Sunday, August 28, 2005

Fighting fascism---traditional left strictures are inadequate

I remember an interesting e-mail listserv excahnge that I came across recently. It was about some guy who had brought the idea of National Anarchism, which is a fascist variant which proclaims itself to be anti-statist, to Eugene, which gave a general run down about what this was and where it came from. The author was misidentified as "Nick Griffin", chairman of the British National Party, an almost neo-Nazi mass fascist party in Britain which has cleaned itself up to make it look presentable. Anyways, this writer, who was responding to the rundown, went off because she thought that this listserv, which was anarchist, was reprinting the writings of a confirmed fascist. People tried to explain to her that if she had actually read the article she'd have seen that it was against fascism and not written by the chairman of the BNP, but, at least initially, to no avail. It took several exchanges to get it straightened out. I present this as an example containing in microcosm most of the inadequacies of the left's dealings with fascist and far right ideologies. This writer saw the name "Nick Griffin" and she went off. No one who had read the article could have possibly have thought that it was by the chairman of the BNP but she, going on auto pilot, was convinced that she was right and knew that the way to deal with it was to go insane and complain that this anarchist e-mail list was posting pro-fascist propaganda. The left is totally inadequate in dealing with fascist and far right belief systems because it assumes that it doesn't have to know anything about these things but just has to chant militant slogans against them and, like magic, their followers will suddenly convert to anarchism and become nice progressives who don't eat meat and who sing the punk equivalent of Cumbaya.

One definition of insanity is doing something over and over again, knowing that it's not effective, but compulsively doing it without stopping to understand what you're doing. The anti-racist left seems to be doing this.

And historically it wouldn't be the first time. During the rise of fascism in Germany the Communist Party did much the same thing. Their slogan was that fascism was in service of big businesses, that the Nazis were really in the pay of corporate capitalism and that they represented anti-worker tendencies, and that they'd just betray workers who supported them, on top of arguing that racism and anti-semitism were bad and were antithetical to a worldwide workers' movement against capitalism, that people were equal.

What was Hitler and his crowd saying? That Germany, in the depression, had fallen under the spell of money and finance brought to it by a foreign entity, the Jews, and that a Nazi victory would mean the triumph of idealism against materialism, of real values against money values, of a return to home, church, and community against the seeming dangers of loss of stature in the international arena and the instability of all sectors of life brought about by the depression. They were going to restore Germany to its former glory, to make it a place where the good things of life prevailed, and to declare victory over crass material things and usher in an era where values had a higher place in life than money and materiality.

Looking at the two positions, the Communist and the fascist, it's not difficult to see why the fascist eventually won out. While it may have been true that the Nazis were in the service of corporations and reactionary values, simply saying that, and saying that they're just wrong for promoting anti-semitism, is not an effective way of countering this sort of thing. They tapped in directly to core issues and feelings , experiences which people in Germany held in common in the years after World War I, with the Depression compounding these feelings. And what did the Communists want to fight it with? Academic treatises talking about how the Nazis were really on the side of big business. If they wanted to effectively counter them they would have needed to dip into the same stream that their oppponents tapped into, the popular feelings of suffering due to bad economic times and to feelings of national humiliation, and guide the country towards more humane and positive ends with what they gained from it.

To say that the Nazis were demagogues misses the point: they were effective in winning people over with their slogans and their oratory. To chalk that up to demagoguery is to subsitute an insult for a real analysis of the situation.

In a way the situation paralells that of Democrats who want to reinvent the discourse of their party through analysis of rhetoric and the using of rhetoric to tap into the same belief systems and values of the people of America in order to woo them away from the Republican party and away from conservative politics in general.

I think that that is essentially what is needed to fight not just the right but fascist movements and far right extremist movements; the classic Lakoff quote is that the democrats are unable to succintly explain their position while the Republicans can do it in some really small amount of words, like six or eight.

Lakoff has been accused of trying to teach manipulation and Dean has been accused of trying to pander to reactionaries but people who say that a) do not understand the media and political environment within which we live. Using rhetoric to convince people of a position is well establihsed in American political life; to turn one's back to it and declare that ignoring rhetorical usage is the high road is to turn one's back on reality. And pandering to reactionaries? That's code for reaching out to people that liberals have more and more treated snobbishly and have discounted, with the consequence being that they've gone over to the Republican Party and cost the Democrats the election. If reaching out to reactionaries is what they call trying to bring people who aren't necessarily already true believers into the democratic fold then, yes, the Democrats are reaching out to reactionaries and should proudly assert it.

Because in doing so they tap into the same stream of popular discontent that the Republicans and the supporters of Bush's extremism tap into and with it they can direct the country away from Bush's agenda and towards something better through giving the U.S. another set of policy options which satisfies people's greivances to compete with the Republicans'.

I don't expect people to understand this if they're already comitted to knee jerk reactions against people they don't like, but to ignore it is to condemn the country to whatever fate those who can speak the best have in store for it.

It should be noted that the Communist movement changed its stance towards fascism during the thirties, after the Nazis had taken power, and that the new stance was much more effective in combatting fascism than the old. What was the new stance? It resembled Lakoff in that the Communists tried to woo people away from fascism, in part by forming the largest alliance of progressive organizations they could and saying that this coalition, the popular front, represented a better way forward.

They won in France when the Popular Front government, a government of Communists and Socialists and other forces (I believe), was elected and countered the power of the Croix de Feu, a fascist organization which had been orchestrating anti-semitic demonstrations.

By embracing a big tent model among socialist and socialist allied groups instead of pushing for revolutionary purity the Communist party was able to put together a coalition which stopped the fascists from taking over France'.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Looking back....A.C.

Aleister Crowley. When I was an adolescent I was really into his stuff, and that lead me to Nietzsche which in turn lead to Marx...both concern themselves with liberation. A few days ago I looked over one of the online Crolwey sites, which have a bunch of his writings, and, Jesus Christ, I've never seen such bullshit, such utter pseudo-sophisticated crap posing as profound thoughts on ethics and the universe. Truly. His naming system alone, where he calls everything "Libers", as in "I'm really smart, look at me, I used the LATIN word for Book for my stupid little essays!", is grounds enough for not taking him seriously. I read him, but, well, I was in my teens in high school. Anyone who takes this seriously as a full grown adult has my scorn and contempt. Peter Koenig, who runs a site dedicated to objectively researching the O.T.O. phenomenon, with the Order of Oriental Templars being one group Crowley was heavily associated with, gets it right on the money when he says that Thelema, Crowley's religious philosophy, appeals to those who are uneducated and unfamiliar with real philosophy, people who tend to come from the lower middle class, that breeding ground of banality. Yes, if all of those Crowley devotees who are adults were real men and women they'd follow the teachings of the Temple of Set, a full out Satanist organization, and wouldn't mess with mister I'm-A-Rich-Heroin-Addict-Who-Can't-Have-A-Real-Relationship Crowley.

'Nuff said.

****update 2007: Since I wrote this post I've significantly changed my attitude towards Crowley and Thelema. Crowley had some very good ideas and some very real insight into esotericism and religion. He might have had bad relationships, but his work is still valuable.

Actually, the reason why the Shi'ites want Islam in the constitution isn't mysterious at all

I'm really suprised that people haven't seen this very obvious connection; instead, people have chosen to take the 'brown people gone crazy' attitude towards Iraqis who want Islam in their constitution. The reason they want it is simple: these are the Shi'ites who want it in the constitution. They form the majority of Iraqis but were savagely repressed under the Sunni dominated regime of Saddam Hussein. Hussein also imposed a strict secularism on the country. They associate secularism with the regime which oppressed them and see getting Islam back into the Constitution as revenge for what Hussein did to them.

They are the majority and I respect the right of the majority of Iraqis to determine their own future.

I'd hate to be lined up with Ba'athists, who probably make up a large portion of those who support a secularized Iraq, ya know?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I'm going to say this every day until the hubub calms down:

The people of Iraq have every right to make Iraq an Islamic Republic if that's what the people of Iraq want. We have NO right to interfere with the will of the people of Iraq.
For people who want us out of Iraq progressives are sure opinionated about how they want Iraqis to develop their own political system.

Do progressives believe that Iraqis have the right to determine their political future only if that political future includes progressive values? What a hypocritical stance. What an arrogant stance.

Interesting scholarship about the Koran

This article, which was linked to from a TAPPEd post, is very interesting because using philological tools this guy has discovered that the Koran was probably tampered with by the first compiler and that the doctrine itself may have been altered. This is interesting because, although not totally in the way which the author of the study describes, Shi'ia Islam has always claimed that the doctrine of Islam was altered at the start and that the tradition which came down from Muhammad's family was the real tradition of Islam. The author suggests that Islam was originally much closer to Christianity than it later became and what do you know but Shi'ia conceptions are closer to Christianity than are Sunni ones, with religious conceptions which resemble the trinity and the cult of mary being present in Shi'ia Islam along with the concept of Saints.

In heterodox Shi'ia Islam this tendency is even greater.

So it's an interesting, albeit lengthy, article.

ThinK Progress: a promising new venture

Check this out: it's a blog created in order to mobilize progressives to action which has a strong focus and some good, high quality, content, a rarity in the blogosphere.

Women in Islam, rights, difference from the West.

"An Iraq that is formally under Sharia will develop in very different directions than an Iraq that is not, and life for Iraqi women -- who, even if devout Muslims, may not wish to have fewer rights going forward than they do today -- will be very different, too."

From a TAPPed article.

People who say things like that have never listened to the Islamic argument that women actually have more rights under Islam than they do in the west. Why? Because women are more respected in Islam than in the west. People point out that in the West women are treated as if they're nothing, they compete to win points on superficial things like beauty and are used as sex objects and thrown away. In Islamic countries that can't happen. The veil and the mode of conservative dress is an equalizer which forbids this kind of trivialization of women. Women in Islam are free to dress however they like in private, it's purely the way they present themselves to the outside world that's circumscribed. They are also guaranteed equality in business dealings.

Islamic scholars are fond of saying that in the west, in terms of rights for women, women have the right to engage in group sex for money, for pornographic gain, where they're treated as nothing more than flesh for enjoyment. What a freedom that is. You allow this, they say, but you object to things like the veil which preserve a woman's dignity?

Pretty double standard oriented, in their eyes. The West is as sexist and materialistic as can be. For Islamic thinkers this invalidates any moral claim of the west to be able to speak for women in general. They generally express the view that we should look at the beam in our eye before condemning the mote in theirs.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

This whole damn teaching creationism thing....

From a post on TAPped, The American Prospect weblog: "Mark Kleiman -- has taken a look at the public opinion data on evolution and education:

Teaching evolution only 12
Teaching creation only 23
Teaching intelligent design only 4
Teaching all three 55
None of these 3
Unsure 3"

Now, I'm all for trying to understand conservatives when they have a good point, but in this case the point that Christians conservatives are trying to make doesn't line up with what the most intelligent of the conservative thinkers objected to with evolution.

I think the clearest (and most recognizable) conservative thinker who objected to some aspects of the teaching of evolution was Jacques Barzun. Barzun's argument was essentially that by reducing human existence to the sum total of darwinian imperatives you take away any sense of moral responsability and any sense of transcendant values which go far and away above biology, and that, essentially, it slanders the potentials of the human mind and human personality to be taught that we're simply the descendants of apes who evolved mental capacities in order to better meet the demands of existence, survive, and reproduce.

Notice Barzun, in my recounting of his thought, is not attacking the science of evolution but is rather attacking people who use ideas from the science as standards by which to judge human society and humanity in general.

I forget what book it was in but Barzun talks about how the pre-WWII world saw Darwinism, Freudianism, and Marxism basically take away any faith in rational human agency in the world. This is what he was objecting to. He felt that, taken together as social ideologies, this triumvirate destroyed whatever faith in non-relativistic values which existed. Now, when conservatives make claims like that they just don't make sense, but if you look at it through the personal lens of Barzun it does. I'm not saying that pre-WWII Europe and America were like this only that it seems much more plausable for conservative arguments against relativism to be made originally in this climate than in later ones.

Anyway, that's him.

Now, when Christian fundamentalists object to the teaching of evolution and want the teaching of creationism in schools what I've outlined is not the reasoning behind why they want this. They want it not because of the hermeneutical significance of the traditional Christian belief about man, if you pardon the expression, but because they believe that the account contained in Genesis is literally true and they want science taught in the schools to line up with their personal religious beliefs. They seem to feel that a literal reading of Genesis is so important that without it society would collapse altogether. They don't seem to realize that the Catholic Church has essentially endorsed evolution as a scientific statement, saying that evolution is the means by which god went about creating humanity, or that this fact, while it might not be well publicized, has not made Catholic dominated societies colllapse.

If only these people were arguing on some grounds beyond "I believe in my creation story therefore I want it taught in schools" I could be sympathetic, but, unfortunately, this is not what's being done.

Instead of talking about the dignity of man the creationists want us to endorse a comic book account of creation as sacrosanct and as on par with the best science has to offer.

That's not only wrong it's unreasonable. If teaching it is about honoring historical traditions then why not have the Hindu creation story taught in places with large east Indian populations? They would never agree to such a thing because, fundamentally, this is also not about teaching cultural and historically important values but about furthering particular Christian sects' agenda and philosophy. It's not "Teach the bible because it's historically important" but "Teach creationism because last week I converted to Baptism and want you to teach what I now believe"

Such a thing is asking too much from a country which is far too tolerant of these examples of extreme excess in the behavior of its citizens already.

Bush says withdrawl from Iraq would weaken U.S., but Bush weakens it more than anything

That's my response to his latest quip about Cindy Sheehan and immediate withdrawl. I don't see how withdrawing from Iraq could do anything except raise the credibility of the U.S. and the trust accorded to it by the international community. Getting out of Iraq would signal to all of our allies that America was starting to observe a foreign policy which was at least moderately in touch with consensus reality and not one which was wild, irrational, and suicidal. Then, of course, it would be our job here in the U.S. to press the U.S. for a generally better foreign policy, I'm under no illusions that once we get out of Iraq our government will miraculously reverse two centuries of meddling in the foreign affairs of other countries in order to protect U.S. business interests. But at least getting out of Iraq would enable the U.S. to be better integrated in the world community and allow for international institutions, such as they are, to start functioning properly again, which in turn would create opportunities for people who wanted to democratically reform them. In fact, this is what bringing the U.S. out of its current isolation and back into the world scene would accomplish: it wouldn't be an immediate panacea but it would allow things to be pressed for which under the current regime have no chance in hell whatsoever of happening, because of Bush and Bush's cronies.

I noted during the 2004 election campaign that the pro-Bush crowd was starting to resemble the look and feel of the supporteres of Slobodan Milosevich in Serbia where, contrary to the will of the entire world, pretty much, he received electoral support time after time, by appealing to popular themes of not letting Serbia be pushed around by the outside world. In the face of intense pressure the Milosevich loyalists closed ranks and seemingly put their fingers in their ears and stopped paying attention to the outside world. The Bushists appear to be doing the same thing and as the United States as a whole departs farther and farther from the mainstream of the international community we risk becoming a despised and isolated pariah state on the world scene, unwelcome and unappreciated.

By getting out of Iraq now we can change all that by demonstrating that we, at least, recognize that there's a world out there whose opinions are important.

Ted Rall Cartoon about Democracy like activities in Iraq

About the Shi'ite theocracy thing: Rall is assuming that a majority of the Iraqi people would not want a theocracy. Or one where Islamic law predominates. There's this myth out there about non-western people just cowering under barbaric power structures, just waiting to be liberated by our enlightened political ideas which is sort of galling. Plus, it should be noted that there's a big difference between having Islam as the source of law and having an Islamic theocracy. There was developed an entire Islamic jurisprudence under the Ottoman empire which embodies the values and beliefs of the middle east better than western law why is having an Islam originated legal system a bad thing? Again, it comes back to the idea that Western man is holding out the solution to all of the barbarous east's supposed problems, and that idea is just a secularization of the Christian missionary idea that the third world is living under terrible idolators and the people of the third world are just waiting to be liberated from their heathen beliefs.

People who support ending the war but get upset about the prospect of Shari'a law having a place in Iraqi society should consult some of the literature from the de-colonization era that third world peoples wrote about themselves in relation to the west, Franz Fanon for instance. Fanon, writing in "Wretched of the Earth" and in other books, presents the Algerian movement for women to be seen in vails as being a positive act of resistance to the French, who wanted to turn Algeria into an overseas, totally westernized, province of France. Native dress and Native law are essential components of a decolonization campaign and are essential components of an anti-occupation campaign.

The Iraqi parliament, such as it is (and I'm not sure about it), can assert its independence from the U.S. by pressing for Islamic law and Islamic values to be at the foundation of the Constitution.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Gay style magazines

I've recently started to read gay 'men's' magazines and if any of you wondered whether there was some secret source which gay people get fashion, travel, and style tips I can confirm that, yes, there is. This one in particular I was looking at, reFresh, from England, features short gay guides to Montreal, Istanbul, various beaches around England, and tips on where to stay in New York City, plus extensive fashion guides and at leat adds for different skin care and hair care products.

I bought reFresh solely because I couldn't find a copy of "XY" in my local bookstore.

This indicates good things in the future, although I don't have the sculpted hardbody physique which goes along with the gay ideal. Who knows, maybe I'll start lifting and see what happens?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Cui Bono? Who benefits from the Republican program?

Cui bono, or who benefits, is a question that's popped up for me when considering all that the Republicans want. Whether you're talking about education, health care, environment, taxation, regulation, women's issues, sexuality, race, the Republicans are on the side of the most regressive and quite frankly anti-life positions. That's the problem. The question is why, why are they supporting all these things, things which most first world countries reject? Looking at who benefits provides an answer.

In my estimation there are two groups that benefit from the Republican program, two groups that are interrelated. They are economic elites and social elites. Economic elites are a pretty obvious group: business owners, people with lots of money, people who are in the management of corporations. They want to pay no taxes, have no regulation of their business, and want no alternate programs, like the social safety net of many countries offer, which could allow people to exist without playing by their rules. Playing by their rules is a core part of what they want; in their ideal world the only values which would exist would be corporate values and the only way to physically exist and to make a living would be to fully submit to those corporate values.

The other group which benefits from the Republican program isn't quite so obvious. The social elites are people who belong to dominant social groups. Much of the legislation around social issues like abortion, sexuality, and religion seems to enforce the dominance of these social groups. They are, pretty much, white anglo-saxon protestant men. What banning abortion does is to reinforce the traditional hierarchies, making women have to submit to men, isolating people who are outisde of the social elite from power by having them have to raise children instead of pursuing their choice of occupation. Going against abortion reinforces Patriarchy.
So does banning sex ed. Banning sex ed and contraception for teenagers increases the risk that women will get into situations where they're more likely to have to submit to men through getting married and bearing children instead of pursuing independant careers. Homophobia benefits Patriarchy as well because it legitimates sexist behavior towards women and towards the world in general through macho images which would be called into question if homosexuality was accepted as being a legitimate way to be.

Religion reinforces the dominance of Protestant Christians. The religion which is talked about and which the pressure groups are pressing for is Protestant Christianity. By making that the norm they're isolating people who don't belong to Protestant Christian groups and reinforcing the hierarchy and power of those who do. Althoug people like Rick Santorum and Antoni Scalia are Catholic conservatives the people who benefit from their espousal of religion in public life aren't Catholics but white protestants. White protestants; I think its safe to say that fundamentalist Christians don't represent African Ameriacn protestants. So espousal of religion in public life by these people not only benefits members of one division of Christianity but specifically benefits one set of ethnic groups: white people from northern Europe. People from England, Germany, Holland, Scotland, and Scandinavia benefit disproportianitely from the advancement of Protestant Christianity because the general makeup of religion for these countries is Protestant and their descendants are much more likely to be Protestant. Germany is the only partial exception since there are many German Catholics.

So emphasis on Protestant Christianity benefits people who have preexisting ethnic dominance in this country.

The drug war in combination with the taking away of social services combine to reinforce white supremacy. People of color facing a racist society with nothing to help them overcome the barriers to them face a dead end life and are more likely to engage in self destructive practices like drug use and petty criminality. Then they get arrested, thrown into prison, and are that much farther from being able to escape from their social situation. Therefore they're that much less of a risk to the dominance of white anglo saxon protestant men. It's something which prevents there from being a fair contest based on ability between WASPs and people of color, a general pattern which persists in areas far beyond drug policy.

Indeed, the United States is increasingly set up as a social darwinist state where survival of the fittest reigns supreme. The thing is that groups come into this arrangement with power and influence of their own and so subjecting the citizens of the United States to a dog-eat-dog world of ultra competition tends to press those people who don't already have privilege down while elevating those who come to the table with privilege up, people who then crow about 'natural differences' between ethnic groups and races when the only thing this really proves is that if you kick the supports down from people they'll fall.

All incentives towards competition which are done in an unequal system favor those who start off with advantages; the dismantling of the social safety net by conservatives guarantees that nothing will intervene to make the race equal between participants. It therefore reinforces white supremacy and patriarchy.

Now, the social elites and the economic elites intertwine.Economic power in the United States is less than totally competative; there's an element of conservatism in the buiness environment which refers to how access to the elite position is structured which naturally benefits those who enjoy social power.

So the makeup of the economic and social elites intertwine in the United States and it is these two poles which the Republican agenda revolves around.

Either group alone doesn't account for the specifics of the Republican program. For example, if you look at economic elites as being the primary beneficiery of the Republican agenda you face having to account for things like opposition to gay rights or the pressing of a religious and socially conservative agenda which don't obviously benefit pure economic elites. If all that matters is money than, theoretically at least, gay people, women, and minorities, should be able to participate in the system fully and benefit as exploiters just as well as people who are of white protestant male affiliation. But that's not how the business environment in the United States works. So looking just at economic is insufficient in itself.

Looking at social elitism is insufficient too. If social conservatism is the goal then why do Republicans insist on tax cuts for the wealthy, the end of the estate tax, the end of regulation as we know it? Not every person of white protestant male extraction is in a position of economic power and so these positions don't obviously directly benefit these people in general. Someone who benefits socially very well from the conservative agenda might not benefit from it economically at all. Someone can benefit from the reinforcing of male dominance, protestant dominance, and de facto ethnic dominance to a great extent while being shut out of the economic benefits which the Republicans are pressing for elite economic interests. They may of course actually be hurt by these moves. Looking at who benefits socially isn't suffiecient in itself either.

But combined they provide a pretty good picture of who the Republican party program benefits, why, and what this says about the structure of the society which we live in.

It should be noted that where these two spheres intersect we should expect to find some of the most powerful people in the United States and indeed, people who are of northern European protestant descent are over represented in the hierarchy of business culture and of political culture. The idea that rich white men run the country isn't an inaccurate one. To see the sort of intersection which this describes one only has to look at the Bush family; white anglo protestants who made a whole bunch of money and who now are dominant in the political world.

The same story could be repeated over and over again in different areas of public life in the U.S., as well as in business life. Business life is reputed to be one of the most regressive places in American society, and the idea of Country Club life, ie. an exclusive, all white, all protestant, rich, society life, is such a well known idea that movies have been made lampooning it. Ivy league and fraternity life as well, with boarding schools in the Northeast making their contribution here too.

However, this isn't the good old days when people from the Northeast stole all the glory. In this incarnation of which WASPhood the pool of people included has gone nation wide, welcoming western, southern, midwestern, and mid atlantic elites into the fold, people who would have been dismissed several decades ago as not being classy enough to deserve a place in the Northeastern dominated WASP elite. This incarnation is an equal opportunity oppressor, at least when variants of protestantism, ethnic origin, and class origin come into play. A born middle class German/English Methodist from Indiana is on par with a Northeastern born upper middle class Mayflower English Congregationalist.


So, yes, this sort of rich WASP society is the group that benefits the most from the Republican program. They get to have their social values reinforced while making a killing from the economic policies that Bush enacts.

And everyone else is screwed.

Thomas Oliphant "Disturbing news on the economy"

Good Thomas Oliphant article which argues, pretty sensibly, that we need progressive economic legislation at home in order to make U.S. society function for workers on even a basic level.

People are not making it.

They could be easily making it with increases in wages to bring them up to living wage and increases in social safety net services like universal health care.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Poland and Nationalities

Wanted to write something about how there are a whole bunch of unrecognized minorities living in Poland, some in the north but mainly in the south, who don't show up on the radar screen whatsoever....Poland presents itself as being an ultra-homogenous nation but this isn't the truth. The truth is that powerful interests in Poland have been trying to eradicate the cultural traditions surrounding minorities in Poland since unification, and that Polish nationalism is something which, when it was in full power in Poland during the Pilsudski years before the Nazi invasion, verged on straight out fascism. Pilsudski and crew were populist military dictators, not actual self declared 'fascists', but during their tenure anti-semitism went through the roof, actualized in part by students who attacked their Jewish fellow students at University. People seem not to know that the Poland which was invaded by the Nazis wasn't some reign of freedom and tolerance but a place where intolerance already ruled. The Nazis brought that intolerance to it's gruesome conclusion but, on balance with that, the Communist regime in post-war Poland forbid any mention of Jews in relation to the death camps, preferring to see them as primarily a weapon used against the Polish people by the Nazi invaders. There's a certain level of hypocracy and arrogance in that stance which the populist oriented Polish Communist Party embodied which is hard to even describe. Death camps designed for Jews and used against Jews, like Auschwitz, weren't labelled as places where Jews were singled out for murder?

That gives you a flavour of Polish Nationalism in regard to minorities. Minorities, in short, don't matter, according to them. It's only within the last few years that the existence and the question of national minorities in Poland has even been able to be asked.

Otherwise, it's just been the usual "Poland is the most homogenous nation on the planet!" bullshit.

Poland and Lithuania took in many, many members of minority groups who had been kicked out of other countries in Europe when they formed the Grand Duchy of Poland and Lithuania. This is how so many people of Jewish descent came to live in Poland. The state which these countries made up had an official policy of tolerance.

They didn't just disappear once Poland united and became independant.

There are people out there who have Polish last names who aren't Polish but are members of minority groups which were assimilated, who knows, maybe forcefully, into Polish society.

Why do I bring this up?

Well, there's a tradition in my family, which is partially from Poland, that we really aren't Poles at all...

Seattle Hempfest

this is an audio post - click to play

"Marijuana in your brain", by Lords of Acid.

Went to the Seattle Hempfest today, sort of a denoument, actually. I saw Ed Rosenthal, who was arrested and tried for growing marijuana stater plants for patients who were authorized to take medical marijuana in the San Francisco area, give a talk, actually I caught the end of it, and that was good, but on balance I don't know. It might have made more of an impact if I was a regular marijuana smoker, but I haven't been a regular smoker in almost ten years.

Actually, whatever I might have to say about the other speakers and their claims, like that the U.S. could essentially transfer over to a hemp-based economy from an oil based economy, for example (although the more generic "green economy" is probably feasable), is overshadowed by the people who formed large contingents in the crowd, namely gangsters and gangster wannabees.

This wasn't an event solely populated by peace and love hippy people but one which shared billing with people who, if bandannas and tattoos are any indication, are violent and socially regressive. As I was standing by the stage where Ed Rosenthal was giving his talk a guy walked by me who had a little representation of an M-16 in gold hanging from a gold chain around his neck. Yup, perfect example of this other ethic which has invaded hempfest.

My opinion is that the herb or other drugs can't make a person peaceful and open minded on their own but that for that to happen the users have to already be sort of on that path already, at least with how they generally view the world. If you're a violent person, marijuana probably won't change that. If you're a peaceful and open person, marijuana might encourage those tendencies.

Someone coming to marijuana from a Rastafarian attitude has a completely different orientation with regard to it than someone for whom marijuana is just another party drug, along with cocaine, alcohol and women, to be used for getting fucked up, fucked, and to fuel fighting.

So I think set and setting, ones own mental attitude and the social circumstance of the use of the drug, are extremely important with regards to what you get out of it.

Just some thoughts.

'Hypocrites and Liars' by Cindy Sheehan

I've been reluctant to get onto the Cindy Sheehan bandwagon, particularly the part of it which compares her to Rosa Parks, because I find comparisons with people who were giants in the Civil Rights movement inapprorpriate, but Sheehan herself has written a kick ass article which outlines her motivations, which are uncompromising and great, so I'm linking to it.

Excerpts:"Contrary to what the mainstream media thinks, I did not just fall off a pumpkin truck in Crawford, TX. on that scorchingly hot day two weeks ago. I have been writing, speaking, testifying in front of Congressional committees, lobbying Congress, and doing interviews for over a year now. I have been pretty well known in the progressive, peace community and I had many, many supporters before I left even left California. The people who supported me did so because they know that I uncompromisingly tell the truth about this war. I have stood up and said: 'My son died for NOTHING, and George Bush and his evil cabal and their reckless policies killed him. My son was sent to fight in a war that had no basis in reality and was killed for it.' I have never said 'pretty please' or 'thank you.' I have never said anything wishy-washy like he uses 'Patriotic Rhetoric.' I say my son died for LIES. George Bush LIED to us and he knew he was LYING. The Downing Street Memos dated 23 July, 2002 prove that he knew that Saddam didn't have WMD's or any ties to Al Qaeda. I believe that George lied and he knew he was lying. He didn't use patriotic rhetoric. He lied and made us afraid of ghosts that weren't there. Now he is using patriotic rhetoric to keep the U.S. military presence in Iraq: Patriotic rhetoric that is based on greed and nothing else.

Now I am being vilified and dragged through the mud by the righties and so-called 'fair and balanced' mainstream media who are afraid of the truth and can't face someone who tells it by telling any truth of their own. Now they have to twist, distort, lie, and scrutinize anything I have ever said when they never scrutinize anything that George Bush said or is saying. Instead of asking George or Scotty McClellan if he will meet with me, why aren't they asking the questions they should have been asking all along: 'Why are our young people fighting, dying, and killing in Iraq? What is this noble cause you are sending our young people to Iraq for? What do you hope to accomplish there? Why did you tell us there were WMD's and ties to Al Qaeda when you knew there weren't? Why did you lie to us? Why did you lie to the American people? Why did you lie to the world? Why are our nation's children still in harm's way and dying everyday when we all know you lied? Why do you continually say we have to 'complete the mission' when you know damn well you have no idea what that mission is and you can change it at will like you change your cowboy shirts?' "

Good stuff. Read the whole article, you'll enjoy it.

The defeat of Bush as the beginning of a national rebirth

That's what I'm hoping at least will happen when this charade is over. Bush has worked himself into a corner, actually many corners, which are hard to get out of, if not impossible. Things like saying there were WMDs and now there aren't global warming is a theory, now there's pretty unanimous agreement that it's real, evolution religion on and on and on. What the Bush administration is looking like isn't so much a political dynasty having some bad times as something in its death throes about to give its last. I think that the creature which is in question is actually the Reaganite current of reaction, which began in the early eighties, was moderated a bit in Bush Sr. and Clinton's administrations, and is now back and finding that increasingly it doesn't have a leg to stand on, a pot to piss in, or a window to throw it out of.

There seems to be a deeper link between the general cultural and social politics which define our current era and the Bush administration than people usually acknowledge. Aren't the issues that we're fighting with Bush the same issues that people faced opposing Reagan? More importantly, these issues have been a fixture in our national political scene for so long that it's almost impossible to think of them as not being there. Imagine, for instance, Christian Fundamentalism no longer being a defining factor in our political life. Imagine what would happen if they were decisively defeated because of the sheer duplicity and corruptness of the Bush administration.

If all of that Christian fundamentalist junk was cleared away there'd be such an opening of culture possible that we'd probably not easily return to a situation where they had credibility. The forces that Reagan and Bush represent are very good at obstructing agendas from being put into place but bad at putting a vision of society of their own forward for the nation to accept. If the obstruction which the forces which support the two of them is broken through there's not much that they'd be able to put forward to rally people around. They have no ideology--yet.

If all of this happened it would create the opportunity for a national rebirth. Liberealism would be hegemonic yet again and we'd be able to press forward with something in line with the way the rest of the world views the world instead of being an increasingly isolated and irrelevant oddball actor on the world scene---which wants to dig a tunnel back to the 12th century instead of a bridge to the next one (thank you Onion).

Once the obstacles are out of the way one issue after another comes down on the liberal side like so many dominoes falling against each other in a chain reaction.

And finally there becomes room to actually breathe and think in this country again.

It's a wonderful thought.

Let's make it a reality.

Friday, August 19, 2005

I don't get why pluto press books are so expensive

I mean, I looked some of them up in Austria and they were still the same expensive price that they are in America.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Interesting. There's a book out about Cyber-radicalism

By Carl Davidson who seems to have been a national SDS leader. It looks intrigueing, especially part III. The book is a collection of 15 essays. Here's the index for part III:

"Part Three:

Revolutionary Practice in a

Non-Revolutionary Period:

The Strategy and Tactics of

'High Road' Structural Reform

Chapter 10: A New Manifesto on the Strategy and Tactics of Radical Democracy: A Review of Dan Swinney’s Building the Bridge to the High Road

Chapter 11: A New Social Contract: The Need for Radical Reforms in the Fight for Jobs and a Living Wage.

Chapter 12: Terrorism and the Present Danger: A Perspective for the American Left.

Chapter 13: Moving from Protest to Politics: Dumping Bush's Regime in 2004.

Chapter 14: The Road Ahead After 2004: Building a Broad Nonpartisan Alliance vs. Bush and the Far Right.

Chapter 15: Globalization, Theocracy and the New Fascism: An Analysis of the U.S. Right's Rise to Power & What Can Be Done About It"

I know about the High Road argument from a workshop that the guy who invented it gave at the first "Take Back America" conference. He teaches at University of Wisconsin Madison. Joel Rodgers? Anyways, the argument is that the social goods that an advanced capitalist country that invests in its infrastructure can provide can make locating in the first world lucrative for companies, even though wages and benefits would be consequentially higher as well. It's interesting, sort of an elaboration of Municipal Socialism to the economic realm (out of the pure provision of social services realm).

New internet venture,

This seems to be a mass agregator of all progressive blogs divided according to geographic location. It looks like it has real potential. So check it out. They're from Portland, too, so they'd get my vote just for that. Pac NW Pride!!!

Ineresting article on Huff Po', Iraq=Yugoslavia

"Remember Yugoslavia" by Chris Meserole

"Two thoughts on Iraq:

1. Vietnam is an appropriate analogue to Iraq only insofar as it represents a failure of American foreign policy. From an Iraqi perspective, the more appropriate analogue is instead post-communist Yugoslavia.

If you fail to see the connection, consider the following:

* like Yugoslavia, Iraq's previous government abruptly dissolved
* like Yugoslavia, the dissolution of a centralized national government exposed ethnic fault lines
* like Yugoslavia, Iraq's fault lines only roughly correspond to geographic locality
* like Yugoslavia, Iraq's ethnic rivalries have become increasingly militarized

Because of these similarities, if America applies to Iraq the lesson it learned in
Vietnam (ie, "the earlier you withdraw, the better"), we need only refer to Yugoslavia to see what would happen: armed ethnic groups would quickly seek to establish regional autonomy. Thus the Kurds in Iraq would move to secure the north, the Sunnis the west, and the Shi'ites the south.

The problem with regional autonomy lies in the third point above. While there are pockets of ethnic homogeneity in Iraq, none of its three largest regions are homogeneous overall. As a result you would see massive internal migrations, and therein the real horror lies: one need only mention Srebrenica to demonstrate that history has not proven kind to ethnic migrants in the midst of armed conflict."

"The fact that the left opposed the Iraqi war is immaterial here. It happened. The violent chaos we predicted has come to pass, and what began as a war of choice is now -- if only from a humanitarian perspective -- a war of necessity.

That reality is, to be sure, a bitter pill to swallow. Do American liberals -- who were so quick to say "Never Again" in the past -- now have sufficient courage to stomach it?"

Origins of the Gay Lifestyle

The origins of the so-called "Gay lifestyle" are pretty straightforward. It all comes back to protest against what the straight world does to gay people. If I can't express my fucking sexuality in public, if I can't walk down the street without potentially being called a name, if I can't bring my lover to public events, then, god dammit, I'm going to do just what I want in private and no one is going to fucking be able to stop me. So goes the origins of the gay lifestyle. S/M, fetishes, bar culture leading to sort of random hook ups and group sex, sure, why the fuck not, you can't stop me. Parties, drugs, circuits, you get the picture. Who is anyone in the straight world to say that I can't dress up in leather on gay pride day and flaunt it, motherfucker?

Safe sex concerns have dampened the intensity of all of this but the ethic, I hope, continues; well, I hope and I don't hope, because some of this is an elaborate attempt of people who feel like shit and who justifiably feel really insecure because of their sexuality to escape that insecurity, and that's not good because it can lead to some really unhealthy things, like drug addiction or possibly unsafe sex.

I'm pretty much out as not straight at this point; I like both men and women but I haven't gone out with a woman in years. This is sort of new to me. What I find, though, is that I just don't care anymore. You don't like the gay pride sticker on my car, tough shit. I have no apologies for anyone anymore. Love me or leave me alone.

Strange things in Nazism confirmed...

There is an enourmous amount of rumor and pure strangeness regarding the relationship between the Nazis and the occult. Things which are just too weird to be believed keep on coming up consistantly in this fringe realm to be by chance. Well, as it turns out, there's actual proof now that the Nazis believed some of the things attributed to them.

The proof comes in an intresting book called "The Secret King: Karl Maria Wiligut, Himmler's Lord of the Runes", published by Runa-RĂ¢ven press.

Wiligut was employed by Himmler and made an officer in the S.S., spending most of his time doing occult investigations into supposed pre-historical and occult subjects. The book in question, linked to above, reprints a tassle of Wiligut's writings and they are indeed interesting.

The one which has some of the most immediate relevance vis a vis very strange things that have been circulating in fringe circles is a short outline of humanoid history which Wiligut submitted to Himmler and which Himmler noted as "being read". This history goes over some common ground with Theosophy, outlining various ages of man where different variants of human beings existed, but it's final two sections, the fourth and fifth age of man, are not conventional.

Wiligut says that in the fourth age of man a new culture developed which he calls the Uana, who were superbeings with their third eyes present on their heads; they intermixed with what were the beginnings of races which are present today, red, moors,(his description), and albinos, saying that these races then mixed to one degree or another with half humans half animals. What happened in Wiligut's story is that the Uana culture, presumably Uana-Albino, when faced with a catastrophe, constructed tunnels in the earth and hid underground, forming a people within the earth of great power. Those that remained on the surface existed in small numbers, hence the stories of an Adam and Eve in pretty much all cultures. This was the start of the fifth age, our age.

Now, something then happened: extraterrestrials came down to earth from heaven and engaged in a war with the descendants of the Uana until a truce was arrived at and the Uana and the Aesir, the people conventionally referred to as gods in norse mythology, intermarried and became one people. The Aryan race was thus founded, the product of Albino-Uana possessed of psychic powers and extraterrestrials who came to earth to dominate it. The descendants of these Aryan superbeings presumably had latent psychic powers, both from extraterrestrial blood and from Uana blood which could be activated by execercises and such.

This, you have to keep in mind, wasn't the product of some person who got this from out of nowhere, this was stuff which landed on Heinrich Himmler's desk and was read and reviewed by him.

There's also some interesting stuff with Wiligut's runology. Wiligut believed that the Runes were descriptions of various types of interactions between energy, matter, and spirit, descriptions which described phases of development, decomposition, and reassertion of spirit and energy and a transfer from mass to energy and then the decomposition of energy into mass, and other things like this. Wiligut's system was regarded as science as being a description of how the universe functioned.

All of this looks very close to accounts of this thing called the "Vril Society", which wanted to harness occult power for physical ends, like designing motors that operated according to occult principles.

It's very interesting to know that the people who have been harping on this stuff haven't been pulling it out of thin air. Whether Vril principles could actually make working motors is another thing.

These two principles, the weird Atlantean/Extraterrestrial connection (because the Uana in the fith age were thought to have established Atlantis), and the occult science principle, appear to have been things that high ranking Nazis were interested in and knowledgable of.

Whether or not these things have any relation to reality is another question entirely.

This always prompts the question

Of how the people who believe in an original interpretation of the Constitution can have put such a regressive spin on what essentially is a revolutionary document. The link above is to an article about strict constructionism, originalism, etc...

Does anyone out there besides me think it odd that something which was the product of a revolution is now being used as a conservative force on a level not found in any other industrialized country? Look it up. Great Britain does not stick to any sort of strict constructionism at all; in fact the idea that Great Britain has a single, static, consitution is absurd. France just ratified a new constitution within the last decade, I believe, and before that had two others in the 20th century and many more in the 19th. Germany isn't ruled by a single, all encompassing, constitution either. In none of these countries does the supreme court have the power that it does in the United States. None. Zero. Zip.

In the countries of "old Europe" the people have much more power to decide on their own political lives without a bunch of old men and women constantly interfering with their will by sitting in judgement of everything. In a country which was born of revolution, on the other hand, we have a system so regressive that the justices on the Supreme Court think that no change should happen between the 1789 version of the Constitution and today, and they are willing to invalidate any law which deviates from the 1789 conception of right and wrong.

This is conservative in the extreme. It's almost like the Ten Commandments being handed down from God on stone tablets.

Really interesting considering that the United States was supposed to have thrown off conservative tyranny in it's Revolution.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Origins of Democracy in Europe

For us here in the U.S. the story of Democracy is largely a hagiography. The Founding Fathers supposedly gave it to us as a kind of negative image of what Europe was. Before that, it existed in the minds of seventeenth century philosophers and thinkers then was zapped into being in the eighteenth, miraculously, with no social cause at all. When a social cause is sought people then talk about capitalism, which came into its own largely after both the French and American Revolutions. People point to the publishing date of "The Wealth of Nations", 1776, but, of course, that was just the date it was published. Unless by some strange magic the principles of the Wealth of Nations flew from the printed page and into the hearts of the American Revolutionaries it would be safe to say that the American Revolution was well underway before the Wealth of Nations ever became well known. Actually, if you want to know about the origin of democracy in Europe and in the United States it would be better to look at Smith's predecessor, who he was revolting against, whose thought tells more of the story; William Petty. Petty was the theorist of monetary policy for the Absolutist state.

It's the Absolutist state which is the real predecessor for democracy in Europe. The commercial revolution which followed is largely due to it and democracy would not exist if not for it. But surely absolutist dictatorship is antithetical to Democracy? Yes, it is.

The reason the absolutist state is the predecessor of Democracy is that before the rise of the absolutist states Europe was largely governed by feudal principles. What absolutism did was to eliminate the feudal ties by concentrating power in the hands of the King as the single sovereign, or in the case of England eventually in the hands of the high Aristocracy. To use France as an example, before the rise of absolutism the relationship between lords, serfs, and the king was regulated by a principle common to feudal law across Europe: the vassal of my vassal is not my vassal. What this meant was that there was no link between the king and the subjects of the State. The King was largely a judge and the post somewhat honorary. There was the feudal scale of values, where every person occupied a set place which was established by God and which was unchangeable, so that the Serf was in bondage to the knight who was in bondage to the lord who was in bondage to the Duke who pledged fealty to the King. You weren't a subject of France you were a subject of your lord's fief. The country was made up of a collection of fiefs united by nothing much except maybe a common history, with border regions always up for grabs between families and with the geographic area not really demarcated off. Originally, the only unity was under the scope of the Carlist Holy Roman Empire, made up of a large section of fiefs which extended from Portugal to eastern Austria. There was no sense of political identity beyond the fiefs. People were not citizens they were subjects. Their political and economic lives were governed by their lord and their religious lives were governed by their local parish, which again, was not organized around national lines at all but was essentially decentralized, allowing for much local variation in custom and belief.

What the rise of the absolutist state did was to eliminate all of the intermediary levels which existed between the subject and the king, making the subject no longer belong to his fief but instead to a nation, the French or Spanish or English nation. Instead of feudal rights now the stage was set to ask the question about civil rights, and instead of a system where the hierarchy was considered immutable it was now possible to ask why the king exercized the authority that he did. Democracy came out of bringing the executive of the absolutist state under popular control. The office of the executive did not exist under feudalism. Absolutist states were set up with a king and a consultative body of nobles who lived at court; democracies were set up with a parliament and an executive, with a cabinet drawn from the legislature.

Once the rubble of feudalism was carted away by the centralization of power it became possible to ask why that power existed in the person of someone who had no accountability towards people in general. Once feudal rights and obligations were carted away it became possible to ask what rights in general people were entitled to.

The hidden framework which made the question of 'who rules' and 'what rights do people have' was the strong state. Otherwise the questions are irrelevant: who rules? The lord. What rights do people have? Whatever the terms of their feudal obligations to their lord say that they have.

This is one reason why the liberal account of the origin of democracy, given in its purest form by John Locke in his Second Treatise on Government, is a quaint fiction.

In this document Locke asserts that people originally lived totally individualistically and only came together for the purpose of accomplishing common goals.

No, they didn't.

What people forget, but which Marx pointed out very well, is that what's most important in the bougeois state is that which is left unsaid.And what is left unsaid is that the political and the economic system of today were created by the action of what today would be non-democratic institutions.

Economic system?


What absolutism did for political obligations it also did for economic regulation. Instead of economic regulation being the province of every lord it was centralized in the executive administration, which acted in the best interest of the nation as a whole and not for any particularistic cause. After having the layers of economic regulation swept away people started to ask why it was that people couldn't make their own economic decisions for themselves, why their economic life had to be subordinated to the will of the sovereign. Eventually, this questioning lead to capitalism.

But capitalism arrived through what's known as the mercantilist system, which was the economic regulation of the nation and it's colonies by the absolutist state.

Colonialism too was a product of absolutism. As was imperialism. Because of those two factors the United States was founded. It benefitted from the absolutist framework which Great Britain had bequeathed on it, making it one of the most modern nations and enabling it to establish democracy before the rest of Europe. When people talk about the British yoke or the taking of rights it's a very conveniant argument to make, if they know better. Yes, Britain was incorporating the U.S. more directly into its colonial and imperial strategy but what the United States was asking for wasn't a return to feudalism. This is extremely important. The United States did not want to turn back the clock on the economic and political system which it was living under; instead, it wanted to take that system, democratize it, and run it for its own benefit instead of for the benefit of Britain so far away.

That's the origin of democracy in America. It also has something to do with the self governance of the puritans and the calvinist church but eventually that model lost out to a more nationally minded one.

Liberal Bias: it sure was real

You know, that's one thing which the conservatives were right about, that there was a liberal bias in the media. Lefties before 9/11 were fond of saying that the biggest problem in media coverage wasn't a difference between left coverage and right coverage but a between pro-corporate news coverage and non-corporate news coverage. Both propositions were true and this is what people didn't seem to get. I include myself in that category; twenty twenty hindsight works well, but I didn't really get this until after 9/11. The bias towards elite interests is a bedrock of journalism, whether or not it's right or left. The liberal or conservative take of the journalism can be seen as another layer added onto the fundamental pro-elite bias. The thing is that pro-elite vs. non-elite isn't all there is to people's worldviews. Progressives might be more sensitive to this tension because what they're concerned about has the most to do with elites vs. people as a whole but for others who locate themselves within the liberal-conservative continuum and for whom the elite/non-elite issue may be secondary to the main issues of the liberal-conservative political spectrum the issue of whether or not the New York Times or some TV network takes conservative issues seriously or whether they take them as being a freak show is extraordinarily important.

And indeed, tv and news was more liberal than conservative and yes it did not reflect the opinions of millions of Americans across the country. When it came down to it, not seeing conservative issues in the news mattered more than the elite bias.

Hence the mass cheering after the reorientation of news which followed 9/11.

I think that this has actually been a good thing since it has taken news to a place more in touch with the will of the people than it had been before. I also think that, in its own way, Bush's political program has been good for the U.S. in the same way. We've found out that there are an enourmous number of Americans who are very, very, conservative and who are willing to tolerate a lot of outrages if they're done in the name of conservative values. That Bush is starting to alienate even them with the sheer scale of his fucking up in Iraq and in domestic policy is a testament to the ineptitude of this administration.

Yes, a majority of people are dissenting from what President Bush is doing, but people who point to this should also remember that it's taken over two years since the invasion of Iraq and almost four years since 9/11 for the American people to come to this point. If they were more liberal this point would have come a lot sooner.

And I do feel that this is the essential issue, that people are giving Bush and company passes for mistakes because they feel that he's doing basically the right thing, doing things which fit basically within the realm of conservative policy and values which a lot of American believe in.

What people see in conservatism, I believe, is an alternative to the corrosive individualism that capitalism puts forward. This individualism, which isn't real individualism so much as the atomized and alienated Consumer facing a world where there's nothing else besides being an isolated individual living in a capitalist system which gives you nothing, is misidentified with liberalism. People feel anomie and they blame liberalism whereas capitalism is the real culprit for their feelings. Capitalism has more to do with the destruction of the family and the annihilation of any moral values in the public sphere than liberalism does, much much more, but capitalism is what pays the right wing's bills and so they can never point at capitalism as being the culprit and instead manufacture a faux threat, whether that threat be gays or crazy liberals or whoever.

The actual solution to these problems is going to be one of socialist government, socialist government which is not linked to radical programs like 'official atheism' or what have you but which instead respects people's beliefs and doesn't intrude on the private sphere. The best way to strengthen families is to introduce a living wage , universal benefits, shorter work hours, so that families can actually spend time together and not have their existence sacrificed to economic need. The best way to strengthen moral values is to establish values like justice and equity as being the bedrock of our society and not the cut throat "greed is good" ethic of the corporate and non-corporate business world. The best way to strengthen communities is to pass legislation which allows communities to increase their quality of life by tightly regulating what corporations who want to move in there can and cannot do so that the community does not end up serving the corporations needs but the corporations end up serving the community's.

I could go on and on but I think you get my drift.

Socialism is the answer, not attempts to regulate the familial and religious life of American citizens.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz on Protestant Fundamentalism

OK here's the problem I have with this article: it's that Dunbar-Ortiz seems to think that evangelical protestant spirituality has absolutely no place in American life and that the only way to get at these people is to destroy their belief systems and make them atheists. Wonderful. She says that democrat-lite, deemphasizing controversial liberal issues like abortion, isn't going to work because of these people's belief system and then criticizes liberals for seemingly writing people off because of their belief systems. But, Ms. Ortiz, you're the one who is praising your own atheism as the rational choice, what could be more elitist than suggesting a total annihilation of religious belief as the rational way to be?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: half of the liberal and leftist critiques out there assume that a liberal society is something that we're all agreed on, so they are not really as well thought out or as strong as they think they are--pull out the assumption that everyone is basically a liberal and they fall like a house of cards. This article is an example of that. What Dean and company are trying to do is to sell liberalism and moderate social-democratic programs to people who don't necessarily believe in liberal principles. There's a definite line in the sand between pre-9/11 and after and it is this: after 9/11 the assent of people towards liberal ways of thinking can not be guaranteed and any program or party that doesn't want to become instantly irrelevant will have to adjust to this new reality and try to justify itself and attract members in this environment.

This means understanding conservatism and truly arguing against it, not just assuming that everyone who doesn't agree with your position is, like the conservative radio host talked about below seems to think of himself, a point of light surrounded by

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Live-"In the Army Now" by Laibach

this is an audio post - click to play

From their NATO album. Hot stuff.

An antiwar song rejuvenated for the present time.

Surrounded by Idiots

Forward by Sean Hannity.

Yes, that paragon of academic excellence and virtue Sean Hannity gives his thumbs up to a writer who is even more shallow and mentally deficient than he is. I'm serious. It's not even that Gallagher is simply offensive--I've read much more offensive things (damn right the holocaust was justified!--for example)--so much as the dumbing down process which his book partakes in which makes it even more obnoxious. He's managed to recycle every single rightwing hate radio diatribe and simplify it even more and make it even more simplistic and light weight. That's what gets me. And he runs his site like this piffle is somehow a creative breakthrough. What the fuck? How does a person like this keep on getting into print? Isn't there some sort of copyright law that regulates endlessly recirculated right wing ideas?

Example:reposted by Gallagher"WHAT DO YOU THINK? TRY THIS...........if you think the USA is so bad!
Interesting thought from a Southern Californian.
Try driving around as a Gringo in Mexicowith no liability insurance..... and have an accident. Enter MEXICO illegally.
Never mind immigration quotas, visas, international law, or any of that nonsense.
Once there, demand that the local government provide free medical care for you and your entire family.
Demand bilingual nurses and doctors.
Demand free bilingual local government forms, bulletins, etc.
Procreate abundantly.
Deflect any criticism of this allegedly irresponsible reproductive behavior with, "It's a cultural American thing. You wouldn't understand, pal."
Keep your American identity strong. Fly Old Glory from your rooftop, or proudly display it in your front window or on your car bumper.
Speak only English at home and in public and insist that your children do likewise. Demand classes on American culture in the Mexican school system.
Demand a local Mexican driver license. This will afford other legal rights and will go far to legitimize your unauthorized, illegal, presence in Mexico.
Insist that local Mexican law enforcement teach English to all of its officers.
Good luck!
Because it will never happen.
It will not happen in Mexico or any other country in the world... except right here in the United States... land of the naive!"

Another few examples: "CBS' New Logo"

Surrounded by Idiots tour bus coming to Crawford

You know what they say, there're three things in Texas: Beers, Steers, and Queers. I guess Mike Gallagher feels at home. So does Bush, Mr. Cowboy fetishist himself.

Mike Gallagher again

This is the man, the one who has written a book called 'surrounded by idiots--left lunacy in america' and who has started a "Gallagher's Army" (hence the faux outfit) which is going down to Crawford Texas to hold a patriotic counter-rally to Cindy Sheehan, mother of a soldier killed in action who wants to get a meeting with Bush. I don't know about you but this guy looks like the biggest slack jawed inbred narrow-set eyed idiot I've come come across in a while. Look at the picture of Mr. Yuck Yuck in his "Gallagher's Army" uniform. I wonder if he got a grant from the Department of Health and Human services to write his book, seeing as it put a developmentally disabled man to work. Did require someone to take his slurred ramblings and transfer them into coherent prose, editing out all of the shouts of "I wanna ride the Pony! I wanna ride the Pony!" which he interjects at awkward intervals, clapping his hands and batting his helmet covered head against a wall all the while?

Hey, he does ride in a bus called the 'surrounded by idiots express', who knows, maybe there're more of them and they ride to rightwing political events getting out en-masse and slobbering all over themselves and shouting while beating on pots and pans with metal spoons saying "Iuh LOOOOVE THE PREZEEEDENT! I LOOOOVE THE PREZEEDENT! HE'S MY HEERO!!"

Just another way for the Republican party to show that it cares about the less fortunate among us.

From Margaret Carlson on Huffin' Po.

A quote referring to the four star general relieved of his command because of an extramarital affair "I guess we could have guessed, but there it was on page A7: sex had raised its ugly head and the distinguished, brilliant career of Byrnes was gone, poof, just like that. He'd been told to "knock it off," that is an adulterous affair, but continued to make phone calls. That was all it took. Byrnes was separated form his wife in mid-2004 and they are now divorced."

What's a little extramarital affair between friends?

I'm asking that rhetorically.

Anyways, it reminds me of what I think is the ultimate quote concerning obscenity, which was penned by Ben Tripp on Counterpunch: "Obscenity rears its ugly head again like a massive, rock hard, cock". Yep, that's the stuff.

Looking at Mike Gallagher's website

it appears that his book tour for "surrounded by stupid people" mostly got it's biggest positive response around the South. I suppose they would know what it's like to be surrounded by stupid people very well down there and were turning out out of empathy.

But seriously, I think it's somewhat ironic that states where people were lynched for looking at white women the wrong way up to fifty years ago are the states which are complaining the most that they're surrounded by stupid people.

What next, German victimizization books outlining how unforgiveable atrocities have been comitted against the German people in the 20th century, with no mention of jews?

Oh wait, that already exists.

Gallagher's Army

Talk show host Mike Gallagher has assmebled this thing called "Gallagher's Army", which is patriotic squad which will travel the country promoting patriotic causes. I see that the bus is named after Mike Gallagher's book "Surrounded by Idiots". Yes, all you have to do is call Gallagher's Army and in a short time you'll be surrounded by idiots.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Laibach again, this time "Sympathy for the Devil"

this is an audio post - click to play

Check it out.

Another Laibach boot--"Message from the Black Star" from "Jesus Christ Superstars"

I think we may have a new musical genre here, folks: libertarian leftist Black Metal, or LLBM. There're a bunch of Nazi black metal groups out there but the genre doesn't have a political preference; so let's take it back for the left. Laibach usually keeps their politics private but they have much more in common with the left than with the right; the only thing which sometimes causes mystification is the fact that they started out as dissidents against the Yugoslav Communist system and so were attacking a form of leftism. However, this did not make them rightists but instead democratic leftists. And avant-garde artists who wanted to pursue an avant-garde aesthetic.

this is an audio post - click to play

To order a copy of "Jesus Christ Superstars" click on the title link.

David Sirota:"The Resurgence of Movement Politics"

Possibly the only honest example of political philosophy which I've seen associated with the Democratic Party. The three main points which Sirota makes about why the conservatives have seen such an increase in their numbers and success in their legislative and social agenda could apply to any movement, liberal, socialist, possibly anarchist, communist, whatever. Sirota adapts it to the cause of liberal democratic party politics but there's no reason to discount it because of that. I'm reproducing the three points and will put this in my permanent links section because it's so good.

"[Lewis]Powell, corporate interests and major conservative funders ultimately took to heart three very important points:

First, they understood that movements based on ideology and ideas are far more powerful than loyalties to any political party. Though many in the Washington, DC, bubble believe that Americans think of their world in purely partisan terms, it just isn't true. People think of things in terms of their values and their worldview. Even the most politically disengaged citizen has some sort of personal ideology, and that ideology will always be far more powerful than any loyalty to a party label.

Second, conservatives understood that if the goal is seeing a more conservative country, then it doesn't matter whether conservatism comes from Republicans or bought-off Democrats. In their subsequent efforts, that meant conservatives were willing not only to go after liberal Democrats, but also moderate Republicans. It is why, even today, you see right-wing icons like Grover Norquist loudly criticizing Republican turncoats--because conservatives realize that movements are built with carrots and sticks, and that those sticks put other potential defectors on notice that there are consequences to ideological disloyalty.

But these conservatives were not ignorant of partisan concerns, which gets to the final point: They understood that if they built a movement around a conservative ideology, the political benefits would naturally flow almost exclusively to the innately more conservative Republican Party. Get people to believe in a movement that supports destroying the government, destroying the tax base and permitting corporations to do whatever they want regardless of social cost, and you get people to be far more loyal and willing to devote time to the GOP than you would if you spent resources on purely partisan activities.

There are many who are understandably nervous about emulating anything that comes from the right. But progressives must get over our disgust at how the right has applied its odious ideology to these tactics, and use some of these tactics ourselves. "

What the Bush poll numbers mean

By now most people have seen the polls which show that support for Iraq is at an all time low, that about half the population thinks that Bush is dishonest, and that there's no convincing justification for the invasion of Iraq. While all of this is good news the columnists and internet folks seem not to be taking the right lessons from this.

I see the meaning of the polls as this: that they signal that it's possible to build a mass movement against the war and against Bush now. I see them as more an indicator of potential support for an anti-war and anti Bush movement than as an indicator that such a thing exists on a mass level. If I was United For Peace and Justice, Code Pink, or any of the other big organizations I would start to invest in organizing double time, hitting the streets, sending out people to listen to folks and raise awareness. In short, to transform the potential for a mass movement into an actual mass movement.

Such a thing doesn't happen on its own; it needs a catalyst for it to truly come into existence and the established Peace groups can be that catalyst.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Funny Ted Rall Cartoon

Where, adding to the term Islamo-Fascist he adds "Judeo Libertarian, Christo-Anarchist, Satano-Socialist, Buddho-Capitalist, and Hindo-Communist". Allright for the Satano Socialists!

Time to pump up the Thrill Kill Kult...

Michael Ledeen

In the article linked to by the title of this post Gary Leupp suggests that Michael Ledeen may have been the person who actually forged the Niger uranium documents. He also, at the end, mentions Ledeen's researches into fascism. This is a sticky topic. He's not suggesting that Ledeen is a fascist, but at least I, and a few others, have at times, suggested that there was something fascistic about Ledeen's conception of the U.S. political scene after 9/11. I don't have the link, but I think it may have even been a piece (is that site still in business?) which reproduced comments by Ledeen which suggested that he advocated politics which could be described as revolutionary in a rightist sense. This may be the case.

What complicates it, at least for me, is that I've actually read part of Ledeen's main book on fascism, entitled appropriately enough "Universal Fascism", referring to international fascism organized with Italy at its center, and it's a really, really, good book. Ledeen was actually a student of George Mosse, editor of "Nazi Culture: A Documentary History" and author of "The Crisis in German Ideology: roots of the national socialist worldview", which are both excellent books. So although he might say things which might suggest some affinity with fascism I have a hard time in believing that he's actually a fascist himself; I don't see him as being stupid enough to actually drag the Bush administration openly down to fascism.

That his books, "Universal Fascism" and "The First Deuce", about Gabrielle D'Annunzio and his revolutionary city-state of Fiume (now Rijeka, Croatia), may have influenced his worldview is more than likely, especially considering that, yes, "Universal Fascism" has the strange quality of being a little bit too peppy and enthusiastic about its subject. No doubt his study of Machiavelli helped to craft his vision of neoconservatism as Leo Strauss helped craft the vision of other neocons. But I think that it all sort of enters the mix rather than influencing his views in a direct way.

I don't know.

Unfortunately, the only place "Universal Fascism" can be found is on the University library circuit; nary a used copy can be found online.

Understanding Gnostic scriptures.

Just a random report on one of my interests...

Gnostic scriptures sometimes appear impenetrable because they all seem to be telling the same story, that of the origin of the universe, the basic cosmological drama, the evolution of human beings, what role Christ or prophets play, the shape of the universe, how a person can free themselves and get back to a state like in the pleroma or primordial fullness which existed in the universe. With small variations, it does appear to be very similar stories being told over and over again. Which is why, for example, when people not familiar with Gnostic texts look at the "Gospel of Mary Magdalene", which is available now in any chain bookstore, they can't make heads or tails of it and maybe don't see what the basic difference is between that and the Gospel of Thomas or other Gnostic gospels. It certainly doesn't say "I was Christ's lover, we had a child and me and the child set sail for France where we established a bloodline of holy kings, yada yada yada".

The differences between the various Gnostic accounts are very important, but to understand that you need to understand the basic way in which these things are meant to be read. What the stories illustrate, what the stories supply, are concepts with which to understand the cosmos. Look at it this way: there's the greater universe out there which contains everything beyond the individual, then there's the individual and maybe the individual's experience of life. The concepts supplied in the gnostic texts are allegorical ways for people to connect with that greater universe from where they are. The concepts aren't meant to be argued over as true or not they're supposed to be used. They are functional concepts whose value comes in the results in understanding the macro-cosm that they either do or do not bring.

Taken in that sense the small variations between gnostic scriptures are very important because they impact how the individual will conceptualize the macrocosm and interface with it. That's what's being fought over; ways to conceptualize the greater universe. Because this is what's going on small changes to the stories can have very large effects in changing one's religious conception of the world.

So to understand gnostic scriptures you have to envision the accounts of creation and everything else as pointing to a greater reality but not being the greater reality themselves. This may appear counterintuitive, but I'd argue that even the things which are like the account in Genesis are not meant to be read as if they're pretending to be actual accounts of creation. Instead, read them as allegories.

Incidentally, this method works for other faiths like Zoroastrianism too.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Winter Soldier Film

If you're in one of the following cities on the following dates I'd recommed going and seeing the screening of the film "Winter Soldier", which documents a conference of Vietnam vets where they give testimony to what they've done in Vietnam. It's really timely.

Upcoming Screenings
August 12 -18, 2005
The Film Society of Lincoln Center
Walter Reade Theater
New York, NY
Film Society of Lincoln Center

August 17, 2005
Avon Theatre
Stamford, CT
Avon Theatre

September 14, 2005
Rosemont College
Rosemont, PA

September 16 - 22, 2005
Gene Siskel Film Center
Chicago, IL
Gene Siskel Film Center

September 16 -22, 2005
Minnesota Film Arts
Bell Auditorium
Minneapolis, MN
Minnesota Film Arts

September 23 - 29, 2005
Real Art Ways
Hartford, CT
Real Art Ways

November 7, 2005
The Detroit Institute of Arts
The Detroit Film Theater
Detroit, MI
The Detroit Film Theater

November 29 - 30, 2005
Wexner Center for the Arts
Columbus, OH
Wexner Center


I was surprised to read that "Winter Soldier" is essentially a film which has circulated in the underground and nowhere else. I saw it about two years ago and I just assumed that it was available to other people who lived in liberal/lefty areas, but I guess not.

Anyways, the film is very very good and not only documents the atrocities committed but also captures the start of the rupture between black power people and counter culture allied whites.

I'm very suprised that it's not currently going to play anywhere on the West Coast. That can be easily remedied, though, if local peace groups or film societies want to take it upon themselves to contact the Winter Soldier film distributors and line it up. The title link leads to the Winter Soldier film distribution website.

"Winter Soldier is distributed by:

Milliarium Zero
P.O. Box 128
Harrington Park, N.J. 07640
(201) 767-3110"

Iran and nuclear weapons

Personally, I don't see what the problem is with Iran having nuclear weapons. They talk about fears that some radical group will now control nuclear weapons I say what group is more radical than the clique around President Bush? If anything the Iranians are saner, if more religiously inclined than the political leadership of the United States, which is highly unstable and which has unilaterally invaded two countries in the past four years. Iran has done no such thing. If one were to plot demands on who should give up their nuclear arsenal because of having crazy people at the helm surely the U.S., and not Iran or any other upstart nuclear power, would win first place. The U.S. having massive reserves of nuclear weapons and having a highly unstable political leadership is more threatening to world security than Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. I find it really hypocritical that the U.S. is looking at the mote in Iran's eye rather than examining the beam in its own, but then the U.S. is also pressing the UN oil-for-food scandal as if it was worse than physically invading and occupying a country unilaterally, with the explicit condemnation of the world community, then running torture prisons, so I guess that proportionality is something that the U.S. can not be expected to posess in its statements regarding other countries.

But does anyone else see the hypocracy in our condemnation of Iran for publicly restarting its bomb project while religious extremists in the United States come to influence our domestic and foreign policy more and more? We have people in power who think the rapture is about to come and that we need to support Israel not because of any sympathy towards them but because of some obscure condition for the commencement of the end times which these so-called "Christian Zionists" believe in.

A little known fact about Iran is that the people who run the country are essentially lawyers slash clerics who specialize in religious law. While they have some extremist positions, they publicly teach traditional anti-semitic ideas like the lie of the 'blood libel', in general they don't come up with anything as crazy as the Christian fundamentalists in the United States. The flavor of Iranian political culture is that of lawyers who have been comissioned by god to interpret everything in society in a religiously and legally binding context. While this may be a nightmare it's at least rational, probably too rational---that's part of the problem, which is something that Christian fundamentalist leaders can't claim for their fantasies.

"Only 28 percent of Americans believe in evolution; 68 percent believe in Satan. "

That's the headline from an article about Bush's endorsement of Intelligent Design theory. Hey, I believe in Satan too, so I must be in good company, although I think my belief and theirs are quite different. My belief is more like the cheering on of people at the stands of a local baseball game, like, "I believe in you guys! You can do it!" rather than a simple acknowledgement that one believes Satan exists....I'm in the cheering section rather than the pro-Exorcism section.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Missing the point: "U.S. should revoke the citizenship of O'Reilly, Limbaugh, Hannity"

Strangely enough, a day after I posted the below note talking about how radical nationalists in Britain and Germany who fell below the level of Nazism although self described Fascists proposed stripping the citizenship of people who were culturally distinct from their ideal of what Britons and Germans should be a progressive writes that the same thing should be done to O'Reilly, Limbaugh and Hannity. I hope people realize that the idea of stripping citizenship from people who you don't like or don't agree with is bad, no matter whether you're on the Left or the Right.

This could go down as one of the few examples where there's actual parity between a liberal/lefty and right wing people, you know, a real example of the accusation that "They do it too".

People, you can't just go around proposing things like this. It's irresponsable. On this count at least it's important to be better than they are and not show that we're willing to use the same techniques against them that they use against us when it suits our purposes.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Why I hate Classic Rock

I hate it because it's a conservative break on any sort of musical progress being generally recognized. Instead of playing things that are actually good from more recent years we're stuck with "Led Zeppelin", "Pink Floyd", "Beatles", "Queen", plus a whole lot of other, much inferior, mindless stoner/alcoholic rock which is only remembered today because it sold beau coup records and wasn't too offensive to anyone. Perfect top 40 material. I hate it because of what it's done to our musical culture. Instead of exploring anything generally good we're stuck with a bunch of conservative stoners listening to the same crap which was popular thirty years ago while the culture associated with them dies a slow death from sheer tackiness, cheapness, and complete dessication of anything worthwhile.

Fuck the radio stations which play it. Let's get rid of this shit and recognize some artistic achievement which has taken place since 1975.

I wish I had some Patti Smith right now.

I could hit a trifecta, but unfortunately, it is not to be tonight.

And apparantly a night for Siouxsie and the Banshees as well.....

It seems like a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds night...

Just does.

Best Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds night was driving to a hostel on the Virginia coast at night, going to progressively smaller roads, eventually driving at night with the salt air coming into my car, with forest still around me, listening to "Red Right Hand" off of Best of... Southern and oceany and erie. It was Great. Perfect setting to listen to Nick Cave.

Denial of citizenship in the Patriot Act, BUF, Otto Strasser

Reading ultra-nationalist proposals coming from Oswald Mosley of the '30s and '40s British Union of Fascists and from Otto Strasser, left wing Nazi who fled Germany for Canada, and how they would treat certain groups of people brings the rhetoric of the Patriot Act to mind. Strasser didn't believe in biological racism and neither was he convinced that there was some amazing conspiracy out there. He was a German fascist who, while still being a German fascist, did not believe in key points of the Nazi ideology and program. Mosley largely seems to have taken his program over from Strasser. There are almost word for word similarities between things which Strasser wrote and things which Mosley wrote. One of those similarities involves their stated attitude towards Jews.

They weren't biological racists but this did not prevent them from being anti-Semitic. But the way in which they framed their anti-Semitism has very interesting resonances with today. Basically, they believed that Jews had separated themselves from the communities in which they lived and pursued identities separate from the National identity. Because of this, they felt that as minorities with their own separate culture they should not be full citizens. Their proposals involved stripping Jews of their citizenship if they refused to assimilate both to German or British culture and, at least with Strasser, adopt Christianity. They would be looked on as foreign nationals, 'protected', as Strasser ominously wrote, but unable to hold certain jobs, unable to vote, unable to do a lot of things because they weren't German enough or British enough.

The reasoning behind this is strikingly similar to that in the Patriot Act which provides the stripping of citizenship for people deemed to be engaged in anti-American activities; once stripped of their citizenship the people involved could be subject to the sort of extralegal detentions that Guantanamo bay specializes in.

There are, then, some people who aren't really American, and some people who are. Those who aren't don't deserve the same protections as those thought to be 100% Amerikaners. At the farthest pole they can be stripped of their citizenship, although to my knowledge this hasn't actually happened yet. At the nearest pole they can be relegated to the status of anti-American lefties, or bi-coastal elitists, decadent liberals, whose opinions don't really matter because they don't reflect the beliefs of 'true' Americans.

This is how radical nationalism works; first it creates distinctions between people as to their worthiness of being citizens of the country they were born and raised in, then it attacks them.