Monday, October 30, 2006

Berlusconi indicted!

Thank god. Italy's Bush clone has been indicted on corruption charges.

How to turn the election to progressive advantage

*The column is available through the title link*

On friday Jeff Cohen wrote a column for Commondreams.org entitled "How to turn this election into a progressive mandate". Based on his writings I like Jeff Cohen, but I think that he gets things a little bit off there. Not wrong but just not enough.

The idea is that to make the Democrats' projected win of the house a progressive mandate we need to operate at the grassroots to pressure them into being progressive.

The context he gives is that this is a parallel to the '98 election, that is to say that this election is a rebuke to Republicans much like the Democrats winning during the Monica Lewinski scandal was.

The first doesn't go far enough and is sort of confused, the second I don't believe is really true.

First off, I see three things happening with a democratic win in November. 1) A change of tone in Washington, the breaking of the strangehold of the Bush ideology on Congress, 2) an opening, like Cohen says, to pressure the dems to be more progressive...but also 3) the opening of opportunities for competitor organizations to the dems to come about, who in themselves would apply pressure due to the threat of decreased support for the dems, that would effectively work for social change.

2) is sort of a conflation of traditional seeking to influence your congressperson and 3). As such while it might be effective in the short term, and might contribute to the dem leadership changing, as Cohen mentions, if it's really effective, it can't replace traditional grass roots non-party organizing for change. Non-party organizing doesn't mean non-organization organizing. The example that Cohen gives, of FDR being pressured into making the New Deal, is correct except that the forces propelling him weren't democrats themselves but outside personages and organizations that were agitating for more radical social change. FDR gave into the New Deal, and into making it radical, because there was a fear that if he didn't do it that these organizations might take over. This is the sort of pressure that we ultimately need, but it has to be done in such a way that it doesn't lead to the demise of the liberal tone in Washington and in the country. If that happens and the reactionaries get back in and can prosecute their agenda we're back to square one.

If there really is a sea change in public opinion then there really won't be that much to worry about, since the greater tone will be liberal and that probably won't be changed or threatened by the growth of radical organizations. If, however, the tone doesn't change to that extent I'd recommend the second part, which would be to try to get the Democrats to change to a more progressive policy, because they'd be all that we really would have in Congress and between us and the President at the time. Grass roots organizing would be nice, but they would probably be most effective as pressure groups trying to get the Democrats to change rather than as radical challenger groups trying to force the Democrats to change by the threat of replacement.

But I look at it this way: if we can change the hegemonic ideology of the state to being liberal rather than radical conservative we can operate within that hegemony for greater social change. If we can't, then we should work towards changing the hegemonic ideology of the State to something where we can operate effectively for greater social change. That is unless the regime actually goes towards
dictatorship, in which case all bets are off.

It should be noted that a liberal win wouldn't just be a changing of the guard but would be a really valid win against a reactionary regime, and so working to ensure that wouldn't be just supporting a corrupt system but would actually be working for progressive change and for the environment where progressive change can most effectively happen.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

An analysis of the election's potential impact from all sides and levels, or Well, there ain't much

Coagulating I can do before the election is over. For people who believe that elections don't change anything, this election should prove you wrong. The key is that although the U.S. system is very much flawed it's better to have a properly functioning flawed system than one where there are no checks or balances whatsoever on the President. If you want a class analysis, it's been the Bush administration's function to cover up for big business by submerging the whole country in an atmosphere of super patriotism, which has served as the ultimate deflection from the real issues going on, including the U.S.' role in the international arena (well beyond the Iraq and Afghanistan wars). The U.S. is staging an international drive to set up the conditions necessary for countries threatened with redistribution of wealth to act in an authoritarian way to preserve it. But the super patriotism is the most pressing problem in the United States at the present time.

People have often remarked at the isolated, bubble like, existence that the U.S. has assumed over these last five years. It's true, very true, but there's no coincidence that this has happened. I see the phenomenon as coming from an intersection of underlying conditions and the Bush administration's deliberate actions. The underlying conditions are a low level of political awareness on the part of the U.S. population in general, a growing feeling of alienation on the part of many people, especially those people who typically make up the dominant group in terms of race, due to the increasing transfer of wealth to the upper classes, and the growing sense of loss of international prestige for the U.S. due to globalization. All these factors set the stage for a movement that would provide a cookie cutter identity for people that had been fucked over by the system but who weren't aware of the actual causes of this nor were hooked much into the political system in general. People may not have been following politics but they understood patriotism and nationalism, a sense of national pride, and anti-liberalism, the last being prepared for many years by radio and tv commentators who fanned the flames of racial backlash and anti-liberal backlash on the part of dispossessed whites. Of course the fact that the United States was already insular and not very internationalist contributed to the underlying causes as well.

The President and the people behind him walked into this situation, took advantage of it, and essentially starting holding the nation hostage by putting together an informal coalition of the people who were dominant ethnically in society but failing economically as well as the very wealthy, who functioned as silent partners in the coalition, mediated by the Bush administration itself. Through this coalition they were able to push through redistributive measures for the very wealthy as well as put together measures designed to counter movements for the downward redistribution of wealth, i.e. the PATRIOT Act and the Department of Homeland Security. These measures also serve to repress people who want to challenge the basic ideology that the administration is putting forward.

These measures also have a propaganda value, something that should not be underestimated. They have contributed to the sense on the part of many Americans that if they do try to challenge the administration that they'll be harassed, even if the challenge is very minor. This probably won't happen, at least not unless the administration gains much more power. The PATRIOT Act is being used but not on the scale that the propaganda sense would have people believe. There was a press conference a while ago when, I think it was Cheney but it might have been Rumsfeld, declared that people better be careful what they say; this sense has been amplified by Fox News and also by CNN, America, now that CNN has taken to imitating Fox News in its content. The major media outlets in print as well have, until very recently, stepped up to the plate of propaganda, with journalists throwing objectivity to the wind, sometimes, ironically, in the name of objectivity. This works by relating a major Republican misstep or crisis and then inflating a liberal misstep or crisis and pretending that they're equal in importance.

The propaganda war is the counter part to the nationalist ferver, the negative propaganda of warning to opponents that is the necessary complement to the positive propaganda of September 11th drum beating. Christianity has also been drafted into the positive drum beating.

Evangelical Christianity has been a major outlet for the dispossessed. Damn, did I get the spelling right on that word? Anyways, it works like this: life is going shitty, turn to God, let Jesus be your salvation from the problems of the world, even if nothing changes in your life besides you getting a nice feeling in your heart. Adopt a biblical worldview, where the bible is your only guide, read Christian fiction, believe in a coming End Times. Again, this was already there before 9/11, Bush just pushed the buttons that were before him and his cabal.

But there's a secret to all of this, to the propaganda war, to the nationalist ferver, to the sabre rattling, even, to an extent, to the redistributive urge for the wealthy: it all depends on a unified front on the part of the Bush administration and any of its heirs, and this is a very unstable proposition, especially if there's an effective check on the Bush administration's power to do whatever it likes.

This is the importance of the Democrats winning the elections. They'll break up the ideology of September 11th nationalism, something that was reinforced by the win of Bush in 2004. That win was used as a sham reason for continuing in this course, but the Democrats taking back the House would send a signal that voters reject this.

The underlying causes, including the economic, would still exist if the ideology was broken, but even there the Democrats may reverse some of the economic slide that's caused many of the underlying causes to exist. If not, we need to form another party, but not until the Democrats win. Lefty third parties in the United States are dependent on the prevailing climate being liberal, this is why Nader was annihilated after September 11th. He still put up the fight up to that day, just like many people did who felt that the Bush regime was illegitimate. But 9/11 toasted them politically. A Democratic regime could signal, would contribute to, a replacement of the current feeling with one of liberalism, where the issues that lie on the bottom of all of this can be confronted and changed, and the torpor of the last five years can be broken.

Solve et Coagula

Solvent and Coagulation. I think I'm done with the Solve part of this website, i.e. taking things apart, deconstructing, and am onto the Coagula part, i.e. synthesizing to a greater extent than I've done before and positively constructing something.

Well

I only have to say that if I am being watched, that I hope whoever does it wastes all the money they can on me, hopefully it will discredit the program.

The greater significance of Rumsfeld's statement

The greater significance is that now he too has cracked and is getting 'off message'.

Rumsfeld: "Back off"

" "it's difficult. We're looking out into the future. No one can predict the future with absolute certainty."

He said the goals have no specific deadlines or consequences if they are not met by specific dates."

Yet there was a specific date that was given to invade Iraq; there were specifics in getting the logistics together; there were specifics in planning and execution, yet now there are no specifics?

No one can predict the future with absolute certainty but people can sure as hell predict the future with some sort of certainty.

Besides, I thought these people created their own reality. Where's that power when you need it?

Rove's new polls

Of course Rove has polls that show that the GOP is going to win the elections! To say otherwise would be an act of retreat for the GOP, even if it's not true. It's not. Rove is making a last ditch effort to win over his base.

Stay the course: a prediction

And that is that now that a crack has opened up in the Bush fa├žade that the whole thing will come crashing down. Bush's dominance depends on an ideological unity, repeated over and over again, that's ultimately based on lies. Take away one part of that, replace it with reality, as going away from 'stay the course' has achieved, and the rest falls down. Bush probably knows this, which is why he's been 'on message' and nothing else for so long, but because everyone and his brother in the ruling circles is coming down against the war he has to move. Bluster won't do any more.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Interstellar swing

Have discovered the music of Sun Ra. It's good, really good. Sun Ra claimed that he was an angel from saturn. His music is similarly intergalactic, which is why his turn to swing is so....weird but good. It's like the soundtrack to a William Burroughs novel, Burroughs having set many of his novels on other planets. Sun Ra's poetry is good too.

More on "stay the course" denial

I guess it would be a little hypocritical at this point to say that Bush's "stay the course" change of heart is a little like the Diamat of the Stalin period....I'm not a Stalinist by any means but having far left sympathies there's only so far I can take the analogy without being in what Jean-Paul Sartre called "bad faith" with ones' self.

Bush's change

I think that Bush is planning a major change in policy towards Iraw but that he's waiting until the midterm elections are over to implement it. The inconsistency with "Stay the course" is indicative of major shifts; it's not just a cute contradiction of his position. But this won't reveal itself until after the election.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Alternate Modernities

Alternate Modernities is something that's suggested in writings but not talked about.

Basically, I believe that the post-modern condition was temporary; the perception that we were in a post-modern condition was based on the temporary golden age of post-war capitalism. Since the '70s we've been in a slump in terms of economic progress. Modernity has returned. Since, I believe, we're still in modernity, it would be useful to find out if there could be an alternate modernity. Currently we're in a capitalist version of it. Other alternatives to capitalist modernity haven't been pleasant. In particular, Fascism has been conceived of as a retooling of the modern idea with other values. If capitalism collapses in the United States we're going to have to consider really fast what sort of society we want. It would have to be a modernity where the overriding values are egalitarianism, equal justice, social justice, and personal liberty, as well as democracy in a socialist format, which means not just political democracy but democracy on the work and neighborhood levels.

Modernity.

Modernity is defined ideologically by the advent of the ideas of Marx, Darwin, and Freud. These three thinkers illuminated the nature of society itself, or how a society could be composed, with the materialist notion of society, that didn't depend on mysterious agencies; illuminated the origin of the human race in a way that didn't depend on a creator; and illuminated human behavior in a way that explained many facets of human behavior on a personal and social level by psychological drives, taking away the idea that the human condition is a pristine, ultimately inexplicable entity.

On the level of economics modernity is established by the second industrial revolution, which brought into use alloys, synthetic dyes, metals that hadn't been used before, and generally established science and engineering as paramount in importance for the advancement of capitalism. The results of the second industrial revolution allowed for petroleum products to be developed, allowed for radio and television, allowed for the internal combustion engine. It also allowed for the accumulation and centralization of capital to a degree that hadn't been possible before owing to the higher productivity that these new processes allowed.

Politically, the modernity established what we think of as individual rights in a modern sense. Modernity meant that parliaments and democracy had supremacy, church and state were separated, universal suffrage was established, and individual rights like freedom of speech and individual autonomy as a general principle came into being. It was basically the realization of the Radical liberal program in France, with the Radical party being a real entity, but put forward to basically all Western societies. We live in that age, and what people think of as Radical liberalism today in the United States isn't the same as what was established with the advent of the modern age. Beyond reactionaries the political beliefs instilled by modernity are largely transparent.

That's modernity on the three levels of economics, or infrastructure, ideology, or superstructure, and political reality, or meso-structure.

There was also a grasping for going beyond it because of a sense that this was not complete despite the advances, that this type of society had lacks and problems. Marx prophesized something like this but was unfortunately caught up in the thinking of the time and gave his assent to modernity, as well as being a somewhat unwilling ideologue of it in some respects, by suggesting that the economic concentration of capital that was happening was positive in that the situation would set the stage for a centralized socialism.

Reaction

The change to modernity or to the modern world didn't happen without a lot of resistence, and much of this resistence found its way into Fascism. Now, Fascism bifurcated between fascisms that were completely or almost completely anti-modern and fascisms that adopted modernity and sought to twist them to their benefit. Many fascisms fell in between. Mussolini's Italy started out trying to recreate modernity along Fascist values but ended up being almost Medievalist in its attitude towards the modern world. Nazism embraced modernity whole heartedly and sought to totally tranform it along Nazi values. Indeed, modern values, like Eugenics and Race theory, were incorporated in the very heart of it. The embrace of modernity contributed to what made Nazism so lethal. They were the total state yet they weren't looking towards the past except in an imagined far, far, past and consequentially could pursue science and technology in a totalitarian fashion that contributed to finding better means for oppressing their own citizens.

Fascisms, and I use the plural very purposefully, sought to retool modernity to some extent with reactionary values, which brings up the question of how could someone retool something that's against a lot of what they believed in?

Well, what was accepted were the technological and scientific innovations of modernity. What were rejected were the political manifestations. On the economic level what was rejected was industrial capitalism.

Fascism recognized something that Marx didn't recognize and that the other stewards of modernity didn't touch on, that is that the modern state of being isn't value neutral. A modern state can exist, with liberal values, scientific consciousness about human nature, advanced techniques of manufacture, and industrial capital, and yet there's a deeper level on which all of the above is biased in some direction. At the turn of the century the bias was towards capitalism. What Fascism tried to do was to eliminate this bias towards capitalism while retooling the values contained in the system towards reactionary ends, taking what it needed in the economics department and discarding or replacing the rest.

Soviet society unfortunately pursued modernity in a strange way, being semi-modern and semi-non modern, or even semi-reactionary in the Stalin era, but that's another story.

Now

Anyways, capitalist modernity still exists; it's the system we live under. But it's being challenged, and it's being challenged because advanced capitalism cannot provide for the needs, both physical and psychological, for a good percentage of its citizens, a percentage that truly is advancing every day as modern capitalism becomes more polarized class wise. This suggests to me that capitalist modernity will be challenged by something at some point. Now, this can be a reactionary, fascist, challenge, or it can be a progressive and socialist challenge. The difference will be what values of advanced capitalism we wish to maintain, which values we want to replace, how we want to replace them, leading to what the alternative to capitalist modernity will ultimately look like.

My suggestion is that a progressive alternative would preserve the rights and gains that the modern period has brought but go beyond it in an almost Marxist sense of retooling the economy to provide for social needs, sacrificing capitalist values, and creating a new ideology that allows man to exist according to his or her species being, a Marxist term that means self directing in both collective and individual ways, liberated in both, going beyond the idea of self direction in modern terms and in a sense perfecting it. But the equation of progress equaling advancement in science and the advancement of the accumulation of capital is false. Instead, progressive values and a consciously self directed economy should lead society to providing for human needs in an equilibrium setting, where the goal isn't always more and more but sustainability and human and societal goals.

By tranforming modernity or coming up with plans for transforming modernity and fighting for them we can avert a fascist challenge once advanced capitalist modernity starts to collapse.

Links to how the U.S. military is cannibalizing New Age ideas

Here's a link to the "First Earth Battalion" paper written by Jim Channon in 1980 that suggests ways that the New Age could be used to train super soldiers. Not all of it is bullshit. While Channon's conception of it is dripping with hippie-esque positivity there's nothing to stop it from being used, in the field, for much much different ends. "The men who stare at goats" reports that the First Earth Battalion paper is circulating in Iraq right now and is establishing "black ninjas and white ninjas", ninja being the term used for someone proficient in these techniques, maybe an over the top description but oh well.

Jim Channon, according to Jon Ronson in "The men who stare at goats" has been reactivated and is now a military consultant once again.

Monday, October 23, 2006

So too should the Communist 'popular front' theories be studied

It's largely because of them that I can support the Democrats winning. They were theories in the forties that advocated both grounding socialist practice in indigenous philosophies, in this case the thought of people like Thomas Jefferson, as well as forming temporary alliances with less revolutionary parties and currents in order to achieve common goals.

The New Communist Movement plus the Eurocommunist movement

Two things that should be studied and integrated with libertarian practice and thought.

An explanation

About the Communism.

First of all, I'm for all movements that have achieved a greater progress towards social justice and a just society in the world. I feel that although the Communist societies that have existed have fallen short of the mark that, nevertheless, they've been great experiments in building a truly socialist society, experiments that should not be forgotten or stashed to the side. That said, I also admire the Hungarian system put up in '56, against the Soviet Union, as well as the Anarchist liberated territory in the Spanish Civil War.

So it's not specifically Communist but rather anything that works, and I make the judgment that Communist societies did work as steps towards socialism on many levels.

Personally, I would want something more libertarian, something more anti-statist, that combines planning with grass roots workers councils and guarantees basic democratic and liberal freedoms, albeit in a socialist context, which means that the socialist character of society has to come first. You can't advocate for basic democracy from a bourgeois standpoint for socialist society without taking into account that there's a fundamental rupture between socialist society and bourgeois society; to do so would be to try to smuggle the idea of bourgeois democracy back into a socialist society that's already thrown off that way of doing things and so is fundamentally an act of bad faith, and worse. The bourgeois world can't lecture the socialist world on particulars if it finds the socialist way of doing things fundamentally illegitimate. By recognizing the new way of doing things as being something that would be permanent, or a viable option, the west and the bourgeois democracies therefore give themselves the right to criticize various particulars of socialist practice.

Ok, so to sum up, myself, I'm quite more libertarian than the mainstream Communist movements, but I'm willing to support anything that's bringing about progressive social change, with a few limitations. Like there's no way I'm even going to think about supporting a regime like North Korea. I'm not that crazy.

Although North Korea is a very bad society, I think though that the Albanian experiment deserved more attention than it got.

So there.

I'm happy to serve as an inspiration for some people...

But although the entries on the blog have been pretty benign lately you all should know that I'm basically a Communist, although not a conventional one. I'm anti-statist too but, yes, pretty much a Communist, with a lot of qualifications. They say "Once a Communist, always a Communist" and this is an accurate statement, as I've found out, because of the practical and theoretical unity of Communist ideology. So although I delight in being a backchannel resource for people I think that associating ones self with the blog might have professional consequences if you are in a position where that sort of thing isn't looked upon all that well.

Besides, the people who watch this blog have long memories, and just because the latest blog entries have been accepting of parts of the political system doesn't mean that it has always been this way.

Read at your pleasure, but remember, if you associate yourself with this blog you have to take the consequences that come with it.

Oh, and, I hardly ever read comments. The comments are for you all to talk amongst yourselves with. Sorry.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Bush predicts win for midterms

Like he was going to say: "The democrats are going to win". The whole tet offensive thing doesn't make sense and I think isn't going to go over with people because the violence in Iraq has been ongoing. The spike of violence this month isn't like the Tet Offensive, i.e. something co-ordinated and extensive, coming out of nowhere, where some cities are captured.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

"The men who stare at goats"---Jon Ronson

Sometimes I feel like most of what I'm doing in a particular week is cannibalizing books, i.e. taking what I'm reading and commenting on it, not really providing any real analysis that goes beyond just talking about a book in a casual way. The men who stare at goats is different.

Now in paperback the thing is about exotic techniques used in military psychological warfare operations, along with other aspects of the military, and how they evolved. Specifically, it talks about psychological warfare used on people in Iraq that passes the gate onto torture.

Ha ha. Playing Barney over and over at ear splitting volumes while operating synchronized strobe lights to men chained up and beaten in cargo containers. Really funny, there. Also, revelations about Abu-Ghraib, both torture and the psy-ops value of the photographs that were released. This would be the value to showing them to other prisoners, who would not react very well.

What seems amazing is that it appears that the Army has gone on a scavenger hunt through all sorts of alternative medicines and therapies to find things that could be operationalizable and has actually implemented some of the scarier practices on detainees and others. This is a far cry from the benign New Age-ey origins of these things, and is heartbreaking for someone, like me, who has benefitted from alternative medicine, specifically acupuncture and prescribed herbalism. Therapy can be used to build someone up or the same ideas can be applied to break people down.

I was actually waiting for this book to come out in paperback, forgot about it, and then saw it in the local bookstore. Check it out, and see for yourself that at the highest levels of Army innovation nothing is true, everything is permitted, including things that would be rejected by large portions of the American public.

Train coming round the bend--the November Elections

Back in the recessses of my mind I've always toyed with the idea that much, but not all, of the reason for the torpor of the American people on checking the Bush regime and what it's been doing post 9/11 was/is due to the fact that people in the United States just don't think politically, so that there was a learning curve that had to be traversed before the people would throw off the Republicans. Of course, in the process of this 'learning curve' over 600,000 Iraqis have died along with more American troops than the death toll of 9/11. But I think that people have caught on to what's going on, at least I hope they have. I really hope that this election will mark a real departure from the last one and will give the Democrats back control of the house.

Hell of a way to introduce yourself to the political world around you, first going ape shit about the President, throwing your back behind insane patriotism, committing some hate crimes against Muslims, doing nothing to protest the rounding up of Muslims in immigration raids, doing nothing about Guantanamo.

Point is, whether or not the 'happy, happy, joy, joy' (which originated in Ren & Stimpy, Mr. Copyright looker) version of the American public, that they just needed a 'learning curve' to pick up the Republicans' lies, is correct they still have blood on their hands. A lot of it. That can't be erased. The way 9/11's legacy has been stage managed might be to create a fantasy world of blood thirsty terrorists, a lot of flag waving, and no one really being killed, but the reality is....reality, not fantasy, and it has lasting consequences, that we'll be bound to, no matter what happens after we withdraw from Iraq.

That's what going completely ape shit and invading a country for no good reason does. Create lasting wounds from our adventure that can't be exorcized.

At no time have so many people died for so little. Bush of course has his reasons, but the reasons believed by most of the American people probably have nothing to do with Realpolitik and petroleum. They have to do with more intangible things having to do with a seeming rebirth of American national identity fostered by the administration itself and its story about what this whole thing is about. The people who support it believe in the 'good vs. evil' shtick.

It's not for nothing that the Buddhists talk about a veil of Maya, illusion, that causes people to commit acts that create Karma, that even more closely binds people to the consequences of Maya. It's also instructive that they say that the manifestation of Karmic penalties usually isn't experienced in this life, meaning that although people create the Karmic debt they don't instantly get the effects but only get it when Maya is lifted: on the great disruption when this life ends and people enter the in-between state.

America isn't going to die but it is going to enter an inbetween state, and when that state is experienced I think we'll see the consequences of all that we've wrought and will realize that we'll (almost) never live this orgy of mass murder down.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Coup in Iraq?

All right!

As long as it doesn't lead to more Americans being killed I'm all for a coup in Iraq, something that'll take the power out of the hands of the U.S. collaborators and put it back in the hands of, if not the people, than some sort of simulacra of them more real than the people in power.

Ironic, yes, but sometimes the democratic option isn't what you should hold out for. Iraq could suddenly become a paradise overnight, with democracy in the streets and workers' councils deciding everything...or you could have a military or other coup and the country could be stabilized. The issue, as always, is bloodshed, i.e. if someone comes to power in Iraq that wants to pursue a sectarian killing spree, settling scores, this would not be good and I would not support it. If the person wanted to get the Kurds, I would not support it. Most likely, it would lead to a war between this guy and the American troops. In that case I'd withdraw direct support from the person and instead hope that the Americans got out of there before many of them died. I'm not for Americans dying, so I would go closer to the traditional pacifist/neutral position if it appeared that there'd be a war between this guy and the Americans.

But if nothing of the sort happened, which, as I'm typing this, appears in my head to be a declining possibility, then I'd be all for a coup and another leader coming to power.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Chris Floyd:Academia Signs Up to Track Down Dissent

With "Sentiment analysis programs", programs that analyze articles for hostile content, which is a funny thing for people who believe that they already are the victims of government disruption.

This is what Chis Floyd says also, so the following isn't a slam on him in any way.

I mean, sure, I'm having mysterious problems getting long distance service on my phone since a recent move, but that's just coincidence.

And those e-mails that make reference to recent purchases done by credit card? I suppose the spammers just got lucky.

Or those e-mails that strangely have knowledge of conversations I've had on the phone with my family, who are also pretty left? Well, you know, these things are so general, surely it's nothing to be concerned about..

Point is, SAPs or no SAPs, massive surveillance is already under way and recent Homeland Security announcements aren't indications of something just starting but are reinforcements to something already going on, that will probably surface in officialdom in a few years.

Until then, go fuck yourself FBI.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

In reference to the below

I would rather seem like a shrill, needlessly speculating, kook, and maybe spark people to be extra careful not to let authoritarianism get established than to remain silent and let whatever forces are there get a foot hold.

Chertoff quote, or why this thing is important

"To help gather intelligence on possible home-grown attackers, Chertoff said Homeland Security would deploy 20 field agents this fiscal year into "intelligence fusion centers," where they would work with local police agencies.

By the end of the next fiscal year, he said the department aims to up that to 35 staffers."

In other words the Department of Homeland Security is coming to a town near you. This federalizing of the local police forces for intelligence purposes is something that wasn't supposed to happen because, um, that would potentially create a secret police situation. Or didn't they mention it, because they wanted the possibility to be out there?

For you philosophy buffs...

The distinction at the end of the post below is between, on the one hand, form, and, on the other, content. The form of Chertoff's announcement might be politically timed but that doesn't necessarily have any baring on the content of the pronouncement, which is fundamentally anti-liberty and would be potentially deadly for freedom of speech if expanded.

"Web could be terror training camp: Chertoff" Therefore....you need to x

Look at the post before. This is another example of manipulative thinking. The implicit argument is that internal surveillance is necessary because the web potentially could be used to 'radicalize' people. But this argument has been going around since the beginning of the net, when people found out that it was basically impossible to censor information, information that included how to make bombs and how to manufacture drugs. And so far, no terrorist incident has happened because of the diffusion of information through the Internet. That Chertoff would bring it up now, as if it's a new idea to censor and monitor the net, and that, according to the story linked to above, he cites the London bombing without actually mentioning if the Internet had a role in it, is opportunism at it's finest. And just a few weeks before the midterms, not a few weeks after a terrorist incident.

So, hmmm, so, hmm.....Maybe just maybe there's another motivation for the timing of it, although it's a radically anti-liberty idea that he's putting into action that if expanded could silence free speech in the U.S.

Ashcroft has some interesting notions about power.

As I listen to the song "Sex with Sun Ra", by COIL, I read this headline from Rawstory "Ashcroft: Bush should be trusted not to abuse power".

I almost collapsed laughing at that one.

It's um, the same argument used by Stalinists to defend their particular dictators and is usually followed by some statement along the lines of "And we have to do this because..." of internal subversion, of corruption within the party, of infiltration of agents from abroad. Trust is not an argument.

In this case you could say "Bush should be trusted not to abuse power....and because of terrorism he needs that power". The second term is
really the reason why the first term talks about added power, and a more truthful statement would be "Because of terrorism there needs to be extensions of presidential power and Bush should be trusted not to abuse it", something that's untenable. The first term in the first formulation conceals the second term within it implicitly, so when people are saying that someone should be trusted with more power the implicit argument is that there's a reason for that power that the audience assumedly knows. This is confusion because the statement doesn't say what it means outright and so contains some plausable deniability, which it shouldn't rightfully have.

Instead, the second version should be how it's formulated because in that phrase you can see that the power is backed by no argument whatsoever. Instead, the subject, terrorism itself, becomes the focus for the question 'why?'. Why is it that there needs to be an extension of power? This is because if the first thing can't be justified, i.e. extension of power can't be justified, then the second term, that you should just trust Bush to use it wisely, becomes superfluous. If extension of power isn't right then Bush's use of it based on 'trust' remains a hypothetical.

And Ashcroft remains an asshole.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Between good and evil:the new Bush justification for war

Building on a previous post I think that the new justification that the AP reported Bush as giving for the Iraq war, namely a struggle of good against evil, is a blind. It's bluster that I don't think Bush himself believes but pure propaganda, building on the constantly milked 9/11 theme, to get people to go along with the agenda. When people think about good and evil in relation to the Iraq war I bet that they don't think about the Iraq war itself but about 9/11. Their impression is that 9/11 represented evil and so the President says that the same evil exists elsewhere, so, despite the facts about Iraq and the Iraq war,people have transferred the evil of 9/11 to whatever the President says. Or that's the goal, ideally. People have been trained by the administration to think about the world in terms that are 9/11 centric; it didn't happen by accident. This 9/11 bubble can be broken as easily as it was put up and this is what the administration fears most of all, that people will get beyond 9/11 and will actually look at the facts of our foreign policy because it can't stand up to critical examination at all.

I doubt Bush believes in the good versus evil trope himself.

Cheney apparently has put the Iraq war in the context of civilization vs barbarism. This is another 9/11 reference. What barbarism? The barbarism of the 9/11 hijackers, first of all. Then, after that is established, the idea of barbarism can be transferred to any repressive regime as a justification. Want to attack North Korea? Barbarism! Want to invade Afghanistan? The Barbarism of the Taliban! Want to invade Iraq? The Barbarism of Saddam Hussein! Never mentioning that the definition of who is a barbarian and who isn't depends on the relationship of the nation to the United States. For example, Uzbekistan is a total dictatorship where the police regularly practice torture, sometimes on the direct orders of the president, and yet Uzbekistan is not classified as a barbarian state; instead it's classified as an ally in Central Asia, although as time has progressed the ally ship has decreased slightly. Still, not enough to call "Barbarism!" on Uzbekistan.
What about Turkmenistan? Same situation as in Uzbekistan, yet Turkmenistan borders the Caspian Sea and is therefore a potential ally for oil extraction and transport. It potentially has offshore oil and a port to get it across the sea. It's not a barbarian state. Neither is Pakistan, our close ally, that's been a dictatorship for seven years since the government was overthrown by Musharaff. No need for regime change there, even though Pakistan supports the Taliban and has declared that it won't do anything against bin Laden if he leads a peaceful life and doesn't sponsor any more terrorism.

Barbarism, building on the tradgedy of 9/11, is just another weasel word now, so loaded that it has no meaning outside of what Cheney wants it to mean.

Civilization is a pickle too. Haven't we been over this with the British Empire? There are enough critiques of western 'civilization', which Gandhi said would be "a good idea", that I don't really have to go over them again. Suffice it to say that a country that wages dirty war against others for financial gain and great power ambitions, that tortures people, that demands that the laws protecting rights be altered to let it do what it feels it 'needs to do', is not a civilized country. It's a country hiding behind the veil of 'civilization' to conceal it's crimes.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Five to one baby one in five; reasons why politics has come to a stand still

No one here gets out alive. Now we know what it's like to live under a mildly undemocratic system. I've been trying to think of why it's been so hard to get Bush to change course, why the guy is teflon and his regime is supposedly immune to public pressure. My answer is that by undemocratically restricting the influences that they accept and that they feel they should act on they've accomplished this. In other words, the lack of responsiveness has been caused by an unwillingness to respond that, possessing all three branches of government, can't be challenged. The division of powers has collapsed because of Republican party unity and executive branch obstruction. It's situations like these that prompted the British to get rid of the executive branch as an autonomous entity altogether and to subject it to the will of parliament, because at least there if there's a super majority you have a chance of effecting things through councils and such looking over legislation, although we have more of them than in Congress than England does. The failing comes from something that was not addressed in the Constitutional convention, which is the question "Where does sovereignty lie?". Does it lie with the executive, as representative of the people, or does it lie with the Senate or the House, as representatives of the people. If all sides can overrule the others you have a kind of political football between branches and sub-branches of government where the accountability is nowhere to be found.

What this creates is the potential for situations like today, where an executive branch that feels it has no responsability to the electorate colludes with a legislative branch that's willing to obstruct dissent for the executive branch instead of doing it's job, even if it is Republican, that is introducing and arguing over legislation. Instead, the executive branch leads totally on legislation and the Congress obeys orders.

The ultimate solution is to change the political system so that the ambiguity of the three branches of government with respects to checks and balances and the seat of sovereignty is resolved. This would have to come with eliminating the idea that all of the checks and balances are in some way equal to each other and that, logically, the branches of government are all somehow equal to each other. It would mean legislative supremacy as the seat of sovereignty, a weakening of the Supreme Court, and the elimination of the executive branch as having autonomous authority from the legislature.

That's the answer, in the long run, that will avoid situations like we're in today, where the government pays no attention to the will of the people and instead does what it likes, willingly oblivious and contemptuous of the people.

Saturday's random ten songs

Why? Because the idea of posting random songs that have been selected by your computer is a neat one and shouldn't be limited to just Fridays.

1.Head Held High (alternate mix) - Velvet Underground
2. Remotely- Coil
3. Peak a Boo (silver dollar mix)- Siouxsie and the Banshees
4. Frantic Situation (Vocal)- Afrika Bambaataa
5. Southeast- Genesis P-Orridge
6. Camel Walk- Southern Culture on the Skids
7. Move Back--Bite Harder- 23 Skidoo
8. The Last Amethyst Deceiver- Coil
9. Dirt Track Date- Southern Culture on the Skids
10. Another Relic from the Relics- Derrick May

Friday, October 13, 2006

Welcome Majikthise philosophizers; poverty of educational life

This is an interesting site, if I do say so myself, which I do and just did.

I should preface this by saying that I don't blame people who have never had the chance; I only blame people who have had the chance but have blown it willingly for one reason or another.

Man, I'm reading Ernst Cassirer's "An essay on Man" and can't help but contrast his idea of what human society and the human experience should be about with the reality of what's around me. I live in a college town. The college is experimental; I graduated from it. But although many people have every opportunity open to them the level of intellectual thought is way, way, down, and this isn't really all that different from places I've been to that are traditionally thought of as being more intellectual. I've been to the "New Ivy", New York University, and I've been to Community College, and it's all the same. 'Why the hell are we learning this?', 'what's it for?, 'what use will it be?', with 'use' not meaning 'use' but immediate practical business use.

The source of it is capitalism, the fact that capitalism puts a premium on business acumen for all and for those bron into a situation where their parents already posess a privileged position college becomes a rubber stamp. For the working class kids college is struggle with the added practical pressure of marketability thrown into the mix; for non-working class kids their destinies are more assured and college becomes almost a meaningless gesture, that is if they want to just go into business and not think about things any more. Both ways capitalism undermines the educational process. It hollows it out. I'm more concerned with what those people do who have it easier because the remedy for those that don't is pretty self evident: give more funding, cut the immediate need to go out and get a job to pay for loans and debt through both eliminating loans and replacing them with grants and providing apprenticeships and paid intern possibilities that allow them to get a foothold in their chosen field.

But what do you say to the person who has gone through four years of school and then forgets it to be part of the business system, when they could choose more creative options? Part of it, of course, comes from how they got there in the first place: business begets business. You come from a family involved in business there's more of a chance that that will be what you're going to be enthusiastic or at least consenting about. However, the consequences for the lack of real interest in scholarship by these people, time servers and partiers on society are serious. People without any sort of ideal about civic responsability getting into the positions of power and influence that their money can buy them setting the tone for the rest of society; the fish rots from the head, as they say. The George W. Bushisation of the world, the Happy Gilmore transformation, the jock and fraternity domination of competative capitalism making human values get forgotten in the process and instead substituting the value of self advancement and adaptation to a system that doesn't value the human if the calculations don't come out right on it.

No arts, no humanities, culture of any sort going to the birds, and each and every privileged kid partying who'll forget about school and join the workforce at a high level contributes in his or her own little way to it.

When people in the future look back at the United States and evaluate what exactly were it's achievements, are they going to point to Microsoft and GM, like some Stalinist examples of great factories, representing strength and virility, or are they going to look at the condition of the American people and the culture that they've created? The amount of equality, the amount of needs being met, plus the accomplishments of people who have enriched life through their creations in art, music, movies, theater, poetry and prose, decent television, crafts. Will this culture be accessable to people in general or will it be relegated to the musty confines of a few quarters where people still have the means to cultivate an interest in it? Will Hollywood, television as it is, and ads be the culture we give to the future, with corporate music and Broadway thrown in as either an afterthought or integral money making ventures to the culture industry?
Will there be a rebirth of nationalism that trains all culture into the path of being patriotic and affirming of some 'national values' or will the culture be open to innovation, change, and dissent?

In a way it's dependent on both the working class and the upper classes what happens, but it's a shame to see such resources being wasted by bourgeois time servers while the rest of society has to famish.

Pages and release of midterm information

The old saw, first with the NSA revelations now with a bipartisan panel that's reportedly concluded that Iraq victory is impossible, is that they can't release the information before the election because it might bias it. But, and it's important to remember that they're still allegations at this point, wouldn't reports of charges of sexual harassment of teenagers be something that people may want to take into account when voting? If so, why would it be biased to deny info that a war which has costed over six hundred thousand lives is unwinable until after the election? Isn't it the same principle, that this stuff is essential for people to make their basic choices and if it's denied to them they can't do that and can't vote in an informed way?

Rove's comments and authoritarianism

It's surfaced that Karl Rove made some disparaging comments about Evangelical Christians in the presence of one of the leaders of the Office of Faith Based Initiatives. The revelation, which suggests that Rove and company have used Evangelicals without wholely believing in their rhetoric, is a good one because it clarifies things quite a lot. It's one more piece of insight into how the Bush regime actually works, something that's been concealed from the public by lack of press conferences and a cultivated environment of ambiguity. Basically, this piece of info tells us what kind of authoritarian Bush is and that sort of authoritarian seems not to be a religiously motivated one.

A while back, maybe a month or so, (a while in blog terms), I briefly raised the issue of whether or not some of the paranoia and extremism that the Bush regime puts out there is just a fake out or an image thing that's not actually believed by the people inside the circles of power. The fact that Rove reportedly insulted Evangelical Christian ministers suggests that there is some truth to this idea. It also is reassuring in the sense that although Bush and company are authoritarians that they seemingly don't have the ultimate instability of religious motivated authoritarians i.e. they don't believe in millenarian fantasies about the world coming to an end and an ultimate end times confrontation between good and evil, even if Bush does feel that he's guided by God.

Clearing the clouds of disinformation this means that the way to find out what's really going on in the Bush administration is probably to look at the legal arguments and legislation that they've put forward and not to search in the background for some totally out there wild card. That's why this revelation is so good. One wildcard has been removed and that means that the truth is closer to things that are documentable than it is to things that are pretty much unproveable unless you have access to the President's circle. The legal arguments that he's put forward have been bad enough on their own.

Supporting torture, supporting spying on citizens, supporting taking rights away from non-citizens and restricting them for citizens, operating CIA prisons, extraordinary rendition, pre-emptive attacks, gutting of environmental laws that conflict with large corporate interests, all of these are quite serious on their own. They also point to an authoritarian conservative outlook, one that could be classified as conservative to the point of being semi-fascist. They want people to be intimidated into being quiet and going along with things and they want to have a free hand to do whatever they want in the realm of foreign policy and the treatment of foreign nationals. They use nationalism to promote this but ultimately the interests they serve are those of big money, of corporate capitalism. While they themselves might be conservative to the point of verging on fascism, of getting close to it, the same cannot be said of their followers, both in the religious section and in the non-religious section.

Particularly, some of their online followers could be classified as being fully fascist in their support for restriction of civil liberties and increase in penalties for people like liberals and lefties and those considered not to be sufficiently patriotic enough or considered to be undermining American interests. The same could be said of some of the religious right, some members of which do want a theocracy and an imposition of religious law on America and barring that to have religion at least play a more prominent part in public life in America.
Some of them really are millenarians who believe that the wars going on are the preface to the End Times.

If the Bush administration were out of office today we'd still have to contend with the legislation they've passed and the precedents in government that they've made, but we'd also have to deal with those who've gone much further than the Bush administration into extremism and who probably will not want to give that up considering how ardently they've advocated these policies.

Those two things, the legacy of the Bush administration on government and the legacy of the Bush followers in public life, are things that will persist no matter how much smoke clears.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Contradictions of Foley

A contradiction isn't just an inconsistency but a point of tension and a point of weakness. Find the basic contradiction in a situation and you can find the pressure point for change, or you can predict how much change is going to happen anyways on its own accord because of the unstable situation.

In the case of Foley the main contradiction, outside of himself, seems to be between the Republican leadership privileging protecting kids rights, on the one hand, and, on the other, covering up for Foley because of party loyalty. The bigger the Republicans erred on the side of party loyalty and the more people were involved the bigger the scandal is going to be and the more it's going to hurt the GOP.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Well shit, I was wrong about Amazon

Other people have made lists including "origin of thee species", which Amazon lists as "origin of the species". I am not the guy titling himself 'hezbollah' nor the one calling himself 'timothy leary'. I'll try to find right now some search that'll lead you to my Listmania! and "So you'd like to.."s.

Ok, this seems to work: search for Brion Gysin then search for the Brion Gysin reader, click on it, scroll down, and then click on the "Destroy All Rational Thought" So you'd like to... guide. That's me.

Do they even know what they're talking about?

The cover of a magazine that shall remain nameless but that is available at practically any grocery store had a headline about the Amish school shooting and then had as a sub heading a blurb about a recent increase in school shootings.

The problem is this: the guy who comitted the Amish school shooting was middle aged, he wasn't one of the kids. When people talk about school shootings they usually mean Columbine like shootings where the people comitting them are students themselves. The Amish shooting was a shooting in a school but not a school shooting if by school shooting you mean something like what happened in Colorado.

Shooting in school =/= School Shooting.

Basic logic.

North Korea

There are two things that are important about the North Korean situation and the media's response to it. First is that China reacted negatively to it, second is that they're blaming Clinton for it. China sponsors North Korea; for it to get upset about North Korea's conduct is for it to threaten North Korea's existence, meaning that the troop increases by China are something that North Korea is definitely going to take into consideration. North Korea itself could never defend against China.

Clinton is another consideration. The disrespect of Clinton and the charges of appeasement go right to the heart of the Bush worldview: that there's absolutely no chance of getting North Korea to moderate itself or it's relations with South Korea diplomatically because the country is fundamentally evil. Clinton, on the other hand, had great sucesses with getting South Korea and North Korea to talk to each other and to lower border tensions. There were visits between family members separated by the border who hadn't seen each other since the war and there was grain given to North Korea by a South Korean businessman to ease the suffering caused by the failure of the harvest there, as well as cows. Clinton, in aiding this process, was making the world much safer via getting North Korea to reform itself, through talks with the South, as opposed to the Bush method of trying to get North Korea to change through sabre rattling and sanctions.

George McGovern gave a speech at the University of Florida in 2002 where he said that Clinton had confided in him that if he had had another week in office that he could have gotten South and North Korea to the bargaining table regarding reunification. That's not appeasement, that's sanity.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Salman Rushdie

It helps to understand that Rushdie is an upper class assimilated person of color living in England. He's not an immigrant to England, he was born there. He's an atheist, he just happens to be from a family that was sometime in the past Muslim and not to be white. Asking Rushdie to be mindful of what all Muslims think about his writing is unreasonable because it assumes that Rushdie is in a position to speak for all Muslims largely because of his race. The guy is British. So it doesn't really matter whether he says 'veils suck' or anything else; no one should be chained so much to their (vague) culture of origin that they can't express themselves. Ah, but there's Ratzinger, right? No, actually, there's quite a difference between the Pope and a novelist of South Asian origin. Expecting all minorities to speak for the minority, or to be accountable to that minority at the expense of their personal freedom is racist in and of itself.

Rushdie just wants to be a novelist, and he's an atheist, and his family was once Muslim. If Khomeini hadn't issued his fatwa, which by the way only applied to people who agreed that Khomeini was an authentic religious figure, then no one would be talking about this right now.
Despite the personal danger Rushdie was in for a while the fatwa was more of a propaganda device than anything else. The way it was played out in the media was racist in that it assumed, without any knowledge whatsoever, that this thing was a religious act that applied to all Muslims, who were crazy and were going to kill anyone who their leaders directed them to. First, it was only Shi'ia, secondly, it was only Shi'ia who were loyal to Khomeini, thirdly, it was only Shi'ia loyal to Khomeini who were actually willing to go out of their way to hurt someone.

This is far, far, from all Muslims. But it got the Ayatullah press.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Candy says

This trip is over, I'm back home. As always music has played an essential role in the trip. I see it always as a kind of race between different CDs to see which ones win, which ones are played the most. The indisputable winner this time was Psychic TV, I played their "Live in Berlin" #1 and #2 CD's non-stop, particularly number 2, which I hadn't really listened to carefully before. GPO covered some Velvet Underground tunes, like "Candy says" and "What Goes On?" from "The Velvet Underground", not "The Velvet Underground and Nico" but simply "The Velvet Underground". Different album with a similar name. Coil had a good running in the trip down but proved too complex for the trip up, which was more dance oriented and straight forward. Nevertheless, Black Antlers had a play, as well as Music to play in the dark Volume 2 and, the winner in the Coil section, Love's Secret Domain, which got a fair amount of air time.

To get things rolling on the way back Ministry's "Greatest Fits" did the job pretty well, with Laibach filling in here and David Bowie's album "Stage", which is a concert from the late '70s, doing the job with pumping versions of some songs from "Ziggy Stardust" and "Station to Station".

The "Velvet Underground" cd itself didn't get played much, because it was too slow for the tenor of the drive.

Incidentally, on Amazon.com I have a huge amount of "Listmania!"s and "So you'd like to..." lists out there. All you have to do to find them is to search for "The origin of Thee species", with two 'ee's in Thee, in the music section, with "Psychic TV" as the artist and you'll find one, because I think I'm the only person to have mentioned the disks in their Listmania!. Once you've found that one, which is a music list, you'll be able to click on the name I'm using and find all my lists and all my "So you'd like to..."s. Happy hunting.

Friday, October 06, 2006

So I lied....Government and Capitalism

Yes, a political post right after I declared that I wasn't going to write about these things because I'm on vacation. Oh well.

The instinct of being anti-government is ingrained in American culture and is very good, actually. It comes from the beginning opposition to British authority of the colonists, something transmitted down the line to people in the present day. In a sense it's really good because it means more democracy on many levels of the country, democracy not found in countries that have more centralized systems, but in another way the people who are very big on this are fighting the wrong fight, or are at least looking and overlooking something very big.

The answer of course is that in the vacuum of some sort of government capitalism can reign unfettered, do what it likes. In fact, anti-statism suits capitalism very well because business without regulations is business that can pay low wages, have bad working conditions, no overtime.

The basis of opposition to State power is that it's an ungovernable force dominating people's life and this is unjust. Taxation without representation means taxation where the people haven't chose to tax themselves. Theoretically they could if they wanted to. But it's the lack of power that makes it unjust. The solution to the problem has been to decentralize power and to put citizen control over the power that exists, something manifested in the extensive system of city and county government which, although not always functional, actually expresses democracy more than parallel institutions in other countries. So what to do about capitalism?

The answer can't just be to meld the regulation of capitalism to that of the state. Making capitalism or business just another department of the state would take away large amounts of power from people and put it in a government bureaucracy that would have possibly congressional oversight and not much else. The expansion of the state to regulate capitalism like this is in effect an attempt to solve modern problems with premodern solutions.

The state evolved in pre-capitalist conditions; the economy of the pre-capitalist world was much simpler and the institutions analogus to capitalism, i.e. manufacturing, trade, banking, were small enough so that they could be directly administered by the state. With the large expansion of the economy and the development of business and industry in society at all levels this just isn't possible, unless in solving this problem society adopts a very authoritarian and undemocratic administration of itself that excludes mass political participation. The pure central planning of the Soviet Union is an example of this.

So if grafting the economy onto the state isn't the solution what is? I think that new structures have to be evolved to deal with it, that you can't go backwards but have to go forwards with this, even if progress is a myth. Think of it as adaption to changing circumstances rather than any sort of progress. The central principles that govern our conception of what the state or government should be are that it should be looked over by citizens, it should be decentralized, and it should be as small as possible. Why not create parallel institutions that oversee and regulate the economy that conform to those standards?

Popularly elected councils arranged in a decentralized manner that would coexist with previously existed governmental institutions (possibly...maybe they would exist in function), that would do what was necessary to regulate the economy, that would deal with economic problems. The balance of doing least in this case would be defined by something other than what government regulation of capitalism/non-government regulation of capitalism would suggest. Say that there's a continuum of, at one side, doing nothing, and on the other totally centralized planning. These councils would be somewhere in the middle of that continuum.

With new institutions that existed parallel and weren't subsumed into other government functions we would avoid the rise of the superstate, as long as these things really were democratic and recallable and didn't, in themselves, combine to be an undemocratic structure.

From a familiar location far away....

I'm on a mini-vacation. Vacation from what? In part what Tom Tomorrow has said in his recent post: vacation from being a lefty pro-liberal in these times. I'm in a nice place by the water.

Anyways, sometimes taking a break when all of the media is obsessed with one particular thing that takes up all the oxygen on the airwaves is to talk about something completely different.

I've been reading Ludwig Wittengstein's "Blue Book and Brown Book" on this trip and am really enjoying it. If you think that someone like Wittgenstein is impossible simply because he's a big name the Blue book, which I'm on, is a good way to get into his later philosophy. It's accesable in the extreme because it's from lecture notes that his students took. Explains the concept of "Language Games" pretty well.

Essentially, the whole thing is about the underpinnings of meaning that exist when we make either linguistic or symbolic actions. The whole thing is that the formal meaning that philosophy has so far given to different concepts has, in essence, been difficient because they have generalized from ungeneralizable particulars to conclusions and ways of thought that can't be proven. Instead, these ways of thought can be explained by going beneath the usual level of language and looking at how the terms are actually constructed and making the judgement on that.

Pretty good; but about as anti-Plato as you can get. No ideals. Plato's all right.

I said once that if politics ever didn't take up my time that I'd like to devote it to reading Ernst Cassirer. Well, I have "An Essay on Man", from Yale Press.

Will be back to politics after I return home but until then the posts will be about less present things.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Funny how the things you buy reflect other things

I was looking at my bathroom sink and saw two things next to each other: first, a "Chartes Cathedral Labrynth" chakra clearing spray made from gem essences, that I bought in Eureka, California, headquarters of hippie land; and then a gel that takes away oil and opens up skin without being abrasive, bought in West Hollywood, California, gay center of L.A., at a salon.

Make of this what you will...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Incidentally,

Now, when Scientology takes over the entire world, I will be one of the ones spared. Whew.

Scientology

For reasons I'd rather not get into I've been increasingly interested, from an armchair perspective in Scientology. I have to say that although I wouldn't join the organization that the group has gotten a bad rap.

What I'm about to say is my peresonal opinion and shouldn't be taken to be a, I don't know, anything but a general personal commentary. Plus, it's positive, so I don't know why people would have a problem with it.

Basically, my opinion is that Dianetics is, how shall we say it, pretty much bunk, that's a good word, but Scientology itself, which is something different, based on the books "Scientology: a new slant on life" and "Scientology: the fundamentals of thought", has some merit.

Part of the reason for this is that in the straightforward Scientology books Hubbard is giving you the real deal, the full monte, so to speak. Dianetics is written to be like a psychology book, with little mention of the spiritual, but in the Scientology books the spiritual gets full and integrated treatment. Scientology calls itself a religion for people of all religions, but it would be simpler to call it a spirituality or spiritual religion which people can evaluate for themselves how well it fits or doesn't fit with what they believe. The key here is religion, that it is religion even if it's a "religion for people of all religions".

Seen in this light a lot of the doctrinal criticisms of Scientology fall away. Like the South Park episode. Ideas about spirits and Xenu aren't far fetched in religious thought. People have a right to believe what they believe, and if this is called religion then it becomes more plausable. I think the problems come because of the insistence that Dianetics should be the first step because that creates the impression that there's a two tier thing going on where the thing behind the first step is radically different from what you've signed up for in the first place.

I have serious criticisms of how Scientology is run based on evidence produced by longtime members, most of which involve the high costs of Scientology auditing, and include how exactly Scientology and Hubbard are marketed to people, which is disturbing in itself. Then there are minor concerns like the requirement to give up all substances and medications and endure Scientology mineral spas that seep vitamins out of you in order to clear yourself of the imprint of the substances, which are thought to indefinitely endure in the body and prevent you from reaching your full potential. Particularly with psychiatry, which gets a bad, really bad, rap in Dianetics, I think that suddenly going without, say, anti-depressants, if you really genuinely need them, is a really bad idea. I don't think that all of it can be solved by auditing or self work.

With that out of the way I have to say that the things that Hubbard talks about in "Scientology: a new slant on life" are really interesting, some of them really insightful, and pretty balanced.

What's interesting is that Hubbard studied occultism before starting Scientology and you can tell its influence on it, in a positive way I think, in his books, although the official Scientology story is that he was paid to infiltrate those groups by Naval Intelligence.

I think this actually adds merit to the system and doesn't take away from it at all. You can find the story lots of places, just google Scientology or "L. Ron Hubbard" and O.T.O.

But it's always a pleasant surprise to find that things aren't quite as bad as you thought they were and in Scientology this is the case; Hubbard's comments about the mind, particularly the idea of affinity-reality-communication and living in the present moment are pretty good.

Incidentally, these are also the techniques and concepts that Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs took away from Scientology and integrated, both of them, into their work from that point on, although condemning the organization. Readers of Brion Gysin's book "The Process" will recognize affinity-reality-communication as "Hello, Yes, Hello", the system that Gysin's fictional protagonist works with.

"Hello"---you put yourself out there and try to communicate with them, Affinity
"Yes"---your Hello is understood and answered, you've established a reality connection with the other person"
"Hello"---they answer back based on that reality connection---communication.

So right there is affinity-reality-communication in Gysin...Burroughs writes about Scientology in "The Job", a collection of essays.

Hubbard's idea of opening yourself up to all experiences and causing things which others can experience easily, in relation to people's level of affinity not in relation to things that are difficult in and of themselves, are interesting concepts; I enjoy his social basis for this. Half of the book is about opening yourself up in relation to others and doing things, getting off your lazy ass and engaging with the world. His offhand comments about the unneccesary nature of the conflict between America and Russia and his suggestion of a human way of life instead of an American way of life are duly noted and appreciated.

An enjoyable read and a good example of Lebensphilosophie or Life-philosophy, as long as you don't become a fundamentalist about it and take it further than you should.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Jesus Christ

We don't worship Bill Clinton on the left-liberal spectrum, as the American Spectator suggests, it's you folks, the conservatives that do. The only people who like Bill Clinton are fellow centrist New Democrats.

Clinton was shoe-horned into the role of whipping boy for the perceived sins of the '60s generation, even while reports swirled about, say, Quayle's college drug use in '92. He never really fit the role and neither did Hillary. Hillary is blessed with the talent of saying obnoxious and disingenuous things in efforts to win over people, i.e. the "not baking cookies like Tammy Wynette" comment, but that shouldn't be taken to mean that she's a leftist at all.

Instead the equation is that Clinton is a hippy, so is Hillary, so the Democrats must love them, those children of sin in the counter-culture. Hell, even people on the left may admire them for their brave counter-cultural stands. But this isn't Timothy Leary, folks, and the exceptional part here isn't the Clinton's politics but the fact that the right has managed to convince themselves of the demonic nature of them for so long.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Foley

The way I see it there are a few things going on in the Foley case. First of all is the issue of abusing authority with interns, which is bad anyways. Secondly is abusing power and sexually engaging in contact with minors, which is especially troubling. Either would be bad under any circumstances, particularly since this guy is middle aged and a member of Congress, i.e. one of the power brokers. Thirdly, it's a strong inconsistancy with the stated philosophy of the Republican party, or at least the Republicans advocate harsh, harsh, penalties for people who do this combined with hating homosexuality.

I think there's a sense at the highest levels of politics that you can do anything and get away with it because you're in DC. This is not a new phenomenon and even has a name: elite deviance. Another example would be Roman Polanski who, although he's made many wonderful movies, abused a fourteen year old physically, not just by IMs, and hasn't served his time for it.

Elite deviance is especially galling when you're part of a party that claims to be both in touch with traditional american values and against the very sort of deviance that's going on. This is a major inconsistancy that won't go away.

It would be only a little bit better with the Democrats. The first issue, that is to say the wrongness of abusing power over an intern or page boy and the wrongness of sexual contact with minors, and this kid (judging by the IMs), was definitely a minor in all senses, they would still be in effect. The secondary issues, those found in the Republicans' condemnation of homosexuality and their defense of 'traditional American values', would only be slightly watered down because Democrats, contrary to popular belief among conservatives, don't approve of this kind of thing. I would imagine that their condemnation wouldn't be homophobic, would make a distinction between manipulating a kid and healthy adult relationships, and would disassociate this action from greater perceived social trends.

Either way, this is serious stuff and it isn't the usual liberal-left seizing on every tidbit of bad news to make a case to say so.
Especially if Hastert covered up. That just implicates the GOP more and more thoroughly, as does news of warnings against the guy directed at pages, I believe it was.

But one thing to consider is how the Democrats are running their campaigns. This might be a really good thing to turn off GOP people to the current slate but if the Democrats don't produce a convincing alternative that sounds rational and that at least resonates with dissatisfied Republicans---without pandering to them or compromising values---then they probably won't jump ship in large numbers but will abstain from voting altogether.

It's up to the Democrats to put forward a program of economic populism to take the Republicans away from the party. Eventually, they're going to have to go their to win back power, since liberalism as practiced in the eighties is dead as far as I can see, so why not start now when people are vulnerable?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Planning for an October Surprise

Karl Rove has confided in colleagues that there's going to be some sort of 'October Surprise' that's going to help the GOP out in the elections. Thinking about it, and I don't know how realistic or not this is, the capture of Osama Bin Laden would be one really hell of good surprise to help out the Republicans. What exactly would be the ramifications of this?

First of all the capture of bin Laden would be a great thing in general, for the world and for the U.S. I would applaud it. It would take a dangerous criminal out of circulation and provide needed closure for the 9/11 victims families. He's probably chilling in Pakistan, but, since the CIA has paid for the Pakistani government to deliver other al-Qaeda members to it the possibility of Osama being 'spontaneously' captured in Pakistan isn't out of the question.

Actually, the capture of bin Laden would be unambiguously good, or as near to it that you can come in this world because in addition to taking a criminal out of circulation and providing closure it would force the Bush regime to publicly justify why they're doing what they're doing. Right now the connection between bin Laden and 9/11, and bin Laden's absence except for some self serving vanity videos, provides great cover for any number of outrages against law and decency both abroad and in this country. A captured bin Laden would help to force the question of why we're in Iraq and it would also open up the question staying in Afghanistan to public scrutiny. If we chose to stay, things like Hamid Karzai's links to oil companies and proposed pipelines that would go through Afghanistan would raise their ugly heads and hopefully enter the public consciousness.

Bush and bin Laden have been playing off of each other for mutual gain but there's one crucial difference: Bush needs bin Laden, bin Laden doesn't need Bush although Bush has been very good in his hardline approach to all of the issues that have come up after 9/11. The significance of this difference is that, since Bush is going to be out of office in two years, his clock is ticking to make his mark and to help out his party, and so the short term propaganda gains from capturing bin Laden might be something attractive enough to make him consider it, if it is in fact something that can be arranged and not something that has to be tactically discovered and battled over. After all, Congress is important and a Republican win in the midterms, especially if it's based off of capturing bin Laden, might be enough to catapult a Republican to the presidency in 2008 even as it might turn into the undoing of the Republican party.

It could go either way in the short term. In the long term I think that capturing bin Laden will spell the end for Republican hegemony because they've overspent the 9/11 mandate to such a degree that they're unlikely to pull out of all of it once bin Laden is caught and so will probably be caught with their pants down on a lot of things that they've done under the justification of 9/11 and fighting terrorism.

If it came down to it I'd rather see the long term gains from capturing bin Laden, even if it's orchestrated, than see him go free and having this be a liability that the Democratic party can exploit. Actually, doubly so, because everyone is agreed that bin Laden is bad and should be captured and for the Democrats to exploit the non-capture of bin Laden effectively they'd have to produce a counter plan, like John Kerry's proposal, that partakes of the same logic of the Bush administration but just promises to do what they're doing more effectively. This is not good. There are a thousand things that need to stop that the government is doing and bin Laden being free is a major obstacle for them coming to a close. And we all want closure, right?