Saturday, September 30, 2006

Of Course it Doesn't Matter!

"Senate Republican Whip Mitch McConnell of Kentucky countered: "A lot of Americans have forgotten what Democrats do when they are in the majority. We are going to remind them."

Spoken like a man who doesn't give a shit about the difference between Republicans and Democrats.

What was he countering?

"House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat who could lead the body if Democrats win control in November, said this has been "a make-matters-worse Congress for the working family in America.""

Geeze, those Democrats, so out of touch with the realities of America, just in the pocket of their corporate masters, ya' know?

About those November elections...

The way I see it the lead up to the election this November is extremely significant because whoever wins will take that as a mandate to do whatever they want. You can either see spineless Democrats or you can see rabid Republicans in office. There's the issue of the person at the top of the chain as well; if Bush has a congress that's opposed to him there'll be less he can do.

The error of politics that just doesn't care about either party is thinking that little difference makes no difference. The worst that can happen if the Democrats are elected is that they can prove that they're hypocrites by not doing much. The worst that can happen if Republicans are elected is that Bush will consider it a mandate for his policies. You can choose either passive cooperation with an extremist or active cooperation.

Either way, if you do care, this month or so before the midterms and the election itself are the opportunities to register the discontent you have. Additionally, there's the argument that congressional races are really connected to winning the Presidency later, so.... you get the picture.

I reserve the right to be inconsistent about supporting radical politics yet wanting the Democrats to win because, for example, torture is a bad thing, so is the hardline on the war with Iraq. Bush's entire presidency post 9/11 has been an exception to the rules, and the quickest way of getting things back to a situation where radical political change can actually make a dent is to get Bush out. Now, either massive direct action or the ballot box seem to be the only options for this, but unless enough people sit in and obstruct to make the difference it looks like the ballot is the more likely candidate at this juncture.

And returning a Republican congress will have repercussions on the world scene. People who live in countries where the parliament actually is thought to mean something and where people don't see it just as an appendage to corporate power or irrelevant, even though it's sending many people to die in Iraq and is killing Iraqis daily, will use this as a very justified reason to be hostile and non-cooperative with America. And if I was in those countries I probably would think the same thing. This, just like the last election, is a referendum as much on the character of the American people as it is on the government.

Those who doubt that the rest of the world is paying attention should hunt down the graphic, put together by a French paper I believe, that compared the electoral votes of 2004 with the pattern of states that chose to secede in the Civil War and showed that they coincided almost exactly, implying that not a damn thing that's happened since 9/11 has made any difference in typical voting patterns.

Think that's unfair? Then do something this November.

Currently listening to: Black Antlers

A rare album by COIL. Their excellant album "The Ape of Naples" should be the one available. Who the ape of naples is I haven't gathered; I think it may be Jhonn Balance, the late departed half of COIL. The album was mixed after he died.

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Just checked with their site :http://www.thresholdhouse.com and, amazingly, the Black Light District album is available for download. If you aren't familiar with COIL but are interested in some of their really good stuff, and are willing to spend money, Black Light District is a good bet. Love's Secret Domain is also very good, more dance oriented, and is also available through their shop. Both are more accessable than "Ape of Naples". Top link will take you to thee store.

****

Edit again: Love's Secret Domain is the best thing to get if you're not familiar with them at all, even though it is in fact considerably more dance-y than the rest of their output, which might make other albums less attractive if that's what gets you going. Top link still will take you to store.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Shrillness of the left liberals---another conservative trope

Trope is just a fancy word to describe a rhetorical strategy, that is to say a strategy of argumentation. It might seem mildly ironic for this blog to complain or to write about shrillness but the issue isn't really how some blogs, like mine, can stray into being very harsh on the president and on the system in general. No, because Bill Clinton arguing with Wallace is classified as shrill now, for example, there's a real disconnect between what actually is somewhat harsh and what's being labelled harsh. The strategy of calling things harsh has nothing to do with real harshness if you actually look at who's being called this and why. Very mild criticism of the Republicans is called shrillness while Republicans and Conservatives are free to go as far as they want into extremism without having the same sobriquet tossed against them; or if they do they always have recourse to calling their opponents shrill...

I think the reason that this situation exists goes back far beyond the machinations of Karl Rove and company right back to the conservative reading of the French Revolution via Edmund Burke, credited with being the founding father of Anglo-American conservatism. Burke was more moderate than some of the Tories in England and supported the American Revolution. He called himself an Old Whig. Because of this, and because his main work was on the French Revolution, something that did end in bloodshed, he's a very popular author with conservatives. In fact, to say that Burke is a popular author with conservatives is like saying that Thomas Paine is a popular author with people who like the liberal interpretation of the American Revolution.

In his book 'Reflections on the Revolution in France' Burke makes a two pronged argument about why the revolution happened and what the significance of it is. The first is an economic reading of it: the rising middle class overthrew the old line aristocracy. The second prong is psychological, that is to say that the ideology of the middle class is against the stable values of the old order and by overthrowing the old order they're setting themselves up for destroying society, even if they might not realize it. In fact, that they don't realize what they're doing in overthrowing the old order is read as a kind of blindness. Burke wasn't writing about when the Revolution took its bloodiest turn but many people have extrapolated his argument to account for it. What's important is that the idea of a kind of psychological blindness based on self interest has been turned by conservatives into an argument for irrationality by liberals.

Much of the economic basis for Burke's critique has been dropped or it has been turned into a device for making potshots at Hollywood liberals and others but the psychological angle has remained. Liberalism in this view is based on a non understanding of tradition, based on immediate concerns that don't reflect a wider historical consciousness. When liberals advocate for something they're considered to not really understand the implications of what they're saying; this idea of shortsightedness can be extended to the idea that liberals objecting to conservative programs not only don't understand what they're advocating but are so short sighted that pure emotion for doing good has overcome them, making them shrill. There's also a tradition of conservatism, unconnected with Burke, that believes that the impulse for social improvement will always end in disaster unless it is carefully considered and gradually implemented, and this ridiculing of the 'do-gooder' mentality feeds into the shrillness critique.

But the psychological critique started by Burke is what allows people to suggest that "Liberalism is a mental disorder", or that liberals are really shallow people who don't have an understanding of things and are just reacting based on ideology. The solution is always to take things calmly and carefully. But what happens when the actions that are being critiqued aren't careful or calm but are radical through and through?

Here comes the inconsistency of the conservative movement today. They use the argument of shrillness to discredit their opponents yet the things that they advocate are extreme by any standard and in fact don't have a tradition in the United States to base themselves on, unless you want to consider things like Nixon's black bag work against activists in the sixties or some of the more unsavory McCarthyist activity 'traditions'. Instead, what's happening now is a break with American traditions, with many of the conservatives being the real radicals. But the same use of shrillness goes on and what is really radical is marketed through conservative outlets as being the long, considered, view point, a view point so profound that liberals just haven't gotten around to realizing the gravitas of the situation.

Which is totally false. There are plenty of profound implications in the post-9/11 world but many of them have to do with the consequences of our government's actions after 9/11. Yes, there are jihadist terrorists out there, but it really isn't helpful to equivocate between the violence of 9/11 and the violence of Iraq and Afghanistan. Both are terrible in different ways but the violence we have inflicted in Iraq and Afghanistan probably has more global implications, including breeding more terrorists that don't like the U.S.

In the mean time the conservatives are free now to go as far as they want with their rhetoric while taking down anyone who challenges them as being shrill liberals. Well, you can't have it both ways.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

One of the reasons for the appearance of newness in Bush's tone and agenda

Americans are discovering that currents that they thought they were immune to as a country are very much present. I don't think that the policies of Bush and company and the sympathy of the people that they resonate with just materialized out of the blue; instead, I think that the seeming absence of them was because of a disconnect between what people actually believe and how that belief is expressed that's typified American society since almost the start.

I'm not saying that the extremist policies of the Bush administration have been floating around beneath the surface of the GOP for decades; political movements have their ebb and flow and countries as a whole have periods of advance and regression in terms of what political ideology is on top. What I am saying is that because American ideology has been based so much on the Revolution and Revolutionary rhetoric that it's been difficult to really identify those who have extreme right wing positions, unless they literally wear their beliefs on their arms, as having those positions.

I think there's a normal spectrum of political opinion out there, with the presence of the spectrum not implying that there should be a normal distribution of political opinion across it mind you. In America the way that this spectrum is expressed usually has to manifest itself in ways that harken back to the Founding Fathers. For conservatives this imperative is even bigger because, as conservatives, they base their opinions on what's come before as core value. What came before the present, though, happened to be an un-conservative event: a revolution against centralized authority. This presents a problem if a person or group has beliefs that are farther to the right of the founding fathers, even the conservative-ish ones like Alexander Hamilton and John Adams, because on the other side of that divide lies the thing that they were fighting against in the first place: the monarchial and conservative traditions of England, that were very much anti-U.S. independence, people like Samuel Johnson, for example, although he died before the independence struggle in the states really took off.

Comparing the United States to England you notice something pretty drastic: the English hardline conservatives can come out advocating for hierarchy and obedience to authority, respect for ancient institutions like the monarchy and for institutionalized state religion. American conservatives can't really go too far in those directions while staying within the parameters of American political discourse. Yet the impulse for all of them, with the monarchy excepted, is still there.

The spectrum of natural political discourse, which I believe extends from the far right to the very far left, with intermediate steps in between still generates people who have these opinions, to one extent or another, because political opinions are generated out of people's attempts to grapple with the problems of both regular life and the greater problems that they see in their communities and nations as a whole. But if you're a right wing authoritarian, how can you say that there should be less civil liberties and still survive in the political race? Until 9/11 and the Bush administration this was probably impossible to say outright, yet people still believed in the general principles, even if they couldn't say them. A wonderful example of how politicians could get around this while still draping themselves in the American flag is Ronald Reagan.

Restricting rights of people by cutting the federal welfare state and imposing tough criminal sanctions on previously decriminalized behavior was justified in a folksy manner having to do with getting back to America's traditional values and correcting the perceived extremism of the sixties. Yet it was effectively a restriction of rights, even if it was justified with the American flag.

Bush and company, through 9/11, has effected a break with this tradition, even if they use the American flag and talk about core values. It's much harder to justify the policies they're implementing as being a return to American values, as many commentators have noted. But, equally, there have been rumblings about things like this for a long time, although the evidence is anecdotal. Christian groups certainly have long been identified as potentially posing a threat to civil liberties and even democracy.

What Bush is doing is much more naked and direct than what his predecessors have done, and he's been able to take those sorts of positions much further than anyone before him has been able to do, but I don't think that the support for the policies has come out of nowhere. Instead, support has been based on a very extreme, but before now silent, minority, who don't support democratic rights and never have but have been stifled from expressing their opinions due to the limitations of American political discourse.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Maybe it's all a put on

That's what I've been thinking is halfway behind the posturing of Bush and company, and has been since the beginning. The other half isn't very pleasant but if part of all of this is media bluff then there's the possibility that they won't go to the extremes that the bad half might indicate and that we can call them on their posturing and defeat them.

But.

And it's a big but.

If they are posturing then there are a hell of a lot of people that don't get it, that don't get that it's not completely true, who are true believers in the Global War on Terror, who truly believe that people who are opposed to the war are soft on terror or pro terror, and the sociological consequences of that will be something that in any case we'll be facing for a long time.

Plus, it's no put on that Guantanamo bay exists or that secret CIA prisons exist, that extraordinary rendition exists, the PATRIOT-ACT exists, etc... Or the three thousand dead soldiers or the over a hundred thousand dead Iraqis plus the civillian casualties in Afghanistan.

A pretty obscene cost for a PR gambit, if that's what part of it has been.

Fuck up the world, kill a bunch of people, just to push your agenda; what a cynical, cold blooded, move.

Anyways, psychologically it's more pleasant to imagine that some of this is just bullshit rather than that they're all behind every policy decision they've made in the last five years one hundred percent.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Researches II---colonial history

Another topic that really has had a lot of ink spilled on it in this blog is the origins of American culture and what American culture should be reflective of. These are really two separate questions. I'll just talk about the first one right now.

There's a really large and tempting thought out there to view American history as being started by the Pilgrims, continued by the people in Virginia and New York, inexorably going towards the Revolution, then suddenly ending after the Revolution succeeds. Then there's the counter-argument, put forward by "People's History of the United States" and others that these things didn't really matter or, if they did matter, were very different than what's presented. Some of the writings on the blog tend towards one, some towards another, some are well nigh indescribable within that spectrum of possibility.

Fundamentally, the United States was colonized by all of the powers that colonized it as a commercial concern. The objectives of colonization were economic first, the idea that people could live there in there own way came later. It was also formed by constant negotiation with the native Americans, but that history hasn't really been covered by the blog because I just don't know that much about the progression of colonial relations with native Americans. One thing that's for sure is that each colonizing power had a different way of relating to not just them but of organizing it's society in general, so that you can honestly talk about the differences between Spanish America, French America, Dutch America, and English America, and how they were set up.

Additionally, one tendency that many people have given into but which has been combatted here is the tendency to view first each layer of colonization as destroying the preceding one; in places where there have been multiple waves of colonization the resulting culture reflects this, no matter if the product has been a fusion or an extra negation. Additionally, there have always been people and groups that have fallen between the cracks in the culture in areas where the tendency has been towards negating or eliminating the preceding cultures. The presence of a plurality or a greater complexity of cultural evolution isn't just in places like the Southwest and California where the replacement or destruction of one culture by another is very evident in our history but also in places which weren't, for example in Dutch New York or Spanish Florida, to say nothing of the many layers dominating the Gulf Coast, a place that saw successive French and Spanish colonization.

This general pattern could be extended north towards Canada with the fact that the French Canadians and French Canada were the first non-native people and the first area of the United States colonized by Europeans, preceding the English, making English Canada the younger of the two sections, not the elder.

Part of this focus on the evolution of the United States, and North America to some extent, is to disambiguate the idea that there was this unitary civilization on the east coast of what's now the United States that was uniformally English, and presumably--going further with that--populated by people who thought and acted the same as people today except for some unfortunate defects like sexism and racism and slavery. This is not even remotely true. The presence of African culture and its contribution to the formation of the culture of the South , as well as the economy of slavery, are both things that figure into the history of the United States on a very basic level. Another thing that figures in is the presence of sectional differences between the three English sections of the colonies, New England, the Mid Atlantic States, and then the Southern states including the fring at the bottom of the continent, all of which had unique economies and evolutions.

Additionally, the particular relations of the English to the colonists and the colonists' relations to England are extremely important, because they prefigure the Revolution in important ways. English colonization began in Elizabethan times and proceded up through a major Civil War in England that fundamentally redefined the nature of the English state and monarchy in ther 16th century, up to and over the Revolution. In terms of what happened between the start and the Revolution you could plot a chart between two types of monarchial absolutism with a break in the middle due to the total collapse of power which was the English Civil War, the partial resurrection of the monarchy during the Glorious Revolution, up to the reassertion of England as an economic colonial empire in the 17th century. It could even be said that the disruption of power in England during the 16th century was the thing that allowed the colonies to eventually become independent entities.

Anyways.

Another important point of disambiguation, don't you love Wikipedia?, is the nature of the Revolution itself. First of all the Revolution happened across the colonial background, particularly the economic part of the colonial background. Large parts of the United States were developed for their extractive value as farms, plantations, some vast, some with slaves, some not. This was true during the Revolution and was true after the Revolution. It was also true that much of the American wealth, such as it was, was due to the trade of these basic commodities, and this was especially true during and after the Revolution. The Revolution itself didn't change this. In other words, before the Revolution you had a body that was a colony that, despite some democratic reforms in land ownership, was made in order to grow and sell primary products. This was overseen, at some points very strictly and at other points almost not at all, by colonial administrators. After the Revolution the role for colonial administration, and its opposite, that is regulation by the large producers themselves, still existed and they fundamentally shaped the destiny of the country.

The basic economic history is very different from the idealistic notion that all that was at stake was liberty. The question of freedom in America is another thing that's really contentious and needs to be disambiguated, because researches into how freedom was understood in the colonies, done by Gordon S. Wood and others, has suggested that the notion of freedom that the regular people in the colonies had was very much tinged by religiosity and very much tinged by millenarianism as a consequence of the English Civil War. The religiosity was more just how people thought; they were for freedom of conscience but didn't necessarily believe in what we would call the doctrine of separation of Church and State. But that's less important than the consequence, that is to say that people believed that the Revolution was a religious event, or at least was due to the intervention of Providence, or God, in order to allow the religious English to establish a more perfect state that reflected the ideals of the English Civil War on earth. The English Civil war was thought of also, even more so, in religious terms, as a battle between Catholicism and the protestant Church of England as well as the Dissenting sects like the Puritans, who assumed control over the country with Oliver Cromwell. These sects, and smaller ones, believed in more self regulation by the congregation itself and tended more towards equality in terms of class, although this was a dangerous concept back then. But the Catholic Church, represented by the Monarchy, was wedded in the popular mind with the doctrine of state absolutism and both were wedded with the idea of evil, and the opposite of both of them, of Monarchy and the Catholic Church, in the colonies was thought of as the seat of righteousness and the victory of the one over the other as the triumph of good and all things good over evil itself.

This large diversion of the discussion is necessary to understanding why exactly the English colonization and the events in the English language areas, combined with the events of the Revolution, distinguished them from other cultural areas, at least at this level of culture. As said before all the levels persisted, I believe, and left their marks, but the English one, not to speak of the Revolutionary one, was different in that there was at least more propaganda about self government and self rule than elsewhere. This does not mean that in French Canada or, for example, in Dutch New York, there wasn't either self consciousness about self rule or agitation for more self rule, as (and I don't have the reference, unfortunately) there was around the core of New Netherlands by the settlers before the English took it over, it just means that it was much more present in the culture of the time due to the Civil War in England. Additionally, a non-millenarian English view probably congealed itself as a total, majority, sentiment, only with the developmnent of the provinces that stayed true to England after and during the Revolution.

The formation of the ideology about the revolution and the founding, the extreme emphasis and fervor that was to express itself in the 19th century and beyond, is due to this situation. The superlatives of America as a blank slate, as the outpost of liberty, were born out of this. In one way they were true, but you have to figure in both that the ideal American society was made up of small landholders in conglomeration and that there were Native Americans here as well as slavery as well as the economic imperative and the differentiation between landholders in the colonies, i.e. the cultural and economic context that all this existed in.

The geopolitical conflict between France and England also figures into the picture in that the decisive victory of the English against French Canada and northern North America allowed for the turning inward of the culture of the colonies because of the reduction of jeoprady from French incursion and the transfer of the colonies and their power from one sphere of power to another. The division within the colonies between loyalists and independents was then exploited by the French to break up English power in the eastern half of North America.

Back to the main narrative.

The rhetoric of the revolution, which was inherited and passed down to this day, was/is a secularized version of the millenarian thought of the pre-Revolutionary period, which is why it is so hard to get beyond. The reason someone would want to get beyond it is because it's not objective, is not an objective assesment of the nature of America either then or now; the purpose would not be to say nasty things about America. Plus, the all glorification interpretation of American history makes the fate of those left out of American history that much more separated and alienated. Plus it just isn't accurate, which is what non-objective means in practice. There's room for a qualified history of America and room for appreciating what was really good about the American revolution, but to prejudice oneself for 'really good' isn't objective. The consequences of the thinking that's motivated American history is evident today in the dualistic thinking of our political leaders.

People are either with us or against us and the mission of the United States is to liberate the world from oppression. There's more than a little secularized millenarianism in that and it's being used and manipulated to cover up the economic and geopolitical interests motivating the actors in question.

Briefly, my idea of 'what goes there instead of what's been there' involves an idea of freedom that's not bound to one historical event--like the Revolution--but can stand on its own, even though it too, just like much else, can be said to be historically conditioned. An awareness of history, though, doesn't shut out the possibility of coming to some valid idea of what freedom is or is not; it just qualifies it for the particular place in time in a very broad sense, like that of for the United States in the period since the 1960s. The '60s are very controversial still, but an examination of them would take us far afield. I suppose this demonstrates my bias.

I'm going to end this Research entry, or summing up, right here for now because it's been too long writing and I'm tired. Much material has been covered that the site itself has covered in some respects. This site also isn't a political party but a site of ideas, so the current understanding doesn't necessarily mean that what's presented is the 'rightest' analysis, since there really isn't, in my opinion, a Hegelian progression towards total rightness in understanding in the world of history or much else.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Lockdown America: Boeing Wins Border security contract

1,800 security towers across Canadian and Mexican borders

"Boeing Wins Deal For Border Security


By Griff Witte
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 20, 2006; A01


Aerospace and defense giant Boeing Co. has won a multibillion-dollar contract to revamp how the United States guards about 6,000 miles of border in an attempt to curb illegal immigration, congressional sources said yesterday.

Boeing's proposal relied heavily on a network of 1,800 towers, most of which would need to be erected along the borders with Mexico and Canada. Each tower would be equipped with a variety of sensors, including cameras and heat and motion detectors.

The company's efforts would be the basis of the government's latest attempt to control U.S. borders after a series of failures. The contract, part of the Secure Border Initiative and known as SBInet, will again test the ability of technology to solve a problem that lawmakers have called a critical national security concern. This time, the private sector is being given an unusually large say in how to do it.

Boeing sold its plan to the Homeland Security Department as less risky and less expensive than competing proposals that would have relied heavily on drones for routine surveillance work. Boeing plans only limited use of small unmanned aerial vehicles that could be launched from the backs of Border Patrol trucks when needed to help pursue suspects.

The system is to be installed first along the Mexican border in an area south of Tucson known to be a key crossing point for illegal immigrants. The company has said it can deploy the system along both borders within three years."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bush....

"Mr Bush denied that his administration was anti-Muslim and dismissed criticism that US efforts to spread democracy in the region were backfiring. "The reality is that the stability we thought we saw in the Middle East was a mirage. For decades, millions of men and women in the region had been trapped in oppression and hopelessness. And these conditions left a generation disillusioned and made this region a breeding ground for extremism."

Which is why we supported so many of those leaders, no doubt. And why we still support Saudi Arabia and Egypt, neither of which are democracies by any standard, along with Kuwait and other Gulf States ruled by royal families.

But more importantly, we profit off of that hopelessness and are the creators of it, us and European capitalism, with histories of outright colonial and neo-colonial domination of the region, continuing to this day, we are the ones on whose feet this should be blamed; and since this is the case the idea that the U.S. wants to give up domination, which is what liberating these people would take, is farcial.

If the U.S. wants to demonstrate its willingness to help liberate the people of the middle east why doesn't it support full nationalization of all oil for the benefit of the people of the countries involved? The withdrawl of U.S. military aid to places like Egypt? To Turkey?

Why not support socialist programs?

The idea that the U.S. really cares about the well being of these people instead of sucking them dry for money and resources is absurd, it's like saying that the dog that's attacking you really cares about your well being all of the sudden. It also takes extreme historical amnesia.
If you're willing to believe that decades of Cold War policy really concealed this huge oversight, maybe you'll believe that the U.S. has good intentions, otherwise, the idea just doesn't stand.

Researches

It's good to take stock every now and again about where you are and where you've gone before. This blog has documented a journey going into avant-garde politics, literature, even religious thought to some degree (although my personal thoughts on religion and my religious researches are largely unpublished, quite intentionally), as well as cultural history, history in general, what else?

Quite a bit. Current events are nice, but there're only so many ways you can tell the Bush administration to fuck off. While the entries that do that may also include some interesting stuff, because they rarely are one sided, the heart of this site are the parts of the posts of this nature and the entire posts that don't obviously have to do with intensely topical issues, i.e. that go beyond current events to talk about something more.

Browse the archives browse the archives, that's what I always say, especially the archives from after six months had gone by with the site, because that's when it started to get really interesting. Some early stuff is really good, but the site didn't take a turn for the intensely weird until that point. I date the mature part of the site to when I posted Bob Flanagan's poem "Why?", that deals with his experience of sado-masochism and why exactly he did it ("Why? because it feels good, because my chest hurt, because...) he was a cystic fibrosis sufferer who used S&M to get away from things.

That was a concrete break. Talking about Nixon being a bastard because he co-erced China back into the capitalist camp and possibly lead to a breaking of the Socialist bloc, even though within that bloc China and the USSR were competitors, was fun, and was based on a geo-political reading of things that I had at the time, but, while fun, was an early thing. I especially don't like the posts referencing Trotsky. They have almost nothing to do with the site as it matured and are somewhat embarassing. I later laid some of the blame of why the Soviet union became totalitarian on Trotsky's head because of the similarities between the Trotskyist program and the radical program of Stalin, which you can read about on the side bar.

As Noam Chomsky once wrote, you should read Trotsky in reference to what he did in office rather than what he wrote later when he'd been in exile for decades, stuff that is in fact more democratic.

But I don't want to get into an extended discussion of Trotsky except to say that he may have been a Stalin lite if he'd been able to stay in power.

Heresy, right. but never mind for the moment.

Back to the site.

Four and a half years on and where are we now? We've gone through a pro-agrarian phase, a phase that was sympathetic to the intersection of anti-capitalist and anti-statist conservative currents and libertarian leftist currents, before deciding that while a scepticism towards power is good that most of these conservative currents if followed out would in fact lead to some sort of fascism.

But they contributed to a theory of totalitarianism and a consequent theory of fascism itself, so it wasn't all to the worst.

Yeah, the agrarian phase. It was attractive since it seemed to address so many of the new left concerns of community and place, of rootedness and a scepticism towards modernity and technology, but, well, although Wendell Berry is a nice guy who writes interesting stuff that's useful the harder core of the agrarians praised Ronald Reagan and yearned for the days of the Old South to come back, things totally unacceptable.

Plus, their attachment to the local often meant a sacrifice of intellectual curiosity in practice because the experience of this would tarnish the pristine experience of tightknit community that they liked. Also not acceptable.

Or maybe it was a justification for it, as many of the agrarians were in fact highly educated southerners who no longer actually lived there but were providing rationales. Either way, same thing.

Maybe Scott Nearing is a better guide for these things than them, certainly someone who was in the CP in the USA for as long as he was has a different perspective than the Vanderbilt Agrarians. He left the CP and started to advocate for simple living.

Anyways, it was a blessing in disguise that a long, long, essay that synthesized agrarian philosophy with guild socialist ideology was lost to the computer because if that had been published it would have become a centerpiece of the site and would have lead to a much different result.

I'm tired at the moment....I'll continue to recap and synthesize. Contrary to what people say sometimes this site isn't a total ego trip. The particulars of my life are quite inconsequential, as Dr. Evil said in Austin Powers....the site lives and dies not because of what I as an individual am or am not but because of what I write and the ideas contained in it. The ideas are the important part, the researches and bringing to light and bringing to further consciousness obscure but useful ideas that I didn't come up with myself but that I've come across and that could maybe bring light to other people.

The egoic or non-egoic tone of my writing is beside the point. That's just, at worst, the style, and hopefully not the content. Hopefully the content transcends what the style can at times come to.

Anyways, time to take a break; I'll continue this later, repeating what I've wrote elsewhere or telling people what you've told them, telling them again, then summarizing what you said, or something...that's the form of writing an essay right? Introduction, body, finale. The Intro and Body are done, although there's always more to be said in the body I guess, but the rehash still needs to be done, and I think that in itself could shed a lot of light on many aspects of the site that are obscure and confusing for newer visitors.

Peace,

Summerisle

Monday, September 18, 2006

I did not know this--Paleologus and Ratzinger

That is that what Ratzinger was quoting wasn't even a theologian, as is implied, but an Emperor of a state that was at war with an Islamic state. Not quite impartial, is it.

What they never say: the 'Jesus Camp' movie

Link above is to a story about the Jesus Camp movie. One of the quotes stands out, that they're training youth pastors. This is somewhat interesting because if you think about it the idea that kids could actually be pastors of a religion without extensive training is pretty far fetched. Religion is supposed to be something dealing with the highest values and with the essential nature of reality and I doubt that kids or even teens can really wrap their heads around that concept.

So what are they teaching them? Sham religion. That's what they never say, they being critics of the religious right, that at some point you have to question whether what's going on is religion at all or some sort of imitation of real religion. Is it theology or some sort of simulacra of theology based on kids having a biblical worldview?

Same thing with speaking in tongues. This is something that was supposedly given as a very special gift with the descent of the holy spirit. Is something that can be psychologically induced and imitated evidence of being filled by the Holy Spirit? I don't question that ecstatic religion might be valid; there're quite a few faiths out there, minority faiths to be sure but with valid theologies and traditions, where people go into trances and experience various things, particularly afro-carribean religions, so I don't discount that people could potentially validly speak in tongues, but this seems suspicious, especially when you factor in the expectations part of it.

The Pope's apology and 'Muslim Anger'

The context of the Pope's apology has to be understood for the response of Muslims to be understood.

Why are Muslims angry? That always seems to be the question. Why should people pay special respect to Islam, after all isn't religion up for grabs as a topic?

Well, yes but the anger of Muslims is anger of people who live in third world countries at the arrogance of the leader of one of the biggest churches of the first world. It's not that Muslims are demanding special treatment but rather that they see European and American faiths disparaging them and see it as one more example of the West using its privilege against them.

Same thing with the editorial cartoons. Underneath the idea of having a cartoon contest about Muhammad is the idea that, first of all, Muhammad can't be portrayed in Islam and so this is westerners disparaging the basic tenets of respect about their faith, and second of all that this is a Danish paper in the West idly speculating about Islam, like they had nothing better to do than to come up with Orientalist depictions of an Eastern faith.

The same words, in the Pope's case, have a different meaning when they come from a man living in a castle in the European Union than they do coming from a street preacher in the middle of nowhere in the third world.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Just hit the 3,000th post

Reflections on this coming later.

"Time to re-connect growth, living standards"

A good article from an Economic Policy Institute guy. In regular economic times wages should follow productivity gains but this isn't happening.


His proposals to change that are as follows:


"-- Raise the minimum wage: it's a small part of the solution, because you only reach those at the bottom of the pay scale, but it's a proven way to reconnect our most disadvantaged workers with overall growth without distorting economic outcomes.

-- Level the playing field for union organizing: it should come as no surprise that more than half of the non-union workforce tells pollsters they'd like to be represented by some type of collective-bargaining arrangement, but the organizing playing field is titled against them. Policy makers should take a close look at the Employee Free Choice Act, an active piece of legislation designed to reset the balance of power. Interestingly, the act was recently endorsed by the aggressively centrist Democratic Leadership Council.

-- Universalize access to health care coverage: The Census data revealed the continuing and alarming erosion of the employer-based system. Follow the lead of every other advanced economy and take this basic human need out of the marketplace. Medicare for All is a useful framework.

-- Achieve truly full employment. For a brief period in the late 1990s, historically tight job markets meant employers had to bid wages up to get and keep the workers they need. Even with supposedly low unemployment in this recovery, that hasn't happened. The Federal Reserve plays a role here, by keeping interest rates as low as possible, but if we're serious about job creation, we have to create jobs: direct public-sector job creation to employ surplus labor."

Sounds good

Pope himself apologizes

Amazing. Maybe there is some justice in this world, in the sense of people in power actually bowing to popular opinion every now and again.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The beauty of a night sky

Looking out in an apartment complex, the beauty of a night sky, is that the night and the lights appear to be looking back at you.
If you can find this identity between self and the dark, you've come to a great place, because to be seen--to be really seen, by the outside, is to be known, to abolish distance between self and other. And what a friend a person can have besides the night I don't know.

Wow, conservatives really do suck

Posting at Majikthise extensive on blogger being judged by her looks and the fact that she stood in front of Bill Clinton. The resulting commentary, which Lindsey Beyerstein has published, is amazing due to the hermetically sealed nature of the logic that conservatives are using to justify why this blogger standing where she's standing is a bad thing. Hermetically sealed in the sense of not letting facts or reality or anything like that in, just Clinton hatin'. And these are the people running the country. Surely they should be thrown out of that position on empirical grounds alone, but, as Bush has said, they don't submit to reality, instead, they create their own. And six years after Clinton they still hate the guy.

Still.

I'm no fan of Clinton either, but for different reasons, yet I just can't understand where this feeling of absolute distaste comes from. I mean, if it's about the affair, surely they don't have far to look to find Republicans who have cheated on their spouses with interns/secretaries. Yes, this is an abuse of power, but all I'm saying is that to act like Mr. or Mrs. innocent with the probable doings on Capitol Hill, where statements like that they'd have to nail Strom Thurmond's dick down when he's in his casket slip out from, is a little bit hypocritical. Mr. and Mrs. Innocent.

****

Writing the above reminded me, while we're on the topic of Clinton, of Tony Blair and his Third Way. Wow. How is it that a Labour Prime Minister can suddenly morph from a Clintonite centrist to a neo-con in the blink of an eye? How is that even possible?

Differences between colonialism in the new world and elsewhere

Some ideas, following Samir Amin.

European colonialism differed from the expansion of other powers, like China, by the proto-capitalistic nature of its colonial ventures. It wasn't just expansion for the sake of conquering new territory but expansion for the economic purpose of trade, then going inward of conquering the countries for economic exploitation. The fact that economic exploitation like what happened under new world colonialism did in fact happen is really interesting. They could have conquered the new world and extracted taxes from new subjects or similarly incorporated the territories into the fold without having the pure economic factor be primary, primary, primary. In places where it wasn't completely primary, like the United States and Canada, it was certainly a force, something, for instance, that has profoundly shaped the culture of the United States.

This prominence was due to the rise of the centralized state in the decay of the feudal system and its alliance with the merchant towns and traders to advance itself more independently. Eventually, the mercantile impulse co-opted the state instead of the other way around.
The merchant towns were able to advance because of the decay of feudalism around them as an inefficient mode of production, given it's move towards highly self subsistent fiefdoms. As the middle ages decayed the new national states allied themselves with merchant capital.

China believed in trade too, up to a certain point when it closed itself off to the world, but it didn't have the instability of the European civilization to allow for capitalist innovation. The trading culture was always firmly subordinate to greater aspects of the civilization.

Corporatist society, individualist society, socialist society

Three related terms.

Corporatism in this sense is used to refer to the political and social system of the middle ages.

The problem with socialism has always been how exactly to define it. Does it mean better social welfare, does it mean a purely equal society, what exactly typifies it and what is its relation to the upheavals of the late 18th century? One way to define it is by going backwards, beyond the Enlightenment, to the middle ages and defining where socialism is in comparison to then, and to compare it's response to the middle ages to that of the Enlightenment's.

The middle ages were typified by too much religion in people's lives, too much familial influence, too much hierarchy, too much inequality, and not enough fundamental control of people over the direction of their own or their community's life. Yet despite all of this there were some positive aspects, although they have to be filtered through the lens of all of these distortions. The Church, both reformed and catholic, was corrupt, yet it had a social duty to provide for the most disposessed of it's parishoners, people who were homeless and in dire poverty. The state was corrupt and run according to hereditary nobility but even there one of the duties of the king or the lord was to provide for his territory. Family life was oppressive yet the family was a means of providing sustenance and help. To this could be added the twists and turns of patriarchy, still existing, which were then extremely disempowering yet clothed themselves in the language of protection.

There was at least some positive idea of what community should be, even if that ideal was grossly distorted in practice. The enlightenment and the revolutions of the 18th century were succesful in shaking off much of the legal and even actual manifestations of all the relationships mentioned above, the oppressiveness of religion, of family, of state, although they failed with regards to anything having to do with hierarchy except in a purely legal sense and inequality in any sense but in abolishing ancient corporate bodies.

With the Enlightenment comes the true birth of the idea of the individual as something that could be attained by people in general. Individualism was known before but it had been a privilege reserved for the elite, who needed to be individuals because they were running everything. The various constitutions of the Holy Roman Empire, for example the Hungarian one, only recognized as true individuals the lords themselves, the princes, who had voting rights and full autonomy. The rest of the population had diminished rights in respect to their social standing. This varied from place to place with certain areas giving more rights to non-noble landholders than others, and even with allowing non-noble landholding.

What the Enlightenment didn't see were the positive aspects of what the middle ages had, which were collective aspects, as well as the manifestation of hierarchy and inequality not as something that could be abolished once and for all but as things that had to be continually struggled against. It was very good at empowering the individual but not good at empowering the community that the individual lived in, the individual in his or her collective aspects, the aspects where one isn't purely an individual but embedded in greater relationships with others.

The challenge of socialist society is to take the individualism and add to it parts of the collective mentality for social justice, keeping in mind the things struggled against to make individualism possible in the first place, i.e. the overarching place of religion, family life, patriarchy, privilege, adding to that list hierarchy and inequality, without replicating the uneqial and corporatist (middle ages) forms of the past.

Because of this socialism doesn't seek to institute increased dependence on the remains of the previous institutions as a way of establishing social stability, which is what some conservatives advocate. Socialism has to evolve new ways of ensuring collective survival where the comparatively new idea of the liberated individual is in control of the institutions ensuring that collective survival. People's individual and collective sense have to be honored as they work together for a newer society.

Economics plays a role here in that the promise of capitalism hasn't panned out for many people, now both within the first world and the third, but although analytically economics and its role is important to understand it's also important to realize that independent economics, and even the conception of an independent role of economics in structuring society, is a recent concept historically.

Before capitalism there was still exploitation and there's nothing to say that after capitalism there won't be exploitation.

To make it all work there needs to be serious economic reforms, but there also needs to be empowerment of people in their daily lives.

Socialism means an equally balanced society, with both collective and individual liberties and rights being honored; the way to get there is another story.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Kerry

I see that John Kerry is considering a presidential run again. I don't think it would be good to support him because he's demonstrated that he buys into the fundamental frame that Bush has established on Iraq and on the greater 'war on terror'. I think that frames are destiny and that someone who buys into things the very nature of which the progressive left has contested from day one really won't act that much differently from someone who buys into the frame but who is much more aggressive with it.

What Bush has established cannot be allowed to become the new lexicon of American politics. The very framing of the issues of 'terror', 'Afghanistan', and the Iraq War are corrupt.

If we allow this to become American standard than things like the Patriot act won't go away. The Department of Homeland Security won't go away. They might be reformed, but, well, a reformed Patriot act is still unconstitutional and against the spirit of freedom.

What there needs to be, or, what ideally there should be but probably won't be, is a truth commission to look at what happened in the last five years and even before that, to the 2000 election, and come up with some reckoning of what in god's name has happened, how it's happened, and what we can do to stop it from happening again.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Coil manifesto--music related, not really political

This is really interesting. Coil is/was a industrial and experimental electronic band from England who came out of Throbbing Gristle, one of the founders of that sort of music. They made this manifesto in the manner of Laibach, who issued their sociological one. Laibach and NSK, the greater art collective they're part of, condemned Coil and related bands as representing bourgeois decadence because they talked about strange topics. The Laibach manifesto is purely political, artistic, sociological, and even economic. This one is much more abstract. I have a recording of Peter Christopherson entoning this and it's obviously an imitation of the Laibach manifesto recording. The annoying spelling is due to the source, who copied it from a booklet it was enclosed in that accompanied an LP.


"COIL is a hidden universal. A code. A key for which the WHOLE does not exist. Is NONEXISTENT, in silence and secrecy. A spell. A spiral. A serpents SHt round a female cycle. A whirlwind. A double helix. DNA. Electricity and elementals. Atonal noise, and brutal poetry.

COIL is amorphous. Luminous and constant change. Inbuilt obSOLescence. Inbuilt Disobedience. A vehicle for obsessions. Dreamcycles in perpetual motion. We are cutthroats. Infantile. Immaculately Conceived. Dis-eased. The Virus is Khaos. The cure is Delirium.

COIL are Archangels of KHAOS. The price we pay for existence is eternal Warfare. There is a hidden coil of strength, dormant beneath the sediment of convention. Dreams lead us under the surface, over the edge, to the Delerium state. UNCHAINED. Past impositions and false universals. Reassembling into OUR order.

COIL. Who has the nerve to dream, create and kill, while the whole moves every part stands still. Our rationale is the irrationAL. Hallucination is the truth our graves are dug with. COIL is compulsion. URGE and construction. Dead letters fall from our shedding skins. Kabbala and KHAOS. Thanatos and Thelema. Archangels and Antichrists. Open and Close. Truth and Deliberation. Traps and Disorientation.

Coil exist between Here and Here. We are Janus Headed. Plural. Out of time. Out of place. Out of Spite. An antidote for when people become poisons.

COIL know how to destroy Angels. How to paralyse. Imagine the world in a bottle. We take the bottle, smash it, and open your throat with it. I warn you we are Murderous. We massacre the logical revolts. We know everything! We know one thing only. Absolute existence, absolute motion, absolute direction, absolute Truth. NOW, HERE, US.

"Not Knowing What Is And Is Not
Knowing, I Knew Not"
Hassan i Sabbah

Source: COIL manifesto, 1983"

Four Gods, from Baylor University, a study not a book

This is really interesting. A Baylor University study has classified American religious belief into a model of "Four Gods", or four models of god, an Authoritarian God, a Benevolent God, a Critical God, and a Distant God. They're pretty self explanatory, except for the critical god and aspects of the Benevolent God, who isn't totally benevolent just more loving. The critical god is distant yet judging at the same time.

Baylor found that in the U.S.

"• 31.4 percent believe in an Authoritarian God, who is very judgmental and engaged
• 25 percent believe in a Benevolent God, who is not judgmental but engaged
• 23 percent believe in a Distant God, who is completely removed
• 16 percent believe in a Critical God, who is judgmental but not engaged

"

They also found that the types predominated based on location, with the South being the home of the Authoritarian God, the Midwest being the place where the Benevolent God predominated, the West Coast being where the Distant God predominated and the East and Northeast being the place where the Critical god predominated.

I take this as being pretty par for the course, except that the predominance of the Benevolent God in the midwest, a place that includes not just Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, but also Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, the Dakotas, was somewhat of a shock.

The presence of the Critical god in the Northeast is so stereotypical as to be funny. Centuries of the Congregational Church must have molded it. What I mean by that is that there's the tension there between predestination and acts that probably hasn't gone away culturally yet. You're supposed to act good, yet it's all predetermined whether you're going to heaven or not or are one of the elect. So goes the gospel of the English reformation. You can see how this could give rise to a critical god who really cares about what you do on earth, yet won't intervene.

But hey, let's hear it for the Distant God! Favorite of the West Coasters! Who created the world but is now distant from it.

Awakenings and Civilization

Two items: George Bush in his 9/11 address said that the stakes in his battle were those of civilization itself. He also reportedly said recently that the U.S. was experiencing a third "Great Awakening", of religious sentiment.

How are we to reconcile those two, given that Bush's idea of religion is fundamentalist and evangelical, that he says his favorite political philosopher was Jesus, and that he claims to be born again?

This is more of the same. What civilization is he talking about again? The one that's allied with people who are against saying that the world is billions of years old, who reject science and scientific thought on everything from sexuality to climate change?

Again, some sort of relativism must be involved here. No, he's not talking about civilization in the way that that word is usually interpreted, with all of its pitfalls and errors, but civilization as understood by fundamentalist Christians, which is not a very nice thing at all; just like when he talks about freedom and protecting freedom he must not mean freedom as is generally understood by people the world over but freedom as is understood by his core audience, who don't believe that many aspects of freedom are legitimate. Maybe the words 'freedom' and 'civilization' should be followed by a tick mark when used in the sense that Bush uses them, like freedom" or civilization" to clue the audience into the fact that we're not talking about the same sense of freedom and civilization any more.

Just one more contradictory impulse from a contradictory administration: talk about something that they view as high and luxurious on the one side, communicate that in fact what they mean is something almost completely its opposite on the other.

Speak of the devil

Istvan Meszaros has a new article out in "Monthly Review" magazine entitled "The Structural Crisis of Politics", that looks like it covers some of the same territory as "Socialism or Barbarism" but from an updated standpoint.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Thanks for the 'virus' e-mail

I think I'm going to frame it and put it on my wall. This is too good. When it comes to deep, dark, days when nothing seems to be going right I'll just look at that e-mail and it'll give me the power to go on writing for this website.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I'm a virus!!! Yes!!

Cool piece of hatemail from someone purporting to be from ABC New Jersey. Whether this is ABC News or some company called ABC I don't know. The cause of it was a blog post where I commented on an ABC news article online that seemed to not recognize differences between Sunni Muslims and Shi'ia Muslims with regard to the supposed August, was it 23rd?, date for the last Imam to return to life and signal the start of the end times. They thought it might be a day of terrorism. Well, since most of the Islamic terrorist groups out there, including the one that hit the United States on 9/11, are Sunni, and the Sunni don't believe in any of the Imams, not to mention the idea of a last Imam going into occultation and then coming back to start the end times, I thought this was a significant, er, lapse on their part and said so. Hezbollah has never hit the U.S., by the way, so they really don't count unless you believe in Cheney's propaganda on this point.

Well, I'm a virus, a sick sick man, and a threat to all that's good and decent, who....and the writer sort of flubs on this one....either needs to be eradicated by the right medicine or needs to take the right medicine. I think he was sort of unwilling to commit to language suggesting the final solution, i.e. that there's a virus out there that needs to be eradicated by the right medicine to heal the body politic.

All I can say is may the virus spread far and wide through these writings and take down the Bush regime and capitalism while we're at it.

Why not Riyadh?

It seems that Bush has made the aqssertion that the future of the safety of America depends on the battle in Baghdad. To which I say, why not Riyadh, one of the major cities of Saudi Arabia? After all, the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi, not Iraqi, and the Senate itself has said in its recent report that not only did Saddam have no relationship with Al-Qaeda but that he didn't have anything to do with Zarqawi either.

I'm just saying, maybe our security depends more on what happens in Riyadh than in what happens in Baghdad, seeing as though it can be assumed that the Iraqis are motivated largely by anti-occupation, not anti-American, sentiment while the Saudis have enshrined Osama bin Laden's religious ideology as official policy.

But, oh yeah, they're our 'oil ally', so there'd be no question of a battle of Riyadh.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Fighting Fascism... Alienation and its discontents

Easier said than done when dealing with our fellow Americans rather than the government itself. I was thinking about all the things written on the right there, the right side of the page you're looking at, and it kind of hit me that when you boil down the suggestions for anti-fascist stuff as well as some of the accounts of what contributes to the rise of the phenomenon that alienation has a central role in it. What causes the alienation is something else; the phenomenon is complex. But part of a solution as to how to stop some sort of a social movement or a social anxiety from becoming fascist or being co-opted by a fascist movement surely lies in addressing not just the bread and butter issues of economics but the types of things that the early Marx talked about, about alienation from ones' species being that capitalism produces and the socialist society as not just being redistribution but an alteration of the work processes to break down the basic alienation between what man is and what man does, using 'man' as 'human'. There should be some way to do non-reformist reforms, as the saying goes, that addresses alienation as well and not just economics, although in this environment in the United States one could argue on the contrary that it's the economic arguments that need to be made more than anything else because they're just not present in the discourse.

But whatever may be the right course there, be that as it may one thing that fascist movements have always been able to do is to provide a sort of psychological sense of total belonging and a completely psychological overcoming of alienation in the minds of the followers. This has been accomplished through largely symbolic means. In fact, you could argue that the fascist revolutions as much as they were directed against targets other than Communists, were directed against symbolic targets that had no real threat or potential for threat against the society they were a part of. Pure victimization took place as a sort of symbolic catharsis that established unity in the minds of the people involved.

The slogans, repeating the want for one: one leader, one party, one people, one nation; all speak to the want of people in an unsure world to go to the other extreme, to have complete surety, something that's illusory and dangerous in and of itself because life is never going to be completely sure, completely integrated with all the different aspects reinforcing each other.

The trick then, if there is a trick, is how to address people's alienation, probably stemming from the downward mobility of capitalism, without falling into some sort of similar trap. Maybe some sort of social humanism? Social humanism would take the basic principle of humanism, that life should be about human needs and potentials, and extend it to society as a whole, with institutions and creations which serve not just economic needs but psychological needs as well, something very basic that would side step the whole potential of demagoguery.

I have not a lot of insight on how to do this but maybe someone else does. Maybe part of it is a mixed economy as a destination point so that people who feel that pure communism is to extreme don't have to choose between, say, totally giving up their small business aspirations and siding with the enemy. Maybe part of it is fighting the psychological aspects of proletarianization as well as the economic effects by trying to institute reforms that give people meaningful power over their lives and that give this power in the first place to people who haven't really had it at all.

There's definitely something in human beings that under the right circumstances can push people to like authority and to side with it, to become authoritarian, but that doesn't have to be the way that human nature goes; and the alienation felt by people can be overcome in ways that are self empowering also instead of disempowering, where even more power is transferred from the individual to some supra-individual concept or body.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Bush and the 'freedom' party

It was so obvious, so very obvious, that it was right under my nose the whole time. In all of these five years it never occurred to me to put the question like this: why is it that the party in American society that has consistently opposed freedom for so many people has taken itself to be the defender of freedom in America?

Why?

If this was the Libertarians I could understand but the GOP? The party that used the Southern Strategy to woo segregationist conservatives out of the Democratic Party? The party that supports an increased role for religion in the country (and we're not talking Judaism, people)? Who hates abortion? Who founds fake feminist groups that praise the traditional keep-women-in-their-place mentality? Opposes gay rights. Opposes sex ed. Opposes helping mentally ill people via state funding, instead throwing them on the street to become the new homeless of the '80s. Opposes health care. Wants to cut funding for food stamps. Hates welfare, which had its abuses to be sure but served an essential societal function. Anti-labor. Anti-immigrant. Anti-Environment up and down backwards and forwards. Pro-militarization. Pro military budget. Pro-oil. Anti-progressive tax. Anti-tax at all. Pro-Business, and not just small business but the big ones at the top. Pro free trade pro death penalty pro lock them up and throw away the key. Pro restrictions on speech, as we've seen. Pro-increased police powers despite telegenic pictures of guns pointed at Elian Gonzalez. Pro-dictators abroad...but so are Democrats! Sorry about that one...

You get the picture.

These people, THESE PEOPLE, are the party of Freedom?

How in the world have they been able to say this for five years and keep a straight face?

They, the party who doesn't really believe in freedom or civil liberties. suddenly care about some sort of freedom that we have, that they LIKE, that the Terrorists don't like, and that they, on behalf of us, are going to protect?

Think about it.

It would be an understatement to say that this dog doesn't hunt. It doesn't even breathe.

Just by what right, by what ideal, do they think that they are protecting freedom?

If they're really concerned with protecting freedom shouldn't they concede power to some party that knows a thing or two about it?

Yes, well, this September 11th just remember that the party of Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff is looking out for your freedom, then wince, then throw the bastards out in November.

So let me get this straight:

I only know the D'Souza book from the little quote on the page linked to but I assume, because he's part of the noise machine, that he supports staying in Iraq. If this is indeed the case, and Souza's contention that the terrorists hit us because they dislike liberal values is correct, then effectively he would be saying that we should continue doing something that 'they' hate that has nothing to do with our core values and start doing things that compromise our core values in order to prevent them from hating us.

And wouldn't people who advocated that

be appeasers?

Wouldn't the entire terror script be flipped with liberals being on top if it came out that real liberal values were one of the top things that the terrorists, that strange seemingly collective body who should have quotes around it, like 'they', don't like?

And besides, if those values

were really at the core of what they hate about America the response, coming from someone who supports those values, isn't to go out there and decimate two countries in revenge for 9/11. Neither is it to clamp down on the very values that 'they', if there is a coherent 'they' out there, dislike. Lots of people dislike liberal values, doesn't mean we have to create a super agency like the Department of Homeland Security to deal with it, or to institute the Patriot Act or; you can see where I'm going with this.

Bush and co. don't care about those values either and are using 9/11 to get in as many kidney punches to their opponents as possible.

D'nesh D'souza: half right

And conservatives are fond of saying that people who are half right are the most dangerous of them all.

Souza is writing about 9/11 and what motivates Islamic extremists against the U.S. and points out, accurately, that the coarseness of our culture combined with things like tolerance of homosexuality and women's rights are things that they're upset about. He then relates all of this to people like Bill Maher and Michael Moore.

Well, there are a couple of things going on here. First, there's the aspect of this that liberals aren't really responsible for. The entertainment industry is ruled by dictates to make the most money it can any way it can and sex sells, so it's the fact that Hollywood etc... are capitalist enterprises unregulated by the government in this respect that the coarseness factor exists.

The second category of things is something different. These things, like gay rights and women's rights, the right to divorce, are truly freedoms that do actually make this country a free place and which we would actually be capitulating to terror if we changed it. But that's not the end of the story, either. There's also a line here between internationally advocating for rights and cultural imperialism. Cultural imperialism, like when Afghanistan is justified by the idea that women are being liberated, is no good. People have a right to live in the way they want. People also have this right inside the United States; not everyone wants to pursue extreme culture, but the thing is that we've pretty much agreed, with some reservations, that that sort of thing is permitted here. The same could not be said for similar cultural products in other countries. Everyone in the "Heartland" assumes that New York City, for instance, is a sewer because they know that things are available there to be seen and read that would never ever be present in Kansas, for instance.Sensitivity to cultural norms is important...there's a whole debate here, a big, long, debate with a lot of literature that I'm not going to get into at the moment.

But, cultural imperialism aside, these rights, even if they are the things that extremists object to, really shouldn't be sacrificed at all because they're the genuine rights that make us 'free', if that phrase even has any meaning any more.

They're also the rights that the Bush administration and the GOP want to eliminate.

About the other stuff; personally, I don't like the coarsening of our culture. I think it's gone too far and people should pack it in. I think, also, that people should distinguish between the huge coarsening going on and photo exhibits of extreme subject matter or performance art that involves the same. There's no comparison between sex being sold all the time and a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit, or Karen Finley doing a performance art piece.

However, the sex in mass media culture might just be a blind. What's being sold is desire, desire that can be translated into buying the products the advertisers sell. As such maybe watching less TV is the key.

But about Michael Moore et al. what exactly do they have to do with this? Do they control the coarsening of our culture? I don't think so. They're just the usual targets that people on the right pick on day after day as being the bad guys.

And if what they stand for is the second category then they're to be commended, not attacked.

Edited 5/28/07

Thursday, September 07, 2006

9/11 hysteria masking downward tendency of the economy

Just like the title implies. While the implications of how our government has changed since 9/11 are horrific it's probably going to be nothing compared to what's going to present itself once millions of people find themselves forcibly declassed by global capitalism. Class struggle has been present throughout but we're entering a new phase where the categories of working class, middle class, and upper class, are having less and less relevance, where middle class people are finding that the kind of lives that their upbringing and background had prepared them for aren't tenable anymore. The fish, in this case, isn't rotting from the head but from the bottom. The people effected by the realignment, due to the competition of capital increasing, first have been the poorest, something that can be seen in everything from the rise of gang warfare to Katrina, and then the implication of capital either moving elsewhere or demanding third world subservience has visited itself on more affluent folks, now destroying the lower middle class and the middle class as a whole. People who have had comfortable lives are going to wake up to find that those comfortable lives are no longer there, and that's going to be a shock beyond all the Bush shenanigans.

The reason for the downward trend is that the upward trend that made the American dream possible was itself a fluke and now the logic of capitalism is reasserting itself. American dominance in the postwar world was ensured by the main competitors being militarily destroyed in the wake of World War II, leaving American industry with a prime opening having nothing to do with normal business conditions, which it could use to advance its interest worldwide. That's gone now. Increased competition has ended the honeymoon period and now capital is going elsewhere or transforming itself away from the a model comfortable with tripartite bargaining between labor, the state, and capital, and instead going either neo-liberal or, well, we'll discuss the or.

The or comes from the fact that national capitals still exist. American capital still exists and still seeks to promote itself, both at home and abroad, so it can't be said that nations don't matter anymore. The primary way you can see this today is in the nationalistic character of the reconstruction of Iraq. This is American business pursuing its interests in a way that is totally exclusionary to other, non-allied, blocs doing business. What's anti-nation state about that? They might be neo-liberal with reference to their internal policy but externally they haven't done away with the notion of the nation state.

There's still room for nationalistic gambits like the war in Iraq through the interbloc rivalries of capital, and this doesn't negate the downward tendency that the interbloc rivalries contribute to, which is present everywhere but known most especially in the advanced countries that are now seeing their standards of living go by the way side as capital continues to grow.

Business as a whole is doing allright, even though particular businesses aren't, and in the United States there's still a significant amount of the previous class structure left so that many, many people can for the moment live lives like they always thought that they should be living them. But for how long?

Eventually we're all going to wind up in the same boat, except for the people on the top who are the controllers of capital, and this incineration of the American Dream is going to cause a crisis bigger than anything that has happened before and almost bigger than anything we can imagine.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Personal reflections, three levels

With the addition of the Meszaros book to the essential reading list I think that I've started to penetrate to the heart of what I'm trying to get at here, and it only took a little over four years. The Meszaros book is probably the most political economy oriented book on the list, even moreso than Hahnel's, which is sort of lightweight overall in terms of real background into the general political economic situation. Pure theory is also important but isn't the same as political economy at its best.

I see three levels going on here.

A meta level or super structural level that's taken up by the neo-romantic and american tropicalia material and the socio-cultural book section, which is essentially the book component to the neo-romantic/tropicalia part.

A meso level or political level, in between economics and culture, that's taken up by the bulk of the books on the list, especially the ones on America and its place in the world, like Sorrows of Empire and European Dream, the latter of which is a meso book at its purest, Sorrows being closer than Dream to political economy. Dealing with national issues, political issues, some labor issues, some global issues, some this, some that, the level is a hodgepodge.

Then there's the basic or lower level, or the level of the pure structure as opposed to any sort of super structure or intermediary structure, and that's occupied by political economy proper, a category that is now filling out with the addition of Meszaros' work to it.

Maybe, after going further with this train of thought, I can integrate a lot of the perspective into something cohesive that draws on all three levels for a comprehensive analysis.

Pre and post 9/11 interpretations of globalization, vis a vis Meszaros

What a difference a single day makes. Before 9/11 the following passage, from Socialism or Barbarism (which was incredibly written before 9/11) wouldn't have made much sense. After the U.S. response to 9/11 in Afghanistan and and in Iraq it makes perfect sense, if you can excuse the academic-ese.

"Capital is not a homogenous entity. This carries with it great complications to the whole question of "globalization." The way it is customarily presented, "globalization" is a complete fantasy, suggesting that we are all going to live under a capitalistic "global government". That is quite inconceivable. There can be no wa of bringing the capital system under one big monopoly that would provide the material basis of such a "global government." In reality, we have a multiplicity of divisions and contradictions, and "total social capital" is the comprehensive category that incorporates the plurality of capitals, with all their contradictions"


Translation: globalization can't succeed because it will collapse into warring capitalist factions, i.e. the U.S. on the one side, Europe on the other, and some sort of emergent capitalist power as a third force, all vying to co-opt smaller nations into their sphere of influence.

Nietzsche's field

Of dreams.

Nietzsche's world is interesting but ultimately it has little relation to actual reality. It's interesting to visit sometimes, not least because the way he writes, while criticizing everything, never makes the reader feel that he or she is the object of his criticism, so readers can live out the fantasy that they are Overmen or women, or potentially so, but in the end I'd rather read Meszaros on globalization to figure out what's really going on out there.

Why self censorship in reading is bad

Recently I've acquired an edition of "The Will to Power" by Friedrich Nietzsche and am enjoying it immensely. Now, this is the supposed "forbidden work", the one that's supposed to contain all the bad stuff. Well, half true.

What it really is is a collection of notebook entries that Nietzsche wrote in the 1880s that were then selected after his death guided by his sister, Elizabeth Forster Nietszsche, who was pro-National Socialist.

So we have an interesting situation: a biased collection of unpublished writings by a brilliant philosopher. Everyone knows they're biased and that the editorial selection has been heavy handed. Everyone who has more than a passing acquaintance with Nietzsche knows that the relationship of him to Fascism is much more ambiguous and complex than is sometimes made out. What then to make of the work?

Well, if you know that it's biased and the editors and translators know that it's biased, and you go in there reading it with this knowledge, then where is the foul?

Maybe someone who doesn't know any of Nietzsche's works would be confused but people who are familiar with his writings won't be. I've just read some of the stuff about Jews in it, for example, that make the work somewhat beyond bounds and in every case his thoughts have been taken out of context. I'm not going to provide a case by case rundown, so you're left with the classic "trust me!", unfortunately.

Nietzsche was a pedestrian anti-semite and a right wing individualist; he wasn't a raging anti-semite or a racialist anti-semite; his concerns were actually more against Christianity than anything having to do with Judaism.

Anyways, the book contains gems, but you'd never know that if you censored yourself and didn't look at the book at all.

Which is a long winded way of saying that self-censorship is bad because if you don't actually know what it is you're objecting to and are going on the opinions of others alone you never know if the hype is deserved or not.


Ok, here is the standard reference to anti-semitism given by Nietszche, as listed in the index, of Will to Power. I'm not going to quote more because of copyright issues. :

"

89

How did the German spirit transform Christianity!--And to stick to Protestantism: how much beer there is in Protestant Christianity! Can one even imagine a spiritually staler, lazier, more comfortably relaxed form of Christian faith than that of the average Protestant in Germany.

That's what I call a modest version of Christianity! A homeopathy of Christianity is what I call it.

One reminds me that today we also encounter an immodest Protestantism--that of the court chaplains and anti-Semitic speculators: but nobody has claimed yet that any "spirit" whatever "moved" on the faces of these waters.--That is mrerely a more indecent form of Christianity, by no means more sensible."

"

Ok, I take the bait, I'll expand on Nietzsche and anti-Semitism a little bit more. The guy was a right wing individualist in that he believed that people should be completely free to develop themselves but ultimately only a few people would succeed in doing so. He believed in the conservative order of his day, which was based on aristocracy, and saw these people as being 'natural aristocrats', to use Thomas Jefferson's phrase. In fact, the ideal of the Overman, and I say Overman deliberately, is really a mixture of what Nietzsche believed would be good in the realization of human faculties and the ideal of what an aristocratic gentleman in the 19th century should be like. I say Overman instead of Superman because using the phrase Superman exagerrates the extent to which Nietszche's ideal was something foreign and alien to regular humanity.

So he supported the individual searching for complete liberation but was pessimistic about how much this could be accomplished on a large scale and thought that, anyways, what would happen would resemble in a way a liberated aristocratic gentleman, i.e. someone of that social class using all their mental and physical capabilities to the fullest.

This being the case he bought into a common anti-semitic stereotype of his day that said that because Jews were concerned with commerce they couldn't be aristocrats. He meant some sort of landed aristocracy by what he wrote and Jews were historically forbidden from owning land in Europe as part of medieval anti-semitism and so according to this definition of what's necessary for aristocracy, couldn't be aristocrats.

Nietzsche bought into the Jews=commerce equation. This was anti-semitic and extraordinarily stereotypical and judgemental, but he didn't carry it to the point of either conspiracy or of blaming the problems of the day on Jews.

Most of his venom is directed at Christianity.

Interesting thing Meszaros says

Which is to say that he proposes politicizing the labor movement and laborizing the political movement. By this he means having the labor movement concern itself directly with 'political issues' that have been ceded to political parties and having political parties concern themselves with labor issues that have heretofore been considered the province of labor unions only. The ideal that he's aiming towards is for there to be labor lead political formations that can lead the process of social transformation necessary to create a just society.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Books for this weekend

"Minima Moralia" by Theodor Adorno, which is a collection of really insightful philosophical entries on life by a founder of the Frankfurt School; Socialism or Barbarism by Istvan Meszaros, and Eurocentrism by Samir Amin, which aims to give a different account of the rise of capitalism by seeing Europe as being part of the Mediterranian periphery.

Fun Fun Fun.

Actually, really is fun because Minima Moralia is very entertaining; Adorno has a very sly and cynical sense of humor that he brings to bear on his entries.