Saturday, December 31, 2005

The most gratifying (yet annoying) book I've read in a while

Is..."Economic justice and Democracy" by Robin Hahnel.

It's great because it gives really good suggestions for how an alternative economy could be organized and how to move closer to that goal....it's (somewhat) annoying because it's so fucking relentless. Which is a good thing. It's relentless in that it starts out on a really high level and never backs down, which is really good because it means it's jam packed with analysis and suggestions, but it also makes your head hurt.

Anyways, it's a damn good book, and Hahnel is a self described libertarian socialist. The system he advocates is participatory economy, but his presentation is very different from that of most ParEcon books, which are coauthored by him with Z-Net's Mike Albert.

Although it's pointless to go into it, I believe that for a number of reasons Albert's contributions aren't that good, which made me somewhat leery about ready something about ParEcon, but Hahnel is the real thing: a serious economist who has given the whole subject of how to organize a non-capitalist economy some real thought.

And the economic model he presents passes the Marxist Economics test, even though he doesn't use Marxian concepts.

The book comes highly recommended, in other words.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Coulter Racism: "Kwanzaa: a holiday from the FBI"

From Coulter: "(Sing to "Jingle Bells")

Kwanzaa bells, dashikis sell

Whitey has to pay;

Burning, shooting, oh what fun

On this made-up holiday!"

Let's see if we can add all this up: Coulter makes up a racist song denigrating Kwanzaa, she states that its founder, Ron Kerenga, was a puppet of the FBI, she says that the principles behind Kwanzaa are the same as those motivating the SLA, and she says, parodoxically, that Kwanzaa really represents a racist form of Marxism.

All this from a white girl from Connecticut.

Personally, if I was Ron Kerenga, I would sue her for libel.

Kerenga was the founder of the cultural nationalist association the "United Slaves of America", which was manipulated into opposition to the Black Panthers. The Panthers were correspondingly manipulated into hating the United Slaves. Neither of those things qualifies the organizations as being puppets of the FBI.

But at least Coulter is being honest now. Maybe her prominence has emboldened her and we'll hear more of what otherwise would have only been said in the safe confines of the Connecticut businesss elite in her columns.

What next, Coulter says that the Klan was right on and protected white woman hood in the South?

Running through my mind when looking at all of this is the commentary by Chip Berlet on Radio4all.net where he talks about Coulter being heckled at the University of Connecticut, and says that there's a reason why people do this--it isn't that liberals or leftists are anti-free speech but rather that Coulter's own opinions are so extreme that they warrant a response like this.

Coulter has portrayed herself as an innocent victim in this incident.

Let "Kwanzaa Bells, Dakinis sell" be remembered as evidence of why exactly people don't like her.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Reload the page

For a new, updated, Times/Lost Highway colour scheme

Free maçonerie

I recommended a book by Paul Naudon a while ago about Freemasonry.... I realize now that this was probably not the best book to recommend on the subject, but one which would probably be appreciated by people with a context to see it in.

So why be interested in Freemasonry?

There are basically two reasons, which are at odds with each other.

The first, which the conspiracy theorists pursue, is that many rulers of the U.S. have been masons. This is actually not that big of a deal because Freemasonry in this country has become pretty completely the creature of the establishment. There's nothing really subversive about it, and it only makes sense that people in the establishment would be Masons. Moreover, in the U.S., the 33rd degree is basically an honorary degree given to prominent people who are also Masons. The 32nd is the real highest one, but even there there've been reports that in certain places a person can become a 32nd degree mason in a weekend, if they're willing to pay the money for the initiations, because the Scotch Rite (high degree) masonry has become so feeble and weak. There's been the idea advanced that Masonry served as a sort of social cement in the vacuum created by the Revolution in America. This may be, but it should be added that things that have served a sociological function have rarely had anything to do with real esotericism. So, sure, but, in a way, that's the problem. It's a social club.

Which brings me to the second reason why Freemasonry, with more emphasis on European masons, is interesting, which is to say that it's been the site of something pretty audacious in the past few hundred years. What is that? Simple.....

In the early years of the 19th century high degree speculative masonry, in France and Germany, coalesced around a singular idea: that the traditions of freemasonry could be used to create a counter-religion or an alternative to Christianity, which could eventually grow to prominence over western society and be a better fit for the West than Christianity was.

This new religion would be esoteric and would also be based around human self realization, as well as things like charity and compassion.

This goal was something which was always implicit in both certain ancestors of freemasonry and in certain esoteric variants of Christianity, but it wasn't until the early 19th century that these potentials were self consciously brought out in the full by people who wanted something completely new to replace Christianity.

The book that best chronicles this, and which is probably the best introduction to esoteric Freemasonry there is is "The Templar Revelation" by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince.

This book tells the story from its origins in early Christian gnosticism, through spiritual dissent in the middle ages, to Renaissance hermeticism, to the high grade masonry of the early 19th century...to today, in a way at least.

This stuff can be seen as an underground current which has existed in western society from the first days of Christianity, which has manifested differently in different times but which has had some constants.

Fans of Dan Brown will like it.

Anyways, this is better than Paul Naudon's book as an intro to these issues.

Green Anarchy

The whole GA thing is about trying to find a home for the stuff on the site that doesn't really fit any place. There's left stuff here, there's observation, then there's a whole shit load of unclassifiable philosophy and attitudes, which are just, if nothing else, strange.

Green Anarchy's position on civilization seems to encompass a lot of that strangeness. At least in attitude.

As one of my friends once said, the Green Anarchy people have put a lot of issues on the table from the sixties (and seventies) that the rest of the left largely ignores, and that's a good thing.

I agree.

It's not a perfect match, but at least it's better than having no way to classify it.

So, generaly philosophical similarities is what I'd put it down to.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Little red book story a hoax

Turns out that the kid who said that Homeland Security visited him over the "little red book" of mao made it up. There was something amiss about the story from the beginning, although I couldn't put my finger on it. I didn't post anything about it; instinct, I guess.

Anyways, the little red book is something that a kid would think that the feds would be concerned about rather than something that they really would be concerned about.

Hell, I requested a copy of a book by Eric Honecker, the longtime dictator of East Germany, (ironically about peace and security), via interlibrary loan and no one came to talk to me about it.

Obligatory na na post

And, I should hasten to say, I first started reading Burroughs 12 years ago. And I got in trouble for it. Anyways, that's the obligatory neener neener addition to the Cities of Red Night/Place of Dead Roads/Western Lands mention, which is to say, in brief, that I didn't just happen upon Burroughs recently. But that's a post for another day.....Ok, incidentally, if you want to know the best Burroughs interview book check out "In the Bunker", which is a record of his conversations in his New York 'Bunker' with famous people who stop in. Good stuff there not found elsewhere. Check out "The Job" too, interviews with David Odier. Actually, check out "The Job" before you check out "In the Bunker" because it'll serve as a good intro to Burroughs' non-fiction world.

Best books of the year

Meaning best fiction books. It seems like something everyone is doing on their sites: best books of the year, best music, best a lot of things, even though the New Year strictly speaking doesn't start for a week.

It's hard for me to reply with a best of, if you mean fiction, because I haven't really read much fiction this year.

Last year would be different; last year I could say, "Best books? Sure. My best books are Cities of the Red Night, Place of Dead Roads, and the Western Lands, all by William S. Burroughs", but now? I don't know.

If you're talking about fun books, i.e. books fiction or not which aren't serious as a deadly weapon, I'd say "Turn off your mind" by Garry Lachtman, about sinister currents in the 1960s and '70s, which turns out to be one of the best general history of the period I've come across, with Lachtman going where no man has gone before in his explorations, and "Sinister Forces: the nine" by Peter Levenda, which is a good sort of parapolitical semi-conspiracy book about American history. I said this was the fun stuff, right? Sinister Forces fits into that category. A good read.

What else? I'm drawing a blank at the moment, sorry to say.

Oh yeah, on the gay subtheme of this blog, "How the Homosexuals Saved Civilization", which is now out in paperback, was a good read.

Good movies might be better. Hmm...Six feet under is good, although that's a series and not a movie. I rented most of the first and second seasons on DVD over the course of last year and absorbed it.

Madame Satã, about a gay transvestite/ hustler performer in '40s Brazil was pretty good.

"Underground" and "Tito and Me", both dealing with Yugoslavia were equally illuminating.

Umm....the four part series of "Master and Margarita" by Bulgakov, as done by Polish TV in the '80s, with English subtitles, was really good.

Salo, by Passolini, was good.

Scorpio Rising, by Kenneth Anger, was good if for no other reason than to see what all the fuss was about.

Oh, Mephisto, starring Karl Maria Brandauer, was good; all about an actor who, Faust like, deals with the devil, in this case the Third Reich, in order to get fame.

I'll have to think of more.

Maybe I was too hard on Derkacz

In the previous post.

But I still don't like Zionism..

I recognize the religious and cultural yearnings of jews for their previous homeland, next year in Jerusalem, but I don't believe that that's a realistic goal in this day and age.

More importantly, and dealing directly with Zionism, I dislike it because it suggests a defeatism which is simply not true. Gentile society is eternally hostile to jews, jews can never feel at home in a country that's not conducted according to jewish law and tradition, anti-semitism will always be there and that's just how things are.

I don't believe any of this, and what's more I think that the success of jews in many parts of the United States is a persuasive counter-argument to the Zionist pessimisms about the status of jews in gentile countries.

That pessimism, I believe, has lead individuals to accept things the way they are instead of struggling to change them and to challenge them directly, and, ultimately, lead to the outrages that I cited in the below article. Basically, right wing Zionists, lead by Jabotinsky, known as Revisionists, agreed with the anti-Semites that jews had no place in Europe and collaborated with them in regards to jewish emigration from their countries. Leni Brenner has documented this ultimate outcome in several books, most notably "Zionism in the age of Dictators".

Anyways, like I was saying, the fact that in many places, like New York and the New York metro area, and Detroit, (two places I have direct knowledge of), being Jewish is like being Irish, i.e. it doesn't matter because it's so normal, and, I'm assuming, this basic situation prevails in many large cities and metropolitan areas, negates the idea that jews can only be successful or be accepted in a Jewish State, i.e. Israel.

Which is not to say that this situation didn't take struggle to accomplish or that there wasn't (and isn't) anti-semitism in the United States, but that with struggle and effort this situation did change, so that although you can surely find anti-semitism in more rural and less populated areas of the United States, real anti-semitism simply doesn't exist in many places.

Tom Daschle: "Power we didn't grant"

This is an interesting article because it says straight out that Bush wanted to create a police state within the United States---and that the U.S. congress refused to let him. The relevant passage is this: "Just before the Senate acted on this compromise resolution, the White House sought one last change. Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words "in the United States and" after "appropriate force" in the agreed-upon text. This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused."

In other words, Bush wanted the power to wage war against people within the United States, which would have made the U.S. into a military dictatorship. Say goodbye to any civil liberties you might have had, no, under Bush's wishes those considerations would have been sacrificed on the alter of national security.

Which shows you by what a slim thread we're at any time separated from that scenario becoming a reality.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Alexander Cockburn is getting a special present this Christmas

Turns out that the PDF I uploaded of the big Lost Highway Times book only worked once at the printer's before it crapped out. I ordered two copies, one for myself (of the new, corrected, version) and one as a promotional copy to be sent to Cockburn. Cockburn's copy was printed and was shipped down to Petrolia in California, mine didn't come through the printers intact.

So now I'm uploading another PDF, this one with a larger font, seeing as the smaller font, which was in line with what mainstream academic texts use, is probably the culprit with the printer problem.

***

About Comments: I save up comments to read all at once and respond to. Considering that this is a holiday weekend it might be some time before I get to reading the comments, which I'm notified about via e-mail, and respond to them. Or it might be soon. Either way, absence of response doesn't mean slighting people over comments; I just haven't gotten to them yet.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I heart Green Anarchy

As I get older I get less tolerant, and I care less about what I come off sounding like.

Well, I've decided to go with a more Green Anarchist oriented web page.

People who're reading this know, for sure, how far this web page deviates from pure anarchy, so I'm not going to pretend like the site is anything besides what it is.

As it is--so be it.

Anyways, looking out there, surveying all the different kinds of tendencies and ideas, I find that the stuff that most jibes with what I believe in is stuff which can broadly be considered Green Anarchist. Large sections of my philosophy, like the objection to fascism and to totalitarianism, come very close to a Green Anarchist type critique. That said I do put more emphasis on the working class than they do; I feel that in whatever type of society evolves out of this one we're going to have to deal with issues about distribution of goods and such, as well as who gets to control and have a say in society--with the majority being on one side and some small minority being on the other.
And I obviously have faith in principles which are 'left', so I don't think that the 'left' has been consigned to the dustbin of history, although I've read and sympathize with the post-left critique.

But life's too short to not come out of the proverbial darkness and identify what's sympathetic to what you believe and support that, no matter what the consequences.

I have no idea what the Green Anarchists themselves would think about me, but I'm not attempting to cash in on their tendency, not trying to portray myself as this pure anarchist when I'm obviously not, etc.. Instead, I'm acknowleging them as having philosophical similarity with me and I'm going to feature thought more along that line on this website from now on, as a sort of big picture construct, with the caveat of both workerist tendency and a willingness to engage the political system as it is right now instead of just withdrawing and dealing purely with other things.

So here are a few links to green anarchist libraries of online articles. I'll be featuring them more prominently on the sidebar.

Green Anarchy library

Insurgent Desire Library

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Poland and gays

From Doug Ireland: "The banning of the Poznan march was testimony to the new, aggressively homophobic climate in Poland since the new national government was elected on October 23. The
new Polish President, Lech Kaczynski (right)-- head of the ultraconservative, pro-Catholic Law and Justice Party -- as Mayor of Warsaw had previously banned the capital’s gay pride marches two years in a row, declaring they’d be “sexually obscene” and that he was opposed to “propagating gay orientation.” Those elections also saw two extreme-right, neo-fascist, ultra-homophobic parties -- the peasant-based Self-Defense party and the League of Polish Families -- together rack up nearly a fifth of the vote. Altogether, right-wing parties got 77% of the vote in those Polish elections."

"In the banned Poznan demonstration, police did not intervene when members of the All
Polish Youth -- the attack-dog militia of the virulently anti-gay, anti-Semitic, extreme-right League of Polish Families party -- threw eggs and projectiles at the gay demonstrators while shouting “Gas the fags!” and “We’ll do to you what Hitler did to the Jews!” Instead the police arrested the gay demonstrators marching despite the ban, who were carrying lighted candles and chanting, “This is a
funeral for democracy.” The secretary-general of the gay group KPH, Tomasz Szypula (right) -- one of the 68 gay demonstrators arrested in Poznan -- said later, “The police treated us like they treat football hooligans.”

See that figure there, 77% of Poles voted for right wing parties? That's where Bush's vaunted support for Iraq is coming from in Poland. That's where the support in the government for the secret CIA prison was coming from. The Poles can't have it both ways, as I said before.
Either conform to the EU standards or don't become part of the EU.

I say this as someone whose family has links to Poland. You always, or I always at least, are hard on those who are closer to you than those who are far away.

I'm sure that the same people who are passing anti-Gay legislation are the same ones who give long speeches about Poland's victimization by Communism.

Yeah, it doesn't work like that, bucko. Communism isn't a blank check for you to do whatever the hell you want, anymore than 9/11 is a blank check for people to do whatever the hell they want to do in the U.S.

Congratulations to Evo Morales

Morales won the Bolilvian Presidential election; he's the first indigenous president of Bolivia as well as being president of the coca farmers' union, which is essentially a union of poor small farmers. According to this Morales is now going to nationalize all oil and gas reserves in Bolivia, which is a great thing, and presumably use the money to fund social programs, which is also great.

Not surprisingly, there're rumors that the U.S. will, clandestinely or not, launch an attack on Bolivia to try to oust Morales. This could either be by proxy, with Bolivian forces doing it, or it could be openly done, with a possible motive being "the drug war".

What people don't realize is that while "coca farmer", to U.S. ears, sounds like "Drug Kingpin", in reality not only has coca been farmed in Bolivia for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, but coca farming is virtually the only way these people have to make ends meet. As Noam Chomsky says, you can't just ask people not to eat because they're not making enough money not farming coca to feed themselves and their families. No, people do what's rational, which in this case is to farm coca.

As many, many, south american officials have stated here and there, maybe it would be better to focus on people in the United States itself that are using the drug, in all of its farms, rather than penalize small farmers who just want to make a little money.

Evan Derkacz: "Zionism critiques and anti-semitism"

Says Derkacz, in reference to a Doug Ireland post about Zionism and Anti-Semitism:"I, for one, would argue against the blunt analogy. It's about as imprecise as saying that Democracy causes Imperialism. Certainly, a dangerous form of nationalism exists in Israel, and certainly Zionism ought to be up for discussion and criticism free of casual and knee-jerk charges of anti-Semitism, but lumping all Zionism into one category and criticizing the founding principles of Israel in such a general way only blunts the very real and very worthy critique Ireland is making. (Direland)"

Unfortunately, Derkacz doesn't actually specify what this non-extremist Zionism is, leaving his audience with, basically, "Trust me", as the crux of his argument.

Since he doesn't trust Doug Ireland yet doesn't give reasons not to trust his analysis, I'm not going to trust Mr. Derkacz either.

Saying that there are many Zionism and that attacking all Zionism is lumping a whole bunch of things together in one basket yet not specifying just what is being left out of the picture is like saying "There were good authoritarian governments in South America in the last half of the twentieth century, they weren't all bad, just trust me".

Yeah, right.

Is the good Zionism the kind that the Hungarian Zionists used when they made a deal with the Nazis to spirit out the intelligentsia from the country, delivering them to Palestine, while the rest of Hungarian Jewry was sent to the camps?

Maybe it was the Zionism which in the early Nazi period, before they became aware of the Nazi desire to enact a "Final Solution", sought to deal with Hitler and even agreed with him that Jews had no place being in Europe.

What's the good Zionism?

Incidentally, Derkacz' discounting of Doug Ireland's examples of Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt as being two anti-Zionist Jews who would be cast as anti-semites today "because a. they're dead and b. these weren't the charges to which they spoke." is invalid because a. he can't read their minds in the afterlife and, b. when has anti-Zionism in any form been disassociated with anti-Semitism?

If Doug Ireland can't use Arendt and Einstein neither can Derkacz, unless he's heard from them lately.

Actually, Derkacz' b. objection, that they weren't adressing this issue is, a. false, and b. misleading. Here's the quote from Doug Ireland's article about Hanah Arendt:

""Whenever Arendt wrote about Palestine, she repeated her prophecy that political organization in the postwar world might take one of two forms, empires or federations, and that the Jewish people would only have a chance for survival if federations were formed. She had desperately urged her people to avoid establishing a Jewish state which would only be a 'sphere of interest' in foreign powers' empires..."

Here's the link to Doug Ireland's article http://direland.typepad.com/direland/2005/12/is_antizionism_.html

Make your own mind up.

Deanna Zandt: "Airbrushing the truth about women and girls"

Which is a really interesting campaign that the government of Sweden is engaging in. The post has a link to an interactive site set up by the Swedish government that demonstrates how women's magazines alter the appearances of their models. The point is to make women, particularly younger women, feel better about themselves and their image by suggesting that what appears in magazines is artificial to the point of not being able to be fulfilled by real people at all. Which is a good sentiment.

Interestingly, there're a lot of misconceptions about Sweden, and about Scandinavia in general. The biggest one, which is factually false, is that the Scandinavian countries are ethnically homogenous and, beyond that, that they represent some sort of pure Germanic race, etc... etc... blah blah blah. Well, noting first off that race itself is a social construction and that anyways there're unlikely to be any groups in Europe or elsewhere that are truly ethnically homogenous, this is just plain wrong when it comes to Scandinavia.

The reason has to do with the Vikings and with the engagement of Scandinavians, particularly the Swedes, with the slavery of Europeans during the Viking era.

The Vikings captured many people from all over and brought them back to their country to work as slaves, the Swedes were engaged in capturing people of Slavic descent and selling them to various people all across Europe to be used as slaves. Outright slavery existed in Europe among European people before it was supplanted by feudalism, but for a time feudalism coexisted with outright slavery, inherited from the Romans as an institution.

What this means for the Scandinavians is that, because for a time Sweden and company were essentially slave societies, all of the people from both Western Europe captured during Viking raids and all the people from Eastern Europe, Slavs, captured and imported to Sweden and elsewhere to work as slave laborers, that all these people were simply absorbed into Swedish and Scandinavian society, making it very likely that many, many, Scandinavians, particularly Swedes, have Slavic ancestors and possibly Celtic ancestors of some type or another.

Which means, ergo, that the whole notion of Scandinavians being these racially pure Germanic peoples isn't the case. It just isn't. Sure everyone speaks the same language but that doesn't mean much.


****

Interestingly enough, the sword of pointing out imperfections in people's heritage swings both ways. People who have this notion of the Irish as being people isolated for long periods of time with a purely unique culture are also wrong. Besides the black Irish in the South, who are probably descended from groups originating in Spain of Mediterranian descent, i.e. related to Italic and Greek peoples, there's also the issue of Viking invaders in the north, who established something which people misleadingly think of as 'Celtic' or as being the most 'Celtic' thing of them all.

I'm referring, to the 'Celtic knotwork', embodied in things like the Book of Kells and in Celtic cross tombstones etc...

This art form arose by the artistic copying of metal work which was made up of knots and such, metal work which the Vikings brought to Ireland when they invaded.

So this most 'Celtic' of things was actually imported from outside Ireland.

There are examples galore demonstrating the very very transitive and illusory notion of ethnos and ethnicity, especially against people who have a unhealthy attachment to some sort of 'Germanism'.

That might be the most illusory of them all, because according to the archeological record, in terms of culture the Germanic people's developed out of the Celtic culture which ruled most of Western Europe for a time. Sort of hived off. The art of the ancient Germans is derivative from that of the Celts. It didn't develop independently at all.

But there are even more striking things about, including things which challenge one's notion of race, too.

The biggest cat in this bag is the fact that there were Sicillian rulers of Egypt.

This came to be because, for a time, Sicily, like Portugal and Spain, was incorporated into the Muslim world. The Sicillians themselves were, like people in the Balkans after them, recruited into the military of their Muslim rulers, for life. Sicily was under the control of a branch of Shi'ism for a while which eventually took over Egypt, resulting in the Fatimid dynasty. During this time period some of the Sicillians recruited into the military rose to the top of the hierarchy and became rulers over Egypt.

So that's how there came to be Sicillian rulers of Egypt. Moreso, that's how there came to be Muslim Sicillian rulers of Egypt.

New York Times reports NSA intercepted purely domestic communications

But according to them it had to do with glitches in the system where the NSA thought that the communication was international when it really was domestic.

I have a suggestion for people who want to find out about domestic surveillance on Americans.

Remember the Boondocks cartoon where Huey calls up the terrorist reporting hotline and says he's got a lead, and he spells it out "R-E-A-G-A-N"? Well, I've got an easier name for you.

F-B-I

yep, you don't have to go to the NSA to find unnecessary domestic surveillance; just look at what the FBI has been doing over the past couple of years and I'm sure you'll find more than enough to cook Bush.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Oh

Just wanted to point out that the whole Stasi subject was brought up by an article on Alternet that I linked to with the title of the first article which dealt with Bush's domestic spying and which used the Stasi as an example of the possible dangers that this could lead to.

Even more so

According to James Koehler, author of "Stasi", Moscow, meaning Stalin, didn't trust German leftists who hadn't gone abroad and landed in Moscow. Not going to Moscow was construed as not being sufficiently committed, and with being possibly an informer. Of course while in Moscow Stalin ordered the German Communists who would be considered the "intelligentsia" of the movement to be arrested and executed. So even making your way to Moscow wasn't enough, not for Stalin.

Incidentally, the one prominent figure in East German politics whose family was of the intelligentsia, and who survived, was Markus Wolf, head of the East German equivalent of the CIA, i.e. foreign espionage. Koehler, whose book, although interesting, suffers from a right-wing slant, indicates that there's evidence that the young Wolf helped his family to survive by informing on some of his grade school teachers. They were then thrown in the gulag.

Stasi ironies

If there can be such a thing. My understanding is that the people of East Germany understood that they were being spied on, but they didn't know to what extent it was being done. This feeds into the irony, which I'll get to. According to what I know, the East German state wasn't shy about telling people where its expectations were; from a very young age people were educated to identify with the DDR as being the savior from Fascism, as being based on heroic anti-Nazi work done by the clandestine German Communist Party during the regime......and to feel that capitalist sponsored fascism was literally everywhere, trying to infiltrate the DDR, overthrow it, to encourage the people to rise up against the regime, and that therefore strict security measures had to be in place in order to stop the counter-revolution from happening. The Berlin wall, which actually surrounded all of West Berlin (which was an island of western control within East Germany), was referred to as something like the anti-imperialist or anti-fascist self defense wall, on the theory that West Berlin would be a place where the capitalist powers would start the invasion of the DDR.

So the surveillance being done was justified by by appeals to actually good traditions, but traditions which the Communists made cynical use of, i.e. the anti-fascist activities of individuals in relationship to the Third Reich. Most of the leaders of the DDR had been cooling their heels in Moscow for the duration of the Third Reich and hadn't actually participated in anti-Fascist resistence of any sort. Any ways, all this was made use of to manufacture a kind of patriotism which in reality justified rule by the Communist Party (actually the Socialist Unity Party---the product of a forced merger between the Social Democrats and the Communists) over society.

What I think the irony is is that, although the people in Germany in '89 no doubt wanted the Stasi gone, they probably believed to one extent or another that the organization was in some sense doing what it said it was---protecting the society from threats issueing from the capitalist world---and so to find out that, no, the Stasi was conducting massive surveillance on everyone in the society, without any sort of discrimination at all, massively surveilling ordinary people with no chance of connections to anything which they said they were opposing, was no doubt a shock, to one degree or another, which probably eliminated what little respect for the East German state still existed within the populace.

Of course there are other issues regarding German unification, like the idea that it really progressed too fast and that there should have been some sort of transition period, where East Germany would have free elections and would have some sort of loose alliance with the West before deciding on how to unify, but that's a subject for a different day.

Taps:

I agree, where is the outrage? This has been a constant with people's response to the Bush administration. The FISA court alone should have been enough to get people upset, and it was reported way back in '98 or '97 at the least (I remember because an alternative paper where I used to live ran a story on it then).

It's a dilemma. People are in fact up in arms about things which don't really matter, like being against gay rights, against separation of church and state, against this "war on Christmas", against a whole bunch of things which don't add up to any sort of threat to the U.S., but when it comes to being upset about real threats they're MIA.

There's enough real threatening activity by the government to go around yet in spite of this it seems like a whole bunch of people are more willing to indulge in fantastic conspiracy theories (as opposed to realistic conspiracy theories) about things which have no reality whatsoever (i.e. the Gay Agenda), than they are to look at things which are very real and very easy to find out about.

I don't know what to say.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

One thing I do have to say

is that when it comes to "international links" used as excuses for initiating wiretaps or national security letters, that e-mail is a cynch to fabricate. Fabricate a return address for the person in question, send something out, voila, when the adressee answers it you have a bonafide international link with which to initiate more surveillance.

Which is another way of saying that, since political police, i.e. FBI and other agencies, have in the past concocted evidence, that with nothing, not even rubber stamp FISA courts to restrain them, it's god damned easy for these agencies to manufacture evidence in order to initiate politically motivated surveillance on innocent civilians.

Good comments on smoking

Yes, it would be ironic that smokers would be the ones to benefit from a Universal Health Care system. The Canadian tax system is intrigueing.

And one could in fact avoid places where cigarettes are commonly smoked instead of banning it altogether.

Thinking that there are bigger priorities doesn't mean that every one has to accept smoking everywhere. I don't see the point of banning smoking in bars, though, which is where most of the smoking areas left in Washington are. Smoking and Drinking are like two twin brothers separated at birth, they go together well.

***

As said before, it's hard for me to gauge where people's comments are coming from if they aren't responding to something fairly recent.

So, in responding to Marc Sommes, I think that there's a difference between experiencing racism and exploitation and having a real understanding of what exactly are the bases of that. Therefore, people's reactions to racism and poverty are varied, all over the place, going from being extremely bitter and striking out at the perceived enemy to seeking refuge in religion, either, say, the Nation of Islam or in conventional Christianity, or in getting a radical perspective, with the last probably being the least numerically.

As an aside, one of the figments of people's imagination is that people who experience racism and oppression are therefore automatically experts in knowing the basis of it and how it functions. Which is why there have been so many stories, of people like Malcolm X, Huey Newton, and others, about people finding an analysis and waking up to who exactly benefits from their oppression, how this oppression works, etc... which is not to say diluting ones' experience with oppression or excusing people.

Marc brought up the disparity between reporting about black on white crime and white on black crime. I agree that there's an element of political correctness to it, but I don't believe, for the reasons mentioned above, that black on white crime therefore invalidates the notion that these people have been victimized.

I believe that people need to pay the price for whatever crime they commit, and that simply being of a particular group isn't enough to get someone off, or even being political.

I think that people are victimized but that they choose better and worse ways to deal with their victimization.

Funny about the NSA revelations

I'll get to comments sometime later, but right now the issue if the NSA stuff. As I understand it the big thing which is causing a ruckus is the absence of warrants for the NSA tapping. This is somewhat funny because the court which approves the NSA taps, the FISA court, standing for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, is basically a rubber stamp for the executive branch. My understanding, and you can easily find documentation about this online, is that in its decades of existence the FISA court, which is composed of one judge, has never, ever, rejected a request for wiretapping. So the Bush administration actually felt that even the rubber stamp of the FISA court was too much to appeal to.

Point is, even if the taps were approved through the FISA court, the process would be corrupt anyways. I'm glad that Bush is feeling the heat for this but there's a definite element of irony involved in the way he got the heat turned up.

But isn't that the case with any scandal? Often it's not the most substantial things which cause the scandal, or which the person is convicted of, but lesser charges and lesser issues. Witness Iran-Contra, for example, where there's reams of evidence that Oliver North and company were doing all sorts of nefarious things, some involving drug trafficking, which the official court chose not to examine, consciously chose not to examine.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A word of advice

To those who have political websites which are controversial.

If you receive e-mail which urges you to reply to a foreign e-mail address don't do it.

The reason, as the NSA wiretapping demonstrates, is that with a flimsy pretext of "international" activity it's much much easier for the FBI and related agencies to instigate tapping/investigation of legitimate dissent.

So, any contact with foreign person's that aren't necessary should be discouraged if you're concerned that the government might be monitoring your website.

It's unclear how extensive international contacts have to be before the NSA and company are allowed to wire tap someone; I think it's possible that even a one time response to some foreign website or entity via e-mail is enough to potentially brand someone a potential terror threat and therefore to be grounds with which to initiate surveillance with.

As the recent revelations have demonstrated, this isn't tinfoil hat territory anymore, folks.

Cigarettes

I'm a smoker and a proud smoker at that. Recently in Washington State the voters passed an initiative which bans smoking in all restaurants and bars and forbids smoking within 25 feet of businesses and government offices.

Not to get pissy about it, but I'll start caring about the smoking ban when the voters start caring about universal healthcare instead of legislating "protection" for people's health via banning bar smoking.

Really.

I'm not the first person to hit on the discrepancy between a country where smoking is considered a number one issue yet people die every day from having inadequate health care, where people go hungry because of absurdly tiny minimum wage ordinances, and people have to work while they're going to college to be able to afford college.

It seems that there are bigger problems in this country than second hand smoke.

Once people start to address those issues I'll be a little bit more sympathetic to the anti-smoking lobby.

Seven point man

It's difficult to sometimes connect the dots between a particular post and a particular comment, especially if the post is one of the older ones, but I'm confident that a post by seventpointman detailing his plan for withdrawl from Iraq is on the "Goals" post.

Although I might have differences with the seven point plan the effort is greatly appreciated and I'm glad that the poster posted it.

Friday, December 16, 2005

addendum

Ok, so official Russian Federation Eurasianism strictly only applies to the policy of Moscow to the rest of the Russian Federation, but the Asia policy that Russia has been following is a logical extension of it to the international stage.

About Iran

The President of Iran's recent comments that the Holocaust didn't happen are about the stupidest thing that he could do. It's an action that gives endless ammunition to Iran's opponents while giving them nothing in return. And, it will probably be used as a justification for Israel to attack it, as Chris Floyd outlines in the article linked to the title of this post. Sound amazing? It shouldn't. Here's a sample:

"The Rubicon of the new war was crossed on Oct. 27. Oddly enough for this renewal of the ancient enmity between the heirs of Athens and Persia, the decisive event occurred on the edge of the Arctic Circle, at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, where a Russian rocket lifted an Iranian spy satellite, the Sinah-1, into orbit. This launch, scarcely noticed at the time, has accelerated the inevitable strike on Iran's nuclear facilities: Israel is now readying an attack for no later than the end of March, The Sunday Times reports.

The order, from embattled Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, puts Israel's special forces at the "highest stage of readiness" for the strike. While Iran's plan to begin enriching uranium -- which will give it the capability of building a nuclear bomb -- is the precipitating factor, the budding Iranian space program is a "point of no return" for Sharon, and that is what is driving the actual timing of the strike. The Sinah-1 is just the first of several Iranian satellites set for Russian launches in the coming months."


More troubling than anything is that this action by Iran's president is likely to discredit Russia's eastern policy, that is to say it's throwing its weight behind a policy of rapproachment with the East, as in China, Central Asia, and the Middle East, instead of Europe. This has always been an option for Russia, which has seen itself as the border of the East and the West, but now under Putin the policy, known in academic circles as Russian Federation Eurasianism, is supported by the State itself.

This policy, which I like an awful lot, is aimed at creating a coalition of forces between the regions outlined above which can serve as a counterweight to Europe and to the United States. If you look at the area which is covered by all of these regions, you'll see that it's an area which is extremely formidable.

However, Russia's eastern policy is unnecessarily jeopradized by what the Iranian president has been saying.

Israel has done enough bad stuff that you don't need to go into racist delusions like holocaust denial to make a case against them. The Iranian government should know this.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Comment on freedom and the hatred therein..

"They hate us for our freedom"---because fundamentalist Christians are that big lovers of freedom.

Yeah right. The people who love freedom aren't Bush's supporters, who have constantly campaigned for restrictions on Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Assembly, the imposition of Religion by the government, denial of a woman's right to choose, roll back of any progressive teachings in school, etc..

The people who support freedom are the people that oppose the Bush administration.

I challenge anyone to explain to me how fervently hating freedom in the United States, including not giving a damn for democracy, translates into, translates into loving freedom and being the people who are supposedly upholding freedom.

Yes, the Bush supporters love freedom so much that they support domestic spying on anti-war opponents and the right of the government to seize financial and library records without a belief that there's an actual crime being committed, because of course, they love freedom so much that they can't take any chances that citizens exercizing their....freedom...will get interested in the 'wrong' subjects.

Yes, they believe that there are 'wrong' subjects, which should make people automatically suspicious of you, because they believe so much in personal freedom. You get the picture.

So the question is...why do Bush supporters hate freedom so much?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Apropos article from Smirking Chimp

This article, about the mentally ill man who was shot by airmarshalls, who came up with the story of him shouting about having a bomb, which was later proved to be false (he didn't say it), is oddly applicable to what I've been saying below. The last paragraphs are the best, and I'll reproduce them below. Get used to this stuff, the prognosis is that lethal actions, spying, and harassment will only increase in the near future.


Paul Campos: 'When terrorism paranoia goes too far'

"A comment posted on the Orlando Sentinel's Web site reflects a similar sentiment: "The lesson here for all of us is this: we have to take responsibility for our family members and ourselves. If you act in an unsafe manner, you may very well be shot. I am OK with the terrorists understanding this lesson."

The attitude reflected in this comment illustrates what most if not all of the elaborate security rituals that have been enacted since 9/11 are really about. These rituals don't actually make Americans appreciably safer (who believes that a real terrorist would behave in the manner Alpizar did?), but they make many of us feel safer.

What all the security protocols, and color-coded threat levels, and air marshals who are prepared to shoot people who act strangely are designed to achieve is to create the illusion of competence and control. The authorities know what they're doing _ this is the essential message. And if innocent people end up getting spied on or imprisoned or tortured or shot, well that's just a cost of what our government likes to call freedom."

Hohenzollerns

In a way the example of the Hohenzollern dynasty and the experience of World War I provides a good parallel background for what might be happening now. The ruling dynasty of the German empire, or Prussia, as it's more commonly known, promoted a creed of militaristic nationalism and contempt for democracy. They also promoted rule by aristocracy and the negation of civil liberties which could threaten the aristocracy's power. In fact, the nationalism and militarism were actually sub themes, not the major themes, in what was promoted, because the goal of Prussia (the ruling house) was to create a modern nation that was industrially developed yet didn't have democracy, civil liberties, or the recognition of the equality of man. Militarism was secondary. But in the wake of World War I it was the militarism and nationalism, and the belief in German superiority, combined with a generalized belief in elitism and in the contempt for democracy and civil liberties, that groups which were later to become fascist and Nazi absorbed. The first generation of radical conservatives after the war were simply partisans of the old order who had been radicalized by the experience of warfare to believe that conservative values had to installed in the new state by force; hence, they were called the Conservative Revolutionaries. They looked down on people who believed in the sort of things the Nazis did as being not sufficiently aristocratic. Nevertheless, in the fourteen years between the end of World War I and the assumption of power by the Nazis, the chain of causation would run from the Conservative Revolutionaries to people who were less partisans of the old order and more partisans of a combination of revolution and extreme nationalism, to people who believed in a combination of what was called Volkisch beliefs, and the idea of revolution, to people who started to combine notions of biological racism with the idea of revolution. They may have disowned their heirs, but the Nazis were surely the eventual result of the Conservative Revolutionary's actions.

Something that I've maintained

Is that the post-Bush world is likelier to be seriously dangerous to people and to civil liberties than the Bush admin itself. In Germany, the wake of World War I, which similarly kindled pro-military and pro-violence sentiment, was to lead to fascism, as the forces unleashed by the First World War congealed and made their own way, eventually crystalizing in a virulent German fascism long after the militaristic forces of the Hohenzollerns, the royal family of Germany, were gone. The more proto-fascist the Bush regime becomes the more easily it will be for supporters of the Bush regime's style and ideas to translate that into real fascism after Bush has departed the scene. This is no laughing matter, it's deadly serious. The forces that America and the Progressives will be fighting will be the blowback from up to seven years of post-9/11 security hysteria as regular Americans decide that they can retain their love of authority independently of Bush himself.

So, in a phrase, one phase ends, another one begins, with Bush's fall from grace.

Frances Moore Lappe: "Bush Isn’t the Problem: The Weakness of our Thin Democracy

"I call the simple democracy-equals-elections-plus-a-market notion thin democracy. It’s thin, frail and failing because it is always vulnerable to takeover by a narrow, self-interested group.

Thin democracy has always been inadequate to serve our interests. But today it is deadly:

Thin democracy can’t solve today’s problems from global warming to global hunger. They are too complex, pervasive, and interconnected to be addressed from the top down. Solutions depend on the insights, experience, and buy-in of people most affected—all thwarted when citizens are cut out and manipulated as decisions get made secretly by the few.

Thin democracy is deadly because it assumes the worse -– that we’re nothing more than selfish little competitors out to get our stuff. This shabby caricature of humans fails to tap our deep positive needs to connect in strong, fair communities and to be problem solvers ourselves.

Thin democracy, ironically, fails to register our destructive capacities, too. From Nazism to Abu Ghraib to notorious lab psych experiments in which normal people set in oppressor roles become brutes, the proof is in: “Nice people” do evil things when conditions encourage it, and thin democracy’s extreme power imbalance is one proven condition."

Good, yes, indeed the situation that the Bush administration is involved with could not have happened had their not been a serious breakdown in the democratic fabric of our country previous to the 2000 election. In fact, prior to 9/11, this was exactly what people were saying: that the 2000 election debacle was due to the sorry state of our democracy in the first place, not due to Nader or the Green Party--at least people who were honest with themselves. Without a fallen democracy the 2000 election couldn't have been stolen.

Bush was allowed to happen because of the rot which exists in Washington. That rot, pending no serious overhauls, which may happen thanks to Abramoff, is likely to stay there even if Bush is removed.

Winning the battle, losing the war

I think that the corolary to the below post is that even if Bush himself and the people of his administration are defeated, Bush, in the actions he's taken, has unleashed forces which may still be with us no matter what happens to him. There's a recent story which talks about how the militarization of the country is now extending to trains and other public transit, with the equivalent of Air Marshals now going to ride these things. That's an example of militarism extending itself independently of what troubles Bush himself and the administration may be facing. The example of the woman arrested in Denver for refusing to give her ID to the cops on a bus and Miami's policy of enacting fake seiges in order to keep people on their toes are other examples of the same thing, as is the newly invigorated Department of Defense intelligence service, which is directed against civilians in this country.

Will the removal of Bush really change all this or not? I can easily see the administration falling while these forces remain to build and build. This type of authoritarianism is like a drug: once you've developed a taste for it you want more, and once that door has been opened it's hard to shut it again. The door of restricting civil liberties, enacting domestic surveillance, and criminalizing dissent has been opened, and shutting it will be very hard, so hard that all of this might have it's own independent trajectory leading to who knows where.

What to do now?

These seem to be the salad days for those who are opposing the Bush administration. The populace is with us, Bush has decided to cave in to pressure and acknowledge mistakes (as opposed to tightening his hold on things up through fear and manipulation) and growing scandals are making it so that the Republican Party itself is on the verge of losing legitimicy. So what to do now?

Hunter S. Thompson had a great idea about what to do when the going gets tough: "When the going get tough the weird go pro", meaning that they stick to their guns and, if anything, get more entrenched in whatever weirdness they're involved in as opposed to giving in.

But what to do when things are going well?

Maybe dip into the old theory bag and pull out some interesting figures from the past who may have something interesting to say?

I like Alexander Bogdanov personally. A mentor to Nikolai Bukharin, Bogdanov was the leader of a group at the extreme left of the Bolshevik party which was, in turn, pretty unorthodox from a Marxist standpoint, at least the sort of 'orthodox' standpoint advocated by Plekhanov and others. Paradigm Lost, blah

I can't write this right now, I don't have enough energy. Hopefully the bastards will be impeached or resign and we can get on with doing the things that we were doing before 9/11 hit.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

'Tis the season for car trips

I'm getting that hankering for the road once more, especially since now I have some time to go on the road. I miss Austin. I have to say that. The thing that sucks about being out here is that Austin is no longer two days away but nearly a week away by car. But, then again, San Francisco is about two days away, actually a lot less than two days away but still more than one day in the car away. Maybe I'll go to San Francisco for a few days, pending openings at the hostels there. At least at the hostels besides the one in the Tenderloin district, where I ended up staying last time I was there. Not a good scene.

The Big Book is out

Available through the link above or, in about two weeks, available through either Amazon or through special ordering through your bookstore. I'm assuming that Powells will have it as well, as a special order. It's not 740 pages but 590. The price is something that I'm less than satisfied about. The way this thing works they have a minimum mark up that they require you to add, which means that this is more expensive than I was planning. The book is $24 plus shipping and handling.

But it's out. The ISBN will be 1-4116-6506-6 but that won't be registered until two weeks from today. Plus, as they say, it might be a month before independent book stores will be able to order it since the directory that they use is only updated every month and this book will be listed in the next update.

However, you can order the thing now directly from the publisher by following either the title link.

I should add, too, that that's 590 oversize pages. The book is 8.5 x 11. If it was a normal sized book the number of pages would be much, much greater.


Never fear, it will definitely be available through bookstores.



Also, check out some of the other stuff on the bookstore front page. I've made available (with no royalties taken for myself whatsoever) three out of print texts that are in the public domain: The Kasidah, by Richard Francis Burton, which is his mystical poem about existence; The Philosophy of Misery by Pierre Proudhon, which is the text that Marx (unfairly) attacks in his book "The Poverty of Philosophy"; and "The Bluebird", a play by Maurice Materlinck, which is a sort of extreme symbolist allegory, replete with many fantastic things.

Check it all out.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Update on the big book

I have three hundred more pages left to spell check, plus then about ten copywritten sections to cut out, and after that the big 740 page book will be ready to go. Promotional copies will be available, please write "Times of Hate, Times of Joy" at timesofhateandjoy@lycos.com including your publication's name, your name, and address, and we'll see what we can do. Promotional copies will unfortunately be limited by cost, so endless free copies will not be available, but a number will be.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Yes, I am a nerd

I've recently come into a little bit of money; nothing extreme but enough to buy some books that I'd normally not be able to afford. One of them, which has been giving me the pleasure that I remember it giving before, is "Main Currents of Marxism" by Leszek Kolakowski. "Main Currents" is normally three volumes, but Norton has combined them into one 1500 page hard bound copy, and it's a pleasure to read. It makes Marxism interesting and fun, and more generally it provides reference material on Marxist philosophers and in people involved in various Marxist movements in Europe that are otherwise pretty inaccessable, unless you have accesss to a really, really, good academic library.

I first read Main Currents, mostly the second volume but also the third, while sitting in a community college library, and it left an impression that's never left me.

I don't list things which are really expensive on the books list, so I won't do this book, but if you can afford it, it's $50, it would no doubt offer hours of informative and engaging reading.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Poland getting what's coming to it

The link above leads to an article which states that Poland was the main European country to host CIA prisons. The EU has already threatened sanctions against member states who hosted CIA detention facillities, and Poland will probably get the sanctions thrown against it.

This is very, very, good. Poland has been impudent in its obnoxious pro-U.S., pro-free market, traditionalist conservative, stances, all the while while still not coming to terms with anti-Semitism and intolerance in its society.

Poland has probably been the most annoying of the post-Communist states as they tend to be so far right that they're clearly outside of the European norm, yet they want to have all the benefits of EU membership.

You can't have it both ways, and Poland's sanctioning by the EU would be a good way to tell it that if it wants to be part of Europe it better cohere to European norms of legality and justice and not do whatever the fuck it wants, while complaining about the oppression suffered under Communism.

The swifter that Poland experiences real sacrifice due to sanctions from the EU the better.

"Iran's Leader Voices Doubt On Holocaust"

Which is an interesting story because we're largely to blame for this.

How is that, you may ask? Simple. Holocaust denial and the general regarding of Jews as being inferior in a biological sense is a very Western phenomenon; it's not a Middle Eastern phenomenon. People in the Middle East may have been against Jews for religious reasons, but they did not believe in any sort of biological racism or in any of the phenomenon related to these conceptions which come out of the West until a very significant event happened.

Actually, two events. The first one was the feelers that Nazi Germany sent out to the Middle East in order to gain support from them in advance of a planned takeover. The second is possibly more significant. As Martin Lee documents in his book "The Beast Reawakens", one of the places that escaped Nazis went was, in fact, the Middle East, where they served as military advisors for various figures, particularly Nasser in Egypt. Along with the military training they also injected their conception of biological racism into the mix. For the first time, people in the Middle East started to buy into Western style racism and to view jews through that lens. Fast forward some decades and you see what is happening now---Middle Eastern leaders not only buying into Western style racism but also believing Western style apologias for the Nazi regime, i.e. Holocaust denial.

I don't think that such a thing would have manifested itself if the U.S. had not been lax on Denazification and the Catholic Church hadn't been willing to aid the escapes of Nazis. So in a sense we're partially responsable for the fact that Iran's new leader is a Holocaust denier.

If we'd have cared more about capturing and prosecuting these people and less about recruiting them into various programs within the United States this would not have occurred.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dark Ages

Jen Sorensen recently penned a cartoon entitled "A marketing plan for the Enlightenment", suggesting that we're on the verge of slipping into a new Dark Ages because of the Religious Right. Actually, it's worse than that.

At least with the Dark Ages you could argue that they weren't caused by people consciously wanting to turn back the clock, like in the present case. The people today want to return to a past which never existed, where everyone believed in a particular type of biblical Christianity which is itself a somewhat modern invention.

The Dark Ages were caused by the fact that tribes people who had been at the periphery of the Roman Empire and had supplied its army's troops decided to raid Rome, take it over, and crown themselves Roman Emporers. They were also much less learned than the Romans were, had much less of a grasp of either Christianity or Law than the Romans did, a lower level of culture, etc...all of which transferred themselves to the new order. But it wasn't exactly their fault that they weren't these things compared with Rome--they just were. I'm sure that they didn't see what they were doing as actually trying to destroy the civilization that Rome had created.

On the other hand, the people who are agitating for our new Dark Ages actually very consciously do want to destroy much of the culture and science which we've created within the last three hundred years--the general reckoning of time since the beginning of the Enlightenment. Even longer if you count the Renaissance as the start of it.

I personally like the Renaissance more, but, then again, I like rational thought as well so the distinction is really academic in this case.

The nice consequences of loss

in this war, are that this war distorts our priorities so much that as long as it's going on there'll be very little chance that actual societal problems will in any way shape or form be addressed. Take away the war, or (and) most importantly take away both the war and our imperial ambitions and ambitions to be world leader and you'll suddenly find many uses the energy which is going into empire can better be put to use for. If everything is going into Iraq and Afghanistan it's hard to refocuss priorities here. The other side to the coin of loss in Iraq and Afghanistan and the consequent declaring that the "War on Terror" is bullshit is that we'd have to recognize other power, like Europe and the UN, as having standing over us, which would also be good for us. Loss in Iraq and Afghanistan doesn't mean the killing of more soldiers. All that we'd have to do to lose and to reap the benefits would be to get ourselves out of there. But as long as we have an administration which believes in acting unilaterally, and which still has some shred of credibility in the polls, this won't happen, because to sacrifice the "War on Terror" would necessarily to recognize multilateral diplomacy. Which means that the solution to War in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the "War on Terror" is for the opinion polls to get so low, and the scandals get so high, that the Presidency is effectively immobilized, unable to do what it wants, and instead forced to accept the leadership of Congress on more issues, which would also be good despite the fact that Congress is controlled by Republicans because in that scenario you have several hundred people, who are immediately responsable to their constituents, influencing policy instead of one person, and that person's entourage, who is about as distant and unmoveable as can be.

Those Madeleines, via This Modern World

Tom Tomorrow has a good post up documenting the very much overused cultural reference of Marcel Proust's madeleiness by the New York Times. The cookie supposedly triggered a long, long series of childhood memories which lead Proust to organize and write his mammoth "In Search of Lost Time" (Which is the more accurate title translation of what was called "Remembrence of Things Past"). Tom Tomorrow lists example after example after example of the Times making reference to Proust and his madeleines. What this shows is the fact that the New York Times' supposed patricianess and sophistication is largely a rehashing of trendy, sophisticated, sounding stock memes and not the product of actual sophistication. The publication for the wannabe sophisticate.

David Corn: "That end of empire feeling"

"Is the United States in the last throes of empire?

That sounds like an ideologically loaded, fatalistic and defeatist question. But it's what I've been wondering about at the start of this holiday season.

Might future historians look back at the Bush II days and ask if this was the point when the country started slipping? Might the war in Iraq be regarded as a desperate act of a superpower that had already peaked? Will economists of the latter 21st century examine our economic decisions and say, "What were they thinking?" Or has the Grinch gotten to me?"

Article is decent.

It points out something, or at least lays the groundwork for something, which was implied in the article below, which is that many of the countries that, post World War II, saw government sponsored efforts for equality and economic development, in Western Europe, were countries who knew that any sort of global leadership or global influence was, at the least, impossible in the forseeable future and, at the most, pretty much impossible under any circumstances. Therefore they needed some other mechanism to allow for their countries to experience decent rates of growth and decent raises in the standard of living.

I think that the U.S. is going down that road right now. We will not be able to ensure global dominance much longer and, with that barred, will have to start thinking of new ways to both stimulate the economy and ensure raises in our standard of living. Doing some of the things outlined below would contribute to it.

Sometimes it's not what people want so much as what they're forced to do and I think that we'll see ourselves forced to take pro-active, anti-free market stands in order for us to get to where we want to go. With empire out there'll be no other way to ensure these things.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Goals

It seems to me that one of the things that the United States is severely lacking is a kind of vision for our nation's future. True, Bush has his ideas about what exactly that vision should be, but that's insane and will probably lead to a new world war, eventually, so that gets dismissed out of hand. What I should say is that, beyond the insanity of Bush's vision, there are precious few alternate visions for what the United States should do and where it should go.

Let me interject a few of my own.

First, I think that its essential that the United States step down from its role as being world leader and global policeman. It's disrupting the world and bankrupting the U.S.

Second, following on he heels of that, the U.S. should recognize a world arrangement made up of regional power blocks, with Europe and possibly China standing on the same footing with the U.S. and South America becoming its own power bloc instead of a subsidiary of us.

Third, and this follows from the second, is that people in the U.S. should get prepared to live in a world where the U.S. is a limited power, where there are finite economic and environmental limits.

Adding to that, Fourth, in recognition of those limits capitalism needs to be severely regulated in order for it to benefit the people at large, as well as enacting comprehensive social welfare programs. Recognizing our limits means recognizing that in a limited world the free market does not work. The free market is only possible in a world system in which a hegemon predominates, and in the reckoning outlined here there would be no hegemon. The recognition of a more limited United States should also make possible, and rational, large Unionization drives and the according of labor a place at the table--and not one subordinated to the Democratic Party either, but one on its own terms.

Fifth, building on all of this should be a recognition that, in the cultural sphere, the United States is not in any sense a "universal culture", but one which is unique, and, consequentially, limited by that uniqueness.

Sixth, building on that, we should recognize a cultural equality between our culture and that of Europe, our culture and that of China, our culture and that of South America.

Seventh, on top of general regulation of capitalism we should invest large amounts of money in ourselves by way of education, and not simply education that is for a particular trade either. Humanistic education and that of the liberal arts should be revived and people in the United States should all be able to partake of this tradition, on top of having the costs of any schooling be subsidized.

Brokeback Mountain

A new film. Should be called "Bareback mountain". Looks to have everything, cowboys, mountains, and hot man on man action between the cowboys in the mountains. Hey, if Bill O'Reilly thinks that people are forgetting Christmas, maybe we should indulge him. One of the elements of my Christmas celebration will be to watch this homosexual love story, maybe multiple times.

Well well well, the white supremacists arive!

Leaving comments about the posts about Michael Moynihan. Seems that they don't get that Moynihan lived in Portland for many years and was married in a Catholic Church there. He talks about this in a post where he bitches about homeless people and Dignity Village, where he talks about what a shame it is that there was a homeless encampment close to the Church that he was married in.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

rural, white

It might sound illogical that this site, which preaches against disorienting capitalist modernity, would condemn some people who live in the country, but not really. The reason why this site condemns them is because of white supremacy, i.e. because people who live in the country are more likely to be anglo white and therefore at the top of the racial hierarchy in the United States. If this was not the case the story would be different.

Again, with the nature of far right white people

"Professor beaten; attackers cite KU creationism class


Associated Press
LAWRENCE - A professor whose planned course on creationism and intelligent design was canceled after he sent e-mails deriding Christian conservatives was hospitalized Monday after what appeared to be a roadside beating.

University of Kansas religious studies professor Paul Mirecki said that the two men who beat him made references to the class that was to be offered for the first time this spring.

Originally called "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies," the course was canceled last week at Mirecki's request.

The class was added after the Kansas State Board of Education decided to include more criticism of evolution in science standards for elementary and secondary students.

"I didn't know them," Mirecki said of his assailants, "but I'm sure they knew me."


Someone in rural Kansas, probably anglo white men, beating a professor because he opposed intelligent design. Like I said in a post below, there's a reason why people are prejudiced against people who live in rural areas, as sad as that might be.

None of this would happen in a city, or even a town.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Added three things

Added to the online writings in the socialist tradition the Alexander Bogdanov archive and the C.L.R. James archive. Both are interesting and useful.

Added to the main links section a link to the online works of Ali Shariati, who was an idiosyncratic socialist coming out of Iran.
Shariati has been mistakenly labeled as being one of the founders of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Actually, what's more accurate is that he indeed did provide the intellectual material and framework for the student movement which opposed the Shah and which initially started the Revolution, but his followers, who weren't Islamists, were crushed by forces loyal to Khomenei when he returned from exile to 'lead' the Revolution and thereby take it away from its socialist origins in a Third Worldist orientation and take it towards conservative Shi'ah theocracy.

Shariati's writings are really interesting, especially since the main question he was grappling with was how to promote development and modernization in a context which honored the history of Iran and the Middle East while also being egalitarian, i.e. neither subordinating modernization to Westernization nor development to the world capitalist system.

He opposed Marxism but did so in a way which is really informative; it wasn't an unthoughtful rejection.

Big book of Times of Hate, Times of Joy on the way

It needs not a whole lot of work and will be available shortly. It'll be 740 big format pages, meaning that it'll look roughly like a phone book but will have the same size type as any paperback. The dates it's covering are the start of the blog to late June of 2004. Cost? Maybe around $20, which is cheap, actually. And it'll have an ISBN, be available via special order from your bookstore, and be available through Amazon too, although I personally don't like Amazon.

Watch this space for new developments

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Christianity....

I was reminded of the huge disconnect between what Christianity and fundamentalist Christian sects say about themselves and what they really understand about the faith they profess to adhere to by Patricia Williams' recent column in the Dec. 2nd "Nation" Magazine.

It's sort of sad when someone who's a pagan knows more about Christianity than the Christians themselves, but, it appears, that is the case.

How could this be? How could I have more insight into Christianity than the legions of little old ladies dutifully reading their bibles day in and day out?

The answer is simple: trust in the historical method. Most fundamentalist Christians and Baptists look at the Bible as containing all they need to know about anything, without any need for elaboration from other sources. This is something which is peculiar to Protestant Christianity. Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy don't believe in that.

Instead, what they believe in, and what possibly gives me a leg up in understanding Christianity, is that the stories in the Bible can only truly be understood when combined with the tradition of interpretation of the texts that started shortly after the death of Jesus and which continued on---in fact is still continuing, as Vatican II or The Second Vatican Council demonstrates---after that and up till the present day.

That's what all of those "Councils" are, like the "Council of Nicea", for example.

Because in this way of looking at things you can follow the fingerprints of an idea from its start to its finish--or to its transformation--you can use it to understand facets of Christianity and Christian belief which some Protestant denominations, particularly the fundamentalists and Baptists, don't really understand the origins of.

In fact, this method will allow you to understand the bible and Christianity better than will memorizing Bible minutia, old and new.

***

Oh, wait. Yeah, the dirty little secret about people not really understanding Christianity, even if they're professed ultra-Christians? The secret is that without the tradition you can't really understand the texts at all, and certainly, if you're reading the bible on the assumption that you'll be guided to the right interpretation by the Holy Spirit, you're not getting the exegetical tradition at all. Combine this tendency with increased laxness in standards for seminarians the further you get into rightwing fundamentalism, with the worst denominations not requiring their pastors to have attended seminary at all, and you have a recipe for exceedingly high amounts of errors culminating in them not fully understanding essential aspects of Christianity altogether.

A perfect example of this in action is the "Prayer of Jabez", which was spectacularly
popular a few years ago. The "Prayer of Jabez" is essentially a prayer that a figure in the old testament makes to god in order to get money or, in general, to get prosperity, which god answers. So far so good.

What Christians have done is to seize on Jabez's prayer and turn it into a money making device. Or at least to take it as an authorization for praying for money and wealth to god, because if Jabez could do it it must be ok for them to too.

This essentially turns the bible into a kind of grimoire to ransack for spells, or for "prayers", which people will then use for their own benefit. The only thing which makes Jabez' prayer siginifcant in any way is that it was in the bible. Since it's in the bible it must have power, no matter if it's a side note having to do with a minor character in the old testament, and therefore it has to work .

I don't know what you'd call it, but I wouldn't call this Christianity for anything in the world. In fact, the theory behind Prayer of Jabez should be offensive to Christians all across the board. God is not an atm. But the fact that it was embraced by so many people, and then on top of it all generated some spin off products, like "Prayer of Jabez for kids", means that a lot of Christians out there are asleep at the wheel when it comes to understanding their faith.

Doesn't mean they aren't good people; none of this that I've been outlining means that these people aren't good people, but it does mean that they're understandings of Christianity are increasingly aberrant and increasingly not linked to what the rest of the Christian world understands as Christian theology.

A person told me once that the fundamental theological point is that God is love. While I appreciate this I'd have to differ. There's much more in the bible and in Christianity than God is Love.

I'm a pagan and I know all this.......

Christianity....

I was reminded of the huge disconnect between what Christianity and fundamentalist Christian sects say about themselves and what they really understand about the faith they profess to adhere to by Patricia Williams' recent column in the Dec. 2nd "Nation" Magazine.

It's sort of sad when someone who's a pagan knows more about Christianity than the Christians themselves, but, it appears, that is the case.

How could this be? How could I have more insight into Christianity than the legions of little old ladies dutifully reading their bibles day in and day out?

The answer is simple: trust in the historical method. Most fundamentalist Christians and Baptists look at the Bible as containing all they need to know about anything, without any need for elaboration from other sources. This is something which is peculiar to Protestant Christianity. Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy don't believe in that.

Instead, what they believe in, and what possibly gives me a leg up in understanding Christianity, is that the stories in the Bible can only truly be understood when combined with the tradition of interpretation of the texts that started shortly after the death of Jesus and which continued on---in fact is still continuing, as Vatican II or The Second Vatican Council demonstrates---after that and up till the present day.

That's what all of those "Councils" are, like the "Council of Nicea", for example.

Because in this way of looking at things you can follow the fingerprints of an idea from its start to its finish--or to its transformation--you can use it to understand facets of Christianity and Christian belief which some Protestant denominations, particularly the fundamentalists and Baptists, don't really understand the origins of.

In fact, this method will allow you to understand the bible and Christianity better than will memorizing Bible minutia, old and new.

***

Oh, wait. Yeah, the dirty little secret about people not really understanding Christianity, even if they're professed ultra-Christians? The secret is that without the tradition you can't really understand the texts at all, and certainly, if you're reading the bible on the assumption that you'll be guided to the right interpretation by the Holy Spirit, you're not getting the exegetical tradition at all. Combine this tendency with increased laxness in standards for seminarians the further you get into rightwing fundamentalism, with the worst denominations not requiring their pastors to have attended seminary at all, and you have a recipe for exceedingly high amounts of errors culminating in them not fully understanding essential aspects of Christianity altogether.

A perfect example of this in action is the "Prayer of Jabez", which was spectacularly
popular a few years ago. The "Prayer of Jabez" is essentially a prayer that a figure in the old testament makes to god in order to get money or, in general, to get prosperity, which god answers. So far so good.

What Christians have done is to seize on Jabez's prayer and turn it into a money making device. Or at least to take it as an authorization for praying for money and wealth to god, because if Jabez could do it it must be ok for them to too.

This essentially turns the bible into a kind of grimoire to ransack for spells, or for "prayers", which people will then use for their own benefit. The only thing which makes Jabez' prayer siginifcant in any way is that it was in the bible. Since it's in the bible it must have power, no matter if it's a side note having to do with a minor character in the old testament, and therefore it has to work .

I don't know what you'd call it, but I wouldn't call this Christianity for anything in the world. In fact, the theory behind Prayer of Jabez should be offensive to Christians all across the board. God is not an atm. But the fact that it was embraced by so many people, and then on top of it all generated some spin off products, like "Prayer of Jabez for kids", means that a lot of Christians out there are asleep at the wheel when it comes to understanding their faith.

Doesn't mean they aren't good people; none of this that I've been outlining means that these people aren't good people, but it does mean that they're understandings of Christianity are increasingly aberrant and increasingly not linked to what the rest of the Christian world understands as Christian theology.

A person told me once that the fundamental theological point is that God is love. While I appreciate this I'd have to differ. There's much more in the bible and in Christianity than God is Love.

I'm a pagan and I know all this.......

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Dictatorship of the Proletariat

Although this blog is listed on some anarchist sites it isn't exclusively an anarchist website. While I dislike the term Dictatorship of the Proletariat, I prefer the expression "Hegemony of the Working Class over Society" (it's more accurate and less prone to misinterpretation), I have to recognize that many groups who use the term Dictatorship of the Proletariat don't in fact mean dictatorship of the party and instead use it to refer to the working class taking power and the civilization they'd create. The idea is that the bourgeois currently have a dictatorship over society because they control everything and that a dictatorship of the proletariat would essentially mean that the working class would have control over everything, or would be the leaders in society, the people who society would be constructed for and work for, which makes sense if you figure the working class as being the majority of the people in the country......but this sort of means that the working class would have hegemony over society, just as the bourgeois class has hegemony over society through both their leading role in society and their domination of the media and of the political structure of society, hence I like the phrase "Hegemony of the working class over society" in contrast to "the Dictatorship of the Proletariat". I'm writing this because it would be a disservice to the non-anarchist socialists that I know to classify them as authoritarians just because they use this phrase.

Think of it what you will, this is is my take on the whole thing.