Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Testing testing

Why the hell does this thing let me write sentences that are longer than  

Deerhoof, Deerhoof, Deerhoof

*incidentally my first post using the new blogger; I'm getting the service for free, so 
I'm not complaining*

Well, I kept on finding references to the band Deerhoof when I was searching the 
internet.
Deerhoof this, Deerhoof that. What's the big deal with Deerhoof? 

So I went into my local hip record store and took a listen to Deerhoof's new record, 
which just came out a week ago.

Turns out they're an Oly band, from Olympia, or at least they're on an Olympia record 
label 
("Kill Rock Stars")


What does Deerhoof sound like, what's the verdict? Well, they're like a downtempo 
band that sounds like it's been 
influenced by Stereolab and Os Mutantes, with something kind of indefinable in their 
too, like guitar and bass riffs from '70s horror films.

It's an interesting mix. 

I have to say, if they get it together a little more they could be big. As big as a non-mainstream band, (read: real music), can be. 

That leads me into the verdict: creatively interesting and somewhat innovative, but 
still not a tight enough sound.
They still sound sloppy. 

But if they succeed in fixing that then they could get get big.







 

Arrabal and Jodorowsky on the "Panic Movement"

From YouTube. Unfortunately, there are two things going on here which somewhat interfere. One is that the people making this documentary focussed on using film that showed half naked women dancing, the other is that, like many radical performance art collectives of the early to mid sixties, these guys didn't have a notion that what they were doing may have been exploitative to women in general. But, nevertheless, it's good for at least a sense of what they were trying to do. The film focusses on Jodorowsky's work Fando & Lis as well. Although though the film doesn't show anything it's worth noting that these performance art groups didn't really have a good conception of animal rights either...

Here's a wikipedia link to the Panic Movement, and this:

"On the theater scene, this search led Jodorowsky to create “happenings” with the director Fernando Arrabal and the cartoonist Roland Topor. These extremely violent shows were meant to release destructive energies in order to arrive at sustained peace and beauty. The group called itself the Mouvement Panique, inspired by Pan, the Greek god of fertility whose nighttime noises caused “panic” in the hearts of travelers."

which should make the below at least a little clearer.

Unfortunately it seems like something where people constantly cite Arrabal and Jodorowsky as being part of the 'infamous' Panic Movement but no one seems to explain what that actually was .

In fact, in looking for more info to put in this post I came across my own post of a few weeks ago that essentially said "Gee, if I read French I'd read Arrabal's "Le Panique", an account of the Panic Movement".

*on edit* Here is Arrabal's website and Here is a good article in French, which you can easily translate into English using Google, about the Panic Movement from "Les Editions Hermaphrodite".

Well, without further ado here's the YouTube clip.

Mussolini would be proud: 'Jesus wasn't a bearded lady"

Via Raw Story:

This is about a recent Fox interview with a theologian. To see that theologian's name click on the title link.

"Churches should stop raising 'nice' boys and, instead raise 'warriors' to combat terrorism. He alleges that schools are controlled by the 'feminist agenda.'

"You look at the culture, the movies, the television, and it always shows boys and men being these morons that a woman or a gay man has to take by the hand and lead us through the fog or we're not going to make it. In the education system you see the lack of competition. They want to eradicate sports. They want to get rid of grading. They want everybody to be equal. If a boy acts out, let's put him on drugs instead of that being [the nature] of that young man. We want to get him doped up and turn his testosterone, effectively, off," says Giles

On the treatment of boys by religion, Giles says, "The church doesn't help matters either. The church is known for raising 'nice' boys. I don't know about you, Steve, but when I was young, I didn't dream of growing up and being 'nice.' I wanted to save a nation, slay a dragon, something great, be a fireman, a policeman, save a damsel in distress."

Then he uses the money changers example. They always do. But you can twist Jesus' words all you want, it still doesn't make it Christianity. I think 'turn the other cheek' meant more to Jesus' philosophy than the aggression of overturning the money changers' table. But maybe our distinguished theologian isn't aware of that bible passage.

Sure, he might not have wanted to be a 'nice boy', but Christianity isn't for customizing in whichever way you want it to go. If he wanted to be a warrior, to save a nation in an aggressive way, whatever, he should disassociate himself from the Christian clergy.

Oh, and, by the way, the 'slaying the dragon' and 'save a damsel in distress' examples come from Pagan epics in pre-Christian Britain. That's great if you're a pagan, but they don't really have much to do with the ethos of Christianity.

YouTube 3: "I'm afraid of Americans" by David Bowie

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

YouTube 2: A Thanksgiving Prayer, by William S. Burroughs

Experiments with posting cool YouTube stuff: A COIL video

Sex with Sun Ra, by COIL. Video from Sun Ra's movie "Space is the place"

Cool shit: Echidne of the Snakes article on atheism

Or rather on the way atheism is argued by people like Richard Dawkins, which is to say, small mindedly and misleadingly.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The good things about protests

In the wake of Saturday's protests there's been a lot of bitching about how protests are supposedly obsolete in the new world of blogs.

Well, hmm..

Protests can do what blogs cannot, which is to say demonstrate that a significant number of people oppose something. For all the ideas of 'netroots' and the supposed power of the 'new media', I've yet to see anything that the blogosphere has produced that has the power of an effective protest.


People can delude themselves all they want, and bloggers can think that they're the most important force on earth, but that doesn't change the fact that although blogging has created a new media force, and has scored the occasional point with a story breaking into the mainstream news, blogging isn't organizing, and it isn't citizen action.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Signs of the times at the Huffington Post

An indicator of the quality of HuffingtonPost reporting could be the following: only a few stories about the anti-war protests yesterday, one focussing on Jane Fonda's participation in it, versus day after day of reporting from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Why the reporting in Davos? Because people within the HuffingtonPost social network are at the World Economic Forum, which is a meeting of the richest corporate executives and the most influential government officials. Regular people can't go to Davos. They can, however, go to their local anti-war protest.

It's interesting where the Huffington Post puts their emphasis.

This no doubt goes right up there with the article posted by some random person living in the upper crust Brentwood district of L.A. on how extended road construction at the entrance to it was an example of government waste (boo hoo!) and the article published by the daughter of one of the editors, ten years old, entitled "What Pelosi Means to Me", which no doubt should be entitled "What my mom told me to write about Pelosi or what I picked up at the dinner table about Pelosi and am just repeating".

Yay Huffington Post, a very non-elite media source indeed.

Blogs shaking up the mainstream media?

Yes and no. Beyond the really interesting idea about everyone suddenly having their own forum, valuable in itself, I see three areas where blogs can do things that parts of the major media can't. These three areas are more like three factors, factors that various sections of the media aren't good on. They are ideological bias, lack of voices coming from a particular perspective, and a general trend away from hard news and into fluff. When all of these factors are present in an area of the media blogs can really do a service, when they're not blogs can still do a service but it might not be as overwhelming as in really bad parts of the media complex.

Not all media are equal. I think that TV News is probably the worst, with radio and local papers being right behind it. But bigger newspapers like the Seattle P.I., the New York Times, and the Washington Post, are sort of the gold standard for journalism. Some magazines are equally on the gold standard level, and many that aren't are still interesting. It's the kind of bottom of the barrell stuff like Time and Newsweek, and from there on down, that really do magazines a disservice.

The problem that blogs are trying to fix now is a problem that people have been trying to address en mass since the early nineties: how to create an alternative media source for people who don't buy what the corporate media is putting out. This manifested in 'Zines, then small magazine start ups, then reinvigoration of already existing small magazines, then related things like independent music labels and indie films. Now it's blogging that's filling the same whole, trying to fix the same problem.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

More on Robert Brasillach, or "It's no game"

After reading Alice Kaplan's book "The Collaborator", about anti-semitic pro-fascist, pro-Nazi Vichy era journalist Robert Brasillach one thing has stayed with me that's extra disturbing. I've already commented on this blog that, general suspicions about the death penalty aside, Brasillach was guilty of treason and that his punishment, death by firing squad, was justified.

The thing that's kept with me and that's been extra disturbing is Kaplan's description of why Brasillach was impressed with Nazi Germany and became a supporter of it. Brasillach had been involved in far-right politics since high school, so it wasn't like there was some sort of Saul of Tarsus moment when he went over to Nazism, and his anti-semitism certainly made him sympathetic to it, but according to Kaplan the thing that he initially found attractive about it was the massive aesthetic spectacle of the Nuremburg rallies and of Nazi demonstrations in general. That and the idea of a heroic figure.

That's what continues to disturb me. That aesthetic spectacle that Brasillach was so impressed with, that he threw in his support over, lead to the torture and deaths of millions of people. It created the Brown Shirts, the SS, and the Gestapo. The thing that keeps going through my head, despite my knowledge about Brasillach's beliefs, is how someone could be so naive that they could look at what was happening in Germany and essentially say that the most impressive thing was how the Nazis put on a good show, so it was good to support them, like supporting them was on par with a night at the opera.

I feel like saying "Are you insane?". And this isn't just 20/20 hindsight; although the extent of the Final Solution wasn't known by people outside Germany until after the war ended, there was no doubt that this society was an absolute dictatorship that used violence against its own citizens over and over again. That a person could look at that and say, essentially, "That show in Nuremburg was cool!", seems like an added insult on top of the insult that supporting them itself is.

It's like watching a Mayday parade at the height of Stalinism, with the flags, the huge pictures of Lenin and Stalin, the tanks, etc... and saying "Boy, those gulag stories must not be true, this is great!".

The point is, as David Bowie wrote, "It's no game", and Brasillach seems to have been treating it like it was one.

Incidentally, the song "It's no game", by David Bowie, is a repudiation of the right wing politics that he'd been mentioning occasionally in public for years....

So it fits in many ways.

UFPJ protest

Went to my local protest today, part of the coordinated effort going on nationwide. I haven't been to something so positive in quite a while. To people who think that actual get togethers aren't worth it, that sitting behind a computer screen and writing is the be all and end all of activism, well, they should have been there today. It would have convinced them that they're far wrong in their beliefs.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The American people prove themselves to be one of the most ignorant and influencable in the world...

Just in general, in their response to 9/11. At least with Communism people were actually being thrown into prisons. While I think that there were opportunities for Communism to reform itself and become more democratic and open I don't delude myself by pretending that there weren't political prisoners or censorship or a secret police.

What do they have with the Muslim world?

That extremists like Osama bin Laden exist?

That in some countries it's traditional for women to wear hijab and that they're therefore oppressed by it?

That a regime like the Taliban existed, and is likely to come back to power in Afghanistan, whether we like it or not?

But where are the armies massed to invade the U.S. and to take it over by force, converting people to Islam as it goes?

Where are the prison camps?

Where are the chain of oppressive states viewed as oppressive by significant portions of the world because they're harsh, Muslim, theocracies?

They don't exist.

None of it exists.

You have some terrorists out there as well as some heads of state playing tough with the U.S. in order to bolster their image at home, but that's about it.

There is no world wide Islamic conspiracy.

There is no world wide organization of Muslims devoted to wage war on the U.S.

Al Qaida has been eliminated.

All this means that the American people have gone apeshit and continue to go apeshit about nothing in particular.

Lord help us if a real threat came on the horizon; all these people filling their jammies with excietment at being able to live out their World War II fantasies will no doubt die in paroxysms of ecstasy as they call for the atomic bombing of what ever place that would happen to be.

We've gone crazy over nothing. Yes, I'm saying it. Look at 9/11, people will say, but my response to that is sort of the quip that Stalin made in reference to the Vatican lodging a complaint against the Soviet Union: "How many divisions has the Pope?", or, in this case "How many divisions have the Muslim terrorists?", the point being that they can yap all they want, and maybe pull something off now and again, but they're piddly and powerless in the scheme of things.

And for that we've almost lost it all--we've had a strike against the open society here , shit, it's like someone pushed a self destruct button and we're slowly but surely devolving into a lower form of life.

Again, I'd hate to think what would happen if a real threat occurred or a series of attacks by a conventional alliance of states; there'd probably be executions in the streets judging from our response to 9/11.

And American society would contract to what the Europeans have always charicatured us as: rule by the most violent and stupid citizens over everyone else in the society.

That can't happen.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Why I read the books I do

Observant readers of the blog will have noticed that a lot of the books that I've been talking about lately have been written by people who in their personal lives were right wing, including some, like Hamsun, that were extreme in their right wing politics.

Quite frankly there's a reason for that, and it has nothing to do with politics. It's that the influence of the Soviet Union was so enourmous during the 20th century that their aesthetics of Socialist Realism pretty much became the standard for far left literature. Socialist Realism, dramas about the new tractors taking in the harvest and about the honor of serving Stalin by working extra hard in a factory, doesn't appeal to me at all, to put it mildly. I think that it's a canker on the body of literature, to put it less mildly, that's boring as sawdust. If a person writes something innovative and happens to be on the right then, what the hell, I'll read it, if it's good art.

The left hasn't made much good literature since the Russian Revolution. So you have to look for nourishment where you can find it.

I mean, what I look for in literature is the same in any case. I don't read Catholic literature, even though that's conservative and in abundance, if you know where to look for it. The people I like are idiosyncratic and somewhat on the outs with society.

Hopefully now there'll be lefties who write novels that will actually be metaphorical and symbolic, and not be about the valliant struggle to dig the biggest ditch in the world in order to show the superiority of Communism.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

One of the reasons that I like to write

One of the reasons that I like to write is that when a person writes it doesn't matter what literary theorists think. Don't get me wrong, things that are sometimes falsely associated with literary theory, like multiculturalism and radical analysis, are great. I'm squarely talking about literary theory qua literature. I like the idea that if I write, and if people read my writing, that I can break whatever golden calf of literary theory that's being held up at the moment as being the be all and end all and they can't do anything about it. Why? Because they only analyze literature, the fucks. Whatever they do they're essentially derivative from people who create content. They can write reams of literary theory, can write forest fulls of it, but they'll never be able to replicate a single work of literature itself by writing their little theory.

Even though I wouldn't consider him one of the fucks, Michael Berube can pontificate all he wants about "Rhetorical Occasions", but let's see how well he can write fiction, eh?

The post-modern post-structuralist flim flam howdy doodie de rigeur bullshit cannot produce one iota of literature, unless it's a masturbation session created especially for the mutual admiration and syncophant society of academics and the lackey's they sometimes depend on, particularly if they're 'avant-garde' college literature jocks.

Who the fuck cares about Donald Barthelme?

Blog for Choice--better late than never

All right, what argument can a man make for the right to abortion? Well, beyond what at least I consider the obvious--health of the mother, the mother's choice whether or not she wants to become pregnant and carry it to term, with all of the ramifications of that decision, it being a way for women and not men to have control of women's bodies, my philosphical reason for supporting abortion comes from Peter Singer, the modern day utilitarian ethical philosopher.

Singer made the argument that you can't assign the value of personhood to things that can't live outside of the body on their own. And if that's not possible you can't say that you're eliminating a human being if you abort a foetus that is not viable. There are later term abortions too, but those are much rarer and involve other complications usually. It's not like women just decide in their second trimester that they want to have an abortion.

Singer's basic point is that you can't put an absolute value on human life. I believe he supports legalized euthanasia too.

This has shocked some people but it's just restating in other terms what people already recognize in practice. If you're not the Catholic Church it's unlikely that you believe that life begins at conception. I think most people would realize that there's some difference between a non-implanted fertilized egg or a zygote and either a foetus or a human being. And the argument that foetusses should be saved because there's the potential that they can become human beings and possess humaness doesn't stand. It doesn't matter what the potential is. There's a lot of things that exist in potential. Doesn't mean that preventing that potential from happening is necessarily wrong.

That's where the viability debate comes in. But I'm getting off track.

Back to human life and the value of human life. With euthanasia or just letting very sick people die, I think that if people were actually confronted with real life examples of these situations, persistent vegetative states, the choice to either to go ahead with invasive surgery on terminally ill patients or not to, the decision to just let a person who has lived a long life to die in peace instead of perpetually prolonging life to the detriment of the person, people would admit that, yes, in these cases putting an absolute value on human life isn't the best thing to do.

But don't say that you support not placing an absolute value on human life or else you'll be called all sorts of names. This position doesn't mean condoning torture or murder or anything else, but some people act like it does.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Interesting Japanese thing

It turns out that Japan has drinks that contains nicotine and high amounts of caffeine. They're called "Genki drinks" and are sold in little glass bottles.

Amen to that: Amitabh Pal sets D'Souza straight

He also brings up something that's often forgotten: "It is true, as D’Souza points out, that bin Laden has, on occasion, decried the moral decline of America. However, bin Laden’s main grouse with the United States has been its foreign policy, ranging from its stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia and support of Israel to the sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s and support of pro-Western autocracies. (“Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden,” edited by Duke University Professor Bruce Lawrence, is a useful compendium of bin Laden’s public declarations over the years.)"

You've got it, U.S. foreign policy.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hillary Clinton is in

In relation to running for the Presidency. Just what we need, a Democratic Leadership Council neo-liberal centrist who's willing to accomodate herself to any position.

The Dirty Hippie reads Wodehouse

So there I was, eating a late breakfast at a '50s style pseudo-dive, discussing P.G. Wodehouse's book "The Code of the Woosters", outlining the plot, with my ratty hair and torn jeans, looking all the world like a Dirty Hippie, and the irony hit me.

Wodehouse writes satirical stories about Bertie Wooster, Jeeves the Butler, and their assorted friends and relatives, and here I was outlining the intricate plot of Bertie being pressured to steal a cow shaped cream container from the competitor in silver collecting of his Aunt Dahlia's husband Tom.

What the fuck?

It's a very funny book, but anyone observing me would half think that I spend all my time hitting the bong and listening to reggae or something.

No, I read Wodehouse....

Friday, January 19, 2007

Question for hate mailers: why am I a Judas?

I'm genuinely puzzled by this since I've never been a Bush supporter or on the Right.

Jenna Bush writes a book

It's five words long and the words aren't even arranged in gramatical order.

Thoughts on England, America

The below post touches on something important. I know that in the "American Tropicalia" section there are some harsh words reserved for England, but in actuality I don't have any hostility to the people of England or to the English tradition of philosophy, history, literature, but in point of fact I think that the U.S. is over reliant on it.
I think that the U.S. should be open to the history, culture, etc... of all of Europe and the rest of the world and that linguistic and historical ties shouldn't determine what we're open to. That's in relation to the rest of the world.

In relation to the inside of the U.S. itself I think that this sort of mono-culture, which ultimately comes from the English-Americans and from England, should be broken up and that the culture of the U.S. should reflect the people who actually live in the U.S., i.e. blacks, hispanics, Native Americans, Asians, as well as ethnic European Americans.

What they mean is co-opting them....

Via Digby.

"The country's history as an immigrant nation and its "experience with bringing in various groups and giving them, frankly, more opportunity than they might have elsewhere has helped us immeasurably" in dampening extremism, Hayden said."

Actually, for an immigrant nation the U.S. is remarkably intolerant. Compare the U.S.'s notion of a 'melting pot', with Canada's notion of 'A nation of nations'. What they mean is that in the U.S., if you conform to the dominant culture, you can make money. If you're an assimilated East Asian you can make money. But heaven forbid you want to preserve too much of your own culture, either in your style of dress or in your habits or anything else. That, my friends, is a commercial liability in a place that, despite being an 'immigrant society', is still dominated by the same ethnic group, people who are Anglo, that controlled society before the waves of immigration started.

Yes, more opportunity at the price of making people 'Little English-Americans', as a parallel to the 'Little Frenchmen' that France wanted to turn its colonial subjects into.

They could have 'greater opportunity' too.

Knut Hamsun's "Mysteries"

For some reason the Powells website is down so I put the Amazon.com link on the title.

What to say about Mysteries? It's a deceptivley simple story: a man appears in a small town in Norway, goes to a rooming house, and begins to live in town. From the outside he appears to be eccentric, from the inside, the narration of stream of consciousness, he's insane. But he's insane in a special way. That is, he's not totally out of touch with reality but sort of sees reality as being amplified. The people in town don't realize this about him.

You don't find out his reason for coming to the town until the very end. This is a spoiler, a big one, since much of the story depends on the reader not knowing this, but here it goes:

This is a person who has rejected society and has decided to come to the life of a little town that he sees as 'purer' than the life of the city or of civilization in general. He idealizes it and his ingratiation with the members of the town comes from his admiration of them as pure types, untouched by the corrupting influences of the city. His dream, alternately, is to either find a pure woman who can make him a 'great man' or failing that to retreat further into the country with his companion and live the pure life there in the wilderness.

But the difference between the notion of purity advanced in the book and the notion of purity and of unspoiled life advanced by Romantic writers in the early to mid 19th century is that for Hamsun purity doesn't imply everything being nice and wonderful, neither does his idea of nature, instead, his purity also has aspects that are horrible and dark. People aren't just kind townsfolk; they also have the darkness and light of evverything else. Nature isn't just nice birds or whatever, it also has a terribleness. The thing is that in his idea of Nature, Hamsun praises this terribleness as being good and in his conception of ideal human life he fuses the romantic ideal of a pure way of life with the sort of awareness of a terribleness at the heart of human life, and praises both of them.

*****

Food for thought; I don't want to trivialize it since it's a truly great book, but it tires one out to read Nagel's, that is the man who comes to town, manic diatribes against society. I think I'll read some P.G. Wodehouse now.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

FISA Court

Bush has moved domestic wiretapping to the FISA cuort. Of course, this is a special court that's essentially a rubber stamp for the executive branch. Project Censored did a piece on them a while back.

From "In These Times", 1/28/06

"First, they argue that FISA courts were not adequate. But James Bamford, the foremost civilian authority on the NSA and author of two books, Body of Secrets and The Puzzle Palace, disagrees: “The FISA court is as big a rubber stamp as you can possibly get within the federal judiciary.” Indeed, from 1979 through 2004, the NSA granted 18,761 warrants and rejected five. In 2004, 1,754 warrants were approved.

He told the Baltimore Sun, “Most of the people I’ve dealt with there had no idea this was going on, and they were very shocked and disappointed that suddenly they’re back to where they were 30 years ago, dealing with questions of domestic spying. … The eventual outcome will be a special prosecutor. … Of course it’s an impeachable offense.”"

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A good thing for the Edwards campaign

Whatever you think about it. He's hired David Bonior as his campaign manager. Bonior is a firebrand Dem from Macomb County, Michigan, who was the Minority Whip for a long time. I basically grew up in Macomb County, and I know that Bonior is about as hardcore as they come. Good for the Edwards campaign.

Afghanistan and Iraq-same thing

From a tristero post on Digby

"Many people who knew Bush/Iraq was a terrible idea from the start supported the Afghan war and the 1991 war against Saddam.

To be blunt, it is the height of intellectual incompetence to describe those of us who knew Bush/Iraq would be a disaster in such simplistic terms. To do so is to make the same kind of category errors that led to the mistake of supporting the war in the first place and to dismissing those of us who were alarmed as the standard issue leftist anti-war crowd"

Yeah, except for one small fact: neither the Afghanistan War nor the '91 Gulf War was in any way justified. This goes back to the whole 'context' thing discussed below. If you think that Afghanistan was justified because of an Al-Qaida presence there maybe you should look into the case of the people arrested in Germany in connection with 9/11. They found, in Germany, the actual terrorist cell that plotted 9/11. They arrested them. Now they're on trial. I *think* one just lost an appeal, if I remember correctly. And experts on terrorism have testified that Al-Qaida wasn't this monolithic, top down, organization, but a loose confederation with Osama bin Laden at the top as a pay master and general logistics person.

What does this mean?

Well, it means that the people most responsable for 9/11 have been caught and brought to justice, without an invasion, without even a police action, without a democracy melting down because of the threat of terrorism. Instead, police work in Germany was able to track these people down.

Sure, Osama bin Laden was/is out there, but international police cooperation could have easily froze funds and investigated suspected Al-Qaida in order to break up the organization. It wouldn't have mattered if OBL was hiding in a cave in Afghanistan or not. Instead, through this war, which was completely unjustified, we turned Osama bin Laden into a media celebrity throughout the entire world, Muslim and otherwise. People might point to the bin Laden videos and say "Aha! This proves that he was behind 9/11!" but, well, this was an opportunity for extreme self promotion on the part of bin Laden.

But the point is that for being a war where the supposed objective was to get the people responsable for 9/11 there sure hasn't been any mention in the U.S. of actual 9/11 plotters and financiers being apprehended in Europe. Funny, that.

I wonder how far supporters of the Afghan war are far to go? Do they endorse the "Axis of Evil" speech? Do they support the color coded Terror Alerts?

Where do they draw the line between disapproving of Bush and opposing the Iraq war, on the one hand, and supporting Afghanistan?

In my estimation there's really no line between disapproving of Bush and disapproving of Afghanistan. People who were paying attention before 9/11 could recognize the media manipulation and carefully stage managed responses that Bush initiated as being part of the standard operating procedure of the administration, not as being some patriotic break from the status quo or some sort of noble streak of goodness breaking through.

So I guess I ask, if you support Afghanistan, at what point do you locate Bush not being a manipulative asshole and instead being a basically good guy?

Amen to that: Dennis Petrin on the liberal/radical blogging controversy.

"Where to start?

First of all, Gilliard's concept of American radicalism and its effect on this country's politics is not only blinkered, it's simplistic bullshit. The social movements of the 60s, like any attempt to force political change, boasted both successes and failures. But it's the failures that we are most reminded of, and Gilliard sounds no different on this front than those rightwingers, primarily from the Wall Street Journal and the American Spectator, that I used to debate back in the day. "The Sixties were a bust!" the likes of John Fund or Terry Eagleton would tell me, their forefingers jabbing at the air for emphasis. "


"It's easy to see why reactionaries hate the Sixties, and have spent their political lives trying to turn back the clock. But for liberals like Gilliard to spit on the same movements makes you wonder what exactly he and his fellow Dems have in mind for tomorrow, apart from electing more Dems, that is."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Anyways, yeah.

The blogosphere is great but at some time we're going to have to reckon that there are bigger problems than the immediate and that, ironically, to really solve the problems of the immediate we'll also have to address the bigger problems that the immediate problems are manifestations of. Wow, how convoluted.

Ok, what I mean is that wars don't just happen. The Iraq war is not just a manifestation of Bush's irrationality but is linked to a century or more of geo-political and imperial interference in the rest of the world. If you oppose the Iraq war because you think it's about oil, great, because it probably was, but just opposing the Iraq war and opposing the commercial interests motivating the drumbeat for war won't prevent war from happening again, for the same sorts of reasons. The same problem will keep coming up unless we confront the issue of money and industry's influence on the government and on foreign policy, fight to restrict corporate power, and oppose free market capitalism. Also extend democracy, take the decisionmaking power of government back, get it in some way under the check of the people at large.

All these things have to happen, big, systemic, change, in order for the problems that we're opposing in the immediate to not come back in another 5 or 10 years.


Corporate power and people power are in a zero sum game, in my estimation. Cutting back corporate power necessarily implies some sort of socialism. So on top of not letting corporate dictates control state decisionmaking a great way to help to ensure peace is to get some sort of socialism.

Amen.

Sermon over.

Point is, we need a deeper perspective and a deeper agenda than just the immediate.

Comments from "A letter to Steve Gilliard" on MaxSpeak!

The thing itself is a good article on the difference between a so-called "Netroots" campaign and actually doing something that effects power in a direct way. As Max said of dKos, bless its heart, in comparison to United for Peace and Justice how many divisions does Kos have?

But in the comments section one guy made a good point about the ahistoricism of the left blogosphere. People don't even seem to remember Globalization, and don't seem to have much of an opinion on the things that happened in '92. I've noticed it myself, but I had an experience that makes me think that it's really ignorance on the part of bloggers who really have never been radicals, who don't have a radical analysis of things, and who just got on board because of Bush and later the Iraq war.

My experience has to do with the Kucinich campaign in a state that shall remain nameless. I volunteered, got involved, and the people who started it talked about how they really weren't political until the Iraq war started. This came up time and again, and was a point they presented in their favor, i.e. they weren't politicos. Yet, despite people trying to move the campaign to the left it turned into less of a serious campaign than I had hoped for. One of the reasons, looking back, is that the people who were leading it weren't in fact political people and so took it in a more mainstream direction than it would have gone if people who were more involved had been in charge.

The point being, don't underestimate people's socialization in relation to how they cover politics or, alternately, leave some major political issues out.

While it's great that many bloggers got really upset with the 2000 elections and the illegitimacy of Bush and that many people were radicalized in relation to the buildup to the Iraq war, it doesn't necessarily follow that these people are everything that progressives would expect. Some of them, maybe many of them, are really single or two issue people, who oppose Bush and hate what he's been doing and what he's doing but really don't have any greater thoughts about society, not even about things like social justice on a mass scale.

We should recognize that while blogs are a great tool for communication blogging doesn't necessarily imply that a person is committed to greater social change.

Great Orcinus article on "Sundown Towns" by James Loewen

Dealing with towns in the U.S. that by vote decided to not let blacks either live there at all or declared that blacks couldn't stay there after sundown, which turns out to actually have been a very common thing in the North up to a few decades ago.

I suppose it would be insufferable egoism to point out that I covered "Sundown Towns" almost a year ago on this blog, naming it one of the most essential books I'd read in a long time. Maybe I should have put it on the sidebar for proof.

Oh well, at least it's getting some more attention via Orcinus.

Incidentally, looking through the new philosophy books available at the UW bookstore yesterday I noticed one where tassle of philosophers presented papers on what they considered to be a potentially new and exciting way of looking at philosophical problems: Romanticism.

I wonder where I heard someone talking about Romanticism as being a way to get beyond where we are now? Oh yeah, I said it.

I wish I could read French: Arrabal

Because I'd "Le Panique" by Fernando Arrabal. Arrabal is a playright, poet, novelist, screen writer, who uses Absurdist techniques and techniques from Surrealism. Le Panique is a chronicle of the "Panic Movement", something he started with Alejandro Jodorowsky, and which sought to reinvigorate art, particularly performance art, by using concepts derived from Artaud and Bataille.

In fact, I can't understand why something like the Panic movement doesn't exist now; Bataille and Artaud have never been more popular in America.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Did Brasillach deserve to die? The judgment

I wrote a few days ago that I was reading "The Collaborator: the Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach" by Alice Kaplanand that I'd get back to you about whether or not he deserved to die.
Brasillach was a collaborator with the Nazi Occupation of France, not just Vichy, which would have been bad enough, and his collaboration consisted of writing pro-German anti-Semitic and denunciatory articles for the leading French collaboration newspaper, "Je Suis Partout". The question was whether or not his intellectual collaboration was enough to justify his death; since finishing I think that the question should be whether or not his intellectual collaboration was enough to justify his guilt. Kaplan makes a good case that the death penalty debate distorts what the issues are.

It turns out that Brasillach's wasn't the ideal case for determining what responsability an author has for his words that I thought it was. The reason is simple: He wasn't just writing articles echoing the German line, he was naming names of resistence fighters and of Jews who were hiding from the Nazis, giving their whereabouts, and telling what names they were now going by. Also, he actively denounced fellow Army officers who were Jewish when he was in a POW camp after the fall of France. He also advocated sending Jewish children to concentration camps along with their parents. On top of that he did things like describe Jews regularly as rats who had infested France, the implication as Kaplan points out being that you exterminate rats. He was a fascist well before the Second World War and an anti-semite, a person who traveled to one of the Nuremburg rallies in the '30s and described the scene glowingly in an article entitled "100 Hours with Hitler". He traveled to Germany and to the Eastern Front under Nazi auspices, lunched with German personnel at the German Institute of Culture in Paris, was a director of one of the main propaganda outlets for German translation books in occupied Paris.

I don't know. Maybe I was hoping for some more ambiguity in this guy's case, but, no, it looks like people directly died because of what he wrote and that he was trying to kill them by publishing their names and locations in the paper he worked for.

The book is wonderful for the picture it paints of both the politics of pre-war and Occupation France, but part of what does the story in is that because of the way the French justice system works the trial took place in one day, with the defense counsel not making use of what little scraps there could have been of a moral contest regarding Brasillach. Instead, as Kaplan says, he focussed on juxtaposing Brasillach the novelist and book critic with Brasillach the propagandist and saying that since Brasillach was a novelist that he shouldn't be killed.

If there was a more indirect connection between what this guy wrote and what happened in Occupation France there may have been that sort of additional moral ambiguity that could have made the case interesting: what would the responsability of an intellectual be publishing in that environment? But that's not Brasillach.

Maybe the case of Celine fits the bill better. I'll have to look up some biographies. I've already put in my vote saying that whatever political stance he took he still wrote worthy works of fiction, but that doesn't say much about what the evaluation of the actions he took during the Occupation should be.

In any case, with reference to Brasillach, yes, he was guilty, and for a second suspending arguments about whether the death penalty in general is right, justice was done.

Atheism that relies too much on scientific justification

There are many reasons to be an atheist, but I think that the particular brand of atheist who expects that science just answers the question about religion relies on really faulty reasoning.

Why?

Because the existence of God isn't a question that science can answer. How do you set up an experiment to test for the existence of God? How do you set something up so that the data can be falsified, meaning that it could be either proved false or not, regarding God? You can't. It's not like analyzing the age of a particular strata of rock or doing a chemical experiment.

But, while some people would say that because you can't do an experiment that the idea is invalid, I say that there are a number of things that you can't do an experiment about that we still think exist and are valid in our day to day life. Morality is one of those things. You can't reduce morality to scientific laws, you can't reduce ethics to scientific laws, yet we still think that ethics and morals are important. And for people who say that it's all about adaptation over time to particular individual and group constraints, like individual or group survival, I'd say that that might explain a minimum of morality but it can't explain why we agonize, hopefully, about moral questions that are much more sophisticated than just survival and what needs to happen for survival. As Kant pointed out, if we just wanted to look out for collective survival we could execute everyone who committed any offense in order to send a message to the rest of the group that they better not break the law in any sense, but for some reason we see that as unjust, that we should give people more of a chance and not execute them for shoplifting. It would be perfectly logical to do it, but yet there's something beyond both individual survival or group survival that makes us have compassion for someone accused of a minor crime if the punishment for it is death. Where does this come from?

But anyways, morality and ethics can't be proven right or wrong yet we still use them and still talk about them. It's the same way with God. Just because we don't have an experiment that can prove or disprove the existence of God doesn't mean that that proves that God doesn't exist. Morality exists.

The best people can do is to attack "Superstition". People figure that if you can disprove the existence of Saints in history or the provenance of relics, or try to discredit "folk cures", that you've therefore disproven God. That isn't so.

I believe that the world is millions of years old, I believe in evolution, and I believe in a spiritual reality, and I don't consider any of those things to be in contradiction.

The Catholic Church, for example, even though I'm not Catholic or Christian, believes that evolution is a fact but that God works through laws of nature, meaning that God could be working in the world constantly but because he would be beyond all the laws of nature he could intervene without making it seem like all the laws of nature had been broken. He could do that too, and the Church believes of course that he has done that, but it's not necessary.

Yes, the Catholic church supports moral absolutism in things like stem cell research but it's actually very flexable when it comes to its relationship with science.

Religion and spirituality is essentially and experiential reality and the scientific community will never have access to that sphere of experience with which to fuck with and prove or disprove. Instead, people who have experienced true spirituality will always be able to tell through comparing notes with the experience of others that they're experiencing phenomenon in common, and that will always be the baseline of proof.

Science answers its own questions, the politics of experience answers its own, and the two spheres are separate, yet neither one is less than the other.

I can't picture the idea people have of life that really believe that all that human experience is about is coming together to fuck, reproduce, and collectively survive. It's all based on instincts! It's all based on evolved strategies to survive! Yeah, and while you analyze life through that lens you miss the meaning in life completely. What a pointless life to believe that everything is determined and that all of people's desires and hopes are ultimately based on biological adaptation. My thought is that if you honestly believe that then you'll never live; instead, you'll limit yourself to what your dessicated interpretation of life allows you and never get beyond it. Scientific explanations will become self fulfilling prophecies and you'll miss living and miss life entirely in your pursuit of explanations like that.

Trust your experience, trust what you see both in your life and in relation to society and other people, and navigate your life based on that, don't live your life by scientific principles. Your experience will always be more valid because only you are inside your reality; scientific principles are general laws without any self guiding them.

When it comes right down to it life is your basic experience, and no matter what you think explains it, in the morning you wake up and you have to deal with life experience, not with scientific principles.

The only famous atheists I respect

The only famous atheists I respect are Salman Rushdie and Stephen Jay Gould.

I think that Salman Rushdie is possibly the only famous intellectual out there who advocates atheism who actually understands religion and understands what religious people see in religion. I saw a wonderful interview with him where he talked about being invited to speak and present his views at places like...ah! I don't remember exactly which seminary it was....Yeshiva University in New York? The Jewish Theological Seminary? as well as places like Union Theological Seminary, I believe...and how these were the best places to give talks because the people there really knew what they were talking about and asked the toughest questions.

I doubt that most famous atheists who come out of the scientific tradition could withstand questioning like that. They'd just scream "There's no evidence!" and either walk out or refuse to answer the seminarian's questions, acting like they're fucking idiots.

Stephen Jay Gould is great because he was a moderate on these things, wasn't predisposed to the right wing biases of many of the atheist corps, and was willing to admit that science couldn't provide all the answers to life .

Inexplicable AM radio chatter about MLK day

I drove into Seattle itself today and, inspired by Spocko, tried to find out what exactly they were saying on right wing AM radio. Besides a strange, confused, program blaming homelessness on the '60s, there was the broadcast that compared MLK day to a grapefruit being interviewed by a TV crew.

Their point was that in their opinion MLK Jr. Day is an empty holiday being overpromoted and that even a grapefruit could get a national following if it got enough media attention.

But they didn't just come out and say that. Instead, they went through this elaborate reconstruction of what would happen when the media trained its attention on the grapefruit, even going so far as to say that if the grapefruit went on tour people would go and see it because it would be a media celebrity.

Yeah.

Ok.

Anyways, saw a funny license plate on a Volvo on the way back. It said "Tak Mors", which in Scandinavian languages means "Yes, Mother", with "Tak" being like "Ja", and Mors just meaning mother, like in Mors dag, which is "Mother's Day". I thought that was entertaining.

Some times the critics get it right

Or at least make entertaining references. "Mephisto" is a great movie, one of my favorites, and although I don't appreciate being compared with a turncoat who supports the enemy I have to admit that the idea of being compared to Karl Maria Brandauer is quite flattering.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Decider Decides, channeled via Digby

"The White House also said Sunday that Iranians are aiding the insurgency in Iraq and the U.S. has the authority to pursue them because they "put our people at risk."

"We are going to need to deal with what Iran is doing inside Iraq," national security adviser Stephen Hadley said.

Added Cheney: "Iran is fishing in troubled waters inside Iraq."

The U.S. military in Baghdad said five Iranians arrested in northern Iraq last week were connected to an Iranian Revolutionary Guard faction that funds and arms insurgents in Iraq.

"We do not want them doing what they can to destabilize the situation inside Iraq," Cheney said.

Bush's revised war strategy seeks to isolate Iran and Syria, which the U.S. has accused of fueling attacks in Iraq. The president also says Iran and Syria have not done enough to block terrorists from entering Iraq over their borders."

I know how the right hates World War II comparisons if they aren't flattering, I don't care. It's really appropriate, given what might happen if we pursue this. And that is....that the Germans justified their invasion of Poland on defensive grounds. Supposedly, a German border post had been attacked by Polish troops, an incursion onto German soil, and people of German descent were being harassed in Poland. So, citing this incursion into Germany, they proceded to invade Poland, thereby triggering World War II. Of course, the attack by Poland on the German border post was completely manufactured.

It's always someone else's fault. The dastardly Iranians, funding the resistence to an illegal occupation. Our willingness to start a war with Iran, which we'll probably lose, has nothing to do with geo-political ambitions, no, perish the thought!

It's all provocation. Always is. Bush might be an expansionist moron, but none of that matters because "THEY'RE PROVOKING US!". Don't you care about the troops? Yes, I want them to come home where they won't be walking targets for resistence groups.

The solution isn't to invade another country because people are attacking soldiers in an illegal war, which the soldiers themselves had no say over. The solution is to leave . Why not delegate it to the UN? I was writing a justification for that and decided that the idea is so out of this world that it wasn't worth it to put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, to record it.

If you really care about the troops you'll stop them from invading Iran because, to be frank, if they invade Iran they'll have their asses handed to them. The army is already overstretched and, unlike Iraq, Iran has a fully equipped and fully functional army. They're ready for the U.S. If we invade it'll be a bloodbath on a scale that will make the Iraq invasion look pleasant by comparison.

Firedoglake is good tonight.

All about Spocko, the guy who e-mailed clips of rightwing on a San Francisco radio station to the advertizers in an attempt to get some justice. They actually stopped sponsoring! Well, the people at the show that Spocko focussed on aired a three hour special dealing with the blog and with the 'persecution from the left' "I WILL NOT BE SILENCED BY THE LEFT!", so says one of the co-hosts.

Anyways, FDL is absolutely hillarious in their analysis of it.

Then they start analyzing recent Tucker Carlson and Bill O'Reilly news.

This one just floored me:

"And apparently Bill O'Reilly has wheeled a tank of nitrous oxide into his office so that he and Michelle Malkin can act out the "Daddy's coming home" scene from Blue Velvet over and over and over as soon as she gets back from Iraq. Even Tucker Carlson can see that all isn't well with Bill-O:"

If you don't understand that, god help you. Rent Blue Velvet. My god, my god.

****

Currently listening: Low, by David Bowie.

More goodness from Artaud

I think the last time that I put up an excerpt from Artaud was about a year ago? Maybe nine months ago? Anyways, it's been too long.

Here is an exerpt from "The Situation of the Flesh"

"I reflect on life. All the systems I may erect never will match these cries of a man engaged in remaking his life.

I conceive a system in which all of man would be involved, with his physical body and its heights, the intellectual projection of his mind.

As far as I am concerned, you have to reckon above all with man's incomprehensible magnetism, with what, for lack of a more piercing expression, I am obliged to call his life-force.

One day my reason must surely honor the undefined forces beseiging me--so that they replace higher thought--, those forces which, exteriorily, have the form of a cry. There are intellectual cries, crise which proceed from the delicacy of the marrow. With each vibration of my tongue I return over the paths of my thought to the flesh.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Who are we to speak for the West?

French mystic and thinker Rene Guenon, who was actually on the right politically, once characterized the United States as the "Far West", implying that it had about as much in common with European culture as the Far East did. Ethnocentric biases in the idea aside, I think that this is in many ways a fair assessment of the U.S. One person, I can't remember who at the moment, said that the U.S. embodied Europe's unconscious; I think that the U.S. is an exagerrated and distorted image of Europe, with certain things, like the influence of capitalism, blown way out of proportion, and others, like one of my favorites: respect for the way of looking at the world represented by the Humanities, really really diminished. Some of the exagerration is positive; there's a lot of creative anarchy in the United States, especially on the West Coast, but equally present of course exagerrated conservative tendencies as well.

In either case America, or the U.S., doesn't really have a right to speak about this sort of grand concept called 'the West'; it doesn't even have the right to make a case for American exceptionalism or the particular 'moral destiny' of America in relation to the rest of the world.

We live in the Far West....sometimes that's good, sometimes that's bad.

Clarification

One of the meanings of the below quote is of course that the guy beating the resistence fighter was saying that if the Communists had taken over that they'd have done the same thing to the Nazis. But that's not the one that I wanted to emphasize. Rather, the Nazi and the Communist both understood that they were in a zero sum game. I'm beginning to see the contest between anti-administration people and pro-administration people as being a zero sum game. Either the proponents of hate radio are going to win, for example, or we're going to win; there's less and less chance for a middle ground.

And I think that eventually we are going to have to face those sorts of people in a kind of final battle.

Yeah to add to that...

There's an interesting part in "Out of the Night", about a Communist resistence fighter in Nazi Germany who's captured and thrown into Dachau. The people there torturing him said at one point "And what do you think you'd have done to us if you had won?". Indeed, indeed.

Media Matters: Morgan pledged to 'Hit back' over Spocko

If you haven't been following the story, KSFO in San Francisco, that hosts a rabid right wing show in the morning, is taking action against a blogger named Spocko who didn't do anything except tape some of the most extreme things that "The Morning Show" broadcasted and sent them to the advertizers of the show. Some cancelled their sponsorship.

But there's this, from Melanie Morgan the host of "The Morning Show", via Media Matters.

"Morgan went on to assert that Spocko "has been joined by some very dangerous and frightening fringe-left groups in this country" and specifically singled out Media Matters. "This is all going through Media Matters," she said."

Media matters is as tame as can be. Me, on the other hand, I'd like to think that what I represent is in fact a potentially dangerous and frightening strand of left wing thought. So I think it's funny that Media Matters is being singled out like this.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Random Highschool reminiscence occasioned by a random story

The article in question has nothing to do with the reminiscence except for one passage. The article itself is about an unfortunate 16 year old who had some sort of illegal porn sneaked onto his computer and faced 90 consecutive years in jail for it.

The relevant part is this:

""He's never done any drugs," Greg said. "He never drank a drop of alcohol. He's never been a problem, never stayed out late and gotten into trouble or anything like that.""

I ran into people like that, I mean kids, and when they gave me shit for doing drugs/staying out late/hanging out with the wrong crowd/drinking, in short being one of 'those' kinds of people, I always felt like responding with something like "I'm glad you have a perfect life you asshole". A little while later I would have said to them "I'm glad you have a stable family, you little fuck, that your parents are still together, that you have a goddamn home in a subdivision, that you've never had any problems in your little fucking life. Now, don't fucking judge me you little prick". The worst of them were those that combined all the above with being Christian. Jesus, no pun intended, they were utterly sanctimonius and utterly full of shit.

I still feel this way, although it's of course a different situation now.

Greece embassy attack

I'm wondering how the people in the administration are going to spin the rockets launched at the American embassy. They've already declared it an act of terrorism. Are they going to try to spin Greece as a threat to Western civilization? Are they going to suggest that hidden inside the Parthenon there's a simmering anti-Western sentiment? Or that Orthodox Greece, more Christian than Christian, is actually some sort of Muslim fifth column.

It's an EU member, so they're not going to allow the U.S. to do whatever it wants in Greece. They'll cooperate with the investigation but won't give the U.S. any more power than it already has. That's the benefit of being recognized as belonging to "Europe": instead of being pushed around and threatened into submitting countries get nominal respect. They're categorized as white instead of bown and so fall outside the traditional bounds of mistreatment by the United States.

Why the Greeks, or the "Grecians" as Bush referred to them once, would be hostile to the United States is really, really, easy to locate. You don't have to invoke thousands of years old animosity, which is false anyways, to explain it. Instead there are two events that cause anti-American sentiment in Greece. The first one is the overthrow of Greek democracy and the installation of a fascist military junta in the '60s, aided and abetted by the U.S., with the resulting dictatorship getting the support of the U.S.. The second event was the intervention of the U.S. via the CIA in the Greek Civil War following World War II against the Partisans. The Partisans, who had fought against the Nazis, had the support of the Greek populace, but the U.S. was determined not to have Greece join up with Yugoslavia in a pan-Balkan socialist state. So they financed right wing fighters and effectively killed the Partisan movement, with the government then outlawing the Communist Party and persecuting Communists.

Like in Yugoslavia, these were the people that had actually liberated the country. Even though they were Communists they actually had the support of the people, unlike states like Romania, which only had a tiny Communist Party that was installed in power after the takeover by the Soviet Union. Why should the U.S. have intervened? Yugoslavia charted its own course, in large part because it was a popularly supported socialist government, why couldn't Greece have followed?

These two events are the cause of anti-U.S. sentiment in Greece. They're the reason an attack was launched against the embassy, that and the general unpopularity of the U.S. due to what it's been doing in Iraq. If the government tries to spin it any other way they're bald faced liars.

Muslims and the 'War on Terror'

It's amazing how Americans have switched to demonizing an entire culture and religion, absolutely amazing. People seem to have no idea about the extreme hypocrisy that this involves: one of the founding myths of U.S. life is of New England being established as a haven for religious dissenters. Now they want to persecute people from another religion in this land of haven.

Personally, I think that the reason that people are demonizing Islam has nothing to do with 9/11 and has everything to do with resentment that Muslims want to live life in their own way and don't want to conform to Western norms. This doesn't necessarily mean an Islamic state, but rather that they're not perceived as willing to conform enough on a personal basis, ironically in their own countries with their own history. The West and the Rest idea is really about the lack of complete Western domination over the rest of the world. The West has been extended to the East, and now the East is suspect because it isn't as Western as it could be.

This is an extension of an old line of xenophobia within western countries themselves: the suspicion of the foreigner who's perceived as being not loyal enough to the country he find himself in, of not being truly one of them. This suspicion, ironically, was perfected against Jews and the Roma people, and serves as one of the stock lines of anti-semitic thought. Now that suspicion is being projected the world over.

If the 'war on terror', as it's called, has any sort of world historical significance that significance might be the tension between self determination in the former Third World and the dictates of a Western world that wants to keep control, either by globalization or by other means, of the Third World. The defeat of the U.S. in Iraq would be a victory not for Al-Qaida but for the citizens of Iraq and of the Middle East against the newest form of Imperial meddling.

Ben Trip: "Look! Over There!"

"KISMAYO, Somalia (CNN) -- A U.S.-led airstrike in Somalia has killed the suspected orchestrator of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa, Somali officials said Wednesday.

However, U.S. officials would not confirm that al Qaeda's Fazul Abdullah Mohammed had been killed or American involvement in the airstrikes.

Backed by U.S. air support, Ethiopian and Somali government forces battled Islamist fighters and al Qaeda operatives Wednesday in the southern town of Dhobley near the Kenyan border, according to Col. Abdirizaq Afgadud, a senior Somali military commander, and Abdirashid Hidig, a lawmaker."

Okay, what's wrong with this picture?

1. We just killed a suspect. Suspect means 'person suspected of something but not necessarily the right guy'. I was a suspect once. If they'd killed me, the real perpetrator would have escaped justice, and I would have paid the final price for an act I did not commit. It was a charge of breaking and entering, but hey, they kill people for less. So was this individual a suspect, or are we absolutely sure he did it, really? He's been on the FBI 'Most Wanted' list for a long time. Maybe that's good enough. I don't even know any more.

2. Say he's guilty, which he probably is, being black and having 'Abdullah' in his name. Is this how we do it now? Conduct air raids in a sovereign state, blasting away at people with war helicopters? What if he was in Italy or Norway? Would we have launched rockets at him then? Golly, put it that way, it sounds kind of weird. And we're attacking more targets now. What the fuck is this all about? We never went after Osama b. Laden like this. Are we for some reason at war with Somalia all of a sudden?"

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Currently working on...

In addition to "Mysteries", "The Collaborator: the Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach", by Alice Kaplan. It's immensely readable. What it's about, well, about the trial and execution...ok, well, Robert Brasillach was a writer and intellecutal in France who was a Nazi collaborator. He was tried and executed for treason by the Liberation government after the war. He was explicitly pro-Nazi and pro-fascist from before the occupation, worked for an anti-semitic newspaper writing articles, visited the Nuremburg rallies and commented favourably on them etc...so this isn't a case of someone who was otherwise innocent being put to death. This is actually a good thing for the story because it makes it purely about whether or not people are responsable for the effects of their writing to this degree rather, instead of having the focus being partially on whether or not the people who were doing the prosecuting were also to blame in their selection of who to put on trial. Brasillach was clearly a fascist and an admirer of Nazism, no ifs ands or buts about it, so you can't say that he was just being misinterpreted or whatever. Like I said, it makes the story and the issues pure.

Does all of the above add up to culpability to such a degree that people who do it deserve to be put to death? I'm not sure. Julius Streicher was executed. Streicher was publisher of "Der Sturmer", the major anti-semitic propaganda paper of the Third Reich.

I'll have to read the rest of the book and get back to you on that.

*incidentally, I have a very good library near me, which is one of the reasons why I can get my hands on all these books, in case you were wondering*

Revised comments' policy

First off, if you want to get in touch with me e-mail me, and include a subject line that tells me that this isn't spam. Ok, with that out of the way, I've decided to respond to comments and participate once a critical mass of comments for a particular post is reached. Say 3 or 5.
If you want to make an announcement or clarification using the comment board, go ahead, but if you want me to respond you should also send me a copy of the comment via e-mail.

Jesus' General: Bush's visual aid (funny)

From the Patriot Boy himself...

Robert Anton Wilson has passed on

This may puzzle some political folks out there. Wilson, or RAW, was the author of the Illuminatus! trilogy and a proponent of libertarianism with a small l. Author of Cosmic Trigger and other books. Advocate for drug legalization and liberatory spirituality. On a personal note he was probably the person who got me thinking systematically about what personal liberty and personal liberation meant.

Things you shouldn't have to say but should be said anyways

No to a troop surge. No to strikes on Somalia. No to a continued occupation of Iraq. No to an extension of the war into Iran and Syria. No to a continued presence in Afghanistan. No to the Patriot act. No to Mail snooping. No to the Department of Homeland Security. No to insane regulations on what you can take onto airplanes. No to no fly lists. No to insane border security including having to produce a passport to enter or to come back to the United States.
No to Guantanamo Bay detentions; No to summary justice delivered to 'enemies' without a fair trial. No to condoning torture and to CIA prisons. No more extraordinary rendition.

The role of business in fascism

Unfortunately I don't have any references to this beyond the general discussion in "A History of Fascism, 1914-45" by Stanley Payne, which is an excellent history by the way, but I know in gneral that big business essentially switched loyalties to fascism. It wasn't that they grew up with these movements, movements that were, at least at the start, nominally anti-capitalist as well as viciously conservative, so much as that big business had been supporting other political parties but saw the fascist parties as being able to combat the demands of Social Democratic parties, labor in general, and Communist parties, more effectively than the conservative parties of the past. You could also say that the fascist parties guaranteed higher profits for them than the other parties could, and that by eliminating democracy this goal was further accomplished.

Although we don't have serious challenger movements like Social Democracy, Communism, or an extensive labor movement, we do have a general movement towards reform of corporations and towards a moderate redistribution of wealth under social programs.

I think that the reason that corporations have been so supportive of the Bush administration and Republicans, and again I don't have the citation, is because they realized that a crisis was on the way. Clinton's third way could only last so long: the pendulum had to switch either back to real Democratic reforms or to the right once again, something that we've seen confirmed in the recent election, and they put their money on swinging the pendulum to the right through support of the patriotic ferver post-9/11. Indeed, even before 9/11, after Bush was installed as the "President" following the Florida debacle, the shift was more and more to shed off the trappings of democracy and to reassert raw corporate power as being the force that ruled the country.

Gore Vidal, in the wonderful movie "Bob Roberts", which follows a fictional semi-fascist candidate on his road to power, makes a speech about America, or the U.S. I should say, being like a frog in a saucepan of water, where the temperature is being turned up and turned up ever so slightly so that the frog won't realize what's happening until it's too late. This was in reference specifically to corporate and state power.

Well, ever 9/11 it's been clear to (some) citizens of the U.S. that the gradual erosion of our rights has reached the crisis point and that, finally, after years of slowly turning up the temperature corporations have stepped out of the wood work and are now asserting their rights over the United States, through the means of the Bush Administration, and the State in general, openly.

My guess is that what the Bush administration is doing is the better deal for them in the long run than moderate conservatism or the centrist wing of the Democratic party.

Threat of an American Fascism: Thom Hartmann vs. Christopher Hedges

I checked out Chris Hedges book (in a bookstore) "American Fascists: the Christian Right and the War on America" last night. I wasn't impressed. His focus is exclusively on the Christian Right, specifically on Christian Reconstructionists. I think that this really weakens his case because while the Christian right has been important, in the days since 9/11 it's been the cult of patriotism and the nation, and the President, that's been the main theme of the threat to democracy, combined with a sort of messianic sense of what America's place in the world is. The Christian right has been a component in this as much as they're invoked as being part of the cult of the nation and of the idea of America as having to defend against the Muslim hordes, but they haven't been the central motivating factors. Thom Hartmann's article, accessable through the title link in the below post is good in that it points out the ultimate beneficiaries of this whole complex of factors: corporations, but he neglects the Christian extremist factor. Also, I think that even though economics is the ultimate motivating factor that it would be irresponable to reduce it all to that. I remember reading an account by the psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich about demonstrations held in Weimar Germany prior to the Nazi takeover where they pointed out the economic motivating factor behind Hitler time and time again. Reich said that ultimately it didn't make a difference, that with the people there was something else going on. This disjunction prompted him to write "The Mass Psychology of Fascism" in order to explain why this was.

Point is that although the economics might be the thing determining it the reasons why regular people support it are different than economics. These factors, wanting to believe in the cult of the nation and America's greatness, have to be confronted by pointing out the inconsistencies of them and how they're incompatable with a democratic society, and even why a democratic society is desirable. Additionally, the ultimate causes of why people are susceptable to these factors, which I would put down to alienation coming from economic stress as well as the general alienation present in modern American society due to the general influence of corporate economics and the economic motive on society, have to be dealt with and programs to counter fascism have to take into account dealing with these root causes.

Anyways, Thom Hartmann's article is good.

Rediscovering SmirkingChimp.Com:One door closes another opens

Well, since Huffington Post is going squishy, as they say, I'm going back to SmirkingChimp.com. I used to read it a lot but then stopped because it seemed repetitive and coming back to it is rather nice. They aren't scared to use the 'F' word when discussing the Bush administration. The title link on this post is to a good article by Thom Hartmann, an Air America host and author of ""Screwed: The Undeclared War on the Middle Class and What We Can Do About It.".

The article is called "Reclaiming the issues: Islamic or Republican Fascism?"

"In early 1944 the New York Times asked Vice President Wallace to, as Wallace noted, "write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?"

Vice President Wallace's answers to those questions were published in The New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan:

"The really dangerous American fascists," Wallace wrote, "are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.""

Very good.

"As Wallace wrote, some in big business "are willing to jeopardize the structure of American liberty to gain some temporary advantage." He added, "Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise [companies]. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.""

Specific commentary will come in the next post.

The Huffington Post, or, missing the point.

Thinking about the content of the speech Bush gave last night and comparing it to a strand of thought common in the Huffington Post made me realize something: of course, we're talking about decisions leading to the deaths of both American troops and Iraqi civillians, but compared to that reality there's a huge amount of new age feel good commentary on the Huffington Post. It made me wonder about what exactly a site like that really thinks about things. It seems trivializing to mix posts about what's wrong with Iraq policy with syrupy goodness. Of course, this site mixes personal observations with political thought, but I'm just one blogger writing a blog; Huffington Post is a virtual news service. And the content has been falling lately on the HuffPo, as it's called. There was the guy who lived in the Brentwood subdivision in L.A., one of the toniest addresses, who wrote a few paragraphs complaining about the traffic problems there due to road construction. Then there was the "What a 10-year old girl thinks about Pelosi", written, conveniently, by the daughter of one of the lead bloggers on HuffPo. I wonder where she got her ideas on Pelosi from? More feel good stories, more contentless things about happiness.
It's as if Tinky Winky came out of L.A. and started commenting on the Iraq war.

I think all of this sort of misses the point about what the purpose of this kind of coverage is. The basic reality of the world we live in is violence, death, and oppression, especially in relation to Iraq. It's not going to be solved by a weekend workshop on the newest stylish therapy, and at some point it becomes improper to run a site dealing with war as if it is.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

All right Chavez

Via Raw Story: Chavez vows Socialist Revolution.


"Emboldened by his landslide re-election win, the typically combative anti-U.S. leader has gone on the attack, deciding to strip a private opposition TV channel of its license and take over some major companies owned by foreign investors.

"Fatherland, socialism or death -- I take the oath," Chavez said.

The man who calls Cuban President
Fidel Castro his mentor changed tradition by draping the presidential sash from his left shoulder instead of his right in what he says is a symbol of his socialist credentials.

Legislators at the ceremony in Congress chanted "Long live socialism.""

I'm not crazy about the 'fatherland' part but I'm happy that Venezuela is carrying out a socialist revolution. At 63% voting for him, Chavez is approaching the super-majority that the, well we can debate on whether or not it was too conservative, Italian Communist Party under Berlinguer said that it would need to formally attempt to seize power.

Cool stuff.

Go Fug Yourself....fashion and snark....here's a prime find from that

Heh heh heh...vintage goodness from "Go Fug Yourself"


"Fugthy Hilton

When it comes to Paris Hilton, I prefer not to think of her actually coming from anyone. As far as I'm concerned, she spontaneously generated on a rainy spring day from a pile of fertilizer rife with dung beetles.

But I suppose there are documents that claim otherwise, and so it is that we've come to refer to Kathy Hilton as Paris's mother. And I'm realizing that if we are forced to admit Paris Hilton is a DNA creation, it does make some genetic sense -- the rotten apple doesn't actually plop in a pile of moldy pulp terribly far from the tree."

Things that make you sick

Via MaxSpeak:"Why Does Homelessness persist in rich liberal cities?", from the Liberty Fund:

"Why hasn't this happened? The simplest answer is that the homeless like their lifestyle. Even if you gave them a nice apartment, three cafeteria meals a day, and beer money, they'd keep bugging the tourists in Santa Monica. Maybe, but it's important to distinguish between the plausible view that the homelessness prefer their lifestyle to conforming to normality, and the implausible view that they would sleep on the streets and beg even if they had comfortable apartments and pockets full of cash."


Yeah, Liberty Fund, Liberty Fund, Liberty Fund. It's stuff like this that makes one aware of the difference between just buying books from a place and actually doing things to support them. What I mean is this: Liberty Fund publishes cheap, affordable, editions of 19th and 18th century political thought that's not available elsewhere. It's interesting stuff. Sure, some of it is really conservative, but this is a different conservative than, say, Sean Hannity. This is an intellectual conservatism that still has interesting things to say. Be that as it may, although I might continue to buy books every now and then from Liberty Fund I'm not going to be sending them money any time soon.

I made that mistake with ISI, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. The story there is pretty much the same: they reprint rare political books from the 19th century, things that are part of the same intellectual conservative tradition that Liberty Fund books are part of. But ISI also has a huge apparatus to train young conservatives, and more. I don't want to dismiss that outright; I would much rather debate an honest intellectual conservative who was aware of the heritage of the movement than someone either from Fox News or who follows that style of thought.
Well, I gave them some money, not a huge amount, just $25 bucks, because I appreciated their efforts at reprinting interesting material, and so got on their mailing list. When one of the first fundraising letters that came to me started off by talking about how patriotism and christianity were being challenged on college campuses and how ISI was right out there trying to stop it I was sort of heart broken. But it makes sense, looking back. I mean they reprint conservative books that have to do with Christianity and Christianity's place in public life, why wouldn't they also be doing something like this?

Anyways, it's a lesson that reminds me not to mistake a confluence of interests for real agreement. A book every now and again is fine, but don't mistake these people for really being on your side.

Milan Kundera in the New Yorker

The current one, with this essay only being available in the print edition. Wow, there are two parts of it that I want to comment on, and the first only in passing. He has an interesting discussion of what he calls "anti-modern modernism" at the end of it, which as far as I can tell is a concept similar to my Neo-Romanticism. The second part of it deals with what he calls the "provincialism of the big nations" and the "cosmopolitanism of the small countries".

In this, after looking at the common stereotypes about small nations being provincial and large nations being cosmopolitan he makes the argument that in point of fact small nations, like his native Czech Republic, have the incentive to be cosmopolitan because of their precarious existence, while the large nations have every incentive to be provincial because of their self assured, stable, and simply large existence. Not only that but large nations are apt to not realize their provincialism because of these factors while the small nations may be painfully aware of their situation while the world in general overlooks them because of assumptions of provinciality in relation to them.

He uses the example of France and of a new list of the most influential hundred works of French literature, noticing that the list overlooks some of the acknowledged masterpieces while privileging much less important works. This is attributed to the provinciality and self assuredness of the French intellectual tradition.

Also, there's a good discussion about authors whose works cannot be understood in their own countries or else who get appreciation in other countries, are understood in other countries, before their works are understood at home. He argues that it's the distance that makes the understanding possible.

I would agree with this.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

That Christopher Hedges has got something....

Title link goes to a PacificViews reposting of an interview he gave with Salon.Com. He's authored the book "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America". And unlike people who have blogger accounts and have to have their books printed by print-on-demand sites, like, oh, I don't know who... he's a reporter with a major paper who can guarantee that his book will be distributed widely. Key paragraph from the interview:

"You're right, "fascism" or "fascist" is a terribly loaded word, and it evokes a historical period, primarily that of the Nazis, and to a lesser extent Mussolini. But fascism as an ideology has generic qualities.... I think there are enough generic qualities that the group within the religious right, known as Christian Reconstructionists or dominionists, warrants the word. Does this mean that this is Nazi Germany? No. Does this mean that this is Mussolini's Italy? No. Does this mean that this is a deeply anti-democratic movement that would like to impose a totalitarian system? Yes."

Question about American culture:

Which is, have we lost touch with our human values?

I think the answer is yes.

The topic came to me thinking about literary theory: why is it that the country in the west where the least people are reading serious literature is the one with the most complex, overwrought, literary theory. I remember reading a translation of Jacques Derrida's obituary and they specifically mentioned that he was a philosopher especially popular in America. They didn't mention much about his current popularity in France. Singling out the U.S. in the obituary was the equivalent of brushing him off, as in "Well, he was a very popular philospher-in America[eyes rolling]".

Anyways, my impression, and I may be crazy with this one, is that in most countries literature and reading are generally seen as, you know, kind of a good thing. Something that people kind of want to do. But, in other countries, not letting people starve to death is also seen as, you know, like, a good thing.

What other things are seen by the rest of the world as kind of naturally good but aren't in the U.S.? Dying for lack of medical care? Having drugs pushed on you by the pharmaceutical industry...

I could go on. You've probably heard it before. The point is that it seems that we've lost our very connection to human values, to things that are just naturally part of the human experience and human life that people in other countries are just naturally in touch with.

Instead, what rules is largely an impersonal economic and social contraption that only serves a few, most of those being greedy fucks who got where they were from fucking over other people, leaving large portions of the less out to dry.

It's like this big leviathan. No wonder some people have started to call the whole thing the 'Megamachine'..............

I feel, living in the United States, that people care more about a ton of steel than the quality of life of their fellow human beings or their society in general.

Phrases the just keep getting more and more true...

One of the people at FireDogLake gave the U.S. this label today: The Christian Republic of Dumbfuckistan. How true, how true. Don't I know it!

"Unreal ID" by Sara Robinson

Very good post on "Orcinus" about the Real ID act in the United States. That's the act requiring all people crossing the U.S. border to present a passport.

"The American media, on the other hand, have been almost completely silent about the draconian new ID requirements that have come creeping upon US citizens over the past five years -- and especially since the passage of the 2005 Real ID Act. This morning, Stateline.org -- a government research group funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts -- released a new report that summarizes the ways in which dozens of states have gone completely over the top in their ID requirements for drivers licenses, voting, and other services."

" "Americans by the tens of millions will have to dig out documents such as Social Security cards and birth certificates, or go to the expense of getting new ones, to renew their driver’s licenses. Fears of terrorism and the uproar over illegal immigration are behind the new rules. The Real ID Act is a response to the fact that four of the 19 foreign hijackers on Sept. 11 had obtained valid U.S. driver’s licenses."

"Did you know about this? Did any paper in America report on this while it was happening? But here we are -- in Colorado, at least, a U.S. passport is no longer considered the ID gold standard, and state legislatures across the rest of the country are, even now, out there making up fun new ID rules of their own. Colorado's overenthusiastic implementation of the Real ID Act may just be a preview of coming distractions for the rest of the country."

"The suspicious Nazi officer demanding to see your papers has been an American caricature for 70 years. We could laugh at him because the idea that an open society in America would ever empower a petty fascist like that seemed so implausible. It turns out, though, that it only took five years of Bush-era fearmongering to bring us to the point where Americans would not only accept, but embrace, government agents demanding to see our papers. "

I couldn't have said it better myself. The U.S. has crowed about the superiority of its system of economy and government in comparison to the Europeans for decades based on the fact that fascism didn't happen here. Actually, to be fair, this sort of thing happened mostly after World War II in the '50s and '60s, which is what you'd expect, but still, they said it, and they assumed that the U.S. just naturally dodged the bullet because of American exceptionalism. The truth is that in those years the U.S. didn't really face the rise of fascism. Easy to condemn others when you've never experienced it yourself. Now we're experiencing it, and what do you know but mass numbers of people are supporting it.

Mysteries/Solution to weird, dark fiction problem

Found solution to the lack of weird and dark fiction that I haven't already read. Got a copy of "Mysteries" by Knut Hamsun. Unfortunately it's out of print. Will blog on it and on the Milan Kundera article later.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of David Bowie

"Oh! You pretty things!"

"Wake up you sleepy head
Put on some clothes, shake up your bed
Put another log on the fire for me
Ive made some breakfast and coffee
Look out my window what do I see
A crack in the sky and a hand reaching down to me
All the nightmares came today
And it looks as though theyre here to stay

What are we coming to
No room for me, no fun for you
I think about a world to come
Where the books were found by the golden ones
Written in pain, written in awe
By a puzzled man who questioned
What we were here for
All the strangers came today
And it looks as though theyre here to stay

Oh you pretty things (oh you pretty things)
Dont you know youre driving your
Mamas and papas insane
Oh you pretty things (oh you pretty things)
Dont you know youre driving your
Mamas and papas insane
Let me make it plain
You gotta make way for the homo superior

Look at your children
See their faces in golden rays
Dont kid yourself they belong to you
Theyre the start of a coming race
The earth is a bitch
Weve finished our news
Homo sapiens have outgrown their use
All the strangers came today
And it looks as though theyre here to stay

Oh you pretty things (oh you pretty things)
Dont you know youre driving your
Mamas and papas insane
Oh you pretty things (oh you pretty things)
Dont you know youre driving your
Mamas and papas insane
Let me make it plain
You gotta make way for the homo superior"

What Bowie here is saying is that the freaks and such, the people who're counter-culture or, in the highschool mode, were freaks in high school, are the start of a new type of human being. Rock on. He said this thirty years ago.

Well, now the ball is back in the Democrats' court

Have been blogging lightly about politics lately, but that's largely because the balance of forces in Washington isn't all that clear yet. Will the Democrats be able to push their agenda through or will the Bush administration keep on doing the same things that it's always done. And what about domestic politics? Now that the possibility is out there that Iraq will be scaled back and the Bush agenda will be clipped it looks like a good time to check out the vital statistics of the 'Homeland', things like income inequality, health, environmental degradation, education, jobs, civil rights, labor, as well as where our country is in a general cultural sense. I've been focussing so much on the foreign policy angle that I honestly don't know what the cultural trends are that have been shaping America in the last couple of years; I don't even know what books are popular with people who read decent books.

Back to school, way back.

So I want to get into this Public Policy graduate program. To do that I need to take some pre-requisite courses, which I'm taking at the local community college. Being at the community college brings back memories of high school and junior high. I'm reminded about what assholes people were.

I came from a sort of sheltered hippy background, very encouraging of self expression and very open about things, and then entered the mainstream educational system at about 13. I was an instant pariah. Because of being sheltered I really didn't realize how conformist in matter of fact the United States is. Sure, the rep is that we're crazy and tolerant of everyone but if you really get down to it there's this idiot conformity that runs through everything, especially schools. I like to say that I'm just the same as I was twelve, in a basic way, personality and such, but the world around me has changed. The basic world around me. I think of how I am now and, reflecting on things, this is just a response to what the world is like; if the world was different then I would act differently. In a crazy world often times the person who looks insane is actually one of the most reasonable person out there. And we live in an excessively crazy world.

Good posts on Pandagon lately

One recent one talked about dehumanization and alienation, another one mentioned totalitarianism and the potential rise of U.S. fascism. Check it out

Sunday, January 07, 2007

New Years resolution update

As I sit here, effectively eating supper, I'm reminded of the New Years resolution I made not too long ago: to live life more like Jean Cocteau. Ah, but the reality is instead living on canned chili, Kaukauna cheese, peanut better, baked beans, and Pepsi. Oh well, a person can dream...

David Byrne: The New Sins

I was browsing through my local bookstore today when I found "The New Sins" by David Byrne of the Talking Heads. Although it was initially exciting to find, looking through the book was depressing and enraging. The thing is made of a sort of faux leather and is as small as one of the little Gideons' Bibles, or maybe a little bit bigger. Pocket size. The pages are set up to look and feel like a prayer book. The content of the book, well, it's a calculated attempt at irony that falls flat, very flat. The whole book in fact is an exercize in irony. "Ha ha! I'll make a book about sins that looks like a prayer book! Isn't that clever of me!". You know.

The thing tries so hard to be ironic that it sucks royally as a book. Everything is snarky, from the fake publishing house to the dramatis personae. It starts out by saying that "The New Sins" was dictated to a Croatian priest by the last member of a tribe from Bulgaria.

Ha ha! He said Croatian and Bulgarian! He must be really smart! He even accented the names with some of those crazy diacritical marks!

No matter that the reason why a turkish tribeman from Bulgaria would be in Croatia talking to a Catholic Priest, when the guy is either Orthodox or Muslim, and when Bulgaria is separated from Croatia by a few countries. Nope. They're all crazy Eastern Europeans with those funny fucking names! HA hA HA HA ah ha Aha! Aren't we clever, aren't we so very, very clever.

No, you're not, asshole. If you try so hard to be fucking clever like that you guarantee that not only will you not be but you also demonstrate for the world what hipster masturbation looks like.

This book will only be liked by fellow hipster masturbaters who think they're genius's because the like David Byrne.

Post that will restore my credibility: Milan Kundera

Milan Kundera has a fabulous article in this week's New Yorker about literature and it's relation to Europe and to the difference between small and large nations. It's only in the hard copy but it's well worth it. You just don't have that sort of commentary here in the United States. Kundera has a solid historical consciousness in that he's aware of the sweep of history and he knows about the influence between history and culture. I may post some quotes.