Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Yee-Haw! Creationist science museum opens

(title link to the place)

Here's a quote (admittedly intended for children) from

"The Bible says God made the dinosaurs with man. They both lived peaceably, side-by-side, and were vegetarians. Neither man nor the animals were meat-eaters until after the flood. The terrible T-Rex may have become a meat-eater after the flood (and God's curse on the ground). The dinosaurs didn't live for millions of years before man as evolution says. Dinosaurs have never ruled the earth; mankind was given that task by God."

Dear Diary

I spent last night reading Derek Jarman's memoir "At your own risk, a Sant's Testament" all the way through. It itself is a journal style memoir of growing up gay in 1950s, 60s England, with excursions before and a constant interchange with the present (1992 ) and the AIDS crisis. It's sort of a history of gay culture in England during this time. Jarman was an avant-garde filmmaker, although his films are little known in the U.S., who was part of the '70s counterculture. He also was diagnosed with HIV in 1986. He died in 1994.

As for his films, what I've seen of them, they're very interesting in being highly symbolic with large elements of fantasy symbolism carrying the story.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

American Exceptionalism and 9/11, Part I.

In which 9/11 signals and end to American Exceptionalism. American Exceptionalism is a doctrine, starting actually from nearly the very beginning of the independent United States but gaining a lot of traction first after World War I and then after World War II, that said that because of some natural characteristics America was exempt from the general historical trends facing Europe. The reasons for this were variously given as the early establishment of more civil liberties than in Europe, including voting rights *with exceptions*, the absence of a feudal inequality *with exceptions*, the existence of vast natural resources with no previous inhabitants *with exceptions*, more economic equality leading to less class divisions under capitalism *some exceptions to this*, etc.. I put the "exceptions" in between the asterisks because I couldn't tick them off with a straight face.

Anyways, after World War II American Exceptionalism became enshrined as a national doctrine with reference to the Cold War. Europe was semi-socialistic and thought to be ineffective on the world scene, the Eastern bloc was totally socialist and perceived to be expansionary, meaning that only the U.S. could provide a force motivated by good ole free market capitalism and civil liberties that could counter the Soviet Threat. This specific idea, the righeousness of America vs. Europe specifically, was built on the war time belief that American Exceptionalism was what prevented the U.S. from falling prey to a mass fascist movement.

American Exceptionalism in the Cold War period had the effect of insulating the U.S. politically, in terms of ideas as well as general historical knowledge of current events, from the rest of the world, providing a kind of political vacuum that was filled with Americanist, for want of a better word, propaganda, trading on the founding fathers and the righteousness of American capitalism (sometimes tempered by the state). Realistically, this was a winners' doctrine, not something that reflected reality much. The U.S. was the only party in the Second World War that emerged economically intact. Everyone else, Europe, the Soviet Union, Japan, was significantly destroyed economically. Because the U.S. was the only game in town it was able to expand its economy significantly in the post-war world, becoming a mass exporter of consumer goods to Europe and to the rest of the world. This in turn lead to higher standards of living for workers in the U.S., without the need for extremely intense Union activity, than in Europe. The Golden Age was taken as further evidence for the validity of American Exceptionalism. Well, the Golden Age eventually ended, in the mid '70s, but the ideological arrangements started after the Second World War continued on.

The Cold War ended in '92 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but American Cold War ideology was extended, only now it wasn't Communism that was being fought but various humanitarian causes. In countries with white people and/or oil. Sorry, Rwanda. But that's a little off topic, the point is that the end of the Cold War ended the imperial ideology of the Soviet Union but it didn't end that of the U.S. History continued to be blotted out, knowledge of the development of the political systems of other countries continued to be non-existent, and knowledge of what the U.S. was really doing all over the world lay in a similar state of non-comprehension.

Then 9/11 happened and all of that went to shit. Suddenly, the actions of right-wing fundamentalists formerly linked to the U.S. through the U.S. funding of their side in the war in Afghanistan against the Soviets, reintroduced the U.S., violently, into history. It also, I would argue, signalled the beginning of the end for the ideology of American Exceptionalism and the belief that Americans could live life in a vaccuum in relation to the rest of the world and get by.

What have we seen since 9/11? A dissolution of the very things that were pointed out as examples that America was exempt from the crises that happened to Europe. The American who loved civil liberties, had nice lives, had a long tradition of democracy, suddenly rallied behind nationalism and the leader principle, approved of invasions of the civil liberties of their fellow Americans. I don't know about you but this looks eerily similar to events that people, including some on the liberal/progressive end of things dismiss as overwraught historical parallels. A crisis, a leader, blank checks against civil liberties, accusations of people being traitors for opposing war and all of this, you mean to say it doesn't look like fascism?

The error lies in thinking that fascism was the result of political activities committed by a small group of individuals rather than the product of a social, historical, and economic crisis that effected the societies where it hit on a structural level.

I'm taking a break, I'll continue this later.

Origins of a Name

Actually, this isn't boring. It's more illustrative than anything.

Plus, it provides something to do on a Sunday beyond listening to "The Pod" by Ween.

So...Good Times and Bad Times in Lost America, where did that come from? Well, it's essentially a more user-friendly rendition of "Times of Hate, Times of Joy", which is what the blog used to be called. Why was it called "Times of Hate, Times of Joy?"...that's where it gets interesting. They sound like two extremes, Hate and Joy, what could they possibly have in common?

Well my friends, in personal life I'm a firm believer that you need to explore both the positive and the negative, the good and the "bad", as it's conventionally known, and ultimately come up with a synthesis that transcends both of them. By letting all your emotions out by not just censoring yourself and writing things that are nice and happy AND by not getting completely enveloped in negative thinking I believe that one gets a more truthful understanding of things and self in general. This goes for exploring ideas as well. My ex cathedra opinion, at least the method that I've pursued, is basically to read everything from all over the spectrum, all the way from the most libertarian leftist things to straight out Nazism and Fascism in order to have a basically informed perspective of things. And, what do you know, I'm neither a Nazi or a Fascist! And although I look into things all across the board I don't agree with the "Neither Left nor Right" opinion of New Rightist neo-Fascists.

But the thing is, how do you really know that you're not a Nazi or a Fascist, despite everything you think about that, unless you actually read the material and decide for yourself. My basic opinion is that most people who do this will find out, surprise surprise, that they aren't Fascists or Nazis, but this opinion will be based on an actual understanding instead of an understanding that doesn't come from actual contact with primary sources.

As Robert Anton Wilson once wrote, he was taught in school (during World War II), that the Nazis were wrong because their ideas were wrong. And the only way to know that is to look at the ideas.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean and Ministry (the band)?

Well, I saw Pirates of the Caribbean III, and it really sucked, in my humble opinion. The second one was the best...But. I noticed something this time around: Johnny Depp's character looks a lot like Al Jourgensen of Ministry. Could that be where the character's look comes from?

Here're two pictures, one of Jourgensen, the other of Capt. Jack Sparrow (who doesn't get the girl, she goes with the about as interesting as sawdust character whose father is imprisoned on the ship...)

Jourgensen, 1992:

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Unintentional Hilarity

"Satan, Bite the Dust!" by Italian-American who's since become a fundamentalist Christian rock star.

This was supposed to be published before the below post, but due to a glitch didn't, which makes the reason for the below post kind of obscure. Well, here it is in somewhat the right order.

This video is, if Wiki is right, from '93. And yes, he does appear to be serious.

Carman's four steps to salvation

There is a point to this...

1. Admit you are lost without Christ and in need of a Savior.

"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way" (Isaiah 53:6)

"Jesus said, 'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God' " (John 3:5)

"For all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God" (Romans 3:23)

2. Believe that Jesus is God's Son and that He gave Himself in death on the cross as pardon for our sin.

"But as many as received Him to them gave he power to become as sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name." (John 1:12)

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shall be saved" (Acts 16:31)

3. Confess Christ before others that He is Lord of your life and that He has forgiven you of sin through repentance and confession.

"Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in Heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in Heaven." (Matt 10:32, 33)

"If thou shall confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in thy heart that God has raised Him from the dead, thou shall be saved; for with the heart, man believeth unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Rom. 10:9,10)

4. Go out and the sell the Party paper on streetcorners.

Ok, so the last one was my addition...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

So now all the Yazidis are bad?

From the post Liberation on Digby's Hullabaloo:

This is about the young woman whose death was captured on film.

"in the eyes of many in her community in northern Iraq, 17-year-old Duaa Khalil Aswad's crime was to love a boy from another religion. She was a Yazidi, an insular religious sect. He was a Sunni Muslim. To Aswad's uncle and cousins, that was reason enough to put her to death last month in the village of Bashiqa."

"I think what is most amazing to me is that this doesn't take place in some tent in the middle of the desert or a stone hut. These people are not dressed in tribal garb --- they are wearing jeans and t-shirts and the whole thing takes place in a street in what appears to be a modern town. It isn't the Moqtada al Sadr brigade or Al Qaeda extremists ---it's not part of the civil war although according to the article, many Iraqis are trying to rationalize it as such. This is nothing but barbaric patriarchal violence perpetrated by our alleged allies, the Kurds, toward a teen-age girl"

Wow, where to start with this? Perhaps with the absolute ignorance of all facts regarding Yazidi history on the part of Digby. The girl's death was horrible, but saying that this "is nothing but barbaric patriarchal violence" is bullshit.

The Yazidis, the "insular religious sect" that she belonged to, have been a persecuted minority in Iraq and eastern Turkey from pretty much the time they started up until the present day. Being Kurdish, mostly, as well dosn't hurt....but in this case the conflict is between a long persecuted religious sect and the Sunni Muslims, also Kurds, who have historically been their oppressors.

Saying that it's not part of the civil war or that it doesn't have some sort of history behind it, is bullshit. The girl converted to the religion of her community's long standing enemies. The community reacted in a terrible way, but not in any way that we haven't seen between Shi'ia and Sunni. Simplistic ideas are usually wrong.

Modernity and alienation

Building on the below posts, I think that although the Enlightenmnet has given us good things, for example Democracy, it's left life barren and devoid of personal meaning. This vacuum of meaning is echoed by the technological extension of culture that has produced an artificial environment around us that doesn't fit anyone's need but is instead haphazardly constructed with no view to the future or to the impact of the actions involved. This also relates to capitalism, but more in the sense that the belief in unregulated capitalism is a symptom of a greater problem, which is this stupid barrenness produced by the influence of the Enlightenment on culture. Capitalism itself divides up society, produces classes, dispossesses people, but it's part of the juggernaut of modernity, which is bigger than capitalism itself.

One of the ways to counter this would be to introduce concepts from before the Enlightenment, particularly from the Renaissance, which have a more balanced assesment of man, nature, and society, as a balancing and restraining force against self destructive modernity and the rise of the machine culture.

The Renaissance is good for this because it was the original birthplace of the ideas of liberty that the Enlightenment later took up. The idea of Democracy, the idea of Rights, started in the Renaissance. Somehow it got off the track, probably when the Enlightenment in later stages felt that it could go it alone and turned its back on the philosophical tradition that it came out of.

What we have now is abstraction trying to dominate a non-abstract world. Seeing people as basically beings that seek pleasure and avoid pain and act in a mechanical way to maximize their marginal utility, as the economist say, or to restate it, advance their self interest and self pleasure without any other considerations, moral or social, produces people that are disconnected from everything that a society that looks to survive into the far future needs.

Instead, the people at the bottom are pressured to give up their sense of solidarity and communal ethics which typify working class culture, and replace it with the ethics of self interest and greed above all. But even those who buy into the system never get far, if they're from the working class. The attractions of materialistic accumulation are illusory. They give the illusion of power over one's destiny and a false sense of importance.

On the other side of the equation, the pursuit of greed by the capitalist class above all else has produced the machine itself. The machine extracts value from the bottom and and redistributes it upwards, as well as using the value produced to fuel the extension of the machine, which is pursued in order to get more money and more value, which is then used again, ad infinitum.

The machine produces useless excess for the upper class while it drives society into the ground, creating conditions that will lead to the ecological and social collapse of that society itself.

A return to previous ethics, which included more of a sense of social solidarity, social justice, and harmony in relation to the natural world and to human needs is necessary to stop the machine from running into the ground and destroying itself.

What's important in life

Building on the post below, personally I think that the Classical philosophers, the Renaissance philosophers, and the Islamic philosophers have everyone else beat when it comes to identifying what's most important in life and suggesting ways to live close to that notion. People who came later, like Marx, may have had stupendous insights into how society actually functions, with suggestions about how to make society better......and in this I'm including people other than Marx who were Marxists, non-Marxian socialists, and Anarchists because Marx himself didn't write much about what the future society should be like....but they weren't in touch with the personal current of life . These other people were. The Germans in the early 19th century, i.e. before the notions of things that they're most known for today had crystallized, had a name for this sort of thing: Lebensphilosophie, Life Philosophy. This is opposed to other forms of philosophy which don't deal as much with what could be called the existential problems of life. They had some good ideas in the early 19th century, but I still believe over all that the Renaissance and others have them beat.

Lost Highway apparel store

Where you can buy things with the Lost Highway logo on it, i.e. the official logo from this website, which is this:

There's another design available, which is the word "Trabizond" with a geometric shape above it. That takes some explaining. Trabizond was the place in present day Turkey where the Byzantine empire held out the longest, lasting till the 15th century. I included that because at the time I was hostile to modernity and infatuated with the culture of Late Antiquity, as it's known. I'm still against modernity somewhat, if you define modernity as being alienating modern industrial capitalism and the social system that comes with it as opposed to modern rights and standards, which is what some people who say that they're against modernity really mean. As for Late Antiquity, I could talk a lot about that. The main reason I liked it was that the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire, never experienced a Dark Age, and so preserved a worldview that was rooted in Classical times, with an understanding of philosophy and of life in general that's been largely lost in the west. This has problems as well, but who doesn't occasionally yearn for an era that they rightly or wrongly think was less fucked up than the one that they live in?

Some authors have suggested that the Islamic world was the real heir to late Antiquity, in terms of philosophy and worldview. This is very true. Ibn' Sina, Al-Farabi, Ibn Rushd, the great Islamic philosophers, definitely continued the classical tradition and way of thinking about life. Unfortunately suggesting that Islamic philosophers had a better understanding of life than many people in the current day and age do is an unpopular position, politically, in the U.S. today...

Petition for Gay Rights in Poland

Title Link. Poland has been instituting anti-gay legislation and is currently trying to get gays removed from being teachers, so Human Rights Watch has set up an online petition dealing with this. It's up until Friday. The petition is in response to one organized by the right which was entitled "Homosexual hands off Poland!". This, in turn, was in response to the European Parliament condemning Poland for the proposed legislation as well as the general behavior of the government toward homosexuals. So add your name to the petition.

Libertie, Egalitie, Fraternitie

It might seem trivial, but the definition of those words is important. They're the slogan of the French Revolution. I got Liberty and Equality, but "Fraternity" always escaped me. Fraternity? What the hell does that mean? What does it have to do with Liberty and Equality? As it turns out, the meaning of Fraternitie is "Brotherhood", literally. Frater=Brother in Latin, so Fraternitie means something like Brother-ness in the literal rendering.

Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood. That makes sense. I guess it's important in that it sheds light on the thought of the French Revolution and makes it less abstract than it might be otherwise. After all, "Brotherhood" is something else besides a pure deduction from first principles.

Another reason why "Brotherhood" is so important is that the sentiment was part of the redefinition of people living in France from subjects of the King of France to French Citizens.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Adding "Feministing" to the sidebar

It's a good site. Got there via recent Majikthise post regarding Jessica Valenti, one of the coauthors of the blog who has also recently written a book entitled "Full Frontal Feminism". What impresses me about the site is that it's actually connected to the real world and not bogged down in theory and minutia. It's also connected to actual, as in the real world, feminist organizing, which is something that other sites can't say for themselves. Even though I'm somewhat of a bystander in this I know enough to say that actually orienting your work to the real world is far more productive than going nuts because someone used the wrong word or phrase in an article or comment. Naval gazing purism vs. a political perspective that's actually aware of the outside world, I'll let you be the judge of which is the more productive.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Blog naievete is over, at least for me

Not blogging but some of the patina of belief, well, hold on, let me explain.

It's only taken roughly five years, maybe almost five and a half if you date the start of blogging to roughly the end of 2001, when Tom Tomorrow's blog "This Modern World" went on the air, but it looks like everyone in the blog world is falling into their respective slots, and that those slots are somewhat conventional.

Fresh voices, yes, but fresh perspectives? Only moderately so. It seems as though with a few alterations everything is sifting down into the regular divisions: mainstream liberal, ultra-liberal but not progressive, progressive, radical, with some divisions in the latter. This is largely what existed before blogging, and the two most innovative realms; i.e. that of progressive thought that doesn't fit into mainstream liberalism and that of radical thought, are innovative because they were innovative before blogging started. Progressives, like Michael Moore, Jim Hightower, Moly Ivins, came on the scene because of the deficiency in mainstream liberalism regarding social justice and corporations. They largely resurged and invented themselves as they went along. In other words, developed something new. The same can be said of the resurgence of radical thought in America. Both in socialist world and in the specifically anarchist world radicalism has had to basically reinvent itself post-Soviet Union, in relation to socialism but also in relation to the new world dynamics that have taken the place of cold war politics.....which would be globalization. Some, ahem, radical theorists have also attempted to analyze how the current Bush administration post-9/11 has altered the political scene. The only real innovation beyond what existed before blogging is that the country really is split more between Red and Blue, and bloggers reflect that, but that's not due to blogging itself. But that aside, the point is that despite the explosion of people talking about things, what they talk about and how they talk about it is pretty normal.

Chalk a belief in something else coming out of this up to naivete on my part.

In the end things don't happen for no reason.

*on edit: no, that's bullshit. Plenty of things happen for no reason. What I should have said was that no new things happen for no reason.

**on second edit: liberals left of center are anti-war. That's new. But how far beyond Iraq does this new commitment go?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Wolfowitz Gone

From the World Bank. Well at least they have some limits, like having the U.S. install a former Undersecretary of Defense as their head. Now they can go back to financing enourmous dams that wreak ecological havoc and that have dubious benefits.

*on edit: and funding structural adjustment programs along with generally promoting neoliberalism.

Burroughs explains opiates

Why he used them for more than to get high.

When I first read Naked Lunch I have to say that it was the transgression in Burroughs' talk about opiate use that I really noticed--along with the homosexuality --and that I didn't think there was anything more to it. I thought that his opiate stories were simply glorified and purposely shocking descriptions of why exactly he liked to get fucked up. But, it appears that there was much more than simple transgression in his use of drug experience description in his novels, which makes perfect sense when you think about it.

Interzone, a collection of shorter earlier writings by Burroughs, in the part called "Lee's Journal" has a passage that pretty much tells what exactly Burroughs sought to get out of the opiate experience beyond getting high.

Following a passage dealing with the increasing amount of Control through bureaucracy in the post-war world he says:

"Junk is a key, a prototype of life. If anyone fully understood junk, he would have some of the secrets of life, the final answers"

He then goes on to talk about how light withdrawal from opiates leads to dream states.
By proto-type of life I understand him to be referring to the primal life, the primal slime from which life grows, to the basic lizard brain that deals with pain and pleasure and little else.

Although the passage is very brief, in the context it's meaning is clear: Burroughs used junk in as a passport to non-ordinary states of consciousness that can give one a different perspective on life and society, in the same way other people have used marijuana or hallucinogens for the same purpose.

An heir to Burroughs...

You might not think it, because too often African-American writers are pigeonholed into one category or another based on their race and their major themes and concerns, but I think that Ishmael Reed might be one of the most accomplished successors of Burroughs around. Reed deals with the African American experience in the United States in a very surreal and conceptual way, mixes in the fantastic, and uses techniques, approaches, and sensibilities, that can be recognized as very Burroughs-ian, if you can allow such a word. I'm reading, on again, off again, "Mumbo Jumbo", which exemplifies his style very well.

From's Publisher's Comments: "The Classic Freewheeling Look at Race Relations Through the Ages, Mumbo Jumbo is Ishmael Reed's brilliantly satiric deconstruction of Western civilization, a racy and uproarious commentary on our society. In it, Reed, one of our preeminent African-American authors, mixes portraits of historical figures and fictional characters with sound bites on subjects ranging from ragtime to Greek philosophy."

Burroughs...a perennial favorite

Found a new Burroughs book, which is somewhat odd for me since I thought that I'd read all of them, called "Interzone", which is a collection of short stories that Burroughs wrote in Tangier before starting Naked Lunch. It's interesting because it starts out with almost straight fiction combined with a little bit of satire and non-realistic, often comical, things happening and then gets more fantastic, less directly connected on a one to one correspondence with reality and more concerned with allusions to reality than with reality itself.

In my fiction sidebar section I've added Brion Gysin's book "The Process", which like many of the stories in Interzone is about North Africa. It's also hallucinogenic in its own way. Brion Gysin was Burrough's partner in crime and a creative collaborator of his. Look him up on the web.

Here's "A Thanksgiving Prayer", by William S. Burroughs.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

CNN and the 14 Words

Here's an excerpt from an article by the Rude Pundit, who I've recently added to the sidebar, about CNN's predilection for covering the disappearances of white girls to the exclusion of any other relevant news.

The "14 Words" are "WE MUST SECURE THE EXISTANCE OF OUR PEOPLE AND A FUTURE FOR WHITE CHILDREN.", and are a White Supremacist slogan.

It seems CNN is pro-14 Words these days.

Anyways, from the Rude Pundit

"In Brief: All the Little White Girls Everywhere:
Here's how CNN's American Morning started its 7 a.m. hour this morning, the top story, before wildfires and floods and war and other apocalyptic events. The pseudo-Soledad anchor, Kiran Chetry, said, picture of a cute little white girl, eyes beaming in that cute little white girl way, floating above Chetry:

"Some big news coming out of Portugal. Just within the past hour, police are saying they have a suspect in the case of missing 4-year-old Madeleine McCann. Madeleine snatched from her bed nearly two weeks ago while on vacation with her family. Phil Black following the story from Madeleine's home town of Rothley, England. Hi, Phil."

So, let's see if we got this straight: with no American white girls kidnapped recently beyond the typical "Dad wants more time with his kids, legal decisions be damned," now the news networks are giving us the news of a British white girl. Who was kidnapped in Portugal. Are you fucking kidding? Top of the news?"

***on edit, Welcome, Stormfronters...Weez a white supreme-a-cist ain't we, you sub literate fucks. Wee shall deefend thee waaht race frum thee ignorant negros who dun think they're better den us supe-ee-ree-or white folks.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Who owns the presses? Mainstream liberals be careful what you wish for

I say that ironically, and the reason for the irony will become clear in the context of the title link and this excerpt. The link is to a post on Orcinus by Sara about conservatives trying to portray the firing of Imus and the suspension and potential firing of Opie and Anthony as signalling a new McCartyhism. So far so good. I seem to remember people on the Ann Coulter right arguing that McCarthyism in fact wasn't such a bad thing. But the problem comes in when the piece moves from talking about how conservatives are overstating what's happening to how to justify it. Specifically, Sara of Orcinus uses exactly the same argument that's kept people who like progressive causes, have dissenting opinions in a leftist way, like anarchist ideas or like Marxist ideas out of the big publishing houses:

"Note, however: Not one of those people [in the McCarthy era] got on the public airwaves and made ugly sexual comments about black women -- which is the common thread that connects Imus with Opie and Anthony. (That and the fact that, also like Imus, Opie and Anthony were repeat offenders -- CBS booted them in 2003 for similarly offensive remarks.) But, as Dave has already explained, when you're standing on a public platform that belongs to somebody else, you're subject to having the plug pulled on you if you say things that either the owners or the listeners find offensive."

Indeed. Which is why people on the Left have had to arduously build an alternative system of production of literature from scratch while Regnery press can put out shitty book after shitty book by extraordinarily conservative authors and get them into any bookstore immediately after their release.

Yeah, seems that the 'Public Square' argument is the same thing that Rupert Murdoch used to try to stop Michael Moore's "Stupid White Men" from being released.

I agree with Ted Rall on this one. Rall has been very critical of the urge just to get rid of all the shock jocks just for saying offensive things, basically arguing that anything like that which is passed will be used against us in the future. It establishes a precedent for hiring and firing people based on ideological preference that, if established, will be used by Republicans as business as usual once the balance of power shifts again to a place where they can do whatever the hell they like.

There's an old saying that goes something like Freedom of the Press is for those who own the presses.

Comments are good.

By the way, if I don't respond to comments---both comments that are positive and somewhat positive and comments, which have turned out to be kind of rare, surprisingly, that are totally negative---it's not anything personal. My responding to comments varies directly with the level of other stuff going on in my life.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Anti-Comix sentiment over at Pandagon

Regarding the new Spiderman statue of Mary Jane.

What I'm focussing on isn't the sexism of the statue but rather the analysis of it from the esteemed Amanda Marcotte.

Yes, indeed it is sexist, and the response of women Comix fans is completely understandable, but what's a little unnerving is Marcotte's analysis of male Comix fans.

Let's start with the title: "Spiderman toy sets up legions of Nice Guys® for serious disappointment when they emerge from their caves and interact with real women"

Then the first line: "In an effort to shore up the feeling that comics fanboys never, ever get laid, much less lay eyes on a real woman, Sideshow is selling this collectible toy of Mary Jane from the Spiderman series, and sadly, it’s sold out. (Hat tip, emjaybee.)"

"Oh, there are so many things wrong with this toy. It’s pretty irresponsible to be pushing something that just increases the amount of Nice Guy® whining out there about how they can’t get a decent girl—aka, one who hand-washes your clothes in a bucket while sticking her ass in the air, all turned on by doing thankless chores you’re too good to do."

Wow, way to end stereotypes there, Marcotte. At first when I started reading this I thought there'd be something after the line about shoring up the feeling about comics fanboys not getting laid that would suggest that it's just a stereotype, but no.

Instead, we get the resort to the good 'old "Nice Guy" argument, which is essentially a way to describe people as Losers without using the word. Increasing the amount of Nice Guy whining---by Comix fans, is another way of saying that Comix fans are immature losers.

And Pandagon claims to be a counter-cultural blog? Sounds more like a survival of a mentality used in high school to ostracize people who have different opinions and interests from the mainstream.

Comix fans are losers.........people who listen to Goth or Industrial music and wear black are immature wimps.....people who claim to be Anarchists are just maladapted idiots with family issues.

I've heard, either personally through things like this being directed towards me or from going incognito and hearing how other people not part of these cultures talk about members of them.

Yeah, the idea of the Nice Guy coupled with comix, basically saying that in fact male comix fans are sexually maladjusted and can't have mature relationships.

That's an awfully progressive sentiment.

Update: A survey of articles, mostly written by women comix afficianados, about this shows overwhelmingly that the writers blame the company for making this rather than say that it confirms loser stereotypes about men who like comix.

Second update: With that Nice Guy business, which I could write a whole lot about, there's a confusion in that as some people use the term there are actually two groups being talked about. The first are people who really are sexually immature and therefore do creepy things; the second are people who in other contexts would be referred to as losers. Saying that those two are the same thing is a slap in the face to anyone who's been through highschool and belonged to a group that was ridiculed.

This includes gay men, or men suspected of being gay, by the way. So using "Nice Guys" as shorthand for people described by others as losers puts you in great company.

Other Pandagon greatest hits on the subject: describing the Virginia Tech killer as a sexually frustrated loser who was like a guy who beats his wife and watches TV all day as well as, and I might be wrong about this one, a pedophile and a rapist.

Jerry Falwell found dead in office at age 73

No word as of yet if authorities were alerted by a hooker who only minutes before had been sucking him off under his desk. Full story at title link.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Yet another Last Supper


Omen (Ave Satani) from Fantomas..

"Sanguis minimus
Corpus animus
Sanguis minimus
Corpus animus

Sanguis minimus
Corpus animus
Rotted corpus satani ave
Sanguis minimus, Corpus animus

Rotted corpus satani ave
Ave versus jesus cristus
Ave versus jesus cristus
Ave versus jesus cristus

Sanguis minimus
Corpus animus
Rotted corpus satani

Jesus and the Last Supper

as told with Zombies.

Via BoingBoing

Now the Google fucking:

"The Last Supper

7Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover."
9"Where do you want us to prepare for it?" they asked.

10He replied, "As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11and say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' 12He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there."

13They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

14When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God."

17After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. 18For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."

19And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."

20In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. 21But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him." 23They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.

24Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

31"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you[a] as wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."

33But he replied, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death."

34Jesus answered, "I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me."

35Then Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?"
"Nothing," they answered.

36He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37It is written: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors'[b]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment."

38The disciples said, "See, Lord, here are two swords."
"That is enough," he replied."

McCain: Iraqi government can't order U.S. withdrawal

by David Edwards and Josh Catone

[This whole article is really good, follow the title link to it]

""But the duly elected people's bodies, the U.S. Congress and the Iraqi parliament, say they want a troop withdrawal," pressed Russert. "That's more than a poll. Isn't that the voice of the people?"

"Well, the--as far as the Iraqi parliament is concerned, the Iraqi government obviously doesn't feel that way, their--the representatives in their government," replied McCain, seemingly dismissing the Iraqi parliament's ability to govern its own country."

"Later, when asked if he would be "in favor of a referendum amongst the Iraqi people to make a decision as to whether US troops should stay or leave," McCain appeared to contradict himself.

"No, no more than I should--would have a referendum in the United States of America as to whether Iraqi troops should leave, or whether we should be in or out of NATO, or any other issue. The Iraqi government is an elected government, and they are functioning," he said, implying that the parliament he had mocked earlier as able only to give opinions was fully functional."

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Turkey and Secularism

Been meaning to post something about this. Title link leads to a good article by Anthony Shadid about the politics of securlarism vs. Islamism in Turkey.

"One of the most secular of Muslim nations, Turkey is wrestling with a social transformation brought to the fore by this month's crisis over the ruling party's choice for president and the coming elections. Analysts say the secular, Westernized elite that claims the legacy of Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, is facing the rise of a more religious, conservative and often rural class seeking a place in Turkey's hierarchy, its voice often articulated by the ruling party. Critics say the AK Party has yet to play its hand: Fully enshrined in power, it will promote political Islam and chip away at secular freedoms. Others view the party's ascent as inevitable.

"It's a vehicle for modernization of the unmodernized," said Dogu Ergil, a political science professor at Ankara University.

Or in the words of Rahime Dizen, relaxing near trees on a grassy hill in Umraniye with her friends, gingerly sewing a border for a brown head scarf embossed with a floral pattern: "We were sitting in mud before."

Her friend Durdaneh Onge, 58, smiled. She raised the hand of her 4-year-old granddaughter, Ebrar.

"I want them to lead the country, and I want this girl to be president," she said, laughing with the others. "Of course! Why not? Everyone comes from a village. They were not all born as prime ministers and presidents."

The women listed improvements in the neighborhood, run by the party. They no longer wait in lines for bread and gas. The roads are better, and so is the water. Dizen said she thought pensions should be increased more, but hers was the rare complaint."

But of course since they still wear headscarves it doesn't matter that they used to sit in mud, they're still oppressed. Ok, ok, I'll quit with the humor for a little bit.

The idea of a secular Turkey is one of the most absurd ideas in the Middle East. Turkey's elite, lead by Mustafa Kemal, a.k.a. Attaturk, took the country that was the heart of the Ottoman Empire, that was heir to hundreds of years of Islamic culture, and tried to strip it bare, to the point of even prohibiting Sufi brotherhoods from meeting.

The script that they used, derived from Persian, was chucked out the window for an adapted Latin script using diacritical marks, something that didn't exist before the 20th century and which isn't the language that any of the writings from the Ottoman days is written in. Attaturk began a program of purging the very language of Turkey itself from loan words from Persian and Arabic, substituting Turkish equivalents, much like the French try in vain to do every now and again. They deported most of the Greek population from Turkey, which encompasses much of the area of ancient Greece, including Aristotle's birthplace, and which has been populated by Greeks since, well, since the time of Homer (Troy of "The Illiad" was located in today's Turkey). This was done in the name of national unity and forging a separate Turkish identity. Turks who lived in Bulgaria, Romania, and Greece were also repatriated to Turkey. I'm not sure what the circumstances of that were, whether it was forced or not. Bulgaria, Romania, and Greece were part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries, just in case you weren't paying attention.

Kemal declared Turkey a secular Republic, tried to convince people that their Ottoman past was backwards, purified the language, purified the people, and aimed at selling the former heart of the dominant Empire in the Middle East as a now reformed Western State.

This is what motivates the drive for EU membership as well. The utter absurdity of the heart of the Ottoman Empire joining the European Union is obvious to anyone who's aware of the history. What an utter insult to their cultural, religious, and historical heritage.

What the Islamists, who aren't Salafists, the more politically correct term for Wahabbis, but who are instead people who seek social justice through the lens of the cultural traditions that Turks in Turkey have known for centuries, that which their entire Empire was based on: Islam.

They have a right to do this. They have a right, as a nation that's been existence for centuries, that has never been part of Europe, to keep their cultural identity.

Anything less would be uncivilized.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Israel and Serbia

Or, a tale of two countries.

Two countries in the West sponsor ethnic nationalism and religious bigotry as part of their official national culture, taking them so far as to make them defining characteristics of their culture. Both have engaged in ethnic cleansing of Muslims. One is regarded as a pariah state, the other's actions are seen as perfectly legitimate. Welcome to the double world of Israel and Serbia.

From HaTikvah, the Israeli national anthem, where the ecumenical and non-ethnic exclusivity of Israel is celebrated:

"In the Jewish heart
A Jewish spirit still sings,
And the eyes look east
Toward Zion
Our hope is not lost,
Our hope of two thousand years,
To be a free nation in our land,
In the land of Zion and Jerusalem"

Let's substitute Jewish for "Slavic" and Orthodox for "Jewish Spirit":

"In the Slavic Heart, a spirit of Orthodoxy still sings, and eyes look east, to Bosnia. Our hope is not lost, a hope of one thousand years, to be a free nation in our land, the land of Greater Serbia."

Here, by the way, is the real Serbian national anthem. Notice the similarities with the Israeli one:

"God of Justice; Thou who saved us
when in deepest bondage cast,
Hear Thy Serbian children’s voices,
Be our help as in the past.
With Thy mighty hand sustain us,
Still our rugged pathway trace;
God, our hope; protect and cherish
Serbian crown and Serbian race!

Bind in closest links our kindred
Teach the love that will not fail,
May the loathed fiend of discord
Never in our ranks prevail.
Let the golden fruits of union
Our young tree of freedom grace;
God, our Master! guide and prosper
Serbian crown and Serbian race.

Lord! Avert from us Thy vengeance,
Thunder of Thy dreaded ire;
Bless each Serbian town and hamlet,
Mountain, meadow, heart and spire.
When our host goes forth to battle
Death or victory to embrace-
God of armies! be our leader
Strengthen then the Serbian race.

On our sepulchre of ages
Breaks the resurrection morn,
From the slough of direst slavery
Serbia anew is born.
Through five hundred years of durance
We have knelt before Thy face,
All our kin, O God! deliver,
Thus entreats the Serbian race."

One of these countries is regarded as a pariah state, the other one is looked at as perfectly legitimate in the eyes of the West.

Maybe I should put these lyrics side by side for you to see what I mean:

"In the Jewish heart
A Jewish spirit still sings"

"With Thy mighty hand sustain us,
Still our rugged pathway trace;
God, our hope; protect and cherish
Serbian crown and Serbian race!"

"And the eyes look east
Toward Zion"

"Lord! Avert from us Thy vengeance,
Thunder of Thy dreaded ire;
Bless each Serbian town and hamlet,
Mountain, meadow, heart and spire.
When our host goes forth to battle"

"Our hope is not lost,
Our hope of two thousand years"

"Through five hundred years of durance
We have knelt before Thy face,
All our kin, O God! deliver,
Thus entreats the Serbian race."

"To be a free nation in our land,
In the land of Zion and Jerusalem"

"On our sepulchre of ages
Breaks the resurrection morn,
From the slough of direst slavery
Serbia anew is born."

Go to Ha'Aretz.Com. On the side bar I see "JDate", "Israeli Military Surplus", "Show Israeli Soldiers that You Care", which advocates education in Zionism for new immigrants in order to integrate them into Israeli societ" donation site, (what if there were sites to raise money for an expansion of Slavic consciousness for Serbian conscripts?)worldwide Shabat times, appeals for money to sponsor immigration to Israel, Israel trips for teenagers who are Jewish,Then from the sidebar stories I see: "Dozens of rabbis ascend Temple Mount in unprecedented visit", meaning that it was an act of provocation against Muslims,". And this is on one of the most liberal paper's website.

If that doesn't convince you that Israel is a completely ethnocentric, ultra-nationalist, state extraordinarily partial to the dominant religion of the group that the state promotes there's this, from the Israeli government website:Zionist Organizations

"Zionist Organizations

This section includes information about the main Zionist Organizations operating worldwide, in order to support the Jewish people and reinforce the Jewish nation."

"Serbian Diaspora Organizations:

This section includes information about the main Serbian Pro-Slavophile organizations operating worldwide, in order to support the Serbian people and reinforce the Serbian nation"

Guess who doesn't have an official commision like this? France, the United States, Canada, the UK, Italy, Greece, Poland....the list goes on and on. Only Israel official commemorates ethnic nationalism on it's governmental website.

The fact is, again, that if Israel was located in Europe it would be regarded as backwards, extremist, and out of touch with the world community. Ariel Sharon would be in the dock in the Hague, if he was still alive i.e. not dead of a stroke, being prosecuted for war crimes against the Palestinians. NATO might have bombed Israel out of concern for Palestinian Rights just as it did for Bosnians and Albanians, and a "color revolution", like the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine or the Green Revolution in Georgia, would be organized by the U.S. to overthrow the Israeli state.Think this comparison is too harsh? You want concentration camps? What about the refugee camps in Lebanon? You want torture, murder, destruction of towns? There's plenty of that in Israel. You want an attempt to eliminate a people as an independent entity? Hmm....destroying the Palestinian economy, building settlements in areas that were ceded to the Palestinians....Forcing people to leave their homes at gunpoint? See 'bulldozers'.

The fact is that Israel is out touch with the rest of the world, an anachronism of official ethnic nationalism, religious intolerance, and racism, in a world which rejects all of them. If the U.S. wasn't sponsoring it, Israel would be regarded as a survival from a very nasty past that most nations these days would want to have nothing to do with.

By the way, let it not be said that I'm afraid of posting controversial opinions under my own name.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Amazing milestones

Besides coming out with my real name I've noticed that, via the magic of Bit Torrent, I now have Twenty One hours and Nineteen minutes of Psychic TV on my computer. I'm tempted to track down just a few more albums so that I have Twenty Three hours worth.

**on edit. Silly me, I didn't factor in the Genesis P-Orridge spoken word albums. I do in fact have over 23 hours of Psychic TV and Genesis P-Orridge.

No pseudonyms on this blog anymore

I've decided to go with my real name, whatever the consequences. So, as of now, it isn't Summerisle. It's John Madziarczyk.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

truly random thing, really pay no attention

which means people no doubt will pay attention. Unfortunately, the warning isn't an ironic statement. I just want to get this out on the web and indexed by Google because there doesn't seem to be another place where I can put it.

Don't buy "Tankhem" by Mogg Morgan, owner of Mandrake publishing in England. I bought this partially because it was recommended by a group named "The Storm", who purported to look at these sorts of topics through a very scholarly lens. Little did I know that they were concerned more with scoring points against the organization they split from than pursuing real scholarship.
Tankhem isn't just a bad book on the subject, but one of the worst books I've ever read. It's possibly the first truly contentless book that I've come across. This is a bad thing in light of how much Mandrake books cost on this side of the Atlantic. He essentially doesn't say anything but instead just gives you a narration of a walk through a temple to the god looked at in Egypt. There's literally no historical information whatsoever. Just an extended riff on how this temple looked. Then he adds, incongruously, an "Ode to the Cock and Fanny". I have no problem whatsoever with topics like that but the thing is just stuck on there with the proviso that he wants people to loosen up their sexuality. Why? He doesn't say. It doesn't connect with the book at all except maybe in the jokey spirit that he punctuates his non-content based writing with. My thought is that there would be no way this book would have been published, by Mandrake Press or by anybody else for that matter, if the author didn't own the company.

You'd get more value for your money by putting what the book costs in a pile and burning it. At least the flames would look nice.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Breaking a few eggs

The logic of having to give up a few rights for more security is something that gets bandied around a lot these days. For some reason the PATRIOT-ACT (it's an acronym) and NSA spying aren't being talked about as much in the media as they once were, but Guantanamo is and the reasoning behind things like denying counsel to inmates there as well as denying treatment in line with international standards is based around the same type of argument. After all, they say, these are the worst of the worst, people who if released are likely to engage in acts of terrorism against the U.S. Therefore, to protect ourselves, we can't afford to restrain interrogators from techniques that might yield useful information.

Immanuel Kant had something interesting to say about arguments like this. Kant, most known in the U.S. if at all for the extraordinarily dense and abstract nature of his arguments, was a dedicated enemy of Utilitarian ethical and social thought, which was at the time of his writing represented by Jeremy Bentham. Bentham believed that that which enabled the greatest good for the greatest numbers was the right thing to do, which is a nice view of things. Human beings are motivated to seek pleasure and avoid pain; doing what's right involves committing more acts that promote pleasure than inflict pain. Also good. Bentham was the principle proponent of prison reform in England in his time, advocating against punitive punishment, that is punishing a person through beating them just the purpose of rendering justice, and suggesting instead rehabilitation. This was so that when the person got out they'd be less of a threat to society, thereby increasing the general good of society and decreasing the general bad. Also a good thought, at least in the anti-punitive measures division. It was his position on this last issue that really got Kant angry, but he responded in a way that turned the whole thing on its head.

Kant was for punitive punishment but not for mindless revenge, and there was another difference between his position and random vigilante justice: he believed that everyone had inalienable rights that should be protected no matter what, no matter if a group of people carrying torches is after you for a crime you're supposed to have committed. Kant started out his critique of Bentham, in a preface to "Groundwork of the Metaphyics of Morals" I believe, by attacking Bentham's principle of Pain/Pleasure on the basis of rights.

What if, Kant said, you could prove that more pleasure could be guaranteed to society and less pain inflicting by punishing murder by executing several innocent people for every person murdered? It wouldn't just be a case of the murderer paying for his crime but of innocent people not connected to it also paying, which might lead a murderer to reconsider doing what he was planning to do. After all, if they're random people, some of them might be people he knew and cared about. A person might be willing to sacrifice themselves but not others. But most people would react to that idea with horror. Kant asks why that is. After all, it would make sense from a Pleasure/Pain perspective; and if we're solely motivated by pleasure and pain then the thought of it shouldn't bother us.

It must be, Kant explained, that there's something in the makeup of the human persona that we value to the point where we won't let it be severely abused even if it's for a greater good. That something Kant locates in the makeup of the mind and of the self, in qualities that because we all possess and can see not only in ourselves but in our daily existence we wouldn't wish hurt on--because we realize what wishing that hurt on ourselves would do to us.

In Kant's way of thinking preserving these essential qualities that all individuals possess is a more valuable good than any good that could be gotten by society at large. It's not hard to take Kant's reasoning further down the line: if you start violating rights for a social good then isn't everything thrown up for grabs? If torture in Guantanamo Bay is permissable to get information to stop terrorist acts then why isn't it permissable in the United States itself? Why not torture American citizens convicted of or suspected of committing terrorist acts, or of planning them? After all, what's the difference between the mainland United States itself and a prison on an Army base in Cuba? Just some legal jurisdictional differences. If the general principle holds for Guantanamo then it should hold for the United States as a whole.

The problem is that if you beat people into a corporate mass that can be destroyed in whatever proportion at will you forfeit any claims to humanity, or to living in a human society.

The story of the boat, or, a tale of the Afghan winter

One of the arguments against going into Afghanistan given before the war started was that many people in Afghanistan were dependant on foreign aid relief and that the winter that year was predicted to be extra hard. If war was going on the foreign aid workers would not be able to get in and the potential would be there for many, many people to die. Well, it turns out that the winter wasn't as hard as was predicted and that there wasn't an extreme humanitarian crisis caused by the winter. So it was an overblown concern, something that people on the left exagerrated in order to try to stop the war from starting, or so you'd think from reading people who pointed out the disparity. The scenario reminds me of one that a philosophy professor outlined in a class I was in a while ago.

Say you have a boat, or even better a steamboat. This boat has been cited by inspectors as being a wreck, with enough problems that there's a significant chance of it going under. It's also a passenger boat. By the way, for purposes of anticipating possible objections, the opinion wasn't based on faulty intelligence. Now, the captain of the boat has declared that he knows it's seaworthy because God has told him it was and that since this information is coming from a higher source people shouldn't worry about it. He somehow convinces the authorities that it might really be safe and takes a load of passengers along his regular route, which goes from one side of a lake to another. It makes it without any problems.

Now, the question is this: does the success of the voyage retroactively mean that the people who declared the boat unsafe were wrong? Would they have been in the wrong to stop him from making the voyage with all those people?

I think that this scenario echoes what happened in Afghanistan after the invasion, in relation to the potential humanitarian crisis which could have been created by the interruption of aid. Putting the greater questions of the invasion of Afghanistan aside for a second, is it right to invade a country knowing that one of the consequences of the invasion might be a mass starvation brought on by a harsh winter and an interruption of humanitarian aid?


In other Afghanistan news, it was pointed out that in a poll taken in Afghanistan an overwhelming number of people said that the U.S. presence there was a good thing. Let me put another scenario in front of you: a group of people driving cars, albeit in native dress, randomly pull up to a house. This is how the polling in that poll was done. They ask to speak with a random number of people in the household, trying to get a mix between men and women. Once they have people who are willing to participate they then ask, albeit in these people's own languages, as the polling people note, whether or not they like the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. How much do you want to bet that these people thought that there'd be extreme consequences for them if they didn't say "Yes, we approve of the presence of the U.S. in Afghanistan"?

From ABC News

"Yet despite these and other deprivations, 77 percent of Afghans say their country is headed in the right direction -- compared with 30 percent in the vastly better-off United States. Ninety-one percent prefer the current Afghan government to the Taliban regime, and 87 percent call the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban good for their country. Osama bin Laden, for his part, is as unpopular as the Taliban; nine in 10 view him unfavorably.

Progress fuels these views: Despite the country's continued problems, 85 percent of Afghans say living conditions there are better now than they were under the Taliban. Eighty percent cite improved freedom to express political views. And 75 percent say their security from crime and violence has improved as well. After decades of oppression and war, many Afghans see a better life."


""Yet despite these and other deprivations, 77 percent of Afghans say their country is headed in the right direction -- compared with 30 percent in the vastly better-off United States."

Could that be because they were afraid they'd be killed or otherwise hurt if they answered in a way that they thought wouldn't please the questioners?

The implication is that we in the U.S. are 'ole puddin' heads about our country where the Afghans, who lived under the Taliban, are more in touch with reality.

When I see 77%, 80%, and 75% I think of election polls in countries with one party states.

Another poll given by the same people, who conveniently put the results under a picture of a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan playing with Afghan children, has this:

"Nine out of ten Afghans (90%) rate President Karzai positively. Attitudes toward the foreign troops in Afghanistan are also positive: 75 percent have a favorable view of US forces and 77 percent describe NATO forces as effective."

90%, eh? One party state....military occupation...asking questions about what people think of the military occupation.

Immigration and Slavery

America has a three tiered racial system: white, black, and hispanic immigrants. Of course this is simplifying quite a bit; it doesn't take account of hispanic people who aren't immigrants, doesn't deal with working class asians on the west coast or in New York City, and doesn't touch Native Americans, but I think it's generally true.

There's a quote by Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy during the Civil War, from a speech he gave in the North before the Civil War started where he tried to explain the justification for slavery that sheds light on how this tiered system works. It isn't well known but it should be. Paraphrasing it, he said that because through slavery blacks did the most menial work in the society white people as a whole were elevated. He could have dinner with a mechanic, roughly a skilled worker dealing with machinery and devices of various sorts, and relate to him as an equal while if the same relationship had existed in a society where slaves weren't present there would be conflict between them. By taking the worst jobs in society, or by having your whole existence predicated on being forced to work the worst jobs in society, white skin privilege was established.

The same relationship exists today between blacks and whites, with blacks still forced to take some of the worst jobs in society due to institutional racism which has been built into the capitalist system, but there's also an element that wasn't present in the South during either slavery or most of segregation: hispanic immigrants who unlike blacks could be deported if they demanded more from their employers and whose lack of English skills made it difficult to appeal to either the government, which was racist anyways, or to groups that may have been sympathetic. The threat of deportation gives employers an advantage over workers, both legal and illegal, that wasn't possible with other groups. I say legal and illegal because being swept in raids is a possibility for all hispanic workers. But, in all honesty, I just pulled a fast one on you.

The truth of the matter is that although the rights of immigrants have been given more attention now due to the stupendous series of rallies organized by the workers themselves all over the country, it isn't like the discrimination and the tiered system just came into being yesterday. I said "in the South" because blacks are relative newcomers to both the Southwest and California. But discrimination against hispanics and the forcing of hispanics into the lowest economic register has been going on in both areas since they were seized from Mexico in the 19h century.

Hispanic agricultural workers have provided a nearly invisible subsidy for white workers since then, starting out in the areas adjacent to Mexico originally but soon spreading out over the rest of the country in areas where crops are grown.

Every group of people who are forced to work in the lowest positions of society under threat of governmental, vigilante, or institutional social consequences provides that much of a leg up for white residents of the U.S. Recognizing immigrant rights, in the same way that African American rights have, albeit imperfectly, been brought to the fore is a step towards dismantling that white privilege and constructing a truly equal society where everyone can participate.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Very good article about what Sarkozy means for France

From Doug Ireland, progressive writer and gay rights advocate(title link)

"A whopping record 82% of French voters went to the polls today to give an unambiguous victory to the autocratic, demagogic, hard-right nationalist Sarkozy, who campaigned on promises of a "rupture" with France's mixed economy and its welfare state, one of the most extensive in Europe.


And Sarkozy's campaign was marked by incessant appeals to racism and the fear of immigrants, symbolized by his adoption of a slogan used by the neo-fascist leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, "France, love it or leave it," and by his proposal for a new "Ministry of Immigration and National Identity," which was widely criticized by the left and by anti-racist groups for amalgamating the two concepts and suggesting a fundamental opposition between the two.

Sarko's speech tonight had accents of Petain, when he declared that his election represented "a break with the past," and that he intended "to rehabilitate work, authority, morality, respect and merit.” Another odious moment in Sarkozy's victory peroration came when he proclaimed that France would no longer be a country of "repenting" -- this was a dig at Chirac, who was the first French president to apologize for the crimes committed by the Vichy French state against Jews under the Nazi occupation"


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Chick, Chick, Chick

As in Jack Chick. Really, just check out some of his comics, like these: (I don't have to poke fun at him, he pokes enough fun at himself unthinkingly. That's the real thing that makes it fun---that he's so oblivious to how completely he's regurgitating society's prejudices)Ok, here's a few:

Last Rites--When this [hook nosed] Catholic dies, he learns that his church couldn't save him.

Are Roman Catholics Christian? [this one is just nasty]

Love the Jewish People.[This one takes some explaining. In it Chick says that the reason there are famines in Africa is because African nations severed their relations with Israel...and that the fact that the UK lost it's colonies in Africa and Asia was connected with it's Mandate era Palestine policies

Men of Peace? Muhammad ended up in the same place as everyone else who rejects Jesus.[where we see hook nosed Arab terrorists plus gratuitous insults to Muhammad and to Islam as a whole]

Allah Had No Son. The Allah of Islam is not the God of creation.[More gratuitous anti-Muslim sentiment, although not as hook-nosed as before]

Man in Black.Damien was VERY religious. But when he learned the history of Catholicism, he knew his church could not save him...only Jesus could.[In which an alcoholic Priest is told that the Roman Catholic Church is the Great Whore of Babylon] See a pattern here?

Gun Slinger [A professional murderer repents and goes to heaven, the sheriff that caught him doesn't believe in god and so goes to hell]

Personally, I think that Jesus is just as good as Sabbatai Zevi (a hostile article, though), and that Zevi's ideas (like finding redemption through pursuing sin) are a hell of a lot funner.

But, Chick is full of shit up to his skull.

Jesus Christ--Jack Chick publications

I have to admit that I wasn't very familiar with Jack Chick publications, only knowing what they were by reputation. But then after putting the Cthulhu comic up I found them. And found "This was your life", which wasn't that hard to find considering that it was on the front page of Jack Chick publications. Read this and then read the Cthulhu take off. I guarantee you that you'll get something more out of it, even if you've read the Cthulhu thing before.


Inspired by the band Fantômas I've started reading the French horror novel of the same name.

The band Fantômas is an alt-metal outfit/ supergroup from the Bay Area. They're really fun and interesting. I got their CD "Directors' Cut" on a recent trip down there. Directors Cut is made up of themes from Horror and Suspense movies reworked in an often ironic metal style that runs from combining elements of metal and Hardcore to Funk-Metal. It's something worth checking out....

The book Fantômas, man, it blows contemporary English detective writing out of the water. It is, in fact a combination horror-detective novel. The story is about Fantômas, a serial killer who is able to pull of literally impossible crimes and leave no trace, where the motives aren't clear at all. He's pursued by a detective, Juve, who has dedicated himself to tracking him down and destroying him. This isn't Sherlock Holmes.

For one, it's much more realistic. I always thought that the Holmes stories were somewhat choppy in their portrayal of events; plus, with Sherlock Holmes it always seemed that despite the vaunted deductive knowledge of Holmes that the crimes really weren't impossible to figure out. Holmes has this kind of smug satisfaction in his skills but partially that's the problem: Holmes lives in a regular, rational, universe ultimately. With Fantômas it's another story.

Fantômas isn't supernatural but the crimes he commits can't have happened. They aren't just obscure but tough to the point that it appears that something other than human is behind them. Fantômas has no motives, can get around the country unseen and unknown, can commit horrible crimes without detection, has seemingly infinite resources. People aren't even sure if it's just one individual or a gang or a gang controlled by and individual. In other words, it's a nightmare.

And it's in print! Here is a link to it at Powells.

The only thing, and it's really minor, really quibling, is that the Penguin Classics edition altered the famous Fantômas poster on the cover of the book.

I guess there were several versions of the Fantômas poster, but the original had Fantômas carrying a blood stained dagger in his right hand whereas the Penguin Classics edition has the character in the same pose but minus the dagger, while the cover of the Penguin edition looks much more like the poster at the top of this post.

Random Sunday Cthulhu goodness

A takeoff of Jack Chick publications

The rest of the series is here

Plug for the R.U. Sirius show.

R.U. Sirius is a writer who is best known for editing "Mondo 2000", the now almost mythical magazine dealing with techno-culture and counter-culture. The name is a takeoff on the various "Mondo" movies that came out in the '60s and '70s, like "Mondo Mod", which showed in a kind of exploitation film documentary style different cultures and subcultures from around the world. Mondo 2000 would therefore be a Mondo type magazine dealing with futuristic things. The easiest way to find out what this is all about is to find the Mondo 2000 book "The Mondo 2000 Users Guide to the New Edge". Mondo 2000 was like the early "Wired" magazine before they started doing things like cheering people who you couldn't categorize as anything but typical straight laced capitalists as being counter-cultural. I'm a fraud anyways because, in reality, I only saw one (or two? I don't really remember) issues of Mondo 2000 when it was still being published. Anyways, R.U. Sirius now has his own radio show podcast that deals with Mondo type topics----drugs, fringe culture, technology, music, sex, literature---and I'm totally addicted to it. For example, he has not one but two shows devoted to interviewing V. Vale from RE/Search Publications, talking about the publication and J.G. Ballard. That's mind blowing in and of itself. If you don't know RE/Search you should check out their website.

Another weapon in the arsenal of deprogramming yourself from the mainstream culture and getting yourself free....

Saturday, May 05, 2007 cards

I'm at a point where the things I'm interested in, topics, bands, movies, fiction/non-fiction, are so obscure that often the only way to get them is via the internet. So my main way of buying books now is via debit card, same as music and now DVDs. Not like I haven't tried some other way--I've scoured Seattle for places to get these things.

Anyways, I got a call from my credit card company a few days ago checking up on whether or not my card had been stolen. The guy listed the things, mostly a few book purchases and some coffees bought using the card, and I was like "yes, yes, authorized that". Now, there wasn't really anything different about my online debit card use except that a few weeks before I'd spent money to get the "Rukhana", written by the now-deceased dictator of Turkmenistan Niyazov, also known as Turkmenbashi. It's not Islamic fundamentalism, it's the expression of an insane post-communist dictator who was an ardent nationalist. I bought it as a novelty item, although after I got my hands on it my thoughts turned more to feeling sorry for the Turkmen that lived and still live under the dictatorship of the principles contained in this book. Some may argue that it's sort of bad or in bad taste to spend money on something like that that's pretty much just a novelty item, and I would halfway agree with them. After all, I didn't need it, either for scholarly purposes or even for general enjoyment in a non-ironic way.

But the point is that it was money transferred to someone with an Islamic name for a book by the ruler of a Muslim country....and magically a week later I get a call from my credit card company wondering if it was stolen. Funny how those things happen. Never happened before, even when I've made some stupid decisions about what to spend money on online which could have lead the people to question if something wrong was going on.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Revolt Against Reason

Revolting against Reason doesn't mean being non-rational.....

There's a concept out there, which I'm cheerfully echoing, that says that what's taught in schools and accepted to a certain extent by society as a whole as reason or rational thought really doesn't have much to do with the basic meaning of rationality, which is that something is logical and intelligable. Instead, what's taught as reason, which is expressed in ways like organizing how classes are taught, what are considered ideals that people should strive for, really is like pulling a punch: claiming to be universal it's really biased, partisan, meant to inculcate obedience and respect for the dominant institutions of society.

People who revolt against it are called unreasonable, irrational, dumb, anti-social, troubled. But the truth is that there isn't one universal Reason out there, with a capital R; instead, there are many Reasons, dictated by culture and by the position you're in in society. Not only that, but people can invent new Reasons, new ways of thinking about the world, new worldviews, and propagate them. Counter-cultural activities present one version of a reason, various subcultures have particular ways of viewing the world, that are versions of Reason. Why accept the dominant definition of Reason?

Why not stick to Reason as meaning a logical system of thought, delete the cultural baggage attached to mainstream 'Reason' which tries to get you to nice and respectful and mainstream, and instead insert in the vacuum whatever you want?

A world where people self-determine their own Reasons is surely a better world than the dominant one, which is constantly trying to assert itself over the whole of society. Trying. The dominant system of belief is never completely in control over the whole society, there are always exceptions and ways around it that it doesn't like, so asserting itself over society is a constant struggle. This is called the mainstream ideology trying to impose a cultural hegemony on the rest of society, and mainstream in this case is really a shill for the owners' side of capitalism. The ideology that has cultural hegemony serves the interests of non-workers by exporting itself as the 'neutral' ideology to the rest of society. In this way people who have less resources, who aren't favored by the system by being born on the other side of the labor-management divide, face a really hard time fighting back because it's not a class based ideology that they're interpreted as fighting but reason itself.

Something Awful does Grindhouse

Something Awful's Photoshop Phriday has taken on movie posters: create Grindhouse versions of regular old movies.

Check it out.

Strangely Juxtaposed Headlines at Huffington Post

Since HuffPo changes their front page several times a day it'll probably be gone if you read this tomorrow morning, but I'll point it out anyways.

On the left colum: "Chris Kelly: 2,177 Warrants Chris Kelly: 2,177 Warrants
AP: A secret court approved all but one of 2,176 requests by the government last year to search or eavesdrop on suspected terrorists and spies, according to Justice Department data released Tuesday.

Secret Court Guy: Sweet corn! There are 2,177 suspected terrorists and spies in America?
Government Guy: And their lawyers. And their lawyers' landladies. And the people their lawyers' landladies, uh, call on the phone. And people who buy plane tickets by phone when better fares are available on And short guys with tall women."

In the center column: "NRA Says Terror Suspects Should Be Able To Buy Guns" which, by the way, was earlier plastered as a headline on the site.

Hmmm.....2,177 warrants issued by a secret, unaccountable, court are issued for terror 'suspects', which the author acknowledges is probably bullshit, yet when it comes to the NRA saying that those people should be able to buy guns suddenly it's a whole different story! How dare the NRA say that people under bullshit suspicions of being terrorists are entitled to own weapons!

Moral story of this: in Huffington Post land monitoring people's phone calls unnecessarily is bad, but preventing those same people from owning weapons is a necessary sacrifice.

Just crossed my mind: I thought you people didn't support censorship?

In the last month we've seen some revealing trends: progressive bloggers coming out against hip hop, progressive bloggers coming out against gun rights, progressive bloggers now wanting to vote Cockburn off the island because he wrote something aginst global warming.

Ted Rall wrote a really good piece about the free speech component of this, which I'll quote:

"Behold the Gospel of the Economic Censors! The First Amendment remains in full force for them--at full pay--but scaled back for those they don't like. Snoop Dogg and his fellow gangsta rappers should be free to peddle their smut on CD-Rs on Harlem sidewalks, they say--but not to have it distributed and sold in stores. You know, where most people buy music.

Economic censorship perverts the axiom that the answer to bad free speech is more free speech into something simultaneously frightening and idiotic. The answer to bad free speech, say Mssrs. Brock and Herbert, is to deny its speakers a public forum."

So...when it suits you censorship is ok. It seems that siding with Alberto Gonzales is ok too: witness a recent Huffington Post Article entitled "NRA Says Terror Suspects Should Be Able To Buy Guns"

The most salient point is this: ""As many of our friends in law enforcement have rightly pointed out, the word 'suspect' has no legal meaning, particularly when it comes to denying constitutional liberties," Cox wrote."

I have to ask: is the Huffington Post fucking crazy? Seriously. They don't see that denying the right of people that the Bush administration and Alberto Gonzales have deemed to be Terroist Suspects, meaning that they haven't been charged with any crime but are only in that vague category of people under surveillance and investigation by the government, is an enourmous slippery slope?

If they deny people who haven't been charged with a crime the right to buy a gun what's to stop them from denying them other rights? Seriously? What about the no fly list? That's the same principle: people haven't been charged with anything, are put on this list that's extremely hard to get off of, and are prohibited by the government from flying on planes.

There has been article after article written on the no-fly list, but when it comes to a no-buy list Huffington Post says "Super! I trust the Bush administration!".

Makes me sick.

The reasoning is also similar to the argument that it's ok to spy on people's communications just in case they may be doing something wrong.

There's a reason that I locate myself on the libertarian end of the socialist spectrum and it's, well, basically, that I take rights seriously, no matter if the expression of them or even the thing itself is unpopular. Obviously much of the progressive blogosphere doesn't agree.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Inequality in America

There's a common perception out there that the inequality that's growing in America just involves the top 1% or so growing outrageously wealthy at the expense of everybody else. This really isn't true, but it's no doubt comforting for people who would be caught up in the net if the definition of who's benefiting from increasing inequality was adjusted to reflect the reality of the situation. What's really happening is that the top 20% of American society is seeing their wealth increase, while the middle quintiles, that's what the 20% bands are called, are swiftly losing money and the bottom rung is getting even worse off. In other words, it's not just billionaires who money is transferring to and it's not just billionaires that are the problem--it's much broader. This changes things in unexpected ways, because now when we're talking about a needed redistribution of wealth it's not just picturesque people with outlandish toys who are the ones whose income will have to come down for that of the rest of society, particularly that of the most needy, to go back up, but people who refrain from ostentatious displays of wealth and are more like 'regular people'.

Big displays of wealth are highly unpopular in the United States across all class lines. Unless you live in Beverly Hills the style of Paris Hilton and company is looked down on by much of the rich themselves. It's always nice to construct an other that can be attacked, but would that same enthusiasm be there if it was more doctors, lawyers, business owners, higher up corporate employees, people like software engineers, who were the target? Understand, this has nothing to do with any sort of hostile action except redistributing income. With that out of the way I think that 1) many people who would buy into the opposing the obnoxiously rich wouldn't be so keen on attacking 1/5th of the population of the U.S., and 2) that no matter if they're comfortable with it or not these are indeed the people whose income needs to be redistributed. They're the beneficiaries whether they show their wealth or not. It's called class. Class isn't a tiny group of people at the top controlling everything---that's what's known as a bourgeois concept, which basically means a way of looking at things that doesn't really pay attention to how society is actually structured---class means a broad group of people. And one class replacing another class in terms of power, or one class being demoted in power while the rest of society is uplifted, isn't a matter of a small group of people at the top moving in position but of a large swath of society making the movement.

I keep harping on the not ostentatious theme because I see this as not overly personal, although many many people have been personally hurt by the system in many ways, but rather more like, if you'll excuse the pun, business.

If a large portion of people in the United States are going to be declassed in some way, meaning that some wealth is going to be taken away and that they'll have to live like the rest of society instead, there's going to be a lot of decent, well meaning, nice people included in that. It's not going to be all evil sneering capitalists. That's why I look at it as just being business.

Nothing personal; I'm sure that on a personal level you're really nice, but in order for the rest of society to get back on its feet you're going to have to sacrifice some of your standard of living.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Longing for Fringe culture

And wondering what people have against it.

Fringe culture and marginal culture are terms used to describe the complex of conspiracy theories, occult beliefs, things relating to UFOs, other paranormal things as well as other New Age beliefs, extreme culture---from extreme libertarianism all the way to extreme authoritarianism, generally obscure culture/cult culture in terms of movies and music, subcultures on the fringes of society including some aspects of punk culture, things that are really obscene, and really, really, irreverant, drug culture, some aspects of computer culture, basically the entire Loompanics Unlimited catalog.

Although not everyone who isn't invested in the system is a devotee of fringe culture most of the people who are don't have a lot invested in the system. They don't usually encounter social snobbery which would look down, say, on a belief in UFOs, something that is pretty damn mainstream by now but definitely not approved of by elite culture.

Not to get off track but that particular issue has always puzzled me: what the hell difference does it make if someone believes in UFOs? What tangible difference in work of social interaction or personal life would belief in UFOs cause? None. Just another way to sort the social wheat from the chaff. If you're allied to the institutions of power in American society you look down on people who believe those things as either being stupid or downright insane, and non-belief in them, and interest in other things, is another part of knowing how to act at a cocktail party, so to speak, or how to eat wine and cheese and appreciate it.

It serves a sociological purpose, in other words, for people to look down on those who believe in fringe culture. What do people believe in instead? Why, the dominant elite view of things; whatever happens to be fashionable. If you keep up with the New York Times magazine you're accepted as one of the elite, if you believe in conspiracies you're beyond the pale, if you keep up with the New York Times magazine and believe in conspiracies you're dangerous. You aren't supposed to exist.

If I like, read, and talk about Cormac McCarthy I'm sophisticated, especially since he's an author that only people 'in the know', the right people in the know, are aware of. If I like, read, and talk about William S. Burroughs and am outside of the range of college/adolescence, I'm now immature. Because Burroughs is considered at best an adolescent pop phenomenon.

And so it goes. Thumbs up or thumbs down based on social preferences that have nothing to do with either you as a person or, in many cases, the relative merits of what you believe in.

It's a hell of a lot more popular to be a fan of CSICOP, the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, and to laugh at people who think are ignorant enough to believe in this stuff, and not only be a fan but to show other people you're a fan, than it is to say you like Whitley Strieber and think he has some interesting ideas; he's the guy who wrote Communion and is the original butt of the countless jokes about anal probes.

In fact Strieber has probably the best summation, by way of reacting to how people have treated him since he published Communion, of why Fringe culture as a whole is unpopular with elites: it raises the possibility that although they're perched on top of the intellectual pecking order they might not be correct in their knowledge; there might be some things that people not only not of the elite but pretty damn far down the pecking order have right that they don't have.

This, by the way, has been exploited by right wing politicians, who are aware of the class divisions between elite intellectuals and most regular people. But that doesn't make the original idea any less true.

Fringe culture is threatening because it challenges the dominant paradigm.

Mitt Romney's favorite book is Battlefield Earth...

by L. Ron Hubbard. Hat tip to "This Modern".

Wow. I had the pleasure of going through the "L. Ron Hubbard Life Experience Museum" in L.A. last was a, well,hmm.. it was free, crazy enough a concept to be interesting, an air conditioned building on a hot day, umm, and it's not like I'm in Los Angeles a whole lot.

I think people in general know about L. Ron Hubbard and most people know something about Scientology. The craziest part of the museum had to do not with "Battlefield Earth" but with a book that he started right after "Battlefield Earth" entitled "Mission Earth".

There was a special animatronic exhibition featuring the two evil aliens involved, who moved and talked about their plot, and there was even a hard rock "Mission Earth" theme song. But why they came to earth and what their evil plan was is the kicker. If I sat down for a year coming up with ways of ridiculing L. Ron Hubbard I couldn't possibly come up with something like this:

as my docent explained, the aliens have come to Earth to buy drugs in order to take them back to their home planet and enslave their population. Specifically, as my docent explained, they've come to buy "street drugs".

Don't take my word for it: Wiki's entry for Mission Earth has a paragraph on it:
Unknown to Heller, Earth is also the base for a secret plan put into action by the insane, diabolically evil Lombar Hisst to seize the throne of the Empire of Voltar for himself. Hisst has been importing illegal narcotic drugs from Earth and using them to enslave the entire population of the aristocratic heads of government on Voltar. By turning the entire government into drug addicts, Hisst plans to take control of the Empire for himself. Because of Earth's role as a supplier of drugs, Hisst decides that Heller's mission to save the planet must not succeed.

Intergalactic drug tourists. I can barely keep from bursting out laughing.

In, um, fairness, if...ok, I have to stop myself from. This whole thing is absurd. Jesus Christ I can't be fucking objective on this, what's the point?