the commodity acquires a "mysterious character" that embodies it with "metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties."  A similar process of fetishism attaches to the contemporary transnational corporation [TNC].

Race and Class: The Color-Blind Myth

— Malik Miah

HERE HE GOES again.  University of California Regent Ward Connerly, a prominent African-American conservative and former beneficiary of affirmative action programs, has submitted nearly one million voter signatures to place on the ballot a measure that would bar state and local governments from collecting race-based information.

Bisexual Basics

— Karin Baker

THE MOST BASIC thing about bisexuality is that it unlinks what most cultures see as a fundamental connection: sex and gender.  If you can understand that for some people sexual attraction is not tied to a specific gender, then you understand the most important thing about bisexuality.

After Jenin, An Eyewitness Report

— Charity Crouse

IN THE MONTH since Israel invaded the Jenin Refugee Camp on April 3, around 120 bodies have been recovered. Just over half of those bodies have been exhumed from the enormous piles of rubble that were once the homes of many of the camp's 11,000 residents.

Vieques: Hasta La Vista, Navy!

— Sara Peisch

THE U.S. NAVY'S latest bout of military practices in Vieques, in April 2002, produced yet another demonstration of the steadfast resistance of the Puerto Rican people, such that the recent round of civil disobedience became one of the most successful since the arrests at the resistance camps in the bombing zone in May 2001.

There wasn't one minute of the twenty-two days of bombing when the Navy didn't feel the pressure, as we saw the military provoking violent confrontation with the peaceful protests.

Revelations in Digna Ochoa Murder

— from Mexican News and Analysis

[The following is excerpted from Mexican Labor News and Analysis, June 2002 and Mexican Solidarity Network Mexico News and Analysis, June 3-9 and 10-16, 2002. Websites and respectively.]

MEXICO CITY -- IN an ethical lapse with few parallels in criminal justice, investigators leaked crime scene photos from the October 19, 2001 assassination of Digna Ochoa and personal correspondence written by the deceased human rights attorney, in an unprecedented effort to discredit the former nun and convince the Mexico public that Ochoa committed suicide.

A French Left Revival from the Ashes?

— Patrick Le Trehondat and Patrick Silberstein

[The following article was written prior to the first round of the French legislative election on June 9. As the authors predicted, President Jacques Chirac's party won decisively and is expected to take a substantial parliamentary majority, setting the table for a new offensive against working class interests and social programs in the name of “modernization. --The Editors]

THE APRIL 21 first round of the French presidential election has upset the whole political and constitutional scene of the Fifth Republic.

Radical Rhythms: Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road

— Kim D. Hunter

THE EVER-SHRINKING world, with its myriad political and social crises and conundrums, has resulted in an explosion of opportunities for cultural exploration and exchange.  While we may mourn exportation of the World Wrestling Federation and Mickey D's, we can celebrate the influx of music from places that have managed to keep it a bit more "real."

Camera Lucida: Progressive Fantasies

— Arlene Keizer

THOUGH FEW THINKING people believe that the Academy Awards honor the best films and the best actors, these awards retain enormous cultural capital, which has made them, over the past several years, a target for complaints about the under-representation of people of color in Hollywood movies.

This year's ceremony -- in which two Black actors won in the “Best Actor” and “Best Actress” categories -- provides an illusory sense of progress in the arena of filmic representation. Denzel Washington and Halle Berry delivered remarkable performances, in roles that are profoundly disturbing because of the ways in which they conform to and revivify ancient stereotypes.

Rebel Girl: The Price of Assimilation

— Catherine Sameh

EVERY JUNE I look forward to Portland's annual Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender celebration. It's a two-day affair, and the jewel in the crown is the two-hour parade through downtown Portland.

Thousands of queers and their straight allies line the streets to cheer for the Radical Fairies, the transgender youth club, the boys in leather and the dykes on bikes. It's a colorful day, full of pride and celebration.

Random Shots: Of Drugs and Diamonds

— R.F. Kampfer

MARX CHARACTERIZED RELIGION as the opium of the people. For some cults, it seems to act more like viagra.

Parents are often told, by friends and relatives, what nice polite children they have. No doubt Lizzie Borden's mother and father got the same kind of compliments.


A Critical Look at Empire

— Charlie Post

by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
Cambridge MA and London: Harvard University Press, 2000, $18.95 paperback.

EMPIRE IS A paradox. An overly long (478 pages with notes and index), often abstruse intellectual exercise, this book would appear to be a work destined to obscurity -- to be read, at best, by small groups of left-wing intellectuals ensconced in academia.

Militant Islam in Central Asia

— Dianne Feeley

Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia
Ahmed Rashid
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002) $24 hardback.

Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia
Ahmed Rashid
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000) $14.95 paper.

BOTH JIHAD AND Taliban provide clear pictures of how political and militant Islam is rooting itself throughout Central Asia (more than 50 million people -- 60% of whom are under 25 -- in five countries) and Afghanistan (25 million with another three million refugees).

When Poetry Ruled the Streets

— Christopher Phelps

When Poetry Ruled the Streets:
The French May Events of 1968
by Andrew Feenberg and Jim Freedman
Albany State University of New York Press, 2001,
192 pages, $19.95 paperback.

WHAT IS TO be imagined?

Imagine a revolution carried out for the creative reconfiguration of everyday life. Imagine a revolution against the boredom and <169>happiness<170> of acquisitive consumer culture, against the banality of television, against the monotony of work, against alienation and domination, against bureaucracies, red and corporate.

ATC 99, July-August 2002

Victor Serge: The Course Is Set on Hope

— Bryan Palmer

Victor Serge:
The Course is Set on Hope
by Susan Weissman
London and New York: Verso, 2001) xvii + 364 pages, $35 hardback.

AMONG THE LAST Bolsheviks forced to live their days of Left Opposition on a planet without a visa were Leon Trotsky and Victor Serge. The two revolutionaries, so different in background and political inclination, nevertheless had come to share much in the cauldron where the first workers' state was made and unmade in the decade reaching from 1917 to 1927.

ATC 99, July-August 2002

Before Motown, Back in the Day

— David Finkel

Before Motown
A History of Jazz in Detroit, 1920-1960
By Lars Bjorn with Jim Gallert
Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001,
239 pages, $24.95 paperback.

TOMMY FLANAGAN'S FINAL Detroit performance, fittingly, was at the city's annual International Jazz Festival, Labor Day weekend 2001.

In Memoriam

An Appreciation of Stephen Jay Gould

— Ansar Fayyazuddin

STEPHEN JAY GOULD died on May 20, 2002 of cancer at the age of 60.  He leaves behind a vast scientific and literary legacy imbued indelibly with his unique humanist and socialist commitments.

John Watson and Tommy Flanagan, Special Detroiters

— Herb Boyd

JOHN WATSON ROARED into my life in the late 1960s with a barrage of rhetoric straight from the books of Mao, Fidel, Marx and Lenin. His hair was kinky and uncombed, his jeans unwashed, his glasses held together with tape.

Tommy Flanagan swung into my life in the late fifties, seated at a keyboard in a Detroit nightclub which he filled with brilliant, funky arpeggios and complex chords. He was dressed impeccably, his hair neatly trimmed, his glasses almost brand new.