Thursday, August 31, 2006

Wisdom from Meszaros

From "Socialism or Barbarism", about the United States:

"For precisely because the established present must be timelessly projected into the future, the past must also be fictionalized--in the form of a projection backwards--as the domain of the system's eternal presence in another form, so as to remove the actual historical determinations and the time-bound limitations of the present."

What does New Zealand have to do with terror?

It's a question to ask. After all, the BBC reports that Bush himself said at a Veterans conference in Salt Lake, that was protested by the Mayor, that

" "Despite their differences, these groups form the outline of a single movement, a worldwide network of radicals that use terror to kill those who stand in the way of their totalitarian ideology," he said.

"And the unifying feature of this movement, the link that spans sectarian divisions and local grievances, is the rigid conviction that free societies are a threat to their twisted view of Islam." "

BBC outlined the groups he meant : "He said those who brought down the World Trade Center in New York five years ago were united with car bombers in Baghdad, Hezbollah militants who shot rockets into Israel, and terrorists who had recently attempted to bring down flights between Britain and the US."

In short, every terrorist with an even nominal Islamist orientation is united in a grand terrorist conspiracy against the U.S., er, I meant, against free societies.

Which is how New Zealand gets into the picture. New Zealand is a free society, by any standard. They even speak English and have a system of government descended from that of Great Britain, much moreso than us. Yet when the people Bush talks about, and the many more who are tenuously associated with them in the media because of what they say after their houses are bombed, make statements they denounce the U.S., not New Zealand.

Why is that if the terrorists hate free societies?

Where is all the anti-Canadian rhetoric flowing from Osama Bin Laden. I'm all ears here.

But the New Zealand reference is good for more than just points against the Bush administration because it illustrates something. New Zealand is a series of islands half a world away from the Middle East. What difference exactly would it make to people in the Middle East that somewhere out there there was a place called "New Zealand", that was a quote unquote 'free society'?

Are the huddled masses yearning to breathe free in the Middle East? The Bush administration would surely like to think so. But lets assume that they're not. After all, most of the middle east is ruled by secular governments. Amazing but true.

Where does that put the New Zealand example?

It puts it in the role of a series of islands half a world away that have little or nothing to do with everyday reality in the Middle East.

Why should the United States be any different?

"Who needs that?"

So Jessica Simpson says on being told that the symbol of the Antonelli car, a dolphin, means 'intelligence'. Simpson is indicative of a larger trend, one that is respsonable in large part for us still being in Iraq: the mentality created by our corporate, capitalist, culture, that says what you can get, no matter how you get it, and what you do with it, is all that matters. Nothing else should worry your pretty little head except getting ahead and enjoying the fruits of what it is you do, especially if you use those fruits for mindless consumption.

Jessica Simpson was picked for the role she plays in all of this because she appeals to the privileged frat boy set who got where they are through who their parents are and whose greater out look on life is rather dim beyond getting a plasma TV and a fast car.

The open mocking of intelligence going on is really a mocking of knowledge---and the responsability that knowledge brings with it. I don't see many people mocking advanced degrees, with the American Family Association's redefinition of what Ph.D. stands for being the exception proving the rule, or mocking reading in general, and college itself surely isn't being trashed. What's being trashed is knowing about things outside of your ken and deciding that you have a responsability to do something about it. Knowing and knowledge, inconvenient facts about America, about the war, about damn near everything from evolution on, are what aren't liked. Intelligence in general is almost beside the point in this argument.



Knowledge is a bad thing because if you find that you have too much knowledge of something in a particular area you might decide that you have to do something about it---something other than sitting in your comfort zone pursuing the fruits of consumerism.

We have become Sonic Youth's "Daydream Nation"

And having all that knowledge would be a shame because, golly, TV is so good these days...

Appeasement

Appeasement is an interesting word. In this case it refers to Great Britain not doing anything when Nazi Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, after invading and merging with Austria, despite international protests. World War II started when Germany invaded Poland, thereby making it clear that it would pursue its strategy of expansion and not be satisfied with limited gains.

Appeasement in relation to Rumsfeld's speech means giving people the benefit of the doubt who shouldn't be given the benefit of the doubt because of their aims. But there's a real deficiency here: unlike Nazi Germany there is no 'they' as a concrete entity that you can point at. Despite the fact that there are terrorist groups motivated by Islamic ideology and there are insurgent groups in Iraq acting against the Americans there isn't even a solid 'they' that 'we' could appease. Most of this is just a smoke and mirrors creation by the media, which has taken the concept of terrorism and extended it to the point where it appears that, yes, there is something concrete that 'we' are fighting, that there is this really marked and determined difference between an 'us' on the one hand and a 'them' on the other, etc.. but if you really get into it who would be the appeased?

Would it be groups associated with Al-Qaeda? Maybe not because no one on the liberal or left end of the spectrum is talking about making peace with them.

To get at the truth of Rumsfeld's statement maybe it's better to look at what he considers appeasement to be rather than who exactly would be the appeased: appeasement means leaving Iraq.

Simple as that. And it also means not being extraordinarily paranoid either internally as a nation or externally in our foreign policy. It means not pursuing a course of 'regime-change', i.e. invading nations and overthrowing governments, in relation to countries that we don't like.

That doesn't seem like appeasement; it seems like common sense. And there is no Nazi Germany on the horizon ready to gobble up the entire Middle East and then the world.

Besides, if you want to find a case of real appeasement by the U.S. government all you have to do is look at our relationship with Saudi Arabia. That's a case of appeasement to a foreign power that's straightforward: kid gloves to Saudi Arabia, looking the other way while they support radical Islamism, looking the other way at their relationship to Pakistan, which leads directly to the Taliban.

But, oh, they're our friends. And supporting friends isn't appeasement.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Supervolcanoes!

In our backyard! In Yellowstone! Ready to Blow!

That's what ABC News has reported.

To paraphrase the Roman Stoic philosopher Epictetus, don't worry about the things you can't prevent, worry about the things you can.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Psychotic delusions of Rumsfeld

Or possibly his purposeful manipulation of veterans.

""They are actively manipulating the media in this country" by, for example, falsely blaming U.S. troops for civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.

"The enemy lies constantly _ almost totally without penalty," he told the veterans group, which presented him with the Dwight D. Eisenhower Distinguished Service Award. "They portray our cause as a war on Islam when in fact the overwhelming majority of victims of their terrorism have been the thousands and thousands of innocent Muslims _ men, women and children _ that they have killed."

He added, "While some at home argue for tossing in the towel, the enemy is waiting and hoping that we will do just that." "

You either have to be a master bullshitter or totally insane to make a statement like that about Iraq and Afghanistan.
This level of projection against an apparant enemy, who doesn't have the weapons to wage conventional war much less have a media bureau, is so extreme that to believe in it is to believe in conspiracy theory.

'They' are everywhere and 'they' are all powerful, 'they' manipulate the media, 'they' are really on top even though they appear to be on the bottom. Sounds to me like something Mel Gibson would say about the Jews, since it fits into the classic conspiranoia that's been used to persecute minority groups since time immemorial.

But I'm sure promoting conspiracy theories is the last thing on Rumsfeld's mind and that he has no interest whatsoever in selling the American people on them.

The headline of the article, "Terrorists manipulating media", reminds me of the fact that in the Third Reich they offered radios for sale with specific frequencies blocked out so that patriotic citizens could listen to the radio without any fear of conspiratorial liars spreading disinformation about the Reich's activities.

So, yeah, do your equivalent of that today: only look at Fox News and only believe the official story.

Monday, August 28, 2006

We stand for everything they hate?

So says Santorum. I wonder about this since religious conservatives are the same the world over in what they hate and what they don't hate. Santorum aligns himself with them. So what do religious conservatives from Islam hate?

They probably condemn sex before marriage, the sexualization of tv and movies, homosexuality, the imposition of secular law on society, in other words the same things that Christian conservatives hate.

Which is why Santorum's comment is so funny, because I haven't seen him defend Andre Serrano's "Piss Christ" or the rights of gays to parade in leather lately.

Freedom means...well freedom means freedom and it's always been a liberal idea. When you think of freedom you don't think about limiting people, like prohibiting gay marriage, you think about free-ing people, allowing gay marriage. How Santorum justifies being a defender of freedom while comparing gay sexuality to man on dog action is beyond me.

So what is this freedom, this mythical, conservative, beast that Santorum and the others are dead on defenders of? Women's freedom? Nope. Gay freedom? Of course not! The freedom of atheists and members of minority religious groups? No.... The freedom of people to voice opinions contrary to what the administration has put out? Nope, wrong again. Personal freedom from having your communications monitored by the government? Give me a break,they love that stuff! What about freedom of assembly or protest? Not really.

Just about the only freedom that conservatives can claim to like is the freedom of unfettered capitalism to do whatever the hell it wants.

That's a far cry away from what invoking 'freedom' implies.

If Santorum and company want to have some credibility in the freedom department it would help if they actually worked to extend it instead of to destroy it in America all the while saying that they're defending it from terrorists who want to strip us of it.

Right now it looks like Santorum and his fellow Christian Conservatives are on the terrorists' side, judging by his voting record and public statements, if in fact these terrorists are concerned about destroying freedom.

But, of course, no one remembers that Osama Bin Laden communique when he said there was a reason they didn't attack Sweden, right? OBL said that freedom wasn't the issue. I'm sure Santorum isn't aware of that.

Vatican says Hitler, Stalin possessed

I'm glad to see that the Vatican is getting back to its business of promoting total obscurantism as opposed to caring for the poor etc.. Pope John Paul had at least the patina of social justice; Pope John XXIII, who convened Vatican II, really did have it, but in so far as these things go they were exceptions. Now with Ratzinger it's back to who was possessed and other very important issues of the day.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Meszaros

Am reading "Socialism or Barbarism" by Istvan Meszaros, noted Hungarian Marxist philosopher and thinker, who started writing during the Communist period in Hungary.

The book is short and intense and it's basic premise, what it's examining, is highly topical and relevant: the contradiction between the idea of free trade globalization and American hegemony on the world scene. This generates a new imperialist tension.

I'm just a few chapters into it but already it appears to be a killer of a book.

Title link will bring you to the page at Powells where you can order it.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The liberal agenda

Here's the liberal agenda in a nutshell: not to live in a theocratic throwback to some rural community in the 19th century that recognizes no personal rights and is the laughing stock of every industrialized country in the world because of its behavior.

Agendas

Another common conservative idea, like that of partisanship, is that there's a liberal agenda piloted by groups like the ACLU.
The truth, if you look at it, isn't that the ACLU exists for pushing an agenda but for defending people who already believe in the things that it defends but get extreme flack for it by their fellow Americans. The same thing, in a different permutation, could be said about liberalism. There is no liberal agenda but there are liberals and they make up a substantial portion of the country--much more than conservatives would have people think. Liberals push for liberal legislation and social policies because as citizens that's their right to do so. The whole thing, the issue of hidden agendas, is really a charade. The truth is that the country is really as diverse as conservatives are afraid it is with respect to social issues. What's afraid of is that people in general will realize that this is the case and press even more broadly for their government to reflect their beliefs.

So conservatives pick up the mantle of the flag, acting like it stands for bedrock conservative values, and they portray themselves as being an oppressed majority, as if the whole country reflected the ideas on Fox news, and then they go on to create an imaginary insurgency---a liberal insurgency that threatens to destroy all those values of the benighted majority.

The reality is that the conservative idea of an insurgency against them is really an attack on their fellow Americans. It's like the wealthy Venezuelans that I saw a while ago in Florida wrapping themselves--literally--in the Venezuelan flag, painting up their faces, and chanting anti-Chavez slogans. Their cause wasn't for Venezuela as an abstract entity but was instead directed against their fellow Venezuelans that supported Chavez.

People who wrap themselves in the flag here and wrap themselves in conservatism, and then point to who exactly does not fit their idea of what America is about, are pushing their agenda over the backs of Americans who in reality have much more diverse attitudes than that. They're playing the buttons to try to intimidate people into their agenda on penalty of being excluded from the idea of being citizens and, the implication goes, of facing a large mob of people who believe like they do once the exclusion has been accomplished. That such mobs don't exist, that there isn't an endless, deep, wellspring of conservatism in the United States that could punish people who dissented doesn't matter to these people. It's the appearance of strength, numbers, and conviction that they use to try to bully people into at least falling in line and giving lip service to their political ideas about what America should be like.


Paper tigers have never had it so good since 9/11 hit, and these people have been playing their card to the hilt.

It's they that have agendas, not the ACLU or liberals. Liberals have always been here and are growing as a force; all the ACLU does is to protect people's rights as citizens from reactionary fascist extremists who want to deny this reality and to substitute their own will for that of their fellow Americans.

Partisanship and Bush

A common idea, propagated through all the conservative media, is that any criticism of Bush or of Bush's policies is evidence of partisanship pure and simple, and so easy to discount. But there's a problem with this, that is that there in fact has, of course, been partisanship by the democrats before, during Reagan-Bush and in relation to New Gingrich's regime, and what's going on right now doesn't resemble that. It doesn't resemble it in that in past years it's been easy for people who have agreed with democratic politics to just dismiss everyone else and have that be the end of it, while this time dismissing hasn't been the thing on the board; instead, convincing has been the tactic of the day and tolerance for other voices, combined with a will to understand why people voted the way they voted in the last election. This time, people haven't just been content to fold up their arms and say that the other side won this time/maybe we'll win next time. Instead, partisanship has been in fact transcended by people who believe that the threat that Bush poses for both our national life and for the world at large is great enough to warrant taking direct action to change the thinking of the American people. Whether it's Sheehan or countless other ventures, the tone hasn't been to sit back and think about how great we are and how idiotic everyone else is but to try to get people aware and over to our side, and I use 'side' advisedly because I personally don't fit in with many people on this side.

There's much less criticism of Republicans for simply being Republican and more substantive criticisms being levelled at the administration and its supporters than I personally remember ever happening, although I'm not a veteran of all of this.

If anything actual partisanship in the strictest sense of the word---just caring for party and letting party politics dictate your opinion on things---is lower today on the liberal and progressive end of the spectrum than it has been in quite a while.

Don't let the numerous anti-Bush stickers fool you: these people aren't just following orders given from above. They're following their conscience.

Fighting them there so that we don't have to fight them here

I don't believe in Bush's analysis of things but if you take the notion of having to fight them in Iraq so that we don't have to fight them in America seriously some problems with the proposition come up pretty fast. For one, 'they' know that the U.S. is the one occupying Iraq and that they're fighting against so it's in the best interest of 'them' to cut out the middle man and hit the U.S. directly in order to get the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq. That makes our presence in Iraq very, very, destabilizing for the U.S. itself because which is easier: to take on the Marines in Iraq or to set off a series of bombs in the United States? I'd think that the latter would be much easier. By staying in Iraq we give 'them' every incentive to do so in order to cut the occupation short.

The solution is to get the hell out of Iraq and let the Iraqis reconstruct the place.

Friday, August 25, 2006

More profane stuff: music downloading increases buying

So says a Rawstory link. I believe it, but you have to look at what's going on in the media to really understand why this is. Ordinarily I don't think that file sharing would lead to increased sales, but in today's world you have a fundamental contradiction: there are more bands than ever out there and commercial radio has limited the number of bands they play more than ever. Lot of CDs, lot of music, no way to hear it. I think that the music downloading is picking up the slack from corporate radio's failure to play anything outside of a very narrow range of industry pushed music.

File sharing may be the new independent media when it comes to music; I look around, find something interesting that I've never heard on the radio before, maybe send it to someone I know, then go to the store and if I can do it buy an album by the people I've found.

There has to be some way for people to find out about the music out there, and currently the industry is so incestous and limited that it doesn't provide this service. So....file sharing sites fill the need.

Very Strange

Summerisle, my nom de plume, comes from "The Wicker Man". "The Wicker Man" is being remade and Summerisle, which is both the name of a town and a person in the original, is now an island off of Puget Sound, not off of Scotland.


Puget Sound=Washington State.

So we have "The Wicker Man" probably being in the San Juan islands, since those are the ones that fit the description of being isolated islands the most.

Very strange; I feel like this film is taking place in my own backyard. Even though I live quite a ways from the San Juans I live very close to Puget Sound.

Just weird, weird I tell you, weird.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

9/11 and the historical dialectic

9/11 shattered the U.S people's seeming immunity to history or to historical consciousness. After 9/11 there was an outpouring of articles by people who had in fact been following history and knew what was going on, a flood that eventually solicited at least one backlash article, criticizing Chomsky and company for acting like they knew everything about history and about the U.S.' inolvement in things. The article implied that they were using 9/11 to push their own perspective. Fair enough, except that Chomsky's perspective is in line with the actual history of the United States as is Howard Zinn's, so in a sense pushing their perspective is pushing truth, even if there's some personal political opinion there.

This outpouring was natural and very informative, but I'm sure some people didn't see it that way. Instead of getting a learners primary in U.S. foreign policy and why it might provoke people to pilot planes into buildings they saw the U.S.' drawing into history as the start of a mythic and epic struggle that had apocalyptic overtones. This is the struggle to end all struggles, so the thinking goes, the struggle of freedom, which resides primarily in the United States, against unfreedom everywhere. The U.S. has to fight so that the world can be liberated. That's the thinking.

It's a degenerated form of historical consciousness. The important thing is the end point. Despite the talk about a years and years battle to free the world the goal is concrete and final, non-negotiable. It's assumed that after this epic struggle there'll be no more stuggles, no more history. What this says to me is that the people who buy into this don't really have a good concept of history, since history involves compromises and negotiations and there are no absolute end points in real history.

The thought that we'd fight to liberate the world and that this would be a gotterdamerung, a final battle of the gods, is essentially non-historical. Bush likes to say that the history of the middle east is unwritten, but his vision doesn't take into account middle east history or opinion. Instead, it's motivated by the will to impose America's version of what the history of the middle east should be onto what he perceives to be a blank slate, although the slate is anything but blank.

Our epic battle is a psychotic delusion brought on by the immaturity of the American people to honestly deal with the world's problems and our role in the world in a balanced way.

What happens when this degenerated dialectic ends? When this epic thinking is defeated and we're returned to whatever state we get to. The thing is that the state after this "War on Terror" mentality ends will not be the pre-9/11 mentality; the problem will be what exactly will this thing be. One option is further delusion, the other one is a true return to historical consciousness by Americans, i.e. an awareness of ourselves and our place in the world which isn't predicated by either an epic mentality or an isolationist mentality but by a balanced, negotiable, mentality that accepts limits and doesn't want to dominate the world in response to attack, something that understands give and take and cooperation on the international level.

Maybe I'm being too hopeful with that last one.

Nevertheless, entering back into history in a balanced way would be the best thing that could happen to America, because acknowledgement of historical reality, that all civilizations (to use that word) are necessarily limited and flawed and that what the world is in reality is a collection of limited and flawed nations trying to cooperate for a better standard of living, would mean both restraint, since apocalypse would be renounced, and maybe self knowledge of the above, something that would give people pause.

It's American utopianism, in the worst sense of the word, that's motivating this 'epic struggle', the idea that American institutions and life are endowed with the pure sense of freedom that was the fruit of the Enlightenment and so are uniquely suited to liberate the rest of the world. It isn't true. American freedom is as historically conditioned as all other ideals of freedom; no idea like that is truly universal. And so advancing it to the rest of the world as if it's defacto what everything should be run by is really advancing a limited concept and acting like it's universal. This is one of the prime reasons why trying to rewrite the middle east according to American values won't work. American values are conditioned by America and American history; they can't be exported to countries with vastly different histories and cultures. If you want them to have values like those of America they have to find a way within their own cultural and historical setting to implement them.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Good things happening in Canada

This post is a little late. I found a very interesting journal coming out of Canada with the simple title "Social Justice", that features in its newest edition a very good article talking about colonization and the dynamics of colonialism in North America.

Canada seems to be rational while we've all gone to hell in a handbasket here.

ABC News: 22nd August "day of reckoning" or something for those Islamic folks

The article isn't clear. It references August 22nd as the traditional day that Shi'ites think that sometime in the future the 12th Imam will come back and the end times start......but provides no cultural context so that it appears that they're saying that all Shi'ites think the world is going to end tomorrow. What if the book of Revelation had a date in it? Doesn't mean that there's going to be some crazy outbreak by those irrational Muslims tomorrow.

Furthermore, ABC provides completely unfounded speculation that the people arrested for the bombing plot in England, whose arrests were carefully timed by the United States, were planning on the 22nd for their attack. Why? Because they're Muslims. ABC notes that they don't know if the plotters were Shi'ite extremists, which is a really big fucking deal. They're basically admitting that they don't know what the fuck is going on and are scaring people blindly.

Why? Because there's a hell of a lot of difference between Shi'ite plotters and Sunni ones, the latter of which they probably were. Sunni extremists would think that the whole Shi'ite idea of a Mahdi or of the 12th Imam coming out of occultation, as it's called, is an extreme heresy. An extreme, extreme, heresy that they would have nothing to do with.

Just blindly saying "maybe they were planning August 22nd, maybe they were Shi'ites; they were Muslims after all" is like saying that a bunch of Baptists were going to blow up a plane to commemorate the appearance of the Virgin Mary in some town in Italy in the 18th century.

Proof that ABC does not know shit and that they independent media thinks and writes much better than the corporate scandal mongers.

Yeah, that's right, scandal mongers. I might talk about fascism but at least I don't try to scare people into thinking that tomorrow there MAY BE A TERRORIST PLOT because some Muslims think, um, something may happen some August 22nd.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Sit there in a column and make the nature scene

Nonsense title. No relation to text. It's from a Sonic Youth song.

Well, what to say? It's been a week. We've had truce, truce somewhat stressed and maybe broken, the course of things slogging out further and further, yet not a lot seems to be happening. One of those weeks when not a lot happens but the course of things nevertheless seems to be moving towards some end. But what? That's the question. The world is pregnant with potential right now; could go in many ways; and it seems like something should happen, that this potential should manifest in some way, soon, but it's hard to predict just how this will happen. Instead, it feels like being in an Antonioni film where the plot builds, and builds, and builds, and then when you're just about sick of it something happens that flashes and illuminates everything that's preceded it, leaving the film with meaning and comprehensable instead of meaningless and aimless. What meaning will our film have once the mini-moment of truth for whatever things are happening at the moment manifest?

Mini moment of truth because to say moment of truth itself is too grand of a statement.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

They're actually admitting it now

One of the reasons I'm in the Detroit area diaspora...

From Jack Lessenberry: "John "Joe" Schwarz would, once upon a time, have been a dream candidate for the Republican Party. A physician from Battle Creek with an impressive military background, he served in the state Senate for many years, and was widely respected in both parties, especially on higher education.

What I like about him is that he believes in common sense, and that he doesn't come in a slick package — intellectually or otherwise. He's sort of a bear of a man, with a good sense of humor and an occasionally explosive temper." (Bold mine)

Intellectually or otherwise. Yup. Lessenberry is a leftyish-liberal columnist for Detroit's alternative paper the Detroit Metro Times.

What could fairly be called the Detroit hip/liberal/moderate left establishment is so fucking anti-intellectual that it would drive me up the wall. Yeah, no slick intellectual package for this guy and, damnit, that's a good thing! Wouldn't want those candidates too smart now.

Lessenberry is an interesting columnist, but I'll save it for some other time.

Nevertheless, I thank the Detroit establishment for finally coming out and saying what was implied to me for a long time: intellectuality doesn't matter, just adherence to the party line.

Monday, August 14, 2006

"Islamo-fascism: George Bush's Fallacy", a response

The author of the article identifies the Ba'athist regime as being closest to fascism, but that just illustrates the formalistic nature of her analysis. Ba'ath ideology was pretty much a semi-right wing version of Leninism, with pro-Arab nationalism mixed in. It's origins were on the left then it moved rightward with Hussein's regime. Basically, if the Ba'ath party and the Ba'ath regimes were fascist then so was Lenin's Russia, because of similarity in structure of political control and the structure of society under the regimes, but that's obviously not true. Lenin's Russia might have been authoritarian but there were definite differences in terms of ideological origin and goals that made it different from fascist Italy. The same could be said about the Ba'ath regimes. The author takes people to task for playing fast and loose with the term fascism but in the end comes to the same conclusion that those who have a superficial understanding of it have: that you can take a series of characteristics, lump them together, and judge whether or not something is fascist by judging them. The internal ideology is what makes a fascist state fascist, not accidental characteristics that are shared by authoritarian regimes and military dictatorships everywhere.

Buying into the "F-word"

The f word gets bandied about a lot on this website, so it's good to give some concrete reasons why right now is like the 1920s.

I think that there's a two pronged process going on. First is that the resurgent capitalism that's emerged since the '80s has hollowed out and weakened American society and American social institutions; class has reasserted itself and people find themselves rapidly being declassed, creating stress on an individual and social level. The second has to do with government response to the emergent threat that this might be to the system in the immediate future. Resistence was growing before 9/11; since 9/11 the government has been able to use nationalism and patriotism to cover up for the failures of American capitalism to honestly provide what people have believed was their right: to have a middle class existence.

The initiative from the top is meeting discontent on the bottom and the product is an ideology which takes the place of addressing the concrete needs of people but which provides people with a framework through which to feel that they belong and that their needs are being met. Instead of talking about improving society, improving wages and quality of life, a phantom is being offered by the upper classes that makes use of patriotism, religion, and conservatism, employing the sense of fear inculcated after 9/11 to make the deal that much more attractive to those who are dispossesed.

This situation is a lot like in the 1920s, when the original movements started, only capitalism has changed and become decentralized in the time since then, masking the process of dispossession. Instead of large factories here illustrating it we have the loss of jobs wholesale and the gradual whittling away of communities that can no longer support themselves due to the job loss.

It's not hard to see the situation metastatizing into full blown fascism if the alternative to doing what it would take to get the country back in shape socially holds sway, things get worse economically, and there's another shock, either real or manufactured, on the scale of 9/11 that interrupts the commonly held beliefs about America and its place in the world once again.

You don't have to be crazy to believe in the potential for the f-word to re-emerge; you just have to be a believer in how desperate people whose livelihoods are being taken away can get once the probable end product of all of it, having a lower standard of living and lower social class, can be.

People are more willing to believe in a variety of fascism than to accept what many Marxists maintain is essential: the handing out of cards saying "Welcome to the working class" to folks who had not been working class before.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

James Boyce: "What's an Islamic Fascist?"

Uh, interesting article there but the premise that no fascism has been founded on religion is transparently false. The regime that ruled Spain had Catholicism integrally mixed in with its ideology. So did Mussolini's state, although in the beginning fascism in Italy wasn't wed to Catholicism. Romanian fascism was integrally Orthodox, taking the name of one of its formations, the Legion of the Archangel Michael, from Orthodox sources (and saying that they represented the true Orthodox church). Croatian fascism was Catholic. And while we're talking about things being integrally this and that the main form of fascist or semi-fascist, depending on what your exact definition is, dictatorship in Portugal was Integrallist, which meant that it believed in incorporating things like nationalism and religion, or re-incorporating as they saw it, into society in a basic and integral way. This form of fascism was also very strong in France and was a major inspiration for the ideology of Petain's Vichy state. It was also the governing ideology of the Vargas dictatorship in Brazil, and Brazil's fascists called themselves Integralists, even though they also had the patronage of the Third Reich. Catholicism=essential to Integralism.

In fact, it's really not an exagerration to say that the only non-Nazi forms of Fascism that didn't have religion as integral parts, excuse the phrase, were subsets of fascists that identified with the semi-avant garde quality of early Italian Fascism, a dictatorial avant-garde to be sure but one that was still opposed to religion.

His other critique of the term Islamo-Fascism doesn't hold ground either, i.e. that OBL doesn't have a state. I assume that what the people who use the idea look for as their case model is the Taliban, who had a state, repressed opposition, did all the things that Boyce uses to define what fascism is. The implication is that Islamo-Fascists want to impose a Taliban like state on the entire world.

It would be more accurate to say that extremists following the Wahabi school of Sunni Islam want to promote a fundamentalist Wahabi state for the Muslim countries of the Middle East and other Muslim countries.

They do, this is true, but in this envisioning they're only one party out of many in the area trying to advance their agenda; to highlight them as being the only people doing this or to pretend that even everyone who fits into the mold of militant Islam agrees with the above is to seriously misrepresent things.

Furthermore, the reason they hate America is that they see America as the source of all ills in the Middle East. America has fucked with the middle east quite a bit and is responsable for many bad things, but their particular interpretation involves the U.S. as the base of a Zionist plot working through world manipulators to control the Middle East. Saying this doesn't mean giving Israel a pass on anything, by the way.

They think America is decadent, but the decadence is sort of the icing on the cake of the basic objection to the U.S. fucking with the Middle East. They have their solution to this, that is to impose their style of religious dictatorship, but a) there are other alternatives, and b) you can say that the U.S. has in fact been messing up the Middle East for a while and oppose us doing this while not buying into either their interpretation of things or their proposed solution to it, either in the sense of actions to get at it or in the ultimate goal, religious dictatorship.

As far as I'm aware they don't want to invade the U.S. and convert it to Islam. So they're not strictly a threat to us. They're a threat to a) U.S. interests in the Middle East and b) to the citizens of the Middle East themselves, who may not want that brand of government although they may oppose the U.S.

What's at stake isn't having Osama and his people land on the East coast with a navy prepared to convert the U.S. to fundamentalist Islam by force but rather the U.S.' oil interests in the middle east.

If the U.S. pulled out of the middle east right now there'd still be the issue of who exactly would control things, and Al-Qaida's brand of religious fundamentalism would not be a good option, so it's not like if the U.S. just stopped messing things up that the region would be free of controversy, but that doesn't negate that what many, many people over there object to is the U.S. in the middle east rather than the U.S. itself.

If the U.S.' behavior in the middle east is essential to what the U.S. is then they probably oppose the U.S. to the degree that that is true. If it doesn't they probably don't have a further problem with us.

It's misleading to pit this global war on terror idea as being about freedom vs. tyranny. It's about global capitalism vs. some right wing challengers to it from the third world. That, as ultra-conservatives, they may be wrong doesn't make it less true that global capitalism is the focal point and the U.S. is only a target as much as it embodies this in the world.

Translating some of the stuff on the site into plain English

Some of the stuff in the essential posts section is really esoteric and doesn't seem to easily translate into anything concrete. That's not inevitable.

The basic concept running through all of it is that in the situation the world is in right now, not in the sense of the immediate political situation but in the sense of the general economic situation and where it's going, to really have a just society we have to resurrect some of the ideas of the Old Left and act on them. But. Not just in our ideology but in how the world is structured massive change has happened in the last fifty years, change that I think the New Left addressed pretty well: move towards a decentralized mode of production being the primary thing. On top of that the New Left, in thinking that Old Left issues regarding class struggle and socialism were over in any conventional sense, came to the service of a lot of ideas, things like women's rights, environmentalism, the rights of racial and ethnic minorities, gay rights, responses to technology and industrialism, decentralization of power, questioning of hierarchy, critique of beaurocracy, that were and are really valuable and necessary for thinking about what makes up a just society. What's needed now is a fusion of both conceptions, the Old Left and the New Left, in ways that take the New Left consciousness and apply it to Old Left issues.

That's the basic thread running through a lot of it, although language like post-modernism is used.

Old Left + New Left, with neither one subsuming the other.

The New Left largely ignored class the Old Left largely ignored all the things the New Left was concerned about.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Thank God---UN Resolution for cease fire passes

The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution for a cease fire today. Israel agreed to it and said that they'd address it at the Sunday meeting of the Israeli Cabinet. It calls for Israel to withdraw from southern Lebanon and for a UN peace keeping force of 15,000 troops to be stationed there, eventually to be replaced by the Lebanese army. This is amazingly good. Thank god.

The particulars of the resolution and how it passed are interesting and indicative: it was a joint resolution between France, Lebanon's former colonial master that still has significant interests in Lebanon, and the U.S., with Condoleeza Rice's faction winning the battle against Bush, who reports say clashed with Rice over the issue of addressing Lebanon.

France's action is extremely significant because it speaks for the EU position as a whole. By supporting a robust UN resolution France has signalled that it, and the EU by extension, isn't interested in a devolution of international affairs that could lead to some inter-bloc conflict, probably in this case between the U.S., and affiliated countries, and countries that have taken the back of Iran, for instance Russia. The threat of Iranian war is still there but this particular powder keg has been defused.

Instead, the EU voted for stability, and that's a good thing, as Martha Stewart says.

Additionally the terms of the resolution were positive--the UN force that'll come in won't be a separate entity specially created for the purpose but will build on the UN presence in Lebanon that has been there for decades. This is signifcant because there would be the threat that a new UN force would become politicized by the U.S. and either become the tool of the U.S. or lead to a direct intervention by the U.S. over and above the UN function, as happened in the former Yugoslavia and Somalia. Having something that's meant to be neutral susceptable to the manipulations of a major country's foreign policy is not a good idea and the righteousness of the underlying cause doesn't change this.

The UN force, in turn, will be replaced by the Lebanese army, guaranteeing a stronger presence and sovereignty of the Lebanese state over these things, something that despite criticism of manipulation by Syria is, potentially, a good thing to really assert Lebanese independence from Israel, although the presence of the State is always a mixed blessing to say the least and potentially harmfull.

While America is under red alert and a big dose of fear because of events in the UK let's celebrate this positive advance that has happened in world affairs, something that despite the atmosphere of fear and patriotic intimidation inside the United States has caused the world as a whole to be a safer place.

Thank God---UN Resolution for cease fire passes

The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution for a cease fire today. Israel agreed to it and said that they'd address it at the Sunday meeting of the Israeli Cabinet. It calls for Israel to withdraw from southern Lebanon and for a UN peace keeping force of 15,000 troops to be stationed there, eventually to be replaced by the Lebanese army. This is amazingly good. Thank god.

The particulars of the resolution and how it passed are interesting and indicative: it was a joint resolution between France, Lebanon's former colonial master that still has significant interests in Lebanon, and the U.S., with Condoleeza Rice's faction winning the battle against Bush, who reports say clashed with Rice over the issue of addressing Lebanon.

France's action is extremely significant because it speaks for the EU position as a whole. By supporting a robust UN resolution France has signalled that it, and the EU by extension, isn't interested in a devolution of international affairs that could lead to some inter-bloc conflict, probably in this case between the U.S., and affiliated countries, and countries that have taken the back of Iran, for instance Russia. The threat of Iranian war is still there but this particular powder keg has been defused.

Instead, the EU voted for stability, and that's a good thing, as Martha Stewart says.

Additionally the terms of the resolution were positive--the UN force that'll come in won't be a separate entity specially created for the purpose but will build on the UN presence in Lebanon that has been there for decades. This is signifcant because there would be the threat that a new UN force would become politicized by the U.S. and either become the tool of the U.S. or lead to a direct intervention by the U.S. over and above the UN function, as happened in the former Yugoslavia and Somalia. Having something that's meant to be neutral susceptable to the manipulations of a major country's foreign policy is not a good idea and the righteousness of the underlying cause doesn't change this.

The UN force, in turn, will be replaced by the Lebanese army, guaranteeing a stronger presence and sovereignty of the Lebanese state over these things, something that despite criticism of manipulation by Syria is, potentially, a good thing to really assert Lebanese independence from Israel, although the presence of the State is always a mixed blessing to say the least and potentially harmfull.

While America is under red alert and a big dose of fear because of events in the UK let's celebrate this positive advance that has happened in world affairs, something that despite the atmosphere of fear and patriotic intimidation inside the United States has caused the world as a whole to be a safer place.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Funny how you remember these things

When I was in a short vacation in Saint Augustine, in Florida, I met an Englishman at the hostel I was staying at. He was, ironically, from the Pacific Northwest and was a faker, faking intelligence and erudition while not being very bright and counting on his English accent to make the audience think he was sophisticated. We discussed politics; in the process he dropped the name of Mussolini, saying that, sure, people in other states might want to be Mussolinis because of 9/11 but it didn't really matter. The point of it was that he used 'Mussolini' to try to indicate that he was sophisticated. It was part of his act.

This reminds me that for most people in the U.S. the concept of fascism in Italy is so foreign and unknown that you can impress people just by dropping Mussolini's name, because saying that means that you know something ; what you know is not clear, but clearly you must know something and therefore people should respect you. That's the reasoning.

Shows how far what I've been swimming in in terms of political interpretation is from what most people are familiar with. I forget sometimes that most people have no idea what World War I was about.

Or that half of the U.S. population still believes in WMDs.

I don't understand the aversion of some liberals to

Actually reading the primary texts of rightwing extremism if they want to understand and combat it. It's almost like there's a phobia on parts of the liberal spectrum which says that if you read these things you're polluted in some way. Me, I've never been afraid, my take is that these things are wrong because there's something wrong with them and that looking at the justifications for them won't take away the wrongness or make it appear to be less threatening.

So last fall I started a research project that, for a number of reasons, I didn't finish, that involved looking at the primary texts of rightwing extremism in order to understand the evolution of fascist movements, what contributes to them, what causes them, what sustains them, what can prevent them, and in the process read early speeches by Mussolini, stuff by Oswald Mosley (the British Fascist leader), Corneliu Codreanu, fascist leader of Romania, as well as many little sketches included in Roger Griffin's book of selections from fascist and Nazi leaders across the board, from South African Nazis to Brazillian Integralists. Plus a book of selections on the precursors and contemporaries of Mussolini, showing the different currents within the Fascist Party, a similar book about the French right wingers who Fascism took a lot of its ideas from. Add to that previous reading through Mosse' documentary history of Nazi culture, Hitler's second book, journals by Joseph Goebbels, other more obscure British fascists, right wing extremists of today, umm, what else? A lot of the far right conservative precursors in Germany like Ernst Jünger, Oswald Spengler, some pagan religious ideas that could be argued had something to do with Nazism, works by Julius Evola, several works about works and analyses of all of the above.

I think I have a pretty good grasp about what fascism is and is not and what contributes to it, and I don't think that reading this extreme amount of rightwing literature has made me a fascist in the least. Neither has it encouraged obscene comparisons. The Laibach quote in a previous post notwithstanding I think that my big exposure to fascist literature has actually made me use less epithets against the Bush regime. Specifically, I've stopped making comparisons between their ideology, and I stress the ideology part of it, and that of the German conservatives, fascists, and even early Nazis. The reason isn't not to offend, because I don't care about offending, but because in the time period where I made reference to German things and Bush what I was talking about wasn't the holocaust but the way in which the Nazis rose to power, manipulating publicly believed in images and tapping into popular discontent, and how the Bush regime was acting after 9/11, and is still acting, I felt that the facts didn't fit that particular model. Instead, I think that the Bush regime fits the model of Mussolini's Italy much more than it does the rise of Fascism in Germany, largely because it isn't as explicitly extreme as an ideology.

Or perhaps the Bush regime fits the rise of rightwing military dictatorships in South America, albeit in an attenuated form.

But either way our democracy is collapsing because of Bush and it's always nice to have some models with which to understand decay like that so as to understand what the hell is going on. The rise of Italian Fascism is a somwhat workable one. That it's also a nasty one is the price you have to pay to understand what's going on. There aren't going to be any nice models of what Bush is doing out there. I see the same currents at work here in the U.S. that lead to millions of people being hurt in many ways across Europe with the rise of fascism in country after country after country. To my eyes there's not really a 'nice' way of illustrating this.

One more 9/11 and we'll have Squadristis in the streets, i.e. the fascist version of the Brown Shirts. Don't believe me?

Just file that little quote away in the back of your mind and see what happens the next time we're attacked.

I wonder if there's a connection...

I ordered a book from an online bookseller who will remain nameless. They included, along with the book, an advertizement for Fox's regular lineup. Not Fox News, mind you, but Fox itself. They usually throw something in there along with the book; an add, usually several. Maybe I just haven't been paying attention; but the subject matter is kind of disturbing to be getting a Fox advert. You see, it's a book about rightwing extremism, in the U.S. and Europe, bought for research purposes.

Somehow the combination of a Fox ad with "Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity" is a little unsettling.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Robert Scheer: "Why we don't know our enemy"

A generally good article; is more allusive than concrete. It would be helped if he devoted more time explaining his actual thesis and less to preparing people for it. The general idea is that Bush is purposely stopping knowledge of the dynamics of the 9/11 hijackers from getting to the American people by obstructing the 9/11 commission because it would present a complex, non-stereotypical, picture of the people who committed the crime instead of a cardboard cut out.

The same principle could be applied to the Middle East in general under Bush and his fellow travelers, like people at Fox News. It looks and feels like a great deal of effort has been put into constucting an idea of what the cultures of the middle east are like, what Islam is about, and what these supposed terrorist threats have to do with, that takes away real content and replaces it with propaganda friendly easily digestable images.

No one who wants authoritarianism wants nuance because nuance can open the door for people to have variant views from what is being pushed. I think that's why the right wing noise machine has been so concentrated on staying on basics and not deviating from them, because if they presented something more complex then even their supporters could get ideas that, while still being in the Republican ken, might not be on message as much as the noise machine might like.

That would explain why the same talking points get repeated over and over by various conservative media outlets. One message, one world, one vision, one state, one nation, one people.... replace the one with "ein". That comes from a parody song about Queen's "One Vision" by the Slovenian art outfit Laibach, by the way. All we need is one world one vision. Ein mensch, Ein Ziel, und eine Viesung.

But the blackest humor aside, the authoritarianism of these people thrives on ignorance not because the people who they appeal to are ignorant but because the environment they create is one of ignorance, packaged in good 'ole Americanism. How many times have Rush Limbaugh and company called their critics stupid? How many times have liberals and the left been criticized as being insane or stupid or idiotic? These messages are then followed by simplistic analysis that tells you what's 'really' the truth, something simplistic that looks on the surface like downhome wisdom. Stupid, idiot, psychotic, looney, all these words are words that tell people to stop thinking about the source because the source isn't credible. As opposed to the un-credible they put their version of the credible out there, comforting bromides that make little sense if you actually examine that which has been called stupid or psychotic and take the arguments seriously.

Those bromides, which if you don't know is an allusion to a tranquilizer or comforter, wouldn't stand the test if the rest wasn't ultimately discredited.

That's how they do it. Support for dictatorship wrapped in the American flag and Apple Pie because every other alternative is thought to be irrational or deficient.

Funny Funny

Interesting post on Atrios talking about a rinky dink pseudo-intellectual blog. I always wonder about people who talk about pseudo-intellectuals who aren't interested in intellectual topics at all. To call someone a pseudo-intellectual when you wouldn't really care if the person was a bonafide intellectual or not seems to me to be just a way to complain about intellectuals without looking like a dumbass.

By calling people pseudo-intellectuals you can indulge in your ant-intellectualism without revealing the truth: that you wouldn't give a damn if they actually were real intellectuals, you'd still hate them; it's the intellectualism in general that you don't like but that won't fly in most places because there's some acknowledgement that people who do intellectual work have something valuable to say. Instead, you throw pseudo-intellectual in their faces, as if you care.

Shit or get off the pot.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

And another thing

Attacks from the Left, again? I hate this Fox trope so much. I'm a leftist. I want large portions of the U.S. economy to be nationalized and for their to be a planning process to replace much of capitalism. Multinationals should be public property and there should be...I'll stop before I go off on an endless rant. Let's just say that in the future I hope for a serious curtailment of capitalism combined with universal provisions for social benefits for all citizens and a rough equality of income for everyone as well. I also see the invasion of Iraq as happening within the capitalist world system and being what used to be called an "neo-colonial" arrangement done in order to extend U.S. power in an inter-capitalist rivalry with the European Union's bloc of multinationals.

That's why I'm a leftist.

I doubt that many of the people that Fox News is attacking share these sentiments or whether people considered to even be progressive believe in most of it. They might believe in some of it. This is not to say that they're not hard core enough but rather to say that there are legitimate differences between what Fox considers the Left, which extends from non-centrist Democrats leftward, and what could in any fair labelling process be called the real left.

Beyond that, even when they do have some idea of a real left out there they don't seem to realize that the real and vital left of this country isn't to be found in the flashy Marxist-Leninist groups that hand out literature but in a more democratic and innovative informal association of people who, as a semi-random bellweather of these things, probably read and agree with Monthly Review magazine and the kind of politics promoted by Monthly Review Press. Count me in as one of these people.

But to look at that would fry Fox News' circuits because you don't have in Monthly Review disrespect for democracy or adoration of Stalin or
blind quotations taken from Lenin, although many of the people who write for and are involved with Monthly Review surely know Lenin's ideas and quite a few probably are conversant with politics in the Communist movements around the world.

That's why Fox is Fox: always stereotypical, all of the time.

Update on that:google

Using my very fine toned techniques of academic research, the painstaking process of typing "Lieberman" into the little window in the corner of my browser, I've found that Google as of now lists a Fox news story entitled "Attacks on Lieberman Norm from Left" as one of the top news stories about his loss.

Somehow I have a feeling that the fact that Fox News was willing to step up to the plate for Lieberman in a way that they normally reserve for Republican politicians has something to do why Lieberman lost this night.

Joe Lieberman concedes

Leading me to think that maybe there is some justice in this world and that words have meaning, that black doesn't mean white and that "Republican" doesn't mysteriously mean "Democrat" all of the sudden. Lieberman is one of the most Republican like Democrats in Congress; he also presides over a state where, and don't yell at me for this, a large chunk of it is essentially a suburb of New York City, not a very gung ho conservative place. That he would lose after taking positions that most democrats don't agree with is logical, but logic has been in hiding for these past, what is it now, six years?, ever since the 2000 election debacle. It's good to see that 2+2 don't equal 5 and that War isn't thought to mean Peace for a lot of people.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Buggery Brigade?

From Pandagon. You know, just call me a worryer or whatever you want, but I always thought that it would be a little bit hard for people who have to worry about whether the person walking down the street towards them will acknowledge them as a person or try to beat the shit out of them or taunt them to put together 'brigades', 'squadrons', and elaborate 'agendas', things that this person who has compared people who want gay rights to a "buggery brigade" thinks exist.

In fact the problem is people like this guy. Liberals who have been exposed to gay culture and know that it's not harmful and is a little fun aren't the ones that will threaten you. It's people who believe in a gay conspiracy, like a "protocols of the elders of Zion" situation where another powerless group assumes the mantle in their minds of ultimate power and manipulation, with a nefarious purpose at work.

In fact, if you look at the gist of the Elders of Zion material instead of just referencing it as a cultural fact, it fits pretty well with the conservative worldview of liberals and homosexuals. In the Protocols Jews are portrayed as wanting to create chaos and support revolution in order to advance their own power. In the conservative view of homosexuals and liberals homosexuals want to advance liberalism and tolerance in order to advance their own agenda, that involves committing crimes against children and general decadence. Behind the liberals you have the gays who want to destroy everything, so the thinking goes. If you let liberals win then homosexuals will win and the culture will collapse.

The point of all this isn't to take away from the signifigance that the Protocols have had in supporting violent anti-semitic acts throughout history but instead to suggest that ways of hatred don't change much. Yesterdays' Protocols are recycled as today's gay agenda, even if the people who are doing it aren't consciously aware of what they're borrowing from. Someone down the line is, but I doubt that Santorum and company are reading anti-semitic tracts and seeing how they can be applied to gays.

In fact gays have been blamed by certain section of the right for the Holocaust. There's a book called "The pink swastika" that is popular in hardcore anti-gay conservative circles that argues that Hitler and the Nazi leadership were homosexuals and that the destruction they wraught was a product of the general cultural decadence that this status brought them, a statement that will surely take many people's breath away when they consider the vast scope of destruction and death that the Nazi state wrought.

But "The pink Swastika" is evidence that conspiracy theories can keep track with the times. It's no longer fashionable to be anti-semitic, so the perpetrators of crimes against the jews are blamed for homosexual tendencies; that way believers can sleep at night knowing that what they hate is truly bad and that they therefore aren't bad people for believing in it. If the Nazi leadership was gay then I suppose a rabid rightwing homophobe could even justify to himself that he's doing something good in opposing gay rights.

Please though, even if you think that this post is crap and that the comparisons are out of line, please pay attention to "agenda" rhetoric, because it suggests something more than just regular bigotry, it raises, much in the way Mel Gibson's statement that "Jews cause all wars", raises the bigotry to a higher level, one closer to what organized white supremacy groups believe in.

To have an agenda, you must have a conspiracy, to have a conspiracy, there must be conspirators who have goals in mind. A logical response to this would be that it's necessary to eliminate the conspirators so that the conspiracy cannot succeed.

That's the danger of the "Agenda" rhetoric; it raises simple dislike or hatred of gays to another level, one where dangerous action, by individuals or otherwise, is permitted and justified.

You know it's funny you should post that, Jonathan Schwartz

"But it turned out there was no nuclear war. All Reagan did was rachet up international tension so high we merely came within minutes of nuclear war. I’m still a little mad at Stanislav Petrov for proving me wrong.

Anyway, I haven’t felt the same level of gut level terror because of a politician until George W. Bush came along. Welcome back, gut level terror!

Joel C. Rosenberg, who writes Christian apocalyptic fiction, told me in an interview this week that he was invited to a White House Bible study group last year to talk about current events and biblical prophecy.

Rosenberg said that on February 10, 2005, he came to speak to a “couple dozen” White House aides in the Old Executive Office Building — and has stayed in touch with several of them since…

Rosenberg — like Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, the authors of the phenomenally popular “Left Behind” series — writes fiction inspired by biblical prophecy about the apocalypse. The consistent theme is that certain current events presage the end times, the Rapture, and the return of Jesus Christ. Rosenberg’s particular pitch to journalists is that his books come true…

Rosenberg says he got a call last year from a White House staffer. “He said ‘A lot of people over here are reading your novels, and they’re intrigued that these things keep on happening. . . . Your novels keep foreshadowing actual coming events. . . . And so we’re curious, how are you doing it? What’s the secret? Why don’t you come over and walk us through the story behind these novels?’ So I did.”
****

When I was in DC three years ago I was walking by the Jefferson Memorial, one of the few sites that are politically approved in my book, and I overheard a working class guy there with his wife say that there's a theory out there that Bush is the leader mentioned in the book of Revelations as being the anti-christ.

Either way wer're fucked.

I just think it's morbid, scary, and depressing that there are people out there who a) believe that the end times are at hand because of the middle east, with the implication being that some official enemy of the U.S. is the anti-christ and, not to single this guy out (who was probably just anti-Bush), b) that there are people out there who believe the end times are at hand and that the U.S. is the center of the anti-christ's empire.

That seems to me to be profoundly scary.

But as every day goes by you can sense the shit storm coming; all it'll take is for Syria to get involved and the middle east will blow sky high, with the U.S. intervening and probably declaring war on Syria and Iran. And when that happens it'll probably cause a chain reaction in diplomacy that may end up leading to two multi-state blocs facing off against each other in the next world war.

For the love of god let's hope that the nations out there have learned something from World War I and will not allow themselves to be drawn into a world confrontational situation because of a regional conflict. There has to be a third force, and hopefully the UN, if this eventuality comes to pass, will enter as a non-partisan peace keeping entity with the goal of...I don't know, stopping the U.S. from triggering a world war.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The paranoid in me thinks that November 4th would be a good time

For the Bush administration to impose martial law.

If the midterm elections do not go as they want, what's to stop them from seizing power by force?

Goos post: Larrisa Alexandrovna: "Mirror, MMirro, the passion of the hypocrites"

Interesting post in general; very interesting is her depiction of Soviet anti-semitismm, which, unlike much of what is being called anti-semitism (criticism of Israel) now, was very real.

The presence of Soviet anti-semitism, of having "JEW" stamped on your birth certificate (as recounted by Alexandrovna) and being denied food as a little kid at school because of your heritage, on top of other things which she doesn't mention like being beaten in small villages or, as Gary Shteyngart recounts, being taunted with slogans encouraging jews to move to Israel and get out of Russia, is evidence of what happens when you try to build socialism without a solid liberal base.

Interesting book "The Third Rome", sadly out of print, illustrates how from the beginning of the Russian Revolution the interpretation of socialism that happened in small villages and more provincial places, that conflated anti-semitism and anti-jewish action with the imposition of socialism, was allowed to happen and to stand. These were places where the incipient liberalism of the pre-Revolutionary period hadn't reached.

Later, during the Stalin period, this historical oversight and tolerance of prejudice in the name of socialism became official Union wide policy.

Maybe this is a good reason why while the reaching out to red staters idea is good we shouldn't compromise basic values: because we can gain power through making all sorts of compromises but the power we gain will reflect all of it. There will be no magic saving grace if we allow prejudice, and anti-liberalism of a virulent sort, into the progressive movement in the name of inclusiveness.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

When you eat food products from the plains states, from the north to the Mexican border, you're eating imperialism

Just wanted to let you know. Why? Because the agricultural land that is used for this was "cleared" of Indians and given for almost nothing to settlers, who became the original farmers. Agribusiness may have taken over but the large farms there as much as the small wouldn't exist if the U.S. Army hadn't waged war on the Native Americans of the area and either drove them from the area or confined them to reservations. This is an imperial venture, waged on previously existing societies, and the thing is that, unlike in other places, the distance between the original dispossession and the current use isn't that far. This is because the use hasn't changed.

That grain and those meat and agricultural products that you eat would not exist if the Native Americans still controlled that land.

In California the Spanish did the work of dispossession; the U.S. just took over the plantation system, albeit without slavery, and started administering it through the prominent families of the valleys.

Bush didn't know two branches of Islam; this must mean he'll never get Syria

Syria's is an interesting place religiously since 74% is Sunni Muslim yet it gets the support of Iran. Why is this? Because the leadership of Syria follows an offshoot of Shi'ia Islam known as Alawa or Alawite Islam. This belief system venerates the first Imam of Shi'ism, Muhammad's nephew Ali, as being god incarnate and has a very eclectic and ancient cosmology. Even though their theology is much different than that of Iran it's close enough to allow the leadership of both countries to form alliances with each other.

Friday, August 04, 2006

America: those who got land and those who got wage labor

A dynamic in American history hinted at below is the difference between people who essentially were given land to farm, after that land was dispossessed from the Native peoples by the army, for free, and people who's ancestors came here working wage labor in industrial concerns---to say nothing of the people whose families came here in chains.

There's a basic divide here that I think would bear out if a historical or sociological study were done between people whose ancestors got a leg up by being given the spoils of empire and those who had to endure harsh conditions at the bottom rung of the social spectrum.

The people who got that land, cleared (what a euphemism) by the Army of Native Americans, had a natural leg up while the people who had to work didn't. And the people who got the land were very white while the people who worked weren't.

Look at Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska. Look at Montana and the Dakotas. All of that grazing land, all of that farmland growing corn and other crops, that land was once the property of the plains tribes and it was given away to settlers---the ancestors of the people living there today---at a pittance once the natives had been "pacified". That's empire right there in your backyard and in your grocers' freezer. And that area is very, very, white. It's also regarded as "America's Heartland". The Iowa Caucus (an ironic name) is considered to be the gauge of opinion of "real america". What does "real america" mean? I think it means that "real America" resembles the communities in "America's Heartland", that is, ultra-white descedents of settlers whose money comes from the land taken by force by Native Americans, that they subsequently farmed for a profit.

Communities like these are the backbone of white supremacy and reaction in this country. It's the landholding system which exists, even though the people there besides agribusiness are small farmers, which supports this. Not the tenant farmers or sharecroppers.

Why do they feel entitled to America? Because they didn't have to do anything to get it. They just emigrated and were given land. Their entitlement issues stem deep. This is what America was supposed to be like in some people's books: a place where land itself was plentiful, unlike Europe, and where people could come and make their fortune farming. Those people who did this are included in the main narrative of American history. Those who didn't do this aren't. They make up both the majority of the population today and the uncomfortable little details, from slavery to the bracero program to the realities of industrial capitalism that scholars have since tried to incorporate into the official histories to make what people say in at least some way correspond to what actually happens and happened in America and in American history.

Dispossesion of natives + free land. This formula was what was supposed to keep the evils of capitalism from coming to the U.S., according to some theorists in the early 19th century. Preserving the agrarian yeomanry was thought to be preserving the character and way of life of the United States, no matter that this yeomanry a) depended on defeating Native Americans and b) was open to using slave labor legally. But, despite this idea of a paradise, capitalism did come to the United States; the south was emancipated; and wage labor became the default way people were compensated. Yet in the distance these communities of agriculture still existed, fuming to themselves about how New York was, or Chicago, places of corruption and race mixing, places where a hundred languages were spoken by immigrants.

And so white supremacy in these communities was born, through the wedding of the propaganda that they'd been fed about the yeomanry to the awareness that the country was changing and they were no longer the center.

The great melting pot of America---and its enemies

It's ironic that this post came after the one below because I was thinking about writing it before I reviewed the Huff Po to see what was going on.

People around the world are impressed with America and with American culture. They like American culture. To some this has been a puzzle, but I think the reason why American culture is so fascinating is that it's one of the great fusion cultures out there. In America many cultures meet, from African to Hispanic, from Jewish to Italian to Asian, and what comes out is a mixture unlike many that exist elsewhere. Some things in America, that have their roots in all of this, are harder than anything else to find outside of our borders.

Brazil is somewhat the same way, and it too has produced a profusion of unique musical and literary styles and ideas.

That said, it's not very hard to see George W. Bush and the people who support him as being against this very diversity in culture and ideas which has made America so unique. To them, America should be a mono-culture, a nationalistic entity where nationalism means obedience to the cultural mores and ways of thinking and living of people descended from the original Anglo settlers of America and those who have assimilated to that status. This is not all European people but a specific, very insular, subset of European Americans. It excludes everyone else. Everyone else is no longer American enough.

These are people who can wave the flag without qualms because their ancestors weren't enslaved, they weren't subject to racial discrimination, they weren't imported as strike breakers into industrial hells and gaping mining pits. Instead, they came over here as farmers, starting out with more land than most others would get, so that the dynamic in their minds is either one of rightfull entitlement to and ownership of America, if they're prosperous, or a sense of being profoundly wronged by America and by everyone else who has come here since and done well, if their families have fallen on hard times.

These people do not want diversity, they do not want the cultural mix that has made America great in the eyes of the world, they want their own brand of country music 24 hours a day, fundamentalist Christianity, and a Patriotism that allows no discussions of wrongs done to others along the way in American history.

That position is an effective negation of the reality of American life yet it's what they want and what George W. Bush supports.

Defeating Bush and the Bushites means more than just ending the imperial project in Iraq and elsewhere; it means liberating America so that it can go forward and shine instead of collapsing back into an anachronistic backwater, where, it should be noted, most Americans would and are feeling out of place.

If Bush's cultural version of America wins it'll mean millions of people disenfranchised of their heritage in the name of Patriotism and nationalism. Let's not let that happen and let's instead fight for an open America where all can participate and all are reflected in our idea of what America is.

Why the world isn't doing what Bill Maher asks

First of all, the world HAS done what Bill Maher has asked and has asked both Hezbullah and Israel to stop attacks. There've been appeals for a UN force to come in and mediate plus condemnations of the violence. What I think that Bill Maher is upset about is that not everyone has suddenly jumped in for Israel as much as he'd like. This blog, for the record, has recommended a UN force come into Lebanon and either mediate or forcefully stop the violence. I'd like to add to that a process which would address basic concerns which lead to the violence in the first place.

Yes, there have been people, a broad swath, condemning the violence on all sides, but you know what: for people who have been following Israel/Palestine issues for years and who have seen the Israeli army commit atrocity after atrocity without any retribution or consequences , who have seen the international community condemn horrors like Jenin, and who have seen resolutions introduced in the UN with the U.S. vetoing them, the only country to do so, who have been paying attention when Rachel Corrie was killed, who then learned about how life in Rafah, the city where she was living, is, excuse us for not jumping too high when Israel is attacked.

I condemn the attacks on Israel but I'm not cutting Israel any special favors on this one.

If it had been a state which hadn't done all of the above, plus much more, I probably would be more enthusiastic.

And everyone condemns suicide bombing too......just remember that if Israel, with the help of the U.S., hadn't wiped out all secular resistence organizations, who don't believe in suicide bombing, besides the moderate to right wing Fatah faction of the PLO, that suicide bombing wouldn't be happening in the first place.

Lefties don't do that sort of thing.

Wow, "The hatred of Jews by Arabs in the areas surrounding Israel is more important than a mother's love for her children."

That has to be one of the most racist things I've read in my life, on par with the idea that Asians have thicker skin than white people and so don't feel napalm. Or that black women are driving cadillacs while receiving welfare.

It's impressive how this goes uncommented on. We're supposed to be all anti-racist here on the left but this anti-racism doesn't apply to jewish racism against arabs, evidently, because if some impartial standard was used that statement up there would earn the writer the Mel Gibson treatment.

How dare you say that mothers in Arab countries whose children are bombed by Israel are more concerned with Israel for ideological reasons than with mourning the deaths of their children.

But....They made us do it!

What a load of shit.

With all due respect to Mr. Dershowitz, who has proven to have a more nuanced position on this than I suspected, this type of rhetoric really does go into conservative territory, where they make 'us' do everything to them and we, whether the we is the U.S. or Israel, has no responsability for the atrocities committed.

Why are you posting on Huffington Post? Maybe the National Review would be more your style. (This is in reference to the quote writer).

Thursday, August 03, 2006

anti-sex and hyper-sex, two sides of the same coin?

What a world we live in. At one extreme you have Christian fundamentalists who don't want adolescents to know solid information about sex, don't want contraception available to them, want to have banned things like Plan B. On the other....what? If you ask a conservative Christian what's on the other side of this equation he or she would probably say that it's Hollywood, with its promotion of sex, its cheapening of sexuality, plus some sort of appeal to homosexuality as being decadent. But to me, from where I stand, I'm not so sure if the two are polar opposites.

The homosexuality aside, which I don't believe either the media is pushing on people or is something decadent, there's something that both of these groups have in common: neither has a positive view towards sex in the sense of positive equaling healthy.

One group wants to promote total denial of sexuality the other wants to promote a version of sexuality that's exploitative and demeaning; neither approximates an ideal stance towards sexuality.

Sure, one could say that if the conservative view makes you mad then why not go to the other extreme, but what people think of as the other extreme, which markets itself as total freedom, is actually not healthy either because in the scope of sexual relations there are other issues than pure freedom vs. unfreedom that make the relation either just or not just. There's gender power and inequity, for one, which is the prime thing that is overlooked in the media's marketed version of sexual freedom.

When you say sexual liberation you almost have to say "sexual liberation for whom?", for men in general as society stands right now, men in society, or for both men and women in a sense which doesn't buy into the mores of society as it is now. To get to that goal I'd suggest that sexual liberation really needs to put women and women's sexual self determination first, because they're currently at the brunt of the social system.

If you just liberate sexuality without taking into account gender relations than you reinforce the gender relations that already exist. In this case that means reinforcing male dominance over women. Liberation for some turns into objectification for others as the tendencies in male culture to treat women as sex objects only gets a stronger push from this.

Traditional female gender roles are reinforced by this too, which is why some women may turn against sexual liberation as a whole; sure, the right to be sexy is more than the right to be nothing but a stay at home Christian mom, but it must be cold comfort to know that this sexiness feeds right into men's heightened sexual expectations of women.

Because of this, I would say that just pure liberation might leave women more oppressed than non-liberation, albeit in a way that is different enough so as to be apples and oranges. Oppressed in one way that wasn't open before but empowered also in ways that the conservative ideal of women will not allow.

But the way out isn't to turn back the clock. The way out is to correct the overly male centric view of sexual liberation with one that privileges the female and also takes a critical look at gender power in society.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Extreme Literature

I'm a fan of extreme literature, i.e. fiction, but I have to wonder when exactly extreme scenarios venture off into fantasy, when the link with reality is decisively broken. Once fantasy new rules apply, and there have been many overtly fantastical works of extreme literature which have been valuable and interesting reads, for instance "The Adventures of Telemachus" by Louis Aragon, now available via Exact Change press, or any of Jarry's 'pataphysical works. Yet if you're looking for something realistic to get into, to see characters that you'd see on the street or relationships which have something to do with what you'd normally experience extreme literature might not be the way to go.

Of course it all depends on the viewpoint from which the author tells the story: an author can communicate something which, due to the point of view, is very fantastical which nevertheless intends to communicate something realistic. I believe the kids call this expressionism.

Re Bill Maher logical fallacy

Just because Mel Gibson spouted anti-semitic propaganda straight from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion doesn't mean that Israel is therefore right in attacking Lebanon. Neither does it mean that there's a huge well of anti-semitism out there, unless of course you define anti-semitism as opposing what Israel's foreign policy and armed forces establishment are doing, which is a fallacy in itself. Why? Because unless you identify Israel with jews as a whole, or, specifically, the Israeli state with Jews as a whole, then the statement doesn't hold water because there's a differences between jews, taken as individuals or possessing a collective but fragmented identity, as a whole and Israel's interests. In fact, I think that it's anti-semitic to say that all jews everywhere should support what the Israeli government does.

The Israeli government is a government like many others, which occupies land which is dear to the hearts of the jewish people. But to extend the function of Israel in Judaism to the government of Israel is improper since it's a secular state which operates under a common law system influenced by both British and Judaic legal philosophy, has a Prime Minister, a Cabinet, a House of Representatives, etc...

These are very worldly things and you don't have to be a religious jew to go to Israel or to participate in Israeli politics. Therefore, the State of Israel, as opposed to the Israel in Judaism, is bound to jews by cultural ties not only by religious ties. And the thing with that is that there's quite a variety in jewish culture, surely much more than there is in the ruling party of the Israeli state.

To say that everyone who identifies themselves as Jewish, of which I'm not one despite many misidentifcations to the contrary, therefore must agree with the policy of the rulership of the Israeli state is then not tenable because it doesn't reflect the reality of jewish opinion.

What about liberal jews, what about socialist jews, what about jews who are pro-palestine? What about conservative jews who believe that Israel will only be the Jewish homeland with the coming of the Mosiach? Why should they agree with a conservative state made up of cultural brethren which occupies their holy land just because of the cultural and implicitly religious ties?

Shouldn't it be the reverse? Shouldn't Israel reflect world Jewish opinion rather than people who happen to live in Israel getting to decide for the rest of the Jewish community what's right and what's wrong, and presenting themselves to the world as the exemplar and leadership of judaism as a whole, so that states concerned with the relationships between themselves and jews look to Israel as the standard by which to judge such things, instead of looking to the worldwide Jewish diaspora as a whole?

State and homeland are two different things as Noam Chomsky points out. One can support a homeland in Palestine for jews without giving the authority of all questions regarding jewishness to a State built on that homeland.

Israel, coming at things from a Gotterdamurüng perspective

The word above means twlight of the gods, was used by Wagner in his Ring Cycle, and refers to the final battle which ends all battles at the end of time. Although it's a poetic interpretation of events it wouldn't be hard to argue that Israel is intoxicated by the spirit of the warrior and of combat, of initiating a war to end all wars---not in the sense of there not being wars after but in the sense of initiating the ultimate war, the ultimate showdown between two groups at odds with each other, who cares what the consequences will be?

There's a sort of intoxication which hits soldiers once they know that 'this is it', that it's all or nothing, success or ultimate failure, and Israel seems to have embarked on a road which utilizes this idea. Hit them now, hit them once and for all, the consequences will be dealt with. If this entails more and more fighting---fine. It has to be that way.

Israel seems prepared to take on not only Lebanon but Syria, to make this the final reckoning with its enemies in the middle east, thereby confriming at least in part the idea of apocalyptic Christians that this is the end times.

This is the end times and the end battle but it has nothing to do with religion. Instead, it has to do with the culture of self styled warriors and the hubris with which they'd bring an apocalypse down on us in order to settle the score once and for all.

Mel Gibson

The thing about Mel Gibson's arrest that's most disturbing is the fact that he stated that Jews cause all wars.

It's disturbing because that sort of thing isn't garden variety anti-semitism but instead goes into "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" territory.
Gibson's unconscious spewing this out means that not only is he suspicious, and I use that term generously, of Jews, which is anti-semitic, but also believes in the sort of thing that Neo-Nazis buy into. That takes the thing to a whole 'nother level.

There've been Hollywood anti-semitic remarks before, most famously Marlon Brando's statement on Larry King that you see stereotypes of many ethnic groups in movies but you never see that of Jews, but they usually don't go to this level. Brando's statement was a far cry from saying that Jews cause all wars.

Let's look at that statement for a second. If Jews cause all wars than that must mean that Jews secretly control things; so if you buy into the first idea you must buy into the second, which takes us to international bankers and protocols of the elders of Zion territory. The territory of racialist extremists.

That's why Mel Gibson's statement is really troubling; because you have a Hollywood player who believes in the same thing that skinheads do.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Notice

I don't keep statistics of how many people view this site, but I do know that if Alan Dershowitz is aware of this site that others are too; and I know that you folks have things to say about the posts, so why not leave a comment or two? Don't be afraid.

Or I could just be wrong on this; he could have found the site through googling the Huffington Post article title, in which case it's a little bit less impressive that he's aware of this site.

In either case comments are welcome and I know that people out there have things to say.