Sunday, October 31, 2004

Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | The road to Abu Ghraib - part two

"Abu Ghraib," Joseph was telling me, "was a tourist attraction. I remember one time I was woken up by two captains. 'Where's the death chamber?' They wanted to see the rope and the lever. When Rumsfeld came to visit, he didn't want to talk to the soldiers. All he wanted to see was the death chamber."

Ok, you know that whole Bush=Nazi thing?

Please don't vote for a President whose Secretary of Defense has an intense interest in automated death chambers

Midnight bloggerrs midnight blogging

I guess you could say that I fit int the "Midnight Blogger" category which the Times used as a label in its piece about the Daily Howler, but, at least I can say that very few of these entries have been composed under the influence of illegal substances.

That's something.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Likely and unlikely, a column long in the making

Not about polls.

Who is likely to be a voice in our society and who isn't?

Who are the people who are likely to be the official sources and who aren't?

This country has loads of opportunity, in a sense; we have loads of a certain kind of economic opportunity with a large middle class; but in terms of who actually can speak and be a voice in their community or in the country we're one of the least opportune countries out there.

It's a sort of devillish bargain which reminds me of Prussia during the German Empire, the state which was fought against in WWI.

Prussia was a union of individual German states, statelets, and independent cities which had been on their own for a thousand years.

It had a certain amount of confederalism which made it in some respects like the United States.

But the thing about Prussia was that although it had a culturally rich internal structure everything was controlled by an upper class which was pan-Prussia, pan the regional states.

It had no democracy, had no fixed civil rights. The parliament was a consultative body to the upper chamber, I believe, which was composed of nobles from each of the territories, which in turn was ruled over by the imperial administration.

Although a person might be able to have a wonderful life in Saxony or wherever, they still didn't have a voice.

The official voices were reserved for the elite.

But, there's one group that I'm conspicuously overlooking:the labor and political radicalist press of the time, which came and went. The movement continued on, though.

That gave people voice.

We don't have that, so picture Germany in the 19th century without a labor movement to speak of.

Or a real radical underground to speak of.

Or any of the other interesting things.

Just the sons of aristocrats getting into government and into officialdom and the rest living normal lives.

The phrase worker democracy isn't present in the culture of the United States and that's a shame.

My belief is that worker media is a good goal to go to, that everyone has a voice and can contribute to the press.

But that's miles away from where we are now.

Instead, it's assumed that making a living will be enough, that we won't need civic participation if we have enough money.

And now they're taking away the money...

TheNaderFactor.com, this is just fucking stupid

Give me a break. This is pathetic, this is wrong beyond words.

A whole site devoted to....trashing Nader.

Donations solicited to fight Nader.

Look, it's a little late in the campaign to be saying this, but shouldn't these folks be convincing Bush supporters to vote for Kerry instead of trashing fellow progressives?

After all, if they convinced a small percentage of Bush supporters to come over to the Kerry side it would eliminate whatever difference in percentage exists between potential Kerry voters and people who plan on voting for Nader.

Nader is like at a few percent, right?

Why not tap into that huge vat of Bush supporters to make up for that percentage?

If you did that then there'd be no problem with Ralph running.

But, of course, Bush supporters are considered to be on the other side of our City of God, and so unredeemable.

I can't help but thinking, you know, if some of the split which is going on in America isn't being helped by the unwillingness of liberals to even try to go to the other side and reason with people to convince them to switch sides. Which is what campaigns are supposed to do.

Michael Moore, in this respect, is probably the shining exception to the rule.

Fahrenheit 9/11 had that crossover potential, and it succeeded because of it. But that momentum seems to have been lost after the Fahrenheit 9/11 euphoria calmed down.

My thought is this: people who are really ideologically committed to something reach a point where they're so invested in whatever it is being right that they can't be convinced of the wrongness of their position. They harden into that. That doesn't necessarily have to happen here. There's still some potential left for people to be convinced of the other side before we get into a situation where people are so convinced of their positions that they won't even give them up when they're old and grey. And a hell of a lot of more real acrimony is spilled.

We should try.

Friday Pudublogging at Bob Harris' site

Click on the link and you'll see an adorable photo of a mother Pudu and her cub, or whatever they call them.

A Pudu is the smallest deer in the world, and they are intensely adorable.
Scroll down to last Friday for the original Pudu photo, which is the atom bomb of adorable animal photos, as far as I'm concerned.

Now, the philosophical question to ask is, given that these animals are extraordinarily adorable, what is it about them which provokes this response in us?

One theory of why we like animals is that we can see ourselves in them and so we are essentially liking ourselves, but I don't believe in that. For one thing I think that baby monkeys are really ugly.

If that's true than it's partially true. I think that in the face of animals we see a sort of idealized version of ourselves, where the features of our faces which we like the most are taken out of context, amplified, and put into another animal alltogether.

Deer, have big eyes, a small mouth, a cute nose, and a high forehead, and a narrow face.

I don't know what archetype that comes from but it does suggest something.

They have a constant thoughtful look on their faces.

They're quiet and they live in the woods.

Ok, back to the Pudu. Some of the attraction probably comes from knowing that this little dude is only about ankle height; in other words, whatever archetypes we attach to deer not only go through the conversion which comes from looking at deer children---where we further impute the characteristics of our children to them---they also are percieved as being something that you could hold in your hand, or possibly with two hands, with it still being a living, breathing, relative of things which are six feet tall and several hundred pounds, which you can't hold in your hand.

It's like manageable wildness.

Or maybe I'm reading too much into the phenomenology of Pudu adorability.

My, how times change

I remember when I was in my last year of highschool and was looking at colleges to go to. I spent a night at this one place and during the day got up enough courage to look through the library on my own and use the book catalog to look up a book which I thouht was subversive. Nothiing was really coming to mind and then I remembered a book that I was vaguely aware of.

I looked it up, found it, and sat down to read. I read a little bit. The discreet satisfaction of reading a subversive book that wasn't available elsewhere was the point.

That book "Theory of the Leisure Class" by Thorstein Veblen.

Not exactly a shreikingly subveresive screed against the system.

I thought it was extremely radical because this was a book that dared to criticize the culture of the upper class.

You couldn't do that!

That's how I felt.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Non-Russian Eastern european literature

Always impresses me.

It's the right mix of freedom, which is a quality of a lot of slavic literature, and reflection. But without the heaviness produced by Tsarism. Tsarism may be the reason for the darkness of so much Russian literature.....the road that Russia took.

But in other Slavic countries this isn't the case.

Pishbeshevksi, I can't spell his name from memory so that's how it's pronounced, is extraordinary. He's Polish. I'm reading something by Volodymyr Vynnychenko, who's Ukrainian, which is extraordinary.

"Looting Spree Gutted Ammo Dump" and other crimes

So the only thing they were guarding was the oil ministry. They weren't even guarding the compounds with four hundred tons of some of the most powerful conventional explosives known.

I'd like to turn readers attention to another crime, which has been bothering me whenever I read accounts of looting: the intentional burning of the Quranic library in Baghdad which housed many of the oldest documents in existence relating to Islam.


Intentional, yeah. No one has produced the evidence yet but people on the ground who reported how the library was burned gave the impression that organized groups armed with cans of gasoline went into the building and burrned it to the ground while U.S. soldiers stood by and did nothing.

Was there complicity? Did the U.S. order the burning of the Quranic library in Baghdad to teach Muslims a lesson?

My personal opinion, not based on any other facts besides my gut (that wonderful organ that GWB likes so much), says "Hell yeah."

But I have no proof.

Let me tell you what this tradgedy is like.

The Vatican holds a lot of the foundational documents of western Christianity.

Although many Protestants either don't know or are sort of antagonistic to the Vatican because they're not Catholics, imagaine what would happen if the key archives in the Vatican were burned to the ground by an occupying force out of malice to Christianity. Imagine a Protestant population which was aware of what was in those archives.

That's what happened in Baghdad.

Baghdad was the heart of the Muslim universe after Islam came out of the Arabian penninsula and took over the middle east without a lot of complaints by the inhabitants. That last part is in fact very true; every history that you'll read on Islam barring those written by right wing fanatics will say that the Middle East was ruled by a group of decrepit empires, the Roman and the Persian, and that Islam wiping them away wasn't exactly an act that the locals resented all that much.

But I digress.

Baghdad was the heart of Islam in the generation after Muhammad, which is why so many Shi'ia sacred sites are in Iraq. Shi'ia arose out of a conflict between Muhammad's nephew and the group of followers surrounding the prophet regarding, well, actually quite a lot of things, but in particular some basic things about interpretation of the texts and doctrine. By the time that started the main center of Islam was Baghdad and Iraq in general.

So we've wiped out a library which collected texts which have literally been there, in Baghdad, since almost the very, very beginning of Islam.

Think about that for a second.

Think about it.

What a cruel thing to do.

Essence, copyright Neue Slowenische Kunst collective

We see the truth you no longer see. The truth is that the essence of man is love and faith, courage, tenderness, generosity and sacrifice. The res is the monolith, created by progress, whose task is to calculate and project the complex of control.

Each man carries the seed of his own death. Everyone lacks electricity, so they bahave illogically. The acts of men, carried over from past centuries, will gradually destroy them. We are merely the logical means of this destruction.

We do not moralise. We record, calculate, draw conclusions and produce replies which are difficult and sometimes impossible to codify. We deduce an above-average intelligence. We are sometimes in mortal need of superior intelligences. At other times we have no less mortal distrust of them.

The essence of so called capitalist society is not an evil volition to subject their people to the power of indoctrination of the power of finance. It is simply the natural ambition of any organism to plan all its actions. In other words, to minimise unknown qualities.

Before, nothing. After, nothing. Everything we project shall be accomplished. Once you understand this, burn it. If you don't understand this, burn it. We insist on your freedom. The chance won't come again. The only key to your riddle is to accept the absence of a key.

Kapital is the key.

WAT- We Are Time, by Laibach

If you're looking for insight into Laibach's new album (relatively speaking) WAT, or, We Are Time, take a look at the note on Time posted below.

It's from the 'Kapital' liner notes.

And, if you're just listening to the album because it's mostly in German and aggressive, go to the NSK link at the right lower corner of the blog, look at the frickin' translations of the lyrics and get a life. And maybe some insight. Because this is philosophy and art done in an industrial genre which happens to be sung mostly in German, which, of course, is Slovenia's second language. Not English. So why should they not sing in it?

Time, copyright NSK--Neue Slowenische Kunst collective

Time is like a circle which is endlessly described: The declining arc is the past, the inclining arc is the future.

The noise of time is the present clammoring to be heard above past values raised in mourning for their lost future. But the past is all one can know in this life. It is the form of all life, and this quality cannot be changed by any means. No one has lived in the present or will live in the future.

Memory is man's bid to transmit the flow of time or encompass the infinite dimension of space. It is restricted to encapsulating privileged momentsw, like deathe, in a syntactic order that, tone by tone, will shape into music. Music is the illumination of the unbridgeable distance, as vast as space, between thought and act. Music betrays the past in attempting to relive it. You cannot know real time by listening to music. At best it is a damage limitation exercise on eroded memory.

You cannot reverese time with a sound signal. The past presents it's future, it advances in a straight line--yet, like a serpent swallowing its own tail, it ends by coming full circle.

Red Sox

A Red Sox win, a lunar eclipse, and halloween.

No doubt certain New Englanders will be very happy this weekend.

Alexander Cockburn: Kerrycrats and the War

Well, um, yes.

This election is one where there are unfortunately several currents of thought which are at odds with each other circulating.

I happen to believe that a Kerry win is in the best interest of the country and of the world, and have trumpeted it on this site previously, although I haven't made a real show about it since then, mainly because I believe Bush is so bad.

In my reckoning, at least, defeating Bush is #1.

Ok, that's one level, at least as I see it.

On another level you have the collapse of progressive democrats, which is pretty shameful.

Regarding them, when I came out with my blog's endorsemenet of Kerry for President I made it clear that while I thought he would be a good choice, that I hadn't changed my opinion of the behavior of the democrats towards the democratic processs in general and towards politics at all.

I still believe that.

Although a Kerry win would be vitally good, acting like the brownshirts in trying to prevent Nader from exercising his right as an American is not.

I've been thinking today, reading the internet news, that all this net ink spilled on trying to convert Nader voters would be better spent trying to convert Bush supporters to Kerry supporters.

Why aren't these guys doing that sort of voter outreach?

Could it be that it's easier to beat up on Nader voters because culturally they're more like them than it is to convert Bush supporters because they come from a different demographic?

Possibly, but I digress.

What I'm trying to say is that although a Kerry win is the right thing the left has gone about supporting Kerry in about the worst way possible, signing onto group think and intimidation.

Which doesn't feel good.

What am I supposed to say?

I take things realistically. Vote for Kerry, then organize.

Why am I so down on rednecks?

Good question. And there's a simple answer to that question:

Although I'm originally from the country my experience, for all intents and purposes is that of an urban worker.

I haven't lived in the country for a long fucking time.

What being an urban worker means is that you can't rely on the good old boy buddy system of back home to get you a job. You actually have to compete for it.

That's never easy.

So I resent, with spite and with a lot of other nasty feelings, people who live in a small little world which they've always known which has always provided for them, even if it hasn't provided that much, where they have huge levels of security and life as such is neatly planned out.

Oh ok, actually I don't resent them unless they feel superior in that experience to everyone else.

I'm not exactly Mr. model fellow worker but at the same time I at least don't tear down people based on thinking that my socio-cultural status is inherently superior to everyone else's.

The thought would be utterly foreign to my mind to say I have an inherent right to anything just because of who I am. Yet that's what I see people from the country doing all the time. Constantly.

Socialism is great but I don't have a fucking pre-existing claim on shit.

Genus redneckia

A strange creature who believes that since his ancestors came to a place before other people's ancestors, but well after the native people's ancestors arrived, that he's entitled to everything automatically, and that people from ethnic cultures which aren't exactly regarded as exotic by most of the country, like the Irish, are fucking bastards who are taking 'their' jobs away simply because they get the jobs and our redneck friends dont.

Considerations like that the newcomers might be more talented and harder workers than them and that's why they get the jobs don't enter into the picture.

When it comes down to it a redneck believes that good jobs are his right no matter what the skill level of his competitor from a (slightly) different ethnic or regional background is.

This group likes George W. Bush, it seems like, because he too is a white person who's gotten everywhere he has by privilege, mostly the privilege of being WASP from the Northeast, if you're looking at this in racial terms, and seems to revel in it, despite no qualifications.

"Well that Georgy Bush, doesn't matter that he's as dumb as bricks, at least you don't have some nigger lovin' Irish bastard up there"..

Haw Haw Haw.

Yes, every alchoholic redneck in the South, and elsewhere, who sincerely believes that this world WAS made for him, will be cheering for George W. Bush this Tuesday, because he truly does embody the demographic's goals and aspirations.

Republican bosses who love Bush.

I'm sure some of you have been in this scenario before: you have a relationship to someone in a position of power, be it a boss or some lesser entity, who loves to give you a hard time because you don't fit the mold of the purebred blonde blue eyed strong Aryan man who love god, folk, faith, and country.

They give you an unnecessarily hard time and then laugh to themselves because you can't pull off what God himself couldn't do to that minute level of correctness under circumstances of stress. Or otherwise, actually.

Just remember, when these people are giving you shit about the 'real world', which means the world made just that much better by them choosing to shit in the middle of it, that the hard worker they're supporting is a guy who owes everything that he has, that he has ever done, that he's ever been able to get into, to family connections and to money, and that this hard worker fucked up to a degree unknown even in liberal yuppie circles and yet managed to surf the tide of green cash, money, moolah, as well as privilege and influence, all the way to multi-millionaire hood and to the white house.

So they, of course, are doing the work ethic in this country wonders by voting for a failure, albeit one who shares their own sense of cruelty, which shows you where exactly that comes from, doesn't it?

Spolied brat vs. decent worker, which one gets the cruelty award?

Spoiled by growing up in redneckia as a white person or spoiled by money and power....you don't have to be an Andover graduate to be an asshole.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Luigi Galleani "The End of Anarchism?" transcription project part 1

Here is the first part of my transcription of Luigi Galleani's book "The End of Anarchism?", which is actually pro-anarchist.

This selection comes from chapter 4, "Socialist-Collectivism vs. Libertarian Communism"

The context for understanding this discussion is that Galleani is arguing against socialists who already believe that everything should be socialized and things pretty much equally distributed.

So Galleani isn't making the case for socialism in the abstract, he already assumes that the reader buys into the idea of a socialist society.

Instead, he's examining just how exactly should things be distributed in a socialist society, by what criterion should goods be given out. Should it be connected to a re-vamping of the work ethic, retooled into a workerism strangely preminitioning the sort of cult of the worker that grew up in the Soviet Union, where conforming to worker'ist goals and characteristics served as a way for the State to influence and control society, or should reward, in an already equalized system, be tooled more towards human self development regardless if you can conform to some ideal or not.

Galleani is not urging people to be lazy or excusing them from work. People would work in his vision. It's just, in a society where the common good is already emphasized, why shouldn't a sort of disciplined commitment to self development be part of that society?vision

***


Meanwhile, in contrast to the torturous and contradictory premise of common ownership of all the means of production and exchange--tempered by the private ownership of the product of one's own labor--that is waved about by socialist collectivism, libertarian communism begins with two logical terms much more correlative and positive: the common ownership of all means of production and exchange, and the equal right of all to receive from the total production of collective work according to his or her needs. This means that from a revolutionary premise (socialization of the means of production) collectivism draws a reactionary conclusion (compensation according to one's work rather than according to one's needs) and re-establishes within the collectivist city the same economic and political inequalities, all the old and discredited legal and moral relations. Instead, libertarian communism from a revolutionary premise (common ownership of all means of production and exchange) draws a conclusion equally revolutionary: to each according to his or her needs, which shifts, at the same time, the axis of all the old relationships, legal, political and moral, and, in so doing, proclaims a new idea, revealing also in the ethical and the political field, the new trait, the plus missing until most recently, which will be the embryo of the new revolutionary period that will assert the ungovernability of man, autonomy and anarchy.
As a matter of fact, in shunning the absurd and arbitrary notion of compensation (which, together with its opposite poles, reward and punishment, reproduces in the collectivist world the catholic contrast bewteen vice and virtue, the catholic predestination to heaven or hell, according to whether future citizens reveal themselves good or bad at the necessary task of production), libertarian communism rejects the utopia, the incoherence, and the injustice implicit in the collectivist pretense of measuring the effort and energy of each worker in order to compensate him or her according the use-value or his or her labor, and, in so doing, it resolves the problem of each and everyone's sharing the product of the collective work, without arbitrary limitations, without odious controls, without offense to justice or liberty.
Libertarian communism does not feel that the rights and the limits of such participation should be dictated by merit or demerit, by the greater or lesser aptitude and productivity of the single worker. It should be inspired by the unsusppressible right of each organism to go all the way and under the best possible conditions in its ascent from the most elementary to the most superior and complex forms; it should be the unsuppressable right of every person to grow, to develop his faculties in every way, to achieve his full and integral development.
Now, this ascent of the organism from a rudimentary to a fully developed state is marked by a series of ever-more, growing and varied needs claiming satisfaction, and its progressive development results from the more or less complete satisfaction of those numberless and infinitely diverse needs.
The newborn baby, who at his first contact with air and light protests with his first cry, warns us that change of temperature is too sudden and that he cannot adapt himself to the new environment without danger, without pain, and without many precautions. The newly delivered mother, who even in the lower stages of the animal kingdom has forseen these dangers, has softened the nest with the finest feathers or hair, pulled tuft after tuft from her own aching bosom, and will cover her offspring with her warm body as soon as it has been born in order to protect it from the rude fondlings of the wind and of the sun.
It is the first step, signalled by the urgency of purely animal, purely physiological needs. But, once out of the nest, once out of the cradle, the new citizen stumbles upon a whole chain of experiences, each one more challenging than the last, calling on new organs that have not been used before or have been neglected, to move and to function in order to get successes and victories, to ward off dangers, to sense satisfactions, and to attain the enjoyment they promise.
It is a whole series of needs that demand satisfaction through this storm-like activity; it is an endless series of whys?, persistantly curious and fortunately unexhaustable with which children exasperate us. In so doing they let us know their need to understand, to know, to learn, and we try to satisfy that need with our personal knowledge, with schools and books, with the educational work which reflects and epitomizes the heritage of experience arduously accumulatedduring centuries of sufferings and mistakes.
Another step. Others will follow later. But the more we advance, the more complicated and extensive becomes the series of needs, which is the index of the progress realized by the individual as well as the community. A farmer who lives in an Alpine valley, in the present conditions of his development, may have satisfied all his needs---eaten, drunk, and rested to his heart's content; while a worker who lives in London, in Paris, or in Berlin, may willingly give up a quarter of his salaryand several hours of his rest, in order to satisfy a whole category of needs totally unknown to the farmer standing among the gorges of the Alps or the peaks of the Apennine mountains--to spend an hour of intense and moving life at the theatre, at the museum or the library, to buy a recently published book or the latest issue of a newspaper, to enjoy a perfomance of Wagner or a lecture at the Sorbonne.
Since these needs vary, not only according to time and place, but also according to the temperament, disposition and development of each individual, it is clear that only he or she who experiences and feels them is in a position to appreciate them and to adequately measure the satisfaction they may give.
Therefore, in drawing the measure of each person's share in the total social production from need, from the complex and infinite needs of each organism, rather than from the social use-value of each one's labor, anarchist-communism is inspired not only by a logical motive, but also by an eminently practical criterion of equality and justice.

Memories of Chile in the Midst of an American Presidential Campaign

My god, this is the best article I've seen in a long, long, time...and that's not even hyperbole.

It almost brought tears to my eyes.

Ariel Dorfman, Chilean exile, talking about the U.S. and possibilities for the future.

"Fallout from dot bomb and 9/11 ensures one corner of Texas cares little for Bush"

And you wonder why I write about this little piece of Texas so fondly.

The author clearly is in love with Austin, and so am I, but my destiny is here in the Northwest.

Austin....ah...

Was it just part of a long dream which these years have been part of?

Is there any way to experience that sort of life while having a real career sort of job?

I'm not sure...

I was a tourist, although not a conventional tourist, a tourist nonetheless...


Great town.

I even protested there once, in front of George W. Bush's old executive haunts.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

US Expats Jump on Planes to Vote in Home States

Which includes a picture of people holding up John Kerry signs in front of the Colliseum. That has to be one of the strangest sights I've seen, kind of like people holding up Chavez signs here.

Would people in Europe watch the U.S. election like they watched the Chavez recall referendum?

Strange to think of it like that.

Brooks and Rove via This Modern World

"He begins his dinner party performance with a combination of impressive name-dropping and crushing banality: "I was talking to Karl the other day - Karl Rove - and he mentioned that winning the most electoral votes is the key to winning the election."

So says Brooks.

What I'm wondering is why the hell does Karl Rove actually tell people that winning the electoral votes is key to winning the election?

Did he really make a remark like that or was it just Mr. Banal spinning a casual conversation out of proportion?

If not, I don't know. Trees are green. There's another profound statement on the level of 'electoral votes are the key to winning the election'.

Tom Tomorrow post about Frontline program about low morale in the military

The military is now saying, I guess, that it's almost broken.

Makes one think about the fact that Donny Rumsfeld and the boys with their war fixation as the solution to every problem play with a very real army made up of real men and women who can't perform miracles.

Certainly not the sort of miracles that Rumsfeld and company would like performed to suit their ideology and beliefs.

In my land they call it investigative journalism....

This post had to come some time.

All right, there's a phenomenon in the blogosphere/lefty internet realm....let me rephrase that, since I read few blogs (just the best ones ;) , in the lefty opinion internet realm which resembles an echo chamber....

What happens is that an investigative piece with real news which contains one interesting and provocative fact comes along and strangely enough in the next couple of days opinion makers, like, um, well I don't use it that much but...sure, possibly like this blog (which I hope doesn't count as opinion making...you should make up your own fucking mind), suddenly repeat said provocatively phrased but not really totally significant fact in their pieces as if its the gospel truth, ignoring context which would make said provocative fact less compelling in a greater setting.

Facts like these are really snazzy in articles where they're contextualized but they often are qualified by certain constraints, certain uncertainties, which make them less valuable as facts as such and more like what they are...which are snappy little incongruities which make the system out to be what it is.

Like the medical draft.

It's not happening right now and, guess what, it makes sense. More people are being hurt, someone has to treat them. Doesn't mean, therefore, that the actual draft is on its way back.

Actually, the draft might come back, but there isn't any logical connection between more doctors being called up and people being called up for infantry, even though the reality is that that appears likely if they want more troops to secure Iraq and, god help us, to do any more military interventions.

Looking at the potential medical draft, because it's not happening yet it's just being planned for the future, from the point of view of "They said there'd be no draft! Ha! We've got 'em!", yeah, it's an inconsistancy and it proves that strictly speaking they aren't telling the truth, but if you step back out of that "Let's catch them in a lie" orientation and step into something where you're thinking "Does this mean that there will be a draft?", then it isn't as impressive, for the reason I gave above.

Unless you want to make a slippery slope argument which says first they draft the medics, next thing you know there'll be a hundred thousand kids over there, the whole medic thing doesn't have quite the oomph that people think it has.

Which is why bloggers and opinion people, myself included, desparately need to do some real investigative journalism.

We need to actually go out, interview people, do research, try to find stories out ourselves, deal with primary facts, wrestle with knowledge which hasn't been processed for us before.

That way we can generate facts which other people haven't discovered yet and maybe actually make more interesting observations and connections which really add something novel and unique, and meaningful, to the world, on a much higher level than we're doing right now.

I mean, all opinion pieces add something, barring being pure propaganda, but we could be doing so much more. You'll never go wrong on a low level opinion piece that has a lot of humor and ridicule but the possibilities for journalism are so much more, such vast vistas, that we should strive for more.

If we want.

As someone once said "What's all this 'we' shit?"

But, be that as it may, it would be refreshing if we unearthed some unique facts on our own instead of relying on reprocessed facts which don't really work when used as evidence or as straight facts or, especially, in combination with each other.

Two provocative facts from two different stories dealing with slightly separate subjects don't automatically work together, to say the least.

One fact used in a story abstractly criticizing Bush works lousy, unless you make it work for you, but two, or more?

The hundred facts and one opinion about Bush piece which is going on is a welcome exception to that...

But people who rely on flashy pieces of news which are, in the moment, provocatively critical and insightful about the system risk their writing becoming instantly obsolete the second the next news cycle comes around and brings even more provocative and critical facts from a different framework.

The enduring things are the most important.

Even conservatives, real ones, could agree with us on that...

Republicans Gather to Bash Bush

Actually, to respond to my comment below before I tackle this, mid level government works pretty well, not all the time, but it is actually more responsive than I made it out to be.

But onto these Republicans against Bush. You know I read these things about Republicans who criticize Bush and who have switched to being against him and I wonder at the difference between what they look at when they criticize Bush and what we, meaning liberals and some lefties, look at.

They always seem to have real concrete reasons for criticizing Bush while we on the left seem to think that because he, by one point of view, looks like a Chimpanzee, that he's unfit for office.

Quite a difference there.

You know, there are gaffes and aspects of Bush and his presidency which are funny in some ways but the truth of whats being done is very unfunny.

Bush the loser would be a lot more funny if it wasn't having real costs which are dead serious.

The Republicans who switch to being against Bush realize this.

ok, ok, something positive about Amerrican democracy

There are some good parts.

We have much more local government than people elsewhere have and that's a real positive thing. People can actually get elected to local governing bodies, school boards, other local offices, and make a difference.

So we have a lot of local level democracy even though on the top level there's not a whole lot.

The middle level is sort of a mixed bag.

To add to that...

Some of the 'Framers of the Constitution', ha ha ha, talked about the threat of the tyranny of the majority.

What's that?

The possibility that the people once in power would confiscate the property of the rich people and otherwise pass legislation which would harm them---the minority.

So what was the solution?
......put the Minority in power so that the majority could never do that.

I mean, look, representatives were elected by limited suffrage, then senators were elected by representatives from whoever they wanted, then the executive was elected by electors who were drawn from who the state legislatures appointed, who were prominent people, who would then certify a president.

In the original system.

Which means you have one part of government elected by the people and basically the rest of it drawn from a very small minority of 'eminent people' who had a lot of money.

The solution to a tyranny of the majority is not to perpetually appoint the minority to power. It has to do with legal restrictions and rights.

Unless of course the minority wasn't just any minority---like people who liked to do outdoor sports in winter---but was a minority whose existence went right to the heart of questions about the nature of society.

Then, obviously, special treatment is required.

Honest Democracy

I've been reading some things which I've been sent about the Clark County project which, for those of you who don't know, was a project set up by the Guardian newspaper in England to contact voters in Clark County Ohio, a contested county in a swing state, in order to convince them to vote Kerry.

The article had a lot of info about Europeans' interest in the U.S. election, and it got me to thinking...

You know, the funny thing is that we don't have democracy in any sort of recognized form in this country, at least not honest democracy, so in a sense our election, though important, is really the working out of an antiquated and only semi-democratic system of government, which is being trumpeted as democratic up and down.

It isn't hard to see what real democracy is. Tom Paine expressed it pretty well in one of his pamphlets, can't remember which.

A real democracy would be a system of government where there would be one chamber of deputies who were put there by direct election.

That's Mr. Paine, now for my own gloss.

The representatives would divide up according to political philosophy and points of view, forming something called 'parties', and each of these parties would vote the same way on issues that they agreed were important and enter into strategic alliances with other parties in the congress on issues which they had similar views on.

These parties would combine with each other in order to try to get over fifty percent of the congress.

Just like in a meeting, if over fifty percent of the congress was united that coalition would control the agenda of the congress and would assume a leadership role.

They would have the privilege of appointing, from their own ranks, people to head various standing committees which would deal with issues of policy. These committees would be called 'ministries'.

Then, they would appoint, from their ranks, a person to head up the work of these committees in general. This person would be called a 'prime minister'.

That's how real democracy would work....and we don't have anything close to it here.

Instead, we have a chief executive whose election has absolutely no connection to who the people have sent into congress as their representatives and who can appoint anyone he wants to, friends, drinking buddies, people who were defeated in elections by deceased candidates, to high government offices where they don't even have the sliver of accountability to the people that the President, by the sham of a once every four year vote for a new constitutional monarch, has.

And then we have this Congress thing which doesn't really matter because it can't directly influence executive decisions.

Meaning that Congress doesn't run the country.

Meaning that the representatives of the people don't run the country.

This principle is praised up and down in the pseudo-science known as American political theory as an example of the transcendental principle known as 'separation of powers', which exists as such only in the heads of Americans who've been indoctrinated into it and isn't highly regarded in the rest of the world.

Under separation of powers it's a good thing that the Representatives of the people don't run the country, because then you'd have the possibility of the people running amok and exploiting themselves.

Instead, the running of the country is safely taken out of the hands of the people and put into the hands of an elite which manages the country for them, with Congress as a sort of consultative body.

Where the members of the executive come from and why they'd be better in managing the country than the people is never really spelled out.

There's a suggestion in the Federalist Papers, the propaganda justifiying our 'Constitution', that the Executive branch could be filled by people judged to be leaders of the community, in other words rich and well connected people.

So, that's who runs the country in the United States.

And what a grand old democracy we are.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Dave Zirin: Death of a Fan

Ok, now here's an important story.

This was bound to happen, someone killed from routine use of non-lethal weapons.

Why?

Because non-lethal weapons unchain the cops from using restraint in how they attack people because they assume that anything they do will be non-lethal.

So lifting that restraint actually makes them more likely to do controversial things which will kill people.

I think that it's the impulse which is bad, which would lead to deaths no matter if it was live ammo or nerf ammo which was being fired.

My thought is that if you invented a billy club which was assured would magically not injure someone that cops would take that as a cue to beat people with the thing until they were not only injured but fatally wounded.

And is this by accident or by design?

I remember an obscure interview I heard with the father of non-lethal weapons, a guy by the last name of Alexander, I believe, on the now defunct but really quirky and interesting Art Bell show.

During that interview the guy let it slip that the purpose of non-lethal weapons was to let the police do what they wanted to do in a non-lethal way.

What did he mean by that? He meant that police wanted to use live ammo on people but that they couldn't and so non-lethal weapons were a good device to meet the demands of the police half way.

It gives you pause for thought. Do we really want to give police something which enables them to hurt people in new and creative ways without usually injuring them fatally? Is it ok to give cops new and creative ways to beat people up?

Shouldn't we instead be concerned about restraining them?

Uri Avnery: On the Road to Civil War

Ok, you want an example of why Israel is an extremist state here it is:"Many of them believe in the Kabbala ? not Madonna's fashionable Kabbala, but the real one, which says that today's secular Jews are really Amalekites who succeeded in infiltrating the People of Israel at the time of the exodus from Egypt. God Himself has commanded, as everyone knows, the eradication of Amalek from the face of the earth. Can there be a more perfect ideological basis for civil war?"

This is in reference to Israeli settlers.

So, lets review here: the article is about commands to disband settlements possibly sparking a civil war.

Instead of having some sort of reasoning supporting their idea that settlements are hunky dory these people are using a biblical passage from over two thousand years ago to possibly wage war on their fellow Israelis.

Nothing else which has transpired in the several thousand years since that passage was written seems to matter to them.

If this was Islam we'd call this sort of thinking reminiscent of the Taliban but because it's Israel, of course, we don't.

"Mike Whitney: Al Hurra TV".....and that whole Joeseph Goebbels thing

Interesting story on Counterpunch about the new U.S. sponsored propaganda station "Al Hurra". Just one thing (before the Goebbels part)...production values...I realize that in the context of a propaganda station high production value might not be that important but, damn it, I like stations, and music, that have high production values. It makes things so much clearer.

But, this whole Joeseph Goebbels thing is so cliche....

Everywhere you go on the web it seems like people are comparing Bush to Goebbels, Fox new to Goebbels, gerbils to Goebbels. Well maybe not the last.....

Cliches aren't neccesarily that bad except that this one is dead wrong.

People who use the Goebbels analogy rely on a quote which he made which said that if you repeat something enough times people would believe it.

That one quote actually misrepresents how propaganda, especially Goebbels' own speeches, functioned in the Third Reich.

That model actually fits North Korea or Stalinist Russia better.

The Third Reich in its early years was much more subtle than people make it out to be. It concentrated on trying to win people over through engaging them. True, it was a dictatorship which would end in the conclusion we all know it ended in, but it was one which ratcheted things up slowly within that context.

Goebbels in actuality was known as the voice of reason in the Third Reich.

His role, his direct role in his speeches and in his public persona, was to explain the Third Reich to the intelligentsia of the world and to the business interests of the world so that they would be reassured that, whatever ranting and raving Hitler was doing, that Germany was still dependable and hadn't gone over the edge.

And that's how he ran the propaganda beureau.

The base material might have been unacceptable, but Goebbels tried to ease Germany into it by pressing all possible arguments, intellectual, cultural, appeals to workers, appeals to women, which could be made which would appeal to otherwise non-interested or defiant parties and convince them that the Third Reich's philosophy was allright.

It operated on every front.

Initially, even Communists were wooed rather than beaten.

This coexesited in an atmosphere of increasing violence and extremism, but again, if people could be convinced that everything was allright, that what the Nazis were doing was either not what they were actually doing or was something which was justified, if they could be convinced that the Third Reich was fighting for something good, then they could overlook all of that. *1

And it worked.

That was the genius of Goebbels' propaganda, not that he repeated a lie over and over again until people believed it but that he engaged the issues in every way possible in order to argue that what the Third Reich was doing was allrgiht, that a State funded propaganda beureau chose to be with all the issues instead of avoiding them.

That's not what you have today.

If that was what was going on now you'd be having press conference after press conference given by the Whitehouse explaining in whatever torturous logic that they could come up with why, indeed, Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, explaining why there was a connection between Saddam an Al-Qaida, and it would be on every television station.
And they'd be doing it while pushing the United States' 'world historical mission' to liberate the Muslim world from the chains of oppression.

Instead the administration is largely reactive about these things.

Indeed, the central philosophy behind the administration's actions is largely not expressed, while with the Nazis the philosophy was everything.
The administration doesn't discuss what it believes because it knows that if it did that it would lose support immediately.

In my opinion, then, Goebbels' most insidious action was to appeal to the people in power in other countries and in Germany as well in order to convince them of the legitamacy of the Third Reich.

Providing intellectual cover for a gang of thugs and crackpots....

That's a hell of a lot more dangerous than just repeating a lie over and over again and again.

*1 It should be noted that the Nazis made real attempts to conceal their worst crimes until the final stages of the war.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

You have to work for what you get

Definition: a phrase usually used by people who make no bones about people who have experienced huge entitlements getting somewhere against those people who they just don't like.

See college administrators.

Yes, how I know college, the place where admins and councillors have the guts to say things like that to kids while several thousand highly privileged young people who have no qualifications whatsoever except that they were born into the right school district and had parents that forced them to do good produce formally magnificient but qualitatively deficient papers, writings, and projects.

It's like, you know, if you really have to work to get someplace, and I, because of some squabble with the administration, am considered to be not working or doing good work, then why aren't you picking on the thousand kids who really are fucking off and doing next to nothing.

That never happens, though.




The legless vet and the hipster

It's ten years down the road, one of our hipster friends has made it in the world, has a cushy academic position, and is giving a talk in a bookstore.

After the talk a guy in a wheel chair comes up to the speaker and says "Hey, thanks for not giving a shit about Iraq all those years ago, it really changed my life".

End of story.

The Moral Authority of Hipsters

Since I live in the Northwest it seems appropriate to talk about the moral authority and reasoning of hipsters.

What's a hipster? A hipster is a young person who likes all the right books, dresses in all the right fashions, and thinks that French intellectuals are the best thing since sliced bread.

They're really prevalent around here, and they're mostly neo-conservative.

Neo-conservative not nececsarily in the true sense.

They believe that liberals are demented and delusional, that they're full of themselves and their own dogma, that they don't do any sort of real arguing.

Therefore, the liberal position must be wrong.

You can see the leap here between attacking the person and deciding that the issue is wrong because of some of the people who are involved in it.

Be that as it may this equation of cheerfully naive dissent against certain liberals that they pick out who are silly and possibly disturbed with liberalism itself gives them carte blanche authority, in their minds, to turn off from politics all together, say that fundamentally it doesn't matter, say that a conservative line, or a status quo line, in just about every subject is appropriate, and that they have no responsability for anything their government does or anything having to do with the welfare of their fellow man.

Gives them more time to preen their hair and pick out really cool frames for their glasses.

So lets look at this moral authority for a second: some liberals are a little bit wacky, therefore liberalism is bullshit, therefore there's no need to be concerned about the people who've been hit by mortars and mutiliated and or killed because of the policies that these wacky liberals have opposed.

Yes, of course! I understand! The fact that stupid people make long comments at meetings meens that free fire zones in Falluja are ok!

Why didn't I ever think of that?

Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

That's the moral authority of hipsters right there.


GW Bush, rightwing populist

That's the best explanation I have for the....guy...that he's supported by people because he plays himself off as a populist of the rightwing variety...something the New World is very familiar with.

Peron but without the honest left wing parts of Peronism and without the terror.

Doesn't matter that of people trying to have a sort of populist orientation Bush is almost as transparently false in this as it's possible to be....maybe Pinochet was even more of a lier, but, again, the fact that we don't live under a dictatorship where people are being executed in football stadiums makes the comparison a little weak.

But rightwing populist with dictatorial aspirations Bush surely is.

That's my answer to Europeans who are befuddled about how anyone could support Bush....

I think the major difference between previous rightwing populist regimes and ours is that none of them had the military capacity to strike, at least not in the New World. Mussolini surely did, and he exercised it freely against the Ethiopians and the Libyans.

GeorgeWBush.com :: Official Blog

Always good to see what the other side is doing.

Yes, the George W. Bush reelection campaign does have a blog, and I have to say that as a blog, it really sucks. Which is to be expected.

I was reading through it, looking at the testimonials that Bush supporters gave, and knowing what I know about the Bush record and the Bush administration, combined with the increased scrutiny and criticism that's coming at Bush, it appeared to me to be awfully similar in tone to the websites and propaganda that Slobadan Milosevic's supporters put up there.

Yep, Slobo is hated by the world, yet for a number of people in Serbia he's considered to be an upstanding guy because he 'defended Serbian rights' and wouldn't buckle under the cross of international opposition. They also see him as a populist who's out for the intersts of the little guy, too. Although of course that little guy would have to be Serbian.

Yes, the crazy websites that people from regimes despised throughout the world put up, they have a certain similarity.

More about patronage....

The posts below about affirmative action and liberal co-optation of blacks might shock some people but they really shouldn't.

There's a very good essay by the great Irish socialist James Connolly about the difference between charity and socialism, where he rakes charity over the coals for turning people into snivelling syncophants in order to get what they deserve anyways.

The difference between the right-wing critique of charity and the liberal cult of sympathy---sympathy which is rewarded by jobs and privileges--iand the leftwingg one is that while the right looks at what liberals do and says that the cult of sympathy is totally wrong, that these people don't deserve anything and that the things they whine about really aren't problems, the left acknowledges that the pain people feel is real and that the problems people face are real but suggests a different way to go about addressing those problems.

One which emphasizes self help, I guess you could say, in the form of banding together in political movements which demand change, instead of emphasizing Mr. moneybags, whether that be the government or actual rich patrons, coming down and solving the problems with his endless supply of cash.

Changing how much people can get paid for minimum wage, for example, eliminates the need to have social programs take up some of the slack.

If all people had a living wage then the various forms of welfare short of programs which need some sort of collective presence like health care would be rendered superfluous.

And no one would have to beg for anything.

Eric Margolis: 'Non-Americans dread Bush'

Talking about people in the deep South:
"These groups tend to share a loathing of Europe, the UN, the Pope, Muslims in general, Arabs in particular, intellectuals, anything international, and believe themselves God's chosen people. "

That says it all...

Eric Margolis: 'Non-Americans dread Bush'

Talking about people in the deep South:
"These groups tend to share a loathing of Europe, the UN, the Pope, Muslims in general, Arabs in particular, intellectuals, anything international, and believe themselves God's chosen people. "

That says it all...

"Former Workers Dispute Bush's Pull in Project P.U.L.L"......or, there's a difference between working part time and owning the company

OK, so Bush, with his compassionate conservatism, didn't work for project PULL in the traditional sense, didn't help manage it, didn't even volunteer, but instead logged in and out doing hours managed for what appear to be legal reasons playing games with inner city kids.

Nothing wrong with playing games with needy inner city kids but, heck, I could do that right now if I wanted to, as could many people, but it wouldn't mean that I ran the program. Or was invited by the person running the program to participate as some sort of equal.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Reflections on where I come from politically...

Seeing youth voter sites and being around youth who are radical, I wonder if some of this hostility towards Marxists of any kind is due to a fundamental disconnect with the older New Left, which leaves kids totally unable to understand the politics, the more abstract politics, unable to break into that world and therefore hostile to it.

I say this because I've yelled at anarchists on this website lately, and that doesn't feel to good; I know these people and I know that there has to be something else going on besides the usual, not really informed in any respect, critiques which are put out there.

I come to politics from a different perspective than they do because, believe it or not, I was able to basically get a hold of the New Left texts which fired up people way back when pretty damn early in my political reaching, my curiosity of trying to understand the world, and, besides this weird world of autonomism, which I didn't really understand, I assimilated a lot of the New Left into my own political worldview. So much so that I expected that when the Left came back it would pick up where the New Left left off....I was sort of allied with Herbert Marcuse and George Lukacs and their version of Marxist humanism and fully thought that when the left came back it would be their ideas which would be taken back up.

Didn't quite turn out that way.

But, whatever, and, before saying this, I absolutely hate this term, hate it, I'm more of a 'movement' person than many anarchists are.

Referring to the 'movement' is an SDS figure of speech which has been generally carried over by former New Left activists to describe their own work and the work of allied people in the community in which they're a part of.

So, although I was born after SDS had dissolved and didn't have any contact with this stuff until the mid to late nineties, yeah, I guess you could say, in a torturous and twisted way, I'm more a part of the 'movement' than most anarchists, who are much more alientated from the whole thing and can't seem to find a way in, in many cases, therefore adding to their alienation and hostility.

If we, and I use 'we' advisedly, could just reach out to them and explain about the good stuff that the Left has done since the second World War we could help them out a lot.

About those comments earlier...

You know, I was pretty harsh with the Democrats over race, but the thing is that the substance of many of my views are probably shared by a lot of young black men out there.

There's a reason why there aren't many prominent young male black progressive speakers out there....and the reason is that they see the left as hypocritical and as seaking to use them to advance its own agenda.

At one college that I went to the black mens group stayed as far away as possible from the progressives, even though the progressives were insanely strongly organized. They could have easily come over if they wanted to but they didn't.

Some people organized for Mumia abu Jamal and none of the black men's group showed up for activities.

People don't want to be used, especially if they're expoited enough already, which is why the hip-hop vote and the vote of young blacks in general is so marginal in the progressive sphere, only represented by Russel Simmons' organization, whose reach I'm not sure of.

A gauge of how disconnected the establishment liberals are from young black men is how few times people like KRS-ONE, who has been criticized by, among others, League of Pissed Off Voters founder William 'Upski' Wimsatt, for getting disconnected from the base, actually are featured in progressive forums.

I like KRS-ONE, but I'm a white guy. White people are comfortable with KRS' politics, but I'm not sure, unfortunately, how much what he writes now really resonates with black youth on the ground.

But, be that as it may, the fact that not even people who may be questionable, and I'm not insulting KRS-ONE at all in this, to some aren't invited to these forums or the people who organize these things aren't even aware of their existance or that they might be people that young Afro-American kids look up to, speaks volumes.


Coming from that perspective, maybe my comments don't seem so outrageous after all.

League of Pissed Off Voters:?Who are we?

You owe it to yourself to check them out.

I got on their mailing list somehow, and I suspect that they got it through this website instead of being referred to me through some other mailing list that I'm on.

I have to give them props, for whatever that gesture is worth, because they're doing the right thing.

If you're an independent voter, a young person who hasn't voted in a Presidential election before, or just someone sort of new to involved politics...check out their site.

Does the Colonization of America make American history simpler or more complex?

Sounds like an Oxford debate question...

I think that the history of colonization of America makes American history more complex.

Picture this: southern Africa was seized by Europeans and colonized so intensely that it effectively became a large European dominated state.

Would we say, then, that southern Africa was simply a European state which was built on people's which were there but were unfortunately exterminate and subjugated and really don't matter?

Of course not!

Because Africa is known to people the response would be that the colonization in that scenario makes the history of southern Africa even more complex, makes it something which needs special attention put on the place of the indigenous people's in world history and in our understanding of worldviews and cultures, on top of making the white/African interaction and how southern Africa became like this a very, very, important topic for research. The historical evolution of Southern Africa would be number one in terms of importance in understanding it.

The same goes, I feel, for America.

The indigenous people's of America were not absent from history; if anything their belief systems and views of the world make them part of history as much as anyone else. Contacts with the rest of the world probably did take place...

But, whatever your views, I think that the situation of America is exactly the same as the scenario I gave about a settling of Southern Africa---that America was settled so intensely that it became a European dominated continent, but that that does not negate or brush aside the colonial origins of the society.

The alternate way of viewing it says that English farmers who wanted a better livelihood boarded ships which carried them to an empty land where they were able to farm and enjoy liberty, with no further explanation needed.

Nope, not true.

It takes the histories and beliefs of the first people's out of the picture entirely; a true reckoning of American history has to aggressively put them back into the picture in the context of their connections and similarities to other non-European people's around the globe.

Making a real history of America much more complex and not simplified in comparison to other continents at all.

Salon..

Ha ha ha...

I don't care for it other than for the fact that it prints some interesting political articles every once and a while and it also has "This Modern World"...

One of these days I'm going to start a website called "Saloon", and the content will be similar to the title...

Looks like Sproul's troubles are just beginning

The story linked to above contains revelations by employees of the voting registration comapny recently accused of shredding ballots registered Democratic.

They're coming out of the woodwork in a lot of states now.

How is this possible? Is there a mighty conspiracy at work? Possibly, but, you know, I've always been sketchy about vote registration booths set up outside of supermarkets run by little old ladies who could be members of the DAR...I always had the suspicion they would do something underhanded with my registration...

Bourgeois life II

Bourgeois life in America has always been a priviliged illusion. The ideal of a man who goes to a faceless job doing essentially nothing, then comes back to a greatful family with a big house and a big car in a nice suburb, well, someone has to pay for all of that, and it's not the occupants of the house, the suburb or the car.

Pre-industrial America wasn't bourgeois, it was agrarian, big difference. The first implies a whole set of social relations disconnected from work while the second implies a set of social relations closely related to those of the working class but still bound by tradition to a high degree...but the work and the tradition intersect and are part of each other. The same cannot be said of the Norman Rockwell ideal, where 'traditions', which in this sense means the collective activities which define community and family, exist in a world where someone else does the meaningful work and the breadwinner just manages it or plans it or drives it. Or works the commercial end of things and so is even more removed from the work world.

I don't know. There's something obscene about suburbs in a country where the urbs which the subs are offshoots of are new themselves and where the 'burbs swallow up small towns which are similarly just getting themselves established. All of that construction from scratch just so that rich people can have a stable and nice standard of living in a place which was wilderness not that long ago.

It's like, how do you plan a city or a new country? Well, the suburban and bourgeois way seems to be to, in the middle of nowhere where nothing existed before, create an industrial slum, then create a carefully walled off suburban green belt neighborhood experience.

Doesn't that seem wrong in some way? Like that the mowed lawns of the suburbs, based on English redevelopment plans from the late 19th century, are just obscene in that they assume a whole style of civilized life where the reality outside the walls of the neighborhood is hardscrabble struggle, which, even when not desperate, is never nice looking, at least not in America.

A man in a nice hat carrying an umbrella--a youth gang member in a Starter jacket with gang colors puffing on a cigarette with his hat cocked to the side, which is more honestly emblamatic of America?

The gang member, for sure, not the European transplant.

It's not for nothing that the Israeli settlements on the West Bank rings such a parllel with some of the situations of suburbs on the edges of ghettos in the U.S. ...

Only we, who have financed this dream of bourgeois reality, are the same people.



Hip Hop

To get an idea of how far the minority intelligentsia on the liberal side of the spectrum is from their base one has only to compare the endless invocations of Martin Luther King Jr. to a passage on the first page of "The Hip Hop Generation", a book about black kids growing up roughly the same time that Gen-X people were growing up.

From memory, mind you, the book starts out quoting two dates which are, according to the author, vitally important in the minds of young black men and women.

Those two dates? The dates when Biggy Smalls and Tupac Shakur were shot.

That was news to me, as a white person.

Although I knew about their deaths, of course, and, at least in Tupac's case had listened to the music, what made it even more astounding was that I'd been reading things and listening to things by black leaders for a long time and nothing at all would have indicated to me that this stuff was that important based on what most of them said.

Al Sharpton was the exception.

The Reverand Sharpton is a good man who people at my house always rooted for when he came on the screen on C-SPAN in the protests and demonstrations following the 2000 election debacle.

The Rev.'s a cool dude. Played in the band with Little Richard at one time, I believe.

But back to the point.

Hip hop culture is so vastly different from established liberal culture regarding blacks that it's hard to even describe the difference.

And Saul Williams, heh, he's only hip hop on white college campuses. Give me a fucking break.

Hip hop culture is what happens when entry into the system is denied people for a very long time. They create their own fucking culture outside of it.

Bill Cosby isn't an uncle tom, but he is a black conservative..

He dislikes hip hop culture.

If he dislikes it then why doesn't he try to give people some incentive to change the system so that people can make decent livings within it?

It's like the whole gang culture, although hip hop has been called the good alternative within the whole subset to gangs.

For people really in a situation where poverty is it there isn't a compelling reason for them not to join gangs. Moral encouragement doesn't necessarily mean squat.

I think that's the constant between the real life of people and the artificial construction of the bourgeois world with college and its culture as the gatekeeper: there's so much of a difference that college life virtually has to be false, because bourgeois life isn't keen on admitting a dissenting culture into its ranks, so rampant lieing in the service of telling bourgeois culture what it wants to hear becomes the norm for virtually every group that wants an entre.

Dance! Dance! Dance! And dance how we tell you to because if you do that you'll reassure our preconceptions of what your culture is like, then that'll tell us that you're ok and can join our world.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Pat Robertson rebells

All right for Pat.

I do appreciate a consistant religious conservative, and although I don't agree with Pat Robertson's beliefs or opinions, I think he may be one.

First he says that 9/11 was punishment for the sin America was engaging in, now he says that Bush dismissed casualties.

Both are sort of unpopular things to say but Robertson did say them anyways, and I don't think there's anything inconsistant with either of them and his basic positions.

I mean, the propaganda that the right puts out, or at least put out double time during the Clinton years, does suggest that America is a moral cesspool which will recieve divine judgement.

Robertson just made the mistake of publicly drawing the conclusion from that belief which 9/11 surely suggested to a lot of those folks.

Which bleeds into affirmative action...

The perception, or a very strong but not really publicly articulated perception, of affirmative action among a whites, is that affirmative action programs have in the past turned into vast patronage machines for the democratic party, where the people who actually fill those positions aren't necessarily the most qualified or most needed but the ones who are best politically connected.

The belief among many whites is that affirmative action programs are great ways to generate politically educated cadre who will mouth the democratic party's position on race relations and take those ideals to places of power.

So Political Correctness becomes a career advancement vehicle....


It would do for some of the liberal leaders about race to read the beginning of Ralph Ellison's book "Invisible Man", where the kid's academic career is destroyed because he takes Mr. Liberal funder out into the back woods and shows him aspects of black life which he'd rather not believe, because it offends his sensibilities.

Real politics doesn't carry a P.C. message and I doubt that any real black politico would use the tortuous language and vocabulary of multiculturalism and race and critical theory which is so common today.

Maybe they'd talk about real issues instead...things which feel good workshops or multicultural inclusionary history and awareness don't really address...

The actual history of black America isn't really taught at all by the P.C. curriculum, this is sort of my parting shot but bear with me, there's virtually no social history, virtually no radical history in terms of history from the bottom up; instead what you have is a great leader snapshot of prominent individuals and great events snapshots of great happenings which have taken place...just the thing that conventional white history gets criticized for but since it's from a liberal perspective it's supposedly OK...

No, the history of black America isn't taught and won't be taught until people of color are treated as equals and not as playthings.

A fortuitous occurance...

Something happened fortuitously which has made me see the connection between liberals and blacks, or to understand it.

I won't share the occurance.

However, the understanding goes like this: I've spent so many frickin' hours in meetings where someone has brought up the fact that there aren't minorities present and that because of that we're all bad people yadda yadda yadda...the truth is, these people can say that because they have no connection whatsoever to real black grassroots politics.

They've never dealt with real left or even liberal black leaders who are supported by the community they live in and if pressed they probably couldn't even name one. So they're just blabbering without any sort of reality check being possible.

I can say, hey, I don't see any Cambodians here! What would Cambodians think if they saw these policies? But I don't know anyone in the Cambodian community, of which there actually is one in the Pacific Northwest, and there's very little likelihood of my comments actually getting back to any local Cambodian political leaders who could object to me using them in this way, so I have a free pass, essentially, to say anything I want without any bad consequences.

The flip side of that is that my comments are meaningless.

And then there's the house negroes.

Malcolm X invented that term to deal not with blacks who had become conservatives, which there really weren't many, but to deal with liberal blacks who'd become parts of the system working for the democrats and essentially mouthing what the Democrats thought was the appropriate race policy of the time.

"A Democrat ain't nothin' but a Dixiecrat", was what Malcolm X said about dems, and he said it, I think, because he saw these people not give a damn about the grassroots and about what was actually going on in the black community but just appropriate black faces for their own politics. So, compared with doing it yourself, democrats aren't better than dixiecrats because none of it has anything to do with what's really going on.

But onto the house negroes....

That's a term, like I said, which refers to blacks on the liberal end of the spectrum who occupy positions of power, as distinct from the real leaders on the grass roots who are never seen because they don't have relations with the big house, to stretch the metaphor a little bit.

You know Gramsci is either talked about a lot or, alternately, at least generates a lot of press among people on the left. Gramsci's theory of hegemony and cooptation is used to explain why the labor movement isn't vital, why the working class isn't vital politically, but no one, to my knowledge, has used Gramsci to talk about the black community.

About cooptation of black youths into the system itself.

Maybe if they did that liberals would have to face the fact that a lot of their black colleagues who mouth slogans which are eerily similar to their own aren't organic intellectuals by a long shot but are the products of cooptation themselves.

There's pressure for working class youth to straighten up and join the system if they want to go to college, and in college to pursue a conservative agenda if they want to succeed after school.

I believe there's a similar push in the black community, only it's about ten times as strong, with white people, the gate keepers to higher education, aggressively pushing for the people from poor communities that get into higher education to either be conservatives or to be white liberals with black skin. No real radicals need apply.

And these poor folks, victims of democratic patronage, which created the possibility of black politicos who were in line with the democratic party succeeding in numbers far outstripping the amount of white politicos mouthing democratic slogans measured by percentage, filter through the academic system and are never questioned.

It's tough, yeah, and people do what they do to survive, but don't you think that some liberal or radical professor would stop one day and say to themselves "You know, there's a whole lot of racism in this country, given that, how exactly did they get here? Did they really fight against the system all the way from the start to the end or did they compromise themselves and start saying what people wanted them to say?"

But although it's assumed that working class folks can be bought out it's thought that every single black face with a liberal attitude is an authentic and authorized representative of the black community, ney, even of the ghetto, whose authority is unquestionable and who is wise and knowledgeable on all topics and issues.

And when they ask, which they sometimes do, "Why aren't there more minority voices here?", I doubt that they'd be able to answer that question satisfactorily because of the huge gap between where they are and where they might have come from.

And so you get absurdities like the woman who spoke at the "Take Back America" conference of 2002 who was saying that Martin Luther King would have supported North Korea if he was alive today, expecting no doubt that the audience would say to themselves "I don't think so, but she's black! I can't say she doesn't know what she's talking about!".

Fortunately that case was so bad that Arriana Huffington, who spoke after her, made snide under the radar jokes about her performance.


The rest of us? We have to go through the ritual of self-criticism brought on by white activists who don't have a damn connection to political work being done by blacks in the black community...flail ourselves in pennace.

For a really great perspective on all of this why not check out the black scholar Adolph Reed Jr.'s book "Class Notes"...it's about the best collection out there that takes on these issues.



Chris Floyd: 'Heart of Darkness: The Bush cult and American madness'

Great article.

I have two hopes, first, that people like Boykin don't get to be in charge of the U.S. and second, that there's still time to contain this thing and that an affirmative vote for John Kerry would be enough to keep the U.S. from sliding all the way into this.

******

Oh, and look for large sections of Luigi Galleani's book "The End of Anarchism?", which is actually pro-anarchist, to be published on this website within a day or so.

I've gotten a hold of a copy of it...

One thing though, the book is scheduled to be reprinted by AK Press sometime next year---it's virtually unobtainable now, and I mean seriously, seriously, unobtainable---so if you like the sections that I'm transcribing think of e-mailing AK Press and saying you want to donate a buck or two to the Luigi Galleani "The End of Anarchism?" book publishing fund, and I'm sure they'd be more than happy to set it up so that you could donate through pay-pal or by the web via visa.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Direct Action...

Doesn't get the goods if it's just you and a few friends who believe in whatever position you're directly acting for.

Direct action taken with substantial community support gets the goods...

I say this because, well, hell, the European Social Forum was stormed by anarchists who took it upon themselves to denounce it.

Who exactly do they represent? They criticize the European Social Forum as being not really representative of society in general, and they're right, that's always been a disturbing characteristic of these social forums, but who exactly are they representing that they think they have the right to go into it and shut it down?

Or, to put it another way: the European Social Forum, although imperfect, does represent some people at the bottom, through concrete links through organizations on the ground doing work for social justice in the third world. The anarchists represent themselves.

I don't think they have any sort of links remotely comparable to the real, although imperfect, links that the representatives at the European Social Forum had.

So they cancelled something that could yield some good because it didn't meet their standards of maximum good.

If they had prevented the thing from happening at all they would have, in effect, done something bad and wrong because they would have prevented what good could have come out of the Social Forum from happening.

That's worse than fighting for the poor imperfectly by a long shot.

Thank god they did it at the end.

Fucking critics, you know, they get on the left for being some sort of fascists who like to shut down meetings because of ideology but who is it that's cancelling meetings because they don't like what's being said?

The Sparticists?

Nope.

It's the Anarchists this time, demonstrating their profound respect for freedom and democracy.

Direct action does not make all the errors and inconsistancies of a world view go away.

It isn't some sort of key that legitamates things, like "I believe aliens from mars are secretly controlling the planet through Haliburton, therefore I'm going to block the intersection in front of Haliburton headquarters in order to protest that insidious control"...

While Haliburton is surely a worthy target of protest, doing direct action doesn't make what you believe true...

Neither does doing direct action to protest something obscure which no one else knows about and which the community which you profess to be acting in the interests of doesn't know either and doesn't really care, or doesn't even agree with your political point of view.

****

There should be a dialectic process here: organization, then direct action as initiated by the organized people or by organized sectors of the community in general...

Not a Hail Mary pass which people hope will
resonate with communities which are suffering.

I hope that this whole new activism won't turn into a bourgeois sideshow where anarcho-kids from privileged homes get to act out their fantasies of liberating the world without actually talking to the world to see what it thinks about being 'liberated' by them.

I hope not because this left, like the left in all times, has the potential to be something better.


I think, for the first time, I'm realizing what it felt like in the Bolshevik Revolution when the Bolshies decided to seize power for themselves on the flimsy pretext that 'they' REALLY represented the industrial workers of Russia and that that entitled them to do anything they wanted, all the while having their own plans for transforming the country in their back pockets, just waiting for the rubes from the provinces who went to the St. Petersburg Soviet to give them the power to put it into action.

That's not a good feeling.

Change means real work in the real world.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Dylan's 'Chronicles'

I'm reading Dylan's book 'Chronicles', and it's very good.

This particular copy got to me circuitously from B.C., I believe. It was delayed in publication a few times and so one night when surfing the net I noticed that a Canadian online bookseller was offering pre-orders for it and saying that it would be out in spring of this year. I placed an order and forgot about it. Then I remembered and decided not to cancel it. Then I questioned, when the book finally did come out, whether the Canda order was still in place, but decided, what the heck, if it's still in place I can just let it come and it'll be a book that's gotten to me via a creative route.

So my copy of Chronicles, which is being sold at a cheap price at Target, came to me via Canada and British Columbia.

But onto the book itself.

The sad, yet, good, yet, well, the let down for radicals I suppose in Chronicles is that Dylan reveals himself to be a man of the right.

A conservative of sorts.

Not a Republican, by any stretch, but a sort of romantic conservative of the sort prevalent in the early 19th century who saw conservatism as a sort of interesting foil to stale liberalism which made life deeper and more meaningful.

Read Dylan's description of going through the books in his friend Roy's apartment if you don't believe me.

As such, Dylan has some very good and interesting views; I only wish that he was on the left.

I can see where he's coming from totally and completely. He was reacting to a stale fifties culture which was much like the stale liberal culture of the early 19th century, which the romantic conservatives were responding to. This is much like the situation we have today....my own philosophy follows some of the same lines, but I still retain a leftist perspective. Read those "American Tropicalia" posts that there are links to on the sidebar for more info.

I agree with so much of what Dylan writes and what he explores intellectually, but, ah....

If only he were on the left!

If only he were on the left!

But beggars can't be choosers....

By the way...

Fuck Argentina.

Not the country itself but latching onto some of the local experiments in self organization that occured after the collapse and declaring that THIS is socialism/anarchism/leftism in action and that this is what YOU stand for and that because YOU know about Argentina that you're somehow imbued with a mystical power which sets you apart from other people...

Well, Argentina took twenty some odd years of organizing to make happen.

For people who have almost no presence on the ground outside of their anarcho-ghettos to appropriate twenty years of community organizing by the Argentinians for themselves and to trumpet that as an example of what They are for, to make it into Their success, is ignorant, arrogant, I could go on.

I think you get the point though.

Compare people who have done nothing in the community to people who have done everything in the community. Does that group have the right to appropriate the work of the other? Are they even on the same side?

I hate it especially when an Argentina comment comes in a flood of rhetoric denouncing the non-anarchist left.

Yeah.

Whatever, folks.

Theory,ideology, and action

Well I confess, at one time I was like the stereotype that I'm going to relate.

I believed, once, that there was some sort of secret community out there, some sort of place where people really knew socialist ideology, or anarchist, or marxist, or leftist, or whatever, and all I had to do was to locate them and then I could break into a sort of open dialogue about theory with them...the ones who really knew and understood.

So, eventually, I really did find people who were knowledgable about these things, radicals, and I tried to do just that...talk to them about theory like it appeared in my mind contemplating it. Guess what the result was?

Yeah.

It wasn't that they didn't know what was up, but rather that people, even people who study society and write this stuff, don't actually talk like that and don't actually orient their lives around that sort of discussion and consideration.

They orient their lives around...life...and then analyze life and society into theory as second order activities, activities consciously removed from the real meat of things but nevertheless still valuable and important.

I think I may have been too harsh on the anarchists in the preceding post. I think they may have confused this sort of utopia of theory, which would be wonderful if it actually existed, with the living of life as life, not life scripted according to libertarian rules but life lived naturally.

I wish that they could see that although this stuff is interesting and valuable that there never comes a point where it's possible or really the right thing, to launch into ideological discussions as if those around automatically knew what was up, or to act like the pristine world of theory really exists.

Maybe that's too harsh as well. They mean well, but maybe they haven't internalized this stuff well enough to just go with it instead of constantly referring to it in a very self conscious manner.

Anarchy in Action

I wonder, what's the point exactly of living your life like you're enacting a political progam?

I'm chomping at the bit here to talk about silly stories regarding the deeds of Anarchists who think that anarchy translates out into being a walking, talking, political pamphlet. But the anarcho-scene up here is so damn small that if I talked about it I'd immediately be identified, so I won't...

Strange thing, being hesitant to talk about anarchists in a critical way because you're afraid that the hardcore defenders of freedom would find out who you were and yell at you.

But, ok, let me put it this way, anarchy, at least as I understand it, doesn't mean having the decision of what station to put on the radio in the car collectivised and voted upon by the occupants of the car.

That's just amazingly frivolous and it's living in a dream world. And it isn't life. And it sure as hell isn't what the fucking working class resonates with.

Remember that, um, Kropotkin, you know, that major anarchist right, based his ideas on the idea that animals don't need government of any sort to make decisions but just instinctually looked at their fellow creatures and responded in a collective way, sometimes.

Which means that Anarchy, if it's going to happen, is going to proceed from a sympathy of interests and not from legislating pure democracy.

Anarchy in this form is more like "People see that something needs doing, they do it" on their own, than "People are forced into collective decisionmaking about small issues in order to poster pure democracy and ensure 'freedom'".

Mutual aid comes from developing real human connections between people which foster solidarity and foster people helping each other out when they need it, it doesn't come from some fucking process that some people have invented and have shoved down their collective throats.

I'd take true mutual aid over that every day of the week...



Look at our Prisoner of War Policy Now

"At one point, the president described the war on terrorism as a 'crusade.' In another beatific moment, the president described freedom as 'a gift from the Almighty' and announced: 'God wants everybody to be free. And that's part of my foreign policy.' "

What if the rest of the world doesn't believe in your God, President Bush?

Critics See Drug Industry Behind Mental Health Plan

Now we really have entered 1984 territory.

Bush has put forward a plan, which I guess was approved in June but which no one told the press about, to test every single person in the United States for mental illness at their regular doctors' exams.

What could be the motivation?

Considering how many times Fox News and Conservatives label people who dissent from the Presidential doctrine of deliverance crazy, or unstable, I can see where it could be going.

The stupid have always labelled their opponents crazy.

But it fits into the greater marginalization program that the Bush administration seems to be pursuing as well.

Those who disobey or dissent are marginalized.

We need to know who is mentally disturbed so that we can be sure that they're 'treated'. Physical causes will be given to socially caused problems, meaning that only those good 'ole boys who come from families so fucking insular that they actually don't see what's wrong with this country or are not suffering from any of the stresses caused by a collapsing economy will be given clean bills of health.

Or that will be the tendency anymore.

Think people who dress gothic being called mentally ill when they're just unhappy...and no one thinking "hmm, why are they unhappy?", instead preferring to marginalize them and virtually make jocks and other socially adjusted stars into objects of erotic contemplation, with school administration and upper crust of society leading the way with praise for our strong, virile, males (and females).

Poland

Although it might piss off some people who are close personal friends of mine, I think that Poland post-Communism has reverted to some of the worst trends of right wing chauvanism present in its history, as genuine support by a lot of Polish people for Bush shows.

Poland, man, I get a feeling some times that the reason that Poland hasn't gone down in history as having the same level of hate that Germany had is due more to not having the chance to express itself than to any sort of lack of racism or nationalist chauvanism.

Poland, it should be noted, was a dictatorship when it was invaded in 1939.

Anti-semitic political groups had heavily organized there and youth groups had formed which assaulted jewish students in organized ways during the thirties.

In fact, searching google for the precise story, I found a page about a book documenting a massacre of 1600 Polish jews which happened in '42, long thought to be done by the Germans. Turns out that the Poles did it on their own initiative during the German occupation.

So, wow, Poland supports Bush, or at least a great deal of Poland and it's government supports Bush.

What a great thing. Just add another toxic rightwing government to the pile of history....

The Village Voice: Features: Sucking Democracy Dry: The Straight and Narrow by Sarah Goodyear

"But when he started talking about gay influence on children in the schools, he quickly became severe. 'We fear for their generation,' he said, gesturing at the three young girls holding signs in the light rain. 'We fear what they might receive in the public schools. Once it's sanctioned by our government, of course it will be taught.' "

Do public schools teach anything?

Yeah, I'm sure that cash strapped public schools are going to put money into teaching Gay Marriage 101 instead of, like, biology.

Bourgeois life

I'm going to slightly, well, heck, I'm not really contradicting myself.

You know, kids who run away or who join some sort of real counterculture movement as teens which is more than just posing and looking cool, they reject bourgeois life with a passion....

Only thing is that there's a contradiction in the future of that.

Contradiction is that the bourgeois world is the only place which will actually give you a job which you can live off of past the bare minimum.

The working class world for someone who's really seriously broke with stuff all the way is no longer attractive because people haven't changed and they resent that you have and that you're trying to act like nothing has happened.

So, ironically, if you've really gone overboard opposing the bourgeois world it's the bourgeois world which offers you your only chance at a good sort of nice life.

Why is this?

Well, I think it's because of a phenomenon which is much talked about in some left circles but rarely looked at in the way I'm going to discuss it.

The statement which describes bourgeois life the best is that it's freedom without any sort of context which would connect the person to the structural issues of the world. If they were working class they'd see the structure automatically. What gets left out here is that despite not having perspective the bourgeois still have freedom....which the working class largely doesn't have.

Sure, miss thing might want to go to a village in Bangladesh to study basket weaving with a tribes person or Mr. rugged might want to surf a wave which has never been surfed before or go into a third world country he doesn't know about because it seems 'cool'....and that's the main focus of their lives at the time....but just because some people come up with rather trivial stuff doesn't mean that the playing field on which they come up with this stuff isn't freer than that which working class people confront.

Along with the trivial is some really cool and interesting stuff which would never have been thought of or looked at if this sort of non-contextualized freedom hadn't existed.

This sort of freedom characterizes bourgeois life, and it allows people whose ideas of personal freedom and being against the system have put totally beyond the context in which they were born or which they found themselves to find a place in the greater realm of somewhat creative but obscure professions and occupations which the bourgeois world generates from itself, largely because of it's freedom which, unfortunately, lacks context. But even if it did have context I think that the freedom would be something valuable which would trump the context. Context shouldn't strangle freedom; freedom should liberate and enlighten context and hopefullly be propagated as far as possible so people can get free en-masse.

But that's another topic.

Anyways, the bourgeois world provides these strange occupations that workers would never dream existed because the freedom which they experience allows them to create strange and unusual stuff which does work and does support itself. And alternative people tend to fit in quite well with these places.

It's the next step.

I bring all this up because lately I've been conflicted....I started out as a sort of kid who wasn't much different from the punks on the streets today, but I got a little bit integrated into the system in that I did get some education and did in fact think "boy, this education stuff is really, really, valuable, I can see why people really, really, want it"...and got interested in a whole bunch of useless stuff which nonetheless comes closer to describing the essential reality of human life and of the world around us than anything else.

So I'm no longer a kid in that even if I wanted to front like that I'd still have to say: "Yeah, but the people in school have a point...." which is not what they want to hear.

That's compromising with the system.

Yes, that's true, it is, but it's compromising with the bourgeois freedom which allows me to go on and do a whole bunch of stuff which I couldn't even imagine or dream of if I hadn't 'compromised' like I did.

I think I got a good deal out of it, even though I'm not Mr. street resistance any longer. Was I ever? In a very limited fashion, yeah, but I was doing that shit before punk hit the big time and every joe imitated street punk culture so I wasn't one of them. I had other cultural ways of expressing it which aped Seattle culture and how Kurt Cobain dressed.

Now I'm in Seattle, sort of, and I don't dress like that....weird.

So, yeah, I rock it with the stylish yet cheap clothes sometimes and I read a lot of books and care a lot about sociology....but it's the only fucking way (well maybe not the clothes, I just like style) to get anywhere with your dissent.

After you've bought in you can drop out and move back to the land, but you can't move back to the land unless you've also had that realization about the greater universe out there....which bourgeois life tends to make easier to get and to accomplish.

So sue me.