Thursday, January 31, 2008

$400 haircuts

Excellent interview on Democracy Now! with David Bonior, head of Jonathan Edward's campaign. Title link leads to it. The $400 haircut idea is important because it reveals a bias in the media. Having a $400 dollar haircut and being a populist is inconsistent, and shouldn't be overlooked, but when the media gets really upset about this in relation to Jonathan Edwards but doesn't seem to care about similar excesses committed by Clinton, Obama, Romney, or McCain it shows that they really don't object to it on principle but rather because it pokes a hole in a candidate that they don't like. If they had a principled stand they would call bullshit on every candidate for things like this, but they don't seem to be examining the homes of Romney or McCain, for instance. If you followed the objections to the haircut you might think that the media was really concerned about elite hypocrisy and on the side of the people, but no, it's just convenient opportunism. It's wrong but the media that trots it out doesn't give a damn about the underlying principle behind their criticism.

Black Agenda Report on incarceration disparity in U.S. prisons

Most in for drug crimes. In Wisconsin the amount of black prisoners is 10.64 times the amount of white prisoners, even though blacks only account for %6 of Wisconsin's population. Drug use has been proven, although I don't have the statistical source right now, to be basically constant between racial groups, yet the disproportion in arrest and incarceration exists. This is particularly heartbreaking when you consider that in the mainstream culture movies about white college kids doing drugs excessively and not getting into any trouble for it whatsoever are a regular feature. Marijuana use on college campuses is so regular that it's not even an issue, yet on the other side of the coin when blacks outside of the class and race biased college system engage in the same activity they get thrown in jail and potentially get their lives ruined.

What gets richer, whiter, college kids a slap on the wrist gets black kids prison time. Which is why countercultural figures promoting marijuana use but ridiculing people who are concerned about social problems as being authoritarians, and actually having the gall to complain about democracy because it means not being able to do absolutely anything and everything you want without restrictions piss me off to no end.

Like, you know, I'm just doing my thing, liking jam bands and listening to Reggae, you know? I like crystals and new agey stuff and am into making my own clothes and eating a vegetarian diet. Preserve the earth, our mother. But, you know, I hate it when you be a downer and bring all this political stuff. I'd rather get high and meditate while black kids are being locked up.

There's nothing particularly wrong with anything that I listed provided you have some consciousness of and concern for what's going on in the outside world beyond your insular subculture.

Which is an extended way of repeating a slogan that popped up during the 2004 election season: Bet you'll vote this time, hippy.

*on edit: Incidentally, Iowa, which voted overwhelmingly for Obama, has according to the Black Agenda Report the worst incarceration disparity of all states with black populations of 1% or higher. Blacks make up 1% of Iowa's population but make up ten times as many prisoners in the prison system as whites. 10.47 black prisoners for every white prisoner in Iowa. For every white prisoner in the Iowa system there are ten black prisoners. This makes me wonder about the good Democratic people of Iowa. They may have voted for a black candidate in a caucus that only happens once every four years but what are they doing the rest of the time? Do they care about the black population living in their own back yard? Or is Obama for them just a token that they can feel good about voting for without really doing anything tangible about a situation that they're responsible for. That ratio, by the way, is worse than any state in the South.

Individuality and collectivity not necessarily opposed

Although people may think so. Take collective living for example, otherwise known as sharing a house with a bunch of people. You usually have your own private space, but you come together as a household on various things. You all decide how chores will be divided up, cleaning etc.., grocery shopping, maybe a rotating schedule of meal preparation, and bill paying. But in your own space you can be as individual as you want, write nihilist novels, whatever. Your freedom isn't infringed on by these rules, but things that you would have to do anyways if you lived alone are decided on by the people who depend on the rules in order to live in a clean, functional, house. You can apply the principle to businesses too, or to any enterprise where multiple people are needed in order to achieve whatever end is aimed at. The difference between this model and how most of the world works is how the collective aspects are organized. The household model could be run in a family type situation where the power to decide who does what is possessed by one or two people, who then order everyone else to carry out the tasks and penalize them when they don't follow through. Cooperation and cooperative decision making is an alternative method of organizing the same work. Businesses run the same way as the family dominated model but can equally be organized in a way that undermines it, even if due to the complexity and size of certain examples there needs to be a more complex system of decision making in order to make it work.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Detroit different than rest of midwest

Not for any mysterious reason, just because of geography. I should say that Detroit and Ohio are different than Illinois and Wisconsin, because that gets to the heart of the matter. The thing is that although Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio are all on the Great Lakes
Chicago and Milwaukee are on Lake Michigan, with Madison being sort of not that far away from Milwaukee , although not really close, while Detroit is on the other side of the state from Lake Michigan, being on the Detroit River, which in turn flows down from Lake Huron. Detroit's close to Lake Huron while Toledo and Cleveland are located on Lake Erie. So naturally this gives rise to a different sort of cultural interchange. Milwaukee and Chicago are fairly close, and the area between them is pretty well populated. Between western Michigan north of Indiana on the Lake Michigan side of the state and Detroit there's virtually nothing. Grand Rapids is the only major city in western Michigan, and that's really isolated from anything going on in eastern or southeastern Michigan. On the other hand, Toledo is just an hour's drive from Detroit, with Cleveland being a very easy drive and Pittsburgh being less than five hours away.

Using the crystal ball of MapQuest I see that Rochester New York and Detroit are about seven hours drive away if you use the U.S. route around lakes Erie and Ontario. For comparison, I used to drive nine hours from where I lived in Florida to New Orleans, and I didn't really think that was over doing it. Mapquest tells me that it's only five and a half hours from Rochester to New York City, so in other words it's more than possible to have a leisurely drive from Detroit to Rochester, stay the night, then start out at nine and get to New York at three in the afternoon.


Because of all of this Detroit is closer culturally to the east coast than is Chicago and parts north. It's not the east coast or even the same culturally as western New York and western Pennsylvania but is kind of a mix between what people think of when they say midwestern in the sense of the Great Lakes region and the eastern states. For whatever it's worth, when people were thinking about where they ultimately wanted to wind up after high school when I was in the thick of it New York City was the place they discussed, and I went to college in New York City right out of high school, although I dropped out.

The most interesting question I've gotten about Michigan, from someone up here who knew a lot of people from the Great Lakes region, was if I considered it part of the Midwest. It's sort of its own thing. A tidbit related to the culture that I'll sneak in here is that Michigan was originally settled by people from western New York State, who pressed on from there down the side of the great lakes on up into the Detroit area, which had a large pre-existing French population.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

You'd be on the side of the dictator, provided that the dictator legalized marijuana, right?

Here's an interesting interchange between a commenter and myself coming from the post where I pointed out that Robert Anton Wilson very clearly denounced democracy as having caused more casualties than Nazism and Stalinism combined.

"
haltse said

It would of course be amusing if Hitler was the product of a democratic process which arguably he was.

Personal freedom and democracy are antithetical. What freedom do you think is gained by having people vote on your ability to choose what goes into your body? E.g Bob's pain relief choice was democratically denied by the feds.

Once "they , the people" tell you that you must suffer because it was the intent of the voters to do so it would be hard to agree that democracy and freedom are not as related those with a stake in the institutions would like you to believe.

The idea that democracy and Eris are related is one of the funniest things I've read all day. Sure she's in the hanging chads, the diebolds and the odd attack ad but when you start out with the idea that anarchist spirit was somehow compatible with the state it doesn't make the last couple of lines seem as ridiculous.

Pope Haltse Kometes
8:57 AM
John Madziarczyk said...

Your comment reflects exactly what's wrong with the stoner mystique surrounding Robert Anton Wilson. You're content to sit in your house smoking pot while people in the streets are dying from gang violence and black men are arrested in droves for the same minor crimes that you get away with.

You'll whine about your individual freedom while not lifting a finger to address any of the social problems facing the country, or even acknowledging that they exist.

White privilege on display. Class privilege on display too. If you were born into a different situation I think you'd appreciate the need to collectively address problems, but since you were born at the top of the heap in our society you can conveniently ignore them and thumb your nose at people who care about these things, all the while pumping more money into New Falcon Publications...
"


*on edit: ironic that the medical marijuana that Robert Anton Wilson used is pointed at as an example of democracy not working....because he was able to get it legally and use it because the voters of California democratically decided that medical marijuana should be legal there.

Here's the passage from Wilson:

""The one sure way to make yourself unpopular in the United States these days is to mention the fact that Christianity and Democracy have been among the worst disasters to ever befall the human race."

"In Social and Cultural Dynamics, and other works, Sorokin documents beyond all doubt that democratic nations have been involved in more imperialistic wars, and have fought them with greater ferocity, than any other kinds of governments, from the dawn of civilization to the present. Oriental despotisms, absolute monarchies, even modern fascist and communist nations have all had heinous records of tyranny and general human oppression, but collectively they have been much less aggressive and war-like than the democracies, from ancient Athens to modern America"

One of the problems with Masonry.....

Has to do with its conservatism. Many of the people who become Freemasons are either old and Conservative or young and conservative, most of them are uninteresting personalities: nothing really good about them, nothing really bad about them. The problem is that with any system of self development there needs to be something to push yourself against, something that will cause you to question yourself and to possibly come to terms with parts of yourself that you'd rather not think about--in order to positively change them. With Freemasonry there don't seem to be any real commitments to self questioning and to critical self work, which when combined with the servile commitments to patriotism contained in it means that people will probably go home, think about the principles, think that they're pretty good people already, apply the principles a little bit, then forget about it confident that they've done what they needed to do. I forget who said it but someone said about religion that the inner struggle of a sinful man against his imperfections is more significant than the life of a good man trying to perfect himself, in the sense that we really all have imperfections but the good man is refusing to look at them, content that he's basically all right. The sinful man who acknowledges this is being more true to himself. Of course the hypocrisies contained in the upper class, white, conservative culture that many members of Freemasonry come from is not questioned at all, even though this would provide good ground for self discovery, self work, and the idea of advancing help to your fellow man. But as it is all of this becomes a lovefest of self congratulation instead of something that could really provide the spur that self development really needs to get going. If you're an utter conformist you're neither a good person nor a bad person; you're no person, and unless you flesh yourself out you'll stay that way. People shouldn't confuse virtue with never having lived, being in a perpetual state of adolescence.

Incidentally, if the requirements to patriotism that are part of Freemasonry today were around or at least interpreted in the same way then as they are now it would be hard to understand how so many Freemasons could have participated in the American and French Revolutions. Instead, the equivalents of our own august bodies would have chastised them for not supporting the King.

*on edit: here's a question: with all of the Masonic rituals available online for free if you do some digging (Sacred-Texts.com hint hint) why don't people get together with a few friends who are interested in the subject and form their own Masonic lodges instead of appealing to the powers that be to accept them. It's a form of Do It Yourself that surely would be more satisfying than being laughed at by overgrown frat boys.

Want to be a Freemason? Go to the internet, get some rituals, start putting them into action with the help of the necessary number of people who also want to do it.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Another thing that the move to teach creationism in schools is indicative of

High schools have long had much less academic freedom than colleges. In fact, this is why conservatives are so against the supposed decadent freedom that exists on college campuses: because people in college in some way at least have the opportunity to honestly learn about the world they can dissent from the crap they've grown up with and therefore challenge conservative ideals. Compared to both life after high school in general and college in particular, high schools are a joke that has little to do with actual learning and more to do with satisfying the requirements of sexually repressed PTA members. Enter creationism.

Picture this: if a particular high school is under attack because the biology department teaches evolution in, like, the basic intro class, how much chance is there that anything remotely controversial is or can be taught in classes where controversy actually matters, like classes about politics? The answer is somewhere between "Not fucking likely" and "In your dreams".

This sort of censorship with regards to mainstream scientific opinion is only the logical extension of a widespread war waged by Christian conservatives on the grass roots level to make sure that the public school system in the United States stays within their ideals, both political, religious, social, and historical. And every person who passes through these school systems is done an extreme disservice because of all this.

U.S. Government on Suharto "Achieved remarkable economic development"

"JAKARTA (AFP) — The United States Sunday hailed former Indonesian president Suharto as a "historic figure" who "achieved remarkable economic development," in a statement released by its embassy here."

Who also led a campaign of genocide against East Timor, who, as reported in this article "From 1964 to 1965, when Suharto rose to power, between 300,000 and 800,000 alleged communist sympathizers were killed"

The way the Indonesians committed genocide in East Timor was by encircling villages and not letting in food, causing the inhabitants to starve to death, sort of like Gaza.

The blockade of food over there and the break in the wall....avoiding a similar fate.

But Suharto made, as I think Medea Benjamin wrote, Indonesia a laboratory for sweatshop based globalization, in addition to keeping the country, which wanted to become Communist, firmly in the capitalist camp through mass murder.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Why the Right loves a disaster" by Naomi Klein

I know why Naomi Klein loves a disaster: it gives her a chance to twist facts in order to validate her bullshit thesis on "Disaster Capitalism" and "The Shock Doctrine". The truth is, there isn't any connection between imposition of right wing policies and disasters, and no particular reasons why this should even be true. Clinton imposed welfare reform in an era known for its stability and lack of disasters. NAFTA, passed by Clinton, wasn't prompted by any disaster in either Mexico, the U.S., or Canada. The Multilateral Agreement on Investments, which was what the WTO protests stopped and which would have made laws throughout the world subject to veto based on whether or not they interfered with business practices, was not drafted and was not proposed because of any disaster.

I don't understand why Klein can't just come out and say that capitalism is the problem. Not some gimmick called "Disaster Capitalism" which relies on the idea of a "Shock doctrine" but capitalism pure and simple.

"If this kind of crisis opportunism feels familiar, it’s because it is. Over the last four years, I have been researching a little-explored area of economic history: the way that crises have paved the way for the march of the right-wing economic revolution across the globe. A crisis hits, panic spreads and the ideologues fill the breach, rapidly reengineering societies in the interests of large corporate players. It’s a maneuver I call “disaster capitalism.”

Sometimes the enabling national disasters have been physical blows to countries: wars, terrorist attacks, natural disasters. More often they have been economic crises: debt spirals, hyperinflation, currency shocks, recessions.

More than a decade ago, economist Dani Rodrik, then at Columbia University, studied the circumstances in which governments adopted free-trade policies. His findings were striking: “No significant case of trade reform in a developing country in the 1980s took place outside the context of a serious economic crisis.”

The emphasis is mine. Developing country, 1980s. So the U.S., Canada, and Mexico under NAFTA is not included in that, and neither are the WTO driven reforms that took place throughout the '90s.

...

Possibly the biggest line of bullshit in the article is this:

"The 1990s proved him right in dramatic fashion. In Russia, an economic meltdown set the stage for fire-sale privatizations."

No.

Privatization happened solely as a consequence of U.S. encouraged reforms, which in turn happened
Because the Eastern Bloc fell and the Soviet Union became a non-Communist dominated country. Nothing forced the Russians to do this.

*on edit: the next sentence is a big fabrication too: "Next, the Asian crisis in 1997-98 cracked open the “Asian tigers” to a frenzy of foreign takeovers, a process the New York Times dubbed “the world’s biggest going-out-of-business sale.”

What she doesn't say is that the crisis happened because of liberalized foreign investment in these countries, which is a form of globalizational deregulation. In fact, the reason that these countries attracted foreign investment like they did was because of the absence of labor laws and a general pro-business environment. The investment was built on sweatshops, to be frank, something I thought Klein knew about since she based a lot of "No Logo" on the realities of sweatshop labor.

All of these things are called the basic history of the 20th century. Maybe Miss Klein should familiarize herself with it rather than rewriting it in order to sell books, and rewriting the history that she wrote in the first place in order to make a new flashy concept work for her.

Friday, January 25, 2008

If the aim is post-partisanship then why have parties

Inquiring minds want to know. Why does there exist a Democratic Party and a Republican Party if the goal is to transcend differences and come to some sort of post-partisan consensus? Parties exist because there are differences, significant differences, in political orientation, programs, philosophy. They are differences that can't be ignored. The idea of post-partisan cooperation implies two mutually exclusive positions making some sort of common ground. The fact that you have significant differences between large groups of people who have different ideologies isn't a cause for alarm, it's called democracy. And in democracies the philosophy with the most votes wins, which means that by definition people will be left out. Strife and competition in the political realm is natural and healthy, to say otherwise is to make a mockery out of the idea of self-determination. If people don't like the fact that a small majority is able to dictate policy they should organize to get a bigger share of the vote.

How the rest of the world sees us, Brian Barder

Here's a post by Craig Murray talking about the weirdness and fucked upedness of American politics:


The title link leads to something even more astonishing, the article that Murray was commenting on, which includes an analysis of England and England's problems by a guy named Brian Barder, who's a Social Democrat.

"I stress that I don't write this in any spirit of holier-than-thou: I view our own political (and economic and commercial and social) system in the UK as grievously flawed, and in urgent need of repairs that it's clearly not about to get. I'm not talking only about our hideously mistaken collaboration in the Kosovo and Iraq war crimes, but also about the gross and growing inequality in our society, the subordination of human and social need to the unscrupulous demands of the market, the reduction of most of our fellow-citizens to an army of stressed, weary wage slaves, the political and constitutional illiteracy of much of our population, the poisonous effects of large parts of our unprincipled and degraded media, the cowardice, puerile tribalism and tunnel vision of most of our politicians, the subversive consequences of our still rampant class system on our schools and health care, the commercial corruption of popular culture, the emergence of football (i.e. soccer, and to a lesser degree other kinds of sport) as a national religious cult, the concerted assault on our ancient liberties on the pretext of a stupidly misrepresented terrorist threat, the disgusting and shameful state of our prisons, the collapse of family life in our inner cities and the violence, drunkenness, teen-aged pregnancies and other self-destructive anti-social behaviour that it generates, the xenophobia and sentimentalised WWII nostalgia that disfigures our patriotism, the lack (since the treacherous perversion of the Labour Party by Blair and his associates) of a major political party whose principles are founded on a generous-spirited democratic socialist philosophy, and our gruesome climate. I could go on…. and on…"


Imagine saying this in the United States. This goes well beyond Obama's bullshit about unity and post-partisanship; it's a real, authentic, political analysis, something that should be part of American political life but isn't. Instead, we have frauds selling feel good rhetoric.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

"What progressive wouldn't want a "progressive Reagan"? " R.J. Escow and the idiocy of the Obamanites

Escow is providing cover for Obama's Reagan comment by saying "Here's what Obama was really saying, if you listen to his full comments: That Ronald Reagan took ideas that were out of political favor and re-injected them into the mainstream, thereby changing the course of political history."

Actually, Mr. R.J., if you really read Obama's comments instead of getting them second hand you'll find out that he specifically said that " He put us on a fundamentally different path, because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown, but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think people—he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.”



Obama is specifically saying that the 60's and the 70's created unaccountable excesses in government and that they sapped the spirit of entrepreneurism in the United States. That's a hell of a lot different than saying that he mobilized people.

You have to be the biggest fucking idiot on the planet to suggest that what we need is a "progressive Reagan". We want someone who was a figurehead who couldn't effectively govern, who was conservative to the point of pseudo-fascism and manipulated people in order to advance the corporate and Christian interests that his handlers wanted to see in place.

Yes, of course, a "Progressive Reagan". I wrote a post last week parodying Obama's Reagan comment by saying that Obama has endorsed Hitler in the spirit of rising above partisanship because he created the Autobahn and got Germany out of the Depression. It looks like you could equally say that Hitler was a positive figure because he mobilized the German people and advanced ideas that were out of favor, therefore revitalizing German political life.

And who doesn't want a Progressive candidate who can mobilize people like Hitler did?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The origin of the cut up method

Of William S. Burroughs. The cut up method consists of taking a piece of writing, either your own or someone elses, like a newspaper story for example, physically cutting it up into small pieces, then reassembling it in a random way so that it says something different than what it originally said. It's something where the result is a thing that you couldn't predict when you started out, and that you couldn't predict by the original meaning of whatever you used. So it essentially creates something new that people aren't intentionally responsible for. It doesn't lead to complete and total incoherence, like some might think, but to strange phrases that are semi-understandable and others that have more of a meaning attached to them. Modern literature and poetry has contributed a lot to this sort of sense making, especially the stream of consciousness writers.

The origin, as Burroughs always said, was in painting, and the specific part of painting that it came from was the collage of the surrealists. Of these people, Max Ernst was the pre-eminent collage artist, creating works that didn't use collage to communicate aspects of literal painting that couldn't be normally expressed, like Picasso did, but that used found images combined in strange juxtapositions on an equally improper background in order to create a new meaning. The new meaning was produced by the mind trying to come to terms with what all of this that normally didn't go together could mean. Ernst, in his book "Beyond Painting", available in college libraries everywhere, explicitly talks about collage in the same way that Burroughs does, saying that collage is meant to produce something irrational that hasn't existed on the normal plane of meaning before, with the implication that doing this would lead to new truths being discovered.

Brion Gysin, the person that Burroughs collaborated with and who he said taught him the cut up method, had been a member of the actual Surrealist group in Paris, and probably got the idea from people who knew and talked about Ernst.

Tax cuts aren't enough

Because our corporate tax rates are already the lowest in the western world and this hasn't done much. It's really dubious that money from tax cuts will be used to invest in expanding businesses, which is the theory behind tax cuts helping the economy. Lowering interest rates is even worse. The theory there is that businesses would expand their operations if the interest rates on loans was low enough. But our interest rates have been at rock bottom for a long time, and even worse they were the catalyst for the housing bubble as well as the subprime loan market. If mortgages are as cheap as can be paying an enormous amount for a house can in some people's eyes seem like a good deal. And the housing bubble actually triggered the recession after it burst.

Instead, what's needed is a direct economic stimulus through subsidies handed out to strategic industries, productive industries actually making things that we would want to nurture and to encourage in their growth. A rebuilt auto industry would be a great place to start, as would a rebuilt steel industry. By actually giving money to people, with specific agreements that it would be spent in ways that modernized and streamlined the industries, the subsidies would not only create a chain reaction in spending as companies bought more stuff from suppliers but would create the conditions for long term economic recovery and growth.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The tragic aspect of Olympia

Is that although there's enough ideas, energy. and good people there to send the town to the moon the enormous resistance to progressive initiatives and culture in the town strangles much of that energy before it can manifest. The resistance comes from Olympians who resent the presence of Evergreen and the progressive culture that's come to the town because of Evergreen as well as because of the presence of Fort Lewis up the road. The conservative Olympians have cast themselves as being the defenders of the people at Fort Lewis and have cast the Greeners as being the ultimate enemies of them. The military itself spreads disinformation among the troops about Evergreen and the intentions of the anti-war Greeners towards the soldiers. Many of the soldiers also live in the Olympia area, many in the new sort of suburb towns that have grown up like Lacey but also in the town itself. Although people who have contact with Evergreeners and progressives in Olympia no doubt are at least somewhat aware that the official story isn't true, the people who live in the area but away from the progressive Olympian culture are more conservative. Because of all of this living in Olympia makes you feel like you're under siege, that you're surrounded by people who hate you and who sometimes don't mind telling you it. In the time I've lived in Seattle I've found more basic respect than I ever did in Olympia outside of the fellow Greeners and fellow travelers that I knew. Likewise, even though I don't live in an area where people are visibly militantly progressive I feel that I have quite a bit more freedom to express myself. It certainly feels like regular life up here and not like the schizophrenic split personality of acceptance/hatred that characterizes the Olympia area.

"Demons of the flesh"

Left Hand Path sex magick, by Nikolas Schreck and Zeena LaVey. It's an interesting book, but what's really entertaining is the fact that you can see very clearly which paragraphs were written by Schreck and which ones were written by Zeena LaVey, daughter of Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey.

Schreck's writing in it is very calm and considered, and interesting, while Zeena's seems to be shrill and hysterical.

I know the associations that these two have had in the past, but as far as I can tell "Demons of the flesh" is a straightforward occult book with little political subtext.

Ms. LaVey comes off as a talentless spoiled brat.

*on edit: I have to give Zeena LaVey a little more credit than that. Demons of the Flesh is a good book all around and it's not something that could have been without Zeena's collaboration.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

"Obama urges unity in rousing speech at King's church"

Sorry if this starting to look like "All Obama all the time" here, but the guy keeps on saying hypocritical, opportunist things. The latest is he plea for unity in Martin Luther King Jr.'s own church on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Here are the key quotes:

""For most of this country's history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man's inhumanity to man.

....

"And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we're honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King's vision of a beloved community."

Obama cited anti-immigrant sentiment, black-Jewish clashes and scorn for the gay community as examples of how blacks had fallen short and added: "Our politics fuels and exploits this kind of division across all races and regions; across gender and party.""

This is like celebrating David by pointing out that although Goliath was bad David too was aggressive. It's a sentiment that Obama made no doubt for the white audience that will no doubt read about it tomorrow.

If people's hands are dirty that means by definition that they're partly to blame for something. Obama's subtext is that blacks are responsible for the hate directed against them, and so whites aren't totally to blame. Therefore whites can breath a sigh of relief and vote for Obama.

I think that Malcolm X made a distinction along the way between the field negro (in his words) and the house negro, the latter living in the big house with master serving him. It's apparent which one of those Obama is.

The Gods smile on irony

In a local used bookstore I found in the metaphysical section "Alfred Jarry, Collected Works 1, Adventures in 'Pataphysics". For cheap. It's out of print. 'Pataphysics is quite different from metaphysics. I think Jarry would have been amused that his work had accidentally winded up in the new age section of a used bookstore.

An economic stimulus won't save the dollar or the economy

Although it will surely help out people in need if it gets to them. The reason that it won't help out the dollar, well, first off the reason that the value of the dollar is important is that the U.S. economy has largely been propped up for the last decade or so on foreign investment. Foreign investment, in dollars as well as in assets, has helped to offset our enormous trade deficit, which saps money from the economy. Now that the dollar is in a tail spin investing in the dollar or in U.S. assets isn't attractive anymore, and people who have invested in U.S. assets are now seeing there hope of a higher return on their investment go up in flames. The housing bubble and the intertwined sub-prime loan market existed based on the idea that the economy could do no wrong and that the United States could still be able to pay its bills while behaving in whatever stupid way economically it wanted to. This was insured by foreign investment in dollars and in those tangible U.S. assets. But even people who tolerate U.S. excesses have limits.

If we want to solve the economic crisis which will surely get worse and worse as time goes by we have to look at what the origin of our economic instability is. To me, it's pretty obvious that our instability is caused by the undercutting of our manufacturing sector due to globalization and free trade, eliminating the base on which all economies function. We served as consumers without being manufacturers, beneficiaries of the Third World's largesse while not contributing much ourselves, except some software and copy righted media products. The only way to solve the problem is to build up our manufacturing base up again, which can only happen if we stop allowing our business to go to China and elsewhere. We need to first eliminate free trade and then seriously curtail corporate power, hopefully at the same time, in order that we can put people to work not in a house of cards called "the service industry" but in something that creates tangible value that can be used and exchanged.

Michigan in this, as in so many other cases, has unfortunately been ahead of the curve in experiencing the destruction that our policies have ultimately created.

The consequence of all this anti-Tax rhetoric

Besides crumbling public infrastructure, is the absurd situation where cash stimulus to the economy is labeled as tax cuts. This is literally untrue. You see, from Clinton on there's been this thing called the "Earned Income Tax Credit" that applies to people making below a certain amount of money. A tax credit is great, right, because it means you pay less taxes? While this is technically true the catch is that the people getting the Tax Credit are paying very few taxes anyways, so the Tax Credit comes back to them as a check over and above what they paid in taxes. In other words, economic stimulus through giving people money has to be labeled an offset to taxes in our Orwellian land in order to exist.

The compensatory function of the idea of the new Bush doctrine in the national psyche

The new Bush doctrine being the idea of a war on evil combined with a war on terror combined with a notion of "evil doers" constantly threatening the United States combined with the idea of a vast Islamic conspiracy that threatens to over power the United States and convert it to itself by force.

Jung would possibly say that 9/11 punctured the film separating the consciousness of society from its growing contents that had been pushed into unconsciousness. The many things that couldn't be talked about or acknowledged, from the actions of the CIA abroad to the great corruption of the Bush family in general were brought to the surface. But the reaction was far from pleasant in many people. Those people who had already dealt with these features of American society and history were not really phased by 9/11 although they no doubt felt compassion for the victims and a desire to see the people brought to justice. But for many others the intrusion of these sorts of subconscious contents into consciousness and the basic questions that the event brought up were too much to handle. First, they struck out violently against everyone and anything that they thought was responsible for their pain. Then, a new story, a new idea of how the world works, something that explained things, was manufactured by the administration in order to plug up some of the questions and criticism that may have come up through analyzing and confronting the new feelings and issues violently brought to the surface. The idea of Islamo-Fascism is a way of comforting people and encouraging them not to look behind the curtain at what's really going on. It's a piss poor excuse to keep the country from doing what it should have been doing from day one: having a reckoning with itself, with the record of the United States in the world in the past fifty years, and what those actions mean on a moral, ethical, and global scale.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Jung and individuation

Individuation is Jung's term for coming to psychological health, being the product of integration. Individuation as a term has a radically different meaning from what it appears to be about. A person individuates by becoming integrated psychologically.

According to Jung's theory there are many parts of the self that exist scattered in a person's psychology that aren't all conscious at the same time. You may have a part of yourself that represents an experience or way of thinking about things that you had when you were a kid, you may have another part of yourself that existed when you were in a relationship with a certain person, and that consciousness you had as a kid and that of the relationship both constitute parts of yourself, yet you might not be aware of them all of them time. Experiences, feelings, observations, events, sometimes thoughts, can be stored in our memory only to be called up at certain points and then gradually submerged again. But these things that exist within our overall psychology can also exist in opposition to one another, albeit unconsciously.

You may have had a traumatic experience that differs from everything else that you may have experienced, that you can't process, and that you bury in your unconscious mind. That experience is not integrated into your greater self. The self that you experience on a daily basis can't account for the experience in its understanding of the world, yet there may be intense unresolved feelings associated with it. These feelings can cause psychological problems as the event imposes itself on the waking self subconsciously, maybe creating compulsions that you can't account for, or vague fears. The event can also be recalled and relived to an extent, triggered by something in the environment, causing the pain to come back. A way out of this is to somehow integrate your understanding of the event with the understanding of your greater self, to come up with an explanation that both makes sense of the event and is comprehensible in terms of your general understanding of everyday reality.

By doing things like this, by integrating experiences and parts of yourself that may be at odds with each other or with the normal waking self in general, you become more of an authentic individual, you become more individuated. But another thing that Jung points out is that the self that we experience in our daily life isn't static from moment to moment sometimes and really not the same from day to day. Certain times and in certain situations different parts of our selves come to the surface from the unconscious, so that it isn't really a question of an absolute, unchanging, waking consciousness opposed by things that we've repressed.

If we're broken up by a lot of bad experiences spread over the course of our lives, and not many of them have been dealt with in a way that makes sense out of them, our sense of self is weak and fragile, easily challenged by the surfacing of one of these moments in our daily life.

Wilhelm Reich and the Psychedelic experience

Wilhelm Reich, German psychiatrist and sexologist, developed a theory of personality that made use of the concept of character armor. The idea was that we start out with a core self but as we move through our developmental stages and into adulthood this core self becomes surrounded by layers and layers of accretions that armor a person and separate that core self from the outside world. This isn't to say that people should aim for an infantile state but rather that once a person is an adult and is fully developed mentally they shouldn't necessarily be limited in expressing their selves by armoring. A really armored person would be a really guarded person, someone whose self is hidden behind layers and layers of obstruction, where the flow from the self to the outside world is impeded. Freud talked about a natural flow of psychic energy starting in the subconscious mind then going through the ego and eventually manifesting in the outside world as will, intentionality, and interaction of self with others. If this flow is impeded or obstructed by some experience bad things start to happen to a person mentally. The point of some of Reich's therapy was to dismantle some of these obstructions, disassemble the character armor that doesn't need to be there, and restore a better rapport between the self and the world. This disconnection of self and other can easily be recognized as alienation, the feeling of being alienated from the world, while the destruction of the character armor cuts through that alienation and restores a better sense of self to the person.

One of the most noted features of the psychedelic experience, something that comes up again and again, is the sense of being returned to a state in consciousness free from the unnecessary baggage of life and truer to the sense of self of a person as he or she actually is. This is what is said to cause people to radically change their life paths after doing psychedelics. It sounds an awful lot like the psychedelic experience can cut through the character armoring and return a person to the experience of their core self, if only temporarily. I say that because the consensus is that the psychological benefits of psychedelics fade after a period of a few weeks, so that people might be more well adjusted afterwards but they're not transported to some permanent state of enlightenment and sartori. In any case it seems that psychedelics tap into the same sort of core reality that Wilhelm Reich was aiming at restoring contact with.

*on edit: character armor is what we put up to prevent people from seeing us as we really are. And why should we be afraid of people seeing us like that? The particular fear that we have of being exposed or confronted with our self points to the sort of problem we have.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Preliminary notes on Robert Greenfield's biography of Timothy Leary

Which I've pretty much finished. I'd say it's pretty good, although critical. But the very definition of critical involves precision, you know. Main themes running through it are Leary's irresponsibility in failing to ever acknowledge the dangers that people could be exposed to with bad trips, professional cavalierness while at Harvard, self promotion, and then betrayal of the counterculture and political radical culture when the noose tightened around his neck. The most objectionable part is actually the beginning section where Greenfield tries to trace Leary's later irresponsibility to his youth, arguing that this was a common theme throughout his entire life, from high school on. But the book isn't as negative as some people have made it out to be. I initiatily found out about it and got interested in it because the author and R.U. Sirius, editor of Mondo2000,
had a shouting match about it on Sirius' podcast (which you can find through a link on my sidebar). The sort of cyberculture psychedelicism that Sirius is a huge part of was very influential on me. Anyways, I felt that if these two people got into an online verbal brawl that the book must be good.

And indeed it is. I came in contact with Leary's writings not through "The Psychedelic Experience" or "Turn on, Tune in, Drop out", although I did read the last one and recommend it, but thorugh his later writings on psychology that were published through New Falcon Publications, like Exopsychology. Robert Anton Wilson in Cosmic Trigger proved to be another bridge into Leary's later philosophy. I think that this later fate, to be published by a small press and be read by counterculture figures while living in obscurity, is probably one that Leary deserved, because it was based on honesty and the power of his thought in many respects and not about an overwhelming star power.

This just in, Obama praises Uncle Adolph

In a surprising turn of events Barrack Obama praised the virtues of Adolph Hitler today in a press conference. "Hitler created the autobahn system and pulled Germany out of a recession. My opponent John Edwards would seek to polarize the country with his rhetoric, I seek reconciliation."

Progressives lauded Obama for raising above partisanship, stating that there was no reason that people couldn't support progressive values and like Hitler.

The real connection between Classical Liberalism and Welfare State liberalism

Because conservatives have tried to prove that there's no connection and that therefore liberals are anti-liberty. L.T. Hobhouse, an English author writing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, provides the best analysis of the new liberalism in the essays collected in Liberalism and other writings, put out by Cambridge. Basically, the transition from classical liberalism to welfare state liberalism depended on the ideas of agency and of effective liberty. Agency means the ability of a person to truly self determine their life in society, effective liberty means the potential for people to actually make use of their rights in society. What the liberals of the 19th and 20th centuries decided on was that the elements of classical liberalism that were at its heart were the idea that people should be able to self determine their own destinies without a hierarchy limiting their ability to do so and that classical models that linked economic liberalism with the creation of this state weren't necessarily accurate. The model of laissez-faire free market economics may have helped to realize this goal at one point, but the goal itself of self determination and actual participation in society was more important than sticking to one model. If laissez-faire didn't work there was no reason to keep it in place despite it being defective. The liberals of the 19th century saw what was happening in their countries and determined that to preserve a society where people were free to exercise their rights in a real way and to determine their own destinies socially there needed to be legislation and reform, even though legislation, taxes, and constraint of business were some of the things that classical liberals had railed against. The difference was that the system they confronted was linked to feudalistic monarchy, which was inherently anti-liberal.

How does all of this work in practice? If capitalism creates barriers for poor people to have the ability to advance socially based on their talents and on their work then legislation needs to be created to restrain that barrier so that this can happen. If capitalism creates a situation where people profit from businesses out of all proportion to the work that they put into it this should be corrected by progressive taxation since it distorts the equal potential for everybody's work to be fairly compensated. A company sets up a factory that pollutes a neighborhood and causes people in the neighborhood to get sick; this infringes on their essential rights as citizens to live without experiencing consequences that they are not responsible for just because they happened to live in the wrong place. Health care is another great example of how this works. If there's a system where one person can get sick, be unable to afford healthcare and therefore lose his or her job due to illness, and another person can get any of their wants attended to, that's a heaping impediment to self determination since no one is responsible for the illnesses that they get. Therefore, health care needs to be insured for all people so that no one has their life ruined because they got sick one day. Housing too applies to this, and the idea of a living wage comes directly out of this tradition. People should be able to afford housing. They might not be able to afford really great housing, because that would come with socialism ;), but they should be able to afford a basic roof over their head that leads them to not be homeless. If the housing market is so bad that people are thrown out into bad situations because housing prices have gone through the roof some sort of subsidized housing or public housing needs to be created to allow them this basic requirement for a decent life. Food gets in here too. Race and racial discrimination created by social legacies of oppression should be confronted by creating artificial programs to promote the advancement of members of minority groups, i.e. affirmative action.

Liberalism in this sense doesn't mean that the differences between rich and poor, advantaged and disadvantaged are totally eliminated. Instead, there's a wide range of possible outcomes for a person seeking to make their way in society, from success and relatively greater wealth to not so much success and relatively smaller wealth. The point is that in this system everyone should get a fair chance. Access to free education, both high school and college, figures in to this as well.

Socialism is different in that socialism seeks to change the basic fabric of society so that these inequalities are not produced, while welfare state liberalism goes from the outside in, only tentatively approaching the root problems of society.

Obama praises Reagan

Originally from "Democracy Now!":

"Senator Barack Obama: “I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path, because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown, but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think people—he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.”

This pisses me off beyond measure. We need to nail this fucker as a fraud who will just fuck people over if he gets elected.

Sex and the nervous system

According to Wilhelm Reich, a German sexologist from the early to mid 20th century, sexual arousal and orgasm are ruled by two different sections of the Autonomic Nervous System. Arousal is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system and orgasm to the sympathetic. Normally the two systems work against each other, as can be seen in the process of arousal where energy builds before orgasm but is prevented from braking out into the flow that leads to orgasm itself. The sympathetic nervous system, the deepest level of the nervous system, regulates the basic functions of organs and is generally not receptive to conscious influence, meaning that the release of orgasm is one of the few moments where contact with and experience of the sympathetic nervous system can be made in a conscious way. Jung, in his essay "The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious", links the deeper sections of the nervous system to deeper sections of the self, with universe of the deep unconscious archetypes being associated with the sympathetic nervous system. Through sex and orgasm, then, it should be possible to consciously interact with this deepest level of the self.

*on edit: I notice a lot of people are finding this post. What I want to say is that the picture of the nervous system given here is very simplistic, much simpler than it actually is in real life. I'm not a doctor, or a biologist, and I know that even in Reich's day, meaning the '30s and the '40s, his division of the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system into inhibitory and excitatory was regarded as an oversimplification.

*on edit #2: however, despite the simplification in this model I think that it has value.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Liberal Fascism

Jonah Goldberg can't even get the terminology right...I thought liberals were supposed to secretly be Stalinists.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Redemption through Sin

Redemption through sin is an idea established by the Jewish Messiah Sabbathai Zevi, founder of the eponymous Sabbathian movement. Living in the 17th century he declared that he was the Messiah, that the old law had been abolished, and that a new law was taking its place. But to experience the new metaphysical realm one had to emancipate themselves from the old law, the law of the Torah, which was now a negative force in the universe. This was also thought to be the case on a larger, worldwide, scale. The way that you emancipated yourself from the old law was to systematically violate the laws of Jewish tradition, from things relating to dietary restrictions on down, until purified of the old law you could perceive the new dispensation and implement it in your life. The new law would be moral as well, but it would be limited to a smaller number of commandments that would have a broader application in the world. By systematically and very purposefully violating religious law you not only contributed to your own emancipation but to the emancipation of man, because on a spiritual level all transgressions of the old law done by individuals collectively weakened the old law's power in the world. Once the old law was destroyed on a social scale the true rebirth of all mankind would take place.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

How Rights can be used to justify invasion and war--an example from history

Namely, the invasion of Poland by the Nazis, which lead to World War II. Usually, the invasion of Poland is presented as something that was purely the product of Nazi plans for expansion, and so it was on the highest levels. But the invasion of Poland that was sold to the people of the Third Reich was something different. Poland after World War I and the gaining of statehood had a considerable German population, the consequence of the Polish state being divided up between Germany, Austria, and Russia for a considerable amount of time. The propaganda that was put out was that Germans in Poland were being harassed and threatened, that the Poles themselves were persecuting them and that they needed help to avoid disaster. Hence, an invasion by Germany was sold not only as a revanchist concept of regaining territory but also as a humanitarian mission of sorts in order to protect the German minority from the "Slavic hordes". Ultimately, the invasion of Poland was triggered by a manufactured incident on the border. Seeing that direct provocation of Polish border police wasn't working German commandos dressed in Polish uniforms descended on a German border outpost and slaughtered the people inside, therefore creating the pretext for going to war.

Although we all know how fucked up and terrible the Third Reich was, becoming synonymous with pure evil, the Nazis appealed at times to themes that have popped up again and again in the history of belligerent nations who want to provoke war for their own wants.

So when people express the idea that this invasion or that invasion has to happen to preserve a noble ideal in the country in question, warning bells should go off immediately, because war hardly ever happens for a noble ideal. The second world war only happened because of the vast expansion of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. If people had really wanted to stop Nazism solely for the sake of stopping Nazism they wouldn't have waited until it got so far along in its plan. But, as Clausewitz says, war is politics extended by other means, and nobility of purpose is a convenient blind for covering that up.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The military and social advancement

There are actually a surprising number of people in the Northwest who are very cool who spent some time in the military in their early twenties. And the economic pressures for people to join the military are well known. But although the people who have done this are largely, but not totally, cool, at least in the circles I run in (which might be biased beyond belief), the reason that this avenue exists in the first place is because the U.S. is an Empire.

Look at it this way: what prestige except nostalgia does a person get by being a career French soldier? Or a Swiss one? France no longer has an empire and so the French army only meddles in the affairs of its former colonies under the table, as it were. Beyond that it's just for self defense. And you can't make a glorious career out of a purely defensive system. The idea of the U.S. army as a way to get out of poverty etc... is only made real by the fact that we're everywhere around the world, have bases in many countries for no obvious reason (infringing on their sovereignty), and constantly perform policing actions when we're not actually fighting wars of aggression. Our Army, Navy, and Air Force, don't sit around all day in the states doing nothing, and the Marines were created solely as an elite force for rapid deployment.

If we didn't have bases around the world, if we didn't appoint ourselves as cops of the world, constantly interfering in other countries' business, there wouldn't be the opportunities for social advancement that the armed forces currently present. A career in the military these days is made possible as a viable option due to the imperialist nature of the United States.

You call it a surge, I call it escalation

Just saying. The idea of a "surge" is a public relations created word used to avoid having to use the term 'escalation' because 'escalation' is associated with disastrous times in Vietnam where it lead to nothing. But an escalation by any other name is just as bad...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

An exclusive look at the values and beliefs of Generation Z

John Madziarczyk, your roaming culture vulture here, breaking an exclusive story on how Generation Z, people born after 9/11, think and feel about the world. I'm sitting here with Bill, "Billy Snookums", Williamson, age: six months.

Billy, what do you think about the election? "OOh, ahh!! Ha ha ha. Bub bub bub bub bub. Mama! Hee hee hee. Dada!" (Billy goes off to feeding time)

There you have it, Generation Z represents a return to traditional family values mixed with a light hearted attitude towards life.

What ramifications will this have in the coming years for society at large? Only time will tell.

This has been John Madziarczyk, that's "M-a-d-z-i-a-r-c-z-y-k" (in case you want to get in touch with me for further Generation Z insights), reporting for the Seattle Inquisitor.

Shorter Rosa Brooks: people born after the '60s don't believe that all women should be barefoot and pregnant

The self interpreter of "Generation Y" brings more completely banal and meaningless facts to the table in relation to the 2008 election:

"Younger Americans tend to think differently about gender. Generation Y — those born after 1977 — is dramatically more accepting of nontraditional gender roles than older generations; a recent survey found, for example, that 63% “completely disagree” that women should “return to traditional roles” in society. These younger Americans are also far more comfortable with homosexuality, which makes them less likely to assume that women who behave in less “traditional” ways must “really” be lesbians — and if they are, Gen Y-ers wonder, who cares?"

Wow, I thought that, like Carol Burnett and LaVerne and Shirley were breaking out of traditional gender roles in the '60s, on mainstream television no less!

Who knew that just a few years ago, like in the '90s, the pre-Generation Y population believed that if a woman went to college for something beyond cooking that they were lesbians?

What an unenlightened age.

But then again, when your reputation, and possible book deals, are on the line, absurdities like that Gen-Y people are radically different than, say, Generation X people, who grew up in the glow of the sixties themselves, are necessary to bolster your culture guru credentials.

Republican rhetoric surrounding liberals and 9/11 reminds me of "Birth of a Nation" sometimes

Namely the idea that 9/11 happened because of the decadent liberals during the Clinton regime and that the Global War on Terror was a corrective and just response. Everyone knows that Birth of a Nation is about the Klan. Fewer people know the context that they put the Klan in.

The movie starts during Reconstruction, the time period after the Civil War where there was an actual attempt to transform the Southern power structure in order to make it truly democratic and to truly deliver equal rights to former slaves. Newly elected black legislators are portrayed as eating fried chicken in their state congress, making barely understandable declarations about how they have to get whitey. Black rapists roam the land. Into this situation, created by the Lincoln administration and abolitionists comes the Ku Klux Klan, riding in to restore justice and the honor of white womanhood. The Klan is portrayed as a necessary force, much like the Global War on Terror is portrayed as necessary to correct the liberal decadence that lead to 9/11 happening.

It's the same vigilante justice, the same disregard of laws.

Will a Birth of a Nation film be made about the period we're living in now some day, with Bush as a daring Klansman leading the charge against the brown hordes threatening the U.S.?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

And '90s gangster rap, when it all went mainstream, was toned down to appeal to 'mainstream' America

Which is white in the eyes of marketers. This fits into the theme of the last post, about drug use not really having anything to do with political orientation. It's been said before by various people but I'll say it again: Snoop Dog and Dr. Dre created a mainstream form of rap by toning down the drug use, cutting out most of the politics, and turning down the explicitness of the sex. Which might come as a shock because they're associated with heavy marijuana use, but if you compare their music with what went before you'll see the difference. For instance:

In the song 8-Ball by N.W.A. Eazy-E starts out by saying:"I don't drink brass monkey, like to be funky, nic nag Eazy-E yo eight ball junky" with an eight ball being a bag of cocaine. While "The Chronic" sells to wanna be white gangsters and frat boys, cocaine brings up memories of D.A.R.E. an d Reagan's "War on Drugs", which is a no-no.

It's really easy to talk about the lack of political perspective from these latter day rap stars. Basically, the songs devolved into personal stories of hard times, which while interesting don't have the same confrontational themes of "Straight outta Compton" and "Fuck the Police" by N.W.A., for instance.

As for sex, which they seem to talk about incessantly, it's all vanilla compared to some of what came before. An example of this is contained in "Me so horny" by 2-Live Crew.

"Put your lips on my dick and suck my asshole too."

I don't think you're going to hear Snoop Dogg saying that any time soon.

Less drugs, less politics, less really raunchy sex, brought to you by some enterprising rappers who wanted to make loads of money by marketing commodified dissent to white audiences, from all across the class spectrum.

And it worked.

More proof that there's no necessary connection between drug use and liberalism

Cruising the University District in Seattle, where UW is, I spotted a headshop by the name of the "SpottedOwlBurger", the spotted owl being the endangered species in southern Oregon that caused an enormous amount of controversy regarding logging prohibitions in the early '90s. Making fun of the spotted owl like that is a regular past time for conservative idiots up here. But hey, they smoke a lot of pot there!

It reminds me of another store like that that I went into once in Gainesville, Fl. It sold pipes and the like, and in its glass case by the counter there were marijuana patches literally next to Rebel Flag belt buckles.

And it's known that some white supremacist gangs support themselves by drug dealing.

Which is one reason why although admirable, things like HempFest don't necessarily contribute to social change except by potentially radicalizing the people who go there and raising money and awareness for causes related to ending the drug war and legalizing medical marijuana.

It ain't Woodstock.

You have right wing idiots who smoke pot mixing with gangsters, wanna be and otherwise, who like pot but who also like fighting and listen to songs about killing people.

Like I said, if this thing contributes to the raising of awareness and consciousness of these people HempFest will of served as a positive force in the lives of its attendees, but people shouldn't be conned into believing that the only people who are interested in these things are peaceful hippies liking peace and love.

Random lyrical goodness: "God is in the House" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

"We've laid the cables and the wires
We've split the wood and stoked
the fires
We've lit our town so there is no
Place for crime to hide
Our little church is painted white
And in the safety of the night
We all go quiet as a mouse
For the word is out
God is in the house
God is in the house
God is in the house
No cause for worry now
God is in the house

Moral sneaks in the White House
Computer geeks in the school house
Drug freaks in the crack house
We don't have that stuff here
We have a tiny little Force
But we need them of course
For the kittens in the trees
And at night we are on our knees
As quiet as a mouse
For God is in the house
God is in the house
God is in the house
And no one's left in doubt
God is in the house

Homos roaming the streets in packs
Queer bashers with tyre-jacks
Lesbian counter-attacks
That stuff is for the big cities
Our town is very pretty
We have a pretty little square
We have a woman for a mayor
Our policy is firm but fair
Now that God is in the house
God is in the house
God is in the house
Any day now He'll come out
God is in the house

Well-meaning little therapists
Goose-stepping twelve-stepping Tetotalitarianists
The tipsy, the reeling and the drop down pissed
We got no time for that stuff here
Zero crime and no fear
We've bred all our kittens white
So you can see them in the night
And at night we're on our knees
As quiet as a mouse
Since the word got out
From the North down to the South
For no-one's left in doubt
There's no fear about
If we all hold hands and very quietly shout
Hallelujah
God is in the house
God is in the house
Oh I wish He would come out
God is in the house"

DownWithTyranny! takes on Obama's "Post-partisanship stance"

The reason I keep on flagging Obama is because there's a real difference between what liberals and progressives on the net seem to think that he believes and represents and what he actually, by his own words and by his own admissions, represents. They think he's the second coming of Christ, I think that his politics were watered down in the first place and are getting more watery by the minute. Here are some highlights from the post:

"It appears that Senator Obama is striking a chord with his appeal to "post-partisanship."
...

It sounds lovely. Who doesn't like to feel good? My problem with most "feel good" movements is that they aren't based on anything real to feel good about.

It's hard to see how Senator Obama's stratospheric soar above partisanship can work. It's based on the assumption that the reason we haven't all gotten together and worked all this stuff out together in a spirit of harmony is because nobody ever thought of it. Does anyone really believe this?

Apparently so. But while there are certainly narrow issues--important ones, but narrow ones--where such compromises might be thrashed out in a dialogue unpolluted by the demagoguery of the Far Right, there aren't all that many such issues, and hardly any of the really crucial issues qualify.

As David Sirota wrote back in February 2007:

There is no "third way" or "consensus" way out of many of our most pressing problems, as Obama seems to believe. Why? Because many of our most pressing problems are zero-sum: someone is benefiting from the status quo, and to change the status quo means someone may lose something. And if you don't believe me, just take a quick look at history. . . . [Emphasis in the original]

In the Beltway, [Obama] is surrounded by old political hands who, like most people there, likely try to tamp down any of his confrontational, power-challenging instincts for fear they might offend ruling class sensibilities."

***Amen to that***

Phillip Agee dies in Cuba

(title link) Agee was the ex-CIA officer who wrote "Inside the Agency", detailing the CIA's activities in Latin America. It's a good book. He wrote columns and articles regularly about U.S. foreign policy, like invading other countries without provocations etc...

Agee is an example of why the liberal fetish of praising Valerie Plame and attacking those people who revealed her name as if revealing CIA agent's names were the worst thing in the world is bullshit. Sure, the Plame game is good to get the administration but it needs to be seen in a greater context.

The names that Agee published were of active CIA agents undercover in Latin America. He published them so that leftist movements there could be aware of these people.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Gender and Sexuality

I think that the key to gender and sexuality is the state that people were in between birth and when they started to separate sexually. By this I mean puberty. What people don't see is that before puberty people were more similar to each other, almost like one gender, than they were afterwards. Before people were male and female they were individuals. Sure, there was socialization, but the socialization wasn't anything like what happens during puberty. Girls were allowed to be Tom boys and guys, well guys, now that I think about it, guys weren't allowed to be really effeminate, but not with the consequences that that would entail later. The differentiation of the sexes causes a shift in psychology, both fueled by hormones, social situations, and socialization.

I think that while men don't go through the physical changes that women do that the psychological changes are more intense, with the consequences that women preserve more of a sense of the pre-differentiated state of consciousness. Although there's pressure on women to not act too manly and to conform to adolescent sexual values men explicitly are told not to act like women. They're told to act manly, to be manly, and this causes a break with the original consciousness more severe than that with women. People are created as men more than they're created as women. Man is more a social construct, woman more a biological construct.

The focus on the physical that happens with women's differentiation is manifested through man's attention to it. Although women experience budding feelings of sexuality, men, almost all men, turn their attention to their former comrades in a sexual way, making breasts and hips the new focus in people who they might have been friends with earlier. Because women are the objects of sexual attention, whether they feel attracted to men or not, there's an emphasis to suppress their sexuality and not make it too obvious. This too preserves the pre-differentiated state of mind in women to a greater degree than that of men, contributing to the fact that many women have more of an identity separate from that as woman than men have an identity not that dependent of their existence as men. There's greater pressure on men to act in a sexual way to women or at least to echo the outward behavior even if they're not particularly attracted to them, leading to more differentiation anyways.

In this case it seems that in the "battle of the sexes", something precious is lost, the sense of individuals relating to individuals, expressing love for individuals as individuals. Some of this sense is preserved in gay culture, where for example Harry Hay, the radical theorist of gay liberation, has described the sense of purity that exists between men and men in a sexual relationship as A relating to A, relating to self, as opposed to A relating to B, meaning A relating other. Sexuality, sexualness, however is a good and integral fact of life that should not be denied, in the sense not of orientation but of straight relations as well. The key to repairing this breach between men and women as beings that can relate to one another without foreignness consists in my opinion of recognizing the pre-differentiated state of sameness in addition to the sexualized elements of life.

Monday, January 07, 2008

"Justine, or Good Conduct well chastized", the big post

As promised, a bigger post on De Sade's novel "Justine". Justine is a novel where the heroine gets into terrible situations time and time again.

Although the subtitle is "Good conduct well chastized" it's really not good conduct that gets Justine into the situations that she finds herself in. Virtue, which is sometimes what "Good Conduct" is translated as in the title, isn't her problem either. Her problem is constantly trusting people that she thinks should be good people because of their social position or the way they present themselves to her.

What happens over and over is that Justine, who starts out in the novel being orphaned by the death of her father, asks Priests, asks high government officials, asks succesful businessmen, for help. She just wants to lead a quiet life. But every time she puts her confidence in one of these people, who her virtue has lead her to belief will be kind, trustworthy, virtuous, helpful, they reveal that they're really out to pursue their own interests under the cover of the sorts of respectability that their positions give them, and that these pursuits often involve crime and enjoying cruelty committed against others.

Her virtue itself leads people to take advantage of her, but it's not the fact that she's virtuous that's the problem, because the alternative that her captors and tormentors present to her in their monologues justifying their actions is slavery and degradation. It's virtue combined with a naivete about how other people are and about how virtue will be received in the world. Justine believes that if she just acts good that everything will turn out all right because good people always win. What she doesn't reckon on is that her goodness isn't the only thing that she needs; she needs to know how to negotiate a world where people aren't all good and where the virtuous are often mistreated if they don't arm themselves against people who are less lofty in their motivations.

Justine, for example, trusts that if she just repeats her story, the story of all the bad things that have happened to her up to that point, to people she meets that they'll take pity on her and help her. What ends up happening time and time again is that the listeners get ideas in their heads about things that they can do to her and afdter she's done deceive her into going with them in order for them to do what they want with her. The fault isn't that Justine expects people to be sympathetic, or that she hasn't gone through horrible experiences, the fault is with the idea that there's this sort of automatic justice that rules the world.

I think this is at the heart of Sade's point: the world is not automatically just. If we want justice we'll have to establish it ourselves.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Conservatives on freedom

Conservatives believe in freedom for white, rich, Christian, men regardless of race, religion, social background, or gender.

There's a rumor going around about the Butthole Surfers

Which is that they've sprinkled political references throughout all their albums that if you reconstruct and put together form a manifesto.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Iowa caucus and Africa.

Having Iowa and New Hampshire considered as somehow representing the United States, is sort of like if all African nations were united in a congress and the states representing the Sahara desert were considered more representative than Kenya and Nigeria. Yay for the desert dwellers!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Controversial political stances in the future--a comic by Ward Sutton

Originally printed in "The Nation"






Hmm.....what would be the most controversial political stance coming from this blog? I think it was when I compared the mercenaries killed in Fallujah to members of the S.S., saying that S.S. members had family back home who cried when they were killed too but that that doesn't change what they actually were doing when it happened. I still stand by that one.

The caucus in Los Angeles

According to "This Modern World", Romney has just come out with an attack against his insane rival Huckabee based on his decision to go on the "Tonight Show" instead of staying in Iowa till the end.
Here's the quote:

"Mitt Romney, who is spending the final day before the caucuses jetting around Iowa, is hitting rival Mike Huckabee for abandoning the Hawkeye State on caucus eve to make an appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

“Well, frankly my focus is on the caucuses here in Iowa. I think Mike is more concerned about the caucus in Los Angeles,” Romney told voters at Bettendorf Middle School."

You know, a caucus in Los Angeles would be a hell of a lot more representative of how the United States actually is than the caucus in white, thinly populated, Iowa.

Population of Los Angeles: 3,849,368

Population of Iowa: 2,982,085

Both of those figures are from Wikipedia.

I personally don't care what a bunch of white cracker hicks think about the Presidential election. Despite, to be fair, Iowa having a tradition of voting Democratic, the only way that you could possibly think that Iowa is representative of the United States is if your ideal of the U.S. includes white hoods.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Connections between the Tropicalia movement in Brazil and the NSK movement in Yugoslavia

Both were concerned with some of the same things. Tropicalia was a artistic, musical, literary, and political movement in Brazil during the sixties and seventies that sought to recast the Brazillian social struggle in new terms, NSK, or Neue Slovenische Kunst, is a movement in the former Yugoslavia, particularly in Slovenia, that started when Yugoslavia was communist, that sought to oppose Communist orthodoxy on political artistic issues. The thread that combines the two is a hatred of nationalism and the conservative Communist orthodoxy that presents a version of what peasant farmers and workers should be that is filled with rhetorical excess, has a tenuous connection to reality, and ultimately serves to enforce a cultural conservatism that can at times border on the fascistic. Some people have called this tendency Communist Neo-Traditionalism.

It really started with Stalin. While Stalin was denouncing everyone as having bourgeois concepts and sending them to their deaths on that basis the progressive social reforms of the early Soviet Union were speedily being drawn back, leading to an idea of the worker as a nationalistic being, with a variant of Soviet nationalism being called "Class consciousness", so technically a Class Conscious person, who had good family values and would have gone to church regularly if religion had ben allowed during Stalin's time. These values, of course, are the real bourgeois values, with nationalism and conservatism based on nationalism being the bourgeois value par excellance.

The way that Class Consciousness became ultra-conservati9sm is easy to see by taking a look at the U.S. There's always a parallel to this sort of thing in the mainstream labor movement, something that Fox News has mightily capitalized on, recasting workers as really being anti-liberal people who wave the flag and support Bush, while liking Christianity a lot. I grew up in the Detroit area, in working class suburbs for most of my life there, and so I know that there's an element of truth to this, but I also know that this sort of thing is inherently oppressive and limiting to people who see the older folks belief in God and Country as being hypocritical, and as opening people up to corruption. Union speeches where people praise family values often go along with the speakers and leaders lining their pockets with members' dues.

In Brazil, the Tropicalia people decided to break out of this stereotype, which is only half true anyways, and look at people as they really are, not just virtuous farmers but as people who for instance like Coca-Cola, and who have identities that aren't subsumed in this greater concept or stereotype. Caetano Veloso, one of the main participants, referred to this as the "Death of Populism" and pointed out Brazilian filmmaker Glauber Rocha's attempts to portray social reality in Brazil using non-traditional methods, often critical of Communist orthodoxy, as being accomplishments in this vein. So the Tropicalistas wrote songs about rich and poor in Brazil, and about the relationship between Brazil and the United States, especially about the U.S.' cultural appropriation of a form of Bossa Nova music and Brazillian dance as being a new form of exoticism, while also implicitly questioning the right-wing government's praising of God and country in the process. But they did it through poetic means that incorporated aspects of European philosophy and the international popular culture emerging during that period, things that Communists no doubt condemned as being bourgeois indulgences.

The Bolsheviks before Stalin would have partially turned the focus in the other direction, criticizing Stalin for bourgeois tendencies himself, something that usefully lives on in certain variations of Trotskyism.

NSK faced a slightly different situation. They lived in the most liberal Communist country, a place where art itself was relatively liberalized in certain areas and where progressive Marxist philosophy flourished. Yet the sense that the NSK people had was that a lot of the positive features of Yugoslavia, like the devolution of power to workers' councils and the putative smaller part that the Communist League, the federation of the party in the different component republics, played in public life, was being taken advantage of by the bureaucracy and was being used to create a new sort of bourgeois nationalism based on the rareness of these features. They pointed out the errors in how the partisan struggle against fascism during the second world war was being portrayed and put to effect as a uniting national myth, not that the struggle wasn't good or succesful, but it had become politicized. You can see some of this in Emir Kusturica's movie "Underground", where one of a pair of bumbling, fun loving, Communists during the partisan struggle is subsequently lionized by the other as being a hero of Yugoslavia, even though the picture painted has absolutely nothing to do with the reality of how this guy was.

While Tropicalia never seems to have gone over the top in directly attacking the military dictatorship in Brazil, NSK through the band "Laibach" went all the way in fusing ultra-Communist and ultra-Fascist imagery in their performances in order to make a statement about all these things.

* on edit: this is where my idea of a neo-romanticism for the United States, plus an American Tropicalia, as well as the criticism of Totalitarian forms of government and society come from. Romanticism in the political sense was itself identified heavily with a rebirth of nationalism in continental Europe, but that's not the sense that I use the term. The Romantics and the Idealists were also the people who first criticized the universiality of Enlightenment political thought, which you remember gave birth to among other things Robespierre's Reign of Terror in the late French Revolution. Looking at the United States now there's the same sort of hypocrisy regarding the origin of our country, where people who harp on it claiming to be concerned with freedom and liberty but in actuality advocating their opposite, using the idea of the American "Founding Fathers" to justify inequality and suppression of civil liberties. This is something that didn't just start after 9/11, either. We're stuck, in a way, in a cul-de-sac of nationalistic bourgeois liberalism and need, if this country is ever going to improve itself, to get beyond this and into new conceptions of how society can be ordered.

Enter the critique of American political ideology, and of our cultural attitudes in general, associated with my idea of Neo-Romanticism and of American Tropicalia.

Blogging on January 2 not a good thing I think....

I'm metaphorically peeling myself off the floor and waiting for my head not to hurt quite so badly. Well, the second part isn't metaphorically. But the fact that I'm sitting here writings this no doubt means that later I will unfortunately write something.....