Friday, June 30, 2006

Scott Mill rezoning request decision deferred to August

Monday the County Commissioners decided to postpone making a decision about the development until August to allow the owner to consult with the community. From what I've heard, this isn't likely to be done in good faith by the developer.  This news was briefly reported in the Herald-Sun on Tuesday, the 27th in the Durham section headline article "No Tax Increase in Approved Budget."  Another development decision up for discussion was also postponed at that meeting. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Readings for July Marxist Forum

The next meeting, on monopoly capitalism and
imperialism, will be on Saturday, July 22nd,
1:30-3:30pm at the Chapel Hill Public Library (near
University Mall), in the conference room.

It might be helpful to read the rest of Marx's Value, Price, and
Profit, though it might not come up directly (the
first 7 sections were suggested for the last meeting).
Imperialism:  The Highest Stage of Capitalism, is a
major work on this subject.  My edition has 123 pages,
but unless we have more than one meeting on this,
reading the entire book (but the most important chapters for this
meeting are probably chapters 1-5, 7, and the last
chapter) will be useful for this meeting.  We will
probably focus on the economics of imperialism at the
July meeting and look more at the superstructure and politics of
imperialism later.  It is probably still in print from
International Publishers and it is online at
The Marx reading is also available at .

Monopoly Capital, by Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy, is
about American monopoly capitalism and was written in
1966.  I haven't read it, but it looks informative and is
recommended by a member, so it is something we might
want to read later and regarding other subjects.  The chapter on
"The Giant Corporation" would be useful for the July

As practical example of monopoly we could look at
short article from a few years ago on how
Smithfield Foods is an example of monopoly capitalism.
Smithfield Foods is a mainly pork producing company
and is illegally and violently opposing unionization
of its huge pork processing plant in Tar Heel, North
Carolina.  The article is available online at .  For more
recent updates, covering the labor and environmental
situations, see and the
links are under the current issue, labeled as a series
on monopoly and agriculture.  There is also an article
on the unionization struggle at Case Farms, a chicken
processor, in western North Carolina.

Imperialist capitalism will come up again in future
meetings, such as on the national question and the
origins of capitalist wars, so we could look at other
parts of these readings then.

I'll send out updates by email and at .  You can participate without
reading everything, and we can decide by email if the
readings should be reduced.  Feel free to publicize
the meeting, and I will make a flyer and notify some
calendars and media.  Maybe we can have 6 or more
people come in July.  

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Suburban development is a democratic and environmental issue

Since I created this blog I've been unsure about the focus and how much time I could put into it.   I wanted to focus on local issues and to show the local aspects of global issues, but it has been easier to write about national and international policies.  It seems like it is easier to find information online about issues at those scales and the political lines often seem clearer.  For example, I think it is clear that the US is treating detainees wrongly and illegally and that very few people benefit from the unjust and illegal Iraq War.  These issues are covered in many other places on the Net, so it is more useful and unique to look at local issues.  Supposedly 'all politics is local,' so talking about local issues more might be a way to reach more people.
In southern Durham, and elsewhere around the Triangle, suburban sprawl is a major issue.  I care about the loss of natural areas and farmland, but it seemed too local and not a big progressive, anti-capitalist issue.  It could also be knee-jerk, since I would rather keep the trees we have then see a nearly treeless St. Lawerence or Centex development carved into a forest or field.  Besides being an environmental problem, it affects how people travel, the school system, our taxes, and local weather.  Now I am seeing that it is often an issue of democracy and illegal actions.  For these reasons how development occurs is an issue progressives (especially Marxists) should organize around more.  After all, communists should try to reach people, especially workers, in the suburbs and rural areas, not just people in urban areas.  Small farmers and workers have many issues in common, which was the basis for the alliance of the working class and the peasantry in the USSR (symbolized by the sickle and hammer) and other socialist countries.
The specific issue I am thinking of now is the proposed Scott Mill development on Scott King Rd. between Grandale and Herndon Roads, near the American Tobacco Trail.  The site is at the very southern end of the County on a peninsula of uplands jutting into a large area of protected bottomlands along Northeast Creek.  A survey of the lands affected by Jordan Lake in the late 90's found that that area is possibly the best example of that kind of forest in the State and there are populations of rare Lewis' heartleaf and Indian physic growing there.  The Scott Mills site has already been clearcut around an old farmhouse, but development would probably result in silt and other water pollution and reduce and degrade habitat.  The light and noise pollution from a development would harm some species.  Even small clearings in a forest have affects.  For example, cowbirds, which are native to the Midwestern praires, moved east as forests were cleared and even a trail is enough of a clearing for them.  Cowbirds harm other birds by tricking other species into raising cowbird chicks instead of their own, which the cowbirds usually kill.  Trees even far from a forest edge are at risk from being blown down in storms due to that edge, so shrinking a forest should increase wind damage (for example, I think clearcutting resulted in the storm toppling of two very big Willow Oaks near where I live). 
Besides these environmental issues, the developer (actually a middleman) has ignored the concerns of the public, acted in bad faith, and has a history of ignoring environmental laws.  The Planning Commission even recommended unanimously that the rezoning request for this development not be approved.  The development would no doubt increase traffic and construction traffic would damage nearby roads.  The neighbors are tired of construction noise.  A subdivsion might also cut off a potential hiking trail, linking the Tobacco Trail to other trails, along the high-tension powerline corridor running through the site and beyond RTP and Jordan Lake.  There is much more to say about this.    
The final decision about the current development plan will be sometime after 7pm on Monday, June 26th, at the County Commissioners meeting in the old Courthouse at 200 East Main Street. 

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Marxist Forum meeting set for July 22nd

The next Triangle Marxist Forum meeting is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, July 22nd 1:30-3:30pm in the conference room (downstairs from the lobby, to the left). 
The topic of the meeting is monopoly capitalism and imperialism.  I'm not sure about the readings yet, but they will probably include some of Imperialism by Lenin (which could still be in print and is probably available online at or elsewhere online).  The rest of the last Marx reading would be useful to read, but I'm not sure that it will come up directly.
At the last meeting we had 5 participants (and almost another person), and two new people.  We started with the Lenin reading and then discussed some issues from the Marx reading or contemporary events, such as why groceries are cheaper in Brazil than in the Triangle and recent US economic history, and a study outline (the question of how a market does not gear production to meet demand).