Monday, June 30, 2008

Art: Klimt, Kandinsky, Ernst. Art Nouveau, Modernism, Surrealism/Dada

Saw a wonderful, full length, documentary about the life of Marx Ernstlately. It occurred to me that you could trace a sort of path of transformation from the Art Nouveau period exemplified by Klimt to the Modernist period exemplified by Wassily Kandinsky, onto the Surrealism and Dada movements. Sort of a thesis, anti-thesis, synthesis model.

The thing about Art Nouveau that sort of grated on contemporaries and inspired a stripped down revolt was the gap between the effort put out for making the paintings and installations look nice and the meanings that they were supposed to embody. Take Klimt's Beethoven Frieze for example, a series of paintings that interprets Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in sort of an allegorical way, giving it a set of meanings that deals with the relationships between men and women in a sort of higher sense. All of that meaning is well and good but for the level of ornamentation that Klimt put out there the result seems kind of weak. Not to say that it doesn't look nice, but with both this and in a kind of amplified way most of Klimt's other works including "The Kiss", you have to wonder whether or not the ornamentation is there just for ornamentation's sake, if this is art or interior design. What does it all add up to?

Kandinsky provides a very sharp counterpoint to Art Nouveau, as do the rest of the abstract expressionists. Instead of form and ornamentation without a lot of meaning you have meaning without ornamentation or most form, at least most conventional representational form. It's art that's stripped down to the very basics of what's ultimately intended by artists. It can be easily argued that abstract art is already present in conventional, representational art in that the same kind of extra-representational forms are integrated into the works in order to add extra meaning, somewhat invisibly.

Ernst , the Dadaists and the Surrealists, this time including Picasso in his synthetic Cubist phase, resurrect conventional formal figures in a distorted yet recognizable shape. The insights of the Modernists, wanting to create pure communication of ideas without intermediaries, are there but life has been let in. The ornamentation of Art Nouveau has been sacrificed and the strange embellishments now exist in the service of meaning, not in the service of decoration.

My own beliefs

Right now my own beliefs are of a Hermetic/Gnostic nature. It's ironic that in the Dan Brown books the Catholic Church is represented as the foe of Gnosticism and of other heretical beliefs because compared to most Protestant denominations the Catholic Church is much closer in their belief system to the Gnostic Christians. Protestant denominations who emphasize the humanity of Christ miss the boat entirely. Jesus was human, he was a really wonderful guy, and...he died and was reborn. But he was such a cool dude. I'm not a Christian but I understand this. In both the Catholic Church and in Gnostic Christianity Christ's importance lies first and foremost in how he fits into the cosmic drama of sin and redemption that started with Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The Gnostics express this in a more complex was but essentially the story is the same. Christ is important first as a form of a cosmic figure sent down to earth to redeem the souls there through the association of himself with the lowest, poorest, sections of humanity and his sacrifice of Crucifixion. He appears as an emissary from God who can show how to achieve redemption. Redemption not in the sense of a conversion at the hands of a revivalist or fundamentalist charismatic church but redemption in a profounder, more basic sense relating to one's being.

I'm not a Christian but I was raised, for better or worse, as one, although I never really believed in it. When I was young I was a Lutheran, but after family strife and we became Catholic and that was the main denomination of my life. It wasn't a really negative experience. We went to folk mass on Saturday nights instead of the more formal and conservative mass on Sunday mornings and the service always put a focus on social justice, even if they didn't explicitly outline it. I went to Catechism but never attended a Catholic school, thereby not coming into contact with the more virulently conservative aspects of the Catholic Church.

My only sojourn back to Christianity happened in a strange way. First, I got attracted to the Unitarian Universalists and went to UU services for about a year. Eventually I decided that they were too positive in that they focussed on the nice, happy aspects of life but didn't really examine the bad aspects of life, of the reality of people doing bad things to one another and how this shapes the human experience. So, I moved to the Congregational Church, where the Unitarians themselves came from, also known as the United Church of Christ but having nothing to do with the ultra-conservative "Church of Christ". The UCC is the direct descendent of the Puritan church of New England, but has gotten substantially more liberal, especially since the '60s and '70s when they took a real large turn to the left. I went to services there for a much shorter time than I went to the UUs because I had an experience with the Pastor that convinced me that the church was more of a social club that focussed on prestige, in particular their prestige in being descended from the church of the original New England settlers, more than it did on the teachings that it supposedly believed in. After that I sort of drifted, occasionally going to mass largely because family members showed a renewed interest in it, and then getting an interest in the Orthodox Church but not actually attending services. My respect for Christianity lies mainly in the Catholic and Orthodox denominations (even though Wilhelm Reich would label these entities as the enemies of a true understanding of Christ's message), with the Anglican or Episcopalian church getting some respect as well since it's semi-Catholic. Orthodoxy isn't as far away from Catholicism as you might think, so the distance when you come at it from a Catholic perspective is much less than it is if you look at it from a Protestant perspective.

All through this I saw Jesus mainly as a symbolic, mystical, figure who indicated processes and underlying realities in nature and the cosmos. The actual Jesus as a personality concerned me much less than what exactly the teachings potentially meant on a cosmic level, so to speak, which is no doubt why I gravitated back to the Catholic Church and to the Orthodox faith, both of which de-emphasize Christ as someone who you would want to hang out with and watch a football game on TV with. In certain denominations of the Orthodox faith, although of course the teachings of Jesus and his actions are centric to it, the idea of Jesus having first a human nature is almost denied entirely. I like that approach although if I was Christian I wouldn't go that far.

My religious beliefs now, and the religious beliefs that I've gone through since then, would be enough to make pious Christians cross themselves and spit if they heard about them, but nevertheless as Christian denominations go I still have respect for the somewhat mystical and esoteric teachings of the Catholic and Orthodox churches. They have a piece of the puzzle that Protestant churches aren't even aware of.

Throughout

Excerpt from "The Murder of Christ" by Wilhelm Reich

That's really good. Like many accounts having to do with the Passion it's impossible not to portray it without looking at the Pharisees, which automatically brings up associations with anti-semitism. But in many cases, especially in Reich's case, they stand in for a universal tendency and have nothing to do with actual living persons practicing Judaism. The passage below was preceded by a lengthy condemnation of the Catholic Church for similar things:

"And you KNOW God. You refuse to believe that there is such a thing as NOT knowing or even not daring to know God. It was sick, forsaken, dried-up men who created the tale of God's forbidding people to look at him, to know him, to feel him, to live him. It is they who caused miserable men to try to find the hard way -- on mere hearsay, on mere belief and trust -- what they had abandoned to easily. It is, again, the people who caused Moses to issue the strict laws against worshipping the golden calf, against eating pig's flesh, and to wash the hands before meals. All this was necessary because, having lost God in yourself, and having lost your FIRST sense of Life, you began to worship gold.

And this the scribes and the Pharisees will never forgive Christ; this it is that will force the scribes and the Pharisees to kill him:
That he told his people where and what the ocean is, while they kept searching the ocean in the books and had built little pools which they stirred with rudders to create a make-believe ocean.

Christ dares to show them the ocean depth. And therefore he must die. The Pharisees are no better or worse than are our geneticists, bacteriologists and pathologists and Marxologists in matters of life. They will unite, no matter how great their disagreement, to kill Christ, the common foe who has challenged their ghastly evasions. They will kill him because he told the people where life is to be found: in their own souls, in their guts, in their newborn babies, in the sweetness felt in their loins during the sexual embrace, in their burning, glowing forehead when they think, in their limbs stretched out toward the life-giving sun. THey will kill him for all this, because he did not hide it away in Talmudic books."

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Monks: Black Monk Time

"Krautrock Sampler" by Julian Cope, which is a book, is available in an electronic edition...and at the very beginning he mentions a music group made up of GIs stationed in Germany in the '60s called "The Monks" as a possible missing link between conventional music and Krautrock, the latter being completely fucked up taken to the extreme psychedelic rock. Beyond anything commercially known in the U.S., where "Psychedelic Rock" is a euphemism for "Classic Rock", which in turn is a marketing device for putting absolute schlock out there that once had good ratings and calling it counter cultural. You're not challenging anyone listening to Rush or Styx, folks. It turns out that "Black Monk Time", the only Monks album with the original line up, is also floating out there on the internet. I procured a copy and now it's entered into heavy rotation. What to say about "Black Monk Time'?

It sounds like the people who recorded it were blasted out of their minds to the point that they were deep into drug induced psychosis. The lyrics are largely random semi-coherent strangeness reflecting as Julian Cope points out that they were performing for an audience that didn't really understand English and so didn't know the difference. You have Higgle-dy-Piggle-dy, which takes the familiar phrase "Higgledy Piggledy" and turns it into a weird sort of mispronounced anthem. "Someone stole my cuckoo, I want to know who who, did you take my cuckoo?" goes "Cuckoo". The music itself is really completely distorted and strangely angular, like they had been listening to too many polkas and had absorbed the rhythm into their music.

The music is sort of like a hockey game organ backup to the chorus of non-sensical vocals. There doesn't seem to be any bass drum, high hats and snare drums are basically it for percussion, along with a rattle.

Sort of like an album where people took "They're coming to take me away" as a starting point and went off towards other directions with it, sometimes making things that in a sort of very strange way resemble popular music contours of the early sixties...like if someone took a song form that sounded like early Beatles, totally hollowed it out and replaced what was inside with strangeness so that the thing still vaguely sounded like it was based on popular music.

Sometimes it doesn't have any precedent whatsoever, at least as far as I can tell.

But it's good because it's completely, totally, and irredemiably fucked up beyond all recogntion, a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

As Julian Cope says, it's unfiltered chaos by people who realized that not a lot of folks really cared about what they were or weren't doing with their music, so cut loose in a sort of nihilistic trip to nowhere.

*on edit: with Krautrock in general, but not so much with the Monks, I'm reminded of the scene in Thomas Pynchon's book "The Crying of Lot '49" where the main character goes into a '60s Silicon Valley bar and sees a band performing using pure sine waves to make music, totally anachronistic.

What part of "Tapping Phones Without a Warrant" don't you understand?

If a private company broke into people's houses without a warrant on behalf of law enforcement agencies, and then the President put out a bill that would prevent those people from suing that company for doing this, would people tolerate it? That's what's happening with telco immunity. Yet people are hemming and hawing because certain Democrats who shall remain nameless have voted for the act.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The 2nd Amendment

Somehow I doubt that in a society where significant numbers of people got some amount of their food from hunting, the people in power wouldn't recognize a fundamental right to bear arms but instead just recognize the right of states to basically have their own versions of the national guard. The Supreme Court has just confirmed this. Good for them. The argument against gun rights based not on some sort of actual reasoning based on gun safety but on a tortuous reading of the language of the 2nd Amendments deserves to not be taken seriously. Even if this is what in fact the Bill of Rights was saying there would still, in my opinion, be a fundamental right of folks to own guns, although not without potential restrictions.

Seattle Gay/Queer Weekend 2008

Actually am not doing too much because I have an art class sunday morning that's essential, but I wandered around Capitol Hill this afternoon checking out things from the sale at Panache, a clothing store that out queers everyone, to the area around Pike and Pine that was closed off to traffic where the Wild Rose, Seattle Lesbian bar, was having a special outdoor party in a fenced off area. Not much else going on, but I did pick up a good and overdue purchase from "The Crypt", the Seattle branch of the fetish/BDSM/queer clothing and sex shop.

Seattle Gay/Queer Pride 2008

It always looks like I'm being mean when I'm just trying to look serious....

Have to remember to check out "Purr", the cocktail lounge/tapas bar mexican restaurant that was one of the official sponsors of Pride weekend.

Thule fantasies.

While it might not be so necessary to debunk myths that neo-Nazism basis itself around, it's not worthless. One of the ones that's out there that comes from the general area mislabeled "Nazi Occultism" is that the "Thule Society", an esoteric germanic group that was the direct antecedent of the Nazi Party, was a patriotic nationalist group that defended Munich during the days of the Munich Soviet following World War I. The Munich Soviet, staffed by people like Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, is always presented as the product of Russian, hence Slavic, and possibly Jewish, puppet masters pulling strings and oppressing German traditions. I think that that narrative is only believable to people who have no knowledge of 19th century German history and instead see Germany as something fringey and exotic, something to the east of England and the north of France that's weird and mysterious. The truth is that previous to the Munich Soviet socialism had existed in Germany for over seventy years. Marx wrote and published the "Communist Manifesto" in 1848, and was at the time a member of the "Communist League". I mean, Marx, Engels, Lassalle, the elder Liebknecht, August Bebel, not to mention Rosa Luxemburg, these weren't trivial people. The history of the Second International and its split at the start of the First World War into pacifist and war supporting factions, the pacifist faction largely turning into the Communist Party of Deutschland or KPD, is documented up and down, frontwards and backwards. There's no secret Russian conspiracy to impose socialism on Germany or Munich.

So the Thulists appear as what they probably were, anti-semitic ultra-nationalists who had racialist ideas and worshipped traditional German spirituality in an unhealthy way. They weren't defenders of anything like the supposed honor of German traditions, since it was many of their fellow German citizens who made the Munich Soviet.

Like I said, only naive Anglo-Americans who are willing to swallow any line believe that the events of that time period took place in a vacuum where there was no Left in Germany.

Friday, June 27, 2008

New Art. Bruitism restored.

Here's a new one:

The wanting grail

Still wet. I did it with a combination of oil paint, fine sand, and stand oil, which is boiled down linseed oil, to give it three dimensional texture. The basic form was roughed out with a brush but most of it was done with a pallet knife directly onto the gessoed board.

Inspired by Jean Dubuffet's work.


Art Brut, or Raw Art. Good stuff.

I like to think of myself sometimes as a nomadic horseman swooping down off the plains and the steppes onto civilization

Until he opens his mouth...

I live in a place in Seattle that's unique in that it has fairly well off, conservative, people living there as well as folks who are sort of counter cultural. There's also a contingent of homeless youth and travelers.

Although I don't have a particularly strange look in how I dress, at least as far as I can tell, for whatever reason...be it combination of physical appearance, long hair, not dressing in a polo shirt, they're often wary of me, assuming that I potentially could be a homeless youth or some person like that. Then I open my mouth and they find out that I'm well spoken, knowledgeable about stuff and generally someone who isn't stoned all day. Suddenly, there's a change in attitude. All the misgivings vanish and a wave of relief passes over them. But....here's a wonderful story that describes my attitude to that reaction.

I have someone who I consider a friend who's a radical social libertarian and has been for a long time. She's from Idaho but speaks in an accent that sounds like it's from the east, possibly from New York City or some section of Boston where they don't speak the normal Bostonian accent. She was living in Idaho and had a regular bar that she went out to with friends all the time. Eventually, the bar tender found out that she was from the area and told her that 'he didn't use to like her because he thought she was from New York City but now that he knows she's from Idaho he likes her. Her response was 'Well, I don't like assholes'.

Having someone think you're a threat but then giving you a pass because they find out that you're well spoken makes them hypocrites and assholes who, because they thought you were a bad person because of how you look and how you're dressed, deserve either no or less respect now that they've had their change of heart.

Fuck them. If they didn't accept me before they knew that I could talk good English I'm not going to give a damn about them now.

As Groucho Marx once said, "I wouldn't be a member of any club that would have me."

Another really good one: "Mugabe has Recolonized his people" by Priyamvada Gopal

People don't realize how strong the Indian Left is....


(Title Link)

"Africa’s greatest liberationist thinker, Frantz Fanon, once warned that a national leader should not “fall back into the past and become drunk on the remembrance of the epoch leading up to independence”. His portrait of a once-effective leader who gradually secedes from reality and betrays his people has prophetic resonances today.

....

In a mutually convenient embrace of denunciation, Mugabe screams anti-colonial slogans, while British politicians piously condemn violence even as their own nation is implicated in two bloody wars. (Were the BBC to show as many close-ups of injured and dead Iraqis as they do of Mugabe’s maimed victims, criticism of violence against innocents might be more evenly distributed).

In truth, both Mugabe and Britain are guilty of sidelining history in favour of skewed stories which legitimate their own position. Britain reneged on its commitments to the land reform programme claiming that there were “no links to former colonial interests” while concerning itself with the fate of white farmers.

While Africa is ostensibly central to Britain’s international development agenda, the emphasis has always been on the paternalism of aid rather than acknowledging and making reparations for the economic devastation wrought by colonialism. Rarely do condemnations of land seizure, violence and intimidation extend back to the time Matabeleland came under British rule. This too was accompanied by the seizure of vast swaths of fertile land by a handful of British farmers while large numbers of Ndebele and Shona people were killed or forced into labour.

Meanwhile, Mugabe and fellow African liberationists should reacquaint themselves with the real meaning of anti-colonialism. Having resisted the anti-poor agendas of international monetary institutions and initiated necessary land reforms, Mugabe has also refused all responsibility for those many failures of his rule not reducible to the colonial past."

Excellent article: The Poverty of Reaganism-Bushism by David Michael Greer

Awesome. The sort of thing that's missing on Progressive websites. Title link leads to it. Excerpts:

"Back in the day when communism was a politically viable economic program, its capitalist enemies used to love to rail against the evils of “Marxism-Leninism.”

Interestingly, they almost always attacked it for all the wrong reasons, citing, for example, the lack of political freedom in societies where it was being practiced, the aggressive tendencies of national leaders in those countries seeking to conquer their neighbors, or the ideology’s hostility to religion. That last one in particular was always a good one for getting Americans to rise out of their pews in disgust and anger. Those commies don’t even have Jesus!

The fact that none of these critiques had anything at all to do with the economic system that communism actually is was always telling. It’s not so easy to attack the idea of sharing and community, is it? Better to wrap it up instead inside the godless thugs — sometimes real, sometimes not — who embraced it abroad. What could be more un-American?

This was chiefly a marketing ploy, and probably an unnecessary one at that, as communist experiments — again, in the form of economic systems — had limited successes and some spectacular failures. The Soviet Union did rapidly grow from an agrarian economy into a superpower (albeit not an economic one) in very short time, in part through a planned economy. However, that same system later became so ossified that the country ultimately collapsed around it. Toward the end, workers used to joke about the sham command economy in which they were stuck, saying, “We pretend to work, and the government pretends to pay us.” Often that wasn’t so far from the truth. Likewise, it would be hard to make a real compelling argument for Mao’s Great Leap Forward — a collectivization program that wiped out twenty or thirty million Chinese peasants — over Deng Xiaoping’s turn to the market, which has made the Chinese economy a gale force storm for three decades now, with political and military power following closely in its wake.

We in the US are now being treated to a similar experiment in economic ideology, though it is neither new nor, at the end of the day, actually ideological. More on that later. For now, though, in the spirit of my good friends on the right, I propose that we give this program the name it properly deserves: Reaganism-Bushism.

While China has been growing into an economic powerhouse these last thirty years, America, under the sway of Reaganism-Bushism, has become the economic equivalent of a Midwestern town decimated by a crystal meth epidemic. Nor are the two likely unrelated, particularly when dealing devastating drugs is the sole economic opportunity on the landscape, and doing those drugs is the sole escape from that personal blight.

In any case, that’s our national story. We’re the country that is losing its teeth, blasting its brain cells, rotting its body, and stealing everything not bolted down in order to feed its greed habit. Now, as credit crises explode around us and our housing bubble pops and we’ve run out of foreigners and domestics to exploit and the future and the past from which we’ve borrowed so heavily are both calling in their chits — now we are the crystal meth country. Survey the economic, social, political and moral landscape and cringe. Look what Reaganism-Bushism has wrought.

Reaganism-Bushism markets itself as a real economic ideology with real principles, but the truth is all that’s just for the consumption of the hoi polloi. As a Madison Avenue — or P.T. Barnum — scheme, it’s rather more complex than that. As a set of economic principles, it’s far less so.

Because your education in self-destructive political foolishness is not yet complete, it remains necessary to pretend that this is a real ideology with real economic principles that are actually adhered to. You know, stuff like ‘market discipline’ and the ‘invisible hand,’ which only ever seem to apply to the already vulnerable, not to the friendly rich people forever espousing these ideas. In truth, there actually are a set of operating principles here. Just not the ones that are advertised."


The article continues on the original page.

Between Rockefeller elites and rural 'rednecks', the illusions of the middle class

The idea of a new inequality where only billionaires are the rich is debunked easily enough; what is not looked at is the other side of the coin of illusion: the labeling of 'working class' as people who live in rural areas and are 'rednecks'. Joe Bageant has made a career out of interpreting the 'redneck', his label, as representative of the working class, to middle class elites. Here, we have a problem.

The fact is that Bageant's people live in rural Virginia. Virginia in this sense is agricultural. Richmond and DC form a part of it but rural Virginia abides. Now, what exactly do people who live in an area where farming is the principle activity have in common with folks whose jobs consist of working in factories and who have never lived in the country? People who have lived in either urban or suburban places their entire lives and who may in fact either be skeptical or outright laugh at people from the sticks? What, for example, do working people in L.A. have to do with folks living in small towns in the Central Valley?

Labeling folks who live in rural places as being the ur-working class, as being the seminal representatives of the working class, is not only inaccurate but it serves the purposes of the middle class in moving the working class away from their own back yard, so to speak, and into settings where they're easily looked at without much of a threat. Of course if the working class are rural 'rednecks' they can be comfortably laughed at and maybe sympathized with from a distance. If working people were identified as who they really are, people who have a lot in common culturally with the middle class, have the same sorts of ideals for themselves and for their children, have a similar mindset, and who live a couple of miles away instead of fifty or sixty, it would make middle class people feel uncomfortable. Why? Because you tend to feel sympathy for folks you realize are like yourself.

Working people as they actually are are too close to home for middle class folks because they can't be comfortably laughed at like rural people. They're too similar, meaning that the sort of condescension and feeling of cultural superiority that they might feel in relation to Bageant's people isn't there. It's harder to deny people their rights when they're right there in your backyard.


If elites are billionaires living in luxury somewhere out there and working folks are 'rednecks' living in the country then that leaves middle class people with no challengers in the place where they actually live. They can sleep comfortably. If the truth was out there, perhaps put on magazine covers like the 'New Inequality' articles were put on the cover of The Nation, it would be less fun because it would put the rich right around the middle class, including some members of the middle class who didn't think they were rich in that category, and it would humanize the working class, making them into people much like themselves and not stupid caricatures from the country. This would bring home the issue of exploitation, because the people being exploited would be seen to be right around you. Not in some far off place but in your town or city. It's harder to engage in practices or in exploitative professions when you can see the faces of those who you profit off of around you and realize that fundamentally they share the same humanity and dreams as you do.

Bradley the Buyer by William S. Burroughs



There are some errors near the end but on the whole I think it's pretty good.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Space Needle is worth it

Don't know why I'm writing this right now, Seattle's just on my mind with the Pride Parade and all. If you come to Seattle go up the Space Needle, because although it's not the tallest structure in Seattle it's 360 degree viewing platform and snack/coffee/wine/sandwich bar are worth it. You can go outside onto the walkway and go around the top looking through free telescopes at the city. Come back inside and have a bag of chips and a coffee or wine and a sandwich while sitting at a table looking out onto Seattle. It's one of the few attractions I've seen where the hype is in any way justified.

Seattle Pride Parade Route

I wasn't here last year, but I know there's been controversy about the parade moving from Capitol Hill, which is the city's gay neighborhood, to downtown. Looking at the parade route, though, I find it interesting that it's taking place on fourth avenue and not on first and that it starts at Westlake Park and shopping center and goes north away from it. Because it's not on first avenue it won't bother the tourists gathered at Pike Place Market. I won't bother their shopping experience or anyone else's either because most of it takes place in Belltown.

Can't have the queers fucking up tourist's shopping experience at Pike Place Market now, can we?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Holy Shit! The eXile is saved!

As this announcement says. It actually worked! This calls for the eXile to be added to the sidebar. I was reluctant to add it earlier for reasons that, well, are sort of hypocritical. Frankly, the eXile is similar, although much higher in quality, to alternative alternative papers, alternative weeklies that have been founded because the people staffing them thought that the established alt. weeklies had become ossified. The Stranger in Seattle is one, as, to some extent, The New York Press is...That said, if you don't clamor for "The Stranger" to be shut due to offending sensibilities but enjoy it there's little reason to object to the eXile.

Photo from San Francisco

Taken around City Lights Bookstore, North Beach.

Kenneth Rexroth Alley

Rexroth is one of my favorites. A cantakerous bohemian leftist/anarchist intellectual who served as the god father for the Beat movement in San Francisco. Funny, wry, humor. Nature poetry.

Funny stories about the San Francisco scene in those days from a very, very, out of print book about the Beats, portraying Rexroth as one of the doyens of San Francisco poetry along with a Brother Antoninus.

Brother Antoninus was a poet who out of frustration with where the world was going converted to Catholicism, became a Monk, but still wrote poetry. He was an anarchist and pacifist during World War II, like Rexroth, was drawn to Dorothy Day's Catholic Worker movement, which is how he got involved with the more progressive side of the Church.

NAFTA and WTO created fundamentally to stop socialism from gaining strength after the USSR

I know that it's fashionable to say that the problem with globalization was that it was corporate, but if you look at the timing of NAFTA and then WTO the motivations of the people putting it into place had a broader agenda than just the extension of corporate power. I don't think it's any coincidence that the USSR is dissolved by America's friend Yeltsin in '92, then NAFTA becomes an issue in the '92 election, then it's approved and implemented in '94. With the competition out of the picture, a competition that while stagnant still had nuclear weapons and a large army set up to resist a U.S. invasion, the elites wanted to put rules in place, first in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada, then globally, that would make socialist measures like nationalization of industry, extensive social welfare programs, taxes on foreign investment, denial of foreign investments that would reduce the country to the status of colony, funding of home grown industries, very hard to accomplish because of sanctions from the international community. Free trade was and is an excuse to implement a fundamentalist capitalist vision while preventing countries from resisting it through democratically decided policies.

They saw their opening and they took it, just like after they funded Yeltsin's illegal reelection they took the opportunity to impose market fundamentalism on their previous enemy, instituting "shock therapy" that lead to a drastic decrease in the standard of living that lead to starvation in certain areas as the state structure was destroyed.

None of this has to do fundamentally with justice or peace or anything like that. It has to do with power, the kind of power that the emerging alliance of countries in South America lead by Venezuela is hoping to counter by collectively pooling their country's individual power into something that can dispense with and challenge U.S. and European capitalism.

The trade pacts are also intended to prevent people in the U.S. from moving towards challenging their own economic model by putting restraints on the kind of social programs and progressive politics that could legally come into being, just in case a Progressive or Leftist movement ever got support now that the Evil Empire was no more.

Ted Rall talks about Socialism!

Nice article. Talks about Venezuela and the fact that the Venezuelan government is willing to go all the way in dealing with industries that hoard food and vital necessities, and maybe nationalization is what we need in the U.S.. In Economic Justice and Democracy Robin Hahnel recounts how Swedish social democracy, one of the developed in the world, basically didn't want to take the decisive step of confronting and facing down Capital when the time came. They didn't want to turn their welfare state into an outright socialist state. The consequence, when Swedish business went on strike and the government gave in, was that the welfare state itself started to be eroded, with Sweden less progressive now than it was in the past.



THE CURE FOR HIGH GAS AND FOOD PRICES

Vital Businesses Need Nationalization

by Ted Rall

The gas station attendant came outside. Wow, I thought, full serve! Ignoring me, she flung a magnetic price decal on top of the price per gallon. Regular unleaded had gone up 20 cents in the time it took me to drive from the curb to the pump.

"You're kidding me," I moaned.

"It's 3 o'clock," she shrugged. "Just got the new price."

There has to be a better way, I thought.

And there is.

It isn't drilling in the Alaskan wilderness. It sure isn't John McCain's plan to offer $300 million to the first person to come up with a longer-lasting car battery.

Gas prices could hit $7 a gallon before long, Wall Street analysts say, but Americans--always optimists!--take a little comfort in the fact that Europeans have paid more than that for years. But a lot of foreigners are laughing at us even harder than we're laughing at the Euros.

Did you know that Venezuelans pay a mere 19 cents per gallon? It's 38 cents in Nigeria. Turkmenistanis might not have electoral democracy, but they only shell out $4.50 to fill a 15-gallon tank. Before we replaced Saddam Hussein with…with whatever they have in Iraq now, Iraqis paid less than a dime for a gallon of gas.

One of the things that these countries have in common, of course, is that they're oil-producing states. Countries that export oil and gas have trouble explaining to their citizens why they should pay for their own natural resources--and most are smart enough not to try. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Burma, Malaysia, Kuwait, China and South Korea are just a few of the countries that keep fuel prices low in order to stimulate economic growth.

But they also share something else: common sense. Strange it might sound to Americans used to reading about big oil windfalls, they consider cheap gas more of an economic necessity than lining the pockets of energy company CEOs. So they don't consider energy a profit center. To the contrary; government subsidies (Venezuela spends $2 billion a year on fuel subsidies) and nationalized oil companies keep gas prices low.

Unlike corporations, governments don't care about turning a profit. They care about remaining in power. Their reliance on political support (or, if you're cynical, pandering) allows them to do things our much-vaunted free market system can't, such as make sure that people can afford to eat and buy enough gas to get to work.
Like the rest of the world, Venezuelan consumers have been squeezed by rising prices, and even shortages, of groceries. In 2007 Venezuela's socialist-leaning government decided to do something about it. First they imposed price controls on staple items. When suppliers began to hoard supplies to drive up prices, President Hugo Chavez threatened to nationalize them. "If they remain committed to violating the interests of the people, the constitution, the laws, I'm going to take the food storage units, corner stores, supermarkets and nationalize them," he said. Food profiteers grumbled. Then they straightened up.

Not even international corporations are immune from Chavez's determination to put the needs of ordinary Venezuelans ahead of the for-profit food industry. Faced with severe shortages of milk earlier this year, Chavez threatened Nestle and Parmalat's Venezuelan operations with nationalization unless they opened the spigot. "This government needs to tighten the screws," he said in February 2008, promising to "intervene and nationalize the plants" belonging to the two transnational corporations.

Miraculously, milk is turning up on the shelves.

When it works, nothing is better at creating an endless variety of reality TV shows than free market capitalism. But when it doesn't, it isn't just that extra brand of clear dishwashing liquid that goes away. Businesses fold. Banks foreclose. People starve. And no one can stop it.

The G8 nations met in Osaka last week to try to address soaring food and energy prices--a double threat that could plunge the global economy into a ruinous depression. But the summit ended in failure. "Any hope that the G8 meeting would result in coordinated monetary action--or concerted intervention in foreign exchange markets--to counter rises, principally in commodity prices, was dispelled by their failure to agree on the phenomenon's underlying causes," reported Forbes.

So the G8 ministers punted. "Due to the lack of consensus, they have stated the need for further study," wrote the magazine.

The problem isn't the weak dollar or the non-existent housing market. It's capitalism. A sane government doesn't leave essential goods and services--food, fuel, housing, healthcare, transportation, education--to the vicissitudes of "magic" markets. Non-discretionary economic sectors should be strictly controlled by--indeed, owned by--the government.

Consider, on the one hand, snail mail and public education. The Postal Service and public schools both have their flaws. But what if they were privatized? It would cost a lot more than 42 cents to mail a letter from Tampa to Maui. And poor children wouldn't get an education.

Privatization, particularly of essential services, has always proven disastrous. From California's Enron-driven rotating blackouts to for-profit healthcare that has left 47 million Americans uninsured to predatory lenders pimping the housing bubble to Blackwater's atrocities in Iraq, market-based corporations' fiduciary obligation to maximize profits that is inherently incompatible with a stable economy whose goal is to provide people with a decent quality of life.

No one should pressure industries that produce things that people need in order to live to turn a quarterly profit. No one should go hungry, or remain sick, because some commodities trader in Zurich figured out some nifty way to take an eighth of a point arbitrage spread between the price of a hospital stock in New York and in Tokyo.

P.S. If you're reading this in Caracas, please mail me some gas.

COPYRIGHT 2008 TED RALL

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A book that explains what's going on now economically.

"The Pathology of the U.S. Economy Revisited"
by Michael Perelman. Talks about the housing bubble and the easy credit bubble, the structural reasons for the stagnation of the U.S. economy. Here's the catch: it was published in 2002. I read it as part of a class taught by a radical political economist in 2004. Unfortunately, it's a textbook, so it costs.


Perelman comes at his subject from an interesting perspective. He's part of the tradition of Marxist-Keynesian economists, people who blend Marx's economic and political economic writings with the economic analysis of John Maynard Keynes, probably the most important economist of the 20th century. It's not ideological, but just interesting economics.

The downside is that the U.S. economy is entering a structural crisis of its own unconscious devising. Our economic miracle in the post war world was created not by some real special superiority on the part of how U.S. capitalism works but by the fact that Europe and Asia was destroyed by World War II and therefore were not in any position to compete.

Upside is that socialism therefore has a future.

Monday, June 23, 2008

3/4s of a person vs. 1 person as 1 person, question underlying it...

Everyone knows how slaves were defined in the Constitution as being 3/4s of a person, most everyone knows that voting rights were restricted to men who had certain amounts of property, but there's something missing in this story. Why were slaves, who had no rights under the Constitution, who could be bought and sold like any other piece of property, worked to death, beaten, and finally often killed by their masters without any repercussions considered to be people at all? It wasn't because of any special thoughtfulness on the part of the slave masters. If you look at what the 3/4s of a person standard was about you see that it has to do with figuring out how many seats in the House of Representatives a given State is allotted.

Now slaves only counted for 3/4s of a person, and only people possessing certain amounts of property could both vote and serve in office. It figures that seats in the House of Representatives weren't apportioned based on how many eligible voters there were but but were decided based on how many people total there were. The people who voted and who were elected to office carried out their functions on 'behal'f of the rest of the population, as it were. Slaves were classified in with the great unwashed masses who though free didn't have voting rights and couldn't serve in office because of their poverty, and/or because they were women.

The system of representation as it was originally set up in the U.S. was one where the social betters, the wealthy and influential, served on behalf of the majority of the population, representing their interests, elected by a slightly broader swath of people who were given the right to vote based on having significant amounts of property and income, who in turn voted for representatives on behalf of the majority.

IF you have to order books online, Powell's is more environmentally friendly than Amazon.com

Of course, you should support your local indie bookstore, but if you don't always do this, online ordering becomes a consideration. Powell's is better than Amazon.com for one reason in particular: they consolidate your order to the highest degree possible. What this means is that if you order two things at one time they'll do the sensible thing and ship them both to you in one package at one time. You can't even specify this option with Amazon anymore. Actually, you can, but they'll ignore it. What that leads to are absurdities like having a seventy five page book and one that's two hundred pages shipped separately from each other and arriving within one day of each other. For no reason. So it takes up twice the amount of gasoline to ship two things that should not in any way be shipped as two orders. Also takes more packaging than just one bigger package.

The reason is that they privilege turn around time and getting it to you NOW to the exclusion of everything else, including common sense.

Powell's doesn't do this so much. They'll actually combine multiple orders into one order as well as ship orders with multiple items as one item instead of as two small items.

This makes their shipping service more ecologically sound than Amazon's due to the decreased resource use.

*on edit: you know, it would be even better if stores that stocked the kinds of things people wanted existed, so that folks wouldn't have to special order the titles to begin with. In some places they do. Being able to actually go through a bookstore and see and feel the books, looking through them, is better than any kind of online or special ordering.....although online tools can help you find what you're looking for more easily.

Krugman does the right thing, question homeownership

From the NY Times (registration required):

"Listening to politicians, you’d think that every family should own its home — in fact, that you’re not a real American unless you’re a homeowner. “If you own something,” Mr. Bush once declared, “you have a vital stake in the future of our country.” Presumably, then, citizens who live in rented housing, and therefore lack that “vital stake,” can’t be properly patriotic. Bring back property qualifications for voting!

Even Democrats seem to share the sense that Americans who don’t own houses are second-class citizens. Early last year, just as the mortgage meltdown was beginning, Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economist who is one of Barack Obama’s top advisers, warned against a crackdown on subprime lending. “For be it ever so humble,” he wrote, “there really is no place like home, even if it does come with a balloon payment mortgage.”

I agree. The idea of homeownership for everyone is extraordinarily environmentally inefficient and encourages the sort of suburban sprawl present in the U.S. that's the equivalent of a large middle finger given to the earth. Mini malls, no public transportation, no walkability, all that water use to maintain pristine lawns, the necessity of cars, plus no planning whatsoever in layout since the new towns are created on the backs matchbooks.

As to the concern of a critic of Krugman's "O.K., I know how some people will respond: anyone who questions the ideal of homeownership must want the population “confined to Soviet-style concrete-block high-rises” (as a Bloomberg columnist recently put it). Um, no. All I’m suggesting is that we drop the obsession with ownership, and try to level the playing field that, at the moment, is hugely tilted against renting." I would have to say that the idea of single family homes as a dominant form of housing is unique to the United States, with Europe as a whole rejecting it. I've heard that home ownership is very, very valued in Australia, but I don't know enough about that to make any sort of judgment.

But in Europe as a whole home ownership is reduced because of high population density and the practical consideration of lack of space. Unlike the United States, European towns have been in existence since pre-industrial feudal times, when money, as it were, was not flowing Having U.S. style homes would have wiped out the towns when bad economic periods came either in the form of agricultural crises or crises related to war or possibly bad losses in merchant interests.

Soviet style apartment blocks aren't the only response. Indeed, those apartment blocks were created through a combination of shoddy construction because of the demand for fast construction at the lowest cost and a perceived "socialist toughness" that the occupants were supposed to bear. Socialist housing doesn't have to be like that. And yes, I have seen Soviet constructed housing in person.

I'll explain. When I was visiting Vienna five years ago I made a special trip out to Karl Marx Hof, which was a public housing project made not by the Soviets but by the Austrian Social Democrats, who controlled Viennese politics for quite some time in the early 20th century and implemented a program of municipal socialism. Karl Marx Hof was constructed with livability in mind. It's not just concrete, in fact it's brick, with spacious areas for soccer and other sports included in the large courtyard in the center. It was constructed as workers' housing. Now, the innovations that it put forward have increased its value so much that it's inhabited by well off but not rich people in Vienna. It's quite a testament when public housing increases in value over the years. In the eastern sector of Vienna, on the other hand, you have Soviet block apartments that were built when that area was the Soviet zone of occupation after the second world war. They are literally just boxes with windows cut into the concrete in rows and rows and no decorations or artistic embellishments of any kind whatsoever. Not very appetizing.

Places like Karl Marx Hof and some of the projects with New Urbanism going on in towns like Curitiba, Brazil, put the lie to the idea that affordable apartment living has to be a downgrade in ones' standard of living. Indeed, compared to an integrated town, can one really maintain that an atomized suburban living situation is the best quality of living that we can experience?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Critics of the Federal Reserve---they never seem to be satisfied

Basic criticism that you hear is that since the Federal Reserve system is a combination of public and private bodies that it operates to enrich the folks in the private sector who carry out the transactions that the Fed decides on. It's true, the idea that having the private sector operate much of the central banking system of the U.S.--albeit with large staff who are career Federal Reserve system civil servants--is not really good, but when you bring up the idea of having a completely nationalized central bank the Fed critics go even more nuts. Don't you know that was one of the planks outlined by Karl Marx in the Communist Manifesto?!! Yeah, it's in the Communist Manifesto, scary! Actually, complete nationalization of the banking system was what was outlined there. But if having a public-private system isn't acceptable to them and having a purely public system isn't acceptable to them than what is? Having huge banks just set policy themselves? That would be corporatism Would it be to get rid of large scale banking institutions entirely? Riggght.....yeah, just keep dreaming about that one.

People in the U.S. forget, or actually don't forget because they never learned, that the early U.S. opposition to a central bank was linked to how the Bank of England functioned in the service of the monarchy. Central banks were used by monarchist states to enforce geopolitical ideas and to generally gain control of the country's economy.

In today's world Central Banks are needed to keep the entire capitalistic system from collapsing through its own idiocy. It serves a positive function in buffering downturns.

Socialism doesn't mean compassion, it means justice

There's a distinct difference between the concepts. Compassion assumes that in order to get something, some state, that's more just you have to come on bended knee to someone with power who will deign to give it to you or create it for you if he or she feels that you are worthy. Compassion also works in the opposite direction, it encourages people to ask for things as if they're entitled to them, things that the person in question is expected to just give, based on whatever reasoning. Relying on the largesse of folks and changing your attitude in order to be better benighted subjects degrades the person in question and undercuts the idea of self help. Conservatives would say that people should lift themselves up by their bootstraps as an alternative, but the way I see it self help includes pushing for collective justice.

It would be better to see a raised fist than a bleeding heart.

Of course, this attitude can be taken too far, and has been by the Communist movement, who featured a kind of socialist machismo during their heyday culminating in things like the Stakhnovist movement. Named after a purported "super worker" who was able to work inhuman hours at an almost impossible rate, the Stakhnovists were held up as what socialists should imitate within the Soviet Union. Stakhnov himself was reportedly killed by his fellow workers for causing their already back breaking hours to increase.

But I digress.

Point is that the liberal state that distributes funds according to ideas of liberal guilt and bleeding heart principles is a very weak imitation of a true just state of affairs, which would fundamentally transform the economic structure of society so that the problems that the liberal state addresses would be solved once and for all instead of just getting some bandaids and money thrown in their general directions. In fact, socialism opens up the concept of the state having less prominence since the social structure itself would embody the transformation and that can take the place of a large state structure covering up and patching up a fundamentally capitalist society.

The Desire for Fiction

Seems to partially come from the desire to know other minds. It seems so obvious, yet we forget it; everybody that we see on the street inhabits their own universe, with their own set of friends, parents, place where they grew up, profession, interests. They'll all going through the common drama of life. Certain kinds of stories open up that window that's either closed, with strangers, or opened to a different extent with friends and lovers, and let the reader see another universe that exists just over the way.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Noua Dreaptă being trained and supported by North Korea

Noua Dreaptă being a fascist party from Romania. According to Wikipedia Noua Dreaptă "Noua Dreaptă's web site indicates opposition to sexual minorities, Roma, abortion, communism, globalization, the European Union, NATO, religious groups other than the Eastern Orthodox Church, race-mixing, autonomy for Romania's ethnic Hungarian minority, and immoderate cultural import (including some American culture, manele music, and the celebration of Valentine's Day)."

Why exactly would North Korea secretly support a far-right anti-communist Romanian political movement? Shit, why not? Makes about as much sense as Hezbollah being trained by Chavez in Venezuela. But it must be stopped. North Korea cannot be allowed to potentially destabilize the Bucharest government for its own inscrutable purposes....

For all my right wing visitors from Romania:



I can understand how this article would promote controversy, especially since Fascism was outlawed in Romania after 1945 unless Ceauşescu authorized it.

A Visual Reminder of why Clinton almost won the primary

And a rejoinder to folks who don't believe in the reality of obnoxious prejudice against working Americans by the supporters of Obama:

As William S. Burroughs said, Control Needs Time, re: the U.S.

Burroughs, in the period starting with "The Wild Boys" and ending with "Cities of the Red Night", developed an interesting notion of what Control is and how it functions. Control, with a big 'C', is the sort of capitalistic, elite control complex that dominates both the State and the media. Burrough's insight, or one of them, repeated over and over again, is that "Control needs TIME". And why does Control need time? Control needs time in which to exercise continual control. If Control established a hyper authoritarian state overnight it would defeat the purpose of controlling and exploiting people since that would also destroy completely the fabric of society itself. You might have complete control over people but what you'd control wouldn't be very good or sophisticated. So Control needs time in which to exercise and to possibly escalate the degree of control. How does this fit into the United States?

Simple.

The post 9/11 world has depended on bleeding people's civil liberties, their belief in basic rights, their opposition to war, dry. There was the initial rush to install all sorts of authoritarian devices but it hit a wall where, I'm assuming, the people in charge realized that if they went any further they'd have a mass armed revolt on their hands or a civil war. After that period passed the agenda of the Bush administration was passed little by little, with stonewalling as the biggest tactic, delaying, and when stonewalling and delaying responses to people's criticisms didn't work just going on and openly doing what it was they wanted to do anyways, like invade Iraq.

But this sort of passive authoritarianism depends on a long time of guaranteed power with which the agenda can be more and more realized. If that power is interrupted the subtleness of what they've done will blow away like so much dirty dust. They seem to have no awareness that their power will be at an end in about six months, and that in four the successor of Bush will have been chosen and in place for January.

With six months left, they must be realizing that it's going to be hard to invade Iran before the clock runs out. It's going to be even harder to take action against Syria, and North Korea is probably off the table entirely, because it's a different type of situation.

The escalation of saber rattling will go no where, and even if McCain replaces Bush the Bush Control program, so to speak, will have been dismantled, leaving many more opportunities for the public to confront McCain effectively than they had with Bush. Or at least many more easier opportunities, with the word "easier" being used advisedly.

The whole 9/11 gestalt will hopefully collapse because it will have run out of the Time necessary to exercise Control in.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Transitions of power are always hard to effect

When that power has been created by freak conditions. The current metastasized cancer that is the Bush administration was created by the two freak storms of the stolen 2000 election and 9/11, the latter of which made the country bat shit crazy in a way that was almost indescribably bad, but that's for another post. Now Bush is out of there, or at least will be soon enough, and the perfect storm that created his authoritarianism is coming apart. Even if McCain, as is likely, tries to maintain the Bush rhetoric and Bush agenda, he won't be able to do so fully because he won't have the legitimacy of being the '9/11 President' . McCain also has his own spin on this stuff, largely because he has a brain and isn't as stupid as a box of rocks, his epitaph for Bush in 2000.
This opens up opportunities for opposition that haven't been there since 9/11. The armor of McCain, if he wins, isn't as invulnerable as that around Bush and public opinion and protest will probably be able to have more of an effect on his administration.

That said, McCain wants to seriously expand nuclear power plants and said that he would be in Iraq for a thousand years if that's what it took to get some sort of 'victory'.

But the time is running out on Bush, and as he gets more and more impotent I'm sure he'll see more demonstrations by leaders in the international community of just what they've been thinking of him all this time, but have been cowed from saying openly because of the power of the U.S.

The acceptable '60s vs. reality

They don't always match up. There was a time when "The '60s", written in capital letters, were marketed heavily to youth. But of course it was watered down and didn't actually represent what was happening at the time. An example of this is the exorcism of the demons from the Pentagon in a protest where they attempted to surround the Pentagon in a chain. Yes, this was the event that had a kid putting a flower in the gun of a soldier protecting the place, but it also featured something else. As part of the exorcism there were scheduled to be 'acts of love' done in front of the Pentagon itself. By that I mean couples fucking. I haven't been able to find out if they were able to consummate this but I know from accounts that they were indeed going to try it.

Having people fucking in front of the Pentagon violates the nice and comfortable '60s script where everything is peace and love but there's nothing that really presses the limits of established society. Just believe in dancing and singing in a circle, don't pay attention to the real stuff going down that may shatter your bourgeois fantasy of that era.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The mere presence of elections in November contributing to shaking up Bush

Because he's probably realizing that time is running out, that he won't be in charge of the show indefinitely, and that his stonewall tactics won't really have any effect now that people really see that he'll be out of there in about six months. It takes lots and lots of time to build up support for a really unpopular war, like that being proposed in Iran, through dishonest PR, planted stories, faked evidence, general media manipulation to create a perception of danger, and Bush doesn't have that time left. Sure, McCain is crazy, and supports a hardline on Iran, but McCain isn't Bush. He has his own ideas about what leadership means and has his own agenda. If he wins, he won't simply be a Bush II, even if he has some similar policies.

Bush's strength has been seemingly endless time with which to stonewall calls for international dialogue and cooperation as well as the numerous calls by domestic critics to be held to account for his actions.

His "fuck you" middle finger to the world is going to start to look a lot less convincing as the weeks and then months wear on.

Reincarnation as providing a justification for making your life meaningful

Usually, it's the other way around. Existentialism is based on the idea that there's only one life, only one chance, and so you'd better make it meaningful or else. This is just an extension of the Christian idea of hell and damnation, with the role of human action transferred from leading a virtuous life to get to heaven to leading a meaningful life on earth so that your life will have meant something. Not coincidentally, existentialism was melded with Protestant Christian theology by various thinkers. But this is only one approach to the subject of what you should do with your life.

Look at it a different way, for a second. Take the reality of reincarnation as given. You, who are alive, will be reincarnated in some form. You will either be a human if you lived a good life or you'll get reincarnated as something that embodies your sins, depending on what those are. Taking as given for the moment that you aren't going to seriously mess up and do something horrible you can be assured life after life of birth, adolescence, adulthood, old age, and death, followed by birth, adolescence, old age, and death. You, personally, don't have to do anything for this process to keep happening. It just does.

Think, for a second, about life after life doing the same sorts of things over and over again. You're born into the same type of family, you possibly will have similar social standing. Life will pretty much unfold in the same way, with variations of course. You'll establish a career, you'll have a family that you'll love.

While this might be pleasant, it's like a manifestation of an eternal now, as if what you're doing in this life is all you're going to be doing in all your lives unless you do something to change this life.

Now, how exactly would you act if you realized that inaction wouldn't lead to punishment necessarily but to just more of the same, extending into the future endlessly? Would you act for yourself, doing more of what you want to do but for some reason haven't been willing to try and do? Would you devote your life to a truly good cause, something that you perceived to be a social good more important than a lot of other things? Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita, in talking with Arjuna, states that the consciousness that you have now is the same consciousness that you're ever going to have, no matter what form your incarnation takes. If you're reincarnated into something different you'll still have the same basic consciousness looking out at the world, even if what 'you' are is a different species. So there's less reason to be afraid of what comes next and what came before, because what comes next shares the same basic consciousness that you have now, and what came before possessed the same basic consciousness that you're looking out at the world with now.

If your continued existence after death, the very thing that existentialism questions and turns into such a question that your whole live needs to be lived in light of the uncertainty of it all, is assured, then although some real questions about what exactly happens, if it's painful, frightening, etc.. persist it kind of frees you to act more meaningfully in this life.

Why not now? Why not act now to try to fulfill your dreams? Because after you grow old and die you'll eventually be reincarnated and will be asking the same question. Then you'll die again, be reincarnated, and face the same problem, the same issue: do you act on what you can potentially do to fulfill your dreams and lead a meaningful life or do you do just what the trend of your life suggests?

There's no escape.

Better try to break the cycle of monotony now through action and a quest for meaning and through the creation of meaningful change in the world than to face the possibility of lifetimes of unfulfilled hopes and longing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Monday, June 16, 2008

The denial of class in the U.S. in the present day via Protestant Ethic

Class is rarely addressed in the U.S., and is even less addressed on a personal level in progressive movements or, in general, with people who are very liberal or somewhat radical. What you'll find instead is class denial, a denial by the people in question that they either come from or belong to the upper class. Their justification is usually that they have some sort of a part time or full time job that doesn't pay all the bills but is nonetheless work. Especially in college. Mommy and Daddy may be doctors or engineers or executives, they may own two cars, or an SUV, and live in a McMansion in a ritzy suburb, but you're not rich yourself because they force you to get a job in order to 'build character'. This is completely different of course from the rationale for work by people who actually have to work as young adults because they have no real resources to draw on.

Although I didn't start there, I ended my High School career in an elite school that was somewhat like New York City's "Stuyvesant HIgh School", and I saw this pattern all the time. There was one family where the father was a banker, lived in one of the richest suburbs of Detroit, and the family actually owned a house in the south of France, yet they forced their kids to either do volunteer work or to get jobs while in high school, so that they could have some sort of an honest living. The same thing applied to a family where the father was a documentary film maker whose work appeared on the Discovery channel. Their older kid had to get a job, and ended up getting it at a designer clothing store in downtown Birmingham, Michigan, the ritziest shopping district in the whole state. Because of this, he and his family, in their minds, weren't that rich, or at least weren't like "those other rich people", a group of folks often alluded to but rarely seen.

This is the Protestant work ethic manifesting itself as an impediment to realizing where you come from in terms of class and what exactly that means. These folk's families no doubt started out as middle class, somewhere back in the mists of time, and supposedly lifted themselves up by their bootstraps, so that the myth of righteous wealth, of entitlement to whatever wealth these people have through honest work was passed down to them. Even if it has no bearing whatsoever on current reality and is, in fact, comical to people outside that world who have actually seen and known, or have been, folks who have actually needed to work for a living----because whether or not their parents want to they can't support them because they don't have enough money. Working, having some sort of job, during early adulthood, college, high school, that you don't really need because your parents could set you up as a Shah living in excessive luxury isn't quite the same.

Frank discussions of class seem to be the thing that Progressives want to avoid the most

Because they prefer looking at American billionaires and calling them the upper class instead of looking at the world around them. The "New Inequality" talked about in the latest issue of "The Nation" is just an avoidance of real class relationships in real communities around the U.S., including those that the writers and sympatico Progressives live in. It's much easier to blame a few ultra-rich people than to look at how class power actually functions in the U.S. In fact, the labeling of people who are referred to as "upper middle class", which is code for "really rich but not a multimillionaire" as being both the upper class and the class who benefits from the exploitation of workers and ethnic and racial minorities who are pushed down into the working class, may hit a little too close to home for them. Instead of confronting their own class heritage and how they either fit into or come from families that participate in the structure of exploitation they prefer to avoid the issue by redefining what inequality is and who the primary beneficiaries of it are.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Unexpected consequences of the U.S.' oil use

The global food crisis has revealed that the stakes in the peak oil scenario aren't just having Americans cut down on their consumption in order to preserve some sort of familiar way of life. While high oil prices are exercising some much needed discipline on the behavior of people in the United States who are willing to engage in some of the most ecologically destructive practices through their choice of transportation, it's also contributing to global famine. High oil prices are regularly listed as being a contributing factor to the higher prices of rice around the world since chemical fertilizers are derived from petroleum. Shipping costs have increased as well.

We might gleefully rejoice in Hummer owners getting their comeuppance but the rest of the world caught between economies that don't depend much on oil and those that are very oil dependent are now suffering what will likely turn into structural crises as the oil supply goes down.

Which means that more has to be done with developing green technology that can deliver a decent quality of life to people.

People are now recognized to have rights in Guantanamo

Specifically, the right of Habeas Corpus, produce the body, which means they can challenge the facts of their detention in U.S. courts. What Habeas Corpus means is simple: there has to be a reason why someone is held in custody is held in custody. You either have to charge a person or let them go, because indefinite detention for no clear reason is unjust. Simple as that. This is the right that people in Guantanamo bay have not had; instead, the U.S. government has repeated over and over again that they, collectively were the 'worst of the worst', and that that assertion, given without evidence that many of them had even committed a crime, was used to keep them chained in a U.S. concentration camp.

Why Chairman Bob can't come back to the United States

Not because of any sort of grand persecution of him by the United States government but because of his own stupidity. Avakian and company were protesting Deng Xiaoping's visit to the United States when they damaged some property of the Chinese Embassy and assaulted a police officer. Why, you might ask, did he and his crew do this? For social justice, for advancing some great cause? Nope. They did it because they didn't like that Deng Xiaoping, the leader of China, had deviated away from the policies of Mao and the Gang of Four during the Cultural Revolution. Deng Xiaoping, who while of course no saint, nonetheless helped take China away from the insanity of those years and towards something more resembling normalcy. The RCP didn't like that the whole Little Red Book raising, beating people in the street who were 'capitalist roaders', movement had come to an end and they wanted to tell it to the supreme leader of China himself.

Good luck there, Avakian. Point is that no one was forcing him and his cohorts to engage in a protest that was supported by almost no one in the United States besides themselves and that had almost no potential whatsoever of realistically making a difference. Seriously. It's not like the WTO or something. I gather that they wanted to send Deng Xiaoping a message that the RCP really, really, didn't like the way China was going. He probably thought that they were like annoying flies.

But because of all of it Bob Avakian fled to France and is now living as a political refugee.

*on edit: not a Chinese expert, but the sense I get is that Deng was a colorless bureaucrat in the mold of Brezhnev, who did his best to ensure stasis and general repressiveness in the Soviet Union during his long reign. It seems that China moved from Mao and the people who surrounded Mao to Deng without any sort of colorful intermediary like Khruschev. Picture moving from Stalin directly to Brezhnev. Sure, life under Brezhnev is no doubt much, much, much better than life under Stalin, but in the grand scheme of things would you consider the move to be the best of all possible worlds? I don't think so.

G.G. Allin

Always looking for the extreme I rented a G.G. Allin performance DVD and then, later, "Hated", the documentary about him. Supposed to be one of the baddest ass performers out there, who shit on stage, rolled in it, ate it, as well as mutilated himself, got naked, etc... I was mightily disappointed. Not quite as shocking as I was anticipating and, after having watched a bit of it, sort of stupid. I mean, you need to do something more than just sing shitty punk and take dumps on stage to be confrontational.

Much better, much more controversial, and much more genuine are the Vienna Aktionists, whose film documentations of their actions are a whole 'nother level of weirdness and obscenity altogether. They are to G. G. Allin as a supernova is to a common star. And remember, the level we're starting at is self mutilation, bodily fluids, and sex as well.

They were performance artists and so were possibly a little bit more thoughtful about what the best way to really shock people was.

And now for something completely different: A unique cover of "Henry Lee"

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Kant and Elan Vital

In light of Kant's thoughts about the perception of nature as an organism being a function of our mental wiring the concept of Elan Vital, or an energy that pushes evolution forward, becomes extremely interesting. The idea is that of a vital energy moving evolution forward, of some force inherent in the world that sought realization and that organisms moving and developing help incarnate more and more fully. The transition from simple organisms up through marine life to land life, mammals, and on to man was pictured as being a progressive, preordained, movement that culminates in us. Why the concept came to be is sort of complex, but the virtue of it is that it purported to explain how exactly one species moved into the other. Life presented itself as a sort of fait accompli, as something that had already been accomplished without many links between the species being apparent, with nothing directly suggesting why life moved from one niche in the environment to the other, culminating in human beings.

If we use Kant's idea, the function of elan vital turns into a sort of useful fiction that allows us mentally to comprehend change between established whole states.

From the Newtonian Universe to Organicism in Kant

Very nice things can be had if you struggle through Kant's writings, in this case through the introduction to the "Critique of Judgment". Organicism, the idea that nature forms a coherent organic whole and functions like an organism, was one of the fundamental features of 19th century philosophy, eventually mutating into vitalism, the belief in a sort of elan vital or vital force behind things that animated the organism of the world. But how exactly did philosophy and science (in the form of Darwin's theory of Evolution) move from a sort of clock work world to that of an organism? Kant provides a clue.

In the intro to the Critique of Judgment, Kant pursues what he's been pursuing in all of his critiques: laws that we perceive to be exterior to our psychology that can be argued to instead stem from the way that our brains are set up. He makes the case that the idea of a Newtonian clock work world that operates according to a series of empirical laws is one of those concepts. But if this idea of a scientifically constructed world really comes from inside of us instead of from the world itself then how exactly does this manifest?

According to Kant our ideas of an exterior world composed of empirical laws that have the capability to explain all of nature necessitate the idea that the laws interlock and form a coherent system. It's this concept of an interlocking system that our psychology adds to its perception of the world. We don't completely make things up but impose psychologically given lenses on the material from the outside world. The world of interloking laws can be said to make up an organic whole even if we don't have the complete knowledge of the world that would allow us to construct a coherent system like that. The concept of an organic whole is what our attempts to understand the outside world is ultimately tending to.

Because the idea is contained within us, according to Kant there's no real difference between a theoretical attitude towards the world that it makes up an organic whole of interlocking laws and an attitude towards explaining the world that's based on putting together particular laws that we've empirically discovered. Therefore it's permissible to assume that an organic whole is present at the beginning of our investigations even if we have no empirical evidence for it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A tiny group of people at the top vs. class politics

The focus on groups of ultra elite rich people takes away from the actual story that's out there. For example, it could be easily pointed out that although these folks have tons and tons of money that the number of them is so small that their presence doesn't prove that the U.S. is a grossly unequal society. If you go down this route you'll see that there is in fact a big break between the numbers of ultra-ultra rich and the number of just rich and upper middle class people in the U.S. Furthermore, if you look in turn at that demographic you'll see that what could be considered the middle class is much larger than what one might think if they just looked at the ultra-ultra rich in relation to everyone else. While the elite of the elite should not have access to economic resources like they do, and should have them taxed into oblivion, the real drama of the U.S. class system comes in the area where the spike in wealth levels off some. That means looking at people who because of their occupation and their earnings fall into the category of owners, executives, and high powered white collar workers, and comparing the growth of their incomes with that of less upper middle class people, down to blue collar folks, and then down to the folks who could be categorized as being really poor. It's the interrelationships between these four subsets that really tells the story how wealth and power in the United States has shifter in the past twenty odd years since Reagan imposed his will on the tax code and on unions.

This is a class based analysis, one that combines information on occupation and job function with info on money made. The view that looks at five or six people, or a hundred, who make loads of money, is not, even if they pose their analysis in terms that use the language of class.

Instead, it's most likely evasion. You see, it's easier to attack modern day Vanderbilts and Rockefellers than it is to look at folks who may come from a class that either you, the progressive magazine writer, or your readers, come from. People don't see the ultra-ultra-ultra rich walking around but they do see the well off all over the place, meaning that they are tangible and not just abstractions. If someone were to start attacking these folks in print it would be a little too real, a little too solid, because it would imply that the people who agree with the analysis would have to actually change their behavior and attitudes. They might actually have to protest real people instead of paper cardboard cut outs and that's something that makes them uncomfortable.

As such, focussing on ultra-ultra-elites is an excuse for personal laziness. If you want to protest and work against something why not pick something that people can actually, see, touch, hear, and feel, like upper middle class people, instead of Mr. Monopoly man in a top hat?

They'll be fucking losers unless they do, because that's what left politics in every god damn country except the U.S. consists of.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

U.S. Kills 11 Pakistani Soldiers

Reportedly, according to the person interviewed in Islamabad on "Fresh Air" yesterday, U.S. soldiers were shooting at Taliban troops who were retreating when a U.S. aircraft, drone or otherwise, moved in to drop a bomb on them that killed 11 Pakistani troops. The United States was inside the Pakistani border at the time.

Title link leads to a Guardian story about it.

Needless to say, the government of Pakistan sees this as confirmation that the U.S. is simply using them and doesn't care whatsoever about normal codes of conduct that would automatically be followed in any honest collaboration.

*incidentally, there seems to be an obnoxious rise of anti-Pakistan sentiment in India that's being justified by the "War on Terror". At least if a film or two that's come out is any indication. The film "Qayamat", whose very title is an insult to Islam (Qayamat or Qiyamat is the Muslim day judgment and resurrection at the end of time, but is translated as 'apocalypse' in the movie), drags out anti-Pakistani propaganda in the guise of an action-adventure film that would make Leni Riefenstahl proud. Film starts out with Indian prisoners of war from the Kargil war being shot on the orders of a buck toothed smiling general, who, it's later revealed is planning on hitting Mumbai/Bombay with a biological weapon in order to create an opportunity to invade Kashmir.

Yep, sure love Indian sycophants expecting me to be on their side because they invoke the magic spectre of 'terrorism'.

There's a vision I have

Something that couldn't be realized, but that is a great dream. A scenario: the meeting of the nomadic Turkic and Mongol tribes of Central and Northern Asia with the western cowboys and mexican Vaqueros, somewhere in the southwest or in Texas. Some sort of synthetic culture of the plains coming from the intersection of all of them, with Native Americans not being eliminated and so having some part in it.

I at least would think it would have been an interesting historical moment is something like that had come to pass.

Maybe the candidacy of Barack Obama will cause stupid white stoners

To no longer imitate black people. With a Presidential candidate up there blackness will lose some of its 'street cred' maybe won't seem so 'gangster' to these folks. It'll harsh their high to not view the worst among black people as the heroes anymore. Or maybe they'll continue to do it, trying to find the stupidest, most violent, ignorant, black person they can and propping him up as their saint.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Does anyone else feel kind of strange about the South Korean beef protests?

Namely, that 80,000 people marched in Seoul and the entire Korean cabinet offered to resign because of resumed imports of U.S. beef that's being sold as just normal beef in the U.S.? It's because of fears of Mad Cow disease. 80,000 people march and its considered an issue of national importance because of food safety, yet no news organization in the U.S. seems to think that it's that important...

Awesome article about Spain and Venezuela from Counterpunch

The Neoliberal Left and Socialism,Conversation in Miami by Clifton Ross:

"As the two Spaniards continued their conversation, I mused on the UPI story once again, mystified by how a supposedly “left” government in Spain, and people who support it, could be so anti-Chavista. But after visiting Spain in 2006 and touring the three main cities of the Basque country, a few of the smaller towns and witnessing how the “progressive” Zapatero government treated the Basques who lived in a terror reminiscent of Central America in the 1980s, I came to believe that “progressive” doesn’t always imply “anti-imperialist.”"

....

"Someone at Askapena, a Basque solidarity organization which defends imprisoned independentistas, explained it this way: “When the Spanish police pick you up on suspicion of being an independentista, they torture you. That’s routine and universal. After they torture you, if you denounce the torture, you are, de facto, part of ETA (the illegal armed wing of the Basque independence movement) because ETA has a policy of denouncing all torture. And, according to the Spanish legal system, anyone who advocates any ETA policy is de facto a member of ETA. And so there are people imprisoned in Spain as ETA “terrorists” simply because they were picked up, tortured and denounced the torture.”

I thought this imperial “zero tolerance” for dissent from the subjects of Spain, specifically, from the Basques, might explain the widespread hatred for Chavez in that country. Perhaps he’s seen as a “difficult child” by the Spanish government, one who talks back at the King when told to shut up. But Marc Villá, the Venezuelan documentary filmmaker, had another take on the situation."

The Chinese Revolution as one of the most audacious events of the 20th century

Not the Chinese Revolution as seen through the eyes of the RCP, who emphasize the Cultural Revolution and many of the more authoritarian aspects for reasons that I don't completely understand, but the Chinese Revolution as seen by the folks organizing for and fighting for it during the pre-World War II period, the period during the second world war, and immediately after, when they actually won the thing. This would be before Mao was Mao with a big 'M'.

When I first started reading about it from a general as opposed to an ideological basis I was extraordinarily surprised at the level of thought and analysis that had gone into the problems of making a socialist revolution in a country that was one of the model examples of feudalism. One of the classical examples. A country that had had a reputation for being one of the most conservative on the planet with regards to reform and to social change. Instead of doctrinairily applying Stalinist analysis they created a point of view that took into account the relations that had developed between China and the outside world since the mid 19th century, the reasons for the fall of the Imperial system, in what ways capitalism could be said to have developed in China, the interplay between colonialism and the development of capitalism, lots and lots of stuff. Extensive. Enough of an analysis to effectively carry out a Revolution.

The idea of liberating people in a country where human life was as cheap as could be, where people were condemned to hard, slave like labor based on where they were born, with no hope of change, while the Emperor and the high members of the social system enjoyed riches and benefits that would put any European despot to shame, that idea the idea that it would possibly, and that people should work for it, surely ranks as one of the most insanely audacious in all of the 20th century.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

the eXile needs to be saved---consider giving a few bucks

Venerable Moscow Alt. Weekly The eXile is being harassed by Putin's government and needs funds to be able to either fight or to get out and set up a new base of operations. The PayPal donation button is at the bottom of This editorial that I'm reproducing below.

"Save The eXile: The War Nerd Calls Mayday

I'm calling in an urgent request for reinforcements, before we're overrun. The eXile, my HQ since I started this column, has been sucker-punched by a bunch of squeamish bureaucrats and anonymous complainers. You know the type, the kind of people who'll poison your dog but don't have the guts to come to your door. Looks like this Fifth Column is winning, and we'll be forced to retreat from Moscow. And you know how messy retreats from Moscow can get. Ask the Little Corporal; he left the Kremlin with half a million men and came home with about enough for a high-school marching band.

Well, the Bible gives clear instructions on what to do if the locals spit on you for trying to help'em out. It's right there in the Book, in fact the Book of Mark, Chapter 6 if I recall, makes for a nice Mark-Ames tie-in, huh? Here's what the Bible says:

"And whosoever shall not hear you, when ye depart, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily, It shall be easier for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for them."

Ya hear that, Moscow, ya ungrateful place? We're shakin' your dust from our 'Nam boots and setting up a new site somewhere not so allergic to truth, boobs and gory jokes. Maybe we can get Eritrea to give us a home. I volunteer to be the eXile's Eritrean rep right now.

The thing is, it takes money and we have none, zero, aren't even getting paid any more. We need help. That's what this mayday is about. You want us in the foxhole with you, fighting against all that's good and decent in the name of all that's funny and honest? Then cough it up, soldier!

—Gary Brecher, The War Nerd

The eXile needs you to donate money right away so that we can pay our system administrator and find a new server somewhere overseas, and maybe throw the War Nard a few Milk Duds. Click the button below to donate through PayPal and make yourself feel good in 2 E-Z steps. Go to the bottom of this page

Manson prosecutor Bugliosi has a book out about Bush

Entitled "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder", it will no doubt be a fawning, sycophantic, display of self importance by the prosecutor who tried Manson and who wrote "Helter Skelter". I say that because although Manson was guilty as sin of ordering the murders Bugliosi's conduct was completely inappropriate and in any other case he would have been reprimanded and the defendants would have been given a new trial. Proof for this: the fearless, courageous, prosecutor successfully argued that the jury should not physically see Manson while he testified because of an alleged "Hypnotic Power" that he would use to influence the jurors. So, the jury was taken out of the room while the questioning of Manson happened and were later given transcripts of what had occurred. The hero prosecutor turns out under scrutiny to be a weasel who used cowardly tactics in the prosecution of a high profile case. Then, of course, there's the question of all the witnesses he didn't call, or didn't press while on the witness stand. The Manson family knew some of Hollywood's elite, likely knew very embarrassing things about them relating to drug use and sexual proclivities, and yet as a District Prosecutor for Los Angeles County, Bugliosi served power by not bringing inconvenient facts into the case that may have lessened the reputation of some of these folks.

Monday, June 09, 2008

"Heroin Diaries" by Nikki Sixx as reviewed by John Dolan of "The eXile"

(title link) Nikki Sixx is a member of Motley Crüe, which should be pronounced "Crew-eh"... Here we go with the review:

"Nikki Sixx used to be the bass player for Motley Crue, a hair metal band most people old enough to remember have tried hard to forget. Motley was huge in the mid-1980s. I didn't realize how big until I read the diary entry in which Nikki whines that his manager sent his latest paycheck to his home while he was on tour. The check is for $650,000. That's probably more than really talented American bands of the 1980s like Husker Du made in their entire career. The Motley Crue era, then, was not a shining moment in pop history. In that sense, Nikki makes a fitting narrator. This is literally a tale told by an idiot. Everything about it is stale, forced and second-hand. Even the title is an echo of Jim Carroll's much better addiction memoir, The Basketball Diaries, which derived from Burroughs's Junkie, which came out of Genet, whose dramatized self-immolation stories derive ultimately from Byron."

....

"And of course his drug narrative is full of lies and bathos. The most interesting lie is the deflection of blame to heroin, when it's clear that Nikki was never a junkie. He's a cokehead, a classic L.A. white-trash cokehead. So why is this called The Heroin Diaries? Because Nikki's publisher realized cocaine is too sleazy and too 1970s to interest anybody. Heroin, which only entered the middle-class California druggie's repertoire in the 1980s, still retains some of its exotic, forbidden appeal."

Poland is not Eastern Europe

Neither is the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, or Yugoslavia. Poland is Catholic and was part of the Holy Roman Empire up until the partition of Poland that left its northeast part "administered" by Russia. Eastern Europe proper is made up of the countries that were/are Orthodox and that were under the influence of the Byzantine Empire. This means Russia, Bulgaria, Romania, the Ukraine. States like Estonia and Latvia that were directly incorporated into Russia and into the Soviet Union, as opposed to being satellite states, have more Eastern European characteristics. But this breaks down too, because Finland was part of Russia for about a century, and yet we think of Finland as being part of Scandinavia. Down south the division between East and West (or Eastern Europe and Central Europe, which would consist mostly of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire) breaks down, in part because of the Ottoman Empire. That throws a kind of wrench into the whole East-West classification because Serbia, Greece, what's now Macedonia, Bosnia, Albania, Romania, and the southeast part of Hungary, were Christian subjects of a Turkish Muslim state. Some people adopted Islam, the Bosnians and the Albanians, yet ethnically they appear European. Even if the Ottoman Empire hadn't been there the idea of East and West would have broken down due to Greece and Romania, two states that were both parts of the classical world......a subsidiary state and its headquarters.....but that aren't Slavic. Aha. That gets us somewhere. Eastern Europe seems to be a euphemism for "Slavic", a sort of ethno-racist classification that assumes that every people that speaks a Slavic language are fundamentally the same. What would that make the commonly defined Western Europe, then? People who speak German derived languages, like England, Germany, and Holland? But no one says that because we know where that sort of thinking lead to. Yet when it comes to slavic countries the same basic premise is applied: that there are racial monoliths in Europe that have a relative worth that depends on their ethnic make up, in this case that Slavic states are foreign and inferior because of who they are in a crude linguistic sense. And that this should apply to people who are descended from these states as well.

The last people who I'm related to who immigrated to America from elsewhere are great grandparents. Do I have a 'Slavic Soul'?

OK, I can write this now: Other Russia, Limonov, and the eXile

All being repressed. Other Russia being the opposition that opposes Putin, the only coalition out there that's really doing it, Limonov being one of the two leaders of it, the other being Garry Kasparov, chess champion, and the eXile being a nice alternative English language weekly coming out of Russia. I've known about Limonov opposing Putin for a while now, but haven't written anything acknowledging it because Limonov leads something called the National Bolshevik Party.

They use a flag that incorporates a hammer and sickle into a Nazi flag where the swastika would normally be, and they fit themselves into the European constellation of neo-Fascist New Right parties that advocated the Third Position, which is neo-fascism that puts more socialist elements into it.

It's hard, then, to say "Yay Limonov!". He, who occasionally writes for "The eXile", claims to have given up ultra-nationalism in the face of Putin's abuse of it. I'm not sure what to make of it but he seems to have at least gone through the motions of coming to a more acceptable political stance.

From an article about him in "Radar":

"But in reality, Limonov provides most of the organizational force behind Other Russia: His 15,000 or so loyalists consist largely of young artists, intellectuals, skinheads, anarchists, and other outsiders. In the past, the group incorporated fascist and ultranationalist elements into both its platform and presentation, and embraced some questionable allies—one of Limonov's most despicable episodes came during the Balkan conflict when he fired automatic weapons down on the city of Sarajevo from a mountain encampment shared with accused Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic. But the party now hews to a straight leftist political line on most issues, playing down its aggressively nationalistic stances. Putin's cynical use of nationalist rhetoric to manipulate public sentiment was partly responsible for the shift. "We live in a truly despotic regime," Limonov says. "This government is cruel to the poor and the vulnerable. Its only ideology is nationalism. Our left-wing views are much closer to those of the masses. If we were allowed to operate in a free society, I am sure that we would become the most popular party.""

The thing is that he is one of the two biggest opposition figures in Russia, but if that paragraph hadn't been written there would be no way in hell I would acknowledge him.

As it stands things are coming down hard on the Other Russia campaign, Kasparov, and Limonov. Now, the eXile is under investigation by the government and threatened with shut down. Initially the eXile benefitted by being an English language weekly run by expatriates who had no real influence, but after 11 years and an incredible book about the experience they're coming under fire by a Russian administration that doesn't like them and the role they could potentially play.

Both the Other Russia and especially the eXile deserve support, even if....and I say that with a lot of reservations. But, then again I'm not in Russia opposing Putin and Limonov is.