Friday, February 29, 2008

Doesn't anyone that Obama is still saying that we're fighting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan?

As This Modern World reports Obama is saying "They took their eye off the people who were responsible for 9/11 — that would Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, which is stronger now than at anytime since 2001." I believe this is factually false and extremely misleading.

Obama commits the same mistake that George W. Bush willfully made after 9/11--conflating the Taliban with Al Qaeda. At this point it's really, really, hard to argue that the resistance to Americans in Afghanistan which is leading to the Taliban coming back to power has to do with Al Qaeda. It's a resistance to an invasion, just like the Iraqi resistance.

Al Qaeda was never concentrated in Afghanistan. The organization was hosted by the Taliban, who already controlled Afghanistan, and the senior members lived there, and had training camps there, but my understanding is that Al Qaeda at its core was and is a relatively decentralized network of terrorist organizations operating in whatever country they're part of. "Al Qaeda" is the name for the bigger confederation, which provides money and logistical support.

By saying that Al Qaeda has never been stronger in Afghanistan Obama is using the exact same rhetoric that George W. Bush used after 9/11 to scare people into supporting his agenda. He's using the same rhetoric that the extreme right is using to justify the suppression of civil liberties in the United States--that Al Qaeda is still out there so we must be vigilant in the "War on terror", both at home and abroad. Yes, Obama is endorsing the idea of a "Global War on Terror" even though he's shrewdly not using the phrase, or even "War on terror".

This is a concrete indication that when Obama gets elected, if he gets elected, he'll continue this charade of everything having changed because of 9/11, which has been an outrage to the world.

If he's serious about getting Al Qaeda maybe he'll turn the job over to Interpol or the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, because the act of terrorism that took place on 9/11
was a criminal act, not an act of war, and should be dealt with by international criminal authorities.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley Jr. dead at 82

Surprisingly, I'm not going to write a takedown about him. I'm too young to have experienced the role that Buckley played in American politics in any decade besides that of the '90s and the 2000's, but I do know that at the end the guy looked sane and composed in comparison to the Ann Coulters and Glenn Becks of American politics.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

If you don't vote for Obama locusts will come down from the sky and the anti-christ will appear

Especially if you Vote for Nader

Nice Ted Rall column arguing for Nader running

Go click that title link. Go there, Go on!

"So who are the fringe weirdoes: the out-of-touch media elite, or the guy who agrees with most of the people?

The two remaining major Democratic presidential contenders think that repeatedly name-checking John Edwards is sufficient to draw votes from his liberal Democratic supporters. But liberals "don't like Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama--for them, he sold out even before he was bought in," the Independent mocks. Only Nader offers "left-wing purity."

And what's wrong with that?

While McCain, Obama and Clinton repeatedly vote for funding the Iraq War, at the same time calling for expanding the war against Afghanistan--a doomed effort that was lost years ago--Nader wants to slash defense spending, the number-one cause of our skyrocketing federal deficit.

Americans favor "socialized medicine" (43 to 38 percent, says the February 14th Harris poll); only Nader agrees with them. Nader would repeal the Taft-Hartley Act, which destroyed labor unions; the other candidates haven't said squat about the single biggest reason real wages are shrinking."

Monday, February 25, 2008

Hi, would you like to hear about the second testament of Barack Obama?

[on opening it there are two well dressed young men] "Hi, I'm elder James and this is elder Robert and we wonder if you had a minute to discuss the second testament of Barack Obama. You know that after his first book "Dreams of my father" Barack Obama authored a second one called "The Audacity of Hope" that provides an uplifting message of Hope and Change for both the people of the United States and for the entire world. We, as representatives of the second church of Barack Obama, of Latter day Hope Givers, want to give you a chance to bring this message of Hope into your heart and be saved by the grace of our political system. With the power of your faith, and with your contributions and your actions in November, we can establish a godly kingdom on earth where cute puppy dogs and rainbows appear over the land and ice cream grows on trees. All this if you accept the doctrine of hope into your heart and believe in the power of change."

Globalization question

A lot of people point out that folks who leave their villages to work in sweat shops make more money there than at home, therefore justifying whatever conditions they experience. But it's nowhere as simple as that. Consider this: what if you could make money by working in a mine without safety equipment. You'd make more than you would if you lived in a village and farmed. Yet no respiratory protection, no protection against cave ins etc...

Would that be an acceptable trade off, something that you can look at and say that because they made more money than at home therefore it's just for them to work like that? My opinion is that there are basic human standards that apply no matter if one lives in a third world country or in a first world one. The idea that a higher standard of living, a slightly higher once, justifies anything that goes into it is another version of 'the ends justify the means'. It's racist as well because it assumes that people in third world countries, who aren't white, deserve radically different standards than people in first world countries could accept. Slave labor in Indonesia? Well you just don't understand how it is there.

The reality of people working in these places and sending money home to their families is best illustrated by how it works in the United States. The same scenario applies to immigrant workers from Mexico and Central America. They labor in the worst jobs, jobs that no white person in the United States would do, for wages far below that which anyone not in desperate straits would want, and send money back home through Western Union. No doubt the money makes a difference, with some countries that are very poor like El Salvador depending more and more on remittances from relatives in the U.S. for the basic survival of their people, but most people would say that the situations that these people find themselves in are cruel and unjust. Illegal immigrants, a subset of immigrants from these countries that exist on the very bottom rung of society, don't have a glamorous life.


Working for a better life doesn't mean great jobs. Further back in U.S. history you find garment workers from Eastern Europe toiling in sweat shops in New York City, making more money than they'd get back home but being ruined physically by the conditions faced day after day. Living in tenements, the sort documented by Joseph Riis. Other immigrants labored in textile factories and in mines in similar conditions. Back then the reality of what these people found in America was the impetus that lead to the formation of union after union to struggle for some sort of social justice in these jobs. The propagandists countered that these people were unappreciative of the United States, which brings us back to the beginning.

Should people be thankful that they work twelve hours a day for wages that are next to nothing, in unsafe conditions, living in dormitories, unable to leave the factory compound, because they make enough money to send home to their families, making a difference in their lives?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Those 37,000 killed in the Turkey-PKK conflict

I'm trying to find a really good breakdown of how many of those people were Kurds and how many were Turkish, but it looks like the majority of those killed were Kurdish, killed by the Turks. The figure of 37,000 dead in Turkey because of conflict with the PKK is being used to justify Turkey's invasion of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq. There's a lot of irony in that.

Locke's first treatise on government

Many people have read Locke's second treatise because it's one of the foundation's of political philosophy, but few people have read the first one. Those that do sort of laugh and chuckle at the picture that Locke paints of his opponent, Robert Filmer, the author of "Patriarcha", which argues for monarchy. The overwhelming majority of Locke's treatise deals with debunking the supposed claim that God gave Adam the divine right of rulership which he then gave to his children. It would be funny if Locke was taking on a doddering old man who believed in a simplistic view of history but there's one problem: Out of his entire paper, Filmer only devotes about three paragraphs to Adam--and it's not even a big part of his argument.

Unfortunately most editions of Locke's treatise don't include "Patriarcha" even though it's shorter than the first treatise itself. But because of the magic of the internet you can find a copy right Here and a copy of Locke's first treatise Here.

From Patriarcha:

"2. To make evident the grounds of this question about the natural liberty of mankind, I will lay down some passages of Cardinal Bellarmine that may best unfold the state of this controversy.

Secular or civil power is instituted by men, it is in the people, unless they bestow it on a prince. This power is immediately in the whole multitude, as in the subject of it; for this power is in the divine law, but the divine law hath given this power to no particular man. If the positive law be taken away, there is left no reason why amongst a multitude — who are equal — one rather than another should bear rule over the rest. Power is given by the multitude to one man or to more by the same law of nature; for the commonwealth cannot exercise this power; therefore it is bound to bestow it upon some one man, or some few. It depends upon the consent of the multitude to ordain over themselves a king, or consul, or other magistrates; and if there be a lawful cause, the multitude may change the kingdom into an aristocracy or democracy.

Thus far Bellarmine, in which passages are comprised the strength of all that ever I have read or heard produced for the natural liberty of the subject.

Before I examine or refute these doctrines, I must a little make some observations upon his words[:]

First, He saith that by the law of God power is immediately in the people; hereby he makes God to be the immediate author of a democratical estate; for a democracy is nothing else but the power of the multitude. If this be true, not only aristocracies but all monarchies are altogether unlawful, as being ordained — as he thinks — by men, whereas God himself hath chosen a democracy.

Secondly, He holds that, although a democracy be the ordinance of God, yet the people have no power to use the power which God hath given them, but only power to give away their power, whereby it followeth that there can be no democratical government, because he saith the people must give their power to one man, or to some few; which maketh either a regal or aristocratical estate, which the multitude is tied to do, even by the same law of nature which originally gave them the power. And why then doth he say the multitude may change the kingdom into a democracy?"

From Locke:

"The sovereignty of Adam, being that on which, as a sure basis, our author builds his mighty absolute monarchy, I expected, that in his Patriarcha, this his main supposition would have been proved, and established with all that evidence of arguments, that such a fundamental tenet required; and that this, on which the great stress of the business depends, would have been made out with reasons sufficient to justify the confidence with which it was assumed. But in all that treatise, I could find very little tending that way; the thing is there so taken for granted, without proof, that I could scarce believe myself, when, upon attentive reading that treatise, I found there so mighty a structure raised upon the bare supposition of this foundation: for it is scarce credible, that in a discourse, where he pretends to confute the erroneous principle of man’s natural freedom, he should do it by a bare supposition of Adam’s authority, without offering any proof for that authority. Indeed he confidently says, that Adam had royal authority, p. 12, and 13. Absolute lordship and dominion of life and death, p. 13. An universal monarchy, p. 33. Absolute power of life and death, p. 35."

If you read this and go on to read further in Patriarcha, comparing the two texts, you'll see that it looks like Locke's talking about a completely different book, that he's imputing a kind of idiocy and ignorance to Filmer that's not present.

Filmer used Adam and the Bible in certain places as metaphors to illustrate points, something that had been done for a long, long, time in western philosophy and that Locke would have instantly understood, living in the 17th century. He doesn't seem to have meant it literally. That idea comes from Locke.

Instead of giving a good, intelligent, critique of this text,that was published after the author had been dead for almost thirty years, Locke turns to character assassination and propaganda to discredit his ideas.

I don't agree with Patriarcha but I wouldn't dismiss it as meaningless because he makes biblical references.

Locke's first treatise is regarded as unnecessary reading because it's opponent seems so feeble and irrelevant to today's world. But its weakness is all Locke's and his half hearted effort to discredit the text by burying it under tons of bullshit.

Friday, February 22, 2008

On one side of the Turkey/Iraq border Kurds are

A people who are seen as being abused, being targeted by ethnic cleansing, and who have had chemical weapons used against them. On the other side they're seen as terrorist rebels. The fact is that besides the chemical weapons, many of the things that Saddam did to the Kurds in Iraq the Turkish government has been doing to the Turkish Kurds, albeit on a smaller scale.

People who are Kurdish in Turkey can be arrested and thrown in jail for printing a newspaper in the Kurdish language, as has in fact happened in the past.

All over the media now, especially on Fox News, the incursion by Turkey of 10,000 troops and air support into Iraq is somehow being presented as a move against terrorists, who are thought to have pointlessly targeted the poor Turkish state, who's the victim in this scenario, not the aggressor who is attempting to destroy all of Kurdish culture in it's borders.

And 10,000 troops isn't an 'incursion': it's an act of war.

'80s Apocalypse Culture

Read the previous entry on Turkey invading Iraq. It's more important than this. But after you've read that, come back here.

I recently saw the tape "Amok Assault Video", a compilation of clips created by Amok Distribution intended not just to disturb but also to act as commentary on the culture of the time, which was the late '80s. "Apocalypse Culture" is, of course, also the name of a book of strange and disturbing essays put out by Feral House. Some of the people who are/were behind Amok are also founders of Feral House, so there you go.

The apocalyptic stuff starts with the realization, or remembrance, of just how fucked up the '80s really were. I was pretty young, but being raised on talk shows and day time T.V. many of the topics covered were familiar to me. The idea communicated by the video, as well as I guess the book "Apocalypse culture", is that things are completely, totally, depressingly, fucked up, with the mainstream culture gone crazy through irrational, insane, conservatism, and strange fucked up New Age culture that takes up a lot of the rest of the room allotted in the subcultural bandwidth. The end is near, everything is fucked. Let's welcome in the end of the world.

"Assault Video" features, on top of violence, as much or even more clips from New Age television prophets, fundamentalists commenting on the conspiracy of witchcraft contained in the cartoon "She-Ra", Manson followers, clips from classic movies that studios today probably wished they never made, and politically incorrect Disney clips. Clips from anthropology documentaries of the National Geographic kind are also there, but the ones they use are more graphic than the norm, focusing on people in strange parts of the world mutilating themselves. All this alternates with hardcore porn clips and even a long preview from an early '70s sexploitation film called "The smut peddler". Other highlights: an English language interview with Yukio Mishima followed by a video of a politician giving a press conference about his recent conviction for corruption that ends with him unexpectedly pulling out a gun and blowing his brains out. Mishima, famous famous Japanese writer, committed ritual suicide.

The thing is that if you're just looking for the strange or extreme, the montages of violence in "Assault Video" , although very good, aren't' the most extreme out there . I can't remember the title, but there is a similar documentary of real violence cut in a like manne that was so graphic that after watching it you felt like you were going to hell. The book"Apocalypse Culture", as well, isn't the farthest thing that's out there, although for gathering a good selection in one place it's beyond belief.

Good stuff.

Turkey invades Iraq

"Turkey's military said the land offensive - the first major incursion in a decade - had fighter aircraft in support, and Turkish television reported that 10,000 troops had entered Iraq."

"Thousands of Turkish troops have crossed into northern Iraq and thousands more are at the border ready to join them in their hunt for Kurdish PKK guerrillas, a senior military source said today."

"Turkish media said troops, backed by warplanes and Cobra attack helicopters, had moved six miles inside Iraq. Television footage showed dozens of tanks moving at high speed along the Iraqi-Turkish border."

"Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called on his Turkish counterpart last night to respect Iraq's borders after renewed shelling. President Jalal Talabani accepted an invitation from Turkish President Abdullah Gul to visit Turkey.

Iraq has repeatedly called for a diplomatic solution to the PKK problem but Turkey's government is under domestic pressure to take military action against the rebels.

Turkey's military said the PKK was the target of the ground offensive and vowed to act with restraint towards local groups.

"Turkish troops will stay in the region as long as the conditions dictate this. It will be very difficult for the PKK to re-base itself in northern Iraq," Turkey's former counter-terrorism chief, retired General Edip Baser, told NTV."

....

This looks like an extension of Turkey's campaign of genocide against the Kurds. People should know by now that invasions justified by 'terrorism' are largely bullshit. The Kurdish independence enjoyed in northern Iraq is too much of a signal of freedom for the Kurds of eastern Turkey, so the Turkish government wants to destroy them. And the U.S. government is going to allow it, which will no doubt tell the leaders of Kurdistan what side of the bread the U.S. is really buttered on.

About the labeling of the PKK a terrorist group by the EU... Abdullah Ă–calan, the PKK leader, was for a time protected by the Italian government before his capture, on the basis of both questions about the legitimacy of the Kurdish struggle for independence and of the treatment and punishment that he would receive if he was returned to Turkey.

We support an independently run Kurdistan in Iraq, which was ruled by an enemy, but when the Kurds of eastern Turkey, an ally, want independence they're labeled as terrorists and their struggle is seen as invalid.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

In how many notes can you recognize a song? The nature of Art

It's a fun game and it hits to the core of what art is. Traditionally people did it with pianos in a social setting. Someone would start to play a song and the people around would guess what he or she was playing with the fewest notes possible. So how far can you go with this, in how few notes is it possible to recognize a song? The answer is one.

Try it with random songs and eventually you'll be able to get there, then ask yourself just how it was that you were able to recognize it.

After all, at least with melodies, the same starting note can appear in any number of compositions.

The answer, or at least one answer, is that the tone itself only has so much importance. What you hear when you hear a note isn't just the tone but also the velocity, how long it was played, what the note looked like, the volume, but even that isn't enough to explain how it is that one note can mean so much at the start of the piece. Adding to all of that is something that can only be described as attitude, as emotion, as the conception that the player had when starting the piece about what the piece itself was about and how he or she wanted to communicate it. This, which is present in all art, is what you pick up on when a song starts. It makes use of all of the variables mentioned above but it transcends them in that it communicates something more sophisticated than just what an effect a generally hard played note creates. It's a subtle interplay between all of them that communicates an artistic vision, which is present whether or not you're consciously aware of it. Your response to that vision can be different depending on your general personality or attitude, and you can get something out of it that's not immediately recognizable as being connected with the intended meaning, but in the end even the most variant interpretations come together to form the multifaceted nature of the piece.

The same sorts of things apply to writing, although the nature of writing makes interpretation that much more complex, infinitely more complex. I've come to the conclusion that words on a piece of paper, or on a computer screen, alone do not communicate the meaning of a piece. There are so many variables involved with phrasing, sentence structure, paragraph structure, that in the end it's the intent and vision, to whatever point it's present, of the writer that makes the words have the meaning they have.

Wittgenstein looked at the situation of words in his later writing as being clouds of meaning surrounding a single word, with so much depending on the exactitude of the way in which a word is used. It's the transition from one cloud of meaning to another cloud of meaning to another that creates the meaning in a written piece, not the words themselves. Which is why things can be translated....

Monday, February 18, 2008

Original impetus for Post-Structuralism comes from belief in things that Post-structuralism, ironically, says it's against

The mystery of why academic bookstores have sections devoted to Critical Theory and why other bookstores carry people in their philosophy section who don't seem to have anything to do with established philosophy as commonly understood is one that can be answered very simply.

Post-structuralism and its predecessors Structuralism and the Frankfurt School arose with and corresponded to different parts of the New Left, namely its start, climax, and fall. Post-modernism is based on some similar, some different social trends and is not going to be dealt with here. I've written a lot on what I think post-modernism is about. Search the terms "postmodernism" and "post-modernism" in the little box above to get those writings.

The Frankfurt school, represented first and foremost by Herbert Marcuse, was a non-traditional Marxist school of thought that came into prominence in the '50s and early '60s that incorporated media studies, psychology, an philosophic perspectives from Nietzsche and others into its doctrines.
This group, many of whose members came to the U.S. as refugees during World War II, with Adorno and Horkheimer, the biggest members after Marcuse, settling in Los Angeles and observing the film industry there. Marcuse was enormously influential on the early New Left. Other people roughly in the same category are Erich Fromm, '60s blender of humanistic psychology with Marxism, and even John -Paul Sartre in some aspects of his later thought. The New Left at this time wanted to distance itself from the Old Left, which it saw as doctrinaire, part of a different social situation, and appreciative of systems tainted by the atrocities committed by Stalin.

The next phase of the New Left came in the late '60s and early '70s when New Left radicals started to want to base their radical ideas on traditional leftist sources and so started to turn to Mao, Lenin, and other Communist figures (as opposed to Trotskyists and unaffiliated socialists). There was some wisdom in this although very few of the groups that came out of it are still around, and even fewer of those aren't insane and doctrinaire themselves. This period saw the rise of Structuralism.

Structuralism in philosophy wanted to preserve some of the freedom and types of thought that arose in the post-war world while basing itself on something more concrete than the philosophies associated with the first wave. A criticism leveled by Derrida, one of the biggest post-structuralists, is that the New Left/Frankfurt school people's thought was such a mish-mash of various things that there wasn't even any internal consistency or logic to it, and that at least in relation to Jean-Paul Sartre's existentialist humanism one could make it say anything in support of any philosophy or political ideal you wanted.

So structuralism focussed on how social phenomenon structured themselves in a very stripped down and non-sentimental sense. Give a few premises it was thought that social and political phenomenon could be seen to arrive at their mature forms through the permutations and developments that preceded from them. In politics Louis Althusser specifically connected a structuralist perspective, talking about how modes of production structured themselves in relation to both Lenin, Communism, and the sorts of things that had come to the forefront since the '50s like Nietzsche, Hegel, and Freud. Some of Althusser's students blended his ideas with the Maoism that became popular during that era, while Althusser himself remained a committed, if eccentric, member of the French Communist Party.

Post-structuralism, in turn, came about when this New Left readjustment to traditional leftist ideology started to fail. It largely agrees with some of the premises of structuralism but says that in the end they're insufficient to come to any sort of definitive claim of transcendent truth. Phenomenon may be structured to some extent but that structuring is, surprise surprise, often a blind for prejudices of some sort, of hidden biases present in the greater society. Most of post-structuralism today focusses on how false social phenomenon structure themselves and are skeptical of whether any great social project could be honestly constructed. Failing ideology that hides social attitudes despite being liberatory, failing structuralism. It seems clear that there's a relationship between the two.

Post-structuralist influenced politics, as much as it doesn't just declare that we're all fucked so there's no point in struggling for a better world, became very skeptical of authority and of established social institutions and adopted semi-anarchist politics, allying itself somewhat with the various Autonomous movements in Europe and the resurgence of Anarchism in the U.S.

Both of those, in turn, were in some sense responses to the failure of late New Left organizations to survive and transform themselves into large scale, viable, political movements for positive social change.

And that's where we've been for several decades now.

Why do people think this is in any way important anymore? The answer to that is that despite being self professed skeptics of traditional leftist ideology the supporters of post-structuralism have adopted the oldest left belief at all: that history has a concrete point, a culmination, that it's progressing towards, and that as history moves closer to this it will produce ideologies that are closer and closer to the final truth. So you have to pay attention to the ideological development and somehow try to locate yourself within the presumed dialectical process in order to be valid. The Old Left was negated by the New Left, which was in turn negated by the later New Left, which was then negated by the failure of the later New Left, so therefore we can't examine the beliefs of any of them because they've been supposedly proven wrong. But history rarely proves specific beliefs and social movements 'wrong'. Social movements may have consequences that are very wrong but in and of themselves they're subjects for academic study, not steps on the ladder of truth and untruth.

It's been pointed out that post-structuralism has reached an insane dead end, particularly in the form of Deconstruction, with skepticism of everything being so deep that nothing concrete, no concrete statements, can possibly be strong enough to resist its criticism. Yet instead of trying to find a new sort of philosophy people cling to it because it represents the latest and supposedly the best.

Good Diana Johnstone article on Kosovo

And about how an independent Kosovo means ethnic cleansing for the non-Albanian inhabitants as well as containing a great history of the actual sequence of events that lead to NATO's bombing of Kosovo. (

Although the Serbs committed genocide in Bosnia Herzogovinia, Kosovo is another matter. Maybe an example of the apocryphal Marx quote that history repeats itself first as tragedy next as farce, because the Kosovar Albanians used the chaos that enveloped the former Yugoslavia to push for a goal of an ethnically pure, independent, Kosovo as part of a Greater Albania.

Johnstone points out that the place was and sort of is still a multi-ethnic society, that it's always been dominated by Albanians and that the idea that Serbs, the minority in Kosovo, were ethnically cleansing the place is unlikely. She provides quotes from news services from before the final breakup of Yugoslavia talking about the harassment of non-Albanians in Kosovo and about what a serious problem it was. While it's true, also, that Milosevic got his start by famously declaring in a broadcast town meeting in a Serb town in Kosovo that the people would never be stepped on again, thereby cementing his commitment to right-wing nationalistic politics, that doesn't mean that the underlying problem was not there.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sonic Death

Oh man. This playlist I have on computer has Sonic Death, a live album by Sonic Youth from their really early years, on it. I forgot about it and had it playing in the background when suddenly Sonic Death comes on, an hour of solid noise, alternate guitar tunings, live extended versions of the songs from "Confusion is Sex/Kill Yr. Idols", and noise based on alternate guitar tunings that's been fucked with in the studio, sped up slowed down, chopped up and put together again in new ways. Mixed with snippets of the band talking, some of which have similarly been fucked with.

Quite amazing. I love the sound on "Confusion is Sex/Kill Yr. Idols" but the thing was that there wasn't that much material available from that era. Sonic Death fills that hole."Bad Moon Rising", their next album is great too, but it doesn't have the raw chaos that "Confusion is Sex" has. The live album amps up the raw, primal, chaos to unheard of levels, leaving you thinking "What the fuck was that?" in the most positive sense, a sort of awe at the kind of sonic assault that you've just witnessed.

"Screaming Fields of Sonic Love", their compilation album from the early to mid years, gets my vote as being the best selection of Sonic Youth songs on one CD that's out there.

I first heard Sonic Death in the basement of this house that a drug dealer lived in, and it was really strange to hear the things that first got me interested in Sonic Youth again after all these years.

Friday, February 15, 2008

There's, you know, a new chair of the Federal Reserve, folks

His name is Ben Bernanke. Whether it's because of being too lazy to update their PDAs and Rolodexes or just not giving a damn somehow Allen Greenspan has continued his tenure as a supposed sage of the economy although he's long been replaced. Greenspan, by the way, was a disciple of Ayn Rand who in his time in office as chair of the Federal Reserve referred to new government regulation of financial institutions as 'collectivism', a favorite epithet by Rand-oids referring to anything that may interfere with their ability to make wheelbarrows full of money. No one else but people who follow Rand and far right free market economists use the word 'collectivism' in the way that Allen Greenspan did.

According to ye old Wikipedia Bernanke has been in office for over two years. Yet how many articles with Bernanke's name in the headline have you seen as opposed to ones citing Greenspan?

From Wikipedia:

"Ben Shalom Bernanke is an American economist and current Chairman of the Board of Governors of the United States Federal Reserve. He was previously Chairman of the U.S. President's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), and member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. On October 24, 2005, President George W. Bush appointed Bernanke to succeed Alan Greenspan as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Bernanke was sworn in on February 1, 2006 after the Senate's confirmation by a voice vote on January 31, 2006."

I took an economics class that used Bernanke's intro Microeconomics text, and he appeared to be a lot less rabid about pure free market economics than Greenspan is.

Yet I know how it is, you hate updating your list of telephone numbers. Sometimes, crossing out a name and putting another one in is too much of a hassle, although it shouldn't be too hard to call up the Federal Reserve, tell them you're from CNN, and ask if you could schedule a time to talk with Mr. Bernanke.

Again, you have to ask yourself: are they lazy or just stupid?

Survival! Fallacies of Dianetics and Ayn Rand

Unbelievably they share one feature, which is the curious notion that the biggest imperative in human life is survival. It's curious because both L. Ron Hubbard and Rand, in her "The Virtue of Selfishness, for instance" try to say that they're for the development of parts of society beyond a really basic level, the level that most people call bare survival. Both of them modify their notion of "Survival" to mean, somehow, that making artwork and pursuing the humanities is included in Survival.

Hubbard openly cites Herbert Spencer, forerunner of Social Darwinism, as one of his philosophical sources, while Rand doesn't even though it's probably where she got the idea.

Survival. I'd hope that society would come together enough so that people would be able to transcend the basic struggle for survival and get to focus on things that are easier when you don't have to stress about day to day living. Survival is the lowest rung on the ladder, and from what I gather is a sort of artificial state, because much simpler societies have been able to live without the constant threat of not surviving in the sense meant by Western writers. It seems like the idea of Survival, with a big 'S', present today owes itself to industrial society, where it's possible to absolutely starve in a way that in an agricultural society wouldn't be as easy to accomplish. There are crop failures and many things that can go wrong, to be sure, but starving in the middle of a concrete jungle looks like something unique to industrial capitalism and the consequent proletarianization of large groups of people. The poverty in a Dickens novel is different than the poverty in the country.

Survival implicitly becomes a reason to create tension instead of humanistic self realization. If we have to be bound by the social dictates of survival of the fittest we can't pay attention to things like human fulfillment, now can we? That's an overindulgent luxury that the hard dictates of natural capitalism, where competition, the purer the better, won't allow. So people end up chasing their tails, trying to get at the basic rung of the ladder leading up to some state where they can do what they like and explore the possibilities for self development. Survival type dictates and thinking create an artificial situation where people suffer unnecessarily and work unnecessarily hard. Competition in capitalism is partly amplified not by any real dictates but by the ideology of the capitalists themselves, who change their behavior in order to intensify the competitive nature of capitalism in order to try to make a few more bucks for themselves.

The wonderful material that the Hoover Institution recruits

* it looks like "the conspiracy" got the original version of this post. Here is the entire post in all it's ironic and sardonic glory.

The wonderful material that the Hoover Institution recruits

Anthony Sutton, author of "America's Secret Establishment, an Introduction to Skull and Bones", the secret society at Yale, is a wonderful example. The Hoover institution is an extreme right wing pro-free market pseudo-institution associated with Stanford. D'nesh D'Souza is or was employed there.

Sutton's credibility in the book is supposedly bolstered by the fact that he studied economics in a large variety of institutions and wrote books about the gold standard. I say supposedly because although an extensive educational background would normally be impressive, once you actually get into the book you realize it's a joke and that whatever the author learned in the way of scholarly methods he's either forgotten or learned very imperfectly in the first place.

Skull and Bones is the Yale secret society that John Kerry, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush among others were members of. It's limited to fifteen people each year and those people either come from very wealthy establishment families or are aspiring to become part of the same. It appears to be a kind of old boys network. Sutton believes that they're behind the rise of the Soviet Union.

You can download the book for free Here

Some Sutton quotes:

"The British Connection
Some well read readers may raise a question - how does The Order the its families relate to Cecil Rhodes secret society, Milners Round Table, the Illuminati and the Jewish secret society equivalents? How do these fit into the picture?

We are concerned here only with the core of a purely American phenomenon with German origin. It is
undoubtedly linked to overseas groups. The links between The Order and Britain go through Lazard Freres and the private merchant bankers. Notably the British establishment was also founded at a University - Oxford University, and especially All Souls College at Oxford. The British element is called "The Group."

The Group links to the Jewish equivalent through the Rothschilds in Britain (Lord Rothschild was an original member of Rhodes "inner circle"). The Order in the U.S. links to the Guggenheim, Schiff and Warburg families. There were no Jews at all in The Order until very recently. In fact, The Order has, as Rosenbaum suggests, some definite anti-semetic tendencies. Token Jews (and token blacks) have been ad

There is an Illuminati connection. Some details are in the Esquire article, more details will be in our future
volumes."

Next step, the Lizard People.

I mean, come the fuck on, you have a supposed academic who believes that the world is controlled by the Illuminati, with Jewish merchants playing a large role in it (although the particular thing he's talking about is somewhat anti-semitic). He believes that the Skull and Bones organization is linked to a group founded by Cecil Rhodes in Oxford called "The Order" that controls the Council on Foreign Relations and just about everything else.

Much like the "Learned Elders of Zion" these people are thought to craftily create both leftist and right wing organizations so that they can therefore profit by the strife and gain more power. Bwahaha!

So while people in the establishment are targeted, Sutton also goes after early educational reformers, who tended to be leftists or at least liberals, for supposedly introducing a system of sinister indoctrination and dumbing down in the guise of teaching kids to be creative and not forcing them to learn things by rote, to be spat out again on a test.

They're supposedly responsible for both Nazism and Communism.

Lot of credibility there, my friend. No doubt the promised future volumes will provide entertainment for people who like delving into the depths of idiocy and bullshit.

There seems to be no notion of a mechanism through which the people mentioned supposedly control everything. All Sutton does is list a bunch of people who are part of the East Coast power structure, point to their membership in all of these organizations, then point out that they were all members of Skull and Bones and say Aha! That proves Skull and Bones controls everything! What about the other elite members of these societies who were never members of Skull and Bones? Beyond a disclaimer at the beginning humbling saying that the organization is not behind all the worlds' ills the notions that other forces are at work, or that Skull and Bones is just an elite club whose members make up just a portion of other very elite institutions, aren't brought up at all.

Someone pointed out that you could link stock market fluctuations with weather conditions, the point being that Correlation does not imply Causation. I put this in bold because Sutton, who has a Ph.D. should be familiar with this notion.

But the, this is the Hoover Institution, so we have to give them a little leeway, because they're sort of, well, you know.

Are they really this racist/stupid?

In the title linked article, about the Presidential election, there's the following statement:

"Time magazine recently observed that, like Tiger Woods and Angelina Jolie, Obama has "one of those faces that seem beamed from a postracial future." "

Here's picture of Angelina Jolie's mom:





Here's a picture of her dad:





Do they seem multiracial to you?


The point is that when Time Magazine makes the pronouncement that a person who's simply a darker skinned European is evidence of an emerging multi-racial America we're not even close to realizing that ideal.

Amazing that they feel that someone who doesn't look like they could walk out of a country club in New England is automatically of a different race than they (most likely) are.

Declaring a multi-racial America by labeling someone who isn't multi-racial multi-racial makes me wonder whether or not they're really, really, endemically racist or whether they're stupid to the point where they can't take a second or to to use that mighty tool known as Wikipedia to fact check their stories.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Thinking of starting a new feature called "The PAL Chronicles"

PAL being a TV format found in the rest of the world outside of Canada and the U.S. The prospective feature would have me rent DVDs in PAL format from Scarecrow Video in Seattle, one of the premier video rental places in the U.S. and one that carries a substantial number of PAL and Region 2 and 3 DVDs, watch them on my DVD player that I've changed (through entering a secret code) to allow me to watch these things, and then post reviews here.

The upshot is that there's a 99% chance that if you live in the U.S. you won't be able to find these movies and an even higher chance that if you do find them you won't be able to play them in your DVD player, meaning that these will be reviews of movies that may have been enjoyable for me but that you probably won't be able to see, even if you really want to.

Why do this? First, to get these films produced outside of the U.S. and not intended for the U.S. market (although they have English subtitles) exposure here, second, to piss people off.

Oh yes, I'll write about all the really cool movies that I've seen that I've L-O-V-E-D and you'll read about it, and want to see them, but you won't be able to.

Call it role reversal. I used to be in a similar position with regards to cool and alternative culture while growing up on the outer fringes of the Detroit metropolitan area. Now I live in Seattle.

And people who probably are tuned into hip culture deeper than I ever was while living in the middle of nowhere will in turn be denied access to this sort of crucible of coolness, which is being brought to them by a person from an area that they'd probably look down and laugh at.

Fuck you, you goddamn sons of bitches!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Poltergay

A movie on DVD. It's a French film dubbed into Thai with English subtitles.

A funny, funny, madcap French comedy that for multiple reasons a company in the U.S. would never make. Too open about homosexuality, too open about sexuality in general (without being an actual porn film), you name it. It revolves around a construction site manager who moves into a house with his wife in the countryside of Paris that used to be a gay disco. There was an accident when a bubble machine and a foam machine short circuited and four of the dancers were killed, doomed to disco dance for eternity within the same house. He can see them, his wife can't.

One of the ways that he knows that there are ghosts there is that he mysteriously finds his clothes ironed, pressed, and put in his wardrobe. Then, the ghosts draw a symbol of a cock and balls with wings in chalk on his pool table.

A favorite part: the ghosts look at a present day magazine (2006) and one of them sees Sarkozy and exclaims "Oh my GOd! My ex is now mayor of Paris!"

Good fun.

And you get used to the Thai language dialogue.

Unfortunately it's in PAL format on a Region 3 disc, so unless your DVD player can be cracked to play all regions and can also convert PAL to NTSC... and you're a huge film snob... it'll probably not be accessible.

"The Chicken Doves Elected to end the war, Democrats have surrendered to Bush on Iraq and betrayed the peace movement for their own political ends"

Article by Matt Taibbi, title link. Very good. Focusses on Democrats as a whole instead of just Presidential candidates, although you probably know my take on that one.

"Rather than use the vast power they had to end the war, Democrats devoted their energy to making sure that "anti-war activism" became synonymous with "electing Democrats." Capitalizing on America's desire to end the war, they hijacked the anti-war movement itself, filling the ranks of peace groups with loyal party hacks. Anti-war organizations essentially became a political tool for the Democrats — one operated from inside the Beltway and devoted primarily to targeting Republicans.

This supposedly grass-roots "anti-war coalition" met regularly on K Street, the very capital of top-down Beltway politics. At the forefront of the groups are Thomas Matzzie and Brad Woodhouse of Americans Against the Escalation in Iraq, the leader of the anti-war lobby. Along with other K Street crusaders, the two have received iconic treatment from The Washington Post and The New York Times, both of which depicted the anti-war warriors as young idealist-progressives in shirtsleeves, riding a mirthful spirit into political combat — changing the world is fun!"

...

"With guys like this in charge of the anti-war movement, much of what has passed for peace activism in the past year was little more than a thinly veiled scheme to use popular discontent over the war to unseat vulnerable Republicans up for re-election in 2008. David Sirota, a former congressional staffer whose new book, The Uprising, excoriates the Democrats for their failure to end the war, expresses disgust at the strategy of targeting only Republicans. "The whole idea is based on this insane fiction that there is no such thing as a pro-war Democrat," he says. "Their strategy allows Democrats to take credit for being against the war without doing anything to stop it. It's crazy."


...

"Why it "just wasn't going to happen" is the controversy. In and around the halls of Congress, the notion that the Democrats made a sincere effort to end the war meets with, at best, derisive laughter. Though few congressional aides would think of saying so on the record, in private many dismiss their party's lame anti-war effort as an absurd dog-and-pony show, a calculated attempt to score political points without ever being serious about bringing the troops home.

"Yeah, the amount of expletives that flew in our office alone was unbelievable," says an aide to one staunchly anti-war House member. "It was all about the public show. Reid and Pelosi would say they were taking this tough stand against Bush, but if you actually looked at what they were sending to a vote, it was like Swiss cheese. Full of holes."

In the House, some seventy Democrats joined the Out of Iraq caucus and repeatedly butted heads with Reid and Pelosi, arguing passionately for tougher measures to end the war. The fight left some caucus members bitter about the party's failure. Rep. Barbara Lee of California was one of the first to submit an amendment to cut off funding unless it was tied to an immediate withdrawal. "I couldn't even get it through the Rules Committee in the spring," Lee says.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a fellow caucus member, says Democrats should have refused from the beginning to approve any funding that wasn't tied to a withdrawal. "If we'd been bold the minute we got control of the House — and that's why we got the majority, because the people of this country wanted us out of Iraq — if we'd been bold, even if we lost the votes, we would have gained our voice."

An honest attempt to end the war, say Democrats like Woolsey and Lee, would have involved forcing Bush to execute his veto and allowing the Republicans to filibuster all they wanted. Force a showdown, in other words, and use any means necessary to get the bloodshed ended."

The expletives fly around here, too.

I have a simple question, two actually.

1)What happens if Obama isn't elected? What will people do then when the guy saying (very conditionally if you read the fine print) that he will reduce troops in Iraq doesn't get the White House? All this organizing to support Obama instead of building a general anti-war movement will have come to nothing.

2)What if Obama is elected but he either goes back on his platform or is 'forced', either genuinely or not, to give up his goal as being something that can really be put into place? Will people protest to fore the administration to get out of Iraq or will people light candles and keep the faith that maybe, just maybe, their hope, their hero for change, will eventually get some balls.

Lighting candles and having vigils against a war is symbolic but not totally ineffective, even though it represents probably the smallest peg on the continuum from really small scale protesting to serious marches, protests, and works for social change. Lighting candles, either symbolicly or in reality, to ensure that the now President actually does what he said he was going to do instead of going out in the streets is pathetic. I guess if Obama doesn't deliver we'll have to wait for 2012 to get out of Iraq.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Funny thing about socialism in the United States

And this includes anarchism. I have a spiritual life, although it's unconventional and centers around occult things and thought derived from Wicca and Goddess centered religions, and I'm constantly amazed that texts that would have literally gotten a person burned at the stake several centuries ago are really available in the U.S. while basic information about socialism is harder to find.

The last public burning of someone for Witchcraft in England took place in the 17th century, same thing with the United States as far as I know.

At some large chain stores you can buy the Key of Solomon the King, which is about summoning demons and having them do things for you, but beyond the basic source material of Marx's writings and some odds and ends relating to history you can't find any cogent explanation of socialism, either radical socialism or social democracy, although the situation with anarchism is getting better.

Summoning demons=ok

Marxian and non-Marxian socialism and some anarchism=not ok.

Not saying that this should be reversed, just that maybe some parity is in order.

Microsoft develops a sure proof way to keep people from pirating its operating system

It's called Vista.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Toxic Baby Bottles, Toxic Plastic

Very serious, but a problem that's been with us for a while.

"The chemical bisphenol A, which is a synthetic hormone that can leech out of certain plastic when heated, turned up in nine different polycarbonate bottles commonly sold in Canada by three different manufacturers." (title link)

It's an estrogen. These chemicals are found in many plastics, and other toxic chemicals are found in many separate kinds of plastic. Part of the negligence that this represents is endemic to the plastic industry spawned in the U.S. after World War II. It's an example of excess and short sightedness on the part of American industry.

The question is why we use plastic at all for many things. No doubt there are certain products and certain functions that require qualities that plastic has in order to work properly but it seems like many of the applications of plastic in the U.S. are the result of laziness and not of need.
Excessive plastic packaging is one example.

In the post war world the U.S. found itself resource rich and with few competitors. What I think happened is that it sought an easy way out of different product problems by using plastic for everything. Plastic is just what the name implies--flexible, able to be used for many purposes. You can slap plastic wrap on something and not think twice about it. You can substitute a plastic part for something made out of another material and have more freedom to create exactly what you need. Plastic is the easy way out. In packaging and other applications finding a non-plastic alternative would require more work and more investment and so was not pursued, even though this sort of solution would have probably have lead to less pollution, less health problems, and less disposal problems.

Cars fall into this sort of thinking as well. I have a car and I drive it, I use gas, so I'm not innocent in this, but constructing roads and highways as opposed to commuter trains and bus systems is a quintessential easy way out of dealing with collective issues regarding transportation. Why put the effort into creating a train system when you can make roads and have everyone ride in car? Of course, people would object to public transportation as some sort of collectivist plot, but that sort of luxury thinking is only possible in rich countries that have money to burn. Suburbs follow the same sort of logic.

Instead of urban planning and trying to find a way to accommodate people within a city, new housing developments went up in the post-war world that maximized waste through single family dwellings and altered the landscape of America by creating the equivalent of many small towns arranged haphazardly, that you need cars to navigate. The world of picket fences actually makes life more difficult in that there's no rhyme or reason to the construction of the new towns, and really new developments, in the past decade and a half, are even worse. No one can walk anyplace. There's usually no centrally located shopping district, meaning that you have to drive around for a long time to stores in different parts of the town to get stuff that in a city would be available with one trip downtown and maybe a walk to your local grocery store. The excess goes into the manufacturing industry too.

although the steel industry has been sadly decimated, leaving many people in really bad shape, the blame for it really belongs to the bosses and executives. In the post war largesse they constructed wasteful steel works that were eventually rendered obsolete by European inventions and refused to invest the money to change their production processes until it was too late.

Our consumption binge doesn't even make sense. This aspect of American innovation tends to reflect an American want of evasion of innovation and critical thought about social problems than it does ingenuity. And we pat ourselves on the back for being so smart.

Toxic baby bottles, where the severity of potential harm vies with toxins effecting pregnant women for the title of most outrageous, is just the newest manifestation of the drunk king granting random favors to people convinced that it will all work out.

Absolut Warhola

Good movie where a film crew finds and interviews Andy Warhol's relatives in Slovakia. It's made by a German company, with the director being Polish, which means that it's not trivialized as much as if someone in the U.S. or related countries did it.

Contrary to the blurb on the box, Warhol's relatives aren't quirky, eccentric, people, but just regular people living life. They like the fact that they have a famous artist as a relative but don't know much about art. A common occurrence. The interviews with the relatives, who may have known Warhol's mother but didn't know him personally, are very nice.

One thing that stuck out that the film makers focussed on was the Warhol museum in Medzilaborce and the director's policies. There's an interview with a Gypsy woman where she tells us that they don't allow Gypsies into the museum, and later on the director is caught admitting that they don't let Gypsies into the museum because "they're filthy and smell bad" and "they steal everything". Talks about Gypsies having more rights in Slovakia than Slovaks and rants for a little longer on Gypsies. So he's a racist and applies racist policies to his museum. The guy is fairly young and tries to present himself as being hip, which makes his racism even more stinging. Beneath the surface of a groveling apparatchik who wants to be considered part of the intelligentsia there's the same right wing racism that the intelligentsia are usually against. His attitude to the people of Medzilaborce is condescending as well.

This tendency shows in his selection of art works. Saying that they have to be 'relevant' to the towns people, he picked Warhol paintings that had Communist images and agricultural images, and picked a picture of Ingrid Bergman as a nun over a picture of Marilyn Monroe. If you're a self important person who thinks that the people around you are all inferior this may make sense, but the lie is exposed by the interviews which show that the people that he thinks can only relate to Communism and agriculture are just regular folks. Incidentally, the consequence of focussing on these things is that the collection as he presented it is totally unrepresentative of Warhol's actual work and career. And it looks like he shied away from including pure Pop Art subjects, getting the works from Warhol that were less starkly Pop Art and more painterly and abstract.

Good movie that doesn't belittle the people in it. This isn't Borat, where a guy in the Romanian town that they filmed it in was portrayed as the town abortionist without his permission, and people expecting a Borat like experience will be sorely disappointed.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Fact Checking Obama's Seattle Speech

(title link) With facts from his own platform on his website. Source from the Seattle PI.


"The audience also liked what Obama described of his platform if elected, which included: a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq in 2009; health insurance for all equal to what he receives as a member of Congress (with a $2,500 annual premium reduction for those already insured); higher taxes on the rich and tax relief for senior citizens, homeowners and the working poor; higher pay for teachers, more spending on early childhood education and a $4,000 yearly tuition credit for college students in exchange for national service; a tax on greenhouse gas emissions and more investment in alternative energy sources; and -- in a pledge that prompted a particularly fervent reaction -- an end to genocide in Darfur."

All sources from the campaign are from BarackObama.com.

An audio file of the speech, albeit one that's in bad quality in some places, can be heard here.

"Military withdrawal from Iraq in 2009"

At first this sounds like kind of being honest. Here's the web platform, but with one crucial sentence put in bold:

"Bringing Our Troops Home

Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months. Obama will make it clear that we will not build any permanent bases in Iraq. He will keep some troops in Iraq to protect our embassy and diplomats; if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes on al Qaeda."

Wait, isn't that what Bush is claiming is a major reason that troops still are in Iraq, to fight Al Qaeda? And doesn't basically everyone admit that Al Qaeda does have a presence in Iraq, with the fight being if they're a minor part of the insurgency or a bigger part of it. So....basically if there are Al Qaeda people in Iraq we won't be leaving.

"health insurance for all equal to what he receives as a member of Congress (with a $2,500 annual premium reduction for those already insured)"
Another interesting thing, but with two things that look kind of odd in there, that I put in bold:

" 1. Guaranteed eligibility. No American will be turned away from any insurance plan because of illness or pre-existing conditions.
2. Comprehensive benefits. The benefit package will be similar to that offered through Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), the plan members of Congress have. The plan will cover all essential medical services, including preventive, maternity and mental health care.
3. Affordable premiums, co-pays and deductibles.
4. Subsidies. Individuals and families who do not qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP but still need financial assistance will receive an income-related federal subsidy to buy into the new public plan or purchase a private health care plan.
5. Simplified paperwork and reined in health costs.
6. Easy enrollment. The new public plan will be simple to enroll in and provide ready access to coverage.
7. Portability and choice. Participants in the new public plan and the National Health Insurance Exchange (see below) will be able to move from job to job without changing or jeopardizing their health care coverage.
8. Quality and efficiency. Participating insurance companies in the new public program will be required to report data to ensure that standards for quality, health information technology and administration are being met.

"

Ok, so #4 says that it's not universal but that there'd be some sort of tiered plan, that it would be possible not to earn enough money to participate in. No denials based on chronic illness, but what about if you have a chronic illness where you make enough money not to be on medicare but not enough to afford the new plan? You'd get a grant, right? But why would you need subsidies if the policies are guaranteed to be affordable? Is this a universally applicable single payer health care plan, where there would be a single HMO style organization started up by the government? Look at #8

"Participating insurance companies in the new public program". The public program will be run by insurance companies in a partnership of some sort with the federal government, with some sort of compromise between the two, like Obama indicated when he contrasted the cooperation of his program to the more hostile sounding anti-health care industry stand of John Edwards.

Hmm... It would be similar to the plan that Congress members have, the "Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan". While it seems as though this plan is looked on as really good, it's misleading to say it's the plan that Congress members have because All full time employees of the federal government have it. Everyone. He says that it's *similar* to the plan that Congress Members have. Does this mean that it would be on the level of someone on the bottom rung, the working class section of the federal government, or that it really would be just as good as the care that Congress people have? It's misleading to say that it's what he's receiving. In fact it's really deceitful, not quite a lie but a deliberate distortion of what he's actually advocating.

"higher taxes on the rich and tax relief for senior citizens, homeowners and the working poor"

Not quite.

"Reverse Bush Tax Cuts for the Wealthy: Obama will protect tax cuts for poor and middle class families, but he will reverse most of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers."

"Irresponsible Tax Cuts: President Bush's policies of giving tax breaks for the wealthy will cost the nation over $2.3 trillion by the time they expire in 2009."

This is different from raising taxes on the wealthy. He's advocating letting the tax breaks that Bush established run out. He's not saying anything about raising them to a higher level than they were before. It's not so much raising taxes as letting the timer run out. And in relationship to protecting tax cuts for poor and middle class families, the Bush plan has done almost nothing for them, so the barely present crumbs that Bush handed out, like the tax rebate that totaled a hundred and fifty dollars for most people would be maintained.

"Eliminate Income Taxes for Seniors Making Less Than $50,000: Obama will eliminate all income taxation of seniors making less than $50,000 per year. This will provide an immediate tax cut averaging $1,400 to 7 million seniors and relieve millions from the burden of filing tax returns."

Sounds good, and indeed it is good to not tax senior citizens, but bringing Seniors into the picture brings up the issue of Social Security. No where on his policy page does he say that he's going to raise social security payments for poorer seniors. And while it's good that the social security tax cap comes off for people making over $97,500" dollars a year, the consequence of removing it without limiting the amount of social security people can get back means that the extra money in taxes is just going to come back to them in extra social security dollars.

"higher pay for teachers, more spending on early childhood education and a $4,000 yearly tuition credit for college students in exchange for national service"

"Reward Teachers: Obama will promote new and innovative ways to increase teacher pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them. Districts will be able to design programs that reward accomplished educators who serve as a mentor to new teachers with a salary increase. Districts can reward teachers who work in underserved places like rural areas and inner cities. And if teachers consistently excel in the classroom, that work can be valued and rewarded as well."

Not quite a blanket "higher pay for teachers", who Obama in his speech described as having to pay out of pocket for school supplies. Very true, but this is a far cry from really upping teacher pay universally.

Even if he did really say that he wanted to increase all teacher pay there'd be a problem in that most teachers aren't paid by the federal government. They're paid from local property taxes, with several states like Texas establishing all state rules fortunately regulating the pay of teachers so that places with low property values actually get money to both pay teachers and help maintain facilities. This brings in the federal government's role. Currently, the federal government gives targeted grants of money to different school districts based on problems that they're having. We don't have an education department and educators don't work for the federal government. What he's mainly focussing on here is reversing the punitive measures in "No Child Left Behind". It's something, but it's not the blanket raise pay for all teachers that he presents it as.

"# Zero to Five Plan: Obama's comprehensive "Zero to Five" plan will provide critical support to young children and their parents. Unlike other early childhood education plans, Obama's plan places key emphasis at early care and education for infants, which is essential for children to be ready to enter kindergarten. Obama will create Early Learning Challenge Grants to promote state "zero to five" efforts and help states move toward voluntary, universal pre-school.

# Expand Early Head Start and Head Start: Obama will quadruple Early Head Start, increase Head Start funding and improve quality for both. "

This is indeed having more money for early childhood education. Because Obama wasn't more specific I won't dissect it any further. If he had been, I would.

On to the $4,000 for service part.

"American Opportunity Tax Credit
Barack Obama will make college affordable for all Americans by creating a new American Opportunity Tax
Credit. This universal and fully refundable credit will ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is
completely free for most Americans, and will cover two-thirds the cost of tuition at the average public college
or university. And by making the tax credit fully refundable, Obama’s credit will help low-income families that
need it the most. Obama will also ensure that the tax credit is available to families at the time of enrollment by
using prior year’s tax data to deliver the credit at the time that tuition is due, rather than a year or more later
when tax returns are filed. "


"Require 100 Hours of Service in College: Obama will establish a new American Opportunity Tax Credit that worth $4,000 a year in exchange for 100 hours of public service a year."


It looks like this is what it says it is, which is good. No doubt that like AmeriCorps, which he mentions increasing, it will concretely help people. And he says the he'll increase Pell Grants while making the application process for financial aid simpler. All these things are really good. That said, and it absolutely needs to be said, why make poor kids volunteer for what people in most of Europe get for absolutely free? Asking people who are poor to contribute 100 hours while people who are richer don't have to do anything is making poor people jump through hoops like trained dogs to get something that they inherently deserve. But just funding universal higher education would be a handout and we don't want that, right?

"a tax on greenhouse gas emissions and more investment in alternative energy sources"

There's certainly more investment in alternative energy sources on Obama's site, but in reference to a tax on greenhouse gas emissions there's something that's treasonous:

"Reduce Carbon Emissions 80 Percent by 2050

* Cap and Trade: Obama supports implementation of a market-based cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary: 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Obama's cap-and-trade system will require all pollution credits to be auctioned. A 100 percent auction ensures that all polluters pay for every ton of emissions they release, rather than giving these emission rights away to coal and oil companies. Some of the revenue generated by auctioning allowances will be used to support the development of clean energy, to invest in energy efficiency improvements, and to address transition costs, including helping American workers affected by this economic transition. "

This isn't a tax on greenhouse gasses in the conventional sense. This is selling pollution permits so that a company that has a plant that generates a huge amount of pollution for it's immediate community and for the environment but makes a lot of money can buy the pollution credits that it needs to not change a damn thing.

"A 100 percent auction ensures that all polluters pay for every ton of emissions they release, rather than giving these emission rights away to coal and oil companies."

But it's an auction, which means that while you're not literally giving the emissions rights away to coal and oil companies they'll be the ones buying the rights to pollute. So yes, they'll pay, but the effect will be inverse to what Obama says will happen. Smaller companies that can't afford pollution credits will cut back on their pollution while richer companies that can afford them will continue on.

There's one big problem with pollution credits, and that is that we already have something that can reduce greenhouse gasses by a drastic degree, in fact just by the degree that he's talking about. It's called the EPA and legislation. It's called passing regulations strengthening limits on what companies can pollute directly while not allowing an easy out by means of the worst polluters being able to buy their way out of cutting their emissions. If we want to reduce greenhouse gasses we should regulate across the board so that the worst offenders as well as lesser offenders both have to share the costs. Taxes themselves are ineffective because people should not be allowed to pay for the right to engage in destructive activity. Would you like to have an FDA food safety contamination credit auction?

They shouldn't pay, they should stop. In fact, what they should be spending their money on is new equipment and fines if they don't become compliant. But that would be big government, or a liberal-esque solution.

"an end to genocide in Darfur"

Glad to see that being anti-genocide is something that the people of Seattle like. Good to know that there's not a large pro-genocide contingent up here.

Obama doesn't say anything about it on his website but Darfur Scores.org gives Obama an A+ and a special mention for his efforts.

The summary is that Obama is best on his education and his environment stance in the sphere of funding alternatives. While it's not mentioned in the Seattle PI paragraph, he has an idea that's good about making pensions mandatory.

But none of that changes the distortions on virtually every other concrete issue mentioned.

It seems that between the enthusiastic, orgiastic, clapping of the crowd and what Obama actually says there's a significant gap, the very thing that recently prompted a Slate editor to label Obama's speeches Fascistic.

It's really, really, disturbing to hear the peals of applause, one after the other, from people up here when you know that through a couple minutes of internet searching you could poke holes in the very thing that they're applauding for.

Which is one of the reason I keep writing these fucking articles. Over and over.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Tom Hayden: "After Super Tuesday, Time for Peace Movement to Get Off the Sidelines"

Wow, great headline. What does Tom Hayden mean by this?

"There are differences that matter between Clinton and Obama, not as great as between the Democrats and McCain, but significant nonetheless. They are these:

Obama favors a 16-18 month timeline for withdrawing US combat troops. Clinton favors “immediately” convening the Joint Chiefs to draft a plan to “begin” drawing down US troops, but with no timetable for completing the withdrawal.

Obama opposed the measure authorizing Bush to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, widely regarded as an escalating step towards another war. Clinton voted for the authorization.

Obama opposed the 2002 authorization for war that Clinton voted for. Clinton still calls that decision a “close call” and refuses to say it was a mistaken vote."

These four short paragraphs are in the same order that they appear in the story (title link).

Hayden goes on to say that people should push the candidates to adopt harder anti-war positions, but he clearly sees Obama as the favorite, saying that the task for Obama supporters should be to get him to connect the war to the economy, and that if you're a Clinton supporter you should contact her campaign because "she should be pressured to keep catching up with Obama’s positions."

There's no discussion, first of all, if Obama's positions really are that much better than Clinton's and second of all there's no call for marches, protests, sit ins, or anything else that's candidate free and would be aimed at both the general public and at the government in general, both this one and whatever comes next.

Instead, Mr. Hayden has written a commercial for Obama.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Camille Paglia on AIDS pisses me off

Camille Paglia, who bills herself as an anti-PC feminist, has some interesting views on HIV, AIDS, and the homosexual community. They're interesting because they come from someone who says she's a sex radical, is bisexual, likes S&M, and is raising a child with a woman who runs the "Museum of Sex" in Philadelphia. Well, what does she say about HIV?

In her book "Sex, Art and American Culture", a collection of essays, she declares that people of her generation, the generation of the 60's, need to take responsibility for AIDS because they transgressed certain moral laws that brought the epidemic on. She's not religious about it, she just believes that, um, radical sex transgressed something that it shouldn't have transgressed. But wait, I thought she was pro-S&M? The gay community, and the radical sexual liberation participating and S&M parts of the gay community in particular, were devastated by HIV, and were condemned by preachers and moralists across the board for having brought it on themselves for transgressing God's Law and basic moral standards. And Camille Paglia seems to have jumped on board.

An interesting feature of the AIDS epidemic in the '80s that isn't talked about, that I didn't really know about until it was mentioned in a World AIDS Day speech, is gay men with HIV becoming homeless due to either illness, medical expenses, work discrimination, lack of family support, and literally dying in the streets. In New York City there were over a thousand people at one time who fit this bill, with the speaker, who started an organization dedicated to help house these people, estimating that at one time at the peak there were three thousand people in New York City with AIDS who were dying in the streets, homeless, forgotten, terminally sick.

This isn't a joke. It's these people that Paglia is condemning for bringing it on themselves.

She sits pretty in Philadelphia, known for its often vapid frankness, teaching literature and basking in her radical chic while being disconnected and isolated from the phenomenon that she so cheaply condemns.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Party conventions in the U.S.----sound and fury

Yet another problem with American party politics. Conventions are where party platforms are worked out, which are then publicized and become part of candidates' campaigns. But here conventions happen every four years and come up with documents that no media outlets report on and that are never mentioned by people who are either in office or who are running for office. I can look up the platform of the German Social Democratic Party and see a relation between what they say there and what some of their prominent members have in the past said, but after downloading This, the Democratic Party Platform of 2004, I'm left wondering just where exactly all of these ideas went. How soon after the delegates to the party conventions agree to a platform and send it out to representatives does it get thrown in the trash? Here is a concrete 43 page document that you can actually analyze and argue over, but it's been MIA since 2004.

Funny thing though, the document makes reference to John Kerry and John Edwards, the 2004 candidates for President and Vice President, talking about the principles that the next four years will embody but all this was decided after people had already chosen which candidate should be the nominee. Really convenient. While people are campaigning they only have their own platforms, or lack of them, and make no reference to some sort of grand party platform but after they've been selected through the primary process suddenly a bunch of people representing the candidate come together and churn out a series of policy statements based on the principles of the winning team that will supposedly govern party politics for the next four years---on top of being binding on the Presidency if it's won.

What a joke.

The solution would be to have the convention that decides on the platform and the primaries in different years. The conventions would gather together and discuss what the party as a whole should stand for, then come up with a basic document. It would be public and publicized. Candidates could choose to either go with or against the principles, no "party line", but it would make it really obvious whether someone was a Democrat, Republican, Green, whatever in name only or if they really believed in what the party stood for.

But to have that happen you'd have to have a coherent grass roots structure that played a part in selecting the candidates for representatives and senators, who could provide people to go to conventions and also provide the people that the delegates would represent. In other words, you'd have to have some accountability to voters programmed in their along with interest by people at the ground level in non-election years about things like social justice and not destroying the planet.

Party machinery in the U.S. is completely non-existent. Nothing that would be necessary exists.
The best way to understand American politics and how decisions are made is to read sociologist C. Wright Mills' book "The Power Elite", which talks about how deals sealed with a handshake happen between captains of industry and political operatives.

Super Tuesday is a great idea

Some people object to the idea of super tuesday, when twenty four states have their primaries as being somehow undemocratic because everything is decided at once. I disagree. What's undemocratic is having a long, drawn out horse race where insignificant states like Iowa and New Hampshire exercise huge influence over the rest of the race. When primaries don't happen on the same day the behavior of voters in another state influence the votes of people in later primaries. Why should this happen? Shouldn't people vote according to whether they like the candidate or not instead of voting according to whether or not they think the candidate has a chance based on what voters in some random state thought?

The most democratic way to have primaries would be to have a scheduled campaign period, where candidates get out and do their thing, then have everyone vote on the same day, thereby deciding the candidate. Not doing this also disadvantages states that have primaries later in the season because their votes count much less due to most of the delegates already having been decided. Although I object to small states like Iowa and New Hampshire determining the destiny of the rest of the country the people there still count, and the solution to their undue influence is the same as the solution to some states not having enough influence.

If the primaries were an experiment decided to see if a particular result happened when you mixed two chemicals together it would be a complete failure because result A influences result B, and result A and B influence result C, A B and C influence D, going all the way to the end, meaning that the votes that come in at the end are so muddled that there's no way to tell if they resemble in any way what the voters would have decided if everyone voted at once.

People object to primaries happening on the same day because they think that if there's only one chance for the candidates to be decided that it's too risky and too prone to error, but we only vote once for the President, right? And if candidates have just one shot to either make it or not make it they have an incentive to do their best instead of lazing around after key races have been decided.

Debates should happen before the primaries take place as well. People in Iowa vote and then based on those votes the candidates change their positions and go into the next debate with something different than what they started with. If there are four debates but they happen throughout the primary season doesn't that disadvantage voters who vote before all of the debates have happened? What if something comes up in the last debate that people would want to know about before they cast their vote?
What if, after seeing the returns from the early primaries, the candidates change their positions to ones that would have caused people in the earlier primaries not to vote for them? They're kind of out of luck on that one.

Speeches and policy statements follow the same pattern. A candidate's views on policy are handed out piece meal throughout the campaign, with no good comprehensive statement happening until the end, and by that time the platform could have changed so many times that an idea of what the person really stood for looks more like a fuzzy cloud than anything concrete. I remember in the 2000 election how Gore suddenly became pro-labor in the last month because he thought it would get him votes. Where did that come from? Why do we expect revelations from candidates late in the game that contradict their positions earlier on?

No wonder candidates never keep campaign promises once elected: they've said so much mutually exclusive bullshit that there aren't any solid promises to keep.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Obama on Faith

Obama's two documents in his "Faith" part of the policy section of his website have to be two of the biggest jokes there are. Change we can believe in and Barack's faith principles are documents that you'll look and look through while finding only a few actual, concrete, examples of just what he means. The only concrete principles on "Obama on faith" relate to "Faith is a source of justice"....but you look at the source of three of the four statements (one was two statements combined into one), which is the "Change we can believe in" speech and you see that the original context was much less radical than the out of context quotes would have you believe. Which is sad because these vague paragraphs are the only concrete, or close to concrete, expressions of how Obama's faith works in action contained in the "Change we can believe in" speech.

So what does this very long speech consist of if it doesn't state just how Obama's faith principles translate out into concrete moral principles that can applied to real world situations? The speech can be summarized in a few sentences: it's not necessarily bad to be religious, liberals shouldn't be afraid of saying that they're religious, there's room for all sorts of religions in Washington and in the U.S. When it comes to actually describing both his own principles of belief, which he says people shouldn't be afraid of affirming, and telling how he derives universal moral principles from them, which he says people should do, and how he parts of his campaign derive their inspiration from these same moral principles there's a deafening silence.

The "Faith is a source of action for justice" section of "Barack's faith principles" includes this paragraph:

"Pastors, friends of mine like Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes are wielding their enormous influences to confront AIDS, Third World debt relief, and the genocide in Darfur. Religious thinkers and activists like our good friend Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo are lifting up the Biblical injunction to help the poor as a means of mobilizing Christians against budget cuts to social programs and growing inequality."

But if you look at the original context of the paragraph, which comes from "Change we can believe in" you see that it followed this one:

"Moreover, if we progressives shed some of these biases, we might recognize some overlapping values that both religious and secular people share when it comes to the moral and material direction of our country. We might recognize that the call to sacrifice on behalf of the next generation, the need to think in terms of "thou" and not just "I," resonates in religious congregations all across the country. And we might realize that we have the ability to reach out to the evangelical community and engage millions of religious Americans in the larger project of American renewal.

Some of this is already beginning to happen. Pastors, friends of mine like Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes are wielding their enormous influences to confront AIDS, Third World debt relief, and the genocide in Darfur. Religious thinkers and activists like our good friend Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo are lifting up the Biblical injunction to help the poor as a means of mobilizing Christians against budget cuts to social programs and growing inequality."

That's much less gung-ho than the original paragraph, with the "Some of this is already beginning to happen" sentence taken out, standing on its own.

Just like the next citation:

"Across the country, individual churches like my own and your own are sponsoring day care programs, building senior centers, helping ex-offenders reclaim their lives, and rebuilding our gulf coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina."

It's one paragraph down from the the one above, but the bigger issue is the paragraph that follows it:

"Across the country, individual churches like my own and your own are sponsoring day care programs, building senior centers, helping ex-offenders reclaim their lives, and rebuilding our gulf coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

So the question is, how do we build on these still-tentative partnerships between religious and secular people of good will? It's going to take more work, a lot more work than we've done so far. The tensions and the suspicions on each side of the religious divide will have to be squarely addressed. And each side will need to accept some ground rules for collaboration."

It's not a barnstorming religiously motivated movement that's happening, it's some tentative partnerships.

Moreover, directly contradicting part of his stated views is his uplifting "Government alone cannot solve all of our problems--we have an individual responsibility to be our brothers' keeper and our sisters' keeper"

:“And although government will play a crucial role in bringing about the changes we need, more money and programs alone will not get us where we need to go. Each of us, in our own lives, will have to accept responsibility - for instilling an ethic of achievement in our children, for adapting to a more competitive economy, for strengthening our communities, and sharing some measure of sacrifice. So let us begin. Let us begin this hard work together. Let us transform this nation.” - Presidential Announcement Speech"

Ouch. Tighten your belts, auto workers.

But, you may ask, is he supposed to say "Let's have government programs. Government programs are great"? No, but there are ways of expressing a progressive agenda that involves expanding government programs without saying this. Making the idea that "Government alone cannot solve all of our problems" central to this statement sends a signal about where exactly his policies are going to be going towards. No one is forcing him to say this. He's buying into the idea of big government liberalism being bad instead of trying to be a Voice for Change by justifying programs in ways that address the concern.

It gets better though. Although he says "but I also believe that when a gang-banger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels somebody disrespected him, we've got a moral problem. There's a hole in that young man's heart - a hole that the government alone cannot fix."

he comes up with this choice paragraph next:


"I believe in vigorous enforcement of our non-discrimination laws. But I also believe that a transformation of conscience and a genuine commitment to diversity on the part of the nation's CEOs could bring about quicker results than a battalion of lawyers. They have more lawyers than us anyway."

Yes, who needs a civil rights division when you can have heart to heart talks with CEOs?

Which brings me back to the #1 statement in "Barack's faith principles"

"God is constantly present in our lives, and this presence is a source of hope.

Hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, the audacity of hope:"



Hope. Yeah. Got it. I get the hope thing. Maybe you should write some concrete principles.

"I believe in hope because I believe in change, and change gives me hope that the future will change in a way that hope indicates is possible. The hope of change is bolstered by the change in hope, and the hope of hope is fulfilled when the change of hope into a change driving hope changes the hope of the nation into a changed hope filled vision of hope."

MLK and Bobby Kennedy

Although the Federal Government wasn't the source of civil rights reform it's not accurate to say that the Civil Rights Act was forced into passage by the civil rights movement. Well, it was and it wasn't. One of the lesser known aspects of the struggle is that Martin Luther King Jr. had a meeting with Robert Kennedy, then Attorney General of the U.S., where Kennedy said that legislation would be passed and would be enforced provided that King drop his more radical demands. MLK agreed and Kennedy sent troops down to Alabama to enforce desegregation of schools.No matter what MLK did at the end of his life, after his basic struggles were won he faded into the woodwork and his approach was subsequently criticized as being accomodationist by people like Kwame Ture formerly Stokely Carmichael, who presented a more radical critique of race in America in publications like the excellent "Black Power", which is still a great read. Better than "Soul on Ice", but that's another story. The Black Panther Party platform, for instance, talked explicitly of providing jobs and resources to black communities, and declared itself to be socialist. The guns may have been what people focussed on but the heart of it was struggling for real, material, social change on top of the social change fought for by the more mainstream civil rights movement. And Bobby Kennedy, it should be remembered, was a rabid anti-Communist prosecutor during the McCarthyist era. That doesn't get talked about much.

JFK, too, was no saint. People quote "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" as if it's some sort of inspiring call to change. Richard Hofstadter, writing in his book "The American Political Tradition", whose subtext was that the American Political Tradition was fundamentally moderate, which is another issue for another time in itself, points out that Kennedy's slogan basically committed the administration to small government. In other words, don't ask for universal healthcare or an extended welfare state, 'cause the government won't give it to you. Ask about volunteer opportunities instead.

Ron Paul and Ralph Nader

Even though I like Nader, and favor him in any independent race, Ron Paul's ideology should still be looked at. Paul comes out of the tradition of Texas populism, which is an interesting phenomenon that grew out of Southern Populism, only with class being more important than race.Indeed, this is what makes the Texas Populist movement that people like Jim Hightower and Molly Ivins come out of more authentically progressive than the equivalents in the rest of the South, who inevitably mix their populism with a liking for white supremacy. In Texas, because slavery was less of an issue there, especially in central and western Texas even though the state was a member of the Confederacy, the emerging difference between rich and poor not due to ability but due to birth lead to a class based reaction by small farmers and others. Paul also comes out of the paleo-conservative tradition, which has always been skeptical of power and concentrations of power, of the necessity of taking action where action doesn't need to be taken. It's sort of a folksy conservatism that finds expression also in certain progressive writers. Gore Vidal, for instance, provided a preface to the book "America First!", which is probably the only objective book written about the movement against intervention in World War II written, which dispels ideas that these people were basically racist pro-Nazis. Instead, they sympathized with the people suffering in Europe but considered how a foreign war done during a Depression might affect the country. I'm not saying they were either right or wrong, just saying that this sort of conservative skepticism finds echo or at least sympathy with well known progressive writers.

Paul is against U.S. intervention abroad, he's against unnecessary legislation impeding personal liberty, he's against NAFTA and the WTO because they enable corporations against the little guy. It's an interesting and philosophically consistent formula, but although it has good features there's the issue of the ideas and attitudes at its base. On this count Paul doesn't do well, while Nader does very, very, well.

You can believe all the things that Paul does, and for similar reasons, and not be fundamentally conservative. Nothing in the ideas I just mentioned necessarily favor an overall conservative ideology, but Paul has one and as they say the devil is in the details. Paul favors removing ecological laws based on the idea that they're unnecessary statist impositions on economic behavior, progressives tend to think that ecological laws are a good thing because they prevent the exploitation of resources and destruction of our natural environment by large corporations unaccountable to anyone. It's also an open issue on whether the ideas regarding gay rights, gay marriage, and abortion are based on a progressive or conservative ideology.

Paul rightly sees much of the abortion conflict as stemming from the decision of the Supreme Court to legalize abortion even though many, many states did not in fact want it to be legalized. In this sense the Supreme Court went against the will of the people and it might have been a good idea to fight the abortion battle state by state instead of depending on an overarching legislative decision. But would Paul support abortion rights if they were passed in a more democratic way on a local level? The same question applies to gay rights and gay marriage. Additionally, the unspoken issue of Christianity and evolution in schools fit into this same pattern. But these directly come into conflict with the Bill of Rights, in a way that's impossible to avoid saying infringing on fundamental rights.

The point is that all of these are in a sense procedural objections, but if the procedures were fixed were would Ron Paul come down on the issues?

This is a reason that I support Nader above Paul.