Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Words of Wisdom about the avant-garde

"Conventionally, a work if art is considered to be the product of a different self from the one displayed in habitual action and ordinary living. A few courageous members of the avant-garde set out to extend the artistic, creative self until it displaced all guises of habit, social behavior, virture and vice. When our entire life stems from our one deepest self, the resulting personality is usually so startling and abnormal as to appear a mask or a pose. It is the ultimate paradox of human character. This was very much the case with Rousseau or Jarry, with Jacob and Satie; in each of their lives one feels a deep-seated force such as possesses a lunatic or a saint. Unity of personality is the most admired and the most victimized of all conditions, for it defies judgement."---Roger Shattuck, "The Banquet Years", about the precursors to the Dada-ists and Surrealists, the sort of non-defined artistic and social anarchists in Paris characterized by Alfred Jarry, Guillaume Apollinaire, and others. He talks about le Dounier Rousseau and Eric Satie, but I don't know that much about their personal lives to make that judgement.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Modiication to theory of totalitarianism

In light of the below post I would now focus more on the role of the middle classes as being the unstable element which brings about fascism due to their un-rootedness in anything, which is unstable, rather than society in general being destabilized from the transition from a conservative, agrarian, society, to a more liberal and industrialized one. But more has to be said about this; unfortunately I don't have the time at the moment to do it.

I think that fascism and totalitarian states have their basis in the instability of the middle classes and their susceptability to reaction and going against the very currents which allowed them to exist in the first place. How this fits into the Soviet experience is very interesting.

Perhaps it the core of it is the domination of the left movement by intellectuals from middle class backgrounds.

Different types of anarchism linked to different situations in countries

Anarchism isn't a uniform phenomenon; some anarchism stresses the libertarian nature of things in a very traditional fashion, a la the enlightenment and classical liberalism, other anarchism expresses libertarianism in a highly modified fashion, for example the anarchism which drew on Stirner's ideas in "The Ego and its own" in Germany, and Proudhon's school in France.

The main centers of what could be called traditional libertarian anarchism have been Italy, Portugal, and Spain; this type of anarchism is popular in the United States as well, and I believe that it's for similar reasons.

What united these countries, and what characterizes large portions of the United States today, is the fact that religion as an official institution predominated life long after it had receded in places like France or England. Could there be a Christian Anarchism, or a Christian Socialism? Sure. In fact, it existed, and at least in one country, Belgium, was responsable for the implementation of the Belgian welfare state after World War II, so Christianity and Socialism, or Anarchism, think of liberation theology influenced Catholic anarchists, aren't inherently incompatable.The particular role that religion played in the countries mentioned wemt well beyond this to constitute a kind of state allied officialdom and an oppressive function, especially since the Catholic Church is so unified and undemocratic.

Priests weren't just priests in Portugal, Italy, and Spain, much as certain ministers aren't just ministers in parts of the United States. What they said was law, what they opposed had the force of the state and the force of zealous public opinion behind it.

While countries like France and England had dealt with the religious question by at least guaranteeing some individual freedom of conscience at the beginning of the 19th century, the same wasn't true for the three mentioned above. Their movement towards liberal, democratic, nation-states took place later in the 19th century, at a time when the labor movement had already developed and anarchist ideas, coming from France, were in the air. What happened was that the traditional liberalism of the late 18th century became allied with anti-state socialism to form an anarchism which was both for extreme free thought and for workers' collective self management.

Joao Freire, in his extremely expensive and poorly translated book "Freedom Fighters" which is a history of Portugese Anarchism, writes that in Portugal, where the sort of liberal revolution which had been effecting Europe since the end of the 18th century had made the least progress, anti-monarchism, pro-freedom of religion, pro freedom of speech and thought, and pro-democracy movements were directly allied with anarchist workers movements.

In Italy, and to a lesser degree in Spain, the same currents congealed. Italy had had a liberal revolution in the late 19th century, which unified it and gave it a constitutional monarchy, although the Church still played an official role in life. Spain had decades of convulsion after Napoleon, ending in a liberal Constitutonal Monarchy in 1874, which was then still contested. It's sort of apples and oranges, but Italy had a more stable liberal tradition coming out of the Risorgimento, or the unification of the Italian states, than Spain had in the 19th century.

Never the less, liberty and democracy were more fought after in these countries and contested than elsewhere, although here too it's important to make the distinction that in most of the rest of western Europe there were very serious contests over liberty and democracy, particularly in France and Germany, so it isn't like the rest of western Europe was free and liberal and only the southern countries weren't liberal, as is sometimes portrayed. The southern countries had liberalism and the northern countries had their problems with liberty and democracy as well; it's only a matter of degree that separates them.

Ok, enough with the historical excursion.

The point is that in these countries liberalism was still being fought over at a time when the workers movement and socialism were coming into their own, and so they in many cases merged, causing the anarchist movements to absorb the ethos of classical liberalism in its pure form.

In other countries, as mentioned, this was not the case, although libertarianism was still fought for. In France, where anarchism originated, Proudhon made an enemy of Marx by declaring at the very beginning of his book "The Philosophy of Misery", that, in typical early 19th century post-Revolutionary style, that he believed in God and that this religious belief informed his anarchism. Typical, because a lot of people in France at the time, were going against the grain and making religious pronouncements, or declarations of religius fielty. It wasn't an endorsement of the state Church so much as a reaction to certain weaknesses in the enlightenment worldview. Anti-clericism in France became something of an institution throughout the convulsions of the 19th century, until by the time of the early 20th, when Church and State had been officially separated, Priest baiting had become something of a sport among some of the Surrealists, particularly Robert Desnos.
But the fact that a Revolution against official domination by religion had taken place in France previously meant that what came after modified somewhat; the classical liberal ideas and aims were in large part accomplished, although there would be civil strife over the issue of the Church for decades to come.

In Germany a similar situation happened in relation to anarchism, in part because Germany had been shaped by religious wars which had divided the country into Protestant and Catholic mini-states, dominated by princes. Religious wars had also convulsed France, although the Catholics ultimately won, as well as England, leading some to suspect that these religious conflicts set the stage for freer thought and tolerance. In Spain, Portugal, and Italy, the religious dissenters were crushed. In Germany, to get back to the point, anarchism was very much influenced by Stirner's Individualism, as expounded in "The Ego and it's own", which described the individual as ultimately sovereign over every single aspect of life. The situation in Germany at the beginning of the 19th century was so complex that it would take another post to untangle, but, basically, after the Napoleonic wars the German liberals were for democracy as opposed to domination by mini-states, expressed in the unification of them into a single constitionally governeed state, and liberty in a uniform manner, because whether freedom of the press existed or real religious tolerance existed dependent largely on the whim of the Prince and the particular State that you were living in. Never the less, there was much more free thought and free literature published in Germany as a collective entity than in the southern countries. Perhaps the wish for absolute individualism and the penchant for combining workers' rights with violent action in the German tradition, a la Johan Most, comes from the frustration over the persistent lack of democracy in Germany, which existed until the aftermath of the First World War, combined with the relative success of freedom of thought, speech, and religion, which was accomplished in that time.

The point, the conclusion, of all of this, is that the sort of anarchism which combines traditional, classical, liberalism with collective notions and workers' rights may not be a natural feature of all anarchism but rather a response to particular conditions.

These conditions exist to a degree in parts of the United States as well, where protestant fundamentalist preachers dominate communities and politics is run by an old boys network, and where freedom of speech, thought, and expression, is frowned upon severely by the population. This condition of things may explain the popularity of this type of anarchism in the U.S., especially as connected with the punk rock movement. There's quite a difference between being a punk in a southern town or a rural town, or a conservative area, and being a punk in a hip town in Washington where there's already freedom up the ass, as it were.

If this is the case and this type of anarchism is a response, in part, to particular conditions, then can't there be variants on the same theme? Can't there be other, creative, expressions of the libertarian ideal in the United States? I think there a can be.

Title of that Lenin piece

"Discussion of the national question summed up"

Monday, June 26, 2006

Oh yeah, final coda to the Lenin/Stalin book...

I've sometimes said that if you want to get something out of Lenin, for what it's worth, you have to read between the lines and never take anything he writes at face value, because most of his writings are polemical, even if they're not obviously so. To get to what he's really saying you have to be aware of the polemics, who he's opposing, and then figure out what his position really is.

In the case of the writings quoted in on the National Question, after decoding them, they're absolute bullshit.
Unfortunately, the edition that the RCP people use is put together in India, not Moscow, and so is organized differently than the Marxists.org site, and my book is in my room here and I don't feel like going up and getting it--but, the title was like "Shorter summary of the national question".

Here Lenin goes all out with his authoritarianism, saying that the transition to Communism must be effected by a state, that the state will last until the new society is achieved, and that the state has to be the dictatorship of the proletarian class. Straight out. Why he's saying this here is interesting:
the reason is that apparantly some socialists were proposing an anti-state solution to the national question, where ethnic groups would have autonomy within a "socialist culture-zone" (direct quote) instead of through a proletarian dictatorial state. The people in question are probably Rosa Luxemburg and Otto Bauer, the first being well known as a critic of Lenin and a supporter of workers councils, the second less known but an important Austrian socialist theorist who also opposed Lenin and, in general, argued for more democratic forms. His party, the Austrian Socialist Party, controlled Vienna politics for a while and did much to create municipal socialism there. But that's another story.

While I admire Lenin's insistence not to get bogged down in nationalism, that you have to transcend nationalism if you're going to avoid reactionary tendencies, I don't agree with his position that all ethnic struggles should be subordinated to the socialist struggle and that there really is any equality between subject ethnic groups and the majority which surrounds them.

This is important because Lenin is suggesting a socialist state based on the unity of Russian and minority group members in Russia, which in practice turned out to be Russian ethnic domination of the smaller groups. So much for the unity of the working classes. Point is not to argue against that, because it's a good idea, but rather that with relations of dominance and subjugation you need special provisions in order to cause the old divisions not to reproduce themselves, after a socialist revolution.

The idea of a basic socialist society which also honors the ethnic diversity of the people in the country, on top of a real basic unity, is a good thing.

Unfortunately, the way Lenin puts the idea forward, and adding the concept of a permanent state structure which will have total power, will never work and will be recipe for dictatorship of one ethnic group over others.

Adventures at Revolution Books, or for the Revolution we can validate your parking!

Went to Revolution books in Berkeley, which is underneath a parking structure on Telegraph and Bancroft, sort of the start of the heart of things, more because it was there than anything else. Interesting experience. They were having a used book sale so, for information's sake and to broaden my understanding, I picked up a copy of "V.I. Lenin and J.V. Stalin on the National and Colonial question", a title which is ironic in itself since during the second World War Stalin practiced ethnic cleansing by sending minority ethnic groups to Siberia. But anyways.

The RCP, well, I have to say that that writer Sunsara from World Can't Wait is pretty good, I've linked to her stuff here. I've also had good interactions with older, and I stress older, as in old school been in the organization from the good old days, from the start, in Seattle, but this particular group was Avakian worship twenty four seven.

It's hard to underestimate the praise and sheer adulation that they gave this guy. In the Spanish language section they had a piece of tape on the bookshelf saying "Viva el Presidente Avakian!" Seriously, I shit you not.

Plus, the guy in charge there, who was an almost middle aged man with a pony tail, was talking about trying to find some rich college professor to con into selling a whole copy of Lenin's complete works. There's something off about that, particularly when you're a Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist-Maoist, as they are, and you have about zero presence in the community.

So much B.S. going on in there that I was going to, well, at the beginning I was going to go up there, get my parking validated, and, after paying say to the guy "You people focus too much on theory, you should be in the community doing action and using your theory as a practical weapon", which is a very nice thing to say considering the other possibilities, but instead I just wanted to get the hell out of there before one of the people hanging around engaged me in conversation.

Get out I did; and I got my parking validated by a T-Shirt seller who sold me a T-shirt with a picture of Hunter S. Thompson with the slogan "When the going gets tough, the weird go pro" on it.

That's a sentiment I can fully agree with.

James Connolly: interesting figure

Still in California. A very interesting writer if you're looking for some sort of combination of Marxism and Anarchism is James Connolly, an Irish Republican, Socialist, leader of the Easter Rising, and supporter of the IWW. Connolly's position on what a future society should look like is like the council communist idea. How he got this idea is very interesting.

He died in 1916, so all of this takes place before both the Russian Revolution. Connolly came to the United States from Ireland and, after unsuccesfully trying to interest the Irish emigre population in the struggle against Britain (he said they were more concerned with their Catholicism and conservatism than anything else)he saw the IWW in action and declared that what they were after, an anarcho-syndicalist society where the workers controlled everything via shop committees and planned things collectively, with a federative system, was the form which the new society after socialism would take.

Wrote extensively, but, more importantly wrote in a way which was accessible to workers and regular people. His book, or pamphlet, "Workshop Talks", which you can find online, is very good as an introduction to socialism.

The way he died was interesting too. He was sort of a ceremonial leader of the Easter Rising in Ireland; ceremonial because he was crippled and on his way to death. Yet, he participated in the storming of the main post office building in Dublin, which was the start of the civil war which lead to Ireland's freedom from Britain. For this he was propped up against a wall and shot by the British after his trial.

Marxists.org has an extensive archive of his stuff. If you're looking for a socialist who is untainted by the karma of the Russian Revolution, but who was radical nonetheless and not a social democrat, Connolly is a good candidate.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Nuclear Power, a dangerous method of using old technology

Inspired by going past Kalama, which is one of Washington State's nuclear power facillities. The thing about nuclear power is that you expect the actual power generating process to be really high tech, to be something that's science fiction like, but the reality is something else. The nuclear process is geared to do one thing: heat up water into steam which drives a turbine which generates power. This is essentially the same process as hydroelectric or, if I'm correct, coal fired power, i.e. use an energy source to drive a turbine to generate power.

The only difference is that nuclear uses compounds that have the potential of wiping out entire towns, contaminating the ground for a millenia, causing birth defects and radiation poisoning, and generally melting down and exploding, causing fallout like that of a nuclear bomb.

Additionally, the way which it generates steam, heat generated from controlled fission being applied to water, which, after being turned into steam and used is either reprocessed or released into the environment, guarantees that there won't be any way to keep the water clean of radiation and radioactive particles. Nuclear plants release a steady stream of heated water into the environment and with that inescapably comes radioactive particles and radiation. People will say that these are just trace elements, but when you're dealing with an enourmous daily volume of water like nuclear power plants do, a trace amount, proportionally, is anything but small and insignificant.

Then there're the byproducts of nuclear power, which are extraordinarily toxic and, even though their usefullness in generating steam has passed, still emit radiation.

Nuclear power is like having monkeys attach a bomb to a windmill in order to make it spin faster. It's stupid and dangerous in the extreme and doesn't represent a real technological advance in the basic ways of creating power over that which we already have.

Solar, on the other hand, does...and wind does the same thing, use the same basic principle as the nuclear power plants, turbine generated power, without fucking with our basic ability to support life on this planet.

Viva alternative energy!

The Silver Apples or, Berkeley is on top of the times...

Right now I'm on an extensive California excursion, being in Berkeley right now and later going south.... trip has been good. But what blows my mind is this: on the way down, driving down 101 through Mendocino county, I got the idea to write a blog post about how this little known band called the "Silver Apples", which existed in New York in the '60s, basically invented European Psychedelic rock and, because they were a major, major influence on Kraftwerk's early work, can plausably be claimed to have been one of the progenitors of the entire techno movement itself. Not a bad claim to fame.

Silver Apples consisted of a home made electronic device made from oscillators and filters, drums, and vocals. Their sound is very good and developed in that the oscillators actually sound very good; they're not just being used to make "weird noises", which is how instruments like that were sometimes used in the '60s. Instead, the guy who constructed it, Simeon, actually was very skilled at making rhythyms and sorts of melodies from it. It sounds like something from the '90s.

The drums were very unique as well, with the basic pattern being the inverse of the typical drum beat, with the accent on the first beat instead of the second, a lot of high hats and snare drums used, and bass drum punctuating things on beat.

Take those elements, driving rhythyms via drums, and interestingly musical electronically generated sounds, which, nonetheless, aren't keyed in the sense of keyboards, but are more abstract, and you basically have techno. This is no exagerration.

It's also no exagerration to say that these guys severely influenced Kraftwerk.

If you get a hold of Silver Apples' self titled album, which is back in print (YAY!, and compare it to early Kraftwerk albums like Kraftwerk I and II, you'll see a direct correlation, with Kraftwerk even musically quoting from the Silver Apples at times. Yes, it's true.

And beyond that, if you've listened to both of those and then fast forward to today's Kraftwerk, with "Minimum, Maximum", their new live album, being the standard by which to judge, you can still hear the influence.

Quite something.

Now, the mind blowing thing.

I get out of Amoeba Music in Berkeley, an excellant independent music store, and am walking down the street, and a kid walks by me with a "Silver Apples" T-shirt on, with the cover of their first album plastered on it. By 'kid' I mean college aged kid, maybe 18 or 19 in this case.

Berkeley's great, peaceful, tranquil, as they say. Amoeba is good too; they literally had 30 Stereolab CDs in stock, an entire column of them. This is a good sign, very good.

First time I've been to Berkeley.

The people are nice, the weather is good, the physical environment is appealing. Laid back, yet contemporary. A sort of oasis, because I'm afraid that San Francisco itself, where I'll be later in the day, will be extremely hectic. I know this from experience, being there before. And then there's the parking issue. Oy. I have dreams about the parking nightmare in San Francisco. But then this is a recurring theme.

If you ever get the chance, come down to the Bay Area via 101 instead of I-5 from the Northwest. Scenery is wonderful, you're going through the mountains, and there are interesting little towns along the way. I have pictures from a dramatic scene at this little cove in Del Norte county, just south of Crescent City, at sunset which I'll post when I get a chance and they're developed. Will blog more.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Plethora of Books Added to the right--and they don't even have to do much with the below post

They're mostly just good alternative Lefty books which I've neglected to recommend. Except for "The Crooked Timber of Humanity". That's very much part of what's discussed below.

The three are that, "Subversion of Politics: European Autonomous Movements" by George Katsiaficas, which I can't recommend highly enough, and "Gone to Croatan: origins of American dropout culture" edited by James Koehnline, who runs a bookstore hidden in another bookstore in Seattle which used to have its own space but, things happened, unfortunately. Recollection Books was what it's called.

I'll let you in on a secret: Recollection Books still exists, but it's now located in the Omni Books located on Roosevelt Avenue in Seattle, or is it Roosevelt Way? Either way, if you map quest it you'll find it. Koehnline works there, but although I've bought books from him I've never actually had a political conversation with him. He makes a kick ass calendar for Autonomedia too, which is decorated with his psychedelic collage work, which I guess is his main trade, being an artist.

You have to go to the far right aisle and go into the back to find the Recollection Books part; the rest is the usual non-radical used bookstore fare (although they have a surprisingly good Soviet section).

While we're on the subject, I had a brief encounter with the "Melungeon Messiah" once, who belongs to one of the drop out groups catalogued in "Gone to Croatan". He's called the Messiah by academics, not by himself, because he wants to catalogue and preserve records of his community. Interesting fellow. Basically walked into a place where I was, gave a basic spiel about the Melungeons, asked a few questions, then took off.

But, ahh, I've touched part of history.

It's so exciting.

Just kidding.

Romanticism and definitions

Romanticism as I mean it is really, really, different than how the word is conventionally used. Usually, when people talk about Romanticism or about the Romantic movement, they mean the English literary world, particularly the Romantic poets, people like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley; this is not what I mean by it. The early Wordsworth, Coleridge, etc...before they became reactionaries, has something in common with what I mean, so does the radical aspect of Shelley--all of this is catalogued in E.P. Thompson's book about Romanticism and Revolt referenced on the right side of this page.

But beyond that, sappy poems about flowers have little to do with my meaning and interpretation of it. My focus, which I got from Isaiah Berlin's book on the subject "The Roots of Romanticism", is exclusively on the Romantic movement as it emerged in Germany in the early 19th century, with the French Romantic philosophers, people very disparate, from Hippolyte Taine, who was a conservative-ish historian, to
Victor Hugo, especially in his poetry but also in his books a person who combined a lot of the German romantic themes, taking a part too.

German Romanticism, in the sense I mean it, was an aesthetic and philosophical movement closely allied to German Idealist philosophy, people like Schelling, Kant, Hegel, Fichte, William von Humboldt (Chomsky's favorite, for some reason), and others, with the Romantics proper being people like Novalis, the Schlegel brothers, and maybe the theologian Schleiermacher, among other people. A good intro to all of the ideas these people had, but which doesn't deal with them directly, but which can be seen as an intro to Berlin's "The Roots of Romanticism" is his book of essays "The Crooked Timber of Humanity". That's something that puts it in context.

The main point that all of the Romantic philosophers, as well as the German Idealists, wanted to get across was a way of thinking about the world which was an alternative to sterile Enlightenment philosophy and materialism, which saw human beings as simply rational, autonomous, individuals, and which saw society as simply a connection of autonomous, rational, individuals living in the same general area.

This may have worked for a while as a philosophy, and been very progressive in its time compared to what went before, but after the French Revolution serious problems opened up with it which couldn't be addressed with the old. In fact, the trajectory of the French Revolution itself, from the moderate Revolution in the beginning to the Jacobin Revolution, to the decline of the Jacobin state into pure dictatorship, to the rise of Napoleon and the beginning of the Empire, with Napoleon crowning himself Emporer, illustrates this crisis. I think that the Jacobins started out ok, but then when it degenerated into an orgy of violence it took a very wrong turn. The redistribution of land and wealth was great though.

How Robespierre eventually breached into Romantic themes somewhat spontaneously, in the pursuit of carrying out his revolution, is a topic well beyond this post, but an important one to consider if you have the time and the energy to research that phase of things, which would be the later phase.

But to get back to the point, after the French Revolution had run its course the Enlightenment consensus which had existed among liberals and intellectuals was shattered. What became known as liberalism after the French Revolution, was not the classical liberalism which had existed before; instead, it too had absorbed romantic themes. Conservatism as an ideology was born; before, it had just been the status quo: not a lot of thought was given to really elaborating it as a philosophy. Romanticism influenced continental conservatism too, although the Romantics themselves stayed aloof from this and were radicals in any case.

England, because it had repulsed Napoleon's fleet and had seriously violated the civil liberties of people suspected to be pro-Jacobin by rounding them up and throwing them in jail, or, in a less statist way, by having angry mobs attempt to execute mob justice against people suspected to be pro-Jacobin, as Wordsworth experienced and as E.P. Thompson documents in his book, Romanticism largely remained the province of poets and people talking about the beauty of the world; it did not have the political dimensions or implications that it had on the continent.

This was only changed, and then only somewhat, when certain members of the British intelligentsia started reading continental philosophy and importing the concepts into English life. Thomas Carlysle is a prime example of someone who did this, and in his philosophy he could properly be called a political romantic. Even though he wrote about heroes and hero worship he also wrote in defense of the Chartists, an early British labour rights movement, and agitated for pro-worker socialist change. Later on, William Morris, with his novel "News From Nowhere", a Utopian book about a society which is largely non-industrial but based on traditional values of craftsmanship, would be another one. He also absorbed much Marxism, but....I'm personally skeptical of how much of a Marxist Morris was, and I mean this in a good sense. Jonathan Ruskin, to a much lesser extent, was one as well, in that on top of writing about art he also penned "Unto this last", which was a sort of socialist plan which based itself on updating medieval ideas of guilds and social organization to the present day and countering capitalism by absorbing it in a self managed sort of system. Guilds as precursors to unions was an idea which had much currency during this time, even giving rise to Guild Socialism in the 20th century. Look at my links page for more. Anyways, who else? The early Disraeli wrote things in fiction which could be called romantic, although he was a Tory. Cardinal Henry Newman was another one, much in the vein of Carlysle, who was for workers equality from a Catholic perspective.

Beyond those, I don't really know who else embodied the sort of current I'm talking about in England. It was mostly flowers and poems to the moon.

America was much the same, with Ralph Waldo Emerson being a major exception, and Thoreau being another one. Walt Whitman, he of Ginsburg's longings, was the author of the extensive "Democratic Vistas", which is a very political and romantic, in the political sense, look at America. Utopianism in America was certainly Romantic in the sense I mean, although that's another very large, but very fertile, subject, especially when looking at how early Utopian communities were organized.

On the whole, except for the figures mentioned above, I have to say that American Transcendentalism sort of missed the point when it came to what was going on in Europe. Orestes Brownson is a possible exception, a figure who went through the long march of the ideologies of his day and came up with a book "The American Republic", which is unlike pretty much anything else in American political thought and which, despite being somewhat conservative, is romantic in the true political sense.

Oh, while we're catalogueing things, Fourier, in France, was definitely a Romantic, although some people seem to consider him belonging to the eighteenth century instead of the 19th. Maybe, if someone spiked Rouseau's wine with large quantities of acid and turned him onto mystical freemasonry and hermeticism. You see my point.

The flip side of romanticism, the conservatives, are worth checking out, at least the early ones. The later ones, that's another isssue, although for pure educational value, keeping in mind the major flaws, Richard Wagner's political writings are worth checking out. Not that I approve of his anti-semitism or anything like that but his reasoning and way of looking at society is at least unique. Along those same lines, but less connected to actual Fascism, Joeseph de Maistre, a French ultra-conservative and critic of the French Revolution from when it was happening, is very, very, much worth checking out. Skip his political writings, which can be summarized as "Follow the King absolutely or all hell will break loose. You've been warned", and find his St. Petersburg Dialogues, which are less political and more oriented towards looking at life.

It may be really worth checking out de Maistre's actual writings, thinking specifically of the dialogues, now that the subject of Berlin's "The Crooked Timber of Humanity" has been put on the table. Berlin devotes a whole chapter to de Maistre, accusing him of being a precursor to modern fascism. While there's no doubt Maistre was a conservative, Berlin distorts a passage from the St. Petersburg Dialogues where de Maistre talks about capital punishment beyond all recognition to make Maistre say something that he clearly didn't say.

Briefly, because this post is getting very, very, long, Maistre is talking about capital punishment and his point is that it's a shame that we have to execute people, but as long as evil and people who do truly evil things in this world exist, something has to be done to render justice on the part of society. Maistre was from before the time when rehabillitation was seriously considered as an alternative to straight out punishment, so this is more of a reflection of the society he lived in than a call for people to be killed in order to preserve social order, which is what Berlin portrays his statement as.

...

Ahh, I'm getting tired, I should wrap this up.

But, boys and girls, read the early socialists, then read Marx, then read the Anarchists, that'll do you good, which is my way of saying "Aargh, that'll put hair on yer chest."...if you're male I suppose. If not it'll build strenght (?).

I'm going to collapse.

Communique finis.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Tropicalia

Going through my CD collection I found Celso Fonseca's "Natural". Ugh. I bought it because, in big letters, it said that Fonseca had played with Gilberto Gil, one of the most progressive and innovative Brazillian musicians, both politically and musically. However, once I got it home, it turned out that Fonseca was pretty much everything that the people I like, the Tropicalistas, were trying to get away from.

Cheesy to the point where it could be called "Brazilsploitation", superficial songs about being on the beach in Rio drinking and being sensual, bossa nova licks which aren't even good if you know the real stuff but which appear to be mind blowing to people not familiar with the genre, Fonseca'a album is trash.

A lot of people have played with Gilberto Gil, it seems. Doesn't mean that they share his aesthetic values.

The thing that I like about Tropicalia is that they tried to create music which was the equivalent of North American and European popular music, not slavish imitations of western rock nor typical "Brazillian" sounding Third World excursionism for the benefit of foreign ears.

They wanted to create works of art on their own terms which were complex, lyrically beautiful, innovative, and based on the Brazillian experience. At the same time, they weren't creating nationalistic music, although part of their inspiration came from their own traditions. Instead, they wanted to be a true avant-garde on the world scene.

This had political implications as well, which you can read about either in my posts, or, if you want the detailed, first hand, account and not the footnotes, in musician Caetano Veloso's book "Tropical Truth". Or, if you want to see the spirit of what moved them, try to track down "Land in Anguish" and/or "Black God, White Devil", movies directed by Glauber Rocha. They'll teach you a lot about what was motivating these people.

Anyways, all of this is totally antithetical to what "Natural" is about. Totally.

These guys looked back to the Brazillian Modernist period, with people like Oswald de Andrade in particular having a prominent place. Andrade penned something called "The Cannibal Manifesto", which is not what you may think it is if you just know the title, parts of which are available online at the "Exquisite Corpse" website, which is a poetry journal.

The Cannibal Manifesto was titled in reference to the Tupi Indians, the original inhabitants of the area where the Portugese made first contact with Brazil. They were reputed to be cannibals. What Andrade is proposing in his manifesto is for Brazillians to turn their backs on European culture and embrace their multi-racial, part Indian, heritage, and to reconstruct literature based on an ethic of New World identity, with that New World identity being one that erased the difference between the lighter hued Brazillians and the darker hued ones.

A very good ideal, especially since the traditional whites are a minority in Brazil, although they still hold many, many positions of power.

This thought, which is a species of race-traitorism, can in some ways be applied to the United States, but there are some modifications which no doubt have to take place. On the one hand, most people in the U.S. don't have native blood, which isn't the same as in Latin America, meaning that you can't just transplant the idea of "Going Native", if you want to use that term, from Brazil to the U.S. because most people really don't have that link. And faking that link is something which is highly undesireable. Playing Indian is not something that white people in the U.S. should be doing.

Yet, nevertheless, certain elements can be adapted; there can be a sort of New World Solidarity, meaning solidarity both with people in the rest of the hemisphere constructed on the basis of recognizing that we are members of the hemisphere as well and not some foreign entity which has no relationship to Latin America, and internally, by reconstructing our ideal of American identity to reflect not the colonial heritage of England and her traditions but the actual internal makeup of the United States, and to recognize that to be American means to honor the black, brown, Native, and asian, culture groups which live here.

There are, then, problems with this too, but they aren't that insurmountable, the main problem being that even if you change the idea of America within white American's heads, even if you go further and deconstruct the idea of 'white' identity so that people no longer primarily see themselves in that term, you still have the overwhelming economic and political inequalities existing in America which empower white people, reconstructed in their identity or not, and marginalize groups of color. On top of that, the Native angle is complicated by the fact that the war against the Native Americans is still going on, that the colonization is continuing to this day, and that Native American communities are constantly both undersiege from the government and from their immediate neighbors and also exist in the worst possible conditions, sub-third world levels of existence, things which are on par or worse than the meanest ghettos and inner cities in America.

In asking about how to redefine American identity, the question has to be asked, how is this going to change the situation for these groups, particularly for Native Americans? Do Native Americans even want this?

The answer, at least to the first question, is that if American identity is going to redefined---and it should be redefined---then there has to also be corresponding political action to take care of, change, transform, the inequalities related to race and ethnicity which exist within the United States.

Real equality in the United States means racial equality in the sense of economic equality being the same across races, it means dismantling the economic structures which benefit from blacks being forced into the worst jobs and hispanics being forced into the same. It means finding rapproachment and putting forward heavy, heavy, reparations for Native Americans. Native American oppression is also rooted in economics, and that economic relationship, rooted in dispossession and marginalization, and the things which benefit from it, have to be destroyed. Dismantled, taken apart, put out of comission forever.

***

Oh, and I almost forgot; we're a first world country in the core capitalist world while Brazil, when this was being done and today somewhat too, was/is a less developed country.

We have to dismantle our place in the capitalist world scene to truly regain our identity.

My Boss is a Jewish Carpenter ?

Just saw that bumper sticker around town for the thousandth time, and realized just how anti-semitic it is.

Jewish Carpenter: the implication is that Jews never work with their hands so a Jewish carpenter is something of an oddity.

I can imagine the people who came up with this sitting around a table drinking moonshine saying "Look at that, not one of them Jews ever works with their hands, not a one of em! That Jewee Carpenter sticker is the funniest thing I ever heard of. Wait till the women folk hear about it! Hey honey, you ever hear of a Jew carpenter? Well let me tell 'ya what Gomer just came up with, it's a bumpersticker that says "My Boss is A Jewish Carpenter", it's about Jesus, do ya get it? do ya get it?" Funniest thing I ever heard, one of them Jew folk working like that..that'l show 'em."

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Oil War as an example of western individualism leading to ecocide

Individualism is a great thing, when it's truly expressed. Is individualism developing ones self as a person, as a human being, as an individual, or is individualism the capability to ride around in gas guzzling SUVs destroying the environment and encouraging dependence on a scarce resource which we don't need to use anyways? Which is more important, the sense of freedom gotten from being a true individual or the sense of freedom gotten from owning and using an SUV? These considerations are important because sometimes individual actions detrimentally effect the collective well being of all people, and in these cases restriction on individual choice or individual options is justified in order to stop threats to the collective. But when you do that, or make that case, there should be a real reckoning of whether this is really necessary or not; philosophically this impigns on our notion of the free untrammeled individual, living totally independently, without any concern or any effect on the people around him or her, on the community.

That said, there are justifications for collective needs taking precedence and there are justifications, as they say; the Bush justification for restricting civil liberties based on some imagined terror threat is bullshit, while the justification for sacrifice in order to save the environment, without which we really will all be dead, is not.

Which is more important, your SUV or collective survival? That feeling of being on the road, experiencing America's byways, something which I've treasured personally, could easily be implemented through an extensive system of trains, with youths having the adventure of experiencing America like they used to, or how they still do in Europe and Latin America, and probably seeing more of the real America in the process since trains don't go through the highway oasis system which reproduces McDonald's at every exit connected to a major thoroughfare.

But we refuse to make changes. We refuse to change our ways of not just transportation but of how our basic industry works, leading to the fact that our petrochemical processing plants pollute to a greater extent than equivalents elsewhere in the first world, leading to chemical plants taking the petrochemicals and converting them further into other chemicals replicating the process of industrial pollution.
Steel mills in the northeast, such as they still exist, use archaic equipment because the competitave advantage given to the United States by being untouched during World War II while Europe was destroyed meant that pressures to update weren't felt until it was too late.

The way I see the U.S. industrial system is that it wants to go the easy route; it's easy to construct plants which pollute and are wasteful, which use scarce resources, because these processes are the most direct way to go about manufacturing said products. What's harder is to adapt these processes to environmental sustainability and non-pollution, both for the workers and the communities in which they are part of and for the world as a whole.

But we refuse to make changes, to implement harder but smarter ways of doing things which places like Europe and Japan, buoyed by the necessity of reconstruction after industrial devastation, have already done. Instead, we stubbornly refuse to make any concessions, to keep the wasteful way of operating that we developed in the post-war world, and we're forcing the rest of the world to accomodate us, both by force, as in Iraq, and by less obvious coercion, like in the torpedoing of the Kyoto protocols and other international agreements, to say nothing of what we're currently doing internally, the deregulation and pollution of our industries that has global consequences.

Fighting for a socialist society in the United States doesn't mean just fighting for social justice, although that's at its core, it also means fighting against the most regressive model of capitalism in the world, an anchor for some of the worst practices available world wide which drives us and the third world back into 19th century conditions of exploitation, pollution, and oppression.

Internally fighting to change the system means, if we're succesful, ending this bastion, this support of regression, of untrammelled capitalist excess, and moving the whole world forward to a sustainable future.

The events of '89 as seen through the backdrop of Central America

Back in '89 the rhetoric was all democracy, freedom, liberty, the end of oppresion for Eastern Europe, coming from all the TV channels in the U.S., coming from all the State department officials, Presidents, Vice Presidents, etc... What's lost in the recollection of this celebration of freedom by us, what was not present during the events themselves, at least as far as I remember as a kid, is the reality of what recently had been going on in Central America, which was not for freedom, which was not for democracy, which was not for the ending of oppression.

The United States, supporter of freedom and democracy in Eastern Europe all of the sudden, had supported a bloody war to overthrow a socialist government in Nicaragua which came to power with the overwhelming support of the people. The sponsored death squads, were on the side of the oligarchs the Somozas who had run the country like a personal fiefdom for several generations. The United States supported the pro-government forces in El Salvador during their civil war, leading to the reincarnation of the hunter/killer model of counter-insurgency developed in Vietnam under the Phoenix program: seemingly random, covert, murders of innocent people designed to produce a psychological effect of intimidation among the populace. This on top of normal death squad activity against suspected guerrillas and their suspected supporters. This was not democracy. This was the furthest thing from democracy that could be imagined.

They supported genocide in Guatemala, where the government, bolstered by U.S. support coming from Honduras, the staging ground for all of the Central American conflicts on the U.S. side, brutally suppressed the populace thought to be anti-government with mass murder.

Now forward a few years to '89. These conflicts started in the late seventies, '79 when the Sandanistas assumed power to be exact, and lasted through the eighties. Fake elections orchestrated by the U.S. and U.S. sponsored peace talks typified the end of the eighties in central america.

Now, straight from supporting the killing fields in Central America, the U.S. comes out in favor of democracy and liberation in Eastern Europe. Yay for taking down the wall! Yay for leading revolutions against the government! We love you guys! We're only concerned about extending peace and liberty throughout the world, and you guys rock.

How can this be? How can a government go from repressing a popular rebellion to supporting a popular rebellion? From committing mass murder, being an accompliss, to supporting people in the streets of Germany who want democracy, dissident groups that had worked for years to try to do things like hold their country accountable to the Helsinki accords on human rights, who wanted to form their own, alternative, political party, which was neither the Communist Party or a traditional western style party?

The answer has to be that they didn't, that the U.S. did not really support these people. Behind the rhetoric the U.S. still had the agenda which it had in Central America and elsewhere, and it shaped events, flexed its muscles to co-op the pro-democracy movements for its own purposes, as it wanted.

There are quite a few paths in Eastern Europe which could have been taken which weren't because of the U.S.' influence. One was the idea of East Germany post-democracy retaining its identity as an independent country and only gradually reintegrating with the Federal Republic, as West Germany was officially known. Author G√ľnther Grass, Nobel Prize winner for "The Tin Drum", penned a short book entitled "Two countries, one nation?", which argued forcefully for the West Germans and the East Germans to take reintegration, which had been a prime concern since World War II, slowly and not to make East Germany over in the image of West Germany. Grass wasn't against democracy by any means; what he was against was the pro-democracy movement in East Germany being swallowed up by the bulk of West German influence, thereby negating any chance at real self determination by the East Germans, self determination which may have meant keeping elements of the socialist system intact, which was anathema to the West. But what happened was a shotgun marriage between the East and the West. Within a year and a half of the wall falling Germany was reunited. What happened to the dissidents in East Germany? They merged with the Green Party in West Germany, which gives you a fair idea of what their politics were like. You can still find Grass' book if you look for it online.

But what of other things which happened, like the poet Vaclav Havel becoming a neoliberal once in power? Or Croatia declaring independence solely on the basis of support from Germany and the United States, which was a major trigger of the Balkan conflict?

In the case of the Czechoslovakia and elsewhere dissident hopes were channelled by a willing and waiting State Department into neoliberalism and Reaganite conservatism. People who wanted democracy were getting inspiration from Milton Friedman, who supported the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile because he implemented Friedman's pet economic policies.

Pro-democracy movements were turned into Real Politick by the United States, which effectively strangled any chance for an independent course which these movements may have wanted to pursue.

Considering the blood bath in Central America was there any chance that the United States would have acted differently?

Yes, Gorbachev talked about peace, with the implication of non-alignment

But Reagan talked about capitalism winning against the evil empire.

When it came down to it the capitalists were still capitalists and still wanted capitalism to triumph instead of just wanting to avert mutually assured destruction and those two visions could not coexist.

Peace on this scale needs two parties negotiating in good faith, and the U.S. wasn't interested.

Instead, they financed a neo-liberal coup against Gorbachev and sent over experts from Harvard Business School to rape the Soviet Union of her assets.

A coda to the below three posts

If what I wrote about in Yugoslavia was possible, just think what would have been possible if democratization in the Eastern Bloc had been allowed to procede, if Soviet tanks hadn't crushed Budapest in '56 or Prague in '68, and Gorbachev's experiment wasn't crushed by a U.S. supported coup by Yeltsin.

U.S. aside, just think of what may have been possible if these countries could have democratized without being forced to accept capitalism. There was potential there; now, all of them are integrated into the world market.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

And while we're on the subject....

The Italian Communist Party let its members from the '70s onward read Trotsky. Some Trotsky, but still, considering that Trotsky was being portrayed as the person who was intent on wrecking the Soviet Union through internal subversion via exile in the Soviet Union at this time the PCI's decision was pretty non-standard.

Reality Checks galore in relation to the subject of the below post

Which is to say, there's a little fact that I want to relate that has to do with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, i.e. Yugoslavia when it was Communist.

All people entering the military were required to read New Leftist Herbert Marcuse's works, particularly those which dealt with the hegemony of the mass media as being tools of ideological and capitalist oppression. This analysis could easily be turned on the Yugoslav state itself, and the Frankfurt School people, to my understanding, critiqued both the capitalist West and the Communist East as having the same types of hegemonic manipulation of people through the media. So....right there, you have a mass indoctrination of folks with works that could easily be applied against the current regime. Here's the kicker though:

Enlistment in the military was mandatory for every Yugoslav citizen, which meant that EVERYONE was aware of Herbert Marcuse in Yugoslavia during Communism.

In fact, the Frankfurt school became the quasi-official ideology of the Communist League, which self consciously changed its structure away from being a Party, although in the individual republics it functioned in a very prominent capacity.

When we're talking about a country adopting New Left principles into its socialism en masse, we might not by any means be talking about perfection, but whatever it is we definitely are not in Kansas anymore; rather, we're in a world where the normal expectations about what's allowed and what isn't are totally and completely messed up beyond conventional understandings.

As Leszek Kolakowski writes in his "Main Currents of Marxism", Yugoslavia formed the interesting case of the socialist country where speech was freest but where it was easier to get arrested for your speech than anywhere else.

Weird indeed.

"Jonathan Schwarz: Everything great about America all at once", or, not.

Jonathan Schwartz has a post up on "This Modern World.com" where he says that Chomsky being invited to be the speaker at West Point is proof of our democracy because

" For all our flaws, there aren’t many other countries that would allow such an unyielding critic of their foreign policy to speak to their officers-to-be. (In fact, in most places the people here listening seriously to Chomsky would have been hunting down and killing him.)"

Let's see, the U.K., Ireland, The Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, France, Spain, Austria, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, and possibly Japan, would all do it, as would Canada. Certain post-Soviet states like Slovenia and the Czech Republic would probably do it as well. I fail to see how this qualifies as not being "many other countries" which would allow such a thing.

Playing that game is like saying "Well, at least in the U.S. we're not starving, which is more than you can say about a lot of other places.", well, yes, but there are both a heck of a lot of other places where people aren't facing general starvation and also, using a standard like that to judge a first world industrialized country is rather absurd, since we should be doing better than simply not starving.

Likewise, there are a heck of a lot of places that would not only invite Noam Chomsky to give a commencement address at a military academy but would go much farther, places where they actually have functioning democracies with political parties that actually represent their people....

Ahh, just think about that.

What's 'great' about this country is also to be found in greater quantity and in more intensity elsewhere.

Yay America!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Interesting statement by Alfred McCoy describing CIA vs. FBI interrogation techniques

"PROFESSOR ALFRED MCCOY, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN: Sure. The FBI has for the past 60 years, until the start of the war on terror, been in charge of US counter-intelligence and, indeed, the investigation of East African bombings by al-Qaeda in 1998, for example, were handled by the FBI. So the FBI is a partner with the CIA and military intelligence in the war on terror generating intelligence to fight the war on terror. Now, there's a distinct difference between the CIA methods and the FBI methods. The CIA have allowed the Bush White House to use enhanced techniques whose sum is indeed torture. The FBI, reflecting its legal culture, do not torture. The FBI use a form of torture we might call empathetic interrogation. That is to say, you form a bond with the subject - the interrogator and the subject develop a personal relationship and through this relationship you get accurate, reliable, non-coerced intelligence and information that, by the way, will stand up in a court of law. So the FBI are down at Guantanamo and they have been appalled by what they saw."

From the Australian Broadcasting Company's "Lateline" show, where McCoy appeared.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

DOD War on Terror briefing document: do they realize how racist they are?

From AmericaBlog: War on Terror briefing document

"The enemy's version of the future would create a region-wide zone that would look like Afghanistan under the Taliban. Music would be banned, women ostracized, and soccer stadiums used for public executions. The people of the region do not want the future these extremists desire. The more we talk about this enemy the more its bankrupt ideology will become known.Osama bin Laden and Musab al Zarqawi cannot represent the future of Islam"

Which is about the equivalent of a British commander talking about invading Africa saying (in Americanized English) "Bunch of spear chuckers. If we don't get in there and establish order you'll have witch doctors roaming the streets and chiefs with their fifty wives controlling everything. If we let the niggers win here, who knows who'll be next, maybe us?"

Why Bush has gotten a boost in the polls

Following the death of Zarqawi Bush has received a boost in the polls, going from a 29% approval rating to a 33% one to a 38% one. Has the political mood really turned, or is there something else going on? I think that the reason that Bush has got a boost is that there are a lot of people out there who want to find something, anything, going right in Iraq that they can point to, and Zarqawi represents a little bit of light amidst massive failure.

To me, the 29% approval rating really wasn't a decisive indicator that people were resolutely against Bush so much as a reflection of the progressive disappointment and disillusion of the American people about Bush, Iraq, things in general. Sort of a slow leak of people attriting. That's somewhat different than real massive outrage.

Real outrage needs an object with which to compare itself to exist, and although Iraq and the war has provided many of those for people who are looking for information, for a lot of people the whole thing doesn't make coherent sense. There's not a concrete direction, concrete reasons for being there beyond the general 'let's take out a random tyrant' line, no point, no real reason. There's no narrative, in a sense, and without a narrative there can't be real outrageous failure, there can only be...shit.

Zarqawi provides a point of narrative for an otherwise meaningless venture which has killed several thousand Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis, if not over a hundred thousand. It's a way for people to point at Iraq and see that something is actually happening that has direction.

Zarqawi? Mastermind of the insurgency, got 'im.

But narrative points run both ways: once you've established something like the importance of capturing Zarqawi in the scheme of things in Iraq you invite criticism of the narrative if it appears that what you're saying is going to happen now that Zarqawi is gone doesn't. This could be a serious turning point, something more concrete than what abstractly is out there about reasons for being in Iraq etc...something that people can understand: they said Zarqawi's death would lead to an end to the insurgency which would lead to peace, it didn't, there must be something wrong. They must be wrong.

The media environment is such that this is about the best we who are critical of the war can hope for on a mass level, barring the showing of pictures of dead Iraqi civillians on TV, or interviews with their families, or actual news in Iraq coming from real Iraqis which is uncensored and not cheerleading for the U.S.

Protests, yes, of course, more and faster, but in the rest of the media, apart from events like that which essentially break into the flow of news, there is quite a black out, which means that a lot of the info that people get, people who are looking for it, is more abstract and theoretical than concrete. Which doesn't mean that it's wrong or not relevant, it's just hard to really capture people's emotions with a concise proof that the whole thing was done for oil while Fox News is showing pictures of a happy Iraq rebuilding and pushing for any gesture of support for troops to be identical with supporting the war in Iraq itself.

Sure, it's true, and so are a hundred, a thousand, other things about the war, about things that we've done there, but the media counter offensive, a pre-emptive counteroffensive which began long before the war started to shut down any outsider voices, is overwhelming.

To get to people either there needs to be more protests, or, and, something in the internal logic of the situation in Iraq needs to lead people to see the contradictions underlying the war. If Zarqawi's death doesn't lead to an end to the insurgency, as I'm pretty sure it won't, then this could be the start of the unraveling of the contradictions inherent in the logic of the Iraq war for regular people on a mass scale.

Let's hope so.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Strange Dreams

Last night I had a dream that I had an extended conversation with Noam Chomsky. The subject matter turned to linguistics and I had the uncomfortable experience of referring to Chomsky-an linguistics in the presence of the person who had invented it.

Strangely enough, when I wanted clarification about whether what he was talking about was Chomsky-an linguistics or philosophical linguistics, people like Derrida, the dream ended. He was not pleased.

He mentioned the philosopher Tarski at one point, too.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Financing College, or, "Welcome to the Club"

As of late I've been occupied with going back to school and earning my bachelor's degree. Something that I've noticed is the amount of discontent among the students around the financing of college, around work to pay for college, all money related issues which seem to be much more intense than when I started the process the first time around.

Thing is, though, that after getting to know some of these people it's become clear that they don't come from working class backgrounds but from middle class and lower middle class backgrounds. They're people who are already privileged in relation to a very large group of people, the true working class. Thinking about this, the situation strikes me as funny and tragic at the same time.

The funny part is that, in a sense, these people are experiencing what working people have experienced since time immemorial with relation to higher education; these people's experiences are in no way unique. Workers today face the same struggles, if not more intense struggles around getting into higher ed and financing it, that they faced back in the day. The only difference between now and then is that now in addition to working people, blacks, and Latinos having to struggle to get into and stay in college, you now have white middle class people that are struggling as well.


Which is why I say "Welcome to the Club". This is reality, this is the reality that many people live with daily. Now you're getting a taste of it. College should be free and these people shouldn't have to struggle for it, but neither should folks in even more serious straights.

There's an attack on higher education going on, with more and more emphasis being put on the bachelor's degree and more obstacles being put in the way of getting it, but for some people the struggle is about getting something that they thought they were entitled to and for others the struggle is about getting something which has always been thought of as journey which is hard and unfair.

So, welcome to the club, middle class white kids, but just remember that you weren't the people who started it.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Chavez marketing e-voting machine in U.S.---why is this a bad thing?

Lou Dobbs is complaining now about a Chavez linked firm making voting equipment which is marketed in the U.S.

I happen to think that this is a great thing.

I wouldn't mind if Chavez interfered in U.S. elections; in fact, the more the better.

I trust the man's judgement.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Zarqawi dead---this means the insurgency is over, right?

That's a rhetorical question because the insurgency wasn't caused by some Al-Qaeda guy setting up shop in Iraq but by resentment to being invaded and internal Iraqi politics. But, damnit, Zarqawi was propped up as being the criminal mastermind behind the whole thing, the one bringing foreign fighters to Iraq, which allowed us to "fight them there so that we don't have to fight them here". Plus he had a 'Z' and a 'W' in his name, along with a 'Q' for Christ sakes, which gave him a cachet of foreign sexiness.

Now he's gone, and as the insurgency continues another Bush justification and explanation will prove to be false.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Posted new book to reading list

"The Modern Crisis" by Murray Bookchin. Takes on a lot of the ideas about the problems of modernity in the way I describe it, which is sort of rare. Good discussions of technology, the point of society, socialism, direct democracy, all sorts of good things. Sort of a philosophical follow up to Post-Scarcity Anarchism. Bookchin's perspective on this is good; there aren't that many lefties that take on the idea of modernity in a critical sense....some do, Green Anarchist thinkers, many ecological people, The Fifth Estate associated thinkers, but mostly not. Instead, what you often have are the more incomprehensable and unusable post-modernists going off on the concept of modernity while not really saying much, on the one hand, and authoritarian conservatives who just want to turn the clock back a few hundred years but don't have much to say beyond that either, on the other.

It's good to find a book that treats this issue from a leftist perspective.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Eschaton on Genos, or, That's why they pay him the bug bucks, figurateively speaking

What an articulate response to a restaurant in your home town putting up a sign:

"Local Asshattery

Geno's is a big tourist draw in Philadelphia, one of the obligatory cheese steak stops. They're proudly saying they won't serve anyone who can't order in English.

Boycott dumbassery."

Such eloquence. Naturally, this is why Eschaton is rated as one of the biggest legitimate political blogs....the carefully crafted use of "Asshatery", the nuanced conceptual scheme behind "Dumbassery".

Yup, Eschaton sure knows how to craft an intelligent post.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Speak English! Declares Genos..

Irony so thick you can cut it with a knife, as is pointed out in the article.

Geno's in Philadelphia demanding that everyone who order there order in English...

It was funny, I saw this headline about Genos a few places above that on the Huffington Post describing a Ku Klux Klan led demonstration in a small town in Alabama.

Which makes me wonder, if Geno and his family were to relocate to Alabama, do you think that their pro-English stance would make any difference, or do you think they'd still get called guinea whops behind their backs?

This is coming from a member of that ethnic group...

Seriously. Do you think that the people who are anti-immigrant would have any sympathy whatsoever for ethnic people living in the eastern half of the country? These are people who called New York 'Jew York' before 9/11.

I'm sure they'd embrace with open arms Geno and his progeny as being proud members of the white race.

Words of Wisdom about the road we travel, by Ja'far al-Sadiq

Ja'far al-Sadiq was the sixth Shi'ite Imam and a man of great learning. This is his commentary on leaving home:

***

On Leaving your Home

When you leave your home, do it as if you will never return. Leave only for the sake of obedience to Allah or for the sake of the faith. Remain tranquil and dignified in your bearing, and remember Allah both secretly and openly.

One of the companions of Abu Dharr asked a member of Abu Dharr's household where he was and she said, 'He has gone out.' When the man asked when Abu Dharr would return, she replied, 'When he returns is in the hands of someone else,' for he has no power on his own.

Learn from Allah's creation, both the pious and the deviants, wherever you go. Ask Allah to place you among His sincere and truthful bondsmen, and to join you to those of them who have passed on and to gather you in their company. Praise Him, and give thanks for the appetites He has made you avoid, and the ugly actions of the wrongdoers from which He has protected you. Lower your gaze from carnal appetites and forbidden things, and pursue the right course on your journey. Be vigilant, fearing Allah at every step, as if you were crossing the straight path. Do not be distracted. Offer a greeting to His people, both giving it first and answering with it. Give help to those who ask for it in a righteous cause, guide those who are lost and ignore the ignorant.

When you return to your home, enter it as a corpse enters the grave, its only concern being to receive the mercy and forgiveness of Allah.

Where have all the protests gone? One just happened

Google "Olympia" and "Port Protest". A spate of articles have come out bemoaning the absence of protests and of youth being active related to Iraq, wondering where all of it went. Well....on both counts, that of involving youth and that of protest against the Iraq war the Olympia protests fit the bill.

I date myself at the Supermarket...

Walking into a local supermarket this morning I stopped and had to laugh. The music that was coming out of the front of the store, piped in on the store's own in house music system was "Friday I'm in Love" by The Cure. This is a very weird feeling, to have a song that you really like come back at you through corporate marketing. The thing was, the song had its desired effect. I was humming it to myself and the lyrics were going through my head as I walked through the store. These advertizing messages are designed to get you back to happy memories, things that you associate with youth, in order to put you in a frame of mind where you're more likely to buy stuff. Happy shoppers are shoppers more likely to spend money.

It just freaks me out that people are trying to make me feel nostalgic and I'm not even 30 yet.