Tuesday, February 28, 2006

How do I fit into this?

My favorite "Pen Pal" asks a good question in relation to this community organizing: and what about you?

Meaning, basically, aren't you just another one of those progressives who moved to the West coast because it was really progressive....you see where this is going.

Well, that's something that I grapple with. I don't have an easy answer.

On the one hand I'm sympathetic to the community around me, on the other I know that if many people really had a sense of what some of my values and interests were that they'd probably rise up and come after me. But, in all fairness, since this is a more progressive area that's much less likely to happen here than, say, in Florida.

Seriously though, it is a contradiction and I'm not at all sure about how to resolve it.

And, yes, thank you "Pen Pal" for the aids joke in reference to me and the posts below. Just the thing to lift one's spirits.

Towards a constructive critique of the West Coast

The West coast is great, but, at the same time it has its flaws. When people think of the west coast, especially the Pacific Northwest, they think about progressive values, about liberalism, maybe of social experiments which have happened there which aren't really present in other parts of the country, and all of this is true, but at the same time it shows one of the disadvantages of self selection in moving to a place.

People like to think of hardcore hippie counterculturists moving to California, about pioneers and such moving to the West coast, but in truth the migration has been much broader than this. It's moved from being really crazy, in a good way, to being sort of crazy, to being really progressive, to being progressive, to being a progressive liberal, and the people who have followed the pioneers in this migration haven't been as committed to the initial lifestyle or ideals as the others. Whether or not the originals philosophy have flaws or weaknesses is beyond the scope of this entry.

But what has happened in the West Coast, in a sort of arc moving up from the Bay area, growing a little weaker as it moves through Oregon up to Portland, and then seriously changing once it moves up to the Seattle area, is that although people have moved there and increased the progressive content and done some really cool things they've also brought their prejudices with them. They've brought their oversights in what they pay attention to and what they don't pay attention to along so that while some areas of life get extreme attention others get very little.

A particular example of this is with labor. The people who move in are usually more affluent, more educated, and it can be generalized that what they consider the important features of life they want to improve flow from this background, leading to a general contempt for the less affluent people who were there before them, justified by a sense of "We're doing the right thing so all that doesn't matter".

I guess part of the problem, if you can allow for it, is that the people who move here might be very active and committed in their personal sphere but they aren't community organizers. While people of course in the Bay Area and elsewhere have done good work with the poorer communities and communities of color, there's also been a general sort of elitist contempt for the less affluent up and down, with the original counter-culture vision sometimes morphing into being a yuppie who enjoys Sonoma wines, likes liberal politics, but doesn't give a damn about inequality or class.

This is the danger of just getting up and moving to a place without trying to integrate yourself into the community at all but essentially taking it over. Without roots in the community, or any effort made to engage the community to get the sort of connections necessary to be sensitive to it, you, if you in a collective sense are strong enough in numbers, essentially write your own ticket of what you think is important, irrespective of everyone else. While that might be good in some sense, unless people have a good tack for self criticism and taking in broader social concerns this isn't sufficient to make a just society. You may do some good things but if you're not looking at the whole then you're essentially just making self fulfilling prophecies come true, which may not have many real social implications in terms of really changing things for the better.

Unless people ground themselves in the greater community, or at least in a greater social consciousness of what the issues of the greater communities that they live in are, and act on that, then the results of whatever you attain are dubious at best. A project here, a project there, but what does it all mean, what does it all add up to?

Actually, people who are active probably can answer that question, if they're perceptive, in a way that's comprehensive to them, but then the question is whether what an individual thinks is complete really is what's complete or whether that sense of what matters is bounded by the social origins of that person.

That, in the final analysis, is what needs to be challenged the most, the sense of blindness stemming from social origins which in themselves shut out the experiences and issues that large groups of people feel are really relevant to their lives.

Class is a sort of blindness in many ways, a kind of shutting out, seeing through your own blinders, which have been established and which are dependent on the privilege that you experience. People from less affluent backgrounds don't have the luxury to have that many blinders, although they may have some.

The challenge if you really want to change the world is to break out of that frame and to relate your work to the greater community, inclusive, not just to what you as a consequence of your class background might think is important.

To do this requires real work, real challenging of yourself, and real subordination to the communities who don't have to do self work to get in touch with the realities of the world, although they're not automatically good and pure people just because they come from a specific class or ethnic background.

But if the West Coast really wants to put its money where its mouth is, to really put its self on the line, this is what these people need to do, this is what progressives on the West Coast need to do. In the Pacific Northwest, Oregon and Washington, in Northern California, in the Bay area, down to L.A. across the little towns on the coast, which I love dearly, and beyond.

Dropping out is not enough, it's also necessary to drop into society, from a different angle, in order to effect good work.

Yes, I spent much of my time

In Florida waiting for that glamorous decadent lifestyle to materialize and realizing that it probably wouldn't. When I was close to Key West I was too young, albeit still an adult, to really know how to find a good time in the place, and for various reasons I probably wouldn't have wanted to find it if I knew how. By the time I'd mellowed out a little bit, got a little bit older, and was actively looking for some good times I had moved away from the Keys and instead was living in Central Florida, with Tampa a 2.5 hour drive away.

My experience of Florida from that point on was one of extreme boredom combined with some interesting political activism on the local scale, which wasn't enough to compensate for the extreme boredom. It seemed like glamorous things were happening elsewhere, even though this was the reknowned sunshine state.

When I actually got a chance to go to Tampa, or to Florida's East coast, I didn't see much which would justify moving all that way, even though St. Pete was good for a day trip. The East coast especially is really trashy. Not a positive environment.

Miami I don't know too well, but although a good thing for a little while I think that the place would have lost its charm real fast. The one redeeming thing is the large Hispanic population, which features not just people from Cuba and, to a lesser extent, Mexico, but people from all over South and Central America. That's something to cherish.

Eventually boredom lead to a desire to get the hell out of there. The "Florida Rot", as some people have called it, was starting to set in and I didn't want to be caught up in it. The Rot is basically a slow spiral of self destruction, brought on by the parodox of isolation and a permissive atmosphere. Literally, you get bitter, alienated, and sometimes psychotic, through too much freedom and nothing to do with it.

Hence moving to the Pacific Northwest and Washington State. When I got here it took me a while first to reconnect with the normal world, which I'd lived in in my home of Michigan, and then to realize that in going down the particular rabbit hole of alienation that Florida had brought on I'd devoted much more time to hemming and hawing over leaving, weighing options, considering different places, than most people who moved here had, leading me to think that maybe there was something not quite right in the atmosphere there which kept me there for so long.

Most people who want to go someplace, who want to check out something new, just do; they don't do the equivalent of a Thesis in evaluating it; which made me think that I probably should have, or, at least, could have, left that place much earlier than I did, but the psychological block was there of "Where the fuck will I go?"

I didn't want to return to Michigan, I didn't want to go to New York, where I'd lived for six months, it seemed like I had reached a terminus point with Florida. It's a state where people always want to go; you never hear about people wanting to get out.

Woe to the senior citizen who puts their life savings into a condo which turns out to be in a place which has conned you with its promise of high fun and enjoyment, as some of these retirement communities bill themselves, but which turns out to be a living nightmare.

But that's not really relevant to my own story, just a little aside, showing that there're dangers for people across the board.

So easy....I-75 runs right from Detroit to Florida. Just hop on the freeway and you'll be there in two days, spending the night some place in Kentucky along the way.

No such easy route from Florida to the Northwest.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Got nothing new to say at the moment/Leathersex

Just listening to "Thrill Kill Kult".

particularly their great song "Leathersex", whose lyrics I will now quote, after this story.

The song reminds me of the time I spent in Miami beach, just a few days this time, before going to Europe a few years ago. Counting on the ever insightful "Frommers" guide, derided by some as being a yuppie guide for traveling, I tried to locate a gay leather bar known as "The Loading Zone". I managed to do it, by asking the people at the convenience store in the general area where it was....

Turned out that it was literally a bar accessable through an unmarked door in the back of the shopping center that, when it opened, was propped open with a large tin can.

Inside: typical stainless steel bar scene, a large four cornered bar with the bartender in the middle, but with four tv screens playing hardcore gay porn.

I sat down, was trying to appreciate it, when I was hit on by a guy, which, considering that this was a leather bar which was showing four screens of men fucking each other in the ass wasn't that unusual. Anyways, long story short, I'd never been to a gay bar for the purpose of having a totally spontaneous one night stand, and now that I was in the situation of having this be a possibility, the idea didn't sit well with me.

There was the whole thing about being out of town, not knowing the place, just showing up there, and some complete stranger, who might not even have told me his real name, making motions to come back to his place for some fun.....

The possible list of bad things that could happen to me, from AIDS to being raped to god knows what, started piling up in my mind, the guy, who saw me visibly nervous, questioned how I'd ever been able to hook up with people. I said, "Through friends, and friends of friends".

I tested him by asking him his name again, which he answered, and, predictably maybe, once the thought that he could get me back to his room without any resistence or any consequences was even marginally derailed the conversation slowed and he started to pay attention to other people.

After this I left, to the hearty laughter of the more hardcore leather people who were there, who obviously saw a lightweight who couldn't handle the real leather scene.

No, this was not the case, but instead the idea of going to a leather bar in a place I'd only been for two days, when I was going to fly to Europe the next day, and hooking up for random sex with someone who I had absolutely no idea about and who appeared to be somewhat predatory didn't sit well with me.

Now, I think that I'm just not of the generation that feels ok going to gay bars and picking up people; or maybe, and this might be more likely, gay bars and the gay cruising scene were never really as anonymous as some outsiders might have thought, and the seemingly anonymous sex was actually people who lived in a particular place, who frequented the same scene, going home with acquaintances that they at least had some idea of what they're like.

If anything, I'm shocked that I got so close to doing something really stupid, i.e. to the point of discussing particular sex acts, with someone who I had absolutely no idea about, rather than taking this as some point to level a judgement against some part of gay life.

People have to use their heads, too.

"bored with your sex life
oh yeah
bored with your sex life
bored with your sex life
oh yeah
embrace this night of power
kneel beside me take my hand
stip before the altar
let's test the blood of our command
groove on
assume the motion
breath the holy pain is resurrects
bathe me in leather
bathe me in leather
drown me in your sex
we tread where angels fear to go
where childish crimes are yours and mine
lick the tears from my face
be my slave
groove on
assume the motion
breathe the holy pain it resurrects
bathe me in leather
bathe me in leatehr
drown me in your sex
where is the action
action is action
action makes things happen

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Funny "Wanted Poster" from "The Stranger"

About a guy taking down posters on telephone polls and putting up his own: here it is

Looks like me circa '94 or '95. Only I had better hair.

Look on the bright side

Maybe if teh UAE takes over 21 ports in the U.S. we'll see some high quality hashish entering the United States, or am I stereotyping here?

Friday, February 24, 2006

"Greetings from Key West",

David Schmader's nice, albeit brief, entry about his trip to Key West from "The Stranger"'s blog.

Ah Key West, how I love thee. This post of his brings tears to my eyes, almost. I lived about 45 minutes away from it and used to drive down a couple of times every week, for about a year.

If you're by any chance aware of this obscure publication, Schmader, I'd recommend going to the Cuban restaurant near mallory sqaure, the one with the wrought iron decoration on the outside eating space, and ordering the Ropas Viejos plate, which is amazingly good long stewed beef seasoned on top of black beans and spanish rice. Good stuff. The place is right by the semi-large indoor shopping area that has the store specializing in Chicken sculptures (because of the Key West roosters, who freely roam the streets and are protected), the cigar manufacturer (best place to buy fresh rolled cigars in Key West) and the Ice Cream place. To make it easier, it also faces the small park with all of the busts of important Key West people in it.

Another great place, especially for breakfast, that you should check out is a local's place known as "Pepe's", which is east of down town Key West, right by the two story parking structure, across from a municipal parking lot which, in turn, is next to a gourmet supermarket and a wharf with the usual cheesy tourist shops, right on the water. I believe there's a small railway museum across from it, commemorating the construction of the railroad down to Key West, which unfortunately was destroyed during a hurricane.

Pepe's itself looks like a run down two story shack on the outside, with a badly painted white high picket fence in front and only a very small sign, in short it doesn't look like much.

But get inside and it's a whole different story.

Very good breakfasts.

What else in Key West? Why not track down a used book store on Truman avenue? I don't remember it's name, but, again, a little local secret, there's this bookstore on Truman, I think by the Harley dealership, which, out front, just appears to have some interesting magazines, and which, as you go further back, seems to have nothing but a lot of junk; but trudge through to the very back, where the air is stifling and an ancient fan in the wall provides the only ventillation, and you'll find one of the best selections of used fiction, albeit subjected to humidity, anyplace.

And if you drove down, don't forget to stop at Baby's Coffee, up 101, at....Mile Marker 12? 13? It too looks like a hole in the wall, being a small, old, white building, and a trailer, but they host an art gallery and roast their own exquisite coffee there right in front of you.

Also, say hi! to the Key Deer as you go by, if you see any. They used to go into my backyard and eat the shrubs.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

If I could wave my hand and...

Use the five cents of influence that I've accumulated in the blogosphere to some end, besides that of social justice, it would be to get the band "Coil", which is unfortunately no more, although they existed for over twenty years, some more publicity.

They were pioneers in the electronic music scene, with one of the two, Peter Christopherson, also known as "Sleazy", having been part of the equally seminal band "Throbbing Gristle" with Genesis P-Orridge, and the duo who would become "Chris & Cosey".

Coil were one of the true pioneers, who are never acknowledged as such, and this is not a good thing. They were true virtuosos with electronics, being able to mix both experimentation with structure in a way which made their work extremely compelling.

Here's a Wikipedia entry for them

Here is a site where you can order Coil CDs.

"Love's Secret Domain" is a particularly great album...

Ah, Go Fug Yourself is particularly good today...

Esepecially if you haven't looked at their Paris and Nicky Hilton section..

What "Go Fug Yourself" is is a bunch of women who look at photos of celebrities and rip them apart for their lack of fashion sense. It's hilarious, very, very, entertaining.


Here's the link to the photo which the text below refers to

"And what better triumphant return to the fug than this chartreuse shiny bandeau dress, complete with billowing bodice, slits, and a tennis skirt? It's all so very white-trash St. Tropez, seen at all the yachting parties of peasants whose boats are only a pathetic fifty-feet long.

However, I am vexed by the continued absence of Man Paris. Are they fighting? Has he been brainwashed by his Hilton-horrified parents, who keep insisting their children are getting hitched on the tenth of Never, and not a day sooner, even though Kathy Hilton has already pretty much planned the wedding and monogrammed some towels? Or are her slits accidental -- left over from the knife fight she got into with Mr. Man Paris's hired goons, who want to scare some jilting into her?

I love the idea that they're a billionaire sandbox version of Romeo and Juliet, but without the innocence. Or the vocabulary. It's going to be so tragic when Girl Paris drinks Red Bull laced with arsenic and passes out, only to wake up and find out that Man Paris drank a lethal dose in his grief, which will force her to impale herself upon a cocktail toothpick she ganked from the Tropicana Bar the other night.

Hopefully she'll change first."

I'm just curious if

in Amsterdam any of the bloggers who were invited checked out the government's response to heroin addiction, which is really similar to what I posted about, i.e. decriminalize possession of it, regulate it, hand out sterile needles so that people don't get aids, provide counseling if people want it, all with the aim of a) reducing the harmfullness of the addiction and b) controlling the number of people who get addicted.

The second part is the part that most people miss in looking at Netherland's drug policy. All of the decriminalization was done with the aim of decreasing the use of drugs, with the thought being that if a kid can try hash in a legal environment once he comes of age he'll have his fun, get the aura of the forbidden out of it, and move on to more productive things.

And it works.

Drug use in the Netherlands is way below that of the U.S. I think that the "harm reduction" strategy, with counseling and discussion, is better than the "let's criminalize behavior so that unless you submit to total behavior modification we won't leave you alone" attitude, which typifies the U.S.

People say, turn addiction from a criminal problem into a health problem, but they don't really mean it most of the time. Instead, their idea of transforming drug addiction and its status in society loses the "health problem" sheen soon after it gets past the stage of talking about how bad criminalization is and veers into the realm of what to do about it once decrim happens. Then, suddenly, we get into "moral problem" land, where drug addiction and being a drug addict is no longer indication of criminal tendencies but is evidence of total moral failure as a human being.

While I agree that this does happen to some people, and that this needs to be addressed, I think that the way people go about addressing it in the U.S. is almost as bad as criminalizing behavior because, still, the fact that there are metabolic reasons for being addicted to drugs, i.e. that they change your body chemistry and your body becomes dependent on them, is side swiped into depth psychology sessions where every flaw and every fuckup that you've had since you were a little kid is looked at as evidence of a lack of moral responsability and evidence that you, yourself, fucked up your life alone, and that the metabolic dependence on drugs has little to do with it, which is unacceptable.

As said, this puts the behavoirs which are consequent to drug addiction in front of the basic reality of the problem.
Both need to be addressed, but I think that in the U.S. they don't let you get away with your basic dignity intact.

Yeah, quite frankly

I'm perfectly happy living in the alternative culture, separated from the mainstream, with my own ideas about how things should go, my own ideas about what's important and what's not, and I'm not going to change that because some idiot wants to mock me, mr. J

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

OK, so I know that

Crack is bad and cocaine is bad. Both drugs have wreaked havoc on people black, white, brown, and other, and the latter has taken its toll on the artistic community in general.

What I was thinking more along the lines of are things which are more easily controlled and which don't necessarily lead to the same sort of violent degeneration that these other drugs do.

I could go into it further, but it's hopeless. The basic point is that, yes, for some people, controlled self-medication is probably a good alternative to them doing fucked up shit and ruining their lives to a greater extent than they would if they did not have access to these drugs.

Artaud's piece has this as one of its last sentences "You must leave the sick alone, we ask nothing of mankind, we ask only for the relief of our suffering."

The point isn't to promote drug addiction, the point is to support ending suffering, and if some people have to go outside the accceptable bounds of normal society to do this, then that's what people have to do.

Just look at the Cannabis buying clubs down in California. These people obviously need Cannabis to deal with their various illnesses and, by damnit, they're getting it and useing it. Why should the responsable use of other drugs be discouraged if you're going to allow that, and we've all read the stories and the justifications for legal cannabis usage to treat medical conditions. So the question becomes why not other things? Same justifications.

Decriminalize it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Slogger on drugs

...I honestly don't think it's funny or what the point is. I like Artaud's position more...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Artaud and Opium

Ok, so I've been reading Artaud's selected writings, and in it is a very good letter that he wrote to a public commission considering the banning opium.

Artaud was both a life time addict and mentally disturbed, but also really, really, smart and insightful; possessed of genius. He ended up in the asylum. The opium was self medication to some extent.

I don't want to violate copyright or anything, but the points he makes protesting the commission's actions are very interesting. Here are some of them:

"There is only one reason to attack opium. This is the danger that its use can inflict on society as a whole.


We are born rotten in body and soul, we are congenitally maladjusted; do away with opium, you will not do away with the need for crime, the cancers of the body and the soul, the propensity to despair, in born cretinism, hereditary syphilis, the instability of the instincts, you will not prevent the fact that there are souls predestined for poison, in whatever form--the poison of morphine, the poison of reading, the poison of loneliness, the poison of ananism, the poison of sexual overindulgence, the posion of the congenital weakness of the soul, the poison of alcohol, the poison of tobacco, the poison of anti-sociability. There are souls that are incurable and lost to the rest of society. Deprive them of one means of folly, they will invent ten thousand others. They will create subtler, wilder methods, methods that are absolutely DESPERATE. Nature herself is fundamentally anti-social, it is only by a usurptation of powers that the organized body of society opposes the natural inclination of humanity.


So long as we have failed to eliminate any of the causes of human despair, we do not have the right to try to eliminate those means by which man tries to cleanse himself of despair."

Think about that.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Pink is the new blog---funny funny funny

Holy...this is fun... making fun of celebs in a nice way.

Sample of the Pink is the New Blog person........commenting on the Marilyn Manson announcement w/model that he's doing a Lewis Carrol movie

"I love how MM kept his clothing as demure as possible so as not to overshadow Lily Cole. I can't believe that Manson has been borrowing clothes from Michael Jackson ... that's the scariest thing I think he's ever done. [Source]

btw... ah, that Jack Gyllenhaal is one fine man. Thank god they actually got a gay man to play a gay man in Brokeback.

"Go Fug Yourself" , here is a good one too, albeit in a much more nasty way. It's essentially a bunch of women tearing other women to shreds based on bad fashion sense, and is nice for that vicariously thrill every once in a while.

But this "Pink is the New Blog" site is hilarious....

A Hegelian theory of oppression

This one actually has a story behind it. True story, I've had the idea for this post for about a week and, in the intervening time, the gist of it was told to me by a guy I know who has no college education that I'm aware of but who has an intimate awareness of repression, from the inside, which just goes to show you something about intellectuals and intellectual work.


Although Hegel as a philosopher was quite conservative in his political views, in his theory of personal psychology and what makes life good, what people want out of life, what they need, he's much less so.

What Hegel says is that all people seek recognition, by which he doesn't mean fame and glory, but mental recognition. Mental recognition is the acknowledgement by another human being that they've heard what you have to say, they've listened to your thoughts, and they understand them. It makes sense. You aren't crazy. It's a "reality check", although not in the negative sense that this is usually meant as but in a life affirming sense.

How do you know that you're a person? Well, you have thoughts, you have feelings, you know that you have those, but you could equally feel like a total outsider in a society, like, despite knowing yourself, that the entire rest of the world was alien and hostile to you. One of the easiest ways for this state of affairs to come about is for people to not acknowledge your feelings and thoughts, your experience, as having validity, but instead to treat you and those as if they didn't exist, as if you were a thing which no one interacted with personally instead of a living human being that they could talk to. This would result in a profound sense of alienation, even though you yourself would know that you were human, a good person, etc... It would also potentially drive people to pathology.

This denial, this experience of the world as being something that doesn't acknowledge you and that you don't really participate in, which denies you your voice, which denies you basic validation of your thoughts, feelings, and intuitions, is what, and I have to preface this, "Being on the inside of oppression is like". I put it in quotes because this is really my *idea* of what it's like based on social alienation and other things; I haven't experienced racial discrimination so I can't testify to what it *really* feels like, but I have heard descriptions given by people on the inside of it.

Ok, that's one side, the other side is easier to define.

To oppress someone in this way, and there are of course many forms of oppression, is to, in a way deny their personhood, to treat them as a thing and not as a living, breathing, person, who one can establish the sort of mental connection with, which leads to recognition, that Hegel talks about. Racial oppression, in a sense the objectification of a people, sexual oppression, the objectification of a gender, the treating of people as if they did not have real thoughts or real human dignity at all but were instead living stereotypes, or animals. Denying that parity of mental understanding denies people the right to participate in society as full human beings.

But, as I write this, I'm thinking about the flip side of this, in that it's never just an objectification of a group of people, but also of power of dominance and of submission. The dominators in any society, paradoxically, exact more work from the dominated in having them respond to the two dimensionality of their interactions with them. Black people treated as objects don't just have to be on their guard--they have to learn how to negotiate that society so that there will be no harm done to them, meaning that they who are treated as objects actually have to do more, to less responsive people, than normal human beings have to do in the interests of bare survival.

Women as well, which the post below somewhat touches on. Women have to be smarter than men in order to safely negotiate the male dominated world intact--even though this world gives them second class citizen status.

Here, in this phase of it, which goes beyond simple alienation, insult is added to insult, and being alienated becomes being repressed, with the dominant society serving as the agents of repression, and repression institutionalized long enough becomes oppression.

Valentine's day Pandagon post "But actually admitting to being in love is lame girly crap"

Wherein Amanda Marcotte takes apart a column in the New York Times which suggests that men are assholes by nature and should honor their assholiness by not submitting to do nice things for their wives and other women in their lives.

"Wow, John Tierney actually had the nerve to use his Valentine Day’s column to make excuses for men who don’t want to lower themselves to picking up the degrading women’s work of caring about the people you love.

[says Tierney]

The standard advice for bungling husbands is to go with their wives to a marriage counselor, but Haltzman disagrees. He’s a marriage counselor who advises men to beware of marriage counseling. While other therapists urge men to get in touch with their feelings and empathize with their wives’, Haltzman figures this is a losing game because their brains aren’t wired for it.

They can’t express their emotions or empathize as well as women can. Telling a man to solve his marital problems by talking about his emotions for an hour is like telling a woman to solve her problems at the office by joining the guys for a weekend game of paintball.

[says Marcotte]

What Tierney is doing, then, is using the men-are-incompetent-at-women’s-work excuse to shift the entire burden of the work onto women’s shoulders. And make no mistake, emotional work is work, and is regarded as such by society. If this were not true, then the jokes about men who fail at their task of flower-buying or romance would have no resonance–it’s assumed that demonstrating affection is a task. For some it’s more pleasant than others, but it’s work for all regardless."

I couldn't agree more. Sometimes I think that society and gender relations are just an elaborate excuse to allow men to do nothing while women swarm around them like worker bees.

Maybe there's more to society than that, but, in gender relations at least, this appears to be the case.

What's really messed up isn't that this is coming out but that it's coming out in a jokey "Aww hell, men will be men, guys will be guys, there's nothin' you can do about it" tone. Of course there is. Saying that "we're just hardwired for it" is the biggest cop-out there is, especially since the "hardwiring" so obviously benefits one party.

I wonder, in traditional relationships, like relationships before feminism, did the women even exist as people? Did they even like the guys they were stuck with? It seems like these sorts of relationships are so ephemeral and male centered that the women retract into nothingness.


Damn, and then there's that quote in the article by Tierney about guys not giving a damn about reading books if they're not about money or golf.

Well, he must have the average New York Times reader pegged.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Neo-Liberalism and the Bush agenda

Bush is extraordinarily rightwing. During his tenure post-9/11 war has become a central function of state policy again, religion has assumed a place in public life that would have been unthinkable in the years before, rights for women, gays, lesbians, rights to free speech and to free criticism of the government, torture has become an acceptable part of the national conversation, patriotism has assumed a nastiness unbeknownst since, possibly, the years surrounding World War I.

While all of this has been going on the corporate agenda which Bush initially came to office with has been going full steam ahead, with no breaks, with issues of economic justice receding ever farther from the public eye.

I'm not saying that it's an either or situation--that either economics are dealt with or civil rights are protected--but I think it's important to see some of the purpose in the Bush administration's strategy. If the government makes a concerted effort to roll back the conventional rights which people have come to expect its actions push the posing of rights and issues which are comparatively non-conventional farther into the background.

If basic civil liberties and basic human rights aren't respected, the focus goes away from structural issues and to the areas which most desperately need attention. If there's a general accord that basic civil liberties and human rights are ok then it's easier to raise questions which haven't been that commonly raised: economic justice, fair compensation, living wages, universal health care, universal pension benefits beyond social security, setting up blocks to preserve industries and to make the U.S. position resistent to some extent from neoliberal policy. That last is controversial because we're the main beneficiary, with Europe to some extent, of the process of globalization, and Southern countries have rightly criticized various labor groups here for being overly concerned with protecting their place in the world and not in pursuing equity between countries and regions, yet in the closing of Delphi, in the cuts announced by Ford, we're seeing that even here, in the rich country, the over-consumer of goods and services, we're not immune to global financial discipline.

One of the ways which the Bush administration differs from the far right administrations of Europe--bearing in mind that this isn't a fait accompli yet, that there still is some room for contestation--is that at least there some token gestures of anti-capitalism were used. Here, it's pure right wing social policy without even the hint of social justice. Respecting the immense suffering inflicted on the people, I would classify what the Bush administration as doing as being a sort of very, very, very, light version of what happened in Chile, which combined ruthless authoritarianism with free market economics. This isn't Chile. We don't have DINA, which the U.S. itself classified as being like the worst secret police organizations of the 20th century, but, in a very limited sense, the dichotomy of rightwing social policy and authoritarianism combined with neo-liberal privatization and deregulation initiatives seem to be similar to what we're experiencing now.

People aren't disappearing, there isn't terror sown throughout the land by the impunity of the police, who could do anything, and the military hasn't taken over the government, despite what people say.

Enough of the disclaimers.

One thing that might account for the differences between the authoritarianisms of Europe and those which seem to be incipient in the U.S. is that the sop to social justice which those regimes had was largely framed in the context of modernization and development--not being "nice" but instead linking ultra-nationalism with a will to be just like England or the U.S.

We're already modernized here and the U.S. doesn't have similar ego-problems vis a vis the rest of the world.

What we are, on the other hand, is a country that has been molded as much by colonialism as it has been by capitalist development. The U.S. functioned for years as a cheap producer of natural resources and cheap goods; the reversal in the world system following World War II was what allowed the U.S. to escape being a somewhat second rate economy and vault into first world status. But, I'd argue, despite our wealth and our consumption, the colonial infrastructure still exists, and still structures the economic and political life of this country. This would be seen in the over arching power of corporations here, which doesn't exist in quite the same way in Europe but which does exist, in a fashion, in South America--even though we have the paradox of being the home for many of the corporations exploiting South America and Latin America in general. The U.S. functions as a sort of corporate headquarters for exploitation but the country itself is exploited by the corporations, who influence public life, both on the federal and state levels, to a much greater extent than elsewhere.

This, the Bush administration supports and approves of. If it can go on the offensive against our basic rights than we will have that much harder of a time attacking and dealing with the structural inequalities drawn from the evolution of this country and the assumption of corporate power of a role which, in European countries, is held to a greater degree by the people themselves.

The new patriotic-religious state would have us fight for our basic civil liberties while forgetting about everything else.

It's time to stop forgetting about economic and social justice and to combine campaigns to defend civil liberties, defend the rights of women, defend freedom of religion, defend the idea of democracy with the rights of workers, with ideas about what is socially just and right with regards to the economy and to class, to defend a social safety net, to extend the ideas of what society should be like out from the minimalist stance of one where basic rights are upheld to one where we'd actually want to live.

Those Cartoons

Basically, after thinking it over, especially after reading the interchange between Dan Savage and Eli Sanders on The Stranger's blog I've come to the conclusion that the hubbub about the cartoons in Muslim countries is much like the various paranoias and fashionable rage that the Christian right in this country exhibits, which cuts both ways.

On the one hand, it's really hard to sympathize with their responses as being normal protest, but, on the other hand, that's just the point, that there's something not right about them in the sense that the people engaged in these quixotic protests probably aren't very well versed in politics and probably have been inflamed to rage by priests and preachers who paint whatever issue it is in the most exotic and lurid terms.

I mean, I've seen the cartoons, and only a few of them are actually overtly offensive to Muslims. The full story, for people following it, isn't that there was one cartoonist who did a whole bunch of pictures of Muhammad which were all terribly offensive and this Danish paper published them. The story was that this rightwing Danish newspaper put out a call to cartoonists to come up with pictures of Muhammad for publishing, with no overt political agenda. So some cartoonists drew...just a guy, in Arabic dress. One cartoonist drew a figure who was writing on a blackboard something about the paper itself trying to be sensational with stunts like this. There were only a few cartoons which were actually offensive, the most artistic one probably being the one which pictured Muhammad with a black turban turned into a bomb, with verses from the Koran on the turban.

My feeling is basically the feeling that I have when I look at some of the crazy conservative causes out there in America, like the whole ten commandments business, or school prayer, which seem to have fallen off the radar somehow, which is that in large part people are being whipped into frenzies by preachers with their own agendas.

This, by the way, is essentially what Eli Sanders is arguing over at The Stranger, only he's focussing on the Middle East.

So, is it right for them to get so upset about cartoons, and riot and burn things? No.
But, in risk of oversimplifying things, the people who are rioting about the cartoons probably don't have a sophisticated understanding of oppression and why their countries are suffering. They probably just know that, in their country, cartoons like that would never fly and that this is an example of the west being mean to Muslims, and that that's a bad thing. Considerations like that in Denmark there's a degree of freedom of the press which doesn't exist in those countries probably doesn't enter into the equation.

You want a parallel here? Just look at the uproar surrounding Janet Jackson's nipple.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The irrational in American culture

Has always been there. The recent comments by Marry Matlin, who said that Civil Rights leaders were racists, and Anne Coulter, who made a statement that referred to arabs as "Ragheads" is, unfortunately, nothing that is really at variance with this country.

It might have been underground, it might not have been right out front, but this stuff has always been here.

Take a look at Gordon S. Wood's work, or that of Bernard Bailyn regarding the popular notions of what the American Revolution was about.

Both of them, looking at newspaper articles, speeches, sermons, come to the conclusion that a lot of people on the ground thought of the American Revolution as a religious revolution, that many early Americans saw in this event the completion and fullfilment of the Puritan English Revolution, or "English Civil War", of the 17th century, which had been permanently reversed by the Glorious Revolution, which established a kind of pact between the rulers, the parliament, which preserved large portions of the previous system.

Both Bailyn and Woods suggest that, on the ground level, many, many, Americans were extreme partisans of the religiously tinged English Republic set up by Cromwell, and viewed the Glorious Revolution as a permanent betrayal.

Mixed in with their ideas of Democracy were ideas of Theocracy; many of the democratic impulses which were there were outgrowths of the radical Protestant demand for self rule by churches instead of submission to a higher hierarchy. Democracy was linked to the self governing body of Christians, which is far different than notions of Enlightenment Philosophes sitting in their mansions coming up with ideas for the Constitution.

While this popular/religious impulse might not have been out of place for its time, as years and decades went by it was transmuted into an anti-intellectual religious current through the second Great Awakening, and then more generally into a current which fused patriotism and "americanism" with Christianity, specifically, with Christian sects like Methodists and Baptists which rejected reason and and intellectual precedent to one extent or another in favor of direct divine inspiration.

From this you get the genesis of conservative ultra-patriotism being linked with these particular religious faiths and sensibilities, which lead to things like the movement to teach creationism in school, to oppose all sex-ed and education about sexual differences, to do most of the crazy things that are now being promulgated and succeeding, in America---all with the flag behind them.

Pat Robertson implicitly linking his ideas to that of real America, or the best in America, or to true Americans and Americanism, is an outgrowth of this tendency.

And that's sort of, in a round about way, where I see these very retrograde pronouncements by public figures on the right coming from, this underground stream of religious resentment towards liberalism which allies itself with the flag and declares itself to be the true keeper of American values.

Liberalism, then, especially secular liberalism, is seen as being a prime threat---even though most liberals know that what they believe was closer to what the people on the hill, philosophising, reading, etc.. during the time of the Constitution, believed. But that's just the point, in a way; these people were just isolated aristocrats on their respective hills, in their respective mansions. The people believed something quite different, and ultimately in today's world no one is going to win by asserting isolated philosophers, however prominent, against a popular movement.

Instead, we need to posit a counter-movement which doesn't rely on luminaries but instead relies on general principles and beliefs to make our case.

To people outside the U.S. promoting this concept must sound almost absurd because that's what normally happens in politics, after all, principles and beliefs are articulated and argued for. But not really in the U.S. Here, there's been a two way war using the personages of the "Founding Fathers", as gristle, where quotes and counter-quotes from these luminaries replace actual argument.

So in this context having the left build a movement based on general ideas and principles instead of personages is somewhat new. And this goes both ways, not just against the "Founding Fathers" but against the luminaries of left theory, from Marx to whoever.

I believe that although these people are important in understanding the world that any movement whatsoever, with the Anarchist movement possibly being the only one exempt from this since they're already doing this, will crash and burn if it talks about the thought of big people but is not able to adapt that thought to the living process of life.

Principles, ideas, not founders, that's what I believe in.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Misunderstandings and such

In a fairly recent post I responded to an Evan Derkacz article where he had put the caption under a jilted lover associated with the Abramoff scandal, I believe, "you breaka up, I breaka your face".

Although this broken Italian phrase was personally very offensive to me, as a person of Italian descent, what I wrote about Derkacz imputed personal maliciousness and hypocrisy to him where as it was just part of the dominant culture that we live in.

Additionally, I talked about Derkacz "giving a blank check to Sharon while" putting out "gratuitous insults" against other ethnic groups. This is not accurate either. Although Derkacz, as I understand it, put faith in Sharon when he was part of the peace process he didn't therefore necessarily give him a 'blank check".

Furthermore, juxtaposing anti-Italian sentiment and Sharon, who was responsible for the real murder of refugees in Lebanon, was improper, and offensive to their memory.

Derkacz wrote to me and objected to how I had categorized him and his opinions. This is my response.


Incidentally, leaving Derkacz, who is blameless in this and just guilty of being a typical citizen of the United States, out of this, romanticizing Italians and Italian culture, letting the Sopranos do the talking, thinking of Mafia-ness, this is unacceptable.

I look at it like a white on white version of other demeaning stereotypes.

I was recently in an Italian restaurant with family up here, where there was a very white, very anglo couple sitting in front of us, interacting with the owner, mis-pronouncing Italian words to be cute, asking about how to say this, who to say that "Manga!" "Bellisiimo!" etc.. and acting like the guy was a fucking fool.

I said to one of my parents "There should be a law against talking if you're too white", which was responded to with pleas for tranquility.

I don't enjoy seeing people from a culture that has everything to be proud of prostitute and lower themselves to please some lilly white yuppie trash.

"How could he do it?" "Why would he do it?"

The response from my sage parents, over the course of a few days "He's not running the thing, he's the button man, window dressing, he owns it but isn't back there making the food. He knows what sells and what doesn't. When it comes down to it it's about money".

Well, about money and power.

Lucifer Rising

by Kenneth Anger.

Well, I broke down, went to UW, went to the media center, obtained "Lucifer Rising" and "Invocation of my Demon Brother" (both on one tape) for in house use, and finally saw the things.

This is about the only way to do it now, barring access to some really cool video rental place that has Kenneth Anger stuff, since the company which put out reissues of Anger's films, Mystic Fire Video, now, boringly, only concentrates on stereotypical "mystic" documentaries. Lots of stuff about Tibetan Buddhism, no Anger.

Lucifer Rising is quite a sight. It really completes the cycle of films that Anger had previously produced, and here I'm thinking of "Inauguration of the pleasure dome" and "Scorpio rising". Scorpio was a commentary on society, Inauguration was, similarly, a ritualistic film, but one which didn't appear to me to really have that much focus, despite interesting visuals. Lucifer takes elements from both and combines them, to great effect, combining Inauguration's ritualism with the apocalyptic-ness of Scorpio, having the effect of, in film form, trying to summon up Lucifer as the coming archetype which will simultaneously destroy the old society and usher in a new one based on other values.

Filmed in Egypt, in Extersteine, in L.A., with Marriane Faithful, among others, Lucifer is a powerful, complex, mixture of magic, myth, ritual, and story, with Egyptian, Pagan, Ritual magic, Thelemic, and other influences present.

The crowning scene, where the Egyptian Priestess and Priest basically summon the end of the world by summoning flying saucers to destroy everything, in the same frame as the sphinx, is worth it in itself, although to really appreciate that you'd have to see the whole crescendo of the movie...from start to finish.

Lucifer is the kind of movie that you want to take home and view again and again, scene by scene, to figure out everything that Anger put in there and how it all works together.

You could look at it this way: Scorpio Rising criticized the culture of the time, but didn't really put anything in its place besides biker homosexual nihilism, Lucifer Rising is an attempt to come up with a positive ideal to propose in addition to the criticism.

I prostrate myself before Kenneth Anger's genius.

Choices, choices...

from my latest forray into Seattle...I now have the choice of delving into collection of Artaud's plays, letters, and writings, which is friggin' enormous, or starting Brion Gysin's book "The Process", a novel about drugs, north africa, lots of things, by the famous confederate of William S. Burroughs, but whose writings themselves are quite different from Burroughs, even though the ideas are similar.

Chioces like these make me realize that I'm a lucky man; I could be pumping gas in BFE Michigan, slowly killing my mind with drugs to take up the time, but, instead, I've made my way out to the west coast and am actually doing productive things, and creative things.

This wheel's on fire...

Just been comparing, and trying to play, the version's of Dylan's "This Wheel's on Fire", done by Siouxsie and the Banshees, with the original.

Thanks to the magic of BitTorrent I am now in possession of a FULL version of Dylan's Basement tapes, where "This Wheel's on Fire" is from.

Siouxsie Sioux's version is much superior to Dylan's, from her cover album, combining a Japanese intro with the Western plains cowboy sense of an endless vista which informs some of the music. That's the easiest way to explain it; it's the same thing that Patti Smith has, this sense of wide open spaces and ponderousness.

I can picture Dylan and the Band sitting around, stoned on whatever, doing "Wheel's on Fire", saying "What the fuck is this?", then someone chiming in "I don't know, but twenty years down the road they'll call it post-punk".

The ever entertaining Stranger Blog...

Has a link to a group of Catholic youth who are protesting Valentines day, Catholic Youth Abstaining, or CY-A. Funny stuff, especially since Seattle is the site of the "Erotic Bakery" featured on the Simpsons Halloween special in passing a few years ago (the one where Homer becomes a three dimensioal person). True story. Haven't been in there but it's on 45th street in the Wallingford district, north of down town across the channel connecting the lakes.

So let's take a look at Catholic Youth Abstaining and see what they're up to.

"Secularists and commercial exploiters have succeeded into turning Saint Valentine’s Day into a holiday where Saint Valentine and Jesus Christ are never mentioned. Instead this is a day when we celebrate lust and even encourage children to take part. But we live in a Christian culture and there is more than one Christian holiday on our calendar. Just as all Christians demand that we remember that Jesus Christ is the reason we celebrate Christmas, Catholics demand that we remember that February 14 is Saint Valentine’s Day."

Well, that's because Valentines day, as celebrated here, is a continuation of a ROMAN holiday which preceded Saint Valentine and which the Catholic Church pretty much just assimilated.

the C'Ya website

Ask yourself:

What are you going to buy for your loved ones on February 14? A Valentine’s Day card? Or a Saint Valentine’s Day card?

There IS a war on Saint Valentine’s Day. Our commercialized, secularized, hyper-sexualized culture has successfully fought to drive the “Saint” from February 14 and it’s time to fight back. Join us as we call on See's Candies and Hallmark to stop leaving the Saint out!

It is war! But we are only now fighting back!'

Me, personally, I'd rather relax with a volume of Artaud and flail in my decadence.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

"Requiem for the Imaginal Country by Laura Neack"

I have to give Laura Neack for sticking up for the ideal realm. She's obviously read the work of Henry Corbin, who coined the term Imaginal, and understands its import.

"What is the imaginal country and what are the signs that we are losing it? The imaginal country is where we deposit our hopes as a people, it is the idealized place that always inspires us even in the darkest, most trying times. It is the country that doesn’t always do the right thing but does keeping moving toward doing the right thing whenever possible. Our real-world country was attacked on September 11, 2001, not our imaginal country. This was what people meant when they said we came together that day. Our imaginal country has been under attack from the moment our government was imposed on us by the supreme court. Although many of us feared what this would mean, few could have predicted the damage done to our imaginal and real-world country."

"Today we read again about his increasing despair for this real country and even more for the imaginal one. As a child in the Depression, he and other children (my dad, my mom) dreamed of the imaginal country, the one that was prosperous and was possible again. At age 82 he is not so sure anymore and he cannot easily answer the question that he used to help us all answer – “What is life all about?” What happens to us when our dreamers lose sight of the imaginal country? This is a bad, bad sign.

Another bad sign: In October 2004, Kilgore Trout killed himself by drinking Drano. He did this when told by a fortune teller that George W. Bush would win the 2004 election. Kurt Vonnegut was the poor soul assigned to tell us this ( http://www.commondreams.org/views04/1016-21.htm). Of course, Kurt Vonnegut was the dreamer who brought Kilgore Trout into our real world from the other side. What does it mean when the people in the imaginal realm are killing themselves over what we do in this world? How can this bode well for our future if they have no future?"

Culture Bowl XL, from TBogg

Wherein the dude comes up with some disparaging things people have said about Seattle and the Seahawks. I kind of take this personally, but, let's look at one particular claim here:

"We’ll watch it at home and I expect there will be chili, Rolling Rock Beer, and Primanti Bros. sandwiches. No Starbucks coffee allowed. (It’s overrated anyway.)"

Let's see...Rolling Rock beer, which is about as weak as bottled piss but just happens to be made in Pennsylvania. Stealers fans, we have beers up here that you can't even imagine, things which will take the paint off of walls, and which will eat your Rolling Rock alive.

And, yes, I'd rather have 38 varieties of coffee instead of a sandwhich with fries and gravy inside, which the immortal Bill Bennett said was the deal maker in which of the towns he prefers.

Then there's this: "My wife is a Pittsburgher — I prefer the term Pittsbourgeois — so rooting for the Steelers is mandatory. My in-laws have bought the kids Steelers t-shirts, Steelers sweatshirts, and, I believe, Steelers underwear."

You see that's the difference between Pittsburgh and Seattle. That's just pathological, pointless, a waste of money, and somewhat psychotic. No one in the Seattle area, besides Mr. and Mrs. Seahawk, who are sort of the unofficial mascots (a real married couple), would do that, because unlike in Pittsburgh there's actually shit to do in Seattle! People actually have lives and don't live their lives vicariously through a football team!, at least not nearly as much as in other places.

I can forgive Pittsburgh because of their terrible economy. Things aren't looking up there, the steelworkers are increasingly out of work.

But I also think that this whole sports mania is pathological.

Maybe it's because I was blessed with being born in Michigan, which features the Tigers and the Lions, who are two of the shittiest teams in their respective sports. You get used to sports not meaning much when you have those two to compete with.

The Pistons, eh.

But the Red Wings, that's serious business.

Well, I suppose it's better to be concerned with one out of the four big ones than all four, or the two big ones of baseball and football.

And a pox on both Michigan and Michigan State. One is the province of rich kids and means nothing, the other one is the province of rejects and similarly means nothing. There's no middle ground of decent academics in the two main Michigan public schools. Maybe the U of M people should buy all the drugs from the MSU people and then invite them over for a big party. It would be a fitting statement on the state of the schools.

Let me add to that..

There are few books that actually make me feel afraid, not out of some sort of sense of gory violence but out of fear at what I'm seeing in my mind, fear at what the book is telling me on a primal level, and Artaud's Heliogabalus does this.

Heliogabalus, a work of extremity.

Oh my god. I just finished Heliogabalus by Antonin Artaud. I had to sit down and pour myself a drink, which in this case meant coffee leavened by a generous dose of Kamora, which is a Kahlua knock off.

The book is quite something.

In all seriousness, I haven't felt quite this way since I read "Naked Lunch", which was a long time ago.
There's the same sense of wonderment, of "we're not in Kansas anymore", of the opening up of new frontiers which I scarcely knew existed.

Artaud's work is a chronicle of the Roman emporer who reigned for four years, indulging in excess, before being killed by his own troops.
But that doesn't do it justice; the thing is scarcely pornographic, at least in the word's normal sense, but is very weird and very evil, but in a good way.

The basic thesis is that Heliogabalus, on assuming the throne in Rome, sought to act as a god on the earth, which meant doing things quite out of the ordinary. Artaud argues, if you can call it that, that Heliogabalus' excess was the deliberate, mystical, act of a god intent on incarnating his rites physically on the earth.

It should be mentioned that Artaud is crazy, and so half of the book is Artaud's interesting but crazy ravings, which don't have anything to do with Heliogabalus himself, at least not in any but the most speculative way, and half is actually talking about Heliogabalus and his family. Which is good. Artaud's crazy writings are very interesting, and they're actually saner than a lot of stuff put out there, even though the price that Artaud paid for them was going beyond the point of no return, which is unfortunate to say the least but which appears to have been his destiny in some way.

Creation books is a very interesting new publisher of avante-garde fiction, and people should check them out. The link to their Heliogabalus page is here and you should be able to get to the rest of the Creation Books website from there.

The back of the book says "No reader of Artaud's most inflammatory work....will emerge unscathed from the experience"

I think that's a fair assesment.

Monday, February 06, 2006

And yes...

In some circles the whole thing about diversity and multiculturalism and other lefty things gets under fire...from other lefties and progressives.

I've read it described as "Pacifica Stalinism", but you know what? Spend enough time around progressive causes and you'll find out why people do the things they do, and why this sort of thing isn't in fact some sort of knee jerk response to things but rather a measured and insightfull response which comes from experience trying to do stuff.

Wow, how insensitive can you get: the "In These Times" article on the blogosphere

By which I don't mean the article itself, but the opinions of elite bloggers who contribute to the article, specifically in reference to who gets to blog, who blogs reach, and what's important in terms of how that should change.

"Stoller does not think that it’s important for blogs to reach a less-affluent audience: “Not everybody has to be part of that conversation. If someone wants to have access to those discussions, they should be able to do that. But for the most part, people—like that person working two shifts—will go on with their lives knowing that good people are making good decisions and policies on their behalf.” Bloggers like Moulitsas—who is equally unconcerned that his blog will never reach “someone working at the DMV”—are likely betting that the cadre of activists they reach will be able to form connections across those differences within their community."

"As for the relative paucity of top female progressive bloggers, Moulitsas is indifferent: “I haven’t given it a lot of thought. I find it totally uninteresting. What I’m interested in is winning elections, and I don’t give a shit what you look like.” It’s an odd and somewhat disingenuous response from an advocate of blogging as the ultimate tool of democratic participation."

"Where Stoller openly acknowledges the problem—describing blogs in one of his posts as “a new national town square for the white progressive base of the Democratic party”—and the need to take steps to tackle the disparity, Moulitsas is less generous. In his view, it’s simply absurd to demand what he sarcastically describes as an “affirmative action of ideas” within an inherently meritocratic medium such as the blogosphere: “I don’t see how you can say, ‘Well, let’s give more voice to African American lesbians.’ Create a blog. If there’s an audience, great. If there isn’t, not so great.” Besides, he suggests, if a Salvadoran war refugee—in his words, a “political nobody”—like him can make it on the Internet, there’s nothing stopping anyone else from doing the same."

I'm sort of struck dumb by all of this. The blogosphere has in fact been a province of well of, educated, white men, although somewhat young, and this really, really needs to change. The old boys network type of feel is most evident on the bigger websites, like Atrios, even though I like it, and, although I like it more than Atrios, Kos, too.

What surprises me though is that these guys would go out there and defend it, or think that it really wasn't a problem. At the least I'd expect them to say "Yes, it's a problem, but unfortunately that's how it is right now. Hopefully it'll change soon", possibly with some proposal about linking to more blogs which reflect how things should be.

And about that whole "DMV" thing? A better indicator would be for the guy who works behind the counter at a local gas station to blog, and to have his blog be read. The DMV itself is up there compared to some jobs, which is interesting because that's the example which was chosen to represent working people.

How about the guys who patch asphalt on roadside crews? Or does their opinion not matter, and/or "they don't have anything to say", which is what people who dismiss minorities have said about them for millenia.

Discussion on Pandagon in reference to Betty Friedan’s death.

What I think all of these posts that say “just another person glorifying a life of drudgery and housework” in reference to critics of feminism fail to understand is that, in fact, women for a very, very, long time accepted these things as normal and that the definition of housework as “drudgery” and soul-killing is something fairly new, which is a product of the feminist movement.

Where I’m going with this is simple: people like Phyllis Schlafly who glorify housework aren’t romanticizing it, rather, their constitutuency are housewives who grew up not realizing that there were alternatives to being housewives. These anti-feminist crusaders function to reinforce these patterns among women who already, because they weren’t born in the right state, city, or household, believe what they say to be true.

Marcotte uses the example of romanticizing farming while never having shoveled pig shit, but you could say too that the farmer who grew up on a farm, whose parents were farmers, and whose grandparents were farmers, doesn’t really think anything particularly bad about shoveling pig shit. It’s just part of life.

Same thing with women in very traditional marriages. I think that the Eagle Forum etc... biggest effect is to make it more difficult for these women to get a critical awareness of their situation, in effect giving patriarchal society tools by which to convince women who are in these traditional relationships to stay in line, even promoting housework and opposition to it as being a cultural elitist/everyday person split, so that housework is seen as being ‘normal’ while all these other things, going to school, having a career, not having a traditional marriage, are seen as the province of big city elitists who have no contact with normal people and who are somewhat off balance, which is what the conservative right has generally cast liberals as anyways.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

"Can a cartoon start WWIII" from Pandagon

Interesting coverage of the whole Danish cartoon controversy. Personally, my take on it is that it's a little hypocritical for Muslims to get very upset at a Western paper for doing this while they regularly pillory Jews and Christians in their papers. I feel it comes down to the rule of the majority--in the Muslim east they flex their muscles to misrepresent people just as in the Christian west. I've heard the stories, which I don't doubt, of things like Egyptian TV supposedly making a miniseries out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and so I find it hard to have too much sympathy while the people involved are doing the exact same thing to minority members of their own societies. If there was some parity here, like Muslims tolerating minorities, but the west not, then I'd be more sympathetic, but honestly, until you all put your house in order I don't see why the west should alter its practices, unless you want to make a vague argument about imperialism and the relative strength of the middle eastern countries to the core countries of western Europe and the United States.

One thing though, if the issue were solely about the rest of the world descending into religious fanaticism and violence while the United States stood out as a beacon of rationality and sanity I'd be quite ok with that, as long as it didn't effect us, which is much like what the Bush administration is saying. The flaw in that, though, is that the United States is not a beacon of sanity against fundamentalisms. It itself is descending into an orgy of religious fanaticism and general insanity, is self destructing internally while the same type of religious fundamentalism gains adherents in the rest of the world---largely because of what we're doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Al Qaeda gets support because of what we're doing, whereas if we weren't there opposition to the west would take more secular and leftist forms where the object of contention---imperialism, neo-colonialism, the support of dictators and of export oriented trade regimes reducing countries to dust--would be much more up front and obvious. Al Qaeda and Islamic Fundamentalism divert attention away from the core causes by contaminating legitimate grievances with religious fanaticism.

But what exactly is the difference between the people of Beirut burning down the Danish embassy and Judge Roy Blount touring the country with a stone copy of the ten commandments, other than the explicit violence? The impulse comes from the same source, as far as I'm concerned, which also includes those people who protest abortion clinics, intelligent design proponents, people harping on the imminent destruction of civilization due to gays and lesbians and a thousand other causes of our domestic Taliban.

Before condemning religious fundamentalism abroad we have to set our own house in order, or else we won't have a leg to stand on when arguing against these things.


Yes, it amazes me to no end how the President can pretend that we're engaging in this ultimate rational contest of respect for democracy vs. dictatorship, freedom vs. authoritarianism, religious fundamentalism vs. tolerance. And people who buy this stuff honestly have no idea what's going on in their country. Maybe they should recall pastor Niemoller's poem.

Brokeback Mountain

*spoiler included in this*

In the hours before the Superbowl started, leading to Seattle's defeat, I was in a cinema watching "Brokeback Mountain", the movie making all the controversy in the U.S.

I have to say this: very few movies make me cry during them, and this one provoked the same sort of visceral reaction. Not just tears, but I seemed to feel it through my body, the feeling of shivering connected with sobbing sometimes. The thing that did it for me was the last scene, where the Del Mar character is visited by his now grown up daughter, who tells him that she's getting married. By now, Jack, played by Gyllenhaal, has been murdered and Del Mar has visited his parents and retrieved a coat and shirt of Jack's. At this time he's long been divorced from his wife and mother of his children, and is living a solitary life as a migratory cowboy. After talking about having to go with the herds down in the Tetons during the time of the wedding he finally caves in and says that he'll be there. After she leaves he opens his closet, and there's Jack's coat and shirt, stained with blood. He unbuttons it and buttons it again, presumably thinking of everything that happened.

That did it for me; the juxtaposition between this happy 19 year old girl gleefully going off to get married and Del Mar contemplating how he could never have that.

It's not easy to think about, but it embodies the experience of gays and lesbians in America.

The Constitution and backward looking

Like many people I'm getting sick of all this Constitutional-fundamentalist bullshit.

It's completely amazing the degree to which this country harks back to the period at the end of the 18th century when the Constitution was written as being some sort of endless fountain of wisdom.

You know what I think?

People who look back on the Constitutional period like this are afraid to look to the present and to justify their actions based on general philosophy and reason; they're too immature to put forward new concepts of their own, or too cowardly, and instead fall back on daddy Constitution to give them all the answers.

If they were real men/women they'd justify whatever it is they want to justify in terms which we could all understand, which would be simple arguments based on moral ideas current in this day and age, but no, they want to hide in the obfuscation of the 18th century instead of looking hard and fast at what's in front of them.

As long as this goes on the U.S. will never be able to advance as a nation and will be respected by the international community as being even tangentially in contact with the real world.

Fuck hiding behind the Constitution. If you want to justify capitol punishment or rollback on civil rights or torture or anything else justify with arguments that you'd use in conversation with real people---not by appealing to a bunch of dead white men whose opinions mean less and less as time goes by.

Same goes for people who are progressive.

That Robida guy

I have an interesting perspective on this in that in the early '90s I hung around the sort of culture that the ICP lovers are part of. It was a local Michigan thing.

At that time what attracted people to ICP was less the complete craziness which their later work seems to have embodied and more their connections to gangs in Detroit, specifically Southwest Detroit which, because of their promotion, mostly, was considered to be particularly bad-ass. In all actuality North East Detroit is much worse than Southwest, but that doesn't really matter. Back then my impression was that the crazy stuff they were doing was an attempt to talk about life being really shitty, being part of working class culture, and being part of the macho gang culture.

I'm not saying that they were *good*, they were always sexist and pretty violent, but, at that time at least, their penchant for violence was seen as being purely fantasy.

I basically grew up and stopped listening to them.

"Now I'm so excited because I knew this day would come, my stepdad's passed out with an empty bottle of rum, and though she's been gone long I do not miss my mother...' That's a fragment of a song I remember

But at the time this kind of thing wasn't that out of the ordinary, at least within the Detroit rap scene. Reference could be made to a black rapper named "Esham", who came out with songs with interesting titles like "Pussy ain't got no face".

I've actually been against ICP and the whole ICP crowd for a while now. This seems typical of where that whole thing was going. Glorify gangs and violence, a-moralistic actions, eventually someone is going to act on it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Bullshit. Complete Bullshit

"Our economy is healthy, and vigorous, and growing faster than other major
industrialized nations. In the last two-and-a-half years, America has
created 4.6 million new jobs – more than Japan and the European Union
combined. Even in the face of higher energy prices and natural disasters,
the American people have turned in an economic performance that is the
envy of the world."

What'll you think the first proposal from the SOTU speech is that Bush will drop?

I've got a clue for you:

"The best way to break this addiction is through technology. Since 2001,
we have spent nearly 10 billion dollars to develop cleaner, cheaper, more
reliable alternative energy sources – and we are on the threshold of
incredible advances. So tonight, I announce the Advanced Energy
Initiative – a 22-percent increase in clean-energy research at the
Department of Energy, to push for breakthroughs in two vital areas. To
change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in
zero-emission coal-fired plants; revolutionary solar and wind
technologies; and clean, safe nuclear energy."

I can't picture Bush saying this with a straight face. He knows that this is such bullshit.

Is there something that Bush knows, in the back of his head?

"As we look at these challenges, we must never give in to the belief that
America is in decline, or that our culture is doomed to unravel. The
American people know better than that. We have proven the pessimists
wrong before – and we will do it again"

This seems to me to be a subconscious communication of the truth. America is in decline. Our culture is doomed to unravel. Bush must know this on some level, or it would never have gotten into the State of the Union speech.

We haven't proven the pessimists wrong---and we won't prove them wrong again.

Can't help but think of synchronicity.

At about the time Bush was giving the speech, Pacific Standard Time, massive storms were going across Western Washington, like they had been for most of the late afternoon.

Oh yeah, and that thing in the speech about having needed increased surveillance of phone lines in order to connect the dots for 9/11, and justifiying the surveillance now with that?

I would think that it would have been much easier to prevent 9/11 by looking at a memo titled "Bin Laden determined to strike in the United States" than to tap everyone's phone. Just saying here--and maybe I'm nuts, but the CIA had already prepared briefings about this. It was not an issue of not having enough surveillance but of government incompetance---and possible government complicity in allowing an event to happen which would legitimate and expansion of presidential authority.

State of the Union Address

"The great people of Egypt have voted
in a multi-party presidential election – and now their government should
open paths of peaceful opposition that will reduce the appeal of

This must be a reference to the fact that the President of Egypt arrested the main opposition candidate after the election, right?