Sunday, December 31, 2006

*All this goes back to the taxonomy post*I've figured out what Atrios means by "Armchair Revolutionaries"

It's people who aren't as deeply mired in Democratic politics as he is. Alt. meaning: a term used to assuage his ego that his progressive/left competitors are nuts and that his embracing of large parts of the establishment wing of Democratic politics is perfectly justified.

I have a question for Atrios

What exactly did you mean when you compared the Green Party to Andrew Sullivan? In a post in November you said that Andrew Sullivan, conservative commentator, represents no constituency, then you said that this was like third parties who run candidates, specifically that they think that the political process will bend to reflect their personal wants. This doesn't make sense because politics is about voters, not parties. If the core values of the Green Party are supported by a critical mass of voters then are they pressing they expecting the political system to reflect their personal whims? What this sounds like is that you're saying that anything outside of the Democratic Party spectrum is by its very nature either irrational, personalistic, or based on wishes rather than analysis and that all challengers should just fold up and go with the Democratic program.

Surely you don't have more loyalty to the Democratic machine than to the voters that it's supposed to represent? I mean, you're an 'Outsider', a 'Netroots' organizer, a middle aged rebel taking the political establishment by storm.

Post for Atrios readers

I hope readers of Atrios realize that, no matter what his status in the blog world, what's on there is just an opinion about the world. There are, like, other ways to view the world and other ways to write about politics. And I hope you realize that no one is obligated to agree with or pay lip service to Atrios and Eschaton's idea of what is and is not good blogging.
At least I don't denounce large portions of the blogosphere. I look at that sort of behavior as cheap and short sighted. It's only engaged in by people so puffed up that they think their standards are the gold of the writing world. But who the hell is Atrios? Just a guy. I'm just a guy too and as just a guy I can tell Atrios to go to hell and write what I like.

Anarchism and me

A general note. I know that this blog is listed on anarcho blogs, and that's great, however I don't want to piss people off. It's not that it's a misnomer so much as that the actual politics of this blog are a mixture of anarchism and left libertarianism combined with Monthly Review style socialism, with a heady additive of random personal ramblings and comments on liberal and progressive blog site postings.

I noticed that someone linked to the 'Communism' post. The story behind that one is sort of interesting. The Communism post was basically saying that I'm glad people are linking here but I'm basically a Communist, then listing the various Communistic things believed. In actuality that post was designed to drive away people from the Washington State legislature who were pestering me to post their events on my blog. Most of it was either over the top or not really true. Monthly Review style socialism bleads over into this sort of Communism, so in that sense it's partly true, but I'm not about to join a vanguardist Stalinist organization. Neither do I advocate the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. I have serious problems with the 'Hegemony of the Working Class', which is a clearer and somewhat more reasonable formulation of what 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat' meant, in that I don't believe that class power can trump individual rights.

It's a long discussion, and I'm probably going to continue it below after finishing the rest of this.

Anyways, I'd describe myself as a semi-Anarchist. For what it's worth, as a semi-anarchist site, I hope that this endeavor has some value to people.

****

Class power vs. individual rights.

Actually, the contradiction isn't between class as such and individual rights as it is between a state of affairs when a certain class takes over society and individual rights. Many people, for example in the Bolshevik revolution and in the post-Revolutionary society of Russia, felt essentially that human rights were class bound, that is to say that human rights were a bourgeois concept and that with the ascendency of the working class they could be either replaced or negated. I think that people preserve their individual rights no matter what happens because in my opinion not all of society is class bound or class conditioned. There are certainly class biases in large parts of our culture, including the legal sytem, but when it comes to notions about individual rights and human rights I'd like to think that these are things that in some way transcend class culture and are just valid no matter what the setup of society is. Of course there are social rights as well, or collective rights, but I don't believe that they necessarily conflict with individual rights.

This gets into a bigger discussion yet, because right wing libertarians will say that of course social rights impinge on individual rights...but I guess it's all in the emphasis. They're adamant about economic rights, the power of an individual to either set up a business or to participate in the corporate capitalist system and by extension the right of corporations to do what they will; I think that those rights should be socialized. What I emphasize and am adamant about is due process, i.e. fairness when someone faces the legal system, as well as basic personal rights, to assembly, to speech, to unreasonable search and seizure.

And that gets into a bigger discussion yet, one that I'm not prepared to engage with at the moment, which is where do the individual rights that I outlined bleed over into social rights?

Blogging is Neo-Romantic

In that it creates a sense of intimacy between people where thoughts about the inner experience of life are communicated. The human aspect of life is revivified by the blogging phenomenon. People are paying attention to each others' stories about themselves and about the world. This, where the division betweeem science, on the one hand, and the lived experience, on the other, is taken for granted, is a reflection of the turning inward, away from scientistic and reductionist focusses, that would characterize a rising neo-romanticism.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Modernism, Romanticism, postmodernism

I'm tired right now. This is a big subject. ButI'm going to return to it. Basically, I think that postmodernism is ending and that what's going to replace it is a synthesis of modernism and romanticism. It won't totally supplant it but will modify the postmodern concepts for a new thing.

Postmodernism...a break up of meaning and, to an extent, economy.

Modernism + Romanticism, (or a Neo-Romanticism), equals a synthesis of pre-modernist or anti-modernist trends and modernism. Open ended modernism.

Blah. I'm failing here, it's late. I'm going to bed.

Or not. The obvious opposite of a break up of meaning is a reformation of meaning. I don't believe that a total and complete break up of meaning, for ever and ever, is really possible. Postmodernism then is just one phase in a larger cycle. Meaning is or will be reforming soon based on new realities. History hasn't ended, neither has it collapsed into consumerist self-refererntiality. There's still meaning out there, maybe even a rebirth of meaning, although the media-sphere in terms of the TV and some movies is pretty dead.

Meaning is reforming. It's logical to look at the reformation of meaning as resembling that which came before the break up. We still live in the modern world, we don't live in an anti-modern world where everything pre-20th century is admired. Mass production is still here; I don't think we're coming to a craft based civilization. A modern synthesis, or a synthesis that takes account of modern conditions, is in the offing. It'll reform meaning but won't have the same structuring myths as the modern era.

I think that this new thing will take into account some of the features of romanticism, which preceded it by almost two hundred years. Romanticism is a kind of positive response to the things that post-modernism found no longer tenable. Post-modernism talked about the break up of scientific knowledge and of scientism, but it didn't suggest anything to replace it- just a self awareness that this was happening. The Romantic movement in the early years of the 19th century questioned the scientific narrative of their day too, but instead of vague condemnations they actually came up with something. That something involved saying that although science might be a valuable thing that it was pretty irrelevant as a guide to anything human. They separated the realm of the human and the scientific and decided to focus exclusively on the human. The questions about what the meaning of life were no longer revolved around science giving an answer but instead referred to culture, human experience, the aesthetic experience, lived experience basically.

I think that the basic division that they came up with is still tenable, but I don't share the pure Romantics' total rejection of science in all aspects of life. Science and modern industry have produced some great things, and, yes, even some interesting insights, but here I'm thinking of Darwin and Freud and people like that. I think that it's possible to combine a modernistic respect for industry and other scientific aspects of life with a general focus on the lived experience as divorced from these things, in other words seeing them side by side instead of dependant on one another. That would be a resolution of sorts to the postmodern quandry about the break up of knowledge. Knowledge as such didn't break up, only the pretensions for scientific knowledge to explain everything. You can preserve knowledge as such for things like building aircraft and such while recognizing that for the human parts of life the modernistic philosophy which came along with those things is totally insufficient.

So, to give this the proper philosophical definition what I'm proposing is a kind of Neo-Romantic Modernism. But the term isn't that important in the specific. I just call it Neo-Romanticism, signifying that it's like Romanticism but it's come again. There's a neo-romantic movement in literature that is anti-modernist, this is only semi-hostile to it.

But, insofar as a state of affairs reflecting this would have restored meaning both in the scientific and in the humane spheres it would satisfy the idea of a post-post-modernism. There's also no reason why some of the lessons of Post-modernism would not fit with this. Being skeptical of authority and being for decentralism, the sense that the center can't hold and that life reflects this, are important insights that would benefit whatever comes next.

But the question is whether or not the thing that replaces Post-Modernism really will be a Neo-Romantic Modernism or whether this is something that while I like or would like to happen is not the way in which history is going.

I think, and here that is indication of a subjective perspective, that science has neared its end as an explanatory force for the human sphere of things. It makes sense for a reaction to this to go inwards into the human experience.

Yep, Pasolini

Yep, Pasolini didn't just make films like the Gospel According to St. Matthew and Moma Roma, both of which featured non-professional actors, and I think in the case of the "Gospel" movie less scripting than is usual, in order to make the movies more true to life. He also made films like "Salo" and "Porcile", plus the very funny film in the RoGoPag collection. They are bitterly, surrealistically, funny, sacrificing realism to make their points.

You want me to outline what they're about, don't you?

Well, you can find out about them on your own.

Five personal things: snarky and obscene edition

There should be a disclaimer here. I promise that I'll get back to blogging about politics once something interesting politically happens.

OK, five interesting things about me:

1. [Redacted because it was too obscene]

2. I have a birthmark on my chest, visible after a shower, that resembles Russia and Asia (true!).

3. Hmm...this isn't all that unusual, but I have (let me count) six tattoos, including one chest tattoo. None are visible in a T-shirt. Plus I have intentional scarification on my right calf.

4. I was born in the woods and fought my way back to civilization. Actually, I was born in Warren, Michigan (home of Eminem!) then early on moved to a town in the country side outside of the Detroit area, then moved to the suburbs of Detroit before taking off briefly for NYC. Now I live in a small town at the edge of the Seattle area. Oh well.
The "woods" statement isn't a total lie, then.

5. I like Pasolini films. And Alejandro Jodorowsky films too. If you know either one of those directors you know why I would think this is important.

The problem with public atheism

A response to Susan Jacoby.

Susan Jacoby, in a recent Washington Post/ Newsweek column, argues that atheists need not apply to public service. Actually, she only makes the case that you can't discuss atheism on television. But be that as it may it's extremely interesting that on the one side you have people like Jacoby who think that atheism is excluded from public life in all its manifestations, and that on the other you have conservatives pissed off by the rising tide of secularism in American society. I don't believe that either side is completely wrong but I do believe that atheists aren't being honest with themselves when they bemoan the reasons why they frequently aren't included in debates. Religious prejudice, sure, but rhetorically the atheists are one of the most rabid, intolerant, groups out there. That they have little actual influence in American politics doesn't change this. Basically, while religious people of some stripes, and people who really aren't particularly religious in any way, which probably includes a substantial part of the U.S. population, are pretty tolerant of atheism, atheists get up there and say that belief in god isn't just wrong but stupid and that no one could have a rational reason for believing in god. Both statements are wrong. Atheists aren't familiar with, say, 20th century theology, particularly Protestant, people like Tillich and Reinhold Neibhur, to say nothing of liberal Catholicism, for example Liberation Theology.

Organized atheism in this country is suspiciously associated with right wing libertarian politics, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, and scientistic thought that couldn't recognize a non-literal interpretation of religion if it bit it on the ass.

Organized atheism is associated with grown up little boys who enjoy reading Science Fiction and believe that they're the most 'rational' people in the world, and smarter than everyone else, even though they work in an insurance office.

Atheism, Star Trek conventions, aspirations (not always succesful) to join Mensa, belief in free market capitalism as the only 'logical' or 'rational' economic system, pseudo-intimations about the goodness of Eugenics, worship of science as the grand explanator of everything, even to the point of using the newest scientific paradigm to try to explain all and everything, even if things like philosophy or anthropology would provide much better answers, what else: Extropians! People who believe that in the immediate future we'll be able to genetically alter ourselves into super beings, achieve immortality, and colonize other planets, or maybe hop through a black hole to a parallel dimension. Sci-Fi fans again. Computer nerds in the worst sense (and I like computer nerds, being an ex-one myself). People who spend inordinate amounts of time playing games like World of Warcraft. People who point out literal inconsistencies in the bible and act like they've won a major victory. People who read Bertrand Russel's book "Why I Am Not A Christian" and don't realize that he's a far far better logician than he is a philosopher of religion. What else?

That about covers it.

Here you have Atheistus Americanus.

And I don't know why I'm defending Christians; I'm a neo-pagan myself. Trust me, the neo-pagan scene is indeed open to many jokes and jabs, Renaissance Fair people who can't grow up, people who think that they're lords and ladies, etc...

But the pretensions of atheists in the United States, rather than the belief itself, get me going.

If nothing else, religion provides "Myths to live by"...

***

Funny thing, I was an atheist for a long time but because of being a Marxist got interested in the idea of Humanism. Marxist Humanism is a pretty valid and attractive position. So, after a while, I started trying to find Humanist resources outside of the Marxist arena. Found "Free Inquiry Magazine". So far so good. Then I found the Unitarians, and decided that some sort of collective service might be a good thing. Found "Ethical Humanism" at this point although the finding was pretty much just a ratification of what I already believed. The U.U.s were more important. After attending Unitarian services for a while I started looking at the idea of a modified theism in a different light, something non-doctrinal. Within the Unitarians I moved further and further towards their theistic concept of divinity. Then, thinking that the Unitarians didn't have a good conception of evil, I moved to the Congregationalists in the United Church of Christ, not the Church of Christ by the way. Attended services there for a short time before breaking with them and pursuing Catholicism, which my parents followed. Then, left Catholicism and went back to Neo-Paganism, which is what I was before I became an atheist.

Oh well.

Still a neo-pagan, but the sojourn in Christianity gave me a new found appreciation for its teachings.

Joshua Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo on Saddam's death

Pretty darn good.


"This whole endeavor, from the very start, has been about taking tawdry, cheap acts and dressing them up in a papier-mache grandeur -- phony victory celebrations, ersatz democratization, reconstruction headed up by toadies, con artists and grifters. And this is no different. Hanging Saddam is easy. It's a job, for once, that these folks can actually see through to completion. So this execution, ironically and pathetically, becomes a stand-in for the failures, incompetence and general betrayal of country on every other front that President Bush has brought us."

Friday, December 29, 2006

Will Saddam's death slake U.S. bloodlust?

Well, Saddam Hussein is dead, thereby giving satisfaction to ignoramousus who couldn't figure out why he wasn't killed the first time we invaded Iraq. Yes, yes, of course his crimes were bad---he was the worst war criminal whose country sat on a huge pot of oil. Therefore, he had to be punished.

Africa, you want some justice for your warlords who are ripping apart your southern half? Just tell the U.S. that you're sitting on some diamonds, offer to let in U.S. companies, and the government will do the rest.

Yes, Saddam comitted crimes, crimes that the U.S. population stood up and crowed about like trained dogs at the prompting of the government. They were just so damn savvy about the rest of the world that they couldn't but feel compassion for the Kurdish victims of Saddam's reign, or for the dissidents disappeared, tortured, executed by Saddam.

I'm not saying that he didn't do it, by any means, but I am saying that the U.S. population is hypocritical in the extreme for suddenly giving a damn about Saddam's crimes when the U.S. government asked them to.

How real is concern for Hussein's victims when that concern is obviously manufactured? No, really, I want to know.

I don't know, how much is fake concern really worth? That's another question.

The government says "Kill Saddam" and suddenly every man's jimmy gets hard. Who'll satisfy the orgasmic lusts of the U.S. population next?

What cold comfort. Who will the next bad man be out of all the bad men in the world, where will the wheel of fortune spin next so that their deeds will be prosecuted by the U.S. and they find themselves hanging from a tressle.

"More More--Today we care about the Kurds, tomorrow we'll care about whoever you want!". No mention made of the Kurds suffering in Turkey. Aren't our scholars about human rights violations sophisticated and learned?

Maybe we should have "Public Execution-athon" aired prime timje on the major netwroks, reaired late night spliced in with some hard core porn. You know, one guy hangs, then they cut to the scene of one girl taking it from two guys as another girl looks on. Then another clip of a hanging, then a one on one sex scene. Let the guys who get off on this really get off on it, coming onto their screens once the climax of Sex and Death gets high enough.

Yes, a picture of a man's hanging flickering on a TV screen flecked with semen, that's about what the motivation is behind a whole lot of people in the U.S. clamoring for Saddam's death.

"When Is the Right Time for Change?"

From Common Dreams, by Catherine Cooper.

"Freedom and equal treatment under the law were hard fought by our ancestors, and tens of thousands died to ensure that our country would further blend its multiracial ethnicity.

How can it be that in this nation of pioneers, ground-breakers, inventors and changers-of-the-world that we have passed through 218 years of elected Presidents and all 43 of them have been white males? Unlike some of my friends, I think we are past ready for a change."

It's always tempting to see history as you'd like it to be rather than how it really was. I think that the quotes above are evidence of this. While I'd like to believe that tens of thousands of people died to blend the country's racial identity I don't think that's actually how it went down. Either she means the Civil War or World War II. The unfortunate truth is that this country was founded on white supremacy and that basic inequality has persisted up to this day. That racial inequality has been reinforced by an economic inequality that appropriates most funds and ownership to white men. I'd love it if American history were more benign but I think that in this case it's less than that.

I don't think that, as she outlines later in the article, it's the influence of media and PACs that's responsable for this situation but the persistence of these economic and social inequalities. The media reflects underlying realities and so do PACs. Without the basic connectedness to sources of money based on that inequality the PACs would dry up.

On a more optimistic note there's always the interpretation of American history that says ,that although the status quo has been unequal, at times of mass upheavels the progressive nature of America is revealed whether or not the people on top like it. This is basically the position of Howard Zinn, who has unfairly been charged with having a fundamentally pessimistic interpretation of American history. During the Revolutionary war there were movements for greater equality, although they were squashed. During and after the Civil War there were similar movements, including movements for a radical Reconstruction of the South in order to benefit blacks, but that too was squashed. World War II inadvertently helped start the Civil Rights movement because people couldn't stand the hypocrisy of fighting racism over there while having it be institutionalized over here.

Mass movements in the United States have, then, often fought on the basis of a certain idealism, but that's a project still in progress. The United States itself started off as a broadly unequal society in many aspects and inequalities persist to this day.

Iran II

Now the Israeli government is saying that the President of Iran's message gets slogans of World War II ringing in their ears (from a recent Glen Greenwald post). Although I can understand that people living in a country that the President of Iran has vowed to destroy, who is developing nuclear technology, might be nervous about their situation, I think it's farcial to compare the two. It's also farcial to follow Joe Lieberman's suggestion that talks with Iran will 100% go no where. I'm sure that there are a million similarities between a hardline regime ruling the Islamic Republic of Iran and the rise to power of fascism in Germany.

This gets to an issue which is very touchy, namely the legacy of World War II. I personally think that Israel jumping to call Ahmadinejad another Hitler cheapens the experience of World War II. Yes, he's anti-semitic, but running to call every nut out there a potential Hitler runs the risk of creating conditions for the unthinkable: having the comparison be devalued to the point where the idea of the existence of true anti-semitism is questioned. If the Israeli government keeps on doing this the part that actual anti-semitism plays in Middle Eastern politics will be ignored or disbelieved.

Obviously, the Israeli government knows what it's talking about. Israel is home to many Holocaust survivors. Yet it sure doesn't act like it. With the constant objections that every criticism of Israel and Israeli policy towards the Palestinians constitutes veiled anti-Semitism you'd think that their idea of what constitutes anti-Semitism came out of a coloring book.

And that's anything but what the truth of what they're criticizing contains. I've read actual anti-semitic literature, not just implicitly anti-semitic literature or literature where people, by some magic of Critical Theory, can detect a little teeny bit of anti-semitism, and nothing that I've read arguing the case for the Palestianians fits the bill. None of it fits the stereotypes. Instead, at most what you have are two conflicting stories, that about what happened to the Palestinians with the creation of Israel and that which tells about the creation of Israel from the Jewish perspective, that often talk past one another with no common ground between them. It's true that people who advocate the Palestinian perspective often don't, or don't know, how to take the Jewish perspective into account, but I think that's because of the total lack of opportunities in the common narrative of how Israel was founded for any sort of compromise. If there was a revisionist history about the origins of Israel from an Israeli perspective then it would be easier for people not to talk past one another. However, this oversight isn't what I'd call anti-semitism.

What about the suggestion that Jews are sexually motivated beings that are obsessed with money, have no morals, and are totally foreign to civilized western modes of behavior and conduct? That's real anti-semitism. I'm sorry if this stuff is painful, but it has to be said to get some context. The idea that Jews only have a commercial mindset and, although they might be clever, have no underestanding of the depth of academic subjects. That's anti-semitism. The belief that the lusty Jew is always after non-Jewish women. That's anti-semitism.

I'd like to see where, in all of the literature about the Palestinians, you'd find any of those stereotypes.

Ahmadinejad

With all of the extremism coming from the President of Iran I can't help but think that, like the rise of Osama bin Laden, this guy's rise to prominence was a side effect of U.S. policy. In the case of OBL and others the U.S. basically eliminated the left wing opposition in these countries, leaving only the radical right and moderates left to vie for power, therefore setting things up for the rise of radical Islamist politics in the Middle East. With the President of Iran it should be noted that he probably came to power, after the tenure of a reformist who wanted to take Iran away from radicalism, because of the U.S.' hardline stance in relation to his country, which entrenched his sorts of views even further. If you oppose reformers in a country where the radical right is about the only other acceptable political option then it only makes sense that a person like that would come to power.

I believe that the right is basically the same the world over. Ahmadinejad's ideas could equally be found in far right organizations in the U.S. and in Europe, although in Europe many of them would be banned. Seeing Jews as the basic enemy and denying the Holocaust is standard radical right behavior. The radical left might not be perfect, especially in the middle east where the USSR promoted an unofficial policy orientation that was congenial to anti-Jewish sentiment, but at least you don't find them doing things like denying the holocaust.

If you take away the other options...this is what happens. Parties that promote radical change through ultra-conservatism have an easier time of getting support and possibly gaining power.

Theology note

I think something else that Tillich was emphasizing was that biblical literalists are using a translated version of the bible, so what they're literally interpreting isn't what the bible literally says but instead an interpretation of what it says, sometimes an interpretation of an interpretation of what it says. Hence the challenge "Have you ever tried to translate one line [of the bible] into English [from Greek]?". Tillich was OK with the interpretations of the interpretations. He trusted the interpreters because he believed in the tradition of Christian theology.

Theology and the radical right

Whenever I hear about biblical literalists I think about something that theologian Paul Tillich wrote. Tillich was a very liberal theologian, even being a Christian Socialist before the Nazis came to power, at which point he left Germany. Yet, despite being liberal, he was a firm believer in the necessity of honoring the theological tradition of Christianity and not just going off on your own to interpret the bible in any which way you chose. Notice that the emphasis here is on the theological tradition of interpretation being what's opposed to anyone just interpreting the bible; it isn't a case of literal interpretation vs. liberal interpretation. The theological tradition can give a liberal answer to what the bible says, unlike literalists, who are usually steadfast conservatives.

Anyways, the quote I think of in relation to these people went something like this: "If they think they can interpret the bible scripture solis have they ever tried translating one line of the bible [from the original Greek] ?" The point being that scripture solis, i.e. scripture alone, in Tillich's formulation, didn't mean all you needed was scripture and no preparation. Taking a detour from the subject of Greek translation for a moment, Tillich believed that scripture solis implied that any person, informed with a knowledge of the Christian tradition, could in fact get a reading of the bible informed by the spirit. But that you couldn't just get a good reading by picking up the bible cold, without guidance from a minister/pastor/priest.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Greg Saunders: Mainstream Religion-Bashing

"While I largely agree with the sentiments in the Slate and New Republic articles, I can’t help but remember all the times these same publications have bashed the left for making the exact same points about evangelical politicians. Needless to say, I think we’re going to see a lot more of this over the next couple of years as more and more pundits find new ways to make the argument that “Yeah, religious appeals by politicians are okay, but Mormons are weird.”"

Actually, and this goes totally away from the content of the article, I think that the European view of religion is much healthier than the American one, and would eliminate dichotomies like either being fanatically for religion or against it. My impression of European attitudes to religion is this: even though many people in Europe consider themselves to be secular, those who do have religious views tend to have more nuanced and sophisticated views on religion than their American counterparts. This is due to the more institutionalized nature of religion in Europe, not just in the Catholic sphere but also in the Protestant denominations. Because many of the radical sects, radical in their claims to self governance, were defeated over there what persisted were traditions based on sound scholarship and thought. Of course there were the wars of religion, but lets just skip that for the moment...Anyways, this trend prevented the ever cascading devolution of religious authority to the point where any person and his brother could set up a church with no theological training or knowledge whatsoever. I personally doubt how much these people from denominations that don't have any sort of institutionalized authority or who have a very loosely organized structure actually understand the Bible or Christianity. Sure, they can quote stories and such, but do they have any idea what it actually means? That's the question.

I'd much prefer going up against European religious figures than American, although, since I don't have to live in those countries, I may have a rosy picture of how things are.

But I mean how can you honestly fight against people who believe in a total biblical worldview except to deny all of it. The people who believe in it and who press it in the political arena ask for too much. If there was some sort of control system on religion maybe it would be easier to deal with these people.

Wonkette

I have not a whole lot of eperience with Wonkette in that I'm not a regular reader, but I did read some of it in the Ann Marie Cox period and have been taking another look at it in this new period and the results are disappointing. This new Wonkette seems forced and bland compared to the other one. Before, the sarcasm just sort of reeled off, although it was very establishment, but now you can tell that the editor is trying to be sarcastic, that he's trying to say mean things about the topics of the stories he's linking to. It's disappointing. We need more authentic sarcasm and snark, not imitators of both. Like Merril Markoe wrote in a recent Huffington Post article about receiving a faux-ironic mirror as a Christmas present from a media conglomerate, irony can't be packaged.

"We're painting our faces and dressing in thoughts, from Paradise"

A similar lyric in type to the one mentioned below, from "After All" by David Bowie, from "The Man who sold the world"

"For I realized that God's a young man too"

A quote from David Bowie's "The Width of a Circle", from "The Man who Sold the World"

Phrases like that just aren't possible without psychedelics.

Forbidden posts..

I've been getting the itch to post on forbidden topics. Why are they forbidden? Mostly, these topics deal with the influence of psychedelic drugs and my time with the psychedelic experience on my interpretation of culture and of politics. I really don't want to be seen as advocating drug use, which I'd no doubt be seen as doing, so I effectively can't post on these things...

But, shit...

Until these things are decriminalized so that they're not Schedule I this is going to be somewhat hard, at least as a blogger without the legal protection of a publishing house behind him.

I'd love to do it. Listening to Pet Sounds Live, which has songs directly influenced by the psychedelic experience, plus listening lately to "The Man Who Sold The World" by David Bowie, whose songs are pretty much exclusively either about psychedelics or obvioulsy heavily, heavily, influenced by them, makes me itchy on the trigger finger. Then there's always the ever listened to "Psychic TV", whose "Live at the Berlin Wall II" album is full of Timothy Leary samples and exhortations to turn on, tune in, and drop out. Yes, there's a song on it that goes "Extasy, LSD, Peyote, for you and me, this is the Acid Dance, this is the Acid Trance" over and over and over again, with Genesis P-Orridge then going into a chant of "Ah-Cid! Ah-Cid! Ah-Cid! Ah-Cid!"...

Are you experienced? Hell yeah, fully experienced. I've gotten the whole psychedelic experience under my belt, but I can't write about it at this moment....

"I guess I just wasn't made for these times"

A Brian Wilson song...

"I keep looking for a place to fit
Where I can speak my mind
I've been trying hard to find the people
That I won't leave behind

They say I got brains
But they ain't doing me no good
I wish they could

Each time things start to happen again
I think I got something good goin' for myself
But what goes wrong

Sometimes I feel very sad
Sometimes I feel very sad
(Can't find nothin' I can put my heart and soul into)
Sometimes I feel very sad
(Can't find nothin' I can put my heart and soul into)

I guess I just wasn't made for these times"

"Everyone knows you're a melancholic sophisticate"

So they say about Misha Veinberg in the novel "Absurdistan" by Gary Shteyngart. I finished it a while ago but the person who I handed it off to has just finished it, so we've been having conversations about it. The whole thing is loosely based on Azerbaijan, where Shteyngart spent a vacation a few years back. Extraordinarily funny. The thing is based on a, as it turns out fake, civil war between the fictional Svani and Sevo people of Absurdistan, collectively known as "Absudis", where the Sevo people broke off from the Svani because of religious differences. The Sevo prophet had a vision of the true cross under the influence of fumes from a local hallucinogenic plant some centuries ago where he saw the footrest of the orthodox cross going the other way . This started a schism because of the complex theological implications of this alteration that lead to the followers of the two camps forming different peoples.

Ah, Misha, a Russian who went to Accidental college in Ohio, actually Oberlin, and who, well, found himself trapped in Russia because his father, a low level mafioso, had a Oklahoman marmot farmer assasinated over a bad business deal. Now the Americans won't let him back in the country. Hence, the need to go to Absurdistan, after dearest papa's assasination by "Oleg the Moose", to procure a fake passport and new citizenship, this time from Belgium.

The civil war starts when he gets there and he's effectively trapped yet again, even after purchasing the passport and the benefits of Belgian citizenship from a character straight out of "Heart of Darkness" by Conrad, i.e. the tired, alcoholic, colonial-esque administrator who's on his last legs, this time living in the back of a McDonalds, being served vodka by one of the managers.

Anyways, Shteyngart really cooks. "The Russian Debutante's handbook", Shteyngart's previous novel, was possibly the only book that I've ever felt was a "book of my generation", i.e. something that spoke to my experience in a personal way that I could totally identify with. Called, derisively, "The Russian Arriviste's Handjob" by Misha Veinberg in "Absurdistan", that story of a guy who hooks up with the Russian mafia in Prague with the goal of infiltrating the expatriate literary set in order to scam them is a classic.

I'm just ebullient with words tonight. I don't know why.

But how much of a melancholic sophisticate can I really be? I see certain parallels, but I'm not Misha Veinberg...besides, I drove into L.A. on the way to the beach this summer blasting Brian Wilson. If that's not un-cool I don't know what is. Or maybe, since I was purposely doing it to be ironic, it WAS in fact cool because I was trying to be uncool on purpose. Oh will the irony never cease....

Whatever...

Rare FireDogLake comment: Howard Kurtz

"Nous Sommes le Deluge", the title of it.

The basic idea that Howard Kurtz has put out there is that the distriubted nature of the new media, things like blogging and YouTube, has sacrificed the common culture that used to exist when there were only three television channels. My personal objection to that is that those days of a common culture ended long, long, ago. It didn't take blogging and YouTube to end it, it took the phenomenon of a hundred channels and nothing on. If anything, blogging and related phenoms are an attempt to reclaim the sense of intimacy and relevance that television itself has ceded. Television these days is surprisingly content free. I recently had the opportunity to watch more television in a week than I have in the course of a year or so thanks to the wind storm that swept the Northwest and deprived me of power. What I found was, with a very few nice exceptions, a world where people talked about nothing to other people, doing contentless or meta-content self-referentiality. People actually talking about Jennifer Aniston, who hasn't done anything in years, or covering the tenth anniversary of the JonBenet Ramsey case, as if nothing of consequence happened in those ten years. Blah. Compared to the internet this was a sterile environment. If you're looking for Ed Sullivan moments you probably won't find them on TV these days. But you might, ech, find them on the internet. Shit, did I just say that? I'd rather it not be true but it seems like it might be.

Anyways, TV is a vast, vast, wasteland.

By the way, although the linked to post wasn't written by Jane Hamsher, I find the authorship of this site fascinating: she's the producer of Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. And she has her own blog. About politics. Kick ass.

Pointless cool things

I vaguely resemble the new premier of Turkmenistan.

Then again, I vaguely resemble half the people in Central Asia and the Middle East, although I'm not of Middle Eastern descent.

Strange thing, this is. I remember browsing through Powells in Portland recently and seeing a cover of a book about Chechnya featuring a large hatted rebel leader. Same beard line, same shape of face, some of the same facial features. I said to myself "Oh fuck, not again".

Gotten used to it by now.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The strange thing is that I can't think of anything snarky to say after having a good Christmas

Fun Christmas. Was over Christmas Eve at relative's house, stayed, watched funny, indecipherable, Japanese gameshow on the AZN Network, had general holiday cheer.

Received presents for "The guy who thinks too much". Good stuff.

Remembered Michigan fondly. Thought, as usual, about what the hell I was doing and what sort of life I've been living. But that's a common enough thing. The verdict: it was a good idea to move out to Washington State. Christmas was a day when I got some reminding from relatives about how I was before all the craziness started, craziness being a period of frequent moving around and general aimlessness after I left college, which at that time was very much unfinished, that involved leaving the state where I grew up.

Life moving out to another state has been psychologically hard but I think it's been worth it. It's driven me to further myself and face my own demons. But along the way sometimes you can forget about yourself, with all the alienation. There's alienation that allows you to forget what are essential characteristics of your being, things that you need to remember in order for you to be truly you. You can get out on the wrong foot by stripping away the things in you that are really important, losing yourself in a haze of self delusion and irony, with sarcasm masking the emptiness inside that you're feeling more and more of.

Family helps you to reconnect to that greater reality that you might have forgotten about; they can psychologically pick you out of the gutter and rehabilitate you, slap you on the face, and make you remember yourself.

I feel, I hope, that part of this Christmas was the start of a homecoming of sorts, a reconciliation with others and with myself, with the people who are important to me and with the reality that lays right in front of my eyes, an aspect of social reality that I was once in touch with, like everyone else, but which, for a variety of reasons, I became more and more embittered and pissed off by.

Here's to coming home again, like the prodigal son but without the repentence, instead, just regaining consciousness.

General themes

Over the holiday weekend something occured to me, one of those things that you know you've thought about a hundred times before and that scores of other people have too; something that's so simple that when you think about it for the hundredth and first time you get another take or insight. What I was thinking about was how illogical picking Islam for the next global enemy is.

What's next, the global war on Hindus? I hear they live in Indonesia and even in South Africa. There's a huge Hindu population in England that could do some damage to English landmarks.
Oh sure, they're part of the "model minority" of Asians in the United States but that's just part of their insidious plan to get funding for their goal of sanctifying the world for Shiva, who we know is also a god of destruction. Think about it: millions of Hindus worshipping a god of destruction. Don't you think that's a little ominous?

That's about the same level of reasoning that's being used to justify a war on Islam.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Random blog desire

There's one more day to ask for things for Christmas, and the New Years resolutions are coming up.

So, ok, my desire, or one of my desires, is to live more like Jean Cocteau in the coming year. This can also be part of my New Years resolutions.

I give you the master himself:

I should qualify that

Although it resembles a middle school conversation. I may be more aggressive than some people in disassociating myself from people I really don't care for, but just because I'm not around doesn't mean that I'm hostile to you.

"Your unfinished basement or mine?"

From Washington City paper via Majikthise and "Why I hate D.C."

The basic story is that this guy broke up with his girlfriend and flung himself into the D.C. bar scene in order to have meaningless trysts with women he didn't really care about.

Here's "Why I Hate D.C."'s analysis of the spot, which the title link goes to


Here's a sample:

"But as we met more and more women, we realized that we couldn't fucking stand at least 95 percent of them. Maybe 99 percent. This was fine with me. In fact, when I did meet one of the elusive 1 percenters that I actually liked and respected and had something in common with, I did everything I could to piss all over our chemistry. I'd been down the relationship path, and it had ended in a blood bath. Now, all I wanted were disposable encounters. After my 35th consecutive conversation about American Idol, though, I realized this probably worked better in theory than in practice."

I think the problem here is that he's going out to bars pretending to be interested in women that he honestly has no interest in in order to get them to sleep with him. That's it in a nutshell. People have commented on the misogyny of the article and I think that most of it comes from this contradiction. If you don't like the bar scene or respect 99% of the people who go there why do you still go?

His deal is what I'd consider predatory behavior. The putting on a face that's not your own, being purposfully deceptive, is the same sort of behavior that people interested in sexual assault and/or abduction and other sorts of violence use. It's the sort of thing that I think people who go to bars dread: winding up with someone who you really don't know, going either to their place or letting them into yours not knowing, again, who they are or what they might be up to or what they might do. That this guy is only interested in one night stands is lucky for the women he picks up.

If he's faked 35 conversations about American Idol that should tell him, to say the least, that maybe this isn't the place to meet women. That he keeps on with it shows that not only his he just interested in sex but is cynically interested in sex. Hence the 99% thing. There's nothing wrong with being interested in sex at bars or one night stands if the impulse is mutual, but purposely misrepresenting yourself in order to get that sex is using the woman as a sex object, and it risks types of misunderstandings on the part of the woman that would make the thing not as mutual as it otherwise might be. In a few words, deceiving people ruins the mutuality of that decision. And ruining the mutuality of that decision can lead to sexual assault or worse.

I don't like most of the bar scene either, but I don't go to it to pick up women and neither do I think that the people who hang out in bars are representative of their gender. I don't like American Idol or shitty bands of the moment either, but I don't misrepresent myself as giving a fuck and don't try to pick up women by pretending that I do.

I'm fairly misanthropic, not misogynistic though, but the solution I've come up with is simple: don't associate with people you don't like. There, baby simple. And I guess, although before the article I never really explicitly thought about it, just having it be kind of unconsciously assumed, that if you don't respect someone you shouldn't try to sleep with them.

The theory of the Christmas present

All good things should have a theory behind them. Christmas presents are no different.

Christmas presents are more than just tokens given to people we know and love. At their best Christmas presents should be objects that reveal some essential aspect of the person that we give them to. I give you something; it may be something in the general category of things that you wanted, but at some level the particular choice of what to give in that category comes not from what was requested or hinted at but from a judgment about the person. This judgment comes not from what people tell us they'd like but from an evaluation of their character, interests, and motivations. We pick something that we think would 'fit' the person, no matter if it's exactly what they requested or not. In fact, the best presents are those that aren't exactly what a person requests but are a little bit off. When we pick a present that we think fits a person's character the point is to pick something that reflects not a superficial aspect of their character but a deep aspect, preferably one that either the person in question is either not consciously aware of or that is based on a personal reality that they don't necessarily know that you're aware of. So, the Christmas present chosen in this way is a 'surprise', because it's based on an awareness of the person in question that's not always expressed in day to day life.

The Christmas present chosen in this way is a revelation to the person you're giving it to about an aspect of themselves. By bringing a symbol of this deep reality to the consciousness of the person that it's being given to the giving of the Christmas present gives recognition of this reality to the person who receives it. If it's a 'surprise', then when that surprise is received the person knows that you know something essential about them that they didn't necessarily think that you knew. It says that someone else recognizes this aspect of their life and so reaffirms that reality, reaffirms that that reality is valid. And through this mutual recognition of a deep psychological reality on the part of the receiver and the giver the two are brought closer. You demonstrate real knowledge of the person in question at a deep level, thereby reinforcing the depth of relationship between you, at a level that may not be apparant from day to day interactions. This making explicit that which is implicit is a key way, in communication or in other aspects of relating to each other, that people deepen their relationships with one another. By bringing to the surface that which is implicit you demonstrate actual knowledge of that person, and if the judgment is received well you bridge that gap between subject and object that much more. The person is less of an object but is recognized as having an intersubjectivity close to what you have, and vice versa.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Celine

What Celine seems to be pointing out is what later people have called the myth of the resistence. That is to say the idea that everyone in France was in fact against the occupation and that no one bore any sort of war guilt. He even gives the example of his friend Marcel, who took over confiscated Jewish businesses, but who turned against the Nazis after Stalingrad happened and it became clear that they weren't going to win the war. Suddenly, in the last days of the occupation, he becomes vehemently anti-Celine.

The truth isn't just that not all of France was actually part of the resistence; it's that a large portion of France actually supported the Vichy government. The Nazis, until late in the war, directly administered Paris and the north east of France and the Atlantic coast but left the rest to Petain to govern. Petain created a regime like Mussolini's Italy. What's key here is that Petain took as his own, and implemented, large portions of the political program of pre-War fascist and pseudo-fascist organizations in France, organizations that had substantial support. He advocated a return to Catholicism, to the family, and the neutralization of liberal values. He also created a cult of personality around himself. All of this, and more, was advocated before the war by these organizations.

So what Celine is pointing out is the partial hypocrisy of the tendency to want to hang all traitors (especially Celine!) by a population where a great many people actually supported the occupation.

Good things I've learned about television

During my sojourn through the land of the television during the power outage. I've learned that Orange County is a good movie, that Miami Ink is entertaining, that, yes, Aqua Team Hunger Force is very funny, and that the end of the Lord of the Rings trilogy rocks. Oh, and that there's some good shows on the Food Network. Beyond that, and a few other things, the television has proven to be a vast wasteland. Blind Date is fun... I've heard more about Brittney and Nicole Richie than I'd ever desire to know. However, Paris Hilton still intrigues me.

Current Reading

I've finished "The Wild Ass's Skin" by Balzac, a fun and interesting book, and am moving onto a novel by Celine and "The Thirteen", also by Balzac. The Celine novel is "A Fable for Another Time", which he wrote after the war while in a Danish prison.

Celine might be thought of as a curious choice. After all, he was viciously anti-semitic and was condemned in absentia in France to one year of imprisonment and declared a national disgrace, but personally I believe in a total wall between artistic production and judgment on a person's worth or life. Celine is a good writer. His writing, as far as I've gotten, isn't anti-semitic in itself. If it was I wouldn't be reading it. That's the difference. A person can be a certain way but as long as it doesn't effect their artwork I really don't mind. It isn't the first time I've read fascist authors.

In fact I've read Ernst Junger, Yukio Mishima, and Gabrielle D'Annunzio, all three of which were fascists and fascist collaborators. Not only that, I like them and their styles.

People talk about respecting artistic freedom but often when it comes down to the brass tacks they won't grant it to artists who either have too objectionable personal lives or who really make unacceptable art, by common standards. I think the test of whether you really respect artistic freedom or not is in how you treat artists who aren't just trendily obscene or provocative but who really do violate commonly held social norms, who really do provoke a sort of visceral reaction from both the intelligentsia and less elite readers.

And people who would censor those artists who have bad backgrounds really get no sympathy from me. I've encountered them and most of the time they haven't even read what they're critiqueing or if they've read it it's been with an eye to find anything that they can that supports their thesis. I've been in a writing program where a story that advocated liberating animal instincts was discussed and one of the people objected to it by saying this was Nietzschean and that this sort of thinking lead to the Third Reich. I've been criticized for reading Nietzsche, even by the person I bought one of my Nietzsche books from. Selecting a black bookmark from a pile she said "Here's a little black for your Nietzsche" as I bought the dual edition of "The Birth of Tradgedy" and "The Geneology of Morals". Thanks.

Sometimes they come out and admit that they haven't even seen or read the thing in question. This happened recently with the movie "Apocalypto" in a column published by Huffington Post. The author, after yelling at the movie and at Mel Gibson, declared that she didn't know what the movie was about and didn't want to know. Wonderful! What an example of freedom of the press at work.

Anyways, Celine is entertaining. At the moment his character is complaining about people wanting to draw and quarter him starting in the days leading up to the liberation of Paris, and he's doing it excessively, but the style is dark and funny and pedestrian, real language that people really use, which has its advantages.

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Christmas Message

I actually can't repeat what my Christmas message would be, but it would involve myself, well, no I can't say it.

Motherfucking snakes on a motherfucking plane, I can't think of anything snappy to say.

Hmm....how about this: if religion is the opium of the people then the media is its morphine. That's a conclusion I've come to. Come to think of it I wish that opium was legal in this country. I like the feeling of painkillers but am not really inclined to become addicted to them or to get involved with needles. Opium smoking is so sheik and cool, a way to get morphine into your system without the hassle of other methods. Ah, sometimes we can only wish.

Santa, I wish that you change the minds of people in Washington and convince them to legalize opium and low grade painkillers.

I just know you'll come through for me.

There, enough snark for you, smart ass?

Well, at least

this week without computers was a week without attempts to entrapt me in crimes...

Of course...

Between science and the human experience there also lie the social structures that shape the human experience, and are largely, though not exclusively, connected to the needs of economics. Economics plus geography plus culture plus history....

Pointed out...

Reading the Brittanica article on "Kantianism" the last paragraph grabbed my attention. Essentially, it said that, although many philosophers have been influenced by Kant, simply being influenced by him isn't enough to really be a neo-Kantian. I think that applies here. Neo-Kantians are people who examine the very technical parts of Kant's philosophy and comment on it and work with it. I haven't done that and, while that might be in the cards down the line, at the moment the philosophy is Kant influenced combined with Hegel and a whole bunch of other people. But I'm going to read the "Critique of Judgement" soon, honest.

Back, after only 8 days without power

How about that? Funny how my apartment complex took 8 days to get back online while the gucci subdivision next door was back on in only a few days...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Introduction to the vast wasteland

I've been watching a lot of TV at the place where I've been staying since the power went out. This is a major change for me. I never watch TV and haven't watched TV for years. What to report. Well, at first it was fun, watching E! and seeing stupid stories about celebrities, but then as it became clear that there really wasn't anything more to it it started to drag. Then, after dragging, it became insufferable. God, what a wasteland, what an absolute desolate desert of content, you know?

This isn't news to anyone. Everyone knows how bad TV is. It isn't like this is a secret.

Took time to start to clarify my philosophy, this thing I call neo-romanticism. Increasingly it's relying on neo-Kantian ideas of how we perceive the world.

Neo-Romanticism as a sort of moving forward from an over reliance on materialistic philosophy and on deterministic views of life and of human behavior arrived at, dubiously, from science.

I tend to think of the scientific world and the world of human experience as being two separate realms. Science can't explain the human experience and the rules of the human experience shouldn't be applied to science. Let science rule in it's sphere but let the philosophy and experience of human life have its own rules and own standards.

Human life, inner experience, intersubjectivity, all become ennobled once you start looking at them as ends of themselves and not as material to be reduced. Once the idea of human behavior and experience is looked at as open ended, without the upper limit of genetics or sociobiology colouring what is and is not valid experience, vistas open up that aren't easily explained away. The inner logic of the human experience proves to be richer than the total logical representation of it. I.E. there's more variation within the human experience alone than there is in reductionist methods of determining in an absolute sense what the experience is, and if this proves to be true than determinism fails as an explanatory means. I'm not giving a proof of this, which would be necessary, but it's the position that I believe in.

What you get when you look at life qua life is a rediscovery of life itself as a valid category.

Seven days without power

That's the current total after Thursday night's wind storm. That's the explanation for lack of blog posts. The wind storm swept from northern Oregon up to Vancouver.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

If you read Balzac...

You'll never like the bourgeoisie again either...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

pt. 2 I'm all for unbridled hedonism, America, Oh, America!

It seems that America doesn't get it. Americans don't know how to indulge like Europeans. An American's idea of indulgence is a shitty midrange car while a European's idea of indulgence goes all the way. They accumulate little trinkets but inside they're too repressed to enjoy themselves, these Americans. American life is characterized by its vast shallow, trite, nature, and its perpetual virginity. It has no idea what really enjoying life is like or what it means to be a connoiseur of enjoyment. Instead the Protestant ethic predominates and Joey the idiot goes to the beach in his car, in his stupid clothing, and ogles the conservatively dressed women who he'll never think of approaching. His meals are like church services and his sex is boring and predictable. And he works for his money, oh how he works, even though he isn't a worker. He's the perfect bourgeois, in a bourgeois state that opposes anything that doesn't agree with his dessicated values of thrift, self denial, and genial ignorance, with his fellow believers being the best check on the upstarts in this ship of fools. Thrift, Thrift, good old work, then go home and live the life of an imbecile, of someone who's never left his hometown and who believes in god and country like the idiot he is. He imposes his ignorance on the American state and his hypocrisy about what he does and who he is on the world at large, which doesn't necessarily like being lectured by a bunch of salesmen from the heartland, petty managers and two bit hardware store owners. Our precious heartland, where people can justify massacring another people with a polite "uhh" of total ignorance and noncomprehension. Didn't think about it that way! No shit, because you don't think. You rely on your bourgois privelege to do your work for you. Why think when you can buy a bigger TV screen! Oh boy, that one will look really good in the living room, how was work today, well, had to balance the accounts and do some paperwork but in general things were pretty good, did you hear about the game coming up? Damn, those Lions never win. What, Iraq? I stand with the President. How about some ribs this weekend? We can have a cookout with the new grill. Fucker. Asshole. Grey man, pink man, nothing man, your life is shit and nothing will ever come of it, nothing of enduring value will survive you, you are evolutionary waste, homo worthless, the person who has everything but does nothing with it, negating the great wealth of the country in a sea of pastiche, watered down, commercialism and mindless consumption. Wake up from your torpor, if that's possible, or make way for those that can do the job of leading the country better than you can, with your petty middle class mores and values.

Our repressive hypocrisy makes us the laughing stock of the world

What do you call a nation with one of the highest consumptions of pornography that can't get basic sex ed approved for public schools? Or that restricts the age limit on drinking to 21 and over yet has scores of college age alcoholics? Where pieties are incanted in an atmosphere that has us pretend publicly that we're a nation of virgins who've never been out of the house? Hypocritical? That's an affirmative!

***article to be continued at a later hour****

Monday, December 11, 2006

Currently reading: "The Wild Ass's Skin", by Honore de Balzac

I see it as a challenge, like a mountain in front of me, I have to get to the top, and it's both a challenge and an exhilirating experience. Look at this, I'm writing Balzacian prose. The story, as much as I'm aware of it at this point, is very good, but there's so much symbolism and description that it gives you a headache after a while. Very good; Balzac takes the art of metaphor to heretofore unknown heights. Why climb a mountain? Because it's there.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Wow, actual succesful humor on HuffPo:Hannibal Rising Something Something George Bush

Funny funny article by Chris Kelly of "Real time with Bill Maher". This is about the "Silence of the Lambs" prequel "Hannibal Rising"

"Hannibal Lecter, the character Hannibal Lecter, was always a cheat anyway. Even before we knew all the facts (how his father beat him, how he ran away) he already had too many layers to be pure evil. Because nuance is a redeeming quality.

Pure evil is boorish and blunt and single minded and proud of how stupid it is. It's not Olivier. It's Oliver North.

People think evil is hard to understand, because you can't see it -- it's just a concept, like curved space, or Barack Obama -- but you actually can see it. "
.....

Read more at the title link.

Huff Po: Milton Friedman, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Augusto Pinochet-What A Team!

"Milton Friedman, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Agusto Pinochet: What a Team!

by Joseph Palermo

The founder of the "Chicago School" of economics, Milton Friedman, the former US Ambassador to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and the military strongman of Chile, Augusto Pinochet, have all departed this mortal world. Friedman called for the most extreme privatization measures even in the impoverished Third World; Kirkpatrick was the intellectual guru for US-backed "authoritarian" regimes; and Pinochet was a practitioner of the Kirkpatrickian world view."

More at the title link.

Deadline Hollywood: Disney pushing Mel Gibson as not as bad as Roman or Woody

"OK, I wish this were a bad joke, but it's real: Disney's new and quiet Oscar campaigning for Mel Gibson is to convince Academy members that he's "not as bad as Roman or Woody.""

snip

Here's the most relevant part in my book:

"It's long been my belief that if a litmus test were given for behavior, nobody would ever work in Hollywood again. Nevertheless, I just don't think Oscar campaigning that underscores the character flaws of other film directors will work."

Amen to that.

Friday, December 08, 2006

www.horsesass.org

Wow, and I thought that I was biased. This guy beats any invective that I've come up with in quite a while. It isn't my brand of politics, but for what it is it's somewhat interesting. His defense of compromising his own ethics ("Will blog for food: money, politics and the ethics of blogging") is, umm, interesting. Few times in the history of journalism, I'm sure, has there been such an unabashed argument of "They do, so I can do it" with regards to compromising one's ethics by taking money from candidates you're talking about. I hope you see the irony there. There's a difference between being biased and advocating your bias and being biased and actually receiving compensation from those that you're biased towards. In fact, let me revise that. There's a difference also between being completely biased and having a bias yet trying to support your attitude with reasoned arguments and facts, on top of invective. I think that's what's at stake here, commentary whose core is reasoning, even if people may go over the edge sometimes. People who take money from those who they're covering face the fact that, at some point, you've got to dance with them that brung you, meaning that you're going to have to become a pure propagandist for those causes, in the way that they like, or else the dangling carrot of money is going to be cut off. That's much, much, different from simply having a bias, or an attitude, and having your writing reflect that. Your writing should be good because it's good, not because it lines up with the interests of powerful groups.

More proof of delusion and paranoia on the part of U.S. guards

I've just read that they've just finished building a new prison at Guantanamo bay. Right next to the one they built in 2004. The reason? "Asymetrical Warfare" on the part of the prisoners. What does that mean? Prisoners attacking guards. Now, Asymetrical Warfare usually means guerilla was against a conventional army; to use the term to refer to the actions of prisoners is absurd and represents a high form of megalomania on the part of the U.S. guards. If they can engage in 'Asymetrial warfare' then you could label the attacks on the guards, who torture them, as being acts of terrorism. Yes, that fist in the face, that's terrorism god damnit! It's being committed by a bad bad man and so must be terrorism and asymetrical warfare. It's a little bit like the kid who gets into a fight in the playground and then goes to the teacher exagerrating what the people he fought with did. "He, he, he, he used ASYMETRICAL WARFARE on me!". The teacher gasps. Of course nothing of the sort happened. Resistence to being tortured asymetrical warfare. These people are so insecure that even when they have the prisoners under the tightest control that any prisoners have been in they still feel like they're being persecuted by terrorists and terrorism. They're the ones who can torture them, who can deny them all sensory input and beat them, yet they still feel that these people are waging war against them. Having them be alive is asymetrical warfare for the Americans.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The purpose of life and social activism.

One of the most serious problems I have with the Old Left, as well as any other organizations that exemplify this sort of thing, is the reductionism. Reductionism has been used an excuse to condemn parts of the left but that's not what I'm trying to do. Certain social relationships are fundamental to how our society is constructed, and more often than not they support some sort of inequality, However, it's important to consider what exactly would the point of life be if, like with a magic wand, all the inequalities were wiped out in one second. The Soviets had a pretty pat answer for this that said that fundamentally life was materialistic and that many of the ideals and ways of viewing life not able to be deconstructed by reductionist scientistic materialism were therefore not important, or were irrational. They had probably the worst response to what to do personally after the revolution: contribute to the gross national product, enjoy (some) music, (some) art, (some) literature, where socialism was used to justify squeezing the life out of all of these, and try to become a well rounded citizen within a state that vastly restricts what the potentials for human experience are.

So what is important? What would you look for if inequalities were erased in one fell swoop? Personal meaning, an understanding of life itself, the exploration of relationships? Spiritual questions? Philosophical questions? Trying to find a destiny and trying to pursue that destiny? Self understanding?

That's my list. What I wonder is if these sorts of things are thought of as being the ultimate goals of life why it is that people don't integrate them into the quest for a more equal society at its start?

This is a restatement, in a more intellectual way, of Emma Goldman's statement that if she can't dance she doesn't want to be part of the revolution.

I guess what I'm getting at is that there's the potential of creating a certain kind of life aenemia if people are so concerned with the outward that they forget what's interior as well. Social relationships need to be examined and social inequalities confronted but I just don't trust people who see the social inequalities but who don't have an appreciation for anything else in life, particularly the things that ultimately give life meaning. The same could be said about the reverse situation; hiding in inner things and in a conception of ultimate meaning that doesn't include society at large is a sham, something that's easier to do, especially by people with privilege, than actually looking at the world, understanding it, and drawing conclusions from that understanding.

If people who just see the social inequalities but who don't have an appreciation for the fullness of life ever come to power the result will be a society as restricted as they are.
Of course, people who don't recognize social problems will do nothing to solve them, either.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Over kill in the daydream nation

Well, the Iraq study group report is out and it's pretty much what was expected, i.e. that the strategy in Iraq is fucked. While the Bush administration is falling apart before our eyes certain questions come up about the nature of what we've been doing these past three years, in fact for the five years since 9/11. Even though people at the top may have had geo-political and economic motives in mind the evidence is adding up that the U.S. security apparatus, inflamed by the notion of terrorists, has apprehended and tortured innocent people for no good reason.

Of course torture itself is never for a good reason, but those arguing for torture have assured us that this was done to the worst of the worst, that what happened (and is still happening) at Guantanamo needs a razor sharp analysis involving the source of ethics to really be treated fairly. But beneath the calls for a very high level return to core ethical reasoning is the reality that many of the people in Guantanamo were caught up in random sweeps and have nothing to do with Al Qaeda. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time, mostly foreigners present in Afghanistan when the U.S. troops moved in and therefore thought to be foreign terrorists. Yet even with the evidence to prove this they're still labelled terrorists, still treated like torture advocates want to handle the worst of the worst, still denied counsel, on and on.

Could it be that the idea of terrorism and terrorists has taken on such a life of its own that the reality of innocence and guilt doesn't enter into the minds of those staffing Guantanamo, and their superiors? This certainly seems to be the case judging from the treatment of Joseph Padilla when he was moved from his cell to attend court. The pictures are out there, of Padilla with ear phones and cardboard visor, bound hand and foot, with guards outfitted like rambo, outfitted with swat gear. What are they expecting? That some secret terrorist cell will jump out of the bushes and try to free Padilla? That if Padilla can see and hear that he'll give some super secret signal to them? All this is evidence that in the minds of Padilla's captors the label terrorist has taken on such a sinister dimension that Padilla is treated with caution more fitting for a super hero than for a person accused of a crime. Could that be it, both in Padilla's case and in Guantanamo bay? That the fantasy imagination of what terrorism and terrorists are has taken over the minds of the people meting out punishment to the point where they're just fulfilling their own fantasies or delusions instead of acting in even the remotest way in touch with the facts, whatever they might be?

Wish fulfillment through torture and, in Iraq, murder. Self fulfilling prophecies, hostility interpreted as typical terrorist behavior. If Baudrillard is right and the Gulf War didn't happen, in that our image of it was stage managed to the point where the actual reality of the war was not apparent at all, then this might be the only war fought purely for psychological release, inflicting pain on a population that fits the demographic requirements of who the enemy is but that doesn't have much to do with the source of pain. Therapy through torture and murder, with no goal beyond it. What exactly would you call something like this? And you wonder why people on the left sometimes call those who support all this ignorant. What kind of framework do you have to have in your mind to act purely on psychological impulses without being self aware of what exactly you're doing? Not a very intelligent one. Torture, murder, ignorance, these three lead to another term that people on the left use: culpability stemming from all three of these things.

Do people who are getting off on their fantasies of getting revenge on Muslims through torture and murder have an out by saying that they didn't know what they were doing, that they were mislead? No, they don't. Ignorance is no excuse. People should have known enough to know that torture and murder were wrong, should have not been able to be mislead to the point where they committed atroctities that anyone should know were wrong, not just conditionally wrong but basically wrong.

Torture, ignorance, culpability. That is the reality underlying the fantasy world of those responsable.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Terrorist posters to go up in airports

Since TSA has proved to be, umm, a little "unsensitive" to things like Imams praying and even people with arabic writing on their shirts bording planes the likely outcome of this will be to amplify the sense that all Arabic and Arabic looking men are security threats and terrorists. It will make the oh so sensitive to differences American travelers even more racially paranoid about the people sitting next to them who just want to get to their destination. It's not a joke. The poster is asking American travelers to be self enforcers of their own idea of what justice should be. Proof of this is in the article where it's commented on that little known airports like those in Fairbanks Alaska and Little Rock Arkansas are asking for them. Do you really think that the good citizens of Little Rock will give much of a damn if the arabic person sitting next to them or appearing at the airport really looks like a terrorist or will they just figure that they all look alike anyways and so he's a threat?

I'm afraid of Americans

Good Bowie song that I've just gotten into

In other news Bolton is gone.

Not much else to tell mostly, except the normal sorts of analysis of our fucked up position in the world.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Now, maybe

After reading that story about intimidation of Muslims you can understand a little bit better why exactly I think that these people should be regarded as fanatics. America has been held hostage by these fucks for five years, ever since 9/11 happened, and the results aren't pretty: authorization of torture, involvement in two bloody wars...Someone has to come up and call bullshit on these people, call it like it is.

Pig races on Muslim day of worship to deter building of mosque

In Katy Texas. Can you say ethnic/religious intimidation? I thought you could. Property rights have been cited as well as a non-existent asking, pre pigs, of the neighbor to leave by the mosque. This is the south. Manufactured lies about a mosque, intimidation through pig races on the Muslim holy day, and bullshit lies backing it up like that the whole thing is just an exercize in property rights, the pig racing. These people are fanatics. They'd have the klan in there, if it isn't already involved. There's no reason these people should be treated as anything but by Americans. Pig races = burning crosses.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Abstinence: moral absolutism vs. harm reduction

Another one of those issues where the rhetoric of the situation is so far disconnected from the reality that the dialogue seems to be irreperably stifled, to say the least. What's at issue here is the difference between staying to a moral absolute, that peoplee should abstain from sex until marriage to ensure they won't get AIDS, and the reality, that is that people are having sex and will continue to have sex before marriage.

Given the reality, how can society stop the behavior from harming both the people themselves and society at large? Birth control, obviously. But isn't birth control a slippery slope? After all, if we allow harm reduction for one set of behaviors who knows where this might lead to. Harm reduction for murderers? Well, the Bush administration has it backwards: they assume that more people will have sex if the government makes itself pro birth control and possibly gives funding for birth control while the truth is that the horse is already out of the gate. Not only that but society hasn't appreciably crumbled since this reality has established itself. People aren't fucking in the streets, although that would be entertaining. Things are pretty normal. That says to me that concerns that officially approving birth control would lead to a slippery slope of the kinds of behaviors that harm reduction would be applied to are groundless. If sex before marriage lead to serious crimes we'd already have an epidemic. But no appreciable epidemic of crime exists.

This means that harm reduction of an already existing behavior isn't going to signal the end of the world but will instead prevent disease and allow people to take control of their lives instead of being burdened by unwanted babies.