Sunday, April 30, 2006

Actually, I have no idea about the importation rules

There seem to be contradictory statements here, with legit absinthe makers saying that it's ok to import into the U.S. if for personal use and not for resale.

Here's a site that sells the real thing although I'm not sure if it's ok to import it. But, look at the price: 25 Pounds for a half liter, which is substantially less than what the Czech absinthe people are charging. Combier Blanchete Absinthe is 25 pounds for a half liter.

But the online site doesn't seem to be working.

All good things must come to an end: the truth about 'Absinth' and 'Absinthe'-not the same thing

According to the Wormwood Society, who's linked to by the title, virtually all of the Absinth sold by the online companies that advertize all over the place is fake. They list real Absinthes that are available internationally and, no, Czech 'Absinth' appears nowhere, except for one type, which isn't offered for sale by the online companies. The reviews of the absinthe coming from the Czech Republic are not encouraging:

"Flavoring oils of low-quality masked by too much mint, added to harsh, inferior industrial-grade alcohol and colored with artificial coloring; that's all it takes to swindle thousands of uninformed people with hopes of "dancing with the Green Fairy."

All that, and it tastes bad. The recipes, flavor profiles and manufacturing processes of Czech absinth have nothing in common with those of authentic absinthe and are only nominally "absinth" because of the incidental inclusion of wormwood which, for the uninformed, is all that matters. Czech absinths are inferior in every quality that one looks for in an authentic absinthe: fresh herbal flavor; traditional ingredients; good, natural color; a good louche and proper manufacture - i.e. distillation of real herbs."

They have resources on the real thing, which it appears you cannot import into the U.S., no matter what they say,but, it appears that my little experience was due to adding something with much more thujone than absinthe would normally have to liquor.

It also appears that adding thujone containing stuff to liquor is illegal. Oh.

All of that online absinthe stuff made me think that it in fact was not, but the Wormwood Society reproduced the FDA regulation which makes it so.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Absinthe

You've seen the ads everywhere: on Raw Story, for example, on Smirking Chimp, all saying "Absinthe" drink what Baudelaire drunk. The Green Fairy. "Absinthe: Buy for the Experience, Buy for the Effect" declares one Absinthe seller.

Well, I thought to myself, after seeing these ads over and over, I'll click over to see what the deal is. So I do, and I find out that the base price for a bottle of Absinthe is $50. Owe. But, as the days went on, I thought: there are liquors that cost a whole bunch if you get a litre, $50 might be premium, it might be a burden on the budget, but it's not that unreasonable. Thinking this I click through, only to discover that, since it has to be imported from Europe, not only is the base price $50 but the shipping is $50 too. Now, that's just too much. I might be able to rationalize $50, once in a blue moon, but not $100.

So I decided to take matters into my own hands.

There are ways to make your own absinthe, cheaply, effectively, without a lot of muss and fuss. But I'm not going to tell you how to do it; you've got to find that out for yourself. But, needless to say, I managed to get my hands on some absinthe home brew.

What follows is a "trip report", the standard issue for experimentation with things.

I got my absinthe concentrate, contained in a 80% proof spirit, one use worth, put a shot in a glass, added cold water, and then made what is perhaps the most vile of mixing mistakes: added a shot of coffee liquor to the mix purely because I had it on hand.

Notice, because this is some backyard concoction it may actually have had more active component of absinthe in it than the comercially available ones.

Anyways.

I drink it, slowly. It's like a mixed drink, albeit one that tastes like coffee. I take a slug, wait, take a slug, wait, until I get frustrated, cross myself, and drink the rest of it down in one gulp.

The normal effects of downing a mixed drink proceded to set in: alcohol intoxication, but. But.

Then, after a few minutes, something happens.

All of the sudden, from relaxing in alcoholic lu-o land, with tropical breezes blowing behind me, my mind suddenly shoots up and into full consciousness.

I'm suddenly totally aware, even scarily so. It's like being on speed and drinking at the same time. I have a spontaneous desire to pace back in forth over the ground of my tiny little kitchen, I have the impulse to wave my arms up and down and be active. It increases. Suddenly my thoughts start to speed up and cascade on one another like in a manic trip. Then, after a few minutes, the experience peeks and it starts to slow down, not stopping, but just to get into a state which is more manageable. Still very aware. Can tell why they called it the "Green Fairy", with the interpretation of "fairy" being "imp", since that's what all the original artwork portrays absinthe as: a smiling green imp. Drinking this stuff makes you very impestuous while being very intoxicated via the alcohol. The combination of energy and alcohol reminds me of some passages by Henry Miller where he talks about nights drinking Pernods (which contained absinthe....although I'm not sure what date they stopped putting it in there) all night and getting rowdier and rowdier, seemingly not being effected by the large quantities of alcohol that he and his friends imbibed.

Verdict: Absinthe isn't bunk, it isn't something which has no effects; it definitely has effects and is pretty interesting.

I recommend trying to do it yourself.

Incidentally, on the scale of things, although Absinthe is really interesting, especially if used by someone who drinks alcohol and does nothing else, but in the scheme of things, hashish has it beat.

But that's just me.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Giving Credit where Credit is due: Disinfo publishes an article on animal liberation

It's "A tale of two beagles" by the president of PETA, Ingrid Newkirk, talking about her going to Drexel University to give a talk on computer simulated experiments as an alternative to real live animal experimentation and walking away, legally, with two dogs who were kept in a tiny room, concrete on all walls, in order for the students to once a year take blood from them so that they could learn how to do it.

It's great of Disinfo to run this article, it shows hopefully that they can still be a funky counter-culture site while also letting in alternative politics once in a while.

In relation to May Day

In response to Chris Kromm, who's wonderment about lefty bloggers not talking about May Day, which was reposted on Majikthise, I have to say that I'm participating in the May Day celebration where I live but I don't really think it's necessary to post something on every single event which is going on. If I did that, particularly if it was in relation to events that I didn't end up going to, I'd be doing almost nothing else.

Yes, this May Day is historic because of the linkages between immigrant rights and workers' rights, but if Kromm really wanted to peg the historical moment it would be the massive demonstrations that just happened, not this one, which, although really important, isn't the ground breaker.

As for liberal blogs not covering it, well, the deal is that they're liberal blogs, not 'lefty blogs' like Kromm seems to think , for 90% of the time, and although you'd like them to care about May Day, unless they're in that Progressive nether world where socialism and liberal democratic politics link up, it's sort of a lost cause.

And about Kos being from El Salvador and therefore getting to say his piece on hard left politics, or any other politics where he has direct experience by being Salvadoran, you know, although Kos says "been through a revolution, and it's not pretty", in response to what to do beyond simple democratic party support, I can produce Salvadoran refugees who were pro-FMLN, the guerrilla group which fought the civil war for the Left, all the way, and still are. I pit my hispanic people against the democratic blogosphere's hispanic guy and we'll have a racial fisticuffs, the point being that Kos, by virtue of his heritage etc.. is not automatically the last word on these subjects; to treat him as such is ultimately to tokenize him into being That Hispanic Guy who talks about Central America every once and a while and who's a Popular Blogger as well.

To see Kos as one of many Salvadoran refugees in the United States, who all have different views on the subject of the Civil War and different experiences, is more fair to him and to them than to single him out as a special spokesman for whitey about brown people.

Robert Jensen: Why Leftists distrusts Liberals

A good little article, which brings up some of the hypocrisy of mainstream liberals concerning the left. In Jensen's case it's the 'defense' of work as a University of Texas professor by a fellow professor:

"Palaima’s op/ed piece started by stating, “Jensen’s classes have a political content” and that this led to a conservative student group putting me on a “watch list” of professors who inappropriately politicize the classroom. I teach about journalism and politics; of course my courses have political content, as does every course that deals with human affairs. The political views of professors -- left, right or center -- shape their courses in some ways. But by marking me as political, Palaima’s essay implies others are not, or at least not political as my class (and, by extension, the classes of other leftist professors)."

"Palaima goes on to refer to my “radical opinions,” suggesting students are free to accept or reject them, and are capable of doing so. I agree that students have, and exercise, that capacity. But by labeling my teaching as the expression of opinions, he adds to the perception that I, or any leftist, turn the classroom into a political pulpit. While my opinions shape my teaching -- just as Palaima’s and all professors’ opinions do, of course -- I don’t simply teach my opinions. I teach a mix of facts, analysis, and interpretation. When I offer students my own analysis and interpretation, I support it with evidence and logic."

I know liberals are supposed to be just that, liberal and by extension tolerant in their opinions, but there's something condescending about being defended according to the same logic as the Ku Klux Klan when you're just a moderately lefty professor, as Jensen is. The liberals appear to be saying that, well, you know, we have to be tolerant of these lefties, just as we have to be tolerant of the rights of the Klan to exercise their free speech rights because everyone in this country is entitled to voice their opinion.

Thanks.

It's like beginning a story about gays by saying "We know that they're all degenerates, but even degenerates have rights in this society and therefore we support gay rights.".

Which is somewhat what Jensen says in a following paragraph in the story. The issue isn't that there are some extreme opinions out there which need to be tolerated, but that 90% of what lefties talk about in America really shouldn't be viewed as extreme, because it isn't, and should instead be part of the national dialogue. By treating people like Robert Jensen as if they were promoting the virtues of Mao Zedong thought in the class room they're discrediting the very large body of ideas which lefties in the U.S. ascribe which are perfectly viable and are left out only because of historical political obstacles put in front of leftists by American society. Which means they aren't on the table because successive waves of red scares plus extreme reaction to even the most mild leftist criticism by the right has shut them out of political discouse in America.

Liberals, like anyone else, think that their position is the one which is basically right and that people who deviate from it are wrong in some degree, but the liberal model, which doesn't understand why socialist arguments and ideas are fundamentally different from liberal ideas and are, in fact, the product of extended criticism of liberal political ideas, seriously lacks the perspective which socialists easily call up, i.e. an understanding of society that goes to the economic structure undergirding it and how that translates out into culture, politics, policy, etc... instead of which, focussing on individual rights in an abstract space, with the individual just freely floating out there, not bound by economic influences or functioning in a capitalist environment, they miss the forest for the trees.

The forest being a broader conception of politics than their philosophy provides for.

Class mobility in England and America

Pandagon has an interesting column, by way of Ezra Klein, showing how much mobility the average person has in the U.S., as compared to other countries. Mobility is measured by how likely a person was to be in the same socio-economic class as their parents. The U.S. scored 47%, which is an extraordinarily high number compared to other countries, like Denmark, for example, where the correlation was 15%. Britain was the only country found to have a higher correlation: 50%. The factoid adds that England is " the country most closely approximating the American economic model." but I think that's a real misnomer because of the large, fat, elephant, in the middle of the room: England, unlike America, still has a titled aristocracy which is still insanely rich and has a heck of a lot of power over the country.

I would say that those class inequalities, which were never corrected as they were on the continent, are the reason why England is so regressive.

To put it another way, we, in the land of Freedom, are three percentage points away from being as immobile and inflexable in terms of class as a country which is ruled by a titled aristocracy.

Puts a different spin on it, doesn't it?

Funny recolections

I was in a local history course in the area for exactly one session. The instructor made a point of saying that the rounding up of Japanese citizens during World War II and their internment wasn't a totally negative event since, in his words, some "made some business connections" in the camps.

He prefaced this with saying, "Now, I'm not defending the Holocaust, no, wait, I mean the internment".

Defending the Holocaust must be some other class he teaches...

This guy is an anomolie but beware of the local history folks, "local history" may turn out to mean "Conservative, Xenophobic, history", taught to appease some old racist white bats who have too much time on their hands.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Interesting, Hawai'i

Strange. I've been hearing things about Hawai'i lately from Northwesterners who view Hawai'i as I viewed Florida when I lived in the Midwest: the place to escape to when you want to get to Absolute Elsewhere, away from normal life, for a (maybe indefinite) period of time. Only there's trouble in paradise. Florida has trouble too, but the trouble in Hawai'i is different from that of Florida.

Florida's trouble is its ultimately rotting influence on a person, since although it's fun there really isn't all that much to do there, combined with the lawlessness of the cops in general, all over the state, and more strangeness than I have time to get into here...

Strangeness is good, but, hmm, check out the book "Redneck Riviera" by Dennis Covington if you want a sample of Florida's own brand of weird.

Hawai'i's trouble in paradise has to do with the history of exploitation of the native inhabitants by the fruit companies.

Which is something they don't talk a lot about in the media or elsewhere. The title link of this post goes to a wikipedia citation of a University of Hawai'i professor's book on the subject of pre-WWII Hawai'i, which is referred to as being ruled by a white supremacist oligarchy and which observers at the time characterized as being almost fascist with regards to its native and asian inhabitants.

"Haole" is a new word in my lexicon, pronounce Howlie and meaning "white person", in a derogatory way.

It's strange to think of this virtual slave labor going on in Dole plantations for generations, then, with the formal declaration of Hawai'i as a state, the image suddenly being marketed, which of course goes down to today, of Hawai'i as a peaceful paradise where native girls will rush out to your plane to give you leis, which, considering that the stereotype of them is as being almost nude, is intrigueingly Orientalist, Hawai'i style.

I bring this up because most of the stories that I hear include the understandable displeasure of native hawai'ians with the white people who have conquered their land and have made it into a tourist paradise.

Even in the most 'paradisical' state there's still a hidden story....

Lost Coast Brewing Box


Lost Coast Brewing Box
Originally uploaded by Summerisle.

As said before, Lost Highway on the Lost Coast...

Home Sweet Home


Home Picture 1
Originally uploaded by Summerisle.
This is a picture of ye olde front room.

I said it once and I'll say it again

If Kaaya Viswanathan is so smart why did her parents hire a consulting firm to get her into Harvard? My guess is that she says the right things but under that superficial veneer there's really nothing there. The link above is to an article on the Huffington Post where Viswanathan is referred to as a 'Wunderkind'. Right. A wunderkind who needs to cheat.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

To add to that

Kids whose parents have bought them 'consulting services' to help write their college essay don't deserve to go to Harvard, if standards have any meaning whatsoever since this is so transparently a way to cheat the system. But money talks and we all get screwed, right?

'Another Plagiarism Scandal'

This is the part that gets me over the whole scandal of the 19 year old getting the $500,000 advance etc..:

"In a profile published in The New York Times earlier this month, Ms. Viswanathan said that while she was in high school, her parents hired Katherine Cohen, founder of IvyWise, a private counseling service, to help with the college application process. After reading some of Ms. Viswanathan’s writing, Ms. Cohen put her in touch with the William Morris Agency, and Ms. Viswanathan eventually signed with Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, an agent there."

Do you realize the inherent elitism in this, the 'private counseling service' to help with the Harvard application the easy access to William Morris. What happened to give us your tired, your weak, your poor? These people aren't driving cabs in NYC; instead, they've adapted all the bad habits of the white upper class, which they are 'honorary members' of. But I guess immigration isn't a problem if the people who immigrate are filthy rich and are ready to be as elitist as the finest WASP scion; it's only a problem if they're poor people of color.

Ah, the fine products of the caste system coming to the United States and adapting to our own bigotry. What a sight.

Robin Philpot on Jane Jacobs and Quebec separatism

This is an amazing article. The question of Quebec sovereignty or separatism, or the case of the French Canadians being the first (colonizer) inhabitants of North America is almost never dealt with and Philpot, in his (her?), interview with Jane Jacobs gives an excellant rundown of it. I remember with great joy the time spent during my "haunting of the research library" years reading a radical pro-separatist Quebecois book which integrated Quebec separatism with ideas similar to those of black nationalism, regionalism, and which saw the pro-separation movement as being one of the vanguards for socialism in North America, based on liberation of a subject minority. This, along with my own researches into the non-English colonial presence in what became the United States, was one of the things prompting me to adopt regionalism as a foundational principle in my own thought. Here are some highlights from the interview:

"As an example for people to follow, be they in Quebec, Canada or the United States, she also carefully reviewed how Norway peacefully separated from Sweden 100 years ago in 1905. People forget that before becoming independent Norway was part of Denmark from 1537 to 1814 and then part of Sweden until 1905. That separation probably helped both Sweden and Norway politically and economically and it was skillfully resolved, even though the conflict could have degenerated into war since tensions were high."

"She looked specifically at Montreal and Toronto and foresaw the regionalization of Montreal, making it into a sort of feeder for Toronto as regional airports are to a hub. “In sum,” she wrote, “Montreal cannot afford to behave like other Canadian regional cities without doing great damage to the economic well-being of the Quebecois. It must instead become a creative economic centre in its own right… Yet there is probably no chance of this happening if Quebec remains a province.”

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Reagan-Carter Revolution; or, how the Democrats got to where they are now.

People sometimes put too much emphasis on Ronald Reagan for the economic policies of the early eighties, and the consequent misery that they inflicted. In truth, Jimmy Carter was the one who started what became known as "Reaganomics", towards the end of his term of office, in response to the recession which had hit in the late seventies.

While others hem and haw about "Stagflation", I'm going to put a different spin on what happened, because the ramifications of the late seventies go down to Clinton and now into Bush.

Basically, the recession in the late seventies had as contributing factors greater international competition and the process of off-shoring of jobs. This lead to a situation where the demands of the welfare state in the U.S., such as it was, could not be met while also insuring capitalist profits. To continue with social programs would have meant redistribution of wealth in order to finance them and make them work. This the rulers of America were not ready to give into, by any means, and so they started to look for other paradigms to push beyond the Cold War compromise of a limited welfare state and limited participation by Unions in the formulation of government policy.

The Democrats turned out to be fair weather friends of social movements and of equality. When the Cold War was on, with huge financing by the Defense Department stimulating the economy and our preeminent position in the world as the victor in World War Two ensuring our economic dominance, the people who really rule things could be generous, because profits beyond what they would normally have made in a competitive environment were the order of the day. Didn't John Kenneth Galbraith entitle his famous pro-welfare state tract "The Affluent Society"? It appeared that in the U.S., as opposed to the situation in Europe, that equality and a just living could be guaranteed without socialist redistributive programs, whether Social Democrat or otherwise, and that we could forge ahead with a modified version of the liberal state, one that was basically capitalist but which had bandaids here and there for the flaws which capitalism alone could not fix.

When the economic tide turned against this arrangement Carter started to jettison the idea of a welfare state and a Keynesian stimulated economy with extensive government intervention. Reagan signed onto this too, only much more vocally and propagandistically.

Between Carter and Reagan was the difference between the more passive capitalist class interest in the face of a new situation and the more aggressive capitalist class interest, which saw the fact that a U.S. style welfare state would probably no longer be tenable unless the Democrats really upped things, gambled that they wouldn't, and instead used the economic situation to put forward their own interests as fully as possible.

In a situation where the welfare state doesn't look like it can be made to work there are a few options, but one of the most attractive options for those in charge is to take this as a sign that the welfare state and all of its intellectual progeny were categorically wrong and that a pro-capitalist deregulated world is the right answer and push pro-capitalist interests as the salvation for society.

This is what Reagan did, but Carter was quietly dismantling this part of the Democratic ideology in a much less robust fashion as well.

Fast forward to Clinton. Clinton didn't seriously break with either Bush Senior or the basic philosophy of Reagan and Carter. Bush Sr. while being a Republican, had the unenviable job of cleaning up the mess that Reagan had made with his ideological extremism, and it cost him his reelection. Clinton declared that the era of big government was over, that we had to adapt to a post-industrial age, that we couldn't afford Unions and Welfare programs, or to have the same sort of government intervention regarding trade which had been normal for states for centuries, and he pushed an agenda that weakened all of them.

He eliminated welfare as an entitlement program, putting severe limits on it; he signed NAFTA, which Bush Sr. had also pushed, which frittered away economic sovereignty for the benefit of a post-industrial age where capital was now moveable all over the globe and should be as mobile as possible. He appointed someone as secretary of labor, Robert Reich, who believed that the era of unions was over and in fact wrote a book, "The Work of Nations", which argued for that position. The fact that in the post-Clinton years Reich has become somewhat of a progressive tells more about Washington Beaurocrats having their noses to the wind to see which way it's blowing than about Reich himself.

Why did all of this happen? What happened to the old Democratic Party which had some advocacy for the type of socially leveling programs that were now on the chopping block? In the new situation that Clinton lived in, and that we continue to live in, those social programs could no longer be maintained without cutting into the bottom line of corporations; without progressive taxation on corporations with the aim of using it as a redistributive device, without the same for individuals, and without a policy which outwardly favored the working class at the expense of the upper class and which gave the middle class, small businesses, some assurance that they wouldn't be crushed between the government policy regarding these two interests, the same guarantee which had been given in Europe.

So, now that they couldn't have the cake and eat it too, the Democrats retreated from their progressive standpoints. This is essentially what still drives the centrist democrats of today, people like Hillary Clinton. They don't want to make waves because fundamentally they don't represent the interests of working people against capital. It's not that they're somehow spineless all of a sudden, no, they're purusing their ideology and their agenda with a lot of spine, it just so happens that that ideology and that agenda is pro-capitalist to the extent that it shuts out the interest of workers and the poor, of all colors, indefinitely. These people will never have a place at the table, except in meaningless token positions, as long as centrist democrats like Clinton and company are in control.

Bush might be going all out trying to quash dissent, scaring people into forgetting their economic situation, but what the democrats are offering is a kinder and gentler Bush doctrine, not something fundamentally different.

Until a group advocating redistributive reforms comes on the scene this will never change because this state of affairs, the Republicans pursuing their agenda, the Democrats not really challenging that agenda or adding anything new to it themselves, is not a fluke; it's the natural product of the interests that the two parties serve.

Against Bush

We should oppose Bush and seek to win against him, to overthrow his regime, by legal oppposition, but we should also organize to overthrow capitalism itself, because the root cause of Bush is capitalism in this time and place and if we get rid of Bush but don't also get rid of the exploitative nature of capitalism we'll get someone like Bush again.

The iron fist behind the velvet glove

That's what we're starting to experience right now with Bush and his regime. I remember reading that Whitley Streiber, the UFO/Communion guy, was once told in conversation with a French government official that the United States really isn't a democracy and that sometime in the future you'll find this out for yourself.

This seems to bare fruit. Capitalism can't continue unchallenged, the economic crisis that we're in, the slowdown, the ending of the golden age of American capitalism started in the post-war years, is not going to be reversed; instead, the tendency will be for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer and for more members of the 'middle class' to join the poor and the working class. The "Golden Age", when it appeared that capitalism could provide a decent existence for people without serious modifications, was based on the economic strength of the United States coming out of World War Two, when the major competitors, Europe and Japan, were destroyed. Our happening upon dominance lead to profits and profitability which would not have happened if Europe and Japan were viable economic powers. Now both are back in the running, and China is emerging as a new economic powerhouse. The Golden Age is over.

Not only that, but the neo-colonial relations with the third world, particularly with Latin America but also with Asia, which we cultivated in order to get cheap raw materials and then, later, cheap manufactured goods, are fracturing, based on popular rejection of these sorts of relationships. Latin America is going leftist and won't stand to be America's supplier of raw materials, getting nothing in return, for very much longer.

On the other hand the manufacturing part of the neo-colonial relationship, globalized manufacture, is about to backfire on the country that started it, the United States, by permanently undercutting wages and jobs here, leading to a race to the bottom which will mean cutting of wages until they're compatible with third world standards, increasing the rush to inequality which was already increasing due to the loss of American prominence on the global economic scene.

To counter popular resentment to this the velvet glove of the state has come off, to be replaced by the iron fist of state-corporate power, merged into one piece, like it's always beenk, but now openly out there.

Police state tactics, restraints on freedom of speech, terror instilled into the population of the United States, increasing ultra-conservative hegemony, all of these things are increasing in order to keep people in line, in order to stop a rebellion against the growing inequality and lack of real self control over our collective destiny, democracy, from occurring.

Democracy is secondary to inequality in this measure; democracy is a tool for registering collective will, inequality is a reason to use democracy to register discontent. But inequality is the source; lack of democracy is just a symptom.

But the tactics Bush is using right now are designed to keep people in fear and keep people from challenging the status quo as regards the distribution of wealth and power in the United States, which will only get worse as time goes by. After the Iraq war is over the same tactics will continue to be used internally within the United States, justified by vague terror pronouncements, or maybe outright fascist politics dealing with internal 'enemies', which will continue until people can get together to overthrow the regime as a whole and replace it with a socialist state which resolves the contradictions leading to inequality.

That's the future.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Neil Young and the Youstabee Youstabees

Neil Young has apparantly come out against Bush after making a fawning pro-Bush statement after 9/11. I'm thinking that this is representative of a new shift in people, one which seems opportunistic and crass. First off, there were the people who, in the comic "This Modern World", are referred to as the Youstabees, people who used to be Democrats and anti-Bush etc... until 9/11 changed everything yadda yadda. Are we now seeing these same people, who lined up with the President because that was the mindless and popular thing to do, now defecting because defecting is becoming a popular choice?

I can see it now, a parallel to the Vietnam position of people who initially thought that the cause of Vietnam was just but who, as time went on, unfortunately found out that the war was unwinnable. Sigh. Easier to say that the whole thing was wrong from the start, but that wouldn't include the two layers of ass covering that taking that position on Vietnam includes.

So now we're having the Youstabee Youstabees and I bet they'll come up with a story justifying their support of things like tortue, the patriot act, aggressive war against people who had nothing to do with 9/11, which somehow spins taking a morally reprehensible position at a time when being decisive and clear morally was really, really, required, into evidence of their gravitas or their deep comprehension of the moral realities of the modern political world, where, unfortunately, you sometimes have to support things which aren't %100 good, or some such bullshit.

Look up Reinhold Neibur for tips on how waging aggressive war can be justified by the tenants of Christianity. It was morally bankrupt then and the ass covering which probably will go on now is morally bankrupt still, hypocritical, shallow, and positively venal coming from people who wanted to ignore the Geneva convention and lynch anyone remotely alleged to be associated with Al-Qaeda when power was on their side.

Or program promoting

The glorious history of Calvinism in Ireland.


Just kidding, folks.

Ben & Jerry's apologizes for "Black & Tan" ice cream flavor

Has yet to make mention of Ian Paisley Spumoni or Marching Season Orange sherbet.

Digby post, 'and there was much gnashing of teeth' (my addition)

About the rise of special interest groups and the polarization of the eighties. Digby, although he expresses it strangely, in the language of the common good, does capture something about the eighties which was important, that Reagan and company managed to portray themselves as populists and get believed by a large portion of the white population of the United States. In the matter of "what else could people have done?", except identity politics, as well as the "should people have acceded to racists?" argument, I think people who aren't being creative enough. Although 20-20 hindsight is wonderful, they could have added the dimension of class to their arguments about gender and race, thereby winning some of those whites back to the liberal fold while not giving into racism at all. This, in a way, was what was being called out for: a unifying theme in the opposition to '60s and '70s culture was that people gave a damn about things happening half a world away but weren't concerned with what was happening at home, or, if they were, they were blaming the white working class wholesale for things which in many ways the ruling class was the source of. By writing off the white working class and/or picturing them as as big villains as the people on the top of society who try to co-opt them they left these same people open to the arguments of the very people who had used them time and time again to advance their own interests. The Reaganite critique of liberalism implicitly had a class component, i.e. it wasn't just racist but juxtaposed minorities getting welfare with poor whites who didn't qualify, it juxtaposed people who had university educated people speaking on their behalf with people who didn't really have any partisans, who therefore felt outgunned and outmanned in trying to assert their interests along with everyone else.

The solution to the problem of a too narrow focus on interest group politics would be to combine interest group politics with the politics of class on a broad scale, so that people would see that there really wasn't that huge of a gap separating poor white from black, although the cultural benefits and cultural wage, you might say, for the white person, is certainly great.

In other words, the democrats, or liberals, could have become socialists of a kind that went beyond just distributing boons to favored groups, something which did not in fact originate with '70s politics but which was established by FDR as the standard operating procedure, and started to talk about basic social redistribution of wealth beyond mere fixes and repairs to the system.

Address class at the same time you address race today and you'll still get the same sorts of positive results which would have happened if such a combination was tried in the '80s. In fact this is what the basic progressive program to win should look like; it's something which underlies much new progressive thought. Jim Hightower and Manning Marable are on the same team, after all.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Congratulations to Digby

For his Koufax award.

Question:

When will Republicans start objecting to Bush's behavior with regards to using the white house and the executive branch as a personal cover your ass team, no matter what the actual mess ups or actions by his administration have been.

Sure, people elect individuals, but, according to the thinking, what they're actually electing is a philosophy. This is what gives G.W.B. his supposed, what the fuck do you call it, his Political Capital. Supposedly the philosophy in question here is Republican Conservatism. It could be argued that G.W.B. is violating even the mores and standards of that philosophy all over the place--not listening to the retired generals, refusing to admit any mistakes in Iraq or to consider some sort of exit strategy, refusing taking responsability for Valerie Plame, refusing to acknowledge links with Abramoff, refusing to, in fact, admit mistakes of any kind in terms of policy or execution and make corrections, instead choosing to pursue this sort of "War on Terror" fantasy scenario, which admits no mistakes. For me, I think that quite a bit could be done in terms of firing people and changing policy without compromising the fundamental Republican Conservatism of the administration.

But what the White House seems to be doing is converting themselves to being George W.'s personal wipe up and spin squad, irrespective of actual mistakes or errors. Which doesn't seem to be what the voters voted for. Allowing for the idea that people did vote on 'moral issues', which I personally believe that they did, no matter what liberal people would like to believe, they didn't vote for endemic corruption in office and inept policy in Iraq leading to the unnecessary deaths of getting to be several thousand servicemen and women. They didn't sign on for false weapons of mass destruction and they didn't sign up for the government to terrorize them with the thought that we must constantly be vigilant. This article from Yahoo, discussing the recent change of staff at the White House, with Andrew Card stepping down as WH Chief of Staff after being on board for an unprecedented amount of time, suggests that the new chief, Bolten, will be revamping the White House staff to be a pro-Bush, anti-Scandal, anti-press, organization, irrespective of life outside the White House.

The White House staff is the immediate staff around the President, who share in the burden of the Presidential work load through the delegation of tasks, say researching policy options and such, to them by the President. These people, along with quasi-official groups like the National Security Council, are at the top of the interface between the President and the Executive Agencies, i.e. the President, after consulting with the Staff, makes a policy decision, which is then forwarded to whatever agency the policy decision has to do with, which then changes their internal rules and priorities to reflect this policy decision.

So it's not an inconsequential position of power, being on the White House Staff, or being Chief of Staff, and it looks like this Chief is readying the WH Staff to be Bush's personal ass-covering and self-advancement machine. Is this what the Republican base of the President really want or do they at least want some accountability, some responsiveness?


How long are they going to stand for Bush working for the benefit of...Bush....and not for the principles of Republican conservatism?

Oh, I forgot, Liberals are the enemy now; what a convenient way to take the pressure off the President by redirecting anger to the opposition: if people can be convinced about how absolutely evil liberals are they won't look at the President and the rot surrounding him.

But what do I know, I'm just a socialist.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Philosophy

Since referencing Majikthise on this blog I've noticed that she's written some on philosophy.

For the record, I enjoy A.J. Ayer's brand of logical positivism and analytic philosophy, like both the young Wittgenstein and the old, and think that analytic philosophy in it's non-blindly pro-capitalist manifestations, think Karl Popper, is a pretty interesting and uncharted subject, at least in the mainstream. But, in terms of what I find interesting philosophically, well, I respect the method of analytic philosophy most of all, I think that it's very, very, valuable to interrogate propositions in order to be able to see whether they have any falsifiability or not, etc.., personally, besides general Marxist ideas, I'm fond of the people that the analytic philosophers came to unseat, people like F.H. Bradley, the Neo-Hegellian, McTaggert, another British neo-Hegelian, the Machists, who defy description but who looked to the philosophy of Mach, the same guy who invented the Mach scale, for inspiration, Ernst Cassirer, the great Neo-Kantian humanist philosopher, then further back people like Hegel, Kant, Schelling, Fichte, Novalis, then in the 20th century Jacques Maritain, the neo-Catholic philosopher, back in the 19th century Cardinal John Henry Newman, a Catholic philosopher whose ideas are somewhat similar to Maritain's in some ways, Sylvia Langer of "Symbolic Philosophy" fame is good too, although analytically minded people would probably object to her as not being precise enough, and, to round it out, one of the best presentations of new philosophy that I've found is in Colin Falk's "Myth, Truth, and Literature: towards a true Post-Modernism", which synthesizes early romantic philosophy with that of Maurice Merleau-Ponty for an interesting and stimulating mix.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Anti-Zionism is not anti-semitism

A little clarification regarding the post below referencing Vrba's "Escape from Auschwitz".

Zionism is a cultural nationalist movement which started in the late 19th century which argued that people who were Jewish, because they shared a common religion, common cultural background to some extent, common language in Yiddish and in ceremonial Hebrew, constituted a unique nation and, more importantly, because they found themselves spread out over Europe in countries where linguistically, religiously, and somewhat culturally, they were minorities, they would never be able to really be free unless they had the same thing that these other countries had: a state of their own which was populated by people who shared the same religion, spoke the same language, and had the same cultural background. Hence, the State of Israel, which actually was chosen for propaganda value rather than religious reasons since the original Zionists like Herzl were secularists.

While this might seem fine and dandy, the experience of Israel in relationship to the Palestinians suggests that Zionism and Israel as the manifestation of Zionism is seriously, seriously, flawed as a philosophy.

As an aside, none of this has anything to do with Judaism itself or with Jewish cultural traditions or with any sort of racist ethnic thought about people of Jewish descent themselves.

Basically, I think that Zionism is wrong for several reasons, the first one being the idea that a) there was ever a unitary Jewish people, who really did share all these characteristics, at least in the modern era, the main fact being that Jews lived in and became part of countries all across Europe to one degree or another, sometimes facing severe anti-semitism, like in Russia and the Ukraine, sometimes not. The people known as 'Jews' spoke all the languages of Europe, absorbed all of the traditions of Europe, and integrated themselves into the cultural and social life of the countries they lived in post emancipation. Not quite as clear cut as, say, the Kurds or other ethnic groups pursuing nationalist agendas, especially since a wide gap in traditions emerged between Ashkenazi Jews, who lived in Europe, Sephardic Jews, who lived in North Africa and Spain, and also between Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews, Jews who lived in Israel and the Middle East itself, with Sephardim being closer to them.

The second one is more philosophical and cuts more to the point, and that is that what I see in Israel is the result of what happens when you pursue a nationalist agenda in today's world: brutal civil war between various ethnic groups which happen to occupy roughly the same soil, each with different histories and reasons for being there. Nationalism as an idea, in my opinion, has both exhausted itself and has proven to have some very serious flaws that the people who originally championed it did not see.

The ferment that Zionism came out of was the "spring time of nations" of Europe in the 19th century, when Hungary achieved autonomy from Austria, Italy unified itself, Serbia became an independent state, and many of the former Ottoman ruled countries in Europe, i.e. Greece and Romania, achieved their independence, and virtually every other national group in Europe which now has its own country started agitating for independence, independence from the leftovers of Feudalism: the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the German Empire , as well as the Russian Empire.

Nationalism in that time was a productive force because it agitated for modern nation-states with modern laws and systems of representation; these unfortunately came, in the wake of World War I, very abruptly and not really as the result of organic development, thereby leading to instability and problems, which contributed to the rise of Fascism in central and Eastern Europe, but that doesn't concern us at the moment.

Israel is often argued for in terms of reaction against what happened in Europe during World War II, when Fascist governments dominated by the Nazi state systematically murdered the Jewish population of Europe. But, not wanting to live in states which formerly wanted you dead notwithstanding, to me the Holocaust, as much as it traded on ultra-Nationalism, is an argument against establishing states based on the principle of Nationalism, not an argument for the establishment of a new state based on Nationalism, only one based on a nationality which was inhumanely abused just recently.

The Nazis themselves are perhaps not the best example to examine with regards to why extreme nationalism is a bad thing because what they were offering was not straight nationalism--it was nationalism mixed with pseudo-scientific racial theory, with some pagan and occult notions connected to this, and other things which nationalist and extreme nationalist movements largely did not share, with the pseudo-scientific racist notions possibly, in a way, being a partial excpetion since in a watered down form they were part of the general pre-WWII intellectual millieux.

Instead, look at the ultra nationalist fascist regimes which arose all over Europe. From Italy to Romania and up to the Baltics there was a belt of nationalist regimes which had similar features: repression of ethnic minorities, whether Serbs in Croatia or Slavs in Hungary, or Jews, which happened to exist on their soil. Discrimination against people who spoke different languages yet lived within the boundaries of the country. Hostility to liberalism. Hostility to "cosmopolitanism", to people being too literate and worldly and therefore not rooted enough in the traditions of "the nation", a need to censor art to reflect "national ideals and traditions", leadership based on charismatic figures claiming to represent the nation rather than honest parliamentary politics.

This was all the fruit of nationalist agitation taken to an absurd extent, and it contributed not just to severe internal repression of the populations of the countries involved but also set the stage for them to take part in the Final Solution, with most of the Fascist countries eventually falling under the influence of Nazi Germany and then adopting the Nazi formula for what the Jews were: the epitomy of everything that was non-National. Cosmopolitan. Not rooted. Yet insular in their own communities. Rich, and therefore not of the people. Poor, and therefore a bad part of the population. Possessors of an alien ideology, even if that ideology was one shared to some extent with Christianity. Speaking different languages, yet 'pretending' to be a) Hungarians, b) Poles, c) Lithuanians, d) insert whatever country. Rich, but, as outsiders, surely they got that way through some inherent greed on their part. I would argue that all these things are things that are regularly employed by xenophobic movements against outsiders and had little to do specifically with the Jews besides the residue of medieval anti-semitism linked to Christianity and the role that it cast Jews as a whole for the Crucifixion. Jews, I would argue, became the epitomy of what was anti-National in the minds of the Fascist nationalists that dominated these countries, which is what allowed them to carry out what they did.

Now, if ultra-nationalism lead to this in Europe, what makes you think that similar consequences wouldn't happen elsewhere when the idea was exported? To me, instead of learning from the fascist years and trying to construct multi-national, multi-ethnic states as the antidote to what happened, Israel imposed the same basic scheme which lead to disaster onto Palestine, now with consequences which indeed are similar, as has happened in place after place where nationalism has gained the upper hand, particularly in Africa.

But back to Israel. The experience of Fascism says to me that the idea of nationalistic based states themselves are wrong, no matter if they're implemented by Jews or by Slovaks. And Zionism supports the idea that such nationalistic based states are natural and are in fact the only way that Jews could possibly feel at home in the world. I think, personally, that the solution is to challenge the nationalist ideas, whether of France or Holland, or wherever, which Zionism was reacting to in order to bring about multi-ethnic, multi-national, states where you don't all have to speak the same language or have the same, identical, cultural historical background in order to coexist and to feel at home as Citizens, not as representatives of nation a) or nation b), or ethnic group or religious group a) or ethnic/religious group b).

This applies very much for today's Europe as well, where immigrants from Turkey and Africa are challenging notions of identity. The sense of identity of these countries needs to be widened to include all of the residents, not shrunken to exclude. The same can be said about the United States. The rallies in the past few weeks of undocumented workers, particularly from Mexico, and their legal comrades, demonstrates what a new notion of what America is is needed for this to be truly an inclusive and just society.

The same could be said of Israel/Palestine. I'm not in favor of a two state solution, since that would Balkanize Israel/Palestine even further but somehow a one state solution based on a citizenship that transcends religion.

Some people have said that Israel is entering a post-Zionist era. Hopefully that is the case.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Majikthise II

I'm not a fan of connecting moral positions to sociological positions too closely, usually, but in this case I think that Lindsay at Majikthise makes a good connection: the jock culture of rich, preppy, white boys, where there are no rules and are no consequences for actions. Don't use drugs---they're bad and you can go to jail for them---except if you come from this sociological niche, in which case it's a rite of passage....don't drink to excess because that's wrong, especially in college, because it takes time away from your studies and can have bad health considerations (something I believe in), except if you're these guys, in which case, hey drink all you want, college shouldn't just be about dry academics, should it? I could go on and on with this.

The reason that I don't like connecting morals to sociology too closely is for a reason which has nothing to do with the argument at Majikthise, which is that by doing this you can fall to easily into lionizing someone just for their class and demonizing someone just for the same, essentially the Stalin idea that all workers are virtuous, honest, and filled with a comradely spirit and that all members of the middle classes, or above, are essentially different degrees of moral degenerates, selfish, greedy, etc...for one of the best expositions of this idea, a well as the absurdity of it, check out Bertolucci's film "1900", which is about the purest example of Socialist Realist cinema in the West, probably done under the auspices of the Italian Communist Party, which is widely available.

The absurdity of it becomes clear once you delve into the movie.

I'm more concerned with people unnecessarily lionizing, and therefore trivializing, the working class than I am with demonizing the upper classes, but even there I think that there're ways of criticizing it which are right on, which hit the mark, and ways of criticizing it which are essentially formalistic and devoid of criticial analysis. No one benefits, in my estimation, from formalistic criticism; if you want to criticize the rich, fine, there's more than enough stuff they do to criticize them with, but don't just make up stuff based on their class position, which is what formalism essentially does.

Majikthise on the Duke situation

Leave it to a philosopher to take apart pseudo arguments like David Brooks' recent one about the Duke gang rape case.

Says Brooks:
"If you wander through the thicket of commentary that already surrounds the Duke lacrosse scandal, the first thing you notice is how sociological it is. In almost every article and piece of commentary, the event is portrayed not as a crime between individuals but as a clash between classes, races and sexes."

"You would then ask questions very different from the sociological ones: How have these young men slipped into depravity? Why have they not developed sufficient character to restrain their baser impulses?"

Says Beyerstein "There is no conflict between the sociological descriptions and moral condemnation."

....(from before the above quote)...

"Sure, white college athletes attacked black strippers, but it could have gone either way! If only we understood that, Brooks maintains, we wouldn't fixate the sociological details. We'd blame raunch culture and move along..."

"Maybe these young men had already learned that society would be much more tolerant of their bullshit when they targeted the weak and the marginalized."

"Unfortunately, David Brooks isn't prepared to grapple with the moral implications of the sociological facts."

" Ultimately, that's why feminism, civil rights, and class-consciousness matter so much."

...

I've done some editing and reorganizing with the quotes but the gist of it comes through pretty clearly.

Brooks goes on in his column to lament the fact that colleges aren't teaching character anymore, like in the good 'ole days of the Ivy Leagues, which, in itself reveals his bias here: when it's a bunch of white kids going to Duke suddenly the issue is lack of character molding by the institution....if it was a poor black kid who had raped a white woman do you think for a second that Brooks would have talked about "raunch culture" and the lack of "character molding" by whatever insitutions would be involved? No, he'd probably say that poor black america, for whatever reason he wants to give, is somehow pathological and dangerous, and that this is an example about why it's good to get tough on crime.

Class, and race, is indeed are the issues here.

Thank God.

The three ring circus known as Silvio Berlusconi's prime ministership of Italy is now over. More comments on this coming later.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Reading "Escape from Auschwitz"

Is something that I'm doing right now. The story, by Rudolph Vrba, was recommended by Holocaust scholar Raul Hilberg on a recent Counterpunch post as being one of the most accurate depictions of camp life. Vrba's account is very straightforward and honest, he doesn't try to portray himself as a superhero, or as anything but himself---an 18 year old kid who found himself in this situation, who had the interests and preoccupations of normal 18 year old kids before he was apprehended trying to escape from Slovakia and sent first to Maidanek and then to Auschwitz. This is really important, especially in light of his many descriptions of friends, cousins, acquaintances, all Jewish, in Slovakia, because, despite the recent imposition of the Fascist regime of Tiso in Slovakia, it gives a picture of Jewish life in Slovakia as being relatively normal, of Jewish kids, although not free from discrimination, certainly not living up to the ideal of all Jews as being aliens in all diasporic countries, as having this 'otherness' which is irreduceable, and which the only solution is the formation of a Jewish state. This is the stock Zionist analysis, and Vrba's story, among others, shreds it. In fact, Vrba gives a revealing account of the official Zionist House operating under the fascist Gömbös regime in Hungary. Vrba escapes Slovakia into Hungary with the intent of using that as a stepping stone to getting out of fascist dominated Europe and, although he's advized against it, goes to the official "Zionist House" in Budapest and asks if they can help him. He's been slated for evacuation to the 'resettlement areas', i.e. death camps, in Poland, and is running away. He expects the Zionists to help him with false papers, money, any sort of thing to help him get out, but instead the head of the Zionist organization threatens to report him to the Fascist police because, it turns out, he's come to Hungary illegally. Vrba then leaves Budapest, with one of the reasons, although not the prime reason, being that he and his hosts are afraid that the Zionists will report him to the Fascist Police anyways.

Despite all of this, Vrba eventually makes the statement that he thinks that the Zionists didn't really know the meaning of the 'resettlement areas' or they wouldn't have urged people to go there peacefully.

Food for thought.

How these people can claim to have any moral right to dictate how people should view Israel is beyond me.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Interesting

Some of the concepts I developed as Neo-Romanticism appear to have been thought of under the name of "Remodernism" by an English group called the "Stuckists". Here's Remodernism the Manifesto is the title link of this post

Friday, April 07, 2006

Exposure

re a Tom Tomorrow post. Actually, I'd like to get paid for doing this, to get paid for writing. That would be really good. This exposure business, well, what is it if you can't eat it. I'd settle for just a little money from this, enough to make the difference between absolutely nothing and a simple acknowledgement of my existence and of the effort I'm putting into this.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Viva Chavez!

Ted Rall has a great column this week about Hugo Chavez:

"The Danger of Hugo Chávez's Successful Socialism

NEW YORK--When the hated despots of nations like Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan loot their countries' treasuries, transfer their oil wealth to personal Swiss bank accounts and use the rest to finance (in the House of Saud's case) terrorist extremists, American politicians praise them as trusted friends and allies. But when a democratically elected populist president uses Venezuela's oil profits to lift poor people out of poverty, they accuse him of pandering."

"Gospel of Judas"

The account is really, really, strange considering that the industrial agit prop/performance art group Laibach, from Yugoslavia, did a song called "Abuse and Confession" on their album about religion "Jesus Christ Superstars", where they portrayed Judas as saying "No greater love has no man than I who would sacrifice eternity for one kiss for humanity". This is essentially what, judging by the press, the real Gospel of Judas says Judas' role was....

"It was written in the book
That You must die on the cross
And it was written
That I must betray You
Otherwise man would be lost
Would be lost

What about me?
Don't turn Your back on me

As it was written, so I must do
And this kiss on Your cheek
Proves my love for You"

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

I'm just curious how long it'll take before "Teh White Wimmin" card is played by these people

Implying that if "illegal aliens" are allowed to stay there'll be a mass of rapes which will destroy the white race forever.

Jesus Christ: Freeper follies at Firedoglake

Documenting excesses at "Free Republic"

I like this one about undocumented workers:

"Americans need to take a stand and if you go to a hotel and you see a non english speaking person cleaning your room callthe manager and front desk and have them remove the person immediately."

Now, prey tell, would you know that a woman of hispanic descent cleaning your room a) doesn't speak english, and b) is an illegal immigrant?

That seems like good 'ole American racism to me: see a brown skinned person in your hotel room, call the front desk and have them sent back to the fields and out of the Big House, we can't have any of those people changing massa's sheets now can we?

Cynthia McKinney hair

link above.

Actually, I think that Cynthia McKinney's hair looks rather nice.

Methamphetamine scares

From the Willamette Week via Majikthise and others.

This is a commentary on the article, which is available with the title link.

Short version: it's easier to talk about Meth and the Meth epidemic than it is to talk about crumbling infrastructure for schools and neighborhoods, lack of economic opportunity, lack of access to higher ed., than it is to pick up the name of a drug which creates very visible casualties and blame most social dysfunction on it.

Seriously. The Oregonian apparantly blamed threee quarters of property crimes in Portland, breaking and entry, burglary, on methamphetamine use.

Methamphetamine users and the consequences of methamphetamine use are something that people in cities all over the northwest can relate to because large sections of the homeless and transient population are longterm meth addicts whose lives have been destroyed by it. It's something where people from the suburbs can see when they come to downtown Portland, or to Seattle, or to smaller cities within the Portland-Seattle-Vancouver corridor. I see people like this all the time. But, what makes something picturesque doesn't necessarily make it representative of the underlying problem.

These people are taking these very visible meth addicts and imputing all sorts of criminal behavior to them because it's easy to do. I mean, these people do steal, they do commit violent crimes against others, they do all sorts of fucked up shit, to be imprecise here, so they're good marks. But, making the leap from the acknowledged crimes of certain homeless meth addicts to saying that three quarters of all property crime is meth related is totally bogus.

It's the same thing with crack cocaine all over again.

Yes, crack cocaine destroyed lives. Yes, crack cocaine fueled violence. Yes, there were consequences to kids whose mothers used crack while they were in utero, just like there are with mothers who use meth while pregnant. But none of these things explains why exactly all of this happened. Why, for example, was crack able to get a foothold in these environments? Why were street gangs able to capitalize on it? What about the general rise in violence not directly attributable to crack cocaine which happened at the same time, or which, at best, was tenuously related to it and to the drug trade, why did that happen when it did, and why.


Searching out crack cocaine as being the agent which caused all this is going about it the wrong way; a better analysis would be to look at the conditions which created an environment where the crack cocaine epidemic would take off, also realizing that in some ways the crack epidemic too was overblown.

What about cuts in social services, the loss of jobs in previously industrial areas, persistent racism in regards to the jobs that were left, crumbling schools, no opportunity, etc..?

Doesn't that create an atmosphere conducive to criminal behavior, when people think that they have no stake at all in society and instead turn to crime as their way to get ahead?

And in many cases this is a rational choice. If, indeed, joining a gang or selling crack cocaine, seems to be the best way to get something for yourself and your family, whose to say that pie in the sky promises of a better life if people clean up their acts and act the way bourgeois society wants them to act is the solution?

And what about people who, seeing their lives destroyed before their eyes, fall into addiction to these substances? Shouldn't they, too be offered a real possibility of a better life, not just one of increasing conformity to the values of the upper echelons of America but one which preserves dignity for themselves?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Revenge State

Reading a passage in the link above, which is to Alexander Cockburn's recent article on Elie Wiesel's "Night", where he criticized Wiesel for being silent on Israeli abuses, and thinking about Israel and Palestine, all of the stuff that's happened recently, from Hamas being elected to Kadima now taking power, and listening to people who have links to Israel, there emerges a similarity between Israel and another state which I've looked at: East Germany. Both, although separated in practice by a gulf, i.e. one the most developed police states in Eastern Europe the other a mostly democratic country for Israeli citizens, share the characteristic of being 'Revenge States'.

East Germany was founded by Communist emigres to Moscow, who flooded back into Germany during the Russian Occupation, who saw their rise to prominence as, first off, the opportunity to enact the sort of revolution that they dreamed of before the fascist dictatorship, and, secondly, as a way to directly exact punishment on the East German people for not rising up during Nazism but instead being mostly silent. The East German state pictured itself as the vanguard against Fascism, as the descendent of the anti-Fascist forces which fought on before being crushed by the Nazis, and, because of that pedigree, any abuse against suspected traitors to the East German state was justified. These were the people who had defeated Fascism, to question the moral legitimacy of the East German state was to question the history of the anti-fascist struggle of World War II itself. Because of the brutality of the Nazis and of capitalism, anything was justified when the emigres turned on their own people, when they were now installed in power. The construction of the Stasi? A justified expedient to ensure that traitors from the outside don't undermine the progress of the East German state in constructing a better society. The one party state? But of course, these people were entitled to lead, based on what they'd been through, and questioning their actions was tantamount to questioning the cause of what was righteous in the potential of humanity itself.

Israel seems similar. Most spectacularly with the Palestinians, their own internal problem. Capitalism and Fascism had inflicted pain on the East German leaders which they were all too eager to pay back in their construction of their socialist state, the Holocaust and Nazi Germany in general had inflicted enough pain on the survivors that, in constructing an Israeli state, anything was justified.

The point isn't to criticize the pain but to criticize what you do with that pain. Do you send it back out into society, especially if you're in a position to actually implement wide ranging policies which have the possibility of effecting a large number of people, or do you deal with it and channel the response to the pain into constructive avenues which don't pass on the victimization that you've experienced to a new generation, but, hopefully, dismantle that which victimizes.

Random thoughts on the U.S.

Which is that all New World countries are basically Potemkin countries, the United States included, a country which, compared to the rest of the world, looks like it was scratched out on the back of a cocktail napkin last night some time.

What is America?

"America" is a piece of land which a colonialist government imposed their laws on and which invited settlers to settle. It imported black slaves to make the agricultural plantations profitable, fought against the natives of the country, and, later, after independence from the mother country, continued on as a business enterprise, importing first people from southern and eastern Europe and then people from Mexico and other third world countries to do the work which people born in the U.S. were demanding too much money to do. Too much money for those who controlled and control the U.S.

The business of the U.S. is business and it could be said without irony that the U.S. is a business construct more than a real country.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Russian Debutante's Handbook

Oh what a happy day, I've discovered Gary Shteyngart's book "The Russian Debutante's Handbook", all about a guy who lived in Russia the first twelve years of his life, moved to America for the next thirteen, and, by some very strange and interesting adventures finds himself in 'Prava', Prague, with the local Mafia designing a scheme to defraud expat-hipsters of their money in a giant pyramid scheme involving a literary magazine.

I love it, I love it, not the least because I can recognize myself and other people that I've come across in my wanderings in both Shteyngart's lead character and the people he meets in 'Prava'. Quite frankly, I'm a little bit of both the narrator and the poseurs.

He skewers the right and the wrong people. Very good.

Here's a representative paragraph from the work:

" "The check cleared from the Canadian!" he shouted. "What's his name? Harold Green. The club owner."

"The full quarter million? You mean...Heavenly God...are you saying that...?" Was he saying that U.S. $250,000.00, the equivalent of fifty years of wages for the average Stolovan, had gushed into the Groundhog's kitty like the Neva River melting in the spring? And all through Vladimir's free-market treachery? No, it could not be. The world rested on sounder poles: north and south; the Dow Jones and the Nikkei; the wages of sin and the minimum wage. But to sell two hundred and sixty shares of PravaInvest at U.S. $960.00 a pop...That was out there in Loop-de-Loop Land where Jim Jones, Timothy Leary, and Friedrich Engels rode their unicorns up and away into the pink-purple sky."

Ha HA!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Clarification on below post

I'm not saying that Anglo-whites are somehow less than others simply because of their ethnic heritage. I think that it's a combination of a sort of nativist ideology and class. If people don't have that nativist ideology who come from this background, and they don't have class benefits because of this, then I don't have a problem with them. I think the problem on its face is one of a particular sort of ethnic nationalism and, on its less public side, a class issue. Poor rural whites think that they can get ahead by allying themselves with which whites, who speak in the name of whiteness being the issue, of race being the issue, and not class.

Getting rid of the nexus between higher class status for people from these backgrounds and the idea of native superiority, of 'embodying America', would not make the U.S. a utopia but it would be a great first step towards moving us to a better state of things.

There'd still be racism, there'd still be class, and, in terms of race and class, people of European descent as a whole, including religious minorities like Jews, would still be the main beneficiaries, with there being both a 'white' working class and racial oppression for blacks, latinos, Native Americans, and poor asians, as well as other poor recent immigrants.

But the way I see it this nativist stuff is a step backwards beyond even this; it's something that has more in common with pre-WWII America, or even before, when there was still segregation and when ethnic and religious minorities really weren't considered "Real Americans", than it does even with normal, exploitative, capitalism.

And people of varying backgrounds believe in this stuff as well, but despite some sort of pseudo-Nativist sentiment out east there's a reason why this thing, the Minutemen, and their allies, popped up in the Southwest, in the mountain states, and, to some extent, in California and the Northwest, as opposed to New Jersey. That reason being that in those areas, with California being the wildcard here, it's more a question of Anglo-white against hispanics than it is of assimilated non-anglo whites against hispanics. Italians in New Jersey can fulminate all they want about various ethnic groups moving in, but the heart of this thing is in areas of the country that are much more obviously whiter than anything existing on the East Coast.

Maybe New England.

I could make a crack about Connecticut here......

Anyways.

For me this connects back to a fundamental crisis which allowed 9/11 hysteria to dominate and to take the course it took, but that's a topic for another post.

Anti-immigration rhetoric: a sign of the times

In a way, it's not surprising that anti-immigration rhetoric has gained such prominence in a post September 11th world. While people opposed to illegal immigration unfortunately come in all shapes and sizes, the impression that I get is that the core group that believes in this stuff is composed of the whitest of the white people, the anglo-saxon, possibly Irish or Germans, Americans who somehow believe that they have a 'right' to this country.

The flag waving and patriotic rhetoric post 9/11 seem to have resonated most strongly with them, also.

After all, practically everyone else in America has to some extent or another been a victim of the America. Blacks in the South. Asians in the West. Native Americans all over the place. Also the descendents of people who, either because they were Jewish or because they were Southern or Eastern European, were imported over here for sweatshop labor at the turn of the 20th century. Add to that miscellaneous later comers who have experienced discrimination of one kind or another and you find that there are many more people who the American dream has ate up and spit out than have straightforwardly benefitted from it, without oppression of some kind.

Even though flag wavers come in all flavors as well, my guess is that the people who wave the flag and salute with "Proud to be American" stickers are more heavily made up of anglo-americans who's ancestors came here as farmers rather than industrial workers, than it is made up of people who, although they might currently be doing well, have these skeletons of hardship and discrimination in their past. Or, of course, not even in their past.

The nativist sentiment, ironically championed by people with names like "Tancredo", is connected in my mind to the sort of primal white supremacist narrative about the origin, purpose, and destiny of the United States, something which has little to do with reality and which instead legitimates already existing unequal power differentials.

Lou Dobbs, the conservative, repressed, northeastern WASP stock broker turned illegal immigrant hater, represents this white supremacist strain in it's purest form. Who better to complain about Mexicans than someone who looks and acts like he's been to Andover and who works Wall Street?

The illegal immigration debate is, at its core, a debate between the reality of the United States and the image of it in the minds of some of it's more privileged citizens, and the sooner we can move the popular image of the United States closer in line with the reality of life here the sooner we can start effective work to make this a more equal society.

As long as the white supremacist narrative upheld by Minutemen, anti-immigrant haters, their allies, rural whites, Western whites, elite stockbrokers, President Bush, and their like, continues, this is unlikely to happen.

Tom Tomorrow in Seattle...

Went to the Tom Tomorrow event at Elliot Bay bookstore in Seattle. Mr. Perkins was great, but the audience seemed to be populated by the typical Seattlite middle aged liberal set....complete with beards and all. That was a let down, but that wasn't why I was there.

There was even a conservative agent provocateur there, who asked a question about the supposed "failure of the hard left", by which he meant progressives, not, for example, people associated with some Marxist group, and made reference to progressives having to meet in the basement of bookstores, where the signing and event was. Tom Tomorrow handled it really well, pointing out that in the last forty years blacks gained freedom, women gained opportunities denied to them, and gays gained the ability to be out without fear, at least in some places. I'm paraphrasing here. These are real, mainstream, successes of the "hard left". That sort of shut the guy down.

Incidentally, the guy was complaining that Tomorrow used the word "moron" when referring to some conservatives. I find that somewhat hypocritical. Look at Anne Coulter, look at Michael Savage, look at virtually any big conservative personality, and you'll find them calling liberal dumb, idiots, mentally ill, "moonbats", whatever. On and on and on. Yet when a liberal personality uses the word moron once or twice suddenly it's big deal. What hypocrisy. Double standards abound. It's ok to beat up on liberals but when liberals strike back, ooh, that's suddenly an issue. You can dish it out but you can't take it, right, conservatives?

Anyways.

I bought "Hell in a Handbasket", got it signed by Mr. Tomorrow under my own name....I was one of the last people in line, a sort of dazed person with a beard and longish, messy, hair, wearing a black jacket and a grey shirt...youngish.

Good experience.