Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Middlebury Institute, to promote secession

From the Counterpunch article:"In our deliberations we considered many kinds of strategies for a new politics and eventually decided upon the inauguration of a campaign to monitor, study, promote, and develop agencies of separatism. By separatism we mean all the forms by which small political bodies, dedicated to the precept of human scale, distance themselves from larger ones, as in decentralization, dissolution, disunion, division, devolution, or secession, creating small and independent bodies that rule themselves. Of course we favor such polities that operate with participatory democracy and egalitarian justice, which are attainable only at a small scale, but the primary principle is that these states should enact their separation and self-government as they see fit."

This is great. The CP article is by Kirkpatrick Sale and Thomas Naylor. I have to say that I've always had a fondness for the secessionist theories, although not the attitude about slavery, of John C. Calhoun, who was one of the few real political philosophers of the American tradition in the 19th century.

Secession is fine by me. Let Cascadia get independent and cease to support the red states and the corrupt central government of the United States, a central government which was created to facillitate the economic exploitation of the American continent and to stop measures which would challenge the alliance between money and power in the individual states and later of the country as a whole.

So, yeah, secession. I'm all for it.

By the way, this is the 2,400th post on Times/Lost Highway.

Fuck Nora Ephron

Just saying. Because of her "one small blog" post. Then again, I didn't lay Kennedy. Maybe that endows some journalistic powers on one.

"Twenty-five questions about the murder of the big easy" by Mike Davis and Anthony Fontenot

One of the twenty five questions, which are good, particularly stuck out to me and seems so mind bendingly jarring that I've got to comment on it.

"18. Why weren't evacuee centers established in Audubon Park and other unflooded parts of Uptown, where locals could be employed as cleanup crews?"

To understand this you have to know that Audubon park is at the end of the Garden District, which houses enourmous mansions, large fancy hotels, some of New Orlean's hip culture, restaurants, and Tulane University. Audubon park is enourmous. It is also reasonably within either (very strenuous) walking distance or, certainly, bus or boat distance, from the 7th, 8th, and 9th wards. And apparantly it was dry while the levees collapsed in the 9th ward. To give you an idea of this picture Harlem being flooded and people not being bussed to Central Park. Harlem, even north Harlem, is probably closer to Central Park than the 7th, 8th, and 9th wards are to Audubon park but the analogy is a good one. If you prefer, think of the South Bronx or Wall Street flooding and no one being transported to Central Park.

I know this is possible because I walked from the edge of the 7th ward to my hostel in the Garden District (unfortunately in July--not a wise thing to do).

To have portions of New Orleans so close be free from water and yet to have no people transported there is a travesty. Looking at maps and comparing where the Superdome is compared to Audubon park and the Garden District, yes, the Superdome is closer, but if the people had had motorized transportation then it wouldn't have been a problem. Not a problem at all.

My impression was that the whole city was flooded, period. But that appears not to have been the case.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Destroyers of American Culture

I'm in agreement with the conservatives, at least superficially, on one thing: that American culture has gone down the tubes. Of course I mean things like our understanding of literature, poetry, and art, which I don't think they mean, but lets keep this amusing comparason for now.

While people on the right bemoan the awful influence of college professors teaching "Critical Theory", (which is probably an easy career track rather than a nefarious lefty conspiracy), I think that what's been destroying American culture is much easier to understand. It has to do with capitalism and with the commodification of culture.

Capitalism you all know, but the commodification of culture is something else. To commodify assumes that what is being commodified was at some time not a commodity itself but instead operated on different principles. The term got some popularity in referring to the commodification of sixties culture and then later the commodification of things like the goth movement and punk rock by corporations eager to make a buck on the clothing and sounds of various counter-culture movements, but the idea could easily be extended to the literary arts proper, to novels and to poetry.

Go into any big box store and look at what's being sold. Actually, cross bookstores like "Borders", which tend to at least try to make their image one of intellectual elites, off but stick to everything else, including Barnes & Noble. What you'll find, if you judge these things by how many copies they carry as well as if they carry any writings by an author as well as the types of books that they put on display and the kinds that are featured as best sellers, is that for the most part what sells is what was popular up until about the mid seventies. After that the pool runs dry, with only a few authors from the eighties, like Brett Easton Ellis, fewer authors from the nineties, like Douglas Coupland, and the fewest of authors from the late nineties early '00s, with maybe David Eggers being the sole representative of this era. Recently there's been a resurgence of high class genre fiction, smartly dressed up, hip, mostly aimed at women. That isn't what we're talking about.

It seems that the writers who were popular in the sixties and seventies got cannonized by the captains of industry as being something which could be endlessly replayed for profit. Which isn't to put these writers down, people like Philip Roth and John Updike, but is to say that there's a really large vacuum in the time that follows.

What I think happened is that an independant book culture, an independant literary culture, slowly ceased flourishing in this country and people instead started to buy things that they thought that they 'should' buy because the sense was that these are things which are real works of art, these are things that are understood as serious fiction. Which they are, but if you buy them solely because some magazine recommended them as being American Classics, you're not really buying them and reading them according to their merits; you're buying them and reading them because you've been told to. You could misunderstand the whole thing or your level of comprehension could be such that you can't 'get' most of what the author is really trying to get across, but you'll buy them and read them nonetheless.

Picture the phenomenon of "On the Road", which has been canonized as the stereotypical "American Novel" by Penguin and which, by these very means, has become the 'acceptable' thing to read for people pursuing 'acceptable' rebellion, magnified onto the scene of literary culture as a whole and you'll get a good idea of what the literary culture is like in the United States today.

It's almost a trite thing, to point out that at one level you have what everyone else reads, things which are sooo stereotypical that they don't even merit consideration, then you have what a smaller number of people read, then a smaller number, then a smaller and a smaller and a smaller, until you reach that epic plateau where, finally, true literature, unconditioned by bad taste, is thought to reside.

But culture isn't some gnostic system of self realization to be accomplished by the few; instead, good writing, new writing, should be known about and be available to all who want it. But that would clash with the profit motive of these corporations.

Because you see, if they can corral people into all buying certain books dependably and predictably they can maximize their profits. By the public buying all sorts of different books their profits are decreased. So the commodification of culture serves a very useful purpose in helping companies to maximize profit.

"Most scientists say 'alternative' to evolution isn't a theory at all"-Smirking Chimp, and the big one

From the Smirking Chimp article by Rick Weiss and David Brown:

"Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, working independently in the early to mid-1800s, each came up with the concept of "natural selection." Each sought to explain the astounding diversity of life he found in exotic places, Darwin in the Galapagos Islands and Wallace in Brazil.

Their idea was this:

By some accident of nature whose workings neither man could explain, an organism may exhibit a variation in shape, color or body function new to the species. Although most of these new traits are damaging — probably lethal — a small fraction actually help. They may make it easier to hide from predators (like a moth's coloration), exploit a food source (an anteater's long tongue) or make seeds more durable (a coconut's buoyant husk)."

So far so good. What people who write these articles haven't tackled yet is "the big one", ie how human beings were able to become what they are through this sort of random selection and adaptation to circumstances. Humanity isn't like the moth that makes its coloration change to prevent predators from eating it. Things like that are
pretty static adaptations while human beings are much more dynamic and flexable.

A place where the argument about how humans became humans is elucidated is Stephen Pinker's book "How the Mind Works" available here

In the course of the book Pinker tackles the evolution of what anthropologists call the "Symbolic Capacity" of the human mind, that is the ability of the mind to interact with the environoment in a flexable, non hardwired, way which can adapt to different situations and come up with new and different ways of changing behavior to increase adaptation to new situations. It is thought that this capacity is intrinsically linked to the ability of the human mind to treat the world around it symbolically and to use the symbol processing capacity to come up with new responses.

In English this means to be able to think about the enviroment and to come up with new strategies for dealing with the environment through some sort of reason, although maybe not the type of reason that we think about when we hear that term.


Pinker puts forward a straight and clear answer to how this ability to think evolved.
For Pinker, the symbolic capacity evolved from a mismatch or a sort of cross wires in the visual cortex of the primate brain. Pinker lays out an argument which suggests that the logical operations of thought are very similar to the operations performed on visual information entering the brain. Pattern recognition, for instance, and being able to discriminate between two similar patterns, is similar to the logical operation of figuring out whether something meets the criterion of identity, A=A.
Pinker suggests that a mutation freed the techniques of visual processing from being just used for visual information and let it be used for any type of information, therefore generating the symbolic capacity.


I would go further and suggest that Kant provides confirmation of all of this. This, however, would be a very long process to prove. Pinker wrote another book after this which critiqued the idea of a "tabula rasa" or blank slate for the mind; maybe he gets into Kant in that one.

Pinker, in his argument, bridges the gap between the idea of adaptation which is sort of passive, like the adaptation of moths, and adaptation which leads to intelligence and to a "human nature".

In so doing he and other people doing the same research have poked a real hole in intelligent design theory, which essentially revolves around man's supposed intelligent design, with the rest being more peripheral.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Artistic/Philosophic Production

The method=ruthless criticism of everything and then the building of new philosophy/art, ideas, on the ruins of said criticism/the manufacture of positivity out of negativity therewith.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Performance Art, Communes, Political Action

Looking at a wide variety of movements which have transpired across the 20th century an interesting pattern emerged. It seems like there's a connection between performance art, the formation of communes, and political action, as well as the formation of virtual states. What appears to happen is one leads into the other.

For example, there's the Neue Slowensiche Kunst, or NSK, State, which is at once a collective of artists who are on the same basic road as NSK in Slovenia and a sort of virtual state for fans of NSK artists and works, with Laibach and Irwin (their visual arts collective), being the main players. Both challenge expectations, both, as far as these things go, somewhat ritualistically examine and redefine the relationship of the audience's personal belief system to external reality, with Laibach doing it through actual performance art which questions sacred cows and with Irwin through the nature of their compositions, which like Laibach's music include references to better known works of art which are then worked on through the composition to reveal new meanings and new significance.

And the NSK State, as much as that exists for fans, seems to link people who have experienced the performance art of NSK together in a network where they're in contact with similar experiencers.

The Situationists evolved also from performance art, Fluxus and the Neoists, to taking the values which they'd redefined in their art and breaking through the last wall to the outside world, letting the values and the techniques which they'd established as artists loose on the world, with detournment and the reinvention of everyday life being expressions of a transformational consciousness which was established first off by performance pieces which challenged consensus attitudes towards the world.

Another group which made a similar circuit was Psychic TV and Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth, the first being an expression of the second which incorporated extensive audience participation and collective devices into their concerts and the second being a direct artist-action venture which, through the actual enactment of magical rituals, either individually or collectively if possible, people are able to connect to a sort of worldwide network which is working towards a kind of liberated consciousness and life. There's an actual real world network out there so it isn't totally separated individuals doing rituals. According to Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth by regularly doing transformative rituals every month a person hooks into the Temple network and collective consciousness.

Then there's the Diggers, who were an actual outgrowth of the Sanfrancisco Mime troop, which was a performance art group which did free outside, unscheduled, performances which questioned the viewer's relationship to the outside world and questioned their belief systems, criticizing society and implicitly suggesting a new way to act. From this came a direct action mass feeding program, for free, in Golden Gate Park, a Free Store, as well as other actions, then eventually a series of communes up and down the west coast.

Related to this progression is that of the Vienna Actionists, one of the first performance art groups after the Second World War. The Vienna Actionists very self consciously dealt with primeval themes, birth, death, rebirth, sex, masculinity, feminity, religion, in their works, which often mixed blood, simulated (or real in some cases) ritual sacrifices of animals, paint, nudity, and sex. Hermann Nitsch, the only major Actionist still doing art, is a self described mystic whose company, the Orgies Mysteries Theater, very self consciously still engages this primordial level through performances which entail beef carcasses, bondage like perfomance, and blood. The Vienna Actionists also gave rise to a series of communes. Actionist Otto Muehl, one of the core members, wrote in a communique that what he was really trying to accomplish with his performance art was a type of collective therapy, with the animals having personal psychological significance and the whole thing having to do with liberation from oppressive influences. He therefore decided to start a commune based on psychiatric principles which involved public self analysis and prescribed random and compulsory sexual liasons with other members of the commmune in order to liberate one's self fromm established patterns.

It should be noted that Genesis P-Orridge, one of the prime movers of Psychic TV and Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth, was a member of both a commune designed to deprogram people and of a performance art group which went over the same area that we're describing.

Then, there's the Temporary Autonomous Zone, or TAZ, of Hakim Bey, which is thought to come into being any time there's a festival like atmosphere where the normal standards of what is and is not permissable is relaxed some and the greater society relinquishes power over that piece of grass for a little bit. TAZ lead to PAZ, or the concept of Permanent Autonomous Zones, like infoshops, where they'd be permanently autonomous towards the greater society and would be like counter-culture stop of points of orientation.

What to make of all of this?

There seems to be a link between participating in performance which either questions the morals and values and common conceptions of the world or which provides the opportunity for an alternative sense of values and morals to dramatically enacted, with participants including both the audience and the performers, and eventually wanting to take the new understanding formed by the performance out of the performance space and into the world at large. Through replicating the state of mind and linking up people who share the transformed state of mind, through enacting the principles in closed communes which have self consciously tried to drop out of the world, or through directly engaging in action which is designed to help the political/economic situation while also implicitly criticizing the ways which this has been done before and the way in which this situation actually works, there seems to be good reason to believe that the reenactment of performance outside of the performance space is a logical step of sorts, for when a performance has already broken the mold by becoming performance art there isn't anything to stop the performance from going on and enveloping the rest of reality, which is a good thing.

Hey, the Diggers referred to people following their way as "Life Actors", so why not give it a whirl?

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Slow down in posts

I've been trying to make time to read Nicos Poulantzas' book "State, Power, and Socialism", which provides a left Marxist analysis of the state and so things are currently a little on hold now.

Integrative and disintegrative technology

One of the thoughts behind this website is that a large part of modernity, technology and the mass production world, constitutes a kind of imitation or simulacra of natural processes and pre-modern social and economic relations. One could say that we have the pre-modern world, which is a kind of whole on its own and then we have the modern world laid over it, where technics and modern industrial production fulfill some of the same roles which in a pre-modern setting would be met through other means. So the modern world is sort of a simulation, not in the Baudrillard sense of a consumption/advertizing simulation but rather in the sense of an equivalent construction of something else, of what's gone before. This can get out of control because modern technology and production processes, unlike the pre-modern equivalents which were bound by the limits of the natural world, implicitly have no limits on their action besides the very basic ones of cost effectiveness, possibly. Because there're no limits on where technology can go and what it can do the possibility arises of technology stepping on the limits of the natural world completely and creating an alienated, oppressive, modernity which in its anti-humanism is beyond anything that would have been possible in a setting where natural limits, which tend to point to humanistic concerns, are present. The block after block of industrially produced apartment blocks in the former Soviet Union and the corresponding environmental destruction there are signs of what happens when modernity exists without any limits.

When the modern world replaces the natural world the possibility exists that, with nothing to orient their lives by and an alienation surpassing anything experienced before, that people will seek to fight this by looking backwards into a semi-mythical past and forcibly replacing the technical world with an equally conterfeit world, only this time one which speaks in the language of anti-modernity. Alternately, they could reject some of it and mix the mythic and the technical by seeking to harness the technical to the mythic. These phenomenon are, respectively, better known by the terms "National Socialism" and "Fascism".

To avoid having a fascist reality come to life the simulated reality of modernity has to be subordinated to some limits, limits which will serve the function of humanizing the technological world, limits established to serve humanity instead of turning humanity into another cog in the wheel of industry.

But limits alone aren't enough. Limiting the industrial/technical nature of capitalism, doesn't deal with the question of what is appropriate for technology itself to be used for. It assumes that the only possiblity for technology is to produce an alienated world. But, as a sort of minor point in the story of modernity and technology, there are ways in which technology can connect people to actually bridge some of the alienation created by an artificial world. The web site that you're reading right now is an example of this.

The internet, the various services on the internet that connect people, even cell phones, and other technology, for instance mass transit, can serve an integrating function. Integrating in that they increase the density of culture and of social interchange instead of tending to decrease the richness of culture and social interchange, which would be a disintegrating factor.

Since technology realistically can't be done away with and since we'd lose quite a bit of the comforts which we experience by doing so, finding appropriate technology which exists as a counterweight to the negative influences of some technology is a worthy cause.

If the simulation of society is to go on, which it probably will, then an artificial factor which brings people together is probably needed as well, in order for a technological society within limits to function properly and humanely.

Then there's the question of the transition to socialism, which would involve not only the overthrow of the capitalist order but one of the current technological and environmental order as well and the harnessing of both of them to both humane and environmentally healthy ends. It would involve society being run by the majority for the majority, with a break down between manual work and management and other types of intellectual work, and popular self determination in many areas which are now left up to the market and the bourgeois world to decide.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Frantz Fanon Quote about Veiling and Algeria

Aha. I've found the book where Franz Fanon starts out by talking about how the campaign against the veil in Algeria was a weapon used by the occupier to destroy Algerian society, blanketed in a covering of self-righteousness and moral indignation. The book is called "A Dying Colonialism". It's contents, as far as I've gone, have a lot of light to give on what's going on in Iraq and why the campaign against Shar'ia law is actually an arogant pro-western imposition which could, in time, subject Iraqis to the West in the same way that they attempted to make Algerians into Frenchmen. Don't assume your idea of liberation is what these people want. More important than liberty in the classical sense sometimes is the ability to determine ones own life in ones own way, even if that way appears anti-libertarian at a certain point.

Here's the relevant quote:

"Beneath the patrilineal pattern of Algerian society, the specialists described a structure of matrilineal essence. Arab society has often been presented by Westerners as a formal society in which outside appearances are paramount. The Algerian woman, an intermediary between obscure forces and the group, appeared in this perspective to assome a primordial importance. Behind the visible, manifest, patriarchy, the more siginificant existence of a basic matriarchy was assumed. The role of the Algerian mother, that of the grandmother, the aunt and the "old woman," were inventoried and defined.

This enabled the colonial administration to define a precise political doctrine: "If we want to destroy the structure of Algerian society, its capacity for resistance, we must first of alll conquer the women; we must go and find them behind the veil where they hide themselves and in the houses wher men keep them out of sight." It is the situation of woman that was accordingly taken as the theme of action. The odminant administration solemnly undertook to defend this woman, pictured as humiliated, sequestered, cloistered...It described the immense possibilities of woman, unfortunately transformed by the Algerian man into an inert, demonetized, indeed dehumanized object. The behavior of the Algerian was very firmly denounced as medieval and barbaric. With infinte science, a blanket indictment against the "sadistic and vampirish" Algerian attitude towards women was prepared and drawn up. Around the family life of the Algerian, the occupier piled up a whole mass of judgements, appraisals, reasons, accumulated anecdotes and edifying examples, thus attempting to confine the Algerian within a circle of guilt.

Mutual aid societies and societies to promote solidarity with Algerian women sprang up in great number. Lamentations were organized. "We want to make the Algerian ashamed of the fate that he metes out to women." This was a period of effervesence, of putting into application a whole technique of infiltration, in the course of which droves of social workers and women directing charitable works descended on the Arab quarters."

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Revitalizing the Left, thoughts on the run

On the run as in I'm going out the door. It seems that the left has been suffering for the past few years from a steady bleeding of its potency and power. Liberal websites have seemed to regard this as a kind of senseless dance towards oblivion, inexplicable (this site has on occasion echoed their sentiments), but they neglect to see that it hasn't been a slow grinding to a halt for everyone. While liberals and some of the left has been losing steam conservatives have been having a field day. It's been a new renaissance for conservatives, one which they greet with jubilation. Thinking about why this discrepancy between the two camps fortunes exist it came to me that, whether they love them or hate them, most of the left (not all), consciously or unconsciously buys into the ground rules of the liberal thought which has dominated the country's media for decades. Mostly unconsciously, they're used to having the basic ideas of liberalism not challenged and acting in an environment where they don't have to justify themselves in that way. You just don't have to argue certain things, they're taken for granted.

What's changed is that the tide has turned against the idea that liberal groundrules can be taken for granted. For liberalism and, as much as it applies, leftism, to resurge people need to come up with new arguments and new ways of thinking about things which justify liberalism and leftism within a conservative environment.


Once people are actually able to meet the conservative's challenge and win instead of just calling them stupid we'll be able to gain some steam again*.

*I know that the Bush crimes are pretty self evident but still you have to argue against the conservative justifications for them in order to be efffective.

Transmission out.

Response to comments

Sorry about the delay in this but I've been without e-mail service for a few days, more like a week.

Ok, about the "Southerners" post. Yes, it is unfair to stereotype all people from a particular region as belonging to one personality type but in this case my feeling is that although of course there are Southerners who don't fit this type that the presence of it at all is enough to warrant commenting on. People in the South might not all be like this, and, particularly black southerners, particularly in urban areas, but I stand by the assertion that this is something which a substantial amount of people there act like. I honestly don't see people in the north acting like this even a little bit, except when honest to god criminals are what you're talking about. Even though its a serious allegation, I'll say this, that when I lived in central Florida there was a strange story about an asian man who was on vacation suddenly deciding to hang himself with his own belt from a tree in the Ocala national forest, prime methamphetamine and racial separatist territory, and, amazingly the Ocala police ruled it a suicide without any further inquiry. The man was either lynched because he was Asian and wandered into the wrong part of the forest, killed because he came too close to a crank making site, or, more likely, a combination of the two.

And while I was there there was the case of Dr. Pendergrast, a doctor who performed abortions in a very anti-abortion town, who filed suit against the Ocala PD for not investigating thoroughly a fire which destroyed his practice. The Ocala PD taped him saying that he would bury them with his lawsuit and so they charged him with intimidation. He was convicted and went to prison over it.

Also in Ocala, after 9/11, a furniture company put up with masking tape the phrase "No Muslims", in eight foot high letters across their all glass front show room.

Ocala also never obeyed a federal desegregation rule so that although there isn't legal segregation in Ocala it's still separated into a 'separate but equal' system, with the black population living in virtually third world conditions in west Ocala.

The propaganda against abortion is extraordinarily intense. That abortion clinic was burned to the ground not once but twice, with 'no leads' given to it both times.

This town was also the site of one of Stephen Hatfill's storage areas. Hatfill was the biological weapons chemist who had worked in Rhodesia and had worked on the South African bioweapons program during apartheid who is widely regarded as being the source of the anthrax which was sent out to congress people. Strange that someone who worked on a racialized bioweapons program would chose Ocala as the site for storage, especially since he worked in Fort Detrick, which was several states away.

I realize that all the South isn't the same. On top of living in North Florida I visited New Orleans frequently and was impressed with the openness and general liberality of the people there. And the example of just one town isn't enough on its own to indict an entire region, but you know it says something important about the area that fucked up shit adding up to intimidation by people who believe that they, because of their ethnicity and the color of their skin, have a right to do anything to blacks or outsiders or people in other racial minorities, is a regular occurance in many places.

What is the big argument that people who say that the North is just as bad use? That Northerners are inconsistant with their morals, that they morally say one thing but lead lives which are sometimes vastly different, the whole falsity of puritan morality thing? That isn't murder and intimidation. At best it's a sad statement on the northeast that this happens. It can be linked with the neglect of blacks in urban ghettos, which is serious, but there's no vigilanteism in either the northeast or most parts of the midwest. There is vigilanteism in the South and in parts of the West, particularly Texas and maybe parts of the Southwest, although I'm not exactly sure about the extent of the latter.

Part of this relates to things that I noticed and found myself up against in the time I was there, the idea that when people in the South do messed up stuff that either I'm not really seeing it or I'm misinterpreting it, or it's not a big deal.

While not painting everyone with the same brush I will say that the presence of a justified use of that brush to paint some is so alarming and serious that it merits a kind of deep analysis like the one I gave.

******

In relation to other comments, I'm glad you folks liked the posts on addiction. I don't have much more to say about it except that the experience was educational in showing me how far down a person could go in a reasonably short period of time, and taught me never to go down that road again.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Our apathy

Hi all, been moving to another place and so haven't been able to update the site.

Anyways, I've been thinking about the reason for the deafening silence which has greeted all of the Bush crimes, the conduct of the Bush administration regarding Iraq (hell, the invasion of it in the first place) and why it is that only after Katrina have cracks appeared in the public media image of the administration.

I think, for what it's worth, that the reason for this huge just not giving a damn lies in the economic and political position that the U.S. assumed after world war II, i.e. as both an economic and political leader in the world. We've gotten used to being the dominant force that, by now, people don't really think that rules apply to the U.S. like they apply to other places. People think that it's natural and completely justified to act unilaterally in the world, to sabotage agreements at the UN, to basically mistreat and hurt whoever we want because, of course, "We're #1!" and #1 never has to answer for its conduct.

So what will ultimately stop this? My vote is for a severe economic downturn which will cause the Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans to suddenly cash in their treasury bills, meaning that for a long period of time the U.S. will be basically in hoc to these countries, having to internally restructure it's economy and to spend a big portion of its GDP paying back what it borrowed from these countries.

Maybe after that happens we'll be convinced that we aren't number one any more.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Nursing home charged in Katrina deaths

Seems that the attorney general of Louisiana is holding people accountable for the deaths of people which could have been prevented due to Katrina. Legally accountable. Charging people with murder. Multiple counts of murder.I can't help but wonder: will Bush face charges like this? Surely he's responsable for deaths caused by Katrina.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Southerners

Reading the issue of "Southern Partisan" mentioned in the post about Samuel Huntington a few posts below, it strikes me just what the ideology and attitude of the South is which causes them constantly to locate themselves on the wrong side of the issues, pursuing goals which are so ludicrous that no other industrialized country even thinks about doing things like them (Ten Commandments granite statue anyone?).

This issue of Southern Partisan has a discussion of this law suit filed against Vanderbilt University in Tenessee because of a proposed name change to one of the halls . Seems that the United Daughters of the Confederacy ponied up some money in the '30s for a new building, which was then going to be called "Confederate Hall". The hall was built. Vanderbilt wants to change the name to something less charged. The UDC sued Vanderbilt saying that the name was part of the contract that they signed back in the '30s when they gave the money for the hall and that Vanderbilt was violating the terms of the contract. A court recently sided with the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Vanderbilt has decided to change the name anyways.

So far so good, right? Clear cut, nothing psychotic, nothing really too far out there. Yet on a side bar to the article SP recounts a meeting between a UDC person and a delegation of Vanderbilt officials where in the course of it someone said of the three people from Vanderbilt that they all came from groups that were oppressed: a Mormon, an African American, and a person of Jewish descent. What happened then seems to be that the UDC person explained their pro-confederate viewpoint and "They seemed to take offense with anything we said about our heritage. They didn't give any response that they were ever listening to us. The whole time they looked at us as if we didn't have any rights", says the UDC belle. What obviously happened was that the Vanderbilt people were trying to explain that by calling the thing Confederate Hall the institution was thereby giving prominance to a period of time identified with the exploitation of blacks, and that the heritage of the Vanderbilt people maybe gave them a better appreciation of why exactly something like that was inappropriate. The Southern Belle responded with an attitude that implies that a Daughter of the Confederacy these days is an oppressed person.

Then Southern Partisan really showed its stripes. On dual paged sidebars running for five pages Southern Partisan outlined how in the early Mormon church blacks didn't have equality, as if to say "See there, one of you claims to be oppressed while you oppressed blacks and no one said that it was a contradiction!". It goes on and on as a tirade against the LDS religion, so excessive a response to this comment by a Vanderbilt official that it seems infantile and childish.

The meaning is clear: Southern Partisan equates the fact that the early LDS church reflected the values and beliefs of the greater society around it with the official support of the enslavement of blacks in the Antebellum South and says that if the LDS guy wants to claim oppression in his history then the United Daughters of the Confederacy should be able to claim oppression too.

Which brings me back to the beginning of this post. Southern Partisan rails against "Political Correctness", yet it features an add for a book called "Myths of American Slavery", where, presumably, Slavery is portrayed as not being that bad. The same author of "Myths" also wrote "The South Was Right!" and "Was Jefferson Davis Right?" Davis being the Confederate President. Presumably they feel that it's politically correct to say that slavery was a bad thing and that the southern civilization based around slavery was morally corrupt because of it. Likewise, the United Daughters of the Confederacy belle thought she was oppressed because her pro-Confederacy view, which may have been pro-slavery either explicitly or implicitly, was regarded as similarly corrupt.

This isn't political correctness it's a statement of fact. What all of this strikes me as is the wail of a class which previously acted as the oppressors crying out that since they've been deprived of their ability to oppress that they've been victimized.


This lead me to think about the attitudes of people in the South. The immaturity, the pettyness, the piggishness, the approval of violence, all of it seems to flow from attitudes established when white people were overtly the oppressors, where they could do anything they wanted to blacks and if blacks so much as batted an eye against their treatment punishment of untrammeled severity was meted out.

Southerners of this sort are pigs and there's more than a passing similarity between them and rich people who think that they can mistreat anyone they want without any consequences ever coming back to them. One is the oppressor in the present day, the other was the oppressor in the past but still clings to the ways of life and attitudes of those days when white men were called "Master" and white women were called "Mistress".

So why care at all about these immature people throwing temper tantrums? There seems to be very little reason to. Their beliefs are against much of the conventional reality which the rest of the United States and the rest of the World lives in.

Why cowtow to them, why cowtow to attitudes which embody the worst of American history?

A master class who believes it has a right to rule has no place in the rulership of the United States, whether that rulership entails political power or business power.

Scheduled and Unscheduled disasters

Reading all of the Katrina press I'm surprised to find that some people have written to Paul Craig Roberts, who publishes on Counterpunch, saying that in their opinion there had to be something willful about the inept response to Katrina by FEMA and the federal government, that the Bush administration couldn't possibly be that inept, that there must be some angle that the administration is playing and benefitting from here.

I don't think that's true. Why would they let something happen which is costing them loads of support and which is causing plummetting aproval ratings?

Unlike 9/11 there seems to be no way that the federal government can exploit this disaster for its own benefit.

If I were cynical I'd say that the difference between 9/11 and Katrina is that between scheduled and unscheduled disasters, with 9/11 being the scheduled and Katrina being the one which seems to come out of nowehere.

Bush didn't remark that he'd 'hit the trifecta' with Katrina now did he?

But of course I'm not cynical at all and I'd never categorize 9/11 as something which the Bush administration willfully let happen for political gain.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Interesting Processian philosophy

You see, one of the great things about "Turn off your mind: the dark side of the age of Aquarius" is that it provides a very intelligent reading list to the very dark side which it's supposedly objecting to. I'm already starting on a Hermann Hesse book which was recommended, and Lachtman also rendered the useful service of pointing out which was the key writing of the "Process Church of the Final Judgement": As It Is, which is reprinted on the "Feast of Hate and Fear" website. Powerful stuff. Here's an excerpt which seems particularly good.

" And by then we must be free if we are ever to be free. By then the bonds that bound us must be broken, and we must stand above the terror of the End, aloof, detached, a part of something new.

For every end there is a new beginning, and if we are not of the End, then we shall be of the New Beginning. Either we shall be the ashes of the Phoenix, or his resurrection from the ashes. And if we care about the death of the Phoenix, then we shall be his ashes, but if we are detached and see the cycle of which his death is but a part, then we shall be his resurrection."

" For though we are in this world, we shall find no truth in the bounds it sets itself, no right within the rules by which it lives. We must be of another world, another set of laws, another code, a world where black and white are seen as what they are, not merged into the lie of murky grey and swallowed blindly, and then forgotten.

If love is what we seek we must know hate. If joy is what we pursue then we must find agony and feel it. If harmony is our ideal then strife and conflict we must serve to find it.

No pendulum can swing only in one direction. And if we have run away from pain, then we have denied ourselves the rights of pleasure. And if we have hidden our faces from the hideous facts of war, then we have taken away the gentle harmony of peace from our experience. And if we have shut our eyes and ears and hearts to ugliness, then we can never know the sweetness or beauty. And if to be safe we have cut ourselves off from the black side of truth, if we have linked ourselves with the mass decision of humanity to see God and the Universe as all loving, all forgiving, and all light, then we have checked for ourselves the pendulum and denied ourselves the white side or truth as well, settling for the meaningless compromise of the middle road, the lie with which the race has sealed its doom.

And we have set our own seal upon that general seal, and by agreement linked ourselves with the fortunes of humanity."

" And if we choose the last, then we must lay bare our souls before us, expose our own futilities, our own lies, our own distorted agreements that at present hind us to the destiny of man, and rip the lies to pieces and he free.

And to do this we must go to the root of the lies, the basis of them, we must find the point at which we chose to invert the truth in order to be safe. We-must find the first rejection, the first distortion, the first denial of what we knew. We must know ourselves, reach deep down into the very core of our being, grasp whatever we find there, though it be the foulest and most hideous manifestation of Hell, and bring it out for our ruthless scrutiny."

" But those who have found the lie when there was still time, and have seen the truth behind it and thus destroyed the lie, they shall go on, not in the blinding agony of doomed humanity, but to the new cycle of the risen Phoenix.

And a new creation shall begin. New laws shall rule the players of a new game. New worlds shall be created."

And it goes on. Powerful stuff.

The Process, who adopted a four part cosmology composed of Christ, Jehovah, Lucifer, and Satan, were not an exactly nice group. But nice doesn't necessarily correspond to insightful.

The Slaves Shall Serve--By James Wasserman

On my recent tour of the midwest I saw this book in the "new age" section of a large chain bookstore. The book is an elaboration on the philosophy of Aleister Crowley.

So this is where all that leads? James Wasserman, who wrote a book about the Knights Templars and the Assasins, writes on the back of the book that this is a history of the menace of collectivism, as embodied by, among others, the United Nations.

Wow.

I'm assuming that James Wasserman is Jewish. If so, how fucking ironic for someone from that culture to ally themselves with right wing conspiracy theorists who themselves are often anti-semitic. Is this what extended meditation on Aleister Crowley, that rich heroin addict who thought he was a prophet and a superman, does to you?

The title should tip one off that these "Meditations on Liberty", as the subtitle of the book is called, aren't traditional concepts of liberty and freedom. Slaves serving seems to be pretty antithetical to freedom. If this was about liberty wouldn't the slaves be freed? But the phrase is actually from Crowley's received text "The Book of the Law", where Crowley describes what the 'New Aeon Civilization' will look like---consisting of a three caste society of mostly slaves, a few middle people, and even fewer elites, who would run the entire society---and who would naturally be Crowley's followers---who would live in luxury while "The slaves shall serve".

Thank the lord that I said 'fuck it' to Crowley....the people who seem to have followed the occult pathways that I was following appear to have gravitated towards occult based fascism. Instead, I found Chomsky and Marx.

I was going to write something about the other book Wasserman wrote, which looks much better, but quite frankly I don't feel like it. Nizari Ishmaelis, who were the 'Assasins', who were actually a break off from Shi'ia Islam, they recognizing Ten successive Imams or authorized prophets after Muhammad while orthodox Shi'ism recognizes Twelve before the final occultation. They appear to have influenced Templar thinking, maybe in particular with their notion of the Qiyamat or resurrection, which was proclaimed by Hassan-I-Sabbah's son, which said that the resurrection had already occurred, but it occured in a place outside of space and time, and that if one was brought to a certain level and type of gnosis one could participate in this extra-temporal/extra-spacial 'communion of saints', where there are implications that those who get there are united by the same essence, they sort of merge on one level and possess a special trans space/time insight into the nature of the universe.

Mr. Peter Lamborn Wilson writes extensively about this.

****on edit, 2007: even though James Wasserman's book is really outrageous, in a bad way, I don't think it's fair anymore to lump followers of Crowley in with members of the New Right. Crowley had some valuable ideas that don't necessarily lend themselves to any particular political position.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Thank you David Rees

Of "Get your war on" fame. I have a sneaking suspicion that a recent post by a conservative blogger on "Huffington Post" singled me out for a couple of the faux questions from his "How to be a Huff Po' blogger" list, which is essentially an extended bash of liberals and lefties. David Rees came up with an alternative list which attacked conservatives, which Huff' Po published. It sort of gets me that I only published comments to articles and not articles themselves and yet I'm still attacked for them. Isn't there any level of writing which these people don't care about? It only proves the point that these people don't understand and are in fact incensed by dissenting opinions and so want to silence them whereever they find them, whether it be in a comment to an article on Huff Po' or a column. Thanks again for opposing these people, "Get Your War On" guy.

Interesting points of view from the "Clash of Civilizations" guy

In the latest issue of "Southern Partisan", a neo-confederate magazine, Samuel Huntington is quoted as writing the following in his new book "Who are we? The Challenges to America's National Identity":

"[Our] ancestors were not immigrants but settlers...America...was a society...of settlers who came to the New World in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Its origins as an Anglo-Protestant settler society have...profoundly...shaped American culture, institutions, historiccal development and identity. Settlers and immigrants differ fundamentally. Settlers leave an existing society...in order to create a new community... in a new and often distant territory. They are imbued with a collective sense of purpose...Immigrants...do not create a new society. They move from one society to a different society"

Those annoying elipses are in the quotation by Southern Partisan.

The meaning is clear, unless those elipses conceal something which I doubt: Huntington only views people whose families came here in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as being real Americans. The Irish, Jews, Italians, Poles, even blacks, are not real Americans because they came here not as Protestant settlers but as Catholic and Jewish immigrants and as slaves. Moreover, anyone who came here to work in industry, in factories, is not a real American because they were simply "moving from place to place". Hispanics don't qualify as being real Americans; neither do Asians.

In fact, all of the culture that immigrant groups have brought to the United States is contrary to the spirit of America according to Huntington.

Next time you hear something about the "Clash of Civilizations" remember the seedbed from which the idea came from.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The administration doesn't work

A while ago there was a book out called "The future doesn't work", I believe, which was about the ineffieciencies of the Soviet system. The Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc were the glorious future way of organizing society which didn't work. In both of those systems ideology and ideological indoctrination sought to act as replacements for the physical failures of the systems. This meant that phrases about the march towards Communism and the patriotic sacrifices of people in the struggle towards that end were turned into something which covered up the fact that nothing really worked that well. This type of rhetoric is still prevalent in Cuba, where the ideology of the Revolution and even the abortive revolution which Castro lead at the Moncada barracks is endlessly exhorted in order to motivate people to be complacent, to do their jobs and to live without complaining openly about the system or to press for change and reform. The myriad stories of assasination attempts at Fidel, most of which are probably completely false (despite the CIA's many attempts) contribute to this diversionary tactic as well.


I can't help but thinking that the current administration is much like these states: it speaks the language of national values, exhorts people about patriotic themes, scares them with tales of impending danger from terrorist threats, yet when it comes right down to it it doesn't deliver on any of the positive things which are thought to go along with all of that, things like actually making the U.S. safer by having an emergency management system in place which can respond to crises. Instead, the administration has used its words to cover up the truth about what master it really does serve: the wealthy and the corporate capitalist system. It lulls people to sleep with its patriotic rhetoric but it forgets that every once and a while there are actual situations which provide a test to the effectiveness of whatever is promised, make or break moments which reveal either the strength or the weakness of the whole system.

Katrina was one of those, and the administration did not do well.

Democratic theory of the State

Good to have different viewpoints on things.

***

The theory of how the state works in a democratic society, exemplified by parliamentary systems, is that the parliament is authorized by the people, who have chosen representatives, to decide about vital issues important to the community and to act on them. So universal healthcare, if seen as a vital need which society should collectively try to meet, would be introduced into parliament, passed, and funds raised to carry it out, funds meaning taxation, which, because this is the communal decisionmaking body, would be raised from people as their just contribution for financing collective ends.

What makes this sort of system legitimate, in the eyes of its adherents, is that through representation, in particular through having an executive branch chosen from the representatives instead of being separately chosen, the community is thought to be legislating for itself and carrying out its own wishes through the medium of the nation-state.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Thoughts

In an article by Jonathan M. Feldman on Counterpunch he promoted an intervention by European States in the form of think tanks and research grants to promote democracy in America. Why not real tanks? Seriously. I wouldn't feel bad at all if a coalition of European States invaded us, took us over, and refashioned the United States in the image of a social democratic parliamentary nation. I would welcome them with open arms, waving the blue and god flag of the European Union, and I think a lot of my fellow Americans would too.

It's too early to really have a response to Katrina and New Orleans; I've been cut off from news for a while; I spent time there and I haven't really absorbed the shock of the city potentially being destroyed, but I share the sentiment that a lot of people seem to have, which is that this disaster has demonstrated the total bankruptcy of the U.S. system. Totally.

You thought 9/11 demonstrated what a Paper Tiger the U.S. is? Well here's more proof in the form of dead and dying poor citizens of the richest, strongest, country in the world, which *supposedly*, if the hype was all correct, could have done something in terms of Emergency Response which could have mitigated the disaster. Rich, strong, countries do things like that, right? But no.

Updates

Hi.

I'm on the road here and so have sporadic internet access. This will last until saturday. Currently, I'm in the People's Republic of Madison (which was what someone called it after 9/11). I've added three new books to the essential list, "From Affluence to Praxis", which is a humanist Marxist work by the Yugoslav author Mihailo Markovic and which provides one of the best conceptualizations of Marx's theory in relation to the real world that I've seen. It's also theoretical, but that comes with the territory. Markovic had the privilege of writing this with the results of dictatorship of the party, dictatorship of the state, and dictatorship of the bureaucracy all in front of him in the form of most of the Eastern Bloc. His own state, Yugoslavia, had much less of all of this although, as those Slovene radical artists cum musicians Laibach of NSK demonstrated, just because things may be better that doesn't mean that Yugoslavia therefore avoided all of the pitfalls of the eastern bloc and was therefore a paradise.

Then, there's the classic "What is History?" by E.H. Carr, which is just a really good, short, book on the topic which is easy to read and written by someone from a leftist perspective which, at least in this book, isn't dogmatic at all.

After that there's the new and surprising book "Turn off your mind:The Mystic Sixties and the Dark Side of the Age of Aquarius" by Gary Lachman, formerly of "Blondie", which is an amazing history of the counterculture movements of the 1960s (and early seventies), written by someone who's not afraid to look at the dark side of those times without being judgemental. A real page turner, it's extraordinarily lucid and gripping. It's put out by Disinfo Books, which should give you some idea of where this guy is coming from. I actually found it by accident on a recent trip to the book store which Carey Loren of the noise rock band "Destroy All Monsters" runs in Oak Park Michigan. I just know that he runs it, I don't actually know these people (although that would be cool).

The FAQ, something that I've been meaning to put up there for a while is up.

About the section about endorsing Kerry: the "Dimes worth of Difference" comment is directed at Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, which ran a piece called "Part Time Anarchists", which said, among other things that "there's much less than a dime's worth of difference between them". I disagree. Counterpunch came out with a good book called "Dime's worth of difference" and that comment wasn't directed towards them.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Times of Hate and Joy Frequently asked Questions

1. There was a site on this same web address called "The Lost Highway Times", what's the relationship between that site and this?

It's the same site. Lost Highway is a copyrighted song by Hank Williams and the name was changed mainly to avoid possible copyright infringement issues. There were other reasons too but they were really secondary.

1. A. Why Lost Highway? I got the idea from watching Dylan play Hank Williams' song on "Don't Look Back". The lyrics seemed to resonate with the tone that I was trying to get so I changed the title. Originally it was "Thoughts from the Left" (hence lefththought as the web address), which is boring and not poetic at all compared with "Lost Highway Times" and "Times of Hate, Times of Joy". The lyrics for the song are this:

"I'm a rolling stone, all alone and lost, for a life of sin I have paid the cost, when I pass by all the people say there goes another boy, down the lost highway.

Just a deck of cards, and a jug of wine, and a woman's lies, makes a life like mine, for the day we met, I went astray-ay, started rolling down that old lost highway

I was just a lad, merely twenty two, neither good nor bad, just a kid like you, and now I'm lost, no time to pay, lord I took my cost, on the lost highway

Now boys don't start to ramble 'round, on this life of sin, or you're sorrow bound, take my advice or you'll curse the da--ay, you started rolling down that old lost highway"

You have to listen to the actual song by Hank Williams (Whose copyright these lyrics belong to) to fully get the beauty of the song.

2. Who's the author of Lost Highway/Times?

The identity of the author of this site, and it's a singular venture, is private. I live in Washington state, in Western Washington. My identity isn't secret but just obscure. I keep this anonymous so that the focus shifts from being about me to being about what I'm trying to say. People have found out my identity before and I'm sure that they'll do it again. I don't flaunt my authorship of this site.

3.Why Summerisle?

Summerisle comes from the character "Lord Summerisle" in the movie "The Wicker Man". He was the lord of the island which reverted back to pre-Christian paganism in Scotland.

4. So this is a pagan site?

Not really, Summerisle was chosen because the character represented freedom.


5. What are the ideological origins of Lost Highway/ Times?

Glad you asked. The origins are four fold:

a: Marxist Humanism

b: Workers' Autonomy/Autonomist Marxism

c: Anarchism

d: Third World Communist theories from National Liberation struggles.


On top of these four things Lost Highway/Times has profited from engagement with the conservative traditions which are anti-statist, anti-capitalist, decentralist, and anti-Enlightenment. In particular with anti-Enlightenment traditions. Lost Highway/Times feels that the Enlightenment run rampant is a major cause of the pain which the United States has inflicted on the rest of the world.

Lost Highway/Times has profited from engagement with the ideas of the Southern Agrarians and the Guild Socialists in particular, and feels that the ideas of the Southern Agrarians were not intrinsically linked to the oppression of blacks in the South, but instead had the focus of anti-statism and anti-industrialism along with a focus on religion.

The guild socialist movement influenced Lost Highway/Times in a more subtle way. The movement was essentially a conservative socialism which looked back on the middle ages for inspiration. In the 19th century the precursor of the guild socialist movement was the Tory Democrat movement, of which Thomas Carlysle is the most famous exponent. The Catholic Church, which was reconstituted in England in the 19th century, also made contributions to guild socialism throught the writings of Cardinal John Henry Newman.

Engagement with religion has also benefitted Lost Highway/Times. This has included mostly Catholicism, but has also included other strands of Christianity, Orthodox ideas, Judaic, Islamic, and Eastern faiths.

Equally important has been engagement with the ideas of the German romantics and their Slavic counterparts.
The German Romantics were the first movement which sought to go beyond the Enlightenment without sacrificing the spirit of what the enlightenment was about. They criticized it yet fealt that they were completing its work by pointing out and attempting to rectify its weaknesses. The Slavic counterparts to the romantics, the Slavophiles and the strands of thought which the Slavophiles spawned, were the first group to make a systematic critique of Western culture from an eastern point of view and to point out an alternative way to go which rectified the mistakes of that culture.

Libertarian ideas have also greatly influenced Lost Highway/Times

Although all of these non-socialist currents have been influences the determining base of Lost Highway/Times has remained the strands of socialst thought outlined at the beginning.

6. I saw you advocating ideas which looked conservative or praising conservatives for something. What gives? Are you a conservative or what?

See question 5. Conservatives have some things right and this site is not ideologically bound to any tendency. We reject ideological purism and instead promote an attitude which is promiscuous in relation to ideology. If conservatives have something right we say it. If they have something wrong we say that too.

7. How can you say that you've been influenced by anarchism or are a libertarian leftist when you endorsed Kerry in the 2004 elections?

See the above answer. By opposing Bush we located ourselves with the majority of the world, which didn't see a "dimes worth of difference" between the two candidates. If you want to sacrifice lives for the purpose of ideological purity be my guest, but don't implicate me in your theoretical rigidity and doctrinaire tendency. I believe that making real gains is more important than being a purist whose theories are completely and totally in agreement with themselves at all times.