Sunday, August 31, 2008

Kraftwerk and William S. Burroughs/Brion Gysin

Actually a real, if only ideological, connection between the seminal electronic band and the cut up method used by Burroughs and developed with Gysin. The cut up method uses semi-random juxtapositions of text to create new meanings, but Burroughs extended the concept to audio and film by pointing out that if you substitute any soundtrack, any song, any band, any genre, even some other film soundtrack, for the soundtrack that normally goes with a film you'll find that your mind processes some correspondences between the sounds and the images as if there was an intentional meaning put there. The new audio becomes a comment on the video, and suggests new meanings to the story. In fact, anything put together in sequence that's not too obviously jarring will read as if it was intended to be a film looking like that or, if it's just audio, a recording sounding like that. It's the way our minds tend to process things. Now what does this have to do with Kraftwerk?

In the biography of the band authored by Pascal Bussy, one of the ex-band members comments that what they sometimes used to do was to set up the machines and have them sing to one another. I wondered what this meant, sounded strange, but it sort of hit me that what he was talking about was having drum machines set to certain patterns combine their sounds with keyboard sequencers, both repeating chunks of sound. The result would be different types of polyrhythms depending on what the timing was between the two machines and what the original sounds were. In other words, a new track would be formed just by letting the machines interact with each other operating on the principle that Burroughs outlined, which is that if things are combined or put in juxtaposition to each other it doesn't matter whether it was intentional or not, our minds will read the resulting product as being complete in itself.

*on edit: some similar ideas are also contained in early film maker Sergei Eisenstein's writings about montage and the conveying of meaning through a film's structure, for instance Film Form.

Do you think that blocking delegates is a criminal enterprise?

Because that's what the RNC Welcoming Committee was labeled. Right up there with the Mafia, the Bloods and Crips, and biker meth gangs.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Funny funny. World University ratings

Here. Entertaining because there were only two criteria used to judge the Universities: amount of Nobel and Fields prizes associated with the university and its graduates and number of citations in journals that people associated with the universities had. The Fields prize is the social science Nobel. Oh, and they also took into account the number of articles published in Science and Nature. The study was commissioned by China and its purpose was to judge how far Chinese universities were behind universities in the rest of the world......in science and technology. That isn't said in the article but it has to be the purpose because if they were trying to judge it by either the humanities or by the social sciences the results would be meaningless. But it leads to some funny listings. Where lots and lots of papers get published, the rankings are higher....let's see some records:

(2008)

"University of Washington: 16

École Normale Supérieure - Paris: 73

California Institute of Technology: 6

Brown University: 71"

(2006)

University of California San Diego: 13

Sapienza University of Rome (founded in 1303): 100

University of California Los Angeles: 14

Free University of Berlin: 99

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne: 25

Moscow State University: 70"

*on edit: the same year that Sapienza University of Rome got the 100 ranking it tied for the spot with another august center of learning: Arizona State University.


Of course there are a couple of schools that are in the top of the rankings that are also very good on liberal arts and social sciences, like Columbia, Princeton, and Cambridge, but this is a nice way of illustrating the absurdities of it all.

New Art

Greece dying on the shores of Missolonghi litho

Lithograph. A rendition of the main figure from Delacroix's painting "Greece on the ruins of Missolonghi".

Edwarde the Scribe from the Canterbury Psalter

Zinc etching. Rendition of "Edwarde the Scribe" from the medieval Canterbury Psalter.

I'm impressed

Pending nuclear meltdown, we'll either have a woman for a vice president or an African-American for President after November 4th.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Obama's acceptance speech

I have to say that it was pretty good. Available here roughly two thirds of it was devoted to domestic economics, much more than I've ever seen him devote time to, and he presented the kind of glimmering of a social democratic oriented policy. It's really nice, but at the same time it's bittersweet because the invocations of an autoworker, of a steel worker in the greater Chicago area, and of an Ohio worker, could have done a lot of good when his campaign was responding to Hillary Clinton by whispering that she was a racist to the media. Obama himself never said this, but in key response articles to different actions that Clinton took anonymous senior staff members for Obama expressed outrage at the supposed racism of her. Not only that, but the idea of white workers as being completely racist has infiltrated the elite media to the point where liberal cartoonists write multi paneled attacks portraying working class people as toothless inbred rednecks. Obama could have stopped all of this by saying the very things that he said in his speech tonight then but he chose not to.

For example, here's a Trouble Town comic that encapsulates the vibe that Obama's advisors and Obama's followers were putting out during the primaries:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I'm glad that the Clintons, Kerry, and Al Gore like Obama

All have given speeches roundly praising him, all are about as liberal or radical as mung beans.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The aftermath of 9/11 in the United States proves a point that Laibach/NSK made about modern capitalism.

Which is that the combination of mass media and capitalism would even sell Fascism with snappy advertising slogans if the opportunity presented itself.

From the IRWIN page about the Ursula Noordung exercise:



"Ursula Seeks Her Price

Can a teddy-bear be the object of the mechanisms which lead to the motive for purchase? Can something so fragile as childhood, safety, and memory, be contained within the logic of a marketing strategy? Will this teddy-bear lift or lower its ears when it hears the two notorious marketing formulae: AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) and USP (Unique Selling Proposition)?

The answer is unequivocal: YES. At the moment when Ursula is invited into the realm of the relations of exchange, when a price tag is placed behind her neck, when she becomes the object of price reductions and shop provisions, her sign - the black cross - will become a trademark, a logotype of her market contest with the rest of the plush world.

Well, let's play with it.

1. The product is a quality-made, plush teddy-bear.

2. The price will be set according to the competition, but it will be widely available.

3. The creative strategy: I am Ursula; I desire your company; you can also display me or give me to others as a present. If you are a child, you can caress me or hit me, ask me or blame me; if you are a grown-up, I can rouse your memories, you can give me as a present, you can dismember me. Of course, you can also hide me away. I am especially attentive to the collector.

4. We will distribute Ursula to toy wholesalers, and to other interested outlets. We will also provide for mail order sales. For larger orders, we will produce suitably marked packaging.

5. As to the promotion, we will exploit all the principal media and work out the corresponding communication means for them: television, radio, newspaper and magazine advertisements, hoarding posters, bill posters, commercial promotion, the Internet (www), promotional events in shops, kindergartens, galleries.

6. The media strategy will endeavour to exploit holiday and special occasion purchasing.

This whole range of principles and marketing techniques will be employed firstly to create a non-need, which will later be turned into profit-making opportunities.

The highly-developed societies have stepped forward from the age of need satisfaction (this has become self-evident) and into the age of non-need generation (which, paradoxically, is also being satisfied). This is achieved on the basis of the development of high technologies, or the widening of the space of the imaginary. Thus, after the marketing of needs comes the marketing of signs - signs with price tags.

Marko Rogac"

Hillary Clinton, who gives a damn?

Amid the mass arrests of protesters in Denver yesterday the bloggingheads chose to focus on absurd minutia regarding Hillary Clinton and the potential action of her supporters as well as her projected speech. I find this continued interest in Hillary even after she's been defeated and has no power as evidence of the bankruptcy of the Obama's supporters, who can't get on with their lives and look concretely at what Obama has been saying or at the interaction between Obama and McCain but who instead want to concentrate on things that have no more bearing on tangible reality anymore. Focussing on Clinton is potentially a way to avoid seeing that Obama has sold out and continues to sell out. I don't give a damn about Hillary Clinton in relation to this campaign anymore and I doubt that people outside the world of blogging Obama support do either, but they'll no doubt be beating this dead horse until circumstances force them to confront McCain.

See, it's easier to focus on intra-democratic party fights than it is to focus on the fight needed to win the general election, where comfortable liberal certainties are no longer guaranteed. And most bloggers don't have a clue about extra-democratic party politics because they haven't exerted any effort to try to understand them, being content to write about he said she said within the dems while trashing Bush. Bush is an easy target; it doesn't require much brain power to oppose him. Less insane conservatives on the other hand, of which McCain is one, take some nuance to criticize, which is obviously beyond the powers of the Hillary commenters.

Inspiration comes in the strangest places

For a couple of years in the early 2000's I lived in an ultraconservative, very Christian, community in Central Florida. After going through the regular library I started hitting up their community college's library and was surprised at the amount of kick ass radical literature that they had, including some really rare stuff. Since there never was a liberal or radical moment in this town's history, it was noted for refusing to implement desegregation in the schools and only gradually let it fade out of official existence, the presence of these books surprised me. I figured out after a while that these were the things that folks down there thought liberals were secretly reading and that they had bought this stuff for opposition research as it were.

Bad for their understanding of liberals, who aren't secretly reading Charles Fourier and plotting to indoctrinate children into socialism with progressive education, good for me. I had no objections to it. If they're this stupid, might as well make the most of it.

Found lots of stuff including a rare first edition of Noam Chomsky's book "Problems of Knowledge and Freedom", which at that point hadn't been reprinted. In fact, it was so obscure that there weren't even references to it, much less extracts, at the archives of Chomsky's writing. I found it pretty much by accident, but found later that they also had several other of his books.

Ironically, one of the other treasure troves of radical knowledge in a public library in Florida also existed at a Community College library, namely that of FKCC, Florida Keys Community College, on Stock Island just north of Key West. Because so many lefty artists and writers had spent time in the Keys there was a burgeoning, high quality, selection of radical books there, with examples ranging from the original compilation of Weather Underground statements issued by Ramparts press to a socialist rebuttal to Friedrich Hayek's book "The Road to Serfdom" entitled "Alternatives to Serfdom".

Then of course there's the CMC, the Civic Media Center, in Gainesville Florida, quite possibly the largest purely radical library in the country, with great selections that span all ideological spectrums. I volunteered there for about a year, and ravenously ate up everything I saw their like a feral dog.

Just some of the "Lost Highways" I've been down....

*on edit: yeah, when I started going to the Florida Keys Community College library I was a grubby kid with faded black shorts who had dropped out of college a few months before. I just went there wanting to read radical lit and find out about stuff, like history, philosophy. Didn't have any sort of plan attached to it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

"The Brig" by The Living Theater

One of the more interesting movies I've seen lately. The Living Theater is a theater/performance art group that's been around since 1947. The Brig won a prize for documentary at the Venice Film Festival, documentary because it was a document of a performance art act more than of a play. The basic premise is that this is one day in a Marine Corps brig, with the action taking place in several segments portraying different times of day. Nothing really happens in terms of plot. Instead, the action is in the increasing cruelty of the guards to the prisoners, who don't sit around in cells but are put through increasingly strenuous and horrible routines throughout the day, with being punched or otherwise beaten when the regulations are broken or they show less than total enthusiasm for what their captors want them to do.

At first you think that the people in charge are just being needlessly and pointlessly cruel, with regulations about not stepping on white lines and properly addressing the captors in just the white way time after time, but as the film goes on you see that the point is to mold these folks into obedient robots who will unthinkingly follow any command, to rapidly dehumanize them, take away whatever impulse lead them to break the rules, and to mold them into people who live by and die by the Marine Corps code of conduct.

The action in the film takes place in an over the top fashion, sacrificing realism in portrayal for using the provocation of raw, emotional, responses to communicate the idea that they want to put forward.

I recommend locating a copy of the doc. and seeing it. The Living Theater appears to put it on every once and a while judging by their website, so you could catch it in person as well.

If you did that, though, you'd miss the entertaining spectacle of Julian Beck, one of the founders and leaders of the troupe, playing a Marine Corps officer, including one point where the camera mistakenly captures him while he's giving direction, making a large gesture suggesting to an actor that he needs to bring out the screaming and the emotion more. Maybe it makes more of an impact if you've seen the video of "Paradise Now". I'll get to that one some time in the future, but at the moment will note that the video is somewhat crippled by the application of the concept of not having one dominant viewpoint to the filming of the art action itself, leading to a kind of confused picture of an event that's already kind of confusing.

*on edit: I'm thinking of the Mystic Fire release of "Paradise Now" that was filmed in Berlin and Belgium. After a quick look I found a DVD based on their American tour.

*on edit #2:the set is very important. It's a chain link fenced in square with bunk beds with a pathway outside that surrounds it on three sides. Floor to ceiling chain link fence. Beyond that are strings of barbed wire, although the only times the audience sees them is at the beginning and end of it since they're located between the audience and the main set.

Joe Biden: enough to protest the DNC w/o considering Obama's about faces

You want to know why people would protest the democratic national convention? Just look at the selection of Joe Biden as Obama's running mate. There's no excuse about how exactly he was selected that can absolve Obama of it since it was taughted for days as a decision only known by Obama and his three closest advisors. The centrist Joe Biden is example #1 of why the democratic party deserves to be protested.

But I'm sure that the bloggers who have been invited into the convention itself as a reward for their loyal service to the Party would disagree.

Maybe a good new slogan would be "Barack Obama: he distracted people from seeing how big sellouts the mainstream blogger darlings are." And, as people have noted, this selling out has been gotten rather cheaply, namely through small time recognition by mainstream journalists with no money behind it.

Possible reason for the delay in the VP announcement

This is something that I was thinking about on Thursday but didn't want to outline until the VP had actually been chosen. Basically, in view of Biden's non-spectacular record related to being a an agent of 'change' or 'hope', it's possible that the Obama camp waited as long as they did--one more full day after they said they'd announce it--in order for their to be as little as time possible between the announcement and the start of the convention. The reason for that would be to stop a backlash from growing that could disrupt the orderliness and hero-worship of the convention itself. The Vice President is announced, people are kind of reeling, but then the convention starts, beginning a new news cycle, potentially partially burying the Biden story.

Deus, Meumque Jus

Masonic print, interpretation of 33rd degree symbol

Copper plate etching, my interpretation of the symbol for the Scottish Rite 33rd Degree.

Deus, Meumque Jus means "God, and my Right". Meumque is unintentionally misspelled Mumque on it.

Kind of fuzzy but it's here.

The 33rd degree is one of the "Vengeance Degrees". Vengeance against who, you may ask? Uh, it has to do with opposition to state and religious oppression. In a post-9/11 environment saying you think this is a nice sentiment is a questionable act. People assume that if you support vengeance against the state and religious oppression that you're going to blow something up, but I think as a general principle the sentiment is pretty nice. "God" on the one side means a Masonic interpretation of God, meaning virtues and higher values, and "My Right" on the other side means "My Rights, or "My rights to enforce Justice".

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Historical relations between Ossetians and Georgians, Stalin

The relations between the two ethnic groups, where the Georgians slaughtered the Ossetians on several occasions according to an ">article by Mark Ames, could explain why Stalin's invasion of Georgia was so brutal. Defenders of the general Communist line like to point out that Lenin only wrote two short notes rebuking Stalin, one of which was in relation to Stalin being rude to his wife, but this isn't accurate. There was a major condemnation of Stalin by Lenin concerning his handling of the invasion of Georgia after the Revolution. In Georgia after the Revolution a Menshevik government assumed power, Menshevik meaning simply a government that was in the form of a parliamentary Republic committed to eventually transitioning to socialism in the future. Georgia had been part of Russia but had declared independence. Stalin, it seems, had retaken Georgia and imposed a Bolshevik system of government onto it in an extremely bloody fashion.

This has made little sense, considering that Stalin himself was a Georgian. But that's not exactly the case. According to Isaac Deutscher in Stalin: a political biography, Stalin wasn't a Georgian but an Ossetian. Perhaps a sense of revenge helped motivate Stalin on this one.

****

Personally, the Menshevik idea in the abstract doesn't seem too bad considering its combination of socialism and parliamentary democracy. The reason I say this is that even in trying to establish something that resembles the status quo in many countries it recognizes an alternate end point to the political process of struggling towards freedom. In many countries the establishment of a Republic is seen as enough, as being complete in and of itself, along with the economic system that most goes with that. To suggest that there's some other goal even while reaffirming one of the most common forms of government is a radical act, something that in a small way bridges the all or nothing choice between Social Democracy that recedes into the background in terms of radicalism and the Bolshevik way of total transformation right now. But in turn this chasm was caused in part by the Bolsheviks, who imposed this exclusionary model even though they didn't have to.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

And the truth about Biden hits

Not a nice guy or really that good. Article by Alexander Cockburn via CounterPunch.org:

""Change” and “hope” are not words one associates with Senator Joe Biden, a man so ripely symbolic of everything that is unchanging and hopeless about our political system that a computer simulation of the corporate-political paradigm senator in Congress would turn out “Biden” in a nano-second.

The first duty of any senator from Delaware is to do the bidding of the banks and large corporations which use the tiny state as a drop box and legal sanctuary. Biden has never failed his masters in this primary task. Find any bill that sticks it to the ordinary folk on behalf of the Money Power and you’ll likely detect Biden’s hand at work. The bankruptcy act of 2005 was just one sample. In concert with his fellow corporate serf, Senator Tom Carper, Biden blocked all efforts to hinder bankrupt corporations from fleeing from their real locations to the legal sanctuary of Delaware. Since Obama is himself a corporate serf and from day one in the US senate has been attentive to the same masters that employ Biden, the ticket is well balanced, the seesaw with Obama at one end and Biden at the other dead-level on the fulcrum of corporate capital.

Another shining moment in Biden’s progress in the current presidential term was his conduct in the hearings on Judge Alito’s nomination to the US Supreme Court. From the opening moments of the Judiciary Committee's sessions in January, 2006, it became clear that Alito faced no serious opposition. On that first ludicrous morning Senator Pat Leahy sank his head into his hands, shaking it in unbelieving despair as Biden blathered out a self-serving and inane monologue lasting a full twenty minutes before he even asked Alito one question. In his allotted half hour Biden managed to pose only five questions, all of them ineptly phrased. He did pose two questions about Alito’s membership of a racist society at Princeton, but had already undercut them in his monologue by calling Alito "a man of integrity", not once but twice, and further trivialized the interrogation by reaching under the dais to pull out a Princeton cap and put it on."

Vittorio de Sica, neorealism, and American film

Finally saw "Bicycle Thieves" by Vittorio de Sica. The film is the landmark accomplishment of Italian neorealism, a movement that started after the Second World War that depended on non-professional actors acting in roles similar to those that they occupied in real life and attempted to portray stories associated with the everyday life of folks. De Sica's film is something that really deserves something beyond a brief blog post, but I'll note that it's the only European film that I've seen that so exactly portrays the everyday reality of life that it rivals American realist cinema, a movement not realized as such because it's integrated into our normal sense of what cinema is. Like neorealism, which the directors no doubt studied or were at least exposed to in film school, American realist cinema attempts to portray everyday life, although the subjects aren't necessarily working class individuals, which are the focus of neorealist films coming out of Italy.

The best example of an American realist film that I can think of is Coppola's original Godfather. Even though it deals with a fantastic subject, a major crime boss in an Italian community who also figures as kind of an elder, it's pretty straightforward in its telling of the story, including details that it wouldn't have to include if it was just going to be a sensational film about a gangster. Taxi Driver by Martin Scorsese is another one that's close to the spirit of the neorealists, not surprising in that Scorsese's "Mean Streets" chronicles his life as a low level employee of gangs in Little Italy, New York, in a painfully realistic fashion. Scorsese has been much more loyal to the neorealist idea throughout his career than de Palma has.

Part of the appeal of "Bicycle Thieves" is that it breaks through the didacticism common among European film makers of the time, something that occasionally makes their films lack depth even though they're made with a high concept in mind. In this area "Bicycle Thieves" goes much farther than "Rome,Open City" by Roberto Rosselini which although a good film, about partisan activity at the end of World War II, is still pretty heavy handed on the part of the auteur, although at the same time much more realistic than other films coming out.

So Biden is the pick

I think that the suggestion of Evan Bayh was a ruse designed to keep people thinking and possibly objecting because Bayh would violate a lot of the campaign values that Obama has put forward. Biden seems like one of the more decent members of Congress.

Plus, if Biden and I are distant relatives related by marriage, although I'm sure he doesn't have a clue who I am, so it might be nice to have someone like that in the White House. It would certainly be something to talk about over gin and tonics.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Why the Left in America is so boring

In a nutshell because they haven't renounced '70s peace and love hippy bullshit. Anarchists coming out of the punk culture are better on this score, but the rest of the Left minus the Monthly Review crowd features sugary, irrelevant, out of date, useless, ideas as core parts of their belief system. Of course, you have to qualify this again because not everyone who signs up for the Left through the medium of the Progressive movement fits this bill, but there are enough hardcore members that do to make it a noticeable and somewhat powerful force. The fact of the matter, as I see it, is that chanting cumbaya and putting bumper stickers on your car saying "Visualize Whirled Peas" or even "Visualize World Peace", is irrelevant to today's world. Whatever function things like this may have had in the '60s and '70s is long gone.

People look at this sector of the Left, look at what it offers, and decide that it has no meat, it has no substance, doesn't have anything that you can really sink your teeth into. It's not exciting, it's not interesting, it has no new ideas. All of these things are necessary for people to really get into and get enthusiastic about something. Slogans that are threadbare don't do it, especially when compared to the non-political world, where ideas virtually throb with vibrancy in parts of the counter-culture, artistic and otherwise. Some people might say that that's tough, that politics isn't about being exciting like that and that people should be interested in it because the ideas are important, because the issues are important. True enough, but when I consider children in Iraq getting blown apart my response isn't to put a "Visualize Whirled Peas" sticker on my bumper but to get angry and outraged in a way that, while not over the top, tends to make the cumbaya crowd nervous. I think that anger is a more appropriate response and that the honest expression of anger is a healthy thing; subsuming it or repressing it with a fake smile and soothing slogans of peace is what is unhealthy, and if people are uncomfortable with that then fuck them. I'll be angry and express it anyways. Sorry. My thinking is that if more honest responses and such are present on the left then people will resonate with them, because they stem more from immediate reality than from some movement in the '70s that's no longer present.

That will consist more of meat, as will new fucking analyses, which we shouldn't be afraid of either.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I'll pretend Obama's campaign is actually exciting if you pretend that America has a real Left

Just saying.

Don't you feel good that Obama has picked a running mate?

I mean, he won't tell us who he is yet, but the media is very happy. Maybe we should start asking questions, like, is your running mate bigger than a breadbox? Is he maybe from the South or from the North? That might be too direct. Does your candidate like wearing a particular color suit? Does he like vanilla ice cream? Anything to try to get some information out of him that can be scrutinized later to get some idea of who his running mate might be.

I swear, the headlines on Progressive sites proudly announcing that "OBAMA HAS CHOSEN A RUNNING MATE! ....but won't tell us who (s)he is...." , one day before the convention starts, have to be one of the most pathetic spectacles in recent journalism. Even worse is that the New York Times is repeating the same thing. What a valueless puff piece. Completely empty and devoid of content.

If Obama wins, will we be wise to expect more of this? Future headlines: "OBAMA HAS AN ECONOMIC PLAN!.....but willl announce it next month...." "OBAMA HAS IDEA ABOUT GETTING US OUT OF IRAQ!.....but it's just an idea, might not work, and so he's not telling us till he thinks about it more..."

Torment by Beach Boys

In the summer of 2006 I went down to L.A. for a week to celebrate finally graduating from college. I stayed at Venice Beach in an old, refurbished, hotel right on the water. I went down via Arcata and Berkeley, doing the whole thing in three days each way. There was a very unique soundtrack for the trip, one that consisted of Genesis P-Orridge's Industrial/Psychedelic outfit "Psychic TV", some more straightforward gloomy industrial music, European psychedelia like Amon Düül II, and a few zingers like Brian Wilson's "Pet Sounds Live".

Anyways.

I got down there during a light weekend traffic jam, light because it wasn't one of the epic traffic jams you hear about in L.A. although everything was at a standstill. I made the most of the situation by putting in "Pet Sounds Live", having my windows all down, and turning up the volume. At first nothing happened, but as the minutes wore on and it became obvious that this car was going to be blasting happy beach music indefinitely while everyone was stuck in traffic one of my fellow drivers yelled at me to turn it down. I kept doing it for a little while longer then, indeed, turned it down. I figured it would be kind of hard to justify some sort of mob action against a guy for blasting, not heavy metal, not gangster rap, but the fucking Beach Boys from his car.

But everyone has their limits. Although the headline might appear nice to read, the idea of being the victim in the "Driver beaten for blasting Beach boys" story might not be that fun. Leave it for some other enterprising young man to go down that road fully.

Cruised into Venice Beach shortly after, going through Santa Monica during their annual festival, which I didn't know anything about at the time. Exploring L.A. and Venice Beach took up so much time that I never actually got to walk around Santa Monica, which is right next door. Even then, just exploring the city focussing on Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, and good old Santa Monica Boulevard, it was immense. Went to icons like Barney's Beanery, a burrito joint featuring an extensive foreign beer collection and loads of rock and roll dive memorabilia from when the place was a central hang out for L.A. '60s and '70s rock stars. Hung out at Bodhi Tree bookstore, New Age central. Was kindly bought a water in the squelching heat in West Hollywood by a kind man who didn't want a boy wandering around West Hollywood to have to use his debit card.

Melrose avenue....all of that, although cool, is somewhat of a blur since I tried to do the whole thing at once and ended up walking from Bodhi Tree, which is at the west edge of Hollywood, all the way to the end of the Melrose avenue shopping district, quite a ways away, and then back to my car that was located precisely between the two locations.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

When I need to recharge my whiteness I go to Bartell's in University Village

Which is a drug store in an outdoor 'shopping experience' near the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle. The whole place is populated by dumb, rich, white fucks who stay close to the relatively secluded UW campus the better to separate themselves from brown-ness occurring elsewhere in the city. But out of all the stores there, from the enormously upscale fashion stores to the stores selling useless, very expensive, things, Bartell's has got to be the worst. It's not like they put swastikas up or anything, but the feeling you get walking in there is that you've been transported back to the 1950s, so hardcore that it sort of blinds you. Sure, honorary white people, South Africa's term for approved Asians, shop there, but in general it's the country club going tennis playing pasty set.

Yep, whenever I feel my white content lagging due to an increase in non-minority derived melanin or in too much sympathy for racial and ethnic minorities i can always go to U-Village and get a recharge in intolerance and snobbery.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Great, long, article on Russia and Georgia by Mark Ames of the eXile, who actually lived in Russia for over a decade.

South Ossetia: the war we don't know.

"While Russia and America see the conflict in abstract terms about spheres of influence and protecting allies, for Ossetians, who still recall the centuries of massacres Georgians committed against them, it is highly personal. They will still recall the Georgian massacres in the early 1920s, when Georgia was briefly independent, which exterminated up to 8 percent of the Ossetian population. In 1990, when Georgia was again moving towards independence, the ultranationalist leader Zviad Gamsakhurdia abolished Ossetia’s limited autonomy, leading to another Ossetian rebellion that was only quelled by a peace agreement signed by Georgia, Russia and the Ossetians. Gamsakhurdia was subsequently deposed, and Georgia’s ethnic chauvinism was shelved until the rise of current president Mikhail Saakashvili in 2003.

....

When he first rose to prominence, the American-educated Saakashvili was often referred to as “Georgia’s Vladimir Zhirinovsky”–the Russian ultranationalist firebrand who once promised to retake Alaska. Although Saakashvili was subsequently rebranded as a Euro-democrat, he promised to reunite Georgia and bring his separatist regions to heel, by force if necessary, whether the aggrieved ethnic groups liked it or not.

At the root of this conflict is a clash of two twentieth-century guiding principles in international relations. Georgia, backed by the West, is claiming its right as a sovereign nation to control the territory within its borders, a guiding principle since World War II. The Ossetians are claiming their right to self-determination, a guiding principle since World War I.

These two guiding concepts for international relations–national sovereignty and the right to self-determination–are locked in a zero-sum battle in Georgia. Sometimes, the West takes the side of national sovereignty, as it is in the current war; other times, it sides with self-determination and redrawing of national borders, such as with Kosovo.

In that 1999 war, the United States led a nearly three-month bombing campaign of Serbia in order to rescue a beleaguered minority, the Albanians, and carve out a new nation. Self-determination trumped national sovereignty, over the objections of Russia, China and numerous other countries.

Why, Russians and Ossetians (not to mention separatist Abkhazians in Georgia’s western region) ask, should the same principle not be applied to them?

The answer is clear: because we say so. That sort of logic, in an era of colossal American decline and simultaneous Russian resurgence, no longer works on the field."

Marie Cocco: "Same old white guys run the debates"

As opposed to the same old white women? Marie Cocco's post is predictable, embarrassingly so. The idea that a person's race will automatically make them a progressive or a radical is one of the most absurd notions around. Just get an African American, any African American, in the White House and boom! Voila! Instant socialist paradise. No mention of qualifications or of actual political positions. This is a set up guaranteed to produce failure, which would undoubtedly undermine liberalism and left support in the United States as people take advantage again and again of people's credulity in order to assure personal advancement. It's not that there don't need to be more voices of color in politics, although I think we're doing pretty good on women, but that just herding random people in who want to be part of the political commentary fabric and are a certain race is as idiotic as expecting someone to be skilled because they come from an old, established, family.

Now NATO is threatening Russia over Georgia

Which brings up the question: who are the countries that make up NATO more loyal to, an alliance that's an extension of U.S. power or Europe itself?

The things you learn by reading "Red Mafiya"

Red Mafiya by Robert Friedman was the first book about the Russian Mafia as it exists in the U.S. Really very interesting, especially because of a Detroit connection that Friedman outlines. According to the book, the Russian Mafia extorted money from the Russian players who joined the Red Wings by threatening to hurt their families back home if they didn't. The book says that all but one of the players, who are beloved in Detroit by the way, did, but at the present time I don't remember just who that one was. It was said, though, that whenever he returned to Russia he had a private security force of something like twelve people surrounding him at all times.

Obama to stop McCain from questioning his patriotism

From Rawstory:

"Addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, Obama reaffirmed his early opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and said the so-called "surge" strategy of sending 30,000 additional troops to Iraq last year had not produced the political reconciliation necessary to achieve lasting peace in the country
...
"These are the judgments I've made and the policies that we have to debate, because we do have differences in this election," Obama said. "One of the things that we have to change in this country is the idea that people can't disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism. I have never suggested that Sen. McCain picks his positions on national security based on politics or personal ambition. I have not suggested it because I believe that he genuinely wants to serve America's national interest. Now, it's time for him to acknowledge that I want to do the same.

"Let me be clear: I will let no one question my love of this country," Obama said to applause."

What a worthless throw away comment. Is Obama going to give McCain a good talking to? This is politics, folks, the only way Obama can meaningfully respond is to assert why exactly he's not what McCain says he is. Otherwise, the McCain folks are just going to be chuckling and internally saying "Fuck you! Idiot" while giving Obama a mental middle finger.

Norman Solomon, what has happened to thee?

From Commondreams.org:

"Yet we’re in great need of willingness to acknowledge contradictory truths, to sort through them as a means of finding the best progressive strategies for the here and now. While some attacks on Obama from the left are overheated, overly ideological and mechanistic, there’s scant basis for denying the reality that his campaign and his positions are way too cozy with corporate power. Meanwhile, his embrace of escalating the war in Afghanistan reflects acceptance rather than rejection of what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism.”

To some, who evidently see voting as an act of moral witness rather than pragmatic choice (even in a general election), forces such as corporate power or militarism are binary — like a toggle switch — either totally on or totally off. This outlook says: either we reject entirely or we’re complicit.

Such analysis tends to see Obama as just a little bit slower on the march to the same disasters that John McCain would lead us to. That analysis takes a long view — but fails to see the profound importance of the crossroads right in front of us, where either Obama or McCain will be propelled into the White House.

Any progressive who watched the “faith” forum that Obama and McCain participated in on Aug. 16 would have good reasons to be negative when assessing some of Obama’s answers. But McCain’s responses were vastly more jingoistic, militaristic, fanatical and pro-corporate, while also making clear his enthusiasm for the worst of the current Supreme Court justices.

In an odd and ironic way, progressives who are unequivocal Obama boosters and unequivocal Obama bashers embrace similar concepts of limited alternatives in electoral work. They seem to rule out candidly critical support of a candidate — viewing such an option as either a betrayal of the candidate or a betrayal of principles.

But supporting one candidate — clearly preferable to the Republican — should not require a lack of candor about the preferred candidate’s defects. And progressive interests are not advanced by claiming, against the evidence, that it doesn’t really matter which candidate wins."

In other words, yes, Obama is a sellout, but you should shut up and support him anyways, because he's not as bad as McCain.
Pragmatism and the real world dictate that if you do that it should be based on Realpolitik, on a somewhat cynical understanding of the realities of power, not on a capitulation to it.

And this part of the article, I have to say, is some of the worst writing I've come across, rivaling times when it's been two in the morning, I haven't been sober, and I've started blogging on this site....which happens occasionally.

I don't think that anyone on the left has said that it makes no difference who wins. Here Solomon is engaging in the same sort of non-nuanced thinking that he's accusing Obama opponents on the left of engaging in. It also strengthens his argument about the left through creating a straw man that can easily be reacted to with rage and knocked down. Because if the point of all of the progressive and left commentary on Obama is something else than equivocating him with McCain it's evidence of the very nuance that Solomon denies exists. If it doesn't, which it doesn't then it prompts the question of just what are people getting at with critiquing Obama, which is a question that everyone should be honestly asking.

Conservatives may just be on the losing side of U.S. history

Maybe in November, maybe not, but sometime soon. While it looks like 9/11 has created a steady and inevitable rise in conservative power in the United States, 9/11 reaction is just a paper dragon on top of greater social trends. Not a paper dragon for all of the people who have been hurt in our flurry of blind revenge, but for U.S. society as a whole.

A lot of the thinking that has fueled politics from the right post-9/11 has been recycled from the Reagan years, where conservatives decisively took power not just in politics but in society at large after around twenty years of a push towards social reform. Reagan took power in 1980, just so you know. Many people credit this to the brilliancy of the conservative program, a program that's thought to be a surefire antidote to liberal challengers: just crank up the Cold War-esque rhetoric and imagery, boost patriotism, cut all taxes in the name of populism, and you'll beat the liberals and their followers every time. But was it Reagan's ideas or the tide of resentment to social change that was responsible for it all? If it was the latter, then 9/11 conservatives are on the losing side of things if they think that beating the drum of patriotism and revenge endlessly will be enough to ensure their power.

Instead of twenty years of liberalism we have sixteen years of hardcore conservatism doled out in eight year increments consisting of Reagan and Bush II, punctuated four years of a less insane conservative in Bush I and eight years of self declaredly centrist Democrats who publicly refuted the welfare state philosophy that had informed mainstream liberalism since FDR. All in all about twenty eight years, a little less. This isn't the stuff of counter-revolution, it's the stuff of potentially increasing impulses to liberalism and leftism gurgling up and percolating through society waiting for a chance to come to the top.

Some folks have said that there's a necessary back and forth between political parties over the years, that it sort of mindlessly repeats, but while changes do occur I'd like to think that there was either some underlying reason or some concrete political approach that won over popularity that provide the causes for this. There are eternal political questions, perennial issues of how society should function, who should have power, how should people's problems be addressed, what's the role of government if any, that every political moment hopefully tries to formulate a response to. There's also the immediate context that the political moment exists in, as well as the historical baggage it confronts. Society is always simultaneously responding to these three things, whether it's conscious of it or not. When a social movement happens it's not necessarily just blind reaction to the previous state of things but differences that stem from divergent answers to the perennial questions in light of how well past efforts have been to address them in a good way, as judged by people in general, as well as the present condition of things at the time, including the immediate political context as well as the immediate political issues, that cause the shift. All of this also indicates just which direction the shift is probably going to occur and why exactly it may occur.

Conservatism is failing miserably on many levels post-9/11, although it's also visibly succeeding on many as well. It's hollowed out and has no new ideas, besides unofficial outrageous fascism. The liberal core, on the other hand, has lots and lots of them.
If people live their lives like they matter, it's probable that that will lead to a liberal ascendency once the hard shell of 9/11 conservatism has been punctured.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Les Malidictus Sound, not so Maledictus or Bon

Reported on Piero Scaruffi's generally very informative web page about European psychedelia and other music as being one of the most out there albums of the whole psychedelic movement, on first listen out of the package it sounds relatively tame and uninteresting. On second listen you realize that you're listening to a band that's taken a lot of sounds from King Crimson, which is by no means the most out there band in the general category of psychedelia. Third listen and you see that it's kind of half baked with some speeded up vocals on some songs that sound like the Chipmunks cartoon characters. If you want to hear some music more out there than this just look up Hawkwind, *Van der Graaf Generator, or The Monks, none of which, with the Monks as one possible exception, are really on the outer edges of out-there-ness in their sounds. So what's the most out there, strange beyond belief Krautrock/Euro-psychedelic album? I really don't know enough about the field to definitively answer that question, but I'd say, provisionally, that "Electronic Meditation", the first album by Tangerine Dream...made way before they went straight New Age....is a good contender. But you have to realize that putting any album as "the best" is necessarily going to limit the classification down way farther than it should be if you want to give an accurate picture of what the variety of music in a genre is.

Besides, although this is very good, if you want to hear just weird fucking out there music, Sun Ra's "Heliocentric Sounds" albums and Frank Zappa's "Absolutely Free", done before he started sucking supremely, are good places to look. Making an album that features talking to vegetables, like celery not like people, as one of its major themes is something Zappa did that I think is unique in the history of music recording.....

Also, I wouldn't underestimate old classics out there like "The Velvet Underground & Nico" and "Hunky Dory" plus "The Man who Sold the World" by David Bowie, to pre-Ziggy records that are far, far, beyond what the popular image of David Bowie presents.

*on edit: strike that, Van der Graaf Generator is overrated. Hawkwind and The Monks still are out there.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The bad bad badiness of China

China, and the Chinese government in relation to the Olympics, has come in for serious Cold War flashback hardons from news media hacks who soared on the coat tails of geopolitical conflict without any real understanding of the issues, and who hope they can do it again. But China isn't under Mao, or even under the folks who ran it during the '80s, but is a liberalizing country that has opened up the range for freedom of speech and travel for its citizens substantially in the last few years. It's also the country that makes half the stuff you wear and use, and it ain't the Communist Party that's substantially ordering that stuff built, it's Chinese capitalists cooperating with the Chinese government some. Which makes conservative fist waving over China that much funnier. Wave your rhetoric with righteous indignation all you want, at the end of the day you're still going back to a home filled with Chinese goods.

And although there are of course serious problems, not just with some civil liberties but with general popular democratic control, things like Xinjiang and Tibet, I'm not overly concerned about things like 300 Bibles trying to be smuggled into China being seized. Unlike Falun Gong, I'm pretty sure the reasons for the bible seizing have to do with questions about imperialism instead of general religious control. The U.S. is still the dominant economic power for the time being, and potentially flooding China with western religious literature, linked to missionary organizations in the United States, no doubt brings back spectres of colonialism, where economic and political domination often followed missionaries' footsteps.

Of course China is an authoritarian country, but there isn't going to be a 1989-esque collapse of the social system to be replaced by a naive idealism that conceals free market capitalism as the secret "End of History" towards which everything is tending.

The total assault cantina, from "Tales of Beatnik Glory" by Ed Sanders.

If Sanders or his publishing company would like me to take this down please contact me at the e-mail address located on the right.

Together John and Paul operated the Total Assault, a nonprofit establishment intensely dedicated toward yanking the corpses of J.P. Morgan's neoconfederates through the amphetamine piranha tank. It was just that way--their agitation kept them walking acrobatic along that perilous thin path of roachclips---one side of which lay Gandhian ahimsa, the other side bitter street battles and the violent insurgency of a potential New York Commune. The personalities of the two operators of Total assault whirled in intellectual combat on the question of tactics. Both wanted to crash that TV tower off the top of the Empire State--but their approaches were somewhat different. It was sort of anarcho-Mao v. anarcho-Tao. The budda-budda-budda- of machine gun fire for John became Buddha Buddha pacing rebels for Paul. Both were convinced for the time being, however, that nonviolent direct street action was the correct Way to proceed.

The first café they had operated was a tiny place on 9th street between B and C. They had called it Cantina de las Revoluciones. They managed to float for about a year before poverty and debt forced it to close. Then they located a much larger space on Avenue A and 11th Street, comprising a whole ground floor with a courtyard. The rent: $100 a month. It was eternity.

It wasn't long before the license inspectors came around, and that meant instant trouble, because John and Paul did not cooperate with the concept of licensing. "Gonna close you down," the inspectors told them. "Can't sell food without a license."
"We are revolutionaries. Taxes don't exist. The Department of Licenses doesn't exist. Why don't you sit down and help us with the twelve-cent soup?" But the licenseers gave them a summons and would not help with the circle of friends peeling vegetables for the Gandhian ambrosia.

Soon they were forced to trek down to the Dept. of Licenses to fill out the forms. They wanted to call the restaurant Café Hashish, a proposal that was immediately banned by the red-tapers. "We're going to the Civil Liberties Union to see about this, you fucking fascists," Paul snorted after a long argument with the officials of the department. But there was nothing to be done.

A few days later they tried again. They were ushered into the office of Mr. William Karkenschul, deputy director of licenses, Liberal Party appointee, a human who was at that time trying to close down coffee houses which offered poetry readings. Mr. Karkenschul read from the notarized business form: "Hmm, let's see" -- mumble muble, "John Z. McBride and Paul A. Stillman d/b/a Vomit, a Restaurant." Karkenschul stared at the two. "You mean you want to start a restaurant called Vomit!?" -- a slight curl of revulsion lifting his lip. "First you come in here last week trying to name your dive with an illegal name, now it's Vomit. Is this some sort of game? "Look here, Karko, we want to call it Vomit. Now what about it?" "It cannot be allowed," he replied. "The public won't stand for it." "How about The Karkenschul House of Puke?" --Paul sneered. That suggestion got them thrown out of the office. "You, Mr. Liberal Party poetry-banner! You show us the regulation that says we can't call out restaurant Café Hashish or Vomit, or anything we want!!"

A few days later they were back at the Dept. of Licenses with a name that sailed through the bureaucratic ocean: Total Assault Cantina. The License Dept. blitzed them repeatedly. They seemed to inspect them once a week. I had a friend that brought the cantina a station-wagonful of hot cigarettes from South Carolina once a month. They were almost caught by the license creeps who certainly would have snitched John and Paul out to the Feds. We carried the taxstampless cigs down into the cellar in the nick of time. As it was, the licensoids required John and Paul to obtain what was called a "License to Act as a Retail Dealer in Cigarettes in the City of New York."

When they began to hold poetry readings, Karkenschul picked up the announcements of the readings from the Village Voice and sent raiders out to issue summonses, informing the two that they'd have to cringe and beg for a cabaret license if they wanted to continue poetry. There was a law in New York that allowed entertainment in a restaurant by no more than three stringed instruments and a piano: allowing no poetry and no singing. Otherwise, a cabaret license was necessary, a bureaucratic nightmare involving bribing building inspectors, and requiring employees to register with the fuzz and to carry cabaret identity cards, and so forth.

Another thing that pissed off the authorities was that Total Assault was unable to resist allowing people to sleep on the floor although it drove the landlord nuts. The police would shine flashlights through the front window in the middle of the night and the floor looked like a packed meadow of sleeping bags. Crashers could only cop about six hours sleep however, because John and Paul had to wake everybody up by 10 A.M. in order to sweep and to get the breads in the ovens in time to open for the noon-hour soup rush.

Total Assault was more of a community center than a mere café. A bu-gaze across the room revealed a kitchen containing a quaking Salvation Army icebox, a huge oven, storage cabinets made of packing crates, and a long varnished-pine serving counter. There was a whole wall devoted to collages and bulletins, leaflets and the like, and in the back near the courtyard was a printing-press area marked off by beautiful black Chinese screens, the origin of which Ptah only knows. The People's Library, as John called it, out of which the people steadily drained the books ne'er to return. There were numerous found-in-street divans placed around a large central table for those who liked to dine reclining. The walls were spotted with can-lids nailed over rat holes. The more serious breaches were sealed off with a mixture of Brillo pads and plaster. Near the front window was an old upright piano, stacked atop which was a neat pyramid of sleeping bags for the nighttime mattress meadow.

With regard to the wall devoted to leaflets and collages, by the end of a year there were maybe a thousand leaflets, new overdubbed upon old, from floor to ceiling. In my cellar I have a box containing all the posters and stuff from the wall. Come and get me, New York Graphic Society.

Meetings meetings meetings, they may have held a hundred meetings a month at Total Assault. They held a New York Times Sneer-in every night at 7 P.M. where everybody took turns singing and declaiming articles from that day's edition, accompanied by great jeers, chortles, and spits of anger. The ten top stock advances of the day were soundly jeered. And when the market went down a few points, there was a tumult of applause. Sometimes when the market really went bad, Paul would put a sign in the window announcing the good news.

I used to love the Town Meetings on Tuesday nights. They were wonderful shouting matches and many a grandiose scheme was hatched in the air. A free medical and dental clinic was born out of these meetings and still thrives, but much of it was kiosks of ego-babble, though I got to practice my yodeling a lot when the debates grew laborious.

In spite of the good Dharma-Commie karma, the cantina was a financial disaster. There was a prophetic sign above the cash register reading: THERE WILL BE NO PROFIT! The biggest money drain was the food scroungers. There was a porcelain bathtub in the window in which John and Paul created a huge, daily vegetable salad. Next to it was a crock of free tea and another crock of soup. People seemed to drift in the door with glazed eyes like food robots and would serve themselves from the salad tub and soup crock, then there would rise quick slurps of filling stomachs, after which they vanished without paying. There were so many hungry. But there were a lot of people with plenty of cash lining up for free food also. I must confess that I too, shekels clanking in my pockets, ripped free hunks of rye and bowls of soup from Total Assault Cantina. At first they tried to hand customers chits but these were left damp upon the tables or used to wipe up spills. Each day John and Paul cooked fresh bread. Humans began to steal whole loaves. They would saunter in, order coffee, and whistle out the door with a loaf, and on the way home from work at that."

In the previous passage you read about John and Paul trying to start a business that served food. What were the problems that John and Paul faced, were they A)....... just kidding.

This was written in 1975 about events taking place between '59 and '66(?). According to Sanders the Total Assault Cantina never really existed as such but he would have liked it to.

And the race ends...

At least for the American people, because after reading the New York Times account of Obama's statements at the megachurch Q&A sessionit's clear that 'Hope' and 'Change we can believe in' are pretty damn empty statements. I suggest reading the New York Times' report instead of the different secondary reports on it because the article itself is written in an objective way and not slanted to distort what was said. WIth that out of the way, let me cherry pick some choice Obama statements from that article:

"Asked to name an instance in which his thinking had changed over the past 10 years, Mr. Obama cited the 1996 welfare reform bill signed by former President Clinton. He said he opposed the measure at the time because he believed it would have “disastrous results,” denying millions of women economic support without providing them with job training, child care or health benefits. He said he now believes the law has been largely successful.

“It worked a lot better than a lot of people anticipated,” he said. He then added, speaking more broadly, “I am absolutely convinced that we have to have work as the centerpiece of any social policy."

"The candidate then said that under his tax plans all American families making less than $150,000 a year are considered middle class or poor and would receive a tax break. Families making more than $250,000 a year, the top 3-4 percent of Americans, would would have to pay what he called a “modest” increase in taxes.

“These things are all relative” he said. “I’m not suggesting that everybody making more than $250,000 a year is living on easy street.”"

"Asked to define marriage, Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama both said that they believed marriage is a union between a man and a woman.

“For me as a Christian it is also a sacred union. God’s in the mix,” Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Obama said he opposed a constitutional amendment defining marriage that narrowly, saying the question traditionally had been left to the states. And he also said he supported homosexual civil unions, saying, “For gay partners to visit each other in the hospital I don’t think limits my core beliefs about what marriage is."

As for McCain, for his part he declared that:

"... asked which of the sitting Supreme Court justices he would not have appointed. He named four — two nominated by a Democrat and two by a Republican: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, David Souter, John Paul Stevens. He said that there might be several vacancies soon. “This nomination should be based on the critera on a proven record of strictly adhering to the Constitution and not legislating from the bench,” Mr. McCain said."

In other words, every single liberal to centrist member of the Supreme Court.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Dinosaurs by William S. Burroughs

This is rapidly becoming my new "Thanksgiving Day Prayer", something that I can read over and over and still find enlightening. It's transcribed by me from a spoken word recording and to my knowledge hasn't been published in print before.

"Dinosaurs, by William S. Burroughs

I think the political and social chaos we are seeing on every side reflects and underlying biologic crisis. End of the human line. All species are doomed from conception like all individuals. Evolution did not come to a reverent halt with homo sapiens. We have the technologies to recreate the flawed artifacts and to produce improved and variegated models for designed for space conditions. Perhaps there is still time is this being done or even considered? Back to the church the home and the family. Back to the simple American virtues that made this country great and can make this country great again. If I may be allowed a flight of whimsy involving articulate Dinosaurs:

"Fellow reptiles I do not hesitate to tell you that we face grave problems. I do not hesitate to tell you that we have the answer Size is the answer! Increase size! There are those who say that size is not the answer, there are those even propose that we pollute our reptilian strain with mammalian amalgamations and cross breading. And I say to you, if the only way I could survive was by mating with egg eating rats then I would choose not to survive. But we will survive. We will increase both in size and in numbers and we will continue to dominate this planet as we have done for 300 MILLION YEARS! Bigger is better and biggest is best!"

Armored models thump their tails in earth shaking applause. Herbiferous Dins wallow and splash in swamp bog. Carnivores bare their huge fangs dripping streamers of saliva in uproar. But a wise old Din turns sadly from the TV and addresses his offspring:

"Son, it's the end of the line. We are ugly, idiot, bellowing beasts. Some of us are sixty feet long with a brain the size of a walnut. Where can this end? In a natural history museum our bones gawked at by pimply adolescents--"Say, I wonder how big his prick was?"
---their turn.

Back to the home and the family back to simple American virtues biologically speaking the one direction you can go is back. It's the law. Dolphins lived on land at one time we know that because they have air breathing lungs. Now that they have returned to the sea it might be handy to reclaim their lost gils. No glot clum fliday An evolutionary step that involves biological alterations is irretrievable we must now make such a step if we are to survive at all. And it had better be good. I have predicted the transition from time into space will involve biologic alterations. Such alterations are already manifest. Astronauts stand to lose their bones and teeth in the thervice. If you don't use it you lose it A skeleton has no function in a weightless state. So what does the end result look like? Well...rather like an octupus or a jellyfish. Beau Bremel the restoration dandy spent hours every morning putting exactly the right crease into his cravats by lowering his chin just so. Often his valet would carry out armfuls of crumpled dennies, all failures.So we can imagine the cosmic butler carrying out bundles of unworkable monstrosities, our failures."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Chinese jokes about the Olympics

via this page at the UK Guardian:

By Jonathan Watts in Beijing

"On football woes:

Alas for Chinese football! Our players are like eunuchs in a brothel: no one can shoot.

The other night, I was alone at home so I shut the door, drew the curtains and started watching the Chinese football team on CCTV5. Five minutes later, I was startled to hear a key in the lock so I quickly turned the TV off. My friend came in and saw me looking very embarrassed. "Have you been watching pornography?" he said. "Oh no, of course not, never," I replied. But he was still suspicious so he turned on the TV and saw the match. "Oh my god! You were watching the Chinese team," he said. My face went bright red. "No, no, I was watching porn."

Advertisement for a television show: There has been a sudden outbreak of disease near a Beijing river, all life in the water has perished and the plants along the banks are withering. Is this because of a deadly new pesticide? Is it a chemical attack? Please tune in and watch tonight's special documentary: "Chinese footballers wash their feet in the river."

Brazil are playing China in the football. Just before kick-off, Alex Pato, the Brazilian superstar, is so confident that he says to his team: "I can handle this match by myself." So the rest of the team go to the pub for a drink. Sure enough, five minutes into the game, Pato scores. The team, watching from the bar are delighted and expected a flood of other goals. But after 90 minutes, the game ends 1-0. Pato joins up with his team-mates, looking dejected. "Cheer up," they say, "You were all alone against 11 Chinese players, yet you still won. You did a great job."

Pato refuses to be comforted. "You haven't heard the whole story. After I scored that first goal, I fouled a Chinese player and got sent off."

On having to go through it all again:

News flash on the International Olympic Committee website: Jacques Rogge is so impressed by China's great work that Beijing will also host the next Olympics in 2012. When word gets out, throngs of government officials, police, para-militaries and community workers faint to the ground. There is no one to help them because all the hospital staff are in shock. From the CCTV office to the stock market, the cry is the same: "Fuck You Rogge!"

On Olympic environmental and traffic regulations:

Pigsy took his horse for a walk one morning and came back without it. His master, monk Tong, asked him what happened. "It was taken away by the police because it farted loudly," answered Pigsy. Surprised, the monk asked why a fart was cause for a detention. Pig replied sadly, "The police were enforcing environmental protection standards controls for the Olympics. The horse's exhuast was over the limit and far too noisy. It also violated the odd-even traffic controls. Today was an even day, but our horse only has one tail."

On sporting politics (and that football team again):

The Presidents of the US and China, George Bush and Hu Jintao, are trying to outdo one another with tales of their countries' Olympic strengths:
Bush: Let's go and watch the basketball tonight!
Hu: Oh sorry, I will be busy tonight. How about we go together to see table tennis another day?
Bush: Do you have time for tomorrow's swimming events?
Hu: But I have already decided to see the diving! That's ballet in air.
Bush: Let's go and see the football!
Hu: Erm, OK, perhaps the basketball is not so bad after all."

Something provoking visceral hatred and wounded sadness

Which doesn't happen often. "Jesus Christ Rastaquouère" by Francis Picabia. Picabia was a core Dadaist and a brilliant poet and satirist, and aphoristic writer, whose imagery is exceptional. But fucking "Jesus Christ Rastaquouère", to be referred to as "The Book", even though it's more like a longish pamphlet, is like a knife in the heart. This means that there's something to it. I've read Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and Mao, and at no time have I had this kind of visceral anger well up in me that I had while reading this piece, along with wounds that almost reduced me to tears in some places because they were so sharply made.

So what is the book about? It's a satire and criticism of avant-garde literary and artistic people from an inside perspective. This is what makes it hurt so much. You can dismiss people who think that everything is shit while not exerting themselves to actually look deeper into what it is that they're objecting to, but Picabia has an inside view, and obviously it's a view that hasn't changed much in nearly 90 years, since it was written in 1920! The book talks about the jockeying for influence and exposure, self preening prestige, making literature and poems about things that could be dismissed in themselves as shit. Creating false profound space for artistic exploration in order to prop up the explorer as someone important. I hate it and I think he's being somewhat unfair, but he's close enough to the truth that some artistic and literary avant garde people secretly fear exists to make you want to take out a revolver and end it, because in the provocatory world there's no hope.

I recommend people read it. If it can offend me like this it means I need to think about things more, and being provoked to think about life is always useful. It's published in "I Am a Beautiful Monster; poetry, prose, and provocation" by Francis Picabia. I found a cheap used copy by accident, delved into the poetry and sarcasm, and was hooked.

Motherfucker.

The Lost Highway has returned

The days of stupid, confusing, just plain odd for no good reason blog names are now behind us as we have reverted to our first major name "Lost Highway Times". We, of course, means 'me'....

Better to just cut the Gordian knot than to find something even less poetic and entertaining than "Good times and bad times in Lost America".

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Question for English readers: why the hyper local classifications?

Sorting through a lot of stuff originating in England specifically, not the UK or Great Britain but England itself, there seems to be a tendency to identify a person's accent and the presumed qualities of person with said accent down to absurdly small pieces of geography, along with general opinions about the place. Every country does this to some degree but I've never read accounts of it taken to such extremes as in England. There seems to be a tendency to see where ever you live or are from as being the real, sane, part of England and every other place as being some degree of flawed, fucked up, and inferior. Although this is a loaded question, what's the point? It seems like a really big waste of time and energy that could more profitably be used some other way.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Olympia should be a retreat center.

On the politics front Olympia Washington is doing great, having first spearheaded Port Militarization resistance and then spread the idea through networking up and Puget sound to Tacoma, with a Seattle presence probably next (if the RCP doesn't co-opt people in Seattle interested in it), but on the art front Olympia has a very serious problem, which is that it's a great incubator for new ideas but not the best place to execute them if you want those same ideas seen by the rest of the world. Olympia is too isolated from Seattle, and most of the people who come through there interested in buying art are tourists who like nice landscapes of Bud inlet, Olympia's section of Puget Sound. When I was there some people got together and actually rented a place for exhibition of independent artists' work that also served as a performance space for avant-garde bands and individual music makers coming through, and that's an enormous, positive step. The thing is that even with that in the bag in order to gain actual recognition for your work and possibly sell it you have to branch out to Seattle, maybe to Portland, and elsewhere and network with folks there. This networking is actually much easier if you yourself live in one of these places, amazingly enough.

Which is why I think that Olympia in relation to the arts would be better as a retreat place or maybe an artist's colony, some place where folks could live for a period of time, maybe get scholarships to live and work at, develop their art, talk to other artists, develop their ideas, and then at the end of it go back to where they came from and put the new knowledge into action.

A great question has been answered

Which is, do French made for TV movies suck as much as U.S. ones? The answer is Yes.

Just watched "My Life and Times with Antonin Artaud", IMDB title 106810. It's bathetic and pathetic, a black and white film shot mostly in an underexposed format that makes it mostly black with hints of lighter colors, telling the tedious and unconvincing story of a poet who procures opium for Artaud after his release from the asylum, is a faux bohemian, and who writes down everything that Artaud says during their meetings. Maybe it's the insistent blues harmonica soundtrack, which might in France sound edgy but in the U.S., where blues music is a part of life, sounds funny, in that it promotes derisive laughter over something that sounds completely forced and imitative. The whole movie is denatured, with Artaud both appearing as nicer than he likely was and less brilliant than he was, coming off as a nice middle aged man who liked opium and who suffered from quaint delusions. The real, visceral, poetry that he wrote is missing in action.

However, my sense of what the intended audience for the film was is the same group that in the U.S. watch HBO made for TV movies, that are similarly fashionable and faux edgy in their subject matter, and spectacularly bad. Only HBO or similar channels could make a film about Stalin, starring Robert Duvall, and make the story into something bland, with Stalin himself appearing as a weak, colorless character in a bland and often pointless movie. But it's about Stalin, the biggest baddee name besides Hitler, so HBO is edgy and cool for making it, right? French TV, then, can suffer from this same sort of sickness.

Much better is the accompanying DVD: The Life and Times of Artaud the Momo. Unlike the preceding movie this one is a documentary featuring interviews with the people who got Artaud out of the asylum and who knew him during this later time. More of Artaud, the Artaud who you can find in his books and poetry, comes out in these interviews. The people aren't trying to seem tough or to puff themselves up, they're very matter of fact about the whole thing.

If you get the opportunity to rent the two DVD set, my advice would be to watch the documentary first and then watch what you want to of the other one.

Right or wrong, the Russian incursion into Georgia is not likely to lead to World War III

The apocalyptic hard on that many conservatives and a few liberals have for a final showdown between superpowers, or the beginning of the end for the world, is not based on facts. Wars, of course, existed long before the two World Wars and didn't lead to apocalypse, although they exacted a great human toll. Although it may have bad effects, I don't think we should act like the sky is falling with the Russian invasion of Georgia. Plenty of small wars stay small and don't spread to other countries. China and India have had several wars regarding border regions since the second world war and they haven't lead to all out mass destruction warfare with Beijing and New Delhi fighting to the death and full occupation of their respective countries.

Does Derrida mean what he says?

Thinking about Deconstruction in the context of creating art objects and trying to imbue them with significance beyond that of just a nice looking object I'm struck by how fast the Deconstructive tendencies fold under their own weight on observation. Derrida's Deconstructionism is based on the idea that no symbol or idea in and of itself means what it says truly and completely. Truth, indeed, is labeled as a false strategy that gives meaning to things that are intrinsically meaningless cultural artifacts. Truth in this sense means the quest for truth or a truth within the swarm of ideas and symbols out there. But the strategy of analyzing symbols and ideas and pointing out how they all depend on and refer back to previous symbols and ideas in some way, or alternately to relations present in society, ends in a very familiar place: the ambiguity of everyday life. Yes, there are no absolutely 'true' symbols or ideas in the sense of them being absolutely solid, and indeed there are things that condition ideas.....but at this point you have to realize that the analysis of the conditioning of ideas is itself conditioned by ideas.....however this is the normal space of existence, not some otherworldly insight that's been passed down from on high. Ambiguity is in the nature of the game, any symbol or idea can be viewed multiple ways, all ideas around you can bear the trace of previous ideas that they came from, with the whole thing being a kind of ghostly miasma, yet this is the, or one of the, basic existential problems of life. Nothing is black and white, everything is a shade of grey, there are no straight lines in nature as Hegel pointed out. Navigating the mess and trying to find some conditional meaning within it is the problem that we all face.

But just because everything has an aura of ambiguity around it does not mean that the only recourse is to give up trying to imbue works of art with particular meanings. Your meaning may be derivative in a sense and your act in trying to transmit it may be presumptuous---phonocentric: stemming from the presumed forcing of meaning through speaking it, leading to phallocentric, the same unconscious intent put into Freudian terms---but that's the chance that you always take in creating something. There's no way around it and therefore it shouldn't be viewed with a total disdain, but embraced as the way that enhanced and concentrating meaning culled out of the swarm of half meanings flying around us can be produced in a unique and possibly uniquely meaningful way. It's possible to take the chaos of meaning out there and herd the cattle into a nice pattern that while still unruly and somewhat independent is cohesive.


The title of the post is a pun on Derrida's philosophy: if Derrida really meant what he said, if he imbued it with an aura of valid and pure meaning, then he would be speaking falsely according to his own rules.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mortgage crisis, Fannie May, U.S. Government, American Dream

Some of the blame for the mortgage crisis can be put on the U.S. government's emphasis in post-war years on non-socialistic measures to promote a higher quality of living. John Kenneth Galbraith, liberal economist and general gadfly, sad in one of his later books, and I unfortunately can't remember which one it was, that the public financing companies Freddie Mac and Fannie May were designed with the point in mind of letting regular Americans get some sort of equity in society, some sort of tangible piece of property that they could use to get loans and generally afford more stuff. By promoting individual home ownership and the idea of using homes as collateral in loans a kind of stakeholdership would become accessible to people that theoretically wouldn't be accessible if people had apartments, etc... The truth is that this was a great way to avoid giving people a well defined stake in society as defined by political institutions, i.e. through social rights, like the right to housing and the right to have a wage that would allow the acquisition of some of the nice things in life. These rights were transferred to individualistic means, and private and semi-private hands, even when it made no sense.

You can find some of the GI Bill houses out there today, for example in corners of Royal Oak Michigan that otherwise are pretty well gentrified. They're basically one room houses with some strips of lawn on the sides and back right next to each other, giving the owner a sense of having a home and a yard, but at a cost of ultimate inefficiency in construction. Instead of little tiny houses next to one another, money could have been saved on constructing apartments that may have been able to be bigger than the houses because of the lesser cost. People have ideas of publicly constructed housing as being this terrible, terrible, thing in the United States because housing projects in the U.S. were built with the idea in mind of discouraging people from wanting to live there, so that poor people wouldn't sponge off the U.S. government, which no doubt sucked if you were poor and needed the housing to get a roof over your head. This decision to promote individual ownership lead also to the growth of poorly planned, extraordinarily wasteful, suburbs where energy, materials used in housing construction, and natural resources is squandered to give people a sense of self-proprietorship. But it's the suburbs that are now fueling the housing loan crisis.

The American dream of owning a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence and a nice green lawn that you could use to finance loans, endorsed by the federal government, has turned into an unsustainable credit binge, as a way of life that promised utopia while dismissing the notion of a good society achieved through pressing the government to recognize socially possessed rights to housing and decent wages for everyone that now crumbles into the ground.

You can't avoid some sort of socialization of society if you want to establish any sort of a decent life for people. If you leave it up to private hands and expect capitalism to ensure it through market mechanisms alone you're going to end up with something like the crisis that we're experiencing right now.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

New Art

The great Almont incest competition, part 1

Or, how Leana got her groove back. It all started one summer night in Almont Michigan, known for its extensive culture and refinement. Randy was just coming back from the wood pile where he had been splitting logs for a couple of hours. "Now kitten, this town ain't seen nothin' good for a while now. We lost the klan convention and the great tradition of negro chasin' has died out since they don't even come through here now. Although you know as well as I do that the Kreecker Barrel (ain't related to the restaurant) convenience store is a mighty good place to pick up some youngin's porn---all legal of course---things have been gettin' a might bit slow.".Randy made his declaration in his living room, a fine place decked out with orange and yellow shag carpeting and a black velvet painting of a deer above the fire place. "Day-em daddy," Leana said, "What an all do ya suppose we do 'bout all this nothin' here in Almont?" "Well you know as well as I do Leana that folks around here have certain, well, you know, attractions. What with those cold snowy winter nights an all when there ain't nothin to do but sit around the fire place...as a family...sometimes a man can start lookin' at his daughter with new eyes, 'specially if she's just comin' into that fine bloom of young wimmin hood." Leana blushed. "Ah know how lovely it cayn be when you touch me down there, daddy, but people outside of our kin just wouldn't understand our practices." "But they do understand good porn, Leana. Why, there are scenes out there of ten guys lettin' their load loose on some Jap lady's face, and they love it, too!" "Ass to mouth, ass to mouth, all of it sells these days." Randy said with a chuckle. "I figure if some little Chinese girl can get attention from lettin' a whole mess of folks gang bang her on film that we here in Almont can git our own share of attention by puttin' our, unusual, proclivities to use."

Friday, August 08, 2008

NSK, Laibach, and Bruitism

I was lucky enough to see the NSK exhibition at the Frye Museum in Seattle its opening day, when Ivan Novak, Roman Uranjek and Peter Mlakar were there sitting on a panel and being asked questions about the work. Laibach as a sonic entity is both entertainment and very serious, but the NSK collages, paintings, and art objects are more direct presentations of the same ideas.

A lot of NSK paintings and art objects involve adding the black cross, a cubical cross resembling Fascist symbols, to otherwise normal seeming scenes, like a cup of coffee. It would be easy to see the link be a kind of superficial commentary on pop culture, the addition of fascist symbolism being a call to remember the underlying sense of seriousness of the world that the object exists within. Sort of an invasion of a reality principle into an idealized scene, something that inverts the idea of the invasion of the fantastic into reality. In practice it's easy to make pot shots at normal mass culture by doing something like....in the U.S. inserting a picture of the Abu Ghraib victim hooded and with wires attached to his hands onto an otherwise bucolic scene....and while that may be necessary, NSK in my opinion goes beyond it in depth both in the selection of images to comment on and the comment itself.

Take the cross. It could represent the general experience of Fascism in Yugoslavia and elsewhere in Europe during World War II that frames the post war experience, but it also points to generalized brutal realities underlying the normal experience of life as presented to people through mass produced culture. Violence, brutality, militarism, these are fundamental values that transcend particular Fascist experiences and touch on universal, disturbing, constants of life as it's been lived in this world for quite some time. Then take the source images used and commented on:



This is the best coffee picture I could find online. It's not the coffee drinker picture I had in mind. The coffee cup appears here not as a particularly explicit symbol from mass culture but instead is a normal, everyday object, the sort of coffee cup that you'd use on a daily basis. It's floating, as you can see from the shadow on the bottom, presented as a lone image. The blue dots give a positive feeling to it. But it exists on a background that's rusty and stained, and there's the cross on it.
The effect is not to give a cheap thrill but a very specific context for the cross to be a comment on, a context created through a mixture of abstract expressionist ideas, general impressionist techniques used to evoke emotion, and a careful choice of object.

The result is that the placement of the cross, the invasion of a dark other into the painting, has a nuanced sense to it, one suggesting a kind of banality of evil. But the banality itself makes it sinister.

The cross is always static, it doesn't vary. The context varies considerably from painting and object to painting and object, and when executed correctly makes a kind of sinister rorschach test for the viewer.

I'd argue that although the cross itself doesn't vary its use and its context fits in with the tradition of raw art in that the ideas that it represents are linked to the ideas and feelings that raw art tries to convey.

Funny Funny Raw Story

Raw Story's Obama bias is entering hilarious territory as the story of Evan Bayh, member of the Democratic Leadership Council and a liberal organization with the word 'Centrist' actually in the title, as a possible running mate for Obama mysteriously dropping off the front page while the story of a potential McCain VP praising Obama has remained for about two days. The Evan Bayh story didn't even last one day. Maybe it was Bayh's presence in the Rose Garden at the White House when Bush made the Iraq War official that made them a little bit embarrassed and squeemish. Well, when it becomes a done deal, if it becomes a done deal, it's going to be a little hard to ignore Bayh by putting your head in the sand.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Uighur separatists labeled Islamic terrorists as Bush visits China

In the wake of a conflict that, according to Chinese sources, left twelve Chinese policemen dead. Glad to know that China is on our side with regards to the War on Terror. Fact is that both Xinjiang and Tibet, two provinces that comprise most of China's far west region, are provinces that were incorporated into China over the centuries as vassal states, ebbing in and out of independence and dependence, and aren't real parts of China proper. Sort of like Siberia in relation to Russia. Russians now live in Siberia, but Siberia itself was not Russian but was seized from the indigenous inhabitants in the 19th century, with the Soviet Union continuing the domination. Communist China in this regard is playing the same kind of power politics with provinces that it has no right over. It's also using the tactic pioneered by the Soviets of moving large numbers of the dominant ethnic group in the over all state into the major cities in an effort to marginalize the indigenous people of Xinjiang and Tibet through the force of sheer numbers. It will be interesting to see how this new phase of conflict unfolds.

My hope is that the Uighurs won't be considered Islamic terrorists over all, even though they're clearly separatist terrorists, because of the Muslim background of most of the indigenous people in the region. But because they don't have a charismatic figure like the Dalai Lama, bless his heart, speaking for them this possibility seems distant.

The South and Secession

What's never mentioned in standard popular accounts of the South's secession prompting the Civil War is that for the thirty two years preceding Abraham Lincoln's election as President of the United States, U.S. politics was governed by a machine that united Northern and Southern interests and that approved of the existence of slavery. The idea of a polarized North and South that we see today was much less in existence on the ideological level before the Civil War, meaning that secession was the product of a breakdown of those relations. What I'm trying to get at here is that blame for the continued existence of slavery after the American Revolution is not solely on the backs of the Southern planters who actually engaged in the practice but also of northern allies who made its continued existence possible.

Gingrich the intellectual: "Gingrich Cites Big Oil And Right-Wing Intern To Claim That All Economists Support Drilling"

From Think Progress

"Today, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich promoted his “Drill Here, Drill Now,” dirty-energy-funded plan on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal and Fox and Friends. On both shows, he touted the work of an intern at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, who Gingrich claimed “understands more more about economics than most of the politicians in this country.” His proof? The intern found a paper arguing that “the price of oil will drop almost immediately” if the U.S. expands domestic drilling.

The paper was rejected by the Energy Journal because the principle “is basically understood by every economist in the world,” Gingrich claimed. “Everybody who is a professional economist knows” that more drilling will make oil prices come down “immediately,” he declared. "

I'm reminded of the fact, made known years ago, that Newt the architect of the Republican reconquest of Congress in '94 was considered more sophisticated and more of an intellectual than his colleagues because he would quote concepts from Alvin Toffler's book "The Third Wave". I'm not suggesting that politicians or politically literate people need to read loads and loads of politics texts, but it says a lot about the ignorant good old boy and machine boss political culture of the GOP that someone coming in and citing a sort of new agey, very vague and popularly oriented, politics text that naively said that technology was going to liberate us from the needs of production, was thought to make the person doing it an intellectual set apart from the rest of the GOP. It's not so much some of the issues in the Third Wave that are the problem as much as it's just one of a genre of texts coming out in the '70s prophesizing that we were on the brink of entering this wonderful Aquarian age where we'd all be evolved and loving individuals, and that this transition would require no effort put forward on the part of the participants. In other words, Newt became an intellectual celebrity in the GOP through spouting off on a book that in content is just a few steps away from that produced by New Age Chanellers.

But back to Newt's proclamation about every economist agreeing with him. From the same Truthdig page:

"Gingrich’s claim to have “every professional economist” on his side was too much even for Fox News’s Gretchen Carlson, who replied, “I find it interesting that more economists are not on the record saying that.” In fact, it’s much easier to find economists who say on the record that Gingrich is lying:

– “Obviously, if you do offshore drilling now it’s not going to give any short term help on the supply of oil. … That’s far away.” — Paul A. Samuelson, a professor of economics at MIT and winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize in Economics.

– “I have a problem linking the drilling to current gas prices for political reasons. The reality is there is no correlation between today’s prices and what gasoline will be discovered in the outer shelf.” — Dr. A.F. Alhaji, an associate professor of economics at Ohio Northern University

– “It won’t make any difference whatsoever [on gas prices] because new oil that could be found and produced on the new Outer-Continental Shelf won’t take place for at least eight to 10 years.” — Texas A&M Economics Professor Dr. John Moroney

– “Drilling in the Gulf starting today is not going to give us any relief this year, next year or the year after.” — Tom Oberhofer, an economist at Eckerd College in Pinellas County

– “It’s absurd to argue that ending the moratorium on drilling off parts of the U.S. coasts would quickly bring down the high price of gasoline.” — John Berry, Bloomberg columnist

– “Would starting to drill now do anything for consumers in the near future? The answer to this one…is probably not, since it’ll take so long for new oil or gas to come to market.” — Ken Green, an energy analyst with the American Enterprise Institute.

– “Opening off-shore drilling would have no impact whatsoever on gas prices today.” — Mike Rodgers, a leading oil expert with PFC Energy in Washington"

Bin Laden's driver joins Goering, Speer, as convictee of war crimes

The conviction of Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's driver, of, who according to NPR, a higher up in Al Qaeda once said that he was "An ignorant Bedouin only fit for changing tires", has brought the spectre of a glorious war crimes trial against the dastardly terrorist menace into the headlines. Leaving the insult to humanity that Guantanamo Bay and the idea of "unlawful combatants" are aside for the moment, there seems to be some sort of, I don't know, something kind of unsatisfying about the sequence of people convicted by the U.S. (or by International Tribunal in the case of WW II) of War Crimes running Goering, Martin Bormann, Rudolph Hess, Albert Speer, Balder von Schirach.....Salim Hamdan, Bin Laden's driver.

An Irish Times article notes in its end sentence that he was found with two shoulder launched missiles in his car at a checkpoint, which is interesting because the final lines of articles are usually used to try to rally the reader back to what the writer thinks is the righteous interpretation of the facts. In this case, the valiant attempt comes off as not even being mildly menacing since having two surface to air missiles in your car in Afghanistan seems to be par for the course.

But rest assured, all the yuppie baby boomer Tom Hanks/Steven Spielberg heads who feel that they missed out on being part of the "Greatest Generation" and experiencing first hand the Second World War are now masturbating furiously at being able to touch history through the association of the phrase "Unlawful Combatant" and "War Crimes trial".