Thursday, November 29, 2007

Blogs on N.F. Federov and "Justine" by Sade to come soon

Federov being a Russian 19th century philosopher who was crazy in interesting ways, while "Justine" has turned out to be Sade's philosophical novel as opposed to other novels where he explores his unique version of eroticism---non consensual for the most part---that I don't want to have anything to do with.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

This just in: insurgents have arteries and veins too

And arms and legs, which is no doubt an objectively pro-terrorist comment that is an act of betrayal towards the troops.

The only honest post war Nazi...

Not a very nice distinction, but in a competition of cowards the less cowardly win out. What I mean by honest has to do with the Holocaust: quite simply acknowledging that it happened. You have people out there who worship trained killers, members of the S.S. and the S.A. or Brown Shirts, people who would be killers even if their interpretation of events were true. Most of them acknowledge that concentration camps existed, and acknowledge the violence and torture of groups like the Gestapo, even applaud it, but when it comes to the Holocaust itself they suddenly start being on the defensive, as if there was a real break between worshipping the Nazi state in all its aspects and endorsing mass murder. Which is why they're hypocrites, in addition to being racist and violent.

The only post-war Nazi that I've read who doesn't fall into that category is, ironically, a woman by the name of Savitri Devi. She was a European who went to India in the pre-war years and associated with pro-Hitler British and Indian subjects. She converted to Hinduism, married a pro-Nazi Brahmin, and changed her name.

Savitri Devi justifies the Holocaust very succinctly: people in the ancient world always fought wars where the enemy people were eliminated, and the Nazis were fighting against a foe and against a world that had almost beaten their ideals, and so extraordinary measures were required to stop the social decay. And yes extraordinary measures includes waging a war of elimination.

It's not pretty, in fact it's outrageous in that the type of war she talks about is always regarded as being cruel beyond measure, but at least it's better than "the Holocaust didn't really happen."

Viva Chavez! Great article by James Petras on Venezuela and the referendum

In which he argues that the Presidential term is the least of the amendments, the others being amendments that would establish a universal social security system, decrease the working day, guarantee higher education for all, extend legal nationalization of businesses and redistribution of land. The main thrust of the article is an examination of a recently found CIA document dealing with destabilizing Venezuela, this being the same CIA that the liberal/progressive set has lionized Valerie Plame for working for. It looks like Venezuela has reached the decisive confrontation between the business sector and the government that will decide once and for all who's in charge. Who runs Venezuela, business interests or the people? Yes, it's being accomplished through a governmental structure, which on the bottom level is decentralized, but centralization can be a good way for a united front to challenge capitalism under one banner instead of being fragmented.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Absinthe is illegal to ship to the United States--as is any liquor

No matter what websites telling you that they can ship alcohol to the United States say. Period. End of story. Also illegal to ship across state lines or within a state, for that matter. You can't get liquor from an international source unless you're a licensed importer. And how many people have that sort of license.

What people do is their own business. Absinthe is shipped to the U.S. and some of that absinthe, especially that not shipped by the U.S. Post Office, gets through, but it's still illegal. The absinthe companies paint a rosy picture, and for obvious reasons don't say that what their doing is illegal, but before taking on the risk people should know the other side of the story.

All it takes is a google search including the words alcohol and USPS or alcohol and shipping to find out the truth of the matter.

While the illegality of Absinthe due to thujone is an open question, even if the government ruled that significant thujone levels were ok shipping Absinthe would still be illegal because it's liquor.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Atheism and secularized public morality

Christianized public morality. There's a theory that goes that the schemes of non-religion based morality developed during the Enlightenment period really just enshrine Christian values in abstract philosophical forms, and that these forms don't necessarily lend themselves only to the interpretation that the Philosophes gave them. If that's so, then the sort of secularized philosophy that we're trying to sell other countries on may be Christianity in another form, with secularized versions of Islamic morality, Hindu morality, Buddhist morality, possible as well. But how do you prove it? There's an interesting and popular philosopher many people have heard of who called society's bluff on the subject: Friedrich Nietzsche.

Yes, good old Nietzsche. Nietzsche is regarded as an extremists, as a misanthrope, as an advocate of values that really shouldn't be put into action, and he's no doubt guilty of some of these, but the question is why, after living in an environment where secular morality based on empirical evidence supposedly rules the day, does he offend people? I mean if there is no god and Christianity is a swindle, then why is Nietzsche's worldview, praising war and warlike virtues, stamping out compassion, explicitly acting Machiavellian, regarded as wrong? Surely you could come up with arguments based on observation that prove that hostile, pagan, values can lead to some sort of public morality and social system---not purely to complete chaos and destruction?

If this life in front of us is all there is then why not Nietzsche? I think the answer is that despite claims of being Enlightened and above superstition people have just enshrined Christian values in new forms. I'm not saying that I'd like to live in a society where Nietzschean morality ruled the day, but such a thing shouldn't, in theory, be abhorrent to people who are truly atheistic in their morality and in their conception of public life.

For that matter, getting even more cynical, why not de Sade and Sadean morality? After trashing Sade in relation to another Libertine writer I went back and started reading "Justine" to be sure that I hadn't misrepresented Sade. If there's no god, which Sade reiterates time and time again as his thought on the subject, then why not engage in Sadean exploitation against people, using them as playthings and throwing them away when the whims of the physically stronger have been satisfied?

This brings up quite a lot of questions, the biggest one being where should morality go if it's not constrained by traditional religious beliefs? There are answers to that, it isn't just some sort of taunting argument that a preacher would give to a kid asking why he or she should care about what the bible says.

But in exporting our secularized morality to the world, and getting upset about practices and moral standards that we don't consider to be properly "enlightened" and rational, the west often commits the sin of cultural imperialism. We object to them first because of our own Christian biases, and then standing behind the Christianity is power---state power, economic interests, corporate power---all delighting in using Christian standards, whether secularized or not, to justify exploiting another culture, another country, for their own benefit.

Friday, November 23, 2007

From the Onion: Conceptual Terrorists Encase Sears Tower In Jell-O

America's finest news source(title link):

"CHICAGO—In what is being called the first conceptual terrorist attack on American soil, the landmark Sears Tower was encased in 18 million tons of strawberry gelatin early Monday morning, leaving thousands shocked, angry, and seriously confused."
.....

"Tentative speculation that the dessert enclosure was in fact an act of terrorism was quickly confirmed after a group known only as the Prophet's Collective took credit for the attack in a three-hour-long video that surfaced on the Internet.

"Your outdated ideas of what terrorism is have been challenged," an unidentified, disembodied voice announces following the video's first 45 minutes of random imagery set to minimalist techno music. "It is not your simple bourgeois notion of destructive explosions and weaponized biochemical agents. True terror lies in the futility of human existence."

Enlarge Image
The terrorists' video made their message clear.

According to a 2007 CIA executive summary, the terrorists responsible for masterminding the attack are likely hiding somewhere in Berlin's vast labyrinth of cafés. Though officials said they didn't know if any of those involved in carrying out the plot were still in Chicago, several dozen local performance artists and interpretive dancers have been brought in for questioning."

Free speech is a wonderful thing--the Vanity Fair interview with Horst Mahler

Which has lead to Vanity Fair in Germany being sued Horst Mahler is a very big neo-nazi. Vanity Fair in Germany wanted to interview him because he's a leading figure in the NPD, the far right German party that's won seats in local parliaments in the former East Germany. They even say, in the preface to their interview, that he breaks laws in it, like denying the Holocaust and saying "Heil Hitler", but that having a window into the mind of the far right in Germany is more important than honoring laws that criminalize phrases. But, because they broke these laws by publishing Mahler saying these things, they're being sued. Not for slander but for printing criminalized speech. The translation via the "interview" link is pretty good for a machine translation. If you read it you also see the stupidity of suing people for bringing these things up. These prohibitions are hypocritical and will allow far-rightists to assume power while saying the right things and avioding the wrong words.

The point is that restrictions on speech like this are absurd. All they do is make people use more covert language. The person suing Vanity Fair is paying attention to the surface phenomenon of resurgent far right politics in Germany but he isn't paying attention to the essence, which is what he should be opposing.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Strange things with my mother

She's moved to the country and now likes "Last of the Summer Wine", a BBC show about a bunch of old men living in the country, doing basically nothing, or nothing interesting.

A Thanksgiving Prayer, by William S. Burroughs

Brought to you by the magic of Youtube.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Freedom of speech not dependent on property rights

As Ron Paul would say. Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Conscience, are things that fundamentally involve no property but ones own body, a state of affairs that stretches the notion of "property rights" past any accepted definition. Freedom of Speech meant the freedom to make a speech or to talk in public with others without fearing repercussions. And people have been literally taken down off podiums and arrested while giving speeches fairly recently, for example during the IWW free speech fights on the West Coast where speakers tried to talk about Industrial Unionism. Freedom of Conscience or belief, means that you should be able to believe whatever it is you want to believe, about religion, about the government, about society, with no one able to attack you just for having that belief in your head. There's no property involved there. The printing press and the internet are just extensions of the type of speech that used to go on in public squares and in some anachronistic places literally still goes on there. The internet itself makes the issue of speech and private property less clear. I own a computer and subscribe to an ISP, the ISP is linked to a complex system of routers controlled by a lot of different companies, somewhere out there in California is Blogger.com, which is now owned by Google, and I publish writings that I produce via Blogger, but Blogger doesn't own them and I don't pay Blogger anything to use their service. There's money flying back and forth behind the scenes all the time, between Google and Blogger and between different internet backbone components, but neither I nor any of the millions of people who use Blogger see any of it. How is my ability to exercise my speech on this blog dependent on property rights other than that every entity along the way owns itself and some of them try to sell advertising to each other? I own the copyright to all my work, although I really don't care if people use it except if they either want to publish it in a book, charge money for it, or pass it off as their own. It's intellectual property nonetheless, but there are a lot of people out there who use the "Creative Commons" system, which sacrifices large parts of the idea of intellectual property in the name of making information accessible.

To me it looks like a lot of companies are acting in a non-ultra competitive, completely market oriented way that make internet freedom of speech possible. If the corporations who control the internet really wanted to fuck people over they could easily do so, savaging Blogger and a lot of other sites in the interest of marketability or appropriateness of content. We could theoretically set up an alternative site if Blogger got shut down, but considering that Blogger has several million blogs attached to it it would be pretty hard to build ourselves up to and to finance that level of activity. But that gets into another argument, the solution to which I believe is that corporations that control large parts of the media should be nationalized, with a very different government than we have now doing the nationalizing.

Having to do with the below post-stoners for Ron Paul

Seems like there's quite a following, judging from Ron Paul stickers on the front of head shops in Seattle as well as Ron Paul signs in the yards of houses where there are continual parties. Why do they support him? Because he wants to legalize drugs and he opposes the war. What about his other positions, what about social justice, what about the environment?

From On the Issues.org
"Paul scores 5% by the LCV [League of Conservation Voters] on environmental issues"

"Property rights are the foundation of all rights
We must stop special interests from violating property rights and literally driving families from their homes, farms and ranches. We also face another danger in regulatory takings: Through excess regulation, governments deprive property owners of significant value and use of their properties--all without paying "just compensation."

Property rights are the foundation of all rights in a free society. Without the right to own a printing press, for example, freedom of the press becomes meaningless

Source: Campaign website, www.ronpaul2008.com, "Issues" Sep 1, 2007"

So, isn't the environment a groovy thing to fight for? Shouldn't you, like, care about his stance on that, bro? And property rights as the foundation of all rights...you know that means Wal-Mart too, which I'm sure you oppose.

So, like, Ron Paul isn't all that cool although he has a righteous stance on drugs and is against the war.

He probably doesn't care about Tibet either.

(at which point in this conversation said hippy stoner would take a hit from a bong and repeat the immortal words of The Dude from The Big Lebowski: "That's, like, your opinion man.")

Which isn't to say that opposing Wal-Mart or caring about Tibet is a bad thing, of course, but instead to say that causes like these, relatively lightweight compared to more basic issues, have become façionable with the sort of do nothing hippy set.

Old Old friends or "Where are they now?"

A cautionary tale about certain people who think they're rebels. I have a Myspace page that I update quite a lot. I write a whole lot on it and communicate a lot with people I know on it. I also don't link this blog to it. For a while I listed an Alternative high school I used to go to as one of my schools. For people outside the U.S. who don't know what U.S. alternative high schools are, they're publicly funded schools designed to take kids who would otherwise drop out or who have criminal records. Well, I got a message and a friend request from someone I used to know from this school.

We used to do a lot of drugs together, back when I was using a lot of drugs, and he was an enthusiast for gangster rap, while I was sort of into it. He wasn't a suburban gangster rap enthusiast, he came from a poor family and either through the school or through other friendships actually knew gang members, as did I and basically everyone who attended that school. But maybe characterizing him as someone who loved gangster rap is sort of stereotyping, because he was a nice guy and we were sort of on the same side of thumbing our noses at authority.

Well, in response to the Myspace message I did what was possibly the most passive way of saying that I didn't really want to talk to him, something as inoffensive as you can get while indicating that. A few days later a really strange profiled person wanted to sign up as my friend. This person's profile showed them as a gay native american Muslim who liked reggae and had dreadlocks, and wanted to talk to other people about the virtues of Islam. Obviously a fake profile, but a fake profile unlike most of the fake profiles you come across. I figured out pretty quickly that he and his friends had probably made it.

On my Myspace page I had mentioned that I was bisexual and that I was a leftist, that I was a socialist. So in response to that Mr. Rebel, who from his profile seemed to be going strong without having sold out at all, put together a parody profile combining racist anti-liberal sentiment with the sort of propaganda that the Bush administration puts out, which is that if you criticize the President you're pro-terrorist and partial to radical Islamist ideas. So what exactly does his rebellion mean if it sees nothing wrong with some of the worst ideas and thoughts in American society?

There's more to life than what's approved as being rebellious. The issues that are the most important are right there in front of your face, and if you don't acknowledge or recognize them you're just another sheep.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Decay and Revolution

I believe that America has decayed beyond the point of no return. Unlike conservatives I don't believe that the decay stems from the breakup of the family, from turning away from Christianity, from homosexuality, or from drugs. The advanced state of decadence that the United States is experiencing right now is due to the decay and corruption of societal institutions on all levels. The government, the corporate world, religion itself, the media, higher education, primary education, law enforcement, all have become or are in their very essence corrupt, tuned into instruments of obfuscation and exploitation, and emmisaries of injustice. The only solution is to destroy the current system and build a new one in its place.

Unlike the beatniks I don't think that America has lost its soul. I think America's soul is dead, if it ever existed.

I sympathise with the Decadent literary movement that existed in the latter part of the 19th century, as well as the Russian Nihilists, who both had a similar attitude.

The total, amazing, non-comprehension of Cold War anti-Communist writers of even the basic facts of the Russian Revolution

going through the Seattle Public Library today I looked at the old friend of a Dewey Decimal number 335, dealing with all aspects of the Left, Communes, Communism, anti-Communism, etc... I found some of the "Communism: Threat or Menace?" type books and leafed through them, because of course there are things to criticize about the Russian Revolution, and certainly about the terrible state of things that came about when Stalin decisivly seized power. But the thing with these writers is that they don't offer any sort of an informed critique. Instead, their ignorance is absolute, embarassing.

They connect Marx to Lenin in a straight line, not realizing that there was a decisive break in the timeline between Marx and Lenin, and that Lenin came out of the socialist movement and its own history, not out of the tradition of Marxist philosophizing. No awareness of the events in Russian history that lead up to the Revolution, no awareness of the events that immediately proceded the Russian Revolution in any sort of in depth way, and no integration of a history of the socialist movement, a history of Marxism on its own terms.

No effort to come to terms with it. The feeling you get reading anti-communist writers is that they were the anti-terrorist propagandists of their day, justifying intervention against the evil foe subverting democracy from within without even knowing anything about their subject beyond what was popular in the elite circles of their time.

You can criticize Lenin and the Russian Revolution, which isn't reducable to the figure of Lenin anyways, in many ways, but its hard to assert that absolutely no progress towards human freedom came out of it. Unfortunately, Lenin's vanguard party and its later assumption of power, which actually happened several years after the Russian Revolution had already taken place, has obscured the fact that in their pronouncements and in their policy the Bolsheviks were actually located in the realm of Left wing revolutionary Marxism, close in spirit to the Council Communists and anti-state Marxists that Lenin himself eventually condemned. By eventually betraying the popular aspects of the revolution the Bolshevik party did a lot to discredit this same left wing Marxism, setting up obscure variants of the same and Anarchism as the only genuine revolutionary forces out there, something that didn't necessarily need to happen. The kind of communism based on workers and consumers collectives, with neighborhood collectives as well, and federations of the same cascading up, with some divisions of power based on need and geography, is still viable, just as the social experiments dealing with workers' culture and communes, as well as the practice established by the artistic avant-garde in all areas of media, is still vital and viable.

Russian criminal tattoos

I remember reading an online guide to non-western tattoos that talked about the tattoos that they give in the Russian prison system, mentioning the interesting system of marking years served by cupolas tattooed--not to mention the many, many, specialized tattoos for basically anything and everything relating to crimes committed on the outside and behavior inside. But the most interesting part, or at least the most revealing part, was a disclaimer at the end of the presentation that said that Russian criminals are obligated to cut, scrape, or burn off tattoos on anyone who hadn't earned them. This was a big fucking hint for people in the U.S. and elsewhere not to get these tattoos because they look pretty.

Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch

Who gave us the term 'masochism'. Venus in Furs presents a good counterpoint to de Sade's philosophy in that Severin, the hero of the book, actually loves life and wants to experience it further while Sade for all his explicitness has a very negative opinion of life and its potentialities. Severin is in love with love so much that he's willing to become a slave to the woman he loves, and experience life as a slave with the punishment that goes along with it, in order to realize his love and his devotion more fully. His only error is that he forgets that women are mere mortals and not goddesses. But you'll have to read the story to find out what I mean by that.

The book's short, about 125 pages, and is available at corporate chain bookstores who are ready to exploit people's want of the forbidden everywhere.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The notion of Greece as the start of "Europe"

Is due purely to an accident of geography. Greece is usually contrasted with "Asia Minor", modern day Turkey, as signifying the border between Europe and Asia, but this oversimplifies things. Asia Minor was considered to be part of Asia because Middle Eastern empires like the Akkadian were able to extend their reach there because of lack of natural barriers. Greece, on the other hand, not only had a sea between itself and Asia Minor but was and is extremely mountainous, with the route of invasion over land across the top of the Black Sea being frustrated by mountain ranges and hostile territory, making Greece hard to invade and conquer. Greece therefore developed a culture that was somewhat independent of the cultures of Egypt and the Middle East, although there was an extreme amount of cultural interchange. If you look at linguistics however, the Persians who conquered and influenced Asia Minor spoke an Indo-European language and had some sort of cultural relationship with "Europeans" dating back to prehistory, but they were full participants in Middle Eastern and Central Asian culture and so weren't regarded as part of "Europe". The idea of a unified entity called "Europe" crumbles if you stop looking from Greece west and look at the present day areas that are called Eastern Europe.

Above Greece, in the area north of the Balkan peninsula, there was great interchange between peoples regarded as European today and peoples regarded as non-European, with the result being some terms in Slavic languages today stemming from Persian sources and others. However, since these cultures were different from Middle Eastern ones on the eastern Mediterranean they've been ignored, along with the blurring of the difference between "European" and "Asian" that occurred there. This interchange went north, with the Sarmatian empire, composed of a Persian people, ruling parts of present day Byelorussia as well as most of the Eastern Ukraine, and the Huns later ruling all of Eastern Europe, all of Central Europe, and parts of North West Europe. The Huns were in fact an alliance of Asian, Turkish, Central Asian, and Iranian tribes. Based on some linguistic differences, Baltic and Slavic languages are thought to be closer related to eastern Indo-European languages like Persian than Western European languages. However, the border between East and West itself is porous, with Germanic tribes having cultural interchange with both Slavic tribes and commercial relations with peoples further to the east not normally considered European. Scandinavia and Russia had close relations for quite some time.

In fact, look at the history and prehistory of present day Russia if you want to see how porous the definition of "European" versus "non-European" is. Following Perry Anderson, the author of "From Antiquity to Feudalism", which chronicles the change from the Roman Empire to the feudal states of the middle ages, the only really defining concept of "Europe" as used by people in the United States and England is that the people making it up had cultural contact with the Roman Empire before its fall. But Slavic peoples had contact with the western successor states of the Roman Empire as well as contact with the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine Empire in turn had its own tradition of cultural expansion, drawing Russia, Bulgaria, and Romania into its sphere and causing a kind of parallel evolution. Yet the Byzantine Empire had Greek and Roman learning as well. Does this make Eastern European states that adopted Orthodox Christianity and Byzantine culture Westerners, in the sense of "True Europeans" (which is what people in the United States generally view Western Europeans as)? What about areas that are on the border, like the Balkans? Are the states of the former Yugoslavia part of the West or the East?

What about Hungarians, who started out as a non-European people, colonized a Slavic area in Europe, but adopted Catholicism and allied themselves to the German Holy Roman Empire?

Eastern or Western?

Hungarian chauvanists will say that they're more cultured than the Romanians due to the influence of being part of the Habsburg empire. The Romanians in turn,heirs of Byzantine culture and of Roman colonization, view the Hungarians as barbaric Asians from the steppes. So are Hungarians east or west?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

How are we going through an "Atheist Moment" in the United States?

When books like Bertrand Russel's "Why I am not a Christian" have been available at chain bookstores for years and years and years? It's not like atheism didn't have a strong following before the book by Richard Dawkins (who recently said that the statement by Dr. James Watson--codiscoverer of DNA--that the African continent as a whole had a lower IQ than Europe needed a scientific response through more testing [instead of instant condemnation]), as well as other books, including the one by Christopher Hitchens, came out.

Yes, Richard Dawkins, who people are lionizing, feels (as revealed in a quote he gave to The Guardian about James Watson's comments) that there's nothing ethically wrong with condemning an entire race of people as being genetically inferior....but we that we should just hold off on our judgments until more testing to confirm or deny it takes place.

Wonderful thing this materialistic atheism, and the cult of science that goes along with it.

Untutored anthropology: man as an adaptation to harsh conditions

By which I mean that the fact that we aren't completely subject to the whims of nature is evidence of successful adaptation. I was walking through a natural history museum in Seattle, one that had up to date reinterpretations of things like the function of different parts of dinosaurs when it sort of came to me that dinosaurs, growing a hundred feet high, were a product of an environment which had little in the way of obstacles. The exhibits said that current thinking is that features like the plates on the back of the stegasaurus were for mating displays more than they were for actual defense. Without any barriers dinosaurs could develop in ways that were completely inefficient. Then the meteor hit the Caribbean causing the worldwide extinction event that destroyed them, letting smaller mammals have a chance at developing.

The difference between the way the dinosaurs developed and the way that mammals ultimately developed was that mammals were not only more efficient but they produced the breakthrough that let them beat the system: advanced cognitive capacity. With a better brain humans could radically change behavior and change the world around them without having to evolve into a new species, something taking hundreds of thousands of years. Instead of increased strategies for survival coming slowly based on an evolution of instincts and pack behavior they could be rapidly produced, and passed onto the next generation through teaching and learning instead of through genetics. In a way, we survived by beating natural selection at its own game through being able to interact with the environment in a way that produced better than than normal conditions.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Beowulf vs. the Romans

Or, how absurdly far culture fell after the end of the Roman Empire.

Because the film, which seems to have little to do with the story, is coming out.
Beowulf is regarded as the oldest story related to England. Despite that, it's, um, sort of well...not quite polished...in relation to Roman novels. Essentially Beowulf is about kicking ass.

Let's compare: Beowulf

LO, praise of the prowess of people-kings
of spear-armed Danes, in days long sped,
we have heard, and what honor the athelings won!
Oft Scyld the Scefing from squadroned foes,
from many a tribe, the mead-bench tore,
awing the earls. Since erst he lay
friendless, a foundling, fate repaid him:
for he waxed under welkin, in wealth he throve,
till before him the folk, both far and near,
who house by the whale-path, heard his mandate,
gave him gifts: a good king he!
To him an heir was afterward born,
a son in his halls, whom heaven sent
to favor the folk, feeling their woe
that erst they had lacked an earl for leader
so long a while; the Lord endowed him,
the Wielder of Wonder, with world's renown.

and now "The Golden Ass" of Apuleis (both of these examples are the first sections of the books)

As I fortuned to take my voyage into Thessaly, about certaine affaires
which I had to doe ( for there myne auncestry by my mothers side
inhabiteth, descended of the line of that most excellent person
Plutarch, and of Sextus the Philosopher his Nephew, which is to us
a great honour) and after that by much travell and great paine I had
passed over the high mountaines and slipperie vallies, and had ridden
through the cloggy fallowed fields; perceiving that my horse did wax
somewhat slow, and to the intent likewise that I might repose and
strengthen my self (being weary with riding) I lighted off my horse,
and wiping the sweat from every part of his body, I unbrideled him,
and walked him softly in my hand, to the end he might pisse, and ease
himself of his weariness and travell: and while he went grazing freshly
in the field (casting his head sometimes aside, as a token of rejoycing
and gladnesse) I perceived a little before me two companions riding, and
so I overtaking them made a third. And while I listened to heare their
communication, the one of them laughed and mocked his fellow, saying,
Leave off I pray thee and speak no more, for I cannot abide to heare
thee tell such absurd and incredible lies; which when I heard, I desired
to heare some newes, and said, I pray you masters make me partaker
of your talk, that am not so curious as desirous to know all your
communication: so shall we shorten our journey, and easily passe this
high hill before us, by merry and pleasant talke.

By the way, if the reason that you want to see Beowulf is to see Angelina Jolie naked you'd be better off renting "Gia", a movie made for HBO. Plus, they aren't real.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

unannounced bile heaping on Robert Graves

The poet and literary writer, author of "The White Goddess", which has nothing to do with skin but, well what it's about is what this entry is about. The thing is about a supposed goddess cult in pre-Christian Britain that's secretly recorded through coded poetry. What gets me is Graves' utter disconnection from the greater tradition of poetry in general, making you grateful that the modernists completely destroyed the kind of poetry Graves wrote.

I'm thinking in particular of a passage from the beginning of the book where Graves gives a sort of definition of the "White Goddess". He basically says this (paraphrasing) "When you read real poetry and a shiver runs down your spine you've felt the White Goddess' presence." Oh really? So when I read poems from Baudelaire's "Paris Spleen" or "The Flowers of Evil" dealing with death, decay, depression, and eroticism that's strangely morbid, a tingle is supposed to go up my spine...and the White Goddess is supposed to magically visit me?

Graves lived in a world where the only 'poetry' was vapid late 19th century English Romantic nature poetry. Obviously he didn't care about the countless examples of more realistic poetry that are out there, but stuck to poems about deer giving out mating calls in the woods during spring.

The Oly protesters are heroes

In case you haven't been following it....check out the Olympian's website, Portland IMC, and OlyBlog. All this week (and during the weekend) people in Olympia have been blocking the return of military equipment from Iraq. Why are they blocking equipment that's returning? Because they want to say that all military equipment isn't welcome to go through the port of Olympia.

A critical look at Benazir Bhutto by her niece

From the L.A. Times (title link): "Perhaps the most bizarre part of this circus has been the hijacking of the democratic cause by my aunt, the twice-disgraced former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto. While she was hashing out a deal to share power with Gen. Pervez Musharraf last month, she repeatedly insisted that without her, democracy in Pakistan would be a lost cause. Now that the situation has changed, she's saying that she wants Musharraf to step down and that she'd like to make a deal with his opponents -- but still, she says, she's the savior of democracy."

on edit: Here's another article critical of Bhutto, this time from Counterpunch.

"This is no Aung San Suu Kyi, despite her repeated insistence that she's "fighting for democracy", or even more incredibly, "fighting for Pakistan's poor".

This is the woman who was twice dismissed on corruption charges. She went into self-imposed exile while investigations continued into millions she had allegedly stashed away into Swiss bank accounts ($1.5 billion by the reckoning of Musharraf's own "National Accountability Bureau").

She has only been able to return because Musharraf, that megalomaniac, knows that his future depends on the grassroots diehard supporters inherited from her father's party, the PPP. "

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The fury of bridge players

"Anti-Bush Sign Has Bridge World in an Uproar". It seems that one the winners of a ladies bridge tournament, one of the biggest in the world, held up a sign saying that the team didn't vote for Bush, and is now facing an insane amount of wrath from the organization they're a part of. Listen to this:

[the settlement proposed by the federation]
"calls for a one-year suspension from federation events, including the World Bridge Olympiad next year in Beijing; a one-year probation after that suspension; 200 hours of community service “that furthers the interests of organized bridge”; and an apology drafted by the federation’s lawyer.

It would also require them to write a statement telling “who broached the idea of displaying the sign, when the idea was adopted, etc.”
...
"By e-mail, angry bridge players have accused the women of “treason” and “sedition.”

The kicker of the article is where all of this took place: in Shanghai, in the Peoples' Republic of China. So because they displayed an anti-Bush sign in a Communist Country, albeit a corrupt one, where there's extensive spying and interference with speech, American bridge players have labeled them as guilty of treason and sedition and their federation has offered them an ultimatum where they will be banned from playing for one year and have to do 200 hours of pro-bridge community service AND sign an apology drafted by the federation's lawyers. They don't see the irony in this?

Kill the Badger, by William S. Burroughs

Speaking of stories about assholes...

Los Alamos ranch school where they later made the atom bomb and couldn't wait to drop it on the yellow peril. The boys are sittin' on logs and rocks eating some sort of food there's a stream at the end of a slope. The counselor was a southerner with a politician's look about him. He told us stories by the camp fire culled from the racist garbage of the insidious Sax Rohmer. "East is evil, west is good. Suddenly a badger erupts among the boys. Don't know why he did it just playful, friendly and inexperienced, like thee Aztec indians who brought food down to the Spanish and got their hands cut off. So the counselor rushes for his saddle bag and gets out his 1911 colt .45 auto and starts blasting at the badger, missing it with every shot at six feet. Finally he puts his gun three inches from the badger's side and shoots. This time the badger rolls down the slope into the stream. I can see the stricken animal, the sad shrinking face, rolling down the slope, bleeding, dying."You see an animal you kill it, don't you? Might've bitten one of the boys". The badger just wanted to romp and play and he gets shot with a .45 governmnt issue. Contact that, identify with that, feel that and ask yourself whose life is worth more: the badger or this evil piece of white shit. As Brion Gysin said, man is a bad animal.

Overheard on the UW campus regarding Libertarianism

UW is in Seattle. I was walking behind three folks who were dressed in high style business clothes and looked about college age. They were talking about a fourth person, and mentioned that he was a Libertarian. "What kind of Libertarian is he?" "He likes drugs a lot". Then laughter. Of course, silly people, we all know that true Libertarians are like these folks, who probably never exercised and sort of edgy liberty that wasn't condoned by the jocks in their high school or that frats and sororities at UW. Libertarianism is all about market liberty, not about freedom per se. And it's surely about making these fuckers richer while they screw the rest of the country.

Ha ha, drugs. Like that has anything to do with personal freedom.

Ted Rall on Musharraf: "Pakistan’s Con Continues"

Excellent. Talks about how Musharraf and the Pakistani government are pro-Taliban and have collaborated with the Taliban in the past, allowing Taliban fighters into Kashmir to fight against India. Makes the case that the idea of Pakistan being an ally in the "War on Terror" was a joke. Rall has written really brief notes on his blog that talk about Pakistan being allied with the Taliban but this is the first in depth account of it by him that I've seen. And it's good.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Since when did the U.S. start honoring the pronouncements of a big god in the sky for foreign policy?

By which I mean in relation to Israel. The idea of a pact between Yahweh and Abraham means absolutely nothing to me since I don't believe in the Judeo-Christian god. That's an understatement. In fact I oppose the conception of a monotheistic god in this sort of formulation. If you take away the imaginary agreement you're left with the cold hard facts of political conflict within an area defined by colonialism.

Viewing Israelis as having a 'right' to Israel based on the Bible allows the context of the British Mandate system and the use of force within that system by Jewish settlers to seize control of Palestine and then commit ethnic cleansing against its original inhabitants.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Iowa Caucus: putting Caucus back into Caucasian

Or "Why the fuck does what people in Iowa think about the candidates matter to the country in general?". The rhetoric whenever the Iowa Caucus comes up is that Iowa uniquely represents the United States because it embodies true American values, like the idea of small town life and of small scale democracy, the democracy of town meetings. Of hard working religious citizens. Who happen to be mostly white. And not just white but the whitest of the white, with 71% of people identifying as either English, Irish, German, "American", or Norwegian. According to the U.S. Census Iowa is 94.9% white. It also has just under three million people, which is smaller than the Detroit area of Michigan alone, which is where I'm from. In fact, according to the Census Iowa is the fifth whitest state in the country, with its fellow brother in bellwether New Hampshire ranking as the third whitest. Similarly, it ranks 39th in African American population in terms of percentage, with New Hampshire ranking 43rd. As for education Iowa ranks 37th in terms of the percentage of people who have bachelors degrees--well below the United States as a whole. New Hampshire ranks pretty high on that scale, probably because of its status as a semi-bedroom community to Massachusetts.

Yet if candidates don't show well in Iowa and New Hampshire they're expected to drop out of the race due to a perceived unelectability. Might as well hold them in Northern Idaho.

Does Iowa represent Chicago, New York, L.A., Boston, Detroit, San Francisco, in terms of ethnic and racial composition, to say nothing of smaller metro areas? Is preserving the weight of this notion of average America appropriate when Americans, taken on average, don't resemble it at all?

I'm glad Obama's polling high in Iowa, but I suspect his family has no plans to move there any time soon.

A good thing about Obama: advocates more progressive taxation for Social Security

By raising the cap that prevents high amounts of income from being taxed for Social Security. Not progressive in the sense of raising contributions from the rich and lowering contributions from the working class while increasing the amount that the working class gets back from social security while decreasing the amount that the rich get back, but a wee bit more progressive than what we have right now. I'm puzzled by the reaction of Joshua Schwartz, of the Mother Jones blog MoJo and of This Modern World, to the announcement, saying that Barack Obama, you are a moron. The reason is because he declared that he'd be for raising taxes, even though the taxes that he'd raise wouldn't effect the vast majority of people out there. To me this just feeds into mainstream Democrat fears of even mentioning necessary tax increases, therefore leading to doing nothing to stop Republicans from dismantling any and all taxes that they can. Look at the Estate Tax, which the Republicans waged a successful campaign to totally eviscerate, based on the idea that what is essentially a large gift from one family member to another was a "Death Tax". Someone is going to have to say that raising taxes is necessary, and if Barack Obama really is some sort of visionary like the netroots say he is, and if the 'netroots' themselves are really Progressive and not just anti-Bush, neither he nor they should have a problem with it.

I'm curious about Naomi Klein's new book

"The Shock Doctrine". From the articles she's written that have described what she calls the process of economic restructuring based on "shocks", like this one from The Nation, the book seems to be unnecessarily confused. She includes a lot of good information on how American neoliberal economists helped to destroy the economies of South America, but instead of plainly and humbly saying that this is just what capitalism does she seems to feel that there needs to be a kind of hook that makes it all work better. Enter the notion of shocks, i.e. that neoliberalism can only be imposed through a window opened by traumatic shocks, like a dictatorship or a natural disaster. This can be easily disproved with one word: NAFTA. The North American Free Trade Agreement, which imposed neoliberal doctrines on Mexico, passed without any sort of shock to Mexico allowing it in. It even passed with the PRI, the official party of the state, still in control of the political system (something that would only change eight years after the passage of NAFTA). I don't understand why exactly the notion of shcoks is necessary. It superficially fits things like hurricane Katrina and attempts to profit off of it, but in the larger picture the notion of shocks being in any way necessary for the imposition of neoliberal capitalism is just not tenable. What about the WTO? You can go around and scavenge for information about any transition to neoliberalism that supports the thesis, and come up with some marginal things, and put them together, but that doesn't mean that the thesis is anything else but wishful thinking.

Unfortunately this tendency, to not just say that it's capitalism that's causing the problems of globalization but to attach some stylish concept to the idea, has been with Naomi Klein's work since "No Logo", which although inspiring to many people nevertheless talked about globalization in terms of French philosophy regarding branding. None of this is necessary, and although presenting things in a format that avoids putting things purely in terms of the "C" word may get her more mainstream acceptance it takes away from her work and puts it more into the category of self interested groveling.

[on edit: globalization and intervention is a case of the velvet glove and the iron fist that it conceals. Proposals are tried first in an attempt to get countries to sign onto neoliberal reforms, then friendly persuasion, then more radical action like economic embargoes and trade sanctions, then fomenting coups, up to the most radical step of actually creating either a proxy war, like in Central America in the '80s, or directly invading a country. This isn't a new concept, but it sums up what's behind the concept of "the Shock Doctrine" better and more concisely than Naomi Klein does it, with less confusion and less philosophical blurriness. Plus, Noam Chomsky has written at least ten books about this very topic, making Klein's 'revolutionary' conception of disaster capitalism redundant in the extreme]

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fantasies of colonialism: the role of "pahana" in Hopi mythology

In Hopi myth and religion they talk about the white brother from the east coming back to Hopiland in order to initiate the next world phase. White, non-native people, of which I'm one, who are New Agers, have tended to interpret this either to mean one single white person coming from the Eastern United States to Arizona as a savior or to mean the coming of white people to the United States in general. The thing is that if you actually read how the Hopi themselves interpret it you see that "Pahana" isn't a single individual but a people and that those people are an unnamed Native American tribe from the eastern United States, and that the reunion of the Hopi with the long lost brother signifies the reunion of the Hopi with this Native American tribe, not with either a white person or with white people in general. It signifies a kind of unity, which is reinforced by the Hopi story that they aren't a single ethnic group but were formed by a union of ethnic groups that were called to a certain spot to join together, and that migrated to the spot and found each other.

My understanding, based on reading about it, is that periodically white people have shown up on the Hopi reservation claiming to be the Pahana and promising to be a sort of messianic figure, including a lawyer who wanted to advocate for them.

Of course white people have to have been prophesied to have come to the U.S., that makes it legitimate in some way. The same thing with Cortes supposedly showing up on the shores of Mexico on the day that Quetzlacoatl was supposed to return. The book "1491", which is based on archeological reconstructions of pre-contact America as well as critical examinations of the presentation of information about contact both in the present and in the past, traces the Quetzlacoatl contact story to the 19th century as a literary invention.

The Book of Mormon too has the same sort of legitimizing factor. If Native Americans are descended from Lost Tribes of Israel, who are probably among the present Syrians, Jordanians, and Lebanese, as well as Palestinians....and Jesus himself came to America....then Native Americans aren't outside of the American mythos. There aren't issues of what happened when Europeans found America because in a sense Europeans found remnants of Middle Eastern culture, and they brought the Christianity over that the Native Americans already had a half lost version of.

Below post about Scalia partially inspired by Paul Krassner's Johnson and Kennedy bit

Accessible Here. It's called "The Parts that were Left out of the Kennedy Book" and features among its excerpts this:

"Of course, President Johnson is often given to inappropriate responses--witness the puzzled timing of his smiles when he speaks of grave matters--but we must also assume that Mrs. Kennedy had been traumatized that day and and her perception was likely to have been colored by the tragedy. This state of shock must have underlain an incident on Air Force One which this writer conceives to be delirium, but which Mrs. Kennedy insists she actually saw. "I'm telling you this for the historical records," she said,"so that people a hundred years from now will know what I had to go through."

"She corroborated Gore Vidal's story, continuing: "That man was crouching over the corpse, no longer chuckling but breathing hard and moving his body rhythmically. At first I thought he must be performing some mysterious symbolic rite he'd learned from Mexicans or Indians as a boy. And then i realized--there is only one way to say this--he was literally fucking my husband in the throat. He reached a climax and dismounted. I froze. The next thing I remember, he was being sworn in as the new President."

Friday, November 09, 2007

Fantasies of Scalia

Somewhere in the back of my mind I have this image of Antonin Scalia getting a tattoo of the text of the Constitution in very small letters on the skin of his erect penis. That way whenever he made love to his wife he could know that he was fucking someone with the original interpretation of the words of the founding fathers. And he would know that he was regularly fucking someone over with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

"Date rape" drug in toys? American prudes frame the story once again

It's really bad that kids in Australia--really little kids too, have gotten really sick from eating these beads that fuse with each other when exposed to water, and they should have been pulled from the shelves, but turning into a "date rape" drug when eaten? There's a difference between toxicity and dangerous drugs. GHB, what the glue in the toys metabolize into, is only regarded as a date rape drug in the United States. In Europe it's a popular drug on the rave scene and possession of it carries one of the least serious penalties in the UK. It works by turning into GABA in the brain, a natural relaxer, creating a sort of chill effect. Surely it can be used as a date rape drug, especially in combination with alcohol, but labeling it as such is a distortion.

I've known people, too many people, who have had their drinks drugged. There's no question that it's going on. But with the amount of psychiatric drugs floating around prescription happy America it doesn't take a genius to figure out that someone could probably do bad things to people by slipping someone a drug that their buddy is taking, without the need of exotic "date rape" drugs.

If people in the United States really want to stop people drugging drinks in order to take advantage of them they should hold back on prescribing CNS depressing medications.

Which would you rather prefer: legislation that establishes anti-gay acts as a species of hate crime or nothing?

I've had it with people who feel that because the legislation in the House doesn't include protection for transgendered people that it's completely flawed and is a sell out. It shows the myopia of the gay rights movement in some of its historic centers. It's no doubt wonderful to be able to live in a gay neighborhood where safety is more or less assured, and where if something happens there will be a real response to it, but not everyone has this privilege. Are you willing to tell the kid who just got beaten black and blue because of his sexuality that he's not going to get any help because the Democrats were unwilling to add transgender protections to the bill, and so the bill got little support from gay organizations, and so the bill failed, leaving people with nothing? I realize the issue, but the legislative process is not Christmas. You can't just make up a list and hope to have it all be magically delivered to you on one day.

So please, spare me, and have some compassion for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals who aren't as privileged to live in a tolerant place like you are.

Damn it feels good to be in the minority again---Huffington Post on Kucinich

Or on Kucinich's bill to impeach Cheney. Not a word on their normal news site even though the bill has gotten coverage on every single other progressive news site in the past few days. Only one mention, by blogger Bob Cesca posted today. Instead, the biggest story on Kucinich, that's run for several days, is that Shirley McClaine wrote and Kucinich confirmed the he saw a UFO. But then, the news section of the Huffington Post is now headed by the person who used to run CBS.Com, surely a progressive gateway if there ever was one, so expect lapses like this to continue into the future.

Which is why it's becoming comforting to be in the minority in the sense that maybe, after an insane flurry of publicity, blogging is becoming less trendy and progressive blogging in general is starting to lose some of the shine that proponents of the 'netroots' saw in it. The progressive world can do without large well funded sites jumping on the bandwagon. It only dilutes the meaning of 'Progressive' by commercializing and commodifying it. Progressive chic, dude! Let's make a slick marketing plan to capitalize on this new, hip, valuable commodity.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Good stuff on MRZine lately

Check it out. MRZine is the web zine manifestation of Monthly Review and Monthly Review Press, but tends to have articles that are less like monographs and more like regular magazine articles.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I'm just curious....does Michelle Malkin

Feel even a little twang in her stomach for jumping on the fact that one person, a college journalist at George Washington University, faked a hate crime by drawing swastikas on her own dorm room door? It's sort of strange to see a Filipino woman cheering on the idea that hate crimes are faked. When it comes right down to it I don't think that those good 'ole boys down south would really care that she's a conservative author. I'm sure that if she walked into the wrong place in Alabama or Louisiana she'd have the experience that successful black people from the north have, which is to say being treated like dirt purely because of the color of their skin, no matter what job or what accomplishments they have beneath their belts, with maybe a little extra abuse heaped on because they look like they have some money. Michelle Malkin might not believe that hate crimes really exist in large numbers, but if the rubber hit the road I'm sure that her conservative sponsors would throw her to the wolves.

Monday, November 05, 2007

This whole DaVinci code thing

A lot of badly researched stuff has been written about it, but it's an interesting puzzle, if only to consider the bad arguments and find where some of them go wrong. The most convincing picture that I've found is in Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince's book "The Templar Revelation", where they dismiss the notion of a "Royal Bloodline", and even large parts of the idea of Jesus figuring in prominently, and instead say that the mystery revolves around a pre-Christian religion in France, imported during the time of the Romans, that has held on underground for centuries and centuries.

Which brings up an interesting question or inconsistency: why do they focus on the Merovingians, who were the first invaders from outside Roman Gaul to take over? If the story is true then surely the time frame to focus on is before the Merovingians appeared, when Gaul was directly connected to all the provinces of the Roman Empire and where a kind of blending of indigenous Celtic religion with Roman religion and beliefs from elsewhere occurred. The idea of Celtic religion has been done very badly to death, but in this case it's presence, which we know little about in France, is just a historical fact.

So why the Merovingians? French national pride? Marseille even had contact with the Greek world before being incorporated into the Roman empire, so why pick the Merovingians as being especially important?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The cure for the common Old Testament: reading Greek and Roman plays and poetry

I recently wrote a post against Christianity where I referred to the Old Testament as "semi-retarded" and "idiotic", with the New Testament only being good because of the Greek philosophy it had in it. I deleted that post. But the next time you hear some good 'ole fundamentalist preacher intoning on TV and get pissed off go to either your local library or the biggest library near you and find some Greek plays and Roman poetry. You'll see what a joke Biblical literature is when you see how much better the stuff coming out of Greece and Rome at the same time is. They've been at it for centuries, trying to translate the Old Testament, but it still comes off stylistically as being a sort of retarded cousin that you don't want your friends to know about compared to what people think of conventionally as literature. The poetry of the Romans, on the other hand, sounds fresh and clean. Here's some poetry by Horace, written in the decades before the birth of Christ:

"It was night with the shine of the moon amid the smaller stars shining,
And no night could be clearer,
When you (but you schemed then already to cheat the Immortals)
You swore to me, traitress,
And tighter around me your sensuous arms were clinging
Than ivy to ilex"

Part of a poem called "Epode XV"

That's over two thousand years old.

Here's an ever better example: Elegie II parts A and B by Propertius, written around the birth of Christ, give or take a decade:

"She is gone whom I loved so long, my girl that I loved so dear;
Stolen, my friend! and you can tell me not even to shed a tear?

No known hatred is bitter, compared with a lover's woe:
Slit my throat, and you'll find me a less implacable foe!

How can I bea to behold her in alien arms recline,
Now called mine no longer, who used to be known as mine?

"Everything goes in cycles";--I know what you're thinking of--
"You conquer and then you are conquered: the spin of the wheel of love"

"Many a mighty leader, a puissant ruler, is dead:
"Thebes is a thing of the past, and the glory of Troy is fled..."

---Ah, but what presents I gave her, what poems I wrote her of old!
Yet never she said "I love you." She is iron: hard and cold..

And now I can see my madness, how deep my folly appears
To have borne such a house, such a woman, through all these reckless years...
"
Also around two thousand years old.

Then on the other hand you have Jehovah thundering to the Israelites like some drunken, stupid, abusive father about having them obey him for no good reason.

I take the Romans and the Greeks any day, and the Buddhist Sutras and the Hindu Bhagavad-Gita over the embarrassment called the Old Testament (and parts of the New as well).

The real concept behind the First International

The First International has been a subject limited by the doctrinaire Marxist treatment of it. I used to think that reading about the First International was about as appealing as eating dried mulch, but there's actually a pretty nifty concept behind it.

What the First International did was connect labor movement activists with socialist theorists so that a kind of mixture was formed that somewhat took concepts of labor possibilities farther than they had been taken previously. It also of course helped coordination and communication between radical labor groups across borders. The benefit was essentially for the workers and in an ideal world the International would not have been dominated by figures like Marx but would instead of taken their ideas, thanked them, and then made decisions on their own. At its best the concept of an international signifies a radical resource for labor or some sort of radical labor formation that explicitly discusses labor issues in relation to greater societal change, and that links up with similar groups in other areas.

E.P. Thompson, "The Romantics: England in a Revolutionary Age"

Why you should read it: during the time frame that Thompson, author of "The Making of the English Working Class", chronicles the shift from Enlightenment Liberalism to Socialism was happening, and the Romantics were at the forefront, the philosophical forefront, of this transition. It was also several decades before Marx. There's also the switch in labor, or actually the reformulation of the labor movement and its push for social equality but that's not what this volume deals with.

If you want to see why socialism came into being, the Romantic period of the early to mid 19h century, with the traditional cut off point being 1848, is a good one to look at.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Hannity of Fox News declares that Halloween is a liberal holiday

True. From "Media Matters" via Rawstory Hannity channels The Onion? Claims "liberal" Halloween "teach[es] kids to knock on other people's doors and ask for a handout". True. Amazing, but true. I'm not a liberal but you know there are a few different versions of liberal out there. If I was a liberal I'd be a Robespierre liberal. I wouldn't just be knocking on Hannity's door asking for candy I'd be repossessing his whole house.

The irony factory, or why don't hipsters do something original?

Just got back from Capitol Hill Seattle which is hipster central. I've been observing this genus of creature for a long time and I don't mind them as long as they're doing something that's creative and original. That's really just because of the condescension that they heap on everyone else. If they were just doing their own thing and not acting like they're above everyone else I wouldn't even care if productive things came out of it or not, it would just be. A lifestyle choice. But when you set your self up in the way many of them have in relation to other folks and combine that with an ironic disdain for parts of culture that you don't like you're screaming out for people to call you on your shit.

It's easier to obsessively quote things, from clothing styles to musical tastes to literature, than it is to create them. Even if you look down with disdain on the things that you're quoting you're still not creating something on even that level by picking parts of it out and using it in a clever way. After a while I personally get sick of seeing people who don't seem to be doing anything original who think they're geniuses for imitating a thousand other people who are doing the same thing.

Eventually the whole thing, the entirety of the hipster scene, is no longer going to be able to sustain itself without some new blood in the form of creativity.

Bush likens inaction on bin Laden, Iran to letting Lenin and Hitler come to power

Specifically in relationship to the tiny little spine that Congressional Democrats have grown in very mildly opposing some of Bush's appointments and bills.

The bullshit over runneth. Bush is getting his jollies off and emptying his testicles by looking at the Middle East and telling everyone he's Winston Churchill while he's actually an incompetent fraud who wants to start wars for the benefit of his pals. The tragedy of all of this is that sometimes countries go to war for reasons that aren't bullshit, like national liberation or defense from invasion, and Bush's wars of choice disrespect people who died in the past for things that actually mattered to them and to their lives.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Weird values

Every band of people, from the most impoverished tribe in the Amazon rain forest living by slash and burn agriculture (although they would most likely not consider their way of life to be impoverished) on up has had stories, poetry, and songs. These things are universal, not least because they cost nothing but an active brain and a good understanding of the world to produce, yet in one of the most industrially advanced affluent societies on the planet, in the United States, all of these things have either dwindled into non-existence, like poetry, or have been co-opted by corporate capitalism in the form of the media industry and turned into tacky money making engines. TV and Pop Music. Yet when people ask the powers that be, in this case local state and federal governments, to contribute some money so that artists will actually be able to make a living while making their art the answer is that it's a luxury that society can't afford.

The consequence is that we live in an artistically impoverished landscape in a country whose grain output could feed a good portion of the world.

[On edit: what I guess I meant to say was we can put a man on the moon in the 1960s but we can't fund art, and can't fund grants for higher education, can't fund universal healthcare, and unions, oh my god, we can't afford unions because of the (theoretical) cost to economic efficiency that they bring.....I could go on, but I think you already know where this is headed]

The Obamanator strikes again

Thirty Senators signed a letter to George W. Bush stating that the administration doesn't have the authority to declare war on Iran without Congressional approval. Clinton, who voted for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment naming the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (part of the Iranian military) as a terrorist organization, signed the letter. Obama, who has been bitching to the top of the sky about Clinton voting for the amendment, even though he himself didn't vote against it and even though he co-sponsored a very, very similar bill earlier, didn't. The Huffington Post asked his office why he didn't vote for it and it cited the Kyl-Lieberman amendment...which Hillary voted for. His office said that the resolution, which explicitly says that Bush doesn't have the right to go to war without Congressional approval, didn't go far enough to correct the damage done by the Kyl-Lieberman amendment....that Hillary voted for.

Well despite voting for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment Hillary or her staff seemed to think it was a good idea for her to sign this letter, while Obama is missing in action.

Obama has been the darling of the netroots, being covered as if he could do no wrong, but from my perspective it seems like Obama is taking the unexpected support from the internet community and using it to advance his own agenda, which seems to include lying about how against war with Iran he is in order to beat Clinton in the primaries.

Inconsistencies between the Fundamentalist conception of Satan and the more traditional Christian interpretations of Satan

Because it's interesting and because it's the day after Halloween. The fundamentalist version of Satan and the role of Satan in society is one of a scheming military adversary, always on the look out to take over and always eager to possess the minds and souls of vulnerable people. He is thought to be something so evil that there need to be exorcisms, prayer defences, prayer meetings, and entire church services devoted to keeping him at bay. Fundamentalists often have a siege mentality regarding the devil and read in this sort of dualistic belief, one side completely good one side completely evil, to the meaning of current events. This has been true for a long time, for instance Bible prophecy shows on TV have been analyzing the news and figuring out just how things happening in the world figure into the devil's wily plan for a while. 9/11 has been integrated into the scheme in due course. But the role they cast for the devil is not exactly what mainstream Christianity, including Catholicism and Orthodoxy, both of which certainly believe in the devil, conceive of him as being.

The easiest way to show this is by looking at what it is the devil does. The traditional notion is that the devil tempts people to sin, leading them to and through temptation and on into sin. But why? What exactly happens to people after they indulge in sin, at the end of their lives? They get thrown into a lifetime of eternal torment in the pit of Hell, tortured by the same devil. Interesting. So the devil tempts people, but the end product of the temptation is the opposite of what the tempting act promises, and that punishment, which is in accord with God's law, is overseen by the devil. It looks like the devil is then doing God's work.

The devil in traditional Christianity is seen more as what the story of Job indicates: a sort of minion, originally on God's side, who tests people's good nature by providing a sort of counterweight, a kind of force tending towards evil to balance out God's force tending towards good. But ultimately this figures into God's plan because in the end it turns out that the promises of the tendency of evil in this world are illusory and that in the afterlife justice is rendered, with the Devil rendering God's Justice to people who have sinned and God rewarding people who have resisted sin and sought to do good.

What this indicates is a relationship between God and Devil closer to the one portrayed in the beginning of "Faust", a collegial relationship between two adversaries who nevertheless have a gentleman's agreement about what the essential nature of the world actually is.

The fundamentalist are wrong because they forget to see the idea that's blithely repeated over and over but that has a great deal of truth for Christian theology, that the existence of the Devil is part of God's plan as well.